Indian Man Commits 'Suicide' In Sharjah


The body was found hanging in his room when police and forensic officers arrived at the apartment.

Sharjah:  A 52-year-old Indian man allegedly committed suicide in Sharjah by hanging himself in his room in his family apartment, a media report said.

Police said they received a call at 11.30 p.m. (local time) about the incident, the Khaleej Times reported on Friday. 

Officials said the man was identified as S.M. 

The body was found hanging in his room when police and forensic officers arrived at the apartment.

According to the officials the man died at 8 p.m. His family members were unaware of the incident and they thought he was sleeping.

The body was taken to a forensic laboratory for investigation to determine the exact cause of the death, said officials. 

The police were questioning the family members along with others who lived in the same two-bedroom apartment.

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



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Sri Lanka Rubbish Dump: Number Of Deaths Rise To 11


Young boys and girls aged b/w 11 and 15 were among the confirmed killed following incident. (File Photo)

Colombo:  The death toll from a collapsed garbage mountain in Sri Lanka’s capital rose to 11 Saturday, officials said, with the disaster destroying 145 homes.

Colombo National hospital spokeswoman Pushpa Soysa said two boys and two girls were among the 11 confirmed killed following the Friday incident. They were aged between 11 and 15.

Soysa said a total of 21 people were brought to the hospital from Kolonnawa, where the 300-foot (91-metre) high rubbish dump crashed on homes.

“We remain on standby, some people who were pulled out of wrecked homes were brought in overnight,” she told AFP. “Five of them have succumbed to their injuries.”

Hundreds of troops dug through tonnes of rubbish looking for survivors while two heavy earth moving machines were also deployed.

Police said a total of 145 homes, mostly shacks, were destroyed when a side of the garbage mountain came crashing down on Friday following heavy rain the previous day and a fire hours earlier.

Police said 625 people were given temporary shelter at a government-run school in the area as authorities looked for alternative accommodation for those living near the dump.

Many residents had evacuated their homes before the disaster because of the heavy rain.

“The casualties would have been much higher if most people had not left their homes earlier in the day,” a disaster management official told reporters at the site.

About 800 tonnes of solid waste is added daily to the open dump, angering residents who live nearby.

Sri Lanka’s parliament was warned recently that the 23 million tonnes of garbage rotting at Kolonnawa was a serious health hazard.

Efforts are under way to build an electricity plant that could transform the solid waste into fuel.

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



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China Foreign Minister Calls Russian Counterpart To 'Cool' N.Korea Row


Wang Yi said the common goal was to ‘bring all the parties back to the negotiating table’.

Beijing:  China is seeking Russia’s help to cool surging tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, the country’s foreign minister has told his Moscow counterpart, after Beijing warned of possible conflict over North Korea.

Fears over the North’s rogue weapons programme have soared in recent days, with a US naval strike force deployed near the Korean peninsula, while President Donald Trump has warned the threat ‘will be taken care of’ and Pyongyang has vowed a ‘merciless’ response to any provocation.

China, the North’s sole major ally and economic lifeline, on Friday warned that war over North Korea could break out ‘at any moment’.

In a call with Sergei Lavrov later Friday, Wang Yi said the common goal of the two nations was to ‘bring all the parties back to the negotiating table’, according to a statement on China’s Foreign Ministry website.

“China is ready to coordinate closely with Russia to help cool down as quickly as possible the situation on the peninsula and encourage the parties concerned to resume dialogue,” Mr Wang told Mr Lavrov, referring to the stalled six-party talks on the North’s nuclear programme that includes Russia, China and the United States.

“Preventing war and chaos on the peninsula meets common interests,” he added.

Beijing has long opposed dramatic action against the North, fearing the regime’s collapse would send a flood of refugees across its borders and leave the US military on its doorstep.

Mr Trump insists that China must exert more leverage on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions or suffer the consequences.

Pyongyang is already under several sets of UN sanctions over its atomic and ballistic missile programmes.



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Amid Tensions With US, North Korea Shows Off New Missiles In Huge Parade


Tokyo:  North Korea put on a huge military spectacle Saturday to celebrate its founder’s birthday, parading its series of new and technologically advanced missiles in front of Kim Jong Un, and in a defiant show of force in front of the world.

North Korea did not, however, carry out another nuclear test or ballistic missile launch, against widespread speculation that it would seek to celebrate Kim Il Sung’s 105th birthday with a bang.
April 15 is the most important day in the North Korean calendar, and Kim Jong Un has celebrated his grandfather’s birthday with great fanfare as a way to boost his own legitimacy as the successor to the communist dynasty.

North Korea presented two of its newest missiles at the parade in Kim Il Sung Square on Saturday, including the submarine-launched ballistic missile it successfully fired last year and the land-based version it launched last month.

“And there were a lot of them,” said Melissa Hanham, an expert at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California.
“The signal that they’re trying to send is that they are moving ahead with solid-fuel missiles,” she said.

North Korea has been working on solid fuel, which means missiles are ready to fire and don’t need loading with propellant like its previous liquid-fuel missiles, as a way to fire missiles quickly and without detection by satellites.

It did not show off the KN-08 and KN-11 intercontinental ballistic missiles it had included in previous parades, the long-range rockets with the technical ability to reach the mainland United States that it is developing. But it instead put fuel canisters on the trucks that had carried the ICBMs previously, suggesting they wanted to reinforce the message that it can not fuel these longer-range missiles.

The parade took place amid stern warnings from the outside world, and mounting fears about some kind of military action in the region.
The United States has sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the Korean Peninsula region, and Trump has repeatedly tweeted that if China will not use its leverage to rein in North Korea, the United States will act.

Vice President Mike Pence arrives in Seoul on Sunday on the first leg of an Asia tour, and he will doubtless underscore Washington’s strong alliances with South Korea and Japan and their determination to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

North Korea presented two of its newest missiles at the parade in Kim Il Sung Square (Reuters)
 

China on Friday urged the United States and North Korea not to push their recriminations to a point of no return and allow war to break out on the Korean Peninsula.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said “storm clouds” were gathering, an apparent reference to North Korean preparations to conduct a new nuclear test and the United States’ deployment of a naval strike force to the waters off the peninsula. In addition, the U.S. military has been conducting large-scale exercises with South Korean forces, drills that the North considers provocative.

“The United States and South Korea and North Korea are engaging in tit for tat, with swords drawn and bows bent,” Wang said at a news conference after meeting with visiting French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Xinhua reported. “We urge all parties to refrain from inflammatory or threatening statements or deeds to prevent irreversible damage to the situation on the Korean Peninsula.”

Later Friday, Wang called his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and said it was in both countries’ interests to stop war breaking out. “China welcomes close collaboration with Russia to cool down the Korean Peninsula situation as quickly as possible and encourage the involved parties to resume dialogue,” he said, according to China’s foreign ministry.

Separately, China’s Global Times newspaper said the U.S. decision to drop “the mother of all bombs” on Afghanistan this week would have sent a “shock wave” all the way to North Korea but might send the wrong signal to Kim Jong Un – that without nuclear weapons he would suffer the same fate as Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

“It would be nice if the bomb could frighten Pyongyang but its actual impact may just be the opposite,” the paper said. 

Trump administration officials describe the situation as more dangerous than in the past, because of the progress North Korea has made in its nuclear and missile programs and because of the hostility on both sides. But U.S. officials said no decision has been made about how to respond to any new test – nuclear or ballistic – by North Korea.

While officials do not rule out other actions, they also stress their desire to ensure that the situation does not escalate out of control. Pentagon officials denied recent media reports that the Trump administration is ready to launch a preemptive strike if North Korea appears to be about to conduct a nuclear test.

North Korea Friday accused President Donald Trump of “making trouble” with his “aggressive” tweets, amid concerns that tensions between the two countries could escalate into military action.

North Korea’s vice foreign minister said that Trump was “becoming more vicious and more aggressive” than previous presidents, which was only making matters worse.

“Trump is always making provocations with his aggressive words,” Han Song Ryol told the Associated Press in an interview in Pyongyang. “So that’s why. It’s not the DPRK but the U.S. and Trump that makes trouble,” he said, using the abbreviation for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as North Korea is officially known.

Han also repeated the regime’s common refrain that North Korea is ready to act to defend itself.

“We’ve got a powerful nuclear deterrent already in our hands, and we certainly will not keep our arms crossed in the face of a U.S. preemptive strike,” Han told the AP.

His message chimed with a statement Friday from North Korea’s Institute for Disarmament and Peace that it was the United States pushing the Korean Peninsula, “the world’s biggest hotspot,” to the brink of war by bringing back a naval strike group.

“This has created a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out any moment on the peninsula and pose a serious threat to the world’s peace and security,” the statement said.

North Korea has a habit of fueling tensions to increase the rewards it might extract from the outside world if it desists. Previously, the North has agreed to return to denuclearization talks in return for aid or the easing of sanctions.

The North Korean army meanwhile threatened to annihilate U.S. military bases in South Korea and the presidential palace in Seoul in response to what it called Trump’s “maniacal military provocations.”

With his approach, Trump is tearing up the old playbook of how to deal with North Korea, analysts said.

“This approach to North Korea is relatively new,” said James Kim of the Asan Institute of Policy Studies in Seoul. “The approach in the past has been very calculated.”

That has gone out the window with talk about military options, he said. “We always knew all these options were there, but no one was bold enough to go down that path. It’s a new approach.”
Some in Beijing are noticing the shift, too.

“It should be noted that there is a personality difference between Trump and Obama,” the Global Times newspaper wrote Friday. The paper does not speak for the Chinese government on policy but often reflects a strain of thinking within the Communist Party.

“Trump is also willing to show he is different. Bombing Syria helps him to show that,” it continued, while noting that he was far from “revolutionary” because he dispatched only missiles, not troops.

But North Korea could prove different if it ignores Trump’s warning and conducts another nuclear test, the paper said. “Trump just took the office; if he loses to Pyongyang, he would feel like he had lost some prestige.”

Right now, Trump has some cards to play, said Kim of the Asan Institute.

“He might say: ‘If you want one less battleship in the region, what are you going to give me?’ ” he said – a reversal of the usual situation, in which North Korea asks what it can get from its adversaries in return for changing its behavior.

Trump’s tweets and his conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping seem designed to push Beijing to crack down on North Korea, and there have been some indications that China is getting tougher on its errant neighbor.

China suspended coal imports from North Korea in mid-February – potentially cutting off an economic lifeline – and Chinese customs data released Thursday showed a 52 percent drop in imports in the first three months of this year, compared with the same period last year.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government is taking precautions of its own.

Its National Security Council has discussed how to evacuate the roughly 60,000 Japanese nationals living in South Korea and how to deal with a potential influx of North Koreans, according to multiple local reports. These plans include sifting out spies or soldiers who might be among the refugees.

The North Korean situation is getting more serious, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday. “We cannot turn away from this reality. The security environment surrounding Japan is getting tougher.”

(The Washington Post’s Denyer and Jin Xin in Beijing and William Branigin and Missy Ryan in Washington contributed to this report.)

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



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Number Of ISIS Fighters Killed By US Bomb Jumps To 90: Afghan Officials


The US military dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb on an ISIS complex in Afghanistan.

Jalalabad, Afghanistan:  The number of Islamic State fighters killed by a massive US bomb in eastern Afghanistan has nearly tripled to at least 90, Afghan officials said Saturday.

The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb — dubbed the “Mother Of All Bombs” — was unleashed in combat for the first time, hitting ISIS positions in eastern Nangarhar province on Thursday.

The bomb smashed their mountain hideouts, a tunnel-and-cave complex that had been mined against conventional ground attacks, engulfing the remote area in towering flames.

“At least 92 Daesh (ISIS) fighters were killed in the bombing,” Achin district governor Esmail Shinwari told AFP on Saturday. Nangarhar provincial spokesman Attaullah Khogyani gave a toll of 90.

Afghan officials had earlier said the bombing had killed 36 ISIS fighters.

Shinwari insisted there were “no military and civilian casualties at all”.

Security experts say ISIS had built their redoubts close to civilian homes, but the government said thousands of local families had already fled the area in recent months of fighting.

The massive bomb was dropped after fighting intensified over the past week and US-backed ground forces struggled to advance on the area. An American special forces soldier was killed last Saturday in Nangarhar while conducting anti-ISIS operations.

President Ashraf Ghani threw his support behind the bombardment.

But some officials close to him condemned the use of Afghanistan as what they called a testing ground for the weapon, and against a militant group that controls only a tiny sliver of territory and is not considered a huge threat.

ISIS, notorious for its reign of terror in Syria and Iraq, has made inroads into Afghanistan in recent years, attracting disaffected members of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban as well as Uzbek Islamists.

But the group has been steadily losing ground in the face of heavy pressure both from US air strikes and a ground offensive led by Afghan forces.



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United Changes Crew Booking Policy After Passenger Dragged Off Plane


United Airlines has introduced a new crew travel policy to avoid travellers being bumped off flights.

United Airlines said on Friday it is changing its policy on booking its own flight crews onto its planes after a man was dragged off an overbooked flight to make way for a United employee on Sunday, video of which went viral and made the airline the target of global criticism and ridicule.

The airline, owned by United Continental Holdings Inc, said it would make sure crews traveling on their aircraft are booked into seats at least 60 minutes before departure.

It said the new policy would ensure that a situation in which a passenger is forcibly removed from a plane does not occur again. United said the change is an initial step as it reviews policies in order to “deliver the best customer experience.”

The passenger ejected from the plane, David Dao, suffered a significant concussion, broken nose and lost two front teeth in the incident, and will need reconstructive surgery, according to his attorney, Thomas Demetrio, who has signaled that Dao will likely sue the airline.

United’s board said on Friday the company had to craft policies to win back customer trust and apologized to Dao and his family. It added that it stands behind Chief Executive Oscar Munoz, who has been under fire in the wake of the incident. Munoz has said he has no plans to resign.

Even before this week, Munoz was under pressure from activist investors to improve the airline’s performance, including its customer relations.

In an unrelated incident, a United passenger complained that a scorpion stung him during a flight from Texas, also on Sunday.

A physician on the ground assured the crew that “it was not a life-threatening matter,” United spokeswoman Maddie King said in an email on Friday, adding that the airline is “reaching out to the customer to apologize and discuss the matter.”

(Reporting by Sangameswaran S in Bengaluru; Editing by Bill Rigby)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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



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Trump To Scrap Obama Policy Of Voluntarily Revealing White House Visitors


Washington:  The Trump administration announced Friday that it would not follow President Barack Obama’s policy of voluntarily disclosing the names of most visitors to the White House complex, citing “grave national security risks and privacy concerns.”

The announcement, from an administration that has faced pointed questions about its commitment to transparency, marks a significant shift from the Obama White House, which released the names of nearly 6 million visitors, including scores of lobbyists.

Instead, President Donald Trump administration said it would release information under far more limited circumstances: When Freedom of Information Act requests are filed for those visiting offices of the White House classified under the law as separate agencies, such as the Office of Management and Budget.

