updated 1:27 AM UTC, Sep 8, 2016

India launches advanced weather satellite in textbook style

Thursday, 08 September 2016 06:57

Sriharikota (Andhra Pradesh): India successfully launched its INSAT-3DR advanced weather satellite in copy-book style on Thursday evening using its heavy geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV-F05) rocket.

Around 17 minutes after lift-off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre here at 4.50 p.m., the GSLV rocket slung the 2,211 kg satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO), from where it would be guided to its final geostationary orbit. The launch was delayed by 40 minutes as the fuelling of the third stage of the rocket took longer than expected.

With the launch of INSAT-3DR, the Indian space agency has successfully launched three satellites weighing over two tonnes of the six satellites weighing over two tonnes it had flown in a GSLV rocket.

The successful flight of the GSLV rocket on Thursday gives the Indian space programme a much-needed boost as getting the third stage cryogenic engine right is important for its future space programmes as well as for commercial launches.

Indian space scientists have spent around two decades and around Rs 500 crore ($75 million)in conceiving and developing the cryogenic technology.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientists at the mission control centre were visibly happy. They slapped each other on the back and hugged each other once the rocket ejected the satellite, which can also aid in search and rescue (SAR) missions, into its intended orbit.

"Today we reached one more landmark, successfully putting the weather monitoring satellite into orbit," ISRO's Chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar said.

According to ISRO, the satellite incorporates technological improvements like: (a) imaging in middle infrared band to provide nighttime pictures of low clouds and fog, (b) imaging in two thermal infrared bands for better estimating sea surface temperature and (c) higher spatial resolution in the visible and thermal infrared bands.

Also on board the INSAT-3DR is a satellite-aided search and rescue transponder that operates at 406.05 MHz to pick up and relay signals from distress beacons of maritime, aviation and land based users to the Indian Mission Control Centre located at Bengaluru.

According to ISRO, the major users of this technology in India are the defence services, the Coast Guard, the Airports Authority of India, the Directorate General of Shipping and fishermen.

The Indian alert service region includes a large part of the Indian Ocean region covering India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

The INSAT-3DR also carries a data relay transponder (DRT) for receiving meteorological, hydrological and oceanographic data from remote uninhabited locations in the coverage area from platforms like automatic weather stations, automatic rain gauges and agro met stations.

The satellite's life expectancy is 10 years.

The GSLV is a three stage rocket. The first stage is fired by solid fuel and its four strap-on motors by liquid fuel. The second powered by liquid fuel and the third is the ISRO-developed cryogenic engine that is more efficient as it provides more thrust for every kilogram of propellant burnt.

ISRO is perfecting the crucial cryogenic engine technology to save precious foreign exchange by launching heavier satellites on its own.

ISRO currently relies on the European Space Agency's Ariane rocket to launch its heavy communication satellites.

India pays around Rs 500 crore ($75 million) as the launch fee for sending up a 3.5 tonne communication satellite. The satellite cost is separate.

ISRO can now launch satellites weighing around 2-2.5 tonnes till such time it readies an advanced GSLV variant -- GSLV-Mark III -- that can lug satellites weighing around four tonnes.

The year-end is expected to see the launch from here of the GSLV-Mk-III with the GSAT-19 communication satellite weighing around 3.2 tonnes -- the heaviest to be lifted by an Indian rocket.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

No special status for Andhra, Centre promises compensation

Thursday, 08 September 2016 06:56

New Delhi/Vijayawada: Making it clear that Andhra Pradesh will not be accorded special category status, the Centre on Wednesday said the state will be provided monetary compensation through externally aided projects.

After day-long suspense and hectic consultation in the national capital, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced on Wednesday night that the state will get monetary advantage equivalent to what it would have got if it was accorded the special category status.

Jaitley made it clear that then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement made in Rajya Sabha on Feb 20, 2014 for according special status to Andhra Pradesh can't be implemented as the 14th Finance Commission has recommended that the special category status can be given to only hill states and North-Eastern states.

"We have decided to give a special assistance measure for the state of Andhra Pradesh wherein an amount equivalent to what they would have got if that statement could have been implemented, will be compensated to the state by virtue of externally aided projects," he said without giving any figure.

