UK's Biggest Warship Sails Into Home Port For First Time


HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy (Reuters)

Portsmouth:  Britain’s most advanced and biggest warship, the 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, berthed for the first time at its home port of Portsmouth on Tuesday.

The 280-metre (920-foot) vessel entered the harbour on England’s southern coast at 0610 GMT, greeted by thousands of spectators.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy, according to the Ministry of Defence.

“Today we welcome our mighty new warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, to her home for the very first time,” said Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. “She is Britain’s statement to the world: a demonstration of British military power and our commitment to a bigger global role.”

The ship is currently undergoing sea trials. It cannot yet deploy planes, but flying trials from its deck are due to begin in 2018.

It took eight years to build HMS Queen Elizabeth, with construction taking place in six cities and involving 10,000 people.

Along with its sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, it is part of a defence programme worth 6 billion pounds ($7.65 billion).

Commanding officer Captain Jerry Kyd told the BBC that the carrier “sends the right signals to our allies and indeed potentially to our enemies that we mean business.”
 

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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North Korea's Move To Stop Guam Missile Test 'Wise' Decision: Trump


Trump said last week by warning North Korea it faced “fire and fury” if threat continued. (File)

North Korea:  US President Donald Trump on Wednesday praised North Korea’s leader for backing off on plans to fire missiles toward the US Pacific territory of Guam.

“Kim Jong-Un of North Korea made a very wise and well reasoned decision. The alternative would have been both catastrophic and unacceptable!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Trump stunned the world last week by warning North Korea it faced “fire and fury” if it continued to threaten the US or its allies with its ballistic missile program. His impromptu comments while on vacation in New Jersey were interpreted as raising the prospect of a US nuclear attack against North Korea.

The unpredictable and isolated North Korean leader on Tuesday had been briefed by his missile forces on a “plan for an enveloping fire at Guam,” according to the North’s official KCNA news agency.

But afterward, according to KCNA, he decided to postpone the operation to “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees” and not to go ahead unless the US commits more “reckless actions.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said after Kim postponed the threat that Washington remains ready for talks.

But he added that would be up to Kim when such negotiations would begin.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Ex-Pak PM Nawaz Sharif Files Plea In Supreme Court Challenging Ouster


Nawaz Sharif was the 15th Pakistani PM who was sacked before completing a full term (Reuters)

Islamabad:  Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has hit back against his ouster by the Supreme Court over corruption allegations, demanding a review of his case.The Supreme Court sacked Sharif last month following an investigation into corruption allegations against him and his family, making him the 15th premier in Pakistan’s 70-year history to be sacked before completing a full term.

The allegations against the prime minister spiralled from the Panama Papers leak last year, which sparked a media frenzy over the lavish lifestyles and luxury London property portfolio of the Sharif dynasty.

In a lengthy petition demanding that his case be reviewed, Sharif’s legal team laid out 19 points challenging the court’s judgement, saying the ruling suffered “from errors floating on the surface”. 

“The petitioner seeks review of the final order of the court,” read the application filed late Tuesday, according to a copy seen by AFP.

Saad Rasool, a Pakistani lawyer and constitutional expert, said the chance of the petition succeeding and Sharif being reinstated were slim.

“Reversing the judgement is close to impossible,” Rasool told AFP.

“According to Pakistani laws and rules of the Supreme Court, the same exact bench reviews the petition.”

The Supreme Court has also ordered the country’s anti-corruption watchdog, the National Accountability Bureau, to open a criminal case against Sharif, his sons — Hussain and Hassan — and his daughter Maryam.

Last week Sharif led a defiant crowd of supporters from the capital, Islamabad, to his hometown, Lahore, in a days-long procession that brought thousands into the streets in a show of force.

During the trip Sharif repeatedly lambasted the court’s ruling, saying the decision was an “insult” to Pakistanis.



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China Angered At US Criticism Of Religious Freedom, Says US Not Perfect


Chinese Foreign Ministry said China fully respected freedom of religion and belief.

BEIJING:  China hit back on Wednesday at criticism by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of its record on religious freedom, saying the United States was not perfect and should be looking after its own affairs rather than making baseless accusations.

Tillerson, speaking at the State Department while introducing the agency’s annual report on religious freedom, said the Chinese government tortures and imprisons thousands for their religious beliefs, citing the targeting of Falun Gong members, Uighur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China fully respected and protected freedom of religion and belief.

“The so-called U.S. report ignores the facts, confuses right and wrong and makes wanton criticism of China’s religious freedom situation,” she told a daily news briefing.

“China is resolutely opposed to this and has lodged solemn representations with the U.S. side.”

The United States would do better to look at its own problems, Hua added.

“Everyone has seen that the facts prove the United States is not totally perfect,” she said, without providing any examples.

“We urge the United States to respect the facts and properly manage its own affairs, and stop using the wrong means of the so-called religious freedom issue to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.”

State news agency Xinhua said in an English-language commentary the violence at a weekend rally by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, meant the United States should reflect on its own problems before pointing the finger at China.

“Against the backdrop of the recent clash between white supremacists and their opponents, the U.S. accusations against China simply lay bare the double standard it employs,” it said.

“The violence highlighted the danger of racism, which is a serious problem in a still divided U.S. society,” Xinhua added.”Despite its self-proclaimed role as the world’s human rights champion, the fact is the world’s sole superpower is far from becoming a respected role model in this regard.”

The violence erupted on Saturday after white nationalists converged in Charlottesville for a “Unite the Right” rally to protest against plans to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, commander of the pro-slavery Confederate army during the U.S. Civil War.
Many of the rally participants were seen carrying firearms, sticks and shields. Some also wore helmets. Counter-protesters likewise came equipped with sticks, helmets and shields.

The two sides clashed in scattered street brawls before a car ploughed into the rally opponents, killing a woman and injuring 19. A 20-year-old Ohio man, James Fields, said to have harboured Nazi sympathies, was charged with murder.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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US-Japan Conduct Air Drills As North Korea Watches Next Move By 'Yankees


A member of the US Marines during the joint exercise with Japan Ground Self Defense Force (Reuters)

Tokyo:  Japanese jets conducted air manoeuvres with US bombers southwest of the Korean peninsula on Wednesday as North Korea considered whether to fire missiles towards the US-administered territory of Guam.

Reclusive North Korea has made no secret of its plans to develop a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and of reaching the United States to counter what it perceives as constant US threats of invasion – such as US war drills with neighbouring South Korea and Japan.

It has ignored warnings from the West and from its lone major ally, China, to halt its nuclear and missile tests which it conducts in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.

The exercise in the East China Sea involved two US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flying from Andersen Air Force Base on the Pacific island of Guam and two Japanese F-15 jet fighters, Japan’s Air Self Defence Force said in a news release.

“These training flights with Japan demonstrate the solidarity and resolve we share with our allies to preserve peace and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific,” the US Air Force said in an announcement.

The US planes, which were designed to carry nuclear bombs and later switched to conventional payloads, have flown several sorties in East Asia over the past several weeks. In addition to air drills with Japanese fighters, the bombers have also exercised with South Korean aircraft.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delayed a decision on firing missiles towards Guam and US officials have since taken a gentler tone, but tension in the region nonetheless remains high.

The North Korean threats had prompted US President Donald Trump to say the US military was “locked and loaded” if North Korea acted unwisely. Those words in turn prompted a warning from China for both sides to tone down the shrill rhetoric.

North Korea has often threatened to attack the United States and its bases and is likely to be infuriated by the current manoeuvres and US-Japanese annual joint military drills next week.

In his first public appearance in about two weeks, Kim on Monday inspected the command of the North’s army, examining the plan to fire four missiles aimed at landing near Guam, the official KCNA news agency reported.

“He said that if the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean peninsula and in its vicinity, testing the self-restraint of the DPRK, the latter will make an important decision as it already declared,” KCNA said.

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

Wednesday’s air exercise took place close to Japanese-controlled islets in the East China Sea which are also claimed by China. The uninhabited territory is known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

While the US has declined to take sides in the spat over sovereignty, it nonetheless has said it would defend the islands from attack under its security alliance with Japan.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in a telephone conversation with Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s minister for foreign affairs, said tensions on the Korean peninsula were showing some signs of easing but had not passed.

The parties involved should “make a correct judgment and wise choice by taking a responsible attitude toward history and people”, Wang said, according to a statement on the Chinese foreign ministry’s website.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Amid Regional Tension, Japan, US Conduct Live-Fire Drill


A Japan Ground Self Defense Force’s Type 90 tank fires during the joint exercise (Reuters)

Eniwa (Japan):  Some 300 Japanese and US military personnel on Wednesday carried out live-fire artillery training in northern Japan, officials said, amid high regional tensions over North Korean missile threats.

The drill, part of a 19-day exercise, came after a tense war of words between the United States and North Korea over Pyongyang’s threats to fire missiles towards the Pacific island of Guam.

Troops from Japan’s Ground Self-Defence Force (GSDF) and US Marines fired live ammunition from armed vehicles at a manoeuvre area on the northern island of Hokkaido.

The two forces began the Northern Viper 2017 exercise on August 10, involving a total of 1,300 GSDF troops and 2,000 Marines.

“It is the first joint exercise between the GSDF and US Marines in Hokkaido,” a defence ministry spokesman said.

The spokesman denied any link between the drill and recent regional tension over North Korea.

“This is not conducted with a particular country or region in mind,” he said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un said Tuesday he would hold off on a plan to fire four ballistic missiles towards Guam, a US Pacific island territory.

The threat had come after US President Donald Trump warned Pyongyang of “fire and fury” over intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) development.

Japan has deployed the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile defence system in Shimane, Hiroshima and Kochi prefectures in western Japan, which North Korea had warned could be along its missiles’ flight path.

It also deployed the system in nearby Ehime prefecture.

Meanwhile, the defence ministry said US Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft will join the Northern Viper drills starting on Friday despite growing concerns after a fatal crash off Australia earlier this month.

The MV-22 — a hybrid helicopter-turboprop — has two engines positioned on fixed wingtips that allow it to land and take off vertically.

The aircraft, which can travel much faster than a helicopter, has been involved in a series of deadly incidents, mostly in the United States.

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UK Unemployment Rate Hits Lowest Level Since 1975


The rate dipped to 4.4 per cent in the three months to June (File Photo)

London:  Britain’s unemployment rate has struck a new 42-year low, official data showed on Wednesday, as the uncertainty of Brexit boosts temporary hirings.

The rate dipped to 4.4 per cent in the three months to June to record the lowest level since 1975, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement. It had stood at 4.5 per cent in the quarter to May.

A total of 1.48 million people were recorded as unemployed at the end of June, down 1,57,000 compared with a year earlier, although with wages growth struggling to keep pace with UK inflation.

“The headline figures shout growth and stability — and yet there’s a huge amount of uncertainty on the ground, particularly due to Brexit,” said David Morel, head of employment firm Tiger Recruitment.

“Against a backdrop of political and economic uncertainty, people are choosing to stay put rather than speculatively look for other jobs.”

But he noted that “Brexit-related and broader economic uncertainty” was supporting the temporary jobs market as employers “have put their permanent hiring on hold”.

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New Satellite Pics And Offer To Find MH370 With 'Unprecedented Precision'


The disappearance of the plane has become one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries

Sydney/Kuala Lumpur:  Australia’s main scientific agency said on Wednesday it believed with “unprecedented precision and certainty” that a missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft crashed into the sea northeast of an area scoured in a fruitless two-year underwater search.

The agency’s assertion is based on satellite pictures taken two weeks after Flight MH370 went missing on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, on a flight to Beijing from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.

But the Australian government rejected the conclusion of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), issued in a report on Wednesday, saying it was not specific enough.

The disappearance of the Boeing 777 has become one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries. It is thought to have been diverted thousands of miles off course out over the southern Indian Ocean before crashing off the coast of Western Australia.

Australia, Malaysia and China called off a A$200 million ($160 million), two-year search for the plane in January after finding nothing, despite the protests of families of those onboard.

The CSIRO has previously raised doubts about the main 120,000-sq-km underwater search zone, saying it believed the plane went down to the north of it.

Its latest assertion was its most insistent yet and was based on a review of satellite images provided by the French military intelligence service and France’s national space agency, CNES, which showed 70 pieces of debris with a dozen of those “probably” man-made.

“We think it is possible to identify a most-likely location of the aircraft, with unprecedented precision and certainty,” the CSIRO said.

CSIRO oceanographer and the report’s lead author, David Griffin, told Reuters by telephone that if the debris spotted in the pictures was authentic, then it supported previous ocean-drift analysis pointing to a crash zone just to the north of the area that was most thoroughly searched.

“It all fits together so perfectly, the only thing missing is proof that those actually are pieces of plane,” Griffin said.

NEW SEARCH?

Australia has not ruled out resuming the search for the airliner but has said that would depend on finding credible evidence about the plane’s whereabouts.

Australian transport minister Darren Chester said the new analysis “does not provide new evidence leading to a specific location of MH370”.

Malaysia’s deputy transport minister Aziz Kaprawi declined to comment on the agency’s report, saying that he was awaiting further information from Australian authorities.

But he said Malaysia has not given up on the search and it had called for a meeting with Australian and Chinese authorities to discuss an offer from a private seabed exploration firm, Ocean Infinity, to resume the search.

“No decision has been made but we are definitely considering a new search. We will seek input from our counterparts,” he told Reuters.

