Amazon Robotics Challenge 2017 won by Australian budget bot

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The winning team compared its design to a 3D printer

Cartman – a budget-priced robot from Australia – has triumphed in an annual contest to create a machine that can identify, pick up and stow warehouse goods.

The bot was designed from scratch to take part in 2017’s Amazon Robotics Challenge and used a radically different design to past winners.

Instead of building a robotic arm, the victors used a sliding mechanism that picked up products from above.

The four-day event was held in Japan.

The winning Australian Centre for Robotic Vision (ACRV) squad was comprised of engineers from Queensland University of Technology, the University of Adelaide and the Australian National University.

They walk away with the $80,000 (£60,980) cash prize.

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Cartman was able to pick and stow more items than its rivals in the allotted time

“The parts for the robot were cheap by the standards of typical industrial robots and it could be built for under 30,000 Australian dollars [£18,245; $23,935] including its sensors,” Prof Jonathan Roberts, robotics lab leader at Queensland University of Technology told the BBC.

“But there were many thousands of hours of team effort that went into the design, testing and programming.”

Amazon already uses robots to move goods about its warehouses, but relies on humans to pick up and pack them.

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Teams were given two days to set up and test their equipment before they started to compete

It began hosting the competition in 2015 as a means to “promote shared and open solutions” to automating the tasks.

A total of 16 teams from 10 countries took part in the latest challenge in the city of Nagoya.

Unseen products

There were three stages to 2017’s time-limited contest:

  • the robot contestants had to pick up specified products from a mix of items and place them in the kind of boxes that might be used for deliveries
  • the robots had to take target items out of a container and place them into storage
  • a combination of the first two tasks, where all the items first had to be put into storage and then a selection lifted and put into boxes

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These were some of the objects the robots had to be able to recognise, handle and place

Amazon provided the teams with details of about half the products they would face in advance, but gave the roboticists just 30 minutes to photograph and practise with the others.

Points were awarded for correctly placing the items, with bonuses given for any remaining time on the clock.

But penalties were imposed for mistakes, dropping items from too great a height, and causing damage to the products and boxes.

Sliding parts

Cartman only placed fifth after the first two parts of the trials, but managed to leapfrog its rivals in the final stage.

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Most teams used robotic arms to carry out the tasks, including this robot from Singapore

The winning team believes its “Cartesian co-ordinate robot” design was better suited to the task than the arm-like designs of others.

The description refers to a robot that uses a frame to move in straight lines across three axes that are at right-angles to each other – ie vertically, horizontally and forward/back – in a similar fashion to the way container port cranes work.

In this case, the mechanism was used to support a rotating gripper that used suction cups and a two-fingered claw to grasp and manipulate the products.

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The 27 members of the ACRV team spent about 15,000 combined hours to design and train their robot

“It works a lot like a 3D-printer mechanism, where the robot manipulator is moved backwards and forwards and up and down,” explained Prof Jonathan Roberts.

“This made for a more accurate and simple system.”

The result was a big improvement on the same team’s sixth-place ranking in 2016, when it programmed a Baxter robot to take part.

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The Australian Centre for Robotic Vision used a commercial robot to take part in 2016

“We learnt from our experience last year when we used an off-the-shelf robot,” commented team leader Dr Juxi Leitner.

“[This year] I think we had the lowest cost robot at the event.”

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Pakistan Opposition Fails To Choose Candidate For Interim PM

Imran Khan put forward Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Rashid’s name but could not gain much support.

Islamabad:  Pakistan opposition members on Monday failed to arrive at a consensus on a single candidate for the interim Prime Minister following Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification by the Supreme Court in the Panamagate scandal.

President Mamnoon Hussain has called a session of the National Assembly on Tuesday for the election of an interim Prime Minister, Dawn reported.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s nominee Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who is currently facing a Rs 220 billion corruption inquiry being carried out by the National Accountability Bureau, submitted his nomination papers to Parliament Secretary Jawad Rafiq Malik on Monday.

Mr Abbasi, who was chosen by the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz party unanimously, said once elected, he would continue with the policies of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The opposition failed to agree on one nominee, with each party throwing its weight behind different candidates who too submitted their nomination papers.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, put forward Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Rashid’s name, but could not gain the support of any other party apart from Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid. The Awami Muslim League, significantly, was floated by former President (Gen) Parvez Musharraf. 

The Pakistan People’s Party of the late Benazir Bhutto nominated Khursheed Shah and Naveed Qamar, Muttahida Qaumi Movement chose Kishwar Zehra, while Jamaat-i-Islami suggested the name of Sahibzada Tariqullah.

Defending the party’s decision to nominate Sheikh Rashid, PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the AML leader “deserved the honour” (of becoming the interim PM) as he fought the Panama papers case “on both political and legal fronts” along with PTI chairman Imran Khan.

Mr Qureshi and PPP’s Khursheed Shah both expressed hope that the opposition parties would continue to make efforts to agree on a single candidate to be pitted against former Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

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Kids Company ex-directors facing bans

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Business Secretary Greg Clark is to bring proceedings against former directors of the collapsed charity Keeping Kids Company to have them banned from company directorships.

The Insolvency Service names former chief executive Camila Batmanghelidjh, Alan Yentob and seven others.

Kids Company – which provided support to deprived and vulnerable children – closed down in August 2015 following allegations of mismanagement.

The bans would be for up to six years.

The list of nine directors includes Mr Yentob, who was creative director at the BBC at the time of the charity’s collapse.

The proceedings name all nine former directors; Sunetra Devi Atkinson, Erica Jane Bolton, Richard Gordonn Handover, Vincent Gerald O’Brien, Francesca Mary Robinson, Jane Tyler, Andrew Webster and Alan Yentob,” said the Insolvency Service statement.

“The former chief executive Camila Batmanghelidjh was not formally a director at the time the charity collapsed. However, the proceedings will allege that she acted as a de facto director and should therefore also be disqualified from running or controlling other companies.”

“We can confirm that the Insolvency Service has written to the former directors of Keeping Kids Company informing them that the Business Secretary intends to bring proceedings to have them disqualified from running or controlling companies for periods of between two-and-a-half and six years.

“As this matter will now be tested in the Court, it is not appropriate to comment further.”

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Meet The Woman Who Coaches Buffett And Gates In Bridge

Most of the entrepreneurs I write about use business as a way to pursue their passions, whether it’s philanthropy, culture, sports or politics.

Sharon Osberg is the other way around.

Her passion is playing bridge, a card game for math whizzes that led her into a rarefied world most others would kill to be a part of.

Osberg parlayed a gift for the game into a series of business opportunities and high-powered “elephant bumping” that includes Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, billionaires whose net worths clock in at $74 billion and $90 billion, respectively.

“Bridge is my world,” said Osberg, who lives in Marin County outside San Francisco. “Everything in my adult life is a result of bridge, one way or another.”

Osberg even makes money from the game. She owns a piece of an online bridge company called BridgeBase that earns her a dividend, and gives her a rooting interest in the game’s popularity.

Indeed, she has been a bridge teacher and partner to both billionaires. Last week, she partnered with Gates – the founder of Microsoft – at a Toronto bridge tournament where they took second, and then relaxed over a glass of wine and chips.

“In photos of Bill and Warren playing bridge,” she said. “I am always the one whose back of the head is facing the camera.”

She calls Gates and Buffett “solid” bridge players and plays with them regularly. “They are not in the upper echelon of national or world players,” she said. “They are very solid, everyday players.”

“I love the game, and I love my partner,” Buffett said. “She’s a fabulous teacher, extremely smart and very patient. They talk about bridge partners who were asked how they should have played their hand and the partner says, ‘Under an assumed name.’ Sharon doesn’t do that.”

Still, the way each tackles the game may offer a clue to how they do business.

“There’s a big difference between Bill’s and Warren’s approach to learning the game,” Osberg said. “Bill is very scientific. He reads and studies on his own. Warren enjoys playing. Warren has good instincts.”

“When I first met Warren, his game was ragged around the edges,” she said. “We would play in the evening, and I would go through teaching points. He absorbed it like a sponge. Bill is the same way. Pretty big brain capacity.”

No kidding.

Osberg has her own chops in business. She spent 18 years at Wells Fargo, the San Francisco bank that is one of Buffett’s biggest equity holdings. (She was at Wells Fargo before she knew Buffett.)

I called Osberg last week while researching a story on a mutual fund I am writing about. Our conversation quickly turned toward bridge, Buffett and the interesting world she inhabits thanks to the game she loves.

Some people have paid millions just to have lunch with the Oracle of Omaha. Osberg trades gossip with him on the phone and plays bridge remotely with him three to four times a week.

She attends annual meetings in Omaha of Berkshire Hathaway, the sprawling conglomerate Buffett built. On Sundays, after the meeting winds down, Osberg will play bridge with shareholders as “part of the weekend experience. I play with everybody.”

Buffett recalled one hilarious moment in particular.

“I have a younger sister, Bertie, who likes to play bridge,” Buffett recalled. “She happened to be in [Omaha] with her husband for our annual Berkshire meeting. So the four of us play. By some miracle, my sister and her husband beat me and Sharon. My sister reached for the score pad, so I tore the sheet off and ate it. Not that it is a competitive game or something.”

Osberg has also bumped with the swells in Buffett’s orbit: She was an occasional guest at the Georgetown home of the late Katharine Graham, then the owner of The Washington Post, when Osberg visited the city during the 1990s.

This actually has an investing component to it: The subculture of bridge goes beyond Forbes billionaires, reaching into executive suites and boardrooms. Hedge fund star David Einhorn is a tournament bridge player. Bear Stearns, the investment firm that failed in the 2008 crash, was known as “the bridge firm” because its top management and many of its quant geeks were players.

“I just kissed [former Bear Stearns Chief Executive] Jimmy Cayne on the cheek last week,” Osberg said.

Famed value investor and Buffett mentor Ben Graham reportedly compared the strategy of bridge to the discipline of long-term investing.

This is from a 2013 report in the Globe and Mail in Toronto:

“As Graham pointed out, playing your hand right – in bridge or in the stock market – generally leads to success in the long term. It doesn’t, however, guarantee you success right now. Sometimes, playing a hand the right way leads to failure; sometimes picking a stock for the right reasons results in a loss.

“Bridge can teach an investor the importance of sticking to a well-thought-out strategy.”

Osberg is a member of the elite echelon of world-class female players, but she said she is playing in what is widely considered a man’s game.

Bridge has taken her to Tokyo, Athens, Chile, Australia, the island of Corsica, Verona, Paris, Montreal and virtually every major U.S. city.

Surprisingly, bridge is not for the faint of heart.

“Everyone loses more than they win,” Osberg said. “Losing is much more common. You have to develop a thick skin.

“It’s not easy to sit down to play in a tournament,” she said. “The way you move your cards and how you do your bidding. It’s very difficult.”

She recalled Buffett’s first bridge tournament, held in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They made it to the finals after two grueling qualifying rounds. “That was miraculous,” she said.

But Buffett, the steely capital allocator who moves world markets with mere utterances, had enough.

Osberg recalls: “He said, ‘I can’t do it anymore.’ It was so stressful, he didn’t want to play in the finals.”

“I had no business being in it at all,” Buffett said. “We were playing people not as good as Sharon was, but a whole lot better than I was. I dropped out. I was on the board of USAir at the time, so I said I had to get back to a board meeting. This was not great behavior on my part. I love the game, but playing in tournaments is too many hours of concentration.”

At her peak, Osberg was one of the top players in the world.

“I am no longer a serious player,” she said. “I used to play just to win. Now I play for the beauty of the game. It’s the same way mathematics can be beautiful. Your brain has to be nimble enough to recompute on the fly when information comes in.”

Osberg grew up near Philadelphia in an upper-middle class family of Italian immigrants. Her father was a businessman who helped run a family meat business.

She learned to play bridge at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., where she graduated with a political science degree in the early 1970s.

“Somebody a couple of doors down in the dorm said, ‘We need a fourth for bridge.’ I said, ‘I will do it.’ “

She was a natural. After graduation, Osberg moved to California and joined the large community of bridge players around the Bay Area.

“Everyone knew each other,” she said.

A fellow bridge addict hooked her up with Bank of America, where she participated in a three-month technology training program that introduced her to a business that drew on the same skill set that made her so successful at bridge.

“I loved programming,” she said. “It’s numbers, pattern recognition, problem solving. It’s just so cool. The same reason I love bridge.”

Osberg was in the right place at the right time. Bank of America was just beginning to pioneer technology that would lead to online banking.

She eventually spent 18 years at Wells Fargo, where she rose to executive vice president for technology and retired in 2000.

Her years running technology at Wells Fargo brought her into contact with Gates and other technology wheels. She remembers one meeting with entrepreneur Marc Andreessen, co-author of Mosaic, the first widely used Web browser.

The stiff bankers shed their jackets, dress shirts and ties to make their Silicon Valley guests comfortable, only to see Andreessen and company show up wearing suits.

She was invited to New York to play in a bridge tournament in the early 1990s, and was partnered with Buffett confidant Carol Loomis, at the time a Fortune magazine writer.

Buffett was playing too and invited her to stop in Omaha some time. “I said, ‘Where is Omaha?’ That was not the thing to say.”

When she finally stopped in his hometown, they went to dinner and Buffett pulled out a blank map of the U.S., and asked her to draw an X for Omaha.

They quickly became close friends. As her mentor educated her about business and managing people, Osberg bought her first shares in Berkshire Hathaway – at the then soaring price of $16,050 – ” a fortune to me.” (The stock today sells for around $259,600. Osberg owns a lot more of it.)

“He opened up a world I never would have been part of without him,” she said. “Once or twice a year, I get to sit back and just listen to Bill and Warren. They talk about companies. They talk about trends. Artificial intelligence. Nuclear proliferation. What the future might hold and the political implications in the business world.

“I don’t know how I got that lucky.”

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

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Doctor, About To Go Into Labour, Pauses To Deliver Another Woman's Baby

The Kentucky-based doctor put her own delivery on hold on hearing that the child was in distress. (File)

A Kentucky-based doctor who was in the hospital preparing to give birth put her own delivery on hold to deliver another woman’s baby after hearing that the child was in distress.

