20 Children killed As Minibus Hits Truck In South Africa

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

20 children killed as minibus hits truck in South Africa

WORLD Updated: Apr 21, 2017 22:34 IST

Associated Press
Associated Press
Johannesburg
South Africa

A fatal collision between a truck and minibus killed 20 children in South Africa.(Twitter/ ER24 EMS (Pty) Ltd)

A minibus carrying young students collided with a truck and burst into flames in South Africa on Friday, killing about 20 children.The victims were between 5 and 10 years old, said Russel Meiring, a spokesman for paramedic company ER24. He said several children survived after being pulled from the wreckage near Bronkhorstspruit, east of the capital, Pretoria.

Images posted by ER24 on Twitter show the crumpled, smoking minibus on its side next to the truck.

Authorities were investigating the cause of the crash. “We are trying to find out exactly what happened,” Meiring said.

Some students who were trapped in the minibus were burned beyond recognition, the News24 website reported. It quoted Johan Pieterse, spokesman for the EMS paramedic company.

Transport minister Joe Maswanganyi expressed condolences to the families of the dead. In an interview with the eNCA news outlet, he said many accidents occur because of reckless driving and that increasing the police presence on the roads would have limited results.

“If human behavior doesn’t change, there isn’t much that police can do,” he said.

A total of 235 people died in accidents on South Africa’s roads during the recent Easter period, a 51 percent increase over the same period last year, according to the country’s Road Traffic Management Corporation.

China’s Government Renames 6 Cities In Norther India: They Say They Have The Right

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

China hits back, says it has ‘lawful right’ to standardise names in Arunachal

INDIA Updated: Apr 21, 2017 16:55 IST

Arunachal Pradesh

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang at a news conference in Beijing in October 2015. Beijing says Arunachal Pradesh is part of South Tibet with close Buddhist links, and its official map show the state as part of South Tibet. (Reuters File Photo)

China on Friday asserted that it was its “lawful right” to standardise official names for six places in Arunachal Pradesh, while its state-run media warned that India will pay “dearly” if it continues to play the Dalai Lama card.“China’s position on the eastern section of the India- China boundary is clear and consistent,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a media briefing here while reacting to India’s assertion that Arunachal Pradesh is its integral part.

“Relevant names have been used by ethnic Momba and Tibetan Chinese who have lived here for generations. So it is a fact that cannot be changed. To standardise these names and publicise them is a legitimate measure based on our lawful right,” he said.

Lu also countered India’s charge that China was inventing names to make its territorial claims over the area legal.

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India on Thursday hit out at China for giving Chinese names to six places in Arunachal Pradesh, saying assigning invented names to towns of the neighbour does not make illegal territorial claims legal.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay in New Delhi had also asserted that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India.

Earlier, the Global Times, in an op-ed article, said India will pay “dearly” if it continues the “petty game” of playing the Dalai Lama card and dismissed as “absurd” New Delhi’s reaction to China’s renaming of six places in Arunachal Pradesh.

“It is time for India to do some serious thinking over why China announced the standardised names in South Tibet at this time,” said the article titled ‘India playing Dalai card worsens territorial spats with China’.

The daily said “playing the Dalai Lama card” was never a wise choice for New Delhi.

“If India wants to continue this petty game, it will only end up in playing dearly for it,” the daily warned.

“South Tibet (Arunachal Pradesh) is historically part of China and name of the places there is part of the local ethnic culture. It is legitimate for the Chinese government to standardise the names of the places,” it said.

China claims Arunachal Pradesh as ‘South Tibet’.

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China on Wednesday had announced that it has “standardised” official names for six places in the northeastern state and termed the provocative move as a “legitimate action”.

The Chinese move came days after Beijing lodged strong protests with India over the Dalai Lama’s visit to the frontier state.

Lu had earlier said that the Chinese government was conducting the second nationwide survey on geographical names, “an important task to standardise the geographical names in the languages of ethnic minority groups.”

He had also said that more standardised names will be announced later.

Highlighting China’s stand on the border dispute, the Global Times said, “China has been making efforts to solve the territorial disputes with India, but over the past decades, India has not only increased migration to the disputed area and boosted its military construction there, but it also named Arunachal Pradesh, China’s South Tibet, as a formal state of India in 1987.”

