Beckham In 'Heartbreak' As Manchester Clubs Pay Tribute To Attack Victims


David Beckham started his football career at Manchester United and spent 12 years there (File Photo)

Manchester:  Football star David Beckham spoke of his “heartbreak” as former club Manchester United and local rivals Manchester City came together Tuesday to pay tribute after 22 people including children were killed in a suspected suicide bombing in the northern English city.

Britain’s deadliest terror attack in 12 years took place when a bomb went off shortly after the end of a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena on Monday.

Former England captain Beckham, who made his name as a global superstar at United after coming through the club’s youth system, expressed his condolences via an Instagram message, saying: “Heartbreaking news from Manchester. As a father & a human what has happened truly saddens me. My thoughts are with all of those that have been affected by this tragedy.”

Gary Lineker, another former England international and now a television presenter, summed up a mood of widespread revulsion when he tweeted: “To target children at a concert is beyond comprehension. Beyond lunacy. Beyond evil. Heart goes out to all those who’ve lost loved ones.”

A help centre was opened at City’s Etihad Stadium for those affected by the blast, while the United club flag at their Old Trafford ground was flown at half mast.

 

Both Premier League clubs posted short statements Tuesday on their Twitter accounts, with United saying: “We are deeply shocked by last night’s terrible events at the Manchester Arena. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected.”

Meanwhile, City said: “It’s with great sadness we hear of the terrible events at the Arena. Our hearts go out to all affected and to our city’s emergency services.”

Current players from both clubs also sent Twitter messages of support, with City captain Vincent Kompany saying: “I would like to express my deepest condolences to the families of the victims. It’s a sad day for the great city of Manchester. #Unity’.”

United’s Jesse Lindgard wrote: “My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by last nights attack on this beautiful city. We will stand together in this dark hour.”

‘No specific Europa League final threat’

United were due to train Tuesday at their Carrington practice ground ahead of travelling to Stockholm, where they will play Dutch side Ajax in the Europa League final on Wednesday.

UEFA, European football’s governing body, said “tight security arrangements” had already been put in place for the final but added they had no knowledge of any direct threat to the match.

“There is currently no specific intelligence which might suggest that any of the UEFA Europa League final activities in Stockholm may be the target of attacks,” said a UEFA statement.

“UEFA has been closely working with local authorities and the Swedish FA (Football Association) for many months and the terrorist risk had been taken into account since the very beginning of the project.

“Furthermore, a number of additional security measures were implemented following the attacks in Stockholm last April (when a hijacked truck was deliberately driven on to a city street killing five people).”

The statement urged fans to get to the stadium as early to allow time for “detailed checks”.

Amsterdam club Ajax sent their own message of support, saying: “From Amsterdam with love to Manchester. Our thoughts are with the victims and the loved ones of those affected.”

United were due to have a routine pre-match meeting with UEFA on Tuesday at which it is understood they will now ask if their players can wear black armbands in the final as a mark of respect in response to an attack that also left 59 people injured.

The England Under-20s side, one of the first football teams from the country in action after the attack, confirmed they would wear black armbands in their junior World Cup clash with Guinea in Joenju, South Korea on Tuesday.

“Our #YoungLions will remember the victims of the attack in Manchester when we take on Guinea at the #U20WC this morning,” said a message on the official England Twitter account.



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UK Police Say 23-Year-Old Man Arrested Over Manchester Arena Attack


A 23-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the Manchester Arena terror attack (File Photo)

Manchester:  British police said on Tuesday they had arrested a 23-year-old man in connection with a terror attack at a pop concert in Manchester which killed 22 people and injured dozens more.

“With regards to the ongoing investigation into last night’s horrific attack at the Manchester Arena, we can confirm we have arrested a 23-year-old man in South Manchester,” police said in a statement.

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



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Please Retweet: Parents Go Online To Find Their Children After UK Attack


Parents and friends posted messages and pictures on social media in search for their loved ones(Reuters)

Manchester:  Desperate parents and friends posted heart-wrenching messages and pictures on social media in the search for their loved ones on Tuesday after a suicide bomber killed 22 people and injured dozens at a British concert by U.S. singer Ariana Grande.

“STILL MISSING: Saffie Rose Roussos, 8yrs old. Missing from Manchester attack,” Adam J. Brown posted on Facebook, next to a picture of her smiling face.

“White Ariana tshirt-denim skirt-black leggings-black boots.”

“Please…please retweet. Looking for my daughter and her friend,” Michael MacIntyre wrote on Tweeter, alongside an image of his daughter Laura and friend Eilidh.

Many parents were waiting for their children in and around the Manchester Arena when the blast rocked the foyer of the venue as thousands of young fans and parents streamed out following the gig on Monday evening.

While many teenagers eventually found their friends and relatives in the chaos, some were helped to safety by bystanders, others were offered free taxi rides home and dozens were taken to nearby hotels.

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling was one of many British artists and celebrities to help spread the word by retweeting messages and posting offers of help.

Grande, whose fan base is made up largely of teenagers and young girls, said on Twitter: “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. I don’t have words.”

Paula Robinson, 48, was at the train station next to the arena with her husband when she felt the blast and saw dozens of teenage girls screaming and running away from the arena.

“We ran out,” she told Reuters. “It was literally seconds after the explosion. I got the teens to run with me.”

Robinson said she took dozens of teenage girls to the nearby Holiday Inn Express hotel and tweeted out her phone number to worried parents telling them to meet her there. She said her phone had not stopped ringing since her tweet.

“Parents were frantic running about trying to get to their children. There were lots of children at Holiday Inn.”

In the hours after the blast, picture montages of smiling faces were being circulated of teens still unaccounted for after the concert. They carried the hashtag: “#PrayForManchester.”

‘Manchester’ and #StandTogether were trending on Twitter around the world on Tuesday morning.

Prime Minister Theresa May said from the steps of her official residence at 10 Downing Street in London that the incident was being treated as a terrorist attack and the public response was showing the best of Britain.

“The cowardice of the attacker met the bravery of the emergency services and the people of Manchester,” she said.

“The attempt to divide us met countless acts of kindness that brought people closer together.”

On Tuesday morning, upset friends and relatives were arriving at Etihad Stadium in Manchester on the advice of police to those who needed assistance after the attack.

As Britons woke up to the deadliest militant assault in the country since four British Muslims killed 52 people in suicide bombings on London’s transport system in July 2005, heart-warming stories of reunions began to emerge on Tuesday.

Riley Blackery, who had used Twitter to search for her friend Heather, shared the good news with her followers after a fellow user helped her find her friend:

“UPDATE: WE GOT HOLD OF HER, SHES SAFE!! SHES OKAY,” she posted.

(Additional reporting and writing by Kate Holton and Costas Pitas in London, Leela de Kretser in New York; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Manchester Shopping Centre Evacuated, Witnesses Heard 'Big Bang'


People being evacuated from Arndale shopping centre, Manchester (Reuters)

Manchester:   A shopping centre in Manchester, England, was evacuated and witnesses said they heard a “big bang” on Tuesday, just hours after a suicide bomber killed 22 people and injured 59 in the same area of the city.

Scores of people ran away from the centre, a Reuters witness said.

“There are people coming out holding hands,” a Reuters photographer said.

Great Manchester Police would not comment when contacted for Reuters.

(Reporting by Lucy Fielder; Editing by Louise Ireland)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Fossils From Europe Cast Doubt On Human Lineage Originating In Africa


An artist’s depiction of the species Graecopithecus freybergi, which lived 7.2 million years ago.

Washington:  Fossils from Greece and Bulgaria of an ape-like creature that lived 7.2 million years ago may fundamentally alter the understanding of human origins, casting doubt on the view that the evolutionary lineage that led to people arose in Africa.

Scientists said on Monday the creature, known as Graecopithecus freybergi and known only from a lower jawbone and an isolated tooth, may be the oldest-known member of the human lineage that began after an evolutionary split from the line that led to chimpanzees, our closest cousins.

The jawbone, which included teeth, was unearthed in 1944 in Athens. The premolar was found in south-central Bulgaria in 2009. The researchers examined them using sophisticated new techniques including CT scans and established their age by dating the sedimentary rock in which they were found.

They found dental root development that possessed telltale human characteristics not seen in chimps and their ancestors, placing Graecopithecus within the human lineage, known as hominins. Until now, the oldest-known hominin was Sahelanthropus, which lived 6-7 million years ago in Chad.
 

fossil

An artist’s depiction of a species which lived 7.2 million years ago.

The scientific consensus long has been that hominins originated in Africa. Considering the Graecopithecus fossils hail from the Balkans, the eastern Mediterranean may have given rise to the human lineage, the researchers said.

The findings in no way call into question that our species, Homo sapiens, first appeared in Africa about 200,000 years ago and later migrated to other parts of the world, the researchers said.

“Our species evolved in Africa. Our lineage may not have,” said paleoanthropologist Madelaine Bohme of Germany’s University of Tubingen, adding that the findings “may change radically our understanding of early human/hominin origin.”

Homo sapiens is only the latest in a long evolutionary hominin line that began with overwhelmingly ape-like species, followed by a succession of species acquiring more and more human traits over time.

University of Toronto paleoanthropologist David Begun said the possibility that the evolutionary split occurred outside Africa is not incongruent with later hominin species arising there.

“We know that many of the mammals of Africa did in fact originate in Eurasia and dispersed into Africa at around the time Graecopithecus lived,” Begun said. “So why not Graecopithecus as well?”

Graecopithecus is a mysterious species because its fossils are so sparse. It was roughly the size of a female chimp and dwelled in a relatively dry mixed woodland-grassland environment, similar to today’s African savanna, alongside antelopes, giraffes, rhinos, elephants, hyenas and warthogs.

The findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Awkward. Pushy Israeli MP Steals Selfie With Trump, Netanyahu Annoyed


Israeli MP Oren Hazan stole a selfie with US President Donald Trump on his arrival on Monday.

Jerusalem:  Warm words were spoken in public by Israeli officials upon President Donald Trump’s arrival Monday. Then things got a little off-script at the airport near Tel Aviv.

A pushy Israeli parliament member named Oren Hazan pulled Trump aside and started taking a selfie in the receiving line.

Trump kept a stone face. He might have looked even more dour if he knew the full extent of Hazan’s infamous reputation.

Israeli Channel 2 had aired an investigative report alleging that Hazan managed a casino in Bulgaria, where he sampled drugs with guests and procured prostitutes for them. Hazan denied the accusations and sued for libel. He’s a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayu’s Likud party, but has been shunned.

“It may be worth noting,” the Times of Israeli said in its report, “that Hazan was not even supposed to be in the front row of dignitaries.”

As Hazan whipped out his phone, Netanyahu stepped into the situation and tried to pull Hazan’s arm down.

But Hazan managed to get his money shot anyway – and crop out the prime minister’s arm.

Netanyahu and his wife, Sara Netanyahu, also had an unscripted moment, captured by journalists and the official Government Press Office.

The Netanyahus were shown speaking with Trump and first lady Melania Trump. The couples exchanged praise and mutual fandom, then …

Sara Netanyahu points at Melania Trump: “I talk every place about how great she is, how great you are.”

The prime minister inserts: “I can testify to that.”

Sara Netanyahu continues: “Because the majority of the people in Israel, unlike the media, they love us.”

Her husband is actually not super popular, and she more so, in public opinion polls. Also Israel runs on a parliamentary system, and Netanyahu’s Likud party won the last election in 2015 but needed other political factions to form a government.

Sara Netanyahu continued: “So we tell them how you are great and so they love you.”

The president interjects: “So we have something very much in common.”

The prime minister: “Sounds familiar.”

Then Sara Netanyahu closes with: “Very much in common, we will talk about it at dinner. A lot in common, the same media. Anyhow, we’ll talk about it.”

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French PM Calls For Vigilance In France After Manchester Attack


Edouard Philippe described the Manchester Arena attack as an abominable crime (Reuters)

Paris:  French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Tuesday called on French citizens to be vigilant following the suicide attack at a concert in Manchester, which Philippe described as an “abominable crime.”

“The most cowardly form of terrorism has struck once again, targeting – as in Paris more than a year ago – a concert venue,” Philippe said in a statement in a reference to a similar attack at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris in November 2015.

“I call on my fellow citizens to observe the utmost vigilance, confronted as we are with a threat which is more present than ever before,” Philippe said.

(Reporting by Sophie Louet and Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

© 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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Donald Trump Arrives For Talks With Palestinian Leader In Bethlehem


Bethlehem, Palestinian Territories:  Donald Trump made the short trip from Jerusalem to Bethlehem Tuesday to meet Mahmud Abbas, who was hoping to convince the unpredictable US president to remain committed to an independent Palestinian state.

His talks in Bethlehem with the Palestinian president came after Trump on Monday made a heavily symbolic visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem and met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Later Tuesday, Trump will return to Jerusalem to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and give a speech at the Israel Museum before wrapping up his two-day stop.

He was expected to comment on the bomb blast at a concert in the British city of Manchester on Monday night that killed 22 people.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Twitter that Trump’s national security team was “providing updates” to the president on the situation.

