Elon Musk To Quit Advisory Panels If Trump Withdraws From Climate Deal

Elon Musk indicated that he had been trying to persuade Trump to remain part of the climate agreement.

Washington, United States:  Tesla founder and technology luminary Elon Musk said Wednesday he would quit President Donald Trump’s business advisory councils if Washington pulls out of the Paris climate accord.

Musk’s move, announced on Twitter, could deepen the rift between the tech world and the Trump administration, which have been at odds over immigration and other issues.

The comments came after media reports said Trump would withdraw from the global agreement to curb emissions. The White House did not confirm the report, and Trump himself tweeted that he would announce a decision in the “next few days.”

Musk indicated that he had been trying to persuade Trump to remain part of the climate agreement.

“Don’t know which way Paris will go, but I’ve done all I can to advise directly to POTUS, through others in WH & via councils, that we remain,” the founder of  electric carmaker Tesla and the private space exploration firm SpaceX tweeted.

Asked by another Twitter user what a decision to withdraw would mean, Musk answered, “Will have no choice but to depart councils in that case.”

Musk has been among the few from tech sector to work with the Trump administration, participating in the president’s Economic Advisory Board and Manufacturing Jobs Initiative.

In February, Uber chief Travis Kalanick quit the economic panel, saying his presence had been viewed as an endorsement of the Trump administration.

Musk, who has also faced criticism for working with Trump, stated in February that his participation “does not mean that I agree with actions by the Administration.”

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

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Trump Blasts Russia Probe, Urges Testimony From Former Adviser Page

Donald Trump has been dismissive of investigations by FBI into alleged Russian meddling in 2016 polls.

WASHINGTON:  U.S. President Donald Trump sought to insert himself into congressional probes on Russia on Wednesday, urging lawmakers to hear from one of his former advisers, Carter Page, to counter testimony by directors of the FBI and CIA.

Trump has been dismissive of investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and several congressional panels into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and potential collusion with his presidential campaign.

In a series of morning tweets, the Republican president quoted a Monday letter from Page in which he asked to address the House Intelligence Committee promptly and referred to faulty testimony from U.S. intelligence officials.

Trump accused Democrats of blocking Page’s testimony, without citing evidence but referring to an unidentified report.

“So now it is reported that the Democrats, who have excoriated Carter Page about Russia, don’t want him to testify. He blows away their case against him & now wants to clear his name by showing ‘the false or misleading testimony by James Comey, John Brennan…’ Witch Hunt!” Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to the former directors of the FBI and CIA.

Trump’s early morning tweets came as his advisers are planning to establish a “war room” to combat mounting questions about communication between Russia and his presidential campaign before and after November’s election.

However, the president’s penchant for tweeting could complicate White House efforts to tamp down the scandal if the messages appear to address the investigations.

Fellow Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have urged Trump to tweet less and more wisely. U.S. Representative Sean Duffy said the Russia investigations were becoming too much of a distraction in Trump’s 4-month-old presidency.

“I think the president should step aside from any comments, any tweets on the investigation and focus on the agenda that he ran on,” Duffy said on CNN on Wednesday. “Stop tweeting about it, stop talking about it and get about the business of your agenda.”

Republicans control both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Page, who provided a copy of his letter to Reuters, said the committee postponed an appearance scheduled for next week without giving a specific reason.

House Intelligence Committee representatives said on Wednesday the panel does not make communications public and would not comment on Page’s remarks.

Page, a businessman who worked in Russia at U.S. investment bank Merrill Lynch, advised Trump during his presidential campaign.

Russia has denied U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Moscow interfered in the election campaign to try to tilt the vote in Trump’s favor. The president has denied any collusion.

Congressional committees have contacted a parade of Trump associates and advisers, as well as former White House officials, to request information in their probes.

They include former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Trump, former campaign manager Paul Manafort, former press officer Boris Epshteyn, personal lawyer Michael Cohen and informal adviser Roger Stone.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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A Real Scorcher: NASA Probe To Fly Into Sun's Atmosphere

A new NASA mission aims to brush by the sun

Miami:  A new NASA mission aims to brush by the sun, coming closer than any spacecraft in history to its scorching heat and radiation in order to reveal how stars are made, the US space agency said Wednesday.

After liftoff from Kennedy Space Center in Florida in July 2018, the Parker Solar Probe will become the first to fly directly into the sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona.

The plan for the unmanned spacecraft is to orbit within 3.9 million miles (6.3 million kilometers) of the sun’s surface.

Temperatures in that region exceed 2,500 Fahrenheit (1,377 Celsius), for which the spacecraft is equipped with a 4.5-inch-thick (11.43 cm) carbon-composite shield.

Roughly the size of a small car, the probe will make seven flybys of the sun over a seven-year period, in what NASA described as a “mission of extremes.”

Traveling at a speed of 430,000 mph, the spacecraft will move fast — like going from New York City to Tokyo in less than a minute.

Scientists hope its data will improve forecasts of solar storms and space weather events that affect life on Earth, satellites and astronauts in space.

Time for a visit

The spacecraft will measure plasma waves and high-energy particles, and carry a white light imager to capture images of the structures through which it is flying, according to Nicola Fox, mission project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

“We will brush closely by it,” she said at an event in Chicago to unveil the mission, which NASA has touted as promising to provide humanity’s closest-ever observations of a star.

“You can learn so much from looking out the window,” Fox said. “You can see the sun is shining, you can see the birds are singing. But until you actually go out, you have no idea quite how hot it is out there or how windy it is, or what the conditions are like.”

“I think we have really come as far as we can with looking at things and now it is time to go up and pay it a visit,” she added.

A 20-day launch window for the spacecraft’s liftoff atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket opens July 31, 2018.

Re-named after astrophysicist

Initially called Solar Probe Plus, the mission was renamed after the astrophysicist Eugene Parker, 89, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago.

He published the first paper to describe solar wind — the high-speed matter and magnetism constantly escaping the sun — in 1958.

“This is the first time NASA has named a spacecraft for a living individual,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

“It’s a testament to the importance of his body of work, founding a new field of science that also inspired my own research and many important science questions NASA continues to study and further understand every day.”

Parker, who is days away from his 90th birthday, described the mission as “very exciting.”

“One would like to have some more detailed measurements of what’s going on in the solar wind,” he said.

“I’m sure that there will be some surprises,” he added. “There always are.”

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CNN Fires Comedian Kathy Griffin Over Decapitated Donald Trump Photo

Kathy Griffin continues to drown in backlash over a gruesome photo shoot that enraged President Donald Trump, drew widespread bipartisan criticism and has now cost Griffin her longtime New Year’s Eve co-host job with CNN.

Griffin’s firing by CNN came hours after she apologized for the shocking picture in which she was seen holding a prop of Trump’s bloody, severed head.

In a video posted on social media, Griffin said she crossed the line and that the image was too disturbing.

“I sincerely apologize. I am just now seeing the reaction of these images,” the 56-year-old comedian and reality TV star said of the picture.

The president tweeted Wednesday morning to attack Griffin over the widely denounced image, which Trump called “sick!”

“Kathy Griffin should be ashamed of herself. My children, especially my 11 year old son, Barron, are having a hard time with this. Sick!”

CNN, where Griffin has co-hosted a New Year’s Eve program since 2007, initially called the picture “disgusting and offensive.” Her New Year’s Eve co-host, Anderson Cooper, tweeted that he was “appalled by the photo shoot.”

On Wednesday afternoon, CNN said it has terminated its agreement with Griffin.

Multiple members of the Trump family have spoken out against Griffin.

In a statement, first lady Melania Trump said that “as a mother, a wife, and a human being, that photo is very disturbing. When you consider some of the atrocities happening in the world today, a photo opportunity like this is simply wrong and makes you wonder about the mental health of the person who did it.”

Donald Trump Jr. was especially incensed, tweeting the photo was “disgusting but not surprising.”

Griffin, a veteran stand-up comedian and actress who has won two Emmys for her reality show “My Life on the D List,” had shared the image in a now-deleted tweet.

“I caption this ‘there was blood coming out of his eyes, blood coming out of his . . . wherever,'” she wrote Tuesday.

In a second tweet, she added: “OBVIOUSLY, I do not condone ANY violence by my fans or others to anyone, ever! I’m merely mocking the Mocker in Chief.”

The photo was shot by Tyler Shields, whose own biography notes that he is “recognized as ‘Hollywood’s favorite photographer,'” having evolved from the “‘bad boy of photography,’ with his controversial bloodstained photographic series featuring Lindsay Lohan.”

Griffin said Tuesday night that she has asked Shields to take down the image.

Criticism came from liberals and conservatives, including former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Chelsea Clinton.

Clinton called the photo “vile and wrong.”

Responding to a comment that “it’s also ‘art’, it doesn’t hurt anyone,” Clinton said of Griffin and her gory photo: “I can both respect her right to freedom of speech, which I do, and think it’s not funny and not ok.”

Another company also distanced itself from Griffin: The Utah-based producer of Squatty Potty toilet stools and Unicorn Gold bathroom products said it was suspending a new ad campaign starring the comedian.

“We were shocked and disappointed to learn about the image Ms. Griffin shared today,” Squatty Potty chief executive Bobby Edwards said in a statement. “It was deeply inappropriate and runs contrary to the core values our company stands for. In response, Squatty Potty has suspended its ad campaign featuring Ms. Griffin. We have acted swiftly and decisively to demonstrate our commitment to a culture of decency, civility, and tolerance.”

Griffin has been critical of Trump in the past.

Speaking with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews about Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress, she said “he just says one hateful thing after the other. He’s so embarrassing.”

On “The View,” she called Trump “insufferable.”

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly before Griffin’s apology, Shields, the photographer, said that he and the comedian had discussed doing something. She told him: “I’m not afraid to get political if you want or make a statement if you want.”

Shields added: “Fortunately, we have freedom of speech and all art is generally protected by these things, but again, this was her first thought, ‘Will you bail me out of jail?’ You know, again, it wasn’t, ‘I don’t want to do this because I might go to jail.’ It was like, ‘Well, I’m gonna do it and whatever happens, happens.'”

Regarding potential backlash, he said: “It’s this thing of, ‘Well, I want everyone to like me. I want everyone to like the work that I make, especially young artists.’ You want people to love you, but part of that is that if you make things that are polarizing, people are gonna hate it. I think there will be a lot of people who will absolutely hate this, but again, that’s the beauty of it. That’s the fun of making things.

“Am I saying that anyone should actually be killed? No, it’s like a movie. How many movies are there where the president gets killed or this happens? Tons upon tons. But again, when it’s an image, especially an image like this, people don’t see it like that. They see it as reality and that’s why it’s so shocking to some people.”

The photographer told the New York Daily News that “when you make art, you can do anything you want.”

But Griffin said that ultimately she and Shields went too far.

“I understand how it offends people. It wasn’t funny – I get it,” she said in her Tuesday night apology. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my career. I will continue. I ask your forgiveness. Taking down the image. Going to ask the photographer to take down the image. And I beg for your forgiveness. I went too far. I made a mistake and I was wrong.”

The Washington Post’s Krissah Thompson contributed to this report.

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

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'Cash for hacking tools' sparks debate

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Security researchers are considering buying undetected software security vulnerabilities from a notorious group of hackers.

The Shadow Brokers group has previously leaked exploits allegedly stolen from the US National Security Agency (NSA), and is offering more for sale.

Some researchers want to buy the next batch of hacking tools, and help fix them before cyber-criminals strike.

But critics argue that the Shadow Brokers should not be funded.


Security holes in operating systems such as Windows 10, Android and Apple’s iOS can give governments and criminals a backdoor in to their targets’ devices.

The Shadow Brokers group wants to sell a new batch of such exploits in June, for about $22,000 (£17,000) in virtual currency.

On Tuesday, two security researchers set up a crowd-funding campaign to buy access to the exploits, so that they could be fixed instead.

“We have seen credible threats from the Shadow Brokers,” said Matthew Hickey from the cyber-security firm Hacker House, who set up the crowd-funding campaign.

“They have come good on previous promises to release tools, and one of them was involved in the spread of WannaCry ransomware.

“When somebody is releasing tools of that calibre and says they have more to release, I’m sure people would be happy to pay $20,000 to prevent them getting out.”

However, the idea has divided the cyber-security community.


“There’s a 50-50 split on whether it is a good idea and whether it would encourage Shadow Brokers to continue their activities,” Mr Hickey told the BBC.

Others were more outspoken: “Individuals and corps funding criminals is insane,” said security researcher Kevin Beaumont.

