Iranian nuclear talks deadline extended till 24th Nov

News4u-News Desk- The negotiations between the P5+1 nations and Iran on the latter’s nuclear program failed to reach an agreement before the deadline of 20th July and agreed to extend the talks till 24th November for brokering an agreement.

The announcement was made by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in a joint statement in Vienna.

“We, together with the Political Directors of the E3+3 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States), have worked intensively towards a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPOA), building on the political momentum created by the adoption and smooth implementation by both sides of the Joint Plan of Action agreed on 24 November 2013,” the joint statement said.

The statement came after months of tough negotiations between Iran and the so-called P5+1 comprising of the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany; along with European Union with the latest negotiations spread over nearly two weeks in Vienna.

The P5+1 group and Iran had agreed on a Joint Plan of Action last November to arrive on an agreement by June 20 to address the international communities concerns about Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

“While we have made tangible progress on some of the issues and have worked together on a text for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, there are still significant gaps on some core issues which will require more time and effort,” the statement said.

Diplomats from these countries and European Union will reconvene in coming weeks in different formats with the clear determination to reach agreement on a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action at the earliest possible moment. US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in Vienna early this week to participate in negotiations said the JPOA was a six-month understanding that went into effect on 20th January, and it has been a clear success.

“Since its implementation, Iran has complied with its obligations to neutralize its stockpile of 20 per cent enriched uranium; cap its stockpile of 5 per cent enriched uranium; not install advanced centrifuges; not install or test new components at its Arak reactor; and submit to far more frequent inspections of its facilities,” he said.

“The International Atomic Energy Agency has regularly verified that Iran has lived up to these commitments.” “Meanwhile, we and our P5+1 and EU partners have provided limited sanctions relief, as agreed to in the Joint Plan of Action, while vigorously enforcing the broader sanctions regime that remains in place,” he added.

Kerry said that though they “have made tangible progress in our comprehensive negotiations”, “very real gaps” remain in some areas.

“Today, we have a draft text that covers the main issues, but there are still a number of brackets and blank spaces in that text,” Kerry said.

He said they have been working together to find a long-term solution that would effectively close off the plutonium path to a bomb through the reactor at Arak.

“We have been working on a different purpose for Fordow that would ensure it cannot be used to build a nuclear weapon. We have been working to guarantee Iran’s stockpile of low enriched uranium can’t be turned into higher enriched uranium suitable for a bomb,” he said.

“We have agreed that any long-term, comprehensive solution will involve enhanced monitoring and verification measures that go well beyond the status quo measures that are absolutely critical in creating the confidence we need that Iran will not be able to build a weapon in secret,” Kerry added.

In return, the US and its partners will continue to suspend the sanctions we agreed to under the JPOA and will allow Iran access to USD 2.8 billion dollars of its restricted assets, the four-month prorated amount of the original JPOA commitment, he said.

In a statement, the White House said the goal is to reach a comprehensive deal that addresses the various pathways Iran could take to obtain a nuclear weapon.


Iranian nuclear talks deadline extended till 24th Nov

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Success of our nation lies in mobilising positive forces: Prez

News4u-News Desk- President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday said the country’s success will lie in mobilising all the “positive forces to fight the scourges of poverty deprivation and backwardness.”

India is emerging global power, he said, adding “yet, there are many in this country in the periphery of basic needs. Success of our nation will lie in mobilising all the positive forces to fight the scourges of poverty deprivation and backwardness,” he said.

Mukherjee was delivering the maiden convocation address at the Central University of Kerala on the permanent campus at Periye in Kasargod district today.

Pointing out that the country is faced with a scarcity of good teachers in universities, he said “the challenge before us is two-fold, fill up vacant teaching positions and attract the best talent.”

“If students are the future of this nation, it is the teacher who shapes them,” he said.

Innovative measures like appointing eminent resources on short term basis from research institutions, industry or from abroad have to be adopted to reduce vacancies without dilution of standards, Mukherjee said.

“Quality of faculty has to be transformed by providing them encouragement to attend seminars and workshops, undertake collaborative research and contribute to research publications.”

“Needless to say boosting faculty standards is crucial for upgrading our higher education sector,” he said.

