Modi questions Sonia’s silence on Baru’s memoir
BJP leader Narendra Modi referred to the book penned by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s former media advisor Sanjaya Baru and sought answers from Congress president Sonia Gandhi on allegation that “she handled the government files before the PMO”.
“One of the biggest revelations was made yesterday in a book. It claims that Sonia used to clear the Central government’s files before the PMO.
The government appointments, ministerial portfolios, transfers etc. were being decided by her and then cleared by the PM mechanically without applying mind,” Modi said alluding to Baru’s memoir “The Accidental PM” which has crated an uproar in political circles.
Modi was addressing an election in Pune rally in support of party candidate Anil Shirole. “The institution of Prime Minister had been degraded. Sonia has kept mum even 24 hours after the revelations in the book. She should answer the charges as people want to know,” Modi said.
“We had heard about the remote control but in this case the remote itself was running the government,” Modi said.
If the institution of PM was devalued like this, no country in the world would accept its constitutional authority, he said.
“The revelations in the book have also explained the intemperate action on part of ‘shehzada’ (Rahul Gandhi), daring to tear off the ordinance (on conviction of elected representatives) which was approved by the cabinet and PM.
These are serious charges made in the book written by an insider,” the BJP’s PM nominee said.
Citing instances of institutional degradation, the BJP leader said, “the PM’s authority as the Planning Commission (chairman) too was eroded with the setting up of the National Advisory Council (NAC) which kept him in the dark while taking decisions”.
For the first time, the country saw frictions between the government and the Army as well as the CVC, he added.
Taking a dig at Congress, Modi said the Congress-led UPA excelled in promoting those people who have messed up in their jobs.
Criticising various schemes and acts implemented by the UPA government, Modi said, “The MNREGA hardly served the purpose for which it was started, with the number of beneficiaries remaining negligible and much below its target.”
“If a train or a plane meets with an accident, a few persons are killed but an ‘accidental PM’ as described in Baru’s book has broken the whole country,” the BJP leader said.
In a veiled reference to the criticism by his opponents that he has a ‘dictatorial’ mindset, Modi said, “A democratic country as big as India cannot be run by one individual. Prime Ministers and governments come and go but the country goes ahead. Democracy draws its strength from preservation of constitutional institutions.”
Modi said the black money stashed away in foreign bank accounts by powerful people in the country should be brought back and utilised for development.
No clues about missing plane flight MH 370
Searchers hunting for the missing Malaysian plane in the Indian Ocean on Sunday failed to find any confirmed clues about the black boxes of the aircraft, as no new signals have been detected over the past 48 hours.
“Up to 11 military aircraft, one civil aircraft and 14 ships will assist in today’s search,” the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) said in a statement, adding the centre of the search areas was set approximately 2,200 km north west of Perth.
It said the Australian Maritime Safety Authority had planned a visual search area, totalling 57,506 sq km compared to 41,393 sq km Saturday.
No new signals have been detected over the past 48 hours, as the search for the missing jet entered into 37th day on Sunday. The last of the four other signals was detected on Tuesday night.
In an effort to narrow the underwater search area in which the autonomous underwater vehicle is deployed, JACC said the Australian defence vessel, Ocean Shield, continued more focused sweeps with the towed pinger locator to try and locate further signals related to the black box.
Last Wednesday, JACC chief coordinator Angus Houston said the autonomous underwater vehicle would be deployed once signals could no longer be detected.
Finding the black box is crucial to know what happened on 8th March before the Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines jet with 239 people, including five Indians, an Indo-Canadian and 154 Chinese nationals, mysteriously vanished after taking off from Kuala Lumpur.
The batteries powering the black box are certified to be working for 30 days, but can still provide weak signals for some more days.
Stored in a plane’s tail, they are designed to begin sending off distinct, high-pitched signals as soon as they come in contact with water.
China’s vessels have been searching in an area of about 25,000 square kilometers, which is in the western part of the search region designated by the Australian authorities, said Zhuo Li, an official with the China Maritime Search and Rescue Center.
In the eastern region of about 15,000 square kilometers, vessels from other countries, including Australia, the UK, the US and Malaysia, have been in search, Zhuo added.
