U.S. health chief resigns over private jet trips

Health Secretary Tom Price quits Trump cabinet over private jet controversy

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price resigned on Friday amid increasing fire over his frequent and expensive private jet trips, becoming the first cabinet secretary to leave the Donald Trump administration.

Price offered his resignation on Friday and President Donald Trump accepted it, White House Press Secretary said in a statement.

"The President intends to designate Don J. Wright of Virginia to serve as Acting Secretary, effective at 11:59 p.m. on September 29, 2017," the statement said. Wright currently serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health and Director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Price has been under heavy fire since U.S. media outlets found he had flown on at least 26 private flights since May, including five domestic flights within one week this month.
He apologized on Thursday, saying he will pay a portion of the costs of his official travelling on private charter planes and will permanently halt his use of charter flights for official business as the health secretary.

However, the total cost of the private jets Price flew on was reportedly more than 400,000 U.S. dollars and Price would pay only 51,887.31 U.S. dollars for his seat on those planes, according to an HHS spokesperson.

Price is not covering the cost for his staffers who flew with him on those charter planes, said the spokesperson on Thursday.

Many of Price's flights were between major cities that offered inexpensive alternatives on commercial airlines. One leg was from Washington D.C. to Philadelphia, a distance of some 130 miles (208 kilometers).

Moreover, on some of those trips, Price reportedly mixed official business with personal affairs such as having a lunch with his son.
On Wednesday, Trump said he was not happy with Price's private jet travel, saying "we'll see" when asked whether he will remove Price over the issue.

The House Oversight Committee on Wednesday launched a bipartisan investigation into the use of private planes by all members of the Trump cabinet. Senator Chuck Grassley on Thursday sent a letter asking the White House to detail its efforts to control officials' travel costs.

Price has frequently criticized government waste since his appointment as health secretary and during his tenure in the House of Representatives, where he once chaired the House Budget Committee.

Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner dies at 91

Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine, dies aged 91

American icon’ Hefner died at his Playboy Mansion home from natural causes, the publication announced

Hugh Hefner, who founded the men’s lifestyle magazine in 1953, died at his home, the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, the publication announced.

Cooper Hefner, Hefner’s son and chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises said in a statement: “My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom. He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history.”

Hefner, who was born in Chicago in 1926 to Methodist parents, graduated from the University of Illinois and worked as a copywriter for Esquire before launching Playboy magazine in December 1953. The first issue, produced from his kitchen and financed with $8,000 from investors, featured nude photographs of Marilyn Monroe, taken years earlier, and sold over 50,000 copies.

The magazine became known for its sexually explicit content, as well as its publication of writers such as Ray Bradbury, Ian Fleming, Joseph Heller, Jack Kerouac and Margaret Atwood. Miles Davis was the magazine’s first interview. Other interviews included Fidel Castro, Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and then-presidential candidate Jimmy Carter, who confided that he had “committed adultery” in his heart. John Lennon spoke to Playboy in 1980, not long before he was murdered.

The magazine’s “progressive” approach to sexuality made it a controversial publication, albeit wildly popular, and during the course of Hefner’s lifetime the Playboy brand expanded to include film and print media products, clothing, fragrances, jewellery and accessories and more, all marked with its distinctive “bunny” logo. At the time of Hefner’s death, the magazine itself was published in over 20 countries, with Playboy Enterprises claiming over $1bn in annual sales from its trademarked assets.

Circulation reached 200,000 within its first year and more than 7 million by the 1970s. In 1960 Hefner opened a string of clubs around the world where waitresses wore revealing costumes with bunny ears and fluffy white bunny tails. The writer Gloria Steinem went under cover at the Playboy Club for a seminal series for Show magazine in 1963, which was highly critical.

“I think Hefner himself wants to go down in history as a person of sophistication and glamour. But the last person I would want to go down in history as is Hugh Hefner,” Steinem later said.

Also in 1963, Hefner was arrested on obscenity charges after publishing nude photos of Jayne Mansfield but the charges were dropped after the jury failed to reach a verdict.

In 1949, he married his first wife, Mildred Williams, with whom he had two children. They divorced in 1959, and Hefner shifted to a more ostentatious lifestyle, buying an enormous house in Chicago - the Playboy Mansion, where Hefner lived and many of the magazine’s centrefold models stayed while they were working for the publication - and talking openly about his promiscuity.

Hefner featured in several reality TV shows, showing him wearing silk pyjamas surrounding by girlfriends at the mansion. Hefner was married three times and is survived by his wife, Crystal, a former Playmate, and four grown children: Christie, who served as CEO of Playboy Enterprise for more than 20 years, David, Marston and Cooper.

Asked what he was most proud of in 1992, Hefner told the New York Times: “That I changed attitudes toward sex. That nice people can live together now. That I decontaminated the notion of premarital sex. That gives me great satisfaction.” The magazine and Hefner’s lifestyle often provoked criticism, from feminists and conservatives alike.

Hefner closed the Playboy clubs in 1988, declaring them “too tame for the times” although he returned to the business in a limited way in Las Vegas in 2006.

In 2015, Playboy announced it would no longer publish pictures of fully nude women because such images were “passé” in internet age, but they returned in 2017. “Today we’re taking our identity back and reclaiming who we are,” Hefner said.


King Salman issues decree allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia

‘A very positive sign’: congratulations pour in as Saudi women are finally allowed to drive

JEDDAH: The US on Tuesday led an international welcome for Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow women to drive.
The historic move, ordered in a decree by King Salman, will see women get behind the wheel from June next year.

“We’re happy to hear that,” said US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
“It’s a great step in the right direction. We’re just happy today. A very positive sign,” she said.
The decree, issued on the state-run Saudi Press Agency, said women in Saudi Arabia would be able to obtain driving licenses and drive cars.

News of the decision became the top trending topic on Twitter, with many posts tagged #SaudiWomenCanDrive.

The decree referred to the “negative effects of not allowing women to drive vehicles, and the positive effects envisaged from allowing them to do so” within the context of Islamic law.
The decree also pointed to the fact that the majority of the Council of Senior Scholars agreed that women driving was not prohibited by religion, and therefore they did not oppose allowing them to drive in principle.

“The scholars see no reason not to allow women to drive as long as there are legal and regulatory guarantees to avoid the pretexts (that those against women driving had in mind), even if they are unlikely to happen,” said the decree.
The king instructed the Interior Ministry to apply traffic regulations, including the issuance of driving licenses, equally to both men and women.

The move was announced on television and also by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the royal decree mandating the creation of a high-level committee of ministries (including the Interior Ministry, Finance Ministry and the Labor and Social Development Ministry) to study the necessary steps needed to implement the regulations.

“The committee must submit its recommendations within 30 days. The implementation - God willing - will be from Shawwal 10, 1439 (corresponding to June 24, 2018) and in accordance with rules and regulations, and the completion of the necessary steps,” said the decree.

In Washington, Saudi Ambassador Prince Khaled bin Salman described the decision as a huge step. “It’s not just a social change, it’s part of economic reform,” he said.
“Our leadership believes this is the right time to do this change because in Saudi we have a young, dynamic open society.”

The reaction within Saudi Arabia was swift and emotional.

“I am on top of the world,” Lina Almaeena, a Shoura Council member, told Arab News from Bern, Switzerland, where she is part of the official Shoura Council delegation to Switzerland.

“This historic decision and announcement is really going to make a difference in many, if not most, Saudi families. Economically, it is going to decrease the burden on families; socially it will be much better for women to have control over their lives, not always waiting for a man who is no relation to her; or being in a car alone with a stranger whose background she is not aware of.”

