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Modi invites Xi for informal summit in India in 2019

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to India for an informal summit in 2019.
 
As Modi opened talks with Xi on the first day of a two-day informal summit here, the Indian leader said more such meetings were needed and invited Xi to India next year. 
 
"I am grateful for your invite and the welcome extended by you. This is perhaps the first time when you have received an Indian Prime Minister twice away from Beijing," Modi said. "This is a matter of pride for India as you yourself came to Wuhan to welcome me. 
 
"You rightly pointed out that leaders of the two countries which represent 40 percent of the world's population are meeting. 
 
"This is just not an informal summit of two leaders but it has a historical context too." 
 
"When we had an informal meet in July (in Hamburg), the topic of the informal meet was discussed. 
 
"You invited me to informal talks and created a positive environment. This has your personal contribution to this meet. 
 
"In the history of 2,000 years, the economies of India and China were the anchors of the world economy for 1,600 years. 
 
"In these 1,600 years, Indian and Chinese economies together accounted for the 50 percent of the world's economy." 
 
IANS
 
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Modi, Xi discuss ways to boost bilateral ties

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday discussed ways to cement their bilateral relationship as they opened a two-day informal "one of its kind" summit in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

 
Narendra Modi, Xi Jinping hold one-on-one meeting
 
 
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday discussed ways to cement their bilateral relationship as they opened a two-day informal "one of its kind" summit in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
 
After being warmly welcomed by Xi on his arrival at Hubei Provincial Museum, the two leaders had a one-on-one meeting "during which they exchanged views on solidifying our bilateral relationship", the Indian External Affairs Ministry said.
 
"The Prime Minister was welcomed at the museum with an impressive cultural performance," Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted. 
 
"India and China cultural connect go back many centuries and is reflected in present times through the popularity of Bollywood, yoga and other aspects of Indian culture."
 
He said Xi took Modi on a tour of the exhibition of Marquis Yi of Zeng Cultural Relics and Treasure at the Hubei Provincial Museum.
 
Modi arrived at the museum at around 3.30 p.m. and warmly shook Xi's hand for 30 seconds. Both leaders then took a tour of the site for around an hour. 
 
They saw an exhibition of fine relics from the Chinese civilization -- with special focus on the culture of Hubei.
 
Modi and Xi also exchanged views on the relationship and communications between the two ancient civilizations of China and India.
 
They will hold another meeting at 6 p.m. with delegations from both sides being present. This will be followed by a dinner hosted by the Chinese President.
 
The talks between the two leaders will be more substantive on Saturday with a walk by the East Lake, a boat ride and discussion at the East Lake guesthouse, which was once Mao Zedong's private villa.
 
India and China, who fought a brief war in 1962 and have a history of mutual distrust, nearly came to an armed conflict near their border in 2017, taking their ties to a new low.
 
However, the rendezvous between Modi and Xi at the heart of China was a sign enough that the two countries were willing for a new start in their tense relationship.
 
The meeting was an offshoot of Xi-Modi discussions just after the resolution of the Doklam crisis on the sidelines of BRICS Summit at Xiamen in China.
 
"It is an important meeting between both the leaders. Development is the most important topic for the leaders of these two countries," Long Xingchun, Director of the Centre for Indian Studies at China West Normal University, told IANS.
 
"India can achieve its goal and become a global power in the world with the help of China. China is rich and stronger than India but we also have so many domestic problems to deal with.
 
"The two countries need to prioritize development. Now, America's protectionist policy is not a good news for India and China," Long said.
 
IANS
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Modi, Xi open talks in Wuhan

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday opened their two-day informal talks in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

 
Narendra Modi, Xi Jinping hold one-on-one meeting
 
 
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday opened their two-day informal talks in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
 
Modi arrived at the Hubei Provincial Museum at around 3.30 p.m. and warmly shook Xi's hand for 30 seconds. Both leaders were to take a tour of the site for around an hour.
 
Xi and Modi will hold another meeting at 6 p.m. with delegations from both sides being present. This will be followed by a dinner hosted by the Chinese President.
 
The talks will be more substantive on Saturday with a walk by the East Lake, a boat ride and discussion at the East Lake guesthouse, which was once Mao Zedong's private villa. 
 
India and China, who fought a brief war in 1962 and have a history of mutual distrust, nearly came to an armed conflict near their border in 2017, taking their ties to a new low.
 
However, the "one of its kind" rendezvous between Modi and Xi at the heart of China was a sign enough that the two countries were willing for a new start in their tense relationship.
 
The meeting was an offshoot of Xi-Modi discussions just after the resolution of the Doklam crisis on the sidelines of BRICS Summit at Xiamen in China.
 
IANS
 
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Kim, Moon declare new chapter in inter-Korean ties

 
Kim Jong Un creates history, crosses border to meet Moon
 
 
The leaders of North and South Korea on Friday created history by holding a summit that came after a gap of over a decade and declared to begin a new chapter in the inter-Korean ties.
 
The summit began in the border village of Panmunjom after the leaders -- Kim Jong-un of North Korea and Moon Jae-in of South Korea --  met for the first time at the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) inside the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone, reports Yonhap News Agency.
 
"It is good to see you," Kim said to Moon, waiting just south of the MDL for their first-ever encounter that was quickly followed by a handshake.
 
"I cannot stop my excitement as we meet here at such a historical place. Also, it is very moving that you, Mr. President, have come to Panmunjom, the demarcation line, to greet me," the North Korean leader said.
 
Kim surprised many by inviting Moon to briefly cross the inter-Korean border to the North Korean side, which South Korean officials said was not pre-arranged.
 
The talks began at 10.15 a.m., about 45 minutes after Kim crossed the MDL, becoming the first North Korean leader to do so since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
 
"I say this before President Moon and many journalists here that I will hold good discussions with President Moon with a frank, sincere and honest attitude and make a good outcome," Kim said at the start of the meeting, televised live.
 
