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  1. Mossos d'Esquadra, Catalan regional police officers, carry barriers near the Catalonian regional parliament in Barcelona, Spain, October 10, 2017. Photo: REUTERS BARCELONA: Catalan police tightened their protective ring around the region?s parliament on Tuesday where secessionists have pledged a unilateral declaration of independence from Spain despite warnings from Madrid of swift counter-measures. Regional leader Carles Puigdemont held a meeting of his cabinet to decide how to press an independence drive that has stirred powerful emotions across Spain and raised fears of turmoil among European Union partner states. Catalan police armed with automatic rifles guarded Barcelona?s Parc de la Ciutadella that houses the elegant 18th century parliament as it prepared to convene at 6 p.m. (1600 GMT). About 20 armoured Catalan police vans blocked every entrance to the park and the entrance to parliament itself was guarded by three armoured vans and officers wearing balaclavas. Spanish national police, denounced by separatists for their use of force to hinder the region?s Oct. 1 referendum, were not to be seen. However, the Spanish government was reinforcing security at airports and rail stations in Catalonia. Pro-independence activists were gathering around the parliament, where big screens had been set up for them to watch proceedings. Farmers parked half a dozen tractors near the assembly, flying the separatist Catalan flag. A declaration of independence would deepen Spain?s biggest political crisis since an attempted military coup in 1981 and would almost certainly draw a crackdown from Madrid, possibly including suspension of Catalonia?s autonomous government. Both Spain?s government and European Council President Donald Tusk appealed to Puigdemont not to proclaim independence. ?I ask you to respect, in your intentions, the constitutional order and not to announce a decision that would make such a dialogue impossible. Diversity should not, and need not, lead to conflict, whose consequences would obviously be bad for the Catalans, for Spain and for the whole of Europe,? Tusk said in a speech in Brussels. The government of Spain?s wealthiest region says 90 percent of those who voted on Oct. 1 backed independence, but turnout was only 43 percent as many opponents of statehood stayed at home. IRREVERSIBLE STEP The Spanish government appealed to Puigdemont to reflect and not to take an irrevocable step by declaring independence. ?I want to ask Mr. Puigdemont not to do anything irreversible, not to take a path of no return, not to carry out any unilateral declaration of independence and to return to legality,? Madrid government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo told reporters. A woman walks past a graffiti which reads "Franco has returned" in Barcelona, Spain. Photo: REUTERS French President Emmanuel Macron said the EU should not play a mediating role in the Catalonia crisis, expressing confidence in Madrid?s ability to handle the situation. The Catalan parliament and other buildings, such as the regional high court building, could become a focus of contention between Spanish and Catalan authorities. Thousands of national police reinforcements sent by Madrid for the referendum remain in the area, many of them in two cruise ships docked in Barcelona harbour. Supporters of independence were already congregating near the parliament hours before a pro-independence rally called for 6 p.m. to coincide with Puigdemont?s speech to the assembly. ?We?re very excited, it?s another historic day and we?re hoping they will declare independence,? said Laura Moreno, a 21-year-old literature student, sitting wrapped in a Catalan flag near the parliament. If independence is not declared, she said, ?the fight will go on and we?ll try again ... If it doesn?t happen now, it will in the future.? Aitor Llado, 30, walking near the Catalan parliament carrying a Catalan separatist flag, also said it was an historic day. ?Today is the day they are going to declare independence and we hope to leave Spain because it?s an oppressor country.? The issue has deeply divided the northeastern region as well as the Spanish nation. Opinion polls conducted before the vote suggested a minority of around 40 percent of residents in Catalonia backed independence. Losing Catalonia, which has its own language and culture, would deprive Spain of a fifth of its economic output and more than a quarter of exports. Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in Barcelona against independence at the weekend, waving red-yellow Spanish flags through the city centre. Mossos d'Esquadra, Catalan regional police officers, stand guard outside the Catalonia regional parliament in Barcelona, Spain. Photo: REUTERS That rally occurred a week after some 900 people were injured when police fired rubber bullets and stormed crowds with truncheons to disrupt a referendum ruled illegal in Madrid. Puigdemont has said he is determined to apply a law passed by the Catalan assembly that called for a declaration of independence within days if Catalans voted ?yes? on Oct. 1. Puigdemont could ask the parliament to vote on a motion of independence, which lawmakers say would start a period of up to six months during which Catalonia would write a new constitution and negotiate a divorce with Spain. Or, he could make a statement of intent on a future independence declaration. Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull refused to disclose what Puigdemont would say but told a news conference after the cabinet meeting he would be ?clear and explicit? and Tuesday would be an historic day. The Madrid government has said it will respond immediately to any unilateral independence proclamation. Spanish ruling party lawmakers said Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was considering taking the unprecedented step of dissolving the Catalan parliament and triggering new regional elections, the so-called ?nuclear option?. The European Commission repeated its call for dialogue in Spain to end the crisis in Catalonia. Puigdemont has also called for talks and international mediation, but Rajoy has said he will not negotiate with the Catalan leaders unless they abandon plans to declare independence.
