Qatar To Comply With New US Airline Security Measures


UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar accusing it of supporting terrorism.

Montreal:  Qatar will comply with enhanced security measures for flights to the United States designed to prevent expanding an in-cabin ban on laptops, the country’s minister of transport said on Friday.

The measures, which European and US officials said on Wednesday would begin taking effect within three weeks, could require additional time to screen passengers and personal electronic devices for possible explosives.

“We will respect it,” the minister, Jassim Saif Al Sulaiti, said in an interview in Montreal, where he is meeting officials of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). He did not provide specific details.

Al Sulaiti repeated Qatar’s request for the ICAO to intervene over Gulf neighbours closing their airspace to state-owned Qatar Airways flights in early June. Qatar has also asked for the ICAO to open international airspace over Gulf waters currently managed by the United Arab Emirates.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar, forcing Qatar Airways to fly longer, more expensive routes over Iran. The four countries accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism and have made various demands on Doha. Qatar denies the allegations.

On Friday, top ICAO officials briefed members of the agency’s governing council on the safety and efficiency of air traffic in the Middle East region. During the briefing, which was closed to media and the public, members were told that the diplomatic rift did not cause serious safety concerns because aircraft operated by non-Qatar carriers could still fly to Doha, two sources familiar with the matter said.

Nevertheless, while no decision was reached at the briefing, ICAO will still hold future talks to discuss new contingency routes for Qatar Airways, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was confidential.

Representatives of the UAE and Saudi Arabia could not be reached for comment on Friday.

ICAO’s 36-state governing council can act to settle the overflights issue presented by Qatar, but such interventions are rare and time-consuming because the specialised United Nations agency usually negotiates disputes diplomatically through consensus.

ICAO cannot impose rules on states, but regulators from its 191-member countries almost always adopt and enforce its international aviation standards.

(Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal; additional reporting by Katie Paul in Riyadh and Alexander Cornwell in Dubai; editing by Grant McCool)

© 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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Magnitude 6.1 Earthquake Hits Off Ecuador Coast: Report


The earthquake’s epicentre was 54 miles (87 km) northwest of Portoviejo.

A magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck just off the coast of central Ecuador on Friday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

It said the quake’s epicentre was 54 miles (87 km) northwest of Portoviejo at a shallow depth of 6.2 miles (10 km) below the Pacific seabed.

(Reporting by Sandra Maler in Washington; Editing by Bill Trott)

© 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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US State Allows College Students, Teachers To Carry Guns


Kansas is joining Arkansas, Georgia and other states to allow students to carry guns to college (File)

Chicago:  Students and professors will be legally allowed to carry concealed handguns onto college campuses starting Saturday in the US state of Kansas.

The concealed carry law was enacted four years ago and applied to all public buildings, but colleges in the Midwestern state were exempted until July of this year.  

The law is the latest in a series of state legislative efforts around the country to address the issue of campus safety from potential shooters.

Some approaches tightened restrictions on guns while others made them more available with the goal of allowing potential targets of gun violence to defend themselves with their own weapons.

Kansas is joining Arkansas, Georgia and other states with laws that allow students and faculty to carry guns on college campuses. California and South Carolina are among 16 states that ban the practice.

The Kansas law would still let universities ban concealed guns, but only if they provide students with metal detectors at entrances to buildings, which school administrators have said would be prohibitively expensive.

The concealed carry law has prompted some faculty to leave state universities, according to Topeka TV station KSNT, even as campus administrators offered guidance and information to help students and staff understand the new requirements.

“I am looking for another job,” Philip Nel, an English professor at Kansas State University, told KSNT, “I will not teach armed students, because that’s crazy.”

Wichita State University emphasized in its guidance that the law still allows for multiple prohibitions.

Universities can still ban other weapons and firearms, aside from concealed handguns, and only those 21 and older are permitted to carry concealed guns, the university said.

“Nothing in this policy shall be interpreted to require individuals who lawfully possess a handgun to use it in defense of others,” its guidance said.

Universities can also still ban guns from sports games and other events, if they provide security and metal detectors.  

Kansas lawmakers this year also passed another exemption to the concealed carry law — maintaining a ban on guns at state mental institutions and public hospitals, including those on university campuses.

“The right to bear arms is essential towards preserving our freedoms and maintaining self-government,” Kansas’s Republican governor Sam Brownback, who had supported the 2013 law, said in a statement endorsing the exemption for hospitals, saying “this bill does appropriately address safety concerns.”

Other Republican state lawmakers also endorsed the latest measure.

“The optics of guns in mental health hospitals obviously is, you know, not defendable,” Jim Denning, majority leader of the state senate, told The Kansas City Star newspaper.

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



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1 Doctor Dead, Several Seriously Injured In New York Shooting: Report


A shootout was reported at New York City’s Bronx Lebanon hospital.

New York:  One doctor was killed and five people were seriously injured when a shooter opened fire at a New York hospital Friday, in what is believed to be a “workplace-related” incident, the city’s mayor said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said several doctors were “fighting for their lives” following the incident in the Bronx borough north of Manhattan. He said the gunman, also a doctor, killed himself but gave no indication of his motive.

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



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Martin Shkreli's trial shines light on US healthcare debate


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Former head of Turing Pharmaceuticals, Martin Shkreli, attracted ire for his firm’s massive price rises

Martin Shkreli, who attracted the nickname “Pharma Bro” and accusations of price gouging, is on trial in the US this week.

But his case has little to do with the actions that won him notoriety.

Prosecutors allege he committed fraud. They say he lied to investors and misused money to cover losses at different companies.

But the much-hated drug price rise he enacted as chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals was legal – and looks likely to remain that way, despite a push in the US for sweeping healthcare changes.

Washington debate

Mr Shkreli became a symbol of pharmaceutical greed in 2015 when his firm raised the price of Daraprim, a treatment for parasite infection that had been around for more than 60 years, from $13.50 a tablet to $750 (£584).

The move drew widespread criticism, including from US President Donald Trump, who called Mr Shkreli ‘a spoiled brat’ and said the industry was “getting away with murder”.

President Trump later told Congress that a goal guiding healthcare reform should be changes to bring down the “artificially high” cost of drugs.

Alarmed at the mounting pressure, several major drug companies earlier this year pledged to limit price increases to less than 10%.

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Prices for the 20 highest earning drugs are on average triple the cost in the US compared to the UK, says the JAMA

But healthcare shares rallied last week, as Senate and White House proposals for healthcare and prescription drugs came into focus without signs of a crackdown.

Those watching the political debates unfolding in Washington say they do not expect changes to address prescription drug costs this year.

“I don’t expect any dramatic action in the near term,” said John Rother, chief executive of the National Coalition on Health Care, which started a campaign against rising prescription drug prices two and a half years ago.

Higher prices

Turing’s pricing moves were extreme – but they were not isolated.

While overall generic drug prices declined between 2010 and 2015, according to a US Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of prices paid through the US’s Medicare government programme – the cost of over 300 established generic drugs saw prices rises of 100% or more.

Net spending on prescription drugs increased nearly 20% in the US between 2013 and 2015, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Elsewhere, in Britain, Australia, France and Germany, the government regulates prices.

But in the US, where pharmaceutical companies are a powerful political force, firms set the cost, which subsequently gets renegotiated with insurers, suppliers and hospitals.


US healthcare: In numbers

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  • 61% of Americans say cutting prescription drug costs should be a top priority, says a Kaiser Health survey
  • Healthcare costs top US families’ financial concerns
  • More than 40% of online US crowdfunding campaigns are for help with medical bills, says NerdWallet
  • The US spends $9,403 per person on healthcare, compared to $3,935 in the UK, says the World Bank
  • The percentage of adults aged 18-64 with high deductible plans – where insurance doesn’t apply until annual bills total more than $1,300 – has risen from about 26% to about 39%, says the National Center for Health Statistics
  • Prescription medications represent about 17% of overall personal healthcare services, says JAMA

What’s happening now?

This complex and opaque pricing system means abuses can hide and stories of $629 sticking plasters aren’t uncommon.

But awareness of the issue has grown, as patients shoulder more healthcare costs. (In fact, anger over the subject has made it difficult to find impartial jurors in the Shkreli trial.)

“This is a top of the mind issue for the public,” said Mr Rother, whose group represents organisations such as hospitals and insurers. “I do think that Congress will have to respond in some way because the public is so angry.”

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President Donald Trump is reported to be working on proposals to address higher drugs costs

The Senate healthcare bill put forward by Republicans – a proposal whose passage is now in doubt – is nearly silent on the issue, but Congress has hosted hearings about it.

President Trump is also working on an order related to the topic.

However, early reports suggest that the Trump plan hews closely to proposals favoured by the pharmaceutical industry – and could actually increase the cost of drugs.

For example, it would strengthen drug companies’ rights overseas.

The White House, which asked a former industry lobbyist to oversee the effort, did not respond to a request for comment. Republican leaders in the Senate did not respond or declined to respond to questions on the issue.

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But there are unlikely to be government curbs in place to address the issue this year

Last week, Democrats wrote a letter to the president saying they were “troubled” by the reports of his proposal. They want stronger action.

They’ve put forward proposals that would clarify pricing information, give Medicare the power to negotiate its drug costs and empower health officials to punish companies that engage in price gouging, among other measures.

Dr Aaron Kesselheim, a professor at Harvard Medical School and one of the authors of the JAMA paper about prescription drug prices, says the government must intervene to prevent future abuses.

“Until we take a look at the aspects of the pharmaceutical market that allow the Martin Shkrelis of the world to do what they do, then they’re going to keep doing it.”

State action

Gerard Anderson, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, spoke at a congressional hearing in June.

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Getty Images

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The rising cost of healthcare is concern for many in the US

He sees increased willingness among federal and state policymakers to take action, even if talk has died down since the presidential campaign.

He pointed to a new law in Maryland that gives the state the power to act against firms that implement “unconscionable” price hikes on certain kinds of drugs as a sign of growing momentum.

“I don’t know that it’s this year or next year, but it’s inevitable,” he said.

Mr Shkreli last year made a different bet.

Instead of taking offence when Mr Trump dismissed him as a brat, he backed the Republican candidate.

He said Mr Trump would “make it easier to be a drug company in America”.

Time will tell if the president proves him right.



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What Happens If You Watch An Eclipse With No Glasses? Nothing Good


Even during August’s solar eclipse, you cannot look directly at the sun without protective eye wear.

We all know not to stare at the sun, right? Seems like common sense, but every time an eclipse comes around, a few people invariably try to watch it without special, protective eyewear and end up damaging their eyeballs.

Even during August’s solar eclipse, when the moon will travel across the sun and block part of the sunlight, you cannot look directly at the sun without very strong protective eye wear. Not just sunglasses – lenses that were designed specifically to filter out enough of the light that it doesn’t burn a hole through your retinas.

If you did try to look at it without your glasses, it would be “like a magnifying glass on a leaf when you were a kid,” an optometrist tweeted at me.

I’m not trying to provoke panic about watching the solar eclipse. Hundreds of thousands – perhaps millions – of people across the U.S. are going to walk outside Aug. 21, look up, and see something truly spectacular. That’s something I look forward to.

But because I’m curious (and quite a few people have asked), I thought it would be interesting to talk about what would happen if you tried to look at the sun during the eclipse. And don’t tell me it doesn’t happen and people know better. That’s not true.

According to an expert answer on the University of California ScienceLine, ” . . . doctors collect information after events like the 1999 solar eclipse, when people who stared directly at the sun for several minutes went to see their doctor. In one study, about half had permanent damage.”

An assessment after the same eclipse in the U.K. found fewer cases than they had feared, but 14 people still managed to damage their eyes by staring at the eclipse.

There’s even a tale that Isaac Newton stared at the sun with one eye (for the sake of science, of course), and afterward he could only see reds and blues. I have no idea if that is fiction or fact, but it sure makes a good story.

