Harvey makes landfall again, Texas toll 17

Hurricane Harvey makes landfall again, Texas toll 17

Tropical Storm Harvey has made landfall again near the Texas-Louisiana border, adding more rain after a record downpour that has caused catastrophic flooding and paralysed the city of Houston.
The storm that first came ashore on Friday as the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years has killed at least 17 people and forced tens of thousands to leave their deluged homes.
Damage has been estimated at tens of billions of dollars, making it one of the costliest US natural disasters.

Harvey, which made landfall west of Cameron, Louisiana on Wednesday, was expected to produce an additional 15.24cm of rain to an area east of Houston as well as southwestern Louisiana, where some areas have already seen more than 48cm of rain.
It is projected to weaken as it moves inland to the northeast, the National Hurricane Centre said.
"We aren't going to be dealing with it for too much longer. It's going to pick up the pace and get out of here," said Donald Jones, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

But nearly a third of Harris County, home to Houston, was under water, an area 15 times the size of Manhattan, according to the Houston Chronicle newspaper. It may take days for all floodwaters, which have spilled over dams and pushed levees to their limits, to recede, local officials said.
City officials were preparing to temporarily house some 19,000 people, with thousands more expected to flee. As of Tuesday morning, nearly 50,000 homes had suffered flood damage, Texas officials said, and the tally is certain to rise.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced curfew from 12am to 5am amid reports of looting, armed robberies and people impersonating police officers.

US President Donald Trump visited Texas on Tuesday to survey damage from the first major natural disaster to test his leadership in a crisis. The president said he was pleased with the response, but it was too soon for a victory lap.
"We won't say congratulations," he said. "We don't want to do that... We'll congratulate each other when it's all finished."

Moody's Analytics is estimating the economic cost from Harvey for southeast Texas at $US51 billion to $US75 billion ($A64 billion to $A94 billion).
The unprecedented flooding has left scores of neighbourhoods chest-deep in water and badly strained the dams and drainage systems that protect the low-lying Houston metropolitan area whose economy is about as large as Argentina's.

The National Weather Service has issued flood watches and warnings that stretch from the Houston area into Tennessee.

Harvey has drawn comparisons with Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans 12 years ago, killing 1,800 people and causing an estimated $US108 billion in damage.

Among the confirmed fatalities was Houston Police Sergeant Steve Perez, a 34-year veteran of the force who drowned while attempting to drive to work on Sunday.
In Beaumont, northeast of Houston, a woman clutching her baby daughter was swept away in raging flooding. The baby was saved but the mother died, Beaumont police said.

cred: Reuters

Berkshire Hathaway group becomes top shareholder in Bank of America

Warren Buffett becomes top shareholder in Bank of America

US: American billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway group has officially become the top shareholder in Bank of America after exercising its right to buy 700 million shares at a discount.

Buffett had received the warrants in 2011 after investing $5 billion in the bank, which was suffering at the time from the fallout from the global financial crisis.

Bank of America said Buffett had acquired the shares for about $7.14 each -- well below their Tuesday closing price of $23.58.

Buffett's investment is now worth $16.51 billion, meaning he has made a capital gain of nearly $12 billion.

"In 2011, we welcomed Berkshire Hathaway as a shareholder, and we appreciate their continued support now as our largest common shareholder," the bank's CEO Brian Moynihan said in a statement.

Buffett's other holdings include major assets in real estate and insurance. He is also the biggest shareholder in Wells Fargo.

cred: afp

Iran’s Rouhani dismisses military site inspections

Rouhani said Iran had the support of Europe and other signatories, and added that US President Donald Trump would struggle to muster support for tearing it up.

TEHRAN: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday dismissed the idea of inspections at its military sites, reportedly floated by the United States, saying they were not required under a nuclear deal with world powers.

“Our commitments to the world are clear… our relations with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Association) are defined by rules, not by the US,” Rouhani said in a televised address.
“I see it as unlikely that the IAEA will accept the request for inspections, but even if they do, we will not,” he said.

He was responding to media reports that Washington’s UN envoy Nikki Haley last week met IAEA chief Yukiya Amano and discussed accessing Iranian military sites in order to ensure Iran’s compliance with the 2015 JCPOA deal.

The landmark accord saw international sanctions eased in exchange for stringent controls on Iran’s nuclear programme and closer IAEA inspections.
The inspections are designed to prevent nuclear material being moved from nuclear centres to other areas, including military bases.
The IAEA has repeatedly reported that Iran is in compliance with the deal.

Rouhani said Iran had the support of Europe and other signatories, and added that US President Donald Trump would struggle to muster support for tearing it up.
“The US is in the most difficult situation in its history for creating unity against us and I think it’s not possible for it to do so now,” Rouhani said.
“Twenty-eight EU countries, which are America’s allies, clearly say we are committed to the JCPOA,” he added.

Earlier on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed his commitment to the deal and said there was “no alternative”.
Ali Akbar Velayati, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s foreign policy adviser, also dismissed the reported demand for inspections as “sloganeering by the new US administration for domestic consumption”.

“The Americans should take the dream of visiting our military sites, using the pretext of the JCPOA or any other pretext, to their graves,” he said.
Despite the pushback, the deal remains under threat.
The US has strongly criticised recent Iranian missile tests and imposed new, non-nuclear sanctions - prompting Rouhani to hint in mid-August that Iran could easily walk away from the deal “within hours” if forced to do so.

Haley responded that new US sanctions against Iran relate to Iran’s support for “worldwide terrorism” and other destabilising actions in the region, and said Tehran could not “use the nuclear deal to hold the world hostage”.
Trump is due to notify Congress in October about whether Iran is adhering to the deal.

cred: AFP

North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan; Why Japan?

The missile, it said Wednesday, was timed to mark the 107th anniversary of the "disgraceful" Japan-Korea treaty of 1910, under which Tokyo colonised the Korean peninsula.

TOKYO: When nuclear-armed North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan this week, it sparked international condemnation. But it also raised the question: Why Japan?

Location, location, location

It might seem obvious, but geography is frequently a huge factor in geopolitical wrangling.
The Japanese archipelago forms a long string off the coast of mainland north Asia, so by definition, any regional player that wants to fire a medium- or long-range missile into the Pacific has to go over it.
Tuesday’s projectile travelled around 2,700 kilometres (1,700 miles) from its launch site near Pyongyang before crashing into the ocean, around 1,200 kilometres off Japan’s northern Hokkaido island.

Having threatened a few weeks ago to fire missiles towards the US Pacific territory of Guam - around 3,500 kilometres away - the range could have been selected to remind Washington that Pyongyang has the capacity to follow through.

But unlike cashing that cheque and risking conflict with the world’s top military power, firing missiles over pacifist Japan was not likely to provoke an armed response.
So, Tuesday’s launch let Pyongyang rattle a major US ally, which hosts American military bases and tens of thousands of US troops, while showing it has the ability to strike Guam if it wants to.
“It is also sending a message that Japan is well within its sights if a war breaks out,” Professor Koh Yu-Hwan at Dongguk University told AFP.

Rocky relations

North Korea hinted at another reason Japan was in its sights: history.
The missile, it said Wednesday, was timed to mark the 107th anniversary of the “disgraceful” Japan-Korea treaty of 1910, under which Tokyo colonised the Korean peninsula.
The North’s official KCNA news service said leader Kim Jong-Un “gave vent to the long-pent grudge of the Korean people” with “a bold plan to make the cruel Japanese islanders insensible on bloody August 29”.

