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Barge P-305 located on seabed; 66 confirmed dead so far | India News – Times of India

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Stranded workers from a barge, which had gone adrift amidst heavy rain and strong winds due to Cyclone Tauktae, being airlifted by naval personnel on an Indian Navy Seaking helicopter (AFP)

NEW DELHI: ONGC’s barge P-305, that sank in the Arabian Sea due to cyclone Tauktae, has ben located on the seabed. Navy’s ship INS Makar was able to locate the barge today using advanced side scan radars.
The barge sank after breaking loose of its anchors and hitting an oil platform in rough seas after the cyclone struck.
Of the 261 people on bard P-305, 66 are now confirmed dead while 9 are missing. 43 of the dead have been identified. 41 bodies have been handed over to the families. The police also sent 30 samples for DNA testing to identify some of the bodies.
Barge P-305, which housed personnel engaged in maintenance work for an offshore oil drilling platform of state-run ONGC, sank on Monday.
Fingers are being pointed at the captain of the barge, who reportedly did not heed warnings to move away to a safe distance from the path of the cyclone, possibly due to a faulty assessment of the cyclone’s trajectory.
Police have registered an FIR against the captain. The case was registered under section 304 (2) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 338 (causing grievous hurt to any person through rash or negligent act) and 34 (common intention) at Mumbai’s Yellow Gate police station.
The case was registered on the basis of the complaint lodged by the chief engineer of the barge who was among the survivors in the incident, a Mumbai Police official said.

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Hungarian top shooters caught in a Narsingh-Sushil like scandal | More sports News – Times of India

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Istvan Peni (in pic) has accused his teammate Peter Sidi of mixing banned substances in his food during ISSF WC in New Delhi. (ANI Photo)

World No. 1 Istvan Peni fails dope test during Delhi World Cup, alleges contamination of medicines by teammate Sidi Peter
PUNE: A senior Olympian has been accused of sabotaging his junior teammate’s Olympic campaign by mixing banned substances in the latter’s food. The junior’s sample tested positive for a banned substance just a few months before the Tokyo Games. This sounds familiar — Sushil Kumar-Narsingh Yadav case — but the shooters are not Indian. The scandal, though, has an Indian connections.
World No. 1 rifle shooter (men’s 50m 3P) Istvan Peni, 24, has accused his Hungarian teammate and former World No. 1 Peter Sidi, 42, of mixing banned substances in his food during their visit to New Delhi for the ISSF World Cup in March.
Peni’s dope test done during the World Cup came positive, but he has accused Sidi of conspiring against him. Following Peni’s allegation the Hungarian Shooting Association suspended Sidi from participating in the European Championships, which began in Osijek, Croatia, from Thursday. However, Peni was allowed to participate in the championships by the International Shooting Sports Federation and Hungarian Shooting. TOI tried to reach the ISSF and the Hungarian federation but failed to get any response.
Prior to the doping scandal, the two shooters had an altercation ahead of the 50m rifle 3 position men’s team gold medal match during the New Delhi World Cup in March. Peni accused Sidi of using an ‘illegal tripod’ during the match and forfeited the match. The weapon control jury, however, found no problem with Sidi’s tripod.
When contacted, Peni told TOI that first he was shocked to learn about him testing positive for a banned substance, but since he was convinced he didn’t take anything deliberately, he started exploring the possibility of a sabotage.
“On April 15, I was informed by the ISSF about my failed dope test in New Delhi. I was told that furosemide was the substance found in my results. I didn’t even know how to spell furosemide. Later, I started to investigate the matter,” Peni told TOI. Furosemide is a type of diuretic which is abused by athletes to excrete water for rapid weight loss and to mask the presence of other banned substances. However, it increases the heart rate of athletes, which is not good for shooters.
“The only new thing that I had started around that time was my Vitamin D capsules. I checked the capsules and found that after I reached home, they had become oily. We later got them checked at the laboratory and found they contained furosemide in them.”
Peni has provided CCTV footage from his hotel in Surajkund, where he and Sidi stayed during the World Cup. Peni has alleged that Sidi entered his room without his permission and stayed there for 45 minutes. The Rio Games participant, Peni, has alleged that the substance was mixed in his medicines.
“The footage shows that the door of our room was locked when we left at 10:19 am and then someone showed up at 10:36 am, entered and stayed there for 45 minutes. And let me be clear, we had not authorized anyone to enter my room,” the World No. 1 said.
However, Sidi denies the charges and said Peni is putting the blame on him to hide his doping offence. “Let me tell you, I have nothing to do with Istvan’s doping offense. There has been no official hearing done in this regard. All this has been done to clear Peni by sacrificing me.
“The Hungary Shooting federation initiated a disciplinary proceeding against me, but the trial could not be held due to the non-availability of a member of the disciplinary committee. I also feel the Disciplinary Committee was set up illegally. To date, I have not had a formal hearing with any official organization. There is a disciplinary hearing scheduled on May 27. Hopefully, they will meet then as the delay is hurting my preparations for the Games,” Sidi, who has missed the European Championships due to the suspension, said.
Sidi already has filed a case against the federation for suspending him during a domestic match. “I got a red card in the Hungarian Championships on March 7 for allegedly using illegal equipment. My equipment has always passed the standards at the international level but not in Hungary, because Peni says it’s not legal,” the five-time Olympian told TOI.
When asked about the CCTV footage, he said: “I haven’t seen the footage yet. Hopefully my lawyer will get it soon.”
The controversy reminds one of a similar incident in Indian sports when wrestler Narsingh Yadav had accused two-time Olympic medallist and his senior, Sushil Kumar, of contaminating his food after the former failed a dope test just days ahead of the Rio Games.

