Climate Protesters Expected To Flood Washington Streets

After proposing cuts in Environment protection, Mr Trump is considering withdrawal from Paris agreement.

Washington:  For the second time in a month, tens of thousands of protesters are expected to turn out in Washington on Saturday to voice concern over climate change in a mass demonstration marking the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency.

The Peoples Climate Marches in dozens of cities including the US capital, are part of a broader effort to build momentum behind candidates with strong environmental records for next year’s midterm elections and the 2020 presidential race, organizers said.

“We’re using this as a tactic to advance the strategy of building enough power to win on climate over the course of the long haul,” said Paul Getsos, national coordinator for the Peoples Climate Movement. Sponsors of Saturday’s events include labor unions, the Sierra Club and civil rights groups.

As a side theme, marchers will protest Mr Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigrants and other issues championed by the maverick Republican billionaire.

Since Mr Trump’s inauguration on January 20, there have been national protests focused on issues ranging from abortion rights to immigration and science policy.

Last weekend, thousands turned out for the March for Science, a de facto protest against what activists call a denial in Mr Trump’s Washington of evidence-based science.

Mr Trump’s administration is considering withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, which more than 190 countries signed in hopes of curbing global warming. Mr Trump has also proposed deep cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency.

In his campaign, Mr Trump called climate change a hoax. Last month he kept a promise to the coal industry by undoing climate-change rules put in place by his predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama.

Myron Ebell, a climate change skeptic at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank, said the march would have little impact on the administration.

“The real decisions are made in this country in elections, and we have now a president and a House and a Senate that are determined to pursue a pro-energy agenda,” he said by telephone.

Environmental activists believe public opinion is on their side. A Gallup poll this month showed 59 percent of Americans agreed environmental protection should take priority over increased US energy production.

Mr Trump’s representatives had no immediate comment on the planned protest.

In the main event in Washington, protesters will march from the Capitol to surround the White House, then hold a rally. Dozens of ‘sister’ marches are planned for other North America locales, from Anapolish Royal, Nova Scotia, to Dutch Harbor in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. Overseas, about three dozen events range from a protest in Vienna to a tree-planting event in Zambia.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson, Editing by David Gregorio)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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European Union Leaders To Unite Behind Brexit Strategy

EU trade talks to begin after Brexit negotiations are settled (File Photo)

Brussels:  European Union leaders called for a united front at their first Brexit summit on Saturday as they prepared to adopt a tough strategy for two years of talks with Britain.

The 27 leaders meeting without British Prime Minister Theresa May will approve guidelines saying trade talks can only start once London agrees divorce terms on citizens rights, its exit bill and Northern Ireland.

EU President Donald Tusk insisted Britain would also benefit if unity boosted the chances of a deal, after May accused the other 27 countries of ganging up on London.

“We need to remain united as the EU 27,” Tusk said as he arrived at the 27’s first official Brexit summit since May triggered the Article 50 divorce process exactly one month ago.

“It is only then that we will be able to conclude the negotiations, which means that our unity is also in the UK’s interest,” the former Polish premier told reporters.

The call for a united front comes hot on the heels of a war of words between May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said Britain should not have “illusions” about the talks.

German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in an interivew published Saturday that “Britain cannot have advantages that other countries do not after its departure. Nothing is free.”

‘Number one priority’

The EU 27 have considerably toughened the guidelines since Tusk first unveiled them a month ago, with Brussels also drawing up a detailed list of citizens rights.

“We also need solid guarantees for citizens and their families, who will be affected by Brexit on both sides. This must be number one priority for EU and the UK,” Tusk said.

This referred to the fate of three million EU citizens living in Britain and one million Britons on the continent, with officials hoping for a resolution on their status after the divorce by the end of the year.

In a further move that will rile London the EU is also set to back automatic membership for Northern Ireland if it reunifies with Ireland, and call for Spain to have a say over any deal that affects Gibraltar.

The EU 27 will call for action to avoid a “hard border” between the Republic of Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland, amid fears that Brexit could undermine the peace process.

They will also discuss for the first time the spoils of Brexit — the relocation of EU medical and banking agencies that are currently based in London.

The EU guidelines say that only when “sufficient progress” has been made on divorce issues can trade talks begin, with sources saying they hope to do that by the end of the year.

But they leave the criteria vague and so at Saturday’s summit the leaders will have their first serious discussion on what exactly constitutes sufficient progress.

While the EU says citizens’ rights is a priority, the most touchy issue of all is likely to be Britain’s exit bill.

This is estimated at around 60 billion euros ($65 million), which mainly covers financial commitments made by the bloc while Britain was a member.

But the issue also risks causing divisions within the EU as they squabble over how to meet any shortfall.

Schaeuble said Germany would not pay any more. “The money in the EU budget must suffice. We must spend money more efficiently than we currently do.”

‘Line up to oppose us’

The unity call comes after years of bitter internal divisions on everything from the euro and migration to how to tackle growing euroscepticism.

May’s decision to call a general election in Britain on June 8, in a bid to shore up her mandate and strengthen her negotiating position, has only stiffened their resolve.

Actual Brexit talks are not expected to begin until after the British election, although the EU is set to give an official mandate to its chief negotiator Michel Barnier on May 22.

The run-up to the summit was marked by bad tempered exchanges between Merkel, Europe’s most powerful leader, and May.

After Merkel’s “illusions” comment, May hit back saying that “our opponents are already seeking to disrupt those negotiations — at the same time as 27 other European countries line up to oppose us.”

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

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Pak Army 'Rejects' Nawaz Sharif's Decision To Sack Aide After Leak

Nawaz Sharif sacked aide Tariq Fatemi after inquiry found him guilty of leaking information to media

Islamabad:  In an unusual move, Pakistan’s army today “rejected” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s decision to sack his trusted aide Tariq Fatemi for “leaking” information to the media, saying his action is “incomplete”.

Mr Sharif approved an inquiry committee’s recommendation to remove Mr Fatemi, the special assistant on foreign affairs, from his post after he was found guilty of “leaking” information to the media about a rift between Pakistan’s civilian and military leaderships during a high-level security meet.

Hours after the Prime Minister’s Office issued the directive, the Inter-Services Public Relations said the Army had rejected the notification, calling it ‘incomplete’. 

“Notification on Dawn Leak is incomplete and not in line with recommendations by the Inquiry Board. Notification is rejected,” military spokesman Major Gen Asif Ghafoor tweeted. 

In October, a columnist for Dawn newspaper wrote a front-page story about a rift between civilian and military leaderships over militant groups that operate from Pakistan but engage in proxy war against India and Afghanistan.

The army took strong exception to the Dawn story and relations between army and the civil government deteriorated. 

The PML-N government was forced to remove then information minister Pervaiz Rasheed but a probe was also initiated at the demand of army to fix the responsibility. The report was submitted to the Prime Minister this week. 

According to the inquiry report, Mr Fatemi was primarily responsible for leaking the report of the key meeting, and Mr Sharif took action against him.

Analysts have termed the cropping of differences as detrimental to the civil-military relationship.

“The government should move fast to address the grievances of the army and fully implement the findings of the report,” former Air Marshal Shehzad Chaudhry told Geo.

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As Ghost Of North Korea Missile Looms, France's Mistral Sails To Japan

France Mistral will lead exercises next month near Guam, along with Japan, US and Britain.

Sasebo:  As tension spikes on the Korean peninsula, a French amphibious assault carrier sailed into Japan’s naval base of Sasebo on Saturday ahead of drills that risk upsetting China, which faces US pressure to rein in North Korea’s arms programmes.

The Mistral will lead exercises next month near Guam, along with forces from Japan, the United States and Britain, practicing amphibious landings around Tinian, an island about 2,500 km (1,553 miles) south of the Japanese capital of Tokyo.

The drills, involving 700 troops, were planned before Saturday’s test-firing of a ballistic missile by North Korea, in defiance of world pressure, in what would be its fourth successive unsuccessful missile test since March.

Japan and the United States are worried by China’s efforts to extend its influence beyond its coastal waters and the South China Sea by acquiring power-projecting aircraft carriers, a concern shared by France, which controls several Pacific islands, including New Caledonia and French Polynesia.

Even as they seek stronger economic ties with China, both France and Britain, which has two navy helicopters aboard the Mistral, are deepening security cooperation with Japan, a close US ally that has Asia’s second-strongest navy after China.

The Mistral forms part of an amphibious task force mission, the Jeanne d’Arc, that is “a potent support to French diplomacy,” the country’s defence ministry said in a statement.

Officials and children’s welcome dances greeted the Mistral in Sasebo, on the western island of Kyushu, a major naval base for Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force (MSDF) and the US Navy.

The Mistral, which left France in February, can carry up to 35 helicopters and four landing barges, besides several hundred soldiers. It will stay in Sasebo until May 5.

This month China launched its first domestically-built aircraft carrier. It joined the Liaoning, bought from Ukraine in 1998, which led a group of Chinese warships through waters south of Japan in December.

China’s military ambitions, however, have been overshadowed in recent weeks by tension on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang conducts long-range missile tests, and prepares for a possible sixth nuclear test.

“We did not expect the start of our visit to coincide with a North Korean missile launch, France’s ambassador to Japan Thierry Dana said on the Mistral’s bridge. “Cooperation between our four nations in upholding laws, peace and stability in the region will display our readiness to deal with North Korea,” he added.

In a show of force, the United States has sent the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group to nearby waters, where it will join the USS Michigan, a guided missile submarine that docked in South Korea on Tuesday.

The Carl Vinson entered the Sea of Japan on Saturday, where it completed naval drills with two Japanese warships dispatched from Sasebo, an MSDF spokesman said.

(Reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo, Writing by Tim Kelly, Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Former Afghan Warlord Asks Taliban To Join Peace Caravan

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has said, ‘I want a free, proud, independent and Islamic Afghanistan’.

Mehtar Lam:  In his first public speech since signing a peace deal with the Afghan government, one of Afghanistan’s most notorious warlords on Saturday called for the Taliban to stop fighting and begin negotiations.

“I invite you to join the peace caravan and stop the pointless, meaningless and unholy war,” Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said to a gathering of his followers and Afghan politicians in Laghman province, east of the capital, Kabul.

“I want a free, proud, independent and Islamic Afghanistan,” he said.

In February the United Nations Security Council agreed to drop sanctions against Mr Hekmatyar, paving the way for him to return openly to Afghanistan.

The Afghan government requested the move as part of a peace deal with Mr Hekmatyar and his group, Hezb-i-Islami, in September.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani welcomed Mr Hekmatyar’s public return, saying the former strongman would cooperate with the government.

“Hezb-i-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s return will have remarkable effects on peace, stability, prosperity and development in all aspects,” Mr Ghani’s office said in a statement.

The deal has been criticised by some Afghans and human rights groups for the pardon it granted to Mr Hekmatyar and many of his followers.

Mr Hekmatyar’s return ‘will compound the culture of impunity’, Human Rights Watch researcher Patricia Gossman said of the deal, calling it an ‘affront’ to victims of abuses.

A controversial figure from the fight against the Soviets in the 1980s and the civil wars of the 1990s, Mr Hekmatyar is accused of ordering his followers to bombard Kabul, leading to many casualties, besides other abuses.

His faction of Hezb-i-Islami has played a relatively small role in the current conflict, in which the Taliban have a leading role in battling the Western-backed government in Kabul.

In hiding for nearly a decade and a half, Mr Hekmatyar had been designated a ‘global terrorist’ by the United States, which has been leading an international military mission in Afghanistan for the past 15 years.

American and other Western leaders praised the deal with him, however, hoping it could help lead to wider peace in Afghanistan.

(Writing by Josh Smith, Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Brigitte Macron: Teacher To Potential First Lady Of France

Paris:  After winning the top spot in the first round of France’s presidential election, centrist Emmanuel Macron brought his wife Brigitte on stage before cheering supporters and said, “Without her, I wouldn’t be me.”

She has been in her 39-year-old husband’s life since he was 15 — first as a teacher, then lover and now as a partner in his pursuit to become modern France’s youngest president.

Elegant and slim, the 64-year-old blonde with blue eyes is Macron’s closest collaborator, whom he has pledged to give an official role at the presidential palace if he emerges victorious in the May 7 runoff vote.

“Every night we debrief together and we repeat what we have heard about each other,” she told Paris Match magazine in 2016. “I have to pay attention to everything, do the maximum to protect him.”

Brigitte Macron has been on the cover of nearly a dozen magazines and at her husband’s side for full-to-capacity rallies, while the world has been fascinated by the couple’s atypical romance.

But before all that she was another man’s wife and mother of three who taught French as well as Latin, English and drama and was on course for a comfortable, if somewhat conventional life.

Brigitte Trogneux was born on April 13, 1953, in Amiens in northern France, which is also Emmanuel Macron’s hometown, into a prosperous family that runs a well-known pastry and chocolate business.

Then in the early 1990s she was blown away by a young man acting in a production of Milan Kundera’s “Jacques and his Master”. It was Emmanuel.

She quickly agreed when he asked her to help him work on a script and thus they began to build a bond.

The teacher, then 39, was “totally captivated” by 15-year-old Emmanuel’s intelligence. The feeling was mutual and two years later he made a bold prediction.

“At the age of 17, Emmanuel said to me: ‘Whatever you do, I will marry you!’,” Brigitte Macron told Paris Match magazine last April.

‘I know my place’

Emmanuel Macron went off to finish high school at an elite establishment in Paris, but he did not quit pursuing her and little by little she was won over.

Brigitte left her husband Andre Louis Auziere, a banker, in 2006 and married Macron a year later, moving to Paris where he continued his studies and she worked as a teacher.

“When I make up my mind about something, I do it,” she said in a documentary about Emmanuel.

Described as warm and down-to-earth by those who know her, her charm and positive disposition have left a mark on her friends.

One of them, Gregoire Campion, met her on a beach in the northern resort town of Le Touquet over 40 years ago. Their cabanas were next to each other and he remembers the young Brigitte “wasn’t a party animal” but was “very educated”.

Le Touquet has remained a part of her life and the now grandmother of seven has spent many weekends there with her family.

It is a place to gather with her son and two daughters from her first marriage — who have grown up to be an engineer, a cardiologist and a lawyer.

Yet the life with her politician husband and the massive commitment of the campaign remains a major focus.

“I am lucky to share this with Emmanuel, even if in regards to politics I haven’t had much choice,” she has said, also voicing the desire to help disadvantaged youths if she becomes France’s first lady.

