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LIVE! Goa witnesses 53% voter turnout so far

13:38  Goa witnesses 53% voter turnout so far:   Goa seems to be headed for an impressive voter turnout in today’s assembly polls with 53 per cent of the voters exercising their franchise till 1 pm.

South Goa’s polling percentage was recorded 52 per cent and North Goa’s was recorded 55 per cent.

Polling for 40-seat Goa assembly is underway, where 11.10 lakh voters are going to decide the fate of 251 candidates including 19 women.

Union ministers Manohar Parrikar and Sripad Naik and rebel Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader Subhash Velingkar were among the early voters. — ANI

IMAGE: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar showing his indelible ink marked finger after casting his vote at a polling booth in Goa on Saturday. Photograph: PTI Photo

13:32  JUST IN: Two terrorists killed in an encounter with security forces in Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir, police says.


13:00  Chennai oil spill: Gadkari thanks school kids for helping in clean up op:   Union Minister Nitin Gadkari says that the Chennai oil spill incident will be inquired.

“A committee has been set up and required action will be taken once the probe is complete,” he said.

Gadkari also thanked almost 2,000 school kids and members of non-governmental organisations for helping in the removal of oil sludge. — ANI


12:39  Sidhu votes, says Rahul will get great gift in form of Congress’ revival:  Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu cast his vote in Amritsar with his wife and former minister Navjot Kaur.

He said he will give party vice president Rahul Gandhi a great gift with Congress’ revival.

“The truth will win the battle. Were sure that the Congress will form a government in Punjab,” he said.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader and singer, composer Hans Raj Hans also cast his vote in Jalandhar and asserted that Shiromani Akali Dal chief Parkash Singh Badal will return as the chief minister of Punjab.

Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal also exuded confidence that the SAD-BJP would again form the government in the state as she hit out at the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party for making ‘false promises’ to lure voters. — Agencies


12:23  Pak hopes to resume talks with India after assembly polls:  Pakistan hopes that there will be a better environment to pursue peace talks with India after the state assembly elections in the neighbouring country, a senior minister has said.

“We are hoping that by March these state elections will be over and maybe then there will be a better environment to pursue peace talks with India. But we are totally committed,” Pakistani Minister of Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal told a gathering in Washington, DC.

Responding to a question at the United States Institute of Peace, a top American think-tank, Iqbal rued that Pakistan is an election issue in the state assembly elections in India.

“This is a bit unfortunate that they’re taking, you know, strong positions along the electoral cycle. I think we should be mature enough to think beyond that was India and Pakistan have to live together, we cannot change our geography, and we must now, think in terms of peace,” Iqbal said.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, he said, is a strong advocate of peace in the region.

“We have very actively pursued peace with Afghanistan and India and continue to do so because we think that our development depends upon peace in the region,” he said.

“But I think, there is a little issue that, in Pakistan, since ’93 I don’t remember any election where any leadership has shown any sensitivity towards doing India bashing in order to get some extra votes in the elections. I mean, in our elections India is not affected, nobody speaks about India, nobody does any India bashing,” he said.

“But somehow we feel that the electoral dynamics in India are still quite sensitive to Pakistan bashing. So whenever you have, a electoral process in India, the government takes a certain hawkish position towards Pakistan,” Iqbal said, adding that after these election there will be a better environment to pursue peace talks with India. — PTI


11:49  14% polling in Punjab so far; Badals cast their votes:  Around 14 per cent of the total 1.98 crore electors have exercised their franchise till 11.30 am to seal the fate of 1,145 candidates in the high-stakes Punjab assembly elections.

An election office spokesman in Chandigarh said polling, so far, was peaceful.

The polling started around 45 minutes late at two polling booths in Jalandhar and Amritsar due to technical glitch in the electronic voting machines.

The early voters included General J J Singh (retd) of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Pargat Singh of the Congress, Sucha Singh Chhotepur of the Apna Punjab Party, and Bhagwant Mann, Gurpreet Singh Ghuggi and Sukhpal Singh Kahiara of the Aam Aadmi Party.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal cast his vote at around 10:50 am in his home constituency Lambi.

Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and his wife and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal also cast their votes in the assembly polls before 11 am.

Cricketer Harbhajan Singh, along with his mother Avtar Kaur, also cast his vote at polling booth no 23 in Jalandhar. — PTI

IMAGE: Cricketer Harbhajan Singh waits in the queue to cast his vote at a polling booth in Jalandhar. Photograph: ANI


11:05  This ‘Der Spiegel’ Trump cover is stunning:  

Germany’s venerable news magazine Der Spiegel has released its Feb. 4 cover and it’s a stunner.

