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Jharkhand coal mine death toll rises to 16, some still trapped | Reuters

BHUBANESWAR, India The death toll in a coal mine collapse in Jharkhand rose to 16 on Saturday and could rise further, officials said, as some people are still feared trapped at a coalfield run by state-owned Coal India Limited.The accident occurred on Thursday evening at the Lalmatia mine, one of the country’s largest, which is owned by Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL).”At night (on Friday), the rescue operation was slow due to fog,” R.R. Amitabh, a senior officer at ECL, told Reuters, adding that about 30 percent of the collapsed mine waste had been removed.Coal India has a poor safety record, with 135 accidents reported last year, killing 37 people and injuring 141, the company said in a report.

Operations at the mine in Godda district, about 280 km (175 miles) from the state capital, Ranchi, have since been stopped, Amitabh said.The state police spokesman R.K. Mullick said the number of people still trapped may be less than the nearly two dozen assumed earlier, based on the number of families who were searching for their kin.

The mine has an annual capacity of 17 million tonnes and accounts for about half of ECL’s coal production. Last month, ECL accounted for about 9 percent of Coal India’s total production of 50 million tonnes.

The federal coal ministry has ordered an investigation and announced some cash compensation to the families of miners who died in the accident. (Reporting by Jatindra Dash; Writing by Malini Menon; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 18:12 IST

Israel warns on travel to India, citing immediate threat of attacks | Reuters

Israel warns on travel to India, citing immediate threat of attacks | Reuters

Dec 30, 2016 23:39 IST

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JERUSALEM Israel’s anti-terrorism directorate issued a travel warning for India on Friday, citing an immediate threat of attack to Western and tourist targets, particularly in the south-west of the country.”A particular emphasis should be put on events in the coming days in connection with beach and club parties celebrating the New Year where a concentration of tourists will be high,” part of the warning said.The statement recommended that tourists avoid participation in such parties. It also called on families in Israel to contact their relatives in India and tell them of the threat.In addition, it recommended avoiding markets, festivals and crowded shopping areas. Unusually, the warning was published on Friday evening in Israel, after the start of the Jewish Sabbath, when government offices close for business.

The directorate did not say what prompted the warning.In 2012, the wife of Israeli diplomat stationed in India, her driver and two others were wounded in a bomb attack on her car. Israel and India share close military ties.

(Writing by Ori Lewis, editing by Larry King)

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First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 23:39 IST

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Israel issues severe travel warning for India, citing immediate threat of attacks | Reuters

Israel issues severe travel warning for India, citing immediate threat of attacks | Reuters

Dec 30, 2016 23:02 IST

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JERUSALEM Israel’s anti-terrorism directorate on Friday issued a travel warning for India, citing an immediate threat of attack to Western and tourist targets, particularly in the south-west of the country.”A particular emphasis should be put on events in the coming days in connection with beach and club parties celebrating the New Year where a concentration of tourists will be high,” part of the warning said.

(Writing by Ori Lewis; editing by Jason Neely)

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First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 23:02 IST

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LIVE Australia Vs Pakistan Live Score

AUS vs PAK | Dec 26th, 2016

PAK 163 10 53.2

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OVERS

LIVE South Africa Vs Sri Lanka Live Score

SA vs SL | Dec 26th, 2016

SL 281 10 96.3

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OVERS

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British police say George Michael autopsy inconclusive, more tests needed | Reuters

British police say George Michael autopsy inconclusive, more tests needed | Reuters

Dec 30, 2016 21:32 IST

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LONDON The cause of singer George Michael’s death this week is unclear after an initial autopsy and more tests are needed, British police said on Friday.British singer Michael, who became one of the pop idols of the 1980s with Wham! and then forged a career as a successful solo artist, died at his home in southern England on Sunday. He was 53.”A post mortem examination was carried out yesterday as part of the investigation into the death of George Michael,” Thames Valley police said.

“The cause of death is inconclusive and further tests will now be carried out. The results of these tests are unlikely to be known for several weeks,” they added in a statement.British police had said that Michael’s death was “unexplained but not suspicious”. Michael’s manager, Michael Lippman, said he had died of heart failure.

In the mid-1980s, “Wham! were one of the most successful pop duos with singles such as “”Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”, “”Careless Whisper”, ““Last Christmas” and ““The Edge of Heaven”.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Stephen Addison and Alison Williams)

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First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 21:32 IST

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India’s cash crunch making some in Modi’s party anxious | Reuters

By Rupam Jain
| NEW DELHI

NEW DELHI Cash shortages weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s decision to abolish large currency notes are making allies and members of his ruling party anxious, with some distancing themselves from the move ahead of a series of state elections.Modi removed 500 and 1,000 rupee notes, worth around $7.50 and $15 respectively, on Nov. 8, billing it as an attempt to root out corruption, end terror financing and move the country into the age of digital payments.He promised to replace all old bills with enough new currency notes by the end of this month. But his government has struggled to do that, leading to long lines at banks and a slump in economy activity. Nearly 90 percent of transactions in India used to be in cash.Interviews with six lawmakers from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a senior leader of the party’s ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), show his party cadre is starting to worry that the cash crunch could hurt their prospects in several states that go to the polls next year.Some parliamentarians said that while they thought Modi’s decision was good, its execution had been botched and they were faced with constituents who were increasingly upset.”There is no doubt that it is difficult to convince voters that everything will be fine,” said Santosh Gangwar, the junior finance minister who is leading the BJP campaign in Uttar Pradesh.      “Every candidate who will be contesting polls is nervous because they feel people may not vote for the BJP … There is tension and we cannot deny it,” he said.    Of the BJP’s 71 MPs from Uttar Pradesh, 28 have been to BJP President Amit Shah and the finance minister’s office to seek solutions for the cash crunch, said a senior finance ministry official.BJP EXPECTS “BIG VICTORY”

BJP spokesman G.V.L. Narasimha Rao said that despite temporary difficulties, the prime minister continued to enjoy overwhelming support.”Party cadres are highly enthused about a big victory in upcoming elections, and if a few are apprehensive, they will realise the reality soon,” Rao said.    Disquiet within the BJP underscores how Modi’s unprecedented bet is turning into a test of popularity, and could go some way to determining his political future.It has become a central issue in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, where the outcome of elections early next year will be key for Modi’s expected bid for a second term in 2019.    The opposition, led by the Congress party, has joined forces, mocking the government for being ill-prepared for so-called “demonetisation” and blaming it for hardships faced by the poor as a result. It has called for Modi’s resignation.     The senior RSS official said they had counselled Modi days before the move to take time to prepare the ground for such a massive exercise, including setting up two new mints and expanding the banking network, and to roll it out in phases.

    But the prime minister decided to press ahead, and he alone would bear responsibility for its failure or success, the official added.    Earlier this month, N. Chandrababu Naidu, chief minister of Andhra Pradesh and a political ally of Modi, abruptly distanced himself from the move.    Modi and senior members of his cabinet defend demonetisation. In an interview with India Today magazine on Thursday, Modi said it would give the economy a boost and provide long-term benefits, including forcing the country’s vast shadow economy into the open.”GRIM SITUATION”

    Modi’s announcement enjoyed popular support at first, with many people prepared to endure hardship as long as others were forced to give up ill-gotten wealth or pay tax.But shortages of new 500 and 2,000 rupee notes have caused tempers to rise as millions queue at banks and ATMs to draw money.    Last week, more than three dozen BJP lawmakers, many of whom came from states that go to polls next year, met with Shah to demand that the government sends more cash to their constituencies, and quickly.     The MPs told Shah about severe cash shortages and hardship to local businesses and ordinary people, according to several lawmakers who attended the meeting.They told the BJP president that they did not have the courage to hold election rallies at a time when people still had to stand in line, sometimes for hours, to get money. Some said they had not started door-to-door campaigning.    “The situation is grim, and we cannot ignore it,” Jagdambika Pal, a BJP lawmaker from Uttar Pradesh who attended the meeting, told Reuters. “It is a challenge for every BJP lawmaker to manage the situation, but we cannot do anything if there is no money in the banks.”($1 = 67.9550 rupees) (Additional reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh and Manoj Kumar; Editing by Paritosh Bansal and Mike Collett-White)

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First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 18:20 IST

Chilean Navy sailors accused of secretly filming female crewmates | Reuters

Chilean Navy sailors accused of secretly filming female crewmates | Reuters

Dec 29, 2016 23:16 IST

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SANTIAGO Chilean authorities said on Thursday they are investigating allegations that female sailors were secretly videotaped in their quarters on a naval vessel and that those images were then shared via social media by other crew members.The Navy detained the sailors accused of secretly recording their female counterparts. It said “it roundly rejects these types of actions that insult our personnel and we reiterate our respect for the privacy of those that form part of the institution.”Chile’s Defense Minister Jose Antonio Gomez said that sanction for these actions would “set an example.”After receiving a complaint from a sailor who had seen the recordings of the women shared on a WhatsApp group, Chile’s naval prosecutor opened an investigation into at least nine seamen, the Estrella de Valparaiso newspaper reported on Thursday. Other local media said eight sailor are being investigated.According to the paper, investigators found “elaborate and complex technical [filming] apparatus” in various strategic locations on the ship.

“If it’s true what happened on the frigate Lynch it is unacceptable,” Chilean President Michelle Bachelet wrote on Twitter.”Let’s end all forms of violence against women!”

Earlier in December, a Chilean business leader sparked a social media storm and criticism by Bachelet for presenting the nation’s economy minister with an inflatable sex doll as a gift at an industry dinner.Despite being South America’s most prosperous nation by most measures, Chile is more socially conservative than many of its neighbors and traditional gender attitudes persist.

Abortion is illegal in all circumstances, divorce was only legalized in 2006, and women’s participation in the labor market remains low. (Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Anthony Esposito and Andrea Ricci)

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First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 23:16 IST

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LIVE Australia Vs Pakistan Live Score

AUS vs PAK | Dec 26th, 2016

AUS 465 6 113.5

RUNS

WKTS

OVERS

LIVE South Africa Vs Sri Lanka Live Score

SA vs SL | Dec 26th, 2016

SL 240 5 83.0

RUNS

WKTS

OVERS

Cricket Scores

NSE’s IPO under cloud, but unlikely to be derailed | Reuters

By Abhirup Roy and Rafael Nam
| MUMBAI

MUMBAI The disclosure by the National Stock Exchange that some high-frequency trading brokers may have been provided unfair access to its servers is unlikely to derail the Indian bourse operator’s IPO plans, a senior regulatory source and investors said on Thursday.In its draft initial public offering prospectus, India’s biggest exchange said an external panel had found potential instances of some traders having preferential access to its network through co-location facilities – where private servers are placed at exchanges to speed up algorithmic trading.The NSE said the agency found certain employees may have been involved in providing that access, though it could not determine whether there was any collusion.The Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is studying the potential violations, but an official at the capital market regulator said, for now, it would be hard to justify steep penalties against the NSE.”The IPO is totally a disclosure based regime. The NSE has already made adequate disclosures, and they can go ahead,” the SEBI official said, asking not to be named as he was not authorized to talk to the media – though he added that no final decision had been made.The NSE’s IPO could raise as much as $1 billion next year, bankers have estimated, making it India’s largest in six years.An NSE spokesman said the disclosure in the IPO prospectus pertained to “legacy issues”, adding the exchange operator had submitted the full report to the SEBI.

One NSE shareholder, who is among the 27 investors planning to sell shares during the IPO, said the company will have to fix its problems and make sure they don’t recur.A senior NSE official said the exchange was reviewing its trading systems, and looking to standardise procedures.TOUGHER HFT RULES?

The suspected trading violations have been a concern for the SEBI for some months, and come as the NSE has grappled with governance issues.Earlier this year, the exchange operator appointed Ashok Chawla, a former anti-competition commissioner, as chairman, and reconstituted its board. Several people said then that he had been brought in to help shore up the company’s corporate governance standards.The NSE is also scouting for a new CEO after Chitra Ramkrishna resigned last month, citing personal reasons.

The SEBI had ordered the NSE to appoint an external agency probe after a committee appointed by the regulator found sufficient grounds for further investigation.The issue could also spur the SEBI to tighten rules on brokers’ access to increasingly prevalent algorithmic and high-frequency trading.The NSE said on Wednesday it had set aside all revenue generated by co-location facilities over the past two and a half years. That came to 13.1 billion rupees ($192.5 million), or close to 30 percent of its revenue during that period.The SEBI official said the regulator was unlikely to force the NSE to give up that revenue unless it could prove the potential trading violations cited in the report.($1 = 68.0600 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Abhirup Roy and Rafael Nam; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

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First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 22:31 IST

Tata Sons asks Cyrus Mistry to return all confidential information | Reuters

Tata Sons asks Cyrus Mistry to return all confidential information | Reuters

Dec 29, 2016 20:20 IST

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MUMBAI Tata Sons demanded former chairman Cyrus Mistry return all confidential information and documents regarding the company in his possession, in its second legal notice in as many days.The letter, sent by Tata Sons’ lawyers, further demanded that Mistry sign a letter pledging not to disclose any confidential information regarding the company, including to affiliates, relatives and family members.”We have credible information that you have wrongfully and dishonestly taken movable property being confidential information,” said the letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

The notice comes after Tata Sons, the holding firm for the $100 billion Tata conglomerate, on Tuesday accused Mistry of breaching confidentiality rules, and said it would take legal action against him.

