Little-Known Qatari Sheikh Embraced By Saudi Arabia In Surprise Move

Sheikh Abdullah said King Salman and his son agreed to open Qatar’s only land border (AFP file Photo)

A little-known Qatari sheikh has been thrust into the limelight as a Saudi Arabia-led bloc tries to wring concessions from his nation to end the political feud dividing the Persian Gulf.

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Ali Al-Thani, a descendant of Qatar’s founder, was welcomed warmly in Saudi Arabia by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, then jetted off to Morocco, where Saudi King Salman hosted him at his vacation spot in Tangier. And while the Qatari government said the sheikh was on a personal visit, some media outlets close to the alliance portrayed his meetings as a triumphant diplomatic effort.

Sheikh Abdullah said King Salman and his son agreed to open Qatar’s only land border, snapped shut on June 5, to allow Muslim pilgrims to travel to the holy city of Mecca. The king even offered to dispatch planes at his own expense to fly in others and set up an operations center under the sheikh’s command to help Qataris entangled in the crisis.

Saudi Arabia and allies that severed diplomatic and transport links with Qatar in June have denied seeking regime change in Doha, making the emergence and front-page treatment of the sheikh a surprising development. Promoting him is probably part of a plan to add pressure on Qatari ruler Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, who has refused to capitulate to the bloc’s 13 conditions for ending the feud, said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a political analyst in the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt accuse Qatar of destabilizing the Middle East by supporting Islamist groups. Qatar rejects the charges and says Saudi Arabia is using the spat as a pretext to try to impose its policies on the entire region.

“Saudi Arabia has many pressure tools that it hasn’t used until now and this is one of them,” Abdulla said, adding that he doesn’t believe the alliance is currently pursuing a policy to change the Qatari leadership. Yet should Saudi Arabia decide that is needed, it can mobilize a support network within Qatari society and the ruling family “to spur a palace coup,” he said.

Al Bayan, a Dubai-owned daily, described Sheikh Abdullah on its front page as “the voice of reason to whom the hearts of Qataris have opened.” It also said that he’s known for being “widely accepted within the Al Thani family in particular, and Qataris in general.”

The sheikh is a scion of a ruling family branch that was in power for decades until 1972. His brother, Ahmad, was deposed in 1972 by Sheikh Tamim’s grandfather, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news network said.

The sheikh’s diplomatic exploits have turned him into an instant social media celebrity. Within three days of joining Twitter, his account has attracted more than 250,000 followers. He gave out contact details of the operations center. Underscoring his reach, he said he also spoke with the Saudi central bank governor, who denied that banks in the kingdom had stopped “giving out Qatari riyals to Qatari citizens.”

“The king has honored me by accepting my mediation on behalf of my people in Qatar,” he wrote.

So far, the conflict has resisted other mediation efforts. Kuwait’s emir has tried his hand, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited the region last month and later dispatched two envoys to attempt to resolve the dispute.

Andreas Krieg, a lecturer in the department of defense studies at King’s College in London, said the sheikh is a London-based businessman with commercial interests in the Gulf, but lacks public support that would help propel him to power. His emergence, however, serves as a way of telling Qatari leaders and global powers that the crisis is far from over, he said.

“The past couple of weeks we were thinking we will see a de-escalation of the crisis as the Americans were focusing on the Saudis to make some concessions to come to an agreement,” Krieg said.

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President Trump To Address Nation On New Afghan Strategy

Trump was said to be dissatisfied by initial proposals to add a few thousand more troops in the country

Washington:  President Donald Trump will announce his decision on America’s strategy in Afghanistan in an address to US troops and the nation Monday night, almost 16 years after the war began.

The US leader will “provide an update on the path forward for America’s engagement in Afghanistan and South Asia” in an address to be delivered at 9 pm (0100 GMT Tuesday) from the military base at Fort Myer southwest of the capital, the White House said in a statement.

Trump gathered top security officials Friday at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland to weigh his options in the grueling conflict, saying afterwards that “many decisions” had been made.

Wary of international involvements but eager for progress in the drawn-out Afghan war, the Trump administration had originally promised a new plan by mid-July.

Trump was said to be dissatisfied by initial proposals to add a few thousand more troops in the country, and advisers were studying an expanded strategy for the broader South Asian region, including Pakistan.

The decision comes after the departure from the White House on Friday of Steve Bannon, Trump’s firebrand chief strategist, a nationalist who was said to be disinclined to seeing US forces more deeply mired in the troubled region. 

Trump’s Defense Secretary Jim Mattis confirmed in Amman, Jordan on Sunday that the administration had agreed on a new strategy for Afghanistan after “rigorous” debate, but refused to provide any details about the decision.

“I’m very comfortable that the strategic process was sufficiently rigorous, and did not go in with a preset condition in terms of what questions could be asked and what decisions could be made,” he said. 

“Everyone who had equity was heard,” he said, including budget officials responsible for funding the effort.

Trump had several options on the table, that ranged from backing away from the country to stepping up US efforts to defeat the Taliban. In June he gave Mattis the power to increase troop numbers above the estimated 8,400 that have been in the country — close to 4,000 more, according to reports. 

Mattis arrived in Jordan Sunday on the first day of a five-day swing through the Middle East, Turkey and Eastern Europe.

There are now about 8,400 US and 5,000 NATO troops supporting Afghanistan’s security forces in the fight against Taliban and other militants. But the situation has remained as deadly as ever, with more than 2,500 Afghan police and troops killed from January 1 to May 8.

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

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Spain Attacks: The Imam Who 'Ate Up The Brains' Of Youths

Ripoll, Spain:  In a little Spanish town by the Pyrenees mountains, a Moroccan imam has come under intense scrutiny, accused of creating the terror cell that allegedly launched the twin attacks in Spain.

Those who knew him described Abdelbaki Es Satty as a discreet and religious man, who had recently asked for a holiday from the mosque he was preaching in, apparently to return to Morocco for personal business.

But police believe he may have been among those blown up in an accidential explosion Wednesday in the house where the suspected attackers were believed to be building bombs.

The blast likely changed the plans of the attackers, who instead used vehicles to smash into pedestrians on Barcelona’s busy Las Ramblas boulevard and in the seaside resort town of Cambrils.

“On Tuesday morning, he left saying he was going on vacation to Morocco,” said fruit-seller Nordeen El Haji, 45, who four months ago moved into the apartment that Satty occupied in Ripoll.

The decrepit two-room flat rented for 150 euros a month has a view of the tree-covered Pyrenees and the red roofs of the quaint Catalonian town, 90 kilometres (50 miles) north of Barcelona.

‘No internet, few books’ 

“He spoke little, spent time with his computer in his room, and had an old mobile phone with no internet, and few books,” said Satty’s flatmate.

On a piece of furniture lies the police search order dated Friday, just after the twin attacks that claimed 14 lives and wounded 120 people.

Three days after the assaults, a picture was emerging of an imam who may have radical leanings.

El Mundo newspaper, quoting anti-terrorist sources, said that in 2012 Satty left prison where “he had struck up a special friendship with another detainee, Rachid Aglif, nicknamed ‘the rabbit’.”

Aglif had been sentenced to 18 years over the March 2004 Madrid train bomb attacks that killed 191 people, the worst terror attack on European soil.

Drug trafficking

The imam had been placed in provisional detention for drug trafficking, the newspaper said, adding that “he was shifting hashish between Ceuta and Algesiras”.

Catalonia police chief Josep Lluis Trapero confirmed that the imam “had a judicial problem, but not linked to terrorism”.

As local media speculated on the influence of the imam on the young attackers, his flatmate said that in the last four months, he had not hosted any youths in the apartment.

“This imam was normal and ordinary in public,” said Mohamed Akhayad, a 26-year-old Moroccan electrician-mechanic, who sometimes went to the prayer hall that opened in 2016 where he preached.

“If he ate up the brains of these youths, he must have done it secretly, in a secret place,” he said at the main Moroccan cafe in town.

‘Very solitary’ 

Another Moroccan, who did not want to give his name, described the imam as “very solitary, and hung out more with these youths than with people of his age”.

The 43-year-old man said he knew the young suspects in the attacks, as he had organised football matches with them.

The imam “was always dressed in black”, he said, adding: “We saw very little of him at the Moroccan cafe”.

In Sant Pere street where the imam lived, a 64-year-old local, Francesc Gimeno, said the man “had a reputation of being very Islamist”. 

“He wanted all the Moroccans to think like him, putting religion above all,” said Gimeno, saying he also “required Moroccan women in town to cover themselves”.

But Hammou Minhaj, 30, a Moroccan and secretary of Ripoll’s Muslim community, said: “He doesn’t say that here at the mosque. Outside, I don’t know.”

Satty arrived in Ripoll in 2015, said Minhaj.

‘Knows the Koran better than us’ 

But then “he went to Belgium as imam, at least that’s what he said, before returning to Ripoll,” added Minhaj.

“He started as an imam in our new mosque in April 2016. What’s important is that he knows the Koran better than we do.”

But at the end of June, the imam asked for three months’ leave to go to Morocco on holiday, Minhaj said.

In Belgium, the mayor of the Vilvorde region told AFP that Satty spent time in the Brussels suburb of Machelen between January and March 2016.

Brussel’s Molenbeek suburb has gained notoriety as a hotbed of international jihadists after the Paris and Brussels attacks.

In the Moroccan town of M’rirt, relatives of the 22-year-old suspect hunted by police, Younes Abouyaaqoub, also accused the imam of radicalising the young man as well as his brother Houssein.

“Over the last two years, Younes and Houssein began to radicalise under the influence of this imam,” their grandfather told AFP.

Spanish media believe Younes may have been the man who drove the van into crowds in Barcelona.

A neighbour close to the Abouyaaquob family, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the imam “had recruited Moroccans of Ripoll and planned the attacks”.

“He took leave from the mosque saying he had to return to Morocco to deal with inheritance problems.

“So another imam was found to replace him at the mosque, but a few days before the attacks, he was seen in Ripoll,” added the source, who also has family in the small town. 

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

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Defence Firms Eye Billion-Dollar Chance For 'Made In India'

New Delhi:  India has drawn up a shopping list for tens of billions of dollars of foreign fighter jets, armoured vehicles, submarines and helicopters but it will only sign the cheques if they are made in India.

The world’s largest defence importer has announced a new policy inviting foreign defence manufacturers to set up shop as minority partners in India. It initiated the bidding process for submarines in July.

Such deals would boost job creation and bring key defence technologies into India.

Foreign companies say the opportunity is too good to miss.

Europe’s Airbus Group, angling to sell its Panther helicopters, has said that if it wins a contract worth several billion dollars and expected to span at least a decade, it would make India its global hub for the multi-purpose choppers.

The company currently builds them at Marignane in France.

Lockheed Martin says if its F-16 fighter jets are selected — it will likely compete with Saab for that order of close to $15 billion — it will “support the advancement of Indian manufacturing expertise.”

Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems and France’s Naval Group are eager to compete for a contract of up to $10 billion to build submarines in the country. 

Luring foreign defence companies to build in India would be a major and much-needed boost to the economy.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with less than two years to national elections, faces pressure to create more jobs for the hundreds of thousands of people joining the workforce every month.

Growth in the first three months of 2017 slowed to 6.1 percent. Experts expect further disruption as businesses adjust to a new nationwide goods and services tax launched in July.

Make in India

India is seeking to follow other countries which created defence sectors by backing a few big players with long-term defence orders and allowing smaller businesses to develop around them.

“Countries that have a robust defence industry have a few large companies that are supported by their government with large, long-term defence orders,” Amber Dubey of the KPMG consultancy in India told AFP.

“They in turn create an eco-system of large and small suppliers to stay competitive.”

India currently imports at least 90 percent of its defence equipment including parts for assembly. It is banking on foreign companies to bring in new technology.

The lowest bid is one key selection criteria that worries some of the competitors.

“We’d like to see the Indian government work with the US government to ensure that these acquisition policies don’t disadvantage US companies just because we can’t get the lowest price,” Cara Abercrombie, former US deputy assistant secretary of defence for southeast Asia, told a recent panel in New York.

Under the strategic partnership policy, India will line up domestic companies that foreign players have to choose from to set up local plants.

For the Indian companies, which would hold the majority stake, it is a big win, says Dhiraj Mathur, an aerospace and defence specialist for the PwC consultancy.

“You know nothing about defence manufacturing and you’re going to partner with a global leader to make highly sophisticated equipment and the only reason they’re talking to you is because the government has told them to,” he said.

The Indian government wants to bring the local companies up to global standards to compete for the next round of orders.

China also built up local defence equipment manufacturing by forcing international firms to link up with Chinese companies and to hand over technology.

In India’s case, the foreign players are still pushing for ownership.

“Let us take a lead, let us be the majority,” said Ashish Saraf, vice president for industrial development at Airbus.

“Or let the Indian guys assume full liability (as per the policy). Assuming liabilities on an aircraft is not easy…. If a product fails, we are talking about hundreds of millions.”

His suggestion is a middle road where foreign companies can hold the majority stake, which can be pared back over time as the Indian partner gains in knowledge and experience.

“It takes years to transfer (technology) and to get proven products. These are complex products that need to perform in battles,” said Saraf.

The other hurdle in the policy is that transferring defence technology requires government approval.

In a strategy similar to one followed by the United States, India puts the onus on the foreign partners to get the green light from their respective governments, a challenging task for them.

“But if you want indigenisation, this is the only way you’ll get it,” said PwC’s Mathur.

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Comedy Legend Jerry Lewis Dies At 91

Legendary comedian Jerry Lewis (Reuters)

Jerry Lewis, the comedic legend who teamed up with Dean Martin and before starring in his own series of slapstick movies during the 1950s, died at his Las Vegas home at age 91, Variety and other news outlets reported on Sunday.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal broke the news, according to Variety, which said Lewis’ agent confirmed his death. Reuters could not immediately reach the agent for further comment.

The cause of death was not immediately disclosed.

Further details awaited.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Thousands Protest In Hong Kong Over Jailing Of Democracy Activists

Rights groups and activists called the case against the trio “political persecution” (Reuters)

Hong Kong:  Thousands of supporters of three jailed young democracy activists took to the streets in Hong Kong on Sunday to protest their sentences.

Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow, leaders of the 2014 Umbrella Movement rallies, were sentenced to six to eight months in jail on Thursday for their role in a protest that sparked the months-long demonstrations calling for democratic reforms.

People took on the summer heat to stream from the district of Wan Chai to the Court of Final appeal in the heart of Hong Kong Island, protesting the jail terms.

They held signs including: “Give back hope to my children” and “One prisoner of conscience is one too many” as they gathered in one of the biggest recent rallies the city has seen.

William Cheung, an engineer in his 40s, described the ruling as “the beginning of white terror” in Hong Kong.

“These young people are our hope for the future. We shouldn’t treat them like this,” Jackson Wai, a retired teacher in his 70s, told AFP as he teared up.

Rights groups and activists called the case against the trio “political persecution” and more evidence that an assertive Beijing is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city.

The Beijing-backed Hong Kong government brought the case for harsher sentences against the three, saying previous non-custodial terms were too light and did not serve as a deterrent to activists undermining stability.

University student Ann Lee said the government’s efforts to overturn the previous sentences were “attempts to intimidate us from taking part in acts of resistance.”

Hong Kong enjoys freedoms unseen on the mainland after being handed back to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” deal, but there are growing fears Beijing is trampling the agreement.

‘Ashcan of history’

The three jailed protest leaders were found guilty last year on unlawful assembly charges for storming a fenced-off government forecourt known as “Civic Square” as part of a protest calling for fully free leadership elections in September 2014.

Wong and former legislator Law, who was disqualified from parliament last month following Beijing intervention, had expressed their intentions to run for office in future elections, but will be prevented from standing for five years because their jail terms exceeded three months.

Wally Yeung, one of the panel of three judges that handed down the jail terms, said in a written judgement there had been an “unhealthy trend” of people in Hong Kong breaking the law for the sake of their ideals and having what he described as “arrogant and self-righteous ideas”.

Protesters stayed on until the evening Sunday as campaigners addressed the crowds and messages of solidarity were projected onto the building of the Court of Final Appeal.

Wong, 20, is currently held in a high security prison for young male offenders. Law and Chow are at a maximum security holding centre.

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The Rise And Humiliating Fall Of Charlottesville's Starring 'Fascist'

The white supremacists, nationalists and far-right trolls who starred in last weekend’s violent Charlottesville, Virginia, rallies have suffered no lack of humiliation in the days since.

Take “Millennial Matt,” whose catchphrase – “Hitler did nothing wrong!” – earned him tens of thousands of fans before he went to the rally, but his Twitter account has since been deleted, his real identity publicized, and he is now begging fans for money to flee his hometown because “my life is in shambles.”

There are plenty of other examples, from the hot dog restaurant cook who lost his job to students whose universities publicly renounced racism after they went to the march. There’s even a Twitter feed devoted to shaming the tiki-torch-lit faces of white nationalism.

But none of the marchers soared so high or crashed so hard as Chris Cantwell, who became the ivory-skinned, gun-toting star of a documentary about Charlottesville that aired Monday on HBO – and a week later is better known as the “weepy white supremacist” or “weeping Nazi” who got banned from OkCupid.

Act 1 – “Heil Cantwell!”

For a few triumphant hours, Cantwell was the thick-armed embodiment of white nationalism to tens of millions of people – the star of VICE News and HBO’s Web documentary about last weekend’s rallies, which has been seen more than 30 million times.

He looked every bit the rebel leader in that footage from Friday night and Saturday, greeting other white nationalists from as far away as Canada; marching by torchlight to the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee; screaming “Jews will not replace us!”

