'It's Complete Panic': Barcelona Witness Recalls Van Crash


Police have activated protocol after the van crash, asking people to stay in their houses (AFP)

Barcelona:  A witness describes the van crash in Barcelona as “complete panic” in what police are calling an attack.

Catalonia’s regional police said on Twitter that they had activated the protocol for attacks after a van mowed down people in Barcelona’s Las Ramblas tourist area, though they added that the motive behind the crash was not yet clear.

One woman in charge of organising the rescue effort for those people who are locked inside the restaurants in the area of the attack says there has been complete panic and confusion and the police have ordered everyone to stay inside until further notice.

Police have said that people had been killed in the crash and that there were also injured, but they have not confirmed the number of victims.

Authorities are searching for the driver of the van.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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



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Van Mows Down Crowd In Barcelona, Police Says Terror Attack: 10 Updates


Barcelona attack: Police described the incident on Twitter as a “massive crash”.

Madrid:  A van deliberately ploughed into a crowd this evening at a favorite tourist spot in Barcelona — Spain’s second largest city – in another instance of lone wolf terror attacks that Europe has been witnessing. At least two people died and several others were injured. Quoting police sources, a local daily reported that the driver was seen fleeing on foot and the perpetrators have holed up in a bar. Ras Lamblas, one of the popular commercial areas of the city, is a top tourist destination.



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Australia Senator Wears Burqa To Parliament In Bid To Ban Them


Hanson sat in her seat in the assembly for about 20 minutes covered by the black burqa

CANBERRA:  Australian far-right senator Pauline Hanson wore a burqa to parliament on Thursday as part of her campaign to ban the all-enveloping garment worn by some Muslim women, drawing a quick rebuke from the government and Muslims.

Hanson sat in her seat in the assembly for about 20 minutes covered by the black burqa before removing it to call for them to be banned in public for national security reasons.

“I’m quite happy to remove this because this is not what should belong in this parliament,”Hanson, who leads the far-right One Nation party, told the Senate.

“If a person who wears a balaclava or a helmet in to a bank or any other building, or even on the floor of the court, they must be removed. Why is it not the same case for someone who is covering up their face and cannot be identified?”

senator pauline hanson wearing burqa reuters 650

Hanson, who first rose to prominence in the 1990s because of her strident opposition to immigration from Asia and to asylum seekers, has in recent years campaigned against Islamic clothing and the building of mosques.

Her party has four senators, which gives it influence in parliament when closely contested legislation is being voted on.

Attorney-General George Brandis rebuked Hanson.

“I am not going to pretend to ignore the stunt that you have tried to pull today by arriving in the chamber dressed in a burqa,” he said, drawing applause from members of the Senate.

“We all know that you are not adherent of the Islamic faith. I would caution and counsel you with respect to be very, very careful of the offence you may do to the religious sensibilities of other Australians.”

Adel Salman, vice president of the Islamic Council of Victoria state, said Hanson’s action was “a mockery of her position”.

“It is very disappointing, but not surprising as she has sought to mock the Islamic faith time and time again.”

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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



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DIY firms Homebase and B&Q suffer sales slump


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PA

The UK’s two biggest DIY chains, B&Q and Homebase, have both reported a slide in sales this summer.

B&Q said sales at its established stores fell 5% in the three months to July amid a drop in demand for garden furniture and other summer products.

The fall dragged shares in B&Q owner Kingfisher down 4.1%, making it the biggest faller on the FTSE 100.

Meanwhile, Homebase reported a similar drop in quarterly sales under its new Australian owner.

George Salmon, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “It looks like Kingfisher isn’t alone in having difficulties in the UK.

“The group’s flagship B&Q chain saw like-for-like sales fall 4.7%, which is similar to the 4.3% fall at Bunnings UK, the new owner of Homebase.”

As well as the Bunnings DIY chain, Wesfarmers also runs the supermarket chain Coles and the Kmart and Target chains in Australia.

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Bunnings

Sales of summer products dropped nearly 11% at B&Q, partly because customers bought more of those items during the warm spring.

Kingfisher said it remained cautious about the economic outlook for the UK in the second half of the year.

However, its other DIY chain, Screwfix, continued its stellar run, with sales at existing stores rising 10% in the period.

‘Long slog’

Homebase’s results were partly dragged down by its transition under its Australian owner.

Bunnings UK, which bought Homebase for £340m last year, is changing the DIY retailer’s discounts and rebranding more stores under the Bunnings name.

In the first financial year since acquiring the chain, Bunnings UK booked a £54m loss on revenue of £1.2bn.

Bunnings Group managing director Michael Schneider told analysts it was braced for a “long slog” in the UK.

“The opportunity for the Homebase stores is going to be more clarity and consistency in execution,” he said. “There’s no silver bullet.”



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Barcelona Police Say Las Ramblas Van Incident 'Terrorist Attack'


A van rammed into a crowd in Barcelona, Spain. (AFP photo)

Barcelona:  A number of people were injured when a van rammed into a crowd of pedestrians on Barcelona’s iconic Las Ramblas on Thursday, police said. Local media said at least two people have died. “Huge collision on Las Ramblas in Barcelona by an individual driving a van, many injuries,” a statement from the police said.  The area around the incident was cordoned off, with several ambulances and police vehicles on the scene, an AFP correspondent said. The famous Las Ramblas boulevard is one of Barcelona’s busiest streets, normally thronged with tourists and street performers until well into the night. Police announced the incident was a terror attack. vehicles have been used as weapons in several terror attacks in Europe in recent years.
 

Follow live updates of the Barcelona terror attack here:

What We Know

-A van crashed into dozens of people in the centre of Barcelona

-Two people dead, say local media, several injured

-Police described the incident on Twitter as a “terrorist attack”. 

-Emergency services said people should not go to the area around the city’s Placa Catalunya



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Spotify removes white supremacy music after events in Charlottesville


Spotify has removed several white supremacist bands from its service, following recent events at Charlottesville in America.

Earlier this week, a music news website published a list of 37 “white power” bands which were being streamed online.

Less than 48 hours later, Spotify announced they had removed some of the bands from its service in America.

The Swedish company says it is also considering taking down the other named artists on the list.

Some of the artists named by Digital Music News are still available for streaming in the UK.

A spokesperson for Spotify in the UK tells Newsbeat “any takedowns they [Spotify] issue are effective for all markets, not just a specific country.”

“Spotify takes immediate action to remove any such material as soon as it has been brought to our attention,” says Spotify in an official statement.

“We are glad to have been alerted to this content – and have already removed many of the bands identified today, while urgently reviewing the remainder.”

Spotify also gave a second statement to Billboard magazine, which outlined its stance on offensive music.

“Illegal content or material that favours hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like is not tolerated by us,” it said.

Artists removed from Spotify had very low numbers of subscribers and play counts on the service.

Earlier this week, Reddit removed its “Physical Removal” sub-Reddit (a section of the website) because of its alt-right content.

In 2014, iTunes removed music with white supremacy messages from its download service after the Southern Poverty Law Centre (a service which monitors hate groups in America) raised the issue.

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Van Crashes Into Dozens Of People In Barcelona, Several Injured


Madrid:  A van has crashed into dozens of people in Barcelona’s city centre, local police said on Wednesday.

There were several injured in a “massive crash”, police said on Twitter. Catalan emergency services said people should not go to the area around Placa Catalunya.
 

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Roaming downtime hits customers on Three in Europe


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Three

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Some holidaymakers have been hit by the downtime

Roaming services are currently down for all customers on the Three mobile network in France, Portugal and Luxembourg, the operator has said.

On Twitter, several customers reported they had been experiencing problems for two days.

Three has apologised and said it is working on a solution.

The BBC understands that the issue does not lie with Three’s own network, but rather with its roaming partners in the three affected countries.

Emergency services are still contactable via 112, Three has said.

“I’m travelling alone and can’t make any calls or send any texts,” wrote one customer online.

Another said: “I’m driving to Paris tomorrow, and I’ve got to follow road signs because I have no connection for my Google Maps.”

BBC journalist Dougal Shaw – on holiday in France – also said on Twitter that he had been affected.

“I got lost in a market,” he wrote.



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Donald Trump To Discuss South Asia Strategy With Top Aides


The Trump administration believe India and Pakistan both have a role in bringing stability to Afghanistan

Washington:  President Donald Trump is set to discuss the US’ strategy in South Asia with his national security team, including developing a new regional policy for resolving the long-running conflict in Afghanistan that may include both India and Pakistan.

President Trump will meet the team tomorrow at Camp David, a picturesque presidential retreat in Maryland, nearly 100 kms from Washington DC.

US National Security Advisor Lt Gen HR McMaster would be among those attending the meeting, the White House said.

“The President along with the Vice President will meet with the National Security Team on Friday at Camp David to discuss the South Asia strategy,” it said.

The South Asia strategy primarily means the policy in Afghanistan, but the Trump administration feels that the war-torn country needs a regional approach to resolve the decades old problem.

In the past few weeks, senior officials of the Trump administration have gone on record to say that the regional approach to Afghanistan means inclusion of both India and Pakistan.

However, the officials so far have remained tight-lipped on what this means for India given that Pakistan has been averse to any Indian role in Afghanistan.

During the Bush administration and the initial years of the Obama administration, Pakistan had successfully managed to keep India out of major strategic conferences on Afghanistan.

However, the successive administrations in the US have acknowledged the role of India in the development and reconstruction of Afghanistan.

After the US, India is one of the largest donors for developmental projects in Afghanistan.



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First Group Of Qatari Pilgrims Enter Saudi Arabia By Land: Saudi TV


Qatar has called the Saudi Arabia decision to open its borders as “politically motivated” (Reuters)

Dubai/Doha:  Qatari pilgrims began arriving in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, Saudi media reported, after Riyadh said it was opening up its border and airports for those attending the annual haj pilgrimage despite a diplomatic rift that cut travel ties.

Qatar welcomed the Saudi decision to open the border and provide flights for Qatari pilgrims, but saw the move as politically motivated, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed transport links with Qatar in June and imposed sanctions, accusing it of supporting Islamist militants and Iran, which Doha denies.

The state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said the Salwa border point would be open for Qataris performing the haj, which this year runs from late August to early September.

Saudi-owned al-Arabiya television and state television reported that 50 Qatari pilgrims had entered Saudi territory on Thursday through the Salwa crossing, which was opened for the first time since the four-nation boycott of Qatar began.

The pilgrims entered as guests of the Saudi king, al-Arabiya said. There was no immediate confirmation of the report by border officials on the Qatari side of the frontier.

“Despite the fact it’s been politically motivated to ban the Qatari people from haj and politically motivated that they allow them (in)…, we welcome such a step, which is a step forward to get rid of this blockade that is imposed against my country,” Sheikh Mohammed told a news conference on a visit to Sweden.

He did not elaborate on what he meant by “politically motivated”.

Saudi Arabia had already said Qatari pilgrims would not be affected by the travel restrictions, but some Qataris have said they faced difficulties organising the trip.

Qatari pilgrims can cross the frontier without the permits usually needed to be obtained in advance for the haj, SPA said.

The Saudi king has ordered the dispatch of a Saudi Airlines plane to fly Qatari pilgrims to Jeddah at his own expense, SPA added. Qatari pilgrims would also be able to pass through two of the kingdom’s airports, it added.

COMPLAINT

Between 2 million and 3 million Muslims from around the world travel to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, for the pilgrimage each year. Every able-bodied Muslim is supposed to undertake it at least once in the lifetime.

Qatar had accused Saudi Arabia of politicising the pilgrimage and complained to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion last month.

It was not clear how far the opening of the border to pilgrims would go to help heal the rift, the worst involving U.S-allied Gulf Arab countries for years.

A Qatari government spokesman said Qatari Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Jassim al-Thani had held talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman before the announcement was made though he did not have a post in the Qatari government.

Sheikh Mohammed, the foreign minister, said the ruling family member had been there on a personal basis.

A Qatari semi-government rights body gave a cautious welcome to the Saudi move. “This is a step toward removing the obstacles and difficulties (Qataris) faced during haj procedures this year,” the National Human Rights Committee said in a statement.

Some Qataris said that even with permission to enter Saudi Arabia they would be concerned for their safety.

“I think it is very risky to go to Mecca this year, there could be hate crimes against Qataris,” said Fatima al-Mohannadi, a Qatari student.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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



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Very few girls took computing A-level


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Image caption

The problem begins at primary school, according to the BCS

A worrying statistic for the tech industry was revealed amid freshly-released A-level data – only 9.8% of those completing a computing course were girls.

It comes amid a storm in Silicon Valley over the number of women employed in the tech industry.

Experts agree that the world faces a digital skills shortage and that a more even gender balance is crucial.

One industry body worried that too few boys were also choosing the subject.

“Today’s announcement that nearly 7,600 students in England took A-level computing means it’s not going to be party time in the IT world for a long time to come,” said Bill Mitchell, director of education at the IT Chartered Institute, BCS.

He said that it fell well short of the 40,000 level that “we should be seeing”.

But he added that the fact so few girls were taking the subject was particularly worrying.

“At less than 10%, the numbers of girls taking computing A-level are seriously low.”

“We know that this a problem starting at primary school and it’s something that we need to address at all levels throughout education.

“As a society, we need to make sure that our young women are leaving education with the digital skills they need to secure a worthwhile job, an apprenticeship or go on to further study.”

The figures, from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), are not all bad news. They reveal that there has been a 34% rise in the number of female students sitting the computer science exam, up to 816 from 609 in 2016.

Uphill battle

Google engineer James Damore caused controversy this month when he penned a memo suggesting that there were fewer women at Google because of biological differences. The search giant sacked him over the remarks, saying they were “offensive”.

