Friday, 30 December 2016

Mulayam expels Akhilesh, Ramgopal for 6 years

 In a tough action, SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav today expelled his son and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav as well as general secretary Ramgopal Yadav from the party for six years for "gross indiscipline", a decision that will lead to a political crisis in Uttar Pradesh.

Making the announcement at a press conference here, Mulayam said the new Chief Minister will be chosen by the Samajwadi Party.

Flanked by brother Shivpal Yadav, who has been at loggerheads with the Chief Minister, Mulayam said he had taken the action against Akhilesh and Ramgopal to save the party which he had built through hard efforts. .

Oil prices on track for biggest yearly gain since 2009

Oil prices were on track for their biggest annual gain since 2009 after the OPEC grouping and other major producers agreed to cut crude output to reduce a global supply overhang that has depressed prices for two years.

U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) CLc1 crude futures slipped 12 cents to $53.62 a barrel by 1400 GMT (9 a.m. ET) on Friday, while Brent front-month March crude LCOc1 futures were down 19 cents at $56.66.

Brent has risen about 50 percent this year and WTI has climbed around 43 percent, the largest annual gains since 2009, when Brent and WTI rose 78 percent and 71 percent respectively.

Oil has more than halved since the summer of 2014, when it was above $100 a barrel. The fall in prices due to oversupply, in part thanks to the U.S. shale oil revolution, was accentuated later that year when Saudi Arabia rejected any OPEC deal to cut output and instead fought for market share.

But a new OPEC agreement to reduce production, struck over three months from September this year, marks a return to the 13-country group's old objective of defending prices although doubts remain as to its effectiveness in implementation.

In a sign that producers are adhering to the six-month cut starting in January, Oman told some customers it will reduce term allocations by 5 percent in March, but did not say whether the supply reduction would continue after that.

Equally as important to oil prices next year will be the development of demand globally, and major forecasters diverge in their predictions.

"We see a big variation in demand growth assessments for 2017, ranging from +1.22 million bpd (barrels per day) ... to +1.57 million b/d," analysts at JBC said in a note to clients.

"Overall, all forecasters agree that Asia will remain the main engine for demand growth. Yet, there is no consensus on the extent of Chinese and Indian year-on-year demand growth."

Oil will gradually rise toward $60 per barrel by the end of 2017, a Reuters poll showed on Thursday, with further upside capped by a strong dollar, a likely recovery in U.S. oil output, and possible non-compliance with agreed cuts.

The market on Friday shrugged off an unexpected increase in U.S. crude inventories USOILC=ECI, which rose 614,000 barrels in the week to Dec. 23, U.S. Energy Information Administration data showed. Analysts had expected a decrease of 2.1 million barrels.

Still, the rise in crude stocks was significantly smaller than in Wednesday's American Petroleum Institute data that indicated a 4.2-million-barrel build in the same period.

India's cash crunch making some in Modi's party anxious

Cash shortages weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to abolish large currency notes are making allies and members of his ruling party anxious, with some distancing themselves from the move ahead of a series of state elections.

Modi removed 500 and 1,000 rupee notes, worth around $7.50 and $15 respectively, on Nov. 8, billing it as an attempt to root out corruption, end terror financing and move the country into the age of digital payments.

He promised to replace all old bills with enough new currency notes by the end of this month. But his government has struggled to do that, leading to long lines at banks and a slump in economy activity. Nearly 90 percent of transactions in India used to be in cash.

Interviews with six lawmakers from Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a senior leader of the party's ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), show his party cadre is starting to worry that the cash crunch could hurt their prospects in several states that go to the polls next year.

Some parliamentarians said that while they thought Modi's decision was good, its execution had been botched and they were faced with constituents who were increasingly upset.

"There is no doubt that it is difficult to convince voters that everything will be fine," said Santosh Gangwar, the junior finance minister who is leading the BJP campaign in Uttar Pradesh.

    "Every candidate who will be contesting polls is nervous because they feel people may not vote for the BJP ... There is tension and we cannot deny it," he said.

    Of the BJP's 71 MPs from Uttar Pradesh, 28 have been to BJP President Amit Shah and the finance minister's office to seek solutions for the cash crunch, said a senior finance ministry official.


BJP spokesman G.V.L. Narasimha Rao said that despite temporary difficulties, the prime minister continued to enjoy overwhelming support.

"Party cadres are highly enthused about a big victory in upcoming elections, and if a few are apprehensive, they will realise the reality soon," Rao said.

    Disquiet within the BJP underscores how Modi's unprecedented bet is turning into a test of popularity, and could go some way to determining his political future.

It has become a central issue in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, where the outcome of elections early next year will be key for Modi's expected bid for a second term in 2019.

    The opposition, led by the Congress party, has joined forces, mocking the government for being ill-prepared for so-called "demonetisation" and blaming it for hardships faced by the poor as a result. It has called for Modi's resignation.

    The senior RSS official said they had counselled Modi days before the move to take time to prepare the ground for such a massive exercise, including setting up two new mints and expanding the banking network, and to roll it out in phases.

    But the prime minister decided to press ahead, and he alone would bear responsibility for its failure or success, the official added.

    Earlier this month, N. Chandrababu Naidu, chief minister of Andhra Pradesh and a political ally of Modi, abruptly distanced himself from the move.

   Modi and senior members of his cabinet defend demonetisation. In an interview with India Today magazine on Thursday, Modi said it would give the economy a boost and provide long-term benefits, including forcing the country's vast shadow economy into the open.


 Modi's announcement enjoyed popular support at first, with many people prepared to endure hardship as long as others were forced to give up ill-gotten wealth or pay tax.

But shortages of new 500 and 2,000 rupee notes have caused tempers to rise as millions queue at banks and ATMs to draw money.

    Last week, more than three dozen BJP lawmakers, many of whom came from states that go to polls next year, met with Shah to demand that the government sends more cash to their constituencies, and quickly.

    The MPs told Shah about severe cash shortages and hardship to local businesses and ordinary people, according to several lawmakers who attended the meeting.

They told the BJP president that they did not have the courage to hold election rallies at a time when people still had to stand in line, sometimes for hours, to get money. Some said they had not started door-to-door campaigning.

    "The situation is grim, and we cannot ignore it," Jagdambika Pal, a BJP lawmaker from Uttar Pradesh who attended the meeting, told Reuters. "It is a challenge for every BJP lawmaker to manage the situation, but we cannot do anything if there is no money in the banks."

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Exercise Keeps the Brain Young: Study

Exercise can combat cognitive decline, according to the results of a new study. Older adults who did high amounts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity had a 36% lower risk of cognitive impairment, as well as better memory and executive function, than those who did less.

In the study, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers outfitted 6,400 people older than 65 years old with an activity tracker for a week. They also assessed people’s cognitive abilities through a series of tasks. Three years later, the people who did moderate-to-vigorous levels of physical activity were significantly less likely to experience cognitive problems than those who were sedentary or did light physical activity.

Serena Williams engaged to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian

Serena Williams has announced she is engaged to the co-founder of Reddit, Alexis Ohanian.

Williams, who won the women’s singles title at Wimbledon in July, announced the engagement in a poem on a Reddit thread for people to share their engagement stories.

She said in the poem, posted from her verified Reddit account, that Ohanian proposed at the place they first met during a surprise trip to Rome.

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Williams wrote: “I came home/A little late/Someone had a bag packed for me/And a carriage waited. Destination: Rome/To escort me to my very own ‘charming/Back to where our stars first collided/And now it was full circle/At the same table we first met by chance/But by choice/ Down on knee/He said 4 words/And I said yes.”

The couple have been dating since at least late 2015, but have kept their relationship quiet, with the exception of a few Instagram posts.

Four weeks ago, Williams posted a photo of the couple at a costume party. Within minutes of the engagement announcement, comments on the photo were dominated with congratulatory messages and emojis

Ohanian shared Williams’s Reddit post on his Facebook page with the message: “she said yes”. He also commented on her Reddit thread, writing: “And you made me the happiest man on the planet”.