– – –

Want to watch the eclipse safely? Here’s how it will go . . .

– . . . if you’re in the path of totality:

It will start as a partial eclipse as the moon begins to cover the sun. Keep your glasses on at this point.

When the sun is totally blocked by the moon, you can take your glasses off! Enjoy. It’s beautiful.

Once sunlight starts to appear again, as the moon departs, put your glasses back on and enjoy the partial eclipse.

– . . . if you’re not in the path of totality:

You’ll only be seeing a partial eclipse. There will be harmful sun rays for the duration of the event. Keep your eclipse glasses on through the whole thing.

Yes, you will go blind if you manage to endure the pain and stare at the sun for long enough. The pain from the visible part of the light spectrum could be extreme, but ultraviolet light – which we can’t see – is what actually ruins the eye. It literally gives your eye a sunburn.

The reason a few people always end up going blind during an eclipse is that in the partial phase, the visible light is reduced enough that it’s no longer painful to look at, and so people assume it’s safe. But there’s still plenty of UV, and that blinds them.

Depending on the sky conditions, it only takes about a minute and a half for your eyes to be permanently damaged, and the damage is cumulative, meaning you don’t have to stare at the sun without looking away for it to be harmful – you may just be taking quick glances, but it’s still damaging your eye.

If your eyes are damaged, your vision will at least be blurry and you may see dark or yellow spots. If it’s significant damage, you may not be able to see out of the center of your eye – only your peripheral vision.

Other things you should be aware of: Some drugs dilate your pupils, which will decrease the amount of time it will take to burn the eye. People taking these drugs should always take care to wear UV-blocking sunglasses. Also, looking through a camera lens or a telescope will not protect your eyes. The latter is blatantly obvious in the video. Unless it has a filter on it that is made specifically for blocking out the harmful rays, you should not look through any lenses.

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



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India GST: Sweeping tax reform introduced


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It is not clear whether small businesses are ready for the tax

India has replaced its numerous federal and state taxes with the Goods and Services Tax (GST), designed to unify the country into a single market.

The historic overhaul of the existing tax legislation was carried out at a special midnight session of parliament.

India says introducing GST will cut red tape and increase tax revenues, fuelling economic growth.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley says the reform will help the economy grow by 2%.

But businesses have been asking for more time to implement changes, worried that they are not ready for the move to the new system.

Many do not even have a computer to register on the GST network.

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Media captionExplaining India’s new Goods and Services Tax

“No country of comparable size and complexity has attempted a tax reform of this scale,” Harishankar Subramanian, of Ernst and Young previously told the BBC.

Under the new system, goods and services will be taxed under four basic rates – 5%, 12% 18% and 28%.

Some items like vegetables and milk have been exempted from GST, but will still be subject to existing taxes.

The price of most goods and services are expected to increase in the immediate aftermath of the tax.

Analysts expect economic growth to slow down over the next few months, but say it should pick up after the tax is fully implemented.



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3 Shot At New York City Hospital, Gunman Dead


A shootout was reported at New York City’s Bronx Lebanon hospital.

New York:  Shots were fired inside New York City’s Bronx Lebanon hospital on Friday, and police said a short time later that one suspect was dead, while local media reported several people, including at least three doctors, were wounded in the gunfire.

Few details were immediately available about the incident from official sources.

The New York Times, citing information furnished by an unnamed city Fire Department official, reported that three physicians had been shot, though their conditions were unknown.

As least one of the wounded doctors was being treated by people inside the hospital who fashioned a tourniquet from an emergency fire hose, according to the official, the Times said.

many as five or six people may have been wounded, the Times said, citing a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Police had yet to secure the area, preventing emergency medical workers from entering, the Times said.

Police swarmed the hospital searching for an assailant, the New York Daily News said.

CBS News reported that the gunman, believed to be a former hospital employee, had a rifle and had barricaded himself inside the building.

New York Police Department spokesman Peter Donald posted a message a short time later on Twitter, saying, “One shooter is deceased at the hospital.” It was not immediately clear whether police were looking for any other suspects.

On Twitter, the New York Police Department told members of the public to avoid the area around the hospital, located in the borough of the Bronx at 1650 Grand Concourse.

An official who answered the phone at the hospital said she had no immediate information.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely; Editing by Daniel Wallis and David Gregorio)

 

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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A Transplant Gave Her Chance To Live. Hours After Giving Birth, She Died


Not long after Megan Johnson gave birth, her husband posted a picture on social media, welcoming their daughter into the world.

Years earlier, Johnson had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and given a new heart and another chance to live. Her husband, Nathan, announced early Tuesday on Instagram that “her heart worked perfectly” during the delivery, and their daughter, Eilee Kate, “introduced herself quickly and smooth. I am a rich man!!!”

For the next six hours, the Johnsons loved their newborn.

“They were so excited, they couldn’t sleep so they spent time with the baby and talked all morning,” Josh Wilson, a friend of Nathan Johnson, said Friday morning in a telephone interview.

Then Megan Johnson started experiencing complications and, by late morning, she had died, Wilson later wrote on a GoFundMe page.

Johnson gave birth about 2:40 a.m. Tuesday and, for the next several hours, “held, fed, and burped little Eilee,” Wilson, Nathan Johnson’s bandmate, wrote on the crowdfunding page.

Then about 11 a.m., Megan Johnson died, Wilson said.

“Needless to say, Nathan is devastated,” Wilson wrote. “There are no words for this, so I won’t really say much more. Here is what I know. Nathan is a wonderful man and an amazing father. He loves his daughter dearly.”

Wilson said Nathan Johnson took his daughter home Wednesday and has been “up and down” but surrounded by family members and close friends.

Wilson told The Washington Post that he started the GoFundMe page, which had raised more than $345,000 by Friday afternoon, to get Nathan Johnson, a Christian music artist, “off the road. To buy him some time.”

It’s not yet clear what led to Megan Johnson’s death. The American Heart Association warns that women who have had heart transplants could develop complications during pregnancy; for example, immunosuppressive medications could pose a risk to an unborn child and, after the child is born, there is a greater risk of rejection for the mother. But it is not known what caused Johnson’s complications.

In 2002, Johnson, then 15, was a student and athlete at North County Christian School near her home in Ferguson, Missouri, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She played basketball, volleyball and soccer, until she unexpectedly lost her endurance, according to news reports and a blog post that appeared to be written by her father.

“I’d just finished basketball season and I was starting soccer and I couldn’t walk up the stairs without getting out of breath; I couldn’t run the laps,” she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2011.

Johnson was diagnosed with myocarditis, an inflammation caused by a virus that can lead to heart failure. She was given medications and strict orders to give up sports, she said, but she survived.

But more than seven years later, Johnson’s symptoms returned, and she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, according to the blog post.

In 2010, the then-23-year-old underwent a heart transplant at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“I am extremely grateful for her gift. However, I am so saddened for the family that lost their dear loved one. I ache knowing that I am here and she is not,” she later wrote on a blog, chronically her journey.

“I have a part of that person in me,” she added. “I can feel her heart beat in my chest. It is a remarkable, yet difficult feeling knowing I am here because of someone else’s life. I ache for her. My heart is sad for her and her family. I truly hope one day her family will know how much I appreciate her/their special gift. I can never repay. I am forever grateful. Thank you.”

The year after her transplant, she married Nathan Johnson and moved to Nashville, she wrote online.

Over the years, Johnson has spoken passionately and publicly – both on her blog and to local news media – about organ donation, telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch a year after her transplant, “I never thought about being an organ donor until I needed one. My family didn’t think about it until they had a daughter who needed it.”

“That’s a huge thing in my life,” she added at the time. “It can save lives. It saved mine. It’s the gift of life.”

Wilson, the family friend, told The Post that Johnson’s organs are going to more than 50 recipients.

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



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Asteroid Was Streaking Towards Earth. Collision Seemed All Too Possible.


NASA artist’s concept shows OSIRIS-REx spacecraft near asteroid 1999 RQ36 obtained on February 15, 2013.

On Dec. 6, 1997, Jim Scotti of the Spacewatch program at the University of Arizona spotted an asteroid.

This wasn’t entirely unusual. The problem: It appeared the asteroid was on a possible collision course with Earth.

Asteroid 1997 XF11, as it was later called, was a big one – a mile in diameter. The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center was alerted.

Other astronomers weighed in. After a few months of study, Brian Marsden of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced the asteroid discovery and warned there was a small but “not entirely out of the question” chance it would hit on Oct. 26, 2028.

On June 30, 2017 – Asteroid Day – it’s worth remembering that the prediction turned out to be wrong.

But for a while, Marsden’s calculations set off a panic. “Asteroid Is Expected to Make A Pass Close to Earth in 2028,” read New York Times front page headline on March 12, 1998. The Washington Post’s story, running on an inside page, said the asteroid was “virtually certain” to come closer to Earth than the distance to the moon.

This was not good. People seemed to recall learning in elementary school that an asteroid had once wiped out dinosaurs.

“With regard to the asteroid,” wrote the Post’s Editorial Board, “we’d like a bit more reassurance.”

But was Marsden right? Would the asteroid come that close?

“Sure, there was some uncertainty associated with the actual miss distance,” he later wrote, “but the tests that I made strongly suggested that the object would come closer than the moon.”

Astronomers continued investigating.

Eleanor Helin and Kenneth Lawrence of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., looked for and found previous images of 1997 XF11 taken accidentally in 1990. These images, upon being analyzed by Paul Chodas and Donald Yeomans – also of JPL – ruled out the chance of collision in 2028.

“Zero chance,” was the JPL’s ruling.

Marsden and his team later acknowledged they were wrong. As Dan W.E. Green of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics then told The Post: “There was no debate, of course not. . . . We never disagreed. We quickly threw into our own saw that the closest approach moved out to 600,000 miles.”

The danger was over.

However, the debate over the XF11 affair continued. In 1998 NASA created the Near Earth Object Program Office, now the Center for Near Earth Object Studies, to find the 90 percent of so-called near Earth objects larger than one kilometer in diameter. Congress also held hearings about the impact hazard of near earth objects.
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Marsden maintained he was right to announce the presence of asteroid 1997 XF11 quickly. He wanted to make sure future observations of the asteroid wouldn’t be missed for future study.

Underestimating the miss distance, he wrote in 2007, “was the one and only shortcoming to my calculations.”

Marsden died on Nov. 18, 2010.

The astronomy community had learned much from the XF11 affair. Now it was time to look forward, and to keep looking for asteroids.

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



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'Patience Is Over' With North Korea: Donald Trump


Donald Trump declared the US had run out of “patience” with North Korea over its nuclear drive.

Washington:  US President Donald Trump declared the US had run out of “patience” with North Korea over its nuclear drive Friday, accusing the Pyongyang regime of having no respect for human life.

“The era of strategic patience with the North Korean regime has failed, many years it has failed. Frankly, that patience is over,” Trump said after holding talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-In at the White House

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



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Jean-Claude Juncker: I don't own a smartphone


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European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker (L) spoke to the press alongside Estonia’s Prime Minister Jueri Ratas

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, has admitted that he does not own a smartphone.

“I shouldn’t say, but I have to say it – I still don’t have a smartphone,” the 62-year-old told a news conference.

The light-hearted confession came as he helped launch the EU presidency of digital-savvy Estonia.

Mr Juncker joked that the country’s Prime Minister Juri Ratas had “sent me, like in the 19th Century, a postcard inviting me to Tallinn”.

According to EU sources, Mr Juncker’s telephone of choice is an old Nokia mobile.

The EU chief is a former prime minister of Luxembourg, but said that with such technophobic tendencies, he “couldn’t become prime minister of Estonia; this would be totally impossible”.

Estonia is one of the world’s most digitally-connected countries, and was the first to introduce online voting.

It hopes to push digital issues as part of its six-month stint as president of the EU, which begins on Saturday.

Tech matters will have to share space with the pressing issues of Brexit and migration, however.