The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488 km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC). While China claims Arunachal Pradesh as South Tibet, India asserts that the dispute covers the Aksai Chin area which was occupied by China during the 1962 war.

China Is The First Country To Offer Assistance To Nepal With Election Equipment

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

As Nepal steps up efforts to hold polls to local government bodies on May 14 in the face of opposition from the Madhesi Morcha, China has become the first country to offer assistance for the elections.India, which has been pushing for all stakeholders to join the electoral process, is still silent on offering any kind of assistance despite several requests from the Nepalese side.

Besides monetary support of nine million Yuan announced during Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s recent visit to China, a tranche of election-related materials arrived in Kathmandu from Beijing on Monday.

Chinese ambassador Yu Hong handed over election-related materials, including pens, stamp pads, rubber stamps, calculators, scales, punching machines and table watches, during a function in Kathmandu.

Nepal has also purchased 30,000 ballot boxes from China that are set to arrive in Kathmandu in a day or two, the Election Commission of Nepal said.

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The Election Commission said it requires 67 types of election-related materials to conduct the polls. It identified India, China and the UNDP as major sources for these items.

“Nepal had requested for around 1,000 vehicles of various types from India but we are not sure whether we are getting them or not,” said a senior Nepal government official who did not want to be named.

According to officials, the election commission had requested India to provide vehicles and the special ink used to mark the fingers of voters after they cast their ballots. It had sought 11 cars, 35 double cabin pick-up vans, a mini bus, a micro bus, 30 motorcycles and seven scooters.

Officials of the election commission and the home ministry said there had been no confirmation from India on whether it would provide the assistance sought by Nepal.

During the second Constituent Assembly elections in 2013, India had provided 750 vehicles and other election-related materials.

Pakistan Rules Out Giving Convicted To Death Indian “Spy” Any Of His Legal Rights

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Upping the ante against India, Pakistan’s army ruled out on Monday consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav who has been sentenced to death by a military court, days after New Delhi made a strong case for access to the alleged spy on death row.Jadhav, 46, was awarded death sentence by the Field General Court Martial last week, evoking a sharp reaction in India that warned Pakistan of consequences and damage to bilateral ties if the “pre-meditated murder” was carried out.

“Under the law we cannot give consular access to Kulbhushan who was involved in spying,” Pakistan military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor told reporters.

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However, Indian officials in New Delhi maintained that there was no communication from Pakistan on the denial of consular access.

Pakistan has denied India’s request for consular access to Jadhav over a dozen times in the past one year.

On Friday, Indian high commissioner in Islamabad Gautam Bambawale met Pakistan foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua and demanded a certified copy of the chargesheet as well as the army court order in the Jadhav case, besides seeking consular access to the retired Indian navy officer.

Addressing the media in Rawalpindi on Monday, Maj Gen Ghafoor said Jadhav was involved in anti-state activities so he had to face court martial.

“It was duty of the army (to apprehend and punish him). We have not compromised on it and awarded him punishment. We will not compromise on this issue in future also,” he said.

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He said all legal requirements were fulfilled in the trial of Jadhav — which resulted in his conviction.

“The court martial is based on such evidence which cannot be refuted at any forum,” he said.

He said the Indian man can appeal against the judgment in the army appellate court and then to the army chief against the decision of the appellate court.

The spokesman said the convict can also file an appeal to the Supreme Court and the president of Pakistan.

“We will defend his conviction at every forum,” he said.

Pakistan claims its security forces arrested Jadhav from the restive Balochistan province on March 3 last year after he reportedly entered from Iran. It also claimed that he was “a serving officer in the Indian Navy.”

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The Pakistan Army had also released a “confessional video” of Jadhav after his arrest.

However, India denied Pakistan’s contention and maintained that Jadhav was kidnapped by the Pakistani authorities.

India had acknowledged that Jadhav had served with the navy but denied that he has any connection with the government.

