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Cleaning crew in India finds $1 million worth of gold bars in an aircraft toilet

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An Indian airplane cleaning crew stumbled across 24 gold bars worth over $1 million stashed in an aircraft toilet compartment, officials said Wednesday.

India, which rivals China as the world’s biggest gold consumer, has witnessed a sharp rise in smuggling since import duties were hiked three times this year to dampen demand for the precious metal.

The plane, belonging to private carrier Jet Airways, was being cleaned at Kolkata airport Tuesday after a trip from the eastern city of Patna. Indian media reported the plane had been travelling from Bangkok.

“The cleaning staff of the airport were going though their routine duties and found two bags in the toilets of the plane,” director of the airport B.P. Mishra told AFP.

The 24 one-kilogram gold bars “have not been claimed by anyone. No arrest has been made,” senior customs official R.S. Meena said.

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Meena estimated the value of the haul at about 70 million rupees, or $1.1 million.

Gold is hugely popular in India, especially during religious festivals and wedding seasons, and is the second-biggest contributor after oil to India’s massive current account deficit — the broadest measure of trade.

The government has been seeking to reduce gold demand and narrow its deficit by hiking bullion import duties.

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Indians also buy gold in the form of jewellery, bars and coins as a hedge against inflation.

“This is the fifth (suspected gold smuggling) incident in the past one month,” said B. P. Sharma, director of Kolkata’s Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International airport.

“Smuggling of gold through the airport has risen” as the hike in the import duty of gold has made the metal costlier, Sharma said.

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Last month, intelligence officials recovered gold worth 95 million rupees from the toilet of a plane after it landed in the southern city of Chennai en route to New Delhi from Dubai.

Four Sri Lankan nationals were held on smuggling charges.

In August, customs officials seized smuggled gold worth 11 million rupees from a passenger travelling from Singapore to the Indian capital.

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Thirty-one gold bars were found in specially-designed pockets in the suspect’s trousers.

In Kolkata, a 28-year-old man flying to India from Bangkok was recently arrested with gold bars concealed in large torchlights, officials said.

In another incident, a man travelling to India from Dubai was caught in Kolkata while trying to smuggle five gold bars in his body, they added.


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New Orleans funk icon and co-founder of the Neville Brothers Art Neville dies at 81

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Art Neville, a New Orleans funk legend and co-founder of the Neville Brothers, has died, his brother said Monday. He was 81 years old.

The singer and keyboard player who answered to the sobriquet "Poppa Funk" was well known as the voice of the "Mardi Gras Mambo," which quickly became a mainstay of his home city's famed carnival after he first played it at age 17.

"Artie Poppa Funk Neville you are loved dearly by every one who knew you. Love always your lil' big brother AARON (we ask for privacy during this time of mourning)," his brother, soul singer Aaron Neville, tweeted.

His death follows that of another famed New Orleans musician, the blues pianist Dr. John, who died last month.

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Native Hawaiians continue protest a week after telescope construction was set to start on sacred lan

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Indigenous protectors of Mauna Kea oppose the $1.4 billion project

A week after construction was scheduled to resume on a long-delayed $1.4 billion telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea—a dormant volcano on Hawaii's Big Island—thousands of Native Hawaiians who consider the mountain sacred continued to protest the planned observatory.

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Gun ownership increases homicides — but only a very specific kind of them: study

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Does the frequency of gun ownership impact the homicide rate? In the broad sense, many studies have shown it does. But how does it do so exactly?

A new study, conducted at the University of Indianapolis and published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, offers a profound hint. The study, which examined homicide rates by state from 1990 to 2016, suggests that most forms of homicide — those committed against friends, acquaintances, and strangers — are negligibly affected by firearm ownership rates. But one particular category of homicide is sharply correlated with the presence of guns: domestic violence.

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