(Reporting by Rafael Nam)

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First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 20:20 IST

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LIVE Australia Vs Pakistan Live Score

AUS vs PAK | Dec 26th, 2016

AUS 465 6 113.5

RUNS

WKTS

OVERS

LIVE South Africa Vs Sri Lanka Live Score

SA vs SL | Dec 26th, 2016

SL 240 5 83.0

RUNS

WKTS

OVERS

LIVE New Zealand Vs Bangladesh Live Score

NZ vs BAN | Dec 29th, 2016

BAN 184 10 42.4

RUNS

WKTS

OVERS

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Takata could pay up to $1 billion to settle U.S. criminal probe – WSJ | Reuters

Takata could pay up to $1 billion to settle U.S. criminal probe – WSJ | Reuters

Dec 28, 2016 22:42 IST

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Japan’s Takata Corp is nearing a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and is expected to pay up to $1 billion to resolve allegations of criminal wrongdoing in handling its faulty air bags, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.The final figure could be in the high hundreds of millions of dollars, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. (on.wsj.com/2htwr9V)

At least 184 people have been injured in the United States in incidents involving potentially deadly Takata air bags.

(Reporting by Arunima Banerjee in Bengaluru)

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First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 22:42 IST

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LIVE Australia Vs Pakistan Live Score

AUS vs PAK | Dec 26th, 2016

AUS 278 2 58.0

RUNS

WKTS

OVERS

LIVE South Africa Vs Sri Lanka Live Score

SA vs SL | Dec 26th, 2016

SA 351 5 80.0

RUNS

WKTS

OVERS

Cricket Scores

Dollar stirs from slumber as yield gap yawns | Reuters

By Marc Jones
| LONDON

LONDON The dollar, oil and world stocks rose on Wednesday following upbeat U.S. data that saw the gap between Treasuries and other benchmark global government bonds hit new highs.Europe’s main stock market, London’s FTSE, reopened with a gain of 0.5 percent as it played catch-up after similar run-ups in Germany and France and as Wall Street’s Dow Jones index eyed another crack at 20,000 points.The dollar also drove higher after U.S. consumer confidence shot to its loftiest in more than 15 years in December on hopes that President-elect Donald Trump will nurture further improvements in the world’s biggest economy.Having already jumped 16 percent against the Japanese currency since the U.S. election, the greenback gained a further 0.2 percent to 117.65 yen. It was up a similar amount against the euro and sterling at $1.0390 per euro and $1.2213 to the pound. “Everything is broadly dollar-supportive,” said Societe Generale’s head of currency strategy Kit Juckes.”We have come back from Christmas with some good U.S. data, (U.S.) bond yields are at the top end of their recent range, oil is edging higher and the Dow is flirting with 20,000 points.”Euro zone bond yields fell across the board as concerns about the strength of a rescue plan for Italian banks and normal year-end caution pushed investors to the safety of government debt.Germany’s 10-year yields hit their lowest in seven weeks at 0.18 percent. That in turn widened the yield gap to U.S. Treasuries, which act as the world’s benchmark borrowing rate, to a record high of 237 basis points.Oil prices – the other major market driver in recent weeks – climbed back towards a 1-1/2-year high, as promised output cuts loomed.

Oil has surged more than 50 percent this year despite plunging to a 12-year low in January. Brent was at $56.50 a barrel and U.S. crude at $54.25 after an overnight gain of 1.7 percent.In a sign that the world’s major oil producers may abide by their output agreement, Iraqi Oil Minister Jabar Ali al-Luaibi said on Wednesday his country, which has seen fast production growth in the past two years, would cut supply by between 200,000 and 210,000 barrels per day from January. Gazprom Neft also said it planned to boost oil output by less than it had intended before Russia joined the deal to cut supply.EMERGING JITTERS

Helped by the broadly robust tone to stock and commodity markets, the Australian dollar firmed.Australian stocks gained 1 percent. Indonesian shares added 1.9 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.1 percent.Shanghai dipped 0.3 percent to continue a dire 2016. It has slumped the best part of 18 percent this year, having been a star performer in 2015, dampening an otherwise strong rebound in emerging markets after three straight years of losses.With the dollar and bond yields on the rise again and China’s yuan on the slide, investors are wondering whether the rally could falter.

Data from Morgan Stanley showed EM equity funds logged weekly outflows of $3.35 billion, the second largest of the year, while EM bond funds saw outflows of $800 million, which made it seven straight weeks of outflows.It said the cumulative drop in equity funds over the last eight weeks totalled $11.1 billion.Gold dipped though firmer oil prices and the upbeat U.S. data continued to support the wider commodity market. Copper on the London Metal Exchange was up 1 percent at $5,513 a tonne as trading resumed after the Christmas holidays. Iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange extended gains after breaking a nine-day slump the previous day. It was up 3.5 percent at 569.0 yuan ($81.82) per tonne and has now risen about 170 percent this year, boosted by expectations of Chinese stimulus and hopes that the incoming Trump administration will increase U.S. infrastructure spending. “There is strong positive sentiment on the outlook for these industrial metals going into 2017,” said a Perth-based commodities trader.($1 = 6.9541 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by John Stonestreet and Dale Hudson)

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First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 19:53 IST

Serial testers and cursory checks – India’s flawed generic drug trials business | Reuters

By Zeba Siddiqui
| HYDERABAD

HYDERABAD Vasudeva Prakash left his job as a mechanic in Hyderabad three years ago for what he calls a more lucrative career: taking part in clinical trials on generic drugs.For two years, Prakash participated in trials of drugs being tested to treat HIV/AIDS and other diseases for contract research organizations (CROs) hired by global pharmaceutical companies. The drugs tested at Indian CROs have been key in getting several hundred medicines approved for sale around the world.Yet, Prakash did not follow international guidelines for testing – and the CROs that hired him didn’t require him to. He says that to earn more money he would participate in back-to-back trials on different drugs with gaps of only a few weeks or even a few days, instead of waiting the 90 days that the World Health Organization recommends.Half of more than a dozen volunteers interviewed by Reuters across four cities – Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and New Delhi – also said they waited much less than 90 days between trials. In the past three-to-four years, they said they spent several months at a time in different cities so that they could participate in as many studies as possible.Prakash provided documentation proving he underwent trials with short gaps at Apotex Research Pvt Ltd, owned by Canadian drugmaker Apotex Inc; Lotus Labs, owned by U.S. generics giant Actavis; Ethics Bio Lab, owned since last year by U.S. drugmaker Par Pharmaceutical Inc; and India’s Semler Research Center Pvt Ltd, among others. Ethics Bio and Apotex did not respond to requests for comment. Lotus Labs and Semler said they had systems in place to check for cross-participation by trial volunteers.The guidelines of the WHO, which decides on approvals for drugs sold in several countries dependent on United Nations programs for basic medicines, are not legally-binding for the CROs. While India has guidelines on clinical trials, they don’t specify the length of time participants should take between trials.Still, the serial testing of some volunteers is raising new questions about the level of oversight of India’s generic drug trials industry, after some CROs came under recent international regulatory scrutiny. Last year, the European Medicines Agency banned about 700 medicines across Europe after an investigation revealed data tampering in some trials of generic drugs in India.International medical experts said that undergoing back-to-back trials endangers the health of patients participating. It can also compromise clinical data gathered through these trials, on the basis of which drugmakers seek approval to sell generic medicines around the world.“The time gap between participation in two different trials should be 90 days minimum,” said Stephanie Croft, a lead inspector at the WHO. “When [data] is incomplete or incorrect it could pose a serious risk to patients.”Gyanendra Nath Singh, head of India’s national drug watchdog, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), said that it has been trying to inspect more CROs in the past two years. The watchdog is also considering the introduction of a track-and-trace system through which patients can be tracked across CROs, he told Reuters.“We are emphasizing on good regulatory practices … some reports have shown that the CROs have deviated from (the) system,” said Singh.India’s Health Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

GLOBAL REACH
Several large international drugmakers, including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd and Mylan NV, rely on CROs in India to carry out tests on cheaper versions of branded drugs. The aim of these so-called “bioequivalence” studies is to gauge whether non-branded drugs are equally safe and effective. The faster the trials are undertaken, the faster the drugs can come to market.In some major markets, such as the United States, being the first to launch a generic guarantees market exclusivity for a period of time, which can reap millions more in sales.International and local regulators have struggled to keep its oversight in line with the growth of an industry that expanded rapidly in the 2000s, as drugmakers shipped clinical trial work to India to save money. The market is estimated to have crossed $1 billion in 2016, according to consultants Frost and Sullivan.Over the past two years, international regulators have suspended or banned medicines tested by four major Indian CROs after finding manipulation of clinical trial data and other violations.Issues found at Indian CROs are “a big problem that is gaining more and more attention from all sorts of agencies,” said Anders Fuglsang, a consultant and former regulator long involved in audits and inspections of CROs around the world on behalf of international regulatory agencies and companies.Last year, the European Union banned about 700 medicines that had been approved based on clinical trial data provided by GVK Biosciences, then India’s largest CRO. European regulators said they found GVK had manipulated data concerning the heart readings of patients taking part in the study. GVK denied any violation, but several large drugmakers that had won drug approvals based on GVK’s data were asked to re-apply for approval with fresh evidence.

Such re-testing is a headache for drugmakers, as it is expensive, and delays lead to a loss in sales, said Nilesh Gupta, managing director of India’s Lupin Ltd, which was one of the companies to be affected by a U.S. ban on trials by Semler earlier this year.GVK, part of the Indian conglomerate GVK Group, has since limited its business interests in the generic drugs testing business, said Shankar Chelluri, a spokesman for the company. Overall, sentiment toward the generic drug trials business is weak, Chelluri said.Another CRO, Quest Life Sciences, was found last year to have manipulated clinical data on certain trials, according to inspection reports from the WHO and the UK’s medicines authority. The Spanish and German regulators had also found problems with Quest’s trials, and the WHO said it found Quest had falsified data on drugs including the antibiotic doxycycline hyclate and HIV/AIDS drugs lamivudine, zidovudine and nevirapine.Quest managing director T.S. Jaishankar said his CRO, which has conducted dozens of generic drug trials for companies including India’s top drugmaker Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, has since invested heavily in improving its systems and been cleared by all international regulators. In a response to Reuters, a spokeswoman for the European Medicines Agency said they were “closely monitoring” the involvement of Quest in the drug approval applications they receive.India, like other countries, has ethics committees – groups of independent experts – meant to approve the design and conduct of clinical trials. Their stamp of approval is required by foreign regulators considering allowing a generic drug to be sold. However, these committees depend on the CROs for reimbursement in exchange for reviewing trials. Three members of different committees Reuters spoke to said national guidelines did not clearly define their roles and responsibilities.In the wake of trial data manipulation scandals at CROs in the past three years, many large drugmakers including Swiss firm Novartis, have been shifting more critical trials back to the United States and Europe, according to consultants and industry executives.

Novartis is also ramping up its own checks of Indian CROs, said Bodo Lutz, a data integrity officer at the Swiss firm. Speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Hyderabad in July, he said: “We can’t rely on the regulators … we’re increasing our own audits.”VOLUNTEERING “LIKE AN ADDICTION”
Prakash, the former mechanic, said he was never asked by CROs, and their ‘agents’ who approached him for studies, about whether he had recently taken part in another trial.”Everybody does it. Once you start getting the money, it’s very hard to quit. It’s like an addiction,” said Prakash.He said after the first study, he began to regularly receive messages on his phone and Facebook, often from agents working on behalf of CROs, informing him about ongoing clinical trials where volunteers were required. Such messages included three key things: the city where the trial was being conducted, the total pay offered, and the “blood loss”, or the amount of blood the volunteer will need to provide.Venkatesh, from the southern city of Tirupathi, described travelling from Chennai to Hyderabad and then to Bangalore and Mangaluru for different trials.”I know of several people who participate in three or four trials in the same month,” said Venkatesh, who stopped volunteering two months ago and has since married. He did not want to be referred to by his full name.Prakash said he was paid 10,000-30,000 rupees ($147-$441) per trial, depending on the duration and type. He stopped participating after his health began to deteriorate last year at age 25.He now works at a call centre earning 20,000 rupees a month, but, despite knowing the risks, entered two more trials recently to raise cash.”I needed some money desperately so I did it, but I won’t do it again,” he said. (Additional reporting by Aditya Kalra in New Delhi; Editing by Martin Howell)

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First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 04:47 IST

Egypt confirms Al Jazeera producer’s arrest for provoking sedition | Reuters

Egypt confirms Al Jazeera producer’s arrest for provoking sedition | Reuters

Dec 25, 2016 18:39 IST

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CAIRO Egypt confirmed on Sunday that it had arrested an Al Jazeera news producer, accusing him of “provoking sedition” on behalf of the Qatar-based broadcaster that it considers a mouthpiece of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Judicial sources said Mahmoud Hussain, who was detained on Friday, was being held on charges of disturbing public security and spreading false news.The Interior Ministry said in a statement that Al Jazeera officials “had ordered some individuals collaborating with the channel inside the country to continue implementing its media plan of provoking sedition, incitement against the state, and spreading chaos through broadcasting false news.” It identified Hussain as a person implementing that plan for the channel which is not allowed to operate inside Egypt.

Al Jazeera was not immediately available for comment.Egypt has arrested several Al Jazeera reporters over the past two years, raising concerns over media freedoms in the country.

In May, a Cairo court recommended the death penalty against two of them, charged in absentia with endangering national security by leaking state secrets to Qatar.The Brotherhood is a Qatar-backed movement that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has cracked down on since an army takeover in 2013 stripped former president Mohammed Mursi – a prominent member of the group – of power following mass protests against his rule.

Thousands of Brotherhood supporters including Mursi are in jail and Egypt has designated the group, which says it is non-violent, a terrorist organisation. (Reporting by Haitham Ahmed and Ahmed Mohammed Hassan; Writing by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 18:39 IST

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Status Quo guitarist Rick Parfitt dies aged 68 | Reuters

Status Quo guitarist Rick Parfitt dies aged 68 | Reuters

Dec 24, 2016 17:32 IST

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LONDON Status Quo guitarist Rick Parfitt died in hospital on Saturday in Spain aged 68 after suffering from a severe infection, his manager said.”We are truly devastated to have to announce that Status Quo guitarist Rick Parfitt has passed away,” his family and Status Quo Manager Simon Porter said in a joint statement.

