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India objects to US bid to grant Pakistan's spy agency immunity in Mumbai attacks case

India has expressed "extreme disappointment" with a US move to grant Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency immunity in a civil suit seeking damages for the November 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai.
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India voiced objections to a US bid to grant Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) immunity for its alleged involvement in planning the November 26, 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai. (AFP/Getty Images)

Execute the hit man, but grant the mafia dons immunity. Good idea?

That's what the US government seemed to suggest this week, in arguing that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) should be granted immunity in a civil case  filed in a New York court in connection with the November 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai.

India has expressed "extreme disappointment" over the U.S. taking the position that the ISI should be granted immunity in the civil suit, India's Hindu newspaper reported Thursday.

“It cannot be that any organisation, state or non-state, which sponsors terrorism, has immunity,” the paper quoted Foreign Office spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin as saying. He was responding to a query on the ‘Statement of Interest’ filed by the U.S. State Department on immunity for the ISI and two former Director Generals of the agency in a civil case of wrongful death filed by U.S. family members of the victims of the terror attacks, the Hindu said.

“People who organised and perpetrated this horrible crime should be brought to justice, irrespective of the jurisdiction under which they may reside or be operating. Our position has been made known to the United States consistently,” the Hindu quoted Akbaruddin as saying.

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Missing Ravi Shankar? Try Yo Yo Honey Singh. The foul-mouthed-but-supercool Punjabi rapper topped Youtube searches from India in 2012. (AFP/Getty Images)

Missing Ravi Shankar? Try foul-mouthed-but-supercool Punjabi rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh -- though not if you're looking for classical sitar.

Best known for a song with an unprintable title (at least in Hindi), Yo Yo Honey Singh is arguably India's biggest non-Bollywood popstar, topping Youtube searches in 2012 with around 9 million viewers for his song "Brown Rang" (Brown Color), according to FirstPost.in.

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India: Starvation is real cost of corruption

Private contractors, including Ponty Chadha, have stolen most of some $2 billion intended for India's Integrated Child Development Services program, Bloomberg-BusinessWeek reveals.

Starvation is the real cost of corruption, Andrew MacAskill and Mehul Srivastava reveal in a must-read article in Bloomberg-BusinessWeek.

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India to be world's largest coal importer by 2017

Coal to surpass oil as world's largest energy source by 2017, due to heavy demand from China and India.
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Coal is set to surpass oil as as the world’s top fuel source by around 2017, as China and India surpass the US as the largest consumers, the International Energy Agency forecast on Tuesday. (AFP/Getty Images)

Coal is slated to surpass oil as the world's top fuel source by 2017, as consumption in China and India outstrips the US.

China and India lead the growth in coal consumption over the next five years, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency. The report said China's demand for coal will become the world's top consumer during that period, while India will become the largest seaborne coal importer and second-largest consumer, surpassing the US.

"The world will burn around 1.2 billion more tonnes of coal per year by 2017 compared to today, equivalent to the current coal consumption of Russia and the US combined,"India's Hindu newspaperquoted IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven as saying. "Coal’s share of the global energy mix continues to grow each year, and if no changes are made to current policies, coal will catch oil within a decade.”

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India plans to introduce universal health coverage in 2012-2017

As government prepares to roll out universal health coverage, McKinsey argues partnering with private firms is the only way forward.
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As India's health ministry prepares to roll out universal health coverage, McKinsey argues the government can only make up for shortcomings in the public health system by partnering with private companies. (AFP/Getty Images)

India aims to introduce universal health coverage during the 12th five year plan (2012-2017), but the public health system faces massive problems with inadequate infrastructure, poor funding and inefficiency. The only way forward is to partner with private firms, argues McKinsey & Co. in a new report.

"While public health experts have recommended that the government move from 'insuring' to 'assuring' health by investing in primary care, the McKinsey report envisions the expansion of healthcare primarily through extensive insurance coverage," Mint reports.

The idea is to increase insurance coverage to 75 percent of the population from 25 percent, the paper said.

In a system that appears to have much in common with America's (failed) one, only the uninsured poor would be covered by government-run insurance programs.

