'PM Modi And I Are World Leaders In…': Trump's Speech In 10 Points


US President Donald Trump delivered a joint press statement along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Washington:  US President Donald Trump welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House on Monday as the leaders met for the first time. PM Modi, who is in US on the second leg of his three-nation visit, held one-on-one talks with the 71-year-old Trump at the Oval Office and later held delegation talks. Both of them then delivered a joint statement, where Trump said “I pledged that if elected, India would have a true friend in the White House. And that is now exactly what you have — a true friend.” However, the leaders did not take any questions from the reporters as was scheduled.



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Full Speech of President Donald Trump At The White House


President Donald Trump addressed a joint statement along with PM Narendra Modi after a series of meetings. Highlights the India-US relationship, GST tax reform, job creation and more. 
 

Here is the full statement:

Thank you very much.  Prime Minister Modi, thank you for being here with us today.  It’s a great honor to welcome the leader of the world’s largest democracy to the White House.

I have always had a deep admiration for your country and for its people, and a profound appreciation for your rich culture, heritage and traditions.  This summer, India will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its independence, and on behalf of the United States, I want to congratulate the Indian people on this magnificent milestone in the life of your very, very incredible nation.

During my campaign, I pledged that if elected, India would have a true friend in the White House.  And that is now exactly what you have — a true friend.  The friendship between the United States and India is built on shared values, including our shared commitment to democracy.  Not many people know it, but both American and the Indian constitutions begin with the same three very beautiful words:  We the people.

The Prime Minister and I both understand the crucial importance of those words, which helps to form the foundation of cooperation between our two countries.  Relations between countries are strongest when they are devoted to the interests of the people we serve.  And after our meetings today, I will say that the relationship between India and the United States has never been stronger, has never been better.

I’m proud to announce to the media, to the American people, and to the Indian people, that Prime Minister Modi and I are world leaders in social media — (laughter) — we’re believers — giving the citizens of our countries the opportunity to hear directly from their elected officials, and for us to hear directly from them.  I guess it’s worked very well in both cases.

I am thrilled to salute you, Prime Minister Modi, and the Indian people for all that you are accomplishing together.  Your accomplishments have been vast.  India has the fastest growing economy in the world.  We hope we’re going to be catching you very soon in terms of percentage increase, I have to tell you that.  We’re working on it.  

In just two weeks, you will begin to implement the largest tax overhaul in your country’s history — we’re doing that also, by the way — creating great new opportunities for your citizens.  You have a big vision for improving infrastructure, and you are fighting government corruption, which is always a grave threat to democracy.

Together, our countries can help chart an optimistic path into the future, one that unleashes the power of new technology, new infrastructure, and the enthusiasm and excitement of very hardworking and very dynamic people.

I look forward to working with you, Mr. Prime Minister, to create jobs in our countries, to grow our economies, and to create a trading relationship that is fair and reciprocal.  It is important that barriers be removed to the export of U.S. goods into your markets, and that we reduce our trade deficit with your country.  

I was pleased to learn about an Indian Airlines recent order of 100 new American planes, one of the largest orders of its kind, which will support thousands and thousands of American jobs.  We’re also looking forward to exporting more American energy to India as your economy grows, including major long-term contracts to purchase American natural gas, which are right now being negotiated, and we will sign them.  Trying to get the price up a little bit.

To further our economic partnership, I’m excited to report that the Prime Minister has invited my daughter, Ivanka, to lead the U.S. delegation to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India this fall.  And I believe she has accepted.  

Finally, the security partnership between the United States and India is incredibly important.  Both our nations have been struck by the evils of terrorism, and we are both determined to destroy terrorist organizations and the radical ideology that drives them.  We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism.  Our militaries are working every day to enhance cooperation between our military forces.  And next month, they will join together with the Japanese navy to take place in the largest maritime exercise ever conducted in the vast Indian Ocean.

I also thank the Indian people for their contributions to the effort in Afghanistan, and for joining us in applying new sanctions against the North Korean regime.  The North Korean regime is causing tremendous problems and is something that has to be dealt with, and probably dealt with rapidly.

Working together, I truly believe our two countries can set an example for many other nations, make great strides in defeating common threats, and make great progress in unleashing amazing prosperity and growth.

Prime Minister Modi, thank you again for joining me today, and for visiting our country and our wonderful White House and Oval Office.  I enjoyed our very productive conversation this afternoon, and look forward to its continuation tonight at dinner.  The future of our partnership has never looked brighter.  India and the United States will always be tied together in friendship and respect.

Prime Minister Modi, thank you very much.  Thank you.  Thank you.  

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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SpaceX completes launch and landing double bill


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SPACEX

Image caption

Iridium has booked SpaceX for multiple missions that will leave Earth from the Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast

US rocket company SpaceX completed back-to-back launches at the weekend.

Late on Friday, it used one of its refurbished Falcon 9 vehicles to put up a Bulgarian satellite from Florida.

Then on Sunday, SpaceX lofted another 10 spacecraft for telecommunications company Iridium. This time, the rocket flew out of California.

Both missions saw the Falcon first-stages come back to Earth under control to drone ships that had been positioned out on the ocean.

It means SpaceX has now had 13 landing successes for those missions it has sought to recover the booster. That said, Friday’s first-stage had a particularly hard landing, and looked bent over on the live video feed.

“Rocket is extra toasty and hit the deck hard (used almost all of the emergency crush core), but otherwise good,” quipped SpaceX chief executive, Elon Musk, on Twitter.

His firm does not expect to recover every booster, because the flight profile required on many satellite launches will lead to re-entry speeds that are simply too fast to curtail with the available propellant.

Friday’s mission was launched from the US East Coast, from the Kennedy Space Center’s famous Apollo and shuttle pad, 39A.

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SPACEX

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New grid fins: To make recycling rockets pay, SpaceX must reduce the amount of refurbishment needed

The “second-hand” Falcon 9 lifted off at 15:10 local time (1910 GMT).

Its passenger, BulgariaSat-1, was dropped off in orbit, some 30 minutes later.

The spacecraft will be used to beam TV into homes in Bulgaria and Serbia.

The Falcon booster was last flown in January, to launch 10 satellites for the Iridium sat-phone and data-relay company. And it was another Iridium launch that topped out the weekend’s activities.

This second mission, on a brand new Falcon, occurred on the West Coast, from the Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Iridium is in the midst of replacing its global network of satellites. Another 10 went up on this latest flight.

SpaceX has another six launches on the books for Iridium, whose existing network of more than 60 spacecraft is now well past its design life.

Sunday’s lift-off occurred at 13:25 local time (20:25 GMT). The returning booster on this occasion sported new titanium grid fins to help steer the vehicle back to its waiting drone ship.

The titanium ought to be more robust than the previous aluminium type, said Mr Musk, removing the requirement for repair or replacement. This should speed the turnaround of future boosters for re-use.

“New titanium grid fins worked even better than expected. Should be capable of an indefinite number of flights with no service,” the CEO tweeted.

Image copyright
THALES ALENIA SPACE

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The new Iridium satellites are replacing a network that is more than 20 years old

Iridium’s business is mobile communications, providing connections to anyone who is not near a fixed line. These customers include the military, oil and gas platforms, ships and broadcasters.

Increasingly, it also includes remote machinery reporting in its status to a central server. This machine-to-machine service has a big future, especially as more and more devices are linked together in the coming, so-called “internet of things”.

The new Iridium satellites also host payloads for two tracking companies. One of is Aireon, which aims to offer a service that reports the positions of aircraft by sensing their ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) transmissions. This would be useful in following planes that are beyond radar coverage, but could also help airlines plan more efficient routing.

The other hosted payload is for exactEarth, which does something very similar with ships. Large vessels transmit an Automatic Identification System message that can be sensed from orbit.

Again, shipping companies can use the tracking service to keep tabs on vessels and to plot the best available course to a port.

and follow me on Twitter: @BBCAmos



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Donald Trump Says North Korea Threat Must Be 'Dealt With Rapidly'


President Trump made the statement at the joint statement with PM Narendra Modi at the White House

Washington:  President Donald Trump called on Monday for the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic programs to be “rapidly” tackled, as he thanked visiting Prime Minister Narendra Modi for rallying behind sanctions on Pyongyang.

“The North Korean regime is causing tremendous problems and is something that has to be dealt with, and probably dealt with rapidly,” President Trump told reporters in the White House Rose Garden after holding his first talks with PM Modi.

President Trump also thanked India for “joining us in applying new sanctions against the North Korean regime.”

The US president has made halting Pyongyang’s weapons program a top foreign policy priority.

Despite international condemnation and sanctions, North Korea has a small nuclear arsenal and is developing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that threaten Japan and South Korea — and one day could even hit some US cities.

Washington has 28,000 troops deployed in South Korea and a naval armada in the region.
 



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Cash 'lives on' after 50 years of ATMs


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PA

Cash will remain a part of our day-to-day lives for decades, the Bank of England’s chief cashier has said on the 50th anniversary of the ATM.

Victoria Cleland said that although the use of notes and coins in transactions is falling, cash is part of all the Bank’s future plans.

She pointed out that 94% of UK adults use cash machines.

It was 50 years ago today that the world’s first ATM was unveiled at a Barclays branch in Enfield, London.

As a tribute to the golden anniversary, Barclays has transformed the modern-day Enfield cash machine into gold.

Ms Cleland said that more than half of UK adults use an ATM at least once a week.

Cash was used in nearly half of all transactions and was also important as a store of value, she added.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Barclays Bank unveiled its first cash machine in the UK in 1967

Raheel Ahmed, head of customer experience at Barclays, echoed Ms Cleland’s views.

“Even though recent years have seen a huge uptake of digital banking and card payments, cash remains a crucial part of most people’s day-to-day lives – whether it is paying for groceries or doing the office coffee run – and we’re very proud of the role that Barclays has played in the history of the cash machine.”

The first cash machine came about after some hurried signing of contracts, over a pink gin, between Barclays and Scottish inventor John Shepherd-Barron, who died in 2010.

“It struck me there must be a way I could get my own money, anywhere in the world or the UK,” he told the BBC in 2007. “I hit upon the idea of a chocolate bar dispenser, but replacing chocolate with cash.”

All did not go entirely to plan with the first ATMs. When one was installed in Zurich, Switzerland, there was a mysterious malfunction. Eventually, it was found that wires from two intersecting tramlines nearby were interfering with the mechanism.

Image copyright
NCR

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Developments mean some modern ATMs look like tablet computers

There are now about 70,000 cash machines across the UK, and 176 million cards in the UK that can be used to withdraw cash at them.

These cards were used to withdraw a total of £180bn from UK cash machines last year.

The latest developments aim to make the ATM a “bank branch in a box”. Manufacturer NCR said its research showed that 80% of the transactions typically completed inside a physical branch could be completed through a video teller at an ATM.

Portugal has the highest proportion of cash machines in western Europe with 1,516 machines per one million residents.

Sweden, typical of a Scandinavian shift towards a cashless society, has the lowest with 333 machines per one million inhabitants.



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Full Speech Of Prime Minister Narendra Modi At The White House


Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a joint statement along with President Donald Trump after a series of meetings. Highlights the history of India-US collaboration, development of trade, commerce, investment links, job creation and more.
 

Here is the full speech:

(As interpreted.) President Donald Trump and First Lady, Vice President, ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen of the media:  Right from the opening tweet to the end of our talks, President Trump’s welcome, which was filled with friendliness, his warm welcome to the White House by himself and the First Lady, I would like to thank both of you from the bottom of my heart for this warm welcome.

     I would also like to give a special thanks to you, President Trump, for having spent so much time with me, for having spoken such kind words about me and my country.  And I would like to tell you that I’m eager to welcome your daughter to India for the Entrepreneurship Summit.  

President Trump, I’d once again like to thank you for the time that you have spent with me.  I’d like to give you special thanks for that.

     My visit and our talks today will mark a very important page in the history of the collaboration and cooperation between our two nations.  The talks between his Excellency, President Trump, and myself today have been extremely important from all points of view, for several reasons:  Because they were based on mutual trust; because of the convergence and similarities they revealed in our values, and our priorities, and in our concerns and interests; because they focused on the highest levels of achievement in our cooperation, and mutual support, and partnership; because our two countries are global engines of growth; because the all-around or comprehensive economic growth and joint progress of both countries and both societies is the main objective for both the President and myself, and will remain so; because the top priority for both President Trump and myself is to protect our society from global challenges like terrorism; and because our aim is the strengthening of India and the USA — two great democracies in the world — friends.

     Our robust strategic partnership is such that it touches upon almost all areas of human endeavor.  In our conversation today, President Trump and I have discussed all dimensions of India-U.S. relations at length.  Both nations are committed to a bilateral architecture that will take our strategic partnership to new heights.

     In this relationship, in both countries, increased productivity, growth, job creation, and breakthrough technologies — an engagement towards all these are, and will remain, strong drivers of our cooperation, and will give further momentum to our relationship.

