Car mows down pedestrians outside Melbourne's Flinders Street station

 ‘Deliberate act’: Car mows down pedestrians outside Melbourne’s Flinders Street station

The area is expected to remain a crimescene for some time

TWO men have been arrested after a four-wheel-drive was used to plough through pedestrians outside Melbourne's Flinders St station.

FOURTEEN people have been injured by a four-wheel-drive in the centre of Melbourne, in what police say was “a deliberate act”.

Several people are in a critical condition after the car slammed into crowds at high speed outside Melbourne’s Flinders Street station, then crashed into a bollard.
Police confirmed two men, the driver of the vehicle and a second man, were arrested after the carnage which began about 4.45pm in the CBD. Neither has been charged.

“At this stage, we believe it was a deliberate act. The motivations are unknown. It’s still early days in the investigation,” Victoria Police Commander Russell Barrett said.

Asked whether police had ruled out a terror attack, he repeated it was “early days in the investigation and motivation is unknown”.

He confirmed 14 people were in hospital after the incident. Extensive footage from eyewitnesses shows a man in a white shirt and blue jeans being dragged from the passenger side of the vehicle while others lie on the ground. Smoke is pouring out of the bonnet.

A four year old child is believed to be among those injured

Another photo shows a man in a red-and-black chequered shirt sitting on the ground with his arms cuffed behind his back.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said his “thoughts and prayers” are with the victims and the emergency services workers tending to them.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said “there’s been a horrible incident on Flinders St.”

“Police have secured the scene and will provide info as it’s confirmed. Please avoid the area. Trains running but trams affected. Stay safe. Check on your loved ones. And thank you to our brave emergency services.”

A man is dragged from the white SUV by police after it rammed into pedestrians on Flinders St.

The shocking event comes nearly three years on from the Sydney siege which occurred on the 15th of December 2014.

It also coincided with a reported gas bottle explosion at Frankston Bayside shopping centre that police are not treating as related.

Paramedics treat a number of pedestrians

Police check the pulse of a man who appeared to have lost consciousness


A preschool-aged child with head injuries has been transported to Royal Children’s Hospital in a serious condition.

Those needing treatment were transported to The Royal Melbourne and Alfred Hospital. More were being treated at the scene, Ambulance Victoria said.

Witnesses described horrific scenes that included “people flying everywhere” as the carnage unfolded at the corner of Elizabeth and Flinders streets during rush hour.

The vehicle ran a red light just after 4.30pm, witnesses told local radio station 3AW, before mowing into pedestrians. Bystanders said the vehicle made “no effort to slow down”.

Police, Fire and Paramedics treat a number of pedestrians on the corner of Flinders Street and Elizabeth Street in Melbourne after a car is believed to have ploughed through a busy intersection

Sue, from Walker’s Doughnuts, said: “We could hear this noise, as we looked left, we saw this white car, it just mauled everybody down. People are flying everywhere. We heard thump, thump. People are running everywhere.”

Witness Jim said the Suzuki was travelling west along Flinders Street at up to 100km/h.

Police said it’s being treated as a deliberate act.

“The intersection was full of pedestrians and he just ploughed through,” he told ABC TV.

“The only thing that slowed him down was him hitting pedestrians. “There was no braking, there was no slowing down. Whether it was targeted or whether he had a heart attack, or was drunk, I don’t know.”

Lauren Lopatko tweeted: “Something just happened outside Elizabeth St tram stop outside Flinders St station. Avoid area if you can. I saw ppl screaming & smoke.”

Reddit user TheElderGodsSmile added: “Sister in law said ... he knocked them over like skittles. Bloody awful.”

Police, fire and paramedics treat injured pedestrians

Fright_ posted: “Saw grown men and women crying on Platform 1 of Flinders St station. Overheard phone conversation mentioning car hitting people. Seems like I got there a few mins after it happened. Elizabeth St entrance to Flinders is closed. That big intersection being blocked off by police about 15 miss ago. Heaps of emergency services there now.”

Elton Hindoli, who works in the area, said a man who was pulled from the car appeared to be unconscious.

“A girl came into the shop and she was very upset,” he said. “It wasn’t clear if the driver was hitting them on purpose or not. It sounded like the man who they took out of the car was not awake.”

Lachlan Read said the whole incident lasted about 15 seconds.

“He has gone straight through the red light at pace and it was bang, bang, bang. It was just one after the other. The last bang the car stopped,” the 20-year-old said.

The car plowed through crowds at rush hour before stopping at a bollard

“There were bodies on the ground and people running up to them - it was mayhem.”

Vince was working in a shop at Flinders Street Station and rushed to the scene before emergency services arrived.

“There was no screaming, just people lying there,” he told AAP, adding that onlookers were quick to lend a hand.

“They were just holding them and comforting them.”

An hour after the car struck pedestrians, police were continuing to swarm the area, and Flinders Street had been cleared and locked down.

Police helicopters, fire engines and ambulances remain in the area. Victorian Police said forces and emergency services will stay on scene for the “foreseeable future.”

“The crime scene is active and will remain in place for some time. We urge people who can avoid the area, to avoid the area,” police said.

The car rammed into pedestrians shortly after 4.30pm near the Flinders St Station.

Those with video footage or images which may assist police with their investigation are being urged to upload it here.

Anyone with information is also being urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential crime report at


UN votes on Jerusalem after Trump warns 'we're watching'

'We're watching': Donald Trump's warning on eve of UN Jerusalem vote

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley vetos an Egyptian-drafted resolution regarding recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem, during the United Nations Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including Palestine, at UN Headquarters in New York City on December 18, 2017. Photo: REUTERS

UN member-states will vote on Thursday on a motion rejecting US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, under strong pressure from President Donald Trump who has threatened to cut funding to countries that back the measure.