Trump’s visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories is part of his first trip abroad as president, and follows an initial leg in Saudi Arabia, where he urged Islamic leaders to confront extremism.

He arrived in Bethlehem by motorcade, crossing a checkpoint at Israel’s controversial separation wall, and was greeted by Abbas and other dignitaries outside the city’s presidential palace.

Trump has spoken of reviving long-stalled peace efforts between the Israelis and Palestinians, but few specifics have emerged of how he intends to do so.

Before dinner at Netanyahu’s residence on Monday, Trump avoided delving into details.

“I’ve heard it’s one of the toughest deals of all, but I have a feeling that we’re going to get there eventually, I hope,” he said.

Earlier Monday, Trump also lashed out at Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy, saying it should never be allowed to have nuclear weapons and criticising Tehran for supporting “terrorists” — a reference to militant groups it backs in the region.

In Tehran on Monday, Iran’s newly re-elected President Hassan Rouhani ridiculed US strategy in the Middle East, dismissing Trump’s summit with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia as “just a show”.

Separation wall

Security was tight for Trump’s journey to Bethlehem, a 20-minute drive from Jerusalem but located across Israel’s separation wall.

The wall is part of a project begun in 2002 during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, that is to extend some 700 kilometres (450 miles) once completed.

It is a stark symbol for Palestinians of Israel’s 50-year occupation of the West Bank, and in Bethlehem the wall has been covered with graffiti and street art.

Bethlehem also holds deep significance as the site where Christians believe Jesus was born and welcomes thousands of pilgrims each year for Christmas.

A banner hung in the city said “the city of peace welcomes the man of peace” along with photos of Abbas and Trump.

Hossam Zomlot, an aide to Abbas, said that “if President Trump wants to mediate and leads us to a historic agreement, a major agreement, we are ready to be his partners”.

Their talks come with hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails on hunger strike since April 17, and activists were hoping to display banners in Bethlehem to drawn Trump’s attention to it.

On Monday, Palestinians also held a general strike in support of the prisoners.

Clashes broke out near a checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah involving several hundred stone-throwing youths and Israeli soldiers who responded with rubber bullets and tear gas, leaving at least one wounded.

On Monday night in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian enclave run by Abbas’s rivals Hamas, the Islamist movement organised a demonstration to denounce its labelling as a “terrorist” group by many Western governments, including the United States.

Trump and Abbas met earlier this month at the White House.

Trump initially sparked deep concern among Palestinians when he backed away from the long US commitment to a two-state solution to the conflict.

Meeting Netanyahu in Washington in February, he said he would support a single state if it led to peace, delighting Israeli right-wingers who want to see most of the West Bank annexed.

Disputed Jerusalem

During his election campaign, Trump also advocated breaking with decades of precedent and moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, alarming Palestinians.

He has since said the move was still being looked at.

At the same time, he urged Israel to hold back on settlement building in the West Bank, a longstanding concern of Palestinians and much of the world.

The most high-profile moment of Trump’s stay in Jerusalem was his visit to the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism.

He became the first sitting US president to visit the site in the Israeli-annexed east of the city.

He was not accompanied by any Israeli leaders during the visit.

Allowing them to do so could have led to accusations that Washington was implicitly recognising Israel’s unilateral claim of sovereignty over the site, which would break with years of US and international precedent.

The status of Jerusalem is ultra-sensitive and has been among the most difficult issues in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, stalled since April 2014.

Israel occupied the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, in the Six-Day War of 1967.

It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community and claims the entire city as its capital.

The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

After Israel and the Palestinian territories, Trump will head to the Vatican, and to Brussels and Italy for NATO and G7 meetings.

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



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More Police On London's Streets After Manchester Attack: Mayor Sadiq Khan


London Mayor Sadiq Khan said security is being reviewed after the Manchester blast. (Reuters)

London:  London Mayor Sadiq Khan said there will be more police on the streets of the British capital after a suicide bomber killed at least 22 people and wounded 59 at a concert by US singer Ariana Grande in the English city of Manchester.

“I am in constant contact with the Metropolitan Police, who are reviewing security arrangements in London,” Khan said in a statement posted on Twitter.

“Londoners will see more police on our streets today.”

(Reporting by Costas Pitas; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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'Their Dream Was My Nightmare': Monica Lewinsky On Ex Fox Icon


Fox News plays such an influential role in the contemporary media it’s easy to forget that there was a time when the network was still a fledgling news outlet in search of momentum and identity.

In an op-ed published Monday by the New York Times, Monica Lewinsky argues that Fox found its footing when Roger Ailes took over the network and decided to focus his anchors’ attention on Lewinsky’s relationship with Bill Clinton “ceaselessly, 24 hours a day.”

Ailes – who was forced to step down last year following a sexual harassment scandal – died last week after falling in his Palm Beach home, according to news reports.

There was a cultural change, Lewinsky wrote, one that came at her expense and affected her “profoundly and personally.”

“It worked like magic: The story hooked viewers and made them Fox loyalists,” Lewinsky wrote. “For the past 15 years, Fox News has been the No. 1 news station; last year the network made $2.3 billion.”

Lewinsky added that John Moody, a Fox executive editor, has been quoted as saying that “Monica was a news channel’s dream come true.”

“Their dream was my nightmare,” Lewinsky continued. “My character, my looks and my life were picked apart mercilessly. Truth and fiction mixed at random in the service of higher ratings. My family and I huddled at home, worried about my going to jail – I was the original target of Ken Starr’s investigation, threatened with 27 years for having been accused of signing a false affidavit, obstructing justice, suborning perjury and other crimes – or worse, me taking my own life.”

“Meantime, Mr. Ailes huddled with his employees at Fox News, dictating a lineup of talking heads to best exploit this personal and national tragedy,” she added.

Unable to go outside without being hounded by paparazzi at the height of a scandal that consumed Clinton’s final years in office, Lewinsky notes that she stayed in her home and watched Fox News around the clock. Lewinsky wrote that other news networks piled on, but it was Fox that lowered the journalistic bar, turning reports about innuendo and accusation into the norm.

The debauched nature of the reporting was picked up by newly formed internet news sites like the Drudge Report, Lewinsky wrote. Whether on television or online media, she noted, she stopped being presented as a “dimensional person.”

“Instead I became a whore, a bimbo, a slut and worse,” Lewinsky wrote. “Just days after the story broke, Fox asked its viewers to vote on this pressing question: Is Monica Lewinsky an ‘average girl’ or a ‘young tramp looking for thrills?’ “

It was the first draft of a new information culture, Lewinsky argued, a culture that would eventually give birth to cyberbullying and trolls, where ratings and clicks arrive at the expense of the vulnerable and weak.

In Lewinsky’s mind, that culture was spawned by Ailes before taking root at Fox and spreading across the media landscape as Fox grew to become a media juggernaut. Ailes developed Fox into a lean, scrappy fighting machine, one designed to turn out massive profits despite a bare-bones news-gathering operation, according to a Rolling Stone article detailing Ailes’ cultural contribution to Fox News.

Despite having 30 fewer bureaus than CNN, the article noted, Fox’s profit margins topped 50 percent and the channel managed to reach 100 million households and attract more viewers “than all other cable-news outlets combined.”

In the wake of Bill O’Reilly’s departure, as some fretted about declines in profit, Bloomberg News reported that Fox News alone brings in an estimated $200 million annually, making it 21st Century Fox’s most profitable channel.

At the heart of the Ailes-era Fox News was a culture of extreme internal loyalty and fear-mongering that appeals to white paranoia and fragility, Rolling Stone reported.

“One man has established a culture for 1,700 people who believe in it, who follow it, who execute it,” Rush Limbaugh told an audience at a Boy Scouts Awards dinner in 2009. “Roger Ailes is not on the air. Roger Ailes does not ever show up on camera. And yet everybody who does is a reflection of him.”

Nearly two decades after her life unraveled, Lewinsky wrote that she sees signs of positive change.

“Although I imagine the desire to present a clean record to the European Commission reviewing the Sky News deal played a role in their thinking, the brothers Murdoch deserve praise for their part in the decision to fire Bill O’Reilly, whose show brought in $100 million a year in ad revenue but who systemically harassed and bullied the women he worked with,” she wrote. “I hope the Murdochs understand that Americans will no longer tolerate a corporate culture that views hate and harassment as part of running a successful news business.”

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



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Manchester Blast: Indian High Commission In UK Sets Up Response Unit


The Indian Mission will open helplines for its nationals caught in the Manchester Arena blast.

London:  The Indian High Commission in London today set up a response unit and will activate more helplines to assist any Indian national caught in the Manchester Arena terror attack that killed 22 people.

“We will activate more helplines to be of further assistance to families and friends of those affected by attack,” the Indian High Commission said on Twitter.

“Any Indians injured in Manchester attack today may reach off-office hours of Public Response Unit of HCI (High Commission of India) ASAP at 0207632 3035,” it tweeted.

A suicide bomber blew himself up at a crowded venue in Manchester where US singer Ariana Grande was performing. At least 22 people were killed and 59 were injured. The attacker, carrying an improvised explosive device or IED, was also killed at the scene the pop concert at Manchester Arena.

“We have been treating this as a terrorist incident and we believe that while the attack last night was conducted by one man, the priority is to establish whether he was acting alone or as part of a network,” Chief Constable Ian Hopkins of Greater Manchester Police said.

The Indian High Commission in London had yesterday organised a community event to mark the Anti-Terrorism Day, coinciding with former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s death anniversary on May 21.

“The scourge of terrorism affects innocent lives not just in one country but across the globe. No country and no people should shelter terrorists, promote terrorists or appease terrorists,” Indian High Commissioner to the UK Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha said at the event, during which he led an anti-terrorism pledge.



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Cybersleuths Unearth More Clues Linking Wannacry To North Korea


WannaCry global ransomware attacks infected an estimated 200,000 computers worldwide.

Cybersecurity researchers at Symantec Corp. and FireEye Inc. have uncovered more evidence tying this month’s WannaCry global ransomware attacks to North Korea.

The cyberattack that infected hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide was “highly likely” to have originated with Lazarus, a hacking group linked to the reclusive state, Symantec said. The software used was virtually identical to versions employed in attacks earlier this year attributed to the same agency, the company said in a report late Monday.

FireEye on Tuesday agreed WannaCry shared unique code with malware previously linked to North Korea. “The shared code likely means that, at a minimum, WannaCry operators share software development resources with North Korean espionage operators,” Ben Read, a FireEye analyst, said in an emailed statement.

North Korean diplomats and official media have denied in recent days that the country played any role in the attacks.

WannaCry, the malware behind a global cyberattack dubbed “unprecedented” by Europol, infected an estimated 200,000 computers worldwide, infiltrating global institutions from the the U.K.’s National Health Service to FedEx Corp. and PetroChina Co. It gave its victims 72 hours to pay typically $300 in bitcoin or risk permanent loss of data. As of last Friday however, the estimated total amount of ransom paid failed to hit six figures.

The initial attack was stifled when a security researcher disabled a key mechanism used by the worm to spread, but experts said the hackers were likely to mount a second attack because so many users of personal computers with Microsoft operating systems couldn’t or didn’t download a security patch released in March labeled “critical.”

Last week, a Google researcher posted on Twitter that an early version of WannaCry shared some of the same programming code as malicious software used by Lazarus, the alleged North Korean government hackers behind an attack on Sony Corp. in 2014 and the theft of $81 million from a Bangladeshi central bank account at the New York Fed last year.

Other researchers have speculated that if the perpetrators were indeed North Korean, their intent may have been to cause a widespread internet outage to coincide with a scheduled missile test.

“Despite the links to Lazarus, the WannaCry attacks do not bear the hallmarks of a nation-state campaign but are more typical of a cybercrime campaign,” Symantec wrote in its report.

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New York Steps Up Security After Manchester Concert Blast


Additional patrols at high-profile locations in New York after the Manchester Arena blast.

New york, United States:  New York authorities Monday stepped up security at sensitive sites after a deadly blast at a concert in Britain, although officials said there was no indication of a threat to US targets.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was ordering additional patrols at “high-profile locations” including airports and the subway “out of an abundance of caution” after the assault at the show by US pop star Ariana Grande.

“This apparent act of terrorism, targeting a concert attended by thousands of teenagers and young people, is an inexplicable and abhorrent assault on our universal values as human beings,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“An attack on one is an attack on all, and New York stands in solidarity with the British people and our friends around the world against the forces of hate and terror,” he said.

The US Department of Homeland Security said it was working to find information and stood ready to assist counterparts in Britain.

“At this time, we have no information to indicate a specific credible threat involving music venues in the United States,” the department said in a statement.

“However, the public may experience increased security in and around public places and events as officials take additional precautions,” it said.

Police said at least 19 people were killed and around 50 were wounded in the attack just as Grande left the stage.

It is the deadliest attack in Britain since 2005.

