Newsletter July 8 2018




Taking the attack to the Congress, which has of late won most bypolls in the election-bound Rajasthan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said people are calling the opposition party ‘bail-gaadi’. “These days, some people are calling the Congress bail-gaadi. After all, many leaders of the Congress, who are known as heavyweights, along with several former ministers, are out on bail,” Modi said at a public rally in Jaipur.

In an apparent reference to Congress leaders’ comments in the aftermath of the surgical strike in PoK in 2016, Modi said, “Unfortunately, our political opponents even committed the sin of raising questions on the capability of the Army. This has never happened before —- the people of Rajasthan and India will never forgive people who indulge in such politics.”

With months left before the Assembly elections, the Prime Minister was in Jaipur to interact with beneficiaries of various Central and state govt schemes at an event titled ‘Pradhanmantri Labhyarthi Jansambad’ (PM beneficiaries’ public interaction).

Asking people to recall the state of affairs in Rajasthan under the previous Congress govt, Modi said, “You must not have forgotten the situation here four years ago. It is my request to the people of Rajasthan: never forget the circumstances under which Vasundhara (Raje)-ji had to function, and the way the previous govt had left the state of affairs. Only then you will understand how things are being run today.”

Modi called Raje, who was present on the dais along with Governor Kalyan Singh and other Central and state ministers, the “popular Chief Minister” of Rajasthan. Before the rally, Modi laid foundation stones for 13 projects in various areas of the state. A budget of more than Rs 2,100 crore has been allocated for these schemes.

While the Congress has earlier said that then party chief Sonia Gandhi had laid foundation stone of the refinery in Barmer in September 2013 and that the BJP wanted Modi to “re-lay” the foundation stone, the BJP has called the 2013 event a “political stunt” held days before the model code of conduct came into force for the Assembly polls.

The Congress criticised the state govt and called the event a way to waste public money. State Congress chief Sachin Pilot said in a statement that by training his guns on the Congress, the PM has made it clear that his intention is to target the party that is constantly becoming stronger in Rajasthan.





The Congress is keeping its cards close to the chest on the issue of “one nation, one election” and will consult the larger Opposition before taking a call on participation in the Law Commission’s consultations.

The party skipped the meeting on Saturday but may eventually join discussions amid signals of disapproval with the proposal. “We will take a stand on the issue after our discussions with the entire Opposition. Only once we have taken a collective stand after consultations will we talk on this,” Congress spokesperson RPN Singh said.




BJP general secretary Ram Madhav on Saturday rejected reports that his party was working to form a govt in Jammu and Kashmir with rebel PDP MLAs and said that it was for continuing with Governor’s rule in the state.

His comments on Twitter came after National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted a news report that claimed that a “big chunk of PDP MLAs are in touch with the BJP high command”.

Madhav, the BJP’s pointsman for the state, said the party will “keep itself scrupulously out of whatever is happening in other parties”.

The BJP had last month pulled out of the coalition govt in Jammu and Kashmir, bringing the state under Governor’s rule.





Tension mounted in Kashmir on the eve of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s second death anniversary on Saturday as a teenage girl and boy, and another civilian, were killed after Army personnel opened fire on protesters at Havoora village in Kulgam district.

Trouble started when an Army column entered Havoora and adjoining Redwini villages of Qaimoh around 11.30 am. Accusing Army of highhandedness, the protesters raised slogans and pelted security personnel with stones, prompting retaliatory fire.

Army officials expressed sorrow at the loss of lives. Srinagar-based defence spokesperson Col Rajesh Kalia said an area domination patrol (ADP) of the Army while moving in general area of Havoora came under heavy stone pelting.

“As the ADP tried to extricate, they were chased by an aggressive and menacing crowd of 400-500 persons, which kept building up and coming dangerously close. Troops, while exercising extreme restraint, cautioned the stone-pelters, who failed to relent and repeatedly threw petrol bombs and stones at the patrol team.

“At one point, some unidentified terrorists fired on the column. This resulted in some soldiers receiving grievous injuries. In response to this grave provocation and to ensure security of own troops, controlled firing was resorted to by the Army, which resulted in the unfortunate loss of human lives. The matter is being investigated to ascertain facts on the ground,” Col Kalia said.

Meanwhile, curfew-like restrictions were imposed in several parts of Kashmir as tension mounted ahead of the second death anniversary of Burhan Wani.








British Prime Minister Theresa May and her Cabinet have reached a “collective” agreement on a “business-friendly” plan for Brexit.

Announced at the end of a crucial summit on Friday, the proposal seeks “to preserve frictionless goods trade with the European Union and avoid the border checks and tariffs” most feared by manufacturing companies, the UK media reported.

In a statement, the British leader said she would present the proposal to EU officials quickly. Both sides want a deal by October, before Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.

May’s proposal calls for the UK and the EU to establish a free trade area that would allow goods and agricultural products to move across borders without delays.