Mr Juncker’s admission comes 10 years after Apple introduced the iPhone, setting a global revolution in motion.

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European Parliament

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In a 2014 picture, Jean-Claude Juncker (L) stares at a non-smartphone with Martin Schulz, former president of the European Parliament

And yet, he is not the only political heavyweight resisting the march of technology.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has led Germany since 2005, still does not have a Twitter account.



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French Leader, Who Lost Presidential Race, Charged In EU Funding Scandal


Marine Le Pen made a failed run for president this year.

Paris:  French far-right leader Marine Le Pen was charged Friday over claims her party illegally claimed millions of euros from the European Parliament to pay for France-based staff.

Rodolphe Bosselut said Le Pen had been summoned by investigating magistrates in Paris and that they had, “as expected, charged her”, adding that she would appeal.

A judicial source told AFP she had been charged with breach of trust over the salaries paid to her chief of staff Catherine Griset and her bodyguard Thierry Legier and for complicity in breach of trust as FN leader.

If tried and convicted, Le Pen faces up to three years imprisonment and a fine of up to 375,000 euros ($425,000), although it is unlikely she would receive a custodial sentence.

The 48-year-old National Front leader, who made a failed run for president this year, invoked her immunity as a member of the European Parliament in refusing to answer questions from investigators during the campaign.

She had however promised to cooperate with the investigation after the May presidential and June parliamentary elections were over.

At Friday’s meeting with the magistrates, she read out a declaration and declined to answer questions, as allowed by the law, her lawyer told AFP.

Investigators suspect the FN used money from Brussels earmarked for parliamentary assistants to pay staff for party work in France.

The European Parliament claims it was defrauded of up to five million euros.

Griset and another FN assistant have already been charged with covering up breach of trust.

Le Pen was first elected to the European Parliament in 2004.

She is one of 17 National Front lawmakers — along with her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, from whom she is estranged, and her partner, FN vice-president Louis Aliot — being investigated over salaries paid to around 40 parliamentary assistants.

Macron allies probed

The centrist MoDem party, which is allied to President Emmanuel Macron’s Republic on the Move party, has been targeted in a preliminary probe over similar allegations involving assistants’ salaries.

Le Pen, an anti-EU nationalist, beat the candidates of the traditional right and left to secure a spot in May’s presidential run-off against Macron, a pro-EU centrist.

But she was soundly beaten by Macron in the second round, by 66.1 to 33.9 percent.

Her legal woes took a back seat during the campaign to the scandal ensnaring her conservative rival Francois Fillon, whose wife was paid nearly 700,000 euros for a suspected fake job as a French parliamentary assistant.

In legislative elections held directly afterwards she was elected to the National Assembly for the first time, winning a seat in the northern former coalmining region of Pas-de-Calais.

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



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Qatari riyals no longer available at many UK banks


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A number of UK High Street banks have stopped trading in Qatari riyals.

Individual customers at Barclays, RBS, Lloyds Banking Group and Tesco Bank cannot currently buy or sell riyals.

Qatar is isolated by its neighbours, who accuse it of backing terrorism.

Its central bank says it will guarantee all transactions for customers inside and outside the country. It also told the Reuters news agency that all banks and foreign exchange companies are committed to trading riyals as usual.

In early June, Qatar’s Gulf neighbours Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt ceased air, sea and land links with the country, which has been accused of funding terrorism. Qatar denies the claim.

The cutting of diplomatic ties by Qatar’s neighbours has prompted wide fluctuations in the value of the country’s currency.

‘Challenges’

A spokeswoman for Barclays said: “In common with other banks, Barclays’ high street foreign exchange service is supplied by a third party, which has stopped providing the Qatari riyal.

“Unfortunately, we are therefore currently unable to buy the Riyal from or sell it to our retail customers.”

A spokeswoman for Lloyds Banking Group also said that a “third-party supplier” which carries out its foreign exchange service had ceased trading Qatar riyals from 21 June.

She said: “This currency is no longer available for sale or buy-back across our high street banks including Lloyds Bank, Bank of Scotland and Halifax.”

HSBC was unavailable for comment on its current position. Reuters reported that the Post Office had stopped buying and selling the currency earlier this month.

Currency supplier Travelex said trading in riyals had been suspended in some markets due to “business challenges”.

But it added: “Travelex is pleased to announce it has resumed purchasing Qatar riyal globally.”



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Caversham florists besieged with calls in phone scam


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Media captionShop manager Denika Potter said some of those ringing her business had been abusive

A family-run florist says it is being besieged with up to 120 calls a day in a phone cloning scam.

Fraudsters posing as TalkTalk workers have switched their caller ID – the incoming number which appears on mobile phone screens – to that of The Flower Shop in Caversham, Reading.

The shop said “confused” callers asking for the telecoms firm had started contacting them on Friday.

The case is being assessed by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.

A TalkTalk spokesman said: “We can confirm that this incident is not related to TalkTalk.”

Shop manager Denika Potter said some of those ringing the business had been abusive after the fraudsters had tried to dupe them into providing their bank details.

She said many people recognised they were being targeted by scammers, but mistakenly thought the call had originated from the florist.

“Most customers are nice, accept it and apologise,” said Ms Potter.

“Some are very annoyed, which you obviously may be if you are getting lots of missed calls from a number.”

She said the calls were “disturbing” her staff’s daily work and added: “We are a small business and we’re having to stop to answer the phone all the time.”

An Action Fraud spokesman said it could take up to 28 days to determine whether there were “sufficient lines of enquiry for an investigation based in the UK”.



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BA to get strike cover from Qatar Airways


Image caption

British Airways mixed-fleet cabin crew will strike for 16 days from 1 July

The government says it will allow the lease by British Airways of some Qatar Airways planes and crew to help cover a 16-day strike by some UK staff.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling says BA can lease nine Qatar A320 and 321 planes and crew after advice from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

BA will use the staffed planes to minimise flight cancellations and passenger disruption from Saturday.

The 16-day strike was prompted by what Unite union calls BA’s “poverty pay”.

The long-running industrial action concerns around 2,000 of the airline’s mixed-fleet staff who, if they joined since 2010, fly short and long-haul routes mainly from Heathrow airport and earn less than cabin crew on earlier agreements.

The airline has already cancelled a small number of flights from Heathrow and merged others, but the leasing deal with Qatar means BA will be able to get the vast majority of passengers to their destinations.

Standards

The airline needed to apply for approval from Mr Grayling and the CAA had to make a recommendation to the minister because the Qatari aircraft and crew are coming in from outside the European Union.

A spokesperson for the UK Civil Aviation Authority said: “An application by British Airways to temporarily ‘wet lease’ [hiring plane and crew] nine Qatar-registered aircraft has today been approved by the UK Department for Transport.”

Unite had requested the CAA recommend blocking the wet-lease deal, claiming it broke EU regulations and cited concerns over Qatar’s human rights and labour standards record.

The union brought about the unprecedented strike action because of a pay dispute and it claimed the airlines had removed concessions and perks for staff if they had taken part in previous strike action.

Unite national officer Oliver Richardson said: “Vindictive threats from British Airways amount to corporate bullying from an airline more interested in punishing workers on poverty pay than addressing why cabin crew have been striking.”



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Facebook drone in successful test flight


Image copyright
Facebook

Image caption

The drone flew at an altitude of 3,000ft, much lower than Facebook eventually wants its fleet to fly

Facebook has completed a second test of a solar-powered drone designed to bring internet access to remote parts of the world.

The drone – dubbed Aquila – flew for one hour and 46 minutes in Arizona.

On Aquila’s maiden voyage last summer, the autopilot system was confused by heavy wind and crash-landed.

This time, the drone flew at an altitude of 3,000ft, a long way from Facebook’s intended 60,000ft goal.

The social network has ambitious plans for its drone fleet and eventually wants to have them communicating with each other via lasers and staying in the air for months at a time.

The test – which took place in May but is only now being made public – went “perfectly”, according to a blog post detailing the flight.

Facebook had initially heralded its June 2016 test a success but later admitted the drone had crashed on landing.

The crash was only revealed when it emerged that it had been investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.

This time, the engineering team added “spoilers” to the wings to increase drag and reduce lift during landing. They also modified the autopilot software and applied a smoother finish to the craft.

The team filmed the landing and included the video in the blog post.

Director of aeronautical platforms Martin Luis Gomez said the drone had suffered “a few minor, easily repairable dings”.

Aquila – which has a wingspan of a Boeing 737 – is part of Facebook’s ambitious plans to connect the world to the internet.

This week, it announced that it has two billion users, more than a quarter of the world’s population.



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Movie Review: Baby Driver Is The Big Screen Ride Of The Year


Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Eiza Gonzalez, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx
Director: Edgar Wright
Rating: 5 stars

Simon & Garfunkel never saw this coming.

In 1969, Paul Simon stepped away from his characteristically intricate storytelling to write a song called Baby Driver, about an elusive young man out to sow his oats at dizzying speed. It’s catchy and has a delicious hook, but, from this point on, it should primarily be remembered as the song that gave Edgar Wright’s new film a perfect name.

If there is one film to watch on the big screen this year, it is the timeless and turbocharged Baby Driver. Conversely, there can be no better film to watch on a smaller screen you own, with the cars cradled in your hands, with the movie itself occasionally jerking left to right in inevitable echo of the on-screen chases, and with, most crucially, earphones plugged into you.

There is, you see, something magical about music coursing directly into you – and only you – loud and alive and throbbing in your veins, while the world is several tracks off. This white-corded connection to a meticulously chosen groove is the lifeblood for a getaway driver called Baby, a young man who needs – in the smartly snarled words of another character – “a score for a score.” He’s a pretty prodigy, a child so cherubically beautiful he looks perpetually on the verge of smiling, and Wright charts his life out for us via iPods, going from classic to recent. Baby carries different ones for every flavour and circumstance, and his being constantly jukeboxed causes the world, a world ever keen to eavesdrop, to squirm with distrust.

This applies even to his fellow bank-robbers. It isn’t enough that Baby drives like a braggadocious video-gamer with cheatcodes scribbled on his sleeve. It isn’t enough that he’s flawless. It is, quite simply, that grown men with codenames like Bats and Buddy and Doc are thrown off their game because they aren’t cued in. (The girl, Darling, buys into Baby’s magic without question.) They’re sitting beside and behind Baby as he makes tyres squeal and baffles police helicopters and gets them to safety, and their jaws naturally drop because of his sheer virtuosity – articulate kingpin Kevin Spacey refers to him as ‘Mozart in a go-kart’ – but they don’t know what he’s listening to and, thus, what page he’s on.

 

My own jaw fell less than two minutes into the film as the blindingly beautiful opening sequence, set to the saucy Bellbottoms by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, kicked into gear. It starts relatively innocuously, Baby lipsyncing with complete abandon as he waits for his well-heeled partners to sprint back with bags of loot, but when he steps on the pedal, by God, it’s a gas. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Both the visuals – Baby’s automotive moves – and the ambient sounds of engine, scream, police siren, all sync up to accentuate the music, and vice versa, in a way that would make Scorsese high-five Tarantino.

In cinema, you do indeed need a score for a score. Or at least we have, since Jules Dassin’s audaciously silent Rififi heist in 1955. Modern chase setpieces feature music as a full-blooded character, often even the lead, and the reliance on a finely picked pop song can’t be overstated. Edgar Wright, it appears from this miraculously assembled film, gets it – and gets it better than perhaps anyone before him. This is a film that reinvents, appropriates and owns songs with stunning confidence, and discards irony to embrace the joy of music. Wright’s most celebrated comedies are often grouped together as The Cornetto Trilogy; Baby Driver, I daresay, is his popsicle.

