2 jan

Thousands Gather In Kashmir To Give Policeman A Hero's Funeral

LANGATE, JAMMU AND KASHMIR:  For a state bruised for months by clashes between security forces and protesters, Kashmir witnessed a unique sight on Sunday. Thousands gathered to attend the funeral of policeman, killed while fighting terrorists in north Kashmir, giving him a hero's sendoff.

In scenes not witnessed in the Valley for years, a huge crowd turned up for the last rites of constable Abdul Kareem who was killed after he intercepted a group of terrorists at a checkpoint in northern Kashmir.

As the body reached his home, an entire village in Langate came out to mourn the cop.

Leading the funeral procession was Langate's legislator, Engineer Rashid. "When a soldier is killed, there is mourning at his home or a civilian is killed there is mourning. Death is death... murder is a murder whoever is killed," the legislator said.

In recent years, huge crowds have been seen turning up for funerals of terrorists in the state. But this is the first time in years that people came out for a policeman killed on duty.

During last summer's unrest in the valley - sparked by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani - hostility against state police had deepened so much that many policemen apparently did not even go home fearing attacks by crowds.

Langate in north Kashmir was one of the most volatile areas of the valley during the recent unrest.

Large crowds gathering to attend the funeral of dead terrorists had been a major concern of police in the state. Last month, after the death of two Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists in an encounter on December 9, thousands marched on the streets and attended the funeral of Majid Zargar, Lashkar's face in South Kashmir.


Air Marshal Anil Khosla The New Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Of East

Air Marshal Anil Khosla took over as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (AOC-in-C) Eastern Air Command in Shillong on Sunday.

An alumnus of National Defence Academy, Air Marshal Khosla was commissioned in the fighter stream of Indian Air Force in December 1979 and has over 4000 hours of accident free flying record mainly on different variants of Jaguar, MiG-21 and Kiran aircraft.

He is equally experienced on both Ground attack and Air Defence roles with specialisation on maritime role. He was awarded Commandant's medal during Higher Command Course at Army War College.

The Air Officer has vast instructional experience and has been Directing Staff at prestigious institutions like Tactics and Combat Development Establishment (TACDE) and Flying Instructor School (FIS).

Air Marshal Khosla has also commanded a Jaguar squadron with maritime role and two frontline bases of the IAF at Jaisalmer and Ambala.

As an Air Marshal he has held appointment of Senior Air Staff Officer, Central Air Command and Director General Air (Operations) at Air HQ (Vayu Bhawan).

Further he is an 'A2' category flying instructor and a fighter strike leader and a keen golfer.


Jharkhand Coal Mine Cave-In: Number Of Deaths Rise To 18

GODDA, JHARKHAND:  With the recovery of two more bodies on Sunday, the death toll in the coal mine collapse at Lalmatia open cast coal mine climbed to 18. Operations at the mine were being run by Eastern Coalfields Ltd (ECL) in Jharkhand's Godda district.

RR Mishra, officiating Chairman and Managing Director of Eastern Coalfields, a Coal India subsidiary, on Sunday said, "Two more bodies were recovered today. So in total 18 bodies have been recovered so far."

"There was dense fog in the morning. But since there is less fog now so the rescue operation is still under way," Mr Mishra said, adding that, sniffer dogs have also been pressed into service.

Mr Mishra had on Saturday said, "We are carrying on the rescue operation in a systematic manner so that the situation does not aggravate as the debris is too much and it should not fall."

Danger zones have been declared around the place of the incidents to restrict the entry of people there. Moreover, police and CISF officials have been stationed to restrict entry of people in the danger zone, he had said.

Central Mine Planning and Design Institute (CMPDIL), the consultancy arm of Coal India Ltd, has deployed magneto meters along with imaging system for locating magnetic and conductive material up to a depth of 80 meters, the statement said.

The incident occurred at around 7:30 PM on December 29 when a massive mound of earth came crashing down on excavators at the Lalmatia open cast coal mine. This is the worst such disaster in over a decade. Rescue operations were launched immediately after the incident.

Senior officials of Director General of Mines Safety (DGMS) had arrived at the site soon after, and an inquiry was launched into the incident.

Thirteen excavators and dump trucks which were swamped under the debris have been recovered.