Amanda Hess, an obstetrician-gynecologist from Frankfort, checked into the Frankfort Regional Medical Center as a patient last week, donned a hospital gown and was moments away from induced labor when she heard a woman in another room wailing in pain, NBC News reported Saturday.

The woman was Leah Halliday Johnson, a pregnant mother who happened to be one of Hess’s patients. Just the week before, she had seen Hess during her final prenatal appointment, according to NBC.

Nurses told Hess that Halliday Johnson’s baby was coming far faster than expected and that the umbilical cord was wrapped loosely around the child’s neck, Halliday Johnson told Sunday. The on-call doctor had left the hospital for a break, and they needed immediate help.

That’s when Hess jumped in.

“I just put on another gown to cover up my backside and put on some boots over my shoes, to keep from getting any fluid and all that stuff on me, and went down to her room,” Hess told WKYT.

“I had actually taken a call the day before, so I thought really that I was working up to the last minute,” she added in an interview with LEX 18. “But this was literally ’til the last second.”

“I said you know, I’m not on call, I’m here in a gown, but I think we ought to have the baby,” she said.

Nurses had been urging Halliday Johnson not to push, but the pain was getting worse, she told on Sunday.

“I was not being quiet about the fact that it was difficult for me not to push,” Halliday Johnson said.

When Hess came in, Halliday Johnson didn’t realize the doctor was about to enter labor herself.

“She was definitely in doctor mode,” Halliday Johnson told NBC. “My husband noticed something was going on because she had on a hospital gown, but I didn’t notice that because I was on the delivery table. I was in my own world there.”

Halliday Johnson gave birth to a baby girl, according to NBC.

“She was just glad to be able to get to push and have the baby out and not have to wait any longer,” Hess told WKYT.

Shortly after, the on-call doctor arrived and took over. Her work in Halliday Johnson’s room done, Hess went back down the hall. Later that night, she too gave birth to a baby girl.

“Pretty amazing what she did,” Halliday Johnson told Lex 18. “I feel very lucky she was there and the type of person she is and step up to do what she did. We really appreciate her.”

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

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Putin bans VPNs in web browsing crackdown

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The law banning VPNs will come into force later this year

Vladimir Putin has banned virtual private networks (VPNs) and Tor in a crackdown on apps that allow access to websites prohibited in Russia.

The law, signed by Mr Putin, was passed by Russia’s parliament last week and will now come into force on 1 November.

A second law to ban anonymous use of online messaging services will take effect on 1 January next year.

It would make it easier for the state to snoop on citizens’ browsing habits, one internet security expert suggested.

The laws signed by Mr Putin are meant only to block access to “unlawful content” and not target law-abiding web users, the head of the lower house of parliament said, according to the RIA news agency.

One feature of the second law is the provision to require internet operators to restrict users’ access if they are found to be distributing illegal content.

What is a VPN?

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Media captionEXPLAINED: What is a VPN service?

VPNs allow users to mask their identity online by funnelling web browsing and other internet activity through another computer – sometimes one in a different country.

As a result, users can hide their IP addresses and access online material that has been censored or blocked by their internet service provider.

The move was part of a trend against privacy-protecting technologies that appeared to be “accelerating around the world”, according to Dr Joss Wright at the Oxford Internet Institute.

“Up till now these tools have slipped under the radar,” he told the BBC.

“But as states get more technical proficiency and as people use [VPNs] on a broad scale it’s being perceived as a problem.”

One consequence of taking a tougher stance on such technologies was an increased capacity for state-level surveillance of citizens, he added.

Dr Wright pointed out that there were many widely recognised uses for services like VPNs.

“Companies and businesses use them for remote work – people overseas accessing corporate networks,” he explained.

Police advice

Indeed, in the UK, the Metropolitan Police recently released a cyber-security advice video for members of the public that encourages the use of VPNs for accessing public wi-fi.

This is in order to prevent hackers snooping on people’s browsing data.

Separately, authorities in China have recently taken a stricter stance on VPNs.

The government announced in January that VPN providers would need to obtain a licence to distribute their products.

Apple was criticised over the weekend by such firms after it pulled many of these apps from the Chinese App Store.

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Pakistan's Interim PM Nominee Facing Rs 220 Billion Graft Inquiry

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is allegedly facing a Rs 220 billion corruption inquiry over an LNG contract.

Islamabad:  The ruling Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz party’s interim prime minister nominee Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is allegedly facing a Rs 220 billion corruption inquiry by Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau over an LNG contract, according to a media report.

Mr Abbasi, the former minister for petroleum and natural resources, is the principal accused in a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) case registered in 2015 over the award of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import contract, Dawn News reported.

Other suspects in the case include former petroleum secretary Abid Saeed, Inter State Gas Systems (ISGS) managing director Mobin Saulut, private firm Engro’s chief executive officer Emranul Haq and the Sui Southern Gas Company’s (SSGC) ex-MD Zuhair Ahmed Siddiqui, the report said.

Mr Abbasi is expected to be elected as the new prime minister by Pakistan’s Parliament tomorrow, replacing ousted premier Nawaz Sharif.

The Supreme Court on Friday disqualified 67-year-old Nawaz Sharif for dishonesty and ruled that corruption cases be filed against him and his children over the Panama Papers scandal, forcing the embattled leader out of office.

After Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification, the PML-N nominated Mr Abbasi as its candidate for the prime minister’s post for an interim period before Punjab Chief Minister and Nawaz Sharif’s brother Shehbaz Sharif replaces him for the remaining 10 months of the government’s term.

According to NAB documents, the contract for the LNG import and distribution was awarded to the Elengy Terminal, a subsidiary of Engro, in 2013 in violation of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules and relevant laws.

The bureau registered the case on July 29, 2015, but it is still in the inquiry stage, contrary to NAB Chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry’s claim that he has introduced a new strategy under which the process of complaint verification, inquiry, investigation and filing of reference takes 10 months, the report said.

It appears that like several cases of the Nawaz Sharif family, this one has also been dumped by the NAB, it said.

The case was registered on the complaint of Shahid Sattar, an energy expert and former member of the Planning Commission and the SSGC board of directors, along with others, accusing Mr Abbasi of misusing his authority and causing a potential USD 2 billion loss to the national exchequer in 15 years.

The NAB documents said that it had been recommended that the names of all accused in the case, including that of Mr Abbasi, should be placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) and the process was ongoing, the report said.

Talking to reporters after meeting Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman yesterday, Mr Abbasi had said he was not afraid of any reference.

He said that those levelling allegations against him should search their own souls and be ashamed of their deeds.

“Not only one case but get registered 10 references against me,” he said in reply to a question about Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed’s decision to approach the Supreme Court against him regarding the NAB proceedings.

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Kremlin Says Washington Can Decide Which Embassy Staff To Cut

Russia asked US to cut diplomats after US imposed new sanctions on Russia

Moscow:  Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday it would be up to Washington to choose which of its diplomatic staff in Russia would be cut after Russia demanded that it reduce 755 staff members in response to new US sanctions.

He said that Russian citizens working for the United States embassy could be among the 755 staff to go, as well as US diplomats.

Moscow did not wait until President Donald Trump signs the new sanctions into law because “there was no point in waiting” after the legislation was adopted in Congress, Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Editing by Christian Lowe)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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

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Pakistan Expresses Concern Over North Korea's Long-Range Nuclear Missile

North Korea says it’s missiles can reach ‘anywhere in the world’

Islamabad:  Pakistan today expressed concern over the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile by North Korea and asked Pyongyang to refrain from actions that could lead to escalation of tensions in the region and beyond.

On Friday, North Korea fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that experts say has the potential to reach the US mainland.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office said that North Korea’s actions are in contravention to the UN Security Council resolutions and undermine peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula as well as North East Asia.

“We continue to urge the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) to comply with its obligations under the UN Security Council resolutions and to refrain from actions that could lead to escalation of tensions in the region and beyond,” it said.

“We call on all relevant parties to pursue the path of dialogue and diplomacy to reduce tensions and work towards achieving a comprehensive solution,” it said.

North Korea has fired 18 missiles during 12 tests since February, further perfecting its technology with each launch.

On July 4, North Korea conducted its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which it claims could reach “anywhere in the world.”

The UN Security Council has already imposed six rounds of progressively tougher sanctions against North Korea.

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Flipkart-Snapdeal mega-deal collapses

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A deal between India’s two biggest e-commerce businesses has collapsed.

Market leader Flipkart offered $850m (£648m) for rival Snapdeal earlier this month, and the sale had been widely tipped to go through.

But Snapdeal said it had now decided to pursue “an independent path” and was ending talks.

With Amazon aggressively getting into the Indian market, it was widely thought only one of the two big local players would survive.

While discussions had been going on for months, it is thought Snapdeal’s co-founders, Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal, had been opposed to the idea of selling out to their arch-rival.

Softbank, one of Snapdeal’s main investors, said it respected the decision, saying that “supporting entrepreneurs and their vision and aspirations” was at the heart of its investment philosophy.

Amazon ‘to dominate’

India is the among the world’s fastest growing e-commerce markets, driven by the rise of affordable smartphones as well as the sheer volume of people getting internet access.

According to a report by Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, the number of internet users in India has climbed by 40% over the past year to about 355 million.

The same report suggested Amazon India would become the dominant firm in the market because of its investment in the country.

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Tesla Model 3: Elon Musk rolls out mass market model

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The first Tesla Model 3 cars off the production line are now with their new owners

Electric car maker Tesla has rolled out its new Model 3 vehicle – the company’s cheapest car to date.

The first 30 customers – most of them employees of the company – received their cars on Friday.

Chief executive Elon Musk said the Model 3 was the “best car for its cost, either electric or gasoline”.

Prices start at $35,000 (£26,650), which the firm hopes will bring mass market interest.

The price is still higher than that of rival electric car the Nissan Leaf, which starts at $30,680, or the hybrid Chevrolet Volt, which goes for $34,095.

Past Tesla models, the “S” and “X”, had a starting price of $80,000, putting them beyond the means of many.

The company aims to produce 5,000 units of the Model 3 a week in 2017, and 10,000 a week by 2018. Buyers ordering now are being told to expect delivery late next year.

More than half a million customers have already placed deposits.

If Tesla can successfully produce and sell that many cars a year, it will outperform BMW, Mercedes, and Lexus in the US.

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk wants to speed the transition to renewable energy

Showman Mr Musk was on buoyant form at a delivery ceremony at the firm’s plant in Fremont, California, driving on to an outdoor stage in a Model 3.

“For the future, the future being now, the cars will be increasingly autonomous,” Mr Musk said.

He added that every Tesla model had the hardware needed to drive itself.

“You will be able to watch a movie, talk to friends, go to sleep…”

The Model 3’s electric battery will run for 354km (220 miles) before needing a recharge, Tesla says.

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Elon Musk introduces one of the first cars off the production line

The more affordable Model 3 is a significant step for the firm, whose market value hit $49bn in April.

The Model 3 launch comes a week after the UK government announced an end to sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, under plans to tackle air pollution.

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ISIS Claims Kabul Attack On Iraqi Embassy Through Their Propaganda Agency

No casualties have been reported so far in the blast at Kabul’s Iraqi embassy (AFP)

Baghdad:  ISIS today claimed responsibility for an attack on the Iraqi embassy in the Afghan capital Kabul, its propaganda agency Amaq said.

Two members of “the Islamic State attack the Iraqi embassy building in the Afghan city of Kabul,” it said, without providing further details.

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

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Eurozone unemployment rate falls to 9.1%

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The unemployment rate in the eurozone has fallen to its lowest since February 2009, according to the latest official figures.

The rate dropped to 9.1% last month, from a downwardly revised 9.2% in May.

Separately, inflation remained unchanged in July at 1.3%, according to a preliminary estimate from Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics office.

However, core inflation, which excludes unprocessed food and energy prices, rose to 1.3% from 1.2% in June.

Inflation in the 19-nation bloc still remains well below the European Central Bank’s target of close to, but below, 2%.

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Ally Of Pakistan's Ousted Nawaz Sharif Nominated To Replace Him

Former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is expected to be elected Pakistans new prime minister.

Islamabad:  A close ally of ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday submitted papers in parliament to become new premier, part of a two-part plan by the ruling party for a smooth transition that will see Mr Sharif’s brother take the reins later.

Former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is expected to be elected new prime minister on Tuesday by Mr Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party’s majority of lawmakers.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered Mr Sharif disqualified from office last week over unreported income uncovered during a sweeping investigation of his finances.

The court also ordered a separate criminal investigation into Mr Sharif and his family in its ruling, which the ousted prime minister’s allies have portrayed as political meddling but opposition leader Imran Khan has hailed as a victory for the rule of law.

Mr Abassi on Monday stressed he would continue Nawaz Sharif’s policies. His tenure is expected to last only about two months until Mr Sharif’s brother, Shahbaz, becomes eligible to be prime minister by winning a parliamentary by-election.

“Our party will succeed with our majority, God willing,” Mr Abassi told reporters inside parliament after filing the official nomination papers.

“The policies we had until Friday, we will continue with that,” he added.

Mr Sharif’s PML-N party won elections in 2013 and holds a majority with 188 seats in the 342-member parliament, so it should be able to swiftly install its choice of premier, barring any defections from its own ranks.

Nawaz Sharif said over the weekend he was shocked by Friday’s Supreme Court ruling disqualifying him from office over unreported income from a company owned by his son in Dubai. Mr Sharif said the monthly salary – equivalent to $2,722 – was nominal and he never actually received any of it.

The Supreme Court employed little-used Article 62 of the Constitution, which calls for the dismissal of any lawmaker deemed dishonest, to remove Sharif. His allies believe the verdict smacks of judicial overreach. Others say privately that elements of the military had a hand in the process.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Brexit: Race to host EU agencies relocated from London

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The agencies are currently based in London’s Canary Wharf

EU countries have until midnight to enter a race to bid to provide a new home for two agencies that will be relocated from the UK after Brexit.

The European Banking Authority and the European Medicines Agency, based in Canary Wharf in London, employ just over 1,000 staff between them.

The banking and medicines agencies are seen as the first spoils of Brexit by the 27 remaining members of the EU.

About 20 countries are expected to enter the bidding process.

Glossy brochures

There will be fierce competition to attract the agencies’ highly skilled employees, their families and the business that comes with them.

This includes 40,000 hotel stays for visitors each year.