Titled “America First,” it shows a knife-wielding Donald Trump holding the Statue of Liberty’s head, which he’s obviously just chopped off. 

The cover design was illustrated by Edel Rodriguez, a Havana-born artist whose work whose previous clients include the US Postal Service, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, among others, according to his website.

“It’s a beheading of democracy, a beheading of a sacred symbol,” Rodriguez told The Washington Post about the illustration. 

“And clearly, lately, what’s associated with beheadings is ISIS, so there’s a comparison” between the Islamic State and Trump.


10:57  SM Krishna will join BJP shortly: Yeddyurappa:  

In yet another blow to Congress leadership, veteran leader S M Krishna, who recently resigned from party, will soon join Bharatiya Janata Party, BS Yedurappa said on Saturday.

“SM Krishna has decided to join BJP, when we don’t know, will fix it soon. He is joining 100%,” ANI quotes B S Yeddyurappa.

Krishna, a former Karnataka chief minister, had announced the end of his 46-year-old “dream run” with the Congress party in January, citing his sidelining by the Congress party on age considerations as the primary reason for his decision.

Krishna was also miffed with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah for constantly ignoring him over several matters since May 2013 when the party came to power

After resigning, Krishna had made it clear that he was not retiring from active politics. 

“With pain and anguish, I have decided to quit the Congress,” 84-year-old Krishna had said, adding, “A situation has now come wherein I have to leave the home in which I resided peacefully for the last 46 years.”

10:51  Voting Update: Punjab has recorded an overall voter turnout of 12% till 10.30 am, says ANI


10:47  Will Sasikala take over as TN CM on February 8?:   Television channel News18 is reporting that late AIADMK supremo Jayalaithaa’s aide Sasikala will take over as chief minister on February 8 or 9. 

A decision in this regard is likely at the AIADMK MLA meet on Sunday, the channel added.


10:38  UN removes Hekmatyar from designated terrorists list:  

The United Nations has removed Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar from its list of designated terrorists, lifting the assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo imposed on the insurgent leader who has signed a peace pact with the government.

The Security Council’s Al Qaeda sanctions committee concerning ISIS, Al Qaeda and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities removed Hekmatyar’s name from the Islamic State (Da’esh) and Al Qaeda Sanctions List on Friday.

“Therefore, the assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo set out in paragraph 2 of Security Council resolution 2253 (2015) no longer apply to him,” the Sanctions Committee said in a statement. 

In details mentioned about the 67-year-old, the statement said Hekmatyar was listed on February 20, 2003 and was “believed to be in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border area as at January 2011.”

Hekmatyar, head of the Hezb-e-Islami party, had last year in September signed a landmark peace agreement with Kabul. He is expected to return to the country within weeks. A former Prime Minister, Hekmatyar was a prominent anti-Soviet commander in the 1980s. 

Following the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan and fall of the Taliban, the US State Department designated him a terrorist, accusing him of taking part in and supporting attacks by Al Qaeda and the Taliban.


10:35  Iran ‘biggest state sponsor of terrorism’: Mattis:  

US Defence Secretary James Mattis said today that Iran was the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, as President Donald Trump slapped fresh sanctions on the country’s weapons procurement network. 

“As far as Iran goes, this is the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world,” Mattis said at a press conference in Tokyo, but added that the US had no plans to increase troop numbers in the Middle East in response. 

“It does no good to ignore it. It does no good to dismiss it and at the same time I don’t see any need to increase the number of forces we have in the Middle East at this time,” he said. 

“We always have the capability to do so but right now I don’t think it’s necessary.” 

US officials said that the new sanctions, announced yesterday, were in response to Iran’s ballistic missile test this week and its support for Huthi rebels in Yemen, who recently targeted a Saudi warship.

10:34  10% polling in Punjab till 10 AM; polling remains peaceful:  

Voting Update: Around 8 to 10 per cent of the total 1.98 crore electors have exercised their franchise till 10 am to seal the fate of 1,145 candidates in the high-stakes Punjab assembly elections. 

The early voters included General J J Singh (Retd) of SAD, Pargat Singh of Congress, Sucha Singh Chhotepur of Apna Punjab Party, and Bhagwant Mann, Gurpreet Singh Ghuggi and Sukhpal SIngh Kahiara of AAP. 