Under the new policy, it will be up to the White House to decide whether to release the names of visitors coming to meet with the president, vice president and their senior staff, at least in the short term. Under a separate statute, much of that information can become public years after Trump leaves office.

Friday’s announcement was harshly criticized by an array of government watchdog groups.

“The only excuse for this policy is that the Trump administration has something to hide,” said David Donnelly, president and chief executive of Every Voice. “This kind of secrecy will allow big donors, lobbyists and special interests to have unknown levels of influence in the White House.”

“It’s the exact opposite of ‘draining the swamp,’ ” Donnelly added, referring to Trump’s pledge to usher in a more ethical and less corrupt era in Washington.

The Trump administration was sued in federal court earlier this week by a coalition of watchdog groups to compel the release of the White House visitor logs. Under Obama, such records, which were published on a White House-maintained Web page, were typically disclosed 90 to 120 days after the visit.

Since Trump took office in January, the page where the visitor logs had been publicly available has gone dark, and Trump administration officials said Friday that they will no longer maintain it, which the White House said would save taxpayers $70,000 by 2020.

After initial resistance, Obama’s policy was crafted in 2009 in response to earlier lawsuits by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, one of the groups now part of the new lawsuit against Trump.

The policy permitted some exceptions to disclosure, including private visits to the Obama family. The Obama White House also maintained the prerogative not to release records of particularly “sensitive” meetings, such as interviews with potential Supreme Court nominees.

Obama at times drew criticism for such carve-outs, as well as for other ways for skirting the agreement, including meetings between White House officials and lobbyists at a coffee shop near the White House that didn’t show up in the logs.

Trump aides highlighted such loopholes under Obama and said the new policy is consistent with a legal distinction that Obama officials drew in a 2012 lawsuit. Despite the voluntary disclosure of visitor logs, the Obama administration maintained that the logs were White House records and therefore not required to be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act.

Others have argued that the records are subject to disclosure under the FOIA because they are created by the Secret Service, which is an agency covered by the law.

As a private citizen, Trump was highly critical of the Obama administration’s position in 2012, writing on Twitter: “Why is @BarackObama spending millions to try and hide his records? He is the least transparent President – ever – and he ran on transparency.”

The existence of the visitor logs burst back into the news last month when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., went to the White House grounds to review intelligence reports on which he later briefed the president. Both Nunes and White House officials initially declined to say whom Nunes had visited and who had cleared him onto the grounds, information that is typically contained in the logs, along with the length of the stay.

White House communications director Mike Dubke said Friday that the Trump administration has taken several steps to ensure the government “is both ethical and accessible to the American people.” Among those he mentioned were new restrictions on lobbyists and allowing journalists to participate remotely in White House briefings via Skype.

“Given the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, the White House Office will disclose Secret Service logs as outlined under the Freedom of Information Act, a position the Obama White House successfully defended in federal court,” Dubke said in a statement, referring to the 2102 lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, a conservative organization.

Judicial Watch was among the organizations critical of Trump on Friday.

“This new secrecy policy undermines the rule of law and suggests this White House doesn’t want to be accountable to the American people,” the group’s president, Tom Fitton, said in a statement.

With the new policy, the White House officials made clear Friday that they believe Trump is under no legal obligation to disclose visitors to the complex. As a matter of practice, the White House has disclosed the names of many of those who meet directly with the president on the days the meetings take place. There has been very little disclosure of meetings with staff.

Some past and present government officials have argued that White House officials should be permitted to conduct meetings outside the public eye as a matter of policy.

“I tend to feel it’s the prerogative of the White House to have people come visit, and the public doesn’t need to know who they are,” Andrew Card Jr., chief of staff under President George W. Bush, said in an interview last week. “We don’t have a log on everybody who visits Congress, and they’re a coequal branch of government.”

Christina Reynolds, who served as director of media affairs under Obama, said Trump had made “the wrong call” but that it was somewhat understandable why he made the call he did. Despite being the first to open up the logs, the Obama administration was criticized for not going far enough and endured negative news stories about some of its visitors.

“If your only guide is whether you’re going to get bad stories, it’s more understandable,” Reynolds said, saying that the Trump White House may have decided to “take its lumps” Friday but be spared criticism based on what would later be disclosed in the logs.

In its criticism of Trump on Friday, American Civil Liberties Union, whose political director, Faiz Shakir, noted the timing of the announcement heading into Easter weekend.

“Elected officials work for the people and we deserve to see government business conducted in transparent daylight,” Shakir said. “This ‘Good Friday’ news dump is simply the latest in a series of efforts by President Trump to avoid public accountability, and it’s not the way to improve the people’s declining trust in this administration.”

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



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China Urges US, North Korea To Step Back From Brink Of War


Tokyo:  China issued a stern warning Friday to the United States and North Korea, urging them not to push their recriminations to a point of no return and allow war to break out on the Korean Peninsula.

In comments carried by China’s official Xinhua news agency, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said “storm clouds” were gathering, an apparent reference to North Korean preparations to conduct a new nuclear test and the United States’ deployment of a naval strike force to the waters off the peninsula. In addition, the U.S. military has been conducting large-scale exercises with South Korean forces, drills that the North considers provocative.

“The United States and South Korea and North Korea are engaging in tit for tat, with swords drawn and bows bent,” Wang said at a news conference after meeting with visiting French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Xinhua reported. “We urge all parties to refrain from inflammatory or threatening statements or deeds to prevent irreversible damage to the situation on the Korean Peninsula.”

Trump administration officials describe the situation as more dangerous than in the past, both because of the progress North Korea has made in its nuclear and missile programs and because of the hostility on both sides. But U.S. officials said no decision has been made about how to respond to any new test – nuclear or ballistic – by North Korea.

In the event of either a nuclear or a missile test, the U.S. military is likely at a minimum to conduct a show of force, potentially repositioning American forces within South Korea, flying long-range bombers over the southern part of the peninsula or moving ships around in nearby waters.

While officials do not rule out other actions, they also stress their desire to ensure that the situation does not escalate out of control. Pentagon officials denied recent media reports that the Trump administration is ready to launch a preemptive strike if North Korea appears to be about to conduct a nuclear test.

On Friday, North Korea accused President Donald Trump of “making trouble” with his “aggressive” tweets, amid concerns that tensions between the two countries could escalate into military action.

And the North Korean army threatened to annihilate U.S. military bases in South Korea and the presidential palace in Seoul in response to what it called Trump’s “maniacal military provocations.”

Tensions have been steadily mounting in recent weeks as North Korea prepares for what it is calling a “big” event to mark the anniversary of its founder’s birthday Saturday, while the Trump administration warns that all options are on the table.

Expectations for a nuclear test or a missile launch in the lead-up to Saturday’s celebrations in Pyongyang have not come to pass. Instead, there are signs that the regime is getting ready to hold a huge parade this weekend, perhaps showing off new missiles – something that would qualify as the “big” event it has heralded.

Vice President Mike Pence arrives in Seoul on Sunday on the first leg of an Asia tour, and he will doubtless underscore Washington’s strong alliances with South Korea and Japan and their determination to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

The United States has sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the Korean Peninsula region, and Trump has repeatedly tweeted that if China will not use its leverage to rein in North Korea, the United States will act.

In his comments carried by Xinhua, Wang warned that “no one will win” if hostilities escalate. “It is not the one who espouses harsher rhetoric or raises a bigger fist that will win.” He also indicated that China is willing to broker a resumption of “dialogue,” whether “official or unofficial, through one channel or dual channels, bilateral or multilateral.”

North Korea’s vice foreign minister said that Trump was “becoming more vicious and more aggressive” than previous presidents, which was only making matters worse.

“Trump is always making provocations with his aggressive words,” Han Song Ryol told the Associated Press in an interview in Pyongyang. “So that’s why. It’s not the DPRK but the U.S. and Trump that makes trouble,” he said, using the abbreviation for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as North Korea is officially known.

Han also repeated the regime’s common refrain that North Korea is ready to act to defend itself.

“We’ve got a powerful nuclear deterrent already in our hands, and we certainly will not keep our arms crossed in the face of a U.S. preemptive strike,” Han told the AP.

As for when the next nuclear test would take place, “that is something that our headquarters decides,” he said.

His message chimed with a statement Friday from North Korea’s Institute for Disarmament and Peace that it was the United States pushing the Korean Peninsula, “the world’s biggest hotspot,” to the brink of war by bringing back a naval strike group.

“This has created a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out any moment on the peninsula and pose a serious threat to the world’s peace and security,” the statement said.

North Korea has a habit of fueling tensions to increase the rewards it might extract from the outside world if it desists. Previously, the North has agreed to return to denuclearization talks in return for aid or the easing of sanctions.

Trump is tearing up that old playbook, analysts said.

“This approach to North Korea is relatively new,” said James Kim of the Asan Institute of Policy Studies in Seoul. “The approach in the past has been very calculated.”

That has gone out the window with talk about military options, he said. “We always knew all these options were there, but no one was bold enough to go down that path. It’s a new approach.”

Some in Beijing are noticing the shift, too.

“It should be noted that there is a personality difference between Trump and Obama,” the Global Times newspaper wrote Friday. The paper does not speak for the Chinese government on policy but often reflects a strain of thinking within the Communist Party.

“Trump is also willing to show he is different. Bombing Syria helps him to show that,” it continued, while noting that he was far from “revolutionary” because he dispatched only missiles, not troops.

But North Korea could prove different if it calls Trump’s bluff and conducts another nuclear test, the paper said. “Trump just took the office; if he loses to Pyongyang, he would feel like he had lost some prestige.”

Right now, Trump has some cards to play, said Kim of the Asan Institute.

“He might say: ‘If you want one less battleship in the region, what are you going to give me?’ ” he said – a reversal of the usual situation, in which North Korea asks what it can get from its adversaries in return for changing its behavior.

Trump’s tweets and his conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping seem designed to push Beijing to crack down on North Korea, and there have been some indications that China is getting tougher on its errant neighbor.

China suspended coal imports from North Korea in mid-February – potentially cutting off an economic lifeline – and Chinese customs data released Thursday showed a 52 percent drop in imports in the first three months of this year, compared with the same period last year.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government is taking precautions of its own.

Its National Security Council has discussed how to evacuate the roughly 60,000 Japanese nationals living in South Korea and how to deal with a potential influx of North Koreans, according to multiple local reports. These plans include sifting out spies or soldiers who might be among the refugees.

The North Korean situation is getting more serious, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday. “We cannot turn away from this reality. The security environment surrounding Japan is getting tougher.”

The Washington Post’s Simon Denyer and Jin Xin in Beijing and William Branigin and Missy Ryan in Washington contributed to this report.

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



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Russia Criticises Watchdog For Unfair Review Of Chemical Attacks Site


‘We consider it unacceptable to analyse events from a distance’, Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

MOSCOW:  Russia on Friday criticised the world’s chemical weapons watchdog for not sending experts to the site of an alleged chemical attack in Syria, backing up President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“We consider it unacceptable to analyse events from a distance,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow with his counterparts from Syria and Iran.

Mr Lavrov said Mr Assad’s opponents had “in essence” given guarantees for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to visit the location where at least 87 people died, but the watchdog was refusing to send them.

“They say still that it is not very safe, but they cannot put forward convincing arguments,” Russia’s top diplomat said.

Russia has rejected accusations from the West that its Assad’s forces were responsible for a chemical attack and has lashed out at the US for its cruise missile strikes last week against a Syrian air base.

The OPCW said Thursday that a fact-finding mission was analysing samples gathered from “various sources” and that allegations a chemical attack took place in the Syrian rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun were “credible”.

Mr Lavrov said Russia, Iran and Syria have demanded a “thorough, objective and unbiased investigation” under the auspices of the OPCW, insisting it must use “independent experts”, including from Moscow.

Russia on Wednesday vetoed a Western-backed UN resolution demanding that the Syrian government cooperate with an investigation into the alleged attack, blocking Security Council action against Moscow’s ally for the eighth time.

Russia and Iran are the firmest allies of Mr Assad’s regime and have deployed forces to the war-torn country to back him in the country’s brutal six-year conflict.

Mr Lavrov was meeting with his counterparts from Syria and Iran in a show of support for Damascus after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Moscow earlier this week.

Mr Lavrov repeated the Kremlin’s condemnation of the US missile strike in Syria and said Washington was seeking “excuses for regime change”.

“These attempts will not succeed, this will not happen,” he said.



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US Former President's Boarding School Details Decades Of Sexual Abuse


A number of prestigious private schools in the United States have been beset by similar accusations.

New York:  An elite US boarding school that educated the likes of John F. Kennedy, Michael Douglas and Ivanka Trump has released a report detailing decades of alleged sexual abuse.

Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut, where tuition today costs in excess of $43,500, released a report detailing alleged sexual misconduct by 12 former teachers against students from 1963 to 2010.

The school commissioned the report after allegations came to light and in the wake of an “alarming” increase in reports from other schools. A number of prestigious private schools in the United States have been beset by similar accusations.

Choate said it had substantiated abuse dating back to the 1960s, with the greatest number in the 1980s and a “handful” of reports of sexual misconduct in the 2010s.

Both male and female former students were among the victims, it said. Claims had not been substantiated against current staff, it said.

Graduates described former Choate staff engaging with them in “intimate kissing, intimate touching and sexual intercourse” and acts that included “forced or coerced intercourse.”

Many said the encounters “disturbed them throughout their adult lives,” the report added. None of them were reported to the police.

“Our interviews and school records showed that sometimes the school moved quickly and decisively. In other cases, it was slower to respond and allowed the faculty member to remain at the school,” the report said.

Others went on to have careers at other schools.

The 48-page report included a Spanish teacher sacked after allegedly sexually assaulting a 17-year-old student in a swimming pool on a school trip to Costa Rica.

There was also a fifth-form student who allegedly contracted herpes from an English teacher and an art history teacher who allegedly refused to use condoms and forced a student to get birth control pills.

The chairman of the board of trustees and current headmaster released a letter on Thursday “profoundly” apologizing and calling the report “devastating.”

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



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Discriminating 'Bathroom Bill' Dropped By Trump Administration


In a two-sentence court filing the Justice Department said it had dropped its lawsuit. (Reuters)

The Trump administration on Friday dropped a lawsuit accusing North Carolina of discriminating against LGBT residents after the state replaced its ‘bathroom bill’, although a key civil liberties group vowed to keep fighting the new law in court.

In a two-sentence court filing the Justice Department said it had dropped its lawsuit, filed last year by the Obama administration, because the North Carolina legislature had replaced it with a new law called House Bill 142.

The filing marks the first significant move in a complicated legal battle challenging the state’s nondiscrimination laws since the replacement of the original law, known as House Bill 2 or more commonly as the “bathroom bill.”

House Bill 2’s most controversial provision was the requirement that in state-run buildings transgender people use the bathrooms, changing rooms and showers that corresponded to the sex on their birth certificates rather than their gender identity.

