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Global stocks mostly rise on hopes for higher US rates

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎3 hours agoGo to full article
A man walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016. Asian shares were mostly higher Tuesday as hopes continued for a U.S. Federal Reserve interest rate cut later this year. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)TOKYO (AP) — Global shares were mostly higher Tuesday as hopes continued for a U.S. Federal Reserve interest rate hike later this year.
 
 

Obama to juggle security, climate, rights on final Asia trip

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎11:27:50 PMGo to full article
In this photo taken Nov. 30, 2015, President Barack Obama meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Le Bourget, France. A trade deal that is a centerpiece of Obama's efforts to counter Chinese influence in Asia hangs in the balance as he makes his last visit to Asia as president. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama faces thorny talks about the fight against the Islamic State group, climate change and human rights when he sets off this week across the Pacific for an eight-day valedictory tour through Asia.
 
 

Kerry urges Bangladesh to step up efforts against terrorism

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎10:41:05 PMGo to full article
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, meets with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Prime Minister’s office in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Monday, Aug. 29, 2016. Kerry called Monday for Bangladesh to step up efforts to fight extremist violence and protect and promote human rights amid increasing concern about terrorism in the South Asian nation in the wake of a series of militant attacks. (AP Photo)NEW DELHI (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Monday for Bangladesh to step up efforts to fight extremist violence, come to terms with links between local and international militants and protect and promote human rights.
 
 

Driverless taxi firm eyes operations in 10 cities by 2020

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎9:56:42 PMGo to full article
Doug Parker, COO of nuTonomy, the developer of the software for driverless taxis, pictured alongside one of the vehicles during an interview with AFP reporter in Singapore on August 29, 2016A US software firm which chose Singapore for the world's first public trial of driverless taxis hopes to be operating in 10 Asian and US cities by 2020, an executive said Monday. Doug Parker, nuTonomy's chief operating officer, said the firm is eyeing tests by early next year in three other Asian countries which he declined to name. More than a dozen people in Singapore have already experienced a ride in the "robo-taxi" within the confines of one-north, an enclave of technology and science research institutes outside the central business district.
 
 

Islam Karimov: Ex-Soviet strongman who dominates Uzbekistan

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎6:40:42 PMGo to full article
Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov, pictured in 2015, has played Russia, China and the West off against one other to avoid total isolation after steering his strategic state out of the collapse of the Soviet UnionLong lambasted for brutally crushing dissent, Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov has kept a stranglehold on power for over 25 years -- even at the expense of his own daughter. The veteran leader, 78, now fighting for his life in intensive care according to his family, has played Russia, China and the West off against one other to avoid total isolation after steering his strategic state out of the collapse of the Soviet Union. In a court drama with echoes of Shakespeare, the former Soviet apparatchik -- at the helm since 1989 -- reportedly had his eldest daughter put under house arrest in 2014 during a family feud in which she compared him to brutal Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.
 
 

Climate change looms large in Obama's final trip to Asia

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎5:48:38 PMGo to full article
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the National Park Service at Yosemite National Park, CaliforniaBy Roberta Rampton WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When President Barack Obama sets out this week to meet world leaders in China and Laos during his final presidential trip to Asia, he will make an unusual stop along the way. With time running out for more action on climate change during his time in office, Obama will drop in to Midway Atoll, a far-flung and largely uninhabited coral reef that is a refuge for sharks, albatrosses and endangered turtles and seals. The photo-rich stop is aimed at both raising awareness about the threat posed by climate change, and showcasing Obama's decision to protect a larger part of the ocean around Hawaii.
 
 

Less haze this year, Indonesia promises

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎5:29:29 PMGo to full article
A water bomber drops its payload as a police officer tries to extinguish a peat fire in KamparBy Fergus Jensen JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia's Disaster Agency said it is confident the country's forest fires and haze of toxic smoke they send over Southeast Asia are unlikely to reach levels seen in 2015 because of favorable weather conditions and a quicker emergency response. Last year's fires were among of the worst on record, straining relations between Indonesia and its neighbors, and costing the country at least $16 billion in economic losses, equivalent to 1.9 percent of its gross domestic product, according to the World Bank. "We are certain this year things will be better," agency spokesman Sutopo Nugroho told reporters on Monday, referring to a 61 percent reduction in hotspots seen 2016 compared with a year ago.
 
 

Singapore steps up Zika prevention effort as confirmed cases rise to 56

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎5:17:53 PMGo to full article
A worker fogs the corridor of a public housing estate in the vicinity where a locally transmitted Zika virus case was discovered, in SingaporeBy Nicole Nee and Imogen Braddick SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore confirmed 15 new cases of locally-transmitted Zika infections on Monday, taking the tally to 56 as authorities step up efforts to contain the outbreak. All the cases were in or near the Aljunied area in the southeast of the city-state, and most were foreign workers from a nearby construction site owned by GuocoLand, where testing for the virus is now complete, the health ministry said in a statement. The National Environment Agency (NEA) has inspected foreign workers' dormitories as well as thousands of other premises in the area and in six other parts of the island.
 
 

Singapore battles mosquitoes as Zika cases reach 50

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎4:56:32 PMGo to full article
Singapore has a chronic problem with dengue, which is spread by the same Aedes mosquito that transmits Zika through bitesSingapore on Monday confirmed more Zika infections, bringing the total number of cases past 50 as mosquito-fighting teams saturated the scene of the outbreak amid growing public alarm. In a statement, the Ministry of Health and the National Environment Agency said they had found 15 new cases of locally transmitted Zika virus, all in an eastern suburban area known as Aljunied, up from 41 on Sunday. Most of those affected were foreign workers at a condominium construction project.
 
 

Egypt seeks tougher punishment for female genital mutilation

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎4:55:35 PMGo to full article
- PHOTO TAKEN 13JUN06 - A counsellor holds up cards used to educate women about female genital mutil..By Menna Zaki CAIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Women's rights activists hailed the Egyptian government on Monday for advocating increased prison sentences for perpetrators of female genital mutilation (FGM) but warned that a new law could shroud the practice in greater secrecy. Egypt's cabinet on Sunday approved a bill, which must be passed by parliament to become law, imposing jail terms of up to seven years for people who perform FGM and up to three years for those who escort a girl or woman to undergo the practice. It is currently punishable in Egypt by between three months and two years in prison under a 2008 law, which was enacted after an 11-year-old girl died following an FGM procedure.
 
 

Poland: Germany wrong to criticize anti-migrant EU partners

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎3:17:59 PMGo to full article
German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets members of the public at the Federal Chancellery during the 18th open day of the German Federal Government in Berlin, Germany, Sunday Aug. 28, 2016. (Rainer Jensen/dpa via AP)WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland says German Chancellor Angela Merkel is wrong to criticize European Union partners who are refusing to give refugee protection to Muslims.
 
 

Kremlin expresses deep regret over illness of Uzbek president

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎2:15:44 PMGo to full article
The Kremlin said on Monday it deeply regrets the illness of Uzbek President Islam Karimov who suffered a brain hemorrhage on Saturday. The Kremlin declined to comment on whether it was concerned by a possible aggravation of the situation in Central Asia's most populous country which borders Afghanistan, in the event of Karimov's death. "Such formulation of the question is inappropriate and I repeat once again: the Kremlin wishes a quick recovery to the president of Uzbekistan," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with journalists.
 

Philippines' Duterte offers reward for corrupt police linked to drugs

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎2:08:42 PMGo to full article
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a National Heroes Day commemoration at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes' Cemetery) in Taguig at Taguig cityPhilippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday promised rewards running to tens of thousands of dollars for information leading to the capture of police officers protecting drug syndicates and warned corrupt officials they would face "a day of reckoning". In a National Heroes Day speech, Duterte said there would be no let-up in a "war on drugs" in which - according to police figures - more than 1,900 people have been killed since he came to power two months ago. Police say the toll of about 36 people a day is a result of drug dealers resisting arrest or gang feuds.
 
 

Islamic State 'connected' to Bangladesh, says Kerry, offering security aid

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎1:43:30 PMGo to full article
Kerry attends a news conference after a meeting on Syria in GenevaBy Lesley Wroughton and Serajul Quadir DHAKA (Reuters) - The United States believes that elements of Islamic State are "connected" to operatives in Bangladesh, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday, promising help with intelligence and law enforcement after a wave of militant attacks. Kerry's blunt statement followed the July 1 attack on a cafe in an upscale district of the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, in which 22 people were killed - mostly non-Muslims and foreigners, including one American. It directly contradicted the narrative of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government, which has blamed homegrown militants and denied a foreign hand in the hostage taking at the Holey Artisan Bakery that was claimed by Islamic State.
 
 

Uzbek leader in intensive care after brain hemorrhage - daughter

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎1:39:32 PMGo to full article
Uzbek President Karimov speaks during a joint news conference at the Kremlin in MoscowAuthoritarian Uzbek leader Islam Karimov, whose Central Asian country is a stage for strategic rivalry between Russia, China and the West, is in stable condition in an intensive care ward after suffering a brain hemorrhage on Saturday, his daughter said. President Karimov, 78, who has run Uzbekistan since it was a Soviet republic and wields sweeping powers, has no obvious successor, a situation characteristic of the volatile Central Asia region which is still largely run by former Communist apparatchiks. The absence of a strong political opposition or free media means any eventual transition of power is likely to be decided within a close circle of Karimov's family and top officials.
 
 

AP PHOTOS: Editor selections from the past week in Asia

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎7:15:14 AMGo to full article
In this Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016 photo, military personnel clear debris at a temple that was damaged by a strong earthquake in Bagan, Myanmar. Using brooms and their hands soldiers and residents of the ancient Myanmar city famous for it's historic Buddhist pagodas, began cleaning up the debris from a powerful earthquake that shook the region and damaged nearly 200 temples Wednesday. (AP Photo/Min Kyi Thein, File)At least four people were killed and more than 170 pagodas were damaged in the ancient city of Bagan in Myanmar after a magnitude-6.8 earthquake struck the area last week. Bagan is one of Myanmar's top tourist attractions, drawing visitors who can view a panorama of temples stretching to the horizon flanked by the Irrawaddy River. The city has more than 2,200 structures constructed in the 10th to 14th centuries, including pagodas and temples. Many are in disrepair, while others have been restored in recent years, aided by the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO.
 
 

Asian stocks lower, except for Tokyo, on Yellen speech

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎4:18:57 AMGo to full article
TOKYO (AP) — Most Asian stocks slipped Monday on remarks from the U.S. Federal Reserve late last week that the case has strengthened for raising interest rates, but the Tokyo market was an exception and gained on prospects for a strong dollar.
 

Endwell, New York, wins Little League World Series

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎12:46:48 AMGo to full article
Endwell, N.Y., pitcher Ryan Harlost, center, celebrates with teammates after getting the final out of the Little League World Series Championship baseball game against South Korea in South Williamsport, Pa., Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — As Ryan Harlost stepped to the mound on Sunday, he took it all in.
 
