Online news channel!

Tag: latin america

U.S. raising pressure on India over U.S. human trafficking visas | Reuters

WASHINGTONThe U.S. government is stepping up pressure on India to end a controversial policy of placing restrictions on passports of Indian nationals rescued from forced labour or human trafficking in the United States, a U.S. State Department official said.

In the next few months, the issue will be raised with Indian authorities during a number of high-level meetings, said the official, who declined to be identified.

This has already started to happen. The official said at a consular-level meeting on Nov. 3, U.S. officials asked Indian officials to scrap the policy. It was also raised at meetings on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September.

Since March, Indians who have received U.S. T visas have faced new restrictions. T-visa holders face long delays in renewing passports at Indian consulates in the United States. Reuters reported exclusively last week that they must also provide confidential information to the Indian government that they had previously submitted to the U.S. authorities, including details about who had trafficked them, according to the documents, legal advocates and interviews with T visa holders.

Human rights advocates say the restrictions undermine U.S. government efforts to help Indians rescued from forced labour in the United States, including hundreds recruited to work in U.S. Gulf Coast shipyards after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

“There is still a misunderstanding on the part of the Indians of what a T visa is and what the legal standard is for a T visa to be issued here in the United States,” said the U.S. official in an interview. “We have a number of high level visits that are going to be happening over the next quarter and some before that, at which we’ll raise the issue again.”

The Indian embassy in Washington said on Nov. 2 “many individuals seek to misuse the trafficking visa route to emigrate to the U.S” and that “appropriate measures are taken in such cases.” India, however, is mindful of hardships “faced by genuinely affected persons” who receive T visas and provides them with consular services, it added.

Between July 2014 and March 2015, the crackdown by the Indian authorities was harsher. At least 20 passports of Indians stamped with U.S. T visas were confiscated by authorities at Indian airports, preventing trafficking victims who returned home to collect their families from flying back to the United States. That has now stopped but the new restrictions are still making life very difficult for some of those with the visas.

In July, one of the biggest employers of Indian workers on the Gulf Coast, Alabama-based oil rig repair company Signal International LLC, agreed to pay $20 million to settle claims that it misled and exploited Indian guest workers brought to the United States.

A March 3 high court ruling in India found India’s confiscation of passports with T visas unconstitutional.  A March 16 memo from the Ministry of External Affairs reviewed by Reuters told “all missions and posts” to relax some aspects of the policy but not repeal it.

The problems with T visas follow the December 2013 arrest of an Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, for visa fraud and underpaying a domestic worker who was later issued a U.S. T visa.  Her arrest and subsequent strip search provoked an outcry in India over her treatment by U.S. authorities.

The T Visa crackdown was widely seen as part of the Indian government’s diplomatic retaliation for the Khobragade incident, which New Delhi treated as an affront to its national pride.

(Reporting by Jason Szep; Editing by Martin Howell)

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

Sensex rises in special trading session on Diwali | Reuters

MUMBAIThe Sensex made modest gains in a special ‘muhurat’ one-hour trading session for Diwali on Wednesday, spurred on by a string of economic reforms aimed at drumming up foreign investment in a range of industries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government announced on Tuesday a relaxation of foreign direct investment rules in 15 sectors, including mining, defence, civil aviation and broadcasting, in a bid to encourage investment and speed growth.

Analysts said the move on the eve of one of India’s biggest holidays was aimed at taking back the reform initiative following the ruling party’s humiliating defeat on Sunday in a state election.

Shares touched a six-week low on Monday after Modi’s heavy defeat in the Bihar elections raised concerns that his government will struggle to pass policy reforms.

Dismal corporate earnings in the second quarter have also dampened sentiment.

The Sensex ended 0.48 percent higher while the Nifty gained 0.54 percent on Wednesday to snap out of a five-session losing streak.

Gains were lead by Axis Bank, up 2.56 percent, Sun Pharma, up 2 percent and Larsen & Toubro, up 1.29 percent. Meanwhile, cigarette maker ITC fell 0.74 percent.

Traders believe gains made during the ‘muhurat’, or auspicious time, bring prosperity and wealth in the year ahead.

Both the Nifty and the Sensex had chalked up losses in 11 out of 12 sessions until Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Asian stock were largely flat on Wednesday after a mixed batch of Chinese data showed growth in the world’s second-biggest economy was still in low gear.

Indian markets are expected be to remain volatile heading towards the end of the year, with the winter session of parliament beginning later this month and the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy meet on December 16 likely to influence the direction of the markets.

The head of RBI warned on Tuesday that a rate hike by the Fed in December could upset markets but that it was nonetheless necessary.

The markets will be shut on Thursday and resume trading on Friday.

(Reporting by Karen Rebelo in Mumbai, editing by Louise Heavens)

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

GE lands $2.6 billion deal to supply Indian railway | Reuters

NEW DELHIGeneral Electric Co (GE.N) has won a $2.6 billion contract to supply India’s railways with 1000 diesel locomotives, as the state-owned network looks to foreign capital to help it modernise.

The U.S. company will also invest $200 million to build local manufacturing and service facilities, GE said in a statement on Monday.

“In most of our growth markets, localization is typically a key part of any infrastructure deal we do,” Jamie Miller, chief executive officer of GE Transportation, told Reuters.

The contract is also one of first and largest to be awarded to a foreign firm since India last year allowed 100 percent foreign direct investment in some parts of its railways, and comes as New Delhi embarks on a huge modernisation programme to overhaul its vast but dilapidated network.

Under the deal, the largest ever for the U.S. company in India, GE will build a manufacturing facility in the eastern state of Bihar, and two maintenance sheds elsewhere in the country, to service the locomotives over an 11-year period.

GE won against competition from rival manufacturers such as Canada’s Bombardier and Germany’s Siemens. India is also set to announce the winner of another multi-billion dollar contract to supply electric locomotives.

Keen to upgrade the country’s creaking infrastructure, Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government has said it will invest $137 billion on its railways by 2020.

It has also opened up limited parts of the state-owned network to private and foreign investment, luring manufacturers hungry for contracts from the world’s fourth largest train network.

“It will bring this technology to a market that needs it. For them, this is really aligned with ‘Make in India,’ ” GE’s Miller said.

India’s railways is a lifeline for the more than 23 million people who use it every day. It also offers some of the world’s cheapest fares to help poor people travel across the country.

But the system largely dates back to the British colonial era and India has struggled to generate money to invest and modernise, leaving an ageing and congested network where trains run at an average speed of just 50 kilometres per hour.

GE said the company had received a letter of award from India, and it would now sign a formal agreement before beginning construction of the new factory.

(Reporting by Tommy Wilkes; Additional reporting by Katie Reilly in New York; editing by Tom Heneghan and Grant McCool)

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

Tata Motors slides to a loss on China woes | Reuters

NEW DELHITata Motors Ltd posted a surprise 4.3 billion rupee ($65.4 million) net loss in the quarter to the end of September after sales in China fell and a port explosion damaged thousands of vehicles.

Tata said on Friday that sales of its Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) cars in China, which have long propped up profits, started rising again in October after several months of declines though a squeeze on margins had hurt profitability.

China was once Tata’s fastest growing market but it has struggled with sluggish demand in the last few years. Sales fell 32 percent in the July to September quarter as an economic slowdown hit the world’s biggest car market.

JLR’s pretax profit of 88 million pounds in the quarter was down from 609 million pounds a year earlier, Tata said.

“As we exited the quarter in September, as well as in October, including China, the wholesale performance and the acceptance of the new products is very strong,” Chief Financial Officer Chandrasekaran Ramakrishnan told reporters.

“It gives us a great confidence to look at (the second half) in terms of the business and financial performance.”

Tata said it had booked a 24.93 billion rupee charge at the group level after a chemical blast in the Chinese port of Tianjin in August destroyed or damaged thousands of JLR vehicles.

Phillip Capital analysts said margins at JLR fell to 12.2 percent, a multi-year low and under its 14.9 percent estimate.

“Overall the stark compression in margins at JLR spooked us as well as street … outlook on margins to be very critical for us to form a concrete view on the stock,” they said.

Tata said consolidated profit before tax and exceptional items slid to 15.4 billion rupees from 56.4 billion a year ago, reflecting the weaker sales in China and foreign exchange moves.

However, the company said a stronger performance in Europe and North America helped offset weaker sales in China and other emerging markets. Net sales during the quarter rose to 608.53 billion rupees from 601.64 billion a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected Tata to report a net profit of 21.36 billion rupees, according to Thomson Reuters data, down from 32.9 billion rupees a year earlier.

Shares in Tata, which have fallen by close to a fifth this year, closed down 1.9 percent on Friday underperforming a flat Mumbai market.

($1 = 65.7800 rupees)

(Editing by Mark Potter and David Clarke)

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

Hungarian riot police fire tear gas at migrants | Reuters

SID, Serbia/ROSZKE, Hungary Riot police fired water cannon and tear gas on Wednesday at migrants demanding to be let through Hungary’s newly shut EU frontier, while refugees at other Balkan frontiers clambered through cornfields in search of new routes.

Hungary’s decision this week to shut the European Union’s external border with Serbia was the most forceful attempt yet by a European country to reduce the flow of refugees and economic migrants overwhelming the bloc.

The move has left thousands of migrants scattered across the Balkan peninsula seeking alternative ways to reach the EU, and Hungary’s prime minister said his country planned to erect a fence along parts of its border with Croatia as well as on the frontier with Romania to stem the flow.