A number of businesses and sports leagues boycotted North Carolina because they saw the year-old law as discriminatory against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Civil liberties groups also protested the move.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina, and Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit challenging the law in March of last year. That was followed in May by the Justice Department’s own suit against House Bill 2.

James Esseks, the ACLU’s LGBT Project Director said the new law is flawed because it keeps a ban on cities and counties from creating their own nondiscriminatory ordinaces until 2020 and relegates to the state legislature the power to regulate bathroom access. The legislature has purposefully not taken any action to define access, he said.

House Bill 142 “leaves transgender people in limbo and that’s intentional,” Esseks said. “This does not fix the problem. It creates confusion.”

Esseks said his group planned to amend their lawsuit soon to challenge the new bill.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in New York, Editing by Dan Grebler and Chizu Nomiyama)

© 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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Facebook Disrupts Suspected Spam Operation


Facebook ran a six months long campaign in a fight to neutralize the spamming. (Representational)

San Francisco:  Facebook on Friday said it disrupted an international fake account operation that was firing off inauthentic ‘likes’ and bogus comments to win friends it would then pound with spam.

Facebook’s security team spent six months fighting to neutralize what they saw as a coordinated campaign, according to Shabnam Shaik, a company security manager.

“Our systems were able to identify a large portion of this illegitimate activity – and to remove a substantial number of inauthentic likes,” Ms Shaik said in a blog post.

“By disrupting the campaign now, we expect that we will prevent this network of spammers from reaching its end goal of sending inauthentic material to large numbers of people.”

The ring used accounts in a number of countries including Bangladesh, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. 

The group tried to mask its activities with tactics like connecting with the social network through “proxy” servers to disguise where “likes,” posts or other communications were originating, according to Ms Shaik.

Facebook said the campaign aimed to trick people into connecting as friends they would later target with spam. The company said it had derailed the operation early enough to spare users that fate.

The leading social network this week said it has started weeding out bogus accounts by watching for suspicious behavior such as repetitive posts or torrents of messages.

The security improvement was described as being part of a broader effort to rid the leading social network of hoaxes, misinformation and fake news by verifying people’s identities.

“We’ve found that when people represent themselves on Facebook the same way they do in real life, they act responsibly,” Ms Shaik said.

“Fake accounts don’t follow this pattern, and are closely related to the creation and spread of spam.”

Under pressure to stymie the spread of fake news, Facebook has taken a series of steps including making it easier to report such posts and harder to earn money from them.

(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 Air Force Shifting F-35 Fighter Jets To Europe For Training


Pentagon did not name the countries where the aircraft would be deployed to. (File Photo)

Washington:  The US Air Force will this weekend deploy a small number of F-35A fighter jets to Europe for several weeks of training with other US and NATO military aircraft, the Pentagon said on Friday.

In a statement, the Pentagon said that the deployment would allow the US Air Force to ‘further demonstrate the operational capabilities’ of the stealthy fighter jet. It did not name the countries where the aircraft would be deployed to.

The F-35, which is the Pentagon’s costliest arms program, has been dogged by problems. The Pentagon’s chief arms buyer once described as ‘acquisition malpractice’ the decision to produce jets before completing development.

During last year’s election campaign, President Donald Trump criticized Lockheed Martin Corp for the F-35’s cost overruns.

Days after taking office in January, Mr Trump announced his administration had been able to cut some $600 million from the latest US deal to buy about 90 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

The United States is expected to spend some $391 billion over 15 years to buy about 2,443 of the F-35 aircraft.

F-35s are in use by the US Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, and by six countries, Australia, Britain, Norway, Italy, the Netherlands and Israel. Japan took delivery of its first jet in December.

Lockheed said last month that Spain, Belgium and Switzerland were in talks with the company about buying F-35s.

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Trump White House Will No Longer Publicly Identify Visitors: Reports


Officials said that closing the site that includes White House visitors logs will save taxpayers $70,000

Washington, United States:  The Trump administration is ending the practice of disclosing the identities of most visitors to the White House, saying that to do so posed “grave national security risks and privacy concerns,” US media reported.

The new policy will leave it up to White House officials to decide whether to release the names of visitors who meet with the president or his top advisers, The Washington Post reported.

The move was the latest by the new administration to limit the access of reporters and the public to information about the internal workings of the executive branch and of its key officials — starting with President Donald Trump’s refusal, despite decades of precedence, to release his own tax returns.

Administration officials said Friday that closing the website that included logs of White House visitors would save taxpayers $70,000 by 2020, the Post reported.

The Obama administration disclosed most visits, while keeping secret the identities of some private visitors — such as the teenage friends of Obama’s daughters.

Civil liberties and pro-transparency groups sharply criticized the change.

“Trump has bullied the press when they report on him. He has promoted the reporting of fake and outright false information… He has avoided disclosing his tax records, and he has avoided releasing information about his conflicts of interest,” said Faiz Shakir, political director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The only reasonable conclusion is to believe the Trump administration has many things it is trying to hide.”

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



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Keeping Up With The Trumps: Rough Reality For The Secret Service


Washington, United States:  Splitting their life between Washington, New York and their palatial Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, the family of Donald Trump has given the US presidency a more jet-set feel.

But for the US Secret Service agents who protect them 24 hours a day, keeping up with the Trumps is a non-stop ordeal, physically and financially.

The president, his wife Melania, five children — and their children — live in multiple cities, and take their own business and vacation trips. The only common thread? Their convoys of large SUVs with tinted windows.

The entire security operation is hugely complicated by Trump himself, who takes pride in being unpredictable.

With such an unorthodox president, the bodyguard ranks have had to be beefed up to ensure his protection, said counter-terrorism expert James Reese.

“To do this job as well as they do, they need planned breaks so their situational awareness and alertness is always at the cutting edge,” Reese told AFP.

 New York, Washington and Florida

Former president Barack Obama, his wife, and two daughters all lived in the White House in Washington.

Trump’s wife Melania has chosen to remain for now with their 11-year-old son Barron in their three-story gilded Fifth Avenue penthouse in New York.

The Secret Service stands guard over the entire 68-story building, and also drives Barron to school and back every day.

Daughter Ivanka, 35, has relocated to Washington with her husband Jared Kushner and their three children.

Both Ivanka and Kushner are senior aides to Trump. Their family lives in a mansion in the affluent Kalorama neighborhood, more than two miles (3.2 kilometers) from the White House.

They receive a 24-hour guard and a motorcade whenever the power couple heads to work.

Trump’s grown sons Eric and Don Jr, who have taken control of the family’s real estate empire, also get constant protection. That includes an escort of beefy guards wearing dark glasses and earpieces whenever they travel to Trump properties in distant lands.

His daughter Tiffany also has a security detail.

Caribbean, Dubai, Ireland

The costs are substantial. A simple trip Eric made to Uruguay in January cost American taxpayers $100,000.

In February, the two brothers travelled to Vancouver to inaugurate a new hotel, accompanied by their spouses and sister Tiffany. They went to Dubai to open a golf course. Before that, Eric visited a tourist project in the Dominican Republic.

And last month Don, Eric and Ivanka took their families to the Rocky Mountain resort of Aspen, Colorado for a ski break, dragging along a brigade of no less than 100 security minders.

According to the Aspen Times, the Secret Service spent $12,000 just renting their own ski equipment in order to keep up with the family on the powdery slopes.

In the most recent trip, Eric headed to Dublin this week. According to CBS television, the Secret Service spent $4,030 for limousines and $11,261 for hotel rooms.

The agency has had to beef up the number of agents assigned to the president and his family by 40 percent, according to The New York Times.

“They are flat-out worn out,” Congressman Jason Chaffetz, Republican chairman of the House government oversight committee, told the Times.

 Mar-a-Lago vs. Camp David

The Secret Service is asking for an extra $60 million for the coming year for the extra cost of protecting the Trumps, The Washington Post reported.

That will go towards things like renting their own work space in Trump Tower, and renting golf carts to use for patrols whenever Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago — which so far has meant most weekends.

Trump’s country club in Palm Beach, built in the 1920s, is a security nightmare, sandwiched between the ocean and an inlet, serviced by one road that frequently gets jammed with traffic.

That means a larger Secret Service detachment, bolstered by the local police, and Coast Guard patrols offshore on both sides.

“The major challenge is the size of the complex,” said Reese. “It was not built to the standards that are used to protect” presidents.

But Trump prefers that to the traditional presidential getaway, isolated Camp David in the Catoctin Mountains of northern Maryland, a short helicopter hop from the White House.

“The presidential retreat in Camp David is remote and much easier to defend than a publicly accessible facility in the heart of Palm Beach,” said Douglas Smith, former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security.

The government has not revealed how much all this is costing, but it is certainly considerable. One trip to Palm Beach in 2013 by Obama cost $3 million.

But Reese counsels against comparisons. The budget “is always changing and the Secret Service must be fluid and flexible with a president who is rewriting the rules day to day,” he said.

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



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Nigeria Marks Third Anniversary Of Schoolgirl Kidnap


Lagos:  Nigerians rallied Friday to mark the third anniversary of the mass abduction of 276 schoolgirls by Boko Haram, as their parents cling to the hope that they can be safely returned.

Parents of the missing girls, who congregated at the school in the northeastern village of Chibok, described their kidnap as an unending ‘nightmare’ but said the negotiated release of 21 last year had given them strength.

Spearheading the rallies, broadcast on national television, was the Bring Back Our Girls movement, which urged the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to ramp up efforts to free the 195 girls still believed to be being held by the terror group.

Rebecca Samuel, mother of Sarah, said the past three years had been unbearable and urged the government to do more to help.

“The incident that happened three years ago is still a nightmare to me. It is still fresh as if it happened last night … the absence of my daughter made me cry everyday.”

But she added, “I have a strong belief that I will see my daughter sooner than later. The government is trying but I believe they can do more than what they are doing.”

More than 1,000 people, including diplomats, attended a rally in the capital Abuja while prayers were being held in the country’s commercial centre Lagos.

Several thousand people also attended a rally in Maiduguri, capital of northeastern Borno state.

Twenty-one girls were released in October 2016 after negotiations between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government brokered by the ICRC and the Swiss government.

Fifty-seven escaped after the kidnap while three others were found or rescued by the military. Some have had babies in captivity.

“When we marked their two years (since the abduction), we hadn’t gotten any one of them but today, we have 24 of them,” said Esther Yakubu, whose daughter Dorcas was among those taken.

“And by the grace of the Almighty, the rest will be back and you will all rejoice with us,” Yakubu added.

The Chibok schoolgirls have become a symbol of the Boko Haram terrorist activity that began in 2009 and has left at least 20,000 people dead.

Despite a military fight-back, villages near Chibok have seen a wave of suspected Boko Haram attacks in recent months.

A presidential spokesman said Wednesday negotiations were ongoing with “foreign entities” for the release of those still held by the terrorist group active in Nigeria’s northeast and which has pledged allegiance to ISIS.

Having started as an extremist sect Boko Haram has mushroomed in recent years into an ultra-violent terror movement which uses mass kidnapping as a recruitment tool.

In December, Buhari triumphantly announced the “final crushing” of the group, which he described as being “on the run” after an army offensive flushed them out of their stronghold in the huge Sambisa forest.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau denied the claim and said that some of the abducted girls were killed in Nigerian airstrikes against his group.

Support from abroad came in the shape of a British government statement Friday.

“We are working side by side with Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram and call for the release of all those who have been taken,” a foreign ministry statement read.

Although the terrorists have been pushed back the situation remains extremely difficult in the northeast region bordering Chad, Cameroon and Niger amid almost daily attacks and kidnappings.

“Boko Haram continues to abduct women and girls but also young boys … they are raped, beaten and forced to carry out suicide attacks,” said Makmid Kamara, Amnesty International representative in Nigeria.

Earlier this week, UN children’s agency UNICEF accused Boko Haram of using an “alarming” number of children, mainly girls as suicide bombers, saying 27 children had been used for such attacks this year to date, compared with nine for the same period last year.

The terrorists have increasingly been using children to attack crowded markets, mosques and camps for internally displaced people in the northeast and the broader Lake Chad region.

Buhari, who has promised to see the Chibok girls rescued, said Thursday that “we must not lose hope”.



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California Judge Questions Donald Trump's Sanctuary City Order


Judge Orrick asked what was the purpose of an order, if it impacted a small amount of county funds.

SAN FRANCISCO:  A California federal judge on Friday strongly questioned the US Justice Department over whether to suspend an order by President Donald Trump to withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities for immigrants.

US District Court Judge William Orrick III questioned the purpose of the president’s order as he heard arguments from two large California counties and the Justice Department in San Francisco federal court. Both counties have asked for a nationwide preliminary injunction to the order.

As part of a larger plan to transform how the United States deals with immigration and national security, Mr Trump in January signed an order targeting cities and counties that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Sanctuary cities in general offer safe harbor to illegal immigrants and often do not use municipal funds or resources to advance the enforcement of federal immigration laws. Sanctuary city is not an official designation.

Santa Clara County, which includes the city of San Jose and several smaller Silicon Valley communities, sued in February, saying Mr Trump’s plan to withhold federal funds is unconstitutional. San Francisco filed a similar lawsuit.

On Friday, the counties described the order as a “weapon to cancel all funding to jurisdictions,” said John Keker, an attorney representing Santa Clara County. “All around the country, including here, people are having to deal with this right now.”

Santa Clara County receives roughly $1.7 billion in federal and federally dependent funds annually, about 35 percent of its total revenues. The county argued that every day it is owed millions of dollars of federal funding, and its budgetary planning process had been thrown into disarray by the order.

The Justice Department said the counties had taken an overly broad interpretation of the president’s order, which would impact only Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security funds, a fraction of the grant money received by the counties.

The government also argued that there had been no enforcement action to date, and it was unclear what actions against the counties would entail.

Judge Orrick asked the government what was the purpose of an executive order, if it only impacted a small amount of county funding.

Attorneys for the government said the order had highlighted issues that the Trump Administration deeply cared about and a national policy priority.

To win a nationwide injunction, local governments must demonstrate a high level of harm, the Justice Department noted in court filings last month.

(Reporting by Robin Respaut, Additional Reporting by Dan Levine, Editing by Dan Grebler)

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Princess Editor Resigns Over Refusal To Compromise On Editorial Policy


Vogue Arabia dismissed and replaced its Saudi princess editor after just two editions.

New York:  Vogue Arabia, the style bible that sought to put the Middle East on the international fashion map, has dismissed and replaced its Saudi princess editor after just two editions.

The announcement came one day after Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz, the mother of three who previously set up a members-only fashion business introducing edgy designers to the Gulf, told media outlets that she had been sacked.

Nervora, the Dubai-based publishers, announced Friday that Manuel Arnaut, who began his career at Vogue Portugal, had been appointed editor-in-chief effective May 7.

He is the second man appointed to lead an edition of Vogue in less than a week, following the appointment of Ghana-born Briton Edward Enninful to British Vogue.

Even in the cut-throat world of glossy magazine publishing, it was an astonishingly quick exit for a woman widely known in fashion circles and feted for putting US supermodel Gigi Hadid in a jewel-encrusted veil on the inaugural cover.

