Ex-US Marine Paul Whelan Held In Russia For Spying Was Misled, Says Lawyer

Rosbalt cited an unnamed Russian intelligence source as saying that Whelan had been spying for 10 years.


The lawyer for a former U.S. marine accused of spying by Russia said on Tuesday that his client had been misled before his arrest and believed that a thumb drive handed to him in a hotel room had contained holiday snaps rather than secret information.

Russia’s Federal Security Serviced detained Paul Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian and Irish passports, in a Moscow hotel room on Dec. 28.

Whelan appeared in a Moscow court on Tuesday, where a judge rejected a release on bail. If found guilty of espionage, he could be jailed for up to 20 years.

Whelan, who denies the charges, was detained after receiving a thumb drive containing a list of all the employees of a secret Russian state agency, the Russian online news portal Rosbalt.ru reported this month.

Rosbalt cited an unnamed Russian intelligence source as saying that Whelan had been spying for 10 years, using the internet to identify targets from whom he could obtain information, and that the list he was caught with had long been of interest to U.S. spies.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov appeared to support that version of events, later telling reporters Whelan had been “caught red-handed” carrying out “specific illegal actions” in his hotel room.

But Vladimir Zherebenkov, Whelan’s lawyer, said on Tuesday that his client had accepted the information unknowingly.

“Paul was actually meant to receive information from an individual that was not classified,” Zherebenkov told reporters.

“These were cultural things, a trip to a cathedral, Paul’s holiday … photographs. But as it turned out, it (the thumb drive) contained classified information.”

The lawyer said Whelan had not been able to see what was on the thumb drive because he had been detained before he had a chance to do so.

Wearing a blue shirt and dark trousers, he looked calm but sombre as he stood inside a glass cage in the courtroom.

The hearing was closed to reporters, but his lawyer said afterwards that Whelan had made a 15-minute speech rejecting the allegations against him in detail.

The lawyer declined to clarify if Whelan had known the individual who handed him the information.

He said Whelan had been experiencing some minor health problems in custody and was receiving treatment.

Whelan’s family have said he is innocent and was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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Voting Held For First Phase Of Panchayat Polls

The second and third phases of the polls will be held on January 25 and 30. (FILE PHOTO)


Polling for the first phase of the panchayat elections in Telangana were held today amid tight security. This is the first ever polls for panchayats after the formation of the state in 2014.

Polling began at 7 am and will end at 1 pm even as counting will be taken up from 2 pm.

Though 4,479 panchayats were scheduled to go the polls in the first phase, the election was declared unanimous in 769 panchayats, and elections to another nine were cancelled due to other reasons.

As many as 12,202 candidates are contesting for sarpanch posts in 3,701 panchayats while 70,094 candidates are in the fray for 28,976 wards, a senior official of the State Election Commission had earlier said.

Though the elections are held without any involvement of political parties and party symbols, all major political parties have thrown their weight behind their sympathisers concerned.

About 55,000 police personnel were deployed for overseeing security arrangements during the poll process, an official said.

The second and third phases of the polls will be held on January 25 and 30.

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Rajasthan BJP ready for national session of Scheduled Caste Morcha to be held in Nagpur by BJP

बीजेपी को राजस्थान में मिली हार के बाद अब पूरा फोकस लोकसभा चुनाव पर है. इसको लेकर विभिन्न मोर्चां की राष्ट्रीय स्तरीय बैठकें और अधिवेशन आयोजित किए जा रहे हैं.

नागपुर में होने वाले अनुसूचित जाति मोर्चा के रार्ष्टीय अधिवेशन के लिए तैयार राजस्थान BJP

बैठक में दस प्रतिशत आरक्षण मामले पर भी स्थिति स्पष्ट की जाएगी.

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Can Give Congress 2 Seats In UP They Have Always Held

Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh: 

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, who is set to announce an alliance with BSP boss Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh for the Lok Sabha elections, today said he will not speak on whether Congress will be a part of their alliance, but can leave their strongholds of Amethi and Rae Bareli for them.

“Won’t speak on Congress but can give them the two seats they have always held,” Mr Yadav told NDTV in Uttar Pradesh’s Kannauj, the parliamentary seat of his wife Dimple Yadav.

“Congress party is there, their leaders are there… But cannot say in what form or shape they will be with us,” he added.

Explaining why his Samajwadi Party decided to ally with once rival Mayawati, Mr Yadav said it is natural for political parties to have different ideologies and fight against each other, but “the situation right now is that we have to unite to fight the BJP.”