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Donald Trump Seeks To Convert US Military Grant To Pakistan Into Loan


The US has been supplying advanced weapons to Pakistan for decades. (File photo)

Washington:  US President Donald Trump wants to convert American grant to Pakistan for purchase of military hardware into a loan, the White House has said. Mr Trump in his annual budget to the Congress proposed the grant conversion, it said.

The Trump administration, however, has left it for the State Department to take a final call.

Unlike parliamentary democracies like India and the UK, where the finance minister delivers the budget speech on the floor of the parliament, in the US the White House sends copies of the president’s budget proposals.

The maiden annual budget of the Trump administration will be submitted to the US Congress later today.

The Trump administration has proposed to convert its Foreign Military Funding or FMF programme to many countries, including Pakistan, from aid to financial loan, said Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management of Budget in the White House. “The Foreign Military Funding for Pakistan may be provided in the form of a loan,” Mr Mulvaney said.

“This is one of the options that the administration had explored in its internal deliberations, but the request itself does not make that determination,” the White House later clarified, indicating that it might revert to the original financial grant to Pakistan to sell military hardware.

Whether the funding is through grants, or as a subsidy for a guaranteed loan, the State Department can choose any option to ensure American foreign assistance best supports its national interests, the White House said.

The Trump administration is said to be cutting foreign aid budgets to help pay for increased US military spending. However, for Israel and Egypt, American military aid would continue to be in the form of grant, Mr Mulvaney said.

The details of the Foreign Military Funding programme to Pakistan and other countries are expected to be released by the State Department later.

“We do maintain aid to Pakistan in the budget. I don’t believe it’s at the same levels as previous,” Mr Mulvaney said. “We do change a couple of foreign military programmes from direct grants to loans. Our argument was instead of giving somebody $100 million, we can give them a smaller number worth of loan guarantees and they can actually buy more stuff. We did not change it for Israel. We did not change it for Egypt,” Mr Mulvaney said.



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Indonesian Men Caned For Gay Sex Before Jeering Crowd


One of the two Indonesian men being publicly caned for indulging in homosexual activities (AFP Photo)

Banda Aceh, Indonesia:  Two Indonesian men were caned Tuesday in front of a jeering crowd as a punishment for gay sex, in a first for the Muslim-majority country where there is mounting hostility towards the small LGBT community.

The pair, aged 20 and 23, received 83 strokes of the cane each after being found guilty of breaking sharia rules in conservative Aceh province, the only part of Indonesia that implements Islamic law.

They were led onto a stage set up outside a mosque in front of a crowd of thousands, who jeered and booed loudly.

The pair, whose identities have not been revealed, bowed their heads as they were whipped by officials who wore dark robes and masks with eye slits, and used thin rattan canes.

One of the men grimaced occasionally and the other showed little emotion.

Before the caning, Abdul Gani Isa, a member of the Acehnese clerics’ council, told the crowd the caning was “a lesson for the public”.

“Lessons carried out with our sharia law are conducted in a very thoughtful way, are educational and do not violate human rights,” he said.

Their sentences, which were carried out in the provincial capital Banda Aceh, were reduced by two strokes of the cane due to time already served in detention.

The gay men were caught together in March by vigilantes who burst into the house where they were staying.

Shaky phone footage of the raid that circulated online showed the vigilantes kicking, slapping and insulting the men, with one of them slumped naked on the ground during the attack.

Anti-gay backlash

Public caning has long been common for offences such as gambling and drinking in Aceh, which was given the right to implement sharia law in 2001 as part of a deal with the central government aimed at ending an insurgency.

But Tuesday’s caning was the first time such a punishment has been meted out for gay sex since a sharia regulation came into force two years ago banning the practice.

Gay sex is not illegal elsewhere in Indonesia, which has the world’s biggest Muslim population.

While rights groups have repeatedly expressed alarm over the strengthening of sharia law in Aceh, many of those living in the staunchly Islamic province support the rules.

 

indonesia homosexual canning afp

One of the Indonesian men being canned publicly for having gay sex which against the Sharia laws.

Zubaidah, a 20-year-old female college student who watched the couple being punished, told AFP it was the first time she had witnessed a caning.

“I wanted to watch it so it could serve as a lesson for me not to commit any act that violates Islamic teaching,” said the student, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

“Homosexuality is a curable disease, it is very forbidden in Islam.”

Amnesty International was among groups that had urged authorities not to flog the men, decrying the use of caning as a “cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and may amount to torture”.

There has been a growing backlash against Indonesia’s small lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community over the past year, with ministers, hardliners and influential Islamic groups lining up to publicly denounce homosexuality.

The caning comes just two days after police in Jakarta detained 141 men including several foreigners for allegedly taking part in a gay sex party at a sauna promoted as “The Wild One”.

Although homosexuality is not illegal outside Aceh, police said 10 of those arrested at the party could be charged under the country’s tough anti-pornography laws.

The backlash against the homosexual community began in early 2016, and activists believe it was triggered by widespread media coverage of a decision in the United States to legalise same-sex marriage.

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



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Attacker Died In Manchester Concert Blast, Children Among 22 Killed


After the Manchester Arena concert attack, a fleet of ambulances was seen rushing to the venue. (Reuters)

The man behind a terror attack at a pop concert in Manchester late Monday died when he detonated his device, killing 22 others, including children and injuring 59 people, police said on Tuesday.

Greater Manchester Police chief Ian Hopkins said the man had set off an “improvised explosive device” as the audience was leaving the concert by US pop star Ariana Grande. He said local police in the city were working with national counter-terrorism and intelligence officials on the investigation.

Police said they are treating it as a terrorist incident until police know otherwise. 

British Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn suspended the election campaign after the blast. Ms May condemned the “appalling terrorist attack”.

“All our thoughts are with the victims and the families of those who have been affected,” she said in a statement.

There were scenes of panic as Ms Grande’s audience of youthful fans fled the 21,000-capacity venue after what eyewitnesses described as a “huge bomb-like bang” in the foyer area at the end of the concert.

A fleet of ambulances was seen rushing to the venue and bomb disposal teams were dispatched soon after, as city residents opened up their doors to stranded concert-goers after train services were shut down.

The incident in Manchester is the second terror attack to hit England in less than two months.

On March 22, five people were killed and more than 50 injured when a man drove into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in central London, before crashing into the fence surrounding parliament.

The attacker, 52-year-old Muslim convert Khalid Masood, was then shot dead by police at the scene after knifing a police officer to death.

Investigators described the lone-wolf attack as “Islamist related terrorism” but have not charged anyone in connection with the incident.

The deadliest bomb attack on British soil took place on July 7, 2005 when four British suicide bombers inspired by Al-Qaeda attack London’s transport system, killing 52 and wounding 700.



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Britain Suspends Election Campaign After Suspected Terror Attack


Britain’s election campaigning has been postponed until further notice after the concert explosion.

London:  Britain’s political parties have agreed to suspend election campaigning until further notice following an explosion in Manchester that killed 19 people at a concert by U.S. singer Ariana Grande.

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, said in a statement that he had spoken to Prime Minister Theresa May and had agreed that all national campaigning for the June 8 election would be suspended.

May said earlier that the incident in the northern English city was being treated as a terrorist attack.

“I am horrified by the horrendous events in Manchester last night,” Corbyn said. “My thoughts are with families and friends of those who have died and been injured.”

(Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

© 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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Ariana Grande, An Anodyne Teen Favorite, Hit By Tragedy


Pop star Ariana Grande, is a favorite of pre-teens rarely known for causing a stir.

New york, United States:  Pop star Ariana Grande, whose concert was struck by one of Britain’s deadliest attacks in years, is a favorite of pre-teens rarely known for causing a stir.

The 23-year-old former child star called her last album “Dangerous Woman” but her controversies have been markedly low-key, with the “danger” in her lyrics more about love than anything more sinister.

Grande wrote on Twitter that she felt “broken” after the attack Monday evening at the Manchester Arena, which killed at least 19 people and injured 50 others moments after she left stage.

“From the bottom of my heart, I am so so sorry. I don’t have words,” she wrote.

Who is she?

Born in Florida, Grande showed promise from an early age in theater and by her teenage years had joined a Broadway musical, moving to New York where she sang on the side.

Grande entered the public eye when she was cast on the Nickelodeon sitcom “Victorious,” playing the talented but at times aloof high school student Cat Valentine.

Grande kept the feline imagery as she branched out into pop music, frequently sporting a cat-ear headband or tying her brunette hair up in pigtails.

Pre-teen audience

Over the course of her three studio albums, her look has gradually turned more sensual as she sports slinky black skirts and sings of her power over men.

But unlike Miley Cyrus, a fellow onetime child star to whom she is sometimes compared, Grande never broke completely with the teenybopper image. Her “Arianator” fan base is full of young girls experiencing their first concerts.

In perhaps her biggest brush with controversy, Grande in 2015 released a feminist manifesto that attacked the focus on her, and other women’s, personal lives.

“The double standard and misogyny are still ever present,” Grande, who has more than 45 million followers on Twitter, said in the statement disseminated on social media.

“I can’t wait to live in a world where people are not valued by who they’re dating /married to / attached to, having sex with (or not) / seen with … but by their value as an individual,” she said.

In an interview last month with Cosmopolitan, Grande revealed that she has started running her show “from top to bottom” as she no longer felt comfortable putting her business in others’ hands.

“Now I’m very much in charge, and it feels amazing,” she said.

As a celebrity, she has occasionally found herself in tabloid press. In 2015 she was caught on camera with one of her back-up dancers licking the frosting off a doughnut and mumbling, “I hate America.”

She later clarified that she was proud to be American and was only critiquing her country’s penchant of overeating.

Grande has generally stayed away from activism, other than speaking out about her vegan diet as a way to reduce suffering for animals.

Raised Roman Catholic, she has said she left the church due to its position on gay rights and instead dabbles in the Kabbalah, a mystical branch of Judaism that has also drawn Madonna.

An Italian American, Grande in 2015 brought along her grandmother, whom she affectionately called “my nonna,” when she won a top honor at 2015’s American Music Awards.

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



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US Issues Second Travel Advisory For Pakistan In Less Than 45 Days


The US government has asked its citizens to exercise caution while in Pakistan.

Washington:  The US government has asked its citizens to postpone non-essential travel to Pakistan due to increased terror threat in the country. In a travel advisory, the second in less than 45 days, the US State Department referred to a recent note of the Federal Aviation Administration which asked commercial airline pilots to exercise caution while flying in Pakistan.

The Federal Aviation Administration raised concerns over flying in low altitude during landing and take-off, and while the aircraft are parked, due to terrorist activity.

“The Department of State warns US citizens against all non-essential travel to Pakistan,” the travel advisory, issued yesterday, said. Consular services provided by the American Embassy in Islamabad, the Consulate General in Karachi, and the Consulate General in Lahore have been curtailed. The Consulate General in Peshawar is not providing consular services, the note said.

“Pakistan continues to experience significant terrorist violence, including sectarian attacks,” the US State Department said, adding that targeted attacks against government officials, humanitarian and non-governmental organisation or NGO employees, tribal elders, and law enforcement personnel are common.

“Throughout Pakistan, foreign and indigenous terrorist groups continue to pose a danger to US citizens. Evidence suggests that some victims of terrorist activity have been targeted because they are US citizens. Terrorists and criminal groups have resorted to kidnapping for ransom,” the travel advisory said.

If any American citizen chooses to live or travel in Pakistan despite the warning, the person should vary travel routes and timing, especially for routine trips, and minimise duration of trips to markets, restaurants, government and military institutions, the advisory said.

Americans travelling to Pakistan should also minimise the number of US or western nationals congregating in any one location at any time, and avoid hotels that do not apply stringent security measures.

“Take a photo of your passport, entry stamp and Pakistani visa, and keep it with you at all times. Keep digital copies of these documents in a secure, electronically accessible place,” the advisory said.

According to the State Department, the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA in an “Advisory Notice to Airmen” issued on December 30, 2016 said that there is a risk to civil aviation operating in Pakistan. The advisory, however, does not prohibit US operators or airmen from operating in the specified area, as it is strictly an advisory notice.

“While there have been no reports of man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) being used against civil aviation in the territory and airspace of Pakistan, some extremist/militant groups are suspected of having access to MANPADS,” the FAA said.

“As a result, there is a potential risk for terrorists to target civil aviation with MANPADS at low altitudes. Some MANPADS may be able to reach a maximum altitude of 25,000 feet,” it said.

FAA said that additionally, cross-border tensions in the Kashmir region rose from August to September 2016 due to extremist and terrorist activity, and operators should be alert to the possibility of temporary airspace restrictions issued by the air navigation service providers responsible for managing that airspace.

In June 2014, terrorists attacked Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, killing 30 people and damaging he building. “During several separate incidents in 2014, aircraft on approach into Peshawar’s Bacha Khan International Airport were fired on by small arms, which resulted in one fatality,” the FAA said.



