No Bank balance

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Charlotte Hogg’s departure means there are no women on the Bank of England’s high-profile interest-rate setting committee

Despite being an Old Lady, few real senior women seem to find the Bank of England’s company congenial.

Friday marked deputy governor and Monetary Policy Committee member Charlotte Hogg’s last day there. She’s the second woman deputy governor out the door this year. And it’s only April.

Another executive director, Jenny Scott, is also leaving and in June, fellow MPC member Kristin Forbes goes.

Fair enough, Ms Hogg’s departure is not a sign of mutual antipathy. She resigned for failing to stick to the letter of the rules on disclosing family connections within the industry.

But these departures will leave no women at all on the nine-member MPC – arguably the most public of the Bank of England’s faces as it sets interest rates – and only one woman on its three main policymaking committees.

There will be none among the five deputy governor ranks and just four among 16 executive directors.


Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality, says the Bank is simply in line with the rest of the sector.

“It is vital that women are represented at the top of such powerful institutions. But the finance sector is one of the worst for women’s representation and the gender pay gap. So the fact that the Bank of England is so male-dominated is unsurprising,” she says.

It is true. There is a glaring lack of women at top company level, and although some global corporate giants have women chief executives, there are none in banking.

And it is fair to say the Bank, and its governor, Mark Carney, are bothered. When he joined the Bank in 2013, Mr Carney said the lack of women on the MPC was “striking”.

He says he wants to improve diversity to avoid “being mono-culture, secretive and ridden with groupthink”.

‘Salon and suburb’

The Bank has a target to raise the percentage of women in senior roles from its current 28% to 35% by 2020.

Lower down it has a better ratio, with 44% of posts filled by women.

But, unless you are a frustrated high-flying woman banker blocked from getting that top post on a key panel – why care?

Mark Carney says improving diversity at the Bank “can reduce misperceptions that we are experts making esoteric decisions in an ivory tower for the benefit of others… [and can help] communicate to both the City and the country, the salon and the suburb”.

How to fix it though? The Fawcett Society’s Sam Smethers says the problem is partly because there aren’t enough women in the middle ranks: “Institutions such as this need to address the pipeline of women to head this problem off.”

The governor says the Bank’s diversity efforts are beginning to bear fruit: “Of the 700 experienced professionals we hired last year, almost half were women.”

It is plainly progress in priming that pipeline.

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Oxford Says Avoiding Eye Contact May Be Everyday Racism, Later Apologises

Oxford University was criticised for being “insensitive” to autistic people.

London:  Oxford University today apologised for saying that avoiding eye contact could be “everyday racism” after it was accused of discriminating against autistic people.

The claim was included in a list of “racial micro- aggressions” in an equality and diversity unit newsletter.

But the prestigious university was criticised for being “insensitive” to autistic people who can struggle making eye contact.

It said it had made a mistake and not taken disabilities into account, the BBC reported.

The university originally said “racial micro-aggressions” might include: “Not making eye contact or speaking directly to people.”

It described the behaviours as “subtle, everyday racism” which can be alienating.

But Twitter users criticised the newsletter and academics argued the guidance was “trivialising racism”.

David M Davis tweeted: “This is just discrimination against autistic people. One sign of autism is avoiding eye contact. How dare Oxford be so insensitive.”

In a series of tweets, the university replied: “We made a mistake. Our newsletter was too brief to deal adequately and sensibly with the issue. We are sorry that we took no account of other reasons for difference in eye contact and social interaction, including disability.”

“Oxford deeply values and works hard to support students and staff with disabilities, including those with autism or social anxiety disorder.”

Emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent, Prof Frank Furedi, said the newsletter’s authors “need a reality check”.

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Drones posed 'significant risk' to passenger plane

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The Airbus A320 was approaching Heathrow when the incident happened.

A near-miss involving a passenger jet and more than one drone has been reported in the UK for the first time.

The incident happened over east London as an Airbus A320 was approaching Heathrow Airport last November.

A report by the UK Airprox Board (UKAB) found the incident had “compromised the safety of the aircraft”.

One pilot also said there would have been a “significant risk of collision” if the jet had been on a different approach path.

The plane was flying at 5,500ft on 20 November when its crew spotted two white, orb-shaped drones nearby.

The pilots “remained in constant visual contact” with the gadgets, which are estimated to have got as close as 500m to the aircraft, according to the report.

Less than 30 minutes later, a Boeing 777 approaching Heathrow flew within 50m of what is believed to have been one of the drones, described as white, about 2m wide and with four prongs.

A report was made to the Metropolitan Police, but the people flying the drones were not found.

The latest report from UKAB said there had been five near-misses between aircraft and drones in one month – bringing the total over the past year to 62.

But the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said the 20 November case was the first time there had been an incident involving more than one drone.

According to CAA rules, drones must not be flown above 400ft or near airports or airfields.

Earlier this month, police forces in the UK said they were being “flooded” with reports involving drones.

Last year, more than 3,456 incidents involving drones were recorded, compared with only 1,237 in 2015, according to the PA news agency.

Incidents involved include invasions of privacy, disputes between neighbours, and prison smuggling.

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Qualcomm says Apple withholding royalty payments amid legal row

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Qualcomm, the largest maker of mobile phone chips, has cut its profit forecast, warning investors that Apple is withholding royalty payments amid a legal battle.

Apple sued Qualcomm in January, accusing the company of overcharging for its patented technology.

Qualcomm said on Friday it would defend its right to receive “fair value” for its “technological contributions”.

The licence agreements had been in place for a decade, it said.

“These licence agreements remain valid and enforceable,” Don Rosenberg, executive vice president and general counsel of Qualcomm, said.

Qualcomm’s share price dropped 3% following the latest update, which came less than two weeks after the company reported quarterly earnings. Qualcomm said its forecast at that time involved scenarios with reduced payments – not their complete absence.

Qualcomm derived 40% of its revenue from Apple and Samsung Electronics in its most recent financial year.

In a statement, Apple said: “Without an agreed-upon rate to determine how much is owed, we have suspended payments until the correct amount can be determined by the court.”

Apple’s legal action in January followed a complaint by the Federal Trade Commission, a US regulator, alleging Qualcomm had used “anticompetitive practices” to maintain a monopoly over key technology.

Apple has also sued Qualcomm in China and in the UK.

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ASEAN To Express 'Grave Concern' Over Tests Despite North Korea Appeal

North Korea had seeked ASEAN’s help to avert nuclear holocaust in the Korean peninsula (File Photo)

Manila:  Southeast Asian countries will express “grave concern” over North Korea’s nuclear weapons tests and ballistic missile launches, despite Pyongyang’s appeal for support, according to a draft statement due to be released Friday.

In a rare move, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho wrote to the ASEAN regional bloc’s secretary general appealing for backing in its row with the United States to prevent what it warned could be a “nuclear holocaust”.

But Association of Southeast Asian Nations foreign ministers meeting in Manila on Friday were expected to criticise North Korea for its two atomic weapons tests last year and subsequent launch of ballistic missiles, according to a draft of their statement obtained by AFP.

“ASEAN expresses its grave concern over the escalation of tension in the Korean Peninsula,” said the draft statement, which is due to be released after the ministers end their meeting on Friday.

“ASEAN is mindful that instability in the Korean Peninsula will have serious impact to the region and beyond.”

The ministers will “strongly” urge North Korea “to fully comply” with UN Security Council resolutions and international laws, according to the draft.

However, ASEAN will also urge “all parties concerned” to “cease all provocative actions and exercise self-restraint to de-escalate the tension and refrain from actions that may aggravate the situation”.

Diplomats in Manila said the other parties apparently refer to the United States and regional powers China, Japan and South Korea — all key strategic players in the region.

ASEAN leaders are then due to meet on Saturday, when the situation on the peninsula is also expected to be discussed.

In his letter to ASEAN, a copy of which was obtained by AFP on Thursday, North Korean foreign minister Ri warned the situation on the Korean Peninsula was “reaching the brink of war” because of Washington’s actions.

Ri urged the ASEAN chief to inform the ASEAN foreign ministers “about the grave situation” on the peninsula “and give them a proper proposal”, while criticising at length US-South Korean military exercises.

Tensions have soared in the region in recent weeks in the wake of a series of North Korean missile tests and tough rhetoric from Washington on the isolated nation’s rogue weapons programme.

Washington has deployed an aircraft carrier strike group to the Korean peninsula amid signs the North could be preparing for a sixth nuclear test, and US officials have said all options were on the table.

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

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Monkey advertised for sale on social media rescued

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A marmoset monkey has been rescued by RSPCA officers after it was offered up for sale on social media.

Officers found Lola living in “hugely inappropriate conditions” in a house in Blaenymaes, Swansea.

She was running loose in the living room with a cage and a UV lamp in the corner, along with a dog she would often try to attack.

She now lives at a wildlife centre with other monkeys. RSPCA wants a ban on keeping primates as pets in Wales.

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Lola was being kept in a 1m (3ft) cage in the living room of a house

RSPCA Inspector, Neill Manley, said: “Sadly, some people like the idea of keeping a monkey as a pet, but this is another example of how unsuitable they are.

“Marmosets have very complex and specialist needs, which it would be practically impossible to meet in a domestic house such as this one.

“A Staffie-type dog also lived at this Blaenymaes home, and we heard how the monkey sometimes would try and bite the dog, which further highlights how these just weren’t the right conditions.”

He said the owners had sought advice from a vet on keeping the animal but he said a house was not the right environment for the highly intelligent and social primate to be living in.

Charlie Skinner, RSPCA campaigns assistant, said estimates showed there were more than 120 privately-owned monkeys living in homes in Wales.

He added 15 European countries had already introduced bans on keeping them as pets and it was time “for action in Wales”.

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Negotiations On North Korea Are 'Only Right Choice': China

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said situation on the Korean peninsula is under grave tension.

United Nations, United States:  Stressing the need to avoid “chaos” on the Korean peninsula, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said dialogue and negotiations were “the only right choice” to address the threat from North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.

“Right now, the situation on the Korean peninsula is under grave tension and at a critical point,” Wang said ahead of a Security Council meeting aimed at agreeing on a global response to North Korea.

World powers must work to “uphold peace and stability on the peninsula and not to allow chaos to break out on the peninsula,” he said.

“Peaceful settlements of the nuclear issue of the Korean peninsula through a dialogue and negotiations represent the only right choice that is practical and viable.”

His comments came after US President Donald Trump said he would prefer a diplomatic solution, but acknowledged the stand-off was highly dangerous and could lead to military action.

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” he told Reuters. “We’d love to solve things diplomatically, but it’s very difficult.”

Wang said China’s long-standing proposal for a freeze on Pyongyang’s military programs in exchange for halting US-South Korea military drills was “sensible and reasonable.”

The United States has rejected the Chinese proposal and insists that North Korea first take steps to show that it is ready to abandon its military programs.

Trump has called for stronger UN sanctions on North Korea, but the administration wants China to take the lead in diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis by using its leverage on Pyongyang.

No resolutions will be adopted at the UN meeting, but it will allow the United States and its allies to put pressure on China.

North Korea is seeking to develop a long-range missile capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead, and has so far staged five atomic tests, two of them last year.

China, Pyongyang’s number one trade partner, has repeatedly called for a return to talks on denuclearization but has been reluctant to use economic pressure that could destabilize North Korea.

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

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'Fire sale' risk with Bank capital approach, says Vickers

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Sir John Vickers, who was asked to construct a safety plan for Britain’s banks in the wake of the financial crisis, has warned regulators over hasty bank asset sales.

Parliament is investigating whether UK banks have the capital means to keep going during a shock and Sir John and the Bank of England gave evidence.

The Bank said some lenders could help themselves by selling off assets.

Sir John has warned that this could lead to a “fire sale”.

Sources close to the Bank insist that it monitors plans for asset sales during economic stress to show that the sales could still be beneficial.

During the financial crisis, bad loan losses chewed through banks’ capital reserves and lenders including Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds had to be given new capital by taxpayers, making them part-nationalised.

Price risk

Parliament’s Treasury Committee, which has the responsibility of examining the government’s work on economic and regulatory matters, is aiming to discover whether new plans for banks will mean they can avoid needing taxpayer help the next time trouble calls.

As part of evidence published earlier this month, the Bank of England said one way for a bank to bolster its capital when it was facing low expected profitability due to high costs rather than poor lending, was to sell some of its loans.

Sir John has replied in a letter seen by the BBC, and said this plan may work if only that one bank is in trouble.

However, he warned that during another widespread crisis, this may be seen by other banks and investors as a so-called “fire sale”, where the assets, or loans, would be considered damaged goods by potential buyers and end up selling at a knock-down price.

‘Insurance Policy’

“Systemic crisis risk is the principal risk that regulation should guard against,” Sir John wrote in the letter to the Bank. “The prudent stress test question, then, is whether the bank can meet its obligations without resorting to asset sales. It is not whether it can do so on the assumption that assets can be sold at good prices.”