  2. US Senator John McCain (C) departs after the weekly Republican caucus policy luncheon at the US Capitol, Washington, US, September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst WASHINGTON: US Senator John McCain said on Friday he opposes the latest Republican bill to dismantle Obamacare, dealing the measure what could be a fatal blow given the party?s slim Senate majority. With several other Republicans still undecided on the measure, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier this week he intended to bring it to the Senate floor for a vote next week, though he did not promise to do so. A vote would set the stage for another dramatic Capitol Hill decision on the 2010 law that brought health insurance to millions of Americans and became former Democratic President Barack Obama?s signature domestic achievement. For seven years, Republicans have hammered Obamacare as an unwarranted government intrusion into American healthcare. President Donald Trump made repealing Obamacare one of his top campaign promises in 2016. Democrats have fiercely defended it. The announcement by McCain ? a Republican who has often been at odds with Trump and who cast a crucial ?no? vote in July that helped defeat an earlier Republican repeal bill ? had the potential to up-end McConnell?s plans. McConnell?s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment. At a rally in Alabama, Trump said McCain?s decision was ?totally unexpected, terrible?. Despite the setback, Trump said, ?We still have a chance. We?re going to do it eventually.? Republicans have only a narrow Senate majority and cannot afford to lose many votes on the bill. They are also on a tight timetable. McConnell has been trying to schedule a vote on the bill by September 30 ? the last day on which the bill could pass with only a simple majority of 51 votes in the Senate. A vote taken any later than that would have to garner at least 60 votes for passage. Weeks after the humiliating defeat in July when the Obamacare repeal fight seemed to be over, the current bill was introduced by Republican Senators Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham ? a close friend of McCain?s ? and seemed to gain momentum. McCain says details on impact needed But McCain in a statement on Friday laid out his opposition, ?I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal.? He said he took no pleasure in announcing his opposition and noted that the bill?s authors ?are my dear friends?. McCain complained about the rushed process Republicans used to push the bill forward. He said he would consider supporting a bill like it if it had emerged from extensive hearings, debate and amendment. ?But that has not been the case,? he said. McCain ? who cast his ?no? vote in July just days after being diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer ? said he could not support the bill without knowing how much it would cost, how it would affect insurance premiums, and ?how many people will be helped or hurt by it,? information that will not be available until the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office provides a full assessment at the end of September. The Graham-Cassidy bill would take the federal money spent on the Medicaid program for the poor and disabled, as well as subsidies to help Americans buy private insurance, and divvy it up to the states in block grants. Advocates say that would give states more discretion to manage their own healthcare schemes. Although the CBO has not yet fully assessed the bill?s effects, independent analyses indicate it would fundamentally redistribute federal healthcare money, generally with Republican-leaning states benefiting and Democratic-leaning states losing, largely because a majority of the states that opted to expand Medicaid under Obamacare were Democratic-leaning. A Washington Post-ABC News opinion poll said Americans prefer Obamacare to the Graham-Cassidy alternative by 56 percent to 33 percent. Graham said in a statement he was not giving up. ?We press on,? he said. Shares of health insurers turned up after McCain announced his opposition. Centene ended 1.6 percent higher while Humana closed up 0.2 percent, reversing earlier losses. Winners and losers among states State-by-state impacts from Graham-Cassidy would vary, the Axios news website reported on Friday, citing a study by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) ? the unit of the Department of Health and Human Services that oversees Medicaid and the Obamacare program. The CMS study found that by 2026, Alaska would lose 38 percent of its federal funding for insurance subsidies and Medicaid; Arizona would lose 9 percent; Maine would gain 44 percent; Ohio would lose 18 percent; and West Virginia would lose 23 percent, Axios reported. These states are home to Republican senators who are under pressure on healthcare. Both of Alaska?s Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, are still on the fence over Graham-Cassidy. The CMS had no immediate comment on the Axios report. Besides McCain, Kentucky?s Rand Paul is the only other Republican senator who has publicly said he opposes the bill. Maine?s Susan Collins said she was leaning against the bill, the Portland Press-Herald newspaper reported on Friday. Kansas? Jerry Moran is also undecided. No Democrats support the bill. To pass Graham-Cassidy, the Republicans need at least 50 votes in the 100-seat Senate, which they control 52-48, with Vice President Mike Pence casting a potential tie-breaking vote. The insurance industry, hospitals, medical advocacy groups ? such as the American Medical Association, American Heart Association, and American Cancer Society, the AARP advocacy group for the elderly, and consumer activists oppose the bill. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank in Washington, estimated the bill would cause more than 30 million people to lose insurance.
  3. The most tweaked feature of the latest iOS update, the Control Center comes with a new look and several new toggles. But there seems to be a problem reported with the tweaks to the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi toggles in Control Center. In iOS 11, Apple lets you disconnect devices or disconnect from networks by toggling off those two buttons from within the Control Center. Those buttons do not, however, deactivate the actual radios in the device. This might seem like a bug, but this is exactly what Apple intended to do. Another classic example of Apples knows best, at the expense of taking away choice from the user. No need to worry though, if you want to conserve battery or fend off potential attacks, you can still properly turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi from the Settings app. This new update could trigger a meltdown in Apple users who may feel they're not getting what they're asking for.
  4. Oil prices rose on Wednesday after Iraq?s oil minister said OPEC and other crude producers were considering extending or even deepening a supply cut to curb a global glut, while a report showed a smaller-than-expected increase in U.S. inventories. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were up 34 cents at $49.82 a barrel at 0018 GMT. On Tuesday, the contract declined 43 cents to $49.48. Brent crude futures LCOc1 were 24 cents higher at $55.38. They settled down 34 cents at $55.14 a barrel the previous session, not far off a five-month high of $55.99. While options being considered by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers include an extension of cuts in output by months, it is premature to decide on what to do beyond March, when the agreement expires, Iraqi oil minister Jabar al-Luaibi told an energy conference in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday. OPEC and producers including Russia have agreed to reduce output by about 1.8 million barrels per day until March 2018 in a bid to reduce global oil inventories and support prices. Some producers think the pact should be extended for three or four months, others want an extension until the end of 2018, while some, including Ecuador and Iraq, think there should be another round of supply cuts, al-Luaibi said. Nigeria?s oil minister and the head of Libya?s state oil company are likely to attend a meeting between OPEC and non-OPEC nations on Friday, two OPEC sources said. Both are exempt from the deal to curb output and their resulting boost to production has weighed on prices. This has prompted more talk about including Libya and Nigeria in the pact. Meanwhile, US crude stocks rose last week while gasoline and distillate stocks decreased, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute (API) showed on Tuesday. Crude inventories rose by 1.4 million barrels in the week to Sept. 15 to 470.3 million, compared with expectations for an increase of 3.5 million barrels. Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub rose by 422,000 barrels, API said. Official figures on stockpiles and refinery runs will be released by the U.S. Department of Energy later on Wednesday.
  5. SEOUL: South Korea braced for a possible further missile test by North Korea when it marks its founding anniversary on Saturday, just days after its sixth and largest nuclear test, which it marks each year with a big display of pageantry and military hardware. Throughout the week, South Korean officials have warned the North could launch another intercontinental ballistic missile, in defiance of UN sanctions and amid an escalating standoff with the United States. Last year, North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test on the Sept. 9 anniversary. Tension on the Korean peninsula has escalated as North Korea's young leader, Kim Jong Un, has stepped up the development of weapons, testing a string of missiles this year, including one flying over Japan, and conducting its sixth nuclear test on Sunday. (Graphics on 'Nuclear North Korea' - here) Experts believe the isolated regime is close to its goal of developing a powerful nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States, something Trump has vowed to prevent. South Korean nuclear experts, checking for contamination, said on Friday they had found minute traces of radioactive xenon gas but that it was too early to link it to Sunday?s explosion. The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) said it had been conducting tests on land, air and water samples since shortly after the North Korean nuclear test on Sunday. Xenon is a naturally occurring, colourless gas that is used in manufacturing of some sorts of lights. But the NSSC said it had detected xenon-133, a radioactive isotope that does not occur naturally and which has in the past been linked to North Korea?s nuclear tests. There was no chance the xenon ?will have an impact on South Korea?s territory or population?, the agency said. US President Donald Trump has repeatedly said all options are on the table in dealing with North Korea and on Thursday said he would prefer not to use military action, but if he did, it would be a ?very sad day? for North Korea. ?Military action would certainly be an option. Is it inevitable? Nothing is inevitable,? Trump told reporters. ?If we do use it on North Korea, it will be a very sad day for North Korea.? Even as Trump has insisted that now is not the time to talk, senior members of his administration have made clear that the door to a diplomatic solution is open, especially given the US assessment that any pre-emptive strike would unleash massive North Korean retaliation. North Korea says it needs its weapons to protect itself from US aggression and regularly threatens to destroy the United States. South Korea and the United States are technically still at war with North Korea after the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce, not a peace treaty. US CARRIER ON THE MOVE The USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered carrier, left its home port in Japan for a routine autumn patrol of the Western Pacific, a Navy spokeswoman said. That area included waters between Japan and the Korean peninsula, she added, without giving any further details. The Ronald Reagan was out on routine patrol from May until August, and was sent to the Sea of Japan with the another carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, to take part in drills with Japan?s Self Defence Forces as well as the South Korean military. North Korea vehemently objects to military exercises on or near the peninsula, and China and Russia have suggested the United States and South Korea halt their exercises to lower tension. While Trump talked tough on North Korea, China agreed on Thursday that the United Nations should take more action against it, but it also pushed for dialogue. The UN Security Council is expected to vote on a new set of sanctions soon. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that it was too early to draw conclusions about the final form of the UN resolution, Russia?s Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying at a news conference on Friday. North Korea offered fresh vitriol against the pending sanctions, specifically targeting US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who this week accused North Korean leader Kim of ?begging for war?. ?There is nothing more foolish than thinking we, a strong nuclear state, will endure this evil pressure aimed at overthrowing our state,? the North?s official news agency said in a commentary. ?Even if Nikki Haley is blind, she must use her mouth correctly. The United States administration will pay for not being able to control the mouth of their UN representative.? The United States wants the UN Security Council to impose an oil embargo on North Korea, ban its exports of textiles and the hiring of North Korean labourers abroad, and to subject leader Kim Jong Un to an asset freeze and travel ban, according to a draft resolution seen by Reuters on Wednesday. China is by far North Korea?s biggest trading partner, accounting for 92 percent of two-way trade last year. It also provides hundreds of thousands of tonnes of oil and fuel to the impoverished regime. China?s economic influence has been felt by South Korea as well. The two countries have been at loggerheads over South Korea?s decision to deploy a US anti-missile system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, which has a powerful radar that can probe deep into China. Shares in South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor and key suppliers slid on Friday on worry over its position in China after highly critical Chinese state newspaper comments. The military section of China?s Global Times newspaper on Thursday referred to THAAD as ?a malignant tumour?.