In return for unfettered access to its biggest export market, the UK would commit to following EU rules and regulations on goods. It would also accept a limited role for bloc’s top court, the BBC reported.




High-level talks between the United States and North Korea appeared to hit a snag on Saturday as Pyongyang said a visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had been “regrettable” and accused Washington of making “gangster-like” demands to pressure the country into abandoning its nuclear weapons.

The statement from the North came just hours after Pompeo wrapped up two days of talks with senior North Korean officials without meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but with commitments for new discussions on denuclearisation and the repatriation of the remains of American soldiers killed during the Korean War.

While Pompeo offered a relatively positive assessment of his meetings, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the US betrayed the spirit of last month’s summit between President Donald Trump and Kim by making “unilateral and gangster-like” demands on “CVID,” or the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of North Korea.

It said the outcome of the follow-up talks was “very concerning” because it has led to a “dangerous phase that might rattle our willingness for denuclearisation that had been firm”. —





Pakistan’s deposed premier Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Saturday said she and her father would return to Pakistan before the expiry of the 10-day deadline given by an anti-graft court to file an appeal against their sentence in a corruption case.

The Islamabad Accountability Court on Friday sentenced 68-year-old Sharif to 10 years in jail for owning assets beyond income and one year for not cooperating with the anti-corruption authority, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in one of the three corruption cases against him in the Panama Papers scandal.

Maryam, considered to be Sharif’s political heir, was given seven years for abetment, and one year for non-cooperation with the NAB. When reporters in London asked Maryam whether she had been informed by her lawyers that they need to surrender themselves within 10 days to get any sort of relief, she said: “We will go back before that (10 days) anyway.”









Former finance minister Yashwant Sinha on Saturday slammed his son and Union Minister Jayant Sinha for felicitating convicts of Ramgarh lynching case. Taking to Twitter, the former BJP leader said, “I do not approve of my son’s action.”

“Earlier I was the Nalayak Baap of a Layak Beta. Now the roles are reversed. That is twitter. I do not approve of my son’s action. But I know even this will lead to further abuse. You can never win,” said Sinha about the intense trolling he is being subjected to on the social media.

Controversy erupted on Friday after photos of Jayant Sinha felicitating eight men convicted for the lynching of cattle trader Alimuddin Ansari on June 29 last year went viral.

Jayant Sinha, who is facing the heat over felicitating the convicts out on bail, said that ‘irresponsible statements’ were being made regarding his actions as the Ranchi High Court had suspended the sentences of the accused and released them on bail. He added that he was ‘honouring the due process of law’.

Contesting this, lawyer Prasanna S. pointed out that Union ministers should know the difference between suspension of a sentence pending appeal and stay of conviction. “The garlandees in the Jayant Sinha episode are not merely accused of a heinous crime, but also remain convicted.”


In a drive to bring down daily running costs, the Army has laid down a list of strict dos and don’ts for its officers.

One of the advices is to avoid staying at hotels and making use of Army guest rooms when on temporary duty or visits. The successive pay commissions have meant that several senior officers in the rank of Colonel, Brigadier, Major General and Lt General are entitled for a three-star hotel — in some cases a five-star — facility, which costs a lot of money.

No lavish parties under the name of get-together to host a visiting senior commander, says another set of instructions.

The Army has also asked its officers to try and avoid needless travel since the Army had an available dedicated high-speed fibre network through which the Commander of Corps, a Lt General, commanding a force of some 45,000 or so could communicate anything through live video-conferencing.

At peace stations, cuts have been imposed on authorisations of the fuel to be used.


Congress leader Shashi Tharoor was on Saturday granted regular bail by a Delhi court in a case relating to his wife Sunanda Pushkar’s death almost four years ago in a luxury hotel here.

The Thiruvananthapuram MP, who was summoned as an accused in the case, appeared before the court and informed it that he had already been granted anticipatory bail by a sessions court.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal then directed him to furnish a bail bond of Rs 1 lakh and a surety of the like amount as directed by the sessions court and converted the interim relief to regular bail.

Pushkar was found dead on the night of January 17, 2014.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Police and the counsel appearing for Tharoor opposed BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s plea seeking the court’s nod to assist it in the case.




Two of India’s most popular competitive exams, the JEE (Main) and NEET, will now be held twice a year, and will be conducted by the newly formed National Testing Agency (NTA), HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar announced on Saturday. These tests were earlier organised by the CBSE.

The Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) (Main), for undergraduate admission into various engineering colleges, will be held in January and April. The National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET), for admission into medical and dental courses, will be held in February and May. At present, both these tests are held only once a year.

In another significant change, these exams will be held over many days, and students will have the option to choose a date. Moreover, if a student appears for the JEE (Main) and NEET both times, the best of his/ her two scores will be taken into account.

In a statement, the govt said the move was meant to give students more choice and reduce stress due to “single exam conducted on one single day in the year.” “This will give more chances to students, thereby giving adequate opportunity to bring out his/ her best,” it said.