There Is A Video War Being Played Out In Kashmir

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Video vs Video: The other war playing out in Kashmir

INDIA Updated: Apr 17, 2017 07:39 IST

Toufiq Rashid, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Kashmir unrest

Protesters clash with police and paramilitary soldiers during a protest after Friday prayers in Srinagar.(Waseem Andrabi/HT Photo)

A grainy short video shot with a cellphone shows Wali Mohammed Bhat, a supporter of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), apologising profusely and shouting anti-India slogans at gunpoint.The petrified Kashmiri man is heard saying he has long quit all political activities.

In another similar video, a group of security men are seen pinning a youth in a red vest to the ground. His hands are tied behind his back, and the men are beating his legs with sticks.

He screams: “Paani … maafi (water… mercy).”

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The two clips were uploaded on social media on Sunday and quickly became the most shared, watched and commented items online in militancy-riddled Jammu and Kashmir as well as the rest of India.

These are from a long line of videos showing the two stark realities of Kashmir — alleged atrocities of a hardnosed establishment trying to bulldoze the insurgency, and the threats, brickbats and stones that people on the non-separatist side of the political divide face in the Valley.

This is Unacceptable ! Cant do this to our CRPF jawaans .This rot has to stop. Badtameezi ki hadd hai.

The troubled region’s pro- and anti-separatist battle is fought through videos — a quick-reaction psychological weapon that is exploding on social networks more often lately, especially after the protest-blighted by-elections to the Srinagar parliamentary seat on April 9.

At least eight people died in the unrest and hundreds were wounded as security forces fired at and caned crowds that tried to disrupt the bypoll in response to a separatist call to boycott the democratic process.

The video of an armed CRPF trooper being kicked and booed by a group of youth when he was returning from bypoll duty with his colleagues became a nationwide television debate.

Another Socking & Outrageous Video from occupied . Indian Brutality & oppression on its peak

The men in uniform do nothing to the hecklers. They walk on. Their action is peddled on the loop in national television as an epitome of restraint shown by the armed forces.

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The tide turns on April 13 as another explosive clip surfaced. It shows security forces firing at a group, mostly children, throwing stones. The soldiers are seen moving behind a wall, bending, locating the position of the stone-throwers, and firing at a boy. Netizens called it targeted killing.

A day later, a video showed a Kashmiri youth tied to the bonnet of a military jeep as a human shield against stone-throwers. The background audio warns people that “this will be the fate of stone-pelters”.

Here’s the video as well. A warning can be heard saying stone pelters will meet this fate. This requires an urgent inquiry & follow up NOW!!

The video was supposedly shot in Budgam district on April 9 during the bypoll.

Another clip emerged, showing Kashmiri youth protecting a security man who allegedly fell behind from the rest of his troop.

It rained videos last Saturday. One of them shows a child screaming his lungs out as four men in army fatigues beat him mercilessly with sticks. Another one has three Kashmiri youth shouting “Pakistan Murdabad”, allegedly at the behest of a security man, half-visible in the video.

Hindustan Times could not authenticate where and when these videos were shot. But these are having an effect.

After death sentence, what are Kulbhushan Jadhav’s options under Pakistan laws?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

After death sentence, what are Kulbhushan Jadhav’s options under Pakistan laws?

INDIA Updated: Apr 15, 2017 08:36 IST

Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Kulbhushan Jadhav

People shout slogans during a protest against the conviction of Kulbhushan Jadhav, in Mumbai.(AP Photo)

Pakistan on Friday listed the options available to Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav to appeal against the death sentence given to him by a military court on charges of espionage.Sartaj Aziz, the foreign affairs adviser to the prime minister, told a news briefing that the former Indian Navy officer was allegedly “responsible for espionage, sabotage and terrorism” and had been tried according to the law of the land.

Aziz, who read from a statement and did not take questions from the media, then listed the options available to Jadhav under Pakistani law.

“He has the right to appeal within 40 days to an appellate court. He may lodge a mercy petition to the (army chief) within 60 days of the decision by the appellate court,” Aziz said.

“He may lodge a mercy petition to the President of Pakistan within 90 days after the decision of (the army chief) on the mercy petition.”

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India has strongly criticised Pakistan for not sharing Jadhav’s whereabouts and details of his condition. It also criticised Pakistan for not adhering to the international norm of providing consular access to a prisoner despite the two countries having an agreement on the issue.

New Delhi has also said that if Islamabad goes ahead with the execution of Jadhav, it would be tantamount to premeditated murder.