Sir John, who has served as chief economist for the Bank of England and is now professor and warden of All Souls College, Oxford, has cautioned his former employer before over its approach to capital.

Capital is considered vital to a bank’s safety, as it serves to protect it from sudden losses. It comes in many forms, but the most common is funding from shareholders, who expect a hefty return on the risk they are taking.

Last year, Sir John said the central bank needed to demand a deeper capital buffer from the banks, calling it an “insurance policy” against harder times and deserving “full cover”.

The exchange is part of a wider debate over how banks should be managed and policed and whether they are still too big to be rescued by the private sector.

Stricter accounting rules, stress tests, stricter liability for bank directors and plans to dismantle failing banks have at various stages been discussed as the solution.

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'Tried To Hold It': Man Says Delta Kicked Him Off Plane For Restroom Use

A Wisconsin man said he was removed from a Delta Air Lines flight because he had to get up from his seat to make an emergency restroom run.

A video shows the passenger, identified as 39-year-old Kima Hamilton, attempting to explain the situation last week to an agent who was instructing him to depart the plane traveling from Atlanta to Milwaukee.

“I need more information, sir,” Hamilton said. “I haven’t done anything. I’ve paid for this ticket and I actually have to get home.”

“I’m going to share this with you outside,” the agent replied, waving for him to move. “We’re not going to discuss this right here.”

“I’m not really clear on why I’m being asked to leave the plane. I’ve purchased this ticket. I had an emergency – I had to pee,” Hamilton said. “I tried to hold it the first time. . . . I absolutely couldn’t. Now I’m being kicked off the plane.”

“You’re not being kicked off,” the agent said. “I need to talk to you outside.”

The issue arose midafternoon on April 18 on board Delta Flight 2035 when Hamilton said he needed to use their airplane lavatory.

“We weren’t taking off. We were still. The plane isn’t moving,” Hamilton later told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He added that he had not used the restroom before boarding the plane because “I don’t normally pee right before I get on the plane, and I’ve never had a problem like this before. I don’t remember drinking an abnormal amount of water.”

Hamilton told the newspaper that he made his way to a lavatory in the back of the plane, where a flight attendant told him if he used the restroom at that moment, the plane would lose its place in the line.

He did not want to be a disturbance, he said, so he returned to his seat.

However, after more time sitting on the tarmac, he described it as an “emergency” situation and went to the restroom to urinate.

“The pilot came on and said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry for the inconvenience but we have to return to the gate and remove a passenger,’ ” Hamilton told the Sentinel. “It escalated to that point that fast.”

In the first video, Hamilton expressed concerns that as soon as he exited the plane, it would leave him behind. The agent would not ensure his spot on the flight.

Other passengers could be heard in the video wondering aloud why Hamilton was seen as a problem. Some agreed with him that as soon as he stepped off the plane, it would take off without him.

“I haven’t done anything. What have I done? If I can even understand what you’ve been told, we can have a human to human interaction,” Hamilton said, starting to show frustration. “A situation is being created where everyone’s on the plane and I’m holding the plane up, when I’m just asking to understand why I’m being asked to move.”

A second video showed another employee trying to level with the passenger.

“I don’t understand why I have to get off this plane,” Hamilton launched again into the issue. “I had to use the restroom. So everyone who has to use the restroom has to get off the plane?”

“Yeah,” the agent responded, “if it’s during takeoff . . .”

“Everyone who has ever had to use the restroom during takeoff has to get off a plane?” Hamilton interrupted.

“Well we haven’t had that scenario, sir,” the agent said.

After Hamilton continually refused to leave the plane, all passengers were removed and soon after re-boarded, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Hamilton was reportedly not allowed back on the plane.

Delta did not immediate respond to requests for comment, but told the Journal Sentinel in a statement that, “Our flight crews are extensively trained to ensure the safety and security of all customers. It is imperative that passengers comply with crew instructions during all phases of flight, especially at the critical points of takeoff and landing.”

In an open letter to Delta, a woman who said she was a passenger on last week’s flight called the incident “the most outrageous treatment of a paying customer that I have seen in my two decades of flying.”

The woman, who was identified herself as Krista R., said she, her husband and child were seated across from Hamilton, who she dubbed “Nice Gentleman.”

“The final event of this horrifying saga occurred when, after the plane was airborne, the pilot announced his apologies for the delays and explained that the situation was due to a security concern/issue,” she wrote. “My husband and I observed the entire event (my husband accompanied the Nice Gentleman when he was taken aside in the airport), and there was never any hint of a security risk or concern . . . unless an emergency need to use the bathroom after unpredictable delays is now considered a ‘security risk/issue.'”

Delta reportedly refunded the cost of Hamilton’s ticket from Atlanta to Milwaukee, but not the taxes and fees, and left him to find his own way back to Wisconsin.

In-flight dust-ups are hardly uncommon.

United Airlines became embroiled in a public relations crisis earlier this month when security was seen brutally dragging a passenger from a plane because he would not give up his seat to a crew member.

Videos showed 69-year-old David Dao being knocked against an arm rest and dragged down the aisle and back to the terminal at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

But recent airline incidents have increasingly centered on politics.

Following the contentious presidential election, the nation’s divisions have been on full display in a staggering array of situations and spaces – including airplanes.

Late last year, Delta banned a passenger after he went on a pro-Trump rant.

In January, an Alaska Airlines traveler verbally bashed a Trump supporter – and was bounced from the plane.

That same month, prosecutors said a traveler attacked a Muslim airline employee, warning her that Trump “will get rid of all of you.”

On a United Airlines flight just last month, a pilot gave a bizarre speech before takeoff – prompting dozens of concerned passengers to flee the plane.

Days later, passengers rejoiced when a man was kicked off a Houston-bound United flight for causing a disturbance that was blamed on racist comments.

Cellphone footage of the incident showed the man saying that all the “illegals” should be kicked off the plane, moments before he and a woman were asked to collect their belongings and exit the aircraft.

“Get out of here,” a passenger said. “Racists aren’t welcome in America! This is not Trump’s America!”

More recently, a celebrity dentist said he was booted from an American Airlines flight after he made a wisecrack about Trump’s immigration policies.

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

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Seoul Rejects Donald Trump's Demand That It Pays For Missile System

Donald Trump has claimed South Korea free trade deal for missile system as “horrible” (File Photo)

Seoul:  Seoul on Friday brushed aside US President Donald Trump’s suggestion it should pay for a $1 billion missile defence system the two allies are installing in South Korea to guard against threats from the North.

The first parts of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system have already been delivered to a former golf course in the South — infuriating China — at a time of heightened tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes.

Top US officials have said THAAD will be operational “within days”.

“I informed South Korea it would be appropriate if they paid. It’s a billion-dollar system,” Trump was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency. “It’s phenomenal, shoots missiles right out of the sky.”

The two countries have been in a security alliance since the 1950-53 Korean war, and more than 28,000 US troops are stationed in the South.

Seoul retorted that under the Status of Forces Agreement that governs the US military presence in the country, the South would provide the THAAD site and infrastructure while the US would pay to deploy and operate it.

“There is no change to this basic position,” South Korea’s defence ministry said in a statement.

The row comes with tensions high on the Korean peninsula following a series of missile launches by the North and warnings from the Trump administration that military action was an “option on the table”.

Trump said there was “a chance” of “a major, major conflict” with the North — which would put the South, whose capital is within range of Pyongyang’s artillery, at risk of gigantic casualties.

But earlier this week Washington said it would seek stronger sanctions against Pyongyang and held open the possibility of negotiations, with US Pacific Command chief Admiral Harry Harris saying it wanted to bring leader Kim Jong-Un “to his senses, not to his knees”.

The White House also wants China to do more to rein in the North, with Trump saying he believed leader Xi Jinping was “trying very hard”.

But Beijing has been infuriated by the THAAD deployment, which it fears weaken its own ballistic capabilities and says upsets the regional security balance.

Social media commentators derided Trump’s comments. “So he wants to start a war with North Korea and he wants South Korea to pay for it,” wrote one Twitter poster.

‘Horrible deal’

THAAD is designed to intercept and destroy short and medium-range ballistic missiles during their final phase of flight.

South Koreans are ambivalent over its deployment, with only 51.8 percent in favour in a Korea Research opinion poll last month.

The country has already been hit hard by a series of measures imposed by Beijing as apparent retaliation.

The tourist industry has been hammered by a Chinese ban on tour groups, with visitor numbers from the Asian giant plummeting 40 percent in March.

Lotte Group, a South Korean retail giant, has had to shut down 85 of its 99 stores in China due to boycott calls after the group agreed to provide the golf course where THAAD is being installed to the government. Its accumulated losses as a result are reportedly expected to hit $1 billion in the first half of this year alone.

The Export-Import Bank of Korea said this month that South Korea could suffer up to 16 trillion won ($14 billion) losses from reduced trade and falls in Chinese tourist numbers over the next two years.

In the Reuters interview, Trump also said he would renegotiate or terminate the five-year-old free trade agreement between South Korea and the US.

The issue had raised widespread concerns in Asia’s fourth-largest economy when he brought it up on the campaign trail, but appeared to have been put on the back burner in his first 100 days in office.

But Trump said: “It is unacceptable, it is a horrible deal made by Hillary.”

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

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Amazon 'style assistant' divides opinion

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Amazon’s new smart speaker, the Echo Look, received a mixed reaction following its unveiling this week.

Some say it could inspire confidence while others voiced privacy concerns.

The $200 (£154) gadget, not yet on sale, features a camera to capture full-length selfies and video which can be stored to create a personal “look book”.

It uses smart assistant Alexa to give a verdict on outfit choices and recommend clothes to buy.

It is listed as available “by invitation only” on the Amazon website.

“With this data, Amazon won’t be able to just sell you clothes or judge you. It could analyze (sic) if you’re depressed or pregnant and much else,” tweeted Zeynap Tufekci, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina.

“Not just a privacy disaster; people don’t understand what algorithms can infer from pictures. You are disclosing a lot of health info, too.”

Amazon has been contacted by the BBC for comment.

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Fiona Blake

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Fiona Blake said the device could be inspiring.

But Fiona Blake, who runs a closed Facebook page where hundreds of women share photos of their outfits and offer each other supportive fashion advice, said she thought the Echo Look sounded like a good idea.

“People struggle with looking in the mirror and taking photographs of themselves,” she said.

“This is brilliant daily inspiration. You could flick through your own personal Pinterest board [of outfit choices] – that is key for getting up, getting dressed and getting out there.

“I’m happy for someone to recommend something. I can’t get to every high street shop. I don’t mind being sold to but I know a lot of people don’t like that approach.”

Professional stylist Donna McCulloch, from Sulky Doll stylists, said people should not rely on an app to tell them what to wear.

“If you are unsure about an outfit, then trust your own gut instinct and try a different look instead,” she said.

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Ben Wood, analyst at CCS Insight, said the Echo Look may not appeal to all ages.

“For younger people that happily share regular moments of their life via SnapChat and Instagram, the general response has been positive with the main limitation being the price,” he told the BBC.

“However, for a slightly older audience it either seems completely unnecessary (I already have a full length mirror) or is regarded as a considerable privacy concern – particularly in the context of a device that it makes sense to have in a bedroom.

“It underlines Amazon’s ambitions for its growing range of Alexa-powered Echo products. The Echo Look helps extend its reach into other parts of people’s homes and also in the dramatically different product categories orientated around fashion.”

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Trump Agrees With Majority Of Americans: He Wasn't Ready To Be President

“I love my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump said on being President.

Donald Trump spent a great portion of 2016 insisting that being president would be easy – at least for him. HuffPost compiled a number of examples of him dismissing the problems that accompany the job as being easily dispatched. Building a wall on the border with Mexico is easy. Beating Hillary Clinton would be easy. Renegotiating the Iran deal would be easy. Paying down the national debt would be easy. Acting presidential? Easy.

To a reporter from Reuters this week, though, Trump had a slightly different assessment of the presidency.

“I love my previous life. I had so many things going. This is more work than in my previous life,” Trump said. “I thought it would be easier. I thought it was more of a . . . I’m a details-oriented person. I think you’d say that, but I do miss my old life. I like to work so that’s not a problem but this is actually more work.”

It wasn’t the first time that Trump copped to the job being trickier than he anticipated. In November, NBC News reported that Trump had told former House speaker Newt Gingrich that “This is really a bigger job than I thought.” (Gingrich’s response? “. . .good. He should think that.”) Then there are individual issues. “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated,” he said at one point. At another, he revealed that it took a conversation with the president of China to realize that the situation on the Korean peninsula was “not so easy.”

There’s an element of surprise in Trump’s comments, a hint of bafflement that having responsibility for the welfare of 320 million people entwined in a global economy and international relationships might end up being trickier than running a real estate and branding shop from midtown Manhattan. One group that probably wasn’t surprised that Trump wasn’t prepared? The majority of Americans.