Almaeena said the decree allowing women to drive was part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi Vision 2030. It was about women’s empowerment and equal opportunities for men and women, whether in the work force or anywhere else, she said.

“These things are all connected. Women can drive and even if they are not working, they can drive their families to work or their children to school. Fathers are not always available.”
Almaeena said there was a general expectation that Saudi women would be allowed to drive. “But were we expecting this decision tonight? No, this has come as a very pleasant surprise,” she said, thanking King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Samia Al-Amoudi, a prominent businesswoman and breast cancer survivor in Jeddah, told Arab News: “The idea of women’s empowerment would have remained incomplete without allowing women to drive.

“I am happy that women are allowed to drive and that my daughter will be allowed to drive. This is a great day for Saudi Arabia.”

Italy’s Consul General Elisabetta Martini also welcomed the decision. “We want to congratulate all Saudi women on this opportunity given to them by the king. We wish them safe driving,” she told Arab News.

Amena Bakr, a Saudi energy analyst, said it was a “massive victory for women in the Kingdom.”
“Really about time,” she said.

The issue of women driving has been the subject of debate in Saudi Arabia for many years.
“The Kingdom’s leadership has determined - correctly - that the time has come for it to be resolved,” said Fahad Nazer, international fellow at the Washington-based National Council on US-Arab Relations.

“There is wide support for the decision among both Saudi women and men. The issue was never about religion or culture. It has always been about the readiness of Saudi society. It is a very important step in the right direction.”


North Korea: US ‘declared war,’ warns it could shoot down US bombers

North Korea says US ‘declared war,’ warns it could shoot down US bombers

NEW YORK/SEOUL: North Korea’s foreign minister said on Monday President Donald Trump had declared war on North Korea and that Pyongyang reserved the right to take countermeasures, including shooting down US bombers even if they are not in its air space.

Ri Yong Ho said a Twitter message by Trump on Saturday, in which the president warned that the minister and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “won’t be around much longer” if they acted on their threats, amounted to a declaration of war.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders on Monday denied the United States had declared war, calling the suggestion “absurd.”
Speaking earlier in New York, where he had been attending the annual UN General Assembly, Ri told reporters: “The whole world should clearly remember it was the US who first declared war on our country.”

“Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country.

“The question of who won’t be around much longer will be answered then,” Ri added.
On Saturday, US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers escorted by fighters flew east of North Korea in a show of force after a heated exchange of rhetoric between Trump and Kim over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

“That operation was conducted in international airspace, over international waters, so we have the right to fly, sail and operate where legally permissible around the globe,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Robert Manning said on Monday.

North Korea, which has remained technically at war with the United States since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce and not a peace treaty, has been working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the US mainland and conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test this month.


Pyongyang, which has pursued its missile and nuclear programs in defiance of international sanctions, accuses the United States of planning to invade and regularly threatens to destroy it and its Asian allies.

However, recent rhetoric from both sides has been unusually harsh, raising fears of miscalculation that could have massive repercussions, even though US officials have repeatedly stressed the administration prefers a negotiated solution.

The latest round of heavy verbal salvoes began when Trump threatened in his maiden UN address last Tuesday to “totally destroy” North Korea, a country of 26 million people, if it threatened the United States or its allies.

In an unprecedented direct statement on Friday, Kim called Trump a “mentally deranged US dotard” he would tame with fire.
Kim said North Korea would consider the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history” against the United States and that Trump’s comments had confirmed Pyongyang’s nuclear program was “the correct path.”

Ri told the UN General Assembly on Saturday targeting the US mainland with its rockets was inevitable after “Mr Evil President” Trump called Kim a “rocket man” on a suicide mission.
On Twitter late Saturday, Trump replied: “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at UN If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!“

On Monday, White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster defended Trump’s rhetoric, saying he agreed with the US president that the risk was that Kim Jong Un might fail to realize the danger he and his country were facing.

McMaster voiced confidence that the United States could, for example, impose a military blockade if it chose, perhaps even as a part of a multinational effort. But he acknowledged risks of escalation with any US military option.

“We don’t think there’s an easy military solution to this problem. There’s not a precision strike that solves the problem. There’s not a military blockade that can solve the problem,” he said, adding that ultimately it would come down to an international effort.

Still, McMaster told a conference hosted by the Institute for the Study of War, Washington was concerned a nuclear-armed North Korea capable of hitting the United States was likely to engage in “nuclear blackmail,” for instance to try to achieve its goal of getting US troops off the Korean peninsula.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said it was vital Seoul and the United States handle the situation “with astuteness and steadfastness ... to prevent a further escalation of tension or any kind of accidental military clashes in the region which can quickly spiral out of control.”
“There cannot be another outbreak of war on the Korean peninsula; the consequences would be devastating,” she told Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies.


Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the most senior serving US official ever to visit Pyongyang, said it was “important to lower the temperature” of rhetoric.
“I’m kind of concerned about accidents of some kind that might happen,” she said.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the only solution to the crisis was a political one.
“Fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.
China, North Korea’s neighbor and main ally, which has nevertheless backed UN sanctions over Pyongyang’s nuclear program, called for restraint on all sides.
“We want things to calm down. It’s getting too dangerous and it’s in nobody’s interest,” China’s UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi told Reuters.

“We certainly hope (the United States and North Korea) will see that there is no other way than negotiations to solve the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula ... The alternative is a disaster.”
China’s said it was vital that everyone implement all North Korea-related UN resolutions, which call for both tighter sanctions and efforts to resume dialogue.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, speaking to British Prime Minister Theresa May by telephone, said he hoped Britain could play a constructive role in achieving a peaceful solution via talks, Chinese state media said.

Defense experts said North Korea would have difficulty shooting down a US bomber with missiles or fighter planes given its limited capabilities, and if it tried and failed, would appear weak.
“It is unlikely to take such a risk,” said Bruce Bennett of the Rand Corp. think tank. “So this sounds like another attempt by North Korea to ‘deter by bluster’ US actions the regime does not like.”

Ri warned on Friday North Korea might test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean, in what would be North Korea’s first atmospheric nuclear test. Experts said such a move, while perhaps not imminent, would be proof of North Korea’s ability to successfully deliver a nuclear warhead on a missile.


British Royal: Prince Harry with girlfriend

Prince Harry makes first public appearance with girlfriend

TORONTO: Britain’s Prince Harry and American girlfriend Meghan Markle made their first formal public appearance together on Monday, with the couple holding hands and watching a wheelchair tennis match at the Invictus Games in Toronto.

Markle, an actress who stars in the TV legal drama “Suits,” has been dating Harry for more than a year. They both appeared at the Invictus Games opening ceremony on the weekend, but sat apart and were not photographed together.

On Monday, they both wore jeans and sunglasses, but did not escape the notice of the crowd, which cheered their arrival. The pair appeared relaxed and were seen leaning in to share whispered comments during the match, and also turned around and chatted with spectators in the row behind them.

There were about 200 to 300 spectators at the match, which was free to attend.
The Invictus Games are an international sports competition for wounded and sick military personnel founded in 2014 by Harry, younger brother of William, the second in line to the British throne.

The couple’s step into the public eye together will likely fuel speculation that marriage is on the horizon and only add to media interest in Markle.
Harry, William and William’s wife Kate are a staple of the front pages of British newspapers and gossip magazines, which pore over every aspect of their lives.