Helmeted Hungarian riot police backed by armoured vehicles took up positions at the now-barricaded border crossing with Serbia, where male migrant youths pelted them with stones, demanding to be allowed through.

At least 20 policemen and two children were injured, a Hungarian security official said.

“It is getting very ugly there,” said Ahmad, 58, a shopkeeper from Baghdad who went to the official border crossing at Sid in Serbia but soon realised he may have a better chance of entering the EU via Serbia’s border with Croatia.

“As soon as we heard about a route to Croatia we did not wait long. I want to go to Sweden to meet the rest if my family. I hope we will be treated better in Croatia,” he told Reuters.

Serbia later said it would send additional police to the border with Hungary and try to distance migrants from the border fence, and three Hungarian military Humvees mounted with guns stepped up security on the other side of the frontier.

U.N. SHOCKED

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed shock and alarm at the treatment of refugees and migrants at Hungary’s border with Serbia. The Council of Europe human rights body said it had asked Hungary to explain its new legislation on the crisis.

Antonio Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, urged Hungarian authorities to ensure “unimpeded access” for people as they flee wars and persecution.

“UNHCR was especially shocked and saddened to witness Syrian refugees, including families with children who have already suffered so much, being prevented from entering the EU with water cannon and tear gas,” it said in a statement.

Serbia’s border with Hungary has until now been the main route for migrants, who mainly arrive first by dinghy in Greece and then trek across the Balkan peninsula to reach the EU’s frontier-free Schengen zone, most bound for Germany.

Migrants scattered through Balkan countries said they were searching for other routes, possibly through Croatia or Romania, both of which are in the EU though not in Schengen.

“If not Hungary, we will have to find another way. Most probably Croatia and from there we will see,” said 43-year-old Mehmed from Damascus, holding his three-year-old daughter after crossing the border north into Macedonia from Greece.

Croatia said it would send landmine experts to its Serbian border to identify minefields left on the frontier from the Balkan wars of the 1990s, the last time hundreds of thousands of displaced people marched across Europe.

The goal for most is Germany, which cut off trains from Austria on Wednesday to slow the flow of arrivals.

Tens of thousands of migrants have reached Austria in recent days, rushing to cross before Hungary shut the frontier. Austria said it would impose new border controls on its frontier with Slovenia, along the likely new route from Croatia.

“FENCES, DOGS”

Hungary has already thrown up a 3.5 metre (10 foot) high fence along nearly the whole of its border with Serbia, and engineers and soldiers were marking a path on Wednesday to extend the barrier along the border with Romania.

In response, Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta evoked he continent’s darkest era.

“Fences, dogs, cops and guns, this looks like Europe in the 1930s. And did we solve the refugee problem with this? No, we didn’t,” he said. “Erecting a fence only throws the problem into Serbia, into Croatia, into Romania.”

At the Croatian border with Serbia, Reuters reporters saw hundreds of people, some of whom identified themselves as Iraqis, trek through fields near the Sid border crossing.

The biggest flow of immigrants into Western Europe since World War Two has sown discord across the continent, fuelling the rise of far-right political parties and jeopardising the 20-year-old achievement of Schengen’s border-free travel.

Hungary says it is simply enforcing EU rules by sealing the Schengen zone’s external border. It says Serbia is a safe country, so asylum seekers who reach the frontier there can be automatically turned back in a process that should take hours.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in an interview with Austrian newspaper Die Presse that his former Communist country would erect fences “at certain locations on the Croatian border” as well as along the border with Romania.

The United Nations says Serbia lacks the capacity to receive refugees halted at the gates of Europe. Critics say Orban’s anti-immigrant rhetoric has crossed the line into xenophobia.

The crisis has pitted countries that are comparatively open, led by Germany, against those, many in former Communist eastern Europe, who say the welcoming approach has made the problem worse by encouraging people to make dangerous voyages.

Hungary blames Germany for exacerbating the crisis by announcing in August it would suspend normal EU asylum rules and take in Syrian refugees regardless of where they enter the EU. Thousands have since been trekking across the bloc, mainly through Hungary and Austria, to reach Germany, clogging railway stations and forcing trains to be cancelled.

An emergency meeting of EU ministers failed this week to reach agreement on a Berlin-backed plan to share out 160,000 refugees across the bloc.

A German cabinet minister said on Tuesday the EU should consider financial penalties against countries that refuse to take their share, drawing angry responses from countries which oppose quotas, such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaux; Writing by Peter Graff and Matt Robinson, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Alison Williams)

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

Djokovic tops rival Federer to win U.S. Open title | Reuters

NEW YORK Novak Djokovic vanquished long-time rival Roger Federer 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-4 to win the U.S. Open on Sunday to cap one of greatest grand slam seasons of all-time.

The victory gave Djokovic three of the year’s four grand slam titles with a loss to Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final his only blemish.

It was the 10th career major for Djokovic but only his second U.S. Open.

The 28-year-old Serb had known more frustration than success on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts having previously reached the final five times and lifting the trophy just once in 2011.

It was more grand slam misery for the 34-year-old Swiss who, for the second consecutive grand slam, reached the final only to be denied an 18th title by Djokovic.

Federer and Djokovic finally took to the court after a three-hour rain delay and were slow to find their rhythm and footing, particularly the top-seeded Serb, who crashed to the surface in the opening set badly scraping his arm and leg.

But the unflappable Djokovic quickly regained his composure and footing.

Federer, broken just twice the entire tournament, was living dangerously from the start by facing three break points in the opening game but managing to save all three.

The Swiss, however, could not fight off another three break chances on his next service game as Djokovic made the breakthrough to go up 2-1.

Federer broke back immediately but the Serb would quickly regain the advantage with yet another break to move ahead 4-3 then held serve to take the opening set from a shaky Federer.

The second set was a test of wills as Federer, with the crowd squarely in his corner, went toe-to-toe with a defiant Djokovic, the tug-of-war highlighted by a tense 15-minute 10th game with that Djokovic held to level at 5-5.

But it was Federer ending the set with a big fist pump after breaking Djokovic with a stinging crosscourt winner that brought to the capacity crowd to its feet.

The effort, however, appeared to take something out of Federer as Djokovic, sensing his chance, claimed the crucial break at 5-4 to take control.

Djokovic kept up the pressure with a break to open the fourth and then again to go up 5-2 to put the U.S. Open within his grasp.

But Federer would not go down without a fight, digging into his reserves the Swiss would break and hold serve to cut the deficit to 5-4 and put the crowd in full roar.

With Djokovic again serving for the match, Federer would get three more break chances but this time the Serb would not falter and clinched the title when Federer’s return sailed long.

(Reporting by Steve Keating; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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

Paes, Hingis win third mixed major with U.S. Open triumph | Reuters

NEW YORK Martina Hingis and Leander Paes once again proved to be a potent partnership as the Swiss-Indo duo captured their third mixed doubles title of the year with victory at the U.S. Open on Friday.

The Australian Open and Wimbledon champions came back from 4-1 down in the championship tiebreak to storm to victory with a 6-4 3-6 10-7 win over Americans Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sam Querrey.

Hingis and Paes became the first duo to capture three major mixed titles in the same year since Margaret Court and Marty Riessen achieved the feat in 1969.

The triumph earned 42-year-old Paes a ninth mixed doubles trophy and 17th grand slam title while Hingis took her overall grand slam tally to 19 (five singles, 10 women’s doubles and four mixed).

“I just love to play tennis and I am fortunate to have Leander as my partner,” Hingis told reporters.

Paes added: “Martina is a legend on and off the court. She’s my best friend. She’s just fantastic.”

Hingis could add to her haul over the weekend when she teams up with another Indian, Sania Mirza, in the women’s doubles final.

(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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

Pakistani party accuses paramilitary force of extrajudicial killings | Reuters

ISLAMABAD A Pakistani party that has long dominated politics in the commercial hub of Karachi accused the powerful paramilitary Rangers on Friday of illegally murdering four party workers on Thursday.

Karachi, a metropolis of 20 million that hosts the stock exchange and central bank, is beset by armed violence, and many of its sprawling slums are no-go areas for outsiders.

Two years ago, the military, with help from police, paramilitary Rangers and intelligence agencies, unleashed a campaign against armed gangs and suspected militants in the city.

The operation, which escalated in March this year, is officially aimed at criminals and militants, but some say the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) is the real target. The Rangers deny this charge.

“They were arrested by Rangers a month ago,” senior MQM leader Farooq Sattar told a news conference, referring to four party workers killed on Thursday in what he called a “staged encounter” – a practice where, opponents say, authorities claim the victim is killed in a gunfight though he has been summarily executed.

Sattar said the party had given a list of 150 missing party workers to the prime minister and other senior officials.

“But no action has so far been taken on our demand and at least four of those 150 workers have now been extra-judicially killed.”

KARACHI HEADQUARTERS RAIDED

The military has ruled Pakistan for about half its history and retains power over foreign relations and security, even during civilian rule.

Public criticism of the army or its subsidiary organisations like Rangers or the ISI spy agency is largely taboo.

MQM’s latest accusation marks a low in deteriorating relations between the military and the MQM in Karachi whose residents fear a confrontation could spark violence.

In March, paramilitary forces raided the party’s headquarters in Karachi, recovering weapons and arresting suspects wanted for several crimes, including the murder of a journalist.

In May, MQM’s leader Altaf Hussain, who lives in exile in London, accused the army of illegally detaining MQM workers. But this is the first time since the crackdown began in 2013 that the MQM has accused the army of killing its workers.