“Here’s an idea – [the NSA] should inform all vendors of bugs now since they’re being traded on black market,” he tweeted.

According to the Washington Post, the NSA informed Microsoft about some of the hacking tools that were stolen.

But Mr Hickey argued more needed to be done.

“If these tools have originated from the NSA, they should make a statement publicly, so that people can actively defend themselves from these threats,” he told the BBC.

The Shadow Brokers group has not detailed what buyers would get if they paid the $22,000 bounty, and has offered no guarantee that buyers would be rewarded at all.

“If you caring about loosing $20k+ Euro then not being for you… playing ‘the game’ is involving risks [sic],” the group said in a blog post.

It is demanding payment in the form of 100 ZEC – a crypto-currency called Zcash that is designed to be untraceable.

Mr Hickey admitted the crowd-funding may be fruitless in the end, but added that he was happy to give people the option.

“If we raise the money and go ahead and buy the tools, it will stop them getting into the hands of criminals,” he said.

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SpaceX Poised For Thursday Cargo Launch To Space Satation

Inside Space Station Processing Facility high bay at NASA’s Space Center. AFP PHOTO/ NASA/FRANK MICHAUX

Miami, United States:  SpaceX is poised to blast off its next delivery of food, supplies and science experiments to the astronauts living at the International Space Station on Thursday.

The launch of SpaceX’s 11th commercial resupply mission aboard an unmanned Dragon cargo ship is scheduled for 5:55 pm (2155 GMT) on June 1, and will be broadcast live on NASA’s website.

If all goes as planned, a Falcon 9 rocket will propel the Dragon into low-Earth orbit, where it will eventually connect with the space station, circling the Earth at a height of some 250 miles (400 kilometers).

The cargo ship should arrive Sunday at 8:30 am (1230 GMT).

It is packed with almost 6,000 pounds (2,700 kilograms) of science research, crew supplies and hardware.

The supplies for special experiments include live mice to study the effects of osteoporosis and fruit flies for research on microgravity’s impact on the heart.

The spacecraft is also loaded with solar panels and equipment to study neutron stars.

The weather forecast for Thursday’s launch was 70 percent favorable, NASA said.

If the launch is postponed for any reason, another opportunity opens at 5:07 pm (2107 GMT) Saturday, June 3.

The launch will be the 100th from NASA’s historic launch pad 39A, the starting point for the Apollo missions to the Moon in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as a total of 82 shuttle flights.

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Everything You Need To Know About Paris Agreement

Developed countries, which have polluted for longer, must take the lead with absolute emissions cuts.

Paris, France:  On December 12, 2015, 195 countries gathered in the French capital to conclude the first truly universal climate treaty, the Paris Agreement, aimed at preventing the worst-case scenarios of global warming.

On Wednesday, US media reported that President Donald Trump was poised to announce the United States’ withdrawal from the pact, which took nearly two decades of often-acrimonious bartering and much give-and-take to conclude.

The Palestinian authorities have since also signed the agreement, which has now been officially ratified by 147 parties and entered into force in record time on November 4, 2016, when it crossed the threshold of 55 ratifying parties representing 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Even without the US, which ratified the pact under Barack Obama in September 2016, the 55/55 threshold is met.

The goal

Nations agreed to hold global warming to “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels, and to strive for a limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The lower goal was a demand of poor countries and island states at high risk of climate change effects such as rising sea levels.

But experts say even the two-degree ceiling is a tall order, requiring an immediate and deep reduction in planet-warming emissions from burning fossil fuels — an industry with major influence in Washington.

Based on voluntary emissions-cutting pledged by countries so far, the planet is on track for warming of about three degrees, many scientists say — a recipe for possibly catastrophic floods, storms, drought and ocean-level increases.

Without the US administration on board, the goal may move even further out of reach.

Getting there

The signatories will aim for emissions to peak “as soon as possible”, with “rapid reductions” thereafter.

By the second half of this century, according to the pact, there must be a balance between emissions from human activities such as energy production and farming, and the amount that can be absorbed by carbon-absorbing “sinks” such as forests or storage technology.


Developed countries, which have polluted for longer, must take the lead with absolute emissions cuts.

Developing nations, which still burn coal and oil to power growing populations and economies, are encouraged to “continue enhancing” their efforts and “move over time” towards absolute cuts.

Tracking progress

In 2018, and every five years thereafter, countries will take stock of the overall impact of their efforts to rein in global warming, according to the text.

It “urges” and “requests” countries to update their pledges by 2020.

Some nations, including the United States, set emissions-curbing targets for 2025, others for 2030. Both categories are meant to be updated every five years.


Rich countries are expected to provide funding to help developing countries make the costly shift to cleaner energy sources and to shore up defences against the impacts of climate change.

Donor nations must report every two years on their financing levels — current and intended.

In a nonbinding “decision” that accompanies the agreement but is not included in it, the $100 billion (89 billion euros) per year that rich countries have pledged to muster by 2020 is referred to as a “floor” — meaning it can only go up.

The amount must be updated by 2025.

According to an OECD report, pledges made in 2015 alone would boost public climate financing (excluding private money) to $67 billion in 2020.

But Trump has hinted that the United States, which had pledged $3 billion towards the Green Climate Fund, of which it delivered $1 billion under Barack Obama, will not honour its financing commitments.


The agreement makes provision for parties to withdraw, but notice can be given only three years after its entry into force in 2016. The actual withdrawal would take effect a year later — meaning 2020 if the Trump administration uses this option.

A country can also withdraw from the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, under whose auspices the deal was negotiated. Withdrawal would take effect a year after notification.

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Messaging app Telegram centrepiece of IS social media strategy

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The Islamic State militant group (IS) is fighting on many fronts against those seeking to defeat it. One of those fronts is a digital one.

IS puts media warfare on a par with its battle on the ground and often glorifies “media martyrs” – people who are killed while creating videos and other digital content for the group.

Like many other such groups, IS has been an enthusiastic user of social media and the web, broadcasting propaganda about its successes and using it as a recruitment tool.

Although a long-time user of social media, IS activities took a significant turn in September 2015 when the group’s official media outlets took to the messaging app Telegram. The move to the encrypted messaging service came after a long-running conflict with Twitter, which regularly shut down IS accounts, and some experimentation with less well-known platforms from which it was also expelled.

The timing was significant because that was the moment when Telegram set up the “channel” feature, letting users broadcast to an unlimited number of other users – a tool that many online jihadists were quick to exploit.

The move to Telegram did not go unnoticed and IS went underground in August 2016 after its official accounts were repeatedly suspended.

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Nashir/Nashir News Agency

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IS’s official outlet logo, Nashir, (L) and Nashir News Agency’s logo (R)

But IS media operatives set up lots of separate channels that simply repeated or mirrored what appeared on the official channel.

These channels simultaneously stream material produced by IS’s central media operation, including its self-styled news agency Amaq, and are described as being dedicated to distributing official IS news.

The mirror channels, called the Nashir News Agency, have also regularly been suspended.

To circumvent this, their administrators use a stealthy approach in which they set up a user or channel and allow it to build up a substantial following before suddenly switching it to the easily recognisable IS mirror brand.

The channels continuously promote new join-up links for their proliferating replica versions, calling on IS supporters to distribute them further.

Some channels, whose promotion on popular social media platforms is prohibited, are designed to maintain a lower profile to avoid suspension.

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IS supporters enjoy relative freedom to post material on Telegram

This enables them to attract a significant number of followers but the channels are usually removed before this exceeds 1,000.

Such numbers suffice to get IS’s message out for distribution by online supporters.

Prominent pro-IS figures reliably stream the group’s propaganda alongside other content. But IS’s strong media branding renders the group’s material easily recognisable among other fare.

Telegram does not allow comprehensive searches of public content, which means that the number of pro-jihad users cannot be accurately gauged.

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IS propaganda

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Nashir agency boasted that it had 100 replica channels on Telegram

In mid-April, the Nashir agency published a poster congratulating itself on setting up 100 mirror accounts – and there are now said to be more than 130.

This was shortly followed by a campaign to celebrate 12 months of Nashir agency’s operation. As part of the campaign, the outlet called for admirers and readers to send in articles and images praising its work, which they did in large numbers.

These promotional campaigns appeared to be an effort to buoy morale among IS supporters who enjoy relative freedom to post material on Telegram.

The BBC has asked Telegram to comment on IS-related activity on its service but has not received a reply.

Telegram has advertised its daily efforts to take down pro-IS channels since December last year.

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IS propaganda

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Nashir agency recently trumpeted the anniversary of its online presence

In another recent move, Nashir agency has switched from just being a mouthpiece for IS to urging its followers on Telegram to spread content via Twitter and Facebook.

It has advertised its own accounts on those platforms, which have repeatedly been suspended. It has also launched accounts on Instagram and set up English-language feeds for the first time.

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Five people were killed in the Westminster attack

The outlet now posts IS material in Arabic and English translation via its main feeds – the latest step of an initiative to post in English that began after the Westminster attack on 22 March.

These moves by Nashir agency to expand its reach have followed criticism by IS supporters on Telegram that pro-IS channels were preaching to the converted and should step up their efforts on other platforms.

IS has sought to cultivate the commitment of virtual foot-soldiers by highlighting their importance in its war.

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Alhareth Alrawi

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IS supporters are encouraged to spread the group’s propaganda on popular social media platforms

Charlie Winter of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) acknowledges the success IS has had with Telegram.

He says the messaging service’s action against pro-IS channels “seems to be very haphazard”.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has also named Telegram among tech firms she wants to be tougher on pro-jihad users.

Mr Winter adds that IS’s efforts to expose unsuspecting audiences to its propaganda on other, more popular platforms now meet with much less success.

IS might regularly post content specifically designed for Twitter, but this attempt at “amplification” no longer goes well, he says.

The group is still most successful on Telegram but its reliance on it could come at a cost, as supporters flock to the app instead of pushing the IS message to audiences elsewhere.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte Slams Chelsea Clinton Over Rape Criticism

Rodrigo Duterte angrily hit back at Chelsea Clinton for criticising remarks he made about rape.

Manila, Philippines:  Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte angrily hit back Wednesday at Chelsea Clinton for criticising remarks he made about rape, using vulgar language while referring to her father’s infidelities as American president.

Duterte on Friday told soldiers they could rape up to three women, in a speech aimed at reassuring them of his full support as they enforced his newly imposed martial law on the south of the Philippines.

“Not funny. Ever,” wrote the daughter of ex-US president Bill Clinton and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton on her Twitter account.

In a second post she wrote: “Duterte is a murderous thug with no regard for human rights. It’s important to keep pointing that out & that rape is never a joke.”

At the end of a long speech to naval officers and their families on Wednesday, Duterte said he was just being sarcastic as he took aim at people who criticised his rape remarks but particularly Clinton.

“These whores, they hear ‘rape’. Like, like Chelsea, she slammed me. I was not joking, I was being sarcastic. Listen to the speech. I do not laugh at my own jokes,” said Duterte, 72.

“I will tell her, when your father, the president of the United States, was screwing Lewinsky and the girls in the White House, how did you feel? Did you slam your father?”

Duterte was referring to Bill Clinton’s acknowledged affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

Duterte then accused American soldiers of raping women in the Philippines and Japan, without giving details, before returning to Clinton.

“You Americans, like Chelsea, be careful because you live in a glass house,” he said.

“I repeat, when president Clinton was fucking Lewinsky, what was your statement or your reaction?”

Duterte, who uses profanities regularly, also attracted controversy last year when during an election campaign speech he said he had wanted to rape a “beautiful” Australian missionary who had been murdered in a Philippine prison riot.

The Australian and American ambassadors to Manila voiced their disapproval at those comments, but Duterte reacted furiously then while insisting he had been taken out of context.

Duterte also frequently launches obscenity-filled tirades against critics of his drug war, which has seen thousands of people killed and led to warnings from rights groups that he may be orchestrating a crime against humanity.

Duterte last year called then US president Barack Obama a “son of a whore” for criticising the drug war.

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

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Exxon shareholders back 'historic vote on climate

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Shareholders in Exxon Mobil have backed a motion requiring the company to assess the risks from climate change.

The plan, proposed by investors including the Church of England, was supported by over 62% of those eligible to vote.

The vote comes as US media reports that President Trump is poised to pull out of the Paris climate agreement.

Exxon will now have to consider how global efforts to mitigate climate change will impact their business.

Did Exxon know?

