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The United States will share up to 60 million doses of its AstraZeneca vaccine with other countries as they become available, the White House has announced.

The doses will be able to be exported in the coming months after a federal safety review.

The US has a stockpile of the vaccine even though its regulators have not yet authorized it for public use.

Critics have accused the government of hoarding the vaccine, while other countries are in desperate need.

Last month President Joe Biden pledged to share about 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with Mexico and Canada – both of which have approved the vaccine.

The crisis in India has also piled pressure on the Biden administration to share US health resources.

On April 26, the White House said it expected that about 10 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine could be released when the FDA finishes its review in the coming weeks.

It said that another 50 million doses were in various stages of production.

At a news briefing, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said FDA officials would carry out quality checks on doses before they were exported.

She added: “Our team will share more details about our planning and who will be receiving offers from here, but we’re in the planning process at this point in time.”

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The US has already announced that it will provide raw materials for Indian vaccine manufacturers as the country battles a devastating surge in cases.

In a “warm and positive” phone call with Indian PM Narendra Modi on April 26, President Biden promised more emergency assistance “including oxygen-related supplies, vaccine materials and therapeutics”, a White House statement said.

Washington is also looking at supplying oxygen, Covid tests, personal protective equipment (PPE) and the antiviral drug remdesivir to India’s health service.

The FDA has so far authorized three vaccines against Covid- 19: Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen). Experts say it looks likely that these will provide all the country’s needs and the AstraZeneca jab may not be needed.

According to the latest figures, more than 53% of adults in the US have so far received at least one dose of vaccine.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Russia’s Sputnik V is the third coronavirus vaccine approved for use in India amid a deadly second wave of infections.

The Russian vaccine has been deemed to be safe, and works in a way similar to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine which is being made in India as Covishield.

Sputnik V gives around 92% protection against Covid-19, late stage trial results published in The Lancet reveal.

India has so far given more than 100 million doses of two approved vaccines – Covishield and Covaxin.

Sputnik V’s approval came on a day when India overtook Brazil to become the country with the second-highest number of cases globally.

With the total case tally of more than 13.5 million cases, India is now only behind the US which has reported more than 31 million cases. With 13.4 million cases, Brazil is now at number three.

The Indian government aims to vaccinate 250 million “priority people” by the end of July. But experts say that the pace of vaccination has been slow and unless the drive is scaled up, the target could be missed.

Sputnik V, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, initially generated some controversy after being rolled out before the final trial data had been released.

But scientists say its benefits have now been demonstrated.

The vaccine uses a cold-type virus, engineered to be harmless, as a carrier to deliver a small fragment of the coronavirus to the body.

Safely exposing the body to a part of the virus’s genetic code in this way allows it to recognize the threat and learn to fight it off, without the risk of becoming ill.

After being vaccinated, the body starts to produce antibodies especially tailored to the coronavirus.

This means that the immune system is primed to fight coronavirus when it encounters it for real.

Sputnik V can be stored at temperatures of between 2 and 8C degrees (a standard fridge is roughly 3-5C degrees) making it easier to transport and store.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is marketing the vaccine, has signed deals to produce more than 750 million doses of Sputnik V in India with six domestic vaccine makers, according to reports.

Unlike other similar vaccines, the Sputnik shot uses two slightly different versions of the vaccine for the first and the second dose – given 21 days apart.

They both target the coronavirus’s distinctive “spike”, but use different vectors – the neutralized virus that carries the spike to the body.

The idea is that using two different formulas boosts the immune system even more than using the same version twice – and may give longer-lasting protection.

As well as proving effective, it was also safe with no serious reactions linked to the vaccine during the trial.

Some side-effects to a vaccine are expected, but these are usually mild, including a sore arm, tiredness and a bit of a temperature. There were no deaths or serious illnesses in the vaccinated group linked to the jab.

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As well as Russia, Sputnik V is being used in a number of other places, including Argentina, Palestinian territories, Venezuela, Hungary, UAE and Iran.

It will be weeks before Sputnik will be rolled out in India and until then, the country has to make do with Covaxin and Covishield.

Covaxin is an inactivated vaccine which means that it is made up of killed coronaviruses, making it safe to be injected into the body.

Bharat Biotech, a 24-year-old vaccine maker with a portfolio of 16 vaccines and exports to 123 countries, used a sample of the coronavirus, isolated by India’s National Institute of Virology.

When administered, immune cells can still recognize the dead virus, prompting the immune system to make antibodies against the pandemic virus.

The two doses are given four weeks apart. The vaccine can be stored at 2C to 8C.

The vaccine has an efficacy rate of 81%, preliminary data from its phase 3 trial shows.

India’s regulators gave the vaccine an emergency approval in January while the third phase of the trial was still underway, sparking skepticism and questions from experts.

Bharat Biotech says it has a stockpile of 20 million doses of Covaxin, and is aiming to make 700 million doses out of its four facilities in two cities by the end of the year.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is being manufactured locally by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. It says it is producing more than 60 million doses a month.

The vaccine is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (known as an adenovirus) from chimpanzees. It has been modified to look more like coronavirus – although it can’t cause illness.

When the vaccine is injected into a patient, it prompts the immune system to start making antibodies and primes it to attack any coronavirus infection.

The shot is administered in two doses given between four and 12 weeks apart. It can be safely stored at temperatures of 2C to 8C and can easily be delivered in existing health care settings such as doctors’ surgeries.

The vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, which is currently being administered in several countries, must be stored at -70C and can only be moved a limited number of times – a particular challenge in India, where summer temperatures can reach 50C.