“He died in hospital in Marbella, Spain as a result of a severe infection, having been admitted to hospital on Thursday evening following complications to a shoulder injury incurred by a previous fall,” his family said.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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First Published On : Dec 24, 2016 17:32 IST

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U.N. Security Council denounces Israeli settlements, U.S. abstains | Reuters

By Michelle Nichols
| UNITED NATIONS

UNITED NATIONS The United States on Friday allowed the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlements, defying pressure from President-elect Donald Trump, Israel and some U.S. lawmakers who urged Washington to wield its veto.An abstention by the United States paved the way for the 15-member international body to approve the resolution, with 14 votes in favour, prompting applause in the council chamber.”Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the U.N. and will not abide by its terms,” the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has encouraged the expansion of Jewish settlements in land captured by Israel in a 1967 war with its Arab neighbours, said in a statement.The Obama administration’s action broke with the long-standing American approach of shielding Israel, Washington’s long-time ally that receives more than $3 billion in annual U.S. military aid, from such action. The United States, along with Russia, France, Britain and China, has veto power on the council.The resolution, put forward by New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal a day after Egypt withdrew it under pressure from Israel and Trump, was the first adopted by the council on Israel and the Palestinians in nearly eight years.U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the resolution and Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called on Israel to “respect international law.”The U.S. abstention was seen as a parting shot by outgoing President Barack Obama, who has had an acrimonious relationship with Netanyahu and whose efforts to forge a peace agreement based on a “two-state” solution of creating a Palestinian state existing peacefully alongside Israel have proven futile. His administration has argued that continued Israeli settlement building has undermined chances of a peace deal.Israel and Trump had called on the Obama administration to veto the measure. Trump wrote on Twitter after the vote, “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th,” referring to the day he succeeds Obama.Israel for decades has pursued a policy of constructing Jewish settlements on territory captured by Israel in a 1967 war with its Arab neighbours including the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Most countries view Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal and an obstacle to peace. Israel disagrees.The Obama administration has deemed settlement expansion “illegitimate.” Successive administrations of both parties have criticized settlement activity but have done little to slow their growth.

INDEPENDENT STATE
The Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The resolution demanded that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” and said the establishment of settlements by Israel has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”After the vote, the White House defended the U.S. abstention, saying that in the absence of any meaningful peace process, Obama took the decision to abstain. Criticizing Israel’s settlement policy, it said it had repeatedly warned Israel privately and publicly that settlement activity was increasing Israel’s international isolation.Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security adviser, dismissed Trump’s criticism, noting that Obama remains president until Jan. 20.

“We could not in good conscience veto a resolution that expressed concerns about the very trends that are eroding the foundation for a two-state solution,” Rhodes told a conference call.Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said, said the United States did not raise a veto because the resolution “reflects the facts on the ground and is consistent with U.S. policy across Republican and Democratic administrations.”MORE THAN SYMBOLIC
The passage of the resolution changes nothing on the ground between Israel and the Palestinians and likely will be all but ignored by the incoming Trump administration.

But it was more than merely symbolic. It formally enshrined the international community’s disapproval of Israeli settlement building and could spur further Palestinian moves against Israel in international forums.The U.N. action was “a big blow to Israeli policy, a unanimous international condemnation of settlements and a strong support for the two-state solution,” a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement published by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Danny Danon, called the resolution disgraceful, adding he had no doubt the incoming Trump administration and Ban’s successor as U.N. chief, former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres, “will usher in a new era in terms of the U.N.’s relationship with Israel”Israel has said the final status of the Jewish settlements should be determined in talks on Palestinian statehood. The last round of U.S.-led peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians collapsed in 2014.Trump, who called for a veto along with Netanyahu, is likely to be a more staunch supporter of Netanyahu’s right-wing policies. He named a hardline pro-Israel ambassador and vowed to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.Some U.S. lawmakers of both parties condemned the Obama administration’s abstention. Republican Senator John McCain said the abstention “marks a troubling departure from our nation’s long, bipartisan history of defending our ally Israel in the United Nations.”U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, who heads the Senate subcommittee that oversees American U.N. funding, threatened to pull financial support for the international body.The council last adopted a resolution on settlements in 1979, with the United States abstaining. Then it approved a resolution saying Israeli settlements had “no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.” (Writing by Will Dunham and Yara Bayoumy; Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem, Lesley Wroughton and Susan Heavey in Washington, Matt Spetalnick in New York and Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Editing by Bill Trott and Cynthia Osterman)

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First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 21:18 IST

Amazon starts flexing muscle in new space: air cargo | Reuters

By Jeffrey Dastin
| ALLENTOWN, Pa.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. A cargo plane emblazoned with “Prime Air” descended from an empty sky at Lehigh Valley International Airport on Tuesday, ninety minutes from the bustle of New York City, loaded with crates of goods during the peak holiday shopping season.It’s one of 40 jets leased by Amazon.com Inc for a new cargo service to meet delivery demand from the retail giant’s customers. Exclusive payload data reviewed by Reuters and interviews with airport officials around the country show that Prime Air planes are flying nearly full, but with lightweight loads, taking away valued business from FedEx Corp and United Parcel Service Inc.Expanding into transportation, from trucks to planes, is one of Amazon’s most important endeavors as it strives to lure new customers with fast shipping while keeping costs under control. The world’s largest online retailer is sending more packages, more often, and later in the day to serve its estimated 35 million to more than 50 million U.S. members of Amazon Prime, a service that promises two-day shipping for $99 per year. Bulky boxes with goods once purchased in stores, like toilet paper, are a revenue driver at UPS and FedEx. That’s in part because they now are charging customers increasingly by boxes’ volume rather than weight. Shipping its own big, light packages is helping Amazon dodge those rising fees.To date, Amazon has only said it leased the planes to speed up shipping and to backstop cargo partners during the holiday season. FedEx and UPS have delivered items late for Christmas in recent years.”Our own delivery efforts are needed to supplement that capacity rather than replace it,” Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Cheeseman told Reuters. She declined to comment on eluding cargo airline fees.Amazon’s planes fly to at least 10 airports across the United States, supplying its warehouses nearby. Officials at four airports said Amazon’s flights are operating near capacity but landing with lower-than-average weight — meaning it is placing low-density shipments inside the jets. [For graphic-click tmsnrt.rs/2hZ8uZp]Amazon aircraft on a monthly basis handled only between 37 percent and 52 percent of their maximum loads by weight, according to an analysis of cargo, capacity and landing data from the four airports, with supplementary information from tracking website FlightAware.com. By contrast, FedEx and UPS were at 53 percent and 56 percent capacity, respectively, according to U.S. Transportation Department data for the year ended September 2016, excluding weight carried for free.”You’re dealing with cargo that’s big in dimensions, but in pure weight it’s light,” said an airport ramp manager in California.

Airports in Tampa and Charlotte reported similar payload data for the carriers contracted by Amazon, but they did not specify whether the flights were full by volume or whether they were operated on Amazon’s behalf. A seventh airport outside Chicago said the planes were not full, though daily flights only started in October 2016, and Amazon likely is learning the market, transport experts said.The remaining airports did not comment.FedEx declined to comment. Steve Gaut, vice president of public relations at UPS, declined to comment on Amazon’s airline but said customers commonly handle parts of their logistics in-house.Reuters could not determine the extent to which, if any, Prime Air had an effect on the bottom lines of FedEx or UPS to date. Reuters could also not determine how much Amazon has spent on aircraft leases so far, key to whether the fleet has cut its costs overall.The payload figures Reuters reviewed do not include November or December, when contractor ABX Air, a unit of Air Transport Services Group Inc, paused flights for Amazon after a pilot strike.

FLYING LATER
Flight data shows another way that Amazon is departing from cargo companies’ road map in an attempt of its top goal: rapid delivery.Using FlightAware.com and similar websites, Reuters tracked the schedules of Amazon contractors and verified with airports which flights were on behalf of the retailer.

Many of the company’s eastbound flights leave the states of Washington and California unusually late at night: its flight from Stockton to Wilmington, Ohio departs close to 2:00 AM Pacific Time (10:00 GMT), for instance. FedEx instead schedules most eastbound service no later than 9:00 PM (5:00 GMT) to ensure arrival at its Memphis, Tennessee hub in time for sorting packages overnight.The difference is that cargo airlines stop at airport hubs so they can fill up planes easily with boxes from many origins. Amazon does this much less.But flying without a stopover is faster, helping Amazon cut shipping times from Prime’s two-day standard, to a day or even hours. Scheduling later departures has an advantage, too.”Most people have a tendency to order packages when they’re home” from work, said Brian Clancy, managing director of advisory firm Logistics Capital & Strategy LLC. Amazon is “waiting for the orders.”Amazon also saves time by flying to remote locations like Lehigh Valley, which are near cities and its warehouses but have little traffic. Expectations are for Amazon to stretch well beyond Lehigh Valley and the existing airports Prime Air serves. “We’re just seeing the beginning of this,” said Marc Wulfraat, president of logistics consultancy MWPVL International Inc. “We could see Toronto. We could see Denver.”They’re going to need a lot more planes,” he said. (Editing by Peter Henderson and Edward Tobin)

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First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 20:44 IST

Trump calls for expanded U.S. nuclear weapons capability | Reuters

PALM BEACH, Fla./WASHINGTON U.S. President-elect Donald Trump called on Thursday for the country to expand its nuclear weapons capabilities until the world “comes to its senses” – a signal he may support costly efforts to modernize the aging U.S. nuclear arsenal.During the next decade, U.S. ballistic missile submarines, bombers, and land-based missiles – the three legs of the nuclear triad – are expected to reach the end of their useful lives.Maintaining and modernizing the arsenal is expected to cost at about $1 trillion dollars over 30 years, according to independent estimates. [nL2N1C21ED]”The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” Trump said in a post on Twitter.

Trump, who is at his Florida resort for the Christmas holiday, gave no details about what prompted his tweet. Representatives for his transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Trump, who won election on Nov. 8 and takes office on Jan. 20, campaigned on a platform of building up the U.S. military, but also pledged to cut taxes and control federal spending.

Trump met on Wednesday with a dozen Pentagon officials involved with defense acquisition programs, as well as the chief executives of Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and Boeing Co (BA.N), the country’s two largest defense contractors. Trump said he talked with the CEOs about lowering costs for two high-profile programs: Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jets and Boeing’s replacement 744-8s for the presidential Air Force One plane.

Defense stocks were little changed after Trump’s tweet, but shares of small uranium miners including Uranium Resources Inc (URRE.O) and Uranium Energy Corp (UEC.A) rose sharply. [nL1N1EH15P] (Reporting by Melissa Fares in Palm Beach, Florida and Lewis Krauskopf in New York; Writing by Susan Heavey and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Frances Kerry)

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First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 23:37 IST

U.S. consumer spending slows; business investment perking up | Reuters

By Lucia Mutikani
| WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON U.S. consumer spending increased modestly in November as household incomes failed to rise for the first time in nine months, suggesting the economy slowed in the fourth quarter after growing briskly in the prior period.But the economy remains on solid footing, with other data on Thursday showing new orders for U.S.-manufactured capital goods rising last month amid demand for machinery and primary metals, indicating that some of the oil-related drag on business spending was fading.And while the number of Americans applying for unemployment aid hit a six-month high last week, it remained below a level that is associated with labor market strength. The Commerce Department said consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, rose 0.2 percent after increasing 0.4 percent in October. When adjusted for inflation, consumer spending edged up 0.1 percent last month after a similar gain in October. But the moderation in consumer spending is likely to be temporary against the backdrop of a labor market that is near full employment and consumer confidence that is at cycle highs.Still, last month’s modest gain in consumption, coming on the heels of weak industrial production and housing starts in November, implied gross domestic product growth estimates for the fourth quarter, currently around a 2.6 percent rate, could be trimmed.The Commerce Department said in another report on Thursday that the economy grew at a 3.5 percent annual rate in the third quarter instead of the previously reported 3.2 percent pace. That was the strongest growth rate since the third quarter of 2014 and followed the second quarter’s anemic 1.4 percent pace. The upward revision reflected stronger growth in consumer spending, business investment in structures and intellectual property products than previously estimated, underscoring the economy’s solid fundamentals, which contributed to the Federal Reserve raising interest rates last week.The U.S. central bank lifted its benchmark overnight interest rate by 25 basis points to a range of 0.50 percent to 0.75 percent, also encouraged by a sturdy labor market. The Fed forecast three rate hikes in 2017.The dollar was trading lower against a basket of currencies. U.S. government bonds fell as did stocks on Wall Street.

Slower consumer spending last month held back inflation. The personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, excluding food and energy, was unchanged after edging up 0.1 percent inOctober. That lowered the year-on-year increase in the core PCE price index to 1.6 percent, the smallest gain since July. The core PCE index increased 1.8 percent in October, which was the biggest gain since July 2014. The core PCE is the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation measure and is running below its 2 percent target.INCOME FLAT
Consumer spending last month was restrained by a 0.6 percent drop in purchases of long-lasting manufactured goods such as automobiles. Spending on services rose 0.3 percent.

Personal income was flat last month after increasing0.5 percent in October. Wages and salaries fell 0.1 percent. With consumer spending outpacing incomes, savings fell to $780.9 billion, the lowest level since May 2015, from $809.1 billion in October. While consumer spending might be cooling, there are signs that business investment is perking up after a prolonged slump.In a third report, the Commerce Department said non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, increased 0.9 percent after gaining 0.2 percent in October. A collapse in oil prices last year, together with a surge in the dollar, pressured manufacturing. Much of the impact has been through weak business spending on equipment, which has contracted for four consecutive quarters.

