Scientists: New amphibian family augurs more India discoveries
An adult Chikilidae, a new family of legless amphibian known as a caecilian, is shown with eggs and hatchlings in India.
February 23rd, 2012
07:27 PM ET

Scientists: New amphibian family augurs more India discoveries

Scientists have found what they say is a new family of legless amphibians in Northeast India - animals they say may have diverged from similar vertebrates in Africa when the land masses separated tens of millions of years ago.

The find, the scientists say, might foreshadow other discoveries in Northeast India and might help show the area played a more important evolutionary role than previously thought.

The creatures are part of an order of limbless, soil-dwelling amphibians called caecilians - not to be confused with snakes, which are reptiles. Caecilians were previously known to consist of nine families in Asia, Africa and South America.

But different bone structures in the head distinguish this apparent 10th family, and DNA testing links the creatures not to other caecilians in India, but to caecilians that are exclusively from Africa, the scientists report this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London.

The new family has been dubbed Chikilidae by the scientists from India, Belgium and the United Kingdom, including lead author Rachunliu Kamei, who was pursuing her doctorate at University of Delhi. The team found them during what it believes is the first caecilian survey in Northeast India, digging at 238 sites from 2006 to 2010.

“It’s an amazing thing to find a new family, especially vertebrates, in this day in age,” Global Wildlife Conservation president Don Church, who was not part of the team but knows Kamei and the team’s other scientists, told CNN on Thursday. “Birds, reptiles and amphibians really were thought to have been well worked out at the family level.”

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Filed under: Amphibians • Animals • India • Nature • Science
January 22nd, 2012
04:04 AM ET

Salman Rushdie: Police lied to me about threat to my life

Author Salman Rushdie now believes police lied to him about a threat to his life to keep him away from India's largest literary festival.

"Rajasthan police invented plot to keep away Rushdie' I've investigated, & believe that I was indeed lied to. I am outraged and very angry," the Mumbai-born author of "The Satanic Verses" said in a post on his verified Twitter account late Saturday.

A verified account is one which Twitter officials have confirmed as belonging to the person who claims to own it.

Rushdie then linked to a story in The Hindu newspaper, which attributed the information to "two highly placed police sources" that it did not name.

In response to a follower who asked the author who in the police force is to blame, Rushdie tweeted, "Don't know who gave orders. And yes I guess the same police who want to arrest Hari, Amitava, Jeet and Ruchir. Disgusting."

Rushdie was referring to Hari Kunzru, Amitava Kumar, Jeet Thayil and Ruchir Joshi - four writers who read excerpts from his banned book to protest his absence at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Friday.

At least one lawmaker has demanded the arrest of the writers who read from the book.

CNN was not able to reach Rushdie and it was seeking comment from Rajashthan police.

"The Satanic Verses" was released more than a quarter century ago, but it continues to hound the celebrated author.

Rushdie canceled his appearance at the festival after he was informed of objections from hard-line Muslims and a threat of assassination.

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Filed under: Art • India • Literature • World
January 17th, 2012
03:54 AM ET

Govt.: 68.4% of milk sold in India does not meet basic standards

In India, milk is used in holy ceremonies, it is offered to the gods, poured over deities and generally considered the healthiest of drinks.

But a first-of-its-kind government survey reveals that a stunning 68.4% of milk sold in India does not meet basic government standards.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India tested milk across the country. It took 1,791 samples - and of of those, 1,226 were found to be "non-conforming."

In seven Indian states, 100% of the samples failed to meet standards.

Some samples contained water and milk powders; others included potentially toxic ingredients.

"We found about 14% of the samples which found traces of detergent," said V.N. Gaur, the chief executive officer of the food safety authority.

In lesser percentages, the tests also found hydrogen peroxide and urea - a substance found in fertilizer and urine.

"There is a problem and they need to face it head-on and they have to kind of really take some strict action against those people who are violating simple consumer rights of getting a clean glass of milk," said Savvy Soumya Misra, the food safety and toxins deputy program manager with the Center for Science and Environment.

Doctors say ingested over long periods of time, chemicals like detergent can eat away the lining of intestines, stomach and affect the liver and the kidneys.

Just adding water to the milk can pose a real danger in India where waterborne illnesses are commonplace.

"What you get is diarrhea. Vomiting. What we call gastroenteritis," said Dr. Suranjit Chatterjee, a senior consultant for internal medicine at Delhi's Apollo hospital said. "You can get something like cholera. You can have jaundice. There are infections like typhoid fever, which are all part of water-borne infections in this part of the world."

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Filed under: Health • India • World
'Angry Brides' game hopes to put spotlight on dowry concerns
A screen grab of the game "Angry Brides," which aims to bring awareness to the violence dowries cause in India.
January 16th, 2012
03:34 PM ET

'Angry Brides' game hopes to put spotlight on dowry concerns

There's a new game hoping to make a splash in the Facebook game market, and it's called "Angry Brides."

No, you don't have to read that sentence again; we didn't accidentally misspell the game you're thinking of.

But the people behind this game hope the mix-up gives momentum to "Angry Brides," which aims to put a spotlight on the issue of dowries in India. Dowries are traditionally given to a groom's family to ensure the bride is taken care of and can, in some cases, cause violent clashes between families. The gifts can include money, jewelry or any other family belongings.

The game, produced by the Indian marriage site Shaadi.com, is a play on the extremely popular game "Angry Birds." But instead of hurling birds across the screen, this time, you're throwing household objects such as shoes and rolling pins at prospective grooms, with listed dowries starting at 1.5 million rupees (about $29,200). If you hit grooms just right, you'll lower the amount and add it into your anti-dowry fund.

"The Angry Brides game is our way of throwing a spotlight on the nuisance of dowry," Ram Bhamidi, senior vice president and head of online marketing for the site, wrote on its Facebook page.

The page, advertising the game, features what appears to be a Hindu goddess holding all of the tools you would need to strike your possible groom.

"A woman will give you strength, care and all the love you need ... NOT dowry!" a caption under the image exclaims.

The group hopes that the viral nature of "Angry Birds" - and therefore, they hope, the parody - will draw attention to the dowry issue and the violence it can cause.

"According to a 2007 study ... there is a dowry-related death every four hours in India," Bhamidi wrote on the Facebook page. "We condemn this menace and have consistently run campaigns on social media to help create awareness of the issue."

Leopard released into reserve after killing one, injuring two
A leopard attacks a man in the Indian city of Guwanhati on Saturday.
January 9th, 2012
01:26 PM ET

Leopard released into reserve after killing one, injuring two

A leopard whose urban-area attack led to the death of one man and injuries to two others was released in an Indian nature reserve on Monday, two days after the incident.

Officials from the Assam State Zoo in Guwanhati, where the attacks occurred, set the cat free in in a tiger reserve in Manas, according to an Agence-France Presse report in the Hindustan Times.

Three men were attacked on Saturday when the cat wandered in to a residential area of Guwanhati, a city of almost 1 million people in northeast India.

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Filed under: Animals • India • Leopards
January 1st, 2012
10:20 AM ET

Pakistan, India swap lists of nuclear sites

Nuclear rivals India and Pakistan exchanged lists of their nuclear sites Sunday in accordance with a 1988 agreement that prohibits the neighboring countries from attacking the locations, officials in Islamabad said.

Pakistan's foreign ministry confirmed that it turned in its list to the Indian High Commission, and received the same from New Delhi. There was no immediate comment from Indian officials.

Both countries recently returned to talks on conventional and nuclear weapons, Indian officials have said.

No major developments were expected from the high-level talks, which were held in Islamabad last week. The discussions were aimed at building confidence between the two nuclear powers, according to a December statement from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

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Filed under: India • Nuclear • Pakistan
December 31st, 2011
06:37 AM ET

India death toll climbs in wake of Cyclone Thane

The death toll from a storm that has pummeled India's southeastern coastline rose Saturday to 27, with thousands forced to seek refuge in emergency shelters, officials in the worst affected area said.

The Tamil Nadu district of Cuddalore, south of the city of Chennai, bore the brunt of Cyclone Thane's fury Friday, with winds gusting at almost 90 miles per hour at its peak.

The storm uprooted trees, ripped off traffic signals from their posts and sent shards of glass and other debris whizzing through the air.

Amuthavalli, the district's top official who goes by a single name, told CNN the number of residents killed stood at 27 as of Saturday but is not expected to climb much higher. Some lost their lives when walls collapsed or downed power lines caused electrocution.

One of those killed was a French national, the French Foreign Ministry said Saturday. France presents its sincere condolences to the victim's family and his loved ones, the ministry said.

The first priority is to restore power supplies, she said. Workers will then start clearing fallen trees and other wreckage from the district's roads.

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Filed under: India • World
December 15th, 2011
08:06 AM ET

Cheap moonshine kills 102 in India

Authorities raided liquor vendors in eastern India Thursday, after at least 102 people died and more than 170 others were sickened from drinking moonshine, police said.

At least 100 people were hospitalized.

The victims were mostly poor villagers.

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India hospital fire deaths rise to 88; 6 arrested
A hospital staff member is rescued as fire engulfs hospital in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata.
December 9th, 2011
01:07 PM ET

India hospital fire deaths rise to 88; 6 arrested

[Updated at 1:07 p.m. ET] Investigators have arrested six hospital managers after a fire that killed at least 88 people in a hospital Friday in eastern India.

The six worked at a five-story hospital in the city of Kolkata, said Javed Ahmed Khan, the West Bengal Fire and Emergency Services minister.

They were arrested for negligence, Khan said.

A "majority" of the bed-ridden patients were abandoned by most of the staff on duty, he said.

Video of the scene broadcast by CNN affiliate CNN-IBN showed crowds of people wearing face masks and rushing patients out onto the street in stretchers.

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Filed under: India
Snake charmer unleashes cobras in India office
A disgruntled snake charmer reportedly unleashed snakes, including cobras, in an office in India.
December 1st, 2011
11:18 AM ET

Snake charmer unleashes cobras in India office

Getting through the work day can be hard enough without having a bunch of cobras unleashed in your office.

Bureaucrats in a rural village in Northern India had a tough start to the week when an angry snake charmer walked into their tax office and dumped several dozen snakes, including four cobras, on the floor because he was upset about a land deal that had not gone through, according to numerous reports.

The Telegraph: Watch the hissing snakes

The workers jumped on their desks and some shook table cloths at the snakes who rose up with the strike position. It was "total chaos," said Ramsukh Sharma who was at the office in Harraiya, in Uttar Pradesh.

"Snakes started climbing up the tables and chairs. Hundreds of people gathered outside the room, some of them with sticks in their hands, shouting that the snakes should be killed," he said, according to the Australian newspaper.

No one was hurt and the snakes were eventually recaptured by experts.

The snake charmer claimed that he had apparently applied for a plot of land for the snakes but that officials wanted bribes to approve it. The office reportedly said that they had no record of the filing.

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Boy who ran marathons at 3 still worries filmmaker
Child marathoner Budhia Singh, of India, runs with then-coach Biranchi Das in the "Marathon Boy" documentary.
November 3rd, 2011
10:25 PM ET

Boy who ran marathons at 3 still worries filmmaker

Budhia Singh's sparkling athletic ability lifted the young marathoner from India’s slums to national stardom.

But his age - he ran marathons and longer distances starting at 3 - led to concerns about his well-being.

For Gemma Atwal, who filmed Budhia for five years, a crucial question was about how poverty in India could make such a young long-distance runner possible.

“In the West, it simply wouldn’t happen,” Atwal, whose documentary about Budhia made its TV debut Thursday night, said in a phone interview. “(My film is) about desperate poverty - you can see the effects all the way through.”

“Marathon Boy,” which follows Budhia from 2005 to 2010 and explores a line that his mentor walked between benevolence and opportunism, premiered Thursday night on HBO after screenings at numerous film festivals. HBO will show it again Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Budhia came to Atwal’s attention through a 2005 BBC article, which said the 3-year-old was running as many as 30 miles a day in eastern India’s Orissa state. Budhia’s mother, according to the BBC, had sold him to a man a year earlier for 800 rupees because she couldn’t provide for him.

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Filed under: India • Movies • Running • Sports
October 27th, 2011
01:06 PM ET

Real-life 'Slumdog Millionaire' a sensation in India

India is cheering its own real-life 'Slumdog Millionaire': a low-wage worker from an extremely poor neighborhood who took the $1 million prize on India's version of "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?"

Like the protagonist in the 2008 Oscar-winning film, Sushil Kumar was reportedly dazzled and shocked after winning the top prize. "I never thought in my wildest dreams I could do this," he said, according to India Today. Kumar said he plans to buy a house with the money. (You didn't see "Slumdog Millionaire?" Watch the trailer.)

Shot in Mumbai, the episode's suspense builds as Kumar answers most of the questions and then saves his lifelines at the end. When he answers the final question correctly, the audience bursts into celebration.

"The pulsating excitement on the set and among the crew was unimaginable. It was as if they had won the biggest prize ever in the history of Indian television," host Amitabh Bachchan said, according to The Express Tribune.

The show was taped Tuesday and will air next week, The Washington Post reports.

Kumar's wife, Seema, was in the audience, reports said. The couple, who were recently married, started crying when Bachchan handed Kumar the big check.

"What a sensational day in the studios of 'KBC'! A young man from the interiors of Bihar, earning a meagre salary of just INR6,500 per month, coming from the most humblest of backgrounds, reaches the hot seat and cracks the ultimate prize — INR50 million! An incredible feat," Bachchan later posted on his blog bigb.bigadda.com.

Bachchan, known as Big B, hailed the win as a victory for "the common man," showing that he has "the strength, the ability and the acumen to prove to the world that he is the best."

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Filed under: India • TV
October 24th, 2011
04:04 PM ET

'Nakusa' no more: 220 Indian girls participate in renaming ceremony

What’s in a name? Everything, for girls in India’s Maharashthra state who recently got new names in an unprecedented ceremony that allowed them to shed a label with a bad meaning.

More than 220 girls in the district of Satara received the new names after being labeled “Nakusa” – unwanted – by families desperately wanting a male child.

Bhagvan Pawar, the district health officer who organized the renaming ceremony, told CNN Monday that he started working on the project one year ago and that he saw it as an obligation to help restore some self-esteem to the young girls.

"The parents, they don't want a female, they want a male child," he said. "But we did this to help them (the girls). We are trying to get them beyond this."

Video of the girls, as posted on Youtube, showed long lines of women and girls holding placards in support of the initiative.

Social mores about the enormous expense heaped upon families who have to marry off girls is just one reason they are seen as unwanted, Pawar said. Also contributing to the negativity are the census numbers that show the district’s sex ratio is about 980 females per 1,000 males, according to the Wall Street Journal.

At the renaming ceremony, the girls were allowed a name of their choosing, Pawar said - and they're doing well now. "Most of them are in school," he said. “We have scheduled 30-minute follow-ups with them,” Pawar said.  “They are good now. They are very happy with their new names.”

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Filed under: India • World
August 19th, 2011
08:10 AM ET

India's Hazare begins anti-corruption fast

Indian activist Anna Hazare began a public hunger strike in the country's capital Friday, accompanied by thousands of cheering supporters.

The 74-year-old campaigner, who is seeking stronger anti-corruption measures in India, was greeted by crowds as he left a jailhouse in New Delhi earlier to make his way to the city's large Ramlila Grounds.

He will stage the two-week protest there after police relaxed their conditions. Supporters say he began fasting while still in jail.

Hazare traveled from the jail in an open-top truck decorated with Indian flags, as thousands of citizens marched along.

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Filed under: India • World
New fighter jet to bolster Russian air force
The T-50 performs during the MAKS 2011 air show outside Moscow. It is meant to rival the U.S. F-22 Raptor.
August 17th, 2011
11:44 AM ET

New fighter jet to bolster Russian air force

Russia's new stealth fighter jet made its public debut Tuesday, according to state-run news source RIA Novosti.

The Sukhoi T-50, developed collaboratively by Russia and India, appeared at the MAKS 2011 air show in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow.

Gen. Alexander Zelin, head of the Russian air force, told RIA Novosti he expects the T-50 prototype to be ready in 2013, with "mass-produced aircraft" arriving in 2014 or 2015.

The aircraft is expected to become a staple of airborne defense for both Russia and India, Mikhail Pogosyan, head of Russia's United Aircraft Corp., told RIA Novosti.

"The T-50 will be the newest main plane both for the Russian and the Indian air force," Pogosyan said.

The article from the state-run media source says the Sukhoi T-50 cost the two governments about $6 billion to develop, with India shouldering about 35% of the cost. It is intended to match the U.S. F-22 raptor.

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Filed under: Aviation • India • Military • Russia • World
World's aircraft carrier club now includes China
The USS John C. Stennis is a Nimitz-class carrier, one of 10 in the U.S. Navy fleet.
August 15th, 2011
01:31 PM ET

World's aircraft carrier club now includes China

With China’s first aircraft carrier completing sea trials this week, we thought it would be good to look at other countries that operate aircraft carriers.

Aircraft carriers give nations so-called blue water navies, with the ability to project military power far from their nation's shores. The carriers often are good neighbors, too, as essential platforms for disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.

Brazil: The Brazilian navy operates the Sao Paulo, a French Clemenceau-class light aircraft carrier it acquired from France in 2000. The Sao Paulo can carry up to 40 aircraft and operates with a mix of A-4 jets and helicopters. It was originally commissioned in France in 1963.

France: The French navy operates the Charles de Gaulle, a nuclear-powered light aircraft carrier. The de Gaulle can carry 35 to 40 aircraft and about 2,000 personnel. It entered service in 2001. Most recently the de Gaulle has been supporting NATO operations over Libya.

India: The Indian navy operates the INS Viraat, formerly the British carrier HMS Hermes, which it acquired in 1987. Viraat is a vertical short takeoff and landing carrier with displacement of almost 29,000 tons. It can carry up to 12 fighter aircraft and nine helicopters.

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Filed under: Brazil • China • France • India • Italy • Military • Russia • Spain • Thailand • U.S. • U.S. Navy • United Kingdom • World
On the Radar: Heat wave, India-Pakistan talks, Jeffs' trial
The remains of a catfish decay in a dried up lake in San Angelo, Texas, on Monday.
July 26th, 2011
06:08 AM ET

On the Radar: Heat wave, India-Pakistan talks, Jeffs' trial

Three things you need to know today.

Heat wave: The deadly heat wave that has kept much of the eastern and central United States in its grip is expected to hold on longer in some central states this week.

Parts of Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma are under excessive heat warnings until the end of the week, the National Weather Service said.

Those areas - including Wichita, Topeka and Goodland, Kansas; St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and Pleasant Hill, Missouri; and Tulsa, Oklahoma - should experience heat indices between 105 and 110 degrees on most days, the weather service said.

Parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Carolina and Texas are under heat advisories for the remainder of the week as well, according to the service. They can also expect heat indices between 105 and 110 degrees throughout the week.

High heat indices from Monday include Killeen, Texas, at 112, and Darlington, South Carolina, Duncan, Oklahoma, and Greenville, Mississippi, all at 110.

India-Pakistan talks: India and Pakistan are set to open a new round of talks this week in the latest attempt by the Asian rivals to build mutual trust.

No breakthroughs are expected in the bitter disputes that divide the nuclear neighbors, but some progress might come in the area of Kashmiri trade.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, will arrive in New Delhi on Tuesday, a day before she is scheduled to meet with her Indian counterpart, S.M. Krishna.

Top bureaucrats from the two sides were in discussions in the Indian capital, New Delhi, ahead of Wednesday's talks.

Polygamous sect leader's trial: Jury selection enters a second day Tuesday in the sexual assault trial of polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs.

Jeffs is charged with two counts of sexual assault on a child and one count of bigamy stemming from a 2008 raid on a ranch operated by his church.

Authorities raided the Yearning for Zion ranch near Eldorado, Texas, and removed 400 children who they feared had been sexually abused.

Some of the men at the ranch were charged with sexual abuse and most of the children were later returned to their families.

The ranch is operated by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, an offshoot sect of the mainstream Mormon Church.

District Judge Barbara Walther told the pool of potential jurors on Monday that the trial could last two to three weeks.

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Filed under: Courts • India • Justice • On the Radar • Pakistan • Polygamy • Weather
 Leopard on the loose
July 20th, 2011
09:03 AM ET

Leopard killed after mauling six in India

Officers shot and killed a leopard after it strayed into a village and attacked six people in West Bengal, India, according to media reports.

The leopard attacked a woman and two men, The Australian reported.

People in the densely populated slum village of Prakash Nagar climbed onto rooftops as forestry officers pursued the big cat and vice versa, Sky News reported. Several attempts to tranquilize it failed.

Things seemed to calm down after the leopard sought refuge in bushes, but it leaped out at three officers, Sky News reported. An officer finally wounded the animal, and it later died at a veterinary clinic.

One forestry officer was reported critically injured.

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Filed under: Animals • India • Leopards
July 13th, 2011
05:32 PM ET

Terror strikes Mumbai again with series of blasts

Three bomb blasts rocked India's largest city, Mumbai, in congested areas during the evening rush hour Wednesday, killing at least 21 people and injuring more than 100 others.

Prithviraj Chavan, Maharashtra state's chief minister, said it was too early to talk about suspects but at least one of the blasts was "quite powerful."

Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram called the explosions a "coordinated attack by terrorists" and appealed for calm as Mumbai residents voiced anger at the government.

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Filed under: India • Terrorism
July 13th, 2011
10:14 AM ET

Explosions rock Mumbai, India

Three bombs exploded Wednesday evening in congested areas of Mumbai, India's financial capital, CNN partner CNN-IBN reported, citing police. At least 15 people were injured, CNN-IBN reported.

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