Science News This Week:
1) Scientists find new way to corral genetically engineered bacteria:
Reliance on human-made molecules keeps useful bacteria from escaping into nature. Scientists have engineered a new way to genetically modify organisms so they’re less likely to spread uncontrollably in the wild and wreak havoc. By creating bacteria that require molecules not found in nature to survive, the scientists have set the stage for a safer way to use genetically modified bacteria to make medicines, fuels and other useful chemicals.
Two teams of researchers separately used E. coli as a test case, engineering the bacterium to depend on human-made versions of amino acids, the researchers report online January 21 in Nature. Bacteria use amino acids to make proteins.The new method drastically cuts the likelihood of genetically engineered bacteria escaping into the environment, says Floyd Romesberg, a synthetic biologist at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. The dependence on human-made amino acids “really creates a firewall between the cell’s life and its natural environment.”
One group of researchers, led by Farren Isaacs of Yale University, engineered bacteria to build proteins necessary for survival only when exposed to a human-made amino acid. “It would be like if I took the tires off your car,” explains Christopher Voigt, a bioengineer at MIT.The proteins within the bacteria engineered by the other group, led by George Church of Harvard University, cannot fold into their proper shape without the human-made amino acid holding them together. It’s like taking the tires off your car and replacing them with tank treads, Voigt says. “In both cases, it’s the same idea: The car can’t run. But in one case, you fundamentally change what it’s running on.”
Both groups tested their doctored E. coli in cultures that lacked the human-made amino acid, observing them over time to make sure the bacterial colonies could not grow. In neither case did the researchers find detectable amounts of bacteria that could survive without the human-made amino acid.Isaacs’ group went a step further and placed their E. coli in soil and blood, which the microbes might encounter if used outside the lab. Again, the bacteria failed to thrive.Church’s group also exposed their E. coli to wild E. coli to make sure the genetically modified bacteria could not steal DNA that would break their dependence on human-made amino acids.Previous attempts to keep genetically engineered bacteria in check include “kill switches” that wipe out the bacteria when researchers are finished with them. But even with kill switches, altered bacteria have the potential to spread beyond the lab by mutating or swapping DNA with wild bacteria. Engineering bacteria to rely on human-made compounds “significantly reduces the threat of them ever causing trouble,” says Romesberg.The technique also may boost genetically modified bacteria’s usefulness. “Bacteria have been engineered to produce pharmaceuticals, materials and fuels,” says Karmella Haynes, a biomedical engineer at Arizona State University in Tempe. “Now that bacteria can be designed to stay put in an industrial environment, these new bioproduction technologies can be scaled up.”The new research also lays a foundation for broader uses of genetically engineered bacteria, Isaacs said in a press briefing. They could be used away from controlled industrial environments to boost food production, fight disease or clean up oil spills and landfills.
2) Scientists slow down the speed of light travelling in free space:
Scientists have long known that the speed of light can be slowed slightly as it travels through materials such as water or glass.However, it has generally been thought impossible for particles of light, known as photons, to be slowed as they travel through free space, unimpeded by interactions with any materials.In a new paper published in Science Express today (Friday 23 January), researchers from the University of Glasgow and Heriot-Watt University describe how they have managed to slow photons in free space for the first time. They have demonstrated that applying a mask to an optical beam to give photons a spatial structure can reduce their speed.The team compare a beam of light, containing many photons, to a team of cyclists who share the work by taking it in turns to cycle at the front. Although the group travels along the road as a unit, the speed of individual cyclists can vary as they swap position.
The group formation can make it difficult to define a single velocity for all cyclists, and the same applies to light. A single pulse of light contains many photons, and scientists know that light pulses are characterised by a number of different velocities.The team's experiment was configured like a time trial race, with two photons released simultaneously across identical distances towards a defined finish line. The researchers found that one photon reached the finish line as predicted, but the structured photon which had been reshaped by the mask arrived later, meaning it was travelling more slowly in free space. Over a distance of one metre, the team measured a slowing of up to 20 wavelengths, many times greater than the measurement precision.The work demonstrates that, after passing the light beam through a mask, photons move more slowly through space. Crucially, this is very different to the slowing effect of passing light through a medium such as glass or water, where the light is only slowed during the time it is passing through the material -- it returns to the speed of light after it comes out the other side. The effect of passing the light through the mask is to limit the top speed at which the photons can travel.The work was carried out by a team from the University of Glasgow's Optics Group, led by Professor Miles Padgett, working with theoretical physicists led by Stephen Barnett, and in partnership with Daniele Faccio from Heriot-Watt University.
Daniel Giovannini, one of the lead authors of the paper, said: "The delay we've introduced to the structured beam is small, measured at several micrometres over a propagation distance of one metre, but it is significant. We've measured similar effects in two different types of beams known as Bessel beams and Gaussian beams."Co-lead author Jacquiline Romero said: "We've achieved this slowing effect with some subtle but widely-known optical principles. This finding shows unambiguously that the propagation of light can be slowed below the commonly accepted figure of 299,792,458 metres per second, even when travelling in air or vacuum."Although we measure the effect for a single photon, it applies to bright light beams too. The effect is biggest when the lenses used to create the beam are large and when the distance over which the light is focused is small, meaning the effect only applies at short range."Professor Padgett added: "It might seem surprising that light can be made to travel more slowly like this, but the effect has a solid theoretical foundation and we're confident that our observations are correct.
"The results give us a new way to think about the properties of light and we're keen to continue exploring the potential of this discovery in future applications. We expect that the effect will be applicable to any wave theory, so a similar slowing could well be created in sound waves, for example."The team's paper, titled 'Spatially Structured Photons that Travel in Free Space Slower than the Speed of Light', is published in Science Express, which provides electronic publication of selected papers in advance of print in the journal Science.
3) How blueshift might beat redshift:
In collapsing objects, light could get squeezed rather than stretched. Light that escapes collapsing stars and dust clouds may sport an unusually blue hue.
Light emitted within these gravitationally unstable objects can get compressed and thus become bluer, physicists suggest in the Feb. 4 Physics Letters B. They say this blueshift could remain even after the light reddens as it moves through the vacuum of space. While the effect would be difficult to observe, it could help in understanding what happens to light when it is produced by or passes through an object caving in due to its own gravity.