In a statement released on Thursday, a Rangers spokesman said the force had killed four “target killers” responsible for the murder of a lawyer in March.

In a statement on Friday, the paramilitary force rejected the MQM’s allegations.

“MQM’s propaganda regarding extrajudicial killings of their workers is not only misleading but also in contrast to reality,” a statement said.

Law enforcement agencies have long accused the MQM of retaining power through mafia ties, accusations the party denies.

(Writing by Mehreen Zahra-Malik; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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

N.Ireland parties urged to hold talks to calm crisis | Reuters

BELFAST/DUBLIN Britain and Ireland sought to calm Northern Ireland’s political crisis on Friday by urging Protestant unionists and Catholic nationalists to shore up a power-sharing government that ended decades of sectarian violence.

The British province’s autonomous administration is on the brink of collapse after a murder linked to former members of the paramilitary Irish Republican Army (IRA) prompted its first minister, Peter Robinson, to step aside.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called the situation “extremely worrying and difficult”, while his Irish counterpart Enda Kenny said there was only a “limited opportunity” to avert the collapse of the administration, with lasting consequences.

The power-sharing government was established under the 1998 Good Friday peace deal that ended what had become known as “The Troubles”: three decades in which 3,600 people died in tit-for-tat killings between Catholic nationalists who want the province to unite with Ireland and pro-British Protestant unionists.

Commentators do not think a return to those times is likely, but the last time the Stormont parliament was suspended, in 2002, it took five years for the rival parties from the two communities to agree to sit down together again.

This time, trust between the two sides has been destroyed by evidence that a paramilitary group that was supposed to have disbanded more than a decade ago is still engaged in violence, even if it is not pursuing a political agenda.

Talks are due to reconvene on Monday, and Cameron’s spokesman said it was hoped all the parties would attend.

Cameron himself said it was “unacceptable in any part of our country to have active paramilitary groups”, but still rejected calls from Robinson to suspend the province’s political institutions and return its 1.8 million people to direct rule from London.

Robinson for his part avoided automatically triggering an election by naming an acting first minister in the shape of Arlene Foster, the only minister from his Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) who did not step down on Thursday.

She can hold the interim position for up to six weeks and Robinson said that should be enough time to complete talks, altough he said his party had not yet to determine whether the terms were right to return to the negotiating table and avoid an early election, which would otherwise be due in May.

“I’m hoping that we can get the right basis upon which talks can take place. If we can then I think three, four, five weeks should be more than suffcient for us to deal with all of the necessary issues,” Robinson told BBC Radio Ulster.

MURDER IN BELFAST

The crisis erupted when police said they suspected the murder of ex-IRA member Kevin McGuigan in Belfast on Aug. 12 might have involved some members of the IRA.

They detained a senior member of Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the IRA that is now in government, in connection with the killing, but later released him without charge.

Both the police and London’s Northern Ireland secretary, Theresa Villiers, said the IRA still existed but was not involved in terrorism.

However, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, who has always denied having been a member of the IRA, said the group no longer existed, and that his party would not let the issue be a precondition of talks.

Sinn Fein’s deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, said any political vacuum would be exploited by violent elements.

But the chances of any breakthrough appeared slim. The leader of the smaller Ulster Unionist Party, Mike Nesbitt, said the main parties “deeply, deeply” disliked and distrusted each other.

On the streets of Belfast, there were fears that a lengthy impasse could see a return to the city’s dark days of violence.

“People are absolutely sick and tired of it,” said Neils William, a 60-year-old Belfast taxi driver.

“Essentially they are all the same as before. They don’t fight about it, and that’s important, but the anger is still in their hearts and minds.‎ You have two sides who cannot work together.”

Robert Shields, 71, is a part-time guide showing tourists around the walls up to 12 metres high, often topped with spikes or barbed wire, that still divide the two communities.

“Things don’t look good right now. We were going good there for a long time, we had visitors coming back, we had money coming in,” he said.

“The people from the two roads here, the (Catholic) Falls and the (Protestant) Shankill road, they’re tolerating each other at the minute, but if this escalates, we could go back years and years.”

(Additional reporting by Michael Holden in London; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Ralph Boulton)

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

Coming home to war: Afghan refugees return reluctantly from Pakistan | Reuters

KABUL Rahim Khan’s return to Afghanistan 28 years after fleeing to Pakistan was not the homecoming he had dreamed of.

The 60-year-old is one of a growing number of Afghan refugees making the journey back with trepidation, as militant violence intensifies, yet feeling shunned by their adopted country as relations between the neighbours sour.

The rate of returnees has more than quadrupled this year, with 137,000 refugees going back to Afghanistan since January.

The number could spike further if the countries fail to agree by Dec. 31 to extend identity cards for two years and allow some 1.5 million registered refugees to stay in Pakistan.

The chill in relations, amid an offensive by Taliban insurgents which Kabul blames partly on Pakistan, has put the extension in doubt, along with the future of another million unregistered Afghans.

“First we had to leave here because of war. Now we are coming back to war and bombs,” said Khan, speaking at a refugee centre near Kabul where his Pakistan-born grandchildren were being taught the dangers of mines and roadside bombs.

Outside, the thump of exploding ordnance from a nearby army range echoed off arid hills, another reminder that Afghanistan appears no closer to peace than when Khan left during the Soviet occupation.

The dangers mean thousands of people have fled Afghanistan this year, many of them to Europe where governments are struggling to cope with an influx of migrants from the Middle East and beyond.

Yet Khan and others like him say they had little choice but to leave Pakistan.

His son Abdul Manan said their life as labourers and fruit vendors in Pakistan-administered Kashmir took a dramatic turn for the worse after Taliban gunmen massacred at least 141 students at an army school in northwest Pakistan in December.

Islamabad blamed the atrocity on militants based across the border, and anti-Afghan sentiment in Pakistan rose.

Manan said police started showing up at their home, asking to see their papers and threatening them with jail if they failed to pay 1,000-1,500 rupees ($10-15) every few days.

“We decided to leave, there was no other option. We couldn’t keep paying 1,500,” said Manan. “This is our home and we have no other place to go.”

Raja Shafqat Khan, senior official at the police headquarters in Muzaffarabad, administrative capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, said he was not aware of the family’s complaints.

“As a policy, we do not harass Afghan refugees,” he said.

Pakistan’s refugee minister, Abdul Qadir Baloch, promised to renew ID cards if he got cabinet approval, and said Pakistan would “not use any coercive measures” to send Afghans back.

CHILL DEEPENS

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani spent much of his first year in office trying to improve relations and spur peace talks with the Taliban, widely believed to have close links with Pakistan’s spy agency that helped create the movement in the 1990s.

But efforts stalled and the fledgling peace process collapsed after it was revealed in July that Taliban leader Mullah Omar had died two years earlier.

A spate of lethal attacks in Kabul that Ghani believes were planned by militants hiding on Pakistan’s side of the porous, rugged border soured relations further.

Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has said he wanted all refugees repatriated.

“The cards will not be extended,” he said. “They expire at the end of this year.”

There are four months left for the neighbours to patch things up, but for now the mood is hostile.

Since Ghani pointed the finger of blame across the border for the attacks, Pakistani flags and currency have been burnt by protesters. Pakistani diplomats in Kabul say they are restricting their movements.

Seeking to assert itself after Omar’s death, and exploiting a reduced foreign troop presence, the Taliban has stepped up its insurgency, leading to hefty clashes with Afghan forces and thousands of casualties.

Khan is moving in with his daughter-in-law’s family in the northeastern province of Kunduz, because fighting is too fierce around his farmland in neighbouring Baghlan.

As thousands arrive from Pakistan, others are seeking ways to leave.

Humanitarian organisations estimate that nearly one million Afghans have been internally displaced by fighting, and on the streets of Kabul, conversations quickly turn to departure.

Almost everyone knows someone attempting to get to Europe.

After Syrians and Eritreans, Afghans are the third biggest group of asylum seekers in Europe, making up about 11 percent of the 300,000 refugees and migrants who have made it across the Mediterranean this year, according to data from the U.N. refugee agency.

Ahmad Faheem, who runs the agency’s Kabul reception centre, said some of those leaving were among 3.5 million former refugees who returned from Pakistan soon after the United States toppled the Taliban in 2001, amid brief hope of a better future.

“Day by day the security situation is getting worse,” said Faheem, who himself returned from Pakistan in 2002. “They have come here to try to settle, but if there is no security and no work, they leave again.”

(Additional reporting by Asad Hashim in ISLAMABAD and Tariq Naqash in MUZAFFARABAD; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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

Pakistan suspends execution ordered by military court after legal challenge | Reuters

PESHAWAR, Pakistan The execution of a civilian sentenced to death on terrorism charges by a military court in Pakistan was suspended on Tuesday, in a first challenge after the Supreme Court’s approval of such hearings.

Peshawar High Court halted the sentence, demanding to know from military and government officials more details on the basis on which Haider Ali was arrested as a 14-year-old in 2009 and later convicted, his lawyer, Malik Muhammad Ajmal, said.

The military says Ali is a “hard core terrorist”, and that he was convicted of involvement in suicide bombings and acts of terrorism, according to a statement released when he was convicted in April.

The legality of military hearings has been challenged by rights activists and lawyers, who said that trying civilians there denied them the right to a fair trial.

But on Aug. 5, the Supreme Court upheld the legality of a constitutional amendment that allowed the trial of civilian terrorism suspects in military courts – clearing the way for Ali’s execution after months of legal wrangling.