“I carry a pistol. I go to the gym all the time,” Cantwell tells the camera, muscles bulging beneath a shirt that advertises his blog, which in turn advertises Cantwell as a libertarian “fascist.”

“I’m trying to make myself more capable of violence!” he says.

And violence there was. Men in the streets of Charlottesville wielding Confederate flags like spears. A black man beaten by white men with sticks. Heather Heyer, killed when a car rammed a crowd of counterprotesters, as 19 others were injured.

Cantwell got his licks too, as seen in the documentary.

“Communists!” he yells, pouring a jug of milk over his eyes after, he says, counterprotesters hit him with tear gas. “Second time in two f-ing days!”

“They’re afraid of you. You got too big,” an admirer tells him.

“Heil Cantwell!” cries another.

And then the self-avowed fascist was back on his feet and leading a march shirtless, a few cans short of a six-pack gleaming in the weekend sun.

“We’ll f-ing kill these people if we have to,” Cantwell says.

Act 2 – “Cantwell the Coward”

Cantwell’s bravado only increased over the weekend, as news of the violence spread across the country.

He invited the VICE reporter to his hotel room after the marches, where he showed off his high-powered rifles and the 9mm pistolstrapped to his ankle.

The fatal car strike was justified, Cantwell insisted. The protesters had been “stupid animals.”

“Someone died,” the reporter reminded him.

“I think a lot more people are going to die before we’re done, frankly,” Cantwell said.

End film. Tens of millions of people have since watched it, and Cantwell would freshen his Facebook profile with photos of himself in the thick of the violence.

But as the weekend faded, other footage began to circulate. Cantwell had apparently recorded it during the rally, in what appeared to be the privacy of a hotel room.

And the famed white separatist appeared to be at the point of tears.

“I’ve been told there’s a warrant out for my arrest,” Cantwell pleads to the camera, through sniffles and a trembling voice. “I don’t know what to do!”

There were, in fact, felony warrants out for him, the Boston Globe would later report: for the use of illegal gas, and injury by chemical or explosive. (University of Virginia police didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post.)

In his confessional, Cantwell told the camera he was too scared to go to the courthouse or meet police. He complained that Chelsea Manning had been threatening to “curb-stomp Nazis.”

“I know we talk a lot of s- on the Internet,” Cantwell said. But: “Every step of the way we’ve tried to do the right thing and they just won’t stop. . . . Our enemies just will not stop.”

It’s unclear where the video was first posted, but copies quickly spread across YouTube – mocked on the political left and right alike.

“White Supremacist Cries After Realizing He Could Be Arrested,” wrote Mother Jones.

“MUH MASTER RACE HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH,” a user added on 4Chan’s /pol message board, which is something of a hotbed of racism itself.

And Cantwell’s week would only get worse.

Act 3 – “Straight, Man, Single”

By midweek, Cantwell’s name was as well known in the mainstream media as the fringes of the Internet.

But who was he, really?

As the Boston Globe told it, Cantwell was a former comedian from Keene, New Hampshire, who more recently moved to New York.

He is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “an unapologetic fascist, who spews white nationalist propaganda with a libertarian spin on his live-streamed call-in show” and seeks a whites-only state.

Or – per an OkCupid profile leaked online – he is 6 feet tall, single, and “interested in getting married and having children” with the right woman.

“Ideally I’d like to talk on here briefly, move quickly to the phone, and then we can go out on a date and see what happens,” wrote the user “ItsChris603,” beneath what appears to be a gym-mirror selfie of Cantwell, which ArsTechnica reported was his account.

He described himself not as a fascist, but a podcaster “specializing in controversial political satire.”

“It’s great because I have a very flexible schedule,” he wrote. A typical Friday night would find him not, say, screaming about Jews at a white nationalist march, but rather “doing date nights. Bowling, live shows, movies, travel, all types of things.”

OkCupid, remarkably, announced in a tweet that Cantwell did have an account, and had just been banned for life.

Tinder booted him too, Cantwell confirmed in a slur-filled blog post Thursday, explaining that “these [Jews] will stop at nothing.”

Likewise, his YouTube channel, Facebook page and Twitter account have all been deleted as tech companies rush to purge extremists of all kinds from their platforms since Charlottesville.

So there it is. The man who was an HBO-famous swaggering racist Monday had been reduced by the end of the week to broadcasting from an undisclosed location via a Tumblr account and his personal blog.

Cantwell had hired a lawyer, he wrote Thursday, and was preparing to turn himself in to police.

“Depending on who you listen to, I’m either a hero, a terrorist, or a crybaby, ” he wrote, “which should tell you something about the reliability of the media.”

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Malaysia Apologises For Indonesia Flag Blunder, Reprints Games Guide

President Widodo asked Malaysia for an apology for the incident as it involved “national pride” (File)

Kuala Lumpur/Jakarta:  Malaysia apologised on Sunday for the upside-down printing of Indonesia’s flag in the souvenir guidebook for the Southeast Asia Games, which officials said is being withdrawn and reprinted.

The mistake, spotted at the games’ opening in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, on Saturday, sparked an outcry in Indonesia and the hashtag #ShameonyouMalaysia was trending on social media.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo told reporters in Jakarta the incident concerned “national pride”, and called for an apology.

Within hours, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman apologised to the government and people of Indonesia for the “inadvertent error”, saying that all measures have been taken “to address this unfortunate situation”.

Earlier, Malaysia Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the mistake would be corrected and a new guidebook sent to the games’ officials and guests.

“We apologise for affecting the image and reputation of the Republic of Indonesia, as the flag is a symbol of pride,” he said after meeting Indonesia’s delegation to the games.

Indonesia’s flag has two horizontal bands with red on the top and white underneath. Turning it upside down makes it look like Poland’s flag.

Indonesian Youth and Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi acknowledged Khairy’s apology, and said he hoped the incident will not be repeated.

Imam earlier expressed dismay, posting pictures of the mistake on his Twitter account after the games’ opening ceremony.

“It was a good opening ceremony but spoiled by this fatal negligence that was very painful,” he said.
The flag blunder was the latest in a series of embarrassing incidents at the regional sports meet.

Last week, a bus driver ferrying the Myanmar women’s football team was arrested on suspicion of stealing a watch and for not possessing a driver’s license.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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

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The Road To Hate: For 6 Young Men, Charlottesville Is Only The Beginning

For all that he did in Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting anti-Semitic slogans, carrying a torch through Emancipation Park, he wasn’t even aware that the alt-right existed one year ago. It wasn’t until Hillary Clinton condemned the movement in a campaign speech last August that he first learned of it, and from there, the radicalization of William Fears, 29, moved quickly.

He heard that one of its spokesmen, Richard Spencer, who coined the name “alt-right,” was speaking at Texas A&M University in December, so he drove the two hours to hear him speak. There, he met people who looked like him, people he never would have associated with white nationalism – men wearing suits, not swastikas – and it made him want to be a part of something. Then Fears was going to other rallies across Texas, and local websites were calling him one of “Houston’s most outspoken Neo-Nazis,” and he was seeing alt-right memes of Adolf Hitler that at first he thought foolish – “people are going to hate us” – but soon learned to enjoy.

“It’s probably been about a year,” he said, “but my evolution has been faster and faster.”

Last weekend’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, which ended with dozens injured, a woman struck dead by a car, a president again engulfed in scandal and another national bout of soul-searching over race in America, was a collection of virtually every kind of white nationalist the country has ever known. There were members of the Ku Klux Klan, skinheads and neo-Nazis. But it was this group, the group of William Fears, that was not so familiar.

The torch-lit images of Friday night’s march through Emancipation Park revealed scores like him: clean-cut, unashamed and young – very young. They almost looked as though they were students of the university they marched through.

Who were they? What in their relatively short lives had so aggrieved them that they felt compelled to drive across the country for a rally? How does this happen?

The answer is complicated and unique to each person, but there are nonetheless similarities, according to lengthy interviews with six young men, aged 21 to 35, who traveled hundreds of miles to Charlottesville to the rally. For these men, it was far from a lark. It was the culmination of something that took months for some, years for others. There were plot points along this trajectory, each emboldening them more and more, until they were on the streets of Charlottesville, ready to unshackle themselves from the anonymity of online avatars and show the world their faces.

From New Orleans, one man journeyed 965 miles. Another arrived from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – 247 miles. Another drove all night, more than 20 hours in all, from Austin, Texas – 1,404 miles. One more traveled from Dayton, Ohio – 442 miles.

The violent Charlottesville protests were significant in highlighting the emergence of the Alt-Right movement and its volunteers (Washington Post)

The road to Charlottesville, 540 miles away from his home in Paoli, Indiana, began decades ago for Matthew Parrott, who at 35 calls himself “the first alt-righter,” referring to a small and decentralized movement of extreme conservatives, many of whom profess white-supremacist and anti-Semitic beliefs and seek a whites-only ethno state.

Parrott was socially awkward and had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at 15. So his family pooled their money and got him a computer with access to the Internet – a rarity in his neighborhood of mobile homes – which he came to see as his “secret portal in my bedroom.” In chat rooms, he developed a taste for intellectual combat, always taking the contrarian side, obsessing over how to dismantle progressive arguments until, as he puts it, he “ended up self-radicalizing.”

That radicalization was rooted, he said, in his own feelings of alienation, which intensified when he went to Indiana University and confronted an elite he soon came to disdain. “They made fun of my accent and overbite and they called me white trash and hillbilly,” Parrott said. “I was never able to identify with a single person.”

He dropped out after his first semester, and his disillusionment festered until, at age 23, he went to the national conference of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white-nationalist organization based in St. Louis. He considers this moment when comparing what white nationalism once was and what it has become. “I was the youngest one in the room,” he said. Old men, “asked me, ‘Whose grandson are you?’ They were baffled. . . . And now those guys are too frail to understand what’s going on.”

What was going on: The same alienation and purposelessness that once defined his life had come to characterize that of so many others. An economy capsized, a job market contracted, a student-loan crisis erupted, and feelings of resentment and victimization took hold among some members of Parrott’s generation.

“This is not some hypothetical thing,” said Parrott, who soon established the white nationalist Traditionalist Youth Network and started recruiting. “This is, ‘I’m stuck working at McDonald’s where there are no factory jobs and the boomer economy is gone and we have got this humiliating degrading service economy. . . . They feel the ladder has been kicked away from them.”

And who was to blame for all of this? Those who joined the alt-right did not view impersonal economic factors or their own failings as culprits.

charlottesville protests wp 650 credit

For many unemployed white youth, the ‘Unite the Right’​ rally was a means of displaying their anger, frustration and alienation (Washington Post)

“In some respects, it’s not that different from Islamist extremists,” Ryan Lenz of the Southern Poverty Law Center said. A similar set of conditions – disaffected young men, few jobs for them and a radical ideology promising answers – have fueled recruitment for the alt-right movement. These young men, Lenz said, were told “they were sold a raw bill of goods. The government is working against them and doesn’t give a s— about white people, and they were told this during a period when the first African-American president was in the White House.”

There came a moment for every young man interviewed when they felt whites, and particularly white men, had become subject to discrimination, a perception that formed the foundation of their new identities.

Peyton Oubre, 21, of Metairie, Louisiana, perceived it after graduating from high school when he was looking for a job. “Where I live, go to any McDonalds or Walmart, and most of the employees are black,” said Oubre, who is unemployed. “And I could put in 500 applications and receive one call. Every time I walked into Walmart, there were no white people, and how come they are getting hired and I can’t?”

“White privilege,” he said. “I’m still waiting on my privilege.”

For Tony Hovater, 29, of Dayton, Ohio, it came after he had dropped out of college and was touring with his metal band, for which he played drums, and he passed through the small towns of the Rust Belt and Appalachia. He started thinking that so much of the national narrative focuses on the plight of poor, urban minorities, but here was poverty as desperate as any he had seen, and yet no one was talking about poor whites. “You see how a complete system failed a group of people and didn’t take any responsibility for it and has done nothing to help,” he said.

For Connor Perrin, 29, of Austin, who grew up upper-middle class, it was during college when he felt campus liberals were ostracizing his fraternity because it was white. “If only people would stop attacking us,” he said. “I can’t say anything just because I’m white. I can’t talk about race, and I can’t talk about the Jews because I’ll be called an anti-Semite, and I can’t say I want to date my own race.”

For Eric Starr, 31, of Harrisburg, Pa., who has been convicted of disorderly conduct for fighting and possession with intent to manufacture or deliver, it was growing up white in a poor black neighborhood. “I got bullied and I got made fun of and I got beat up,” he said. “Cracker, whitey, white boy.”

And for William Fears, who has been convicted of criminal trespass, aggravated kidnapping and possession of a controlled substance, it happened while he was incarcerated. “I don’t think any race experiences racism in the modern world the way that white people do in a jail,” he said. “In jail, whites come last.”

From these disparate geographies, social classes and upbringings – rich and poor, rural and urban, educated and not – they converged on a single place last weekend, Charlottesville, with a shared belief that they, white men, are the true victims of today’s America.

“I wanted to be in the fight,” Perrin said.

“I need to be more aggressive,” Parrot said.

“We never fight for anything,” Fears said.

The violence that they would mete out and receive on the streets of the picturesque college town was the most pivotal moment to date in the evolution of the alt-right movement, the men interviewed believe. The alt-right has always been a diffuse movement, but it has also been intensely communal. 

People make and share memes that glorify President Trump and make jokes of Hitler and the Holocaust. They discuss events on 4chan, Reddit and Discord. They get to know one another despite a distance of hundreds of miles. They learned not to fear being called a racist or a Nazi, and in fact, some found those descriptions liberating, even “addicting,” as Parrott described it.

But Charlottesville represented an opportunity to further transcend what they called confining social taboos. Many came prepared for violence, like Fears, who was wearing a blue business suit, a helmet, gas mask and goggles. He rode a van with a group of other alt-right members, and described it as “being transported into a war zone.” Bottles burst against the van’s windows, he recalled. People hit the van. It stopped before Emancipation Park, and everyone started yelling to get out as quickly as possible.

 Gripping a flag like a weapon, Fears strode to the front and melted into the melee. He threw punches. He took punches. He felt disgust. “Someone hit me in the head with a stick,” he said, “and it split my goggles off.”

“Little savages,” Starr said of the counter protesters.

“Subhuman,” Perrin said.

Neither the day’s events leading to the car crash that killed Heather Heyer and injured 19 others in Charlottesville, nor the condemnation from politicians and people across the country that followed, has persuaded those interviewed that their beliefs are wrong. For some, it only confirmed their sense of victimhood. They felt silenced and censored, deprived of their rights. They felt as if the death of Heyer had changed everything, and that uncontrollable forces had been unleashed.

“It was like a war, and some people died, and it was an eerie feeling,” Fears said. “Things are life and death now, and if you’re involved in this movement, you have to be willing to die for it now, and that was the first time that had happened.”

Soon after the rally, Fears started the long trip home to Houston, where he is a construction worker. He talked to his family, who “pretty much agree with me.” He tried to calm down his little brother, who was “shaken up by it.” He thought about what would happen if he died. “If I’m killed, that’s fine,” he said. “Maybe I’ll be a martyr or something, or remembered.”

He knows there will be another Black Lives Matter event soon, and he has plans to go. “I’ll take a megaphone and see what they have to say,” he said. “I would like there not to be more violence. . . . But it might be inevitable, so let’s get this out of the way. If there is going to be a violent race war, maybe we should do it, maybe we should escalate it.”

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

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'How-to guide' To Protect Australians From Vehicle Attacks

Australia is no stranger to vehicle-style attacks with six people killed in Melbourne (Representational)

Sydney:  Australia on Sunday released a strategy to prevent vehicle terror attacks carried out in crowded public places following deadly assaults in Barcelona, Nice and London.

The report — commissioned after 86 people were killed in the Nice truck attack last year — gives venue operators a “toolkit” to work from when addressing terrorism concerns.

“As we have seen from tragic events in Paris, London, Berlin and Barcelona, terrorists continue to target crowded places,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in a statement.

“The strategy will assist owners and operators to increase the safety, protection and resilience of crowded places across Australia.”

The strategy offers businesses and local governments a guide to assessing how vulnerable their sites are to attacks, including from vehicles, and how to make them safer.

Suggested steps include deterrent options like fencing and closed circuit cameras, delaying approaches such as trees and statues to slow down vehicles, and quick response staff.

“You can obviously have bollards, you can have seating… you can have works of art, you can have steps, planter boxes,” Turnbull added to reporters in Sydney.

“At the design stage, it can be done very unobtrusively.”

The report acknowledged that even the best plans might not stop attacks on crowded locations, but said the measures could reduce the likelihood of such assaults and their consequences.

“It is a constant battle for us. It is a tragic reflection of our times that we need to be taking these sorts of measures,” Transport Minister Darren Chester told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation earlier Sunday.

“I think inevitably there will be restrictions that may affect people as they go about their daily lives, but it is a balancing act I guess.”

The attack in Barcelona on Thursday left 14 people died and hundreds injured after a van sped down the popular Las Ramblas avenue, which was packed full of tourists.

Three Australians were wounded while a young boy, a British-Australian dual national, reportedly remains missing after the attack.

Australia is no stranger to vehicle-style attacks, with six people killed in January after a car mowed down shoppers in the heart of its second-largest city Melbourne.

The attack, which was not terror-related, shocked Australians and took place near Melbourne Park where top tennis stars were playing in 2017’s opening Grand Slam.

Canberra has become increasingly worried about homegrown extremism and officials say they have prevented 13 terror attacks on home soil in the past few years.

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Indian-Origin Boy Wins UK Child Genius Show, Compared To Albert Einstein

Rahul won the first round of ‘Child Genius’, a show broadcast by Channel 4 in UK.