International clinical trials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine showed that when people were given a half dose and then a full dose, effectiveness hit 90%.

But there was not enough clear data to approve the half-dose, full-dose idea.

However, unpublished data suggests that leaving a longer gap between the first and second doses increases the overall effectiveness of the jab – in a sub-group given the vaccine this way it was found to be 70% effective after the first dose.


Thousands of Indians are flocking to pay their respects to Jayaram Jayalalitha, one of the country’s most influential and colorful politicians.

J Jayalalitha, the chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu suffered a heart attack on December 4 and died at 23:30 local time on December 5 at the age of 68, Chennai’s Apollo Hospital says.

The politician’s body, draped in the Indian flag, is on display at a large public hall.

India’s PM Narendra Modi was among those who visited to pay tribute.

Extra police have been deployed in the state amid fears of unrest.Jayaram Jayalalitha to return as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister

The extreme devotion J Jayalalitha inspires among her supporters, many of whom refer to her as “Amma” (mother) have led to concerns that they could resort to self-harm or violence.

Earlier reports of J Jayalalitha’s death, which were swiftly withdrawn, prompted scuffles between police and her supporters outside the private hospital.

However, lines have been orderly so far, despite the visible emotion among the crowds who are queuing up to catch a final glimpse of Jayalalitha. Many are openly weeping while some are beating their heads and chests.

A seven-day period of mourning has been declared in Tamil Nadu. The central government in Delhi has announced that December 6 will be a national holiday as a mark of respect and that J Jayalalitha will be given a funeral with full state honors.

She had been receiving treatment for months.

J Jayalalitha is revered by many but was seen by her critics as having created a cult of personality over the years.

Tributes began to pour in for J Jayalalitha as soon as her death was confirmed by Apollo, which had been treating her since September 22.

Her AIADMK party – which had earlier lowered the flag to half-mast before hoisting it up once more – also confirmed she had died, tweeting “our beloved leader, the Iron lady of India… Amma, is no more”.

“RIP Jayalalitha” has been trending on Twitter, while Facebook is also filled with elegies for a woman who is widely respected for managing to hold her own in the male-dominated world of Tamil Nadu politics.

A senior AIADMK politician, O Panneerselvam, was sworn in as chief of Tamil Nadu within hours of J Jayalalitha’s death, the party’s Twitter account confirmed.

At least 100 people are reported dead following the derailment of a train in India’s northern Uttar Pradesh state, with more than 150 injured, police say.

Fourteen carriages of the Indore-Patna Express derailed just after 03:00 local time on November 20 near the city of Kanpur.

Rescuers are still trying to reach the injured and recover the dead from the twisted carriages.

The cause of the crash near the village of Pukhrayan is not yet known.

Most of the victims were located in two carriages near the engine which overturned and were badly damaged.

Image source Times of India

Image source Times of India

By afternoon, rescue workers were still using heavy machinery to try to reach survivors.

Senior railway official Pratap Rai told Reuters: “We are using every tactic to save lives but it’s very difficult to cut the metal carriages.”

One passenger whose carriage did not derail told the Associated Press the train was going at normal speed. It stopped suddenly, said Satish Kumar, then restarted shortly before the crash.

Many anxious relatives gathered at the station in Indore, where the train began its journey, holding pictures of loved ones, the Times of India reported.

Indian PM Narendra Modi tweeted: “Anguished beyond words on the loss of lives due to the derailing of the Patna-Indore express. My thoughts are with the bereaved families.

“Prayers with those injured in the tragic train accident.”

Narendra Modi said he had spoken to Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu, who was “personally monitoring the situation closely”.

On his own Twitter account, Suresh Prabhu warned that “strictest possible action will be taken against those who could be responsible for accident”.

Suresh Prabhu said an investigation into the crash would begin immediately and compensation would be paid to “unfortunate passengers who died and to injured”.


Indian doctors in the northern city of Amritsar say they have surgically removed 40 knives from a man’s stomach.

The 42-year-old man had swallowed the knives over a period of three months.

Photo Wikipedia

Photo Wikipedia

He was hospitalized last week after suffering severe pain in his stomach.

Doctors found out that he had been eating knives after conducting diagnostic tests.

The man is recovering in the hospital and is out of danger.

The surgery involved a team of five doctors and it took them five hours to finish the operation to remove the knives.

Doctors are now trying to find out why he was swallowing knives but say it seems like he was suffering from some kind of physiological disorder.

Even his family didn’t know about his habit of swallowing knives, doctors say.


The Indian ministry of culture says it is still wants to reclaim the Koh-i-noor diamond from Britain, despite telling the country’s Supreme Court otherwise.

The Koh-i-noor diamond came into British hands in the 19th Century and is part of the Crown Jewels on show at the Tower of London.

Ownership of the priceless stone is an emotional issue for many Indians, who believe it was stolen by the British.

On April 18, India’s solicitor-general had told the court that it was “neither stolen nor forcibly taken”.

Ranjit Kumar, who was representing India’s government in the hearing, had said the 105-carat diamond had been “gifted” to the East India company by the former rulers of Punjab in 1849.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

However, a statement by India’s ministry of culture on April 19 said the government “further reiterates its resolve to make all possible efforts to bring back the Koh-i-noor diamond in an amicable manner”.

Ranjit Kumar’s comments, which elicited surprise in India, did not represent the views of the government, the statement said. The official submission to the court has yet to be made, it added.