“I refused to compromise when I felt the publisher’s approach conflicted with the values which underpin our readers and the role of the editor-in-chief in meeting those values in a truly authentic way,” Ms Abdulaziz told Business of Fashion.

“I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish in such a short space of time,” the London-based website quoted her as saying.

Mr Arnaut has worked for Conde Nast for more than a decade and oversaw the 2015 launch of Architectural Digest Middle East.

“The team and I are committed to working towards a Vogue Arabia that is the proud voice of the region, representing the strength and allure of the Arab woman,” he said in a statement.

Nervora CEO Shashi Menon paid brief tribute to Ms Abdulaziz, who was appointed in July 2016. “As the launch editor-in-chief of Vogue Arabia, Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz has earned a place in the history of fashion and Vogue,” Ms Menon said.

Vogue Arabia launched an Arabic and English-language website last year and its print edition in March. It is published by Nervora under license agreement with Conde Nast International.



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6 Found Dead As Sri Lanka Rubbish Dump Buries 40 Homes


According to Sri Lankan Police, search for survivors is under way. (AFP Photo)

Colombo:  At least six people were killed and 10 others injured in Sri Lanka’s capital Friday after a massive rubbish dump buried an estimated 40 homes during the traditional new year.

A 12-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl died at the Colombo National hospital where 10 others were being treated after being rescued, hospital spokeswoman Pushpa Soysa told AFP.

Police said hundreds of troops had joined the search for survivors after the disaster at Kolonnawa on the northeastern edge of the capital.

President Maithripala Sirisena ordered troops and police to join firefighters in the rescue after the 300-foot (91-metre) high dump caught fire and collapsed, officials said.

Police said the true scale of the damage remained unclear.

“A search for survivors is under way,” the police said in a statement.

Dozens of homes collapsed after heavy rains overnight caused the garbage mountain to shift, officials said. It became further destabilised after a fire broke out, triggering landslides that buried dwellings.

Military spokesman Roshan Seneviratne said 100 soldiers were already digging through mounds of trash. Heavy earth moving equipment was also being deployed, he added.

Local residents said many people had left the area after the night’s heavy rain.

“We think about 40 homes have been destroyed,” a disaster management official told reporters.

Roughly 800 tonnes of solid waste is added daily to the open dump, angering residents who live nearby.

Sri Lanka’s parliament was warned recently that the 23 million tonnes of garbage rotting at Kolonnawa was a serious health hazard.

Efforts are underway to build an electricity plant that could transform the solid waste into fuel.

Friday’s fire broke out as the country marked its traditional Sinhala and Tamil New Year and most people were in their homes celebrating.



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Apple Receives Permit To Test Self-Driving Cars In California: Report


Apple is joining a growing a traditional list of carmakers, who are testing such cars in California.

Apple Inc has secured a permit to test autonomous vehicles in California, the state Department of Motor Vehicles said on Friday.

Apple joins a growing list of traditional carmakers, technology companies, and small start ups to test drive cars in California – all vying to be the first to bring self-driving cars to the masses.

Companies that have been issued permits also include Alphabet Inc’s Google unit, Ford Motor Co, Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG, Tesla Motors Inc and General Motors Co.

Many companies have said the first cars will launch in 2020 but some experts believe it may take much longer due to regulatory challenges. 

After a five-page letter last November from Steve Kenner, Apple’s director of product integrity, to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the company was under increased speculation that they would enter into the competitive self-driving space.

“The company is investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation,” Kenner wrote.

Apple executives have been coy about their interest in cars. Chief Executive Tim Cook has suggested that Apple wants to move beyond integration of Apple smartphones into vehicle infotainment systems.

Apple was not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Shalini Nagarajan, Editing by Bernard Orr)

© 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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Canada Imposes Sanctions On Key Syrian Officials


The latest sanctions were Canada’s first against Syria and Bashar al-Assad since 2014.

Ottawa:  Canada announced new sanctions against Syria Friday in response to its alleged April 4 chemical weapons attack, freezing assets and banning transactions with senior leaders of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The latest sanctions were Canada’s first against Syria and Mr Assad since 2014 when a conservative government was in office.

Mr Assad, his family, government and the Syrian military hierarchy have long been the targets of sanctions.

But the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau extended the sanctions to 27 additional high-ranking regime officials, said Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Among them were three generals – Adib Salameh, Jawdat Salbi Mawas and Tahir Hamid Khalil – accused of ordering attacks on civilian targets and torturing regime opponents.

“Today’s new sanctions against key officials are part of our continued efforts to increase pressure on the Assad regime to stop the violence against innocent children, women and men,” Ms Freeland said.

“Last week’s chemical weapons attack in southern Idlib is a war crime and is unacceptable. Canada is working with its allies to end the war in Syria and hold those responsible to account.”

Since November 2015, the Trudeau government has taken in 40,000 Syrian refugees.

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



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Outbreak Of Panic Mars Spanish Good Friday Processions


According to security, those detained shouted, made extreme noices to create panic. (Representational)

Madrid:  An outbreak of panic sparked by troublemakers caused mayhem in Seville’s nightime Good Friday processions, famed for their religious floats, hooded penitents and hordes of spectators, seriously injuring one person, Spanish authorities said Friday.

Emergency services said eight people were detained in connection with the incidents that took place from 04:00 local time (0200GMT), sending people running in panic and leaving children in tears in different parts of the processions.

In a statement, the Cecop centre that oversees security during the processions in the southern Spanish city said those detained had variously ‘shouted’, used metallic objects to make loud noise or made ‘wild gesticulations’ to create panic in the thousands-strong crowds.

An AFP photographer present said she heard what sounded like a stampede of galloping animals, and then a mass of people pushed towards her.

Standing on the Isabel II bridge that goes over Seville’s Guadalquivir River, she climbed onto a lamppost.

“There were children, women with prams,” she said, adding some people rushed down steps towards the river, falling over themselves in panic.

“The first thing people think is that there is a terrorist attack.”

An initial probe showed that there were three initial movements of panic, which sparked a “domino effect” in other parts of the city, Cecop said.

It added that the different incidents did not appear to be coordinated.

“These are isolated cases without any apparent connection that are similar to cases of vandalism and hooliganism,” it said.

Cecop said three of those arrested were “common delinquents”.

Some 17 people were taken to hospital for injuries and panic attacks, it said.

One of them was in intensive care in a serious condition, suffering from brain trauma.

A video posted on Spanish news site El Confidencial showed what looked like a post-panic scene, with people hanging onto bars on windows and the famed penitents, some of them with their hoods off, waiting anxiously as an onlooker on a balcony urged everyone to calm down.

The situation was later brought back under control and the processions continued.

Organised by religious brotherhoods and featuring huge floats of wooden sculptures of religious scenes accompanied by hooded penitents, the processions known as “La Madruga” are the high point of Easter Week festivities in Seville.

This morning’s early incident mirrors a similar outbreak of panic in 2000 in Seville’s Good Friday processions, which left 52 people injured.

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



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United Airlines In Spotlight Again: Scorpion Falls On Passenger's Head


A Vietnamese doctor was dragged off an overbooked United Airlines flight in Chicago on Sunday

New York:  United Airlines found itself on the defensive again on Friday after a passenger complained that a scorpion stung him during a flight from Texas, capping off a bruising week for the public image of the one of the world’s largest carriers.

A man on board a United flight from Houston to Calgary, Alberta on Sunday, said a scorpion dropped on his head from an overhead storage bin and stung him under his fingernail, according the United and media reports.

“We were on the plane about an hour, having dinner, and then something fell on my head, so I grabbed it,” passenger Richard Bell told CBS in a Skype interview on its website.

Mr Bell said another passenger who was Mexican told him, “‘Hey, that’s a scorpion, they’re dangerous,’ … That’s when it stung.”

United flight attendants helped the passenger after he was bitten “by what appeared to be a scorpion,” airline spokeswoman Maddie King said in an email on Friday, adding that a physician on the ground assured the crew that “it was not a life-threatening matter.”

United is “reaching out to the customer to apologize and discuss the matter,” she said.

The airline spent the week scrambling to contain the fallout from a video that emerged on social media showing security officers dragging a bloodied passenger off an overbooked United Express flight in Chicago on Sunday as other travelers looked on in horror.

Dr David Dao, a 69-year-old Vietnamese-American doctor, suffered a concussion and broken nose when dragged from the plane and will likely sue, his attorney said on Thursday.

His lawyers have filed an emergency request with an Illinois court to require the carrier to preserve video recordings and other evidence related to the incident.

After the incident triggered international outrage, United Chief Executive Oscar Munoz apologized to Dr Dao, his family and its customers, saying the carrier would no longer use law enforcement officers to remove passengers from overbooked flights.

(Reporting by Frank McGurty in New York and Alana Wise in Washington, Editing by G Crosse)

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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US Top General In Afghanistan Terms Bombing Mission As Purely Tactical


Afghan officials said 36 terrorists loyal to ISIS were killed in the latest strike. (File Photo)

The top US military commander in Afghanistan said on Friday his decision to deploy one of the largest conventional bombs used in combat was done in communication with officials in Washington and was a purely tactical decision.

“This was the right weapon for the right target,” General John Nicholson told reporters at a news conference in Kabul.

The 21,600-pound (9,797-kg) GBU-43 bomb, was dropped from an MC-130 aircraft in the Achin district of the eastern province of Nangarhar bordering Pakistan against a network of tunnels that Afghan and US officials said was being used by terrorists linked to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Afghan officials said 36 terrorists loyal to ISIS were killed.

The United States dropped a massive GBU-43 bomb, the largest non-nuclear bomb it has ever used in combat, in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday against a series of caves used by ISIS, according to the US Military.

US President has termed the mission to be ‘Very, Very Successful’.

(Reporting by Josh Smith, Editing by Robert Birsel)

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Saudi Woman's Fear 'They Will Kill Me'


Dina Ali Lasloom was returned to the kingdom against her will, highlighting tight restrictions on women.

Dubai:  Activists feared Friday for the safety of a young Saudi woman they say was returned to the kingdom against her will, in a case highlighting tight restrictions on women.

Dina Ali Lasloom, 24, intended to flee to Australia to escape a forced marriage, Human Rights Watch cited a Canadian witness as saying.

The witness said Lasloom approached her while in transit at the airport in Manila, saying “airport officials had confiscated her passport and boarding pass” for a Sydney-bound flight.

The Canadian said she helped Lasloom film social media videos about her plight. In one of them she said: “If my family comes they will kill me,” HRW said.

Arranged marriages are the norm in Saudi Arabia, where a “guardianship” system requires a male family member, usually the father, husband or brother, to grant permission for a woman’s study, travel and other activities.

“Lasloom’s whereabouts are currently unknown,” HRW said in a statement from Manila.

The Canadian witness, who spent several hours with Lasloom at the airport in Manila, reported that two of Lasloom’s uncles arrived, the New York-based watchdog said.

It also quoted an airline security official as saying he heard Lasloom “screaming and begging for help” on Tuesday before security personnel and men who appeared to be Middle Eastern carried her “with duct tape on her mouth, feet and hands” at the airport.

Asked about the HRW statement by AFP on Friday, the Philippine immigration department said it had held no one of Lasloom’s name and no Saudi national.

“There was no Saudi national by that name who presented herself,” spokeswoman Antonette Mangrobang said.

– ‘Guardianship’ system blamed –

“As far as immigration is concerned, we did not hold any Saudi national.”

The spokeswoman said that if Lasloom was a transiting passenger, then she would not have passed through immigration and it would have been up to the airline to decide what happened to her.

A Saudi activist told AFP that Lasloom, who lived in Kuwait, “was brought back by force to Riyadh and is now in custody.”

A female medical student, Alaa, who went to the Riyadh airport to support Lasloom, was arrested when she tried to inquire about her whereabouts, the Saudi activist said.

The activist worried that both women could be detained “for a long time”.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was on a state visit to Saudi Arabia on Monday and Tuesday when the incident occurred.

The Berlin-based European Saudi Organization for Human Rights told AFP that “the seriousness of what Dina Ali is facing” stems from the guardianship system.

“Women’s rights are… the most prominent human rights problem in Saudi Arabia,” the group said.

The Saudi embassy in the Philippines said on Twitter that “the information that has been circulating over social media is untrue.”

It described the incident as a family matter and said: “The citizen has now returned with her family to the homeland.”

Human Rights Watch called on Saudi Arabia to reveal whether Lasloom is with her family or is being held by the state at a shelter.

“Lasloom is at serious risk of harm if returned to her family. She also faces possible criminal charges” for alleged parental disobedience and harming the reputation of the state with her public cries for help, the watchdog said.

It called on the Philippine government to also investigate and hold accountable “any of their officials who failed to protect Dina Ali Lasloom”, as required by international law.

Madawi al-Rasheed, a visiting professor at the London School of Economics Middle East Centre, wrote on Twitter that Lasloom’s case is “a classic… in which state and family cooperate against women in KSA” (the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia).

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



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'First Protest In Space' Targets Trump With An Astronaut's Famous Words


Although 90,000 feet is quite high, this was not the political act farthest from the ground.

On Wednesday, 56 years to the day after Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space, a Phoenix-based collective called the Autonomous Space Agency Network launched a weather balloon to about 90,000 feet. The balloon, Aphrodite 1, weighed a little over a pound and was inflated with 120 cubic feet of helium. Aphrodite 1’s payload consisted of a GPS sensor, a camera and a message for President Trump. It was a printout of a tweet that read, “@realDonaldTrump: Look at that, you son of a bitch.”

“To our knowledge, the Aphrodite 1 launch was the first political protest in near space,” a member of the group wrote to The Washington Post in an email. (Members of the Autonomous Space Agency Network, or ASAN, are anonymous as “a way to discourage the use of the group for the ego or vanity of individual members,” the person said.)

The tweet was quoting Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, the sixth person to walk on the moon. He famously said of viewing Earth from space: “You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.’ ” This quote has been cited as an example of the overview effect, a perspective shift toward global unity and conservation reported by astronauts struck by planet’s fragility.

“Everyone at ASAN is a pretty big fan of Dr. Mitchell, who was one of the more . . . colorful characters to have ever set foot on another celestial body,” the ASAN member said. “We sought to send a message of protest to President Trump against his proposed budget cuts for NASA’s Earth science program, which is invaluable to understanding climate change and making informed, data-driven policy decisions.”

Although 90,000 feet is certainly quite high, this was not the political act farthest from the ground – astronauts, for instance, may cast their ballots from aboard the International Space Station. Though ASAN’s YouTube video described the act as the “first protest in space,” what counts as space can be a bit mushy. There is no abrupt boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space. The balloon ascended to about a fourth of the way to the Karman line, the point adopted as a shorthand for space more or less because 100 kilometers up has a nice ring to it.

The launch was planned to coordinate not only with Yuri’s Night but in solidarity with the upcoming March for Science, the ASAN member said. The group lamented White House budget cuts to four of NASA’s Earth science missions: CLARREO, the solar wind monitoring system DSCOVR, the ocean and atmosphere monitoring program PACE, and the orbiting carbon observatory OCO-3.