  6. EU and British flags fly outside the European Commission building in London, Britain August 12, 2017. Photo: Reuters File LONDON: Britain will not rule out the possibility that the European Union may retain oversight of customs controls at UK borders after it leaves the bloc, as the country seeks ways to keep unhindered access to EU markets following Brexit. Last week, the UK published a policy document proposing two possible models for British-EU customs arrangements after withdrawal from the EU in 2019. The first model was a "highly streamlined customs arrangement" which involved the re-introduction of a customs border but which envisaged electronic tracking of shipments, rather than physical checks of goods and documents at the border. An alternative proposal was the "new customs partnership" which would remove the need for a UK-EU customs border altogether. Under this model, the UK would operate as if it was still part of the bloc for customs purposes. British goods would be exported tariff-free and Britain would levy EU tariffs on goods coming into the UK for onward passage to the EU directly or as components in UK export goods. However, lawyers said there would be a need for a mechanism to oversee the "new customs partnership" to ensure that the UK was correctly monitoring goods coming into the UK and destined for Europe. The EU?s system of movement of goods across EU borders without checks works on the basis that all members closely monitor shipments coming into the bloc from outside, to ensure the correct tariffs are paid and that goods meet EU standards. Weaknesses The EU anti-fraud agency OLAF polices customs agencies across Europe to ensure they are correctly monitoring imports. OLAF has the powers to conduct on-the-spot inspections and seek information from customs bodies. If OLAF finds weaknesses in a country?s systems and that the member is not charging the appropriate duties on imports from outside the EU, it will recommend that the European Commission, the EU?s executive arm, should recover money from the offending member. For example, in March OLAF slammed lax UK border controls and recommended the European Commission reclaim 2 billion euros the agency said was lost because Britain had failed to apply the correct EU duties on imports of Chinese clothes and footwear in recent years. A spokesman for the UK?s tax authority said it questioned OLAF's estimate of lost revenue. Duties collected are paid to Brussels. Commission duty recovery claims can be appealed to the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ), the EU?s highest court. UK Prime Minster Theresa May has said the UK will no longer be subject to the jurisdiction of the ECJ after Britain?s exit from the bloc. However, the British finance ministry declined to say if the country would bar OLAF from policing the UK?s customs system under the "new customs partnership" model or whether it would allow the Commission to make demands for recovery of lost duties. "The exact form of the arrangements will be agreed as part of the negotiations," a ministry spokeswoman said. Money and effort Lode Van Den Hende, a partner with Herbert Smith Freehills in Brussels, said it was hard to see how the customs partnership model could work without OLAF or a similar body policing the UK?s monitoring of imports destined for the EU. "In practical terms they (Britain and the EU) would have to operate in the same way or the whole thing would fall apart," he said. Bernard Jenkin, a member of parliament for May?s Conservative party, who backed Brexit in last year?s referendum, said he opposed continued EU oversight of UK borders. "There is no need for an EU institution to police our customs, and we should not accept this," he said in a statement. "Any dispute about each other?s customs arrangements should be settled by an independent arbitrator, as with any other international agreement, not by an institution which belongs only to one party of the agreement," he added. Van Den Hende said the ECJ may not accept the creation of an independent body to oversea EU customs. Customs are a matter of EU law and the court is supposed to be the highest authority on this. Also, the breadth of areas in which the UK wishes to retain free trade with Europe means many such independent arbitrators would be required. They would be needed to monitor enforcement of health standards, standards in financial services and rules that apply to a host of other regulated markets. "In theory you can design that, but in practice neither the UK nor the EU would want that because you would be replicating institutions which already exist. It would be a huge amount of money and effort," he said. "This is in one of the fundamental problems about Brexit. The UK wants to retain deep integration but the UK doesn?t like the institutions that administer all this stuff," Van Den Hende said.
  7. Co-executive producer George R.R. Martin at season premiere of HBO's "Game of Thrones" in San Francisco, California March 23, 2015/Reuters LOS ANGELES: Author George R.R. Martin has hinted at the possibility of not one but two new "Game of Thrones" books in 2018, whetting the appetites of fans who have been waiting for the next installment of the epic saga since 2011. Martin, whose "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels were adapted into HBO's hit medieval fantasy series "Game of Thrones," currently is working on the sixth installment, "Winds of Winter," continuing the story from 2011's "A Dance With Dragons." "I am still working on it, I am still months away (how many? good question), I still have good days and bad days, and that's all I care to say," Martin wrote on his blog,, during the weekend. "I do think you will have a Westeros book from me in 2018... and who knows, maybe two. A boy can dream...," he said. The seventh season of the television show, which premiered this month, already has advanced beyond the events of Martin's published books. There have been recent contradictory reports about "Winds of Winter" - that Martin had not even been started it or that he had finished it but was holding it back - and the author dismissed those as "equally false and equally moronic." The seventh season of the TV show has already advanced beyond the events of Martin's books. Photo: HBO "Game of Thrones" follows the epic story of warring families in a multi-generational struggle for control of the Iron Throne, which rules over the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Martin has come under fire from avid "Game of Thrones" fans for taking so long to finish "Winds of Winter" and starting work on other projects. The author said in his blog post that he was working on a two-part history of Westeros' Targaryen kings called "Fire and Blood," with the first part to be released sometime late 2018 or early 2019. A trailer for the HBO show, released last week, shows a brewing battle between Cersei Lannister, who currently sits on the Iron Throne, and Daenerys Targaryen, who has traveled with her army and dragons to reclaim her ancestral home. The series will conclude next year with the eighth season, which will reveal who will sit on the Iron Throne. A series of spin-offs is being developed at HBO.
