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Goa village bans kissing in public

March26/ 2015

Panaji, March 26: A Goan village has banned kissing in public, saying it causes irritation to residents.

Reena Fernandes, deputy sarpanch of Salvador do Mundo, a picturesque village located a short distance from Panaji, told IANS on Thursday that the decision was taken by the village panchayat based on requests from locals.

“There were a lot of unwanted things happening there (Salvador do Mundo) and causing irritation to people,” Fernandes said, adding the decision was taken earlier this month.

The ban on kissing, drinking alcohol, playing loud music in public in the village came under the spotlight after photos of a banner printed and hoisted in public places in Salvador do Mundo went viral on social media.

The banner reads: “Commit no nuisance, visitors keep our village clean, drinking alcohol, smoking, loud music, kissing in public, nuisances in public are strictly prohibited here.”

Photos of the banner has triggered mixed reactions on Facebook.

“Why no kissing? Why is the state cracking down against an expression of love? You can piss in public but you can’t kiss in public? How logical is that?” asked Gerard D’Souza, a media professional.

Patricia Nazareth, from Salvador do Mundo, favoured the ban. She said: “People sometimes do get a bit too carried away kissing in public.”

Some weeks ago, several ministers of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government sought a ban on revealing clothing in Goa, especially bikinis on beaches, claiming such garments violated Indian culture.

Asian Games snub motivated my comeback: Mandeep

March26/ 2015

New Delhi, March 26: After being recalled to the Indian hockey team, young striker Mandeep Singh on Thursday said he was motivated to return to the national team after being dropped from the Asian Games squad.

Newly-appointed chief coach Paul van Ass on Wednesday included Mandeep in the 18-member squad for the 24th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup to be held in Ipoh, Malaysia from April 5-12.

“Previously, I was part of the World Cup squad in June last year and since then I missed out on the other important tournaments during the same year,” Mandeep said in a release.

“I was unlucky that I was not part of the gold medal-winning team during the Asian Games but it motivated me to work even harder and make a strong comeback,” he added.

“Missing out on making it into the core team for the Asian Games, did not deter me to go back to the drawing board and understand where I was lacking.”

Mandeep got back his place in the Australian tour after the Asian Games. But the 20-year-old was again sidelined for the Champions Trophy held in December 2014.

However, he proved his mettle at the Hero Hockey India League 2015. Mandeep got noticed because of his speed and aggressive play and successfully complemented his teammates Trent Mitton and Nicolas Wilson to help Ranchi Rays emerge champions.

His fearless attacks and ability to penetrate the semi-circle on the ground got many to sit up and keep an eye on his performance during the League.

“I worked hard on my loopholes and I was aware that the HIL 2015 will be the platform for me to prove myself. Luckily I found my form and I gave my best during that period. I am happy that my hard work has paid off by making it back in the team,” the lanky forward claimed.

The Sardar Singh-led Indian team will take on reigning world champions Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Malaysia and Canada for the title.

It will be the first assignment for Dutchman van Ass, who takes over the reins of the eight-time Olympic champions from Australian Terry Walsh.

Prenatal air pollution exposure may damage children’s brains: Study

March26/ 2015

Washington, March 26: Exposure to air pollution in the womb may be bad for children’s brains and may contribute to slower processing speeds and behavioural problems, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms, a small imaging study of 40 kids has said.

The study, published in the US journal JAMA Psychiatry on Wednesday, focused on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), the toxic air pollutants caused by vehicle emissions, coal burning and smoking, Xinhua news agency reported.

PAHs can cross the placenta and affect an unborn child’s brain and animal experiments showed prenatal exposure can impair behaviour and learning, researchers from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) and Columbia University reported.

To examine the effects of PAH exposure on brain structure, they conducted an imaging study that included 40 minority urban school-aged children born to Latin or African American women in New York City.

The children were followed from before birth until seven to nine years of age and their mothers completed prenatal PAH monitoring and prenatal questionnaires.

“Our findings suggest that PAH are contributors to ADHD and other behavioural problems due to the pollutants’ disruptive effects on early brain development,” lead author Bradley Peterson, director of the Institute for the Developing Mind at the CHLA, said in a statement.

The study found a powerful relationship between increased prenatal PAH exposure and reductions in nearly the entire white matter surface of the brain’s left hemisphere.