“We are not only missing out on incredible opportunities to learn more about our planet,” the person said, “but Trump is also endangering the lives of millions of people outside the United States who are most at risk of climate change-related disasters.”

Aphrodite 1 marked the first of several planned projects from ASAN, an open-source, DIY space program composed of artists, scientists, engineers, students and even one “IRL rocket-scientist.”

“We believe that we can’t say that we’ve truly entered the ‘space age’ until outer space is demilitarized, democratic and accessible to all autonauts,” the ASAN member told The Post, using the term the group does for astronauts. “We’re here to show the world that space is not just for generals, autocrats and boy billionaires.”

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



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Asteroid As Big As Gibraltar Rock To Hurtle Past Earth On April 19


Last time one at least this much of size asteroid came as close in 2004.

Paris:  An asteroid as big as the Rock of Gibraltar will streak past Earth on April 19 at a safe but uncomfortably close distance, according to astronomers.

“Although there is no possibility for the asteroid to collide with our planet, this will be a very close approach for an asteroid this size,” NASA said in a statement.

Dubbed 2014-JO25 and roughly 650 metres (2,000 feet) across, the asteroid will come within 1.8 million kilometres (1.1 million miles) of Earth, less than five times the distance to the Moon.

It will pass closest to our planet after having looped around the Sun. 2014-J25’s will then continue on past Jupiter before heading back toward the centre of our Solar System.

Smaller asteroids whizz by Earth several times a week. But the last time one at least this size came as close was in 2004, when Toutatis – five kilometres (3.1 miles) across – passed within four lunar distances.

The next close encounter with a big rock will not happen before 2027, when the 800-metre (half-mile) wide asteroid 199-AN10 will fly by at just one lunar distance, about 380,000 km (236,000 miles).

The last time 2014-JO25 was in our immediate neighbourhood was 400 years ago, and it’s next brush with Earth won’t happen until sometime after 2600.

The April 19 flyby is an “outstanding opportunity” for astronomers and amateur stargazers, NASA said.

“Astronomers plan to observe it with telescopes around the world to learn as much about it as possible,” the US space agency said.

Besides its size and trajectory, scientists also know that its surface is twice as reflective as that of the Moon.

It should be visible with a small optical telescope for one or two nights before moving out of range.

2014-J25 was discovered in May 2014 by astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona.

Also on April 19, a comet known as PanSTARRS will make its closest approach to Earth at a “very safe” distance of 175 million km (109 million miles), according to NASA.

The comet has brightened recently and should be visible in the dawn sky with binoculars or a small telescope.

Asteroids are composed of rocky and metallic material, whereas comets – generally smaller – are more typically made of ice, dust and rocky stuff.

Both were formed early in the history of the Solar System some 4.5 billion years ago.

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



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Air China To Suspend Beijing-Pyongyang Flights


Air China, foreign carrier operating commercial flights into North Korea, will be suspended from Monday.

Beijing:  Flights between Beijing and Pyongyang operated by Air China, the only foreign carrier operating regular commercial flights into North Korea, will be suspended from Monday, state broadcaster CCTV said Friday on its official website.

The news comes as the North Korean army on Friday vowed a “merciless” response to any US provocation, according to the country’s official news agency KCNA.

Reports of activity at a nuclear test site in North Korea ahead of Saturday’s 105th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founder Kim Il-Sung have fuelled speculation it could imminently carry out a sixth test.

The last Air China flight between the two capitals arrived in Beijing at 6 pm Friday, CCTV said, without elaborating on the suspension. 

It noted however that the thrice-weekly route, first established in 2008, was often cancelled because of lack of passengers, as well as being subject to “seasonal adjustments” such as cancellations or reductions in frequency during the low-demand winter.

North Korea’s flag-carrier Air Koryo remains the only company that continues to operate flights into the country. 

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



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British Woman Fatally Stabbed In Jerusalem


Israeli police said the victim was a 25-year-old British national. (Representational Image)

Jerusalem:  A Palestinian man fatally stabbed a British woman on Jerusalem’s transit network on Friday, Israeli police said, as Christians marked Good Friday and Muslims held prayers at respective holy sites nearby.

The incident occurred in a train carriage on the light rail network near Jerusalem’s municipality building and the walled Old City. TV footage showed blood on the floor of the carriage with police officers restraining a man and carrying him away.

Israeli police said the victim was a 25-year-old British national, though it was initially unclear whether she also held Israeli citizenship.

The Shin Bet domestic security service identified the assailant as 57-year-old Jamil Tamimi and said he was a Palestinian from Arab East Jerusalem with mental health problems who was convicted in 2011 for sexually assaulting his daughter.

“This is one of many instances where a Palestinian suffering personal strife … chooses to carry out an attack in order to find release for his problems,” the Shin Bet statement said.

It added that the assailant had previously tried to commit suicide by attempting to swallow a razor blade.

Friday is sometimes a day of heightened tensions in Jerusalem’s Old City when tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers come to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

On Good Friday each year, Christians hold a procession along the Via Dolorosa in the Old City, retracing what they believe was the route that Jesus took to his crucifixion.

A wave of street attacks by Palestinians in Israel, Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank since October 2015 has previously killed 37 Israelis and two American tourists. At least 242 Palestinians have died during the period of sporadic violence.

Israel says at least 162 of the Palestinians killed had launched stabbing, shooting or car ramming attacks. Others died during clashes and protests.

Israel has accused the Palestinian leadership of inciting the violence. The Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, denies incitement and charges that in many cases, Israel has used excessive force in thwarting attackers armed with rudimentary weapons.

(Writing by Ori Lewis, Editing by Mark Heinrich)

© 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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Iran Elections: Hassan Rouhani Registers To Run In May For Second Term


Mr Rouhani won election by a landslide in 2013 on a platform of ending country’s diplomatic isolation.

ANKARA:  Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist who engineered the country’s landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, registered on Friday to run for a second four-year term in the May election, state television reported.

“Once again, I am here for Iran, for Islam, for freedom and for more stability in this country. I am urging all Iranians to vote for Iran and for Islam,” Mr Rouhani told reporters.

He won election by a landslide in 2013 on a platform of ending the Islamic Republic’s diplomatic isolation and creating a freer society, but faces a stiff challenge from conservative hardliners because of discontent over the economy.

Influential Shi’ite cleric Ebrahim Raisi, the custodian of a powerful organisation in charge of Iran’s holiest shrine, appears to be the leading hardline candidate.

But despite months of talks, hardliners have been unable to unite behind a single candidate and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appears to have not yet intervened to make them do so.

Within Iran’s complex mix of clerical rulers and elected officials, Mr Khamenei has the final say on all state matters.

An ally of Mr Khamenei, Mr Raisi also registered on Friday for the vote. But some prominent conservatives, including parliament speaker Ali Larijani, have thrown their support behind Mr Rouhani.

Though Mr Rouhani won in a single round with more than 50 percent of the vote in 2013 when no other candidate took more than 17 percent, he could face a tougher campaign this time if hardliners join forces against him. Many Iranians have grown impatient with the slow rate of improvement in their economic fortunes since the lifting of sanctions after Iran curbed its disputed nuclear activity under its deal with world powers.

The five-day registration period for the May 19 election began on Tuesday and will be followed by a process of vetting of the hopefuls by a hardline watchdog body, the Guardian Council.

More than 950 people have signed up so far for the vote.

Several former ministers and hardline former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are among those who have registered.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi, Editing by Mark Heinrich)

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Istanbul Police Detains ISIS Suspects Over Planned Attacks


Security efforts have been tightened ahead of the vote (Representational Image)

ISTANBUL:  Police in Istanbul have detained seven suspects, two of them believed to be members of ISIS, who were plotting to carry out attacks in Turkey ahead of a referendum on Sunday, a police statement said on Friday.

The four Turks, two Syrian nationals and one Tajik aimed to ‘create chaos’ in Turkey, police said. Two of the Turks were thought to have joined the ranks of ISIS, which holds territory in neighbouring Syria and Iraq.

ISIS has been blamed for at least half a dozen attacks on civilian targets in Turkey in recent months, including one on New Year’s Day at Istanbul’s Reina nightclub which killed 39 people.

The police said they had also seized identity cards, mobile phones and passports in the raids in four districts of Istanbul since last week.

Turks will vote on Sunday on constitutional changes that would give President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers. Supporters say that will strengthen the country at a time when it faces threats from ISIS and Kurds. Opponents fear a lurch towards authoritarianism in Turkey.

Two opinion polls on Thursday showed a narrow majority of voters would vote in favour of the changes.

Security efforts have been tightened ahead of the vote, but Kurds on Wednesday claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on a police compound in southeast Turkey that killed three people.

NATO member Turkey is part of the US-led coalition fighting ISIS and it launched an incursion into Syria in August to drive the terrorist group from its borders.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu, Editing by Isabel Coles and Louise Ireland)

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Iran's President Hassan Rouhani Registers To Run For Re-Election


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s support among moderate and reformist lawmakers remains solid

Tehran:  Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the driving force behind a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, registered on Friday to run for re-election next month, state television footage showed. 

The politically moderate cleric faces a tougher than expected battle for a second term on May 19 as criticism mounts over the continued stagnation of the economy. 

The president appeared in the afternoon at the interior ministry, where registration to stand for the election runs until Saturday. 

He has made much of his successes in controlling inflation and reaching a landmark nuclear deal with world powers that ended many sanctions. 

“In every aspect that you consider, figures tell us that after the (nuclear deal), there is more space for movement and progress,” he told reporters last week. 

Rouhani’s support among moderate and reformist lawmakers remains solid, but disappointment with the 68-year-old’s administration is palpable on the streets. 

Unemployment is stuck at 12 percent, the promised billions in foreign investment have not materialised, and he has failed to ease social restrictions or release political prisoners, including opposition figures held under house arrest for their part in 2009 protests. 

The conservative opposition remains divided, but attention has lately focused on hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, 56, who runs the powerful Imam Reza charitable foundation. 

Raisi has emphasised his concern for the poor, and is seen as a close ally of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The conservative-controlled Guardian Council will vet the hundreds of registered hopefuls over the coming week, before releasing a final list of candidates.

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



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North Korean Army Vows 'Merciless' Response To Any US Provocation


North Korea has conducted a series of missile launches and nuclear tests in defiance of UN sanctions.

Seoul:  North Korea’s army vowed a ‘merciless’ response to any US provocation, the official news agency reported Friday, as tensions soar over Pyongyang’s rogue nuclear programme.

A statement on KCNA, which cited Washington’s recent missile strike on Syria, said the administration of President Donald Trump had “entered the path of open threat and blackmail against the DPRK”.

Trump recently threatened unilateral action against Pyongyang if Beijing failed to help curb its neighbour’s nuclear weapons programme.

The North has conducted a series of missile launches and nuclear tests in defiance of UN sanctions and there is growing speculation that it is preparing another atomic or missile test.

The Korean People’s Army statement was typically defiant and menacing, boasting that US military bases in the South “as well as the headquarters of evils such as the (South Korean presidential) Blue House would be pulverized within a few minutes”.

“The closer such big targets as nuclear powered aircraft carriers come (to the Korean peninsula), the greater would be the effect of merciless strikes,” the statement added.

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



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Dubai Gurudwara's World Record With Breakfast For People From 101 Nations


The Gurudwara broke the previous record of 55 nationalities having continental breakfast.

Dubai:  A gurudwara in Dubai broke the world record for serving free breakfast to the maximum number of people from diverse nationalities.

Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar has marked into the Guinness World Record on Thursday for serving continental breakfast titled “Breakfast for Diversity” to 600 persons from 101 countries in an hour-long event in Jebel Ali.

The Khaleej Times reported that schoolchildren, government officials and diplomats attended the event while Indian Ambassador to the UAE Navdeep Singh Suri was the chief guest.

People from different parts of the city flocked to the Jebel Ali Gardens and filled a temporary tent made for hosting the marathon breakfast event.
 

dubai gurudwara

The gurudwara broke the previous record of 55 nationalities having breakfast, organised by Nutella

The officials from the Guinness Book of World Records confirmed that the gurudwara (Sikh temple) broke the previous record of 55 nationalities having a continental breakfast, organised by Nutella at the Milan Expo in Italy in 2015.

The gurudwara, which is known for serving free meals to all visitors through its community kitchen, caters to over 50,000 Sikh devotees in the United Arab Emirates.

“Sikhism has always embraced diversity as it has been part of our faith and belief, that we are all human beings to be treated with respect,” Surender Kandhari, chairman of the Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar temple, told the daily.

 

dubai gurudwara

The gurudwara caters to over 50,000 Sikh devotees in the United Arab Emirates.

“The gurudwara has been spearheading charity and volunteer work not only for the Indian community but for the entire UAE community as well. We feel blessed to give in any form, as this is our selfless service to the society,” he said.

Talal Omar, Guinness World Records MENA manager, said: “We are proud to support the Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar in breaking a fantastic record that brings together people of multi-faiths.”

“We encourage record breaking activities that encourage all human efforts, particularly those that bring people together”.



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China Warns Of North Korea Conflict 'At Any Moment'


Beijing:  A conflict over North Korea could break out “at any moment”, China said Friday, warning there would be no winner in any war as tensions soar with the United States.

The sharp language came after US President Donald Trump said the North Korea problem “will be taken care of”, as speculation mounts the reclusive state could be preparing another nuclear or missile test.

Trump has sent an aircraft carrier-led strike group to the Korean peninsula to press his point, one of a series of measures that indicate his willingness to shake up foreign policy strategy.

“Lately, tensions have risen… and one has the feeling that a conflict could break out at any moment,” Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said. 

“If a war occurs, the result is a situation in which everybody loses and there can be no winner.”

Whichever side provoked a conflict “must assume the historic responsibility and pay the corresponding price,” he said in a joint press conference with his visiting French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault.

Wang’s comments mirrored a warning from the North Korean foreign ministry’s Institute for Disarmament and Peace which said “thermo-nuclear war may break out any moment”. 

“The US introduces into the Korean peninsula, the world’s biggest hotspot, huge nuclear strategic assets… pushing the situation there to the brink of a war,” it said according to the North’s official news agency KCNA.

– Muscle-flexing –
Trump also flexed his military muscle last week by ordering cruise missile strikes on a Syrian airbase the US believed was the origin of a chemical weapons attack on civilians in a northern Syria town.

And the US military on Thursday dropped the biggest non-nuclear bomb it possesses on Afghanistan, targeting a complex used by the Islamic State group, in another move seen as a warning is not afraid to use force.

Trump has repeatedly said he will prevent Pyongyang from its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile capable of reaching the mainland United States.

“We are sending an armada. Very powerful,” Trump said Wednesday of the strike group headed by the USS Carl Vinson supercarrier. 

A White House foreign policy advisor said Friday that the US is assessing military options in response to the North’s weapons programs, saying another provocative test was a question of “when” rather than “if.”