 

Baby Driver Movie Review: A still from the film

Ansel Elgort is Baby, a beautiful young man who pirouettes in his kitchen the same way he makes a muscle car turn 360 degrees. There’s a balletic grace to his every movement – be it slathering peanut-butter onto the edges of a sandwich, switching freeway lanes at lethal speed, or miming a Dave Brubeck piano solo – and he keeps the songs playing because music, and moving to music, helps him escape. The first time we see him wilfully taking his earphones out is when a girl walks by him, mouthing a song he doesn’t know, a song with his name on it.

This is not merely heist film but also soft-poached noir – one last job, runaway lovers, high stakes and increasingly weird bad guys – and Wright breaks the eggs in spectacular style. The dialogue crackles, particularly lines thrown out by Spacey, who points to a prolifically tattooed crook and says he “puts the ‘Asian’ in ‘home invasian’,” and the actors have a ball. Jon Hamm takes his last name all too seriously, Jamie Foxx is dynamite as the proudly unhinged member of the crew, and Lily James is achingly winsome as Debora, the girl Baby shares music with – and thus, finally getting to talk about music, he comes to learn that T-Rex isn’t pronounced “Trex.” She, meanwhile, frets that she has hardly any songs named after her.

 

baby driver

Baby Driver Movie Review: A still from the film

There are a couple of fine musician cameos, including one of the best bassists in the world, but I suggest you discover those – along with other nifty touches, like the cars chosen for the film – at your own pace. Blink as infrequently as you can.

Baby Driver is so cool it’s hot. Wright’s cinematic choices line up remarkably well, from the way he showily shoots Baby and Debora’s date in swirling jump-cuts, to the compulsive way Baby uses songs to flee and very differently when he isn’t on the run. Even Baby’s name, the coolest name in all music, works maddeningly well for a driver.

 

baby driver

Baby Driver Movie Review: A still from the film

When a boy kisses a girl in a classic Hollywood romance, her leg goes up. This pop is due largely to balance, certainly, but it has, over the years, become a flourish, an inescapable part of the fairytale iconography. This is why Baby drives like he does, using his handbrake to spin on one wheel as if he were auditioning to be Batman’s chauffeur, even when nobody might be watching – because he knows he’s good enough to be iconic.

It’s a good thing everybody puts Baby in a corner. He sure knows how to look good getting out.



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He Tried To Stop Bullet Using A Book. Stunt For YouTube Kills Man


Before Monday, before the 911 call and police investigation, Pedro Ruiz III, an aspiring YouTube star in rural Minnesota, spent considerable time convincing his girlfriend to shoot a gun at his chest.

There would be a thick encyclopedia book between the barrel and his body, authorities say he told 19-year-old Monalisa Perez. The pages, he reasoned, would stop the bullet.

He even had evidence that it had worked once before – a different book with an entrance hole but no exit.

So on Monday evening, the young couple positioned two cameras outside their home and prepared for their breakthrough stunt. They wanted fame, family said, and danger often brings it.

“Me and Pedro are probably going to shoot one of the most dangerous videos ever,” Perez teased in a tweet at 5 p.m. “HIS idea not MINE.”

It had been three months since the young couple added their vlog, La MonaLisa, to YouTube, where they posted clips of their daily lives and their 3-year-old daughter. They live in Halstad, Minn., a tiny town on the North Dakota border between Grand Forks and Fargo. Episodes featured shots from their home, the car or at the doctor’s office, which is where Perez revealed in May that she was pregnant with a boy.

Their shtick, though, was pulling minor pranks: doughnuts with baby powder instead of powdered sugar, feigning paralysis from a grocery store wheelchair, hiding hot peppers on an egg salad sandwich. Just this week, Perez posted a video of Ruiz doing a handstand inside a rotating fun house tunnel at the county fair.

But the bullet and book stunt was supposed to be their breakthrough.

“I said, don’t do it, don’t do it,” Ruiz’s aunt, Claudia Ruiz, told her nephew when he shared his idea, according to Valley News Live. “Why are you going to use a gun? Why?”

His response, she said, was simple: “Because, we want more viewers.”

With one camera attached to a ladder and the other propped on the back of a car, the couple staged their stunt, according to authorities. Ruiz held the book to his chest and Perez held the gun, a gold Desert Eagle .50 caliber pistol considered “one of the most powerful semiautomatic handguns in the world.”

From a foot away, court documents say, Perez fired.

This time, the bullet didn’t stop in the book but instead pierced Ruiz in the chest. Medics tried to revive him, authorities said, but he was declared dead at the house.

Neighbors told ABC affiliate WDAY-TV that they watched the scene unfold from afar.

“Everyone was crying,” neighbor Wayne Cameron told the TV station. “I was standing behind that tree over there. And that was it. I just couldn’t take it anymore so I had to go back home.”

When Perez called 911 at 6:30 p.m., she told dispatchers the shooting was accidental and explained the YouTube plan. Later, according to court documents, she said that her boyfriend had been trying to convince her to shoot the book “for awhile” and she finally relented. She told them about the other book Ruiz had shot, the one that blocked the bullet, and described the gun she fired.

A sheriff’s deputy found it in the grass outside the home.

Perez was arrested Monday on a charge of reckless discharge of a gun. On Wednesday, that charge was upgraded to second degree manslaughter. She was released on $7,000 bail after her initial court appearance and ordered to wear a GPS monitor and stay away from firearms, reported KVRR TV. In convicted, she faces up to 10 years behind bars.

“They were in love. They loved each other,” Ruiz’s aunt, Claudia Ruiz, told Valley News Live. “It was just a prank gone wrong. It shouldn’t have happened like this. It shouldn’t have happened at all.”

Claudia Ruiz described Perez as a loving girlfriend and mother who had been with her nephew for six years. According to Perez’s social media accounts, the young woman was a stay-at-home mom. It appears she controlled the camera for many of their YouTube vlogs and often shared intimate, personal details with viewers.

“Our Vlogs will show you the real life of a young couple who happen to be teen parents,” the description on their channel reads. “From highs to lows. Achievements to struggles. Join the fun, Follow our journey!”

In a Facebook post last week that included the vlog post from their trip to the fair, Perez wrote that they were in the process of making Ruiz his own YouTube channel. His would focus on “all the crazy stuff,” she wrote. La MonaLisa would be about their “family life.”

“Oh man is it going to be sweet!,” she wrote.

Perez had discussed the book stunt before the shooting, family members told KVRR. Along with Perez and friends, they had tried to talk him out of it.

“I wish they wouldn’t have done it,” Claudia Ruiz told WDAY-TV. “I wish he would’ve just done another prank. He was so young. He had so much going for himself.”

Another aunt, Lisa Primeau, said she “pretty much raised” Pedro Ruiz after his mother died in Texas when he was a child, reported the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Ruiz was always “putting a dangerous twist on everything he did,” Primeau told the newspaper, like jumping off the top of the house into the swimming pool.

“We called him our little daredevil,” Primeau told the Star Tribune.

The aunts said they all are supporting Perez. They want to name her unborn baby Pedro, after his father.

“It’s a tragic incident. What she did . . . she has to live with that,” Primeau told the Star Tribune. “It’s the worst punishment she can get.”

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



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Property website Zillow backs down in row with McMansion Hell blog


Image copyright
McMansion Hell/domain.com.au

A dispute between a blogger and a property website over photo copyright has been settled after the website backed down.

Kate Wagner runs McMansion Hell, a satirical blog in which she critiques modern architecture and interior decor by annotating images taken from US property websites.

Property platform Zillow claimed that she was infringing copyright, although it does not own the images it posts.

Ms Wagner initially shut down her blog.

Digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) took on her cause after she shared the cease and desist notice she received from Zillow, which instructed her to remove all the photos she had ever used from its site.

‘Fair use’

Zillow said Ms Wagner was violating its terms which included reproducing or modifying the images it shared in its listings.

It also suggested McMansion Hell was in breach of the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a criminal offence.

In a response written by lawyer Daniel Nazer, the EFF said the agreements Zillow had made with its partners did not apply to her and that her inclusion of the photos was “fair use”.

Zillow has now agreed not to take further action and Ms Wagner says she will no longer use it as an image source.

In a statement to the Architect’s Newspaper the firm said it was “never its intention” to shut down the blog, which receives some funding via crowdfunding website Patreon.

“We acted out of an abundance of caution to protect our partners – the agents and brokers who entrust us to display photos of their clients’ homes,” said a spokeswoman.



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US Plans To Sell Taiwan Over $1 Billion In Arms, China Strongly Protests


China urged Washington to immediately revoke the planned arms sales to Taiwan.

Beijing:  China urged the United States to revoke immediately its “wrong decision” to sell Taiwan $1.42 billion worth of arms, saying it contradicted a “consensus” President Xi Jinping reached with his counterpart, Donald Trump, in talks in April in Florida.

The sales would send a very wrong message to “Taiwan independence” forces, China’s embassy in Washington said in a statement. A U.S. State Department spokeswoman said on Thursday the administration had told Congress of seven proposed sales to Taiwan, the first under the Trump administration..

“The Chinese government and Chinese people have every right to be outraged,” the embassy said.

China regards self-ruled Taiwan as a wayward province and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control. China’s Nationalists fled to the island after losing the civil war with China’s Communists in 1949.

The United States is the sole arms supplier to Taiwan.

“The wrong move of the U.S. side runs counter to the consensus reached by the two presidents in and the positive development momentum of the China-U.S. relationship,” the embassy said.

China’s Defence Ministry said Taiwan was the “most important, most sensitive core issue in Sino-U.S. ties”, warning the United States to end such sales to avoid further damaging peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

Trump was critical of China during his successful 2016 presidential campaign but his meeting at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida with Xi raised hopes for warmer relations.

Trump later played up his personal relationship with Xi, calling him a “good man”, and stressed the need for China’s help in reining in a defiant North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missiles.

China’s anger over the U.S. plan to supply Taiwan with weapons risks undermining Trump’s attempts to press China to help on North Korea.

The proposed U.S. package for Taiwan includes technical support for early warning radar, high speed anti-radiation missiles, torpedoes and missile components.

Beijing’s relationship with Taiwan has been frosty since President Tsai Ing-wen took power in Taipei last year. Tsai leads an independence-leaning party that refuses to recognise Beijing’s “one China” policy.

Tsai’s office said on Friday the planned sales increased Taiwan’s confidence and ability to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

Asked about the sales at an event on Thursday evening in Washington, Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai said the United States was “incorrigible” when it came to Taiwan, the official Chinese Communist Party People’s Daily newspaper reported on its website.

“But we should still continue to instruct (them) and continue advancing on the right track of China-U.S. relations because this is what truly fits for both countries’ long term interests,” the paper quoted Cui as saying.

The sales, which require congressional approval, would be the first since a $1.83 billion sale that former President Barack Obama announced in December 2015, also to China’s dismay.

The previous package included two navy frigates in addition to anti-tank missiles and amphibious attack vehicles.

© 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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Japan Reveals Plans To Put A Man On Moon By 2030


NASA and other global space agencies working hard on sending astronauts to Mars by the 2030s.

Tokyo, Japan:  Japan has revealed ambitious plans to put an astronaut on the Moon around 2030 in new proposals from the country’s space agency.

This is the first time the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has said it aims to send an astronaut beyond the International Space Station, an agency spokeswoman told AFP on Friday.

The idea is to first join a NASA led mission in 2025 to build a space station in the moon’s orbit, as part of a longer term effort by NASA to reach Mars.

Tokyo hopes that contributing to the multinational mission and sharing Japanese technology will land it a coveted spot at the station, from which it could eventually send an astronaut to the Moon, the spokeswoman said.

The plan was presented at an education ministry panel this week, with a more formal blueprint expected next year, according to public broadcaster NHK.

The announcement comes as China and India develop their space programmes.

In November, China’s Shenzhou 11 spacecraft returned to Earth, bringing home two astronauts from the rising power’s longest ever orbital mission.

Beijing has also unveiled illustrations of a Mars probe and rover it aims to send to the Red Planet at the end of the decade.