Malaysia said this month Ocean Infinity had offered to search for free, and would seek payment only if the aircraft was found. A company spokesman declined to comment.

The company says on its website it has the world’s most advanced fleet of autonomous underwater vehicles for seabed mapping, survey and search.

Australia and Malaysia earlier rejected investigators’ recommendations to extend the hunt by 25,000 sq km (9,653 square miles) north of the original search area, saying the location identified was too imprecise.

Investigators believe someone may have deliberately switched off MH370’s transponder before diverting it over the Indian Ocean.

Various pieces of debris have been collected from Indian Ocean islands and Africa’s east coast and at least three of them have been confirmed as coming from the missing plane.

CSIRO said some of objects spotted in the pictures were “comparable with some of the debris items that have washed up on African beaches”.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Trump, Again, Casts Blame On Both Sides For Deadly Violence In Virginia


NEW YORK:  President Donald Trump insisted on Tuesday that left- and right-wing extremists became violent during a weekend rally by white nationalists in Virginia, reigniting a political firestorm over U.S. race relations and his own leadership of a national crisis.

Trump, who drew sharp criticism from Republicans and Democrats for his initial response, reverted on Tuesday to his position that both sides were at fault for the violence, a day after bowing to pressure to explicitly condemn the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups.

Appearing angry and irritated, the president maintained that his original reaction was based on the facts he had at the time. Blame, he said, belonged on both sides.

“You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now,” Trump said, referring to right- and left-wing protesters.

From there, the back and forth with reporters turned tense.

“Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch,” Trump said of the participants in the deadly protest. “There was a group on this side. You can call them the left … that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that’s the way it is.”

The violence erupted on Saturday after white nationalists converged in Charlottesville for a “Unite the Right” rally in protest of plans to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, commander of the pro-slavery Confederate army during the U.S. Civil War.

Many of the rally participants were seen carrying firearms, sticks and shields. Some also wore helmets. Counter-protesters likewise came equipped with sticks, helmets and shields.

The two sides clashed in scattered street brawls before a car plowed into the rally opponents, killing one woman and injuring 19 others. A 20-year-old Ohio man, James Fields, said to have harbored Nazi sympathies, was charged with murder.

Two state police officers also were killed that day in the fiery crash of the helicopter they were flying in as part of crowd-control operations.

“MANY SIDES”

Addressing the melee for the first time on Saturday, Trump denounced hatred and violence “on many sides.” The comment drew sharp criticism across the political spectrum for not explicitly condemning the white nationalists whose presence in the southern college town was widely seen as having provoked the unrest.

Critics said Trump’s remarks then belied his reluctance to alienate extreme right-wing groups, whose followers constitute a devoted segment of his political base despite his disavowal of them.

Yielding two days later to a mounting political furor over his initial response, Trump delivered a follow-up message expressly referring to the “KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists and other hate groups” as “repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

Trump’s detractors dismissed his revised statements as too little too late.

His remarks on Tuesday inflamed the controversy further. Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke immediately applauded Trump on Twitter.

“Thank you President Trump for your honesty and courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville and condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa,” Duke wrote, referring to Black Lives Matter (BLM) and anti-facists.

Democrats seized on Trump’s latest words as evidence that Trump saw white nationalists and those protesting against them as morally equivalent.

“By saying he is not taking sides, Donald Trump clearly is,” said Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer of New York. “When David Duke and white supremacists cheer your remarks, you’re doing it very, very wrong.”

In a similar vein, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, said Trump’s characterization of the violence missed the mark.

“Neo-Nazis, Klansmen and white supremacists came to Charlottesville heavily armed, spewing hatred and looking for a fight. One of them murdered a young woman in an act of domestic terrorism, and two of our finest officers were killed in a tragic accident while serving to protect this community. This was not ‘both sides,'” he said.

A tweet by former President Barack Obama soon after the violence had garnered 2.8 million “likes” to become the most liked Twitter message ever by Tuesday, the social media network said.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion…,” Obama said in the tweet on Saturday, accompanying a picture of himself looking through an open window at a group of children.

Administration officials, hoping to put the controversy behind them after the remarks on Monday, worried that the controversy would now last for days and, potentially, affect the president’s ability to achieve legislative and policy goals.

Asked about the White House’s next steps, one official said: “I think next steps are just to stop talking.”

FALLOUT

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO labor federation representing 12.5 million workers, became the latest member of Trump’s advisory American Manufacturing Council to resign in protest.

“We cannot sit on a council for a president who tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism,” Trumka said. “President Trump’s remarks today repudiate his forced remarks yesterday about the KKK and neo-Nazis.”

Three other members of the council – the chief executives of pharmaceutical maker Merck & Co Inc, sportswear company Under Armour Inc and computer chipmaker Intel Corp – resigned on Monday.

In Tuesday’s remarks, Trump also sympathized with protesters seeking to keep Lee’s statue in place but offered no equivalent remarks for those who favored its removal.

“You had people in that group … that were there to protest the taking down of a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name,” he said.

Trump also grouped former presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, two of the nation’s founding fathers, together with Confederate leaders such as Lee, Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson, who fought to separate Southern states from the Union, noting that all were slave owners.

“Was George Washington a slave owner? Will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? … Because he was a major slave owner,” Trump said.

On Tuesday, Trump explained his initial restrained response by saying: “The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement, but you don’t make statements that direct unless you know the facts. It takes a little while to get the facts.”

In what became at times a heated exchange with reporters shouting questions, Trump said, “You also had people that were very fine people on both sides.”

He said that while neo-Nazis and white nationalists “should be condemned totally,” protesters in the other group “also had trouble-makers. And you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats. You got a lot of bad people in the other group too.”

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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New Data May Help Pinpoint Location Of MH370: Australia


There were 239 passengers and crew on board when the plane disappeared

Canberra:  The Australian agency overseeing the underwater search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 released two new reports on Wednesday, which may help pinpoint where the Boeing 777 disappeared.

The underwater search for the missing jetliner, which vanished in 2014, was called off in January after almost three years of searching, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and other agencies, however, continued to conduct drift modelling and satellite analysis.

ATSB chief Greg Hood on Wednesday released a statement and two reports from Geosciences Australia and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) which point to a narrower search area for the missing jet.

Hood said Geosciences Australia had analysed satellite imagery from the region in which the jet may have disappeared and found several man-made objects at the bottom of the ocean.

He said that while the latest report was encouraging, the object had “not been definitely identified” from MH370.

“They (reports) provide analysis and findings relating to satellite imagery taken on March 23, 2014, two weeks after the disappearance of MH370, over the southern Indian Ocean.

“Geoscience Australia identified a number of objects in the satellite imagery which have been classified as probably man-made.

“The image resolution is not high enough to be certain whether the objects originated from MH370 or are other objects that might be found floating in oceans around the world.”

Meanwhile the CSIRO’s reverse drift modelling has narrowed down any potential new search area to be just 5,000 sq km, down from 25,000 sq km last year.

Hood said that while it was not up to Australia to decide whether a new underwater search should be commissioned, this data “may be useful” in informing any further search effort “that may be mounted in the future”.

MH370 was a scheduled passenger flight bound for Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. There were 239 passengers and crew on board when it disappeared on March 8, 2014.

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This Obama Tweet One Of The Most Popular In Twitter History


Unlike some former presidents, Barack Obama is showing no signs of completely abandoning public life.

Since leaving office, Obama has commented on major events or controversies, including the terrorist attack in Manchester, England, and Sen. John McCain’s brain cancer diagnosis. He did so again on Saturday, after the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion . . . People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love . . . For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite,” Obama said, quoting former South African president Nelson Mandela in tweets.

The first tweet, which shows a picture of Obama smiling at four children, has been retweeted more than 1 million times and liked 2.6 million times as of Tuesday afternoon.
 

According to Favstar, a Twitter-tracking site, it’s one of the most-liked tweets in the history of Twitter, second to singer Ariana Grande’s response to the deadly terrorist attack during her concert in Manchester. It also ranks No. 7 among the most retweeted tweets.

Obama has used Twitter only sporadically since January, tweeting a handful of times every month to weigh in on national conversations. It’s unclear if Obama himself or a social media team is handling his Twitter handle.

President Donald Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville has become the subject of widespread criticisms. In a statement Saturday, he condemned hatred and bigotry from “many sides,” not saying which “sides” he was referring to, or whose hatred and bigotry he was condemning. Many Democrats and some Republicans took issue with Trump for not calling out white nationalists or white supremacists, even after a car, allegedly driven by a neo-Nazi sympathizer, plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring 19 others.

On Monday, after two days of criticisms, Trump finally explicitly condemned hate groups, “including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists.”

But on Tuesday, Trump defended his earlier statement in a highly combative news conference.

“Before I make a statement, I like to know the facts,” Trump told reporters, also reiterating his belief that both sides are to blame for the violence.

Obama did not comment on the White House’s statements on Charlottesville and has largely avoided criticizing his successor.

In June, however, he weighed in on two of the current administration’s major policy items: climate change and health care.

He criticized the Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. Trump, who has labeled climate change a “hoax,” had promised to “cancel” the climate deal and Obama-era regulations that he said were killing jobs and industries. Obama issued a statement in early June that not-so-subtlety called the administration’s policies on climate change antiquated.

“The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created. I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack,” Obama said. “But even in the absence of American leadership; even as this Administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect future generations the one planet we’ve got.”

Later that month, on June 22, the Senate released a draft of a health-care bill that would roll back much of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Obama wrote a lengthy Facebook post in response.

“I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party. Still, I hope that our Senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did,” Obama wrote.

He said that the Senate bill, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, is “not a health-care bill” – but a “massive transfer of wealth” from the poor and middle class to the wealthy.

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Flood of Cheap Chinese Imports May Hurt India's Factories


The weaker yuan is intensifying a flood of cheap Chinese goods into the country.

A troop standoff along the border with China isn’t the only worry for Indian policy makers.

The weaker yuan is intensifying a flood of cheap Chinese goods into the country, threatening to hurt India’s struggling factories and blow out its biggest bilateral trade deficit. So authorities should take steps to support domestic companies as well as curb gains in the rupee, said Soumya Kanti Ghosh, chief economic adviser at State Bank of India, the nation’s biggest lender and one of its top currency traders.

India must “reduce dependence on such frivolous Chinese imports,” Ghosh said. Failing to do so would erode competitiveness at Indian companies and put at risk Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship ‘Make in India’ campaign, he said.

The comments follow years of U.S. threats to brand China a currency manipulator and come as Indian and Chinese soldiers face off in a remote area of the Himalayas. The risks to India’s economy are more pronounced as a new national sales tax disrupts supply chains. Factory output contracted in June for the first time in four years, official data show, mirroring subdued private surveys. That stands to only burnish the appeal of inexpensive Chinese imports.

India mainly ships electronic products, engineering goods and chemicals from China, its biggest trading partner, with whom its trade deficit has ballooned nine-fold over the past decade to $49 billion in 2016. This figure was about $51 billion for the fiscal year through March 31, on imports of $61.3 billion.

India’s central bank does not comment on day-to-day currency fluctuations and doesn’t target a particular exchange rate for the rupee. But it has been intervening in the currency market to curtail the rupee’s gains, traders say.

The rupee has strengthened 6 percent versus the U.S. dollar this year, while the yuan has gained 4 percent. China’s currency has weakened some 2 percent against the rupee, extending last year’s 4 percent decline, the steepest fall among 10 major Asian currencies.

These rupee gains could trigger expectations of further appreciation, lulling importers into leaving their currency exposures unhedged, Ghosh warned. At least 40 percent of current portfolios aren’t protected against exchange-rate swings, according to State Bank of India projections.

“If this trend of rupee appreciation continues, thereby making goods from China cheaper, our imports from China could very well exceed the level of $61.3 billion attained in financial year to March 2017,” Ghosh said.

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Nepal Plays Off India vs China To Fund Its Development


The railway to India was a lifeline for the small southern frontier town of Janakpur (AFP)

Janakpur:  Three years after its last train hit the buffers, landlocked Nepal is building a new railway network to boost its ailing economy — helped by the rivalry between powerful neighbours China and India.

The railway to India was a lifeline for the small southern frontier town of Janakpur, used to import everything from sweets to clothes and cosmetics and fuelling a vibrant border economy. But it fell into disrepair after years of neglect and since 2014, the train has sat stationary, its rusting carcass now a playground for local children, while Janakpur’s markets are empty.

“When the train was running, we would have a lot of business. I was easily providing (for) my family,” said Shyam Sah, whose small family-run cosmetics shop has suffered an 80 per cent drop in profits since the railway closed.

Now it is being rebuilt with Indian backing, one of three new rail lines — one funded by China in the north and a third by Nepal itself — that the country hopes will help boost international trade.
 

janakpur railway line afp 650

The railway to India for Janakpur, used to import everything from sweets to clothes and cosmetics.

Nepal remains largely isolated from the global economy, dependent on aid and remittances. Growth slowed dramatically after a 2015 earthquake but is expected to normalise at 5 per cent from 2018 — one of the slowest rates in South Asia — according to the World Bank.

In recent years it has courted its two large neighbours for investment in an attempt to plug itself into a rail network that links the far eastern reaches of Asia with Europe.

But geography is not on its side.