Japan’s colonisation of a then-unified Korea ushered in a period of oppressive rule that only ended with Tokyo’s defeat in WWII.
The Imperial army forced thousands of Korean women to work as sex slaves in military brothels during the war, a practice that weighs heavily on ties with both Koreas today.
Tokyo-Pyongyang relations have also been strained over the kidnapping of Japanese citizens during the 1970s and 1980s to train North Korean spies.

What can Japan do?

Japan has pretty much exhausted its diplomatic options.
Most of the world condemns North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons development and, like the US, Tokyo has already imposed sanctions against Pyongyang, widening them as recently as last week.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will call for ratcheting up pressure on Pyongyang - probably more sanctions - when he attends next month’s UN general assembly. Few experts think that will produce any meaningful change.

Domestically, the launch gives Japan a reason to beef up its missile defence system, including adopting a land-based Aegis missile defence scheme to complement its sea-based system, and will likely boost calls for an early warning satellite system.
It could also reignite debate over Japan’s own nuclear deterrence, especially if the North conducts another atomic test. But that is a touchy subject given Japan’s history as the only nation ever to have been attacked by nuclear weapons.

Why didn’t Japan shoot the missile down?

Japan says it didn’t blow the missile out of the sky because it was not a threat to its territory and flew above its airspace - although Tokyo warned millions of Japanese to take cover.
But some experts suspect Japan’s missile defence may have a maximum height range of around 500 kilometres (310 miles). If correct, that means it may not have been capable of destroying Tuesday’s rocket, which reached an altitude of 550 kilometres.
“As far as our capacity is concerned, discussing it would mean showing our hand,” Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Tuesday.

“But let me assure you that we’re capable of taking the necessary actions,” he added.
Another consideration could have been North Korea’s response to any such downing.
Although many in the international community would have seen it as a legitimate - and limited - act of self-defence, Japan’s erractic neighbour might have considered it an act of aggression.
And in the tinderbox of northeast Asia, things could quickly have got out of hand.

Cred:Free Malaysia Today

Russia jails ‘sadistic’ teens who filmed animal torture

Their 18-year-old male friend who filmed some of their attacks was sentenced to three years in jail.

MOSCOW: A Russian court on Friday sentenced to jail two “sadistic” teenage girls who filmed themselves torturing and killing animals, investigators said.
The two women took animals to an abandoned building where they shot them with airguns, stamped on them and cut out their eyes, Russian television reported.

“The court established that two friends who were then minors between June and August 2016 systematically treated animals cruelly, using sadistic methods, maiming and killing them,” said the Investigative Committee, which handles serious crimes.
The two filmed themselves torturing at least 15 animals including dogs and cats they got from shelters and small ads.

They posted shocking videos including the killing of a puppy on social media, leading to their arrest in 2016.
Alyona Savchenko was sentenced to four years and three months, while Alina Orlova received three years and 10 days after a closed five-month trial in the far eastern city of Khabarovsk, RIA Novosti news agency reported.

The women, who were nicknamed the “Khabarovsk slaughterers” by the media, had pleaded guilty.
Psychiatric reports said they were not suffering from any mental disorders.

Both faced a number of charges over other crimes that emerged during the investigation including robbery, hate crime and offending religious believers, as well as cruel treatment of animals.
In Russia, it is rare for animal cruelty to be severely punished.
Russian television showed the women in the defendants’ cage in court. Orlova tried to hide her face from cameras during sentencing.

Their 18-year-old male friend who filmed some of their attacks was sentenced to three years in jail.
Their family members were also fined for “inadequate bringing up of children,” an administrative offence.


‘Disaster’ looms as Hurricane Harvey bears down on Texas

HUNDREDS of thousands of people have been urged to flee Hurricane Harvey as Texas and Louisiana brace for “catastrophic” flooding.

TEXAS is readying for “catastrophic” flooding as Hurricane Harvey grows in intensity to a Category 3 storm as it nears landfall.
Forty inches of rain is expected to batter the US Gulf Coast, with the heaviest rainfall anticipated in San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Houston, according to a statement released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
With the hurricane rapidly intensifying officals are now expecting to see major flooding from two directions.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been urged to flee the path of the monster storm as Texas and Louisiana brace for massive inland flooding.

US President Donald Trump has urged all those in the path of the destructive storm to listen to authorities as it closes in.

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee says that the president is making preparations to travel to Texas early next week to monitor the damage caused by the hurricane. Trump has also urged people to stay safe as the storm strengthens.

The US National Hurricane Center expects the hurricane, which has strengthened to a Category 3 storm, to make landfall late Friday or early Saturday US time.
If National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecasts hold, Harvey would be the strongest storm to hit the US mainland in 12 years, packing winds of 209km/h and creating the potential for “life-threatening and devastating” floods in an area that processes some seven million barrels of oil a day.

Local television footage showed supermarket aisles plucked bare, highways clogged with bumper-to-bumper traffic, and long lines snaking outside gas stations as the country’s top emergency official urged coastal dwellers to get to safety.

“Texas is about to have a very significant disaster,” Federal Emergency Management Agency director Brock Long told CNN. “Their window to evacuate is rapidly coming to a close.”
Corpus Christi - a major oil refining centre where the hurricane was projected to make landfall Saturday morning - has issued voluntary evacuation orders, while the evacuation was made mandatory in the nearby coastal hamlets of Port Arkansas and Arkansas Pass.

“For anyone who has not already evacuated, please hurry to do so,” the city of Portland, Texas, warned on its website in capital letters.
Many residents were bent on sitting the storm out, however, like in Corpus Christi were people were seen packing sandbags to protect their homes from flooding.
Officials in Houston, the biggest city in the path of the storm, cancelled school classes until Monday although officials said they did not anticipate an evacuation at this stage.


Harvey was bearing northwest at 16km/h as of 10am central time on Friday (1am Saturday, Australian eastern standard time).
The first major storm of the annual Atlantic hurricane season, Harvey was expected to dump as much as 89 centimetres of rain in some parts of Texas between now and next Wednesday.
“Catastrophic flooding expected across portions of southern and southeastern Texas,” the NHC warned in its latest advisory.

Houston is braced for about 50cm of rainfall, with a risk of dangerous flash flooding across the region.
Mr Long said the most pressing danger was the storm surge - set to reach between 1.8 and 3.7 meters above ground level in the worst-hit part of the Texas coast - but that many counties inland should also prepare for a “significant inland flood event”.
With one-third of the US refining capacity potentially under threat, several energy companies evacuated personnel from oil and gas platforms in the heart of the US Refinery Row. One oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico has been evacuated, as well as 39 manned production platforms, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, representing an estimated 9.5 per cent of oil output and 14.7 per cent of natural gas output in the Gulf.

“Harvey’s greatest risk to refiners is not just wind damage to the refineries, but also the associated rainfall and the potential for electric power failure,” said James Williams of WTRG Economics.
Should a refinery shut down, he said it could take a week to get it up and running again.
US President Donald Trump weighed in with a tweet - “As #HurricaneHarvey intensifies - remember to #PlanAhead” - while Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued disaster declarations in 30 counties, a pre-emptive move allowing the state “to quickly deploy resources for the emergency response effort”.

In neighbouring Louisiana where the storm was forecast to hover for many days and could deluge flood-prone New Orleans, Governor John Bel Edwards said he spoke with the President who “offered his full support”.
“This is going to play out over the next week or so,” Mr Edwards told a news conference, “which makes it particularly dangerous.”
Mr Edwards issued an emergency declaration for his entire state, and hundreds of boats were made ready for potential rescues along with more than half a million sandbags to hold back floodwaters.

In New Orleans, where Hurricane Katrina caused widespread flooding and killed more than 1800 people in 2005, Mayor Mitch Landrieu told journalists that high-water rescue vehicles and boats were at the ready - although there were no evacuations planned.
“We just need to make sure that we’re prepared,” Mr Landrieu said.


