Facebook CEO Zuckerberg aims to pacify U.S. lawmakers


SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facebook Inc (FB.O) Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg will strike a conciliatory tone on Tuesday in testimony before Congress as he looks to fend off the possibility of new regulations as a result of the privacy scandal engulfing his social network.

The 33-year-old internet mogul is set to appear in Washington before a joint hearing of the U.S. Senate’s Commerce and Judiciary committees some 15 or 20 minutes after the originally scheduled time of 2:15 p.m. (1815 GMT) because of a Senate vote.

Four hours before the hearing, more than 45 people waited in a line inside the Hart Senate Office Building, set off by velvet ropes, stretching from the briefing room down a corridor. Some brought folding chairs, while others stood or sat on the floor.

Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook in his Harvard University dorm room in 2004, is fighting to demonstrate to critics that he is the right person to go on leading what has grown into one of the world’s largest companies.

Facebook faces a growing crisis of confidence among users, advertisers, employees and investors after acknowledging that up to 87 million people, mostly in the United States, had their personal information harvested from the site by Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy that has counted U.S. President Donald Trump’s election campaign among its clients.

Zuckerberg, who has never testified in a congressional hearing, said in written testimony on Monday that he had made mistakes and had held too narrow a view of the social network’s role in society.

“Now we have to go through every part of our relationship with people and make sure we’re taking a broad enough view of our responsibility,” he said.

Facebook hired several outside consultants to help coach Zuckerberg, even holding mock sessions to prepare him for questions from lawmakers.

In an olive branch on Friday, Zuckerberg threw his support behind proposed legislation requiring social media sites to disclose the identities of buyers of online political campaign ads. Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) also said on Tuesday, for the first time, that it supports the bill, called the Honest Ads Act.

U.S. lawmakers have discussed legislation that would strengthen data privacy protections and enforcement. Tighter regulation of how Facebook uses its members’ data could affect its ability to attract advertising revenue, its lifeblood.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Some 40 senators out of the 100-member Senate sit on the two committees holding Tuesday’s hearing, setting up a possibly marathon hearing.

To ease the way, Zuckerberg on Monday met some lawmakers privately, listening to their concerns before they will have a chance to interrogate him in public.

Zuckerberg appeared willing “to turn things around where he sees mistakes that have been made,” Senator Bill Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, said after meeting with the CEO.

For hearings last year about Russia’s alleged use of social media to influence American politics, Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google sent lawyers, angering lawmakers.

Zuckerberg may face a torrid time from some senators. On Tuesday, Democratic Senator Chris Coons, a member of the Judiciary committee, complained via Twitter about fake profiles.

“On today of all days, I just found out that there are two fake Facebook accounts impersonating me, and guess what? Many of the ‘friends’ appear to be Russian accounts,” he tweeted. “@facebook and Mr. Zuckerberg-this is unacceptable.”

Zuckerberg will get a second dose of questioning on Wednesday from the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

His perch atop Facebook is assured as long as he wants it, given that he remains its controlling shareholder.

But his reputation has suffered as television comedians have mocked his perceived robotic speaking patterns and allegedly cavalier attitude toward privacy.

Shares in Facebook are down more than 14 percent since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke last month.

Reporting by David Ingram in San Francisco and Dustin Volz in Washington; Additional reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Andy Sullivan in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Bill Rigby



Read Full Story

International experts to inspect attack site in Syria as U.S. ponders response


BEIRUT/NEW YORK (Reuters) – International chemical weapons experts will go to the Syrian town of Douma to investigate an alleged poison gas attack, their organisation said on Tuesday, as the United States and other Western powers consider taking military action over the incident.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday warned of a quick, forceful response once responsibility for the attack was established. The White House said Trump now will not travel on Friday to the Summit of the Americas in Peru so that he can focus on the crisis.

France and Britain were also discussing with the Trump administration how to respond to the incident. Both also stressed that who was to blame still needed to be confirmed.

At least 60 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured in Saturday’s suspected attack on Douma, then still occupied by rebel forces, according to a Syrian relief group.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and Russia, its main ally, said there was no evidence that a gas attack had taken place and the claim was bogus.