 

Uzbekistan's longtime ruler Islam Karimov hospitalized

 
‎Sunday, ‎August ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎7:46:05 PMGo to full article
FILE In this file photo taken on Friday, July 10, 2015, Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov gestures while speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin during the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) summit in Ufa, Russia. Uzbekistan's government has issued, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, an unusual statement announcing the hospitalization of President Islam Karimov, who has ruled the former Soviet republic in Central Asia for more than 25 years. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)MOSCOW (AP) — Uzbekistan's government issued an unusual statement on Sunday announcing the hospitalization of President Islam Karimov, who has ruled the former Soviet republic in Central Asia for more than 25 years.
 
 

Veteran Uzbek leader in hospital as succession issue looms

 
‎Sunday, ‎August ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎6:08:59 PMGo to full article
Uzbek President Karimov speaks during a joint news conference at the Kremlin in MoscowBy Olzhas Auyezov ALMATY (Reuters) - Islam Karimov, the 78-year-old president of Central Asia's most populous country, is undergoing hospital treatment, Uzbekistan's government said on Sunday, in a rare statement about the health of a reclusive leader who lacks an obvious successor. A government statement did not say what Karimov was being treated for or how serious his illness was, but official statements on his health are very uncommon. Karimov, whose ex-Soviet nation of 32 million people borders Afghanistan, has been Uzbek leader since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and wields sweeping powers.
 
 

Singapore reports 41 locally transmitted Zika cases

 
‎Sunday, ‎August ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎3:48:05 PMGo to full article
Workers are seen fogging a housing estate in Singapore on August 28, 2016 after authorities reported more than 40 locally transmitted cases of the Zika virusSingapore on Sunday confirmed 41 locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus, which can cause deformities in unborn babies, and said more infections are likely. A day after announcing its first locally transmitted case, that of a 47-year-old Malaysian woman resident, the government reported 40 more -- mostly foreign workers at a construction site. All 41 are residents or workers in a particular suburban residential and industrial district, the Ministry of Health and the National Environment Agency said in a joint statement.
 
 

Volunteers give kiss of life as Laos road tolls mount

 
‎Sunday, ‎August ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎5:58:05 AMGo to full article
Vientiane Rescue volunteers help an injured motorcycle driver following a drink-driving accident in LaosVientiane (AFP) - "Look at me, stay with us," the paramedics shout as a barely conscious motorcyclist is bundled into a volunteer ambulance in the Laotian capital Vientiane, where rampant drink driving brings nightly carnage to the roads. Founded in 2010 by a group of foreigners, "Vientiane Rescue" is a lifeline for those in need of urgent medical care. Poorly maintained roads, dilapidated vehicles, an increase in motorcycle use and the widespread prevalence of drink driving makes Vientiane one of Asia's most precarious capitals for road deaths.
 
 

As Obama heads to Laos, signs of a tilt away from China

 
‎Sunday, ‎August ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎5:24:45 AMGo to full article
Laos' Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith (L) and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi hold a news conference after a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in BeijingBy Marius Zaharia VIENTIANE (Reuters) - The secretive communist government of Laos, a country with a population of less than 7 million, rarely causes a ripple on the diplomatic circuit. Barack Obama will be among them, making the last push of his presidency to 'rebalance' Washington's foreign policy toward Asia, a strategy widely seen as a response to China's economic and military muscle-flexing across the region. The might of Laos' giant neighbor to the north is hard to miss in Vientiane: wealthy Chinese driving SUVs overtake tuk-tuks sputtering along the roads and Chinese-backed hotels sprout from noisy construction sites in one of Asia's most low-rise cities.
 
 

South Korea beats Panama in LLWS international title game

 
‎Saturday, ‎August ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎11:53:04 PMGo to full article
South Korea's Wontae Cho celebrates with a salute after hitting a home run off Panama's Anel Calderon during the third inning of the International championship baseball game at the Little League World Series, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016, in South Williamsport, Pa. South Korea won 7-2. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — Youbin Choi struck out 14 and South Korea beat Panama 7-2 Saturday to reach the championship game of the Little League World Series.
 
 

Fire sweeps through Russian warehouse, killing 17 workers

 
‎Saturday, ‎August ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎3:41:51 PMGo to full article
Colleagues and relatives of dead workers from Kyrgyzstan react as they gather next to the burnt building of a printing plant's warehouse in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016. Russian emergency services say a fire swept through a printing plant's warehouse in Moscow on Saturday, killing 17 migrant workers from Kyrgyzstan. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)MOSCOW (AP) — A fire swept through a Moscow printing plant warehouse on Saturday, killing 17 migrant workers from Kyrgyzstan, Russia's emergency services said. A representative of the Kyrgyz community said the victims were all young women trapped in a dressing room while changing into their work clothes.
 
 

Filipinos seen backing Duterte despite rising drug killings

 
‎Saturday, ‎August ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎8:55:00 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, file photo, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures with a fist bump during his visit to the Philippine Army's Camp Mateo Capinpin at Tanay township, Rizal province east of Manila, Philippines. Since Duterte unleashed a massive anti-drug crackdown after taking office barely two months ago, nearly 2,000 suspected drug pushers and users have been killed. He has called the pope a son of a bitch, the U.S. ambassador gay, the United Nations inutile, and threatened to declare martial law if the Supreme Court meddles in his work. But, according to a survey early last month, he has the support of nearly 91 percent of Filipinos. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File)MANILA, Philippines (AP) — On the day he was sworn into office, President Rodrigo Duterte went to a Manila slum and exhorted residents who knew any drug addicts to "go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful."
 
 

UN condemns 4 North Korean ballistic missile launches

 
‎Saturday, ‎August ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎6:25:15 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, file photo, a South Korean army soldier watches a TV news program showing images published in North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper of North Korea's ballistic missile believed to have been launched from underwater and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, at Seoul Railway station in Seoul, South Korea. The UN Security Council is strongly condemning four North Korean ballistic missile launches in July and August, calling them "grave violations" of a ban on all ballistic missile activity. A press statement approved by all 15 members Friday night deplored the fact that the North's ballistic missile activities are contributing to its development of nuclear weapon delivery systems and increasing tensions. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council strongly condemned four North Korean ballistic missile launches in July and August on Friday night, calling them "grave violations" of a ban on all ballistic missile activity.
 
 

Stocks end mostly lower after Yellen speech

 
‎Friday, ‎August ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎11:07:20 PMGo to full article
FILE - This Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014, file photo, shows a Wall Street sign adjacent to the New York Stock Exchange. Stocks rose in early trading Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, following two days of declines after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen gave an upbeat assessment on the U.S. economy. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks ended mostly lower on Friday after Federal Reserve officials said the case has strengthened for raising interest rates above the super-low levels that have helped fuel a seven-year bull market.
 
 

Turkey unveils 3rd Istanbul bridge linking Europe with Asia

 
‎Friday, ‎August ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎7:15:53 PMGo to full article
Red and white balloons, symbolising the colours of Turkish national flag, float in the air during the inauguration of the new Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, the third bridge over the Bosporus, in Istanbul, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. (Tolga Adanali, Depo Photos via AP)ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey opened one of the world's largest bridges Friday designed to allow traffic to cross the Bosphorus Strait between Europe and Asia and ease congestion in Istanbul.
 
 

Gabon looks to Asia to diversify economy

 
‎Friday, ‎August ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎7:09:45 PMGo to full article
Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba gesturing as he speaks to journalists during an interview in Libreville on August 12, 2016President Ali Bongo, who is seeking reelection Saturday, has turned to Asia in his bid to diversify Gabon's oil-dependent economy, but his critics dismiss the changes as largely cosmetic. The economy is a key issue in the presidential election, which Bongo hopes will deliver him a second seven-year term. In the north, a large area of forest is being cleared to make way for a rubber plantation developed by Singapore's giant Olam group as part of a $400 million investment the company says will generate 5,000 jobs in the long term.
 
 

Erdogan opens third bridge over Istanbul's Bosphorus

 
‎Friday, ‎August ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎6:48:47 PMGo to full article
A picture taken on August 26, 2016 in Istanbul shows a general view of the Yavuz Sultan Selim bridge during its inaugurationPresident Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday inaugurated the third bridge over the Bosphorus Strait between Europe and Asia in Istanbul, a spectacular project at the heart of his drive to create a lasting historical legacy. The work -- one of the longest suspension bridges in the world -- will allow Erdogan to show that his dream of creating a glitzy "new Turkey" with ultra-modern infrastructure is on track despite the July 15 failed coup and a string of militant attacks. Erdogan cut the ribbon to open the bridge and was then driven across in a presidential bus flanked by a security convoy of dozens of cars and motorcycle outriders.
 
 

Tribe trucks totem pole 4,800 miles in fossil fuels protest

 
‎Friday, ‎August ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎6:17:02 PMGo to full article
Linda Soriano of the Lummi Nation performs a smudge ceremony at Saint Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, fanning smoke from burning sage with eagle feathers onto a totem pole, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. The 22-foot-tall Lummi Nation totem pole is traveling nearly 5,000 miles across the U.S. and Canada to galvanize opposition to the development of fossil fuel infrastructure, particularly around sea ports in Oregon and Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Valdes)PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A Pacific Northwest tribe is traveling nearly 5,000 miles across Canada and the United States with a 22-foot-tall totem pole on a flatbed truck in a symbolic journey meant to galvanize opposition to fossil fuel infrastructure projects they believe will imperil native lands.
 
 

Smoke from Indonesian fires hits 'unhealthy' level in Singapore

 
‎Friday, ‎August ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎5:14:12 PMGo to full article
A fishing kelong is pictured, in front of cranes at a Malaysian shipyard shrouded by haze, from the northeastern coast of SingaporeBy Marius Zaharia and Fergus Jensen SINGAPORE/JAKARTA (Reuters) - Air pollution in Singapore rose to the "unhealthy" level on Friday as acrid smoke drifted over the island from fires on Indonesia's Sumatra island, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said. Every dry season, smoke from fires set to clear land for palm oil and pulp and paper plantations in Indonesia clouds the skies over much of the region, raising concern about public health and worrying tourist operators and airlines. The 24-hour Pollution Standards Index (PSI), which Singapore's NEA uses as a benchmark, rose as high as 105 in the afternoon.
 
 

Canada's former Tory PM Stephen Harper quits politics

 
‎Friday, ‎August ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎4:43:11 PMGo to full article
Former Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks in Ottawa on April 15, 2015Canada's former prime minister Stephen Harper announced Friday he was quitting politics, 10 months after voters tossed his Tories out of office in a general election. Pundits suggested shunning Harper policies, notably his dismissive approach to climate change, while others have urged the party to track to the political middle to appeal to a broader electorate.
 