Brigitte’s willingness to be a public figure stands in stark contrast to the partner of her husband’s far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

The private life of 47-year-old Louis Aliot, who has been involved in Le Pen’s National Front (FN) party since the late 1980s, has not been part of her campaign.

“The French people are going to elect a president. They are not going to elect a couple or half of a couple,” said Aliot. “I know my place.”

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

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France's Francois Hollande Says Britain Must Pay Price For Brexit

Britain will be worse off outside the EU than inside it, says Francois Hollande (File Photo)

Brussels:  French President Francois Hollande warned Saturday that Britain must pay the price for Brexit as EU leaders met to adopt guidelines for negotiations.

“There will inevitably be a price and a cost for Britain, it’s the choice they made,” Hollande said as he arrived at a Brussels summit.

“We must not be punitive, but at the same time it’s clear that Europe knows how to defend its interests, and that Britain will have a less good position outside the EU than in the EU.”

Hollande, who is entering his last days as French president, dismissed suggestions that British Prime Minister Theresa May could strengthen her negotiating hand by winning a big mandate in elections that she has called for June 8.

“I can understand the electoral argument but it will not influence the EU. The EU’s principles and the objectives are already fixed, these will be the lines chosen by negotiators.”

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel also ruled out an advantage for May from a big election win.

“It’s an internal problem she wants to resolve in the Conservative party, to have not a hard Brexit or a soft Brexit, but Theresa’s Brexit,” he said.

“We are very united, you seem surprised, but it’s a fact.”

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier meanwhile said it was also in Britain’s interests for the EU to be unified, as it would boost the chances of a Brexit deal.

“This extraordinary meeting shows the unity of the 27 on a clear line, but this unity is not directed against Britain, I think that it is also in its interest,” he said.

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

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Philippines Blast Injures 14 As ASEAN Leaders Gather

Being investigated as a revenge attack, the bomb blast was not aimed at the ASEAN summit (AFP)

Manila:  Fourteen people were wounded in a pipe bomb blast in Manila, Philippine police said Saturday, but authorities dismissed any link to an Asian leaders’ meeting under way in the capital.

The explosion happened late Friday about five kilometres (three miles) from the heavily guarded complex where Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) leaders are meeting and police said they were investigating the possibility it was a revenge assault.

A relative of a 14-year-old boy injured in an attack in the same area by a group of youths earlier in the week had made public threats, police spokeswoman Chief Inspector Kimberly Molitas said.

She described the device as a “homemade pipe bomb” stuffed with low-grade explosives, like the ones used to make firecrackers.

No one has been arrested.

“The incident is not in any way connected to or directed (at) the ongoing ASEAN summit,” Ernesto Abella, spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte, said in a statement.

“We assure our people that security measures are in place in today’s event and ask the public for their full understanding and cooperation in this regard.”

The Philippines is fighting Islamic militants based in the country’s south who have been blamed by police in the past for deadly bombings as well as kidnappings.

Of the 14 people hurt, six were treated for minor wounds and sent home, while eight others remain in hospital, two of them with serious injuries, Molitas said.

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

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China Deports US Woman Convicted Of 'Spying'

A human rights group had been fighting for the rights of American Sandy Phan-Gillis (Representational)

San Francisco:  An American woman convicted of espionage this week has been deported by China, a human rights group that campaigned for her release said Saturday, removing a source of tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Sandy Phan-Gillis was detained in March 2015 at the Macau border after visiting mainland China with a trade delegation from the Texas oil capital Houston.

She was accused of espionage, stealing state secrets and allegedly passing on intelligence to a third party. She was sentenced to three and a half years in prison and deportation on Wednesday.

On Friday, “Phan-Gillis was deported. She arrived in Los Angeles the same day. She was met upon arrival by her husband and members of her family,” the Dui Hua group said in a statement.

Her return to the US comes three weeks after Chinese President Xi Jinping met US President Donald Trump in Florida, amid a warming of ties between the two countries.

Since their first face-to-face meeting in Florida earlier this month, the two presidents “have been in constant touch with each other,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said Friday.

Dui Hua said negotiations to secure the release of Phan-Gillis were stepped up during US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Beijing in March 2017.

“Tillerson’s State Department was assisted by the White House in bringing the negotiations to a successful conclusion.”

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention last year denounced China’s handling of the case, saying it had not observed “international norms relating to the right to a fair trial and to liberty and security”.

Violations by Chinese authorities were of “such gravity as to give the deprivation of liberty of Ms Phan-Gillis an arbitrary character”, it noted in a report released last July.

Phan-Gillis was held for six months at a secret location and later at a detention centre in Guangxi, where she was initially put in solitary confinement, the working group said.

Her husband Jeff Gillis had campaigned for her freedom, setting up a website “” which has now been taken down.

According to an archive version of the site, Phan-Gillis has family origins in southern China but was born in Vietnam.

She left the country in the late 1970s as part of the exodus of “boat people” who fled Communist rule.

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

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Turkish Authorities Block Access To Wikipedia: Monitor

Wikipedia has been banned in all languages inTurkey, with no official reason given. (File Photo)

Istanbul:  Turkey on Saturday blocked all access inside the country to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, an internet monitoring group said, but it was not clear why the ban had been imposed.

A block affecting all language editions of the website in Turkey was detected from 0500 GMT after an administrative order by the Turkish authorities, the Turkey Blocks monitoring group said in a statement.

Residents in Istanbul were Saturday morning unable to access any pages of Wikipedia without using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), AFP correspondents said.

“The loss of availability is consistent with internet filters used to censor content in the country,” Turkey Blocks said.

Turkey Blocks and Turkish media, including the Hurriyet daily, said the site has been blocked under a provisional administrative order that would need to be backed by a full court order in the next days.

“After technical analysis and legal consideration based on the Law Nr. 5651, an administrative measure has been taken for this website,” Turkey’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority was quoted as saying.

No reason was given for the order to block Wikipedia and other websites, including leading social media, appeared to be working normally.

Turkey Blocks said the restriction was in place with multiple Internet Service Providers.

Turkey has become notorious over the last years for temporarily blocking access to popular sites, including Facebook and Twitter, in the wake of major events such as mass protests or terror attacks.

Savvy internet users frequently resort to the use of VPNs to get around these bans although there have been complaints that the use of VPNs has now also started to be blocked.

The government says such measures are always temporary and needed for national security but critics see them as another restriction on civil liberties under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The move to block Wikipedia caused an uproar on social media in Turkey with users angrily denouncing the decision to restrict access to one of the world’s most popular websites.

Some speculated the decision may have been prompted by deeply unflattering updates by critical users to Erdogan’s Wikipedia profile after he won the April 16 referendum on enhancing his powers.

The government insists that the new presidential system — largely due to come into force in 2019 — will improve efficiency but critics fear it will lead to one-man rule.

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

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Nawaz Sharif Sacks Trusted Aide Tariq Fatemi After News Leak Scandal

Islamabad:  Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today sacked his trusted aide Tariq Fatemi after an inquiry found him guilty of “leaking” information to media about a rift between Pakistan’s civilian and military leaderships during a high-level security meet.

Mr Sharif approved an inquiry committee’s recommendation to remove his special assistant on foreign affairs Mr Fatemi from his post.

Mr Fatemi, 72, is considered as a trusted aide of the Prime Minister and his removal is a setback for the government of Nawaz Sharif who is already under pressure due to Panama case verdict.

The committee, headed by Justice (retd) Aamir Raza Khan, included representatives of the Intelligence Bureau, the Military Intelligence and the Inter-Services Investigation.

It was set up last year to probe the controversy surrounding a controversial report by daily Dawn about a key meeting on national security.

In October, a columnist for Dawn newspaper wrote a front-page story about a rift between civilian and military leaderships over militant groups that operate from Pakistan but engage in proxy war against India and Afghanistan.

“In a blunt, orchestrated and unprecedented warning, the civilian government has informed the military leadership of a growing international isolation of Pakistan and sought consensus on several key actions by the state,” the report had said.

It further said that “military-led intelligence agencies are not to interfere if law enforcement acts against militant groups that are banned or until now considered off-limits for civilian action.”

The army took strong exception to the Dawn story and relations between army and the civil government deteriorated. 

The PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League – N) government was forced to remove then information minister Pervaiz Rasheed but a probe was also initiated at the demand of army to fix the responsibility. The report was submitted to the Prime Minister this week.

According to the inquiry report, Mr Fatemi was primarily responsible for leaking the report of the key meeting, and Mr Sharif took action against him.

“Allocation of portfolio of Foreign Affairs to Syed Tariq Fatemi, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, shall be withdrawn,” according to a letter issued by the government.

Mr Sharif also directed that the role of Dawn editor Zafar Abbas and reporter Cyril Almeida shall be referred to All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) for necessary disciplinary action to be taken against them, according to letter.

It said that the APNS, a representative body of print media, shall also be asked to develop a Code of Conduct for the print media especially when dealing with issues relating to security of Pakistan and to ensure that stories on issues of national importance and security are published by abiding to basic journalistic and editorial norms.

Mr Sharif also ordered action against Rao Tehsin Ali, Principal Information Officer of the Ministry of Information, under disciplinary rules for the charges based on findings in report.

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German Minister Refers To 'Nepotism' Regarding Ivanka Trump's Role

Ivanka Trump worked for her Donald Trump’s company and now has an office in the White House.

Berlin:  German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel saturday criticised Ivanka Trump’s role as an adviser to her father in the White House, describing it as a form of “nepotism.”

“For me there are things that remain strange, like for example the visit of his daughter to Germany which was treated almost like a world event, while the mix of politics with family and business reminds us instead of nepotism and would be unimaginable here,” he said.

Gabriel was referring to the visit to Berlin of Ivanka Trump this week to take part in a  women’s empowerment summit at the invitation of conservative German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“It always bothers me when members of a family, who have never been elected, show up suddenly as official state representatives and are treated almost as if they were members of a royal family,” the Social Democrat said in an interview published Saturday with the German regional media group Funke.

Ivanka Trump, a former model who started her own fashion line, has worked for her billionaire-father Donald Trump’s company and now has an office in the White House. She has been accused in the United States of benefiting from nepotism.

Commenting on the US president’s first 100 days in office, Gabriel said the situation has “improved” but was “still not good.”

Merkel, in an interview with the Madsack media group published Saturday, said she had “developed a good working relationship” with Trump, “which clearly does not exclude different points of view.”

The two leaders have notably clashed over military spending for NATO and on trade.

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

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French Candidate Marine Le Pen Announces Eurosceptic PM Pick, If Elected

Marine Le Pen has named Dupont-Aignan, who shares her eurosceptic views, as PM pick (AFP)

Paris:  Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen announced Saturday that if she wins France’s May 7 runoff she would name eurosceptic Nicolas Dupont-Aignan as her prime minister.

Le Pen told a press conference that she and Dupont-Aignan, who lost in the election’s first round with 4.7 percent of the vote, shared a “common project that we will promote together”.

“We will build a national unity government that will bring together people chosen for their skills and their love of France,” Le Pen said.

During the bruising campaign, Le Pen has attempted to wear down lingering resistance to her National Front party’s tainted brand by portraying her centrist rival Emmanuel Macron as an elitist money man.

Polls give him a commanding lead of up to 20 points over Le Pen in the runoff but show the gap narrowing slightly after Macron’s sluggish start to his second-round campaigning.

Le Pen says she wants to build up France’s borders, take it out of the eurozone and hold a referendum on the nation’s EU membership.

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

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Thai Family Buries Baby Murdered On Facebook Live

Facebook murder victim Natalie Triratana received a Buddhist burial in Phuket. (AFP)

Phuket:  Tearful relatives gathered outside a Thai temple on Saturday to bury an 11-month-old girl killed by her father in a harrowing murder he broadcast live on Facebook before committing suicide.

The Buddhist ceremony on the southern island of Phuket concluded a week of funeral rites for baby Natalie, who was hanged from the side of an abandoned building on Monday by her 20-year-old father Wuttisan Wongtalay.

Wuttisan, who hanged himself shortly after, filmed the macabre scene using his phone and broadcast it on Facebook Live.

The video was seen by Natalie’s 22-year-old mother and hundreds of thousands of others before it was taken down some 24 hours later, prompting calls for Facebook to move more swiftly to block graphic content.

On Saturday relatives held Natalie’s sobbing mother as Buddhist monks chanted around a freshly-dug grave for the infant, who was pictured in a framed photo wearing a red dress. 

Her tiny body was swaddled in pink, red and white cloth before it was lowered into the ground alongside a collection of her favourite toys and pillows. 

Natalie’s mother, Jiranuch Trirat, scattered yellow chrysanthemum flowers over the body before other relatives piled dirt back into the grave next to the Phuket temple. 

“I feel better now that she’s resting,” Jiranuch told AFP after concluding the ceremony.

The gruesome video was the latest violent crime broadcast on Facebook Live, triggering a renewed debate over the handling of such content and provoking anger among some social media users who said the company was too slow to spot and remove the clip.

Yet Jiranuch told AFP earlier this week that she harboured no ill will towards Facebook and even found it in herself to forgive her boyfriend. 

“I forgive him because holding onto anger for a long time will not get my daughter back,” she said.

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

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Trump Indulges In Self Praise, Calls His 100-Days Most Successful

Donald Trump will visit Pennsylvania to celebrate government’s 100-day completion in office. (File Photo)

Washington:  On the eve of completing his first 100 days in office, President Donald Trump has said this landmark timeline has been the most successful in the US’ history.

In just fourteen weeks, Mr Trump said his administration has brought profound change to Washington.

To mark the first 100 days in office, Mr Trump is set to fly to Pennsylvania to address a massive rally to celebrate the landmark occasion.

“I truly believe that the first 100 days of my administration have been just about the most successful in our country’s history,” Mr Trump said in his weekly radio and web address to the nation yesterday.

Mr Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States on January 20 and completes hundred days in office today.

In his weekly address, Mr Trump said that during this short span of time, his administration has been successful in bringing back jobs.

“Most importantly, we’re bringing back jobs. You asked the people of Michigan; you asked the people of Ohio, you can ask the people of Pennsylvania. See what’s happening. See the car companies come roaring back in. They don’t want to leave. They want to stay here. They want a piece of the action,” the 70-year-old said.

Asserting that the US was “going up” and that too at a fast pace, he said American companies were doing better.