Because the universe is expanding, distant objects appear to move away from each other, leading to an effect that stretches light to make its wavelength longer. Consequently light that reaches Earth from remote stars and galaxies is generally redshifted. (Red light has the longest wavelength of visible light; blue has the shortest.) But Cosimo Bambi, an astrophysicist at Fudan University in Shanghai, and colleagues calculated that a dust cloud collapsing into a star or a star caving in as it goes supernova can manipulate light waves as if they were moving through a contracting universe. As a result, the waves get compressed and bluer. If this effect outweighs the subsequent redshift as the light travels through space, an observer will measure a blueshift.
4) Immune system 'reset' may give MS patients a new lease on life
Drugs followed by stem cell transplant greatly slow nerve damage, other symptoms, in relapsing-remitting form of disease. Many multiple sclerosis patients may benefit from having their wayward immune systems “reset.” Researchers report in the Jan. 20 JAMA that removing some stem cells from a patient’s blood and then reinserting them later stops MS flare-ups in at least four-fifths of patients.
In the study, 123 patients had relapsing-remitting MS, the most common form in which the disease flares sporadically; 28 other patients had a more advanced progressive form of MS. In all these patients, rogue immune cells orchestrate attacks on the fatty sheaths lining nerves in the central nervous system. The researchers removed stem cells — nascent immune cells — from the patients, who then received drugs to knock back their existing immune cell populations. Putting the stem cells back into the patients rebuilt their normal immunity.
Overall, 89 percent of the patients were alive and free of relapses at two years and 80 percent were free and clear at four years after the treatment. The patients also generally showed a steady decline in the number and volume of brain lesions related to MS, evidence that the immune system reset was reversing damage caused to nerves.
The relapsing-remitting patients did much better than those with progressive MS, says study coauthor Richard Burt, a physician and immune therapy researcher at Northwestern University School of Medicine in Chicago. The study is good news for the more than 2.3 million people worldwide living with MS, yet it will take a randomized trial to confirm the findings.
5) Paleontologist names 9-foot-long 'predator croc' that preceded dinosaurs:
Finding a new species of dinosaur is pretty rare. Getting a hand in the discovery and naming of one -- that's rarer still. Or it would be for anyone other than 32-year-old Sterling Nesbitt, an assistant professor of geological sciences in the College of Science and the newest addition to Virginia Tech's paleontology team.Nesbitt has been responsible for naming more than half a dozen reptiles (including dinosaurs) in his young career.His latest addition to the paleontological vernacular is Nundasuchus, (noon-dah-suh-kis) a 9-foot-long carnivorous reptile with steak knifelike teeth, bony plates on the back, and legs that lie under the body.
Nundasuchus is not a dinosaur, but one of the large reptiles that lived before dinosaurs took over the world."The full name is actually Nundasuchus songeaensis," Nesbitt explained. "It's Swahili mixed with Greek."The basic meaning of Nundasuchus, is "predator crocodile," "Nunda" meaning predator in Swahili, and "suchus" a reference to a crocodile in Greek."The 'songeaensis' comes from the town, Songea, near where we found the bones," Nesbitt said. "The reptile itself was heavy-bodied with limbs under its body like a dinosaur, or bird, but with bony plates on its back like a crocodilian."
The new, albeit ancient, reptile, is featured online in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology."We discovered the partial skeleton in 2007 when I was a graduate student, but it took some years to piece the bones together as they were in thousands of pieces," Nesbitt said.Although a large number of skeleton bones were found, most of the skull was not recovered despite three trips to the site and more than 1,000 hours spent painstakingly piecing the bones back together and cleaning them.
Nundasuchus was found in southwestern Tanzania, while Nesbitt and a team of researchers were looking for prehistoric relatives of birds and crocodiles, but not really expecting to find something entirely new."There's such a huge gap in our understanding around the time when the the common ancestor of birds and crocodilians was alive -- there isn't a lot out there in the fossil record from that part of the reptile family tree," Nesbitt said. "This helps us fill in some gaps in reptile family tree, but we're still studying it and figuring out the implications."The find itself was a bit of a "eureka moment" for the team. Nesbitt said he realized very quickly what he had found.
"Sometimes you know instantly if it's new and within about 30 seconds of picking up this bone I knew it was a new species," he said. "I had hoped to find a leg bone to identify it, and I thought, This is exactly why we're here' and I looked down and there were bones everywhere. It turns out I was standing on bones that had been weathering out of the rock for hundreds of years -- and it was all one individual of a new species."Nesbitt says he has been very lucky to put himself in the right position for finding bones, but it also takes a lot of work doing research on what has been found in various locations through previous research; what type of animals were known to inhabit certain areas; and research into the geological maps of areas to determine the most likely places to find fossils.Nesbitt has been involved in naming 17 different reptiles, dinosaurs, and dinosaur relatives in the last 10 years, including seven of which he discovered.
6) Live broadcast from inside the nerve cell:
Nurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, Huntington's or Parkinson's are caused by defect and aggregated proteins accumulating in brain nerve cells that are thereby paralyzed or even killed. In healthy cells this process is prevented by an enzyme complex known as the proteasome, which removes and recycles obsolete and defective proteins. Recently, researchers in the team of Wolfgang Baumeister at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried near Munich were the first to observe and structurally characterize proteasomes at work inside healthy brain cells. "When we saw the proteasomes on our screen, we were immediately aware of the major importance of the results," remembers Shoh Asano, first author of the study. The study has now been published in the journal Science.
Scientists estimate that our brain consists of about ten to one hundred billions of nerve cells. In order to fulfill their respective tasks as long as possible, these cells have to constantly control their internal proteins with regard to quality and functionality. Otherwise the proteins might clump together and thereby paralyze or even kill the cells. Once the cell recognizes a defect protein, this is marked for degradation and a kind of a molecular shredder, the so-called proteasome, chops it into pieces that are eventually recycled.For the first time now, researchers have succeeded in visualizing this process in intact nerve cells, which previously could only be investigated in the test tube. Electron cryo-tomography was essential for obtaining the described images. Hereby, cells are cooled down to minus 170°C in a fraction of a second. In a consecutive step, pictures of the interior of the cells are taken from many different angles, which then are merged computationally into a three-dimensional image.