With oil prices hovering above $50 per barrel, manufacturing, which accounts for 12 percent of the U.S. economy, is starting to show signs of life. Gas and oil well drilling has risen over the last several months.Economists expect business spending to rebound in 2017, driven in part by president-elect Donald Trump’s perceived business-friendly policies.The incoming Trump administration has promised to slash taxes, remove some regulations and increase infrastructure spending. But manufacturing gains are likely to be limited by renewed dollar strength in the wake of Trump’s victory.Since Trump’s Nov.8 election victory, the dollar has increased 4.4 percent against the currencies of the United States’ main trading partner on concerns that the business mogul’s policy agenda could fan inflation.Last month, shipments of core capital goods rose 0.2 percent after falling 0.3 percent in October. Core capital goods shipments are used to calculate equipment spending in thegovernment’s GDP measurement.A third report from the Labor Department showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 21,000 to a seasonally adjusted 275,000 for the week ended Dec. 17, the highest since June.Despite the increase, it was the 94th straight week that claims were below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market. That is the longest stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much smaller. Claims tend to be volatile around this time of the year because of different timings of the various holidays. The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, increased 6,000 to 263,750 last week. (Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 21:58 IST

Taliban claim attack on house of Afghan member of parliament | Reuters

By Mirwais Harooni
| KABUL

KABUL Tha Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on the house of an Afghan member of parliament on Wednesday night that officials said killed at least five people and wounded a number of others.A security official said one attacker blew himself up at the house of Mir Wali, a member of parliament from the volatile southern province of Helmand, killing three security guards and allowing two other gunmen to get into the compound, where a meeting was underway.Mir Wali was wounded by shattered glass and other guests were also hurt in the attack, in which at least two civilians were killed.

Among the dead was Hafiz Barakzai, son of another prominent member of parliament, who was shot and killed while helping people to escape from the compound, his brother told Reuters.The incident underlined the fragile security situation in Kabul, which has seen repeated attacks by suicide bombers and gunmen in recent months. Helmand, one of the strongholds of the Taliban and source of much of the world’s opium, has fallen increasingly under insurgent control over the past two years.

The main Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s incident. He said “an important military meeting” of officials from Helmand was underway when the attack took place.Officials said police special forces were at the scene and were concentrating on evacuating people from the house and nearby areas.

The surviving gunmen were still believed to be inside the house, with local news station Tolo News quoting local residents as saying the sound of gunfire and explosions could be heard. (Reporting by Mirwais Harooni; writing by James Mackenzie; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 00:51 IST

Mexico fireworks market blast kills at least 27, hurts scores | Reuters

Mexico fireworks market blast kills at least 27, hurts scores | Reuters

Dec 21, 2016 05:26 IST

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MEXICO CITY At least 27 people died in an explosion at a fireworks market outside the Mexican capital on Tuesday, according to a local emergency services official.The blast at the San Pablito fireworks market in Tultepec, about 20 miles (32 km) north of Mexico City, also injured at least 70 others, according to a tweet from federal police.Isidro Sanchez, the head of Tultepec emergency services, said the death toll was preliminary as rescue workers scoured the site.

Local television showed a flurry of multi-colored fireworks exploding in all directions as a massive plume of smoke rose above the market while people frantically fled.Aerial footage showed charred stalls and destroyed buildings.

A blast struck the popular market in September 2005 just before independence day celebrations, injuring many people.

(Reporting by David Alire Garcia and Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 05:26 IST

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Cake and sympathy – beaten women forget pain of domestic abuse in Chennai cafe | Reuters

By Anuradha Nagaraj

CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Measuring flour, whisking eggs and folding batter, K. Asma forgets the deep scars that run down her face and neck as she bakes cupcakes in an upscale cafe in the Indian port city of Chennai.Four years ago, Asma poured kerosene on herself and lit a match, after reaching breaking point in an abusive marriage. By setting herself on fire, Asma had meant to scare her husband into stopping the violence. “I was thinking a small burn mark, some ointment and back to work as a sweeper cleaning the city roads after a day,” Asma told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.”I didn’t think the fire would consume me and my life would become a living hell.” The 29-year-old is one of seven victims of domestic abuse hired by Writers’ Cafe in a pilot project to help them regain their self-esteem while learning new skills that could provide some financial independence.India first recognised domestic violence as a criminal offence in 1983 and amended the penal code to include cruelty by a husband or his family against a married woman as a crime.Last year, there were a reported 327,394 crimes against women in India, 35 percent of which were classified as “cruelty by husband or relatives”, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.The overall crime rate was down by 3.1 percent compared to 2014, but data showed an 8 percent increase in cases brought under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act. In 2015, 461 cases were registered against 426 in 2014. SUICIDE BID
Hiding bruises and staying quiet, many women in India, especially in rural areas, accept violence as a normal part of life.

Many envisage suicide as the only way out with hanging, poisoning and self-immolation common causes of death.Like Asma, Parimala Gopi is also part of the Writers’ Cafe pilot project, and had also tried to set herself alight after enduring years of domestic violence. “I could see the horror in the face of my children when they saw me,” Gopi, 35, said. “I could deal with my pain but seeing theirs broke my spirit.”At Chennai’s Kilpauk Medical College burns ward, one of the largest in southern India, doctors treat up to 100 women a month for burns from kerosene and alcohol. Often the injuries are self-inflicted.Counsellors at the hospital said that 60 percent of the cases have third-degree burns that prove fatal.”Among those who survive, we found that many were dying after discharge from the hospital,” said Prasanna Gettu of International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care, a support agency for victims and survivors of domestic abuse.

“They did not have enough money to take care of their diet or the medication they needed to heal. Families were not being supportive and many were just withering away. They needed jobs.”HAPPINESS
At Writers’ Cafe, Swiss baker Silke Stadler and chef Karan Manavalan, who are training the women to bake cakes, said their aim is to create a positive workplace where the women are not judged for past actions.”It is a good space to make things right for them,” Stadler said.

Aniruddha Sen, the chief executive of CC Fine Foods South India Private Limited, which opened Writers’ Cafe, said his company planned to open similar cafes in 2017.”We want them (the women) to have permanent livelihood through this venture,” he said.Projects like this and Sheroes’ Hangout, a cafe run by survivors of acid attacks in the western city of Agra, are helping women find their place in society, campaigners say.”It has been a long journey for these women to simply say yes to a job,” Gettu said.”They have battled stigma and their own insecurities before stepping out of their homes, boarding a bus, ignoring the stares and getting to work.”Asma does not mind that many people on the bus choose not to sit next to her during her daily commute to work. “I just think about the work and the 10,000 rupees ($147) I earn every month,” she said.”Baking that cake makes me forget everything, even my gnarled hands and scarred face. I find a little bit of happiness,” Asma said. (Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 00:05 IST

‘Uberisation’ of India’s domestic work market has benefits and risks | Reuters

By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A booming digital market matching Indian domestic workers with employers may offer benefits for some housemaids but won’t end low wages and discrimination and may exclude the poorest women who don’t have smartphones, according to new research.Domestic help in India is relatively cheap, and demand for cooks, cleaners and babysitters is growing as incomes rise and more women work full-time.Domestic workers, who are generally women, typically have little or no education, and the market is almost entirely unregulated, with no fixed wages or benefits for workers.On the back of the popularity of taxi-hailing mobile apps such as Uber and home-grown Ola, a handful of companies have launched apps that offer domestic workers on demand.”This ‘Uberisation of domestic work’ can offer some benefits, (but) it also risks further entrenching a culture of low incomes, insecurity and discrimination,” according to a study by the UK’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI).A typical middle-class Indian home may have a part-time cook and a part-time cleaner. Some households have a full-time worker, while wealthier households may have a live-in helper.Workers are typically hired by word of mouth. Most do not receive health insurance or retirement benefits.While on-demand technology can increase workers’ access to opportunities, it is “not automatically empowering, and there is a great risk that marginalised groups will remain excluded,” ODI said in the report released last week.DECENT WORK
Women make up about 80 percent of an estimated 67 million domestic workers globally, according to ODI.

In India, many domestic workers, most of them women, are forced to work up to 18 hours a day and face dire living conditions, abuse and violence.A draft domestic workers’ bill in 2015 had proposed a minimum salary of 9,000 rupees ($133) per month for skilled, full-time household help, along with benefits such as social security cover and mandatory time off. That bill was not passed.On-demand domestic work companies including MyDidi (sister), BookMyBai (maid) and TaskBob say they are helping meet demand for reliable help, while also enabling workers to secure better wages and conditions.”The workers are trained, they know what they are getting paid, they get regular hours and greater flexibility,” said Anupam Sinhal, co-founder of BookMyBai and NanoJobs.But campaigners say there is no oversight of agencies working to match domestic workers with employers and complaints of exploitation, trafficking and enslavement abound.

“There is no regulation or monitoring of agencies or these new companies that provide on-demand services,” said Shalini Sinha at WIEGO, a lobby group for informal women workers.”Do they really ensure fair conditions for the workers? Do the workers get paid on time? What we need is a law to protect these women, and regulation and monitoring of these agencies.”FIXED SALARY
ODI’s study of the on-demand model in South Africa showed that it disproportionately benefits employers. For the workers, it meant low wages and discrimination, it said.India’s on-demand domestic work companies are expanding by up to 60 percent month-on-month, according to ODI.

The model is different from Uber’s: BookMyBai gives workers on its payroll a fixed salary of 16,000 rupees ($235) a month, as well as health insurance and some benefits, regardless of how many hours they work, said Anupam Sinhal.Also, it is the company that designates a maid to a household, as many workers don’t have smartphones, he said.More than half of India’s domestic workers are illiterate, and few own smartphones or have bank accounts, making it harder for the women to navigate the platform themselves.MyDidi opens a bank account for each worker, while another company sends a text message to the husband of the worker every time she is assigned a job, so he knows her whereabouts. “The demand-supply gap is so huge, that we need these services to help address it,” Sinhal said.”The system gives the worker the benefits of a more formal economy, despite the challenges now.”($1 = 67.7347 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran, Editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

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First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 19:24 IST

Italy’s top court orders retrial of ex-Finmeccanica executives in India bribery case | Reuters

Italy’s top court orders retrial of ex-Finmeccanica executives in India bribery case | Reuters

Dec 17, 2016 01:04 IST

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MILAN Italy’s highest court on Friday ordered a re-trial of former top executives at defence group Leonardo Finmeccanica (LDOF.MI) over allegations of bribery in a 2010 contract to provide a dozen helicopters to the Indian government.In April a Milan appeals court sentenced former Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi to four and a half years in prison for corruption and falsifying invoices, overturning a previous lower court ruling.Bruno Spagnolini, former head of the group’s helicopter unit AgustaWestland, was sentenced to four years in jail over the 560 million euro ($585 million) contract.The case went to the highest court after the two executives launched an appeal. Both executives will now have to be tried again in front of Milan’s appeals court.

Last week India’s federal police arrested the former head of the air force S.P. Tyagi, 71, who was at the centre of allegations of impropriety in the order of 12 helicopters meant to fly senior Indian politicians.The deal was cancelled in 2014 after Orsi was arrested on suspicion of paying bribes to secure the deal.

AgustaWestland opposed India’s decision to cancel the order and the contract is currently suspended and the subject of international arbitration in Paris. The case against Finmeccanica itself was dropped by prosecutors back in 2014 while AgustaWestland agreed on a 7.5 million-euro settlement with the court the same year.

(Reporting by Valentina Errante, writing by Valentina Za; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 01:04 IST

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IND vs ENG | Dec 16th, 2016

ENG 284 4 90.0

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AUS vs PAK | Dec 15th, 2016

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Obama says told Putin to ‘cut it out’ over cyber attacks | Reuters

Obama says told Putin to ‘cut it out’ over cyber attacks | Reuters

Dec 16, 2016 21:21 IST

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WASHINGTON U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday said he warned Russian President Vladimir Putin in September to stop meddling in American political campaigns after hacks of Democratic Party emails in the lead-up to the Nov. 8 elections.In a pre-Christmas holiday press conference, Obama said he told Putin to “cut it out” during a face-to-face encounter in China where a G20 meeting was being held.Obama added that after warning Putin, there was no further evidence of Russian tampering. Russia has denied U.S. accusations of cyber attacks against U.S. political figures and institutions ahead of the presidential and congressional elections.Two senior government officials told Reuters that the FBI backs the CIA’s view that Russia intervened to help Republican Donald Trump win the presidential election.

Obama left open the door to U.S. retaliation against Russia to discourage it and other nations from further computer hacking.The president also said that he hoped that Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, should be similarly concerned about Russia’s actions and that the investigation should not become “a political football” between Republicans and Democrats.

Trump has maintained that he won the election fairly and has bristled at suggestions that Moscow influenced the outcome.But Democrats have repeatedly noted that Trump during his campaign has spoken glowingly about Putin and since winning the election has picked top aides in the incoming administration with ties to Russia.

At one point during the heated presidential campaign, Trump publicly encouraged Russia to hack Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s emails. (Reporting By Roberta Rampton, Jeff Mason and Julia Harte; Writing by Richard Cowan; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 21:21 IST

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Philippines’ Duterte ‘bye-bye America’ and we don’t need your money | Reuters

MANILA Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told the United States on Saturday to prepare for repeal of an agreement on deployment of troops and equipment for exercises, declaring “bye-bye America”, and we don’t need your money.But Duterte suggested relations could improve under a President Donald Trump. “I like your mouth, it’s like mine, yes Mr President. We are similar and people with the same feathers flock together.” Returning his focus to the present U.S. administration which has criticised him over reports of extra-judicial killings in his campaign against drugs, he said:”We do not need you,” Duterte said in a news conference after arriving from visits to Cambodia and Singapore. “Prepare to leave the Philippines. Prepare for the eventual repeal or abrogation of the VFA.”