Williams is widely regarded one of the greatest tennis players of all time and has won 22 major singles titles and a further 16 in doubles. She will aim to win her seventh Australian Open title in Melbourne next month.

Both she and her sister Venus arrived in Auckland on Friday for a tournament leading up to the Open.

Venus Williams said she had to keep a lid on the news of her sister’s engagement after getting the early word.

“I might just be her big sister, I might know these things,” she said

On last day of Modi's 50-day grace period, cash woes continue

On the last day of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 50-day grace period to set right the demonetisation woes, the same set of problems continues to trouble people across the country over access to cash on Friday.

Many ATM kiosks remained shut, while those that did open their shutters had long queues outside, albeit shorter than what one witnessed during the early days of the demonetisation drive.

People complained that several banks were also handing out no more than Rs 4,000 per person, unmindful of the weekly limit of Rs 24,000 that has been officially permitted.

The banks simply said they had no cash.

"My experience at ATMs has been frustrating -- minimum one-two-hour wait. I went to my bank today and despite arguing with the manager, I was only allowed to withdraw Rs 4,000," said Sudhir Mehta, an executive in Mumbai.

At Lajpat Nagar in New Delhi, Sanjiv Sethi, who runs an electronics goods showroom, was pleading with his bank that he needed all of Rs 24,000 to pay his part-time staff. "I should have sent someone daily to withdraw Rs 4,000 at least," he was heard mumbling.

In a televised address to the nation on November 8, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that all Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes were being demonetised, along with norms to deal with such old notes. The intention was to curb black money in the system and move towards a less-cash economy.

Overnight, Rs 15.44 lakh crore or 86 per cent of the currency in circulation then was declared illegal.

A week later, when the magnitude of the problem at hand became evident, Modi made an emotional speech in Goa, promising to set right the problems soon. "I've just asked for 50 days. Give me time till December 30," he said.

"I understand the pain. But this is only for 50 days."

December 30 being the last date for people to exchange or deposit their old currency notes with banks under Modi's note-ban norms, hordes of people were seen making a last-ditch attempt towards this end. Some banks set up additional counters to deal with old currency.

All eyes and ears now await Prime Minister Modi's speech on the eve of New Year, durig which he is likely to spell out what next on demonetisation.

"Hope, he relaxes some of the norms," said Kartik Chandrasekhar, a manager with a private sector company in Chennai. "Being denied what is mine -- I mean the deposit I have in my bank -- is highly improper."

Demonetisation: Last day to deposit scrapped notes

Prime Minister is expected to address the nation on Saturday after the self-imposed deadline of 50 days.

The deadline to deposit Rs 1,000 and old Rs 500 notes in banks ends on Friday. From next week onward, those still holding the scrapped currency can deposit it only with the Reserve Bank of India till March 31.

After March 31, holding demonetised notes would be illegal and could invite hefty fines and even jail, according to an ordinance passed by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to address the nation on Saturday after his self-imposed deadline of 50 days for the situation to return to normal ends.

While some people are hoping for a deadline extension, the government maintained that it had no plans to do so.

On November 8, Mr. Modi announced that Rs 1,000 and old Rs 500 notes would no longer be legal tender.

On Thursday, in his first interview since demonetisation, Mr. Modi said the country was at a “watershed moment” and the move to scrap 86 per cent of the currency in circulation was to cleanse the nation of “all forms of filth”.

He said the money that was with terrorists, Maoists, and human traffickers “has been neutralised” and that black money has all been forced out into the open.

“The revenue collected will be used for the welfare of the poor, downtrodden and the marginalised,” he asserted.

We aren't getting engaged: Kohli

Test skipper Virat Kohli on Friday took to Twitter to rubbish media reports of his engagement to Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma.

Rumours of the 28-year-old Kohli, who recently guided India to a 4-0 thrashing of England, getting engaged to Anushka on New Year flooded in social media after the duo were spotted in Uttarakhand.

Kohli, however, took to Twitter to clear the air in a series of tweets saying: "We aren't getting engaged and if we were going to, we wouldn't hide it. Simple..."

In another tweet, the prolific batsman hit back at the news channels for spreading false reports and said: "Since news channels can't resist selling false rumours and keeping you confused, we are just ending the confusion."

The couple have often been the talk of the town for their on and off relationship.

Digitally re-mastered version of 'Baashha' impresses Rajinikanth

Superstar Rajinikanth is mighty pleased with the digitally re-mastered version of his iconic 1995 Tamil film "Baashha", which is gearing up for re-release next month.

Directed by Suresh Krissna, the film was produced by R.M. Veerappan, and his son Thangaraj is the visionary behind the idea to digitize and re-release "Baashha".

In a statement, Thangaraj said: "Rajini sir had seen the trailer of the remastered version of the film and really liked it. He asked if it was my father's idea to re-release 'Baashha', and I told him it was mine. I explained to him what we had achieved technically with the film and he was delighted to know composer Deva sir had rescored for the entire film."

The film chronicles the story of a hardworking auto-rickshaw driver who once ruled as a dreadful gangster.

Recalling his meeting with Rajinikanth, Thangaraj said: "He shared anecdotes about how my father modified 'Baashha', and how he was responsible in the success of the film."

He also said special plans are being made for the film's release.

"We are planning to have a red carpet event, a charity show in London, and have fans from Japan over to watch the film," he said.

The best and worst of Bollywood in 2016

Even at its best, 2016 was a middling year for the Indian film industry. There were a few high points but no movie really scaled the zenith of filmmaking. Even the “good” films suffered from a few niggles, which we will ignore in our list below. And as is the case every year, when the nadir was reached, Bollywood seemed to find newer ways to scrape the bottom of the barrel. Here is a very subjective list of what I thought were the best and worst films of 2016 -

The best films, in no particular order:

Airlift: Raja Krishna Menon’s searing tale of thousands of Indians stuck in Kuwait at the height of the Gulf War was an unexpected triumph at the beginning of the year. Akshay Kumar delivered a wonderfully restrained performance in a film littered with some good ensemble acting and a screenplay that never resorted to jingoism, even though there was plenty of scope for it. The story of the largest human evacuation in recorded history made for gripping viewing, thanks to Menon’s control over his craft and his leading man’s author-backed role.

Neerja: Even though the rest of the year would prove us wrong, Ram Madhvani’s “Neerja” made you want to believe that Bollywood had finally learned to get its real-life stories right. The tale of flight purser Neerja Bhanot and her bravery that saved the lives of hundreds of passengers onboard a hijacked Pan Am flight was told with minimal frills and featured powerhouse performances both from leading lady Sonam Kapoor and Shabana Azmi, who played Neerja’s mother. Azmi’s monologue towards the end of the film stands out as one of the most powerful scenes in any film this year.

Aligarh: Another re-telling of a true story, Hansal Mehta’s film makes it to this list purely on the strength of the leading man’s performance. Manoj Bajpayee delivered a nuanced, pitch-perfect portrayal of Ramchandra Siras, a professor at a prestigious university who was suspended after authorities discovered he was a homosexual. Co-star Rajkummar Rao played the perfect foil to Bajpayee, and Mehta’s deliberately slow pace of direction gave us a chance to really let the powerful message seep in.

Pink: Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s film was the true sleeper hit of the year. A film that barely saw any traction before its release, didn’t have any big stars apart from Amitabh Bachchan, and a trailer that didn’t convey much, turned out to be one of the most talked-about movies of the year. Bachchan’s pivotal lines on the idea of consent (how ‘no’ means ‘no’), and the film’s refusal to pussyfoot around the issue of promiscuity propelled “Pink” to the status of a rare Bollywood film that is actually in touch with the real world instead of operating in a bubble.

Dangal: Until the last 20 minutes of its run-time, Nitesh Tiwari’s “Dangal” felt like the best film of the year. The true story of wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat and how he trained his daughters to become world-class wrestlers had everything going for it – wonderfully choreographed sports sequences, light humour and the perfect ensemble cast. Inexplicably, Tiwari resorted to the “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” and “Mary Kom” style of film-making in the end, giving us a hackneyed climax that felt out of place with the tone of the film. Yet, the rest of the film was so good that “Dangal” still makes it to our ‘best’ list.