At no point over the course of the 2016 campaign did a majority of Americans think that Trump was qualified for the job of the presidency. Polling from The Post and ABC News shows that views of Trump as unqualified dominated throughout the campaign. The only group that consistently viewed him as qualified to hold the position were the working-class white voters that constituted the core of his support from early in his candidacy.

More to the point, polling from CBS News showed that, consistently, Trump was viewed as unprepared for the job. In June, July and September – before, during and after Trump began making his general election case – the majority of Americans thought he wasn’t ready to hold the nation’s highest position.

Asked by CNN and its polling partner ORC, most Americans viewed Clinton as more prepared than Trump by a wide margin, including among Democrats and independents. A much greater number of Republicans were willing to call Clinton more qualified than Democrats were Trump.

Put simply: The majority of Americans didn’t think Trump was ready to be president of the United States. Based on his comments about the job being bigger or harder than he thought, that it is more work, it seems safe to say that Trump has also now come to believe that he wasn’t prepared for the office.

On at least one point, though, he continues to be convincing himself that he’s up to the task. In the middle of his interview with Reuters, Trump paused to pass out copies of a map he had on hand. The map showed the United States, colored with the results of the 2016 election. “It’s pretty good, right?” he asked the Reuters team.

Beating Clinton, as it turned out, was indeed easier than most people had expected.

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

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Alone In The White House, Trump Is Enjoying The Perks Of His New Home

WASHINGTON:  The first president in recent history to reside in the White House without his immediate family still seems wonder-struck by his new home.

He enjoys leading guests on trivia-filled tours, explaining that the Lincoln Bedroom actually served as the 16th president’s office and boasting about the historical importance of the antique furnishings.

“The president took us to every room and looked at every painting and talked about every bed and every carpet and every rug and every bulletproof glass,” arch-conservative provocateur and ’70s guitar hero Ted Nugent told the Detroit Free Press after dining with Trump in the executive mansion. “It was just awesome.”

On that same visit, President Trump bragged to Nugent about the specialties of the White House chefs; that night, he ordered up lobster salad, lamb chops and baked Alaska for dessert. (The meatloaf, which the president insisted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie try on another occasion, is another favorite.)

But the fact that Trump entertained Nugent’s party, which included Sarah Palin and Kid Rock, for four hours on a Wednesday night may indicate his hunger for company. Trump currently has more than 20,000 square feet to himself in the official residence on the second and third floor of the East Wing – at least until his wife, Melania, and son Barron move from New York to Washington. A spokeswoman for the first lady said that will happen this summer, once they pick a D.C.-area school and a redecoration of the residence is complete.

Out of view to the public, the family’s living quarters are intended to be a haven for presidents and their families. When the Obamas moved in, they left their own imprint – filling in an archway to make Malia’s room more private and installing dainty chandeliers in her room and her sister’s.


Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner arrive before a press conference in the East Room of the White House

The same sort of accommodations will be made for the Trumps, who hired interior designer Tham Kannalikham to help them remodel the living space. They have a more formal style than their predecessors and turned down the Obamas’ offer to keep the wooden playset on the South Lawn that then-White House Chief Usher Stephen Rochon traveled to South Dakota to select for the girls in 2009.

The Trumps’ Manhattan penthouse is ornately outfitted in gold and marble. Their Mar-a-Lago Resort in Palm Beach, Fla., where the president and first lady have spent many weekends, is similarly decorated with gold leaf in the ballroom and centuries-old oak paneling in the club’s library. “The White House, by comparison,” said Barbara Res, a former Trump construction executive, “is rather tame, decorating-wise.”

“If he wants [the White House] to look like Trump Tower on the inside, we can do that, from the carpets to the floors, to making it gilded,” Rochon said.

When Trump moved into the White House, a permanent staff of 95 full-time ushers, butlers, chefs, housekeepers and other workers were waiting. They are getting to know the Trumps and trying to help them adjust to their new home, said Christine Limerick, the former executive housekeeper, who retired from the White House in 2008 but keeps in touch with friends who work there.

“The people that I have talked to said they have met both President and Mrs. Trump and said they have been more than gracious and kind so far,” Limerick said. She noted that the president’s solo time in the mansion has probably helped him get acquainted with staff.

president trump first lady melania trump

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive for a women’s empowerment panel in the East Room of the White House

Discretion is an essential part of these jobs, though, and the staff has been especially tight-lipped lately. Rochon said that even some of the more chatty members of the team have stopped replying to emails or simply send back, “We’re fine” to his queries about life under the new boss.

It is typical for new first families to hold the staff at a remove, and the Trump White House has been wary of disloyalty of any kind.

The early months of an administration are “always a time of building trust, and every president comes in, especially if you are changing parties, with an air of distrust, and the residence staff goes out of its way to say ‘We are not there as Republicans or Democrats. We are there are neutrals to serve the office of the presidency,’ ” said James W.F. “Skip” Allen, who was a White House usher from 1979 to 2004. “It is something that is inbred in every member of the residence staff. No matter what they see, no matter what they hear, they never talk about it.”

The staff is probably getting to know Trump’s quirks, said Limerick – every president has some.

“One of the most difficult things is finding out how much they want you to be around,” she said. “Oftentimes it is different between a president and first lady. Mrs. Reagan was comfortable with you being around working but wasn’t maybe so comfortable with conversation. When Mrs. Reagan was out of town, President Reagan loved telling the staff stories about old Hollywood.”

Res said she could not imagine Trump being wholly comfortable with a group of strangers in his living quarters. And another associate, who has worked for the Trump family for years but is not authorized to speak to the press, noted that “having a trusted face around is important to a person like Mr. Trump.”

Trump’s wealthy background might make him better prepared for life in the White House than a family like the Obamas, for whom having a large contingent of domestic staff was a new and unfamiliar thing. Trump has hotels across the country, and when he visits those properties, their substantial teams are at his disposal.

Still, being surrounded by staff is not the same as being surrounded with family, said Anita McBride, who was an aide to George W. Bush and chief of staff to Laura Bush.

“President Bush used to always talk about the comfort of family [and the] sanctuary of family,” McBride said, noting that some of Bush’s siblings lived in the Washington area and visited frequently. “Being in the White House at night can be lonely, but [the Trumps] seem to have found a way to work it out so far, which will make it even that much better for him when his family is there.”

The longtime Trump family associate noted that the president frequently traveled without his family before his election. So his current distance from his wife is “not that different.”

“They are together on the weekends, and that’s the sort of special time for them, and he always worked on the weekend” even before he was president, the associate said.

The president also has his oldest daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, both of them now working as White House top aides, living in Washington with their children. Trump’s other children and grandchildren came to town earlier this month for the White House Easter Egg Roll.

Perhaps to stave off the isolation of White House life – William Howard Taft called 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. “the loneliest place in the world” – Trump has filled up many of his evenings with working dinners, his aide Kellyanne Conway said during the early weeks of his administration.

Yet, Trump already seems to be finding his routine. He is known to turn on the television as soon as he wakes and watches more cable news once he goes upstairs to the White House residence in the evening. And he stays in close touch with friends, chatting on the phone.

He’s probably discovered the perk of the master bedroom phone – pick it up, and an on-call butler is immediately on the line. If he wants his favorite drink, a Diet Coke, it will be there in an instant.

“I am sure he is like the king of the castle,” said Allen, the former White House butler. “If the president stays up at night, there has got to be someone there if he needs something. . . . That’s the beauty of the White House. You just say, ‘I need,’ and we do.”

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

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China To Begin Construction Of Manned Space Station In 2019

The docking of Tianzhou-1 with Tiangong-2 was a key milestone towards China’s Space Station plans.

Beijing:  China will begin construction of a permanent manned space station in 2019 after carrying out a successful in-orbit refuelling from its Tianzhou-1 cargo spacecraft, officials leading the project said on Friday.

The Tianzhou-1, China’s first cargo spacecraft, launched on April 20 and completed the first of three planned docking attempts with the orbiting Tiangong-2 spacelab two days later, state media reported.

The successful five-day refuelling, directed from technicians on Earth and completed on Thursday, is a key milestone toward China’s plans to begin sending crews to a permanent space station by 2022.

“This again announces the ambition and aspiration of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people, and our resolute confidence in becoming a major space power,” the space station project’s supervisor Wang Zhaoyao told a news briefing in Beijing.

“After completing experimental stage spaceflight missions, we will enter the development and construction phase. According to our plans we will carry out the assembly and construction of China’s manned space station between 2019 and 2022.”

President Xi Jinping has prioritised advancing China’s space program to strengthen national security. The Central Military Commission, chaired by Xi, sent a letter congratulating staff of the Tianzhou-1 mission for “realising our unremitting space dream”, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

The U.S. Defense Department has highlighted China’s increasing space capabilities, saying it was pursuing activities aimed at preventing other nations from using space-based assets in a crisis.

China insists it has only peaceful ambitions in space, but has tested anti-satellite missiles.

(Reporting by Philip Wen; Editing by SImon Cameron-Moore)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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

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Top Indonesia phone company Telkomsel's website defaced

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The website of the largest telecoms provider in Indonesia has been defaced with an offensive post.

Visitors to Telkomsel’s site on Friday morning were greeted by a profanity-laden message criticising the company.

The perpetrator also replaced the text that shows under Telkomsel’s name and description in search engines, with an explicit message.

Telkomsel said it was repairing the site and investigating the incident.

BBC Indonesia reported that by 08:35 local time (02:35 GMT) the message had been replaced by a notice from Telkomsel explaining that the site was “under maintenance”.

Offensive terms

The post criticised the state-owned company for its high prices and complicated mobile plans, including its video and music streaming bundles.

The message was repeated in the company’s meta description, the text that appears beneath a site’s name and web address in search engines.

The name displayed in search results was also changed, with the company’s name replaced by an offensive phrase.

Telkomsel posted an apology on its other websites “for the inconvenience of not being able to access [the] official website” during the incident and the ensuing repairs.

“We are currently performing the necessary tracking and improvements,” Telkomsel Corporate Communication vice-president Adita Irawati said in a statement.

The company’s mobile network was not affected.

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US economy slows sharply in the first quarter

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The US economy slowed down dramatically in the first three months of the year.

GDP expanded at an annual rate of 0.7% in the first quarter, which was a sharp slowdown from the 2.1% growth rate in the final three months of 2016.

However, in recent years GDP growth has typically been sluggish in the first quarter, but has picked up later in the year.

Lower levels of government spending and private investment were behind the fall, the official data showed.

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China More Interested In Macron's Marriage Than His Politics

Emmanuel Macron’s marriage has drawn comparisons with popular TV Drama in China (File Photo)

Beijing:  China is closely following France’s presidential election, but web users appear less interested in the politics than the unusual marriage between moderate candidate Emmanuel Macron and his former teacher.

Comparisons with the characters of a popular Chinese television drama called “In the Name of the People” — which also happens to be the slogan of French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen — have flooded China’s Twitter-like Weibo.

The main villain of the ripped-from-the-headlines show, which follows the exploits of an anti-corruption squad tackling graft at the highest levels of government, is a dodgy official who marries a woman 10 years his senior in a bid for power.

Posts using a hashtag about the French politician’s much-discussed marriage — which translates into English as “Marrying his teacher 24 years his senior” — have been viewed more than nine million times on the social media site.

Despite the seemingly unfavourable comparison to a corrupt official, social media commenters have been largely supportive of 39-year-old Macron’s relationship with his 64-year-old wife Brigitte.

“Taking a high school teacher and mother as his wife, you can only call this French man a romantic,” one web user said.

“Age isn’t distance,” said another. “Please don’t make malicious assumptions about others.”

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

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Donald Trump Complains Saudis Not Paying Fair Share For US Defense

Washington:  President Donald Trump complained on Thursday that US ally Saudi Arabia was not treating the United States fairly and Washington was losing a “tremendous amount of money” defending the kingdom.

In an interview with Reuters, Trump confirmed his administration was in talks about possible visits to Saudi Arabia and Israel in the second half of May. He is due to make his first trip abroad as president for a May 25 NATO summit in Brussels and could add other stops.

“Frankly, Saudi Arabia has not treated us fairly, because we are losing a tremendous amount of money in defending Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Trump’s criticism of Riyadh was a return to his 2016 election campaign rhetoric when he accused the kingdom of not pulling its weight in paying for the US security umbrella.

“Nobody’s going to mess with Saudi Arabia because we’re watching them,” Trump told a campaign rally in Wisconsin a year ago. “They’re not paying us a fair price. We’re losing our shirt.”

The United States is the main supplier for most Saudi military needs, from F-15 fighters to control and command systems worth tens of billions of dollars in recent years, while American contractors win major energy deals.

The world’s top oil exporter and its biggest consumer have enjoyed close economic ties for decades, with US firms building much of the infrastructure of the modern Saudi state after its oil boom in the 1970s.

Saudi officials could not immediately be reached for comment on Trump’s latest comments.

But Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir rejected similar comments from Trump during his election campaign, telling CNN during a visit to Washington last July that the Islamic kingdom “carries its own weight” as an ally.

Saudi Arabia’s powerful deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman met with Trump last month in a meeting that was hailed by a senior Saudi adviser as a “historical turning point” in relations. The talks appeared to signal a meeting of minds on many issues, including their shared view that Iran posed a regional security threat.

Riyadh and other Gulf allies see in Trump a strong president who will shore up Washington’s role as their main strategic partner and help contain Riyadh’s adversary Iran in a region central to US security and energy interests, regional analysts said.

ISIS “Humiliation”

Asked about the fight against ISIS, which Saudi Arabia and other US allies are confronting as a coalition, Trump said the militant group had to be defeated.

“I have to say, there is an end. And it has to be humiliation,” Trump said, when asked about what the endgame was for defeating Islamist violent extremism.

“There is an end. Otherwise it’s really tough. But there is an end,” without detailing a strategy.

A visit to Israel would reciprocate a White House visit in February by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is due to meet Trump next Wednesday in Washington.

Trump has set a more positive tone with Israel than his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, who often clashed with the right-wing Israeli leader, and has raised concerns among Palestinians that their leaders may not get equal treatment.

Trump has also asked Israel to put unspecified limits on its building of Jewish settlements on land the Palestinians want for a state, and has promised to seek a Middle East peace deal that eluded his predecessors. However, he has offered no new diplomatic prescriptions.

“I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians,” he said. “There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians – none whatsoever.”

Trump brushed aside a question of whether he might use a possible trip to Israel to declare U.S. recognition of the entire city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a reversal of longstanding U.S. foreign policy likely to draw international condemnation.

“Ask me in a month on that,” he said, without elaborating.

If Trump ties an Israel visit to next month’s Brussels trip, it would be around the time Israelis are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, when Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war.

Successive US administrations as well as the international community have not recognized Israel’s annexation of the eastern part of the city, and the future status of Jerusalem remains one of the thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Israel claims all of Jerusalem, which contains sites sacred to the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths, as its capital. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state of their own.

(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; Writing by Yara Bayoumy and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Howard Goller)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Pope Francis Arrives In Cairo Seeking To Mend Ties With Islam

The Pope’s visit comes amid ISIS pressure on Copts (Reuters)

Cairo:  Pope Francis arrives in Cairo on Friday hoping to mend ties with Islamic religious leaders just as Egypt’s ancient Christian community faces unprecedented pressure from ISIS militants who have threatened to wipe it out.

In an address to the Egyptian people this week, Francis spoke of his hope that his visit would help bring peace and encourage dialogue and reconciliation with the Islamic world.

But it comes at a painful time for Egypt’s Copts, the Middle East’s largest Christian community, three weeks after ISIS suicide bombers killed 45 people in twin church bombings.

Those attacks followed a cathedral bombing that killed 28 people in December and a spree of murders that has forced hundreds of Christians to flee North Sinai, where the group is most active.

ISIS attacks and sectarian wars in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere are devastating Christian populations and jeopardising their future in the Middle East, the birthplace of Jesus and home to the earliest churches.

Despite the security threat hanging over Francis’ visit, the pope will use an ordinary car during his 27 hours in Cairo, continuing his practice of shunning armoured limousines to be closer to people.

Streets near the Vatican embassy in Cairo and other sites have been cleared of cars and blocked off, and pedestrians have not been allowed to linger.

“After all the pain we have experienced … we are satisfied and confident that the state is taking strong security measures to prevent terrorism and protect churches,” said Father Boulos Halim, spokesman of the Coptic Orthodox church to which the majority of Egypt’s Christians belong.

“It’s in the state’s interests to protect its nationals and the Copts are not an independent people, they are part and parcel of the nation itself.”

Strained relations

Francis will meet President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi; Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, the world’s most influential seat of Sunni Islamic theology and learning; and Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church who narrowly escaped a church bombing in Alexandria on Palm Sunday.

Francis is expected to give his key address to a conference on religious dialogue at Al-Azhar, part of efforts to improve relations with the 1,000-year-old centre after Egyptian Muslim leaders cut ties in 2011 over what they said were repeated insults against Islam by Pope Benedict.

Ties were restored last year after Tayeb visited the Vatican. Tayeb, widely considered among the most moderate clerics in Egypt, has condemned ISIS and its practice of declaring others as apostates and infidels as a pretext for waging violent jihad.

Francis denounces violence in God’s name. Papal aides say a moderate like Tayeb would be an important ally in condemning radical Islam.

But Tayeb is under fire over the slow pace of reform at Azhar, which critics in Egypt’s parliament and media accuse of failing to combat the religious foundations of Islamist extremism.

They say Azhar is an ossified institution whose clerics have resisted pressure from Sisi to modernise their religious discourse.

Gabriel Said Reynolds, professor of Islamic studies and theology at University of Notre Dame, said the pope’s visit to an overwhelmingly Muslim country where the Christian minority is largely Orthodox, showed his commitment to advancing Muslim-Christian relations.

Reynolds was one of 15 Catholics who took part in a dialogue on religious extremism with Muslim counterparts in Cairo in February.

(Writing by Lin Noueihed; editing by Richard Lough)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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

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Barclays pulls FTSE 100 lower

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Shares in Barclays were the biggest fallers on the FTSE 100, despite the bank reporting a doubling of quarterly profits.

Pre-tax profit for the first three months of the year jumped to £1.682bn, from £793m a year earlier.

But analysts were disappointed by the performance of Barclays’ investment bank, and the shares fell 5%.

Shortly before midday, the FTSE 100 index was down 19.80 points, or 0.3%, at 7,217.57.

Shares in Royal Bank of Scotland were having a better day, rising 1.7%, after it reported its first quarterly profit since third quarter of 2015.

RBS posted profits of £259m in the first three months of 2017, compared with a £968m loss a year earlier.

Rising copper prices boosted shares in mining companies, with Antofagasta, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto all up by more than 2%.

In the FTSE 250, shares in transport group Stagecoach fell 3.25% after HSBC cut its rating on the company to “reduce” from “hold”.

On the currency markets, the pound shrugged off weaker-than-forecast UK growth data. The UK grew by 0.3% in the first quarter of the year, according to an initial estimate, a sharper-than-expected slowdown from the 0.7% rate seen at the end of 2016.

Despite this, the pound continued to rally against the US dollar, hitting a fresh seven-month high of $1.2951 at one point.

However, sterling was lower against the euro, down 0.3% at 1.1837 euros. The euro was boosted by the latest set of eurozone inflation figures, which indicated that inflation in the 19-nation bloc rose to 1.9% in April.

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UK On Heightened Alert After Terror Arrests

The British Police has increased their security after multiple arrests. (AFP)

London:  British police warned Friday they were facing an “increased level of terrorist activity”, the day after a knifeman was arrested near parliament and a woman was shot in a separate police raid.

Just weeks after the attack on the Houses of Parliament that left five people dead and scores injured, London is once again on high alert as Britain prepares for a snap election on June 8.

“Yesterday was an extraordinary day in London,” Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said, after confirming six arrests overnight.

“I wanted to reassure the public that this increased level of terrorist activity is being matched by our action… We are making arrests on a near daily basis.”

A 27-year-old man remains in custody after being arrested near parliament on suspicion of terrorism offences and possession of knives, in what police confirmed had been an ongoing investigation.

Just hours later, armed police raided a property in north London as part of an unrelated counter-terrorism investigation, firing CS gas as they entered and shooting a woman in her 20s.

Six people have been arrested as part of the probe, while the woman — who is also suspected of involvement — remains in a serious but stable condition in hospital.

“Due to these arrests that have been made yesterday, in both cases I believe we have contained the threats that they posed,” Basu said.

Suspect ‘tracked to Westminster’

Britain’s national terror threat level has been at “severe”, meaning an attack is highly likely, since August 2014 — and remained unchanged after the attack on parliament on March 22.

Khalid Masood drove a car through pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before crashing into the gates of parliament. He ran inside and knifed to death a policeman, before being shot.

Police have said they may never know why he did it.

The man arrested on Thursday, metres from parliament and Prime Minister Theresa May’s Downing Street residence, had reportedly been tracked by police and the domestic intelligence agency MI5.

Newspaper reports said he had been followed as he travelled into Westminster, in an investigation that originally began with a tip-off by someone close to him.

“They stopped and searched him as part of an ongoing counter-terrorism investigation,” Basu said, without giving further details.

An AFP photographer saw firearms officers surrounding the bearded man and pinning him to the ground, before putting him in handcuffs.

Construction worker David Wisniowski, who was working on a building site next to the incident, told AFP he saw “three knives on the floor, one big one and two small”.

‘Debt of gratitude’

Hours later in Harlesden, a suburb in north London, armed police launched an unrelated counter-terrorism operation that resulted in six arrests overnight, five in the area and one in Kent, southeast England.

The address had been under observation and the woman who was shot was one of the subjects of the investigation, Basu said.

“Her condition is serious but stable. Because of her condition she has not yet been arrested. We are monitoring her condition closely,” he said, adding that the police watchdog had been informed.

During an election campaign speech on Thursday evening, Prime Minister Theresa May paid tribute to the police and security services, saying they were owed “a huge debt of gratitude”.

Terrorism has yet to feature heavily in the campaign for the June 8 vote, although May’s Conservatives have sought to exploit the anti-nuclear stance of opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson claimed the leftist leader “seems to have no grasp of the need for this country to be strong in the world”.

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

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2017 To Be One Of The Hottest Years: Study

Yale University researchers said that 2017 will be one of the hottest years.

Washington:  2017 will be among the hottest years on record, say scientists who have developed a new method for predicting global mean temperature. Researchers at Yale University in the US found that weak El Nino activity from 1998 until 2013, rather than a pause in long-term global warming, was the root cause for slower rates of increased surface temperature.

They also found that volcanic activity played only a minor role.

“From a practical perspective, our method, when combined with El Nino prediction, allows us to predict next-year global mean temperature,” said Alexey Fedorov, professor at Yale University.

“Accordingly, 2017 will remain among the hottest years of the observational record, perhaps just a notch colder than 2016 or 2015,” Mr Fedorov said.

El Nino events contribute to year-to-year variations in global mean temperature by modulating the heat that is released from tropical oceans into the atmosphere, researchers said.

El Nino warms the atmosphere, while the cold phase of the phenomenon, La Nina, cools the atmosphere.

The new model closely mirrors global mean surface temperature (GMST) changes since 1880, including the so called global warming hiatus and the more recent temperature rise.

“Our main conclusion is that global warming never went away, as one might imply from the term ‘global warming hiatus,'” Mr Fedorov said.

“The warming can be masked by inter-annual and decadal natural climate variability, but then it comes back with a vengeance,” said Fedorov.

Multiple strong El Nino events occurred in the 1980s and 1990s. This was followed by much weaker El Nino activity, which lasted until 2014.

“The recent rapid rise in global temperature mainly resulted from the prolonged 2014-2016 El Nino conditions in the tropics that reached an extreme magnitude in the winter of 2015,” said Shineng Hu, first author of the study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

“The corresponding heat release into the atmosphere, together with the ongoing background global warming trend, made 2014, 2015, and 2016 the three consecutive warmest years of the instrumental record so far,” Mr Hu said. 

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Eurozone inflation picks up to 1.9%

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Inflation in the eurozone accelerated in April, returning to the European Central Bank (ECB)’s target.

Initial estimates from Eurostat showed inflation in the bloc hit 1.9%. That was up from 1.5% in March, but just below February’s four-year high of 2%.

The ECB aims for an inflation rate of below, but close to, 2%.

On Thursday, ECB head Mario Draghi said the eurozone’s economic recovery was “increasingly solid” but inflation was not high enough to lift interest rates.

Following its latest meeting, the ECB kept its main interest rate on hold at zero, and left its bond-buying stimulus scheme unchanged.

The bond-buying programme has already been trimmed to 60bn euros (£51bn) a month from 80bn euros. However, there has been speculation that the ECB could scale back its stimulus measures if the eurozone’s economic recovery continues.

The main factor behind April’s pick-up in inflation was rising energy prices.

Core inflation – a measure that is watched closely by the ECB and which strips out energy and unprocessed food prices – rose to 1.2% in April from 0.8% in March.

The core figure was stronger than expected, and its highest level since September 2013.

However, Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Markit, said the ECB was “highly unlikely” to read too much into April’s data “as it was clearly lifted by Easter timing distortions”.

“The April/March swings in eurozone consumer price inflation – both the headline rate and the core rate – were influenced substantially by pricing distortions, resulting from the fact that Easter occurred in mid-April in 2017 compared to late March in 2016.”

Separate figures from France showed that the country’s economic growth rate slowed in the first three months of the year.

France’s economy grew by 0.3% in the quarter, down from a rate of 0.5% in the final three months of 2016.