10:28  Sheela Balakrishnan, official who ran TN when Jaya was in hospital, quits:  

Hindustan Times reports: Sheela Balakrishnan, an official credited with running the Tamil Nadu government while late J Jayalalithaa was hospitalised, has reportedly resigned as advisor to the chief minister.

Government sources indicated that though Balakrishnans term ends only on March 31, she was politely asked to leave. Though there was no official confirmation in this regard, the matter came to light when she informed a few colleagues of her decision.

Balakrishnans departure coincides with the shifting of two other officials — known to have been close to Jayalalithaa — from the chief ministers office. They are secretaries to the chief minister KN Venkataramanan and A Ramalingam.


10:15  8% polling in Punjab till 9 :30 am:  

Voting Update: AAP’s Bhagwant Mann cast his vote at booth no 126 in Mohali. 

Meanwhile, voting began in Lambi (where Amrinder Singh’s contesting from) after security check. 

“No matter whose govt comes in power, youth wants employment,’ said a first time voter to news agency ANI.

Punjab has recorded overall polling percentage of 8% till 9 :30 am

People wait in queues as voting is yet to begin at booth no 35 in Majitha, due to error in EVM machine.


10:03  Djokovic survives Davis Cup scare:  

Novak Djokovic survived an injury scare and battled back from a set and a break down to help Serbia take a 2-0 lead over Russia in the Davis Cup World Group tie on Friday.

Twelve-time major winner Djokovic, just one of two of the world’s top 15 playing in the first round this weekend, dropped the first set and was 0-3 down in the second against promising 20-year-old Daniil Medvedev in Nis. 

Djokovic, looking to rebuild his confidence after a shock second round exit at the Australian Open, needed first-set treatment on his right shoulder before recovering for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 lead.

Medvedev dropped the opening game of the fourth set and then retired with cramps. 

Earlier, world number 37 Viktor Troicki had given 2010 champions Serbia a winning start, downing 52nd-ranked Karen Khachanov 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (8/6) in a 4hr 30min marathon.

09:52  Trump pick withdraws from secretary of Army nomination:  

US President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of the Army, Vincent Viola, is withdrawing, citing business ties.

A statement from Viola’s team said, “Mr Viola has informed President Trump that he will be unable to accept his nomination to serve as secretary of the Army as the challenges of separating Mr Viola from the organizations that he has built over the last thirty-five years have proven insurmountable.” 

“I am deeply honored to have been considered for this post, and appreciate the confidence President Trump showed in me. I offer my continued support for President Trump and his administration, and look forward to re-doubling my efforts to support the Army and its veterans as a private citizen.”

09:44  Parikkar is my target because he is solely responsible for the tragedy that came to us: Subhash Velingkar, rebel RSS Chief tells News18

09:41  Voting Update: North Goa has recorded a voting percentage of 16%, while South Goa recorded 14% with an overall turnout of 15%, as of 9 am, reports ANI


09:40  French investigators believe Louvre attacker is Egyptian:  

French investigators believe the man who launched a machete attack outside the Louvre in Paris, before being shot and wounded by a soldier, is a 29-year-old Egyptian who entered the country on a tourist visa. 

The incident has thrust security and the terror threat back into the limelight three months before elections in France, with authorities saying it was a “terrorist” assault. 

The attacker, in a black t-shirt bearing a skull design and armed with two 16-inch machetes, lunged at four patrolling French soldiers while shouting Allahu Akbar, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told a press conference. 

One of the troops was struck on the head and another fell to the ground outside the famous Paris museum after the assailant attacked. The second soldier managed to open fire and hit the machete-wielder in the stomach. 

“The attacker fell to the ground, seriously wounded. He has been taken to hospital and is fighting for his life,” the prosecutor said.


09:37  Cap on online transaction service fee likely:  

Business Standard‘s Archis Mohan and Arup Roychoudhury report: The Narendra Modi government is considering a cap on service charges levied on online transactions, as it looks to encourage further digital means of payments for goods and services. 

According to a senior government source, rules are to be amended to put a limit on service charge as volume of transactions increase. 

“The government has received feedback from consumers and stakeholders on how high rates of service charges are disincentivising them to shift to a less cash economy.” said the person, and added that there would be notification on the matter soon.

