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India says WTO deal not dead, can sign in September if concerns addressed - 8/2/2014

IT India is willing to sign a global trade deal, which it has torpedoed, if other World Trade Organisation members can agree to its parallel demand for concessions on stockpiling food, senior officials in New Delhi said on Friday.

The deadline to sign the WTO pact to ease worldwide customs rules lapsed at midnight in Geneva on Thursday after India demanded that the group also finalise an agreement giving it more freedom to subsidise and stockpile food grains than is allowed by WTO rules.

It was not immediately clear if the latest comments by Indian officials would open a window for the deal to be resurrected.

In Geneva, a trade diplomat from a developing nation said: "The trust that countries have in what India says is going to be significantly diminished."

The officials in New Delhi said the deal could be signed as early as September.

"It is ridiculous to say the Bali deal is dead," said a senior official at India's trade ministry, referring to the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) pact that was agreed on the Indonesian island of Bali last year.

"We are totally committed to the TFA, and only asking for an agreement on food security," said the official, who cannot be identified under briefing rules.

Another trade official said: "We expect that the (WTO) director general will call a meeting in September and we are ready to sign the deal in September itself, provided TFA and food security issues are passed together. We are quite hopeful for the deal."

Damaging India's image?

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was on a visit to India, told Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier on Friday that India's refusal to sign the trade deal had undermined the country's image.

"Failure to sign the Trade Facilitation Agreement sent a confusing signal and undermined the very image Prime Minister Modi is trying to send about India," a U.S. State Department official told reporters after Kerry's meeting with Modi.

Several WTO member states voiced frustration after India's demands led to the collapse of the first major global trade reform pact in two decades.

WTO ministers had already agreed the global reform of customs procedures known as "trade facilitation" in Bali last December, but were unable to overcome last-minute Indian objections and get it into the WTO rule book by a July 31 deadline.

India has insisted that, in exchange for signing the trade facilitation agreement, it must see more progress on the parallel pact.

India's new nationalist government has insisted that a permanent agreement on its subsidised food stockpiling must be in place at the same time as the trade facilitation deal, well ahead of a 2017 target set in Bali last year.

Most diplomats had expected the pact to be rubber-stamped this week, marking a unique success in the WTO's 19-year history which, according to some estimates, would add $1 trillion and 21 million jobs to the world economy.

India calls these estimates highly exaggerated.

The diplomats were shocked when India revealed its veto and the eleventh-hour failure drew strong criticism, as well as rumblings about the future of the organisation and the multilateral system it underpins.

"Australia is deeply disappointed that it has not been possible to meet the deadline. This failure is a great blow to the confidence revived in Bali that the WTO can deliver negotiated outcomes," Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb said. "There are no winners from this outcome - least of all those in developing countries which would see the biggest gains."

Move on without India

Some countries, including the United States, the European Union, Australia, Japan and Norway, have already discussed a plan to exclude India from the facilitation agreement and push ahead regardless, officials involved in the talks said.

An Australian trade official involved in the talks said officials were exhausted with the process and that there was already discussion about major reforms at the WTO and the Doha Round of trade negotiations, which began in 2001.

"Some see it as a final trigger for ending Doha and pressing ahead with plurilateral reform, leave behind those that don't want to come along," he said.

A Japanese official familiar with the situation said that while Tokyo reaffirmed its commitment to maintaining and strengthening the multilateral trade system, it was frustrated that such a small group of countries had stymied the overwhelming consensus.

"The future of the Doha Round including the Bali package is unclear at this stage," he said.

New Zealand Minister of Overseas Trade, Tim Groser, told Reuters there had been "too much drama" surrounding the negotiations and added that any talk of excluding India was "naive" and counterproductive.

"India is the second biggest country by population, a vital part of the world economy and will become even more important. The idea of excluding India is ridiculous.

"I don't want to be too critical of the Indians. We have to try and pull this together and at the end of the day putting India into a box would not be productive," he added.