But the incident has thrust Syria’s seven-year-old conflict back to the forefront of international concern and pitted Washington and Moscow against each other again.

Aggravating the volatile situation, Iran, Assad’s other main ally, threatened to respond to an air strike on a Syrian military base on Monday that Tehran, Damascus and Moscow have blamed on Israel.

In Syria, thousands of militants and their families arrived in rebel-held parts of the country’s northwest on Tuesday after surrendering Douma to government forces. Their evacuation restores Assad’s control over the entire eastern Ghouta – formerly the biggest rebel bastion near Damascus.

SMELL OF GAS

The Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said Syria had been asked to make the necessary arrangements for the deployment of an investigation team.

“The team is preparing to deploy to Syria shortly,” it said in a statement.

The mission will determine if banned munitions were used, but it will not assign blame. Doctors and witnesses have said victims showed symptoms of poisoning, possibly by a nerve agent, and reported the smell of chlorine gas.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Assad government and Russia both urged the OPCW to investigate the allegations of chemical weapons use in Douma – a move apparently aimed at averting any U.S.-led action.

“Syria is keen on cooperating with the OPCW to uncover the truth behind the allegations that some Western sides have been advertising to justify their aggressive intentions,” state news agency SANA said, quoting an official Foreign Ministry source.

OPCW inspectors have, however, been attacked on two previous missions to the sites of chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

MILITARY OPTIONS

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said there was no threat of the situation in Syria resulting in a military clash between Russia and the United States. TASS news agency quoted him as saying he believed common sense would prevail.

On Monday, Trump told a meeting of military leaders and national security advisers in Washington that he would take a decision on a response quickly, and that the United States had “a lot of options militarily” on Syria.

“But we can’t let atrocities like we all witnessed … we can’t let that happen in our world … especially when we’re able to because of the power of the United States, the power of our country, we’re able to stop it,” Trump said.

Any potential U.S. strike is likely to involve naval assets, given the risk to aircraft from Russian and Syrian air defence systems. A U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer, the Donald Cook, is in the Mediterranean.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a number of other assets could be moved into position “in a short period of time” if needed.

Last year, the United States launched strikes from two Navy destroyers against a Syrian air base.

A European source said, however, that European governments were now waiting for the OPCW to carry out its investigation and for more solid forensic evidence from the attack to emerge.

Any plan by the United States and its allies to take military action were likely to be on hold until then, he said.

However, a U.S. strike similar to last year’s would not cause a shift in the direction of the war that has gone Assad’s way since Russia intervened on his side in 2015. Thanks also to Iran’s backing, his military position is currently unassailable.

At the United Nations, the United States has requested the Security Council vote at 3 p.m. (1900 GMT) on Tuesday on a proposal for a new inquiry on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, diplomats said.

The resolution was likely to be vetoed by Russia. Moscow told the 15-member council it will put two draft resolutions on Syria to a vote on Tuesday because it does not agree with the U.S. text, diplomats said.

At a meeting on Monday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Washington would respond to the suspected attack whether the Security Council acted or not.

“This is basically a diplomatic set-up,” said Richard Gowan, a U.N. expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“Russia will inevitably veto the U.S. resolution criticising Assad, and Washington will use this to justify military strikes,” he said. “A breakdown at the U.N. will also make it easier for France to justify strikes.”

France said it would respond if it was proven that Assad’s forces carried out the attack. British Prime Minister Theresa May talked to Trump on Tuesday and they ageed that whoever was responsible should be held to account.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the United States, France and Britain of stoking international tensions by engaging in a “confrontational policy against Russia and Syria”.

“Russia is being unpardonably threatened. The tone with which this is being done has gone beyond the threshold of what is acceptable, even during the Cold War,” he said

REVULSION

Initial U.S. assessments have been unable to determine conclusively what materials were used in the attack and could not say with certainty that Assad’s forces were behind it.

A previous inquiry by the United Nations and the OPCW found the Syrian government used the nerve agent sarin in an attack in 2017, and had also used chlorine several times as a weapon. Damascus blamed Islamic State militants for mustard gas use.

Saturday’s suspected chemical attack came at the end of one of the deadliest Syrian government offensives of the war, with an estimated 1,700 civilians killed in eastern Ghouta in air and artillery bombardments.