Honourable mentions: Island City, Phobia, Kapoor and Sons, Nil Battey Sannata and Udta Punjab

And here are the worst Bollywood films of 2016:

Mohenjo Daro: If Ashutosh Gowariker didn’t have films like “Lagaan” and “Swades” in his filmography, perhaps “Mohenjo Daro” wouldn’t have come across as a huge disappointment. But for a film-maker of his caliber to churn out a mediocre film that looked like it had been produced in the 1990s was unforgivable. Hrithik Roshan’s role as a farm boy who is drawn to the magical land of Mohenjo Daro was marred by bad CGI and a predictable script that didn’t even try to go beyond tired cliches.

Banjo: As if Ravi Jadhav’s film about a street musician wasn’t already a dud, the film-maker chose to cast Nargis Fakhri as his leading lady. The actress, who isn’t exactly known for her acting prowess, had several scenes to herself, and watching her only served to double the torture the film inflicted on its audience. Why Indian film-makers think stories about aging rockers and their superficial angst will make for compelling narratives is a mystery that remains to be solved.

Mirzya: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s tale of star-crossed lovers and reincarnation was supposed to be the big launch vehicle of the year, with Anil Kapoor’s son Harshvardhan Kapoor making his debut. But the film left both critics and audiences stone-cold. The stunning vistas of snow-clad mountains and dream sequences with a hundred dancers cannot make up for the fact that Mehra’s story had almost no meat and the leading pair shared no chemistry. “Mirzya” was a good example of how Bollywood seems to have lost its way around a genre it once knew like the back of its hand – romance

Ki and Ka: Not that there weren’t technically inferior films to R Balki’s “Ki and Ka” in 2016, but the film makes it to the ‘worst’ list because of its farcical pretense of being a progressive film while propagating the worst kind of regressiveness. The men are all corporate whores who cannot imagine cooking a meal, and the women are either rotund housewives who spend afternoons at movie theatres or working women who cannot even fry an egg. Balki’s gimmicky film-making and Arjun Kapoor’s self-satisfied expression throughout the film was enough to raise the hackles.

Shivaay: In the years to come, Ajay Devgn’s “Shivaay” should serve as a manual on how to take the thrill out of an action thriller. Devgn’s version of “Taken” put Diwali audiences to sleep, his sullen expressions mirroring the lack of action on the screen. Even a few chase sequences around Europe weren’t enough to drive the boredom away
(From Reuters)

Modi says demonetisation will boost economy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the decision to scrap high-value bank notes will give the economy a further boost, and would provide long-term benefits, including forcing the country's vast shadow economy into the open.

The defence of his radical move to abolish 500 and 1,000 rupee notes, in an interview to India Today magazine released on Thursday, comes after the decision has disrupted the daily lives of hundreds of millions of Indians as banks have struggled to swiftly expand the circulation of new bills.

India's gross domestic product grew an annual 7.3 percent growth between July and September, making it the world's fastest growing large economy, but many economists say expansion will slow substantially in the current quarter.

"We took the demonetisation decision not for some short-term windfall gain, but for a long term structural transformation," Modi was quoted as saying by India Today.

Modi added the move would bring cash from the shadow economy into the mainstream. The Prime Minister had said the demonetisation action was needed to fight corruption and fraud and cut off financing for attacks by militants who target India.

"The multiplier effect of introduction of money which was, till now, uselessly hoarded and stocked away as cash into the active economic system will give the economy a further boost," he said according to India Today.

Economists and some businesses say demonetisation could ultimately help broaden the formal economy and improve tax compliance.

Both 500 and 1,000 rupee notes will cease to be legal tenders after Dec. 31, and Modi has scheduled a speech to the nation on that day.

దేవుడికి వెండి కిరీటాలు చేయించిన బిచ్చగాడు

బిచ్చగాడు దేవుడికి వెండి కిరీటాలు చేయించి తన ఔదార్యాన్ని చాటుకున్నాడు. ఏ గుడి పరిసర ప్రాంతాల్లో భిక్షాటన చేశాడో.. ఆ గుడిలోని దేవుడికి రెండు వెండి కిరీటాలు చేయించాడు. కొంత నగదును నిత్య అన్నదానానికి విరాళంగా ఇచ్చి పలువురికి ఆదర్శంగా నిలిచాడు. నల్లగొండ జిల్లాకు చెందిన యాదిరెడ్డి(75) 11 ఏళ్ల వయసున్నప్పుడు జీవనోపాధి కోసం విజయవాడ వెళ్లాడు. యవ్వన దశ నుంచి వృద్ధాప్యం వరకు విజయవాడలోనే గడిపాడు. 45 సంవత్సరాలు రిక్షా తొక్కుతూ, ఇతర పనులు చేస్తూ జీవనం సాగించాడు యాదిరెడ్డి. వృద్ధాప్యంలో పని చేయడం చేతకాకపోవడంతో విజయవాడలోని వీధుల్లో, కోదండరామ ఆలయం వద్ద భిక్షాటన చేయడం ప్రారంభించాడు. అయితే యాదిరెడ్డికి వివాహం కాలేదు. దీంతో భిక్షాటన ద్వారా వచ్చిన ఆదాయాన్ని తన ఖర్చులకు పోనూ.. మిగిలిన నగదును ఆధ్యాత్మికం కోసం ఖర్చు పెట్టాలని నిర్ణయించుకున్నాడు. ఈ క్రమంలోనే కోదండరాముడికి రెండు వెండి కిరీటాలు చేయించాడు. వాటికి రూ. 1,50,000 ఖర్చు అయింది. అంతే కాకుండా రూ. 20 వేలను నిత్య అన్నదానానికి విరాళంగా ఇచ్చాడు. కొద్దికాలం క్రితం సాయినాథుడికి కూడా వెండి కిరీటాన్ని చేయించి ఇచ్చాడు. దేవుడే తనకు గొప్ప శక్తి, ధైర్యం అని యాదిరెడ్డి చెప్పారు. దేవుడి దయ వల్లే ఇంతకాలం జీవించగలిగానని భావోద్వేగానికి లోనయ్యారు. దేవుడికి చిన్న కానుక ఇవ్వాలని నిర్ణయించుకుని వెండి కిరీటాలను చేయించానని తెలిపారు. దేవుడికి కృతజ్ఞతలు చెప్పుకుంటున్నానని పేర్కొన్నారు.

జయ మృతిపై హైకోర్టు కూ అనుమానం

ద్రాస్ హైకోర్టు సంచలన వ్యాఖ్యలు చేసింది. జయలలిత మృతిపై మద్రాస్ హైకోర్టు జడ్జి కూడా అనుమానాలు వ్యక్తం చేశారు. అయితే అవి తన వ్యక్తిగతం అని పేర్కొన్నారు. ఈ వ్యాఖ్యలు దేశంలో ఒక్కసారిగా కలకలం రేపాయి. జయ మరణంపై అనుమానాలు ఉన్నాయన్ని హైకోర్టు జస్టిస్‌ వైద్యనాథన్‌ వ్యాఖ్యానించారు. హైకోర్టులో దాఖలైన పిల్‌పై విచారణ సందర్భంగా జడ్జి ఈ వ్యాఖ్యలు చేశారు. జయలలితకు ఎలాంటి చికిత్స అందిందో కేంద్రానికి తెలుసు. కానీ ఎందుకు మౌనంగా ఉందో.. ఎందుకు గోప్యత పాటించిందో తెలియదని ఆయన వ్యాఖ్యానించారు.
జయ మృతిపై జనవరి 9లోగా సమగ్ర నివేదిక సమర్పించాలని కేంద్ర, రాష్ట్ర ప్రభుత్వాలకు ఆదేశాలు, నోటీసులు జారీ చేశారు. విచారణ సందర్భంగా కేంద్ర ప్రభుత్వ న్యాయవాదిని తీవ్రంగా మందలించారు. జయలలిత మరణంపై దాఖలైన పిటిషన్లను విచారించిన జస్టిస్‌ వైద్యనాథన్‌, జస్టిస్‌ పార్తిబన్‌ ధర్మాసనం విచారించింది. తాను ఒక్కడినే ఈ పిటిషన్లను విచారించాల్సి వస్తే పరిస్థితి మరోలా ఉంటుందని జస్టిస్ వైద్యనాథన్ వ్యాఖ్యానించడం మరో విశేషం. రాబోయే రోజుల్లో ఈ కేసు ఎన్ని మలుపులు తిరుగుతుందనేది ఆసక్తికరంగా మారింది.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Former top IAS officer Baijal to be new Delhi LG

Career bureaucrat Anil Baijal was today appointed as the new Lt Governor of Delhi, a post which has fallen vacant after sudden resignation of Najeeb Jung.