The UN General Assembly will hold an emergency session to decide on a draft resolution that the United States vetoed at the Security Council on Monday after all other 14 council members voted in favor of the measure.

On the eve of the vote, Trump suggested there could be reprisals for countries that support the motion, put forward by Yemen and Turkey on behalf of Arab and Muslim countries.

"They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against us," Trump said at the White House.

"Well, we're watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We'll save a lot. We don't care."

The draft resolution mirrors the vetoed measure, reaffirming that any decision on the status of Jerusalem has no legal effect and must be rescinded.

It does not mention Trump's decision but expresses "deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem."

Diplomats expect strong support for the resolution, which is non-binding, despite the US pressure to either abstain, vote against it or simply not turn up for the vote.

On Tuesday, US Ambassador Nikki Haley sent an email to fellow UN envoys to put them on notice that "the president will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those countries who voted against us."

"We will take note of each and every vote on this issue," she wrote in the message seen by AFP.

On Twitter, Haley posted that "the US will be taking names" when the ambassadors of the 193-nation assembly cast their vote on Thursday.

"Nikki, that was the right message," Trump said.

A council diplomat said Canada, Hungary and the Czech Republic might bow to US pressure, but the motion is all but certain to be approved.

No country has veto powers in the General Assembly, contrary to the council where the United States, along with Britain, China, France and Russia, can block any resolution.

- 'Threats' from Washington -

Trump's December 6 decision to recognize Jerusalem broke with international consensus, triggering protests across the Muslim world and drawing strong condemnation.

Key US allies Britain, France, Italy, Japan and Ukraine were among the 14 countries in the 15-member council that voted in favor of the measure and were expected to do the same on Thursday at the assembly.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki accused Washington of "threatening" member-states, saying it was "another mistake" following the US veto at the Security Council.

Malki said the UN session would show "how many countries will opt to vote with their conscience."

While resolutions by the General Assembly are non-binding, a strong vote in support of the resolution would carry political weight.

Turkey and Yemen, representing the Arab group of countries and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), presented the measure reaffirming that Jerusalem is an "issue that must be resolved through negotiations."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sought to lead Islamic condemnation of Trump's Jerusalem plan, calling a summit of the leaders of Muslim nations last week in Istanbul, who urged the world to recognize East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.

East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel after the 1967 war, in a move never recognized by the international community. Israel sees all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country expected "strong support" for the Palestinians, adding: "Everyone with a conscience ... is against this decision that usurped Palestine's rights."

Several UN resolutions call on Israel to withdraw from territory seized during the 1967 war and the draft resolution contains the same language as past motions adopted by the assembly.


Gunfire across the heavily-guarded Demilitarized Zone

North Korean Soldier Defects Through DMZ, and Gunfire Erupts

Heavily-guarded Demilitarized Zone

A North Korean soldier escaped to the South on Thursday across the heavily-guarded Demilitarized Zone that divides the peninsula, triggering gunfire on both sides of the tense border in the second defection in successive months.

The "low-ranking" soldier was spotted by South Korean soldiers using surveillance equipment as he crossed the land border near Yeoncheon in thick fog and made his way to a guard post, a spokesman for Seoul's defence ministry said.

There were no shots at the time, he said, but about 80 minutes later South Korean troops fired around 20 rounds from a K-3 machine gun to warn off Northern guards who approached the border apparently looking for their comrade.

Two bursts of gunfire were later heard in the North, the spokesman said, but there were no indications of any bullets crossing the border.

The incident came a month after a rare and dramatic defection by a Northern soldier under a hail of bullets from his own side at Panmunjom, the truce village where opposing forces confront each other across a concrete dividing line.

On that occasion the defector drove to the heavily-guarded border at speed and ran across the border as North Korean troops fired at him. He was hit at least four times.

Footage showed the badly injured man being pulled to safety by two South Korean soldiers who crawled to reach him just south of the demarcation line.

He has since been recovering in hospital in the South.

Yeoncheon, where Thursday's defection happened, is in the midwestern part of the DMZ, in Gyeonggi province.

Away from Panmunjom, the rest of the 4-kilometre (2.5-mile) -wide DMZ bristles with barbed wire and is littered with minefields, making any crossing extremely hazardous.

- Uncertain fate -

The latest defection was the fourth by a soldier across the DMZ this year.

But Kim Dong-Yub, defence analyst at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University in Seoul, said the sample size was too small to draw conclusions about a trend.

Two North Korean civilians also defected this week after being found drifting in a rickety engineless boat off the South's eastern coast, Yonhap news agency reported, citing the Unification Ministry, which handles relations with the North.

They were spotted by a South Korean surveillance aircraft and picked up by a nearby navy vessel, it said.

The developments bring this year's total for the number of people defecting directly to the South to 15, a Joint Chiefs of Staff tally showed -- three times as many as in 2016.

Around 30,000 North Koreans have fled repression and poverty in their homeland to reach the South over the decades since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

According to Unification ministry data, 1,418 did so in 2016, but in the first 10 months of this year numbers fell 16.8 percent.

Analyst Kim told AFP: "The North's chronic food shortages, which in the past were the prime reason for North Koreans to flee from the country, have not been so bad in recent years."

The vast majority of defectors go first to China, with which the North shares a long border, and where they face the risk of being repatriated to an uncertain fate if caught. They travel on to the South later, usually via another country.

In November's Panmunjom incident, footage showed a North Korean guard briefly crossing the border in hot pursuit before retreating.

The US-led United Nations Command said the North's forces had violated the 1953 ceasefire that ended Korean War hostilities both by physically crossing the line and firing weapons over it.

The North Korean soldier, 24-year-old Oh Chong-Song, underwent multiple operations for his gunshot wounds at Ajou University Hospital in Seoul and was transferred to a military hospital last week, Yonhap said.