A recent survey of 1,000 university students conducted by audit firm KPMG suggested that only 37% of young women were confident they had the tech skills needed by today’s employers.

A total of 73% said that they had not considered a graduate job in technology.

Aidan Brennan, KPMG’s head of digital transformation, said: “The issue here isn’t around competency – far from it – but rather how businesses understand the underlying capability of an individual and how to unlock it.

“I think this research highlights the work that needs to be done to show the next generation that when it comes to a career in tech, gender isn’t part of the equation.

“Competition for jobs is tough and we know that female job seekers can be less likely to apply for a role than their male counterparts if they don’t feel they already possess every prerequisite the job demands.”

Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, who founded the charity Stemettes to persuade more girls to pursue careers in Science, Technology Engineering and Maths has her own view about the low number of girls taking A-level computing.

“Girls often don’t want to be the only one in the class so they tend not to pick the subject when it is an option,” she said.

“Also, it’s often not even an option in a lot of schools so it’s an uphill battle but fortunately, a lot of computer science courses take A-level maths students, so there is a very viable route for girls into the course itself and related courses.”



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Ivanka Trump To Lead US Team For Entrepreneurship Summit In Hyderabad


The American delegation will be led by President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump.

New Delhi:  The upcoming 3-day Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, likely to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is billed as “a big event”, with presence of US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump.

Business leaders from across the globe, along with entrepreneurs and investors, will be in attendance.

India and the US will co-host the three-day event. The American delegation will be led by Ivanka Trump.

A US official in New Delhi confirmed that the “big event” is slated for November 28 with “high-level” participation from the Government of India, but refused to confirm PM Modi’s participation, saying a formal announcement is yet to be made to this effect.

Sources, however, said the prime minister is likely to attend the high-profile event.

“Look forward to Ivanka Trump’s presence at GES 2017 Hyderabad as the leader of the US delegation,” PM Modi had said in a tweet last week. He said the event is aimed to bring together entrepreneurs of the two countries.

“Honoured to lead the US delegation to GES2017 in India and meet with Prime Minister Modi and passionate entrepreneurs from around the globe!” Ms Trump had tweeted.

The theme of the summit is ‘Women First, Prosperity for All’, highlighting the critical role women play in fostering global growth and prosperity.

“We hope to have women represent at least 50 per cent of entrepreneurs and investors,” the US official said.

The focus sectors of the GES include energy and infrastructure; healthcare and life sciences; financial technology in digital economy; media and entrepreneurship and possibly, agriculture and agricultural entrepreneurship.

“The GES will showcase how the US and India are increasingly beginning to converge on different aspects,” the US official said, adding that the bilateral ties are doing quite well. The summit is also a chance to reinforce our increasing cooperation on entrepreneurship and technology,” he said.

Other than the US, the GES had been held earlier in Morocco, Kenya, the UAE, Malaysia and Turkey. This is for the first time that the event is being held in India.

Corporate giants, including Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Cisco and Google, had participated in the previous summit, said the US official, adding that a similar representation is expected this year as well.

“This is the new (US) administration. In the last GES, President (Barack) Obama showed up, but this time it looks like it will not be President Trump attending, so he has decided that his daughter Ivanka Trump will lead the US delegation,” said the official.

Besides, the official added, the two countries are working out the nitty gritties of holding the US-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue.



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Peace With North Korea A 'Possibility': Top US General


The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said peace with North Korea is a “possibility”. (File)

Beijing:  Peace with North Korea is a “possibility,” America’s most senior uniformed officer said Thursday, but warned the US has “credible, viable military options” for dealing with the errant regime.

General Joe Dunford, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, also told reporters during his visit to Beijing that the US has no plans to “dial back” military exercises with South Korea, which have angered both China and North Korea.

General Dunford made the remarks on the last day of a trip to China that included a visit on Wednesday to a northern military zone near China’s border with North Korea.

“What’s unimaginable to me is not a military option,” General Dunford told reporters before a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“What is unimaginable is allowing (North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un) to develop ballistic missiles with a nuclear warhead that can threaten the United States and continue to threaten the region.”

In Seoul, South Korean President Moon Jae-In vowed Thursday that “there will be no war” on the peninsula.

General Dunford, who was in South Korea earlier this week and will land in Japan later Thursday to discuss tensions around North Korea’s growing weapons programme, acknowledged that a military solution would be “horrific”.

But he said it would be employed only if diplomatic and economic pressures fail to create the conditions for political dialogue.

“I do believe right now that there’s a long way to go, but we are on a path where there is a possibility- and I hope a probability that we can resolve this peacefully,” General Dunford said.

On Tuesday, China, which has been accused by the US of not doing enough to rein in Kim Jong Un’s authoritarian regime, started implementing a ban on North Korean imports of iron, iron ore and seafood as part of a far-reaching UN Security Council resolution passed earlier this month.

China, the North’s biggest ally, accounts for 90 percent of its trade.

“The reports I’ve heard even since I’ve been to Beijing have been positive in terms of Chinese commitment to enforce those sanctions,” General Dunford said, though he urged China on Tuesday to increase pressure on Pyongyang.

The general went against White House aide Steve Bannon’s statement in an interview published Wednesday in which he said “there’s no military solution (to North Korea’s nuclear threats)”.
General Dunford said President Donald Trump “has told us to develop credible, viable military options, and that’s exactly what we’re doing”.

“If the president comes to us with a decision to use military force, we will provide him with options.”

Sensitive Issues
The US and North Korea have been engaged in heated verbal sparring since President Trump warned Pyongyang that it faced “fire and fury” if it continued to threaten the US and other countries with its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

North Korea responded that it was ready to aim a missile at the American territory Guam, but it has since suspended the operation.

Both the US and Chinese sides acknowledged during General Dunford’s visit that they hold differing views on certain “sensitive issues.”

In a statement, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission Fan Changlong criticised “wrongful actions” undertaken by the US that “have had a great negative impact on military and bilateral relations between the two countries”.

Mr Fan cited the US deployment of the THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea, the activities of US warships in the South China Sea, and Taiwan, which receives US military aid and which Beijing considers a rebel island.

But Mr Xi Jinping during his meeting with General Dunford praised the general for a visit demonstrating that “military-to-military relations have made a substantial step forward.”

On Wednesday, the two sides signed an agreement to establish regular exchanges between the offices of top US and Chinese military officials.

The first joint staff dialogue will be held in Washington this November.



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The Travel Habits of Highly Successful CEOs


In the era of the humble brag, it’s harder than ever to know how your boss travels. Assuming he or she is the type that likes to share, you might see a suggestion of a private jet or a swanky beach resort on Instagram-or hear one unassuming story about the sea turtles that swam under the paddleboard in St. Barthelemy.

Unfortunately for your water cooler conversations, no chief executive officer is ever going to spill the beans on his favorite private island, the extent of his security detail, or the lengths his assistant went to procure Coke Zero in Madagascar.

For that, we turned to Jaclyn Sienna India, president and founder of the decade-old travel consultancy Sienna Charles. Almost immediately after hanging a shingle on West Palm Beach’s ritzy Worth Avenue in 2008, India got her lucky break: An unexpectedly productive, $25,000 ad with the Explorer’s Club turned out her first billionaire client, and word of mouth turned one into many.

Now India is a go-to for the finance world’s jet set, regularly organizing trips for at least two dozen CEOs, along with other titans of industry and a handful of former U.S. presidents. Her clients range from Morgan Stanley higher ups and former top-level executives at American Express, to billionaires and real estate tycoons. Of the hundreds of trips she plans each year, 90 percent are for high-ranking finance types-some with budgets that climb into the millions. Chatting about restaurants, she says, is the best way to let these power brokers know she’s playing on their level.

“People can be all over the map,” she said, explaining that often clients are looking for a vibe or set of experiences rather than an exact destination. To help them wade through their options, she prefers face-to-face lunch meetings (typically at such power spots as Le Bernardin) over cursory phone calls. “A lot of agents can B.S. over the phone or have notes all prepared, but I could never do that. That’s not how you build up trust with the world’s wealthiest people,” she told Bloomberg.

Here’s what she had to say about her C-suite customers-the good, the bad, and the hyper-demanding.

A Private Jet Is a Business Expense

Private jets for execs and their families are almost always reimbursable corporate expenses. Why? Transportation is considered a matter of security, and most CEOs plan travel in tandem with work trips, taking their family with them to Dubai for a few days before jetting off to the Maldives.

“Safety” is a card more legitimately played by former presidents, says India, who has organized trips to Africa for George W. Bush and his 30 secret service agents. But CEOS are productive on planes-she joked that “if you can be offline for 10 hours, then you aren’t really that important.” (In the era of laptop bans, private planes are a good way to ensure that work gets done.)

Privacy also important. “CEOs like to stay under the radar and want to focus on their family rather than who they are,” India said. Speaking of family time: They often travel with their pets, “just because they can.”

Little else gets expensed. “CEOs can splurge big time on hotels, yachts, and experiences when they’re saving a minimum of $75,000 to transport a family of four,” India observed, noting the rough cost of a private jet.

It Takes a Village

For every VIP itinerary, there are “layers of experts” coordinating the logistics, says India. “They have us, an air department [or a team dedicated to booking air travel], and an executive assistant working in unison to make sure everything is exactly they way they like to travel every step of the way.” But having too many cooks in the kitchen isn’t something she worries about. A CEO’s personal assistants prove extra-valuable: One client drinks only O’Douls and has frequent hankerings for crunchy peanut butter; others might like their entire minibar stocked with a particular beverage (think: Coke Zero).

Preferences for air travel can be among the most important to consider. India says some of her regulars might want a particular make and model for their airport transfer (for vanity), some want to be picked up right next to the aircraft (for speed), and others are particular about having two pilots even on a tiny helicopter (for paranoia).

But not every minute is planned. India says her CEOs “like a mix of organized activities and room for spontaneity” on their itineraries, so they have a structured schedule and time to relax.

Loyalty Isn’t Everything

Don’t brag to your boss about your Platinum Elite Marriott Rewards status: Chances are they won’t be impressed. “They don’t care about rewards that offer them amenities or free breakfasts or upgrades-they’d rather book the room they want from the beginning,” explained India.

So does that mean they don’t care about frequent flier miles, either? Sort of. These programs are less valuable for those who tend to fly private, but when the unavoidable commercial flights rolls along, executives “do care about being recognized.” (Privacy, it seems, is less of a concern if it’s what secures a first-class upgrade.)

Bigger Isn’t Better

“Since the way they live normally at home is quite lavish, they love top accommodations,” said India of her guests. The five key things they’re looking for are good light, outdoor space, seamless technology, high-end furniture, and a super-comfortable bed. Specific views (such as the Eiffel Tower or Spanish Steps) might help, too. Square footage is less important: “A good suite is not just about big for the sake of being big,” India explained.

These criteria have shaped India’s shortlist of the best hotels in the world. “In Rome, for example, everyone assumes they should be staying at the Hassler, but I don’t love it personally. It’s great for lunch, but the rooms are highly overpriced.” Instead she books guests into the just-renovated Hotel Eden, where she’s partial to the Aurora Terrace Suite. In Paris, she turns to the penthouses at the Bristol and Plaza Athenee.

As for the rooms and resorts on CEO bucket lists? They include the Brando, a private island resort in Tahiti that was once owned by Marlon Brando; the Four Seasons Bora Bora, whose three-bedroom overwater bungalows are among the best in Polynesia; the AII Royal Suite at the Four Seasons in Lanai, Hawaii; and the private villas at Castiglion Del Bosco, a Tuscan village-turned-Rosewood resort by the fashion mogul Massimo Ferragamo.

From One VIP to Another

India scrutinizes every aspect of an itinerary, from airline routings to the personalities of tour guides. But ultimately she’s not the one executing the services she books. That’s why she assembles a one-sheet of critical details-such things as dietary preferences (allergies, restrictions), an affinity for San Pellegrino over Perrier, a hatred for Jack Daniels, or an addiction to spin classes-and sends them straight to the hotel’s general manager, not the front desk or guest relations team.

“No matter how much hotels say they care about every guest, they tend to lose this type of information,” she explained. This way, she is getting high-powered requests into equally high-powered hands, ensuring that detailed requests such as in-room yoga mats and blenders (for protein shakes, natch) don’t go overlooked. Of her clients’ hyper-specific demands, India says: “I don’t have time for the crap either, so I totally get it.”

Another strategy: booking yachts, villas, and residences instead of traditional hotels. In these cases, she can control the staff-to-guest ratio herself, guarantee privacy, and custom-pick chefs or butlers whom she knows will strike the right chord.

A Predominantly Grateful Crowd

Shocker: CEOs can be difficult. One hedge fund owner recently sent India a barrage of round-the-clock texts and emails complaining that the weather was too hot in Italy, despite the fact that his family’s activities were all scheduled in the early morning hours. What’s more, India said the 12-year-old kids were as difficult as the parents, with over-the-top criticisms of a luxury spa experience.

This isn’t common, though. India said that by and large, she works with “really nice people who generally appreciate everything.” What is common? Receiving flowers and thank you notes-or even photo books filled with vacation snaps-from happy clients. “It’s thoughtful stuff, not a Ferrari outside my apartment,” she quipped.

Her most appreciative clients prefer a more personal route, opening their homes and inviting India for dinners. “That’s the best thing,” she said. “I never feel looked down upon; I’m being treated as an expert and part of the family instead, and that’s really special. And the next trip we plan for them is even better as a result of getting to know each other.”