Pakistan’s parliament had passed the amendment in response to an attack on a Peshawar school in December that resulted in the deaths of more than 150 people, most of them children.

Ali’s execution has been suspended until Sept. 8, Ajmal, said.

The then schoolboy was arrested by security forces in the Swat Valley in September 2009, at a time when it was ruled by the Pakistani Taliban. Ali, now 21, was convicted on terrorism-related charges and sentenced to death in April.

His family and lawyer say he was never told what specific charges he faced during the military trial, such as whether they were in connection to an attack or for belonging to a specific group.

“He wasn’t only a juvenile, but he didn’t know about the charges framed against him by the military authorities to hand down a death sentence. … Why have they kept him in detention for so long and under what charges?” Ajmal said.

His parents told Peshawar High Court they had been assured by the army that he would be returned within four days of his arrest six years ago, court documents show.

Also on Tuesday, the military announced that it was expanding the number of military courts in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest and richest city, in order to try those arrested during an ongoing paramilitary operation there.

(Writing and additional reporting by Asad Hashim; Editing by Alison Williams)

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

Two people may have committed suicide after Ashley Madison hack – police | Reuters

TORONTO At least two people may have committed suicide following the hacking of the Ashley Madison cheating website, Toronto police said on Monday, warning of a ripple effect that includes scams and extortion of clients desperate to stop the exposure of their infidelity.

Avid Life Media Inc, the parent company of the website, is offering a C$500,000 ($379,132) reward to catch the hackers.

In addition to the exposure of the Ashley Madison accounts of as many as 37 million users, the attack on the dating website for married people has sparked extortion attempts and at least two unconfirmed suicides, Toronto Police Acting Staff Superintendent Bryce Evans told a news conference.

The data dump contained email addresses of U.S. government officials, UK civil servants, and workers at European and North American corporations, taking already deep-seated fears about Internet security and data protection to a new level.

“Your actions are illegal and will not be tolerated. This is your wake-up call,” Evans said, addressing the so-called “Impact Team” hackers directly during the news conference.

“To the hacking community who engage in discussions on the dark web and who no doubt have information that could assist this investigation, we’re also appealing to you to do the right thing,” Evans said. “You know the Impact Team has crossed the line. Do the right thing and reach out to us.”

Police declined to provide any more details on the apparent suicides, saying they received unconfirmed reports on Monday morning.

“The social impact behind this (hacking) – we’re talking about families. We’re talking about their children, we’re talking about their wives, we’re talking about their male partners,” Evans told reporters.

“It’s going to have impacts on their lives. We’re now going to have hate crimes that are a result of this. There are so many things that are happening. The reality is … this is not the fun and games that has been portrayed.”

The investigation into the hacking has broadened to include international law enforcement, with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security joining last week. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and Canadian federal and provincial police are also assisting.

Evans also said the hacking has spawned online scams that fraudulently claim to be able to protect Ashley Madison clients’ data for a fee.

People are also attempting to extort Ashley Madison clients by threatening to send evidence of their membership directly to friends, family or colleagues, Evans said.

In a sign of Ashley Madison’s deepening woes following the breach, lawyers last week launched a class-action lawsuit seeking some $760 million in damages on behalf of Canadians whose information was leaked.

Evans said Avid Life first became aware of the breach on July 12, when several employees booted up their computers and received a message from the infiltrators accompanied by the playing of rock group AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.”

The company went to police several days later, he said, while the hackers went public on July 20.

($1 = 1.3188 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Alastair Sharp and Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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

Australia seeks to become the delicatessen of Asia | Reuters

SYDNEY Australian farmers Rob and Jill Baker started growing native finger limes almost a decade ago. Today, top restaurants across Asia and Europe can’t get enough of the fruit known as “citrus caviar” due to the burst of tangy flavour when chewed.

Finger limes are just one of a number of premium Australian agricultural products, including olive oil, honey, wagyu beef and organic baby food, now being sold in some of Asia’s top stores as Australia pushes to become Asia’s delicatessen.

While Australia’s main agricultural products like wheat, rice, sugar and beef have traditionally fed Asia, there is now a wave of farmers like the Bakers moving to premium crops.

“Australia can meet only a small percentage of Asia’s current food demand – let alone its future demand. That suggests that our opportunity isn’t so much to be the supermarket to Asia as its delicatessen – offering high-value, high-margin products,” said Rob McConnel, Deloitte agribusiness lead.

The Australian Council of Learned Academies forecasts the value of all food exports doubling to A$710 billion ($520 billion) by 2050.

International demand for Australia’s finger limes, an ancient Aboriginal food and now a delicacy for Asia’s growing middle class, is pushing prices as high as A$40 to A$60 ($29.37 to $43.99) a kilo. “Chefs love them. They cover the three components of a modern dish, texture, visually they are very pretty as they look like caviar, and they give a dish an acid component,” said daughter Jacquie Baker, who oversees the sale of finger limes.

“In modern food, especially Asian, you need an acid element,” explained Baker.

However, Australian farmers must overcome a lack of brand awareness in Asia, compared with established premium products from nations like France, to tap this lucrative market.

“Products in a delicatessen are considered to be worth the extra expense because they are brand name products with a good, well-established reputation for being ‘better’ than the average product,” says the Australian Farm Institute.

And despite China’s estimated 4 million millionaires, the slowing growth of the world’s second-biggest economy could cast a cloud over Australia’s “Asian delicatessen” policy.

VOGUE CROPS SPREADING

This season, a record amount of chickpeas and lentils have been planted, alongside vogue products such as chia seeds and quinoa at the expense of traditional crops.

Ten years ago the irrigated Ord Valley in Australia’s far northwest was dominated by sugar farming, but today it is the world’s largest producer of the South American crop chia, driven by former wheat farmer John Foss.

His Chia Co now exports to 36 countries and Chinese regulators last year granted it permission to sell into mainland China.

Global sales of chia, a nutrient-rich seed popular in smoothies and snack foods, are forecast to reach A$1.1 billion by 2020 due to demand for its use in cereals, snacks and beverages, according to a 2013 report by Food Navigator.

Australia’s Capilano Honey has seen strong demand from Asia, particularly for its Mānuka honey that is often used in alternative medicines for its antibacterial properties.

Manuka honey is native to Australia and New Zealand and with limited supply prices can approach nearly A$150 a kilo in Asia.

“If I feel sick or have a gastric ulcer, then I would immediately go buy the honey in Korean department stores even though the price is almost double,” said Korean Su-Jung Bin, shopping at a store where 1 kg (2.2 pounds) of Manuka honey was being offered for 132,000 Korean won ($110.93).

Capilano doubled its sales to Asia in the year to March 2014 and posted 29 percent growth in sales revenue in Asia in the past year, according to its last two annual reports.

With soaring export demand, the total value of Australia’s honey and beeswax production is forecast to hit record levels, having nearly doubled in the last six years to A$107 million.

Australian organic baby food company Bellamy is making inroads into one of Asia’s toughest markets, China, and has customers in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.

At the upmarket IAPM mall in Shanghai’s French Concession, Bellamy’s Organic infant formula costs a hefty 398 yuan ($84).

Bellamy sells its organic formula range in 160 Wal-mart stores in Guangdong and Guangxi, as well nationally to OLE supermarkets, and have distribution in select regional premium supermarkets and mother-and-baby chains across China.

“We expect that this step into supermarket distribution will contribute to increasing the brand profile in the China market,” said Bellamy, a family firm started in 2004 in the island state of Tasmania and now a A$100 million company fuelled largely by fast-growing sales in Asia.

($1 = 1,189.9000 won)

($1 = 1.3646 Australian dollars)

(Additional reporting by Rebecca Jang in Seoul; Editing by Michael Perry)

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

U.N. chief concerned at violence on disputed Kashmir border | Reuters

UNITED NATIONS United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday voiced alarm at the latest upsurge in violence along the disputed border of India and Pakistan in Kashmir and urged restraint on the part of both governments.

Officials said on Sunday that Indian and Pakistani troops intensified firing along their disputed frontier in Kashmir, killing at least eight people and wounding 14.

“(Ban) expresses serious concern about the recent escalation of violence along the Line of Control between India and Pakistan, which reportedly resulted in a number of casualties on both sides, including civilians,” the U.N. press office said in a statement.

It added that Ban “calls upon the governments of India and Pakistan to exercise maximum restraint and take all feasible steps to ensure the protection of civilians.”

The statement noted that the U.N. chief urged India and Pakistan to resolve their differences through dialogue.

Frontier clashes have intensified in recent months and the latest violence will put more strain on ties between the nuclear-armed rivals, who are scheduled to hold talks between top security officials on Aug. 23-24 in New Delhi.

The U.N. statement said Ban welcomed that scheduled meeting.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence in 1947, two over Kashmir, and relations chilled again after the election of the right-winger Narendra Modi as Indian prime minister last year.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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

UEFA complain to FIFA over alleged Platini smear campaign | Reuters

ZURICH European soccer’s governing body have asked FIFA to investigate the alleged distribution from their headquarters of an anonymous heavily critical ‘dossier’ on UEFA president Michel Platini, German newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported on Sunday.

The existence of the dossier on Platini, who is hoping to replace outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter in February’s election, has also been reported in the Swiss media.

Welt am Sonntag said the document, entitled “Platini – skeleton in the closet”, was distributed out of FIFA’s headquarters and paints an unflattering picture of the former France international and questions his suitability for the role of FIFA president.