"First time in intact cells"
In the current study, the use of specific technical innovations allowed the researchers to achieve a unprecedented imaging quality, enabling them to distinguish single proteasomes within the cell. "For the first time it is possible to qualitatively and quantitatively describe this important enzyme complex in intact cells," Asano classifies the results. In the following experiments, the scientists focused on the activity of the proteasomes. For the interpretation of the single particles it is important to know that there are cap-like structures, the so-called regulatory particles, attached to the ends of proteasomes (see picture). They bind proteins that are designated to be degraded and thereby change their shape. The scientists were able to distinguish these states and consequently could deduce how many of the proteasomes were actively degrading proteins.
New prospects for the future
The conclusion of the researchers: in quiescent nerve cells like the ones used in the actual experiments, only a minority of the proteasomes is active. In detail, the results showed that only every fourth proteasome was actively degrading proteins while the rest idled at the same time. In the future, the scientists want to address the structural changes of the proteasomes under cellular stress as it occurs in neurodegenerative diseases. "This study shows the new possibilities to resolve protein complexes in their entirety in the cell and to study their mutual functional dependencies," Wolfgang Baumeister determines the agenda for the future.
Movie Release This Week:
Shortly after her divorce, a woman falls for a younger man who just moved in across the street, though their torrid affair takes an obsessive, dangerous turn.
Juggling some angry Russians, the British Mi5, his impossibly leggy wife and an international terrorist, debonair art dealer and part time rogue Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) must traverse the globe armed only with his good looks and special charm in a race to recover a stolen painting rumored to contain the code to a lost bank account filled with Nazi gold.
Strange Magic,” a new animated film from Lucasfilm Ltd., is a madcap fairy tale musical inspired by “A Midsummer Night's Dream.” Popular songs from the past six decades help tell the tale of a colorful cast of goblins, elves, fairies and imps, and their hilarious misadventures sparked by the battle over a powerful potion. Lucasfilm Animation Singapore and Industrial Light & Magic bring to life the fanciful forest turned upside down with world-class animation and visual effects. Directed by Gary Rydstrom (“Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation,” “Lifted”) from a story by George Lucas, “Strange Magic” will be released by Touchstone Pictures on Jan. 23, 2015.
A suspenseful adventure thriller directed by Academy Award winner Kevin Macdonald, centering on a rogue submarine captain (two-time Academy Award nominee Jude Law) who pulls together a misfit crew to go after a sunken treasure rumored to be lost in the depths of the Black Sea. As greed and desperation take control onboard their claustrophobic vessel, the increasing uncertainty of the mission causes the men to turn on each other to fight for their own survival.
Dr. Henry West founded The Atticus Institute in the early 1970s to test individuals expressing supernatural abilities – E.S.P., clairvoyance, psychokinesis, etc. Despite witnessing several noteworthy cases, nothing could have prepared Dr. West and his colleagues for Judith Winstead. She outperformed every subject they had ever studied – soon gaining the attention of the U.S. Department of Defense, who subsequently took control of the research facility. The more experiments they conducted on Judith, the clearer it became that her abilities were the manifestation of evil forces within her, prompting the government to take measures to weaponize this force. But they soon discovered there are powers that exist in this world that simply cannot be controlled. Now the details of the inexplicable events that occurred within The Atticus Institute are being made public after remaining classified for nearly forty years.
Four young scientists work to craft a machine to reanimate deceased organisms. As the project develops, the machine exceeds their wildest expectations, creating boundless possibilities that challenge the very nature of human existence. However, success with this experiment comes at a price, as ulterior motives and reckless abandon lead to consequences none of them could predict. As their time and resources fade, this team of visionary scientists must face the realities of the task they have set out for themselves, bringing the dead back to life.
For Pablo Escobar (Benicio Del Toro), family is everything. When young surfer Nick (Josh Hutcherson) falls for Escobar’s niece, he finds his life on the line when he’s pulled into the dangerous world of the family business.
Political News This Week:
1) Sunanda's laptop, phones sent for forensic analysis:
Delhi Police has handed over the laptop and mobile phones of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s deceased wife Sunanda Pushkar to Gandhinagar-based Directorate of Forensic Science, to retrieve crucial data, which could help the ongoing probe into her death.
After Tharoor was questioned on Monday by the Special Investigation Team to probe the circumstances leading to the mysterious death of Sunanda a year back, the Delhi Police on Tuesday handed over her laptop and four mobile phones to DFS for further analysis.“Officials of Delhi Police came to DFS yesterday and handed over one laptop and four mobile phones, which were used by Pushkar before her death, in a sealed cover,” DFS Director J M Vyas said.
“We have been given the task to examine them and extract crucial information to help the ongoing investigation by the police,” Vyas said.
“We have not been given any time frame to give our final report, but we will do it as soon as possible. DFS is equipped with technology to extract information from such gadgets, even if it is deleted,” he said.“We can find out with whom she was in contact and what kind of communication she had before her death. Such insight can prove crucial for the police,” he said.On Monday, Tharoor was questioned for about four hours by the SIT of Delhi police in connection with Pushkar’s mysterious death, nearly three weeks after a case of murder was registered on the basis of a medical report that concluded that she died of poisoning.Sunanda, 52, was found dead in her suite at LeelaPalace HOTEL IN DELHI on January 17 last year, a day after she was involved in a spat with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar on micro-blogging website Twitter over the latter’s alleged affair with Tharoor.
2) Cong unhappy with Sibal for appearing for WB in Saradha scam:
Congress on Wednesday made known its unhappiness over its senior leader Kapil Sibal representing West Bengal government in the multi-crore rupees Saradha scam in the Supreme Court, two days after its state unit expressed objection to it.
"I fully endorse the views expressed by the West Bengal Congress," said C P Joshi, party general secretary in-charge of the state, making clear the unhappiness over the former Union Minister appearing in the SC for the government of rival Trinamool Congress.
