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Convicted ex-Hong Kong leader jailed 20 months for misconduct

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
Convicted ex-Hong Kong leader jailed 20 months for misconductFormer Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang was sentenced to 20 months in prison on Wednesday after a high-profile corruption trial found him guilty of misconduct during his time at the helm of the city. Tsang, 72, who held the leadership post of chief executive for seven years from 2005, is the most senior city official ever to be convicted in a criminal trial and the highest ranking one to be put behind bars. The six-week trial at the High Court came as residents lose faith in Hong Kong's leaders after a string of corruption cases fuel suspicions over links between public officials and business figures.



Women's life expectancy on track to hit 90 in some nations

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎9 hours agoGo to full article
Women's life expectancy on track to hit 90 in some nationsBy 2030 life expectancy for South Korean women could top nine decades, an average lifespan long thought to be out of reach, researchers said Wednesday. South Korea is not only the first country in the world where women may live past 90 on average, it is also the one on track to log the biggest jump in longevity, they reported in The Lancet medical journal. Other developed countries are not far behind: the longevity of French and Japanese women are more likely than not to stretch past 88 years.


UPS has a functioning drone delivery concept, and it makes more sense than Amazon’s

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎9 hours agoGo to full article
UPS has a functioning drone delivery concept, and it makes more sense than Amazon’s

Companies like Amazon are going all-in on drone deliveries and have already shown off warehouses that send packages out to customers exclusively via drone. For delivery companies like UPS, the idea of converting operations to rely exclusively on drones  is laughable, but that doesn't mean they won't find a way to utilize the new technology to streamline the delivery process.

This week, UPS tested out a delivery drone concept that doesn't so much do away with its iconic brown box trucks as augment them.

The test was conducted using a specially equipped UPS delivery truck which has a drone compartment built right into its roof. When the driver stops to deliver a package, the drone can be sent out to deliver one to a nearby location as well. UPS used the example of a rural delivery where sending a driver and truck down a long, winding road would be less efficient than sending the drone to deliver the package instead.

Once the drone has completed its delivery it automatically docks with the truck once again, and long arms grab and situate the device so that it can be recharged for the next stop. The drone is capable of carrying packages as heavy as ten pounds, which is double the five pound weight limit of Amazon's initial drone delivery tests.

Due to current FAA regulations which require drones to remain within visual of its operator — and avoid flying over buildings or people — even UPS's modest drone ambitions have some serious limitations. However, there's hope that those restrictions will be made a bit more workable in the future.



Dozens of headstones toppled at Jewish cemetery in Missouri

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎10 hours agoGo to full article
Dozens of headstones toppled at Jewish cemetery in MissouriUNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. (AP) — Vandals have damaged or tipped over as many as 200 headstones at a Jewish cemetery in suburban St. Louis, leaving the region's Jewish community shaken and anxious.



Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos resigns after controversial pedophilia comments

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎10 hours agoGo to full article
Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos resigns after controversial pedophilia commentsOn Feb. 21, 2017, Milo Yiannopoulos announced his resignation as an editor at Breitbart News. The writer and commentator has been facing backlash since a video of him making controversial comments about pedophilia surfaced.


Man who discussed attack like Dylann Roof's to stay in jail

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎11:40:38 PMGo to full article
Man who discussed attack like Dylann Roof's to stay in jailFLORENCE, S.C. (AP) — Benjamin McDowell will remain in jail for at least a little while after the FBI said the convicted felon wanted to buy a gun to use in a hate crime similar to the South Carolina church shootings two years ago.



Q&A: Becoming a US citizen _ who can do it, and how?

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎10:45:35 PMGo to full article
Q&A: Becoming a US citizen _ who can do it, and how?LOS ANGELES (AP) — Immigrant advocates say they've seen a huge spike in calls and questions about how people can become U.S. citizens since President Trump's executive orders on immigration and travel.



Young Girl Writes Heartbreaking Note to Her Dog's Future Family: 'He Loves Cuddles'

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎9:51:00 PMGo to full article
Young Girl Writes Heartbreaking Note to Her Dog's Future Family: 'He Loves Cuddles'"Rhino is a good dog and he loves cuddles [...] Please tell Rhino that I love and miss him every night," the note reads.



White House: Mass deportation not the goal of immigration actions

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎9:40:29 PMGo to full article
White House: Mass deportation not the goal of immigration actionsPress secretary Sean Spicer said unauthorized immigrants who "pose a threat to our public safety or have committed a crime will be the first to go."



EPA's Scott Pruitt enters a hotbed of anti-Trump resistance: his own agency

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎9:27:12 PMGo to full article
EPA's Scott Pruitt enters a hotbed of anti-Trump resistance: his own agencyUsually, new administrators at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are welcomed at headquarters without too much fanfare. That is, until today.  Scott Pruitt — the new EPA administrator nominated to the position by President Donald Trump — gave his welcome address to his agency Tuesday after garnering more "no" votes on the Senate floor than any other EPA nominee since the agency was founded in 1970.  SEE ALSO: One of the shortest bills ever was just introduced in Congress, it's basically just 'KILL THE EPA' In taking on the job, Pruitt is facing a daunting challenge: stiff resistance from within the agency itself, with current and former employees having protested his nomination, with some taking the nearly unheard of step of openly advocating for senators to vote "no" when it was brought to the Senate floor.  For some scientists in the agency, his first speech was probably the equivalent of Voldemort himself walking into Hogwarts and assuming the top job. Faces in @EPA crowd watching Pruitt be confirmed = Hogwarts student expressions when Umbridge becomes head of school. @jk_rowling — Perrin Ireland (@experrinment) February 21, 2017 Pruitt openly doubts mainstream climate science findings, including that human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases are the primary cause of global temperature increases. Pruitt was confirmed only hours after a judge in Oklahoma ordered the release of nearly 3,000 emails between Pruitt and fossil fuel companies from his time as attorney general. Those emails are due to be released by the end of the day on Tuesday. Pruitt quoted Muir's famous "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread" line in 1st speech to @EPA staffers. Clearly never read full passage: — Tim Sohn (@tfsohn) February 21, 2017 In his first speech to agency employees on Tuesday, Pruitt spoke of federal environmental regulations as needing to be tailored for the benefit of regulated parties, rather than to protect the public.  “Regulations ought to make things regular. Regulations exist to give certainty to the regulated,” he said. Pruitt clearly aims to shrink the agency's mandate and footprint, and is expected to quickly move to reverse the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, which regulates global warming-pollutants emitted from coal-fired power plants, along with a landmark water pollution regulation.  As Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt sued the EPA more than a dozen times, including in opposition to the Clean Power Plan. Pruitt did little to antagonize the EPA rank and file in his speech, saying, "civility is something that I believe in very much." But he also didn't say much that would immediately quell the internal resistance to him, either. “This environment in which we live today, forgive the reference, but it is a very toxic environment,” he said. “I seek to be a good listener.” Pruitt even went so far as quoting famous naturalist John Muir, who founded the Sierra Club, in his comments.  "We need to be open and transparent" says Scott Pruitt, new EPA administrator who refused to release emails btwn his office and industry — Natasha Geiling (@ngeiling) February 21, 2017 In response, the Sierra Club put out this blistering statement: "John Muir is rolling over in his grave at the notion of someone as toxic to the environment as Scott Pruitt taking over the EPA." A lot is at stake if and when Pruitt and the Trump administration move to dismantle the Clean Power Plan. The Obama administration had turned to the EPA to lead the charge on global warming, and without other rules to drive down emissions, getting rid of the Clean Power Plan would jeopardize America's ability to meet the emissions targets it agreed to under the Paris Climate Agreement.  Pruitt did not mention climate change, or any other specific environmental challenge, in his speech, instead giving general nods to the need to return more of a role for environmental protection to the states.  “We can be both pro-energy and jobs and pro-environment,” he said. While his tone was conciliatory, Pruitt still has his work cut out for him in winning over rank and file staff members. One longtime EPA employee, who wished to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak to the press, said there were two notable absences in Pruitt's speech. The first was the lack of any mention of public health, which is part of the agency's mission.  In addition, the EPA staff member said it was "super condescending" to have Pruitt explain "obvious fundamentals of doing our jobs," such as following the laws set forth by Congress. "Really we have follow the statutes? Work well with states? You don't say." If you are a federal employee, scientist or citizen scientist who sees climate science and policy shifts at federal agencies and wishes to alert the media, we want to hear from you. Please send an email from your personal email account to You can also contact science editor Andrew Freedman via the secure messaging app Signal, with detailed information in his Twitter bio, or at BONUS: 2016 was Earth's warmest year on record, continuing a three-year streak



‘A Serbian Trap’: Freezing conditions in Belgrade are not the biggest problem for refugees in Belgrade

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎7:35:57 PMGo to full article
‘A Serbian Trap’: Freezing conditions in Belgrade are not the biggest problem for refugees in BelgradeA trip along the refugee track within Serbia reveals that the old route through the Balkans is still being used despite strong border control, harsh conditions and frozen temperatures. Despite the existence of camps built by the Serbian state, the migrants are here trying to make their way into European Union countries illegally.



For over three years, Kim murder suspect lived mystery life in Malaysia

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎7:24:53 PMGo to full article
For over three years, Kim murder suspect lived mystery life in MalaysiaChong Ah Kow said he facilitated Ri's working visa by stating in supporting documents that he was a product development manager in the company's IT department earning 5,500 ringgit ($1,230) per month. "It was just a formality, just documents, I never paid him," Chong, a Malaysian, said in an interview.

6 Ways to Take Control of Your Retirement

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎5:45:00 PMGo to full article
6 Ways to Take Control of Your RetirementOne of the most unsettling aspects of retirement is that you give up a lot of control in life. Your kids are growing up, becoming independent and ignoring your best advice, and your friends may be slipping away due to illness, infirmity or perhaps they're moving to a retirement mecca. Here are six key areas where you can take steps to improve your retirement.