The case is being heard by the Supreme Court in Delhi after an Indian NGO filed a petition asking the court to direct the Indian government to bring back the diamond.

The court is still considering the issue, and said it did not want to dismiss the petition as it could “stand in the way” of future attempts to bring back items that once belonged to India.

Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, said in 2009 that it should be returned as “atonement for the colonial past”.

However, Britain has consistently refused to part with the gem – most recently, PM David Cameron said in 2013 he did not think returning it was “sensible”.

The Indian media, however, is divided over the issue with some papers urging the government to do whatever is necessary to secure the return of the diamond, while others question whether it should be such a high priority.

The Koh-i-noor diamond was last worn by the late Queen Mother and was displayed on her crown when her coffin lay in state after her death in 2002.

A flyover under construction collapsed in Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) killing at least 10 people and leaving several others injured, Indian officials say.

Many people are feared trapped under the concrete and steel bridge, which fell on a busy road.

Fist images from the site showed residents using their bare hands to help the rescue effort.

Construction projects in India have often suffered from safety issues with frequent collapses.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

According to experts, there is a lack of inspections and substandard materials are used.

The flyover has been under construction since 2009 and has missed several deadlines for completion, Reuters reported.

Emergency teams have been sent to the area near Girish Park, but witnesses say there is little sign of co-ordinated rescue efforts.

The collapsed structure appears to have hit cars, trucks and nearby shops.

The accident took place in one of Kolkata’s most densely populated neighborhoods, with narrow lanes, and shops and houses built close together.

The proximity of the buildings may limit the access for heavy lifting equipment to the area.


Two soldiers and four gunmen have been killed in an overnight attack on Indian air force base Pathankot near Pakistani border, officials say.

Operations at the base are continuing, with some reports saying gunmen are holed up in the base.

The incident came days after the Indian and Pakistani leaders Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif met in Lahore to launch a surprise peace initiative.

The whole of India’s Punjab state has been placed on alert.

The Pathankot base is on the main highway leading to Indian-administered Kashmir.

The gunmen wore Indian military uniforms and drove a hijacked car when they launched the attack at 03:30 local time.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

They entered living quarters at the base, but were contained there and so were unable to cause any damage to military hardware, said air force spokeswoman Rochelle D’Silva.

On January 2, fresh gunfire was heard and a helicopter seen firing at an area inside the base.

It is not yet clear who the attackers were but suspicion is already falling on Kashmiri militant groups based in Pakistan.

Some Indian security officials suggested the Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed was to blame.

India says the group is backed by Pakistan, but Islamabad denies this.

Pathankot air force base is about 270 miles north of the Indian capital, Delhi and is on the road linking Indian-administered Kashmir with the rest of the country.

Indian-administered Kashmir has seen a long-running insurgency against rule from Delhi, and Kashmir has been a flashpoint in relations between Pakistan and India for nearly 70 years since independence.


Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, the leaders of India’s opposition Congress party, have appeared in court in connection with corruption allegations.

The mother and son were both granted bail minutes after arriving, and the case was adjourned until February 20, the AFP reported.

Sonia and Rahul Gandhi deny misusing party funds to buy a company that published the now-closed National Herald newspaper.

The case has been brought by a member of the ruling BJP.

Subramanian Swamy says the Gandhis took over the company to try to acquire more than $300 million in property assets.

The Delhi high court on December 7 rejected the Gandhis’ plea to be exempted from making personal appearance in the district court at Patiala House on December 19.Sonia and Rahul Gandhi in court

Sonia Gandhi, the party president, welcomed being granted bail and said she had no doubt that truth would prevail.

Rahul Gandhi, who is the party vice-president, accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and PM Narendra Modi of making false allegations against him and his mother and said they would not be defeated.

The National Herald ceased publication in 2008. The party had previously said it wanted to revive the paper, established in 1938 by India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

However, Subramanian Swamy has alleged that Sonia and Rahul Gandhi used party funds illegally to acquire the newspaper’s properties.

The case has also disrupted the current session of parliament, with lawmakers accusing the ruling BJP of a “political vendetta”.

The BJP has rejected the allegations.

“How is parliament involved if some people have been summoned by a court? You [Gandhis] want to silence the judiciary. You want to intimidate the judiciary. You are telling the judiciary, how dare you summon us,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu said.

Congress party lost the general election in 2014, winning only 44 of the 543 seats after governing India for 10 years. The BJP won a landslide victory.


Nearly 5,000 students in the southern Indian city of Bangalore have set a new Guinness world record for “the largest gathering of people dressed as Mohandas Gandhi”.

The 4,605 children between the ages of 6 and 14 dressed in traditional white dhotis came dressed in spectacles, fake moustaches and skull caps and carried bamboo sticks.Mahatma Gandhi dress Guinness World Record

They assembled for four hours at Bangalore’s Kanteerva Stadium for Guinness adjudicators to count and verify the numbers.

The record had been previously held by a school in the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma (Great Soul), was India’s greatest leader who fought for the country’s independence from British rule and for the rights of the poor.

A Japanese tourist has died in what appears to be a tragic accident while taking a selfie at the Taj Mahal’s Royal Gate in India.

Police said the 66-year-old tourist lost consciousness immediately after the fall and succumbed to head injuries in hospital.

The Taj Mahal, a 17th Century mausoleum built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan after his wife’s death, attracts about 12,000 visitors a day.Japanese tourist dies at Taj Mahal

According to local reports, the Japanese tourist had been with three other people when the incident occurred.

One of his colleagues fractured his leg, after both fell from the staircase of the monument in the afternoon, police said.

