News Flash – 1 August 2017

National News



Mumbai boy 1st Indian victim of ‘Blue Whale’ dare? Cops probe



MUMBAI: The death of a 14-year-old student who apparently jumped off the terrace of the Andheri building in which he stayed has raised concerns over the popularity of a fatal online game called ‘The Blue Whale‘. Meghwadi police are probing messages circulating on social media that he was playing the game that is based on a 50-day dare. The player has to tackle each challenge—posted online daily—and post selfies on the private group. The last stage of the game is suicide. Police sources said they learned about the suicide pact from Manpreeet Singh Sahani’s friends’ WhatsApp group. While Meghwadi police said they did not find any representation of a whale etched into his skin—which is normally part of the game—cyber police are scanning the Std. IX student’s gadgets. Schoolmates told police that Manpreet had told them last week that he would not be going to school from Monday. Last Saturday, Sahani had gone up to the sixth floor terrace of the building in Sher-e-Punjab society in Andheri (E) around 5.30pm and clambered up the parapet of the side wall. Residents from other buildings shouted out warnings to be careful, but he jumped before they could do anything. Manpreet’s parents left for their native place on Monday for his final rites. Their neighbours refused to comment.


Deputy commissioner of police (zone X) Navinchandra Reddy said they have collected the boy’s laptop, mobile and other gadgets to try and find out what may have led him to end his life. “His parent’s don’t know the reason. We are recording the statements of his friends too as he had told some of them that he would not be attending school from Monday,” said Reddy. Assistant commissioner of police (Meghwadi division) Milind Khetle said they did not find any self-inflicted mark on him. “The reason is yet to be known. We are probing all angles, including the suicide game theory. We are taking the help of experts. Depending on the findings we will decide if the suicide case should be converted into an FIR,” said Khetle. Sahani’s father is an aviation engineer and the boy was the youngest in the family. Psychiatrist Harish Shetty said one need not speculate about the death. What is very important at such times is to stand with the parents in their hour of grief, he said. “To understand the issue, the state should not only do a physical autopsy but also a psychological autopsy,” he added.



In big growth push, Delhi Metro to have 45% more trains from March

The Pink and Magenta Lines, along with the newly opened Violet Line will have only 6-coach trains.



NEW DELHI: The Delhi Metro is on the verge of a major expansion with its Phase 3 project nearing completion. By next March, not only will the network expand from 218 km to 348 km, the number of trains will also go up by 45%, from 227 trains at present to 328. Starting this October, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) will start commissioning in phases two of its upcoming corridors — Magenta Line (Janakpuri West-Botanical Garden) and Pink Line (Majlis Park-Shiv Vihar). Both lines are expected to be completely operational by March 2018. Currently, DMRC runs 227 trains, including four, six and eight-coach rakes. With the completion of Phase 3, the number of trains will go up to 328. The number of coaches will also rise to 2,158 from 1,468. While 504 of the 690 new coaches will be used for the Magenta and Pink Lines, the number of trains in the existing corridors will also be increased from 227 to 244 — most of them eight-coach ones — to tackle the ever-increasing passenger rush. Also, six-coach trains will be converted into eight-coach ones to accommodate more people in a train.


The Blue Line (Dwarka Sector 21-Noida City Centre/Vaishali) is the network’s busiest line and will soon be allocated the most number of trains. The number of eight-coach trains in this line will go up from 56 to 65. The number of eight-coach trains on the second busiest corridor, the Yellow Line (Samaypur Badli–HUDA City Centre), will be increased to 52 from 38. The Pink and Magenta Lines, along with the newly opened Violet Line (Kashmere Gate-Escorts Mujesar), however, will have only six-coach trains as the footfall on these corridors is lesser compared with the Blue and Yellow Lines. The Red Line (Dilshad Garden-Rithala), DMRC’s first operational corridor, will see its mostly four-coach trains converted into six-coach ones. From 10 six-coach trains, the number will go up to 39 soon. Along with more trains, DMRC will also deploy additional manpower. It will reportedly add 3,000 staffers, including train operators, station controllers and customer care executives, to the existing 9,000.