     We consider the USA as our primary partner for India’s social and economic transformation in all our flagship programs and schemes.  I am sure that the convergence between my vision for a “new India and President Trump’s vision for “making America great again” will add new dimensions to our cooperation.

     I am very clear about the fact that India’s interests lie in a strong, and prosperous, and successful America.  In the same way, India’s development and its growing role at the international level are in the USA’s interest.  

One of our common priorities will be the development of trade, commerce, and investment links.  And in this regard, in the technology, innovation, and knowledge-economy sectors, the expansion and deepening of cooperation is also among our priorities.  Towards this end, we shall take steps to further strengthen our successful digital partnership.  

Friends, we are not just partners by chance.  We are also partners in dealing with current and future challenges that we may be faced with.  Today, during our meeting, we discussed the serious challenges of terrorism, extremism, and radicalization, which are the major challenges facing the world today.  And we have agreed to enhance our cooperation in fighting against these scourges.  Fighting terrorism and doing away with the safe shelters, sanctuaries, and safe havens will be an important part of our cooperation.

With respect to our common concerns on terrorism, we will also enhance our sharing of intelligence, and exchange information to deepen and expand our policy coordination as far as possible.  

We also spoke at length on regional issues.  The increasing instability, due to terrorism, in Afghanistan is one of our common concerns.  Both India and America have played an important role in rebuilding Afghanistan and ensuring its security.  In order to attain our objectives for peace and stability in Afghanistan, we will maintain close consultation and communication with the U.S. to enhance coordination between our two nations.

In the Indo-Pacific region, in order to maintain peace, stability, and prosperity in the region, this is also another objective of our strategic cooperation in this area.  The increasing possibilities for enhancing cooperation in order to protect our strategic interests will continue to determine the dimensions of our partnership.  We will continue to work with the USA in this region.

With regard to security-related challenges, our enhanced and growing defense and security cooperation is extremely important.  We have spoken at length on this subject as well.  

The strengthening of India’s defense capabilities, with the help of USA, is something that we truly appreciate.  We have also decided to enhance maritime security cooperation between the two nations.  President Trump and I have also spoken about strengthening bilateral defense technology and our trade and manufacturing partnership, which we believe will be mutually beneficial to us.

We also discussed international issues and our common strategic interests.  In this context, we are extremely grateful for the continued support of the United States for India’s membership of international institutions and regimes.  We truly appreciate the support, because this is also in the interest of both our nations.

President Trump, I thank you for your feelings of friendship towards India and myself.  I deeply appreciate your strong commitment to the enhancement of our bilateral relations.  I am sure that under your leadership, our mutually beneficial strategic partnership will gain new strength, new positivity, and will reach new heights, and that your vast and successful experience in the business world will lend an aggressive and forward-looking agenda to our relations.  

In this journey of India-America relations, I think I would like to thank you for providing great leadership.  Be assured that in this joint journey of our two nations towards development, growth and prosperity, I will remain a driven, determined, and decisive partner. 

Excellency, my visit today and the extensive talks I have held with you have been very successful, very fruitful.  And before leaving this mic, I would like to invite you to India, along with your family.  And I hope that you will give me the opportunity to welcome you and host you in India.  

And at the end, once again, I’d like to thank you for the warm welcome extended by you and the First Lady to myself and my delegation, from the bottom of my heart.  Thank you.  



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Scottish areas worst for broadband speeds, says Which?


Orkney, followed by Shetland and Highland, have come bottom of a table ranking UK local authority areas by broadband speeds.

Tamworth, Reading and Adur have the fastest connections, according to the research by consumer group Which?

Dundee City is the only Scottish area to have made it into the top 10 for best speeds.

Which? looked at 389 areas in the UK using data from Speed Checker Ltd from January to March 2017.

The research suggested the Orkney Islands had an average test speed of 6.3 Megabits/sec.

There are eight megabits in a megabyte, meaning if you wanted to download a 500MB high definition episode of Eastenders via iPlayer, it would take about 10-and-a-half minutes.

The Shetland Islands achieved a rate of 8.4Mbps and Highland 8.8Mbps.

The Western Isles – Comhairle nan Eilean Siar – had the sixth worst speed with 9.1Mbps, while the Scottish Borders had the 28th slowest speed with 12Mbps.

Top five

  • Tamworth
  • Reading
  • Adur
  • Enfield
  • Dundee City

Which? said average tests in Orkney, Shetland and Highland fell short of 10Mbps, which is the minimum download speed proposed under the UK government’s Universal Service Obligation (USO) that anyone in the UK would be entitled to request.

It is regarded as the speed necessary to meet the typical demands of a family or small business, the consumer advice group said.

But it said there was better news for Dundee City residents who, according to the research, have access to the fastest average download speed (28.7Mbps) in Scotland and the fifth fastest in the UK.

Glasgow and Edinburgh were ranked 193rd and 264th in the table, with speeds of 17.1Mbps and 19.4Mbps.

Bottom five

  • Orkney Islands
  • Shetland Islands
  • Highland
  • Rydedale
  • Purbeck

The table ranking local authorities with the fastest speeds was dominated by English council areas, including Tamworth, Reading, Adur and Enfield in the top four spots.

Luton was in sixth place, followed by North East Lincolnshire, Merton, Elmbridge and Broxbourne.

Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home services, said: “Far too many households across Scotland are suffering from slow broadband speeds, which can stop you being able to carry out essential daily tasks.

“We are encouraging everyone with broadband to use our speed checker so people can see if they are getting the speeds that they’ve been promised by their provider and find out how to complain if their speed is too slow.

“This will also help to further highlight where problem areas are across the UK, putting pressure on government and providers to help everyone get a good broadband connection.”

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Thinkstock

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur said: “While I recognise progress has been made, these figures reaffirm our fears that the gap in broadband speeds between Orkney and the rest of the UK is growing. This digital divide will only make it harder for Orkney to compete and leaves people with an unacceptable below par service.”

Fergus Ewing, who is the Scottish cabinet secretary for connectivity, said: “The Scottish government is on track to deliver fibre broadband access to at least 95% of premises across Scotland by the end of this year.

“Without our investment, only 66% of premises would have been reached, with as little as 21% coverage across the Highlands and no coverage at all in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.

“In partnership with industry, our Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) programme is delivering at pace and having a huge impact. Audit Scotland and Ofcom have reviewed the programme and concluded that we are on track to meet our targets, with more premises than expected able to access superfast speeds.”



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Ant power


Image copyright
Christ Clijsen

Image caption

Team Fast sitting in front of their prototype bus that runs on formic acid

A group of students has developed a way of storing energy that could be cheaper to make, more practical and more sustainable than alternative renewable fuels.

They are young and clever, and they want to change the world – one bus at a time.

“We’ve created the world’s first bus that runs on formic acid, which is a much cheaper solution than hydrogen, yet it delivers the same environmental benefits,” says Lucas van Cappellen from Team Fast, a spin-off company from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands.

“We’re building our own future.”

Around 40 of his fellow students are endeavouring to develop emissions-free transport that will help in the global battle against climate change. And they’re also trying to create careers for themselves.

Formic acid is found in nature, delivered in the stings and bites of ants and other insects – the Latin word for ant is formica.

And this simple carboxylic acid (chemical formula HCOOH) is already used in textiles and leather processing, as a livestock feed preservative, and is also found in some household limescale removers.

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Team Fast

Image caption

The hydrozine-filled trailer will attach to the back of the bus

But Team Fast has found a way the acid can efficiently carry the ingredients needed for hydrogen fuel cells, used to power electric vehicles.

The fuel, which the team has dubbed hydrozine (not to be confused with hydrazine), is a liquid, which means you can transport it easily and refill vehicles quickly, as with conventional fuels.

The difference is that it is much cleaner.

“The tailpipe emissions are only CO2 and water,” explains Mr van Cappellen. “No other harmful gases like nitric oxides, soot or sulphuric oxides are emitted.”

To prove the concept in the real world, an electric bus is set to hit the road in the Netherlands later this year, where it will shuttle between running on conventional bus routes and appearing at promotional events and industry fairs.

The bus has an electric drive system, developed by bus builder VDL, that receives additional power from the formic acid fuel cell system mounted in a range-extender trailer, towed behind.

“Our tank is around 300 litres, so we will extend the range of the bus by 200km (180 miles). However, we could of course make the tank bigger very easily,” says Mr van Cappellen.

Image copyright
Bart van Overbeeke Fotografie

Image caption

Team Fast tested its concept in a one-metre length model car in January 2016

Current hydrogen fuel cell buses have a range of up to 400km.

But why develop a bus rather than a car?

“If we built a car, we would compete with electric cars, but we believe battery-powered cars are a good solution for a lot of people,” says Mr van Cappellen.

“But if we prove that we can build a bus that meets the needs of bus companies, with a range of around 400km and quick refuelling, we will have shown the potential of hydrozine in a segment where there is no sustainable competition yet.”

Hydrozine is created through a chemical reaction between water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2).

More Technology of Business

“In a reactor, water and CO2 are bonded using sustainable electricity. This is a direct, sustainable electrochemical process,” explains Mr van Cappellen.

The hydrozine is then broken down by a catalyst into hydrogen and carbon dioxide inside a piece of kit called a reformer that Team Fast is attempting to patent.

Its newly designed reformer is a tenth of the size of reformers of the past, which is why “it is now applicable in transport applications for the first time”.

The hydrogen is then added to a fuel cell where it reacts with oxygen to generate the electricity that powers the electric motor.

Image caption

Zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell buses are becoming more common on our city streets

“We are continuously looking for new technologies that can extend the range of zero emissions traffic in a simple way,” says Menno Kleingeld, managing director, VDL Enabling Transport Solutions.

“The decomposition of formic acid into hydrogen gas is one of these new, promising technologies.”

But does it really stand a chance of becoming commercially viable?

“It costs about 35,000 euros (£30,000) to convert a conventional petrol filling station to a hydrozine filling station, a process that essentially involves replacing the pipes and coating the tanks,” says Mr van Cappellen.

As such, it is “100 times cheaper” to roll out a fuelling network for hydrozine than for gaseous hydrogen, he maintains.

“Hydrozine is currently cheaper than petrol and more expensive than diesel in the Netherlands, and in future we expect prices to come down so it will be cheaper than both,” he adds.

Although the bus emits CO2, Team Fast argues that the original CO2 used to create the hydrozine is taken from existing sources, such as air or exhaust fumes, so that no additional CO2 is produced – it’s a closed carbon cycle in the jargon.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Some types of ant squirt formic acid as a defence mechanism

Some experts believe the technology shows promise.

“Team Fast has a very good project,” says Professor Richard van de Sanden, head of the Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research.

“It works on a very important issue: the storing of renewable energy in a transportable form and in a form which can actually be used.”

And several companies are supporting the project.

“What we’re working on together is a version of renewable energy that can combine renewable energy with CO2 capture,” says Martijn de Graaff, senior business development manager at TNO Industry.

“If we achieve this it will give us a stable future.”

The students’ own commitment is impressive, with 15 of the 40 working full time on the project, and the rest contributing at least 20-25 hours per week.

“We don’t get study points for it, but you can only learn so much at university about the practical experience of things,” Mr van Cappellen says.

“It’s our own future we’re making.”

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US Top Court To Hear Baker's Objection To Making Cake For Gay Couple


Colorado Supreme Court had refused to hear the case, prompting Phillips to approach US top court. (File)

Washington:  The US Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide a major case on whether business owners can refuse to service gay couples if they oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds involving a Christian baker in Colorado who declined to make a wedding cake for two men.

The court took up an appeal by Jack Phillips, a baker who runs Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, just outside Denver, of a state court ruling that his refusal violated a Colorado anti-discrimination law. Phillips contends the law violated his rights to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion under the US Constitution’s First Amendment.

The dispute is one of several similar cases around the United States pressed by Christian conservatives who object to gay marriage and argue they should not be forced to violate their religious beliefs by providing certain services to same-sex couples.

The US Supreme Court’s action came after Republican President Donald Trump’s appointee Neil Gorsuch joined the court on April 10, restoring its 5-4 conservative majority. In prior cases, Gorsuch has embraced an expansive view of religious rights.

The court will hear the case in its next term, which begins in October.

The legal fight broke out in 2012 when Phillips told gay couple David Mullins and Charlie Craig that due to his Christian beliefs, his store’s policy was to deny service to customers wanting to purchase cakes to celebrate a same-sex wedding.

The two men married in Massachusetts but wanted to celebrate their nuptials with friends in Colorado. At the time, Colorado allowed civil unions but not marriage between same-sex couples. The US Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide in 2015.

Mullins described being denied service as offensive and dehumanizing. The American Civil Liberties Union in 2012 filed a complaint on behalf of Mullins and Craig, saying Phillips had violated Colorado state law barring businesses from refusing service based on race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission found that Phillips had violated the measure and ordered him to take remedial measures including comprehensive staff training and the filing of quarterly compliance reports. In August 2015, the Colorado Court of Appeals also ruled against Phillips.