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H-1B visa approvals should be for six years, suggests CATO Institute’s David Bier – Times of India

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Indians, especially those from the technology sector, who are the major beneficiaries of the H-1B non-immigrant visa program, are well aware of the challenges associated with seeking a visa extension. It means an additional cost for the sponsoring employer and anxiety for the visa holder.
Recently under the Biden administration, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has instructed its officers to defer to previous approvals when extending visas, such as the H-1B work visa.
In short, USCIS is reverting to its earlier long-standing guidance issued in 2004. The Trump administration had revoked this guidance and required that each visa extension be treated as a new application. This had led to a surge in requests for additional documentation (known as Requests For Evidence – RFEs) which increased administrative costs for sponsoring employers and led to delays. Or in other instances, there was an outright denial of visa extensions on various grounds.

But much more can be done to improve the legal immigration system. In response to invitations to the public to submit their suggestions, David J. Bier, a research fellow at the CATO Institute, said, “The USCIS should replace the three-year limit on initial H-1B petition approvals with a six-year limit, and the Department of Labour (DOL) should revert to its earlier regulation allowing a six-year approval of the labour condition applications.” The laws permit extension beyond six years only if the H-1B visa holder is following the process of obtaining a permanent status (green card).
In his submission to the USCIS, Bier added, “Even though the law envisions employment of at least six-years, DOL and USCIS regulations limit LCA and visa petition approvals to no more than three-years. Filing for an extension after three years is an unnecessary and expensive burden. Employers and workers suffer unjust costs and potential delays, and USCIS and DOL are burdened with additional reviews of materials that they have already reviewed and approved. In fiscal 2020, H-1B workers and employers had to file more than 320,000 extension requests.”
A review of the USCIS data shows that of the 3.19 lakh H-1B visas issued to those born in India (which is 74.9 per cent of the total H-1B visas issued during the fiscal year ending September 30, 2020), 2.45 lakh were approvals for visa extensions.
In the backdrop of the recent policy manual update, which calls upon immigration officers to defer to previous approvals when extending visas, Bier explains that there is no longer any basis for defining “coming temporarily” to mean less than six years.





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Will request PM to give financial aid to all cyclone-hit states: Ramdas Athawale | India News – Times of India

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PANAJI: Union minister Ramdas Athawale on Saturday said he would request Prime Minister Narendra Modi to provide financial assistance to all the states that were affected by cyclone Tauktae.
He said that Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have faced the fury of the recent cyclone.
“The PM, after touring cyclone-hit Gujarat, announced a package of Rs 1,000 crore for the state. But he has also asked other states to assess their losses and submit the claim to the Centre,” the minister of state for social justice and empowerment told reporters in Vasco town.
“I will write a letter to the PM, requesting him to provide financial assistance to all the states, which are impacted by the cyclone,” he said.
Athawale said he toured the Konkan region of Maharashtra to take stock of the situation after the cyclone, after which he has urged chief minister Uddhav Thackeray to provide monetary aid of Rs 50,000 per hectare to the affected farmers as they have suffered huge crop losses.