  8. This handout video grab taken with an underwater robot and provided by Japan's International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning on July 21 shows a part of the pedestal wall inside reactor No. 3 at Fukushima nuclear power plant Lava-like rocks believed to be melted nuclear fuel have been spotted inside Japan's stricken Fukushima reactor by an underwater robot, the plant's operator said at the end of a three-day inspection. Large amounts of the solidified lumps and deposit were spotted for the first time by the robot on the floor of the primary containment vessel underneath the core of Fukushima's No. 3 reactor, the Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said. "There is a high possibility that the solidified objects are mixtures of melted metal and fuel that fell from the vessel," a TEPCO spokesman said, adding that the company was planning further analysis of the images. The three-day investigation using the small, remote controlled underwater robot, which is about the size of a loaf of bread, ended Saturday, the spokesman said. TEPCO said the images were the first "highly likely" sighting of melted fuel since the 2011 disaster, when a massive undersea earthquake sent a huge wave barrelling into Japan's northeast coast, killing more than 18,500 people, and sending three reactors into meltdown at the plant in the worst such accident since Chernobyl in 1986. Locating the fuel debris is a key part of the decommissioning process for the plant, which is expected to take decades. In February, TEPCO sent another robot into one of three damaged reactors where radiation levels have hit record highs. But the mission at the No. 2 reactor was aborted as the robot had difficulty moving and could not reach its target destination beneath the pressure vessel, through which nuclear fuel is believed to have melted. The Japanese government said in December that it expects total costs including compensation, decommissioning and decontamination to reach 21.5 trillion yen ($192.5 billion) in a process likely to take at least four decades as high radiation levels slow operations.
  9. KARACHI: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Talal Chaudhry, speaking with regard to Panama Leaks case, has said that it is not possible to punish the prime minister on the basis of his family. Speaking on Geo News' program 'Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath', Talal said the grandson in Sharif family has accounted for his grandfather and even if there occurred a mistake on someone's part, then the law does not state that Nawaz Sharif is to be punished for that. "The way Sharif family has accounted for there is no example of it. And no one is held accountable for what his relatives did, that too when the latter is no longer alive," he maintained. The PML-N leader, however, said that if there was some tax evasion then the burden of proof lies on PM Nawaz Sharif. He reiterated that audio, video recording of JIT proceedings should be made public. Asked about opening of volume 10 of the JIT report, he said that his party has requested in writing to open it.
  10. Astronomers on Monday added 219 candidates to the growing list of planets beyond the solar system, 10 of which may be about the same size and temperature as Earth, boosting the chances for life. Scientists found the planet candidates in a final batch of NASA's Kepler Space Telescope observations of 200,000 sample stars in the constellation Cygnus. The candidates include 10 newly discovered rocky worlds that are properly distanced from their parent stars for water, if it exists, to pool on their surfaces. Scientists believe liquid water is a key ingredient for life. ?An important question for us is, ?Are we alone?'" Kepler program scientist Mario Perez said in a conference call with reporters. ?Maybe Kepler today is telling us indirectly ... that we are not alone.? The National Aeronautics and Space Administration launched the Kepler telescope in 2009 to learn if Earth-like planets are common or rare. With the final analysis of Kepler data in hand, scientists said they will now work on answering that question, a key step in assessing the chance that life exists beyond Earth. During a four-year mission, Kepler found 2,335 confirmed planets and another 1,699 candidates, bringing its tally to 4,034. That number includes about 50 worlds that may be about the same size and temperature as Earth. Including other telescope surveys, scientists have confirmed the existence of nearly 3,500 planets beyond the solar system. Kepler?s data also provided a new way to assess whether a planet has a solid surface, like Earth, or is made mostly of gas, like Neptune. The distinction will help scientists home in on potential Earth-like planets and better the odds for finding life. The Kepler team found that planets which are about 1.75 times the size of Earth and smaller tend to be rocky, while those two- to 3.5 times the size of Earth become gas-shrouded worlds like Neptune. ?It?s like finding what we thought was a single species of animal is really two different things,? said Benjamin Fulton, a graduate student in astronomy who analysed the Kepler data. So far, these planets, which scientists refer to as ?super-Earths? and ?mini-Neptunes,? have not been found in Earth?s solar system, though scientists are on the hunt for a potential ninth planet far beyond Pluto. ?It is interesting that we don?t have what appears to be the most common type of planet in the galaxy,? Fulton said.
  11. ISLAMABAD: Shahzeb Khanzada in his programme on Geo News Wednesday summed up the possible questions Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could be asked during his appearance before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) and his possible replies to these questions. Today (Thursday) is a historic day when an elected prime minister is going to appear before the country?s institutions to give reply to the allegations and questions raised on him. But what will be or can be the possible questions and their answers. Shahzeb Khanzada said we lay before you the position the government has taken recently outside and inside the Supreme Court. When the Panama case landed at the SC, the issue of conflicting statements in speeches of the prime minister was raised. The JIT can ask the prime minister about these conflicting statements and say that you have not mentioned the letter from the Qatari prince in your speeches. The team can tell the prime minister that you say different things about how the flats in London were purchased and why did you not mention Qatar in your speeches? An important point in this regard is that in the three to two-member decision of the five-member bench, the SC has already rejected disqualification of the prime minister on the basis of these conflicting statements and then the JIT was formed to investigate the matter further. Will the prime minister endorses the PML-N position that there are no contradictions in his speeches and that he mentioned some points at a certain venue and did not mention some points at another venue. The JIT will ask the prime minister how did he sell Gulf Steel Mills, Dubai, and then make an investment in Qatar. It will also ask the PM about the transfer of money from Qatar to Jeddah and from Jeddah to London. The PM can obviously, as has been the stance of his party in recent days, take benefit of the law, telling the JIT that he will not reveal what he is not required to under the law. The PM can also say that all these affairs are about his father and assets were transferred to his children from his father, hence he has nothing to do with it. He can say that he has announced his disassociation from his business since he joined politics; hence, he is not liable to answer these questions. He can also say that he is not bound to make explanations about his accounts older than five years. The prime minister can also repeat the argument his son Hussain Nawaz? lawyers placed before the court about the sale of Dubai mills, investment in Qatar, dispatch of the letter of Qatari prince and how all these matters were settled down. The important point is that the PML-N and Sharif family lawyers had mentioned the Qatari letter in their arguments. What the PM will say about why did he not mention the Qatari letter in his speeches? Sharif family lawyers have made it clear that permission for mentioning of the letter was not sought from the Qatari family and it was not mentioned in the speeches because of business deals with them. However, when the matter landed in the court, the letter was put on the record with prior permission from the Qatari family. The PM will be asked about the accumulation of assets of his children when their ages were very low. The PML-N has taken a position that the PM can also adopt saying that all these assets were transferred to his children from his father and they had made an investment in Qatar after selling mills in Dubai, which continued multiplying later. Hussain Nawaz had told the Panama bench how these assets continued multiplying and then how they were settled in the shape of London flats. He had also told the bench how the Qatari family paid expenses incurred by Hassan Nawaz and how the rent of flats was adjusted in this