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19 Dead In Blast At Ariana Grande Concert In Manchester: 10 Facts


19 dead in explosion at Arianda Grande concert in Manchester city

London:  Nineteen people were killed on Monday night in an explosion after an Ariana Grande concert at the UK’s Manchester Arena, which police are treating as a possible terror attack. Ian Hopkins, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, said around 50 people were taken to six hospitals after the blast, which took place in the foyer area. Mr Hopkins said the incident took place around 10:33 pm at the end of the concert. British Prime Minister Theresa May called it an “appalling terrorist attack”.



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Manchester Concert Blast: What We Know Far


The Manchester Arena blast was reported to be the deadliest in Britain since 2005.

Manchester,United Kingdom:  Nineteen people died in a suspected terror attack at a pop concert in the British city of Manchester late Monday.

Here is what we know so far about the attack, which was the deadliest in Britain since 2005.

What happened?

Police said they were called at 2133 GMT to reports of an explosion at Manchester Arena at a concert by pop star Ariana Grande, who is popular with teenagers.

British Transport Police said the blast occurred at “within the foyer area of the stadium” and the venue said it was “outside the venue in a public space”.

The arena foyer connects the 21,000-capacity auditorium with Victoria train and tram station, a major hub on the northern edge of the city centre.

Eyewitnesses described a “huge bomb-like bang” and scenes of panic as young fans rushed out and parents waiting outside looked for their children.

Who is behind it?

Police said the incident was “currently being treated as a terrorist incident,” but no one has so far claimed the attack.

British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned it as “an appalling terrorist attack”.

Greater Manchester Police’s chief constable Ian Hopkins said local police in the city were working with national counter-terrorism and intelligence officials on the investigation.

Who are the victims?

Police said 19 people were killed and around 50 injured, who are being treated in six hospitals.

The local ambulance service said on Twitter it had taken 59 casualties from the incident and treated “a number of walking wounded on scene”.

Elena Semino from Lancaster told the Guardian she was with her husband waiting for her daughter by the arena’s ticket office when the explosion went off.

“There was this heat on my neck and when I looked up there were bodies everywhere,” she said.

Gary Walker from Leeds told BBC Radio 5 Live he was hit by shrapnel in his foot and his wife sustained a stomach wound as they waited for their daughters to come out of the concert.

“We heard the last song go and then suddenly there was a massive flash and then a bang and smoke,” he said.

Other attacks in the UK

The incident in Manchester is the second terror attack to hit England in less than two months.

On March 22, five people were killed and more than 50 injured when a man drove into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in central London, before crashing into the fence surrounding parliament.

The attacker, 52-year-old Muslim convert Khalid Masood, was then shot dead by police at the scene after knifing a police officer to death.

Investigators described the lone-wolf attack as “Islamist related terrorism” but have not charged anyone in connection with the incident.

The deadliest bomb attack on British soil took place on July 7, 2005 when four British suicide bombers inspired by Al-Qaeda attack London’s transport system, killing 52 and wounding 700.



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Prime Minister Narendra Modi Condemns Manchester Arena Blast


PM Narendra Modi condemned the Manchester Arena concert blast in the UK.

New Delhi:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi today condemned the blast in Manchester in the UK which killed at least 19 people and injured around 50.

PM Modi tweeted:
 

An explosion occurred at a pop concert by US star Ariana Grande in the Manchester city which is being treated as a terrorist incident.

The pop star is safe after the incident. Eyewitnesses reported hearing a loud “bang” from inside the venue, which was playing host to a concert by American pop star Ariana Grande. Video footage from the scene showed bloodied victims being helped by emergency services. The blasts reportedly went off at the end of the concert near the box office area of the venue.
 



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Twisted ISIS Supporters Tweet On Manchester Attack, No Official Claim


British police are treating the blast at Manchester Arena as a “terrorist incident”.

Cairo:  British police have said they are treating the blast at the arena in Manchester at the end of a concert by US singer Ariana Grande as a “terrorist incident”. More than 50 people were wounded.

Twitter accounts affiliated to Islamic State have used hashtags referring to the blast to post celebratory messages though there has been no official claim.

British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the incident. “We are working to establish the full details of what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack,” she said in a statement.

Greater Manchester police said in a statement, “This is currently being treated as a terrorist incident until police know otherwise.” 

The blast took place at the venue of pop singer Ariana  Grande’s concert at Manchester Venue just as the concert was ending.
 

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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'Broken, I Am So So Sorry,' Tweets Ariana Grande After Concert Blast


The Manchester explosion happened at the venue of pop singer Ariana Grande’s concert. (Reuters)

New Delhi:  Singer Ariana Grande tweeted this morning that she was ‘broken, from the bottom of my heart’ after an explosion at her concert in Manchester killed 19 and left over 50 injured. The UK police are treating the blast as a possible terror attack. The blast took place just as the concert ended at the Manchester Arena, when the largely teen audience was leaving around 10.30 pm on Monday night.

The blast rocked the foyer of the Manchester Arena as thousands of young fans and parents streamed out of the 21,000-capacity venue after the show by the US singer, whose fan base is made up largely of teenagers and pre-teens. Grande, a 23-year-old former child star, is not known for her political views.This was part of her The Dangerous Woman Tour.

This is the deadliest attack in Britain since 2005.

Ian Hopkins, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, said around 50 people were taken to six hospitals.

Dozens of teenage girls were taken by a parent to a nearby Holiday Inn Express hotel. Paula Robinson, 48, then tweeted out her phone number to worried parents telling them to meet her there.

Many celebrities tweeted expressing grief and condolences.

 

 

The Manchester Arena regularly hosts concerts by major stars.

Grande, currently on a European tour, has already played in Birmingham and Dublin and is due to be at the O2 Arena in London tomorrow and Thursday.



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Parents Look For Missing Children After Ariana Grande Concert Blast


Concert goers react after fleeing the Manchester Arena where Ariana Grande had been performing. (Reuters)

Manchester:  Desperate parents and friends used social media to search for loved ones on Tuesday after a blast killed at least 19 people at a British concert by U.S. singer Ariana Grande, with images of happy-looking teenagers posted next to pleas for help.

“Everyone pls share this, my little sister Emma was at the Ari concert tonight in #Manchester and she isn’t answering her phone, pls help me,” said one message posted alongside a picture of a blonde-haired girl with flowers in her hair.

Another Twitter user called Erin:P urged people to help him find his sister: “She’s wearing a pink sweatshirt and blue jeans. Her name is Whitney.”

The blast rocked the foyer of the Manchester Arena as thousands of young fans and parents streamed out of the venue after the show by the U.S. singer, whose fan base is made up largely of teenagers and pre-teens.

A third Twitter account, Deplorable MrsK, posted a picture of a young man smiling and wearing a suit, saying: “My son was in the Manchester Arena today. He’s not picking up my call! Please….”

Montages of smiling faces were being circulated of teens still unaccounted for after the concert.

Paula Robinson, 48, was at the train station next to the arena with her husband when she felt the explosion and saw dozens of teenage girls screaming and running away from the arena.

“We ran out,” she told Reuters. “It was literally seconds after the explosion. I got the teens to run with me.”

Robinson took dozens of teenage girls to the nearby Holiday Inn Express hotel and tweeted out her phone number to worried parents telling them to meet her there. She said her phone had not stopped ringing since her tweet.

“Parents were frantic running about trying to get to their children,” she said. “There were lots of children at Holiday Inn.”

Social media posts said the Premier Inn and other Manchester hotels had also thrown their doors open as shelters, with reports of up to 60 children at the Holiday Inn.

In other messages, taxi drivers offered to ferry those who needed to leave the city for free, while the hashtag #RoomForManchester was being used to offer free bedrooms and sofas for anyone stuck in the city.

“I’m 10 mins from Manchester city centre and can give lifts to or from anywhere. Anyone needs help, just let me know. #roomformanchester,” wrote a Twitter user called Danny Hutch.

© 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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19 Dead After 'Terrorist Incident' At Ariana Grande Concert In Manchester


LONDON:  An explosion at a pop concert in the northern English city of Manchester late Monday left at least 19 people dead and about 50 others injured, according to police.

“This is currently being treated as a terrorist incident until police know otherwise,” the Greater Manchester Police said in a statement.

Witnesses interviewed by the BBC reported hearing a loud blast following a performance by American pop singer Ariana Grande at Manchester Arena. Police said the blast occurred around 10:30 p.m.

Initial evidence at the scene suggested the attack may have been a suicide bombing, according to two U.S. security officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. British authorities, who were meeting in emergency sessions across Manchester and London, did not immediately confirm those reports.

If confirmed as a terrorist attack, it would be the worst strike on British soil since 2005, when bombers killed 54 people on London trains and buses.

Cellphone video showed chaotic scenes of people screaming and running in the aftermath of the blast. The arena was packed with attendees and pink balloons that had fallen from the ceiling during the concert’s final song. Initially, concertgoers said they thought popping balloons had set off a panic.

But witnesses later reported seeing the prone bodies of those who had been wounded and killed, as well as others who were streaked with blood and were staggering away from the scene. Some were injured in the rush to get out.

The hospital, Wythenshawe, said it was dealing with “mass casualties.”

Heavily armed police and emergency services swarmed the arena, with ambulances – their blue lights flashing – rushing to the scene.

The local emergency-response service advised the public to call only “for life-threatening emergencies.”

Many of those attending the concert were teenagers. Witnesses reported that outside the arena, parents were frantically attempting to locate their children.

A father told the BBC that he was leaving the arena with his wife and daughter when the blast blew him through a set of doors. Afterward, the man, identified as Andy, said he saw about 30 people “scattered everywhere. Some of them looked dead.”

Separated from his wife and daughter, he said, he “looked at some of the bodies trying to find my family.”

He later found them, uninjured.

“It was really scary,” Michelle Sullivan, who was attending the concert with her 12- and 15-year-old daughters, told the BBC. “Just as the lights have gone down, we heard a really loud explosion. … Everybody screamed.”

“When we got out, they just said, ‘Keep on running, keep on running.’ “

Karen Ford, a witness, told the BBC that “there were kids outside, crying on the phone, trying to find their parents.”

Concertgoers said that they saw nuts and bolts littering the ground near the blast scene and that the smell of explosives hung heavily in the air.

The singer was “OK,” a spokesman for Grande’s record label told the Reuters news agency.

Around 1:30 a.m., police announced that there would be a controlled explosion after a suspicious device was found. A loud bang was heard minutes later.

The arena has a capacity of 21,000. Manchester transport police said the explosion occurred in the arena’s foyer, where people were congregating to buy concert merchandise. Manchester Arena said the attack took place just outside the facility, in a public space.

Though nobody immediately claimed responsibility for Monday’s violence, scenes of bloodied, panicked concert-goers streaking for safety brought to mind similar images at the Bataclan theater in Paris in November 2015. The concert hall became the scene of extreme carnage after multiple gunmen burst in during a show by the American rock band Eagles of Death Metal and began shooting. The attack – for which Islamic State later claimed responsibility – killed 89 people and injured hundreds more, becoming the deadliest event on French soil since World War II.

Britain has had fewer terrorist attacks in recent years than many of its European neighbors. Monday night’s blast came two months after a careening driver left four people dead on London’s Westminster Bridge, then stabbed to death a police officer at the gates of Parliament.

Grande is a 23-year-old pop singer and actress who has been in the public spotlight since 2010, when she began appearing on the Nickelodeon television show Victorious. More recently, the former teen idol has been touring to promote her third studio album, “Dangerous Woman.” She has sold more than 1.7 million albums in recent years.

The singer has more than 45 million followers on Twitter. Grande is also one of the most popular people on Instagram, with 105 million followers – more than even Beyonce, Taylor Swift or Kim Kardashian. She was scheduled to play two shows in London later this week before traveling to Belgium, according to her tour dates.

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



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Theresa May Condemns 'Appalling Terrorist Attack' In Manchester


British Prime Minister Theresa May today condemned the Manchester Arena explosion.

London:  British Prime Minister Theresa May today condemned the “appalling terrorist attack” at a pop concert in Manchester that killed 19 people and injured more than 50.”We are working to establish the full details of what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack,” Ms May said in a statement.

At least 19 people died in an explosion at pop singer Ariana Grande’s concert at Manchester Arena.

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



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19 Dead In Suspected Terror Attack At Ariana Grande Concert In Manchester


Manchester:  Nineteen people have been killed in a suspected terrorist attack during a pop concert by US star Ariana Grande in the northwest English city of Manchester, police said Tuesday.

There were scenes of panic as Grande’s audience of youthful fans fled the 21,000-capacity venue after what eyewitnesses described as a “huge bomb-like bang” in the foyer area at the end of the concert.

A fleet of ambulances was seen rushing to the venue and bomb disposal teams were dispatched soon after, as city residents opened up their doors to stranded concert-goers after train services were shut down.

“So far 19 people have been confirmed dead, with around 50 others injured. This is currently being treated as a terrorist incident until police know otherwise,” police said in a statement.

British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the “appalling terrorist attack”.

“All our thoughts are with the victims and the families of those who have been affected,” she said in a statement.
 

Manchester Arena said the incident “took place outside the venue in a public space”.

The first unconfirmed reports of an explosion emerged shortly after 2145 GMT on Monday.

