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Rosberg fastest on first day of practise | Reuters

SAO PAULO Nico Rosberg turned the tables on Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton with the fastest lap in Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix practise on Friday.

After triple world champion Hamilton had set the pace in the morning with a lap more than half a second faster than the German, Rosberg ended the afternoon 0.458 quicker than the Briton with a lap of one minute 12.385 seconds on soft tyres.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was third fastest in both sessions.

With both titles already decided, Hamilton having won his third world crown in Texas last month, teams used the morning session to work on developments for 2016 with aerodynamic sensors prominent on bodywork.

“Times in the afternoon were not showing the real picture as Lewis drove in different engine modes to me,” said Rosberg, last year’s winner at Interlagos who will be chasing his fifth successive pole on Saturday.

“He was also very quick today and it looks like we will have a great battle again this weekend,” Rosberg told reporters.

Fernando Alonso brought out red flags early in the afternoon, in what looks like being another difficult weekend for the Spaniard, when his McLaren stopped on the track with smoke coming from the engine.

Hamilton, who had delayed his arrival in Brazil due to a fever and following a car accident in Monaco in the early hours of Tuesday morning, has never triumphed in Brazil in eight attempts but is hoping to break that run.

“They’ve changed the kerbs quite a bit. Before we could abuse them a little bit more but now you need to go around them,” he said.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, using the latest specification Renault engine, was fourth and fifth respectively in the sessions.

FAMILIAR GUISE

Mercedes drew a lot of interest for a prominent bulge on the nose that was rumoured to be an ‘S Duct’, a device helping to channel air from under the car to the top surface of the front section.

The car ran in the afternoon in more familiar guise.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who was fifth and fourth fastest, saw his rear brakes lock into turn four and he tracked across the mud and gravel without further incident.

“Overall it was a difficult day,” said Vettel who can still finish second overall in the championship. “I tried to do the best I could but maybe I wasn’t quick enough. The car was moving around and sliding quite a lot.”

Lotus reserve Jolyon Palmer, who will be one of the team’s race drivers next year, was involved in the morning’s other moment of near drama when his car was released from the garage into the path of McLaren’s Jenson Button who braked.

Hamilton’s return to the track came amid headlines about his party lifestyle with the 30-year-old, whose helmet this weekend carries a tribute to his late boyhood idol Ayrton Senna, recognising he had been overdoing things.

“Heavy partying and not much rest for a week and a half,” said the Briton.

“I am a bit run down. I have been non-stop and trying to fit training in at the same time and not getting a lot of sleep.”

(Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ed Osmond)

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More misery for Mourinho as Liverpool beat Chelsea | Reuters

LONDON Jose Mourinho’s future as Chelsea manager looked increasingly uncertain after Liverpool beat them 3-1 in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, with Philippe Coutinho scoring twice.

Champions Chelsea’s third home league defeat of the season left them in 15th place in the table with 11 points from 11 games — the worst ever start to a season by reigning champions.

Liverpool‘s fans, celebrating a first league win for new manager Juergen Klopp, taunted Mourinho, chanting: “You’re getting sacked in the morning”, while home fans looked stunned as they filed away into the streets of west London.

Former Chelsea midfielder Pat Nevin, summarising on BBC Radio Five Live, summed up the mood: “The questions over Mourinho will be a cacophony now.

“It’s not just the defeat but the manner of it. They were absolutely outplayed,” he said.

Yet the day had started well for Chelsea.

There were only four minutes on the clock when Cesar Azpilicueta was given too much time and his cross picked out Ramires who headed powerfully into Liverpool‘s net.

If the home fans expected that boost to fuel their side with new-found confidence though, they were to be disappointed as a hard-working Liverpool side recovered to dominate possession.

Coutinho cleverly worked himself some space two minutes and 40 seconds into first-half stoppage time and curled a precise shot past Chelsea keeper Asmir Begovic.

Liverpool midfielder Lucas was lucky to avoid a second yellow card midway through the second half for a foul on Ramires — a decision that infuriated Mourinho.

To rub salt into the wound, Liverpool went in front a few minutes later when Christian Benteke’s knock down fell to Coutinho who again beat Begovic with a shot that brushed off John Terry, captaining Chelsea for the 550th time.

With Liverpool in complete control Benteke made the points safe with a low shot seven minutes from time.

Mourinho was clearly angry that decisions had gone against his side when interviewed by the BBC.

“In the second half something happened that didn’t allow us to win the game,” Mourinho said.

Asked if he could turn around Chelsea’s unravelling season, he said simply: “If they allow us.”

Klopp was sympathetic, telling a news conference: “I feel for him. He’s a great coach. I don’t think anyone in this room doubts he’s one of the best in the world. Things like this happen. I had a similar situation at Dortmund last year.”

While Chelsea lurch from crisis to crisis — they have lost nine times in all competitions, including their midweek defeat on penalties by Stoke City in the League Cup which they won last season — Liverpool are buoyant.

They have 17 points and moved up to seventh.