Long seen as the last bastion of opposition to action on rising temperatures, Exxon Mobil is the world’s largest publicly traded oil company.

They’ve recently been under investigation by some state authorities in the US.

They’ve been accused of allegedly concealing information from shareholders on when the company first realised that human emissions of carbon were driving up global temperatures.

Previous attempts by activists to force the company to take the impact of climate change into account failed. Last year, the motion gained just over 38% of shareholder support.

The resolution, filed by the Church Commissioners for England and New York State Comptroller Thomas P DiNapoli, asked Exxon to report on how its business model will be affected by global efforts to limit the average rise in temperatures to below 2C.

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Rex Tillerson, Exxon’s former CEO, is now US Secretary of State

This year, the non-binding motion secured 62.3% of the votes, indicating that some of the bigger investor groups must have sided with climate activists.

“This is an historic vote – despite strong opposition from the board, the majority of Exxon’s shareholders have sent an unequivocal signal to the company that it must do much more to disclose the impact on its business of measures to combat climate change,” said Edward Mason, head of responsible investment for the Church Commissioners.

“We are grateful to all of the investors who supported the proposal, and we call on the company to begin urgent engagement with shareholders on how to bring its disclosures in line with those of its peers.”

While the motion is non-binding observers say there will be increased pressure on the company to report on the impacts of climate change and the restrictions on fossil fuels being considered as part of the Paris climate agreement.

Exxon Mobil was one of the last hold-outs among major oil companies on the issue of climate change. Earlier in May, Occidental Petroleum shareholders also passed a similar motion in a vote at its annual meeting.

Other major producers including BP and ConocoPhillips already publish reports on how rising temperatures would impact their businesses.

“This extraordinary result, on the heels of the majority Occidental vote, indicates growing institutional investor concern,” said Robert Schuwerk, a senior counsel at the Carbon Tracker Initiative.

“Climate change is now front and centre in investors’ engagement. As Exxon is a standard bearer for the oil and gas industry, smaller companies should take note and respond accordingly.”

Some shareholders were quick to point out the irony of Exxon finally taking this step on a day when US media reports indicated the President Trump was about to pull the country out of the Paris climate agreement.

Follow Matt on Twitter and on Facebook.

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'My Son Having Hard Time': Trump On US Comedian Severed Head Photo

Donald Trump blasted Kathy Griffin for posing with replica of severed head resembling president.

Washington, United States:  Donald Trump castigated a well-known US comedian on Wednesday after the release of a grisly-looking photo showing her holding up a prop depicting the president’s bloodied severed head.

Kathy Griffin apologized for the picture — released on Tuesday by the celebrity photographer Tyler Shields — after a tirade of criticism from conservatives and liberals, saying in a video “I beg for your forgiveness” for having “crossed a line.”

“Kathy Griffin should be ashamed of herself,” Trump tweeted. “My children, especially my 11 year old son, Barron, are having a hard time with this. Sick!”

Griffin, an outspoken Trump critic who won two Emmy awards for her reality show “My Life on the D List,” said she would ask Shields to remove the image from the internet.

“I sincerely apologize. I’m just now seeing the reaction of these images. I’m a comic. I crossed the line,” she said in a video posted to social media late Tuesday.

“I beg for your forgiveness. I went too far. I made a mistake and I was wrong,” she added in the 31-second clip.

Among those who slammed the photograph was Trump’s son Donald Trump, Jr. “Disgusting but not surprising,” he tweeted. “This is the left today. They consider this acceptable.”

“Our politics have become too base, too low & too vulgar, but Kathy Griffin’s post descends into an even more repugnant & vile territory,” wrote defeated 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Even Trump critics vented disapproval of the picture. Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of Trump’s former election rival Hillary — called the picture “vile and wrong.”

“It is never funny to joke about killing a president,” she tweeted.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who co-hosts a New Year’s Eve program with Griffin on the network, tweeted that he was “appalled” by the photo shoot.

“It is clearly disgusting and completely inappropriate,” he added.

CNN called the picture “disgusting and offensive” in a statement, adding that it was “evaluating our New Year’s coverage.”

The Secret Service said it would look into the incident, posting on Twitter that “threats made against @SecretService protectees receive the highest priority of all of our investigations.”

Squatty Potty, a Utah-based bathroom products company, suspended an advertising campaign featuring Griffin, calling the picture “deeply inappropriate” and “contrary to the core values our company stands for.”

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G4S rejoins FTSE 100 as Debenhams drops out of FTSE 250

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In the latest reshuffle of the FTSE share market indexes, security company G4S is rejoining the FTSE 100.

But department store Debenhams has lost its spot in the broader FTSE 250, alongside online electrical retailer, AO World.

Debenhams is in the process of implementing an investment programme which involves closing some of its stores and warehouses temporarily.

The changes to the indexes will take effect on 19 June.

Property company, Segro will also join the FTSE 100, while Hikma Pharmaceuticals and Intu Properties will be demoted.

Joining the FTSE 250 are thread manufacturer Coats Group and turnaround specialists Melrose Industries.

On Wednesday Melrose announced a £144m bonus package to be shared between four of its top executives and further bonuses for a wider group of senior managers.

Also moving into the FTSE 250 are: IT services company FDM Group; hedge fund Pershing Square Holdings; fertiliser company Sirius Minerals; and the Georgian TBC Bank Group.

Leaving the FTSE 250 along with Debenhams and AO World are: the intellectual property group, Allied Minds; investment specialist, BH Macro; engineering business Keller; and private equity firm SVG Capital.

The make up of the FTSE 100 and 250 indexes is reviewed on a quarterly basis.

As the market value of companies change, they can drop in or out of the indexes which are adjusted four times a year.

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Taiwan Lodges Complaint With Carrier Emirates Over Flag Pin Email

Emirates is not ordering its Taiwanese crew to wear China’s flag badge, the ministry said.

SHANGHAI/TAIPEI:  Taiwan’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday it had protested to Dubai-based airline Emirates over reports that the carrier asked Taiwanese cabin crew to stop wearing the flag of the self-ruled island on their uniforms, under pressure from Beijing.

Screenshots of an internal email purportedly sent to Emirates staff circulated online this week, telling cabin crew to use the Chinese flag instead of Taiwanese flag pins. The directive was linked to a demand from the Chinese government, the email said.

China regards Taiwan as a renegade province after defeated Nationalists fled there in 1949, after losing a civil war to the Communists. Beijing has not ruled out the use of force to bring the self-governed island under its control.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry told Reuters its representative office in Dubai had protested to Emirates.

“A few hours later the company e-mailed to apologize, and said the request was not correct and was not appropriate, but that it still asked Taiwanese crew members to not wear any flag badge, including our flag,” the ministry said in a statement.

Emirates is not ordering its Taiwanese crew to wear China’s flag badge, the ministry said.

Emirates did not comment directly on the screenshots, but said that an internal email on Tuesday told cabin crew to remove a flag pin from their uniforms and replace it with another.

“This email was sent in error and has since been retracted. Our intent is to recall the flag pins worn by all our cabin crew as part of our uniform update,” an Emirates spokeswoman said.

“All cabin crew are no longer required to wear a flag pin as part of their uniform. Emirates apologises for the communication error.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying told a daily briefing she had not heard of the incident and did not know anything about it.

Relations between the two sides have cooled since Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took power last year, because she refuses to concede the self-ruled island is part of China, and Beijing fears she wants to push it toward formal independence.

“Recently, China has repeatedly pressured us on political factors, harming the rights of our nationals. This is very improper and the wrong behaviour. We cannot accept this,” the island’s China policymaker, the Mainland Affairs Council, said in a statement when asked about the matter by Reuters.

Emirates flies to five cities, including Beijing and Zhengzhou in mainland China, which is set to overtake the United States as the world’s largest aviation market by 2024. It flies daily from Dubai to Taipei.

Hundreds of Internet users left images of the Taiwanese flag and comments on Emirates Facebook page on Wednesday, criticising the internal email.

“Even if the one-China policy is to be respected, they should have tried discussing this problem and finding an alternative solution with their Taiwanese employees before issuing such a letter,” said a user who goes by the name Barton Cheng.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Basildon Council fined £150,000 for traveller family data breach

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Basildon Council published information about a traveller family’s disabilities

A council has been fined £150,000 for publishing sensitive personal information about a traveller family on its website.

Basildon Council released details about the family’s disabilities, including mental health issues, in a planning application.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) says the authority failed to remove the personal data.

The council said it was taking legal advice and has 28 days to appeal.

Basildon Council breached the Data Protection Act when it published the information in planning application documents which it made publicly available online, the ICO said.

Its investigation found the authority received a written statement in support of a planning application for proposed works on green belt land on 16 July 2015.

The statement contained sensitive personal data relating to the traveller family who had lived on the site for several years.

‘Serious incident’

The ICO said an inexperienced council officer did not notice the personal information, and there was no procedure in place for a second person to check it before it was published online.

The information was only removed on 4 September 2015 when the concerns came to light.

ICO enforcement manager Sally Anne Poole said: “This was a serious incident in which highly sensitive personal data, including medical information, was made publicly available.

“Planning applications in themselves can be controversial and emotive, so to include such sensitive information and leave it out there for all to see for several weeks is simply unacceptable.”

A Basildon Council spokesman said: “The council has been given 28 days in which to lodge an appeal against this decision. We are taking advice and considering our position.”

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Heavily-Armed Man Arrested At Trump Hotel In Washington

A heavily-armed man was arrested at Trump International Hotel in Washington (AFP)

Washington:  A man armed with a semi-automatic rifle was arrested in the early hours of Wednesday at Trump International Hotel in the US capital, averting what police called a “potential disaster.”

Alerted by authorities in Pennsylvania, officers of the Metropolitan Police Department detained a man from the state, identified as Brian Moles, 43, at around 1 am at the hotel a short distance from the White House.

In his car, they recovered an AR-15 semi-automatic assault style rifle, a handgun and ammunition, police chief Peter Newsham told a news conference. Moles was arrested for illegal possession of firearms.

“The officers and our federal partners… averted a potential disaster in the nation’s capital,” Newsham said.

Mayor Muriel Bowser described it as a “disturbing incident” that was “resolved quickly and peacefully.”

The police chief said his department and the Secret Service had received information that an adult male was travelling to the District of Columbia, possibly the Trump International Hotel, armed with weapons.

The US Secret Service — which is tasked with protecting Donald Trump and his family among others — issued a statement on the incident, saying that “at no time were any Secret Service protectees at risk,” and that the investigation was ongoing.

Trump has dined several times at his Washington hotel since taking office in January.

The Secret Service is also tasked with protecting the vice president and family, as well as former US heads of state and their relatives, visiting dignitaries and any other individual designated by the president.

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Saudi King Salman Earns More Retweets Than Donald Trump, Says Study

The world leader whose original tweets generate the most retweets is Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.

Geneva, Switzerland:  Donald Trump may be lighting up Twitter with strange new words and attacks on allies but in the battle for most attention per tweet the US president is losing.   

The world leader whose original tweets generate the most retweets is Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, according the latest “Twiplomacy” study by communications firm Burson-Martsteller.

In terms of output, there is no contest: the Saudi king only tweeted 10 times during the period covered by the study — April 2016 to May 20 of this year.

But those 10 tweets were each retweeted more than 147,000 times on average, dwarfing Trump’s 13,100 average retweets per tweet, said the study, the sixth of its kind by Burson-Martsteller.

“He (King Salman) posts exclusively in Arabic and without any visuals, but every tweet is a digital home run,” said the report, which was based on analysis of 856 official and personal Twitter accounts of leaders in 178 countries.

Retweets are only one measure of influence on the social media platform and Trump is gaining ground elsewhere.

With the internet poking fun at his use of the word “covfefe” in a post on Wednesday, which followed his assertion on Twitter that US-German trade was “very bad” for Americans, the report found that @realDonaldTrump could be the most followed world leader account by August.

Pope Francis is currently in the lead with a combined 33,716,301 followers over his nine language accounts.

Trump lags by about 3.5 million followers but his account has grown by 5.7 percent per month during the US election and start of his presidency, putting him on track to overtake the pontiff, the report said.   

Prime Minister Narendra Modi stood in third place with 30,058,659 followers.

For all of the news that Trump has generated on Twitter, Burson-Martsteller found that other leaders rarely engage with him on the platform.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Marshall Islands leader Hilda Heine and Puerto Rico’s governor Ricky Rossello and the only three who have directly addressed @realDonaldTrump, the report said.

The pope and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have however engaged with Trump via subtweets, a form of posting typically used for criticism, it added.