London:  A 12-year-old of Indian-origin won the first round of the latest series of ‘Child Genius’, a show broadcast by Channel 4. Rahul, who has an IQ of 162, which is believed to be higher than the likes of Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, got all 14 of his questions correct in the first round of the latest series of the show broadcast by Channel 4.

However, as neither scientist is recorded as having taken an IQ test, the scores are only estimates.

Rahul, whose surname is not being revealed, has also qualified to be a member of Mensa club – the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world.

On the TV show, 20 contestants aged eight to 12 will be whittled down to one winner over the course of a week. Rahul achieved full marks in a spelling test, correctly reciting the letters in words like garrulous, accouchement, and hyponatraemia (low level of sodium in the blood).

In a timed memory round, he answered 14 questions out of 15 correctly, but did not have time to answer the final question. 

“I always want to do the best, and I’ll do that no matter what the cost. I think I’m a genius. I’m good at mental maths, general knowledge and I find it quite easy to memorise stuff,” said Rahul, who cites his favourite language as Latin.

“Most kids want immediate gratification but I also want long-term gratification. If I could play maybe my Xbox now, I’ll be really happy now, but I might be sad later on because I haven’t revised for my test,” he said.

Rahul’s IT manager father Minesh and mother Komal said their son was in the game to win and their role was to encourage him. 

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10 Get Death Penalty Over Plot To Assassinate Bangladesh PM

The judge said the death row convicts would be executed by firing squad (Representational)

Dhaka:  A tribunal here in Bangladesh on Sunday awarded death penalty to 10 people for planting a bomb in 2000 to assassinate then opposition leader and now Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Dhaka’s Special Trial Tribunal Judge Momtaz Begum gave the order in the presence of several accused from the banned Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami (HUJI), which has been accused of planting a 76-kg bomb, Xinhua news agency reported.

The judge also sentenced one person to life imprisonment and nine others to 20 years in jail.

Subject to confirmation of the top court, the judge said the death row convicts would be executed by firing squad.

The bomb was found when a stage was being set up at a college ground in Gopalganj district on July 21, 2000 where Hasina was to address an election campaign rally the next day.

Of the 25 accused, HUJI chief Mufti Hannan was executed for the 2004 grenade attack on then British High Commissioner to Bangladesh.

Defence lawyer Faruk Ahammad told reporters that eight accused were currently behind the bars, one had got bail while 15 others were fugitives.

Hannan was a key suspect in the plotting to assassinate Hasina and blow up courts, secular institutions as well as shrines and churches.

He came in the limelight after the militant group announced at a public rally of Islamists in 1999 to establish a Taliban like government in Bangladesh by 2000.

Hannan, arrested in August 2005 and hanged in April this year, was also the mastermind of the nationwide bombings on August 17, 2005.

Hannan had participated in the war in Afghanistan against the former Soviet Union.

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

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Spain Mourns Attack Victims As Probe Zeroes In On Imam

Barcelona:  Grief-stricken Barcelona paid homage Sunday to victims of two terror assaults at a mass in the city’s Sagrada Familia church, as investigators turned their focus to a missing Moroccan imam believed to have radicalised the young attackers.

King Felipe, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Catalonia’s president Carles Puigdemont led the ceremony mourning the 14 people killed by terrorists who used vehicles to mow down pedestrians in Barcelona’s Las Ramblas boulevard on Thursday and in the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils early Friday.

“These have been days of tears, many tears,” said auxiliary bishop Sebastia Taltavull. 

Outside the church, snipers were posted on rooftops surrounding the landmark building by Gaudi, while heavily armed police stood guard as hundreds of people gathered under grey skies.

Catalonia resident Teresa Rodriguez said she had turned up to pray for the victims.

“What happened in Las Ramblas is really hard for us, we go for walks there often, it could have happened to me, my children or anyone. And here we are. It’s huge, huge,” she said as she fought back tears.

Later Sunday, nearly 100,000 people were expected at Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium for their team’s first game of the season, to be marked by a minute of silence for the victims.

Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said Saturday the cell behind the carnage that also injured 120 had been “dismantled,” although local authorities took a more cautious tone.

Police were still hunting 22-year-old Younes Abouyaaqoub, who media reports say was the driver of a van that smashed into crowds on the popular Las Ramblas boulevard on Thursday, killing 13 people.

Hours later, there was a similar assault in the seaside town of Cambrils that left one woman dead. Police shot and killed the five attackers, some of whom were wearing fake explosive belts.

An extensive security operation including roadblocks was mounted overnight across Catalonia.

Imam’s role?

The ISIS group claimed responsibility for the attacks, believed to be its first in Spain.

The terror cell in Spain reportedly comprised at least 12 young men, some of them teenagers.

Investigators are seeking to unravel the role of an imam, Abdelbaki Es Satty, who is believed to have radicalised many of the youths from a small town called Ripoll, at the foot of the Pyrenees.

Several of the suspects — including Abouyaaqoub — grew up or lived in the town of about 10,000 inhabitants.

On Saturday, police raided the imam’s apartment in Ripoll, his flatmate, who would only identify himself as Nourddem, told AFP.

Spanish media quoting police sources, said the officers were looking for DNA traces in the apartment to compare with body parts found in an explosion in a home in Alcanar, about 200 kilometres (120 miles) south of Barcelona, where the alleged terrorists were believed to have been building bombs.

Police said they believed the suspects were planning a much larger attack. 

“They were preparing one or several attacks in Barcelona, and an explosion in Alcanar stopped this as they no longer had the material they needed to commit attacks of an even bigger scope,” said Josep Lluis Trapero of Catalonia’s police.

Security forces were seen removing dozens of gas canisters from the house in Alcanar on Friday.

The imam was also known to police, according to Spanish media, which reported that he had spent time in prison.

El Pais and El Mundo quoting anti-terrorist forces said the imam had met prisoners linked to the March 2004 Al-Qaeda-inspired bombing attack on commuter trains in Madrid that killed 191 people, the worst terror attack in Europe.


A clearer picture is emerging of the suspected perpetrators.

Most of them are children of Moroccan immigrants, including Ripoll-born Moussa Oukabir, 17, one of five suspects shot dead in Cambrils. His older brother Driss is among the four arrested.

In Morocco, Moussa and Driss’s father Said broke down, surrounded by relatives.

“I hope they will say he’s innocent… I don’t want to lose my two sons,” he told AFP.

A cousin said Moussa “loved playing football, having a good time, chatting up girls”.

He travelled to Morocco almost every year for the summer holidays and was expected back last Tuesday.

“The last few months, he started to become interested in religion. He used to go to a mosque in Ripoll. Maybe that’s where he was brainwashed,” the cousin said. 

Security ramped up

Victims of the attack came from three dozen countries including Algeria, Australia, China, France, Ireland, Peru and Venezuela, reflecting Barcelona’s status as Spain’s most popular tourist destination. 

Fifty-four people are still in hospital, including 12 in critical condition, Catalan emergency services said.

With the peak summer tourism season still in full swing, the Spanish government ordered security ramped up in crowded places, although it kept the terror threat level at four out of a maximum five.

Tourism has been vital to Spain’s economic recovery, and because it has until now been spared the wave of extremist attacks that hit Europe, it has recorded a surge as visitors shunned more restive destinations such as Tunisia and Egypt.

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Drunk, Abusive Law Tutor Thrown Off Plane In UK, Fined 4,500 Pounds

Meghna Kumar was arrested and escorted out of the British Airways aircraft before it took off (File)

London:  A 30-year-old drunk law tutor was thrown off a plane at Heathrow airport in the UK after she hurled abuse at the flight staff, according to a media report. Meghna Kumar was arrested and escorted out of the British Airways aircraft before it took off as she had consumed a lot of vodka and abused the flight staff, the Mirror reported.

“The defendant was booked on a flight from London Heathrow to Montreal on the evening of April 9, 2017,” Prosecutor James O’Connell told Isleworth Crown Court.

She was ordered by the court to pay 4,500 pounds in fines and costs and banned from flying British Airways for two years after admitting drunkenly entering an aircraft.

The court was told that the cabin service director was so alarmed at Ms Kumar’s behaviour, he made the “rare” decision to reverse the plane back to the departure gate so she could be kicked off.

She fell asleep as she was being taken back to the airport then thought she had arrived in Canada when she was woken up 20 minutes later and booted off the flight.

The court heard that she had delayed other passengers going to Montreal by almost two hours on April 9.

Ms Kumar reportedly became “abusive” when cabin crew told her she was sitting on part of her unfastened seat belt, the pawer said.

“She was one of the last to board. It was apparent to the flight attendant that she appeared to be under the influence,” Prosecutor James told the court.

“She sat down and her seat belt was not fitted, she was asked to fit the safety belt and immediately became abusive.” In her defence, lawyer Gareth Weetman said it was “an absolutely tragic case” because she is a full-time academic who is often given a stipend to tutor young undergraduates. He said Ms Kumar has been battling depression and anxiety for a decade, the report said.

Judge Robin Johnson savaged her as a “disgrace”. Ms Kumar has a teaching job lined up at prestigious Durham University and lives in Kensington, west London.

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Iran's Top Priority To Protect Nuclear Deal From US: Hassan Rouhani

Hassan Rouhani, a political moderate, began his second term earlier this month (File Photo)

Tehran:  Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday the top foreign policy priority for his new government was to protect the nuclear deal from being torn up by the United States.

“The most important job of our foreign minister is first to stand behind the JCPOA, and not to allow the US and other enemies to succeed,” Rouhani told parliament, using the technical name for the 2015 deal that eased sanctions in exchange for curbs to Iran’s nuclear programme. 

“Standing up for the JCPOA means standing up to Iran’s enemies,” he said on the last day of debates over his cabinet selections.

Rouhani indicated a week ago that Iran was ready to walk out on the nuclear deal if the United States continued to apply fresh sanctions.

It has come under mounting pressure after Tehran carried out missile tests and Washington imposed new sanctions — with each accusing the other of violating the spirit of the agreement.

But Rouhani has insisted the deal remains the preferred way forward, not least to help rebuild Iran’s struggling economy and create jobs. 

“The second responsibility of the foreign ministry… is to get involved in economic activities. It should help attract foreign investment and technology,” Rouhani said.

He was addressing lawmakers ahead of votes of confidence on his ministerial choices. 

Rouhani, a political moderate, began his second term earlier this month after winning a resounding victory over a hardline challenger in May.

He has vowed to continue his outreach to the world, and to improve civil liberties at home, but has been criticised by reformists for again failing to select a single female minister.

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

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Potential New State Of Matter Discovered

Superconductivity is extensively used in MRI, particle accelerators, microwave filters (Representational)

Washington:  Scientists have discovered a potential new state of matter that may help explain phenomena like superconductivity.

Superconductivity is extensively used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), particle accelerators, magnetic fusion devices, and microwave filters.

Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US showed that among superconducting materials in high magnetic fields, the phenomenon of electronic symmetry breaking is common.

The ability to find similarities and differences among classes of materials with phenomena such as this helps establish the essential ingredients that cause novel functionalities such as superconductivity.

The high-magnetic-field state of the heavy fermion superconductor CeRhIn5 revealed a state in which the material’s electrons aligned in a way to reduce the symmetry of the original crystal, something that now appears to be universal among unconventional superconductors.

Unconventional superconductivity develops near a phase boundary separating magnetically ordered and magnetically disordered phases of a material.

“The appearance of the electronic alignment, called nematic behaviour, in a prototypical heavy-fermion superconductor highlights the interrelation of nematicity and unconventional superconductivity, suggesting nematicity to be common among correlated superconducting materials,” said Filip Ronning of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Heavy fermions are intermetallic compounds, containing rare earth or actinide elements.

“These heavy fermion materials have a different hierarchy of energy scales than is found in transition metal and organic materials, but they often have similar complex and intertwined physics coupling spin, charge and lattice degrees of freedom,” said Ronning, lead author on the study published in the journal Nature. 

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

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Boston March Against Hate Speech Avoids Charlottesville Chaos

Boston, US:  Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Boston on Saturday to protest a “free speech” rally featuring far-right speakers a week after a woman was killed at a Virginia white-supremacist demonstration.

Rally organizers had invited several far-right speakers who were confined to a small pen that police set up in the historic Boston Common Park to keep the two sides separate. The city avoided a repeat of last weekend’s bloody street battles in Charlottesville, Virginia, where one woman was killed.

Police estimated that as many as 40,000 people packed into the streets around the nation’s oldest park.

Officials had spent a week planning security for the event, mobilizing 500 police officers, including many on bikes, and placing barricades and large white dump trucks on streets along the park, aiming to deter car-based attacks like those seen in Charlottesville and Europe.

The rally never numbered more than a few dozen people, and its speakers could not be heard due to the shouts of those protesting it and the wide security cordon between the two sides. It wrapped up about an hour earlier than planned.

Protesters surrounded people leaving the rally, shouting “shame” and “go home” and occasionally throwing plastic water bottles. Police escorted several rally participants through the crowds, sometimes struggling against protesters who tried to stop them.

Some people dressed in black with covered faces several times swarmed rally attendees, including two men wearing the “Make America Great Again” caps from President Donald Trump’s campaign.

The violence in Charlottesville triggered the biggest domestic crisis yet for Trump, who provoked ire across the political spectrum for not immediately condemning white nationalists and for praising “very fine people” on both sides of the fight.

On Saturday, Trump on Twitter praised the Boston protesters.

“I want to applaud the many protestors in Boston who are speaking out against bigotry and hate. Our country will soon come together as one!” Trump tweeted. “Our great country has been divided for decades. Sometimes you need protest in order to heal, & we will heal, & be stronger than ever before!”

Arrests, Tensions
Thirty-three people were arrested, largely for scuffles in which some protesters threw rocks and bottles of urine at police dressed in riot gear, the Boston Police Department said.

“There was a little bit of a confrontation,” Police Commissioner William Evans told reporters, adding that “99.9 percent of the people who were here were here for the right reasons.”

Several protesters said they were unsurprised that the “Free Speech” event broke up early.

“They heard our message loud and clear: Boston will not tolerate hate,” said Owen Toney, a 58-year-old community activist who attended the anti-racism protest. “I think they’ll think again about coming here.”

U.S. tensions over hate speech have ratcheted up sharply after the Charlottesville clashes during the latest in a series of white supremacist marches.

White nationalists had converged in the Southern university city to defend a statue of Robert E. Lee, who led the pro-slavery Confederacy’s army during the Civil War, which ended in 1865.

A growing number of U.S. political leaders have called for the removal of statues honoring the Confederacy, with civil rights activists charging that they promote racism. Advocates of the statues contend they are a reminder of their heritage.

Organizers of Saturday’s rally in Boston denounced the white supremacist message and violence of Charlottesville and said their event would be peaceful.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Shiva Ayyadurai spoke at the rally, surrounded by supporters holding “Black Lives Matter” signs.

“We have a full spectrum of people here,” Ayyadurai said in a video of his speech posted on Twitter. “We have people from the Green Party here, we have Bernie (Sanders) supporters here, we’ve got people who believe in nationalism.”

Protesters also gathered on Saturday evening in Texas. In Dallas, where a Lee statue was vandalized overnight, about 3,000 people rallied near City Hall to demonstrate against white supremacy.

“Tear them down,” they chanted, referring to statues of Confederate figures.

A man who appeared waving a Confederate flag was quickly surrounded by demonstrators. “Shame on you,” they chanted. Police officers escorted the man away a few minutes later as the crowd cheered.

In Houston, a chapter of Black Lives Matter organized a rally to call for the removal of a “Spirit of the Confederacy” monument from a park.

While Boston has a reputation as one of the nation’s most liberal cities, it also has a history of racist outbursts, most notably riots against the desegregation of schools in the 1970s.

Karla Venegas, a 22-year-old who recently moved to Boston from California, said she was not surprised that the Free Speech rally petered out so quickly.

“They were probably scared away by the large crowd,” Venegas said.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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

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Woman Dies While 'Laughing Too Hard' In US

The woman suffered multiple injuries to her body and brain (Representational)

Washington:  A US school teacher died after she accidentally fell off a rooftop balcony while laughing during a vacation in Mexico, according to a media report.

Sharon Regoli Ciferno, 50, a teacher at Charles A Huston Middle School in the US state of Pennsylvania, was with her daughter at a friend’s house in Mexico on Monday when she sat on a deck ledge that doubled as a bench.

“She started laughing very hard and when she put her head back she lost her balance and fell back,” her brother David Regoli was quoted as saying by the Fox News.

“She suffered multiple injuries to her body and brain,” he said.

“Alcohol was not a factor. The building code standards in Mexico are not as stringent as in the US. Unfortunately, there was no back on the deck,” her brother said.

Regoli Ciferno was taken to a hospital where she died of her injuries. “This was a tragic accident that has devastated our very close-knit family,” he said.

The tragedy happened just as her students were getting ready to return to school from summer break.

Regoli Ciferno was married and a mother of two

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US Jackpot Grows To A Tempting $650 Million After Nobody Wins It

The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are one in 292 million

New York:  Nobody won a Powerball jackpot of $535 million in a draw on Saturday night, meaning the grand prize will grow to about $650 million, the second-highest level in the history of the Powerball.

The numbers drawn were: 17, 19, 39, 43, 68, with a special Powerball number of 13 and a Power Play of 4X.

With no winner of the grand prize, it will grow to an estimated $650 million ahead of the next draw on Wednesday, according to the website for the game.

The Multi-State Lottery Association runs Powerball for 44 U.S. states as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The $535 million jackpot up for grabs on Saturday ranked as the fifth-largest in the game’s 25-year history.