Taylor Swift returns with club beat and vengeful mind

Other than a duet with Zayn Malik for the erotic thriller "Fifty Shades Darker," "Look What You Made Me Do" marks Swift's first new music since her 2014 album "1989" -- one of the top-selling works of the past decade.

NEW YORK: Pop superstar Taylor Swift is back with a new dance-club beat - and a stone-cold warning that she is out for vengeance against an undisclosed person who crossed her.
The 27-year-old, who commands one of pop music’s most avid fan bases, on Friday released “Look What You Made Me Do,” the first single from her latest album “Reputation” which comes out on November 10.

Other than a duet with Zayn Malik for the erotic thriller “Fifty Shades Darker,” the song marks Swift’s first new music since her 2014 album “1989” - one of the top-selling works of the past decade.
“Look What You Made Me Do” picks up much where the Grammy-winning “1989” left off with Swift, who had her start strumming her own country songs, heading definitively in a pop direction.
The latest track goes beyond the bubble-gum melodies of “1989” to reach into house music, with Swift sounding like a club DJ as she repeatedly states sternly over the beat, “Oo, look what you made me do.”

One thing that she was apparently made to do - accept the fast-growing format of streaming. Swift made waves in the music industry by refusing to stream “1989” as she accused leading platform Spotify of short-changing artists.
She ended her boycott in July and her new track appeared on major platforms including Spotify.
‘I don’t like you’
“Look What You Made Me Do” opens with unadulterated anger against an unnamed villain.

“The role you made me play, the fool / No, I don’t like you / I don’t like your perfect crime,” she sings.

Her fans immediately speculated online as to the target of Swift’s ire - if the song, like much of her previous work, is indeed autobiographical.

One likely candidate is rapper Kanye West. He outraged Swift with a song last year in which he boasted that he may be able to get her to bed because “I made that bitch famous” - an apparent reference to how he interrupted her acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
West’s wife, reality television star Kim Kardashian, hit back at Swift by posting a recording of a phone call in which West appears to receive Swift’s blessing for the song, although Swift insisted she had not heard his full lyrics.

In supporting evidence for the Kanye theory, “Look What You Made Me Do” ends with a mock call in which Swift says, “the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now… because she’s dead.”
Swift - the fourth most followed person on Twitter and fifth on Instagram - reinforced the idea of a fresh start by wiping clean her social media accounts in recent days, instead posting images of snakes showing their fangs.

Fresh from lawsuit

The song could also refer to an ex-boyfriend of Swift, whose love life is of frequent fascination to tabloids, or to a recent court case.
Last week Swift triumphed in a sexual assault lawsuit against a radio DJ who she said fondled her during a routine photo opportunity.
A self-styled feminist, Swift said she had shocked herself by instinctively acting politely toward the aggressor after the incident.

While cultivating her image as a fearless fighter, Swift - whose country roots have endeared her to conservative swathes of the United States - has steered clear of political commentary at a time of intense divisions in the country.
Her non-partisanship is increasingly rare in the entertainment world - and a marked contrast to her sometime rival Katy Perry, an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump.


Tough choices for US President Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump faces tough choice

DONALD Trump has threatened to shut down the government if Congress doesn’t fund his border wall.
He now faces a tough choice: cave and lose face or follow through and cause a long and protracted shutdown, which could further divide his party.
Either way, he cannot win.
Tom Cole, the Republican chairman of a House Appropriations subcommittee, warned Mr Trump’s threatened shutdown could backfire.
“When you control the presidency, the Senate and the House, you’re shutting down the government that you’re running,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s smart politically and I don’t think it would succeed practically.”
The Washington Post’s National Political Correspondent James Hohmann wrote the president was in a difficult position.
“If Trump caves once again and signs a budget without funding for the wall, it could make him look weak and ineffective,” he writes.
“If there is a protracted shutdown, on the other hand, independents and moderate Republicans might blame him.”

During a feisty rally in Phoenix on Tuesday, Mr Trump warned he would shut down the government if Congress doesn’t approve $1.6 billion in funding for his wall with Mexico.
“Believe me, if we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall,” Mr Trump said.
Mexico has already said it won’t pay for the wall despite Mr Trump’s assertion that the US would fund it initially, and that it would be repaid by its neighbour.
The threat was well received among his supporters, but hasn’t gone down so well with his fellow Republican politicians who have hit back at the president.
Mr Trump’s threat has also cast a shadow over congressional efforts to raise the country’s debt ceiling and pass spending bills.
House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday insisted a shutdown wasn’t in anyone’s interests.
Mr Ryan maintained building a wall along the country’s border with Mexico to deter illegal immigration was necessary, but said the government didn’t have to choose between border security and continuing operations.


The US government has never been shut down with the same party in control of both Congress and the White House.
The president threatened the shutdown over one of his key campaign promises.
Congress will have about 12 working days when it returns on September 5 from its summer break to approve spending measures to keep the Government open, while also facing a looming deadline to raise the cap on the amount it can borrow.

A deeply divided Congress will need to come together by the end of the month in order to fund the government into 2018 and raise the legal cap on federal borrowing in order to avoid a debt default.
The threat has added additional complication to the Republicans’ months-long struggle to reach a budget deal, according to Reuters.

Mr Ryan said Congress would need to approve a short-term extension, or continuing resolution, of current funding levels so the Senate could have more time to pass a full spending bill.
That would push the budget battle to later in the year and could in turn delay attempts at tax reform, another signature Trump campaign issue.


Friction between Republicans and Mr Trump has grown in recent months, with the president publicly blasting some party leaders, most notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
He has also expressed fury that Congress had not passed any significant legislation since his January inauguration.

Mr McConnell said his party was committed to advancing “our shared agenda together and anyone who suggests otherwise is clearly not part of the conversation”.
Mr Trump added heat in the rift with congressional leaders including Mr McConnell via Twitter just this week.
The president criticised both the Senate majority leader and Mr Ryan for not taking his advice to tie crucial debt ceiling legislation to a popular veterans bill that recently passed Congress.


Mr Trump turned up the heat Thursday on Republican leaders in Congress, accusing them of dragging their feet when it comes to his key priorities.
The intensifying feud also puts his policy agenda in jeopardy.
The president has publicly attacked a string of Republicans including Senators John McCain, Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, Dean Heller, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski - at the risk of weakening his chances of driving legislation through Congress.

Other Republicans have meanwhile grown more assertive in their criticism of the president, following the furore triggered by his equivocal response to the violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker last week said Mr Trump had yet to demonstrate “the stability, nor some of the competence” needed to be a successful leader.

Cred: Reuters/AFP

Spotify reaches licensing deal with Warner Music

A Spotify spokesman confirmed the renewal in an email, without disclosing financial terms of the agreement

SAN FRANCISCO: Spotify said on Thursday it has renewed its global licensing partnership with a third major label, Warner Music Inc, the last big music royalty deal it needs before pushing ahead with a US stock market listing.

The music streaming company was close to agreeing on a new licensing pact with Warner Music in July, sources had told Reuters.

“It’s taken us a while to get here, but it’s been worth it, as we’ve arrived at a balanced set of future-focused deal terms,” Warner Music Group chief digital officer Ole Obermann said in an Instagram post.
A Spotify spokesman confirmed the renewal in an email, without disclosing financial terms of the agreement.

Earlier this year, Sweden’s Spotify signed licensing deals with two for the largest labels - Vivendi’s Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment.
“Even with the current pace of growth, there’s still so much potential for music subscription to reach new audiences and territories,” Obermann said.