The Japanese embassy has been informed about the death, and an investigation is being conducted into the incident.

There have been several deaths linked to selfies in recent years.

Earlier this year, the Russian government reportedly launched a campaign to make young people think twice before snapping selfies in risky situations.

In May, a 21-year-old woman survived accidentally shooting herself in the head while posing for a selfie with a gun in Moscow. There have also been several cases of children being electrocuted while taking selfies on top of railway carriages in Russia.

In August, a man in Spain was gored to death by a bull while taking a selfie at the annual bull running festival in the town of Villaseca de la Sagra.


Yakub Memon, the man convicted of financing the deadly 1993 Mumbai bombings, has been executed in India.

Yakub Memon was hanged at a prison in Nagpur in the western state of Maharashtra.

The bombings killed 257 people in Mumbai, and were allegedly to avenge the killing of Muslims in riots a few months earlier.

India rarely carries out death sentences – only three other people have been executed since 2004.

There was tight security around the Nagpur jail on July 30, and in parts of the state capital, Mumbai.

The March 1993 blasts targeted a dozen sites, including the Bombay Stock Exchange, the offices of national carrier Air India and a luxury hotel.

Yakub Memon was hanged hours after the Supreme Court dismissed a final plea to stay the sentence.Yakub Memon death sentence

His lawyers had argued that executions can only be carried out after seven days have passed following the rejection of a mercy petition.

The court opened its doors in the dead of the night to hear his last appeal for mercy, but rejected it just before dawn.

The court ruled that because his first mercy petition had been rejected last year, the execution met the required rules, said media reports.

Yakub Memon, a chartered accountant, was sentenced to death in 2007 by a special court in Mumbai after being convicted of providing financial and logistical support for the bombings.

He was the only one of 11 people convicted for the bombings to have his death sentence upheld on appeal. The sentences on the others were commuted to life imprisonment.

Yakub Memon’s body would not be buried inside the prison compound, and would be handed over to his family once a post-mortem had been carried out.

His case has divided opinion in India, with many calling for the suspension of the death sentence.

Yakub Memon’s brother, Tiger, is widely seen as having been the mastermind behind the attacks, alongside gangland boss Dawood Ibrahim. Both remain in hiding.

Several influential journalists, politicians and members of civil society had sent a letter to the president asking for him to “spare him from the noose of the death for a crime that was master-minded by someone else to communally divide India”.


PM Narendra Modi has led thousands in a mass yoga program in Delhi on the first ever International Yoga Day held in India on June 21.

Narendra Modi did stretches, bends and breathing exercises with 35,000 school children, bureaucrats and soldiers.

Security was tight in the Indian capital with thousands of police and paramilitary deployed for Sunday morning’s event.

Millions of others are expected to do yoga at similar events planned in hundreds of Indian cities and towns.

Narendra Modi, a yoga enthusiast who says he practices the ancient Indian art daily, lobbied the United Nations to declare June 21 International Yoga Day.

Thousands of colorful mats were laid out on Rajpath – King’s Avenue – where the main event was held.Narendra Modi International Yoga Day 2015

Officials had earlier said PM Narendra Modi will attend the event and address the gathering, but not do yoga.

However, the prime minister surprised participants by joining in with the exercises.

Authorities said 35,000 people attended the 35-minute yoga session on Rajpath, aimed at setting a new Guinness World Record for the largest yoga class at a single venue.

Guinness officials said they would announce the results in a few hours.

Yoga was also being performed on the Siachen glacier and the high seas, the defense ministry said.

The day is also being celebrated around the world and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj says “tens of millions” will do yoga on Sunday, June 21.

Sushma Swaraj herself will be in New York where she will attend the celebrations with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In Times Square, 30,000 people are expected to do yoga.

However, the day, being billed as one to promote “harmony and peace”, has hit a controversial note with some Muslim organizations saying yoga is essentially a Hindu religious practice and is against Islam.

Many others say Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government has an agenda in promoting the ancient Indian discipline.

However, the authorities deny the charge – they say participation in the yoga day is not mandatory and reports that Muslims are opposed to yoga are exaggerated.


Nestle India has decided to temporarily stop distribution of Maggi noodles across India.

The move comes amid concerns about safety as several states have been testing Nestle’s bestselling instant noodle brand for higher-than-allowed levels of lead.

Maggi noodles have also been testing for the chemical monosodium glutamate, widely known as MSG.

Nestle said in a statement on June 5 that Maggi noodles were completely safe.

However, “recent developments and unfounded concerns about the product have led to an environment of confusion for the consumer,” Nestle said.

Nestle said the confusion had developed to such an extent “that we have decided to withdraw the product off the shelves, despite the product being safe”, but promised the noodles would return to the market as soon as the current problem was dealt with.Maggi noodles India pullout

Maggi noodles had already been banned for 15 days in India’s capital Delhi and states including Gujarat. However, other states had deemed them safe.

The earlier ban of Maggi noodles in Delhi received prominent coverage in the media and on social media platforms.

Maggi noodles ban sparked humor as well as public health concerns on social media platforms like Twitter.

Several hashtags like #Maggi, #Maggiban, #Maggiinasoup, #MaggiKeSideEffects have trended in the past few days.

Some took to Twitter to give their “humorous take” on the ban.

Maggi has an 80% share of India’s instant noodle market and has been branded the third staple alongside rice and lentils.

The instant noodles arrived in India in 1983 and can be found in corner shops across the country.

Nestle’s relationship with India dates back to 1912, when it launched in the country as The Nestle Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company (Export).