 

Philippine rebels agree to indefinite cease-fire

 
‎Friday, ‎August ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎4:41:10 PMGo to full article
Representative of the Philippine government, Jesus Dureza, 2nd left, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Boerge Brende , centre, and representative of the communist movement the National Democratic Front of the Philippines Luis Jalandoni, 2nd right, during the meeting for the signing of a joint declaration in which both parties undertake unilateral ceasefires without time constraints. (Berit Roald / NTB via AP) Photo: Berti Roald / NTB SCANPIX Representant for den filippinske regjeringen, (f.v) Jesus Dureza (GPH), utenriksminister Børge Brende og representant for kommunistbevegelsen National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Luis Jalandoni etter signeringen av en felleserklæring hvor begge parter forplikter seg til unilaterale våpenhviler uten tidsbegrensninger. Signeringen finner sted på Holmenkollen Park Hotell, fredag. Foto: Berit Roald / NTB scanpixOSLO, Norway (AP) — Philippine communist rebels on Friday agreed to an indefinite cease-fire in peace talks with government officials aimed at ending one of Asia's longest-running insurgencies.
 
 

Philippine troops kill 11 Islamist militants

 
‎Friday, ‎August ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎2:06:56 PMGo to full article
Philippine commandos killed 11 Islamist militants on a remote southern island on Friday, an army spokesman said, stepping up the offensive after President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated his aim to "destroy" one of Asia's most notorious kidnap gangs. Major Filemon Tan said dozens of Abu Sayyaf rebels, a small but brutal group affiliated with Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, were also wounded in the 45-minute gun battle in the jungle of Jolo island. Seventeen commandos were wounded, Tan said, adding the soldiers clashed with about 100 Abu Sayyaf militants holding about 20 hostages, including eight Indonesians, five Malaysians, a Norwegian and a Dutch national.
 

Singapore shrouded in smog as haze returns to SE Asia

 
‎Friday, ‎August ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎12:11:23 PMGo to full article
Singapore's air quality index reached unhealthy levels on August 26, 2016, with conditions deteriorating through the dayAcrid smog blanketed Singapore Friday as the city-state was hit by the year’s first major outbreak of haze, an annual crisis sparked by forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia. Singapore's air quality index reached unhealthy levels with conditions deteriorating through the day, marking the worst haze episode in the city since vast parts of Southeast Asia were blanketed in smoke in 2015. Last year's haze outbreak was among the worst in memory, shrouding Malaysia, Singapore, and parts of Thailand in acrid smoke.
 
 

Indonesia seizes hundreds of frozen pangolins

 
‎Friday, ‎August ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎11:59:44 AMGo to full article
Indonesian authorities have seized more than 650 critically endangered pangolins found hidden in freezers and arrested a man for allegedly breaking wildlife protection lawsIndonesian authorities have seized more than 650 critically endangered pangolins found hidden in freezers and arrested a man for allegedly breaking wildlife protection laws, police said Friday. Police discovered the pangolins, known as "scaly anteaters", when they raided a house in Jombang district on the main island of Java after local residents became suspicious about the large number of freezers in the property. A total of 657 pangolins, which are consumed as a luxury dish in China and used in traditional medicine, were found wrapped in plastic and stored in five large freezers, East Java province police spokesman Raden Prabowo Argo Yuwono told AFP.
 
 

US fears over IS group's SE Asia expansion

 
‎Friday, ‎August ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎11:29:36 AMGo to full article
Indonesian police on August 5 arrested six suspected militants over a plot to launch a rocket attack on a Singapore waterfront districtIslamic State jihadists are eyeing expansion into Southeast Asia by joining forces with local extremists, a senior US counter-terrorism official warned Friday. IS has a history of partnering with militant groups around the world, including in Egypt, Libya and Nigeria, and wants to broaden its reach in the region, according to Justin Siberell, acting coordinator for counter-terrorism at the US State Department. Siberell also noted that militants from Southeast Asia fighting with IS in Iraq and Syria have been deployed in a unit called the Katibah Nusantara, and could pose a threat when they eventually return to their home countries.
 
 

Indonesia steps up fire response as haze blankets Singapore

 
‎Friday, ‎August ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎10:36:35 AMGo to full article
A river taxi is dwarfed against the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort on a hazy day, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, in Singapore. Six Indonesian provinces have declared states of emergency as forest fires blanket a swath of Southeast Asia in a smoky haze. Singapore's air quality deteriorated to unhealthy levels on Friday as winds blew smoke from fires on Sumatra across the city-state and southern Malaysia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Six Indonesian provinces have declared states of emergency as forest fires blanketed a swath of Southeast Asia in a smoky haze.
 
 

Mini Australian 'lion' named for David Attenborough

 
‎Friday, ‎August ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎10:01:51 AMGo to full article
British broadcaster and naturalist David Attenborough, seen in London in June 2016A tiny "kitten-sized" marsupial lion that roamed Australia's ancient rainforests some 18 million years ago has been named after veteran British naturalist David Attenborough. The fossil remains of the "microleo attenboroughi" were found in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area -- believed to be one of the most significant fossil deposits in the world -- in remote north-western Queensland state some years ago by palaeontologists from Sydney's University of New South Wales. "It's around about the size of a grey squirrel... maybe a little bit bigger than kitten-sized," UNSW palaeontologist Anna Gillespie told AFP on Friday, adding that the new species was estimated to weigh about 600 grams (21.2 ounces) and was smaller than other members of an extinct marsupial lion family.
 
 

Lotte Group vice chairman found dead before corruption probe

 
‎Friday, ‎August ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎8:12:52 AMGo to full article
In this Dec. 30, 2009 photo, Lotte group chairman Shin Dong-bin and vice chairman Lee In-won, right, attend an opening ceremony for Lotte Miso Microcredit Bank in Seoul, South Korea. Lotte Group said Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, Lee has been found dead as authorities widen a probe into corruption at South Korea's fifth-largest business group. (Yonhap via AP). KOREA OUTSEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Lotte Group's vice chairman has been found dead as authorities widen a probe into corruption at South Korea's fifth-largest business group, officials at the company and police said Friday.
 
 

U.S. aid to Pakistan shrinks amid mounting frustration over militants

 
‎Friday, ‎August ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎7:08:22 AMGo to full article
A State Department contractor adjust a flag before a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and Pakistan's Interior Minister Khan on the sidelines of the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism at the State Department in WashingtonBy Idrees Ali WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pakistan's continued support for resurgent militant groups hostile to the United States, coupled with warming U.S. military and business relations with India, is sharply diminishing Islamabad’s strategic importance as an ally to Washington, U.S. military, diplomatic, and intelligence officials and outside experts said. The United States has cut both military and economic aid to Pakistan sharply in recent years, reflecting mounting frustration among a growing number of officials with the nuclear-armed country's support for the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.
 
 

Lotte Group vice chairman found dead before corruption probe

 
‎Friday, ‎August ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎6:06:30 AMGo to full article
People pass by Lotte Group office in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. Lotte Group says its vice chairman has been found dead as authorities widen a probe into corruption at South Korea's fifth-largest business group. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Lotte Group said Friday its vice chairman has been found dead as authorities widen a probe into corruption at South Korea's fifth-largest business group.
 
 

Mega projects to help 'build future of Istanbul': minister

 
‎Friday, ‎August ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎5:23:26 AMGo to full article
The Yavuz Sultan Selim bridge in IstanbulTurkey is seeking to "build the future of Istanbul" with a brace of ambitious projects including a third bridge spanning the Bosphorus Strait linking Europe and Asia, Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan told AFP. The bridge -- once hailed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as "star project" and due to open on Friday -- is only one of the grandiose projects aimed at modernising the face of Istanbul and transforming the city of 16 million people. A former mayor of Istanbul, Erdogan has often boasted of pet mega projects under his rule that also include a new airport and even a Panama-style canal to relieve pressure from the Bosphorus.
 
 

Coastal land expands as construction outpaces sea level rise

 
‎Thursday, ‎August ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎5:12:20 PMGo to full article
An excavator works on land reclamation at "Colombo Port City" construction siteBy Alister Doyle OSLO (Reuters) - The Earth has gained coastal land equivalent to the size of Jamaica in the past 30 years with man-made construction outpacing erosion caused by rising sea levels, mapping data showed on Thursday. Using satellite data with Google Earth, Deltares said coastal regions had gained a net 13,565 square kilometers (5,237 square miles) of land since 1985, roughly the size of Jamaica or the U.S. state of Connecticut. Loss of land included erosion dotted around coasts from Vietnam to the Mississippi delta in the United States.
 
 

Quake damages scores of Myanmar's heritage Bagan temples

 
‎Thursday, ‎August ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎4:26:42 PMGo to full article
In this Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016 photo, military personnel clear debris at a temple that was damaged by a strong earthquake in Bagan, Myanmar. Using brooms and their hands soldiers and residents of the ancient Myanmar city famous for it's historic Buddhist pagodas, began cleaning up the debris from a powerful earthquake that shook the region and damaged nearly 200 temples Wednesday. (AP Photo/Min Kyi Thein, File)BAGAN, Myanmar (AP) — It was a time of conquest and conversions. Above all, it was a time of construction, on a scale never seen before. Over 250 years, from the 11th century onwards, the rulers of Bagan built more than 10,000 magnificent religious monuments.
 
 

Asylum claims in Britain highest in more than a decade

 
‎Thursday, ‎August ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎4:11:41 PMGo to full article
Demonstrators hold placards during a refugees welcome march in LondonBy Lin Taylor LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More than 36,000 asylum seeker claims were made in Britain in the 12 months to June, according to government figures published on Thursday, the highest number in over a decade. In the 12 months to June this year, 36,465 people applied for asylum in Britain, a 41 percent increase on the year ending June 2015, which saw nearly 26,000 claims. The number of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in Britain rose to 3,472, a 54 percent increase on the year ending June 2015, representing 10 percent of all asylum claims in the 12 months to June this year.
 
 

Image of Asia: Speaking to Taiwan's troops at military drill

 
‎Thursday, ‎August ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎3:34:02 PMGo to full article
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen wearing a camouflage helmet and bulletproof vest delivers a speech during the annual Han Kuang exercises in Pingtung county, Southern Taiwan, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)In this photo by Chiang Ying-ying, Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen delivers a speech at a military exercise in southern Taiwan. She and other observers wore flak jackets and helmets as Taiwanese forces carried out a live-fire demonstration that simulated an attempt by Chinese forces to land on the island. The president said the participating soldiers showed their determination to protect the nation and she and they would put all their efforts into fulfilling that task together.
 
 

HRW urges Merkel to address 'disappearances' in Turkmenistan

 
‎Thursday, ‎August ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎3:04:17 PMGo to full article
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov attend an official ceremony in Berlin in 2008Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged Chancellor Angela Merkel to bring up major rights violations, including a "policy of disappearances", when Germany hosts the president of Turkmenistan next week. The monitoring group said the rare visit to Germany by Turkmenistan's reclusive president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov on Monday should be used to tackle the plight of activists. "Chancellor Angela Merkel should not waste this opportunity to directly and insistently call for oppression in Turkmenistan to be ended," said HRW's director for Europe and Central Asia, Hugh Williamson.
 