Toyota three-wheeling into Geneva

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎3:00:38 PMGo to full article
Toyota three-wheeling into GenevaJapanese automotive giant Toyota has confirmed it's bringing a tiny plug-in electric concept car to this year's Geneva Motor Show. Called the i-TRIL, it gives a glimpse of what Toyota imagines is the future of individual urban mobility. As for range, Toyota is yet to confirm how big the battery pack will be, however it has confirmed that the i-TRIL will have a trick suspension setup that will enable it to lean into corners and around bends just like a motorbike.



The Great Cheese Scare

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎2:14:09 PMGo to full article
The Great Cheese Scare"We deeply regret any inconvenience or concern this issue has caused,” Sargento Foods Chief Executive Officer Louie Gentine said in a statement.


Years of failed efforts to end Syrian conflict

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎12:56:58 PMGo to full article
Years of failed efforts to end Syrian conflictSince the start of Syria's war in 2011, several diplomatic initiatives have stumbled over the future of President Bashar al-Assad. In January 2012, two months after an initial bid to end the violence, leading Arab diplomats adopt a fresh plan that would transfer power from Assad to a coalition cabinet. On June 30, 2012 in Geneva, global powers draw up a plan that would install a transition government, but which does not spell out what would happen to Assad.



Police say newly freed gang member killed California officer

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎8:23:53 AMGo to full article
Police say newly freed gang member killed California officerLOS ANGELES (AP) — A gang member who was recently freed from jail killed his cousin and stole his car Monday then shot and killed a California police officer and wounded his partner before being wounded himself, authorities said.



Plane carrying 5 people hits Australian shopping mall

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎7:59:40 AMGo to full article
Plane carrying 5 people hits Australian shopping mallMELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Five people were believed killed when a light plane crashed in flames into a shopping mall on Tuesday in the Australian city of Melbourne, officials said.



Death toll in Philippine bus crash climbs to 15

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎5:48:30 AMGo to full article
Death toll in Philippine bus crash climbs to 15TANAY, Philippines (AP) — The death toll has risen to 15 from a bus crash in the Philippines, officials said Tuesday, and could climb further as many of the nearly 50 others who were hurt in the accident are in serious condition.



Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin dead at 64

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎4:46:14 AMGo to full article
Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin dead at 64Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, who for years fended off Western criticism and defended Moscow's actions in Ukraine and Syria, has died in New York. Churkin collapsed while at work at the Russian mission to the United Nations Monday morning and was rushed to a Manhattan hospital, apparently suffering from heart problems, diplomatic sources said. In a statement announcing his death, the foreign ministry in Moscow described him as an "outstanding diplomat." There was no information on the cause of death.

First-Grade Teacher Suspended Over 'Illegal Aliens' Post: School District

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎3:45:00 AMGo to full article
First-Grade Teacher Suspended Over 'Illegal Aliens' Post: School DistrictThe elementary school teacher advocated reporting undocumented immigrants, according to school district officials, who suspended her.



Storms, tornadoes damage dozens of homes in San Antonio area

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎2:10:46 AMGo to full article
Storms, tornadoes damage dozens of homes in San Antonio areaSAN ANTONIO (AP) — Severe storms that pushed several tornadoes through parts of Central Texas ripped the roofs from homes and damaged dozens of other houses and apartments in San Antonio and toppled auto-carrier cars of a freight train near Austin, authorities said Monday.


NASA Has Made A Huge Discovery About Planets Outside Our Solar System

‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:56:07 PMGo to full article
NASA Has Made A Huge Discovery About Planets Outside Our Solar SystemExoplanets are widely believed to be the best hope of finding life elsewhere in the universe. 



60,000-year-old microbes found in Mexican mine: NASA scientist

‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:29:48 PMGo to full article
60,000-year-old microbes found in Mexican mine: NASA scientistNASA scientists have discovered living microorganisms trapped inside crystals for as long as 60,000 years in a mine in Mexico. "This has profound effects on how we try to understand the evolutionary history of microbial life on this planet," she said. The mine is famous for its huge crystals, some as long as 50 feet (15 meters).



2017 Mercedes-Maybach S550 4MATIC

‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:15:00 PMGo to full article
2017 Mercedes-Maybach S550 4MATICA perfectly restrained chauffeur-mobile.



Shocker! World’s first self-driving car race ends in a crash

‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎9:40:03 PMGo to full article
Shocker! World’s first self-driving car race ends in a crash

The world's first race on a professional track involving self-driving cars ended, not surprisingly, with a crash. As part of the Roborace competition held in Buenos Aires over the weekend, one of the two self-driving Devbot vehicles involved in the race slammed into a wall after miscalculating a particularly sharp turn.

While the Devbot vehicles weren't going all out, they weren't exactly driving at a leisurely pace either. At their best, both cars were driving in excess of 100 MPH, with one reaching a top speed of 115 MPH at one point.

In addition to racing around the track at high speeds, it's worth noting that each car can communicate with the other as to prevent them from crashing into each other. Unfortunately, the racetrack wall proved to be an insurmountable foe.

As for the software malfunction that caused the crash, Roborace's Justin Cooke explained what happened in an interview with the BBC:

One of the cars was trying to perform a manoeuvre, and it went really full-throttle and took the corner quite sharply and caught the edge of the barrier.

It's actually fantastic for us because the more we see these moments the more we are able to learn and understand what was the thinking behind the computer and its data.

Indeed, for as far along as self-driving software and hardware has progressed, it's clear that there's still a lot of work to be done before self-driving cars can replace human drivers completely across all driving environments.

While the DevBot vehicles are designed such that they "can be driven by a human or a computer", the versions used in the race over the weekend did not have any humans inside. Photos of the crash can be seen here.



UK's May says Lords must respect people's will on Brexit

‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎9:03:05 PMGo to full article
UK's May says Lords must respect people's will on BrexitLONDON (AP) — Britain's House of Lords launched a bid Monday to gain a greater say for Parliament over the terms of the U.K.'s European Union exit, as Prime Minister Theresa May warned lawmakers not to hold up "what the British people want" by trying to delay the process.



Duck boats face increasing calls for improvements, bans

‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎8:20:07 PMGo to full article
Duck boats face increasing calls for improvements, bansBOSTON (AP) — With their festive, party-like ambiance and ability to travel on land and in water, duck boats have long been tourist attractions for sightseers around the U.S. But a string of deadly accidents has left the industry reeling, forced safety improvements and led some advocates to call for a total ban on the vehicles.



Pence 'disappointed' by Flynn's Russia contacts briefing

‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎7:50:21 PMGo to full article
Pence 'disappointed' by Flynn's Russia contacts briefingUS Vice President Mike Pence said Monday he was disappointed that Michael Flynn gave him "inaccurate" information about his contacts with Russia before he resigned as national security adviser. "I would tell you that I was disappointed that .. the facts that had been conveyed to me by General Flynn were inaccurate," Pence told a press conference in Brussels. On February 13, the White House said Trump had accepted Flynn's resignation amid allegations the retired three-star general discussed US sanctions strategy with Russia's ambassador to Washington before Trump's inauguration.



Time for Some Creative Solutions At the NSC

‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎6:52:55 PMGo to full article
Time for Some Creative Solutions At the NSCHere's how Trump can avoid getting trapped in an H.R. nightmare.



Ukraine accuses rebels of breaking truce as Western concern rises

‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎6:49:21 PMGo to full article
Ukraine accuses rebels of breaking truce as Western concern risesUkraine's military on Monday accused pro-Moscow rebels of breaking a new ceasefire deal barely hours after it came into effect, as Western powers warned Russia over its actions in the former Soviet state. The latest attempt to silence the guns in Ukraine was agreed after more than 30 people were killed in a sharp uptick of violence this month between government forces and Russian-backed separatists.



Trump Boasts Accomplishments In First Month

‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎6:33:07 PMGo to full article
Trump Boasts Accomplishments In First MonthThe White House detailed its work over the last four weeks but avoided some of the controversies around the administration.



Atlanta, other cities eye test tracks for self-driving cars

‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎6:27:58 PMGo to full article
Atlanta, other cities eye test tracks for self-driving carsATLANTA (AP) — Self-driving vehicles could begin tooling down a bustling Atlanta street full of cars, buses, bicyclists and college students, as the city vies with other communities nationwide to test the emerging technology.



Nigeria urges AU to intervene over 'SAfrica killings'

‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎6:27:41 PMGo to full article
Nigeria urges AU to intervene over 'SAfrica killings'Nigeria on Monday urged the African Union to step in to stop what it said were "xenophobic attacks" on its citizens and other Africans in South Africa. "This is unacceptable to the people and government of Nigeria," a senior presidential aide on foreign affairs, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said in an emailed statement. There was no independent verification of the claimed number of deaths, which may have been the result of wider criminal activities rather than anti-immigrant sentiment.



Turkey puts 47 on trial for 'coup plot to kill Erdogan'

‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎6:02:07 PMGo to full article
Turkey puts 47 on trial for 'coup plot to kill Erdogan'One of the nearly 50 suspects in an alleged plot to assassinate Turkey's president admitted involvement in the botched July 15 putsch bid as the mass trial opened Monday. Forty-four suspects, mainly soldiers, are under arrest over the alleged plot to kill Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while three others still on the run are being tried in absentia at the court in the southern city of Mugla. Onlookers heckled the accused as they stepped out of the buses that took them from prison, shouting "we want the death penalty!" and "Allahu Akbar" ("God is Greatest").



Mexican mom seeks justice for son killed by US border guard

‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎5:01:45 PMGo to full article
Mexican mom seeks justice for son killed by US border guardIn a choked voice, the 59-year-old woman recounts the death of her teenage son, fatally shot on Mexican soil by an American policeman standing on the US side of the border. The killing of Sergio Hernandez Guerece will be examined by the US Supreme Court on Tuesday, coming at a time when President Donald Trump has called for building a border wall to keep out Mexican undesirables. The 15-year-old Hernandez was playing around with three friends in the dry riverbed of the Rio Grande that separates the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez from its Texan neighbor El Paso.