Later on Saturday, leaders Manchester City host Norwich City, second-placed Arsenal are at Swansea City and third-placed Manchester United are away at Crystal Palace.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Clare Fallon)

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Kohli ton helps India set up South Africa ODI decider | Reuters

REUTERS – Virat Kohli struck his first one-day international century since the World Cup in February to lead India to a series-levelling 35-run victory over South Africa in Chennai on Thursday.

Kohli made a fluent 138, his third-highest knock in 165 ODIs, to steer the hosts to an imposing 299 for eight in the fourth match of the five-game series.

South Africa replied with 264 for nine, AB de Villiers top-scoring with 112 off 107 balls, as India tied the series at 2-2 ahead of the deciding fifth match in Mumbai on Sunday.

Kohli’s 138 came off 140 deliveries and featured six fours and five sixes including one off Aaron Phangiso to bring up his 23rd ODI hundred and his first against the Proteas.

The Indian batsman shared two century partnerships, the first with Ajinkya Rahane (45) and the second with Suresh Raina (53) who bounced back to form after making ducks in his two previous matches.

Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada were the pick of the South African bowlers, taking three wickets each.

“It always feels good when you get a century and the team wins,” Kohli said. “I told (De Villiers) in the dressing room my heart was in my mouth when he was batting.

“He plays unbelievable shots. He’s a very modest man, too, never praises himself, so I’ll do that for him. The credit goes to him. He fought it out.”

Quinton de Kock got South Africa’s reply off to a flying start when he blasted 43 off 35 balls but his departure left De Villiers to fight a lone hand.

Like Kohli, the South African captain brought up his ton with a six, off Amit Mishral.

It was his 22nd ODI hundred, a record for a South African, but was not enough to get his team over the line after he fell to Bhuvneshwar Kumar who scooped up the last three wickets to finish with three for 68.

“We had a great opportunity to clinch the series,” De Villiers said. “It was a hard-fought game and I loved the way the boys fought till the end.”

(Reporting by Julian Linden,; Editing by Neville Dalton)

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UN owes India US $85 million for contribution towards peacekeeping, says senior official

The organisation owed a total of US$ 1.03 billion to 86 Member States which contributed troops, police and equipment as of October 2 this year

The UN owes India an amount of US$ 85 million for its contribution towards peacekeeping operations including troops, police and equipment, a senior management official has said.The organisation owed a total of US$ 1.03 billion to 86 Member States which contributed troops, police and equipment as of October 2 this year. The largest amount owed was to Pakistan at US $ 97 million; followed by Ethiopia at US$ 87 million; India at US$ 85 million; Bangladesh at U $ 84 million; Rwanda at US$ 55 million; and Nepal at U $ 44 million, Under-Secretary- General for Management Yukio Takasu told the the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) in the General Assembly on Thursday, <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India is the largest cumulative troop contributor to UN peace operations, with over 185,000 troops having served in 48 of the 69 missions mandated so far. The country has repeatedly called for the Security Council to consult troop contributing countries before drawing up peacekeeping mandates given that troops now have to function is increasingly difficult and hostile conflict situations across the world’s hot-spots. He said the organisation’s financial indicators for 2015 were “generally sound and positive”, except for the cash position of the regular budget, whose funds had been depleted.Urging member states to make their full payments as soon as possible, he said a few nations accounted for the bulk of the outstanding amount, with the US owing US $ 813 million, Brazil US $ 124 million and Venezuela US $ 35 million. Additionally, 99 Member States had not paid their assessed contribution in full to the International Tribunals and the United States led the list with an obligation of US $ 29 million, followed by Russia with US $ 11 million in unpaid assessments; Brazil at US$ 9 million; Indonesia at US$ 4 million; Venezuela with US$ 4 million; and 94 other States owing US$ 12 million. He said India had fully paid up its contribution as of October 2.Briefing on the status of the organisation’s four major financial categories of regular budget, peacekeeping operations, tribunals and the Capital Master Plan, Takasu as of October 2, unpaid assessments stood at US $ 1.053 billion, up 16 million from a year earlier.The total cash available for peacekeeping as of October 2 was about US $ 4.3 billion, including the Peacekeeping Reserve account, he said. As of October 2, US $ 314 million was owed to Member States for troops and formed police units; and for contingent- owned equipment claims, US $ 638 million was owed to active missions and US $ 86 million for closed missions.

Messi lifts Barca, five for record-breaker Ronaldo | Reuters

MADRID Lionel Messi came off the bench to earn Barcelona a 2-1 victory at Atletico Madrid on Saturday while Cristiano Ronaldo hit five goals in a 6-0 romp at Espanyol to become Real Madrid’s record La Liga scorer.

Champions Barca, who started with talisman Messi as a substitute following the birth of his second son on Friday, fell behind after a tight first half at the Calderon when Fernando Torres sped clear to score in the 51st minute.

Neymar levelled four minutes later when he curled a sumptuous free kick into the top corner and the Brazil forward should have made it 2-1 in the 67th when his point-blank shot was cleared off the line by Diego Godin.

Neymar was also involved in the winner before the ball fell to Luis Suarez, who had struck the crossbar in the first half, and he slipped a pass into space for Messi to dink it past goalkeeper Jan Oblak with 13 minutes remaining.