70-year-old Baijal, a 1969 batch IAS officer, had served as Union Home Secretary under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government besides holding key positions in other ministries.

The President accepted the resignation of Jung and also ordered for appointment of Baijal, who will be the 21st Lt Governor of the national capital.

Baijal had retired from service in 2006 as Secretary, Urban Development Ministry. He is a former vice chairman of Delhi Development Authority.

Baijal was actively associated with the designing and roll-out of Rs 60,000 crore Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban RENEWAL Mission (JNNURM) launched by the Manmohan Singh government.

The former bureaucrat was also on the executive council of the think-tank Vivekananda International Foundation, several of whose former members have been appointed to senior positions by the Modi government including National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

Jung had submitted his resignation on December 22, ending a nearly three-and-half-year-long eventful tenure, mostly marked by bitter confrontation with AAP government.

Train derails near Kanpur injuring 61; latest crash to raise concerns

A train derailed in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday injuring 61 people, police and rail officials said, the third significant accident in recent months that have raised concern about the safety of the ageing rail network.

The train came off the tracks and crashed near Kanpur early in the morning.

"Our latest assessment is that 61 people got injured in the accident and two sustained grievous injuries," said Anil Kumar Saxena, spokesman for Indian Railways.

The train had just pulled out of the station and its speed was "rather slow", he said.

Television footage from the scene showed mangled, toppled carriages. Two coaches had fallen off a bridge into a small canal while some passengers were seen picking up their luggage from near the tracks.

India's creaking railway system is the world's fourth largest. It runs 11,000 trains a day, including 7,000 passenger trains carrying more than 20 million people.

But it has a poor safety record, with thousands of people dying every year in derailments, collisions and other accidents.

This was the third accident significant in recent months.

On November 20, at least 146 people were killed when a train derailed near the same city.

A train rammed into a van taking children to school at a level crossing in north India in July, killing eight of them

Railways minister Suresh Prabhu has promised to replace old tracks and upgrade safety systems. The government spends more than 90 percent of the railways' revenues on operational costs, leaving little for upgrades of the colonial-era system.

Some analysts estimate the railways need 20 trillion rupees ($293.21 billion) of investment by 2020, and India is turning to partnerships with private companies and seeking loans from other countries to upgrade the network.

NSE exchange files for long-awaited IPO

National Stock Exchange (NSE), India's largest bourse, filed an application for an initial public offering on Wednesday, laying the ground for what could be India's biggest listing since 2010.

The NSE has filed the so-called draft red herring prospectus with the capital markets regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, an exchange spokesman said.

Bankers had previously said the NSE could raise as much as $1 billion in a listing, making it potentially India's biggest since Coal India raised $3.5 billion in an IPO in 2010, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Smaller rival BSE Ltd, formerly Bombay Stock Exchange, filed its application in September for an IPO expected to raise around $150 million, but it has not yet been given the go-ahead.

Both IPOs come at a time when emerging markets have been under pressure as global investors have shifted funds towards the United States, though NSE Chairman Ashok Chawla sought to downplay concerns about the timing.

"In my view, there is no bad time for a good issue," Chawla told Reuters in an interview earlier this month.

NSE needs to appoint a new chief executive to replace previous head Chitra Ramkrishna, who unexpectedly resigned last month, citing personal reasons.

NSE's listing is expected to be one of the most high profile in 2017. Indian companies raised more than $3.7 billion from IPOs this year, the most in six years, according to data compiled by Thomson Reuters

Some stakeholders accused the exchange earlier this year of moving too slowly, the company then committed to file an application for a listing by January.

పాతనోట్లు ఉంటే 4 ఏళ్ల జైలు శిక్ష

కేంద్ర కేబినెట్ పాత నోట్లపై కొత్త నిర్ణయం తీసుకుంది. పాత నోట్లు కలిగి ఉంటే చర్యలు తీసుకునేలా ఆర్డినెన్స్ ను రూపొందించింది. వచ్చే మార్చి తర్వాత పాత నోట్లు కలిగి ఉంటే 4 ఏళ్ల జైలు శిక్ష విధించనుంది. పాత నోట్లతో లావాదేవీలు జరిపితే రూ.5 వేల జరిమానా విధించాలని నిర్ణయించింది. ఈమేరకు ఆర్డినెన్స్ ను రాష్ట్రపతి భవన్ కు పంపాలని నిర్ణయించింది. మార్చి 31వ తేదీ తర్వాత పాత నోట్లను మార్చుకుంటే, వాళ్లకు 5 వేల జరిమానా విధించనున్నారు. అయితే పాత నోట్లను డిపాజిట్ చేయడంలో మాత్రం డెడ్ లైన్ మార్చలేదు.

కొత్త ఆర్డినెన్స్ కు 'ద స్పెసిఫైడ్ బ్యాంక్ నోట్స్ సెషేషన్ ఆఫ్ లయబెలిటీస్' ఆర్డినెన్స్ అని పేరు పెట్టారు. పది కంటే ఎక్కువ పాత నోట్లు కలిగి ఉన్నవాళ్లకు కూడా శిక్షను విధించనున్నారు. డిసెంబర్ 30 తర్వాత పాత నోట్లను కేవలం ఆర్బీఐలోనే డిపాజిట్ చేయాల్సి ఉంటుంది. నవంబర్ 8న ప్రధాని మోదీ వెయ్యి, 500 నోట్లను రద్దు చేశారు. దాని వల్ల చెలామణిలో ఉన్న సుమారు 86 శాతం కరెన్సీ లావాదేవీలు ఆగిపోయాయి.

యూఎస్ వర్సిటీకి చెందిన ఆర్థిక శాస్త్ర ప్రొఫెసర్ వీ.ఆచార్యను ఆర్బీఐ డిప్యూటీ గవర్నర్ గా నియమిస్తూ కేంద్ర క్యాబినేట్ ఆమోదం తెలిపింది

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Huma Qureshi meets interpreter in UK over Viceroy’s House

Huma Qureshi, who will be seen next in her international film Viceroy’s House, met British era interpreter Jaya Thadani in London on whom her character is loosely based, to grasp the nuances. In the Gurinder Chadha-helmed movie, Huma will essay the character of the interpreter to India’s last British Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten and his wife.

Huma flew to London to meet Thadani who was an interpreter during the British rule. Their meeting was organised by the director so that the “Gangs of Wasseypur” actress could relate to her character, according to a press release issued here.

“It was a wonderful experience meeting Jaya Thadani. She had such great stories to tell and such interesting anecdotes to share about Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru,” Huma said in a statement here.

Star Wars Cast Sends Support to Carrie Fisher as She Remains in Intensive Care

Carrie Fisher’s current and former co-stars, including the cast of the Star Wars franchise, are sending support and prayers to the actor as she remains in the hospital after having a medical emergency on a plane heading to Los Angeles from London.

Fisher was taken to a Los Angeles hospital from the airport on Friday, according to PEOPLE. Fisher was reportedly unresponsive when emergency personnel arrived and “aggressively treated,” according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. Fisher’s brother Todd told news outlets that Fisher was in the intensive care unit.

“We certainly do not know her condition, that’s why she is in ICU. I’m sure everyone wants to speculate, but now is not the time for that,” Todd told Entertainment Tonight. “If everyone could just pray for her that would be good.”
The Associated Press later reported that Fisher was in stable condition.