Jadhav was reportedly captured in Balochistan in March last year. He was tried by a field general court martial or an army court under provisions of the Pakistan Army Act and the Official Secrets Act.

Aziz said Jhadav was provided with “legal counsel in accordance with provisions of our law” and that he reportedly confessed before a magistrate and the army court that he was tasked by Indian intelligence to “plan, coordinate and organise espionage and sabotage activities”.

Aziz said all political parties of Pakistan were unanimous that the death sentence given to Jadhav was “the correct decision” and the “whole nation is solidly united against any threat to Pakistan’s security”.

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Scare And Sell: How Indian Call Centers Scam/Cheat Foreign Computer Owners

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Scare and sell: How Indian call centre scammers cheat foreign computer owners

A tech support scam begins by planting a pop-up message in the target user’s web browser that alerts them to a so-called virus infection, employees and experts say.

INDIA Updated: Apr 10, 2017 07:03 IST

Snigdha Poonam and Samarth Bansal
Snigdha Poonam and Samarth Bansal
Hindustan Times, Gurgaon/New Delhi
India call centres

A tech support scam begins by planting a pop-up message in the target user’s web browser that alerts them to a so-called virus infection, employees and experts say.(Reuters Representative Photo)

Dusk is falling on Gurgaon’s Sohna Road, an upscale neighbourhood crammed with gleaming steel-and-concrete buildings that power India’s software surge and offer hopes of a brighter future to millions.It’s about 5pm. Backpack-laden young men and women pour out of cabs and auto-rickshaws and take a lift to the sixth-floor call centre of Saburi TLC, past a company motto inscribed in bright orange, “If you work only for money, you will never make it”.In 15 minutes, they diffuse into a maze of blue-and-white cubicles where they will spend the next eight hours with a computer, a desk phone and a pair of black headphones.There are hundreds of similar call centres in the neighbourhood. But Saburi TLC is different, a shadowy outfit accused of being among the biggest players in a thriving tech-support fraud that cons unsuspecting foreigners into buying expensive security software for their perfectly normal computers.

The charges against Saburi TLC are just the tip of a growing rot in India’s $110-billion business process outsourcing (BPO) industry that is being potentially hollowed out by fraud businesses thriving in the absence of strong regulation and oversight.

Many of these dodgy businesses operate a stone’s throw away from major companies in places such as Gurgaon, Pune and Bengaluru but are notoriously difficult to pin down because the victims are foreigners who can’t file police complaints in India, and the firms are often run out of flats or nondescript locations by a handful of people.

If the trend isn’t checked, experts warn, India might soon join the ranks of Nigeria and Vietnam where employment shrunk rapidly as investor confidence eroded because of high cybercrime rates and angry customers.

“Anyone doing bad things is not good for us because the impression gets generalised. In the mind of those affected by the scam it’s not a company or a person, it becomes a country,” says Raman Roy, chairman of India’s main IT industry lobby NASSCOM.

Testimonies of many victims float on the internet, in tech blogs, chat rooms and even with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the United States’ consumer protection agency that has investigated several Indian BPOs for fraud.

Ask Timothy Gatewood of Texas, United States. “I got a pop-up notice from Apple saying ‘you have virus infecting computer, call this number’. So I called the number, and it was some guy with an Indian accent,” the 53-year-old Houston-based DJ told Hindustan Times.

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“He said he was a representative of Apple, and he’s with this company, Tech Live Connect. I paid them 200 dollars, all they did was delete a couple (of) files, and maybe put a couple (of) apps from the App store, and said, there you go, bada-boom bada-bing, 200-something dollars!”

Tech Live Connect’s call centre is run by Saburi TLC whose promoter and CEO Anuj Jain has heard of these complaints but denies that the blame lies with his company.

“Some of our ex-employees impersonate us, which is why you see the complaints,” Jain tells HT, sitting in a corner office with a wall full of certificates praising his achievements in the BPO industry. “They steal data from us and start calling our clients.”

Jain, 42, says Tech Live Connect (TLC), a Singapore-based company, is one of Saburi TLC’s “major clients”, handling their customer calls out of its call centre in Gurgaon. He denies any other links between the two companies.