Gary Walker from Leeds told BBC Radio 5 Live he was hit by shrapnel in his foot and his wife sustained a stomach wound as they waited for their daughters to come out of the concert.

“We heard the last song go and then suddenly there was a massive flash and then a bang and smoke,” he said.

Manchester Arena said the incident “took place outside the venue in a public space”.

Isabel Hodgins, an actress who had been attending the concert, told Sky News: “Everybody was panicking, there was pushing up the stairs.

“The corridor was full, it smelled of burning, there was quite a lot of smoke as we were leaving.

“It’s just shocking and we just feel very shaken up. We’re just lucky to have gotten away safely,” she said.

Majid Khan, 22, who was attending the concert with his sister, said: “A huge bomb-like bang went off that hugely panicked everyone and we were all trying to flee the arena”.

Calvin Welsford, 18, from Bristol told the BBC: “It almost sounded like a gunshot”.

“I looked around and people were just spilling down, heading out of the building”.

“I was actually having an asthma attack. It was sheer panic,” he said.

Police carried out a controlled explosion in a small park near the venue a few hours after the blast but said the item turned out to be only abandoned clothes.

Manchester residents opened up their homes to people who could not get home after the incident, sending messages with the hashtag #RoomforManchester.

‘Lucky to have gotten away’

Robert Tempkin, 22, from Middlesbrough, told the BBC: “Everyone was screaming and running, there were coats and people’s phones on the floor. People just dropped everything.

“Some people were screaming they’d seen blood but other people were saying it was balloons busting or a speaker had been popped.

“There were lots of ambulances. I saw somebody being treated. I couldn’t tell what had happened to him.”

The Manchester ambulance service warned people only to call “for life threatening emergencies” as it had “a large number of resources at the incident”.

Suzy Mitchell, whose flat is opposite the venue said she heard “a huge bang” and came out of her flat to see “everyone was running away in big crowds”.

Train services to and from Manchester Victoria Station — located under the Arena — had been cancelled.

“Disruption is expected to continue until the end of the day,” National Rail said in a statement.

British Transport Police said in a statement: “Officers are at Manchester Arena following reports of an explosion within the foyer area of the stadium at 10.30pm this evening.

The incident caused transport chaos, with traffic jams outside the venue.

“Emergency services are dealing with an incident near Manchester Victoria, resulting in all lines being closed,” operator Northern Railway wrote on its website.

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



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Live: Explosion At Ariana Grande's Concert In Manchester, UK


Manchester:  British police said there were “a number of confirmed fatalities” and injuries after an explosion at a pop concert by Ariana Grande in the northwest city of Manchester. Ambulances were rushed at the scene after which bomb disposal teams followed. The statement issued by Greater Manchester Police that confirmed unidentified number of deaths at the venue, did not suggest possible cause for the explosion.

 



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'Serious Incident' At Venue Where Ariana Grande Performed:British Police


“Emergency services responding to serious incident at Manchester Arena,” Manchester Police. (File)

British police said on Monday they had responded to a serious incident at a venue in the northern English city of Manchester where U.S. singer Ariana Grande had been performing.

“Emergency services responding to serious incident at Manchester Arena,” Greater Manchester Police said. “Avoid the area.”

Witnesses reported hearing a huge bang at the venue, Sky News said on Monday.

A video posted on Twitter showed fans screaming and running inside the venue.

Reuters was not immediately able to verify the reports on social media.

Britain is on its second-highest alert level of “severe” meaning an attack by militants is considered highly likely.

 



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Emmanuel Macron To Host Vladimir Putin At Versailles Palace On May 29


Emmanuel Macron had previously criticised Russia’s bombing of Syria as ‘possible war crime’ (File Photo)

Paris:  French President Emmanuel Macron will host Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for talks at the Versailles palace on May 29, the French presidency said on Monday, as the countries look to reset strained relations.

The meeting, confirmed by the Kremlin, will coincide with an exhibition celebrating 300 years of Franco-Russian ties since the visit of Russian tsar Peter the Great to France in 1717.

The visit comes three weeks after Macron’s election and seven months after Putin, 64, cancelled a trip to Paris for the opening of a Russian cathedral complex near the Eiffel Tower in a spat with then president Francois Hollande.

The Socialist leader had said Russia’s bombing of the Syrian city of Aleppo could amount to war crimes.

Speaking last Friday, Russia’s ambassador to France, Alexander Orlov, said Moscow had a “positive perception” of Macron, 39, describing him as “very intelligent, realistic and pragmatic”.

“I think he’s not very ideological compared with his predecessors,” Orlov told a meeting of business leaders. “With him we have more chances of moving forward than before.”

The Kremlin said in a statement that the two men would discuss combatting terrorism and settling the crises in Syria and Ukraine.

Orlov, in an interview with the French business magazine Challenges, said Syria was “the most burning” issue.

Macron “seems more determined than Francois Hollande,” he said, adding: “We now must go forward in (peace talks in) Geneva where France can play a greater role.”

He added of the new French president that “with him we’re dealing with a real head of state — brilliant, competent, intelligent.”

Macron’s election campaign was subject to repeated cyberattacks and his aides accused the Kremlin of mounting a “smear campaign” against him.

Thousands of emails and documents were dumped online by hackers shortly before midnight on the last day of campaigning and were then relayed by anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

Paris prosecutors have opened a probe into the attack.

The Putin-Macron meeting will follow Donald Trump’s first trip abroad as US president, with stops in Saudi Arabia and Israel as well as the NATO headquarters in Brussels and a G7 summit in Italy.

Orlov told the business leaders that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was convinced after meeting with Trump earlier this month that the US leader wants to normalise relations with Russia.

“But the American establishment and media have conducted a hysterical campaign against Trump to prevent him from making steps towards Russia,” Orlov 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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Indo-Pak Tensions Surface In UK Election Campaign


London:  Indo-Pak tensions over the issue of cross-border terrorism have made their way into the UK general election campaign that has been hotting up.

One of Britain’s longest serving Indian-origin MPs, Virendra Sharma, was caught on camera at a multi-faith meeting in London saying that “Pakistan is not harbouring terrorist groups or sponsoring terrorism”.

The Labour MP for Ealing Southall, a heavily Indian- origin constituency, and chair of the Indo-British All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) instantly faced questions around this statement during the weekend.

“Given your seniority as a long-standing British Indian- origin member of Parliament and that you hold various posts ostensibly promoting UK-India relations, your comments are totally at odds with everything we have tirelessly worked on over many years. Why,” questioned Manoj Ladwa, a senior Labour party member and political communications strategist, in a letter to the MP.

“I would strongly urge you to make an urgent public and written statement clarifying your position and that of the Labour party before this issue spirals any further,” said Mr Ladwa, CEO of the UK-based media house India Inc.

Mr Sharma attempted to explain the heated argument that was caught on a smartphone camera and found its way on to social media.

“During elections strong feelings are common, but this is no time for people to raise issues for their own selfish reasons,” he said in a statement today.

“It is important that we consider our community and put its needs above our own. I am proud to represent a diverse community made up of all religions and nationalities and I think it is important that politicians represent everyone, not just a narrow section,” he said.

Mr Sharma, who won by a big margin over his Conservative party rival in the 2015 general election, is seeking his fourth re-election in the June 8 snap poll.

“I am proud to represent the area I have lived in for the last 49 years and my campaign will focus on our community and how much we can achieve. This election must be about bringing people together, improving people’s lives and turning our backs on the politics of division,” said the 69-year-old Punjab-born MP.

The campaign for next month’s election is heating up on all sides, with the ruling Conservative party losing some of its massive lead in opinion polls.

The Tory lead in terms of vote share has halved compared to a week ago, according to a latest Survation poll, with British Prime Minister Theresa May’s party on 43 per cent compared to Labour’s 34 per cent.

A YouGov poll over the weekend also appeared to show Labour narrowing the gap at 35 per cent compared with the Tories on 44 per cent.

The manifesto launches by the two main parties last week are believed to be behind the swing, with Conservative party plans on social care for the elderly coming under scrutiny.

“My manifesto is honest and upfront about our challenges.

It includes plans to strengthen the social care system with more and sustainable funding to cope with the long-term pressures caused by the fact that we are an ageing society,” said May in a speech in Wales today.

The Labour party, on the other hand, made a direct play for the youth vote, with an announcement to bring forward its pledge to scrap tuition fees to include students starting university this year if it wins the election.

The anti-Brexit Liberal Democrat party focused on the ruling party’s plans to double the migrant surcharge on companies employing migrants from outside the European Union (EU), including India.

The party’s shadow chancellor, Vince Cable, said, “The Brexiteers, many members of whom are now in the Cabinet, told us that leaving the EU would mean we could be more generous to our Commonwealth partners, it is now clear that this was another leave lie.

“The consequences of this policy to businesses, including the multi-billion-pound restaurant industry, who were already struggling to make ends meet due to strict regulation and charges is another example of why the Conservatives have buried any claim to be the party of business.”



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In Front Of World Media, Melania Trump Slaps Off US President's Hand


Donald Trump and Melania Trump with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The awkward moments between Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump had another significant addition during the US first couple’s visit to Israel. Walking down the red carpet at Ben Gurion airport with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, President Trump extended his hand to the First Lady, who promptly slapped it away in full view of cameras.

Twitter could not get enough of their body language. Or the fact that the US President was walking side by side with the Israeli first couple, leaving Mrs Trump a step behind.

One user tweeted saying, “He treats her like (expletive), he walks ahead of her, forgets about her, doesn’t assist her from cars, hold doors & NOW he want her hand?

Other users were delighted:
 

 

 

Another could not help recall a very different moment.
 

Twitter had witnessed a “#FreeMelania” campaign in January, when cameras captured Mrs Trump’s smile turning into a frown the moment the President looked away from her.  Within hours, it collected over 65,000 ‘likes’ and more than 50,000 retweets.
 

On another occasion, she was seen nudging the President, reminding him to keep his hand on his heart during the national anthem.

President Trump and Melania Trump, who have a 11-year-old son, Baron, have been married for 12 years. But after Mr Trump became the President, the First lady, instead of moving to the White House, has remained in New York, adding to speculation about their relationship.

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Junk Sale Diamond Ring Bought For 10 Pounds Expected To Fetch Thousands


Sotheby’s said the owner came forward in the past few months seeking a valuation.

London:  A diamond ring bought for next to nothing in a London junk sale is expected to fetch up to 350,000 pounds ($455,000, 405,000 euros), Sotheby’s auction house said on Monday. The owner bought the 26-carat, white diamond ring for 10 pounds in the 1980s and wore it while doing shopping and chores, thinking it was costume jewellery, Sotheby’s said.”The owner would wear it out shopping, wear it day-to-day. It’s a good-looking ring,” said Jessica Wyndham, head of Sotheby’s London jewellery department.

“No one had any idea it had any intrinsic value at all.

“The majority of us can’t even begin to dream of owning a diamond that large.”

The diamond is thought to have been cut in the 19th century, when the style was to cut to conserve the weight rather than to make it as sparkly as possible, hence its relatively dull brilliance.

“It could trick people into thinking it’s not a genuine stone,” said Wyndham.

She said the owner, who does not want to be named, brought the ring in after a jeweller told them it could be worth something.

She said the owner was “incredibly excited. Anyone would be in this position: it’s a life-changing amount of money.

“This is a one-off windfall, an amazing find.”

The ring will be auctioned on June 7 and is expected to fetch between 250,000 pounds and 350,000 pounds.

Sotheby’s said the owner came forward in the past few months seeking a valuation.

“Much to the owner’s surprise, the ring turned out to be a genuine cushion-shaped diamond weighing 26.27 carats with an attractive colour grade of I and impressive clarity grade of VVS2,” the auctioneers said.

The clarity grade “Very, very slightly included 2” is the fourth-highest out of 11, while a colour grading of I means it is near colourless, on the scale from D to Z.
 



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Donald Trump Becomes First Sitting US President To Visit The Western Wall


Donald Trump went to the Western World unaccompanied by any Israely leader (AFP)

Jerusalem:  Donald Trump on Monday became the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall in the disputed city of Jerusalem, placing his hand on one of the most sacred sites in Judaism.

The Western Wall is the holiest site where Jews can pray. Trump, wearing a black skullcap, paused in front of it, then placed what appeared to be a written prayer or note between its stones, as is custom.

He was not accompanied by any Israeli leaders.

Allowing them to do so could have led to accusations that Washington was implicitly recognising Israel’s unilateral claim of sovereignty over the site, which would break with years of US and international precedent.

Security was tight, with the usually bustling Old City, where the Western Wall is located, essentially on lockdown and the plaza leading to the site cleared.

Trump was accompanied by the Western Wall’s rabbi, Shmuel Rabinovitz, during the visit.

Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who converted to Judaism and is married to one of the president’s top aides, Jared Kushner, also visited the women’s side of the wall.

Trump, who is Protestant, is the first US president to have Jewish members of his immediate family.

Under strict interpretation of Jewish law, men and women must pray separately there. The rule has been repeatedly challenged by progressive Jewish movements seeking equal prayer rights.

