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BJP snooping row: India summons top US diplomat

NEW DELHI: Reacting strongly to reports of the BJP being spied upon by the US National Security Agency (NSA), India on Wednesday summoned a top US diplomat in New Delhi to raise the issue, saying it was “totally unacceptable” that an Indian organisation or Indian individual’s privacy was transgressed upon.

India also sought an assurance from the US that it will not happen again.

Officials, however, did not name the US diplomat summoned by the External Affairs Ministry.

Significantly, the US currently has in India an Interim Ambassador Kathleen Stephens who came in after Nancy Powell resigned as US Ambassador.

India also noted that it had raised the issue with the US administration in Washington and the Embassy in India in July and November 2013, when reports emerged that the NSA had spied upon individuals and entities and said it was still “awaiting a response from American on this”.

India had reacted sharply when the reports of snooping by the NSA came to light after revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013.

The BJP figures in the list of foreign political parties along with Lebanon’s Amal, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the Pakistan Peoples Party on whom the NSA was given permission to carry out surveillance, says the document made public on Monday by The Washington Post.

The document lists the 193 foreign governments as well as foreign factions and other entities that were part of a 2010 certification approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The list includes India.

“These are the entities about which the NSA may conduct surveillance for the purpose of gathering foreign intelligence,” the paper had said, citing documents provided to it by Snowden. — PTIBack
















NSA Internet spying legal, says Obama-appointed privacy board

WASHINGTON: The National Security Agency (NSA) programmes that collect huge volumes of Internet data within the United States pass are constitutional and employ “reasonable” safeguards designed to protect the rights of Americans, an independent privacy and civil liberties board has found.

In a report released on Tuesday night, the bipartisan, five-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, appointed by President Barack Obama, largely endorsed a set of NSA surveillance programmes that have provoked worldwide controversy since they were disclosed last year by former NSA systems administrator Edward Snowden.

Under a provision known as Section 702, added in 2008 to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, the NSA uses court orders and taps on fibre optic lines to target the data of foreigners living abroad when their emails, web chats, text messages and other communications traverse the US.

Section 702 includes the so-called PRISM programme, under which the NSA collects foreign intelligence from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and nearly every other major US technology firm.

Because worldwide Internet communications are intermingled on fibre optic lines and in the cloud, the collection inevitably sweeps in the communications of Americans with no connection to terrorism or foreign intelligence. Since the Snowden disclosures, activists have expressed concern that a secret intelligence agency is obtaining private American communications without individual warrants. Some have questioned how such a programme could be legal under the Constitution.

The board, including a Democratic federal judge, two privacy experts and two former Republican Justice Department officials, found that the NSA monitoring was legal and reasonable and that the NSA and other agencies take steps to prevent misuse of Americans’ data. Those steps include “minimisation”, which redacts the names of Americans from intelligence reports unless they are relevant.

The board’s validation of the controversial NSA surveillance programme stands in contrast to its last report in January, when it argued that the NSA’s collection of domestic calling records under Section 215 was unconstitutional. The Obama administration disagreed but has proposed to overhaul the programme by ending NSA’s collection of the records.

The new report will be voted on at a public meeting on Wednesday in Washington.

“The board has seen no trace of any such illegitimate activity associated with the programme, or any attempt to intentionally circumvent legal limits,” the report says. That said, the board noted that the rules “potentially allow a great deal of private information about US persons to be acquired by the government.”

In some aspects, the board found, the programmes push “close to the line of constitutional reasonableness. Such aspects include the unknown and potentially large scope of the incidental collection of US persons’ communications,” and collection of communications about a target, such as a foreign terrorist organization, that could capture two innocent American discussing the organisation.

The report offers a set of policy proposals “designed to push the programme more comfortably into the sphere of reasonableness”.

For example, the board recommends that NSA and CIA analysts query Section 702 data using the names or email addresses of Americans “only if the query is based upon a statement of facts showing that it is reasonably likely to return foreign intelligence information”.

In contrast to the widespread questions about whether the NSA’s collection of calling records under Section 215 was a valuable anti-terror tool, US intelligence officials and sceptical members of Congress have agreed that Section 702 has been responsible for disrupting a series of terrorist plots and achieving insights into the intentions of foreign adversaries.