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Malaysia Airlines Flight Returns Melbourne Due To 'Disruptive Passenger'

The flight departed Melbourne Airport at 2311 local time and returned at 2341, Malaysia Airlines said.

KUALA LUMPUR:  Malaysia Airlines said its Flight MH128 from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur returned to Melbourne shortly after take off late on Wednesday due to a disruptive passenger.

The aircraft landed safely at Melbourne airport and was sent to a remote bay where the passenger was apprehended by airport security, the airline said.

MH128 returned to Melbourne “after the operating captain was alerted by a cabin crew of a passenger attempting to enter the cockpit”, the airline said in a statement.

The flight departed Melbourne Airport at 2311 local time and returned at 2341, Malaysia Airlines said.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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China data protection tightened in new laws

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Strict new cyber-security legislation is not aimed at limiting foreign companies operating in the country, Chinese officials have said.

The law, due to come into effect on 1 June, bans the collection and sale of users’ personal information.

Firms will also have to store user data on servers inside China, and people will be given the right to have their information deleted.

International business groups have appealed against its implementation.


In a letter to the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) seen by the Reuters news agency, a group representing European business interests warned that it would lead to “great uncertainties and compliance risks”.

The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China told the CAC that the law was “fraught with weaknesses” and called for its introduction to be delayed to “allow sufficient discussion”.

But the CAC said the law would come into force this week as planned.

“The purpose is to safeguard [China’s] national cyber-space sovereignty and national security… rather than to restrict foreign enterprises,” it said in a statement on its website.

“It does not restrict foreign companies or their technology and products entering the Chinese market, neither does it limit the orderly, free flow of data in accordance with the law.”

‘Orderly development’

The legislation comes in at the same time as tighter regulations governing online news content.

Companies that publish, share or edit news will need government-issued licences to operate, and senior staff must be approved by the authorities.

Organisations that do not have a licence will not be allowed to post news or commentary about the government, economy, military, foreign affairs, and “other areas of public interest”.

When those measures were announced, the CAC said they would “promote the healthy and orderly development of internet news”.

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German Court Denies Parents Access To Dead Teen's Facebook Account

A German court rejects demand by parents of dead teenage girl for access to her Facebook account.

Berlin:  A German court on Wednesday backed online giant Facebook in its battle to reject a demand by the parents of a dead teenage girl for access to her  account.

The 15-year-old was killed by a Berlin underground train in 2012 and her parents have been trying since to establish if she committed suicide by jumping onto the tracks.

They want access to her Facebook account to examine if she had ever mentioned a death wish in chats with friends or in any posts.

A first Berlin court had ruled in favour of the parents’ request, finding that the contents of the girl’s Facebook account are part of her legacy.

The panel found that emails and Facebook entries were similar to letters and diaries, which “can be inherited regardless of their content”.

But on Wednesday, an appeals court ruled in favour of the US online group, which argued that opening up the account would compromise the privacy of the teenager’s contacts.

Facebook has faced increased scrutiny in Germany, where authorities have proposed heavy fines if online social networks fail to wipe illegal hate speech from their sites.

In a recent high-profile court case, the website clinched victory against a Syrian refugee whose selfie with Chancellor Angela Merkel made him the target of racist trolls.

The refugee had sought to get the online group to search out and delete defamatory posts, but the court ruled that it was unclear whether Facebook was able to conduct such searches without surmounting major technical hurdles.

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

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Timeline Of Kabul Attacks Since 2016

A timeline of the worst attacks in the Afghan capital over the past year and a half.

Kabul:  A massive truck bomb ripped through Kabul’s diplomatic quater on Wednesday, killing at least 80 people and wounding over 300.

Here are some of the worst attacks in the Afghan capital over the past year and a half:


January 20: A Taliban suicide bomber rams his car into a minibus belonging to television channel Tolo, killing seven of its employees, in the first major attack on the Afghan media.

February 1: Twenty police officers are killed and 29 people injured in a Taliban suicide attack on a police base in Kabul.

February 27: A suicide bomber blows himself up outside the defence ministry, killing 12 in an attack claimed by the Taliban.

April 19: A truck bomb followed by a shootout leaves 64 people dead and more than 340 injured in central Kabul in a Taliban-claimed attack.

May 25: Ten people are killed in a Taliban suicide attack targeting a minibus carrying court employees in a western Kabul suburb.

June 20: Fourteen Nepalese security guards employed by Western embassies are killed on the outskirts of Kabul, in a Taliban assault.

June 30: A double suicide attack  by the Taliban against a convoy of police recruits leaves 30 dead.

July 23: ISIS jihadists claim responsibility for twin explosions that rips through crowds of Shiite Hazaras in Kabul, killing at least 85 people and wounding more than 400.

August 25: Sixteen people are killed after terrorists storm the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, in a nearly 10-hour raid that was not claimed.

September 5: A double Taliban attack near the defence ministry leaves 41 dead and more than a hundred injured.

Overnight a third attack, which was not claimed, targets aid group CARE International in central Kabul. Six are injured.

October 12: ISIS claim responsibility for an attack on a shrine that kills at least 18 people gathering to mark Ashura, one of the most important Shiite festivals.

October 19: Two Americans including a civilian are killed when a gunman opens fire near a NATO base in Kabul, with Afghan officials calling it an “insider attack”.

November 21: A massive suicide blast targeting Shiites kills at least 27 people and wounds 64 at a Kabul mosque in another sectarian attack claimed by ISIS.


January 10: Twin blasts near the Afghan parliament kill 38 people and wound 86.

February 7: A suicide bomb rips through a crowd of Supreme Court employees, killing at least 20 and wounding 41. No group claims responsibility.

March 1: Sixteen people are killed in simultaneous Taliban suicide assaults on two security compounds.

March 8: Gunmen disguised as doctors storm Afghanistan’s largest military hospital in a six-hour attack officially claimed by ISIS. The official death toll is 50 but security sources and survivors say it exceeded 100.

May 3: A powerful blast targeting a foreign forces convoy near the US embassy and NATO headquarters kills at least eight people and wounds 28 during morning rush hour.

May 31:  At least 80 people are killed and hundreds wounded when a massive truck bomb rips through Kabul’s diplomatic quarter, shattering windows hundreds of metres away.

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

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Space Junk Could Destroy Satellites, Hurt Economies

The growing number of space debris orbiting the Earth could lead to collisions with satellites

Sydney:  The growing amount of fast-moving space debris orbiting the Earth could lead to catastrophic collisions with satellites, hurting economies, researchers warned Wednesday ahead of a summit to coordinate efforts to remove the junk.

There are an estimated 170 million pieces of so-called “space junk” — left behind after missions that can be as big as spent rocket stages or as small as paint flakes — in orbit alongside some US$700 billion of space infrastructure.

But only 22,000 are tracked, and with the fragments able to travel at speeds above 27,000kmh (16,777 mph), even tiny pieces could seriously damage or destroy satellites.

“The space junk problem has been getting worse every year,” Ben Greene, head of Australia’s Space Environment Research Centre which is hosting the two-day conference of international space environment scientists in Canberra, told AFP.

“We’re losing three or four satellites a year now to space debris collision. We’re very close, NASA estimates, of within five to 10 years of losing everything.”

Greene added in a statement that “a catastrophic avalanche of collisions which could quickly destroy all orbiting satellites is now possible”, noting that more collisions were creating extra debris.

With society heavily dependent on satellites for communication and navigation, and powering key industries such as transport, finance and energy, the growing cosmic junkyard could threaten economies.

“The Australian economy is entirely dependent on space,” Greene said. “We’re a big country with few people and the only way we can service it, whether it’s with surveillance, safety or search-and-rescue, is from space.”

The barriers to entry for building spacecraft were also falling, making it easier for firms to launch their own objects, said space debris expert Moriba Jah from the University of Texas, who is at the conference.

“I believe that we are certainly on a path to what I call a tragedy of the commons,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, adding that a major collision was “inevitable” without action to tackle the problem.

“You’ve driven on the roads here when you have a lot of mist or fog, and you have to go really slow, and you just don’t know what’s really around you. That’s the perfect analogy to space right now,” Jah said.

Greene said scientists were developing technologies set to be operational in 18 months to track all debris so spacecraft could move around them.

Another idea in the works was Earth-based high-powered lasers that could be fired into space to “push the debris around a little bit”, with the programme 75 percent ready, he added.

An experimental Japanese mission to clear space junk using an electrodynamic ‘tether’ to slow down the orbiting rubbish and bring it into a lower orbit ended in failure in February.

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

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Tube tunnel wi-fi plan to be launched

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Lauren Hurley

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London is behind other major capitals in terms of wi-fi access on its transport network

London Tube passengers will soon be able to use their mobile phones in underground tunnels as part of plans to be announced after the election.

Commuters can currently use their phones at station concourses and platforms but not in tunnels.

London lags behind other major capitals for mobile phone coverage on its transport network.

Metro passengers in Paris, New York, Berlin, Seoul and Tokyo have enjoyed wi-fi services for several years.

Eliminating so-called “not spots” in Tube tunnels was among London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s manifesto pledges during last year’s race for City Hall.

The BBC understands Transport for London (TfL) and Mr Khan will invite telecoms firms to bid to build the infrastructure to provide Underground 4G wi-fi coverage next month.

London Underground is one of the most high profile “not spots” in the country, and the mayor is understood to be keen to improve connectivity across the capital.

Analysis: Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC technology correspondent:

Anyone who has travelled on the London Underground recently will be familiar with the scene inside a packed carriage – passengers sitting or standing in silence, glued to their smartphones.

This was the case even before Virgin Media built a wireless network which allows internet connectivity on the platform, if not on the trains.

But imagine how much more intense the screen addiction would become if 4G came to the Tube?

I first saw people phoning from underground in Seoul in South Korea more than a decade ago, so mobile connectivity has been a long time coming to London.

But maybe it’s already too late – who uses their mobile to make calls any more? And if you do take a call on the tube, be prepared for some very heavy tutting.

Companies that may be interested in bidding include BT, owner of mobile phone network EE – which boasts that it has the strongest wi-fi coverage on Tube platforms already – and Openreach, which already runs the UK’s broadband infrastructure.

Another firm likely to be interested in bidding for the contract is Australian telecoms company BAI Communications, which has recently opened offices in London and announced plans tor European expansion.

BAI Communications has previously stated its UK operation’s “main priority is the delivery of advanced wireless services to large-scale transport networks, improving cost and operational outcomes for the operators”.

City Hall insiders said some details of the tender process were still being worked out.

It is unclear whether advertising would be something commuters might have to tolerate for the luxury of enhanced wi-fi access.

A TfL spokesperson said: “We are keen to offer full mobile phone coverage for our customers. The introduction of this would need to be commercially viable and would follow engagement with staff and customers.”

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China Pleased That India Turned Down A War Games Request From Australia

A joint naval exercise called Malabar, with the United States, Japan and India participating. (Reuters)

New Delhi: 
China has welcomed reports that India has refused to allow Australia to join naval exercises with the United States and Japan in July. Beijing had earlier warned against expanding the drills.

“I have seen the relevant reports on the refusal made by India for the invitation. I think India is also clear about the consideration behind this behaviour,” said a Chinese government spokesperson Hua Chunying said today.

Last year, Chinese media sharply criticised what are known as the Malabar exercises saying that they are designed to target China.

Australia formally wrote to the Indian defense ministry in January asking if it could send naval ships to join the July wargames as an observer, according to news agency Reuters, in what military experts saw as a step toward eventual full participation.

Four officials from India, Australia and Japan told Reuters that India blocked the proposal and suggested that Canberra send officers to watch the exercises in the Bay of Bengal from the decks of the three participating countries’ warships, instead.

New Delhi is worried that China will step up activities in the Indian Ocean where it is building infrastructure in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan, feeding India’s anxiety about being encircled, Indian military sources and diplomats said.

Indian navy officials say there have been at least six submarine deployments by China in the Indian Ocean since 2013 and that Chinese submarines have been docking in Sri Lanka and its long-time ally Pakistan.

India and China relations have slumped in the last few months over a series of issues including Beijing’s blocking of Delhi’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a bloc of 48 countries that controls trade in sophisticated nuclear technology and material.

China has also been concerned that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has stepped up public engagement of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader who lives in exile in Dharamsala and whom it regards as a dangerous separatist.

The Malabar exercises started out as India-US drills in 1992 but have included Japan every year from 2014.

Dozens of warships, submarines and aircraft take part in the wargames, which are aimed at getting the three powerful navies used to working together. US military officials say this will help in future operations, including joint patrols across the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.