The slowdown was partly due to weak consumer spending, after unseasonably warm weather led to lower spending on clothes and heating bills.

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Google and Facebook duped in huge 'scam'

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Image caption

The two tech giants succumbed to a well known type of scam, in which an attacker tricks the victim via innocent-looking emails

Google and Facebook have confirmed that they fell victim to an alleged $100m (£77m) scam.

In March, it was reported that a Lithuanian man had been charged over an email phishing attack against “two US-based internet companies” who were not named at the time.

They had allegedly been tricked into wiring more than $100m to the alleged scammer’s bank accounts.

On 27 April, Fortune reported that the two victims were Facebook and Google.

In a statement, Google said that it was one of the victims.

“We detected this fraud against our vendor management team and promptly alerted the authorities,” a spokeswoman said.

“We recouped the funds and we’re pleased this matter is resolved.”

However, the firm did not reveal how much money it had transferred and recouped.

Nor did Facebook – but a spokeswoman said: “Facebook recovered the bulk of the funds shortly after the incident and has been cooperating with law enforcement in its investigation.”

Big firms targeted

“Sometimes staff [at large firms] think that they are defended, that security isn’t part of their job,” said James Maude at cyber-security firm Avecto, commenting on the phishing threat facing big companies.

“But people are part of the best security you can have – that’s why you have to train them.”

He also told the BBC that Avecto’s clients have recounted phishing attempts that used senior staff’s hacked email accounts to convince employees that a request to wire out money was genuine.

The sophistication of phishing scams has increased lately, according to a recent Europol report.

In order to avoid succumbing to such fraud, firms are advised to carefully verify new payment requests before authorising them.

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After US Talks Of 'Major Conflict' With North Korea, A Warning From China

Washington:  U.S. President Donald Trump said a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, while China said the situation on the Korean peninsula could escalate or slip out of control.

Trump, speaking to Reuters on Thursday, said he wanted to resolve the crisis peacefully, possibly through the use of new economic sanctions, although a military option was not off the table.

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea,” Trump said in an interview at the Oval Office.

“We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult,” he said, describing North Korea as his biggest global challenge.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said there was a danger that the situation on the Korean peninsula could escalate or slip out of control, his ministry said.

Wang made the comments in a meeting at the United Nations with a Russian diplomat on Thursday, the ministry said in a statement.

China, the only major ally of North Korea, has been increasingly uncomfortable in recent months about its neighbour’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles in violation on U.N. resolutions.

The United States has called on China to do more to rein in Pyongyang and Trump lavished praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping for his efforts, calling him “a good man”.

“I believe he is trying very hard. I know he would like to be able to do something. Perhaps it’s possible that he can’t. But I think he’d like to be able to do something,” Trump said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday that China had asked North Korea not to conduct any more nuclear tests. Beijing had warned Pyongyang it would impose unilateral sanctions if it went ahead, he added.

Tillerson did not say when China made the threat. He is due to chair a meeting with U.N Security Council foreign ministers on Friday, where he said he would stress the need for members to fully implement existing sanctions as well as possible next steps.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, asked about Tillerson’s remarks, would not say what actions China might take if there were a new nuclear test and would not comment directly on what Tillerson had said.

“We oppose any behaviour that goes against Security Council resolutions. I think this position is very clear. This is what we have told the United States. I think North Korea is also very clear about this position,” Geng told reporters.

China banned imports of North Korean coal in February, cutting off its most important export, and Chinese media this month raised the possibility of restricting oil shipments to the North if it unleashed more provocations.

Geng said Friday’s UN meeting should not fixate on new sanctions.

“If the meeting only focuses on increasing sanctions and pressure, I think this will not only lose a rare opportunity, it may also exacerbate the confrontation between all sides and may damage efforts to promote peace and talks,” he said.

Missile defence, carrier group

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

Admiral Harry Harris, the top U.S. commander in the Pacific, said on Wednesday the carrier was in the Philippine Sea, within two hours’ striking distance of North Korea if needs be.

Harris also said a U.S. missile defence system being deployed in South Korea to ward off any North Korean attack would be operational in coming days.

China has been angered by the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), complaining that its radar can see deep into China and undermines its security.

Trump said in the interview he wants South Korea to pay the cost of the THAAD, which he estimated at $1 billion. South Korea, one of Washington’s most crucial allies in the region, said the United States would have to bear the cost, pointing to possible friction ahead.

Trump’s remarks came as South Korea heads into a presidential poll on May 9 that will likely elect liberal frontrunner Moon Jae-in, who has said the next administration in Seoul should have the final say on THAAD.

Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile, a capability experts say Pyongyang could have some time after 2020.

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests and numerous missile tests, including one this month, a day before a summit between Trump and Xi in Florida.

North Korea, technically still at war with the South after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty, regularly threatens to destroy the United States and says it will pursue its nuclear and missile programmes to counter perceived U.S. aggression.

“Trump is recklessly resorting to the hackneyed methods, being utterly ignorant of the DPRK,” the North’s KCNA state news agency said on Friday, citing a commentary from the Rodong Sinmun newspaper and referring to the North by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“Unshakable is the faith and will of the army and people of the DPRK to build a socialist power … and no force can check their advance.”

Trump, asked if he considered North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to be rational, said he was operating from the assumption that he is rational. He noted that Kim had taken over his country at an early age.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin and visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on North Korea and other countries on Thursday to avoid behaviour or rhetoric that could increase tension.

(Additional reporting by Phil Stewart, Matt Spetalnick, Eric Beech and Patricia Zengerle in Washington, Denis Pinchuk and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow, Ben Blanchard and Vincent Lee in Beijing and Ju-min Park in Seoul; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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

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M&S online food delivery service will be no piece of cake

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Soon available from the comfort of your armchair?

Couch potatoes everywhere are licking their lips as two High Street giants prepare to enter the crowded market of online food orders for home delivery.

Middle-class shoppers could soon find it easier to order high-end treats from home as Marks and Spencer prepares a trial online grocery service.

Humbler tastes are catered for too, as McDonald’s unveils a pilot fast-food delivery service in the London area.

But as existing players already know, the delivery market is no pushover.

In the case of M&S, the move comes as part of a wider push into the food sector that involves opening 200 new food-only stores.

M&S currently has 959 UK stores, of which 615 are food only.

The retailer is being cautious about its plans, saying that it wants to undertake “a soft trial in the autumn”.

Chief executive Steve Rowe said: “The economics of food online are not straightforward and it is not something that we are going to rush into until we have substantial customer insight and a better understanding of what is right for M&S and right for our customers.”

Luxury items

However, it’s not clear that M&S has the muscle to take on the big supermarkets, which in many cases have spent years honing their online offer.

Industry sources say the average Tesco stocks 40,000 different products, whereas an M&S food outlet has just 7,000.

Of course, M&S has carved out a distinctive niche for its mostly own-label nosh, with TV advertising stressing the exclusivity and luxury nature of its food and drink.

Consumers are less likely to go there for baked beans and more likely to seek out speciality items.

The M&S website’s food section features a large section headed “Dine in style”, including the blurb: “From decadent roasts to dinner parties, we’ve got the expertly sourced joints and carefully prepared meals you need to impress without the stress.”

This kind of food can already be ordered online from M&S on a click-and-collect basis, while the chain also already offers office lunch delivery under the Lunch To You branding.

Takeaway challenge?

So maybe it’s the takeaway food outlets that should be quaking in their boots. After all, if all that stress-free, expertly-sourced food can be delivered to your door, perhaps you might prefer it to a curry or a pizza.

But there again, retail insiders aren’t convinced that M&S can pose a challenge.

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Shakes delivered to your shack?

They don’t see much crossover with big players such as online food order and delivery service Just Eat, which operates as an intermediary between independent take-out food outlets and customers.

The general view is that M&S shoppers are not necessarily Just Eat’s core consumers.

On the other hand, maybe Just Eat might be more worried by the other big name that’s mulling an entry into the market: fast-food firm McDonald’s.

The Big Mac purveyor is set to be quicker off the mark than M&S, with a June start date for its London-based trial service.

“We will start with a delivery service from the right number of sites that gives us scale,” McDonald’s UK chief executive Mr Pomroy told the Telegraph.

However, the signs are that the Golden Arches chain will be working with the existing system, not trying to disrupt it.

The actual deliveries will be carried out by an external firm, which means that it might be Deliveroo or another such company bringing your Chicken McNuggets to your door.

At this rate, there may soon be no need to leave your home at all – another blow to the High Street as bricks-and-mortar outlets look increasingly old-fashioned.

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Russia Seeks Prison Sentence For Church Pokemon Hunter

Sokolovsky had uploaded a video of playing Pokemon Go in an Orthodox Church (Representational)

Moscow:  Russian prosecutors on Friday called for a three-and-a-half year jail sentence for a blogger who hunted Pokemons in church, in a case that has drawn ire from rights activists.

Ruslan Sokolovsky posted a YouTube video in August 2016 showing him playing Pokemon Go on his phone in a Russian Orthodox church in the central city of Yekaterinburg that was viewed more than 1.7 million times.

The militant atheist — dubbed a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International — was detained and charged under controversial legislation for “inciting hatred” and “insulting the feelings of religious believers” before being put on trial.  

“There are no grounds to let the defendant go unpunished,” Russian news agencies quoted a prosecutor as saying in court.  

“I ask for a punishment of three years and six months of imprisonment for all crimes.”

Sokolovsky’s harsh treatment has drawn comparisons with the jailing of the Pussy Riot performance artists after they staged a punk performance in a Moscow cathedral in 2012.

The case has once again highlighted the power of the Russian Orthodox Church under the conservative rule of President Vladimir Putin.

The court said the verdict in Sokolovsky’s case will be delivered on May 11, agencies reported.

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

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Holocaust Controversy Back To Haunt Marine Le Pen's Election Campaign

Marine Le Pen is temporarily leaving her position as the head of the National Front (Reuters)

Paris:  Controversy over her party’s record on the fate of Jews in World War Two returned to haunt French National Front presidential candidate Marine Le Pen on Friday as the man due to replace her temporarily as party leader suddenly stood aside.

Jean-Francois Jalkh, a vice-president of the party, does not want to take up the post he was earmarked to fill because of allegations – which he firmly denies – that he made questionable remarks about Nazi gas chambers, National Front (FN) member Louis Aliot, who is also Le Pen’s partner in private life, said on Friday.

“He (Jalkh) feels that the climate is not conducive for him to carry out this interim role. He wants to defend himself and he will be filing a legal complaint because he feels that his honour has been attacked and I can tell you that he firmly and formally contests what he is accused of,” Aliot told BFM TV.

Steve Briois, mayor of Le Pen’s flagship town Henin-Beaumont and another of the party’s four vice presidents, will take his place, Aliot said.

Le Pen said earlier this week she would put a temporary party leader in her place while she prepares to face off with centrist favourite Emmanuel Macron in a fiercely contested presidential election second round on May 7.

She has worked hard to rid her party of a reputation for anti-semitism.

In 2015 she expelled her father, the party’s founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, from the FN, disowning his comments that the Nazi gas chambers were a “detail” of history.

Late on Thursday, FN officials cried foul after journalists commented on an article in 2005 and quotes from Jalkh that could be construed as endorsing the views of Robert Faurisson, a professor convicted in court for challenging the extent of extermination of Jews in Nazi gas chambers.

(Editing by Brian Love and Andrew Callus)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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

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Facebook 'observed propaganda efforts' by governments

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The social network has published a new report about propaganda efforts it has detected

Facebook has admitted that it observed attempts to spread propaganda on its site, apparently orchestrated by governments or organised parties.

The firm has seen “false news, disinformation, or networks of fake accounts aimed at manipulating public opinion”, it revealed in a new report.

“Several” such cases during the US presidential election last year required action, it added.

Some of the activity has been of a “wide-scale coordinated” nature.

Fake accounts were created to spread information stolen from email accounts during the 2016 US presidential election, the firm noted, though it said the volume of such activity was “statistically very small”.

But the company added that efforts to tackle “information operations” had led it to remove more than 30,000 fake accounts in France – where a presidential election is currently under way.

In general, Facebook said it faced a new challenge in tackling “subtle and insidious forms of misuse, including attempts to manipulate civic discourse and deceive people”.

Facebook described much of the activity as “false amplification” – which included the mass creation of fake accounts; the coordinated sharing of content and engagement with that content (such as likes); and the distribution of “inflammatory and sometimes racist memes”.

It added, however, that there was not much evidence that automated bots had been set up to do this, but humans appeared to be directly involved.

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Facebook said it noticed “information operations” activity during the US presidential election last year

“We have observed many actions by fake account operators that could only be performed by people with language skills and a basic knowledge of the political situation in the target countries, suggesting a higher level of coordination and forethought,” the report explained.

The apparent objectives of those behind the propaganda efforts included one or more of the following:

  • Sowing distrust in political institutions
  • Spreading confusion
  • Promoting or denigrating a specific cause or issue

Facebook said that it was working on a variety of methods to curb the spread of propaganda on its platform.