The newspaper said the dossier was sent “directly from FIFA headquarters in Zurich to newspapers with a request for publication, but without reference to the author”.

They said UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino had written to his FIFA counter-part Jerome Valcke to ask for an investigation of the dossier’s creation and distribution.

“I can confirm that UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino sent a letter of complaint to FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke,” a UEFA spokesman told Reuters.

“We have asked FIFA to investigate the origin of this article because we are concerned by the reports of an alleged smear campaign against the UEFA President.

“Copies of this letter were also sent to Cornel Borbely and Domenico Scala for ethics and transparency reasons.”

Borbely, a Swiss attorney, is FIFA’s independent chief ethics investigator and Scala is the independent chairman of FIFA’s Audit and Compliance Committee and chairman of the ad-hoc election committee.

Neither were immediately available for comment while FIFA did not respond to a request for comment on the report. FIFA will hold an election on Feb. 26 to choose a replacement for Blatter who said in June he was standing down from his role in the wake of the corruption scandals that have hit the global soccer body.

Platini is the current front runner in the election but his relationship with Blatter has deteriorated badly.

In an interview with Dutch newspaper Volkskrant on Saturday, the 79-year-old Blatter said there was an “anti-FIFA virus in Nyon”, the Swiss city which is home to UEFA.

Former FIFA vice-president Chung Mong-joon of South Korea, ex-Brazil player Zico, former Trinidad and Tobago midfielder David Nakhid and Liberian FA chairman Musa Bility have also said they are running in the election. Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, beaten by Blatter in May’s election, is considering another run while South African Tokyo Sexwale has also said he is weighing up whether to stand.

FIFA’s corruption troubles came to a head in May when U.S. prosecutors indicted nine soccer officials, most of whom had FIFA positions, and five marketing and broadcasting company executives over a range of alleged offences, including fraud, money-laundering and racketeering.

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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

Coveted Presidents Cup spot looks likely for in-form Lahiri | Reuters

KOHLER, Wisconsin A strong showing by Anirban Lahiri at the PGA Championship has put the Indian golfer in a prime position to achieve one of his biggest goals for this year — a spot on the International team at the Presidents Cup.

An opening two-under 70 at Whistling Straits followed by a six-birdie 67 to conclude the storm-delayed second round on Saturday also strengthened Lahiri’s burgeoning belief that he is good enough to compete with the game’s very best.

“Playing at the Presidents Cup would mean the world to me,” Lahiri, 28, told Reuters after rocketing up the PGA Championship leaderboard into a tie for fourth at seven-under 137, four strokes off the lead.

“Growing up you watch events like the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup, and last year I was fortunate enough to be a part of the inaugural EurAsia Cup, and part of a team that came from a whitewash on day one to level it at 10-10 against Europe.

“It’s feeling that does not compare. I’ve won several times now in Asia and Europe and it’s a different kind of thrill when you don’t play for yourself.”

As things stand, Lahiri would be an automatic selection for the Internationals team to take on holders the United States in Incheon, South Korea from Oct 8-11.

The leading 10 players in the points standings on Sept. 7 will qualify for the Presidents Cup, and captain Nick Price will then add his two wildcard picks the following day.

PGA TOUR ASPIRATIONS

Lahiri, 28, a two-time winner on the European Tour this year who has set his sights on securing a U.S. PGA Tour card, is ninth in the standings and would all but lock up his spot with a good finish on Sunday.

“I am hitting it good and I feel I’m playing well enough to be playing on the Presidents Cup team,” said the Bangalore resident, who birdied four of his last seven holes at Whistling Straits to soar up the second-round leaderboard.

“I just need to keep playing well. When I played for Asia last year, it was massive. At the Presidents Cup, you’re playing for the Internationals which is pretty much the rest of the world if you take Europe out of it, so that would be huge.”

Lahiri, who won his first European Tour title at the Malaysian Open in February before adding a second later that month on home soil at the Indian Open, initially struggled for form when he switched his focus to the PGA Tour.

However, the world number 53 has played in all of golf’s elite events this season — the four majors and the World Golf Championships events – and he now believes he belongs in that company.

“I came over here to the U.S. and I initially tried to do things differently, I didn’t stick with what I’d done when I’ve played my best in the past,” said Lahiri, a seven-times winner on the Asian Tour where he leads the order of merit this season.

“But I’ve learned from that and I’ve gone back to my old routine, just sticking to my own strengths and working with those. I think it’s enough to win out here, and that’s where the belief comes from.

“I feel like I can compete and it’s good to have evidence of that this week at Whistling Straits.”

(Editing by Andrew Both)

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

Top seeds advance to world finals in Jakarta | Reuters

JAKARTA Chen Long and Carolina Marin enjoyed contrasting semi-final victories on a good day for the top seeds and defending title holders at the badminton world championships on Saturday.

China’s Chen has seized the mantle of the sport’s most dominant player from compatriot Lin Dan since claiming a maiden world crown in Copenhagen a year ago and the 26-year-old appears in no mood to relinquish his title in Jakarta.

The lanky world number one was simply too quick and strong for Japanese fourth seed Kento Momota as he raced through to the final in less than an hour with a dominant 21-9 21-15 triumph.

Former junior world champion Momota was expected to provide the toughest of tests, yet despite claiming the shot of the match with a full-length dive to retrieve a smash in the second game, the 20-year-old was overwhelmed by Chen’s power.

Facing Chen in Sunday’s final will be Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, who set up a repeat of last year’s title match with a impressive 21-7 21-19 victory over Danish second seed Jan O. Jorgensen.

Chen beat Lee 21-19 21-19 a year ago but the Malaysian was stripped of his silver medal after he tested positive for a banned steroid and is enjoying a solid return to form since his ban ended in May as he seeks an elusive world title.

Wily veteran Lee has topped the rankings for 298 weeks during his career yet remains without a global or Olympic title and will line up opposite the only man to beat him in singles competition this year in what promises to be a pulsating finale.

MOMENTUM SHIFTS

Marin, meanwhile, came through a war of attrition against Korea’s Sung Ji-hyun to claim a 21-17 15-21 21-16 victory in a marathon encounter that ebbed and flowed through a series of momentum shifts.

The injury-prone Spaniard was a surprise champion as ninth seed a year ago but has since risen to the top of the rankings with a game built on confidence, athleticism and a never-say-die attitude.

Marin took the first game comfortably, stumbled in the second and appeared distracted in the decider as her exhausted opponent somehow forged a 13-8 lead when the Spaniard constantly floundered at the net.

Sensing her grip on the title was weakening, Marin summoned one last push against the flagging Sung and rode a 10-point surge of momentum into the final with a series of smashes and drop shots.

Marin will face Saina Nehwal in Sunday’s final after the second seed survived a valiant effort from local hope Lindaweni Fanetri to secure a 21-17 21-17 victory as she seeks to become the first Indian to claim a world title.

The 29th-ranked Fanetri had beaten three seeds on her way to the last four but her heavily strapped right knee buckled several times during the match and a noisy Istora Senayan crowd was unable to carry her past the ruthlessly efficient Nehwal.

In the mixed doubles, defending champions Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei saved two match points before overcoming Indonesia’s Tantowi Ahmad and Lilyana Natsir 20-22 23-21 21-12 to set up an all-Chinese final against Liu Cheng and Bao Yixin.

(Reporting by John O’Brien in Singapore,; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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

Sculptor Kapoor says China work copies his Chicago Bean | Reuters

LONDON British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor said on Wednesday he would take legal action based on copyright concerns after noting a close similarity between a huge stainless-steel, globe-like sculpture in China and his “Cloud Gate” sculpture in Chicago.

The sculpture in the far northwestern Chinese city of Karamay, whose sculptor has not been named, is said in a blog on the Wall Street Journal website to resemble an oil bubble, inspired by the rich oil fields of the region.

Kapoor’s sculpture, which is known in Chicago as “The Bean” and was erected in 2006, reflects the city’s skyscape and in photographs bears a strong resemblance to the Chinese work.

“It has been reported in the media today that an identical sculpture has been commissioned for the town of Karamay in the Xinjiang region of China,” Kapoor said in a statement released on his behalf by publicists in London.

“It seems that in China today it is permissible to steal the creativity of others. I feel I must take this to the highest level and pursue those responsible in the courts.”

“I hope that the Mayor of Chicago will join me in this action. The Chinese authorities must act to stop this kind of infringement and allow the full enforcement of copyright.”

Kapoor’s Chicago work figured in the 2011 movie “Source Code” starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

(Reporting by Michael Roddy; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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

Government offers seed, diesel subsidies to farmers hit by patchy monsoon | Reuters

NEW DELHI India will offer subsidies on seeds and diesel to help farmers facing patchy monsoon rains in some key growing states, a government statement said on Wednesday.

The government, which has earmarked 1 billion rupees for diesel subsidies, will also ensure subsidised seeds are available in case farmers need to plant their crops again, the statement said after a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Monsoon rains irrigate nearly half of India’s farm lands. So far, the June-September monsoon rains have been 9 percent below a long-term average.

Fourteen states, including Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh have received less than satisfactory rains this year.

Subsidies for seeds and diesel and a few other measures to help cushion the blow of poor monsoon would cost 3 billion rupees, said the statement.

(Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Mark Potter)

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

Ruthless England turn the screw as Australia wilt | Reuters

NOTTINGHAM, England England skittled out shell-shocked Australia for 60 and piled up 274 for four in reply to take control of the fourth Ashes test on a dramatic first day at Trent Bridge on Thursday.