Moon expressed his gratitude to Kim for agreeing to hold the summit.
 
"The moment Chairman Kim crossed the Military Demarcation Line, Panmunjom became a symbol of peace, not a symbol of division. I wish to again express my respect to Chairman Kim Jong-un's decision that made today's discussions possible," the President said
 
The summit came amid thawing ties this year that followed a height of tension between the Koreas.
 
Pyongyang staged nearly a dozen missile tests since Moon took office in May 2017, while also conducting its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September.
 
Friday's summit marked the third inter-Korean summit and the first to be held in South Korea.
 
Kim stressed the need for an agreement that will not collapse.
 
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"I wish for it to be a chance for us to walk forward hand-in-hand while looking toward the future with a determination, instead of (summit) outcomes like those in the past that could not be implemented," he told Moon.
 
The two Koreas had agreed to denuclearise their countries and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula in their two previous summits held in 2000 and 2007, reports Yonhap News Agency.
 
"The world's eyes and ears are directed toward this place, Panmunjom. The expectations of the people of both the South and the North, as well as our overseas citizens, are also very high," Moon said.
 
"I wish our talks too will be held frankly, so we can reach an agreement and create a great present for our people and everyone else in the world who wishes for peace," he added.
 
The leaders' talks ended shortly before noon. Kim returned to his country in a black limousine that crossed the inter-Korean border while surrounded by nearly a dozen North Korean guards.
 
He will cross the inter-Korean border again later in the day for various events that will include a friendship walk with Moon.
 
The leaders will jointly plant a tree to mark their summit, which Moon has said he wishes to hold regularly.
 
Moon will host a welcoming dinner later in the day for Kim and possibly his wife, Ri Sol-ju. 
 
IANS
 

 

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Indian woman found killed, buried in Sharjah house

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Police in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have found the body of an Indian woman buried in her house and suspect that her husband may have killed her because of a dispute between them before escaping to India.
 
The body of the woman, 36, was found buried in a room in their house in the Maysaloon area in Sharjah, one of the seven emirates in UAE, local newspaper reports said.
 
According to the reports, the woman's brother had travelled to Sharjah from India to look for his sister after there was no response to his telephone calls to her. He lodged a missing person report with the police on April 9 after finding his sister's house locked. 
 
He told the police that something appeared to be amiss because his sister and he used to talk over the telephone every day and it was not normal for her not to answer his calls.
 
A police team went to the house and entered it after getting permission from the public prosecution. During a search  of the premises, they found ceramic tiles missing in some parts of the house and, suspecting foul play, brought in sniffer dogs, who led them to the spot where the body was buried.
 
The body was dug out and moved to the forensic laboratory for an autopsy. The woman's brother identified her body, the reports said.
 
Sharjah Police have launched an investigation into the death of the woman, including the manner in which she was killed.
 
The police have identified the suspect, said to be in 40s, and have issued a warrant for his arrest. They have contacted Interpol in this regard, the reports said.
 
The man is understood to have left with his children for Kerala soon after the death of his wife, which is estimated to have taken place a month ago, the reports added.
 
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This Russian varsity aims to tap S&T talent from across borders

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In a move that can be seen as an attempt to correct the mistakes of the past, top officials of a Russian university say that the country wants to leave the "closed" system of Soviet-era universities behind and embrace increased internationalisation in its system of education, including in science and technology.

Talking to a select group of journalists from around the world on Tuesday, Alevtina Chernikova, Rector of National University of Science and Technology (NUST) MISIS, advocated "opening up of borders".

"Even as the politicians the world over seem to be busy defending borders, we want opening up of borders. We believe that the world is our common house," said Chernikova, under whose leadership the university came to be known as one of the leading universities of the world as per the QS World University Rankings and Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

Commending India's achievements in the information technology (IT) sector and speaking of the importance of Indian students in the university, she said that the university hopes India's partnership with Russia to strengthen even further.

"Russia is already in a strategic partnership with India," she pointed out.

Emphasising that Russia will gain from opening up of its universities, Mikhail Filonov, Vice Rector of NUST MISIS said that the country "lost a lot" due to the earlier "closed" education system.

"Soviet-era science and technology universities were closed to international students as they wanted to generate secret scientific results for the defence of the union," Filionov said.

"Until recently, Russian universities were also 'closed'. Things have changed only in the past 8-10 years as Russian government believes that it was a bad practice.

"We were confined to our own silos. This is our problem and we are trying to change that," Filonov said, adding that NUST MISIS makes no distinction between Russian and foreign students," he added.

NUST MISIS, which became the first Russian University to have a foreign Vice Rector -- Timothy O' Connor who hails from the US -- has nearly 20% foreign students.

The university has a total of 17,000 students, including 3,300 foreign students from 69 countries.

In 2017, for the first time ever, the university was simultaneously featured in several subjects of the Times Higher Education, QS and Shanghai Ranking Consultancy's Academic Ranking of World Universities.

In 2018, the university made it to the "Top-30" world universities specialising in mining engineering, as per the QS World University Rankings by Subject.

Connor, who preferred to make his presentation in front of the visiting journalists in the Russian language "as a mark of respect" to the country, said that the university offers nine Masters' programme in which, English can be used as a medium of instruction.

Chernikova, however, said that the focus of the university is currently not on increasing the number of foreign students but on attracting the best talents -- whether they are from Russia or anywhere else.

"We are focused more on quality than quantity," she said.

The university specifically focuses on integrating science, education and innovations, and has a partnership with about 1,600 companies in areas of research and development.

By 2020, NUST MISIS aims to further consolidate its strong positions in a number of areas, including in material sciences, metallurgy and mining, as well as strongly strengthen its presence in bio-materials, nano- and IT-technologies.

The university recently established a centre to produce state-of-the-art industrial prototypes.