Harry last November criticized the press for subjecting Markle to “a wave of abuse and harassment” after the news of their relationship sparked a stream of stories about the 36-year-old actress in British newspapers, including comment pieces he complained had a racial undertone.

Markle, a divorcee, is a native of Los Angeles whose father is white and mother African-American.

Markle told Vanity Fair magazine earlier this month that she and Harry were in love, in her first direct comments about the relationship.

Her former husband, Trevor Engelson, is reportedly working on a television comedy about divorce and about sharing custody of children after the former wife marries into the British royal family.


Kurds defy pressure, threats with independence vote

Four million Kurds defy pressure, threats with independence vote

JEDDAH/ANKARA/IRBIL: More than 4 million Kurds in northern Iraq defied pressure from Baghdad, threats from Iran and Turkey, and international warnings of regional conflict to vote on Monday in a referendum on independence.

The vote is expected to deliver a comfortable “yes” for independence, but is not binding. However, it is designed to give Masoud Barzani, who leads the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), a mandate to negotiate secession.

Turnout among 5.2 million eligible voters was 78 percent, the Kurdish Rudaw TV station said, and vote counting had started. The result is expected within 72 hours.

Voters were asked to say yes or no to the question: “Do you want the Kurdistan Region and Kurdistani areas outside the Region to become an independent country?”

A leading political figure in Irbil told Arab News that threats from neighboring countries of dire consequences had merely emboldened the Kurds. “They have never been this united,” said former MP Dr. Mahmoud Othman. “The Kurdish people were united in their defiance of Baghdad, Iran, and Turkey.”

The message to Iran from the Kurdish people was: “You have no business dictating terms to us,” Othman said. “This unity is a very good thing and it has now solved many internal problems that we, the Kurdish people, were facing.”

For the Kurds, he said, “to ask their people what they want is not a crime and that is no reason for punishment. The position of Iran, Turkey, and Baghdad was wrong. Now they should accept the reality and Baghdad should talk to the Kurdish people. The Kurdish people are ready for talks.”
Now was the time for negotiations, Othman said. “We have to open a dialogue with Baghdad and see what formula we can arrive at for the Kurdish people. We have to rethink our ties because the relationship that we had before did not work. The old ties were not successful.”

Othman also criticized US policy. “The Americans sided with Baghdad although Baghdad is aligned with Iran. And Americans say Iran is their enemy,” he said.
“The least they should have done was to stay neutral in order to facilitate and promote the process of dialogue between the Kurds and Baghdad. Because of American support for Baghdad, Baghdad became more aggressive toward us.
“I hope the Americans will see the reality and will now listen to the Kurdish people and try to be neutral in their dealings.”

He advised the Kurdish people to remain united. “They should try to be peaceful toward everyone. They should solve all their problems with Baghdad through dialogue and then hope for the best.”
Galip Dalay, research director at Al Sharq Forum in Istanbul, who observed the referendum in Irbil, described the mood as “festive at the popular level. At the official level, optimism is going hand in hand with concerns and uncertainties.

“Voter participation was pretty good, people were very excited to go to the ballot boxes. Civil society members I contacted so far were very supportive of the independence bid.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi ordered security services “to protect citizens being threatened and coerced” after reports that Arabs in a small town in eastern Iraq were compelled to vote yes. Kurdish officials said there was no such coercion.

The Kurds faced enormous international pressure not to hold the referendum. In the US, the Pentagon said it hoped the vote would not distract from the fight against Daesh. “Beyond that, obviously this is an issue for Iraq, you know, they are going to have to sort that out,” a spokesman said.

Iran banned flights to and from Kurdistan from Sunday. Baghdad asked foreign countries to stop oil trading with the Kurdish region and demanded that the KRG cede control of its international airports and border posts.
Iran described the referendum as “treason,” and the UN warned of its “potentially destabilizing” effects.


Report: North Korea moving airplanes

North Korea moving airplanes, boosting defense after US bomber flight -Yonhap

SEOUL: North Korea has been moving airplanes and boosting defenses on its east coast after the United States dispatched B-1B bombers to the Korean peninsula over the weekend, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported on Tuesday, citing the country’s spy agency.

The United States seemed to have disclosed the flight route of the bombers intentionally because North Korea seemed to be unaware, the report said.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service was unable to confirm the report immediately.
North Korea’s foreign minister said on Monday that US President Donald Trump had declared war on North Korea and that Pyongyang reserved the right to take countermeasures, including shooting down US bombers even if they are not in its air space.

Wave of protests grip NFL after Trump urges fan boycott

Protests swept across the National Football League

WASHINGTON: A wave of protests swept across the National Football League on Sunday as President Donald Trump escalated his feud with players who kneel during the US national anthem to draw attention to racial injustice.

Trump ignited a firestorm of criticism after comments on Friday in which he described NFL players who chose to take a knee through renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” as “sons of bitches” who should be fired.

The US leader doubled down on those remarks early Sunday, urging fans to boycott the NFL as long as the protests continued.
“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Yet players throughout America’s most popular sport took a defiant stance on Sunday, in the largest such demonstration since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the protests in 2016.

The first mass protest took place at the NFL’s London game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens at Wembley Stadium, where a large number of players from both teams knelt.
In Nashville, neither the Seattle Seahawks nor the Tennessee Titans took to the field to observe the national anthem.
“We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of this color in this country,” Seattle players said in a statement just prior to kickoff.

‘Deeply disappointed’

In Foxborough, around 15 members of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots took a knee during the anthem.
Star quarterback Tom Brady stood but linked arms with his teammates. Reports said the protests were greeted with scattered boos as some fans chanted “Stand up!”
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a friend of Trump who also donated to his campaign, issued a statement saying he was “deeply disappointed” by Trump’s remarks on Friday.
In Chicago, the Pittsburgh Steelers chose to remain in their locker room during the anthem ahead of their clash with the Bears.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who is black, said the decision was not intended to be disrespectful but rather calculated to “remove ourselves from the circumstance.”
“These are very divisive times for our country,” Tomlin told CBS television.
In Detroit, meanwhile, the singer of the national anthem Rico LaVelle dramatically dropped to his knee at the end of his rendition. At least eight Detroit Lions players were seen kneeling during the anthem while others linked arms.

Trump later responded to the protests on Twitter. “Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country. Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable,” he wrote.
Sunday’s protests were the latest twist in a bitter war of words between Trump and US professional sports.
On Saturday, he had also drawn a furious backlash from NBA stars after stating on Twitter that the champion Golden State Warriors and star Stephen Curry would not be invited to attend a White House reception.

Protests spread

Curry had on Friday indicated he would not attend the White House reception if invited.
“Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!” Trump wrote.
Trump’s outburst drew a stinging response from across the NBA, with Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James describing the US leader as a “bum.”
The trenchant response from NFL and NBA players to Trump’s comments had shown signs of spreading to other sports.

In game one of the WNBA Finals on Sunday, members of the Los Angeles Sparks remained in their dressing room during the anthem. Their opponents, the Minnesota Lynx, stood to attention with arms locked.
On Saturday, Major League Baseball witnessed its first protest: a black Oakland Athletics catcher named Bruce Maxwell knelt during the anthem before a game in California.
Track and field star Allyson Felix, a six-time Olympic gold medallist, also spoke out in support of the protests.

“Grateful to all who are using their voice during this pivotal moment,” Felix wrote on Twitter. “Enough is enough. We have the power to create change.”
Kaepernick’s protest was aimed at drawing more attention to treatment of minorities in America following a spate of deadly police shootings of black men.