NASA and other global space agencies are working hard on sending astronauts to Mars by the 2030s.

In March, the US Congress passed a bill  signed by President Donald Trump directing NASA to send a manned mission to Mars in 2033.

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



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Nearly Half A Million Syrians Have Returned Home This Year: Reports


Half a million Syrians have returned to their homes so far this year.

Geneva:  Nearly half a million Syrians have returned to their homes so far this year, including 440,000 internally displaced people and more than 31,000 returning from neighbouring countries, the United Nations refugee agency said on Friday..Most returned to Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Damascus, it said, on the view that security had improved in parts of the country.

“This is a significant trend and a significant number,” UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic told a Geneva news briefing.

“Most of these people are returning to check on properties, to find out about family members… They have their own perceptions about the security situation, real or perceived improvements in areas they returning to.”

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Louise Ireland)

© 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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New Conflicts Threaten Syria After ISIS Defeat


Raqqa:  Sheen Ibrahim’s track record fighting ultra-hardline terrorists explains US President Donald Trump’s policy of arming Syrian Kurds like her as he seeks to eradicate ISIS. It also highlights the risks.

Taught by her brother to fire an AK-47 at 15 and encouraged by her mother to fight for Syrian Kurdish autonomy, she says she has killed 50 people since she took up arms in Syria’s six-year-old civil war, fighting first al Qaeda, then crossing into Iraq to help Kurds there against ISIS.

Now 26, she leads a 15-woman unit hunting down the hardline group in its global headquarters Raqqa, speeding through streets once controlled by the terrorists in a pick-up truck as fellow fighters comb through ruined buildings for booby traps.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), spearheaded by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, have taken several parts of the northern Syrian town since their assault began this month.

This week US Defence Secretary James Mattis said Washington may arm the SDF for future battles against ISIS while taking back weapons it no longer needs.

The plan is the “headline” of a still-unfinished stabilisation plan for Syria by the Trump administration, said a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The risk is that it causes new instability in a war in which outside powers are playing ever larger roles.

The US-YPG relationship has infuriated Syria’s northern neighbour Turkey, a NATO ally which says the YPG is an extension of the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK, designated terrorist by both Ankara and Washington for its insurgency against the Turkish state.

Turkey has sent troops into Syria, partly to attack ISIS, but also to keep the YPG, which controls Kurdish-populated areas of northern Syria, from moving into an Arab and Turkmen area that would give it control of the whole frontier.

On Wednesday Ankara said its artillery had destroyed YPG targets after local Turkish-backed forces came under attack.

Turkey has recently sent reinforcements into Syria, according to the rebel groups it backs, prompting SDF concern it plans to attack Kurdish YPG forces. The SDF warned on Thursday of a “big possibility of open, fierce confrontation”.

“WE’LL DO WHAT WE CAN”

Syrian Kurdish leaders say they want autonomy in Syria, like that enjoyed by Kurds in Iraq, rather than independence or to interfere in neighbouring states. They say Turkish warnings that YPG weapons could end up in PKK hands are unjustified.

“We were the victims of the nation state model and we have no desire to reproduce this model,” said Khaled Eissa, European representative of the PYD, the YPG’s political affiliate.

Ibrahim and other fighters interviewed by Reuters said they were not terrorists but would “stand up” to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. “Turkey is fighting us,” Ibrahim said. “Anyone who fights us, we will fight.”

Washington is working to calm tensions over its relationship with the YPG, which is also backed by Russia. “There is absolute transparency between Turkey and the United States on that subject,” said Major General Rupert Jones, the British deputy commander of the US-led coalition fighting ISIS.

But disarmament will not be easy, judging by the comments of YPG fighters on the ground. “We will not give up our weapons,” said a sniper aiming at ISIS positions, who only gave her first name, Barkaneurin. “We need them to defend ourselves.”

Fellow fighter Maryam Mohamed agreed. “Erdogan is our biggest enemy, we cannot hand over our weapons,” she said.

One of the US officials said Washington did not know exactly how many weapons the YPG has because some Arabs had joined its ranks, taking US-supplied weapons with them, when their groups suffered setbacks on the battlefield.

“Loyalties are as variable as the battle lines and sometimes follow them,” the official said.

Asked about weapons recovery, Mattis, in his first public remarks on the issue, said: “We’ll do what we can,” while YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud emphasised the target was ISIS. “We are fighting a global terrorist group,” he said.

Battlefield victory is tantalisingly close. US-backed forces in neighbouring Iraq announced on Thursday they had retaken Mosul, ISIS’s largest stronghold and the twin capital, with Raqqa, of the “caliphate” it declared in 2014.

But the US official and two others who also declined to be named, noted other huge obstacles to stabilising Syria they said the administration was papering over.

Rebuilding Raqqa will need billions of dollars and an unprecedented level of compromise among groups long hostile to each other, all three officials said. One said Iranian forces backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were poised to exploit any setbacks.

Kurds are spearheading the attack on Raqqa, but a mainly Arab force is planned to maintain security in the overwhelmingly Arab town thereafter.

While Kurds and Arabs fight side by side against ISIS, with the terrorists’ self-proclaimed caliphate shrinking, competition for territory will intensify.

“We are getting ourselves into the middle of another potential mess we don’t understand,” one of the US officials said.
 

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Mosul Victory In 'Days' As Pressure On ISIS Mounts


Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi hailed the recapture of the mosque as a sign of ISIS impending defeat.

Mosul, Iraq:  Iraq will declare victory over the ISIS in Mosul during the “next few days,” a senior commander said Friday, as pressure also mounts on the terrorist in Syria. ISIS, which declared a cross-border “caliphate” encompassing swathes of Iraq and Syria three years ago, is now facing twin offensives in Mosul and Raqa, its two most emblematic strongholds.

But while the loss of the two cities would be a major blow to ISIS, it would not mark the end of the threat posed by the group, which is likely to return to insurgent-style attacks that were its hallmark in years past.

“In the next few days, we will announce the final victory over Daesh,” Staff Lieutenant General Abdulghani al-Assadi, a senior commander in the elite Counter-Terrorism Service, told AFP in Mosul, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.

However, there has often been a gap between the declaration of victory and the actual end of fighting in a given area in the course of Iraq’s multi-year war against ISIS.

Iraqi forces launched the gruelling battle for Mosul on October 17, advancing to the city and retaking its eastern side before setting their sights on the smaller but more densely populated west.

The terrorists are now confined to a small area of Mosul’s Old City, but its narrow streets and the presence of civilians has made the operation to retake it perilous.

Assadi estimated that there are between 200 and 300 ISIS fighters left in the city, most of them foreigners.

Iraqi forces captured the iconic Nuri mosque in Mosul on Thursday, the site where ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his only known public appearance in 2014, calling on Muslims worldwide to obey him.

ISIS blew up the mosque and the famed Al-Hadba (hunchback) leaning minaret last week as Iraqi forces closed in.

ISIS  Escape Route Cut

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi hailed the recapture of the mosque as a sign of ISIS  impending defeat.

“We are seeing the end of the fake Daesh state,” Abadi said in an English statement on his Twitter account.

The US-led coalition against the terrorists also said that the end of the battle was near.

Speaking about an announcement of Mosul’s recapture, coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon said that: “I can’t put a timeline on that for them, but I see it closer to days than a week or weeks.”

He praised the Iraqi forces’s “grit and determination” and said coalition support would help bring “an imminent liberation”.

In neighbouring Syria, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are fighting to retake Raqa, ISIS  de facto capital in the country.

On Thursday, they cut off ISIS  last escape route, trapping the terrorists inside the city.

“The SDF has been able to completely encircle Raqa,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group that relies on a network of sources on the ground.

On Friday, clashes were ongoing in several parts of Raqa and the coalition was carrying out air strikes, the Observatory said.

The SDF broke into Raqa on June 6 after spending months chipping away at terrorist’s territory around the city.

Its fighters have since captured two eastern and two western districts of the city and are pushing towards its centre, where ISIS  fighters are holding tens of thousands of civilians.

Around 2,500 terrorists are fighting in the city, according to British Major General Rupert Jones, a coalition deputy commander.

 



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Donald Trump To Senate Republicans: Kill Obamacare Now, Replace Later


Donald Trump urged Republican US senators today to revoke Obamacare. (Reuters)

Washington:  US President Donald Trump urged Republican US senators today to repeal Obamacare immediately if they cannot agree on a new health care plan to take its place.

Republican leaders have set Friday as the goal for working out changes to Senate legislation that would repeal extensive parts of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the law dubbed Obamacare that expanded health insurance coverage to 20 million people.

Their efforts were complicated on Thursday by a Congressional Budget Office report that said the Senate proposal would cut spending on government Medicaid for the poor by 35 percent come 2036.

“If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!” Trump wrote in an early morning Twitter post.

US Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican who has often clashed with Trump, welcomed the suggestion. Sasse said this week he was not satisfied with the Senate healthcare legislation.

“Sounds great, Pres. @realDonaldTrump,” Sasse wrote in a response on Twitter. “We are agreed. We need to break the logjam.”

Trump promised as a presidential candidate to do away with the Affordable Care Act but crafting a plan acceptable to Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress, has proven easier said than done.

Republicans would like to make progress on that issue to clear the way for other priorities such as tax reform.
 

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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The Pak-American Romance All Indians Should Watch Raja Sens Review


Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Anupam Kher, Zenobia Shroff, Bo Burnham
Director: Michael Showalter
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Since this is a review about an overwhelmingly honest film, here’s a confession: growing up, all white actors looked alike to us. No, not the ones we knew already, of course, the famous and the familiar, but the rest. They were an interchangeable lineup of blondes and brunettes, light-eyed people hard to tell apart till they did something worth remembering. This, as you may imagine, made the opening act of many an ensemble-heavy movie significantly hard to follow, but follow we still did, gulping down whatever scraps of American pop culture belatedly found their way to our screens and our videocassette players.

Kumail Nanjiani, writer and star of The Big Sick – a landmark romantic comedy where no character could be mistaken for another – could possibly relate. Speaking of his childhood in Pakistan, the Silicon Valley actor says it differed most from life in America lies because he only got to watch one episode of Knight Rider, the second episode, and it took quite a while to get there. Later in the film he talks about how hard it is to tell the names ‘Craig’ and ‘Greg’ apart. Preach, brother.
 

Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan in The Big Sick

Directed by Michael Showalter and produced by Judd Apatow, The Big Sick continues Apatow’s worthy attempts to explore and accurately represent stand-up comedy as an American subculture. More than Funny People and Crashing, though, The Big Sick shares its DNA with romantic comedies that are classic, corny or cerebral: Notting Hill, While You Were Sleeping and – perhaps most of all, in telling ways – with the ultimate stand-up comedian romance, Annie Hall.

Ah, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Nanjiani, who shares his name with his character in a screenplay he’s co-written, plays a stand-up comedian who makes a living as an Uber driver. One night, he’ss heckled by a bright girl with a cheshire grin called Emily. Nanjiani explains that interrupting a comedian, even to give him a compliment, is a heckle – reminding me of that time a woman yelled out in appreciation of Louis CK’s boots – and while he’s half-joking as he tries to strike up conversation, the point he’s making isn’t a joke. The best thing about Nanjiani in this film is the way he’s deadpan when joking and smiling when he’s serious. Almost as if the character is scared of being truly serious.
 

the big sick

Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan in The Big Sick

As the title might have alerted, there is a fair bit to be serious about. Emily is almost too wonderful to be true. She’s a girl clever enough to know when she’s being mansplained to: “I love it when men test me on my taste,” she laughs, and later describes her Ghost World high school aesthetic as Beetlejuice so he would get it. Naturally, she is the one who abruptly falls deathly ill, which leaves Nanjiani to hang out with her parents in hospital silence. This would be the worst time to meet a girlfriend’s parents, but Kumail has stepped in it, breaking her heart before she even went to hospital. Her parents – played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano – know this.