The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), signed in 1998, accorded legal status to thousands of U.S. troops who were rotated in the country for military exercises and humanitarian assistance operations.”Bye, bye America and work on the protocols that will eventually move you out of the Philippines,” he said, adding his decision would come “any day soon” after reviewing another military deal, Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement.

The firebrand leader was visibly upset and vented his anger on Washington because of a decision by the Millennium Challenge Corp (MCC) board to defer vote on the re-selection of Manila for compact development due to human rights issues.

“We do not need the money. China said they will provide so many,” he said. “The politics here in Southeast Asia is changing.” (Reporting by Karen Lema, Manuel Mogato and Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Alison Williams)

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First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 18:01 IST

China upset as Dalai Lama meets President Pranab Mukherjee | Reuters

BEIJING China expressed dissatisfaction on Friday after exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama met President Pranab Mukherjee, saying it hoped India would recognise the Nobel Peace Prize winning monk as a separatist in religious guise.Mukherjee hosted the Dalai Lama and other Nobel Peace laureates at a conference on children’s rights at the presidential palace on Sunday.Those who attended, and spoke, included Princess Charlene of Monaco and the former president of East Timor, Jose Ramos-Horta.The Indian government had ignored China’s “strong opposition and insisted” on arranging for the Dalai Lama to share the stage with Mukherjee, and meet him, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing in the Chinese capital. “China is strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed to this,” he said, adding that the Dalai Lama used the guise of religion to engage in separatist activities and China opposed any form of official contacts with him.

China wanted India to recognise the “anti-China, separatist essence of the Dalai Lama clique and take steps to banish the negative impact of this incident” to avoid disrupting ties between the Asian giants, Geng said.While the Dalai Lama has had private meetings with Indian leaders, Sunday’s conference was the first public event, said the political head of the Tibetan government in exile based in the hill town of Dharamsala. “There are many European governments shying away from hosting His Holiness,” he told Reuters. “Here you have the president of India hosting His Holiness. I think is a powerful message to the world, and particularly to Beijing.”

China regards the Dalai Lama as a separatist, though he says he merely seeks genuine autonomy for his Himalayan homeland Tibet, which Communist Chinese troops “peacefully liberated” in 1950.The Dalai Lama fled into exile in India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

China also expressed displeasure with India this month over the visit to a sensitive border region of another senior Tibetan religious figure, the Karmapa Lama, Tibetan Buddhism’s third-most-senior monk, who fled into exile in India in 2000.India is home to a large exiled Tibetan community. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Sanjeev Miglani in New Delhi; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 16:29 IST

China’s Navy seizes American underwater drone in South China Sea | Reuters

China’s Navy seizes American underwater drone in South China Sea | Reuters

Dec 16, 2016 16:18 IST

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WASHINGTON A Chinese Navy warship has seized an underwater drone deployed by an American oceanographic vessel in international waters in the South China Sea, triggering a formal demarche from the United States and a demand for its return, a U.S. defense official told Reuters on Friday.The incident — the first of its kind in recent memory — took place on Dec. 15 northwest of Subic Bay just as the USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic survey ship, was about to retrieve the unmanned, underwater vehicle (UUV), the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 16:18 IST

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Yahoo says one billion accounts exposed in newly discovered security breach | Reuters

By Jim Finkle and Anya George Tharakan

Yahoo Inc (YHOO.O) warned on Wednesday that it had uncovered yet another massive cyber attack, saying data from more than 1 billion user accounts was compromised in August 2013, making it the largest breach in history. The number of affected accounts was double the number implicated in a 2014 breach that the internet company disclosed in September and blamed on hackers working on behalf of a government. News of that attack, which affected at least 500 million accounts, prompted Verizon Communication Inc (VZ.N) to say in October that it might withdraw from an agreement to buy Yahoo’s core internet business for $4.83 billion. Following the latest disclosure, Verizon said, “we will review the impact of this new development before reaching any final conclusions.” A Yahoo spokesman told Reuters that the company has been in communication with Verizon during its investigation into the breach and that it is confident the incident will not affect the pending acquisition.Yahoo required all of its customers to reset their passwords – a stronger measure than it took after the previous breach was discovered, when it only recommended a password reset.

Yahoo also said Wednesday that it believes hackers responsible for the previous breach had also accessed the company’s proprietary code to learn how to forge “cookies” that would allow hackers to access an account without a password.”Yahoo badly screwed up,” said Bruce Schneier, a cryptologist and one of the world’s most respected security experts. “They weren’t taking security seriously and that’s now very clear. I would have trouble trusting Yahoo going forward.”Yahoo was tentative in its description of new problems, saying the incident was “likely” distinct from the one it reported in September and that stolen information “may have included” names, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers.

It said it had not yet identified the intrusion that led to the massive data theft and noted that payment-card data and bank account information were not stored in the system the company believes was affected.Yahoo said it discovered the breach while reviewing data provided to the company by law enforcement. FireEye Inc’s (FEYE.O) Mandiant unit and Aon Plc’s (AON.N) Stroz Friedberg are assisting in the investigation, the Yahoo spokesman told Reuters.The breach is the latest setback for Yahoo, an internet pioneer that has fallen on hard times in recent years after being eclipsed by younger, fast-growing rivals including Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google and Facebook Inc (FB.O).

Hours before it announced the breach on Wednesday, executives with Google, Facebook and other large U.S. technology companies met with President-elect Donald Trump in New York. Reflecting its diminished stature, Yahoo was not invited to the summit, according to people familiar with the meeting.The Yahoo spokesman said Chief Executive Marissa Mayer was at the company’s Sunnyvale, California headquarters to assist in addressing the new breach. Yahoo shares were down 2.4 percent to $39.91 in extended trading. Verizon shares were little changed from their close at $51.63. (Reporting by Jim Finkle in Boston and Anya George Tharakan in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Dustin Volz in Washington and Jessica Toonkel in New York; Editing by Savio D’Souza, Bernard Orr)

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First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 05:54 IST

Myanmar’s Rohingya insurgency has links to Saudi, Pakistan – report | Reuters

By Simon Lewis
| YANGON

YANGON A group of Rohingya Muslims that attacked Myanmar border guards in October is headed by people with links to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said on Thursday, citing members of the group.The coordinated attacks on Oct. 9 killed nine policemen, and sparked a crackdown by security forces in Muslim-majority Rakhine State in northwest Myanmar.At least 86 people have been killed, according to state media, and the United Nations has estimated 27,000 members of the largely stateless Rohingya minority have fled across the border to Bangladesh.Predominantly Buddhist Myanmar’s government, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, blamed Rohingyas supported by foreign militants for the Oct. 9 attacks, but has issued scant further information about the assailants it called “terrorists”.A group calling itself Harakah al-Yakin claimed responsibility for the attacks in video statements and the Brussels-based ICG said it had interviewed four members of the group in Rakhine State and two outside Myanmar, as well as individuals in contact with members via messaging apps.

The Harakah al-Yakin, or Faith Movement, was formed after communal violence in 2012 in which more than 100 people were killed and about 140,000 displaced in Rakhine State, most of them Rohingya, the group said.Rohingya who have fought in other conflicts, as well as Pakistanis or Afghans, gave clandestine training to villagers in northern Rakhine over two years ahead of the attacks, it said.”It included weapons use, guerrilla tactics and, HaY members and trainees report, a particular focus on explosives and IEDs,” the group said, referring to improvised explosive devices.

It identified Harakah al-Yakin’s leader, who has appeared prominently in a series of nine videos posted online, as Ata Ullah, born in Karachi, Pakistan, to a Rohingya migrant father before moving as a child to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.”Though not confirmed, there are indications he went to Pakistan and possibly elsewhere, and that he received practical training in modern guerrilla warfare,” the group said, noting that Ata Ullah was one of 20 Rohingya from Saudi Arabia leading the group’s operations in Rakhine State.Separately, a committee of 20 senior Rohingya emigres oversees the group, which has its headquarters in Mecca, the ICG said.

Groups like Islamic State and al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent have referred to the plight of the Rohingya in their material, and the battlefield experience of at least some of the Rohingya fighters implied links to international militants, the ICG said.However, ICG said the group has notably not engaged in attacks on the civilian Buddhist population in Rakhine. And Harakah al-Yakin’s statements to date indicate its main goals are to end the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar and secure the minority’s citizenship status.”It is possible, however, that its objectives could evolve, given its appeals to religious legitimacy and links to international jihadist groups, so it is essential that government efforts do not focus only or primarily on military approaches, but also address underlying community grievances and suffering,” the ICG said. (Editing by Robert Birsel)

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First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 00:44 IST

Trump and Silicon Valley look to smooth over frictions | Reuters

By Dustin Volz and David Shepardson
| WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Silicon Valley executives have a chance to smooth over frictions when they meet at his Manhattan tower on Wednesday, after both sides made no secret of their disdain for each other during the presidential campaign.The meeting may skirt the numerous disagreements the tech industry has with Trump — including immigration, trade relationships with China and other nations, and digital privacy — in favor of a focus on shared priorities, sources said. “If he can reform the tax code, reduce regulation, and negotiate better trade deals, the U.S. technology community will be stronger and more competitive than ever,” Oracle Chief Executive Safra Catz, who will attend the meeting, said in a statement. The tech luminaries, including Apple Inc’s Tim Cook, Facebook Inc’s Sheryl Sandberg and Tesla Motors Inc’s Elon Musk, will meet with Trump as U.S. corporations worry about his challenges to long-established policy toward China, a key market for Silicon Valley.A senior Chinese state planning officials told the China Daily newspaper Wednesday that Beijing could slap a penalty on an unnamed U.S. automaker for monopolistic behavior, a warning that came days after Trump questioned acknowledging Taiwan as part of “one China.”The tech summit is being billed as an introductory session, said four sources briefed on the talks, all of whom requested anonymity to discuss a private meeting.Other expected participants include Alphabet Inc’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, Microsoft Corp’s Satya Nadella, and Ginni Rometty from IBM, sources said. Cook and Musk will join Trump for a smaller meeting after the other technology executives leave, a spokesman for Trump’s transition team said.The CEOs of Airbnb and Uber were invited but are not attending. Uber’s Travis Kalanick will instead be traveling in India all week, according to a person familiar with his plans.

‘SOME HESITATION’
Trump clashed with Silicon Valley on several issues during the campaign, including immigration, government surveillance and encryption, and his surprise victory last month alarmed many companies that feared he might follow through on his pledges. He has said that many tech companies are overvalued by investors.”You look at some of these tech stocks that are so, so weak as a concept and a company and they’re selling for so much money,” he told Reuters in an interview in May.

Those concerns have not been assuaged in recent weeks as Trump has threatened to upset trade relationships with China and appoint officials who favor expanded surveillance programs. “For some of the companies, there was some hesitation about whether to attend” because of sharp political and personal differences with Trump, one tech industry source said.More than 600 employees of technology companies pledged in an open letter on Tuesday to refuse to help Trump’s administration build a data registry to track people based on their religion or assist in mass deportations.Silicon Valley enjoyed a warm rapport with President Barack Obama and heavily supported Democrat Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign.

Schmidt was photographed on election night at Clinton headquarters wearing a staff badge, and Musk said in interviews before the election that Trump’s character reflected poorly on the United States.Despite those tensions, Trump named Musk to a business advisory council that will give private-sector input to Trump after he takes office on Jan. 20. Uber’s Kalanick was also appointed to the council.From the employees of the 10 largest Fortune 500 tech companies, Trump raised just $179,400 from 982 campaign donors who contributed more than $200. Clinton raised $4.4 million from the employees of the same companies, with more than 20,400 donations, a Reuters review of contribution data found. Trump publicly bashed the industry during the campaign. He urged his supporters to boycott Apple products over the company’s refusal to help the FBI unlock an iPhone associated with last year’s San Bernardino, California, shootings, threatened antitrust action against Amazon and demanded that tech companies build their products in the United States.Trump has also been an opponent of the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules barring internet service providers from obstructing or slowing consumer access to web content. Two advisers to his Federal Communications Commission transition team are opponents of the rules, as are the two Republicans on the FCC. Last week, the two Republicans on the panel urged a quick reversal of many Obama policies and one, Commissioner Ajit Pai, said he believed that net neutrality’s “days are numbered.” (Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan, Grant Smith, Heather Somerville, Steve Holland and Jim Finkle; Editing by Peter Cooney and Alistair Bell)

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First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 23:31 IST

Trump and Silicon Valley elite seek to smooth over frictions | Reuters

By Dustin Volz and David Shepardson
| WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Silicon Valley executives have a chance to smooth over frictions when they meet at his Manhattan tower on Wednesday for talks, after both sides made no secret of their disdain for each other during the presidential campaign.Sources said the meeting may skirt the numerous disagreements with Trump — who has accused tech companies of being overvalued — in favor of a focus on shared priorities.”If he can reform the tax code, reduce regulation, and negotiate better trade deals, the U.S. technology community will be stronger and more competitive than ever,” Oracle Chief Executive Safra Catz, who will attend the meeting, said in a statement.The tech luminaries, including Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) Tim Cook, Facebook Inc’s (FB.O) Sheryl Sandberg and Tesla Motors Inc’s (TSLA.O) Elon Musk, will get a chance to promote their priorities like strong encryption and liability protections from content shared by their users.The meeting is billed as an introductory session, said four sources briefed on the talks, all of whom requested anonymity to discuss a private meeting.Other expected participants include Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, Amazon.com’s (AMZN.O) Jeff Bezos, Microsoft Corp’s (MSFT.O) Satya Nadella, and Ginni Rometty from IBM (IBM.N), sources said.The CEOs of Airbnb and Uber were invited but are not attending. Uber’s Travis Kalanick will instead be traveling in India all week, according to a person familiar with his plans.