With its digital ecosystem and 3D-printing technology, the centre is designed to build sophisticated functional digital outputs and systems for multiple sectors including aerospace industry, biological engineering, medicine, space exploration and defence technologies.

IANS

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Common heartburn drug linked to pneumonia in elderly

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Older adults' intake of widely prescribed drugs to neutralise stomach acid in people with heartburn or stomach ulcers could increase their risk of pneumonia, finds a study.

Approximately 40% of older adults receive proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), although according to some experts, up to 85% of people who receive PPI prescriptions may not need them, the researchers said.

This study shows that there was a higher rate of pneumonia in older people who received PPIs over a two year period.

Once thought to be relatively harmless, PPIs have more recently been linked to increased rates for certain health concerns like fractures, cardiovascular disease, and some bacterial infections.

"Our study adds to growing evidence that PPIs are not quite as safe as previously thought, although they are still a very useful class of medication for certain groups of patients," said David Melzer, Professor at the University of Exeter.

However, "caution is needed in interpreting the findings," Melzer added, in the paper published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

He noted that people should not stop using their PPI medication, but should discuss with their prescribing healthcare professional whether the PPIs are still needed.

Stopping PPIs abruptly could be dangerous as PPIs may be useful, for example, to prevent stomach bleeds in some people.

As with all prescription medications, regularly review your use of medicines like PPIs with your healthcare providers to make sure each prescription is still needed, Melzer said.

For the study, the team selected 75,000 patients 60-years-old and older who had taken prescribed PPIs regularly and who also had previous regular medical records.

IANS

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India, Mongolia agree to accelerate momentum of their engagement in all areas

 
Sushma Swaraj arrives in Mongolia's Ulaanbaatar
India and Mongolia today agreed to make all efforts to maintain and accelerate the momentum of their interaction in all areas, stressing that their strong political ties must be complemented by commensurate levels of trade, economy and investment.
 
"We reviewed the progress in our on-going collaborative projects, including the refinery project selected by the Government of Mongolia for implementation with the support of one billion dollar Indian Line of Credit," External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said after the 6th session of the India-Mongolia Joint Committee on Cooperation here, which she co-chaired with Mongolian Foreign Minister Damdin Tsogtbaatar.
 
"We directed our officials to coordinate follow up action on each side for the expeditious implementation of these projects," she said.
 
Ms. Swaraj had arrived here yesterday on a two-day visit to Mongolia, the first by an Indian External Affairs Minister in 42 years.
 
"But I am sure that in tandem with our ever growing engagement, we will have more frequent visits now on at Foreign Minister’s level," she said at a joint media interaction with Mr. Tsogtbaatar.
 
Ms. Swaraj said Mongolia was not only a strategic partner for India but also a spiritual neighbour. "We share long historical links. Mongolia is well known in India for the valour of her kings and her strong Buddhist heritage," she said.
 
"India was among the first countries, outside the erstwhile Communist bloc, to establish diplomatic relations with Mongolia. In the six decades of our partnership, our relations have grown from strength to strength. This is reflected in our widening and deepening strategic partnership today, based on the common ideals of democracy and freedom, and enriched by mutual respect and trust," she said.
 
The two sides discusses covering a wide range of their bilateral engagement at the meeting of the Joint Committee on Cooperation. They agreed that Prime Minister Modi’s visit in 2015, the first ever by an Indian Prime Minister to Mongolia, provided a fresh impetus to their relations and qualitatively raised the level of their engagement. 
 
"Today, India has emerged as one of the fastest growing large economies in the world. With its rich natural resources and strong aspiration for development, Mongolia can be an important partner in India’s growth story. Collaboration for our ongoing refinery project is in recognition of this fact. 
 
"Foreign Minister Tsogtbaatar and I agreed to explore possible ways to identify new areas of cooperation in all sectors of mutual interest and to enhance our bilateral trade and investments. We discussed economic cooperation in areas such as infrastructure development, energy, services and IT," Ms. Swaraj said.
 
She called upon the Mongolian business community to seize economic opportunities arising out of India’s growth.
 
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The two sides agreed to remove institutional and logistical impediments to boost their trade, tourism and people to people contacts. In this regard, they also agreed to explore possibility of launching direct air connectivity between their two capitals. 
 
"I reiterated to Foreign Minister Tsogtbaatar our continued commitment for capacity building programmes for the people of Mongolia, including in areas such as, training in English language and IT. 
 
"We look forward to more students visiting India for pursuing vocational education and training under the Indian Technical & Economic Cooperation programme, also known as ITEC, and through scholarships offered by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations. We would encourage students from Mongolia to pursue studies in Indian art, music and culture which would further reinforce our cultural links.
 
"Given our common Buddhist heritage, we also encourage students from Mongolia to visit India for further study and research in the field of Buddhist studies. Foreign Minister Tsogtbaatar and I also exchanged views on regional and international issues of common interest," she said.
 
The two sides also discussed some of the pressing global challenges facing humanity, particularly the scourge of terrorism and agreed to collaborate bilaterally and in international arena to ward off this evil and thwart the designs of those who extend support to terrorist outfits. 
 
"I conveyed to Foreign Minister Tsogtbaatar that India sees Mongolia as a factor of stability in East Asia and believes that Mongolia’s social and economic development is important for peace and prosperity in the region and an opportunity for further deepening of cooperation between India and Mongolia," she said.
 
Ms. Swaraj said she would be participating in a special event to commemorate the birth centenary of the Venerable 19th Kushok Bakula Rinpoche, who was not only an eminent Buddhist leader, but also the longest serving Ambassador of India to Mongolia. 
 
"The event will mark his contribution to the promotion of Buddhism in Mongolia and to the deepening of civilizational and spiritual bonds between our two countries.I express our gratitude to the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gandan Monastery and other Mongolian organizations for arranging this event during my visit," she added.
 
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10 killed in Indonesia oil well fire

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Ten persons were killed and scores injured as an oil well in Indonesia's Aceh caught fire, the country's National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) said on Wednesday.
 