Mumbai: Aircraft tyre bursts, delays flight ops



MUMBAI: An Etihad Airways aircraft suffered a tyre burst on landing at the Mumbai airport on Monday. With the aircraft stranded on the main runway, flight operations had to be moved to the secondary runway for over an hour. The incident took place around 7.10pm. “The Etihad flight from Abu Dhabi, with about 190 passengers on board, hadn’t reported an emergency and everything was fine till it touched down on the runway,” said an air traffic control official. After it touched down, the aircraft exited the runway and had a tyre burst. Flight operations had to be moved to the other runway and arrivals and departures during the evening peak hour were moved to the secondary runway, which led to delay in flight operations. An Etihad spokesperson said, “The aircraft was towed from the runway. All passengers and crew are fine and engineers ready to replace the deflated tyres”.



Penalty meter for traffic violators from today, get set to lose licence



HYDERABAD: Taking a tough stance against cases of dangerous driving, a Penalty Point System (PPS) for traffic violations will be implemented in the three city police commisionerates from Tuesday. Under the system, the driving licence of a motorist who accrues over 12 penalty points in a span of 24 months will be suspended for a year. Those who drive when the licence has been suspended may be imprisoned up to three months. To crack down on traffic violators, the state government came up with the idea of PPS. On 24 April this year, it issued a GO introducing the system which will come into force from August 1. PPS is a crucial step taken up by enforcement agencies towards traffic reforms as it moves away from age-old vehicle registration number-based enforcement mechanism to driver-based enforcement mechanism. In the existing system, e-challans are generated against the offender’s vehicle registration number and sent to the vehicle owner.


But as the PPS specifically targets the violating driver, physical enforcement plays a key role. “Traffic offenders who pose threat to fellow motorists’ safety will get penalty points against their driver’s licence. Drunk drivers, chain snatchers, accused involved in fatal road mishaps will get maximum penalty points,” joint commissioner of police (traffic) V Ravinder said. The system also gives leeway for violations made due to lack of facilities. For instance, motorists who are forced to park their vehicle on the streets due to lack of sufficient parking space will not be affected by the PPS. “Those who park vehicles dangerously, on non-designated spots on NHs or the ORR will get penalty points. People who park vehicles on internal streets of city will only have to pay fine,” DCP (traffic) AV Ranganath said. He added that while “crossing the stop line won’t attract penalty points, signal jumping will”. “The 24-month period starts from the first point violation. If violators accrue over 12 points in this period, their licence will automatically get suspended for a year. If offenders drive vehicles during this period, charge sheets will be filed against them. They may be imprisoned for three months,” the joint commissioner of police said.



Chennai Metro Rail to introduce contactless smart cards



CHENNAI: Metro rail commuters in Chennai could soon walk into any station and take a train without making the effort of swiping their smart cards or waiting in queues at the ticket counters to buy tokens. Chennai Metro Rail is in the process of introducing contactless smart cards, where commuters can simply walk in through scanner gates with a tiny chip or a card with a chip and get their ticket price deducted. The cards could eventually be used across all modes of transport. Chennai Metro Rail Ltd (CMRL) has invited tenders to design, manufacture and supply contactless smart cards. “It is like how your car has a small chip and you cross a toll booth. The money is automatically deducted. This contactless smart card system is being followed in metro rail facilities in other countries,” an official said. CMRL has already made use of smart card facilities mandatory in its underground stretch between Nehru Park and Thirumangalam. Though it cuts down on the time commuters spend at the ticket counters, they still have to swipe the card manually to deduct their ticket price. “The size of the card won’t be very small as there are chances of losing it. It will be in a size that passengers can safely keep. Also, the problem of swiping machines not working won’t exist anymore,” an official said.



International News



Now, stricter check for US flyers with gadgets

An officer with the US Customs and Border Protection walks past ticket counters at Los Angeles International Airport, California.



California: Get ready for more vigorous security checks of personal electronic devices (PED) going in cabin baggage of flights+ to, from and within America and these new norms could remind of airports back home. Like Indian airports where tablets and laptops have to be taken out of hand bags and kept separately in trays for X-ray screening, US airports will also start doing the same. Till now, only large PEDs like laptops were required to be taken out there for being x-rayed separately while smaller ones like iPads could stay in hand bags during security checks in the US. Now America’s aviation security agency, Transportation Security Administration(TSA), last week decided to implement “new, stronger screening procedures for carry-on items that require travelers to place all electronics larger than a cell phone in bins for X-ray screening in standard lanes” due to increased threat to aviation security. “As new procedures are phased in, TSA officers will begin to ask travelers to remove electronics larger than a cell phone from their carryon bags and place them in a bin with nothing on top or below, similar to how laptops have been screened for years. This simple step helps TSA officers obtain a clearer X-ray image,” the TSA website says. The US had recently lifted the laptop ban on nonstop flights to the country from some airports abroad like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha.