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Studies will say if vaccine doses can be mixed, says NITI Aayog official | India News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: It is feasible in theory that it is alright to mix first and second doses of different vaccines, but robust scientific evidence is still lacking for India to make this a permissible practice, said leading government health expert Dr V K Paul,
It is scientifically plausible and studies are going on evaluate such a possibility, said Dr Paul, who is NITI Aayog member health on Saturday. He said the evidence abroad and in India is being evaluated.
“It is scientifically plausible but more studies needs to be done. It can’t be said definitively that mixing of doses can be practised. There is no robust scientific evidence. Only time will tell whether it will be done in future or not. It will depend on international studies, World Health Organization findings etc. Our experts are also continuously studying,” Dr Paul said.
“One shot of one type produces antibodies and the second shot from another will increase that. Scientifically, there is no problem but we need evidence based data to see that happening,” he added.
Of late, some emerging studies have shown that mixing different vaccines may in fact help better protect against Covid-19. For instance, researchers in Spain found vaccinating people with both the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines is safe and produces a potent immune response. Findings of the study are yet to be published in a journal.
India is currently administering Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V and there has to be some study or evidence from mixing of these doses before such an advisory can be considered by the government here.
So far, the government has maintained that one should take two doses of the same brand of Covid vaccine.
Studies have also shown that Covishield’s first dose offers more protection than Covaxin’s first dose and hence the second dose of Covishield can be delayed to 12 to 16 weeks.





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Govt invites proposals for innovation in portable oxygen concentrators | India News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has invited proposals on the development of oxygen concentrators amid the second wave of Covid-19.
The proposals should be from scientists from educational and research institutes, laboratories, universities, and medical institutions, start-ups and industry, the DST said.
The scientists from industries should align with investigators from academic or research institutions as co-investigators. Funding for industry partners with respect to R&D leading to commercialisation will be forwarded to Technology Development Board (TDB), DST, for their consideration.
The duration of the project is one year.
The call for proposals comes under the backdrop of shortage of medical oxygen in the last few weeks as the country grappled with the second wave of the coronavirus.
This initiative is expected to help meet the need of indigenous concentrators working on newer approach of providing supplementary oxygen in hospital wards and ICUs and as an inexpensive therapeutic oxygen source for patients under home isolation.
This new initiative by the government will soon catalyse R&D on critical components and innovations concerning Make-in-India Oxygen Concentrators to meet the emerging healthcare requirements to combat the COVID 19 epidemic, the DST said.





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US commander says more work needed to counter small drones – Times of India

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Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie told reporters traveling with him that the use of small drones by Iranian-backed militia is only going to grow in the next few years. AP Photo

BAGHDAD: A month after an explosives-laden drone targeted US forces at an Iraq base, the top American commander for the Middle East says finding better ways to counter such attacks is a top priority, and the United States is still behind the curve on solutions.
Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie told reporters traveling with him that the use of small drones by Iranian-backed militia is only going to grow in the next few years. He spent the day in Iraq on Thursday, but for security reasons, media accompanying him were not allowed to report on his visit until after he left the region.
The drones, which are cheap and easy to buy, are often difficult to detect and problematic to defeat. McKenzie said the U.S. must find more ways to counter their use by America’s enemies in the Middle East and elsewhere.
“We’re working very hard to find technical fixes that would allow us to be more effective against drones,” McKenzie said. Efforts are underway, he said, to look for ways to cut command and control links between a drone and its operator, improve radar sensors to quickly identify the threat as it approaches, and find effective electronic and kinetic ways to bring them down. He added that fencing and high netting can also be used as protective measures.
“We’re open to all kinds of things” he said. “The Army is working it very hard. Still, I don’ t think we’re where we want to be.”
In mid-April, an drone targeted U.S.-led coalition forces near a northern Iraq airport, causing a large fire and damage to a building. There were no casualties.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. The U.S. has blamed Iran-backed militia groups for previous attacks, most of them rockets that have targeted the American presence in Baghdad, the capital, and military bases across Iraq.
Overall attacks against coalition troops have been frequent since a U.S.-directed drone strike killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani near the Baghdad airport last year. Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was also killed in the attack. The strike drew the ire of mostly Shiite Iraqi lawmakers and prompted parliament to pass a nonbinding resolution to pressure the Iraqi government to oust foreign troops from the country.
The Biden administration has resumed strategic talks with Baghdad, initiated under President Donald Trump, in which the future of U.S. troop presence in Iraq is a central point of discussion. McKenzie and others have expressed optimism that the U.S. will maintain a military presence in the country
The militia groups, McKenzie said, are frustrated because there had been some hope that U.S. forces would leave Iraq, particularly in the wake of the Soleimani strike.
“They believe they can carry out attacks at a fairly low level that won’t provoke a response, yet will create enough friction that will eventually induce us to leave,” McKenzie told reporters traveling with him. “I think it’s a dangerous situation.”
He said he believes the U.S.-led coalition still has work to do in Iraq to help defeat the Islamic State group, which maintains some presence in western and northern Iraq. But he said the Iraqi security forces have done a good job battling IS.
After spending Thursday in Iraq, McKenzie was in Syria on Friday, meeting with U.S. and partner commanders and forces at four different bases.