Jaitley, who was accompanied by central ministers M. Venkaiah Naidu and Y.S. Chowdary, said this special assistance will be for five years -- 2015-2020.

On Polavarm irrigation project, he said from April 1, 2014 when it was declared a national project, the entire funding will be met by the Centre.

The Finance Minister said the issues of a railway zone, steel plant, delimitation of assembly constituencies and assistance for Chennai-Bengaluru and Visakhapatnam-Chennai corridors were under consideration of the concerned ministries.

He promised that the Centre will honour in letter and spirit every commitment made in Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act.

Jaitley said the Centre already released Rs 3,975 crore towards revenue deficit of 2014-15 and balance will be released in instalments. "We have already given Rs 2,500 crore as support for the state capital. A further amount of Rs 1,050 crore has been given for backward area grants," he said.

Stating that there is a whole list of central institutions which have to be established in Andhra, he said some have started functioning while others will start functioning.

He said the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) would issue notifications forthwith with regard to two tax concessions -- one with regard to accelerated depreciation and other investment allowance.

He noted that 14th Finance Commission also made some recommendations with regard to revenue deficit from 2015 till 2020. "Revenue deficit for first two years paid up to date and of course 42 per cent share is also being paid.

The announcement came after day-long consultations Chowdary and other leaders of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) had with Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu and other central ministers.

It was a disappointment for TDP, a part of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre. The party was expecting a massive financial package for the state, if not the special category status.

TDP President and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu went into a huddle with his cabinet colleagues and top party leaders in Vijayawada.

Railways to introduce flexi fare pricing

Thursday, 08 September 2016 06:54

New Delhi: Indian Railways on Wednesday said that it will introduce flexi fare pricing in its Rajdhani, Duranto and Shatabdi trains from September 9.

"The base fares will increase by 10 per cent with every 10 per cent of berths sold subject to a prescribed ceiling limit. There will be no change in the existing fare for 1AC and EC class of travel," a railway ministry statement said. 

According to the statement, other supplementary charges like reservation, superfast, catering and service tax will be levied separately.

"The changes in fares shall come into force from September 9, while the revised fares will not apply to tickets already issued in advance for journeys to commence on or after September 9," the statement said.

The railways further said that vacant berths left at the time of charting would be offered for current booking. 

"Tickets under current booking shall be sold at the last price sold for that class and other supplementary charges like reservation fee, superfast charges, catering charges, service tax etc., as applicable shall be levied in full," the statement said.

The railways pointed out that flexi fare will be displayed to the passenger during the booking in case the fare of lower class becomes more than that of higher class to give more travel options.

"The last price for every class of tickets for the particular train should be printed in the reservation chart for the purpose of charging of difference of fare in the train or charging the passengers of the train without ticket etc.," the release said.

The railways said that the present limit of berths set aside for "Tatkal" quota in these trains shall be operated as per the existing guidelines.

"No additional charges as "Tatkal charges" will be levied," it said. 

"The berths assigned under the Tatkal quota shall be booked at the rate of 1.5 times of the base fare for all classes (2S, SL, 2A, 3A and CC) except 1AC and EC. There shall be no Premium Tatkal Quota in these train services."

The railways added that normal concession as applicable for respective concessional ticket will be admissible on the base fare of the ticket at each stage.

"There will be no change in the existing refund rules," the statement added.

Apple unveils stunning iPhone7, iPhone 7 Plus, Apple Watch Series 2

San Francisco: Ending round-the-clock rumours that had sent the world of technology into a tizzy for quite some time now, Apple CEO Tim Cook on Wednesday unveiled stunning iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus along with next-generation 'Apple Watch Series 2' at the jam-packed Bill Graham Civic Auditorium here.

iPhone 7 will cost the same as iPhone 6s, starting at $649 (US price) and comes in three variants: 32GB, 128GB, and 256GB (16 GB variant no more). iPhone 7 Plus will start at $769.

Pre-orders for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus begins from September 9 and the shipping will start from September 16 at first in 28 countries, with 30 more countries one week later, Tech Crunch reported.

So, this is what iPhone 7 finally has: Water and dust resistance, dual-lens camera (in iPhone 7 Plus), 4.6-inch retina HD display, a new home button, 7 MP HD front camera and 12 MP rear main camera, no traditional 3.5 mm headphone jack, iOS 10, A10 fusion chip and and longest battery life to date.  