He has recovered enough to get to his feet and walk with help, it added, and has written a letter of thanks to the medical staff who treated him.

Oh wants to become a lawyer, said his surgeon Lee Cook-Jong, who gave him a law book.

"He said while in the North, he was unable to study much because of his military duty," Lee was quoted as saying. "I just hope he will become a good citizen, whatever kind of occupation he chooses."


Thai zoo under fire after poked tiger video goes viral

Video of Thai zoo staff repeatedly prodding a tiger to make it roar for tourists has sparked outrage

tiger been poked

A Thai zoo has sparked outrage after a video of staff repeatedly prodding a tiger to elicit roars for tourist photos went viral, renewing criticism of the kingdom's notorious animal tourism industry.

The clip, which has garnered more than one million views since it was posted on Monday, shows the Pattaya zoo attendant jabbing the chained animal in the face with a stick as tourists take turns posing with or sitting on top of the big cat for pictures.

"This tiger gets poked all day, hundreds of times a day so it will roar for the picture with tourists," wrote Edwin Wiek, the founder of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, who filmed the video and posted it on Facebook.

A spokesperson for the zoo, The Million Years Stone Park and Pattaya Crocodile Farm, told AFP the tiger attendant had been transferred to another job over the incident.

"The owner he loves animals and he will not allow staff to hurt his animals," she added.

Tourist dollars and the lure of the animal selfie fuel a lucrative but controversial wildlife tourism industry in Thailand, where opportunities to ride elephants, hold monkeys and pet tigers are all available for a price.

Animal rights groups have long criticised the industry as inhumane, with chained up animals kept in small quarters with inadequate diets or veterinary care.

The Pattaya zoo's website shows pictures of white tigers, bears, camels, deer and other exotic animals in outdoor pens. It also advertises a daily show featuring a man fighting bare-handed with adult crocodiles.

"We believe that the taking of selfies with wildlife should be stopped completely," Wiek told AFP, adding that such behaviour is also risky for humans.

"Every year hundreds of people are bitten or clawed in similar situations."

In 2016 the kingdom made international headlines after police raided its infamous Tiger Temple, a tourist site accused of links to the illegal wildlife trade.

Pop star Rihanna also inadvertently highlighted another thriving illegal trade in 2013 when she posted a selfie with a slow loris in Phuket.

Earlier this month boxer Floyd Mayweather visited Phuket and posted photos on his Instagram account showing him riding an elephant, another practice criticised by rights advocates.

A July report by World Animal Protection said Thailand was the global epicentre of the elephant tourism industry, with the majority of its 2,198 tourist pachyderms held in inadequate conditions.


Explosion at New York City's Port Authority

Suspect in custody following explosion at New York station

Lots of emergency responders on 8th Ave.
between 42nd and 43rd streets. 

NEW YORK - An explosion struck the Port Authority bus terminal at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue on Monday morning, the New York Police Department said in a tweet.

One male suspect is in custody following an explosion early Monday at New York City’s Port Authority Bus Terminal near Times Square, according to preliminary information from the New York Police Department.

New York police immediately provided a heavy response.
The suspect, whose identity has not yet been released, sustained non-life-threatening injuries in the blast, fire officials said. No other injuries have been reported, police said.

Some kind of explosive device detonated at the A/C/E Port Authority subway stop around 7:30 a.m. Monday, an NYPD spokesperson said. All subways that typically stop at the Port Authority are bypassing the station. Authorities have temporarily closed the Port Authority Bus Terminal, a major transportation hub for New York City residents and visitors near Times Square, and several train lines have been rerouted or suspended.

PRESIDENT Trump has been briefed after an explosion at the New York Port Authority station during Monday morning rush hour.

Port Authority Police watch as people evacuate after a reported
explosion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal
A law enforcement official told AP that a man had explosive device strapped on when it exploded in New York City subway around 7:30am. The person was arrested and has non-life threatening injuries.

New York police confirmed one male suspect is in custody and there are “no injuries other than the suspect at this time.” Locals are being urged to avoid the area.

A police officer near the scene said: “There was an explosion under Port Authority somewhere in the subway. That’s all we’ve got for now.”

Local media reported that a man with a “possible second device” has been detained in a subway tunnel, however, this has not yet been confirmed by police.

Commuter Diego Fernandez, who was caught up in the chaos, said: “There was a stampede up the stairs to get out...Everybody was scared and running and shouting.”

The explosion happened during rush hour
The enormous bus and train station is one of the busiest in New York and connects Manhattan to New Jersey. It’s located directly opposite the New York Times office and is just two blocks from Times Square in the heart of mid-town.

Police closed off the busy 8th avenue surrounding the station within minutes and footage from the scene showed an orderly evacuation.

Earlier, police confirmed they were investigating an explosion of “unknown origin” in

Manhattan, and that people were being evacuated from several train lines.

Police and other first responders respond to an explosion at the
Port Authority Bus Terminal.
“The NYPD is responding to reports of an explosion of unknown origin at 42nd Street and 8th Ave, #Manhattan. The A, C and E line are being evacuated at this time. Info is preliminary, more when available,” the New York police department wrote on their Twitter account.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the President had been briefed on the explosion. New York Mayor Bill De Blasio has also been briefed.

Local media reports said the explosion came from a suspected pipe bomb and battery pack, however, this has not been confirmed by police.

The event comes after eight people were killed and 11 injured after a 29-year-old man drove a white truck down a cycle lane into people on Halloween.

Sayfullo Saipov pleaded not guilty to murder and other criminal charges.

The only person injured was the suspect, Police said

Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital explained

“Today we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.”

President Trump just officially declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, upending decades of US diplomacy and threatening to spark massive unrest across the Muslim world.