The Colorado Supreme Court subsequently refused to hear the case, prompting Phillips to appeals to the US Supreme Court.

MORE THAN A CAKE

“This has always been about more than a cake. Businesses should not be allowed to violate the law and discriminate against us because of who we are and who we love,” Mullins said on Monday.

Phillips’ argument hinges in part on whether baking cakes should be classified as a creative act that touches upon his beliefs, touching on his free speech rights, or whether it is more akin to selling a product like toilet paper or shampoo. Phillips has said that if he were required to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple it would constitute coerced speech.

Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative Christian legal group representing Phillips, said the lower court ruling needs to be reversed.

“It imperils everyone’s freedom by crushing dissent instead of tolerating a diversity of views. We are all at risk when government is able to punish citizens like Jack just because it doesn’t like how he exercises his artistic freedom,” said David Cortman, the group’s senior counsel.

In 2014, the Supreme Court declined to consider whether a New Mexico photography company had free speech grounds to refuse to photograph the commitment ceremony of a same-sex couple, leaving in place a ruling against the company. Such disputes in which conservative Christians who oppose gay marriage seek exemption from nondiscrimination laws increased after the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision.

Twenty-two states have anti-discrimination laws that, in some form, protect gay people.

In other so-called religious conscience cases, the Supreme Court has on two recent occasions ruled on Christian objections to the contraception coverage requirement that was part of the Obamacare health law. In 2014, the court ruled that Christian business owners could seek an exemption from the requirement. 

Two years later, the court sidestepped a similar case concerning Christian nonprofit organizations. It sent the cases back to lower courts for further proceedings.

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Nigerian President Sends First Message Since Taking Sick Leave On May 7


Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari delivered an audio message to mark Eid al-Fitr. (File)

Abuja:  Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has delivered an audio message to mark the Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday, a senior aide said on Monday, in his first public statement since he left for Britain on medical leave on May 7.

Buhari, a Muslim from the north of Nigeria, made the address, calling for peace and unity, in the Hausa language spoken widely in that part of the country.

Shaaban Sharada, the president’s special assistant on broadcast media, said he circulated the recording to local radio stations. In the tape, heard by Reuters, Buhari’s voice sounds weak.

Buhari urged Nigerians to “avoid reckless statements or actions against our fellow countrymen”, according to an English translation provided by the presidency. “We should all resolve to live in peace and unity in our great country,” he said. 

Details of the president’s ailment have not been disclosed and he has not been seen or heard in public since leaving Nigeria, triggering speculation about his condition.

A thin-looking Buhari was last seen, on state television, welcoming a group of 82 girls released by Islamist Boko Haram militants, just hours before he flew to Britain.

Pictures of the 74-year-old president since then have not been released, unlike during a previous break for medical leave in January that lasted nearly two months when photographs of him with Nigerian politicians and visitors including the Archbishop of Canterbury were posted on the presidency’s Twitter feed.

Buhari put his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, in temporary charge of the country when he left for Britain.

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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UK's Biggest Warship HMS Queen Elizabeth Sets Sail On Maiden Voyage


HMS Queen Elizabeth has been built over a span of eight years. (Reuters)

Rosyth (Scotland):  Britain’s most advanced and biggest warship, 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, set out on its maiden voyage on Monday from the Rosyth dockyard in eastern Scotland.

The ship, which measures 280 metres and can move 500 miles a day, took 11 tugs to manoeuvre out into the River Forth and then must wait for low tide so as to pass under the Forth’s famous bridges – weather and systems checks permitting.

It took eight years to build HMS Queen Elizabeth and along with its sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, it is part of a defence programme worth 6 billion pounds ($7.65 billion), with building and fitting spread over six different shipyards across Britain. It will now spend around two years in sea trials.

“Of course they are expensive, absolutely, it keeps us in the premier league among nations around the world,” Commanding Officer Captain Jerry Kyd told Sky News.

“The fact is that they are not just ships, but sea bases able to do a whole range of functions and missions … whether that’s engaging with the enemy at long range or indeed supporting British industry abroad or perhaps even assisting with disaster relief or humanitarian aid.”

The ship’s navigator Jez Brettell compared handling the ship on its maiden voyage to taking out a brand new sports car before it had been road-tested.

“The first time we put those levers forward will be the first time that we will have been under our own power and moving,” he told the BBC.

It was scheduled to be fully operational by 2020 but that date may now be as late as 2026, Britain’s National Audit Office said earlier this year, because of technical difficulties.

 

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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US Republican To Withhold Consent For Arms Sales Over Gulf Dispute


Kuwait is helping mediate the dispute between Qatar and other Gulf countries. (File)

Washington:  US Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Monday he would withhold consent for US arms sales to members of the Gulf Cooperation Council until there is a path forward to resolving the dispute in the region, where four Arab states have imposed a boycott on Qatar.

“All countries in the region need to do more to combat terrorism, but recent disputes among the GCC countries only serve to hurt efforts to fight ISIS and counter Iran,” Corker wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Corker and Tillerson have a close relationship. They speak frequently on foreign policy issues.

Tillerson said on Sunday that Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, which imposed the boycott on their tiny but wealthy neighbor should sit down together to try to reach a resolution. He urged them to “lower rhetoric” to ease tensions.

The four countries have sent a 13-point list of demands apparently aimed at dismantling Qatar’s two-decade-old interventionist foreign policy, which has incensed them. Kuwait is helping mediate the dispute.

Under US law, foreign US arms sales are submitted to a small group of lawmakers, including the chairman of the Foreign Relations committee, for clearance during an informal review process before they can go ahead.

In his letter, Corker said he was pleased with President Donald Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia, which included a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which groups Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

“Unfortunately, the GCC did not take advantage of the summit and instead chose to devolve into conflict,” Corker wrote.

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Grenfell Tower: Cladding firm ends global sales for tower blocks


Image copyright
EPA

The US firm that supplied cladding used on London’s Grenfell Tower says it has ended global sales of the product for use in high-rise blocks.

Arconic said it was discontinuing sales of Reynobond PE for tower blocks due to “issues” identified by the fire, which is feared to have killed at least 79.

The government said 75 buildings in 26 council areas had now failed fire safety tests – every one tested so far.

Theresa May said councils need to speed up tower block safety tests in England.

Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid said all hospitals and schools had also been asked to carry out “immediate checks”.

He said the fact all tested samples had failed the so-called combustibility test underlined the “vital importance of submitting samples urgently”.

“The testing facility can analyse 100 samples a day and runs around the clock. I am concerned at the speed at which samples are being submitted.

“I would urge all landlords to submit their samples immediately,” Mr Javid told the House of Commons.

Image caption

Four inquests were opened, including those of Khadija Saye, Isaac Paulos, and Mohamednur Tuccu

Four more Grenfell fire victims’ inquests have been opened and adjourned, including that of a boy aged five.

The body of Isaac Paulos, who lived with his family on the 18th floor, was found on the 13th floor, Westminster Coroner’s Court was told.

A preliminary cause of his death was given as “inhalation of fire fumes”.

The inquests of Mary Ajaoi Augustus Mendy, 54, her daughter Khadija Saye, 24, and Mohamednur Tuccu, 44, were also opened.

Questions about the cladding used on Grenfell Tower, in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea, were raised in the days after the fire.

Engineering and manufacturing company Arconic later confirmed Reynobond PE (polyethylene) – an aluminium composite material – was “used as one component in the overall cladding system” of the block.

The material has a plastic core, which it is feared may have helped accelerate the spread of the fire.

In a fresh statement, the firm said it had stopped sales of Reynobond PE for tall buildings, citing concerns about the “inconsistency of building codes across the world”.

Following the Grenfell Tower fire, issues have arisen “regarding code compliance of cladding systems”, it added.

Cladding from as many as 600 tower blocks across England is being tested for safety.

Housing minister Alok Sharma told the BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme some councils were acting “very quickly”.

Image copyright
PA

Image caption

Cladding has been removed for testing in a number of areas, including Salford

Mr Sharma added: “People should not wait for the checks to come back from these (tests).

“They should act now, get the fire service in, check the buildings that they think may be affected, put in place mitigation measures, if required, or, as in the case of Camden, if they need to evacuate, that needs to happen.”

Insulation and cladding taken from Grenfell Tower failed preliminary safety tests last week.

Despite the prime minister promising to rehouse all of the tower block’s residents within three weeks, Mr Javid says this might not be possible.

“For example…some of the families have first asked for something in Kensington as close as possible to where they lived but then when they have been shown the home and they see the tower and what is left of it, they have changed their minds and quite understandably said, ‘Look, we would like to have some other options,'” he said.

Mr Javid added the government was working at the residents’ pace and promised they would be made offers of housing within the three week time period.

Staying put

Over the weekend, Camden Council moved to evacuate 650 flats from four tower blocks in the Swiss Cottage area, after London Fire Brigade had raised concerns about cladding, gas pipe insulation, and fire doors.

Mr Javid told MPs more than 1,000 fire doors were missing from five blocks in the Camden borough and a number of stairways were not accessible.

Some 103 households are currently refusing to leave the tower blocks, the BBC understands – an increase on Saturday when 83 households remained.

The apparent increase suggests some families have returned home since the weekend despite the warning.



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Donald Trump Claims Victory As Court Partially Reinstates Travel Ban


Washington:  The US Supreme Court on Monday partially reinstated Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban targeting citizens from six predominantly Muslim countries, prompting the president to claim a victory for national security.

The court said it would examine the case in full in October but said that the ban could be enforced immediately for travellers from the targeted countries “who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

The court tempered its ruling by saying the ban could not be implemented for now against people who have personal links to the United States, citing the examples of foreign nationals wishing to visit family or students accepted to attend a university.

But the Supreme Court’s decision nonetheless marks a win for the Republican leader, who has insisted the ban is necessary for national security, despite criticism that it singles out Muslims in violation of the US constitution.

Trump had suffered a series of defeats in lower courts over the ban, with two federal appeals courts maintaining injunctions on it by arguing that his executive order discriminated against travelers based on their nationality.

But reacting to Monday’s ruling, Trump said that he had now been vindicated by what he called “a clear victory for our national security.”

“It allows the travel suspension for the six terror-prone countries and the refugee suspension to become largely effective,” he said in a statement.

“As president, I cannot allow people into our country who want to do us harm.”

But campaigners against the ban also welcomed the fact that the court had tempered the reach of the ban and the prospect of the case being heard in the fall.

Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project who argued one of the appellate cases brought against the ban, said he hoped the court’s decision would mark a step towards ending an “indefensible and discriminatory ban.”

“The Supreme Court now has a chance to permanently strike it down,” Jadwat said in a statement.

Trump’s revised measure, announced in March, seeks to bar from US entry travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, as well as suspend the entry of refugees for 120 days.

The original measure, issued by executive order in January and almost immediately blocked by the courts, also included Iraq on the list of targeted countries and had imposed an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees.

Discrimination

In an ruling earlier this month, the three justices of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said that “immigration, even for the president, is not a one-person show.”

“National security is not a ‘talismanic incantation’ that, once invoked, can support any and all exercise of executive power,” they added.

The Supreme Court narrowed the scope of the injunctions on the ban, saying the government could enforce its measure against “foreign nationals unconnected to the United States” without causing injury to the parties who filed suit.

The legal woes associated with Trump’s travel ban had left in limbo a key campaign promise by the Republican to crack down on immigration from Muslim countries.

The countries targeted were on a list drawn up by Barack Obama’s government of countries whose authorities had very poor data on their own citizens, making it difficult to vet the identities of visa applicants.

Trump’s administration says the ban is needed to prevent terror attacks in the country, and that it needs the time allowed by the ban to evaluate existing screening protocols and set new ones.

But courts ruled that because it applied selectively to mainly Muslim countries, the ban violated the US Constitution’s ban on religious discrimination.

While the ban itself did not single out Muslims, the judges cited Trump’s repeated statements during last year’s presidential race that he intended to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

– ‘Extreme vetting‘ –

After the initial legal setback for the ban, the White House slightly revised the order to try to address concerns raised in the courts, but the second measure also was shot down.

The Justice Department filed an emergency application to the Supreme Court on June 1, urging it to undo the two lower court rulings.

The White House argued that the US president has the power to set immigration policy, especially on national security grounds.

Even without the ban in place, arrivals from the six countries has dropped sharply, in part due to the “extreme vetting” approach of US authorities, toughening their scrutiny of visa applicants.

Arrivals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen were down by nearly half in March and April from a year ago — 6,372 for the two months compared to 12,100 in 2016, according to recent official data.
 



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Donald Trump Says Barack Obama 'Colluded' On Russia, Without Evidence


Russia has denied meddling in the election. Trump called it the investigations a witch hunt.

WASHINGTON:  U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday demanded that investigators apologise for looking into Russian interference and possible collusion with his 2016 election campaign, accusing predecessor President Barack Obama of having “colluded or obstructed,” but he did not provide evidence.

Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller, along with several congressional committees, are investigating allegations by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia used cyber attacks and fake media stories to help Republican Trump against his Democratic Party opponent, Hillary Clinton.

“The reason that President Obama did NOTHING about Russia after being notified by the CIA of meddling is that he expected Clinton would win… and did not want to ‘rock the boat.’ He didn’t ‘choke,’ he colluded or obstructed, and it did the Dems and Crooked Hillary no good,” he wrote on Twitter.

Russia has denied meddling in the election and Trump has repeatedly called the investigations a witch hunt.

In a Fox News interview broadcast on Sunday, Trump said he had learned that Obama had known about the Russia issue long before the election but that he “did nothing about it.”

An official from Obama’s White House, who spoke on condition of anonymity, rejected Trump’s criticism and noted that Obama had raised the meddling issue directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The Obama administration’s interest in making sure the response was bipartisan wasn’t for the sake of being bipartisan. It was necessary because we needed the buy-in from state and local election administrators – many of whom were Republican partisans and/or sceptical of federal government,” the official said.

The White House referred any questions about the Russia investigations to Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz.

Representatives for Kasowitz did not immediately reply to requests for comment on Trump’s latest statement.

“With 4 months looking at Russia…they have zero “tapes” of T (Trump) people colluding. There is no collusion & no obstruction. I should be given apology!” Trump said in another Twitter post on Monday.

The Obama administration formally accused Russia in October of a campaign of cyber attacks against Democratic Party organizations ahead of the Nov. 8 election. In December, Obama ordered intelligence agencies to review cyber attacks and foreign intervention in the election and to deliver a report before he left office on Jan. 20.

The intelligence agencies said in January they had concluded that Moscow tried to tilt the election in Trump’s favour, including by hacking into senior Democrats’ emails and leaking them.

Following a weekend Washington Post report about the Obama administration’s responses to the Russian matter, the top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, criticized the Obama administration on Sunday for not taking earlier and tougher action against Russia.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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Supreme Court Allows Limited Version Of Trump's Travel Ban To Take Effect


WASHINGTON:  The Supreme Court agreed Monday to allow a limited version of President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries to take effect and will consider in the fall the president’s broad powers in immigration matters in a case that raises fundamental issues of national security and religious discrimination.

The court made an important exception: It said the ban “may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

In the unsigned opinion, the court said that a foreign national who wants to visit or live with a family member would have such a relationship, and so would students from the designated countries – Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – who were admitted to a U.S. university.

The court said it would hear the case when it reconvenes in October. But it also indicated in the ruling that things may change dramatically by then. It asked the parties to address whether the case would be moot by the time it hears it; the ban is supposed to be a temporary one while the government reviews its vetting procedures.

And the justices said they “fully expect” the government to be able to conduct its review within the 90-day span the executive order proposes.

That affects the ban on travel from the six countries and a 120-day ban on all refugees entering the United States, with the exceptions noted by the court.

In a statement, Trump called the ruling “a clear victory for our national security.”

“Today’s ruling allows me to use an important tool to protect our Nation’s homeland. I also am particularly gratified that the Supreme Court’s decision was 9-0,” he said.

The president said last week the ban would go into effect 72 hours after receiving an approval from the courts.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch would have let the ban take effect as written and objected to what they called the court’s “compromise.”

A partial stay will “burden executive officials with the task of deciding – on peril of contempt – whether individuals from the six affected nations who wish to enter the United States have a sufficient connection to a person or entity in this country,” Thomas wrote.

Such a compromise, the justices said, will lead to a “flood of litigation” over what constitutes a “bona fide relationship” before the overall case is resolved after oral argument in the fall.

They added that the court has made an “implicit conclusion” that the administration will prevail.

The proposed travel ban has been a major point of contention between Trump and civil rights groups, which say it was motivated by unconstitutional discrimination against Muslims.

Trump contends the ban is necessary to protect the nation while the administration decides whether tougher vetting procedures and other measures are needed. He has railed against federal judges who have blocked the move.

Because the executive order was stopped by lower courts, travelers from those countries have been entering the United States following normal visa procedures. Trump first moved to implement the restrictions in January in his first week in office.

His first executive order went into effect immediately and resulted in chaos at airports in the United States and abroad, as travelers from the targeted countries were either stranded or sent back to their countries.

Lawyers for challengers to the order rushed to federal courts, and the order was stayed within days. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit eventually said the order could not be implemented, infuriating the president, who said he would take the case to the Supreme Court.

But instead, his administration regrouped and issued a second order in March. It added a section detailing national security concerns, removed Iraq from the list of countries affected, deleted a section that had targeted Syrian refugees and removed a provision that favored Christian immigrants.

His lawyers told courts that the new order was written to respond to the 9th Circuit’s concerns. But new lawsuits were immediately filed, and federal judges once again stopped the implementation.

A federal district judge in Maryland stopped the portion of the order affecting travelers from the six countries; a judge in Hawaii froze that portion and the part affecting the refugee programs.

Appeals courts on both coasts upheld those decisions.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond agreed with U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland, who sided with opponents in finding that the ban violates the Constitution by intentionally discriminating against Muslims.

In a 10-to-3 decision, the court noted Trump’s remarks before and after his election about implementing a ban on Muslims and said the executive order “in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.”

The president’s authority, the court said, “cannot go unchecked when, as here, the president wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation,” Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrote.

Meanwhile, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit said Trump had not adhered to federal law in which Congress gives the president broad power in immigration matters.

The 9th Circuit opinion did not dwell on Trump’s public comments, nor did it declare that the president had run afoul of the Constitution because his intent was to discriminate. Instead, the judges ruled that the travel ban lacked a sufficient national security or other justification that would make it legal, and that violated immigration law.

“There is no finding that present vetting standards are inadequate, and no finding that absent the improved vetting procedures there likely will be harm to our national interests,” the judges wrote. “These identified reasons do not support the conclusion that the entry of nationals from the six designated countries would be harmful to our national interests.”

They added that national security is not a ” ‘talismanic incantation’ that, once invoked, can support any and all exercise of executive power.”

In both appeals courts, a minority of conservative judges had said their colleagues were making a mistake. Judges should look only to whether the executive orders were proper on their face, they said, without trying to decide if the president had ulterior motives and defer to national security decisions made by the executive branch.

“The Supreme Court surely will shudder at the majority’s adoption of this new rule that has no limits or bounds,” wrote dissenting 4th Circuit Judge Paul Niemeyer.

Trump thundered on Twitter after the judicial setbacks that the second executive order was a “watered down version” of the first. And while his lawyers in court described the action as a temporary pause in immigration, and administration officials corrected reporters who called it a travel ban, Trump did not agree.

“People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!” he wrote.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Syed Salahuddin Is Global Terrorist, Says US Ahead Of PM Modi-Trump Meet


Syed Salahuddin is the senior leader of the terrorist group Hizbul Mujahideen, the statement said.

Washington:  A few hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets President Donald Trump at the White House, the US Department of State has declared Syed Salahuddin, chief of the terrorist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Syed Salahuddin operates out of Pakistan. 

Foreign ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said “it does vindicate India’s long standing position on cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan. It underlines strongly that both India and US face the threat of terrorism and are working together, not in one particular area but globally.” 

The move is seen to signal that the Trump administration will take a tougher stance on Pakistan harbouring terror groups. 

A US State Department statement on Monday said the order would prohibit US nationals from engaging in transactions with Salahuddin. Also, all of Salahuddin’s property and interests in property subject to United States jurisdiction are blocked. 

It noted that last year, Salahuddin had vowed to block any peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict, threatened to train more Kashmiri suicide bombers, and vowed to turn the Kashmir valley “into a graveyard for Indian forces.” The US statement said that the Hizbul Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for several attacks, including the April 2014 explosives attack in Jammu and Kashmir, which injured 17 people.



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UK safety standards are 'cut to the bone', expert says


Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

The emergency services work on the charred remains of Grenfell Tower

The UK’s trading standards services have been “cut to the bone”, making it tougher to ensure that household products are safe.

A director of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute said that local authorities are forced to make a “wicked” choice between what services they provide because of austerity.

Adam Scorer was speaking after it emerged that the Grenfell Tower fire started in a Hotpoint fridge-freezer.

Some 79 people are feared dead.

He told 5 Live’s Wake Up to Money that while councils were responsible for trading standards, there was no central system to relay information about products to the public.

“Consumers should be confident that most products are safe, but we do know that the regime is as strong as its weakest link,” Mr Scorer said.

“We don’t have a central organisation of technical resources, we don’t have core funding where we can be sure of who is going to be around to do this testing, and we don’t have the right level of strategic communication to make sure that risks are placed on the system, flags are alerted and people are able to go in and do the right level of investigation of all the products that are concerned.”

Image copyright
Getty Images

Former Business Secretary Sir Vince Cable told the programme that trading standards were a problem area because they were not a statutory obligation of local government.

“There are some things local government is required to do – trading standards not so,” he said. “So when local councils are under financial pressure it is something they can cut back on.”

Ring-fencing funds

Sir Vince suggested imposing an obligation on local authorities to strengthen trading standards, adding: “Or you could give them some financial support, which I think is what we should be probably doing, to have some ring-fenced money that supports what is currently a declining service.”

He was Business Secretary when former BBC presenter Lynn Faulds-Wood was commissioned to investigate product safety. She claims the government ignored her report.

“I think Lynn Faulds-Wood’s concern is she made recommendations that were very modest and did not entail public cost, [but] even they have not been acted on and that was where she is enormously frustrated.”

Sir Vince added: “There is a tendency at the moment to look at whether the costs are to business rather than whether the costs are to society as a whole.”



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Shares in Grenfell cladding maker sink


Image copyright
Arconic

Shares in the company that made the cladding used on Grenfell Tower have fallen sharply in New York.

Arconic, formerly known as Alcoa, fell more than 7% to $23.76 after the firm said it would stop selling Reynobond PE cladding for use in high-rises.

A fire on 14 June killed dozens of residents of the west London tower.

Arconic said in a statement it was the “right decision because of the inconsistency of building codes across the world”.

The US firm supplied Reynobond PE cladding for use in Grenfell despite publicly warning the panels were a fire risk for tall buildings.

Wall Street was off to a decent start as trading began for the week, with the Dow Jones 0.4% higher at 21,481 points, while the wider S&P 500 index was up a similar amount at 2,447 points.

However, the technology-focused Nasdaq index fell 0.4% to 6,240 points.

Oil prices remain close to last week’s seven-month lows, dragging Exxon and Chevron down about 0.6% and making them among the biggest drags on the three major indexes.

The recent drop in oil prices has spurred concerns about low inflation, which remains stubbornly below the Federal Reserve’s 2% target rate.



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Trump Travel Ban On Muslim Countries Allowed For Now By US Supreme Court


Donald Trump’s travel ban targets citizens from six Muslim majority nations

Washington:  The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to President Donald Trump by allowing his temporary bans on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries and all refugees to go into effect for people with no connection to the United States while agreeing to hear his appeals in the closely watched legal fight.

The court, which narrowed the scope of lower court rulings that had completely blocked his March 6 executive order, said it would hear arguments on the legality of one of Trump’s signature policies in his first months as president in the court’s next term, which starts in October.

The justices granted parts of his administration’s emergency request to put the order into effect immediately while the legal battle continues.

The court said that the travel ban will go into effect “with respect to foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

The Supreme Court left the lower-court injunctions against the ban in place, but only with respect to the challengers to the ban themselves and others in similar circumstances, meaning they involve people in the United States who have relationships with foreign nationals abroad and whose rights might be affected if those foreigners were excluded from entry.

But the court said the injunctions were too broad to also include barring enforcement of the ban against foreigners who have no connection to the United States at all. “Denying entry to such a foreign national does not burden any American party by reason of that party’s relationship with the foreign national,” the court said.

The court also said it would allow a 120-day ban on all refugees entering the United States to go into effect on the same grounds, allowing the government to exclude from the United States refugee claimants who do not have any “bona fide relationship” with an American individual or entity.

Three of the court’s conservatives said they would have granted Trump’s request in full, including Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch.

The case is Trump’s first major challenge at the Supreme Court, where he restored a 5-4 conservative majority with the appointment of Gorsuch, who joined the bench in April. There are five Republican appointees on the court and four Democratic appointees.

The March 6 order called for a 90-day ban on travelers from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and a 120-day ban on all refugees entering the United States to enable the government to implement stronger vetting procedures. It was blocked by federal judges before going into effect on March 16 as planned.

Trump issued the order amid rising international concern about attacks carried out by Islamist militants like those in Paris, London, Brussels, Berlin and other cities. But critics have called the order a mean-spirited, intolerant and un-American “Muslim ban.”