They just announced fantastic profits, all because of what has happened in this rather short period of time, Mr Trump said. He added, “And that’s just the beginning. We’re putting in a massive tax cut for the middle class and for business. It’s going to have an enormous effect”.

Listing out some of the accomplishments of his administration, Mr Trump said the work of his government has been to fight for the American worker, defend the rule of law, and return the power to the American people.

“Since my inauguration, economic confidence has soared – reaching higher than any time in 9 years. Optimism among manufacturers is at a record high. And small business confidence has seen its largest increase in nearly four decades,” he said.

“Perhaps the greatest change of all is the renewal of the American Spirit. As long as we have faith in each other, and trust in God, then the sun will always shine on our very Glorious Republic,” he said.

Mr Trump said the most fundamental change his government has brought about was in the relationship between the people and their government.

“For too long, politicians cared more about special interests than they did about a very successful future for all Americans. They took our taxpayers’ money, and sent their jobs and wealth to other countries,” he said.

That is why the US has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Mr Trump added.

“That day was a turning point for our nation. It put the countries of this world on notice that the sellout of the American worker was over,” he said.

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North Korea Fires Another Ballistic Missile In Defiance Of World Pressure

North Korea fired a ballistic missile but it exploded within seconds of being launched (Representational)

Tokyo:  North Korea fired another ballistic missile early Saturday morning but it exploded within seconds of being launched, American and South Korean defense officials said.

Coinciding with renewed diplomatic and military pressure on North Korea from the Trump administration, this latest launch underscores both Kim Jong Un’s determination to make technical progress on his weapons programs and his defiance amid international pressure.

President Donald Trump, who was briefed on the launch soon afterward, took to Twitter to reiterate his expectation that Chinese President Xi Jinping use his leverage to make Kim stop.

“North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!” he tweeted.

Trump has repeatedly called on China, North Korea’s neighbor and largest trading partner, to punish the regime in Pyongyang, and has warned Xi that if he doesn’t act, the United States will.

But Ralph Cossa, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Pacific Forum, said that the Trump administration appeared to be struggling to figure out how to deal with North Korea.

“When it comes to foreign policy, and Korea policy in particular, the Trump administration has had a pretty steep learning curve, and it has been a lot more curves than learning,” Cossa said.

Saturday’s launch marked the 75th missile test since Kim Jong Un became leader of North Korea at the end of 2011, according to a Nuclear Threat Initiative database.

American and South Korean defense officials said that the unidentified missile appears to have exploded soon after being launched at about 5 a.m. North Korea time.

“The missile did not leave North Korean territory,” U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Dave Benham said in a statement.

North Korea’s previous missile launch was on April 16, the day after huge military parade in Pyongyang to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of founder Kim Il Sung, and it also blew up almost immediately.

But analysts said not to be consoled.

“This test may have failed, but Kim Jong Un’s overall missile test record is 58 successful flight tests and 17 failures,” said Shea Cotton of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation, who compiled the Nuclear Threat Initiative database.

North Korea is clearly making progress and has the political will, if not the technology just yet, to improve its missile technology.

At this month’s military parade, North Korea presented two of its newest model missiles, including the submarine-launched ballistic type it successfully fired last year and the land-based version it launched last month.

Kim has repeatedly said that he wants an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the mainland United States, and although there are still plenty technical hurdles to be overcome, many analysts believe North Korea will eventually get there.

The latest launch comes amid heightened tensions in the region.
A U.S. Navy strike group, led by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, will be in the waters around the Korean Peninsula this weekend, and one of the Navy’s largest submarines has been in port in South Korea this week.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday called for new economic sanctions on North Korea and other “painful” measures over its nuclear weapons program.

“Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences,” Tillerson said during a special session of the U.N. Security Council. “The more we bide our time, the sooner we will run out of it.”

In its latest challenge to the United States, a North Korean propaganda outlet released a video clip this week showing simulated attacks on the United States and declaring that “the enemy to be destroyed is in our sights.”

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

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North Korea Test-Fires Ballistic Missile In Defiance Of World Pressure

Seoul:  North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile on Saturday shortly after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that failure to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes could lead to ‘catastrophic consequences’.

US and South Korean officials said the test, from an area north of the North Korean capital, appeared to have failed, in what would be the North’s fourth straight unsuccessful missile test since March.

The test came as the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group arrived in waters near the Korean peninsula, where it will join the USS Michigan, a guided missile submarine that docked in South Korea on Tuesday.

Mr Tillerson, in a UN Security Council meeting on North Korea on Friday, repeated the Trump administration’s position that all options were on the table if Pyongyang persisted with its nuclear and missile development.

“The threat of a nuclear attack on Seoul, or Tokyo, is real, and it’s only a matter of time before North Korea develops the capability to strike the US mainland”, Mr Tillerson said.

“Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences.”

US President Donald Trump, who told news agency Reuters in an interview on Thursday North Korea was his biggest global challenge, said the launch was an affront to China, the North’s sole main ally.

“North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!,” Mr Trump said in a post on Twitter after the launch.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the UN meeting it was not only up to China to solve the North Korean problem.

“The key to solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula does not lie in the hands of the Chinese side,” Mr Wang said.

In a commentary on Saturday, China’s official Xinhua news agency said both North Korea and the United States needed to tread cautiously.

“If both sides fail to make such necessary concessions, then not only will the two countries, but the whole region and the whole world end up paying a heavy price for a possible confrontation.”

Mr Trump, in his interview with Reuters, said he had praised Chinese leader Xi Jinping for ‘trying very hard’ on North Korea but warned a ‘major, major conflict’ between the United States and North Korea was possible.

The North has been conducting missile and nuclear weapons related activities at an unprecedented rate and is believed to have made some progress in developing intermediate-range and submarine-launched missiles.

Tension on the Korean peninsula has been high for weeks over fears the North may conduct a long-range missile test, or its sixth nuclear test, around the time of the April 15 anniversary of its state founder’s birth.

Failed Test

US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the North Koreans had probably tested a medium-range missile known as a KN-17 and it appeared to have broken up within minutes of taking off.

The South Korean military said the missile, fired from the Pukchang region, reached an altitude of 71 km (44 miles) before disintegrating. It said the launch was a clear violation of UN resolutions and warned the North not to act rashly.

With North Korea acting in defiance of the pressure, the United States could conduct new naval drills and deploy more ships and aircraft in the region, a US official told Reuters.

Japan condemned the launch as unacceptable and authorities stopped some train services in Japan as a precaution, in case the missile had been fired at Japan, a transit system spokesman said.

A Japanese military official said its navy on Saturday completed an exercise with the Carl Vinson in the channel separating the Korean peninsula from Japan, meaning the US carrier had arrived in the Sea of Japan.

The dispatch of Carl Vinson to the waters off the Korean peninsula is a “reckless action of the war maniacs aimed at an extremely dangerous nuclear war,” the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, said in a commentary on Saturday.

Inter-continental ballistic rockets will fly into the United States “if the US shows any slight sign of provocation,” the newspaper said.

More Sanctions Mooted

Kim Dong-yub, an expert at Kyungnam University’s Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul, said North Korea might have got the data it wanted with the missile’s short flight, then blown it up in a bid to limit the anger of China, which warned Pyongyang against further provocation.

North Korea rattled world powers in February when it successfully launched a new intermediate-range ballistic missile that it said could carry a nuclear weapon. It also successfully tested ballistic missiles on March 6.

It is not clear what has caused the series of failed missile tests since then.

The Trump administration could respond to the test by speeding up its plans for new US sanctions, including possible measures against specific North Korean and Chinese entities, said the US official, who declined to be identified.

“Something that’s ready to go could be taken from the larger package and expedited,” said the official.

The UN Security Council, which traditionally condemns all missile launches by Pyongyang, is likely to start discussing a statement to condemn the missile launch, said diplomats. 

But condemnations and sanctions resolutions since 2006, when North Korea conducted its first nuclear test, have done little to impede its push for ballistic missiles and nuclear arms.

The South Korean politician expected to win a May 9 presidential election, Moon Jae-in, called the test an ‘exercise in futility’.

“We urge again the Kim Jong Un regime to immediately stop reckless provocative acts and choose the path to cooperate with the international community,” Park Kwang-on, a spokesman for Moon, said in a statement, referring to the North Korean leader.

Mr Moon has advocated a more moderate policy on the North and been critical of the deployment of an advanced US missile defence system in the South intended to counter North Korea’s missile threat, which China also strongly objects to.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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US Man Sentenced To 100 Years For Sexual Assault, Robbery

Tevin Rainey must serve 85 per cent of the 100-year sentence before he is eligible for parole.

New York:  A 23-year-old man has been sentenced to 100 years in prison for sexually assaulting and robbing an octogenarian widow at gunpoint in the US state of Illinois. Tevin Rainey, who hails from Bolingbrook village in the southwest suburb of Chicago, was sentenced last week by DuPage County Judge Brian Telander.Rainey was found guilty this year of breaking into the now 89-year-old woman’s apartment on January 1, 2015 and then sexually assaulting her at gunpoint in Westmont, some 40 kilometres west of Chicago, before forcing her to drive to an ATM to withdraw money.

Judge Telander sentenced Rainey to 60 years on a count of aggravated criminal sexual assault, and then gave him a consecutive 40-year sentence for armed robbery with a firearm, ‘Chicago Tribune’ reported.

A follow-up hearing in the case will be held on Thursday.

Rainey’s defence attorneys expect to file a motion to reconsider his sentence. He already has been turned over to the Illinois Department of Corrections and is not expected at next week’s proceeding.

He must serve 85 per cent of the 100-year sentence before he is eligible for parole. The woman declined to testify at the sentencing hearing, but her clear and credible trial testimony was a critical component of the prosecution case, said Assistant State’s Attorney Mike Pawl.

“To be able to testify about something so unimaginably horrible with such grace and dignity was a tribute and a testament to her,” Mr Pawl said.

The woman said at trial that she could not positively identify Rainey as her attacker, but other key details of her testimony were corroborated by evidence gathered by investigators, Mr Pawl said.

Rainey argued at trial that an acquaintance was the actual attacker, but authorities said they found both Rainey’s and victim’s DNA on the gun used that night, the report said.

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19 Killed As Myanmar Bus Plunges Into Gorge

The bus carrying 40 people fell off a highway into a gorge. (Representational)

Yangon:  Nineteen people were killed and 21 injured after their bus toppled into a ravine in eastern Myanmar, police said Saturday.

The bus was carrying around 40 passengers from central Bago province when it plunged off a highway near Myawaddy, a town on the Thai border, on Friday.

“Nineteen people were killed and 21 people were injured, while a few people were lucky to live,” Kyi Lin, the chief of police in Karen state, told AFP.

“(The bus) fell down into a narrow and deep gorge,” he said, adding that police believe the driver lost control of the bus because of a brake failure.

Police and local aid groups have brought the injured to nearby hospitals for urgent care and are making funeral arrangements for the dead, he added.

A hospital in Mae Sot, the Thai town across the border, took in seven patients from the crash who were in “critical condition,” a medical worker told AFP.

Road accidents are common in impoverished Myanmar, whose transport network is in poor condition after decades of underinvestment by the junta that ruled the country for almost half a century until early 2011.

With 20.3 road fatalities per 100,000 people, Myanmar has the second most dangerous roads in Southeast Asia, according to data collected by the World Health Organization in a 2015 report.

Despite its relatively good infrastructure, neighbouring Thailand has an even worse road safety record.

The WHO estimates about 24,000 people die each year in traffic accidents on Thai roads.

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

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Southeast Asia Faces 'Massive' Drugs Menace: Rodrigo Duterte

Rodrigo Duterte has waged a war on drugs that has seen him face international criticism. (AFP)

Manila:  Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned Southeast Asian leaders on Saturday they were facing a “massive” illegal drug menace that could destroy their societies, as he called for a united response.

Duterte, who has faced international condemnation for his own crackdown on drugs that has claimed thousands of lives, also insisted that outsiders should not interfere in Southeast Asia’s affairs.

“The illegal drug trade is massive but it is not impregnable,” Duterte said in a speech to open an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders summit.

“With political will and cooperation, it can be dismantled. It can be destroyed before it destroys our societies.”

Duterte urged the leaders to be “resolute in realising a drug-free ASEAN”.

Duterte has relentlessly railed against criticism of his drug war, which Amnesty International and other rights groups have warned may amount to a crime against humanity.

Duterte has said he is “happy to slaughter” millions of addicts in his quest to stop the Philippines from becoming a narco-state, and that human rights cannot stand in the way of eradicating drugs.

Police have reported killing 2,724 people as part of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, although authorities insist the shootings have been in self-defence.

Many thousands of others have been killed by shadowy vigilantes, according to rights groups.

A Filipino lawyer filed a complaint this week against Duterte at the International Criminal Court, accusing him of “mass murder” and alleging that as many as 8,000 people had died in the drug war.

In his speech to ASEAN leaders, Duterte highlighted the bloc’s tradition of “non-interference”.

He did this while talking about relations with the United States and the European Union, which have expressed concern about alleged extrajudicial killings in his drug war.

“Dialogue relations can be made more productive, constructive if the valued principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of the ASEAN member-states is observed,” Duterte said.

Rights groups said in the lead-up to the summit that ASEAN leaders were unlikely to criticise Duterte, with Human Rights Watch calling the bloc “a club of cosy dictators or rights abusers”.

Among the heads of undemocratic regimes in Manila are Thai military junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha, Cambodia’s Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge cadre, and Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei.

Some ASEAN leaders expressed support for Duterte and his drug war in Manila.

“We also share your country’s concerns on the devastating effects of drugs upon society and I understand your personal resolve in combating it,” Bolkiah said as Duterte hosted him at the presidential palace on Thursday.

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

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Donald Trump Eyes Embrace Of Base As He Marks Tough First 100 Days

Washington:  Donald Trump faced the sober realities of his office Saturday as he marked the 100th day of a presidency stamped by chaos and confusion, but he will also take political succor in a campaign-style rally among core supporters.

Under a relentless spotlight since stunning the world in November with an improbable victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, the 45th president of the United States has struggled to convert his campaign promises into tangible achievements.

His bid to repeal and replace his predecessor’s landmark health care reforms have foundered in Congress, where many of his legislative priorities have been tripped up by cold political gamesmanship.

Funding for his promised wall along the US border with Mexico, for example, needed to be stripped out of a federal funding bill in order to prevent a government shutdown.