Spotify, which hired Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to advise it on a stock market listing, is still aiming to go public via a direct listing toward the end of this year or the beginning of the next, a source told Reuters last month.
Spotify has fended off competition from rival Apple Music, with more than double the number of paying subscribers.

Spotify said in July it had 60 million paying subscribers, adding 10 million subscribers in less than five months. Apple reported 27 million music subscribers in June, up from 20 million in December.

Attack outside Buckingham Palace, London

Buckingham Palace Attacked

A MAN armed with a knife has attacked two police officers outside Buckingham Palace.
The Queen’s London residence has been put into lockdown and tourists evacuated from the area.
The Metropolitan Police tweeted that two officers sufered minor injuries to their arms while arresting the man.

The London Ambulance Service was called and they were treated at the scene. They have not been taken to hospital.
Police said it was too early to say whether the incident was terrorism-related.

The man was arrested on suspicion of grevious bodily harm and assault on police.
No others persons have been reported injured.
Twitter user Amir Jan Malik wrote: “Stuck outside Buckingham palace with many armed police officers. Heavy rifles on display traffic at a halt.” Eyewitness Kiana Williamson told the Press Association that “there was one police van and one car, there was also a civilian’s car that had veered towards the police car.

“They were trying to get the man out of the car, shouting, more police were arriving on to the scene and the man was fighting back,” she said.
“The man had been restrained and looked almost unconscious by the side of the road.
“I didn’t see the car driving but the car had been left at the side of the road and an eye witness had said that he had driven towards the police car,” she added.

The incident, which took place shortly around 8.35pm local time (5.35am AEST) comes shortly after a man armed with a machete attacked soliders in Brussels.
It is not known if any members of the royal family were in the palace at the time.

The Queen is at her Balmoral estate with family members, as is her usual custom during August.
Buckingham Palace, which is surrounded by tall gates, has seen past security breaches. Last year, a man convicted of murder climbed a wall while the queen was at home, and was detained in the grounds.

In 1982, an intruder managed to sneak into the queen’s private chambers while she was in bed. Elizabeth spent 10 minutes chatting with him before calling for help.

A palace spokeswoman said the palace did not comment on security issues.

The Buckingham Palace attack continues a horror year for incidents in the heart of the British capital.The country’s threat level is set at severe, meaning an attack is highly likely.
On March 22, 52-year-old British man Khalid Masood went on a car and knife rampage, killing five people and injuring up to 50 before he was shot dead.

And on June 4, three Islamic fanatics went on a car and stabbing rampage on London Bridge and the adjacent Borough Market. Eight innocent people were killed in the incident.

North Korea has fired multiple projectiles

North Korea has fired projectiles into the sea off its east coast

SOUTH Korea says North Korea has fired several unidentified projectiles into the sea in what appears to be the latest weapons tests for the country that has been rapidly expanding its nuclear weapons and missile program.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the projectiles were fired from an area from the North’s eastern coast and flew about 250 kilometers into the Sea of Japan.
The “unidentified projectiles” were fired at 06:49am local time (7.49am AEST).
The US military said North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles, with two of them failing in flight and the third blowing up “almost immediately.”

A spokesman for US Pacific Command said none of the missiles, which it said were launched near Kittaeryong, had posed a threat to either North America or the US Pacific territory of Guam.
“The first and third missiles... failed in flight. The second missile launch... appears to have blown up almost immediately,” said the spokesman, Commander Dave Benham, adding that the launches happened over a span of 30 minutes.

The North’s move was immediately reported to President Moon Jae-in.
“The military is keeping a tight surveillance over the North to cope with further provocations”, the ministry added.

The North tends to test-fire balistic missiles or other projectiles - including those from long-range multiple rocket launchers - in response to US-South Korea joint military exercises.
Tens of thousands of South Korean and US troops are taking part in the “Ulchi Freedom Guardian” joint military drills, a largely computer-simulated exercise that runs for two weeks in the South.
The north's latest provocative moves comes as US President Donald Trump is focused on Category Four Hurricane Harvey, which is expected to bring widespread flooding and damage to Texas.

Earlier this month, North Korea reportedly contemplated launching a missile strike against the US Pacific territory of Guam.

North Korea also successfully flight-tested a pair of intercontinental ballistic missiles in July that analysts say could reach deep into the US mainland when perfected.


Wall St rises modestly on Yellen speech

Yellen speech impacts Wall St modestly

US stocks have risen slightly, lifted by high-dividend-paying stocks, after Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen stayed silent on monetary policy in a much-anticipated speech.
Interest-rate sensitive sectors such as telecommunications, up 0.8 per cent, and utilities, up 0.3 per cent, rose as Yellen's speech did not comment on the path of interest rate hikes for the central bank, which sent US Treasury yields lower.

"The worry still remains about the 10-year (benchmark Treasury note) rate, still below 2.2 per cent," said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade in Chicago.
"That is kind of a concern and it doesn't surprise me you are starting to see stocks hang in there only because everybody is searching for yield."
Yellen's speech at the annual meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming focused on financial stability while giving no hint on monetary policy, leaving the prospect of more interest rate hikes up in the air.

She said the reforms put in place after the 2007-2009 financial crisis have strengthened the financial system, without impeding economic growth.
Meanwhile, a speech by European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi gave little guidance on tapering the bank's bond holdings and heralded globalisation over protectionism.
"If anything, both with Draghi and Yellen, the big fear from investors was a more hawkish stance on monetary policy," said Jeffrey Cleveland, chief economist at Payden & Rygel in Los Angeles. "Those fears were overblown. You didn't have that hawkish surprise."
The euro rose to its highest in more than two years after Draghi's comments while the US dollar index weakened 0.75 per cent. US Treasury yields fell.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 30.27 points, or 0.14 per cent, to end at 21,813.67, the S&P 500 gained 4.08 points, or 0.17 per cent, to 2,443.05 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 5.68 points, or 0.09 per cent, to 6,265.64.

For the week, the Dow rose 0.65 per cent, the S&P 500 gained 0.72 per cent and the Nasdaq climbed 0.79 per cent. The weekly gains for equities snapped a two-week skid of declines for the Dow and S&P 500 and a four-week drop for the Nasdaq.
US stocks got off to a strong start after President Donald Trump's chief economic adviser Gary Cohn said the White House would turn its attention to the long-awaited tax reform agenda next week.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the US debt ceiling, a hurdle to be crossed before any tax reform can take place, will be raised in September and that after talks with congressional leaders from both parties everyone is "on the same page".

Broadcom's shares were down 3.7 per cent after its quarterly earnings report weighed the most on the S&P 500 technology index as well as the Nasdaq and S&P.
Energy shares, up 0.52 per cent, also advanced on a climb in oil prices as major Hurricane Harvey drew closer to the Texas Gulf Coast.
Shares of Autodesk were up 3.9 per cent after the software maker raised its forecast.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.33-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.51-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.
About 4.81 billion shares changed hands in US exchanges, well below the 6.02 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.

cred: http://www.news.com.au

Slain Philippine teenager’s family files murder complaint against police

Police said they killed him in self defense, but his family said he had no weapon, was right-handed and had no involvement in drugs.

MANILA: The parents and lawyers of a Philippine high school student shot dead last week filed a murder complaint on Friday against three anti-narcotics policemen amid rare public outrage about the country’s war on drugs.

The death of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos on Aug. 16 in a rundown area of Manila has drawn huge domestic attention to allegations by activists that police have been systematically executing suspected users and dealers, a charge the authorities deny.

The head of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) and the parents of the slain youth submitted the complaint against the three policemen at the justice department, calling for them to be charged with murder and breaches of a law on torture.

The PAO, a government agency, provides indigent litigants free legal assistance.
Delos Santos was found dead in an alley with a gun in his left hand. Police said they killed him in self defense, but his family said he had no weapon, was right-handed and had no involvement in drugs.
Security cameras showed the officers aggressively escorting a man matching delos Santos’ description in the direction of the spot where he was killed. The three policemen admit they were the people shown in the video, but that they were escorting another suspect, not delos Santos.

PAO and police pathologists who did separate autopsies told a Senate hearing that delos Santos was shot from above, from close range.

“It was cold-blooded murder, he was shot while kneeling down,” PAO chief Persida Acosta told news channel ANC.
“We are here for truth and justice so we have to file this immediately.”
The complaint, if accepted, would follow at least two cases filed last year against police over President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, which has killed thousands of Filipinos, outraged human rights groups and alarmed Western governments. Most Filipinos however support the campaign, according to opinion polls, and domestic opposition has been muted.

Several police commanders relieved of their duty over the student’s killing told a Senate inquiry on Thursday that delos Santos was not the target of their operation, and his links to drug were known to them only the day after his death.
Officers said they learned of his suspected links to drugs from another drug suspect, a cellphone and chatter circulating on social media.

Delos Santos was among more than 90 people killed last week in three nights of intensified raids dubbed “One Time, Big Time”, which had Duterte’s steadfast support. The term refers to a coordinated police drive to stamp out crime in a particular district.
The teen’s killing puts focus on Duterte’s repeated promises to police administering the crackdown that he would insulate them from any legal consequences. Critics say his rhetoric is tantamount to giving police a license to kill.

Duterte took a softer tone on Wednesday, telling police to arrest suspects and kill only if their lives were in danger, adding that he would not protect those who killed unarmed people.

Cred: Reuters

Indian‘godman’ convicted of rape kill 19

Indian protests after ‘godman’ convicted of rape kill 19

PANCHKULA: Violent protests erupted in India on Friday, killing at least 19 people, after a court convicted a self-styled “godman” of raping two women, angering thousands of his supporters who said he was innocent, police and officials said.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the head of a social welfare and spiritual group, was found guilty of raping two followers in a case dating back to 2002 at the headquarters of his Dera Sacha Sauda group in the northern town of Sirsa.

Supporters rampaged in response, attacking railway stations, petrol stations and television vans in towns across the northern states of Punjab and Haryana, witnesses said.
At least 19 people were killed, all but one in Panchkula town where the court returned its verdict on Singh, the chief secretary of Haryana Ram Niwas said. More than 200 people were injured in the two states.

Dozens of cars were burning in Panchkula town while a bloodied body lay in the middle of a road. About 500 army soldiers were deployed to restore order.
“The situation is coming under control,” federal home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said in New Delhi.
Television footage showed frantic scenes outside a hospital in Panchkula, with medical staff hurriedly transferring injured patients from ambulances on to wheelchairs and stretchers. Smoke could be seen rising in another part of town.

Singh commands a following that he claims is in the millions, many of them elderly men and women in the countryside, drawn by his social welfare programs such as medical camps and disaster relief.
The court, which held him guilty of rape, set his sentencing for Monday when there could be more protests. He faces a minimum of seven years in prison.

Singh, a burly, bearded man who has scripted and starred in his own films, has denied the charges. He had called on his followers through a video message to remain peaceful.
AK Dhir, one of his lawyers, said Singh was innocent and his followers had every right to express their outrage.

Protests also erupted in New Delhi and in the neighboring state of Rajasthan. Supporters of Singh set fire to some buses and two empty train coaches in the capital.
Nearly a 1,000 members of his Sacha Sauda group were detained.

Power of holy men

Some Indian “holy” men can summon thousands of supporters onto the streets. Their systems of patronage and sermons are hugely popular with people who consider the government has failed them.
In 2014, the attempted arrest of another guru on murder charges ended with his followers attacking police with clubs and stones.

Television channels showed motorcycles, cars and buses in flames in Panchkula as hundreds of police personnel in riot gear watched helplessly. The mob also toppled a TV outdoor broadcasting van, while several news channels said their journalists were targeted.
Besides the rape charges, Singh is also under investigation over allegations that he convinced 400 of his male followers to undergo castration, allegations he denies.
A variety of reasons have been given for why the men agreed to castration, including promises of becoming closer to god.

Singh’s two films, “Messenger of God” and its sequel, include sequences in which he fights off villains and tosses burning motorbikes into the air.
In his spiritual avatar, Singh dresses in plain white traditional clothes, giving sermons or planting trees. In the movies he dons bejeweled costumes, rides motorbikes and sends bad guys flying.


I had a mole in McGregor’s camp says Mayweather

Mayweather: I had a mole in McGregor’s camp

CONOR McGregor may have been set up by Floyd Mayweather and the American’s “friend” Paulie Malignaggi.
New York native Malignaggi had an explosive but short lived spell in the McGregor camp as a sparring partner in the lead-up to this fight.
Malignaggi quit in fury over a clip that was posted online, which McGregor claims was a knockdown.

But the 36-year-old Malignaggi insists he slipped over, which led to a bitter dispute between the two.
Malignaggi and McGregor’s feud continued this week when the pair clashed in Las Vegas.
And now Malignaggi has linked up with Mayweather in what could have been one big cunning ploy from the 49-0 boxer, The Sun reports.
A video has emerged from FightHype.com showing Malignaggi paying a visit to the Mayweather camp.

Mayweather explains on the video that he sent Malignaggi into McGregor’s camp and the pair will now discuss strategy before Saturday’s fight.
“Paulie has always been my friend,” Mayweather said.

“My friend called me and said ‘Floyd, do you want me to go to camp?’ I said absolutely.
“We are going to talk about strategy, we’re going to talk about everything. Thank you [Paulie] for going over there like I asked.”

Malignaggi repeated the word “suckers” numerous times during the video and brought a fight poster for Mayweather to sign.
Mayweather obliged, but also crossed McGregor’s face out.
He said: “This is special - this is going to stay in Paulie’s family forever.”
This article originally appeared in The Sun and is republished with permission
Originally published as Floyd: I put mole in Conor’s camp

Google has added a question and answer feature to Maps and Search

Google launches ‘Question and Answer’ forum for Maps

The added feature allows users to ask questions and likewise post replies to other queries.
To ask a question, users can search for the location on Google Maps or Search, open the listing, and scroll down to the “Questions & answers” section. They can also answer other questions and upvote informative replies by tapping on the thumbs-up icon.
The most helpful content will appear towards the top.

The feature can be used to ask the community their thoughts on the best exhibits at a local museum, for instance, or the best time to visit a local attraction and avoid crowds. Business owners will also be notified when questions are asked. The feature is available now for Android and mobile search.

cred: AFP

Spain's iconic Las Ramblas tourist hotspot hit by terror attack

Barcelona terror attack at iconic Las Ramblas tourist hotspot in Spain

Policemen accompany people outside a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into
 the crowd, killing at least 12 people and injuring over 80 on the Rambla in Barcelona

SPAIN is in shock after being hit by two terror attacks in less than 24 hours, which struck at the heart of Barcelona and the nearby coastal town of Cambrils.
In the latest incident, suspects wearing suicide belts were shot dead by police in Cambrils after ramming into a crowd.

                                       Video by CNN

Police were pursuing a suspicious van that then drove into a pedestrian area on an esplanade, running down six people before the vehicle overturned. A police shootout then followed, with five attackers killed.
Firearms were removed from the scene and belts they were carrying are being treated as potential explosive devices.

Reports suggest that the group of terrorists in Cambrils tried to re-create an earlier terror attack in Barcelona, where at least 13 people died after a van ploughed into crowds on the famed Las Ramblas tourist street.

The attack, which came mid afternoon Spanish time, also left at least 100 people injured them, Catalan police confirmed. Fifteen of them are in a critical condition.

A police officer gestures as he blocks a street in Barcelona, Spain
Local media is reporting Spanish police are following up from both incidents with a series of raids in the region surrounding the district centre of Terragona.

Police earlier warned local residents and tourists at nearby hotels to stay indoors: “If you’re now in Cambrils, avoid going out. Stay home, stay safe,” the region’s civil defence agency said in a tweet.
It has since tweeted that the situation “is under control”, though it advised people in the area to remain “cautious”.

Two men - a Spanish national and a Moroccan - have been arrested in relation to the attack but police said the driver of the van was still on the run.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the terror attack, according to the Amaq news agency.


After the van attack in Barcelona, authorities said a Belgian was among the dead and a Greek woman was among the injured.
Germany’s Foreign Ministry said it was checking reports that German citizens were among the victims.

At least one Australian from NSW is reported to be in a serious condition.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said two Victorians were waiting to seek medical attention for minor injuries, and the total number killed in the incident was 16. This death toll is yet to be confirmed.
There were scenes of panic on the famous thoroughfare, with bodies strewn in the street.

Twitter images of what is believed to be the white van used
in the terror attack at Las Ramblas in Barcelona.
Eyewitnesses said the van was travelling at speeds of up to 80km/h when it mounted the footpath, and then zigzagged down the Las Ramblas promenade for up to 500m before it came to rest with a badly injured person crumpled near the front wheels.

Terrified tourists were seen fleeing as the van smashed its way through street furniture and pedestrians, in an attack chillingly similar to those in London this year, and in Nice in southern France a year ago.

Two men - a Spanish national and a Moroccan - have been arrested in relation to the attack but police said the driver of the van was still on the run.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the terror attack, according to the Amaq news agency


Following the attack, Spanish police distributed an image of Driss Oukabir, whose ID had been found in a second rental van believed to be the getaway vehicle.
The 28-year-old Catalan resident of Moroccan origin later handed himself in to police in Ripoll, about 100km from Barcelona.
Oukabir claimed that his younger brother, Moussa Oukabir, 18, had stolen his documents.
The second person arrested was a Spanish national born in the Spanish territory of Melilla in northern Morocco.
DRISS OUKABIR: He is believed to have rented the
van used in the Barcelona attack
“It was clearly a terror attack, intended to kill as many people as possible,” Josep Lluis Trapero, a senior police official, told a news conference this morning.

The arrests took place in the northern Catalan town of Ripoll, and in Alcanar, some 200 kilometres south of Barcelona, the site of a gas explosion at a house earlier in the week which was initially thought to be drug related.

Police now suspect the explosion is linked to the van attack.
Trapero said the explosion left at least one person dead, and police suspected those in the house were “preparing an explosive device.”
“It seems there was an accumulation of gas that generated the explosion,” he said, without giving further details.
The town of Cambrils, the site of an ongoing police operation, on the coastal road between Barcelona and Alcanar.

The area around Barcelona’s Las Ramblas was sealed off for blocks in each direction, and tourists and locals were desperately trying to find loved ones, as the mobile phone network in the area struggled to cope.

Islamic State’s Amaq news agency published a statement saying: “The perpetrators of the Barcelona attack are soldiers of the Islamic State and carried out the operation in response to calls for targeting coalition states” - a reference to a US-led coalition against the Sunni militant group.
The claim could not immediately be verified.


It was still not clear how many attackers were involved. In another incident, police shot dead a man who had driven a car into a police checkpoint on the outskirts of Barcelona.
Catalan police said at least two officers were run over when a Ford Focus broke through a checkpoint.
Police say the officers suffered only minor injuries and didn’t need to be hospitalised.

The bomb squad attended the scene and there were conflicting reports about whether a second vehicle was used as a getaway.
Police searched shops and nearby streets, and set up roadblocks around the city.
While gunshots were reported in a nearby department store, police said there had been no exchange of fire.


On Friday morning, Ms Bishop said there could be more Australians injured in the terror attacks.
“I ask all Australians in the vicinity to contact local authorities to let them know of their whereabouts and to contact their loved ones back in Australia,” she said.
Australian consular staff are on the way from Madrid to ensure enough staff were on the ground to provide assistance.

“Our honorary consul stationed in Barcelona for a number of years is visiting hospitals and keeping in close contact with the authorities,” Ms Bishop said.
Attorney-General George Brandis said the government condemned the attack “in the strongest terms” and said “Australia stands in solidarity with Spain in the wake of this appalling attack.

“Australians who concerns for the welfare of family and friends in the region, should attempt to contact them directly. If you’re unable to contact them and still hold concerns for their welfare, you should call the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s 24-hour consulate emergency centre on 1300 555 135.”


Australian tourist Bianca Shaw from Canberra only learned of the attack by turning on the TV in her hotel room.
“I was with my partner, we had just left Las Ramblas to head back to our hotel for a nap before we headed back out for dinner and drinks,” she told 3AW.
“We were actually woken up by some messages from friends that we were travelling with previously before we got here.
“They were asking are you okay and what’s going on? Because we’re actually staying a couple of metres away from the Las Ramblas section. We turned on the TV and it was absolutely filled with all the news about the terror attack and we just found out from there.”
Ms Shaw ventured outside with her partner, but stayed close to the hotel.

“We went outside probably about an hour after we heard about everything. We had been watching the news for a while and they had been jumping from one person dead and then all of a sudden it was 13 people dead.
“We didn’t really know what was going on and we went outside and there were people everywhere. There were police cars actually quite close to where we were so we thought it might be best to actually stay in our hotel. The staff were recommending that nobody leave the hotel.”
Ms Shaw said the mood was sombre.

Aussie Adam James and his wife were caught up in the Barcelona incident while walking back to their apartment.
“My wife and I were coming back from the Picasso museum district as we were coming back to our street, we were used to a lot of people walking past us, at the end of the street,” Mr James said.
“We asked what had happened and they explained that a number of foreign nationals and locals had been hit by a car, and literally within seconds of saying that a number of shots were fired and we turned and ran.
“As we turned and ran unfortunately my wife was caught up and was pushed over and suffered some minor injuries. We ran into a local cafe we were help up there for about four-and-a-half hours.
“She’s a bit bunged up mate, we were quite fortunate that the cafe have some first aid and she was attended to appropriately.”
An injured person is treated in Barcelona, Spain
Gil Van Der Venne from Melbourne, who was staying at Hotel Baguef, said it was an extremely distressing.
“It’s a really scary situation when you’re walking back from your day of sightseeing and you’re deciding whether to have a drink out in Las Ramblas or walk back to your hotel room and we chose the latter,” he told 3AW.

“Fifteen minutes later, you’re looking over the balcony from the top of the roof top bar while you’re having a drink and there it is, all happening in front of you.
“You hear the screaming, the mayhem, you look over the top and there are at least five bodies that I saw and unfortunately, I believe three of them, well they’re still there now in body bags so you can imagine obviously they’ve passed.
“It’s very, very scary. The place is still in lockdown.”

Australian Susan McLean, who is in Barcelona, spoke with Channel Seven’s Sunrise by phone this morning.
“It was too close for comfort,” she said.
“I was in a shop doing some shopping and my husband, being a good husband, was standing out the front. I went out to get him because I want to show him something as I went out, there was a tidal wave of people running from Las Ramblas around the corner down our street.
“They were panicked, they were running for their lives. They were screaming, they were crying hysterically. Immediately we knew something terrible had happened.”

Mrs McLean said they have been told to stay put.
“It is night time now, it is 11:20 at night. We were ordered to stay inside and we were told after this that they are not wanting people to go into the street.
“The only sounds we’ve been hearing are sirens and a police helicopter, both of which have stopped now. They are still saying we should stay inside even though it believed the two suspects have been arrested.
“What they wouldn’t want is everyone to leave their hotel and see what’s going on.”


Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that they would use “maximum co-ordination to arrest the attackers, reinforce security and attend to all those affected.”

On Twitter he added: “We are united to defeat terrorism. The Government of Catalonia, Barcelona and all the security forces are backed by the Government.”
“The priority is to attend to those affected, detain the killers and restore normalcy. The Spaniards will defeat terrorism.”

In a statement released on Twitter the Spanish royal family said, “They are murderers, nothing more than criminals who are not going to terrorise us. All of Spain is Barcelona. Las Ramblas will go back to being everyone’s.”


World leaders were quick to condemn the terror attacks.
“Resolute with Spain in the fight to defeat terrorism we condemn the terrorist attack in Barcelona. Our love & prayers are with the victims,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said.

US President Donald Trump condemned the attack and offered assistance.
“The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!”

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May said “the UK stands with Spain against terror” following the van attack in Barcelona that killed at least 13 people and injured dozens of others.
Ms May condemned the “terrible” tragedy, which mirrored similar vehicle attacks in London this year.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “(It is) with profound sorrow and anguish that I have learnt of the terrorist attack that has struck at the heart of Barcelona this afternoon.”
He added: “This cowardly attack has deliberately targeted those enjoying life and sharing time with family and friends. We will never be cowed by such barbarism.”

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted Thursday evening: “All my thoughts and solidarity from France for the victims of the tragic attack in Barcelona. We will remain united and determined.”

Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi, whose Mediterranean city lost 86 people in a truck attack during a Bastille Day fireworks display a little more than a year ago, announced that a special homage to Barcelona’s victims would be held.

While Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, a Spanish native whose city has faced multiple Islamic extremist attacks in recent years, expressed her “sadness and indignation.”

The Spanish royal household said on Twitter: “They are murderers, nothing more than criminals who are not going to terrorise us. All of Spain is Barcelona. Las Ramblas will go back to being everyone’s.”


While Spain has faced domestic terror attacks from the ETA separatist group over the year, it has not had a major Islamist attack since the horrific train bombings in Madrid in 2004 which killed 191 people and injured 1841 more.

Spain has until now been spared the kind of extremist violence that has occurred in nearby France, Belgium and Germany.
Vehicles have been used in several terror attacks in Europe in recent years.

The Nice attack in July last year and other similar attacks were claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group.
In July 2015, a hooded attacker opened fire outside a hotel in downtown Barcelona near Las Ramblas, leaving two people injured, police said.
One person was struck by bullets while the other was hurt as they tried to flee the shooter, who fled the scene.
No suspected motive for the attack was given.

Cred: AP, Reuters & News Corp Australia Network

Iran says can quit nuclear deal

Iran says can quit nuclear deal if US keeps adding sanctions

Iran President Hassan Rouhani warned Tuesday that Iran could abandon its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers within hours if the United States keeps on imposing new sanctions.

In a speech to parliament outlining plans for his new term, Rouhani also hit out at US counterpart Donald Trump, saying he had shown the world that Washington was "not a good partner."

Rouhani's comments come with the nuclear deal under mounting pressure after Tehran carried out missile tests and strikes, and Washington imposed new sanctions -- with each accusing the other of violating the spirit of the agreement.

Rouhani warned that Iran was ready to walk out of the deal -- which saw the lifting of most international sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme -- if Washington persisted.

"Those who try to return to the language of threats and sanctions are prisoners of their past delusions," he said in the televised address.

"If they want to go back to that experience, definitely in a short time -- not weeks or months, but in the scale of hours and days -- we will return to our previous situation very much stronger."

He said Iran did prefer to stick with the nuclear deal, which he called "a model of victory for peace and diplomacy over war and unilateralism" but that this was not the "only option."

Rouhani said Trump had shown he was an unreliable partner not just for Iran but for US allies as well.

"In recent months, the world has witnessed that the US, in addition to its constant and repetitive breaking of its promises in the JCPOA (nuclear deal), has ignored several other global agreements and shown its allies that the US is neither a good partner nor a reliable negotiating party," he said.

He highlighted Trump's decisions to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and international trade deals.

- 'Too big to fail?' -

"Iran cannot be allowed to use the nuclear deal to hold the world hostage," Washington's United Nations envoy Nikki Haley said in a statement.

"Iran, under no circumstances, can ever be allowed to have nuclear weapons... The nuclear deal must not become 'too big to fail.'"

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert insisted Washington was in full compliance with its side of the JCPOA.

But she confirmed the US administration was reviewing its policy toward Iran and that it believes the nuclear deal did not put an end to Tehran's other "destabilising activities" in its region.

Iran's parliament approved Sunday more than half a billion dollars in funding for the country's missile programme and foreign operations of the elite Revolutionary Guards in response to the new US sanctions.

In talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Rouhani vowed to build on their joint military efforts across the region.

"Tehran welcomes the active presence of Russia's investors... in major infrastructure projects including in the fields of industry and energy," his office said.

- 'Wanted to nominate women' -

Rouhani was addressing lawmakers as deliberations start over his new ministerial lineup, which must be approved by lawmakers in the coming days.

The president started his second term a fortnight ago under fire from reformists over his elderly and all-male cabinet.

"I wanted to nominate three women ministers but it did not happen," he said, without explaining why.

"All ministers must use women in high-ranking positions... and especially female advisers and deputies."

Rouhani, a 68-year-old moderate cleric, won a resounding re-election victory in May in large part due to the backing of reformists who supported his message of greater civil liberties and equality.

Many felt let down by the lack of women ministers, saying he had bowed to pressure from the conservative religious establishment, although he did appoint two female vice presidents and a senior aide -- positions that do not require parliamentary approval.

He defended his cabinet selections on Tuesday, and pointed to his pick for telecoms minister, 35-year-old Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, as "our first experience in choosing from the youth, someone who has grown up after the revolution."

- Structural reforms -

Rouhani promised a more targeted approach to social welfare and job creation, responding to attacks during the campaign that his neoliberal agenda was mostly benefiting the rich.

He promised to eradicate absolute poverty and improve the conditions of the poorest "by five times" by the end of his term in 2021.

"The government is determined to carry out structural reforms. It sees the all-out fight against corruption as an absolute prerequisite for progress and social justice," he said.

He also detailed a range of economic challenges, particularly the need to clean up the banking system, which is riven with toxic debt, and reform taxation to end the country's reliance on unstable oil revenues.

Agence France Presse

SpaceX launches cargo to space station, lands rocket on solid ground

SpaceX launches cargo to space station, lands rocket on solid ground

WASHINGTON, -- A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Florida on Monday, sending the U.S. space firm's last new first-generation Dragon cargo ship to the International Space Station.

The Falcon 9 rocket, with the Dragon spacecraft sitting on the top, blasted off from a launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 12:31 p.m. EDT (1631 GMT), according to a live webcast by the U.S. space agency NASA.

About eight minutes later, SpaceX successfully landed the rocket's first stage at the company's Landing Zone 1, just south of the launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, as part of its effort to develop fully reusable rockets.

Previously, SpaceX has successfully recovered 13 first stages, five on land and eight at sea.
Monday's flight was the 12th of up to 20 missions to the space station that SpaceX will fly for NASA under a multi-year commercial resupply services (CRS) contract.
And it also marked the last time SpaceX launches a brand-new Dragon 1 vehicle and the remaining CRS missions will fly only reused ones, an official from SpaceX said at a pre-launched news conference on Sunday.