West Bengal Congress President Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, on Monday said, "Sibal is a known face of the Congress and a former Union minister. He is representing the state government in the Saradha case in the Supreme court. We feel bad."
Joshi said he has conveyed the sentiments of the state Congress unit to the party high command.At the AICC briefing, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said Sibal, a prominent lawyer, should take note of the sentiments of the party unit in West Bengal.Chowdhury, a former Union minister had said, "As long as I am the state Congress president, I can say that Sibal will not be invited to any programme of the party here."
Asked whether he informed the party high command about this, the WBPCC president had said, "It has been communicated to the AICC leadership informally."West Bengal and its ruling party Trinamool Congress on Monday moved the Supreme Court seeking a court-monitored CBI probe into the multi-crore rupees Saradha scam, alleging that the agency was acting as an "instrument" of the Centre and targeting the TMC leaders.
3) Delhi polls: Kejriwal has assets worth Rs 2.09 cr; Maken Rs 12.34 cr, Bedi 11.65 cr:
Out of three chief ministerial aspirants in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal ranks lowest with assets worth Rs 2.09 crore while Congress leader Ajay Maken tops the chart with Rs 12.34 crore followed by Rs 11.65 crore of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Kiran Bedi.As per the affidavit Kejriwal filed along with nomination papers for the New Delhi constituency, he and his wife-owned assets have gone down by Rs five lakh compared to the total assets of Rs 2.14 crore he declared during last year's Lok Sabha election.
The former chief minister declared movable assets at Rs 2.26 lakh while his wife has a total of Rs 15.28 lakh including 300 gm of gold worth Rs 9 lakh and 24 gm silver worth Rs 24,000.The total worth of Congress leader Maken and his wife's movable and immovable assets stands at Rs 12.34 crore, more than double from his declaration last year during the Lok Sabha polls.Maken and his wife declared total assets worth around Rs 5.76 crore in his Lok Sabha elections affidavit last year. According to details provided by Maken in the latest affidavit to the Election Commission, Maken has movable assets worth Rs 2.99 crore while his wife has a total of Rs 1.20 crore.
During the Lok Sabha elections, Maken had declared movable assets worth Rs 2.68 crore and Rs 88.22 lakh of his wife. The value of their immovable assets, which include a
residential property and land in Haryana and Delhi, have increased to Rs 8.14 crore as compared to Rs 2.21 crore last year.
Maken, the Congress' Campaign Committee chief is contesting from the Sadar Bazar assembly seat. The former Union Minister has one pending case against him similar as last year.Kejriwal also mentioned that 10 cases are pending against him in different courts compared to seven cases mentioned by him in the last affidavit. The AAP leader in the affidavit said he has two flats -- one at Indirapuram, Ghaziabad and another at Sivani in
Haryana. The value of the flat at Indirapuram has been put at Rs 55 lakh while the flat at Sivani is worth Rs 37 lakh.
Kejriwal's wife Sunita has a 2,244 sq feet flat in Gurgaon worth Rs 1 crore. In the affidavit, he has mentioned that he has Rs 15,000 in hand and while his wife has Rs 10,000 in cash.Kejriwal had declared a total income of Rs 2.07 lakh in 2013-14 while his wife's income in that period was Rs 11.83 lakh.Bedi, who owns a Maruti 800 car, has agricultural land in two locations -- one in Pune and another in Gurgaon. The value of the land in Pune has been put at Rs 1.60 crore while the one in Gurgaon at Rs 25 lakh.
Bedi's husband owns an agricultural land in Amritsar worth Rs 28.50 lakh, according to the affidavit. In the affidavit, she has mentioned cash Rs 55,750 in hand and while her husband has Rs 15,500 in cash.The affidavit also said she has a fixed deposit worth Rs 2.10 crore while she has Rs 25,43,852 in her four saving bank accounts.She has declared a total income in 2013-14 at Rs 67,15,464 while her husband's income in that period was not shown as it was below taxable income.
4) Ex-telecom minister Maran says CBI trying to fix him:
A day after Central Bureau of Investigation arrested his close aide and 2 others in illegal telephone exchange case, former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran on Thursday charged the agency with trying "to fix" him to please an Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader from Tamil Nadu.
"CBI should be a fact-finding machine and not a fixing one.... I am being singled out. CBI is fixing me to please an RSS ideologue from Tamil Nadu," a combative Maran told reporters in Chennai after briefing Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief M Karunanidhi on the developments. He, however, did not name anyone.Maran, who is facing CBI heat, alleged that the investigating agency was compelling the 3 arrested persons to complain against him and that they were even tortured to give "false statement".
CBI had on Wednesday arrested V Gowthaman, then additional private secretary of Dayanidhi Maran, and two others in connection with alleged allotment of more than 300 high-speed telephone lines to the former telecom minister's residence in Chennai which were extended to his brother's TV channel.CBI had named Maran and BSNL officials, including the then Chief General Manager K Bramhanathan and MP Veluswami in the FIR filed in October 2013."...after eight years, they are just fixing this case. They have arrested three people. Irony is they have been ill-treated and were forced to give false statement. When they refused, they were arrested. They were compelled to complain against me. Third degree treatment was meted out to them," Maran alleged.Asserting that he would fight out the case, Maran hit out at CBI, saying "Is CBI trying to impress the RSS ideologue from Tamil Nadu? The telephone line still functions in my residence....CBI wants to pass the buck, I have no choice but to fight it out.""CBI has filed FIR against me alleging when I was the telecom minister and there was excess use of telephone connection. I have explained. This investigation has been going on for eight years", he said.He said for the last 18 months the arrested people have been called by CBI and they cooperated in all the investigation procedures.The arrested persons included Chief Technical Officer S Kannan and electrician L S Ravi of Sun TV network."They were also promised if they give such a statement against me, they will be allowed to go," Maran claimed."The case was foisted against me during the UPA regime. The intellectual from Tamil Nadu fixed it, it was done by him," he said.