regard. The PML-N has already taken this position. The prime minister can, however, tell the JIT that he is not bound under the law to answer this question. The JIT?s fourth question could be about investments made by Hussain Nawaz and the companies owned by Hassan Nawaz. How this huge investment was made in Saudi Arabia and how Hassan Nawaz made so many assets in the UK. The PM can say that his children adults and he is not bound to put up a reply on their behalf. He can also endorse the reply submitted by his children, not least Hussain Nawaz, mentioning that a bit of investment was transferred from Qatar to Saudi Arabia to set up a mill there, whose profit was transferred to the UK. The JIT can ask the PM about the costly gifts he received from Hussain Nawaz. This is a fresh issue as money came to the PM?s accounts from his son. The PM cannot say that he is not bound to answer this question. He can, however, rely on the answer Hussain Nawaz submitted in the court stating that all the transactions were made through official banking channels and all the money has been duly audited and taxed in Saudi Arabia. He had stated that this money was surplus in his company which is proven through audit. The PM will be asked about Hudaibia Paper Mills case. The JIT has sought and reviewed all documents about this case already. Questions could be asked of the PM about the investigations launched by the FIA and NAB. The JIT has raised a lot of objections on the PM?s House and Sharif family has raised a lot of objections on the JIT. The SC has given no judgement on this matter so far. Khanzada asked Talat Hussain what could be the possible outcome of the PM?s appearance before the JIT today. Talat Hussain replied that he cannot speculate about the outcome but today is a historic day for Nawaz Sharif. He said it is the most important day in the political career of Nawaz Sharif in his opinion. He said as much as he could get from the close circles of the government, the PM will not make any lengthy statement as per advice of his lawyers. He is an elected prime minister, a MNA and his reliance will be on the process of scrutiny of assets in the electoral process. He said conduct of election and his going through all the process of scrutiny can be his strongest defence. A MNA, much less a PM, goes through all the scrutiny of assets during the electoral process, he said. If his papers were accepted for contesting elections, then no more questions could be asked of him. Talat Hussain said he thinks that he will not talk on behalf of his sons, who already have appeared before the JIT. He said there will be an outpour of a lot of heat outside the JIT. Not only the PM and his family, the JIT has included in the annexure the newspaper articles they thought are a cause of stress or part of blackmailing campaign against them, adding that one of his articles is also mentioned in this category. Hussain said it is a different topic if the JIT should do it or not. Khanzada said the JIT has also included in the annexure the editorials he quoted in his programme and the tweets somebody uploaded on social media. Talat Hussain replied that there are too many sacred cows in Pakistan and another sacred cow is in the making about which you cannot express your opinion. He said there is talk of gag orders on freedom of expression. He said interesting is the fact that the JIT will cross question the PM after his statement that he may give in writing or be in the shape of notes. He said we do not know the length and duration of this cross-questioning. He said it remains to be seen if the PM will carry with him his protocol or not as it is essential to secure the premises where he is going. He said you know security and intelligence detail of the PM and it is not a tradition in Pakistan for a PM to carry his own bag along. He said environment of the inquiry room will be of interest to the people as the leaked picture of the PM?s son has created a debate though it is of little value in the eyes of learned judges. He said it needs to be viewed whether the PM will be made to sit like an accused or will he be treated like a PM, which he obviously is. He cannot take leave for three hours and it will be seen if he carries his protocol and detail with him or not, said Talat Hussain. Khanzada thanked Talat Hussain. He said it is important, as Talat Hussain said, to see if the PM is made subject to cross questioning or not. He said if the PM says he will not speak on behalf of his children and father, even then he will be cross-questioned or not? He said the sight of PM going to JIT with security detail and protocol or without it will be seen today but it is interesting to see what happened in the court in response to the criticism of JIT. Shahzeb Khanzada analyses that the situation is very interesting. Levelling allegations is on its peak. Strong statements are appearing. The JIT?s severe charges have also appeared after the allegations of the government. In this scenario, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will appear before the JIT today (Thursday), will answer the JIT?s questions and will appear before the same JIT about which the N-League has raised serious objections, has issued strong statements and the important thing is the JIT too has levelled serious allegations against the Prime Minister House and its subordinate institutions. But there is an important question: whether Prime Nawaz Sharif?s statement would also be recorded. In this connection, the Supreme Court?s special bench has reserved its judgment on the objections of the PML-N, which could be announced any time. Now would it be announced today before the prime minister?s appearance (before the JIT)? During the hearing of Hussain Nawaz? objections yesterday (Wednesday), Khawaja Haris, the counsel for Hussain Nawaz, argued that the JIT has confessed to having leaked the picture. A commission should be formed on the issue, which should determine the responsible. Khawaja Haris further said that there should be no video recording during the interview before the JIT. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is to appear today. What is the guarantee that the video of the prime minister?s interview would not be leaked? Who would be responsible if the prime minister?s video recording surfaced on social media? Video could also be tampered with and tomorrow this recording may also be used against us. If video is leaked, its effects would be more than that of the current situation. Justice Azmat Saeed asked what damage you suffered due to leakage of the picture. Justice Ejaz-ul-Ahsan said video recording would rather protect you than causing damage. Besides the lawyer for Hussain Nawaz, the attorney general also opposed the video recording of those appearing in person and informed the court that there is no mention of video recording in the law. The court has reserved the verdict after hearing the arguments. Now when this judgment would be announced? Whether Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif?s statement would also be recorded? Reservations are already being expressed what would happen if it is leaked. Hussain Nawaz has submitted his reply in connection with the video recording to the Supreme Court, in which it is argued that the allegations levelled against him are based upon lies and ill intentions. The JIT members cannot escape the responsibility of leaking the image. The JIT has no authority to formulate SOPs different to the law. The manner in which the statements were recorded shows the JIT?s ill intentions. Hussain Nawaz wrote this in his reply and levelled the charge of ill intention. The JIT didn?t follow the professional ethics during recording the statements. The investigation by JIT into the leaked photo is illegal. The Supreme Court will now give its verdict on video recording. But if this judgment is not given before the prime minister?s interview then the chances are that the prime minister?s statement would also be recorded. Apart from it, the court gave strict remarks over complaint of the JIT. The bench head Justice Ijaz Afzal remarked that obstructing the working of the JIT is violation of court orders. These hurdles will not at all be tolerated, he remarked and ordered that the completion of investigation within 60 days at any cost. Justice Ijaz Afzal also directed the attorney general to look into the reservations of the JIT and submit his reply by today. The court would continue hearing today also. The recent comments of the JIT have invited reaction. The JIT had told the Supreme Court that the SECP, NAB, IB and the law ministry were obstructing its work and tampering with the record. Meanwhile, an accusation was levelled about the Prime Minister?s House that it was pressurising witnesses. The law ministry dismissed the JIT accusation. Its spokesman said the impression of delay in issuing notification of powers to the JIT is wrong. He said the court orders were implemented within two days. The Supreme Court order was forwarded in writing by the attorney general the same day. In view of the urgency of the matter, the summary was forwarded to the cabinet on May 17 for approval. The Cabinet Division informed the very next day regarding approval of the cabinet. A copy of the notification was also