Fisher’s Star Wars co-star Harrison Ford released a statement to PEOPLE: “I am shocked and saddened to hear the news about my dear friend. Our thoughts are with Carrie, her family and friends.”

Many other concerned friends from all over Hollywood took to Twitter to send love and support to the 60-year-old actor, known for playing Princess Leia in Star Wars, and her family, including her fellow Star Wars castmates Mark Hamill and Peter Mayhew

Pope Francis Celebrates Christmas Eve Mass After a Year of Pleas for Peace

Pope Francis celebrated Christmas Eve Mass in a packed St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday, rounding out a year marked by his pleas for the world to better protect innocents caught up in wars, migrations and abject poverty.

As the Sistine Chapel choir sang “Gloria” and the basilica’s bells rang out across Rome, Francis processed to the altar behind cardinals draped in golden vestments for the service celebrating the birth of Jesus.

The late night Mass was the first major event of the Christmas season, followed by Francis’ noon Urbi et Orbi (To the city and the world) blessing on Christmas Day.

Francis has spent much of 2016 bemoaning the Islamic extremist violence that has driven Christians from Mideast communities that date to the time of Christ. He has demanded Europe in particular do more to welcome refugees, saying Jesus himself was a migrant who deserved more than being born in a manger. And he has denounced the wasteful ways of the wealthy when children and the poor die of hunger every day

Russian military plane missing in Black Sea with 91 on board

A Russian defence force Tu-154 aircraft carrying 91 people has crashed into the Black Sea, according to reports.

The Russian defence ministry said that the plane carrying musicians from the famous Alexandrov military choir to a New Year concert for troops in Syria went missing soon after taking off from the resort of Sochi on Sunday.

A total of 83 passengers and eight crew were on board when the plane dropped off radar early Sunday.

The ministry later said fragments of the plane, a Soviet-designed three-engine airliner, had been found by rescuers about 1.5km from the shore in water around 50-70 metres deep.

Russia’s RIA news agency, citing an unidentified security source, said preliminary data indicated the plane had crashed because of a technical malfunction, Reuters reported.

Those on board included Russian servicemen and artists from the Russian military’s official choir, the Alexandrov Ensemble, who were on their way to celebrate the upcoming New Year with air force personnel at the Latakia air base in western Syria, the defence source told RIA. Nine Russian journalists were also on board, it said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies that Vladimir Putin had been informed of the situation and was being kept abreast of the search operations.

Government wanted to debate parties' funding in Parliament: PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said he wanted a debate in Parliament on donations being given to political parties but it could not take place.

Speaking in his radio programme Mann Ki Baat, Modi said: "I wish there was a discussion in Parliament on funding for political parties."

He added that rumours were being spread on funding for political parties.

"Law is the same for everyone, whether it is individual, organisation or a party," he said.

The Prime Minister, however, added that amid the disruptions, something good also happened, and thanked the members of Parliament for passage of the disability bill.

"This time Parliament session was the reason of people's dismay. People expressed anger against the disruption, so did the President and Vice-President," said the Prime Minister.

"The disability bill was passed and for that I thank all MPs of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on behalf of the Divyangs (disabled)," he added.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014, was passed in Parliament in the winter session.

Meeting global climate target to net millions more fish

If countries abide by the Paris Agreement's global warming target of 1.5 degrees Celsius, potential fish catches could increase by six million metric tonnes per year, estimates a new study.

The researchers also found that some oceans are more sensitive to changes in temperature and will have substantially larger gains from achieving the Paris Agreement.

"The benefits for vulnerable tropical areas is a strong reason why 1.5 Celsius is an important target to meet," said lead author William Cheung, Associate Professor at University of British Columbia in Canada.

"Countries in these sensitive regions are highly dependent on fisheries for food and livelihood, but all countries will be impacted as the seafood supply chain is now highly globalised. Everyone would benefit from meeting the Paris Agreement," Cheung said.

The authors compared the Paris Agreement 1.5 Celsius warming scenario to the currently pledged 3.5 Celsius by using computer models to simulate changes in global fisheries and quantify losses or gains.

The findings -- published in the journal Science - showed that for every degree Celsius decrease in global warming, potential fish catches could increase by more than three metric million tonnes per year.

Previous UBC research shows that today's global fish catch is roughly 109 million metric tonnes.

"Changes in ocean conditions that affect fish stocks, such as temperature and oxygen concentration, are strongly related to atmospheric warming and carbon emissions," Thomas Frolicher from ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich) in Switzerland, explained.

"For every metric tonne of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere, the maximum catch potential decreases by a significant amount," Frolicher said.

జయ పోస్టుమార్టం రిపోర్టు కోసం కోర్టుకు

మిళనాడు దివంగత సిఎం జయలలిత పోస్టుమార్టం రిపోర్టును బయటపెట్టాలని కోరుతూ మద్రాస్ హైకోర్టులో పిటిషన్ దాఖలైంది. ట్రాఫిక్ రామస్వామి ఈ పిటిషన్‌ను దాఖలు చేశారు. పోయెస్ గార్డెన్‌ను శశికళ ఖాళీ చేయకతప్పదని రామస్వామి పేర్కొన్నారు. జయ కాళ్లను తొలగించిన విషయాన్ని శశికళ దాచిపెట్టారని ఆయన ఆరోపించారు. శశికళ అరెస్టు ఖాయమని ఆయన పేర్కొన్నారు. శశికళను అరెస్టు చేయాలని డిమాండ్ చేస్తూ రామస్వామి నిరాహారదీక్షకు దిగారు.

PM greets Sharif on birthday

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today greeted his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his birthday, notwithstanding the severe chill in relations between the two countries.

"Birthday wishes to Pakistan PM Mr. Nawaz Sharif. I pray for his long and healthy life," Modi tweeted.

Sharif turned 67 today.

Modi extended birthday wishes to Sharif even though the two countries have been witnessing a severe chill in their relations because of repeated terror attacks in India emanating from Pakistan.

Last year on this day, Modi had made a huge gesture by travelling to Lahore on an unscheduled visit to wish Sharif personally and attend the marriage ceremony of his kin.

However, the warmth in the bilateral ties witnessed at that time evaporated after terror attack on the airbase in Pathankot on January 1 this year. Since then the relations have just been sliding as tensions escalated.

Khaidi No.150 ...Sundari, Very Ordinary!

Although first single from Khaidi No. 150 received mixed response from the listeners, the lyrical song video went on to clock 5 million views on YouTube.

Elated with the sensation of Ammadu Lets Do Kummudu song on the video-sharing website, Khaidi No. 150 team released second single now.

The second single ‘Sundari’ was penned by Srimani and sung by Jaspreet Jasz. The song sounds peppy with foot-tapping beats, but the tune is very ordinary.

It is yet another routine DSP mark duet with modernized lyrics. Looks like DSP hasn’t put in any extra efforts to make it a special album for Chiranjeevi.  

Now it is up to Chiranjeevi to make this song appealing to the masses with his dances. Fans will be wondering if these are the best songs of the album or are they saving the best for later. Let us hope so.

Watch Sundari song

అఖిల్ పెళ్లి వేడుకలు ఆరంభం…!

క్కినేని అఖిల్ వివాహ వేడుకలు ఆరంభం అయినట్టుగా తెలుస్తోంది. అందుకు సంబంధించిన ఫొటోలు ఇప్పుడు ఇంటర్నెట్ లో షికారు చేస్తున్నాయి. శ్రియా భూపాల్ పసుపు బట్టల్లో ఉండి, వారి కుటుంబ సభ్యులు పెళ్లి వేడుకల్లో పాల్గొనడానికి సంబంధించిన ఫొటో ఇంటర్నెట్ లో ఆసక్తిని రేపుతోంది. ఈ నెల తొమ్మిదో తేదీన అఖిల్- శ్రియల వివాహ నిశ్చితార్థం జరిగిన సంగతి తెలిసిందే. అఖిల్ వివాహం రోమ్ లో జరగనుంది. పెళ్లి వేడుకలు మాత్రం ఇండియాలోనే అప్పుడే మొదలయినట్టున్నాయి.