Countries have printed glossy brochures, posted promotional videos online and hired lobbying firms.

The contest has pitched larger countries against smaller ones from across the EU.

The European Commission will assess the entries based on the quality of office space, job opportunities for spouses and transport links.

European ministers will use a complicated voting system to choose the winners in November.

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Blasts, Gunfire Near Iraqi Embassy Rock Afghan Capital

Civilians were evacuated by security forces in Kabul, with no casualties reported yet (AFP)

Kabul:  A series of explosions and the sound of gunfire shook the Afghan capital today, with a security source telling AFP that a suicide bomber had blown himself up in front of the Iraqi embassy.

“Civilians are being evacuated” from the area as the attack is ongoing, said the official, who declined to be named. There was no immediate information about any casualties.

At least four explosions, along with the sounds of gunfire and grenades, were heard by AFP reporters and residents near the city’s diplomatic quarter shortly after 11:00 AM.

Security forces rapidly descended on the area, as the squeal of ambulance sirens rushing to the scene could also be heard.

A column of smoke rose into the air from the blast site.

Police confirmed at least one blast had taken place, but said they did not immediately have further information.

The Iraqi embassy is located in northwestern Kabul, in a neighbourhood that is home to several hotels and banks as well as large supermarkets and several police compounds.

The attack is the latest to rock Kabul, and comes as the resurgent Taliban ramp up their offensive across the country during the warmer weather fighting season.

A week ago, a car bomb struck the city during morning rush hour, killing at least 26 people.

A recent UN report showed that nearly 20 percent of all civilian deaths in Afghanistan in the first half of 2017 took place in Kabul.

Many of those deaths happened in a single attack in late May when a truck bomb exploded during the morning rush hour, killing more than 150 people and injuring hundreds.

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

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Deloitte's auditing of Mitie faces probe by watchdog

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Deloitte’s auditing of outsourcing firm Mitie Group’s accounts is to be probed by the UK’s accountancy watchdog.

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) said its investigation related to Mitie’s financial statements for the years ending 31 March 2015 and 2016.

Deloitte said it took the investigation “very seriously” and would co-operate fully.

Last month, Mitie reported a full-year loss after being hit by charges stemming from an accounting review.

One-off costs of £88.3m meant the company – which provides pest control, cleaning, security and healthcare services – posted an operating loss of £42.9m for the year to March.

The accounting review, which was carried out by KPMG, found the company’s accounting was “less conservative” than its peers.

In a statement, Deloitte said: “Audit quality is of critical importance to our firm and we are committed to maintaining the highest professional standards.

“We take this investigation very seriously and will co-operate fully with the Financial Reporting Council.”

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Easy to expose users' secret web habits, say researchers

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A lot of net advertising depends on grabbing information about what people do online

Two German researchers say they have exposed the porn-browsing habits of a judge, a cyber-crime investigation and the drug preferences of a politician.

The pair obtained huge amounts of information about the browsing habits of three million German citizens from companies that gather “clickstreams”.

These are detailed records of everywhere that people go online.

The researchers argue such data – which some firms scoop up and use to target ads – should be protected.

The data is supposed to be anonymised, but analysis showed it could easily be tied to individuals.

People’s browsing history is often used to tailor marketing campaigns.

Linking list

The results of the research by Svea Eckert and Andreas Dewes were revealed at the Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas this weekend.

The pair found that 95% of the data they obtained came from 10 popular browser extensions.

“What these companies are doing is illegal in Europe but they do not care,” said Ms Eckert, adding that the research had kicked off a debate in Germany about how to curb the data gathering habits of the firms.

Before the data is used to customise the range of adverts which people see, any information that could be used to identify exactly who generated the clicks is supposed to be removed.

However, said Mr Dewes, it was “trivial” – meaning easy – to tie the information directly to people and reveal exactly where they went online, the terms they searched for and the things they bought.

Cyber-hacks season:

The data analysed by the pair connected a list of sites and links visited to a customer identifier. However, he said, by drawing on public information that people share about their browsing habits, it became possible to connect that entry on a list to an individual.

“With only a few domains you can quickly drill down into the data to just a few users,” he said.

The public information included links people shared via Twitter, YouTube videos they reported watching, news articles they passed on via social media or when they posted online photos of items they bought or places they visited.

In many cases, he said, it was even easier to de-anonymise because the clickstreams contained links to people’s personal social media admin pages which directly revealed their identity.

“The public information available about users is growing so it’s getting easier to find the information to do the de-anonymisation,” he said. “It’s very, very difficult to de-anonymise it even if you have the intention to do so.”

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UK internet service providers will have to store a log of their customers’ activities

Dangerous data

The information revealed an intimate portrait of the browsing habits of people, said Ms Eckert.

“This could be so creepy to abuse,” she said “You could have an address book and just look up people by their names and see everything they did.”

In many cases the browsing habits did not expose anything illegal but might prove difficult for public figures to explain or justify, she said. In some cases it could leave them open to blackmail.

“After the research project we deleted the data because we did not want to have it close to our hands any more,” she said. “We were scared that we would be hacked.”

When asked about UK plans to make ISPs gather clickstreams on every Briton for security purposes, Ms Eckert urged the government to restrict for how long the information could be kept.

“If you are strong on data protection then you should not be allowed to do it,” she said, “But for security purposes then perhaps you can hold on to it for a while.”

Limiting how long it could be held would lessen the damage if the clickstreams were leaked or hacked, she said.

“You have to be very careful,” she said “It’s so, so dangerous.”

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FTSE 100 bolstered by HSBC results

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The UK market opened higher, helped by HSBC after the banking giant reported a rise in half-year profits.

HSBC’s shares were up 3.1% in early trade after it said profits rose 5% to $10.2bn (£7.8bn) and announced a share buyback of up to $2bn.

The bank was one of the biggest risers on the FTSE 100, with the index itself up 35.98 points at 7,404.35.

Shares in utility companies Severn Trent and United Utilities were both lifted by a broker upgrade.

RPC lifted its rating on both companies to “outperform”.

Cigarette companies remained under pressure following Friday’s news that the US Food and Drug Administration was considering cutting the level of nicotine in cigarettes. Shares in Imperial Brands fell 4.4% and British American Tobacco dropped 1.8%.

On the currency markets, the pound fell 0.1% against the dollar to $1.3118 and rose 0.1% against the euro to 1.1191 euros.

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Two Babies Die In Hot Cars In The Same City, Hours Apart

Every year in the Phoenix area, fire officials say, roughly 10 parents come to the stomach-clenching conclusion that they’ve made a fatal mistake and left a small child in a sweltering car.

Last week, with temperatures regularly topping 100 degrees, it happened twice in a 24-hour period.

Both deaths – a 1-year-old found dead in a church parking lot on Saturday and a 7-month-old who died while being cared for by his grandparents the day before – are under investigation. Both are believed to be accidental.

The deaths were the first and second cases of a child dying of heat stroke in a sweltering car this year, Sgt. Mercedes Fortune told The Washington Post. The city is in what is called the monsoon season, when temperatures and humidity are at their highest points. Public officials sound “a steady drumbeat” of warnings about hydration, hiking and leaving pets and children unattended, she said.

The high temperature in Phoenix was 103 degrees on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. It was 101 degrees the day before.

On Friday, 7-month-old Zane Endress died after he had been left in the northeast part of the city for four hours, Fortune said.

“How could this happen to good people and a good boy,” the child’s aunt, Michelle Anderson, told the Arizona Republic as she wiped away tears. “He never cried and was so happy.”

Photos from the scene showed police cars parked in a suburban neighborhood.

A day later, at the Free Church of God in Christ near 27th Street, a father returned to his car and realized that his 1-year-old son was still inside.

Police later identified the baby as Josiah Riggins. Fire officials pronounced the child dead at the scene.

The father had apparently left the child unattended for at least two hours at the family’s home in nearby Mesa before driving to the church, Fortune said. Investigators believe Josiah died there, so that city’s police department is taking over the investigation.

The child’s father has not been arrested. He was cooperating with investigators, who will ultimately present their evidence to the Maricopa District Attorney’s office, to determine if the man committed a crime.

Since 1998, 729 children left in vehicles have died of heatstroke, according to, an organization that tracks the deaths of children in hot vehicles.

Arizona has one of the nation’s worst rates of children dying in hot cars at, 18.1 per 1 million people, according to the organization’s database.

The Phoenix area sees about 10 hot car child deaths a year, Phoenix Fire Capt. Larry Subervi told NBC News.

According to’s research, the ambient temperature of a car can reach 19 degrees above the ambient temperature in less than 10 minutes, and nearly 30 degrees hotter than air temperature in 20 minutes.

Last year, the organization recorded 29 heatstroke deaths of children left in cars. Since 1998, the United States has averaged 37 heatstroke fatalities.

Families can suffer with the emotional scars of such deaths for a lifetime. And the justice system must sort out whether the parent’s actions fell on the wrong side of the law.

As The Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten wrote in 2009:

“There may be no act of human failing that more fundamentally challenges our society’s views about crime, punishment, justice and mercy. According to statistics compiled by a national child’s’ safety advocacy group, in about 40 percent of cases authorities examine the evidence, determine that the child’s death was a terrible accident – a mistake of memory that delivers a lifelong sentence of guilt far greater than any a judge or jury could mete out – and file no charges. In the other 60 percent of the cases, parsing essentially identical facts and applying them to essentially identical laws, authorities decide that the negligence was so great and the injury so grievous that it must be called a felony, and it must be aggressively pursued.”

Fortune said that as the season with the most child hyperthermia deaths continues, parents should take more time to make sure their children are safe.

“We hear that parents are saying they forgot their babies in their vehicles,” she told the Republic. “Take some time, again, to look inside your vehicle . . . to just avoid these tragedies.”

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

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Brexit: UK will not cut taxes, says Philip Hammond

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The UK will not cut taxes and regulations after Brexit to try to undercut European rivals, Chancellor Philip Hammond has suggested.

He told French newspaper Le Monde that the tax raised as a percentage of the British economy “puts us right in the middle” of the European pack.

“We don’t want that to change, even after we’ve left the EU,” he said.

This is at odds with what Mr Hammond said in an interview with German newspaper Welt am Sonntag in January.

BBC political correspondent Chris Mason says that having lost their majority at the election, the Conservatives would struggle to persuade the Commons to support slashing taxes and regulation.

Mr Hammond told Le Monde: “I often hear it said that the UK is considering participating in unfair competition in regulation and tax.

“That is neither our plan nor our vision for the future.

“I would expect us to remain a country with a social, economic and cultural model that is recognisably European.”

‘Change our model’

Mr Hammond was asked earlier this year by Welt am Sonntag whether the UK could become a tax haven.

He said he was “optimistic” about securing a good trade deal with the EU but if this did not happen “you can be sure we will do whatever we have to do”.

“If we have no access to the European market, if we are closed off, if Britain were to leave the European Union without an agreement on market access, then we could suffer from economic damage at least in the short-term,” he said at the time.

“In this case, we could be forced to change our economic model and we will have to change our model to regain competitiveness.”

In the French interview, Mr Hammond said the UK wanted EU workers be part of the British economy and carry on with their family life in the country, and the same for British expats working in Europe.

He said the bill for Brexit was not a question about money, but how the UK leaves the EU without causing problems for businesses and people.

Breaking up the City of London would benefit New York not Frankfurt or Paris, he added.

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10 Killed As Venezuela Vote Turns Violent

Caracas:  A wave of bloodshed swept Venezuela Sunday as troops cracked down on violent protests against elections to choose the members of a powerful assembly that President Nicolas Maduro has tasked with writing a new constitution.

Protesters attacked polling stations and barricaded streets around the country, drawing a bloody response from security forces, who opened fire with live ammunition in some cases.

At least 10 people were killed, prompting the United States to threaten further “strong and swift” sanctions on Maduro’s government.

Senior opposition leader Henrique Capriles called on Venezuelans to continue defying the deeply unpopular Maduro with new protests against the election and the “massacre” he said accompanied it.

“We do not recognize this fraudulent process,” he said at the close of voting, calling for nationwide marches Monday and a mass protest in Caracas Wednesday, the day the new “Constituent Assembly” is due to be installed.

Maduro has decreed a ban on protests during and after the vote, threatening prison terms of up to 10 years.

The socialist president is gambling his four-year rule on the 545-member assembly, which will be empowered to dissolve the opposition-controlled congress and rewrite the constitution.

But the unrest fueled fears that his insistence on convening the assembly — despite months of demonstrations and fierce international criticism — would only plunge the country deeper into chaos.

Ten dead

Prosecutors said 10 people were killed in violence around the vote, bringing the death toll in four months of protests to some 120 people.

Those killed included a candidate for the new assembly, a regional opposition leader, two teenage protesters and a soldier in the western state of Tachira, which saw some of the worst violence.

In eastern Caracas, seven police were wounded when an improvised explosive targeted their motorcycle convoy.

National guard troops used armored vehicles, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters blocking roads in the west of the capital.

Soldiers also violently moved against protesters in the second city of Maracaibo, in the west, and Puerto Ordaz in the east.

The opposition had called for a boycott and mass demonstrations against the election, which it condemned as a bid to install a dictatorship.

“This constituent assembly is being born in a bloodbath. It is born illegitimate,” said Nicmer Evans, a prominent socialist turned Maduro critic, alleging widespread irregularities.

Maduro vote glitch

Maduro kicked off voting by casting his ballot in a west Caracas polling station.

“I’m the first voter in the country. I ask God for his blessings so the people can freely exercise their democratic right to vote,” he said. He was accompanied by his wife, Cilia Flores, a candidate for the new assembly.

He got a technological snub when he scanned his ID card at the polling station and the screen spit out the words, “This person does not exist or the ID was canceled.”

Maduro, whose term is meant to end in 2019, describes the election as the most important in Venezuelan history.

“I have come to vote to tell the gringos and the opposition that we want peace, not war, and that we support Maduro,” said voter Ana Contreras.

Turnout will be key to determining the legitimacy of the election.

But that will be difficult to ascertain, as most voters will be able to vote twice: once by region and once by social or industrial sector.

According to polling firm Datanalisis, more than 70 percent of Venezuelans oppose the idea of the new assembly — and 80 percent reject Maduro’s leadership.