Despite the international revulsion over the chemical weapons attacks, the death toll from such incidents is in the dozens, a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of combatants and civilians killed since an uprising against Assad’s rule broke out in March 2011.

The deal over the rebel evacuation of Douma took effect on Sunday, hours after medical aid groups reported the suspected chemical attack

RIA news agency quoted Russia’s Defence Ministry as saying 3,600 militants and their families had left Douma over the past 24 hours. About 4,000 militants and their families are expected to leave, the pro-government Watan newspaper said.

A man is washed following alleged chemical weapons attack, in what is said to be Douma, Syria in this still image from video obtained by Reuters on April 8, 2018. White Helmets/Reuters TV via REUTERS

Buses carrying hundreds of fighters, along with family members and other civilians who did not wish to come back under Assad’s rule, reached opposition areas near Aleppo on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The departures will bring to an end the opposition presence in eastern Ghouta, giving Assad his biggest battlefield victory since late 2016, when he took back Aleppo.

Reporting by Jack Stubbs and Maria Kiselyova in Moscow, Antonhy Deutsch in Amsterdam, Tom Perry and Ellen Francis in Beirut, Steve Holland, Michelle Nichols and Mark Hosenball in the United States, John Irish in Paris, Writing by Angus MacSwan; Editing by Larry King



Read Full Story

Amit Shah Heckled By Dalit Protestors In Mysuru. What’s At Stake For BJP


Bengaluru, Karnataka: 
Just a half-hour drive from Bengaluru’s IT hub of Electronic City, lies the town of Anekal – largely undistinguished and of no note to outsiders but known locally for its history of violence against Christians and its oppression of Dalits, who form nearly 30 percent of the population, but are divided between the “right hand touchables” or Chalavadis, who are traditionally Congress supporters, while the Madigas or the “Left Hand untouchables” have been associated with the BJP for the last decade.

What has united them – and nearly 100 other sub-castes of Dalits – is last month’s Supreme Court verdict on what is referred to as the SC/ST Act. Judges say their decision did not dilute the law, but ensures that its provisions do not violate individual rights – so, for example, arrests can no longer be made as soon as a Dalit files a police complaint of discrimination.

“Dalits are seeing this as an injustice, which had the tacit approval of the BJP government at the Centre”, said M Prakash, a school teacher in Anekal who is an activist of a Dalit rights organisation.
 

dalit protests 650

Dalit groups protest against the Supreme Court order in Bengaluru

Dalits believe that the SC/ST Act is sacrosanct because it is a powerful instrument in fighting caste humiliation and is as important for them as reservation as a tool of empowerment and upward mobility. The fear that these rights, safeguarded by the constitution, are under threat is fast gaining currency on the ground despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Dalit outreach which includes frequent ceremonies and monuments commemorating Dalit icon Dr B R Ambedkar, ensuring the election of Dalit politician Ram Nath Kovind as President of the country, and ordering MPs to spend nights in Dalit homes in their constituencies.

Dalits, according to a leaked census which was conducted by the incumbent Congress government but never formally shared, form 19% percent of Karnataka’s population. They influence the results of nearly 60 of the 224 seats that will be decided when the state votes on May 12.

A countrywide bandh or protest on April 2 saw gigantic participation and left nine people dead. The centre then asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its verdict; judges refused to suspend the controversial ruling, but have agreed to hear the centre’s case later this month.
 

bharat bandh 650

Bharat Bandh called by Dalit groups last week saw widespread violence across five states and cost nearly a dozen lives

Four Dalit MPs from the BJP have insinuated that its response was neither strong nor fast enough, while also massaging the point that in appealing against the Supreme Court’s verdict, their party acted counter-intuitively and not without some reluctance.

This is also the impression in Anekal, where Dalits live in separate colonies and are discouraged from entering temples in areas dominated by upper castes. “The order has been welcomed by the upper castes who form the BJP’s core constituency. It will help the party to further consolidate their vote before the elections,” alleged R Shankar, a local Dalit activist.

