Tuesday 03rd January 2017 19:04 EST

India has eased the passport norms for single mothers, adopted children and sadhus/sanyasis while reducing the paperwork for several other categories of applicants. Minister of State for external affairs Gen V K Singh said that Aadhaar/e-Aadhaar cards would now be accepted as proof of date of birth and digitally signed marriage certificates as proof of marriage. The birth date proof also includes PAN card, voter ID, school leaving certificate and driving licence. Getting a passport for single parents too has been made easier.

The MEA says, "The online passport application form requires the applicant to provide the name of father or mother or legal guardian. This would enable single parents to apply for their children and to issue passports where name of father or mother is not required to be printed at the request of the applicant." Sadhus and sanyasis will now be able to name of their spiritual guru in place of their biological parents' names. 

Orphaned children or those born out of wedlock can now give a declaration from the head of the orphanage or child care home instead. Documents now would only need self-attestation and on plain paper.

China threatens to move UN over India's Agni-V

China has questioned the test-launch of India's intercontinental ballistic missile Agni-V and threatened to move the United Nations. India is unmoved by Chinese threat. India's external affairs ministry responded with spokesperson Vikas Swarup saying, “India's strategic capabilities are not targeted against any particular country. India abides by all the applicable international obligations and hopes that all others do the same. India's strategic autonomy and growing engagement contributes to strategic stability.” Agni-V can reach most parts of Europe and can cover the northern tip of China. “The UN Security Council has explicit regulations on whether India can develop ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons,” Hua Chunying, spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry said. She did not specify if Beijing would actually invoke these rules, perhaps hoping that Indian diplomats might react.

Madras HC raises doubt over Jaya's death

The Madras High Court raised doubts over late Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa's demise and said that the truth must come out. "Media has raised a lot of doubts, personally I also have doubts in Jayalalithaa's death," said Justice Vaidyalingam, who was hearing a petition demanding an inquiry into the former AIADMK chief's death. Justice Vaidyalingam said, "When Jayalalithaa was admitted in the hospital, it was said that she was on proper diet. At least after her death now, truth should be revealed." The high court said why it could not order the exhumation of her body. The court also issued notice to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and rapped the Centre for having “kept quiet.” The bench also issued notices to three Union ministries, CBI and Apollo Hospitals. The bench was hearing a PIL filed by AIADMK worker P A Joseph.

Apple plans to make iPhones in Bengaluru

Media reports quoting industry sources say that Wistron, a Taiwanese OEM maker for Apple, will be setting up a facility in Peenya, Bengaluru’s industrial hub, to manufacture iPhones. The facility will start production from April 2017. According to sources, while the assembly operations will start, Apple was seriously looking at full manufacturing by the end of the year. While imports of phones attract 12.5 per cent additional duty, through local manufacturing Apple will be able to price its products competitively in the Indian market. Apple sold 2.5 million iPhones in India from October 2015 to September 2016, a rise of more than 50 per cent over the year-ago period. In May last year, Apple announced plans to establish a design and development accelerator in Bengaluru, to make apps for iOS, the iPhone maker’s powerful mobile operating system. These new initiatives from Apple will help provide support to local engineering talent and accelerate growth in India’s iOS developer community.

Japan won’t wage war again, promises Abe

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a visit to Pearl Harbor with US President Barack Obama last week, commemorating the victims of Japan's World War Two attack and promising that his country would never wage war again. “I offer my sincere and everlasting condolences to the souls of those who lost their lives here, as well as to the spirits of all the brave men and women whose lives were taken by a war that commenced in this very place,” Abe said. “We must never repeat the horrors of war again. This is the solemn vow we, the people of Japan, have taken.” Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor with torpedo planes, bombers and fighter planes on the morning of December 7, 1941.

Insurer told to pay for mosquito bite death

India's national consumer commission has ruled that death from malaria - caused by mosquito bite - is an accident, upholding a woman's insurance claim. "It is difficult for us to accept that death due to mosquito bite would not be a death due to an accident," Justice V K Jain said. "It can hardly be disputed that a mosquito bite is something which no one expects and (which) happens all of a sudden. According to information available on the website of the insurance company, an accident may include events like snake bite, frost bite and dog bite. Hence, it would be very difficult to accept the contention that malaria due to mosquito bite is a disease and not an accident," the judge said. The commission was hearing a claim filed by Mousami Bhattacharjee, whose husband Debasish had died of malaria in January 2012. After the death of Debasish, Mousami approached the insurer which rejected her claim and said that her husband died of mosquito bite and not an accident.

After 17 kids, Gujarat couple says no more

A couple from Gujarat's tribal district of Dahod has finally opted for a family planning operation after conceiving 17 children, which includes 16 daughters and a son. The entire village come together to convince Ramsinh, 44, to let his wife, Kanu Sangot, 40, undergo a tubectomy a fortnight ago. "The villagers persuaded us to put a full stop to our family expansion," Ramsinh said. He admitted that his family kept getting bigger in the quest for another son. Vijay, his son, was born in 2013 but Ramsinh wanted another boy. "First, I wanted a son for our old age. After I fathered so many girls, I desperately wanted sons to look after my girls. But that didn't happen," Ramsinh said. Living in a dilapidated mud house, Ramsinh grows maize and wheat on two bighas of land. He and his wife also work as farm labourers to earn extra income to feed their large family.