His tax plan, hastily unveiled this past week in hopes of burnishing his first 100 days with a success story, has been savaged as a multi-billion-dollar giveaway to the wealthy and a plan that will send the national debt soaring.

Trump has signed dozens of executive orders, including several that roll back Obama-era regulations on industry or lift bans on oil and gas drilling, efforts widely praised by Republican lawmakers and voters.

But his most high-profile order, a temporary ban on citizens from several Muslim-majority countries entering the United States, was twice blocked in US courts.

Nevertheless, he put on a brave face in discussing the early days of his presidency.

“The first 100 days of my administration has been just about the most successful in our country’s history,” he said in his weekly address on Friday.

“I don’t think anybody has done what we’ve been able to do in 100 days, so we’re very happy,” he added to reporters Friday, remarking that he nevertheless believes the 100-day milestone to be arbitrary, “a false standard.”

Under pressure

As if he were escaping the pressures of the office, Trump is scheduled to attend a Saturday evening rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he is expected to return to much of the campaign rhetoric that has enthralled his base.

It is a setting where he appears most comfortable — in front of adoring crowds — and where he can at least temporarily shut out some of the criticism that he is a political novice struggling to earn respect and trust at home and overseas.

Trump spokesman Sean Spicer defended the president for holding the rally Saturday, scheduled for the same time as the White House Correspondents Association dinner.

Although past presidents have routinely attended the Washington event, Trump boycotted it this year, highlighting his disdain for the media.

“It’s not just about the correspondents dinner,” Spicer said of the rally. “It’s about an opportunity for him to talk to voters that elected him, what he’s been able to accomplish in the first 100 days.”

But at this stage of his presidency, Trump is the least popular US leader in modern times — even if his core supporters still fully support him.

Democrats gleefully described his opening century mark on Friday as a slow-motion train wreck, a period of dramatically diminished stability, legislative failures and broken campaign pledges.

‘F minus’

Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi offered failing grades for Trump’s “starkly dismal” first 100 days.

“Budget: F. Creating jobs: F. Draining the swamp: F. Health care: F-minus,” she told reporters.

Republicans have united on a bright spot, however: Trump’s appointment of the conservative judge Neil Gorsuch as the newest justice of the Supreme Court.

But warning signs have tempered any positivity, including Friday’s Commerce Department announcement that US economic growth slid to its lowest level in three years during the first quarter of 2017.

Complicating Trump’s presidency is a potential scandal that has been hovering over the administration like a drone: Russia.

Congress and the FBI are conducting a series of investigations into Moscow’s apparent interference in last year’s US elections, and whether there was any collusion between Trump associates and Russian officials.

Rising global tensions are also preoccupying the White House. The United States has pledged to step up sanctions to force North Korea to resume dialogue over its nuclear program, as Trump warned of the risk of a “major conflict” with Pyongyang.

On Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took Trump’s message to the United Nations, where he sounded a global call to confront the North Korean nuclear threat and urged Beijing to use its leverage to rein in Pyongyang and avert “catastrophic consequences.”

Ratcheting up the rhetoric, North Korea responded early Saturday by test-firing another ballistic missile

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

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ASEAN Summit Might Take Stand On Chinese Adventures In South China Sea

Philippines has said it to be pointless to bring China’s South China Sea adventures in ASEAN summit.

Manila:  Southeast Asian countries have altered a statement to be issued at Saturday’s ASEAN summit to include references to militarization and island-building in the South China Sea, the latest draft shows, in a move likely to frustrate Beijing.

Chinese embassy representatives in Manila had sought to influence the content of the communique by lobbying Philippine officials, two ASEAN diplomatic sources told news agency Reuters.

However, four ASEAN member states disagreed with omitting ‘land reclamation and militarization’, terms included in the statement issued last year in Laos, but not featured in an earlier draft of this year’s statement seen on Wednesday.

China is not a member of the Association of South East Asian Nations, and is not attending the summit. China embassy officials in Manila could not be reached and China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to request for comment.

ASEAN references to the South China Sea issue typically do not name China. Beijing is extremely sensitive to anything it perceives as a veiled reference to its expansion of its seven manmade islands in the Spratly archipelago, including with hangers, runways, radars and missiles.

The final version of the statement has yet to be agreed, but changes so far indicate ASEAN is resisting moves by China to keep its contentious activities in the strategic waterway off ASEAN’s official agenda.

China’s lobbying, and its burgeoning friendship with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, may not have been enough to influence Manila’s position either.

“The Philippines is under too much pressure,” one of the sources said.

Taboo Topic

This year’s summit comes at a time of uncertainty about US interests in the region and whether it will maintain its maritime presence to counter China’s assertiveness.

Chinese officials pressed for words that might allude to last year’s international arbitration ruling to be kept out of the statement, the diplomats said, particularly the term “full respect for legal and diplomatic processes”.

The latest draft still includes that, although it was moved out of the South China Sea section to another.

“They do not want any phrase linked to the arbitration case,” one source said.

The Hague ruling, in a case brought by the Philippines in 2013, angered China because it invalidated China’s claim of sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea. China refuses to recognise the decision.

As part of his engagement with China, Mr Duterte has decided not to press it to abide by the arbitration award anytime soon. On Thursday he said it was pointless for ASEAN to pressure China.

In his address to open the leaders’ summit, Mr Duterte made no mention of the South China Sea, but touched on many issues central to his 10-month administration.

Mr Duterte mentioned extremism, piracy, interference in a country’s affairs, and his signature fight against drugs, for which he has been widely condemned over the deaths of thousands of Filipinos.

“The illegal drug trade apparatus is massive. But it is not impregnable,” he said. “With political will and cooperation, it can be dismantled, it can be destroyed before it destroys our societies.”

Mr Duterte then hosted two meetings with ASEAN leaders, which were not open to media.

ASEAN and China are hoping to this year agree on a framework to create a code of conduct over the South China Sea, 15 years after committing to draft it. Some ASEAN diplomats doubt China is sincere about agreeing to a set of rules.

In unusually direct comments for an ASEAN Secretary General, Le Luong Minh on Thursday told news agency Reuters the code needed to be legally binding to put a stop to ‘unilateral actions’, because a previous commitment to play fair had been ignored.

(Additional reporting by John Ruwitch in Shanghai, Writing by Martin Petty, Editing by Lincoln Feast)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Canada Changes Entry Rules for Citizens Of Three Nations

Brazil, Bulgaria and Romania’s citizens would not need visitor visa to fly to Canada.(Representational)

Ottawa:  Canada will allow Brazil, Bulgaria and Romania’s citizens to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) to fly to or transit through a Canadian airport, a ministry statement has said.

Starting May 1, those citizens of these countries who have held a Canadian visa in the last 10 years or who currently hold a valid US non-immigrant visa would be eligible to apply for the eTA, the Canadian Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship said on Friday.

They would not need a visitor visa, to travel to Canada by air, Xinhua news agency reported.

However, those who do not meet these criteria or were travelling to Canada by car, bus, train, or boat would still need a visitor visa.

“This initiative will make it easier for eligible travellers to come to Canada and to transit through a Canadian airport. It will also encourage them to make repeat visits.”

“The end result will be more travel and tourism and more economic benefits for Canadians,” said Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen.

The Ministry also said Canada was to lift the visa requirements for all Romanian and Bulgarian citizens on December 1, 2017.

At that point, the citizens from these two countries’ would no longer need a visa to travel to Canada. However, similar to other visa-exempt travellers, they would need an eTA to board their flight to Canada.

Canadian citizens, including dual citizens, cannot apply for an eTA and would need a valid Canadian passport to fly to Canada.

Permanent residents of Canada were also not eligible to apply for an eTA, and, as usual, must show their permanent resident card or a permanent resident travel document when travelling to Canada.

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Donald Trump's First 100 Days: A Chaotic Discovery Of Power

Washington:  From his resounding setbacks in Congress to his stunning policy flip-flops, Donald Trump has faced a steep learning curve in his opening months at the White House.

Although the new US president has shown a capacity to change both his tone and positions, he has struggled to convey a clearly articulated worldview.

With the arrival of the symbolic milestone of 100 days in power on Saturday, a cold, hard reality is setting in for the billionaire businessman who promised supporters he would “win, win, win” for them.

At this stage of his presidency, Donald Trump is the least popular leader in modern US history — even if his core supporters still fully back him.

The 70-year-old president, whose election victory unleashed a political shockwave around the world, is still clinging to the take-no-prisoners, unpredictable, impulsive style that made him a property mogul and reality TV star.

But the onetime anti-establishment candidate who promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington appears to have recognized — with a mix of naivete and craftiness — that he has one of the most difficult jobs in the world.

In just his first few weeks in office, Trump suffered some crippling blows. Federal courts halted his proposed travel ban and Congress failed to adopt health care reform.

“Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated,” he said during his efforts to have Obamacare — his Democratic predecessor’s signature domestic policy achievement — repealed and replaced.

And following talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping about North Korea, he said that “after listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy.”


The demands and constraints of the Oval Office — where every word uttered counts — are quite different from the daily stump speeches Trump made on the campaign trail.

Where to turn for advice? What kind of relationship to build with Congress, even when it’s controlled by his own party? How much latitude to afford the usually powerful State and Defense departments?

All of his predecessors have said it: moving into the mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a shock to the system.

“There’s just something about this job as president every president faces — you know, that you think one thing going in and then the pressures of the job or the realities of the world, you know, are different than you thought,” George W. Bush said recently.

Aside from his unwavering penchant for morning tweetstorms, often influenced by the ebb and flow of headlines on Fox News, Trump has already changed.

In the choice of his teams as well as in some negotiations, a sort of “presidentialization” seems to be unfolding — albeit haltingly.

Elevated to the highest office in the United States with no prior political, diplomatic or military experience, Trump says his ever-evolving approach works.

“I do change and I am flexible, and I’m proud of that flexibility,” he said shortly before authorizing air strikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over what Washington says was a sarin gas attack on civilians.

On China, Russia and NATO, his about-faces have reassured some Americans to some extent, as well as some of Washington’s allies.

“When a president moves from being so wrong to being so right on such important questions, the sensible response is not to carp but to celebrate, however cautiously,” The Washington Post said in an editorial, reminding readers of the harsh, dark tone of Trump’s inaugural address.

But his approach also includes risks.

From Syria to North Korea, what is the risk of dragging the United States into a military conflict with an unpredictable outcome, a situation Trump warned against on the campaign trail?

How would the Republican president react if a major terror attack were to happen on US soil, as it did on 9/11?


Both style and substance reveal that Donald J. Trump is an American president like no other before him.

In a disconcerting interview given to Time magazine in March, in which Trump defended his controversial, far-fetched or just plain false statements one by one, he said: “What am I going to tell you? I tend to be right.”

More than three months after he took office, many of his detractors still deem comments  by the novelist Philip Roth in an interview with The New Yorker in late January to be on the money.

He described a president “ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognizing subtlety or nuance… and wielding a vocabulary of 77 words.”

Trump’s numerous policy pivots and resets also raise questions about the very definition of his fluid brand of “Trumpism” — which revolves around his ubiquitous “America First” slogan, a seemingly simple idea that is nevertheless tough to explain.

The internal squabbles within the Trump White House have meanwhile not helped the president move forward with articulating his long-term vision.

Within a group that includes the ultra-conservative Steve Bannon, one thing stands out: the prime positioning of his family, especially daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

The successful nomination of conservative federal judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court stands as the major success of the first 100 days of the 45th president of the United States.

All too aware that he doesn’t have much to show for those days, Trump lashed out with a tweet decrying the “ridiculous standard of the first 100 days” — one his own team has repeatedly said is vital.

Now Trump — who regularly talks about possibly running for re-election — has more than 1,300 days ahead of him until his first term ends.

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

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SpaceX To Launch Classified US Government Payload On Sunday

The SpaceX Falcon 9 launching from Cape Canerval will be their first military launch (File Photo)

Miami:  SpaceX on Sunday is scheduled to make its first military launch, with a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, which makes and operates spy satellites for the United States.

No details were made public about the payload, known only as NROL-76, which was first announced last year.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is poised to blast NROL-76 into space from Cape Canaveral, Florida during a two-hour launch window which opens Sunday at 7 am (1100 GMT).

About 10 minutes after launch, the tall portion of the rocket, known as the first stage, will power its engines and fly back toward Earth to make a controlled landing on solid ground at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral.

The attempt is part of SpaceX’s effort to make rocket parts recyclable, rather than jettisoning the costly components after each launch.

The California-based company, headed by internet entrepreneur Elon Musk, has already made several successful landings on solid ground and on platforms floating in the ocean.

Until now, the US military has spent billions per year exclusively with United Launch Alliance, a joint operation of aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin, to launch government satellites.

SpaceX in 2014 filed suit against the US Air Force, saying it unfairly awarded billions of dollars to a single company for national security launches.

SpaceX also has a pair of launch contracts coming up for the Air Force to send GPS satellites into orbit.

If Sunday’s launch is postponed for any reason, another launch window opens on May 1.

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

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Tsunami Warning After 6.8 Magnitude Earthquake Jolts Philippines

The earthquake struck at a depth of 41 kilometres (25 miles).

Manila:  A 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck off the Philippines early Saturday, officials said, damaging several buildings and injuring two people as panicked residents fled the coast following a tsunami warning.

The quake struck at 4:23 am at a depth of 41 kilometres (25 miles) off Mindanao island, the US Geological Service said.

Residents were jolted from their beds and ran onto the streets as the earthquake shook the area, leaving cracks in a hospital, two government buildings and a port, as well as triggering the collapse of at least one house and causing a brief power outage.

“The floor appeared to rise first before swaying violently from side to side. Then the lights went out,” said Adrian Morallas, who was at work at the civil defence office in General Santos city at the time of the quake.

“I ducked and took cover under my desk in line with our disaster training, though it was very difficult to do that in the dark with the ground shaking.” 

Mr Morallas said coastal communities near General Santos were told to evacuate as a precaution, though authorities do not know how many people actually left their homes.

The state-run Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology gave a higher magnitude reading of 7.2. The epicentre was about 53 kilometres off Mindanao’s south coast, it added.

Mr Morallas said two people were injured during the evacuations in the Mindanao coastal towns of Glan and Malapatan.

One person was hit by a falling rock while a pregnant woman hurt herself when she fell.

Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology chief Renato Solidum said that residents near coastal areas in the region should be wary of possible tsunami waves.