The BJP has for decades been the homestead of upper caste Hindus; its opulent victory in the last general election was facilitated by Amit Shah, the party chief, managing to weave together traditional supporters with an assortment of lower and backward castes including Dalits in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
 

modi bengaluru rally pti

PM Modi at the BJP’s Parivartana rally in Bengaluru with the party’s chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa

In Karnataka, the BJP has been the preference of Lingayats and other upper castes; even in 2014, when the triumphant ‘Modi wave’ fanned across India, the Dalits remained unpersuaded. Of Karnataka’s 28 parliamentary seats, four are reserved for Dalit candidates; the BJP won just one of those.

The PM has tried to persuade Dalits, who together with tribals form a quarter of the country’s population, that Hindutva ideology is not hostile to their progress, but in 2016, nearly 41,000 cases of atrocities against Dalits were registered across India. 60% of those cases were from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, all states ruled by the BJP. “In Karnataka, crimes against Dalits have also shown an increase in the five years of Congress rule, so they cannot claim the moral high ground,” former BJP chief minister Jagadish Shettar told NDTV.

But if the Dalits in the state do desert the BJP completely, the buck will have to stop with his colleague, Anant Kumar Hegde, the MP from Uttara Kannada constituency. At a public function in December , Mr Hegde, a union minister, said “The Constitution needs to be changed from time to time and we have come for that”, which was seen as a remark on doing away with reservation or guaranteed government jobs and college places for scheduled castes. To make matters worse, Mr Hegde, a Brahmin, then referred to the protests staged by a group of Dalits against his statement as “the barking of stray dogs”. The BJP argued that Mr Hegde’s views were personal and not those of the party and thought it was a closed chapter.
 

mayawati afp 650

BSP chief Mayawati is less enthusiastic about her tie up with JDS now than she was a month ago

Then, a fortnight ago, a meeting between Amit Shah and a group of Dalit leaders in Mysuru was marred by protests against the BJP bosses for failing to act against the minister. “The PM says that ‘No government has given respect to Babasaheb the way our government has.’ If this is true, then why doesn’t he sack Mr Hegde? This can only mean that privately, the BJP’s and its minister’s views are the same,” insists a Dalit activist who was one of the protestors at Amit Shah’s meeting. “Since December, we have been warning our people to be vigilant, because even the poorest Dalit knows that his right to reservation is enshrined in the constitution and anyone who wants to rewrite it wants to snatch this right away from us.” The derision that Amit Shah confronted was in Mysuru, the heart of South Karnataka, where the BJP won no seat at all in the last state election. It is crucial for the party to build support here.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah of the Congress belongs to a shepherd community. He is backed by a cohort of Dalits, other backward castes, and minorities. He believes that crucial schemes that he introduced including give free grains to the poorest families, free milk for students up till Class 10, and interest-free loans for farmers have broadened his support to include economically backward sections of the upper caste Lingayats and Vokkaligas. He has also introduced Indira canteens serving subsidised food which are copied from the famous Amma canteens in Tamil Nadu. 
 

siddaramaiah

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah will have to work hard to keep the fragmented Dalit vote together

The BJP is hoping that the Dalit vote in Karnataka will be split by the big play made by Mayawati, the Dalit leader from Uttar Pradesh, who has partnered with Deve Gowda of the Janata Dal (S) in an arrangement which allows her own party to compete for 20 seats, though she did not win any in the last state election in 2013.

But her workers say that her collaboration with Deve Gowda, seen as close to the BJP, lacks conviction. “She has not given us any clear-cut order to vote for Deve Gowda’s candidates,” claimed a BSP worker in Anekal. “Besides, JD(S) is a feudal party, supported by the dominant Vokkaliga caste which has always victimised Dalits.”

As for the Congress, if it wants to win the Scheduled Caste vote in Karnataka, it will have to do more than ride the wave of Dalit anger erupting across the country and consolidate a significant section of the many sub-castes. Though the “left hand Dalits” are numerically stronger, the majority of the Congress leadership in the state including Mallikarjun Kharge and G Parameshwara, President of the Karnataka Congress, come from the “right hand Dalits” who have long been accused of helping their sub-caste to corner the larger share of government benefits.

Tempering that sentiment is no less a challenge than what the BJP is encountering.