Akhilesh Yadav’s alliance with Mayawati is expected to include smaller parties like the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and the Nishad Party.

Taking a swipe at the centre, Akhilesh Yadav said the “BJP has formed an alliance with the Central Bureau of Investigation.”

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Farooq Abdullah Asks If Talks Can Be Held With Taliban, Why Not Hurriyat


Referring to Indian Army Chief Bipin Rawat’s comments on holding talks with the Taliban for peace in Afghanistan, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah on Thursday asked why the centre was not initiating a dialogue with the Hurriyat leaders in the Valley.

Speaking at a seminar entitled ‘J&K– The Road Ahead’ in Kolkata, Mr Abdullah said leaders like former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee held talks with the separatist leaders to end the cycle of violence in the state.

General Rawat had on Wednesday said there should be talks with the Taliban to bring peace in Afghanistan, but asserted that the engagement must be without any preconditions.

National Conference president Abdullah also emphasised that Army and force can never solve the internal crisis in Kashmir and hoped that dialogues to solve the issues would be reinitiated after the Lok Sabha polls.

He also claimed that each election has divided the country instead of uniting it.

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Honor 10 Lite India Launch to Held on January 15, Will Be a Flipkart Exclusive

Honor 10 Lite is all set to launch in India on January 15. The smartphone was originally teased for a January 8 unveiling, but the company has since confirmed a launch in India next week, thanks to a Flipkart teaser. The smartphone was launched in China in November, and thus its specifications are known, so can its approximate India price be estimated. Its key features include a HiSilicon Kirin 710 SoC, 24-megapixel camera, and a gradient back panel.

You can check out our first impressions of the Honor 10 Lite. As we mentioned, a Flipkart page teases the arrival of the smartphone, also tipping that it will be exclusive to the e-commerce platform. Based on the Flipkart listing, the Honor 10 Lite may launch in India in three colour options – Gradient Blue, Valley White, and Magic Night Black. 

Honor 10 Lite price in India (expected)

For those unaware, the Honor 10 Lite has already been launched in China in November last year. In China, the smartphone’s price starts at CNY 1,399 (roughly Rs. 14,400) for the 4GB RAM/ 64GB inbuilt storage variant, CNY 1,699 (roughly Rs. 17,500) for the 6GB RAM/ 64GB storage model, and CNY 1,899 (roughly Rs. 19,500) for the 6GB RAM/ 128GB storage variant. We can expect the India pricing to be around the same range as the China pricing.


Honor 10 Lite specifications

The dual-SIM (Nano) Honor 10 Lite runs Android 9.0 Pie out-of-the-box with EMUI 9.0.1 on top. The smartphone sports a 6.21-inch full-HD+ (1080×2340 pixels) display with a pixel density of 415ppi. The handset is powered by an octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 710 SoC, clocked at up to 2.2GHz. It comes with 4GB and 6GB RAM options. The smartphone comes with 64GB and 128GB inbuilt storage options, both of which are expandable via microSD card (up to 512GB).

Honor 10 Lite First Impressions

Optics includes a dual camera setup with a 13-megapixel primary sensor with f/1.8 aperture and a 2-megapixel secondary sensor. At the front, there is a 24-megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture. It packs a 3,400mAh battery, and connectivity options in the Honor 10 Lite include dual 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, 3.5mm audio jack, GPS/ A-GPS, and GLONASS. Sensors on board the handset include accelerometer, ambient light sensor, compass, gyroscope, and a proximity sensor. In terms of dimensions, it measures 154.8×73.64×7.95mm and weighs 162 grams.

The Honor 10 Lite is seen to sport a waterdrop-shaped notch, a vertically stacked dual rear camera setup, a rear fingerprint sensor, and a gradient back panel. The power and the volume buttons are housed on the right edge of the phone.

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Indian Premier League 2019 To Be Held In India, Tournament To Begin On March 23

The two-member CoA, comprising of chairman Vinod Rai and former women’s captain Diana Edulji, met in New Delhi on Tuesday to discuss the venues and window for the league.

“Based on the preliminary discussions with the appropriate central and state agencies/authorities, it was decided that the 12th edition of the world’s most popular and competitive T20 tournament will be scheduled to be played in India,” a statement issued by the BCCI read.

“It is proposed that the IPL 2019 will commence on March 23, 2019. The detailed schedule will be finalised in consultation with the appropriate authorities,” it added.