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



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Donald Trump Blasts Republican Senators Over Charlottesville Criticism


Donald Trump lashed out at senators who criticized his remarks on violence in Charlottesville (Reuters)

Washington:  Donald Trump on Thursday fired back at a growing number of fellow Republicans who denounced his response to the Charlottesville, Virginia violence, further fueling the latest controversy to engulf his seven-month-old presidency.

In a series of posts on Twitter, Trump lashed out at Republican U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake as well as the media, and said he not had drawn any moral comparisons between white supremacists and those who opposed them.

The weekend violence at the Virginia college town has inflamed racial tensions nationwide and renewed concerns over hate groups after Trump blamed both anti-racism activists and white nationalists.

On Tuesday, the president offered a more vehement reprisal of his initial response to Saturday’s bloodshed, telling a news conference “there is blame on both sides” for the violence, and that there were “very fine people” on both sides.

The comments drew rebukes from top Republicans and corporate leaders for his failure to unequivocally denounce white supremacists, although many did not name the president outright.

Other Trump supporters, including Vice President Mike Pence, have said they stand by the president and his words.

On Thursday, Trump called Graham’s statement a day earlier “a disgusting lie.” Graham had said Trump’s comments had suggested “moral equivalency” between the two sides and urged him to use his words to heal Americans.

Flake, another vocal Trump critic, also called for direct condemnation of white supremacy groups.

“Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Ms. Heyer. Such a disgusting lie. He just can’t forget his election trouncing. The people of South Carolina will remember!” Trump wrote.

The president was referring to 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was killed when a suspected white nationalist crashed his car into anti-racist demonstrators.

In a separate tweet, he called Flake “WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He’s toxic!” and appeared to endorse Kelli Ward, Flake’s Republican challenger in his 2018 re-election race.

Representatives for Graham, Flake and Ward did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

The fallout from Trump’s response also led to the disbanding of his CEO advisory panels on Wednesday as a growing number of chief executives from some of the nation’s largest companies resigned in protest against the president’s response.

The folding of the councils has raised speculation that senior administration figures might step down to avoid being tarnished by their association with Trump.

© 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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In Japan, 'Wind Phone' Links Living With Departed


“Kaze no Denwa” (The phone of the wind) is located on a small hill in Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture.

An old, disconnected black telephone stands in a telephone booth in the town of Otsuchi – about 20 minutes’ drive from Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture. The phone has been visited by at least 25,000 people since the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, people who have come to convey their feelings to departed loved ones “through the wind.”

The phone was set up by 72-year-old garden designer Itaru Sasaki in his garden, on a small hill with a commanding view of the calm sea in the Namiita area of Otsuchi. Calling it “Kaze no Denwa” (The phone of the wind), Sasaki set up the phone after the death of his cousin.

The garden is open to all, and there is a notebook placed by the phone, the fourth such notebook to be used. Many people have left messages for their loved ones in the books.

Sasaki began work on the booth in November 2010, and completed it shortly after the disaster. Newspapers and other media reported on it, and many people who had suddenly lost a loved one began to visit.

Located on the Sanriku coast, Otsuchi was devastated by tsunami in March 2011. In the town, 1,285 people died or went missing, about 10 percent of the town’s population. Forty people, including the mayor, died in the former town office.

“Come home soon. From your father, mother and grandparents.”

Sasaki found this message in the notebook in the autumn of 2013, and eventually met the family who had written it. They were looking for their son, who went missing in the disaster. After graduating from a university, their son had started working at an IT firm and was visiting Otsuchi on a business trip when the disaster struck.

The mother revealed her feelings to Sasaki, saying: “I have no idea what I’ve been doing since that moment. Time has stood still for me since that day.”

Sasaki said messages in the notebooks have changed as time has passed since the disaster. People have started to accept the deaths of their loved ones, writing things such as “Please watch over us from heaven.”

In addition to people lost to the earthquake and tsunami, families who lost a loved one in an accident or from suicide are also coming to the garden to reflect on their memories of that person.

One morning in early July, I visited the garden to find a photo in the telephone booth in which an apparently foreign man is smiling at someone. I felt like someone had just had a conversation with him.

The phone has become known even overseas, and there are messages in the notebooks recalling people lost abroad.

On Tuesday Sasaki’s book titled “Kaze no Denwa – Daishinsai Kara Rokunen, Kaze no Denwa wo Tooshite Mieru Koto (The phone of the wind – what I have seen via the phone in the six years since the earthquake) was published by Kazama Shobo. The book will be available at major bookstores in late August.

“The telephone is not connected, but people feel like their lost loved ones are there listening on the other end of the line,” Sasaki said. “I want people to resume their lives as soon as possible by expressing their feelings.”

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



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Two Bangladeshi Teenagers Die Taking Flood Selfies As Crisis Worsens


Floods in Bangladesh have killed 56 people since Saturday and affected 4.5 million people. (File)

Dhaka:  Two Bangladeshi teenagers have died taking selfies in raging floodwaters, officials said Thursday, as the death toll from fresh monsoon downpours reached 56 with nearly five million affected.

Police said the 15-year-old boys were snapping selfies at a flooded road in the northern town of Melandah on Wednesday when they were swept away by powerful currents.

“With the school shut down due to floods, and the road underwater, they thought it was good idea to take selfies on the flooded road,” said Mohan Talukder, the headmaster of Umir Uddin School where the boys attended.

“Unfortunately huge currents washed both of them into a roadside flood-plain. Several villagers tried to save them, but one of them was also washed away by floodwaters.”

Local police chief Mazharul Karim told AFP their bodies were recovered by divers after a day-long search.

Nearly half of Bangladesh is affected by the floods but the government’s weather agency has warned the worst could be yet to come, with two major rivers at bursting point.

“The flood situation in the country’s central region could worsen in the next few days,” said Sazzad Hossain, head of the Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre.

Renewed flooding has killed 56 people since Saturday, with 4.5 million directly affected, Bangladesh’s disaster management department said.

Bangladesh’s health department said coupled with those killed in separate flooding in July, at least 107 people had perished amid monsoon downpours.

The floods have destroyed nearly 200,000 houses and wiped out crops on nearly 580,000 hectares (1.4 million acres) of land, officials said.

The government has opened close to 1,500 shelters where food and supplies are available, but those in hard-hit areas have complained that aid had not yet reached their villages.

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



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Chatbot helps students choose courses


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Leeds Beckett University

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Students can chat to the AI about the options available to them

Leeds Beckett University has launched a chatbot to help prospective students find the right course.

It follows the publication of A-level results in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Using Facebook Messenger’s chatbot technology, students would be able to “assess their suitability” for different courses, the university said.

But if they would prefer to speak to a human, “phone lines will continue to be open throughout the clearing process”.

The university’s head of digital experience and engagement, Dougal Scaife, said: “We know that our prospective students already use lots of messaging software for communicating with their friends, such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, as well as texting, so developing a chatbot was a natural evolution in order to engage with our prospective students in a medium that is ubiquitous, familiar, and comfortable for them.”

Jill Watson

Leeds Beckett is not the first university to employ chatbot technologies.

Georgia Tech University used a chatbot to answer questions from students enrolled in an artificial intelligence course last year.

It is dubbed Jill Watson because it is based on IBM’s Watson technology.

The chatbot was one of nine teaching assistants answering thousands of questions on the course’s online forum.

And Prof Ashok Goel, who hired Jill Watson, did not reveal that she was not human until after the students had completed their final exams.



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Pakistan's Apex Anti-Corruption Group Summons Nawaz Sharif, Sons


Nawaz Sharif and his sons have been directed to appear before the NAB Lahore office on August 18.

Lahore:  Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his two sons have been summoned by the country’s top anti-graft body to appear before it tomorrow for interrogation in connection with the money laundering and corruption cases.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on the directive of the Supreme Court issued summons to Mr Sharif and his sons Hussain and Hasan — to interrogate them in its Lahore office in connection with their offshore properties revealed by the Panama Papers case.

On July 28, the five-member bench of the Supreme Court had disqualified Mr Sharif for possessing a work permit in the firm of his son in the UAE.

The apex court had also directed the NAB to investigate money laundering and other corruption charges against Mr Sharif and his children, son-in-law Safdar and relative federal finance minister Ishaq Dar in light of the report of the Joint Investigation Team.

The NAB confirmed that Mr Sharif and his sons have been directed to appear before its Lahore office on August 18.

The NAB said that it will take up the reference against Mr Sharif’s close aide Ishaq Dar on August 23 and summons has been issued to him.

Mr Sharif, however, has not yet decided to appear before the NAB.

“Nawaz Sharif is considering boycotting the NAB proceedings because he thinks it is very much likely that like the Panama Papers case he may not get justice in its case as well,” a PML-N senior leader told PTI.

He said Mr Sharif has already expressed his concern over a Supreme Court judge who is supervising the NAB’s investigation against him, fearing that he (judge) will ensure adverse verdict against him in the accountability court.

“Sharif will discuss the NAB summons with his confidants on Thursday before making a final decision about his appearance in NAB,” he added. 



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Mystery Of How First Animals Appeared On Earth Solved


New research has revealed the evolution of animals began 650 million years ago. (Representational)

Scientists have solved the mystery of how the first animals appeared on Earth, a pivotal moment for the planet without which humans would not exist.

Researchers led by The Australian National University (ANU) analysed ancient sedimentary rocks from central Australia, finding that the evolution of animals began with the rise of algae 650 million years ago.

“We crushed these rocks to powder and extracted molecules of ancient organisms from them,” said Mr Jochen Brocks, associate professor at ANU.

“These molecules tell us that it really became interesting 650 million years ago. It was a revolution of ecosystems, it was the rise of algae,” said Mr Brocks, who led the research published in the journal Nature.

Mr Brocks said the rise of algae triggered one of the most profound ecological revolutions in Earth’s history, without which humans and other animals would not exist.

“Before all of this happened, there was a dramatic event 50 million years earlier called Snowball Earth,” he said.

“The Earth was frozen over for 50 million years. Huge glaciers ground entire mountain ranges to powder that released nutrients, and when the snow melted during an extreme global heating event rivers washed torrents of nutrients into the ocean,” Mr Brocks said.

Mr Brocks said the extremely high levels of nutrients in the ocean, and cooling of global temperatures to more hospitable levels, created the perfect conditions for the rapid spread of algae.

It was the transition from oceans being dominated by bacteria to a world inhabited by more complex life, he said. “These large and nutritious organisms at the base of the food web provided the burst of energy required for the evolution of complex ecosystems, where increasingly large and complex animals, including humans, could thrive on Earth,” Mr Brocks added.

Co-lead researcher Amber Jarrett discovered ancient sedimentary rocks from central Australia that related directly to the period just after the melting of Snowball Earth.

“In these rocks we discovered striking signals of molecular fossils,” said Ms Jarrett, a PhD graduate at ANU Research School of Earth Sciences.

“We immediately knew that we had made a ground-breaking discovery that snowball Earth was directly involved in the evolution of large and complex life,” said Ms Jarrett.



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Top Shop bosses out of fashion in Arcadia shake-up


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Getty Images

Top Shop is the jewel in the crown of billionaire Sir Philip Green’s retail empire.

But with the chain losing its sheen amid tough competition there are fresh attempts to keep it ahead of the game.

In the latest shake-up at Sir Philip’s parent company Arcadia, Top Shop’s creative boss Kate Phelan is leaving, as is Top Man’s Gordon Richardson.

Arcadia has announced that they will be replaced in a combined role by former Vogue art director David Hagglund.

In addition to this latest creative appointment, a new chief executive starts next month – Paul Price.

It signals a new era for Top Shop, once the go-to destination for young shoppers keen to snap up the very latest fashion trends on the High Street.

Profits at Arcadia, which also includes Miss Selfridge, Burton, and Dorothy Perkins, plunged by 79% last year.

Tough competition in the clothing market – and the failure of the now-defunct BHS chain – contributed to the poor performance.

Ms Phelan moved to Top Shop from fashion magazine Vogue in 2011, and Mr Richardson has been at Top Man for 17 years.

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Getty Images

Image caption

Sir Philip Green’s retail empire includes Top Shop and Top Man

In Arcadia’s statement, Sir Philip said: “The appointment of David Hagglund, in the newly combined role, continues to mark the start of a new era for Topshop Topman in moving both brands forward in their ongoing global expansion.

“I am delighted to welcome David who will be joining Paul Price, our new chief executive, on the same day and I look forward to working with them both to drive the business forward.”

Top of their agenda will be Top Shop’s future. Nimbler online rivals such as Boohoo and Misguided are eroding Top Shop’s market share. They’re cheaper, too.

Online retailer Boohoo saw profits double in April thanks to new overseas markets.

And online fashion retailer Asos has also been eating Top Shop’s cake, with sales jumping in its latest results.

We will have to wait and see whether Top Shop seeks to move upmarket, or tries to up its game in the fiercely competitive online world.



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China cracks down on censorship loopholes


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Getty Images

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Much web content is denied to Chinese users

China’s latest crackdown on those attempting to skirt state censorship controls has seen it warn e-commerce platforms over the sale of illegal virtual private networks (VPNs).

Five websites, including shopping giant Alibaba, have been asked to remove vendors that sell VPNs.

It is the latest in a series of measures from the Chinese government to maintain strict control over content.

Apple has previously been asked to remove VPN apps.

What is a VPN?

A virtual private network (VPN) uses servers abroad to provide a secure link to the internet. It allows users in China to access parts of the outside world like Facebook, Gmail or YouTube, all of which are blocked in the country.

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Media captionEXPLAINED: What is a VPN service?

China’s cyber-regulator the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has ordered the websites to carry out immediate “self-examination and correction”.