The victory preserved Barca’s perfect start to the season and they lead on a maximum nine points from three matches, three ahead of 2013-14 champions Atletico who are fifth.

“We played very well after going behind and we’re very happy,” Neymar told Spanish television.

“Messi is the best player in the world and when he comes on to the pitch everyone plays better.”

Real have seven points in second place after Ronaldo, who like great rival Messi had drawn a blank in the opening two games, ended his early-season drought in emphatic style.

The Portugal captain turned in a blistering performance that took his tally in Spain’s top flight to 230, overtaking former Real striker Raul’s total of 228.

The 30-year-old FIFA Ballon d’Or winner scored in the seventh, 17th (penalty), 20th, 61st and 81st minutes while Karim Benzema struck in the 28th as Real put a hapless Espanyol to the sword.

Ronaldo, who hit five against Granada in La Liga last season, raced clear and finished calmly to set Real on their way before converting a penalty won by Gareth Bale.

Bale’s centre from the left set up Ronaldo to volley in his third, equalling Messi’s Spanish record of 32 hat-tricks, before he turned provider by crossing for Benzema to make it 4-0 inside half an hour.

Wales playmaker Bale set Ronaldo up again after a swift counter attack and substitute Lucas Vazquez made the assist for the former Manchester United man’s fifth and Real’s sixth.

“They (Espanyol) have a good team but when Cristiano has his day it’s impossible,” said Real’s Portugal defender Pepe.

Spain forward Paco Alcacer scored in added time to give Valencia an unconvincing 1-0 triumph at promoted Sporting Gijon, a first win of the campaign lifting them to sixth place on five points.

(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Clare Lovell)

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At least 85 killed in restaurant explosions in Madhya Pradesh | Reuters

NEW DELHI At least 85 people were killed when a cooking gas cylinder blew up in a crowded restaurant in Madhya Pradesh on Saturday, triggering a second blast of mining detonators stored illegally nearby, police said.

The explosions tore through the restaurant as labourers sat down for breakfast during the morning rush hour in the town of Petlawad, about 800 km (500 miles) south of New Delhi, Inspector Mewa Lal Gaur told Reuters.

Gaur said people who had gathered outside the restaurant after the initial blast were caught in a second explosion when gelatin sticks stored in a nearby building caught light, blew up and buried scores of people as the roof caved in.

“When the first blast took place in the gas cylinder many people collected there to watch and see what had happened. Then there was a secondary blast,” Gaur said, adding the explosion was so powerful it damaged adjacent buildings and ripped out nearby windows.

Bodies lay amid the rubble of the collapsed restaurant, which was located next to a busy junction, and twisted motorcycles and debris were strewn outside, as a crowd of onlookers searched for survivors.

Police said the death toll had risen throughout the day as rescue workers continued to pull bodies from under the rubble, but that they had now recovered all the dead and injured from the scene.

Arun Sharma, a local medical officer, said 87 people had been killed. Around 100 people were also injured in the blast, and 15 of them were in a serious condition, he said.

The accident is one the deadliest to hit India in recent years.

“This is a tragic incident, which has shook me. The causes of the incident will be investigated,” Madhya Pradesh’s chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan told local television channels.

Chouhan has announced 200,000 rupees ($3,000) in compensation for the families of those killed and 50,000 for those injured, media reported.

Gaur said the detonators, which are used for construction activity, mining and digging wells, should not have been kept in the room near to the restaurant and it was illegal to do so even if the owner was given a licence.

The district surrounding Petlawad is home to a number of manganese and bauxite mines.

($1 = 66.2310 rupees)

(additional reporting by Karen Rebelo in MUMBAI; writing by Tommy Wilkes; Editing by Ros Russell)

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Amazing India: Maha Kumbh 2013 beats FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil

It seems that the Maha Kumbh, the world’s largest religious congregation was better organised that the FIFA World Cup in Brazil in 2014 and the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010.

It seems that the Maha Kumbh, the world’s largest religious congregation was better organised that the FIFA World Cup in Brazil in 2014 and the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010. A book produced by scholars and students of Harvard University along with others claimed. A book called Kumbh Mela – Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity added: “For a country notorious for its ‘lethargic’ bureaucracy, the success of Maha Kumbh is truly noteworthy.”The book was launched by Akhilesh Yadav recently. Over 50 Harvard students, professors and other staff members went to the site. Meena Sonea Hewett, exectuvive director of the South Asian Institute of Harvard University said the book served as an “example of sophisticated Referring to the Kumbh Mela project undertaken by the South Asia Institute (SAI) of the Harvard University as a “keystone project” the book goes on to discuss in detail the entire multi-year research project findings.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>During the period of the project, over 50 Harvard professors, students, administrative staff, doctors and researchers made a pilgrimage to the site, with the duration of stay spanning between two days to several weeks. Meena Sonea Hewett, executive director of the SAI in the preamble states that the book serves as an “example of sophisticated, interdisciplinary researched and produced a set of teaching tools, useful across the disciplines of public health, data science, architecture, urban planning, business, religion and culture.”

Facebook launches feature to allow businesses to privately message users | Reuters

SAN FRANCISCO Facebook Inc rolled out features Wednesday that enable businesses to privately communicate with customers through messages as part of the social networking company’s push to make its Messenger app a stand-alone platform.