The exercises are now held in waters close to the East and South China Sea as well as the Indian Ocean.

China, which claims most of the South China Sea, has protested the expansion. An Australian official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, told Reuters that it was increasingly unlikely Canberra would join the drills although it was keen to do so – Australia has also traditionally been wary of upsetting China, its largest trading partner.

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How Priyanka Chopra's Baywatch Could Have Been A Funnier Movie

Priyanka Chopra and Zac Efron in Baywatch.

Washington:  The remake of Baywatch that drifted ashore this weekend is distinguished mostly by the presence of Dwayne Johnson – one of the most popular movie stars in America and a man I might have accidentally turned into a presidential candidate – and a couple of decent running jokes.

One, of course, is about running: The movie takes the original television series’ tendency to shoot its female stars jogging in asset-jiggling slow motion and treats this stylistic convention as if there’s a reality-warping force at work.

Maybe CJ Parker (Kelly Rohrbach) is just so gorgeous that time and physics really do operate differently when she’s in the general vicinity. This, of course, is not enough to hang a movie on, and neither are the other two gags, which mostly serve to illustrate that Baywatch would have been a funnier movie if it were willing to be a more polemical one.

One of these jokes concerns the film’s villainess, Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra, who still has yet to land an American project of much substance). Victoria is the newest owner and operator of a ritzy club right on the water in Emerald Bay, and when we’re introduced to her, we learn that she’s determined to buy up the rest of the bayfront real estate.

As she explains to Councilman Rodriguez (Oscar Nunez of The Office), Victoria is motivated to succeed in America because her father wasn’t willing to entrust the future of his business to a girl. Her real plan, though, isn’t to become a great developer; it’s to control the Emerald Bay waterfront so that she can bring in shipments of lethally potent drugs without having to be particularly sneaky about it.

All of these shenanigans, and Victoria’s penchant for murdering anyone who doesn’t move fast enough or behave compliantly enough for her liking, culminate in a throwaway line. When she’s facing criticism for her behavior, Victoria whines, “Is it because I’m a woman?”

There was a solid opportunity here for Baywatch to tee up on a particularly bogus attempt to rebrand feminism that has been so integral to Hollywood action movies. This school of thought, which argues that anything a woman does that involves force or self-actualization is automatically personally empowering and therefore feminist, gives the entertainment industry an awful lot of cover. You don’t have to give a woman a backstory, or a personality, or reconsider the fundamental dynamics of action movies when all it takes to qualify as feminist is for a woman to punch someone, or stylishly pursue an evil plot.

Focusing Victoria’s plot more sharply on her conviction that smuggling drugs, privatizing a public beach, murdering people to close real estate transactions and feeding irksome tech guys (an underused, but supremely chill, Hannibal Buress) to the sharks are all feminist acts would have been funnier than her bland vamping, and it would have made Baywatch a sharper movie, too.

Exposed and bouncing female flesh is absolutely integral to the Baywatch brand: A movie that’s not about ogling the lifeguards wouldn’t be a Baywatch movie at all. But if you can’t make the franchise a feminist triumph without turning it into something else entirely, director Seth Gordon and the six people who helped write the script could have at least sharpened the point that a lot of what passes for female empowerment in Hollywood is fairly typical macho nonsense or rapacious criminality poured into a nice dress.

In a similar way, the movie has a running subplot in which Sgt. Ellerbee (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), an actual cop who patrols Emerald Bay, wearily protests that super-lifeguard Mitch Buchannon (Johnson) is not actually a police officer, despite Mitch’s penchant for acting as though he’s leading some sort of elite tactical squad. Because this is an action movie, and Johnson is starring in it, Baywatch has to side with Buchannon, even as it occasionally acknowledges that his commitment to the bay periodically veers on the ridiculous. Watching him holler “I’m oceanic!” at a pivotal moment doesn’t exactly undercut that Buchannon is right and Ellerbee is wrong at every turn, even if the two men do end up working together.

Like The LEGO Batman Movie, which also gained some of its friction by teaming up a rule-breaking vigilante (Will Arnett’s Batman) with a competent, exasperated cop (Rosario Dawson’s Barbara Gordon), Baywatch dabbles in the idea that vigilantes might be wrong before tossing those concerns aside. I’m not saying that either movie needed to be a prissy argument for letting the police do their jobs: God knows Hollywood has spent enough time doing public relations for cops. But Baywatch is aware of just how ridiculous it is, and Johnson is a big enough star to play with his image.

Making Mitch fully delusional but accidentally right would have gone a lot further to making Baywatch the sort of truly meta riff on the brainless original that it badly wanted to be.

©2017, The Washington Post

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

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Investment groups tell investors to give up tobacco industry

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Four international investment groups have called on investors to quit the tobacco industry.

Axa, Calpers, Scor and AMP Capital have already sold or are selling their tobacco investments.

The companies launched their appeal on the annual World No Tobacco Day (WNTD).

Along with 50 other firms with investments totalling $3.8tn, they have pledged “to openly support the tobacco control measures being taken by governments around the world”.

The statement reads: “We in the investment community are becoming increasingly aware of the important role we can play in helping to address the health and societal impacts of tobacco.

“We strive within our own scope of action to support the ambition of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in line with our commitment to the positive role finance can play in sustainable development more broadly.”

Last year, when Axa announced it was selling its tobacco investments, its chief executive Thomas Buberl told the BBC: “The business case is positive. It makes no sense for us to continue our investments within the tobacco industry. The human cost of tobacco is tragic – its economic cost is huge.”

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A growing industry

World No Tobacco Day

WNTD is one of eight official global public health campaigns marked by the WHO.

Its Tobacco Fact Sheet explains: “Tobacco kills more than seven million people each year. More than six million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use, while around 890,000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

“Nearly 80% of the world’s more than one billion smokers live in low and middle-income countries.”

In the developing world, tobacco markets are still growing, largely through ignorance of the dangers. A 2009 survey in China revealed that only 38% of smokers knew that smoking caused coronary heart disease and only 27% knew that it caused strokes.

More growth

WNTD is the only one of the WHO’s health campaigns that pits itself against a specific industry.

The tobacco business remains a formidable adversary. It has been one of the best investments of the last decade, indeed possibly of the post-Second World War era.

The shares in companies listed in the Bloomberg tobacco producers index have risen 351% since 2009, compared with just over 101% for the MSCI global index.

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Getty Images

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A 2009 survey in China showed only 38% of smokers knew that smoking causes coronary heart disease

Despite the growing aversion of the big investors, many believe there is more growth to come.

Dan Caplinger, of the financial services company The Motley Fool, wrote in January: “As a new year begins, there are reasons to believe that 2017 could be a great year to invest in tobacco stocks.”

He goes on to explain that mergers and a move into non-traditional tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes and “heat-not-burn” tobacco products, could boost share prices further.

The success of the industry is all the more remarkable, bearing in mind the forces ranged against Big Tobacco.

These include multinational agencies, lobby groups, governments and the global medical establishment, as well as the stark fact, as formulated by the WHO, that “tobacco kills up to half of its users”.


The regulations are getting tighter, specifically in the way companies can advertise tobacco products. Even so, only 29 countries, representing just 12% of the world’s population, have completely banned all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

For instance, the European Union’s Tobacco Products Directive forced tobacco companies to cover 65% of their packets with health warnings and clamped down on e-cigarette advertising.

Companies such as Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco have fought back, complaining that they are being unlawfully deprived of the right to display their brands.

But last month, they lost a High Court challenge in the UK against new plain packaging rules. These mean all cigarette packets must now look the same, with the same green colour, font, size, case and alignment of text on boxes.

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The ethical investors

The move by investors against tobacco is part of a wider trend in so-called ethical investing, which seems to be gathering pace.

The US-based Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment estimates that there has been 33% growth in what it calls sustainable, responsible and impact investing (SRI) over the past two years, and a 14-fold increase since 1995.

Its 2016 report says: “SRI investing continues to expand – now accounting for more than one out of every $5 under professional management in the United States.”

The report is only talking about US-domiciled assets, but that’s still $8.72tn. Of that, $1.97tn is invested with specific instructions to avoid tobacco and alcohol.

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An Artist Hated The 'Fearless Girl' Statue – So He Put This At Her Feet

For nearly three months, the “Fearless Girl” statue has stared down the “Charging Bull,” an iconic, 11-foot, three-ton monument to “peace, strength, power and love,” according to the artist.

This weekend, New York artist Alex Gardega decided he’d had enough.

While “messing around” in his studio, Gardega decided to create a small sculpture of a urinating dog, which he placed beside the “Fearless Girl” statue’s left leg for several hours Monday, drawing curious and angry onlookers and unleashing the latest round in the battle of Wall Street statues.

The name of the sculpture: “Pissing Pug.” (Though he told NBC News that it was called “Sketchy Dog.”)

“The logic explains itself,” Gardega told The Washington Post. “The dog invading her space is reflective of her invading the space that belongs to the bull.”

“I happen to know someone who knows the artist who made the bull, and so I know what he put into that work,” he added. “He dropped about $350,000 of his own money into the sculpture, and ‘Fearless Girl’ statue changes the meaning.”

The four-foot-tall statue was placed in front of the bronze bull March 7, around the first anniversary of the Gender Diversity Index SHE, which tracks companies that are gender diverse. It was commissioned by the investment firm State Street Global Advisors (SSGA) as an advertising campaign.

Delaware-based artist Kristen Visbal cast the bronze girl, who wears pigtails and a windblown dress, and, with hands on her hips, stares daringly at the beast before her, The Post’s Katie Mettler reported last month.

“We were focusing on making a statement about the future of Wall Street,” Visbal told CNN Money. “We wanted this wonderful contrast.”

The project is about “girl power,” she said, a message to corporate boards on Wall Street with a dearth of women members “that we are here, that we are heard, that we are permanent.”

The plaque at the feet of “Fearless Girl” reads: “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.”

“Fearless Girl” has become a tourist fixture in Lower Manhattan, with more than 25,000 Instagram photos tagged #fearlessgirl. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is allowing the temporary statue to remain in Bowling Green Park until February 2018.

Arturo Di Modica, the bull’s creator, told the Associated Press last month that he considers “Fearless Girl” an “advertising trick” that alters the creative message of his legendary work by implying that the two statues are locked in a conflicted faceoff.

Di Modica’s attorney, Norman Siegel, a former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, told The Post that he sent requests to the city of New York and SSGA informing both entities that the statue violated his client’s rights under copyright law.

To date, Siegel said, he’s heard nothing back.

“My hope back then was to sit down and amicably resolve this issue,” he said, noting that he hasn’t filed a lawsuit yet. “Silence at least on the city and SSGA’s part speaks for itself. I’m disappointed because I was trying to avoid litigation if possible.”

Gabriel Koren, an artist who created a sculpture of Frederick Douglass peering into Harlem from Central Park, told The Post that she can understand why a competing work of art – placed without permission – would present a serious problem for an artist.

“Every sculpture needs space. That is the nature of sculpture,” she said. “If you put something else there, it changes it.” “Fearless Girl,” she said, is “cute,” but “you don’t stand up for women’s rights at the expense of the artist’s rights. Each right is equally important. I am saying this as a woman.”

With the statue war in limbo, and Gardega wanting to stand up for his fellow artist, he decided to act. He created the dog sculpture fairly quickly, he said, and even noted that he did a shoddy job on the sculpture to hint at how unworthy “Fearless Girl” is in comparison with the bull.

“I made it in a couple hours, and it looks like that as well,” Gardega said.

Gardega has a knack for creating art that grabs headlines. In 2012, the Brooklyn-based provocateur unveiled a Bernie Madoff-themed hot sauce he called “Bernie in Hell,” according to the New York Daily News. He’s also known for creating New York City trading cards and painting the Sistine Chapel on the ceiling of his apartment, the paper reported.

Many women who gathered around the “Pissing Pug” and “Fearless Girl” on Monday were unconvinced that Gardega’s work did not contain a misogynistic undertone, according to the New York Post.

“That’s an a-hole move. You call this art?” one woman, who was not identified, told the paper.

Some people even kicked the statue, damaging it, Gardega said.
As news of the urinating dog spread on social media, the sculpture quickly became another proxy battle for larger conversations about gender equality, power and respect on Wall Street.

Gardega said he rejects the idea that the girl statue is a feminist symbol and isn’t worried about the online backlash his dog sculpture spawned.