Speaking in the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room, Trump also announced his plan to eventually relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and begin the difficult logistical work of building a new diplomatic facility in the disputed city.

“Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like any other sovereign nation to determine its own capital,” Trump said. “Acknowledging this is a fact is a necessary condition for achieving peace.”

Trump described Jerusalem as the capital that “the Jewish people established in ancient times,” a line that may anger those in the Arab world who minimize, or deny, that Jews have had a historic connection to the city for millennia.

Still, Trump’s speech was decidedly less inflammatory than it could have been. The president said the US “would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides” - at least nominally maintaining Washington’s commitment to a cornerstone of US foreign policy for decades - and called on both sides to maintain the existing status quo in the city.

And although Trump declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, he explicitly didn’t call it the undivided capital of Israel, leaving the door open for Israelis and Palestinians to divide the city during any final status negotiations between the two sides. In advance of the speech, White House officials repeatedly stressed that Trump’s announcement doesn’t represent a change US policy on the future borders of Jerusalem.

Here’s why that linguistic choice is so important. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis claim Jerusalem as their capital, and the city contains sites sacred to both Jews and Muslims. Though Israel’s parliament and the prime minister’s home are in Jerusalem, they sit in West Jerusalem, on the side of the city Israel has controlled since 1949. Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967 and annexed that half of the city.

The international community considers East Jerusalem occupied territory. But that half of the city also contains sites holy to all three major monotheistic religions, including the Western Wall, the holiest place in the world where Jews can openly pray, and Haram al-Sharif, Arabic for “the Noble Sanctuary,” a sacred site for Muslims that Israelis refer to as the Temple Mount.

The Palestinians want to officially divide the city and make East Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state. The Israelis, to put it mildly, disagree - and the right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long made clear that it wouldn’t even consider making concessions over Jerusalem.

The decades-long political fight over the future of the city is what makes Trump’s new move so momentous - and so dangerous.

World leaders from France to Saudi Arabia to China had cautioned Trump against the decision. Pope Francis even weighed in, calling on world leaders to let “wisdom and prudence prevail” so as “to avoid adding new elements of tension.” The US Consulate in Jerusalem issued a security warning barring all US government employees and their families from traveling to Jerusalem’s Old City or the West Bank ahead of the announcement because “widespread demonstrations” were expected.

But even though Trump’s speech ultimately didn’t go quite as far as many had expected, it may be too late to change perceptions that the Trump administration has unequivocally aligned itself with Israel. In other words, the damage may already be done.

Trump is touching the third rail of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

The status of Jerusalem has been a source of both division and contention for decades. During most of the 1990s - including during the creation of the Oslo peace accords between the Israelis and the Palestinians - negotiations over the final status of the city were left for the future to avoid derailing the rest of the talks.

In 2000, negotiations between then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat reportedly came close to dividing the city between the two peoples. The Israelis would have retained control over the Western Wall, and the Palestinians would have been given control of Haram al-Sharif, the third-holiest site in Islam.

Final negotiations reportedly broke down over questions of who would control a maze of underground tunnels that run beneath Jerusalem’s Old City.

There have been no recent negotiations over the city for a simple and grim reason: Despite the official US government line, Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been largely on hold for years, with no indications that they’ll resume anytime soon.

In the meantime, Jerusalem has retained the uniquely strange status of a city without a country. Americans born in the city must put “Jerusalem” rather than “Israel” on their passports. That’s because the nationality of the entire city remains contested, which is a source of deep fury for many Israelis and American Jews.

The specific wording of Trump’s speech matters

Though Trump affirmed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, he didn’t called it the undivided capital of Israel - suggesting the US would still support potentially dividing Jerusalem between the Israelis and the Palestinians as part of future peace negotiations.

Indeed, he explicitly stated that the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty and Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations of a future peace agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis.

“We are not taking a position of any final status issues including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders,” Trump said.

That matters. For years, official US policy has been support for a two-state solution, with the final status of Jerusalem to be decided as part of a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Had Trump chosen to go further and declare Jerusalem to be the undivided capital of Israel, it would have sent the message that the US has taken a clear position on Jerusalem’s final status.

“[N]o issue seems to put Arab leaders more on the defensive than Jerusalem,” Middle East experts David Makovsky and Dennis Ross wrote in advance of Trump’s speech. “Because the administration needs these leaders to play a role in any renewed peace effort, it should avoid any moves that look like Washington is preempting negotiations and adopting Israel's position on the city.”

The damage may already be done

Even though Trump exercised uncharacteristic caution in how he worded his speech, the damage may already be done. That’s because news of Wednesday’s announcement leaked out several days earlier, immediately sparking fury in much of the Arab world.

On Tuesday, Palestinian leaders called for three “days of rage” to protest the decision, and demonstrations had already broken out in the Gaza Strip and a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon, before Trump even spoke.

“Trump's tone is at least as important as his substance,” Tamara Cofman Wittes, a senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, tweeted in advance of Trump’s speech. “But it may be neither will matter v[ery] much, because the framing of his statement in the region has largely already happened.”


Michael Flynn Has Been Charged With Lying During The Russian Investigation

Mike Flynn to plead guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with Russia

former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn

Former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn will plead guilty on Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian government officials.

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia has scheduled a plea hearing for Flynn that is set to take place at 10:30 a.m. ET. In the hearing, Flynn will plead guilty to making “materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent” statements to FBI agents this past January.

Mueller’s prosecutors have been investigating a wide range of potential charges against Flynn. The agreement to plead to one count comes amid recent signs that the former Trump advisor was now cooperating with investigators.

Specifically, Flynn falsely told the FBI that he did not tell the Russian ambassador to the United States that the country should “refrain” from escalating tensions between the two countries in the wake of new sanctions leveled against it by the outgoing Obama administration.