Iraqi Helpers Will Be Exempt From Travel Ban; Mattis

‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎4:23:22 PMGo to full article
Iraqi Helpers Will Be Exempt From Travel Ban; MattisPresident Donald Trump is set to issue a new immigration executive order this week.



2017 Chevy Camaro ZL1 Nails An Official 198 MPH Top Speed

‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎4:00:00 PMGo to full article
2017 Chevy Camaro ZL1 Nails An Official 198 MPH Top Speed650-horsepower Chevy Camaro actually tops 200 mph with minor adjustments. Gentlemen, start your engines.  



Elderly woman finds £5 note worth £50,000, donates the money to young people

‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎3:05:43 PMGo to full article
Elderly woman finds £5 note worth £50,000, donates the money to young peopleFinding out that the fiver in your wallet is worth thousands of pounds is a dream-come-true for some — but not everyone. A Northern Irish woman who discovered a rare £5 note worth £50,000 ($62,317) has given the note to charity because she says she has no use for the money.  SEE ALSO: Some lucky duck got a £5 note 'worth £50,000' in a Christmas card The note is one of just four ultra-rare notes worth £50,000 in circulation in the UK. The note — which is engraved with a special Jane Austen inscription — is the third one to be snapped up, leaving just one left. The woman who discovered the note contacted the gallery founded by Graham Short — the artist who engraved the notes — stating her wish to donate the note to charity. "£5 note enclosed, I don't need it at my time of life. Please use it to help young people," reads the letter sent to the gallery by the donor, who prefers to remain anonymous.  Image: graham short "The lady who found the note has surprised us all by sending it to the gallery and asking that it be used to help young people," reads a blog post on Short's website.  According to the post, the proceeds from the note will be donated to children's charity Children in Need.   "Currently contacting outlets connected to Children in Need to try and give this to a good cause so we honour the request of the lucky woman who originally discovered the note," the post continues. BONUS: This keychain can take away that annoying jingle your keys make





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South African court blocks government's ICC withdrawal push

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎16 minutes agoGo to full article
JOHANNESBURG: South Africa's decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been ruled unconstitutional by the country's High Court, the opposition party which brought the challenge to the government's move said on Wednesday.

South Africa has officially notified the United Nations of its intent to withdraw from the Rome Statute, the 1998 treaty establishing The Hague-based court.

The International Criminal Court, which opened in July 2002 and has 124 member states, is the first legal body with permanent international jurisdiction to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

(Reporting by James Macharia; Editing by Catherine Evans)


Turkey sees change in US stance towards operation in Syria's Raqqa - defence minister

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎16 minutes agoGo to full article
ANKARA: Turkey's defence minister said on Wednesday there had been a slight change in the stance of the United States towards an operation on Syria's Raqqa and the role of a Syrian Kurdish militia as a result of Turkey's persistence on the matter.

In an interview with broadcaster NTV, Defence Minister Fikri Isik also said Turkey had once again spoken with U.S. officials on the withdrawal of the Syrian Kurdish YPG from Syria's Manbij. He said Turkey's persistence on the matter continued.

Turkey's Defence Minister Fikri Isik answers a question during an interview with Reuters in An

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the PKK militant group, which has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state and is considered a terrorist organisation by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by David Dolan)


Gymnastics-Raisman keeps eye on Tokyo during 'crazy' downtime

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎16 minutes agoGo to full article
MELBOURNE: American gymnast Aly Raisman has been caught up in a whirlwind since helping the United States to its golden haul in Rio and the triple Olympic champion is waiting for her world to stop spinning before setting her sights on the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Raisman, who captained the 'Final Five' U.S. women to the most dominant Olympic victory in the team event six months ago, will be 26 when she bids for her third Olympics, hoping to defy gymnastics' stereotype as a sport built for petite teenagers.

Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman arrives at the 50th Annual Country Music Association Awards in Nashville

The Boston-born Raisman is in no great hurry to plunge back into competition, however, knowing a year off to freshen up could be her best chance of building motivation for another tilt at surviving the cut-throat competition to make the U.S. team.

To that end, she will appear at her first gymnastics event since Rio as an ambassador rather than a competitor this week at the Melbourne stop of the individual apparatus World Cup series.

"It would be ridiculous if I were to try to compete now," Raisman told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday after a bit of sightseeing in the sports-mad city.

"I’ve been working out, staying healthy but I’m not even close to being in the shape of competing.

"It wouldn’t feel weird because there’s muscle memory but my body would hurt because I haven’t been doing any pounding since Rio, basically.”


Life has never been better for a U.S. Olympic gymnast.

The Final Five's successful defence of the Olympic team title and Simone Biles's four gold medals at Rio opened the insular world of international gymnastics to mainstream America.

Raisman, Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian have all enjoyed a prolonged victory lap, touring dozens of cities and making red carpet appearances at Hollywood awards nights.

Raisman, second to Biles in the all-around and floor exercise at Rio, has kept in regular touch with her team mates.

She joined Biles recently for a photo shoot for Sports Illustrated magazine's swimwear edition and also competed in the popular 'Dancing with the Stars' television show.

"It’s actually been pretty crazy, I’ve only been home maybe one month in the past eight or nine," said Raisman, who won her first Olympic team gold as a member of the United States' 'Fierce Five' at London where she also took the floor exercise title.

"But it’s been incredible. I’ve had so many amazing opportunities. In 2012 I got to do a lot of fun stuff but it’s really surpassed my expectations this time."

Although the 'Final Five' have bathed in acclaim, USA Gymnastics has been rocked by allegations from former athletes of sexual abuse by coaches and a long-serving team doctor in media reports last year, prompting the governing body to review its sexual misconduct policy.

"It’s obviously terrible and it should never have happened, but there is an investigation," said Raisman.

"So I can’t comment because we have to respect their investigation."

At the age of 22, Raisman had to defy doubters who said she was too old to compete at Rio and she wept freely with the emotional release of qualifying at national trials in San Jose last year.

She is likely to be put through the emotional wringer again when she launches her bid for Tokyo but the American draws inspiration from the likes of Romanian Catalina Ponor, who won three golds at the 2004 Athens Games and competed as a 28-year-old at Rio.

Oksana Chusovitina, who won a team gold with the former Soviet Union's 'Unified Team' at the 1992 Barcelona Games, represented Uzbekistan at Rio at the age of 41 and has competed in seven Olympics with three different national delegations.

"It’s just amazing how incredible (Chusovitina) is," said Raisman. "I think everyone is still in awe of her, of what she is still doing in gymnastics."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)


SIA among 5 airlines told to compensate passengers for delays

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎23 minutes agoGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Singapore Airlines (SIA) is among five international airlines that fly into Europe that have been told to pay passengers for delays they may have experienced.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said in its press release on Wednesday (Feb 22) that American Airlines, Etihad Airways, Emirates, SIA and Turkish Airlines will have to obey European laws or be taken to court. They all face enforcement action after a CAA review found them to be breaching consumer law, it added.

Armed police patrol at Terminal 5, Heathrow Airport in London, Britain

These airlines had told the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) that they did not pay compensation to passengers who had experienced a delay on the first leg of a flight that caused them to miss a connecting flight and, as a result, arrive at their final destination more than three hours late, the press release said.

CAA added that SIA currently places compensation claims for these delays "on hold". 

Under European Union (EU) law, airlines may have to provide compensation if passengers arrive at their destinations late. These rules, however, only apply to certain flights to, from or within the EU and only if the airline was at fault, such as if it was through poor aircraft maintenance or flight crew being available, the UK CAA website said. 

Compensation range from short-haul to long-haul, and figures range from 250 euros (S$372.70) for delays of more than three hours for short-haul flights to 600 euros for delays of more than four hours for long-haul flights, it added. 

Mr Richard Moriarty, director of Consumers and Markets at the CAA, said: "Airlines' first responsibility should be looking after their passengers, not finding ways in which they can prevent passengers upholding their rights.

"So it's disappointing to see a small number of airlines continuing to let a number of their passengers down by refusing to pay them the compensation they are entitled to," he said.

Channel NewsAsia has reached out to SIA for comment. 


North Korea calls for release of 3 detained in Kim Jong Nam case

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎42 minutes agoGo to full article
KUALA LUMPUR: The North Korean embassy in Malaysia said on Wednesday (Feb 22) that the three suspects detained in the connection with the murder of Kim Jong Nam should be immediately released.

A Vietnamese woman, an Indonesian woman and a North Korean man have been "arrested unreasonably", the embassy said in a statement released to the media.

Kim Jong Nam women suspects 1

Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was killed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport last week while preparing to board a flight to Macau.

Malaysian police said a senior official in the North Korean embassy and a staffer at its state airline, were also wanted for questioning over the murder.


French ecologist de Rugy says he backs Macron for President

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎46 minutes agoGo to full article
PARIS: Francois de Rugy, who stood unsuccessfully as an ecology candidate in the primaries of the left that elected Socialist Benoit Hamon as candidate, said on Wednesday he would back centrist Emmanuel Macron for the presidency.

De Rugy won 3.82 percent of the vote in those January primaries, and has been critical of Hamon's policies.

French politician Francois de Rugy attends the second prime-time televised debate for the French le

Most recent opinion polls put Macron among the leading candidates in a close-fought presidential race.

"For me, it's not unity for its own sake that I see, I've been saying I want the unity of the left and of progressive forces in which I include Emmanuel Macron," de Rugy said on France Info radio.

"That's why I draw this conclusion today that I want to take part in the renewal of politics that Emmanuel Macron has launched."

Environmentalist politics are split in France.

Greens party candidate Yannick Jadot, who is standing for the presidency himself and whom polls show picking up between 1 and 2 percent of the vote, is in talks with Hamon about an electoral pact under which Jadot would withdraw in Hamon's favour.