Tuesday’s statement ended months of speculation about the league’s venue this year given the possibility of a clash with the Lok Sabha elections, the dates of which are not yet out.

“The CoA will have detailed discussion with all the Stakeholders before releasing the IPL 2019 Schedule,” the BCCI statement read.

The last time the IPL got started in March was 2010. After that, the league has always kicked off in the first half of April and ended in late May. The early start this year is because of the ODI World Cup in England which will get underway from May 30. There has to be a 15-day gap between the end of the IPL and India’s international engagements as per the new BCCI constitution.

The IPL has been played outside India twice due to general elections. The entire 2009 edition was moved to South Africa, while in 2014, some games were played in the UAE.

(With PTI inputs)

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Omar Abdullah Says Assembly Polls Should Be Held In Jammu And Kashmir As Soon As Possible

Omar Abdullah said his party has not changed its stand on Article 35-A. (File)


Former chief minister Omar Abdullah said on Tuesday that assembly polls should be held “as soon as possible” in Jammu and Kashmir to put in place an elected government to run affairs of the state, which is under the President’s rule.

The National Conference (NC) vice-president also took a dig at some politicians and bureaucrats for “creating hurdles” in holding of elections of assembly jointly with parliament elections in the state.

“We want that polls should be held as soon as possible in the state and an elected government in the state is formed so that they run the affairs of state”, Mr Adbullah told reporters in Jammu.

He was replying to a question whether his party wants to hold assembly and parliamentary polls jointly in the state.

“Either he (Union home minister Rajnath Singh) has deceived the Parliament. If you say Rajnath Singh sahib has deceived Parliament, what can I say (on holding of joint elections in J&K),” he said.

The former chief minister said he “clearly” heard Mr Singh saying in parliament that “whatever number of forces is required by election commission for holding Assembly and Lok Sabha elections together, we will provide them”.

The NC vice-president took note of alleged attempts being made to delay polls in the state.

“Some people do not want elections at this time. Some politicians are trying to create hurdles and also some bureaucrats want this system (Governor”s rule) to continue so that their accountability is not checked,” Mr Abdullah said.

The former chief minister also took a dig at Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik over his reported remarks that J&K is like any other state and Patna records more murders in a day than J&K.

“To say Jammu and Kashmir is like any other state, it is wrong. If this Governor, who has been Governor of Bihar before, says like this, then Nitish Kumar (Bihar CM) has to clarify”, he said.

Mr Abdullah said article 370, article 35-A and accession differentiate Jammu and Kashmir from other states.

He said his party has not changed its stand on Article 35-A, which guarantees special rights and privileges to permanent residents of the state, and is doing whatever possible to defend it.

Referring to prominent political leaders joining the National Conference, Mr Adbullah decried the statement of PDP President Mehbooba Mufti, describing leaders leaving her party as “garbage”. He said the statement speaks volumes about “lowest depths” of political discourse.

He said large-scale desertions in the PDP are reflective of the “anger” among people for the “miseries” caused to them during the past three and half years.

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Kader Khan’s Funeral To Be Held Today, Actor Will Be Buried In A Canadian Cemetery


Veteran actor-writer Kader Khan, who died on New Year’s Eve, will be buried Wednesday at a cemetery in Canada, his son Sarfaraz said. Kader Khan died after a prolonged illness at a hospital in Canada. He was 81. “The last rites will be performed here in Canada as we have our entire family here. He (Kader Khan) is going to be buried at approximately 2:30 pm as per Canadian time at Meadowvale cemetery,” Sarfaraz told PTI.

Kader Khan was reportedly suffering from progressive supranuclear palsy, a degenerative disease that causes loss of balance, difficulty in walking and dementia. Born in Kabul, Kader Khan’s family migrated to Mumbai when he was a year old.

Kader Khan went on to write dialogues for over 250 films, including some of the biggest blockbusters of the ’70s and ’80s such as Dharam Veer, Ganga Jamuna Saraswati, Coolie, Desh Premee, Suhaag, Parvarish, Amar Akbar Anthony, Sharaabi, Lawaaris and Muqaddar Ka Sikandar. He was equally prolific as an actor after making his screen debut in 1973 with Rajesh Khanna’s Daag. He featured in a variety of character roles in over 300 films.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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Record Held By French Woman As Oldest-Ever May Be Fraudulent, Says Report

The oldest living woman, Jeanne Calment, with a certificate from the Guiness Book of Records. (AFP)


A record held by a Frenchwoman as the world’s longest living person could be fraudulent and involve an identity swap, Russian researchers have claimed in a report that has sparked widespread controversy.