“The people are not going to give up the streets until this awful government goes,” protester Carlos Zambrano, 54, told AFP in western Caracas.

Venezuelans also protested in Miami, Madrid and various Latin American cities.

The number of Venezuelans living abroad has soared as the once-booming oil producer has descended into a devastating economic crisis marked by shortages, runaway inflation, riots and looting.

US sanctions

Fear of the violence worsening has rippled across the region, and beyond.

The US, the EU, Canada and Latin American powers including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico have condemned the election.

“Maduro’s sham election is another step toward dictatorship,” tweeted US envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

Britain’s junior foreign minister Alan Duncan also described the vote as a “sham,” as did many experts.

“The vote means the end of any trace of democratic rule. Maduro’s blatant power grab removes any ambiguity about whether Venezuela is a democracy,” said Michael Shifter, head of the Inter-American Dialogue research center.

Several foreign airlines, including Air France, Delta, Avianca and Iberia have suspended flights to Venezuela over security concerns.

The US has ordered the families of its diplomats to leave after imposing sanctions on 13 current and former Venezuelan officials.

It threatened further sanctions against Caracas.

“We will continue to take strong and swift actions against the architects of authoritarianism in Venezuela, including those who participate in the National Constituent Assembly as a result of today’s flawed election,” US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

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

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Why did Apple pull VPNs from its app store in China?

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The creators of several Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have criticised Apple’s decision to remove their products from its app store in China.

VPNs allow users to hide their IP addresses and access online material that might be blocked by internet filters.

At least three were removed from the app store over the weekend.

Apple said it was legally required to remove the apps because they did not comply with new regulations.

Which VPNs have been affected?

ExpressVPN, VyprVPN, StarVPN each received notice from Apple on Saturday that their products would be removed from the app store.

Golden Frog, the company that distributes VyprVPN was critical of the decision, saying it would file an appeal with Apple.

“If Apple views accessibility as a human right, we would hope Apple will likewise recognize internet access as a human right (the UN has even ruled it as such) and would choose human rights over profits,” said Golden Frog’s president Sunday Yokubaitis in a blog post.

ExpressVPN said it was “dismayed” that the tech giant had “sided with censorship.”

The apps are still available in Apple’s app stores outside China.

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Who uses VPNs in China and why?

China has for many years censored content it sees as politically sensitive, using an increasingly sophisticated set of filters that critics have called the “great firewall.”

In its most recent rankings, the advocacy group Freedom House dubbed China “the year’s worst abuser of internet freedom.”

VPNs allow users to skirt around these filters and gain access to websites and services that are restricted or banned.

There is no outright ban on VPNs, and in fact many major corporations use them legitimately under the current laws.

The latest push to tighten access has targeted VPNs that are mostly used by individuals rather than companies.

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Why did Apple remove the VPNs?

In January, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced that all developers offering VPNs must obtain a license from the government.

And Apple said it was required to remove some VPN apps from its store because they didn’t comply with those regulations.

But it is fair to say that Apple has many reasons to be wary of incurring Beijing’s wrath.

The tech giant makes much of its hardware in China, and it has become a major market for its products too.

And with low cost local competitors cutting into the iPhone’s market share, Apple’s profits are more likely to depend on apps and services, some of which could run into China’s censorship regime.

Earlier this month Apple also established its first data centre in China, in conjunction with a local company Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry.

Although Apple said it would retain the encryption keys and would not compromise users’ privacy, some experts have suggested that housing data in China could create pressure for Apple to hand over data in future disputes.

What else does China restrict?

Recently, attachments such as voice messages and images stopped working on the messaging app WhatsApp.

The Chinese government has not confirmed that this is part of a censorship push, but WhatsApp has not made any suggestion that it was merely a technical problem.

Beijing blocks social media sites and apps, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Search engines like Google are blocked, and access to many foreign media outlets, including the BBC, is restricted.

Recently, China blocked social media posts and even private messages and group chats about the death of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

The government is expected to tighten restrictions ahead of the next communist party congress, where President Xi Jinping is tipped to retain the top job.

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I Have Got A Snake Stuck To My Face, Woman Says In Emergency Call

The snake and the Ohio woman it was wrapped around had not always been at odds.

The 911 dispatcher who answered the woman’s frantic call on Thursday was able to discern some aspects of the interspecies relationship that had suddenly and dangerously soured.

There had been some sort of rescue, the woman said after giving her location in the Ohio city of Sheffield Lake and a brief, breathless description of the predicament she was in, according to a 911 recording obtained by the Elyria, Ohio-based Chronicle-Telegram. The woman had brought the 5½-foot-long snake into her home along with another snake in recent days.

They joined a growing assemblage of legless reptiles. The woman possessed nine other snakes, presumably also rescues, but they weren’t loose and weren’t attacking people at the moment, she told the dispatcher.

What was unclear is where the woman’s rescue plan went so badly awry.

Now, she said, she was on the ground, with an unyielding boaconstrictor wrapped around her body.

“Oh, please. I have a boa constrictor stuck to my – my face,” she told the dispatcher.

The dispatcher seemed incredulous: “Ma’am, you have a what?”

“A boa constrictor,” the woman confirmed.

“You have a boa constrictor . . . You’re outside with a boa constrictor stuck to your face?”

The dispatcher notified paramedics, then tried to figure out more about the woman’s predicament, which was clearly petrifying her.

“Please hurry,” she screamed. “He has a hold of my nose.”

The snake wasn’t venomous, the woman said. And it wasn’t cutting off her breathing or circulation – at least not yet. But there was “blood everywhere.”

“Oh, God, hurry, please. He’s around my waist and he has my nose.”
The woman may have been in more danger than she or dispatchers thought at the time.

A 2015 study showed that boa constrictors don’t actually suffocate their prey, as The Washington Post’s Elahe Izadi reported. Their squeezing cuts off the unwitting victim’s blood flow, stopping oxygen from getting to the brain. Victims quickly lose consciousness, then die.

Near the end of the recording, she went silent for a while, but then sirens could be heard, growing louder, getting closer.

Sheffield Lake Fire Chief Tim Card told the Chronicle-Telegram what first responders found when they reached her.

“It was wrapped around her neck and biting her nose and wouldn’t let go,” Card said. “They had to cut its head off with a knife to get it to let go of her face.”

While it appeared to be the first snake attack of this magnitude in Sheffield Lake, such dangerous interactions are not uncommon, according to Born Free, an organization that advocates against owning exotic pets such as snakes.

The organization catalogued more than 471 attacks by snakes between 1995 and 2013. The numbers are probably higher, the organization said, if unreported incidents are factored in.

“Clearly this is a national problem,” Adam Roberts, then executive vice president of Born Free USA, said in a news release. “We are seriously concerned about the epidemic of owning deadly snakes. Large snake ownership remains unregulated or poorly regulated across the country. . . . Snakes are wild animals who cannot be trained and at any time can display their normal wild behavior, which may include a poisonous bite or strangulation.”

The Sheffield Lake woman was rescued, but it’s unclear what became of her snakes and of her.

Police said no report had been taken; it’s not known whether the woman faced charges or had her 10 remaining snakes removed. 

Boaconstrictors are not listed as one of the dangerous wild animals prohibited under the Ohio Dangerous Wild Animal Act. (Other snakes, including various species of anacondas and pythons, are on the list.)

All a reporter found at the scene were the remnants of what had transpired: an empty glass cage on the sidewalk and a small puddle of blood in the driveway.

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

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HSBC sees half-year profits rise by 5%

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HSBC has reported a 5% rise in profits in the first half of 2017.

Europe’s biggest bank posted a pre-tax profit of $10.2bn (£7.8bn) for the first six months, up by about $500m.

As widely expected, it has also announced a share buyback of up to $2bn which it expects to complete by the end of 2017.

HSBC’s share price has rallied in the past year, helped by the weak pound which makes profits earned abroad more valuable when repatriated to the UK.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, HSBC has been cutting jobs and selling assets to make the group more profitable while still making dividend payments to shareholders

“In the past 12 months we have paid more in dividends than any other European or American bank and returned $3.5 billion to shareholders through share buy-backs,” HSBC’s chief executive Stuart Gulliver said.

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'Person Does Not Exist': Machine Snubs Nicolas Maduro As He Tries To Vote

The voting machine failed to read Nicolas Maduro’s ‘fatherland card’

Caracas:  After months of devastating shortages, deadly protests and mounting chaos, many a Venezuelan has wished President Nicolas Maduro never existed.

The computer system handling Sunday’s controversial elections to his powerful new constitution re-writing body appears to feel the same way.

When Maduro scanned his ID card as he cast his ballot — the first Venezuelan to do so — the screen spit out the words, “This person does not exist or the ID was canceled.”

The message, displayed on the screen of a poll worker’s cell phone, was captured by TV cameras and soon went viral online.

The ID card in question is the “fatherland card” introduced by Maduro’s socialist government to buy subsidized food and access other social programs.

As Maduro delivered a speech at the polling station, he paused to theatrically whip out his card.

“Let’s check my fatherland card so it will be permanently registered that I came to vote, and so my fatherland card will be engraved with it for life: that I voted the historic day of the constituent assembly,” he said.

He then presented his card’s bar code to be read with a scanner.

“Did it read it?” he asked the young poll worker.

“Yes, it did,” she said, without appearing to show him the message.

Maduro’s opponents condemn the ID card as a means of social control that rewards government supporters with handouts and ensures state employees vote in elections such as Sunday’s.

But opposition lawmaker Freddy Guevara joked on Twitter that maybe his side had overestimated the government’s capacity for Orwellian control.

“The system doesn’t work. If you’re a public employee, they don’t know whether you voted or not,” he wrote.

Election day was no laughing matter, however, with at least nine people killed in violence around the vote.

More than 100 people have died in four months of protests against Maduro’s government.

The mustachioed president is trying to strengthen his hand by forming a 545-member body to draft a new constitution amid a crushing economic and political crisis.

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

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4 Arab Countries Say They Are Ready For Qatar Dialogue With Conditions

Qatar has called the Gulf states’ sanctions a violation of international law

Dubai:  The four Arab countries that have cut ties with Qatar said on Sunday they were ready for talks to tackle the dispute if Doha showed willingness to deal with their demands.

The foreign ministers of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates met in the Bahraini capital, Manama, to discuss the crisis that has raised tensions across the region.

The Saudi-led bloc cut ties with the Gulf state on June 5, accusing it of backing terrorist groups and cosying up to their arch-foe Iran, allegations that Doha denies.

Diplomatic efforts led by Kuwait and backed by Western powers have failed to end the dispute, in which the four states have severed travel and communications with Qatar.

“The four countries are ready for dialogue with Qatar with the condition that it announces its sincere willingness to stop funding terrorism and extremism and its commitment to not interfere in other countries’ foreign affairs and respond to the 13 demands,” Bahrain’s foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, told a joint news conference after the meeting.

They announced no new economic sanctions on the Gulf state.

Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain previously issued a list of 13 demands for Qatar, which include curtailing its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, shutting down the Doha-based Al Jazeera channel, closing a Turkish military base and downgrading its relations with Gulf enemy Iran.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Qatar was not serious in tackling the countries’ demands.

“We are ready to talk with Qatar on the implementation of the demands, on the implementation of the principles, if Qatar is serious, but it has been clear that it is not,” he said.

The four countries have also listed “six principles” they want Qatar to adopt.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani dismissed Sunday’s statement from the four countries and said sanctions were violating international laws.

“There isn’t a clear vision (from Manama’s meeting), there is only a stubborn policy from the blockading countries and refusal to admit that these are illegal actions,” Sheikh Mohammed told Al Jazeera TV channel.

Earlier on Sunday, al-Hayat newspaper said, citing unidentified Gulf sources, that the four countries “are expected to impose sanctions that will gradually affect the Qatari economy.”

Saudi Arabia has closed its land border with Qatar, while all four countries have cut air and sea links with Doha, demanding the gas-exporting country take several measures to show it was changing its policies.

Turkey and Iran have stepped in to provide fresh produce, poultry and dairy products to Qatar instead of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, with Oman providing alternative ports to those in the UAE.

The four Arab countries added 18 groups and individuals they say are linked to Qatar to their “terrorist” lists last week.

(Reporting by Sami Aboudi and Omar Fahmy; Additional reporting by Mostafa Hashem in Doha; Editing by Jane Merriman and Peter Cooney)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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US Says Time For Talk On North Korea 'Is Over'

Washington:  The United States said Sunday the time for talk over North Korea was “over,” spurning a UN response to Pyongyang’s latest ICBM launch in favour of bomber flights and missile defence system tests.

Nikki Haley, the US envoy to the United Nations, said there was “no point” in holding a fruitless emergency Security Council session, warning that a weak additional council resolution would be “worse than nothing” in light of the North’s repeated violations.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un boasted of his country’s ability to strike any target in the US after an intercontinental ballistic missile test Friday that weapons experts said could even bring New York into range — in a major challenge to Trump.

US strategic bombers on Saturday flew over the Korean peninsula in a direct response to the launch, and on Sunday American forces successfully tested a missile interception system the US hopes will be installed on the Korean peninsula.

Under Kim’s leadership, North Korea has accelerated its drive towards a credible nuclear strike capability, in defiance of international condemnation and multiple sets of UN sanctions. The US Senate passed new bipartisan sanctions on Pyongyang on Friday.

Haley urged China, Japan and South Korea to tighten the screws on Pyongyang.

“An additional Security Council resolution that does not significantly increase the international pressure on North Korea is of no value,” she wrote.

“It sends the message to the North Korean dictator that the international community is unwilling to seriously challenge him.

“China must decide whether it is finally willing to take this vital step. The time for talk is over.”

‘They do NOTHING’

Earlier, US President Donald Trump warned that he would not allow China — the impoverished North’s sole major ally and economic lifeline — to “do nothing” about Pyongyang.

In two tweets, Trump linked trade strains with the Asian giant — marked by a trade deficit of $309 billion last year — to policy on North Korea, after Seoul indicated it could speed up the deployment of a US missile defense system that has infuriated China.

“I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk,” Trump wrote.

“We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!”

Trump has repeatedly urged China to rein in its recalcitrant neighbor, but Beijing insists dialogue is the only practical way forward.

Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of US treaty ally Japan, also urged Beijing to act — along with Moscow — after telephone talks with Trump on Monday Tokyo time.