"There is only one telephone connection.... I will be writing to the CBI on this matter", he said.CBI has alleged that nearly 323 residential lines were allegedly in the name of the BSNL General Manager connecting the Boat House residence of Maran with the office of Sun TV through a dedicated underground cable during his tenure as telecom minister.
5) Delhi cops to quiz journos whom Sunanda talked to day before her death:
The Special Investigation Team probing the mysterious death of Shashi Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar will soon interrogate journalists who claimed that she had talked to them the day before her death.
Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi on Thursday said, “Some journalists have in past openly talked about how Pushkar had called them the day before her death. So, talking to them will be a relevant step for us. We would surely like to take help of these journalists to reach the root of this case. The SIT will likely be talking to them in a day or two."
He also confirmed that certain electronic equipments related to the death probe of Sunanda are being examined by experts.
"Any electronic equipment which we seize during our investigation is always examined by the experts. This case is not a unique case, so in this case also we are getting certain equipments examined by the experts," Bassi added.The police chief said his team was investigating the case with 'an open mind' and nothing 'relevant' would be left out.
"I don't have the minute to minute update of the case. We are investigating this case with an open mind. So, anything relevant that comes our way is not going to be left out," he added.Earlier this week, Tharoor was interrogated at the Vasant Vihar police station in South Delhi.
According to media reports, he was asked over 50 questions by a team of four officers in the first of likely three rounds of interrogation.Earlier this month, the police had said that based on available evidence, Sunanda, 51, was poisoned. A case of murder was registered on January 6.She was found dead in the five-star Leela HOTEL IN DELHI on January 17, 2014.
Initially, her death was debated as a possible suicide for months, and it was only this month, that a murder theory began to be considered seriously after doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences maintained that her demise was unnatural.Tharoor has been demanding that the investigation must be "free of political pressure or a pre-determined outcome."
6) Meet Saudi Arabia's new ruler, King Salman:
The death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah on Friday morning has placed the crown in the hands of his younger half-brother King Salman. But who is he? Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, born December 31 1935, is a veteran of the country’s leadership.
1) Salman is the 25th son of the desert kingdom’s founder Abdulaziz bin Saud and a prominent member of a formidable bloc of brothers known as the Sudairi seven, after their mother Hassa bin Ahmed al-Sudairi. He is the sixth son of Abdulaziz to become king of the arid, oil-rich nation.
2) In 1963, Salman became the governor of Riyadh and continued in the post for the next 48 years, till 2011. The role also meant he was responsible for arbitrating disputes between quarreling members of the ruling family, putting him at the center of the kingdom's most important power structure.
3) He was appointed Minister of Defence in 2011. As defence minister he oversaw Saudi Arabia joining the United States coalition of airstrikes against Isis, also known as Islamic State, in 2014.
4) Salman controls one of the Arab world’s largest media groups.
5) Salman’s first order after assuming the throne was to appoint his youngest brother, Prince Muqrin, as the new crown prince.
6) Salman’s sons include the first Muslim astronaut, Prince Sultan, and the governor of Medinah, Prince Faysal. Another son, Prince Khaled, is a fighter pilot in the Royal Saudi Air Force and led the first RSAF mission against Islamic State targets in Syria last year.
7) Salman has his own health issues and has suffered from a stroke.
7) The Obama Interview: 'Modi has a clear vision for India'":
United States President Barack Obama is impressed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of the big things he wants India to achieve.
In an interview to India Today Group vice-chairman Shekhar Gupta, Obama said he was impressed with Modi's energy and readiness to address many of the barriers that have stood in the way of greater economic growth.He also echoed India's stand on terror activities being harboured by Pakistan. He reiterated that even as Washington was working with Islamabad to meet the threat of terrorism, safe havens within Pakistan were unacceptable and that those behind the Mumbai terrorist attack must face justice.
On relations with Modi:
'Prime Minister Modi's historic election clearly reflects the desire of many Indians for economic growth that is inclusive, good government that serves citizens, and education that delivers the skills Indians seek. And his remarkable life story -- from tea-seller to prime minister -- is a reflection of the determination of the Indian people to succeed."
'I invited him because I felt that it was important for us to meet early in his tenure so that we could take full advantage of the new energy and new hopes surrounding his election. He has a clear vision of the big things he wants India to achieve, and I have been impressed with his energy and his readiness to address many of the barriers that have stood in the way of greater economic growth'
On Indo-US relationship:
'No two nations agree on everything, and so of course sometimes India and the United States will disagree. But I believe that we can work through any differences in a spirit of mutual respect. When those of us at the leadership level agree on a course of action, our governments have to actually implement our decisions. We have to make sure that words are matched by deeds.'
'We can work together to support Modi's efforts to uplift Indian communities with cleaner air, more water, and more electricity, including under our civil nuclear agreement. We can deepen our security cooperation, including on maritime security in the Asia-Pacific. And I believe that part of being global partners means working together to meet one of the world's urgent challenges -- climate change.'
'Indians were tragically killed on 9/11, as were Americans on 26/11. On my previous visit to India, my first stop was the memorial at the Taj hotel to pay my respects to the victims, meet with survivors and send a strong message to the Indian people that we stand together in defence of our security and our way of life.'
'I have made it clear that even as the United States works with Pakistan to meet the threat of terrorism, safe havens within Pakistan are not acceptable and that those behind the Mumbai terrorist attack must face justice.'
On the ISIS threat:
'The emergence of ISIL in Syria and Iraq is another manifestation of the threat I have been focused on-the evolving nature of terrorism. Today, the greatest threat comes from Al Qaeda affiliates, violent extremist groups and individuals who have succumbed to terrorist ideologies.
'So we are meeting this threat on many fronts. We are helping nations go after terrorist groups within their borders, whether on the Arabian Peninsula or North Africa. We are leading the international coalition to destroy ISIL. We are working with many nations to prevent foreign terrorist fighters from crossing borders and attacking our citizens.'
Areas of Indo-US cooperation:
'I pushed for elevating the role of the G-20 to give emerging economies -- including India -- a greater voice in global economic decision-making. And it is why I believe that a reformed United Nations Security Council should include India as a permanent member.''Technologies pioneered by Indians and Americans, often through joint collaborations, give us unprecedented opportunities to improve the lives of people around the world.'