Reduced white matter surface on the left side of the brain was associated with slower processing of information during intelligence testing and more severe behavioural problems, including ADHD and aggression, they said.

Peterson noted that the study’s findings were limited to a minority population with a high level of poverty and low educational attainment, and may therefore not generalise to other populations, although impoverished urban minority populations are disproportionately exposed to air pollutants.

While this initial study size was also limited, the researchers are currently undertaking a much larger study in order to confirm and extend their findings.

“Our findings raise important concerns about the effects of air pollutants on brain development in children, and the consequences of those brain effects on cognition and behaviour,” said Peterson. “If confirmed, our findings have important public health implications, given the ubiquity of PAH in air pollutants in the general population.”

Previously, the Columbia researchers had reported that exposure to airborne PAH during gestation in this cohort was associated with multiple neuro-developmental disturbances, including development delay by age three, reduced verbal IQ at age five and symptoms of anxiety and depression at age seven.

ED attaches Rs.130 crore assets in Jagan case

March26/ 2015

Hyderabad, March 26: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday attached properties worth Rs.130 crore in connection with the money laundering probe against YSR Congress president Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy and businessman I. Syam Prasad Reddy.

The ED issued orders attaching the properties of five group companies of Syam Prasad Reddy, managing director of Indu Projects Ltd.

These includes 8,648 acres of land of Lepakshi Knowledge Hub in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh, lands of Asara Realty Ventures in Maharashtra and of Cyberabad Hitech Integrated Township Development Corp Ltd in Telangana.

According to ED, the money laundering case was booked against the two on the basis of a chargesheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

It accused Syam Prasad Reddy of paying bribes to Jaganmohan Reddy in the guise of investing in the latter’s group companies as quid pro quo for undue favours received from the government of then undivided Andhra Pradesh.

Jaganmohan Reddy is the son of late former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.

Investigation under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) revealed that Syam Prasad Reddy laundered the proceeds through his group companies, said a statement from the ED’s Hyderabad zonal office.

The ED identified proceeds of the crime in the form of movable and immovable properties.

It is one of the several PMLA cases the ED is probing against Jaganmohan Reddy, businessmen and senior officials.

The agency has already attached assets worth over Rs.1,000 crore in these cases.

Thousands of avian visitors bid adieu to Kashmir Valley

March26/ 2015

Srinagar, March 26: After six months of winter sojourn in the Kashmir Valley, thousands of migratory birds are bidding adieu to return to their summer homes in far off lands.

The increasing cackle, the preparatory flapping of wings and vigorous feeding are some of the signs for bird watchers to know that the spectacle of sound and colour is soon going to end.

“Before beginning their journey of thousands of miles, the birds show significant changes like human beings but with different priorities,” said Imtiyaz Ahmad Lone, the Jammu and Kashmir wildlife warden.

The birds will head to Eastern Europe, the Philippines, China and Russian Siberia.

“To ensure cohesion and better communication during the long flight that lasts on an average a fortnight, the cackle increases, the birds peck at each other to remove damaged feathers, feed more vigorously than usual to build energy for the journey and even pin water chestnuts on each other’s wings to feed during inhospitable stopovers,” Lone told IANS.

This year, according to Lone, more than 800,000 migratory birds of various species spent the winter in water bodies and bird reserves in the Kashmir Valley.

For the first time, Lone’s department conducted the Asian water birds’ census in the valley along with the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). “It was a voluntary effort which will now be a regular feature.”

The migratory birds have been coming to Kashmir from time immemorial to ward off the extreme winter of their homes where temperatures freeze water bodies rock solid, making feeding and drinking impossible.

The protected bird reserves of the valley include Hokarsar in Srinagar district, Shallabugh in Ganderbal and Mirgund and Hygam in the district of Baramulla.

Wildlife guards protect the reserve’s defined boundaries, prevent poaching, watch bird behaviour and look out for spread of diseases in the habitat.

In addition to the reserves, thousands of avian visitors inhabit the Wullar Lake, Dal Lake and other big and small lakes in the valley.

It is at these unprotected water bodies that poachers move in organised bands during the night to shoot these birds.

This season, anti-poaching squads were moved to the Dal Lake, Wullar Lake, the Narkara water body and some other places, with appreciable results.