The Philippines lies on the so-called Ring of Fire, a vast Pacific Ocean region where many of Earth’s quakes and volcanic eruptions occur.

A 6.0-magnitude earthquake damaged dozens of houses on central Mindanao on April 12, while a trio of strong quakes battered buildings and caused panicked tourists to flee a popular resort near Manila on April 8.

A 6.5-magnitude quake killed eight people and left more than 250 injured outside the Mindanao city of Surigao in February, and another 5.9-magnitude tremor killed one person there last month. 

Before Surigao, the last lethal earthquake to hit the country was a 7.1-magnitude tremor that left more than 220 people dead and destroyed historic churches when it struck the central islands in October 2013.

(With inputs from AFP and IANS)

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Despite Grim Warning From United States, North Korea Tests Missile

The missile test by North Korea was a failure, as per US and South Korean military.(Representational)

United Nations:  Hours after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a grim warning on Friday that “military action” should be considered an option to deter North Korea’s nuclear programme, Pyongyang responded by defiantly testing a ballistic missile.

The missile test was, however, a failure and it blew up within North Korean territory, according to US and South Korean military.

Pyongyang’s defiance was directed not only at the US, but also at Russia and its patron, China.

While Moscow and Beijing opposed any talk of force at a high-level Foreign Mininsters’ meeting of the Security Council, they also condemned North Korea’s nuclear build-up and demanded that it denuclearise.

United States President Donald Trump pointedly tweeted: “North Korea disrespected the wishes of China and its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!”

In a day of hectic diplomatic activities at the United Nations, Mr Tillerson tried to rally world opinion for stronger economic and diplomatic sanctions, reminding other members of the Council that they “are within striking distance of North Korean missiles”.

He said sanctions must be backed by a “willingness to counteract North Korean aggression with military action if necessary”.

China, Russia and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres countered with warnings about the risk of military escalation.

Delivering what was probably the starkest apocalyptic warning heard at the UN in recent times, Mr Tillerson told the Security Council, “The threat of a North Korean nuclear attack on Seoul, or Tokyo, is real.”

“And it is likely only a matter of time before North Korea develops the capability to strike the US mainland,” he added. “Indeed, North Korea has repeatedly claimed it plans to conduct such a strike.”

Mr Guterres, who spoke before Mr Tillerson, said, “I am alarmed by the risk of a military escalation in the region, including by miscalculation or misunderstanding.”

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov also said that a misinterpretation or a bad move could have catastrophic consequences and declared that the option of force was completely unacceptable.

But Mr Tillerson said, “Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences.” He added, “We have said this before and it bears repeating: the policy of strategic patience is over.”

Mr Tillerson threatened sanctions against countries, organisations and people supporting North Korea’s illegal activities in defiance of Security Council sanctions. But there was no mention of Pakistan, whose former Head of Nuclear Weapons Programme, Qadeer Khan, had transferred technology to North Korea.

In calling for actions against Pyongyang, Mr Tillerson called out Beijing, which economically props up the regime of Kim Jong-un.

“China accounting for 90 per cent of North Korean trade; China alone has economic leverage over Pyongyang that is unique, and its role is therefore particularly important,” he said.

But China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi countered that it was not solely his country’s responsibility to contain North Korea. He spread blame for the developments there, virtually accusing Washington of provoking Pyongyang by deploying an anti-missile defence in South Korea.

That action, he said, also undermined China’s security and created mistrust.

In a conciliatory gesture to Kim Jong-un, Mr Tillerson assured the 33-year-old dynastic dictator that “our goal is not regime change”.

He recalled the $1.5 billion that the US had given North Korea in earlier phases of interaction since 1995 and held out promise of resumption of assistance and cooperation if North Korea gave up its nuclear weapons.

(Arul Louis can be reached at

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Man Pleads Guilty In Murder Spree Referencing The Movie 'The Purge'

In the film, US government allows an annual 12-hour period where all crimes are legal (File)

Chicago:  An Indiana man pleaded guilty to killing three people during a four-day crime spree during which he referred to “The Purge,” a movie about a day where all crimes are legal, prosecutors said on Friday.

Under the plea agreement, Johnathan Cruz, 20, will be sentenced to three consecutive sentences of life without parole for the May 2016 murders of Billy Boyd, Jay Higginbotham and Jose Alberto, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.

He also will be sentenced to 16 years for an armed robbery during the crime spree. The sentences will run concurrently. Formal sentencing is scheduled to take place on May 11.

Cruz’s attorney could not be immediately reached for comment.

During the investigation into the killings Cruz told witnesses that he was “purging,” a reference to the horror-thriller film “The Purge, prosecutors said.

The three victims were fatally shot on the east and north sides of Indianapolis. Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said shortly after the killings that they appeared to be random, the Indianapolis Star newspaper reported.

In the 2013 film, which stars Ethan Hawke, the U.S. government allows an annual 12-hour period where all crimes, including murder, are legal.

The movie was the first in what would become a popular franchise. “The Purge: Election Year” was released last July. The fourth installment is set to be released in July 2018, the Hollywood Reporter said in February.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Bill Trott)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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First Direct London-China Train Completes 12,000 Kilometre Run

The journey is the latest effort in China’s drive to strengthen trade links with western Europe.

Beijing:  The first freight train to link China directly to the UK arrived in the eastern Chinese city of Yiwu Saturday after covering over 12,000-kilometres (7,500 miles), making it the second-longest route in the world.

The journey is the latest effort in China’s drive to strengthen trade links with western Europe along a modern-day “Silk Road” route. 

The world’s top trading nation launched the “One Belt, One Road” strategy in 2013, and has since poured millions into constructing vast infrastructure links.

The train — loaded with whisky, baby milk, pharmaceuticals and machinery — departed London on April 10 and passed through France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan during its 20-day trip before arriving in Yiwu in eastern Zhejiang province, a major wholesale centre for small consumer goods. 

The new route is longer than Russia’s famous Trans-Siberian railway, but about 1000 kilometres shorter than the record-holding China-Madrid link, which opened in 2014.

London is the 15th city to be linked to a new freight network offered by the state-run China Railway Corporation, which says its services are cheaper than air transport and quicker than shipping.

The journey should be 30 days faster than moving the goods by ship, the provincial government had said, but the pilot run took two days more than the 18 days expected. 

And the train, named the East Wind, has much less carrying capacity — just 88 shipping containers, according to the Yiwu government, compared to the 10,000 to 20,000 containers cargo ships can carry.

It is unclear how much the venture cost, and some experts have questioned whether the ambitious project makes economic sense.

“It is hard to say at this stage what the economic return will be, as the economic benefits will come over a long time,” He Tianjie of Oxford Economics Hong Kong told AFP. 

“However, the train is in some aspects more convenient and flexible. It can make multiple stops, allowing for the pick up and offloading of cargo along the way. Rail transport is also less affected by adverse weather conditions. Therefore, there may be a role for such long-haul rail links,” he said.

China already has a regular direct freight train service to Germany, Europe’s largest economy. 

One route links the Chinese megacity of Chongqing to Duisburg, a steel-making town and one of Germany’s most-important transportation and commercial hubs.

The other route links Beijing, the Chinese capital, to Hamburg, Germany’s second-largest city.

Roughly 80 percent of global trade is shipped by sea as freight train services face technical and bureaucratic hurdles which vary according to country.

The East Wind’s locomotive and carriages had to be changed en route because of the larger gauge on railways in the former Soviet Union.

Prime Minister Theresa May will visit China later this year, with talks likely to include closer trade ties for when Britain leaves the European Union, according to British officials.

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

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US Could Speed Up North Korea Sanctions Affter Missile Test: Official

US President Donald Trump could use the test-firing to press China to do more to rein in North Korea.

Washington:  The Trump administration could respond to North Korea’s latest failed missile test by speeding up its plans for new US sanctions against Pyongyang, including possible measures against specific North Korean and Chinese entities, a US official told Reuters on Friday. With North Korea acting in defiance of pressure from the United States and North Korea’s main ally, China, Washington could also conduct new naval drills and deploy more ships and aircraft in the region as a show of force, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“It’s possible that something could be sped up,” the official said of the potential for imposing a limited package of targeted sanctions on North Korea. “Something that’s ready to go could be taken from the larger package and expedited.”

The source said the ballistic missile launch was the kind of “provocation” that had been anticipated ahead of South Korea’s May 9 election, and President Donald Trump could use the test-firing to further press China to do more to rein in North Korea.

US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the missile fired from a region north of Pyongyang was probably a medium-range missile known as a KN-17 and appears to have broken up within minutes of taking off.

Should North Korea test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile as it has threatened, Washington would consider it a more dangerous milestone, the administration official told Reuters, suggesting it would draw a much tougher US response.

The Trump administration is especially worried about Pyongyang’s work to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the United States. Washington is also watching closely for the possibility of North Korea’s sixth nuclear test.

The missile test came just hours after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned the United Nations Security Council that failure to curb North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs could lead to “catastrophic consequences.”

The official said any new sanctions could be rolled out in coming days and may hit a number of entities that have already been “vetted” by the US government for such measures, while the administration continues crafting a broader sanctions package.

The targets, the official said, could include financial institutions and front companies in North Korea as well as China, which could anger Beijing.

While Trump has praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for signalling increased cooperation on the North Korea issue, the official said Beijing still “needs to draw some sort of line in the sand” with Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs.

The military options under active consideration include displays of US power in the region meant to deter North Korea and reassure US allies South Korea, the official said.

But it stops short of pre-emptive US military strikes, which could run the risk of massive North Korean retaliation and huge casualties in Japan and South Korea and among US forces in both countries.

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Sandra Maler and Mary Milliken)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Brazil Protesters, Police Clash In First General Strike In Decades

Sao Paulo/Brasilia:  Brazilian protesters torched buses, clashed with police in several cities and marched on President Michel Temer’s Sao Paulo residence on Friday amid the nation’s first general strike in more than two decades. Unions called the strike to voice anger over Temer’s efforts to push austerity measures through congress, bills that would weaken labour laws and trim a generous pension system. The blackened hulls of at least eight burned commuter buses littered central Rio de Janeiro as police launched rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets at masked protesters.

Despite the protests, Temer and members of his centre-right government denounced the strike as a failure. They said that the unions’ targeting of public transport meant that people who wanted to go to work were unable to.

Unions said the strike was a success and pointed to adherence by millions of workers in key sectors like automakers, petroleum, schools and even banking. Strikes hit all 26 states and the Federal District.

“It is important for us to send a message to the government that the country is watching what they are doing, taking away workers’ rights,” said Marco Clemente, head of the 4,000-member radio and TV workers union in Brasilia, leading a picket line outside the headquarters of state broadcaster EBC.

Temer, who was in Brasilia, denounced the violence used by some protesters. He said in an emailed statement that “small groups” had blocked the population from using public transport and said that “work towards the modernization of national legislation will continue.”

Brazil’s last general strike took place in 1996, in protests over privatisations and labour reforms under former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

Despite Friday’s action, many analysts said the strike would have little immediate impact on the president’s austerity push, and that the bills are still expected to pass given Temer’s continued support among lawmakers.

Brazilians Angry At Reforms

Temer’s reforms have deeply angered many Brazilians and he is weighed down by a 10 percent approval rating for his government.

He took over last year when former leader Dilma Rousseff, whom Temer served as vice president, was impeached for breaking budgetary rules. Her supporters denounced the act as a ‘coup’ orchestrated by Temer and his allies in a bid to derail a sweeping corruption investigation.

“This is not a government that was elected with these proposals,” said Bernard Costa, a 27-year-old medical student protesting in Sao Paulo. “These reforms are showing people that this government has is neither legitimate nor representative.”

“Shameless government” read one placard waved by one of a group of protesters who gathered outside Temer’s family home in Sao Paulo. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Nearly one-third of Temer’s ministers and several congressional leaders are under investigation in Brazil’s largest political graft scheme yet uncovered. It revolves around kickbacks from construction companies in return for winning lucrative projects at state-run oil company Petrobras.

Temer has proposed a minimum age for retirement, which would compel many employees to work longer to receive a pension and reduce payouts in a country were many workers retire with full benefits in their 50s.

The lower house of Congress approved a bill this week to weaken labour laws by relaxing restrictions on outsourcing and temporary contracts, further inflaming union resistance.

The government argues that economic reforms are needed to pull Brazil out of its worst recession on record, cut a huge budget deficit, reduce record unemployment and modernize the economy.

The strike had a large impact on auto production in Sao Paulo, which concentrates the bulk of the industry in Brazil.

General Motors Co Ford Motor Co Toyota Motor Corp and Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler AG  all halted production, according to company officials, unions and market analysts. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, the No. 1 car seller Brazil, said it was operating normally.

Union officials said most workers at state-run oil producer Petroleo Brasileiro  known as Petrobras, joined the strike, but the company said the stoppage had no significant impact on output. Iron ore miner Vale SA said the strike did not affect its operations.

The 24-hour strike started after midnight on Friday, ahead of a long weekend with Labor Day on Monday.

The benchmark Bovespa stock index was up nearly 1 percent while the nation’s currency, the real, was little changed as investors assessed the impact of the strike.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Sao Paulo and Anthony Boadle in Brasilia; Additional reporting by Pedro Fonseca in Rio de Janiero and Brad Haynes, Alberto Alerigi, Roberto Samora and Guillermo Parra-Bernal in Sao Paulo; Editing by Daniel Flynn, W Simon, Leslie Adler and Lisa Shumaker)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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'I Am Going To Come Through For You,' Trump Vows To NRA

ATLANTA:  On the eve of his 100th day in office, President Donald Trump made a triumphant return before members of the National Rifle Association, promising a group that was one of his earliest and most enthusiastic supporters that he will “never infringe on the right of the people to bear arms.”

“Freedom is not a gift from government, freedom is a gift from God,” Trump said.

Trump, the first sitting president to address the NRA since Ronald Reagan, delivered a fiery speech in which he recounted his election victory and early actions from his administration that are friendly to the gun rights group, and he promised there would be more to come.

“You came through big for me, and I am going to come through for you,” Trump told thousands of members attending the NRA’s annual convention. “The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end. You have a true friend and champion in the White House.”

With his appearance here, Trump marked the coming 100-day milestone in much the same way he has governed in the early stages of his presidency: by appealing to his base. While his job approval numbers have been historically low for this point in his presidency, Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters are standing by him, polls show.