He said the Central University of Kerala has attained an important landmark in its journey to continuous development and “it is indeed a moment of pride, joy, satisfaction and fulfillment for the student and entire university community.”

“Convocation day should be a time for introspection about the purpose of education and its role in the development of the individual and the nation,” Mukherjee said.


President Pranab Mukherjee

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Obama reaches out to global leaders for investigation on MH17

News4u-News Desk- Hours after blaming Russia-backed Ukrainian separatists for the shooting down of a Malaysian Airline plane that killed nearly 300 people, US President Barack Obama has called on his counterparts seeking an impartial international investigation.

In separate phone calls with Obama British Prime Minister David Cameroon; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, agreed on a prompt, full, unimpeded and transparent international investigation, the White House said in a statement on Friday.

“They (Obama and Merkel) reaffirmed that all parties must guarantee international investigators full, secure, and unfettered access to the incident site to conduct a thorough and credible investigation without delay.

“They also noted the necessity of all evidence remaining intact and in Ukraine,” the White House said.

Obama and Merkel discussed the latest information regarding the tragic downing of Malaysian plane, the White House said.

Discussing the plane shoot-down, the White House said, Obama and Cameron agreed that an independent, full, credible, and unimpeded international investigation must begin immediately.

“They also agreed that all countries should do their utmost to ensure the Russian-supported separatists grant secure access to the site of the incident,” the statement said.

“The two leaders discussed the recent steps taken by the United States and the European Union to increase the costs to Russia, given its failure to take the concrete steps needed to de-escalate the situation, and reiterated the need to take further action if Russia continues to fail to take these steps,” it said.

According to the White House, Obama expressed condolences on behalf of the American people to the Australian families who lost loved ones on board the flight.

“The two leaders discussed the importance of a prompt, full, unimpeded and transparent international investigation, and they stressed the need for immediate access by international investigators to the crash site,” it said.

Obama underscored continuing US support and cooperation with Australia as this issue unfolds, and the two leaders committed to remaining in close touch moving forward, the White House said.

Separately, US Vice President Joe Biden called Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko; and the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to discuss the issue.

Biden and Tusk agreed that a prompt international investigation with safe and unimpeded access was the need of the hour.

The leaders also discussed the situation in eastern Ukraine, noting that Russia was supplying weapons and training including anti-aircraft weapons to the separatists, with profoundly de-stabilising consequences.


Obama

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Philippines typhoon toll soars to 77 as new storm threatens

News4u-News Desk- The disaster-weary Philippines braced for a second severe storm in five days on Saturday as the death toll from Typhoon Rammasun surged to 77, officials said.

While Tropical Storm Matmo was not forecast to hit the main island of Luzon, the weather service warned it would still bring heavy rains to the area over the weekend, along with the threat of flash floods or landslides.

“(Matmo) has entered the Philippine area of responsibility. We should get ready now before the heavy rains fall,” President Benigno Aquino’s spokeswoman Abigail Valte said in a warning broadcast over government radio on Saturday.

The threat from Matmo came as the country picked up the pieces from Rammasun, the first major storm of the wet season and the deadliest since Super Typhoon Haiyan killed about 7,300 people in November last year.

Rammasun sliced across the country’s economic heartland including Manila on Tuesday, killing 77 people and wrecking more than 111,000 homes, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said in an updated tally.

The death toll had stood at 54 dead a day earlier, before casualty reports from remote areas came in.

Power was restored to most of Manila, a sprawling metropolis of more than 12 million people, overnight Friday, according to the regional utility Manila Electric Co.

However, it warned that power cuts of up to five hours a day would continue across the capital as it rations limited supply, with a number of generating plants still cut off from the grid.

The government said it would take a few more days to repair thousands of power pylons and downed transmission lines across the industrial provinces south of Manila and the impoverished Bicol agricultural region to the southeast.

Matmo was about 600 kilometres miles off the eastern island of Samar on Saturday morning with maximum gusts of up to 90 kilometres an hour, the state weather service said.

It was forecast to head northeast, skirting Luzon before hitting the sparsely populated Batan island group between Luzon and Taiwan early Tuesday.