The phone will come in rose gold, gold, silver, black, and jet black colours.

"Optical image stabilisation in all new iPhones, allowing for up to 3x longer exposure," Tech Crunch said.

Apple's twin lens setup is wide angle and telephoto in the iPhone 7 Plus.

For actual, optical zoom, one lens handles 1x zoom; the other handles 2x, the report added. iPhone 7 Plus now has 10x zoom.

The camera app is getting a "portrait" mode that'll use the dual-lenses and depth mapping to simulate the DSLR visual quality.

"We're not saying that iPhone replaces your DSLR. We're saying this is the best camera we've ever built in any iPhone. For many customers, it'll be the best camera they've ever owned," said Philip W. Schiller, Senior Vice President (Worldwide Marketing) at Apple.

Starting at $369, the 'Apple Watch Series 2' will be water resistant to 50 metres and the speaker will literally repel the water like a piston.

Pre-orders for 'Series 2' will open on September 9 and the shipment will start from September 16.

The device will have a dual core processor with GPU that is up to two times faster. 

The second generation watch will have the brightest display ever (1,000 nits so that users can see it in full sunlight) and runs watchOS 3.

"If you've used a GPS Watch before, you know that sometimes it can take a while to connect to satellites. With Apple Watch, you just hit start and it's ready," Jeff Williams, Apple's Chief Operating Officer, told the gathering.

The company also launched wireless headphones called Airpods that will cost $159. Infrared sensors will detect when the AirPods are in your ear. It comes with a compact charging case with 24 hours of additional battery charge.

Apple also unveiled Apple Watch Nike+ -- a watch built with runners in mind.

"Selling in just eight months of 2015, we became the second most popular watch brand [behind Rolex]," Williams said earlier.

"Since its launch, Apple Music has grown to 17 million subscribers. Seventeen million Apple Music subscribers compared to 39 million for digital music service Spotify," Apple CEO Tim Cook announced.

"140 billion apps have been downloaded from the iOS App Store till date. In the last two months, we've seen [downloads] grow by 106 per cent year over year," Cook told the audience, adding that Apple App Store has seen two times as much revenue as our closest competitor.

Apple also debuted a 'Notify' option on the App Store for a brand new "Super Mario Run" game.

The GPS-powered Pokemon Go game has also arrived on Apple Watch.

Apple has sold over one billion iPhones till date.

16 killed in Yemen airstrikes

Wednesday, 31 August 2016 17:44

Sanaa: At least 16 civilians were killed on Wednesday in airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led Arab coalition against the northern Yemeni city of Saada, a stronghold of the Houthi rebel movement.

The victims, mostly women and children, were in a house in Saada where three families lived, Efe news reported.

The work of rescue teams to find survivors under the rubble was hampered by continuous and intense coalition airstrikes.

Residents of al-Baraka neighbourhood in the city, which was home to the victims, told the media that the search for casualties under the rubble still continued.

In another coalition bombing on Tuesday in the capital city Sanaa, at least four civilians were killed.

These attacks targeted homes in the neighbourhood of al-Rawda and a military academy.


John Kerry meets Modi

Wednesday, 31 August 2016 17:42


New Delhi: US Secretary of State John Kerry called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi here on Wednesday, the concluding day of his three-day visit to India.

"Capping off an important visit, Secretary of State @JohnKerry calls on PM @narendramodi," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted along with pictures of the two leaders.

Kerry met Modi at 7 Race Course Road here on Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, Kerry addressed students at the Indian Institute of Technology here.

On Tuesday, Kerry co-chaired the Second India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Minister for State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman and US Secretary for Commerce Penny Pritzker also attended the Dialogue.

The India-US Strategic Dialogue was upgraded to Strategic and Commercial Dialogue last year at the initiative of Modi and US President Barack Obama.

Withings launches wireless BP monitor in India


New Delhi: Taking home health monitoring to a whole new level, French consumer electronics company Withings has announced the launch of a wireless blood pressure monitor for the Indian market.

Sleek in design, the device features Bluetooth connectivity and Android compatibility, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Our device is a medical device, but we've made it cool and fashionable! Patients don't feel the need to hide it away and, yet, they get to share highly accurate results with their physician," said Cedric Hutchings, Co-founder of Withings.