sent to the JIT chairman who acknowledged receipt of the notification on May 18. Action on every order of the JIT was taken as soon as possible. Besides, the FBR also rejected the JIT accusations in its press release and took the stance that the JIT sought record four times on May 8, 25, 29 and June 8 which was provided on time. The record of one person from 1972 was demanded and was furnished on June 12. The JIT was told that the available record was sent. The JIT was given record in parts because it was sought as such. Some record was not furnished to the JIT which has its own reasons. According to law, the FBR is bound to keep the record for up to six years. For access to the record older than this, the FBR wrote to its field officers to search the record which they did. Apart from this, the JIT levelled most serious accusations on the SECP to which the SECP maintained that the JIT had sought the record of the Chaudhry Sugar Mills and details of correspondence with the British organisations which were provided on May 17, 2017. The JIT was told that more record was being searched. After further investigation, the record of Ramzan Sugar Mills was handed over to the JIT on May 19. On June 2, some missing documents about Brothers Steel Mills, Ittifaq Foundry and HDA Security were found in Lahore which were forthwith provided to the JIT. On June 9 at 7pm, the record of some 45 companies was sought from the SECP which was given to the JIT on June 13 by collecting it during the weekly holiday. The SECP further wrote in its reply that declaring nomination of Ali Azeem Akram mala fide was inaccurate. Similarly, it is not right to accuse the chairman over the WhatsApp call dispute. It is still unknown whether these calls were made by the Supreme Court registrar or someone else. An investigation into the matter can reveal the reality. This story was originally published in The News
  12. US President Donald Trump - AFP File Photo WASHINGTON: The special counsel overseeing the probe into Russia's alleged meddling in the US election is looking at whether President Donald Trump tried to obstruct justice, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing unnamed officials. In a pivotal shift in the investigation that has riveted Americans like no other in decades, senior intelligence officials have agreed to be interviewed by investigators working for the special counsel, Robert Mueller, the Post said. It quoted five people briefed on the requests and said those who have agreed to be interviewed are Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, Admiral Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and his recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett. The interviews could come as early as this week, the Post said. The newspaper's story was met with a furious reaction from Trump´s personal lawyer and the Republican National Committee. The shift toward investigating the US president began days after Trump fired James Comey as FBI director on May 9, the Post said. The stated focus has been Russia´s alleged efforts to tilt last November´s presidential election Trump´s way, and whether the winner´s campaign was involved in any way. Trump vehemently denies any collusion between himself or any of his associates and Russia. Mueller, himself a widely respected former head of the FBI, has now taken up the angle of possible efforts by Trump to obstruct justice in the investigation, the Post said. Quoting officials, the newspaper said one event of interest to Mueller is an exchange on March 22, when Coats told associates that Trump had asked him to intervene with Comey to get him to back off the focus on Trump´s former national security advisor Mike Flynn as part of the FBI probe of the Russia affair. A few days after the March 22 meeting, Trump spoke separately with Coats and Rogers and asked them to issue public statements to the effect that there was no evidence of coordination between his campaign and Russia. The Post said both men refused the president´s request. Trump´s personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz issued a statement saying the FBI was behind the Post story and called the leak "outrageous, inexcusable and illegal." The lawyer did not deny the story, however. Mueller briefed Senators Wednesday on his work. "I'm going to acknowledge we had a meeting with the special counsel Mueller, but I´m not going to get into the contents," Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters later. Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called the accusation in the Post unfounded and said it "changes nothing." "There´s still no evidence of obstruction, and current and former leaders in the intelligence community have repeatedly said there´s been no effort to impede the investigation in any way. The continued illegal leaks are the only crime here," McDaniel said in a statement.
  13. NEW YORK: Chris Cornell, an emblematic grunge rock singer whose sweeping voice masked lifelong struggles with drugs and depression, died after a concert in a possible suicide, police said Thursday. He was 52. Hours after he played in Detroit with his main band Soundgarden on Wednesday evening, first responders rushed to his room at the MGM Grand hotel after being alerted by his family, a police spokeswoman said. Cornell was found unresponsive and his death "is being treated as a possible suicide," Officer Jennifer Moreno said. The Detroit Free Press reported that a band was found around Cornell´s neck. The rocker´s wife, Vicky Karayiannis Cornell, and the rest of the family "were shocked to learn of his sudden and unexpected passing, and they will be working closely with the medical examiner to determine the cause," the singer´s publicist Brian Bumbery said in a statement. "They would like to thank his fans for their continuous love and loyalty and ask that their privacy be respected at this time," he said. Cornell, with little formal training, possessed one of the music world´s most wide-ranging voices which could swing nearly four octaves, moving from a deep baritone to a screechingly high tenor with a chilling vibrato. With his flowing curly hair and often bare chest, Cornell showed off his vocal skills on Soundgarden hits such as "Black Hole Sun," set to dissonant minor chord progressions on guitar. The death closes another chapter in grunge, the subgenre that emerged in Seattle in the late 1980s and combined the rough edges of punk rock with a gloomy introspection. Frontman Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, who towered over the grunge scene, killed himself in 1994 and Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland died on a tour bus in 2015 from a drug overdose. Pop legend Elton John said he was "shocked and saddened" by the death of Cornell, calling him "a great singer, songwriter and the loveliest man." Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page tweeted: "RIP Chris Cornell. Incredibly Talented. Incredibly Young. Incredibly Missed." This file photo taken on January 20, 2017 shows singer Chris Cornell performing - AFP Drug user since 13 Soundgarden had one of the heaviest sounds in grunge with trappings of heavy metal, even though Cornell cited The Beatles, to whom he listened constantly as a child, as his biggest influence. Cornell, a Seattle native, wrestled with heroin and other drugs as well as depression most of his life, once even calling a metal magazine to confirm a tour cancellation from a payphone at a rehab clinic. In a 1994 interview with Rolling Stone, Cornell said he had used drugs daily from age 13. He never completed high school and said he barely talked to anyone for two years as a teenager. He found his outlet in music, first as a drummer and then a singer and guitarist as he joined guitarist Kim Thayil and bassist Hiro Yamamoto to form Soundgarden. His songs such as "Fell on Black Days" and "The Day I Tried to Live" appeared to touch on his darkness, but Cornell would play down deeper meanings that listeners heard in his lyrics. Sobriety and creative energy Besides Soundgarden, Cornell founded the early grunge band Temple of the Dog and also sang with Audioslave -- a supergroup with members of Rage Against the Machine in which Cornell took a leftist political slant. Cornell had sobered up by the mid-2000s. His final decade marked a resurgence of creative energy, with Cornell reuniting Soundgarden and releasing a series of solo albums. Showing a new range, he wrote a theme song for the James Bond film "Casino Royale" and covered Michael Jackson´s "Billie Jean." Asked about his past addictions, Cornell often remarked that drug problems were overlooked among non-famous people. After Weiland´s death, Cornell told a radio station there was a long history culturally of "not deifying, but glamorising a little bit, ´the dead guy,´ whether it´s a rock star or a famous actor." Cornell is survived by three children. Two are with his second wife Karayiannis, a Greek music publicist whom the singer met when she was working in Paris. His last song, "The Promise," was the theme to Christian Bale´s film of the same name about the Armenian genocide, a term rejected by Turkey. "One promise that always remains / No matter the price," Cornell sings. "A promise to survive, persevere and thrive."