The incident occurred in the north of Sumatra Island, NDMA spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told Xinhua news agency.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
 
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13 killed in latest Nigeria church attack

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At least 13 people lost their lives when suspected herdsmen attacked a church in central north Benue State of Nigeria on Tuesday, a government spokesperson said.
 
Terver Akase, the state governor's spokesperson, who confirmed the killings, said the governor has cut short his vacation to return home and address the security challenge occasioned by the ongoing killing of Benue people by armed Fulani herdsmen, Xinhua reported.
 
Two Catholic priests and 11 parishioners were killed in the early morning attack.
 
The attack took place at St. Ignatius Quasi Catholic Parish, Ukpor, MbaLom, Gwer East local government area of the state.
 
Eye witnesses said the herdsmen stormed the church during morning funeral mass and shot the victims dead.
 
They told police and journalists that the attackers stormed the church at about 5:00 a.m. local time when the funeral mass was going on and killed the priests and 11 parishioners.
 
President Muhammadu Buhari has described as vile and satanic the killing of worshipers and two priests at the church in Benue.
 
This brings the number of people killing by suspected Fulani herdsmen to 45 since Governor Samuel Ortom proceeded on his annual leave.
 
Last week, killings took place in Logo, Guma, Makurdi and Naka areas of the state by suspected Fulani militia.
 
IANS
 
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5 policemen killed, 7 injured in Pakistan suicide attack

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At least five policemen were killed and seven others injured in a suicide attack in Pakistan's southwestern city of Quetta on Tuesday, a statement from the army's Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.
 
According to the army statement, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vest near a police van on the airport road in Quetta, the provincial capital of southwest Balochistan province, killing five policemen on the spot while injuring seven others.
 
The statement added that two suicide bombers were also killed by security forces in a separate suicide attack when they were trying to target a check post of Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force in the county, at Mian Ghundi near western bypass area in the city.
 
No causality of Frontier Corps personnel was reported in the check post attack, said the ISPR.
 
However, local media reported earlier that two suicide bombers attacked the Mian Ghundi camp located at the outskirts of the city and killed two security personnel. According to Geo News, at least eight others were also injured in the check post attack.
 
No group or individual has claimed responsible for the attacks yet.
 
IANS
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Modi, Xi may arrive at consensus on 'outstanding issues', boundary row

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the 9th BRICS Summit, in Xiamen, China on September 5, 2017.
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the 9th BRICS Summit, in Xiamen, China on September 5, 2017.
China on Tuesday said President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi may arrive at some important consensus to resolve the "outstanding issues", including the boundary row when they meet at the "unprecedented" two-day summit in Chinese central city of Wuhan.
 
The leaders of the world's fastest economies will meet at a "one of its kind" summit on April 27-28, which will be keenly watched as the neighbours make an unseen rapprochement in the changing world order.
 
Both leaders will have a "heart-to-heart" conversation but will not sign any deal or issue joint statement, China's Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou told a group of Indian and Chinese journalists ahead of the "historic" meet between Xi and Modi.
 
"The informal summit will not produce any joint document, but leaders of the two sides may reach very important consensus. Such consensus will also help advance the process of resolving outstanding issues," Kong said.
 
He said this time both sides decided to hold an informal summit of the two leaders, since both countries "attach great importance to each other and not because the boundary question that remain unresolved and we need to talk about it at the informal summit".
 
Kong, however, said that the boundary question was very important too. "Both sides need to work together to create favourable conditions and gradually set with proper settlement of the boundary question and deepen cooperation in different sectors along with mutual understanding and trust."
 
"China and India need to make deep efforts to build mutual trust. The boundary incident which happened last year somewhat reflected lack of trust," he said.
 
India and China fought a brief, but bloody war in 1962 over their long-winding border. The two sides, which share a border of some 4,000 km, were also locked in a 73-day military stand-off in 2017 near their disputed boundary.
 
Besides this, there are other pesky issues between the two Asian giants. Kong said both the leaders will have strategic vision and historical responsibility.
 
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"Both of them have been widely supported by their people. Both leaders have attached great importance to India-China relationship and have devoted a lot of energy to grow this relationship.
 
"Over the past few years they met 10 times, visited each other's capitals and home towns. They also met at multilateral occasions," Kong said, adding that every time they had very good talks and reached important consensus.
 
At the informal summit, they will have strategic communication on the major changes in the international landscape unseen in more than 100 years. They will have in-depth exchange of views on overarching issues, he said.
 
"Such exchange of views will deepen the mutual trust between the two countries, set the direction and set objectives for the further growth of bilateral ties. It will also open up new prospects in China-India cooperation. 
 
"The summit will not only benefit the two countries but will also deliver peace and development in the region and beyond, he said.
 
Over the past few days and months, authorities of both the countries carried out intense engagement with each other about the upcoming informal summit to work together for a sound momentum in the India-China relations.
 
IANS
 
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India interested in expanded partnership with broader Eurasian region: Sitharaman

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Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today said India was keen to develop an expanded partnership with the broader Eurasian region.
 
Speaking at the 15th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Defence Ministers Meeting here, Ms Sitharaman said, “In doing so, India has sought to build on her long-standing ties of deep mutual trust and confidence with Russia, vibrant historical and cultural linkages with countries of Central Asia and closer development partnership with China and to further enhance and deepen ties with all the member countries for mutual benefit.”
 
In the days ahead, India will work with the SCO partners to energize and revitalize the age-old ties of affinity with the countries of the region. She sought a forward-looking partnership based on robust dialogue and concrete initiatives to enhance the economic, trade and cultural cooperation as well as mutually beneficial interactions on defence and security matters.
 
The Minister called for SCO members to work towards enhancing greater communication among member countries within the region as well as in the broader international context. This is essential for progressive trends towards stability and peace to reassert itself and to arrest the current drift in ties between major powers and to address any possible implications for the region, she added.
 