Pyongyang has responded with defiance, saying it is ready to fight “any mode of war” chosen by the US and even threatening a nuclear strike against American targets.

There are reports of activity at a nuclear test site in North Korea ahead of Saturday’s 105th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founder Kim Il-Sung, which have fuelled speculation it could carry out a sixth test.

– ‘Best choice’ – 
The North’s sabre-rattling has encouraged a rapprochement between Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, who met face-to-face for the first time late last week at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. 

Though his election campaign was marked with acerbic denouncements of China’s “rape” of the US economy, Trump dropped his anti-China bombast in Florida, afterwards hailing an “outstanding” relationship with Xi. 

But he insists China must handle the Pyongyang problem or suffer the consequences — alarming Beijing, the country’s sole major ally and economic lifeline. 

Beijing has long opposed dramatic action against the North, fearing the regime’s collapse would send a flood of refugees across its borders and leave the US military on its doorstep.

“Dialogue is the only possible solution,” Wang said. 

But it has lately adopted a tougher line against its neighbour, including suspending coal imports from the country for the remainder of the year. 

An editorial in the Global Times, thought to have close ties to hawkish elements of the ruling Communist Party, wrote Thursday that if the North gradually abandoned its weapons programme, “China would play an active role in safeguarding the security of the denuclearised DPRK and its regime”. 

“This is Pyongyang’s best choice,” it said. 

In the midst of mounting tensions, there has been little sign of strain on the streets of Pyongyang in recent days, where the focus is on preparations for Saturday’s anniversary.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un on Thursday unveiled the sprawling Ryomyong street development, a prestige housing project repeatedly promised in time to mark the occasion. 

Before the international press and tens of thousands of his adoring citizens, he cut a wide red ribbon to rhythmic cheers, before waving and returning to his Mercedes limousine. 

(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 Court Upholds 'Black Widow' Death Sentence


Kanae Kijima dated and killed 3 men for money and disguised their deaths as suicide.

Tokyo:  A Japanese “black widow” convicted of murdering three boyfriends she had met online and dated for their money faces execution after Japan’s Supreme Court on Friday dismissed her final appeal.

Kanae Kijima, 42, who has married twice since she was detained in 2009, killed three men in the space of eight months through carbon monoxide poisoning, by burning charcoal briquettes after giving them sleeping tablets.

A spokesman for Japan’s top court confirmed it had ruled against an appeal lodged by Kijima.

Her legal team has claimed her innocence, saying the three men were likely to have committed suicide, according to public broadcaster NHK. 

The death penalty has overwhelming public support in Japan, despite repeated protests from European governments and human rights groups. 

Executions are by hanging, however it can take years before they are carried out.

The case has been closely followed in Japan and major media flashed news of the top court decision across television screens. 

Kijima writes a blog from the detention centre where she has been held, detailing her life inside, the food and talking about men she likes.  

In the latest post on Thursday, she wrote to her readers: “I hope to see you again somewhere someday.”

Kijima’s first victim, 53-year-old Takao Terada was found dead in Tokyo in January 2009. 

Kenzo Ando, 80, died in his home in Chiba prefecture in May 2009, and three months later 41-year-old Yoshiyuki Oide was found poisoned in a rented car, also from briquette fumes.

Kijima was convicted without the witness testimony or confession often relied upon in Japanese prosecutions.     

Instead prosecutors rested their case on layers of circumstantial evidence, such as Kijima’s purchases of sleeping pills and coal briquettes, in addition to the fact that she had met with each man shortly before he died.

She was also found guilty of seven other lesser crimes, including fraud and theft.

In another “black widow” case, Chisako Kakehi, 70, is awaiting trial in June for allegedly killing several men.

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



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US 'Mother Of All Bombs' Killed 36 ISIS Terrorists In Afghanistan


GBU-43/Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, moments before impact in an undisclosed location in 2003 (AFP)

Kabul, Afghanistan:  As many as three dozen militants with the radical Islamic State group were killed when U.S. forces dropped a 22,000-pound bomb on their hideout in eastern Afghanistan, defense ministry officials said Friday.

The strike, which marked the first use of the GBU-43, the U.S. military’s largest non-nuclear device ever used in combat, followed weeks of clashes between the militants and U.S. and Afghan forces in Nangarhar province.

Afghan officials said no civilians were reported killed, but the revelation that late Thursday’s strike targeted just 36 fighters is likely to raise further questions about the decision to deploy such massive ordnance.

The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, said in a statement Thursday that it was the “right munition” to use to destroy the militants’ network of tunnels in the area. The region where the strike took place, the restive Achin district, has for nearly two years been the site of fierce fighting between the local Islamic State affiliate, known as Khorasan Province, and U.S and Afghan forces.

Afghan officials on Thursday said they were not notified in advance that U.S. forces would be using the bomb, but said the area had long been cleared of most of its civilian residents, and that they supported using heavy firepower against the Islamic State group.

According to U.S. officials, most of the members of the local Islamic State branch are Pakistani and Uzbek militants. The group has launched devastating attacks on civilians in the Afghan capital, Kabul, but has struggled to gain a foothold outside its base in the east. Even fighters with the rival Taliban-led insurgency have battled with the extremists. Last week, Army Staff Sgt. Mark R De Alencar, 37, was killed in an operation by U.S. Special Forces in Achin, which is close to the Pakistani border.

“We will use whatever force that is available to us,” Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman, Mohammad Radmanesh, said following the strike. “And with the maximum amount of caution so that we don’t cause civilian casualties.”

Achin, an agricultural district with a majority ethnic Pashtun population, was once home to roughly 90,000 people, according to Afghanistan’s Central Statistics Office. In the two years since Islamic State militants emerged in the area, tens of thousands of residents have fled to neighboring districts and other regions of Afghanistan. It is unclear how many people remain in the district.

The Taliban on Friday also issued a statement condemning the strike. Its fighters have been engaged in a years-long insurgency against the government and international forces in Afghanistan.

In a message distributed on the instant messaging app Viber, the Taliban said the United States had “no justification” for using such a powerful bomb during combat operations, calling it a “show” by U.S. forces to persuade the world it is battling the Islamic State.

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai posted scathing criticism of the U.S. military on Twitter Thursday, calling the operation a “brutal misuse of our country as [a] testing ground for new and dangerous weapons” and calling on Afghans “to stop” the United States.

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



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Five Ways The Referendum Could Change Turkey


Istanbul:  Turkey votes on Sunday in a referendum on expanding the powers of the presidency under Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But the outcome could more broadly influence all aspects of the country’s future.

Coming 94 years after the foundation of modern Turkey by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the referendum is a landmark vote that may affect relations with the West, a peace process with Kurds and dynamics inside society.

Here are five ways the referendum could shape Turkey:

Enhanced or weakened powers?
If he wins the referendum, Erdogan will enjoy enhanced powers, be able to appoint ministers and have an entire bureaucracy centralised within his presidential palace. Opponents worry that the new system will lack the “checks and balances” that mark the US system, moving the presidency toward one man rule.

The new system would be implemented from November 2019 when presidential and legislative elections would be held simultaneously. 

With the clock wound back under the new system Erdogan, who became president in 2014, could take two more terms, allowing him to stay in power until 2029 rather than 2024, currently.

The executive presidency system “amasses unprecedented power in the hands of one man,” said Alan Makovsky, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Erdogan in combative speeches has not countenanced the prospect of a ‘No’ vote and not given the slightest indication he would consider his future. But given the advantages of the ‘Yes’ campaign a ‘No’ would be a massive blow to his status as Turkey’s all-powerful leader.

EU integration or disintegration?
Relations between Turkey, a longstanding candidate to join the European Union, and its EU partners plunged to bitter lows during the referendum campaign as the president lashed out at Europe for what he said was behaviour reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

Erdogan has said Turkey’s membership bid would be “on the table” after the referendum and in every single campaign speech said he would sign any bill restoring capital punishment, a move that would automatically end its bid to join the bloc.

“The tactics of constantly bullying the EU… for domestic political purposes have now reached their limits,” said Marc Pierini, visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe.

In the event of an easy ‘Yes’ victory, Erdogan could have the confidence to take a decisive move away from EU integration and show Turkey can forge alternative strategic alliances, including with Russia.

One alternative to full membership could be a strengthened customs union, but it is unclear if that would be palatable for Erdogan.

Peace process or military action?
Erdogan was the first Turkish leader to undertake peace talks with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), resulting in an unprecedented ceasefire.

But the PKK truce shattered in 2015 and Erdogan has since waged a controversial campaign to destroy the group.

In the event of a ‘Yes’, it is not excluded that Erdogan could adopt a more reconciliatory attitude on the “Kurdish problem”, even to the point of reopening dialogue.

“In the case of a narrow ‘Yes’ win, he (the president) may feel compelled to be conciliatory,” said Asli Aydintasbas, senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). “Turkey could return to the peace process.”

Yet the Yeni Safak daily has claimed that the government will open a new front with cross border operation against PKK camps in Sinjar, northern Iraq, in a new effort to destroy the group.

Reconciliation or polarisation?
Turkey’s hugely diverse society has starkly polarised during Erdogan’s tenure as prime minister and president since 2003. Erdogan has frequently demonised opponents, saying those who wanted to vote ‘No’ were playing into the hands of the PKK and US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed for the failed July 15 coup.

“He wins, but in the end half of the country is in love with him, and the other half loathes him, and herein lies the crisis of modern Turkey,” said Soner Cagaptay, author of a forthcoming book, “The New Sultan.”

While Erdogan has forged a coalition with nationalists, he has in the past showed considerable pragmatism in his alliances.

Economic rally or downturn?
Markets are cautiously expecting a ‘Yes’ and hoping this will bring much needed stability. A rally in Turkish assets is expected in the event of a ‘Yes’.

In the medium term the prospects are much more uncertain, with some economists fearing that any democratic deficits in Turkey and increased polarisation in society, coupled with the government’s loss of its enthusiasm for reform, will hit long term growth rates.

“While a potential ‘Yes’ may be cheered by the market in the near term, Turkish equities are not likely to trade above historical averages as growth remains subdued and the long term implications of the system untested,” said economists at BGC Partners in Istanbul.

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



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Mars Spacecraft's First Missions Face Delays, NASA Says


The missions face multiple cost and technical challenges that are likely to affect their launch dates.

Washington:  NASA will probably delay the first two missions of its Orion deep-space capsule, being developed to send astronauts beyond earth’s orbit and eventually to Mars, the US space agency said on Thursday.

A report by NASA’s Office of Inspector General cited technical as well as budget challenges.

The first launch of the Orion spacecraft atop the planned Space Launch System, or SLS set to become the world’s most powerful rocket when it flies is currently scheduled for early November 2018 with no crew.

A second mission carrying astronauts is envisioned for August 2021 at the earliest.

However, “NASA’s initial exploration missions on its Journey to Mars  EM-1 and EM-2 face multiple cost and technical challenges that likely will affect their planned launch dates,” the report said of the conclusions from a nine-month audit.

It cites delays in the development of the Orion service module, provided by the European Space Agency (ESA), as well as technical risks from changes in the design of the capsule’s heat shield.

The audit also reported delays in the development of software for the SLS, Orion and ground systems at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“We are concerned NASA will not be able to resolve all necessary software validation and verification efforts in time to meet a November 2018 launch date for EM-1,” the report said.

The total cost for the SLS, Orion and ground systems development programs is expected to reach some $23 billion by the end of fiscal year 2018.

Manned exploration of Mars is expected to exceed $33 billion by 2033.

The White House in February asked the space agency to conduct a feasibility study of the cost, safety, and technical constraints of adding astronauts to the first Orion mission in late 2018.

The report also questions the feasibility of NASA’s plans to launch a manned mission to Mars in the late 2030s or early 2040s. The agency has not provided target mission dates for a manned orbit of Mars or landings on the planet’s surface or nearby moon, it said.

To achieve its goal of sending humans to the vicinity of Mars in the 2030s, NASA must carry out “significant development work on key systems such as a deep space habitat, in-space transportation, and Mars landing and ascent vehicles” in the 2020s, the report added.

“The Agency will need to make these and many other decisions in the next 5 years or so for that to happen.”

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



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Uzbekistan Says Had Warned West About Stockholm Attack Suspect


Uzbekistan had put Rakhmat Akilov on a wanted list for people suspected of religious extremism.

TASHKENT:  Uzbekistan’s security services had passed information on Rakhmat Akilov, the man accused of ramming a truck into a crowd of people in Stockholm last week, to the West before the deadly attack, Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov said on Friday.

Mr Kamilov told reporters that Mr Akilov had been recruited by the ISIS terrorists group after he left the Central Asian nation in 2014 and settled in Sweden.

“According to the information that we have, he actively urged his compatriots to travel to Syria in order to fight on ISIS’ side,” Mr Kamilov said, adding that Mr Akilov had used online messaging services.

“Earlier (before the attack), information on Mr Akilov’s criminal actions had been passed by security services to one of our Western partners so that the Swedish side could be informed,” he said without identifying the intermediary country or organisation.

An Uzbek security source said this week that Mr Akilov had tried to travel to Syria himself in 2015 to join Islamic State but was detained at the Turkish-Syrian border and deported back to Sweden.

The source added that in February this year Uzbekistan’s authorities had put him on a wanted list for people suspected of religious extremism.

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Lift Marine Le Pen's Parliamentary Immunity, Says French Judges: Source


European Parliament has accused Le Pen’s party of defrauding it to the tune of some 340,000 euros.

Paris:  French prosecutors have asked the European parliament to lift the immunity of far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen over an inquiry into alleged fake parliamentary jobs, legal sources said Friday.

The revelation comes just nine days before France heads to the polls for a highly-unpredictable presidential election with Le Pen, who heads the eurosceptic Front National (FN), one of the frontrunners in the April 23 first round.

The demand was made at the end of last month after she invoked her parliamentary immunity in refusing to attend questioning by investigating magistrates on March 10.

The case is linked to an expenses inquiry in which the European Parliament has accused Le Pen’s FN of defrauding it to the tune of some 340,000 euros ($360,000). 

The parliament believes the party used funds allotted for parliamentary assistants to pay Le Pen’s personal assistant Catherine Griset and her bodyguard Thierry Legier for party work in France.

French investigators leading the case raided the party’s headquarters outside Paris last month in a bid to determine whether the FN used European funds to pay for 20 assistants — presented as parliamentary aides — who were working for the party elsewhere. 

But Le Pen shrugged off the request, saying it was “normal”.

“It’s totally normal procedure, I’m not surprised,” she told Franceinfo radio. 

(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 'Mother Of All Bombs' Killed 36 ISIS Terrorists In Afghanistan


The US military dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb on an ISIS complex in Afghanistan.

Jalalabad:  The US military’s largest non-nuclear bomb killed at least 36 militants as it decimated a deep tunnel complex of the ISIS group, Afghan officials said Friday, ruling out any civilian casualties.

The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb — better known as the “Mother Of All Bombs” — hit ISIS hideouts in Achin district in eastern Nangarhar province on Thursday.