On the plus side, the report recommends boosting total spending on health to 5.5 percent of GDP.

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Vietnam: invasion of the mystery worms

Unidentified creatures must be killed with fire
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Villagers float on rafts made of bananas trees in the central Vietnamese province of Quang Binh. (HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images)

Courtesy of Vietnam's Tuoi Tre newspaper, a wildlife mystery surrouding worms that can withstand blades and lime but not fire.

Even village elders can't identify a worm-like creature that has suddenly appeared in central Quang Binh province. A couple whose house has been beset by the tiny, wriggling insects tells Tuoi Tre that the beings are strangely resilient. (Photos of the worms can be seen here.)

At first, they tried to destroy the worms with pesticide.

The worms lived.

Then they tried to destroy the worms with lime.

The worms lived.

Then they tried to destroy the worms with scissors.

But, when cut in half, both severed parts continued to live.

Can anyone identify accurately identify the species of this mystery worm?

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India: Did I say 7%? I meant 5.7%. My bad.

Indian government lowers 2013 growth forecast yet again, to 5.7%-5.9% from 7.6%
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Did I say 7 percent? I meant 5.7 percent. India lowers its 2013 growth forecast yet again. (AFP/Getty Images)

India lowered its economic growth forecast for fiscal 2013 to 5.7-5.9 percent from an earlier estimate of 7.6 percent, in an apparent pitch for the central bank to slash interest rates.

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India-Pakistan: How to lose friends and alienate people

A friendly visit from Pakistan's Rehman Malik leaves India angrier than ever.
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Interior Minister of Pakistan Rehman Malik (R) shakes hands with Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde during the launch of new visa agreement in New Delhi on December 14, 2012. Days later, Malik scuttled any goodwill built on his visit. (AFP/Getty Images)

A friendly visit from Pakistan's Minister of the Interior has left India angrier than ever, prompting the Times of India and others to report that the official trip "backfired" to erode trust between the age-old enemies.

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Cambodia's premier: don't be a homophobe

"Most of them are good people and are not doing alcohol, drugs or racing vehicles."
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Hun Sen, Cambodia's prime minister, in 2012. (TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP/Getty Images)

Cambodia's strongman premier is not known for his poignant appeals for tolerance.

Here's a quote, cited by Human Rights Watch, that reflects his take on dissenters in Cambodia: “I not only weaken the opposition, I’m going to make them dead ... and if anyone is strong enough to try to hold a demonstration, I will beat all those dogs and put them in a cage.”

And yet, the tough-talking prime minister has come out with a welcome -- but awkwardly worded -- statement encouraging Cambodian society to accept homosexuals.

As the Associated Press reports, he publicly stated that "there should be no discrimination against them just because of their destiny ... most of them are good people and are not doing alcohol, drugs or racing vehicles."

This is all the more confounding given his take, in 2007, on his adopted daughter's lesbian coupling. According to China's Xinhua outlet, he kicked her out of the house and worried aloud that her "girls" would bring bombs and poison to his home.

So has Hun Sen had a change of heart?

Was he just looking to score politcal correctness points last week on United Nations' Human Rights Day -- a day that might otherwise draw attention to his dismal human rights record?

And might he show some of that tenderness towards his Cambodian detractors who are locked up for daring to criticize his rule?

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India: Cabinet clears Land Acquisition Bill, boosting protections for farmers

Requiring consent from as many as 80 percent of landowners before an acquisition can be made through eminent domain, the bill promises to make industrial projects more expensive and harder to get off the ground.
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An Indian farmer with vegetables and produce demonstrates during a protest against land acquisition in New Delhi on August 3, 2011. Dozens of farmers assembled at Jantar Mantar during the protest led by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Kisan Morcha. (SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's cabinet cleared a land acquisition bill that revises India's centuries-old laws of eminent domain to provide additional protections for landowners.

Fixing India's land acquisition problems is considered one of the most crucial reforms needed to unleash economic growth.

But critics say requiring developers to get widescale agreement from local landowners before they can compel holdouts to sell will make industrial projects more costly and harder to get off the ground.

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