The board said, “Monitoring terrorist networks under Section 702 has enabled the government to learn how they operate, and to understand their priorities, strategies, and tactics.” It added that the programmes have “led the government to identify previously unknown individuals who are involved in international terrorism, and it has played a key role in discovering and disrupting specific terrorist plots aimed at the United States and other countries”.

Section 702 has its roots in the Terrorist Surveillance Programme, a collection programme President George W. Bush ordered after the 2001 terrorist attacks in the US without seeking a change in the law. After administration lawyers deemed aspects of it illegal, and after co-called warrantless wiretapping was disclosed in news reports, Congress essentially legalized the programme in 2008.

Much about how the government uses Section 702 information remains unknown, including the extent to which it is used to help authorities investigate and prosecute domestic law enforcement cases, such as drug cases, unrelated to terrorism or intelligence. — APBack




















Sensex hits life-time peak of 25,841; Nifty at 7,725

MUMBAI: Extending gains for the fourth day, the Sensex and the Nifty surged to life-time highs and settled at record levels today after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's comments fuelled buying on hopes the Union Budget next week would list steps to curb surging deficit and rev up growth.

Sustained foreign fund inflows and positive global cues also helped firm up domestic sentiment.

Strong buying was seen across-the-spectrum as all 12 sectoral indices closed with gains of up to 2 per cent. Metal, healthcare, power, capital goods, auto, FMCG, banking and consumer durable segments logged the biggest rise.

The BSE 30-share barometer resumed better in line with firm Asian cues. It rallied further to a fresh historic intra-day high of 25,864.53. It settled at a new all-time closing high of 25,841.21, logging a rise of 324.86 points or 1.27 per cent.

In straight four sessions of gains, the Sensex has zoomed by 778.54 points or 3.11 per cent.

The broad-based 50-issue CNX Nifty of the NSE flared up by 90.45 points, or 1.18 per cent, to log its new closing peak of 7,725.15. It touched an intra-day peak of 7,732.40. Nifty has gained about 232 points in four days so far.

Foreign investors continued to play a key role behind the pre-budget rally. They had picked up shares worth Rs 856.35 crore yesterday, as per provisional data.

"The participants responded positively to the statement made by the Finance Minister that the government would take bold decisions in the forthcoming Budget (July 10) to revive the economy," said Jayant Manglik, President-retail distribution, Religare Securities.

Besides, an uptick in manufacturing sector growth in June and signs of pickup in auto sales amid firming trend in the global markets too added to the optimism, he added.

Globally, Asian stocks ended higher after reports showing manufacturing expansion in the US pushed American stocks to records. European markets were also trading higher. — PTIBack























A year after tragedy, Uttarakhand people remember a braveheart

GOPESHWAR: It is a little over a year since a natural calamity of catastrophic proportions hit Uttarakhand, but people in the affected areas are still singing paeans to the bravery of Darshan Lal who saved hundreds of lives in Kedar Valley when the deluge struck.

They have still not forgotten what this humble braveheart did for them out of the sheer urge to save the lives of fellow human beings on that fateful day despite being untrained in disaster management and without possessing any life-saving equipment. Darshan Lal jumped to the rescue of hundreds of devotees and locals stranded between Songanga and Mandakini, villagers recounted.

Resident of Toshi village Indra Singh, who lost six of his family members in the tragedy, gets emotional while talking about Lal's act of valour.

Battling the pangs of the death of his dear ones and the ferocity of a downpour, Indra had arrived on the banks of Songanga on the afternoon of June 17 after losing two of his sons and four other relatives at Rambara a day earlier.

There were hundreds of others like him among the pilgrims as well as the locals who had followed him to the banks of the Songanga.

"Hundreds of us were stuck at a point where the rocks overhead were sliding and the ones beneath were being eroded by the swirling waters of a furious river. The bridge through which we could have crossed over to the other side had already been washed away.

"Sonprayag town was visible in the front but our cries for help were buried in the noisy flow of the waters of Songanga and Mandakini which were in spate and the falling downpour. We were clueless about what was going to happen to us," recounts Indra.

"We survived yet another cold and wet night in close proximity to imminent death. On the morning of June 18, Darshan Lal came almost like an angel. He made a long rope of broken electric wires, tied one end of it to the trunk of a fallen tree and the other around his waist and waded into water.

"As he was approaching us, he faltered many a time amid the strong currents but continued wading through it until he reached a small island in the middle. Lal took four hours to make a makeshift bridge out of a huge broken tree trunk swept to the island by the flashfloods by pushing and placing it with the help of some of the stranded people between the two banks of the river.