How Did Naidu 'Buy' Her: Cash or card?

Firebrand actress-turned-YSR Congress party MLA R K Roja cannot keep her mouth shut even for a few days.

Known for his loud-mouth character, this Jabardast lady ripped apart her ex-boss and Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu for admitting one more MLA of her party into his party.

Reacting strongly to the defection of Pamarru MLA Uppuleti Kalpana into the TDP on Friday, Roja alleged that Naidu was shamelessly buying the Opposition party MLAs with ill-gotten money despite strong comments from the courts.

“How did you buy our party MLA? With cash or using swiping machine?” she asked.

She wondered how Naidu was shamelessly claiming that the TDP would get 175 seats in the next elections, while purchasing the other party MLAs.

“Has the TDP become Telugu Dongala Party?” she asked.

Roja also came down heavily on Naidu for lack of safety for women in his regime, which was evident from the way Guntur Zilla Parishad chairperson Sheikh Jaani Moon expressed threat to her life from minister Ravela Kishore Babu.

“When a woman leader from his own TDP does not have safety, how can the common women expect security in Naidu regime?” she wondered.

In the process, the firebrand MLA also pulled up women ministers in Naidu cabinet.

“They have not taken up a single programme for women. They are more interested in diamond necklaces and golden vaddanams than the safety of women,” she said.

Modi says won't hesitate on tough decisions to help economy

India will not hesitate to make tough decisions to help support its growing economy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday, alluding to his recent scrapping of 500 and 1,000 rupee banknotes to tackle endemic corruption.

Modi told an event organised by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), India's capital markets regulator that his government would continue to follow sound and prudent economic policies to ensure that India's long-term prospects are bright.

"We will not take decisions for short-term political point scoring . . . We will not shy away from taking difficult decisions if those decisions are in the interests of the country," Modi said.

"Demonetisation is an example. It is a short-term pain but it will bring long-term gain."

Modi announced the shock move to ditch 500 and 1,000 rupee notes with a combined value of $256 billion on Nov. 8, saying the large denomination notes fuelled corruption and fraud and were even used to finance attacks by militants who target India.

With the cash economy estimated to account for a fifth of India's $2 trillion gross domestic product, the decision has disrupted the daily lives of hundreds of millions of Indians.

But economists and some businesses say it could ultimately help broaden the formal economy and improve tax compliance.

Modi said the government had transformed the economy in less than three years by cutting and achieving fiscal deficit targets, keeping the current account deficit low, boosting foreign exchange reserves and lowering inflation.

"Developed countries and emerging markets are both facing slow growth. Against this background, India is being seen as a bright spot. Growth is projected to remain among the highest in the world," he said.
(Reuters news)

Friday, 23 December 2016

UP Assembly polls: 1,12,746 new voters included in voter list

 1,12,746 new voters have been included in the voter list as per revised electoral roll in the district, making it a total of 19,12,228 people who will exercise their franchise in the upcoming UP Assembly polls.

19,12,228 people including 8,72,039 women and 163 voters from third gender would exercise their franchise in coming up assembly polls, expected early next year.

The District Magistrate DK Singh told PTI here today that in six assembly constituencies- Budhana, Purkazi, Khatoli, Muzaffarnagar, Charthwal and Miranpur, 887 polling stations and 1614 polling booths have been established.

He said that during correction of voter list drive, 1,12,746 new voters, including 65,637 women voters have been included in voter list.

Meanwhile, the district authorities have started preparation for ensuring peaceful polls in the district.

US crude settles at 17-month high after small, pre-holiday gain

US oil prices closed at a 17-month high on Friday in quiet trade ahead of the Christmas and New Year holiday week, even though the gain was small, as the market waits to see how the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) manages its planned output cuts with Libya expecting to boost production.

Despite the 17-month high in US futures, prices were little changed on Friday in a market that closed early for the Christmas holiday.

Brent futures gained 11 cents, or 0.2 per cent, to settle at $55.16 a barrel, while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crud gained seven cents, or 0.1 per cent, to settle at $53.02, its highest close since July 2015.

That topped the previous 17-month high close for WTI set last week by a nickel and was the front month's sixth daily gain in a row, its longest winning streak since August.

It also put the WTI contract up for a fifth week in six, gaining about 22 per cent since mid-November, which traders said was mostly related to the Opec production cut agreement.

"Friday was a quiet, low volume day with little price movement," said Phil Davis, managing partner of venture capital fund PSW Investments in Woodland Park, New Jersey, noting WTI gained just enough pennies to set a new 17-month high.

"This is the time for maximum hype in oil. It's all related to the Opec deal to cut output," Davis said, warning the high prices will not last if the market does not see the Opec cuts over the longer term.

Over the past few weeks, the Opec and non-OPEC members agreed to lower output by almost 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) from January 1.

While major Opec producers including Saudi Arabia and Iraq have told customers that supply will be cut in line with the Opec deal, Libya and Nigeria are exempt because conflict has already curbed their output.

Libya's National Oil Corp hopes to add 270,000 bpd to national production over the next three months after announcing on Tuesday the reopening of pipelines leading from two major fields, Sharara and El Feel.

Another factor that analysts said could soon weigh on the oil market was an announcement this week that Saudi Arabia would boost domestic fuel prices as the government reduces its subsidies.

That could reduce internal oil consumption and leave more Saudi barrels for the export market, Tim Evans, Citi Futures' energy futures specialist, said in a report.

Sunny Leone to receive PETA’s person of the year award

Sunny Leone will receive PETA’s person of the year award for her dedication to promoting the rescue of homeless dogs and cats, as well as her compassion for animals abused and killed for their skin. Earlier this year, the 35-year-old star featured in an ad the campaign by the organisation which encouraged people to be an angel and adopt a homeless dog.
“Sunny Leone’s kindness proves she is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. PETA is calling on people everywhere to follow her compassionate example by adopting– and never buying–companion animals, and by eating healthy, plant-based meals that save animals every time we sit down to eat,” said Sachin Bangera of PETA.
Past recipients of PETA’s person of the year award include Dr Shashi Tharoor, former Supreme Court Justice KS Panicker Radhakrishnan, and actors Kapil Sharma, Hema Malini, R Madhavan and Jacqueline Fernandez.
Meanwhile, Sunny Leone, who features in the remake version of iconic song Laila Main Laila inShah Rukh Khan-starrer Raees, says the superstar’s wife Gauri Khan told her she is looking amazing in the item number. “I saw him (Shah Rukh) and his wife (Gauri) during Diwali party at Aamir Khan’s house. I asked him how is the song looking he said very sweet, his wife said it is looking really good. I was extremely nervous. She said it’s looking amazing,” Sunny told PTI.

New Love Song From ‘OK Jaanu’ Is Now Out

The third song from OK Jaanu, titled Enna Sona, is now out – and it’s Karan Johar‘s favourite track from the album. This one’s been sung by Arijit Singh, and is a love song.

Watch This song

These Two Bollywood Films Might Be In The Running For The Oscars

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released a list of films that could be in the running for best picture at the Oscars, and guess which two Bollywood movies were on the list? Sarbjit and MS Dhoni: The Untold Story. This is such great news and is so exciting for us Indians!

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Movie Review: Dangal

There are many rousing moments in Nitesh Tiwari’s “Dangal” (Hindi slang for the wrestling arena), but perhaps the one that best exemplifies the film and its characters is the delightful track “Haanikarak Baapu” (Dangerous father). In it, a father pushes his teenage daughters to train as wrestlers, waking them up at the crack of dawn, keeping them away from their favourite food and TV shows so that  they can excel in a sport they have never played before.

It could have been a sombre moment in the film, but lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya brilliantly turns it around by injecting wry, rustic humour that is sure to make the grumpiest audience chuckle. This thread of humour runs throughout the film and elevates the viewing experience, making it more than just a chronicle of Mahavir Singh Phogat’s obsession with producing champion wrestlers.

Phogat braves ridicule, gender biases and the complete lack of infrastructure in his village of Balali in Haryana to forge ahead and make his children achieve what he never managed to do – win a gold medal for India at the international level.