Businesses can now include a “send message” button in ads that appear in Newsfeed that allow Facebook users to click a button and send messages, which are private. If users post a comment on a business’ Facebook page, then the business can privately message that person

The features are part of Facebook’s efforts to convince more small and medium-sized businesses – especially those in emerging markets, such as India, Brazil and Indonesia – to advertise on its platform.

By giving them direct access to customers, the world’s largest social network hopes to show that advertising on Facebook directly leads to increased sales.

To encourage quick responses, Facebook will award “very responsive to messages” badges on business pages that respond to 90 percent of messages and respond on average within five minutes. People will, however, still be able to block private messages from businesses.

The features will be especially valuable in southeast Asia, Facebook wrote in a blog post. About twice as many Thai and Singaporean users use Facebook messages to communicate with businesses each month and most Southeast Asia users follow some company pages.

Facebook hosts more than 40 million active small and medium business pages, it said, with more than 1 billion page visits each month.

(Reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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India holds US government securities worth $114 billion

Since May last year, the country has been steadily raising its exposure to the American government securities.

Representational image

India increased its exposure to US government securities by $31 billion in the first five months of the year, taking the overall holdings to $114 billion in May.This is also the highest level of holding by India in more than a year.Latest data from the US Treasury Department shows that China continued to have the maximum exposure to American government securities with May holdings touching $1.27 trillion.In May, India’s holding climbed to $114 billion from $110.3 billion in April. The total exposure has surged by $31 billion in the first five months of 2015.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Last December, the holding stood at just $83 billion, according to the data.Since May last year, the country has been steadily raising its exposure to the American government securities. Interestingly, this is despite the fact that the US economy has been sluggish in recent months and its GDP contracted for the 2015 March quarter.”The decrease in real GDP in the first quarter primarily reflected negative contributions from exports, non-residential fixed investment, and state and local government spending that were partly offset by positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures, private inventory investment, and residential fixed investment,” the US Bureau of Economic Analysis had said last month.Meanwhile, Japan had the second highest exposure to American government securities with holdings worth $1.21 trillion in May.Among the other BRIC nations, Brazil’s holdings stood at $258.5 billion, while that of Russia touched $70.6 billion during the period.

‘BRICS’ bank launches in Shanghai, to work with AIIB | Reuters

SHANGHAI Officials from the world’s largest emerging nations launched the New Development Bank (NDB) on Tuesday, the second of two new policy banks heavily backed by Beijing that are being pitched as alternatives to existing institutions such as the World Bank.

Also known as the BRICS bank, it follows soon after the establishment of the China-led Asian Investment Infrastructure Bank (AIIB). The new bank will fund infrastructure and development projects in BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The ceremony on Tuesday concludes a lengthy wait since the NDB was first proposed in 2012. Disagreements over the bank’s funding, management and headquarters had slowed its launch.

“Our objective is not to challenge the existing system as it is but to improve and complement the system in our own way,” NDB President Kundapur Vaman Kamath said.

He added that after a meeting with the AIIB in Beijing, the NDB had decided to set up a “hotline” with the AIIB to discuss issues, and to forge closer ties between “new institutions coming together with a completely different approach.”

The bank is considering raising funds by issuing a “substantial” amount of bonds in member markets to help mitigate costs arising from exchange rate fluctuations, he said.

Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said the NDB’s support of infrastructure projects will help “ease long-running bottlenecks faced by emerging and developing countries, and help them speed up, adjust and upgrade economic development.”

The ceremony, held in Shanghai where the NDB’s headquarters are located, was relatively low-key in comparison to a June signing of the articles of agreement for the AIIB in Beijing, which was attended by delegates from 57 countries and President Xi Jinping.

“From our standpoint we are really looking forward to cooperating with the new institutions…the needs (for infrastructure) are huge,” said Karin Finkelston, a vice president at the World Bank, adding that the World Bank had been helping the AIIB and NDB on issues such as human resources.

The Japan-led Asian Development Bank, in a statement quoting its president Takehiko Nakao, said it hoped to explore opportunities to co-finance projects with the NDB.

The NDB will have an initial capital of $50 billion to be equally funded by the five members who will have equal voting rights. The capital will be expanded to $100 billion within the next couple of years.

The members will also establish a reserve currency pool worth over another $100 billion. China has pledged to contribute $41 billion, Brazil, India and Russia will each contribute $18 billion, while South Africa will contribute $5 billion.

Kamath, a former executive with India’s largest private bank ICICI Bank, told Reuters earlier this month that the NDB plans to issue its first loans in April next year.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco in MANILA; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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India’s population at 127,42,39,769; set to overtake China by 2050

India on Saturday recorded a population of 127,42,39,769, which is growing at a rate of 1.6% a year, and could make the country the most populous in the world by 2050.