Read Full Story

Mumbai Fashion Designer Allegedly Raped Teen Daughters For 2 Years, Arrested


Mumbai Fashion Designer Allegedly Raped Teen Daughters For 2 Years, Arrested

The accused was arrested on April 8. (Representational)

Mumbai:  A 42-year-old fashion designer was arrested in suburban Vakola in Mumbai for allegedly raping his two daughters, police said today.

The alleged crime came to light when the elder of the two sisters, who is 17 years old, told her mother about the ordeal last week, said a police official.

The younger sister is 13 years old, he said.

When the woman confronted her husband about it, he abused her, after which she took both the girls to the Vakola police station and lodged a complaint, said senior inspector Kailashchand Avhad.

Police registered a case of sexual assault under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) against the man.

The elder girl, who is a class XI student, told police that her father had sexually assaulted her many times in the last two years, the officer said.

He allegedly threatened to stop paying for her education and even throw her out of the house if she complained.

In November last year, the accused tried to sexually assault her younger sister too, she told police.

The accused was arrested on April 8 and a special court for the POCSO Act sent him in police custody till April 12, Mr Avhad said, adding that that probe is underway.
 





Read Full Story

Trump lashes out again after FBI raids on his lawyer


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump reprised his angry attacks on law enforcement on Tuesday following FBI raids targeting his personal lawyer that were related to a federal investigation into possible collusion by Trump campaign aides with Moscow.

In two brief Twitter messages, Trump lamented that “attorney-client privilege is dead,” and denounced a “total witch hunt,” apparently restating his long-held view of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. He did not elaborate.

FBI agents executed a series of search warrants on Michael Cohen’s office and home on Monday, law enforcement officials said. One source said Cohen was under investigation for activity including possible bank and tax fraud and possible campaign law violations.

The searches, which Trump denounced on Monday as disgraceful, were a dramatic new development in a series of probes involving associates of the Republican president.

“The raid is seismic,” Democratic U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a former U.S. attorney, told MSNBC on Tuesday, adding that such searches by the Federal Bureau of Investigation indicate the possibility that a crime was committed.

The investigations have dogged Trump since he took office last year, prompting him to publicly criticize Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, and to suggest periodically that he might try to have Mueller dismissed.

Monday’s events renewed concerns that Trump could try to act against Mueller, who was appointed last year by the Justice Department to investigate alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election and potential collusion by Trump’s campaign. Critics have said that if Trump tried to remove Mueller it would amount to interference in the investigation.

“It would be suicide for the president to want to talk about firing Mueller. The less the president said on this whole thing, the better off he would be, the stronger his presidency would be,” Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley said in an interview on the Fox Business Network.

Grassley is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is among congressional panels conducting their own Russia probes.

Frank Montoya, a former senior FBI official, said it was extremely rare for the bureau to get the authority to search a lawyer’s office, let alone a residence.

“No question, a search warrant for a lawyer is an extraordinary act,” he told Reuters. “Factor in that, in this instance, it was the president’s own attorney. Unprecedented.”

Montoya said the warrant regarding Cohen would have required rigorous scrutiny above and beyond the normal warrant process.

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

“Everyone involved in this process, including the judge who signed the warrant, understood the scrutiny that would follow its execution,” he said. “As such, everyone in the process would have done their damnedest to make the warrant as bulletproof as possible.”

Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen M. Ryan, said on Monday prosecutors seized communications between Cohen and his clients based in part on a referral by Mueller.

The attorney-client privilege Trump referred to is intended to encourage open communications between lawyers and their clients, so that lawyers can provide sound legal advice. But the privilege is not absolute, and there is an exception for communications made to further a crime.

PROTECT SPECIAL COUNSEL

U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer renewed a call by his party for bipartisan legislation to protect the U.S. special counsel.

Moscow has denied U.S. intelligence agencies’ findings that it meddled in the 2016 presidential campaign and sought to tilt the race in Trump’s favor. Trump has denied any collusion by his campaign.

Mueller’s probe has so far led to five people, including four connected to Trump, pleading guilty to charges, many of them related to making false statements to investigators. Mueller has also charged Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who has pleaded not guilty, and 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities.