The Philippines endures about 20 cyclones each year. Rammasun was meanwhile lashing southern China’s Guangxi region bordering Vietnam Saturday with maximum sustained winds of 155 kilometres an hour, according to the Hong Kong Observatory.

It is forecast to weaken into a tropical storm on Sunday and dissolve into a low-pressure area on Monday as it tracks the China-Vietnam border.


Philippines typhoon toll soars to 77 as new storm threatens

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Pizza (Movie-Review)

News4u-Entertainment Desk-A delivery guy enters a house to hand over a pizza. His routine job turns into a nightmare when he finds himself trapped in it. Supernatural events follow. What’s the catch?

While Hollywood is obsessed with the genre, it’s been a while since Bollywood came up with a ‘believable’ horror/psychological thriller, which actually gives you the creeps. Barring a few classics like RGV’s Bhoot, Kaun and the comparatively recent 13B, the genre stays untapped here. In fact, most Hindi horror films make you laugh with tacky special effects and unintentional humour.

This Hindi adaptation of a Tamil film (by the same name) breaks the jinx. From solid sound effects, usage of graphics in the opening credits and decent 3D to effective non-dramatic performances, the director manages to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. In times when you are bombarded with hackneyed plots, Pizza is refreshingly real.

Right in the beginning, Nikita (Parvathy Omanakuttan) a struggling horror fiction writer, tells her agnostic husband Kunal (Akshay Oberoi) that he will have his ‘moment of fear’ someday. Kunal, who delivers pizza for a living, brushes off the thought knowing he may have to encounter it eventually and he does. He then finds himself mysteriously trapped in an obscure house. Unnatural deaths occur and his hide-and-seek with death begins…

Pizza has all the ingredients in the right amount, required for the making of a taut thriller. It is tense, gripping and atmospheric. No usual ‘shutting and opening of doors on their own’ business happens here. We are spared the cliches. Smartly written and well-executed, it also boasts of a solid climax which is thankfully not an anti-climax.

While the build-up will leave you sweating and gasping for breath, the unfolding of events manages to sustain the tension created. By infusing multiple twists and turns in the story, the director keeps you guessing till the end and that’s the beauty of the film.

Lead actors Akshay Oberoi and former Miss India Parvathy Omanakuttan do complete justice to the spine-chilling story with their compelling presence. We would like to see these actors more often on screen. The supporting cast is equally competent.

The faint-hearted can stay away for the film does get immensely eerie. The rest should watch it for it’s one of the most unpredictable thrillers you will see in a long time. Courtesy toi…


Pizza

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Amit Sahni Ki List (Movie-Review)

News4u-Entertainment Desk-Amit Sahni Ki List is a quirky first-person account of a sophisticated investment banker who’s looking for the ‘perfect’ girl and ‘perfect’ relationship.

Move over chick flicks for guy flicks have arrived and it’s only fair that rom-coms are now being made about boys looking for ‘Miss Right’. With his sharp wit and refreshing nonchalance, Virr Das in the titular role brings out the irony of the situation effortlessly. He makes a list of qualities that his lady love must possess. In a hilarious opening scene, he even dumps a girl for not liking Sachin Tendulkar.

And since ‘opposites attract’, he falls for a free-spirited Mala (Vega Tamotia). But Cupid plays a cruel game when Devika (Anindita Nayar), the girl of Amit’s dreams (read list), comes into his life soon after.

The protagonist’s self-talk and confused state of mind will remind you of Saif Ali Khan in Kal Ho Naa Ho. But Virr Das adds his own unique sensibility to the character, which works. He proves why Bollywood should go beyond the star kids, Khans and Kapoors and give non-filmi talent its due. The highlight of the film is a scene where a ‘break-up consultant’ gives a presentation on why a couple should part ways.

It epitomises how romance has gone out of the window and how cynical we have become in times of smart-phones and social media. However, ASKL has its share of drawbacks, if not deal-breakers. In spite of the smart comic punches, timing and earnest performances, the story lacks the ability to engage you thoroughly.