(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; Writing by Andrew Callus; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)


Malaysia names North Korean diplomat wanted for questioning over airport murder

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎46 minutes agoGo to full article
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian police on Wednesday named a senior official in North Korea's embassy and a staffer at its state airline, who are wanted for questioning over the murder last week of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader.

Kim Jong Nam, 46, was killed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13, while preparing to board a flight to Macau, where he lived in exile with his family under the protection of Beijing.

South Korean and U.S. officials believe the killing of the elder half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was an assassination carried out by agents of the North.

Kim Jong Nam had spoken out publicly against his family's dynastic control of the isolated, nuclear-armed state.

Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar named the North Korean diplomat wanted for questioning as 44-year-old Hyon Kwang Song, and said he held the rank of second secretary at the embassy.

The police chief identified the Air Koryo staffer as Kim Uk Il, 37.

He said both were in Malaysia, but gave no further details.

"They've been called in for assistance. We hope the embassy will cooperate with us and allow us to interview them quickly or else we will compel them to come to us," Khalid told reporters at a news conference.

Calls on Wednesday to the North Korean embassy for comment on the latest developments went unanswered.

Police have stepped up security at the morgue where Kim Jong Nam's body is being held after an attempted break-in earlier this week, Khalid said.

Malaysia has denied North Korea's request for the body to be handed over to its embassy directly and has urged the victim's next of kin to come forward to help with the investigation.

Malaysia has so far identified a total of eight North Koreans suspected of being linked to killing.

One, Ri Jong Chol, is in custody, and another, Ri Ji U, remains at large. Khalid said police "strongly believed" four others were back in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, having fled Malaysia on the day of the attack.

Police have not stated Ri Jong Chol's role in the killing. He lived in Malaysia for three years without working at the company registered on his employment permit or receiving a salary.

The first suspects to be arrested last week were two women - one Vietnamese, one Indonesian - who are suspected of carrying out the fatal assault on Kim Jong Nam using a fast-acting poison.


Khalid said both women wiped a liquid, containing an as yet unidentified toxic substance, on Kim Jong Nam's face.

"Yes, the two female suspects knew that the substance they had was toxic. We don't know what kind of chemical was used," he said, dismissing speculation that the women had thought they were part of a prank.

"They used their bare hands," he said, adding that they were instructed to wash their hands afterwards.

The women had rehearsed the attack at two shopping malls in central Kuala Lumpur before assaulting Kim Jong Nam, he said.

Diplomatic tensions have escalated between North Korea and Malaysia since the killing, with the countries trading barbs over Malaysia's handling of the investigation.

North Korea Malaysia is one of the few countries in the world that maintains ties with the nuclear-armed nation.

Earlier this week Malaysia recalled its ambassador from Pyongyang, and Prime Minister Najib Razak rebuked the North Korea ambassador in Kuala Lumpur for making "diplomatically rude" comments.

The police said no family member of Kim Jong Nam has come forward to claim the body or provide DNA samples yet, dismissing rumours that a son had arrived in Kuala Lumpur earlier this week.

Malaysia has said it will only release the body to the next-of-kin once the cause of death and identity have been confirmed.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Praveen Menon; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)


Senior Yemeni general killed in Houthi missile attack - military source

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
ADEN: Yemen's deputy chief of staff was killed on Wednesday when the armed Houthi movement battling government forces fired a ballistic missile at an army camp on the Red Sea coast, according to a military source.

The attack killing Major General Ahmed Saif al-Yafei was a blow to Yemeni government forces and hit outside the strategic coastal city of al-Mokha, which they captured from the Iran-allied Houthis last month.

A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen's civil war nearly two years ago to back President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after he was ousted from the capital Sanaa by Houthi forces.

"Major General Ahmed Saif al-Yafei was killed along with several others when the missile hit the camp near al-Mokha city early this morning," the military source, who is also a member of the general's family, told Reuters.

Saudi-owned Arabiya TV also reported Yafei's death.

Al-Mokha lies close to the Bab al-Mandab strait through which much of the world's oil passes.

(Reporting by Mohamed Mukashaf; Writing by Tom Finn; Editing by Catherine Evans)


Turkey detains 35 suspected Islamic State members in Istanbul - Haberturk

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
ANKARA: Turkish authorities on Wednesday detained 35 suspected members of Islamic State in raids across Istanbul, broadcaster Haberturk said.

Police carried out simultaneous raids in 41 locations across the city and collected several documents linked to the jihadist group, it said.

The group has been blamed for at least half a dozen attacks on civilian targets in Turkey over the past 18 months, prompting the authorities to intensify efforts to break up its suspected networks.

Thirty-nine people, mainly foreigners, were killed on New Year's Day when an Islamic State militant opened fire inside the Reina nightclub Istanbul. Islamic State said the attack was revenge for Turkish military involvement in Syria.

NATO member Turkey is part of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State and launched an incursion into Syria in August to drive the jihadist group and Kurdish militia fighters away from its borders.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by David Dolan)


Airbus takes new hit for A400M as core profit beats forecasts

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
PARIS: European aerospace group Airbus took a new 1.2 billion euro (US$1.2 billion) charge for its troubled A400M military aircraft program and called for new talks with European buyer nations to limit further financial damage, despite posting higher than expected core earnings and revenues for 2016.

The fresh charge for the A400M troop carrier brings the total for last year to 2.2 billion and the total since Europe's largest defense project was launched over a decade ago to more than 6 billion, due to persistent delays and cost overruns.

A waiter walks past an Airbus A400M military transport plane is parked at the Airbus assembly plant

The company, reporting for the first time as Airbus and with a new financial format after ditching the Airbus Group brand in a revamp that recognizes the dominance of its civil business, said "adjusted" operating income fell 4 percent to 3.955 billion euros on revenues which rose 3 percent to 66.581 billion.

A last-minute surge in civil jetliner deliveries last year, compensated for weaker helicopter and defense markets.

Analysts were on average expecting a 7.3 percent drop in full-year operating earnings before one-offs to 3.83 billion euros on sales up 0.7 percent to 64.919 billion.

The A400M program has weathered repeated industrial mishaps including the recent discovery of problems in an engine gearbox built by an Italian subsidiary of General Electric .

Airbus signaled a downgrade in its expectations for exports of the aircraft, which so far has only one buyer, Malaysia, beyond a bloc of seven European NATO nations led by Germany.

It also called for new talks with customer nations to limit further losses after receiving a 3.5-billion-euro bailout in 2010.

"The board of Airbus has ordered management to re-engage with customers to cap the remaining exposure," a statement on Wednesday said.

The A400M is one of several pressing industrial and organizational issues facing Europe's largest aerospace group as it completes a sensitive reorganization expected to cut 1,000 headquarters jobs.

On two broadly successful civil projects which have seen delays creep into the schedule in the past year, Airbus said the production ramp-up of its A350 and A320neo jets remained "challenging" but that bottlenecks in the A350 supply chain had improved and output targets remained on track.

Airbus said it expected more than 700 jetliner deliveries in 2017, up from 688 in 2016.

It did not give a target for orders but executives have said they will trail behind deliveries for the first time since 2009 as the aircraft market slows, following a multi-year order boom.

(Reporting by Tim Hepher and Cyril Altmeyer; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Victoria Bryan)


Taiwan train bomber jailed for 30 years

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
TAIPEI: A Taiwanese man was sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday (Feb 22) for detonating a pipe bomb on a busy Taipei train that injured more than two dozen people last year.

Lin Ying-chang, 56, was convicted on charges of attempted murder and making an explosive without a permit over the July 2016 blast, which the Taipei district court said was a botched suicide attempt.

More than two dozen people are injured when a Taiwanese man attempts suicide with a pipe bomb on a(Photo:AFP)

The explosion injured 24 people when it tore through the train as it pulled into a station.

"The defendant detonated the explosive device with the goal of committing suicide, as well as taking his revenge on society by means of killing innocent people. His motive was malicious," a court statement said.

Lin, who has the right to appeal the ruling, was also injured in the blast.

He told the court he had struggled to find a job after being diagnosed with cancer and had ended up living in his car. He said he had also become estranged from his family.

But Lin believed that "society should be responsible for him", the court statement said.

The last major attack on Taipei's public transit was when a college student killed four people in a stabbing spree in 2014 on the metro, shocking the island and prompting a security overhaul.


Forex price rigging, spreading false news to be criminal offences in South Korea

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
SEOUL: Collusion, price-fixing and disseminating false news in the foreign exchange market will be punishable by criminal law in South Korea for the first time starting later this year as the government toughens up regulation.

In enforcement regulations set out in an amendment on foreign exchange trading laws issued on Wednesday, the finance ministry said a person found guilty of disturbing order in foreign exchange trading for personal profit could be fined up to 500 million won (US$438,000) or face up to five years in prison.

South Korean 10,000 won note is seen on U.S. 100 dollar notes in this picture illustration taken in

If, however, the targeted asset's value multiplied by three exceeds 500 million won, the guilty party can be fined up to three times the targeted value, according to the regulations.

For example, if a guilty party's targeted asset was worth 500 million won, he or she could face a fine of 1.5 billion won.

The courts will decide whether to define targeted assets as profits made after a criminal act or as assets used in the process of a crime, finance ministry officials told Reuters.

The amendment will be enforced from July 18 this year.

(US$1 = 1,140.4500 won)

(Reporting by Shinhyung Lee and Christine Kim; Editing by Eric Meijer)


Grab, Uber promotional packages scam cheated victims of S$7,700

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Victims of a private hire car promotional package scam lost at least S$7,700, according to the police on Wednesday (Feb 22).

In a Facebook post, police said they have received at least nine reports regarding the "Grab/Uber promotional packages" scam since last week.

uber driver

The victims were introduced to the Grab or Uber promotional packages through friends, who had come across the advertisements by word of mouth. The victims were then asked to contact the seller via WhatsApp and instructed to transfer money to bank accounts to purchase the said packages. 