Cohen has come under scrutiny over a $130,000 payment he made shortly before the 2016 election to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who has said that she once had sex with Trump and was paid to keep quiet about it. Last week, Trump said he did not know about the payment.

“A well-regarded Republican appointed US Atty (attorney) obtaining valid search warrants, approved by a judge, that are then … carried out by career, upstanding FBI agents doing their job to search for the truth is NOT A WITCH HUNT. Period,” said Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for Daniels.

Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, has sued Cohen to be released from a nondisclosure agreement over the alleged 2006 liaison with Trump.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Cohen’s lawyer Ryan said on Monday the raid was inappropriate and that Cohen has cooperated with authorities.

Reporting by Susan Heavey and Nathan Layne; Additional reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Frances Kerry



Read Full Story

At CSK’s Chepauk stadium, it’s Whistle Podu vs the cry for Cauvery


Fans inside Chennai’s Chepauk stadium during the CSK-KKR match, and protestors outside the venue (Photos: RIGHT: Twitter/@ChennaiIPL | LEFT: Shalini Lobo)

“Namma thala Dhoni ku periya whistle adinga! Whistle for our leader Dhoni!”

The Super Kings’ battle cry invigorates fans each time Tamil Nadu’s beloved IPL team enters “the lion’s den” – Chennai’s MA Chidambaram stadium, or as the locals simply say, Chepauk.

But today, cricket fans who flocked to the iconic beachfront ground heard a very different slogan.

“We want our Cauvery! It is our right,” protesters were heard screaming.

“Stop IPL, support Cauvery,” they said.

They poured into the streets around Chepauk by the thousands before the CSK-KKR game began.

Understand our suffering and then have your entertainment. Our farmers are dying, we dont have water, and all that we want is the Centre to give us our right – a Cauvery management board, one protestor said.

In February, a three-judge Supreme Court bench directed the Modi government to form a Cauvery Management Board within six weeks of a verdict which marginally increased Karnataka’s share of Cauvery water, and reduced the allocation for Tamil Nadu.

The court also allowed Tamil Nadu to extract 10 tmcft of groundwater from the river basin.

As the southern state waits for the establishment of the board – and its politicians grow increasingly frustrated – the IPL and the Chennai Super Kings have been caught in the crossfire.

Today, at Chepauk’s Gate 5, the independent lawmaker Karunas and his supporters tried to break a barricade and enter the ground.

Balaji, a popular RJ, called on all Tamil Nadu MPs and MLAs to resign.

“The people of Tamil Nadu voted for you. Not for Dhoni,” he said, referring to the captain of the Super Kings.

But not everyone feels the same way.

“A sport, a match is different from the Cauvery issue. We cant politicise a game. We have waited for two years for CSK, and this is not the way to protest, said Krishna, an ardent Super Kings fan.

This is a protest that has to be fought in Parliament, not here at the stadium. They are looking for a soft target, said another fan.

CSK supporters turned up in great numbers to cheer on their team, which began the IPL season with a thrilling win in Mumbai. Inside Chepauk, the stands were chock-a-block with yellow jerseys.

“It is like a mustard field,” Harsha Bhogle, a cricket commentator, said at the start of the game. “Dotted in yellow.”

READ | In Tamil Nadu, TVK leader threatens to release snakes during CSK IPL match

WATCH | Who is Cauvery villain? Hear all viewpoints in one forum



Read Full Story

Nitish Kumar’s Direct Messaging For PM Narendra Modi In Bihar. And Praise In Return


Nitish Kumar's Direct Messaging For PM Modi. And Praise In Return

Nitish Kumar greeted PM Modi with a rose at the Patna airport. (PTI)

Patna: 
At an event in Bihar today, messages flew between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar in the middle of a rough patch between the allies over recent communal violence in the state. Sharing the stage with PM Modi, the Bihar chief minister stressed that peace, harmony and respect for every religion were vital for the country’s progress.

The Prime Minister, who can’t afford to upset another ally in an election year, responded with a compliment instead of a counter.

The two were in Motihari, around 150 kilometres from Patna, to mark the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi’s Champaran Satyagraha. They drove down from the airport, where Nitish Kumar greeted PM Modi with a rose.