The Western Wall is the last remnant of the supporting wall of the second Jewish temple, built by King Herod and destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

It is situated below the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third-holiest site, referred to by Jews as the Temple Mount and considered their holiest.

The visit to the Western Wall drew controversy before Trump even left Washington, when US officials declined to say whether it belonged to Israel.

The status of Jerusalem is ultra-sensitive and has been among the most difficult issues in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem, where the Western Wall is located, and the West Bank in 1967 in moves never recognised by the international community.

It later annexed east Jerusalem and claims the entire city as its capital. The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

The traditional US position has been that Jerusalem’s status must be negotiated between the two sides.

Trump’s visit to the wall came as part of his first trip abroad as president. The trip includes stops at important sites for Christians, Muslims and Jews.

The first leg of his trip was in Saudi Arabia, while later stops will include the Vatican.

Before visiting the Western Wall, Trump toured the nearby Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built at the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.

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



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Thought Osama Bin Laden Raid Was 'One-Way Mission', Says Ex-US Navy SEAL


Former US Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill claims to have killed Osama bin Laden in Abottabad.

Washington:  Former US Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill, who claims to have killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, has said that he considered the raid in Abottabad to be a “one-way mission” and bought farewell gifts for his children. 

“I wasn’t afraid. I was just focussed… We were preparing to not come home,” the former Navy SEAL told CNN about his preparations ahead of the operation. He also mentioned his “last conversation” with his father ahead of the raid in Pakistan.

“My father, he and I talked. We would talk before a lot of missions. He would joke, ‘I wish I could go with you’. I would say, ‘I know  dad. I wish you could too,'” Mr O’Neill said. 

“I said I am with some great guys. That was the last conversation,” he added. 

However, the ex-navy SEAL does not consider the Abbottabad raid as among the “most difficult targets we’ve been on”. 

“They selected a group of combat veteran navy SEALs. We had all done it hundreds and hundreds of times. It was the best team I’ve ever been a part of,” Mr O’Neill said.

“We were given the most time to prepare for this mission. So, we knew the outside of the compound very well,” he added.

“I saw bin Laden, and he was a threat, he was not surrendering… I treated him as if he were a suicide bomber, which I assumed he was, and I shot him,” the former navy SEAL further said.

Robert O’Neill has been criticised by many after going public with his story. However, he said that “some will be happy and some will be upset” with his decision to tell his story.

The former navy SEAL is the author of ‘The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Bin Laden’.

(with inputs from PTI)



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Donald Trump Visits Israel In Search Of Revived Peace Process


Donald Trump is willing to do whatever necessary to broker peace between Israel and Palestine (Reuters)

Tel Aviv:  After an exhausting two days in Saudi Arabia, US President Donald Trump arrived in Israel on Monday, attempting to revive the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process with visits to Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Over two days, Trump is to meet separately with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and visit holy sites. On Monday in Jerusalem, he will pray at the Western Wall and visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Netanyahu and his wife Sara, as well as Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and members of the Israeli cabinet, were at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport to greet Trump and First Lady Melania in a red carpet ceremony after a direct flight from Riyadh.

On his maiden foreign tour since taking office in January, Trump is already showing signs of fatigue from a packed schedule. He is on a nine-day trip through the Middle East and Europe that ends on Saturday after visits to the Vatican, Brussels and Sicily.

During a speech in Riyadh on Sunday in which he urged Arab and Islamic leaders to do their share to defeat Islamist militants, Trump referred to “Islamic extremism,” although advance excerpts had him saying “Islamist extremism.”

A White House official blamed Trump’s fatigue for the switch. “Just an exhausted guy,” she told reporters.

On Sunday night in Riyadh after a long day of events, many of them delayed, he skipped a “tweeps” forum for young people that was to be his last activity of the day, sending daughter Ivanka in his place.

Over the weekend, Trump received a warm welcome from Arab leaders, who focused on his desire to crack down on Iran’s influence in the region, a commitment they found wanting in the Republican president’s Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.

The reception marked a contrast from his difficulties at home where he is struggling to contain a mushrooming scandal after his firing of former FBI Director James Comey nearly two weeks ago.

Long-stalled peace talks

Trump has vowed to do whatever is necessary to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but has given little sign of how he could revive long-stalled negotiations.

When he met Abbas earlier this month in Washington, he stopped shortly of explicitly recommitting his administration to a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict, a long-standing foundation of US policy. Some Palestinians said they were disappointed by the omission.

Trump has also opted against an immediate move of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a longtime demand of Israel.

A senior administration official told Reuters last week that Trump remained committed to his campaign pledge to ultimately relocate the embassy but did not plan to announce such a move while on his trip.

“We’re having very good discussions with all parties and as long as we see that happening, then we don’t intend to do anything that we think could upset those discussions,” the official said.

On Sunday, Israel authorised some economic concessions to the Palestinians that a Cabinet statement said “will ease daily civilian life in the Palestinian Authority after (Trump) who arrives tomorrow, asked to see some confidence building steps.”

Trump used his visit to Riyadh to bolster US ties with Arab and Islamic nations, announce $110 billion in US arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and send Iran a tough message.

In his speech attended by dozens of Arab and Islamic leaders, he toned down the harsh anti-Muslim rhetoric he had employed during the presidential campaign last year in favor of trying to gain cooperation against Islamist militants.

“A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and drive out the extremists. Drive them out,” Trump said.

Trump will have visited significant homes of three major religions by his trip’s end, Islam, Judaism and Christianity, a point that his senior aides say is important in bolstering his argument that the Islamist militancy is a battle between “good and evil.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Ori Lewis in Jerusalem; Editing by Luke Baker)

© 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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Donald Trump Lashes Out At Iran During Jerusalem Visit


Jerusalem:  US President Donald Trump travelled to Jerusalem on Monday to seek ways to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace, but also used the visit to again lash out at Iran.

Trump’s visit is part of his first trip abroad as president and follows an initial stop in Saudi Arabia, where he urged Islamic leaders to confront extremism while also criticising Iran.

It also comes as he contends with a raft of problems back home, including a special counsel investigating whether his associates colluded with Russia.

Trump landed in Tel Aviv on Monday afternoon, welcomed by officials including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he walked along a red carpet ahead of a brief ceremony.

He later travelled by helicopter to Jerusalem and, in remarks at Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s residence, launched his latest salvo against Iran.

“The United States and Israel can declare with one voice that Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon — never ever — and must cease its deadly funding, training and equipping of terrorists and militias,” Trump said.

“And it must cease immediately.”

While in Saudi Arabia, Trump accused Iran of fuelling “the fires of sectarian conflict and terror” while calling for its international isolation.

Tight security

Security was extremely tight for the Israeli leg of the visit, with police deploying some 10,000 officers.

The alleys and passageways of Jerusalem’s ancient Old City, which Trump visited later in the day, were essentially under lockdown.

Ahead of talks with Netanyahu, Trump was touring two iconic sites in Jerusalem, a city holy to Muslims, Christians and Jews.

The first was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built at the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. He could be seen entering the holy site along with first lady Melania Trump under heavy security.

Afterwards, he is expected to become the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray and located in east Jerusalem.

The Western Wall visit drew controversy before Trump even left Washington, when US officials declined to say whether it belonged to Israel.

The status of Jerusalem is ultra-sensitive and has been among the most difficult issues in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967 in moves never recognised by the international community.

It later annexed east Jerusalem and claims the entire city as its capital. The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Enormous challenge

Trump will meet Netanyahu at 6:00 pm (1500 GMT).

Ahead of their meeting, Netanyahu’s security cabinet adopted a series of measures aimed at benefiting the Palestinian economy, moves seen as confidence-building measures requested by Trump.

They reportedly included new building permits for Palestinians in the part of the West Bank entirely under Israeli control, which occurs only rarely.

Most of the West Bank is under complete Israeli control and Palestinians face extremely long odds in being granted building permits in those areas, while Israeli settlement building has meanwhile continued.

“On my first trip overseas as president, I have come to this sacred and ancient land to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between the United States and the state of Israel,” Trump said at the airport after arriving.

He said later: “We have before us a rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace to this region and to its people, defeating terrorism and creating a future of harmony, prosperity and peace.”

On Tuesday, Trump will meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Bethlehem in the West Bank, visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and give a speech at the Israel Museum.

Any leader would face an enormous challenge in seeking to bring the Israelis and Palestinians together for meaningful talks, and Trump’s inexperience and domestic political struggles will only add to it.

He has spoken of his self-described deal-making prowess in declaring that the “ultimate deal” is possible, vowing “we will get it done”.

Trump has sent mixed signals about how he will approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He cast uncertainty over years of international efforts to foster a two-state solution when he met Netanyahu at the White House in February.

Embassy move unclear

At that meeting, he said he would support a single state if it led to peace, delighting Israeli right-wingers who want to see most of the West Bank annexed.

At the same time, he urged Israel to hold back on settlement building in the West Bank, a longstanding concern of Palestinians and much of the world.

Trump advocated during his campaign breaking with decades of precedent and moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, deeply alarming Palestinians.

He has since said the move was still being looked at.

Trump’s seeming openness to at least some of Abbas’s concerns has given Palestinians more reason for hope than many may have expected, but still reason to remain wary, some analysts say.

On the Israeli side, Netanyahu heads what is seen as the most right-wing government in the country’s history, and members of his coalition were elated with Trump’s election.

Some even called for an end to the idea of a Palestinian state.

Trump’s actions since have left them disappointed, with the embassy remaining in Tel Aviv — at least for now — and the White House seeking to restart peace efforts.

However, the United States remains Israel’s most important ally, providing it with more than $3 billion in defence aid annually.

After Israel and the Palestinian territories, Trump will head to the Vatican along with Brussels and Italy for NATO and G7 meetings.

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



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Japan Protests Against UN Expert's Queries On Bill To Fight Terrorism


Shinzo Abe’s new legislation has come under criticism for clamping down on individual rights (File Photo)

Tokyo:  Japan on Monday protested against a letter to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from a UN independent expert raising concerns that planned legislation targeting conspiracies to commit terrorism and other crimes could allow police to trample civil liberties.

The protest by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga drew a stiff rejoinder from Joseph Cannataci, UN special rapporteur on the right to privacy, who blasted Suga’s comments as “angry words” with “no substance” in an email to Reuters.

The lower house of Japan’s parliament is expected to approve the bill as early as Tuesday, setting the stage for enactment.

Tokyo says the legal changes are needed to ratify a UN treaty aimed at battling international organised crime and fighting terrorism, as Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 Olympics.

Opponents see the proposals as part of Abe’s agenda to tighten the government’s grip at the expense of individual rights.

The content of the May 18 letter from Cannataci was “clearly inappropriate and we strongly protested,” Suga said.

“It is not at all the case that the legislation would be implemented arbitrarily so as to inappropriately restrict the right to privacy and freedom of speech,” he added.

In the letter released on the website of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Cannataci referred to concerns that the bill’s broad scope might “lead to undue restrictions to the rights to privacy and to freedom of expression”.

He asked Abe for information on the accuracy of such concerns and the compatibility of the draft law with international human rights norms and standards.

“Unless and until corrected on any point of fact, I stand by every single word, fullstop and comma of what I wrote to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,” Cannataci wrote in his email.

“There is absolutely no justification for the Japanese Government to behave in this way and push through seriously defective legislation in such a rush.”

Critics including the Japan Federation of Bar Associations have also warned the changes, combined with a recent widening of legal wiretapping and courts’ reluctance to rein in police surveillance powers, could deter grassroots opposition to government policies.

The lawyers’ group has expressed concern that ordinary citizens would be targeted, despite government assurances to the contrary, and that the crimes governed by the law include acts unrelated to organised crime or terrorism.

Japanese governments have tried to pass similar legislation three times since 2000, when the United Nations adopted a Convention against Transnational Organised Crime.

But Abe’s ruling coalition, with a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament, looks likely to enact the bill this time, despite loud opposition protests.

A Kyodo news agency survey published on Sunday showed voters are split over the controversial bill, with support at 39.9 percent and opposition at 41.4 percent.

(Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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



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Philippines, China Play Down Duterte's Talk Of War In Disputed Sea


China and Philippines have been in a dispute over a stretch of water on the South China Sea (Reuters)

Manila:  The Philippines and China played down on Monday a warning by President Rodrigo Duterte that China would go to war if the Philippines drilled for oil in the disputed South China Sea.

The outspoken Philippine president has been facing criticism at home for being what some people see as too soft on China over a long-running territorial dispute.

Duterte met China’s President Xi Jinping for talks in Beijing last week and later said Xi had warned him there would be war if the Philippines tried to explore for oil in a disputed stretch of sea.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said their meeting was frank and friendly, and the discussion was largely about preventing conflict, not threatening it.

“The conversation was very frank. There was mutual respect, there was mutual trust,” Cayetano told reporters.

“The context was not threatening each other, that we will go to war. The context is how do we stabilise the region and how do we prevent conflict.”