“The CAC has ordered these five sites to immediately carry out a comprehensive clean-up of harmful information, close corresponding illegal account.. and submit a rectification report by a deadline,” the regulator said in a statement.

Authorities in China have already taken down popular celebrity gossip social media accounts and extended restrictions on what news can be produced and distributed by online platforms.

As well as clamping down on dozens of local VPNs, the authorities have ordered Apple and other app stores to remove foreign VPN apps that allow users to access websites censored by the Chinese government.



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Indian-American Lawmaker Unveils Resolution To Censure Donald Trump


Pramila Jayapal accused Donald Trump of having “trafficked in racism” throughout his career

Washington:  Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and some other lawmakers have unveiled a congressional resolution to censure US President Donald Trump for his comments about the violent white nationalist rally in Virginia.

“Not even a week has passed since the tragedy in Charlottesville. But on Tuesday, the president poured salt on the nation’s wounds by defending those who marched with white supremacists,” Ms Jayapal said.

“In an unscripted press conference, we saw the real and unfiltered Donald Trump – the logical endpoint for a man who has consistently trafficked in racism throughout his career,” she said.

The resolution which is also sponsored by Congressman Jerrold Nadler and Bonnie Watson Coleman will be introduced in the US House of Representatives on August 18.

“The American people expect their leaders to condemn white supremacy in unambiguous terms”, Ms Jaypal said.

“President Trump not only failed at condemning white supremacists and neo-Nazis, he stood up for them – for that he must be censured. The president’s conduct is un-American and it must stop,” she said.

As many as 47 lawmakers led by Ms Jayapal introduced a resolution urging Donald Trump to strongly condemn white nationalists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other hate groups responsible for the violence.

It also urged Mr Trump to remove all individuals from the White House and the Trump administration, including Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka, who support white supremacists.

Meanwhile, Senators Mazie K Hirono and Maria Cantwell wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging him to create an interagency task force to address the tragic increase in hate crimes that has stricken the US.

The recent outburst of violent racism and domestic terror activity by white supremacist organisations and individuals in Charlottesville, Virginia, has made the senators’ call for action even more urgent.

“President Trump’s reluctance to quickly and directly condemn the hate, bigotry, and racism of the white supremacists and members of the Ku Klux Klan that gathered in Charlottesville was deeply alarming to us and to millions of Americans,” the Senators wrote.

“In light of the horrific attack and hatred demonstrated this weekend in Charlottesville, we urge you to act quickly to address the alarming rise of hate in our country,” they said.

The ‘Unite the Right’ march had been organised to protest against the proposed removal of a statue of General Robert E Lee, who commanded the pro-slavery Confederate forces during the American Civil War. Violence broke out after they were confronted by anti-racism groups and later a car ploughed into one group of anti-racism protesters.

Donald Trump had blamed both sides including the “alt-left” for the deadly violence.



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Asda grows again after three-year slump


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Matt Cardy

Supermarket chain Asda has reported its first quarterly like-for-like sales growth for three years.

Sales rose 1.8% in the second quarter after a bumper Easter, Asda owner Walmart said.

Figures were boosted by a combination of price cuts, more customers and rising inflation.

Last year Asda reported its worst quarterly performance on record when sales tumbled by 7.5%.

Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon said the world’s biggest retail was “encouraged” by the UK result.

“In June, I visited Asda to see the progress being made. Customers are responding to investments in price and store experience by visiting the stores more often and increasing their basket sizes,” he said.

“There’s still much more to be done, but we’re clearly headed in the right direction.”

Asda is the third-largest UK supermarket chain behind Tesco and Sainsbury’s, according to research firm Kantar Worldpanel.



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Asthma, COPD Led To 3 Million Deaths Worldwide In 2015: Study


According to the report, over 3 million people died from Asthma and COPD in 2015. (Representational)

New Delhi:  Two common chronic respiratory conditions- asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)- led to over 3 million deaths worldwide in 2015, a report in a reputed medical journal has said, highlighting that India, along with three other countries, recorded the highest disease burden due to COPD.

According to a Global Burden of Disease study published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal, 3.2 million deaths took place due to COPD while 0.4 million people died of asthma in 2015.

“The disease burden due to COPD in 2015 was highest in Papua New Guinea, India, Lesotho and Nepal, and burden for asthma was highest in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Fiji, Kiribati, Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland,” it said.

India recorded 2774.64 prevalent cases of COPD per 100,000 people (2533-3027.38) and 4021.72 prevalent cases of asthma per 100,000 (3637.41-4,424.58) in 2015, the report said.

The study estimated the number of cases and deaths caused by the two conditions between 1990 and 2015 worldwide.

COPD is a group of lung conditions (including emphysema and chronic bronchitis) that cause breathing difficulties. The condition is largely caused by smoking and air pollution.

While overall prevalence and death rates had reduced since 1990, population growth and the ageing population meant that the numbers had increased, it said.

The number of deaths due to COPD increased by 11.6 per cent between 1990 and 2015 (from 2.8 to 3.2 million), and the number of cases increased by 44.2 per cent (from 121 to 174.5 million), the report said.

Comparatively, deaths from asthma reduced by 26.2 per cent (from 0.55 to 0.4 million), but prevalence increased by 12.6 per cent (from 318.2 to 358.2 million) over the same time period, it said.

As a result of the larger number of cases, there were more people living with disability- with the countries with the highest burden of disability from COPD and asthma typically residing in developing regions, the study said. The study found that asthma was the most common chronic respiratory disease worldwide, with twice the number of cases of COPD in 2015, but that deaths from COPD were eight times more common than deaths from asthma.

Many cases of asthma and COPD can be treated or prevented with affordable interventions, but people are often left undiagnosed, misdiagnosed or undertreated.

The main risk factors for COPD were smoking and air pollution, followed by household air pollution, occupational risk (such as asbestos, diesel fumes, arsenic and benzene), ozone and second-hand smoke, leading the authors to call for public health interventions to bring down air pollution and further reduce global smoking rates.

“Conversely, the causes of asthma are less clear, but include smoking and asthma-causing allergens experienced in the workplace,” the report said.

The authors highlighted the need for more research into causes of COPD and asthma to create better prevention measures and reduce the burden of the diseases, and also to help better define and diagnose the diseases.



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Pain in Spain: are tourists still welcome?


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EPA

Image caption

Barcelona’s airport is subject to strike action by security staff

Visitors to Barcelona may be expecting some hostility after the anti-tourism protests that have shaken one of Spain’s biggest holiday destinations.

On arriving at the city’s airport, they may notice signs that all is not well.

But any protesters with raised fists are more likely to be striking airport workers in pursuit of better pay and working conditions.

Spanish Civil Guards have been called in to handle security as the indefinite stoppage goes on.

Once the tourists arrive in the city centre, they are likely to notice anti-tourist graffiti or signs telling them that rents are now unaffordable for locals because of the demand for holiday accommodation.

Such campaigns are now being seen elsewhere in Spain, the world’s third-biggest tourism destination, while the tourism industry is concerned at the potential global effect.

“Tourism is of immense economic benefit to European destinations and has become even more important in recent years,” says a spokesperson for Abta, the UK travel agents’ association.

“Most people appreciate these benefits and accept that at certain times of year, they will have to share their cities with significant numbers of tourists from around the world.”

‘Manage numbers’

Abta, perhaps unsurprisingly, blames the problem on the rise of online services such as Airbnb, which threaten its members’ traditional business model while promoting a huge expansion in illegal tourist accommodation in cities such as Barcelona.

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AFP

Image caption

Campaigners have helpfully translated their message for tourists

“The rapid growth of the peer-to-peer economy in recent years has led to significant increases in visitors to some cities, but due to the lack of licensing and regulation in this sector, it is impossible to fully understand tourism numbers,” it says.

“We need mechanisms in place to manage numbers in crowded destinations, for the benefit of holidaymakers, destination residents and the travel industry. Logically, these measures would need to take account of both hotel visitors and peer-to-peer accommodation users.”

Abta may have a point, though. According to some estimates, as many as 40% of Barcelona’s tourist apartments are being rented out without the authorities’ permission, making it much harder for local people to find affordable accommodation.

For now, tour guide operators and other local businesses say privately that the anti-tourist backlash has made little difference to the influx of visitors.

And the Spanish government must be hoping they are right.

More than 75 million tourists visited the country last year, and the number is expected to hit a record 83 million in 2017.

With Spain still recovering from its crippling economic crisis, tourism is more important to national well-being than ever before.

‘Cookie-cutter’ tourism

Lucy Fuggle, head of content at TrekkSoft, which provides logistics and software to travel firms, sees the discontent as a sign that tourism needs to change. “The backlash is concerning, but more so for the sentiment than the economic impact,” she says.

Image copyright
EPA

Image caption

A cheap holiday in other people’s misery?

“Tourism will continue – there’s no doubt about that – but we see some changes that need to happen, such as improved regulations and better distribution of visitors across cities.

“In our work with tour and activity suppliers and tourism boards, we’ve noticed that visitors are increasingly seeking unique experiences in less ‘typical’ destinations,” Ms Fuggle says.

“It’s a step away from the cookie-cutter package trip, and if more visitors turn to this, we could see less dense distribution in struggling cities such as Barcelona and Venice. It comes at a greater cost to the consumer than budget city breaks, however.”

Future fears

It’s probably too late for the protesters to have much impact on this year’s tourism numbers.

The surge in visitor numbers is being fuelled by powerful global economic forces. As the appeal of other once-popular destinations such as Tunisia, Turkey and Egypt is waning because of security concerns, Spain looks even more attractive as a haven for sun-worshippers.

But the impact of the anti-tourist campaign could well be felt in 2018 and beyond.

The Catalan Tourist Board is a regular exhibitor at London’s World Travel Market tourism fair, held every November, along with 11 other Spanish travel organisations.

After some bumper years, the Spanish tourism industry will have to work hard to ensure that it too does not fall out of fashion.



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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Condemns Charlottesville Violence


Satya Nadella’s note comes as several executives quit government advisory panel (File)

San Francisco:  India-born Microsoft executive Satya Nadella has condemned the violence at the white-nationalist rally in Virginia, saying there is no place in our society for the bias, bigotry and senseless violence.

“Microsoft values diversity, and asked employees to empathise with “the hurt happening around us,” Mr Nadella said.

“There is no place in our society for the bias, bigotry and senseless violence we witnessed this weekend in Virginia provoked by white nationalists,” he said in a note sent to his employees at the Redmond-based company.

“It is an especially important time to continue to be connected with people, and listen and learn from each other’s experiences,” Mr Nadella said in the memo, apparently sent to senior managers, the Seattle Times reported.

“As I’ve said, across Microsoft, we will stand together with those who are standing for positive change in the communities where we live, work, and serve. Together, we must embrace our shared humanity, and aspire to create a society that is filled with respect, empathy and opportunity for all,” he said.

His note comes as several high-profile executives, including the leaders of Intel and drugmaker Merck, quit a government advisory panel, some in protest of President Donald Trump’s initially subdued response to the violence.

‘Unite the Right’ march had been organised to protest against the proposed removal of a statue of General Robert E Lee, who commanded the pro-slavery Confederate forces during the American Civil War. Violence broke out after they were confronted by anti-racism groups and later a car ploughed into one group of anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville.

President Trump had blamed both sides including the “alt-left” for the deadly violence.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerbeurg also criticised Trump over his response to the rallies.

“I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights, 
Mr Cook said in an email to his staff accessed by ReCode.

In a Facebook post, Mark Zuckerburg said, “there is no place for hate in our community. That’s why we’ve always taken down any post that promotes or celebrates hate crimes or acts of terrorism — including what happened in Charlottesville.”

“With the potential for more rallies, we’re watching the situation closely and will take down threats of physical harm.

We won’t always be perfect, but you have my commitment that we’ll keep working to make Facebook a place where everyone can feel safe,” he said. 



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Daily Stormer: Cloudflare drops neo-Nazi site


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Media caption The Daily Stormer has been a source of significant controversy in recent days

A neo-Nazi site that disparaged a woman who died during protests in Charlottesville has faced another wave of rejection by web companies.

The Daily Stormer’s account with Cloudflare – which protects websites from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks – has been terminated.

Cloudflare’s chief executive Matthew Prince said he had “had enough”, in a company email obtained by Gizmodo.

However, he added that he felt conflicted over the decision.

“Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the internet,” wrote Mr Prince.

“No-one should have that power.”

On Sunday, the Daily Stormer published an article denigrating Heather Heyer, 32, who was killed after a car rammed into protesters against a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

This led to a backlash in which the site had to switch domain name registrars twice in 24 hours, after GoDaddy and Google both removed it from their services.

Cloudflare’s service involves handling web users’ requests to view a site and filtering out those that appear to be coming from systems set up to overload the site.

Without such protection, websites can sometimes be knocked offline.

Mr Prince said leaving the site open to DDoS attacks could lead to “vigilante justice”, in a blog post published later on Wednesday.

However, he also said: “Our terms of service reserve the right for us to terminate users of our network at our sole discretion.

“The tipping point for us making this decision was that the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology.”

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionEXPLAINED: What is a DDoS attack?

Earlier in the week, the Daily Stormer was set up as a site on the dark web and later relocated its open web presence to a Russian domain name ending “.ru”.

A spokesman for the Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor said it had asked web firm Ru-Center to shut this down.

A BBC check on Thursday morning found that the .ru address no longer appeared to be working.

The Daily Stormer has faced frustration elsewhere in recent days.

Three Twitter accounts associated with the site that had previously been active were suddenly listed as “suspended” on Wednesday.

And cyber-security researcher Joseph Evers announced that he had stopped hosting an internet chat channel he said was used by staff at the Daily Stormer.

