2 held for bomb threat to NDPS judge in Bengaluru

News Network
October 20, 2020

Bengaluru, Oct 20: Two people have been taken into custody in connection with the bomb threat to a special judge hearing the drug case involving celebrities in Karnataka, police sources said on Tuesday.

A family feud in Tiptur of Tumakuru district is suspected to be the reason behind the incident allegedly plotted by rival members who wanted one of their kin to land in trouble, he said without divulging further information.

"Two persons have been detained for questioning. They will be brought to Bengaluru," a top police officer told PTI on condition of anonymity.

An NDPS special judge hearing the drug racket case received a threat letter and a parcel with a detonator on Monday here, demanding grant of bail to two film actresses and those booked in the August 11 violence here.

The person who wrote the letter had warned that a blast would be triggered if the demands were not met. Later, the investigation revealed that there was no bomb inside but some wires which created an impression of a detonator.

According to a preliminary inquiry, the letter was sent from Chelur in Tumakuru district, the sources said adding two people were taken into custody for questioning.

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News Network
November 19,2020

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Researchers in Denmark reported on Wednesday that surgical masks did not protect the wearers against infection with the coronavirus in a large randomized clinical trial. But the findings conflict with those from a number of other studies, experts said, and is not likely to alter public health recommendations in the United States.

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, did not contradict growing evidence that masks can prevent transmission of the virus from wearer to others. But the conclusion is at odds with the view that masks also protect the wearers — a position endorsed just last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Critics were quick to note the study’s limitations, among them that the design depended heavily on participants reporting their own test results and behavior, at a time when both mask-wearing and infection were rare in Denmark.

Coronavirus infections are soaring throughout the United States, and even officials who had resisted mask mandates are reversing course. Roughly 40 states have implemented mask requirements of some sort, according to a database maintained by The New York Times.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, advocates a national mask mandate, as does President-elect Joe Biden.

“I won’t be president until January 20th, but my message today to everyone is this: wear a mask,” Biden recently wrote on Twitter.

From early April to early June, researchers at the University of Copenhagen recruited 6,024 participants who had been tested beforehand to be sure they were not infected with the coronavirus.

Half were given surgical masks and told to wear them when leaving their homes; the others were told not to wear masks in public.

At that time, 2% of the Danish population was infected — a rate lower than that in many places in the United States and Europe today. Social distancing and frequent hand-washing were common, but masks were not.

About 4,860 participants completed the study. The researchers had hoped that masks would cut the infection rate by half among wearers. Instead, 42 people in the mask group, or 1.8%, got infected, compared with 53 in the unmasked group, or 2.1%. The difference was not statistically significant.

“Our study gives an indication of how much you gain from wearing a mask,” said Dr. Henning Bundgaard, lead author of the study and a cardiologist at the University of Copenhagen. “Not a lot.”

Dr. Mette Kalager, a professor of medical decision-making at the University of Oslo, found the research compelling. The study showed that “although there might be a symbolic effect,” she wrote in an email, “the effect of wearing a mask does not substantially reduce risk” for wearers.

Other experts were unconvinced. The incidence of infections in Denmark was lower than it is today in many places, meaning the effectiveness of masks for wearers may have been harder to detect, they noted.

Participants reported their own test results; mask use was not independently verified, and users may not have worn them correctly.

“There is absolutely no doubt that masks work as source control,” preventing people from infecting others, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, chief executive of Resolve to Save Lives, an advocacy group, and former director of the CDC, who wrote an editorial outlining weaknesses of the research.

“The question this study was designed to answer is: Do they work as personal protection?” The answer depends on what mask is used and what sort of exposure to the virus each person has, Frieden said, and the study was not designed to tease out those details.

“An N95 mask is better than a surgical mask,” Frieden said. “A surgical mask is better than most cloth masks. A cloth mask is better than nothing.”

The study’s conclusion flies in the face of other research suggesting that masks do protect the wearer. In its recent bulletin, the CDC cited a dozen studies finding that even cloth masks may help protect the wearer. Most of them were laboratory examinations of the particles blocked by materials of various types.