Many problems that confront the region, such as climate change, cybersecurity, narcotics trafficking or violent trans-national crime require solutions based on cooperative frameworks that involve all countries and stakeholders. This is particularly necessary to address the persistent threat of cross-border terrorism and extremism, she pointed out.
 
“International terrorism is today the most serious threat to our peaceful societies. Terrorism threatens to derail our developmental aspirations and create sustained instability both within our countries and across national borders,” she said.  
 
She called upon the member countries to closely coordinate and adopt a policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism. The arguments of political convenience to provide an alibi for terrorist groups or organisations that support terrorism through material support or otherwise are no longer tolerable.
 
“Indeed, as the world has now realized, there are no good terrorists. India, she stressed, will continue to engage strongly with the SCO-Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure-based in Tashkent in this regard,” she added.
 
In this context, she said, “We must also work towards the goal of a stable, secure and peaceful Afghanistan.” She strongly condemned yet another tragic terrorist attack in Kabul, recently. The SCO must adopt an uncompromising approach towards the persisting threat of terrorism in Afghanistan, as it is essential to advance peace and prosperity in the region.
 
India is committed to doing all it can to assist Afghanistan in its quest to regain stability and reconstruct its economy and polity. This includes cooperation in building capacities and capabilities of the Afghan national security forces. In doing so, India will continue to be guided by the requirements of the government of Afghanistan and the shared objectives of the international community, she said.
 
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Since defence cooperation, especially enhanced linkages between armed forces is an important dimension of SCO, the Minister said India is keen to explore the full potentialities of this engagement. India will engage with a positive approach and an open mind on all issues related to defence cooperation within the SCO framework.
 
“We note the decision to set up an Experts Working Group (EWG) mechanism under the SCO Defence Ministers Meeting to support greater cooperation in the defence field. There is a need for further discussions on how the EWG mechanism can be best developed to meet our shared requirements and objectives for defence cooperation in the SCO framework.
 
“India has already commenced practical steps to take forward defence engagement under the framework, as reflected in our first ever presence at this Ministerial Meeting and participation of the Indian Army Band at the Fanfare for Peace Military Tattoo being held in conjunction with our meeting today,” she added.
 
“We will also engage as feasible on the items under the Agreed Programme of activities for defence cooperation under the SCO for 2017-19. As we move ahead, India will also explore the possibility of coordinating some SCO defence activities in the coming years,” the Minister said.
 
India will participate in the SCO’s Peace Mission joint military exercises being held in Russia later this year. As India enjoys excellent bilateral defence cooperation with a large number of SCO countries especially with Russia as well as with all of India’s Central Asian partners represented in the SCO, she expressed belief that cooperation in the SCO framework will help reinforce India’s efforts to strengthen bilateral cooperation with the partners in the region in the field of defence.
 
Recognizing the value of improving regional transportation and communication networks through mutual consultation, sustainability and sharing of benefits, the Minister opined that it can create a network of physical and digital connectivity that extends from Russia’s northern regions to the shores of Indian Ocean. The International North-South Transportation Corridor is an important step in that direction.
 
However, she noted that it would also be essential that such initiatives respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries.
 
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Sitharaman attends SCO Defence Ministers' meeting in Beijing

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Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Defence Ministers' meeting here on Tuesday.
 
"Smt @nsitharaman attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation's (SCO) Defence Ministers' Meeting in Beijing, China," the Indian Defence Ministry spokesperson tweeted.
 
Sitharaman, who arrived here on Modnay, is also scheduled to meet her Chinese counterpart during the course of her visit.
 
Sitharaman is here at the same time as Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who also attended the SCO Foreign Ministers' meeting on Tuesday.
 
The SCO is a Eurasian inter-governmental organisation, the creation of which was announced in 2001 in Shanghai by Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It was preceded by the Shanghai Five mechanism.
 
India, along with Pakistan, were granted full member status at the SCO summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, in June last year.
 
Sitharaman, who arrived here on Monday, is also scheduled to meet her Chinese counterpart during the course of her visit.
 
India-China ties were severely hit by the 73-day military stand-off in Doklam last year. Both sides are now trying to restore normalcy to their ties by stepping up bilateral exchanges.
 
China's opposition to India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and its move to block bids at the UN to list Masood Azhar, chief of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group, as a global terrorist, has irked New Delhi.
 
In addition, New Delhi has reservations about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which cuts through Pakistan-held Kashmir that is claimed by India.
 
The visits of Sitharaman and Swaraj comes ahead of an informal meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in China on April 27-28.
 
IANS
 
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Trial run of Bangladesh-Nepal bus service begins

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The trial run of a Bangladesh-Nepal bus service via India began here on Tuesday.
 
Two buses carrying delegates of the three nations led by Fariduddin Ahmed, chairman of Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation, were flagged off from Dhaka, reports Xinhua news agency.
 
The buses are scheduled to arrive in Kathmandu on Thursday, via Siliguri in West Bengal.
 
On completion of the trial run, officials of the countries will submit a report, based on which a protocol will be signed to pave the way for commercial bus services between Dhaka and Kathmandu that comes under the BBIN (Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal) Motor Vehicles Agreement, which the countries signed in June 2015 to enable movement of passenger and cargo vehicles.
 
The driving distance between Kathmandu and Dhaka is about 1,200 km.
 
IANS
 
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Swaraj calls for strong measures against States that back terrorism

In a veiled reference to Pakistan, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Tuesday that the fight against terrorism should not only seek to eliminate terrorists but also identify and take strong measures against States that encourage, support and finance terrorism.

 
Sushma Swaraj being welcomed by China's Wang Yi at SCO Summit
 
 
In a veiled reference to Pakistan, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today said that the fight against terrorism should not only seek to eliminate terrorists but should also identify and take strong measures against States that encourage, support and finance terrorism and provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups.
 