 

 

Global Events Disaster Site

 
 
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France's Hollande says Paris climate change deal far from being implemented

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎19 minutes agoGo to full article
PARIS: French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday an international deal on climate change agreed in Paris last year was still far from being implemented and called on countries to ensure it was ratified by year-end.

"The immediate urgency is to ensure the (climate agreement) is put into action by year-end. That's far from being achieved. I ask you to double your efforts to push countries where you reside to ratify the accord before Marrakech," he said addressing an annual gathering of French ambassadors.

French President Francois Hollande delivers a speech during the ratification ceremony for the World

(Reporting By John Irish; Editing by Andrew Callus)

 

Apple says will appeal against EU tax decision

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎19 minutes agoGo to full article
BRUSSELS: Apple said it would appeal against an EU ruling ordering it to pay up to 13 billion euros (US$14.5 billion) in taxes to the Irish government which the EU considers to have been illegal state aid.

"Apple follows the law and pays all of the taxes we owe wherever we operate. We will appeal and we are confident the decision will be overturned," the company said in a statement on Tuesday after the European Commission's decision.

The Apple logo hangs from the front of the new Apple Store Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York

"The Commission's case is not about how much Apple pays in taxes, it's about which government collects the money. It will have a profound and harmful effect on investment and job creation in Europe," Apple said.

(US$1 = 0.8955 euros)

(Reporting by Julia Fioretti)

 

French Economy Minister Macron to resign on Tuesday - source

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎24 minutes agoGo to full article
BELGRADE: France's outspoken economy minister Emmanuel Macron will resign later on Tuesday, a source close to the former investment banker told Reuters, confirming reports in local media.

The 38-year-old Macron had in May launched what he called a "Great March", a door-to-door campaign across France to collect voters' grievances ahead of 2017 presidential elections, in a new sign of his political ambitions.

French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron leaves a weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Par

(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Andrew Callus)

 

China charges US woman with espionage

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎24 minutes agoGo to full article
BEIJING: An American businesswoman held in China since March last year has been charged with spying, China's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, the latest development in a case that has added to U.S.-China tension.

Sandy Phan-Gillis, from Houston, Texas, who has Chinese ancestry and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, was arrested in March 2015 and had been held without charges since then.

"Based on our understanding, Phan-Gillis, because of her suspected crimes of espionage, has been charged according to law by the relevant Chinese department," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a regular briefing.

"China is a country ruled by law. The relevant Chinese department will handle the case strictly according to law," she said, without elaborating.

It is unclear what violations the charge covers.

The government has chided the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for saying her detention violated international human rights norms.

The U.S. State Department has urged China to resolve the case "expeditiously".

The charge comes amid heightened tension in U.S.-China relations, dogged by issues from differences over territorial disputes in the South China Sea to the sentencing in the United States of a Chinese national for conspiracy to hack sensitive military information.

The Chinese man, Su Bin, 51, was jailed for 46 months in July after pleading guilty to conspiring to hack into the computer networks of major U.S. defence contractors.

U.S. President Barack Obama will arrive in China on Saturday for a G20 summit in the city of Hangzhou.

Phan-Gillis had said in a letter transcribed by a U.S. consular official in China that her detention was because of politics and not for any crime.

She visited China on a trade delegation from Houston and was detained while attempting to cross from the southern city of Zhuhai to Macau. Her husband, Jeff Gillis, has said she is not a spy or a thief.

China's state secret law is extremely broad, encompassing everything from industrial data to top leaders' birthdays. Information can also be declared a state secret retroactively.

There is no independent oversight of China's law enforcement authorities or courts, which answer to the ruling Communist Party.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Robert Birsel)

 

More haze from Indonesia fires could head to Singapore, Malaysia: Agency

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎26 minutes agoGo to full article
JAKARTA: There was some respite from haze on Tuesday (Aug 30) as heavy rain in Riau on Indonesia's Sumatra island helped firefighters battling to extinguish forest fires in several parts of the province. Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) also said PSI readings in Riau were between the "Healthy" and "Moderate" range.

Not all the fires have been snuffed out in Sumatra. BNPB said that more than 50 hectares of land are still burning and producing thick smoke. Satellite images showed that there were 165 hotspots on Tuesday across the country.

Indonesia haze - photograph taken on February 19, 2014

Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) warned that more haze from forest fires in Riau could head towards Singapore and Malaysia in the next five days, due to a change in wind direction.

In a statement, the BMKG said images from the satellite Himawari showed movement of thick smoke from the western part of Riau province.
 

The BKMG cautioned that the area has the potential to catch fire easily, and this could pose problems for the men on the ground fighting the fires. Other provinces such as West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan are also susceptible to more fires in the days ahead, it added.

 

 

Nepal bans Indian couple for faking Everest climb

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎28 minutes agoGo to full article
KATHMANDU: Nepal has imposed a 10-year mountaineering ban on an Indian couple who faked photographs purporting to show them at the top of Mount Everest, an official said Tuesday (Aug 30).

Dinesh and Tarakeshwari Rathod, both police constables, said they reached the top of the world's highest mountain on May 23. But fellow climbers cast doubt on their claim, saying their photos at the summit were doctored.
 

Mount Everest climb

Nepal's tourism department initially certified their claim but later conducted an investigation.

"Our investigation shows that the couple faked their summit. We have imposed a 10-year ban against them from climbing any mountain in Nepal," tourism department chief Sudarshan Prasad Dhakal told AFP of the decision made on Monday.

Dhakal said an analysis of the photos submitted by the couple showed they had superimposed themselves and their banners on photos taken by another Indian climber of his Everest summit.

"Despite several attempts to get clarifications from them, they did not cooperate with us during the investigation. The two Sherpas that assisted them are also absconding," Dhakal said.

"The ban should serve as a warning for mountaineers to follow ethics," he said.

Many of those who reach the top of the 8,848 metre (29,029 feet) mountain have gone on to make money or forge careers as motivational speakers and authors.

A total of 456 people, including more than 250 foreigners, summited Everest during the recently-ended spring season, after two consecutive years of deadly disasters that led to almost all attempts being abandoned.

Mountaineering is a major revenue-earner for the impoverished Himalayan nation. This year's string of successful summits is expected to boost the industry, which was left reeling after an earthquake last year killed almost 9,000 people nationwide.

Hundreds fled Everest last year after an earthquake-triggered avalanche at base camp killed 18 people.

Only one climber reached the top in 2014 after an avalanche killed 16 Nepali guides that year.

 

 

Steyn on fire as New Zealand teeter on the brink

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎29 minutes agoGo to full article
PRETORIA,: A rampant Dale Steyn took three wickets with his first 10 balls to leave New Zealand reeling on 18 for four at lunch on the fourth day chasing a target of 400 to win the second test, and the series, against South Africa.

Steyn removed both openers in his first over at Centurion on Tuesday. Tom Latham was bowled by the first ball of the visitors’ second innings, leaving a delivery too close to his stumps, and Martin Guptill fell to the sixth, edging to Hashim Amla at slip.

Cricket - New Zealand v South Africa - second cricket test match

Steyn trapped Ross Taylor lbw with a wicked delivery in his second over which stayed alarmingly low and hit the batsman on the ankle.

Captain Kane Williamson, who top-scored for New Zealand in their first innings of 214, was caught by a superb dive from wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock off Vernon Philander in the fourth over.

Henry Nicholls (7) and BJ Watling (5) were not out at lunch, with New Zealand in serious trouble with five more sessions to survive.

South Africa declared their second innings after an hour’s play on 132 for seven, setting New Zealand a near impossible target on a pitch with uneven bounce and widening cracks that was proving increasingly treacherous for batsmen.

They had resumed on 105 for six with Philander going just before the declaration and Temba Bavuma not out on 40.

The highest fourth-innings total in a test at the venue was the 251 scored by England 16 years ago.

With the first test of the two-match series drawn, South Africa are well set to retain their record of never having lost a series to the Kiwis.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

 

Ireland "disagrees profoundly" with EU on Apple tax bill

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎29 minutes agoGo to full article
DUBLIN: Ireland disagrees profoundly with the European Commission's ruling against its tax dealings with Apple Inc, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said on Tuesday ahead of seeking cabinet approval to appeal.

Ireland's finance ministry said its position remained that the full amount of tax was paid and no state aid was provided. Ireland did not give favourable tax treatment to Apple and does not do deals with taxpayers, it added.

The Apple Store is seen in Santa Monica

It also said the disputed tax opinions in the Apple case no longer applied and that the decision had no effect on Ireland's 12.5 percent corporate tax rate or on any other company with operations in the country.

"I disagree profoundly with the Commission," Noonan said in a statement. "The decision leaves me with no choice but to seek cabinet approval to appeal. This is necessary to defend the integrity of our tax system; to provide tax certainty to business; and to challenge the encroachment of EU state aid rules into the sovereign member state competence of taxation."

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Mark Potter)

 

France's Hollande says real risk of escalation in Ukraine

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎39 minutes agoGo to full article
PARIS: French President Francois Hollande warned on Tuesday that tensions in Ukraine had worsened in recent months and were at risk of further deteriorating.

Hollande said he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had had contact throughout August with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko.

French President Hollande stands next to German Economy Minister Gabrie before a meeting with Europ

"This summer, the situation has become much worse. The risks of escalation are high," Hollande told an annual gathering of French ambassadors.

(Reporting by John Irish; writing by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Ingrid Melander)

 

Apple says will appeal EU tax ruling

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎40 minutes agoGo to full article
BRUSSELS: Apple vowed Tuesday (Aug 30) to appeal an EU ruling ordering it to pay a record 13 billion euros in back taxes in Ireland, saying the decision would harm jobs and investment in Europe.

"We will appeal and we are confident the decision will be overturned," the US company said in a statement after the European Commission decision that Dublin's tax breaks for Apple were illegal.

Apple EU tax breaks(Photo:AFP)

"It will have a profound and harmful effect on investment and job creation in Europe."

The European Union on Tuesday said US tech giant Apple must repay a record €13 billion (US$14.3 billion) in back taxes after ruling that a series of Irish sweetheart tax deals were illegal.

"The European Commission has concluded that Ireland granted undue tax benefits of up to €13 billion to Apple. This is illegal under EU state aid rules because it allowed Apple to pay substantially less tax than other businesses. Ireland must now recover the illegal aid," a Commission statement said.

Apple infogfx
 

(Graphic: Twitter/European Commission)

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said Apple's "selective treatment" in Ireland meant it paid an effective tax rate of just one per cent on its European profits in 2003, which then fell to a bare 0.005 per cent by 2014.

"The tax treatment in Ireland enabled Apple to avoid taxation on almost all profits generated by sales of Apple products in the entire EU single market."