Bandipora District Magistrate Shah Faesal ordered people to deposit all licensed weapons in local police stations to give anti-poaching efforts a boost, Lone said.

The migratory birds which fly to Kashmir include greylag geese, mallards, shovellers, wigeons, teals, pochards, Brahmany Ducks and coots.

There are also resident water birds like normal and purple moorhens, debchicks, strokes, kingfishers and herons.

“Then there are cormorants and Sandhills cranes which come to Kashmir to spend some time before moving to the Indian plains,” Lone told IANS.

“Interestingly, we have noticed during the last over a decade that many mallards, finding the environment highly hospitable, prefer to stay back to breed in the protected reserves of Hokarsar, Shallabugh and Mirgund.

“This a significant behaviour change which needs a thorough study,” Lone added.

Officials noticed no case of bird flu this season.

The mystery of how the migratory birds navigate their long journey with stunning precision has baffled humans.

Flying in highly regimented flocks with the leader in the front, each species flies separately, proving the adage that birds of the same feather flock together.

“It is always the eldest and the ablest bird that is fully familiar with the route that heads the flight,” explained Noor Muhammad Wani, 62, of Bandipora.

“Some of the most advanced navigational skills of humans look like child’s play when compared to the accuracy with which these birds navigate.

“If the leader dies during the flight or is taken sick, the second in command takes over so that the journey is not interrupted,” said Wani, a keen bird watcher whose village overlooks Wullar Lake.

Unfortunately, the traditional homes of the migratory birds in Kashmir are shrinking. But as of now, that is not the birds’ main concern.

10 Taliban militants surrender in Afghanistan

March26/ 2015

Kabul, March 26: Ten Taliban militants have surrendered in Afghanistan’s Baghlan province, an official said on Thursday.

“A 10-member group of Taliban militants renounced violence and joined the peace and reconciliation process in Jilga district late Wednesday night,” district Governor Mohammad Sarwar told Xinhua news agency.

The group also handed over 10 guns and ammunition to security officials, the governor added.

The Afghan government set up a 70-member High Peace Council and launched the peace and reconciliation process in 2010 to encourage militants to disarm and give up militancy against the government.

Is your e-mail password really strong enough?

March26/ 2015

Toronto, March 26: Are you sure the password you created for your gmail or Facebook account strong enough?

Well, if you went by the green bar that indicated your password to be strong enough, then it may not be as fool-proof as you thought, warns new research slated to be published in the journal ACM Transactions on Information and System Security.

The new research from the Concordia University exposes the weakness of password strength meters, and shows consumers should remain sceptical when the bar turns green in order to create strong passwords.

“We found the outcomes to be highly inconsistent. What was strong on one site would be weak on another,” said lead researcher professor Mohammad Mannan.

“These weaknesses and inconsistencies may confuse users in choosing a stronger password, and thus may weaken the purpose of these meters,” he added.

Researchers sent millions of not-so-good passwords through meters used by several high-traffic web service providers, including Google, Yahoo!, Dropbox, Twitter and Skype.

Britain’s strongest man seeks Bollywood role

March26/ 2015

London, March 26: Eddie Hall, Britain’s strongest man and an ardent fan of Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, is seeking a role in Indian films.

Eddie, the four-time winner of strongest man title in Britain, is polishing his acting skills to test waters in Bollywood as a baddy. He was named as World’s Strongest Man in Australia after he set a new deadlift world record of 462 kg in the presence of none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. The ‘Terminator’ star is organising another event for Eddie in the US.

“I like two things from India – curries and Hindi movies,” Eddie told Asian Lite magazine. “When I was a kid I was amazed by the way Bachchan and other stars smashing the baddies on big screen. I thought these stars are martial arts experts like Bruce Lee.”

Eddie, fondly called ‘Gentle Giant’ for his soft mannerism outside the arena, is eagerly waiting for an opportunity to visit India and meet his icon.

The Stoke-on-Trent-born wrestler is also keen to get a role in superstar Aamir Khan’s forthcoming movie “Dangal”, which is rumoured to be based on a wrestler.

“I like to be a winner,” Eddie added. “But I am ready to be defeated by the stars of Bollywood, if it provides entertainment to billions.”