But an HT investigation and interviews with former and present employees of Saburi TLC reveal the two companies are intimately connected.

A SCARE-AND-SELL INDUSTRY

In the satellite city of Gurgaon, an hour’s drive from downtown New Delhi, Saburi TLC’s 20,000-sqft is manned by mostly fresh-out-of-college graduates, eager for a job and who don’t ask too many questions.

A tech support scam begins by planting a pop-up message in the target user’s web browser that alerts them to a so-called virus infection, employees and experts say. The pop-up alarms the user, sometimes by locking their devices, forcing them to call a phone number flashing in the message.

The call is picked up by someone like Vikas Tanwar*.

“You ask for remote access and show them temp files, run fake software to show fabricated security threats, and convince them their computer is corrupt. Then we tell them that if you don’t buy our security products, the computer will become unusable,” says Tanwar, who knew the scare-and-sell script by heart by the end of his first week at Saburi TLC.

“We know there are no viruses. User ko to nahi pata (the user has no idea),” says Anshul, 26, who gave only one name and who joined the company five years ago. Like other employees – past and present – HT spoke to Anshul wants to hide his name. “They will have me killed.”

Tanwar, a 24-year-old commerce graduate, joined the company in November 2016. He says the brief was clear: To con every caller of anywhere between 10 and 500 dollars.

“The moment you put on your headphones, your supervisor tells you ‘you are scammers. Aapko customer ko fasana hai, kuch bhi kar ke… (you have to trap the customer, no matter how),” says Tanwar, who quit Saburi TLC in February.

It’s on the back of millions of English-speaking, tech-savvy college graduates like Anshul and Tanwar that the Indian BPO industry has grown to be a behemoth. But a paucity of jobs, easy access to foreign clients and lax regulation have caused an explosion in cyber-related crimes – exemplified last year when a Thane call centre was busted by Indian and US police for cheating 6,500 US nationals of almost $100 million.

MAZE OF DECEIT

Jain’s career maps the highs and lows of the Indian BPO industry, from a global powerhouse to a potential destination for the desperate and devious. From 2002 to 2011, Jain worked for a series of companies at the top of the BPO ladder, from Wipro to Quattro. Then, in November 2011, he launched Saburi TLC.

The first is registered in India under Jain’s name and the second, Tech Live Connect, in Singapore under the name of Brian Cotter, a former colleague of Jain’s at Quattro who left around the same time as him.

“No one knows Saburi TLC as a brand. So we reach out to clients as Tech Live Connect, who see us as one company,” says Jain.

But that argument flies in the face of evidence put together by HT.

Tech Live Connect is the owner of the domain, saburitlc.com — the official website of Saburi TLC. It’s also from an email ID registered with the domain techliveconnect.com that Jain used to communicate with HT. On LinkedIn and Facebook, Jain introduces himself as director and chairman of Tech Live Connect.

Jain and Tech Live Connect promoter Brian Cotter attribute the overlap to the “nature of partnership” between them. Cotter told HT that Saburi TLC handled its clients’ service and tech support calls.

BLOWING THE LID

To be sure, Saburi TLC’s operations include some legitimate services. Jain is the co-owner of Imagine Tressor, a premium reseller of Apple products with 11 stores across north India. He also runs two premium Apple service centres in and around Delhi.

In an industry where customer interface rarely goes beyond long distance calls, small legitimate operations often act as smokescreens for many fraudulent cyber businesses.

To capture the scam, an HT journalist called Tech Live Connect’s registered number to complain that his perfectly healthy Windows laptop was running slow.

He was first instructed to hand over remote access to the computer and then told, in an escalating tone of alarm, about a range of security threats, from “junk files” to “virus, malware, Trojan” to that his “computer has been hacked”.

The journalist was told his computer would be “unfixable” if he didn’t buy an $8 one-time fix followed by a year’s worth of security service from Tech Live Connect.

Had HT bought the security solution, Saburi TLC executives would have taken the customer through one of six or seven US-based payment gateways to deposit money in American bank accounts, says Tanwar, recapping steps he followed hundreds of times to extort money from unsuspecting clients.

“They would then launder it back to India,” he says. Tanwar thinks the call centre makes at least $5000 off the scam every day. Rajat Garg, a former Saburi TLC employee, says it makes $100,000 a day.