Still, the failure of the agreement should signal a move away from monolithic single undertaking agreements that have defined the body for decades, Peter Gallagher, an expert on free trade and the WTO at the University of Adelaide, told Reuters.

"I think it's certainly premature to speak about the death of the WTO. I hope we've got to the point where a little bit more realism is going to enter into the negotiating procedures," he said.

"It's 153 countries. We can't all move at the same speed on the same things, and it's time to let those that want to do it, do it."

Green chilli red hot at Rs 120 a kg in retail market - 8/2/2014

Green chilli red hot at Rs 120 a kg in retail market

MUMBAI: After tomato, the humble green chilli has touched a new high of Rs 120 a kg owing to short supply. While retail tomato prices are still high but stable at Rs 90, wholesale prices have inched up to an all-time high of Rs 65.

The chilli-producing Buldhana area of Maharashtra witnessed a dry spell all through June, which severely hit the local market. The city's entire supply now comes from Haveri in Karnataka, where heavy rainfall has lashed the cultivation areas and prevented farmers from harvesting the crop in bulk.

Only 14 trucks were unloaded at the AMPC market in Vashi on Friday whereas the daily demand is for more than 30. This pushed both wholesale and retail prices up.

Market experts said incessant rainfall has damaged the stock, which appears to be another reason for price rise as wet chillies don't last long.

"It is obvious that prices would skyrocket due to the markedly insuffficient supply. Retail prices depend on wastage during sorting as more leaves are coming in the gunny bags nowadays. We get wet chillies these days. The market will fluctuate once supply increases. More supply is expected after August 15-20," said Rajesh Gupta, an exporter.

On Monday, wholesale prices of chilli dropped to Rs 24 from the previous week's Rs 35 as a huge supply was dumped in the wholesale market through 35 truckloads. In just one day, though, supply dwindled, and prices jumped to Rs 42 and then Rs 46 on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. A giant leap in prices was seen on Thursday with Rs 56 when supply decreased to just 14 truckloads.

"Prices of kitchen staple vary from place to place. In Navi Mumbai and Thane, prices are lower than in Mumbai. I always make it a point to purchase vegetables from the Vashi market when I get back home from work. With this, I save a flat 30%. Here, in Bhandup, prices of tomato and chilli are Rs 90 and Rs 120, respectively," said Harihar Gouda, a resident of Kanjurmarg.

Tomato prices in the retail market have also risen slightly in parts of the city following a corresponding increase in wholesale prices to a record high of Rs 65 for premium quality ones.

"APMC received only 12 truckloads of tomatoes, leaving little scope for bargain," said Anant Gaikwad, a wholesaler.

Sonia, Rahul Gandhi should take 2-year break: Former CWC member Brar - 8/2/2014

NDTV news New Delhi: Former Congress Working Committee member Jagmit Singh Brar on Friday created a flutter with his remarks that there was "no harm" if Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi take a two-year break in the wake of Lok Sabha poll debacle.

Brar, a former MP from Punjab also said that all general secretaries of the AICC should have resigned by now after the worst drubbing of Congress and the party mantle be handed over to a new set of leaders.

Brar, who has been sulking for long, is the first Congress leader, who has demanded that the Gandhis should be out of leadership even for a brief period.

The Congress leader at the same time said that whatever he was saying was as a Congressman, who has spent years in the party and he believes that Gandhis can stage a comeback after a brief respite and in the meantime, some leader can head the party.

He, was, however, unsparing in his criticism of the "advisors" of the leadership saying they did not allow party workers to interact with the leadership and they should immediately quit.

"It's a collective responsibility. I am not saying put the blame on Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi only. Everybody has to take responsibility. They are also responsible. What I am saying is that if a person has remained party President for so many years, there is no harm if he or she takes a cool off period for two years.

"I am also saying that Congress President has contributed her best. But if she leaves the post for two years as a cool off period, she will be more acceptable later on," Brar said.

Asked whether he was demanding that Sonia and Rahul should quit the party, he said, "I did not say this. What I said is that there is no harm if they take a break for two years, some kind of a cool off period."