Eddie, 6’3” tall, is also willing to challenge Indian pahalwans (strongmen) in Britain or on their home turf. Mo Chaudhry, one of the richest British-Asian businessman in England, is offering a cash reward for the winner.

Mo, owner of Waterworld in Stoke-on-Trent, Britain’s most popular aqua park, has turned his sights to making Eddie a global celebrity after agreeing to a deal to become his agent. The owner of the M Club gym chain will handle all commercial activities so the Newcastle-under-Lyme 27-year-old can concentrate on becoming the World’s Strongest Man, having won the British title four times.

An amateur power-lifter in his youth, Mo is determined to help the 27-stone strongman achieve his goals of breaking into the top three this year – after finishing sixth in his debut competition last year – and winning the title in 2016.

“When I saw Eddie training at M Club it brought back some happy memories,” Mo told Asian Lite.

“My father Iqbal was a strongman in Pakistan when I was young and was a local hero, and I was a weightlifter at university, winning a silver medal in the Student Olympics in 1982 and bronze in 1983. So I can appreciate what Eddie has to go through to prepare for competition and also how the winners are revered around the world.

“Ultimately I’d like to create an Asia’s strongest man competition, as strongman contests in the subcontinent have huge potential, but first I want to help Eddie achieve his ambitions.

“By taking commercial negotiations out of his hands, I can leave him to concentrate on his training.

I am very passionate about promoting unique local talent and helping it to reach its full potential, and this partnership enables me to do that and hopefully put the area on the map.”

Eddie said: “My food bill is large as I need to consume 7,000-10,000 calories a day, and more than 10,000 a day during competitions.

“The agreement with Mo has already helped to generate TV and commercial opportunities. It’s great to have such a driven guy looking after my best interests, as now I can fully concentrate on becoming the World’s Strongest Man.”

Director quits ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ franchise

March26/ 2015

The “Fifty Shades Of Grey” sequel needs a new director, as Sam Taylor-Johnson announced her departure from the franchise late Wednesday night.

“Directing ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’  has been an intense and incredible journey for which I am hugely grateful,” Taylor-Johnson said in a statement to Deadline.com. “I have Universal to thank for that. I forged close and lasting relationships with the cast, producers and crew and most especially, with Dakota [Johnson] and Jamie [Dornan]. While I will not be returning to direct the sequels, I wish nothing but success to whosoever takes on the exciting challenges of films two and three.”

Notably absent by name in Taylor-Johnson’s note is E.L. James. The “Fifty Shades of Grey” author clashed with Taylor-Johnson during production, a battle that was detailed throughout the film’s press tour earlier this year.

“I kept trying to remind myself that they hired me for a reason. Some people said to me, ‘I’m surprised you haven’t quit,'” Taylor-Johnson said to Vanity Fair. “I was like, ‘Why would you think I’d quit?’ I never quit anything. Not without a fight.”

In that same piece, Taylor-Johnson said she and James “battled all the way through.”

“There were tough times and revelatory times,” Taylor-Johnson said. “There were sparring contests. It was definitely not an easy process, but that doesn’t mean to say that it didn’t come out the right way.”

Audiences would likely agree with that assessment: “Fifty Shades of Grey” has grossed more than $558 million at the worldwide box office. But despite the film being a success, Taylor-Johnson’s departure from the franchise seemed inevitable. In an interview with HuffPost Live, Taylor-Johnson said she had not even heard from James about the film.

“I think we will get to the end of this — we’ve been moving at such a pace — [that] hopefully when we get to the end of this, that will happen,” she said of a possible conversation.

According to Variety, “Fifty Shades of Grey” screenwriter Kelly Marcel is also making an exit from the sequel, “Fifty Shades Darker.” Per the trade site, James herself could be brought on to write the screenplay adaptation of her own novel.

Many Iraqis Think They Know Who’s Behind ISIS: Uncle Sam

March26/ 2015

BAGHDAD,MARCH 26: It’s all a ruse, some Iraqis say, nothing more than a carefully thought-out plan to destabilize their bloodied country even more.

Twelve years after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and three years after U.S. forces pulled out, the U.S. role in fighting the Islamic State group here is met with great distrust.