The highest-ever Powerball jackpot was nearly $1.6 billion in a January 2016 draw, which was split between three winning tickets.

The odds of winning the jackpot are one in 292 million. The odds are always the same, regardless of the size of the prize.

The odds of winning any prize, including one as small as $4, are about one in 25, the association said.

No one has hit the Powerball jackpot in the semi-weekly drawings since June 10, when a California man won $447.8 million.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Robert Birsel)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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

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Pakistan Must Ensure Its Soil Is Not Used For Terror Activities: US

The official also underlined need to further strengthen US and Pakistani military-to-military relations.

Islamabad:  Pakistan must ensure that its soil is not used for any terrorist attack against the neighbours, a top American General has said.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) commander General Joseph Votel conveyed this to Islamabad during a visit this week. This was his third visit to Pakistan as commander.

During the visit, he called on Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Zubair Hayat and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

“In his discussions with Pakistani leaders, he emphasised that all parties must work to ensure that Pakistani soil is not used to plan or conduct terrorist attacks against its neighbours,” the US Embassy in Islamabad said in a statement.

General Votel also underlined the need to further strengthen US and Pakistani military-to-military relations as the two nations work together to ensure greater regional security and stability.

“This visit allowed the General to gain an increased understanding of the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency efforts the Pakistani government has made over the years to achieve our shared objectives,” the statement said.

General Votel called on Prime Minister Abbasi yesterday during which the premier underscored that Pakistan had an important stake in peace and stability in Afghanistan as Pakistan has suffered the most due to conflict in that country.

PM Abbasi also raised the Kashmir issue with General Votel.

He agreed with General Votel on the importance of working closely to address issues of regional concerns. 

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In A German Village, The Bell Still Tolls For Hitler

BERLIN:  In a verdant German village, a church bell that bears a swastika tolls. Above the symbol is an inscription: “All for the Fatherland, Adolf Hitler.”

When the Nazi iconography was discovered this summer in Herxheim am Berg, some called for the bell’s removal, others for its protection as a relic of a shameful national history. The village is still deciding what to do.

Germans have a word for coming to terms with the past, “Vergangenheitsbewältigung.” The word, coined after World War II, has no equivalent in the English language, no analog that might inform the anguished American debate over Confederate monuments — whose defenders include not just torch-wielding neo-Nazis in Charlottesville but also President Donald Trump.

On a continent riven in the last century by two world wars, genocide and a battle of ideas waged across the Iron Curtain, European nations have accepted the burden of curating the tortured landscapes of their past. Symbols – insignia, flags, monuments – have become explosive at moments of regime change, as shifts in political power alter the cultural currents of the day. East-west friction particularly marks the conflict over remembrance in Europe, from de-Nazification in the Cold War era to contests today over commemoration of communism’s past.

“To some extent, Germany is an exceptional case,” said Arnd Bauerkämper, a historian at the Free University in Berlin. “Only the abandonment of Nazi ideology, and the clear break with the Nazi past, enabled integration into the West – membership in NATO, German reunification. There never was such a decisive break with Confederate ideas in the United States.”

But addressing monuments to people, parties and movements that have fallen into disrepute has not been simple in Germany, or elsewhere in Europe. And while memorials to victims now predominate, particularly here in the former capital of the Third Reich, continuing strife over names and symbols illuminates the continent’s enduring divisions.

A statue of Franz Joseph I again occupies a prominent position in Prague, a century after Czechoslovak independence made the commemoration of an Austro-Hungarian emperor unthinkable. Other figures remain unpalatable. For years, Czech officials have debated what to do with the plinth once supporting a statue of Joseph Stalin that weighed 17,000 metric tons, destroyed in 1962 as the communist party line turned against the Soviet dictator.

Jirina Siklova, a Czech sociologist active in the dissident Charter 77 movement, said the site remains indelibly linked to Stalin.

“It is stimulation for an explanation of this man,” she said. “Without this statue of Stalin, and without the liquidation of this statue, the new generation and tourists wouldn’t remember this period.”

Hungary has removed Communist-era statues from their pedestals and placed them in Memento Park, an open-air museum outside Budapest. Lithuanian’s Grutas Park is similar.

This has not quieted dispute over public memorials, however, particularly as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has pursued nationalist politics. A monument unveiled in 2014 to mark the 70th anniversary of Hungary’s invasion by Nazi Germany was dedicated to “the victims of the German invasion.” Critics said it obscured Hungary’s involvement in the annihilation of its Jewish citizens.

This year, activists threw paint-filled balloons at a Soviet memorial in Freedom Square in Budapest, in protest of perceived Russian influence in Hungarian affairs.

Jakub Janda, deputy director of the Prague-based European Values Think-Tank, said Russian influence is inseparable from a new effort by Czech communists to commemorate Communist-era border guards, who once policed the country’s frontier with West Germany and Austria. Josef Skala, vice chairman of the Czech Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, said memorializing the guards is part of an effort to demonstrate that Czechoslovakia, in addition to the Soviet Union, was a victim in the Cold War.

“I, personally, and the party I belong to do not like rewriting history,” Skala said. “We did not initiate the Cold War. We made mistakes, yes, but we were defending our interests.”

Antipathy to Russia in Poland’s ruling nationalist party, Law and Justice, has created a new row over Communist-era monuments in the former Soviet satellite state. The Polish government has set out to remove 500 Soviet monuments, as Russian senators call on President Vladimir Putin to respond with sanctions.

Statues of Stalin and Vladimir Lenin have also been toppled in Ukraine, as part of pro-Europe revolutionary activity that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.

Still another approach is that of Romania, which last year unveiled a new sculpture – depicting three wings pointing to the sky – that honors those who died fighting Communist rule in Romania and Bessarabia.

The German capital is a tableau of conflicting impulses. An underground transit station was renamed for Karl Marx in 1946 – not in the communist east but in West Berlin. Parts of the Berlin Wall remain in place, including at Checkpoint Charlie, a major tourist destination. Two years ago, the head of a giant Lenin statue was exhumed and exhibited in Berlin.

The European Union in 2005 dropped proposals to ban both Nazi and communist symbols, due to concerns for freedom of expression as well as disagreement over the scope of the prohibition. Still, many European nations bar the use of totalitarian symbolism. In parts of Eastern Europe, bans expressly extend to communist iconography. In Germany, only the prohibition on Nazi symbols and signals is unambiguous; tourists from across the globe have recently learned that giving the Nazi salute is forbidden.

Many sites associated with the Nazis stand today as haunting museums. Other structures have been demolished to thwart neo-Nazi pilgrimages. A prison that housed Nazi war criminals was razed in 1987, its materials ground to powder and scattered in the North Sea.

But purging Germany of Nazism was not as swift as severe legal codes might suggest. Nor were the country’s motives as pure, said Jacob S. Eder, a scholar of German history and Holocaust memory at the Friedrich-Schiller-University in Jena.

“It’s important to avoid making the mistake of thinking that now because every German city has some kind of memorial or museum to the Nazi past, that this was an easy process,” Eder said. “It’s actually quite the opposite.”

Certain debates, he said, still confound the public. Parade grounds in Nuremberg where Hitler held massive rallies lie in disrepair. “The question is what to do with it and whether to let it just decay,” Eder said.

Controversy in the 1990s and early 2000s marked the conceptualization of the Holocaust memorial in the heart of Berlin.

“People considered it a mark of shame,” Eder said – an argument revived this year by Björn Höcke, a state leader of Alternative for Germany, a far-right party poised to enter the German Parliament for the first time in elections next month. “It was the government of Helmut Kohl that pushed for this monument, not out of a sense of moral responsibility but much more a political necessity, to improve Germany’s reputation abroad.”

From the beginning of the postwar era, as West Germany rebuilt under the Marshall Plan, external pressure guided de-Nazification.

“Our deliverance from the Nazi period wasn’t a development within Germany, but we were forced by the Allied forces to become a civilized nation again,” said Volker Beck, a Green Party lawmaker who heads the Germany-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group.

The process was faltering, as ex-Nazis sometimes found their way into power, said Gavriel D. Rosenfeld, author of “The World Hitler Never Made: Alternate History and the Memory of Nazism.”

“But the thing that kept West Germany in the American orbit – and committed to de-Nazification – was fear of the Soviet Union,” he said. “There was no such fear in the American South.”

Marshall aid to reconstruct Western European economies hinged on strict conditions to adopt democratic policies. By contrast, a decade after the Civil War, as federal troops were withdrawn from the South, the decrees of Reconstruction went unenforced.

– – –

Luisa Beck contributed to this report.

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After Mosul Win, Iraq Begins Battle To Take Next Key ISIS Bastion

Tal Afar is located 70 kilometres west of Mosul, where Iraqi forces ended ISIS’s rule in July (AFP)

Baghdad:  Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced early Sunday the start of a battle to retake Tal Afar, a key Northern Iraqi bastion of the ISIS group and one of their last remaining strongholds in the region.The announcement comes a month after the capture by Iraqi forces of second city Mosul further east in a major blow to ISIS.

In a televised speech, Abadi, dressed in military uniform and standing in front of an Iraqi flag and map of the country, announced “the start of an operation to free Tal Afar”.

“I am saying to Daesh that there’s no choice other than to leave or be killed,” he said, using an alternative name for ISIS.

“We have won all our battles, and Daesh have always lost,” he said, telling the country’s troops that “the entire world is with you.”

Tal Afar is located 70 kilometres (43 miles) west of Mosul, where US-backed government forces ended ISIS’s rule in July after a months-long battle.

In June 2014, ISIS overran Tal Afar, a Shiite enclave in the predominantly Sunni province of Nineveh, on the road between Mosul and Syria.

At the time it had a population of around 200,000, but local officials said it was now impossible to know the exact number still living inside the city as most are cut off from the outside world.

However, authorities have accused the approximately 1,000 terrorists in the city of using civilians as human shields during Iraqi and coalition air strikes earlier this week in preparation for the ground assault.

Abadi said that Iraq’s paramilitary Hashed al-Shaabi forces would help various army, police and counter-terrorism units in Tal Afar.

The umbrella organisation, which is dominated by Iran-backed Shiite militias, has already been fighting to retake a number of other Iraqi cities from the ISIS.

‘Victory is near’

“In the early hours, the guns and flags turned towards their targets,” said Ahmed al-Assadi, a spokesman for Hashad.

“Victory is near” in Tal Afar, an “Iraqi city taken hostage and humiliated for years by attacks from these barbarians,” he said.

ISIS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces have since regained much of the territory.

Once Tal Afar is retaken, Iraqi authorities intend to launch a fight to retake ISIS-held Hawija, in the province of Kirkuk, 300 kilometres north of Baghdad.

Terrorists still hold areas in Anbar, a western province that faces major security challenges.

ISIS, which declared a cross-border “caliphate” encompassing swathes of Iraq and Syria three years ago, has also suffered major setbacks in Syria, where around half of ISIS’s de facto Syrian capital Raqa has been retaken by US-backed fighters.

But divisions across political, religious and ethnic lines will again rise to the surface in Iraq after the extremist group is driven out of its last bastions, experts have said.

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Researchers Find Wreckage Of Lost WWII Warship USS Indianapolis

USS Indianapolis sank in 15 minutes on July 30, 1945, in the war’s final days.

Naval researchers announced Saturday that they have found the wreckage of the lost World War II cruiser USS Indianapolis on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, 72 years after the vessel sank in minutes after it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine.

The ship was found almost 3 1/2 miles below the surface of the Philippine Sea, said a tweet from Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen, who led a team of civilian researchers that made the discovery.

Historians and architects from the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington, District of Columbia, had joined forces with Allen last year to revisit the tragedy.

The ship sank in 15 minutes on July 30, 1945, in the war’s final days, and it took the Navy four days to realize that the vessel was missing.

About 800 of the crew’s 1,200 sailors and Marines made it off the cruiser before it sank. But almost 600 of them died over the next four to five days from exposure, dehydration, drowning and shark attacks. Nineteen crew members are alive today, the Navy command said in a news release.

The Indianapolis had just completed a top secret mission to deliver components of the atomic bomb “Little Boy” to the island of Tinian. The bomb was later dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

In a statement on its website, the command call the shipwreck a “significant discovery,” considering the depth of the water.

“While our search for the rest of the wreckage will continue, I hope everyone connected to this historic ship will feel some measure of closure at this discovery so long in coming,” Allen said in a statement. His research vessel, Petrel, has state-of-the-art subsea equipment that can descend to depths like those at which the ship was found.

The cruiser’s captain, Charles Butler McVay III, was among those who survived, but he was eventually court-martialed and convicted of losing control of the vessel. About 350 Navy ships were lost in combat during the war, but he was the only captain to be court-martialed. Years later, under pressure from survivors to clear his name, McVay was posthumously exonerated by Congress and President Bill Clinton.

The shipwreck’s location had eluded researchers for decades.

The coordinates keyed out in an S.O.S. signal were forgotten by surviving radio operators and were not received by Navy ships or shore stations, the Navy command said. The ship’s mission records and logs were lost in the wreck.

Researchers got a break last year, however, when Richard Hulver, a historian with the Naval History and Heritage Command, identified a naval landing craft that had recorded a sighting of the Indianapolis hours before it was sunk. The position was west of where it was presumed to be lying. The team was able to develop a new estimated position, although it still covered 600 square miles of open ocean.

The ship is an official war grave, which means it is protected by law from disturbances. Naval archaeologists will prepare to tour the site and see what data they can retrieve. No recovery efforts are planned.

Hulver and Robert Neyland, the command’s underwater archaeology branch head, wrote on the website that “there remains a lot we can learn.”

“From the sinking to the battle damage and site formation processes, we hope to gain a better understanding about the wreck site and how we can better protect USS Indianapolis to honor the service of the ship and crew.”

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'Shocking' Conditions Await Civilians Fleeing ISIS In Syria

Aid workers say that at least some of camps are without basic medical services in Raqqa. (AFP file)

BEIRUT:  Fleeing terror in the Islamic State’s last Syrian strongholds, tens of thousands of civilians have become stranded in harrowing conditions across barely functional displacement camps.

As the militant group’s grip in Syria crumbles and U.S.-backed forces push through its de facto capital, Raqqa, some 40 camps across the country’s northwest now host anywhere between 2,000 and 10,000 people, with more arriving every day.

For one young couple escaping Raqqa, the journey to a displacement camp took more than 10 hours on foot through the 110-degree heat. For those with larger families – many carrying infants or parents on their backs – the voyage stretched into weeks.

“Conditions are very shocking,” said Ingy Sedky, a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross. “Some of the worst I’ve seen.”

On arrival, newcomers in some camps said they found neither a place to sleep nor a doctor to assess their needs. They were depleted from days of dehydration on top of months of fear under Islamic State rule.

“I arrived and I just fell down. The water they revived me with was dark with oil so I just lay there on the ground exhausted and humiliated,” said one woman who arrived in the eastern al-Arisha camp Thursday. She asked that her name be withheld out of concerns of her husband’s safety in an Islamic State prison in the western province of Deir al-Zour.

Aid workers say that at least some of the nearby camps are without basic medical services. Water is limited as temperatures soar and few have electricity or toilets. The consequences can be deadly.

On a recent visit to the largest camp, Ain Issa, Sedky’s delegation met a father whose newborn baby had died due to lack of medical care in the heat. “It was heartbreaking. He kept pulling out his phone to show us photographs,” she said.

More than 200,000 people have fled Raqqa since April as a U.S.-backed offensive edged first through the surrounding countryside and then toward the city center. Tens of thousands have also fled the area around Deir al-Zour, where the U.S.-led coalition is launching heavy air strikes and Syrian-backed forces are pushing through the province’s western countryside.

To reach the larger and better equipped displacement camps, the new arrivals often move first through what are known as transit points – camps where Kurdish fighters from the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces attempt to screen out Islamic State militants by confiscating identification cards.

Aid workers say the process is chaotic and confusing. When newcomers arrive with little more than the clothes on their backs, they can be stranded for weeks without explanation.

Muhammed, a 29-year-old from the western Deir al-Zour countryside who asked that his second name not be used due to safety concerns, said he slept in the open air at the al-Karama camp for four days as his documents were checked.

Doctors express particular concern for the psychological welfare of children who have escaped. “Their faces are just frozen. They don’t cry, they don’t laugh. It’s a shocking thing to witness,” said Rajia Sharhan, a pediatrician with the United Nations’ children’s agency, Unicef.

According to Doctors Without Borders, some civilians have spent weeks nursing battle wounds behind front lines. Escapees and activists still living under Islamic State rule report that services have deteriorated as the group’s finance sources dry up and U.S.-led coalition bombing raids hit vital infrastructure, including hospitals.

Inside Islamic State-held Raqqa and Deir al-Zour, food prices are also rising rapidly, leaving many families with little to survive on. Escape often relies on a smuggler charging hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, a price that depletes resources to a level that means those who flee often have little left.

“The people who end up in these camps have done so because they have no choice,” said Vanessa Cramond, the northern Syria coordinator for Doctors Without Borders. “The challenge is big enough when we’re treating people arriving during the summer months. We’re really struggling to meet needs now and I fear for what lies ahead when the temperatures drop.”

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Donald Trump Thanks Ousted Aide Steve Bannon

Steve Bannon left White House after fallout over Trump’s response to a violent white supremacist rally.

Washington:  Donald Trump on Saturday thanked Steve Bannon for his “service” a day after the US president parted ways with his controversial former chief strategist and key campaign ally.

A champion of the nationalist-populist agenda that carried Trump to power last November, the 63-year-old Bannon left a White House reeling from the fallout over the president’s response to a violent white supremacist rally.