The state of Hawaii and a group of plaintiffs in Maryland represented by the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the order violated federal immigration law and the Constitution’s First Amendment prohibition on the government favoring or disfavoring any particular religion. Regional federal appeals courts in Virginia and California both upheld district judge injunctions blocking the order.

Trump signed the order as a replacement for a Jan. 27 order issued a week after he became president that also was blocked by federal courts. The revised order was intended to overcome the legal issues posed by the original ban, which also included Iraq among the nations targeted and a full ban on refugees from Syria. The revised order also jettisoned language that gave preferential status to persecuted religious minorities, which critics said could be taken as favoring Christians and other religious groups over Muslims.

Trump has called the March order a “watered down, politically correct” version of the January one. But the order still embodied his “America First” nationalist message and reflected his views of the dangers posed to the United States by certain immigrants and visitors.

The administration has said the travel ban is needed to allow time to implement stronger vetting measures, although it has already rolled out some new requirements not blocked by courts, including additional questions for visa applicants.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Emmanuel Macron Says France Will Not Recognise Crimea 'Annexation'


Emmanuel Macron said that he and Vladimir Putin “disagreed on a number of things”.

Paris:  President Emmanuel Macron said Monday France refuses to recognise Russia’s “annexation” of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

Speaking after talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Paris, Macron said: “France is committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty with its recognised borders.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday visited Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014, in a trip that Kiev condemned as a violation of its sovereignty.

Western powers accuse Russia of failing to honour its commitments under the Minsk accords framework for ending the violence between government forces and Kremlin-backed rebels in Ukraine’s east.

EU leaders agreed last week to extend stringent economic sanctions against Russia for another six months, saying Moscow had failed to meet its commitments on the ceasefire in Ukraine.

The French foreign ministry said OSCE observers in Ukraine were being subjected to “unacceptable intimidation and obstacles”.

When Macron met Putin in May, shortly after the new French leader took office, he admitted the two had “disagreed on a number of things”.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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A High Street star?


Image copyright
Holland & Barrett

Image caption

Can Holland & Barrett offer more than just bargains at the till?

The Russian billionaire buying health food chain Holland & Barrett, said he was looking for future stars of the High Street to invest in. Does the protein shake-to-dried fruit store really fit that bill?

Are you one of those people who check your sleep app before you even throw back the covers in the morning? Do you chuck some chia seeds and goji berries into a blender, and run through a mindfulness routine until it’s ready?

If so, you’re part of the booming trend for “wellness” that by rights ought to be making Holland & Barrett a supernova of the High Street already.

It should have been easy, given our almost insatiable appetite for avoiding things (gluten, parabens, nuts) as well as adding things (fibre, vitamin D, protein) for the sake of our health.

But Holland & Barrett, rather than riding the well-being wave, has been coasting, say observers.

When you walk into a Holland & Barrett shop the ubiquitous “buy one get one half price” offers can give the impression of a cut-price supermarket.

“Holland and Barrett has lost its true meaning outside offers and that’s not a healthy strategy,” says Kate Hardcastle, consumer expert at retail consultancy, Insight With Passion.

In some branches it can feel as though not much has changed since the chain was first founded in 1870.

“They are this really antiquated retailer on the High Street. They’re fuddy-duddy,” says Ms Hardcastle.

“The impression is, it’s a till point, without engagement, where you just select and purchase.

“And that’s not where consumers buying into this trend are at.”


Holland & Barrett’s biggest sellers:

  • Turmeric capsules
  • Omega 3 Fish Oil
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Almonds
  • Cod Liver Oil

“They don’t strike me as a superstar of the High Street at all,” says independent retail analyst Richard Hyman.

“That’s not to say I don’t think it’s a decent solid-ish company” (although he thinks the new owners are paying an “extraordinarily generous price” for it).

The difficulty is that consumers generally pick up on health and well-being trends online, and it only takes a click or two to then order your bottle of skin-smoothing snail gel or bag of super seaweed peanuts and have them delivered to your door.

In which case it is hard to see what will draw people into a High Street store.

“In very simple terms you have to provide something in a face-to-face environment that can’t be replicated online or you won’t have a physical business left,” says Mr Hyman.

What you need is something “aspirational, inspirational or added-value service-orientated with lots of theatre,” he says.

Image copyright
Holland & Barrett

Five new Holland & Barrett “More” stores that have opened in recent years suggest the chain has cottoned on to the need for change – and may give an inkling of the kind of potential its new owner sees in it.

These stores are making shopping more of an experience, offering vegan nail bars and on-the-go protein shake stations, alongside the chance to have health checks including measuring your Body Mass Index, hydration and fat percentage.

Even some smaller branches now offer fruit, seed and nut pick ‘n’ mix, “make your own body scrubs” stations, and oil and vinegar bars.

But they’ll need to take that modernising effort further, says Kate Hardcastle, if they want to fit snugly into the well-being trend.

“I do see them as a really big potential player, but they need to be investing more in becoming appealing to today’s customers.

“If you think of brands out there: from Whole Foods to Nike, there’s a significant investment in relationship with their customers”.

She points to Boots, which has built up trust in its healthcare advice by offering flu vaccinations and pharmacists giving in-store advice.

“Where you have specialisms in stores, they work very well – from baristas making coffee through to make-up counter demonstrations with make-up artists,” she says.

And she believes there’s potentially a Holland & Barrett-shaped hole in the wellness market for just that kind of retail-to-service chain.

“In that industry, with the well-being coaches, and lifestyle and diet gurus, someone needs to pull this all together.

“That’s the direction I’d go if I were taking them to superstar retailer,” she says, pointing out the chain does have a strong brand presence that could help make that happen.

“I’d make it cut through,” she says. “It’s sometimes who shouts the loudest.”



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US Warship Stayed On Deadly Collision Course Despite Warning: Report


The collision tore a gash below the USS Fitzgerald’s waterline, killing 7 sailors. (Reuters)

Tokyo:  A US warship struck by a container vessel in Japanese waters failed to respond to warning signals or take evasive action before a collision that killed seven of its crew, according to a report of the incident by the Philippine cargo ship’s captain.

Multiple US and Japanese investigations are under way into how the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the much larger ACX Crystal container ship collided in clear weather south of Tokyo Bay in the early hours of June 17.

In the first detailed account from one of those directly involved, the cargo ship’s captain said the ACX Crystal had signalled with flashing lights after the Fitzgerald “suddenly” steamed on to a course to cross its path.

The container ship steered hard to starboard (right) to avoid the warship, but hit the Fitzgerald 10 minutes later at 1:30 am, according to a copy of Captain Ronald Advincula’s report to Japanese ship owner Dainichi Investment Corporation that was seen by Reuters.

The US Navy declined to comment and Reuters was not able to independently verify the account.

The collision tore a gash below the Fitzgerald’s waterline, killing seven sailors in what was the greatest loss of life on a US Navy vessel since the USS Cole was bombed in Yemen’s Aden harbour in 2000.

Those who died were in their berthing compartments, while the Fitzgerald’s commander was injured in his cabin, suggesting that no alarm warning of an imminent collision was sounded.

A spokesman for the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, the Fitzgerald’s home port, said he was unable to comment on an ongoing investigation.

The incident has spurred six investigations, including two internal hearings by the US Navy and a probe by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) on behalf of the National Transportation Safety Board. The Japan Transport Safety Board, the JCG and the Philippines government are also conducting separate investigations.

Spokesmen from the Japan Coast Guard (JCG), US Coast Guard and ship owner, Dainichi Invest, also declined to comment. Reuters was not able to contact Advincula, who was no longer in Japan.

The investigations will examine witness testimony and electronic data to determine how a naval destroyer fitted with sophisticated radar could be struck by a vessel more than three times its size.

Another focus of the probes has been the length of time it took the ACX Crystal to report the collision. The JCG says it was first notified at 2:25 am, nearly an hour after the accident.

In his report, the ACX Crystal’s captain said there was “confusion” on his ship’s bridge, and that it turned around and returned to the collision site after continuing for 6 nautical miles (11 km).

Shipping data in Thomson Reuters Eikon shows that the ACX Crystal, chartered by Japan’s Nippon Yusen KK, made a complete U-turn between 12:58 am and 2:46 am

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Indonesia Police Find ISIS Propaganda Targeting Children


ISIS target children’s books to spread propaganda says Indonesian police. (Representational)

Jakarta:  Indonesian police have found hundreds of books containing ISIS propaganda targeting children at the home of a suspect arrested in connection with the stabbing death of an officer, a police spokeswoman said today.

Another suspected terrorist was shot and killed by police during Sunday’s attack on a police station in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province.

The wife of the arrested man told police her husband had spent six months in Syria in 2013, said police spokeswoman Rina Sari Ginting, adding this was still being investigated.

Police believe the men were part of Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an umbrella organization on a US State Department “terrorist” list which supports ISIS and has hundreds of Indonesian followers.

“We can see from the pattern of their attack that it is likely they belong to the JAD network,” said Ginting.

There is concern about a rise of terrorism in Indonesia, which has the world’s biggest Muslim population.

ISIS sympathisers have carried out a series of mostly low-level attacks over the past few years, and there are fears about the return of hundreds of Indonesians who have gone to Syria to support ISIS.

The books aimed at children found at the home of the arrested man were written in Indonesian and included pictures and messages supportive of dying in jihad, Ginting said.

They appeared to be designed and printed by the suspect, she said.

Police believe the suspects had intended not only to kill police during Sunday’s knife attack but also to seize their guns.

Out of 12 people being questioned in connection with the attack, one had been made a suspect and is alleged to have helped the attackers by surveying the police headquarters, she said.

Police were also investigating whether the attackers were linked to three suspected terrorists who were arrested on June 6 in the area by anti-terrorism police.

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Hong Kong Activists Stage China Protests Ahead Of Xi Jinping Visit


Xi Jinping’s visit will be his first since becoming president in 2013.

Hong Kong:  Hong Kong saw multiple protests Monday ahead of a visit by President Xi Jinping to mark 20 years since the city was handed back to China by Britain.

Pro-democracy activists including high-profile student campaigner Joshua Wong draped a black flag over a statue symbolising Hong Kong’s return to China in an early morning act of defiance.

Dozens more campaigners marched to China’s representative office in the city in the afternoon in a rally against the detention of hundreds of human rights lawyers on the mainland, while a group of protesters also gathered in central Hong Kong to “sing for democracy”.

Xi’s visit will be his first since becoming president in 2013 and will culminate with the inauguration of Hong Kong’s new leader, Carrie Lam, on Saturday.

It comes as there are increasing concerns Beijing is trampling the handover agreement guaranteeing Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status by interfering in a range of areas, from politics to education and media.

In the morning demonstration, a dozen activists attached a black cloth to the giant golden bauhinia flower on Hong Kong’s harbourfront as security tried to stop them climbing on the famous tourist attraction.

The sculpture of the bauhinia, which became the emblem of Hong Kong after the handover, was a present to the city from China in 1997 and stands outside the convention centre where Xi will attend anniversary events during a three-day visit starting Thursday.

Police were called to take the flag down while the protesters chanted “democratic self-determination for Hong Kong’s future” and “one country, two systems has been a lie for 20 years”, referring to Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status.

‘Barbaric’ treatment’

Campaigners like Wong are calling for democratic reforms, promised in the handover deal, to change a system where the city leader is still chosen by a pro-China committee and the legislature is weighted towards Beijing.

Wong led mass Umbrella Movement rallies calling for fully free leadership elections in 2014, but they failed to win concessions.

Since then calls for self-determination or even full independence from China have emerged.

Wong’s party Demosisto wants a public referendum on Hong Kong’s future in 2047, the year the handover agreement protecting the city’s way of life and liberties expires.

Veteran politician and former legislator Emily Lau was among those who gathered in a separate protest Monday afternoon against the detention of lawyers by China, which she called “barbaric”.

“We firmly believe that a regime that does not respect basic human rights… cannot maintain stability and cannot secure legitimacy,” added activist Joseph Cheng.

Another group of around 20 protesters, including pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo, sang “Do You Hear the People Sing?” outside the Court of Final Appeal in central Hong Kong in the late afternoon.

The song from the musical “Les Miserables” was a popular chant for the tens of thousands who gathered during the 2014 Umbrella Movement which brought parts of Hong Kong to a standstill for over two months.

Protesters say they are preparing further actions during the handover celebrations and Xi’s visit will be shrouded in a huge security operation.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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'Most Homes In Low-Income Countries Don't Have Access To Soap'


According to the research, nearly 79 per cent of households in Bhutan had soap and water. (File)

New York:  Most families in low income countries such as Iraq and Serbia do not have access to soap. According to researchers from the University of Bufallo in the US, the percentage of such households ranged from less than 0.1 per cent in Ethiopia to 96.4 per cent in Serbia.

The team identified the proportion of households in which soap and water was present at a hand washing place in the home. They found the availability of soap anywhere in the dwelling ranged from nearly 21 per cent in Senegal to 99.1 percent in Iraq and Serbia, according to the surveys that included data on soap availability in the home.