Solar Impulse 2 is in the air again, crossing India and hoping to make it to Myanmar on March 19.

The solar-powered plane attempting to fly around the world, with Andre Borschberg at the controls, took off from Ahmedabad at 07:18 local time.

Solar Impulse 2 is heading to Varanasi in India’s Uttar Pradesh region, where it will make a short “pit stop” before pushing on over the Bay of Bengal.

The leg to Mandalay in Myanmar (Burma) will be flown by Bertrand Piccard.

The two pilots are taking it in turns to guide Solar Impulse 2 on its circumnavigation of the globe.

So far, they have covered about 2,000km in two segments since beginning the adventure in Abu Dhabi.

It will likely be another five months before they return to the United Arab Emirates, having crossed both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in the process.

Today’s take-off was delayed by almost two hours because of customs issues.Solar Impulse 2 heads to India

The roughly 1,100km from Ahmedabad to Varanasi is the third leg of the mission and should take Borschberg about 15 hours to complete.

The team will then lay over for a few hours before taking off for Mandalay.

This fourth leg is longer – about 1,500km – and has some tricky conditions to negotiate.

“In Varanasi, we can expect to have foggy mornings, which could be a problem for an early take-off,” explained Christophe Beesau, who works on flight strategy.

“And for leg four, of course, we will cross the Bay of Bengal. This may be challenging because we have often at altitude an important wind, and, on the other hand, due to air traffic control restrictions, we have to keep the track.

“We know that we will have to adjust carefully the flight profile to avoid this problem.”

About two hours before landing in Mandalay, Solar Impulse 2 will have to fly over a big range of mountains up to 3,000m in height.

It will aim to get this done before sunset so that it can then gently descend towards the Myanmar city in the dark.

The Solar Impulse project has already set plenty of world records, including the greatest distance covered in a single solar-powered flight.

This was the 1,468km attained on leg two from Muscat in Oman to Ahmedabad.

The wingspan of the vehicle is 72m, which exceeds that of a 747 jumbo jet airliner. It does, however, only weigh 2.3 tonnes.

Its light weight will be critical to its success over the coming months.

The Pacific and Atlantic crossings will require Solar Impulse 2 to fly non-stop for several days at a time.

[youtube Unz958DhsFo 650]


An Indian mother gave birth to a baby boy in a train toilet, and the newborn survived after falling on to the tracks.

The mother, identified as Manu, fell unconscious after giving birth on the train in Rajasthan. She has since been reunited with her son.

A guard at a warehouse near the tracks heard the baby crying and alerted the railway officials, who retrieved him.

Most Indian train toilets have a hole opening on to the tracks, and similar incidents have been reported before.Indian baby boy born in train toilet

The latest incident took place on February 15 when Manu was travelling with her mother from Suratgarh to Hanumangarh, railway officials said.

The baby was born at Dabli Rathan area, a few miles from the Hanumangarh station.

The mother was admitted to Hanumangarh town hospital after the train reached its destination.

The baby was initially taken to the local hospital where he was given first aid. He was also later shifted to the town hospital.

Dr. SP Rohilla, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said mother and baby were doing fine.

The baby, who weighs only 4.4lbs, had no serious injuries and all tests were normal, hospital officials said.


In some parts of the world like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Malaysia or Indonesia, celebrating Valentine’s Day with flowers, chocolates or a glass of wine could result in severe punishment.

While Valentine’s Day is celebrated by many Indonesians, officials and Muslim clerics are less happy about the holiday.

In recent years there have been protests from conservative Indonesians, saying Valentine’s Day is un-Islamic.

They argue it promotes casual s** and the drinking of alcohol.


A number of political parties in India have criticized Valentine’s Day, arguing it promotes Western values and is unwelcome in India.

India used to be part of the British Empire until it declared independence on August 15, 1947.

In 2015, the Indian Hindu nationalist party Mahasabha said that they would encourage couples spotted out together on Valentine’s Day to get married, and will actually have a religious leader on standby to perform marriages.

Other groups have said that celebrating romance would encourage teenage pregnancy and instead pushed for Indians to ditch the idea of romance between boys and girls and replace Valentine’s Day with a celebration of the love between parents and children, a “Parent’s Worship Day”.

The idea began on religious leader Asaram Bapu’s website.


The Asian country has the world’s largest Muslim population, but is a secular nation, meaning that the government says it is neutral and neither supports nor disagrees with religion.

However, in the province of Aceh, the only place with Islamic rule, celebrations are banned as is the sale of gifts.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images


While giving chocolates and flowers on Valentine’s Day is increasingly popular in Iran, in the past authorities have sought to crack down on celebrations, calling the day a “decedent Western custom”.

Despite this restaurants in Tehran reported being fully booked last year and many shops could be seen selling teddy bears and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates.

This was in spite of being threatened with prosecution if they sold traditional Valentine’s Day gifts.

According to the Economist, shops simply used lookouts to tell them if inspectors were coming on a Valentine’s Day patrol.


Last year, 80 Muslims were arrested by the Islamic morality police for celebrating Valentine’s Day.

They think Valentine’s Day encourages immoral activities.

Officers raided budget hotels in the central state of Selangor and capital, Kuala Lumpur, detaining unmarried Muslim couples who were sharing rooms.

The anti-Valentine’s Day campaign by the country’s Islamic authorities goes back to a fatwa (religious ruling) issued in 2005.

However, many Malaysians still celebrate the day and other faiths are not affected by the Valentine’s Day boycott in the country.