“I want to thank Steve Bannon for his service. He came to the campaign during my run against Crooked Hillary Clinton – it was great! Thanks,”  Trump tweeted on Saturday.

Bannon, a hero of the so-called “alt right” whose presence in the West Wing was controversial from the start, had become the nucleus of one of several competing power centers in a chaotic White House.

With Trump under fire for insisting anti-racism protesters were equally to blame for violence at a weekend rally of neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, the president faced renewed pressure to let Bannon go.

The departure, capping one of the most disastrous weeks of the chaotic young administration, is a nod to members of Trump’s government and his Republican Party grown increasingly frustrated with the anti-establishment firebrand.

It remains to be seen what role the serial provocateur will continue to play from outside the White House, but Bannon himself vowed to keep pushing Trump’s right-wing agenda, as he returned to his former home at the ultra-conservative website Breitbart News.

“If there’s any confusion out there, let me clear it up: I’m leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents — on Capitol Hill, in the media, and in corporate America,” Bannon said in an interview within hours of leaving the White House.

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Trump Thanks Bannon For His Role In Defeating 'Crooked Hillary Clinton'

Administration officials said Trump empowered new chief of staff to fire Bannon (AFP file image)

President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Saturday morning to thank Stephen Bannon, his ousted White House chief strategist, and took a shot at his vanquished Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, while he was at it.

“I want to thank Steve Bannon for his service,” Trump said in a morning tweet. “He came to the campaign during my run against Crooked Hillary Clinton – it was great! Thanks S”

Trump on Friday dismissed Bannon, an architect of his 2016 general-election victory and the champion of his nationalist impulses, in a major White House shake-up.

Administration officials said Trump empowered new chief of staff, John F. Kelly, to fire Bannon in an effort to tame warring factions and bring stability to a White House at risk of caving under its self-destructive tendencies.

Trump’s tweet made no mention of Bannon’s contributions at the White House. It also referenced Bannon’s arrival after the GOP primary season, a point Trump and other White House officials have made in recent weeks as they’ve tried to distance themselves from Bannon.

Having departed the White House, Bannon is returning as executive chairman of Breitbart News, the pugilistic conservative website he helped guide before joining Trump’s campaign last August, Breitbart announced Friday.

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Benjamin Netanyahu, Vladimir Putin To Meet Over Syria Conflict

Such talks have let Russia and Israel to so far avoid confrontation between their air forces (Reuters)

Jerusalem:  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to Russia on Wednesday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, mainly focussing on the war in Syria, his office said late Saturday.

The two leaders will meet in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi to “discuss the latest developments in the region,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.

Such talks have allowed the two countries to so far avoid any confrontation between their air forces, as Russia conducts airstrikes in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Israel has sought to avoid being dragged into the civil war, but has carried out strikes to prevent arms deliveries to the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, which fights alongside Assad’s forces.

Israel’s army has carried out nearly 100 strikes in the past five years on convoys carrying weapons to militant groups in Syria and elsewhere, former air force commander Amir Eshel told the Haaretz newspaper on Thursday.

In March, Russia’s foreign ministry summoned Israel’s ambassador over air strikes close to Moscow’s forces near the historic Syrian city of Palmyra.

At the time, Israel’s intelligence minister Yisrael Katz told AFP that in general, Moscow was not informed of Israeli strikes in Syria ahead of time, even though a “hotline” was set up last year to avoid accidental clashes between the two countries’ forces. 

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Spain Hunts For Driver In Van Rampage, Says Islamist Cell Dismantled

RIPOLL/BARCELONA:  Police were searching on Saturday for the driver of a van that killed 13 people when it ploughed into a crowd in Barcelona and were trying to determine whether two other suspected terrorist linked to the attack had died or were at large.

The Spanish government said it considered it had dismantled the cell behind Thursday’s Barcelona rampage and an attack early on Friday in the Catalan seaside town of Cambrils.

Police arrested four people in connection with the attacks Barcelona and Cambrils, where a woman was killed when a car rammed passersby on Friday. Five attackers wearing fake explosive belts were also shot dead in the Catalan town.

“The cell has been fully dismantled in Barcelona, after examining the people who died, the people who were arrested and carrying out identity checks,” Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido told a news conference.

But authorities have yet to identify the driver of the van and his whereabouts are unclear, while police and officials in the northeastern region of Catalonia said they still needed to locate up to two other people.

Investigators are focusing on a group of at least 12 suspects believed to be behind the deadliest attacks to hit Spain in more than a decade.

In little more than a year, terrorists have used vehicles as weapons to kill nearly 130 people in France, Germany, Britain, Sweden and Spain.

None of the nine people arrested or shot dead by police are believed to be the driver who sped into Las Ramblas, leaving a trail of dead and injured among the crowds of tourists and local residents strolling along the Barcelona boulevard.

A Moroccan-born 22-year-old called Younes Abouyaaqoub was among those being sought, according to the mayor’s office in the Catalan town of Ripoll, where he and other suspects lived.

Spanish media reported that Abouyaaqoub may have been the driver of the van in Barcelona, but police and Catalan officials could not confirm this.

The driver in the Barcelona attack abandoned the van and fled on foot on Thursday after ploughing into the crowd. Fifty people were still in hospital on Saturday following that attack, with 13 in a critical condition.

Many were foreign tourists. The Mediterranean region of Catalonian is thronged in the summer months with visitors drawn to its beaches and the port city of Barcelona’s museums and tree-lined boulevards.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks in Cambrils and Barcelona, a statement by the terrorist group said on Saturday.


Police searched a flat in Ripoll on Friday in their hunt for people connected to the attacks, the ninth raid so far on homes in the town nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees near the French border.

The flat had been occupied by a man named as Abdelbaki Es Satty, according to a search warrant seen by Reuters. Neighbours said he was an imam, a Muslim prayer leader. His landlord said he had last been seen on Tuesday.

Scraps of paper covered in notes were strewn around the flat, which had been turned upside down in the police search.

Three Moroccans and a citizen of Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla have been arrested so far in connection with the attacks.

Apart from Abouyaaqoub, authorities are searching for two other people though it is not certain they are at large.

One or even both of them may have been killed in Alcanar, where a house was razed by an explosion shortly before midnight on Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Catalonia’s home affairs department said.

Police believe the house in Alcanar was being used to plan one or several large-scale attacks in Barcelona, possibly using a large number of butane gas canisters stored there.

The Spanish government maintained its security alert level at four, one notch below the maximum level that would indicate another attack was imminent, but said it would reinforce security in crowded areas and tourist hotspots.

Spanish media also said that security at the border with France was being beefed up.


Of the 14 dead in the two attacks, five are Spanish, two are Italians, two are Portuguese, one Belgian, one Canadian and one a U.S. citizen, emergency services and authorities from those countries have confirmed so far.

A seven-year-old boy with British and Australian nationality who had been missing since the attack in Barcelona was found on Saturday in one of the city’s hospitals and was in a serious condition, El Pais newspaper reported.

Spain’s King Felipe and Queen Letizia on Saturday visited some of the dozens injured whose nationalities ranged from French and German to Pakistani and the Filipino. They are being treated in various Barcelona hospitals.

The royal couple are expected to take part in a Catholic mass on Sunday morning at architect Antoni Gaudi’s famous Sagrada Familia church, a Barcelona landmark, in honour of the victims of the attack.

Barcelona’s football team will wear special shirts, bearing the Catalan words for “We are all Barcelona”, and black armbands in memory of victims when they play their opening league game of the season on Sunday evening against Real Betis.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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ISIS Claims Russia Knife Attack Wounding 7

Unconfirmed reports identified the attacker as 19-year-old Artur Gadzhiyev

Moscow:  The ISIS terror group on Saturday claimed responsibility after a man stabbed seven people on the street in a Russian city before being shot dead by police, despite investigators saying it was probably not a terrorist attack.

“The executor of the stabbing operation in the city of Surgut in Russia is a soldier of the Islamic State,” ISIS propaganda outlet Amaq said in a statement, after the jihadists also claimed responsibility for twin attacks in Spain that left 14 dead.

The attack also comes a day after a stabbing spree in Finland, which left two people dead and eight others injured and is being investigated as a terrorist attack, although the assailant’s motive is unknown.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said a man in Surgut had “carried out attacks on passers-by, causing stab wounds”. It said armed police called to the scene “liquidated” the attacker following the stabbing on Saturday morning. 

Regional officials said seven people were taken to hospital, with the figure confirmed by investigators, who lowered an earlier toll of eight wounded. 

A spokesman for regional police had earlier downplayed the possibility of a terrorist incident, telling Interfax news agency that the theory that the incident was “a terrorist (attack) is not the main one”.

The Investigative Committee said it had established the attacker’s identity, saying he was a local resident born in 1994, and that they were looking into “his possible psychiatric disorders”.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny questioned the authorities’ treatment of the incident, writing on Twitter: “Someone runs round with a knife and tries to kill as many people as possible. What is that, if not a terrorist attack?” 

Investigators have opened a criminal probe into attempted murder, not terrorism, with the Investigative Committee’s chief Alexander Bastrykin taking the case under his personal control.

Regional police said officers fired warning shots at the scene before firing at the suspect, who was wearing a balaclava.

YouTube footage shown on Russia’s Ren TV television showed a black-clad man lying on a pedestrian walkway with a policeman kneeling on his back as sirens wail.

Busy area

Unconfirmed reports from the Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid and other media identified the attacker as 19-year-old Artur Gadzhiyev, saying that his father is known to authorities for involvement in radical religious organisations and comes from the mainly Muslim region of Dagestan in the North Caucasus. 

Regional officials said four of those stabbed remained in a serious condition while another was stable in hospital. Two have already been discharged.

Russian television reported that the stabbing victims are aged between 27 and 77 and include two women.

State news agency TASS said the city’s largest shopping centre was evacuated after the stabbings, citing its director, and police posted a video of the attack site, showing it to be a busy area with traffic and blocks of flats.

The city lies some 2,100 kilometres (1,330 miles) northeast of Moscow in the oil-rich Khanty-Mansi region.

The region’s governor was flying out to the city to hold a meeting with investigators, regional authorities said.

The regional government moved to curb panic in the city, insisting the “situation is under the control of the authorities” and calling for calm.

A group suspected of links to Al-Qaeda claimed an April attack on the Saint Petersburg metro that killed 15 people and has been blamed on a Russian suicide bomber born in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan.

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In California Horse Country, Trump Voters Stand By Their Man

Unites States:  In Norco, a California desert town an hour inland from Los Angeles, the joke is that there are as many horses as there are residents. 

And on a recent visit, it seemed there were almost as many Donald Trump supporters as there were horses.

This community where riding trails are used as sidewalks, and rodeo events and revolver juggling are favorite pastimes, is one of the most Republican in the deeply Democratic state.

And almost all Norco residents are standing by their candidate, even as he faces a storm of bipartisan criticism over his response to a violent white supremacist rally.

“Look at all the jobs he’s bringing, he’s working on tax reform,” said Skip Fischer, a 62-year-old contractor as he left the Saddle Sore Saloon, a Wild West-themed restaurant and bar. “I like his aggressiveness, people don’t walk on him, that’s what America needed.”

“I think he’s gonna be the one that changes the world,” said a young housewife who would not give her name.

Seven months after the wealthy businessman was sworn into office, Trump has seen his popularity plunge to 36 percent, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll. And yet 61 percent of Trump supporters said they could not see the president doing anything that would make them disapprove of him, according to a Monmouth University poll.

Everyone interviewed by AFP in Norco applauded his reaction to the recent deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, where several hundred neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other far-right extremists had gathered for a rally. They clashed with counter-demonstrators and a young woman was killed by a neo-Nazi sympathizer who rammed his car into a crowd.

‘They’re all racists’ 

Trump has come under fire from Republicans and Democrats alike after he drew an equivalency between the far-right demonstrators and the counter-protesters, saying there were “very fine people on both sides.”

“I think his reaction was absolutely correct,” Fischer said. “President Obama would come up and without any facts he’d say these guys were wrong, the police was wrong. President Trump waits until he has the facts.”

Lana James, 70, who was running errands with her granddaughter, said the reaction to Trump’s comments has been too extreme.

“He certainly did mean to condemn the supremacists and he did,” she said. “When you have two groups that are so radical, either to the left or to the right, there are hateful people and extreme on both sides.”

Mark Birdwell agreed with James’ assessment.

“I think they’re all wrong, everybody needs to take a big breath and relax,” said the 48-year-old who works in industrial refrigeration. “I don’t agree with Black Lives Matter, I don’t agree with the KKK… they’re all racists.”

For him and all the Norco residents who spoke with AFP, public statues of Confederate leaders — who fought to preserve slavery during the US Civil War from 1861 to 1865 — should remain standing.

“I had members of my family fighting on both sides during the Civil War, taking down symbols of the country is wrong, it’s part of history,” Birdwell said.

He’s not alone — nearly two out of three Americans feel Confederate statues should remain in place.

Immigration ‘problem’ 

Many in Norco are quick to echo Trump’s own words on the topic, after he rhetorically questioned whether statues of early American presidents would have to come down too, since several were slave owners.

“You had your presidents that had slaves, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, what are you gonna do? Get rid of their statues just because some people got their feelings hurt that this was in the past?” Fischer said.

Some African Americans say “we’re still affected by slavery. Well, no, you’re not. You’re free now, you can do whatever you want,” he added.

Beyond Charlottesville, the fervent Trump supporter also approves of the president’s war rhetoric aimed at the authoritarian regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

“Sometimes you have to be more aggressive instead of passive like Obama was, otherwise people take advantage of you,” Fischer said.

Fellow Trump fan Buzz Riebschlager said he’d like to see more achievements in tax reform and in repealing Obamacare, the health care reforms that Republican lawmakers have been pledging to tear up for years.

But on immigration, he’s on the same page as the president.

“If you don’t live here, you shouldn’t get a job. I’m not being racist,” he said. 

“This is America, it’s 2017, everybody’s welcome here. The problem is when they come here and start doing bad things.”

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

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Donald Trump, First Lady Won't Attend Kennedy Center Honors: White House

The White House said Donald Trump and Melania Trump will not take part in the Kennedy Center Honors.

Washington:  U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will not attend the Kennedy Center Honors in December, the White House announced on Saturday, after several honorees said they would boycott a White House reception before the show.

The Kennedy Center also said in a statement the White House reception “will no longer take place.”

The White House said the president and first lady would not take part in the Kennedy Center Honors “to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction.”

The announcement came after television producer Norman Lear, singer Lionel Richie and dancer Carmen de Lavallade said they would not attend the White House reception that was set to take place prior to the Dec. 3 annual gala event. The other honorees are singer Gloria Estefan and rapper LL Cool J.

The awards are presented each year in December to recognize honorees for their lifetime contributions to the arts.

All five honorees are expected to attend a Dec. 2 dinner and awards ceremony at the State Department, the Kennedy Center’s chairman, David Rubenstein, and its president, Deborah Rutter, in a statement.

The Kennedy Center “respects” the decision made by the Trumps, they said.

“In choosing not to participate in this year’s Honors activities, the administration graciously signaled its respect for the Kennedy Center and ensures the Honors gala remains a deservingly special moment for the honorees,” Rubenstein and Rutter said.

De Lavallade, an African-American actress, dancer and choreographer, said in a statement on her website that she was honored to receive the award and would attend the show.

But, she said that she would not go to the White House “in light of the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our existing leadership is choosing to engage in.”

Her comments come after the president blamed “both sides” for violence that erupted last week between counter-demonstrators and neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and white nationalists holding a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Trump’s comments prompted a slew of resignations from presidential councils, including all 17 members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

In a New York Times article on Aug. 3, Lear was quoted as saying that he would forgo the White House reception because, “This is a presidency that has chosen to neglect totally the arts and humanities – deliberately defund them – and that doesn’t rest pleasantly with me.”

The Kennedy Center Honors is the second annual Washington event that Trump decided not to attend.

The U.S. President, who called the U.S. news media as “enemies of the American people,” also withdrew from the annual White House Correspondents Dinner.

(Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Editing by Toby Chopra and Diane Craft)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Thousands Take To Streets In Boston Protest Against Hate Speech

A large crowd of people gathers ahead of the “Free Speech” rally in Boston, United States

BOSTON:  Thousands of people in Boston protested a “Free Speech” rally featuring right-wing speakers on Saturday, with hundreds of police mobilised to prevent a recurrence of violence that left a woman dead at a Virginia white-supremacist protest last week.

In historic Boston Common park alone, hundreds of protesters who believe the event could become a platform for racist propaganda dwarfed the few dozen rally participants.

The number of protesters was poised to swell exponentially as a march with thousands more people bore down on the park.

Some 500 police officers placed barricades to prevent vehicles from entering the park, the nation’s oldest. To keep the two groups separate, they also built a cordon around the site of the rally.

Last weekend’s clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, where one woman was killed in a car rampage after bloody street battles, ratcheted up racial tensions already inflamed by white supremacist groups marching more openly in rallies across the United States.

White nationalists had converged in the Southern university city to defend a statue of Robert E Lee, who led the pro-slavery Confederacy’s army during the Civil War, which ended in 1865.

A growing number of US political leaders have called for the removal of statues honoring the Confederacy, with civil rights activists charging that they promote racism. Advocates of the statues contend they are a reminder of their heritage.

Duke University removed a statue of Lee from the entrance of a chapel on its Durham, North Carolina campus, officials said on Saturday.

Organisers of Saturday’s rally in Boston have denounced the white supremacist message and violence of Charlottesville and said their event would be peaceful.

“The point of this is to have political speech from across the spectrum, conservative, libertarian, centrist,” said Chris Hood, an 18-year-old Boston resident who stood among a crowd of a few dozen people who planned to join the Free Speech rally. “This is not about Nazis. If there were Nazis here, I’d be protesting against them.”