Brussels launched an inquiry into Apple's tax arrangements in Ireland in 2014, one of a series of anti-trust cases targeting major US corporations that have angered Washington.

Apple and Ireland are both expected to appeal.

Apple chief Tim Cook said earlier this month he hoped to "get a fair hearing ... If we don't, then we would obviously appeal it".

Apple has had a base in the southern city of Cork since 1980 and employs 5,000 people in Ireland where it is seen as a prestige high-tech partner and a valued source of jobs.

 

Better air quality expected following rain in Sumatra: NEA

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎47 minutes agoGo to full article
SINGAPORE: The air quality on Tuesday (Aug 30) has been in the Good to Moderate range, and the overall 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) is forecast to be in the Moderate range, said the National Environment Agency (NEA). 

The 1-hr PM2.5 concentration over the next 24 hours is expected to remain in Band I (Normal), it added.  

Haze returns to Singapore

Many parts in Singapore had rain in the late morning and afternoon on Tuesday, and the air quality has been in the Good to Moderate range, and for the rest of the day, partly cloudy conditions are expected, the agency said in its advisory. 

As at 5pm, the 24-hr PSI was 44-56, in the Good to Moderate range, and the 1-hr PM2.5 concentration readings was 5-15 µg/m3, in Band I (Normal).

In Indonesia, NEA said there were four hotspots detected in Sumatra and there was no visible haze there. "Showers have been affecting parts of Sumatra today," NEA said. 

Given the air quality forecast for the next 24 hours, people can continue with normal activities. Persons who are not feeling well, especially the elderly and children, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions, should seek medical attention, the agency said. 

 

Myanmar's Suu Kyi to hold major peace summit with ethnic rebels

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎49 minutes agoGo to full article
NAYPYITAW/YANGON: Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi is launching a major push to end decades of fighting between rebels and the military, with many of the country's myriad armed groups gathering for a peace conference in the capital Naypyitaw.

Suu Kyi has made the peace process a priority for her administration, which faces sky-high expectations at home and abroad after sweeping to power in an election last November to end more than half a century of military-backed rule.

Myanmar Foreign Minister and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during a special keynote at th

Few concrete proposals are to emerge this week, with delegates expecting to meet every six months to tackle issues ranging from security, political representation and culture to sharing the fruits of the country's mineral riches.

But the fact that Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi has been able to bring the vast majority of the rebels to the negotiating table only five months after taking power is a sign of progress, experts say.

Powerful armed groups from regions bordering China, who refused to sign a ceasefire last October under the previous military-backed government, are now set to take part, partly owing to China's tacit support for the talks, observers say.

As Myanmar's economy opens up, China is vying for influence with the United States. President Xi Jinping pledged his country would play a "constructive role" in the peace process when Suu Kyi visited China this month.

Myanmar has been torn by fighting between the military, which seized power in the 1962 coup, and ethnic armed groups almost without a break since the end of the Second World War, as rebels pushed for recognition of their rights and greater autonomy from the central government.

The meeting, which begins on Wednesday, has been billed as the "21st-Century Panglong Conference", a reference to the agreement between the majority Bamar and ethnic minorities in 1947 that formed the Union of Burma. It was held by Suu Kyi's father and Myanmar's national hero, General Aung San.

"The ambition of 1947 Panglong Conference was to get independence. Today's ambition is domestic peace and unity of the whole country," said 84-year-old veteran journalist Phoe Thauk Kyar, who was 14 at the time of the Panglong Conference.

NEW CLASHES

Casting a shadow over the talks is a recent flare-up in fighting in northernmost Kachin State and clashes in northeastern Shan State, which is home to several large groups operating close to borders with China and Thailand.

The still-powerful military has also strongly opposed talks with three groups - the Arakan Army, Ta'ang National Liberation Army and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army - which fought it in the remote Kokang area last year.

It is unclear whether those groups will play any part in this week's conference, which will be attended by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Both sides say they are willing to talk, but the military has demanded the rebels lay down their arms first. The three groups have refused, citing continuous pressure from the military.

"The government said these three groups would be accepted only if they announce that they will 'give up the policy of armed struggle'," said Thu Wai, 84, the vice-chairman of the steering committee of the conference, without giving details.

He said the groups could be admitted even a day or two into the conference, which is planned to last until the weekend, as long as they issued a statement to that effect.

Ethnic delegates have complained about what they saw as an arbitrary schedule set by the government. Suu Kyi has dictated a faster pace for the talks than her military-linked predecessors.

She has not consulted the groups about the date of the conference or the specific agenda, diplomats familiar with the situation said.

Reflecting that rushed approach, less than a day before the conference the parties huddled at a Naypyitaw hotel to try to thrash out procedural details.

"We discussed about the agenda for tomorrow and about the opening speech and how to proceed with discussion. Still no result," said Khu Oo Reh, who represents an umbrella organization of some of the most powerful ethnic groups.

(Reporting by Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Alex Richardson)

 

Zimbabwe rights body criticises 'violent' police crackdown

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎49 minutes agoGo to full article
HARARE: Zimbabwe's Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has accused the police of brutality and violating the rights of protesters when clamping down on anti-government demonstrations in the last two months.

Political tension is rising in the southern African nation, where public anger at the dire state of the economy, in particular an 80 percent jobless rate, cash shortages and delays in salaries for public workers, has spilled onto the streets.

Police detain opposition party supporters holding placards during a court appearance of those arres

Zimbabwe's police have a history of violence against President Robert Mugabe's opponents and last month a trauma clinic said dozens of people, including children, suffered "savage" abuse after a demonstration.

Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba declined to comment on the findings of the ZHRC, an independent body formed in 2013.

In its first statement on the protests the commission said its investigations had revealed "unbecoming and violent conduct" by police officers and urged victims to make formal complaints.

"It is noted with regret that the police did violate the fundamental rights of the people as evidenced by the facts gathered on the ground," it said.

"Security concerns should not be used as an excuse to harass demonstrators and non-demonstrators. Citizens should enjoy police protection and not brutality."

The commission also said demonstrations should be peaceful, after protests on Friday descended into some of the worst violence seen in the former British colony for two decades.

Sixty-eight people have been charged with public violence at Friday's clashes. A court was due to rule on Tuesday whether they should be released from custody while they await trial.

More anti-government protests are planned for Wednesday and Friday.

Mugabe has said there would be no "Arab Spring" in Zimbabwe, referring to a wave of revolts in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011, some of which toppled governments, while others were stamped out by security forces.

Information Minister Christopher Mushohwe rejected criticism from the United States and Canada.

"Their statements last week were not only unacceptably repugnant but vainly suggested their governments play father-figure to a sovereign state, as if Zimbabwe is under some kind of joint U.S.-Canadian trusteeship," he said in a statement.

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Ed Cropley and Robin Pomeroy)

 

Last chemical weapons stocks shipped out of Libya: Officials

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎57 minutes agoGo to full article
TRIPOLI: Libya has shipped the last of its chemical weapons stocks out of the country on a Danish vessel, under a UN-backed plan to eliminate the arsenal, officials said Tuesday (Aug 30).

A senior security official told AFP the stocks were shipped to Germany on Saturday from the port of Misrata under the supervision of the United Nations.

Libya chemical weapons

The deputy prime minister of Libya's Government of National Accord, Mussa el-Koni, confirmed the operation, saying: "All of Libya's chemical arsenal has been shipped out of the country."

The Danish government had earlier this month offered to send a container vessel, support ship and 200 staff to handle the operation, coordinated by the UN-backed Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The UN Security Council on July 22 endorsed plans to remove Libya's chemical weapons from the country and prevent them from falling into the hands of extremists like the Islamic State group.

The security official said 23 tanks of chemicals were shipped out under the operation.

The weapons had been stored in the central Jafa area, about 200 kilometres south of Sirte, where pro-GNA forces are battling IS jihadists, he said.

"We as Libyans did not want these weapons, especially during the current security situation and with the presence of IS in the region," the security official said.

Libya joined the UN convention on eliminating chemical weapons in 2004.

At the time it declared 24.7 tonnes of mustard gas, 1,390 tonnes of precursor chemicals and more than 3,500 aerial bombs containing chemical weapons.

It had eliminated all the aerial bombs, 51 per cent of the mustard gas and 40 per cent of the precursor chemicals by 2011, when operations to destroy the arsenal were interrupted by the uprising against Moamer Kadhafi, according to the OPCW.

 

Sustainability certified India tea estates violate worker rights - report

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Tea estates in southern India are hiring temporary workers during peak plucking season and denying these labourers basic rights as required by law, said a report released on Tuesday.

A survey in the southern state of Tamil Nadu at two tea estates - both certified by the international nonprofit Rainforest Alliance - found that in 2015, up to half of the workforce were temporary workers, and most were migrants or retirees.

Focus group discussions and individual interviews with the workers showed the casual labourers did not receive a bonus, contributions for their children's school fees, a pension fund, crèche facilities or other social security benefits given to permanent workers.

"Tea workers around the world are facing dangerous and degrading working conditions," said the report by India-based Glocal Research and The India Committee of the Netherlands, non-governmental organisations working on labour and human rights.

Tea plantations in India - the world's second largest producer of tea after China - employ an estimated 3.5 million workers, the report said.

The report focused on the Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu, one of the main tea-growing belts in India with approximately 200,000 tea plantation workers.

Up to half of the workforce are migrants from other parts of India.

According to the Indian Plantation Act of 1951, all workers, temporary and permanent, should be treated equally. However, poor enforcement by government authorities has allowed estate managers to deny workers their rights, the report said.

The report also raised concerns about advances paid once a year to workers to meet their expenses for education, marriage, house construction and emergencies.

Temporary workers have to repay the advance in full if they want to leave the estate for other work, creating a cycle of debt bondage in some cases.

The report found that risks of injury or illness remain high, particularly among female workers.

It also found that overtime hours and compensation do not comply with legal requirements or the criteria of the Rainforest Alliance and the Sustainable Agriculture Network of non-profit conservation groups.

Responding to the findings, the Rainforest Alliance said they had formally complained to the two certified plantations, and an investigation had been initiated.

Unilever, a buyer from both plantations, said they welcomed the re-audit of the estates and were "fully engaged with their suppliers to improve labour, safety and housing standards".

(Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj @AnuraNagaraj, editing by Alisa Tang. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)

 

Free school meals in Brazil help local farmers stay on the land

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
BRASILIA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - At an elementary school in Brazil's capital, students are not too concerned about who has produced their food as they tuck into an afternoon snack of pineapple and watermelon.

Nevertheless, they are among 45 million students benefiting from the world's biggest universal school feeding programme, whose meals are helping keep Brazil's small farmers on the land.

Family farmers and cooperatives have seen their fortunes rise as a result of the programme, which guarantees them a local market and has helped to expand formal land rights nationwide.