'I am convinced that we can do even more together to promote agricultural development in Africa, fight diseases like Ebola and improve global health, and achieve our ambitious goal of ending extreme poverty.''In the Asia-Pacific, we can work with regional organisations to ensure that all nations abide by the same rules of the road. We need to sustain our efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and technologies.'
8) Ahead of Obama visit, 150 terrorists trying to infiltrate LoC:
The Indian Army on Saturday said the announcement of the ban on Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaat-ud-Dawa by Pakistan were “good moves” but the effect of these steps needs to be gauged on the ground.
“It is a significant move by Pakistan. We are waiting and watching as to how the ban on JuD would manifest on the ground,” General Officer Commanding of Army’s Srinagar-based 15 Corps, Lt General Subrata Saha said.He said all necessary precautions have been taken in view of the high profile visit of US President Barack Obama. “Adequate care is being taken to foil all (nefarious) designs in view of the visit of the US President,” Lt Gen Saha said.He said while security forces had good success against militants during the last year, there were reports of over 150 militants waiting at various launch pads on the other side of the Line of Control to infiltrate in the Valley.
“According to our assessment, there are 150 to 160 militants waiting at launch pads to sneak in ... there are around 17 launch pads,” he said.Security has been beefed up across the Valley, especially in the summer capital of the state, to thwart any militant attacks ahead or during the visit of the US president, who will be arriving in New Delhi on Sunday.Large number of police and paramilitary forces have been deployed around sensitive installations to ensure peaceful conduct of Republic Day celebrations and an incident-free Valley during Obama’s stay in India.
Special security check points have been set up at all entry and exit points into the city and major towns of the Valley, where random frisking of pedestrians and checking of vehicles are being conducted to keep militants at bay.Police and other security forces have been asked to intensify area domination patrols especially during the night hours to check the movement of suspected persons.In addition, sharp shooters are being deployed in the close vicinity of Bakshi Stadium, the main venue of Republic Day function in the Valley.
9) J-K govt formation: PDP chief hints at alliance with BJP:
Putting an end to speculations on government formation in Jammu and Kashmir, Peoples Democratic Party patron and former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed on Saturday said “track two” dialogue with the Bharatiya Janata Party is in progress.“Track two dialogue with BJP over the formation of government in Jammu and Kashmir is in progress,” he said while addressing party leaders.
Sayeed said that once the dialogue gets some direction, a structured dialogue with BJP would be initiated. “Once the track two dialogue gets some direction, a structured dialogue of the track one dialogue on the formation of a common minimum programme will be initiated,” he said.
The PDP patron said that his party is not “power hungry” and will in no way resort to the “sell-out” of its core ideology.
“PDP has its conditions and there will be no sell-out of our core ideology including the time bound revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and initiation of dialogue with Pakistan,” he said.Sayeed said that the party would want a special package for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, especially the youth, who are facing problems due to unemployment.He said that PDP would also demand the transfer of NHPC-run power projects in the state to the government of Jammu and Kashmir.
Sayeed said that the state was going through a critical phase and people need a strong and stable government that can deliver on the promises made to them during the assembly elections.
10) Obama to skip his date with the Taj Mahal:
US President Barack Obama “regrets” that he will not be able to visit Agra during his three-day stay to India starting on Sunday, the White House said on Saturday.“President Obama and the First Lady will travel to Riyadh on Tuesday, January 27 in order to pay respects to King Salman bin Abdulaziz and the family of the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.”
“Accordingly, we adjusted the schedule in coordination with the Indian Government so that the president would be able to depart India following his speech on Tuesday to stop in Riyadh during the return trip to meet with King Salman and other Saudi officials and offer his condolences on behalf of the American people. The President regrets that he will be unable to visit Agra during this trip. The vice president will remain in Washington,” a White House statement said.
The statement, issued in New Delhi by the US embassy, also mentioned that the US vice president was originally to have led a delegation to Saudi Arabia on the President's behalf.“As the president’s and vice president’s travel schedules became clearer, we determined that the window when the vice president would be on the ground in Riyadh coincided with the president’s departure from India,” it said, noting that accordingly Obama’s schedule was adjusted.
Meanwhile, after Americans informed about the change in the programme of the President, all concerned security agencies and local administration has been conveyed the same.He was scheduled to visit the city of Taj with his wife Michelle Obama on Tuesday for which elaborate security arrangements had been made.
The US President, who will be arriving in New Delhi on Sunday for talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and be the chief guest at the Republic Day, will leave India on January 27.
Sports News This Week:
1) Williams sisters lead Americans into fourth round:
Top seed Serena Williams and her older sister Venus led a foursome of American women into the Australian Open fourth round on Saturday, while men's top seed Novak Djokovic survived a nervous start to overcome a feisty Fernando Verdasco.It is the first time four women from the traditional tennis powerhouse, which has relied on the Williams sisters for much of their grand slam success in the past decade, have made the last 16 at a major since Roland Garros in 2013.The sisters were joined in the last 16 by the two Madisons - Brengle and Keys - who will play each other - with the 19-year-old Keys upsetting twice Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 6-4 7-5 in the last match of the day.
"I think my hands are still shaking," said Keys, who is coached by former number one Lindsay Davenport. "I'm excited to play Maddie in the next round."Twice champion Victoria Azarenka also advanced after a 6-4 6-4 victory over 25th seed Barbora Zahlavova Strycova and will now meet last year's beaten finallist Dominika Cibulkova.
With Roger Federer's surprise exit on Friday still hanging over the tournament, the men's favourites had some nervous moments in their third round clashes on Saturday.
Djokovic was forced into a first set tiebreak by former top-10 player Verdasco, while fifth seed Kei Nishikori also dropped the first set tiebreak before he beat Steve Johnson.Johnson and 19th-seed John Isner, who was beaten by Luxembourg's Gilles Muller, were the last American men in the singles competition, though North America will be represented in the fourth round by Canada's Milos Raonic.
Djokovic's match, which was temporarily halted before the third set as Verdasco took a timeout, did have another distraction with a marriage proposal in the stands that the world number one applauded when the woman accepted."I'm sure he was very happy when she said yes," a smiling Djokovic said. "It's nice to see this moment."