However, after making payment, the victims were not able to redeem the rides, and the seller became uncontactable. 

Police advised members of the public to only purchase rides from official sources, and to always exercise caution when purchasing items at prices that sound too good to be true. 

"When in doubt, please call the anti-scam helpline at 1800-722 6688 or visit," police said. 

They also urged those with information about the crime to call the police hotline at 1800-255-0000, or submit information online.


In response to media queries, Grab said it would assist authorities in their investigations. It also advised all passengers to refer to official Grab sources for promotional information, such as the Grab Singapore Facebook page, in-app notifications and emails sent from a Grab domain. 

"When in doubt, passengers can contact our Grab Customer Support Centre at (65) 6570 3925 or," Grab said.


Khmer Rouge cadre's war crimes charges dismissed in Cambodia

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
PHNOM PENH: A U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Cambodia dismissed charges against a former cadre of the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime on Wednesday, saying the Buddhist nun had not played a senior enough role during a period when some 1.8 million people died.

The decision in the case of Im Chaem, who was suspected of running a forced labour camp, was a boon for veteran Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge soldier who opposes further trials.

Critics said the decision undermined the credibility of the court, which has found just three people guilty after a decade of work at a cost of over US$260 million.

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia said in a statement that Chaem, in her 60s, did not fall under their jurisdiction because she was not a senior leader of the Khmer Rouge or one of the most responsible officials.

Most of the victims of the Khmer Rouge died of starvation, torture, exhaustion or disease in labour camps or were bludgeoned to death during mass executions. Pol Pot, "Brother Number One," died in 1998.

Chaem, a former Khmer Rouge district commander, was charged with murder and crimes against humanity.

She did not appear in court because Cambodian police would not arrest her or other senior Khmer Rouge cadres charged. Hun Sen, in power for 30 years, has warned that more trials could see Cambodia spiral into civil war.

"As long as the judges followed the rules and the evidence, we must accept the decision, but it can be difficult sometimes to swallow," said Youk Chhang, who said he suffered at Im Chaem's camp at the age of 15.

His team has spent more than 20 years documenting the horrors of the regime and provided half a million documents to the tribunal.

The court faced a test of its credibility and would need to explain its decision to survivors, said Panhavuth Long of the Cambodian Justice Initiative, which monitors the trials.

"We've seen concerns by people in general about interference," he told Reuters.

The court has been plagued by infighting, political interference, resignations and funding shortages since it was set up to bring to justice "those most responsible" for the deaths of a fifth of the population from 1975-1979.

(Editing by Matthew Tostevin)


Higher pay, but fresh graduates took longer to find full-time permanent jobs: Survey

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Students who graduated from Singapore’s universities last year earned a higher starting salary, but found it harder to secure a full-time permanent job, according to the results of a survey released on Wednesday (Feb 22).

The joint graduate employment survey, by Nanyang Technological University (NTU), National University of Singapore (NUS) and Singapore Management University (SMU), found that fresh graduates earned a median starting pay of S$3,360, up slightly from S$3,300 in 2015.

NTU graduates

The survey polled 10,904 out of 13,953 fresh graduates from NTU, NUS and SMU in November last year, about six months after they completed their final examinations.

Nearly nine in 10 graduates, or 89.7 per cent, found jobs within six months of their final examinations, up from 89.5 per cent in 2015. However, the proportion that secured full-time permanent jobs fell from 83.1 per cent in 2015 to 80.2 per cent.

SMU graduates earned the highest median starting salary at S$3,500, compared to NUS graduates who earned S$3,400 and NTU graduates who earned S$3,300.

Due to different academic calendars, the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) will conduct their surveys in February and March, respectively.


Russian cargo craft lifts off for international space station

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
ALMATY: A Russian Progress cargo space craft blasted off for the International Space Station from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, the first such mission since a failed launch in December.

The space craft, carried by the same Soyuz booster rocket which is used for manned launches, took off at 11:58 (0558 GMT) with the launch broadcast live by NASA TV. It is due to dock with the space station on Feb.24.

(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Nick Macfie)


Russian space craft lifts off for international space station

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
ALMATY: A Russian Progress cargo space craft blasted off for the International Space Station from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, the first such mission since a failed launch in December.

The space craft, carried by the same Soyuz booster rocket as used for manned launches, took off at 11:58 (0558 GMT) with the launch broadcast live by NASA TV. It is due to dock with the space station on Feb.24.

The previous Progress craft, loaded with more than 2-1/2 tons of food and supplies for the space station, broke apart about six minutes after lift-off on Dec.1.

Another cargo craft, Dragon, launched by privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, is due to rendezvous later in the day with the space station where astronauts will use a robotic arm to grab and load it to a docking port.

NASA hopes to resume flying station crewmembers from the United States in 2018 aboard capsules under development by Boeing Co and SpaceX.

(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Nick Macfie)


Goldman says global crude stocks likely to keep falling

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
REUTERS: Goldman Sachs expects global crude oil inventories to keep falling due to production cuts and strong growth in demand, although stocks are likely to rise in the United States.

"We do not view the recent U.S. builds as derailing our forecast for a gradual draw in inventories, with in fact the rest of the world already showing signs of tightness," analysts at the bank said in a note dated Feb. 21.

An oil pump jack pumps oil in a field near Calgary

"Given our unchanged 1.5 million barrels per day growth forecast for 2017, this higher base demand level should fully offset higher U.S. output."

The Wall Street bank reiterated its forecast for Brent and U.S. crude prices to rise to US$59 and US$57.50 per barrel respectively in the second quarter, before dropping to US$57 and US$55 for the rest of 2017.

Oil prices held near multi-week highs on Wednesday, with the U.S. West Texas Intermediate April crude contract up 18 cents at US$54.51 a barrel at 0228 GMT (5:28 a.m. ET), while Brent crude was up 24 cents at US$56.90.

Surging U.S. output has pushed crude and gasoline inventories to record highs, keeping a lid on prices after they climbed following an agreement by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers to cut output by about 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd).

"While the production cuts have so far reached a historically high level of compliance at 90 percent, the rebound in U.S. drilling activity has exceeded even our above consensus expectations," Goldman said.

However, the increase in U.S. drilling points to factors including further improvement in shale productivity and funding for the industry, rather than expectations of an increase in prices, the bank said.

(Reporting by Arpan Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Joseph Radford)


Netanyahu blasts UN 'hypocrisy', Australian PM opposes 'one-sided resolutions'

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
SYDNEY: Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull offered a staunch defence of Israel on Wednesday, criticising the United Nations and vowing never to support "one-sided resolutions" calling for an end to Israeli settlement building on occupied land.

Turnbull welcomed Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday as the first Israeli prime minister to visit Australia and reiterated Australia's support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

Netanyahu walks with Turnbull upon their arrival at Admiralty House in Sydney

However, he also made it clear Australia would not support any resolutions such as the one approved by the United Nations Security Council in December calling for an end to Israeli settlement building on land occupied by Palestinians.

"My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticising Israel of the kind recently adopted by the U.N Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimise the Jewish state," Turnbull wrote in an editorial in The Australian newspaper.

The U.N. resolution was approved in the final weeks of Barack Obama's administration, which broke with a long tradition of shielding Israel diplomatically and chose not to wield its veto power.

"Australia has been courageously willing to puncture U.N. hypocrisy more than once," Netanyahu said.

"The U.N. is capable of many absurdities and I think it's important that you have straightforward and clear-eyed countries like Australia that often bring it back to earth," he said after meeting Turnbull.

Israel has long pursued a policy of constructing Jewish settlements on territory it captured in a 1967 war with its Arab neighbours including the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

Most countries view such activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal and an obstacle to peace but Israel disagrees, citing a biblical connection to the land.

Washington's ambassador to the United Nations has said the United States still supports a two-state solution to the conflict, although new U.S. President Donald Trump has also said he is open to new ways to achieve peace.

The two-state solution has long been the bedrock of the international community's policy for a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians but Trump's apparent loosening of that main tenet, at a joint news conference with Netanyahu last week, stunned the international community.

"We support an outcome which has two states where Israelis, the Israeli people, the Palestinian people live side-by-side as a result of direct negotiations between them," Turnbull told reporters in Sydney.

Netanyahu said any solution would need Palestine to recognise Israel, which would also have security control of the territories.

While in Australia, Netanyahu is scheduled to sign agreements fostering closer economic and defence cooperation.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Paul Tait)


Singapore industrial output seen contracting 2.6% in January

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Singapore's industrial production in January is expected to have shrunk after a run of strong monthly rises, a Reuters poll showed, though analysts see the electronics sector extending its recent bounce.

A Reuters poll of 12 analysts forecast January industrial production to have contracted 2.6 per cent on a month-on-month seasonally adjusted basis, after rising 6.4 per cent in December.

Singapore manufacturing, Singapore economy(Photo:AFP logo)

Output was expected to be up 8.4 per cent on a year-on-year basis, according to the median forecast.

“The reason why it's positive year-on-year and negative month-on-month is because December was exceptionally strong, so we saw it rising by 6.4 per cent month-on-month and we’ve had two consecutive months of over 6 per cent rise so this is a sequential correction,” said Mizuho Bank economist Vishnu Varathan.

Singapore's industrial production in December grew at the strongest pace in five years, thanks to underlying global shift toward new technologies contributing to the growth of electronics manufacturing in the city-state.

"The electronics side should still be the key driver, the issue is whether we see more broad based traction in the broader manufacturing industries beyond electronics", said Ms Selina Ling, head of treasury research and strategy at OCBC Bank.


German Social Democrats still hard on heels of Merkel's conservatives - poll

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
BERLIN: Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) held steady at 31 percent support in a survey published on Wednesday, remaining hard on the heels of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives: on 34 percent: seven months ahead of a federal election.