In Africa, the proportions of households with soap and water at a hand washing place range from as low as 0.1 per cent in Ethiopia to a high of 34.7 per cent in Swaziland, researchers said.

They also found that compared to Africa, the availability of soap and water was higher in the Eastern Mediterranean region, and ranged from 42.6 per cent in Afghanistan to 91.5 per cent in Iraq.

In Southeast Asia, nearly 79 per cent of households in Bhutan had soap and water, compared to 21.4 per cent in Bangladesh, researchers said.

The poorest households often had extremely low access to soap and water for hand washing, compared to wealthier households (for example, six per cent and 85 per cent in regions of Nepal).

“These data is useful to public health programs and policy makers because they underscore the deep inequities that persist globally and within countries, contributing to these preventable child deaths among people living in poverty and in rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia,” said Pavani Ram from University of Buffalo. 

The findings underscore the need to improve access to soap, along with hand washing behaviour in general, in many impoverished countries, said Swapna Kumar from University of Buffalo.

The study was published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 



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Gmail to end ad-targeting email scans


Image copyright
Microsoft

Image caption

Microsoft had attacked Google’s email scans claiming they were an invasion of privacy

Google’s decision to stop scanning Gmail users’ emails in order to target them with personalised adverts has been given a qualified welcome by privacy campaigners.

The tech firm revealed the change in a blog at the end of last week.

Google promised to make the move before the year’s end to bring the consumer version of Gmail in line with its business edition.

The firm had faced much criticism over the years for the scans.

Gmail man

The measure helped justify the cost of offering the public one gigabyte of “free” webmail storage in 2004 – an offer that was so much greater than the competition at the time that many originally believed it to be a joke.

However, UK-based campaign group Privacy International tried to block the scans once it became apparent they were the cost of signing up to the service. The organisation tried and failed to get the country’s data privacy regulator to intervene.

Then, a decade later, Microsoft ran a series of adverts, in which it first depicted a “Gmail man” searching through people’s messages, and then went on to accuse the search giant of “crossing the line” causing its customers to be “Scroogled”.

“When they first came up with the dangerous idea of monetising the content of our communications, Privacy International warned Google against setting the precedent of breaking the confidentiality of messages for the sake of additional income,” the charity’s executive director Dr Gus Hosein told the BBC.

“Of course they can now take this decision after they have consolidated their position in the marketplace as the aggregator of nearly all the data on internet usage, aside from the other giant, Facebook.

“The reality is that what you choose to say over email to another human being isn’t as interesting for exploitation as the data you have no control over – Google would rather exploit your data by tracking you across the internet, across their mobile operating system, their search engine, their apps, their smart devices, and likely some day soon, their car, amongst a myriad of other services that they dominate through the exploitation of our data.”

Google’s blog notes that users can opt out of seeing personalised ads on any of its services by changing their account settings.

Image copyright
Google

Image caption

The advert scans had helped justify the cost of providing Gmail to consumers for free

Another digital rights body, Big Brother Watch, was a little more positive.

“Whilst it could be seen as closing the stable door once the horse has bolted, there is no doubt that the end to the intrusive and frankly creepy process will be appreciated by a great many Gmail users,” commented its chief executive Renate Samson.

“However, none of us must rest on our laurels.

“Whilst tech companies should see this as an opportunity to halt other intrusive snooping for advertising purposes, citizens equally should take greater care not to sign up to services which routinely share your personal information with third parties for the purposes of advertising or marketing.

“Google’s move is absolutely a step in the right direction, let’s hope it encourages others to follow suit.”

While the ad-driven scans should soon stop, the news site Ars Technica has highlighted that Gmail messages will still be scanned by Google to provide artificial intelligence-powered “smart replies”, malware-protection and sorting for search queries.



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New Foldable, Walking Robot Could Aid Future Space Missions


The foldable robots could also be used for seabed explorations. (Representative image)

Seoul:  Scientists have built the first foldable walking robot that pops up when deployed, and could be used for future space missions as well as seabed exploration on Earth.

The robot, which the researchers call DeployBot, is assembled from eight modules: four for the body and one for each of the four legs.

In their folded state, the modules lie flat, and after they are deployed they pop up into roughly a square shape.

The modules are made of both rigid and flexible materials and contain embedded magnets that connect and lock multiple modules together.

A shape memory alloy wire running through the square frame of each module is responsible for deploying and folding the modules, which takes several seconds but can be done repeatedly.

“The main advantage of this modular robot is robustness in various environments due to lack of mechanical systems such as motors and gears,” said Sung-Hoon Ahn from Seoul National University in South Korea.

“Thus, problems facing motor-based robots, such as sealing and lubrication of mechanical systems in water or space environments, are not a problem for the smart actuator,” Mr Ahn was quoted as saying by ‘Phys.org’.

The robot walks when an electric current is applied to shape-memory alloy wires embedded in its frame. The current heats the wires, causing the robot’s flexible segments to contract and bend.

Sequentially controlling the current to various segments in different ways results in different walking gaits.

No motors are required for the robot to move, researcher said. 



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Russia targets Telegram app after St Petersburg bombing


Image copyright
EPA

Image caption

The bomber killed 15 people and wounded dozens more in the 3 April attack

Russia’s FSB security agency has said the Telegram mobile messaging app was used by a suicide bomber who killed 15 people in St Petersburg in April.

Authorities have already threatened to block the app, founded by Russian businessman Pavel Durov, for refusing to sign up to new data laws.

Mr Durov has refused to let regulators access encrypted messages on the app.

Telegram has some 100 million users and has been used by so-called Islamic State (IS) and its supporters.

IS used the app to declare its involvement in the jihadist attack on and around London Bridge in the UK last month.

Telegram has been used by jihadists in France and the Middle East too, although the app company has highlighted its efforts to close down pro-IS channels. Telegram allows groups of up to 5,000 people to send messages, documents, videos and pictures without charge and with complete encryption.

Now the FSB has said that as part of its investigation into the St Petersburg attack it “received reliable information about the use of Telegram by the suicide bomber, his accomplices and their mastermind abroad to conceal their criminal plots at all the stages of preparation for the terrorist attack”.

A Russian identified as Akbarzhon Jalilov blew himself up between two underground stations on 3 April. The security agency said that Telegram was the messenger of choice for “international terrorist organisations in Russia” because they could chat secretly with high levels of encryption.

The FSB’s revelation made no mention of a threat on Friday by Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor to block the app over its failure to register Telegram as a disseminator of information in Russia. By registering, the company would have to store the past six months’ of users’ data in Russia.


The messenger Russia wants to ban – by Vitaliy Shevchenko, BBC Monitoring

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Tens of millions use the app for messaging and passing on videos and photos

Russia is threatening to ban the Telegram after its founder refused to co-operate with the country’s security services.

Mr Durov was also founder and CEO of Russia’s most popular social network VKontakte (VK). But in 2014 he was forced out of the company after refusing to hand over user data to the security services. He left Russia shortly afterwards.

Telegram has been gaining in popularity as a news-sharing platform in Russia’s tightly controlled media environment, and some fear that banning it would further restrict freedom of speech there.

Social media users have suggested that it is absurd to try to ban something useful just because it is being misused by criminals. “Terrorists use physics and chemistry. Let’s ban physics and chemistry,” quipped one Tweet.


Mr Durov has complained that the regulator also asked Telegram to hand over encryption keys so they can read users’ correspondence to catch jihadists.

He argues that it would be against the Russian constitution and the owners do not have access to the encryption keys anyway.

Several internet companies have been criticised beyond Russia for allowing jihadists to spread material about bomb-making and incitement.

Last week, the European Union’s 28 leaders agreed to put legal pressure on internet giants like Google, Twitter and Facebook to remove jihadist content more quickly and to develop tools to help detect incitement to terrorism online.



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China's Fastest Bullet Train 'Fuxing' Makes Debut


China’s new bullet train ‘Fuxing’ or rejuvenation has a speed of 400 kilometres per hour.

Beijing:  China’s indigenous next generation bullet train, with a maximum speed of 400 kilometer per hour, made its debut today on the country’s busiest Beijing-Shanghai line. ‘Fuxing’, a CR400AF model, boasts a top speed of 400 kilometres per hour and a consistent speed of 350 kilometres an hour. 

‘Fuxing’ or rejuvenation departed Beijing South Railway Station at 11:05 am for Shanghai. At the same time, another CR400AF model left Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station for Beijing.

The new bullet trains, also known as electric multiple units (EMU), took about five hours and 45 minutes to reach Shanghai. On its way, it stopped by 10 stations, including Jinan, Shandong province and Tianjin. 

The Beijing-Shanghai line is the country’s busiest route used by 50,5000 passengers daily. 

The train was designed and manufactured by China, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

It includes a sophisticated monitoring system that constantly checks its performance and automatically slows the train in case of emergencies or abnormal conditions.

A remote data-transmission system, a control centre will be able to monitor the train in real time, the report said.

Lu Dongfu, general manager of China Railway Corporation, operator of the new train, said ‘Fuxing’, underpins the unique role that high-speed railway has played in China’s economic and social development.

Previous bullet trains featured the characters ‘Hexiehao’ (harmony) on the exterior of each train.

China has the world’s longest railway network with 22,000 kilometres by the end of last year, about 60 per cent of the world’s total.

 



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Myanmar, Thailand Incinerate Illicit Drugs Worth $800 Million


Myanmar is one of the largest producers of illicit drugs, including opium, heroin and methamphetamines.

BANGKOK/YANGON:  Officials in Myanmar and Thailand burned illegal narcotics worth more than $800 million on Monday to mark the UN day against drug abuse and trafficking.

The move came even as authorities struggle to stem the flood of illicit drugs in the region, with Thailand’s justice minister last year saying the country’s war on drugs was failing.

In Thailand’s Ayutthaya province, more than 9 tonnes of drugs with a street value of over 20 billion baht ($590 million) went up in smoke including methamphetamines, known locally as ‘yaba’ or ‘crazy drug’, according to police.

“Currently, we are able to take down a lot of networks, including … transnational networks bringing drugs into Thailand … to be shipped to Malaysia and other countries,” Sirinya Sitthichai, Secretary General of the Office of Narcotics Control Board, told reporters in Ayutthaya.

In neighboring Myanmar, the police said they destroyed confiscated drugs worth around $217 million.

Myanmar remains one of the world’s largest producers of illicit drugs, including opium, heroin and methamphetamines. Those narcotics are often smuggled into China.

Last year, law makers in Myanmar voiced disappointment over the country’s lacklustre efforts to tackle the drug problem.

The market for methamphetamines has been growing in Southeast Asia, the United Nations has said. It estimates that Southeast Asia’s trade in heroin and methamphetamine was worth $31 billion in 2013.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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Player protests force change on GTA V mod kit


Image copyright
Rockstar Games

Image caption

Many people play heavily changed, or modded, versions of GTA V

Player protests have prompted the publishers of GTA V to halt legal action against a widely used software add-on for the single-player version.

Take-Two claimed the Open IV program that let people change, or mod, the game’s basic elements aided cheats.

In response, players wrote thousands of negative reviews of the game and more than 77,000 signed a petition calling for Open IV to be left alone.

GTA creator Rockstar also put pressure on Take-Two to change its mind.

In a message placed on the GTA V chat forums, Rockstar said “discussions” with Take-Two had led to it ending the legal action.

Technical challenge

The row blew up last week when the lead developer of Open IV said the mod kit was being withdrawn because it had been threatened with legal action by Take-Two.

At the same time, Take-Two took action that led to the closure of three sites that advertised themselves as a way for people to cheat when playing online versions of the game.

These extras let people get huge amounts of in-game cash and easily obtain items that otherwise took hours of playing to acquire.

Users of Open IV said Take-Two was wrong to regard the mod kit as a cheating tool because it was designed to work with only single-player versions of GTA.

In its forum message, Rockstar acknowledged this distinction and said its discussions with Take-Two had meant that the publisher had now “agreed that it generally will not take legal action against third-party projects involving Rockstar’s PC games that are single-player, non-commercial, and respect the intellectual property (IP) rights of third parties”.

Rockstar said it believed in “reasonable fan creativity” that let fans show their “passion” for its games.

Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

The GTA V game first went on sale in late 2013, but mods mean many people still play it

Take-Two’s decision was also influenced by Open IV’s creators promising to work harder to stop the kit being used by people to cheat in online versions of GTA.

A small number of people had found a way to use Open IV to cheat in this way, lead developer Yuriy Krivoruchko told news site Motherboard.

The ending of the legal action was “good news”, wrote Samuel Horti on the Rock, Paper Shotgun website.

“It’s helped players produce some cracking mods and machinima [animation],” he said.

Horti added that the Rockstar statement was “carefully worded”, perhaps so it could be reversed later on.

It might need to be, he said, because Take-Two and Rockstar faced a technical challenge when it came to policing add-ons for the game.

“How do Take-Two intend to allow single-player mods without leaving the door open to cheaters?” he asked.