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As US schools resume testing, large numbers are opting out – Times of India

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Abby Norman greets her daughters Juliet, 11, left, and Priscilla, 9, as they arrive home from school. AP Photo

Standardized tests are returning to the nation’s schools this spring, but millions of students will face shorter exams that carry lower stakes, and most families are being given the option to forgo testing entirely.
With new flexibility from the Biden administration, states are adopting a patchwork of testing plans that aim to curb the stress of exams while still capturing some data on student learning. The lenient approach means large swaths of students will go untested, shattering hopes for a full picture of how much learning has been set back by the pandemic.
“We will end up with a highly imperfect set of data,” said Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington. “This is something our country will have to commit to tracking and learning about for at least the next few years, and maybe the next decade.”
Some of the nation’s largest districts plan to test only a fraction of their students as many continue to learn remotely. In New York City, students must opt in to be tested this year. In Los Angeles, most students are not being asked to take state exams this year. Other districts are scaling back questions or testing in fewer subjects.
It’s the latest episode in a long-fought battle over school testing and, as in the past, parents are polarized. Some are demanding tests to get a sense of their children’s progress. Others see no need to put their children through that kind of stress.
As a teacher, Jay Wamsted believes there’s value in testing. But when his sixth-grade daughter Kira asked to opt out this year, he saw no reason to object. He already knows she needs to catch up on math after months of remote learning. And as a teacher at her school, he knew that many other students were also backing out, undermining the value of the results.
“I know she’s a little behind, and I don’t need that data,” said Wamsted, who live in Smyrna, Georgia. “To take a month to gather data that is not going to mean anything to any of their teachers next year – it seems like a waste of time.”
Parent Abby Norman found her third-grade daughter crying in her bedroom the morning tests were scheduled to begin at her school near Atlanta. Priscilla, 9, had just returned to the classroom after learning remotely and was worried she wasn’t prepared.
“She was so nervous about this test that I don’t care about at all, that does not matter to me,” said Norman, who is a preacher. “I literally ended up telling her, ‘If you want to lick the test and give it back, I don’t care.'”
With that reassurance, Abby agreed to take the tests and scored “almost off the charts,” her mom said. Still, Norman resents that students were put in that situation at all.
Several states lobbied the Biden administration to cancel standardized tests entirely for a second year, but the Education Department aimed for a middle ground: It told states to test as many student as possible without requiring them to come in just for exams. The goal, the agency said, should be to measure the pandemic’s impact and identify how to help students recover.
Acknowledging the challenges of the pandemic, the agency invited states to shorten or delay tests, and it urged them to ease the stakes for students. But the department later granted additional leniency to certain states, prompting criticism that it failed to set a clear bar.
Washington, D.C., was granted permission to cancel tests because 88% of students were learning remotely, but the agency rejected similar requests from Michigan, New York and Georgia. Requests to scale back testing were granted in Colorado and Oregon, but a plan to narrow the testing pool in Washington state was rejected.
Those who opposed testing say it’s the last thing students need after such a challenging year. Schools have other ways to evaluate students, they say, and testing only takes away from classroom time.
Michigan’s education chief has blasted the uneven flexibility granted to states. School across Michigan have already used other tests to assess students, he said, and more exams “will inform precisely nothing about our children’s needs.” State officials in New York argued that testing is unlikely to produce useful data given the variability in instruction during the pandemic.
“In fact, the students most in need of state assessments – those receiving remote instruction – are the very children who are not required to take the test,” the state’s top education officials wrote in an April statement.
Testing advocates counter that there’s still value in collecting as much data as possible. Lake, at the University of Washington, said even imperfect results can help illuminate the scope of the problem schools face as they help students recover.
“Standardized tests at the state level are the most consistent data we’ve had to track academic progress, so it would be a huge missed opportunity to forgo those tests this year,” she said. “Flying blind is not a responsible position for a public official to take.”
Some critics blame the Biden administration for allowing halfhearted attempts at evaluations. They point to places like New York City, where the outgoing schools chief urged parents in February to consider opting out of tests. Oregon’s two largest districts have voted to defy state orders and skip testing. The state says their penalty will be to submit a plan to come into compliance next year.
“These states are simply playing games. They’re not even pretending to make an effort to test students, and the Biden administration is letting them get away with it,” said Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank.
If testing isn’t feasible now, Petrilli said, it should be done in the fall. Maryland, New Jersey and Washington state have postponed tests, and it’s an option for districts in California.
In some states, officials are pushing ahead with tests much as they have in the past. In Tennessee and Arkansas, education officials have said all healthy students are expected to take state exams, which are only being offered in-person. More than 1.4 million tests have already been given in Arkansas this spring, and the state is on track to test at least 95% of students, according to the state’s education department.
In normal years, the federally required tests are used to gauge school effectiveness and chart the progress of students, both as individuals and in demographic groups. In some states, students must pass certain tests to move to the next grade or graduate from high school. But this year, most states are focusing on measuring student growth and letting schools and students off the hook for the results.
After last year’s tests were canceled, there was hope that this year’s exams would provide the most comprehensive look yet at the pandemic’s impact on education. But the inconsistency between states now makes a broad analysis impossible, said Scott Marion, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Assessment, which helps states design and evaluate tests.
Still, he believes the results will have value. As schools begin the long process to help students recover, he said, this year’s data will provide a foundation to measure against.
“I do think the data can be a useful baseline going forward,” he said. “If this is the low point, or close to it, how are our kids going to come out of it going forward?”