The poll for Stern magazine and broadcaster RTL showed 39 percent of Germans would vote for Merkel if there were to be a direct vote for chancellor - one point more than last week.

Journalists during news conference of new SPD leader Schulz at their party headquarters in Berlin

Former European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who has boosted the SPD's popularity since being nominated as their candidate for chancellor in late January, was down one percentage point at 36 percent.

A poll by Forschungsgruppe Wahlen on Friday had shown Schulz would beat Merkel if balloting was based on a direct leadership vote.

The Forsa poll showed the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) losing one percentage point to 8 percent, its lowest level of support in this particular poll for seven months.

"At the moment the AfD is hardly able to score points with the refugee crisis, which it has been using to get voter support, and the chaotic leadership of U.S. President Donald Trump, who was at first celebrated, is tending to cause alarm given the crises around the world," said Forsa head Manfred Guellner.

Internal strife was also an issue for the AfD, he said.

The far-left Linke remained on 8 percent and the Greens stayed on 7 percent while the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) gained one percentage point to 6 percent - putting it above the 5-percent threshold needed to enter parliament.

The poll of 2,502 people was carried out between Feb. 13 and Feb. 17.

(Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Louise Ireland)


Philippine minister doubtful of China row resolution 'during our lifetime'

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎3 hours agoGo to full article
MANILA: The foreign minister of the Philippines expressed doubt on Wednesday that a maritime sovereignty dispute with China could be resolved "during our lifetime", so it was better to set it aside, engage Beijing and avoid an armed confrontation.

In a defence of President Rodrigo Duterte's decision not to push China to abide by an international arbitration ruling that went in Manila's favour last year, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said there was an impasse that neither side could break, so it was better to maximise benefits from Beijing instead.

FILE PHOTO: Philippine Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay speaks during a meeting in Moscow, Russia

During questioning by senators at his confirmation hearing, Yasay said China's stance and strategic objectives in the South China Sea meant a resolution was unlikely.

"I do not believe personally ... that this will be resolved soon, I believe that maybe perhaps it will not be resolved during our lifetime, but the option is not war, that we engage ourselves forcibly to assert our claims," Yasay said.

"I am not saying this in categorical terms ... but now, as you ask me this question, on the basis of what I know and on the basis of pronouncements that have been made, I am not as optimistic."

Duterte has turned Philippine foreign policy upside down by making overtures towards rival China to attract its trade, tourists and infrastructure investment. Yasay said the new approach was to capitalise on a "convergence of our interests".

His remarks came a day after he chaired a meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers, who expressed "grave concern" over China putting weapons systems on some of its manmade islands in the South China Sea.

China is close to completing almost two dozen structures on those islets that appear designed to house long-range surface-to-air missiles, two U.S. officials told Reuters.

It was not clear whether the Southeast Asian countries were aware of that development when they met on Tuesday in Boracay.

Asked at his hearing if the Philippines owned the disputed islands it claims, Yasay said that would have "no legal basis".

He said the last year's arbitration award in The Hague ruled on what features fell within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone, but made no decision on sovereignty.

"Even as they have ruled in our favour overwhelmingly, this territory continues to be international waters," he said.

"We have to prove it (ownership) in the appropriate international tribunal."

However, he said the 12 nautical mile territorial sea of the Philippines was not in dispute and in the event of an encroachment by China, there would be a forceful defence, and support from the U.S. military as guaranteed in a 1951 Mutual Defence Treaty with Washington.

"That will be the action where we will have to make sure we will be asserting ourselves, defending ourselves, even using force if necessary," he said.

(Reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)


Student care centre employee jailed 10 years for sexually assaulting 8 boys

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎3 hours agoGo to full article
SINGAPORE: “Uncle Wong” came so highly recommended – by his pastor, no less – that he was hired by a student care centre on the spot.

He worked as a guardian at the centre, located at a primary school, for three years, and was popular with the students. He helped the boys with their homework and bought them sweets.

handcuffs file

He also molested them.

The disgraced guardian was sentenced to 10 years’ jail on Wednesday (Feb 22) after a 14-day trial. He was found guilty of 13 counts of sexual assault involving eight boys aged between eight and 11. The charges include 11 for molest, and two for giving and receiving oral sex from an 11-year-old boy.

“Uncle Wong”, as he was affectionately known, cannot be named to protect the identities of his victims.

The 66-year-old man had sexually abused the boys for three years, with his colleagues and his pastor none the wiser.

“Instead of guarding and protecting them, you took advantage of them,” District Judge Hamidah Ibrahim said, calling the man a “predator”.

The abuse came to light by chance. On Sep 13, 2013, two students and another guardian witnessed Wong slipping his hand under the table to touch a 10-year-old boy’s penis.

The guardian reported him to the centre’s supervisor, who reported him to the human resources manager, and a decision was made to suspend Wong immediately.

That night, the HR manager sent him a text message: “I received a very serious complaint about you today … I want you to meet me in church on Monday. You will be under immediate suspension from work … an investigation (will be) carried out.”

Wong responded more than an hour later: “Can’t … figure out what went wrong or (what) the complaint is about, so will just have to assure my heart before God.”

Then he called three of his victims to tell them the student care centre was investigating him, and not to tell anyone he had molested them. This showed he had “absolutely no remorse”, Judge Hamidah said.

Three days later, the HR manager visited the centre to speak to three boys who claimed they had been molested by Wong. She quickly realised there were many more victims involved, and made a police report the same day.

At his trial, the woman testified she hired Wong, who worked at the centre from January 2011 until September 2013, without interviewing him first. His was “a unique case”, she said, because he had come “recommended by his pastor, (who said) he was good with children and youths”.

Even his victims, who testified against him, had nothing damning to say.

One victim said Wong was a “caring teacher” who took the boys to church and bought them “ice pops and sweets”. Another victim said he was “friendly, kind and very patient” when helping the boys with their homework.

The man plans to appeal his conviction and sentence, his lawyer said. He is out on bail – set at S$100,000 – pending the hearing of his appeal.

A further eight charges against him, which involved more victims, were withdrawn.


China calls landmark Taiwan protests part of Chinese liberation struggle

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎3 hours agoGo to full article
BEIJING: China on Wednesday described landmark Taiwan protests against Nationalist troops in 1947 as part of China's liberation struggle that Taiwan independence forces were trying to hijack, ahead of commemorations next week for the 70th anniversary.

The "228 Incident", as it is known in Taiwan, has in recent years become a rallying point for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which favours formal independence for the democratic, self-ruled island China claims at its own.

Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist troops put down rioting sparked on Feb. 28, 1947, by a dispute between tobacco agents and a cigarette vendor in Taipei.

That led to island-wide protests against the Nationalists, who two years later took refuge on Taiwan after losing a civil war to the Communists and imposed martial law on Taiwan until 1987, ruling with an iron fist and locking up dissidents.

An Fengshan, spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, said the "228 Incident" was a "just action" by people in Taiwan against dictatorship and to fight for their basic rights.

"It is part of the Chinese people's liberation struggle," An told a regular news briefing.

"For a long time, this incident has been used by certain Taiwan independence forces for ulterior motives," he added.

"They have distorted historical fact, instigated contradictions based on provincial origin, tearing at Taiwan's ethnic groups, creating antagonism in society," An said. "I think the motives behind this are really despicable."

Feb. 28 is a national holiday in Taiwan, marked by solemn ceremonies for the dead and affirmations from politicians and the sitting president for Taiwan's vibrant democracy.

China is deeply suspicious of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who won election last year, suspected she and her party want to push for the island's formal independence, a red line for Beijing. Tsai says she wants to maintain peace with China.

Proudly democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in wanting to be ruled by autocratic China.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard)


Childcare centre in River Valley denies abuse allegations

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
SINGAPORE: A childcare centre in Singapore has denied allegations that it abused children under its care by neglecting them and feeding them rotten fruit.

In a statement sent to the media on Wednesday (Feb 22), Sam’s Early Learning Centre in Jalan Mutiara, off River Valley Road, said it believes the photos were posted by a disgruntled ex-employee who has since returned to China.

sam's early learning centre photos

The photos, which first surfaced on Chinese social media site WeChat last Tuesday, showed children sitting and lying on the floor without mattresses. One photo showed fruit in the centre’s kitchen, with a caption accusing the centre of feeding children rotten fruit. Another showed a child lying in a cot with a dirty diaper next to him and faeces smeared on his body.

The post also claimed that teachers at the centre did not prepare milk for a child with the milk powder provided by his parents, and threw the milk powder away instead.

Mrs Samia El-Ibiary, the centre's director, said the photos were taken last year and that they “do not represent an accurate picture” of its operations.

The photo of the “rotten fruit” showed uncut fruit not ready to be served to the children, she said. “The centre purchases fruit twice a week and certainly if any part does go bad overnight, (it) is cut out and thrown away. Certainly, if the whole fruit is bad, for sure it is disposed of.”

On the photos of students sitting on the floor, she said they had been assigned work to do as they finished their lunch. Those students lying down were doing “stretching and breathing exercises” after lunch, Mrs El-Ibiary said.

The photo of milk powder being discarded was of powder that had spilt onto the kitchen counter, and was swept up and thrown away for hygiene reasons, she said.

The child shown lying in a cot with a dirty diaper had a “habit of pulling his diapers off while in the process of having a bowel movement during his nap time”, Mrs El-Ibiary said. The teachers were aware of this and kept a “vigilant lookout” for this child, she added.

“On this particular day that the photo was taken, the teacher had called upon the cleaner to assist in the cleaning up of the child. The cleaner was asked to help wash the toddler while the teacher held him and distracted him.”

The child was under the centre’s care last year and he and his family have since moved back to their home country, she said.

The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), which oversees childcare centres in Singapore, said last Thursday that it is aware of the allegations and is investigating.