Brar also came out in full support of dissident partyman from Haryana Chaudhary Birender Singh, who was yesterday dropped from the CWC in the wake of his meeting with the BJP President Amit Shah.

"Any action against Birender Singh will be improper as Singh is not only a leader of Haryana but leader of all farmers in North India," he said.

Brar wanted immediate convening of a Chintan Shivir to deliberate the future of the party.

"Few big persons, who have occupied the party for a long time should immediately quit from their posts. Those who hugely benefited from the leadership are today speaking against it.

"Had the same people, put in their papers, the party could have come back to power by the dint of hard work of partymen," Brar said.

Gaza bombardment kills at least 100 - 7/30/2014


More than 100 Palestinians are said to have been killed in the last 24 hours after Israel intensified its bombardment of Gaza.

An Israeli military spokesman said the strikes signalled a "gradual increase in the pressure" on Hamas.

Palestinian officials now say 1,156 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the fighting since 8 July. Some 6,700 have been injured. Israel has lost 53 soldiers and three civilians.

Ian Pannell reports from Gaza.

Tomato prices continue to soar, touch Rs 100 per kg in Delhi NCR - 7/27/2014


New Delhi: The price of tomatoes, the core ingredient in the kitchen, continues to rise and has touched Rs 100 per kg in the Delhi NCR. The sharp increase in the price is due to acute shortage in the supply due to poor monsoons in India.

The wholesale prices of tomato at Azadpur Mandi are hovering at Rs 45-55 per kg.

The continuous price rise in the basic and essential commodity is causing inconvenience to the middle class people as well as the poor. Also, hoarding of tomatoes by the hoarders in order to sell them at a higher rate is fuelling the suffering of people.

Heavy rains in Himachal Pradesh and the scanty rainfall in Southern parts of the country has also affected the supply, hence, pushing up the prices.

Tomato traders attributed the rise in prices to drop in supplies from northern region and high prices at other supplying regions in anticipation of drought. Prices of tomato in many big cities range from Rs 60 per kg to Rs 100 per kg.

New visa fees system to be launched in UAE - 7/25/2014

GN he General Directorates of Residency and Foreigners Affairs at the Ministry of Interior says all technical and services preparations have been made to launch a new visa and fees system to be applied at the beginning of August.

The changes are in line with the Cabinet decision No 22 for 2014, regarding the regulation and development of the naturalization, residency and checkpoints sector at the Ministry of Interior.

Lieutenant General Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, issued the ministerial decree No 377 for 2014, including amendment of the regulations implementing the law of foreigners entry and residence.

The ministry announced that it will publish a new visa and entry fees regimen on its website in the coming few days.

Major General Khalifa Hareb Al Khaili, Acting Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry of the Interior for Naturalization, Residency and Ports Affairs, said that the coming phase shall witness a new range of visas, such as visit visas for business for multiple trips and authorized access to study.

He further explained that the Ministerial Decree No. 377 for the year 2014 coincides with the decision of the cabinet.

The amendments adopted were made to achieve quality services and developing them as well as to meet the requirements of society and its activities in a manner that supports the various aspects of economic activities, tourism as well focusing on law offenders.

Taiwan plane crash: Toll hits 48 as families visit scene - 7/24/2014

bbc Rescue workers survey the wreckage of TransAsia Airways Flight GE222 on the Taiwanese island of Penghu on 24 July 2014

The plane, carrying 58 people, crashed into buildings after a failed attempt to land at Magong airport.

The other 10 people on board were hurt. Two French nationals were among the dead, officials said. No crew members are thought to have survived.

Family members were flying to Penghu on Thursday, Taiwan media said.

Minister of Transportation Yeh Kuang-shih and aviation officials also flew to the island to start an investigation into the disaster, Taiwan's CNA news agency said.