Additionally not all Malaysian Muslims agreed with the campaign, with some saying Valentine’s Day is harmless.

Muslims make up nearly two-thirds of the 28 million-population.


In 2014, there were clashes at a university in Peshawar over Valentine’s Day.

Liberal students were celebrating with red balloons and cake while another group felt such a show was un-Islamic.

Dozens of students threw rocks in the scuffle, leading to gunshots being fired by both sides and rooms in a student dormitory being set on fire.

Three students were injured and stones were thrown at police.

Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, Valentine’s Day is banned by the kingdom’s religious police.

Women and men sit separately in restaurants and public displays of affection are taboo.

However, some shops continue to sell red roses and other traditional Valentine’s presents.

One shop owner described how Valentine’s Day orders are placed over the telephone to avoid detection and flowers are hidden in the back of the store.

Last August, the decision to sentence five Saudis to a total of 39 years in prison, as well as 4,500 lashes between them, was upheld.

The men had been found dancing with six women they were unrelated to on Valentine’s Day. Alcohol and red roses were also seized.

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According to Indian media, President Barack Obama has cancelled plans to visit the Taj Mahal during his upcoming visit to India.

Barack Obama was scheduled to go to India’s famed monument to love with First Lady Michelle Obama on January 27, at the end of a three-day visit to India.

Hundreds of cleaners had been hired to spruce up the white marbled mausoleum in preparation for their arrival.

The Hindustan Times website cited unnamed Indian officials as saying Barack Obama was cutting his India visit short to fly to Saudi Arabia following the death of King Abdullah.Barack Obama cancels Taj Mahal visit

The Hindu website carried a similar report, quoting a government source as saying: “It’s possible that he might leave India earlier.”

The White House did not comment on the reports.

Barack Obama will hold talks with Indian PM Narendra Modi and become the first serving US president to be guest of honor at the Republic Day parade during his second visit to India since taking office.

Analysts say the invitation to attend India’s Republic Day celebrations on January 26 emphasizes a new closeness between the world’s two largest democracies.

The cancellation of the Taj Mahal visit would deprive India’s top tourist attraction of publicity at a time when the government is trying to boost visitor numbers.

Twitter users rushed to thank Barack Obama for orchestrating a clean-up of the mausoleum in the town of Agra, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved empress who died during childbirth in 1631.

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Samsung’s first Tizen powered smartphones have gone on sale.

The Z1 handsets are available in India for 5,700 rupees ($92) and, according to Samsung, offer faster boot times and longer-lasting battery life than many budget-priced rivals.

Samsung had previously planned to sell Tizen phones in Russia and Japan, but cancelled the launches.

One expert said the Indian move represented a shift away from Android.

Samsung is currently the world’s bestselling manufacturer of handsets running Android.

However, the company was a notable holdout when Google announced its Android One program for India in September – an effort by the search giant to help manufacturers release low-cost “high quality” phones in the country by setting minimum standards and sourcing several of the hardware components for them.Samsung Z1 Tizen powered smartphone goes on sale in India

Samsung’s Z1 handset features:

  • A 4in (10.2cm) providing 480p resolution
  • A 3.1 megapixel rear camera and a 0.3 megapixel front one
  • Four gigabytes of internal memory that can be further expanded via the addition of a microSD card
  • Support for two Sim cards at once – a popular feature in the country as it helps users obtain the best rates by switching provider when crossing states

Samsung says it can provide up to eight hours of talktime or seven hours of non-stop video playback between charges.

To aid its appeal, Samsung is also providing free access to Bollywood songs and movies for three months via tie-ups with local services Hungama, nexGTv and Box TV.

It has also struck a deal to provide 500 megabytes of included 3G data a month for half a year if the devices are used on Reliance or Aircel’s local networks. By contrast Google’s Android One scheme offers 200MB of Google Play downloads for six months if used on Bharti Airtel’s network.

Samsung already uses Tizen operating system to power several of its smartwatches – including its top-end curved Gear S – and cameras. It also announced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this month that all its new smart TVs would run off the platform.

The open-source operating system is based on Linux and uses the web language HTML5 as the focus for app development rather than native code, meaning software writers should it easy to work with.

Huawei, Fujitsu, Intel and LG among other tech giants that have signed up to a consortium dedicated to supporting the software’s development. But to date, Samsung has taken the lead in attempting to bring it to consumer devices.

Samsung cancelled the release of a Tizen-based smartphone in Russia last August saying it wanted more time to “enhance” the ecosystem – a decision interpreted by some to mean that it needed more apps.

The network NTT Docomo had earlier pulled plans to launch a Tizen-powered Samsung phone in Japan in March because it felt its local market could not sustain another operating system, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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Indian police are treating the death of Sunanda Pushkar, wife of former minister Shashi Tharoor, as murder, nearly a year after her body was found in a hotel room.

Sunanda Pushkar’s death was “not natural and was due to poisoning,” Delhi police chief BS Bassi said.

Initially, doctors said she might have died from an overdose of drugs.

Shashi Tharoor, an Indian lawmaker who married the former Dubai-based businesswoman in 2010, said he was stunned by the news.

“Needless to say I am anxious to see this case is investigated thoroughly and continue to assure the police of my full co-operation,” he said in a statement.

“Although we never thought of any foul play in the death of my wife, we all want that a comprehensive investigation be conducted and that the unvarnished truth should come out.”

BS Bassi said the police had received a “final report” from the doctors saying that Sunanda Pushkar had been poisoned.

