Budget session cut short without passing key reforms
The session, one of the least productive on record, has been disrupted for two weeks by opposition demands for the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his law minister over a federal police investigation into how the government awarded coal concessions to private and state companies.
Two long-stalled economic reforms - one to lift the foreign ownership cap in insurers to 49 percent from 26 percent and another that would simplify land acquisition for factories - were expected to be passed in the legislature during the budget session but ended up being side-tracked by the political ruckus.
The food security bill, which aims to give millions more people cheap food, is seen as crucial to the ruling Congress party's hopes of reelection.
(Reporting by Anurag Kotoky, editing by Ross Colvin)
North Korea threats: US to move missile defences to Guam
North Korea has threatened to target the US and South Korea in recent weeks.
Its statement came amid warnings from US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel that North Korea is a "real and clear danger" to the US and its allies.
In a further development on Thursday, Pyongyang again blocked South Korean access to the Kaesong joint industrial zone 10km (six miles) inside North Korea. It was the second day the North had blocked the border crossing.
Another statement from the North threatened to close the complex down if the South's puppet conservative group and its media continue bad-mouthing [us]".'Provocations'
The US Department of Defense said on Wednesday it would deploy the ballistic Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (Thaad) in the coming weeks.
The Thaad system includes a truck-mounted launcher, interceptor missiles and AN/TPY-2 tracking radar, together with an integrated fire control system.
The Pentagon said the missile system would be moved to Guam, a US territory with a significant US military presence, as a "precautionary move to strengthen our regional defence posture against the North Korean regional ballistic missile threat".
"The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and stands ready to defend US territory, our allies, and our national interests," the Pentagon added.
The US had already planned to send a Thaad system to Guam, but not under these circumstances, analysts say.
Riki Ellison, chairman of the Missile Defense Advocacy Group, told the BBC that the Pentagon's decision to speed up the transfer underlines how seriously Washington is taking Pyongyang's threats, but it should be viewed as a purely defensive move, not an escalation.
He said the Thaad system would only protect Guam and the surrounding area, and would not cover South Korea or Japan.
On Wednesday, a statement attributed to the North Korean military said: "We formally inform the White House and Pentagon that the ever-escalating US hostile policy towards the DPRK [North Korea] and its reckless nuclear threat will be smashed by the strong will of all the united service personnel and people and cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means of the DPRK, and that the merciless operation of its revolutionary armed forces in this regard has been finally examined and ratified."
It warned war could break out on the Korean peninsula as early as "today or tomorrow".
Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said the statement was "unhelpful and unconstructive".
"It is yet another offering in a long line of provocative statements that only serve to further isolate North Korea from the rest of the international community and undermine its goal of economic development," she said.
The BBC's Damian Grammaticas in Seoul says few observers believe North Korea has rockets or miniaturised weapons that could hit the US mainland.
Pyongyang could be seeking to pressure Washington to open fresh talks, hoping for a formal peace treaty, he adds.
In recent weeks, North Korea has mentioned military bases in Guam and the US state of Hawaii as possible targets.
"As they have ratcheted up her bellicose, dangerous rhetoric, and some of the actions they've taken over the last few weeks present a real and clear danger," said Mr Hagel, in his first major speech since taking up his post.
He added that Pyongyang had also threatened the interests of South Korea and Japan.
The North has apparently been angered by UN sanctions imposed after a recent nuclear test. Pyongyang escalated its rhetoric amid the current round of US-South Korea military drills.
The US has recently made a series of high-profile flights of stealth fighters and nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over South Korea.
Officials have also confirmed that the USS John McCain, a destroyer capable of intercepting missiles, has been positioned off the Korean peninsula.
A second destroyer, the USS Decatur, has been sent to the region.
China, the North's only powerful ally, said it had despatched officials on Tuesday to hold talks with ambassadors from North Korea, South Korea and the US.
On Wednesday North Korea closed the border crossing to the jointly-run Kaesong industrial park - the first time such action has been taken since 2009.
The complex is the last significant symbol of co-operation and is a key revenue source for North Korea.
The South Korean Unification Ministry on Thursday denied reports that North Korea had demanded South Korean workers quit Kaesong by 10 April.
It said the reports were based on a misunderstanding of a notice from the North.
A Wary Easter Weekend for Christians in Syria DAMASCUS, Syria — Torches flickered outside the church. Little girls wore their sparkly Easter best. Children bearing lanterns filed out through the heavy gilt doors, as worshipers carried an icon of Jesus and a cross covered with carnations.
Neighbour and pal William Brown, 49, told yesterday how he found the three-year-old dog she got only six months ago "chewing her face". He sobbed: "Cassie's kids came here screaming 'Mum's dead, Mum's dead'.
I ran to her flat and she was on the living room floor covered in blood. The Alsatian was chewing her face. "It was a horrible thing to see. We think the dog went for her and she had a heart attack through blood loss or as a result of the shock. "I tried to revive her with CPR but it was no good, she was already dead when the ambulance turned up. It's an awful thing — Cassie was wonderful.
Police were called to the flat in Nuneaton, Warks, at 8.15am on Tuesday. A spokesman said: "We are treating the death as unexplained and not suspicious at this time." The dog is believed to have been taken away by officers. Cassie's distraught children were being looked after by relatives last night. Yesterday friends wept as they laid floral tributes outside the flat. Maxine Spencer, 34, said: "Cassie lived for her kids and would do anything for them. She was trying to defend them by stroking the dog and calming it down." Neighbour Sylvia Foster, 74, added: "Cassie was so caring and lovely. She was only small — she wouldn't have stood a chance against a big dog. Everyone here is shocked." Other friends left tributes to the mum of five on a Facebook memorial page called RIP Cassie. Chantell Harrison wrote: "You'll be missed by many. Thinking of you and your family."