The North had “trampled all over” efforts to seek a peaceful solution to the situation and “unilaterally escalated” tensions.

“The international community including China and Russia must take it seriously and step up pressure,” he told reporters.
– ‘Stern warning’ –

Pyongyang lauded the developers of the missile at the weekend, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

The US-led campaign only provided “further justification” for the North’s resolve to maintain its weapons programs, Pyongyang’s foreign ministry said in a statement carried by KCNA.

The ICBM test “is meant to send a stern warning to the US making senseless remarks, being lost to reason in the frantic sanctions and pressure campaign against the DPRK,” it said, using an acronym for the North’s official name.

Independent experts say it brings Los Angeles and Chicago within range, and could travel as far as Boston and New York.

Pacific Air Forces commander General Terrence O’Shaughnessy called Pyongyang “the most urgent threat to regional stability.”

“If called upon, we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing,” he said.

In a 10-hour joint mission at the weekend US B-1B bombers along with fighter jets from the South Korean and Japanese air forces practiced intercept and formation drills.

It was followed by the successful test of the missile defense system, with the launch of a medium-range missile over the Pacific that was “detected, tracked and intercepted” in Alaska.

In a standard response to the test, Beijing urged restraint by all sides, after the US and South Korea conducted a live-fire exercise using surface-to-surface missiles.

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

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Australian Plane Plot May Have Involved Bomb Or Gas: Reports

The suspects allegedly wanted to carry the device on a flight from Australia to the middle east (AFP)

Four men accused of plotting to bring down a plane planned to use poisonous gas or a crude bomb disguised as a meat mincer, reports said Monday, with Australian officials calling preparations “advanced”.

The men — reportedly two Lebanese-Australian fathers and their sons — were arrested in raids across Sydney on Saturday evening.

The Sydney Daily Telegraph said they allegedly planned to carry the device on board a commercial flight from Sydney to a Middle East destination as hand luggage.

It said the idea was to use wood scrapings and explosive material inside a piece of kitchen equipment such as a mincing machine.

The Sydney Morning Herald also reported that a mincer was being examined, while The Australian newspaper cited multiple sources as saying it was a “non-traditional” device that could have emitted a toxic sulphur-based gas.

This, it said, would have killed or immobilised everyone on the aircraft.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the plans were “advanced” but refused to comment on the conflicting claims over the method of attack.

“I have to respect the integrity of the investigations,” he said.

“But I can say that certainly the police will allege they had the intent and were developing the capability.

“There will obviously be more to say over coming days. It will be alleged that this was an Islamist, extremist terrorist motivation.”

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin on Sunday said the aviation industry was potentially a target and that an improvised explosive device was involved.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan on Monday called the plans “quite sophisticated”.

“It was a plot to bring down an aircraft with the idea of smuggling a device on to it to enable them to do that,” he said.

A magistrate late Sunday gave police an additional seven days to detain the men, who have not been officially named, without charge.

Police continued to gather evidence Monday at the five homes raided, warning the investigation would be “very long and protracted”.

TV footage on Saturday showed riot police moving on a terraced house in the inner-city suburb of Surry Hills, with a man with a bandage on his head being led away by authorities, draped in a blanket.

A woman at the address denied they had any link to terrorism.

Security has been strengthened at major domestic and international airports across Australia since the raids, with passengers asked to arrive early and to limit their baggage.

Australia’s national terror alert level was raised on September 2014 amid concerns over attacks by individuals inspired by organisations such as Islamic State.

A total of 12 attacks, before the latest one, have been prevented in the past few years, while 70 people have been charged.

Several terror attacks have taken place in Australia in recent years, including a Sydney cafe siege in 2014 that saw two hostages killed.


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Woman Blames Trump Selfies For Her Divorce

The news release begins with a statement as terse and vague as you would expect from a high-profile couple confirming their divorce, after reporters got wind of it.

Lynn and Dave Aronberg – a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader and the top prosecutor in Palm Beach County, Florida, respectively – have “decided to respectfully and amicably part ways and end our marriage,” they announced in a joint statement last week.

“We kindly ask for your support in preserving our privacy as we start to navigate this new chapter of our lives.”

So far, so standard.

And then, mystifyingly, the next seven paragraphs of the news release are spent obliterating privacy and expectations alike.

The release, which was issued by Lynn Aronberg’s PR representative, quotes almost verbatim from a gossip website about the “brand new BMW” and tens of thousands of dollars that she apparently extracted from her husband in a settlement.

It claims the state attorney’s reluctance to have children contributed to the breakup.

And it concludes with the line that would propel the couple’s divorce case from Palm Beach County gossip pages to international news:

“A staunch Republican and supporter of President Donald Trump, Lynn also said she felt increasingly isolated in the marriage.”

Or as the PR firm headlined it: “the Trump Divorce.”

With the same anonymous sources and exclamation points it would use to chronicle the demise of their marriage, the website Gossip Extra broke news of the couple’s engagement minutes after it took place in late 2014:

“EXCLUSIVE,” reads the headline, “State Attorney Dave Aronberg Asks ex-Miami Dolphins Cheerleader to Marry Him … Atop Eiffel Tower … She Says Yes!”

They had met years earlier, Lynn Aronberg told The Washington Post, when he was a state senator in the 2000s. She described herself as a lifelong Republican and him as “a short Democrat” who nevertheless appealed to her.

They married on a beach in 2015. The gossip site covered that, too.

Though she put aside cheerleading years ago to build a career in publicity, Aronberg, 37, said her husband’s liberal supporters came to regard her as “the hayseed wife” – nearly 10 years his junior, with intolerable politics.

“It wasn’t an issue at first, but that was before the Hillary-Trump saga,” she said. “And as that built, the tension in our relationship built.”

Despite his affiliation in the Florida statehouse, Aronberg is not exactly a party-line Democrat.

He was elected to the state attorney’s office in 2012 with the help of Republican donors, according to the Palm Beach Post.

And the prosecutor has been spotted multiple times at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, according to the newspaper – despite backing Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race; investigating assault accusations against Trump’s campaign manager that year; and recent reports that he may be considering a bid for U.S. Congress under the Democratic banner.

While Lynn Aronberg has been a Trump fan since his days on “The Apprentice” – she owns a three-legged dog named Ivanka – she said her husband had known the mogul for years.

He raised political funds at Mar-a-Lago, she said, and took her to the resort nearly every weekend – even as Trump’s brand became increasingly toxic to her husband’s liberal base.

“I’m walking through the red carpet, and he’s sneaking through the bushes,” she said, recalling selfies she snapped with the future president and his wife, Melania Trump, while her husband would “run and hide from the photographers.”

“He’d ask me to not to take pictures. He wouldn’t want me to post them,” she said.

“I did not listen to him.”

Her Facebook wall and photo galleries attest to that. Grinning with Melania Trump in multiple photos. Posing with the future president in a gold-trimmed ballroom on New Year’s Eve, three weeks before he moved into the White House.

“He’s really nice,” Lynn Aronberg said of Donald Trump. “He’s like: ‘Dave: How did you get her to marry you?'”

But staying married to him became a strain as the presidential race wore on, she told The Post. At the couple’s home in West Palm Beach, she said, her selfie habit drew irritated phone calls from her husband’s supporters.

“You know, the unions,” she said. “Or sometimes he wouldn’t even tell me who was calling him, to say not to post pictures of Trump or Melania.”

She would refuse the requests, she said.

Eventually she’d do so in public.

“So what if I like Ivanka Trump or a conservative issue on social media?” Lynn Aronberg told Gossip Extra in February, the same month she filed for divorce. “So what if I invite Melania to be in my book group?”

“Dave Aronberg’s Divorce Getting Downright Ugly!” the website reported in June, quoting an unnamed friend of the family.

And then last week, “a source familiar with the negotiations” gave Gossip Extra details of a settlement that Aronberg reportedly signed with her husband: “$100,000 worth of goodies in exchange for her signature on the dotted line.”

And the website expanded on their private woes:

“They have no children, which was a problem for Lynn,” it reported. And then all the stuff about Trump.

These articles were no more popular with her husband’s supporters than her selfies, Lynn Aronberg told The Post: “They’d get mad and try to say I’m leaking it.”

She denied doing so. She also declined to discuss her divorce settlement with The Post – and said she didn’t know how the same details that Gossip Extra reported ended up in a news release on Thursday, released by her PR representative, beneath the couple’s brief statement confirming “the end of our marriage.”

Not that Lynn Aronberg minded the leaks, exactly.

“I trust them,” she said of the PR firm, TransMedia. “I don’t care if they’re repeating something Gossip Extra already said.”

Lynn Aronberg runs a separate PR company under her own name but said she used to work for TransMedia, which currently lists her as an executive vice president, though she denied being an employee.

“She’s what we call a partner in our firm,” said Thomas Madden, TransMedia’s chief executive.

He said the company had gathered the Aronberg’s settlement details – along information about Trump’s role in the divorce – from “other sources.”

“There’s nothing inaccurate,” he said. “She did not violate any privacy agreements.”

Dave Aronberg, who has been approached about running for U.S. Congress, couldn’t be reached for comment.

A spokesman for the prosecutor, Christian Ulvert, confirmed that Aronberg had reached a settlement in his divorce but declined to discuss it or the private details that appeared in his wife’s news release.

“My client’s ready to just close this chapter,” Ulvert said.

As for Lynn Aronberg, she told The Post that she remains friends with her soon-to-be-ex husband – though he’s not thrilled about the leaks, wherever they’re coming from.

She has dinner plans with Donald Trump Jr. coming up, she 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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Will keys become a thing of the past?

If you are always losing the keys to your office, home or hotel room, perhaps you’ll like the idea of your phone or watch being able to, quite literally, open doors.

As part of the BBC’s Jumpstarting Japan series – meeting the Asian giant’s young entrepreneurs – Mariko Oi visited a start-up making a fast-growing multi-million dollar business out of reinventing the key.

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Woman Rescued After Boa Constrictor Wraps Around Her Face

The snake and the Ohio woman it was wrapped around had not always been at odds.

The 911 dispatcher who answered the woman’s frantic call on Thursday was able to discern some aspects of the interspecies relationship that had suddenly and dangerously soured.

There had been some sort of rescue, the woman said after giving her location in the Ohio city of Sheffield Lake and a brief, breathless description of the predicament she was in, according to a 911 recording obtained by the Elyria, Ohio-based Chronicle-Telegram. The woman had brought the 5½-foot-long snake into her home along with another snake in recent days.

They joined a growing assemblage of legless reptiles. The woman possessed nine other snakes, presumably also rescues, but they weren’t loose and weren’t attacking people at the moment, she told the dispatcher.

What was unclear is where the woman’s rescue plan went so badly awry.

Now, she said, she was on the ground, with an unyielding boaconstrictor wrapped around her body.

“Oh, please. I have a boa constrictor stuck to my – my face,” she told the dispatcher.

The dispatcher seemed incredulous: “Ma’am, you have a what?”

“A boa constrictor,” the woman confirmed.

“You have a boa constrictor . . . You’re outside with a boa constrictor stuck to your face?”

The dispatcher notified paramedics, then tried to figure out more about the woman’s predicament, which was clearly petrifying her.

“Please hurry,” she screamed. “He has a hold of my nose.”

The snake wasn’t venomous, the woman said. And it wasn’t cutting off her breathing or circulation – at least not yet. But there was “blood everywhere.”

“Oh, God, hurry, please. He’s around my waist and he has my nose.”
The woman may have been in more danger than she or dispatchers thought at the time.

A 2015 study showed that boa constrictors don’t actually suffocate their prey, as The Washington Post’s Elahe Izadi reported. Their squeezing cuts off the unwitting victim’s blood flow, stopping oxygen from getting to the brain. Victims quickly lose consciousness, then die.

Near the end of the recording, she went silent for a while, but then sirens could be heard, growing louder, getting closer.

Sheffield Lake Fire Chief Tim Card told the Chronicle-Telegram what first responders found when they reached her.

“It was wrapped around her neck and biting her nose and wouldn’t let go,” Card said. “They had to cut its head off with a knife to get it to let go of her face.”

While it appeared to be the first snake attack of this magnitude in Sheffield Lake, such dangerous interactions are not uncommon, according to Born Free, an organization that advocates against owning exotic pets such as snakes.

The organization catalogued more than 471 attacks by snakes between 1995 and 2013. The numbers are probably higher, the organization said, if unreported incidents are factored in.

“Clearly this is a national problem,” Adam Roberts, then executive vice president of Born Free USA, said in a news release. “We are seriously concerned about the epidemic of owning deadly snakes. Large snake ownership remains unregulated or poorly regulated across the country. . . . Snakes are wild animals who cannot be trained and at any time can display their normal wild behavior, which may include a poisonous bite or strangulation.”

The Sheffield Lake woman was rescued, but it’s unclear what became of her snakes and of her.

Police said no report had been taken; it’s not known whether the woman faced charges or had her 10 remaining snakes removed. 

Boaconstrictors are not listed as one of the dangerous wild animals prohibited under the Ohio Dangerous Wild Animal Act. (Other snakes, including various species of anacondas and pythons, are on the list.)

All a reporter found at the scene were the remnants of what had transpired: an empty glass cage on the sidewalk and a small puddle of blood in the driveway.

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

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US Flexes Military Muscle After North Korea's Latest Missile Test

The United States pointedly showed off its military prowess over the Pacific and the Korean Peninsula on Sunday in response to North Korea’s launch Friday of a missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, a test Pyongyang said was a “stern warning” for Washington to back off from threats and more sanctions.

In a sign that tensions are spiraling upward rapidly, the United States flew two supersonic B-1 bombers over the Korean Peninsula as part of a joint exercise with Japan and South Korea. And U.S. forces conducted a successful missile defense test over the Pacific Ocean, sending aloft from Alaska a medium-range ballistic missile that it detected, tracked and intercepted using the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System.

The sense that time is running out in the confrontation with North Korea was reinforced when Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, retweeted a photo of the bomber drills and wrote, in her own words, “Done talking about NKorea. China is aware they must act. Japan & SKorea must inc pressure. Not only a US problem.”

Amid the show of force by the United States and its allies, North Korea said it would respond with a “resolute act of justice” if it were provoked either militarily or economically.