‘SOME HESITATION’
Trump clashed with Silicon Valley on several issues during the campaign, including immigration, government surveillance and encryption, and his surprise victory last month alarmed many companies that feared he might follow through on his pledges. He has said that many tech companies are overvalued by investors.”You look at some of these tech stocks that are so, so weak as a concept and a company and they’re selling for so much money,” he told Reuters in an interview in May.Those concerns have not been assuaged in recent weeks as Trump has threatened to upset trade relationships with China, a key market for U.S. tech companies, and appoint officials who favor expanded surveillance programs.

“For some of the companies, there was some hesitation about whether to attend” because of sharp political and personal differences with Trump, one tech industry source said.Nearly 600 employees of technology companies pledged in an open letter on Tuesday to refuse to help Trump’s administration build a data registry to track people based on their religion or assist in mass deportations.Silicon Valley enjoyed a warm rapport with President Barack Obama and heavily supported Democrat Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign. Schmidt was photographed on election night at Clinton headquarters wearing a staff badge, and Musk said in interviews before the election that Trump’s character reflected poorly on the United States.

Despite those tensions, Trump named Musk to a business advisory council that will give private-sector input to Trump after he takes office on Jan. 20. Uber’s Kalanick was also appointed to the council.From the employees of the 10 largest Fortune 500 tech companies, Trump raised just $179,400 from 982 campaign donors who contributed more than $200. Clinton raised $4.4 million from the employees of the same companies, with more than 20,400 donations, a Reuters review of contribution data found. Trump publicly bashed the industry during the campaign. He urged his supporters to boycott Apple products over the company’s refusal to help the FBI unlock an iPhone associated with last year’s San Bernardino, California, shootings, threatened antitrust action against Amazon and demanded that tech companies build their products in the United States.Trump has also been an opponent of the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules barring internet service providers from obstructing or slowing consumer access to web content. Two advisers to his Federal Communications Commission transition team are opponents of the rules, as are the two Republicans on the FCC. Last week, the two Republicans on the panel urged a quick reversal of many Obama policies and one, Commissioner Ajit Pai, said he believed that net neutrality’s “days are numbered.” (Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan, Grant Smith, Heather Somerville, Steve Holland and Jim Finkle; Editing by Peter Cooney and Alistair Bell)

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First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 21:26 IST

Corruption, caste keep poor from owning land in northern India | Reuters

By Rina Chandran

KACHHIDIH (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – For decades, Kunta lived in a hut outside Kachhidih village in Uttar Pradesh, enduring the insults of higher-caste villagers who claimed her land – which she did not legally own – for grazing cattle.She dreamed of owning just a small piece of land for her family who belong to the traditionally low-caste Dalit group.Six months ago, Kunta got her wish when the state allocated her family and eight others small plots of land a few kilometres (miles) away from their old home, after months of delays.Kunta was finally a landowner with her name on the title.Reached by a dirt track through a field, the land is some distance from the highway. There is one solar lamp post and a hand pump spewing muddy water. Huts cobbled together with straw, mud and plastic offer scant protection from the winter chill.Yet Kunta, who goes by her first name, is hopeful.”The place we lived in before was our home for many years, but it did not belong to us. The villagers harassed us and officials asked us for bribes in exchange for titles,” she said.”This is our land; perhaps we can save some money, plan for our future, for our children. No one can chase us away because we own this land,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.Landless Dalits like Kunta are at the bottom of India’s age-old social hierarchy, denied land ownership and facing slights and discrimination every day from upper-caste Hindus.Despite evidence linking landlessness and poverty, and laws to help people secure small plots of land on which to build a home and eke out a living, roughly 56 percent of India’s rural households — about 100 million families — remain landless.Most belong to low-caste or indigenous communities.”The main issue is not non-availability of land, it is corruption and caste,” said Ramesh Sharma, a senior official at rights group Ekta Parishad, which has lobbied the government for years for land for the landless poor.”Getting land allocated is in itself a challenge, then local revenue officials often ask for bribes to release the titles. High-caste villagers may object and delay it further because they just don’t want these people to get land,” he said.

HOMESTEAD PLOTS
Uttar Pradesh is the country’s most populous state, with a population of about 200 million. Dalits make up more than a fifth of the state’s population, but wield little power.India banned caste-based discrimination in 1955, but centuries-old attitudes persist, and lower-caste groups including Dalits are among the most marginalised communities.But Sarnath Prajapati, a revenue officer of the state, denied that caste is keeping Dalits from getting land, or that there are long delays and corruption in land allocation.”We have allocated land to the maximum extent possible. It is a priority for the state,” Prajapati said.”Sometimes, the land that is allocated may be in use by someone. Then we talk to them, and that takes time. Sometimes we have to bring the police to resolve the situation,” he said.Activist Jignesh Mevani is leading a campaign for land, asking that states give 5 acres (2 hectares) of land to each landless Dalit family so they can earn a living.The previous federal government had drafted a National Rural Homestead Bill in 2013 to provide plots measuring about 4,400 square metres (47,361 sq ft) each to landless families.

But the draft bill was never presented in parliament for approval. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who came to power in 2014, met Ekta Parishad officials earlier this year and assured them that the bill remained a priority, Sharma said.A few states including West Bengal, Odisha and Karnataka have drawn up their own laws for land allocation, giving government land and excess private land to the landless. Homestead plots, measuring just one-tenth of an acre, can deliver “significant economic and nutritional benefits”, with space to grow food, build a home, keep small livestock, and for other livelihood options, according to land advocacy Landesa.But in India’s fast growing economy, demand for land for industrial and development projects is increasing, and land allocation is beset with challenges, Landesa said.”Identification of the landless is challenging, available land for distribution is often encroached upon by dominant interests and land management committees are often not functional,” said Shipra Deo, Landesa’s Uttar Pradesh director.”Above all, caste is a big factor and very difficult to overcome, as it is so entrenched and so sensitive,” she said.

‘BAD PEOPLE’
In Uttar Pradesh’s Jaunpur district, landless Dalits bear the brunt of this ancient caste discrimination.In Kachhidih village and Tardih village, Dalits are not allowed to work or live close to higher-caste people. In Kachhidih, one Dalit man was beaten up so badly after his goat entered someone else’s land that he is now bedridden and cannot work, Kunta said.Land allocated to Kunta and her neighbours was not handed over for months as other villagers argued over the proximity of the land to their fields, said village headman Madhukar Dwivedi. More than 100 families are still awaiting their titles for land that has been allocated to them, he said.”In our society, there are good people and bad people. Some people don’t want these people to get land, they just want them to live under them, in their control always,” Dwivedi said.”I want to give the titles, but I have to get the backing of the village council. There is a system, and not everyone in the system supports giving them titles,” he said.It is the same situation in Tardih, where members of the semi-nomadic Nat community who lived for decades near the village, faced harassment and delays in getting their land titles, said Najma Ahmed, one of the oldest residents.Five families recently received titles to small plots of land some distance from the village, and have built rickety huts a few metres from a stagnant pool covered in green slime.”The villagers said we were living on their land for free. But they wouldn’t let us work there,” said Ahmed, who like other women in this Muslim community wears glass bangles and a red sindoor on her forehead like married Hindu women do.”At least here we can build homes, give them to our kids. It isn’t much, but where else can we go? This is all we have.” (Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

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First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 21:14 IST

Murray, Kerber named ITF players of the year | Reuters

Murray, Kerber named ITF players of the year | Reuters

Dec 13, 2016 22:21 IST

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LONDON Briton Andy Murray and Germany’s Angelique Kerber were named ITF World Champions on Tuesday, capping stellar years for the men’s and women’s world number ones. Murray, whose brother Jamie was named doubles World Champion along with Brazil’s Bruno Soares, won Wimbledon in July before becoming the first player to win two Olympic singles gold medals when he retained his crown in Rio de Janeiro in August.He won nine titles in a milestone year that ended with him beating rival Novak Djokovic to win the ATP Tour Finals and seal the year-end rankings top spot.

“It means a lot to me to be named ITF World Champion. I have had such a memorable year,” Murray said in a statement. Kerber enjoyed an equally impressive season, winning the Australian and U.S. Open titles as well as an Olympic silver medal in Rio.

She becomes the first German to win the award since Steffi Graf claimed the last of her seven in 1996.

(Reporting by Toby Davis; Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 22:21 IST

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India’s landmark forest rights law hobbled by conflicting policies – report | Reuters

By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A landmark Indian forest rights law passed 10 years ago with the aim of protecting indigenous people has been crippled by conflicting legislation, and a lack of political will and funds to ensure its implementation, according to a report.More than a fifth of India’s population were expected to benefit from the 2006 Forest Rights Act covering vast areas of forest land roughly the size of Germany.Instead, only 3 percent of potential community forest rights have been granted so far, and conflicts between states and indigenous communities have been rising as demand for land increases in the world’s fastest growing major economy.”(The law) has the potential to conserve forests and biodiversity (and) improve local livelihoods,” Neema Pathak Broome, a researcher with rights group Kalpavriksh, said in the report released Tuesday by a citizens’ advocacy group.”Unfortunately, due to a lack of political will and intentional efforts to undermine the law, this vast potential for democratic forest governance remains unrealised.”

In the decade since the law was passed, the federal government and several states have introduced other laws that sometimes run counter to the Forest Rights Act.For example, a new federal law introduced in July that compensates for deforestation ignores the rights of indigenous people and the requirement for consent of the village council for use of forest land, activists said.The Ministry of Tribal Affairs, which is charged with implementing the 2006 law, is “understaffed and under-resourced”, while state forest departments are largely “hostile, at best apathetic” in implementing it, the report said.

The western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, the eastern state of Odisha and the southern state of Kerala lead in recognising community and individual forest rights, the report said.States including Assam, Bihar, Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have lagged behind, it said.As well as conserving forests, the law has the potential to secure livelihoods, promote women’s rights and contain conflicts in areas hit by violent extremism, it said.

The government needs to mobilise political support and funds for its implementation and strengthen the Tribal Affairs Ministry and state agencies, the report said.”The biggest stumbling block is that there’s very limited understanding of the Forest Rights Act, even within the government,” Tushar Dash, from advocacy group Vasundhara, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.”They believe granting forest rights obstructs development, and are instead giving forest lands for industrial use. But it’s been established that protecting forest rights encourages development and helps conservation efforts far more.” (Reporting by Rina Chandran, Editing by Ros Russell; @rinachandran, Editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

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First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 00:03 IST

Cyclone batters south India coast killing four | Reuters

CHENNAI, India A cyclone barreled into the southeast coast of India on Monday, killing at least four people and bringing down trees and power lines as authorities moved tens of thousands of people from low-lying areas.Cyclone Vardah moved west over the Bay of Bengal before hitting Chennai, capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, as well as neighboring Andhra Pradesh, the Indian Meteorological Department said, describing it as a “very severe storm”.Strong wind of up to 140 kph (87 mph) battered the densely populated coast, uprooting trees and bringing down electricity pylons. Flights at Chennai airport were canceled, railway services in the area suspended and schools and colleges were closed.Chennai is home to Indian operations of major auto firms such as Ford Motor, Daimler, Hyundai and Nissan. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said Vardah is passing over Chennai, drenching the city in heavy rain, but is expected to ease in intensity later.

“Winds and rains might still intensify. Do not venture out,” the NDMA said on Twitter, adding that four people had been killed. More than 23,000 people in Tamil Nadu have been moved to relief centers, with plans for tens of thousands more to be evacuated if needed, a senior state official, K. Satyagopal, told Reuters.

More than 10,000 people from two districts in Andhra Pradesh state had also been moved, its disaster management commissioner, M.V. Seshagiri Babu, said.The NDMA warned fishermen not to venture out to sea for the next 36 hours, and urged residents to stay in safe places.Navy ships and aircraft, as well as 30 diving teams, were on standby to help move people and deliver aid if needed, a navy spokesman said.

India’s cyclone season usually runs from April to December, with storms often causing dozens of deaths, evacuations of tens of thousands of people and widespread damage to crops and property.Wind speeds topped 300 km per hour (186 mph) in an Indian “super-cyclone” that killed 10,000 people in 1999, while a cyclone packing speeds of more than 200 kph (124 mph) lashed the east coast in 2013. (Reporting by Jatindra Dash, Tommy Wilkes and Anuradha Nagaraj; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 21:10 IST

Syrian army advances in Aleppo but loses Palmyra to Islamic State | Reuters

By Laila Bassam and Suleiman Al-Khalidi
| ALEPPO, Syria/AMMAN

ALEPPO, Syria/AMMAN The Syrian army and its allies made new gains in Aleppo on Sunday, forcing rebels back into an ever shrinking pocket crammed with civilians, but lost control of the desert city of Palmyra to a swift Islamic State attack.Final victory in Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city before the civil war, would constitute the biggest triumph yet for President Bashar al-Assad and his coalition of Russian air power, Iran and Shi’ite militias. New army gains on Sunday south of Aleppo’s historic citadel in the besieged insurgent pocket appeared to bring that end closer, with a rebel official saying world powers seemed to be presenting rebels with a choice of “death or surrender”.But the Islamic State attack on Palmyra, 200 km (120 miles) to the southeast, threatens to inflict a serious blow on both Damascus and Moscow, which had trumpeted their capture of the ancient city from the jihadist group in March. Syrian state radio reported on Sunday that the army had evacuated its positions inside Palmyra, whose Roman-era ruins have become an emblem of the nearly six-year conflict. They were redeploying around the city in the face of large jihadist reinforcements after Moscow said its jets had killed hundreds of militants. Islamic State’s advance around Palmyra on Thursday and seizure of the city centre on Sunday despite its months of losses elsewhere showed how far Assad is from regaining control of Syria, even as he stands on the cusp of victory in Aleppo.Analysts have warned that even if Assad defeats the main rebellion, he may still face years of guerrilla insurgency and bombing attacks as he tries to reassert his authority.Heavy shelling and air raids pounded Aleppo’s rebel enclave from midnight on Saturday and throughout Sunday morning, a Reuters reporter in the city said, with explosions at a rate of more than one a minute. Gunfire was also heard. Russian and U.S. officials are meeting in Geneva on Sunday for more talks on an elusive deal for civilians and fighters to leave the city, diplomats said, but the rebel official said the Aleppo insurgents had had no word yet on their progress. FIERCE BOMBARDMENT

Thousands of refugees are still pouring from Aleppo’s areas of fighting. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group, said more than 120,000 civilians had left the eastern part of the city as the government advance closed in, but that tens of thousands remained.The Turkey-based official from the Jabha Shamiya rebel group, which is present in Aleppo, said that the insurgents’ enclave was reduced to a narrow strip that was full of civilians and under very fierce bombardment. Without external intervention, the struggle would end badly, the official said: “The result will certainly be a complete end of the district, in a tragic way.” The mostly Sunni rebels include groups supported by the United States, Turkey and Gulf monarchies, but also some jihadist factions that receive no assistance from the West. The army seized the al-Maadi district on Sunday morning before rebels were able to return and continue fighting there, said the Jabha Shamiya official. A Syrian military source said the army and its allies had captured the al-Asila and Aaajam districts, southeast of Aleppo’s ancient citadel, as well as the southern portion of the Karam al-Daadaa neighbourhood.