“In standard screening lanes, TSA officers will be stationed in front of the checkpoint X-ray machines to guide passengers through the screening process and recommend how best to arrange their carry-on items for X-ray screening. Travelers are encouraged to organise their carry-on bags and keep them uncluttered to ease the screening process and keep the lines moving,” the website adds. There are no changes to what travelers can bring through the checkpoint. TSA says passengers may experience more bag checks. “However, through extensive testing, TSA identified ways to improve screening procedures with quicker and more targeted measures to clear the bags.” After extensive testing and successful pilots at 10 airports including Los Angeles International(LAX), TSA plans to expand these measures to all US airports during the weeks and months ahead. “It is critical for TSA to constantly enhance and adjust security screening procedures to stay ahead of evolving threats and keep passengers safe. By separating personal electronic items such as laptops, tablets, e-readers and handheld game consoles for screening, TSA officers can more closely focus on resolving alarms and stopping terror threats,” the TSA website quotes its acting administrator Huban A Gowadia as saying.



IS targets Iraq Embassy in Kabul; all 4 attackers killed



KABUL: The Islamic State group targeted the Iraqi Embassy in Kabul today, with a suicide bomber blowing himself up outside the gates, followed by three gunmen who stormed into the building. The assault set off a four-hour firefight that ended only after Afghan security forces said they had killed all the attackers. Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish told reporters that two Afghan employees of the Iraq Embassy died in the attack. Three police were injured, he said. As the attack unfolded there were conflicting reports of casualties, with a witness saying he saw bodies of at least two policemen lying on the road outside the embassy soon after the attack began. In its claim of responsibility, the Islamic State group said its fighters had killed seven guards but the militant group often exaggerates its claims on the number of casualties inflicted. The IS attack likely meant to distract attention from the militants’ massive losses in Iraq and Syria in recent weeks. Also, IS said only two of its followers were involved in the attack, not four as Kabul officials said, adding to the conflicting reports. Earlier Danish said only one policeman was wounded and that there were no fatalities among the security forces or civilians. Danish told The Associated Press over the phone that all the embassy staffers were safe but that the building had suffered extensive damage with windows broken and several rooms badly burned. It wasn’t until the attack ended that both the embassy and the interior ministry realized two of their Afghan staff had died in the daring assault.


Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack and said it was the government’s responsibility to provide protection to international missions. In Baghdad, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Jamal condemned the assault as a “terrorist attack”. The attack began with a big explosion that rocked central Kabul shortly before noon, followed by gunfire that lasted for several hours, and two or three more subsequent large explosions. Police quickly cordoned off the area, barring reporters from coming too close to the scene. The Afghan Interior Ministry said a suicide bomber first started the attack, blowing himself up at the embassy gate, after which three attackers stormed inside. Earlier, Afghan officials who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to the media, had said a car bomb started the assault. Later on, it became clear the suicide bomber was on foot and not driving a car. The ministry statement said Afghan security forces quickly deployed to the scene, rescuing all the embassy diplomats and employees and taking them to safety. While the attack was still underway, the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan claimed responsibility in a statement carried by the IS-linked Aamaq news agency. A police officer in the area, who identified himself only as Abdullah, said the gunfire was initially intense but later became more sporadic. The area was surrounded by armored vehicles and a large contingent of police and Afghan soldiers.


At least one eyewitness, a store owner who goes by the name of Hafizullah, many Afghans use only one name, said he saw the bodies of two policemen on the ground before armored personnel carriers and police arrived to cordon off the area. More than an hour into the attack, witnesses reported hearing another powerful explosion and said they saw black smoke billowing skyward. It wasn’t immediately clear what had caused the later explosion. “The explosion was so strong. I was so afraid,” said Maryam, a woman crying near the site of the attack said. She said she works at the nearby office of Afghanistan’s National Airline Ariana. The Iraq Embassy is located in a part of the city known as Shahr-e-Now, which lies outside the so-called “green zone” where most foreign embassies and diplomatic missions are located and which is heavily fortified with a phalanx of guards and giant cement blast walls. By comparison, the Iraqi Embassy is located on a small street in a neighborhood dominated by markets and businesses. After Iraqi forces, backed by a US-led coalition, recaptured the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group earlier in July, the Iraq Embassy had called reporters to its offices in Kabul to express concerns that the local IS affiliate might stage large-scale attacks elsewhere to draw away attention from the militant group’s losses in Iraq.

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