“In case the U.S. fails to come to its own senses and continues to resort to military adventure and ‘tough sanctions,’ the DPRK will respond with its resolute act of justice,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman saying, using the acronym for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The spokesman said the United States should “wake up from the foolish dream of doing any harm to the DPRK,” and warned Washington against a preemptive nuclear strike.

“If the Yankees … dare brandish the nuclear stick on this land again … the DPRK will clearly teach them manners with the nuclear strategic force,” the spokesman said.

The Trump administration’s frustration has grown exponentially in recent days, since Pyongyang on Friday conducted its second successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Though it landed off the Japanese coast, experts said if the missile had flown in a lower arc it could have reached the U.S. mainland.

U.S. officials have been trying to get China, North Korea’s main trading partner and economic lifeline, to exert pressure on its neighbor. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called Beijing and Moscow the “principal economic enablers” of Pyongyang. Though China voted last year for harsh U.N. sanctions against the country’s leaders and state-tied companies, it fears that a destabilized regime would send refugees flooding across the border and has urged dialogue as the only pragmatic approach.

President Donald Trump on Saturday berated China, tweeting that “they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue.” And Vice President Mike Pence, traveling Sunday in Estonia, told reporters that “all options are on the table.”

“The continued provocations by the rogue regime in North Korea are unacceptable, and the United States of America is going to continue to marshal the support of nations across the region and across the world to further isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically,” Pence said.

North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon in 2006 and has been burdened with six sets of U.N. sanctions since then. The North claims its weapons are for defensive purposes. But a series of missile launches and tests conducted since Kim Jong Un came to power have increased concern that North Korea may be closing in on the ability to fit a nuclear weapon on a missile’s nose cone.

The North Korean leader himself had openly boasted that more missile tests would be coming. In late March, he vowed to send a “bigger gift package to the Yankees,” state-run media reported.

“People have been warning about the North Korean ICBM for 20 years,” Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “But the wolf is at the door. This a very real threat to the United States.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” called North Korea a “clear and present danger” that must be taken seriously.

“I’m convinced that North Korea has never moved at the speed that this leader has to develop an ICBM to put solid fuel, to have an interesting launch device, and to have a trajectory which, as of the latest analysis, would enable it to go about 6,000 miles and maybe even hit as far east as Chicago,” she said. “We can’t have that.”

Feinstein said she hoped John F. Kelly, the incoming White House chief of staff who starts his new position Monday, would be able to begin negotiations with Pyongyang that would eventually end its nuclear program.

For now, however, worried capitals are focusing on bulking up their militaries. South Korea announced Saturday that it will start talks with the White House about building more powerful ballistic missiles capable of striking the North.

And the U.S. military was blunt in its assessment of the threat posed by North Korea. In a statement accompanying the departure of the two B-1 bombers from Guam to the Korean Peninsula, the Pacific Air Forces commander, Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, called the country the “most urgent threat to regional stability.”

“If called upon, we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal, and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing,” he said.

The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker and Madhumita Murgia contributed to this report.

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

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Minister calls for Scotch whisky to be defined in law

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The Scottish government has called for Scotch to be defined in UK law in order to protect whisky exports after Brexit.

Scotland’s Economy Secretary Keith Brown has written to UK ministers calling for protection of the Scotch whisky industry.

The industry is worth about £4bn to Scotland in exports. An EU definition of whisky currently protects sales from sub-standard products.

The UK government said it would support the industry so it continued to thrive.

Mr Brown’s call follows International Trade Secretary Liam Fox’s visit to the US last week.

The economy secretary said: “Aside from being a key part of Scottish culture and identity, our whisky industry supports around 20,000 jobs.

“The US made clear in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership discussions that they would support a relaxation of the definition of whisky, which would open the market up to a number of products which do not currently meet that standard.”

‘Right outcomes’

He added: “It is vital that we continue to have robust legal protection of Scotch whisky, which is why I have sought clarification from the UK government as to whether Scotch whisky featured in discussions during last week’s trade visit by the Secretary of State for International Trade.

“I am also demanding that the current EU regulations are guaranteed post-Brexit.

“After reports this week that the UK government is contemplating trade deals that threaten the value and reputation of Scottish produce, once again we can see the confusion which is at the heart of the UK government’s Brexit position.

“We need to be sure that any future deals work for Scotland and are not threatening the livelihoods of our farmers and producers.”

He said all four UK governments should have oversight of the negotiations to ensure, as far as possible, “that the right outcomes for everyone are secured”.

A UK government spokeswoman said: “Scotch is a UK export success story and we will support the industry so that it continues to thrive and prosper post-Brexit.

“The UK government has a strong relationship with the Scotch Whisky Association and is working closely with the industry as we aim to secure the best possible deal for the whole of the UK.”

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The tax trick

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Would you like to pay less tax? Make a sandwich: specifically, a “double Irish, Dutch sandwich”.

Suppose you’re American. You set up a company in Bermuda and sell it your intellectual property. It then sets up a subsidiary in Ireland.

Now, set up another company in Ireland: it bills your European operations for amounts resembling their profits. Now, start a company in the Netherlands.

Have your second Irish company send money to your Dutch company, which immediately sends it back to your first Irish company. You know, the one headquartered in Bermuda.

Are you bored and confused yet? If so, that’s part of the point.

Tax havens depend on making it, at best, very difficult to get your head around financial flows, and, at worst, impossible to find out any facts.

Accounting techniques that make your brain hurt enable multinationals such as Google, eBay and Ikea to minimise their tax bills – completely legally.

50 Things That Made the Modern Economy highlights the inventions, ideas and innovations that have helped create the economic world.

It is broadcast on the BBC World Service. You can find more information about the programme’s sources and listen online or subscribe to the programme podcast.

You can see why people get upset. Taxes are a bit like membership fees for a club: it feels unfair to dodge the fees but still expect to benefit from the services provided to members – defence, police, roads, sewers, education, and so on.

But tax havens haven’t always had such a bad image. Sometimes they’ve functioned like any other safe haven, allowing persecuted minorities to escape the oppressive rules of home.

Jews in Nazi Germany, for example, were able to ask secretive Swiss bankers to hide their money.

Avoidance v evasion

Unfortunately, secretive Swiss bankers soon undid the good this did their reputation by proving to be just as happy to help the Nazis hide the gold they managed to steal, and reluctant to give it back to the people it was stolen from.

Nowadays, tax havens are controversial for two reasons: tax avoidance and tax evasion.

Tax avoidance is legal. It’s the stuff of double Irish, Dutch sandwiches.

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Like other major technology companies, Google has come under pressure over its tax arrangements.

The laws apply to everyone: smaller businesses and even ordinary individuals could set up border-hopping legal structures too. They just don’t earn enough to justify the accountants’ fees.

If everyday folk want to reduce their tax bill, their options are limited to various forms of tax evasion, which is illegal: VAT fraud, undeclared cash-in-hand work, or taking too many cigarettes through the “nothing to declare” lane at customs.

Secrecy boost

The British tax authorities reckon that much evaded tax comes from countless such – often modest – infractions, rather than the wealthy entrusting their money to shadowy bankers.

But it’s hard to be sure. If we could measure the problem exactly, it wouldn’t exist in the first place.

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In 1934, the Swiss made it a criminal offence for bankers to disclose financial information

Perhaps it’s no surprise that banking secrecy seems to have started in Switzerland: the first known regulations limiting bankers’ ability to share information about their clients were passed in 1713 by the Great Council of Geneva.

Secretive Swiss banking really took off in the 1920s, as many European nations hiked taxes to repay their debts from World War One – and many rich Europeans looked for ways to hide their money.

Recognising that this was boosting their economy, in 1934 the Swiss made it a criminal offence for bankers to disclose financial information.

The euphemism for a tax haven these days, of course, is “offshore” – despite Switzerland’s lack of coastline. Gradually, tax havens have emerged on islands such as Jersey or Malta, or, most famously, in the Caribbean.

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Many small islands have become tax havens as a pragmatic way to grow their economies

There’s a logistical reason for this: a small island isn’t much good for manufacturing or agriculture, so financial services are an obvious alternative.

But the real explanation is historical: the dismantling of European empires in the decades after World War Two.

Unwilling to prop up Bermuda or the British Virgin Islands with explicit subsidies, the UK instead encouraged them to develop financial expertise, plugged into the City of London. The subsidy was implicit, instead – tax revenue steadily leaked away to these islands.

Mind the gap

The economist Gabriel Zucman came up with an ingenious way to estimate the wealth hidden in the offshore banking system.

In theory, if you add up the assets and liabilities reported by every global financial centre, the books should balance – but they don’t. Each individual centre tends to report more liabilities than assets.

Zucman crunched the numbers and found that, globally, total liabilities were 8% higher than total assets. That suggests at least 8% of the world’s wealth is illegally unreported. Other methods have come up with even higher estimates.

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Zucman identified a gap between the global economy’s declared assets and liabilities

The problem is particularly acute in developing countries. For example, Zucman finds 30% of wealth in Africa is hidden offshore. He calculates an annual loss of $14bn (£11bn) in tax revenue. That would build plenty of schools and hospitals.

Zucman’s solution is transparency: creating a global register of who owns what, to end banking secrecy and anonymity-preserving shell corporations and trusts.

That might well help with tax evasion. But tax avoidance is a subtler and more complex problem.

To see why, imagine I own a bakery in Belgium, a dairy in Denmark, and a sandwich shop in Slovenia.

I sell a cheese sandwich, making 1 euro of profit. How much of that profit should be taxed in Slovenia, where I sold the sandwich, or Denmark, where I made the cheese, or Belgium, where I baked the bread? There’s no obvious answer.

Accounting tricks

As rising taxes met increasing globalisation in the 1920s, the League of Nations devised protocols for handling such questions. They allow companies some leeway to choose where to book their profits.

There’s a case for that, but it opened the door to some dubious accounting tricks.

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Did a company in Trinidad really sell pens to a sister company for $8,500 (£6,600) apiece?

One widely reported example may be apocryphal, but illustrates the logical extreme of these practices.

A company in Trinidad apparently sold ballpoint pens to a sister company for $8,500 (£6,600) apiece, resulting in more profit booked in low-tax Trinidad and less in higher-tax regimes elsewhere.

Most such tricks are less obvious, and consequently harder to quantify.

More from Tim Harford

The simple steel box that changed global trade

The warrior monks who invented banking

What makes gambling wrong but insurance right?

Do passports restrict economic growth?

Still, Zucman estimates that 55% of US-based companies’ profits are routed through some unlikely looking jurisdiction such as Luxembourg or Bermuda, costing the US taxpayer $130bn (£100bn) a year. Another estimate puts the losses to developing country governments at many times the amount they get in foreign aid.

Solutions are conceivable: profits could be taxed globally, with national governments devising ways to apportion which profit is deemed taxable where.

Political desire

A similar formula already exists to apportion national profits made by US companies to individual states.

But that would need political desire to tackle tax havens. And while recent years have seen some initiatives, notably by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), they’ve so far lacked teeth.

Perhaps this shouldn’t surprise us, given the incentives involved. Clever people can earn more from exploiting loopholes than trying to close them.

Individual governments face incentives to compete to lower taxes, because a small percentage of something is better than a large percentage of nothing.

For tiny, palm-fringed islands, it can even make sense to set taxes at 0%, as the local economy will be boosted by the resulting boom in law and accounting.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that tax havens mostly benefit financial elites, including some politicians and many of their donors. Meanwhile, pressure from voters for action is limited by the boring and confusing nature of the problem.

Sandwich, anyone?

Tim Harford writes the Financial Times’s Undercover Economist column. 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy is broadcast on the BBC World Service. You can find more information about the programme’s sources and listen online or subscribe to the programme podcast.

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No licence needed?

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A Google self-driving car being tested in California

Driverless vehicles may seem unfamiliar now, but over the coming years you’ll start to encounter – or even use them – on a daily basis. Will it mean the end of the driving licence and changes to the rules of the road?

It’s not uncommon to see a squat white droid trundling along the streets of Greenwich, south-east London, as it delivers takeaway food to the borough’s residents at 4mph.

In Paris and Helsinki, robot buses are shuttling passengers along city streets, while in Colorado an 18-wheeler truck drove beer 120 miles down a highway – without a driver.

Around the world, projects like these are under way to help develop the technology that will ultimately bring driverless cars and other vehicles to our roads.

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A self-driving delivery robot being tested in Greenwich, London

But alongside the issue of whether they will work is another big question: how will pedestrians, cyclists and human drivers be kept safe?

A world without eye contact

Sales of self-driving vehicles are currently in the thousands, but some estimates suggest that they could reach 10m worldwide by 2030.

But that’s just a tiny fraction of the more than one billion cars already on the road.

So, the challenge is figuring out how to accommodate both humans and driverless vehicles on roads, pavements and bike paths.

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A driverless Nissan Leaf being tested in London

We’ve got several years, even decades, to get this right and self-driving vehicles that can operate without any human input at all are not on the immediate horizon.

Engineers are still working out how to handle some of the most difficult challenges.

Think about what happens at crossroads – when drivers and pedestrians arrive at the same time and use a combination of eye contact, gestures and intuition to navigate the junction safely.

This type of reasoning is beyond the ability of machines.

  • 10m predicted worldwide sales by 2025

  • £100m UK government commitment to test projects

  • 636,000 miles driven by Google cars in California last year

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Other challenges include weather conditions that disrupt sensors.

And driverless vehicles will need to learn when to disobey traffic rules – for example, when an emergency vehicle needs everyone to move out of the way.

Right now, autonomous vehicles are still very much in the testing phase, “learning” how to deal with the unpredictability that is endemic to driving.

It’s not something they have mastered and it’s not uncommon for humans to have to take control in road tests to avoid accidents.

There have been a handful of high profile incidents, including a fatality involving a semi-autonomous Tesla car, with most down to human error – such as running a red light.

Driverless vehicles around the world

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BBC Sport

Hundreds of billions of miles

Officials are trying to get some ground rules in place for testing in public spaces, but even this may not be enough.

It would take hundreds of years of road tests, over hundreds of billions of miles, to prove beyond doubt that driverless vehicles will cause fewer fatalities than human drivers, experts at think tank the Rand Corporation have argued.