"Incomes have increased significantly because of it," Amanda Venturim, agricultural adviser to a cooperative of 56 small farmers outside Brasilia, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"The government makes a contract with us beforehand so farmers know how much food they need to produce and how much they will receive," said Venturim, standing beside vast grain elevators on the dry savannah land that surrounds the capital.

The cooperative has been selling food to the government for school meals for three years, she said, enabling farmers to invest in new equipment and to retain control of their land.

LOCAL PREFERENCE

First developed in the 1950s, Brazil's school feeding initiative has expanded rapidly over the past decade as part of a successful push for "zero hunger" in Latin America's most populous country.

About a quarter of Brazilians receive free meals under the programme as it provides food to all of the country's students enrolled in government schools.

Brazil has about five million small farms, according to the U.N.'s Centre of Excellence Against Hunger in Brasilia. These farmers are some of the prime beneficiaries of hundreds of millions of dollars of government spending on school meals.

A 2009 law stipulates that authorities must spend at least 30 percent of their school meal budget on produce from smallholder farmers.

At the elementary school in south Brasilia, nutritionist Sumara de Oliveira Santana said the law is helping farmers to stay on the land because it encourages local production.

"Smallholder farmers and local producers have priority when we buy food for the schools," Santana told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, as she supervised several dozen rowdy students during snack break.

For their part, the kids were not too concerned with the details of land politics.

"Pineapple is my favourite fruit for a snack," said seven-year-old Anderson Souza. "For lunch I like meat, but I don't know where all the food comes from."

LANDED FARMERS

Most of Brazil's food - about 70 percent of what's consumed in the country - comes from small farmers, according to the U.N.

About three-quarters of these small farms are owned by farmers who have official land title deeds, according to government data.

Access to a guaranteed market through the feeding programme allows small farmers to keep control of their land, Venturim said.

Farmers say they now know roughly how much they will be earning each year and can apply for credit and other government support due to their participation in the initiative.

It means they don't have to migrate to cities in search of work, unlike many farmers in the developing world who leave their land in the hopes of earning more in the city.

The programme also helps farmers make decisions on investing in new seeds or technology because they can plan ahead on what crops they will grow by liaising with nutritionists like Santana.

UNIQUE LINK

Across Brazil, more than one million small farms have no formal land title deeds, according to official data. These farmers simply occupy the land where they produce or live in settlements with no formal title, but even they benefit from the programme.

Having a direct relationships with the state through the school feeding programme helps small farmers and cooperatives to gain formal ownership over their land.

Many farmers who work with Venturim on the cooperative farm lease public land from the state, but they use their earnings from school meal contracts as a springboard to gain title deeds.

"We have a process going to receive final land titles," Venturim said. "Now, we have a concession, but we would rather be owners."

Formal title deeds can be difficult for small farmers to obtain; the process for formalising land claims has been criticised as expensive, time-consuming and bureaucratic.

As Brazil is mired in political crisis and suffers its worst recession since the 1930s, analysts see the school feeding programme and its support for small farmers' land rights as a rare public policy bright spot.

"We believe this is an excellent example for other countries," Isadora Ferreira, a U.N. official who monitors the programme, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"The link with smallholder farmers in unique."

(Reporting By Chris Arsenault; Editing by Jo Griffin; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

 

As disaster losses mount, Sri Lanka develops tool to track them

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
ARANAYAKE, Sri Lanka (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Sri Lanka is planning to begin testing its first web-based disaster damage and loss reporting system by the end of the year, authorities say.

The Disaster Management Center (DMC) is developing the programme and training public officials on its use, said Srimal Samansiri, the DMC assistant director.

A man pushes his trishaw through a flooded road in Wellampitiya, Sri Lanka

The programme will enlist at least one government official from each district – or a representative of a non-governmental organisations in some cases – who is linked to disaster management and who will be tasked with uploading information.

The data then will be fed to a national data base maintained by the Treasury at the Finance Ministry.

“For example, if it is the road sector, we would have the district engineer who would upload data on affected or closed roads, damages and closures,” Samansiri said.

The DMC official said that the request for such a programme had come from the Treasury in mid-2015.

"They were very keen to get precise up-to-date information so that they could plan relief efforts,” he said.

Right now, information about losses and damage from problems such as flooding, landslides and drought is collected in a less-coordinated way. Administrative officials in affected districts collect data and send it to their district offices, which then send it to the DMC or other government bodies coordinating relief.

“There is no uniform system to report the damages or calculate losses, which is hampering disaster planning measures,” Samansiri said.

A clear example came during heavy floods in May. The Disaster Management Center said that 691 houses had been destroyed while 4,888 had been damaged between May 15 and May 22.

However, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said the government expected housing damages to be higher. He said around 128,000 likely were damaged and at least a sixth of those would need complete rebuilding.

There have also been discrepancies in the number of fatalities and people missing reported by the DMC and the Sri Lanka Red Cross. The DMC data shows 89 deaths and 102 missing from May's disaster, while the Red Cross says the missing could be above 200, citing available population records.

“The problem arises because untrained personnel are collecting data for various departments. There is no uniformity in the collection or in the reporting,” said Jagath Mahedra, the DMC head for Kegalle District, one of those worst affected by the floods. He said a uniform reporting tool would minimise errors in data collection.

The new reporting tool is being funded as part of a US$110 million World Bank Climate Resilience Programme.

GROWING FINANCIAL RISK

The bank recently released a disaster risk assessment for Sri Lanka and said that a robust damage and loss reporting system was vital for future planning, particularly in the face of growing climate change pressures.

“The biggest short-term challenges facing the government of Sri Lanka are twofold: the lack of a centralised damage and loss data collection system able to report information related to the damage and losses borne by different sectors, and the lack of disaster risk assessment tools,” the report said.

The report also said that the island frequently faced extreme weather, which was having a recurring impact on the economy.

“Over the long term, the combined average annual loss … from natural disasters is estimated at Rs 50 billion (US$380 million),” the report said. In particular, Sri Lanka was likely to see an “annual expected loss” of US$240 million (183.5 million pounds) from flooding and US$80 million from cyclones and high winds.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization assessed that the May floods increased food prices by 4.3 percent within a month of the disaster. In particular, “fresh vegetables prices increased nonstop on reduced output,” it said in an August update warning of more expected price escalations.

“With such recurring losses we need a properly developed reporting mechanism,” Samansiri said. The new tool will be partially unveiled by December, after which there is likely to be a year of testing.

“After we have an idea how it works, it would go public,” Samansiri said.

(Editing by Laurie Goering :; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, women's rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)

 

Alleged drug lord shot dead in Philippines

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
MANILA: A Philippine businessman and his wife were shot dead after the police chief branded him a drug lord, authorities said Tuesday (Aug 30), fuelling concerns about extrajudicial killings in President Rodrigo Duterte's crime war.

More than 2,000 people have been killed since Duterte was sworn into office two months ago and immediately launched a law-and-order crackdown, with the United States, the United Nations and rights groups voicing alarm at the bloodshed.

Philippines Drug War 2

On Monday, Melvin Odicta, a businessman accused of being a drug trafficker known as "Dragon", and his wife were shot dead at Aklan port in the central Philippines after getting off a ferry, police reported.

Regional police chief Jose Gentiles told AFP on Tuesday the lone gunman had yet to be identified, but was likely also linked to the drug trade.

"The most probable motive is that the mastermind wanted to silence the couple. Perhaps the mastermind was afraid the victims would implicate them," Gentiles said.

Odicta had expressed fears for his life after local authorities alleged he was the top drug lord in the central province of Iloilo, according to his lawyer.

Odicta had said he was innocent but national police chief Ronald dela Rosa insisted last week he was the drug lord.

"Who is he fooling? You know he is the drug lord but he is still denying it? Tell it to the Marines," dela Rosa told reporters on Friday in Iloilo.

Duterte has repeatedly said that drug traffickers deserve to die and urged security forces to kill them. During the election campaign he promised that 100,000 people would die in his war on crime.

However he said in recent weeks that his security forces are not carrying out extrajudicial killings.

Police have reported killing more than 700 people they accused of being involved in drugs.

But police and Duterte say they have only killed in self-defence.

Dela Rosa said last week there were another 1,190 killings under investigation, but they were likely due to drug gangs murdering people who could implicate each other.

Critics of the crime war say security forces and hired assassins are carrying out mass murder, with people not involved in drugs also being killed amid a dire breakdown in the rule of law.

Duterte has railed against his critics, accusing them of siding with drug traffickers, and warned there will be no let up.

"I consider the fight against drugs a war. There is a crisis in this country," Duterte said on Monday.

 

Kremlin says reports that Uzbek President is dead not confirmed

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
MOSCOW: The Kremlin said on Tuesday that media reports that Uzbek President Islam Karimov was dead had not been confirmed.

"For the moment we do not have any fresh information. All we can say that ... media reports (about Karimov's death) have not been confirmed," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with journalists.

Uzbek President Karimov speaks during a joint news conference at the Kremlin in Moscow

Karimov, the 78-year-old president, is in a stable condition in an intensive care ward after suffering a brain haemorrhage on Saturday, his daughter Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva wrote on her Instagram page on Monday

(Reporting by Denis Pinchuk; Editing by Maria Kiselyova)

 

Rosicky set for Sparta return - reports

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
PRAGUE: Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky will join Sparta Prague, the club where he started his career, after a decade-long run at Arsenal, according to local media reports.

The 35-year-old has been hit by injuries in recent years and his Euro 2016 campaign was cut short by a thigh injury.

Czech Republic v Croatia - EURO 2016 - Group D

He saw limited action last season and made just 170 Premier League appearances for Arsene Wenger's men after joining Arsenal from Borussia Dortmund in 2006.

Rosicky made his professional debut in 1999 for Sparta before joining Borussia Dortmund in 2001.

Media reported Sparta will introduce Rosicky at a news conference later on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

 

UN chief Ban Ki-moon receives honorary degree from NUS

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
SINGAPORE: United Nations (UN) chief Ban Ki-moon was conferred the Honorary Doctor of Letters by the National University of Singapore (NUS) on Tuesday (Aug 30) for his lifetime of service to humanity.

In his acceptance speech for the “moving and meaningful honorary degree”, Mr Ban described the tribulations he faced as a 6-year-old boy to call for stronger global solidarity today. 
 

honorary doc of letters ban ki moon

“During the Korean war, my family and others survived on food and medicine from UNICEF,” he said. “We studied with textbooks provided by UNESCO. And of course, the troops of many nations secured our freedom.”

According to Public Orator Professor Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, one of Mr Ban's key accomplishments was to secure a strong global consensus to act together to save the world from global warming. Mr Ban's leadership contributed significantly to the success of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris, he said.

For the past decade as Secretary-General, Mr Ban sought to promote an effective and responsive UN, as well as a greater spirit of collective purpose. He also made important contributions to gender equality through his advocacy for women’s rights. He pushed for the creation of UN Women as a separate agency in 2011 and helmed several new campaigns and initiatives that seek to address violence against women.