A few scenes (Amit seeking relationship advice from his best friend) seem unfunny. Songs are pointless. Also, the story moves at a lethargic pace and it gets to you since you can predict the ending. Mismatch or Miss Right? Instead of waiting for that ‘perfect rom-com’, you can give this a try. Courtesy toi…


Amit Sahni Ki List

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Practice doesn’t always make you perfect!

News4u-features Desk- While repetition enhances the factual content of memories, it can reduce the amount of detail stored with those memories and may even lead to false memories, a new study has found.

University of California – Irvine neurobiologists Zachariah Reagh and Michael Yassa have found that with repeated recall, nuanced aspects may fade away. In the study, student participants were asked to look at pictures either once or three times. They were then tested on their memories of those images. (Read: Learning a lot during adolescence good for your brain)

The researchers found that multiple views increased factual recall but actually hindered subjects’ ability to reject similar ‘imposter’ pictures. This suggests that the details of those memories may have been shaken loose by repetition. This discovery supports Reagh’s and Yassa’s Competitive Trace Theory – published last year – which posits that the details of a memory become more subjective the more they’re recalled and can compete with bits of other similar memories. The scientists hypothesise that this may even lead to false memories, akin to a brain version of the telephone game. (Read: Revealed – What happens to your brain when you’re learning)

Yassa, an assistant professor of neurobiology & behaviour, said that these findings do not discredit the practice of repetitive learning.However, he noted, pure repetition alone has limitations. For a more enriching and lasting learning experience through which nuance and detail are readily recalled, other memory techniques should be used to complement repetition. IANS


Practice doesn’t always make you perfect!

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Microsoft says to cut up to 18,000 jobs; halves the size of its Nokia acquisition

News4u-Business Desk-SEATTLE: Microsoft Corp said on Thursday it will cut 18,000 jobs, or 14% of its workforce,this year as it trims its newly-acquired Nokia phone business and tries to transform into a cloud-computing and mobile-friendly software company.

The larger-than-expected cuts are the deepest in the company’s 39-year history and come five months into the tenure of chief executive Satya Nadella, who outlined plans for a “leaner” business in a public memo to employees last week.

“We will simplify the way we work to drive greater accountability, become more agile and move faster,” Nadella wrote to employees in a memo made public early Thursday. “We plan to have fewer layers of management, both top down and sideways, to accelerate the flow of information and decision making.”

The size of the cuts were welcomed by Wall Street, which viewed Microsoft as bloated under previous CEO Steve Ballmer, topping 127,000 in headcount after absorbing Nokia earlier this year.

“This is about double what the Street was expecting,” said Daniel Ives, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets. “Nadella is clearing the decks for the new fiscal year. He is cleaning up part of the mess that Ballmer left.”

Microsoft shares jumped 3% to $45.40 in early trading, reaching their highest since the technology stock boom of 2000.

About 12,500 of the layoffs will come from eliminating overlaps with the Nokia unit, which Microsoft acquired in April for $7.2 billion. Microsoft did not say how many jobs would come from Nokia and how many from existing operations. The acquisition of Nokia’s handset business in April added 25,000 people to Microsoft’s payroll.

The Nokia-related cuts were widely expected. Microsoft said when it struck the deal that it would cut $600 million per year in costs within 18 months of closing the acquisition.

Microsoft did not detail exactly where the remaining jobs would be cut, but said the first wave of layoffs would affect 1,351 jobs in the Seattle area.

The company said it expects to take pre-tax charges of $1.1 billion to $1.6 billion over the next four quarters to account for the costs of the layoffs.

Nadella’s cuts are the biggest at the Redmond, Washington-based company since Ballmer axed 5,800, or about 6% of headcount, in the depths of the recession in early 2009.

The new CEO’s moves are designed to help Microsoft shift from being a primarily software-focused company to one that sells online services, apps and devices it hopes will make people and businesses more productive.

Nadella needs to make Microsoft a stronger competitor to Google and Apple, which have dominated the new era of mobile-centric computing. Marking this change of emphasis, Nadella last week rebranded Microsoft as “the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world.

Microsoft is not alone among the pioneers of the personal computer revolution now slimming down to adapt to the Web-focused world. PC-maker Hewlett-Packard Co is in the midst of a radical three-tofive-year plan that will lop up to 50,000 from its staff of 250,000.