The Himalayas form a natural border between Nepal and China, leaving it largely dependent on India — with which it shares a 1,400 kilometre open border — for the majority of its imports and exports. In recent years, Kathmandu has tilted towards Beijing as part of a nationalist drive to decrease the country’s reliance on Delhi.

China has responded, ramping up its diplomatic ties with Nepal — mostly through large-scale infrastructure investments. In 2017, Beijing pledged $8.3 billion to build roads and hydropower plants in Nepal, dwarfing India’s commitments of USD 317 million. Feasibility studies are also underway for a Beijing- backed railway connecting Kathmandu to Lhasa in Tibet, cutting straight through the Himalayas at an estimated cost of $8 billion.

Ankit Panda, senior editor at The Diplomat magazine, said that could be a game-changer for the small country. “The rail line with China holds potential depending on the demand side of the equation, on how China allows Nepal to leverage that link for commercial growth opportunities,” he said.

But it has strained relations between India and China, who are currently locked in a tense standoff on the remote Himalayan plateau of Doklam in Bhutan sparked by a new road being built by China.

“China knows that its chequebook diplomacy with the smaller Asian states is a sore point with India, which simply cannot afford to put up the kind of capital outlays that the Chinese promise,” said Panda.

The project is part of its “One Belt, One Road” initiative, a massive global infrastructure programme to connect Chinese companies to new markets around the world that critics see as a geopolitical powerplay. India has snubbed the plan and skipped a summit in Beijing in May.

Delhi is funding the reconstruction of the Janakpur line, rebuilding the tracks to carry broad-gauge trains that will allow it to connect to the rest of the subcontinent’s expansive rail network.

Some experts warn that Nepal has become a de-facto battleground in a geopolitical struggle for regional supremacy between India and China — a position that Kathmandu must navigate carefully. “None of them (smaller Asian nations) want to become a de facto satellite state,” said Michael Auslin, Asia expert and fellow with the Hoover Institution. “But by having both India and China essentially compete over it, from one perspective it makes it a battleground, from another perspective it means that Nepal is playing the two off against each other,” he added.
 

janakpur railway line afp 650

The rail line is being rebuilt with Indian backing.

Meanwhile, the people of Janakpur are eagerly awaiting the rail revival that will connect them to India once again. “When the train stopped, everything finished. Business has gone down for all of the city,” said bookshop owner Rajendra Kusuwah. “After the new rail comes, it will open doors for development.” 



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A Rare And Elusive White Moose Has Finally Been Captured On Video


A rare white moose was spotted taking a dip in a pool in Sweden’s Varmland County on August 11.

Hans Nilsson has spent three years trying to spot an elusive white moose in the town of Eda, in western Sweden. Last week he got lucky and crossed paths with the ghost-colored herbivore two days in a row.

When Nilsson saw the moose the first time, he was amazed. On the second day, he was ready.

He whipped out a camera and shot video of the moose, well, being a moose. It waded into a nearby stream. It shook off water. It nibbled on some plants. Nilsson, of course, described the scene in more majestic terms.

“When I shot the video everything fell into place: the location, the light and the calmness,” Nilsson told the Local, a Swedish newspaper. “It was an experience to meet such a stately animal up close.”

According to the newspaper, this is the second white moose sighting that’s gone viral in Sweden this summer. In July, Jessica Hemlin photographed a white moose that regularly visits her garden in Munkeda, which is also in western Sweden.

Sweden has an estimated 400,000 moose, most of which unabashedly resemble Bullwinkle, the newspaper reported. But about 100 of them are mostly white, according to the BBC. Some of them have albinism, in which the body doesn’t produce a lot of melanin pigment. But many more have a recessive gene that causes mostly white fur interspersed with bits of brown, the Local reported.

According to National Geographic, the white coloring may be a form of natural selection, as flabbergasted hunters choose to let the white moose live, increasing their numbers. Moose in Sweden have no natural predators except humans.

“Hunters have chosen to not kill any moose that are light,” Goran Ericsson, a professor of elk and moose for the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, told the magazine. “It is kind of like dog breeding. They choose to select for traits that otherwise wouldn’t have occurred.”

And although this moose has made international headlines this week, it probably has never taken a moment to appreciate its rare color.

Moose are colorblind.

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



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Zimbabwe's First Lady Allegedly Assaulted Model Who Partied With Her Sons


Gabriella Engels was allegedly assaulted by Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe

After reportedly turning herself in to South African police on Tuesday over allegations that she assaulted a 20-year-old woman who was partying with her two sons, Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe’s whereabouts are currently unknown, and local reports indicate that she may have returned to her country despite officials in Johannesburg stating otherwise.

It had been unclear whether the wife of Zimbabwe’s 93-year-old president was traveling in South Africa on a diplomatic passport and, therefore, had legal immunity. She was in the country for medical purposes. A Zimbabwean intelligence source told Reuters that Mugabe had been traveling on an ordinary nondiplomatic passport.

Fikile Mbalula, South Africa’s police minister, had said that charges would be brought against her and that she was being cooperative. In 2009, a photographer in Hong Kong said Mugabe and her bodyguard had assaulted him, but no charges were brought because the Zimbabwean first lady was able to claim diplomatic immunity.

The young woman accusing Mugabe of assault on Sunday night is Gabriella Engels, who works as a model. She was reportedly visiting with Mugabe’s two sons, Robert Jr. and Chatunga, at a hotel in an upscale neighborhood of Johannesburg called Sandton. Speaking to News24, Engels said Mugabe suddenly burst into the room.

“When Grace entered, I had no idea who she was. She walked in with an extension cord and just started beating me with it,” Engels said.

“She flipped and just kept beating me with the plug. Over and over. I had no idea what was going on. I was surprised. . . . I needed to crawl out of the room before I could run away.”

Engels posted a picture of an injury to her head on Twitter, later adding that it could impair her modeling career.

The Mugabes’ party, ZANU-PF, claimed it was actually Engels who perpetrated the assault, tweeting an earlier picture of the model.

Mugabe’s sons are enrolled at the University of Johannesburg. They have been evicted from apartments in both Johannesburg and Dubai for rowdy behavior, and tabloids have widely covered their partying habits.

Mugabe’s reputation precedes her, too. In a profile of her written for the Guardian, David Smith said: “Few women in Africa provoke such fascination, or such loathing, as Grace Mugabe. Loyalists describe her as ‘Amai’ (Mother), ‘The Lady of the Revelation’ or, predictably, ‘Amazing Grace’, while detractors prefer ‘DisGrace’, ‘Gucci Grace’ or ‘First Shopper.’ There are reports that the couple have substantial foreign properties and multiple offshore bank accounts, Grace’s overseas shopping expeditions are legendary: She was widely reported to have spent 75,000 Euro on luxury goods in one day in Paris in 2003, and to have taken 15 trolley-loads of purchases into the first-class lounge of Singapore airport. She has been forced to deny rumors that she has been unfaithful to the president and defends herself against accusations that she is pampered and lazy.”

Just weeks ago, Mugabe was reportedly detained in Singapore after attempting to destroy camera equipment belonging to two journalists. But diplomatic immunity absolved her in that case, too.

Mugabe is openly vying to become her elderly husband’s successor. Robert Mugabe presides over one of the world’s poorest and most unequal countries. Zimbabwe’s currency recently collapsed, and the country is suffering from prolonged drought. Nevertheless, its government announced plans last week for a $1 billion university to be built in Robert Mugabe’s name. Health care is so ineffectual in Zimbabwe that members of ZANU-PF regularly travel abroad for treatment. Political dissidents often are jailed or simply disappear.

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



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Israeli Firm Offers 'Anti-Terrorism' Adventure To Tourists


Efrat:  The foreigners yell “fire, fire, fire” before shooting their automatic weapons as Israeli instructors look on — but this is no military training.

The 20 or so Jewish tourists from South America are on an “anti-terrorism” course run by former Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank. Their targets are balloons nearby.

“The aim of the training is not to teach you how to shoot,” Eitan Cohen, one of the instructors, says to the group, “but to make you understand what we do here in Israel to fight terrorism”.

The tourist attraction offers an unusual option for visitors coming to see Jerusalem’s holy sites or to float in the Dead Sea.

But while it may be exhilarating or instructive for some, others find it offensive, accusing the company of profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory and fears of “terrorism”.

The company is called Caliber 3, located near the Israeli settlement of Efrat south of Jerusalem, and it began in 2003 as a training camp for professional security personnel such as police.

The instructors, including ex-soldiers who say they served in elite units, use their experience gained through Israel’s various conflicts.

Since 2009, it has also become an attraction for tourists who are taught how to handle weapons, participate in paintball or learn Krav Maga, the self-defence method using boxing and martial arts developed by the Israeli military.

They pay a little over $100 to participate.

One programme sees the tourists stumble onto a “terrorist attack” in a simulated market with plastic fruits and wooden stalls.

Instructors are disguised, including one wearing a Palestinian-style headscarf.

Suddenly, instructors in fatigues yell at the tourists to get on the ground, then they stop a “terrorist” with a knife — not the person with the headscarf.

Cohen, 41, debriefs them and tells them to always be alert in a crowd. 

He has a Rambo-like look: fatigues, sunglasses perched on his forehead, rifle slung over his shoulder and a pistol on his belt.

Caliber 3’s website says he is a former sniper and member of elite police units.

“I’m going to show you the values of soldiers in the Israeli army and how we fight against terrorists,” he says to the tourists, who take photos of him with Israeli flags in the background.

‘Create fear’

Dan Cohen, 49, came from Caracas with his family to vacation in Israel and decided to add the training to his itinerary.

While his children play paintball nearby, he and his wife Lili listen attentively to the instructor before a crash course in handling automatic weapons and firing on a balloon stuck to a target.

“We came here thinking we were going to do something completely different,” he says, adding they wanted to learn “how to shoot” and “react in a terrorist situation, God forbid”.

“But what we really learned is how the soldiers make quick decisions and understand what is wrong and what is right in these situations, and how hard it is to understand.”

But some Palestinians say they see the company as another insult.

Mohammed Burjieh, a 38-year-old teacher in the neighbouring village of Massara, cut off from Efrat by Israel’s controversial separation wall, accuses Caliber 3 of exploiting fears over “terrorism”.

“The settlers who run this company create fear (of Palestinians) among tourists so they spread it when returning to their countries,” he says.

Around 25,000 tourists, mainly American, but also Chinese, Canadian and South Americans, participated in the training last year, according to the firm.

Another instructor, Yoav Fleishman, wearing a black t-shirt emblazoned with the words “Combat Instructor”, says “we are explaining to tourists the difficulties of this war, which is very different from classic warfare”.

After the tourists complete the two-hour training, Cohen provides an assessment, but also a message.

“We must protect civilians while keeping our moral values,” he says to applause.

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



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Donald Trump Says 'Both Sides' To Blame In Deadly Virginia Violence


New York:  President Donald Trump on Tuesday revived his declaration that “both sides” were to blame for deadly violence at a white supremacist rally over the weekend in Charlottesville, abandoning his message from a day earlier that had emphasized the culpability of the groups that organized and participated in the event.

In a remarkable show of defiance, Trump insisted during a combative exchange with reporters at Trump Tower in Manhattan that there were “two sides to a story” just a day after he had belatedly condemned racist hate groups for the mayhem that left a woman dead and many other people injured.

Trump – clearly chafing at the political backlash over his handling of the situation and his aides’ attempts to rein him in – also appeared eager to cast aspersions on the counterprotesters, who he said acted “very, very violently” and “came charging with clubs in their hand” at the rally participants.

“Do they have any semblance of guilt?” he asked rhetorically. “Do they have any problem? I think they do.”

The president also made clear that he believes that many of the participants in the Unite the Right rally were taking part in a lawful demonstration against the Charlottesville city council’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a public square.

“You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay?” Trump said. “And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.”

There were some “fine people” among the counterprotesters, he added, but also “troublemakers” in “black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats. . . . You had a lot of bad people in the other group.”

Trump’s remarks represented a rebuke of the broad array of political, civic and cultural leaders who had called on him over the past several days to clearly and firmly denounce the hate groups and offer support for the victims of the violence. Under mounting pressure to set a clear moral tone for the nation, he instead lashed out defensively against criticism that he had fanned the flames of racial divisions and, in doing so, failed a crucial test of his presidency.

During the remarks – which caught senior aides watching from the lobby by surprise – Trump appeared far more passionate in defending many of the rally participants than he had in his more muted denunciation of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis a day earlier at the White House, where he read from prepared remarks. Visibly irritated, he parried with reporters and spoke over them, refusing several times to let them cut him off.

Speaking off the cuff, Trump compared Founding Fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to Lee and Gen. Stonewall Jackson, Confederate commanders during the Civil War. He suggested that the former presidents might face the same fate and have their memorials removed because they owned slaves.

“You’re changing history,” Trump said. “You’re changing culture.”

Asked if he was putting the left-leaning counterprotesters on the same moral plane as the white supremacists, he replied: “I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane. . . . There was a group on this side, you can call them the left – you’ve just called them the left – that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that’s the way it is.”

Lawmakers from both political parties quickly denounced the president’s remarks, with Republicans growing more vocal in their criticism than they had been in recent days. In a six-part Twitter message, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) declared the rally organizers to be “100% to blame,” and he pleaded with Trump to hold them accountable.

“Mr. President, you can’t allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame,” he wrote. He added: “The #WhiteSupremacy groups will see being assigned only 50% of blame as a win. We can not allow this old evil to be resurrected.”