Some of the mobile wallets charge around one per cent service charge for KYC (know your customer) and around four percent service charge for non-KYC account holders for using their services, said shopkeepers using mobile wallets.

Airtel payments bank charge a fee of 0.65% on all cash withdrawals above Rs 4,000 from the account. 

India Post payments bank is not planning to charge anything on transactions.

In respect of debit card transactions on PoS devices, between January 1 and March 31, merchant discount rate (MDR) has been capped at 0.25% for transaction value up to Rs 1,000, and for debit card transactions value between Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,000, MDR has been capped at 0.5%. 

It is otherwise maximum to the tune of 2%.

The Reserve Bank of India also decided that till the end of March prepaid payment instrument issuers shall not levy any charges on customers for transactions up to Rs 1,000 settled on Immediate Payment Service, Unstructured Supplementary Service Data and Unified Payments Interface.

09:23  Exiled Baloch leaders to meet Trump seeking termination of American military & economic aid to Pak in view of Baloch’s abuse by Pak: ANI

09:17  Voting Update: Polling delayed due to technical snag in EVM machine at Jalandhar, Punjab booth no 66


09:10  White House responds: Will seek emergency stay on Seattle order:  

Here’s a statement by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer following a federal judge in Seattle brought his administration’s executive order on immigration to a halt nationwide Friday”

“At the earliest possible time, the Department of Justice intends to file an emergency stay of this outrageous order and defend the executive order of the President, which we believe is lawful and appropriate.”

“The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people.”

As the law states, “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”

08:43  Customs and Border Protection told US airlines that it’s reinstating visas following a federal judge’s halt to Trump’s travel ban.


08:35  Blow for Trump as US judge blocks travel ban nationwide:  

A US judge has temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s ban on travellers and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries after Washington state and Minnesota urged a nationwide hold on the executive order that has launched legal battles across the country.

US District Judge James Robart in Seattle yesterday ruled that the states had standing to challenge Trump’s order, which government lawyers disputed, and said they showed their case was likely to succeed. 

“The state has met its burden in demonstrating immediate and irreparable injury,” Robart said. 

Trump’s order last week sparked protests nationwide and confusion at airports as some travellers were detained. The White House has argued that it will make the country safer. Washington became the first state to sue over the order that temporarily bans travel for people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen and suspends the US refugee programme. 

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said this week that the travel ban significantly harms residents and effectively mandates discrimination. Minnesota joined the suit two days later.


08:32  Parrikar among early voters in Goa, predicts BJP win:  

Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was among the early voters who voted at the polling booth located in the heart of Panaji city, Goa at around 7.20 am.

In characteristic fashion, Parrikar was seen standing among voters waiting for his turn to vote. 

After casting his vote, Parrikar says Goa will see heavy voter turnout.

Initial reports suggest good turnout; Goa might cross last years turnout of 84% & BJP will win with 2/3rd majority; he said.



Gen JJ Singh (Retd) SAD candidate against Congress’ Amarinder Singh from Patiala Urban, casts his vote


01:05  BSF jawan commits suicide:   A 27-year-old Border Security Force jawan posted along the international border in Meghalaya shot himself on Friday with his service weapon allegedly after going into depression, officials said.

Constable Kamlesh Kumar Gujar, hailing from Haryana, and posted at Kalaichar in South West Garo Hills, belonged to the 26 Battalion of the BSF based at Praharinagar, on the outskirts of Tura, they said.

According to BSF officials, Gujar shot himself this morning with his INSAS rifle while on camp duty at the Kalaichar BOP, allegedly due to family issues.

The body of the BSF jawan was later brought to the Tura Civil Hospital for post mortem with an official team reaching the spot to investigate the death. — PTI


00:43  EC notice to Congress for distributing ‘unemployment allowance’ cards:  The Election Commission demanded an explanation from the ruling Congress in Uttarakhand within 48 hours for allegedly distributing unemployment allowance cards among jobless youths in violation of the model code of conduct.

Taking cognisance of media reports that the Congress was distributing ‘berozgari bhatta cards’ at public meetings, Additional Chief Election Officer V Shanmugham shot off a letter to state Congress president Kishore Upadhyay asking him to explain within 48 hours why distribution of these cards among the beneficiaries should not be treated as gross violation of the model code of conduct.

Referring to the Commissions January 23 letter by which it had refused to grant permission to the party for distribution of these cards, the Additional CEO asked the PCC chief why the party should not be acted against for violating the model code of conduct.

Source: Rediff