India set to become water scarce by 2025: report


Stephen Hawking launches biggest-ever search for alien life



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5.Stephen Hawking launches biggest-ever search for alien life


British cosmologist Steven Hawking on Monday launched the biggest-ever search for intelligent life in the universe in a 10-year, $100-million (143-million-euro) project to scan the heavens.

“In an infinite universe, there must be other occurrences of life. Somewhere in the cosmos, perhaps, intelligent life may be watching,” Hawking said at the launch event at the Royal Society science academy in London.

“Either way, there is no bigger question. It’s time to commit to finding the answer, to search for life beyond Earth. We must know.”

The project will use some of the biggest telescopes on Earth, searching far deeper into the universe than before for radio spectrum and laser signals.


5.U.N. endorses Iran nuclear agreement


The U.N. Security Council (UNSC) on Monday unanimously adopted a resolution that endorses the historic deal on Iran’s nuclear programme and clears a path for international sanctions crippling its economy to be lifted.

Representatives of all 15 countries on the council voted by raising their hands.


6.Greek banks reopen, taxes rise

Three-week shutdown had cost the economy €3 billion


Greece’s government hiked taxes and began paying billions of dollars to its creditors on Monday, as banks reopened following a three-week shutdown imposed to prevent a disastrous run on cash machines.

Greeks woke up to widespread tax rises — on everything from sugar and cocoa to condoms, taxis and funerals — as part of a tough reform package agreed last week in exchange for a three-year bailout of up to €86 billion that the government hopes will stop it from crashing out of the Eurozone. The nation’s banks were thronging with customers after a shutdown estimated to have cost the crisis-hit economy €3 billion.



Limited bank services

The banks were ordered to close on June 29 after anxious citizens emptied cash machines in a dramatic escalation of the country’s debt crisis.

Banks are continuing to offer only limited services — with a ban on most transfers to foreign banks among the capital control measures that are still in place — but a daily cash withdrawal limit of €60 ($65) has been relaxed.

The European Union meanwhile confirmed that it had paid out a €7.16 billion emergency loan to Greece so it can meet debts of €4.2 billion due to the European Central Bank (ECB) on Monday as well as outstanding sums owed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A source close to the Greek finance ministry told AFP the payment had begun.



Taxes have gone up from 13 per cent to 23 per cent on a wide range of goods and services, although the tax on medicines, books and newspapers eased from 6.5 per cent to 6.0 per cent. — AFP

7.“Africa’s Pinochet” goes on trial


Chadian dictator Hissene Habre (in picture from AFP) went on trial on Monday in Senegal, a quarter of a century after his blood-soaked reign came to an end, in a trial seen as a test case for African justice.

Once dubbed “Africa’s Pinochet”, the 72-year-old has been in custody in Senegal since his arrest in June 2013 at the home he shared in an affluent Dakar suburb with his wife and children. Habre — backed during his presidency by France and the United States as a bulwark against Libya’s Muammar Qadhafi — is on trial for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture in Chad from 1982 to 1990. — AFP

8.Investment protection pact in the offing

New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will seek the Union Cabinet’s approval for a model investment protection agreement that will enable India to safeguard against offshore arbitration and international litigation from global companies and also resume talks with the U.S. on a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT).

One of the reasons talks between the two countries have been on hold since February 2014 is India’s move to get ready the model agreement that will guide all bilateral negotiations.

Diplomatic sources concede that there are still many serious differences over the BIT, mainly on arbitration and IPR, but the two sides made headway when Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal visited Delhi last Friday.

Once the BIT negotiations start up, diplomatic sources believe they could take up to six months to finalise, and up to about two years to ratify.

‘Symbolic value’

“Even so, it will have huge symbolic value for the relationship if we are able to announce something in the next meeting between the U.S. President and PM Modi,” the sources told The Hindu pointing to the aim of taking trade from $100 billion to $500 billion.



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