Kumail’s parents, meanwhile, know nothing. Or want to know nothing. Played by Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff, the Nanjianis are content in the blind belief that their son is dutifully saying his prayers before the ice-cream is served. He instead uses the five-minute timeout to fool around with a cricket bat, but does so after he’s laid down the prayer mat. Kher excellently demonstrates the inability to say much, a man disallowed from expressing himself, while Shroff is the most perfectly desi mother: one who says “You’re dead to me, go to Hell – but make sure you text me once you get there.”
 

the big sick

Kumail Nanjiani and Anupam Kher in The Big Sick

As the mother who doesn’t want to hang around with the kid who hurt her daughter, Hunter is the finest actor in the film, drawing boundaries around herself until, at a comedy show, she realises how many lines that kid has had to live with. It’s surprisingly heartening to watch an old comic hand like Romano play a square dad trying to embrace stand-up, and he brings heart and warmth to a film that makes you cry as much as it makes you chortle.
 

the big sick

Kumail Nanjiani in The Big Sick

More than the children and their breezy romance, it is the adults who demonstrate how they aren’t as different after all. “Again with the comedy” is Kumail’s mother’s regular refrain, one that sounds as Jewish as Estelle Costanza. Emily’s father, meanwhile, distrusts the internet, where all symptoms lead to cancer and where they hate Forrest Gump. Even with accurately rendered characterisations, it is clear that parents are parents, and that – not the colour of their skin – is their stereotype.

At one point in his performance, Nanjiani lists the order of professions as per Pakistani parental approval: Doctor, then Engineer, then Lawyer, then (a good way away) ISIS, and then Comedian. It stunned me that he didn’t mention ‘IT Guy,’ and then I remembered that those are the ones they import, not the ones they grow at home. If you’re a brown kid born and bred in America, Engineer will do just fine. Like in the works of Aziz Ansari, Hassan Minhaj and Mindy Lahiri, there is a lot to notice here.
 

the big sick

Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan in The Big Sick

Showalter’s direction is simple and unshowy, like a mumblecore film without the mumbling. Like his last film, Hello, My Name Is Doris, this is heartfelt and sincere without ever being cloying, but far better and more insightful because of the material it draws from. Written by Nanjiani and Emily V Wood, the screenplay – based loosely (and cleverly) on a reality you should read about only after you’ve watched the film – is bracingly honest. This is a film that knows what to do with a broken heart, and with a 9/11 joke.

The Big Sick amuses, illuminates and refreshes in unexpected ways. For all its originality and surprising joy, however, it is also the kind of romantic comedy we haven’t seen in forever. One that would make Hugh Grant envious.
 



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Demand For Qatar To Close Down Al-Jazeera 'Unacceptable': United Nations


United Nations says Al Jazeera’s Arabic and English channels are legitimate. (Reuters)

Geneva:  A demand by Saudi Arabia and three other Arab nations for Qatar to close down its Al Jazeera TV channel is an “unacceptable attack” on the right to freedoms of expression and opinion, the United Nations human rights chief said today.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a boycott on Qatar three weeks ago, accusing it of backing terrorists, then issued an ultimatum, including demands it shut down a Turkish military base in Doha, shutting Al Jazeera and curbing ties with Iran.

UN High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein is “extremely concerned by the demand that Qatar close down the Al Jazeera network, as well as other affiliated media outlets”, his spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing.

“Whether or not you watch it, like it, or agree with its editorial standpoints, Al Jazeera’s Arabic and English channels are legitimate, and have many millions of viewers. The demand that they be summarily closed down is, in our view, an unacceptable attack on the right to freedom of expression and opinion,” Mr Colville said.

 

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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US-Backed Forces Cut Off Last ISIS Escape Route From Raqa


Beirut:  US-backed forces cut off the last escape route for the ISIS group from Raqa on Thursday, trapping the besieged terrorists inside their de facto Syrian capital.

But ISIS fighters hit back with a counterattack that included several suicide bombings against the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters trying to seize control of the city.

The SDF captured two villages on the southern bank of the Euphrates River that the terrorists had been passing through to withdraw from the city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“The SDF has been able to completely encircle Raqa,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based monitoring group, which relies on a network of sources on the ground.

It was the latest setback for ISIS, which declared its “caliphate” straddling Syria and Iraq three years ago but has since lost most of the territory it once controlled.

It came too as Iraqi forces announced the recapture of an iconic mosque in ISIS’s last major Iraqi bastion Mosul, prompting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to declare “the end” of the “fake” terrorist state.

The SDF, backed by the US-led anti-ISIS coalition, broke into Raqa on June 6 after spending months chipping away at terrorist territory around the city.

Its fighters have since captured two eastern and two western districts of the city and are pushing towards its centre, where ISIS fighters are holding tens of thousands of civilians.

Around 2,500 terrorists are fighting in the city, according to British Major General Rupert Jones, a deputy commander for the US-led coalition.

The SDF had surrounded the terrorists from the north, east and west but they were still able to escape across the Euphrates, which forms the southern border of the city.

Thursday’s advance saw SDF fighters capture the villages of Kasrat Afnan and Kasab on the southern bank of the Euphrates, cutting off the route the terrorists were using to withdraw to territory ISIS controls in the Syrian desert and in Deir Ezzor province.

The SDF has “continued to advance eastward south of the Euphrates River, moving to completely encircle ISIS in Raqa,” said Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the US-led coalition.

“The SDF now control all high-speed avenues of approach into Raqa from the south,” he added.

But the terrorists appear determined to make a bloody last stand.

Several dozen terrorists disguised in SDF uniforms launched an attack from the city centre, which they still control, on two districts in the southeast of the city.

They carried out three suicide car bomb attacks, deployed drones armed with explosives, seized six SDF positions and killed several fighters, Abdel Rahman said.

“Even totally besieged, jihadists are able to carry out operations,” he added.

– 60% of territory lost –

The war in Syria, which has seen terrorists, moderate rebels and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad pitted against each other, has killed more than 320,000 people since the spring of 2011.

A recent fact-finding mission by the UN’s chemical watchdog found that sarin was used as a chemical weapon in an April 4 attack in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun, which killed at least 87 people including many children.

The findings by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), documented in a report partially seen by AFP Thursday, will now be taken up by a joint UN-OPCW panel to determine whether Syrian government forces were behind the attack.

ISIS overran Raqa in mid-2014 as part of the offensive that saw it seize control of large parts of Syria and Iraq.

The city became infamous as the scene of some of the group’s worst atrocities, including public beheadings, and is thought to have been a hub for planning attacks overseas.

The United Nations estimates some 100,000 civilians remain in the city, with the terrorists accused of using them as human shields.

Marking the third anniversary of ISIS’s declaration of a state on June 29, 2014, a leading analysis firm said the terrorists had since lost more than 60 percent of their territory and 80 percent of their revenue.

In January 2015, ISIS controlled about 90,800 square kilometres, but by June 2017 that number dropped to 36,200, said IHS Markit.

The biggest fall was in the first six months of 2017, when ISIS lost around 24,000 square kilometres of territory.

“The Islamic State’s rise and fall has been characterised by rapid inflation, followed by steady decline,” said Columb Strack, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit.

“Three years after the ‘caliphate’ was declared, it is evident that the group’s governance project has failed,” Strack said.

IHS Markit said ISIS’s average monthly revenue had plummeted by 80 percent, from $81 million in the second quarter of 2015 to just $16 million in the second quarter of 2017.
 



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China Bans 'Time-Bomb' Toothpick Crossbows


In China, crossbows can only be carried around with a permit.

Shanghai, China:  Chinese authorities have raided toy shops across the country to enforce a ban on a handheld crossbow popular with children that can fire nails and needles, state media said.So-called toothpick crossbows were designed to shoot just that — toothpicks — and in recent weeks became the must-have “toy” for young children in Chinese schools.But anxious parents said they feared the devices, made of plastic or metal and costing as little as five yuan ($.75), could end up blinding somebody after reports that people were swapping  toothpicks for metal needles and iron nails.

Now authorities have acted, according to the official Xinhua news agency, which declared late Thursday that the mini crossbow has “vanished from shelves almost as fast as it emerged”.

It quoted one worried Beijing parent surnamed Geng saying: “This is more a time-bomb than a toy.”

Xinhua also quoted an unnamed inspector with the Beijing municipal bureau of commerce as warning: “Kids are being watched by teachers and parents. Playing with such a toy will not be tolerated. It is too dangerous.”

The crossbows have also been pulled from major shopping websites, the agency said, adding that only one injury had been reported in connection with the crossbows in all of China.

In China, crossbows can only be carried around with a permit and failure to do so can result in five days behind bars and a 500 yuan fine, Xinhua said.

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



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Weetabix vs Weet-bix: UK cereal held by New Zealand customs


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A consignment of UK breakfast cereal Weetabix has reportedly been impounded by New Zealand customs officials, after complaints it could confuse customers.

The 300 boxes had been ordered by a specialist shop in Christchurch, “A Little Bit of Britain”.

But food giant Sanitarium, which owns rival brand Weet-bix, has objected to it being sold.

The shop’s owner has been told the cereal will only be released if a sticker is put over the Weetabix label.

Sanitarium said its Weet-Bix brand was protected by international law and, in turn, was often precluded from being sold in other global markets due to the Weetabix trade mark.

Lisa Wilson, of the A Little Bit of Britain shop, which specialises in UK products, said she could not understand the move, as the products looked and tasted different.

The store currently sells some seven boxes of Weetabix a day.



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German Chancellor Angela Merkel Votes Against Same Sex Marriage Law


Angela Merkel voted against a law which permits same sex marriage.

Berlin, Germany:  German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday voted against a law to legalise same sex marriage which passed parliament, saying she believed it was the preserve of a man and a woman.

“To me, marriage as defined in the German basic law means the marriage between husband and wife, and that is why I vote against the law today,” she said shortly after the vote.

But she did say that her thinking had changed on the question of child adoption by same sex couples, which she long opposed, labelling her past comments on it ‘unsatisfactory’.

“Since then I have thought a lot about the matter of child welfare and have now… come to the conviction that same sex couples should be able to jointly adopt children,” she said.

Merkel had allowed her conservative party’s lawmakers to vote their conscience rather than follow the party line in the vote, which was strongly supported by leftist parties.

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



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Lloyds misses own compensation deadline


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Lloyds Banking Group has expressed its deep regret over the fraud

Victims of a one billion pound fraud have criticised Lloyds Banking Group for failing to meet its own deadline for paying compensation.

In the wake of guilty verdicts in a fraud trial that ended in February, Lloyds said it would offer compensation to the victims by the end of June.

However, now the deadline has arrived, only a small fraction of the £100m it set aside has so far been paid out.

Lloyds, which bought HBOS in 2009, has yet to comment.

In the HBOS fraud, two corrupt HBOS bankers pressured small business customers into hiring a firm of so-called turnaround consultants called Quayside Corporate Services, led by David Mills.

Mills and his accomplices bribed the bank managers with cash, gifts and prostitutes, then used their relationship with the bank to bully the business owners into handing over exorbitant fees and, eventually, control of their companies. Many business owners were not only ruined but lost their marriages and their health.

Mills and the others, including former HBOS banker Lynden Scourfield, were convicted in January of various charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering between 2003 and 2007.

Dictate

After years of denying any knowledge of criminality, Lloyds Banking Group came under pressure to take responsibility for crimes committed by its own staff. On 27 April the bank said it would offer victims compensation by the end of June.

However, the victims say the bank’s compensation scheme isn’t impartial. Of the 64 who’ve joined it, it’s understood that fewer than 10 have received offers and only one settlement has been reached. Lloyds has yet to comment.

Dozens more victims have declined to join the scheme amid concern that the bank is seeking to dictate terms, imposing its own compensation scheme rather than consulting them.

The bank is expected to provide an update on its treatment of the victims of the crime later today.