Police and soldiers guard the crash site of the TransAsia Airways plane on the Penghu Islands in the Taiwan Strait on 24 July 2014 An investigation was due to begin on Thursday once aviation officials arrived
Police and soldiers guard the crash site of the TransAasia Airways plane on the Penghu Islands in the Taiwan Strait on 24 July 2014 The plane, carrying 58 people, crashed during a second attempt to land
A vehicle is covered in rubble from the wreckage from a Taiwan domestic airline that crashed while attempting to land in typhoon weather on the island of Penghu This vehicle - photographed in torrential rain - was covered in rubble caused by the crash on Penghu

The ATR-72 TransAsia Airways plane crashed as it flew from Taiwan's southern city of Kaohsiung to Penghu, a popular tourist destination in the Taiwan Strait.

Magong is the main city in Penghu, which consists of a main island and several smaller islands off the west coast of Taiwan.

It was Taiwan's first fatal air crash in more than a decade and came after Typhoon Matmo struck, bringing torrential rain and high wind.

The plane crashed on its second attempt to land at the airport. It lost contact with controllers after telling them it was going around again. The aircraft then came down in Xixi village outside the airport.

"I heard a loud bang," TV station TBS quoted a local resident as saying. "I thought it was thunder, and then I heard another bang and I saw a fireball not far away from my house."

Images late on Wednesday night showed firefighters dousing flames at the scene and and using torches to rescue injured passengers.

Five Penghu residents were injured on the ground but by Thursday morning all had been discharged from hospital, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said.

Official said visibility at the time of the crash was 1,600m (one mile) and within acceptable standards for landing, despite the storm.

Airline representative Phoebe Lu told the Associated Press news agency that TransAsia suspected that typhoon weather had caused the crash but was awaiting the results of the investigation.

But Jean Shen, director of the CAA, said nine flights travelled that route between 14:00 and 19:00 on Wednesday.

"The weather reports showed it was totally OK for landing. We can not say for sure what went wrong at this point," Reuters news agency quoted her as saying.

The transport minister, meanwhile, addressed questions over why the flight was allowed to go ahead.

"Many people were questioning why the plane took off in typhoon weather... according to my understanding the meteorology data showed that it met the aviation safety requirements," Mr Yeh said.

'Very sad day'

TransAsia, a private airline, flies domestic routes in Taiwan and international routes in North and South-East Asia. It has apologised and says it will compensate relatives of those on board.

TransAsia said the pilot had 22 years of experience and the co-pilot had two and a half years. But it says it will have to wait for analysis of flight data from the black box to determine who was flying the plane.

In a statement, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou called it a "very sad day in the history of Taiwan aviation".

This is Taiwan's worst aviation disaster since May 2002, when a China Airlines flight from Taipei to Hong Kong crashed near Penghu, killing all 225 on board.

No Indian maids in Saudi Arabia below the age of 25 and above 50 - 7/22/2014

GN The age of Indian domestic workers looking for employment in Saudi Arabia has been set between 25 and 50 years under a new employment agreement finalised by the two countries, media reported.

Our agreement with India sets the age of the domestic workers coming to the Kingdom [Saudi Arabia] at between 25 and 50 years. If an Indian maid aged 25 agrees to come to Saudi Arabia, the Indian government will not prevent her, media reported citing Ahmad Al Faheed, Saudi labour ministry undersecretary for international affairs as saying on Sunday.

Al Faheed said that the maids would be subjected to a crash course in their respective states in India before being sent to Saudi Arabia.

Such training will be provided by labour agencies in India, he said.

Moreover, Saudi labour agencies are planning to set up offices in India to supervise procedures for the recruitment of maids in Saudi Arabia, including visa, travel, training and other issues, the report said.

Earlier this month, the Saudi-Indian joint committee on labour issues finalised the recruitment contract of domestic workers that consists of several provisions to ensure the authenticity and implementation of the standard employment contract, the recruitment cost, action against recruitment agencies violating laws and a mechanism to prevent cheating by middlemen.

The new recruitment contract is aimed at easing a shortage of domestic workers in the world’s largest oil-exporting country.

The standard employment contract provides minimum wages, working hours, paid holidays and a dispute settlement mechanism.

