This Plastic Bag, An Artificial Womb, Could One Day Save Extreme Preemies

Each year in the United States, about 30,000 babies are born before gestating for 26 weeks, which is considered “critically preterm.” The resulting health problems are vast. Half don’t survive, and those who do face a 90 percent risk of lasting health problems.

Such premature births are responsible for one-third of infant deaths and half of the cerebral palsy cases in the country.

“The first health challenges the very preterm babies face is actually surviving,” said Kevin Dysart, a neonatologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “Among those that survive, the challenges are things we all take for granted, like walking, talking, seeing, hearing.”

Emily Partridge, a researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said in a video: “Just looking at them, it is immediately clear that they shouldn’t be here yet. They’re not ready.”

Modern medicine doesn’t have a good handle on caring for such extreme preemies.

That could change in the coming decade. As outlined in a preclinical study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have made great strides in creating an artificial womb for critically preterm babies that could allow them to continue to develop naturally outside of their mothers’ uteruses.

Currently, these babies – sometimes so small they fit comfortably in an adult human hand – are placed in incubators, where they are fed through tubes and delivered oxygen via ventilators.

The problem with this set-up, though, is they aren’t ready for gestation to end. In the womb, their mothers delivered oxygen via blood through their umbilical cords. If they are out of the womb, a breath of air stunts lung development.

“These infants are desperate for solutions and for innovation,” Partridge said. Desperately needed is a stopgap to help certain developments, such as lung development.

The team decided to focus on a new solution.

Rather than treat the preemies as though they were fully developed, ready to be in an open-air world, the team focused on creating the environment of a human womb. It’s one in which the baby would be suspended in fluid and receive oxygen through its umbilical cord, rather than a breathing tube. This would allow gestation to continue for another month and potentially curb developmental problems.

“These infants have an urgent need for a bridge between the mother’s womb and the outside world,” said Alan Flake, a fetal surgeon and study leader. “If we can develop an extrauterine system to support growth and organ maturation for only a few weeks, we can dramatically improve outcomes for extremely premature babies.”

They developed an artificial womb – essentially a polyethylene bag filled with artificial amniotic fluid – that the child would immediately be placed into after being removed from its mother via C-section.

They would be given a drug to prevent them from breathing while being transported from their mother to the device, which “allows the fetus to swallow and breath amniotic fluid, like it’s supposed to during development,” Flake said.

The artificial womb also includes a circulatory system to deliver oxygen to the baby. Two tubes are connected to the baby via its umbilical cord. One tube carries blood from the child into an oxygenator, where the blood is infused with oxygen. The second tube then carries the oxygenated blood to the child. The device is powered by baby’s heartbeat.

Researchers successfully tested the device on eight lamb fetuses which were 105 to 115 days old, which is similar in development to a 23-week-old human fetus.

“Most of what know about human fetal development is from the lamb. All of the physiologic research over the past 50-60 years that have told us about fetal circulation, about developmental events, most of it has been from the lamb,” Flake said.

The lambs developed naturally for another 4 weeks after being placed in the device, opening their eyes and growing wool.

The team hopes to soon begin testing on humans.

“We’re in the process of interacting with the FDA, so it’s not inconceivable that we could be talking about a clinical trial one to two years from now,” Flake said.

When the researchers first conceived the artificial womb about three years ago, still thinking of it as “science fiction,” they didn’t yet have a grant – much less advanced equipment. The first few prototypes were built with “plumbing piping,” purchased from Home Depot, eBay and beer stores.

“Sir Thomas Edison said, ‘To be an inventor, all you need is an imagination and a pile of junk,'” Marcus Davey, a researcher at the hospital, said. “And essentially that is the story of this system.”

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

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4 Reasons Obama's $ 400,000 Wall Street Speech Is A Bad Idea

Former president Barack Obama reemerged this week for his first formal public event since leaving office, but all people can talk about is a future event – specifically, one for which he will be paid his old annual salary for one speech.

News broke Monday that Obama would be paid one of those exorbitant speaker’s fees that Hillary Clinton received: $400,000 for speaking at a Wall Street conference put on by the investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald.

Obama’s situation is not the same as Clinton’s, in that he cannot run for president again. So taking Wall Street’s money, at this point, won’t directly affect official U.S. policy that Obama will pursue in the future. Nor is there any rule prohibiting him from receiving the money.

But that doesn’t mean the arrangement isn’t problematic – especially these days and especially for Obama and his party. Below are a few reasons Obama may want to rethink his decision.

1. It continues to set a dubious precedent
As mentioned above, there is no rule against Obama doing this. None. But there is the precedent that it sets – or rather, continues to set.

George W. Bush and Bill Clinton did this, too, as have Hillary Clinton, Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan. And the more that Wall Street firms give out-of-office presidents and big-name politicians these paydays, the more they become the norm. Other presidents will know that such payments are on the table, and it risks coloring their decisions with regard to Wall Street and special interests.

Which is already happening with Obama, retroactively. Liberals loved (and miss) his presidency, but if there’s one thing the Elizabeth Warren/Bernie Sanders wing is still sore about in the Obama administration, it’s the lack of prosecutions for anybody involved in the financial crisis. In September, Warren, a senator from Massachusetts, requested a formal investigation of why no charges were brought.

And here’s Warren in a 2014 interview with Salon:

WARREN: At the same time, picked his economic team and when the going got tough, his economic team picked Wall Street.

SALON: You might say “always.” Just about every time they had to compromise, they compromised in the direction of Wall Street.

WARREN: That’s right. They protected Wall Street. Not families who were losing their homes.

Whether fair or not, it’s not difficult to look at Wall Street paying $400,000 to Obama as a reward for that. In that way, it’s tough on both precedent and Obama’s presidency.

2. We have other rules against retroactively cashing in

It’s not as though the idea of holding office and then benefiting from it at a later date is a completely novel one. The Trump administration, the Obama administration and Congress have all instituted lobbying bans on their employees, limiting their ability to lobby government after leaving government – usually for years.

These bans aren’t written because those aides may one day rejoin government and be influenced by having been made wealthy by certain special interests; they’re written because it became so normal for former aides to cash in afterward and basically use their government jobs for a future payday on behalf of well-heeled special interests. The prospect of future wealth became a given.

3. Democrats are trying to be the anti-Wall Street party
This whole thing comes at a somewhat inauspicious time for the Democratic Party: Just as Democrats’ true identity is in flux, as Sanders’s anti-Wall Street message seems to be ascendant, and as President Donald Trump at times co-opted that message in the 2016 election.

That brand of populism clearly has very broad appeal, and now Democrats are being put in the position of deciding whether their former president should take $400,000 from Wall Street for a speech. At the least, it risks suggesting the party’s anti-Wall Street posture is in some cases just that – posturing.

4. Obama himself discussed the corrupting influence of such arrangements in his book

Jonathan Cohn tweeted something Wednesday that I thought was really interesting. There is actually a section in Obama’s 2006 book, “The Audacity of Hope,” that describes the subtle, corrupting influence of arrangements like this.

Here’s an excerpt. It’s long, but it’s worth digesting:

I can’t assume that the money chase didn’t alter me in some ways. 

Increasingly I found myself spending time with people of means – law firm partners and investment bankers, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists. As a rule, they were smart, interesting people, knowledgeable about public policy, liberal in their politics, expecting nothing more than a hearing of their opinions in exchange for their checks. But they reflected, almost uniformly, the perspectives of their class: the top 1 percent or so of the income scale that can afford to write a $2,000 check to a political candidate. 

And although my own worldview and theirs corresponded in many ways – I had gone to the same schools, after all, had read the same books, and worried about my kids in many of the same ways – I found myself avoiding certain topics during conversations with them, papering over possible differences, anticipating their expectations. On core issues I was candid; I had no problem telling well-heeled supporters that the tax cuts they’d received from George Bush should be reversed. Whenever I could, I would try to share with them some of the perspectives I was hearing from other portions of the electorate: the legitimate role of faith in politics, say, or the deep cultural meaning of guns in rural parts of the state.

Still, I know that as a consequence of my fundraising I became more like the wealthy donors I met, in the very particular sense that I spent more and more of my time above the fray, outside the world of immediate hunger, disappointment, fear, irrationality, and frequent hardship of the other 99 percent of the population – that is, the people that I’d entered public life to serve. And in one fashion or another, I suspect this is true for every senator: The longer you are a senator, the narrower the scope of your interactions. You may fight it, with town hall meetings and listening tours and stops by the old neighborhood. But your schedule dictates that you move in a different orbit from most of the people you represent.

And perhaps as the next race approaches, a voice within tells you that you don’t want to have to go through all the misery of raising all that money in small increments all over again. You realize that you no longer have the cachet you did as the upstart, the fresh face; you haven’t changed Washington, and you’ve made a lot of people unhappy with difficult votes. The path of least resistance – of fundraisers organized by the special interests, the corporate PACs, and the top lobbying shops – starts to look awfully tempting, and if the opinions of these insiders don’t quite jibe with those you once held, you learn to rationalize the changes as a matter of realism, of compromise, of learning the ropes.

Obama is talking about politicians who are in office, yes, but he’s also talking about how special interests get their hooks in you without you really being conscious of it. He’s talking about how taking special-interest money is the easy way out. And that sure seems applicable to today.

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

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The Rise And Fall – Or Rebirth? – Of White House Correspondents' Dinner

Washington:  When Washington’s signature social event kicks off this weekend, Wolf Blitzer will not be dining with Ashton Kutcher.

Oscar winners will not clink cocktails along moonlit embassy balustrades. Distinguished political analysts will not tumble out of receptions with shoulder-straining gift bags stuffed with luxury cosmetics and gourmet organic cookies. The stars of “Saturday Night Live” will not lean in for selfies with Chuck Schumer.

A professional comedian will entertain, but his name might not ring a bell. And – perhaps you’ve heard? – for the first time in 36 years, the president of the United States will not attend.

After more than a decade of celebrity glitz and lavishly underwritten partying, Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is shaping up to be a slimmed-down, more sober, slightly dowdier affair. It’s possible the event will never again be quite as epic.

And for some longtime attendees – that’s just fine. Maybe even a relief.

“This is clearly going to be different,” said Susan Page, White House bureau chief for USA Today. “Last year, I was at a table with Kendall Jenner, and this year I’m at a table with Madeleine Albright.”
Both of whom, she hastened to add, are delightful guests. The lack of celebrity frisson isn’t necessarily a bad thing, she said. “In a way it refocuses the dinner … on the role we want the press to play in a democracy.”

President Donald Trump’s decision not to attend – announced in an abrupt tweet two months ago and viewed as another salvo in his battle with Washington journalists – threw uncertainty into the event. Over several decades, the tradition of a comic speech by the commander in chief, gently mocking the press and himself, had boosted the black-tie dinner into an A-list attraction.

Yet Trump’s absence also seems to have magically relieved some of the tensions that had been building around the dinner for years – the ethical discomfort, for some attendees, in the spectacle of journalists yukking it up with the government officials they cover.

Not to mention the unseemliness of journalists sharing red carpets with the stars of “Scandal” or “Duck Dynasty,” or feasting on corporate-funded cocktail buffets at an ever-growing array of unaffiliated parties that piggybacked on the WHCA buzz in recent years – two trends that have been dramatically halted with the first dinner of the Trump era.

“There’s always this angst and acrimony,” said Julie Mason, a host of a political radio show for Sirius/XM and a former WHCA board member, “over what is basically a Rotary Club dinner.” (Granted, one that is aired live on C-SPAN.)

Said Juleanna Glover, a corporate consultant and Bush White House veteran who has skipped the festivities in recent years, “If it turned into a boring journalism dinner, I would be delighted to be there.”

In 2004, John Fox Sullivan had a prime seat at the dinner. Then the publisher of National Journal, he was on the dais, overlooking some 3,000 guests in the ballroom of the Washington Hilton. So he was just a couple feet away when President George W. Bush strolled on stage to “Hail to the Chief” to join his fellow guests at the head table, including Jay Leno, the entertainer for the night.

Walking behind the table where the guests where standing for him, Bush “takes his right hand and gooses Leno,” Sullivan recalled. Leno jumped. “It happened so fast, very few people saw it,” he said. Bush took his seat with a huge grin on his face – and Sullivan’s been dining out on the story ever since.

“It’s one of the top 10 moments of my career in Washington,” he said.

The celebrification of what was once a chummy industry dinner is now part of Washington legend. For decades, it was an occasion for journalists to schmooze their official sources in government. “Having the secretary of agriculture at your table was considered a hot date,” said Page.

But in 1987, Baltimore Sun correspondent Michael Kelly started a craze when he invited an unconventional newsmaker – Fawn Hall, the gorgeous administrative assistant on the fringe of the Iran-contra scandal. After that, everyone, it seemed, wanted a guest that would get the other reporters talking.

It was a dynamic that fed upon itself – a critical mass of celebrities making it a safe place for other celebrities, which made the dinner a tantalizing ticket that publishers could use to court big-dollar advertisers – giving them all the more reason to gussy up their tables with ever more celebrities. In the Obama years, it became particularly stylish to invite virtually the entire casts of TV shows popular with the chattering classes – “House of Cards,” “Game of Thrones,” “Modern Family.”

But ultimately, said Sullivan, the draw of the dinner remained the chance to breathe the same air as the president, regardless of who it was. “People want to be inside the locker room,” he said.
And this year? No president.

Trump’s initial tweet turning down the invitation sounded blithe (“Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!”). But the animosity soon became clear: The White House announced that none of its staffers would attend, in “solidarity” with the president; press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump would consider future invitations only “if things go better” for him with reporters.

Last week, the president announced his alternate plans for Saturday night – a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to mark his first 100 days, which will probably force a few correspondents to skip the dinner. Jeff Mason, the Reuters reporter who is president of the White House Correspondents’ Association this year, declined to comment on the timing of the event. But many view it as a bit of counterprogramming intended to draw a sharp contrast to the festivities at the Washington Hilton. During his campaign rallies, Trump frequently attacked the media to send a message to his base “that I’m with you, not with them,” said Major Garrett, chief White House correspondent for CBS News.

“At a straight, cold, political level,” Garrett added, the timing of the rally “is very shrewd for him.”

Curiously, the president engineered no such blockade on another elite Washington media gathering with a heavily overlapping guest list: He sent Vice President Mike Pence in his place to the Gridiron Club dinner in early March, along with several other top White House staffers.

The Gridiron is not televised, though. And Trump had a fraught relationship with the WHCA dinner going back to 2011, when he was the highly controversial guest of Lally Weymouth, mother of then-Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth.

At the time, the real estate mogul and reality TV star had been hinting at a political run and championing the bogus conspiracy theory that Obama was born in Kenya. Seated in the center of an unusually starry room (Sean Penn, Scarlett Johansson, Bradley Cooper, Michael Stipe), he was the center of its gawking attention as both Obama and the evening’s professional comedian, Seth Meyers, brutally roasted him.

With that history – and Trump’s increasingly personal attacks on the media throughout his campaign and into his term as president – many regulars at the dinner were quietly uneasy about the prospect of him returning as the most exalted guest on the dais.

Even before Trump sent his regrets, the glossy out-of-town publications that had lured some of the most sensational guests and thrown some of the most lavish parties in previous years – the New Yorker, People, Vanity Fair – indicated that they would not return this year. The WHCA, which usually announces the brand-name comic hired to entertain several months in advance – previous talent included Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert – didn’t line one up until two weeks ago, a 31-year-old “Daily Show” supporting player named Hasan Minhaj.

In a switch-up of the usual format, Minhaj will be getting some backup from two bigger names, investigative superstars Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who are expected to deliver remarks heavier on fourth-estate ideals than wisecracks.

And the celebrities? Media bosses once giddily leaked the names of the rock stars, Olympians or supermodels they planned to host at the dinner. This year: mostly silence and discretion. But it is becoming clear that Saturday’s dinner will largely be a celebrity-free zone.

Hollywood folks – who tend to despise Trump – are not rushing to attend, and media organizations seem less inclined to invite them anyway. The Creative Coalition, an advocacy group for arts funding, will bring several actors to town for its annual Friday night dinner – but only one or two is expected to attend the WHCA dinner as well.

The bigger draw for stars in town that night will likely be a party at the W Hotel to celebrate the taping earlier Saturday of a TBS comedy special by current-affairs comedian Samantha Bee – pointedly titled “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.”

Instead, look for the WHCA dinner tables to fill with business and tech luminaries, TV network chiefs, policy gurus – and perhaps some more VIP Washingtonians sitting alongside the journalists.

“We are going to load up on lawmakers and ambassadors,” said Garrett, who is cheering the celebrity retreat. “It’s been part of the dinner that has grown completely out of control” – with no encouragement, he said, from rank-and-file White House reporters.

At its heart, he maintained, the dinner itself is a noble tradition, “not a place where we bow down before the president,” he said, but rather a one-night “cease-fire.” And a useful one at that.