‘Awful’

Nigel Morgan, whose family lost millions and was driven into bankruptcy following the fraud, says the bank refused to help him with a modest sum to prepare a compensation claim. He says the bank has made no effort to try to reverse the bankruptcy and the trustee in bankruptcy now wants to control the claim for compensation.

“It’s been 12 years since we were ruined by this and a very tough 12 years. I thought the bank would be decent enough to admit when it was wrong – but the way they’re behaving to the victims is disgusting. The first thing they should have done is to send someone round and apologise unreservedly.

“We’re constantly living on the edge, worried we won’t keep what we have left; I’m having panic attacks every day. It’s just an awful situation.”



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US Travel Ban Takes Effect, With Lawyers On Hand Just In Case


Washington:  Lawyers and rights activists took up positions at major US airports as a weakened version of President Donald Trump’s travel ban took effect late Thursday.

But there were no signs of the chaos that erupted when the first version of the restriction, derided as discriminatory against Muslims, was abruptly imposed back in January.

Attorneys working pro-bono set up makeshift, just-in-case legal aid stations — some with signs in Arabic — at airports serving New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington and other cities, news reports said.

Protesters angry over Trump’s immigration policies also turned out, with some in Los Angeles holding black-and-white placards denouncing Trump as a fascist.

But the first hours of the new version of the ban, as allowed by the Supreme Court, appeared to unfold calmly.

Gone were the dramatic scenes of some people arriving from seven mainly Muslim countries being detained and questioned for hours, with some even deported on short order to where they came from.

“We’re not really expecting any issues at the airport. But we’re here just in case, to monitor, to tell people what’s going on, and to report back what we’re seeing,” Camille Mackler, director of legal initiatives at the New York Immigration Coalition, told The Daily Beast.

She was among volunteers at JFK Airport in New York awaiting flights from London, Istanbul, Doha and Abu Dhabi. “We think we’re going to see it abroad, because it’s really for people applying for visas,” Mackler added.

The Trump administration says the temporary ban is necessary to keep terrorists out of the country, but immigrant advocates charge that it illegally singles out Muslims.

Under a Supreme Court ruling this week that allowed part of the ban to take effect — and ended, for now, five months of skirmishes in lower courts — the 90-day ban on visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and a 120-day ban on refugees, will allow exceptions for people with “close family relationships” in the United States.

Activists said the government has defined that too narrowly, excluding relationships with grandparents and grandchildren, aunts and uncles and others.

The Department of Homeland Security, which was heavily criticized for mishandling many arrivals when the ban was first attempted in January, promised a smooth rollout this time. The new ban took effect at 8:00 pm Thursday Eastern time (0000 GMT Friday).

The department said that anyone with a valid visa issued before the ban began would still be admitted, and that all authorized refugees booked for travel before July 6 would also be allowed.

“We expect business as usual at the ports of entry starting at 8 pm tonight,” a DHS official said. “Our people are well prepared for this.”

Trump claims victory

But the ban’s implementation, even with exceptions, was claimed as a political victory by Trump, after federal appeals courts twice blocked his order, saying it violated constitutional protections of religion and overshot his presidential powers.

Immigrant rights groups and Democrats in Congress continued to label Trump’s order illegal and said the exemptions provided in a Supreme Court ruling on Monday remained unfair.

According to guidelines issued by the State Department, people with “close family relationships” would be exempt from the ban. It defined that to include parents, spouses, children, sons- and daughters-in-law, siblings and step- and half-siblings.

But “close family” does not include grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-laws and sisters-in-law, fiances and any other “extended” family members, the guidelines say.

People with formal relationships with a US entity — who have for instance been offered a job or been accepted to study or lecture at a university — will also qualify for visas during the ban. But a hotel reservation, even if already paid for, does not qualify.

Even as travel officials across the US made final preparations for putting the ban into place, opponents were preparing new legal challenges.

Late Thursday, Hawaii asked federal district Judge Derrick Watson to clarify the scope of the travel and refugee bans in the Pacific island state — and to define who, specifically, the ban refers to when stating that only an immigrant’s close family members can travel to the US.

“In Hawaii, ‘close family’ includes many of the people that the federal government decided on its own to exclude from that definition. Unfortunately, this severely limited definition may be in violation of the Supreme Court ruling,” the Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin said in a statement.

Rama Issa, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, said the government was redefining what a family is.

“I was raised by my grandparents, so the idea of grandparents not being part of a family is very foreign to me,” Issa said at JFK, preparing to help new arrivals.

“I’m engaged to get married. I have family who lives in Syria today — not only my father, but my aunts and uncles who I would love to be at this wedding, and unfortunately are not going to be able to be here.”

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



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Ron Dennis ends 37-year association with McLaren by selling shares


Lewis Hamilton and Ron Dennis celebrate victory at Monaco in 2008

Ron Dennis has formally ended his role at McLaren, the company he made into one of the most successful Formula 1 teams of all time.

Dennis, ousted as chief executive officer last November in a boardroom coup, has sold his 25% shareholding.

The 70-year-old has also resigned from his position on the board.

Dennis has sold to the two main shareholders – Mumtalakat, the Bahrain sovereign investment fund, and Mansour Ojjeh.

It was the souring of Dennis’ relationship with Ojjeh that led to his removal.

The two were long-time friends and business partners but fell out for both personal and business reasons a few years ago.

What did Dennis do at McLaren?

Dennis arrived at McLaren in September 1980, taking control in 1981 and building it into one of the dominant teams of the next 20 years.

He built it through three eras – with TAG-Porsche engines from 1984-87, winning one world drivers’ title with Niki Lauda and two with Alain Prost; with Honda engines from 1988-92, winning one world title with Prost and three with Ayrton Senna; and then into a relationship with Mercedes from 1995, which saw world titles for Mika Hakkinen in 1998 and 1999 and Lewis Hamilton in 2008.

Dennis was also instrumental in McLaren’s current engine partnership with Honda, which has so far proven to be a huge disappointment. The team languish in last place in the championship this season, owing to the lack of power and reliability of the Honda engine.

McLaren are seeking a way out of their deal with Honda for next season, aiming to switch to a supply of customer Mercedes power-units.

Dennis’ eye for detail, and refusal to compromise on many fronts, set new standards for F1 teams which all others had to follow.

A proud Dennis carries the trophy secured by Ayrton Senna’s famous Monaco Grand Prix victory in 1992

What happens to McLaren now?

Dennis’ departure is part of a restructure that cements Mumtalakat and its representative Sheikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa as the dominant force in McLaren.

It merges the McLaren Technology Group – made up of McLaren Racing, McLaren Applied Technologies and McLaren Marketing – with McLaren Automotive, which produces a range of successful high-performance sports cars for the road, under the control of a new company called the McLaren Group.

Sheikh Mohammed is the executive chairman of the McLaren Group and Mumtalakat the majority shareholder.

Ojjeh is a significant minority shareholder, with sundry other individual parties holding small stakes.



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German Parliament Votes To Legalise Same-Sex Marriage


The parliament voted by 393 votes in favour of same-sex marriage to 226 against.

BERLIN:  Germany’s parliament voted by a wide margin on Friday to legalise same-sex marriage after Chancellor Angela Merkel did an about-face that freed members of her ruling conservative bloc to follow their personal conscience rather than the party line.

Merkel, who will seek a fourth term in a national election on Sept. 24, told reporters after the landmark decision that she had voted against the measure because she believed that marriage as defined under German law was between a man and a woman.

But she said her decision was a personal one, adding that she had become convinced in recent years that same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children.

“I hope that the vote today not only promotes respect between the different opinions but also brings more social cohesion and peace,” Merkel said.

The parliament voted by 393 votes in favour of same-sex marriage to 226 against.

Many other European countries, including France, Britain and Spain, have already legalised same-sex marriage.

Merkel’s announcement on Monday that she would allow lawmakers to vote on same-sex marriage according to their individual conscience drew the ire of some in her traditionally Catholic conservative bloc.

But political analysts say the issue will likely have faded from voters’ minds by the time the September election comes around.

Friday’s vote marks a rare victory for Merkel’s Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners, who are trailing the conservatives in opinion polls. They had seized on Merkel’s surprise comments on Monday to say they would push for an early vote before parliament’s summer recess.

Success in passing the so-called “marriage for all” amendment could provide a sorely needed boost for the centre-left SPD, which has seen a short-lived boost in the polls earlier this year evaporate in recent months.

The measure will likely be signed into law by the president some time after July 7.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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



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UK economic growth confirmed at 0.2% in first quarter


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The UK economy grew by 0.2% in the first three months of the year, official figures have confirmed.

The latest growth estimate from the Office for National Statistics was unrevised but confirmed the slowdown from the 0.7% rate seen in the final quarter of last year.

Growth in the business services and finance sectors helped to offset slower consumer spending, the ONS said.

New data also showed that the household savings ratio hit a record low.

The savings ratio fell to 1.7% between January and March.

Darren Morgan, head of GDP at the ONS, said: “The saving ratio has fallen again this quarter to a new record low, partly as a result of higher tax payments reducing disposable income.

“Some of the fall could be as a result of the timing of those payments, but the underlying trend is for a continued fall in the saving ratio.”



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Hackers Can Steal PINs, Passwords From Your Brainwaves, Shows Study


A recent study shows that hackers can predict PINs and passwords by analyzing brainwaves

Washington:  Hackers can guess a user’s passwords by monitoring their thoughts, according to scientists including those of Indian origin who suggest that brainwave-sensing headsets need better security.

Electroencephalograph (EEG) headsets allow users to control robotic toys and video games with the mind.

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the US found that a person who paused a video game and logged into a bank account while wearing an EEG headset was at risk for having their passwords or other sensitive data stolen by a malicious software programme.

“These emerging devices open immense opportunities for everyday users,” said Nitesh Saxena, associate professor from University of Alabama.

“However, they could also raise significant security and privacy threats as companies work to develop even more advanced brain-computer interface technology,” said Mr Saxena.

The team, including PhD student Ajaya Neupane, used one EEG headset currently available to consumers online and one clinical-grade headset used for scientific research to demonstrate how easily a malicious software programme could passively eavesdrop on a user’s brainwaves.

While typing, a user’s inputs correspond with their visual processing, as well as hand, eye and head muscle movements. All these movements are captured by EEG headsets.

The team asked 12 people to type a series of randomly generated PINs and passwords into a text box as if they were logging into an online account while wearing an EEG headset, in order for the software to train itself on the user’s typing and the corresponding brainwave.

“In a real-world attack, a hacker could facilitate the training step required for the malicious programme to be most accurate, by requesting that the user enter a predefined set of numbers in order to restart the game after pausing it to take a break, similar to the way CAPTCHA is used to verify users when logging onto websites,” Mr Saxena said.

The team found that, after a user entered 200 characters, algorithms within the malicious software programme could make educated guesses about new characters the user entered by monitoring the EEG data recorded.

The algorithm was able to shorten the odds of a hacker’s guessing a four-digit numerical PIN from one in 10,000 to one in 20 and increased the chance of guessing a six-letter password from about 500,000 to roughly one in 500.

“Given the growing popularity of EEG headsets and the variety of ways in which they could be used, it is inevitable that they will become part of our daily lives, including while using other devices,” Mr Saxena said.

“It is important to analyse the potential security and privacy risks associated with this emerging technology to raise users’ awareness of the risks and develop viable solutions to malicious attacks,” he said.
 



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FTSE 100 falls as pound holds above $1.30


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The pound held above the $1.30 mark after comments from senior Bank of England officials suggested interest rate rises could be back on the agenda.

On Wednesday, Bank governor Mark Carney suggested that rates could rise if business investment grows.

The Bank’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, then said on Thursday that the Bank needed to “look seriously” at a possible rate rise.

The pound stood at $1.3010, and rose 0.2% against the euro at 1.1392 euros.

On the stock market, the FTSE 100 was down 26.32 points at 7,324.00, with oil companies weighing on the index.