The NRA claims 5 million members, including many white rural voters, a demographic that helped tip the electoral college in Trump’s favor.

The association played a powerful role in Trump’s election, providing critical support in battleground states. It spent more on behalf of Trump than any outside group and began its advertising and other efforts earlier than in any other presidential cycle.

And many of its members were visibly elated by Trump’s speech Friday.

In remarks before Trump spoke, NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox recalled the group’s endorsement at its convention last year, saying Trump was “the most proudly Second Amendment nominee in American history.”

“On Election Day, NRA members and gun owners stormed to the polls in an act of sheer defiance of the elites,” Cox said. “And on Inauguration Day, our candidate became our president.”

Addressing the group Friday, Trump hailed his first Supreme Court pick, Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was embraced by the NRA, as well as several of his Cabinet selections.

He called Jeff Sessions “a pro-Second Amendment, tough-on-crime attorney general” and touted a decision by his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, to overturn a federal ban on hunting with lead ammunition in national parks and wildlife refuges.

While making general promises to stand with the NRA moving forward, Trump made no mention of two of the group’s leading priorities in Congress.

In the months ahead, the NRA will be looking for Trump to put the weight of his office behind a bill that would make concealed-carry permits valid across state lines. Trump endorsed the concept during the campaign, likening it to the portability of driver’s licenses.

Also high on the NRA’s agenda is the Hearing Protection Act, which would remove federal registration and identification requirements for those seeking gun silencers. That measure has been touted by the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., an avid hunter, who also attended Friday’s conference.

Also left unmentioned Friday was an NRA victory earlier in the Trump administration: His signing of legislation that repealed an Obama-era regulation designed to protect certain mentally ill people from purchasing firearms.

In addition to speaking about gun rights, Trump laced his speech with familiar rhetoric and promises from the campaign trail. He warned of the dangers of “radical Islamic terrorists,” called for “putting American first” and pledged to continue a crackdown on illegal immigration.

Trump also played up his promise to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico, an initiative dealt a setback in recent budget negotiations over keeping the government open.

“We will build the wall,” Trump said. “You need that wall to stop the human trafficking, to stop the drugs, to stop the wrong people.”

Trump’s speech brought a rebuke from Gabrielle Giffords, a former Democratic congresswoman who survied a 2012 assassination attempt and has become an outspoken gun control advocate.

“We need a president who is serious about finding solutions that will save lives and address the gun violence crisis that’s plaguing our nation,” she said. “Unfortunately, that’s not the president we saw on stage this afternoon in Atlanta.”

Trump’s appearance Friday at the gun group’s massive national convention recalled the triumphant moment a year earlier, when the NRA endorsed him sooner than it had any other candidate in a U.S. presidential election.

He had run on a pro-gun rights agenda, telling the audience at the 2016 NRA convention, held in Louisville, that “crooked Hillary is the most anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment candidate ever to run for office,” referencing his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

This year’s convention drew thousands of Trump voters and NRA members from the southern and Midwestern United States. Members of the crowd – almost exclusively white and mostly male – voiced strong support for the president and his agenda, even as they acknowledged some of his efforts remain in limbo.

Gun owners urged the president to push for their agenda with Congress.

“We know that they’ve got those bigger issues going on right now,” said Jon Spears, 37, from Somerset, Ky. “We know that they’ve got those bigger issues going on right now. We understand that. We’re not unreasonable. I just want to hear that they are going to support us down the road.”

Like many attendees, Ed Valentine, 67, a resident of the Atlanta suburbs, celebrated the pick of Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. “I hope [he’s good],” said Valentine, president of a small environmental engineering firm in the Atlanta suburbs. “You don’t know until they get in there.”

He also praised Trump’s performance in office so far. “Though he could refine his style a little bit!” Valentine said, laughing.

Trump got mostly glowing reviews from conference attendees after his speech.

“I’m hoarse!” said Cathy Boswell of Acworth, Georgia. Her husband, Mike, laughed, saying his hands were sore from clapping.

“He always delivers,” Cathy Boswell said. “He doesn’t hold anything back, and that’s why we love Donald Trump,” Mike agreed.

“I thought it was amazing,” said Jody Looper, 46, a stay-at-home mom from Mount Juliet, Tennessee. “It’s so nice to have a constitutional president again.”

A large anti-NRA protest featuring Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., is scheduled here for Saturday.

But on Friday, dozens of protesters still gathered at nearby Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta, chanting and holding signs that read “Tiny Bloody Hands.” At one point, the group laid down in the grass to represent people killed by gun violence every year, a demonstration they called a “die-in.”

Another group gathered outside Atlanta’s private Capital City Club, where Trump arrived after his speech to hold a fundraiser for Republican congressional candidate Karen Handel. As Trump’s motorcade pulled up, the crowd booed, chanted and beat drums.

Handel finished second in the April 18 special election to Democrat Jon Ossoff; the two will face each other in a runoff on June 20. The race, to replace Republican Tom Price, now Trump’s health and human services secretary, is being closely watched nationally as a test of how Trump is affecting down-ballot races.

During his remarks to the NRA, Trump plugged Handel’s candidacy, telling convention goers: “She’s totally for the NRA, and she’s totally for the Second Amendment, so get out and vote.”

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

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MPs say 'dominance' of big home-building firms must end

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MPs have called for an end to the dominance of big home-building firms to fix the “broken” housing market.

The communities and local government committee said the eight biggest firms built more than half of all new homes.

MPs said the government should do more for smaller builders who do not have the scale to bid for big projects.

But the Home Builders Federation, which represents large and small businesses, said only big firms could spread the risks large-scale projects pose.

The committee also said local authorities should prepare land for home building.

That would include providing the infrastructure needed, such as roads and public transport.

“The housing market is broken, we are simply not building enough homes,” said Clive Betts MP, chair of the committee.

“Smaller builders are in decline and the sector is over-reliant on an alarmingly small number of high-volume developers, driven by commercial self-interest and with little incentive to build any quicker.

“If we are to build the homes that the country so desperately needs, for sale and for rent, then this dominance must end.”

Government promises more affordable homes

Labour promises to build one million new homes

The committee found that smaller builders struggled to obtained land for development, as local authorities focused on large sites which only big companies could afford to take on.

The Homebuilders Federation said: “We fully support the committee’s call for measures to assist smaller builders, encourage new entrants and scale up specialist housing sectors, such as the retirement housing market.

“The vast majority of the big increases in housing supply in recent years have come from the larger, mainstream builders – but we need more builders of all sizes and specialisms if we are to tackle our acute housing shortage.”

‘Feeble’ measures

In February the government promised to build more affordable houses and help people buy and rent, after admitting the current market was broken.

The housing strategy for England included giving councils powers to pressure developers into starting building on land they own.

Ministers also pledged to make renting more “family-friendly” with longer tenancies offered.

However, Labour called the measures announced “feeble beyond belief”.

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Strong Earthquake Hits Off Philippines, Warning Of Large Waves

The Philippines is on the geologically active Pacific Ring of Fire and experiences frequent earthquakes

Manila:  A strong earthquake measuring 6.8 struck off the coast of the island of Mindanao in the Philippines on Saturday, the country’s seismology agency said, and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was a risk of large waves as far away as Indonesia. The Philippines Institute of volcanology and seismology said the earthquake was about 57 km southwest of Sarangani. It was felt in most parts of Mindanao, the biggest island in the south of the archipelago nation. There were no initial reports of damage or casualties.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said hazardous waves could spread 300 km (190 miles) away from the epicentre.

But Renato Solidum, head of the Philippines seismology agency, told Reuters no tsunami warning was issued and there was no need to evacuate the areas affected.

But the agency had issued an advisory saying people could expect a minor drop in the sea level, large waves, and people should steer clear of the coast, he said.

The Philippines is on the geologically active Pacific Ring of Fire and experiences frequent earthquakes, several last month in the main island of Luzon, which were felt in the capital Manila.

Janet Bongolan, tourism officer at the Tuka Marine Park in Sarangani province, said people spilled out of their homes and into the streets during the earthquake, but most had returned and there was no sign of panic.

“There’s no news here that there will be a tsunami. But we are watching out for aftershocks. We are careful here,” she said by telephone.

Harry Camoro, a disaster official in Davao province, said people on the coast saw the waterline receding before returning to normal.

“It was strong enough to awaken me and my family,” he told a radio interview.

The US Geological Survey initially said the earthquake measured 7.2 but later downgraded it to 6.8.

(Reporting by Manuel Mogato, Neil Jerome Morales and Enrico dela Cruz; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Robert Birsel)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Emmanuel Macron Banishes Pro-Kremlin Media From Campaign Trail

French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron’s campaign has banished Russia Today and Sputnik.

Paris:  French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron’s campaign has banished Russia Today and Sputnik, denying them accreditation after the candidate’s team said the pro-Kremlin outlets publish misleading information. A spokesman for Macron confirmed to AFP that the accreditation applications had been refused, a decision described as “scandalous” in Moscow by foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. Sputnik and RT (Russia Today) were created by the Kremlin for foreigners, are available in several languages and both have a French language website.

Zakharova said that the necessary requests had been made by Russia media and as “other foreign media have not faced any obstacles, we consider these prohibitory measures to be targeted and open discrimination”.

In February, Macron’s spokesman Benjamin Griveaux accused the Kremlin of mounting a “smear campaign” via state media against the centrist former economy minister, a staunch defender of the European Union.

Moscow has been seen as a keen backer of Macron’s rival in the presidential race Marine Le Pen, who met President Vladimir Putin in a surprise visit to Moscow ahead of France’s April 23 first round vote.

On Tuesday, a cyber-security research group said Macron’s campaign had been targeted by a group of Russian hackers last month.

The Pawn Storm group, which has been linked to several high-profile attacks in the West, used “phishing” techniques to try to steal personal data from Macron and members of his En Marche! campaign, Japan-based Trend Micro said.

Pawn Storm, also known as APT28, is also believed to be behind the attacks last summer on the US Democratic National Committee, thought to be aimed at undermining Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.

It is widely suspected of having links to Russia’s security services. Moscow has denied any involvement in seeking to influence France’s election which will be settled in a second-round run-off between Macron and Le Pen on May 7.

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US Spy Agency Abandons Controversial Surveillance Technique

The halt by NSA is among the most substantial changes to US surveillance policy in years.

Washington:  The US National Security Agency said on Friday it had stopped a form of surveillance that allowed it to collect without a warrant the digital communications of Americans who mentioned a foreign intelligence target in their messages, marking an unexpected triumph for privacy advocates long critical of the practice. The decision to stop the once-secret activity, which involved messages sent to or received from people believed to be living overseas, came despite the insistence of US officials in recent years that it was both lawful and vital to national security.

The halt is among the most substantial changes to US surveillance policy in years and comes as digital privacy remains a contentious issue across the globe following the 2013 disclosures of broad NSA spying activity by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

“NSA will no longer collect certain internet communications that merely mention a foreign intelligence target,” the agency said in a statement. “Instead, NSA will limit such collection to internet communications that are sent directly to or from a foreign target.”

NSA also said it would delete the “vast majority” of internet data collected under the surveillance program “to further protect the privacy of US person communications.”

The decision is an effort to remedy privacy compliance issues raised in 2011 by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret tribunal that rules on the legality of intelligence operations, sources familiar with the matter said.

The court recently approved the changes, NSA said in its statement.

The NSA is not permitted to conduct surveillance within the United States. The so-called “about” collection went after messages that mentioned a surveillance target, even if the message was neither to nor from that person.

That type of collection sometimes resulted in surveillance of emails, texts and other communications that were wholly domestic. The NSA will continue to collect communications directly involving intelligence targets.

Friday’s announcement came as a surprise to privacy advocates who have long argued that “about” collection was overly broad and ran afoul of the US Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches.

Julian Sanchez, a privacy and surveillance expert with the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, called the decision “very significant” and among the top priorities of surveillance reform among civil liberties groups.

“Usually you identify a specific individual to scrutinize their content; this was scrutinizing everyone’s content to find mentions of an individual,” Sanchez said.

Other privacy advocates seized on the change to advocate for additional reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The part of the law under which the banned surveillance occurred, known as Section 702, is due to expire at the end of the year unless Congress reauthorizes it.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said in a statement he would introduce legislation “banning this kind of collection in the future.”

A U.S. government official familiar with the matter said the change was motivated in part to ensure that Section 702 is renewed before it sunsets on Dec. 31, 2017. FISA has come under increased scrutiny in recent months amid unsubstantiated claims by President Donald Trump and other Republicans that the Obama White House improperly spied on Trump or his associates.

Pieces of differing bits of digital traffic are often packaged together as they travel across the internet. Part of the issue with “about” collection stemmed from how an entire packet of information would be vacuumed up if one part of it contained information, such as an email address or phone number, connected to a foreign target.

NSA told the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board as recently as last year that changes to “about” collection were not “practical at this time,” according to a report from the government watchdog.

News of the surveillance activity being halted was first reported on Friday by The New York Times, which first revealed its existence in 2013, two months after Snowden leaked intelligence documents to journalists.

(Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; writing by Eric Beech; editing by Tim Ahmann, Leslie Adler and Bill Rigby)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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

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North Korea Test-Fires Ballistic Missile In Defiance Of World Pressure

North Korea unsuccessfully test-fired a ballistic missile from a region north of Pyongyang

Seoul/United Nations:  North Korea unsuccessfully test-fired a ballistic missile on Saturday from a region north of its capital, Pyongyang, South Korea’s military said, defying intense pressure from the United States and the reclusive state’s main ally, China. The test came as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned the United Nations Security Council that failure to curb North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs could lead to ‘catastrophic consequences’. US and South Korean officials said the test appeared to have failed, in what would be a fourth successive unsuccessful missile test since March.

US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the missile was probably a medium-range missile known as a KN-17 and appears to have broken up within minutes of taking off.

Tension had spiked on the Korean peninsula over concerns the North may conduct the test-launch of a long-range missile or its sixth nuclear test around the time of the April 15 anniversary of its state founder’s birth or the day marking the founding of its military earlier this week.

The timing of the latest launch suggests it was calculated to send a certain message as Pyongyang remains under intense attention of world powers, said Kim Dong-yub, an expert at Kyungnam University’s Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul.

“It was planned at a complicated timing around the end of the South Korea-U.S. joint military drills, the United States talking about military options and the announcement of North Korea policies and the Security Council meeting,” Kim said.