A rampant Stuart Broad took eight wickets as the tourists were dismissed before lunch, while Joe Root (124 not out) and Jonny Bairstow (74) batted England into a commanding position.

The hosts, 2-1 up in the series and without their leading bowler James Anderson, needed only 18.3 overs to run through the touring side who collapsed to their joint sixth-lowest Ashes total in just over 90 minutes.

Broad struck five times in his first four overs, claiming his 300th test victim with the third ball of the morning when he had opener Chris Rogers caught at first slip by Alastair Cook for a duck.

Steven Smith, on six, edged the last ball of the first over to Root in the slips and David Warner (zero) nicked his second delivery from Mark Wood to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler, leaving the Australians in tatters at 10-3.

Captain Michael Clarke, who dropped one place down the order to number five, walked out to face only the ninth delivery of the match.

BRILLIANT CATCH

England, who won the toss, struck again when Shaun Marsh edged Broad to Ian Bell at second slip and Adam Voges was brilliantly caught one-handed by Ben Stokes at gully as Australia slumped to 21 for five.

Clarke survived 25 minutes for his 10 runs before he drove loosely at a wide ball from Broad and was well caught above his head by Cook to give Broad his 14th five-wicket haul in tests.

Steven Finn bowled Peter Nevill for two before the 29-year-old Broad struck again, producing another perfect delivery which Mitchell Starc diverted into the safe hands of Root for one and Mitchell Johnson fell in identical fashion for 13.

Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood added 13 runs for the last wicket before the former edged Broad to Stokes to give the fast bowler test-best figures of 8-15.

Adam Lyth’s poor run continued when, on 14, the England batsman edged Starc to wicketkeeper Nevill and left-armer Starc produced a venomous full delivery to trap Bell lbw for one.

Root unfurled a couple of sumptuous cover drives as England eased past Australia’s total and he and Cook looked in complete control in a partnership of 62 until the captain, on 43, misjudged another swinging ball from Starc and was adjudged lbw.

England took tea on 99 for three and Root and Bairstow turned the screw on Australia in the final session as the crowd basked in sunshine.

Bairstow glanced Starc to the boundary to reach his fifty and Root cut part-time medium-pacer Warner for his 17th four to get to his eighth test century, punching the air and raising his bat to all corners of the ground.

Bairstow was closing in on his maiden test hundred when he clipped Hazlewood tamely to Rogers at square leg, ending a superb fourth-wicket stand of 173 from 206 balls.

Root and nightwatchman Wood (two not out) took England safely through to the close and the hosts will look to extend their lead on Friday after a near-perfect opening day.

(Editing by Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar)

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

Political gridlock holds up India’s landmark tax reform | Reuters

NEW DELHI Parliament is unlikely to approve a landmark tax shakeup in its current sitting, a new setback for Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s reform agenda that makes it harder to meet a deadline to launch the new levy by next April.

Failure to pass the bill for a nationwide goods and services tax (GST) in the “monsoon” session will further erode investor confidence, already hurt by the slower-than-expected progress on economic transformation since Modi took office a year ago.

The opposition Congress party has disrupted the Rajya Sabha every day of the current session, which ends on Aug. 13, in protest at alleged corruption linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Senior members said that in its present form the party will not support the GST bill, which is a constitutional amendment and requires a two-thirds majority to become law. In the Rajya Sabha, Congress and allies control more than a third of votes.

The cabinet on Wednesday approved a minor amendment to the bill suggested by a select committee but did not address Congress’ main issue – a 1 percent additional levy that businesses warn undermines the spirit of the tax.

“If the government wants Congress support for the GST it should accommodate our suggestions,” Anand Sharma, Congress’ deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha told Reuters.

His sentiments were echoed by Congress veteran Mani Shankar Aiyar, who sat on the select committee.

The GST seeks to turn India into a common market, harmonising a slew of state and central levies into a national sales tax. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley calls it the biggest reform since independence in 1947 that could add up to two percentage points to overall economic growth.

Parliament’s approval will set in motion steps towards a rollout of the new tax but several more hoops must be passed before it can be implemented. Officials say it will take at least six months for India to be ready for its formal launch.

“Any further delay will make it be very tough to meet the April 1 deadline,” said Rashmi Verma, a senior official in the finance ministry’s revenue department. “We can still meet the deadline, but it will be a very tough ask.”

Months of parliamentary opposition forced Modi to focus on the GST in this session, scaling back earlier ambitions to make progress on land and labour reforms before Aug. 13.

On Thursday, Jaitley implored Congress to help pass the tax bill. “These kinds of disruptions hurt the economy,” he said.

(Editing by Frank Jack Daniel/Mark Heinrich)

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

Obama says entrepreneurs in Africa can give hope, deliver growth | Reuters

NAIROBI U.S. President Barack Obama said in Kenya on Saturday that African entrepreneurs could help counter violent ideologies and make the continent a hub for global growth, helping create opportunities in Africa that offset any threat from terrorism.

Obama was speaking during the first U.S. presidential visit to Kenya, which is his father’s homeland and the biggest economy in east Africa but has also suffered from a spate of attacks by Somali Islamist militant group al Shabaab.

President Uhuru Kenyatta called the United States a “very strong supporter of Kenya” and said his country needed help to tackle security threats. “No single country can deal with this problem,” he said in talks with Obama. “We need to partner.”

Before the two leaders held closed-door discussions, Obama told Kenyatta: “The challenges of terrorism are ones that have to be addressed, but the opportunities for growth and prosperity … are the things that the people of Africa are most hungry for.”Obama, who was welcomed at State House with a gun salute, said Kenya was an example of the opportunities Africa offered.

The talks at State House were attended by Deputy President William Ruto, who is facing charges at the International Criminal Court that he fomented ethnic killings after Kenya’s disputed 2007 election. He denies the charges. Kenyatta had faced similar charges, but these have since been dropped.

Earlier on Saturday, Obama spoke at a Global Entrepreneurship Summit, a U.S.-sponsored initiative to boost business ties with Africa, where China overtook the United States as the continent’s biggest trade partner in 2009.

“Africa is on the move. Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world,” Obama told the conference, where he was greeted by applause as he began with the words “Jambo”, the Swahili for “hello”. “It is wonderful to be back in Kenya.”

He continued: “Entrepreneurship offers a positive alternative to the ideologies of violence and division that can all too often fill the void when young people don’t see a future for themselves.”

“OPEN FOR BUSINESS”

He said government also needed to help by establishing the rule of law and curbing corruption, mentioning two issues often cited by businesses as major obstacles to investment.

An array of technology and other companies have started up in recent years in Africa in a bid to shift the continent away from a traditional focus of commodity exports, but entrepreneurs often complain they cannot find affordable capital to operate.

“Africa is open for business,” Kenyatta said in his speech to the entrepreneurship conference.

Kenya’s economy is expected to grow by about 6 percent this year. The economy of Ethiopia, Obama’s next stop, is forecast to expand by more than 10 percent, although right groups say Addis Ababa’s economic achievements are at the expense of free speech.

After attending the conference, Obama laid a wreath to victims of the 1998 bombing by Islamist militants of the U.S. Embassy. The site of the attack in central Nairobi is now a memorial park. The new mission is further from the centre.

Kenya has been hit by a spate of attacks in the past two years launched by the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab. In 2013, al Shabaab gunmen assaulted Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall, leaving at least 67 people dead.

In April, al Shabaab attacked a university in Kenya’s northeast near the Somali border, killing 148 people.

Some Africans complain that Obama, whose father is buried in western Kenya, has not paid enough attention to the continent in his presidency. Obama has sought to change that perception, in part by hosting African leaders in Washington last year.

(Additional reporting by George Obulutsa; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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

Lupin looks to revive U.S. growth with $880 mln GAVIS deal | Reuters

MUMBAI Lupin Ltd (LUPN.NS), India’s third-largest drugmaker by sales, is buying U.S. peer GAVIS Pharmaceuticals LLC for $880 million in its largest ever acquisition, seeking to revive its flagging growth in the United States, its largest market.

The acquisition will give Mumbai-based Lupin access to a number of speciality generic drugs that tend to command a higher price as they are used to treat niche diseases.

Lupin Chief Executive Vinita Gupta said the company expected to triple GAVIS’s revenues by 2018 from $96 million last year.

“(The deal) significantly boosts Lupin’s existing business and growth prospects over the next few years,” she said. “It puts us in a tremendous position from the pipeline perspective to capitalise on generics opportunities.”

Lupin’s U.S. growth has been hampered by a slower pace of new generic drug approvals since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) overhauled its generics review process, as well as by consolidation between drug distributors there.

The company has also recently run into regulatory troubles, with the FDA expressing concerns about manufacturing processes at its Goa plant in western India last month. However, Managing Director Nilesh Gupta said none of the concerns were “serious” and the company had responded to the FDA.

He separately warned the pace of U.S. drug approvals would remain modest in the September quarter, but would pick up through the rest of the year. The company is expecting “material” U.S. approvals of so-called controlled substance products acquired through the GAVIS acquisition, he said.

The deal will give Lupin access to dermatology drugs, big-selling controlled substance products that can only be dispensed with a doctor’s prescription and other speciality generics, it said. Lupin will also gain a portfolio of 66 generic drugs for which the New Jersey-based drugmaker has sought regulatory approval, with a potential market value of $9 billion, it said.