But the president’s performance also won raves from white nationalist leaders, some of whom had begun to criticize him after he called their groups “repugnant to all we hold dear as Americans” in a statement Monday.

Trump reiterated Tuesday that neo-Nazis and white nationalists should be “totally condemned.” But he spent little time talking about those groups and instead pivoted repeatedly to defending the “alt-right,” a loose coalition of conservative and fringe groups that back a nationalist agenda and have been widely criticized as racist and xenophobic.

“What about the alt-left that came charging at the alt-right?” Trump said.

David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, praised the president on Twitter for his “honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa” – using shorthand for the Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist movements.

The result was that a president whose seven months on the job have been marked by scandal, West Wing infighting and a stalled legislative agenda found himself again on the defensive – at least in part because of his stubbornness and willingness to step on his intended message.

Trump had come down to the Trump Tower lobby to announce a new executive action on infrastructure, hoping to pressure lawmakers on a key agenda item.

The plan was for the president, flanked by Cabinet members, to make a brief announcement and display a complicated flow chart of regulatory requirements for builders that his administration hopes to streamline, said a person familiar with Trump’s schedule. Then, the president would step aside and allow his deputies to answer reporters’ questions about the specifics of the plan.

Instead, Trump began fielding questions. Chief of Staff John Kelly – a former homeland security secretary brought in two weeks ago to help bring order to a chaotic and undisciplined White House – stood on the side looking grim-faced, his head bowed and arms crossed during some of the question-and-answer session.

“People inside the White House are aware the press conference did not go well,” said one Republican operative who is in frequent contact with senior West Wing officials. “Trump had a bad day here.”

It is not clear whether the president would agree. As his approval ratings have plummeted to well below 40 percent, he has moved to appeal directly to his base of hardcore supporters.

On Tuesday morning, he retweeted a doctored cartoon image of a Trump train running into an man with a CNN logo superimposed on his head. The tweet was soon deleted after criticism that it was insensitive in the wake of the death of Heather Heyer, 32, who was killed in Charlottesville when a car plowed into a group of counterprotesters. Prosecutors have charged James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio in the case.

In the Trump Tower lobby, Trump seized on a “beautiful” Monday statement from Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, who had thanked the president “for denouncing those who promote violence and hatred,” to make the case that he has handled the situation with care.

“It was something I really appreciated,” he said. “I thought it was terrific. And really, under the kind of stress that she’s under and the heartache that she’s under, I thought putting out that statement to me was really something I won’t forget.”

He promised to reach out to her but did not say when.

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



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Argentina Warns US Against Military Move On Venezuela


US Vice President Mike Pence and Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri in Buenos Aires (AFP)

Buenos Aires:  US Vice President Mike Pence heard more complaints from Latin American allies on Tuesday about President Donald Trump’s warning of a possible US military option to deal with the crisis in Venezuela.

“The use of force is not the way”, but rather political pressure, Argentine President Mauricio Macri said at a news conference alongside Mike Pence, who is on a tour of Latin American countries.

Trump warned on Friday that he was considering various options to resolve the Venezuela crisis, “including a possible military option if necessary”.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro responded by ordering his armed forces to carry out a national exercise next week.

Pence moved to soften the impact of Trump’s announcement, stressing that peaceful pressure is the priority.

But he did not rule out Trump following through on his threat.

“The United States has many options, and we reserve those options,” Pence said.

“But we truly believe that by increasing economic and diplomatic pressure on the Maduro regime — not just across the Americas, but across the wider world — that we can achieve a restoration of democracy in Venezuela by peaceable means.”

The United States along with Argentina and other regional allies have joined in international condemnation of Maduro.

But the South American bloc Mercosur over the weekend rejected any use of force to resolve the Venezuela crisis.

Maduro has been tightening his grip on power in response to economic chaos and angry street protests by opponents demanding elections. Nearly 130 people have died in recent months of unrest.

The US vice president was on the second stop in a tour of Latin America to rally the region over the Venezuela crisis.

He earlier visited Colombia and was due to travel to Chile on Wednesday and later to Panama.

Pence said a million Venezuelans had fled to Colombia and more than 60,000 to Argentina to escape the chaos in their country.

Pence and Macri said they discussed increasing trade between their countries.

Pence praised the economic reforms Macri has introduced since taking office in 2015.

The conservative president has moved to open up Argentine trade and finance, though his critics say the measures have worsened hardship for the poor.



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Flood of Cheap Chinese Imports May Hurt India's Factories


The weaker yuan is intensifying a flood of cheap Chinese goods into the country.

A troop standoff along the border with China isn’t the only worry for Indian policy makers.

The weaker yuan is intensifying a flood of cheap Chinese goods into the country, threatening to hurt India’s struggling factories and blow out its biggest bilateral trade deficit. So authorities should take steps to support domestic companies as well as curb gains in the rupee, said Soumya Kanti Ghosh, chief economic adviser at State Bank of India, the nation’s biggest lender and one of its top currency traders.

India must “reduce dependence on such frivolous Chinese imports,” Ghosh said. Failing to do so would erode competitiveness at Indian companies and put at risk Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship ‘Make in India’ campaign, he said.

The comments follow years of U.S. threats to brand China a currency manipulator and come as Indian and Chinese soldiers face off in a remote area of the Himalayas. The risks to India’s economy are more pronounced as a new national sales tax disrupts supply chains. Factory output contracted in June for the first time in four years, official data show, mirroring subdued private surveys. That stands to only burnish the appeal of inexpensive Chinese imports.

India mainly ships electronic products, engineering goods and chemicals from China, its biggest trading partner, with whom its trade deficit has ballooned nine-fold over the past decade to $49 billion in 2016. This figure was about $51 billion for the fiscal year through March 31, on imports of $61.3 billion.

India’s central bank does not comment on day-to-day currency fluctuations and doesn’t target a particular exchange rate for the rupee. But it has been intervening in the currency market to curtail the rupee’s gains, traders say.

The rupee has strengthened 6 percent versus the U.S. dollar this year, while the yuan has gained 4 percent. China’s currency has weakened some 2 percent against the rupee, extending last year’s 4 percent decline, the steepest fall among 10 major Asian currencies.

These rupee gains could trigger expectations of further appreciation, lulling importers into leaving their currency exposures unhedged, Ghosh warned. At least 40 percent of current portfolios aren’t protected against exchange-rate swings, according to State Bank of India projections.

“If this trend of rupee appreciation continues, thereby making goods from China cheaper, our imports from China could very well exceed the level of $61.3 billion attained in financial year to March 2017,” Ghosh said.

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



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Baby Girl 'Teargassed, Beaten By Kenyan Police' Dies: Doctor


Samantha Pendo was asleep in her mother’s arms when police forced their way into their home (Reuters)

KISUMU, Kenya:  A six-month-old girl has died in Kenya, her doctor told Reuters on Tuesday, after her parents said she was teargassed and clubbed by police in a security crackdown after last week’s disputed election.

Samantha Pendo was asleep in her mother’s arms when police forced their way into their home and beat her and her parents as they searched for protesters, her parents said.

“She remained in coma throughout. She never improved one bit,” said Dr. Sam Oula at the Aga Khan Hospital in the western city of Kisumu.

The baby and her parents were beaten when police were sweeping their neighbourhood for opposition protesters on Saturday, residents told Reuters journalists who investigated the incident.

Kisumu is a stronghold of opposition leader Raila Odinga, who is contesting results from last Tuesday’s presidential election. An official tally said President Uhuru Kenyatta won re-election by 1.4 million votes.

Odinga’s accusations of rigging have led to protests in Kisumu and in Nairobi slums. Residents there say police have responded with lethal force and many residents were killed in their homes.

Among the dead are an 8-year-old girl, hit by a stray bullet as she played on her balcony, and an 18-year-old student whose mother said was pulled from under the bed and beaten so badly he died the next day.

Police have promised to investigate all incidents but human rights groups say they rarely hold officers to account for extrajudicial killings.

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Nigeria Suicide Bombers Kill 28, Wound 82


Three women suicide bombers blew themselves up in northeast Nigeria (AFP)

Kano, Nigeria:  Three women suicide bombers blew themselves up at the entrance to a camp for displaced people in northeast Nigeria on Tuesday, killing 28 people and wounding 82, local sources said.

The attack — the latest in a string of assaults in the troubled region — took place in the town of Mandarari, 25 kilometres (15 miles) from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, said Baba Kura, a member of a vigilante force set up to fight jihadists.

“Three female bombers triggered their explosive outside of the IDP (internally displaced persons) camp… killing 28 people and wounding 82 others,” Kura said.

The first assailant blew herself up, triggering panic, Kura said.

“People were trying to close their shops when two other female bombers triggered their explosives, causing most of the casualties,” he said.

Ibrahim Liman, the head of a local anti-jihadist militia force, confirmed the details of the attack, and said that more than 80 injured had been taken to Maiduguri hospital.

A source at the hospital said a “huge number” of patients had arrived.

Northeast Nigeria is a hotbed of activity by the Boko Haram jihadist group, involving shootings, bombings and kidnappings.

It launched an insurgency in 2009 that has killed about 20,000 people and displaced around 2.6 million others, creating one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises.

Nearly two million are suffering from acute malnutrition, according to UN figures.

After being elected to power in 2015, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari made tackling the insurgency a priority, winning back swathes of territory and declaring that Boko Haram is “technically defeated”.

But this year has seen a surge in attacks, including an audacious assault on an oil exploration team that killed 69 people in Borno in July, raising fears that Boko Haram is regaining strength.

That attack prompted Vice President Yemi Osinbajo — standing in for President Muhammadu Buhari who is on indefinite sick leave — to tell the millitary to step up its response.

Osinbajo issued “fresh directives… to immediately scale-up their efforts and activities in Borno state… to maintain a strong, effective control of the situation”, his spokesman Laolu Akandehe said.

In August, however, 72 people have been killed in northeastern Nigeria, including 31 fishermen on islands in Lake Chad, according to an unofficial toll compiled from news reports.

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



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Main US Labor Union Head Leaves Trump Panel Over Charlottesville Response


AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka announced his immediate resignation from the panel (Reuters)

Washington:  The president of the main US labor union resigned from Donald Trump’s council on manufacturing Tuesday, saying the US president’s response to violent white supremacists in Charlottesville meant he tolerated “bigotry and domestic terrorism.”

“We cannot sit on a council for a President who tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement announcing his immediate resignation from the panel.

“President Trump’s remarks today repudiate his forced remarks yesterday about the KKK and neo-Nazis. We must resign on behalf of America’s working people, who reject all notions of legitimacy of these bigoted groups.”

Earlier, Trump had angrily responded to questions over whether his reaction to the weekend’s rally that ended in bloodshed had fallen short, to which he again said there was “blame on both sides.”

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



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Donald Trump On Charlottesville Violence: 'Blame On Both Sides'


“I think there is blame on both sides,” Donald Trump said in a rowdy exchange with reporters (File)

New York:  US President Donald Trump on Tuesday angrily defended his controversial initial response to the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that ended in bloodshed, saying there was “blame on both sides.”

Trump has faced days of criticism over his first comments after Saturday’s unrest in Charlottesville, when a rally by neo-Nazis and white supremacists over the removal of a Confederate statue erupted in clashes with counter-demonstrators.

A suspected Nazi sympathizer then plowed his car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters, leaving one woman dead and 19 others injured. The driver, James Fields, has been charged with second-degree murder.

At first, on Saturday, Trump only said there were violence “on many sides,” prompting a backlash. On Monday, he singled out the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis as “criminals and thugs.”

But on Tuesday, he was visibly annoyed with continued questioning about the issue.

“I think there is blame on both sides,” Trump said in a rowdy exchange with reporters at Trump Tower in New York, where he was presenting infrastructure measures.

“You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now,” Trump added.

“What about the alt-left that came charging at, as you say, at the alt-right? (…) There are two sides to a story.”

When asked why he waited until Monday to explicitly condemn hate groups present in Charlottesville, Trump said he wanted to be careful not to make a “quick statement” without all the facts.

“If the press were not fake and if it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice,” the president added.

He called Fields a “disgrace to himself, his family and this country.”

The president also defended his controversial far-right chief strategist Steve Bannon, saying: “I like Mr Bannon. He’s a friend of mine… He is a good man. He is not a racist.”

 



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Number Of Homeless School Pupils On Rise In New York


The number of homeless schoolchildren in New York is increasing (Representational)

New York:  The number of homeless schoolchildren in New York is increasing and on track to reach more than one in seven elementary pupils, a new report revealed Tuesday.

Some 100,000 students, or nine percent of city public school pupils, were homeless during the academic year 2015-16 — an increase of 20 percent in just one year, said the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness.

New York — a city of huge wealth disparity and America’s most populous city as well as its financial and entertainment capital — has long suffered from a homeless crisis.

While the city has more billionaires than any other in the world, its unrelenting pursuit of wealth and gentrification means that those on modest wages struggle to find affordable housing.

More than 140,000 children in city public schools have been homeless at some point in the last six years, the Institute said.

If current trends continue, more than one in seven of all elementary school students will experience homelessness, said Anna Shaw-Amoah, principal policy analyst at the Institute.

“Many people may have that perception,” she said when asked about New York’s wealthy international image. “But in every school district there is at least two percent of the students who are homeless.”

One in every six students classified as English-language learners were homeless in the academic year 2015-16.