"From the morning of June 18 to 4 pm that evening, Lal helped hundreds of us cross over to Sonprayag through that makeshift bridge and ferried the old and the children on his shoulders to the other side," says Indra, as his voice chokes.

However, this 50-year-old braveheart from Trijuginarayan village is too modest to look upon what he did as a feat and seeks to dismiss it as just something which he should have done anyway as a duty towards his fellow humans.

Lal, who worked in a small hydel power project in Sonprayag, which was washed away in the flashfloods, said a huge tree and the electric wires which he could make into a long rope helped him to evacuate people to safety.

"Without them I would not have been able to do anything," he says politely.

By the evening of June 18, ITBP personnel had also arrived on the scene to rescue the stranded people, he said.

A former village head, Upender Singh, and several other people from Trijuginarayan and nearby villages had written to to the district administration to acknowledge Lal's acts of valour.

But neither the state government nor the state Disaster Management Department has done anything so far to honour the act of bravery of Lal, villagers rue.— PTIBack


















Sunanda death: Tharoor demands 'definitive conclusion'; AIIMS rejects doc's allegations

NEW DELHI: Former Union minister Shashi Tharoor today sought a speedy inquiry for a "clear and definitive conclusion" to the cause of death of his wife Sunanda Pushkar in the wake of reported claims by a senior forensic doctor that he was pressurised to manipulate the autopsy report in the case.

"Upon the tragic loss of my wife Sunanda and from the very beginning, I have requested for a thorough investigation by the authorities to be conducted and concluded rapidly and transparently.

"I reiterate my request to bring this protracted inquiry to a clear and definitive conclusion at the earliest, so as to put all speculation to rest," Tharoor said in a statement on Facebook.

The Pushkar family, he said, has taken the same view and "we have all fully co-operated with the authorities".

Dr Sudhir Gupta, who heads the Forensic Science Department of the AIIMS and led the panel that conducted Sunanda's post-mortem, has reportedly alleged that he was pressurised to show her death was natural, which he resisted.

Meanwhile, the AIIMS today rejected allegations levelled by Dr Gupta.

"The AIIMS administration categorically denies any such allegation that there was any attempt to pressurise Sudhir Gupta to change the post-mortem report," it said.

When asked if Gupta faced pressure from outside, as he has hinted in an affidavit, AIIMS spokesperson Amit Gupta told reporters the administration was not aware of it but if there was any pressure from outside, then he will have to bring evidence on it.

"We have no evidence that he was under pressure from outside and how he reacted to that," the spokesperson and Media and Protocol Department Head Neerja Bhatla said.

The premier health institute did not rule out disciplinary action against Gupta, saying "if AIIMS feels or if we get any directive then action will be taken as per rules".

Gupta has filed an affidavit before Central Administrative Tribunal against the move to promote a faculty member which, he alleged, was started under the then UPA government so that he could be removed as the head of the department as he did not change the post-mortem report.

Sunanda (52) was found dead in a 5-star hotel in South Delhi on the night of January 17, a day after her twitter spat with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar over an alleged affair with Tharoor.

Gupta refused to comment on his reported allegation, saying he has already stated the facts before the "competent" authorities. — PTI Back

















Govt seeks detailed report from AIIMS

NEW DELHI: The government today sought a detailed report from the AIIMS on the reported allegation by a senior forensic doctor that he was pressurised to manipulate the report of the autopsy of Sunanda Pushkar, wife of former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor.

"After I became the Health Minister, Dr Sudhir Gupta of AIIMS had written to our department regarding his promotion.

But after TV channels yesterday said he has made a specific allegation, I have written to the AIIMS Director seeking a detailed information in this regard," Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said.

The allegation by Dr Gupta, who heads the Forensic Science department of AIIMS, has added a new twist to the mystery surrounding the death of 52-year-old Sunanda.

Sunanda was found dead in a five-star hotel in South Delhi on the night of January 17, a day after her twitter spat with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar over an alleged affair with Tharoor.

Gupta refused to comment on his reported allegation, saying he has already stated the facts before the "competent" authorities.

"I don't want to comment on this issue. It is a legal matter, a serious issue, I cannot share with the media. I am a government servant. Whatever I wanted to say, I have said at a competent place," he said.

Gupta, who was heading the panel that conducted Sunanda's post-morterm, has reportedly alleged he was pressurised to show that her death was natural which he resisted.