These included building new products to help stamp out fake news and creating new systems – some with artificial intelligence capabilities – to help quicken the response to reports of fake accounts or spam.

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UK economic growth slows to 0.3%

The UK economy grew by just 0.3% at the start of the year, the slowest growth rate since the first three months of 2016, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics said that the slower pace in the January-to-March period was due mainly to the service sector, which also grew by 0.3% against 0.8% at the end of 2016.

In the last quarter of 2016, gross domestic product increased by 0.7%.

Friday’s figure is a first estimate and could be revised in the coming months.

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India: Kashmir social media ban criticised

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The social media ban came after a series of clashes between civilians and security forces

Authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir have announced a one-month ban on 22 social media services, including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. The state government said the services were being misused by “anti-government elements” to incite violence. Gowhar Geelani reports on life without social media in the valley.

Srinagar-based photojournalist Javed Dar says that the ban on social media has left him “disconnected from people” and has also hampered his work.

Mr Dar says he had to invite friends and colleagues to a book release event, but didn’t have contact numbers for all.

“Normally, I would have invited many through Facebook and Twitter. The ban on social media has made this impossible,” he said.

Other social media services, communications tools and websites banned under the order include YouTube, Skype, Telegram, Snapchat and Reddit. Also, the faster 3G and 4G mobile phone services have been slower and erratic for more than a week.

Dr Qazi Haroon, a government doctor, says many health awareness campaigns which his department was running on social media have taken a hit.

“Now we have no other medium to promote awareness programmes related to immunisation, mother and child care, neonatal care,” he told the BBC.

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More than 22 social media services have been banned

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The internet has been blocked in Kashmir at least 31 times between 2012 to 2016

The internet is often suspended or restricted in Kashmir to quell civilian protests and anti-India demonstrations, which sometimes turn violent.

According to a report by the Software Freedom Law Centre, the internet has been blocked in Kashmir at least 31 times between 2012 to 2016.

However, this is for the first time that the authorities have placed a complete ban on social networking sites.

‘Subversive elements’

Advocacy groups like India’s Centre for Internet and Society have described the ban a “blow to freedom of speech” and “legally unprecedented in India”.

And the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has asked India to revoke the ban.

“The sweeping censorship of social media under the pretext of ‘maintaining peace and order’ will bring neither peace nor order,” media reports quoting Steven Butler of CPJ said.

The state government order said social media networking sites were being used by “anti-national and subversive elements” to harm peace in the state.

It said “objectionable content” was being distributed to “spread disaffection” with the authorities.

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The authorities say the ban is to prevent people inciting violence or spreading rumours

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The ban made it to the front pages of local newspapers

The latest bout of violence began on 9 April when eight people were killed and scores injured after police clashed with protesters during a by-election in the city of Srinagar.

Since then, hundreds of students have protested on the streets, chanting anti-India slogans and throwing stones at the security forces.

Graphic videos claiming to show abuses on both sides have been shared extensively on social media and have added fuel to the conflict.

Opposition and pro-independence groups have criticised the government’s move.

“Repeated bans on means of communication in this day and age in the hope of restoring so-called peace and normalcy in the Kashmir Valley is ridiculous,” Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, one of the most influential leaders in the Kashmiri separatist movement, said.

Terming the ban “archaic”, the main opposition National Conference party accused the government of meting out “collective punishment to the people of Kashmir for expressing their political aspiration and raising voice against gross human rights excesses”.

Justifying the internet gag, a government representative said that the move was aimed at restoring normalcy and stopping rumours from spreading further.

“It [the ban] is a temporary decision to stop rumours and restore law and order to prevent further loss of life. Also, it is being done to prevent a war of provocative videos from both sides,” Waheed Ur Rehman Parra, leader of the ruling party’s youth wing, told the BBC.

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Bangladeshi Girl With 3 Legs 'Walks, Runs' After Surgery

Choity Khatun was brought to Australia by the Children First Foundation for surgery. (AFP)

Sydney:  A toddler born with three legs — because body parts of a twin had grown inside her — was returning home to Bangladesh Friday after complex and rare surgery in Australia enabled her to walk and run, her doctor said.

Three-year-old Choity Khatun was given little prospect of survival until she was brought to Melbourne last year by Australian charity Children First Foundation.   

A team of surgeons spent several months mapping out a procedure to reconstruct her anatomy.

“A twin had grown out of her pelvis but the twin was only part of a twin… The problem is there’s no rulebook for this because she’s a very unique individual so you have to try and work out what was where,” Chris Kimber, the paediatric surgery head at Monash Children’s Hospital, told AFP.

“When Choity arrived in Australia, she was very malnourished, she couldn’t walk properly at all,” said Kimber.

Working in consultation with experts from Europe and the United States, the surgeons planned a procedure that involved removing the remains of the third leg — part of which was earlier cut off in Bangladesh — as well as taking out, disconnecting and reconnecting other organs.

choity khatun xray afp

Choity had parts of a twin growing out of her body. (AFP)

Choity’s condition meant that body parts from a twin developed in her perineum — the area between the anus and the vulva.

Surgeons spent countless hours examining her under anaesthetic and found she had two rectums, anuses, vaginas and uteruses. She was also incontinent.

‘She’s pretty good’

The surgery, which Kimber said was “extremely rare”, was finally carried out in November and involved eight doctors who specialise in genital and pelvic reconstructions working on the girl for eight hours.

“We spent three or four months thinking about it, presenting it to other doctors, getting ideas from around the world, and then based on lots of world opinion, we were able to come up with something that clearly works,” he added.

A key triumph for the surgeons, including Kimber, was that they were able to help her become continent, which Kimber said was “extraordinary”.

“She’s pretty good,” he added.

The little girl is also partially blind, but an ophthalmologist’s examination at the hospital found her sight could not be improved.

But she has sufficient sight to now walk and run like other children, to the delight of her 22-year-old mother.

“Everything is good now… she can play like every baby,” Shima Khatun told broadcaster Channel Nine on Thursday, adding that she was looking forward to returning to her village outside Dhaka with her daughter and being reunited with her husband.

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

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New TV Show Mocking Donald Trump Enters Crowded Satire Market

New York:  The explosive dawn of the Donald Trump presidency is energizing comedians and satirists as TV ratings boom, shows proliferate and top talents vie to portray the commander-in-chief as a buffoon.

Into the crowded market dives a new offering — “The President Show,” starring Trump impersonator Anthony Atamanuik as the Republican leader broadcasting his own reality show from the Oval Office.

The weekly program, which made its debut Thursday on Comedy Central, caricatures Trump as a child-like fool bent on bypassing the mainstream media, spliced with advice from a liberal pundit and a trip to New York where wife Melania has changed the locks.

“I have the power to destroy any country on earth, but I promise you it’ll be America First,” says Atamanuik in character, repeating Trump’s campaign slogan and reinforcing the liberal stereotype of the president as an ignorant blowhard.

But to win the ratings war there’s stiff competition.

In the weekly market there is “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” on TBS, the first feminist political satire show on mainstream US television; “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver on HBO; and the long-running and most-widely watched comedy show “Saturday Night Live” on NBC.

Weeknights there is “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on CBS, whose satirical tone has overtaken rival NBC entertainer Jimmy Fallon in the ratings; and “The Daily Show” with Trevor Noah on Comedy Central.

“Right now satire sees itself as more important than it has been in a very long time,” says Dannagal Young, associate professor communication at the University of Delaware.

“In recent memory I don’t think that we have seen a time that is as frightening, especially for the left, as this moment.”

Way to cope

If ratings and advertising sales are up, so too are career fortunes.

Alec Baldwin has swapped headlines about tussling with paparazzi for rave reviews for his Trump impersonation on SNL that portrays the president as an idiot or a pawn.

Melissa McCarthy’s impersonation of the White House spokesman, also on SNL, reportedly riled the president and has driven headlines.

Comedians say there are rich pickings in an administration has defied so many norms, from Trump refusing to fully divest from his businesses to concerns about nepotism and Russian meddling in the election.

That Trump is notoriously thin skinned makes him more fun to goad.

Satire “has the ability to help people cope,” said Stephen Groening, assistant professor in the department of comparative literature, cinema and media at the University of Washington.

The ability to laugh, get perspective and enjoy the fact that other people find times “challenging and absurd, has value,” he says.

Bee, Oliver and Noah take a more nuanced, issue-driven approach, woven with righteous anger and a call to arms that urges viewers to call their senator, protest or to donate to organizations.

“Stand-up comedians are increasingly taking a political activist, public intellectual role,” says Maggie Hennefeld, who teaches cultural studies and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota.

– ‘Couples’ therapy’ –

“American satire had the reputation for being less pointed, less dark, less confrontational,” she said. “That’s changing.”

But if satire is predominantly left-leaning in a divided country where few Trump supporters tune in to watch Bee or Oliver, that is something Trump impersonator Atamanuik hopes to change.

His show “is not about catering to the right, but it is not about catering to the left either,” he told reporters this week.

“This nation needs severe couples’ therapy, let’s just put it that way. And it doesn’t happen by just fighting with each other.”

Groening however doubts the “The President Show” will tackle what he called Trump’s “overt appeals to sexism, misogyny, racism and homophobia.”

He said too much US presidential satire was caricature rather than a look at policy or the state of the country in general.

Groening believes the booming market has more to do with the growth of channels and the digital era than Trump specifically.

“I’m not confident this is a seismic shift,” he told AFP.

“You see in the ratings how wonderful Trump has been for TV,” he said. “So I don’t see them doing anything differently.”

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

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House prices fell again in April, Nationwide says

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UK house prices fell for the second month in a row during April, according to the Nationwide.

The building society said prices dropped 0.4% in April, and the annual rate of price growth slowed to 2.6%, the weakest pace for almost four years.

It said the slowdown may indicate that households were reacting to the “emerging squeeze on real incomes”.

“Affordability pressures” in some parts of the country were also having an impact, Nationwide added.

“Various data suggest that the latest slowdown in house prices may be part of a broader trend,” said Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, noting that retail sales growth had slowed “markedly” in recent months.

“Household budgets are coming under pressure, as wage growth has moderated and inflation has accelerated.”

However, Mr Gardner added that in some respects the slowdown in price growth was “surprising”.

“The unemployment rate is near to a 40-year low, confidence is still relatively high and mortgage rates have fallen to new all-time lows in recent months.”

Where can I afford to live?

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Fighter Jet Variant Jointly Built By China, Pak Makes Debut Flight

The JF-17B climbed up and stayed in the air for about 26 minutes during its maiden flight.

Beijing:  China launched an upgraded version of a fighter jet on Thursday, manufactured jointly with Pakistan, that can be used for training in peacetime and for combat missions during wartime. The dual-seat fighter trainer JF-17B is an upgraded version of the military aircraft JF-17.

The JF-17B was developed by Aviation Industry Corporation of China to meet the requirements of international customers and the global market, according to AVIC.

China and Pakistan jointly manufacture JF-17 Thunder – a lightweight and multi-role combat aircraft. AVIC said in a statement that the plane can be used for training in peacetime and can also be used in combat missions during wartime.

The JF-17B climbed up and stayed in the air for about 26 minutes during its maiden flight and was witnessed by guests from home and abroad, reported Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency.

The debut flight symbolised a major milestone in the development of the JF-17 aircraft series, AVIC said.

Yang Wei, chief designer of the JF-17B, said the aircraft brings a new force to JF-17 family and will increase JF-17 series’ competitiveness in global market. AVIC said the JF-17B was developed in a market and customer-oriented manner and has achieved a balance among performance, quality, cost and market needs.

Sources with AVIC said the F-17B aircraft has received overseas orders during its development stage. 

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Olympus scandal: Former bosses to pay $529m over fraud

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Former Olympus chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa (right) is among those who must pay damages

Six executives sacked by Japan’s Olympus have been ordered to pay more than half a billion dollars in damages after a massive accounting fraud.

The camera and medical equipment firm brought the case against ex-chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa and 15 others.

A Tokyo court found Kikukawa and five others liable for $529m.

The ruling comes comes six years after former chief executive Michael Woodford exposed his colleagues for falsifying accounts to conceal losses of $1.7bn.

The scandal was one of the biggest financial frauds in Japan’s history, but Kikukawa and two other executives who pleaded guilty never went to jail. Instead, they were given suspended sentences of up to three years.

An Olympus spokesman declined to comment, saying the former employees could appeal against the ruling.

One of the six men found liable by the court has since died, but his family could still be held responsible for his share of the damages, according to the AFP news agency.

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'Green Cards For Cash' Face Questionable Future

The original plan was to attract foreign investment to blighted neighborhoods. But instead, the controversial EB-5 investor visa enabled affluent Chinese to park their cash in high-end real estate in Beverly Hills and Manhattan – benefiting developers such as Donald Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Now the visas criticized as “green cards for cash” face a questionable future, with some members of Congress refusing to reauthorize the program, which expires Friday, unless there is significant reform.