“It’s a place for working journalists to do a bit of work,” meeting sources, making new contacts, he said.

The upshot, noted Tammy Haddad, a media consultant who co-hosts an annual brunch on the morning of the dinner, is that “there are going to be more reporters per square foot than ever before.”
And – well, what’s wrong with that?

For all the diminished buzz, the dinner is still sold out, said Jeff Mason. The WHCA was able to dip deeper into its waiting list, offering seats to associate members who’d previously been shut out, and extra seats and tables for media organizations that had long vied for them.

“That’s an issue we’ve had to deal with, where people who cover the White House didn’t always get invited to the dinner,” he said. “This year, I haven’t heard of that being a problem.”

The glitz surrounding the dinner had made it hard for some to perceive the association’s mission of improve press access throughout the executive branch. The dinner “is very important to us, our only fundraiser,” he said. “But is just one night.”

“This is a turning-point year, but the change may be for the best,” said Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times. She’s grateful to see “less emphasis on the corporate, non-journalistic” events that have sprung up around the event.
And if the dinner itself is somewhat different, she said – “well, what isn’t different this year?”

Washington Post staff writers Paul Farhi, Roxanne Roberts and Emily Heil contributed to this report.

Video: President Obama and comedian Seth Meyers skewered Donald Trump at the 2011 White House correspondents’ dinner. From the birther movement to his potential run for president, here’s a look back at some of their jabs. (The Washington Post)

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

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Giant Rabbit Dies After United Airlines Flight To United States

The 10-month-old Continental Giant breed rabbit died at a United Airlines pet holding facility

London:  A 3-foot-long giant rabbit died at a United Airlines pet holding facility in Chicago following a flight from London, in another embarrassment for the airline as it struggles with a global backlash this month over a passenger dragged from his seat.

The 10-month-old Continental Giant breed rabbit named Simon, who was tipped to become one of the world’s largest rabbits, had appeared to be in good condition upon arrival at the facility at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, an airline spokesman said.

Simon was due to be picked up by a celebrity who had bought him. But when a United worker later checked on Simon, he found he had died, spokesman Charles Hobart said.

“We never want that to happen and it’s always a sad experience for all involved when an animal passes while in our care,” Hobart said by telephone on Wednesday.

The cause of death has not yet been determined, the spokesman said, adding that United was reviewing what happened.

Hobart said the airline had offered to carry out a post-mortem investigation on the rabbit, but the owner had declined. He said United also offered compensation to the owner, whom he did not identify, but did not disclose the amount.

The incident took place on April 20, but was first reported on Wednesday by The Sun newspaper. Simon’s breeder, Annette Edwards, told the paper she was suspicious.

“Simon had a vet’s check-up three hours before the flight and was fit as a fiddle,” Edwards told The Sun. “Something very strange has happened and I want to know what.”

Edwards, a former Playboy model, said she has shipped rabbits all around the world and that nothing like this had ever happened. “The client who bought Simon is very famous. He’s upset,” she said.

Earlier this month, a United passenger, Dr. David Dao, was unceremoniously dragged from his seat off a plane at O’Hare bound for Louisville, Kentucky, to make room for crew members.

Video recorded by other passengers showed the 69-year-old doctor being dragged down the aisle with blood on his face after he refused to give up his seat on the April 9 flight.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton; Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Sandra Maler)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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

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Drug Use Tops Booze For First Time In Fatal US Crashes: Study

43% of drivers tested in fatal crashes around US in 2015 had used a legal or illegal drug

Washington:  US data has shown for the first time that drivers killed in crashes were more likely to be on drugs than drunk, with marijuana involved in more than a third of fatal accidents in 2015, a study released on Wednesday showed. Forty-three percent of drivers tested in fatal crashes around the country in 2015 had used a legal or illegal drug, topping the 37 percent who showed alcohol levels above a legal limit, according to the report by the Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, a nonprofit funded by distillers.

Among drivers killed in crashes who tested positive for drugs, 36.5 percent had used marijuana, followed by amphetamines at 9.3 percent, the study showed. It was based on the most recent available US state data reported to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The study included any substance that can impair driving, including illegal drugs, prescription medications, legal non-medicinal drugs and over-the-counter medicines.

“People generally should get educated that drugs of all sorts can impair your driving ability,” said Jim Hedlund, a former NHTSA official who wrote the report. “If you’re on a drug that does so, you shouldn’t be driving.”

In 2013, alcohol- and drug-related traffic fatalities were at about 40 percent, with alcohol slightly higher, Hedlund said in a telephone interview.

The drug fatality level has risen steadily since 2005, when alcohol was detected in 41 percent of traffic deaths and drugs in 28 percent, he said.

Hedlund said he was unable to directly link increased US drug use, such as the opioid epidemic, to the rise in drugged drivers.

The number of US deaths from opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin, has quadrupled since 1999, with more than 33,000 deaths in 2015, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The increase in drug-related driving deaths also coincides with more marijuana legalization, with 29 states and the District of Columbia allowing its medical or recreational use. The report said that marijuana-related traffic deaths in Colorado increased by 48 percent after the state legalized recreational use of the drug.

But Michael Collins, deputy director of the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group, questioned that connection. Because marijuana can linger in a system for weeks, a driver might not be intoxicated when being tested, he said.

“I think you really need to take these kind of analyses with a pinch of salt,” he said in a phone interview.

The report cautioned that the data varies widely on how many drivers are tested and how.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; editing by Colleen Jenkins and Richard Chang)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Before Ivanka Trump, These Presidential Daughters Wielded Influence Too

Washington:  Ivanka Trump is the first First Daughter in American history to score a West Wing office and hire a chief of staff. As her father’s “special adviser,” her portfolio encompasses both outreach to Europe and rolling her eyes at commander-in-chief dad jokes. In Berlin Tuesday, she endured boos when she called the president a “champion” for families during a panel discussion with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde and other female leaders

But Ivanka is far from the first adult daughter to leave a mark on White House history. The teen rebel Alice Roosevelt, for example, may have some scorched ones on the White House itself, given her habit of sneaking cigarettes in defiance of father Teddy Roosevelt’s no-women-smoking rule. “I can either run the country or I can attend to Alice, but I can’t possibly do both,” a frustrated T.R. once famously declared.

But after maturing a bit, Alice’s had real impact as a glamorous fashion plate who was dispatched to represent her father on a diplomatic tour of five Asian countries in 1905, even as the president was helping to mediate peace between Japan and Russia.

“He harnessed her spunk, and she became a political asset,” said Joshua Kendall, author of “First Dads,” a book on presidential parenting. “She was very stylish the way Ivanka is, although she wasn’t selling her handbags.”

Alice did sell cigarettes, though, long after she set up her Georgetown salon and was widowed from her husband, House Speaker Nicholas Longworth. She flogged Lucky Strikes in print ads, quipped like Dorothy Parker and was a legendarily acerbic hostess in Washington society into her 90s.

But the time wasn’t right for her to play more of an overt policy role in her father’s administration. “She was extremely intelligent,” said her biographer, University of Iowa history professor Stacey Cordery. “People always said if she had been a boy she would have been president.”

Cordery says nothing in First Family history compares to the reach and depth of Ivanka’s official role. But her own vote for most influential first daughter in the pre-Ivanka age may go to Maureen Reagan, the Gipper’s child with actress Jane Wyman.

Maureen – Mermie, as her dad called her – lived at the White House during much of her dad’s presidency, where she was a reportedly a voice of moderation on women’s issues whispering in his ear (Sound familiar?). She was active in party politics, co-chairing the Republican National Committee and running unsuccessfully for public office twice in California before dying of cancer in 2001.

Like Alice Roosevelt, Maureen’s half-sister Patti Davis thrived in the wild-child category of first daughters. She posed topless in the July 1994 issue of Playboy, five years after her father left office. Ivanka hasn’t done that, though First Lady Melania Trump posed in the buff on a fur blanket handcuffed to a leather briefcase aboard Trump’s jet in 2000.

Anna Roosevelt played a less flamboyant but more central role in her father’s White House. FDR turned to his daughter as an all-around help-meet when his relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt had become strained and distant.

Anna was working as a journalist on the West Coast when Roosevelt asked her to come back to Washington during World War II. She ran his social calendar, took a hand in managing access to him and is credited by some with persuading him to take on Harry Truman as his final running mate. Life magazine took note of her influence by suggesting, “Daddy’s girl is running Daddy.”

It was Anna the president asked to accompany him to meet Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin at Yalta.

“He seemed more comfortable with his daughter for things like this,” said Kendall. “Yes, like Trump.”

Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph took up First Lady duties during two winters at the White House for her widower father Thomas Jefferson. In 1806, she gave birth to the first baby born at the White House.

First Daughter Margaret Truman made a name for herself as an enthusiastic, if not accomplished, singer. When Washington Post critic Paul Hume panned her 1950 performance at Constitution Hall, her father let him have it in a note written on White House stationary.

“Some day I hope to meet you,” President Truman wrote. “When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!”

Margaret Wilson was also a singer, but a less notorious one. She took over First Lady duties when Woodrow Wilson’s first wife died. Wilson had three daughters, who reportedly lobbied him to back the woman’s vote and support the 19th Amendment.

His youngest, Ellen Wilson, married Wilson’s secretary of the treasury at the White House, making William McAdoo arguably the most powerful presidential son-in-law in history.

On whether that achievement will survive in the age of Jared Kushner, Ivanka’s influential husband, history is still out.

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

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Pakistan Captures 23 Indian Fishermen Off Gujarat Coast

Pakistan apprehended 23 Indian fishermen and seized their four boats off the Gujarat coast.

Ahmedabad:  The Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) on Wednesday apprehended 23 Indian fishermen and seized their four boats off the Gujarat coast, an official of Porbandar-based National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF) said.
These fishermen had sailed from Porbandar a few days ago and were apprehended by the PMSA near the International Maritime Border Line (IMBL), NFF secretary Manish Lodhari told PTI.
“We have learnt that at least 23 fishermen on four boats were apprehended by the PMSA near Jakhau and they were being taken to Karachi,” Mr Lodhari said.
On April 9, four PMSA commandos drowned while two others were saved by Indian fishermen after a boat of the Pakistani agency capsized near the IMBL while allegedly trying to capture around 40 fishermen on seven boats in Indian waters.
To reciprocate the help given by Indian fishermen, the PMSA had later released the captured fishermen.

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White House Unveils Plan To Overhaul Tax Code In Major Test For Trump

Washington:  President Donald Trump on Wednesday proposed a dramatic overhaul of the tax code, calling for sharply lower rates for individuals and businesses but also eliminating key tax breaks.

The proposal is a one-page outline – key details are left incomplete – but it presents an initial offer to begin negotiations with lawmakers, as White House officials believe reworking the tax code is one of their biggest priorities to boost economic growth.

“We have a once in a generation opportunity to do something big and important on taxes,” White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said Wednesday.

White House officials are ambitious, but the path to overhauling the tax code is riddled with political landmines. Many budget experts believe the White House’s plan would reduce federal revenues by so much that it would grow the debt by trillions of dollars in the next decade, growing interest costs and slowing the economy.

And Trump’s advisers are looking to axe some tax breaks that are very popular in certain states, including the deduction Americans take for the state and local taxes they pay separately each year. Eliminating this deduction could save more than $1 trillion over 10 years, but inflame lawmakers and governors in states that have high income tax rates.

The central feature of the White House’s plan would be a big reduction in tax rates for virtually all Americans and businesses.

It would eliminate the seven existing income tax brackets and replace them with three brackets, containing new rates of 10 percent, 25 percent, and 35 percent, based on someone’s income. White House officials haven’t specified which income levels would hit the higher tax brackets, as they see that as part of ongoing discussions with Capitol Hill.

It would also roughly double the standard deduction that Americans can use to reduce their taxable income. The deduction for married couples would move from $12,600 to $24,000. This would incentivize people not to itemize their tax returns and instead use the standard deduction, simplifying the process and potentially saving taxpayers thousands of dollars each year.

The White House plan would eliminate the alternative-minimum tax and the estate tax, provisions that raise billions of dollars each year but have long been the target of Republicans seeking to rip up the tax code. Cohn, speaking of the AMT, said “we don’t think that people should have to do their taxes twice,” and added that the estate tax unfairly prevented farmers and others from passing along their businesses to the next generation.

In order to offset some of the cost of the lower rates, Trump administration officials said they were proposing to eliminate virtually all tax deductions that Americans claim, provisions that they argued primarily benefited wealthier Americans. Cohn said they would preserve tax breaks that incentivize home ownership, retirement savings, and charitable giving. But almost all others would be jettisoned.

This includes the tax deduction people can claim for the state and local taxes they pay each calendar year. These taxes can be particularly high in states with higher income taxes, such as California and New York.

“It’s not the federal government’s job to be subsidizing the states,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at the briefing with Cohn. “It’s the state’s independent decision as to do what they want to tax.”

Some of the White House’s tax changes would benefit the wealthy, such as the elimination of the estate tax, while other changes would benefit the middle class and lower-income Americans.

For businesses, Trump’s proposal would lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, and it would also allow smaller businesses, structured in such a way that they are affected by the individual tax rate, to also use the 15 percent threshold. There are millions of these businesses, known as “S Corporations,” and they are often small, family-owned firms.

But they can also include large law firms and lobbying shops. Mnuchin said special protections would be put in place to ensure that the 15 percent rate isn’t taken advantage of by the wealthiest earners, though he didn’t say how the White House would do this.

The White House is also proposing a one-time tax “holiday” to incentivize companies to bring several trillion dollars currently being held in other countries back into the United States. They didn’t specify what that tax rate would be, saying its currently part of negotiations on Capitol Hill, but they believed providing this incentive would bring money back for investment and hiring.

“We expect that trillions of dollars will come back on shore and will be reinvested here in the United States, for capital goods and job creation,” Mnuchin said.

This process is called “repatriation.” It’s controversial, because critics allege the money is brought back and then paid out in dividends to shareholders, not used for hiring. But Democrats and Republicans have both been open to the idea of a tax holiday. The Obama administration proposed using one to bring money back into the United States that could be used for new infrastructure projects, for example.

A key part of Trump’s tax plan during the campaign was to levy a tax or tariff against companies that move overseas and then try to sell their products back to American consumers. Cohn and Mnuchin said they were still looking at alternatives on how to structure this idea, and it was not an element of the plan rolled out on Wednesday. They said they found a plan embraced by House Republican leaders – known as a border adjustment tax – to be unworkable in its current form, but they are going to work with key lawmakers to see if adjustments can be made, Mnuchin said.

He also said White House officials were hopeful that their plan could win support from Democrats, but he said they were willing to forge ahead without them if necessary. They could use a special budget process known as reconciliation to pass the changes through the Senate with a simple majority vote, though this would be very difficult given how sharp they are planning to cut taxes. Mnuchin also said their goal was to make permanent changes to the tax code, but they would consider a shorter-term change if necessary to win political support.

“This is what’s important to get the American economy going,” Mnuchin said. “So I hope [Democrats] don’t stand in the way. And I hope we see many Democrats who cross the aisle and support this. Having said that, if they don’t, we are prepared to look at the reconciliation process.”

The White House’s proposal bypassed a plan from House Republicans, led by Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., that would have offset broad reduction in rates with a change in the way imports and exports are taxed, a proposal known as a “border adjustment tax.”

Ahead of the announcement, some Democrats were skeptical. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said members of his party would scrutinize the details, but he predicted the package could amount to major tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and for businesses like those formerly run by President Trump.

“That’s not tax reform,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “That’s just a tax giveaway to the very, very wealthy that will explode the deficit.”

Speaking Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill, Ryan called Trump’s framework “a critical step forward in this effort.”

“We’ve been briefed on what they are going to do and it is basically along exactly the same lines we want to go,” Ryan said. “So we see this as progress being made, showing that we are moving and getting on the same page. We see this as a good thing.”

Trump’s tax plan does have an advantage over Ryan’s and other plans, including those supported by some Democrats, that aim to be make up the forgone revenue. While there is broad bipartisan support for plans that both cut rates but make up for it with the elimination of certain tax breaks or reductions in spending, coalitions have frequently fallen apart over where those savings should come from. Many public programs and exemptions and deductions in the tax system have broad popular support, or are defended by powerful interests.

The trouble Trump has is that while his administration says the tax cuts will over time pay for themselves, Congress’s nonpartisan budgetary referees at the Joint Committee on Taxation won’t work off that same assumption.

Because of the rules of the Senate, legislation that would result in more borrowing over the long term would be vulnerable to a Democratic filibuster, requiring 60 senators to advance the legislation. Republicans hold just 52 seats in the chamber, and absent those 60 votes, Trump and his fellow Republicans would only be able to pass cuts that would last for 10 years.

After that time, the tax cuts would expire unless Congress takes action, setting up another fight over taxes.