Last weekend’s violence sparked the biggest domestic crisis yet for US President Donald Trump, who provoked ire across the political spectrum for not immediately condemning white nationalists and for praising “very fine people” on both sides of the fight.

Two male rally participants wearing Trump’s red “Make America Great Again” campaign hats attempted to enter the protest pen that police had set up to keep the two sides separated. They were swarmed by black-clad protesters, some with their faces covered, as the crowd screamed “go home” and “no hate” at them.

Beyond the Boston rally and march, protests are also expected on Saturday in Texas, with the Houston chapter of Black Lives Matter holding a rally to remove a “Spirit of the Confederacy” monument from a park and civil rights activists in Dallas planning a rally against white supremacy.

Boston authorities had roadblocks in place to avert car attacks like the deadly one carried out in Charlottesville by a man said to have neo-Nazi sympathies against counter-protesters and a similar spate of attacks by Islamist extremists in Europe, most recently Barcelona.

Protesters Reject Plea

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh had asked protesters to avoid Boston Common, saying their presence would draw more attention to the far-right activists. He joined the crowd of thousands assembling in Boston’s historically black Roxbury neighborhood early on Saturday.

“These signs and the message so far this morning is all about love and peace,” Walsh told reporters. “That’s a good message.”

Monica Cannon, an organizer of the “Fight White Supremacy” march, said it was a necessary move.

“Ignoring a problem has never solved it,” Cannon said in a phone interview. “We cannot continue to ignore racism.”

The Free Speech rally’s scheduled speakers include Kyle Chapman, a California activist who was arrested at a Berkeley rally earlier this year that turned violent, and Joe Biggs, formerly of the right-wing conspiracy site Infowars.

Antonio Vargas, a 20-year-old student at Gordon College, joined the protest march.

“I believe in equality,” Vargas said. “I believe race shouldn’t define the pattern of your life or the result of your life.

“There also is a time to stand up and not be silent.”

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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ISIS Claims Responsibility For Russia Stabbing Attack

A man stabbed seven people on the street in Surgut in Russia.

Cairo:  Islamic State claimed responsibility for a stabbing attack in the in the Siberian city of Surgut that injured eight people on Saturday, the group’s AMAQ news gency said.

Russian law enforcement said they had killed the attacker and is investigating the incident as attempted murder.

(Reporting by Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Toby Chopra)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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State Funeral For 'Pakistan's Mother Teresa'

German-born nun Ruth Pfau, known as ‘Pakistan’s Mother Teresa’, was given a state funeral (Reuters)

Karachi:  Pakistani soldiers on Saturday carried the flag-draped coffin of German-born Catholic nun Ruth Pfau to a state funeral where she was honoured after devoting her life to eradicating leprosy in the country.

Widely known as Pakistan’s Mother Teresa, Pfau died last week in the southern city of Karachi at age 87. She is to be buried in her adopted homeland.

Mourners paid their last respects as Pfau’s coffin was carried to the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre that she founded before being taken on to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for the official service.

Pfau had been living in Pakistan since 1960, and her leprosy centre in Karachi was Pakistan’s first hospital dedicated to treating the disease. She later opened treatment centres across the country.

“It is a big loss to this hospital and to humanity. It is very hard to find a person like her in today’s era,” said Yasmeen Morris, a staff member at the centre.

“She led a very simple life and she loved humanity.”

In 1996, the World Health Organisation declared that leprosy had been controlled in Pakistan, which led Pfau to the more challenging task of eliminating the disease.

Last year, the number of patients under treatment for leprosy fell to 531 from over 19,000 in the 1980s.

© 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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Luxury Flights To The Eclipse: $10,000 A Seat, Plus A Lawn Chair

Passengers will be offered expert commentary by an astronomer on solar flares through a telescope.

For the well-heeled looking for a last-minute plan to see next week’s solar eclipse, a U.S. private-jet operator is offering an option for $10,000 a seat.

Million Air is whisking customers to remote airports where the moon will totally block the sun’s rays for a time on Aug. 21. Passengers will watch from lawn chairs near the wings of the plane while an astronomer offers expert commentary and views of solar flares through a telescope.

“Our idea is that, instead of tailgating at a ballgame, we’re going to wing-gate under the path of total eclipse,” said Roger Woolsey, chief executive officer of the Houston-based company. “We’ll load the jet up like a pickup truck, with the picnic baskets and the Dom Perignon and the snacks.”

The flights reflect the solar show’s bonanza for private-plane operators, which is on a par with major holidays and sporting events. The Federal Aviation Administration is putting up temporary air-traffic control centers in Oregon, where the total eclipse will begin over the U.S. as it sweeps toward South Carolina along a 70-mile band. Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a hot location for the luxury-jet set that’s in the path, is out of aircraft parking spots.

‘Super Bowl’

“The magnitude has a Super Bowl feel,” said Brad Stewart, CEO of XOJet, which owns a fleet of 41 aircraft. “The idea of the eclipse has captured the imagination.”

The coast-to-coast total solar eclipse, a phenomenon that last occurred 99 years ago, is giving an extra boost to a private-jet charter industry that already enjoyed a 6.7 percent increase in charter activity in July from a year earlier. XOJet, based in Brisbane, California, will handle about 60 flights to eclipse areas, Stewart said.

At Jet Linx, bookings to see the eclipse began a couple of months ago after a customer broached the idea, Chief Executive Officer Jamie Walker, said. Now the Omaha, Nebraska-based company has 16 flights planned. The average cost to rent out a light jet is about $4,000 an hour and $8,000 for a heavy jet such as a Gulfstream 450, Walker said.

NetJets, the private-jet company owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., has about 500 bookings to and from the eclipse zones. That puts demand on par with the busiest holiday times around Thanksgiving and Christmas, Kristyn Wilson, a spokeswoman for the company, said in an email.

“We do, on occasion, experience peaks related to popular events. But demand of this nature, especially on a Monday in August, is truly out of this world,” she quipped.

‘Cosmic Cocktails’

Commercial carriers are also getting into the mix. Alaska Air Group Inc. is operating a charter flight that takes off from Portland, Oregon, for select astronomy enthusiasts and eclipse chasers. Southwest Airlines Co. is providing special viewing glasses and offering “cosmic cocktails” on flights most likely to experience the eclipse’s maximum effects.

Pilots flying during the event will have to keep an eye out for about 100 high-altitude balloons that students in coordination with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will launch to capture live footage of the eclipse, the FAA said.

People outside the path of totality will still be able to see dramatic partial eclipses with no help from private-jet operators charging thousands of dollars. But the fever to pack up the family and fly off to a place in the path of complete darkness has been increasing as the natural phenomenon nears, said Ron Silverman, U.S. president for VistaJet in New York.

“The biggest challenge right now is finding an airport that we can get into,” Silverman said.

(To contact the reporter on this story: Thomas Black in Dallas at
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Case at Tony Robinson)

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

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How To Safely Watch An Eclipse

Only specially certified sunglasses should be used before watching a solar eclipse (File)

Miami, US:  Everyone who plans to look skyward when the solar eclipse sweeps across the United States on Monday should have the proper protective eyewear, or risk lasting blind spots, experts warn.

Regular sunglasses will not do, the US space agency says. 

Only eclipse glasses that have a certification with “ISO 12312-2 international standard” are safe for use, according to NASA.

Other options are number 14 welder’s glass, or making a pinhole projector that allows a user to project the image of the Sun on paper or cardboard.

But with the Great American Eclipse’s shadow set to envelop the entire nation, educating more than 300 million people in its path is a tall order.

Already, the US Fire Administration is warning of scams, such as counterfeit glasses being promoted as suitable for an eclipse when they are not. 

And of the handful of US wholesalers that make legitimate eclipse glasses, some sold out well over a week ahead of the event.

Dangers Are Real

“The dangers of looking at the Sun are real and serious,” said Dr Vincent Jerome Giovinazzo, director of ophthalmology at Staten Island University Hospital, Northwell Health.

“The damage can really be permanent and right smack in the center of their vision.”

Many may recall a childhood experiment of using a magnifying glass to focus sunlight on a leaf or a sheet of paper and set it on fire.

“The same thing can happen to your eyes,” said Dr Giovinazzo.

Dr Jules Winokur, an ophthalmologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, has seen the damage in patients who stared at the Sun.

“They get a kind of macular degeneration where they are burning into their retina and they can lose vision and it can be permanent,” he told AFP.

“You can be left with a scar from where you were staring at the Sun and that can be right in the center of your vision.”

Most people don’t want to look at the Sun because it hurt. But during an eclipse, the pain and discomfort are not there.

“It is actually not as uncomfortable to stare at the Sun but the damaging effects are the same,” Dr Winokur explained.

“And what you can do is you can burn your macula the same shape of whatever crescent the Sun is showing. You wouldn’t necessarily feel uncomfortable.”

There is one exception to the rule of not staring directly at an eclipse.

Those in the path of totality, where the Sun is completely blocked by the Moon, can take off their protective eyewear for the short period of time when the sky is completely dark and no circles of sunlight are visible around the Moon.

In the United States, this 70-mile (113-kilometer) wide path of totality will pass briefly through 14 states.

Other options

Other options are available for those unable to buy eclipse eye wear.

According to NASA, more than 6,800 libraries across nationwide are distributing safety-certified glasses.

The old-school way of watching via a pinhole projector is also inexpensive and easy to do.

“With this method, sunlight streams through a small hole- such as a pencil hole in a piece of paper, or even the space between your fingers- onto a makeshift screen, such as a piece of paper or the ground,” NASA said on its website. 

“It’s important to only watch the screen, not the Sun. Never look at the Sun through the pinhole — it is not safe.”

For those interested in seeing the eclipse from afar, or from places that may be clouded out, the US space agency is planning a live broadcast on August 21 starting at 1600 GMT on

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Wheelchair-Bound Stephen Hawking Slams 'Profit-Making' Healthcare Model

Stephen Hawking accused the UK government of cherry-picking evidence to justify health policy (Reuters)

London:  Physicist Stephen Hawking has criticised the British government for causing a crisis in the state-run National Health Service (NHS), saying it had to be protected from becoming a profit-making U.S.-style system.

Writing in the Guardian newspaper, the British cosmologist, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease aged 21, also accused Britain’s health minister of cherry-picking scientific evidence to justify policies.

“The care I have received since being diagnosed with motor neurone disease as a student in 1962 has enabled me to live my life as I want, and to contribute to major advances in our understanding of the universe,” wrote Hawking, author of the bestselling book ‘A Brief History of Time’.

Founded in 1948, the NHS is a source of huge pride for many Britons who are able to access free care from the cradle to the grave, but in recent years tight budgets, an ageing population and more expensive, complex treatments has put the system under huge financial strain.

Hawking, a supporter of the opposition Labour Party, said the NHS was “a cornerstone of our society” but was in crisis created by political decisions.

It was also facing a conflict between the interests of multinational corporations driven by profit and public opposition to increasing privatisation, he said.

“In the U.S., where they are dominant in the healthcare system, these corporations make enormous profits, healthcare is not universal, and it is hugely more expensive for the outcomes patients receive than in the UK,” he wrote.

“We see the balance of power in the UK is with private healthcare companies, and the direction of change is towards a U.S.-style insurance system.”

Last year, English doctors staged their first strikes in four decades over government plans to reform pay and conditions as part of moves to deliver what it said would be a consistent service seven days a week as studies showed mortality rates were higher at weekends when staffing is reduced.

However, Hawking, who communicates via a cheek muscle linked to a sensor and computerised voice system, said Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had cherry-picked research to justify his arguments.

“For a scientist, cherry-picking evidence is unacceptable. When public figures abuse scientific argument, citing some studies but suppressing others to justify policies they want to implement for other reasons, it debases scientific culture,” he wrote.

Hunt responded on Twitter saying no health secretary could ignore the evidence.

“Stephen Hawking is brilliant physicist but wrong on lack of evidence 4 weekend effect,” Hunt wrote.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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

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8 Injured Knife Attack In Russian City, Shot By Police

A knife attacker stabbed eight people in Russia’s city Surgut. (Representational)

Moscow, Russia:  A knife attacker stabbed eight people on the street in Russia’s far northern city of Surgut before being shot by police, investigators said Saturday.

The male attacker “carried out attacks on passers-by, causing stab wounds to eight” while “moving along central streets of the city” at around 11:20 am local time (0620 GMT) said Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes.

It said that armed police then arrived and used their weapons on the attacker and “liquidated” him.

The incident took place in a city some 2,100 kilometres (1,330 miles) northeast of Moscow in the oil-rich Khanty-Mansi region.

Two of those stabbed are in a serious condition while five more are in a stable condition, the government of the Khanty-Mansi region said in a statement, calling the attacker so far “unidentified.”

It called for calm over the incident, saying that “in the interests of public calm and also of the investigation, citizens and media are recommended to use reliable information in assessing the situation until all the circumstances are established.”


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Six US Police Personnel Shot In Same Night, One Dead

Six police officers were shot in one night in the states of Florida and Pennsylvania (Representational)

Washington:  Six US police officers were shot in one night in the states of Florida and Pennsylvania, one fatally, prompting President Donald Trump to tweet his support for the slain officer’s department early Saturday.

In the central Florida city of Kissimmee- close to the Walt Disney World Resort and other amusement parks- Officer Matthew Baxter was killed and Sergeant Sam Howard was left in “grave critical condition and the prognosis does not look good,” police chief Jeff O’Dell said at a news conference early Saturday.

The officers had been checking on suspicious people in an area known for drug activity around 9:30 pm Friday (0130 GMT Saturday). Five minutes later, authorities received a call that officers had been shot. 

First responders found the officers “gravely wounded” in the road, O’Dell said.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the @KissimmeePolice and their loved ones. We are with you!” President Trump, a staunch supporter of US law enforcement, tweeted early Saturday.

In the northern Florida city of Jacksonville, sheriff’s officers responding to an attempted suicide call late Friday were confronted by a suspect firing a high-powered rifle, Director Mike Bruno told a news conference.

Two officers were shot in the exchange of gunfire, one hit in both hands and the other in the stomach, Mr Bruno said. The suspect was killed.

And two Pennsylvania state troopers were shot Friday night, the agency said. 

“Two state troopers shot and [the] suspect is deceased,” Pennsylvania State Police spokeswoman Melinda Bondarenka told ABC News. “We are not releasing any more details at this time.”

Both troopers are expected to survive, ABC said of the shooting in the community of Fairchance, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) south of Pittsburgh.

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Why LA Is Coating Streets With Material Hiding Planes From Spy Satellites

Climate change conjures up distant images of rising seas and cracking ice sheets, but in cities nationwide, the effects of global warming are apparent as soon as you step outside.

Known as the “urban heat island effect,” it refers to the pockets of intense heat captured by the concrete, asphalt, dark roofs and dearth of foliage that define many American cityscapes.

Los Angeles — surrounded by desert and encased in thousands of miles of asphalt — is the poster child of the heat-island effect, experts say, which explains why city officials are exploring innovative ways to combat record-breaking, rising temperatures. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, D, wants to reduce the city’s average temperature by three degrees over the next 20 years, according to the Los Angeles Times.

One tactic may involve coating city streets in a substance known as CoolSeal, a gray coating designed to reflect solar rays that city officials say has already shown promising results. The coating was first tested in 2015 on a parking lot in the San Fernando Valley, one of the hottest parts of town, said Greg Spotts, assistant director of the Bureau of Street Services, which oversaw the testing. Summer temperatures in the area, which average in the upper 80s, have climbed above 100 degrees multiple times over the past year.

“We found that on average the area covered in CoolSeal is 10 degrees cooler than black asphalt on the same parking lot,” Spotts said. “We thought it was really interesting. It’s almost like treated asphalt warms at a lower rate.”

City officials claim Los Angeles is the first U.S. city to test “on-road use” of cool pavement to fight urban heat.

The hope, they say, is that cooler streets will lead to cooler neighborhoods, less air-conditioning use, and fewer heat-related deaths. The metropolis is one of the nation’s only cities that experiences heat-related deaths in the winter, a phenomenon expected to rise alongside temperatures, Spotts said. Complicating matters, experts say, is the fact that many Los Angelinos live in multifamily dwellings without air conditioning.

“Not everyone has the resources to use air conditioning, so there’s concern that some low-income families will suffer,” Alan Barreca, an environmental science professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Agence France-Presse. “That bothers me on a moral dimension. The pavement would provide benefits to everyone.

“It can protect people who have to be outdoors,” he added.

Officials believe treated streets are more comfortable for pets as well, as Fox affiliate KTTV asked when they tested whether pets were more amendable to a treated roadway vs. typical asphalt. (Spoiler alter: they were!)

To determine whether CoolSeal is cost-effective and how it influences drivers, Spotts said, his agency has applied the product to designated streets in 14 of the city’s 15 council districts, where it will be monitored and studied through the fall.

“We think that more than 10 percent of the city is asphalt — that’s 69,000 city blocks,” Spotts said. “There’s been estimates that suggest covering a third in the city’s pavement with a cooler materials might be able to move the needle on the city’s temperature.

“We’re not ready to do that, but we do want to explore what it might take to go big and take this thing to scale,” he added.

The coating costs about $40,000 per mile and lasts seven years, officials said.

Street Services is carrying out their pilot program with GuardTop LLC, a California-based, asphalt coating manufacturer. The company began working with the defense industry to develop cool pavement for military spy planes, according to Jeff Luzar, GuardTop’s vice president of sales.