Lupin’s U.S. sales fell 31 percent to $180 million in April-June, leading to a 16 percent drop in its net profit to 5.25 billion rupees ($82.35 million), it said on Thursday.

“In general, we see Lupin in a challenging phase, because they don’t have any speciality products,” said Nimish Mehta, founder and director at Research Delta Advisors. “They really need this acquisition.”

Some analysts, however, expressed concern about Lupin paying nine times GAVIS’s sales, but Lupin said that was in line with similar deals.

The Indian drugmaker expects GAVIS to contribute to earnings in the first full year after purchase, and the deal to close in the December quarter.

GAVIS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The deal follows three other acquisitions this year by Lupin, aimed at building its presence in Latin America and Russia. It plans to look for more businesses in the speciality generics space in the United States, CEO Gupta said.

Lupin shares closed 5.3 percent lower, compared with a 0.5 percent fall in the broader market.

($1 = 63.7500 rupees)

(Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Mark Potter)

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

India investigating breach of space agency unit’s website | Reuters

NEW DELHI The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) commercial arm is investigating a suspected breach of its website on Sunday, an official said.

The homepage of ISRO’s commercial wing, called Antrix, was redirecting to another page on Sunday, space agency spokesman Deviprasad Karnik said. The Antrix website is currently being rebuilt.

“Antrix is investigating. There is no concern,” Karnik said on Monday. “Somebody has played a mischief.”

The breach came two days after ISRO successfully launched five British satellites. India is a small player in the $300 billion global space industry but aims to increase its presence over the coming years.

(Reporting by Aditya Kalra; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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

Fidel Castro, 88, makes second public appearance in a week | Reuters

<![CDATA[#bottom_popup{width:344px;background:url(http://s3.firstpost.in/wp-content/themes/firstpost2.0/images/promo/bottom_popup.gif) repeat-x;border:3px solid #6b6565;position:fixed;z-index:99;bottom:-130px;right:-350px}#bottom_popup .contbox{padding:5px 6px 25px 6px;position:relative;background:#F1F1F1}#bottom_popup .bptitle{border-bottom:1px solid #d3d3d3;font:19px/30px ‘FPfont’;color:#000;text-transform:uppercase;padding-bottom:5px}#bottom_popup .bptitle span{color:#F00}#bottom_popup .bptitle span.dot{color:#F00;font-size:30px}.f_flash_icon{background:url(http://s1.firstpost.in/wp-content/themes/firstpost2.0/images/promo/f_flash_icon.png) no-repeat 0 0;width:29px;height:29px;display:inline-block;vertical-align:bottom;margin-right:3px}.close_bottom_popup{background:url(http://s3.firstpost.in/wp-content/themes/firstpost2.0/images/promo/clost_bottom_popup.png) no-repeat 0 0;width:13px;height:13px;position:absolute;right:5px;top:5px}.bottom_infobox{font:14px Georgia, “Times New Roman”, Times, serif;color:#333;border-top:1px solid #FFF;padding-top:10px}.bottom_infobox a{color:#333}]]> <!– FP CRONTAB –>

Pininfarina still discussing sale to Mahindra, hopes for deal in July – sources | Reuters

MILAN The key investor in Pininfarina (PNNI.MI) and its creditor banks are still seeking to agree a sale of the indebted Italian car designer to Indian vehicle maker Mahindra & Mahindra (MAHM.NS), two sources close to the matter said.

The sources said the parties involved were trying to reach at least a preliminary accord by the end of July after failing to strike a deal before a shareholder meeting on April 29.

Pininfarina declined to comment. Mahindra did not answer a request for comment. Leading creditor banks UniCredit (CRDI.MI) and Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MI) had no immediate comment.

A third source close to the matter said Mahindra may push back further a possible deal in order to agree on a lower price.

Pininfarina is hard pressed for time. Its operating loss more than doubled in the first quarter from a year earlier. It expects to post an operating loss in the full year and sees net debt at the end of 2015 above the previous year’s level.

It said in May that it would struggle to meet targets set by creditors for this year’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA).

The breach of the EBITDA covenant would give creditor banks the right to ask Pininfarina to repay its bank debt, which has a nominal value of 102 million euros. But the third source said that the banks were likely to look for ways to allow the company to continue operating.

A new debt restructuring is the most likely option, two sources said, after a similar agreement was agreed in 2012 and would expire in 2018.

An Italian daily reported on Saturday that some of Pininfarina’s creditors had rejected Mahindra’s 80-million euro ($89 million) offer as it envisaged writing off half of the group’s debt.

($1 = 0.9032 euros)

(Writing by Valentina Za, editing by Silvia Aloisi)

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

Air strikes in northwest Pakistan kill 20 militants – officials | Reuters

BANNU, Pakistan Air strikes killed at least 20 suspected militants in Pakistan’s northwestern Shawal Valley on Sunday, intelligence officials said, more than a month after security forces moved in on Pakistani Taliban strongholds in the region.

The deeply forested ravines are a smuggling route between Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan, and are dotted with militant bases used as launch pads for attacks on Pakistani forces.

Two intelligence officials, who declined to be identified as they are not authorised to speak on the record, said the latest air strikes occurred in the Zoinari area of North Waziristan.

“We got information that local and foreign fighters were hiding in this area,” said one of the officials. “Three hideouts were also completely destroyed.”

Initially, 10 militants were reported killed but the intelligence officials later raised the toll to 20.

The hard-line Islamist Taliban’s Pakistani wing used to control all of North Waziristan, a mountainous region that includes the Shawal Valley and runs along the Afghan border. But the Pakistani military has recaptured most of it in an operation launched last June.

NATO forces had long urged Pakistan for such an offensive, saying Taliban safe havens in Pakistan were being used to attack NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.

Since last month, the military has stepped up operations in Shawal Valley, where the Taliban still operates freely.

The area is a stronghold of Khan “Sajna” Said, the leader of a Taliban faction whose name was added to a sanctions list of “specially designated global terrorists” by U.S. authorities last year.

Most phone lines to the area have been cut and military roadblocks curtail civilian movement.

The Pakistani Taliban mainly fight against the government in Islamabad and are separate from, but allied with, the Afghan Taliban that ruled Afghanistan in the late 1990s before being expelled in a U.S.-led intervention.

Both groups send fighters against Afghanistan’s Western-backed government. Afghan officials have said the Pakistani army offensive has driven large numbers of fighters over the border, complicating the war in Afghanistan’s east and north.

(Writing by Mehreen Zahra-Malik; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Digby Lidstone)

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

Air strikes in northwest Pakistan kill 10 militants – officials | Reuters

BANNU, Pakistan Air strikes killed at least 10 suspected militants in Pakistan’s northwestern Shawal Valley on Sunday, intelligence officials said, more than a month after security forces moved in on Pakistani Taliban strongholds in the region.

The deeply forested ravines are a key smuggling route between Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan, and are dotted with Taliban bases used as launch pads for attacks on Pakistani forces.

Two intelligence officials, who declined to be identified, as they are not authorised to speak on the record, said the latest air strikes killed the militants in the Zoinari area of North Waziristan.

“We got information that local and foreign fighters were hiding in this area,” said one of the officials. “Strikes were launched and 10 militants were killed. Three hideouts were also completely destroyed.”

The hard-line Islamist Taliban’s Pakistani wing used to control all of North Waziristan, a mountainous region that includes the Shawal Valley and runs along the Afghan border. But the Pakistani military has recaptured most of it, in an operation launched last June.

NATO forces had long urged Pakistan for such an offensive, saying Taliban safe havens in Pakistan were being used to attack NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.

Since last month, the military has stepped up operations in Shawal Valley, where the Taliban still operates freely.

The area is a stronghold of Khan “Sajna” Said, a leader of a Taliban faction whose name was added to a sanctions list of “specially designated global terrorists” by U.S. authorities last year.

Most phone lines to the area have been cut and military roadblocks curtail civilian movement.

The Pakistani Taliban mainly fight against the government in Islamabad and are separate from, but allied with, the Afghan Taliban that ruled Afghanistan in the late 1990s before being expelled in a U.S.-led intervention.

Both groups send fighters against Afghanistan’s Western-backed government. Afghan officials have said the Pakistani army offensive has driven large numbers of fighters over the border, complicating the war in Afghanistan’s east and north.

(Writing by Mehreen Zahra-Malik; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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

Rapper Kanye West soars at Glastonbury Festival | Reuters

GLASTONBURY, England Kanye West delivered an uncompromising headline performance at Glastonbury Festival on Saturday that ignited when the U.S. rapper left the Pyramid Stage to take to the sky for hits “Touch The Sky” and “All of the Lights”.

West was the polarising figure of Europe’s biggest green-field festival, and the announcement of his appearance prompted thousands to sign a petition against the choice of a rap act for the top billing.

The multi-talented West, who is married to reality TV star Kim Kardashian, proved the doubters wrong by attracting a large audience who knew the words to many of his tracks.

He opened his set with “Stronger”, performed under a low lighting rig that compounded the intensity of his rapping.

Later “Touch the Sky” was abandoned a few bars in, only to restart with West high above the stage in a breathtaking moment of theatre.

West, whose ego is as well known as his songs, did not launch into any monologues, a feature of some performances, but he did proclaim: “You are now watching the greatest living rock star on the planet”.

Kieran Brooks, 21, agreed, saying the performance was “absolutely incredible”, although he added that West pitched the show at existing fans.

Pharrell Williams earlier in the evening had a huge crowd dancing and jumping to hits “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky”.