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

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I Am The Son Of 'Discarded' Migrants, Says Pope Francis

Pope Francis is the son and grandson of impoverished Italians who went to Argentina with nothing.

Rome:  Pope Francis said on Wednesday he has always identified with migrants as he is the son and grandson of impoverished Italians who went to Argentina with nothing.

“I, myself, was born in a family of migrants,” 80-year-old Francis said in a video address to the ‘The Future You’ conference taking place in Vancouver, Canada.

“My father, my grandparents, like many other Italians, left for Argentina and met the fate of those who are left with nothing. I could have very well ended up among today’s ‘discarded’ people,” Francis said.

“And that’s why I always ask myself, deep in my heart: “Why them and not me?” said Francis, noting that he asks himself the same question when he meets the sick, prison inmates and the unemployed.

The address touched on the climate change, the migration crisis, despair about the future, and global inequality, urging greater social inclusion, humility by the world’s powerful and solidarity to overcome what Francis called a ‘culture of waste’.

“We can only build a future by standing together, including everyone,” he said.

‘The Future You’ is the theme of this year’s TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference.

TED is a media organisation that posts talks from its annual conference online for free. Since 2006 the lectures have been viewed cumulatively more than 4.6 billion times.

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Giant Rabbit Dies On United Airlines Flight

Ten-month-old Simon was expected to grow to become the world’s biggest rabbit.

London, United Kingdom:  United Airlines was under fire again Wednesday after a huge rabbit named Simon died while hopping over from London to Chicago, where he was due to be picked up by a celebrity buyer.

The valuable 90-centimetre (three-foot) long continental giant rabbit had previously been described as “fit as a fiddle”, and his death in the cargo section of a Boeing 767 comes as a mystery.

“Something very strange has happened and I want to know what,” breeder Annette Edwards, from Worcestershire in central England, told British newspaper The Sun.

“Simon had a vet’s check-up three hours before the flight and was fit as a fiddle,” she said, adding: “I’ve sent rabbits all around the world and nothing like this has happened before.”

Edwards also revealed that “the client who bought Simon is very famous. He’s upset”.

united airlines

United Airlines said it was “saddened” to hear the news of Simon’s death.

Ten-month-old Simon was expected to grow to become the world’s biggest rabbit, after his father Darius grew to 1.32 metres, Edwards said.

According to the breeder such rabbits cost 5,000 Pounds ($6,400, 5,900 euros) a year to keep.

The incident comes less than three weeks after United Airlines drew global outrage for forcefully dragging a passenger off an overbooked flight.

Footage of the April 9 incident captured by fellow passengers went viral on social media.

It also caused a public relations calamity for United and airport officials, sparked worldwide outrage, and led to multiple apologies from United as well as an internal probe of its policies and practices.

United Airlines said it was “saddened” to hear the news of Simon’s death.

“The safety and well-being of all the animals that travel with us is of the utmost importance to United Airlines and our PetSafe team,” it said.

“We have been in contact with our customer and have offered assistance. We are reviewing this matter.”

Figures from the US Department of Transportation show that 35 animals died in air transit in 2015, across the country’s 17 main carriers.

United Airlines account for nine of those deaths, the highest of all the carriers. It transported over 97,000 animals during that year.

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France Says Has Proof That Syrian Regime Launched 'Chemical Attack'

Theres is a scientific proof that the Syrian regime was responsible for a suspected chemical attack.

Paris:  French intelligence services have scientific proof that the Syrian regime was responsible for a suspected chemical attack that killed 87 people, France’s foreign minister said Wednesday.

Jean-Marc Ayrault said analysis of samples taken at the scene of the April 4 attack in rebel-held Khan Sheikhun in which 31 children were among the dead showed “there is no doubt that sarin gas was used” and that it was produced by Syrian laboratories.

“There is no doubt about the responsibility of the Syrian regime given the way that the sarin used was produced,” Ayrault told journalists after the report was presented at a meeting of French defence chiefs.

He said the substance France believes was used in the attack contains hexamine, a component that was also found in a gas attack in northwest Syria in 2013.

“We are able to confirm that the sarin used on April 4 is the same sarin that was used in an attack in Saraqeb on April 29, 2013,” he said.

Ayrault said the chemical fingerprint is “typical of the method developed in Syrian laboratories”.

“This (production) method bears the regime’s hallmarks and allows us to determine its responsibility for this attack,” he said.

A French diplomat said the analysis was carried out on unexploded ordnance found at Khan Sheikhun.

– ‘Same as 2013 attack’ –

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by his ally Russia, has strongly denied allegations that his forces used chemical weapons against the town, describing it as a “100 percent fabrication”.

He has said repeatedly that his forces turned over all chemical weapons stockpiles in 2013, under a deal brokered by Russia to avoid threatened US military action.

That agreement was later enshrined in a UN Security Council resolution.

In a policy U-turn, US President Donald Trump ordered air strikes on the Syrian airbase from which Washington believes the attack was launched.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday there was “no doubt” Syria has retained some chemical weapons and warned Assad’s regime not to use them.

“There can be no doubt in the international community’s mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all,” Mattis said during a visit to Israel.

Mattis added that the Damascus regime would be “ill-advised to try to use any again”, adding: “We’ve made that very clear with our strike.”

On Monday, the US government placed 271 Syrian chemists from the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) and other officials on its financial blacklist in response to their presumed role in the chemical weapons attack.

Washington says the SSRC was responsible for developing the alleged sarin gas weapon.

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Emmanuel Macron A 'Compromise Candidate' For French Voters?

Emmanuel Macron has pushed for relaxing labour laws, cutting business taxes and slashing public spending.

Paris:  He is 39 years old and this is the first election he has ever contested. But Emmanuel Macron’s centrist pro-European and pro-business image and his moderate position on social issues have made him a favourite for the presidency.

A product of French elite schools, he was already an investment banker in 2008. In 2012, he became senior advisor to President Francois Hollande, and in 2014 he was economy minister.

Macron’s independent party ‘En Marche!’ is just one year old but his economic policies seem to pacify conservative voters who are not ready for a Frexit yet. His moderate position on social issues doesn’t scare off liberals and those who have no appetite for populism. He has become more of a “compromise candidate” for French voters, the safest choice, according to some. 

“It has been a very weird election and people have been thinking strategically – who we don’t want to see as president? And finally Macron became the comprise, the reasonable alternative to the establishment,” according to Pierre Haski, columnist and senior editor. 

Macron’s rise seems to point to a breaking down of the traditional centre right and left wing politics. But in reality, the choice is a more conservative one than it seems at first glance. His critics believe he represents the establishment, the business elite and the status quo in the European Union. For those rallying for radical change, Macron is a wet blanket.

Surprisingly, Macron is not a great orator nor does he seem to have any outstanding policies in his manifesto. Yet no one can doubt that his campaign strategy has perhaps been his biggest strength.

“What’s interesting in Macron is that he has transferred his risk management from the banking system to the political system. That’s all he’s able to do and he’s very smart at that. He was able to see the Marine Le Pen risk,” says Nacira Guenif-Souilamas, a sociologist. 

On the campaign trail, Macron has pushed for relaxing labour laws; cutting business taxes and slashing public spending.

Macron has spoken out against stigmatising Muslims under the pretext of France’s idea of secularism at a time when right wing nationalists are making gains across the world.

Aware that many were comparing Le Pen to US President Donald Trump, Macron’s team recorded and aired his telephone conversation with former US President Barack Obama.

Interestingly, Macron is married to his former school teacher, 24 years his senior. He’s been a big favourite of French mainstream media. 

Opinion polls got the first round right. Predicting a Macron-Le Pen duel and for the second and final round most polls project him as the clear winner over Le Pen. And if he wins, Macron will be the youngest French leader in modern history.

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Donald Trump Administration Unveils Ambitious Tax Reform Plan

Donald Trump also wants to reduce the number of tax brackets to three from seven.

Washington:  President Donald Trump on Wednesday proposed slashing the US tax rate on corporate and pass-through business profits to 15 per cent from 35 per cent or more, while also offering tax cuts to average Americans in a rough outline of his tax policy goals.

A one-page summary of his proposals, released at a White House briefing, said Trump also wants to reduce the number of tax brackets to three from seven, double the standard deduction that Americans can claim on their tax returns and repeal the estate tax and alternative minimum tax.

Under US law, only Congress can make major tax law changes. Lawmakers initially greeted Trump’s plan as a starting point for further discussion on overhauling the tax code.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Chinese Court Convicts US Woman To Jail For Espionage, Orders Deportation

Sandy Phan-Gillis, who has Chinese ancestry and is a naturalised US citizen, was arrested in 2015.

Beijing:  A Chinese court on Tuesday sentenced a US citizen to three-years and six-months in prison for espionage but then ordered she be deported, her lawyer said, in a case that has added to US-China tension.

Sandy Phan-Gillis, who has Chinese ancestry and is a naturalised US citizen, was arrested in March 2015 while about to leave mainland China for the Chinese-ruled, former Portuguese colony of Macau, and had been held without charges since then.

She had plead guilty during a trial in the southwestern city of Nanning and was not planning to appeal, lawyer Shang Baojun told news agency Reuters.

“She will probably be exported to the US soon, but we do not know the exact date yet,” Mr Shang said, adding that she was being held in a police station in the meantime.

The government has not released details of the charges against Ms Phan-Gillis.

Mr Shang said that because the case touched upon ‘state secrets’, he could not reveal details of the ruling until the official verdict had been released, which was expected within the next five days.

Ms Phan-Gillis had been in regular contact with US officials while in detention, Mr Shang said.

The US Embassy in Beijing referred questions about the charges of espionage to Ms Phan-Gillis’ legal team.

“We remain concerned about Ms Phan-Gillis’ welfare and continue to follow her case closely,” embassy spokeswoman Mary Beth Polley told Reuters.

“We are in favour of any result that allows her to return home to her family soon,” Polley said, when asked about a possible Chinese deportation order.

Calls to the court went unanswered after work hours on Tuesday, and it was not possible to reach Ms Phan-Gillis for comment.

China’s definition of state secrets is very broad, encompassing everything from government directives to top leaders’ birthdays. Information can also be declared a state secret retroactively.

The arrest added to tension between China and the United States in the final months of former President Barack Obama’s administration, a relationship already strained by China’s assertiveness over its claims in the disputed South China Sea.

Despite criticising China on the campaign trail, US President Donald Mr Trump has recently warmed to it after a summit with President Xi Jinping in Florida in early April when Mr Trump said they had developed an ‘outstanding’ relationship.

In recent days, Mr Trump has praised Chinese efforts to press North Korea to give up its development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

(Reporting by Christian Shepherd and Michael Martina, Editing by Robert Birsel and Michael Perry)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Marine Le Pen Upstages Emmanuel Macron With French Factory Visit

Marine Le Pen upstaged Emmanuel Macron by making a surprise visit to an under-threat factory

Amiens:  French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen upstaged her rival Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday by making a surprise visit to an under-threat factory just as he was visiting the town where it is based.

Macron was in his hometown of Amiens in northern France to try to counter accusations he had made a complacent start to campaigning after he finished ahead of Le Pen in the first round of the election on Sunday.

But while Macron had arranged to meet workers from the Whirlpool domestic appliance factory without actually visiting the site, Le Pen turned up unannounced and posed for photographs with workers.

“Everyone knows what side Emmanuel Macron is on — he is on the side of the corporations,” Le Pen said.

“I am on the workers’ side, here in the car park, not in restaurants in Amiens.”

The factory operated by Whirlpool, a US multinational company, is threatened with outsourcing to Poland.

Macron, a 39-year-old former investment banker who created his own centrist movement, was to hold a rally later in the nearby city of Arras, a city in the northern rustbelt where Le Pen topped the first round of voting.

He drew criticism for what some saw as a triumphalist speech and then a celebratory dinner at a Paris bistro on Sunday.

Socialist Party boss Jean-Christophe Cambadelis told French radio: “He was smug. He wrongly thought that it was a done deal.”

Macron served as economy minister in the Socialist government before quitting in August to launch his presidential bid.

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Pope Francis To Boost Muslim Ties On High Security Egypt Trip

Controversy arose when Francis’s predecessor Benedict XVI’s polarising comments about Islam. (File Photo)

VATICAN CITY:  Pope Francis heads to Egypt Friday to bolster relations with Muslims and show solidarity with the largest Christian community in the Middle East following devastating attacks.

Security will be high for the Cairo visit after two bombings in Coptic churches earlier this month that killed 45 people, with the country currently observing a three-month state of emergency.

But the 80-year-old, who prefers face-to-face contact to pomp and circumstance, will shun armoured cars for a normal vehicle and electric pope mobile-style golf carts.

During the two-day trip, Francis will meet privately with the grand imam of Al Azhar mosque, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, an Islamic philosophy professor who visited the Vatican last year, easing a decade of tensions.

Relations were damaged under Francis’s predecessor Benedict XVI over a 2006 speech in which he was seen as linking Islam to violence and 2011 comments condemning an attack on a Coptic church that Al-Azhar denounced as meddling in Egypt’s affairs.

Al-Azhar University, viewed as Sunni Islam’s paramount seat of learning, is organising an international peace conference on Friday, where Francis will speak as a simple participant, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said.

Pilgrimage To Attack Site

The pope, who has made interfaith dialogue and reconciliation a leading theme of his pontificate, will be joined at the conference by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of the Orthodox world and a close ally.

The Argentine will meet with the country’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and attend a reception with 1,000 guests.

The president, criticised internationally for human rights abuses, has nonetheless shown a certain openness towards the minority Christian community at home since taking power in 2014 and was the first head of state to attend a Christmas mass in 2015.

The head of world’s 1.3 billion Catholics will round off the day with a private meeting with the Coptic pope, Tawadros II.

They will walk on foot together to the Coptic church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the heart of Cairo, which was hit by a bomb attack in December claimed by the ISIS that killed 29 people.

The attack was the deadliest targeting the Coptic community since the 2011 suicide bombing that killed 23 people in Alexandria.

On Saturday, the crowd-loving pontiff will don his pastoral hat for a mass and meetings with the country’s small Catholic community, estimated to number around 165,000.

‘Re-Establish Fraternal Ties’

“The pope wants to try to reestablish fraternal ties” with both Al-Azhar and Egypt, said Samir Khalil, a specialist in Islamic-Christian studies at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome.

Egypt’s Copts, who make up about 10 percent of the country’s population of 90 million, are the Middle East’s largest Christian minority and one of the oldest.

“Their situation has changed over the past 10 years under the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has begun inciting anti-Christian sentiment, said Khalil, who pointed out that identity papers by law have to specify religious beliefs.

Poorly represented in government, Copts say they are sidelined from many posts in the justice system, universities and the police.

They feel, a high-ranking official in the Vatican said, like “second-class citizens”.

However, while decades of interreligious dialogue among the religious “elite” has yet to bear fruit on the ground, “having dialogue at all is already a great step,” he said.

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Meningitis Outbreak In Nigeria Has Killed 813 People: Report

The West African nation in April launched a mass vaccination campaign. (Reuters Photo)

Abuja:  A meningitis outbreak in Nigeria has killed 813 people so far this year, the country’s health minister said, as Africa’s most populous country and aid organisations attempt to tackle the surge in infections.

The government on Wednesday approved a house-to-house search in northern Nigeria to identify those afflicted with meningitis for vaccination and treatment, Isaac Adewole told reporters after a cabinet meeting under vice president Yemi Osinbajo.

The West African nation in April launched a mass vaccination campaign as part of its emergency response to the outbreak in its northwestern states, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has said.

The NCDC said the infection killed 33 people in 2016.

More than 2,000 people died from an outbreak of the disease in Nigeria in 2009, with basic healthcare limited in rural parts of the country, where most people live on less than $2 a day, despite the country’s huge oil resources.

Meningitis is the inflammation of tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord which can be caused by viral or bacterial infections. It spreads mainly through kisses, sneezes, coughs and in close living quarters.

The NCDC is working with the World Health Organisation, the U.N’s Children’s Fund and Medecins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors Without Borders, to try to control the outbreak.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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US Moves THAAD Anti-Missile To South Korean Site, Sparking Protests

Seoul:  The U.S. military started moving parts of an anti-missile defence system to a deployment site in South Korea on Wednesday, triggering protests from villagers and criticism from China, amid tension over North Korea’s weapons development.

The top U.S. commander in the Asia-Pacific, Admiral Harry Harris, told the U.S. Congress that the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system would be operational “in coming days.”

The earlier-than-expected steps to deploy system were denounced both by China, and the frontrunner in South Korea’s presidential election on May 9.

South Korea’s defence ministry said elements of THAAD were moved to the deployment site, on what had been a golf course, about 250 km (155 miles) south of the capital, Seoul.

It said South Korea and the United States had been working to reached “early operational capability” and the battery was expected to be operational by the end of the year.

Harris, testifying before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, said THAAD “will be operational in the coming days.”