Notes Ban Not A 'Yagna' But An 'Uncontrolled Forest Fire': Congress

Congress on Sunday alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi sounded "apologetic" in his New Year eve speech as his 50-day "shuddhi yagna" of demonetisation has turned out be an "uncontrolled forest fire" that has claimed "several lives" and crippled the economy.

The opposition party also claimed that the scheme of financial assistance to pregnant women, announced by PM Modi, was actually started by the UPA.

Hitting out at Prime Minister for calling note-ban a 'shuddhi yagna', senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan said the move is nothing short of an "uncontrolled forest fire" that has claimed several lives and hit the economy.

He said the speech gave no "hard data" on how much black money was extinguished, whether sufficient quantity of Rs. 500 notes were issued and about restrictions on cooperative banks.

Mr Chavan said the speech did not have clarity on the legal issues raised over note ban and compensation for deaths "due to demonetisation exercise".

"The entire black currency available in the economy has been converted into legitimate money. Exact opposite of what the PM wanted," Mr Chavan said.

He also questioned whether there was a deliberate attempt to keep
 Rs. 500 notes out of circulation and wondered whether PM Modi was advocating a zero-cash economy.

"This will be one of the most depressing starts of a new year in recent memory. The Prime Minister's speech was full of jingoistic appeal wrapped in nationalistic fervour comparing demonetisation with external aggression," Mr Chavan said.

Mr Chavan, who was also a Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) under UPA, said the scheme of financial assistance to pregnant women was started by the UPA in November 2010 as a pilot project.

"It became part of the National Food Security Act (2013). The financial assistance under this scheme was increased from
 Rs. 4000 to Rs. 6000 in 2013 itself," the Congress leader said.

PM Narendra Modi's Mega Rally In Lucknow Today, 15 Lakh People Expected, Says BJP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address a mega rally today in Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow and is expected to follow up Saturday's farmer and poor-focused sops with some more big ticket announcements ahead of crucial assembly elections in the state.

Elections dates are expected to be announced any day and with that a model code of conduct will be in force which prohibits the announcement of sops or new schemes and policies.

On Saturday, New Year's Eve, PM Modi had in an address to the nation announced a number of schemes for farmers and the poor, small traders and senior citizens, seen as the groups hit hardest by the cash crunch that has followed his notes ban. The Prime Minister thanked people profusely for putting up with much hardship since November 8 when he announced a ban on 500 and 1,000-rupee notes, aimed at combating corruption and black money.  

Demonetisation is expected to be a key election agenda in UP, with rival parties alleging that the notes ban has punished the poor rather the corrupt. The BJP says its strong performance in by-elections and civic polls held in several states after the notes ban is evidence of the people's support for the Prime Minister.

The BJP's Uttar Pradesh unit has wagered that PM Modi's rally today will pack the massive Ramabai Ambedkar ground, named after the wife of Dalit icon Bhim Rao Ambedkar. The ground was built by Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati when she was chief minister and locals say only her rallies fill it up. The BJP says that will change today, and expects over 15 lakh people to arrive in about 10,000 buses from all over the state to attend the PM's rally.

Ms Mayawati is Dalit and draws significant support from the community, which makes up a key 21 per cent of UP's voters. PM Modi has since early last year staked claim to that vote base, aggressively wooing Dalits with schemes and policies. Last week he launched an app to make digital transactions simpler called BHIM, an acronym for Bharat Interface for Money, but also named for BR Ambedkar.  

State BJP leaders said PM Modi will today also attack UP's ruling
 Samajwadi Party for the tussle for control just ahead of the elections between father Mulayam Singh and son and chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, which peaked on Sunday with the party splitting.

The BJP has alleged that father and son have staged a melodramatic drama to cover up Akhilesh Yadav's performance as chief minister which the party rates as abysmal. "The SP is just enacting a daily drama, we will expose tomorrow how Akhilesh is UP's worst performing chief minister," said Keshav Prasad Maurya, who heads the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.

Supreme Court Bans Use Of Religion To Seek Votes

NEW DELHI:  Politicians cannot use religion to seek votes, ruled the Supreme Court today, just ahead of the crucial election in communally sensitive Uttar Pradesh.

The top court found that appealing for votes using religion amounts to corrupt practices under electoral laws.