However, the joint agreement also sets forth specific conditions for incoming domestic workers.

They should be of good conduct, should not have legal or criminal cases. They should pass a medical check-up, and abide by the laws and traditions during the period of work in the kingdom, the report said.

Railways to have bio-toilets in all trains by 2022 - 7/21/2014


Seeking to provide a clean and eco-friendly travel to passengers, railways is planning to eliminate direct discharge type toilets from its entire fleet of passenger coaches and replacing the system with bio-toilets by the end of 2021-22.

Railways is envisaging to eliminate direct discharge toilet system from its entire fleet of passenger coaches by the end of 2012-12, the national transporter has said in a recent report to National Human Rights Commission.

Railways has assured the NHRC that it is making sincere efforts to overcome the problem of falling of human waste from train toilets on rail tracks.

The prevailing open discharge of human waste on tracks is not only corroding the rails, it is becoming a serious environment hazard for the railways.

According to a senior railway ministry official, corrosion costs railways over Rs.350 crore every year.

Continuing its efforts to provide a clean and eco-friendly travel to train passengers, railways has expedited the work of fitting bio-toilets in coaches with over 2,000 of them already installed so far. Railways have about 50,000 coaches.

Railways have installed bio-toilets in 2774 coaches till December 2013. The toilets have been fitted in Sleeper and AC coaches of premier and mail/express trains.

The green toilets not only prevent discharge of excrement on tracks and maintain cleanliness but will also help do away with manual scavenging.

The new-age green toilets have been designed by Railways along with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) keeping in mind the requirements of Indian trains.

The bio-toilets are fitted underneath the lavatories and the human waste discharged into them is acted upon by a particular kind of bacteria that converts human waste into non-corrosive neutral water.

Arrested For First Grader's Rape, Instructor Allegedly Had Child Rape Videos on Laptop - 7/21/2014

NDTV news
Arrested For First Grader's Rape, Instructor Allegedly Had Child Rape Videos on Laptop

 The search for the alleged rapist of a six-year-old first grader in an elite school of Bangalore has led the police to a skating instructor who stashed videos of schoolchildren being raped.

Mustafa or Munna, 30, had been training children at the Vibgyor High School since 2011. The police say they are investigating whether he abused other children in this school and the one where he worked previously. ('Scared To Send Daughter To School': In Bangalore, Protests Over 6-Year-Old's Alleged Rape)

He is married and has a two-year-old daughter.

In his laptop and mobile, the police found explicit pornographic material. "The laptop had videos of schoolchildren being raped downloaded from Internet. This shows his state of mind," said Police Commissioner Raghavendra Auradkar. The police are also looking for a second accused.(Read: After Six-Year-Old's Alleged Rape, Questions on Bangalore School's Role)

After a horrifying wake-up call, schools in Bangalore are making big changes in their security system.

This morning, students at the prestigious Bishop Cotton Girls School were informed about a new pass system for their pick up by guardians or school buses. (Schools Not Responsible For Child's Safety: Bangalore Parents Asked To Sign Bizarre Form)

"We are also tightening our background checks for staff," said Princess Franklyn, the school's principal. She addressed the assembly today to discuss new measures.

The city's police have also decided to have Deputy Commissioners of Police going to every school to talk about background checks.

The six-year-old first grade student was allegedly raped on July 2. (Bangalore School Rape: 'It Happened to My Daughter Too')

The child was reportedly sent out of class for "misbehaving" and asked to stay in an empty room used for storing gym equipment. She was allegedly assaulted there.

Her mother found out about the assault seven days later, when a private nursing home hinted that the child could have been raped. (Read: Amid Anger Over 6-Year-Old's Alleged Rape in School, High Level Meet In Karnataka)

The first arrest in the case follows days of protest and online campaigns by furious parents.

Angry parents in the IT hub have taken to the streets and social media, demanding tough action, not just against the alleged attackers but also against the school for not protecting the child. (Bangalore Takes Anti-Rape Fight Online After Six-Year-Old's Ordeal in School)

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