"Maiming and killing innocent lives indiscriminately, constitutes the most blatant violation of human rights. We have to work together to wipe-out this scourge from the face of the earth," she said in her address at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers in Beijing.
 
"In order to realize this objective, we must unite across our differences, strengthen our resolve and script an effective strategy against terror. We welcome the clarity shown by SCO on terrorism from its inception," she said.
 
Ms. Swaraj also said all countries should also urgently resolve to establish Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism that India proposed more than two decades ago in the United Nations. 
 
"We are determined to consistently strengthen cooperation within the SCO framework for comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security," she said.
 
Ms. Swaraj said she beleived that peace and development in Afghanistan contributed to security and prosperity of the Member States and the region as a whole. This can only be achieved through political dialogue and reconciliation in an atmosphere free from terror and violence, within the framework of Afghan Constitution, she said.
 
"We must strongly support the active efforts of the Afghan Government to implement Afghan led, Afghan owned and Afghan controlled, inclusive peace and reconciliation process. India actively supports the activation of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, the Moscow Consultation Format and other mechanisms of dialogue and cooperation for restoration of peace & development in Afghanistan," she said.
 
Ms. Swaraj said India is committed to working with SCO to strengthen their economic and investment ties.
 
"We believe that economic globalization should be more open, inclusive, equitable and balanced for mutual benefits. Protectionism in all its forms should be rejected and efforts should be made to discipline measures that constitute barriers to trade.
 
"We must promote liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment to inject greater impetus into the world economy.In this respect we must continue to diversify cooperation in the fields of innovation and digital economy, science and technology, energy, agriculture, food security, amongst others," she said.
 
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Ms. Swaraj said SCO is a major platform for convergence in their world views on sustainable development, clean and healthy living, multilateral trading system, Doha Development Agenda, disarmament and non-proliferation.
 
"We are committed to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Paris Agreement of 2015 on combating climate change. Addressing Climate Change and promoting secure, affordable and sustainable clean energy are our shared priorities. We also reaffirm our commitment to undertake mutual cooperation for reducing the cost of deployment of renewable energy.
 
"Following the establishment of International Solar Alliance in December 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted its Founding Conference in New Delhi in March 2018, during which the Delhi Solar Agenda was adopted," she said.
 
Ms. Swaraj said connectivity with SCO countries is India’s priority. "We want connectivity to pave the way for cooperation and trust between our societies. For this, respect for sovereignty is essential. Inclusivity, transparency and sustainability are imperative.India has cooperated extensively with international community for enhanced connectivity," she said.
 
According to her, this was evident from India's involvement with the  International North-South Transport Corridor; the Chabahar Port Development; the Ashgabat Agreement; India-Myanmar-Thailand Highway Project; and Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Initiative, amongst others. 
 
She said India had operationalized the air freight corridor between Kabul, Kandahar, New Delhi and Mumbai last year.
 
"All these initiatives would further strengthen the entire spectrum of multi-modal networks in the SCO space," she said.
 
Ms. Swaraj said it was clear that the UN Security Council is increasingly unable, or sometimes unwilling, to respond to the security challenges of our times, with tragic consequences.
 
"We must not lose sight of the fact that reforms of the UN will be incomplete, without reforms in the Security Council to make it more representative of contemporary realities. Since 2008, the international community has carefully nurtured the ongoing Inter Governmental Negotiations at the UN to take our discussions on UNSC reforms forward. An overwhelming majority of members have expressed their desire to see these negotiations continue on the basis of a text.
 
"This to my mind is the most urgent task before us on this important UN agenda," she said.
 
Ms. Swaraj said India was committed to consolidate and enrich SCO further. "I am sure our deliberations today will play a significant role for preparation of the upcoming Heads of States Summit in June this year," she added.
 
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Van mows down 10 on Toronto sidewalk

 
At least 10 killed, 15 injured by driver in Toronto
 
 
Ten persons have been killed and 15 injured after a man ploughed a rental van through pedestrians on a city sidewalk here in Canada.
 
The incident occurred around 1.30 p.m. on Monday when the van driver mounted the sidewalk of city's famous Yonge Street and ploughed over people enjoying the first sunny day of spring.
 
He sped over a two-kilometre stretch till his van hit a bus shelter. The entire stretch presented a ghastly scene as bodies lay scattered on it.
 
The van driver has been identified as 25-year-old Alek Minassian from the city outskirts Richmond Hill.
 
During the chase, when a lone police officer pointing a gun at the driver asked him to surrender, the suspect told him that he had a gun.
 
As the police officer shouted: "Get down, get down or you will be shot," the suspect said: "Kill me." However, he soon surrendered.
 
Police cordoned off several city blocks and Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) sent an alert, saying that there is no subway service between Sheppard and Finch Stations.
 
This is the worst incident of mass killing in the city's history. In a press conference later, Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale ruled out any terror links. 
 
The Minister said the incident does "not appear to be connected to any national security concerns". 
 
Toronto Police chief Mark Saunders though said he was not ruling out anything at the stage. He said the killer was not known to the city police. 
 
"There's nothing on our files. There's nothing that we have on him right now. It (the accident) looks intentional and as a result 10 people are now not with us," said Saunders.
 
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: "Our thoughts are with all those affected by the terrible incident at Yonge and Finch in Toronto. Thank you to the first responders working at the scene - we're monitoring the situation closely."
 
Jagmeet Singh, leader of the opposition, New Democratic Party, said: "Tragic news coming out of Toronto - my thoughts are with all those affected by the horrific events..."
 
The incident took place about 29 km from the city centre, where Foreign Ministers from the G7 countries were meeting to discuss world issues.
 
After Europe and the US, it is the first such incident in Canada.
 
Canada survived a major terror attack in 2006 when 18 people linked to Al Qaeda were arrested for plotting to kill the Prime Minister, blow up parliament and take MPs hostage.
 