Said the UN Secretary-General: “The world is being tested. People worry about the next extreme storm, the next financial shock or the next outbreak of deadly disease. No country is immune from the threat of violent extremism. Singapore itself, stable and prosperous, has had to take steps recently to heighten its defences.

He also took the opportunity to pay his tribute to the late former Singapore President S R Nathan, who died on Aug 22. “President Nathan was not only a much-admired people’s president, but also a good friend of the United Nations,” he said.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan and Minister of State for Communications and Information and Education Janil Puthucheary were some of those in attendance at the conferment ceremony, which was held at the Istana.

 

Burnley sign Chelsea striker Bamford on season-long loan

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
REUTERS: Burnley have signed Chelsea forward Patrick Bamford on a season-long loan, the Premier League club said on Tuesday.

The 22-year-old joins the club following loan spells with Norwich City and Crystal Palace last season, making a total of 13 appearances in England's top flight last campaign.

West Bromwich Albion v Norwich City - Barclays Premier League

"Burnley Football Club is delighted to confirm the signing of Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford on a season-long loan," the club said on its website (www.burnleyfootballclub.com).

Burnley, who lost 3-0 to Chelsea on Saturday, will hope to get back to winning ways when they host Hull City on Sept. 10.

(Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by John O'Brien)

 

UN hails suspension of France's burkini ban, slams 'stigmatisation'

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
GENEVA: The UN on Tuesday (Aug 30) welcomed a decision by France's highest administrative court to suspend a controversial ban on burkini swimwear, warning that the ban had fuelled religious intolerance and stigmatisation.

"These decrees do not improve the security situation but rather fuel religious intolerance and the stigmatisation of Muslims in France, especially women," Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN rights office, told reporters.

A woman wearing a burkini walks in the water on a beach in Marseille

"Dress codes such as the anti-burkini decrees disproportionately affect women and girls, undermining their autonomy by denying them the ability to make independent decisions about how to dress, and clearly discriminate against them," he said.

He also decried that "the manner in which the anti-burkini decrees have been implemented in some French resorts has been humiliating and degrading."

Around 30 coastal resorts have recently banned women from wearing the full-body swimwear on their beaches, although France's highest administrative court on Friday overturned the measure in one town, in a ruling likely to set a legal precedent which will affect the others.

The bans come in the wake of a string of Islamist attacks to hit France over the past 18 months, which have raised questions over security failures and resulted in a spike in Islamophobia.

Colville said the UN rights office welcomed the ruling affecting the seaside town of Villeneuve-Loubet, urging authorities in other French seaside towns and resorts that had adopted similar bans "to repeal them immediately."

He stressed that the bans would do nothing to make people safer.

"Clearly, individuals wearing burkinis, or any other form of clothing for that matter, cannot be blamed for the violent or hostile reactions of others," he said.

He warned that "by stimulating polarisation between communities, these clothing bans have only succeeded in increasing tensions ... (and may) undermine the effort to fight and prevent violent extremism."

Colville pointed out that according to international human rights standards, "limitations on manifestations of religion or belief, including choice of clothing, are only permitted in very limited circumstances, including public safety, public order, and public health or morals."

Such measures, he said, "must be appropriate, necessary, and proportionate."

"Gender equality cannot be achieved by restricting individual freedoms including by policing what individual women choose to wear," he said.

 

Van Basten quits Dutch national team for FIFA job

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
AMSTERDAM: Netherlands assistant coach Marco van Basten is to give up the role by the end of the year as the leadership crisis surrounding the side took another twist on Tuesday, a week before the Dutch kick off their 2018 World Cup campaign.

Van Basten is the second of Danny Blind's assistants to announce their departure in the last two weeks after Dick Advocaat opted to take over as head coach of Turkish side Fenerbahce. The Dutch football association (KNVB) confirmed the 51-year-old's impending exit on Tuesday, saying Van Basten was leaving to start work with the sport's global governing body. "FIFA have offered me a chance to work in the development and reform of football, and to use my ideas and opinions over issues like playing rules, refereeing and development programmes," Van Basten said in a KNVB statement.

England v Netherlands - International Friendly

"I have agreed with Danny Blind to stay as an assistant until the end of the year."

The loss of his deputy is the latest blow for Blind, who had asked another former European Footballer of the Year, Ruud Gullit, to assist him, only for negotiations to break down. The acrimonious fallout between Gullit and the KNVB has since dominated Dutch sports pages at a time when the team are hoping to make a positive start to World Cup qualifying after the disappointment of missing the Euro 2016 finals in France.

The Netherlands start their campaign to reach the 2018 World Cup finals away at Sweden next Tuesday. Advocaat and Van Basten are both former national team coaches in their own right and were expected to form a powerful support team for Blind. However, Advocaat left after just three months and Van Basten's impending departure is a further blow.

"Of course I'm not happy but the FIFA job is something that is tailor made for Marco. Even though it means I have to find another successor, it is a great opportunity for him," Blind said in a statement on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by John O'Brien)

 

Iraq's Qayyara oil fields won't return to production before Mosul retaken - spokesman

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
BAGHDAD: Iraq doesn't expect to resume production from the northern Qayyara oil region before the capture of nearby Mosul from Islamic State, an oil ministry spokesman said on Tuesday.

The region's two main fields, Qayyara and Najma, used to produce up to 30,000 barrels per day of heavy crude before it fell under control of the ultra-hardline militants two years ago. It has also a small refinery to process some local oil.

A member of Iraqi security forces stands with weapon, near oil wells set ablaze by Islamic State mi

"The rehabilitation process cannot resume unless the security situation improves with the conclusion of the battle for Mosul" some 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of Qayyara, oil ministry spokesman Asim Jihad told Reuters.

The Iraqi army took Qayyara back last week and oil ministry services started putting out fires at wells caused by insurgents as a tactic to escape air surveillance and hamper the progression of Iraqi forces.

The oil ministry also dug trenches to prevent oil spills from reaching the Tigris river, Jihad said. "They were contained," he added.

Angolan oil company Sonangol pulled out from an agreement to increase output at the Qayyara fields in 2014, citing the mounting security risk.

Iraq, OPEC's second-largest producer after Saudi Arabia, pumps most of its crude from the southern region. The nation has an average daily output of 4.6 million barrels per day.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi expects Mosul to be retaken this year, effectively defeating Islamic State in Iraq. The group's self-proclaimed "caliphate" extends over the border to include parts of eastern Syria.

(Reporting by Saif Hameed; Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Mark Potter and Louise Heavens)

 

Russian hackers attack 2 US voter databases: Reports

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
WASHINGTON: Russian-based hackers may have been responsible for two recent attempts to breach US voter registration databases in two states, raising fears Moscow is trying to undermine November's presidential election, US media said Monday (Aug 29).

The incidents led the FBI to send a "flash alert" to election officials earlier this month, asking them to watch for similar cyber-attacks.

Early morning voters stand in line before sunrise to vote in Arizona's U.S. presidential prima

The FBI alert, first reported by Yahoo News, did not mention Russia.

However, the authorities have attributed the attacks to Russian spy agencies, NBC News quoted US intelligence officials as saying.

"This is the closest we've come to tying a recent hack to the Russian government," one unidentified official said, adding "there is serious concern" Moscow may be seeking to create uncertainty in the election process.

Although the alert does not identify targeted states, Yahoo News quoted officials as saying they were Illinois and Arizona.

Illinois officials said last month that they shut down their state's voter registration after a hack.

On Monday state officials said the hackers stole data from as many as 200,000 voter records, although they told the Chicago Tribune no such record had been deleted or altered.

In Arizona hackers unsuccessfully tried to breach the voter registration system using malicious software, reports said.

The state shut down the system for nine days beginning in late June, after the discovery of malware on an election official's computer. However, officials concluded the system was not successfully compromised.

The incidents prompted Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to hold a conference call with state election officials earlier this month.

Although the Department of Homeland Security was not aware of specific cyber threats against election-related networks, Johnson urged officials to secure their systems, according to a transcript of the call released by the department.

Hackers apparently connected to Russia staged a series of cyber-attacks against US media outlets including the New York Times, reports said earlier this month.

And US officials say Russian intelligence agencies were behind recent hacks into Democratic Party organizations, including the campaign of its White House candidate Hillary Clinton.

Another hack of Democratic National Committee servers resulted in an embarrassing leak of emails last month revealing how party leaders tried to undermine Clinton's Democratic rival Bernie Sanders, leading to the committee chief's resignation.

Experts said they believed two Russian intelligence agencies to be responsible.

Last week Senate minority leader Harry Reid asked the FBI to investigate evidence suggesting Russia may be trying to manipulate voting results in November, expressing concern about a "direct connection" between Republican candidate Donald Trump's campaign and the Russian government.

"The prospect of a hostile government actively seeking to undermine our free and fair elections," he wrote, "represents one of the gravest threats to our democracy since the Cold War."

 

Migrant arrivals to Greek islands jump to highest in weeks

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
ATHENS: More than 460 migrants and refugees arrived on Greek islands from Turkey on Tuesday, the highest in several weeks, despite a European Union deal with Ankara agreed in March to close off that route.

Greek authorities recorded 462 new arrivals between Monday and Tuesday morning, up from 129 the previous day. Most entered through the Aegean islands of Lesbos and Kos.

Refugees and migrants line up for a food distribution at the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island

The numbers are small compared to those trying to reach Italy from Africa - some 6,500 migrants were saved off the Libyan coast on Monday, the Italian coast guard said - and far fewer than the thousands a day arriving in Greece last summer.

But they indicate a steady inflow of people, five months after the deal was agreed. Under the accord, those who cross to Greece without documents from March 20 will be sent back to Turkey unless they apply for asylum and their claim is accepted.

So far under the deal, just 482 people have been deported to Turkey but none had applied for asylum, Greece says. No rejected asylum seekers have been sent back.

That has pushed the number of migrants and refugees currently on Greece's islands to 12,120 from 5,538 in March. Most are Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis, and they live in overcrowded camps.

According to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, 100 people arrived on Greek islands from Turkey a day in August, up from 60 in July. It said 2,307 people arrived through Aug. 23, compared to 1,920 for the entire month of July.

(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris)

 

Car bomb kills five soldiers outside Somali president's palace-police

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
MOGADISHU: A car bomb claimed by al Shabaab Islamist militants killed five soldiers outside the president's palace in the Somali capital of Mogadishu and badly damaged two nearby hotels, police said.

Reuters witnesses said gunfire could be heard after the explosion and a huge cloud of smoke could be seen above the president's palace, outside which were the remnants of the car and splattered blood.

"A suicide car bomb exploded outside the presidential palace. So far two hotels opposite the palace are partially destroyed," police officer Major Mohamed Ali told Reuters by phone.

Al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab has claimed responsibility for several recent explosions in Mogadishu, including a car bomb and gun attack last week at a popular beach restaurant in the capital that killed 10 people.