Luzar said the officials were interested in lowering the temperature of taxiways so that sensitive aircrafts would be less easily seen by spy satellites using infrared cameras, which form images using thermal energy. Years later, the product being applied to Los Angeles streets is largely similar but has been refined over the years to make it even more solar-reflective.

Since news about the pilot program broke, GuardTop has received inquiries from all over the world, including China, Israel, Australia and Saudi Arabia.

Spotts said the attention the pilot program has received shows Los Angeles is ahead of the curve when it comes to combating global warming. The city began using natural gas-fueled trash trucks and commuter buses ahead of other cities, he said.

“We’ve done things over and over again that people said couldn’t be done, and this time is no different,” he said.

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

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Elderly Couple Got 'Deepest Wish'-To Die Together In Rare Euthanasia Case

Nic and Trees Elderhorst knew exactly how they wanted to die.

They were both 91 years old and in declining health. Nic Elderhorst suffered a stroke in 2012 and more recently, his wife, Trees Elderhorst, was diagnosed with dementia, according to the Dutch newspaper, De Gelderlander.

Neither wanted to live without the other, or leave this world alone.

So the two, who lived in Didam, a town in the eastern part of the Netherlands, and had been together 65 years, shared a last word, and a kiss, then died last month hand-in-hand – in a double euthanasia allowed under Dutch law, according to De Gelderlander.

“Dying together was their deepest wish,” their daughters told the newspaper, according to an English translation.

The Netherlands became the first country to legalize euthanasia in 2002, allowing physicians to assist ailing patients in ending their lives without facing criminal prosecution.

Euthanasia, in which a physician terminates a patient’s life at his or her request, is legal in a few countries, including Belgium, Colombia and Luxembourg. Physician-assisted suicide, in which a doctor prescribes lethal drugs that a patient may take to end his or her life, is permitted in a few others, including in certain states in the United States, according to, a nonprofit organization that researches countries’ legislation on the issue.

“We are pleased that we have in the Netherlands this humane and carefully executed legislation that allows the honorable wishes of these two people whose fate was painful and hopeless,” Dick Bosscher, of the Dutch Association for a Voluntary End of Life (NVVE), said in a statement to The Washington Post. He said the Elderhorsts belonged to NVVE, a 165,000-member organization for euthanasia and assisted suicide in the Netherlands.

In recent years, apparent double-suicides and murder-suicides have been capturing worldwide attention amid an emotional right-to-die debate – couples from Florida to Paris reportedly ending their lives together.

Assisted suicide has summoned up deep religious and ethical concerns among critics.

In the United States, the subject was widely debated in 2014, when a 29-year-old woman who had a fatal brain tumor moved from California to Oregon, where she could legally seek medical aid to end her life. California has since enacted its End of Life Option Act, joining a small number of states where it is legal.

Even in the Netherlands, according to Bosscher with NVVE, the Elderhorsts’ case is rare in that both of them were able to meet the criteria for euthanasia under the Dutch Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act. Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide can be carried out only when the patient’s request is voluntary and well thought-out, the patient is in “lasting and unbearable” suffering and there are no other solutions, among other things.

Research published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that euthanasia and physician-assisted suicides accounted for 4.5 percent of deaths in the Netherlands in 2015, up from 1.7 percent in 1990, before it was legal. The 25-year review found that most patients who received assistance had serious illnesses.

“It looks like patients are now more willing to ask for euthanasia and physicians are more willing to grant it,” lead author Agnes Van der Heide, of Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, told the Associated Press.

However, Bosscher said that there are more than 15,000 requests for euthanasia each year in the Netherlands and that only about 6,000 of them are granted.

The Elderhorsts discussed their options and submitted requests for euthanasia – a year-long process their daughters called an “intense” time, according to De Gelderlander.

The couple, who had even planned their own funerals, died July 4.

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

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Sale Of Drones Worth $2 Billion To 'Cement' India-US Bilateral Ties

A US MQ-9 Reaper drone sits armed with Hellfire missiles and a 500-pound bomb (Representational)

Washington:  The US decision to sell 22 Sea Guardian drones to India at an estimated cost of USD 2 billion will create around 2,000 jobs in the US and “cement” bilateral ties, an American executive involved in the deal has said.

“This should be viewed as a significant step in cementing the US-India bilateral defence relationship,” Vivek Lall, chief executive US and international strategic development, General Atomics, told the Atlantic Council yesterday.

Mr Lall echoed Senator John Cornyn, Co-Chair of the Senate India Caucus, who tweeted, “Drone Sale Would Cement US-India Ties.”

The announcement in this regard was made by Trump in June when he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House. This prospective purchase of drones manufactured by General Atomics marks the first of its kind from the US by a country that is not a member of the NATO, Mr Lall said.

With China focused on South China Sea, Mr Lall hopes that India has an opportunity to help create and lead a regional balance of power to protect its interests in the Indian Ocean region by building maritime engagements with regional and extra-regional partners.

The Sea Guardian is a variant of the tested MQ-9 platform which allows for greater interoperability with the US and allied forces, in a way other platforms do not permit demonstrating the centrality of General Atomics’ products to India’s defence needs, he said.

“This platform has 4 million hours in combat, will be able to certifiably fly in Indian civilian airspace and can remain airborne more than a record setting forty hours.

Additionally, it has a 40,000-hour design life demonstrating its unique resilience. General Atomics maintains that this platform and its proven performance stands independently of and is unaffected by Israel’s Heron sales to India,” he said.

This summer, India received 10 advanced Heron drones from Israel for USD 400 million, making Israel a weapons supplier competitor to the United States.

According to Mr Lall, use of the Sea Guardian drones by the Indian Navy will also develop India’s credible capabilities, which is significant for Indian maritime security and naval power projection.

“Additionally, India faces a several complex security challenges in this domain such as piracy, terrorism, environmental degradation and narcotics trafficking. Maritime domain awareness would allow the Indian Navy an advantage in patrolling the Indian Ocean, and in tackling its pressing security challenges to achieve grander Indian strategic objectives,” he said.

Responding to a question, Mr Lall said at least 2,000 jobs directly related to the sale, and countless indirect jobs, will be created or saved in the US.

Mr Lall noted that this is the first major defence deal announced since the designation of India as a major defence partner.

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On This Planet Solar Eclipses Are Practically A Daily Event

Mars’s moon Phobos’s close, fast orbit makes it cross paths with the sun fairly often – near-daily.

If you think solar eclipses on Earth are cool, wait till you get a load of an eclipse on Mars.

Earth typically experiences anywhere from four to seven eclipses in a year, counting partial solar eclipses (when the moon doesn’t fully obscure the sun) and lunar eclipses (when the earth’s shadow partially obscures the moon).

On Mars, however, solar eclipses are practically a daily event. Mars has two moons – tiny, potato-shaped satellites named Phobos and Deimos, after the Greek deities of fear and dread, respectively. For a sense of how small they are, here’s a NASA illustration comparing them with the size of Earth’s moon.

But Mars’s moons orbit at a much closer distance than our own Moon orbits ours. While the moon is about 238,000 miles away from Earth (give or take), Phobos is only about 6,000 miles away from the surface of Mars.

Among other things, that proximity causes it to rotate incredibly fast, circling around Mars in under eight hours. A person standing on Mars would see it cross the sky twice in one day. Because of its small size, it appears smaller than our own moon does to us.

Phobos’s close, fast orbit makes it cross paths with the sun fairly often – near-daily. But because the moon is so small it never fully occludes the sun to create a total eclipse. Part of the sun’s disc is always visible.

“Because this eclipse occurred near midday at Curiosity’s location on Mars,” NASA explains, “Phobos was nearly overhead, closer to the rover than it would have been earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon. This timing made Phobos’ silhouette larger against the sun – as close to a total eclipse of the sun as is possible from Mars.”

What about the other Martian moon? Deimos orbits more than twice as far away from Mars and is smaller to boot, making it much less visible in the Martian sky. When Deimos crosses paths with the sun, it’s more properly called a transit, rather than an eclipse.

Other planets experience eclipses, too, although we haven’t observed any of them from the ground up. Here, for instance, is a Hubble telescope image of Jupiter’s moon Io casting a shadow on Jupiter’s surface.

From Jupiter, the sun appears much smaller than it does in our own sky. A number of the planet’s moons obscure it completely, creating not an eclipse but an occultation – an astronomical term for when one object is completely hidden by another one of much larger apparent size. Because Jupiter has at least 69 moons, it sometimes experiences multiple eclipses and occultations simultaneously.

A similar situation holds on Saturn, Uranus and even faraway Neptune. Eclipses can happen on Pluto, too.

But our own total eclipses on Earth are one-of-a-kind. Because of the similarity between the apparent sizes of the moon and sun when viewed from Earth, our total eclipses block out the entirety of the sun’s disc while leaving the luminous corona – the sun’s fiery atmosphere – plainly visible in the darkened sky.

That event happens nowhere else in the solar system – not even on Mars.

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In Barcelona, Five Minutes Of 'Pure Panic' And 'Absolute Terror'

It was another mellow summer afternoon on a world-renowned boulevard, a site of teeming crowds and bustling cafes. Then there was a flash of white.

A rented Fiat van swung onto La Rambla, a broad, tree-lined pedestrian thoroughfare, and the driver pressed down hard on the gas. Almost immediately, he began to maim and kill.

“The van was just plowing down people,” said Carlos Tena, 34, a native of the city who was leaving work with two colleagues.

He watched as the van streaked by, “zigzagging right and left,” and then he saw what the driver was leaving in his path.

“I saw a little boy, in really, really bad shape, just lying there with his mother. He was not moving. His mother asked me with her eyes if I could help,” Tena said.

“My heart split in two,” he said. “I still don’t understand what I saw.”

The attack on Las Ramblas, as the district featuring Barcelona’s scenic, Belle Epoque promenade is known, was the worst terrorist attack in Spain since March 2004, when 192 people were killed and nearly 2,000 were injured in a coordinated series of bombings on the Madrid rail system. In this latest attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State, 13 were killed and more than 100 injured. A separate vehicle attack south of Barcelona early Friday left another person dead and six injured.

The carnage in Barcelona on Thursday provided yet another example of a chilling new reality of urban life in Europe: ordinary vehicles suddenly transformed into weapons of mass murder.

Since July 2016, European cities such as Nice, Berlin, Stockholm and London have all suffered vehicle attacks, often impromptu operations designed to kill as many as possible with minimal preparation. Preventing these attacks has proven to be a major challenge for local authorities across Europe, who insist they cannot police everyone who gets in a car and drives near a crowded area.

For many who witnessed Thursday’s carnage, it was the image of the van – even more than the image of the driver – that remains most haunting.

Jose Moya, 51, was tending to a customer in his flower shop on the avenue, where he has worked for the last three decades.

On Friday morning, he was still shaking with emotion as he recalled the moment he first sensed, and then saw, the van.

“It passed so close to me,” he said. “It was a hand’s width from me.” Moya paused to hold his fist a few inches from his belly. He recounted that time did not slow down, but seemed to speed up. “It was moving so fast – really, really fast. . . . It took the people and dragged them.”

“The people were flying!” he said.

“Look at me, I am still in shock,” Moya added, trembling with emotion.

Raquel Perez, 27, works at the Carrefour grocery stores in Las Ramblas. She was on her break Thursday afternoon, eating in a little square at the end of a side street.

“First, I saw a lot of people running from Las Ramblas, and then suddenly stop. Then I saw a second wave. Police followed and yelled, ‘Hide wherever you can!'”

So Perez, too, began to run.

“I was just running. I didn’t know what had happened. But then I started to see videos on social media, and there were all these rumors that there were guys with guns running around all over the place.”

It turned out that some of those initial rumors were not true. Initial news reports mentioned a possible hostage scenario, with a group of men holding others in a store. But the driver of the van appears to have vanished. While Spanish authorities have detained four others, the driver himself remains at large.

Perez and the crowd she was running with found an open door, a bar closer to the sea. She and her friends jumped over the counter, hiding behind the bottles and glasses for hours.

“Today I was more afraid than yesterday,” Perez said. “I don’t know if something might happen again. And I fear that it will.”

Thousands of visitors shared the same experience.

The flash of white. The screams and confusion. The running and the hiding, often for hours, with no idea what was happening.

Many assumed that armed men were stalking more victims on the streets, as terrorist attackers did in Paris in November 2015.

“I was at home with doors and windows open, because of the heat. I heard a lot of shouting in the street. I thought it might have been celebration,” said Xochtl Martinez, 31, who has lived in the neighborhood all her life.

It wasn’t a party. “It was a stampede,” she said.

“What I remember most are the faces. They were faces of pure panic. They were running in absolute terror.”

Spanish plainclothes and uniformed police shouted at the crowds to get indoors and stay in place.

Paulina Sanchez Avila, 18, was visiting from Mexico. She and a friend dashed into a Burger King at the top of the boulevard. Inside, panicking patrons tried to erect a barricade to prevent assailants from entering.

“People were throwing tables and chairs. Look at my shoulder,” she said, revealing a large, dark bruise. She and her friend stayed in the restaurant for five hours, then made their way to the Mexican Consulate, which kept them there until, at which point they were taken to a hostel. They came to the city’s memorial service later, red roses in hand.

Marga Soler, 46, was one of many merchants and small-business owners who sheltered tourists and pedestrians in their establishments. She said as many as 30 people pressed together in a small single room.

Rajesh Kumar Sadhani, 48, was another. From India originally, he has lived in Barcelona for 18 years, working for the past six in a jewelry store in Las Ramblas.

When the attack began, he was helping clients who were looking at a watch on display in a case next to a window looking out onto the boulevard, he said. He heard a loud noise, but by the time he looked up, all he could see was a mass of people running by. Then, he said, there were the bodies left behind in their wake.

He and his colleagues sheltered 15 people for roughly five hours, until police released them around 10 p.m. He insisted that he was unafraid to be back at work on Friday. “I feel very well today,” he said.

That sentiment was seemingly shared by many others. By midafternoon, cars were allowed to access the street, and Las Ramblas was again teeming with tourists and locals. Except for makeshift memorials of candles and flowers – as well as camera crews and armed police – it was difficult to tell that there had been a terrorist attack on the boulevard less than 24 hours earlier.

Writing in the early 20th century, the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca wrote that Las Ramblas was “the only street in the world which I wish would never end.” Many of the locals here insisted that it wouldn’t.

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'Pick City, Choose Weapon', A Glimpse Of ISIS's Cyber Terrain

A few weeks before Thursday’s attack in Barcelona, the Islamic State’s main online magazine posted an illustrated article with advice on acquiring a special kind of truck – specifically, the kind best suited for mowing down large numbers of pedestrians.

The “ideal vehicle,” the article in Rumiyah said, would be “large in size, heavy in weight,” and with a raised chassis that can clear curbs and barriers. It also should be “fast in speed, or rate of acceleration,” the magazine said, to ensure maximum momentum before striking.

Whether the men behind Thursday’s attack in Barcelona saw the article is unknown, but they appear to have tried to follow the advice to the letter. The suspects sought to rent a large, heavy truck – later opting for a cargo van only because they lacked the required permits – and then drove to a plaza crowded with pedestrians, precisely as the article instructed.

Spanish authorities are still investigating whether the killings in Barcelona were directed by the Islamic State, but terrorist experts say that the group’s still formidable propaganda machine, with its detailed prescriptions on how to kill large numbers of innocent people, remains a principal driver of terrorist acts around the world, even as the militants suffer crippling losses on the battlefield.

Although the Islamic State has lost more than half of its former sanctuary in Iraq and Syria, its Internet presence remains strikingly robust, analysts say. In the weeks preceding the Barcelona attack, the terrorist group issued at least a dozen new videos or online articles a day, most of them aimed at rallying supporters or encouraging sympathizers to kill and maim in its name. Many of the recent postings have explicitly urged followers to turn trucks and vans into weapons of terror.

Attacks like the one in Barcelona are painful reminders that the Islamic State is “more than a collection of territories,” – it is also a virtual network that inhabits swaths of cyber-terrain that are “just as consequential as the spaces it holds in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere,” said Rita Katz, founder of the SITE Intelligence Group, a private company that monitors jihadist websites around the world.

“It cannot be stressed enough how much ISIS needs the Internet to push its propaganda out to the world,” said Katz, using another name for the Islamic State. “The world can win all the military battles it wants in Iraq and Syria, [but] the group will persist until its propaganda machine is effectively blocked.”

The Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for this week’s attacks along Spain’s popular northeastern coast, hailing “soldiers” of the caliphate who killed at least 14 people in separate attacks in Barcelona and the nearby resort town of Cambrils. Operational links with the assailants, however, had not yet been independently established. Islamic State officials have occasionally sought to take credit for strikes by lone wolves who were inspired by the group’s propaganda but received little or no practical support.

A new posting on Friday on a pro-Islamic State social media channel urged more such attacks, appealing to supporters to create Barcelona-like mayhem in cities around the globe.

“No need to travel the world,” stated the posting on the social media messaging service Telegram. “Just pick the main city. Find a hub spot for tourists. Choose you (sic) weapon.”

The continuing incitements defy years of efforts to silence the group’s propaganda efforts online. Indeed, U.S. officials say the Islamic State’s information networks have suffered steep losses in recent months, because of military attacks and improved policing by social media companies to block jihadists’ messages.

With the fall of former Iraqi strongholds such as Mosul and Fallujah, the group has lost studio and production facilities as well as at least a half-dozen key officials who helped direct propaganda campaigns, U.S. counterterrorism officials say. As a result, the number of social media channels used by the militants has plummeted in the past two years, from 40 active sites in 2015 to just 19 by this past spring.