Susan Ellenberg, a biostatistician at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, noted that protection conferred by masks on the wearer trended “in the direction of benefit” in the trial, even if the results were not statistically significant.

“Nothing in this study suggests to me that it is useless to wear a mask,” she said.

Dr. Elizabeth Halloran, a statistician at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said the usefulness of masks also depends on how much virus a person is exposed to.

“If you show this article to a health care provider who works in a COVID ward in a hospital, I doubt she or he would say that this article convinces them not to wear a mask,” she said.

But Dr. Christine Laine, editor in chief of the Annals of Internal Medicine, described the previous evidence that masks protect wearers as weak.

“These studies cannot differentiate between source control and personal protection of the mask wearer,” she said.

Laine said the new study underscored the need for adherence to other precautions, like social distancing. Masks “are not a magic bullet,” she said. “There are people who say, ‘I’m fine, I’m wearing a mask.’ They need to realize they are not invulnerable to infection.”

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Agencies
November 28,2020

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High-ranking Iranian nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, named by the West as leading the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear programme until its disbanding in the early 2000s, has been assassinated in an ambush near Tehran.

Fakhrizadeh was shot “by terrorists” in his vehicle in Absard, a suburb in eastern Tehran, and he later succumbed to his injuries in what amounted to a “martyr’s death”, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

Local authorities had confirmed Fakhrizadeh’s death several hours earlier and also said that several attackers were killed.

Fakhrizadeh served as the head of the Research and Innovation Organisation of the defence ministry at the time of his death.

Iran’s foreign minister alleged the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh bore “serious indications” of an Israeli role, but did not elaborate.

Israel declined to immediately comment on the killing of Fakhrizadeh, whom Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once called out in a news conference saying: “Remember that name.”

Israel has long been suspected of carrying out a series of targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists nearly 10 years ago.

Photos and video shared online showed a Nissan sedan with bullet holes through windshield and blood pooled on the road.

The semiofficial Fars News Agency said witnesses heard the sound of an explosion and then machine gun fire. The attack targeted the car Fakhrizadeh was travelling in, the agency said.

Those wounded, including Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards, were taken to a local hospital, the agency said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig, reporting from Tehran, said that according to Fars News Agency, Fakhrizadeh “came under attack by three-four unknown assailants”.

“They also say three-four people were killed in that incident,” Baig said.

“We have had the head of the Revolutionary Guard say that assassinating nuclear scientists is an attempt by hegemonic powers to stop Iran from gaining new sciences.”

‘Serious indications’ of Israeli role

Iran’s foreign minister called on the international community to condemn “this act of state terror”.

“Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice – with serious indications of Israeli role – shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter on Friday.

In a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UN Security Council on Friday, Iran also said there are “serious indications of Israeli responsibility” in the attack and said it reserves the right to defend itself.

“Warning against any adventuristic measures by the United States and Israel against my country, particularly during the remaining period of the current administration of the United States in office, the Islamic Republic of Iran reserves its rights to take all necessary measures to defend its people and secure its interests,” Iran’s UN envoy, Majid Takht Ravanchi, wrote in the letter, which was seen by Reuters news agency.

Fakhrizadeh, 63, had been a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and was an expert in missile production. Fars said that is why Israeli secret services had long sought to eliminate him for many years.

A military adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Israel of killing Fakhrizadeh to try to provoke a war.

“In the last days of the political life of their … ally [US President Donald Trump], the Zionists (Israel) seek to intensify pressure on Iran and create a full-blown war,” commander Hossein Dehghan tweeted.

He said Fakhrizadeh’s work will continue to be a “nightmare” for Iran’s enemies.

Fakhrizadeh was one of “the people who are fighting without any claims behind the scenes of political battles and achieved martyrdom in this path”, Dehghan tweeted.

The US Pentagon declined to comment on reports of the attack.