India on Saturday recorded a population of 127,42,39,769, which is growing at a rate of 1.6% a year, and could make the country the most populous in the world by 2050.At 5 pm today, the World Population Day, the number of Indians hit 127,42,39,769, and is 17.25% of the global population, as per Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh or National Population Stabilisation Fund (NPSF), an autonomous body under the Union Health Ministry which has raised concerns about over-population related problems, if the rate persists.Noting that India’s population was growing at a faster rate than China, which is now the world’s most populous country at around 1.39 billion, an official of the Fund said that the country could become the most populated one by 2050.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”If current growth rates continue, India will have 1.63 billion people by 2050 and will surpass China,” the official said. At a function today, Health Minister JP Nadda stressed on the involvement of development partners and NGOs in assisting government to achieve population stabilisation goals.According to data from NPSF, the total fertility rate (TFR) in India has seen a decline and stood at 2.3 in 2013 although the decline is not consistent.”Age at marriage has a significant influence on TFR, particularly in countries where chilbearing occurs within marriage. A country where age at marriage is high, fertility is generally observed to be low because of the reduced number of women at risk of childbearing,” the official said.The data suggests that a high percentage of females (21-26%) are married below 18 years of age in states like Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Bihar.The population of India, at 1.21 billion as per the 2011 Census, is almost equal to the combined population of USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Japan put together.Also, the population of several states match, and in some cases, exceed that of several large countries. For example, the population of Uttar Pradesh is almost that of Brazil, the fifth most populous country in the world.

IISc-Bangalore ranked 5th among BRICS universities

ndia likewise has its eye on the international stage, with the government’s “brain gain” policy aspiring to establish 14 world-class universities.

The prestigious Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore has been placed fifth in rankings for universities in the BRICS nations, with the largest number of papers published per faculty member.”Setting itself up as a worthy rival for China in terms of research production, the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore submitted ranking data for the first time this year – entering the BRICS rankings in fifth place, with the largest number of papers published per faculty member and strong scores across other indicators,” said a report in the third edition of the QS University rankings of BRICS countries released on Tuesday. India likewise has its eye on the international stage, with the government’s “brain gain” policy aspiring to establish 14 world-class universities.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>According to the rankings, China has seven of the top 10 places while Brazil, India and Russia have one each and South Africa none. “The 2015 results confirm that China is strengthening its dominant position while India has seen a rise of more than 50 per cent in the number of institutions listed in the top 200 in the latest rankings,” said Martin Ince, convener of the QS global academic advisory board.”The BRICS nations share a desire to grow in economic and political importance without copying the Western model of development. This ranking exists to see how this ambition is being reflected in their university systems,” Ince said.

Russia woos China before BRICS summit | Reuters

UFA, Russia Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government courted Beijing on Wednesday before a BRICS summit, playing down a stock market plunge in China and proposing better terms for investors from Beijing.

Meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Russian city of Ufa, Putin, whose country needs investment to pull out of a downturn worsened by Western economic sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, called for solidarity and unity in bilateral ties.

“We are clearly aware of the difficulties we face, in both the economy and international politics,” Putin told Xi on the eve of the meeting of leaders from the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

“But by combining our efforts, we will surely overcome all challenges before us. We will solve all the problems and tasks.”

China has been trying for more than a week to prevent the stock market from tumbling and on Tuesday unveiled yet another set of measures intended to stop the sell-off.

Russian officials played down the slump’s impact. Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said he was confident Beijing could stabilise the situation and Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said it held only small risks for Russia.

“The impact on Russia’s finances, capital flows, and the balance of payments from the changes in the Chinese financial market, has been minimal,” he said.

Details of Wednesday’s talks were not disclosed but Russian officials present included the energy and finance ministers.

Putin also had talks with South African President Jacob Zuma and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi before Thursday’s summit, at which the leaders are expected to put the last touches to a $100-billion contingency currency reserves pool and launch a BRICS development bank.

The BRICS account for a fifth of the world’s economic output and 40 percent of its population. The pool and New Development Bank, with an initial $50 billion in capital, are central to their efforts to reshape the Western-dominated financial system.

The summit, and a regional security meeting on Friday, offer Russia a chance to show it is not isolated globally.

LOOKING TO ASIA

After annexing the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine last year and facing sanctions that cut Moscow off from most Western financial markets, Putin sped up a geopolitical and economic shift towards Asian markets, and China in particular.

Russia’s economy, battered by the punitive measures from the West and a fall in global oil prices, has been struggling to attract investment and is sliding towards recession, with gross domestic product expected to decline by more than 3 percent.

A $400-billion gas supply deal signed last year accelerated Russia’s eastward expansion though ties have not developed in all areas as quickly as Moscow hoped.

China is Russia’s second-largest partner after the European Union, accounting for over a tenth of Russia’s overall trade last year, but Russia’s share in China’s foreign trade was only 2.2 percent, Russian official statistics show.

Both want to more than double trade turnover by 2020 and switch increasingly to local currencies in trading settlements.

The Russian Finance Ministry has estimated that “at some point” half the trade between Russia and China could be carried out in yuan and roubles as long as China removes currency restrictions on Russian banks.

Siluanov said both sides were working on easing the terms of investment and his ministry wanted to remove restrictions on Chinese investors in Russian financial markets: Chinese funds can invest in Russian stocks but Chinese banks cannot.