Describing himself as having once been a “free speech absolutist”, Mr Evers added: “I’m glad to do my small part in countering white supremacy.”

Donations blocked

Besides the Daily Stormer’s case, this week Paypal reiterated its stance on blocking donations to organisations that promote hate, violence or racial intolerance.

“This includes organizations that advocate racist views, such as the KKK, white supremacist groups or Nazi groups,” the payment-processing firm said.

Internet companies were facing a “dilemma” over how to balance support for freedom of speech with a desire not to encourage hate groups, said Prof Eric Heinze, at Queen Mary, University of London.

“Had the Charlottesville events not occurred, the hate sites would still be operating from Cloudflare, GoDaddy, and other such venues,” he told the BBC.

“Some might call it satisfactory to wait until actual harm occurs before closing such a site. But others will say that’s too little and too late.”



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Malala Yousafzai Gets Into Oxford University


The 20-year-old Malala Yousafzai will study philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University

London:  Pakistani Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai will be studying in Oxford University.

“So excited to go to Oxford!! Well done to all A-level students — the hardest year. Best wishes for life ahead!” Malala tweeted on Thursday, along with a screen shot of her acceptance into the prestigious university.

The 20-year-old will study philosophy, politics and economics. In March, Malala revealed she had received an offer to study the three subjects at a UK university on condition of achieving three As in her A-levels, the Telegraph reported.

Malala was nearly killed by the Taliban in Pakistan for campaigning for girls’ rights to education in 2012. She became internationally known after the incident and relocated with her family to Birmingham for further rehabilitation.

In 2014, at age 17, Malala became the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and has since become a symbol for the fight for human rights and education. 

In April, she became the youngest-ever UN Messenger of Peace.

Notable Oxford alumni include Pakistan former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Myanmar’s pro-democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi as well as former British Prime Minister David Cameron and his one-time Labour opponent Ed Miliband.



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Zuckerberg Shuts Down Chat Platform Used To 'Harass' Employees: Report


‘Facebook Anon’, Initially launched in 2015 for employees to anonymously voice their concerns

San Francisco:  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shut down an anonymous online chat platform in late 2016 after it was increasingly used to talk about the US presidential candidates and ‘harass’ the company’s employees, media reported on Thursday.

Initially launched in 2015 for employees to anonymously voice their concerns, the platform called ‘Facebook Anon’ became more political around last year’s US presidential elections. 

“The ‘FB Anon’ internal Facebook group violated our Terms of Service, which require people who use Facebook (including our employees) to use an authentic identity on our platform,” Business Insider quoted Facebook Head of People Lori Goler as saying. 

“Last year, we disabled any anonymous internal groups or pages within Facebook and reminded our people of the places at our company where they can have discussions about issues that matter to them, openly or confidentially as appropriate,” Lori Goler said in a statement.

The group was abruptly shut down by Facebook in December 2016 without explanation. However, Zuckerberg later told employees that the group had been used to harass others.

According to the report, the online discussion group inside Facebook where employees conversed anonymously turned ugly and transformed the forum into a hub for political comments.

This behaviour alarmed Facebook management and evetually the platform was shut down.

Earlier this month, an anti-diversity “manifesto” went viral inside Google, infuriating its employees.

The anti-diversity manifesto suggested that Google should halt initiatives aimed at increasing gender and racial diversity within the company and instead focus on “ideological diversity”. 

The employee who wrote the document argued that “the representation gap between men and women in software engineering persists because of biological differences between the two sexes”.



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Who is the most successful James Bond?


Daniel Craig has signed up for a fifth James Bond film – but how does he compare to the actors who played the iconic spy before him?

Roger Moore has starred in the most films, but Sean Connery’s outings made the most money at the US box office, if the figures are adjusted for inflation.

Connery’s films were also more acclaimed by critics – although Daniel Craig isn’t far behind when the reviews are ranked.

This counts official Eon-produced Bond films only – not including the original Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again.



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Hindu, Jewish Women Marry In UK's First Interfaith Gay Wedding


The couple, who both work for an interfaith organisation got married in Leicester (Representational)

London:  A Hindu woman and her Jewish partner have married in the UK in what is believed to be the country’s first interfaith lesbian wedding, according to media reports.

Kalavati Mistry, 48, and Miriam Jefferson, who is from Texas, met more than 20 years ago on a training course in the US, and tied the knot last week.

During the ceremony, the brides wore traditional red and white bridal colours, fresh floral garlands and a ‘mangal sutra‘ (a necklace traditionally tied around the bride’s neck) to show that they are now married women.

Ms Mistry had kept her sexuality a secret for years and said it had been “very difficult for me as an Asian gay woman”, The Independent reported.

From a young age, Ms Mistry knew she was gay but was worried about telling her friends and family and honouring the traditions of her culture and religion.

She admits their reaction to her partner has been great.

But her friends and family have been “welcoming and embracing” to Ms Jefferson since she disclosed their relationship, she said, adding: “I hope many many gay people – no matter what religion or culture they’re in – are in loving relationships.”

Local Hindu female priest, Chanda Vyas carried out the ceremony and said she was delighted to be part of the event.

The couple, who both work for an interfaith organisation, married at the Chutney Ivy restaurant in Leicester, England.

Jefferson said that they had already had a Jewish wedding in her hometown of San Antonio, Texas, earlier this year.

“It’s really nice to now have a Hindu wedding here, because it brings both of us together and completes both of us in my eyes,” she said.

The couple will return to the US after the wedding.



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Hyundai vows to produce longer-range electric car


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Korean carmaker Hyundai is wading further into the electric vehicle market, promising a car that can go 500km (311 miles) on each charge.

Hyundai already has an electric model on the market, but its range lags behind its competitors’ models.

Along with its affiliate Kia, Hyundai is planning 31 eco-friendly models by 2020.

The latest move comes amid increasing competition in the market for ecologically-friendly cars.

Hyundai’s environmentally-conscious new additions will include three plug-in hybrid vehicles, eight battery-powered cars and two fuel-cell vehicles.

The company also has plans to develop its first dedicated facility for pure electric vehicles, which will allow it to produce a variety of cars with longer driving ranges.

Its current electric model, the Ioniq, has a range of 280km, less than GM’s Bolt or Tesla’s Model 3, which both have ranges in excess of 350km.

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Automotive analyst Robin Zhu from Bernstein Research says Hyundai’s new model would be competitive when it comes out after 2021, even though its high-end competitor Tesla will probably exceed its expected range by then.

“For econo-boxes that go from A to B, you need to be competitive, but as long as they offer the right product for the right value, the onus is not on Hyundai to do something groundbreaking,” he said.

China leads the way

Hyundai’s latest push into the electric market comes amid growing global competition for electric cars.

In addition to electric-only manufacturers such as Tesla and Faraday Future, major US, Japanese and European carmakers are now offering electric options.

According to the International Energy Agency, new registrations of electric cars hit a record in 2016, with more than 750,000 sales.

While electric cars have the highest market share in Norway, far more are sold in China.

China accounted for more than 40% of the electric cars sold last year, more than double the amount sold in the United States.

The consultancy McKinsey said Chinese manufacturers produced 43% of the 873,000 electric vehicles built worldwide in 2016.

Robin Zhu said the Chinese market is partly driven by generous government subsidies, and it’s unlikely that Chinese manufacturers will continue to dominate over the long-term.

“Right now, VW’s market share is almost 0%. But it’s not going to be 0% when they pull up their socks and do it,” he said.



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UK retail sales growth slows in July


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UK retail sales growth slowed in July as consumers cut back on buying most goods other than food, according to the latest official figures.

Sales grew by 0.3% compared with June, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Strong food sales drove the growth, while most of the other main sectors showed a decrease.

The gap between wages and inflation is continuing to widen, putting pressure on household spending.

In June sales rose by 0.6% against May.

Ole Black, ONS senior statistician, said it was a “relatively subdued picture” in retail sales”.

“Strong food sales have been responsible for the growth of 0.3% in July compared with June, as all other main sectors have shown a decrease. Whilst the overall growth is the same as in June, trends in growth in different sectors are proving quite volatile,” he said.



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Another Climate-Change Nightmare: 91 New Volcanoes Under Antarctica's Ice


Antarctica has been having a rough time of it lately, you may have heard.

You know – greenhouse gases, warming oceans, trillion-ton icebergs breaking off the continent like a middle-aged man losing hair in the sink. Not the best century for the old South Pole.

And now it turns out Antarctica has problems we didn’t even know about. Deep problems. Volcanoes-under-the-ice problems, which doesn’t sound healthy.

University of Edinburgh researchers on Monday announced the discovery of 91 previously unknown volcanoes under west Antarctica. They do not sound nearly as alarmed as, say, Quartz, which called the possibilities terrifying.

“By themselves the volcanoes wouldn’t be likely to cause the entire ice sheet to melt,” said lead researcher Max Van Wyk de Vries, whose team published the study in the Geological Society in late May. But if the glacier is already melting because of global warming, he said, “if we start reducing significant quantities of ice . . . you can more or less say that it triggers an eruption.”

In a worst-case scenario, the researchers say, we could see a feedback loop of melting ice that destabilizes volcanoes, which erupt and melt more ice, and so on until Antarctica’s troubles to date seem halcyon in comparison.

“It could be bad news,” de Vries said. “But in a way it’s good. The volcanoes would still have been there. Now we know the volcanoes are there.”

That we know at all is thanks in part to a chance discovery by an undergraduate student: de Vries, who at age 20 is still a year away from attaining his geology degree from the Scottish university.

For a class in his freshman year, he was looking through public data collected over several decades, which revealed what little is known about the landscape beneath kilometers of ice that cover much of western Antarctica. “I started discovering these cones,” he said.

De Vries grew up in a part of France dotted with volcanoes, so the shape was familiar. “I realized that maybe there was something special going on,” he said.

He took his findings to one of his geology lecturers, Andrew Hein, and to Robert Bingham, a glaciologist at the university. Two years later the three men are now co-authors on a study published in a leading geology journal.

“Student’s idea leads to Antarctic volcano discovery,” as the University of Edinburgh put it in Monday’s announcement.

“We were amazed,” Bingham told the Guardian. “We had not expected to find anything like that number. . . . I think it is very likely this region will turn out to be the densest region of volcanoes in the world.”

A few dozen Antarctic volcanoes had already been discovered by explorers, such as Mount Erebus, which holds a lake of glowing lava on an island off the coast. But looking through decades’ worth of data from ice-penetrating radar, seismic studies and other modern methods of exploration, the Edinburgh team gleaned the shapes of nearly 200 cones.

Some of these they ruled out from their study, because satellite photos showed no corresponding deformation on the ice above the cones. Another 50 or so cones poked above the surface of the ice and exactly matched the locations of previously discovered volcanoes. The other 91 cones, the team concluded, were true volcanoes that had never seen the light of day.

“Underneath an ice sheet is an environment you wouldn’t usually expect a cone to be,” de Vries said. “They tend to erode into ridges or valleys.”

If the ice were to suddenly vanish, these volcanoes would poke out of the sea. Some would soar nearly four kilometers high. Volcanoes would cover Marie Byrd Land and skirt the Ross Ice Shelf, resembling dense volcanic clusters in East Africa.

And “there’s the potential there are more volcanoes we haven’t found,” de Vries said. “That’s almost certainly the case.”

All the hidden volcanoes are relatively young, de Vries said – born beneath the ice no more than a few million years ago, when they first spewed lava into frigid waters. Whether they’re going to do so again, co-researcher Bingham told the Guardian, “is something we will have to watch closely.”

Dying glaciers and volcanoes have been known to spar before. When Iceland thawed out 10,000 years ago, the land beneath the vanished ice rose up, and pressure-sensitive volcanoes spewed to life. In an age of rising temperatures, could Antarctica go the same way?

De Vries isn’t sure. For all the stories about Delaware-size icebergs breaking off the continent, he said, “Antarctica as a whole has generally been doing better than most glaciers around the world. It’s not melting rapidly like glaciers in the Rockies or Alps.” Still, he warned, “it is obviously a region that has the potential to be unstable. Some studies are finding it’s started to melt, and we can’t stop it.”

So, next question: If melting ice triggers one of these 91 buried volcanoes, or the 47 we can see, or who knows how many that have yet to be discovered elsewhere on the continent, what then?

While some are quite worried, de Vries doubted that a little blast of molten rock would do much harm to a massive Antarctic ice sheet. Directly, at least.

But he laid out a worst-case scenario in which lava managed to melt through a glacier, and warm ocean water seeped into the hole, and the whole system began melting even faster, potentially unleashing vast magmatic forces beneath the ice.

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



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There Will Be No War On Korean Peninsula: South Korea's Moon Jae-In


Seoul, South Korea:  There will be no war on the Korean peninsula, South Korean President Moon Jae-In said Thursday, saying Seoul effectively had a veto over US military action in response to the North’s nuclear and missile programmes.

Tensions have soared on the peninsula in recent months, with Pyongyang carrying out its first successful tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), bringing much of the US within range.

Last week it threatened to send a salvo of rockets towards the US territory of Guam — although it appears to have backed off for now — while US President Donald Trump promised “fire and fury” and said that Washington’s weapons were “locked and loaded”. 

The intense rhetoric on both sides has raised fears of a miscalculation leading to catastrophic consequences — Pyongyang has vast artillery forces deployed within range of Seoul, where millions of people live.

But Moon said: “I will prevent war at all cost.”

“I want all South Koreans to believe with confidence that there will be no war,” he told a press conference marking his first 100 days in office.

The United States has been the South’s security guarantor since the end of the Korean War in 1953, which left the peninsula divided and technically still in a state of conflict with no peace treaty signed.