The autopsy report had mentioned more than a dozen injury marks on Sunanda's both hands and an abrasion on her cheek which suggests a "use of blunt force", besides a "deep teeth bite" on the edge of her left palm. Viscera samples were preserved after the autopsy at AIIMS and were sent to CFSL for further tests.

The CFSL report hinted at drug poisoning but its findings were not conclusive enough to file an FIR in the case, according to police.

The search and seizure memorandum of the police, which is a part of the report, mentioned finding of mix of two drugs — Alprazolam and Excedrin. Excedrin is a combination of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine while Alprazolam is an anxiolytic.

The probe into the case was handed over to the Crime Branch on January 23. However, the case was transferred back to the South District police two days later on January 25.

Inquest proceedings under Section 174 CrPC were initiated in the Sunanda case according to which a sub-divisional magistrate inquires into the death of a woman if she dies within seven years of her marriage.

In a report to the police, the SDM, who had recorded the statements of Sunanda's brother, son, Tharoor and his staff, had said that no family member suspected any foul play in the death.

When asked about the issue, Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi said he was not aware of the allegations made by Dr Gupta.

"I am not aware of the allegations made by the doctor. I would look into the matter when it comes to me," he said.

Asked whether the Delhi Police, which is investigating the case will question Dr Gupta, Bassi said that they will decide the case on merit. — PTIBack





















FIFA World Cup
Belgium overcome American resistance to reach quarters

SALVADOR (Brazil): Extra time goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku sent Belgium into the World Cup quarterfinals for first time in 28 years with a 2-1 win over the United States on Tuesday.

American keeper Tim Howard had made a string of fine saves to keep Marc Wilmots' men at bay during the 90 minutes in Salvador.

However, he was finally beaten by De Bruyne's angled drive after good work from substitute Lukaku and De Bruyne then returned the favour to allow Lukaku to slam past his Everton teammate Howard.

The States got back in the game two minutes into the second-half of extra time when substitute Julian Green volleyed home and only a fine save from Thibaut Courtois prevented Clint Dempsey from taking the game to penalties moments later.

But Belgium held on to set up a rematch of their 1986 semi-final defeat to Argentina in Brasilia on Saturday.

Lille's 19-year-old striker Divock Origi had been brought into the side at Lukaku's expense after impressing as a substitute in all three of Belgium's Group H wins and he was denied within the opening minute by Howard's outstretched leg after racing onto Kevin de Bruyne's through ball.

Belgium's pace on the counter-attack was a constant threat throughout the match and they should have gone in front when Jan Vertonghen fed De Bruyne, but having cut inside to open up the goal he slotted wide at the near post.

Jurgen Klinsmann's men were then dealt a blow as one of their standout performers in the group stages, Fabian Johnson, limped off with a hamstring injury to be replaced by DeAndre Yedlin.

However, Yedlin nearly made an instant impact as he burst forward on the right and pulled the ball back for the unmarked Graham Zusi who shanked his shot horribly off target.

Belgium started strongly again in the second-half with the ever dangerous Vertonghen producing another fine cross from the left that both De Bruyne and Origi failed to turn home.

Origi was desperately unlucky moments later as his header from Toby Alderweireld's cross came back off the crossbar.

Vertonghen then saw a low effort saved by Howard and volleyed over before Axel Witsel fired a shot inches wide as the wave of Belgian attacks continued.

Origi was then presented with another great chance after a fine run by substitute Kevin Mirallas, but again his low effort was beaten away Howard.

The Everton keeper's best stop was to come though as he again used his legs to prevent club teammate Mirallas from slotting home 14 minutes from time.

Howard continued his one man resistance by parrying another low effort from Eden Hazard and then turning over a pildedriver from Origi.

Unbelievably the States then passed up a huge chance to win the game in stoppage time when Chris Wondolowski blazed over from Jermain Jones' knockdown.

Lukaku was introduced for Origi at the beginning of extra-time and made an immediate impact as he teed up De Bruyne to finally slot past the outstretched leg of Howard.

The 35-year-old continued to keep his side in the game with three more fine stops, but was eventually beaten for a second time when Lukaku thumped home De Bruyne's through ball in stoppage time at the end of the first-half of extra time.

America were given a lifeline two minutes into the second period, though, as Green turned home Michael Bradley's chipped pass.