Conspiracy theories abound, with many Iraqis insisting that the United States is actually funding and supporting the Sunni extremist group in order rip apart what’s left of the country and strengthen Iraqi reliance on the West.

“I think ISIS is something that the United States made up,” Aia al-Marsoumy, a 25-year-old dentist in Baghdad, told The WorldPost. “They want their army to be in Iraq. They want Iraq to be helpless without the support of the United States.”

Hundreds of American military advisers are currently training Iraqi security forces to join the fight against ISIS after the country’s military nearly crumbled last summer. When ISIS launched an assault on the northern city of Mosul in June, Iraqi forces ran for their lives, stripping off their uniforms on the side of the road.

The United States is also leading an international coalition striking ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq and this weekend, began reconnaissance flights over ISIS-controlled parts of Tikrit, where Iraqi forces and Iran-backed Shia militias struggle to regain control from ISIS. U.S. airstrikes there may soon follow, indirectly aiding Shia militias accused of grave human rights abuses.

As the United States’ already controversial role in Iraq’s fight against ISIS only grows more complicated, so does distrust of the West. Many Iraqis say they just can’t believe that the United States is truly vested in the fight against ISIS to make Iraq safer.

“A lot of events happened in multiple places supporting the opinion that the U.S. in one way or another supports ISIS — giving them food or arms,” Hanan al-Fatlawi, an outspoken Shia member of parliament, said by phone. She has publicly stated that the United States may be secretly throwing its weight behind the extremist Sunni militants who have violently seized control of large swaths of Iraq and Syria. She points to a blast in the restive Anbar province, where Sunni tribesmen are battling ISIS, that killed dozens of Iraqi troops, saying that it was the Americans who killed them. She’s not alone in her views.

“Many people in Iraq believe me,” she explained. “They believe that ISIS is probably a baby of the USA or a baby of Israel.”

Al-Fatlawi says she’s suspicious of U.S. involvement in the battle to retake Tikrit that stalled 10 days ago. While Iraqi officials cited the need for more well-trained reinforcements to help clear the heavily booby-trapped city, she has a different story: The United States made Iraqi forces halt the offensive to help ISIS, or so that the Americans could swoop in and save the day, claiming victory as their own.

Most of all, Al-Fatlawi says, she just can’t believe that the United States, with all of its weaponry, military intelligence and international sway, would have this much trouble taking out ISIS. It just doesn’t add up, she says.

In late December, the popular Iraqi television show, Afaq, funded by former prime minister turned vice president Nouri al-Maliki, aired a news segment claiming that the United States was arming ISIS militants.

“Video shows international alliance airplanes dropping military aid to the terrorism groups of Daesh and landing in an area controlled by ISIS,” the television presenter said.

“I swear to God, I’ve seen with my eyes, around 11:30 or 12, that American airplanes landed over the al-Basateen area,” claimed a man introduced as an eyewitness. “To carry personnel and drop ammunition. God willing, we are victorious, no matter who supports ISIS.”

Naeem al-Ubody, spokesman for the notorious Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, one of the Iran-supported militias fighting ISIS in Tikrit, doesn’t pause for a moment when asked if he believes that the United States is supporting ISIS.

“We have evidence and documents that have been found by our fighters on the frontlines proving that the United States is dropping aid and ammunition to ISIS,” he said. His group is infamous for its attacks on American and Iraqi soldiers during the Iraq War.

Al-Ubody says his militia’s men in Tikrit have not directly corresponded with the Americans. He does not trust any U.S. involvement in the fight to root out the remaining ISIS militants holed up in Tikrit’s city center, despite the Iraqi government asking for American assistance.

“The Iraqi people believe that the United States isn’t serious about combating ISIS in Iraq,” and instead wants to “use it as a card to collect as much intelligence as it can,” he continued.

The conspiracy theory that the United States is actually supporting, not fighting, ISIS isn’t just common in Iraq, but all across the Middle East.

In August, rumors that former secretary of state Hilary Clinton had devised a plot to form ISIS ran so rampant across the region that the U.S. Embassy in Beirut issued a message on social media slamming the allegations as entirely false.

And in Egypt this February — after ISIS beheaded over a dozen Coptic Christians in Libya — newspaper headlines boldly proclaimed that the United States and Daesh (the widely used derogatory nickname for ISIS) were one and the same.