South Korean and US forces have been conducting annual military drills since the start of March that conclude at the end of April.

In a show of force, the United States is sending the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group to waters off the Korean peninsula, where it will join the USS Michigan, a nuclear submarine that docked in South Korea on Tuesday.

US President Donald Trump told Reuters in an interview on Thursday a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Trump praised Chinese leader Xi Jinping for “trying very hard” to rein in Pyongyang.

But both China and Russia rebuked Washington’s threat of military force at a meeting of the UN Security Council on the matter on Friday.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the 15-member council it was not only up to China to solve the North Korean problem.

“The key to solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula does not lie in the hands of the Chinese side,” Wang told the council in blunt remarks that Tillerson later rebuffed.

The UN Security Council is likely to start discussing a statement to condemn the missile launch, said diplomats, adding that it was unlikely to be issued on Friday. The Security Council traditionally condemns all missile launches by Pyongyang.

“It could have happened today exactly because we had the meeting,” Italian UN Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, chair of the Security Council’s North Korean sanctions committee, told reporters when hearing of the test. “It’s illegal, it should not be done, it’s another provocative action by North Korea.”

Neighbouring Japan said the “unacceptable” launch clearly violated UN resolutions and said it had lodged a strong protest with North Korea.

(Additional reporting by Ju-min Park in Seoul, Idrees Ali in Washington, Malcolm Foster in Tokyo and Lesley Wroughton at the United Nations; Editing Lincoln Feast)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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

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Ted 2017: Elon Musk's vision for underground road system

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A sneak peak at the truck Tesla plans to unveil did not give much away

US entrepreneur Elon Musk has spoken at the Ted (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference about his vision for a tunnel network under Los Angeles and shown off how it might work.

Mr Musk also talked about plans to have fully autonomous journeys across the US by the end of the year.

He spoke about how he wanted solar-powered roof tiles to be standard on “every home” within 50 years.

And he explained why he is committed to sending a rocket to Mars.

In a wide-ranging conversation with Ted curator Chris Anderson, the founder of Tesla and Space X said that he was inspired to consider a tunnel system to alleviate congestion because he found being stuck in traffic “soul-destroying”.

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Cars would mount a platform

He showed off a concept video of how the multi-layered tunnel system might work.

Cars would stop on a trolley-like device and the ground would open up to carry them below. Cars would then drive off the platform and another would get on to be returned above ground.

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The platform would take the car underground

He said that his vision was to have “no limits” to the amount of tunnels, but to find ways to cut the cost of boring and to speed up how quickly such tunnels could be created.

“We have a pet snail called Gary, and Gary is capable of moving 14 times faster than a tunnel boring machine – so the ambition is to beat Gary,” he said.

The firm he set up to oversee the project – The Boring Company – took up less than 3% of his time, he said, and it was run by interns and part-timers.

“It is pottering along.”

Susan Beardslee, a senior analyst at ABI Research, said the project sounded like a “moonshot”.

“He has shown his ability to be a visionary, and I believe he can take tunnelling and apply the financial capital and technical expertise, but this is not a go-it-alone project.

“He is addressing the need to look at congestion – but it will have to be a public/private partnership,” she said.

“Musk is good at coming up with a very different way of looking at things, and this might work better somewhere where it can be purpose-built rather than retro-fitted.”

Mr Musk is rarely out of the headlines these days – recently notching up another landmark for his Space X business when it launched a recycled rocket as well as starting a new firm – NeuraLink – that would aim to augment the human brain with computer technology.

His semi-autonomous Tesla car fleet has been under scrutiny since a fatal crash in May 2016, but Mr Musk showed no signs of slowing down his ambitions for the firm.

He promised a “fully autonomous” journey across the US “by the end of the year”.

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In a chat with Ted curator Chris Anderson, Mr Musk said he wanted to think about the future and not be sad

“From a parking lot in California, cross-country to New York or from Seattle to Florida, these cars should be able to go anywhere on the highway system,” he said.

He also revealed that he had test-driven the semi-autonomous electric truck Tesla plans to unveil in September, saying it was “so nimble”.

“You will drive it around like a sports car,” he said.

“In a tug-of-war between a Tesla semi and a diesel semi, the Tesla would pull the diesel uphill.”

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SpaceX has delivered so far – even if timelines have slipped somewhat

Ted curator Chris Anderson asked Mr Musk why he had so many diverse interests – on Earth and in Space.

“The value of Tesla is to accelerate the inevitable use of sustainable energy and if it accelerates that by a decade, then that would be a fundamental aspiration,” said Mr Musk.

But, he added, the advancement of space technology was not inevitable and would only happen if someone worked hard to make it a reality.

“It is important to have an inspiring future and if it doesn’t include being out there among the stars, that is incredibly depressing.

“I am not trying to be anyone’s saviour.

“I just want to think about the future and not feel sad.”

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China To Build Space Station With Help Of Space Flights From 2019 To 2022

China said a 60-tonne space station will be assembled and built.

Beijing:  China today said it plans to conduct several manned space flights from 2019 to 2022, during which a 60-tonne space station will be assembled and built. 

“The space station programme has been progressing steadily with its key technologies and plans already completed and its relevant flight products being tested,” said Wang Zhaoyao, director of China’s manned space programme office.

“Chinese astronauts are preparing for the space station era. They are expected to stay in space for three to six months or even longer during future missions,” he said. 

“Tianzhou-1, China’s first cargo spacecraft, was the last flight mission of the country’s manned space programme before the construction of a permanent space station,” he said.

The spacecraft and Tiangong-2 space lab completed their first in-orbit refueling yesterday, marking the completion of the Communist giant’s space lab mission.

“The successful conclusion of the mission shows that China’s manned space programme has entered the space station era,” Wang was quoted as saying by state-run China Daily.

Two astronauts, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, completed their 33-day journey, the longest mission in the country’s manned space programme to date, onboard the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft on November 18 last year.

Wang said the astronauts would be engaged in more extra-vehicular activities during the construction of the space station, which could pose challenges.

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

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Modern warfare

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It all began when Estonian authorities decided to move a memorial to the Soviet Red Army to a position of less prominence in the capital, Tallinn

Cyber-attacks, information warfare, fake news – exactly 10 years ago Estonia was one of the first countries to come under attack from this modern form of hybrid warfare.

It is an event that still shapes the country today.

Head bowed, one fist clenched and wearing a World War Two Red Army uniform, the Bronze Soldier stands solemnly in a quiet corner of a cemetery on the edge of the Estonian capital Tallinn.

Flowers have been laid recently at his feet. It is a peaceful and dignified scene. But in April 2007 a row over this statue sparked the first known cyber-attack on an entire country.

The attack showed how easily a hostile state can exploit potential tensions within another society. But it has also helped make Estonia a cyber security hotshot today.

From outrage to outage

Unveiled by the Soviet authorities in 1947, the Bronze Soldier was originally called “Monument to the Liberators of Tallinn”. For Russian speakers in Estonia he represents the USSR’s victory over Nazism.

But for ethnic Estonians, Red Army soldiers were not liberators. They are seen as occupiers, and the Bronze Solider is a painful symbol of half a century of Soviet oppression.

In 2007 the Estonian government decided to move the Bronze Soldier from the centre of Tallinn to a military cemetery on the outskirts of the city.

The decision sparked outrage in Russian-language media and Russian speakers took to the streets. Protests were exacerbated by false Russian news reports claiming that the statue, and nearby Soviet war graves, were being destroyed.

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Russian speakers rose up on the streets in protest at the statue’s move – and cyber attackers followed behind

On 26 April 2007 Tallinn erupted into two nights of riots and looting. 156 people were injured, one person died and 1,000 people were detained.

From 27 April, Estonia was also hit by major cyber-attacks which in some cases lasted weeks.

Online services of Estonian banks, media outlets and government bodies were taken down by unprecedented levels of internet traffic.

Massive waves of spam were sent by botnets and huge amounts of automated online requests swamped servers.

The result for Estonians citizens was that cash machines and online banking services were sporadically out of action; government employees were unable to communicate with each other on email; and newspapers and broadcasters suddenly found they couldn’t deliver the news.

It was a great security test. We just don’t know who to send the bill to”

Tanel Sepp, cyber security official at the defence ministry

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Liisa Past was running the op-ed desk of one of Estonia’s national newspapers at the time, and remembers how journalists were suddenly unable to upload articles to be printed in time. Today she is a cyber-defence expert at Estonia’s state Information System Authority.

“Cyber aggression is very different to kinetic warfare,” she explained. “It allows you to create confusion, while staying well below the level of an armed attack. Such attacks are not specific to tensions between the West and Russia. All modern societies are vulnerable.”

That means that a hostile country can create disturbance and instability in a Nato country like Estonia, without fear of military retaliation from Nato allies.

Shadowy forces

The alliance’s Article Five guarantees that Nato members defend each other, even if that attack is in cyberspace. But Article Five would only be triggered if a cyber-attack results in major loss of life equivalent to traditional military action.

Identifying who is responsible also makes retaliation difficult. The 2007 attacks came from Russian IP addresses, online instructions were in the Russian language and Estonian appeals to Moscow for help were ignored.

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The physical destruction wrought by the riots was followed by a devastation of the country’s networked institutions

But there is no concrete evidence that these attacks were actually carried out by the Russian government.

On condition of anonymity, an Estonian government official told the BBC that evidence suggested the attack “was orchestrated by the Kremlin, and malicious gangs then seized the opportunity to join in and do their own bit to attack Estonia”.

Hostile states often count on copycat hackers, criminal groups and freelance political actors jumping on the bandwagon.

2007 was a wake-up call, helping Estonians become experts in cyber defence today. “It was a great security test. We just don’t know who to send the bill to,” says Tanel Sepp, a cyber security official at Estonia’s Ministry of Defence.

The Bronze Soldier attacks may be the first suspected state-backed cyber-attacks on another nation.

But since then cyber warfare has been used all over the world, including in Russia’s war with Georgia in 2008, and in Ukraine. “Cyber has become a really serious tool in disrupting society for military purposes,” says Tanel Sepp.

Information warfare: Is Russia really interfering in European states?

Is cyber-warfare really that scary?

How Estonia became E-stonia

That’s why Estonia’s government has now set up a voluntary Cyber Defence Unit. Since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, the Estonian Defence League has been much reported on by the international press: at weekends 25,000 volunteers don fatigues and head to the forests to learn how to shoot.

Less well known is the shadowy Cyber Defence Unit.

Once bitten

The country’s leading IT experts are also trained by the Ministry of Defence. But in addition they are security vetted and remain anonymous.

They donate their free time to defending their country online by practising what to do if a major utility or vital service provider is brought down by a cyber-attack.

It’s the sort of private sector talent the state could never usually afford to employ.

But the memory of 2007 is a good recruiting sergeant. The attacks have stuck in the national consciousness by proving to Estonians the importance of cyber security.

Ten years after the attacks, the Bronze Soldier is still a reminder how much Estonia’s complicated past can disrupt the present.

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US Says Time To Act On North Korea, China Says Not Up To Beijing Alone

UNITED NATIONS:  US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned on Friday that failure to curb North Korea’s nuclear and missile development could lead to ‘catastrophic consequences,’ while China and Russia cautioned Washington against threatening military force.

Washington has recently lavished praise on Beijing for its efforts to rein in its ally Pyongyang, but Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made clear to the UN Security Council it was not only up to China to solve the North Korean problem.

“The key to solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula does not lie in the hands of the Chinese side,” Wang told the 15-member council in remarks contradicting the White House belief that it does wield significant influence.

The ministerial meeting of the council, chaired by Tillerson, exposed old divisions between the United States and China on how to deal with North Korea. China wants talks first and action later, while the United States wants North Korea to curtail its nuclear program before such talks start.

“It is necessary to put aside the debate over who should take the first step and stop arguing who is right and who is wrong,” Wang told the council. “Now is the time to seriously consider resuming talks.”

Tillerson responded: “We will not negotiate our way back to the negotiating table with North Korea, we will not reward their violations of past resolutions, we will not reward their bad behavior with talks.”

North Korea did not take part in the meeting.

In Tillerson’s first visit to the United Nations he scolded the Security Council for not fully enforcing sanctions against North Korea, saying if the body had acted, tensions over its nuclear program might not have escalated.

“Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences,” he said.

The United States was not pushing for regime change and preferred a negotiated solution, but Pyongyang, for its own sake, should dismantle its nuclear and missile programs, he said.

“The threat of a nuclear attack on Seoul, or Tokyo, is real, and it’s only a matter of time before North Korea develops the capability to strike the U.S. mainland,” Tillerson said.

Tillerson repeated the Trump administration’s position that all options are on the table if Pyongyang persists with its nuclear and missile development, but Wang said military threats would not help.


Wang said dialogue and negotiations were the “only way out.”

“The use of force does not solve differences and will only lead to bigger disasters,” he said.

US President Donald Trump said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov cautioned on Friday that the use of force would be “completely unacceptable.”

“The combative rhetoric coupled with reckless muscle-flexing has led to a situation where the whole world seriously is now wondering whether there’s going to be a war or not,” he told the council. “One ill thought out or misinterpreted step could lead to the most frightening and lamentable consequences.”

Gatilov said North Korea felt threatened by regular joint U.S. and South Korean military exercises and the deployment of a U.S. aircraft carrier group to waters off the Korean peninsula.

China and Russia both also repeated their opposition to the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system in South Korea. Gatilov described it as a “destabilizing effort,” while Wang said it damaged trust among the parties on the North Korea issue.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told the council that to bring North Korea back to the table the international community “must send a strong message that provocation comes at a high price.”

“There is no doubt that dialogue is necessary … however under the current situation where North Korea continues to advance its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, meaningful dialogue is clearly not possible,” he said.

The Trump administration is focusing its North Korea strategy on tougher economic sanctions, possibly including an oil embargo, a global ban on its airline, intercepting cargo ships and punishing Chinese banks doing business with Pyongyang, U.S. officials told Reuters earlier this month.

Since 2006, North Korea has been subject to U.N. sanctions aimed at impeding the development of its nuclear and missile programs. The council has strengthened sanctions following each of North Korea’s five nuclear tests.

(Editing by Frances Kerry and James Dalgleish)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Pope Francis Condemns Violence, Demagoguery

Cairo, Egypt |:  Pope Francis urged tolerance and denounced “demagogic” populism and violence committed in God’s name on Friday as he visited Egypt to promote dialogue with Muslims and support its embattled Christian minority.