Men's champion Stan Wawrinka, pleased to be out of the glare of many people, also continued his quiet progression with a clinical victory over tricky lefthander Jarkko Nieminen."I'm not the focus on the tournament because there's Novak, Rafa coming back from injury, Roger also just lost, there's Kyrgios, Tomic still playing," Wawrinka said."For me, doesn't matter."
While Azarenka continues to lurk as a danger to anyone in the top half of the draw, an ominous portent developed over the rest of the women's field with the Williams' sisters success.The last time the siblings reached the last 16 at Melbourne Park, Serena went on to win her fifth Australian Open title.It was also the last time the 18-times grand slam winner lifted the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.
The world number one beat Ukraine's Elina Svitolina 4-6 6-2 6-0, while 18th seed Venus also needed a set to get going before she beat Italy's Camila Giorgi 4-6 7-6(3) 6-1 to make her first grand slam fourth round since Wimbledon in 2011."That feels fantastic especially when things happen in your life that are not in your control," said Venus, who struggles with Sjogren's syndrome, an auto-immune disease that can cause joint pain and fatigue."But I don't want to stop now, I want to keep it going.
"This little cat has a few tricks up her sleeve."The 34-year old will now meet women's sixth seed Agnieszka Radwanska who also continued her largely untroubled progress with a 6-0 7-5 win over another American Varvara Lepchenko, while Serena will play the enigmatic Garbine Muguruza.
The hard-hitting Spaniard beat Serena last year in the second round at Roland Garros and the tall right hander said that victory, while a 'perfect game', was not a factor on the Melbourne hard courts."I think I don't have nothing to lose," the 21-year-old said. "Just another match, same game, same concentration.
2) Brisbane ODI: India vs England:
England defeated India by nine wickets in Brisbane on Tuesday, in their second outing of a one-day international tri-series after India's decision to bat first backfired. Catch all the highlights of the match here. In reply to India's 153 from 39.3 overs, England lost just one wicket while scoring 156 runs in 27.3 overs
3) Australian Open: Madison Keys ends Petra Kvitova’s campaign; Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams advance:
Novak Djokovic fine-tuned his voice and his game at the Australian Open on Saturday, advancing to the fourth round with a straight-sets win over Fernando Verdasco and then urging the crowd of 15,000 to sing Happy Birthday to his mother back home.After his 7-6 (8), 6-3, 6-4 win, the four-time Australian champion had a lengthy on-court interview with Jim Courier discussing a range of topics including his childhood memories of tennis, when “I was constructing little trophies out of plastic and pretending I was a Wimbledon champion.”
The flashback jogged his memory. It was Jan. 24, his mother Dijana’s birthday.“It’s my mom’s birthday, can you sing happy birthday?” he asked the crowd, before singing the whole song live on camera. The Williams sisters had their own celebration of sorts, progressing together to the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time since Wimbledon in 2011. Two other Americans joined them, with 19-year-old Madison Keys upsetting two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova with a 6-4, 7-5 victory and Madison Brengle beating Coco Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-2 in an all-U.S. match. The two Madisons will meet in the fourth round, meaning one will become a first-time major quarter-finalist. When 18-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams noticed that older sister Venus was advancing to the second week, it inspired her own 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 win over No. 26-ranked Elina Svitolina.When top-ranked Serena walked onto Rod Laver Arena, Venus was already down a set and a break on Margaret Court Arena. Venus, who was diagnosed with an auto-immune condition called Sjogren’s syndrome in 2011 and has struggled at the highest level ever since, rallied for a 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-1 win over Camila Giorgi, and that inspired her younger sister.
“I thought, ‘Wow, she’s been through so much with her illness, with everything that she’s had to do. Gosh, if she can do it, I’m perfectly healthy, I’m fine. I should be able to do it, too,” the five-time Australian Open champion said. “It just got me so motivated, really helped me push through those next two sets at a rapid rate.”She’ll have to be at the top of her game in the next round she meets No. 24 Garbine Muguruza, who beat her in the second round at the French Open last year. Muguruza defeated Timea Bacsinszky 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.In the other fourth-round match in that quarter, two-time champion Victoria Azarenka will meet 2014 finalist Dominika Cibulkova.
4) Saina Nehwal, K Srikanth reach Syed Modi International Grand Prix finals
Defending champion Saina Nehwal is just one step away from retaining her women’s singles title, while world No. 5 Indian K Srikanth too reached the finals of the USD 120,000 Syed Modi International Badminton tournament, in Lucknow on Saturday.Olympic bronze medallist Saina didn’t have to break much sweat as she disposed off fourth seed Nichaon Jindapon of Thailand 21-10 21-16 at the Babu Banarasi Das Indoor Stadium.
The 24-year-old will take on the winner of the match between two-time World Championship bronze medallist P V Sindhu and reigning World Champion Carolina Marin of Spain.
World No. 5 Srikanth also continued his rampaging form and entered the finals for the second successive time with a hard-fought victory over compatriot H S Prannoy, who had clinched the Indonesia Masters last year.The top seed Indian dropped the opening game before beating Prannoy 12-21 21-12 21-14 in a match that lasted for an hour and four minutes in the men’s singles competition.In doubles, it was curtains for fifth seeds Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy as they were defeated by fourth seeds Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov of Russia 12-21 18-21.
5) Manchester United held to goalless draw by fourth-tier Cambridge :
Manchester United were held to a 0-0 draw at fourth tier Cambridge United in the FA Cup fourth round on Friday after another embarrassing outing against lower league opposition.Cambridge, promoted from the minor leagues into the professional pyramid last season, gave the Manchester millionaires a lesson in terms of desire and defensive organisation.
The home side even had the best opportunity in the first half when Josh Coulson headed over from close range as the visitors, with Wayne Rooney rested, were reduced to half chances.Louis van Gaal’s side, dumped out of the Capital One (League) Cup 4-0 in the second round by third tier Milton Keynes Dons in August, improved after the break with Radamel Falcao going close but they had to settle for an Old Trafford replay.