ISIS Claims Responsibility For Istanbul Nightclub Attack

CAIRO:  Terror group, ISIS claimed responsibility for a gun attack on an Istanbul nightclub which killed 39 people, including two Indians, on Sunday, the group said in a statement on Monday.

"In continuation of the blessed operations that Islamic State (ISIS) is conducting against the protector of the cross, Turkey, a heroic soldier of the caliphate struck one of the most famous nightclubs where the Christians celebrate their apostate holiday," the statement said.

NASA Image Shows Saturn's North Pole Basking In Sunlight

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured a stunning image of Saturn, showing the whole northern region of the ringed planet bathed in sunlight.

The image from late 2016 obtained at a distance of about 1.2 million kilometres from Saturn shows a hexagon-shaped jet-stream which is fully illuminated.

The planet appears darker in regions where the cloud deck is lower, such the region interior to the hexagon, NASA said.

Mission experts on Saturn's atmosphere are taking advantage of the season and Cassini's favourable viewing geometry to study this and other weather patterns as Saturn's northern hemisphere approaches Summer solstice.

The view looks towards the sunlit side of the rings from about 51 degrees above the ring plane, according to NASA.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft's wide-angle camera on September 9, last year using a spectral filter which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centred at 728 nanometres.

Rare Comet Will Be Visible From Earth For First Time: NASA

A rare comet discovered by NASA scientists will be visible using just binoculars to skywatchers on Earth this week for the first time, before the object heads back into outer reaches of the solar system for an orbit lasting thousands of years.

The comet, C/2016 U1 NEOWISE, "has a good chance of becoming visible through a good pair of binoculars, although we can't be sure because a comet's brightness is notoriously unpredictable," said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Centre for Near-Earth Object (NEO) Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the US.

As seen from the northern hemisphere during the first week of 2017, comet C/2016 U1 NEOWISE will be in the southeastern sky shortly before dawn.

It is moving farther south each day and it will reach its closest point to the Sun, inside the orbit of Mercury, on January 14, before heading back out to the outer reaches of the solar system for an orbit lasting thousands of years. While it will be visible to skywatchers at Earth, it is not considered a threat to our planet either.

NASA's NEOWISE mission has recently discovered some celestial objects travelling through our neighbourhood, including one on the blurry line between asteroid and comet. An object called 2016 WF9 was detected by the NEOWISE project on November 27 last year.

It is in an orbit that takes it on a scenic tour of our solar system. At its farthest distance from the Sun, it approaches Jupiter's orbit.

Over the course of 4.9 Earth-years, it travels inward, passing under the main asteroid belt and the orbit of Mars until it swings just inside Earth's own orbit. After that, it heads back toward the outer solar system.

Objects in these types of orbits have multiple possible origins; it might once have been a comet, or it could have strayed from a population of dark objects in the main asteroid belt.

2016 WF9 will approach Earth's orbit on February 25 this year. At a distance of nearly 51 million kilometres from Earth, this pass will not bring it particularly close.

The trajectory of 2016 WF9 is well understood, and the object is not a threat to Earth for the foreseeable future. A different object, discovered by NEOWISE a month earlier, is more clearly a comet, releasing dust as it nears the Sun.

NEOWISE is the asteroid-and-comet-hunting portion of the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission.

2016 WF9 is relatively large: roughly 0.5 to 1 kilometre across. It is also rather dark, reflecting only a few percent of the light that falls on its surface.

This body resembles a comet in its reflectivity and orbit, but appears to lack the characteristic dust and gas cloud that defines a comet.

"2016 WF9 could have cometary origins," said Deputy Principal Investigator James Bauer at JPL.

"This object illustrates that the boundary between asteroids and comets is a blurry one; perhaps over time this object has lost the majority of the volatiles that linger on or just under its surface," said Bauer. 

China Revealed Its Stealth Fighter Jet, Prompting Big Reaction By Russia

Russia has finally delivered four Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets to China after a delay of two years as Moscow feared that its fifth generation fighter jet will loose value after Chinese military unveiled its J-20 stealth fighter, official media in Beijing reported.

The Su-35 is an advanced version of the Su-30s operated by the Indian Airforce. The delivery was made on December 25, a news portal of the People's Liberation Army reported.