“The poison could have been administered orally or it could have been injected. To proceed further in this matter, we have decided to register a case of murder,” he said.Sunanda Pushkar and her husband, Shashi Tharoor, in July 2012

Medical samples would be sent to foreign laboratories to find out the “quantity of poison” found in Sunanda Pushkar’s body.

It is, however, still not clear what poison is believed to have been given to Sunanda Pushkar, and how she could have taken it.

There is also no clarity over the motive of the alleged murder.

Asked why it had taken the police nearly a year to treat the death as murder, BS Bassi said the doctors examining the evidence had sought “additional information” on more than one occasion, and police had provided that.

Sunanda Pushkar was found dead in a five-star hotel in Delhi on January 17, 2014.

Shashi Tharoor and Sunanda Pushkar had became embroiled in controversy over a series of Twitter messages before the woman’s death that appeared to reveal he was having an affair with a Pakistani journalist.

Sunanda Pushkar and Shashi Tharoor later insisted they were happily married and blamed “unauthorized tweets” for causing confusion.

Shashi Tharoor has repeatedly called for a swift investigation into the case.

In his statement on January 6, Shashi Tharoor added: “I join all members of Sunanda’s family in asking for full information about the basis on which the police have come to this conclusion.

“We have not been provided with copies of the post-mortem report and other reports of the inquiry… We repeat our request for a copy of these reports to be provided to us immediately.”

A former UN diplomat, Shashi Tharoor was forced to resign from his first ministerial position in 2010 amid controversy over his involvement in bidding for a cricket team.

Sunanda Pushkar had allegedly received a free stake in the Indian Premier League franchise Shashi Tharoor was bidding for.

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Indian police is continuing an operation to arrest guru Rampal, after nearly 200 people were injured in clashes at his ashram in Haryana state on November 18.

The self-styled guru is wanted in connection with a 2006 murder case and for contempt of court.

Thousands of his supporters are protecting the Barwala town compound.

Police says armed supporters are holding people hostage and using women and children as human shields.

A week-long stand-off at the Satlok Ashram – some 105 miles north-east of Delhi – escalated on November 18 as police moved in to arrest Rampal.

Police fired tear gas and used bulldozers to try to break into the sprawling complex, while ashram members threw stones and other missiles and opened fire.

More than 100 policemen and 85 devotees of the guru sustained injuries, said police.

The unrest continued on Wednesday morning as several thousand policemen stood outside the ashram.

They have also cut off power and water supplies to the complex.

Reports say that some 60 devotees managed to slip out of the Satlok Ashram, but several hundred are reportedly still held up inside. Police say many are being held against their will.

Mani Ram, a devotee who managed to escape, told the Indian Express newspaper that ashram authorities had prevented them from leaving for two days, insisting police would kill them if they went outside.

A spokesperson for the ashram, Raj Kumar, was quoted as saying in the Indian Express newspaper that “innocent people have lost their lives” in the fighting and that “eight bodies were lying inside the ashram, of which four are women”.

However, Haryana police chief N Vashisth denied there had been any deaths, saying that “we have ensured that no innocent person is harmed, and so far no such casualty has come to our notice”.

Rampal is accused of involvement in a murder case dating from 2006 in which a man died in a clash at another of his ashrams.

He denies these allegations and is on bail, but authorities ordered his arrest on contempt charges after he failed to appear in court several times.

It remains unclear whether he is still inside the complex.

Police says he is, but Raj Kumar said he had already “been shifted out and is undergoing treatment in a private hospital outside the state”.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court had set a final deadline for Rampal to appear in court on November 17 in the contempt case.

Rampal ignored the summons and his lawyers said he was too ill to make the 155-mile journey to the court in Chandigarh, which serves as the capital of both states.

The judges criticized the government, saying they “lacked the will” to arrest the guru and said he must be presented at court by November 21.

Rampal began his life as a junior engineer in the irrigation department in Haryana after picking up a diploma in engineering, according to his website.

Born in a farming family, Rampal was apparently of a “religious nature since his childhood”. He began giving talks to groups of people in 1994. Encouraged by a growing number of devotees, he set up the Satlok Ashram in 1999. The year after that Rampal resigned from his government job.

The guru now has tens of thousands of devotees in several Indian states who have “given up alcohol, marijuana, smoking, meat, egg, and social evils like idol worship… fasting etc, baseless reverences” after becoming his followers, his website says.

Rampal claims that “thousands of people have got their chronic illnesses cured” and “ruined families have become prosperous again” after coming in contact with him.

His website details a number of cases against the guru. They relate to allegedly fraudulent purchase of land, conflicts with some devotees and an alleged case of murder involving the death of a man at another ashram in Rohtak. They dismiss all of these cases as false and fabricated.

Rampal is a tech-savvy guru – his website contains live streaming discourses and offers downloads of a number of his religious books. The website also contains video entitled God has descended to Haryana.

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An Indian man organized a Hindu wedding ceremony for his monkeys.

More than 200 villagers in northern India have attended the elaborate wedding ceremony for the two monkeys.

The owner, Udesh Mahto, said the male was “like an adopted son” to him.

The ceremony took place on Monday evening in Bettiah district in Bihar state, with the “bride” dressed in an orange frock and the “groom” wearing a yellow T-shirt.

Monkeys are revered idols in Hindu mythology.

Ramu and his bride, a female monkey called Ramdulari

Ramu and his bride, a female monkey called Ramdulari

The 13-year-old male monkey named Ramu and his bride, a female monkey called Ramdulari, were taken in a procession on top of a flower-bedecked SUV, accompanied by music and dancing. Hundreds of villagers lined the route to greet the “couple”.