Washington has 28,500 troops stationed in the country to protect it from the North.

But Moon said Seoul effectively had a veto on military action by the US.

Washington and Trump had agreed that “no matter what option they take about North Korea, all decisions will be made after consulting with and getting agreement with the Republic of Korea.”

Trump’s rhetoric has raised alarm among observers but Moon, who visited Washington at the end of June, declined to criticise his choice of words.

The US leader was “trying to pressure North Korea by showing a firm resolution”, he said. 

He added: “All South Koreans have worked so hard together to rebuild the country from the ruins of the Korean War. We can’t lose everything with another war.”

‘Red line’ 

Pyongyang says it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself from possible invasion by its “imperialist enemy” the US and has long sought to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland.

The North has been subjected to seven sets of sanctions by the United Nations Security Council over its nuclear programme, the latest earlier this month, with China, its main ally and benefactor, promising to comply.

Beijing has grown increasingly exasperated with its wayward neighbour, but fears instability and the prospect of US troops on its border in a united Korea.

In the past Moon, a left-leaning former human rights lawyer, has urged engagement with Pyongyang to bring it to the negotiating table, in addition to sanctions — an approach that raised concerns it could create divisions with Washington.

But since coming to power his gestures have been rebuffed by Pyongyang, and he played down the urgency of dialogue.

“I don’t think we must rush into it,” he said.

For talks to take place, he said, “there must be a guarantee that it will lead to a fruitful outcome. 

“North Korea must at least end additional provocations to create the mood for dialogue.”

Only then could Seoul consider sending an envoy to the North, he added.

“The red line would be North Korea completing its ICBM and mounting it with a nuclear warhead and weaponising it,” he added.

“If North Korea launches another provocation, it will face even stronger sanctions and it will not be able to survive them. I would like to warn North Korea to end its dangerous gamble.”

The North’s leader Kim Jong-Un said Tuesday he would “watch a little more” before making a decision on the Guam missile launch, a declaration Trump lauded as “very wise”.

But the US and South Korea are set to begin their annual 10-day Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint exercises on Monday, involving tens of thousands of troops, which the North has long slammed as a rehearsal for invasion.

Pyongyang has often staged provocations as a show of force against past military drills, such as missile launches or movements of its arsenal and troops along the tense border.  

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



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Saudi Arabia To Open Border To Qatar Pilgrims, Qatar Media Silent


Saudi Arabia said it would welcome Qatari pilgrims to perform the haj this season (File Photo)

Cairo:  Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday it would welcome Qatari pilgrims to Saudi Arabia to perform the haj this season, amidst a feud that severed transport links between the two nations since June.

A statement on the official Saudi Press Agency said the Salwa border point would be open for Qatari citizens who wish to perform the annual pilgrimage to pass through with no electronic permissions needed.

The statement, which also said Qatari pilgrims would also be welcome through two of the Kingdom’s airports, came after a meeting between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Qatari Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Jassim al-Thani.

A Qatari spokesman had no immediate comment on the opening of the border for haj but said Sheikh Abdullah does not hold a position in the Qatari government.

Qatari media did not immediately carry the Saudi report.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates imposed sanctions on fellow U.S. ally Qatar in June and cut all transport connections with the country. The four boycotting Arab states accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism, a charge which Doha denies.

Qatar accused the Saudis of politicizing haj and addressed the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion last month, expressing concern about obstacles facing Qataris who want to attend haj this year.

(Reporting by Ali Abdelaty; Wriiting by Maha El Dahan; Editing by James Dalgleish and Toby Chopra)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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



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What Will Kim Do Next? Sixth Nuclear Test Seen Critical For North Korea


SEOUL/WASHINGTON:  North Korea says it has developed intercontinental missiles capable of targeting any place in the United States.

Now comes the hard part of fulfilling the declared goal of its leader Kim Jong Un: perfecting a nuclear device small and light enough to fit on the missile without affecting its range as well as making it capable of surviving re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere.

To do that, weapons experts say, the isolated state needs to carry out at least another nuclear test, its sixth, and more tests of long-range missiles.

North Korea’s two tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last month likely carried a payload lighter than any nuclear warhead it is currently able to produce, the experts said.

One way to have a lighter warhead would be to concentrate on developing a thermonuclear device, or hydrogen bomb, which would offer much greater explosive yield relative to size and weight.

Pyongyang claims to have tested a hydrogen bomb, but this has not been proven, said Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Program at the Federation of American Scientists.

“Doing so would take several more nuclear tests,” he said. “The advantage of a thermonuclear warhead is that it packs a lot more power into less weight.”

Choi Jin-wook, a professor of international relations at Japan’s Ritsumeikan University and former president of South Korea’s state-run Korea Institute for National Unification, said a sixth nuclear test would be essential for North Korea to develop an operational nuclear-tipped ICBM.

“In order to make a nuclear weapon deployable it has to be small and light, but North Korea doesn’t seem to have this technology,” he said.

South Korea’s president said on Thursday Pyongyang would be “crossing a red line” if it put a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile, and U.S. President Donald Trump has warned that North Korea would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States.

KIM MUST WEIGH RISKS

North Korea is a highly secretive nation and predictions of what it will do next are often little more than conjecture.

Still, Kim is likely to be carefully weighing the timing of even a new nuclear test because it will antagonise North Korea’s sole major ally, China, and could trigger even tougher U.N. economic sanctions than those that followed ICBM tests in July.

A U.S. official, who asked not to be named, said that while periodic activity has been seen at North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site, he had not seen movement there for over a month and there were no current signs of an imminent test.

A second U.S. official added that North Korea has had parts in place for a nuclear launch for months, but no new activity had been seen recently.

Besides developing a miniaturised hydrogen bomb, some experts say it appears Kim’s rocket scientists have yet to master the technology to protect a warhead from the extreme heat and pressure of re-entering the earth’s atmosphere after an intercontinental flight

South Korea believes North Korea will need at least another one or two more years to obtain that re-entry technology, Seoul’s vice defence minister said on Sunday.

“Miniaturisation for ballistic missiles is only one of the many challenges of targeting the U.S. with an ICBM,” said David Albright, a physicist and founder of the non-profit Institute for Science and International Security in Washington.

“The re-entry vehicle has to survive and the warhead work,” he said. “I am sceptical that North Korea has mastered all these steps.”

Among North Korea’s capabilities in the field, U.S. intelligence officials have said it likely can produce its own missile engines and does not need to rely on imports.

ESSENTIAL TO SURVIVAL

After Kim Jong Un ramped up the pace of weapons development last year with numerous missile launches as well as two nuclear tests in January and September 2016, some observers had expected a sixth nuclear test as early as this January.

Instead, Pyongyang has spent most of the year testing various types of missiles. After its first and second ICBM tests in July, it threatened to land missiles in the vicinity of Guam, a U.S. Pacific territory, drawing a stern warning from Trump.

Pyongyang has since said Kim has delayed his decision on Guam.

Pyongyang faces significantly tougher sanctions, including from China, if it conducts another nuclear test, said Moon Chung-in, a special adviser on foreign affairs and national security to South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

“If North Korea carries out a sixth nuclear weapons test, China will likely cut oil supplies to North Korea. I believe China has strongly warned North Korea not to conduct another nuclear test,” Moon said.

The Punggye-ri site is just 60 miles (100 km) from the border with China and 125 miles (200 km) from Russia, and past tests have angered both countries and caused them to back increasingly tough U.N. sanctions.

Kim Jong Un, however, sees the ability to threaten the United States as essential to the survival of his personal rule.

“North Korea will conduct a sixth nuclear test in order to bring the United States to negotiations,” said Yoo Ho-yeol, professor of unification and diplomacy at Seoul’s Korea University.

“I don’t know exactly when (it will happen), but a sixth nuclear test is a less dangerous option for North Korea than firing missiles towards Guam.”

(Additional reporting by Heekyong Yang and Ju-min Park in Seoul, John Walcott and Idrees Ali in Washington, Writing by Soyoung Kim; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

© 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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Cornish fish restaurant named best in the UK


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“If you stay true to yourself, get your head down, look after your customers and use the very best ingredients available to you, you’ll make it to the top,” said Outlaw

A Cornish fish restaurant has been named best in the UK, after five years at the top for the previous winner.

The Good Food Guide put Port Isaac’s Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, named after its owner, just ahead of Cumbria’s L’Enclume, ending its winning run.

Traditional favourites such as Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck still feature in the top 50 list.

But new restaurants to feature include a tiny 12-seat restaurant and one set on a caravan site in Anglesey.

Outlaw described the news as “phenomenal” and attributed the success to the “hard work and dedication of the team”.

Despite losing the top slot, Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume in Cartmel retained its perfect 10 score.

Four new entrants to the top 50, including Hart’s Bakery in Bristol, are built under railway arches. One, named Vice and Virtue, occupies a former strip club in Leeds.

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Stark’s Ben Crittenden was named “chef to watch”

Stark, a 12-seater restaurant in Broadstairs, Kent, is so pushed for space that it does not have a toilet. Diners can instead pop up the road to the local pub.

Despite its lack of facilities, its chef, Ben Crittenden, has been named “chef to watch” by the Guide.

Peter Sanchez-Iglesias won the chef of the year title for the seasonal cuisine he serves at Casamia in Bristol.

The Good Food Guide, published by Waitrose, started ranking the UK’s restaurants in 1951.

Each year it assembles a long-list from thousands of recommendations sent in by the public.

It then sends out inspectors to each of the chosen restaurants, where they assume the guise of regular customers before reporting back on their experience.

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China And India Dangerously Close To Military Conflict: Foreign Media


New Delhi:  As nuclear posturing between North Korea and the United States rivets the world, a quieter conflict between India and China is playing out on a remote Himalayan ridge – with stakes just as high.

For the past two months, Indian and Chinese troops have faced off on a plateau in the Himalayas in tense proximity, in a dispute prompted by moves by the Chinese military to build a road into territory claimed by India’s close ally, Bhutan.

India has suggested that both sides withdraw, and its foreign minister said in Parliament that the dispute can be resolved only by dialogue.

Yet China has vociferously defended the right it claims to build a road in the Doklam area, land it also claims.

Since the dispute began, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has issued an angry stream of almost daily denunciations of India and its “illegal trespass” and “recklessness,” along with demands that New Delhi withdraw its troops “if it cherishes peace.”

Incursions and scuffles between the two countries have long occurred along India and China’s 2,220-mile border – much of which remains in dispute – although the respective militaries have not fired shots at each other in a half-century.

Analysts say that this most recent dispute is more worrisome because it comes at a time when relations between the two nuclear-armed powers are declining, with China framing the issue as a direct threat to its territorial integrity. For the first time, such a conflict involves a third country – the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.

And the potential for dangerous clashes elsewhere on the rugged mountainous border remains real, analysts say. Indian and Chinese patrols jostled each other and exchanged blows Tuesday morning by a lake in the Ladakh region of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, according to local reports.

“It would be very complacent to rule out escalation,” said Shashank Joshi, an analyst with the Royal United Services Institute in London. “It’s the most serious crisis in India-China relations for 30 years.”

The standoff also reflects an expanding geopolitical contest between Asia’s most populous nations. As China fortifies islands in the South China Sea and exerts its influence through ambitious infrastructure projects throughout the continent, its dominance of Asian affairs is growing, as is its unwillingness to brook rivals. India is seen by some as the last counterbalance.

“The most significant challenge to India comes from the rise of China, and there is no doubt in my mind that China will seek to narrow India’s strategic space by penetrating India’s own neighborhood. This is what we see happening,” former Indian foreign secretary Shyam Saran said recently at an event in New Delhi.

The incident began in mid-June, when a crew from the People’s Liberation Army, the PLA, entered a remote plateau – populated largely by Bhutanese shepherds – with earth-moving and other equipment and “attempted to build a road,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

They were confronted by a Royal Bhutan Army patrol; Indian soldiers pitched tents there two days later. India and Bhutan – a country of just under 800,000 – have long had a special relationship that includes military support and $578 million in aid to Bhutan.

India says the road would have moved Chinese troops closer to India’s strategically important Siliguri Corridor, known as the Chicken’s Neck, the narrow stretch of land that separates India’s northeast from the rest of the country.

China asserted that more than 270 Indian border troops, carrying weapons and driving two bulldozers, “flagrantly crossed the boundary” and advanced about 100 yards into Chinese territory.

The roots of the distrust between the two nations go back to India’s decision to shelter the Dalai Lama in 1959, when the spiritual leader fled Tibet during an uprising there, and to China’s invasion during a brief border war in 1962.

There was a marked deterioration in relations after India signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States in 2005 and ties deepened between the two large democracies.

In 2014, Narendra Modi came into office as the most pro-China Indian prime minister since 1962, wanting not only to emulate China’s economic progress, but also to attract Chinese investment, analysts say.

But he found Chinese President Xi Jinping to be an unreliable partner, as China blocked India’s application to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group and blocked efforts to declare Pakistani militant Masood Azhar a terrorist at the United Nations.

When China’s sweeping Belt and Road development initiative added an economic corridor through parts of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,  the tensions rose sharply. Modi snubbed a major summit in Beijing that launched the Belt and Road plan this year.

Meanwhile, India alarmed China by allowing the Dalai Lama to visit an important Buddhist monastery in India’s northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh this year, a region Beijing claims is part of Tibet.

“India has tolerated and supported Tibetan separatists, allowing the Tibetan independence groups to set up an ‘exile government’ in India,” said Long Xingchun, director of the Center for Indian Studies at China West Normal University in Nanchong.

Two months in, a few hundred Chinese and Indian troops remain hunkered down on the plateau – and the threat of violence remains real.