“The safety and wellbeing of children in child care centres are of utmost importance to ECDA,” it said. “Under the Child Care Centres Act, all childcare centres are required to meet the stipulated regulatory requirements to protect the safety, well-being and welfare of children in centres.”


China defends deportation of Taiwan citizens as internationally accepted

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
BEIJING: China on Wednesday defended the deportation of Taiwan citizens involved in overseas telecom fraud cases to China as having won widespread international approval, after Taiwan protested against Spain's decision to deport around 200.

The Spanish case is the latest involving Taiwan citizens abroad suspected of telecom fraud against China being rounded up with Chinese nationals and sent to China, angering Taipei.

Members of a Taiwanese independence group march with flags around a group of pro-China supporters h

China regards self-ruled Taiwan as a breakaway province to be united with the mainland eventually.

Last year, Taiwanese suspected of telecom fraud were deported, sometimes forcibly, according to the Taiwanese government, from countries including Kenya, Cambodia and Armenia, to China.

Asked about the Spanish case, An Fengshan, a spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, told a regular news conference the decision was taken in part because both the victims and evidence relating to the fraud were in China.

"This course of action has received widespread approval from people from both sides of the Taiwan Strait and the international community," he said.

The Spanish government said on Friday it had approved the extradition of 269 "Chinese citizens" as part of a year-long investigation into an Internet fraud ring operated from several Spanish cities, including Madrid and Barcelona.

Around 839 people were victims and the sum involved in the scam was estimated at around 120 million yuan (US$17.5 million), the Spanish justice ministry said in a statement.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said around 200 of the suspects were Taiwanese and that it deeply regretted the decision.

Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan at the end of a civil war with the Communists in 1949 and China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.

China has increasingly squeezed Taiwan's international space since last year's election of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party.


Western Sydney ban 14 fans after offensive banner display

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎5 hours agoGo to full article
SYDNEY: Western Sydney Wanderers have banned 14 fans for 18 months after a section of their 'Red and Black Bloc' supporters group displayed an "offensive" banner during their A-League clash with Sydney FC on Saturday.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) have issued a 'show cause' notice to the club in response to the banner, which they described as "offensive to any reasonable member of the public", and the club may face severe penalties from the governing body.

The banner, depicting a blue-faced man said to resemble Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold performing a sex act, was held aloft by Wanderers' fans during their 1-0 A-League victory at Sydney's Olympic Stadium.

Wanderers Chief Executive John Tsatsimas said in a statement on Tuesday the supporters group had shown disdain for the club.

"Following a thorough review of the incident on Saturday including review of CCTV footage at the venue and examination of those involved ... we have acted to remove them from our club," Tsatsimas said.

"This incident involved key leaders of the RBB who have shown no remorse for their actions of bringing our club and the game of football into disrepute and have continued to flaunt their disdain for the club and our diverse and inclusive membership family further on social media.

"As a club we have had enough and have put the entire group on notice."

The 2014 Asian Champions League winners said the bans were imposed by the club and not by the FFA or the venue.

Western Sydney added that if there was any further trouble from the group, either in person or on social media, then the entire section where they watch games - called the active supporter area - would be shut down.

Western Sydney have already been given a suspended points deduction until the end of the season after fans lit flares in a previous match.

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford)


Kim Jong Nam death: North Korean embassy official wanted for questioning

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎5 hours agoGo to full article


KUALA LUMPUR: Detectives probing the assassination of Kim Jong Un's half-brother want to question a North Korean diplomat, Malaysia's top policeman said Wednesday.

Investigators have put five North Koreans in the frame for last week's brazen killing of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport and have said they are seeking three more for questioning.

Malaysia's Royal Police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar (C) speaks during a news conference regarding t

They include the embassy's second secretary, Hyon Kwang Song, as well as a North Korean airline employee called Kim Uk Il, Malaysia's Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters. 

Hyon Kwang Song

Kim Uk Il

"We have written to the ambassador to allow us to interview both of them. We hope that the Korean embassy will cooperate with us and allow us to interview them quickly. If not, we will compel them to come to us," he said.

Jong Nam died on Feb 13 after being attacked as he waited for a plane to Macau.

Leaked CCTV footage from the airport shows the chubby 45-year-old being approached by two women, one of whom grabs him from behind and appears to shove a cloth in his face.

Moments later Jong Nam is seen seeking help from airport staff, who direct him to a clinic, where he apparently slumped in a chair.

Malaysian police say he suffered a seizure and died before he reached hospital, seemingly from the effects of a toxin.

Seoul has said from the start that Pyongyang was behind the murder, citing a "standing order" from Jong Un to kill his elder sibling, and a failed assassination bid in 2012.


The IGP added that no family members of Kim Jong Nam have come to Malaysia to give DNA samples to help with the identification of the deceased believed to be Kim Jong Nam,

He refuted reports of family members having arrived in Malaysia to help identify the body and said police will provide protection if indeed the family comes forward.

"Those are all rumours," said Khalid Abu Bakar, adding that the body of the deceased will not go to the North Korean embassy if the family does not come forward.

Khalid also said police security had been stepped up around the morgue where the body was held after an attempted break in. Police said they were investigating when asked if the person had links to North Korea or its embassy.

Khalid added that North Korean authorities have not provided Malaysia with any assistance with the investigation so far and have not provided the medical and dental records of the deceased that is required for identification.

Malaysia is extending the remand of three suspects already in custody - with the police chief saying two female suspects knew what they were doing.




The police chief dismissed claims the two women had believed the attack was a made-for-TV prank.

"Of course they knew" it was a poison attack, Khalid said. "I think you have seen the video, right? The lady was moving away with her hands towards the bathroom. She was very aware that it was toxic and that she needed to wash her hands."

Khalid said Vietnamese suspect Doan Thi Huong, 28, and Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, had been trained to swab the man's face, practising in Kuala Lumpur before the assault at the airport.

Aishah wiped a toxic substance in his face first, followed by Huong, the Malaysian police chief said.

Khalid said investigators had been "very fair" and the North Korean embassy now had a duty to assist them.

Pyongyang and Kuala Lumpur have been at daggers drawn over the attack, with North Korea's envoy insisting Jong Nam's body be returned and objecting to an autopsy.

Malaysia rejected the request, saying the remains must stay in the morgue until a family member identifies them and submits a DNA sample.

No next-of-kin have come forward, Khalid said, adding rumours that Jong Nam's son Kim Han-Sol was in Malaysia were not true.

First born Jong Nam was once thought to be the natural successor to his father, the then-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

But after Jong Il's death in 2011 the succession went instead to Kim Jong Un, a child of a later marriage.

Some analysts have said Jong Nam was a marked man since he criticised the regime in 2011 to a Japanese journalist, while others said the killing could have been ordered over reports he was readying to defect.

Reports of purges and executions have emerged from the current regime as the young leader tries to strengthen his grip on power in the face of international pressure over his nuclear and missile programmes.

Additional reporting by Amy Chew and Sumisha Naidu.


Australian PM criticises UN as Israeli PM arrives for state visit

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎6 hours agoGo to full article
SYDNEY: Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull offered a staunch defence of Israel on Wednesday, criticising the United Nations and vowing never to support "one-sided resolutions" calling for an end to Israeli settlement building on occupied land.

Turnbull welcomed Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday as the first Israeli prime minister to visit Australia and reiterated Australia's support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull shake hand

However, he also made clear Australia would not support any resolutions such as the one approved by the United Nations Security Council in December calling for an end to Israeli settlement building on land occupied by Palestinians.

"My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticising Israel of the kind recently adopted by the U.N Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimise the Jewish state," Turnbull wrote in an editorial in The Australian newspaper.

The U.N. resolution was approved in the final weeks of Barack Obama's administration, which broke with a long tradition of shielding Israel diplomatically and chose not to wield its veto power.

Israel for decades has pursued a policy of constructing Jewish settlements on territory captured by Israel in a 1967 war with its Arab neighbours including the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

Most countries view Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal and an obstacle to peace. Israel disagrees, citing a biblical connection to the land.

Washington's ambassador to the United Nations has said the United States still supports a two-state solution to the conflict, although new U.S. President Donald Trump has also said he is open to new ways to achieve peace.

The two-state solution has long been the bedrock of Washington and the international community's policy for a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Trump's apparent loosening of the main tenet of U.S. Middle Eastern policy, at a joint news conference with Netanyahu last week, stunned the international community.

"We support an outcome which has two states where Israelis, the Israeli people, the Palestinian people live side-by-side as a result of direct negotiations between them," Turnbull later told reporters in Sydney.

Netanyahu said he did not want to be drawn into "labels" but said any solution would need Palestine to recognise Israel, which would also have security control of the territories.

While in Australia, Netanyahu is scheduled to sign agreements fostering closer economic and defence cooperation.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Paul Tait)


Elevator scion who defaced Trump's Hollywood star gets probation

‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎6 hours agoGo to full article
LOS ANGELES: The elevator company scion who defaced Donald Trump's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame during the presidential campaign last autumn pleaded no contest on Tuesday to felony vandalism and received three years' probation.

James Lambert Otis, 53, has admitted using a sledgehammer and pickax to smash the pink terrazzo star and remove the brass medallion from the center of the sidewalk plaque in an act of protest caught on video in the predawn darkness in October.


Otis, a member of the family behind the Connecticut-based Otis Elevator Company, a leading manufacturer of elevators, escalators and moving walkways, was taken into custody the next day.

Acknowledging a history of arrests for various acts of civil disobedience over the years, Otis told reporters after his release from jail that he vandalized Trump's star to show support for women who had accused Trump of sexual harassment and abuse.

Trump, who became president last month, received his Walk of Fame star in 2007 as then-host of the NBC hit show "The Apprentice," in which he popularized the catchphrase, "You're fired."

He drew widespread condemnation during his White House bid after a 2005 video emerged in which he was heard talking on an open microphone about groping women and trying to seduce a married woman.

Trump shrugged off the recorded comments as "locker-room" banter and denied allegations lodged by several women that he had groped them.