  14. Cyber security researchers have found technical evidence they said could link North Korea with the global WannaCry "ransomware" cyber attack that has infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries since Friday. Symantec (SYMC.O) and Kaspersky Lab said on Monday that some code in an earlier version of the WannaCry software had also appeared in programs used by the Lazarus Group, which researchers from many companies have identified as a North Korea-run hacking operation. "This is the best clue we have seen to date as to the origins of WannaCry," Kaspersky Lab researcher Kurt Baumgartner told Reuters. Both firms said it was too early to tell whether North Korea was involved in the attacks, based on the evidence that was published on Twitter by Google security researcher Neel Mehta. The attacks, which slowed on Monday, are among the fastest-spreading extortion campaigns on record. The research will be closely followed by law enforcement agencies around the world, including Washington, where President Donald Trump's homeland security adviser said on Monday that both foreign nations and cyber criminals were possible culprits. The two security firms said they needed to study the code more and asked for others to help with the analysis. Hackers do reuse code from other operations, so even copied lines fall well short of proof. U.S. and European security officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity that it was too early to say who might be behind the attacks, but they did not rule out North Korea as a suspect. FireEye Inc (FEYE.O), another large cyber security firm, said it was also investigating a possible link. "The similarities we see between malware linked to that group and WannaCry are not unique enough to be strongly suggestive of a common operator," FireEye researcher John Miller said. The Lazarus hackers, acting for impoverished North Korea, have been more brazen in pursuit of financial gain than others, and have been blamed for the theft of $81 million from the Bangladesh central bank, according to some cyber security firms. The North Korean mission to the United Nations was not immediately available for comment. Regardless of the source of the attack, investors piled into cyber security stocks on Monday, betting that governments and corporations will spend more to upgrade their defenses. The perpetrators had raised less than $70,000 from users paying to regain access to their computers, according to Trump homeland security adviser Tom Bossert. "We are not aware if payments have led to any data recovery," Bossert said, adding that no U.S. federal government systems had been affected. WannaCry demanded ransoms starting at $300, in line with many cyber extortion campaigns, which keep pricing low so more victims will pay. Still, some security experts said they were not sure if the motive of WannaCry was primarily to make money, noting that large cyber extortion campaigns typically generate millions of dollars of revenue. “I believe that this was spread for the purpose of causing as much damage as possible,” said Matthew Hickey, a co-founder of British cyber consulting firm Hacker House. The countries most affected by WannaCry to date are Russia, Taiwan, Ukraine, and India, according to Czech security firm Avast. The number of infections has fallen dramatically since Friday’s peak when more than 9,000 computers were being hit per hour. Earlier on Monday, Chinese traffic police and schools reported they had been targeted as the attack rolled into Asia for the new work week, but no there were no major disruptions. Authorities in Europe and the United States turned their attention to preventing hackers from spreading new versions of the virus. Shares in firms that provide cyber security services rose sharply, led by Israel's Cyren Ltd (CYRN.O) and U.S.-based FireEye (FEYE.O). Cisco Systems (CSCO.O) closed up 2.3 percent and was the second-biggest gainer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, as investors focused more on opportunities that the attack presented for technology firms than the risk it posed to corporations. Morgan Stanley, in upgrading the stock, said Cisco should benefit from network spending driven by security needs. Beyond the immediate need to shore up computer defenses, the attack turned cyber security into a political topic in Europe and the United States, including discussion of the role national governments play. In a blog post on Sunday, Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) President Brad Smith confirmed what researchers already widely concluded: The attack made use of a hacking tool built by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) that had leaked online in April. He poured fuel on a long-running debate over how government intelligence services should balance their desire to keep software flaws secret - in order to conduct espionage and cyber warfare - against sharing those flaws with technology companies to better secure the internet. On Monday, Bossert sought to distance the NSA from any blame. "This was not a tool developed by the NSA to hold random data. This was a tool developed by culpable parties, potentially criminals or foreign nation-states, that were put together in such a way as to deliver phishing emails, put it into embedded documents, and cause infection, encryption, and locking," Bossert said. Russian President Vladimir Putin, noting the technology's link to the U.S. spy service, said it should be "discussed immediately on a serious political level." "Once they're let out of the lamp, the genius of this kind, especially those created by intelligence services, can later do damage to their authors and creators," he said.
  15. PESHAWAR: Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Monday claimed that efforts by his party had enabled everyone in the country to carry out political activities in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Addressing FATA convention, Zardari said that the extension of the Political Parties Act to the region was made possible by his party. PPP also increased funds for FATA from Rs3 billion to Rs19 billion, he said. “Whatever we did is in front of everyone,” the former president said. We want FATA to merge in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and not be a slave to a governor and the president, he added. Zardari further said that his party wants the region to have its own high court. Announcing PPP secretariat in FATA, he claimed that he will strengthen his party in the region and will ask its people before distributing party tickers.