Proponents of the program argue that the investor visas provide capital for economic development. Critics say it encourages a two-tier immigration system favoring the rich over those fleeing wars, persecution and poverty.

“These are wealthy investors whose main goal is to secure the visa as quickly as possible,” said Gary Friedland, an investments and capital markets scholar in residence at New York University whose research focuses on EB-5 capital. “The way to do that is to invest in the safest projects that are most likely to be completed in the shortest period of time.”

Some lawmakers, as well as the White House, say lax government oversight has resulted in a visa program that’s rife with abuse.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vt., a former ranking Democrat on the panel, have proposed reforms, along with their counterparts in the House. So, too, has the Department of Homeland Security.

Some members of Congress have threatened to let the program expire in its current form on Friday if their colleagues do not agree to immediate changes.

Industry observers say the program is likely to be reauthorized under a short-term budget bill, separate from large-scale immigration reforms being hashed out with industry and the Trump administration.

The deadline presents a tricky political test for President Donald Trump. Both he and Kushner, a senior adviser to the president, have benefited directly from the visa program. Trump, who last week signed an executive order calling for an overhaul of high-skilled worker visas, has not spoken out much on EB-5 visas.

“It’s a third-rail issue for the White House. They don’t want to be seen as obstructionists to reform,” said William Cook, former general counsel of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services in the George H.W. Bush administration when the EB-5 program was created. His law practice, Global Migration Law Group, represents foreign investors.

The White House issued a statement to The Washington Post this week saying that the Trump administration is weighing reforms to the foreign investor visa program.

“There are serious concerns held by the administration regarding the EB-5 visa program, in part because it is not being used as it was primarily intended,” said Michael Short, a White House spokesman.

“The administration is continuing to evaluate reforms to the program, which we believe is in need of substantial repair.”

Congress created the EB-5 citizenship pathway in 1990 as a way to provide jobs during a recession. The guidelines require aspiring immigrants to invest $1 million in a new business anywhere in the country that would create at least 10 full-time jobs – or put $500,000 into projects in needy areas, such as rural or urban communities with unemployment rates well above the national average. In exchange, the investor and immediate family members receive two-year conditional green cards.

The law does not define economically needy areas, and developers often draw the boundaries, resulting in “gerrymandered” areas in which their projects are located in affluent communities, researchers said.

This is how the Beverly Hills Waldorf Astoria ended up as an EB-5-funded project, with $150 million in foreign investment by 300 investors at $500,000 each, according to a report by Friedland for NYU Stern’s Center for Real Estate Finance Research.

It’s also how Trump Bay Street, a 50-story luxury apartment complex built by Kushner Cos. in Jersey City, was financed, according to a 2016 Bloomberg News report. A quarter of that project’s funding – $50 million – came from EB-5 investors.

“The original intent was to establish an incentive for immigrants to invest in areas that can’t otherwise attract conventional capital,” Friedland said. “Instead, virtually all projects qualify. It’s merely serving to enhance the returns for those developers.”

About 99 percent of the visa holders invested only $500,000 – and only a tiny fraction of projects, 3 percent, were in rural communities, according to Rebecca Gambler, director of homeland security and justice issues at the Government Accountability Office.

About 10,000 EB-5 visas are issued each year; 85 percent go to Chinese nationals, according to federal data compiled by Invest in the USA, an EB-5 trade association.

The foreign investment dollars are concentrated most heavily in California, New York and Florida, according to a Commerce Department report in January.

The bill from Grassley and Leahy proposes raising the minimum investment to $800,000. A portion of EB-5 visas would be reserved for rural areas. And the bill would impose stricter criteria for defining needy areas.

But some industry representatives say the changes would hurt projects already underway.

Washington has benefited from more than $250 million in EB-5 investments since 2011, said Angel Brunner, founder and president of EB5 Capital, which connects investors with development projects in 10 states plus the District.

More than half of that money has gone into the NoMa neighborhood north of Union Station, she said, where previously there was nothing but warehouses lining railroad tracks. An REI flagship store has sprung from the former Uline Arena.

“None of these projects would qualify under the proposed changes,” Brunner said.

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

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RBS reports first quarter profit as turnaround continues

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Troubled Royal Bank of Scotland made a profit of £259m in the first three months of 2017, up from a £968m loss in the same period last year.

The bank said that after stripping out restructuring costs, the core operating business made a profit of £1.3bn, up from £1.02bn.

RBS, majority-owned by the government after being bailed out, added its cost-cutting plan was ahead of schedule.

It has already stripped out 37% of the £750m cuts planned for this year.

The three-month profit is the first RBS has made since the third quarter of 2015.

In February, RBS reported a £7bn annual loss and chief executive Ross McEwan ordered a £2bn four-year cost-cutting drive involving job losses and branch closures.

Although RBS said in its statement that there would be no further provision for Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) mis-selling, the bank still faces costs for legacy issues.

BBC business editor Simon Jack said that, despite the progress being made, investors should not expect the bank to post a profit for the year.

“Big fines are still not settled with US authorities, but are expected to do so later this year and are likely to wipe out most if not all the money it makes in 2017,” he said.

Last week, Chancellor Philip Hammond admitted that the government was prepared to sell its 72% stake in RBS at a loss, bought in 2008 at a cost of £45bn.

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Barclays profits more than double

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Barclays says its profits more than doubled in the first three months of the year, boosted by better performance in its core business.

Pre-tax profit for the first quarter was £1.682bn, up from £793m for the same period last year.

Chief executive Jes Staley said it had been “another quarter of strong progress towards the completion of the restructuring of Barclays”.

He said there was good reason to feel optimistic about the firm’s prospects.

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Trump Says He Thought Being President Would Be Easier Than His Old Life

US President Donald Trump used to operate a real-estate empire and host a popular reality show.

Washington:  He misses driving, feels as if he is in a cocoon, and is surprised how hard his new job is.

US President Donald Trump on Thursday reflected on his first 100 days in office with a wistful look at his life before the White House.

“I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump told Reuters in an interview. “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

A wealthy businessman from New York, Trump assumed public office for the first time when he entered the White House on January 20 after he defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an upset.

More than five months after his victory and two days shy of the 100-day mark of his presidency, the election is still on Trump’s mind. Midway through a discussion about Chinese President Xi Jinping, the president paused to hand out copies of what he said were the latest figures from the 2016 electoral map.

“Here, you can take that, that’s the final map of the numbers,” the Republican president said from his desk in the Oval Office, handing out maps of the United States with areas he won marked in red. “It’s pretty good, right? The red is obviously us.”

He had copies for each of the three Reuters reporters in the room.

Trump, who said he was accustomed to not having privacy in his “old life,” expressed surprise at how little he had now. And he made clear he was still getting used to having 24-hour Secret Service protection and its accompanying constraints.

“You’re really into your own little cocoon, because you have such massive protection that you really can’t go anywhere,” he said.

When the president leaves the White House, it is usually in a limousine or an SUV.

He said he missed being behind the wheel himself.

“I like to drive,” he said. “I can’t drive any more.”

Many things about Trump have not changed from the wheeler-dealer executive and former celebrity reality show host who ran his empire from the 26th floor of Trump Tower in New York and worked the phones incessantly.

He frequently turns to outside friends and former business colleagues for advice and positive reinforcement. Senior aides say they are resigned to it.

The president has been at loggerheads with many news organisations since his election campaign and decided not to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington on Saturday because he felt he had been treated unfairly by the media.

“I would come next year, absolutely,” Trump said when asked whether he would attend in the future.

The dinner is organised by the White House Correspondents’ Association. Reuters correspondent Jeff Mason is its president.

(Writing by Jeff Mason; Editing by Kieran Murray and Howard Goller)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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Nationwide Strike Threatens To Paralyse Brazil

Brazil President Michel Temer intends to cut social security benefits and weaken labour laws.

Sao Paulo:  Brazilian unions called nationwide strikes today to protest President Michel Temer’s efforts to reduce social security benefits and weaken labor laws, with disruption expected to road and rail transport, factories and schools. Many workers were expected to heed the strike call, due in part to anger about reforms that will force many Brazilians to work for years longer before drawing a pension, but also because the strike will extend a holiday weekend ahead of Labor Day on Monday.If successful, the protest would mark Brazil’s first general strike in more than two decades. 

In Brasilia, the capital, authorities boarded up windows of government buildings on Thursday amid fears that protests could result in violent clashes between demonstrators and police.

Demonstrations were scheduled in other major cities across the Latin American nation of more than 200 million people. 

“It is going to be the biggest strike in the history of Brazil,” said Paulo Pereira da Silva, the president of trade union group Forca Sindical.

Violent protests have occurred repeatedly during the past four years amid political turmoil, Brazil’s worst recession on record, and unprecedented corruption investigations that revealed stunning levels of systematic graft among politicians.

Nearly a third of Mr Temer’s cabinet and key congressional allies came under investigation in the scandal this month, worsening his dismal approval ratings since taking office last year after the impeachment of ex-President Dilma Rousseff.

Ms Rousseff’s Workers Party grew out of the labor movement, and her allies have called her removal for breaking budget rules an illegitimate “coup,” contributing to political polarisation in Brazil and hardline union resistance to Mr Temer’s agenda.

Vagner Freitas, the national president of the Central Workers Union (CUT), Brazil’s biggest labor confederation, said the government’s reforms “leave no room to negotiate.”

“Temer does not even want to negotiate, he just wants to meet the demands of the businessmen who financed the ‘coup’ precisely to end social security and legalize the exploitation of workers,” Mr Freitas said in a statement.
A spokesperson for Mr Temer rejected the union criticism, saying the government was working to undo the economic damage wrought under the previous Workers Party government, which had the backing of the CUT.

“The inheritance of that was 13 million unemployed. The government is carrying out reforms to change this situation, to create jobs and economic growth,” said spokesperson Marcio de Freitas.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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How Ranking The World's Wealthy Became A Business

When reporter Alex Cuadros was covering Latin America for Bloomberg, his mission was to track a powerful and elusive species: the billionaire. It was 2012, and Bloomberg was about to launch its Billionaires Index as a direct challenge to the long-running World’s Billionaires list run by rival Forbes. Bloomberg reporters across the globe were charged with discovering the answer to some rather intimate questions: Who were the wealthiest people on the planet, and what, precisely, were they worth?

As it turns out, billionaires are a motley bunch when it comes to talking about their fortunes. Some decline to cooperate, and some instruct underlings to confirm basic details. Some, in all honesty or in hopes of being left alone, tell reporters they’re not actually worth all that much. And then there are those like oil-and-mining magnate Eike Batista, who back then was valued at $30 billion but felt he was worth much more. He sent Cuadros proof of his assets – the $42 million yacht, the three jets worth $84 million – and then called the reporter personally to talk up the value of a gold mine, and to warn Cuadros that he was going to look “very foolish.”

“The biggest reason for a billionaire to tell us that we’re too low is ego,” says Cuadros, who wrote a book called “Brazillionaires” about his time tracking the wealthy. “The self-made billionaires are all people who are empire builders. … They’re on a quest for continual expansion, so that number matters to them.”

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett is the second richest man in the world, according to Forbes 2017 list

That number matters to them – and to us. Over the past few decades, as concern over global wealth inequality has grown, so has the number of lists ranking the wealthy, which the public consumes avidly. We want to know who’s No. 1 (Bill Gates, still), how the richest person in China made all that money, and whether Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim is still bleeding billions. These fortunes are cause for admiration, loathing and, most of all, fascination – especially now, when we’ve elected a billionaire president who is himself consumed by his Number.

“I think there’s something about America having embraced entrepreneurism and hard-knocks stories and success in general that serves as the bedrock for why this started,” says Luisa Kroll, a global wealth editor for Forbes, which has defined the modern-day rich list.

When the late Malcolm Forbes started his magazine’s list of the 400 richest Americans in 1982, it was thick with old-money names like Hunt, Rockefeller and du Pont. Forbes came from money, and his attitude toward wealth was admiring and uncomplicated: His list was a celebration of capitalism. Staff members took a year to compile it, combing through Securities and Exchange Commission filings, oil well records, wills, trusts and deeds. Some of the wealthy cooperated, while others called the magazine “cheap” and “low-class” and threatened to sue. Back then, according to the wealth-chronicling book “All the Money in the World,” the poorest on Forbes’ list had to have at least $75 million. (By 2006, only billionaires were making the cut.)

Shortly after that debut, Malcolm Forbes was surprised to discover that his own father, B.C. Forbes, who’d founded the magazine, had published a short-lived rich list back in 1918. Subsequent reporting by Forbes magazine found that rich lists in America date at least as far back as 1845. The names on one New York City rich list included showman P.T. Barnum and some guy with the old-timey occupation of “tallow chandler” (a.k.a. candle maker).