Xu Guangyu, a retired PLA major general, said China has been preparing to evict Indian troops if New Delhi does not back down but hoped that China’s objective could be realized without bloodshed.

“We won’t be the first to fire. We are very clear about this line, and this shows China’s sincerity,” he said. “But it’s not up to China to decide. Whether there is to be war depends on the Indians. However, if they fire the first shot, they would lose control and the initiative.”

India has undertaken a variety of preparedness measures with its eye on Chinese escalation, Joshi said, including advancing the operational alert status of several units by two months, which involves moving two of its mountain divisions toward the region and allowing troops to begin acclimatizing to higher altitudes.

“Clearly, there are a whole set of measures they’ve taken as discreetly as possible to shield themselves from snap Chinese offenses,” Joshi said.



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Apple boss Tim Cook joins Donald Trump condemnation


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Apple chief executive Tim Cook has become the latest boss to criticise President Donald Trump over his response to the white nationalist rallies in Virginia.

Mr Cook said he did not agree there was a “moral equivalence” between white supremacists and “those who oppose them”.

Mr Trump has disbanded two business councils after top bosses resigned.

Mr Cook said Apple will also make donations to human rights charities.

In an email to staff obtained by Buzzfeed News Mr Cook said: “I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights.

“Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans.”

He added that “in the wake of the tragic and repulsive events in Charlottesville, we are stepping up to help organizations who work to rid our country of hate”.

Apple will contribute $1m each to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. It would also match two-for-one any staff donations to these and several other human rights groups until 30 September, he said.

On Wednesday, Mr Trump has said he was scrapping two business councils after more bosses quit over his handling of the violent clashes in Virginia.

Business leaders left the White House manufacturing council after the backlash against how he reacted to the far-right rally last weekend.

The clashes culminated in a woman’s death and nearly 20 wounded when a car ploughed into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters.

Mr Trump’s reaction has sparked outrage and generated global headlines.

His announcement on Twitter came as the heads of 3M, Campbell Soup, Johnson & Johnson and United Technologies announced their resignations on Wednesday.

Mr Trump said: “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both.”

Before Mr Trump’s announcement, the Strategy and Policy Forum announced it was a joint decision to disband the council.

Businesses have been under pressure to distance themselves from Mr Trump over his handling of the clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Why did they leave?

On Monday, Mr Trump belatedly condemned the white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups that rallied in a small Virginia town on Sunday.

But in a rancorous news conference on Tuesday he backtracked and again blamed left-wing counter-protesters for the violence too.

JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon, a member of the Strategy and Policy Forum, released a separate statement on Wednesday saying he strongly disagreed with Mr Trump’s recent statements, adding that “fanning divisiveness is not the answer”.

“Constructive economic and regulatory policies are not enough and will not matter if we do not address the divisions in our country. It is a leader’s role, in business or government, to bring people together, not tear them apart,” he said.

Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup Co said she could not continue to participate in the advisory panel after Mr Trump’s comments. Activists had called on Campbell Soup, among other firms, to take action.



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Camilla: Diana's 'Rottweiler' Who Won Grudging Acceptance


The anniversary of Princess Diana’s death once again turns the spotlight on Prince Charles’ current wife Camilla Parker Bowles, whom the princess famously referred to as the third person in her marriage.

For years Camilla was vilified as a marriage-wrecker who shattered Britain’s fairytale royal love story and Diana herself referred to her as a “Rottweiler”.

Following Diana’s tragic death in 1997, Camilla and Charles were free to revive their decades-old romance.

Discreet at first, they were married in 2005 and she gradually won over the hearts of many Britons.

But others remain unconvinced by Parker Bowles, who became the Duchess of Cornwall on marrying Charles.

“Infidelity that won’t be forgiven,” read a headline by Daily Mail columnist Michael Thornton this week.

Recent polls published in Britain’s tabloids indicate strong opposition to her ever being given the title of Queen when her husband becomes king.

Her defenders say she has never aspired to royal titles.

“She had no ambition to be a princess or duchess or even queen,” wrote Prince Charles’s biographer Penny Junor, on their 10th wedding anniversary in 2015.

“She simply wanted to be with, and support, the Prince of Wales. Their marriage has given him a new lease of life,” she added.

Traditional upbringing 

Born Camilla Shand in London on July 17, 1947, Parker Bowles had a deeply traditional upbringing.

The granddaughter of Lord Ashcombe, she was educated in London, went to finishing schools in Switzerland and France and spent her home life on a country estate in Sussex, southern England.

Self-confident and attractive, the young woman first met Prince Charles at a polo match in the early 1970s, and they later became close.

However, believing Charles would never propose, she married army officer Andrew Parker Bowles, and the couple had two children.

Mutual feelings with the prince remained, nonetheless, with Charles allegedly continuing to see Parker Bowles even after his 1981 marriage to Diana.

The romance was fully rekindled later that decade as the royal marriage crumbled, something luridly chronicled in recorded phone conversations between Charles and Parker Bowles leaked to the press.

Camilla and Andrew Parker Bowles divorced in 1995, a year before Charles and Diana.

After Diana’s death, Charles and Parker Bowles kept their relationship discreet, but it gradually became apparent they were effectively living together as husband and wife.

Following months of careful planning, the couple made their first public appearance together in 1999 and after that became increasingly open about their relationship.

Crowds cheer Windsor wedding 

They were married in the royal town of Windsor on April 9, 2005, in a civil ceremony followed by a religious blessing at St George’s Chapel in Queen Elizabeth’s presence.

Both divorced, there was controversy over whether they could have a church wedding, especially given Charles’s future role as supreme governor of the Church of England.

But the wedding — delayed by a day to allow the prince to attend pope John Paul II’s funeral — drew a cheering crowd of 20,000 into the streets in the shadow of Windsor Castle.

As a married couple they settled down in the years that followed into a regular life of royal duties, overseas tours and holidays at Balmoral, Camilla remaining the archetype of the tweed-wearing, horse-loving British country aristocrat.

Over time Camilla has also been widely accepted by the royal family, including Charles and Diana’s two boys, Princes William and Harry.

“The boys had loved their mother and knew what she thought of Camilla; but equally they could see that their father had been lonely and that this woman lit up his life,” wrote Junor in the Daily Telegraph on the 10th anniversary of their marriage.

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



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China Military Criticises 'Wrong' US Moves On Taiwan, South China Sea


China was willing to work with US to find more potential for cooperation (File Photo)

Beijing:  The “wrong” actions of the United States on Taiwan, its South China Sea patrols and deployment of an advanced anti-missile system in South Korea have had a large, negative influence on military trust, a senior Chinese officer said on Thursday.

Fan Changlong, a vice chairman of China’s powerful Central Military Commission, told Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, that mutual trust mechanisms between the two militaries had continued to improve, China’s defence ministry said.

“But wrong actions on the Taiwan issue, the United States deploying the THAAD system around China, U.S. ships and aircraft’s activities in the South China Sea, the United States close-in surveillance in the sea and air near China have had a large, negative influence on bilateral military ties and mutual trust,” Fan added.

THAAD is the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence anti-missile system the United States has deployed in South Korea to defend against North Korea.

China says the system affects its own security because of its powerful radar, and will do nothing to ease tension with North Korea.

Fan said China was willing to work with the United States to find more potential for cooperation, handle disputes and sensitive issues appropriately and ensure military cooperation becomes a positive force in relations.

China and the United States, the world’s two largest economies, say they are committed to having a stable military-to-military relationship, but there are deep faultlines.

China has been angered by U.S. freedom of navigation patrols near Chinese-controlled islands in the disputed South China Sea and continued U.S. arms sales and support for self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as a wayward province.

The United States has expressed concern about what it calls unsafe intercepts of U.S. aircraft by the Chinese air force and a lack of transparency in military spending by China, which is in the midst of an ambitious military modernisation programme.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

© 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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Pentagon's Top General Signs A New Deal With China


President Xi Jinping described relations with the United States as strained last month.(File)

The Pentagon’s top general and his Chinese counterpart have signed a new agreement aimed at improving communication in times of crisis, a step that brings Beijing and Washington closer together as the two nations grapple with what to do about North Korea and its efforts to build an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Fang Fenghui of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army signed the deal at the Chinese military headquarters in Beijing at the outset of a three-day visit by Dunford. The agreement establishes what the Pentagon called the Joint Staff Dialogue Mechanism, in which a three-star officer on Dunford’s staff, Army Lt. Gen. Richard D. Clarke, will communicate regularly with a Chinese counterpart.

Chinese President Xi Jinping described relations with the United States as strained last month, when Washington asked Beijing to do more to pressure North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons programs. But there have been some signs of improvement in recent days, including China’s decision to ban North Korean iron ore, iron, lead and coal as part of a new United Nations sanctions package against Pyongyang.

China and the United States appear to remain far apart on other issues, including a U.S. plan to deploy a missile-defense system known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) to South Korea and China’s efforts to expand its territorial claims in the South China Sea. China also warned the Trump administration last month not to start a trade war with Beijing and split up the coalition countering North Korea.

Dunford, speaking in China, acknowledged there are a number of challenges.

“To be honest, we have many difficult issues where we will not necessarily have the same perspectives,” Dunford said according to a Pentagon news account. “But from the meeting we had in Washington, D.C., and the meeting we just had, I know we share one thing: we share a commitment to work through these difficulties. With the guidance from our presidents and the areas of our cooperation, I know we will make progress over the next few days.”

“I think our collective challenge is to sincerely and with candor attack these issues that we have to address,” he said.

Navy Capt. Darryn James, a U.S. military spokesman, said in a statement that Dunford started his meeting Tuesday with Fang by stressing the importance of “candid and professional communication” between their militaries “because both nations have tough issues where we do not share the same perspective.” Dunford stressed that the new agreement will “only be useful if it results in reducing the risk of miscalculation, which not only has long-term benefits to manage bilateral differences, but is especially critical now due to growing North Korean provocations,” James said.

Dunford also once against emphasized that North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs threaten the entire world, including China, Russia, the United States and its allies, James said.

Dunford will spend three days in China, visiting PLA units, including China’s Northern Theater Command in Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning province, which borders North Korea.

The generals signed the agreement after days of bellicose rhetoric between President Donald Trump and North Korea, and as North Korea appeared to ease up on a threat to shoot missiles toward the U.S. island territory of Guam. A state-run North Korean media outlet reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he would watch the United States “a little more” rather than act quickly, while at the same time warning the United States to avoid “reckless actions” on or near the Korean Peninsula.

Trump sought to take credit for North Korea’s change in tone in tweets Wednesday.

“Kim Jong Un of North Korea made a very wise and well reasoned decision,” he tweeted. “The alternative would have been both catastrophic and unacceptable!”

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said world powers have “nearly exhausted” the economic pressures they can put on North Korea. In an apparent preemptive message to other U.N. Security Council members, Lavrov said Russia does not support further measures to try to squeeze the North Korean economy.

“A resolution of the North Korea nuclear issue by military force is completely unacceptable and the peninsula’s nuclear issue must be peacefully resolved by political and diplomatic methods,” Lavrov was quoted as saying by the Chinese Foreign Ministry following his call with the Chinese foreign minister.

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



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Lobbying Pakistan's 'University of Jihad' As Chinese Cash Flows


Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan has visited the so-called ‘University of Jihad’ so often that he’s become good friends with the hardline cleric who runs it.

Omar Zakhilwal’s unusual pilgrimage to the Darul Uloom Haqqania madrasa near the northwestern city of Peshawar is central to his efforts to convince the Taliban-supporting school to preach peace. It’s a longer-term, non-military approach to the conflict that envisages a tripling of trade flows between Pakistan-Afghanistan, the departure of U.S. troops and better military and intelligence cooperation.

The bespectacled diplomat stressed that the influential preacher Maulana Sami-ul-Haq — whose seminary trained Taliban leaders Mullah Omar and Akhtar Mohammad Mansour — had a responsibility to end a conflict that is killing innocent Muslims.

“I didn’t have any reservations,” said Zakhilwal in an interview at the Afghan embassy in Islamabad of his visits to the controversial school. “It’s an obligation, a religious obligation, that he uses his influence and religious credentials to lessen that suffering.”

Pakistan has long been accused of allowing Afghan Taliban fighters sanctuary within its borders. Zakhilwal’s appeal to ul-Haq underscores the complexity of ending the 16-year war in Afghanistan and the need the need for a political solution that draws in Taliban fighters who have fought an insurgency against U.S.-backed forces. With China spending more than $50 billion on planned infrastructure projects in Pakistan, he also hopes Beijing may use its economic leverage to push Islamabad toward a peace deal.

It won’t be easy. America’s longest war is destabilizing South Asia and costing Washington roughly $23 billion per year. It’s holding back economic growth in Pakistan, the region’s second-largest economy, although a sustained crackdown by Pakistan’s military has gone some way to improving security and boosting confidence in the economy.

The Taliban, however, is unlikely to come to the table because they believe the Kabul government is weak and U.S. strategy is in disarray. Last week, Senator John McCain said U.S. President Donald Trump has “no strategy at all” amid a State Department policy review.

Zakhilwal is “doing this because he thinks it offers some opportunity at a time when other alternatives really look very unpromising,” said Ashley Tellis, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who previously advised the U.S. government on policy in the region. “The best he’s going to get is a patchwork solution with local ceasefires in some areas. The metric for success will be much more unclear. Because it’s not going to be peace or war. It will be peace and war.

Although Islamabad has cracked down on militants targeting Pakistan, the U.S. accuses the country of supporting insurgents who strike inside Afghanistan and India, including U.S.-designated terrorist group the Haqqani Network. Both Pakistan’s government and its military have consistently denied they have given sanctuary or support to the militants.