“Violence and tension cannot solve anything in our society. Peace, harmony, respect for all religions and castes is needed. The country will move ahead only with love and amity, not tanaav and takraar (tension and clashes),” Nitish Kumar said, in presence of Union Ministers Giriraj Singh and Ashwini Choubey, who were at the centre of the recent controversies. The two ministers were sharing stage with the chief minister.

PM Modi called Nitish Kumar a “patient and able administrator” and praised him for the way he was fighting “anti-social elements”.

In what appeared to be a reference to Lalu Yadav, Nitish Kumar’s former ally jailed for corruption, PM Modi said he would have the centre’s “full cooperation in the fight against corruption.”

Nitish Kumar ended his coalition with Lalu Yadav last year and resurrected his ties with the BJP, the party he shunned after it decided to project Mr Modi as its prime minister.

 

arijit shashwat arrest pti

BJP leader Arijit Shashwat was accused of inciting violence during Ram Navami processions.

But in recent weeks, the chief minister has been deeply upset over communal violence that started out from Bhagalpur last month and then rapidly spread to at least five other districts. Sources say he is worried about more such polarising incidents ahead of the 2019 national election.

The incidents have left him facing condemnation and ridicule from opposition parties who have not forgiven the Bihar veteran for re-embracing the BJP.

Nitish Kumar confronted worse criticism after Arijit Shashwat, a BJP leader accused of inciting violence during Ram Navami processions last month, refused to surrender. The BJP leader, the son of union minister Ashwini Choubey, was finally arrested after the court, hearing the state’s strong opposition, rejected his request for protection from arrest. Arijit Shashwat was granted bail by a court on Monday.

The BJP’s trouble with allies in states like Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra doesn’t endanger its rule but hits it hard at a time perception matters. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu recently quit the BJP-led coalition in a row over special status to his state. In the other two states, allies have threatened to end all ties.





Read Full Story

Scottsdale plane crash: 6 dead in accident at golf course


The plane departed Scottsdale Airport and crashed soon afterward at the TPC Scottsdale Champions Course, just north of the airport, the Scottsdale Police Department said.

None of the six people aboard the Piper PA-24 survived, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Their names were not immediately released.
Officers responded to calls about the crash just after 8:45 p.m. local time, police said. The crash left fiery wreckage on the course, video from CNN affiliate KXNV showed.

The cause of the crash is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, which has arrived on site.

The TPC Scottsdale is one of a string of Tournament Players Clubs licensed by the PGA Tour. The tour’s Phoenix Open is held annually at TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course, near the Champions Course.



Read Full Story

Bill Cosby trial: Defense says ‘so-called victim’ was after comedian’s money


“You’re going to be saying to yourself, ‘What does she want from Bill Cosby?’ and you already know. Money, money and lots more money,” Cosby attorney Tom Mesereau said. “She was madly in love with his fame and money.”

“She has a history of financial problems until she hits the jackpot with Bill Cosby,” Mesereau added.

Cosby’s defense arguments came a day after prosecutors said Constand, a former Temple University employee, was drugged and assaulted by Cosby at his home in January 2004.

Cosby, the 80-year-old TV icon, has pleaded not guilty to three charges of aggravated indecent assault.

‘This was about money’

Bill Cosby arrives Tuesday for his trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse outside Philadelphia.
On Monday, prosecutors revealed for the first time that Cosby paid Constand $3.38 million as part of a civil settlement related to the alleged assault. Cosby did not admit any liability, wrongdoing or fault in the settlement.

With little to no forensic evidence in the case, Constand’s testimony is central to the case against Cosby. But Mesereau argued that the millions paid to Constand and the lack of liability proved the lawsuit wasn’t filed for principles.

“This was nothing about principle, this was about money,” he said. “The only principle was money, money, money, money.”

A previous trial on these charges ended last year in a hung jury and a mistrial. But the retrial takes place in a world colored by the #MeToo movement and its reckoning with powerful celebrities using their power to harass and assault women.

Prosecutors said they plan to call up to five women who have also said Cosby drugged and assaulted them in similar ways. Prosecutors plan to use these witnesses to “prior bad acts” to show that the star’s actions with Constand were not a one-time mistake but part of a deliberate pattern.