The United States and South Korea agreed last year to deploy the system to counter the threat of missile launches by North Korea. The Pentagon says the system is critical to defend South Korea and U.S. forces against North Korean missiles, and that that is its sole purpose.

But China says the system’s advanced radar can penetrate deep into its territory and undermine its security, while it will do little to deter the North.

“China strongly urges the United States and South Korea to stop actions that worsen regional tensions and harm China’s strategic security interests and cancel the deployment of the THAAD system and withdraw the equipment,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a briefing.

“China will resolutely take necessary steps to defend its interests,” Geng said, without elaborating.

China is North Korea’s sole major ally and its support is seen as crucial to U.S.-led efforts to rein in Pyongyang.

The United States began moving the first elements of the THAAD system to South Korea in March after North Korea tested four ballistic missiles. Seoul has accused China of discriminating against South Korean companies in China because of the deployment.

Moon Jae-in, a liberal politician expected to win South Korea’s election, has called for a delay in the deployment, saying the new administration should make a decision after gathering public opinion and more talks with Washington.

A spokesman for Moon said moving the parts to the site “ignored public opinion and due process” and demanded it be suspended.

Television footage showed military trailers carrying equipment, including what appeared to be launch canisters, to the battery site.

Protesters shouted and hurled water bottles at the vehicles over lines of police holding them back.

‘We Will Fight’

More than 10 protesters were injured, some of them with fractures, in clashes with police, Kim Jong-kyung, a leader of villagers opposing the deployment, told Reuters.

Kim said about 200 protesters rallied overnight and they would keep up their opposition.

“There’s still time for THAAD to be actually up and running so we will fight until equipment is withdrawn from the site and ask South Korea’s new government to reconsider,” Kim told Reuters.

A police official in the nearby town of Seongju said police had withdrawn from the area and were not aware of any injuries.

The United States and North Korea have stepped up warnings to each other in recent weeks over North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missiles in defiance of U.N. resolutions.

North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat is perhaps the most serious security challenge confronting U.S. President Donald Trump. He has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile.

North Korea says it needs the weapons to defend itself and has vowed to strike the United States and its Asian allies at the first sign of any attack on it.

The United States is sending the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group to waters off the Korean peninsula, where it will join the USS Michigan, a nuclear submarine that docked in South Korea on Tuesday. South Korea’s navy has said it will hold drills with the U.S. strike group.

Harris said the carrier was in the Phiippine Sea, within two-hours striking distance of North Korea “if called upon to do that”.

Washington has said all options are on the table, inludeding military ones, in dealing with North Korea, but officials have stressed that the current focus is on stepped-up sanctions, which are expected to be discussed at a U.N. Security Council meeting on Friday called by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

North Korea’s foreign ministry denounced the planned meeting, saying the United States was “not morally entitled” to force members states to impose sanctions on it.

“It is a wild dream for the U.S. to think of depriving the DPRK of its nuclear deterrent through military threat and sanctions. It is just like sweeping the sea with a broom,” it said.

DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North’s official name.

China’s envoy on North Korea, Wu Dawei, met his Japanese counterpart, Kenji Kanasugi, for talks in Tokyo and they agreed that they would “respond firmly” to any further North Korean provocation, Japan’s foreign ministry said.

“We are against anything that might lead to war or chaos,” Wu said.

KCNA said earlier leader Kim Jong Un had supervised the country’s “largest-ever” live-fire drill to mark Tuesday’s 85th founding anniversary of its military, with more than 300 large-calibre, self-propelled artillery pieces on its east coast.

There had been fears North Korea would mark the anniversary with its sixth nuclear test or a long-range missile launch.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Nicolas Sarkozy Camp Searches Possibility For Power Sharing With Macron

Earlier Nicolas Sarkozy said that he would be voting for centralist Emmanuel Macron. (Reuters)

Paris:  France’s centre-right party, seeking to rebound after the defeat of its presidential candidate, said on Wednesday it could share power with Emmanuel Macron if he is elected, as pollsters predict, on May 7.

Mr Macron, a 39-year-old centrist, is tipped to comfortably win a runoff vote against far-right leader Marine Le Pen, but the political movement he created a year ago faces a huge challenge in the follow-up legislative election in June.

With Mr Macron and his ‘En Marche!’ movement at risk of being in a minority in parliament, the centre-right party, The Republicans, hopes to secure enough National Assembly seats to demand a government role despite the defeat of its presidential contender Francois Fillon, eliminated in a first-round vote on April 23.

Francois Baroin, who served as a finance minister for former president Nicolas Sarkozy, on Wednesday publicly stated he was ready to work as prime minister in a ‘cohabitation’ arrangement with Mr Macron.

Mr Baroin, 51 and a rising star within The Republicans, said in an interview on CNews television, “I will be available to … head the government according to the will of the French people.”

Any power-sharing deal between Mr Macron and a right-wing prime minister, like that suggested by Mr Baroin, would likely impose big constraints on him in pursuing economic policies that seek to a balance state protection and pro-business reforms.

Before his exit, Mr Fillon derided Mr Macron’s stated aim of being neither left- nor right-wing, pointing to the ex-banker’s time as economy minister in the Socialist government of outgoing President Francois Hollande.

This judgment of Mr Macron is still strongly felt among many of the Mr Sarkozy-faction on the right-wing of The Republicans though others, loosely represented by more moderate ex-prime minister Alain Juppe, have suggested they may choose to join in a majority of support for Mr Macron.

Mr Baroin told CNews he would vote for Mr Macron on May 7 without hesitation but that he would not join in helping his campaign. He said he would throw his energy into campaigning for The Republicans in the June parliamentary election.

The last time France had a cohabitation arrangement between the Elysee and the government was from 1997 and 2002 when right-wing president Jacques Chirac had to work with a Socialist government under Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

The arrangement curbed Chirac’s day-to-day control over the direction of the economy, reducing him largely to looking after foreign policy and defence.

(Additional reporting by Emmanuel Jarry, Writing By Richard Balmforth, Editing by Brian Love)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Turkey Detains 1,000 In New Anti-Gulen Crackdown

Istanbul:  Turkey on Wednesday detained more than 1,000 alleged supporters of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, the biggest crackdown since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s victory in a referendum on ramping up his powers.

The dawn raids across the country to seek a total of over 3,000 suspects came just a week after Erdogan narrowly won public blessing for controversial changes to the constitution to create a presidential system.

They are the latest indication Turkey intends no let-up in the fight against its perceived enemies after the referendum, with fighter jets Tuesday pounding Kurdish militant targets in Iraq and northern Syria.

A total of 1,013 suspects have so far been detained in raids in all of Turkey’s 81 provinces, the official Anadolu news agency said.

Anadolu said 4,672 suspects were sought — of whom 1,448 are already in jail — meaning that a total of 3,224 arrest warrants were issued.

Turkish authorities blame Gulen for masterminding the July 2016 failed military coup that aimed to oust Erdogan from power but he denies the charges.

About 8,500 police officers were involved in the nationwide operation, Anadolu reported, adding that arrest warrants had been issued for 390 suspects in Istanbul alone.

Indicating that the numbers detained were set to rise, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the raids were continuing.

“It is an important step for the Turkish Republic,” he added.

The ‘Yes’ camp won 51.41 percent of the vote in the April 16 referendum but opponents claim the result would have been reversed in a fair poll.

Analysts have said that following the poll Erdogan faces a choice between confrontation and reconciliation with the nation deeply divided.

Turkey accuses the Hizmet (Service) movement Gulen leads of being a “terror organisation” although the group insists it is a peaceful organisation promoting moderate Islam.

The government has repeatedly asked the United States to extradite Gulen, who has been living in exile there since 1999.

About 47,000 people have already been arrested in Turkey under a nine-month state of emergency in place since the coup bid, a crackdown whose magnitude has raised alarm in the West.

The Turkish parliament just ahead of the referendum extended the state of emergency by another three months to July 19.

‘7,000 suspects wanted’

The Hurriyet newspaper reported that arrest warrants had been issued against a total of 7,000 suspects across Turkey, citing unidentified sources.

It said the simultaneous raids were carried out in cooperation between police and the National Intelligence Organisation (MIT).

The suspects are so-called “secret imams” of Gulen suspected of infiltrating themselves into the police or other state institutions, it reported.

Erdogan has repeatedly said he will wipe out the “virus” of Gulen from state institutions after the failed coup.

The vast operation targeted big cities such as Istanbul as well as Izmir in western Turkey and Konya in the Anatolian heartland.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim had hinted in a television interview this month that a new anti-Gulen crackdown has been in the pipeline.

“The network of its relationships has not been solved so far,” he said, adding that new evidence would provide the government with the opportunity in the fight against what Ankara calls “FETO” (Fethullah Terror Organisation).

“Things will take a different course. The details will be clear in the coming days.”

 ‘Deeply concerned’

Analysts have said Erdogan after the poll can choose between new confrontation or reconciliation with the West but in recent days tensions have risen further.

Turkish warplanes killed more than two dozen Kurdish fighters Tuesday in strikes in Syria and Iraq, angering the United States.

Ankara said it had carried out the strikes against “terrorist havens”, vowing to continue acting against groups it links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

In northeast Syria, strikes targeted the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) — who are leading the offensive against the Islamic State stronghold Raqa.

The US State Department said it was “deeply concerned” the strikes were conducted “without proper coordination either with the United States or the broader global coalition” against IS.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) voted Tuesday to reopen a monitoring probe into Turkey over rights concerns, sparking anger from Ankara.

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

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Humans Alter Earth's Chemistry From Beyond The Grave

It’s not only in life that humans leave their mark on Nature.

Vienna:  It’s not only in life that humans leave their mark on Nature. In death, our decomposing corpses alter the chemistry of precious soil, scientists warned on Wednesday.

Whether our bodies are buried or cremated, they leach iron, zinc, sulphur, calcium and phosphorus into ground that may later be used as farms, forests or parks.

They are essential nutrients, but human funerary practices mean they are being concentrated in cemeteries instead of being dispersed evenly throughout nature, according to new research.

This means that in some places the nutrients may be over-concentrated for optimal absorption by plants and creatures, while lacking in others.

Furthermore, human bodies also contain more sinister elements, such as mercury from dental fillings.

“Chemical traces of decomposed bodies can frequently be very well distinguished in soil,” said Ladislav Smejda of the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague, who took part in the unusual probe.

“These traces persist for a very long time, for centuries to millennia.”

The effects will become more pronounced as more and more dead bodies are laid to rest, Smejda said in Vienna, where he unveiled the research at a meeting of the European Geosciences Union.

“What we do today with our dead will affect the environment for a very, very long time,” he said.

“Maybe it is not such a problem in our current perspective but with an increasing population globally it might become a pressing problem in the future.”

Smejda and a team used X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy to analyse soil chemicals in graves and ash “scattering gardens”.

Pushing up daisies

Using animal carcasses, they also measured the theoretical impact of an ancient practice called “excarnation”, whereby the dead are left out in the open for nature to take its course.

In all three cases, the ground contained “significantly” higher concentrations of chemicals compared to the surrounds, Smejda said.

If there had been no cemeteries, human remains, like those of animals, would be distributed randomly for the nutrients they release to be reused “again and again, everywhere,” the researcher told AFP.

But concentrating them in certain places “is something that can be regarded as not natural. It’s a human impact, we are changing natural levels,” he said.

Now the question is: “Can we come up with a better idea (of) how to distribute these necessary elements across wider landscapes?” Smejda added.

“Certainly there is a potential to invent, to develop and to put into practice… new ways of human burial or new treatments that could be more environmentally friendly, more ecological.”

He conceded this was a “taboo” topic for many, with funerary customs deeply rooted in culture and religion.

“It’s a very complex matter and we are just at the start of this discussion, I think.”

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

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Study Reveals How Polluting Nanoparticles Get Into Blood And Damage Heart

Scientists till now were not sure how particles inhaled into lungs go on to affect heart health.

London:  Inhaled nanoparticles like those pumped out in vehicle exhausts can work their way through the lungs and into the bloodstream where they can raise the risk of heart attack and stroke, scientists said on Wednesday.

In experiments using harmless ultra-fine particles of gold, the scientists were able for the first time to track how such nanoparticles are breathed in, pass through the lungs and then gain access to the blood.

Most worryingly, the researchers said at a briefing in London, the nanoparticles tend to build up in damaged blood vessels of people who already suffer from coronary heart disease – the condition that causes heart attacks – and make it worse.

“There is no doubt that air pollution is a killer, and this study brings us a step closer to solving the mystery of how air pollution damages our cardiovascular health,” said Jeremy Pearson, a professor and associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation charity, which part-funded the study.

Experts have long known that air pollution carries serious health risks and can trigger fatal heart attacks and strokes. According to the World Health Organization, outdoor air pollution in both cities and rural areas was estimated to cause 3.0 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012.

But until now, scientists had not been sure how particles inhaled into the lungs go on to affect heart health. The new findings, published on Wednesday in the journal ACS Nano, build on previous evidence and show that particles in the air we breathe get into blood and are carried to many different parts of the body, including arteries, blood vessels and the heart

“If reactive particles like those in air pollution … reach susceptible areas of the body then even (a) small number of particles might have serious consequences,” said Mark Miller, a senior research scientist at the University of Edinburgh, who led the study.

Miller’s team used specialist techniques to track harmless gold nanoparticles breathed in by volunteers. They found the nanoparticles can migrate from the lungs into the bloodstream within 24 hours and are still detectable three months later.

The researchers also analysed surgically removed plaques from people at high risk of stroke and found that the nanoparticles tended to accumulate in the fatty plaques that grow inside blood vessels and cause heart attacks and strokes.

Nicholas Mills, a professor of cardiology who also worked on the study, said the findings showed the importance of cutting emissions and limiting peoples’ exposure to nanoparticles.

(Editing by Catherine Evans)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Pope Francis Urges Powerful 'To Act Humbly' In Surprise TED Talk

Pope Francis said he hoped technological innovation would not leave people behind. (File Photo)

Toronto:  Pope Francis made a surprise appearance at a TED talk conference on Tuesday, urging powerful leaders “to act humbly” and said he hoped technological innovation would not leave people behind.

The 18-minute video was filmed in Vatican City and broadcast to the audience at the annual TED 2017 conference in Vancouver.

“The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly,” said the pontiff, while seated at a desk.

“If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.”

The comments echoed Francis’ frequent themes to not ignore the plight of immigrants, the poor and other vulnerable people

Speaking in Italian with subtitles, Francis urged solidarity to overcome a “culture of waste” that had affected not only food but people cast aside by economic systems that rely increasingly on automation.

“How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion,” he said.

TED Talk lectures have grown in popularity, having been viewed cumulatively over 4.6 billion times since going online in 2006.

Other speakers slated to appear at the annual conference this week include tennis superstar Serena Williams and entrepreneur Elon Musk.

(Reporting by Amran Abocar, Editing by Michael Perry)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Donald Trump Looking To Lift America's Nature Preserves Protection

Trump Administration could roll back protections fixed conserving natural heritage in Antiquities Act.

Washington:  After moving to unstitch climate change rules, US President Donald Trump is turning his sights on America’s vast nature preserves, with a view to possibly lifting federal protections brought in over the past two decades.

On Wednesday, he is to sign an executive order reviewing decisions by predecessors Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton to designate public land a ‘national monument’ under a 1906 law known as the Antiquities Act.

The aim is to “give states and local communities a meaningful voice in the process,” said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose department oversees federal land use under the motto ‘Protecting America’s Great Outdoors and Powering Our Future’.

Mr Zinke said the outcome of the review was not pre-ordained. His department is to provide an interim report in 45 days then a fuller one in 120 days.

But it conceivably could roll back protections fixed under the Antiquities Act, brought in under president Theodore Roosevelt, keen on conserving America’s natural heritage, and set the scene for fierce legal challenges.

‘National monument’ land has come to be synonymous over the years with a bar to drilling for fossil fuels on public land, or other commercial activities.

While Republicans in Utah and other states are keen to lift protections they see as too expansive and undermining economic opportunities, environmental groups and Native Americans are deeply opposed.

In the past, areas presidents have tagged as ‘national monuments’ were later transformed by Congress into full-fledged National Parks, the Grand Canyon and Death Valley among them.

Since the Act came into force more than a century ago, only three presidents, all Republicans, did not use its powers:  Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H W Bush.

Mr Obama had millions of hectares (acres) classified under the Act during his presidency, including maritime zones, especially in the Pacific.

Under Mr Trump’s review, only ‘monuments’ of 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) or more will be examined.

A key area will be the Bears Ears National Monument, a 530,000-hectare (1.3-million-acre) zone in Utah Mr Obama proclaimed in 2016. 

Another will be the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument also in Utah, a spectacular tract of canyons, ridges and a river, designated by Mr Clinton in 1996.