Mother posts suicide note on Facebook, kills self, toddler

A mother posted a lengthy suicide note on Facebook a day after Christmas before suffocating her one-year-old son and killing herself, a media report said. According to the report, police found 40-year-old Sheri Shermeyer dead in bed from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, and son, John who was apparently suffocated. Before committing suicide and killing her son, Shermeyer wrote on Facebook: “I have been slowly dying inside… I feel that the ONLY thing I have to live for is this little guy asleep in my arms right now, John. He is the only reason why I haven’t blown my head off right now.” The chilling Facebook post further added, “And even now all I can think about is leaving this world. Putting a gun in my mouth and leaving. Which is what is about to happen.” Shermeyer’s post reflected her love for the child and the challenges she has faced as a single parent. Apparently addressing to her husband, Shermeyer wrote in her post, “You will never see your son again. You don’t deserve to have a son, a legacy. Why should you have your name carried on? You are a nasty man.”

Nepal-China military drill worries India

Nepal's proposed first joint military exercise with Beijing early this year has triggered considerable unease in New Delhi. The decision discomfits India as it seeks to put a rocky patch in relations with Nepal during the tenure of K P Oli behind it and look forward to a new chapter with Prime Minister Prachanda at the helm. Nepal's ambassador to India Deep Upadhyay sought to play down the significance of the exercise and said the military engagement would be on a very "small scale" and that there was nothing for India to be worried about. "There's really not much in it," Upadhyay said. "We have done similar exercises with some other countries, too, in the past to be able to deal with the Maoists," Upadhyay said. "Whichever way you look at it, Nepal has a special relationship with India and that's not going to change because of any such exercise." The exercise is meant to help Nepal with counter-terror operations. India, however, has been conducting such anti-terror joint exercises annually with Nepal for a decade. Nepal deciding to go ahead with a similar exercise with China is likely to add another layer of complexity to India's ties with both Nepal and China, not discounting Prachanda's efforts to restore Nepal's ties with India after he took over from Oli.

New York professor appointed new RBI Deputy Governor

New York University economics professor Viral V Acharya, considered an expert in credit risk, is the new Deputy Governor in charge of the crucial monetary policy department of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The appointment of Acharya - a strong votary of central banks’ independence - for a three-year tenure has been cleared by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC). He will join the RBI on January 20, 2017. The 42-year old Acharya, who has co-authored research papers with former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan, is taking over at a time when the RBI is facing flak for repeated changes in the rules during the ongoing demonetisation period. After Urjit Patel was elevated as the Governor in September 2016, Deputy Governor R Gandhi was looking after the monetary policy department. Acharya has often praised Rajan for his works and once said, “Raghu has been a great source of inspiration for me.”

Tirumala Tirupati temple laddoos under FSSAI scanner

The famous ladoos of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) are under the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) scanner. The temple which gives ladoos to devotees as 'prasadam' does not have a license from the FSSAI to distribute the food item, and has been directed to get one at the earliest. An FSSAI letter addressed to the Commissioner of Food Safety, Andhra Pradesh, states that "as per the definition of 'food' under FSS Act, laddoo which is presented as 'prasadam' at the temple is food". It further says that the applicability of the Act is not affected if the food is purchased or distributed free of cost. The letter then asks TTD to obtain a license to distribute the prasadam. "TTD, therefore, has to obtain a license and, fulfil all the responsibilities of a FBO (food business operator) as stipulated in Section 23 of FSS Act as well as comply with its rules and regulations," the FSSAI letter says. The letter came on a complaint filed by RTI activist T Narasimha Murthy to the chairperson of FSSAI.

US eases tests for green cards

US authorities have liberalised the tests to grant a National Interest Waiver (NIW) to EB-2 category of green card applicants. Those having an advanced degree or exceptional ability fall in the EB-2 category. Indian entrepreneurs and qualified individuals will now have a fairer chance of obtaining an NIW, which in turn will speed up the process of obtaining a green card. The liberalisation was part of a recent landmark decision by the Administrative Appeals Office of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Normally, a permanent job offer and an approved labour certificate are pre-requisites to file for a green card. An NIW allows individuals in the EB-2 category to skip the cumbersome `labour certification' process. In general terms, this certification process, which is a protectionist measure, requires the employer to determine whether US workers are available for the job. The AAO, in its decision dated December 27, has redefined the existing tests for obtaining a National Interest Waiver. These tests were perceived as subjective and often resulted in similar applicants being treated differently - with a denial of an NIW in one case and a grant in another.

World's oldest male panda dies in China

The year 2016 has claimed yet another furry victim. Pan Pan, the world's oldest male giant panda, died at the age of 31 in China's Sichuan Province. The male giant panda played a large role in rescuing his species from the brink of extinction. Pan Pan has more than 130 descendants in captivity and is grandfather to Bao Bao and Bei Bei, the Smithsonian Zoo's giant panda cubs. Giant pandas are notoriously difficult to breed. Female pandas only ovulate once a year and a male panda has less than two days to fertilize the egg, according to the Smithsonian. But Pan Pan was what some at the Smithsonian consider to be a "natural breeder" and he fathered an estimated 32 cubs. The giant panda had been battling cancer for years, but his health declined rapidly in recent weeks. The agency said he lived to be nearly 100 in human years. At present there are more than 2,000 pandas in the wild and hundreds in captivity.

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