His visit comes as Egypt’s Coptic Christians reel from a series of jihadist suicide bombings in December and April that killed dozens of worshippers.

Francis is scheduled to visit the Cairo church bombed in December alongside Coptic Pope Tawadros II.

The 80-year-old pontiff landed in Cairo earlier on Friday before meeting President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and then Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb, one of the Muslim world’s leading authorities.

Sisi, a former army chief criticised for rights abuses, welcomed Francis at his palace with a military brass band and priests lining up to greet the head of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics.

‘Peace is holy’

Francis then headed to Tayeb’s headquarters, sealing a recent improvement in relations between Catholicism and the Sunni branch of Islam.

Francis, who was shuttled from one engagement to another in a closed car on the first day of the tightly scheduled 27-hour visit, then gave a speech to a Muslim-Christian conference.

“Peace alone… is holy and no act of violence can be perpetrated in the name of God, for it would profane his name,” Francis said.

The pope also took aim at what he called “demagogic forms of populism… on the rise,” saying they were unhelpful to peace.

The pope was joined at the conference by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of the Orthodox world and a close ally.

In another speech with Sisi in the audience, Francis expressed support for Egypt’s military campaign against ISIS group jihadists, who had bombed the churches and killed hundreds of troops.

But he also insisted on “unconditional respect for inalienable human rights such as equality among all citizens, religious freedom and freedom of expression.”

Sisi has faced heavy criticism from rights groups for abuses since he led the military ouster of his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Before disembarking from his plane in Cairo, Francis had told reporters that his visit was a “journey of unity and fraternity. Less than two days but very intense.”

His meeting with Tayeb, he said, would “be an example and a model for peace precisely because it will be a meeting of dialogue.”

Security was extremely tight for the visit with Egypt under a state of emergency following the church bombings.

Police and soldiers stood guard outside the Vatican residence in Cairo on Friday and armoured cars were stationed outside the Coptic Orthodox Saint Mark’s Cathedral, where Tawadros II’s headquarters are located.

All of the country’s churches have been placed under additional protection because of the risk of another assault timed to coincide with Francis being in the country.

Despite the dangers, Francis is expected to be taken to most of his engagements in a normal vehicle and electric golf carts.

“Please pray for my journey tomorrow as a pilgrim of peace to Egypt,” Francis said on his Twitter account on the eve of his departure.

Before his visit, some roads had been festooned with posters showing Francis against the backdrop of the Pyramids, with a message that read: “Pope of peace in the Egypt of peace.”

Visit to bombed church

John Paul II was the last pope to have visited Egypt in 2000, with his arrival also coming weeks after anti-Christian violence that killed about 20 Copts in January that year.

Vatican dialogue with the Muslim world, a priority for this pope, was set back significantly when Francis’s predecessor Benedict XVI made a speech in 2006 in which he was seen as linking Islam to violence.

The now-retired German pontiff’s 2011 comments condemning an attack on a Coptic church prompted Al-Azhar to denounce Benedict for meddling in Egypt’s affairs.

One of the highlights of Francis’s trip will be his visit on Friday to the church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, which had been bombed by IS in December in attack that killed 29 people.

He will meet Pope Tawadros II first in his nearby headquarters before they lead a procession to the bombed church, which has since been renovated.

ISIS, which has threatened open war on the Christian minority, followed with twin church bombings in April that killed 45 people.

On Saturday, the pontiff will preside over a mass for the country’s small Catholic community, estimated to number around 272,000 spread across various rites.

Egypt’s Copts, who make up about 10 percent of the country’s population of 92 million, are the Middle East’s largest Christian minority and one of the oldest.

But they have suffered attacks throughout the years and many complain that they feel like second-class citizens.

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

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Finland's oldest operating ferry given electric motor

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The Fori has been in service since 1904

The oldest operating ferry in Finland is being relaunched as the country’s first all-electric vessel.

The Fori first entered service in 1904 as a steam-powered boat. It was fitted with diesel engines in 1955.

When it returns to the Aura River in Turku on Saturday, it will be fitted with two electric motors and an electric drivetrain system.

Despite the upgrade, the ferry will still make the crossing at an average speed of 2kmh (1.24mph).

The work was carried out by local boatyard Mobimar, using an electric drivetrain system designed by Finnish company Visedo.

Spare engine

Each of the two engines consists of a DC/DC converter to increase the voltage from the batteries, and a permanent magnet motor drive to transform the electrical signal into mechanical energy.

The new system is eight tonnes lighter than the diesel engines and hydraulic motor it has replaced.

Visedo said it should use about 3kW of energy per hour during the summer months, rising to 4kW in the winter.

The ferry only needs one engine to operate, but the design allows for both to be used when extra power is required – such as during the winter when river ice begins to form.

It also means the ferry can stay in service when one of the engines needs maintenance.

The Fori is one of Turku’s less obvious tourist attractions, operating non-stop during the day, transporting up to 75 passengers at a time from one side of the Aura River to the other.

The city authorities announced the plan to convert the light vehicle ferry from diesel to electric in 2015.

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Brent Delta platform removed from legs

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The Brent Delta platform was removed from its legs and lifted on to a huge purpose-built decommissioning vessel

The first major decommissioning project in the North Sea has been completed with the removal of the Brent Delta platform from its legs.

It has been lifted on to a huge purpose-built ship which will transport it to the north east of England to be scrapped. The legs will stay in place.

The 24,000 tonne Brent Delta platform topsides sat on a three-legged gravity-based structure in 140 metres of water.

The Shell platform lies 115 miles north east of Shetland.

It is one of four which is due to be removed from the field in the coming years.

Unusually for a platform, the legs of Brent Delta are made of concrete which makes it much more difficult to decommission than one with steel legs.

Allseas, the company which operates the decommissioning vessel Pioneering Spirit, said it had set a world lifting record with the removal of the platform.

The topsides have now been sea-fastened on board the vessel for transportation to Teesside.

What is Brent Delta?

Brent Delta was one of the first platforms to be built in the very early days of Britain’s oil and gas industry.

It sits about 115 miles (185km) north-east of Shetland in a cluster of four platforms which make up the Brent field. Its sister, Brent Bravo, produced its first oil in 1976.

At its peak, in 1982, the four platforms were producing more than half a million barrels of oil a day.

Being one of the first, it’s now at the end of its life and has to be removed.

Brent Delta is the first major piece of infrastructure to be decommissioned in the North Sea.

More than 100 platforms are forecast to be completely or partially removed over the next decade in the waters of the UK and Norway.

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Queen Elizabeth II To 'Dress-Down' For UK Parliament Opening

Queen Elizabeth is responsible for the ceremonial opening of UK parliament business every year.

London:  For the first time in more than 40 years, Queen Elizabeth II will “dress-down” for the new UK Parliament opening following the snap elections on June 8 due to shortage of time to rehearse for the event.

British Prime Minister Theresa May had taken everyone by surprise when she declared a snap general election earlier this month.

The 91-year-old monarch is responsible for the ceremonial opening of parliament business every year, which involves considerable pomp and ceremony including being dressed up in flowing robes.

According to ‘The Times’, this time the Queen will wear a day dress and hat for the ceremony instead and not the imperial state crown as she delivers the Queen’s Speech outlining the government’s plans for the year ahead on June 19.

It will be the first time since 1974, when then Prime Minister Edward Heath had called a snap election, that the Queen has not worn the full ceremonial regalia for a state opening.

The changes have been agreed between Buckingham Palace, the UK government and parliamentary authorities because rehearsals for the state opening, which will now take place on June 19, clash with the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony held to mark the monarch’s official birthday in the second week of June.

The date also means that the Queen has had to cancel the Order of the Garter ceremony when she hands over royal medals at Windsor Castle.

Buckingham Palace said in a statement: “To allow her majesty to attend in support of the parliamentary and constitutional process, the Queen’s programme of engagements has been revised.

“As a result, the annual service for the Order of the Garter, which had been due to take place on 19th June, has been cancelled. Additionally, owing to the revised calendar, the state opening of Parliament will take place with reduced ceremonial elements,” it said.

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Niger 'cleared' over Areva uranium deal

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The “uranium-gate” case has fuelled protests in Niger

French nuclear giant Areva was solely responsible for a controversial $320m (£250m) uranium deal, a parliamentary investigation in Niger has said.

The 2011 deal, known as “uranium-gate”, involved companies in Niger and abroad. Activists have begun legal proceedings.

It caused an uproar after a local paper said it had served as cover for officials to embezzle public funds.

The report did not find any evidence of wrongdoing by any officials. Areva says it cannot comment on the report.

The French company says it has not yet received the report. It has previously said it was co-operating with a French investigation into the case.

Niger is one of the world’s biggest uranium producers and the metal is the country’s largest export.

Opposition parties say the report has been botched and lacks integrity.

They say that two of their lawmakers who were part of the group which led the inquiry were not associated in drafting the document.

Last month, activists in Niger started legal action into the deal, saying they feared the parliamentary investigation would lead to a whitewash.

Their complaint alleges embezzlement of public funds, money laundering, forgery and conspiracy to defraud.

According to the parliamentary inquiry: “A transaction took place indeed between Sopamin [a local mining company], Areva and other international partners.”

“The uranium used in that transaction is not uranium from Niger. The money transferred to [a bank account] in Dubai to fund the transaction is neither money of the state of Niger nor of Sopamin – it is Areva’s money.”

The on-going legal action centres on the allegation that Areva in 2011 bought a stock of uranium from Niger at a discounted price, causing the national treasury to lose money.

‘Trading operation’

Areva used the transaction to provide funds requested by Niger to secure uranium sites in the north against militant attacks, the report said.

Niger’s uranium mines are located in the Sahel region south of the Sahara Desert, an area where Islamist groups such as a local branch of al-Qaeda are active.

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Niger is a leading uranium producer with nearly all of its output sold to Areva

The report said that Finance Minister Hassoumi Massoudou had been involved as a mandated “representative” of Sopamin to facilitate the transfer of the requested funds.

He has previously denied any wrongdoing.

A separate French enquiry has been looking into the “uranium-gate” allegations as part of a wider investigation into Areva’s business dealings.

A spokesperson for the nuclear giant told the BBC the company maintains that the 2011 transaction was a “trading operation”.

“We have not seen the report and cannot comment on it,” the spokesperson added.

Niger has two significant uranium mines that provide 7.5% of the world mining output from Africa’s highest-grade uranium ores, according to the World Nuclear Association, the international organisation that represents the global nuclear industry.

Niger’s first commercial uranium mine began operating in 1971, with a strong government support for expanding uranium mining.

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Crowdfunding the election: How to pay for snap campaign

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Independent candidates are turning to crowdfunding to fish for their £500 deposits

It is the favourite money-raising tool for crazy dreams and passion projects, as well as more worthy causes – and now would-be MPs are getting on board.

Crowdfunding – asking lots of people to each donate a small sum of money online – has been around since the 1990s, when fans of cult rock bands got together to fund new albums and tours for their idols.

The sites are now used by a vast array of different fundraisers.

Currently, £25 might buy you a lamb for an Indian village, de-worming tablets for 500 children, or a ukulele.

On former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s website, though, it’ll buy 1000 A4 leaflets for his election campaign. He is not alone.

‘I could almost cry’

Sites like GoFundMe, Crowdfunder and Crowdpac are brimming with politicians.

Crowdfunder says that in the week since the UK election was called, more than £200,000 was raised for political projects on its site.

It is expecting a 50% increase in the number of candidates using crowdfunding compared to 2015.

Conservatives in Wirral South, UKIP candidate Phil Eckersley and sitting Labour MPs like Peter Kyle, Maria Eagle and Rachel Reeves are among those turning to the technique.

There is nothing new about politicians raising money online – but the snap election has left them very little time to raise money through traditional methods, forcing them to get creative.

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Supporters raised over £16,000 for Stephen Lloyd’s campaign in a week

Lib Dem Stephen Lloyd, who is trying to regain the Eastbourne seat he lost to Conservative Caroline Ansell in 2015, said: “Where you have more time, I have fundraising dinners, I’ve gone to more quizzes and raffles and tombolas than you could shake a stick at.

“I instantly realised I didn’t have time to do ten fundraisers over the next month.”

The internet offered an answer. He set up a page on his website asking for donations, and shared it on Facebook.

Within a week, 551 donors had raised over £16,000. He says the response touched him.

“The truth of it is I could almost cry. When I’ve gone out and asked people, they’ve stepped up. It makes me feel like I’m part of something.”

Businesswoman Gina Miller has crowdfunded over £300,000 to organise tactical voting and support up to 100 candidates opposed to a “hard Brexit”. That’s alongside numerous pages for SNP and Green candidates.

There’s even someone calling themselves “Mr Fish Finger” raising money to stand against Lib Dem leader Tim Farron.

Anyone who wants to take part in the election has to stump up a £500 deposit.

More democratic?

Green MEP Molly Scott Cato is hoping to become an MP in Bristol West. Both she and her party have crowdfunding pages.

“Greens have been using this model for a number of years. To be honest, it wasn’t that we preferred it – it was our only choice. We’re not a very well-funded party and so candidates needed to get hold of enough funds to put up for the deposit.”

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Green candidate Molly Scott Cato says crowdfunding is a more democratic way of raising funds

But isn’t it a bit odd to ask the public to fork out even more for the election? After all, June’s poll will cost the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds to administer.

Molly Scott Cato disagrees. “It’s a democratic approach. It allows everybody to support the party with their money, and later on support it with their vote as well, hopefully.

“It’s a way of people making obvious their investment in the campaign and their commitment to a Green candidate.”

Who can donate?

Up and down the country, politicians are turning to you, the public, for help with their campaigning costs. But they need to be careful.

The Electoral Commission regulates election spending and political donations. It says candidates must collect enough information from donors to be able to check they are allowed to accept their cash.

In a statement, the elections watchdog said: “When crowdfunding, campaigners must only accept donations over a certain value from a permissible source.

“For candidates that means donations exceeding £50, for political parties and non-party campaigners it is £500.

“Candidates, parties and non-party campaigners can only accept donations from permissible, mainly UK sources.

“They must therefore collect information from every donor to ensure that they can properly check that each donation is from a permissible source. If a donation is not from a permissible source, it must be returned within 30 days.”

So while it’s an effective way of raising cash quickly, if you’re crowdfunding, make sure you’re keeping tabs on who’s donating.

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