“I’m an old-school New Yorker, so things roll of my skin pretty easily,” he said. “I get a lot of hate mail. I think I am bringing up a valid point here. I totally believe in my stance on the dog sculpture and my stance on Arturo’s sculpture.”

Gardega said he left Wall Street with the dog sculpture in tow and plans to repair the statue. The reason? The pug’s work is not done, he said.

“I’m going to put it back next week,” he said.

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

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Hacked plastic surgery photos published online

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More than 25,000 private photographs have been posted online following a data breach at a plastic surgery clinic in Lithuania in March.

Passport and credit card details were also stolen from the Grozio Chirurgija clinic, Lithuanian police said.

After the release of hundreds of photos from the clinic in March, the rest of the database was published on Tuesday.

Patients in Denmark, Germany, Norway and the UK have received demands for ransoms of up to 2,000 euros (£1,737).

Lithuanian police say it is unclear how many of the clinic’s clients have been affected but dozens have reported receiving such demands.

Officers said a hacking group called Tsar Team was behind the theft and publication of the data.

‘Penalty fee’

In April, a group claiming to have carried out the theft sent the clinic a demand for 344,000 euros, calling it a “small penalty fee” for having vulnerable computer systems.

The perpetrators decided to publish the data when the clinic refused to pay, according to the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

When the database was published on Tuesday, Lithuanian news site 15min reported that the group was demanding 113,500 euros for the full database, as “a lot of people have paid us to delete their data”.

“It’s extortion. We’re talking about a serious crime,” Andzejus Raginskis, Lithuanian Criminal Police Bureau’s deputy chief, told reporters.

He warned that anyone who downloaded and stored the stolen data could be prosecuted and face a prison sentence of up to three years.

The clinic’s website is advising people who receive ransom demands not to open them or click on any links contained in them, and to submit any messages they receive to the authorities for investigation.

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Baywatch In Berlin: Priyanka Chopra Bonds With 2 Mitch Buchannons

Team Baywatch with David Hasselhoff in Berlin. (Image courtesy: Priyanka Chopra)

New Delhi: 
Priyanka Chopra’s Berlin trip for Baywatch has fetched some really cool looks. The 34-year-old actress started with a dainty Marc Jacobs dress on day one and opted for an oversize pant suit by Public School on the second day of the promotions. Priyanka and co-stars are having tonnes of fun, as is evident from the pictures Priyanka has instagrammed. Priyanka and team Baywatch were joined by David Hasselhoff – the original Mitch Buchannon from the Nineties show which inspired the film – and everyone was thrilled. David Hasselhoff is of German decent and is a huge star there. He’s starred in several German films and reality show Promi Big Brother, German version of Celebrity Big Brother. Dwayne Johnson plays David Hasselhoff’s role in the film. Priyanka’s mother Madhu Chopra and brother Siddharth also joined the team. Here are pictures from Baywatch‘s Berlin trip.

Pictures from Day #2




Pictures from Day #1




Meanwhile, Baywatch, which failed to impress critics in USA -where it released last week – also failed miserably at the box office. Seth-Gordon-directed Baywatch, made in a budget of $60 million, has only recovered $23.1 million from ticket sales, reports AFP. Johnny Depp’s Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, which releases along with Baywatch, is movie-goer’s favourite, having collected $78.5 million so far.

Meanwhile, Priyanka Chopra is undeterred by the Baywatch’s failure and has already set her eyes on two other Hollywood projectsA Kid Like Jake and Isn’t It Romantic, reports Variety. Priyanka Chopra’s television show Quantico has also been renewed for the third season. The Mary Kom star will therefore complete the shooting of A Kid Like Jake and Isn’t It Romantic in June and July before returning to the sets of Quantico.

Baywatch will release in India on June 2.

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Parents Have No Right To Dead Child's Facebook Account, German Court Says

A mother in Germany demanded that Facebook grant her access to her dead daughter’s account.

Frankfurt:  A German court rejected a mother’s demand on Wednesday that Facebook grant her access to her deceased daughter’s account.

In the ruling, which overturned a lower court’s decision, the Berlin appeals court said the right to private telecommunications extended to electronic communication that was meant only for the eyes of certain people.

Privacy remains a sensitive issue in Germany due to extensive surveillance by Communist East Germany’s Stasi secret police and by the Nazi era Gestapo. Memories of espionage were stirred anew by Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations of prying by the United States.

In the Facebook case, the mother of a 15-year-old who was hit and killed by a subway train in Berlin in 2012 had sought access to her daughter’s account to search for clues as to whether the girl had committed suicide.

Facebook had refused access to the account, which had been memorialized, meaning it was effectively locked and served as a message board for friends and family to share memories.

A regional court in Berlin had ruled in favour of the mother in late 2015, saying that the daughter’s contract with Facebook passed to her parents according to German laws on inheritance.

It had also said that the girl’s right to privacy was not protected because she was a minor and it was up to her parents to protect her rights.

The appeals court said on Wednesday that the right to private telecommunications outweighed the right to inheritance, and that the parents’ obligation to protect their daughter’s rights expired with her death.
(Reporting by Maria Sheahan Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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

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Many Opportunities In India: PM Narendra Modi Tells Spanish Firms

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy meets PM Narendra Modi in Madrid. (PTI)

Madrid:  It is a great time for Spanish firms to invest in India whose strong economic growth offers “many opportunities” for them in infrastructure, defence, tourism and energy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today.

PM Modi, the first Indian prime minister to visit Spain since 1992, said the two nations maintain close and cordial relations and he sees great potential in this collaboration. “The strong economic growth of India offers many opportunities for Spanish companies,” PM Modi told Spanish daily Expansion in an interview. “It’s a great time for Spanish companies to invest in India.”

PM Modi said a large number of Spanish companies are doing business in India, and his government wants more firms to invest in the country. “Spanish firms enjoy a worldwide reputation in various fields, such as infrastructure, defence, tourism and energy. These sectors have also been identified by my government as priority sectors,” he said.

Spain is the 12th largest investor in India and the seventh largest trading partner in the European Union. Over 200 Spanish companies in India are involved in road construction projects, railways, wind power, water desalination, defence and smart cities projects.

Over 40 Indian companies are based in Spain in technology, pharmaceuticals, automotive and energy sectors. “There are synergies between the experience and priorities of both countries and numerous possibilities for additional investments,” PM Modi said.

“I see many complementarities between my government’s flagship initiatives, such as Make in India, and Spain’s experience in defence, transport infrastructure, high-speed trains, water and waste management and technologies. I encourage Spanish companies to take advantage of these opportunities,” PM Modi added.

PM Modi said he was personally committed to helping foreign companies set up operations in India. “We should also increase cooperation in strategic field in areas such as cyber security, maritime cooperation and defence,” he said.

PM Modi said Spain and India have been victims of terrorism for a long time, adding both countries need to unite to strengthen the global fight against terrorism. Recalling his meeting with Spanish President Mariano Rajoy in November 2015 on the sidelines of the G20 summit, PM Modi said he has “a great interest in promoting the talks and drawing together an ambitious road map for a greater bilateral commitment between India and Spain.”

Former Prime Minister Narashima Rao visited Spain in 1992.

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Indian growth figures miss estimates

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India’s economy grew by 7.1% in the financial year to March, slower than the 8% recorded in the previous year.

In the first three months of 2017, the annualised rate was 6.1%, slowing from the previous quarter’s 7% rate and lower than analysts had expected.

The economy took a hit from the government’s decision to withdraw 500-rupee and 1,000-rupee banknotes in an anti-corruption drive.

The move last November took 86% of the currency out of circulation in one go.

Analysis: Sameer Hashmi, BBC News

The latest economic growth figures might have missed estimates, but doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The ban on 86% of bank notes in circulation was expected to have a severe impact on the economy. But the data suggests that the recovery has been quicker than expected.

However, the latest figures do not tell the complete story. India’s economic growth data does not take into account the performance of small businesses and the unorganised sector. Both put together constitute more than 50% of the total economic output. These segments were the worst-hit by the ban on banknotes, with many small enterprises still trying to recover.

“This is a sharper deterioration than what I expected,” said Ashutosh Datar, economist at IIFL Institutional Equities. “The fourth quarter is a bit weaker than what I expected.”

The so-called “unorganised sector” – made up of informal workers – is believed to account for about 40% of India’s economy.

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20,000 Chickens Die From Bird Flu Outbreak In China

More than 20,000 chickens died of bird flu outbreak at a poultry farm in NorthWest China(Reuters)

Beijing:  More than 20,000 chickens have died from a bird flu outbreak at a poultry farm in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, a media report said today.

The H7N9 bird flu virus spread within a private poultry company, the government of Yuyang district, Yulin city said in a statement, adding that chickens started dying from May 25.

A three-kilometre-radius area has been closed for disinfection, and the area will be closed for 21 days starting from yesterday, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

All poultry within the area will be culled and all poultry trading sites have been closed, the statement said.The company is located in Niujialiang Township.

H7N9 is a bird flu strain which was first reported to have infected humans in China in March 2013. Infections are most likely to strike in winter and spring.

According to the National Health and Family Planning Commission, in March, 96 H7N9 infections and 47 deaths were reported nationwide.

In April, 81 infections and 24 deaths were reported. 

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Donald Trump Pulling US Out Of Paris Climate Deal, Says Report

US President Donald Trump had called global warming a hoax. (Reuters)

Washington:  U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, Axios news outlet reported on Wednesday, citing two unidentified sources with direct knowledge of the decision.

Trump, who has previously called global warming a hoax, refused to endorse the landmark climate change accord at a summit of the G7 group of wealthy nations on Saturday, saying he needed more time to decide. He then tweeted that he would make an announcement this week.

Fox News also cited an unidentified source confirming the pullout.

The decision will put the United States in league with Syria and Nicaragua as the world’s only non-participants in the Paris Climate Agreement. It could have sweeping implications for the deal, which relies heavily on the commitment of big polluter nations to reduce emissions of gases scientists blame for sea level rise, droughts and more frequent violent storms.

The accord, agreed on by nearly 200 countries in Paris in 2015, aims to limit planetary warming in part by slashing carbon dioxide and other emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Under the pact, the United States committed to reducing its emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

Axios said details of the pullout are being worked out by a team that includes EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. The choice is between a formal withdrawal that could take three years or leaving the U.N. treaty that the accord is based on, which would be quicker but more extreme, according to Axios.

The decision to withdraw from the climate accord was influenced by a letter from 22 Republican U.S. senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling for an exit, Axios reported.

Former President Barack Obama, who helped broker the accord, praised the accord during a trip to Europe this month.

The United States is the world’s second-biggest carbon dioxide emitter behind China.

Supporters of the climate pact are concerned that a U.S. exit could lead other nations to weaken their commitments or also withdraw, softening an accord that scientists have said is critical to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.

Canada, the European Union, and China have said they will honor their commitments to the pact even if the United States withdraws. A source told Reuters that India had also indicated it would stick by the deal.

Trump had vowed during his campaign to “cancel” the Paris deal within 100 days of becoming president, as part of an effort to bolster U.S. oil and coal industries. That promise helped rally supporters sharing his skepticism of global efforts to police U.S. carbon emissions.

After taking office, however, Trump faced pressure to stay in the deal from investors, international powers and business leaders, including some in the coal industry. He also had to navigate a split among his advisers on the issue.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)

© 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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German court rejects parents' access to dead teenager's Facebook account

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Facebook said that sharing the girl’s details would compromise the privacy of her contacts

A court in Germany has ruled that the parents of a dead teenage girl have no right to access their daughter’s Facebook account.

The 15-year-old was killed by a train in 2012 and her parents were trying to establish if she had committed suicide.

They had sought access to her chat messages and posts in order to find out whether she had been bullied.

But Facebook argued that opening up the account would compromise the privacy of the teenager’s contacts.

A first court in Berlin had ruled in favour of the family, saying that the contents of the girl’s account could be seen as similar to letters and diaries, which “can be inherited regardless of their content”.

But an appeals court has now ruled in favour of Facebook, saying that a contract existed between the girl and the social media company and that it ended with her death.

The parents may yet launch a further appeal against the verdict.

Facebook has recently faced increased scrutiny in Germany, especially over its handling of hate speech and fake news on the platform.

The company earlier this year announced the introduction of new tools in Germany to combat fabricated stories.

Meanwhile, German officials last month approved plans to levy heavy fines on social media firms if they fail to remove inappropriate comments and content quickly.

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Parents, Now Get Refunds When Kids Buy On Amazon Apps Without Asking

Amazon keeps 30 percent of all in-app charges.