Tanwar made an average of 15 calls every day at Saburi TLC with a “target” of $500 on every call. “If you sell services worth $1000 dollars, you get 1000 rupees,” says Tanwar, who made Rs 20,000 in monthly salary but a far bigger amount in “incentives”.

HT also filed a request for information with the office of the US Freedom of Information Act, which revealed that the US FTC had received 699 consumer complaints against Tech Live Connect. The latest was filed on March 28 by a resident of Warner Robins, a city in the US state of Georgia, who narrated a harrowing tale of deceit and threats from Tech Live Connect. HT has copies of 50 such complaints.

Asked if Tech Live Connect was under investigation, FTC spokesman Frank Dorman told Hindustan Times: “All information about investigations is nonpublic, including whether or not there is an investigation.”

Better Business Bureau (BBB), a leading US consumer protection forum, set up a “business profile” of Tech Live Connect on its website after receiving multiple complaints against it.

“We especially do this if the company appears to have a pattern of complaints as was the case with Tech Live Connect,” BBB spokeswoman Katherine Hutt told HT. Some of these complaints with BBB were resolved, mostly with a refund. Former Saburi TLC employees told HT this was done to avoid trouble and manage online reputation.

LEGAL LOOPHOLES

A 2016 Stony Brook University study showed that 86% of all tech scams originated in India.

“Unfortunately, the scale of such scams originating from India is huge,” says Roy, also the founder of Quatrro, a big name in India’s BPO industry. “A small group of people with an internet connection and VoIP numbers can launch a tech support scam.”

And the art of scamming is not at all difficult to learn, says Garg, a former Saburi TLC employee. According to Garg, “even a 10th pass can get a job at TLC.”

Garg, 26, says he has worked for many such scam outfits. In 2012, he joined Saburi TLC but left in a year to join iYogi, a big name in Indian tech support, for a better salary. In 2015, he left iYogi after a lawsuit was filed against the company in the United States for running a tech support scam.

In 2016, he landed at Prime Technologies but lost his job the same year after founder Aman Mehndiratta – an ex-Saburi TLC employee — was convicted in a US court of routing fraud money to India using the bank account of an American co-conspirator.

But why is it so difficult to shut down such companies? A major reason is the ease with which these companies can be launched or re-launched, experts say.

Apple and Microsoft know about the scale of the fraud. A Microsoft spokesperson told HT it has a dedicated online portal to report tech support scams, which receives an average of 10,000 consumer complaints a month. To a detailed questionnaire from HT, Apple just said, “We take security very seriously”.

Vakul Sharma, an advocate at the Supreme Court, says India has the legal framework, but the complainants need to be physically present in an Indian court or send a lawyer as a representative. Hardly any American victim of tech scams do that.

In 2012, the US FTC charged six tech support firms with fraud in a US district court– five in India alone. In 2014, a US court ordered the six companies to pay more than $5.1 million dollars in damages. It was not clear if these companies paid up.

“We have met with the CBI, and with local law enforcement officials, on many occasions and hope to coordinate our efforts to halt these frauds and the damage they do to consumers as well as the reputation of India’s call center industry,” Dorman told HT in an email.

But the industry isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon, say people who have been a part of it.

“It’s very easy to scare Americans,” says Amit Singhal, who worked at Saburi TLC between 2012 and 2013.

“Bade bhole hote hain (They are very gullible).”

(Input from Harry Stevens in NEW DELHI and Yashwant Raj in WASHINGTON)

*Names of current and former Saburi TLC employees changed to protect identity

Kashmir: 8 Killed During Voting Violence

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

8 killed in Kashmir bypoll violence, Srinagar registers poor voter turnout of 7.14%

INDIA Updated: Apr 10, 2017 08:29 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Bypolls

Srinagar: Youths throw stones on Security forces during clashes in Srinagar on Sunday. Four civilians where killed and more than two dozens were injured during the clashes. (PTI Photo)

At least eight people were killed in clashes with security forces during Sunday’s by-election to the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat, which recorded a poor voter turnout of 7.14%. (HIGHLIGHTS)Violence marred polling in Ater assembly seat in Madhya Pradesh too, where police firing was reported from two places after villagers allegedly threw stones at Congress candidate Hemant Katare’s car. Six vehicles, including police cars, were damaged, sources said.The biggest bloodshed was recorded in Srinagar, where the by-poll was held along with 10 assembly constituencies in eight states, including New Delhi’s Rajouri Garden.

Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) float in a river after protesters attack on polling station at Kanihamma in Srinagar on Sunday. More then 20 people were injured during the clashes. (PTI Photo)

“There were more than 200 incidents of violence, mostly in Budgam district, which included stone-pelting, petrol bomb attacks, setting ablaze of a polling station, some vehicles and attempt to burn another two polling booths,” Jammu and Kashmir chief electoral officer Shantmanu said.

“It was not a good day for us.” And he admitted that the by-poll in Anantnag on April 12 would be a bigger challenge.

Internet services in the Valley have been suspended till Wednesday.

The violence in Kashmir followed a separatist call to boycott the by-election, saying the situation is not right to hold a democratic exercise after last year’s unprecedented public unrest triggered by the killing of popular militant commander Burhan Wani.

People took to the streets to enforce the boycott across the constituency straddling Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal districts.

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Polling staff abandoned almost 70% of booths in Budgam district because of the violent protests. Army was called out to help security forces quell mobs throwing stones and petrol bombs at polling stations in Ganderbal district.

Security teams fired bullets as well as the controversial pellet guns to disperse mobs. Pellet guns — a so-called non-lethal weapon — have killed, maimed and blinded hundreds of people during the 2016 unrest.

On Sunday, at least one man died of pellet wounds, director general of police SP Vaid said.

A senior doctor at Budgam district hospital confirmed that the majority of patients were being treated for pellet wounds.

Most of the dead were young men, including a 15-year-old Faizaan Ahmad Rather and Amir Manzoor, who was 17.

Protesters throwing stones at a burning polling staff bus after they attacked a polling station at Kanihama in Srinagar on Sunday. (PTI)

Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said she was pained that most of them were teenagers. “I am distressed … they were yet to understand the intricacies of the issues,” she said.

Former chief minister and opposition National Conference working president Omar Abdullah, whose father Farooq Abdullah is contesting the by-poll, said he had never seen this level of violence in elections in Kashmir.

“I am talking about having fought my first election in 1998 at the peak of militancy. Even then the environment for campaigning and voting was not as bad as it is today. That may itself tell you just how mismanaged this state is under Mehbooba Mufti,” he said.

Repolling could be ordered in “anywhere around 50 or 100 polling stations or more” because of the violence, according to state poll panel chief Shantmanu.

“The tentative voter turnout is 6.5%,” he said.

That’s much lower than the 2014 parliamentary polls, which recorded 26%.

In the 1989 elections, National Conference’s Mohammad Shafi Bhat won the seat uncontested. The previous lowest turnout in the prestigious seat was 11.93% in 1999 when Omar Abdullah had defeated Mehbooba Mufti in a straight contest.

Police firing was also reported in Madhya Pradesh’s Ater seat after Congress and BJP workers clashed. Polls in the state were preceded by controversies related to electronic voting machines.

People damaged the Congress candidate Katara’s car at Sankri polling booth, where he had gone to check reports of booth capturing by BJP candidate Arvind Bhadoria’s followers.

But the state election commission dismissed reports of booth capturing.

By-elections in another assembly constituency in Madhya Pradesh, two in Karnataka, one each in West Bengal, Assam, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and New Delhi ended peacefully.

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In all, by-elections were held in nine assembly constituencies in six states, besides the Srinagar parliamentary seat.

Rajouri Garden assembly seat in west Delhi recorded a poor turnout of 47%. The by-election is seen as the trailer to the municipal polls this month. The seat was held by the Aam Aadmi Party’s Jarnail Singh before he resigned to contest the Punjab assembly polls this February.

In Jharkhand’s Littipara assembly by-poll, about 72% turnout was recorded till evening.

The by-poll is viewed as a prestige issue for the ruling BJP and the opposition Jharkhand Mukti Morcha in the state. The BJP is trying to capture a seat that the JMM has held for 40 years.