  16. Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] goes before a U.S. judge on Wednesday to fight for the right to continue work on its self-driving car program, the latest phase in a courtroom battle over trade secrets that threatens to topple a central pillar of Uber's growth strategy. The ride-services company is contesting a lawsuit by Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) self-driving car unit, Waymo, which accused former Waymo engineer and current Uber executive Anthony Levandowski of taking technical secrets from Waymo and using them to help Uber's self-driving car development. If it were proven that Levandowski and Uber conspired in taking the information, that could have dire consequences for Uber, say legal and ride-hailing industry experts. Uber's $68 billion valuation is propped up in part by investors' belief it will be a dominant player in the emerging business of self-driving cars. At issue on Wednesday is Waymo's demand that U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup in San Francisco issued an injunction barring Uber from using any of the technology that Waymo said was stolen. If Alsup issues a broadly worded order against Uber, it could all but shut down Uber's self-driving car program while court proceedings continue. Alsup is not expected to rule immediately on Wednesday, but he may intimate which way he is leaning. At a hearing last month, Alsup warned Uber that it may face an injunction, saying of the evidence amassed by Waymo: "I've never seen a record this strong in 42 years." Uber Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick has said that autonomous vehicles, though still in their infancy, are critical to the company's long-term success and future growth. Indeed, autonomous cars promise to change the economics of the ride-hailing business. Among Uber's biggest expenses is the cost of attracting drivers, who have a high turnover rate. And Uber's ability to expand into suburban and rural markets, and areas with low vehicle ownership, and continue to offer a ride within three minutes, largely hinges on the availability of a network of self-driving vehicles. "This is central to Uber," said Arun Sundararajan, a professor at New York University and author of the book "The Sharing Economy," noting that Uber has more at stake than some of its rivals. "If Google can't launch their self-driving car for 10 years instead of five, this will be a little blip in Google's multibillion-dollar revenue. Uber is the one that really depends on it." Uber has faced a string of setbacks in recent months, including allegations of sexual harassment from a former employee and the public release of a video of Kalanick berating an Uber driver. The company, though still growing strongly, is losing hundreds of millions of dollars a quarter, according to information the company released last month. "Any big setback here would likely hit its valuation hard," said Jan Dawson, an Uber analyst with Jackdaw Research. A blanket ban on Uber's autonomous efforts "would certainly stall its efforts for a while and put it even further behind Waymo and others." Uber has self-driving tests underway in Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Arizona. It started work on the technology six years after Google began. Other industry watchers say that Uber, which has deep pockets and other value propositions such as huge swaths of traffic and rider data, could ride out a negative ruling in the Waymo case. The Waymo lawsuit, filed in February, revolves around a laser-based technology called Lidar that allows cars to "see" their surroundings and detect the location of other cars and pedestrians Waymo said Levandowski, who until last week was head of Uber's self-driving car program, stole more than 14,000 confidential documents before leaving his job at Waymo in January 2016. He formed a self-driving truck startup, Otto, which Uber bought in August for $680 million. Uber has said Waymo's claims are false, and in a court filing called the preliminary injunction motion "a misfire." Uber has not denied Levandowski took files from Waymo, but said it never possessed any of the confidential information that Waymo accused Levandowski of stealing. Levandowski himself has invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination because of the possibility of a future criminal probe. And last week, Levandowski said in an email to Uber employees he would stay at Uber but was stepping down from his work on Lidar. "You're left to assume the worst," said Elizabeth Rowe, an intellectual property professor at University of Florida Levin College of Law. In a deposition of Levandowski last month, attorneys for Waymo also probed Levandowski about Kalanick, whether the CEO encouraged him to take Waymo's confidential material, according to a court transcript. Levandowski invoked the Fifth Amendment. A spokesman for Uber declined to comment on the deposition.
  17. WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said a major conflict with North Korea was possible over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, 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 peacefully resolve the crisis, 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, according to China's foreign ministry. Wang made the comments in a meeting with a Russian diplomat on Thursday at the United Nations, 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 of UN resolutions. Trump lavished praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping for trying to rein in Pyongyang, 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. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday that China has 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. "We were told by the Chinese that they informed the regime that if they did conduct further nuclear tests, China would be taking sanctions actions on their own," Tillerson said on Fox News, without specifying what sanctions he was referring to. Tillerson did not say when China made the threat and there was no immediate confirmation from Beijing. He is due to chair a meeting with UN 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. 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. MISSILE DEFENSE, 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 US strike group. Admiral Harry Harris, the top US commander in the Pacific, said on Wednesday the carrier was in the Philippine Sea, within two hours' striking distance of North Korea if need be. Harris also said a US missile defence system being deployed in South Korea to ward off any possible North Korean attack would be operational in coming days. However, Beijing has been angered by the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defence system, 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 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 meeting between Trump and Xi in Florida. 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 under the assumption that he is rational. He noted that Kim had taken over his country at an early age. "As to whether or not he's rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he's rational," he said. 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 tensions around Pyongyang's nuclear program.
  18. SAN FRANCISCO: The US Homeland Security Department's inspector general said on Friday he was investigating possible abuse of authority in a case that triggered a lawsuit against the department by Twitter Inc. Inspector General John Roth described the probe in a letter to Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who had asked for an investigation due to concerns about free speech protections. In a lawsuit on April 6, Twitter disclosed that it received a summons in March from the US Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, an agency within Homeland Security, demanding records about an account on the social media platform identified by the handle @ALT_uscis. The account has featured posts critical of President Donald Trump's immigration policies, leading Twitter to complain in its lawsuit that the summons was an unlawful attempt to suppress dissent. The agency dropped its demand of Twitter the day after the suit was filed. Customs bureau spokesman Mike Friel said on Friday that the bureau requested the inspector general's review and will fully support it. The people behind the Twitter account have not disclosed their identities, but the use of "ALT" with a government agency acronym has led many to assume government employees were behind the tweets critical of Trump. The lawsuit said the account "claims to be" the work of at least one federal immigration employee. USCIS is the acronym of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, a component of Homeland Security. Roth's office is charged with investigating waste, fraud and abuse within Homeland Security. He wrote in his letter that he was looking at whether the summons to Twitter "was improper in any way, including whether CBP abused its authority." "DHS OIG is also reviewing potential broader misuse of summons authority at the department," he added. Wyden's office posted the letter online. A representative for Roth could not immediately be reached for comment. A Twitter spokeswoman declined to comment.
  19. Bandra resident Mohammad Shams Aalam Shaikh, whose life centered around karate, was taken by a storm when he was diagnosed with a tumor in his spine. A black belt holder and a qualified coach with over 40 gold medals to his credit, the mechanical engineer didn’t give up on his life even after being paralyzed and decided to participate in the tournament. Twitter After going through a lot of surgeries, his lower body got paralyzed. But last Saturday he braced the sea and his immobility at Candolim beach in Goa to break his own record for the longest open sea swimming by a paraplegic. "I expected to complete the distance in two or two-and-half hours, but I had to swim against a very strong tide for a larger part of the course," Shaikh said after completing the belt in 4 hours and 4 minutes. "I was assessed with 100% disability in 2012. I didn't even have control over passing urine. Swimming the butterfly helped me a lot and today I don't need a catheter to relieve myself. This is a huge achievement for me and I was assessed as having 72% disability during the latest review, all because of swimming," he told TOI on the sidelines of the first ever wheelchair accessible beach festival being held at the Candolim beach. It was swimming that helped him overcome depression and improve his mobility. Twitter "People with disabilities should motivate themselves to come out of their homes, but for this we need the government's support to make spaces, buildings and transportation accessible," he said. It’s really impressive and inspiring to see his courage and the positivity that he has in his life.
  20. ‘Baba’ is back from his holiday and here to give us major styling goals. Bollywood's official risk-taker and fashion’s experimental frontman, Ranveer Singh, is always aware that the ball is in his court. He can do the unthinkable, carry it off with swag and go beyond the horizon to appear dripping wet in style. Spotted outside a suburban hotel in Mumbai, Mr. Durex was spotted channeling a fashion masterclass of sorts. Cool? - #ranveersingh #bollywood A post shared by DeepVeerYanka (@deepveeryanka) on Mar 22, 2017 at 11:57pm PDT Wearing five key pieces that arguably shouldn't have been paired together (all at once)—a dark-toned blazer, joggers, fedora, multi-coloured trainers and tinted sunglasses, Ranveer Singh has really learnt how to perfect the mismatch. The colour balance is pitch-perfect. The bandholz beard is groomed to perfection. The ‘walk of shame’ sunglasses? Let’s just leave it to that. (Pro-tip: Don’t try this at home!)