6) Former administrators and players hail Supreme Court verdict :
Former cricket administrators on Thursday hailed the Supreme Court verdict of barring N Srinivasan from contesting any BCCI election on grounds of conflict of interest, saying that it will end malpractices while bringing transparency in the running of the game in the country. Delivering its long-awaited verdict, the court held that the allegation of betting against Gurunath Meiyappan, a CSK team official and son-in-law of the BCCI President-in-exile and Rajasthan Royals co-owner Raj Kundra stands proved while the charge of cover up against Srinivasan “is not proved”. The SC also set up a judges committee under a former Chief Justice of India to decide on the punishment in the IPL scam that can threaten the future of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals (RR). Former BCCI and ICC chief Sharad Pawar said the SC decision will bring to an end to all the unwanted things that have been happening in Indian cricket for some time. “I am happy Srinivasan is out. Many things have been happening in cricket for so long and this verdict will help in ending them. The need of the hour is to bring a change in cricket set-up,” he said. Pawar, however, ruled himself out of taking up responsibility to lead the Board. “Whether me or (another former BCCI president) Shashank Manohar are not personally interested but interested in helping the administrative set up of cricket,” added Pawar, also a former Union Minister. Another former BCCI chief AC Muthiah asked Srinivasan to quit as ICC President also. “He (Srinivasan) has to come out of ICC. How can he be there in ICC when he is not wanted in his own country?” asked Muthiah who had filed cases on conflict of interest in the BCCI in the courts. “It’s a landmark judgment. I find I have been vindicated for fighting the conflict of interest case for the last six years in Madras High Court and Supreme Court. This decision by the Supreme Court will bring in structural changes in the BCCI which would definitely result in the improvement of the gentleman’s game,” he added. IS Bindra, another former BCCI President, said that the current office bearers of the Board should also be taken to task. “The court showed no faith in BCCI and set up its own inquiry committee. All of them are guilty. People who did not take action for last — months are equally responsible.
7) N Srinivasan can’t contest BCCI elections, board functions public and amenable to judicial reviews, says Supreme Court :
Observing that “individuals are birds of passage while institutions are forever” and underlining the principles of “institutional integrity” and “public policy”, the Supreme Court Thursday quashed a rule allowing BCCI administrators to have commercial interests in formats like IPL and Champions League T20, and barred its ousted chief N Srinivasan from contesting elections. The bench of Justices T S Thakur and F M I Kalifulla held that conflict of interest had arisen in Srinivasan’s case since he played a role in organising and managing events like the IPL in which Chennai Super Kings, a team owned by his company India Cements Ltd, participated while he took part in decisions concerning the team.It asked the BCCI to conduct within six weeks its election in which “no one who has any commercial interest in BCCI events, including Srinivasan, shall be eligible for contesting the elections for any post whatsoever”. The court, however, cleared Srinivasan of alleged cover-up in the IPL corruption case, underlining that the charges against him could “at best raise a suspicion” but did not stand proved.
8) Extremely happy with Supreme Court judgement, says Lalit Modi
Claiming to have been vindicated after the Supreme Court barred N Srinivsan from contesting BCCI Presidential elections owing to conflict of interest, sacked IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi on Thursday said the verdict will clean up corruption in the game.“Extremely happy with the Hon. Supreme Court judgement on #srinivasan.. always believed that I would be vindicated #IPLVerdict,” Modi said in a series of tweets after the apex court disallowed Srinivasan from fighting the BCCI Presidential election due to his stake in IPL team Chennai Super Kings.
“Decision by Hon. SC to disallow any administrator from having any commercial interest in cricket is bang on #IPLVerdict #SriniGameOver,” he added.
Delivering its long-awaited verdict, the Supreme Court held that the allegation of betting against Gurunath Meiyappan, a CSK team official and son-in-law of the BCCI President-in-exile, and Rajasthan Royals co-owner Raj Kundra stands proved while the charge of cover up against Srinivasan “is not proved”.Striking down rules that permitted BCCI office bearers to have a commercial interest by owning teams in the hugely-popular Indian Premier League and Champions League, at two-member bench of Justices T S Thakur and F M I Khalifulla, said, “Amendment in the BCCI rules allowing Srinivasan to own IPL team is bad as conflict of interest in cricket leads to great confusion.”Modi said his position on conflict of interest has been proved right by the apex court.
Books Of This Week:
1) When She Smiled by Ritoban Chakrabarti:
Mrityunjoy Roy is a fifteen year old Bengali who has spent the last ten years of his life growing up in Shimla. While his family is completely academically oriented, he wants something more.
Finally he meets Akanksha in school, who turns his world upside down with her gorgeous looks and mind boggling smile. As fate would have it, she joins his tuition, and thus begins the torrid year of puppy love, romance, heartbreak, tragedy, and self discovery. Set among the scenic Shivalik hills of Shimla when mobile phones and internet were non-existent, this is a story of how an average young teenager comes to terms with his destiny.
Ritoban is an entrepreneur who ran an internet marketing company for five years, before trying his hand at writing. His first novel, When She Smiled, a coming-of-age fiction released in 2014. He is an avid traveller, and believes in a life without boundaries.
2) The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward :
In this heartrending and poignant novel, award-winning author Amanda Eyre Ward tells the story of Alice Conroe, a forty year old Texas barbecue owner who has the perfect life, except she and her husband long for a child. Unable to conceive, she’s trying desperately to adopt but her destiny is quickly altered by a young woman she’s never met.
Fearless thirteen-year-old Carla Trujilio is being raised by her grandmother in Honduras along with her four year old twin brothers. Her mother is sending money home from Texas where she’s trying to make a better life for her family, but she only has enough to bring one son to her. When Carla’s grandmother dies, Carla decides to take her fate into her own hands and embarks on a dangerous journey across the border with Junior, the twin left behind.
Two powerful journeys intersecting at a pivotal moment in time: Alice and Carla’s lives will be forever and profoundly changed. Heartbreaking, emotional, and arresting, this novel is about finding the courage to trail blaze your own path in life with faith, hope and love, no matter the struggle or the tragedy
Amanda Eyre Ward: