Indian-origin woman gets 22 years to life in prison for strangling stepdaughter to death

Indian-origin woman gets 22 years to life in prison for strangling stepdaughter to death

New York: An Indian-origin woman in the US has been sentenced to 22 years to life in prison for strangling her nine-year-old stepdaughter to death in a bathtub, a crime described as “unimaginable” by the court.

Shamdai Arjun, 55, of Queens, New York was convicted last month of second-degree murder by a jury that deliberated for less than one hour before Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder. She was sentenced Monday to an indeterminate term of 22 years to life in prison.

Arjun was convicted for the August 2016 strangulation death of her stepdaughter Ashdeep Kaur, who was left in her care. “The defendant in this case goes beyond the tales of evil stepmothers. This defendant committed the unimaginable – she wrapped her hands around her stepdaughter’s little neck and squeezed the life out of her,” Acting Queens District Attorney John Ryan said in a harsh statement after the verdict.

“The victim was an innocent child and just nine years old. The Court has imposed a sentence that will likely guarantee this woman never sees freedom again. The sentence of the Court is more than warranted in this tragic case,” Ryan said. According to trial testimony, on the evening of August 19, 2016, Arjun was observed by an eyewitness leaving her apartment in Queens along with her ex-husband Raymond Narayan, and her two grandchildren aged 3 and 5.

When asked about the nine-year-old victim’s whereabouts, Arjun informed the eyewitness that the child was in the bathroom and was waiting for her father to pick her up. The eyewitness, who observed that the bathroom light had been on for several hours, called the victim’s father Sukhjinder Singh and was instructed to break through the bathroom door. She found Kaur’s lifeless naked body in the bathtub. There were several bruises on her body.

A report filed by the Medical Examiner’s Office determined that the cause of death was manual strangulation. In 2016, Queens Assistant District Attorney Michael Curtis had said that Arjun repeatedly and on numerous occasions threatened to kill the young girl.        Kaur’s relatives had also said that the young girl had been previously abused by Arjun, who had been entrusted with her care while Singh worked in a local restaurant.

Kaur had arrived in the US from India just three months before she was killed in August 2016 and was living with her father and Arjun in an apartment in Queens that was shared with another couple. The housemate had seen Kaur go in the bathroom with Arjun, who later came out alone and left the building. She allegedly said that Kaur was taking a bath.

New York Police Depratment detectives had then gone to Narayan’s residence and found him, Arjun and the two grandchildren inside the apartment.

Apple further fortifies users’ data as tech firms falter

Apple further fortifies users’ data as tech firms falter

San Jose: Sending a strong message to tech companies who take data privacy for granted and allow third party vendors to snoop on your privacy, Apple – that has a clear roadmap on who finally owns the data – has decided to give its users more reasons to stay secure with their personal information.

Realising that third party sign-ins like with Facebook and Google to access its services may put users’ at illegal data sharing or data mining risks, the Cupertino-based tech giant on Monday introduced a more private way to simply and quickly sign into apps and websites.

Instead of using a social media account or filling out forms, verifying email addresses or choosing passwords, customers can simply use their Apple ID to authenticate and Apple will protect users’ privacy by providing developers with a unique random ID.

Even in cases where developers choose to ask for a name and email address, users have the option to keep their email address private and share a unique random email address instead. “You can choose to share your actual email address or you can choose to hide it. This entire exercise is meant to ensure that you have control over your data. You own your data and not us,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering told the audience as the company kicked off its flagship developers’ conference “WWDC 2019” here on Monday.

The Sign In with Apple tool makes it easy for users to authenticate with Face ID or Touch ID and has two-factor authentication built in for an added layer of security. The company said it does not use Sign In with Apple to profile users or their activity in apps.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has always taken a strong position on privacy which has made him a darling among the Apple users. “Apple does not want your data. Apple does not want to read your emails or sell your personal information to third parties or advertisers, nor would provide backdoor to government agencies to hack into iOS devices,” Cook stressed when the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) came knocking at Apple’s doors, asking the company to unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the terrorists in the 2015 San Bernardino shooting in the state of California.

Another front where the company feels data privacy has to be maintained is home. Apple’s HomeKit remains one of the easiest to use smart home systems owing to its deep integration with Apple devices. “Our homes are personal places where we deserve to feel safe and secure. HomeKit has been designed from the outset to protect the privacy and security in your use of home accessories. And no accessory is more personal than security cameras that film in and around your home,” Federighi noted.

The company announced HomeKit would now have support for several new devices this year including security cameras and routers. “Most home cameras today send peoples’ video to the Cloud. This risks your privacy. We have a new way. It’s called HomeKit secure video. In this case, the video is analysed in your home on a resident iPad, HomePod or Apple TV. Then it’s encrypted and securely sent to iCloud where no one, not even Apple, can see it,” emphasised Federighi.

“The storage for 10 days of video footage would be included in your existing iCloud account and won’t count against your storage,” he added. The new router support in HomeKit will let people firewall off accessories.

Trumps join Queen at State Banquet

Trumps join Queen at State Banquet

London: Dressed in a gorgeous white pleated outfit, Ivanka Trump stood smiling in the balcony of Buckingham Palace with husband Jared Kushner by her side, as her father Donald Trump and stepmother Melania arrived at the palace for a symbolic meet with the Royal family.

Ivanka wore her blonde hair straight down over her shoulders in a sleek, simple style, with a pair of diamond stud earrings to complete the look, reports as Melania, meanwhile, donned a white Dolce and Gabbana monochrome midi-dress with blue collar and matching waist-belt paired with a white hat detailed with a navy band around the brim. She completed her look with Manolo Blahnik heels.

White appears to be the theme of the night, considering that Queen Elizabeth II, Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla, and Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine are all dressed in white for the lavish state banquet at Buckingham Palace, reports CNN.

Trump and the Queen exchanged toasts shortly after they arrived at their seats at the state banquet. The US President sat to the right of the Queen at the horseshoe-shaped table, reports The New York Times.

Hailing the Queen as a “great, great woman”, Trump said during his address, “As we honour our shared victory and heritage, we affirm the common values that will unite us long into future: freedom, sovereignty, self-determination, the rule of law and reference for the rights given to us by almighty God,” he added.


Beyond wonderful to share this unforgettable evening with this crew...

“From the second world war to today, her majesty has stood as a constant symbol of these priceless traditions,” Trump said at the start of a state banquet. “She has embodied the spirit of dignity, duty, and patriotism that beats proudly in every British heart.” In her address, the Queen said that Britain and the United States were “bound by the strength and breadth” of their economic ties.” “Mr President, as we look to the future, I’m confident that our common values and shared interests will continue to unite us,” she added.

The Trumps are currently on a three-day official state visit to the UK. Gun salutes in Green Park and at the Tower of London greeted the family upon their arrival in Buckingham Palace on Monday.

On Tuesday, Trump is scheduled to hold an official bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May.

A white house official told CNN that in addition to Ivanka’s attendance at the ceremonial events at Buckingham Palace on Monday, she will also take part in the business roundtable and bilateral talks with May alongside her father.

Riyadh rallies allies against Tehran at Mecca summits

Riyadh rallies allies against Tehran at Mecca summits

Mecca: Gulf and Arab allies rallied around Saudi Arabia Friday as it ratcheted up tensions with regional rival Iran after a series of attacks, drawing accusations from Tehran of “sowing division”.Tehran, which has strongly denied involvement in any of the attacks, expressed disappointment that Riyadh plans to level the same “baseless accusations” at a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) early on Saturday.

King Salman called on Gulf and Arab leaders to confront Iran’s “criminal acts” after still unexplained sabotage attacks damaged four vessels, two of them Saudi oil tankers, in the Sea of Oman and twin Yemeni rebel drone attacks shut down a key Saudi oil pipeline.His remarks came at the start of two back-to-back emergency summits in the Muslim holy city of Mecca that drew near-unanimous support for the Sunni kingdom from Gulf and Arab.



Louisiana Governor ratifies ‘heartbeat’ abortion bill

Louisiana Governor ratifies ‘heartbeat’ abortion bill

Washington: Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards has signed a bill into law that will ban abortions in the US state once a heartbeat is detectable with no exceptions for rape or incest, according to his office.

Louisiana joins Mississippi, Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky and Missouri, which have all passed so-called “heartbeat” bills this year, CNN reported. Along with Alabama’s near-total ban on abortion, the heartbeat bills are part of a conservative nationwide push to bring a Supreme Court challenge to the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalised abortion in the US.Edwards signed the bill into law on Thursday after it passed the state House by 79-23 on Wednesday.

It would “prohibit the abortion of an unborn human being with a detectable heartbeat”, which can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women know they’re pregnant. The bill would require an ultrasound prior to an abortion and subject doctors who perform abortions after a heartbeat is detected with a $1,000 fine or up to two years in prison.

The bill was introduced by Republican state Representative Valarie Hodges, who called it “a very solemn responsibility”, reports CNN.The Louisiana law will go into effect only should a federal appeals court uphold a similar Mississippi law.
The federal judge hearing the case expressed deep scep

NASA plans to send equipment to Moon from 2020

NASA plans to send equipment to Moon from 2020

Washington: For the first time since the 1970s, the United States is planning to send equipment to the surface of the Moon in 2020 and 2021, in anticipation of a crewed lunar mission in 2024, NASA has said.

The US space agency has chosen American firms Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines and Orbit Beyond to send instruments and other scientific equipment to the Moon as part of the Artemis program. The administration of President Donald Trump has accelerated the timetable for putting humans back on the Moon with 2024 the new target date – moved up by four years.

Each company has developed lunar landers of different sizes and shapes: one is tall, and the other two are more compact.
The landers will deliver up to 23 small payloads of equipment provided by NASA. That should include material that will gather information to help astronauts later on to land, navigate and protect themselves from radiation.

Orbit Beyond will land in Mare Imbrium, a lava plain in a lunar crater, by September 2020, after being launched by one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets. Intuitive Machines will try to land by July 2021 in Oceanus Procellarum, a dark spot on the Moon visible from Earth. SpaceX will also facilitate that launch.

Astrobotic, which is based in Pittsburgh, will target Lacus Mortis, a large crater on the near side of the Moon, by July 2021. It has yet to choose a delivery rocket. NASA awarded the companies USD 77-97 million each for development of their landers.

“Next year, our initial science and technology research will be on the lunar surface, which will help support sending the first woman and the next man to the Moon in five years,” said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine on Friday. “Investing in these commercial landing services also is another strong step to build a commercial space economy beyond low-Earth orbit.” The United States last sent a crewed mission to the Moon in 1972, the year of the final Apollo mission.

NASA regularly sent lunar probes into orbit, but it only has two active missions today: the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the ARTEMIS probes. China has meanwhile landed twice on the Moon in recent years: in 2013, and in January on the far side. The Change 4 probe and its motorized robot Yutu-2 are the only probes active on the surface right now.

NASA’s rover spots clay on Red Planet

NASA’s rover spots clay on Red Planet

Washington: Drilling by Curiosity Mars rover at a region of the Red Planet called the “clay-bearing unit” has revealed the highest amounts of clay minerals ever found during the mission, NASA has said. The rover recently drilled two samples at rock targets called “Aberlady” and “Kilmarie”, the US space agency revealed on Wednesday.

Clay often forms in water, which is essential for life. Other than proof that there was a significant amount of water once, what these new findings mean for the region is still up for debate. It is likely that the rocks in the area formed as layers of mud in ancient lakes — something Curiosity also found lower on Mount Sharp mountain on Mars. Water interacted with sediment over time, leaving an abundance of clay in the rocks there, NASA said. This clay-enriched region is located on the side of lower Mount Sharp. The rover’s mineralogy instrument, called CheMin (Chemistry and Mineralogy), provided the first analyses of rock samples drilled in the clay-bearing unit, NASA said.



Diamonds were born deep in the sea?

Diamonds were born deep in the sea?

As per a study, traces of salt trapped inside stones show that most of the gems were formed from ancient seabeds

Sydney: Diamonds are mostly formed from ancient seabeds that became buried deep beneath the Earth’s crust, says a study that found traces of salt trapped in many of the stones. Most diamonds found at the Earth’s surface are formed this way, while others are created by crystallisation of melts deep in the mantle, said the study published in the
journal Science Advances.

In experiments recreating the extreme pressures and temperatures found 200 kilometres underground, researchers have demonstrated that seawater in sediment from the bottom of the ocean reacts in the right way to produce the balance of salts found in diamonds. The study settles a long-standing question about the formation of diamonds.
“There was a theory that the salts trapped inside diamonds came from marine seawater, but couldn’t be tested,” said lead author Michael Forster from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.

“Our research showed that they came from marine sediment.” Diamonds are crystals of carbon that form beneath the Earth’s crust in very old parts of the mantle. They are brought to the surface in volcanic eruptions of a special kind of magma called kimberlite.

While gem diamonds are usually made of pure carbon, so-called fibrous diamonds, which are cloudy and less appealing to jewellers, often include small traces of sodium, potassium and other minerals that reveal information about the environment where they formed. These fibrous diamonds are commonly ground down and used in technical applications like drill bits.

Fibrous diamonds grow more quickly than gem diamonds, which means they trap tiny samples of fluids around them while they form. “We knew that some sort of salty fluid must be around while the diamonds are growing, and now we have confirmed that marine sediment fits the bill,” Forster said. “We demonstrated that the processes that lead to diamond growth are driven by the recycling of oceanic sediments in subduction zones,” Forster added.

Kabul: Car blast kills 4, injures many including US servicemen

Kabul: Car blast kills 4, injures many including US servicemen

Kabul: At least four people lost their lives while three were wounded after a car blast rattled Kabul’s district nine areas on Friday morning, according to Ministry of Interior spokesperson, Nasrat Rahimi. The explosion, which took place near the Pul-e-Charkhi road, targetted a foreign forces convoy, TOLOnews reported.

The US-Forces Afghanistan confirmed that four US service members were wounded in the explosion in Kabul’s Qala-e-Wazir area. Rahimi said that the blast took place in the Qala-e-Wazir area in PD9 at 8:30 am on Friday. The latest incident comes shortly after an explosion near the military academy in west Kabul that claimed the lives of six people. No group has taken responsibility for Friday’s explosion yet.

August 22 to be celebrated in honour of victims of religious violence: UN

August 22 to be celebrated in honour of victims of religious violence: UN

The UN General Assembly has declared August 22 as the International Day for Victims of Religious Violence to combat hate crimes and persecution on the basis of beliefs. Recalling the wave of attacks that targeted a mosque in New Zealand, and churches in Sri Lanka during Easter Sunday services, Poland’s Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, who introduced the resolution on Tuesday, said that the international day will honour the victims and survivors of religious violence who are often forgotten.

“We hope that it will help combat hate crimes and acts of violence related to religion or belief, and will further strengthen inter-religious dialogue,” he said. The resolution is not focused on victims of any particular religion or belief and seeks to raise respect for religious diversity, Czaputowicz said.  Pakistan, along with the US, was one of the nine sponsors of the resolution. During the discussion of the resolution, the US and China clashed over Washington’s criticism of Beijing’s treatment of its Muslim minority.

The Acting US Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council, Austin Smith, said that in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region “more than one million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other members of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang have been arbitrarily detained in camps since April 2017. There are disturbing reports of forced labour, torture, and deaths in these camps.

“Chinese authorities are restricting religious freedom by labelling peaceful religious practices as manifestations of ‘religious extremism and terrorism’,” he added. He asked UN members to ask China to close its camps and respect the rights of Muslims, Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners.

China’s delegate called the US allegations unfounded and said that what were described as camps were, in fact, vocational and educational training centres to help minorities learn skills that can help them fight poverty.  He, in turn, hurled a counter-accusation against the US asserting that at the recent Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues many speakers had accused the US government of killing its own indigenous peoples, extinguishing their languages and oppressing their voices.