The Republican senator for Utah, Orrin Hatch, has railed against the national monument decisions made in Washington, saying his state should have more say over how the land is protected.

In a Washington Post opinion piece, Mr Hatch said Mr Obama “ignored the best interests of Utah and cast aside the will of the people – all in favor of a unilateral approach meant to satisfy the demands of far-left interest groups.”

Other presidents, too, went too far Mr Hatch said, adding that Mr Trump “stands ready to undo the harm brought about by their overreach”.

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Trump Administration To Brief US Congress On North Korea

On Wednesday entire senate will leave for the White House to discuss the North Korea issue.

Washington:  US lawmakers want to leave briefings on North Korea on Wednesday with something many think has been absent in the Trump administration so far, a clear strategy for dealing with a major national security threat.

As a standoff escalated over the reclusive Asian nation’s development of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, President Donald Trump invited all 100 members of the Senate to attend the session with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

While administration officials typically travel to the Capitol building to brief lawmakers on national security issues, on Wednesday the entire Senate will hop on a bus to the White House where four top officials will meet with them simultaneously. The same four officials will then go to Capitol Hill to brief the entire House at 5 pm EDT (2100 GMT), a senior House aide said.

“I hope and expect that it is worth the time of the trip and that we’ll hear things we don’t know, and that we’ll come out of it better informed. We’ll see,” said Senator Chris Coons, a Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The meeting was set for one day after a North Korean holiday on Tuesday marking the 85th anniversary of the founding of its army. While North Korea has in the past staged nuclear or missile tests to mark the day, this year it conducted a major live-fire exercise.

It also comes as Mr Trump tries to put the best face on his first 100 days in office, a period in which the president signed a variety of executive orders to roll back Democratic policies but has been defined by an absence of any major legislative achievements.

Lawmakers, including some of Mr Trump’s fellow Republicans, also have said the early months of his presidency have been marked by a lack of communication with Congress, partly because the administration has been slow to fill key posts and partly because Trump has been slow to develop policy positions.

Although the White House has downplayed the importance of Saturday’s 100-day anniversary, Mr Trump will mark the day with a rally in Pennsylvania.

Laying Out Options

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Mr Tillerson and the other officials would talk about the US posture and activities, and that Mr Dunford “will lay out some of the military actions” and the Pentagon’s view of the situation.

Mr Trump has discussed North Korea with UN ambassadors, increased the US military presence in the region, and leaned on China to pressure Pyongyang. Mr Tillerson also will chair a UN Security Council meeting on Friday to discuss tougher sanctions, possibly including an oil embargo and punishing Chinese companies that do business with North Korea.

North Korea denounced the US actions.

“There is a saying that those who are fond of playing with fire are destined to perish in the flames. The same can be said of the US,” a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said in the statement.

Members of the Senate said they hoped the administration would seek to deal with Pyongyang through diplomacy, rather than the use of force.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said that if Mr Trump has “red line” on North Korea, he needs to make that clear.

“North Korea will never stop their ambitions to deliver a nuclear weapon to America until the cost of doing so is greater than the benefit. And if China and North Korea both believe that President Trump will never allow that to happen, then you have a chance to peacefully solve this,” he said.

Mr Graham and fellow Republican Senator John McCain, both defense hawks who have been Mr Trump critics, discussed North Korea with Mr Trump at dinner at the White House on Monday night and said they were impressed with his resolve.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland in Washington and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations, Editing by John Walcott and Lisa Shumaker)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Indian-American Avaneesh Krishnamoorthy Charged With Insider Trading

Avanees Krishnamoorthy allegedly made $48,000 in illicit profits through insider trading.

Washington:  An Indian-American man has been charged with insider trading in US by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Avaneesh Krishnamoorthy, a Vice President in the risk management department of Nomura Securities, a New York-based investment bank, allegedly used the confidential information of a private equity firm’s acquisition to conduct insider trading, the American Bazaar online reported on Wednesday.He was charged with one count of securities fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $5 million. According to the SEC’s complaint, Mr Krishnamoorthy made approximately $48,000 in illicit profits through insider trading. 

Federal prosecutors said Mr Krishnamoorthy learned through the course of his work that the private equity firm Golden Gate Capital intended to acquire the online analytics and marketing firm Neustar. 

Mr Krishnamoorthy then began trading in Neustar securities through two brokerages accounts that he allegedly kept hidden from his employer, which had been approached by Golden Gate Capital to finance the transaction, according to the report.

“As alleged in our complaint, Krishnamoorthy was entrusted with confidential, market-moving information by his employer and he misused it for personal gain,” said Andrew M. Calamari, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office.

Mr Krishnamoorthy was presented in Manhattan federal court before US Magistrate judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox on Tuesday. Acting Manhattan US Attorney Joon Kim said Mr Krishnamoorthy was charged with violating his duty to his company and trading on insider information.

“Avaneesh Krishnamoorthy allegedly exploited his access to information about a pending acquisition to purchase stock and options, making tens of thousands of dollars in illegal profit for himself,” she said.

This was the first criminal insider trading case filed by Ms Kim, who in March succeeded Indian-American Preet Bharara, who was sacked by new President Donald Trump as part of his administration reshuffling.

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Donald Trump To Hold Classified Briefing On North Korea

Donald Trump’s classified meeting on N. Korea comes amidst increasing standoff with Pyongyang.

Washington:  US President Donald Trump is set to hold a classified briefing for the entire Senate on the situation in North Korea amid mounting concern over its nuclear and missile tests. Mr Trump’s classified briefing to Senators along with his other top officials including National Security Advisor and the Defence Secretary comes amidst increasing standoff with Pyongyang.

The White House, meanwhile, insisted that the North Korean issue could be resolved through diplomatic efforts.

“Obviously, the more that we can solve this diplomatically and continue to apply pressure on China and other countries to use the political and economic tools that they have to achieve a goal in stabilisation in the region, but also to tamp down the threat that North Korea faces, I think that is something that we all share,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.

Mr Spicer said the Senators would be briefed by four top officials of the administration.

“There are four briefers that are coming up to talk about the situation in North Korea. This is a Senate-led meeting that they are getting, those four briefers will share to them the current situation in North Korea,” he said.

Senator Jim Inhofe, senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday said that North Korea poses a most imminent threat to the US.

Meanwhile, Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Michigan (SSGN 727) arrived in Busan, South Korea.

The Pentagon described it as a routine visit. USS Michigan is one of four Ohio-class guided-missile submarines.

The guided-missile submarines provide the Navy with unprecedented strike and special operation mission capabilities from a stealthy, clandestine platform.

Armed with tactical missiles and equipped with superior communications capabilities, guided-missile submarines are capable of launching missile strikes and supporting Special Operation Forces (SOF) missions.

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Meet The Trumps: The White House Family Business

New York:  Donald Trump spent his life running a family firm and the White House is no exception: the first 100 days have given his adult children an unprecedented role even if the first lady lives in the shadows.

Here is a look at the president’s tight-knit, wealthy celebrity clan, who with the arguable exception of his third wife appear comfortable in the spotlight and content to defy critics’ outrage about nepotism.

Gatekeepers Ivanka and Jared

Trump’s 35-year-old daughter Ivanka, a mother-of-three and ex model turned-businesswoman who reportedly has some Democratic friends is reputedly Trump’s favorite child, and the woman most often seen at his side.

An unpaid adviser with an office in the West Wing, who with husband Jared Kushner still has investments worth up to $740 million, Ivanka is a routine fixture at meetings with visiting heads of state.

To many she is the de facto first lady, taking on duties traditionally carried out by a wife from dialing up the International Space Station, to accompanying the Canadian prime minister to Broadway or attending the G20 in Berlin, provoking groans for defending her father.

She does all this looking immaculate in a parade of designer frocks, and posting glossy photographs of her family and White House moments to her 3.4 million Instagram followers.

The US press often portrays her and Jared as moderating influences over a president hot to temper, but there has been little evidence that their assumed progressive views have tempered policy decisions.

Sales of her clothing line, which she ran before moving to Washington, soared last year, but the brand was dumped by some department stores under pressure from activists demanding a boycott of Trump products.

Jared, 36, is one of the most powerful men in Washington, a “special advisor” with a widening portfolio of responsibilities spanning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, America’s opioid epidemic and extending to a tour of Iraq before the secretary of state.

His widening role has been accompanied by reports of bitter infighting with right-wing ideologue and chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Orthodox Jewish and the grandson of Holocaust survivors, Kushner has no prior experience other than discretion, loyalty, running the family’s real estate business and publishing a New York magazine

Home guard Don Jr. and Eric

Unlike sister Ivanka who stepped down from the family business, Trump’s two eldest sons Don Jr. and Eric stayed behind in New York and run the Trump Organization in their father’s absence.

Technically not supposed to discuss business with their father, his refusal to divest completely from the sprawling group has been slammed by ethics experts. Both sons are happy to engage with the media.

Father of five Don Jr., 39, is thought to harbor political ambitions of his own. Eric, 33, has given a slew of interviews, suggesting that Ivanka influenced the missile strikes on Syria, calling nepotism a “factor of life” and standing by his father’s predilection for golf.

First lady who?

Melania, a 47-year-old former model from Slovenia and Trump’s third wife, is the first foreign-born first lady in two centuries.

Known for a fondness for European designer clothes, nude photo shoots in the past and taking a back seat, Melania lives in New York with 11-year-old son Barron and makes only fleeting public appearances.

Officially moving into the White House this summer at the end of the school year, she is considered a reluctant first lady who has been criticized for plagiarizing Michelle Obama and for her heavy accent.

More than half a million people signed a petition demanding she move straight to Washington or foot herself the bill for the $127,000-$146,000 a day security costs of staying behind in New York.

She settled a lawsuit with the Daily Mail that alleged she worked as an escort in the 1990s. She was most recently in the headlines for nudging her husband into raising his arm for the national anthem at the Easter egg roll.

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

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Theresa May Hosts EU Leaders As Brexit Positions Harden

Theresa May is seeking to shore up her mandate for the Brexit talks by calling a snap election

London:  British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday holds her first talks with key EU Brexit negotiators, as the bloc hardens its position ahead of a summit to lay down its “red lines”.

May hosts European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and chief negotiator Michel Barnier at Downing Street for the first face-to-face talks since her historic triggering of the two-year withdrawal process.

The encounter comes as the EU has toughened its strategy, making new demands over financial services, immigration and the bills Britain must settle before ending its 44-year-old membership in the bloc.

The latest draft negotiating guidelines, agreed on Monday by Barnier and European diplomats, point to months of difficult talks ahead as the EU seeks to ensure Britain does not get a better deal outside the bloc than inside.

According to the document, seen by AFP, the other 27 EU countries will seek to hold Britain liable for the bloc’s costs for at least a year after it leaves in 2019 — longer than was previously proposed.

Britain will also be required to give EU citizens permanent residency after living there for five years, in a challenge for the government, which has vowed to limit immigration.

And the guidelines recommend that Britain’s dominant finance industry will not necessarily be tied to any future trade deal with the EU and that it must also stick to the bloc’s rules if it wants easy access to EU markets.

On the other side, May is seeking to shore up her mandate for the Brexit talks by calling a snap election for June 8, with polls suggesting her Conservatives will return with an increased majority.

She has committed to pulling Britain out of Europe’s single market to end free movement of EU citizens into Britain, but says she wants to form a new partnership with the bloc.

‘Great goodwill’

May’s spokesman said the visits show that Britain “will be approaching the negotiations in a constructive manner and with great goodwill”.

But Nina Schick, associate director at advisory firm Hanbury Strategy, told AFP there was in a sense in Britain of “at best optimism, at worst just not understanding where the EU side is coming from.”

The leaders of the other 27 EU nations will meet on April 29 to set down the bloc’s red lines, though the talks will not begin until June.

Schick, who works with the Open Europe initiative, said that the tougher guidelines “are not really a surprise” and that both sides were likely to “reiterate their positions” at the Downing Street talks.

May has already held talks with senior EU figures, including European Parliament President Antonio Tajani and European Council chief Donald Tusk, who visited Downing Street on April 6.

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

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French Police Arrests 10 Over 2015 Paris Supermarket Attacks

Hyper cacher kosher supermarket (Paris) Attack: 4 hostages were killed in January 2015. (Reuters)

Paris:  French police are questioning 10 people on suspicion of supplying weapons to a terrorist who attacked a Jewish deli in Paris in January 2015, killing four Jewish hostages, police sources said on Wednesday.

Amedy Coulibaly staged the attack on the kosher supermarket in eastern Paris, two days after two other gunmen stormed into the Paris offices of the satirical journal Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people, most of them cartoonists and journalists.

Coulibaly was killed by French security forces after he planted explosives at the Paris deli during a police siege. The two other gunmen were killed after they took refuge in a print works.

The source said police, in their questioning, were looking at possible links between the attacks and people in Belgium.

Shortly after the attacks in January 2015, Belgian authorities detained one person for arms dealing and said they were investigating whether he had supplied Coulibaly with weapons to carry out the attack.

(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry, Writing by Richard Balmforth, Editing by Catherine Evans)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Indian Companies In UK See Surge In Growth Post-Brexit: Report

London:  As many as 800 Indian companies in the UK have generated 47.5 billion pounds in combined revenues last year and contributed significantly to post-Brexit Britain’s economic growth, according to a new report.

The ‘India meets Britain Tracker 2017’, released annually by professional services major Grant Thornton in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), have found that Indian companies employ around 110,000 employees in the UK and last year it had a combined capital expenditure of 4.25 billion pounds.

“With around 800 Indian companies now operating in the UK, it is clear the UK remains a highly attractive destination for Indian investors. The Modi government’s pro- business agenda is creating the right environment for Indian businesses to pursue and realise growth at home and overseas,” said Anuj Chande, Head of South Asia Group at Grant Thornton UK LLP.

With continued political stability and leadership on its reform programme, India is poised for significant economic growth and prosperity, Mr Chande said.

“Whilst it is still too early to predict what impact Brexit will have on the UK’s attractiveness as an investment destination for Indian companies, the many advantages the UK can offer are not set to disappear,” he said.

The UK government is also clearly keen to strengthen the UK’s ties with India and since the Brexit vote, a number of UK political representatives, including Prime Minister Theresa May, have made various visits to India with the hope that Brexit will open up a new free trade deal between the two countries, Mr Chande said.

The Tracker highlights 55 of the fastest-growing Indian companies in the UK, as well as the top Indian employers, and provides insight into the evolving scale, business activities, locations and performance of the Indian-owned companies making the biggest impact in the UK.

To be included in the Tracker, now in its fourth year, Indian corporates must have a minimum two-year track record in the UK, turnover of more than 5 million pounds and year-on-year revenue growth of at least 10 per cent, based on the latest published accounts filed as at February 28, 2017.

Datamatics Infotech Limited topped this year’s list with a growth rate of 103 per cent, while overall companies from the technology and telecoms, and pharmaceuticals and chemicals sectors made up 31 per cent and 24 per cent of the list respectively.

These are the two key sectors where Indian businesses are continuing to find growth opportunities by diversifying into new spheres of activity, the report found.

The business services sector entered the top three for the first time with 11 per cent, up from 6 per cent in 2016 and just 3 per cent in 2015.

Shuchita Sonalika, Director and Head of CII UK, said, “The report shows that Indian companies continue to strengthen their economic impact in the UK. While IT and telecom sector retains the largest composition, we are seeing greater influence of pharmaceuticals, business services, financial services, engineering, and energy sectors.”

“The report identifies 4.25 billion pounds of new investment last year by the Indian companies, and further jobs being created as part of their continued investment programmes. Given that the report only tracks companies set up as subsidiaries, not branches, we believe the employment numbers are even higher than 110,000,0,” Sonalika said.

Among the other Indian firms listed in the Tracker include Ksk Power Ventur Plc, ranked second with a 90 per cent growth rate, and Bharti Airtel (UK) Ltd, ranked third with 84 per cent growth.

Of the 55 that made the fastest-growing list, 23 are new entrants while 32 featured in last year’s list.

Just under half the companies included in this year’s tracker recorded a 25 per cent growth rate or above.

Mr Chande, however, cautioned that while the 2017 Tracker shows a continuing expansion of Indian companies’ footprint in the UK, the UK must not take their presence for granted.

“In the years ahead, as the Indian economy develops to become one of the largest and most powerful in the world, the opportunities to boost investment into the UK will grow,” Mr Chande said.

To realise these opportunities the UK must ensure that, as it attends to its relationship with the wider world post-Brexit, it protects and promotes the factors that make it such an attractive destination for Indian investment.

The UK and India have much to offer each other and both the countries should commit to re-forging their historic relationship for a prosperous future, he said.

London continues to strengthen its dominance as the leading destination for Indian investment in the UK.

Of the fastest-growing Indian companies, 44 per cent are now based in the British capital, up from 39 per cent last year and 25 per cent in 2015.