The Observatory also said the army had advanced in those areas. Reuters reporters on a tour of Old City districts captured by the army saw how its historic covered market had been pounded, with ancient quarters reduced to a warren of defensive positions daubed with rebel slogans. “Embrace death for Aleppo” was one. State television showed footage of the east Aleppo fighting: a tank moving slowly along a street as soldiers ran alongside it, smoke and dust billowing around them.

PALMYRA
The civil war has pitted Assad and his allies against rebel groups but also involves a secondary conflict setting all of them against Islamic State.The jihadist group seized Palmyra in May 2015, one of its last major conquests after nearly a year of advances in Syria and neighbouring Iraq that took advantage of the region’s chaos following the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. Its destruction of some of the best-known ruins and killing of the leading archaeologist in the city provoked global outrage and the army’s recapture of Palmyra was presented by Damascus and Moscow as vindicating Russia’s entry into the war. A video released online by the militant group showed images of the city and its ruins taken from near the medieval castle overlooking the area. The governor of Homs Province, where Palmyra is located, said on Sunday that the government would do all it could to retake the city. Islamic State has suffered a string of setbacks since late last year, losing its once long stretch of territory on the border with Turkey, an important source of supplies and recruits, as well as the city of Manbij. The group is fighting an assault on its most important possession in Iraq, the city of Mosul. It is also under attack north of Raqqa, its Syrian capital, following a series of air strikes that have killed some of its most important leaders.Russian news agencies reported that air strikes had killed 300 militants overnight near Palmyra but that more than 4,000 fighters had still managed to launch the attack on the city. (Reporting by Laila Bassam in Aleppo, Tom Perry in Beirut and Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman, writing by Angus McDowall; editing by David Stamp)

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First Published On : Dec 11, 2016 21:32 IST

Trump dismisses reports Russia helped him in U.S. election | Reuters

By Doina Chiacu and Howard Schneider
| WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON U.S. President-elect Donald Trump rejected as “ridiculous” reported U.S. intelligence findings that Russia intervened in the presidential election on his behalf through targeted hacking, saying he did not believe it, according to an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”The Republican president-elect’s comments casting doubt on reported U.S. intelligence findings pits him against some leading foreign policy voices in the U.S. Senate from his own party who on Sunday expressed alarm about election meddling by Moscow.”I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it,” Trump said in the interview, which was taped on Saturday.He blamed Democrats for putting out the media reports and said he did not believe they came from the Central Intelligence Agency.Trump’s dismissal was perhaps aimed at squashing doubts about whether he won the Nov. 8 election fairly. However, his comments could also portend conflicts between the new president and the intelligence agencies he will command and feed criticism that his administration will be soft on Russia.The Republican real estate magnate was expected to appoint as secretary of state Exxon Mobile Corp Chief Executive Rex Tillerson, who has close ties with Moscow and has spoken out against U.S. sanctions on Russia.

U.S. intelligence agencies have told Congress and the administration of President Barack Obama that Russia has grown increasingly aggressive in Syria and Ukraine and has stepped up activities in cyberspace including meddling, sometimes covertly, in European and U.S. elections.A senior U.S. intelligence official told Reuters intelligence agencies have concluded with “high confidence” that not only did their Russian counterparts direct the hacking of Democratic Party organizations and leaders, but they did so to undermine Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The Republican president-elect questioned whether the Central Intelligence Agency was behind the reports that indicated Moscow wanted him in the White House. “I think the Democrats are putting it out,” he said in the interview.

Two leading Republican voices on foreign policy in the U.S. Senate, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, joined two Democratic senators on Sunday in expressing concern over possible Russian interference in a U.S. presidential election.”For years, foreign adversaries have directed cyber attacks at America’s physical, economic, and military infrastructure, while stealing our intellectual property. Now our democratic institutions have been targeted,” the senators, including Democrats Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed, said in a statement.”Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American.”

“This cannot become a partisan issue. The stakes are too high for our country,” the senators said in a statement. Reince Priebus, the Republican Party leader Trump picked to be his chief of staff in the White House, attacked the news reports for relying on unidentified sources and denied a New York Times report that the Republican National Committee was hacked. He was speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”Russian officials have denied all accusations of interference in the U.S. election. (Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Howard Schneider; Editing by Mary Milliken and Phil Berlowitz)

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First Published On : Dec 11, 2016 21:11 IST

India’s southeast coast braces as cyclone approaches | Reuters

India’s southeast coast braces as cyclone approaches | Reuters

Dec 11, 2016 19:09 IST

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MUMBAI India’s weather office called on Sunday for fishermen to stay ashore hours before a very severe cyclone storm was due to strike the southeast coast, including Chennai, one of the most populous Indian cities.The cyclone “Vardah” is moving in from the Bay of Bengal and will landfall along and off Chennai on Monday afternoon with wind speed of 100 kmph, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said in its latest bulletin.From Sunday evening coastal areas of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh will start getting heavy rainfall and extremely heavy rainfall is likely over Chennai and adjourning areas on Monday, the IMD said.

India’s cyclone season generally lasts from April to December, often causing dozens of deaths, evacuations of tens of thousands of people from low-lying villages and widespread crop and property damage.

In 1999, a “super-cyclone” battered the coast of the eastern state of Odisha for 30 hours with wind speeds reaching 300 kmph. It killed 10,000 people.

(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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First Published On : Dec 11, 2016 19:09 IST

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Russian doping conspiracy benefited over 1,000 competitors | Reuters

By Mitch Phillips
| LONDON

LONDON More than 1,000 Russian competitors across more than 30 sports were involved in an institutional conspiracy to conceal positive doping tests as Moscow ‘hijacked international sport’, an independent WADA report said on Friday. The second and final part of the report for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) by Canadian sports lawyer Richard McLaren provided exhaustive evidence of an elaborate state-sponsored doping scheme operated by Russia’s Sports Ministry.It included switching and changing samples by opening “tamper-proof” bottles – using a method devised by the Russian secret service – and numerous other methods to bypass and cover up drugs tests.”We are now able to confirm a cover-up that dates back until at least 2011 that evolved from uncontrolled chaos to an institutionalised and disciplined medal-winning conspiracy,” McLaren told a news conference on Friday. “It was a cover-up of an unprecedented scale and this report shows the evidence that increases the number of athletes involved, as well as the scope of the conspiracy. “We have evidence revealing that more than 500 positive results were reported as negative, including well-known and elite-level athletes and medal winners, who had their positive results automatically falsified.”Over 1,000 athletes competing in Summer, Winter and Paralympic sport can be identified as being involved in or benefiting from manipulations to conceal positive tests.”WADA president Craig Reedie called the findings “alarming” and said the report would be of immediate value to sporting bodies responsible for punishing doping cases.But Russia showed no sign of accepting the report’s conclusions.The Sports Ministry said it would study the WADA report and cooperate fully with anti-doping bodies, but “denies that any government programmes exists to support doping in sport”.”UNFOUNDED ACCUSATIONS”

Athletics chief Dmitry Shlyakhtin declined to comment directly on the report because he said he had not seen it. He conceded that Russian athletics’ problems “did not start yesterday”, but said it had now fulfilled all the demands made of it.The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Wednesday extended provisional sanctions against Russian sport over the scandal, and an international ban on its track and field athletes remains in force pending a reform of its anti-doping programme.Yelena Isinbayeva, double Olympic pole vault champion and newly-elected head of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency supervisory board, said shortly before the report was released: “It is well known to us that many foreign athletes have a history of doping but compete at an international level with no problems.”If we want to clean up world sport, let’s start … we don’t need to concentrate on just one country.”Dmitry Svishchev, a member of parliament and president of Russia’s Curling Federation, said: “We haven’t heard anything new. Unfounded accusations against us all. If you are Russian, they accuse you of all sins.”McLaren accepted that there could be widespread doping elsewhere, though not on the same level as in Russia, the sole focus of his investigation.

McLaren pointed out that Russia had won 24 gold, 26 silver and 32 bronze medals at London 2012 and no Russian athlete had tested positive.”Yet the Russian team corrupted the London Games on an unprecedented scale, the extent of which will probably never be fully established,” he said.”For years, international sports competitions have unknowingly been hijacked by the Russians. Coaches and athletes have been playing on an uneven field.” Forensic investigations by his team detailed how a bank of clean urine samples was kept in a Moscow laboratory, where salt and coffee were added to try to fool officials testing “B samples” in supposedly tamper-proof bottles. DNA MISMATCHES

The report included evidence of DNA mismatches, where a tampered B sample did not match the DNA of previous specimens, and of samples that contained a mixture of male and female urine. It added that analysis of the samples from four Russians who won gold in Sochi had shown salt readings that were physiologically impossible, while there was evidence that the samples of 12 Russian Sochi medallists had been tampered with.More than 1,100 items of evidence contained in the report have now been made available to the public at the website here, including details and pictures of how microscopes were used to detect the tiny scratch marks made when opening the “tamper-proof” sample bottles.Friday’s report provided extensive evidence to support the original July report, which said Moscow had concealed hundreds of positive doping tests ahead of the Sochi Winter Games in 2014.The IOC declined to impose a blanket ban on Russia competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics, letting international sports federations decide which athletes should be allowed to compete. Only athletics and weightlifting banned the entire Russian teams.The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) did ban Russia completely from its Rio games, however, and said on Friday the full findings of the report were “unprecedented and astonishing” and “strike right at the heart of the integrity and ethics of sport”.McLaren accepted that Russian authorities had taken many steps since his first report, removing several officials who had been involved in the cover-up, setting up a new anti-doping commission and proposing a “gold standard” doping control regime.However, when asked about the comments of Svishchev and Isinbayeva, he said: “The findings are not challengeable … my impression is that there is a certain embedded cultural aspect to what has been going on, so there probably does need to be cultural change.”That doesn’t mean change won’t occur, but it might take longer than a few months or a year.” (Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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First Published On : Dec 9, 2016 21:05 IST

Mick Jagger a dad again at 73 | Reuters

NEW YORK Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger became a father for the eighth time on Thursday when his ballet dancer girlfriend gave birth to a son in New York, his publicist said.”Melanie Hamrick & Mick Jagger’s son was born today in New York and they are both delighted.”Mick was at the hospital for the arrival. Mother and baby are doing well and we request that the media respect their privacy at this time,” Fran Curtis, the long-time publicist for the Rolling Stones, said in a statement.

The 73-year-old singer already has seven children with previous partners, as well as five grandchildren, and he became a great-grandfather in May 2014.

Jagger and Hamrick, 29, began dating about two years ago, according to media reports.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 21:58 IST

Exclusive: Bangladesh panel finds insiders negligent in central bank heist | Reuters

By Serajul Quadir
| DHAKA

DHAKA A Bangladesh government-appointed panel investigating the cyber-heist of $81 million from its central bank in February found five officials at the bank were guilty of negligence and carelessness, the head of the panel told Reuters on Thursday.In his first detailed comments on the inquiry since a report was submitted to the government in May, former central bank governor Mohammed Farashuddin said the officials were low to mid-level and were not directly involved in the crime. “They were negligent, careless and indirect accomplices,” he said in an interview in his office. “The committee came to the conclusion that the heist was essentially committed by external elements.”Bangladesh has so far refused to make the inquiry report public saying it wanted to deny perpetrators knowledge of the investigation into one of the world’s biggest cyber-heists.It was not immediately known if Bangladesh had shared the report with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the main agency investigating the crime.Farashuddin did not name the officials he found were negligent. A senior central bank official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no action had been taken against any employee since the inquiry report had not been made public.Bangladesh Bank spokesman Subhankar Saha declined comment.

Although over 10 months have passed since the heist, there have been no arrests and no word on who carried out the complex heist. Hackers used stolen credentials to try to transfer nearly $1 billion from Bangladesh Bank’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York through the SWIFT transaction system. Many of the transfer orders were blocked or reversed but $81 million was sent to accounts in a branch of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC) in the Philippines.The money eventually went into the sprawling casino industry in the Philippines and most of it remains untraced.

Like Bangladesh police investigators, Farashuddin said the inquiry panel also found the hackers may have exploited loopholes in the bank’s online security when technicians hooked up the central bank’s local money transfer system with SWIFT’s international payments network late last year. SWIFT has denied charges that its technicians were responsible for exposing Bangladesh Bank’s systems to hackers.Reuters has reported earlier that Bangladesh Bank had not protected its computer system with a firewall, and used second-hand $10 electronic switches to network computers linked to SWIFT, weaknesses that the hackers may also have exploited.Farashuddin said that RCBC was responsible for allowing the stolen funds to be withdrawn and disbursed into the casino industry. Bangladesh has said it wants RCBC to compensate it for its losses.