“We are talking about a gradual lifting of restrictions for Chinese financial institutions investing in (Russian) financial markets,” Siluanov said. “This would substantially increase the size of capital flows between our two countries.”

(Additional reporting by Katya Golubkova; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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PM Modi meets Chinese President Xi Jinping, says 5th meeting in a year shows depth in ties

It is the fourth bilateral meeting between the two leaders since their first in Fortaleza, Brazil, last July. In September 2014 Xi had visited India while Modi made a trip to China earlier this year in May. Xi and Modi had also visited each other’s hometowns during their bilateral trips.

Picture Courtesy: Narendra Modi Twitter page
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held discussions on bilateral ties with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday in Ufa, Russia and said their fifth meeting in a year shows the depth of India-China relationship. The two leaders met ahead of the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summits here.It is the fourth bilateral meeting between the two leaders since their first in Fortaleza, Brazil, last July. In September 2014 Xi had visited India while Modi made a trip to China earlier this year in May. Xi and Modi had also visited each other’s hometowns during their bilateral trips.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Our 5th meeting in a year shows the depth of the India – China relationship,” Modi was quoted by External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup as telling Xi.The meeting came before the seventh summit of BRICS, an emerging-market bloc that consists of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, and the 15th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit here.The upcoming SCO summit is expected to pass a resolution on starting the procedures of granting India and Pakistan full membership of the organisation.The SCO, founded in 2001, currently has six member states — China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, with Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan as observers and Belarus, Turkey and Sri Lanka as dialogue partners. PM even took to Twitter to post pictures from the meeting.

Court rejects Teesta Setalvad’s plea to keep passport

Setalvad, who has been relentlessly supporting the cause of 2002 post-Godhra riots victims, is facing a criminal case for uploading an “objectionable” image depicting Hindu deities on the Twitter.

The city sessions court in Ahmedabad has rejected social activist Teesta Setalvad’s application for extension of time to re-deposit her passport with the court.Additional sessions judge Rohen K Chudawala rejected Setalvad’s plea on Monday, observing that she must cooperate with the probe and ordered her to return the passport by Saturday. Setalvad, who has been relentlessly supporting the cause of 2002 post-Godhra riots victims, is facing a criminal case for uploading an “objectionable” image depicting Hindu deities on the Twitter. While granting her anticipatory bail in the case, the court had asked her to deposit the passport.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sometime ago, she collected the passport back as she wanted to travel and later applied that she be allowed to keep it until August 15. Her lawyer S M Vora argued that she had received an invitation to travel to Brazil for a conference at the end of July and the process of law will not be abused if the permission to travel was granted.But public prosecutor Sudhir Brahmbhatt opposed the plea, alleging that Setalvad hadn’t cooperated with the probe. The court said that “no further extension can be given… as that would certainly create a bad precedent.” In August 2014, an FIR was filed against Setalvad in Ghatlodia police station here by a Vishwa Hindu Parishad activist for uploading “objectionable” pictures of Hindu deities on Twitter.Setalvad had tweeted a photo-shopped picture of ISIS terrorists with the slain American journalist James Foley against the backdrop of a religious image. She later removed it. She is facing charges under IPC sections 153(a) (promoting enmity between religious groups) and 205(a) (outraging religious feelings) and under IT Act.

Special and privileged partnership between Russia, India will strengthen in coming days, says PM Modi

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will be travelling to Russia next month, on Friday extended his good wishes to it on the ‘Day of Russia’ and expressed confidence that the “special and privileged” ties between the two nations will acquire greater relevance in the coming days.

“On ‘Day of Russia’ my good wishes to the people of Russia,” he tweeted in English as well as in Russian language.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTIPrime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

“I convey my greetings and good wishes on occasion of ‘Day of Russia’. India and Russia enjoy unique and time-tested relations, characterised by strong goodwill between our people,” Modi said.

He added that it was his “firm belief that special and privileged strategic partnership between our nations will acquire greater relevance in the days ahead.”

The Prime Minister will be travelling to Russia next month to attend the Summits of Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) and Shangai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

During the visit, he is expected to hold bilateral talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

PTI

Indians really drag on to kick the butt: Report

The report analysed the percentage of former daily smokers over daily smokers in 22 countries between 2008 and 2013. The findings of the report state that least number of people have quit smoking in India, with the quit ratio of 12% men and 16% men, the worst in the world.

A BEST bus carries an anti-tobacco message as part its World No Tobacco Day 2015 campaign, which was launched on Friday
Abhinav Kocharekar