He added: “I will not contradict the president’s words. I am just telling you … my interpretation: there was no bullying or pushing around, it was not a threat.”

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying also sought to make light of Duterte’s comments, noting he and Xi had agreed to “strengthen communication” on important bilateral issues.

China was willing to work with the Philippines to handle disputes peacefully, she told reporters.

Duterte made no mention of the issue during an unusually news briefing on Monday before he left for Russia.

Duterte’s critics have made much of his refusal to push China to comply with a ruling last year by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, at the end of a case brought by the Philippines against China, which was largely in favour of the Philippines. China has never recognised the case.

The court said the Philippines had a sovereign right to access offshore oil and gas fields in its Exclusive Economic Zone.

Duterte’s rivals have likened his refusal to insist that China abide by the ruling as akin to surrendering sovereignty.

Senate minority leader, Frank Drilon, said the government “should not allow our country to be bullied and threatened,” while former foreign minister Albert del Rosario said Manila should do joint maritime patrols with traditional ally the United States, an idea he said Duterte had jettisoned as part of his “full embrace of China”.

Duterte chafes at what he considers Philippine subservience to the United States and has sought to engage more with China, which has promised loans and investment that will be vital to his ambitious $180 billion infrastructure overhaul.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Saturday urged the government to file another international arbitration case over the reported Chinese threat, and also lodge a complaint with the United Nations.

Failure to do that would mean Duterte would be “selling us out”, he said.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said the Philippines was “very clear that we are not giving up our claim of sovereignty and sovereign rights”.

(Reporting by Karen Lema and Martin Petty in Manila and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Robert Birsel)

© 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 in dinosaur costume charged after scaring carriage horses


We never cease to be amazed at the antics of some people, we have all had our moments of fun at a party, fancy dress event or perhaps fuelled up with just a little too much alcohol, but getting dressed up in a Tyrannosaurs Rex costume and growling at horses, is perhaps taking fun jut that bit too far!

This is what happened in Charleston in South Carolina; the person a woman Nicole Wells, 26, wearing the costume approached a horse drawn carriage in the area of Church and Linguard Street. At around 5.30 a group of people were enjoying a carriage ride touring downtown historic Charleston when Wells wearing the orange costume thought it would be fun to spook the horses. Naturally the horse became scared, who wouldn’t we ask, and in the police statement it is understood that the horses backed away and the carriage struck an unoccupied vehicle, causing minor damage to its bumper. The carriage driver, Van Sturgeon lost his balance and fell off the carriage.  Unfortunately he was hurt in the incident and suffered a bruise and a broken bone in his left foot. He was transported to a local hospital for his injuries.

The news of the incident reached the Charleston Animal Society who immediately offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest.  Reacting to this Charleston Animal Society CEO Joe Elmore said. “If it was intentional, I’ll double it.” Well Joe did not have to reach into his wallet as the woman turned herself into the police and we understand that a detective told Van Sturgeon the woman turned herself in, but he admitted that he did not know what the “disorderly conduct” and “wearing a mask or disguise” charges were.

As you might imagine the tour operator Palmetto Carriage Works was not impressed, Tommy Doyle, the Manager says that animal rights activists are creating a dangerous environment for carriage horses. “The City of Charleston needs to condemn these tactics and warn groups that encourage this behaviour that their rhetoric is fuelling this danger,” he said.

We have to admit being slightly mystified if this was an animal rights tactic, scaring animals, horses in this case does not seem to add up to protecting , or enhancing their rights somehow. Possibly when Nicole Wells appears in court she may be able to enlighten us all how threatening horses is supposed to protect them. Joe Elmore is equally mystified as he suggest that if the incident is as reported then both he and Palmetto  view this as animal cruelty and it is not only unacceptable, but also against the law.

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Donald Trump Arrives At Israel In Pursuit Of Sealing The 'Ultimate Deal'


Tel Aviv:  US President Donald Trump arrived in Israel today on the second leg of his first overseas trip since entering office and said he had new reasons to hope for peace and stability to the Middle East after his visit to Saudi Arabia.

In a stopover lasting 28 hours, Trump is to meet separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Later on Monday, he will pray at Judaism’s Western Wall and visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and on Tuesday he will travel to Bethlehem.

Netanyahu and his wife Sara, as well as President Reuven Rivlin and members of the Israeli cabinet, were at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport to greet Trump and first lady Melania in a red carpet ceremony after what is believed to have been the first direct flight from Riyadh to Israel.

“During my travels in recent days, I have found new reasons for hope,” Trump said in a brief speech on arrival.

“We have before us a rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace to this region and its people, defeating terrorism and creating a future of harmony, prosperity and peace, but we can only get there working together. There is no other way,” he said.

Trump’s tour comes in the shadow of difficulties at home, where he is struggling to contain a scandal after firing James Comey as FBI director nearly two weeks ago. The trip ends on Saturday after visits to the Vatican, Brussels and Sicily.

“Ultimate deal”

Netanyahu said Israel shared Trump’s commitment to peace – but he also repeated his right-wing government’s political and security demands of the Palestinians, including recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

“May your first trip to our region prove to be a historic milestone on the path towards reconciliation and peace,” Netanyahu said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters en route to Tel Aviv that any three-way meeting between Trump, Netanyahu and Abbas was for “a later date”.

Trump has vowed to do whatever is necessary to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians — something he has called “the ultimate deal” — but has given little indication of how he could revive negotiations that collapsed in 2014.

When he met Abbas this month in Washington, he stopped shortly of explicitly recommitting his administration to a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict, a long-standing foundation of US policy. He has since spoken in support of Palestinian “self-determination”.

Trump has also opted against an immediate move of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a longtime demand of Israel.

A senior administration official told Reuters last week that Trump remained committed to his campaign pledge to ultimately relocate the embassy, but would not announce such a move during this trip:

“We’re having very good discussions with all parties and, as long as we see that happening, then we don’t intend to do anything that we think could upset those discussions.”

Arab welcome

Netanyahu has come under pressure from right-wing members of his own coalition who say he is not pushing hard enough to get Trump to carry out his promise.

Over the weekend, Trump received a warm welcome from Arab leaders, who focused on his desire to restrain Iran’s influence in the region, a commitment they found wanting in the Republican president’s Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.

On Sunday, Israel authorised some economic concessions to the Palestinians that it said would improve civilian life in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority and were intended to respond to Trump’s request for “confidence-building steps”.

The United States welcomed the move but the Palestinians said they had heard such promises before.

Trump used his visit to Riyadh to bolster US ties with Arab and Islamic nations, announce $110 billion in US arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and send Iran a tough message.

In a speech on Sunday to dozens of Arab and Islamic leaders, he toned down the harsh anti-Muslim rhetoric he had employed during his presidential campaign in favour of trying to build cooperation against Islamist terrorists.

“A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and drive out the extremists. Drive them out,” Trump said.

Trump will have visited significant centres of Islam, Judaism and Christianity by the end of his trip, a point that his aides say bolsters his argument that the fight against Islamist terrorism is a battle between “good and evil”.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Ori Lewis in Jerusalem; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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New 'Puffy Planet' With Styrofoam Like Density Found 320 Light Years Away


Planet KELT-11b is an extreme version of a gas planet like Jupiter or Saturn

Washington:  Researchers have discovered a new giant planet orbiting an extremely bright star 320 light years from Earth that has the density of styrofoam.

This “puffy planet” outside our solar system may hold opportunities for testing atmospheres that will be useful when assessing future planets for signs of life, researchers said.

“It is highly inflated, so that while it is only a fifth as massive as Jupiter, it is nearly 40 per cent larger, making it about as dense as styrofoam, with an extraordinarily large atmosphere,” said Joshua Pepper, assistant professor at Lehigh University in the US.

Styrofoam is a kind of expanded polystyrene used especially for making food containers.

“The planet’s host star is extremely bright, allowing precise measurement of the planet’s atmosphere properties and making it an excellent test-bed for measuring the atmospheres of other planets,” Pepper said.

The planet, called KELT-11b, is an extreme version of a gas planet, like Jupiter or Saturn, but is orbiting very close to its host star in an orbit that lasts less than five days. 

The star, KELT-11, has started using up its nuclear fuel and is evolving into a red giant, so the planet will be engulfed by its star and not survive the next hundred million years.

The KELT (Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope) survey uses two small robotic telescopes, one in Arizona, US and the other in South Africa. The telescopes scan the sky night after night, measuring the brightness of about five million stars. 

“The KELT project is specifically designed to discover a few scientifically valuable planets orbiting very bright stars, and KELT-11b is a prime example of that,” Pepper said. 

The star, KELT-11, is the brightest in the southern hemisphere known to host a transiting planet by more than a magnitude and the sixth brightest transit host discovered to date.

Though researchers are debating the cause of KELT-11b’s inflation, further study of the planet could provide additional information about the mechanism that causes inflated planets, Pepper said.

The planet’s large atmosphere also provides good opportunities for developing techniques needed to identify chemicals to assess habitability or products of life in the atmospheres of other planets.



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End Of An Era As Mount Everest's 'Hillary Step' Rock Face Collapses


“Hillary Step” rock face near Mount Everest summit after it had collapsed.

London:  A near-vertical 12-metre-high rocky outcrop at Mount Everest called the “Hillary Step” by mountaineers has collapsed, making the climb to the world’s highest peak dangerous and lengthy. “Hillary Step” stood on the mountain’s southeast ridge, and was the last great challenge before reaching the top.

The rocky outcrop was named after Sir Edmund Hillary who, along with Tenzing Norgay, reached the Mount Everest summit in 1953.

The loss of “Hillary Step” was the “the end of an era”, British mountaineer Tim Mosedale wrote on Facebook after reaching the summit on May 16. “It is associated with the history of Everest, and it is a great shame a piece of mountaineering folklore has disappeared,” Mr Mosedale wrote.

“It was reported last year, and indeed I climbed it last year, but we weren’t sure for certain that ‘The Step’ had gone because the area was blasted with snow,” Mr Mosedale wrote on Facebook. “This year, however, I can report that the chunk of rock named ‘The Hillary Step’ is definitely not there any more.”

Mr Mosedale believes the 2015 Nepal earthquake broke ‘Hillary Step’, the BBC reported.

“It’s official – The Hillary Step is no more. Not sure what’s going to happen when the snow ridge doesn’t form because there’s some huge blocks randomly perched hither and thither which will be quite tricky to negotiate,” Mr Mosedale wrote on Facebook.

Mountaineers say the snow-covered slope will be easier to climb than the vertical rock face, but loose rocks could still slow down progress. They say taking more time to reach the summit means having to wait at the bottom longer, which could lead to a life-threatening situation for mountaineers already battling low oxygen and frostbite a few hundred metres away from the top of the world.



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Indian Found Dead After Scaling Mount Everest


Ravi Kumar’s body was spotted about 200 metres (650 feet) from the main route.

Kathmandu:  Rescuers on Everest found the body of a missing Indian climber on Monday, taking the toll from a deadly weekend on the world’s highest peak to four.

Three other climbers died on Everest over the weekend, one of the deadliest episodes since an avalanche swept through base camp two years ago, killing 18. All the fatalities appear to be related to altitude sickness. 

Indian climber Ravi Kumar, 27, reached the summit on Saturday but lost contact shortly after. His Nepali guide managed to reach Camp 4, just below 8,000 metres, but sustained severe frostbite.  

“A search and rescue team have seen his body,” Thupden Sherpa of Arun Treks and Expeditions told AFP. 

Mr Sherpa said that Mr Kumar’s body was spotted about 200 metres (650 feet) from the main route and the team was assessing the feasibility of retrieving it. 

An American doctor Roland Yearwood and Slovak climber Vladimir Strba both perished on Sunday above the 8,000 metre mark – an area known as the mountain’s “death zone” where the thin air heightens the risk of altitude sickness.

An Australian climber died on the Tibet side of the mountain, local media reported, quoting the Tibet Mountaineering Association. 

The 54-year-old from Queensland was reportedly hit by altitude sickness after reaching 7,500 metres and died as he was trying to descend. His name has not yet been officially released.

Ongoing climbs

More than a dozen climbers have been rescued from the 8,848 metre (29,030 foot) mountain in the last three days after running into difficulties on the world’s highest peak, helicopter rescue operators told AFP.

The season has been marked by strong winds and unusually cold temperatures, the weather calmed over the weekend, opening a narrow window for climbers to make a bid for the top.

Despite the large numbers crowding towards the peak, there have been no reports of long queues.

Over a hundred climbers are expected to attempt to summit from Nepal’s south side on Monday before the weather changes in the next few days and brings strong winds, according to forecasts. 

“Today there might be as many as 150 climbers reaching the top from the Nepal side, but it isn’t a record number,” Ang Tsering Sherpa, head of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, told AFP.

In 2012, 255 climbers summited from both sides of the mountain in a single day, Sherpa said.

Legendary Swiss climber Ueli Steck died in late April while on an acclimatization climb, and 85-year-old Min Bahadur Sherchan perished in May while attempting to reclaim his title as the world’s oldest person to summit Everest. 