Shares in BP were down 1.6% while Royal Dutch Shell fell 1.4%.

Outside the FTSE 100, shares in Game Digital dived 30% after the video games retailer issued a profit warning.

The company said trading had been affected by lower than expected supplies of the Nintendo Switch console.



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China Builds New Military Facilities On South China Sea Islands: Report


The United States has criticized China’s build-up of military facilities on the artificial islands

Washington:  China has built new military facilities on islands in the South China Sea, a U.S. think tank reported on Thursday, a move that could raise tensions with Washington, which has accused Beijing of militarising the vital waterway.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), part of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said new satellite images show missile shelters and radar and communications facilities being built on the Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi Reefs in the Spratly Islands.

The United States has criticized China’s build-up of military facilities on the artificial islands and is concerned they could be used to restrict free movement through the South China Sea, an important trade route.
 

mischief reef reuters

Construction is shown on Mischief Reef (CSIS/AMTI DigitalGlobe/Handout via REUTERS)

Last month, a U.S. Navy warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in a so-called freedom of navigation operation, the first such challenge to Beijing’s claim to most of the waterway since U.S. President Donald Trump took office.

China has denied U.S. charges that it is militarising the sea, which also is claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Trump has sought China’s help in reining in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, and tension between Washington and Beijing over military installations in the South China Sea could complicate those efforts.

China has built four new missile shelters on Fiery Cross Reef to go with the eight already on the artificial island, AMTI said. Mischief and Subi each have eight shelters, the think tank said in a previous report.

In February, Reuters reported that China had nearly finished building structures to house long-range surface-to-air missiles on the three islands.
 

subi reef reuters

Construction is shown on Subi Reef, in the Spratly Islands. (CSIS/AMTI DigitalGlobe/Handout via REUTERS)

On Mischief Reef, a very large antennae array is being installed that presumably boosts Beijing’s ability to monitor the surroundings, the think tank said, adding that the installation should be of concern to the Philippines due to its proximity to an area claimed by Manila.

A large dome recently was installed on Fiery Cross and another is under construction, indicating a sizeable communications or radar system, AMTI said. Two more domes are being built at Mischief Reef, it said.

A smaller dome has been installed near the missile shelters on Mischief, “indicating that it could be connected to radars for any missile systems that might be housed there,” AMTI said.

“Beijing can now deploy military assets, including combat aircraft and mobile missile launchers, to the Spratly Islands at any time,” it said.

© 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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Trinity Mirror sets aside another £7.5m for hacking scandal


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AFP

Trinity Mirror has set aside £7.5m extra to settle phone-hacking allegations, and revealed it has secured a five-year contract to print the Guardian.

The Daily Mirror owner said it had settled over 80% of claims.

In a trading update for the 26 weeks ending 2 July, it said group revenue will be down 9% on a like-for-like basis for the period.

Falls in circulation and advertising have forced it to cut costs.

‘Volatile’ environment

Print advertising and circulation revenue fell by 21% and 6% respectively over the period.

Chief executive Simon Fox said: “The trading environment for print in the first half remained volatile but we remain on course to meet our expectations for the year.

“I anticipate that the second half will show improving revenue momentum as we benefit from initiatives implemented during the first half of the year.”

Trinity said while it had settled a majority of the phone hacking claims made against it more funds were being provided because of “the lengthy process of settling claims and the structure and quantum of legal fees for the claimants”.

The group also revealed it has signed a five-year print and distribution deal for the Guardian and Observer newspapers from early 2018.



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Germany votes for 50m euro social media fines


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Getty Images

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Facebook risks large fines unless its community managers handle extremist content quickly enough

Social media companies in Germany face fines of up to 50m euros ($57.1; £43.9m) if they fail to remove “obviously illegal” content in time.

From October, Facebook, YouTube, and other sites with more that two million users in Germany must take down posts containing hate speech or other criminal material within 24 hours.

Content that is not obviously unlawful must be assessed within seven days.

The new law is one of the toughest of its kind in the world.

Failure to comply will result in a 5m euro penalty, which could rise to 50m euros depending on the severity of the offence.

In a statement, Facebook said it shared the goal of the German government to fight hate speech.

It added: “We believe the best solutions will be found when government, civil society and industry work together and that this law as it stands now will not improve efforts to tackle this important societal problem.”

German MPs voted in favour of the Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz (NetzDG) law after months of deliberation, on the last legislative day before the Bundestag’s summer break.

But it has already been condemned by human rights groups and industry representatives.

They claim the tight time limits are unrealistic, and will lead to accidental censorship as technology companies err on the side of caution and delete ambiguous posts to avoid paying penalties.

Fake news

The law will not come into force until after the German federal elections, which will be held in September.

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Media captionHuman rights groups are concerned by Germany’s plan to fine social media companies

Justice Minister Heiko Maas singled out Facebook, which has some 30 million users in Germany, saying experience had shown that without political pressure, “the large platform operators would not fulfil their obligations” to take down illegal content.

He added that while the law “does not solve all problems”, it tackles the issue of hate crimes on social media, which are “increasingly a problem in many countries”.

Mr Maas, who oversaw the legislation, told the German parliament that online hate crimes had increased by almost 300% in the past few years, adding that “no one should be above the law”.

The bill was drafted after several high-profile incidents of fake news and criminal hate speech being spread on social media sites in Germany.

One case involved the targeting of prominent Green MP Renate Kunast, with a post that falsely suggested she was sympathetic to a refugee who had murdered a German student in the southern city of Freiburg.

For its part, Facebook said it had already made “substantial progress” in removing illegal content, and called into question the efficacy of the law.

The company recently announced it had hired an extra 3,000 staff (on top of the 4,500 it already has) to help monitor “the millions of reports” that come through every week.

Social media companies also point to a recent report by the European Commission, which showed that some 80% of all reported illegal content is already removed in Germany.

Illegal phrase

In addition to social media sites themselves, three voluntary, independent bodies currently monitor the German internet.

The BBC was given access to one of them, run by Eco, the German Association of the Internet Industry, in Cologne.

In a small, heavily secured office, three legal experts sifted through thousands of complaints from members of the public.

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German MPs voted for the new law ahead of a federal election in September

One example shown to the BBC was of a YouTube video titled “Sieg Heil”, a phrase that can be illegal in Germany.

The video was reported to the local police in North-Rhine Westphalia, and followed up with the social network itself after a few days.

But the organisers of the facility, which has been in existence for 15 years, are also concerned about NetzDG, which they say has been “rushed through” for political expediency.

“It takes time to define if a complaint’s content is really illegal or not,” said Alexander Rabe, a member of the Eco board, which was consulted by the government on the draft law.

Mr Rabe also pointed out that much of what many might deem to be “fake news” or hate speech on their social media feeds was not in fact illegal content under current German law.

Free speech

The bill has also faced criticism from human right’s campaigners.

“Many of the violations covered by the bill are highly dependent on context, context which platforms are in no position to assess,” wrote the UN Special Rapporteur to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, David Kaye.

He added that “the obligations placed upon private companies to regulate and take down content raises concern with respect to freedom of expression”.

The law could still be stopped in Brussels, where campaigners have claimed it breaches EU laws.



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NASA Rocket Creates Colourful Artificial Clouds


NASA successfully launched a sounding rocket that created colourful artificial clouds

Washington:  NASA has successfully launched a sounding rocket that created colourful artificial clouds visible in the US skies.

The NASA Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket was successfully launched yesterday, from the US space agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, after being delayed multiple times over the last 30 days.

During the 8-minute flight, 10 canisters about the size of a soft drink can were ejected in space, 9 to 19 kilometres away from the 300-kg main payload.

The canisters deployed blue-green and red vapour that formed artificial clouds visible from New York to North Carolina.

During an ionosphere or aurora science mission, these clouds, or vapour tracers, allow scientists on the ground to visually track particle motions in space.

The development of the multi-canister ejection system will allow scientists to gather information over a much larger area than previously possible when deploying the tracers just from the main payload.



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Ex-CIA Agent Convicted Over Imam Kidnapping To Face Sentencing


Lisbon, Portugal:  A former CIA agent who was found guilty of kidnapping an Egyptian imam by an Italian court more than a decade ago said Thursday she intended to return to Italy to face her sentence, but hopes to avoid prison.Sabrina de Sousa, who holds dual American and Portuguese nationality, said she would leave Portugal to face the Italian courts over the abduction of radical preacher Abu Omar from a Milan street in 2003 in an operation allegedly led jointly by the CIA and the Italian intelligence services.She has already gone on trial in absentia along with 22 others in what were the first legal convictions in the world against people involved in the CIA’s extraordinary renditions programme that followed the September 11, 2001 attacks.

“I’m going back to Italy next week to serve a sentence that will be determined by the Italian courts,” 60-year-old de Sousa told AFP, saying she hoped to be released on parole and carry out community service.

At the end of February, Italian President Sergio Mattarella granted her “a partial pardon of one year’s imprisonment”, reducing her jail time to three years of a lenient form of sentence that does not necessarily need to be served behind bars and allows the convict to work.

Italy then withdrew the European arrest warrant issued after her arrest in October 2015 at Lisbon airport.

In an email sent from the US where she was preparing to have surgery, de Sousa said she would like to do her community service in Portugal but added that “even if I could… I would have reason to be very concerned about what would happen to me”.

“Portugal after all threw me in prison for 10 days with no plausible reason for doing so”.

Omar was kidnapped on February 17, 2003, before being transferred to Egypt where his lawyers say he was tortured, in a case that highlighted the controversial secret renditions of suspected radicals by the United States and its allies.

“This operation was approved by the highest levels of the US government,” said de Sousa.

“What US officials in Washington and some in the Italian Government were told was that Abu Omar was a dangerous terrorist; and with that justification the CIA chief in Rome obtained the necessary approvals,” she added.

“This obviously turned out not to be the case and Abu Omar was released from an Egyptian prison. As with most cover-ups lower level officers like myself end up paying the price for decisions for which we had no input.”A former CIA agent who was found guilty of kidnapping an Egyptian imam by an Italian court more than a decade ago said Thursday she intended to return to Italy to face her sentence, but hopes to avoid prison.

Sabrina de Sousa, who holds dual American and Portuguese nationality, said she would leave Portugal to face the Italian courts over the abduction of radical preacher Abu Omar from a Milan street in 2003 in an operation allegedly led jointly by the CIA and the Italian intelligence services.

She has already gone on trial in absentia along with 22 others in what were the first legal convictions in the world against people involved in the CIA’s extraordinary renditions programme that followed the September 11, 2001 attacks.

“I’m going back to Italy next week to serve a sentence that will be determined by the Italian courts,” 60-year-old de Sousa told AFP, saying she hoped to be released on parole and carry out community service.

At the end of February, Italian President Sergio Mattarella granted her “a partial pardon of one year’s imprisonment”, reducing her jail time to three years of a lenient form of sentence that does not necessarily need to be served behind bars and allows the convict to work.

Italy then withdrew the European arrest warrant issued after her arrest in October 2015 at Lisbon airport.

In an email sent from the US where she was preparing to have surgery, de Sousa said she would like to do her community service in Portugal but added that “even if I could… I would have reason to be very concerned about what would happen to me”.

“Portugal after all threw me in prison for 10 days with no plausible reason for doing so”.

Omar was kidnapped on February 17, 2003, before being transferred to Egypt where his lawyers say he was tortured, in a case that highlighted the controversial secret renditions of suspected radicals by the United States and its allies.

“This operation was approved by the highest levels of the US government,” said de Sousa.

“What US officials in Washington and some in the Italian Government were told was that Abu Omar was a dangerous terrorist; and with that justification the CIA chief in Rome obtained the necessary approvals,” she added.

“This obviously turned out not to be the case and Abu Omar was released from an Egyptian prison. As with most cover-ups lower level officers like myself end up paying the price for decisions for which we had no input.”

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



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