A variant of the Dragon spacecraft, called Dragon 2, is currying being developed for U.S.-based crew transport to and from the space station, the company said.
For this mission, Dragon was filled with over 6,400 pounds (2,900 kilograms) of supplies and payloads, including critical materials to directly support dozens of the more than 250 science and research investigations that will occur during the next six months.

"I'm happy to say 75 percent of that total mass is headed toward our research community," Dan Hartman, deputy manager of NASA's space station program, said at Sunday's news conference "It sets a new bar for the amount of research that we've been able to get on the flight."

A biology experiment will use the orbiting laboratory's microgravity environment to grow an important protein, LRRK2, which is believed to be greatest genetic contributor to Parkinson's disease.
Another experiment will test strategies for growing new lung tissue from stem cells, with the ultimate goal of producing bioengineered human lung tissue to help better understand organ rejection.
Also aboard the Dragon was an investigation that aims to validate the concept of using microsatellites in low-Earth orbit to support critical operations, such as providing lower-cost Earth imagery in situations such as tracking severe weather and detecting natural disasters.

In addition, the cargo included a Hewlett Packard Enterprise supercomputer, which is part of a year-long experiment to test how a system like this would operate in deep space for about a year, which is roughly the length of time needed to travel to Mars.
If everything goes well, the Dragon spacecraft will arrive at the space station Wednesday, where it is expected to stay for about one month.
Then, in mid-September, the spacecraft will return to Earth with results of earlier experiments, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California.

Cred: Xinhua News

Game of Thrones' episode leaking

Four arrested in India for leaking 'Game of Thrones' episode

Four people have been arrested in India for leaking an episode from HBO's "Game of Thrones" television series before it was aired in the country, police said Monday.

Already the most pirated show in TV history, the popular fantasy drama -- which tells the story of noble families vying for the Iron Throne -- has been plagued by leaks in recent weeks following the premiere of the seventh season.

After receiving a complaint for a company "we investigated the case and have arrested four individuals for unauthorised publication of the fourth episode from season seven," Deputy Commissioner of Police Akbar Pathan told AFP.

He said the four -- accused of criminal breach of trust and computer-related offences -- would be detained until August 21 amid an investigation.

The case was filed by a Mumbai-based company responsible for storing and processing the TV episodes for an app, local media said.

The four arrested were company employees who possessed official credentials giving them access to the episodes, the reports added.

Game of Thrones has more Emmy Awards than any narrative show in history and airs in 170 countries, with viewership figures shattering records across the world.

As well as being a hit globally, it has a massive fan base in South Asia.

Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss last year announced the shortened run of seven and six episodes for the final two seasons and confirmed the summer return for season seven, a departure from the usual April premieres.

The show has been teasing winter's arrival since its pilot episode in 2011, and in the latest episode preview "Death Is The Enemy" has finally moved closer to showcasing a battle between a horde of undead "White Walkers" from the frozen North and a troop of warriors led by hero Jon Snow (Kit Harington).

Agence France Presse

Charlottesville rally: Backlash against Trump after insistence in ‘blame on both sides’

Backlash against Trump after insistence in ‘blame on both sides’ for Charlottesville rally

AS the backlash against Donald Trump grows following his repeated insistence there is “blame on both sides” for Charlottesville, one reaction says it all.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly hung his head, folded his arms and stared at the ground during a heated press conference at which the US President refused to condemn the white supremacists behind the violence in Virginia.
“This is how his staff is reacting. Even they know it,” tweeted writer David Patrikarakos in response to the photo taken at Trump Tower on Tuesday by Kristin Donnelly from NBC News.
The image emerged amid an extraordinary groundswell of anger at Mr Trump.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio posted a series of tweets explaining why the President’s words would be chalked up as “a win” by white supremacists. “The organizers of events which inspired & led to #charlottesvilleterroristattack are 100% to blame for a number of reasons,” said Senator Rubio. “They are adherents of an evil ideology which argues certain people are inferior because of race, ethnicity or nation of origin.”

The senator said the new white nationalist movement uses the same symbols and arguments as “groups responsible for some of worst crimes against humanity ever” - the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. “The #WhiteSupremacy groups will see being assigned only 50% of blame as a win. We can not allow this old evil to be resurrected,” he concluded.

His tweets gained thousands of likes and shares in just an hour, after a fiery Mr Trump again stood up for people who protested at the racially charged Virginia rally.

US TV hosts on Monday night expressed disgust at the President’s failure to denounce the Neo-Nazis, with Late Night’s Seth Meyers commenting on Mr Trump’s “many sides” statement: “If that choice of words made you feel sick to your stomach, the good news is you’re a normal and decent person.”
Jimmy Fallon gave an unusually serious monologue on The Tonight Show, saying the President’s words were “shameful”, while The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert said: “Here’s one thing that’s not difficult to express: Nazis are bad. Many sides? Mr President, this is terrorism, not your order at KFC.

“If only the President was as mad about Neo-Nazis murdering people on the street as he’s been about Hillary Clinton, The New York Times, CNN, Joe Scarborough, Kristen Stewart, the cast of Hamilton, Diet Coke, Nordstrom not selling his daughter’s clothes.”
The Washington Post ran a cutting editorial that began: “Tuesday was a great day for David Duke and racists everywhere. The president of the United States all but declared that he has their backs.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday afternoon inside Trump Tower, New York, the US President was clearly aggrieved at the strong criticism he received for not denouncing fast enough the white supremacists, Neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan members who attended the weekend rally that turned deadly.
Mr Trump said the media had been unfair in blaming only the demonstrators on the Right - who were there to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee.
“What about the alt-left that came charging at the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?” Mr Trump asked.
“What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs - do they have any problem? I think they do.

“As far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day … you had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent - and nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it now.
“You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.”

He later echoed the comment that landed him in hot water during his first response to the violence.
“I think there’s blame on both sides, and I have no doubt about it,” the President said.
Mr Trump said there were “very fine people” on both sides of the protests.

Members of the white nationalist movement - including leader Richard Spencer - have also blamed the Left, especially the anti-fascist movement Antifa, for sparking the violence.
Mr Trump agreed that there were armed “troublemakers” and “a lot of bad people” on the Left side of the protest.

A 32-year-old woman was killed when she was mowed down by a car allegedly driven by a Nazi sympathiser. About 20 others were injured.
Mr Trump said at the press conference that not all of the people who attended the rally were racists and that many were there to “innocently protest”.

“I’ve condemned Neo-Nazis, I’ve condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were Neo-Nazis, not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch,” he said.
“Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statute … The press has treated them absolutely unfairly.”

Mr Trump questioned the need to take down controversial statues that represent America’s racist history, often tied to slavery, implying it amounted to “changing history [and] culture”.
“This week it’s Robert E Lee; I noted that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?” Mr Trump said, in reference to the fact that Mr Washington and Mr Jefferson, both former presidents, were slave owners.

When asked why he waited two days to explicitly denounce the white supremacists and Neo-Nazis involved in the violence, Mr Trump said he “wanted to make sure … that what I said was correct”.

“I don’t want to go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts,” he said.
“Frankly, people still don’t know all of the facts.”
Soon after making that statement, Mr Trump said the man accused of ramming his car into the crowd, James Fields, who is still before the courts, was a murderer.

“The driver of this car is a disgrace to himself, his family and this country,” he said.
“You can call it terrorism, you can call it murder, you can call it whatever you want … The driver of the car is a murderer and what he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing”.
Mr Trump said race relations in America had been “frayed for a long time”.

The President said he was generating new jobs in the country, which would have a “tremendous positive impact on race relations”.

cred: http://www.news.com.au

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