Udesh Mahto, a daily wage worker who has three sons, said Ramu was “like my eldest son”.

He brought Ramu from Nepal about seven years ago, and later bought Ramdulari from a village fair.

A local Hindu priest Sunil Shastri “solemnized” the wedding.

Wedding cards were printed and a band was hired to play at the wedding. Guests were served a feast.

Many people from neighboring villages turned up to see the procession and take pictures which they posted on social networking sites.

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Iba Halal Care, India’s first halal cosmetics brand, was launched last month in Ahmedabad by Ecotrail Personal Care, a company headed by two Jain sisters.

Announcing the launch of Iba Halal Care, Mauli Teli, CEO of the company, said: “We are creating an entirely new category of cosmetic products – halal cosmetic products. Halal [meaning lawful] cosmetic products are entirely hygienic, ethically manufactured products and meant for use by everyone.”

Iba Halal Cosmetics range of around 60 products includes face creams, body lotions, hair oil, shampoo, conditioners, lipsticks, kajal, soap and perfumes.

Muslim women are religiously conscience towards main stream cosmetic products due to fear of alcohol and pig residues used during the preparation

Muslim women are religiously conscience towards main stream cosmetic products due to fear of alcohol and pig residues used during the preparation

“These cosmetics products are free of alcohol and are popular in countries like Saudi Arabia, Canada, the UK, Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia. They are known as mineral makeup products in European markets,” Mauli Teli said.

India has the second largest population of Muslims in the world and is a growing consumer society.

More than 19.6 million Muslim women population between 20 to 40 years could be a huge market to introduce cosmetics products. Indian Muslim women are religiously conscience towards main stream cosmetic products due to fear of alcohol and pig residues used during the preparation. Use of cosmetics and beauty enhance products in front of husband and other relatives are permissible according to Islamic laws if not exposed publicly to control the adultery and filthy in society.

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Cyclone Hudhud has hit the eastern Indian coast, causing extensive damage and prompting the evacuation of some 300,000 people.

The cyclone, classed “very severe” and bringing winds of up to 120mph, is expected to make landfall soon near the city of Visakhapatnam.

Hundreds of trees have been uprooted and power lines brought down in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa states.

Two people have so far been reported killed in Andhra Pradesh.

It is feared a storm surge of up to two meters could inundate low-lying areas and hundreds of relief centers have been opened in the two states. Disaster relief teams have also been sent.

The authorities say the next five to six hours will be crucial.

The strength of the cyclone has been revised upwards since October 10, and the Indian Navy is on standby to assist.

The two deaths occurred in separate incidents in Andhra Pradesh’s Srikakulam district, the state’s disaster management department said.

Hundreds of thousands of people are evacuated as Cyclone Hudhud pounds the eastern Indian coast

Hundreds of thousands of people are evacuated as Cyclone Hudhud pounds the eastern Indian coast

One was killed by a falling wall and the other by a tree.

The streets of Visakhapatnam, one of the largest cities in south-east India and home to a major naval base, remain largely deserted.

K Hymavathi, the special commissioner for disaster management for Andhra Pradesh state, said: “Hundreds of trees have been uprooted and power lines knocked down.”

He added: “The situation is very severe. The national highway in the region has been shut.”

In its latest report, the India Meteorological Department said sea conditions would become “phenomenal” off the north Andhra Pradesh and south Orissa coasts.

It also warned that a storm surge of up to two metres would “inundate low-lying areas of Visakhapatnam, Vijayanagaram and Srikakulam”.

Pradeep Kumar Mohapatra, a special relief commissioner, said that authorities were ready.

“The administration is fully geared,” he said.

“The collectors [senior government officials] have been given total clearance to take up any evacuation wherever necessary for vulnerable areas which are likely to be inundated.”

A super-cyclone in 1999 killed more than 10,000 people in Orissa.

India’s eastern coast and Bangladesh are routinely hit by cyclonic storms between April and November which cause deaths and widespread damage to property.

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Mozilla has launched low-cost smartphone Intex Cloud FX that will retail for only 1,999 rupees ($33) in India.

The Intex Cloud FX is only for sale on India’s online shopping site, Snapdeal.

The phone runs on Mozilla’s Firefox operating system and as such it will be the first low-cost device running that system available in Asia.

India’s emerging market is regarded as the world’s fastest growing for low-cost smartphones.

Various emerging markets across Asia are seen by mobile device manufacturers as the key remaining areas for massive growth.

The Intex Cloud FX is only for sale on India's online shopping site, Snapdeal

The Intex Cloud FX is only for sale on India’s online shopping site, Snapdeal

“With the launch of Intex Cloud FX, we aim to enable the masses to get smartphone experience at the cost of a feature phone,” Mozilla said in a statement.

The device is expected to “redefine the entry-level smartphone and create strong momentum in Asia”, said Mozilla’s president, Li Gong.

Analysts expect these types of low-cost smartphones to give users in emerging markets an affordable opportunity to upgrade from so-called feature phones – or phones that do not easily access the internet.

However, they are not designed to rival devices such as Apple’s iPhone or Samsung’s Galaxy phones.

Popular applications such as Facebook and Twitter will be available on the new phone.

India’s Intex Technologies manufactured the new Mozilla smartphone which has a memory of up to 4GB, Bluetooth and wi-fi, as well as dual-SIM capabilities.

The handset also supports several languages including Hindi and Tamil.

Mozilla is expected to make more announcements about new smartphones in India this week.

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