Critics counter that fans who pay big money to attend NFL games or watch them on TV should not have to put up with political statements by players, and that the protests are disrespectful of the country and its military.
However, a group of veterans wrote an open letter of support to Kaepernick and other activist athletes.

“The right for those athletes, and all Americans, to protest is one we all pledged to defend with our lives if necessary,” the letter read.


North Korea will be ‘destroyed’ if threats continue

US warns North Korea will be ‘destroyed’ if threats continue

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump’s administration ramped up the pressure on North Korea on Sunday ahead of a week of high-stakes diplomacy at the United Nations, warning Pyongyang will be “destroyed” if it refuses to end its “reckless” nuclear and ballistic missile drive.

With US officials and their allies scrambling to find ways to contain an increasingly belligerent Pyongyang, the US president will address the UN General Assembly on Tuesday and then confer Thursday with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts on the sidelines of the meeting.
Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae In spoke by phone Saturday night and pledged “stronger pressure” on Kim Jong Un’s regime, the South’s presidential office said, adding that the North must be made to realize that “further provocation” would put it on a “path of collapse.”

The Security Council last Monday imposed a new raft of sanctions on North Korea - but their impact depends largely on whether China, Pyongyang’s ally and main economic partner, will fully implement them and on Russia, which is hosting tens of thousands of North Korean workers.
Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, kept up the rhetorical pressure ahead of the upcoming meetings in New York, asserting that if the North should pose a serious threat to the US or its allies, “North Korea will be destroyed.”

Trump’s earlier warning he would rain “fire and fury” on a recalcitrant North Korea, she said, was “not an empty threat.”
“None of us want war,” Haley added in an interview on CNN. “We wanted to be responsible and go to all diplomatic means to get their attention first. If that doesn’t work, General Mattis” - the US defense secretary - “will take care of it.”

Enforcement in focus

As the US and its allies emphasize the diplomatic track, South Korea is also deploying a state-of-the-art US missile defense system. In their latest call, the White House said Trump and Moon had committed to “take steps to strengthen deterrence and defense capabilities” of South Korea, offering no details of how it might do so.

Analysts say that in the event of hostilities, millions of people in the Seoul area - as well as the 30,000 US troops in South Korea - would be vulnerable to attack by the thousands of artillery pieces the North has positioned near the border, with potentially staggering casualties.

So far, every effort to persuade the North to back away from its fast-developing nuclear and missile programs - including its most powerful nuclear test yet, on September 3 - has proved futile, at times even seeming to prompt new acts of defiance from Pyongyang.

The North’s latest show of resistance came when it launched a long-range missile over Japan on Friday, just four days after the UN Security Council had passed a tough new package of sanctions.
At the request of the United States, the Security Council will hold a ministerial-level meeting Thursday on ways to enforce the latest sanctions, which include an export ban on textiles, freezing work permits to North Korean guest workers and capping oil supplies.

‘Rocket Man’

Haley said sanctions had already provided a “punch in the gut” to Pyongyang but that strict enforcement was crucial.
Separately, Trump’s national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, agreed that “the critical thing is going to be to get all countries, every one, to do all they can to enforce those sanctions, to do everything they can, short of a military conflict, to resolve this problem.”

But if diplomacy and economic pressure fail, he added, “We have to prepare all options.”
Pyongyang, an insular country with few outside contacts, says it needs nuclear weapons to protect itself from “hostile” US forces and is determined to build the capacity to deliver a nuclear warhead that could hit the US mainland.
North Korea said Saturday it was bent on nothing less than military “equilibrium” with the United States.
As his administration continued its efforts to rein in the North, Trump himself gave a more unbridled account of his latest diplomatic contacts.

“I spoke with President Moon of South Korea last night. Asked him how Rocket Man is doing. Long gas lines forming in North Korea. Too bad!” Trump tweeted, apparently finding a new nickname for Kim (McMaster confirmed that that was probably Trump’s intention).
Whether there are gas lines is unclear; very few people own cars in North Korea, outside military and government officials.

cred: afp

Emmy winners on domestic violence

Emmy women winners talk about domestic violence

The “fierce tribe” behind Big Little Lies has flexed some serious Emmy muscle as voters showered eight trophies on HBO’s star-studded limited series.

Big Little Lies, shepherded by the production banners of stars Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, offered a remarkable display of female clout in a project that touched a nerve with viewers in dealing with domestic violence, divorce, child-rearing struggles and ageing gracefully.

Witherspoon, Kidman, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley toplined the seven-episode series adapted from the Liane Moriarty novel of the same name.

Big Little Lies prevailed for limited series in a tight race with FX’s equally starry Feud: Bette And Joan.

Kidman and Dern took the lead and supporting actress nods for a limited series. Alexander Skarsgard won for supporting actor in a limited series, while helmer Jean-Marc Vallee won for directing limited series.

Kidman’s voice was wavering as she accepted her first Emmy after three nominations. She cited the project’s role in raising awareness of domestic violence that can happen to women of all social strata, such as her character, a wealthy lawyer-turned-stay-at-home mum in a deeply troubled relationship with her husband, played by Skarsgard.

“It’s a complicated insidious disease,” Kidman said. “It exists far more than we allow ourselves to know. By you acknowledging me with this award, it shines a light on it even more.” Kidman noted that the project was born out of the frustration that she shared with Witherspoon about the lack of meaty roles for women.

Incredible year for women on TV

“This has been an incredible year for women in television,” Witherspoon said, noting the opportunity in the current marketplace to allow female creatives to come forward “and make them the hero of their own stories.”

Dern won for her portrayal of a high-powered Silicon Valley executive struggling to balance her professional life and obligations as a wife and mother. Director Jean-Marc Vallee, who previously teamed with Witherspoon and Dern on the 2014 feature Wild, won directing for a limited series.

Big Little Lies took three Emmys at last weekend’s Creative Arts Awards, including the nod for casting for a limited series.

Dern paid tribute to the “tribe of fierce women” who came together for the project, not just in front of the camera but throughout the production.

“I’m so moved by what Liane and David and Jean-Marc did with Big Little Lies,” Dern told reporters backstage. ”They spoke to voice, and they spoke to on the outside these seemingly strong and dynamic women being broken and victimised, particularly in the area of domestic violent and sexual assault. The show was delicious and fun to get inside of for so many people, but also it was speaking directly about being true to your voice and standing up for yourself, and I feel very proud to be a part of a group of women getting to tell that story right now.”

cred- Reuters

Rohingya refugees are ‘threat to national security’ says India

India calls Rohingya refugees ‘threat to national security’

NEW DELHI: The Indian government on Thursday told the Supreme Court that Rohingya refugees were “a threat to national security”, pushing back against condemnation of its plans to deport them.
India’s top court is hearing a challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government’s decision to deport Rohingya Muslims, filed by two Rohingyas living in Delhi who fled their village in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State about six years ago.

The decision to deport Rohingyas comes as Myanmar’s military crackdown in Rakhine has forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas to seek shelter in Bangladesh, in a process the UN has described as ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar says its forces are carrying out their legitimate duty to restore order after guerrilla attacks on Aug. 25 on security posts and an army camp in which about a dozen people were killed.
Close to 40,000 Rohingya Muslims live in India after fleeing Myanmar over the past decade. Nearly 15,000 have received refugee documentation, according to the United Nations, but India wants to deport them all.

Rohingyas are denied citizenship in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and regarded as illegal immigrants, despite claiming roots that date back centuries.

Some groups allied to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party have stepped up calls for Rohingyas to leave, and Modi said last week that India shared Myanmar’s concerns about “extremist violence” in Rakhine state.