When it comes to giving up smoking, Indians are the worst. According to the latest figures released by the US-government-run Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Indians have been shamed at not being able to quit smoking as effectively as their counterparts in 21 countries. The report analysed the percentage of former daily smokers over daily smokers in 22 countries between 2008 and 2013. The findings of the report state that least number of people have quit smoking in India, with the quit ratio of 12% men and 16% men, the worst in the world.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> India is home to nearly 11 crore smokers. Almost half (42%) of the cancers among men in India are related to tobacco, making it the single largest cause of cancer amongst men in India. In India, ten lakh new cancer patients are added annually of which up to 63,000 patients suffer from lung cancer, that is related to smoking. “The treatment of lung cancer is the most cumbersome and risks of relapse are very high. The patient suffers endlessly for years and mortality is high,” said Dr Kumar Prabhash, oncologist, Tata Memorial Hospital. The report stated that in China, 15% of the smoker population has managed to quit cigarettes. On the contrary in Uruguay and Brazil over 40% of women and men gave up on smoking over the past five years. Dr Prakash Gupta, director, Healis-Sekhsaria Institute of Public Health, Navi Mumbai said, “Brazil and many other countries have organized services for tobacco cessation. They have also started with tobacco control measures earlier than India and strong tobacco control measures are adopted like absolutely no smoking is permitted in public places. Tobacco control and cessation are grafted well in their health care services.” In India, on the other hand, Dr Gupta pointed out that there is lack of implementation of anti-smoking laws. Hardly any penalty or fine is collected by enforcement authorities like the police for smoking in public vehicles like taxis, for instance. It is difficult to quit tobacco as nicotine in tobacco is most addictive substances known to human. Nicotine receptors develop in brain and then brain continues to demand nicotine. “This is the reason for high relapse even after quitting tobacco. The person may quit once but will continue to have the urge for a long period,” said Dr Gupta. The situation in ten states of India namely – Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh is bleak, with over 45% of the population aged 15 and above consuming tobacco in one form or the other. In nine states including Maharashtra, alarmingly anywhere between 30% to 44% of the population consumes tobacco. Also, the report points out that India has the highest number of smokeless tobacco users (2.06 crores) which is the highest in the world, chewing tobacco variety includes gutkha, betel quid or paan consisting of tobacco, areca nut, slaked lime and flavourings wrapped in betel leaf, loose-leaf, tambakoo, mishri, zarda, dry and moist varieties of snuff. Worldwide, currently there are 1.3 billion tobacco users and 60 lakh deaths due to tobacco every year worldwide. The number of annual deaths from tobacco is equivalent to 2,699 Titanic ships sinking every year, says the report. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey Atlas presents tobacco statistics from 22 low-and middle-income countries, which cover nearly 60 percent of the world’s population. Costly puff 11 core smokers in India 12% men and 16% women are estimated to have quit smoking between 2008 and 2013 8 average number of cigarettes smoked by an Indian smoker daily 63,000 new lung cancer cases are reported each year 70 cancer-causing agents in tobacco4,000 harmful chemicals such as carbon monoxide, nicotine and cyanide found in cigarette smoke

Blatter set to win new term despite soccer corruption scandal | Reuters

ZURICH World soccer boss Sepp Blatter was expected to be re-elected on Friday, defying growing calls for him to step down in the face of corruption scandals engulfing the sport’s governing body.

Addressing delegates at FIFA’s annual Congress in Switzerland, where members began voting to decide the organisation’s presidency, Blatter promised more transparency and urged members to remain unified.

Europe, which accounts for all but three of the countries that have ever made it to a World Cup’s final match, is particularly keen to banish the 79-year-old Swiss. But Asian, African and Latin American states were expected to rally around him. Each of the 209 countries in FIFA has an equal vote.

To win, Blatter needs two-thirds of the 209 votes. If he fails to cross that threshold, it goes to a second round, when a majority determines the winner. First results were expected at around 1600 GMT.

Earlier, on a visit to Berlin, British Prime Minister David Cameron told Blatter to go “the sooner the better”. Chancellor Angela Merkel said the dirty side of soccer must be cleaned up.

In a low-key address that contrasted with a more defiant reaction on Thursday, Blatter said he was “appealing to unity and team spirit so we can move forward together.”

He also sought to distance himself from the scandal, the biggest crisis FIFA has faced in its 111-year history.

U.S. authorities have accused top FIFA figures and sports executives of corruption, while Switzerland is investigating the award of the next World Cup finals to Russia and Qatar.

The scandal widened on Friday when Britain’s Serious Fraud Office said it was examining possible corruption at FIFA.

A judge in Argentina has ordered the arrest of three businessmen accused of using bribery to obtain soccer media rights, and the Brazilian Senate moved to open a formal inquiry into soccer bribery allegations.

FIFA takes in billions of dollars in revenue from television marketing rights and sponsorships, making it one of the wealthiest and most powerful sports bodies in the world. It has been dogged by corruption scandals for decades, mostly investigating itself and avoiding scrutiny by criminal courts.

“We cannot watch everyone all the time. We have 1.6 billion people directly or indirectly touched by our game,” Blatter said.

Russia and Qatar deny wrongdoing in their successful bids to host the cup.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of meddling in an effort to prevent Blatter’s re-election.

Qatar on Friday issued a further defence of its bid and said it would carry on with plans to stage the event. The decision to host the world’s biggest soccer tournament in a small desert state where daytime summer temperatures rarely fall below 40 degrees Celsius startled many in global sport.

Blatter, who has been criticised for not doing enough to combat corruption in FIFA, is being challenged by Jordanian half his age, Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, for the most powerful job in soccer.

BOYCOTT THREAT

Many of Blatter’s opponents have spoken of steps they can take if he secures re-election. English Football Association chairman Greg Dyke said England could back a possible boycott of the 2018 World Cup if Blatter stays in office.

Other European soccer officials have also alluded to the prospect of a boycott, but that is still seen as unlikely given the tournament’s importance to the global game.

Some countries that have supported Blatter said they were switching allegiance following the scandal, but the numbers still appeared to favour his re-election.

Most of the developing world in Africa, Asia and parts of Central America and the Caribbean are reluctant to vote for a new FIFA leadership given that the organization guarantees them annual grants and bonus payments in World Cup years.

Kuwait’s Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, one of the most powerful men in world sport, said Blatter is the right man for the job and should be re-elected.

“FIFA should have a leader with a lot of experience,” the FIFA executive committee member told Reuters at Zurich’s Baur au Lac hotel, where seven FIFA executives were arrested on Wednesday.

On Friday, New Zealand Football said it would vote for Prince Ali despite a previous unanimous commitment from countries in the Oceania Football Confederation in January to back Blatter. Canada also said it would not support Blatter.

Adding to the pressure on FIFA and Blatter, there are growing concerns from sponsors, many of whom have backed the organisation despite nearly 20 years of corruption allegations.

German sportswear company Adidas said FIFA should do more to establish transparent compliance standards. Anheuser-Busch InBev, whose Budweiser brand is a sponsor of the 2018 World Cup, said it was closely monitoring developments. Credit card company Visa urged immediate reforms and Coca-Cola said the charges had “tarnished the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup”.

(Writing by Mike Collett-White and Giles Elgood; Editing by Peter Graff)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Google, Facebook join Red Cross to find thousands missing after Nepal quake | Reuters

NEW DELHI/LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – German development worker Caroline Siebald and her boyfriend Charles Gertler, an American glaciologist, were on a rafting trip in Nepal when the earthquake struck and initially panicked about how to let their families know they were safe.

After about 30 attempts, Gertler, 25, managed to get a phone call through to his mother in Massachusetts in the United States, and she registered them as safe on Facebook’s “Safety Check”. Within minutes, their friends and families saw the news.

“I had messages from my best friends in kindergarten saying ‘Oh my God, I’m so glad you’re alive'”, Siebald, 22, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

From migrant Nepali domestic workers in India to IT professionals in Brazil, people across the globe have taken to social media sites such as Facebook and Google to look for missing relatives and pass on news of survival in Nepal.

In India, which has the highest population of Nepali migrants in the world, many have been frantically trying to phone home, horrified as they watch television pictures showing bodies being pulled out of the rumble of collapsed buildings.

“I don’t know anything about my son who is in a village with my parents far from Kathmandu. I am calling on the phone all the time, but I can’t get through. I can’t eat, sleep or work,” said Usha Tamang, a nanny of Nepali nationality working in Delhi.

Elsewhere in the world, others are searching for relatives and friends who were visiting the Himalayan nation during its peak tourism season.

An estimated 300,000 foreign tourists were in the country, several hundred of whom were on Mount Everest, when Saturday’s 7.9 magnitude quake struck, killing more than 3,700 people.

TRACING THE MISSING

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was one of the first agencies to launch an online platform to trace the thousands of people who are missing.

The family tracing service publishes lists of names and information on people who are safe and well, hospital patients, people who are looking for relatives, sought persons or those who are dead.

Individuals can access these lists directly on the webpage to look for the names of their family members or register themselves as safe or in danger.

Facebook has also launched its Safety Check tool here for Nepal, drawing praise from Facebook members.

“It’s a simple way to let family and friends know you’re okay. If you’re in one of the areas affected by the earthquake, you’ll get a notification asking if you’re safe, and whether you want to check on any of your friends,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted.

“When disasters happen, people need to know their loved ones are safe. It’s moments like this that being able to connect really matters.”

An IT professional in Brazil was one of many who said that the initiative had helped her trace her family.

“My father and friends are in the area and one of the first contact points we had to get some news was Facebook. This media is not always about likes and fun,” the woman wrote in response to Zuckerberg’s post.

“When you or someone in your family is in danger, you’ll try ANY kind of contact and I’m glad Facebook helped me today. Connection is what matters.”

Another application, the Google Person Finder here, first launched after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, uses SMS to allow anyone to search or update information on missing people.

On Saturday Jacqueline Brown registered Angus Brown, 46, from London, as safe. “Angus has emailed, he is in Lumboche with Martin. Both are fine, warm and have food,” she said. The service is currently tracking about 5,800 people.

(Editing by Ros Russell)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Peruvian arrested with 1.3 kg of cocaine worth Rs 65 cr at Delhi airport

New Delhi: A 64-year-old Peru national has been arrested for carrying in his baggage 1.3 kg pure cocaine worth Rs.65 crore in the international market, police said on Wednesday.

Armando was arrested from the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport on Monday, when he arrived here from Sao Paulo in Brazil via Dubai in the Emirates flight.

Representation image. AFPRepresentation image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Delhi Police claimed it was the biggest consignment of pure cocaine seized till now.

“The drug is estimated worth Rs.65 crore. It was concealed in the cavities of the trolley bag wrapped in four layers of plastic and sliver foil to avoid x-ray detection,” Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Ravindra Yadav told IANS.

IANS