International Business Machines Corp is undergoing a “workforce rebalancing,” which analysts say could mean 13,000 or about 3% of its staff, being laid off or transferred to new owners as units are sold.

Chipmaker Intel Corp and network equipment maker Cisco Systems both said in the past year they were cutting about 5% of their staffs. Reuters


Microsoft

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Lack of preparation, selection issues cast a shadow on gymnasts

News4u-Sports Desk-Four years ago, Ashish Kumar made history by winning India’s first-ever medal in gymnastics at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and followed it up with a bronze at the Asian Games the same year.

As he gets ready for the 2014 CWG in Glasgow, Kumar’s hopes of a repeat rest more on prayers. That’s because Indian gymnasts have participated in only two international events since then – the World Championship in October 2013 and the Commonwealth Invitational Championship in Scotland in April this year.

The Indians did not have a single National camp from 2010 Asian Games till August last year with the gymnasts training in their respective cities on their own.

“I just hope we have a good day at Glasgow. I am not even thinking of an improved performance. With the kind of preparations we have had, even if I manage to retain my two medals, I will be happy,” Kumar said at a send-off function for Indian athletes by the Scottish Development Council.

To make matters worse, the gymnasts have managed to get a foreign coach (James Holt of USA) only in the past few months and a proposed 30-day training stint in France was cancelled by the Sports Authority of India with the government citing lack of funds.

“We had a similar stint in France before the 2010 edition and the difference in performance was visible. I may be doing great at home but how will I improve if I don’t practice with those better than me,” the 24-year old Kumar asks.

The fact that, despite all these shortcomings, the Indians managed to win seven medals in Scotland speaks loads about their commitment. “We do not go anywhere outside, then suddenly we are sent to the World Championships. And then they expect us to win medals. “If we don’t, we will be written off. If we do, like we did in Scotland, we still don’t get a foreign exposure tour despite repeated requests. What are we supposed to do,” Kumar asks, a question neither the federation nor the government has an answer to.

Internal wrangling
The internal wrangling in the Gymnastics Federation of India (GFI) has not helped. The GFI was suspended in 2011 and the gymnasts were left clueless with no government support.

That issue seems to have been finally sorted with the Sports Ministry granting provisional recognition to the Jaspal Singh Kandhari group last week, subject to the GFI amending its constitution in accordance with the National Sports Development Code and holding elections within three months after the Asian Games.

That is not all. Even though the entire Indian team – five members each in men and women artistic gymnastics and three in rhythmic gymnastics – is all set to fly to Glasgow on July 21, six of them have not been cleared by the government and would be sponsored by the federation itself.

“The government cleared all five women artistic participants but only approved Ashish Kumar and Rakesh Patra in the men’s event and none in rhythmic.

“You need minimum three participants to enter in a team event, so it didn’t make any sense. The federation has now decided to send the rest at its own expense,” said GFI assistant secretary SK Sharma.

There is more. The selection of remaining three men – Aditya Singh Rana, Partha Mandal and Siddarth Verma – has also become controversial. Ikraar Hasan, Sanjeev Burman and Abhijit Shinde had better results in the trials last month but were not selected, with GFI not giving any reason.Agencies


Ashish Kumar

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Distribution of medical colleges imbalanced: Harsh Vardhan

News4u-News Desk-Imbalance in the growth of medical colleges and institutions in the country is affecting the delivery of health care to people, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said in the Lok Sabha on Friday.

“There is imbalanced growth of medical colleges and institutions and availability of medical specialists in the country is affecting the delivery of health care to people across the country,” the minister said in a written reply.

He said that the health ministry has reviewed regulations of the Medical Council of India for setting up of medical colleges and amendments have been made to address the geographic and rural-urban imbalance of medical institutions.

In hilly areas and notified tribal areas, North-eastern states and union territories of Andaman and Nicobar islands, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Lakshadweep, medical colleges can be established in two separate pieces of land at a distance of not more than 10 km, he said.

Harsh Vardhan also added that there is a centrally sponsored scheme for establishment of new medical colleges attached with existing district hospitals. IANS


Harsh Vardhan

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