After an explosion killed at least 150 people in Kabul on May 31, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Pakistan was waging an “undeclared war of aggression” against his country, an accusation Islamabad said was “unwarranted.”

Zakhilwal said relations have improved, despite Ghani’s comments, noting Pakistan had stopped forcing Afghan refugees to return to Afghanistan. However, the larger issue of Pakistan’s support for the Afghan Taliban remains unresolved.

“Pakistan can do more to use whatever influence they have on the Taliban,” said Zakhilwal, a former Afghan finance minister. “For peace with the Taliban, Pakistan has some influence. Direct interaction could be certainly helpful.”

Zakhilwal is also hoping Beijing will assert “influence over Pakistan,” pushing it toward peace in order to secure a better investment climate for billions worth of projects in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

“China could only be genuinely interested in peace in Afghanistan for its investments in Pakistan,” he said. “China is a next-door neighbor to both countries. Instability in any of these countries does not serve China’s interest.”

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to faxed questions.

Afghanistan-Pakistan trade — totaling only $1.6 billion in 2016 — has declined for years. Zakhilwal said he is trying to “compartmentalize trade” in discussions with Pakistani officials to potentially triple trade flows, helping to reduce the poverty that drives people toward militancy and the opium trade, of which Afghanistan is the world’s biggest producer.

“If we have lawlessness there will be drugs,” he said.

Zakhilwal hopes preachers such as ul-Haq can use their influence for peace and said he “certainly has done things which show he wants to be helpful.”

“Whatever the influence of Maulana is, I do believe it could be used for peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he said, using the preacher’s honorific. “I put him on the phone with President Ghani in one of my meetings.”

Analysts aren’t sure that will work. Carnegie’s Tellis said Pakistan’s goal continues to be a weak and “subordinate” Afghanistan. And current battlefield commanders oppose any talks while American soldiers remain in Afghanistan, said Abdul Basit, an associate research fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

“When Kabul is struggling, when Washington is struggling with its own Afghan policy, why should the Taliban come to the table?” Basit said. “If anyone has influence, it’s the Pakistani military establishment.”

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



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A Mob Of Beachgoers Wanted To Play With A Baby Dolphin. They Killed It


Equinac, an NGO shared series of posts on its Facebook page about the baby dolphin

A baby dolphin died last week after “hundreds” of beachgoers in southern Spain surrounded the animal to touch and take pictures with it, sparking condemnation from a local animal rescue group.

The incident took place last Friday in Mojacar, on the country’s southeastern coast, according to Equinac, a Spanish nonprofit organization that advocates for marine wildlife.

According to several posts on the group’s Facebook page, a baby dolphin that was stranded on the beach was quickly surrounded by numerous “curious” people, including children, who wanted to touch and photograph it. Some accidentally covered the dolphin’s spiracle, the blowhole the animals use to breath, the group said.

One concerned person reported the stranded animal to 112, the country’s emergency services number, but by the time Equinac rescuers arrived at the beach, the dolphin was dead, the group said.

“Once again we note that the human being is the most irrational species that exists,” Equinac wrote on Facebook Aug. 11, the day of the incident, blasting the “selfishness” of those that had swarmed the animal. “There are many [who are] incapable of empathy for a living being that is alone, scared, starved, without his mother and terrified. . .. All you want to do is to photograph and poke, even if the animal suffers from stress.”

The group later clarified that the baby dolphin may have been isolated because it was sick or somehow separated from its mother. However, even though the beachgoers had not been responsible for the dolphin’s stranding, merely touching and photographing the animals can cause them to enter “a very high stress state” and, at worst, to experience fatal shock, the group said.

Those who see a stranded dolphin should call emergency rescue services rather than try to handle the animal, it added.

Equinac did not immediately respond to a request for further comment Wednesday. In a subsequent Facebook post, the group said it had turned down media interview requests “because we are not interested in circuses.”

The incident was reminiscent of a similar one last year in Argentina, when beachgoers picked up an endangered baby dolphin and passed it around for selfies. The animal later died. Its death triggered a round of public shaming against those who had mobbed the animal, as well as a strongly worded statement by the Argentine Wildlife Foundation.

Equinac, the Spanish group, regularly posts pictures of its attempts to rescue marine life and of dead dolphins periodically found washed ashore.

In an angry follow-up post Saturday, Equinac lamented how many times it had previously tried to educate the public on what to do in the case of a stranded animal – to seemingly no avail.

“Do we have to continue to justify our anger? Does it have to be us, Equinac, the police, the lifeguards, the ones that teach many of you common sense?” the post read. “Ignorance has absolutely nothing to do with respect, empathy and logic.”

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



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HBO social accounts hacked in latest cyber security breach


Image copyright
HBO

Image caption

The hack is the latest to hit HBO and its titles, which include the popular fantasy drama Game of Thrones

HBO’s Facebook and Twitter accounts have been compromised in the latest cyber security breach to hit the firm.

A group called OurMine appeared to take control of the main HBO accounts, as well as those for the network’s shows including Game of Thrones.

One posts said “OurMine are here. we are just testing your security”.

It is the latest cyber security headache for the entertainment firm after hackers released Game of Thrones scripts and company data.

Image copyright
Twitter: HBO

Some of the social media posts were removed quickly afterwards.

HBO did not immediately respond to the BBC’s request for comment.

OurMine has a reputation for hacking high profile Twitter accounts.

Last year it compromised Netflix, as well as Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google chief executive Sundar Pichai.

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Facebook: HBO



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Fed Up With Mass Tourism, Europe's Hotspots Take Away The Welcome Mat


Barcelona, Spain:  “Never again a summer like this”: Exasperated with the hordes of visitors they blame for making their city unliveable, Barcelona residents have risen in protest.

The hugely popular Catalan metropolis has become the latest European hotspot to eye tourism with hostility.

From the romantic canals of Venice to the walled mediaeval town of Dubrovnik via the wilderness of Scotland’s Isle of Skye, tourism is morphing into a nightmare for many locals, despite the jobs and income it undoubtedly generates.

In the trendy seaside Barceloneta district of Barcelona, residents have for years complained about anti-social behaviour like drunkenness and sex in public areas, as well as a leap in rental prices that has forced many locals out.

“We don’t want tourists in our buildings,” read banners in a protest over the weekend, in which dozens of locals took to a beach that draws revellers from all over the world.

Similar demonstrations have flared in other parts of Spain, the world’s third tourism destination.

This summer in Palma de Majorca in the popular Balearic Islands, activists burst into the port, setting off flares of red smoke and throwing confetti over people eating at a restaurant.

Others assaulted a bus full of tourists in Barcelona, painting over its windscreen and giving passengers a fright.

Beyond these protests, officials too have started addressing the problem of overcrowding.

The Balearic Islands, for instance, have just limited to just over 623,000 the number of visitors that can stay in hotels or legal rental accommodation in one go.

‘Not the enemy’ 

Faced with the protests and criticism, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was forced to defend a sector that counts for 11 percent of Spain’s economic growth.

“I never thought I would have to defend the Spanish tourism sector, it’s really unprecedented,” he said earlier this month.

Tourism is a major source of growth outside of Spain too.

According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), one in 10 jobs worldwide is tied to a sector that generates 10 percent of global GDP.

“Tourism is not the enemy,” UNWTO chief Taleb Rifai told AFP.

From 1995 to 2016, the number of international travellers went from 525 million to 1.2 billion thanks to low-cost companies and visitors from emerging markets like China, India and the Gulf countries.

As a result, some destinations are now sagging under the weight of tourists.

Dubrovnik in Croatia is a favourite with cruiseships — a popularity that soared even further when it was used as a backdrop in the smash TV series “Game of Thrones.”

The walled old town is a delight of 17th- and 18th-century architecture. Locals, though, do their best to avoid it, saying it is almost impossible to move in the congestion.

“Sometimes to enter the old part of town, you need to queue for an hour in 40-degree (104 degrees Fahrenheit) heat,” says 27-year-old Ana Belosevic, who works in the hotel business.

Mayor Mato Frankovic told AFP that cameras have been set up to monitor the number of people entering the old town and authorities plan to reduce the number of cruiseships coming into the port.

Similar measures have also been taken on the other side of the Adriatic Sea in Venice, which counts 265,000 inhabitants for around 24 million visitors annually.

Authorities there have decided to trial a system that forces visitors to make a reservation if they want to go to the popular Saint Mark’s Square during peak hours.

Tourists will also be fined 500 euros ($585) if they have picnics or bathe in the canals.

In Florence, meanwhile, authorities have started hosing down public spots such as church steps where many visitors congregate to eat picnics, to stop them from sitting down.

Turkey tourism drop 

One of the solutions to overcrowding is to encourage visitors to go to less visited districts, thus easing up city centres, says Rafat Ali, founder of the Skift travel information website.

But this has merely expanded the problem to districts that were once tourist-free.

In Lisbon, the boom in visitors has had a significant impact on residents in its oldest district, Alfama, which is now full of tourism flats that raise property prices.

“Now in Alfama it’s difficult to find places to rent for less than 1,000 euros a month, a huge amount if you take into account the salary of a Portuguese person, which is normally lower than that,” says Maria de Lurdes Pinheiro, head of a local heritage association.

Even further north in Scotland’s remote Isle of Skye, the wild landscape is attracting an increasing number of visitors.

So much so that residents have started complaining about the number of tourists on the island’s few roads, environmental damage and a lack of accommodation.

Rifai warns though against saying no to tourism.

“The same people that today are saying we don’t want any more tourism are going to be the first ones to cry out when we lose them,” he said this week.

Turkey is a prime example.

There, authorities are desperate to boost a sector key to the economy that slumped due to a failed coup d’etat and attacks in 2016, when tourism revenue fell almost 30 percent.

“Too much tourism is a good problem to have,” says Rafat Ali.

“The worst is if nobody comes.”

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



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US In 'Economic War' With China, Says Trump Strategist Bannon


Far from defending Donald Trump, Steve Bannon spoke with disdain about white nationalist movement.

Washington:  White House strategist Steve Bannon argued forcefully in an interview published Wednesday that the United States is in an “economic war” with China, and the confrontation with nuclear-armed North Korea is just “a sideshow.”

“To me the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that,” he said in the interview with the American Prospect, a left-leaning website.

“If we continue to lose it, we’re five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we’ll never be able to recover,” he said.

Bannon, an economic nationalist and former CEO of the extreme-right Breitbart news website, is reported to be on shaky ground with President Donald Trump, who gave him only a tepid endorsement this week.

But in a frank, freewheeling telephone interview with American Prospect editor Robert Kuttner, Bannon talked about the infighting in the White House, now engulfed in a storm over Trump’s defensive response to deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Virginia.

‘Collection of clowns’

Far from defending Trump, Bannon spoke with disdain about the white nationalist movement he helped cultivate as a former head of Breitbart.

“Ethno-nationalism — it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more,” he was quoted as saying.

“These guys are a collection of clowns.”

Bannon also was dismissive of Trump’s vow to bring down “fire and fury” on North Korea if it continued to threaten the United States with missiles and nuclear weapons.

“There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it,” he said. “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

According to Kuttner’s account, Bannon described his fight within the administration to take a harder line against China’s trade practices, and not fall into the trap of hoping China would play the role of honest broker in restraining North Korea.

“We’re at economic war with China,” he said. “It’s in all their literature. They’re not shy about saying what they’re doing.”

“One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow.”

Of his adversaries in the State Department and Defense who want to enlist China’s help Bannon said “they’re wetting themselves.”

“We gotta do this. The president’s default position is to do it, but the apparatus is going crazy. Don’t get me wrong. It’s like, every day.”

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



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Some Apple Employees May Quit Over New 'Open' Office Floor Plan


The $5 billion Apple Park campus is to be a state-of-the-art facility.

Construction at Apple Park, the tech giant’s new “spaceship” headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., is projected to be completed by the end of this year. The $5 billion campus is to be a state-of-the-art facility, boasting the latest in energy efficiencies, green technologies, a 100,000 square foot fitness center,an orchard, a meadow and a pond. Some 12,000 Apple employees are moving into the 175-acre campus over the next six months. But unfortunately some of them aren’t as excited as you’d think they’d be.

Why? Blame the new open office floor plan design.

If you’re an Apple employee this is a big change. Up until now you’ve been used to having your own office space. But the new Apple Park will change all that. The programmers, engineers, developers and other employees who work there will be rubbing elbows with each other over long tables that they’ll be sharing in the company’s new open space environment. And some are not thrilled.

Jon Gruber, a podcaster and blogger that follows the company is reported to have received emails from employees who threatened to leave the company if the workplaces aren’t suitable. “Judging from the private feedback I’ve gotten from some Apple employees, I’m 100 percent certain there’s going to be some degree of attrition based on the open floor plans,” he said in this Macrumors report.

Open office designs have been popular with many companies over the past few years. But they’ve also been controversial. Executives believe that an environment without cubicles fosters collaboration, innovation and creativity. Research has backed up some of these claims. But many workers aren’t so crazy about the lack of privacy-and that guy who noisily eats his lunch just a few feet away. Tuna salad again?

Gruber claims that one vice president had the company build his “very successful” group their own building because he was so dissatisfied with the open floor plan. Business Insider reports that the company’s cloud services team have claimed its former headquarters for their own workspace, voicing concerns that “Apple employees used to privacy and a quiet work environment might be upset by the open floor plans.”

Does your company have an “open” office like Apple’s implementing? Do your employees like it? According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report, about 70 percent of U.S. offices utilize an “open” environment, so if you do you’re certainly in the mainstream. For now.

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



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