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Indian shooters arrive in Osijek for European Championships | More sports News – Times of India

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OSIJEK (Croatia): India’s 13-member Olympic-bound shooting squad arrived in Osijek from the Croatian capital Zagreb to shoot in the Minimum Qualification Score (MQS) section of the European Championships.
The competitions began on Saturday with the junior events.
India’s Tokyo-bound shooters will take part in the men’s and women’s individual Olympic events only.
Anjum Moudgil may compete in two individual events (women’s 10m air rifle and 50m rifle 3 positions).
Located on the eastern fringes of Croatia, Osijek will also play host to the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup Rifle/Pistol/Shotgun competition, scheduled from June 22, a couple of weeks after the conclusion of the European Championships.

“We have all settled down well and felt really good after completing the seven-day quarantine period. The team is in great spirits and really looking forward to the Championship,” said rifle coach Deepali Deshpande.
The first individual Olympic events, the men’s and women’s 10m air rifle and air pistol competitions, are scheduled for Monday.
When shooting in the MQS section, athletes do not compete for a medal and therefore are not eligible to qualify for the finals. Their scores, however, can be used for official and ranking purposes.
A total of 15 Indian shooters have qualified for the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games.
Skeet shooters Mairaj Khan and Angad Bajwa, who have also qualified for the Games, are training in Italy.





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AAP urges PM Narendra Modi to resume talks with farmers on agriculture laws | India News – Times of India

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AAP said the government has not made any attempt to negotiate with the protesting farmers since January 22.

CHANDIGARH: The Aam Aadmi Party on Saturday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to accept with humility farmers‘ invitation of talks over the Centre’s agriculture laws and resolve the issue.
In a letter to the PM, AAP MP Bhagwant Mann and the party’s Punjab affairs co-in-charge Raghav Chadha also claimed that 470 have died during the course of the agitation, which is unfortunate and painful.
“The government has not made any attempt to negotiate with farmers since January 22, which is not in the interest of farmers and the entire nation,” they added.
As farmer leaders have once again urged for talks, the prime minister should accept the invitation with humility and resume talks over the issue, resolving it permanently, they said.
The leaders said farmers are the backbone of the country and they had to protest for their demands at the cost of their lives during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Concerned about their future, the country’s farmers, including elderly, children and women, have left their homes and settled at Delhi borders, which is also against human rights,” they added.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of over 40 protesting farmer unions spearheading the protests, on Friday had written to the prime minister, urging for the resumption of talks over the Centre’s farm laws, against which they are agitating at the Delhi borders since November last year.
Several rounds of talks between farmers and the government failed to break the deadlock over the three legislations.
Farmers are demanding the repeal of the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
They have described the laws as pro-corporate. However, the government has maintained that the laws are for their benefit.

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