“As a result of the bombing, key Daesh (IS) hideouts and deep tunnel complex were destroyed and 36 IS fighters were killed,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

US President Donald Trump had earlier called the mission “very, very successful”.

The Afghan presidential palace said precautions were taken to avoid civilian casualties.

The huge bomb, delivered via an MC-130 transport plane, has a blast yield equivalent to 11 tons of TNT, and the weapon was originally designed as much to intimidate foes as to clear broad areas.
 

us mother of all bombs

GBU-43/Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, moments before impact in an undisclosed location in 2003 (AFP)

“The GBU-43/B is the largest non-nuclear bomb ever deployed in combat,” Air Force spokesman Colonel Pat Ryder said.

Achin district governor Esmail Shinwari said the bomb landed in the Momand Dara area of Achin district.

“The explosion was the biggest I have ever seen. Towering flames engulfed the area,” Shinwari told AFP.

“We don’t know anything about the casualties so far, but since it is a Daesh (ISIS) stronghold we think a lot of Daesh fighters may have been killed.”

Nangarhar, which borders Pakistan, is a hotbed of IS militancy. US forces have conducted a number of air strikes on jihadist bases in the area since August last year.

ISIS, notorious for its reign of terror in Syria and Iraq, has been making inroads into Afghanistan in recent years. It has attracted disaffected members of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban as well as Uzbek Islamists.

But the group has been steadily losing territory in the face of heavy pressure both from US air strikes and a ground offensive led by Afghan forces.



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NASA Finds Ingredients For Life Spewing Out Of Saturn's Moon Enceladus


The geysers of Saturn’s moon Enceladus are gushing up food for life, scientists say.

Researchers report Thursday in the journal Science that the jets of ice and gas gushing from the moon’s south pole contain molecular hydrogen, a chemical characteristic of hydrothermal activity. On Earth, hydrogen provides fuel for communities of organisms that live around vents on the seafloor. Its presence on Saturn’s icy moon suggests that this alien world, which harbors a saltwater ocean encased in a frozen crust, has the right conditions to give rise to microbial life.

“For a microbiologist thinking about energy for microbes, hydrogen is like the gold coin of energy currency,” said Peter Girguis, a deep sea biologist at Harvard University who was not involved in the research. “If you had to have one thing, one chemical compound, coming out of a vent that would lead you to think there’s energy to support microbial life, hydrogen is at the top of that list.”

“It makes the Enceladus ocean seem a heck of a lot more habitable than we were thinking yesterday,” agreed Ariel Anbar, an astrobiologist at Arizona State University. “And wouldn’t we like to know, is there life living there?”

Everything scientists know about biology on Earth suggests that life is irrepressible. It thrives in clouds, in caves, in lakes of meltwater buried half a mile beneath the ice sheets of Antarctica, in boiling water plumes that gush from the ocean’s deepest, darkest depths. Almost no environment is too extreme, as long as water, organic molecules and a bit of energy are available for organisms to exploit.
 

This graphic illustrates how scientists on NASA’s Cassini mission think water interacts with rock at the bottom of the ocean of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus, producing hydrogen gas. 

Enceladus (pronounced “en-SELL-a-dis”) provides all three. It’s looking more and more like the most habitable spot in our solar system beyond Earth, and scientists’ best target yet in the search for alien organisms.

And it might not be alone. Images from the Hubble Space Telescope suggest that plumes much like those on Enceladus are also spewing from Jupiter’s moon Europa, NASA announced Thursday.

Like Enceladus, Europa harbors a subsurface saltwater ocean and could contain organic molecules. NASA hopes that Europa’s geysers are likewise connected to the moon’s watery interior. In the coming decade, the space agency will send a probe called the Europa Clipper to seek signs of life on Jupiter’s moon by flying through those plumes.

“In the NASA strategy for searching for life, the key ingredients have always been water, building blocks like carbon, oxygen, nitrogen . . . and a source of energy,” said Mary Voytek, a senior scientist for astrobiology at NASA who was not involved in the research. Knowing that two worlds in the solar system might meet these requirements, “it’s very possible that we have life out on one of those moons,” Voytek said.

Enceladus’ geysers have made it a target in the search for extraterrestrial organisms ever since the NASA space probe Cassini detected them in 2005. The plumes are rich with water and organic molecules, and the force with which they gush from the surface suggests that they are driven by a hydrothermal system two-and-a-half times more powerful than the one that powers Yellowstone’s geysers and bubbling hot springs. They are also physical evidence of the water in the moon’s interior, which is heated by the gravitational pull of Saturn.

In October 2015, Cassini flew deeper into the geysers than it ever had before, skimming a mere 30 miles above the moon’s surface. The probe trapped particles from the plume inside its Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer – a “sniffing” instrument that sorts material into its component parts based on mass – and analyzed the icy spray.

The results suggest that the geysers contain a surprising ratio of molecular hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane. The molecules are in “thermodynamic disequilibrium,” the researchers say; that is, they’re chemically out of whack. Molecular hydrogen (a compound made of two hydrogen atoms) is a very volatile gas, and is not easily trapped on a small, icy world like Enceladus. Its presence in the geyser plume indicates that there are processes beneath the surface constantly replenishing the supply of molecular hydrogen.

The paper’s authors examined a number of possible reasons for this chemical imbalance in their paper. The most likely explanation, they conclude, is something called serpenitinization. As hot water from Enceladus’ ocean flows through cracks in the seafloor, it reacts with the iron-rich rock to form molecular hydrogen.
 

saturns moon enceladus wp

As Enceladus orbits Saturn, it leaves a trail of particles from its geysers in its wake, forming Saturn’s  “E ring.”

This exact phenomenon is known to happen around Earth’s hydrothermal vents, where it fuels entire ecosystems of chemosynthetic organisms. Instead of deriving energy from the light of the sun, as photosynthetic plants do, these creatures feed on chemical imbalances. They power themselves by getting hydrogen to react with carbon dioxide to form methane, a process called methanogenesis, just as a lightbulb is powered by electric charges moving across a circuit.

Methanogenesis is one of the oldest metabolic processes on the planet. It predates photosynthesis; it may even have powered Earth’s very first life. The fact that Enceladus produces the same chemical imbalances that drive chemosynthetic life on Earth is intriguing.

“But it’s not necessarily an indication for or against life” on Saturn’s moon, cautioned co-author Hunter Waite of the Southwest Research Institute in Texas (SWRI).

Waite compared the surplus of molecular hydrogen on Enceladus to a stack of pizzas piled up outside a house. On the one hand, if there was anyone living in the house, you would think that the inhabitants would be eating it. The fact that the hydrogen persists could be evidence that there are no microbes around to use it for fuel. On the other hand, maybe there’s so much pizza arriving every day that the residents can’t keep up. There may be other factors limiting how much hydrogen the hypothetical microbes can process, allowing some molecules to escape up to the surface.

If there is life on Enceladus, the scientists know how much energy is available for it to consume based on the ratio of hydrogen in the plume. Co-author Christopher Glein, a geochemist at SWRI, called it “the first assessment of the calorie count in an alien ocean.” He and his colleagues found that the moon’s hydrothermal activity supplies more than enough energy to power a chemosynthetic ecosystem – the equivalent of 300 pizzas per hour.

Clearly, Enceladus’s sea floor is a veritable hydrogen pizza party. But is anyone eating?

“We’re going to have to go back with new missions and more focused instrumentation to answer that question,” Waite said.

Cassini won’t have any more opportunities to sample the geyser plumes. After orbiting Saturn for more than a decade, the spacecraft is scheduled to start a series of dives between the planet and its rings next week. In September, Cassini will plunge straight into Saturn, burning up almost as soon as it hits the gas giant’s atmosphere. The command sequence for this final mission was transmitted to the probe by NASA’s Deep Space Network on Tuesday.

It’s Enceladus’ fault that Cassini must die – NASA doesn’t want to risk the spacecraft inadvertently contaminating the potentially habitable moon, so they cannot leave it hanging out in space after it runs out of fuel.

Yet the space probe has already dramatically exceeded scientists’ expectations. When Cassini launched toward Saturn in 1997, NASA didn’t even know that Enceladus had geysers, let alone an ocean that could harbor life, and the spacecraft wasn’t equipped with instruments that could test for biomarkers (the instrument used in this study was initially designed to study a different moon entirely). If scientists want to search for life on Enceladus in earnest, they will need to send another probe to the moon.

Glein is working on a proposal for exactly such a mission. But right now, NASA has no project in the works to revisit the Saturnian system. It could be more than a decade before we go back.

“It’s frustrating and thrilling at the same time,” Glein said.

Fortunately, Enceladus no longer appears to be the only ocean world spitting its contents into space. The news that Europa also has geysers comes just as NASA begins the preliminary design phase of the Europa Clipper mission, which is slated to orbit Jupiter and perform 45 flybys of the planet’s icy moon.

This is not the first time scientists have detected evidence of geysers on Europa; Hubble has spotted similar plumes several times before. But this detection provides further evidence for the activity, and will help scientists figure out the timing of Europa’s geysers in advance of the Clipper mission.

The plumes were detected by the Hubble Space Telescope as Europa passed in front of Jupiter. Silhouetted against the hot, glowing form of its host planet, scientists could see gusts of material shooting upward. The jets were so powerful that they extended 50 kilometers above the moon’s surface – Old Faithful, the famous geyser at Yellowstone, only reaches 184 feet.

When the Clipper arrives in the mid-2020s, it will carry instruments specifically designed to sample Europa’s plumes and test for organic molecules. Unlike Cassini, which had no idea what it would encounter when it detected Enceladus’s geysers for the first time, the spacecraft should be well-equipped to detect life – if there’s any life to be found.

Voytek said that her boss, NASA’s planetary science director Jim Green, is determined to find organisms beyond Earth before he retires. “You’ve got a couple of years,” he told her, jokingly, when they heard about the Enceladus discovery.

Green is optimistic about his chances.

“We’re just on the precipice of moving this whole activity forward,” he told The Washington Post. “I think in our lifetime we’ll be able to answer the question, ‘Are we alone?’ “

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



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Pakistani Student Accused Of Blasphemy Beaten To Death On Campus


The student was stripped naked and beaten with planks by the mob until his skull caved in.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan:  A mob beat a Pakistani student to death at his university campus on Thursday after he was accused of sharing blasphemous content on social media, university and police officials said. A group of about 10 students shouted “Allahu Akbar” during the attack on fellow student Mashal Khan, who was stripped naked and beaten with planks until his skull caved in as other students looked on, video obtained by Reuters showed.

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive topic in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where insulting the Prophet Mohammed is a capital crime that has hundreds languishing on death row and where even an accusation can lead to violence.

In recent months, Pakistan’s government has been vocal about the issue, with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issuing an order last month for removal of blasphemous content online and saying anyone who posted such content should face “strict punishment under the law”.

Ten students have been arrested after Thursday’s attack  the grounds of a university in the northern city of Mardan, local police chief Mohammad Alam Shinwari said.

“After severe torture that led his death, the charged students then wanted to burn his body,” said Shinwari.

At least 65 people have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to figures from a Center for Research and Security Studies report and local media.

It was unclear exactly which online post had prompted the blasphemy accusation against Khan, who was studying journalism.
One of Khan’s teachers recalled that he was a passionate and critical student.

“He was brilliant ‎and inquisitive, always complained about the political system of the country, but I never heard him say anything controversial against the religion,” said the teacher.

In 2011, a bodyguard assassinated Pakistan’s Punjab province governor Salman Taseer after the governor called for reforming blasphemy laws.

Mr Taseer’s killer, executed last year, has been hailed by religious hardliners as a martyr to Islam and a shrine has been erected at his grave.

Recently, fighting blasphemy has also become a rallying cry for the government.

Pakistani online activists believe blasphemy-related crack downs on social media are veiled attempts by the country’s powerful military to limit dissent on human rights violations.

In January, five online activists went missing and were publicly accused of blasphemy while they were absent. Four of them have reappeared and at least one has said he was abducted and interrogated by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies.

The military has denied any part in the activists’ disappearances.

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



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What Restaurant Inspectors Found Wrong In Trump's Mar-a-Lago Kitchen


At least 13 violations were reported in the kitchen at Donald Trump’s private club, Mar-a-Lago. (Reuters)

Florida restaurant inspectors recently found more than a dozen violations in the kitchen at President Donald Trump’s private club, Mar-a-Lago.

Inspectors from the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation cited at least 13 violations in reports from a January 26 inspection at Trump’s “winter White House” in Palm Beach, the Miami Herald reported. The violations included several that were categorized as high priority, which “could contribute directly to a foodborne illness or injury,” according to the agency.

In two kitchen coolers, the inspectors found that meats were not being stored at the proper temperature and that fish served raw or undercooked had not “undergone proper parasite destruction,” according to the reports.

Inspectors also cited the club for reach-in and walk-in coolers that were not properly maintained, no hot water or hand-drying device at an employee sink and more basic violations, such as employees who were not wearing hairnets while preparing food for customers.

The violations were corrected while inspectors were on-site, according to the reports. The general manager at Mar-a-Lago could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Miami Herald reported that the state inspection came just days before Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the club. Most recently, Trump hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Nearly every weekend since his inauguration, Trump has spent time at Mar-a-Lago. It is a members-only facility, “with those who pay the steep initiation fee suddenly gaining occasional proximity to the president and, at times, his Cabinet and senior staff,” The Washington Post’s Philip Bump wrote.

The trips have called into question the cost – which could amount to millions of dollars – of protecting the president.

U.S. Coast Guard commandant, Adm. Paul Zukunft, said Wednesday that the Coast Guard has not received extra funds to cover Trump’s protection during his frequent trips to Mar-a-Lago, The Post reported. During these visits, the Coast Guard dispatches helicopters, patrol boats and anti-terrorism teams for round-the-clock patrols, Zukunft told reporters.

Zukunft said officials were trying to come up with a figure to present to Congress but that, at the moment, the service was working within existing funding constraints.

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



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China Warns Against Force As North Korea Prepares Celebration


Military force cannot resolve tension over North Korea, China said on Thursday, while an influential Chinese newspaper urged the North to halt its nuclear programme in exchange for Chinese protection.

Concerns have been growing that North Korea could soon conduct a sixth nuclear test or more missile launches in defiance of U.N. sanctions and stark warnings from the United States that a policy of patience was over.

With a U.S. aircraft carrier group steaming to the area in a show of force and tensions rising, fears of a confrontation have been rising.

China, North Korea’s sole major ally and neighbour, which nevertheless opposes its weapons programme, has called for talks leading to a peaceful resolution and the denuclearisation of the peninsula.

“Military force cannot resolve the issue,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing. “Amid tensions we will also find a kind of opportunity to return to talks.”

While U.S. President Donald Trump has put North Korea on notice that he would not tolerate any provocation, U.S. officials have said his administration was focussing its strategy on tougher economic sanctions.

Trump said on Thursday Pyongyang was a problem that “will be taken care of” and that he believed Chinese President Xi Jinping would “work very hard” to help resolve the challenge.
Trump has also said the United States is prepared to tackle the crisis without China, if necessary.