Parents whose children made Amazon purchases on mobile apps without their permission will begin getting their money back, the Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday. And it turns out that money could amount to more than $70 million – charges incurred between November 2011 and May 2015.

The refunds bring closure to a nearly three-year legal battle surrounding complaints that the tech giant made it too easy for children to make the purchases.

Federal regulators filed a lawsuit in July 2014 saying Amazon charged parents millions of dollars of unauthorized payments for what’s known as “in-app purchases,” virtual items offered within mobile games such as Candy Crush Saga, The Washington Post reported. (Amazon’s founder, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post.)

In an April 2016 ruling, a federal judge granted the FTC a summary judgment that found Amazon responsible for the charges. While entering a password linking an Amazon account to a new device, “a reasonable consumer unaware of the possibility of in-app purchases would not assume she was authorizing unforeseen charges,” U.S. District Judge John Coughenour wrote in his order.

Last month, the FTC and Amazon agreed to end their litigation, clearing the way for the refunds to begin. All consumers eligible for the refunds should have received an email from Amazon.

It was the latest in lengthy FTC investigations into similar in-app purchases on devices running software by Apple, Amazon and Google. In 2014, Apple agreed to a $32.5 million settlement and Google settled charges and agreed to repay $19 million to consumers whose children made such unauthorized mobile purchases through the Android app store.

The company began receiving complaints about the unauthorized charges after the launch of the Amazon app store in 2011. Amazon has since then changed the in-app purchase interface and added more parental controls, while also giving refunds to some consumers who complained.

In the FTC’s original complaint, the agency wrote that Amazon’s setup “allowed children to spend unlimited amounts of money to pay for virtual items within the apps such as ‘coins,’ ‘stars,’ and ‘acorns’ without parental involvement,” Initially, no passwords of any kind were required for children to buy extra items while playing games, leaving parents to foot the bill for the charges.

One mother mentioned in the complaint told Amazon that her daughter was able to rack up $358.42 in unauthorized charges. Others complained that even children who could not read were able to “click a lot of buttons at random” and make several purchases without their parents permission.

After the agency sued, Amazon sent a letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez saying the decision was “deeply disappointing” and that the tech company had improved its parental controls since the Amazon app store’s launch in 2011, The Post reported.

Amazon keeps 30 percent of all in-app charges, and unlike sales of physical goods on Amazon, in-app purchases are nonrefundable.

Thomas B. Pahl, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a news release, “This case demonstrates what should be a bedrock principle for all companies – you must get customers’ consent before you charge them.”

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

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Robot priest unveiled in Germany to mark 500 years since Reformation

The Catholic Church was all powerful in the medieval period and before, the teachings of the Catholic Popes whose authority over religion resembled that of emperors over the physical world. Martin Luther, who was born in what is now Germany, began to question this and wondered if all of the things done by Catholic leaders could be justified.

He began to put his thoughts down onto paper and what became known as his 95 theses was nailed to the church door. One of the things that Luther questioned was the sale of indulgences. An indulgence was a payment to the Catholic Church that purchased an exemption from punishment or penance, for some types of sins, but excluding murder. Payment meant that you could get one to excuse many lesser sins, such as thinking lustful thoughts about someone who was not your spouse. Theses “sinners” who paid for the indulgence were Catholic believers who feared that if one of their sins went unnoticed or unconfessed, they would spend extra time in purgatory before reaching heaven or worse, wind up in hell for failing to repent.

Now 500 years since those early printing presses began to spread the news of Luther’s call of “95 Theses” in 1517, thereby challenging Catholic teaching and leadership for reform of the church, now we see that it is technology which is challenging religious tradition in the small German town of Wittenberg.

The robot “priest” delivers blessings in five languages and beams light from its hands and has been unveiled as part of an exhibition to mark the anniversary of the start of the Reformation. Our little technological “priest” is called BlessU-2, and is intended to trigger debate about the future of the church and the potential of artificial intelligence.

In a comment made the Guardian newspaper, Stephan Krebs of the Protestant church in Hesse and Nassau, which is behind the initiative, said: “We wanted people to consider if it is possible to be blessed by a machine, or if a human being is needed.” As you might imagine, devout Catholic Church members will not be impressed by that suggestion, but Mr Krebs said it is all about provoking a debate, it may do that, although it is not likely to be met with enthusiasm from those that are church-oriented who are more critical. Although there appears to be a shortage of priests across Europe, Krebs does not believe that a robot could ever substitute pastoral care.

The robot has a touchscreen chest, two arms and a head and can offer blessing in English, French, Spanish or Polish, either in a male of female voice.  Just in case you may be wondering, BlessU-2 is not the first robot to penetrate the world of faith. Last year, a Buddhist temple on the edge of Beijing developed a robot monk that could chant mantras and explain basic tenets of the religion.


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IT Collapse Came After Power Problem Damaged Servers: British Airways

The power surge was so strong it made British Airways back-up system ineffective.

London:  A huge IT failure that stranded 75,000 British Airways passengers followed damage to servers that were overwhelmed when the power returned after an outage, the airline said on Wednesday.

BA, part of airline group IAG, is seeking to limit the damage to its reputation and has apologised to customers after hundreds of flights were cancelled over a long holiday weekend.

The airline provided a few more details of the incident in its latest statement on Wednesday. While there was a power failure at a data centre near London’s Heathrow airport, the damage was caused by an overwhelming surge once the electricity was restored, it said.

“There was a total loss of power at the data centre. The power then returned in an uncontrolled way causing physical damage to the IT servers,” BA said in a statement.

“It was not an IT issue, it was a power issue.”

Investigations were continuing into the cause of the power surge, it added.

BA had already spoken of an “exceptional power surge” in a statement on Monday, which had been so strong that it rendered the back-up system ineffective.

BA Chief Executive Alex Cruz has also rejected criticism from trade union GMB that the outage could have been avoided had it not decided to outsource IT staff to India.

IAG Chief Executive Willie Walsh, who had been silent in the media in the immediate aftermath, admitted the fiasco had damaged BA’s brand but denied that its IT centres were too old.

“We invest billions in new equipment. If investment is required, we make the investment,” Walsh was quoted as saying by the Times newspaper.

Experts have questioned how a power surge in one location could knock out both a main IT system and a back-up system.

Rival airline Ryanair has said it has IT systems in three different locations to minimise the risks of a similar outage.

“It is unfortunate that an established airline such as British Airways has proven to be so vulnerable,” said Nadejda Popova, a travel project manager at Euromonitor.

“It’s shown that they have poor risk management – this was an illustration of what not to do.”

(Reporting by Alistair Smout in London and Victoria Bryan in Berlin; Editing by Keith Weir)

© 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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Turtle eclipse

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Snapping turtles were among those caught up in the roadkill “slaughter”

For anyone on a long drive on a country road, one of the bleakest sights is the amount of roadkill you see punctuating the passing miles.

It shows the fatal incompatibility between our need to get to places quickly and wildlife trying to get across a road.

In terms of the odds being stacked up against an animal, it’s particularly bad news for the slow-moving turtle. They’re not exactly going to sprint away from danger.

But research published by academics at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, reports on the major success of a scheme to reduce roadkill.

The findings are claimed to provide lessons for the global problem of animal deaths on roads.

Worst roadkill

The project focused on a road claimed to have one of the worst roadkill rates in the world. Long Point Causeway, a road beside Lake Erie in Ontario, runs through a nature reserve – a Unesco “biosphere reserve” – which is home to a number of endangered species of turtles.

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Until the protection project, the road beside Lake Erie was a notorious hotspot for roadkill

But this mix of slow animals and fast traffic has meant a terrible rate of attrition. On a stretch of road less than three miles long, 10,000 animals, from 100 different species were being crushed each year, including many rare turtles.

Turtles are relatively slow to reproduce – some species can be 20 years old before they lay their first eggs. It means that generations are replaced only slowly and the survival of turtle populations can be threatened by such loss of life from passing traffic.

Global education

The study, Mitigating Reptile Road Mortality, examined the £1.6m, Long Point Causeway Improvement Project, that tested different ways to stop turtles and snakes becoming roadkill.

Could drivers be persuaded to behave differently?

Researchers found that permanent road warning signs made little difference – as drivers soon stopped paying any attention.

Turtle recall

More effective has been the use of a temporary electronic message board, put on display only during the peak summer months for animal road deaths.

“It’s quite common now for people to stop and help a turtle across the road rather than run over it,” said project co-ordinator, Rick Levick.

But a separate study, using dummy rubber turtles and snakes, had also shown that some drivers deliberately tried to hit the animals.

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Slow-moving turtles were being hit on a stretch of road claiming 10,000 roadkill deaths per year

So rather than urging drivers to be more careful, the big challenge has been stopping turtles getting on to the road in the first place.

Culverts were dug below the surface to allow turtles and snakes to cross safely, and fences and barriers were constructed along the road to force them to use these underpasses.

This was not straightforward. In some parts of the road it was sometimes difficult to put in adequate fencing, such as where the land was very marshy.

And the study found that partial fencing could be worse than being completely unfenced, with animals in large numbers going through the gaps.

Once the stretch of road had been completely sealed off with purpose-designed, plasticised fencing, turtles and snakes then had to be persuaded to go down these culverts.

Roadkill prevented

Regular concrete was too cold, so a specially adapted type of warmer polymer material was used, with a design allowing in enough light to make the animals confident that there really was light at the end of the tunnel.

They also had to be no more than 150m apart, because any more would be beyond the roaming range of the lumbering turtles.

Radio-tagged turtles were followed to find the best combinations of materials and locations.

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Deer are among the most common roadkill victims in the US and UK

The last of the turtle crossings were installed earlier this year – and the study is claiming a major improvement.

“The average number of turtles venturing on to the road has dropped by 89% and snake numbers are down 28%,” said Chantel Markle, a biologist at McMaster University.

“At many stages during the project, we have found ourselves at the leading edge of both the science and technology in this field,” said Mr Levick.

Need for evidence

The findings echoed another international roadkill research study published last year, which showed that crossings under roads made little difference, unless there was secure fencing.

Another point raised by researchers is the lack of accurate data about what are claimed as “hundreds of millions” of roadkill deaths each year.

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Populations of turtles can be threatened by high levels of road deaths

There are a number of attempts to gather more evidence. The California Roadkill Observation System asks volunteers to report animal deaths – with deer, raccoon and skunk the most common fatalities.

Project Splatter, based at the University of Cardiff, is gathering evidence in the UK.

Also in the UK, a Freedom of Information request last month found that deer, badgers and foxes were the most typical animals found beside motorways and major main roads.

Highways England had removed the bodies of more than 600 deer from these major roads in 2016-17. But the AA has published much higher figures for the overall road network, saying 42,000 deer were killed by traffic.

In Canada, on the road beside Lake Erie, Mr Levick said they had decided something had to change.

“We all agreed that it was time to put an end to the slaughter.”

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Rodrigo Duterte Uses Monica Lewinsky Affair To Slam Chelsea Clinton

Philippine’s Rodrigo Duterte has often made comments considered offensive by world leaders. (Reuters)

Manila:  Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday denounced the daughter of former U.S. president Bill Clinton for criticising him over a joke about rape, and questioned whether she was just as outraged by her father’s affair with a White House intern.

Duterte was incensed by Chelsea Clinton tweeting at the weekend that he was a “murderous thug with no regard for human rights”.

Duterte’s rape remark came during a speech on Friday aimed at reassuring soldiers that he would take full responsibility for any backlash to martial law, which he imposed last week on Mindanao island.

He said he would not tolerate abuses but joked that if any soldier was to rape three women, “I will admit it, that’s on me”.

The firebrand leader is notorious for comments that are deemed offensive by some, but are taken lightly by many Filipinos.

Referring to Bill Clinton’s involvement with intern Monica Lewinsky in the 1990s, he hit back at Chelsea Clinton and said he was speaking sarcastically about rape and it was not a joke.

“I was not joking, I was being sarcastic,” Duterte said in a speech to navy officers.

“I will tell her, when your father, the president of the United States, was screwing Lewinsky … the girl there in White House, how did you feel? Did you slam your father?”

The affair led to Bill Clinton being impeached by the House of Representatives in 1999. He was later acquitted by the Senate and completed his second term in 2001.

It was not the first time Duterte has made a joke about rape.

He caused outrage in the lead-up to his presidential election win last year when he recalled a 1989 prison riot in which an Australian missionary was killed, and inmates had lined up to rape her.