And they twice came desperately close to taking the game to penalties as Jones fired inches wide before Courtois smothered from Dempsey to book Belgium's place in the last eight.Back

















When other teams tire, we switch into higher gear: Lukaku

SALVADOR: Romelu Lukaku had a point to prove at the World Cup.

After Belgium missed countless chances during the 90 minutes of regulation time in the second-round match against the United States on Tuesday, the powerful striker came off the bench and soon set up the opening goal for Kevin De Bruyne.

As the U.S. pressed for an equalizer, De Bruyne swiftly returned the favor to Lukaku, who made it 2-0.

Despite scoring key goals in World Cup qualifying, Lukaku had a disappointing start in the group matches and was dropped from the starting lineup.

“The media tried to take Romelu down after the first round, but I was convinced that he would still be able to make the difference at this World Cup,” Belgian coach Marc Wilmots said after his team secured a spot in the quarterfinals.

Wilmots was the one who went looking for an alternative to Lukaku.

He brought in the 19-year-old Divock Origi, who scored the winner against Russia and provided the shot which allowed Jan Vertonghen to tap in the winner against South Korea.

Origi started against the United States, but missed several scoring chances before he was replaced by Lukaku.

“I realized I should not put too much pressure on myself and just do everything needed to make the team win,” Lukaku said. “And it makes me so happy that this is the way it went today.”

“When the other teams tire, we switch into a higher gear,” he added. “It is looking good for the future.”

Lukaku, 21, has had to deal with disappoint before and it hardened him for his World Cup experience.

He was a teenage standout at Anderlecht with his speed and bulk and was quickly spotted by foreign scouts.

At 18, he joined the team of his boyhood dreams, Chelsea, but things quickly turned sour in London. He failed to get much playing time and was quickly sent on to West Bromwich Albion.

At first, he proved he could rally from disappointment and thrived in the industrial midlands, scoring 17 goals.

He briefly returned to Chelsea early last season, long enough to miss the decisive penalty in the UEFA Super Cup against Bayern Munich, now run by coach Jose Mourinho’s nemesis Pep Guardiola.

But soon Lukaku was on his way for another loan spell, this time at Everton, where again he rebounded to start scoring freely. — APBack
















Argentina find guardian 'Angel'; Messi assists
to a 1-0 win over Switzerland 

SAO PAULO (Brazil): Angel Di Maria scored deep into extra time to give Argentina a 1-0 win over Switzerland and seal the South Americans a place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup on Tuesday.

After a tense 0-0 draw at 90 minutes and a scoreless first period of extra time, Lionel Messi broke quickly and released Di Maria, who swept the ball home before wheeling away in delight.

Blerim Dzemaili almost saved the Swiss when his header hit the post but Argentina held on and now face a quarter-final with either Belgium or the United States, who play later on Tuesday.

"It wasn't me, the heroes are 23 players and the technical staff. We gave our lives, our souls," said Di Maria. "We always tried to play, we just made one mistake in the first half that allowed a one-on-one with (keeper Sergio) 'Chiquito' Romero."

"I think the victory is more than deserved."

Switzerland assistant coach Michel Pont added: "Football is brutal, brutal, brutal. Unfortunately, we didn't quite have enough strength at the end to get through extra time."

"That's the way it is in football, one small mistake. We had a chance to get a goal before that... it's totally brutal."

Argentina had leaned heavily on Messi throughout the group stage, the number 10 scoring four of their six goals, and the forward was at the heart of their best work in the first half, prompting and prodding in front of the massed Swiss defence.

Switzerland, who were looking to return to the quarter-finals for the first time since hosting the tournament in 1954, went closest to scoring in a tight first half when impish playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri released Josip Drmic through on goal.

The tall striker shaped to shoot but wasted the opportunity with an ill-advised chip and Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero gathered comfortably.

With the score tied at 0-0 at halftime, the game then opened up in the second period as Argentina began to grab the momentum, and their blue and white clad fans brought the Corinthians arena to life, chanting and bouncing in unison.

The warning signs were flashing for Switzerland when Gonzalo Higuain went close with a header before Messi drove into the box and forced Diego Benaglio into a great save.

However, despite camping out in the Swiss half for long sections of the second half Argentina could not make the breakthrough and the 90 minutes ended scoreless.

Argentina looked the stronger side in extra time when Swiss legs began to tire and, just when it looked like Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson would call for a penalty shootout, Di Maria curled the ball past Benaglio to seal the late triumph. — Reuters




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