Instead, we may have to allow driverless vehicles in some circumstances, while they continue to learn.

So far, there is no international safety standard for driverless vehicles – each country is responsible for writing its own rules.

There are also questions about whether rules for driverless vehicles should be national – making it easier for companies to comply, or on a more local level – so that cities can tailor them to their residents’ needs.

This variety could speed up the process of learning about what works and what doesn’t.

Finding an agreement is difficult.

Some possible consequences of driverless vehicles

  • People may give up their own cars, using on demand vehicles instead
  • Fewer vehicles on the road could free up land for more parks and housing
  • Using driverless cars for everything could increase congestion and pollution
  • On demand vehicles could improve transport for those on low incomes
  • Cities may lose revenue from fines as robot vehicles obey the rules of the road
  • People now working as drivers may need help finding new jobs

Keep the driving licence for now

Another issue without a clear answer is around the ethics that driverless vehicles should adopt.

Put simply, in the case of an unavoidable accident, should a fully autonomous vehicle be programmed to career off the road, risking the lives of the four people inside, or continue into a parent and child crossing the road?

Because human drivers make split second, instinctual decisions, we can’t look to human behaviour to come up with the right answer.

The shift from cars doing all the driving in predictable, stable conditions with humans as back-up, to a time when they make all the decisions will be gradual.

Until cars are fully automated and don’t need human input, manufacturers won’t be able to dispense with steering and braking controls.

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People will still need driving licences and they’ll have to ready to take control at short notice – so challenges like distraction and drunkenness will remain.

It’s likely we will always need seat belts: autonomous vehicles have the potential to dramatically reduce crashes, but no technology is perfect.

The peril of driverless vehicles is that we will repeat the mistakes we’ve made over the last century – like rushing to build new roads that destroy neighbourhoods and creating out of town shopping centres that only cater to drivers.

But if we learn from our mistakes we could reduce congestion, pollution, and inequality.

When it comes to the self-driving vehicles, people will still have to be in the driver’s seat.

About this piece

This analysis piece was commissioned by the BBC from an expert working for an outside organisation.

Jennifer Bradley is the director of the Center for Urban Innovation at the Aspen Institute and the co-lead of the Bloomberg Aspen Initiative on Cities and Autonomous Vehicles, which is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The Aspen Institute describes itself as a non-partisan forum for values-based leadership and the exchange of ideas.

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Hungry for success

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Jeremy Harris

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Shelly Fireman’s career as a restaurateur spans more than five decades

Like other great success stories, Sheldon Fireman’s started with a sense of ambition, an understanding of the local culture, and nothing to do on a Friday night.

Hanging out in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood of New York in the 1960s, Mr Fireman – Shelly to his friends – got the idea to open an all-night cafe specialising in serving breakfast food. It would be called the Hip Bagel.

“I fell in love with my idea,” says Mr Fireman, who wanted to create a place that was fun to hang out and be seen in at all hours.

He opened The Hip Bagel in 1964 at a cost of just $500 (£385).

For the next 14 years the establishment lived up to its name – attracting celebrities such as Woody Allen and Barbra Streisand.

It also propelled Mr Fireman towards becoming one of New York’s preeminent restaurateurs.

He was in his 20s then. Today, 53 years later, his company, Fireman Hospitality Group owns nine restaurants in New York and Washington DC that continue to attract celebrities, and which brought in nearly $60m (£47m) in 2016 alone.

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In the 1960s The Hip Bagel attracted New York celebrities looking for a late night bite

Mr Fireman grew up in The Bronx, New York, and started his career in the garment business before switching to hospitality.

“I had no mentors [in the garment business],” says Mr Fireman, “and I was impatient to be successful in life.”

Risky business

That impatience drove him towards a risky industry.

About 60% of restaurants in the US close in their first three years, and in New York the challenges are particularly acute. Rents are high, you need to attract both locals and tourists, and new establishments are more likely to get negative reviews.

There is also competition from approximately 24,000 other eateries around the city.

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Decades into his career, Mr Fireman keeps moving forward with new ideas

In 1974 Mr Fireman opened his second restaurant, Cafe Fiorello, just blocks from Central Park.

Like The Hip Bagel, the focus was on hospitality. It’s a theme he’s carried through to each successive restaurant, be they fine-dining establishments like Trattoria Dell’Arte or casual restaurants like the Brooklyn Diner.

Customers are more likely to remember how the place made them feel, Mr Fireman argues, than the food that they ate.

“Everyone has their favourite pizza. Who am I to say what the best is?” he explains. “But hospitality they remember.”

Adam Platt, a restaurant critic who has covered New York’s food scene for more than 15 years, says that for old-school restaurateurs like Mr Fireman, running a restaurant is a lot like putting on a Broadway show.

“He’s really a theatrical producer. The Brooklyn Diner isn’t really a diner and it’s not in Brooklyn, but he puts together this successful production,” says Mr Platt.

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The Brooklyn Diner on 57th Street is Mr Fireman’s tribute to casual American dinning

While Mr Fireman likes to jump from one type of restaurant to another, there are characteristics common to all his establishments.

Each tends to be large and to have a clearly defined concept. Prices are also high, but not out of line with nearby competitors, and each relies heavily on its location to attract a high volume of customers.

The Brooklyn Diner, for example, serves on average 1,200 customers every day.

Mr Fireman has a “nose for location and for matching that location to the appetite of the neighbourhood”, says Mr Platt.

In 2010, the Fireman Hospitality Group also opened its first restaurant outside of New York – an outpost of its steakhouse, Bond 45, just outside Washington DC.

More The Boss features, which every week profile a different business leader from around the world:

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The millionaire boss who admits he had a lot of luck

The man who built a $1bn firm in his basement

How one man built a global hospitality empire

The ‘diva of divorce’ for the world’s super rich

While Mr Fireman has been reluctant to work with celebrities, he does rely on investors for financial support and business guidance.

He took on his first investors in 1992 when he opened Trattoria Dell’Arte, which is located opposite the famous concert venue, Carnegie Hall.

Since then he has taken on outside investors for every new project, giving up 10%-15% of the ownership, depending on the restaurant.

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Trattoria Dell’Arte was the first of Mr Fireman’s restaurants to take on outside investors

“Investors are wonderful, but you have to be able to hear their criticism,” says Mr Fireman.

Disagreeing with the businessman, who has been described as outspoken and eccentric, can be daunting.

Stephen Zagor, the former manager of Trattoria Dell’Arte, says those who plan to tell Mr Fireman he’s wrong better come armed with information to back it up.

“He loves a good verbal joust. If you don’t have your information together he will pick you apart,” Mr Zagor says.

Learning from failure

But Mr Fireman himself admits that not every project has been a success.

A restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan gave him particular difficulty. Over the course of 15 years, it failed to make a profit, despite repeated redesigns, name changes and menu updates.

A partnership to launch an outlet of the Brooklyn Diner in Dubai also failed. According to Mr Fireman, it failed to live up to the quality his partners had promised to deliver.

“You’re never going to do it perfectly; if you can’t take the pain of mistakes you can’t do this,” he says.

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With around 24,000 eateries in New York, there is a lot of competition facing Fireman group restaurants like the Redeye Grill

The company has also faced criticism from employees who complain that the intense focus on hospitality means the mantra “the customer is always right” can sometimes be taken too far.

A 2006 lawsuit also pitted the Fireman Hospitality Group against employees who claimed that they had been underpaid and wages had been withheld. The company settled the case out of court, paying $3.9m (£3m).

None of this has shaken Mr Fireman from his desire to open more restaurants and test new concepts. After more than 50 years in the restaurant business, he is as hungry for success as ever.

He is currently working on a new idea for a fast casual restaurant that he plans to launch in New York and spread throughout the US.

“Every time I think about it and improve on it and tweak it, it’s like I’m finding gold,” says Mr Fireman.

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FCA set to report on overdraft fees and payday loan cap

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Payday lenders have been subject to various tighter regulations

The Financial Conduct Authority is set to indicate whether it is likely to change the rules for offering high-cost loans including overdrafts, door-to-door lending and payday loans.

The report – due to be published on Monday – follows a review of the sector by the financial watchdog.

One question is whether capped interest rates on payday lending have driven vulnerable consumers into borrowing from illegal loan sharks.

Overdraft fees are also of concern.

The watchdog’s definition of high-cost credit includes payday loans, home-collected credit, catalogue credit, some instances of “rent-to-own” lending for consumer goods, guarantor loans and pawn-broking.

Last November the FCA said it was launching the review into high cost loans in order “to build a full picture of how these are used, whether they cause detriment and, if so, to which consumers”.

Since then concerns have grown over high levels of personal debt.

The City regulator – the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – and the Bank of England have both warned of an acceleration in consumer borrowing, such as loans, overdrafts, credit card debt and car finance.

The FCA has said it is concerned that there is poor price transparency when it comes to overdrafts and over the nature and level of charges, especially for unarranged overdrafts.

Complaints about payday loans hmore than doubled over the last year, despite strict new regulations limiting interest charges.

Since the start of 2015, payday loan rates have been capped at 0.8% per day of the amount borrowed, and no-one has to pay back more than twice the amount they borrowed.

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Whisky collector-turned-CEO: Live your passion

Sukhinder Singh is the CEO of the Whisky Exchange, one of the UK’s largest online retailers of fine wines and spirits. What is now his business began as his passion – he began collecting miniature bottles of whisky after helping out at his parents’ off licence in Hanwell, west London.

Follow #CEOSecrets on our website here.

Video journalist & series producer: Greg Brosnan. Follow Greg on Twitter @gregbrosnan

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Pakistan To Elect New Prime Minister On Tuesday

The ruling party named Sharif’s younger brother Shahbaz as his successor over the weekend

Islamabad:  Pakistan’s parliament will meet on Tuesday to elect a new prime minister after the Supreme Court disqualified Nawaz Sharif following an investigation into corruption allegations against his family.

The ruling party named Sharif’s younger brother Shahbaz as his successor over the weekend, but he must first enter parliament by contesting the seat left vacant by Sharif.

In the meantime the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which enjoys a majority in parliament, has nominated ex-oil minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as interim prime minister.

The top court ousted Sharif Friday after an investigation into corruption allegations against him and his family, bringing his historic third term in power to an unceremonious end and briefly plunging the nuclear-armed nation into political instability.

Nawaz Sharif was the 15th prime minister in Pakistan’s 70-year history — roughly half of which was under military rule — to be ousted before completing a full term.

“The nomination papers — shall be delivered to the Secretary, National Assembly by 2.00 pm, on Monday,” said a notification by the National Assembly Secretariat and seen by AFP.

It said the assembly would meet at 3:00 pm Tuesday (1000 GMT) to elect a prime minister.

Abbasi is set to be rubber-stamped as placeholder in the parliamentary vote. The opposition could also field a candidate but has little chance of securing enough votes in the 342-seat house.

The younger Sharif — who is chief minister of the country’s most populous province of Punjab — has so far managed to remain unscathed by the corruption allegations engulfing his brother’s family.

imran khan afp

Imran Khan is hoping to win support for his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

On Saturday the Election Commission said fresh elections would be held in Nawaz Sharif’s former constituency, in the family’s power base in Punjab, in a process that could take up to 45 days.

‘Corrupt mafia’

At least 20,000 supporters of Pakistan’s main opposition leader Imran Khan crowded into an arena on Sunday evening for a raucous rally — dubbed the “Thanksgiving Rally” — to celebrate Sharif’s ousting.

With corruption allegations engulfing the powerful Sharif family — a dominant force in the country’s politics for the last three decades — cricketer-turn-politician Khan is hoping to win support for his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

“We will start accountability from the top,” he told a sea of supporters, including hundreds of women and families, who defied the heat and humidity to cheer him on.

Criticising the dynastic nature of the Sharif transfer of power, he demanded: “Is there no one else in your (Sharif’s) party to make prime minister?… It’s not democracy, it’s a kingdom.”

More than 3,000 security officers were on hand at the rally, which had a festive atmosphere with Khan supporters decked out in the party’s red and green colours. Some estimated the crowd size at as high as 40,000.

“I am here for solidarity with Imran Khan. He is the only leader who can rid this nation of dynastic politics,” said Iqbal Shah, 60, who had travelled from the country’s northwest to support Khan.

Khan himself also faces graft allegations in court linked to the non-disclosure of assets and offshore companies — similar charges that brought down Sharif.

The case, brought by a member of Sharif’s PML-N party, seeks to have Khan disqualified on the same contentious clause in the constitution that ousted Sharif — the requirement that Pakistani politicians be honest.

Khan’s lawyers have denied all charges and say his wealth stems from his lucrative cricketing career.

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Vladimir Putin Orders Cut Of 755 Personnel At US Missions In Russia

Vladimir Putin said that the number of American diplomatic and technical personnel will be capped at 455

Moscow:  Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that the U.S. diplomatic missions in Moscow and elsewhere in the country will have to reduce their staffs by 755 people, signaling a dramatic escalation in the Russian response to American sanctions over the Kremlin’s intervention in the 2016 presidential elections.

The United States and Russia have expelled dozens of each other’s diplomats before – but Sunday’s statement, made by Putin in an interview with the Rossiya-1 television channel, indicated the single largest forced reduction in embassy staff, comparable only to the closing of the American diplomatic presence in the months following the Communist revolution in 1917.

In the interview, Putin said that the number of American diplomatic and technical personnel will be capped at 455 – equivalent to the number of their Russian counterparts working in the United States. Currently, close to 1,200 employees work at the United States’ embassy and consulates in Russia, according to U.S. and Russian data.

“More than a thousand employees — diplomats and technical employees – have worked and are still working in Russia these days,” Putin told journalist Vladimir Solovyov on a nationally televised news show Sunday evening. “Some 755 of them will have to terminate their activity.”

The Kremlin had said Friday, as the Senate voted to strengthen sanctions on Russia, that some American diplomats would be expelled, but the size of the reduction is dramatic. It covers the main embassy in Moscow, as well as missions in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.

“This is a landmark moment,” Andrei Kolesnikov, a journalist for the newspaper Kommersant who regularly travels with Putin and has interviewed him extensively over the past 17 years, told the Post in an interview on Friday. “His patience has seriously run out, and everything that he’s been putting off in this conflict, he’s now going to do.”