Otis pleaded no contest - the equivalent to a guilty plea in California - to a single count of vandalism on Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

He was immediately sentenced to three years of formal probation, plus 20 days of road maintenance work. He was also ordered to pay US$3,700 to the Hollywood Historic Trust, which maintains the Walk of Fame, and US$700 to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which administers the attraction.

Had he been tried and convicted, Otis faced a maximum penalty of three years in prison.

Trump's sidewalk star on Hollywood Boulevard has been repaired at a cost of nearly US$3,000, according to the chamber.

The Walk of Fame, a state-registered historic landmark and a leading attraction in Los Angeles' Hollywood district, features stars honoring 2,602 celebrities from five categories of entertainment - film, television, radio, stage and recordings. About 20 to 24 are added each year.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Peter Cooney)


Sri Lanka's Dickwella gets two-match ban for another misconduct

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎8:30:13 AMGo to full article
REUTERS: Sri Lanka opener Niroshan Dickwella has been banned for two limited-over matches after his latest breach of ICC code of conduct, the International Cricket Council said on Tuesday.

Dickwella was found guilty of "showing dissent at an umpire's decision" during the second Twenty20 International against Australia in Geelong on Sunday, for which he received two demerit points and was fined 30 percent of his match fee.

Sri Lanka Nets

If a player accumulates four to seven demerit points within a two-year period they are converted into two suspension points, which brings a ban for one test or two one-day internationals or Twenty20s.

Dickwella was given a 50 percent fine and three demerit points in the fourth ODI against South Africa in Cape Town on Feb. 8, and the two additional demerits means he has exceeded the threshold of four demerits in a two-year period.

The 23-year-old will accordingly miss the third Twenty20 International against Australia in Adelaide on Feb. 22, and Sri Lanka's first ODI against Bangladesh on March 25, the ICC said.

Dickwella was adjudged to have shown dissent when he "kicked the turf and looked at his shoulder for a prolonged period of time" after pausing to view the replay following his dismissal in Geelong, the ICC added.

Australia wicketkeeper Tim Paine was also fined 15 percent of his match fee and given one demerit point for a related incident in the same game.

Paine was found guilty of "using language, actions or gestures which disparage or which could provoke an aggressive reaction from a batsman upon his/her dismissal during an International Match," the ICC added.

Sri Lanka have already wrapped up the ongoing series Down Under after winning the first two Twenty20 Internationals.

(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)


India keen to take down Australia for perfect end to Cricketing season

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎8:25:15 AMGo to full article
NEW DELHI: The Indian test juggernaut, with Virat Kohli at the wheel, has crushed almost everything in its path over the last 18 months and Australia will have to conjure up something special if they are to upset the hosts in their four-match series.

With the opening test between the world's top two test teams beginning in Pune on Thursday, the odds are stacked heavily in favour of hosts India, who have gone 19 tests without defeat.

Cricket - India v England - Fifth Test cricket match

In the final phase of their bumper home season, India are sitting pretty at the top of the test rankings after six consecutive series victories.

Significantly, their last three home series victories, over New Zealand, England and Bangladesh, were underpinned by all-round excellence and came on fair surfaces, not the dustbowls on which India typically thrive.

The series against Australia marks the end of India's 13-test home season and Kohli wants his team to maintain the level they have been playing at.

"It's a big series for us," Kohli told reporters earlier this month. "I thought England was the biggest for us in the season but having won that 4-0 there is lot of expectation on us.

"The way we have played our cricket as well I think we want to continue that," added India's batting mainstay.

Earlier this month, the 28-year-old became the first cricketer to hit a double century in four consecutive test series and his team posted 600-plus totals in three consecutive tests, another first.

That middle order bat Karun Nair had to be dropped in the one-off test against Bangladesh despite scoring a triple century in the previous match against England is another indication of the team's batting might.


When India bowl, Ravichandran Ashwin has done with the ball what Kohli has done with the bat.

The off-spinner, currently the top ranked test bowler, has been in the form of his life, becoming the quickest to the 250-wicket club after achieving the feat in just 45 tests.

The off-spinner with his bag of tricks will torment Smith and his men, often bowling relentlessly in tandem with spin partner Ravindra Jadeja, with a shoal of fielders hanging around the blade.

Smith is aware of the challenge that awaits Australia, who have lost nine consecutive test matches in Asia.

"We know it's going to be difficult," he said. "India are a very good team, particularly in there home conditions here. We have prepared very well."

Cricket Australia recruited ex-England spinner Monty Panesar and former India left-arm spinning all-rounder Sridharan Sriram to work with their slow bowlers.

Smith will rely more on the pace duo of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, who would have to generate enough reverse swing to be effective on relatively docile Indian tracks.

The visitors can also take heart from the fact that three of the four matches will be played on new venues - Pune, Ranchi and Dharamsala - which will negate some of India's home advantage.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)


Purchase of drugs by Metro scion does not amount to trafficking: Defence

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎8:25:07 AMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Metro scion Ong Jenn is "ready to face the music" for taking cannabis but he should not be found guilty of trafficking the drug, said his defence on Tuesday (Feb 21). 

Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng argued that a simple buyer purchasing drugs for himself cannot be said to have "conspired to traffic with his dealer".

Ong Jenn

Ong, whose grandfather founded the iconic Metro department stores, is on trial for allegedly abetting convicted drug trafficker Mohamed Ismail Abdul Majid to traffic in cannabis.

However, the defence argued that the proposition put forward by the prosecution was "unsustainable in fact and in law”.

“Surely the purchase of cannabis by (an abuser) is not to be equated to the abetment of its trafficking by the dealer”, Mr Tan said. “This line of argument is wholly perverse and runs fundamentally contradictory to even our decidedly strict legislative regime on drugs.”

On Tuesday, Ong insisted in court that the drugs he bought from his regular dealer Ismail, whom he knew as "Mike", were to feed his own addiction.

They had struck a deal for Ismail to sell Ong 500g of cannabis for S$5,000 on Oct 30, 2014. Ismail was arrested the same day, before he could deliver the drugs to Ong. He gave investigators information leading to Ong’s arrest the next day.

On the stand, Ong said his first encounter with cannabis, also known as weed or marijuana, was in the US where he studied in the 1990s. Marijuana was “freely and readily available” there and he developed an addition, he said. 

“Marijuana calmed me down, helped me focus, helped me sleep”, he said, explaining that he suffers from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and insomnia.

Since his arrest, “he has weaned himself off” cannabis, Mr Tan said, adding that Ong was “ready to face the music”.

On Monday, Ismail had denied that Ong worked with him to traffic cannabis and testified that Ong had no idea from whom or where the drugs came from, or even how much they cost.

The investigator in charge of the case had also testified earlier this month that he never found any evidence suggesting a third party was involved, or that Ong intended to on-sell the drugs. He only said that by buying the drugs, Ong was abetting the trafficking of cannabis – to himself.

The trial continues on Tuesday afternoon.  


Singapore Heart Foundation files police report over flag day 'volunteers'

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎8:25:06 AMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: The Singapore Heart Foundation (SHF) has filed a police report against a group of "volunteers" who canvassed for donations at Bugis Junction on Sunday (Feb 19), the organisation said. 

In a press release on Tuesday, SHF chief executive officer Vernon Kang said the group had SHF's flag day stickers and claimed to be representing the organisation to help raise funds for low income students and former convicts. 

File Photo Bugis Junction

However, SHF had not commissioned any volunteers to carry out fund-raising activities at that time and location, Mr Kang added. 

The CEO said representatives from SHF are required to carry an identification (ID) badge and a copy of the Collectors Certificate of Authority (CCA) issued by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS).

This ID will display the name of each individual fundraiser, and members of the public are encouraged to contact SHF directly and provide them with the full name or ID badge number of the representative if they wish to verify the individual, he added. 

"We want to reassure the public that SHF does not condone such activities," Mr Kang said. 


HSBC's 2016 pre-tax profit slumps 62 percent; sets new US$1 billion share buy-back

‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎8:20:25 AMGo to full article
HONG KONG: HSBC Holdings reported a 62 percent slump in annual pre-tax profit that fell way short of analysts' estimates due to one-time charges related to some businesses, and announced a new US$1 billion share buy-back.

Europe's biggest bank by assets said on Tuesday profit before tax for 2016 fell to US$7.1 billion from US$18.87 billion in the previous year. That compared with the average analyst estimate of US$14.4 billion, according to Thomson Reuters data.

FILE PHOTO - The HSBC bank logo is pictured at a branch office at the Paradeplatz in Zurich

The 2016 profit reflected a US$3.2 billion impairment of goodwill in its global private banking business in Europe and the impact of its sale of operations in Brazil, the bank said in a statement to the stock exchanges.

The private banking impairment charges mainly relate to its acquisition of Safra Republic Holdings in 1999, it said, without giving details.

"We have considered it appropriate to write off the remaining goodwill in the European private banking business," it said, adding the restructuring of global private banking is now largely complete.

The US$1 billion share buy-back takes HSBC's announced buy-backs since the second half of 2016 to US$3.5 billion following the bank's disposal of its Brazil unit in July last year in a US$5.2 billion deal.

"We are investing over US$2 billion in digital transformation initiatives to improve our offer to customers, and are instigating a further US$1 billion buy-back program reflecting the strength and flexibility of our balance sheet," Stuart Gulliver, group chief executive, said in a statement.

HSBC's shares have been among the best-performing European bank stocks since Britain voted in June to leave the European Union, climbing 53 percent against a 28 percent increase in the STOXX Europe index of 600 banks as the bank benefited from appreciation of the U.S. dollar and stronger capital levels.

The British bank, which has said it may move 1, 000 jobs to Paris following Britain's exit from the European Union, has said it had so far seen little impact from the referendum outcome on its business.

(Reporting By Sumeet Chatterjee and Lawrence White; Additional reporting by Michelle Price; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)




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