By midday Sunday, the center had mobilized 63 merchant ships for assistance in the search, covering about 167,135 square kilometers in total, he said.
The mystery of the missing plane continued to baffle aviation and security authorities who have so far not succeeded in tracking the aircraft despite deploying hi-tech radar and other gadgets even after searching for 37 days.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Saturday said signals possibly from the black box of the ill-fated Malaysian jet were “rapidly fading” and the ongoing massive search for the plane was likely to continue “for a long time”.
N. Korea blasts reunification offer as ‘psychopath’s daydream’
North Korea on Saturday blasted South Korean President Park Geun-Hye’s proposal on laying the groundwork for reunification through economic exchanges and humanitarian aid as the “daydream of a psychopath”.
The blistering attack from the North’s powerful National Defence Commission (NDC) was the first official reaction from Pyongyang to a proposal Park made in a speech last month in Dresden in the former East Germany.
She urged the North to expand reunions of families separated by the division of Korea and increase cross-border economic and cultural exchanges, starting with the South bolstering humanitarian aid.
“Germany’s unity is for us an example and model for a peaceful reunification,” she had said.
An NDC spokesman noted that German reunification came about with the West absorbing the East and accused Park of begging foreign countries to help a reunification in which South Korea absorbed the North.
“This is merely a daydream of psychopath”, he said, denouncing Park’s proposal, billed as the “Dresden Declaration” by Seoul, as “nonsense” full of “hypocrisy and deception”.
“The fact that in that particular place, Park Geun-Hye lashed her tongue about reunification gave away her sinister mind”, he said in a statement carried out by Pyongyang’s state media.
Reunification is however enshrined as a national priority in both the South and North Korean constitutions, but pro-merger sentiment in the prosperous South has waned considerably in recent years.
The North Korean spokesman urged Seoul to abide by earlier agreements including a landmark agreement signed in 2000, stressing all these previous accords gave priority to addressing the issue of easing military confrontation.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula remain high since the South launched annual military exercises with the United States in February, described by Pyongyang as a rehearsal for an invasion against the North.
In a pointed protest at the exercises, Pyongyang carried out a series of rocket and missile launches, capped by its first mid-range missile test since 2009 on 26th March.
India leads global remittances with USD 70 bn in 2013
India lead global remittances in the year 2013 with a whopping USD 70 billion in its kitty, of which USD 65 billion were earned from the country’s flagship software services exports, the World Bank reported.
India’s neighbour China follows second with USD 60 billion, said the World Bank report on Friday, according to which international migrants from developing countries are expected to send USD 436 billion in remittances to their home countries this year, despite more deportations from some host countries.
In its latest issue of the Migration and Development Brief, the World Bank said this year’s remittance flows to developing countries will be an increase of 7.8 percent over the 2013 volume of USD 404 billion, rising to USD 516 billion in 2016.
Global remittances, including those to high-income countries, are estimated at USD 581 billion this year, from USD 542 billion in 2013, rising to USD 681 billion in 2016, the report said.
“Remittances have become a major component of the balance of payments of nations. India led the chart of remittance flows, receiving USD 70 billion last year, followed by China with USD 60 billion and the Philippines with USD 25 billion,” said Kaushik Basu, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank.
“There is no doubt that these flows act as an antidote to poverty and promote prosperity. Remittances and migration data are also barometers of global peace and turmoil and this is what makes World Bank’s KNOMAD initiative to organise, analyse, and make available these data so important,” he said.
The depreciation of the Indian rupee during 2013 appears to have attracted inflows through a surge in the deposits of non-resident Indians rather than remittances, the World Bank said.
The bank said growth in remittances to the South Asia region has slowed, rising by a modest 2.3 percent to USD 111 billion in 2013, compared with an average annual increase of more than 13 percent during the previous three years.
The slowdown was driven by a marginal increase in India of 1.7 percent in 2013, and a decline in Bangladesh of 2.4 percent, the bank said.
Gunfire has broken out in the city of Slavyansk in eastern Ukraine, where anti-government protesters seized several buildings. The city is under siege after Kiev announced an “anti-terrorist operation” against the protesters.