On Thursday, a senior lawyer representing India’s government told the Supreme Court that “the state considers that Rohingyas are a threat to national security.”

Intelligence agencies suspect that Rohingya Muslim leaders in India are in touch with Pakistan-based militant groups, the lawyer said.
The lawyer declined to be named because an affidavit the home ministry is preparing to file with the court has not yet been finalised.

Bangladesh is also growing hostile to the Rohingya, more than 400,000 of whom live there after fleeing Myanmar since the early 1990s. From Bangladesh, some Rohingyas have crossed into India.
Aid groups and human rights activists have criticised the plans to expel Rohingyas, and some lawyers say deportation would violate India’s constitution.

The Supreme Court is expected to start hearing the case on Monday.
India this week sent 53 tonnes of relief materials to Bangladesh for Rohingyas fleeing Myanmar.

cred: reuters

Explosion reported on London Underground -reporting

UK police investigate reports of blast on London underground train

AN explosion on a London train has left commuters with serious burns and sent hundreds of others running for their lives, causing a stampede.
The morning commute descended into chaos after a “fireball flew down a carriage” at Parsons Green station, in London’s southwest.

Ambulance crews are on the scene after reports of facial burns to passengers, as well other injuries caused by a crush of fleeing people.

The blast occurred just after 8.20am local time (5.20pm AEST) in what police say they’re treating as a terror-related incident.

It’s believed the explosion came from a shopping bag left by the tube carriage door.
Pictures on social media appear to show wires coming out of a plastic bucket inside the bag.
A local Metro reporter, who was on scene at the time of the incident, claimed several people had sustained serious burns and that “their hair was coming off”.

The Sun quotes an onlooker saying it was like a “fireball flew down a carriage” with panicked commuters diving out an open door.
And a man interviewed on BBC News said it was a “wall of flame down a carriage after a bang”.

Counter-terrorism authorities are monitoring the incident but said it was still a “transport police investigation for now”.

Reports from the scene said people with burns to their faces fled the train as it filled with smoke.
In addition to the blast, it appears there were multiple injuries from the crush of people fleeing.
Emma Steveton told BuzzFeed there were “three layers of people underneath me” in a stampede that occurred.
“There was a poor little boy smashed into the floor with his face bleeding. There was a woman shouting that she was pregnant.
“The most traumatic thing was the weight of these bodies piling onto me and just thinking, ‘this is it, I’m going to die’.”

London Fire Brigade confirmed six engines and 50 firefighters are at the scene.
“Huge police presence at Parsons Green. Was told by a police officer to get somewhere safe as quickly as I can,” an onlooker tweeted.

Natasha Wills, assistant director of operations at London Ambulance Service, said multiple crews are on the scene.
“Our initial priority is to assess the level and nature of injuries,” she said.
Tube passenger Emma Stevie wrote on Twitter that she was forced to “run for my life”.
“Huge stampede, lots injured. Not sure why. Fire/explosion mentioned.”

A local man, known as Peter, told a local radio station LBC he had suffered minor burns from the explosion.
“Everyone ran off the tube, it was panic stations,” Peter said. “I just turned to see and realised it was the one explosion and there wasn’t a continuation of the fire”.

According to Peter, one man who was closer to the fireball had his a puffer jacket melted off by the flames. There are reports that at least 20 people were injured.
Another man who said he was on the train, named only as Garth, said on Twitter that the explosion occurred on the rear carriage.

A “mass of people came rushing” after the blast, he said.
Train services through the area have been halted with commuters reporting a “security incident”.
Another passenger, Richard Aylmer-Hall, told Sky News UK that the incident sparked “a crush of people”.

“Everyone on the tube just ran in panic,” he said.
“There was a bit of a stampede going down the stairs. I got up and looked around and there was a lady saying she’d seen a small bag going off.”

Cred: news.com.au

Bitcoin: bitcoin exchange slides further

Bitcoin exchange BTCChina says to stop trading, sparking further slide

BEIJING/SHANGHAI/LONDON: Chinese bitcoin exchange BTCChina said on Thursday that it would stop all trading from Sept. 30, setting off a further slide in the value of the cryptocurrency that left it over 30% away from the record highs it hit earlier in the month.

China has boomed as a cryptocurrency trading location in recent years, as investors and speculators flocked to domestic exchanges that formerly allowed users to conduct trades for free, boosting demand.

But that has prompted regulators in the country to crack down on the cryptocurrency sector, in a bid to stamp out potential financial risks as consumers pile into a highly risky and speculative market that has seen unprecedented growth this year.
Just hours after BTCChina announced its closure, Chinese news outlet Yicai reported that the country plans to shut down all bitcoin exchanges by the end of September, citing financial sources in Shanghai.

BTCChina said its decision was based on a Sept. 4 directive from Chinese authorities that expressed concern over investment risks involved in cryptocurrencies and ordered a ban on so-called initial coin offerings, or ICOs - the practice of creating and selling digital currencies or tokens to investors to finance start-up projects.

That ban, as well as warnings by regulators in other countries, has driven fears of a wider crackdown and prompted a sell-off that has helped wipe almost US$60 billion off the total value of cryptocurrencies since they hit record highs at the start of the month, according to industry website Coinmarketcap.

“The Chinese ban is causing a panic in the market as mixed messages and lack of clarity has turned sentiment negative,” said Charles Hayter, founder of data analysis site Cryptocompare.
BTCChina, one of China’s largest bitcoin trading platforms, which also runs an international exchange out of Hong Kong, will stop registration of new users from Thursday, it said on its official microblog.

“We will stop all trades on the digital trading platform starting Sept. 30,” it said. Its co-founder, Bobby Lee, told Reuters the move would not affect trading on the BTCC international exchange, however.

The price of bitcoin tumbled particularly sharply on BTCChina after the news. By 1233 GMT, it was down 18% on the exchange, at 20,510 yuan.
On US exchange Bitstamp, it slid as much as 10 percent to a five-week low of US$3,426.92, having hit a record high of nearly US$5,000 on Sept. 2.
Panic spreads

Panic also spread to other cryptocurrencies, with bitcoin’s main rival ether - sometimes called ethereum - also down around 10 percent, according to Coinmarketcap.
Reuters and other media had reported this week, citing sources, that China planned to further ban exchanges that allowed virtual currency trading but the regulator has yet to make an announcement.
Spokeswomen for OkCoin and Huobi, BTCChina’s main rivals in China, declined to say whether they would announce similar moves. Huobi said it had not received any clear directives from regulators to do so.

Investors in China contributed up to 2.6 billion yuan, or $397 million, worth of cryptocurrencies through initial coin offerings in January-June, state-run media have said, citing data from the National Committee of Experts on Internet Financial Security Technology.

Adding to bitcoin’s woes this week was a warning by Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan, that the cryptocurrency was a “fraud” and was set to “blow up” - comments that helped fuel a slide of as much as 11% in bitcoin on Wednesday.
Bitcoin is on track for its worst month since January 2015.

cred: reuters

Selena Gomez Reveals Her Bestie Gave Her The Ultimate Gift - A Kidney

Selena Gomez reveals kidney transplant

Selena Gomez revealed Thursday that she underwent a kidney transplant in her latest treatment for lupus - and that actress Francia Raisa was her donor.

The pop singer, the most followed person on Instagram, posted a picture to her 126 million followers of herself and Raisa holding hands from adjoining hospital beds. Another picture showed a large scar across her abdomen.