Polling was peaceful and around 52% votes were cast in six hours in the Kanthi Dakshin assembly by-poll in West Bengal. The ruling Trinamool Congress has nominated former minister of state for health Chandrima Bhattacharya as its candidate.

Bhattacharya had lost from Dum Dum (North) in last year’s assembly polls.

In Karnataka, by-polls to Nanjangud and Gundlupet assembly constituencies were held. Fresh polls had to be called at Nanjanagud as V Srinivas Prasad, the Congress MLA, resigned after he was dropped from the ministry. Prasad is now the BJP candidate.

In Dholpur assembly constituency in Rajasthan, where the BJP is in power, 74% polling was recorded.

Polling was peaceful amid reports of electronic voting machine (EVM) and voter verified paper audit trial (VVPAT) malfunctions at some booths, Rajasthan’s chief electoral officer Ashwini Bhagat said.

(With inputs from HTC Bhopal, Kolkata, Ranchi and agencies)

Iran’s Master Butcher Ali Khamenei Says U.S. Missile Strike On Syria ‘Strategic Mistake’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday said the recent US missile attack on a Syrian air base was a “strategic mistake”.“The Americans’ action is a strategic mistake, as they are repeating the mistakes of their predecessors,” Khamenei’s official website quoted him as saying.

As Europe is now facing the threat of terrorists, the US will not stay away from this threat as well, he added.

The US fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat air base in central Syria at dawn on Friday, saying the strike was intended to deter the Syrian government from using chemical weapons.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem on Thursday said the recent Syrian air strike on a rebel-held town in Idlib Province in northwestern Syria struck a rebel depot containing chemical materials, and denied that the air force used toxic gas during the attack.

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Egyptian President Sisi Declares 3 Month State Of Emergency Following Church Bombings

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency in Egypt following twin church bombings that killed dozens of people in two cities on Sunday.Sisi announced the “state of emergency for three months” in a defiant speech at the presidential palace after a meeting of the national defence council.

The Islamic State group had claimed responsibility for the church bombings in the Nile Delta cities of Alexandria and Tanta in which at least 44 people were killed.

The attacks followed a Cairo church bombing in December and came weeks ahead of a planned visit by Catholic Pope Francis intended to show support for the country’s Christian minority.

At least 78 people were wounded in Tanta and another 40 wounded in Alexandria, the health ministry said.

Egyptian officials denounced the violence as an attempt to sow divisions in the country, while Francis sent his “deep condolences” to Tawadros.

IS claimed that its “squads” carried out both attacks, in a statement by its self-styled Amaq news agency published on social media accounts.

Images broadcast by private television stations showed bloodstains smearing the whitewashed walls of the church in Tanta next to shredded wooden benches.

“The explosion took place in the front rows, near the altar, during the mass,” General Tarek Atiya, the deputy to Egypt’s interior minister in charge of relations with the media, told AFP.

“I heard the blast and came running. I found people torn up… some people, only half of their bodies remained,” said Nabil Nader, who lives in front of the Tanta church.

The worshippers had been celebrating Palm Sunday, one of the holiest days of the Christian calendar, marking the triumphant entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem.

– String of attacks –

Prime Minister Sherif Ismail also condemned the attack, stressing Egypt’s determination to “eliminate terrorism”.

The Cairo-based Al-Azhar, an influential Sunni Muslim authority, said it aimed to “destabilise security and… the unity of Egyptians”.

Egypt’s Copts have endured successive attacks since Morsi’s ouster in July 2013.

More than 40 churches were attacked nationwide in the two weeks after the deadly dispersal by security forces of two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo on August 14, 2013, Human Rights Watch said.

Amnesty International later said more than 200 Christian-owned properties were attacked and 43 churches seriously damaged, adding that at least four people were killed.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who as then army chief helped remove Morsi, has defended his security forces and accused jihadists of attacking Copts in order to divide the country.

In October 2011, almost 30 people — mostly Coptic Christians — were killed after the army charged at a protest outside the state television building in Cairo to denounce the torching of a church in southern Egypt.

In May that year, clashes between Muslims and Copts left 15 dead in the working-class Cairo neighbourhood of Imbaba where two churches were attacked.

A few months earlier, the unclaimed bombing of a Coptic church killed more than 20 people in Egypt’s second city of Alexandria on New Year’s Day.

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