All the tests will be computer-based, and practice modules will be made available on the NTA website.




The parents of 12 boys stranded inside a northern Thailand cave have written to their children for the first time and to the coach who led them inside, telling him: “Please don’t blame yourself.”

“To all the kids,” one letter, written by the mother of Nattawut Takamsai, 14, said. “We are not mad at you at all. Do take good care of yourself. Don’t forget to cover yourself with blankets as the weather is cold. We’re worried. You will come out soon.”

She wrote to Ekkapol Chantawong, the coach: “We want you to know that no parents are angry with you at all, so don’t you worry about that.”

The notes were delivered by Thai navy Seals who picked up letters written in return by the boys to their parents.

There’s a race against time to free the boys before the arrival of monsoon rains that could seal the group inside the cave until as late as January, authorities said on Saturday.

“The next three to four days from now is the most favourable time for the operation and rescue mission using one of the action plans,” Narongsak Osatanakorn, governor of Chiang Rai province, told a press conference at the cave site. “If we wait too long, we don’t know how much rainwater will come.”

The children are yet to learn to breathe in scuba masks and the cave is still not considered dry enough that they could leave without submerging themselves.

Yet an escape effort might be forced by worsening air quality inside the cave, with oxygen levels falling to 15% – down from a healthy 21% – due the presence of hundreds of rescuers working inside.




Ford India said on Friday it is recalling 5,397 units of its popular sports utility vehicle EcoSport to rectify faulty front lower control arm and driver and front passenger seat recliner locks.

EcoSport produced at the company’s Chennai plant between May 2017 and June 2017 numbering 4,379 units are being inspected for weld integrity of the front lower control arm, the company said in a statement.

“The weld strength on some of these vehicles may be below Ford specifications, which in rare cases, can potentially affect steering control,” it added.

The company said it is also writing to owners of 1,018 EcoSport vehicles, manufactured between November 2017 and December 2017, to inspect their cars for driver and front passenger seat recliner locks.




There was little here to please the aesthetes, nothing much to arouse the adrenaline junkies. But after 90 straightforward, some might say dull, minutes of soccer on Saturday, England and its fans were awakened to this invigorating new reality: The team, young and until now unproven, is headed to its first World Cup semifinal since 1990.

All it took was two headed goals and two strong saves for England to produce a competent, uncomplicated and sometimes uncompelling 2-0 victory over Sweden. Now the second-youngest team at the tournament — with an average age of 26 — is in striking distance of the final.

In the second match yesterday, Russia and Croatia were locked in a battle in which both sides simply weren’t giving up. Denis Cheryshev scored a belter to put Russia ahead and leave the Croatians shell-shocked. But the visitors responded soon and Andrej Kramaric headed in an equaliser. All this was in the first half and the second-half turned out to be a pulsating but ultimately goalless affair. Domagoj Vida then scored the goal that gave Croatia the lead in extra time but Mario Fernandes equalised for Russia in the second period and forced the match into penalties.

Both Danijel Subasic and Igor Akinfeev made saves but Hernades missed his shot and Rakitic converted the final kick to send Croatia through.

So, France will face Belgium in the first semi-final on Tuesday.Croatia will face England on Wednesday.


World No. 1 Simona Halep was knocked out of Wimbledon today, losing to Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-Wei 3-6 6-4 7-5 in the third round as the All England Club seeds’ carnage claimed another victim.

Defeat for Halep means that Karolina Pliskova, at No. 7, is the only women’s top-10 seed to reach the fourth round. It also further boosted Serena Williams’s chances of becoming an eight-time Wimbledon champion.  Hsieh, the world No. 48, battled back from 2-5 down in the final set and saved a match point when the Romanian served for the match at 5-3 in the decider. It will be Hsieh’s first appearance in the last-16 of a Slam where she will face Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia for a place in the quarterfinals.

Two-time champion Rafael Nadal reached the last-16 for the eighth time and made sure of keeping the world No. 1 ranking.  The second seed comfortably defeated Australian teenager Alex De Minaur 6-1 6-2 6-4.

Novak Djokovic silenced a raucous Centre Court crowd as he came back to beat home favourite Kyle Edmund 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 in the third round.

Juan Martin del Potro overcame service troubles and Benoit Paire’s fine serve-and-volley game to beat the Frenchman 6-4 7-6(4) 6-3 and reach the fourth round for the fourth time.



What is wanted is not the will to believe but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite. – Bertrand Russell


His phone rang in church by accident during prayers. The Pastor and the worshipers scolded him after prayer for interrupting the silence. You could see the shame, embarrassment and humiliation on his face, as he walked out. He never stepped foot in the church ever again.

He went to a pub. He spilled his drink by accident, the waiter apologized, gave him a napkin to clean himself up, the waiter also mopped the floor and offered him a complementary drink. He never stopped going there since.

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