A group of young children joined the U.S. singer and producer on stage for “Happy”, his huge seller of last year. “Make some noise for the English future on stage,” he said.

British singer-songwriter George Ezra and Burt Bacharach, a pop legend almost four times his age, delighted afternoon audiences at the dairy farm in southwest England.

Ezra’s sun-drenched set included hits “Budapest”, which he premiered on a smaller set at the festival two years ago, “Blame It On Me”, and a cover of Macy Gray’s “I Try”.

“His voice melts my heart,” 24-year-old fan Holly Harvey said after his performance on the Pyramid Stage. The 22-year-old may hail from the English county town of Hertford but his bass-baritone comes from somewhere in the Deep South.

Bacharach initially left the vocals to his singers for a medley of songs that sound-tracked the sixties and seventies, from “I Say a Little Prayer” to “Trains and Boats and Planes” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”.

The 87-year-old songwriter took to the mic later in his set, before leading the crowd in a mass singalong of “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head” as, right on cue, light drizzle started.

The rain interrupted a day of sunshine. The warm weather dried up most of the mud on the site caused by heavy downpours – a perennial feature of the event – on Friday.

(Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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

Lankan great Sangakkara to quit during India series | Reuters

COLOMBO Sri Lankan great Kumar Sangakkara will quit international cricket during the test series against India in August, the island nation’s most prolific batsman said on Saturday.

“I have decided to call it a day…(after) the second test of the India series,” the 37-year-old told reporters on the sidelines of the ongoing second test against Pakistan of his decision to end a 15-yer-old illustrious career.

Sangakkara said he wanted to quit all formats of the game after Sri Lanka’s World Cup campaign this year but promised to be available for the back-to-back home series against Pakistan and India.

“But at the same time I said that I would be unable to play six test matches. I could do four and if that was okay, I will give my 100 percent commitment to these four test matches,” said Sangakkara who will skip the third and final test against Pakistan.

India arrive in early August to play three tests in Sri Lanka but the dates and the venues have not been finalised.

“I wish I could keep on playing but I know when the time comes you have to go and I know this is my time,” he added.

Sangakkara made his international debut in 2000 and is currently playing his 132nd test against Pakistan, having amassed 12,305 runs at an average of over 58 and including 38 centuries.

Sangakkara is the fifth highest test scorer of all time and is one short of Australian great Donald Bradman’s record of 12 double centuries in tests.

Before giving up keeping, Sangakkara made 20 stumpings to go with his 179 catches in tests.

His ODI record is no less impressive, having totalled 14,234 runs in 404 matches, averaging nearly 42 and including 25 centuries. He took 402 catches in ODIs and has 99 stumpings against his name.

Adjudged ICC Cricketer of the Year in 2012, the former Sri Lanka captain was part of the 2014 Twenty20 World Cup-winning squad.

He was also a member of the teams which reached the 50-over World Cup finals in 2007 and 2011.

Sangakkara’s retirement, following that of his former team mate Mahela Jayawardene, creates a big void for Sri Lanka but the he has no doubt the team under Angelo Mathews will cope.

“Angelo is a fantastic captain, a fantastic cricketer. I think he is the ideal man to lead this team of youngsters,” Sangakkara said.

“They are into the future and I just wish that there’ll be a real culture of fearless cricket, positive cricket where they are unafraid to make mistakes.”

(Writing by Amlan Chakraborty; editing by Ed Osmond)

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

Rajan sees little impact of Greece crisis on India | Reuters

STOCKHOLM Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan said on Wednesday that the Indian economy will see through any impact of the Greece crisis.

One factor helping India was its stronger foreign exchange reserves, Rajan added in a conference at the Stockholm School of Economics.

(Reporting by Alistair Scrutton and Johan Sennero)

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

Bandhan, India’s newest bank, to launch operations in August | Reuters

MUMBAI Indian microfinance company Bandhan Financial Services said on Wednesday it would launch banking operations in August, making it the newest lender in the country which seeks to make banking more accessible to its rural population.

Bandhan and Mumbai-based financial company IDFC Ltd (IDFC.NS) were the only two companies to be granted bank permits last year in what was the first bank licensing process in a decade. Yes Bank (YESB.NS) was the last bank to be set up, in 2004.

Bandhan, which received its final banking license from the Indian central bank on Wednesday, plans to transfer all its microfinance businesses and clients to the bank, Chairman Chandra Shekhar Ghosh said. The bank will launch on Aug. 28.

Millions of people in India do not have access to formal banking services. The decision to grant new banking licences marked the start of a cautious experiment to create more competition in a sector dominated by lethargic state lenders, many of which are reluctant to expand into rural areas or towns where banking penetration is low.

“We will be a bank for all, but our primary objective will be to serve the unbanked,” Ghosh said. “After 2-3 years once the bank will be stable, that time we’d like to think about corporate loans.”

Over the last few years, the Reserve Bank of India has been pushing banks to make more genuine efforts to penetrate into India’s hinterland and increase lending to farmers, small traders and businesses.

Bandhan will have 500-600 bank branches and 10 million customers in the initial phase. It has hired 850 banking professionals at senior and middle level positions from public and private banks, it said in a statement.

Bandhan is likely to do an initial public offering by 2018, as mandated by the central bank. Ghosh said he doesn’t see the need for any equity infusion in the bank, which in January raised about $160 million in equity.

($1 = 64.1409 rupees)

(Reporting by Aman Shah; Writing by Swati Bhat; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Susan Fenton)

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

European space chief suggests making room for India, China on station | Reuters

FRANKFURT The incoming head of the European Space Agency said in a published interview that the International Space Station should be opened up to astronauts from India and China.

The $100 billion space station, visible from Earth to the naked eye, is a habitable research outpost backed by 15 countries including the United States, Russia and Germany. China and India are not part of the group.

“We need to get away from the principle of being a closed club,” Johann-Dietrich Woerner told German magazine Spiegel.

The space station is funded through 2020 and an extension until 2024 is under discussion.

An extension would give the U.S. space agency more time to develop the technologies needed for eventual human missions to Mars, the long-term goal of NASA’s human space programme.

Keeping the station in orbit beyond 2020 also opens a window for commercial companies and researchers to benefit from hefty U.S. investment in the outpost.

NASA’s costs for operating the station, which flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, run about $3 billion a year.

Woerner also said that Europeans, who currently rely on Russia to travel into space, could launch their own manned rockets in five years. “I don’t give up hope that we Europeans will manage our own take-off into orbit.”

(Writing By John O’Donnell)

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

Apple expected to focus on watch, music at developer conference | Reuters

SAN FRANCISCO Apple is expected to unveil a new music service and better tools to build apps for its smartwatch at its annual gathering of developers on Monday.

Developers waited in long lines outside of San Francisco’s Moscone Center hours ahead of the keynote speech. Inside the event, Apple advertised its operating systems for its iPhone, Mac and Watch but gave no other indication of the announcements to come.

But at a recent tech event, a top Apple executive said the tech giant’s legion of independent developers will get a preview of a new software kit for the two-month-old Apple Watch at the conference. Apps built with the new toolkit will likely start arriving in the fall, said Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of operations.

Like other Apple products, the watch’s commercial success will likely hinge on a compelling collection of apps. But early apps for the timepiece have been tethered to the iPhone, placing some limits on what developers could do.The expanded software kit should lead to better and faster watch apps, said Bob O’Donnell, an analyst at TECHnalysis Research.

Many analysts expect that Apple will use Monday’s event to debut a new music streaming service, and in an interview in Cannes, France, the CEO of Sony Music, Doug Morris, confirmed the launch although he did not provide many details, according to a report in VentureBeat. The company behind the iPod and iTunes has long been a leader in digital music, but it has lost ground in recent years as subscription services such as Spotify have caught on with consumers.

Analyst Van Baker of Gartner said he expects Apple to release a new service to win a bigger share of the streaming business.

“This is catch-up for Apple,” he said.

An Apple spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Julia Love; Editing by Leslie Adler, Bernard Orr)

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

Ailing Serena beats Bacsinszky to reach French Open final | Reuters

<![CDATA[#bottom_popup{width:344px;background:url(http://s3.firstpost.in/wp-content/themes/firstpost2.0/images/promo/bottom_popup.gif) repeat-x;border:3px solid #6b6565;position:fixed;z-index:99;bottom:-130px;right:-350px}#bottom_popup .contbox{padding:5px 6px 25px 6px;position:relative;background:#F1F1F1}#bottom_popup .bptitle{border-bottom:1px solid #d3d3d3;font:19px/30px ‘FPfont’;color:#000;text-transform:uppercase;padding-bottom:5px}#bottom_popup .bptitle span{color:#F00}#bottom_popup .bptitle span.dot{color:#F00;font-size:30px}.f_flash_icon{background:url(http://s1.firstpost.in/wp-content/themes/firstpost2.0/images/promo/f_flash_icon.png) no-repeat 0 0;width:29px;height:29px;display:inline-block;vertical-align:bottom;margin-right:3px}.close_bottom_popup{background:url(http://s3.firstpost.in/wp-content/themes/firstpost2.0/images/promo/clost_bottom_popup.png) no-repeat 0 0;width:13px;height:13px;position:absolute;right:5px;top:5px}.bottom_infobox{font:14px Georgia, “Times New Roman”, Times, serif;color:#333;border-top:1px solid #FFF;padding-top:10px}.bottom_infobox a{color:#333}]]> <!– FP CRONTAB –>