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UK PM May Secures Majority By Striking Deal With A Northern Ireland Party


Theresa May and Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party struck a deal today. (Reuters)

London:  British Prime Minister Theresa May struck a deal today to prop up her minority government with the support of a small Northern Irish Protestant party.

After May lost her majority in parliament on June 8 with a failed gamble on a snap election, she tried to secure the backing of the small Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and its 10 lawmakers, though talks had dragged on for more than two weeks.

May and DUP leader Arlene Foster presided at the signing of a deal at Downing Street today. They smiled and joked as negotiators from both sides, the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson and the Conservatives’ Gavin Williamson signed the deal.

The details of the deal were not immediately released.

A deal would allow May to pass legislation with the backing of the DUP in the 650-seat parliament, and stay in power as she attempts to negotiate Britain’s exit from the European Union.

But May’s position remains insecure. Her Brexit strategy is under scrutiny and her future as prime minister is the subject of public debate.

Some senior Conservatives have voiced unease at a deal with the DUP, saying it could put at risk the 1998 peace settlement in Northern Ireland, known as the Good Friday Agreement. Foster said a deal with May could help drive a second deal on power sharing in the province.

Northern Ireland has been in crisis since Sinn Fein pulled out of government in January, prompting an election in March and a series of missed deadlines to restore the compulsory coalition between Irish Catholic nationalists and pro-British Protestant unionists.

“I think that this agreement will bring the prospects of doing a deal at (the Belfast parliament) Stormont closer because this will have a positive impact in relation to Northern Ireland,” Foster told Sky earlier, adding that a second deal on power sharing in the province could be reached this week too.

“I very much hope that this week we will be able to conclude on two agreements.”

The latest deadline set by the British government for the parties in Northern Ireland to reach an agreement is Thursday. Sinn Fein said last week that “time was running out” given the lack of knowledge about the impact of any Conservative/DUP deal.

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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China Jails Crown Resorts Staff Over Gambling Crimes


16 employees of Crown Resorts Ltd. jailed by the Chinese court in a quick fire trail. (Reuters)

SHANGHAI:  A Chinese court jailed 16 employees of Crown Resorts Ltd, including three Australians, in a quick-fire trial on Monday that caps a lengthy probe into how the firm lured Chinese high-rollers to its casinos.

Melbourne-based Crown, 49 percent owned by billionaire James Packer, said in a statement the employees were jailed for between nine to ten months and handed a total fine of 8.62 million yuan ($1.26 million), which Crown would pay.

The sentences will run from the date the employees were first detained on Oct. 14 last year, meaning they would only have a couple of months left to serve. A lawyer for the defendants said they were “satisfied with the result”.

The case prompted Crown, the world’s biggest listed casino company outside of China, to retreat from global expansion plans and sell off assets in China’s gambling hub Macau, and instead shift its focus back home.

The Australian consul general in Shanghai, Graeme Meehan, earlier told reporters outside the Baoshan District Court that Crown’s head of international VIP gambling Jason O’Connor was given a ten month sentence. The two other Australians, Jane Pan and Jerry Xuan, were handed nine month sentences.

A total of 19 defendants, also including one Malaysian citizen, were formally charged earlier this month, having been first detained late last year. Zhai Jian, a defence lawyer, said the defendants had pled guilty.

Three of the defendants, who were granted bail in November, were not fined or given a jail sentence, Crown said.

“Crown remains respectful of the sovereign jurisdiction of the People’s Republic of China,” the firm added.

GAMBLING CRACKDOWN

At the end of the swift trial that only began on Monday morning, relatives and lawyers were whisked away. Journalists had been barred from attending the proceedings.

The husband of one defendant told Reuters after the trial the outcome was better than he had hoped. Requesting anonymity, he said his wife was given a nine month sentence and would be released on July 14.

Donald Rothwell, a professor of international law at the Australian National University, said the guilty pleas had helped the employees avoid longer sentences, though added the case did underline legal risks of doing business in the country.

The case was part of a wider crackdown on gambling in China.

Crown does not directly run casinos in China, but last month it sold its remaining stake in Macau-focused Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd for $1.16 billion. The company had also been engaged in a big push to lure Chinese gamblers to its Australian operations.

Aside from pulling out of the Macau, Crown has quit an agreement to develop a casino in Las Vegas and cancelled an ambitious plan, which it floated before the arrests, to split into three separate companies – one of which would have included its offshore assets.

China has been cracking down on attempts by casinos to woo high-spending Chinese gamblers within China. In 2015 thirteen South Korean casino managers were arrested in China for offering Chinese gamblers free tours, free hotels and sexual services.

The trial is the latest in a series of high-profile cases in China involving foreign firms. British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline PLC was fined nearly $500 million in 2014 and food maker OSI saw employees jailed last year.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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China Releases Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo With Terminal Cancer: Lawyer


Nobel peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo dignosed with terminal liver cancer last month.

Beijing, China:  China’s jailed Nobel peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has been granted medical parole after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer last month, his lawyer told AFP on Monday.

Liu, who had about three years of his 11-year sentence to serve, was diagnosed on May 23 and was released days later, said lawyer Mo Shaoping.

The 61-year-old democracy campaigner was being treated at a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang.

“He has no special plans. He is just receiving medical treatment for his illness,” Mo said.

The writer was jailed in 2009 for “subversion” after spearheading a bold petition for democratic reforms.

He was awarded the Nobel peace prize a year later. He is one of only three people to have won the award while jailed by their own government.

China strongly condemned his Nobel prize as unwanted foreign interference in its internal affairs, and refused to allow him to attend the ceremony in Oslo — where he was represented instead by an empty chair.

Asked about Liu’s release, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing: “I am not aware of the situation you’re talking about.”

The international community has been calling for his release for years.

Liu was arrested in 2008 after co-writing Charter 08, a bold petition that called for the protection of basic human rights and the reform of China’s one-party Communist system.

Charter 08, which was posted online, specifically demands the abolition of subversion as an offence in China’s criminal code — the very crime for which Liu has been jailed.

His wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest since 2010. She suffered a heart attack in 2014, when she was diagnosed with depression after years of detention, a rights group said at the time.

She could not be reached for comment on Monday as an automated message said her phone was no longer in service.

Tiananmen role

Liu is also known for his efforts to help negotiate the safe exit from Tiananmen Square of thousands of student demonstrators on the night of June 3, 1989 when the military quelled six weeks of protests in the heart of Beijing.

He was arrested immediately after the crackdown and released without charge in early 1991.

Liu was rearrested and served three years in a labour camp from 1996-1999 for seeking the release of those jailed in the Tiananmen protests and for opposing the government’s verdict that they amounted to a counter-revolutionary rebellion.

The holder of a doctorate in Chinese literature, Liu was once a professor at Beijing Normal University, but was banned from teaching at state institutions over his involvement in the 1989 demonstrations.

As a leading member of the Independent China Pen Centre, a grouping of Chinese writers, Liu had remained in close contact with key intellectuals and had been largely free to attend meetings and writer group activities despite constant police surveillance.

Although Liu was banned from publishing in China, many of his writings advocating greater democracy and respect for human rights appeared in Hong Kong and overseas Chinese publications.

Some of these writings served as evidence in his most recent trial, according to rights groups.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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Philippines Vice President Leni Robredo Visits Refugees Fleeing Fighting


Leni Robredo visited an evacuation centre in Balo-i. (Reuters)

Balo-i:  The vice president of the Philippines expressed hope today for a swift end to an urban siege by Islamist rebels, and offered support to displaced civilians during a visit normally conducted by a president not seen in public for six days.

The trip by Leni Robredo to an evacuation centre in Balo-i for residents who escaped a month-long conflict in nearby Marawi City adds to speculation about the health of 72-year-old President Rodrigo Duterte, whose absence this month from the public eye is the longest since he took office a year ago.

Known for a packed public schedule and marathon speeches several times a day, Duterte’s disappearances during what has been the biggest crisis of his presidency will add to frequent rumours he is in poor health, which his office denies.

Robredo made no mention of Duterte during her visit, when she said she hoped life for the nearly 250,000 people displaced by fighting between troops and rebels allied with the ISIS group could soon return to normal.

“All of us are hoping that the fighting will soon end so the people can go back to their respective homes,” she told reporters. “The government has been doing everything that we can. We can only hope that this will end soon.”

Duterte’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on his lengthy absence.

Salvador Panelo, a longtime friend of Duterte’s and his top legal advisor, said the president was as “strong as a bull” and would attend a public event and meet cabinet members on Tuesday.

Duterte was last seen on June 20 in two cities close to Marawi, when he met soldiers and evacuees. That followed a three-day absence after a speech in which he said his health was “immaterial”, amid raised eyebrows about his failure to show in public for Independence Day on June 12.

His office has said he has been experiencing fatigue, and his aide Christopher “Bong” Go on June 15 posted images on social media of Duterte signing documents, and standing in front of a television showing a news bulletin.

BATTLES RESUME

Fighting resumed in Marawi today, a day after a unilateral truce was declared by the military for eight hours to mark the Eid al-Fitr Islamic holiday and try to rescue civilians trapped in the conflict zone.

Air strikes and gunfights took place early in the day and the military said it believed insurgents from Maute group were flagging after a fifth week of clashes, with infighting among the remaining leaders.

The resilience and the level of organisation of the Maute group and its affiliates has caused consternation in the region about the extent to which ISIS’s extremist agenda may have gained traction in the southern Philippines, a region more familiar with banditry and separatism than radical ideology.

Duterte had long warned that it was only a matter of time before there would be an ISIS contamination.

The battle for Marawi has claimed the lives of 70 servicemen, 27 civilians and 290 militants, according to official figures.

Fleeing residents and some local disaster officials believe many more civilians may have been killed while trapped in areas battered by artillery and air strikes, and infested with Maute snipers. Witnesses have reported seeing bodies in the streets for days, some decomposing.

The military said it was concerned about reports of the possible beheading of hostages, or captives being forced to take up arms against government troops.

Spokesman Jo-Ar Herrera said soldiers were committed to finishing the job and saving residents, 13 of which were rescued on Sunday.

“Our offensive operations have resumed and will continue so we can liberate Marawi in the soonest time possible,” he told reporters.

“We are focused and committed and will accomplish our mission.”

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Growth in personal debt is slowing, says BBA


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Media captionHow much do households owe?

The growth in borrowing on loans, credit cards and overdrafts slowed in May, figures from UK banks have shown, following fears of runaway debt levels.

Personal debt grew at an annual pace of 5.1% in May compared with 6.4% a month earlier, the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) said.

Borrowing through loans and overdrafts has decelerated in particular since the start of the year.

However, individuals are putting little money aside in savings.

Personal deposits in the major UK banks grew at a rate of 2.6% in the year to the end of May – the slowest annual growth rate in saving since December 2011.

There have been fears raised about the growing level of personal debt in the past year, with both the City regulator – the Financial Conduct Authority – and the Bank of England declaring “vigilance” over the issue.

Yet there has been a recent slowdown recorded by the major banks which has been reflected in less spending in the shops.

The annual growth rate in personal loans and overdrafts fell from 6.3% at the end of April to 4.8% by the end of May.

Eric Leenders, BBA managing director for retail banking said: “This month’s figures show that in the run up to the general election, credit growth in personal loans, cards and overdrafts has slowed, which was reflected in lower spending; with increased household costs affecting growth in deposits and saving.”

The squeeze on personal finances, owing in part to the rise in the rate of inflation, was also in evidence with a slowdown in mortgage levels, the BBA figures show.

The number of mortgages approved for house purchases was 3.3% lower in May this year than the same month a year ago, at 40,347.

Remortgaging levels also dropped over the same period, with approvals down 10% to 24,248.



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Nawaz Sharif Flies Back To Pak To Visit Scores Injured In Oil Fireball


More than 118 people were injured in the fuel tanker explosion in Pakistan. (Reuters)

Lahore:  Pakistani hospitals today struggled to treat scores of severely burned victims of a fuel tanker explosion that killed at least 146 people, as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif flew back from an overseas trip to visit the injured.

More than 118 people were injured in the explosion in the eastern province of Punjab, which came as people gathered to collect leaking fuel after the tanker overturned on Sunday, government officials and rescue workers said.

The disaster was one of several deadly events to mar the run-up to Monday’s Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. At least 65 people were killed in bombings in two cities on Friday claimed by Islamist terrorists including the Pakistani Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

A burst tyre apparently caused the speeding fuel tanker to overturn on a sharp bend on a highway on the outskirts of the city of Bahawalpur, provincial spokesman Malik Muhammed Ahmed Khan said.

It was not clear what triggered the fireball but on Sunday, a spokesman for rescue services said someone was believed to have lit a cigarette.

“Rehabilitation and treatment of the victims is our top priority,” Khan said.

Hospitals are also arranging DNA testing to identify the many bodies that were charred beyond recognition. At least 20 children are among the dead.