Gomez, who has released several recent singles including the New Wave-ish “Bad Liar,” acknowledged that fans have wondered why she has done little publicly to promote the music.
“So I found out I needed to get a kidney transplant due to my lupus and was recovering. It was what I needed to do for my overall health,” she wrote.

“I honestly look forward to sharing with you soon my journey through these past several months as I have always wanted to do with you.”

She poured thanks to Raisa, best known for roles in the ABC series “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” and the cheerleader comedy film “Bring It On: All or Nothing.”
“She gave me the ultimate gift and sacrifice by donating her kidney to me. I am incredibly blessed. I love you so much sis,” Gomez wrote.

The 25-year-old former child star revealed in 2015 that she was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic disease in which the body’s immune system fights healthy tissue.

She secretly underwent chemotherapy at the time and last year cut short a world tour, saying she needed time to handle the effects of lupus including anxiety, panic attacks and depression.
Gomez on Instagram said the disease remained “very misunderstood” and encouraged fans to visit the website of the Lupus Research Alliance.

cred: Free Malaysia Today

Sex robot in British talk show

Sex robot appears as guest in British talk show

LONDON: The future may be here now-a sex robot surprisingly appeared in a British morning TV show.

Affectionately called “Samantha” by co-creators Arran Squire and wife Hannah Nguyen, the sex robot was turned off for the duration of the interview on the TV show “This Morning” to prevent it from saying anything inappropriate.

During the interview, Squire explained how the sex robot and sex dolls help to spice things up in relationships.

This was the case between him and his wife who thinks of Samantha as just another part of the family.

quire continued that his children would often ask about Samantha as well, while knowing fully well the sex robot’s true purpose.

Apparently, Samantha has a “family mode” which allows her to be in the presence of children.

The hosts were visibly unnerved by the revelations, which prompted guest psychologist Emma Kenny to chime in.

She pointed out that by supporting sex dolls, and to a further extent, sex robots, people are commercializing the female body.

Kenny also stated that the presence of Samantha is damaging to the relationship between Squire and his family.

Meanwhile, Squire and his wife affirmed that sex dolls are not meant to replace humans.

cred: thestar.com.my

Peru's Congress ousts cabinet

Peru's government could soon face new elections after the congress passed a vote of no confidence in it.

Peru's opposition-controlled Congress has ousted President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski's cabinet in a vote of no-confidence, pitching the country into its worst political crisis in years.

In a gamble that will likely force him to scrap his plans to travel abroad later in the day, Kuczynski had dared Congress on Wednesday to revoke its confidence in his cabinet if it insisted on forcing out his second education minister.

Under Peru's constitution, if Congress does not deliver a president a vote of confidence for his cabinets twice, the president can call new elections.

But the right-wing populist opposition party Popular Force, led by Keiko Fujimori, answered Prime Minister Fernando Zavala's request on Thursday to back his cabinet with a resounding 'no.'
Kuczynski now has 72 hours to swear in a new cabinet. While he cannot name Zavala as prime minister again, Kuczynski can reappoint other ministers in his cabinet.

The vote came on the eve of Kuczynski's 8-day trip abroad, which includes plans for dinner with US President Donald Trump on Monday, a speech before the UN General Assembly on Tuesday and a meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican.

cred: news.com.au

Chelsea Manning invitation withdrawn by Harvard University

Harvard withdraws Chelsea Manning invite

Harvard University has withdrawn a fellowship invitation to Chelsea Manning, the transgender US Army soldier who was convicted of leaking classified data, after two top intelligence experts distanced themselves from the school over the invite.

Manning, 29, was released in May from a US military prison in Kansas where she had been serving time for passing secrets to the WikiLeaks website in the biggest breach of classified data in the history of the United States.

Harvard Kennedy School of government announced on Wednesday that it had invited the controversial figure to be a visiting fellow and speak at a forum.
The fellowship has been withdrawn but the invitation to speak at the university still stands, said Douglas Elmendorf, the dean of Harvard Kennedy School.

"I now think that designating Chelsea Manning as a visiting fellow was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility," Elmendorf said.

"I see more clearly now that many people view a visiting fellow title as an honorific, so we should weigh that consideration when offering invitations."

The announcement came after CIA Director Mike Pompeo cancelled a speaking engagement at the university on Thursday over the invitation to Manning, whom he called an "American traitor" in a letter to the university regarding his decision.

"My conscience and duty to the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency will not permit me to betray their trust by appearing to support Harvard's decision with my appearance," he wrote.
Also on Thursday, former deputy director and acting director of the CIA Michael Morell resigned as a senior fellow at the university, media reported.

cred: news.com.au

North Korea-“Missile launch! Missile launch!

‘Missile launch, take cover’: wake-up call for Japan

TOKYO: “Missile launch! Missile launch! A missile appears to have been launched from North Korea. Take cover in a building or underground.”

To the accompaniment of blaring sirens and emergency phone alerts, that was the terrifying loudspeaker message that jolted millions of Japanese awake in the early hours as North Korea blasted its second missile over the country in less than a month.

But for local residents on the flightpath over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, there was no question of this becoming a routine event.
“I cannot say that we are used to this. I mean, the missile flew right above our town. It’s not a very comforting thing to hear,” said Yoshihiro Saito, who works in the small fishing town of Erimo on Hokkaido.

“It’s pretty scary. I heard that it went 2,000 kilometres in the Pacific and dropped in the sea” where 16 of his ships were operating under the missile’s flight path.
Citizens in earthquake-prone Japan are well-drilled in seeking cover when emergency strikes but with only a matter of minutes from launch to impact, several residents voiced a feeling of helplessness.
“It’s really scary. The government tells us to flee to stable buildings but we can’t do that quickly. Our colleagues offshore can never take cover,” said Yoichi Takahashi, 57, a fisheries official in Kushiro on Hokkaido.

“It has now happened twice to us … We’ll have restless days from now on,” Takahashi told AFP.
Isamu Oya, 67, a sushi restaurant owner in Erimo, told AFP: “The government told us to take cover in a stable building or underground, but there isn’t one here. We have no choice but just do nothing.
“Scary? Yes, but we can’t help it.”

‘Dangerous provocative action’

Breakfast television programmes across Japan, usually broadcasting a light-hearted diet of children’s shows and gadget features, instead flashed up the warning message as the intermediate range ballistic missile flew overhead.

Mobile carriers in Japan sent automatic text messages to rouse customers awake.
Train services between Japan’s main island and Hokkaido were temporarily suspended after the launch and bullet train services were also halted.

Airports in the area appeared to be unaffected, however, with Shinya Matsuura, an official at Obihiro airport, near the missile’s flightpath, telling AFP that passengers there were calm and quiet.
“We are just relieved it did not affect us.”

An ashen looking Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, said his country could “never tolerate” such “dangerous provocative action that threatens world peace”.
“If North Korea continues to walk down this path, it has no bright future. We must make North Korea understand this,” he added.

The Japanese government said its priority was to ensure the safety of its citizens.
There were no immediate reports of falling debris or damage but Tokyo stressed that a missile launch without warning could have destroyed shipping or aircraft in the area.
But some locals living on the missile flight path fretted that repeated missile launches could have a damaging impact on their day-to-day lives.

“We are afraid that this may have an impact on our life, ranging from fishing to tourism,” said Hironori Matsura, an official at the anti-disaster division at Erimo town hall.
Sushi chef Oya said he thought the missile wouldn’t affect his trade as most of his customers were local but acknowledged that “I’m afraid this may affect a flow of tourism to Erimo”.
Meanwhile, others displayed a grim determination that life would go on.