China seizes 10,000 illegal firearms in biggest operation yet
China has seized more than 10,000 guns in a police operation in the southwestern province of Guizhou, local media reported on Sunday. This is the largest operation to capture illegal firearms in Chinese history, as the country battles violent and gang-related crime, Reuters reports.
Deadly Mid-East virus spreads to Yemen
A deadly strain of the MERS coronavirus has popped up in Yemen for the first time on Sunday, as it spreads further through the Middle East after originally appearing in Saudi Arabia, Reuters reports. “Medical personnel have recorded one case of the coronavirus in Sanaa and the victim is a Yemeni man who works as an aeronautics engineer,” the public health minister was quoted by local newspaper, al-Thawra. “The ministry is working in effective cooperation with the World Health Organisation to confront this virus and is in direct and constant communication with all hospitals to receive information on any other suspected cases,” he added. The first outbreak had occurred in 2012; it was ruled the virus belonged to the same family as the deadly SARS, and caused symptoms of coughing, fever and pneumonia.
Foreign donors fail to honor obligations to Syrian refugees – UN aid chief
Of the $6.5 billion requested by the UN from international donors to help Syrian refugees, only one-fifth has been delivered, Amin Awad, the head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Middle East told Britain’s Independent newspaper. The UN requested funds on January, but donors pledged to pay $2.3 billion. And even of that, only $1.29 billion has been received to date. Awad said he is concerned that the international attention to the perils of the refugees is dwindling and warned that the problem “will show up in different shapes and will haunt us as a community for a generation.”
French FM visits Cuba for the first time in 30 years
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has arrived in Havana for a brief visit aimed at strengthening ties with Cuba. “This is the first time in 31 years that the head of French diplomacy is on an official trip to Cuba,” Fabius told reporters. “France wants to strengthen its ties with all of South America and, in this context, we wanted relations to be strengthened in particular with Cuba.” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez pledged his“willingness to continue to work on common goals” with France, AFP reports. “Today we note a favorable development — and great potential – in our bilateral relations.”
Taliban kidnap 100 in Pakistan
Around 100 villagers were kidnapped by gunmen in northwestern Pakistan Saturday, government officials said. Authorities suspect Taliban involvement as the attacked men from Orakzai and Khyber tribal areas supported the government. Three local government officials told Reuters that insurgents later released around 40 of them. Authorities launched a search operation in the area for the safe recovery of the villagers.
NATO accuses Russia of aggression against Ukraine
NATO has accused Russia of aggression against Ukraine which led to Russia’s international isolation, including NATO’s suspension of all practical cooperation with Russia, said the organization in its April fact sheet. The organization also addressed Russia’s statements on NATO including concerns of NATO’s expansion to the east. NATO’s relations with Russia deteriorated amid a major split between Russia and Western powers over the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. NATO said it suspended all cooperation to show disagreement with Moscow’s acceptance of Crimea as a new part of Russia.
Woman who threw shoe at Hillary Clinton freed
The woman accused of throwing a shoe at Hillary Clinton during her speech on Thursday at the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino, Las Vegas, was released from jail but faces possible charges of disorderly conduct. Alison Michelle Ernst, 36, has been booked at the Clark County jail, according to the police arrest report. She was aware of what she had done despite her agitated state. Ernst was not authorized to be in the hall, security said. The former Secretary of State ducked and was not hit, joking about the incident.
There are reports that the activists in Slavyansk have taken up weapons. However, one of the members of the Donbas people’s militia told media that no one was hurt during the storm of the police HQ, adding that the government building will be under their control until a referendum is held.
Syrian govt blames rebels for gas attack in Kfar Zeita
Syrian government has blamed the rebel forces of using poisonous gas in an attack on the village of Kfar Zeita in the central province of Hama on Friday. State-run Syrian television blamed members of the Al-Qaeda linked Nusra Front for using chlorine gas, killing two people and injuring more than 100. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that dozens were injured, while people suffered from suffocation and breathing problems as heavy smoke rose in the area after the attack.
Germany: NSA spy scandal should not thwart the EU-US free trade deal
The NSA spying scandal should not undermine plans to create a transatlantic free trade zone between the EU and the US, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told Nordwest-Zeitung. He said that “it would be absurd to consider any sanctions against our most important partner”, adding that Germany is interested in the deal between Brussels and Washington. But, at the same time, Germany wants a “solid and effective” deal between Europe and the US on data protection.