In what was intended as a joke, Duterte said the victim was “beautiful” and as mayor of Davao city where the riot took place, he should have been first in line. He later apologised and said he meant no disrespect to women or rape victims.

Duterte is known for his informal, no-nonsense style and his speeches are often loaded with hyperbole, profanity, threats and jokes about taboo subjects.

Duterte said American military servicemen had committed rape overseas, including in the Philippines, recalling a 2005 incident involving a marine who escaped a 40-year jail term by settling a case out of court.

“It is a crime actually committed by soldiers, mostly Americans in Okinawa,” he said, referring to several rape cases involving U.S. servicemen stationed in Japan, most recently last year.

“But, we never heard of a Filipino. But I am just warning them that anything they do, I have to answer for it. I take full responsibility for your foolishness. I speak sarcastically.”

(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty, Robert Birsel)

© 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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Aldi and Lidl sales soar as prices rise

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Sales at Aldi and Lidl have grown at their fastest rate in more than two years as the discounters opened new stores and passed on price rises to consumers, new research shows.

The two retailers’ combined sales rose almost 20% in the 12 weeks to 21 May compared with the same period last year, Kantar Worldpanel said.

Meanwhile, 1.1 million more households shopped at either store.

Kantar said all supermarkets had seen “some level of rising prices”.

Grocery inflation hit 2.9% during the period.

According to the research, grocery sales climbed 3.8% in the three months – the best performance since September 2013.

All 10 leading grocers also recorded growth, with average sales up 1.6% across the big four supermarkets: Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons.

However, Aldi and Lidl saw by far the biggest sales increases, climbing 19.8% and 18.3% respectively.

Own-label boost

Chris Hayward, a consumer specialist at Kantar, said sales at Lidl and Aldi had been boosted by inflation.

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He added: “But their rapid growth is also the effect of more of the UK population shopping in their stores more often, as they both continue a programme of store openings.”

Both retailers had also developed “very successful” own-label lines, according to Mr Hayward: “These played well to customers’ desire for value, while also encouraging them to trade up to more expensive products.”

Kantar said own-label products were a major source of growth for all retailers, outpacing total sales of branded goods.

Shoppers also bought more healthy foods after the excesses of Easter, when the nation consumed some £325m worth of Easter eggs.

By volume, sales of mineral water were up 7.4%, eggs by 5.1% and fresh produce by 2.1%, while sugar sales fell 5.6%.

The research firm said that food price inflation, caused by the recent fall in the pound, had already begun to hit shoppers’ hip pockets, with the average household spending an additional £27 on shopping in the period.

“That may not seem like much, but if inflation continues at its current rate over the course of a year that would mean an extra £119 spent on groceries per household,” said Mr Hayward.

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Activists Investigating Ivanka Trump Brands In China Arrested, Missing

BEIJING:  A labor activist researching working conditions in a Chinese factory that makes shoes for Ivanka Trump’s label has been detained by police, according to his wife and a labor advocacy group, while two others have gone missing and are presumed also to have been detained.

The three activists were investigating labor conditions at Huajian shoe factories for China Labor Watch, a New York-based nonprofit organization that aims to defend workers’ rights.

Huajian has previously said it has been making shoes for the U.S. president’s daughter for nearly a decade, accounting for one-third of her shoes made in China but only a small proportion of its total output.

But China Labor Watch said its investigation in working practices at Huajian factories has apparently been closed down by local police.

The three activists were placed under investigation and told they were not allowed to leave China back in April, said Li Qiang, CLW’s founder – something, he said, was relatively common.

But they now all appear to have been detained, he said, something he said was very rare.

“This never happened before in my 17 years’ experience, this is the first time,” he said. “The only reason we think this case is different is that this is Ivanka Trump’s factory.”

White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks referred questions to Ivanka Trump’s company, which declined to comment. Huajian did not immediately respond.

Marc Fisher Footwear, which manufactures Ivanka Trump shoes but does not own these facilities, said: “We were unaware of the allegations, this arrest and will look into them immediately.”

Activists Hua Haifeng and Li Zhao had been investigating reports that the Huajian factories in Ganzhou city in Jiangxi province used student labor, while a third activist, Su Heng, was working undercover inside the factory, CLW’s Li said.

Hua’s wife Deng Guilian said she had not spoken to her husband since Sunday. But she said she had received a phone call from the Public Security Bureau in Ganzhou on Monday saying he had been detained on suspicion of “illegal monitoring.” Police declined to give further details, she said.

Li said Hua had been accused of using “eavesdropping equipment.” The other two activists are also unreachable, he said.

China Labor Watch has carried out frequent investigations into labor violations in Chinese factories making anything from Disney toys to Apple iphones.

In May it issued an interim report on working conditions at Huajian’s factories, citing long hours and low pay among others issues. The group said it had written a letter to the first daughter detailing the allegations in late April, but had yet to receive a reply.

In that report, it alleged that employees are forced to work at least 12½ hours a day and at least six days a week – at a monthly salary of about 2,500 yuan ($365). It said pay for some workers amounted to the equivalent of less than a dollar an hour.

Li said his investigators had documented long working days, the longest stretching 18 hours from 7:10 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. next day.

In January, Liu Shiyuan, then spokesman for the Huajian Group, told the Associated Press the company makes 10,000 to 20,000 pairs of shoes a year for Ivanka Trump’s brand – a fraction of the 20 million pairs the company produces a year.

This is not the first time looking into Huajian’s work for Ivanka Trump has reportedly led to problems for Chinese citizens.

Last year, a team from the French news agency Agence France-Presse was given access to another Huaijian factory in the southern city of Dongguan. But the resulting coverage and photographs, some of which showed workers on assembly lines and living in dark dormitory buildings, apparently did not please the company’s management.

As a result, China’s Global Times newspaper reported, some workers involved in the reporting and shooting of images had been fired. The Global Times blamed “misreporting” by Western media out to malign the reputation of the Trump family, and quoted the factory chairman as confirming the sackings, adding he preferred not to be identified by name.

But a man who described himself as the head of public relations at the factory, but also did not give his name, emerged from the factory on a recent day to deny that anyone had been fired.

The Global Times report also cited staff from two factories in Guangdong as saying that their companies had received a memo from Ivanka Trump’s China-based agent shortly after the U.S. department store Nordstrom dropped her products in February, notifying them that any media reports on her suppliers in China would not be good for her image due to political reasons.

Hua’s wife Deng said she believed her husband’s job was “helpful and meaningful to society.”

“If he is sentenced for this, I can’t accept it, I can’t accept it’s justice,” she said by phone from her home in the central province of Hubei.

She said she had not told her two young children, ages 7 and 3, who still think their father is working away from home. “They always ask to video chat with their father. I have to say to them, ‘Your father is very busy,’ and tell them, ‘He will talk to you when he’s not busy.’ “

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

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China's Former Statistics Chief Gets Life For Corruption

China’s former statistics bureau chief Wang Baoan pleaded guilty to corruption charges.

Beijing:  A Chinese court on Wednesday jailed for life the former head of the statistics bureau after finding him guilty of corruption, the latest official to be brought down in President Xi Jinping’s war on corruption.

A court in the city of Zhangjiakou found Wang Baoan had illegally accepted the equivalent of more than 153 million yuan ($22.5 million) in cash and other valuables, it said in a statement on its microblog.

Wang’s crimes took place between 1994 and 2016, when he held a variety of other jobs, including in the finance ministry, the court said.

Wang confessed and repented, meaning he has been given a lighter sentence, it added.

It was not possible to reach family or any of his legal representatives for comment.

Wang was deputy finance minister from 2012 until April 2015, when he took up the post of statistics bureau chief.

Xi has conducted a sweeping campaign to root out deeply ingrained corruption, warning that the problem is so bad it could affect the ruling Communist Party’s grip on power.

Separately, a court in the southwestern city of Liupanshui sentenced to 10 years in jail a former vice governor of the populous province of Sichuan for bribery.

In a brief statement, the court said that Li Chengyun had taken bribes worth 6.36 million yuan ($933,250). It was also not possible to reach a legal or family representative for comment.

Sichuan, famed for its spicy cuisine, has emerged as a focus of Xi’s crackdown on graft, since it was a power base for Zhou Yongkang, the country’s once powerful domestic security boss.

Zhou was jailed for life in 2015 for corruption, and dozens of his associates have also been arrested, many in Sichuan, where he was Communist Party boss from 1999 to 2002.

Li spent his entire working life in Sichuan, according to his official biography, where he was party chief in the provincial city of Deyang when Zhou was in charge of Sichuan.

(Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Robert Birsel)

© 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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Ireland set to sell 25% of Allied Irish Banks

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Ireland is to sell 25% of Allied Irish Banks back to the public, eight years after it was rescued during the financial crisis.

Last year AIB was valued at 11.3bn euros, so a share sale may yield 3bn euros or more.

The bailout cost Irish taxpayers 21bn euros ($23.50bn).

Finance minister Michael Noonan said the progress made by AIB and current market conditions meant the time was right to start privatising the bank.

The financial crisis, which triggered a property collapse in Ireland, cost the Irish government 64bn euros in bank bailouts and forced it to seek support from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

AIB returned to profit three years ago and the non-performing loans that crippled the bank in the crisis have been reduced by about two thirds.

The government owns 99.9% of AIB and received a dividend of 250m euros last month – its first since the rescue.


AIB’s flotation on the Dublin and London stock exchanges will be one of the biggest in recent years.

The prospectus and the price range of the shares is expected to be published in mid-June.

It is thought that about 10% to 15% of the shares will be available to retail investors, although the minimum investment will be set at 10,000 euros.

The shares are expected to be marketed as an investment in the resurgent Irish economy, which grew 5.2% last year, outstripping all 18 other eurozone countries.

AIB is biggest mortgage lender in Ireland, with a 36% share.

The government will use the funds from the flotation to reduce the national debt by about 1.5%. It stands at 200bn euros – among the highest in the eurozone.

Dublin still has stakes in two other rescued banks: Permanent TSB (75%) and Bank of Ireland (14%).

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Priyanka Chopra, Done With Baywatch, May Sign 2 More Hollywood Films

Priyanka Chopra in Berlin for Baywatch premiere. (Image courtesy: AFP)

New Delhi: 
Actress Priyanka Chopra’s Hollywood debut Baywatch may have tanked at the US box office but the 34-year-old actress shows no signs of slowing down. Priyanka is reportedly in line to sign to new Hollywood films one of which co-stars Octavia Spencer and the other, Liam Hemsworth. Variety magazine reports that Priyanka may sign Silas Howard’s A Kid Like Jake, an independent project starring Octavia, Jim Parsons and Claire Danes, and Isn’t It Romantic opposite Rebel Wilson and co-starring Adam Devine and Liam Hemsworth. Priyanka Chopra will complete the shooting for both the projects in June and July before she starts filming the third season of television show Quantico.

Priyanka Chopra’s schedule for the upcoming month will be pretty hectic. According to Variety magazine most celebs working in television shows are able to fit one film between the season hiatus but Priyanka will shoot for two movies. In addition, Priyanka’s Baywatch promotion duty is still at its peak. The team is currently in Berlin, Germany for the film’s Europe premiere.

Priyanka Chopra’s Baywatch released in USA last week and was panned by critics. The film is not doing well at the box office either and has been outperformed by Johnny Depp’s Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Made on a budget $60 million, Baywatch collected $23.1 million in a week.

Meanwhile, Priyanka Chopra, who returned to India briefly, hasn’t announced her next Hindi film yet. However, there are reports that Priyanka is collaborating on a project with Sanjay Leela Bhansali who directed her in Bajirao Mastani and produced her National Award-winning film Mary Kom.

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Mortgage approvals at seven-month low

Fixed mortgage rates have fallen to new lows, but home loan approvals have also fallen to their lowest level since September.

There were 64,645 mortgage approvals for house purchases in April, the Bank of England said, a 2% fall on the previous month.

Mortgage lenders have told of a fall in demand, despite the low rates on offer.

One theory is that landlords might have brought forward purchases, to avoid the latest in a series of tax changes.

From 1 April, the amount of tax relief they could claim on mortgage payments was reduced.

The Bank of England figures also reveal that it continues to be difficult for savers to get a decent return. The interest paid on variable Individual Savings Accounts (Isas) averaged 0.39% – a new record low.

Interest paid on instant access savings accounts was just above a record low.

Meanwhile, the rate of growth of consumer credit – such as credit card borrowing, loans and overdrafts – remained at more than 10% a year in April.

Authorities, including the Bank, have said they remain vigilant over these rising unsecured debt levels.

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