Saito admitted that the missile has been dominating conversation in the town - “like how scary it is” - but said: “No one really has talked about stopping their work or suspending their operations.”

cred: afp

Facebook removes feature

Facebook removes feature that let ads reach ‘Jew haters’

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook Inc this week stopped advertisers from targeting messages to people interested in topics such as “Jew haters” and “how to burn Jews” after journalists inquired about it, the news organisation ProPublica reported on Thursday.

ProPublica, a nonprofit outlet based in New York, said it found the topics in Facebook’s self-service ad-buying platform and paid US$30 to test them with its own content. Another category it found was “History of ‘why Jews ruin the world.’”

The anti-Semitic categories were created by an algorithm rather than by people, ProPublica reported. Some 2,300 people had expressed interest in them.

Facebook, the world’s largest social network, said in a statement that it had removed the ability to buy targeted marketing based on those topics and believed the use of the topics in ad campaigns had not been widespread.

Along with Alphabet Inc’s Google, Facebook dominates the fast-growing market for online advertising, in part because it lets marketers target their ads based on huge volumes of data.
Facebook, though, has had difficulty ensuring that advertisers on its self-service system comply with its terms and conditions.

Last year, ProPublica reported that Facebook allowed advertisers to exclude users by race when running housing or other ads, despite a prohibition on such ads under the US Fair Housing Act 1969.
Facebook last week said an operation likely based in Russia spent US$100,000 on thousands of US ads promoting social and political messages over a two-year period through May, fuelling concerns about foreign meddling in US elections.

The company said it shut down 470 “inauthentic” accounts as part of an internal investigation into those ads.

The anti-Semitic targeting categories likely were generated because people listed those themes on their Facebook profiles as an interest, an employer or field of study, ProPublica reported.
Rob Leathern, product management director at Facebook, said in a statement on Thursday that sometimes content appears on the network that “violates our standards.”

“In this case,” he went on, “we’ve removed the associated targeting fields in question. We know we have more work to do, so we’re also building new guardrails in our product and review processes to prevent other issues like this from happening in the future.”

Facebook said it was considering other changes to its advertising platform, such as adding more reviews of targeting categories before they show up in the self-service platform.

cred: Free Malaysia Today

Lilium Jet: I believe I can fly

Lilium Jet

Tim Cook: New release ‘biggest leap forward’

Apple unveils three new iPhones, hails ‘biggest leap forward’

Apple unveiled three new iPhone models on Monday, including a top-of-line handset described as “the biggest leap forward” since the original iPhone 10 years ago.
Apple chief executive Tim Cook announced the premium iPhone X - pronounced 10 - as well as a new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.

Cook, speaking at the first event at the new campus theater named for the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, said the latest flagship handset is a milestone for the company a decade after the first iPhone release.

“Ten years later it is only fitting that we are here in this place, on this day to reveal a product that will set the path for technology for the next decade,” Cook said, calling the iPhone X “the biggest leap forward since the original iPhone.”

The iPhone X has an edge-to-edge screen and uses facial recognition to unlock the device, and improved “super retina” display with improved graphics and resolution.

Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller said the glass-body iPhone 8 and 8 Plus handsets were the first smartphones “really created for augmented reality,” with improved power and graphics over their predecessors.

Apple also unveiled an updated smartwatch and an upgraded streaming video system for 4K high-definition television.

cred: afp

Al Qaeda: ‘punishment’ over Rohingya for Myanmar warns

Al Qaeda warns Myanmar of ‘punishment’ over Rohingya

YANGON: Al Qaeda militants have called for support for Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, who are facing a security crackdown that has sent about 400,000 of them fleeing to Bangladesh, warning that Myanmar would face “punishment” for its “crimes”.

The exodus of Muslim refugees from Buddhist-majority Myanmar was sparked by a fierce security force response to a series of Rohingya militant attacks on police and army posts in the country’s west on Aug. 25.

The Islamist group behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the Untied States issued a statement urging Muslims around the world to support their fellow Muslims in Myanmar with aid, weapons and “military support”.

“The savage treatment meted out to our Muslim brothers … shall not pass without punishment,” al Qaeda said in a statement, according to the SITE monitoring group.

“The government of Myanmar shall be made to taste what our Muslim brothers have tasted.”
Myanmar says its security forces are engaged in a legitimate campaign against “terrorists”, whom it blames for attacks on the police and army, and on civilians.

The government has warned of bomb attacks in cities, and al Qaeda’s call to arms is likely to compound those concerns.

“We call upon all mujahid brothers in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and the Philippines to set out for Burma to help their Muslim brothers, and to make the necessary preparations - training and the like - to resist this oppression,” the group said.

cred: Free Malaysia Today

F1 plans long-term stay in Singapore

No deal yet but F1 plans long-term stay in Singapore - Carey

SINGAPORE - Formula One is keen to secure a new deal to keep the Singapore Grand Prix on the calendar beyond this year, its chief executive Chase Carey said, with the sport eyeing a long-term future in the city-state.

The Singapore Grand Prix joined the Formula One calendar in 2008 as the sport's first night race. Sunday's edition, the country's 10th, is set to be the last under the current deal.

"We haven't concluded a deal yet but we're having positive discussions and it is certainly our goal to try and reach a deal that works for both of us," Carey told reporters at the All That Matters industry conference in downtown Singapore.

"We're proud of the race, we have a good relationship and our goal is to get to a place where we build on that partnership long-term," Carey, who replaced Bernie Ecclestone as the sport's CEO in January, said in a keynote address at the conference.

But the race, which takes place on a floodlit street circuit that winds its way through the heart of Singapore against a backdrop of glittering skyscrapers, remains one of the most popular and glamorous on the 20-round calendar.

The race, along with China, is provisionally part of next season's 21-round schedule but is marked by an asterisk as subject to confirmation by the sport's commercial rights holder.

Malaysia also hosts a grand prix but next month's race at Sepang will be its last.

"It is certainly a spectacular setting with the city lit up, racing through the streets, a race we are proud of," said Carey for whom last year's Singapore round was the first race he attended, only days after Liberty Media agreed its purchase of Formula One.

"In many ways it's a race that anchors our Asian strategy. Still early days for us growing in Asia. But certainly a signature race for Asia, a signature race for us globally and it's great to be here."

Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry confirmed the negotiations were continuing.

"We are in discussion with Formula One on the term renewal for F1 and are carefully considering several issues. More details will be shared when ready," a spokesperson said.

cred: thestar.com.my

Tiger Pet

What a pet

Hurricane Irma smashes Florida

Hurricane Irma smashes Florida Keys bringing tornadoes, flooding and fierce winds

THREE people were killed in car crashes, caught in Hurricane Irma’s destructive path as it made landfall in Florida, according to US officials.

Announcing itself with roaring winds, Irma swept over the Florida Keys for the start of what could be a slow, ruinous march up the state’s west coast towards the heavily populated Tampa-St Petersburg area.

As winds pushed a wall of water up to 4.5 metres high, Florida Governor Rick Scott implored: “Pray for us.”

The hurricane is expected to rake Florida’s west coast throughout Sunday, a change from earlier predictions that left some residents and officials scrambling to find shelter.
At least 1.4 million customers are without power, including more than 75 per cent of Miami-Dade County without power, reports Reuters.

In Miami the storm downed a huge crane in the city’s downtown with social media footage capturing the terrifying moment. Whitecaps were also seen forming on streets in the Brickell neighbourhood of Miami as the storm surge rushed into the city.