Being homeless has an adverse effect on school performance, even if children are subsequently moved into shelters or permanent housing, the report found.

Students in shelters lagged behind classmates academically and one in four homeless students without middle-school proficiency dropped out of high school.

In four districts in the Bronx and Brooklyn, less than 46 percent of homeless students graduated — significantly trailing the citywide average of 73 percent.

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Nearly 400 Bodies Recovered From Sierra Leone Mudslide: Coroner


Rescue workers recovered nearly 400 bodies from a mudslide in Freetown (Reuters)

FREETOWN:  Rescue workers have recovered nearly 400 bodies from a mudslide in the outskirts of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown, the chief coroner said on Tuesday, as rescue operations continued and morgues struggled to find space for all the dead.

President Ernest Bai Koroma urged residents of the town of Regent and other flooded areas around Freetown to evacuate immediately so that military personnel and other rescue workers could continue to search for survivors who might be buried underneath debris.

Dozens of houses were covered in mud when a mountainside collapsed in Regent on Monday morning, one of the deadliest natural disasters in Africa in recent years.

“As the search continues, we have collected nearly 400 bodies – but we anticipate more than 500,” chief coroner Seneh Dumbuya told Reuters.

Bodies continued to arrive at the city’s overwhelmed central morgue on Tuesday. Corpses were lying on the floor and on the ground outside for lack of room, a Reuters witness said.

“Our problem here is space. We are trying to separate, quantify, and examine quickly and then we will issue death certificates before the burial,” said Owiz Koroma, head of the morgue, who also estimated the death toll to be in the hundreds.

To relieve pressure on the morgue, authorities and aid agencies were preparing to bury the bodies in four different cemeteries across Freetown on Wednesday, said Idalia Amaya, an emergency response coordinator for Catholic Relief Services.

Medecins Sans Frontieres is providing hundreds of body bags to authorities that the medical charity kept in Sierra Leone after the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak which killed 4,000 people in the former British colony.

FEAR OF DISEASE

Sierra Red Cross Society spokesman Abu Bakarr Tarawallie said by phone he estimated that at least 3,000 people were homeless and in need of shelter, medical assistance and food. The Red Cross said another 600 were missing.

“We are also fearful of outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and typhoid,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Freetown.

“We can only hope that this does not happen.”

Contaminated water and water-logging often lead to potentially deadly diseases like cholera and diarrhoea after floods and mudslides.
Crowds of people gathered, waiting for news of missing family members.

“I’ve been looking for my aunt and her two children, but so far no word about them,” said Mohamed Jalloh, crying. He said he feared the worst.

President Koroma said in a television address on Monday evening that rescue centres had been set up around the capital to register and assist victims.

Bulldozers dug through mud and rubble at the foot of Mount Sugar Loaf, where many residents had been asleep when part of the mountainside collapsed. The government said a number of illegal buildings had been erected in the area.



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Colombia's 50-Year-Long Guerrilla War Ends As Last Guns Taken Away


President Juan Manuel Santos gives the keys of the last container with weapons to UN inspectors (AFP)

Bogota, Colombia:  Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos declared the country’s 50-year conflict with FARC guerrillas “truly over” Tuesday, as the last truckloads of decommissioned weapons rolled away to be melted down.Santos himself shut a padlock on the last lot of decommissioned rifles before it was taken out of a remote demobilization camp to formally seal the UN-supervised disarmament by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

“With the laying down of arms … the conflict is truly over and a new phase begins in the life of our nation,” Santos said at a ceremony in Pondores, a remote area in the northern Guajira department.

“This is truly a historic moment for the country,” he said.

“We have been a republic for 198 years. Never had we had such a long conflict and today is indeed the last breath of that conflict.”

The leftist rebel force has said it will officially transform into a political party on September 1, a major step in reintegrating into civilian life as part of a historic peace deal signed last year.

“Soon we will be holding a founding congress for the new political party that will be called the Alternative Revolutionary Force of Colombia,” said one of the FARC’s senior leaders, Ivan Marquez, at Tuesday’s ceremony.

The FARC was born in May 1964 from a peasants’ revolt, and its ranks were made up mostly of country-dwellers who rallied behind the group’s Marxist-Leninist ideology, with land reform its key demand.

As well as a quarter of a million dead, about 60,000 Colombians remain unaccounted for and seven million have been displaced in the conflict.

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Interpol Warrants Against 4 Indian-Origin Businessmen Over Rare Diamond


The cost of diamond is said to be Rs 2.5-billion. (Representational Image)

Johannesburg:  The Interpol has issued red notices against four Indian-origin businessmen in South Africa following a legal spat over a Rs 2.5-billion rare pink diamond with a Russian telecommunications magnate and a local diamond dealer amid intriguing claims and counter claims of theft.

Zunaid Moti, his father Abbas Aboo Baker Moti and their associates Ashruf Kaka and Salim Bobat, have approached the Pretoria High Court to fight the red notices as the two-year- long tripartite legal battle plays out in courts in France, Lebanon, Zimbabwe and Dubai, The Times reported today.

A red notice is an international alert by Interpol seeking the location and arrest of a wanted person for extradition.

The four men have asked the local court to interdict the execution of the Interpol warrants, claiming that the papers were obtained fraudulently by Russian businessman Alibek Issaev, who alleges that the four stole the diamond from him.

They in turn have accused Issaev, a former partner in one of their businesses in South Africa, of stealing the diamond from them on the pretext of having a buyer for it in Russia.

But in a growing intrigue, international diamond dealer Sylla Moussa has accused the Indian-origin men of stealing the same diamond from him in 2003.

Kaka said he and his associates had a letter of surety from Moussa that he had given the diamond to them as payment for a debt.

Kaka told the daily that the Interpol warrants issued by the Lebanese authorities were based on fraudulent charges brought against them by Issaev in retaliation for an Interpol arrest warrant they had secured against him for a business deal that went wrong in Zimbabwe.

A private investigator hired by Kaka and his associates, Paul O’Sullivan, confirmed that none of his clients had ever been to Lebanon.

The court has been urged to defer the warrants “pending the outcome of our matter with Interpol’s oversight body in Lyon and the court cases which we have running in Lebanon, where we are challenging the original arrest warrants, Zimbabwe and Dubai.”

South African police and judicial authorities confirmed no warrants or extradition notices for the four businessmen had been received yet.

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Rebuilding Trust In Gulf Will Take A Lot Of Time, Says Qatar


Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut ties with Qatar on June 5 (File)

Doha:  Qatar’s foreign minister said Tuesday it will take a “lot of time” to rebuild any trust between sparring Gulf countries because of the region’s continuing diplomatic crisis.

As the impasse between Doha and four Arab states led by Saudi Arabia entered its 11th week, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said regional relations had been transformed by the dispute.

“Qatar has always been one of the founders of the GCC organisation and we still consider that this has a great importance for all of us in the region,” he told reporters.

Created in 1981, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a political and economic union comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“This organisation has been built on a strategical security and been built on trust.

“Unfortunately, what happened lately with this crisis, this factor is missing now and needs a lot of time to rebuild the trust again.

“We hope that it’s restored.”

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut ties with Qatar on June 5 — accusing it of backing extremism and fostering ties with Iran — triggering the biggest political crisis in the Gulf for several years.

Doha denies the claims and accuses the other countries of an attack on its sovereignty.

The Saudi-led countries have also imposed sanctions including restrictions on Qatari aircraft using their airspace.

The foreign minister added that the conflict was unnecessary.

“Such a crisis is not needed in our region, we have enough problems and enough conflict.

“A region like the Gulf region, which was considered the most stable region in the Arab world is now destabilised because… of a crisis without a solid foundation.”

However, he added that diplomatic efforts led by regional mediator Kuwait were continuing.

“We have received a letter from the Emir of Kuwait a few days ago. And this letter is a continuous effort… to encourage the parties to engage in dialogue.”

Despite this, Sheikh Mohammed said Qatar was still waiting to hear from its rivals.

“Put up your claims and put up your evidence. We told them (Saudi-led countries) anywhere you want, whatever evidence you have, just put it on the table.

“Now its been 72 days since the first day of their measures and we have not been provided with a single document.”

Experts have speculated that the diplomatic uncertainty in the region will lead to the demise of the GCC.

One, Andreas Krieg, a political risk analyst at King’s College London, told AFP that the GCC was “dying by the day”.

“The Kuwaiti emir is a great believer in the GCC and will do everything he can to resolve the crisis to save the GCC.

“However, realistically, the GCC cannot survive this crisis,” he said.

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Number Of Dead In Nepal Flood Now 120; Six Million Affected


A large number of people have been displaced due to flooding and landslides in Nepal. (PTI)

Kathmandu:  The number of those dead from widespread flooding and landslides in Nepal today climbed to 120 with nearly 35 people still unaccounted for and over six million affected by incessant rainfall across the Himalayan country.

Most of the displaced, living in temporary shelters for the past three days, were yet to receive relief supplies in the flood-hit interior areas, the Kathmandu Post reported. More than 2,800 houses have been completely destroyed.

Normal life in parts of Nepal has been hit and a large number of people have been displaced due to flooding and landslides.

Authorities recovered seven bodies from the “no man’s land” near the flood-hit Biratnagar-Jogbani border with India today and the death toll has hit 120, Home Ministry sources said.

“A committee has been formed under Home Minister Janardan Sharma to ascertain the extent of the loss. The chief secretary and secretaries of 12 ministries are members of the committee,” home ministry spokesman Ram Krishna Subedi said.

The ministry said the Nepal government has accelerated rescue and relief operations. It said nearly 27,000 security personnel have been engaged in post-disaster operation and a search for those missing was underway.

Thirteen helicopters, including seven from the Nepal Army, motorboats, rubber boats and other equipment are being used for search, rescue and to supply relief materials.

Subedi said tarps, cooking pots, dry foods, salt, vegetable oil and other relief supplies have been distributed in the affected districts.

Heavy rainfall has lashed Nepal for the past five days.

The Rapti river, which flows through a large part of Nepal towards the southern plains, has flooded human settlements and hotels popular with tourists in the central Chitwan Valley.

Many people, including foreigners, had been stranded in Sauraha, a part of the Chitwan National Park. The 35 Indians stranded there have been rescued, the Indian embassy said.

Some reports had previously said that 200 Indian tourists were among the 700 people stranded in Sauraha, but the Indian embassy officials said only 35 of them were Indian nationals. The flood triggered by the monsoon rains, a yearly feature, has affected 27 districts across Nepal.

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Belgium Makes Giant Omelette With 6,500 Eggs Despite Food Scandal


The World Giant Omelette Brotherhood has been organising the festival for over 20 years (AFP)

Malmedy, Belgium:  About a thousand people flocked to the small Belgian town of Malmedy on Tuesday to eat a giant omelette made of 6,500 eggs, despite the country being at the centre of a scandal involving tainted eggs.Belgium became the first country last month to officially notify the EU’s food safety alert system of the presence of eggs contaminated by the insecticide fipronil, followed by the Netherlands and Germany.

The insecticide, which can harm human health, has since been discovered in eggs in 14 other European countries since the scandal came to light on August 1 and has even been found as far afield as Hong Kong.

It has forced millions of eggs to be removed from supermarket shelves and the closure of more than 150 farms in the Netherlands.
 

egg afp

The egg festival is being held in the Belgian town of Malmedy (AFP)

“We were hit full-on by the tainted eggs scare,” Rene Bourguignon said as he waited to prepare the omelette.

While at least 1,000 people braved rainy skies to get a bite, the turnout was far below last year’s record 7,000.

The local branch of the World Giant Omelette Brotherhood has been organising the festival in Malmedy for more than 20 years.

It spent a week preparing for this year’s culinary opus, collecting 6,500 eggs from carefully selected places instead of the usual 10,000.

“We have total confidence in our local products, our suppliers are local and they fulfilled every health guarantee we asked of them since the beginning,” Bourguignon said.

The number of attendees was a good sign, the Brotherhood’s “grand master,” Jean-Pierre Gilles said.

“Of course, the public may have had its doubts and we did fear that a little, but seeing the numbers of people we saw today, I think it all went very well,” Gilles said.

“Any doubts were swept away by friendship and warmth.”

Made simply with eggs, bacon, oil and chives, and cooked over a wood fire, the omelette has been a fixture of the annual festival since the 1990s when Belgium was hit with a similar scandal — over chicken and eggs contaminated with dioxin, a known carcinogen.

Traces of fipronil found in the contaminated eggs are at very low levels.

“The media said you needed to eat eight eggs a day” for the insecticide to affect your health, local volunteer Gabiche Chleck said.

“Personally, there’s no way I could eat all that.”

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Boston Holocaust Memorial Vandalised Twice In Two Months


A worker cleans broken glass at New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston (AFP)

New York:  A memorial to the Holocaust in Boston has been vandalized for the second time in less than two months with a 17-year-old suspect due to appear in court Tuesday, police said.

The teen allegedly threw a rock at the New England Holocaust Memorial, shattering a glass panel at around 6:40 pm (2240 GMT) on Monday, before being detained by two bystanders, police said.

Shattered glass littered the ground next to the damaged panel.

The suspect would be charged with willful and malicious destruction of property, police said. Officers from the civil rights unit were investigating to determine if additional charges are pending.

“Boston stands up against hate. I’m saddened to see such a despicable action in this great city,” said Mayor Marty Walsh.