‘More detrimental to Iran’s antagonists’

Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran, told Al Jazeera that the assassination “is going to make Iranians more assertive when it comes to dealing with its antagonists” and that it was too late for hostile entities to do anything about Iran’s nuclear programme.

“Fifty years ago, if they carried out this attack it would’ve had an impact. But now Iran’s nuclear programme is developed, it’s highly diverse. It has many young scientists and these murders will be more detrimental to Iran’s antagonists, I believe, than Iran,” Marandi said.

“[Fakharizadeh] was one of the first generation of people in Iran who helped develop nuclear technology.”

Fakhrizadeh led Iran’s so-called Amad (Hope) programme. Israel and the West have alleged it was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon in Iran. Tehran has long maintained its nuclear programme is peaceful.

The International Atomic Energy Agency says the Amad programme ended in the early 2000s. Its inspectors now monitor Iranian nuclear sites.

The assassination comes as Trump, who has been fervently backed by Israel in his “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran, is slated to leave office in less than two months after losing the presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden.

In recent weeks, multiple reports by American media have said, citing unnamed sources, that Trump has been seriously considering a military attack on Iran, even on its main nuclear site in Natanz.

In May 2018, Trump unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and imposed harsh economic sanctions that have only escalated since.

In the first European reaction to Fakhrizadeh’s assassination, Carl Bildt, co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the attack may be related to Biden’s promise to return to the nuclear deal.

“It’s not unlikely that this targeted killing was part of efforts to prevent the Biden administration from reviving diplomacy with Iran and going back to the nuclear agreement,” he tweeted.

In the past year, the Trump administration has also tried to make it harder for a Biden administration to come back to the nuclear accord through retargeting Iranian entities and individuals that were already sanctioned with new terrorism-related designations.

Friday’s assassination marks the second high-profile targeted killing of a top Iranian official after IRGC Quds Force chief General Qassem Soleimani’s killing in a US air strike in January this year.

Hillary Mann Leverett, founder of political consultancy group Stratega, said while the killing was not as “shocking” as that of Soleimani’s assassination, it was still “very disturbing”.

“It is certainly one of the most high-level assassinations we have seen in the past year,” she told Al Jazeera over Skype from Mclean, Virginia.

“I think it is intended to stoke tensions particularly in this interim period between the current administration and the Biden administration.”

“The Trump administration have openly said that they will exert what they call ‘maximum pressure’ in its most maximum essence between now and when they have to leave office on January 20,” Leverett said.

Iran has previously called the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” strategy an instance of “economic and medical terrorism”.

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News Network
November 17,2020

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Bhopal, Nov 17: The BJP government in Madhya Pradesh is planning to introduce Dharma Swatantrya (Religious Freedom) Bill 2020 in the next session of the state Assembly in view of the rising incidents of "love jihad", state Home Minister Narottam Mishra said here on Tuesday.

The bill proposes rigorous imprisonment for the period of five years for luring a person through fraud and forcing marriage by religious conversion, he told reporters and added that such offence will be non-bailable.

Other (proposed) provisions include making it mandatory for kin of the person being forced to convert to other faith for the purpose of marriage to file a complaint.

"The Madhya Pradesh government is working on bringing 'Dharma Swatantrya Bill' 2020 in the state assembly with a provision for five-year rigorous imprisonment for luring a person through fraud and forcing marriage by religious conversion by making it a cognisable and non-bailable offence. Such incidents are on the rise, which you call 'love jihad'," the home minister told reporters.

The bill will also have a provision to declare such marriages null and void, the minister said.

Besides, those assisting in such acts will be made co-accused, he added.

"It will be compulsory for family members of the person who is forced to convert for marriage, including his/her parents, brothers and sisters, to file a complaint on the matter," Mishra said.

It will be mandatory for the person who is being converted for marriage, and religious persons involved, to inform district magistrate concerned a month in advance about their decision, the minister said.

The bill will be tabled in the next session of the Legislative Assembly, he added.

BJP-ruled Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka are also mulling over bringing a law against religious conversion in the name of "love jihad", a term coined by right-wing outfits opposing inter-faith marriages.

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