"Designing attractive and simple to use devices is the only way the connected health revolution can become a reality," Hutchings noted.

With the new device, users simply wrap the cuff around their arm and turn it on.

It automatically connects with a smartphone via Bluetooth and instantly opens the Withings Health Mate application.

By tapping the start button, the cuff inflates and commences taking the users' systolic, diastolic blood pressure as well as heart rate.

Results are automatically shown on the screen, saved and compared to standards for better understanding.

The application automatically graphs and plots curves to easily detect trends over time. It also allows users to set reminders and send readings to a physician.

Available on Amazon, the wireless blood pressure monitor is priced at Rs 11,999, the statement added.

Cabinet nod to redevelopment of berths at Goa port

Wednesday, 31 August 2016 17:42

New Delhi: With an eye on boosting iron ore exports from Goa, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Wednesday approved redevelopment of two major berths and other barge berths at the state's Mormugao port through public private partnership.

The estimated cost of the project is Rs 1,145.36 crore and it is expected to be completed within 36 months from the date of award of concession, said a cabinet communique.

As part of the project, berths 8 and 9 and other barge berths, at the port will be reconstructed and the existing 38-year-old equipment will make way for creation of new facilities for handling a variety of cargo like iron ore, bauxite, gypsum, limestone, fertilizers, steel coils and other general cargo at the port, catering to ships up to 1,85,000 DWT.

The existing capacity of these old berths with the present iron ore handling equipment is 13 million tons per annum.

As a result of modernization of these berths, more efficient operations and utilization of deeper draft of 19.5 metres being created in the port, an incremental capacity of 6.22 MTPA would be added.

Construction activity includes construction of berths, buildings, railway lines, dredging and reclamation and installation of equipment.

The labour intensive project is expected to generate direct and indirect employment to the tune of 400 people per day.

The project is also expected to contribute to industrial growth of Goa and will have a positive effect on industries such as steel, power, iron ore, agriculture and cement, the statement also said.

This project, which will incorporate state of the art technology to address environment concerns, is primarily meant for export of iron ore to meet the growing demand for it due to the lifting of ban on its export.


Roadside Cafe Street in Agra by the end of 2016

Wednesday, 31 August 2016 17:38


Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh government is planning to construct a Roadside Cafe Street in Agra, an official said on Wednesday. The street, spread over 7,120 square metres in Fatehabad would cost the government Rs 36 crore.

"It is being developed on the lines of world famous Roadside Cafe of Paris, and would be enabling all the domestic and foreign tourists to get the taste of almost all the dishes at a single place," the official of the Housing and Urban Planning Department told IANS.

The Cafe Street will have two restaurant blocks, a food court block, a pavilion block and two blocks for washrooms. The premises would be a double-storeyed structure and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2016. The first instalment of Rs 30.10 crore has been released, the official informed.

"This would also add a new dimension to development of tourism, and would also expand the ambit of the tourism industry. This would also provide a number of job opportunities to local residents other than increasing the tourist footfall," the official added.


Sudarsan Pattnaik wins prize in Moscow sand art show

Wednesday, 31 August 2016 17:40

Bhubaneswar:  Renowned sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik has won the people's choice prize for his sand sculpture titled "Mahatma Gandhi - World Peace" at the ninth Moscow Sand Sculpture Championship 2016.

Sudarsan has already won a gold medal for the 15-foot-high sculpture which he created at the championship held in April 2016. The sand art depicted the message of non-violence and peace.

In the People's Choice category, the sand sculpture got 60,000 votes of a total of 80,000 votes. At least 20 sand artists from countries around the world participated in the championship.

Organiser Pavel Minilkov sent the official mail to Sudarsan and congratulated him for winning the people's choice prize.

"I feel honoured that I have won People's choice prize at Moscow Sand Art. I thank visitors for giving me 60,000 votes," said Sudarsan.

"In April I have won Gold Medal for this sculpture & now won the People's choice prize. Thanks viewers again," tweeted the sand artist.

Pattnaik has also been honoured with a Padmashri -- India's fourth highest civilian award. He runs a sand art school at Puri beach in Odisha.

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