His POA is simple and his modus operandi brutal. Geeta and Babita, until then carefree teenagers who love dressing up and sleeping in, cannot fathom what suddenly caused their otherwise placid father to turn into a despot, but are also not conditioned to question the man of the house. Their mother Daya (Sakshi Tanwar) mildly protests against her husband’s improbable plan, raising her voice only when he suggests cooking chicken in their vegetarian household.

There are moments in the film when Mahavir does come across as a despot – a man who doesn’t even stop to consider what his children want. But Tiwari and his co-writers (Shreyas Jain, Piyush Gupta and Nikhil Mehrotra) redeem him immediately. In one powerful scene, Geeta and Babita are cribbing to a classmate who is about to get married. “When a girl is born here, the only thought is to teach her household work and get her married off at 14. At least your father is thinking about you,” the girl tells them.

It is one of many pivotal moments in the film, after which Geeta and Babita change their perspective and start to willingly participate in the journey that will ultimately earn them sporting glory. It is also to the credit of Tiwari’s perfectly cast ensemble that he manages to make the journey compelling. When the story focuses on the internal dynamics between Geeta, Babita and Mahavir, it is a delight to watch.

Up until the last 20 minutes of the film, Tiwari leaves little room for mistakes. And then, like an expert driver who suddenly loses control of his car, Tiwari throws it all away in the climax. The characters bandy about big words, jingoism comes into the picture, and the film reaches its lowest point with a scene involving a caricaturish villain. Try as he might, Tiwari is unable to resist the temptation to inject that one bit of Bollywood-style drama. In doing so, he sullies what would have otherwise been a pristine effort at making a true-blue sports film.
If you can somehow mentally erase the climax, then “Dangal” has so much to offer. The performances, especially by Zahira Wasim and Suhani Bhatnagar, who play the younger Geeta and Babita, are outstanding. They eclipse the actresses who play their grown-up versions. Ritwik Sahore deserves special mention for his role as the girls’ cousin Omkar, not just for his deadpan acting but also because he gets the best lines.

Tiwari and choreographer Sethu Sriram focus on every miniscule detail of wrestling. The sequences are wonderfully shot and choreographed, so much so that it is difficult to believe the actors aren’t full-time wrestlers. And at the centre of it all is Aamir Khan. He plays Mahavir with practiced authority and impeccable timing. Just like every other film he has done of late, Aamir is the messiah here, the man who knows best and is here to tell lesser mortals which direction their life should take.  When it comes to wrestling, or education, or religion, Aamir Khan knows best. After watching “Dangal”, it is difficult to argue with that.

How India lobbied Moody's for ratings upgrade, but failed

India criticised Moody's ratings methods and pushed aggressively for an upgrade, documents reviewed by Reuters show, but the U.S.-based agency declined to budge citing concerns over the country's debt levels and fragile banks.

Winning a better credit rating on India's sovereign debt would have been a much-needed endorsement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's economic stewardship, helping to attract foreign investment and accelerate growth.

Since storming to power in 2014, Modi has unveiled measures to boost investment, cool inflation and narrow the fiscal and current account deficits, but his policies have not been rewarded with a ratings upgrade from any of the "big three" global ratings agencies, who say more is needed.

Previously unpublished correspondence between India's finance ministry and Moody's shows New Delhi failed to assuage the ratings agency's concerns about the cost of its debt burden and a banking sector weighed down by $136 billion in bad loans.

In letters and emails written in October, the finance ministry questioned Moody's methodology, saying it was not accounting for a steady decline in the India's debt burden in recent years. It said the agency ignored countries' levels of development when assessing their fiscal strength.

Rejecting those arguments, Moody's said India's debt situation was not as rosy as the government maintained and its banks were a cause for concern, the correspondence seen by Reuters showed.

Moody's and one of its lead sovereign analysts, Marie Diron, declined to comment on the correspondence, saying ratings deliberations were confidential. India's finance ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Arvind Mayaram, a former chief finance ministry official, called the government's approach "completely unusual".

"There was no way pressure could be put on rating agencies," Mayaram told Reuters. "It's not done."


India has been the world's fastest growing major economy over the past two years, but that rapid expansion has done little to broaden the government's revenue base.

At nearly 21 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), India's revenues are lower than the 27.1 percent median for Baa-rated countries. India is rated at Baa3 by Moody's, the agency's lowest notch for debt considered investment grade.

A higher rating would signify to bond investors that India was more creditworthy and help to lower its borrowing costs.

While India's debt-to-GDP ratio has dropped to 66.7 percent from 79.5 percent in 2004-05, interest payments absorb more than a fifth of government revenues.

Moody's representatives, including Diron, visited North Block, the colonial sandstone building in the Indian capital that houses the finance ministry, on Sept. 21 for a discussion on a ratings review.

The atmosphere at the meeting with Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das, one of the ministry's most senior officials, and his team was tense, according to an Indian official present, after Diron had told local media the previous day that a ratings upgrade for India was some years away.

On Sept. 30, Moody's explained its methodology to Indian officials in a teleconference.


Four days later, the finance ministry sent an email to Diron questioning Moody's metrics on fiscal strength. The government cited the examples of Japan and Portugal, which enjoy better ratings despite debts around twice the size of their economies.

"Given that countries are on different stages of economic and social development, should countries be benchmarked against a median or mean number (as is done by Moody's)" the email asked.

In India's case, "while the debt burden lowered significantly post 2004, this did not get reflected in the ratings", the ministry argued.
New Delhi urged Diron to look at improvements in the factors - better forex reserves and economic growth - that Moody's had considered when handing India its last ratings upgrade in 2004.

In a reply the next day, Diron said that, not only was India's debt burden high relative to other countries with the same credit rating, but its debt affordability was also low.

She added that a resolution to the banking sector's bad loan problems was "unlikely" in the near-term.

In a last-ditch effort on Oct. 27, Economic Affairs Secretary Das sent a six-page letter to Singapore-based Diron, addressed to Moody's New York headquarters.

Reiterating points on India's fiscal strength, Das asked Moody's for a "better appreciation of the factual position".

Das dismissed Moody's concerns on India's public finances as "unwarranted" and told the agency that there was "scope for further lowering" the political risk perception to "very low".

"In the light of stable external debt parameters and the slew of reforms introduced in the realm of foreign direct investment, you may like to reconsider your assessment on 'external vulnerability risk'," he wrote.

Moody's on Nov. 16 affirmed its Baa3 issuer rating for India, while maintaining a positive outlook, saying the government's efforts had not yet achieved conditions that would support an upgrade

(From Reuters India)

Ebola Vaccine Is the First to Block Infection

Researchers report encouraging results from a trial of an Ebola vaccine that is the first to prevent infection from the deadly virus

Since the outbreak of the most recent Ebola epidemic in West Africa, more than 11,000 people have died and more than 15,000 people have been infected with the virus. While some drug treatments have been marginally effective, no vaccine to protect against infection has yet been developed, although a number are currently being tested.

One of those, developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and manufactured by Merck, showed early promise in 2015. Now, a new report published in the journal Lancet provides even more encouraging results that suggest it may be the first vaccine to prevent infection with Ebola

The trial involved more than 11,000 people living in Guinea, one of the West African countries that bore the brunt of the recent Ebola epidemic. Once a case of Ebola was confirmed, a list of people who had come in contact with the patient was compiled, and they were randomly assigned to either receive the vaccine, called rVSV-ZEBOV, immediately or three weeks later. All participants were tested for presence of Ebola. After 10 days, there were no cases of Ebola infection among those who were vaccinated, while 23 people were diagnosed with Ebola in the group that did not receive the vaccine immediately.

The positive results led the study organizers to provide the vaccine to all people who had come in contact with Ebola patients. That included family members who lived with patients and were exposed to their clothing or linens, as well as the next ring of people who had interacted with these contacts. Side effects from the vaccine, which were monitored up to 12 weeks after immunization, were relatively rare and included headache, muscle pain, fever and anaphylaxis.