"So far we know five government soldiers died in the blast. It exploded outside the SYL hotel which is also just at the checkpoint outside the palace. We believe the target was SYL which is frequented by officials. The death toll may rise," police officer Colonel Abdikadir Hussein told Reuters.

Al Shabaab's Radio Andaluz said that the group was behind the attack.

In a separate incident, al Shabaab fighters attacked military bases housing government and African Union troops south west of the capital Mogadishu late on Monday, police and the group said on Tuesday.

Military officer Major Bile Farah said a soldier and two al Shabaab fighters were killed in the attack in K-50 and Muri in Lower Shabelle region,

Al Shabaab's military operations spokesman, Abdiasis Abu Musab, said the group's fighters had killed 10 soldiers and commandeered a vehicle from the Somali government soldiers.

The militants were pushed out of Mogadishu by the African Union peace keeping force AMISOM in 2011 but have remained a serious threat, launching frequent attacks aimed at overthrowing the government.

Seeking to impose its own harsh form of Islam, al Shabaab has also launched attacks in Kenya and Uganda which have contributed troops to the 22,000-strong AMISOM force.

(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar; Writing by George Obulutsa)

 

US-Russia talks this week crucial for Syria truce - de Mistura

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
GENEVA: Talks between U.S. and Russian officials this week are crucial for restoring a ceasefire in Syria, the United Nations Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura said in an appeal on Tuesday.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov failed in all-day talks in Geneva last Friday to reach a breakthrough deal on military cooperation and a nationwide cessation of hostilities, saying they still had issues to resolve.

Men inspect a damaged site after double airstrikes on the rebel held Bab al-Nairab neighborhood of

Military officials from the two powers, who back opposite sides in Syria's five-year war, have been meeting for weeks and would continue talks to hammer out final details, they said at the time.

"Discussions between the Russian Federation and United States this week are crucial to efforts to restore the cessation of hostilities," de Mistura's spokeswoman Jessy Chahine told a news briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.

De Mistura also reiterated a call for a 48-hour humanitarian pause in the divided northern city of Aleppo to allow the safe delivery of supplies and medical evacuations.

The United Nations wants to deliver food and medicines to rebel-held eastern Aleppo and the government-controlled west. It also wants to repair the electricity system to deliver power and clean water supplies to 1.8 million people, amid fears of disease outbreaks.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by Tom Miles and John Stonestreet)

 

Volvo Cars says to hire 400 engineers to spearhead high-tech push

 
‎Today, ‎August ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
STOCKHOLM: Chinese-owned Volvo Car Group said on Tuesday it would recruit about 400 new engineers over the coming year to bolster development efforts in safety technology, autonomous driving and electrification.

The recruitment drive, which Volvo said was one of its largest ever, comes as the manufacturer is enjoying brisk sales of a fleet of new, up-market models as it looks to solidify its position in a premium car market dominated by larger rivals.

Logo of Volvo is seen on front grill of Volvo car at 2016 Moscow International Auto Salon in Moscow

Volvo, bought by China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. from Ford Motor Co. in 2010, said in a statement most of the engineers joining the company would be based at its research and development centre in Gothenburg, in western Sweden.

"With the recruitment drive, Volvo further strengthens the automotive cluster in Western Sweden and establishes it as an emerging hub for automotive software engineering", Volvo said.

Volvo is ramping up technologies at the cutting edge of development in the auto industry such as autonomous vehicles and only this month signed a partnership with ride-sharing company Uber in the field of autonomous cars.

The company also said it was opening a research and development center in the southern Sweden university town of Lund, where an initial 35 employees would begin work next month.

(Reporting by Niklas Pollard; Editing by Alistair Scrutton)

 

Death toll in Yemen suicide bombing rises to at least 45 - MSF

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎9:35:27 AMGo to full article
ADEN, Yemen: The death toll in a suicide bombing at a local militia compound in the southern Yemeni city of Aden rose to at least 45, medical charity Medicins Sans Frontieres said on Monday.

A spokesperson for the group said at least 60 other wounded people had been brought into a hospital run by the charity in Aden.

(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf, writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Dominic Evans)

 

Meares lauds Australian Olympians at home-coming event

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎9:35:17 AMGo to full article
SYDNEY: Track cyclist Anna Meares praised the efforts of the Australian Olympic team during a welcome home ceremony at the Sydney Opera House on Monday, despite a disappointing overall showing in Brazil.

Australia's 422 athletes amassed 29 medals in Rio, their lowest total since the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, with Meares claiming bronze in the keirin after failing to add a third gold to those she won in Athens in 2004 and London four years ago.

Sydney's Lord Mayor Clover Moore poses for a picture with Australia's Olympic athletes re

"For some, we came home with personal bests and for some, we fell agonisingly short. But for all who arrived in Rio, we reached to achieve something great," said Meares, Australian team captain and flag-bearer in Rio.

The ceremony ended with a performance by a Japanese drumming group to set the tone for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

(Reporting by Jill Gralow; Editing by Patrick Johnston/John O'Brien)

 

Kurdish spokesman says YPG forces not reinforcing Syria's Manbij

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎9:30:22 AMGo to full article
BEIRUT: A spokesman for the autonomous Kurdish region in Syria told Reuters on Monday that local military councils in the cities of Manbij and Jarablus are being reinforced, but not by Kurdish YPG militia.

"There are reinforcements, but not by the YPG. Because the YPG are east of the Euphrates," Ibrahim Ibrahim, head of the Rojava Media Office told Reuters.

Civilians ride on a motorcycle past an Islamic court building that was used by Islamic State milita

Rojava is an autonomous political federation in northern Syria run by Syrian Kurdish parties and their allies.

(Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Louise Ireland)

 

Australia's Turnbull faces tough parliament after election setback

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎9:30:17 AMGo to full article
Canberra: Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull faces a tooth and nail fight with an emboldened opposition and slew of independent lawmakers when parliament returns on Tuesday for the first time since elections last month in which he took a beating.

Turnbull called early polls to break a deadlock in the upper house Senate, where a handful of independents blocked the government's agenda of corporate tax cuts and workplace reforms for more than two years.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks during a news conference in Sydney

But the election backfired, leaving the ruling Liberal-National coalition with a one-vote majority in the lower house and dependant on either the opposition Labor Party or eight to 10 independents or minor party Senators to pass legislation.

"The government no longer has a working majority. Everything that happens in Parliament now will be affected by the weak support the prime minister has in his own party room," Labor's Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke told Reuters.

"The Turnbull government won’t last three years. On its best day, defeat is only one vote away."

Indeed, Turnbull looks set to face his first defeat as early as this week over a government proposal to hold a plebiscite to legalize same-sex marriage.

Labor has garnered enough support from the Greens Party and independents, including newly elected Senator Derryn Hinch, to defeat a measure they call costly and unnecessary.

Turnbull enjoyed record-high approval ratings after ousting Tony Abbott in a party-room coup in 2014. Since then, his numbers have sagged as the government failed to chalk up legislative victories.

Hinch, a television personality known as "the human headline", rides into office this week on that wave of voter discontent.

"I've met every prime minister since (Robert) Menzies," he told Reuters, referring to Australia's longest serving prime minister, who left office in 1966.

"I've never seen a prime minister ... who's managed to dribble away their political cache so fast."

Further complicating matters for Turnbull is a bloc of protectionist lawmakers led by the far-right One Nation Party.

This month, Treasurer Scott Morrison officially rejected bids by two Chinese companies in the AUS$10 billion (US$7.55 billion) sale of electricity provider Ausgrid, which was widely seen as a reaction to the protectionists' growing power.

Nationals Party Senator John Williams, who is threatening to break with the government to support a Royal Commission into the financial services sector opposed by Turnbull, acknowledged they were facing an uphill battle.

"It will be tough. But people need to make decisions for the future of our country," Williams told Reuters.

"If we don't ... then I'm sorry to say it but in years to come we're going to hit the financial brick wall and it's going to be a smash then."

(Reporting by Matt Siegel; Editing by Robert Birsel)

 

Philippines' Duterte offers reward for corrupt police linked to drugs

 
‎Yesterday, ‎August ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎9:20:24 AMGo to full article
MANILA: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday promised rewards running to tens of thousands of dollars for information leading to the capture of police officers protecting drug syndicates and warned corrupt officials they would face "a day of reckoning".

In a National Heroes Day speech, Duterte said there would be no let-up in a "war on drugs" in which - according to police figures - more than 1,900 people have been killed since he came to power two months ago.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a National Heroes Day commemoration at the Libin

Police say the toll of about 36 people a day is a result of drug dealers resisting arrest or gang feuds.

Duterte railed against critics who have complained that the poor who trade drugs to make a living are being targeted by the police, but added that army generals, city mayors, governors and police involved in the drug trade must also be stopped.

"I consider the fight against drugs a war, there is a crisis in this country, it is drugs ... it has infected every nook and corner," he said in the speech to retired and serving soldiers, government officials and foreign diplomats.

Singling out corrupt policemen known as "ninjas", who take pay-offs from drug lords, Duterte said he was placing a 2 million peso (32,755 pounds) bounty on their heads, telling their colleagues to "squeal on your friends".

Duterte, who won a May election on a promise to wipe out drugs and dealers, last month named about 160 officials, judges, police and soldiers who he said were protecting drug traffickers or selling drugs in their communities.

The United States, a close ally of the Philippines, said last week it was "deeply concerned" about the reports of extra-judicial drug killings and it urged Duterte's government to ensure that law-enforcement efforts "comply with its human rights obligation".

The crackdown and some strongly worded criticism Duterte has made of the United States since coming to power present a dilemma for Washington, which has been seeking to forge unity among allies in Asia in the face of an increasingly assertive China, especially in the strategic South China Sea.

This month, two U.N. human rights experts urged Manila to stop the extra-judicial executions and killings. Duterte responded by threatening to leave the United Nations.

In his speech on Monday Duterte scoffed at accusations that he was trampling on human rights and said law enforcers should not worry about criminal liability while acting on his campaign.

"KILL THEM"

In the early hours of Monday a suspected drug lord and his wife were shot dead by a gunman as they stepped off a ferry in the central province of Iloilo, national police spokesman Dionardo Carlos said.

Police said the man, Melvin Odicta who was also known as "Dragon", was returning from Manila where last week he had met the interior minister to deny accusations that he was the region's top drug dealer.

National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa said on Friday he did not believe Odicta, telling officers: "Who are they fooling?"

In a speech to thousands of drug users and pushers the previous day, dela Rosa encouraged them to kill drug lords because they were getting rich at the expense of the poor.

"You want to kill them, then kill them, you can kill them because you are their victims here. You know who are the drug lords here, go to their houses, pour gasoline, set it on fire, show them you are angry at them."

He later apologised for the comments.

(Reporting by Karen Lema and Manuel Mogato; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Robert Birsel)

 
 

 

 

 

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