The incident came two days after a woman was killed when a suspected Nazi sympathizer plowed a car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters after a violent rally by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“In light of the recent events and unrest in Charlottesville, it’s sad to see a young person choose to engage in such senseless and shameful behavior,” said Boston police commissioner William Evans.

It was the second time in less than two months that the Boston Holocaust memorial has been vandalized, officials confirmed. Another suspect was charged last time.

The memorial has six glass towers, representing the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, the six main death camps and the six years, 1939-1945, during which the infamous “Final Solution” took place.

Boston is the largest city in the northeastern state of Massachusetts.

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US Says Open To Talk If North Korea Ready To Disarm


The top US diplomat said it would be up to Kim Jong-Un when such negotiations would begin.

Washington, United States:  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday, after North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un postponed a threat to fire missiles towards the US territory of Guam, that Washington remains ready for talks.

But the top US diplomat said it would be up to Kim when such negotiations would begin, having previously insisted Pyongyang must demonstrate that it accepts it will have to give up its nuclear program.

“I have no response to his decisions at all at this time,” Tillerson said, when asked about Kim’s decision to hold off. “We continue to be interested in finding ways to get to dialogue, but that’s up to him.”

Speaking after the launch of a religious freedom report, Tillerson would not go into more detail as to how North Korea could demonstrate a commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

But he has previously said it must halt ballistic missile and nuclear tests for an unspecified amount of time before negotiations can begin on how to halt the stand-off and any threat of US military action.

Earlier Tuesday, the unpredictable and isolated North Korean leader had been briefed by his missile forces on a “plan for an enveloping fire at Guam,” according to the North’s official KCNA news agency.

But afterwards, according to KCNA, he decided to postpone the operation to “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees” and not to go ahead unless the US commits more “reckless actions.”

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Sri Lanka's Former First Lady Questioned Over Rugby Player Murder


Shiranthi Rajapaksa was summoned earlier but she had sought a different date.

Colombo:  Shiranthi Rajapaksa, the former Sri Lankan first lady, was questioned by the police today for four hours over the murder investigation of a rugby player in 2012.

Rajapaksa was summoned earlier but she had sought a different date. It was said that the police wanted to question her on the investigation of the alleged murder of Wasim Thajudeen, a rugby player.

A vehicle belonging to her Siriliya Saviya charity had allegedly been used in the murder. Thajudeen’s death which was earlier dubbed an accident was later declared a murder with fresh investigations after Mahinda Rajapaksa lost the presidency in January 2015.

Namal, the Joint Opposition parliamentarian and the elder son of the former president in a tweet said that current government plagued by the scandal of the issuance of Central Bank bonds is trying to hound his family to subvert public attention on the bond scam.

Ravi Karunanayake, the former foreign minister was forced to resign last week following his testimony made at the Bond scandal investigation probe.

Namal Rajapaksa said his younger brother Yoshitha and Rohitha have also been summoned by the police on different investigations. They will be questioned tomorrow.

After Karunanayake’s resignation the government backbenchers have been demanding speedier action on the wrong doings of the Rajapaksa regime.

They claimed that lethargy in the bureaucracy had meant that none of the cases against the former regime have slowed.

The current government was elected with the promise of investigating the alleged corruption in the 10 year rule of Rajapaksa.

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After 27 Years, Saudi Arabia And Iraq To Re-Open Border Crossing


A checkpoint at the border between Iraq and Saudi Arabia (Reuters)

Riyadh:  Saudi Arabia and Iraq plan to open the Arar border crossing for trade for the first time since 1990, when it was closed after the countries cut ties following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, Saudi local media reported on Tuesday.Saudi and Iraqi officials toured the site on Monday and spoke with Iraqi religious pilgrims, who for the past 27 years had access to the crossing only once annually during the haj season, the Mecca newspaper reported.

The governor of Iraq’s southwestern Anbar province, whose staff was on hand for the ceremonies, said the Iraqi government had deployed troops to protect the desert route leading to Arar and called its opening a “significant move” to boost ties.

“This is a great start for further future cooperation between Iraq and Saudia Arabia,” said Sohaib al-Rawi.

The announcement follows a decision by the Saudi cabinet on Monday to establish a joint trade commission with Iraq.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are both wooing their northern neighbour in an effort to halt the growing regional influence of arch-foe Iran.

The Sunni-led Arab Gulf countries have hosted influential Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr for talks with their crown princes in recent weeks, rare visits after years of troubled relations.

Sadr’s office said his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman resulted in an agreement for Saudi Arabia to donate $10 million in aid to the Iraqi government and study possible investments in Shi’ite regions of southern Iraq.

The opening of border crossings for trade was also on a list of goals for the talks published by Sadr’s office.

Sadr commands a large following among the urban poor of Baghdad and southern Iraq, and is one of few Iraqi Shi’ite leaders to keep some distance from Tehran.

The Saudi-Iraqi rapprochement extends back to 2015, when Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Baghdad following a 25-year break.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir visited Baghdad in February, and the two countries announced in June they would set up a coordination council to upgrade ties.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Iran, At Forefront Of Fight Against ISIS , Now Faces Them At Home.


ISTANBUL:  It was a warm summer morning in Tehran when Islamic State militants – some dressed as women – staged a rare attack in the Iranian capital, opening fire at the nation’s parliament and outside the shrine of its revolutionary leader.

The assault in June, stunning in both its symbolism and execution, left 18 people dead and caught Iranian security forces off-guard. It was the first Islamic State attack in Iran, whose Shiite Muslim majority the militants regard as apostates.

In recent months, the Islamic State has stepped up its efforts to target Iran, releasing a stream of propaganda, vowing more bloodshed and boosting recruitment among Iran’s minority Sunnis, some of whom carried out the June attack.

Iran is a target for the cash, guns and troops it has poured into the battle against the jihadists, whose lightning ascent in Iraq and Syria three years ago threatened Iran’s security. Last week, Iranian authorities arrested more than two dozen people they said planned to bomb religious sites with smuggled explosives. The Islamic State then threatened to “cut the necks” of Iran’s Shiites in a new video featuring a Farsi-speaking militant.

The escalation could inflame a region already beset by conflict, and stoke domestic instability in Iran. There, marginalized Sunnis have grown increasingly receptive to the Islamic State’s appeal. Situated along Iran’s porous borders, the communities, which make up about 10 percent of Iran’s population of 80 million, may make fertile ground for a jihadist group working to replenish its ranks.

“Iran is fighting the Islamic State on multiple fronts, and Iraq and Syria is certainly one of them,” said Dina Esfandiary, a MacArthur fellow at the Center for Science and Security Studies at King’s College London. “But the fight against the Islamic State inside Iran has become even more important.”

Suffering decades of neglect, Iran’s Sunni communities are “a good target for the Islamic State,” said Esfandiary, who co-wrote a paper on Iran’s policies toward the militants. “It’s a population ripe for recruitment,” she said.

Indeed, Iran’s Sunni populations hail mainly from two ethnic minorities, including the Kurds who live along the Iraq border in the west, and the Baloch community in the southeast near Pakistan. In both places, poverty, repression and black market economies have allowed Sunni radicalism to creep in and take root.

Baloch areas in particular are “severely underdeveloped,” according to the State Department’s 2016 human rights report on Iran, and unemployment hovers at about 40 percent. In Kurdish communities, residents complain of widespread discrimination and arbitrary arrests. Rights groups have slammed Iran for the detention and execution of dozens of Sunni Kurds, often for unspecified crimes.

It is unclear how many Iranians have joined the Islamic State, but estimates from Kurdish media and analysts vary from dozens to hundreds. In the group’s first Persian-language video, released in March, at least one of the militants identified as Baloch.

According to a report from the International Center for Counter-Terrorism at The Hague, seven Iranians carried out suicide operations for the Islamic State from November 2015 to December 2016.

“The Iranians do have to worry about it. The numbers aren’t insignificant,” said Alex Vatanka, senior fellow and Iran expert at the Middle East Institute in Washington. Even if only a few end up radicalized, he said, “once they have the support of the ISIS machinery to carry out attacks, they can do real harm, as we’ve seen with the attack in June.”

At least four of the five assailants came from the same Kurdish town in western Iran, about 10 miles from the Iraq border, officials said. The attackers had all belonged to local Islamist militant groups before traveling abroad to fight for the Islamic State.

For years, local and other militants used the area as a logistics hub to attack U.S. forces across the border in Iraq. But the Kurdish militants’ most recent return to Iran, after they had traveled to Iraq and Syria, exposed weaknesses in the country’s counterterrorism strategy, analysts said, which emphasized operations abroad but may have downplayed the potential for radicalization at home.

“Iran effectively adopted a strategy of combating Sunni radicals at a distance to weaken these groups outside of its borders, while simultaneously allowing a degree of latitude for these groups inside the country,” said Nat Guillou, political risk and security analyst at Stirling Assynt, a global intelligence firm based in London.

Iran’s lenience “meant that there were effectively ready-made smuggling routes that Iranian Kurds could exploit to help avoid detection” in the event of an attack, Guillou said.

In Baloch areas, which border some of the most lawless territory in Pakistan and Afghanistan, local insurgents have also adopted a jihadist message to mobilize against the government in Tehran.

They were once leftist nationalists, but over the past decade or so, they “have now begun to take up the mantle of jihad, and a sectarian Sunni message,” Vatanka said. “This is very dangerous from Iran’s internal security point of view.”

The groups are believed to have cross-border links with like-minded militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But, analysts say, they have not yet pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

Still, as the Islamic State loses territory in Iraq and Syria, it may seek to coax local groups into providing its fighters sanctuary or establishing a new base.

Among the Baloch militants, “there are certainly those that would be receptive to involvement in transnational jihad,” Guillou said. But “the real risk concerns how the state deals with this increased threat from the Sunnis.”

“So far, the security forces have really focused very tightly on suspected militants,” he said, adding that a broader crackdown could push some of Iran’s more conservative Sunnis “into the jihadi camp.”

The government under President Hassan Rouhani has also reached out to Sunni leaders, in a bid to immunize the state against the growing threat. Rouhani won reelection with landslide majorities in both Kurdish and Baloch areas in May. But his efforts so far, analysts say, have been halting and ultimately failed to impress.

“There are many officials within the administration that realize how important it is to reach out to Sunni communities, to talk to them,” Esfandiary said.

But it hasn’t gone very well, she said, “not least because it was sort of a halfhearted attempt” on the part of the government.

“There are still discrepancies between the way the minority communities are treated compared to normal Shia Iranians,” she said. “It’s a big problem for the Iranian government.”

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



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US Sanctions Hit Russian Hopes Of A 'Trump Bump' In Investments


Moscow:  New US sanctions on Moscow have forced Russian business chiefs to accept that Donald Trump’s rise to power is not about to produce a “Trump Bump” in foreign investment.

After Trump became US president, some investors said they would be prepared to contemplate new deals with Russian firms if they saw signs that US-Russian ties were improving and US restrictions on business with Russia were being relaxed.

But the new sanctions, signed onto law by Trump on August 2, add new measures and codify six orders signed by President Barack Obama, making them harder for Trump to revoke.

For the business community in Moscow, the message is clear — there is no immediate prospect of Washington softening its stance towards Moscow.

“Russia faces the codification of sanctions which suggests they will be hellishly difficult to take off and are likely to remain in place for the very long term,” said Tim Ash, a strategist at BlueBay asset management in London.

“The mere fact that the US and Western governments… saw fit to levy sanctions on Russia sends at the least an amber light to Western business — be careful in your dealings with Russia.”

The United States initially imposed financial and travel restrictions on Russia in 2014, after Russia annexed the Crimea region from Ukraine following the fall of a pro-Moscow president in Kiev.

The latest measures allow Congress to block any effort by the president to ease or lift the existing sanctions, tightens some of those sanctions, and imposes new restrictions in some sectors.

Executives in Russian banks and energy companies, the main targets of the US sanctions, told Reuters their compliance departments were still going through the fine print of the new law to understand the practical impact.

Already clear, though, was the message about the duration of the sanctions.

“This is obviously for a long time,” said a source in a major Russian oil company, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Moody’s rating agency said in a note to clients that the new sanctions on Russia “are likely to further deter investment there”.

The sanctions in place since 2014 directly restrict a narrow range of business dealings. Their biggest effect, according to investment bankers and corporate lawyers in Moscow, is that they create the risk of more sanctions being added.

Under that scenario, a deal signed outside the scope of the sanctions could quickly fall under sanctions. If that happened, investors would be likely to lose money and few want to take that risk.

On the other hand, if investors believe the sanctions will not be expanded, they can conclude deals with some confidence, even while existing measures remain in place.

Trump’s election triumph last November led many in the Russian business community to believe that the worst of the sanctions was over.

It was at this time that a long-planned deal to privatise a stake in Sovcomflot, a state-owned shipping company with a fleet of modern vessels and lucrative energy sector contracts, was put back on the government’s agenda.

The fate of the partial privatisation since then reflects the importance of the new sanctions to investor sentiment.

No one involved in the Sovcomflot deal has publicly committed to a date for the sale but two financial market sources told Reuters late in May that the deal was expected in early June.

The plan later changed again because of deteriorating market conditions, a source familiar with the situation said in June — the same week that the Russian stock index slipped on concerns that Washington would impose new sanctions on Moscow.

Later in June, a senior Russian government official told Reuters the deal might happen in July. But after the new US sanctions, Moscow’s tone on the deal became more cautious though officials declined to say whether the new sanctions would alter the government’s decision about when the sale happens.