The Russian government is also seizing two diplomatic properties – a dacha, or country house, in a leafy neighborhood in Moscow, and a warehouse – following the decision by the Obama administration in December to take possession of two Russian mansions in the United States.

The move comes as it has become apparent that Russia has abandoned its hopes for better relations with the United States under a Trump administration.

During the interview, Putin said that he expected relations between the United States and Russia to worsen, and that Russa would likely come up with other measures to counter American financial sanctions, which were passed by the House and Senate last week and which President Donald Trump has said he will sign.

The reduction in U.S. diplomatic and technical staff is a response to President Barack Obama’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats in December in response to the alleged Russian hacking of the mail servers of the Democratic National Committee. The United States also revoked access to two Russian diplomatic compounds on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and on Long Island. American officials said they were used for intelligence collection.

It is not yet clear how the State Department will reduce its staff in Russia. Many of the 1,200 employees are local hires and support staff, some hired to help with a significant expansion of the U.S. embassy compound in Moscow.

The move increases the likelihood of new, perhaps asymmetrical reprisals by the United States in coming days.

Michael McFaul, former ambassador to Russia, tweeted Sunday: “If these cuts are real, Russians should expect to wait weeks if not months to get visas to come to 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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Nawaz Sharif Vacates Official Residence, Leaves For Murree

Nawaz Sharif shifted to his private residence in the hill resort of Murree near Islamabad.

ISLAMABAD:  Pakistan’s ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today vacated the official residence and shifted to the hill resort of Murree along with his family, days after he was disqualified by the Supreme Court.

A five-member bench of the Supreme Court on Friday disqualified 67-year-old Sharif for dishonesty and ruled that corruption cases be filed against him and his children over the Panama Papers scandal, forcing the embattled leader out of office.

Mr Sharif left the PM House with his wife Kulsum Nawaz, daughter Maryam Nawaz and his son-in-law Captain (Retd) Safdar and shifted to his private residence in the hill resort of Murree near Islamabad.

He met the staff before leaving. The luggage of the former first family was already shifted, local media reports said.

Ousted finance minister and Mr Sharif confidante Ishaq Dar also left for Murree with the Mr Sharif family.

The PM House, nestled in the foothills of Margalla Hills overlooking the capital Islamabad, would be renovated for the new occupant, officials said.

It is not known for how long Mr Sharif would stay in Murree, a place he likes a lot and has been visiting frequently since he was the chief minister of Punjab.

Mr Sharif stepped down after the Supreme Court disqualified him for failing to declare “receivable” salary from a UAE based company of his son in his 2013 nomination paper. The court termed the salary which was not paid to Mr Sharif as an “asset”.

Senior PML-N leader and former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will run the PML-N government as interim prime minister of Pakistan until Shehbaz Sharif gets set to succeed his brother Nawaz Sharif as the Pakistan prime minister.

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After American Sanctions, Putin Orders 755 US Diplomats To Leave Russia

More than a thousand people are still working at the US embassy, said Vladimir Putin.

Moscow:  President Vladimir Putin said 755 US diplomats must leave Russia and warned ties with Washington could be gridlocked for a long time, in a move Sunday that followed tough new American sanctions.

The Russian foreign ministry had earlier demanded Washington cut its diplomatic presence in Russia by September to 455 — the same number Moscow has in the US.

“More than a thousand people were working and are still working” at the US embassy and consulates, Putin said in an interview with Rossia-24 television.

“755 people must stop their activities in Russia.”

Putin added that an upturn in Russia’s relations with Washington could not be expected “any time soon”.

“We have waited long enough, hoping that the situation would perhaps change for the better,” he said.

“But it seems that even if the situation is changing, it’s not for any time soon.”

On Thursday, the US Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill to toughen sanctions on Russia for allegedly meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and for its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Iran and North Korea are also targeted in the sanctions bill.

The law now goes to President Donald Trump who had made an improvement in ties with Russia a plank of his election campaign.

Moscow on Friday ordered the US to slash its number of diplomats in Russia to 455 and froze two embassy compounds — a Moscow summer house and a storage facility in the city — from August 1.

In December, the then US president Barack Obama ordered out 35 Russian diplomats and closed down two embassy summer houses that Washington said were being used by Moscow for espionage.

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

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Huge Fire At Spain Music Festival Prompts Exodus

The fire incident led to the evacuation of some 22,000 people. (AFP)

Madrid:  A huge fire forced more than 22,000 people to flee an electronic music festival near Barcelona in an incident that organisers blamed on a technical fault.

No one was hurt in Saturday’s blaze, after firefighters speedily extinguished flames at the Tomorrowland festival in Santa Coloma de Gramenet in the country’s northeast.

But around 20 people had to be treated for anxiety attacks or minor injuries, the fire service said in a statement, noting that 22,143 people had to be removed because of the inferno.

Footage of the incident showed one side of the stage consumed by giant flames, a shower of sparks raining down as people ran away and black smoke billowed up.

It was not clear exactly what caused the fire but organisers said on their Facebook page it was due to a technical malfunction.

“Thanks to the professional intervention of the authorities all 22,000 visitors were evacuated safely and without reports of injuries,” they said.

According to other images on social media the concert appeared to be drawing to a close after a pyrotechnics show when the fire started.

A civil defence official told AFP the first alarm was received at 10.45pm (2045 GMT) and the fire was extinguished 35 minutes later by when all the concertgoers had left.

“The safety plan for the event worked perfectly,” said the official, noting that there had not been panic among the crowd.

Video showed a giant screen displaying the message: “Remain calm and follow instructions.”

Fire experts were due Sunday to investigate at the scene of the blaze, alongside officials from the company that erected the stage, having first removed any dangerous remnants.

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

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2 Dead, 4 Wounded In German Nightclub Shooting

German police said they did not believe that the shooting was a terror attack. (AFP)

Konstanz:  A gunman opened fire at a packed nightclub in southern Germany early Sunday, killing one and wounding four before being shot by police, authorities said, in an attack likely motivated by a personal feud.

The 34-year-old man, identified as an Iraqi national, “was critically injured in a shootout with police officers as he left the disco, and later succumbed to his wounds in hospital,” police said in a statement.

“Investigations are ongoing into the background of the act, which was likely linked to a dispute in the attacker’s personal life. There are no indications of a terror act,” police added.

The foreign gunman was not an asylum seeker and has been living in the Constance region, which borders Switzerland, for 15 years.

Officers began receiving emergency calls from terrified clubbers at around 4:30 am (0230 GMT) as the man began shooting in the nightclub heaving with “several hundred” people, said police.

One person was killed on the spot and three others seriously wounded in the club called “Grey”, located in an industrial zone of the city, which draws Swiss revellers during the weekends.

Shortly after the gunman left the building, he was shot by police. One officer was also injured in the exchange of fire.

Frightened revellers had either fled the building or found a place to hide, police said, adding that the danger was now over.

Helicopters were circling overhead and special forces were also deployed to secure the site.

‘Club was jam-packed’

A witness told national news agency DPA that the attacker was shooting randomly at clubbers around him.

“The club was jam-packed,” added the unnamed man, who said he had seen the attacker and fled quickly with his friends.

Another unnamed clubber was quoted by Suedkurier daily that he was in the washroom when someone came in and closed the toilet door saying there  was shooting.

“I didn’t believe it and went out. But I heard shots and quickly ran back to the toilet and closed the door with another person. With us was a bouncer who was shot and he was bandaging the wound with a belt,” said the witness.

A bartender then opened the emergency exit door, allowing revellers to flee, he said, adding that he saw another person with a wound in the leg lying on the grass by the parking lot.

“I just shouted at everyone to run and when we were in the parking lot, we heard shots again,” he said.

Police was unable to confirm the type of weapon used, but Bezikofer said it was “not just a pistol, the talk is of a long weapon or an automatic pistol”.

The shooting came just two days after Germany was shaken by a knife attack in the northern port city of Hamburg.

A 26-year-old Palestinian had killed one and injured six in an assault at a supermarket.

He was a known Islamist with psychological problems, and investigators say his motives remain unclear.

Germany has been on high alert about the threat of a jihadist attack, especially since last December’s truck rampage through a Berlin Christmas market that claimed 12 lives.

But it has also been hit by other assaults unrelated to the jihadist threat.

Among the deadliest in recent years is a Munich shopping mall rampage last June by 18-year-old German-Iranian man which left 10 people dead including the gunman himself.

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

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2 Decades After Diana's Death, Her Words On Affair, Marriage To Go Public

Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997.

London:  Footage of the late princess Diana pouring her heart out about her failed marriage with Prince Charles will air on British television for the first time, a channel confirmed Sunday.

Ahead of the 20th anniversary of her death in a Paris car crash, Channel 4 will broadcast “Diana: In Her Own Words” on August 6, despite a report in The Mail on Sunday newspaper that her brother Earl Charles Spencer is unhappy with the decision.

The tapes show the late princess of Wales speaking frankly to her voice coach about her loveless marriage to the heir to the British throne and his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, now his wife.

Diana also discusses her struggle with bulimia and an unconsummated romance with a mystery man, widely believed to be her bodyguard Barry Mannakee, who died in a motorbike accident.

“At 24, I fell deeply in love with someone who was part of all this and that was all found out and he was chucked out and then he was killed. And that was the deepest blow in my life,” she says in the footage.

The tapes were screened in the United States in 2004 and are available online, but they have not been never broadcast in Britain before.

Defending its decision, Channel 4 said the footage was an important historical resource.

“Though the recordings were made in private, the subjects covered are a matter of public record and provide a unique insight into the preparations Diana undertook to gain a public voice,” it said in a statement.

“This unique portrait of Diana gives her a voice and places it front and centre at a time when the nation will be reflecting on her life and death.”

The tapes were filmed in 1992-1993 at her Kensington Palace home by voice coach Peter Settelen, around the time that Diana separated from Charles.

She died in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997. 


Twelve tapes were made, of which Settelen owns seven following a legal battle after they were found in a police raid on the home of Diana’s butler Paul Burrell in 2001. The whereabouts and content of the other five is unknown.

Settelen’s lawyer Marcus Rutherford said his client had been reluctant to show the tapes.

“But now, coming up to the 20th anniversary, with everyone, including her own children, discussing Diana and revisiting her life, he wants Diana to be able to speak for herself,” he told The Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

Royal biographer Penny Junor told the newspaper that Charles and Diana’s sons princes William and Harry would not want the tapes aired again, saying it would be “deeply hurtful to them”.

“This is just another way of exploiting Diana,” she said.

Rosa Monckton, one of Diana’s closest friends, said it was “absolutely disgusting” that the tapes were being shown.

“How intrusive is this? It doesn’t matter that it was 20-odd years ago,” she told the Mail on Sunday.

“Think of the hurt they are causing to her family, to her sons.”

(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 Successfully Tests Missile Intercept System Amid North Korea Crisis

A THAAD interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test. (File photo)

Washington:  American forces successfully tried out Sunday a missile interception system the US hopes to set up on the Korean peninsula, military officials said following a trial just days after North Korea’s second test of an ICBM.

In the American test of the so-called THAAD system, a medium-range missile was launched from a US Air Force C-17 aircraft flying over the Pacific and a THAAD unit in Alaska “detected, tracked and intercepted the target,” the US Missile Defense Agency said.

It said this was the 15th successful intercept in 15 tests for the weapons system known as THAAD, which stands for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense.

South Korea said Saturday it will speed up deployment of a THAAD battery on its territory because of the latest North Korean test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Parts of the THAAD defense system were brought into South Korea under the government of ousted president Park Geun-Hye. But new leader Moon Jae-In suspended deployment of the programme last month, citing the need for a new environmental impact assessment.

However, South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-Moo said Saturday that Seoul will now begin consultations on the “tentative deployment” parts of the THAAD battery in response to the latest North Korean test.

The THAAD deployment has infuriated China, which has long argued it will destabilize the region.

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

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NASA To Observe Asteroid Flyby To Test Planetary Defense Technology

The asteroid 2012 TC4 is estimated to be between 10 and 30 metres in size (Representational)

A small asteroid that is expected to fly close to the Earth will provide NASA an opportunity to test its network of observatories and systems for planetary defense, scientists say.

The asteroid 2012 TC4 – estimated to be between 10 and 30 metres in size – will safely fly past Earth on October 12.

Even though scientists cannot yet predict exactly how close it will approach, they are certain it will come no closer than 6,800 kilometres from the surface of Earth. The asteroid has been out of range of telescopes since 2012.

“Scientists have always appreciated knowing when an asteroid will make a close approach to and safely pass the Earth because they can make preparations to collect data to characterise and learn as much as possible about it,” said Michael Kelley, programme scientist and NASA Headquarters lead for the TC4 observation campaign.

“This time we are adding in another layer of effort, using this asteroid flyby to test the worldwide asteroid detection and tracking network, assessing our capability to work together in response to finding a potential real asteroid threat,” Mr Kelley said.

Professor Vishnu Reddy of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson leads the campaign to reacquire 2012 TC4 and sees it as an opportunity for the collaborative observation campaign to utilise the international aspect of the network.

“This is a team effort that involves more than a dozen observatories, universities and labs across the globe so we can collectively learn the strengths and limitations of our near-Earth object observation capabilities,” said Mr Reddy.

The goal of the TC4 campaign is to recover, track and characterise 2012 TC4.

“This effort will exercise the entire system, to include the initial and follow-up observations, precise orbit determination, and international communications,” Mr Reddy said.

Asteroid 2012 TC4 may be slightly larger than the space rock that hit Earth’s atmosphere near Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February 2013.

TC4 has not been seen since its 2012 discovery, when it sped past Earth at about one-fourth the distance from Earth to the moon. It has been too distant and too faint to be detected over the last five years.

As it starts to approach Earth this summer, large telescopes will be used to detect it and re-establish the asteroid’s precise trajectory.

The new observations are expected to help refine knowledge about its orbit, narrowing the uncertainty about how far it will be from Earth at its closest approach in October.

“This is the perfect target for such an exercise because while we know the orbit of 2012 TC4 well enough to be absolutely certain it will not impact Earth, we haven’t established its exact path just yet,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the US.

“It will be incumbent upon the observatories to get a fix on the asteroid as it approaches, and work together to obtain follow-up observations than make more refined asteroid orbit determinations possible,” said Mr Chodas.

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