Many of the burn victims have been moved the larger cities of Karachi and Lahore. Governments hospital are often-underequipped and the ones in Bahawalpur and nearby Multan were set up only to handle small numbers, Khan said.

The oil tanker driver, who survived, has been detained to assist in an investigation, but early reports do not indicate human error, Khan said.

He said a separate investigation was underway to see why police did not disperse the crowds of people who gathered to collect fuel.

“Police did try but we are looking into what went wrong,” he said.

Prime Minister Sharif visited the injured in Bahawalpur’s Victoria Hospital on Sunday after flying home from a trip to London, his office said.

Television footage showed the prime minister standing by the bedsides of victims.

Sharif had been in London to attend his grandson’s graduation ceremony, his daughter Maryam said in a tweet.

 

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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UK's first heart pump targets 2018 clinical trial


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Researchers have suggested heart pumps could help solve the shortage of heart donors

The UK’s first artificial heart pump has moved a step closer to being used on patients, scientists have said.

It has been developed at Swansea University’s Institute of Life Science 2 by Calon Cardio, and clinical trials are due to begin in late 2018 with the aim of a full rollout two years later.

The pump is implanted into the failing heart and should last about 10 years.

Stuart McConchie, chief executive of Calon Cardio, said it was the most-advanced pump of its kind.

“This is for a very sick group of people and there are millions of them in the world, and hundreds of thousands in the United Kingdom,” he said.

“It is the first British pump to be built for this purpose: to treat blood which is flowing through the pump extremely gently and not to do any damage to the blood.

“There are other pumps that have been built that do cause some damage to the blood and, as a result, patients have adverse events that diminish the impact of the implantation and the treatment.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionCalon Cardio boss Stuart McConchie said its was the most advanced pump of its kind

“Reliability of these pumps has been established for several years but blood handling is a problem. If they break up red blood cells or white blood cells or damage proteins then there is a cost of that.”

The pump is commonly known as a ventricular assist device (VAD) and the one being developed in Swansea is called a MiniVAD.

After being implanted directly into the heart, it is driven by an embedded electric motor and powered by a battery pack worn by the user.

Image copyright
Calon Cardio

Image caption

Diagram of the MiniVAD system which is attached to a battery pack

Mr McConchie said the device was designed to “assist the heart itself and not to replace it”.

The last VAD produced was sold to one of the world’s major cardiovascular companies for $3.4bn (about £2.6bn), he added.

But while there is a huge monetary value to the product, Mr McConchie said the key aspect is that it will improve a patient’s quality of life.

“If we can demonstrate that we have reduced the adverse events, you have something that’s much more forgettable that’s put inside the body,” he added.

“Patients don’t have to go back into hospital for correction of any adverse events, so the absolute cost benefit becomes substantial.

“That means the NHS, for example, or a healthcare provider in other countries like the United States, don’t have as much cost in treating the patient who has a ventricle assist device and the benefit to society comes with that.”

Mr McConchie said the patient experience was “much, much better” if they do not have to visit the hospital frequently.



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Harry Potter Turns 20: Business Empire With Humble Start


London, United Kingdom:  After years of rejection letters, British author J.K. Rowling finally published the first volume of the Harry Potter saga 20 years ago, on June 26, 1997.

“Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was the first of seven novels that spawned an empire comprising eight movies, a play, theme parks in the United States and Japan, a sightseeing tour in Scotland and a permanent exhibition at London’s Warner Bros Studios.

Here is the background of a global phenomenon:

The author

Joanne Kathleen Rowling was born into a modest family in Chipping Sodbury, western England, on July 31, 1965.

She studied French and Classics at the University of Exeter before going to teach English in Portugal, where she began to chronicle the adventures of Harry Potter.

Rowling married Portuguese television journalist Jorge Arantesa in 1992, giving birth to their daughter Jessica in 1993. The couple divorced in 1995 and the author moved to Edinburgh, Scotland.

After finishing the novel, she joined forces with publisher Bloomsbury in August 1996.

Named Britain’s best living writer in 2006, she has accrued a fortune of £650 million (743 million euros), according to the Sunday Times rich list published in May 2017.

She remarried in 2001, to Scottish doctor Neil Murray, and the couple have a boy and a girl.

The story

Conjured up on a 1990 train journey between Manchester and London, the saga follows a young wizard named Harry Potter and his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, led by headmaster Albus Dumbledore.

The main plot revolves around Harry’s fight against Lord Voldemort, a dark lord of magic in search of immortality who murdered Potter’s parents when he was still a baby.

Seven books

The entire saga comprises seven volumes, published between 1997 and 2007, with each taking place during a school year.

The story begins in the summer of 1991 when Harry Potter, not yet 11 years old, is accepted into Hogwarts.

Eight films

The seven books were adapted into eight movies, with the last volume “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” divided into two feature films.

The first two films were directed by Chris Columbus, the third by Mexican Alfonso Cuaron, the fourth by Mike Newell and the last four by David Yates.

A play

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”, a two-and-a-half-hour play staged in London since July 2016, follows the hero as an adult and father-of-three.

In the production, Potter struggles to cope with his past while his family legacy proves to be a burden on youngest son Albus Severus Potter, “the cursed child.”

The numbers

In all, the seven volumes of the saga, translated into 79 languages in 200 countries, have sold more than 450 million copies worldwide.

The first print run of “the Philosopher’s Stone” produced $1,000 copies — all now highly-sought after collectors items – and earned Rowling a & £1,500 contract.

The movies have netted $7.2 billion (6.4 billion euros) worldwide, the books $7.7 billion, and merchandise $7.3 billion dollars, according to data from www.statisticbrain.com dating from September 2016.

Tourist attractions

The Harry Potter studios in Leavesden, north of London, invites fans to immerse themselves in Potter-world at a permanent exhibition, welcoming 6,000 visitors a day.

There are also theme parks created by Universal Studio in Orlando, Florida, Hollywood and Osaka, Japan.

VisitScotland, the Scotland Tourist Board, has set up a four-day guided tour from Edinburgh to the Highlands via the Glenfinnan or Edinburgh Viaduct, which feature in the saga.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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Lord Adonis: Brexit delay over Heathrow must end


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Brexit and the UK’s hung parliament should not hold up crucial projects such as the expansion of Heathrow airport, the government’s top infrastructure adviser has said.

There must be a limit to the “dither and delay”, said Lord Adonis, head of the National Infrastructure Commission.

He told the BBC that Brexit meant the UK had to be “open for business”.

The government approved a third runway at Heathrow last October, but it was not mentioned in the Queen’s Speech.

The National Infrastructure Commission is an independent body that provides the government with impartial, expert advice on major long-term infrastructure challenges.

It was set up by former Chancellor George Osborne in 2015 to oversee £100bn of spending on national projects.

Lord Adonis, a former transport secretary, has the backing of business groups including the CBI in his effort to press ministers for action.

He told the BBC’s Today programme: “At the moment, Heathrow is running at capacity. We cannot be open for business if you can’t get in and out of the country.

“It’s 14 years since the original decision in principle was taken to proceed with Heathrow.

“There really is a limit to the dither and delay that we can engage in as a country when it comes to these massively important national infrastructure projects.”

Lord Adonis also called for the government to press ahead with plans for a new £18bn nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset, despite last week’s report from the National Audit Office calling it “a risky and expensive project”.

He rejected suggestions that the government should rethink the project, saying: “All that ‘think again’ would do is put in jeopardy a large proportion of our electricity generating capacity for the future.”



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Great Barrier Reef A $42 Billion Asset 'Too Big To Fail': Sources


Great Barrier Reef under pressure from farming run off, development and the crown of thorns starfish.

Sydney, Australia:  Australia’s under pressure Great Barrier Reef is an asset worth Aus$56 billion (US$42 billion) and as an ecosystem and economic driver is ‘too big to fail’, a study said Monday.

The World Heritage listed reef is the largest living structure on Earth and its economic and social value was calculated for the first time in the Deloitte Access Economics report commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

Using economic modelling, it said the reef  bigger than Britain, Switzerland and the Netherlands combined  was worth Aus$29 billion to tourism, supporting 64,000 jobs.

The ‘indirect or non use’ value people that have not yet visited the reef but know it exists  was estimated at Aus$24 billion, with recreational users such as boaters making up the rest.

The study, based on six months’ analysis, comes as the reef suffers an unprecedented second straight year of coral bleaching due to warming sea temperatures linked to climate change.

It is also under pressure from farming run off, development and the crown of thorns starfish, with the problems compounded this year by a powerful cyclone pummelling the area.

Great Barrier Reef Foundation director Steve Sargent said the study showed that no single Australian asset contributed as much to international perceptions of ‘Brand Australia’.

“At $56 billion, the reef is valued at more than 12 Sydney Opera Houses,” he said.

“This report sends a clear message that the Great Barrier Reef  as an ecosystem, as an economic driver, as a global treasure  is too big to fail.”

Commenting in the report, US presidential candidate turned conservationist Al Gore said the study was a “much needed, holistic view of the incredible economic value and opportunities provided by the Great Barrier Reef”.

“Any failure to protect this indispensable natural resource would have profound impacts not only to Australia but around the world,” he added.

‘Priceless and irreplaceable’

The study included a survey of 1,500 Australian and international respondents from 10 countries that found people value the reef for a range of reasons  due to its importance for tourism but also the belief that Australia would not be the same without it.

Lead author, Deloitte Access’s John O’Mahony, said it was clear the reef was ‘priceless and irreplaceable’.

“But we’ve been able to look at it as an ‘asset’ that has incredible value on multiple fronts  from its biodiversity and job creating potential to its support for critical industries and standing among international visitors to Australia,” he said.

Australia last month hosted a summit of more than 70 of the world’s leading marine experts to work on a blueprint on how best to respond to the threats facing the reef.

Options explored included developing coral nurseries, strategies to boost culling of crown of thorns starfish, expanding monitoring systems and identifying priority sites for coral restoration.

Key to the talks was the need to slash greenhouse gas emissions to prevent warming sea temperatures.

Canberra in 2015 narrowly avoided UNESCO putting the reef on its endangered list, and has committed more than Australia $2.0 billion to protect it over the next decade.

But it has been criticised for backing a huge US$16 billion coal project by Indian mining giant Adani near the reef, which environmentalists warn would harm the natural wonder.

Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg insisted protecting the reef was a priority.

“It is critical for reefs worldwide, including the Great Barrier Reef, that international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are effective,” he said in response to the study.

“Australia is taking strong action to address the global threat of climate change having ratified the Paris Agreement which will see Australia reduce its emissions by 26 to 28 percent on 2005.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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FTSE 100 rises as bank stocks rally


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Bank shares helped to lift stock markets across Europe after Italy reached a deal to bail out two banks.

In London, the FTSE 100 index was up 39.30 points at 7,463.43 in early morning trade, with Barclays up 1.2%.

However, sub-prime lender Provident Financial slipped 1,3% after RBC cut its rating on the firm to “sector perform” from “outperform”.

Shares in Provident had slumped by 17% last Wednesday after the company issued a profit warning.

In the FTSE 250, shares in outsourcing group Capita rose 3% after it announced it had sold its asset management services business to Link Group for £888m.

On the currency markets, the pound was 0.2% higher against the dollar at $1.2745, and was also up 0.2% against the euro at 1.1384 euros.



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Ohio sites hacked with IS message


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The message was posted on a number of Ohio sites

A number of government websites in the US state of Ohio, including that of Governor John Kasich, have been hacked to display a pro-IS message.

It said President Donald Trump would be held accountable for “every drop of blood flowing in Muslim countries” and ended “I love Islamic state”.

The hacking was carried out by a group calling itself Team System DZ.

The Ohio governor’s website was down for maintenance for some time on Sunday, before coming back online.

The message in the hacking attack contained an Arabic symbol and was written mainly in the black and white used in the flag of so-called Islamic State.

The message on Mr Kasich’s site also played an Islamic call to prayer.

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AFP

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John Kasich’s site was down for maintenance after the attack

The message read: “You will be held accountable Trump, you and all your people for every drop of blood flowing in Muslim countries.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Kasich, Emmalee Kalmbach, said in a statement: “As soon as we were notified of the situation, we immediately began to correct it, and will continue to monitor until fully resolved.”

A number of other officials website were affected, including those of the Ohio Office of Health Transformation and the Ohio Department of Medicaid. They later came back online as well.

However, the websites of Ohio’s First Lady Karen Kasich, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections and the Ohio Inspector General were still down for maintenance at midnight (04:00 GMT on Monday).

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Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel tweeted about the incident

Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel posted a tweet telling “freedom-loving Americans” that radical Islam was “infiltrating the heartland”.

The New York Post said the website of the New York state town of Brookhaven was also affected.

The group known as Team System DZ has carried out a number of hacking sprees in the past, many carrying anti-Israel messages.

The US is currently holding high-level inquiries into alleged cyber attacks by Russia aimed at influencing the result of last year’s presidential election.



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