Mesereau called this strategy “prosecution by distraction” because they did not have enough evidence.

“When you don’t have a case, you have to fill the time with something else,” he said. “Remember my words as you listen to the people testify.”

‘This case is about betrayal’

On Monday, prosecutors said the case was about trust and betrayal. Cosby was a powerful trustee at Temple University, and he worked to gain the trust of Constand, an employee with the Temple women’s basketball team, they said.

Cosby betrayed that trust in January 2004 when he pushed her to take drugs and wine that incapacitated her and then sexually assaulted her without her consent, prosecutors said.

“This case is about betrayal, and that betrayal leading to the sexual assault of a woman named Andrea Constand,” Montgomery County prosecutor Kevin Steele said.

Constand reported the alleged assault to police a year later, but no charges were filed at the time. She and Cosby then settled a civil lawsuit in 2006 that would remain secret for almost a decade.

Why Bill Cosby's trial will be different this time

As part of that settlement, Cosby paid Constand $3.38 million, prosecutors said for the first time on Monday. The settlement says Cosby entered into the agreement so long as the facts, allegations and information gathered during the course of the litigation did not become public.

In 2015, a judge made parts of that settlement public, including Cosby’s deposition in which he admitted he got prescription sedatives to give to women with whom he wanted to have sex.

That admission in the settlement led prosecutors to reopen the case against him, leading to these charges. But the price tag and other details of that agreement had remained a secret until Monday.

The prosecution’s opening statement was delayed until Monday afternoon due to a defense motion to dismiss a juror. The defense argued that juror made a comment indicating the comedian is guilty. Ultimately, the judge didn’t dismiss any of the jurors. The 12 jurors and six alternates were brought into court and sworn in Monday afternoon.

CNN’s Aaron Cooper reported from Norristown, and Eric Levenson wrote in New York.



Read Full Story

IndiGo deplanes passenger for complaining of mosquitoes, minister orders probe


Budget carrier IndiGo deplaned a passenger from a flight in Lucknow after he complained about mosquitoes in the aircraft. Reacting with alacrity to the incident, the government on Tuesday ordered a probe into the matter.

The passenger, identified as Saurabh Rai — a “reputed doctor” from Lucknow who works for the Narayan Hospital in Bengaluru — was deplaned on Monday at the Chowdhary Charan Singh International Airport, Amausi in Lucknow, after he complained to the IndiGo staff about mosquitoes in the plane.

Rai, a resident of Indira Nagar in Lucknow, also alleged that he was held by the “collar” by the flight staff and pulled out of the plane after he complained.

He alleged that not only did the air crew get physical with him, they also told him that mosquitoes are everywhere in India and if he had so much of a problem with them, he should leave the country and settle abroad.

According to Rai, he had a 6:05 a.m. flight to Bengaluru from Lucknow and that there were many mosquitoes hovering around his seat (22C) and some kids on the plane were also crying after being bitten by them.

Many co-passengers, he claimed, also complained of the mosquito menace after which he told a flight attendant Sonali that she should spray something to ward them off.

“I was told that she will apprise her seniors about the plaint but nothing happened and the plane doors were about to be closed when I raised the matter again only to face half a dozen security staff of the airlines who literally threw me and my cabin luggage out of the aircraft,” he alleged.

He also said that the video he shot of the mosquitoes on his mobile phone was also forcibly deleted by the airlines staff.

Rai said he had three surgeries lined up in the day at Bengaluru and hence he took a 12:30 p.m. flight later.

IndiGo, however, said in a statement that the passenger had misbehaved with the crew members and threatened to damage the aircraft. “We have zero tolerance for such behaviour,” the airline said.

After the incident was reported in the social media, Minister of Civil Aviation and Commerce and Industry Suresh Prabhu took cognisance of the matter and ordered a probe on Tuesday.

“I have ordered an enquiry into the incident of off-loading passenger Dr Saurabh Rai by IndiGo at Lucknow Airport,” Prabhu tweeted.

READ MORE | IndiGo crew said if you have problem with mosquitoes, leave India: Passenger



Read Full Story