“It’s clear that the USA’s toughening of the sanctions regime right now will hardly make the investment climate for this asset more attractive on international financial markets,” Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov told reporters on August 3.

Anton Tabakh, a Russian economist, said the main problem the new sanctions posed for Russian investment was that they increase uncertainty about what happens next.

The new measures “guarantee that the risk of the sanctions expanding will remain for a long time,” he wrote in a commentary for Carnegie Moscow Center, a think tank.

The new sanctions are unlikely to trigger an immediate crisis in Russia. Business and government have adapted to living with low investment flows, and the central bank has the tools to maintain macro-economic stability.

Longer-term, tepid foreign investment is likely to shave a few percentage points off economic growth, economists say. The Russian economy contracted in 2015 and 2016, and is seen growing up to 1.8 percent this year, according to Russia’s central bank.

That is far below the average annual growth of nearly 7 per cent on which President Vladimir Putin built high approval ratings early in his presidency.

Explaining this will be one of his challenges when, as most Russians expect, he asks Russian voters to re-elect him in next year’s presidential election.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Archaeologists In Egypt Discover Three Millennia-Old Tombs


One of the three tombs discovered in al-Kamin al-Sahrawi area, south of Cairo (AFP)

Cairo:  Egypt archaeologists have discovered three ancient tombs containing sarcophagi in the south of the country in a cemetery dating back about 2,000 years, the antiquities ministry said on Tuesday.The tombs excavated in the Al-Kamin al-Sahrawi area in Minya province south of Cairo were in burial grounds constructed some time between the 27th Dynasty and the Greco-Roman period, the ministry said in a statement.

The team found “a collection of sarcophagi of different shapes and sizes, as well as clay fragments,” the statement quoted Ayman Ashmawy, head of the ministry’s Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector, as saying.

One of the tombs, which was reached through a shaft carved in rock, contained four sarcophagi each sculpted to depict a human face.

Another tomb held the remains of two sarcophagi and six burial holes, including one for “the burial of a small child”.

Clay fragments found at the site “date the tombs between the 27th Dynasty (founded in 525 BC) and the Greco-Roman era (between 332 BC and the fourth century)”, the statement said.

The discovery “suggests that the area was a great cemetery for a long span of time”, it quoted Ashmawy as saying.

In one of the three tombs, excavators found bones believed to be the remains of “men, women and children of different ages”, Ali al-Bakry, head of the mission, was quoted as saying in the statement.

This shows that “these tombs were part of a large cemetery for a large city and not a military garrisons as some suggest”, he said.

This work follows previous excavation at the site, which began in 2015.

“Works are underway in order to reveal more secrets,” the statement said.

Egypt boasts an array of ancient sites including Pharaonic temples and the famed Giza pyramids that draw millions of tourists every year.

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



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Trump Retweets – Then Deletes – Image Of Train Running Over CNN Reporter


Donald Trump quickly deleted the tweet but the original tweet had been retweeted hundreds of times

President Donald Trump’s war with CNN went off the rails Tuesday morning after he retweeted an image of a Trump train running over a CNN reporter, then quickly deleted it after the meme sparked criticism as inappropriate just days after the Charlottesville violence.

Trump was in the middle of a morning tweetstorm when he sent the image, posted by a supporter who added “Nothing can stop the #TrumpTrain!!,” to his nearly 36 million followers.

The president quickly deleted his handiwork but not before the original tweet had been retweeted hundreds of times and was captured on screenshots by journalists and activists.

Trump’s promotion of the image came three days after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that turned into a violent clash between the supremacists and counterprotesters that led to the deaths of three people. A driver slammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring at least 19 others; a 20-year old man who has reportedly espoused neo-Nazi views has been charged with second-degree murder in the case. Two police officers were killed when their helicopter crashed.

Trump did not immediately condemn the hate groups behind the “Unite the Right” rally, drawing criticism from Democrats and some Republicans. On Monday, the president attempted to make amends and denounced the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis by name, while calling white supremacists “repugnant to all that we hold dear as Americans.”

But even as he attempted to clarify his views, Trump seemed eager to blame the backlash on reporters, in particular CNN. As the president was wrapping up a photo op related to international trade Monday, CNN correspondent Jim Acosta asked him why he had waited so long to condemn the hate groups by name and why he had not answered questions from reporters.

“I like real news, not fake news,” Trump said. Pointing a finger toward Acosta, Trump added: “You are fake news.”

If the president awoke Tuesday thinking his Twitter account would help him regain control of his political narrative, he was mistaken, however, as he also misfired in retweeting a man calling him a “fascist.”

A user named Mike Holden was replying to a Fox News story that said Trump had told the network in an interview that he was considering issuing a presidential pardon for former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty of defying a judge’s order to halt traffic patrols on suspected undocumented immigrants. “He’s a fascist, so not unusual,” Holden wrote, only to find himself retweeted by the 45th president of the United States.

“I’m announcing my retirement from Twitter. I’ll never top this RT.

– Mike Holden (@MikeHolden42) August 15, 2017″

Holden has posted a rapid-fire series of tweets and retweets over the past days on British politics and the fallout from the violence in Charlottesville, including a retweet of cartoon in the Guardian newspaper depicting the White House topped by a KKK-style pointed hood. The Twitter page also has various tributes to Bernard Kenney, a British man who attempted to subdue a far-right gunman who fatally shot British parliament member Jo Cox last year. Kenney, who was stabbed by the attacker Thomas Mair, died Monday.

Holden quickly set a screenshot of Trump’s retweet as his Twitter background image and boasted about the endorsement – kind of – in his bio on the social media site.

“Officially Endorsed by the President of the United States,” he wrote. “I wish that were a good thing.”

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



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Ex-Pak PM Nawaz Sharif Gets Notice For Allegedly Insulting Judges


Nawaz Sharif last week held a homecoming rally from Islamabad to Lahore (Reuters)

Lahore:  A Pakistani court today issued notices to ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and 13 senior leaders of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, including federal ministers, for “insulting” Supreme Court judges. The petitioner’s lawyer Azhar Siddique filed the plea in the Lahore High Court, saying that Mr Sharif during his four-day homecoming rally from Islamabad to Lahore last week made verbal attacks on the five Supreme Court judges who disqualified him in the Panama Papers case.”Sharif and his cronies made a number of anti-judiciary speeches at different points on his way to Lahore from Islamabad and ridiculed the apex court’s judges. They not only insulted judges but also targeted the institute of judiciary and maligned it beyond repair,” the petition said.

“Nawaz and others committed contempt of court. They should also be tried under treason charges for maligning the judiciary as well as army in his speeches,” it added.

Accepting the petition, the Lahore High Court issued notices to Mr Sharif and federal ministers including Khawaja Asif, Saad Rafique, Talal Chaudhry and Daniyal Aziz, asking them to respond to the notices by August 25, the next date of hearing.

The five-member Supreme Court bench last month disqualified Mr Sharif for dishonesty and ruled that corruption cases be filed against him and his children over the Panama Papers scandal, forcing the prime minister to quit.

During his rally, Mr Sharif repeatedly said the people of Pakistan have rejected the top court’s decision. He said the decision to disqualify him was taken before the judgement was announced. He clearly hinted collusion of the army and the judiciary in his ouster.

“At an appropriate time I will tell the people who was behind the conspiracy in my ouster,” Mr Sharif said today after meeting with his party leaders at his Lahore residence.
 



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Ousted Pak PM Nawaz Sharif Seeks Review Of Court Ruling


Former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif speaks with members of his former cabinet (Reuters)

Islamabad:  Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday sought a review of a Supreme Court decision that disqualified him from office over undeclared assets, an official from his ruling party said on Tuesday.Sharif, 67, resigned during his third stint as prime minister shortly after the Supreme Court ruled on July 28 that he should be disqualified and ordered a criminal probe into his family’s wealth.

Jan Achakzai, a PML-N official, told Reuters Sharif had filed three separate appeals in the Supreme Court.

“It is our right to seek a review,” he said. “People of Pakistan haven’t accepted the decision.”

Achakzai said the same five-judge panel that decided on the disqualification would likely hear the review petitions.

Sharif’s disqualification stems from the Panama Papers leaks in 2016 which appeared to show that Sharif’s daughter and two sons owned offshore holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and used them to buy properties in London.

In April, the Supreme Court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to remove Sharif from office – by a split 2-3 verdict – over the Panama revelations but it ordered further investigations into his family’s wealth.

The judges in July alleged Sharif did not declare a small source of income that the veteran leader disputes receiving.

Achakzai said the appeals sought a review of the disqualification on the basis that two of the five judges, who had already given a dissenting note in April’s verdict, were not supposed to sit on the panel that gave the final ruling.

Sharif has kept a grip on the ruling PML-N party, which has a solid majority in parliament, and elected one of his loyalists, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, as his replacement within days of the court decision.

Critics say Sharif remains in control of the country through Abbasi and is trying to undermine the judiciary.

Sharif’s aides say he shows no signs of leaving politics and he recently called the Supreme Court ruling against him “an insult to the mandate of 200 million voters”.

Last week he started a so-called homecoming “caravan” procession across the Punjab region where he derives his voter base, from the capital Islamabad to the eastern city of Lahore, drawing large crowds along the way.

(Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Nick Macfie)
 

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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



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Hijab-Clad Cartoon Character In London Road Safety Books Removed


The road safety campaign uses characters from ethnically diverse backgrounds

London:  A road safety campaign in the UK that used images of a young cartoon character wearing a hijab has dropped the pictures after it was accused of depicting children in an inappropriate way. The two-million-pound campaign, promoted by Transport for London, includes children’s books distributed in nurseries as well as an interactive website.

The stories are illustrated with characters from ethnically diverse backgrounds. The Muslim girl, aged three or four, is called Razmi and is always shown wearing a headscarf. Razmi is seen indoors in the home of a Chinese girl and on outings, The Times reported.

The Children’s Traffic Club London, promoted by Transport for London or TFL, has recruited more than 66,000 children across city to run the campaign. the capital. TFL, chaired by Sadiq Khan, the capital’s Labour mayor, has apologised and said it would stop using the images, the report said.

The books were introduced under his Conservative predecessor Boris Johnson, now the foreign secretary, in 2015. Gina Khan, an advocate of Muslim women’s equality, was quoted as saying, “You are sexualising a four-year-old girl. It is as simple as that. The reason a female is covered is so men don’t look at her. How can you integrate in society if you have a four-year-old girl wearing a hijab?”

Shaista Gohir, chairwoman of the Muslim Women’s Network UK charity, said, “It’s like trying to get that child to try to grow up far too quickly. A child needs to be treated like a child.”

Aisha Ali-Khan, a Muslim feminist campaigner, said the publishers of the book need diversity training. “The hijab is a Saudi-isation of British Muslim identity,” she said. “If you are a Muslim girl and look at these images and see this girl is Muslim and she is wearing a hijab and you aren’t, you will think there’s something wrong with you. It is far too young. You are a child. What are you being modest for?” she added.

Dame Louise Casey, the government’s integration tsar, intervened in a row in Birmingham this year when a Catholic school came under pressure to let a four-year-old girl wear a Muslim headscarf. She has expressed concern that “time and again I found it was women and children who were the targets of these (kind of) regressive practices” against the vulnerable.

A TFL spokeswoman was quoted as saying, “We apologise for any offence caused by this content and we will not use these designs in future.”
 



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China Warns It 'Won't Sit Idle' If US Harms Trade Ties


Donald Trump launched a probe into China’s intellectual property practices, irking Beijing (Reuters)

Beijing:  China warned on Tuesday that it “will not sit idle” if the United States takes actions that impair trade ties after President Donald Trump launched a probe into Beijing’s intellectual property practices.

The commerce ministry issued a statement voicing “serious concern” and warning that any US trade protectionism “will definitely harm bilateral trade relations”.

The statement, posted to the ministry’s official website, added that Beijing would “definitely adopt all appropriate measures to vigorously defend the lawful rights and interest of China.”

Trump on Monday signed a memorandum directing US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to determine whether Chinese policies hurt American investors or companies — with retaliatory measures a possible outcome.

The president insisted that “Washington will turn a blind eye no longer” to Beijing’s “theft” of US industrial secrets — long a concern of major foreign corporations seeking a share of the huge Chinese market.

The probe comes at a time when US-China relations are already strained over North Korea, with Trump last week still suggesting that he might soften his position on trade if Beijing were to do more to help rein in its nuclear-armed neighbour.

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



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Guam Radio Stations Accidentally Trigger Emergency Alert


North Korea had said it would finalise plans by mid-August on whether to fire missiles at Guam

Hagatna (Guam):  Guam residents received a jolt on Tuesday after two radio stations accidentally issued emergency warnings to indicate an imminent threat or attack, at a time when the US territory is already on edge over North Korean threats to fire missiles into nearby waters.

Several listeners were reported to have called police after the stations triggered the Emergency Alert Broadcast System, issuing “a civil danger” warning at 12:25 am that was later confirmed to be a mistake.

North Korea had said it would finalise plans by mid-August on whether to fire missiles at Guam in response to “fire and fury” threats from US President Donald Trump.

But Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Tuesday reported that Kim Jong-un had examined the plans but made no move towards an immediate strike.

“Residents and visitors are reminded to remain calm,” said Guam’s homeland security adviser George Charfauros. “There is no change in threat level, we continue business as usual.”