More than 120 climbers have successfully summited Everest from the south side so far this season, with another 80 reaching the peak from the Tibet side.

Hundreds are still waiting to summit before the monsoon arrives in early June, marking the end of the short spring climbing season.
Last year Everest claimed the lives of five climbers, while a total of 640 people summited from both sides of the mountain.



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Sri Lanka President Switches Foreign, Finance Ministers In Reshuffle


The newly appointed ministers took oath before Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena.

Colombo:  Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena switched the finance and foreign ministers in a cabinet reshuffle on Monday in a bid to restore confidence in the administration’s handling of the economy.

Managala Samaraweera, who has been foreign minister since January 2015, was appointed as finance and media minister. He swaps roles with Ravi Karunanayake, who takes over at external affairs, the president’s spokesman Dharmasri Ekanayake told Reuters.

Karunanayake sought to revive the economy with a $1.5 billion loan from the IMF in June last year. The IMF has long urged Sri Lanka to boost tax revenue through modernisation and simplification of its fiscal system, which the government has been struggling to implement because of political opposition.

Growth, however, has remained anaemic, falling 4.4 percent in 2016 from 4.8 percent in the previous year.

The exchange rate was allowed to depreciate 14 percent in the two years through December 2016 and further 1.9 pct so far this year to boost exports.

The change at cabinet is aimed at giving fresh impetus to development work, the spokesman quoted the president as saying.

Sirisena also shifted Arjuna Ranathunga out of the ports ministry after he blocked a $1.1 billion Chinese port deal following criticism that it would draw the tiny nation deeper into debt.

© 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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Hackers Hit Russian Bank Customers, Planned International Cyber Raids


Moscow:  Russian cyber criminals used malware planted on Android mobile devices to steal from domestic bank customers and were planning to target European lenders before their arrest, investigators and sources with knowledge of the case told Reuters.

Their campaign raised a relatively small sum by cyber-crime standards – more than 50 million roubles ($892,000) – but they had also obtained more sophisticated malicious software for a modest monthly fee to go after the clients of banks in France and possibly a range of other western nations.

Russia’s relationship to cyber crime is under intense scrutiny after U.S. intelligence officials alleged that Russian hackers had tried to help Republican Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency by hacking Democratic Party servers.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied the allegation.

The gang members tricked the Russian banks’ customers into downloading malware via fake mobile banking applications, as well as via pornography and e-commerce programmes, according to a report compiled by cyber security firm Group-IB which investigated the attack with the Russian Interior Ministry.

The criminals – 16 suspects were arrested by Russian law enforcement authorities in November last year – infected more than a million smartphones in Russia, on average compromising 3,500 devices a day, Group-IB said.

The hackers targeted customers of state lender Sberbank, and also stole money from accounts at Alfa Bank and online payments company Qiwi, exploiting weaknesses in the companies’ SMS text message transfer services, said two people with direct knowledge of the case.

Although operating only in Russia before their arrest, they had developed plans to target large European banks including French lenders Credit Agricole, BNP Paribas and Societe General, Group-IB said.

A BNP Paribas spokeswoman said the bank could not confirm this information, but added that it “has a significant set of measures in place aimed at fighting cyber attacks on a daily basis”. Societe General and Credit Agricole declined comment.

The gang, which was called “Cron” after the malware it used, did not steal any funds from customers of the three French banks. However, it exploited the bank service in Russia that allows users to transfer small sums to other accounts by sending an SMS message.

Having infected the users’ phones, the gang sent SMS messages from those devices instructing the banks to transfer money to the hackers’ own accounts.

The findings illustrate the dangers of using SMS messages for mobile banking, a method favoured in emerging countries with less advanced internet infrastructure, said Lukas Stefanko, a malware researcher at cyber security firm ESET in Slovakia.

“It’s becoming popular among developing nations or in the countryside where access to conventional banking is difficult for people,” he said. “For them it is quick, easy and they don’t need to visit a bank… But security always has to outweigh consumer convenience.”

CYBER CRIMINALS

The Russian Interior Ministry said a number of people had been arrested, including what it described as the gang leader. This was a 30-year-old man living in Ivanovo, an industrial city 300 km (185 miles) northeast of Moscow, from where he had commanded a team of 20 people across six different regions.

Four people remain in detention while the others are under house arrest, the ministry said in a statement.

“In the course of 20 searches across six regions, police seized computers, hundreds of bank cards and SIM cards registered under fake names,” it said.

Group-IB said the existence of the Cron malware was first detected in mid-2015, and by the time of the arrests the hackers had been using it for under a year.

The core members of the group were detained on Nov. 22 last year in Ivanovo. Photographs of the operation released by Group-IB showed one suspect face down in the snow as police in ski masks handcuffed him.

The “Cron” hackers were arrested before they could mount attacks outside Russia, but plans to do that were at an advanced stage, said the investigators.

Group-IB said that in June 2016 they had rented a piece of malware designed to attack mobile banking systems, called “Tiny.z” for $2,000 a month. The creators of the “Tiny.z” malware had adapted it to attack banks in Britain, Germany, France, the United States and Turkey, among other countries.

The “Cron” gang developed software designed to attack lenders including the three French groups, it said, adding it had notified these and other European banks at risk.

A spokeswoman for Sberbank said she had no information about the group involved. However, she said: “Several groups of cyber criminals are working against Sberbank. The number of groups and the methods they use to attack us change constantly.”

“It isn’t clear which specific group is being referred to here because the fraudulent scheme involving Android OS (operating system) viruses is widespread in Russia and Sberbank has effectively combated it for an extensive period of time.”

Alfa Bank did not provide a comment. Qiwi did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Google, the maker of Android, has taken steps in recent years to protect users from downloading malicious code and by blocking apps which are insecure, impersonate legitimate companies or engage in deceptive behaviours.

The company declined to comment for this story, saying they had not seen the Group-IB report.

FAKE MOBILE APPS

The Russian authorities, bombarded with allegations of state-sponsored hacking, are keen to show Russia too is a frequent victim of cyber crime and that they are working hard to combat it. The interior and emergencies ministries, as well as Sberbank, said they were targeted in a global cyberattack earlier this month.

Since the allegations about the U.S. election hacking, further evidence has emerged of what some Western officials say is a symbiotic relationship between cyber criminals and Russian authorities, with hackers allowed to attack foreign targets with impunity in return for cooperating with the security services while Moscow clamps down on those operating at home.

The success of the Cron gang was facilitated by the popularity of SMS-banking services in Russia, said Dmitry Volkov, head of investigations at Group-IB.

The gang got their malware on to victims’ devices by setting up applications designed to mimic banks’ genuine apps. When users searched online, the results would suggest the fake app, which they would then download. The hackers also inserted malware into fake mobile apps for well-known pornography sites.

After infecting a customer’s phone, the hackers were able to send a text message to the bank initiating a transfer of up to $120 to one of 6,000 bank accounts set up to receive the fraudulent payments.

The malware would then intercept a confirmation code sent by the bank and block the victim from receiving a message notifying them about the transaction.

“Cron’s success was due to two main factors,” Volkov said. “First, the large-scale use of partner programs to distribute the malware in different ways. Second, the automation of many (mobile) functions which allowed them to carry out the thefts without direct involvement.”

($1 = 56.0418 roubles)

(Additional reporting by Maya Nikolaeva in Paris and Eric Auchard in Frankfurt; Editing by Christian Lowe and David Stamp)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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



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2 More Deaths Take Everest Toll To 6 In Past Month


Bad weather and high winds have marred this year’s Mount Everest expeditions (Reuters)

Kathmandu:  Two more climbers have died on Mount Everest, taking to six the death toll on the world’s highest mountain in the past month, fuelling safety concerns among mountaineers, officials said on Monday.

A 54-year-old Australian, Francesco Enrico Marchetti, died on the Tibetan side of Everest, while Vladimir Strba, 48, of Slovakia, perished near a feature called the Balcony in the south in Nepal, officials said. Both climbers died on Sunday.

Marchetti died of apparent altitude sickness about 8,300 metres (27,230 feet) above sea level on his summit approach, said Navin Trital of the Expedition Himalaya company that coordinated logistics for the climber.

“He fell sick and died while being brought down to a lower camp,” Trital told Reuters in the capital, Kathmandu. He said he was unable to give details because of poor communications with the team.

Strba died at around 8,400 metres (27,500 feet) on the Nepali side in the “death zone”, where the air is very thin, Tourism Department official Gyanendra Shrestha said.

He also said the exact circumstances leading to Strba’s death were not clear.

An American climber died on Sunday, while rescuers spotted the body of an Indian climber, who fell 200 metres (650 feet) to his death after scaling the peak a day earlier, a Tourism Department official said.

On April 30, famed Swiss climber Ueli Steck fell to his death near Mount Everest while preparing to climb it. An 85-year-old Nepali man died at base camp this month while trying to set a record for the oldest climber.

This year’s Everest expeditions have been confronted by bad weather and high winds.

“There have been deaths on both sides. While few details are provided, it appears these were associated with altitude, not weather,” American blogger and climber Alan Arnette said in a post.

Arnette reckons that an annual average of 6.9 climbers has died since 2000 trying to scale the world’s tallest peak, meaning that fatalities so far are in line with the typical annual figure.

Nepal has cleared 371 climbers to Mount Everest in the current season, which ends this month. Nearly 200 climbers went to Tibet, from where the 8,850-metre (29,035-foot) Everest summit can also be scaled.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Clarence Fernandez)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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



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Chinese Paper Applauds Anti-Spy Efforts After Report CIA Sources Killed


Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman declined to comment on specifics of the report (Reuters)

Beijing:  An influential state-run newspaper applauded China’s anti-espionage efforts on Monday after the New York Times said China had killed or imprisoned up to 20 CIA sources, hobbling U.S. spying operations in a massive intelligence breach.

The Chinese killed at least a dozen people providing information to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency between 2010 and 2012, dismantling a network that was years in the making, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

China’s Global Times, published by the official People’s Daily, said in an editorial in its Chinese and English-language editions that, if true, it was a victory for China.

“If this article is telling the truth, we would like to applaud China’s anti-espionage activities. Not only was the CIA’s spy network dismantled, but Washington had no idea what happened and which part of the spy network had gone wrong,” the paper said.

“It can be taken as a sweeping victory. Perhaps it means even if the CIA makes efforts to rebuild its spy network in China, it could face the same result,” it said.

However the widely read paper, which is known for its strongly nationalist stance, said one part of the report was false.

“As for one source being shot in a government courtyard, that is a purely fabricated story, most likely a piece of American-style imagination based on ideology,” it said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying declined to comment on the specifics of the report, telling a daily news briefing she did not know anything about it.

“China’s state security department investigates and handles, in accordance with the law, groups, people and activities that harm China’s national security interests and effectively performs its duties,” she said, without elaborating.

The Ministry of State Security, which oversees anti-spying operations, has no publicly available telephone number and no website, unlike other Chinese ministries.

While the New York Times’ website is blocked in China, like those of many mainstream Western news organisations, the story has been widely discussed and its contents picked up in other Chinese media, especially by online news portals.

The story has attracted thousands of comments on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, with many people expressing glee that the spy ring was broken.

“Strike hard against spy traitors, protect the country’s security!” wrote one Weibo user.

“Well done! Good on you China,” wrote another.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait and Clarence Fernandez)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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



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Israel In Rare Overture To Palestinians At Donald Trump's Request


Israel approves to improve Palestine’s economy and facilitate crossings on Donald Trump’s request.

Jerusalem:  Israeli ministers have approved measures aimed at improving the Palestinian economy and facilitating crossings, rare moves said to be at Donald Trump’s request hours ahead of the US president’s arrival.

An Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity that ministers were responding to a Trump request to present him with “confidence-building measures” ahead of his talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Tuesday.

In what the official described as a “gesture for Trump’s visit, which does not harm Israel’s interests”, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet on Sunday approved the enlargement of a Palestinian industrial zone on the edge of the southern West Bank.

He said that the possibility of extending Israel Railways services to the northern West Bank city of Jenin would also be examined.

They also gave the nod to streamlining transit procedures at Shaar Ephraim, a busy crossing point in the northern part of the occupied West Bank for Palestinian labourers with permits to work in Israel.

The official said that opening hours for passage across the main Jordan River bridge linking the Palestinian territory and the neighbouring kingdom were to be extended to 24/7.

There would also be reforms to Palestinian land use in urban areas in the 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli control.

He did not elaborate but Israel’s Haaretz daily said the intention was to allow construction of “thousands of Palestinian homes” in the area where for years it has been almost impossible for Palestinians to get Israeli permits to build on their own land.

Haaretz said that at Sunday night’s meeting Education Minister Naftali Bennett and deputy foreign minister Ayelet Shaked, of the religious-nationalist Jewish Home party, “objected vehemently” to the building plans.

In an apparent attempt to calm opposition from within Netanyahu’s coalition government, seen as the most right-wing in the country’s history, the security cabinet also approved setting up a committee to work for retroactive legalisation of wildcat Israeli construction in the West Bank, the official 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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