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French Intelligence Blames Syrian Regime For 'Chemical Attack'

French intelligence services blames Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for chemical attack

Paris:  A report by French intelligence services blames Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for a suspected chemical attack in rebel-held Syria that killed 87 people, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Wednesday.

He said the analysis of samples taken at the scene of the April 4 attack in Khan Sheikhun showed “there is no doubt that sarin gas was used”.

“There is also no doubt about the responsibility of the Syrian regime given the way that the sarin used was produced,” Ayrault told journalists after presenting a report compiled by French intelligence services.

“This (production) method bears the regime’s hallmarks and allows us to determine its responsibility for this attack,” he said.

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

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Japanese man lives above public toilet for three years

Well they do say that home is where your heart is and for one Japanese man it was above a public toilet in Usuki, south-western Japan. We hear news stories regularly about the difficulty for young people here in the UK to find a home that they can afford. Homelessness apparently is not confined to any particular country it would seem, Japan is not immune either and it is not the only developed country where homelessness and poverty have led to unusual living conditions. In 2013, a Chinese woman was found to have lived in a hole in the ground in Beijing for 20 years, using the toilets at a nearby park for water and washing facilities.

The enterprising man was discovered by an electrician who was carrying out some repair work and it seems that he discovered this nice “hidey hole” when he saw another person go into it and ended up living there with the person for a time. His newly found companion left, but Takashi Yamanouchi continued to live there. Following on from his arrest, 54 year old Yamanouchi told police that he had left his home 10 years ago and drifted from place to place until making his way to Oita.

Getting into his “new” abode was a bit tricky as he had to climb on top of the on top of the toilet stalls, before squeezing through a maintenance hatch. An employee of the local authority is said to have gone along with the police and reported that it was really neat and tidy up there. Included with his clothing, there was a gas stove and electric heater, was that what the electrician was investigating perhaps, an unusual amount of electricity being consumed by a couple of fluorescent tubes! However, that was not all that they found, no they found that his attic was also full of over 500 plastic bottles of both the two litre and 500 millilitre variety, all of which were neatly organized and full of his urine.

There is no suggestion that Mr Yamanouchi was peeping on unsuspecting members of the public going about their natural functions, but Usuki authorities in Japan have carried out a search of all of their toilet facilities following the eviction of Mr Yamanouchi, and have now reassured the public that they are free of interlopers.

Although he was very careful, it was only a matter of time before he would have been found out. However, now faced with trespassing charges, the question remains how he will be dealt with. A fine would seem pointless and prison would probably be an improvement. Would a way to treat this be to reconsider the old Edo era punishment of face tattooing? We had no idea what this was, and we suspect most people in Japan do not either, this was something that was handed down to perpetrators of relatively minor crimes like theft and burglary and consisted of a tattoo right in the centre of the perpetrator’s forehead.

Now there is something for our justice secretary to think about maybe, no, oh all right then!


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Thai Media Rebuked Over Facebook Live Of Child Murder

A man killed his infant daughter in a Facebook Live video on Monday

Bangkok:  Thai media came under fire Wednesday for publishing images of a man killing his infant daughter in a Facebook Live video, a grim case that sparked outrage and raised fears of copycat killings.

The video, filmed Monday on the southern resort island of Phuket, showed Wuttisan Wongtalay hang his 11-month daughter from an abandoned building before taking his own life, according to police in charge of the case.

The footage was online for hours before it was removed on Tuesday, prompting cries for Facebook to move more quickly to take down clips of grisly crimes and killings.

At least one major Thai daily also printed images of the suicide on its front page Tuesday.

A media body has since slammed some news outlets, which it said showed graphic and “inappropriate” images of the crime.

“The News Broadcasting Council of Thailand received complaints about reporting on a man who killed his child and himself via Facebook Live,” the organisation said in a statement.

“Those reports were inappropriate,” it added, warning channels and newspapers against giving graphic coverage to similar crimes because they “may lead to copycats with the understanding that those actions will draw attention.”

Police said they believe the killing was motivated by a “family feud” and that the father was unhappy with his wife’s child from another relationship.

“His wife has a boy aged about four years old from her previous relationship,” Jullaus Suvannin, the case officer, told AFP.

In a statement late Tuesday Facebook described the incident as “appalling”.

“There is absolutely no place for content of this kind on Facebook and it has now been removed,” the social network told AFP.

The killing was only the latest grisly crime to be published on the social network.

Last week Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg vowed to work to keep the site’s live-streaming function from being used to propagate harrowing acts after a man in the US state of Ohio broadcast footage of himself shooting a stranger dead.

The killer went on to fatally shoot himself after a massive manhunt and police chase.

During a speech last Wednesday Zuckerberg conceded that Facebook had “a lot of work” to do on the issue.

“We are going to work on building common ground, not just getting more opinions out there,” he added.

Facebook already has a 24-hour team of moderators who decide whether to remove content that is reported to them. Suicides and crimes are prioritised.

But the network says they are limited by how quickly they can respond to the sheer volume of content posted online each day.

They add that there have been instances where reported videos of a suicide attempt have resulted in a person being saved by local law enforcement, including such a case in Thailand in January.

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

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'Used To It': Ivanka Trump Faces Boos, Groans With Applause At Berlin

Berlin:  Ivanka Trump was alternately applauded, booed and prodded during her first high-profile excursion as an emissary for her father’s White House, while participating in a prestigious Berlin panel on women’s issues Tuesday afternoon.

The trip, to the international W20 summit on women’s entrepreneurship, was an illustration of both the power and the complexity of that role: The audience clapped for Ivanka Trump’s stated support of issues such as paid family leave and increased access to child care, but some jeered or groaned at mentions of the president she was there for. Others were hoping for clarification on what, nearly 100 days into the Trump administration, Ivanka’s advocacy would look like.

“You’re the first daughter of the United States and you’re also an assistant to the president,” said panel moderator Miriam Meckel, the editor in chief of the German publication WirtschaftsWoche, in her opening question to Trump. “The German audience is not that familiar with the concept of a first daughter. I’d like to ask you, what is your role? And who are you representing – your father, as president of the United States, the American people or your business?”

“Certainly not the latter,” Trump responded, adding, “I’m rather unfamiliar with this role as well, as it is quite new to me.” She remained poised throughout the exchange, explaining that she was “listening and learning” and that she hoped that knowledge would help her effect “incremental, positive change.”

It was a more pointed line of inquiry than Meckel had asked any of the other women on the panel, which included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland. But Trump had come to the summit with more to prove.

When Merkel visited the White House in March, some critics had thought it inappropriate that the elected chancellor was seated next to the president’s daughter. But Merkel herself was apparently unbothered. She and Ivanka Trump realized they shared interests in women’s entrepreneurial issues, her office later said, and extended the younger Trump a personal invitation to participate in the panel.

In the days before Ivanka’s Trump’s arrival, German newspapers parsed the meaning of her visit, wondering if Merkel had found in Ivanka – perceived as levelheaded and moderating – more palatable diplomatic inroads than with President Donald Trump. “How powerful will Ivanka Trump become?” wondered one newspaper headline.

Another simply ran a picture of Ivanka, captioned with the phrase, “First Whisperer.”

In the audience, before the panel, the specter of HBO’s John Oliver ran through the Intercontinental’s ballroom, where the panel was being held: the late-night host had dedicated a segment to worrying about nepotism and the power held by Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner.

Ivanka Trump has become a subject of wide interest and wider speculation. She has never expressly disagreed with her father’s policies in public, but she says that she has done so in private. She has been a vocal supporter of various family-friendly policies, but it’s been unclear what that support would look like in practice. It’s been difficult to tell how much Ivanka planned to blaze her own policy paths, and how much she would be a spokeswoman for her father’s policy goals.

The Tuesday panel, as one American delegate to the W20 put it, had the potential to be “her global coming-out party on a serious level.”

The panel covered a wide array of issues. Trump said that she was concerned about a shortage in mentors for young businesswomen and about the digital divide that prevented women in developing countries from accessing the technology necessary to do business in a modern world. At one point, the moderator asked panelists whether they considered themselves feminists, and while Merkel demured, saying she wasn’t sure whether she fit the title, Trump proudly raised her hand, and spoke of the fact that people in hiring positions at the White House were predominantly women. (The president’s Cabinet, though, is populated almost entirely by men.)
But it was mention of the chief occupant of the White House that ultimately drew consternation from audience members:

“My father has been a tremendous champion of supporting families,” she told the moderator.

Several audience members in the ballroom of the Intercontinental Hotel began to audibly groan and hiss, prompting Meckel to speak over the noise: “You hear the reaction from the audience,” she said. “Some attitudes toward women that your father has displayed might leave one questioning whether he’s such an empowerer of women.”
Ivanka responded that she could speak about her father’s support for women “as a daughter,” saying in her household, there were never barriers or expectations based on gender.

After the panel, she answered questions from a cluster of reporters, including a few on whether she thought the moderator had questioned her more harshly than the other panelists.

“I’m used to it,” Trump said, smiling. She said that she thought it was important for people to learn to disagree in respectful ways, which is what she thought had happened at the conference. She spoke excitedly about an international fund that had been discussed during the panel – one that would provide female business owners access to capital, another issue about which she feels passionate.

After she left the hotel, she toured a vocational training center, stopping to greet and ask the names of each student, admiring their work, pretending it was her fault when hot beverage machine they’d built seemed to malfunction.

“I should have pressed ‘coffee,'” she apologized. “I threw it a curveball by pressing ‘hot chocolate.'”

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

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Marissa Mayer's Yahoo Stake Is Worth $186 Million Ahead Of Verizon Sale

Marissa Mayer’s Yahoo shares, stock options and restricted stock units were worth $186 million

As Yahoo nears its much-delayed vote on June 8 over the sale of its Internet business to Verizon, the company released its definitive proxy statement Monday, which spelled out the deal for shareholders. But the filing also served as an eye-popping reminder of the hefty stock compensation its CEO, Marissa Mayer, has amassed during her tumultuous tenure at the faded Internet pioneer.

The number was made even more substantial by its release on the date Yahoo’s stock closed near its 52-week high. As the New York Times and others reported, Mayer’s Yahoo shares, stock options and restricted stock units were worth $186 million as of Monday, according to data in the filing and based on Yahoo’s Monday closing price of $48.15 a share, well higher than the five-day average following the deal’s announcement last summer the company used in its calculation.

Yet while there is little question Mayer’s equity compensation at Yahoo has been hefty, particularly given her unsuccessful efforts to turn around the struggling Internet giant, characterizing the $186 million as special terms Mayer is getting as a result of the sale is not correct, said John Roe, head of ISS Analytics, part of influential proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services. Such numbers have also been tallied before, putting her total in cash and equity compensation during her tenure north of $200 million. (The $186 million tally does not include salary and bonuses she has received, or stock she has sold.)

“She is walking away with a tremendous sum,” Roe said in an interview. “But the sum is tremendous not because of a sweetheart arrangement in the transaction, but because of the value the counterparty is willing to pay for Yahoo.” Since Mayer took over Yahoo in 2012, shares in the company have risen 208 percent, thanks in large part to an increase in the value of its investments in Asia rather than the performance of the company’s core business. And since Verizon announced its deal last July, shares have risen some 25 percent.

According to company filings, Mayer holds $77 million in shares outright that she would have access to whether a sale occurred or not. Another $84 million in stock options, Roe pointed out, have already vested, meaning Mayer has the ability to exercise them and they would not be accelerated, according to company filings released in March and back in 2015.

Just $25 million – if one can put “just” in front of a number of that size – is part of the “golden parachute” terms that would accelerate Mayer’s restricted stock units in the event of a sale and her departure from the company. (Roe notes the number of those units will go down slightly each month as more vest; all numbers are based on the closing value of Monday’s share price, at $48.15.) Mayer is also in line to receive about $3 million in cash payments and benefits if she leaves the company under the terms of the agreements.

Whether that will happen after the deal goes through is not clear. The company has announced a new CEO for the remaining portion of Yahoo that will not be sold to Verizon. And though reports have pointed to her exit, Mayer has said only that “for me personally, I’m planning to stay. I love Yahoo, and I believe in all of you. It’s important to me to see Yahoo into its next chapter.” A Yahoo spokesman declined to comment further on the company’s leadership or Mayer’s compensation, beyond the numbers in the proxy.

Still, $186 million is a big number by any measure, however much Mayer may already be vested. Yet it could have been even larger: In March, the company said it would not award Mayer her cash bonus for 2016 and accepted her offer to forgo her annual equity award, a punishment for her team’s handling of epic data breaches in 2014 the board said members of the executive team and legal and IT staff “did not properly comprehend or investigate, and therefore failed to act sufficiently upon.” Mayer’s pay cut was expected to be at least $12 million.

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

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Forget Flying Cars. Google's Sergey Brin Secretly Builds An Airship

Larry Page has his flying cars. Sergey Brin shall have an airship.

Brin, the Google co-founder, has secretly been building a massive airship inside of Hangar 2 at the NASA Ames Research Center, according to four people with knowledge of the project. It’s unclear whether the craft, which looks like a zeppelin, is a hobby or something Brin hopes to turn into a business. “Sorry, I don’t have anything to say about this topic right now,” Brin wrote in an email.

The people familiar with the project said Brin has long been fascinated by airships. His interest in the crafts started when Brin would visit Ames, which is located next to Google parent Alphabet Inc.’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. In the 1930s, Ames was home to the USS Macon, a huge airship built by the U.S. Navy. About three years ago, Brin decided to build one of his own after ogling old photos of the Macon.

In 2015, Google unit Planetary Ventures took over the large hangars at Ames from NASA and turned them into laboratories for the company. Brin’s airship, which isn’t an Alphabet project, is already taking shape inside one. Engineers have constructed a metal skeleton of the craft, and it fills up much of the enormous hangar.

Engineers have constructed a metal skeleton of the craft, which fills up much of the huge hangar. (File)

Alan Weston, the former director of programs at NASA Ames, is leading Brin’s airship project, according to the people, who asked not to be named discussing the secretive plans. Weston didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Weston has a background befitting such an unusual enterprise.

Born to Australian parents, Weston spent some of his youth in Turkey and then ended up at the University of Oxford. There he became a key member of the Dangerous Sports Club – a group of very intelligent risk-takers that formed in the early 1970s and did things such as catapult people across fields into nets.

Members of the club are credited with inventing the modern form of bungee jumping. Weston, for example, performed one of the first bungee jumps by hurling himself off California’s Golden Gate Bridge and then eluded the authorities waiting to capture him on shore. He also hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa and then attempted to hang-glide down, only to crash and hurt his ankle in the process.

sergey brin bloomberg

Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, has secretly been building a massive airship at a NASA hangar

Years later, Weston joined the Air Force and did engineering work as part of the U.S. government’s Strategic Defense Initiative – known more broadly as the Star Wars missile defense system. In 1989, Weston oversaw one of the first tests of Star Wars, which aimed to destroy incoming Russian missiles midair with weapons fired from space.

Following his stint at the Air Force, Weston joined NASA and worked on a wide number of projects, including the development of a low-cost lunar lander.

In a radio interview in 2013, Weston described plans for an airship that could be used to haul cargo. The idea is that airships could be more fuel-efficient than planes and could carry loads directly to where they’re needed, rather than to transport centers like airports or shipping stations.

“New airship technologies have the promise to reduce the cost of moving things per ton-mile by up to an order of magnitude,” Weston said in the interview. “It depends on the size of the airship. A larger airship can reduce costs a lot more than a smaller ship, but there’s design of a class of vehicles that can lift up to 500 tons that could be actually more fuel-efficient than even a truck.”

He went on to describe a prototype he was considering of a helium-based craft that appeared to breathe. “And so the way that works is that the helium in the main envelope is taken and stored in bags inside the airship at a slightly higher pressure,” he said. “As you do that, air is taken in from the outside into essentially like lungs that are attached in the side of the vehicle. So the analogy of breathing is a good one. And the overall lift of the vehicle is equal to the weight of the air that is being displaced by the helium. And as you change that, you can control the amount of buoyancy that the vehicle has.”

This technique, according to Weston, would allow the airship to carry 500 tons without the need for a ballast. After being contacted about the airship, Weston changed his profile on LinkedIn to list his current job as chief executive officer of “Ltare.” He then removed the post.

There have been many attempts to build airships of this type in recent years. It’s fitting for such a project to take place in Silicon Valley, which seems to have entered a steampunk phase, as people race to build things ranging from flying cars to tiny reusable rockets.

Brin’s airship is separate from a freight project called Calcifer that was shelved by Google X, the company’s experimental research lab, in 2014.

Alphabet CEO Page, Brin’s Google co-founder, has funded at least two secretive flying-car projects – startups Kitty Hawk and Zee.Aero, also separate from Alphabet. Page has begun to take the wraps off one of these efforts – on Monday, Kitty Hawk released a video showing one of its all-electric vehicles taking off and soaring over a lake with the driver perched on top.–With assistance from Mark Bergen.