Homeland Security confirmed in a statement that the “unauthorised test was not connected to any emergency, threat or warning” and it was working with the radio stations “to ensure the human error will not occur again”.

Kim on Tuesday hinted he would hold off on the missile strike, saying he would “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees spending a hard time of every minute of their miserable lot”.



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Iraq Starts Bombing ISIS-Held Tal Afar, West Of Mosul: Report


Iraqi federal police patrol in the destroyed Old City of Mosul (Reuters).

Erbil (Iraq):  Iraq has begun an aerial bombardment of Tal Afar, a town under ISIS control west of Mosul, Baghdad-based al-Sumariya TV reported on Tuesday, citing an Iraqi Defence Ministry spokesman.

The ground attack to try to take the city should start when the air campaign is over, the spokesman, Mohammed al-Khodari, said, according to the TV channel.

Iraqi authorities had said Tal Afar, 80km west of Mosul, will be the next target in the war on the ISIS terrorist group that swept through swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

ISIS’ self-proclaimed “caliphate” effectively collapsed last month, when US-backed Iraqi forces completed the recapture of the militants’ capital in Iraq, Mosul, after a nine-month campaign.

Tal Afar, which had about 2,00,000 residents before falling to ISIS, experienced cycles of sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shi’ites after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and has produced some of the terror group’s most senior commanders.

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Pak Begins Process Of Selecting Ad-hoc Judge In Kulbhushan Case: Report


Pak has begun consultations over the nomination of an ad-hoc judge for the Kulbhushan Jadhav case

Islamabad:  The Pakistan government has begun consultations over the nomination of an ad-hoc judge for the Kulbhushan Jadhav case being heard at the International Court of Justice with an ex-attorney general and a former Jordanian premier emerging as the top contenders, a media report said today.

India had moved the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Mr Jadhav’s death penalty handed down by a Pakistani military court. The ICJ had on May 18 restrained Pakistan from executing the death sentence.

Pakistan government’s functionaries have started consultations for the nomination of an ad-hoc judge, Express Tribune reported, citing sources.

During the tenure of ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, former Supreme Court judge Khalilur Rehman Ramday was approached, but he declined the nomination, the report said.

Sources were quoted by the daily as saying that the Attorney General for Pakistan’s (AGP) office has recommended the names of senior lawyer Makhdoom Ali Khan and former Jordanian prime minister Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh to the Prime Minister’s Office for the nomination of one name as an ad-hoc judge.

Mr Khasawneh served as an ICJ judge for over a decade, while Mr Khan, a former Attorney General who is seen as the favourite for the job, also has experience in international arbitration cases, having represented eight different countries in international courts.

The nomination of the ad-hoc judge will be finalised after getting inputs from the Foreign Office and the military establishment, the sources said, adding that earlier, government functionaries had also considered the name of former chief justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani.

An official was quoted as saying that the name of the ad-hoc judge will be finalised next month, soon after the Indian side files its documents.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) representative Raheel Kamran Sheikh has called upon the government to seek Parliament’s approval on the appointment of the ad-hoc judge.

Only one person has previously been appointed as ICJ judge in Pakistan’s history — former foreign minister Zafarullah Khan, who was appointed in 1954 and later became the president of the court.

Yaqub Ali Khan and Sharifuddin Pirzada both served as ad-hoc judges, as did Zafarullah Khan.
 



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Google Engineer Ousted For Gender Manifesto Found Sympathisers On Reddit


James Damore was fired from Google for writing a memo which suggested women weren’t suited for tech jobs

A former Google engineer who was fired after he circulated an internal memo suggesting that biological factors were part of the cause for the gender gap in the tech industry and that Google should “stop alienating conservatives,” found a friendly audience on Reddit.

James Damore, 28, participated Sunday on the site’s Ask Me Anything, a scheduled discussion with newsmakers that has ranged from former president Barack Obama to astronaut Scott Kelly, who answered questions from space.

The former Googler is at the center of fallout from his memo and subsequent firing, which have ignited debates on how well Silicon Valley companies have welcomed women in careers related to science, technology and engineering.

Critics have said the memo, which uses studies to reinforce ideas suggesting women are less suitable for some tech jobs because of more “neuroticism” and less interest in technical jobs, points to larger issues of gender discrimination in the industry. Uber was roiled by sexual harassment probes that led to the dismissal of its chief executive, with one venture capitalist saying other crises are imminent.

Damore kicked off his discussion by describing his memo as “critical of Google’s ideological echo chamber and its effect on our culture and diversity program.” The forum often focused on how widespread Damore’s beliefs may be.

“The majority of my friends side with James, but sadly they’re afraid of losing their jobs and upsetting the community so they’re all pretending to support the other side. It’s sickening. I’m no less of a coward,” a user named Ktygirl who identified herself as a female programmer said. She also called the memo “too polite” and believed it to be true.

“Yes, I agree that many that support me are afraid of ‘coming out of the closet,’ ” Damore replied.

Some users doubted the authenticity of Ktygirl. Real names and identifiable information are not typically included in profiles, leaving the vast majority of Reddit users anonymous.

In the thread that drew more than 2,200 comments, Damore opened up about some of the blowback he received after the memo circulated publicly.

“I went to work but felt awkward and worked from the common space instead of my desk for much of the day,” he said of his first day as a household name. “I worked from home on Monday because of personal threats to me.”

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said “portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace” before Damore was terminated.

Other Reddit users asked about Damore’s decision to circulate a charged manifesto in employee circles. User DinoInNameOnly suggested otherwise sympathetic tech workers thought it was the right message in the wrong medium.

“I was participating in a concerted effort to discuss the terms and conditions of my working environment and point out potentially illegal policies/behavior. I believe I have a legal right to do that,” Damore replied.

Not all users were receptive to Damore’s plight. User ionboat pointed out that Damore’s creation of a discussion board, instead of hosting the session on the larger Ask Me Anything board, could have inoculated him from criticism.

“I’ll have to point to the distinct lack of opposing viewpoints in this thread as something worth criticizing,” the user said. Damore claimed he did not know much about how Reddit works.

User tkarlo was skeptical of that defense.

“What’s more likely, he was too lazy to look up the right forum, or he was too afraid to subject himself to it? Given his choice of media outlets to date, the latter seems more likely,” the user said, referring to friendly interview formats, such as conservative YouTube personalities. “I’m a Googler, and anyone who thinks most employees agree with him is either lying about being an employee, or delusional.”

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



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Iran Could Quit Nuke Deal In 'Hours' If US Impose New Sanctions: Rouhani


Hassan Rouhani said that under Trump, the US proved to be unreliable and “not a good” partner (Reuters)

Dubai:  Iran could abandon its nuclear agreement with world powers “within hours” if the United States imposes any more new sanctions, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday.

“If America wants to go back to the experience (of imposing sanctions), Iran would certainly return in a short time — not a week or a month but within hours — to conditions more advanced than before the start of negotiations,” Rouhani told a session of parliament broadcast live on state television.

Iran says new sanctions that the United States has imposed on it breach the agreement it reached in 2015 with the United States, Russia, China and three European powers in which it agreed to curb its nuclear work in return for the lifting of most sanctions.

The US Treasury imposed sanctions on six Iranian firms in late July for their role in the development of a ballistic missile programme after Tehran launched a rocket capable of putting a satellite into orbit.

In early August, US President Donald Trump signed into law new sanctions on Iran, Russia and North Korea passed by the US Congress. The sanctions in that bill also target Iran’s missile programmes as well as human rights abuses.

The United States imposed unilateral sanctions after saying Iran’s ballistic missile tests violated a UN resolution, which endorsed the nuclear deal and called upon Tehran not to undertake activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such technology.

It stopped short of explicitly barring such activity.

Iran denies its missile development breaches the resolution, saying its missiles are not designed to carry nuclear weapons.

“The world has clearly seen that under Trump, America has ignored international agreements and, in addition to undermining the (nuclear deal), has broken its word on the Paris agreement and the Cuba accord…and that the United States is not a good partner or a reliable negotiator,” Rouhani said.

Trump said last week he did not believe that Iran was living up to the spirit of the nuclear deal.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom, Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Angus MacSwan)
 

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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



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Taiwan On High Alert After China's Air Force Drills


China has been asserting itself in territorial disputes in the South China Sea (Representational image)

Taipei:  Taiwan’s military is on a high state of alert following three straight days of drills by the Chinese air force near to the self-ruled island which Beijing claims as its own, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said on Tuesday.

The Chinese aircraft, which have included bombers and advanced fighter jets, have been staging exercises flying through the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan from the Philippines and up to the north of Taiwan by Japan’s Miyako island, according to Taiwan’s government.

Ministry spokesman Chen Chung-ji said Chinese aircraft had at times entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone during their drills.

“Our air force and navy will stay on high alert to prevent them from intruding upon our territorial waters or airspace or even engaging in hostility,” Chen said.

“We’re experienced and have been doing this for a long time, and we ask our citizens to rest assured,” he added. “We will of course take actions to avoid escalating any conflict throughout this process.”

China has yet to comment on the exercises, though has in the past described them as routine.

The drills are the latest in a series of such exercises conducted by China near Taiwan and Japan in the past several weeks.

China has been increasingly asserting itself in territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas.

Beijing has never ruled out the use of force to bring proudly democratic Taiwan under its control, and has warned that any moves towards formal independence could prompt an armed response.

China is in the midst of an ambitious military modernisation programme that includes building aircraft carriers and developing stealth fighters to give it the ability to project power far from its shores.

Taiwan is well armed with mostly US weaponry, but has been pressing Washington to sell it more high-tech equipment to better deter China.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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



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Nepal Floods Death Toll Climbs To 91


Heavy rainfall has lashed Nepal for the last 5 days, leading to many rivers rising beyond the danger mark

Kathmandu:  The death toll in rain-triggered floods and landslides in Nepal has climbed to 91, with 38 persons still missing and over six million people affected by the natural calamity.

Nepal Ministry of Home Affairs said 2,847 houses were completely damaged in the disaster, My Republica reported.

“A committee was formed under the coordination of Home Minister Janardan Sharma to tally details of the loss. The chief secretary and secretaries of 12 ministries are members of the committee,” Ram Krishna Subedi, spokesperson of the Home Ministry, was quoted by the report.

The death toll reached 91 as of yesterday evening, the Home Ministry said, adding that normal life in different parts of the country was severely affected while a large number of people were reported displaced by floods, landslides and inundations.

It has also said that the government has accelerated the task of rescue and relief operations as well as search for those missing in the flooding and inundation, with more than 26,700 security personnel directly deployed for post-disaster rescue and relief operations.

A total of 13 helicopters, including seven of Nepal Army, motorboats, rubber boats and other equipment are being used for search, rescue and relief measures.

Ministry’s spokesperson Ram Krishna Subedi said that tarps, cooking pots, dry foods, salt, vegetable oil and other relief materials have also been distributed in the affected districts.

Heavy rainfall has lashed Nepal for the last five days, leading to the swelling of several rivers beyond the danger mark and causing flooding and landslides at many places.

Rapti river, which flows through a large part of Nepal towards the southern plains, flooded human settlements and hotels popular with tourists in the Chitwan Valley.

All the 35 Indian nationals, who were stranded in Sauraha, a part of the Chitwan National Park, have been rescued, an Indian Embassy spokesperson said. They were rescued to a safer place by using tamed elephants.

Earlier reports quoting local authorities had said that 200 Indian tourists were among the 700 stranded people, but the Indian Embassy official said only 35 of them were Indian nationals.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA), at least 14 people were killed by landslide in Morang district, taking the death toll in the district to 17 and overall to 80.

Thirty five people have been also missing since Friday.

The monsoon havoc has affected 27 districts spanning from the eastern, central to the western regions.



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Thai PM To Meet Donald Trump In October: Foreign Minister


Last week US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Thailand and met PM Prayuth Chan-ocha (AFP)

Bangkok:  Thailand’s Prime Minister and junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha will visit the White House in October, Thailand’s Foreign Minister said on Tuesday, adding that trade and security would be on the agenda, the latest sign of warming ties between Bangkok and Washington.

Last week US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson paid a visit to Thailand – the highest level visit by a US official since the military took power in a 2014 coup.

Tillerson’s trip and Prayuth’s invitation from US President Donald Trump to visit the White House are the latest sign that Bangkok and Washington are re-establishing normal diplomatic relations following the coup.

“There will be discussions with President Trump about trade, investment, military security and the regional situation which is a big issue,” Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai told reporters.

The Thai government had previously said the visit would take place in July.

A spokesman for the US Embassy in Bangkok said he had no new information on Prayuth’s visit to the White House, which follows an invitation extended by Trump to Prayuth during an April telephone call between the two.

“We look forward to the Prime Minister’s visit to Washington, DC. We continue to seek a mutually agreeable day for the prime minister’s visit to the White House,” spokesman Steve Castonguay said.

Tillerson’s priority has been urging Southeast Asian countries to do more to cut funding streams for North Korea as tensions mount between the United States and North Korea.

The US has said it believes North Korean front companies are active in Thailand and is trying to encourage the Thais to shut them down.

Tillerson, however, made no public comment on North Korean firms during his 5-hour stay in Bangkok where he met with Prayuth.

Don said the issue was not specifically raised during Tillerson’s visit.

“The United States has not pressured Thailand to shut North Korea business,” Don said.

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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