Jeanne Calment died at the age of 122 years and 164 days in 1997, setting a record as the world’s most long-lived person that is still unsurpassed.

The elderly woman used to joke that God must have forgotten about her.

But Russian mathematician Nikolai Zak is not convinced by her story.

In collaboration with gerontologist Valery Novoselov, he spent months analysing biographies of Jeanne Calment as well as her interviews and photos, witness testimony and the public records of the city of Arles in southern France where she lived.

“Analysing all these materials led me to conclude that Jeanne Calment’s daughter Yvonne assumed her mother’s identity,” Zak told AFP.

Zak, a member of the Moscow Society of Naturalists at Moscow State University, recently published his report called “Jeanne Calment: the Secret of Longevity” on ResearchGate, a portal connecting scientists around the world.

While opponents have slammed the report, some scientists have welcomed it and stressed the need for closer checks into longevity records.

Zak suggests that in 1934 it was not Calment’s daughter Yvonne who died of pleurisy, as official records say, but Jeanne Calment herself. Yvonne then took on her mother’s identity in order to avoid paying inheritance tax.

If that is so, the woman who died in 1997 was in fact Yvonne, and she was aged just 99.

The Russian researcher points to discrepancies between physical characteristics listed on Calment’s identity card from the 1930s and her appearance in later years.

Call for exhuming bodies

The card gives her eye colour as dark and her height as 1 metre, 52 centimetres and describes her forehead as low — all details that jar with her later appearance.

“As a doctor I always had doubts about her age,” said Novoselov, who heads the gerontology section of the Moscow Society of Naturalists.

“The state of her muscle system was different from that of her contemporaries. She could sit up without any support. She had no signs of dementia.”

After Calment’s death, scientists expressed regret that no autopsy was held to find the reasons for her exceptional longevity.

She used to talk of enjoying chocolate and port and would smoke an occasional cigarette before her health deteriorated.

Fuelling suspicions, Calment ordered some of her old photos to be burnt when she became famous, the Russian researchers say.

Interviewed by AFP, French demographer and gerontologist Jean-Marie Robine, who took part in authenticating Calment’s age for Guinness World Records, said he “never had any doubt over the authenticity of the documents” of the woman.

He slammed the Russian report, saying it “never examines the facts in favour of the authenticity of the longevity of Madame Calment” and “appears to me to be defamatory against her family.”

The mayor of Arles at the time of Calment’s death, Michel Vauzelle, said that the Russians’ theory was “completely impossible and ridiculous” since Calment was monitored by a number of doctors.

But others welcomed the research.

“The idea of assumed identity had already been considered by those validating (the claim) and I regularly invited demographers to hold onto this hypothesis,” said Nicolas Brouard, research director at France’s Institut National d’Etudes Demographiques (INED).

“It’s good that Nikolai Zak has carried out research that is independent and covers the same area of investigation. It’s a very good piece of work and an argument in favour of exhuming the bodies of Jeanne and Yvonne Calment,” he said.

DNA testing would be able to finally settle the debate, he said.

“National heroine”

Belgian demographer Michel Poulain, of the University of Louvain, welcomed what he called “quite a detailed investigation” that he said shows the need for further scientific research “to validate the exceptional age of these supercentenarians” — those older than 110.

“The probability of an erroneous age increases exponentially with presumed age,” he said.

Zak came up with the idea of investigating Calment’s life while creating a mathematical model of the lifespan of supercentenarians.

“The more I searched, the more contradictions I found,” he said.

In a book published in 1997 titled “Insurance and its Secrets”, he found a short passage about Calment that supported the idea that her daughter took on her identity.

The book’s author, Jean-Pierre Daniel, wrote that an insurance investigator looking into a life annuity taken out by Jeanne Calment had already concluded that fraud took place.

“But at the time Jeanne Calment was already considered a national heroine. That official asked his bosses about it and they told him to keep on paying out the annuity. There was no question of creating a scandal over the doyenne of the French,” he told AFP.

Gerontologist Novoselov argues that question marks over Calment’s true age are damaging to his field since “for gerontologists, Jeanne Calment is a symbol. Her name is cited in all the studies… For research to advance, we need to show the true boundaries of the chessboard”.

Members of Calment’s extended family did not respond to requests for comment from AFP.

If Calment’s record were to be cancelled, the new record-holder would be American Sarah Knauss, who died at 119 in 1999.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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