The Russian government did not retaliate against the Obama administration’s new sanctions late last year, and President Trump himself praised this decision as “very smart” on Twitter.

The Trump tweet was subsequently promoted by the Russian embassy of the United States’ official Twitter account.

Speculation about Flynn cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe spiked in late October when the special counsel hit former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort with an indictment that included money laundering allegations.

Flynn resigned as national security adviser this past February, less than a month into Trump’s first term, when it was revealed that he had lied about conversations he’d had with Russian officials about potential sanctions relief.

Charge sheet 1

charge sheet 2

Automakers struggle with the future

Automakers struggle with the future in Los Angeles

DETROIT: Car manufacturers’ attempts to square what US consumers want against the clean vehicles regulators and investors demand will be on display in Los Angeles this week at an auto show that has moved away from calling itself just an auto show.

Automakers on Monday will begin previewing new models for the media at an event called AutoMobility LA, reflecting an emphasis on digital technology and new ways to get around, such as self-driving cars. On Friday, the Los Angeles Auto Show will open to the public for 10 days, attracting visitors from one of the world’s most affluent and culturally influential metropolitan markets.

For now, self-driving cars are not ready for consumers, and sales of the battery-powered vehicles demanded by California regulators remain marginal and money-losing. Profits are generated by gasoline-fueled sport utility vehicles and trucks.

Automakers caught between the petroleum past and the digital future will send muddled messages.

Volkswagen AG will try to replace memories of the diesel emissions cheating scandal that tarnished its image with many California customers by promoting its US$40 billion waves of electric vehicles.

In the next breath, the German automaker will tout its gasoline-fuelled Audi A8 large luxury sedan, which can pilot itself under limited circumstances but is out of step with a market where buyers are switching to sport utility vehicles.

Rivals overshadowed by electric vehicle pioneer Tesla Inc are in a quandary, too. Despite a booming stock market, sales for luxury brands BMW, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and Toyota Motor Corp’s Lexus are down for the first 10 months of 2017.

BMW AG is expected to roll out new versions of its i8 plug-in hybrid sports car. But for those not interested in electrification, the company will use the show to promote a high-performance version of its 5 Series sedan.

Tata Motors unit Jaguar Land Rover will accompany its new gasoline-powered Range Rover SVAutobiography billed as the “pinnacle” of a lineup that already has models priced above US$100,000, with its first plug-in hybrid Range Rovers.

At AutoMobility LA, auto and technology industry executives will debate how ride-sharing, self-driving vehicles and electric cars will shape the future. At the auto show itself, the stars will be gasoline-burning SUVs, such as the Subaru Ascent, a large, three-row SUV from a brand known for compact, all-wheel-drive cars.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will unveil a new Jeep Wrangler with styling that still harks back to the trusty vehicles that helped the United States win World War II.


Uber's data breach cover up

Uber's data breach cover-up could provide customers a significant push to shift to its competitors

Uber has managed to hold the title of world’s largest ride-hailing service despite its seemingly endless string of scandals.

Its latest misbehavior involving a data breach cover-up revealed this week could be the impetus for people to ride elsewhere - or keep looking the other way.

Hackers were able to steal data from 57 million riders and drivers, and Uber concealed it for a year after paying $100,000 in ransom for the stolen information to be destroyed.

Riders and business experts say that while Uber’s problems such as workplace sexual harassment, drivers with criminal records and other past infractions are serious, stolen data hits people directly and could make them mad enough to delete the app. Then again, riders have fled from the service before, but enough have stayed because of the Uber’s convenience so the latest scandal-of-the-week may not make much of a difference. The brand is so well-known for quickly responding to ride requests that it’s often used as a verb for such trips, no matter which service is summoned.

Michael Pachter, a technology analyst based in Los Angeles, said he uses Uber five to 10 times a month.

“I don’t blame the drivers for the company transgressions, and view Uber as the glue that facilitates drivers willing to drive me around,” he said.

But for Vermont resident Jay Furr, the breach was the “final straw.” He had stuck with Uber despite recent problems because of the service. But now he’ll use Lyft, Uber’s main competitor when he goes to the airport for frequent business trips.

“Why to reward crooked behavior?” he asked. “The only way they will learn is if they lose business.”

For much of the past year, Uber has been mired in well-publicized problems. A female former engineer blogged that her boss had propositioned her for sex, exposing widespread sexual harassment. A federal judge urged prosecutors to investigate allegations that Uber stole technology from Waymo, Google’s autonomous vehicle unit. The Justice Department is investigating whether Uber used a bogus app to deceive inspectors in several cities, and in London, authorities decided not to renew Uber’s operating license in part for failing to report crimes.

Earlier this week the state of Colorado fined Uber $8.9 million for allowing employees with serious criminal or motor vehicle offenses to drive for the company. Then came the stolen data, which has touched off more government inquiries.

The scandals have damaged Uber’s brand reputation over time, said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys Inc., a New York-based customer research firm. The company’s polling has found that in 2015 Lyft passed Uber as the most trusted of ride-hailing brands, and trust in Uber has been eroding ever since. Consumers will give technology companies the benefit of the doubt for a long time. But with Uber, “That well of forgiveness isn’t bottomless,” Passikoff said.

Passikoff doesn’t measure the impact on ridership and Uber won’t discuss it. But Lyft says its share of the US market has risen 3 percentage points since August to 33 percent. It’s up from 12 percent two years ago as Lyft has expanded with more drivers in major US cities.

In the data breach, Uber has said that for riders, hackers got only names, email addresses, and telephone numbers. They did not get personal information such as trip details or credit card and Social Security numbers. For about 600,000 drivers in the US, hackers got driver’s license numbers, and the company has offered them free credit monitoring services.

While Uber drivers lost personal data and face uncertainty over identity theft, it appears they’ll stick with Uber. Many drives for Lyft as well.

Nate Tepp, who drives Uber in Seattle, said he doesn’t plan to leave, nor does he think other drivers will.

“All they are doing is cutting out 60 to 65 percent of their income,” Tepp said of drivers who might consider leaving. That estimate is based on his own split between Uber and Lyft fares.

Tepp also thinks the last three to four months at Uber have been different and things have “started to go in drivers’ favor.” This includes adding an option for riders to tip.

He is also somewhat forgiving about the hacking - and the subsequent cover-up. After all, companies are hacked often, he said.

“Does it make me happy? No. Does it (make me angry) to the point that I am going to stop making money through that company? No,” he said.

New Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi could do little but admit the problem and promises ethical behavior in the future. “We are changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make and working hard to earn the trust of our customers,” he wrote in a blog post.

Marlene Towns, a professor at Georgetown University’s business school who studies brand values, said Uber is testing the boundaries of how many scandals people will endure. While data breaches are personal to people, she still thinks Uber will get through this scandal as well.

“We have a short memory as consumers,” she said. “We tend to be if not forgiving, forgetful.”


Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will marry in May 2018

Royal wedding date: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will marry in May 2018

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding will take place at Windsor Chapel

PRINCE Harry and Meghan Markle will wed at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in May.
Kensington Palace has confirmed the pair will not hold their nuptials at Westminster Abbey, as Prince William and Catherine Middleton did.
Instead, they have opted for the lower-key choice of St George’s Chapel at the Windsor Castle royal estate west of London.

Prince Harry was christened there, and his father Prince Charles held a blessing there after his civil wedding to his second wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles, in 2005.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle appeared on British TV to discuss their engagement.

“As with all members of the Royal family, Windsor is a very special place for Prince Harry and he and Ms. Markle have regularly spent time there over the last year and a half,’’ Prince Harry’s communications secretary Jason Knauf said.
“They are grateful to the Queen for granting permission for the use of the chapel.’’

The royal family would pay for all the core elements of the wedding including the service, flowers, and music.
No final date has been announced, and Kensington Palace is yet to reveal who will conduct the service, although it is likely it will be conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

The happy couple officially announced
their engagement on Monday in London
A Kensington Palace spokesman also confirmed that Ms. Markle, a Protestant, would be baptized and confirmed into the Church of England prior to the wedding. The Queen is the head of the Church of England.

While much smaller and less grand that Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s Cathedral, which are both in the historic center of London, St George’s Chapel can still seat 800 guests.

However, it is on the Windsor Castle estate and will be more difficult for members of the public to access.

Mr. Knauf said the day would be a “fun and joyful’’ occasion for family and friends, and Prince Harry and Ms. Markle “want the day to be shaped so as to allow members of the public to feel part of the celebrations too.’’
It is not yet know how the public might be able to view either the wedding or the potential arrival of the bridal party at the chapel. The service will be televised.
Ms. Markle, 36, and Prince Harry, 33, formally announced their engagement at Kensington Palace, their home, on Monday.

Mr. Knauf revealed Ms. Markle would begin formal royal duties almost immediately and would join Prince Harry at a series of public appearances in Nottingham, a midlands city three hours north of London, on Friday.
She will conduct a street walk to meet the public, visit the National Justice Museum, and join a celebration for World AIDS Day.
The spokesman confirmed the American Ms. Markle would begin the process of gaining UK citizenship, which was likely to take several years.

Prince William and Kate Middleton were married at Westminster Abbey in 2010

It was also confirmed one of Ms. Markle’s dogs, a beagle called Guy, was now living with the couple in Nottingham Cottage in Kensington Palace in central London, while her second dog, a mixed-breed called
Bogart, had been rehomed with friends at an undisclosed location - presumably in Canada or the United States.

“It is a permanent arrangement,’’ the spokesman confirmed, leading the British press to joke about headlines of “Bogart Dumped.’’

“Prince Harry and Ms. Markle are extremely grateful for the warm public response following yesterday’s announcement of their engagement,’’ Mr. Knauf said.
“In a happy moment in their lives, it means a great deal that so many people throughout the UK, the Commonwealth and around the world are celebrating with them.’’

Prince Charles and Camilla held a blessing at St George’s Chapel
 after their civil wedding in 2005

The date of the wedding and details on the service will be released in coming weeks.
A May date will avoid a clash with the arrival of Prince William and Catherine’s third child, which is due in April.
Prince Charles will also be in Australia in early April to open the Commonwealth Games.


Challenge to Trump as North Korea tests ICBM

With N.Korea missile reach global, focus falls on defenses

North Korea test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile on Wednesday, in a major challenge to US President Donald Trump after he slapped fresh sanctions on Pyongyang and declared it a state sponsor of terrorism.

It was the nuclear-armed North's first ballistic test in more than two months and an initial Pentagon assessment said the ICBM flew about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) before splashing down within Japan's maritime Economic Exclusion Zone.

At least one expert said its lofted trajectory suggested an actual range of 13,000 kilometers that would bring every city in the continental United States within range.

Trump, who has previously threatened North Korea with "fire and fury," was guarded in his immediate response, as the UN Security Council agreed to convene an emergency session to discuss the latest provocation.

"I will only tell you that we will take care of it," Trump said at the White House. "It is a situation that we will handle," he added, without elaborating.

North Korea's immediate neighbors were less restrained, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling the test an intolerable, "violent" act and South Korean President Moon Jae-In condemning Pyongyang's "reckless" behavior.

The South Korean military responded by staging a precision-strike missile exercise as it has done following previous North Korean tests.

Prior to Wednesday's launch, the North's last missile test was on September 15 and the subsequent pause had prompted some to speculate whether the North might be willing to embrace a negotiated solution to the nuclear standoff.

- Diplomatic options -

Trump insisted there would be no change to his administration's "maximum pressure campaign" which has sought to curb Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme with tightened sanctions backed by dire warnings of massive retaliation in the event of an attack.

But his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, also stressed that diplomatic options remained "viable and open."

It was the North's third successful ICBM test and David Wright, a co-director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the flight parameters pointed to a "significantly longer" range than previous launches.

"Such a missile would have more than enough range to reach Washington DC, and in fact any part of the continental United States," he said.

While Pyongyang has yet to prove its mastery of the re-entry technology required to bring a warhead back through the Earth's atmosphere, experts say it is on the threshold of developing a working nuclear strike capability against US cities.

Tensions over the North's weapons programme peaked after Pyongyang conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September and then fired an intermediate-range missile over Japan.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday's test went higher than ever before and was a step toward North Korea building missiles that can "threaten everywhere in the world, basically."

There was no immediate reaction from China, the North's sole ally and economic lifeline, which has come under repeated US pressure to do more to rein in Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

China has pushed for a "dual-track approach" to the crisis which would see the United States freeze its military drills in South Korea while North Korea would halt its weapons programmes.

Washington has rejected that approach, and last week unveiled new sanctions targeting North Korean shipping, as well a number of Chinese companies doing business with the pariah state.

- Terror sponsor -

President Trump also declared North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism, a spot on a US blacklist the country had shed nearly a decade ago.

But the North remained defiant, vowing to continue building up its nuclear force and warning that sanctions would never succeed.

Drumming up support for a tough stance against North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions was the main focus of a marathon Asian tour undertaken by Trump earlier this month.

Trump and Abe, who enjoy a close relationship, spoke by phone after Wednesday's ICBM test and, according to a White House statement, agreed that repeated provocations by leader Kim Jong-Un's regime were "undermining" North Korea's own security and "further isolating it from the international community".

Trump's relations with his South Korean counterpart Moon, whom he has accused of appeasing Pyongyang, are far cooler, and there are concerns in Seoul that the US president might be considering military action against the North that could trigger a full-scale war.

"The situation could get out of control," Moon warned during a hastily convened meeting with national security officials on Wednesday.

"We have to prevent such a scenario where the North may miscalculate the situation and threaten us with nuclear weapons, or the US may consider a pre-emptive strike," Moon said.

Seoul is home to 10 million people and only about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the border -- well within a range of Pyongyang's artillery.

One study by the Nautilus think-tank in California estimated around 65,000 civilians would die in Seoul alone on the first day of a conventional North Korean attack.


Amazon and Netflix hailed

Amazon and Netflix hailed as new gatekeepers of video content by director Shekhar Kapur

After film studios and producers, popular online video content platforms Amazon and Netflix are the new 'gatekeepers' of cinema, says ace director Shekhar Kapur, who envisions that in the future technology will ensure that the masses and not 'gatekeepers' will dictate the video content trends.

Participating at a panel discussion on 'Digital Space - The Future Ahead' on the sidelines of the ongoing 48th International Film Festival of India, he also said the technology-enabled film distribution on mobile phones and other gadgets, will make going to a cinema hall a once-in-a-while social experience.

"So now Amazon and Netflix are the new gatekeepers because now they are going to decide who they are going to pick. Before that, there were the studios, before that they were the big producers... We are now heading towards a world where the crowd will decide what is good or not and gatekeepers will go," Kapur said.

"One of the things that digital is constantly doing now, is undercutting the idea of iconism... What's happening is, inertia is being sucked out of the system. Amazon and Netflix and Facebook are people that actually rebelled against iconism, who then became icons themselves," he said.

Kapur claimed that in the future, constantly evolving technology will result in failure of conventional organizations, who would not be able to keep pace with the developments.

"Organisations won't be able to sustain because, by the time they have created an organization, the technology will change. The future lies in individuality. The future lies with democracy. That's where it is going.

"It is going to a point where, if anyone of you believes you can tell a story, you can tell a story. If you believe you can give the story to the world, you can give it to the world. You have the means, you have the technology, you can upload the video," he said.

He also said that the concept of an outing at the cinema hall would be minimal in the future, but may not be eliminated all the same.

"It is becoming difficult to go out in Mumbai. You cannot go out to eat (often), but you still go out to eat as a social occasion. Cinema will be a social occasion... There are various reasons why you go to films. It is a darkened theatre. You'll have a social experience," he said.


Germany on road to political stability

Germany on road to political stability as coalition talks between Conservatives, SPD gain momentum

Momentum in Germany is building up for a new ‘grand coalition’ between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc as well as the Social Democrats (SPD) to stop the political imbalances caused by the failure of her coalition talks with some other parties.

The conservatives and SPD have ruled collectively during the last 4 years and many ministers are retaining their posts in an interim government until a fresh coalition or minority government is formed.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier hosts an initial meeting of Merkel, the head of Bavaria’s CSU conservatives, Horst Seehofer, and SPD leader Martin Schulz on Thursday.

Below are a few of the overlaps and differences in policy areas probably going to be discussed in every coalition talks.


Merkel has stressed she would like to sustain Germany’s solid finances. Germany has operated a budget surplus since 2014 under the stewardship of her hardline conservative finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble.

She has also said she wants some tax cuts, mostly for low and medium earners.

The SPD is actually devoted to boosting spending and has in the past couple of days said it wishes to increase investment in education and homes as well as on infrastructure. The SPD hopes to increase inheritance tax, some in the party want to demand to raise the minimum wage and it fought the election on a pledge of keeping pensions stable.

The conservatives and SPD both want to increase spending to expand broadband.

Migration and Security

An area of possible conflict.

Since the election, Merkel has bowed to pressure from her Bavarian allies to put a cap on the number of people Germany will accept on humanitarian grounds. Merkel recurrent on Saturday that she desired to limit the number to about 200,000 a year. The SPD opposes this, arguing it breaches the constitution’s guarantee of asylum to people who are persecuted for political reasons. Some leading party members have said they will not agree to a cap.


The SPD is more positive than Merkel’s cautious stance towards French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposals for a eurozone budget and a eurozone finance minister. The SPD also backs the concept of turning the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) bailout fund into a European Monetary Fund along with the lines of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

There is little change on the strategy to Brexit talks.

Foreign Policy

Broad agreement on many areas of foreign policy, including with the United States and Turkey. The SPD puts greater concentrate on mending ties with Russia that happen to be hurt by the conflict in Ukraine, however, this is more an issue of nuance than a deep policy rift.

Also, agreement on armed forces missions abroad, although the SPD is more skeptical on NATO, demands to advance towards increasing defense spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product by 2014.

Social Justice

The SPD fought its election on the platform of social justice and wants to improve a lot of the less affluent.

A long-standing commitment which several senior SPD members have repeated lately is the idea of making health insurance fairer for everybody by introducing a ‘citizen’s insurance’. The SPD also wants to ensure both women and men have equal pay and working conditions.


India Police gets rid of beggars from city streets as Ivanka Trump visits

 India Authorities takes no chances for Ivanka Trump visit

HYDERABAD: Indian authorities have removed beggars away from the streets and introduced 10,000 extra security forces for Ivanka Trump’s most significant foreign mission since her father became president.

President Donald Trump’s eldest daughter is planned to be the main speaker Tuesday during the launching of a three-day Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad together with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The southern city is the location of the India operations of Google, Facebook and Amazon.

The 36-year-old, who will be an official White House advisor, will attempt to press women’s empowerment in business corporations.

She will also highlight the expanding friendship between the United States and India - therefore the host country is taking no chances.

Trump will probably be welcomed in Hyderabad by Modi who is going to host an event dinner at the Falaknuma Palace, a luxury hotel once owned by one of the Nizams who ruled the city before India’s independence.

The authorities have spruced up an open-air market around Charminar, a 16th-century mosque which is among the many city’s icons. Media reports have recommended that Trump could visit the market.

Police have cleared scores of beggars off the streets, saying they cause nuisance and block traffic.

Approximately 10,000 security personnel including anti-terrorist forces and dog squads is going to be deployed, and Trump will travel around Hyderabad in her own special bulletproof vehicle with US Secret Service handling close security.

The visit has long been clouded by US media reports questioning Trump’s clothing line along with its supply chain plus a snub by Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, who has reportedly turned down to send out senior staff with Trump to India.

“They won’t send someone senior for the reason that doesn't wish to bolster Ivanka,” CNN quoted a senior State Department official as saying.

But US business front-runners are typically in the Trump delegation working with around 1,200 entrepreneurs from 150 countries at the meeting.

“Entrepreneurship… is really an important concern for this particular administration. The United States acknowledges innovation and entrepreneurship vital tools for job creation, economic growth, and stability…” Trump said ahead of the visit.

“Globally, between 2014 and 2016, entrepreneurship activity among women improved by 10 percent. One study estimates that closing the gender entrepreneurship gap worldwide could grow our global GDP by up to two percent.”

Trump’s Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, or We-Fi, aims to improve having access to business capital for women in the developing world.

In keeping with Trump, women-owned businesses in the developing world suffer an annual credit deficit of $300 billion, either by being incapable of borrow or receiving only high-cost, short-term credit.

The We-Fi was initially projected at the G20 summit in Hamburg this year as well as being backed up by Germany, Russia, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and also other countries.


Islamist protests results Pakistan minister resignation

Pakistan minister resigns after violent Islamist protests: state media

Pakistan's law minister Zahid Hamid has resigned, state media reported Monday, meeting a vital demand of Islamist protesters that have clashed violently with security forces and blockaded the capital Islamabad for many days.

Hamid "has submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to assist the nation away from crisis," the state-run news agency Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report citing unnamed official sources, without giving further details.

State television station PTV also reported the minister's resignation, without citing any sources.

There wasn't any quick confirmation or comment from government officials.

Hamid's resignation was a key demand of the little known Islamist group that has virtually paralyzed Islamabad since it began a sit-in on a major highway into the capital on November 6.

The Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah Pakistan (TLY) have been calling for Hamid's ousting for weeks over a hastily-abandoned amendment to the oath that election candidates must swear.

The protesters have linked it to blasphemy -- a highly contentious issue in Muslim Pakistan that has often fuelled violence.

On Saturday security forces attempted to clear the roughly 2,000 demonstrators at the sit-in in a botched operation that devolved into violence, with at least seven people killed and hundreds wounded before they were ordered to retreat.

The clashes fuelled more protests in other cities, including Pakistan's two largest Karachi and Lahore, and saw thousands of more demonstrators arrive on the streets of Islamabad.

The government called on the army to intervene to restore order late Saturday. By Monday morning there still had been no official response from the military.

The reports of Hamid's resignation raised hopes that the protest leaders would end the sit-in, which has enraged commuters with hours-long traffic snarls, caused the death of at least one child whose ambulance could not reach the hospital in time, and infuriated the judiciary.

Numbers were dwindling at the Islamabad protest site early Monday, with AFP reporters saying around 2,500 demonstrators remained. Leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi had not yet arrived as Hamid's resignation was reported.

The minister's ousting is the latest in a series of heavy blows to the beleaguered Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) government as general elections approach in 2018.

In July, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was deposed by the courts over graft allegations, while finance minister Ishaq Dar -- also accused of corruption -- has taken indefinite medical leave.


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