Still, even in its diminished form, the group’s media arm remains remarkably prolific, producing on average about 20 unique media products every day, from videos showing executions of hostages to step-by-step instructions for building a bomb, according to an analysis this week by two scholars with the Netherlands-based International Center for Counter-Terrorism in The Hague. The analysis, published by the national security website War on the Rocks, says the volume and quality of the jihadist content is testament to an extensive, sustained investment by an organization that has long recognized the power of the Internet to attract followers and spread ideology.

The group’s senior officials have been deliberately preparing for the loss of the physical caliphate by pouring still more resources into its online network, to “ensure that its ideology will live on even as its territorial sway declines,” the article states.

“They’ve invested strategically in this capability and it’s paying off, in terms of longevity,” said Colin Clarke, a political scientist with the nonprofit Rand Corp., who co-authored the essay with Charlie Winter, a senior research fellow at Kings College London. The crumbling of the group’s physical strongholds means that the propaganda campaign is becoming more important as a way to perpetuate the caliphate as an eternal ideal, and to thus “keep the drumbeat going,” Clarke said in an interview.

The group’s messages have shifted in recent months, experts say, reflecting changing circumstances. The heavy rotation of videos extolling the virtues of life inside the caliphate in 2015 have moved to more warlike missives focused on terrorist attacks against the West, analysts say. Taken as a whole, the messages suggest that the terrorists fully expect to continue to fight, though the nature of the battle will change, said Tara Maller, a former CIA military analyst and now a senior research fellow at New America, a nonpartisan organization that promotes strategies to counter extremist ideology.

“It shows that the ‘virtual’ caliphate is going to continue, and actually seems to be operating at a high level,” Maller said. “So it’s not a surprise that they are continuing to try to inspire attacks overseas.”

The enduring nature of the propaganda campaign should dispel any notion that the defeat of the Islamic State is at hand, now that the group’s Syrian and Iraqi sanctuaries have been significantly undermined through the loss of territory, Maller said.

“We need more than just a military effort, because safe havens also exist online,” she said. “We shouldn’t assume that this group is going away just because we’re beating them up on the battlefield.”

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Spanish Probe Points To Wider Network In Attacks; American Among Dead

BARCELONA, Spain:  Spain was seized Friday with the realization that it had incubated a large-scale terrorist plot, as authorities across Europe engaged in a manhunt following the deadliest attacks to strike the country in more than a decade: two vehicle assaults in Barcelona and a Catalan coastal town.

Investigators believe that at least eight people plotted the attacks, putting them at a level of sophistication comparable to major strikes in Paris and Brussels in recent years. Other more recent attacks in London, Berlin and the southern French city of Nice were perpetrated by individuals operating largely on their own.

Spanish counterterrorism officials were scrambling to untangle the terrorist network.

France announced it was reinforcing its frontier with Spain, a signal of the fears that further violence could spill beyond Spanish borders. Anti-immigrant Central European leaders condemned the migration histories of the suspects, all of whom were believed to be of Moroccan descent.

In a sign that the attack could have been significantly worse, police said that they believed the assailants were planning to use propane and butane canisters in an explosive assault against civilians. Instead, the gas ignited prematurely, destroying a house in Alcanar, about 100 miles southwest of Barcelona that was being used by the suspects. The explosion killed at least two people and injured 16, including police officers and firefighters investigating the site. Hours later, one of the suspects set out for the touristy Las Ramblas area of Barcelona in a white delivery van.

As of Friday evening, authorities had detained three Moroccan men and a Spaniard, but the fate of the main suspect – the driver of the van, who fled on foot after the rampage – was unclear. Police were investigating the possibility that he was among five assailants killed in the second attack early Friday.

Meanwhile, the nation began to mourn the international group of 13 victims who were fatally struck as they strolled in the heart of Barcelona’s tourist district late Thursday afternoon. A 14th victim was killed in the second vehicle rampage in Cambrils, a seaside town about 70 miles southwest of Barcelona.

In Washington, the State Department said Friday that an American was among those killed. The department also said Spanish authorities still have not identified all of the casualties, so the U.S. Consulate in Barcelona is working with them to determine whether any more Americans were killed or injured.

ISIS claimed links to the Barcelona attack, but the level of involvement by the militant faction was unclear.

Spanish intelligence officials were circulating at least four names among their European counterparts on Friday, according to a Spanish intelligence official and a European intelligence official, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the situation.

The four men, all holding Moroccan citizenship, ranged in age from 18 to 24. Three were born in the North African country: Said Aallaa, 18; Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22; and Mohamed Hychami, 24. The fourth was identified in a Spanish police document as Moussa Oukabir, 17, but the European intelligence official said Spanish officials had flagged someone with the same family name but a different first name. All lived in or near the Catalan town of Ripoll, close to the French border.

At least three of the men were killed in the attack in Cambrils, the Spanish intelligence official said, without identifying which of the men were believed killed.

Two Spanish security officials said police originally sought Oukabir’s older brother because his identity card was found in the truck used for the attack in Barcelona. The older brother, who is currently in custody, denies any connection to the attack and said his brother may have stolen his identity card, the official said.

“We cannot rule out further attacks,” Maj. Josep Lluis Trapero, a Catalan police official, told reporters in Barcelona.

Authorities were not aware of any previous connection to extremism among the detained men, he said.

All five men involved in the second attack in Cambrils were shot dead after plowing their Audi into people along the corniche at about 1 a.m., Trapero said.

The nationality of the men was sure to raise alarm within European counterterrorism circles. Moroccan networks were also connected to major terrorist attacks in France and Belgium in recent years. Spain has a significant Moroccan population, and there has been a spike in arrivals of migrants from Morocco by sea this year.

Their background also prompted Europe’s anti-migrant politicians to condemn what they said was a connection between migration and terrorism, even though there was no evidence that the men were part of the waves of migration from Africa and the Middle East in recent years.

“It is evident to everyone that there is a correlation between illegal immigration and terrorism,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told his country’s MTI news agency. “Europe must protect itself, and the security of the people must be guaranteed.”

In Barcelona, thousands of people gathered at midday Friday in a square at the top of Las Ramblas for a minute of silence, led by Spanish King Felipe VI and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Afterward, they cheered, held single red roses to the sky and chanted in Catalan: “I am not afraid.”

The whole Las Ramblas neighborhood was eerily quiet in the morning as heavily armed police patrolled on Friday.

Later in the day, tourists and onlookers filled the long boulevard, turning what is ordinarily a vacation hot spot into a site of mourning. Some set out candles to commemorate the victims.

In a series of tweets, President Donald Trump said U.S. agencies were “on alert” and blamed court challenges and opposition from Democrats for making security “very difficult.” He gave no specifics.

“Radical Islamic Terrorism must be stopped by whatever means necessary!” Trump wrote. “The courts must give us back our protective rights. Have to be tough!”

The attacks on Thursday and Friday marked the latest uses of vehicles in terrorist strikes against civilians, following attacks since the middle of 2016 in Britain, France, Germany and Sweden.

Spain’s civil protection agency said 120 people were injured in the attack in Barcelona, and an additional six in Cambrils. There were casualties among people of at least 34 nationalities, underscoring the international draw of the cosmopolitan Las Ramblas area, which has long stood at the heart of the city. France’s Foreign Ministry said 26 of its citizens were injured, 11 of them seriously.

Residents of Barcelona said they had long feared an attack on their bustling city.

“This is a huge city, and somehow we were always expecting something like this, but of course you’re never prepared,” said Cristina Nadal, 44, an aide for the Catalan government, who came to the moment of silence on Friday.

The crowd was “exactly what we wanted to show – that although the terrorists want to beat us, we can show to the world that we can still stand strong,” she said.

Two longtime Muslim residents of Barcelona said they were furious about the violence.

“What Islam teaches us is that killing one person is like killing all of humanity,” said Nagma Jawed, 40, who moved to the city 20 years ago from her native India and runs a textile shop in the city.

“First of all, we are human beings. Our religion comes after that,” said Jawed, who was wearing a headscarf on Friday as she stood in the square with her husband for the mourning ceremony.

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

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California Man On Delayed Honeymoon Among Barcelona Victims

Jared Tucker had gone to find a restroom when he was struck down by the van (File)

WASHINGTON:  A 43-year-old California man on a delayed honeymoon was among the 13 people killed when a van plowed through a popular pedestrian area in the Spanish city of Barcelona, his family said on Friday.

Jared Tucker and his wife had gone to Barcelona to celebrate their first anniversary in the form of a belated honeymoon. Walking in the area of the famous Las Ramblas boulevard on Thursday, he had gone to find a restroom when he was struck down by the van, his wife Heidi Nunes Tucker told KGO television in San Francisco.

“Pray for Jared and his family, pray for Barcelona, but most importantly pray that we can some day rid ourselves of the hate that takes our loved ones before their time,” Tucker’s family wrote in a statement posted on the Gofundme fundraising website.

Relatives started the fundraising effort to assist his family with living and educational expenses. Tucker lived in East Bay suburbs of San Francisco and is also survived by three daughters, KGO reported.

Earlier in the day, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed that an American citizen had been killed, but gave no other details.

The rampage through one of Spain’s most popular tourist areas was the latest of a string of attacks across Europe in the past 13 months in which militants have used vehicles as weapons – a crude but deadly tactic that is near-impossible to prevent and has now killed nearly 130 people in France, Germany, Britain, Sweden and Spain.

Suspected terrorists have been behind the previous attacks. ISIS said the perpetrators of the latest one had been responding to its call to target countries involved in a U.S.-led coalition against the Sunni militant group.

The driver of the van may still be alive and at large, Spanish police said on Friday, denying earlier reports he had been killed. Five would-be attackers were shot dead by police in a seaside town.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Schwarzenegger Tells Trump What He Should Have Said After Charlottesville

Arnold Schwarzenegger offers a suggestion for what Donald Trump should have said for Charlottesville.

Arnold Schwarzenegger counts himself among those who were deeply disappointed by President Donald Trump’s statement that “both sides” were to blame for the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. And in a new video, the former Republican governor of California offers a pointed suggestion for what Trump should have said instead.

“The only way to beat the loud and angry voices of hate is to meet them with louder and more reasonable voices. And that includes you, President Trump,” Schwarzenegger says in the video, posted to ATTN’s Facebook page Thursday. “In fact, as president of this great country, you have a moral responsibility to send an unequivocal message that you don’t stand for hate and racism.”

Schwarzenegger then offers an example of what that message might sound like: “‘As President of the United States, and as a Republican, I reject the support of white supremacists,'” he says. “‘The country that defeated Hitler’s armies is no place for Nazi flags. The party of Lincoln won’t stand with those who carry the battle flags of the failed Confederacy.'”

Trump drew widespread criticism for his response to the deadly chaos in Charlottesville, where a car driven by a reported white nationalist plowed into a crowd, killing 32-year-old counterprotester Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

“What about the alt-left that came charging at the – as you say, the alt-right?” Trump said at a news conference at Trump Tower in New York on Tuesday. “Do they have any semblance of guilt? What about the fact they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.”

Of course, Trump surely isn’t likely to take advice from the “Terminator” star – the two have been embroiled in a public feud for months, since Schwarzenegger took over Trump’s role as host of NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice.” Trump blamed Schwarzenegger for the show’s dwindling ratings, going to far as to ask for prayers on Schwarzenegger’s behalf during the National Prayer Breakfast: “I just want to pray for Arnold, if we can, for those ratings,” Trump said at the time. Schwarzenegger fired back when he abruptly quit “Celebrity Apprentice” in March, stating that the reality show’s ratings plummeted because of its continued association with Trump.

And even in his newest video – clearly intended to offer an earnest message to Trump, and a scathing condemnation of Nazis – Schwarzenegger couldn’t resist taking one more jab at the commander in chief. After delivering his suggested speech into the camera, Schwarzenegger leans down, and a small Donald Trump bobblehead suddenly comes into view.

“Was that difficult?” Schwarzenegger asks the solemn-faced toy. Then he laughs: “See, I told you!”

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Rex Tillerson Condemns Racism, Calls For National Reconciliation

Rex Tillerson promised to work toward making the government more racially diverse

WASHINGTON:  U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a forceful condemnation of “bigotry in all its forms” on Friday and called for national reconciliation as he promised to work toward making the government more racially diverse.

His remarks, to State Department interns and fellows, dozens of whom were recruited through programs targeting minority candidates, followed the backlash from political and business leaders over President Donald Trump’s response to Saturday’s white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Tillerson invoked the 1865 second inaugural address by Abraham Lincoln, the president who freed the slaves and presided over the Civil War against rebellious pro-slavery Confederate Southern States.

As the war drew to a close, Lincoln asked the nation to bind up its wounds from the conflict, Tillerson noted.

“We, too, today should seek to bind up the wounds,” Tillerson said. “We must pursue reconciliation, understanding and respect regardless of skin colour, ethnicity or religious or political views.”

Though Tillerson acknowledged First Amendment protections for free speech, he said those who embrace hate speech “poison our public discourse and they damage the very country that they claim to love.”

He added: “Racism is evil; it is antithetical to America’s values. It’s antithetical to the American idea.”

Tillerson did not mention Trump’s comments on the Charlottesville violence, which erupted as white nationalists protested the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

The president has said anti-racism counter-protesters shared blame for the violence. He has also decried the removal in numerous cities of “beautiful” Confederate monuments.

Tillerson, who was chief executive of oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp  before becoming secretary of state this year, said one of America’s defining characteristics “is the promise of the opportunity for advancement regardless of your skin colour, how much money your parents make or where you came from.”

He announced a new State Department policy in which at least one candidate for any opening for an ambassador post must be a minority, noting that currently only about 12 percent of U.S. senior foreign service officers are non-white.

“The State Department must redouble our efforts to increase diversity at the highest ranks of the department, including at the ambassador level,” Tillerson said. As the arm of government representing the United States abroad, the department should be a “clear display of America’s values and our people, not just in our mission but in the composition of our work force,” he added.

Statistics published by the State Department show that as of the end of June, 88 percent of senior foreign service officers – the high-ranking diplomats from which the country’s ambassadors are drawn – are white and 4 percent are black. One-third of senior foreign service officers are women, and 7 percent of the agency’s civil service members are Hispanic.

To remedy the lack of diversity, Tillerson said he had told committees that nominate ambassadorial candidates at least one candidate for each opening must be a member of a minority group.

To recruit a more diverse young talent pool, Tillerson also said the State Department needs to look beyond elite universities, and should more aggressively recruit at the dozens of historically black colleges in the United States.

“America’s best and brightest are not just from the Ivy League, but they’re from a lot of other places in the country: Laredo, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; Roanoke, Virginia,” he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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During The Solar Eclipse, Animals Will Be Confused

Woc Colburn said it’s useful to learn impact of sunlight, versus other cues, has on animal behavior.

Margarita Woc Colburn’s childhood memories of a July 1991 total solar eclipse in Central America are of a social gathering for excited adult relatives who spent hours waiting for an event that was over in minutes.

But the future veterinarian’s gaze was drawn earthward.

“I was looking down on a valley in Guatemala, and I just remember the flock of birds, this massive thing going down to the trees getting ready for nesting, just like what you see at night,” Woc Colburn said, describing a short span when the moon completely obscured the sun. “Then, it felt like a new day. Birds came out and were singing.”

Today she is an associate veterinarian and researcher at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere – which is in the path of totality. During Monday’s total solar eclipse, Woc Colburn’s primary concern once again will be on the animals she has made her life’s work. She predicts birds are likely to provide the greatest spectacle this time around, too.

“We might see something similar with the starlings,” she said. “I’m interested to see whether they go to roost. It will get very noisy if they do.”

Woc Colburn thinks additional bird species and other zoo animals such as lemurs, clouded leopards and kangaroos may also begin to exhibit nighttime habits when totality hits, whether that’s waking up, going to sleep or lining up for a feeding.

It’s all speculation however, which is something Woc Colburn finds quite surprising.

There is scant research on animal behavior during solar eclipses, owing primarily to the rarity of such events and the difficulty of recording enough observations. That’s poised to change.

“Sometimes you have great research ideas and just need people to do the observations,” Woc Colburn said. “That’s not going to be a problem Monday.”

Observers nationwide, including visitors to the Nashville Zoo, are being encouraged to join an ambitious and unprecedented attempt at crowdsourced scientific research by using the California Academy of Sciences’ iNaturalist app to document animal reactions.

Nashville researchers also plan to scrape social media postings that tag the zoo. Spokesman Jim Bartoo said researchers will accept any analog observations that are submitted.

“We’re expecting everyone to be in the 21st century,” he joked, “but if they take handwritten notes and can call us from a landline later, we will welcome that as well.”

At a minimum, Bartoo said the zoo will make the data collected Monday available to other researchers. Decisions on when, how and if the observations will be further used or published won’t be made until they are gathered and analyzed.

Bartoo predicts the zoo’s southern white rhinos may have a particularly interesting reaction, possibly lining up to go inside to eat, which is their routine at the end of the day. And how will they react if they aren’t fed, or when totality ends and it appears to be the middle of the day again.

The zoo is located in a mostly residential area 20 minutes southeast of downtown and is preparing for as many as 15,000 visitors.

Eclipse watchers are bracing for a major bummer should clouds obscure their view. While Woc Colburn agrees that would be a serious letdown, she also noted that clouds shouldn’t affect how animals react, so those who choose to spend the eclipse at the zoo won’t be wholly deprived of a unique experience.

Woc Colburn said it will be interesting and potentially useful to learn how much of an impact sunlight, versus other cues, has on animal behavior.

“I would have thought by now we would know more,” she said. “It will be worth noting if they have a very negative reaction. We can share that with other zoos and places, and they might take note and take certain precautions. But I’m not really expecting anything besides the ordinary nighttime routine.

“I think you’ll have more human reactions than animal reactions.”

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

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