IANS
 
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Twin bombings kill 58 in Afghanistan

 
Blast at election centre in Afghan capital kills dozens
 
 
At least 58 people were killed in twin blasts in Afghanistan on Sunday while another 117 were injured, media reports said.
 
The first blast took place around 10 a.m. when a suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd lining up to get access to an election-related registration site in Kabul, killing 52 and injuring 112, Xinhua news agency reported.
 
Around two hours later, a bomb went off close to a voter registration centre in Baghlan, killing six persons and injuring five others. All victims were members of the same family, Tolo News reported.
 
The family was driving past the centre in Pul-e-Khumri city when the IED detonated, health officials said.
 
The dead included women and children while several wounded in Kabul remained in critical condition.
 
Terror group Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the Kabul attack while police said the attackers in Baghlan were Taliban.
 
Afghan officials have slated October 20 as the date for the upcoming parliamentary and district councils elections. The voter registration process started on April 14.
 
Two policemen have been killed and five people, including three election officials, have been kidnapped since the voter registration began.
 
Afghans will elect members to the 249-seat lower house of Parliament for a five-year term besides members of district councils.
 
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, the UN mission in the country apart from the Indian and Iranian governments have strongly condemned the attacks.
 
IANS
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Modi, Xi to meet in China on April 27-28

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the 9th BRICS Summit, in Xiamen, China on September 5, 2017.
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the 9th BRICS Summit, in Xiamen, China on September 5, 2017.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to China to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on April 27-28, it was announced on Sunday.
 
This was stated by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj after their bilateral talks here.
 
The two leaders said Modi's trip to the Chinese city of Wuhan will mark a new start in bilateral relationship which was seriously strained by a 73-day military stand-off between the two armies last year.
 
This will be the first meeting between Modi and Xi after the BRICS Summit at Xianmen and will come ahead of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting at Qingdao in June.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
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Heart patients who walk faster hospitalised less

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Increasing the pace of walking may bring some added benefits as researchers have found that faster-walking patients with heart disease are hospitalised less.

"The faster the walking speed, the lower the risk of hospitalisation and the shorter the length of hospital stay," said study author Carlotta Merlo, a researcher at the University of Ferrara in Italy.

"Since reduced walking speed is a marker of limited mobility, which has been linked to decreased physical activity, we assume that fast walkers in the study are also fast walkers in real life," she added.

The study was conducted in 1,078 hypertensive patients, of whom 85% also had coronary heart disease and 15% also had valve disease.

A total of 359 patients were identified as slow walkers, 362 intermediate and 357 fast walkers.

The researchers recorded the number of all-cause hospitalisations and length of stay of the participants over the next three years.

During the three year period, 182 of the slow walkers (51%) had at least one hospitalisation, compared to 160 (44%) of the intermediate walkers, and 110 (31%) of the fast walkers, according to the study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

The slow, intermediate and fast walking groups spent a total of 4,186, 2,240, and 990 days in the hospital over the three years, respectively.

The average length of hospital stay for each patient was 23, 14, and 9 days for the slow, intermediate and fast walkers, respectively.

Each 1 km/hour increase in walking speed resulted in a 19% reduction in the likelihood of being hospitalised during the three-year period.

Compared to the slow walkers, fast walkers had a 37% lower likelihood of hospitalisation in three years, the findings showed.

"Walking is the most popular type of exercise in adults. It is free, does not require special training, and can be done almost anywhere. Even short, but regular, walks have substantial health benefits. Our study shows that the benefits are even greater when the pace of walking is increased," Merlo said.

IANS

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Running marathon boosts immunity: Study

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Debunking the 'myth' that strenuous exercise increases infection risk by suppressing the immune system, a new study says that competing in endurance sports like marathon running may actually be beneficial for upping immunity.

"It is increasingly clear that changes happening to your immune system after a strenuous bout of exercise do not leave your body immune-suppressed," said study co-author John Campbell from the University of Bath in Britain.

"In fact, evidence now suggests that your immune system is boosted after exercise -- for example, we know that exercise can improve your immune response to a flu jab," Campbell added.

Research from the 1980s, which focused on events such as the Los Angeles Marathon, asked competitors if they had symptoms of infections in the days and weeks after their race.

Many did, leading to a widespread belief that endurance sports increase infection risk by suppressing our immune system.

In a detailed analysis of research articles that have been published since the 1980s, this new review study, published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, has reinterpreted the findings.

The researchers explained that for competitors taking part in endurance sports, exercise causes immune cells to change in two ways.

Initially, during exercise, the number of some immune cells in the bloodstream can increase dramatically by up to 10 times, especially "natural killer cells" which deal with infections.

After exercise, some cells in the bloodstream decrease substantially -- sometimes falling to levels lower than before exercise started, and this can last for several hours.

Many scientists previously interpreted this fall in immune cells after exercise to be immune-suppression.

However, strong evidence suggests that this does not mean that cells have been 'lost' or 'destroyed', but rather that they move to other sites in the body that are more likely to become infected, such as the lungs, according to the study.

The researchers, therefore, suggested that low numbers of immune cells in the bloodstream in the hours after exercise, far from being a sign of immune-suppression, are in fact a signal that these cells, primed by exercise, are working in other parts of the body.

"The findings from our analysis emphasise that people should not be put off exercise for fear that it will dampen their immune system. Clearly, the benefits of exercise, including endurance sports, outweigh any negative effects which people may perceive," study co-author James Turner from the University of Bath said.

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Sushma Swaraj arrives in Beijing, to hold talks with Wang Yi

File photo of Sushma Swaraj
File photo of Sushma Swaraj
India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived on Saturday in Beijing on a four-day China visit where she will hold crucial bilateral talks with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation ministerial-level meeting.
 
The one-on-one meet with Wang on Sunday will be the key highlight of Swaraj's visit in which she will discuss a range of issues and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's China trip in June to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Summit.
 