Trump diverted the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group towards the Korean peninsula last weekend in a show of force to try to deter North Korea from conducting another nuclear test or launching more missiles to coincide with important events and anniversaries.
But a senior Trump administration official described as “flat wrong” an NBC News report citing senior U.S. intelligence officials as saying the United States is prepared to launch a pre-emptive conventional weapons strike should officials be convinced North Korea was about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test.

Scores of foreign journalists are gathered in Pyongyang for North Korea’s biggest national day, the “Day of the Sun”, marking he 105th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung on Saturday.

They were taken to what officials billed as a “big and important event” early on Thursday which turned out to be the opening of a new street in the centre of the capital, attended by current leader Kim Jong Un.

In 2012, two days before the centenary of Kim Il Sung’s death, it tried but failed to launch a long-range rocket carrying a satellite. It tested a newly developed intermediate-range missile on the anniversary last year, a launch that also failed.

A Washington-based think tank that monitors North Korea, 38 North, said satellite images on Wednesday showed activity around the North’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site on the east coast that indicated it was ready for a new test.

South Korean and U.S. officials and the think tank have been saying for weeks that North Korea could test a sixth bomb at any time.
CIA director Mike Pompeo said North Korea was closer now than it had ever been to being able to threaten the United States with a nuclear-tipped intercontinental missile and increased its technical know-how with each new test.

This in turn reduced U.S. options and “makes it more likely that you get a bad decision, a tough day for the leader of North Korea,” he told Washington’s Center for Strategic and International studies.
Asked if there was hope that China would do more to slow or suspend its nuclear programme, he replied: “I’m counting on it.”

Speculation about U.S. military action grew after the U.S. Navy fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airfield last week in response to a deadly gas attack.

Washington said North Korea should see the strikes as a sign of U.S. resolve, but U.S. officials have played down the prospect of any military strike against North Korea, which would likely provoke massive North Korean retaliation and huge casualties in Japan and South Korea and among U.S. forces in both countries.

The United States has remained technically at war with North Korea since the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty and the past six decades have been punctuated by periodic rises in tension and rhetoric that has always stopped short of a resumption of active hostilities.

Analysts have interpreted China’s warnings as an effort to persuade North Korea to shelve plans for more tests.

Wang warned that history would hold any instigator to account.
“Whoever provokes the situation, whoever continues to make trouble in this place, they will have to assume historical responsibility,” Wang said.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se told parliament in Seoul he believed Washington would consult Seoul if it was considering a pre-emptive strike.

An influential state-backed Chinese newspaper, the Global Times, said North Korea’s best option was to give up its nuclear programme, and added that China would protect it if it did.
“As soon as North Korea complies with China’s declared advice and suspends nuclear activities … China will actively work to protect the security of a denuclearised North Korean nation and regime,” it said in an editorial.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe underscored fears about North Korea, saying it could have the capacity to deliver missiles equipped with sarin nerve gas.

But a senior Japanese diplomat said Japan also did not see a high risk of military action.

On Tuesday, North Korea warned of a nuclear attack on the United States at any sign of American aggression. The White House dismissed the threat, saying there was no evidence North Korea could carry it out.

North Korea regularly threatens to destroy the United States and South Korea.

U.S. officials said Trump was considering sanctions that could include an oil embargo, banning North Korea’s airline, intercepting cargo ships, and punishing Chinese banks doing business with it.
Customs data in Beijing on Thursday showed China’s coal imports from North Korea had plunged 51.6 percent in the first three months in 2017 from a year earlier.

China suspended permit issuance for North Korean coal imports on Feb. 18 as part of its effort to implement U.N. sanctions.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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US Assessing 'Military Options' As North Korea Test Looms


Donald Trump says that he will prevent North Korea from developing a missile capable of reaching the US.

Washington:  The United States is assessing military options in response to North Korea’s weapons programs, a White House foreign policy advisor confirmed Friday, saying another provocative test was a question of “when” rather than “if.”

As speculation mounted that Pyongyang is preparing to fire a trial nuke or missile on a major anniversary Saturday, the official said the United States was poised to deal with the security threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

“Military options are already being assessed,” the adviser said on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic, describing a fresh test as “possible.”

There are reports of activity at a nuclear test site in North Korea ahead of Saturday’s 105th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founder Kim Il-Sung.

“They have telegraphed a bit, it’s no surprise that the anniversary is on Saturday, traditionally he has the big parade and rolls out his weapons and his mock weapons,” said the adviser.

“Unfortunately it’s not a new surprise for us, (North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un)continues to develop this program, he continues to launch missiles into the Sea of Japan. With the regime it’s not a matter of if, it’s when.”

The comments came after President Donald Trump told reporters that the “problem” of North Korea “will be taken care of.”

‘Complicated’ 

The ominous comments came the same day the US military dropped the biggest non-nuclear bomb it possesses on Afghanistan, targeting a complex used by the Islamic State group.

Trump also flexed his military muscle last week by ordering cruise missile strikes on a Syrian airbase the US believed was the origin of a chemical weapons attack on civilians in a northern Syria town.
And a US aircraft carrier and its naval strike group has been diverted to the Korean peninsula. 

Trump has repeatedly said he will prevent Pyongyang from developing a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States.

It was a main topic of discussion when Trump met then president Barack Obama shortly after the November election, with Trump being warned he may face a difficult choice early in his presidency.
Trump subsequently asked his advisers to give him all options for dealing with the nuclear-armed North.

But privately the White House acknowledges that striking North Korea would be a “much more complicated piece of business” than the Syria strike, in the words of a second senior administration official.

Any US strike on North Korea could prompt retaliation against allies or US forces in South Korea or Japan.
But there are few good diplomatic or economic options for the Trump administration.

The North is already under multiple sets of United Nations sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and appears to see these programs as insurance against regime change.

Pence to Asia

In a Wall Street Journal interview, Trump said a recent meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping dissuaded him of the notion that Beijing could compel North Korea to change course.
“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,” Trump said. 

“I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power” over North Korea. “But it’s not what you would think.”
On Saturday Trump will dispatch Vice President Mike Pence to the region to firm up resolve among allies.

Pence will visit South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Australia, with North Korea high on the agenda in each capital.

With the exception of Indonesia, the United States has a treaty obligation to come to the defense of all those countries — an obligation Trump has sometimes appeared to call into question.
Pence will be looking to assure allies that commitment is “ironclad,” according to one White House official.

“We are fully committed to our security alliances, especially in the face of our evolving security challenges, as we’ve seen the nuclear threat of North Korea.”

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



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How A Burger King Ad Ended Up With A Whopper Of A Problem


A Burger King sign in Peoria, Illinois, on Aug. 26, 2014.

Burger King successfully ran an alternate version of its advertisement designed to trigger Google Home devices late Wednesday, the company said in an emailed statement Thursday.

“Last night, Burger King launched very similar commercials that 100% triggered the smart speaker technology. The commercials aired during Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon,” said spokeswoman Dara Schopp.

The company altered the ad’s audio in such a way that it was able to get around whatever block the Google Home had against the original commercial. Schopp also said that Burger King saw a 300 percent increase in “social conversation” on Twitter as compared to the day before – indicating that, good or bad, the commercial got people talking about the company.

Earlier, it was reported a Burger King ad designed to trigger Google’s voice-activated Home smart speaker and have the device advertise the Whopper no longer works.

The ad, released Wednesday, features an actor dressed as a Burger King employee, who says, “Okay, Google: What is the Whopper burger?” The line is meant to trigger the device to reel off the definition of a Whopper using the first line of the burger’s Wikipedia page. (Yes, the Whopper has its own Wikipedia page.)

Roughly three hours after the ad launched, the ad stopped working. Google’s Home would only light up in response to the commercial’s prompt and stay mum (although it will give you the first line of the Wikipedia article if you explicitly request the definition of a “Whopper burger”).

The fast-food company confirmed that the ad no longer triggered the speaker, but it said it would still air the ad – and indicated that the ad may start working again. “You’ll have to tune in tonight to see if the commercial triggers the Whopper sandwich definition response,” said Burger King spokesman Brooke Scher Mogan.

Mogan said Burger King saw the ad as an opportunity to “do something exciting with the emerging technology of intelligent personal assistant devices.”

Google did not respond to requests for comment.

A person familiar with the matter but not authorized to speak on the record said the fast-food chain did not consult Google before making the commercial.

While commercials – often those about home hubs – have accidentally triggered voice assistants in people’s homes before, this seems to be the first time an ad has tried to do it intentionally. Based on comments on the ad’s YouTube page, many consumers did not appreciate having their devices hijacked.

“When you take over someones phone or tablet and have it do your own remote commands intentionally, you are HACKING,” read one comment.

Once the ad started gaining attention, Wikipedia users began altering the first line of the article about Burger King’s Whopper. These edits included references to the burger as “cancer-causing” and stating that its ingredients include “cyanide.”

It appears that Burger King itself tried to fix the Wikipedia problem. The first sentence changed to a suspiciously glowing description of the Whopper, authored by user “Fermachado123” – a name that sounds similar to Fernando Machado, Burger King’s senior vice president for global brand management.

Burger King did not confirm or deny that Machado edited the article.

Privacy concerns about voice-activated speakers and the connected home have been on the rise as more companies have introduced these products, putting pressure on the makers of voice-operated security systems and door locks to ensure that their devices can’t be triggered by unauthorized voices.

The place of advertising on the Google Home and similar products has been thoroughly debated by users as they have become more commonplace. Many users don’t want to be spammed with ads delivered by what they consider personal assistants. Google subjected itself to criticism after Home users heard what appeared to be an unprompted plug for Disney’s “Beauty and Beast” when the film opened last month.

Google said at the time that mentioning the film wasn’t meant to be an ad but simply a notice to users about what was timely that day, according to a statement provided to CNET. “We’re continuing to experiment with new ways to surface unique content for users and we could have done better in this case,” a Google spokesman said.

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



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Canada Bans Removing Passengers From Overbooked Airplanes


Canada has banned all airlines from forcibly removing passengers from overbooked flights.

Ottawa:  The Canadian government has banned all airlines in the country to forcibly remove passengers from overbooked flights, officials said.

In a letter issued on Thursday to the heads of all airlines that fly in and out of the country, Transport Minister Marc Garneau warned that an incident like the one injuring a passenger aboard a United Airlines flight earlier this week is not allowed to occur in Canada, Xinhua news agency reported.

“I am sure that you were as disturbed as I was, and as all Canadians were, over the appalling incident that took place onboard a United flight earlier this week, when a passenger was forcibly removed from his seat,” he wrote.

“I am writing to you today to convey that such an incident would be unacceptable in Canada.”

The warning is not only for Canadian airlines such as Air Canada and WestJet, but also to all international airlines that fly in and out of the country.

The minister’s letter comes after a passenger named David Dao, 69, was dragged off an overbooked United flight in Chicago on Sunday after refusing to leave his seat to accommodate airline crew members.

Dao was seriously injured by security officers who forced him off the plane against his will, banging his head on armrests in the process.

The minister’s warning comes ahead of expected legislation to introduce a passengers’ bill of rights in Canada.

The legislation will outline what passengers can expect from airlines in situations such as bumping from overbooked planes or for lost or damaged luggage. 
 



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US Immigration Crackdown Heats Up For Tech Workers And Border Crossers


Washington:  Encouraged by a sharp downturn in illegal border crossers, the US administration is ramping up a crackdown on undocumented immigrants, taking aim at both Central American laborers and Indian tech workers in Silicon Valley.

Police, prosecutors and judges have been ordered to take a harder line against all illegal immigrants, detaining anyone without papers and vigorously prosecuting more of them. 

Hiring standards for immigration agents are being eased to quickly beef up their ranks, more facilities to hold detained immigrants are being built, and more judges are being added to handle cases.

And officials have been directed to round up illegal immigrants, even those in the country for decades, at places that used to be safe — courthouses, town halls, and cities offering them sanctuary.

Meanwhile designs are underway for construction of a wall along the entire 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) US-Mexico border that President Donald Trump promised. It won’t be a full physical barrier all the way along, but strategically erected wall sections interspersed with stretches of technology-dependent surveillance.

“For those that continue to seek improper and illegal entry into this country, be forewarned: This is a new era. This is the Trump era,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions told border patrol agents on Tuesday.

Border-crossers down

Trump came into office promising to expel the estimated 11 million people living in the United States illegally, who he says steal American jobs and fuel crime. Most are from Mexico, and many of them have been here for decades, raising families, owning homes and businesses.

Three months into the Trump administration, the number of illegal border-crossers has plunged to a four decade low, according to the Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP). 

Apprehensions of illegal border crossers in March dropped to 16,600, down 30 percent from February and 64 percent from a year ago.

It is too early to see any pickup in deportations, which take longer to process. But Tom Jawetz, vice president in charge of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress think tank, says there is a clear change in immigration enforcement.

Sessions this week ordered CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain anyone who crosses the US-Mexico border without legal documents and present them to a judge. In the past, most were just delivered back over the border.

He also ordered prosecutors to lodge felony charges when someone is caught sneaking in for a second time. Those who transport and harbor illegal immigrants risk jail, as does anyone caught using false papers, common among illegal immigrants. 

“The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws and the catch-and-release practices of old are over,” Sessions declared.

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly has authorized CBP and ICE agents to go after illegal immigrants in places they once felt safe. An increasing number have been rounded up in public offices applying for licenses, reporting crimes, even meeting immigration officials to legalize their residence.

California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye protested in a letter to Sessions and Kelly that such areas were supposed to be protected and accused ICE of “stalking” people who “pose no risk to public safety.”

But the two officials said the arrests will continue, criticizing any policies that offer sanctuary to illegal aliens.

Legal immigration also pressured

With some Republicans in Congress calling for a 50 percent cut in legal immigration, Trump has also ordered a tightening in that area. 

He ordered a temporary halt to refugee arrivals and is fighting courts to implement a halt on arrivals from six mostly Muslim countries. Visa applicants in many countries say they are facing longer waits.

Sessions and Kelly warned technology companies bringing in skilled workers under the H-1B visa program that the government will take a tougher line with any company abusing that program. Previous permissions for H-1B workers’ spouses to also work could be eliminated.

But as the campaign picks up pace, economists and immigration experts warn a crackdown will remove an economic boon and overwhelm the justice system. 

“The benefits that immigration brings to society far outweigh their costs,” nearly 1,500 Democratic- and Republican-aligned economists, including six Nobel laureates, said a letter to Trump.

Jawetz said the crackdown is unjustified, given that there has been a “net outflow” in Mexicans in the past few years.

“A large share of people who are coming across our southwest border today are people who are seeking asylum, who cannot and should not be prosecuted for illegal entry,” he added.

Chasing undocumented immigrants from public spaces also has negative effects for US society, he said.

“What we know from law enforcement in Houston, in Los Angeles, El Paso and elsewhere, is that individuals are no longer reporting crimes the way they once were, and are no longer cooperating with prosecutors to put criminals behind bars.”

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



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