Earlier, the eye of the Category 4 storm hit Key West before being revised to Category 3, bringing winds of up to 210km/h and threatening dangerous storm surges. The eyeball is where the most severe weather occurs while the eye of the storm brings calmer conditions.
The National Hurricane Centre announced the arrival of the eyeball in their 7am advisory local time.

“People ask what they can do for us,” Mr Scott said on Fox News Sunday. “Pray for us. We need volunteers, nurses. … I hope everybody will pray for us.”
Mr Scott warned the devastating storm surge from Irma will cause the waters to rise quickly and overwhelm everything in its path.

“This water is going to come in very quickly, it’s going to cover your first floor potentially or more and then eventually it’s going to come out. I don’t know how you’re going to survive that,”? he said.

With first responders unable to hit the streets because of the lashing wind and rain, Mr Scott said residents who haven’t evacuated or sought shelter are on their own.
“This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation!” the National Weather Service in Key West said earlier, urging those who had not heeded dire warnings to evacuate to take shelter “now to protect your life!”.

Florida’s Naples Mayor Bill Barnett said he had never dealt with a storm like this. “This is just a monster,” he said.
Flooding of up to 4.5 metres - enough to cover a house - were expected and some areas are already experiencing heavy rain and hurricane-force winds..

A tornado funnel cloud also formed off the coast of Fort Lauderdale on Saturday about 6.40pm local time, with the US National Hurricane Centre warning that “a few” more were possible in south and central Florida.

Earlier the National Weather Service Key West said winds were “imminent” and told residents in the Florida Keys “it is time to hunker down”. In a tweet it advised people not to go outside, to get away from windows and to “put your shoes on now!”.

The impact of the storm could be felt in the neighbouring state of Georgia with a tropical storm warning issued for Atlanta, the first time that has happened in the city’s history. The warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected within the next 36 hours. Peak winds were expected to reach 48 to 64km/h with gusts of up to 88km/h.

Irma regained strength on Sunday as it headed towards southwest Florida after leaving a path of destruction across the Caribbean.

The city of St Petersburg is likely to take a direct hit from the storm as well as Tampa.
Neither St Peterburg or Tampa have suffered a major hurricane in nearly a century.
The New York Times reported that St Petersburg enacted a curfew starting at 5pm, and Tampa’s mayor, Bob Buckhorn, announced that a curfew would be in effect starting at 6pm Sunday. “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face,” he said, paraphrasing Mike Tyson. “Well, we’re about to get punched in the face.”

Mr Buckhorn said anyone remaining in the city’s mandatory evacuation zone had hours to move out, as it faces a potential 4.6m storm surge.
“This is our worst nightmare,” he said of the possible looming inundation on CNN.
“We are about to get our own version of what hell looks like.”
More than 6.3 million - nearly a third of Florida’s population - have been ordered to evacuate.

Earlier, MacDill air force Base, the military installation home to US Central Command, issued mandatory evacuation orders.

At least 25 people have been killed since Irma began its devastating march through the Caribbean earlier this week.

Terrified Cubans who rode out Irma in coastal towns - after the storm made landfall on Friday as a maximum-strength Category 5 storm on the Camaguey archipelago - reported “deafening” winds, uprooted trees and power lines, and blown rooftops.
There were no immediate reports of casualties, but officials reported “significant damage.” A total of 1.5 million people were evacuated.

Authorities in Havana were evacuating people from low-lying districts at risk from Atlantic storm surges. Enormous waves lashed the Malecon, the capital’s emblematic seafront, causing seawaters to penetrate some 820 feet into the capital, AFP journalists found.


In Florida, cities on both the east and west coasts took on the appearance of ghost towns, as nervous residents heeded insistent evacuation orders.
Irma is so wide that authorities were bracing for destructive storm surges on both coasts and the Keys.

And hurricane-force winds are expected to lash the peninsula as it rolls north toward Georgia.
On highway 75 along the western coast of Florida, a steady stream of cars pressed northward as thousands fled at the last minute.

Strip malls, fast food restaurants and retail giants were all closed for business.
In Key West, police had opened a “shelter of last resort” for those who had ignored mandatory evacuation orders.

Scott Abraham, who lives on the fifth floor of a beachfront apartment building in Miami Beach, is planning to ignore evacuation orders and ride the storm out with his wife and two kids.
“If I lived in a house I would have left, but if it gets flooded here it’s going to take a week at least to come back. I don’t want that,” he said.

Warning that Irma would be worse than Hurricane Andrew - which killed 65 people in 1992 -
Mr Scott said all 20.6 million Floridians should prepare to flee.
Cuban-American Orlando Reyes, 82, was forced to leave his assisted living facility in Miami Beach.
“It is frightening,” he told AFP at a shelter in Miami. “We had to leave without a cent, without taking a bath, or bringing anything.”


The storm smashed through a string of Caribbean islands, beginning with tiny Barbuda on Wednesday, followed by the holiday islands of St Barts and St Martin.
Also affected were the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Turks and Caicos. The Bahamas were spared Irma’s worst.

“Houses are smashed, the airport is out of action,” St Barts resident Olivier Toussaint said.
“Upside-down cars are in the cemeteries. Boats are sunk in the marina, shops are destroyed.” Another powerful storm, Hurricane Jose, had been heading toward the same string of Caribbean islands Irma has pommeled in recent days, but the area received a welcome reprieve when the storm began to gradually weaken and shift course towards the north.

The deteriorating weather had grounded aircraft and prevented boats from bringing relief supplies to hard-hit islands.

The US military was mobilising thousands of troops and deploying several large ships to aid with evacuations and humanitarian relief, as the air force removed scores of planes from the southern United States.

United Nations: North Korea illegally exporting commodities

The UN says says North Korea continues to flout sanctions on commodities, an arms embargo and shipping and financial restrictions.

North Korea illegally exported coal, iron and other commodities worth at least $US270 million to China and other countries including India, Malaysia and Sri Lanka during the six-month period ending in August in violation of UN sanctions.

A UN report released on Saturday by the experts monitoring sanctions says Kim Jong Un's government continues to flout sanctions on commodities, an arms embargo and shipping and financial restrictions.

The experts say North Korea is also reportedly continuing prohibited nuclear activities with weapons-grade fissile material production at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, as well as construction at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site and a uranium mine in Pyongsan.

The panel said it is investigating the involvement of North Koreans in prohibited activities in Africa and Syria, "including their involvement in prohibited activities".

The experts said one inquiry is into "reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms co-operation" between Syria and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. They said this includes activities on Syrian Scud missile programs and "maintenance and repair of Syrian surface-to-air missiles (SAM) air defence systems".

The panel noted that two unnamed countries reported intercepting shipments destined for Syria. It did not identify the contents and said Syria has yet to respond to its inquiries.

The 111-page report was written before North Korea's sixth and most powerful nuclear test last Sunday and its latest launch of a powerful new intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan.

On the export of commodities - a key source of foreign exchange for the DPRK - the experts said that following China's suspension of coal imports from the North in February, the DPRK has been rerouting coal to other countries including Malaysia and Vietnam.

"The panel's investigations reveal that the DPRK is deliberately using indirect channels to export prohibited commodities, evading sanctions," the report said.

The panel said imports of DPRK coal, iron and iron ore violate UN sanctions unless the countries have received an exemption.

Between December 2016 and May 2017, for example, the DPRK exported over $US79 million of iron ore to China, the report said. And between October 2016 and May 2017, it exported iron and steel products to Egypt, China, France, India, Ireland and Mexico valued at $US305,713.

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