Turkish PM threatens to ‘go after’ Twitter on tax evasion grounds
Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Twitter and other social networks of tax evasion. “Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are international companies established for profit,” Erdogan said in televised remarks.“Twitter is at the same time a tax evader. We will go after it,” he stated. On March 20 Erdogan’s government blocked access to the micro-blogging site, igniting international outrage. International human rights groups condemned the move as a setback for democracy. Last week the Turkish government also confirmed that it would be keeping to its YouTube bans despite court orders for it to be lifted.
Maoist rebels kill 13 in India blasts
Thirteen people have been killed in two bomb blasts which took place in the central Indian state of Chattisgarh. Most of the casualties were paramilitary soldiers and officials participating in elections, Reuters reported. The two explosions were approximately half an hour apart. Seven were killed in the first blast, which struck a bus carrying election officials back from Bijapur, some 1,000 kilometers to the southwest, while the second struck an ambulance in the Chhattisgarh’s southern Bastar region killing five members of the Central Reserve Police Force and their driver. Government officials occasionally travel by ambulance to avoid being targeted by Maoists. The rebels are aiming for the overthrow of the Indian state, which it accuses of plundering the mineral wealth of land seized from peasants. The movement has increased in strength in regions where poor villagers live in close quarters with mining companies.
Time running out to locate MH370′s black box recorder
Rescuers are trying to narrow down the search area for the missing MH370 jetliner. They believe it to be somewhere in the ocean west of the Australian city of Perth, where four acoustic signals were detected, which could have been produced by the plane’s flight recorder. However no new “pings” were heard in the past 24 hours, and the device’s battery is only designed to run for 30 days after any crash, which means it is already five days overdue. The jet went missing shortly after taking off March 8 from Kuala Lumpur, bound for Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board. The search operation for the plane is the most extensive in the history of aviation.
Pakistan drops attempted murder charge against 9-month-old infant
A Pakistani judge has thrown out charges of attempted murder against a nine-month-old infant, Mohammad Musa, lawyers said. The boy, along with his father and other family members, were charged with allegedly attacking police and gas company officials with rocks and wooden rods in a working-class neighborhood of Lahore on February 1. The baby boy’s grandfather, Muhammad Yasin, and his three sons still face the charges.
Japanese minister pays visit to controversial war shrine
Yoshitaka Shindo, Japan’s minister for internal affairs and communications, have visited the Yasukuni shrine, Japanese Jiji Press service and the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said. The temple honors Japan’s war dead, including several high-level officials executed for war crimes after World War II. Chinese and South Korean authorities see the shrine as a reminder of Tokyo’s imperialist past and wartime aggression as over 1,000 war criminals from World War II are also buried there. Japan is undergoing a period of distancing itself from its post-war pacifist policies. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made his first visit to the Yasukuni shrine in his present capacity in December over protests from some other Asian nations.
Suspected Boko Haram militants kill 19 in Nigeria
Suspected Boko Haram insurgents have killed at least 19 people in three attacks that took place in the country’s Dikwa and Kala-Balge towns and near Dalwa village in Borno State, which is considered the bastion of the Islamist terror group. Among the victims were six college teachers and two security guards killed in Dikwa in a Thursday night raid on a college, residents said. The attackers also abducted an unspecified number of women. Three people have been killed in Kala-Balge town, some local officials said on condition of anonymity. Also the insurgents blocked the highway near Dalwa village and shot dead eight passengers, according to a local passer-by.
Spacewalk may be needed to fix broken ISS computer
Crewmembers of the International Space Station are considering options to bring back online the backup Multiplexer-Demultiplexer (MDM) computer, which stopped responding to commands Friday. Unless they are able to get it working again, they will have to replace it, which would require a spacewalk, since the computer is mounted onto the hull of the ISS. The main MDM computer is working fine, so the situation does not pose any immediate risk to the station, but the backup computer would be needed by Wednesday, when it will be required for the scheduled docking of the Space X Dragon supply spacecraft. MDM computers are involved in controlling some robotic functions of the ISS.