“We’re always nosy about how much money other people have,” says Andrew Leckey, president of the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism. “We wonder: How could anybody have that much more money than I do?”

In 1987, Forbes magazine expanded beyond the United States with a list of the world’s richest. Since then, the field of tracking, scrutinizing and ranking the wealthiest has gotten more crowded. Luigino Canal, a journalist who has worked on the rich list for Swiss business magazine Bilan since the list’s inception in 2000, says he’s seen more magazines around the world add rich lists because they sell so well. The readers are not just those who work in finance, but also the rest of us – voyeurs. Depending on the year, you can find print or online lists for the United Kingdom, the Middle East, China, Germany, Canada, Australia, Israel and Zimbabwe, among others, not to mention for smaller regions like Los Angeles and the Midlands area of England.

The cottage industry of wealth-ranking lists turns out to be as marked by ambition, insularity and one-upmanship as the lives of the billionaires it chronicles. The biggest rivalry is between Forbes and Bloomberg. For years, Forbes released its list of the world’s billionaires annually, and then, in 2012, Bloomberg unveiled a ranking that updated every day. The new list’s creator was Matthew Miller, who’d worked on the Forbes list before leaving to co-found a financial research firm called Wealth-X (which itself does rich lists), and then joining Bloomberg. Within days, Forbes announced an effort to update the valuations of some of its billionaires every five minutes.

Billionaire-list makers squabble over everything from methodology to transparency to exhaustiveness and even matters of national pride. As reporter Robert Frank has chronicled, Forbes and Bloomberg have battled over whether Ikea tycoon Ingvar Kamprad is worth $42 billion or less than $1 billion, depending on whether “special entities” should count toward his wealth. A Shanghai-based research firm called Hurun Report has battled with Forbes and Wealth-X over whether China or the United States has more billionaires. Bloomberg has boasted about uncovering billionaires Forbes never even knew existed.

“We’ve uncovered 400 hidden billionaires … and that’s just in five years,” says Rob LaFranco, the global editor of the Bloomberg Billionaires Index and another Forbes alum. Bloomberg recently expanded its daily rankings to the world’s 500 richest.

One problem with estimating wealth is that some information is elusive – indeed, the wealthy themselves may not know what they’re worth. Private companies are hard to value; debt is often hidden from reporters. The journalists who put together rich lists study documents; they talk to private bankers, luxury real estate brokers, art dealers, ex-employees and ex-wives. When billionaires claim they’re worth oh-so-much-more, the journalists request bank statements and, astonishingly, sometimes get them.

It’s easy to understand why a billionaire might not want to be on anyone’s list. “You make yourself a target of every charity and every political candidate,” billionaire Marc Nathanson told the Los Angeles Business Journal a few years ago. Canal says it’s particularly difficult in Switzerland, where internationals head to be forgotten. But the funny thing is, once they make it onto a list, Switzerland’s ultrarich are hooked, he says. To be left off the next year “would mean they lost money.” And for every billionaire who’d rather be forgotten, there’s another who sees public estimates of his fortune as integral to his business, his persona and, perhaps, his self-worth.

“I have heard stories about billionaires who compare where they rank on the list,” says Kroll, of Forbes. “We’ll have billionaires call up and say, ‘Why did my net worth go down 100 million today?’ I mean, they’re on top of it.”

Take our president, whose advocacy on behalf of his own Number is legendary. In 2015, Forbes said he was worth less than half the $10 billion Trump insisted he was, and that the developer had been inflating his value since 1982. The editor who ran the list in its early years said that his rule of thumb each year was to take Trump’s estimate and “immediately divide it by three and refine it from there.”

In response, Trump would send the magazine statements of worth directly contradicted by SEC filings and sworn statements, Forbes reported, and lambaste the magazine’s stinginess in interviews. In 2015, he admitted to Forbes that he’d stretched the facts in the past. “It was good for financing,” Trump said, before proceeding to argue that Forbes was undervaluing him again – for real this time.

Egos aside, the Number is about more than status, power and celebrity. Wealth lists can tell us about geopolitics, about war, about bribery, about changes in the retail industry, about monopolistic pressures, political influence, philanthropic influence and the concentration of wealth. (There are as many ways to measure inequality as there are to measure wealth – all of them stunning. Oxfam International has found that “eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity.”)

There are now 2,043 billionaires around the globe, up 13 percent from last year, according to Forbes data. Forbes says between 2016 and 2017, 76 new billionaires were added from China alone. Cuadros says he began finding billionaires everywhere once he considered the objects he came across in daily life: A billionaire owned the yogurt he ate, and another owned the malls he passed on his way to work. Invisible forces wielded by billionaires shape all of our lives.

Cuadros says that while reporting on wealth he experienced a profound disconnect: visiting beachfront penthouses and then taking a bus to his modest apartment. But rather than causing envy, he says, his work pierced a powerful mystique. If the idea of being unfathomably wealthy ever held any appeal, reporting on perennially dissatisfied empire builders cured him of it. Not long after Eike Batista warned Cuadros about looking “foolish,” his empire began to disintegrate. Bloomberg soon ran a story on Batista headlined: “How Brazil’s Richest Man Lost $34.5 Billion.”

“It’s almost a cliche, but it didn’t seem that that money brought anyone happiness, and that when you get used to this level of luxury … you can’t go back,” Cuadros says. “Your baseline becomes the private jet and the super yacht and so on. So I take economy class, and it’s really no big deal.”

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

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Two Alleged Terrorists Admit Being At Brussels Airport During Attack

Belgium has been on high alert since March 22 last year when suicide bombers attacked Zaventem airport

Madrid:  Two suspected terrorists arrested in Spain have admitted being in Brussels airport at the time of the deadly March 2016 attack but deny involvement, a court spokesman said Thursday.

Mohamed Lamsalak and Youssef Ben Hammou were arrested earlier in the week as part of a joint investigation between Spanish and Belgian police. Officers seized firearms, drugs and cash in raids connected to the operation.

The two men “have admitted that they were at the airport when the bombs went off. They deny involvement in the attacks,” said a spokesman for the National Court, which specialises in terrorism cases.

Belgium has been on high alert since March 22 last year when suicide bombers attacked Zaventem airport and the Maalbeek metro station, killing 32 people and leaving more than 320 wounded.

The attacks were led by an ISIS cell that was also responsible for the carnage in Paris in November 2015.

The spokesman said an inquiry had established that the men were in Brussels from March 16-23.

“They say that they went to Brussels to buy a car,” he said. “Investigators are working to determine if the money (intended for the purchase) was used to finance the attack or for any other motive”.

The men, who are charged with belonging to a terrorist organisation, admitted that while in Brussels they visited the cousin of the two brothers who blew themselves up in the coordinated attack.

Investigators were looking into a document found on Hammou, a Google Maps print-out which showed the route from Germany to Brussels taken by Salah Abdeslam, the only survivor of the jihadist group behind attacks in Paris which left 130 dead.

Hammou and Lamsalak both deny any connection to the Paris attacks.

The two suspects were among a group of nine people taken in for questioning in Barcelona and the northeastern region of Catalonia.

On Tuesday, police said the nine were made up of eight Moroccans and one Spanish national.

Four of those have been released on probation while three others remain in custody, but on charges not relating to terrorism.

Between 2012 and October 2016, Spain detained 186 people with suspected links to Islamic jihadism, including 63 in Catalonia, according to the interior ministry.

Spain, the world’s third most visited country, increased its terror alert to category four on a five-point scale in 2015 after attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait.

The country has been mentioned on extremist websites as a possible target for historical reasons, since much of its territory was under Muslim rule from 711 to 1492.

But it has been spared major jihadist violence since March 2004, when bombs exploded on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people in an attack claimed by Qaeda-inspired militants.

Unlike France or Belgium, Spain is less exposed to the risk that radicalised citizens who left to fight abroad will return with plans to commit attacks on home soil.

Only around 160 Spaniards are estimated to have joined the ISIS in Iraq and Syria, according to a study by the Real Instituto Elcano think tank, compared with over a thousand from nearby France since 2012.

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Saudi Arabia Not Paying Fair Share For US Defence: Donald Trump

Saudi deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman met with Donald Trump last month

Washington:  US President Donald Trump complained on Thursday that ally Saudi Arabia was not treating the United States fairly and Washington was losing a “tremendous amount of money” defending the kingdom. In an interview with Reuters, Mr Trump confirmed his administration was in talks about possible visits to Saudi Arabia and Israel in the second half of May. He is due to make his first trip abroad as president for a May 25 NATO summit in Brussels and could add other stops.

“Frankly, Saudi Arabia has not treated us fairly, because we are losing a tremendous amount of money in defending Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Mr Trump’s criticism of Riyadh, the world’s top oil exporter, was a return to his 2016 election campaign rhetoric when he accused the kingdom of not pulling its weight in paying for the US security umbrella.

“Nobody’s going to mess with Saudi Arabia because we’re watching them,” Mr Trump told a campaign rally in Wisconsin a year ago. “They’re not paying us a fair price. We’re losing our shirt.”

Saudi Arabia’s powerful deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman met with Mr Trump last month in a meeting that was hailed by a senior Saudi adviser as a “historical turning point” in relations. The talks appeared to signal a meeting of the minds on many issues, including their shared view that Iran posed a regional security threat.

Riyadh and other Gulf allies see in Trump a strong president who will shore up Washington’s role as their main strategic partner and help contain Riyadh’s adversary Iran in a region central to US security and energy interests, regional analysts said.

Asked about the fight against ISIS, which Saudi Arabia and other US allies are confronting as a coalition, Mr Trump said the terror group had to be defeated.

“I have to say, there is an end. And it has to be humiliation,” Mr Trump said, when asked about what the endgame was for defeating terrorism.

A visit to Israel would reciprocate a White House visit in February by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is due to meet Mr Trump next Wednesday in Washington.

Donald Trump has set a more positive tone with Israel than his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, who often clashed with the Israeli leader, and has raised concerns among Palestinians that their leaders may not get equal treatment.

Mr Trump has also asked Israel to put unspecified limits on its building of Jewish settlements on land the Palestinians want for a state, and has promised to seek a Middle East peace deal that eluded his predecessors. However, he has offered no new diplomatic prescriptions.

“I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians,” he said. “There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians – none whatsoever.”

Trump brushed aside a question of whether he might use a possible trip to Israel to declare U.S. recognition of the entire city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a reversal of longstanding US foreign policy likely to draw international condemnation.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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

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Donald Trump Says 'Major, Major' Conflict With North Korea Possible

Donald Trump said he wanted to peacefully resolve a crisis that has bedevilled multiple US presidents.

Washington:  US President Donald Trump said on Thursday a major conflict with North Korea is possible in the standoff over its nuclear and missile programs, but he would prefer a diplomatic outcome to the dispute. “There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump told Reuters in an Oval Office interview ahead of his 100th day in office on Saturday.

Nonetheless, Trump said he wanted to peacefully resolve a crisis that has bedevilled multiple US presidents, a path that he and his administration are emphasizing by preparing a variety of new economic sanctions while not taking the military option off the table.

“We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult,” he said.

Trump lavished praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping for Chinese assistance in trying to rein in North Korea. The two leaders met in Florida earlier this month.

“I believe he is trying very hard. He certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death. He doesn’t want to see it. He is a good man. He is a very good man and I got to know him very well.

“With that being said, he loves China and he loves the people of China. I know he would like to be able to do something, perhaps it’s possible that he can’t,” Trump said.

Trump spoke just a day after he and his top national security advisers briefed US lawmakers on the North Korean threat and one day before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will press the United Nations Security Council on sanctions to further isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs.

The Trump administration on Wednesday declared North Korea “an urgent national security threat and top foreign policy priority.” It said it was focussing on economic and diplomatic pressure, including Chinese cooperation in containing its defiant neighbour and ally, and remained open to negotiations.

US officials said military strikes remained an option but played down the prospect, though the administration has sent an aircraft carrier and a nuclear-powered submarine to the region in a show of force.

Any direct US military action would run the risk of massive North Korean retaliation and huge casualties in Japan and South Korea and among US forces in both countries.

Trump, asked if he considered North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to be rational, said he was operating from the assumption that he is rational. He noted that Kim had taken over his country at an early age.

“He’s 27 years old. His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want but that is not easy, especially at that age.

“I’m not giving him credit or not giving him credit, I’m just saying that’s a very hard thing to do. As to whether or not he’s rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he’s rational,” he said.

Trump, sipping a Coke delivered by an aide after the president ordered it by pressing a button on his desk, appeared to rebuff an overture from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who told Reuters a direct phone call with Trump could take place again after their first conversation in early December angered Beijing.

China considers neighbouring Taiwan to be a renegade province.

“My problem is that I have established a very good personal relationship with President Xi,” said Trump. “I really feel that he is doing everything in his power to help us with a big situation. So I wouldn’t want to be causing difficulty right now for him.”

“So I would certainly want to speak to him first.”

(Editing by Ross Colvin)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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

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