She will meet a more powerful Wang who in March was promoted to China's top diplomatic post of State Councillor. Their last meeting was in December on the sidelines of the BRICS Foreign Ministers meet.
 
Sushma Swaraj will attend the SCO foreign ministerial-level meeting on April 24 and leave for Mongolia.
 
After the 73-day military stand-off at Doklam in 2017, China and India have tried to mend their ties, which is evident from the stepped up bilateral exchanges and high-level visits.
 
Besides the long-standing border dispute, the two countries have a host of issues that plague their relationship. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) irks India as its planned route cuts through the disputed Kashmir held by Islamabad and claimed by New Delhi.
 
Beijing's opposition to New Delhi's application at the UN to have Pakistan-based terror group chief Masood Azhar declared an international terrorist is another pesky issue between both countries.
 
India's willingness to join the emerging bloc of the US, Japan and Australia to counter an increasingly assertive China in the Indo-Pacific region worries Beijing. However, both sides seem to have decided to work with each other despite differences.
 
While bilateral high-level visits and dialogue have increased, both sides have propitiated each other. China in March agreed to share the Brahmaputra River data with India, which it had withheld after the military crisis erupted in 2017.
 
India shifted a planned Dalai Lama event out New Delhi, not to tick off Beijing, which calls the Tibetan spiritual leader a "separatist".
 
Last week, India's National Security Adviser Ajit Doval met China's senior-most diplomat Yang Jiechi in Shanghai.
 
IANS
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Skull surgery performed on Stone Age cow: Study

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For the first time, a definite example of cranial surgery has been found in a cow from Stone age that suggests that animal trials were held before graduating to humans, a study said.

The near-complete cow's skull was discovered at a Neolithic site dating back to 3,400 to 3,000 B.C., a CNN report said. The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

It was found at the Stone Age site of Champ-Durand in France, 25 miles from the Atlantic coast.

The settlement, once a key trade centre, specialised in salt production and rearing cattle. Archaeological excavations between 1975 and 1985, found bones of cows, pigs, sheep and goats.

Cows, though popular finds in Neolithic sites, had never been found with complete craniums, the CNN report said. They were raised as food, and their skulls were broken to retrieve the tongue and brain, the study said.

A 1999 study on the skull pointed at it being gored by another cow. However, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi, a palaeontologist with the Centre National de la Recherché Scientifique, who studied the skull, said otherwise.

No sign of healing around the bone tissue meant either it did not survive the trepanation process or died shortly after. The other possibility is that it was dead when the hole was formed.

The bone had been scraped intensively -- with the intent to form a hole in the cranium, meaning it was not accidental.

Humans have been performing cranial surgery for a long time. The oldest example of trepanation dates back to 7,300 B.C.in an Azerbaijan village.

That means cranial surgery was happening as long ago as the Mesolithic period.

Earlier, a wild boar skull found in Roquefort, France, possibly from the Neolithic period, showed signs of surgery, but the skull was never dated.

If this was a surgical intervention to help and save the life of the cow, it could be considered the oldest evidence of a veterinarian act, Rozzi said.

A likely scenario, he said was that humans practised surgical experimentation on animals before trying it on each other. "These two possibilities reveal new insights for the Neolithic society," Rozzi added.

IANS

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Modi arrives in Germany on last leg of three-nation tour

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived here from Britain here on Friday on the third and last leg of his three-nation tour of Europe.
 
Modi will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in what will be the first meeting between the two leaders after the latter began her fourth term on March 14 this year.
 
Modi and Merkel are expected to exchange views on a number of bilateral, regional and global issues.
 
Earlier on Friday, Modi attended the concluding ceremony of this year's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and participated in the leaders' retreat, becoming the first Indian Prime Minister since 2009 to attend this biannual summit of the 53-nation grouping of former British colonies.
 
Prior to Britain, he visited Sweden where he attended the first ever India-Nordic Summit which also saw the participation of the leaders of Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway.
 
IANS
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Chip-based blood test could replace painful bone biopsy

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Days of using painful bone biopsies to diagnose and treat certain cancers may be numbered as researchers have found that a simple blood test that uses a plastic chip about the size of a credit card can do the job.

The diagnosis and treatment of multiple myeloma, a cancer affecting plasma cells, traditionally forces patients to suffer through a painful bone biopsy.

During that procedure, doctors insert a bone-biopsy needle through an incision to get a bone marrow sample -- or make a larger incision and remove a section of bone via surgery.

Bone biopsies are used to guide treatment of certain other cancers, such as many types of leukaemia.

The new study, published in the journal Integrative Biology, showed that a low-cost chip-based blood test can deliver the same diagnostic information as a bone biopsy -- but using a simple blood draw instead.

This test will be able to help clinicians determine the stage of the disease, what type of drug will best treat the disease and monitor for signs of recurrence if the disease goes into remission, the researchers said.

"For the last 10 years, we've been developing a blood-based test for a variety of cancer diseases -- one of them is multiple myeloma," said Steven Soper, Professor at the University of Kansas in the US.

"We'll be able to eliminate the need for bone-marrow biopsies and allow the clinician to determine the best way to treat the disease using a blood draw," Soper added.

Soper said that previous plastic chips to test for multiple myeloma had shortcomings, such as picking up regular blood cells instead of multiple myeloma cells in the blood.

By contrast, the new chip vastly improves testing performance and accuracy over previous chips for multiple myeloma, according to the researchers.

High levels of circulating multiple myeloma cells are linked with more aggressive disease and worse outcomes, so a sensitive test is vital for assessing the state of the disease in a patient and devising the most effective therapy.

"What's really nice is we can produce these chips for a couple of dollars per chip, which makes it really appropriate for testing in a clinical setting," Soper said.

The new test for multiple myeloma developed by the team will be brought to market by BioFluidica, a San Diego-based company.

"Patients will soon be benefiting from this technology," Soper said.

IANS

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