(To contact the author of this story: Ashlee Vance in Palo Alto at To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at Alistair Barr)

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

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The Age Of Flying Cars Is Here, Silicon Valley Promises

The ride-sharing company Uber set ambitious goals Tuesday to create a network of flying taxis in Dubai and the Dallas area by the year 2020.

At a summit in Dallas Tuesday, company executives outlined plans to develop their own electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing aircraft, or VTOLs, that would use small landing pads called “vertiports.”

“It’s possible because we’re radically changing the type of aircraft,” Jeff Holden, chief product officer at Uber Technologies, said at the summit. “This is why we’re so bullish. … We just want to usher it in as fast as possible because we all want to live in this world.”

A futuristic fantasy for many, that world may now be closer to reality. (To wit, a remarkable series of paintings that depicted what people around the year 1900 thought France would look like in the year 2000.)

Still, flying cars face a number of logistical, technical and regulatory obstacles: Much as in the development of electric planes, battery limitations place boundaries on the duration of a flight in an all-electric flying car. But those hurdles have not stopped Uber and other Silicon Valley tech companies from launching aggressive initiatives to develop flying vehicles.

Uber, the ride-sharing company that in recent months has faced its share of lawsuits and scandals, published a white paper about “on-demand aviation” last fall, and earlier this year, the company hired longtime NASA aircraft engineer Mark Moore to help it develop flying cars.

Eventually, the company, which is also developing self-driving cars, thinks it can get the cost for a trip in an Uber flying taxi down to an ambitious $1.32 per passenger mile, with the overall goal of making it “economically irrational” to drive a car on the ground, Holden said Tuesday.

Uber’s announcement Tuesday came on the heels of another flying car earning its wings this week.

Kitty Hawk – a company backed by Larry Page, the Google co-founder and Alphabet Inc. chief executive – debuted its long-secret “Kitty Hawk Flyer” in a demonstration video released Monday.

Video Caption: Kitty Hawk – a company backed by Larry Page, the Google co-founder and Alphabet Inc. chief executive – debuted its long-secret “Kitty Hawk Flyer” in a demonstration video. (Kitty Hawk)

“Maybe you could bring the boat over,” one woman tells another casually in the video, as she extends a last-minute dinner invitation.

“I have something better in mind,” the friend says with a small laugh, promising to arrive in two minutes.

How? “It’s a surprise,” she says. “You’ll have to wait and see!”

The surprise, as it turns out, is a prototype of the Kitty Hawk Flyer – a contraption that, alas, looks far less like anything from “The Jetsons” and more like the amalgam of a Jet Ski, a motorcycle arcade game and a giant drone. For about 30 seconds the woman is shown zipping across the lake on the single-seater vehicle, hovering close to the surface of the water. She touches down on the lake next to her friends’ boat, to cheers and hugs.

There’s good reason for that scenario: So far, the Kitty Hawk Flyer is only meant to be flown for recreational purposes in “uncongested areas” in the United States, specifically over fresh water, according to the company’s website. So unless you happen to live in a lakeside property where you need to cross the water rapidly for impromptu dinner gatherings, the utility of the Flyer seems rather limited for now.

That didn’t stop the company’s leaders, including Kitty Hawk chief executive Sebastian Thrun, from promising this was a revolution in “personal transportation.”

“This is clearly just the beginning of what will one day be possible with personal flight,” Thrun said in a statement to The Washington Post. “Safety is, and always will be, our first priority. I dream of a day when anyone – not just highly trained pilots – can safely operate a flying vehicle and experience the excitement that we’re aiming for with Kitty Hawk.”

Flying car prototypes that other companies have been rolled out so far, however, have been underwhelming or untenable for the majority of the population.

Last year, the Federal Aviation Administration granted an exemption to the Terrafugia Transition to be classified as a “light sport aircraft,” marking the first step toward legalizing commercial flying cars. The Washington Post’s Jacob Bogage was more hesitant about the Terrafugia Transition itself, describing the “two-seated flying thingumajig” as “a goofy mosquito, its fat cockpit shoving through the wind while aloft, its wings folded up like a dragonfly while grounded.”

Just last week, Slovakian company AeroMobil revealed its own car-plane hybrid, a sleeker blend of sport car and that will require a pilot’s license to operate. It also comes with a hefty price tag: somewhere between $1.3 million to $1.6 million. Those two factors alone place it out of reach for the average user.

“I think it’s going to be a very niche product,” University of Warwick engineering professor Philip Mawby told the Associated Press.

As for the Kitty Hawk Flyer, a pilot’s license won’t be required to fly it; the FAA has designated the Flyer as an ultralight aircraft. There are no prices yet, only a three-year membership for $100 that promises “priority placement on the Kitty Hawk Flyer customer wait list” and $2,000 off whatever the Flyer’s retail price ends up being. According to its website, the Flyer will be on sale by the end of the year.

And even that product will likely not look like what was debuted in the video this week. The Kitty Hawk website only indicates that “the go-to-market Flyer will have a different design than the prototype Flyer that appears in our April 2017 photos and videos.”

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

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US Judge Blocks Trump Order To Restrict Funding For 'Sanctuary Cities'

A US judge blocked Trump’s order to withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities

San Francisco:  A US judge on Tuesday blocked President Donald Trump’s executive order that sought to withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities, dealing another legal blow to the administration’s efforts to toughen immigration enforcement. The ruling from US District Judge William Orrick III in San Francisco said Trump’s January 25 order targeted broad categories of federal funding for sanctuary governments and that plaintiffs challenging the order were likely to succeed in proving it unconstitutional.

The Republican president’s moves on immigration have galvanized legal advocacy groups, along with Democratic city and state governments, to oppose them in court. The administration suffered an earlier defeat when two federal judges suspended executive orders restricting travel from several Muslim-majority countries. The government has appealed those decisions.

In a statement, the US Justice Department said it would follow existing federal law with respect to sanctuary jurisdictions, as well as enforce conditions tied to federal grants.

Sanctuary cities generally offer safe harbour to illegal immigrants and often do not use municipal funds or resources to advance the enforcement of federal immigration laws. Dozens of local governments and cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, have joined the growing “sanctuary” movement.

Supporters of the sanctuary policy argue that enlisting police cooperation in rounding up immigrants for removal undermines communities’ trust in local police, particularly among Latinos.

The Trump administration contends that local authorities endanger public safety when they decline to hand over for deportation illegal immigrants arrested for crimes.

The executive order by Trump, who made cracking down on illegal immigration a cornerstone of his 2016 presidential campaign, directed such funding to be restricted once the Homeland Security Department determines what constitutes a sanctuary city.

Santa Clara County, which includes the city of San Jose and several smaller Silicon Valley communities, sued in February, saying Trump’s order was unconstitutional. San Francisco filed a similar lawsuit.

‘Crumbling Under The Weight’

The US Justice Department threatened last week to cut some funding to California as well as eight cities and counties across the United States.

The department singled out Chicago and New York as two cities “crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime,” even though New York City is experiencing its lowest crime levels in decades and experts say Chicago’s recent spike in violent crime has little to do with illegal immigration.

Santa Clara County receives about $1.7 billion in federal and federally dependent funds annually, about 35 percent of its total revenues. The county argued it was owed millions of dollars of federal funding every day and that 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 it said would affect only Justice Department and Homeland Security funds, a fraction of the grant money received by the counties.

In his ruling, Orrick said the language of the order made it clear it sought to withhold funds beyond law enforcement.

“And if there was doubt about the scope of the Order, the President and Attorney General have erased it with their public comments,” Orrick wrote.

The judge cited comments from Trump calling the order “a weapon” to use against jurisdictions that disagree with his immigration policies.

“Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the President disapproves,” Orrick wrote.

Dave Cortese, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, said in a statement: “The politics of fear emanating from the Trump White House has just suffered a major setback.”

(Additional reporting by Julia Edwards Ainsley in Washington; Editing by Chris Reese and Peter Cooney)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Cleveland Officer In Tamir Rice Shooting 'Did Not Know Was Kid': Video

Tamir Rice, 12, is seen allegedly pointing a pellet gun at the Cudell Recreation Center in Cleveland

Cleveland:  The partner of a Cleveland police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014 said he “didn’t know it was a kid” when he responded to an emergency call about an armed man at a park, according to video released on Tuesday. Cleveland Police Department officer Frank Garmback, in a video of a police interview following the shooting of the African-American child, became emotional several times.

“I didn’t know it was a kid,” Garmback said as he covered his face with his hands in the video released by the Rice family’s attorney Subodh Chandra.

The shooting by a white officer of Rice as he was playing with a replica gun that fired pellets was one of a string of killings that fuelled protests against the use of deadly force by U.S. police, particularly against minorities.

Chandra released the video on Tuesday as part of the family’s push to have both officers fired, calling them incompetent.

In 2015, a Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to charge Garmback or Timothy Loehmann, who fired the fatal shot on Nov. 22, 2014. Both officers now face administrative charges that could result in suspension or termination.

Loehmann and Garmback’s attorney, Henry Hilow, questioned the release of the videos.

“It is suspicious and prejudicial to any kind of fair and unbiased hearing,” Hilow said in a phone interview.

Both officers remain restricted to desk duty, but want to return to active patrol, Hilow said.

In March, a Cleveland police dispatcher was suspended eight days for failing to warn the officers a 911 caller had described the scene as probably a child with a fake gun.

Last year, Cleveland settled a civil lawsuit the family filed for $6 million.

In his video interview, Garmback described the scene after Rice was shot and his frustration at the slow response of the ambulance. “I can see this kid’s eyes rolling in the back of his head. He is barely breathing and there is no rescue squad,” he said.

In contrast, Loehmann showed little emotion during his interview, which ran twice as long as his partner’s. He continually referred to Rice as “the male” or “the black male” while investigators repeatedly asked him to clarify the events of the shooting.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer in Cleveland, Editing by Ben Klayman and Andrew Hay)

© 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, Australia's Turnbull To Bury The Hatchet In New York Meeting

US President Donald Trump will hold a bilateral meeting with Malcolm Turnbull of Australia.

Washington:  Donald Trump will meet Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in New York next week, rebooting a relationship that got off to a rocky start shortly after the US president’s inauguration. The White House announced Tuesday that the meeting will take place May 4 at the USS Intrepid museum in New York, where Trump is set to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea during World War II. It will be their first encounter since a surly introductory phone call last January rattled the long-standing alliance between the two nations.

“The president will hold a bilateral meeting with Malcolm Turnbull of Australia,” the president’s spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters.

Turnbull said he was “delighted” at the invitation, for which his government had pushed, according to Australian media.

“Australia and the United States are enduring allies,” the prime minister said in a statement.

“Our alliance has been forged over many decades, through times of war and times of peace, securing our nations’ freedom and peace and security in the world.”

During his introductory phone chat with Turnbull, Trump reportedly exploded, cutting short the call when he learned about a previously agreed deal for the United States to take refugees from Pacific island detention centers.

Trump later tweeted his disapproval of the “dumb deal” signed by his predecessor Barack Obama.

That left some in Australia questioning the mercurial US president’s commitment to the decades-old relationship.

During a visit to Australia last week that partly aimed to smooth ruffled feathers, US Vice President Mike Pence reaffirmed US plans to take the refugees.

Nevertheless, friction between Washington and Canberra has increased during Trump’s presidency over several stumbling blocks, including the US withdrawal from a trans-Pacific trade deal that would have given Australian firms more access to markets in the United States and several key regional markets.

Next week’s meeting will be held on the hangar deck of the USS Intrepid, a decommissioned aircraft carrier.

The Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942 — a major naval engagement in the Pacific Ocean during World War II — pitted the Japanese navy against US and Australian naval and air forces.

A strategic victory for the Allies, it marked the first time they checked a major Japanese advance since the start of the war.

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Thai Man Broadcasts Baby Daughter's Murder Live On Facebook

Bangkok:  A Thai man filmed himself killing his 11-month-old daughter in two video clips posted on Facebook before committing suicide, police said on Tuesday. People could access the videos of the child’s murder on her father’s Facebook page for roughly 24 hours, until they were taken down around 5 pm in Bangkok (1000 GMT) on Tuesday, or about a day after being uploaded. “This is an appalling incident and our hearts go out to the family of the victim,” a Singapore-based Facebook spokesman said in an email to Reuters. “There is absolutely no place for content of this kind on Facebook and it has now been removed.”

Murders, suicides and sexual assault have plagued Facebook despite making up a small percentage of videos. On Tuesday a Swedish court jailed three men for the rape of a woman that was broadcast live on Facebook.

Last week, Facebook said it was reviewing how it monitored violent footage and other objectionable material after a posting of the fatal shooting of a man in Cleveland, Ohio was visible for two hours before being taken down.

The harrowing footage from Thailand showed Wuttisan Wongtalay tying a rope to his daughter Natalie’s neck before dropping the child, dressed in a bright pink dress, from the rooftop of a deserted building in the seaside town of Phuket.

Wuttisan’s suicide was not broadcast but his lifeless body was found beside his daughter, said Jullaus Suvannin, the police officer in charge of the case.

“He was having paranoia about his wife leaving him and not loving him,” Jullaus told Reuters.

Wuttisan’s wife, Jiranuch Triratana, told Reuters she had lived with him for over a year. At first the relationship had gone well, she said, but then he grew violent and sometimes hit her 5-year-old son from a previous husband.

She feared that something was wrong on Tuesday when she found he had left home with Natalie, whose nickname was Beta. She set out to look for them.

“I was afraid he would hurt our daughter even though he loved her,” she told Reuters by phone from the funeral.

Video Removed

Thailand’s Ministry of Digital Economy said it contacted Facebook on Tuesday afternoon about removing the videos, after receiving a police request.

“We contacted Facebook today and Facebook removed the videos,” ministry spokesman Somsak Khaosuwan told Reuters, adding that the government would take no action against the company.

“We will not be able to press charges against Facebook, because Facebook is the service provider and they acted according to their protocol when we sent our request. They cooperated very well.”

After the company faced a backlash for showing the video of the Cleveland killing, Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook would do all it could to prevent such content in the future.

Thai netizens voiced outrage about the clips of the child’s killing, which were uploaded on Monday, the first at 4.50 p.m. (0950 GMT) and the second at 4.57 p.m. (0957 GMT).

“This is the most evil clip I’ve seen in my life,” said one user, Avada Teeraponkoon. “I couldn’t stand it for more than one second.”

“How can he watch his own child stop breathing?” said another, Rujirek Polglang. “He should have just died alone.”

The killing was the first in Thailand known to be broadcast on the social networking site, said deputy police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen.

“It could be influenced by behaviour from abroad, most recently in Cleveland,” Kissana told Reuters.

The first video had drawn 112,000 views by mid-afternoon on Tuesday, while the second video showed 258,000 views.

Facebook Response

Facebook, the world’s largest social network, has not said how long its review of internal operations might take. The California company declined to answer questions about the latest incident or make employees available for interviews.

The company relies largely on reports from its 1.9 billion users to find objectionable material. Flagged items are forwarded to thousands of Facebook workers who judge whether they should be taken down.

Facebook has said it is working on software to automatically flag videos that are objectionable. But a person who has worked on the issues at Facebook said that major Silicon Valley companies were still working on the much easier problem of blocking previously identified child pornography videos. Identifying violence in a newly uploaded video would be very difficult, this person said.

Advertisers have not identified the violent videos as a major concern. Facebook is still a safe place for companies to build brands, said Barry Lowenthal, president of the Media Kitchen, a New York-based media buyer.

“It’s pretty amazing that they were able to figure it out and get it down in such a short period of time with 2 billion users,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Jeremy Wagstaff in Singapore, Jessica Toonkel in New York and Joseph Menn and David Ingram in San Francisco; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Mike Collett-White and Lisa Shumaker)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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US Military Begins Moving THAAD Missile Defence To South Korea: Report

Trailer trucks carrying parts of the system reportedly entered a site in South Korea. (Reuters File)

Seoul:  The US military has started moving parts of the controversial THAAD anti-missile defence system into a planned deployment site in South Korea, Yonhap news agency reported on Wednesday, amid high tensions over North Korea’s missile and nuclear programmes. The United States and South Korea have agreed to deploy THAAD in response to the threat of missile launches by North Korea but China says it will do little to deter the North while destabilising the regional security balance.

Trailer trucks carrying parts of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system entered the site on what had been a golf course in the county of Seongju in a southern region of South Korea, Yonhap news agency and YTN television reported.

South Korean defence ministry officials and US military officials could not immediately be reached for confirmation.

The United States began moving the first elements of the advanced missile defence system into South Korea in early March after the North test-launched four ballistic missiles.

But the US and South Korean militaries have been reluctant to publicly discuss the progress of the deployment as candidates in a May 9 presidential election debated whether the move should go ahead or be delayed until after the vote.