Since the debut of China's stealth fighter J-20 fighter at Zhuhai Airshow, procurement of the Su-35 fighter jets has gone quite smoothly. Some say this is the outcome of the close relationship between China and Russia.

However, the latter did not change its stance on the export of the Su-35 until the J-20 fighter was unveiled, state-run People's Daily reported.

Russia believes that with the commissioning of the J-20, the Su-35 will soon lose its value in the Chinese market. That estimation is the reason for the smooth procurement, the report said.

China has been ramping up its military aviation wing with a number of new fighter jets including two versions of the stealth fighters as well as J-15 a fighter plane to operate from the deck of its first aircraft carrier, Liaoning which has begun live fire drills in the disputed South China Sea.

The construction of China's second indigenously built aircraft carrier is under construction in full swing, according to the official media reports.

"One can only be independent when he is self-reliant," the PLA Daily article said expressing hope that the Su-35 fighter jet is the last fighter imported by China.

While China made advances in manufacturing of new type of fighter jets, it is still dependent on Russia for engines as well as avionics.

Under economic crisis Russia for its part has been selling some of its advanced weaponry to China in recent years.

Speculation was rife that Russia which had moved closer to China following hostilities with the Obama administration may move closer to the US once President-elect Donald Trump takes office as he shares better relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.


Donald Trump Plans 'Many Big Things' And Lots More Tweeting: Spokesman

Donald Trump is planning to do "many big things" after being sworn in as president, his communications director said Sunday, adding that his boss has no intention to stop using Twitter.

Asked by ABC News what "one big thing" the public should expect from the president-elect once he takes office on January 20, spokesman Sean Spicer replied: "It's going to be not one big thing. It's going to be many big things."

Spicer said the Republican billionaire would immediately sign a series of executive orders to "repeal a lot of the regulations and actions that have been taken by this administration over the last eight years that have hampered both economic growth and job creation."

He also confirmed that Trump would institute a five-year ban on senior officials leaving government to become lobbyists, and a lifetime ban "on anyone who wants to serve a foreign government."

When ABC interviewer Jonathan Karl asked whether Trump would continue his highly unusual -- and deeply controversial -- approach of making major policy statements over Twitter, Spicer replied, "Sure, why not."

"With all due respect," he continued, "I think it freaks the mainstream media out that he has this following of over 45-plus million people that follow him on social media, that he can have a direct conversation."

Spicer added: "Business as usual is over... There's a new sheriff in town."

Karl asked Spicer repeatedly whether Trump might reverse President Barack Obama's steps -- including the expulsion of 35 Russian agents -- aimed at punishing Moscow for interfering in the US election.

While suggesting that Obama's action might have been "political retribution" and thus too harsh, Spicer would only say that Trump would delay any decision until he receives an intelligence briefing on the matter.

The president-elect, still working to fill out his new administration, was to return Sunday from his Florida resort to his Trump Tower apartment in Manhattan.

US Condemns Pyongyang Missile Plan, Warns Against 'Provocative' Actions

The United States on Sunday sharply condemned a North Korean plan to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile and warned Pyongyang against "provocative actions."

The toughly worded US statement called on "all states" to show the North that any unlawful actions would have "consequences."

It was issued by the Pentagon at a sensitive time -- just weeks before President Barack Obama is due to hand power over to his successor, Donald Trump.  

The statement came hours after Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, said his country was close to testing such a missile, which would be capable of reaching American shores.

"We are in the final stages of test-launching the intercontinental ballistic missile," Kim said in a televised New Year's speech, pointing to a string of nuclear and missile tests last year.

He said Pyongyang was now a "military power of the East that cannot be touched by even the strongest enemy."

The Pentagon statement noted that "multiple UN Security Council resolutions explicitly prohibit North Korea's launches using ballistic missile technology."

It urged Pyongyang to "refrain from provocative actions and inflammatory rhetoric that threaten international peace and stability."

The statement reaffirmed Washington's "ironclad commitment" to defend its allies, using "the full spectrum of US extended deterrence capabilities."

Pyongyang has never successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), and analysts are divided over how close it is to doing so.

But all agree it has made enormous strides in that direction since Kim took over as leader from his father Kim Jong-Il, who died in December 2011.