More studies will be conducted on the people who were vaccinated to see if their immune responses indeed were boosted by the shot. In the meantime, based on the positive early results, Merck agreed to provide the World Health Organization with 300,000 doses of the vaccine for emergency use in health care workers and people at highest risk of infection in an effort to control spread of the virus. If the positive results are confirmed and repeated, the vaccine could play a critical role in stopping the Ebola epidemic and preventing future outbreaks

Donald Trump Wants to Build Up America’s Nuclear Arsenal

Donald Trump called for a nuclear arms build-up Thursday, a day after meeting with top Pentagon brass and Russian President Vladimir Putin made his own speech calling for his country to strengthen its arsenal.

In a tweet sent while on vacation at his Mar-a-Lago estate, the president-elect said, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” Trump met with eight generals and admirals Wednesday as part of a briefing on U.S. military procurement needs, including Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein, the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration.

It is unclear whether Trump’s comments reflect a desire to change U.S. policy, or a reflection of his support for existing U.S. plans to expend nearly $1 trillion over the coming decade on modernizing and upgrading the nation’s aging nuclear arsenal and delivery systems.

Trump’s tweet, below, comes hours after Putin delivered a speech to his Defense Ministry Board advocating an upgrade of his country’s weapons systems.

China Says It Will Cooperate with Donald Trump But Stands Firm on Taiwan

China has warned that ties with the U.S. will likely see new complications and the only way to maintain a stable relationship is by respecting each other’s “core interests.”

Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s remarks Thursday appeared to underscore that China’s position on Taiwan is non-negotiable, weeks after President-elect Donald Trump suggested he could re-evaluate U.S. policy on Taiwan. It also mirrored Beijing’s relatively measured posture toward the incoming U.S. administration despite signs of growing wariness.

Wang told the Communist Party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, that China will strive to boost cooperation with the U.S. but he foresaw “new, complicated and uncertain factors affecting bilateral relations” under the Trump administration.
China complained this month after Trump questioned a U.S. policy that since 1979 has recognized Beijing as China’s government and maintains only unofficial relations with Taiwan. Beijing regards the self-governing island as part of China and has long used the “core interest” formulation to signal that any move by Taiwan toward formal independence could be met with military force.

Trump’s comments on Taiwan, combined with his accusations that China is manipulating its currency and threats of imposing hefty tariffs against Chinese imports, have rattled relations between the world’s two largest economies.

Trump also accepted a Dec. 2 phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, the first time an American president or president-elect has publicly spoken to Taiwan’s leader since 1979.

Tsai is planning to transit through the United States next month as part of a visit to Taiwan’s diplomatic allies in Central America, according to Taiwanese media reports Thursday. The reports cite Taiwan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Javier Hou as saying Tsai’s team will try to arrange meetings with U.S. senators or representatives. The reports did not say whether she will meet Trump or anyone from his transition team.

China has in recent days urged the U.S. not to allow Tsai to transit through the U.S. and to “refrain from sending any wrong signal to the Taiwanese independence forces.” U.S. lawmakers often meet with Taiwanese presidents when they transit through the U.S. — most recently in June, when Tsai met in Miami with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

Trump’s transition team announced Wednesday that Peter Navarro, who has accused China of effectively waging economic war against the United States, would head a trade policy council inside the White House.

Asked by reporters about Trump’s appointment of an economist and author whose books include “Death by China,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing has been observing the incoming U.S. administration’s transition and its policy direction.

“As two major powers with broad mutual interests, cooperation is the only correct choice,” Hua said without naming Trump or Navarro.

Although Navarro — and Trump — have been heavily criticized in the Chinese press, including state media, Beijing has largely measured its official response to potential flashpoints. This week, China’s military returned a U.S. underwater drone in the South China Sea that Trump had described as “stolen” on Twitter.

In the People’s Daily interview, Wang said U.S.-China relations are generally trending toward stable cooperation and mutual benefit. He quoted a Chinese poem — previously cited by President Xi Jinping as a metaphor for U.S.-China ties — depicting a river that flows inevitably, regardless of mountainous obstacles.

“This is a historical trend that cannot be changed by an individual’s will,” Wang said.

After what he described as a turbulent year steered by the trend of “reverse globalization” and punctuated by terror attacks, Wang said China is now a mature nation that could act as a “stabilizer” in global affairs.

China under Xi is adopting an assertive leadership role on the world stage, Wang said, such as hosting the G20 summit and heading discussions at the APEC forum in Peru.

“The world is choosing between openness and conservatism, cooperation and closure, transformation and old ways,” Wang said. “We will lead the way amid a shake-up in global governance, we will take hold of the situation amid international chaos, we will protect our interests amid intense and complex games.”

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Deadly blasts hit Mexico fireworks market days before Christmas

Forensic investigators scoured the charred remains of a fireworks market outside Mexico City on Wednesday after a series of blasts that killed at least 31 people and injured dozens more in a fiery disaster just days before Christmas.

Videos of the blasts at the busy San Pablito market on Tuesday showed a spectacular flurry of pyrotechnics exploding high into the sky, like rockets in a war zone, as a massive plume of charcoal-gray smoke billowed out from the site.

On Wednesday morning, a smell of burning hung over the ashen wasteland that had replaced the market, which was strewn with twisted metal frames and the wreckage of stalls. There was no word yet on what caused the blasts.

"It's a catastrophe," said Guadalupe Sanchez from nearby Cuautitlan Izcalli, as she searched for her uncle, 52, who owned a market stall, and two nephews, aged 15 and 9.

It was the third time in just over a decade that explosions have struck the popular marketplace in Tultepec, home to the country's best-known fireworks shopping and about 20 miles (32 km) north of Mexico City in the adjacent State of Mexico.

A few blackened cars ringed the site, and at one of the exits stood a sign reading "Tultepec, Firework Capital." The market was particularly full on Tuesday as many Mexicans buy fireworks to celebrate Christmas and the New Year.

"Everything was destroyed, it was very ugly and many bodies were thrown all over the place, including a lot of children. It's the worst thing I've ever seen in my life," said 24-year-old housewife Angelica Avila, tears running down her face.

Avila spoke outside a nearby hospital as she waited for an update on the health of her brother, a fireworks salesman, who she said was burned and also suffered a heart attack.

Alejandro Gomez, the state attorney general, told local television on Wednesday morning the explosions also injured 70 people. Another 12 people were listed as missing, he said.

Investigators are studying burnt human remains at the site, but are not sure if they belong to individuals already confirmed dead, Gomez said.

What caused the blasts remains unclear, he said, adding he could not corroborate accounts pointing to a detonation at one stall that may have begun a chain reaction.

The federal attorney general's office opened an investigation, saying late on Tuesday that there were six separate blasts.
The vast majority of the market's 300 stalls were completely destroyed, said state official Jose Manzur, adding that the site was inspected by safety officials just last month and no irregularities were found.

The director of Tultepec emergency services, Isidro Sanchez, told local television earlier on Tuesday that the blasts were likely caused by a lack of adequate safety measures.

In late 2005, explosions struck the fireworks market days before Independence Day celebrations, injuring scores of people. Another explosion gutted the area again almost a year later.

RBI retracts directive for lenders to question depositors

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Wednesday retracted a directive for banks to question individuals depositing more than 5000 rupees ($74) in discontinued currency, just two days after issuing the order.

The central bank asked lenders to seek reasons why the funds were not deposited earlier in the government's crime-busting demonetisation campaign, which began on Nov. 8 with the abolition of 500 and 1000 rupee notes - 86 percent of all cash.

The directive was widely criticised as diluting a government assurance that banks would accept the notes until the end of December.

It was withdrawn in a one-line notification for accounts verified with so-called know-your-customer documents. The central bank did not provide a reason for the withdrawal.

"The government told us to withdraw the circular," said an RBI official with direct knowledge of the matter. The withdrawal was with immediate effect, said the official, who was not authorised to speak with media and so declined to be identified.

Other measures under demonetisation include stopping over-the-counter exchange of the discontinued notes at banks and reversing an assurance that daily cash withdrawal limits from automated teller machines would be increased.