South Korea has said China has discriminated against some South Korean companies in retaliation against the deployment.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by G Crosse and James Dalgleish)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Cassini Spacecraft Enters Grand Finale, Google Doodle Cheers On

Cassini Spacecraft Google doodle: The mission has entered its final leg, touted as ‘The Grand Finale’.

Cassini Spacecraft orbiting Saturn’s Moon, Titan has entered its final dive, called “The Grand Finale”. Google doodle for today celebrates the journey of the nearly 20-year-old spacecraft. Cassini, that has stayed in the space for 13 long years, is now beginning last leg of its exploration journey. According to NASA’s website following the spacecraft, “Cassini will leap over the planet’s icy rings and begin a series of 22 weekly dives between the planet and the rings” after a final close flyby of Titan.

The spacecraft, launched from Cape Canaveral in The US in 1997, is now running out of its rocket fuel its mission and will conclude on September 15 this year.

The spacecraft made its 127th and final close approach to Titan last Friday on April 21. Ultra-close images of Saturn’s rings and clouds from its mission were transmitted to the Earth across platforms.

saturn by cassini

Image of Saturn’s moon Titan during NASA’s Cassini spacecraft’s final flyby on April 21, 2017

These, says the mission’s project scientist, Linda Spilker, make up “rich volume of data” that can be used for scientific research later on. For now, the dive will improve people’s understanding of Saturn’s rings. Some even call the spacecraft a ‘time machine’.

Prior to this, Cassini mission has provided exhaustive data on two another moon of Saturn, Enceladus.

cassini facts

Some key numbers for Cassini’s Grand Finale and final plunge into Saturn.

Buzz around the spacecraft has hardly left any untouched. The website tracking it offers insight into various art forms that have taken inspiration from it. For the revellers, NASA offered, graphics and  360-degree videos on its site about Cassini.

The Space organisation even has a Twitter account that offers real time updates from Cassini. The latest at the time of this article provides a look Saturn’s hex storm:

The mission is co-operative project of NASA, European Space Agency (ESA) and Italian space agency Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI) and has seen participation of 17 countries over the years.

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Pakistan Attaches Great Importance To SAARC: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan attaches great importance to SAARC.

Islamabad:  Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today said his country attaches great importance to SAARC and wishes to see it as a vibrant regional organisation. Mr Sharif made the remarks during his meeting with Foreign Minister of Maldives Dr Mohamed Asim in Islamabad. According to the Prime Minister Office, Mr Sharif said that Pakistan attaches great importance to SAARC and wishes to see it as a vibrant regional organisation and is committed to the principles and objectives of the SAARC Charter.

“It was Pakistan’s ardent desire to promote peace and cooperation in South Asia for which security and stability are pre-requisites,” he said.

SAARC is an eight-member regional grouping that comprises Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Mr Sharif said Pakistan attaches high importance to its ties with Maldives and both countries are bound in fraternal ties of common faith, mutual understanding and respect. 

“We need to work for enhancing bilateral trade between the two countries,” he stressed.

Mr Sharif said that it was encouraging to note the growing Parliamentary cooperation between Maldives and Pakistan. 

The visit of Pakistan’s Senate Chairman to Maldives last year is a testimony of strengthened parliamentary ties, he added.

Mr Asim thanked Mr Sharif for warmly welcoming him and delegation members to Pakistan and expressed the hope to further strengthen ties between the two countries.

The Maldives Foreign Minister, who is on official visit to Pakistan, also held talks with the Advisor to Pak PM Sartaj Aziz.

The two sides agreed to enhance their cooperation in different fields. 

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Fine-Tuning Role As First Daughter, Says Ivanka Trump After Being Booed

Ivanka Trump, 35, is seen as an increasingly important influence on her father

BERLIN:  Ivanka Trump was booed in Berlin on Tuesday when she described her father Donald Trump as a “tremendous champion of supporting families” and said she was still fine-tuning her role as first daughter and informal White House adviser.

Ivanka Trump, 35, who is seen as an increasingly important influence on her father, told a women’s summit organised by the Group of 20 major economies in the German capital that she wanted to use her influence to help empower women.

Asked whether she represented the president, the American people or her business as first daughter, she replied: “Well certainly not the latter, and I am rather unfamiliar with this role … it has been a little under 100 days but it has just been a remarkable and incredible journey.”

Ivanka Trump’s appointment as an adviser, with access to classified information, was highly unusual for the daughter of a president. Seeking to allay ethics concerns, she said last month she would serve in the White House in an unpaid, informal role.

In Berlin, she discussed support for women entrepreneurs with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde among others.

“I’m listening, I’m learning, I’m defining the ways in which I think that I’ll be able to have impact,” she told the panel discussion.

“I’m seeking the counsel .. . of informed and thoughtful women and men and I’m really striving to think about how best to empower women in the economy, both domestically and across the globe.”

But the audience was unsympathetic when she called her father a “tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive”, with the moderator moving the discussion on amid a chorus of boos.


Donald Trump found himself at the centre of a furious controversy during the presidential campaign when a video surfaced in which he boasted about grabbing women’s genitals.

Asked whether some of the attitudes expressed by her father raised questions over his commitment to empowering women, Ivanka Trump said her experience and that of thousands of women who had worked for him showed he believed in women’s potential.

“I grew up in a house where there were no barriers to what I could accomplish … there was no difference for me and my brothers and I think as a business leader you saw that and as a president you’ll absolutely see that,” she said.

During the Berlin discussion, Donald Trump tweeted a link to a Financial Times editorial Ivanka co-authored with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on investment in women and said he was “proud” of his daughter for “her leadership on these important issues”.

Ivanka Trump’s visit has received a mixed response in German media. The newspaper Berliner Zeitung, which has described her as “the president’s whisperer”, said German officials would “certainly be hoping that the president’s daughter will convey a positive image of Germany to her father”.

Another paper, Tagesspiegel, was more sniffy about her credentials, opining that Trump’s dependence on family members – also including her husband Jared Kushner, a chief presidential adviser – was like a “vote of no confidence” in everyone else he was surrounded by.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Uber's Flying Taxis Could Take Off In 2020

Uber’s flying taxis will be small, electric aircraft that takeoff and land vertically

US ride-hailing service Uber Technologies Inc expects to deploy flying taxi services in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, and Dubai in 2020, Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden said at the Uber Elevate Summit in Dallas.

Uber’s flying taxis will be small, electric aircraft that takeoff and land vertically, or VTOL aircraft, enabling zero operational emissions and quiet enough to operate in cities without disturbing the neighbors.

The company is working with Hillwood Properties to make four vertiports – VTOL hubs with multiple takeoff and landing pads, and charging infrastructure – for Uber in Dallas starting next year, Holden said.

Uber has also teamed up with companies such as Bell Helicopter, Aurora, Pipistrel, Mooney and Embraer to make the flying taxis.

The company, which has partnered with the Dubai government, expects to conduct passenger flights as part of the World Expo 2020 in Dubai.

“What we’re doing with them is they’re going to be funding studies for demand modeling so that we can deeply understand pricing and network optimization in the Dubai area,” Jeff Holden said.

Uber is valued at $68 billion and its investors include Goldman Sachs and GV, formerly known as Google Ventures.

The ride-hailing service has recently been rocked by a number of setbacks, including detailed accusations of sexual harassment from a former female employee and a video showing Chief Executive Travis Kalanick harshly berating an Uber driver.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Marine Le Pen Thrives Among French Poor, Vote Analysis Shows

Marine Le Pen’s protectionist, anti-establishment message resonated most in parts of France

Paris:  Marine Le Pen’s protectionist, anti-establishment message resonated most in parts of France with lower incomes, lower life expectancy and lower education levels, a Reuters analysis of voting in Sunday’s first round shows.

However there was no evidence that she scored particularly highly among young voters this time, many of whom backed hard-left campaigner Jean-Luc Melenchon. Moreover, it was not clear that she fared better in rural communities than in towns as some analysts have suggested.

 Ahead of a May 7 runoff against centrist Emmanuel Macron, these are some conclusions that can be drawn by plotting Le Pen’s scores in France’s ‘departments’ – similar to counties – against government data on key social and economic factors.

 Surveying Le Pen’s results against more than a dozen such measures, the data suggest her message played particularly well in low-income areas with higher numbers of school dropouts.


  In fact, for each 1,000-euro drop in the median income in a given area, Le Pen scored nearly two extra percentage points, according to a Reuters calculation using results and data from the Social Affairs Ministry. 

 Meanwhile, life expectancy for women tends to run nearly five years shorter than the average 85.2 in departments where Le Pen scored high and nearly three years lower than the average male expectancy of 79.1. 

 But among the variables surveyed, education levels are the most revealing. The percentage of under-35 voters to have left school without a diploma has a heavy 60 percent correlation to Le Pen’s scores. 

In statistics, correlation is measured between zero and 100 percent – the higher the count the closer the link.

One exception to that trend is Paris’ northern working-class suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis, a traditional stronghold of the left, where over one-in-four 25-34 year-olds did not finish school. There, she won only 13.6 percent of the vote, coming in after Melenchon and Macron.

Unemployment is also a major factor explaining where Le Pen did best with the jobless rate by department 58 percent correlated with her scores. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly given her anti-immigrant stance, departments with high levels of foreign-born populations tended to vote less for Le Pen, notably those areas concentrated around Paris and its suburbs.

And although Le Pen scored high in some rural departments, that was not systematically the case. Similarly, although she did poorly in some more urbanised departments, she also did well in some more densely populated areas. 

Ahead of the vote, surveys suggested Le Pen was faring much better among voters under-25 than among the population at large, often by a margin as high as 7 percentage points. But in the end there was little evidence that age was a determining factor in her share of the vote. 

A study by pollsters Ipsos of the first round results may explain why that was the case: while it found that 21 percent of 18 to 24-year-old voters backed her – largely the same as for the population as a whole – a massive 30 percent opted for her hard-left rival Melenchon.

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

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North Korea Carries Out Huge Live-Fire Drills As US Warships Gather

TOKYO:  North Korea’s military conducted huge live-fire drills Tuesday and issued new warnings that it would defend itself against the “American imperialists,” amid high tensions and a military buildup in the region.

But the United States and its South Korean and Japanese allies showed their muscle as well by conducting military exercises of their own.

In addition, one of the U.S.’s largest guided-missile submarines showed up in the South Korean port of Busan, presaging of the imminent arrival to the region of a naval strike group led by an aircraft carrier.

The military build-up on both sides comes amid heightened tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, and warnings from the Trump administration that “all options are on the table” for dealing with the regime in Pyongyang.

Kim Jong Un’s regime marked the 85th anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s army Tuesday with its typical bluster.

“If the enemies dare opt for the military adventure despite our repeated warnings, our armed forces will wipe the strongholds of aggression off the surface of the earth through powerful preemptive nuclear attacks,” Defense Minister Pak Yong Sik said in a speech before a hall filled with the country’s top brass and broadcast on state television.

Analysts had been concerned that North Korea might seek to mark important dates this month – the birthday of the state’s founder was celebrated with a huge military parade on April 15 – with a nuclear or ballistic missile test. North Korea did launch a missile on April 16, but it exploded within seconds.

But on the latest anniversary Tuesday, the North instead conducted large-scale live-fire drills near Wonsan on its east coast, South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said.

The South’s Yonhap news agency reported that the exercises were North Korea’s largest ever, involving some 300 or 400 pieces of artillery, but the joint chiefs did not confirm the number.

Analysts warned against reading too much into the exercises with conventional weaponry, noting that North Korea’s annual winter training cycle culminates in big exercise every year around this time.

Still, North Korea remains defiant despite mounting pressure from the Trump administration and, increasingly, China, to stop its missile program.

“China has a very, very important role to play” to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear ambition, Joseph Yun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, told reporters in Tokyo.

Yun met with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts in Tokyo Tuesday, and China’s main point man on North Korea was also in town, in a sign that diplomacy is not entirely dead.

“We agreed that we will strongly warn that North Korea should stop further strategic provocations,” said Kim Hong-kyun, South Korea’s representative. “But we will take strong punitive action that the North could not bear if it pushes ahead with one despite the warning.”

The United Nations Security Council will hold special ministerial meeting Friday to discuss further sanctions on the regime in Pyongyang, but first, Trump has called all 100 senators to the White House Wednesday for a briefing on North Korea.

But with increasingly provocative statements and actions coming from North Korea, the emphasis is on military deterrence.

The U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Wayne E. Meyer, began maritime exercises with a South Korean destroyer in the Yellow Sea, west of the Korean Peninsula, Tuesday. Separately, the USS Fitzgerald was doing drills with a Japanese destroyer in the Sea of Japan, east of the Korean Peninsula. Both will continue Wednesday.

“Both exercises demonstrate a shared commitment to security and stability in Northeast Asia,” the U.S. Seventh Fleet said in a statement, “as well as the U.S. Navy’s inherent flexibility to combine with allied naval forces in response to a broad range of situations.”

Earlier, the U.S. Navy announced that the USS Michigan, an Ohio-class guided missile submarine, had arrived in the southern South Korean port of Busan “for a regularly scheduled port visit.”

The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier, together with two guided-missile destroyers and a cruiser, are expected to arrive in the waters off the Korean Peninsula in the next few days and stage a combined tactical operation with the South Korean Navy.

The strike group has been the focus of some controversy in recent weeks, after the Navy announced earlier this month it was being re-routed from Singapore to the “western Pacific” as a “prudent” measure amid expected North Korean provocations.

President Donald Trump said he was sending an “armada” to North Korea and other senior officials also strongly implied that the strike group was heading to the Korean Peninsula area. It later transpired that the group had in fact headed in the opposite direction, to the Indian Ocean, causing consternation in South Korea in particular.

This time, the Navy has been publicizing the strike group’s progress towards the region, posting photos over the weekend of its exercises with the Japanese military in the Philippine Sea.

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Ivanka Wants To Help 'Women Who Work'. They Say Dad Trump Makes Job Tough

Ivanka Trump is taking her first crack at diplomacy abroad in her new role, speaking Tuesday at an economic conference in Berlin about boosting female entrepreneurs.

The First Daughter, who moved into her own West Wing office last month, advocated for gender equality during the campaign and is now working to reform the nation’s child-care system. Her Germany appearance comes a week before the release of her advice book, “Women Who Work.”

“From a global standpoint, female entrepreneurs are further disadvantaged by legislation impeding women’s economic opportunities,” Ivanka Trump co-wrote in a column Monday for the Financial Times, “restricting them from certain professions, preventing them from travelling, and constraining their ability to inherit or own land.”

But female entrepreneurs in the United States say the White House is making their jobs even harder.

Women-owned businesses tend to face a disadvantage when it comes to expanding into foreign markets – and experts say Trump’s talk on trade and immigration has made it harder for them to pursue international opportunities.

The president has threatened, for example, to slap steep tariffs on goods from China and Mexico. He has asked for a review of the high-skilled worker visa, which tech companies rely on for talent. His travel ban on people from predominantly Muslim nations risked straining relations with Middle Eastern countries and America’s democratic allies.

All of this can impede an entrepreneur’s step into internationalization, or the act of growing beyond the American border, said Nathalie Molina Nino, a serial entrepreneur and founder of Brava, a holding company that bankrolls women-benefiting startups.

“Women are at a particular disadvantage,” Molina Nino said, “because unlike large, well-funded companies, women-owned businesses are less equipped to throw money at issues like this.”

Ivanka Trump, Christine Lagarde and Angela Merkel at a women’s empowerment summit.

Advancing into foreign markets is expensive, she said. Entrepreneurs need cash for shipping, research, travel and hiring more employees. Consulting experts to keep up with today’s unpredictable business climate adds to the cost. And female entrepreneurs, Molina Nino noted, generally have less spending power.

Venture capitalists poured $58.2 billion into companies with male founders last year, while women received a comparatively measly $1.46 billion, according to data from the venture capital database PitchBook. (Less than 10 percent of VC-funded startups are run by women, according to the Harvard Business Review, and women-owned firms comprise 38 percent of the business population.)

Still, female entrepreneurs in the United States are better off than those in most other countries, studies find.

This year, Mastercard’s Index of Women Entrepreneurs put the United States in third place for female entrepreneurs, behind New Zealand and Canada.

The authors, however, highlighted a persistent challenge: “In the United States where the underlying entrepreneurial conditions and women’s advancement outcomes are among the best in the world,” they wrote, “women’s entrepreneurial advancement is held back by the lack of internationalization opportunities.”

Fiona Murray, the associate dean of innovation at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, said the uncertainty clouding international relations, driven by Trump’s “America first” rhetoric, could exacerbate the problem. She pointed to Trump’s executive order last week calling for a review of the H1-B visas for highly skilled workers.

“That makes it difficult for any entrepreneur to think about an appropriate internationalization strategies,” Murray said. “Can you hire the people you need to hire? They need highly specialized talent, and that talent comes from all over the world.”

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

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