RCBC has said Bangladesh Bank was “negligent” in letting the initial security breach take place there, and hence the Manila-based bank need not pay any compensation. So far only about $15 million of the stolen funds have been recovered.Farashuddin said his personal opinion was it would be better to make the inquiry report public, since it would make clear that some local officials were negligent but not responsible for the heist.”If the government would publish, then Bangladesh Bank’s position would be strengthened,” he said.Bangladesh’s law minister said earlier this week that his government would share the findings of the inquiry with Philippine authorities. (Writing by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 20:51 IST

Paris imposes driving restrictions, plans clunker ban as smog hits highs | Reuters

By Geert De Clercq
| PARIS

PARIS The French capital Paris announced on Wednesday licence-plate based driving restrictions for a third day in a row and plans bans on old cars as the City of Light experienced the worst air pollution in a decade. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Paris banned cars from circulation based on whether their licence plates ended with odd or even numbers. It will now ban half of all traffic again on Thursday. Other French cities such as Lyon are also planning bans as clouds of pollution hang over many European cities due to a lack of the winds that normally blow in off the Atlantic Ocean. It is only the fourth time in 20 years that Paris has imposed such a ban and the first time it applies for consecutive days. Municipalities around Paris also imposed the ban. With its famous Eiffel Tower shrouded in a greyish haze and some Asian tourists donning face masks, the city also made all public transport, residential parking and the Velib’ bicycle and Autolib’ electric car schemes free.

“Cars are poisoning the air. We need to take preventive measures,” said Paris city hall transport official Herve Levife. Besides instant measures like licence-plate based driving bans, the city also plans to step up its fight against chronic pollution by gradually banning the oldest and most polluting vehicles from the city centre, he said. “We want these bans to automatically take effect when the pollution exceeds a certain level, not have to negotiate them with the government each time,” Levife added.

From mid-January, Paris will become the first French city to launch the new “Crit’Air” vignette system that will require all cars to have a colour-coded sticker indicating their age and pollution level. The stickers will allow police to control which vehicles can circulate in the city centre. Grenoble in eastern France also plans to use the vignettes and other French cities are looking into banning clunkers from their roads.Cars 20 years and older have already been banned from Paris roads from July 1, 2016 and some 120,000 stickers have been distributed. But participation in the scheme so far has been voluntary and enforcement scarce.

From July 1, 2017, the city will impose bans on diesel-powered cars and vans first put into circulation in 2001 and trucks first registered in 2006. Between 2018 and 2020, the city will gradually tighten circulation permits. Paris has no plans to introduce London-style tolls for cars entering the city.Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is on a drive to reduce car traffic. She has increased the cost of parking meters, banned free parking on Saturdays and the August holiday period, and is turning a highway on both banks of the Seine into a riverside park. (Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 23:34 IST

Polar sea ice the size of India vanishes in record heat | Reuters

By Environment Correspondent Alister Doyle
| OSLO

OSLO Sea ice off Antarctica and in the Arctic is at record lows for this time of year after declining by twice the size of Alaska in a sign of rising global temperatures, climate scientists say.Against a trend of global warming and a steady retreat of ice at earth’s northern tip, ice floating on the Southern Ocean off Antarctica has tended to expand in recent years.But now it is shrinking at both ends of the planet, a development alarming scientists and to which a build-up of man-made greenhouse gases, an El Nino weather event that this year unlocked heat from the Pacific Ocean and freak natural swings may all be contributing.”There are some really crazy things going on,” said Mark Serreze, director of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado, saying temperatures in parts of the Arctic were 20 degrees Celsius (36°F) above normal some days in November.Worldwide, this year is on track to be the warmest on record.Combined, the extent of polar sea ice on Dec. 4 was about 3.84 million square kilometers (1.48 million square miles) below the 1981-2010 average, according to NSIDC satellite measurements. That is roughly the size of India, or two Alaskas.Antarctica’s expanding sea ice in many recent years has been a big theme for those who doubt global warming is man-made.John Turner of the British Antarctic Survey said chilly westerly winds that sweep around the continent, perhaps insulating it from the effects of global warming, were the weakest for November in two decades. That may have let more heat seep south, he said.A recovery of the high-altitude ozone layer over Antarctica, which led to cooler air over the continent when it was damaged by now-banned industrial chemicals, may also be a factor.

But Turner said it was hard to pinpoint exactly what was happening. “When we began getting satellite data from 1979 the sea ice started to decrease. Everyone said it was global warming … but then it started to increase again,” he said.RADICALLY DIFFERENT

Accepting mainstream scientific findings and responding to increases in floods and heat waves and rising sea levels, almost 200 governments last year agreed to phase out fossil fuels this century and limit the global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels to less than two degrees celsius.U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who has called man-made climate change a hoax, has threatened to pull out of that agreement, reached in Paris in December. Last month he however also said he had an “open mind”.The polar regions are radically different from each other because the Arctic is an ocean ringed by land and Antarctica is a vast land mass surrounded by water. Ice around Antarctica, retreating with a summer thaw, is the smallest for early December at 11.22 million square kilometers (4.33 million square miles), beating a record from 1982, NSIDC data show. Arctic sea ice, expanding in winter, is at a record low of 10.25 million square kilometers (3.96 million square miles), below a 2006 record.

Anders Levermann, a professor at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said the low polar sea ice pointed to man-made warming. “It’s an extraordinary departure from the norm,” he said.Serreze at the NSIDC said the twin record lows might be “blind dumb chance”. But the worry was that “Antarctica is the sleeping elephant that is beginning to stir.” Scientists say Antarctica’s glaciers could slip more quickly into the ocean, speeding up the pace of sea level rise, if there is less ice floating on the sea to pin them back.(For a graphic comparing current polar sea ice levels with record lows, click on tmsnrt.rs/2g0ziIz) (Editing by Alistair Scrutton and John Stonestreet)

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First Published On : Dec 5, 2016 22:26 IST

Dow sets record high as bank rally continues | Reuters

By Yashaswini Swamynathan

The Dow set an all-time high on Monday, extending a post-election rally, supported by gains in financial stocks such as Goldman Sachs. The Dow has been enjoying a record-setting rally, largely led by bank and industrial stocks, which are expected to benefit the most from higher spending on infrastructure and simpler regulations under a Donald Trump administration. The index has risen 5 percent since the Nov. 8 vote, while the S&P financial index has surged 14.3 percent. Goldman Sachs rose 1.5 percent to $226.50 and provided the biggest boost to the Dow, after HSBC initiated coverage on the investment bank with a “buy” rating and a $250 price target. Nine of the 11 S&P sectors were higher, with financials’ 1 percent rise leading the gainers. Defensive sectors, utilities and real estate, were the laggards.

Investors also appeared to largely shrug off the resignation of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi following a defeat in a referendum for constitutional reforms on Sunday. Adding to the upbeat mood was Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans who said that conditions were ripe for inflation to rise to the Fed’s 2 percent target, given the policies Trump has earmarked for the next few years.At 9:42 a.m. ET (1442 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 76.35 points, or 0.4 percent, at 19,246.77, after hitting a record intraday high of 19,261.57.

The S&P 500 was up 8.77 points, or 0.4 percent, at 2,200.72 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 20.00 points, or 0.38 percent, at 5,275.65.Shares of Energy Transfer dropped 4.2 percent to $32.94 after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers turned down a permit for the company’s controversial pipeline project running through North Dakota.FairPoint shares jumped 13 percent after Consolidated Communications said it would buy the broadband service provider in an all-stock deal valued at $1.5 billion, including debt.

Chesapeake Energy rose 3.8 percent to $7.50 after the U.S. natural gas producer said it would sell a part of its acreage in the Haynesville Shale area for $450 million to a private company.Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,050 to 640. On the Nasdaq, 1,845 issues rose and 532 fell.The S&P 500 index showed 33 new 52-week highs and one new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 77 new highs and three new lows. (Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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First Published On : Dec 5, 2016 20:55 IST

Fidel Castro laid to rest in Cuba, ending nine days of mourning | Reuters

By Sarah Marsh and Diego Oré
| SANTIAGO, Cuba

SANTIAGO, Cuba Fidel Castro’s ashes were laid to rest on Sunday, capping nine days of official mourning when hundreds of thousands of Cubans said farewell with a combination of tears, Castro-like defiance and choruses of “I am Fidel!”A private ceremony was held at Santiago’s Santa Ifigenia Cemetery, state media reported. Castro’s cremated remains were due to be placed a few steps from the mausoleum of independence hero Jose Marti, another towering figure of Cuban history who Castro long admired.Castro, who had been out of power for a decade but never far from the center of public life, died on Nov. 25 at age 90.In his final years he wrote a periodic column on world and local matters and received foreign dignitaries at his home on the outskirts of Havana.Castro gave Cuba an outsized influence in world affairs. He was feted by Nelson Mandela for helping to end apartheid at a time the West supported the racist system, but helped take the world to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis. Forced to step down due to an intestinal ailment, Castro ceded power to his younger brother Raul, the current president, at first provisionally in 2006, then definitively in 2008. Cuba has not revealed the cause of his death.In keeping with his wishes, Castro’s image will not be immortalized with statues and public places will not be named after him, his brother said on Saturday.

Initially the ceremony at the cemetery was due to be carried live on television, but hours before official media announced it would be “solemn and private.”Castro’s memorial at the cemetery is a large, round stone placed close to, but dwarfed by, Marti’s mausoleum, according to a Reuters witness. It is a few steps from a monument to rebels who died fighting in Castro’s failed 1953 attack on the Moncada barracks in Santiago, the start of the revolution.Cuban television cut from live coverage at the appointed hour of 7 a.m. EST (1200 GMT). At that moment in Havana, military cannons unleashed a 21-gun salute that thundered across the capital city.Seeing greatness in himself long before taking power, Castro created his own, enduring persona, and played the role with a flourish throughout his long public life.

He was at various times a triumphant revolutionary, an indefatigable speaker, and a military strategist. His larger-than-life character instilled Cuba with pride and national identity, while also generating acute hatred among his enemies.It even came with its own wardrobe and props: olive green fatigues and military hat, boots and a beard, and, until he quit smoking in the 1980s, a long lancero cigar.He ruled for 49 years, longer than any contemporary except for Queen Elizabeth of England, after overthrowing a U.S.-backed dictator in 1959. He went on to align Cuba with the Soviet Union and sustained a near-permanent confrontation with the United States, sending both doctors and soldiers overseas to burnish Cuba’s revolutionary character.In recent years, Cuban doctors have been widely praised for their quick deployment in international health crises, including the Ebola outbreak and the aftermath of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake.

Even after ceding power to his brother Raul, now 85, Fidel was a guiding light to leftists and anti-imperialists around world and a lightening rod for the barbs of his critics, who loathed him for confiscating private property, jailing opponents, and shutting down almost all dissent.The impact of his long clash with the United States is still being felt. Cuban-Americans in Miami celebrated his death, and Washington maintains a trade embargo that Castro long used as the reason for Cuba’s economic troubles.U.S. President Barack Obama changed course on U.S. policy toward Cuba in December 2014, agreeing on a prisoner exchange, declaring his intent to restore diplomatic ties and asking the U.S. Congress to end the embargo.Fidel Castro gave begrudging approval to the detente brokered by his brother. He did not meet Obama during his historic visit to the island, instead penning a column that warned Cubans not to trust the president’s “honey-coated” words.President-elect Donald Trump has threatened to reverse Obama’s rapprochement after he assumes the White House on Jan. 20 unless Cuba enacts internal changes, the kind of pressure both Castro brothers have vehemently rejected. (Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Mary Milliken and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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First Published On : Dec 4, 2016 21:09 IST

Ruthless Chelsea fight back to sink Man City | Reuters

Chelsea came from behind to secure a dramatic 3-1 win at Manchester City and forge clear at the top of the Premier League as their top-of-the-table clash ended in a mass brawl and two City players were sent off on Saturday.Diego Costa, the league’s leading marksman, scored his 11th of the season on the hour to equalise, substitute Willian notched on the counter-attack 10 minutes later and Eden Hazard sealed Chelsea’s eighth straight win in the 90th minute.Gary Cahill had given City a deserved lead just before halftime, slicing the ball into his own net with a clumsy attempted clearance, and the home side had chances to wrap up the points after the break as Kevin De Bruyne missed from three metres when it seemed easier to score.In stoppage time, with Chelsea already guaranteed a four-point lead at the top, mayhem broke out following a terrible tackle by Sergio Aguero on David Luiz.The Argentine was shown a red card and, as players piled in, Fernandinho was also dismissed for pushing Cesc Fabregas over the advertising hoardings.It was the first time a team had finished a game with nine men in the Premier League for eight years yet, for large parts, it had looked as if it could be the end of Chelsea’s purple patch with City largely dominating until Pep Guardiola’s men were again found out defensively.

Several times, Aguero came close, thwarted by a brilliant Cesar Azpilicueta block and heading wide from De Bruyne’s pinpoint cross.Yet City’s goal was a soft one with Cahill displaying technical deficiency, trying to clear Jesus Navas’s cross with his right foot when he needed to use his left.City piled on the pressure after the break with De Bruyne forcing a fine save from Courtois and more comedy defending almost gifting a goal for Aguero before De Bruyne’s open-goal miss from Navas’s cross.

It was a costly error as Fabregas found Costa with a lovely, long ball which he controlled on his chest before outsmuscling Nicolas Otamendi and firing the equaliser.Costa then put Willian clean through, the Brazilian firing across Claudio Bravo into the corner before he marked his goal with an emotional raising of his black armband to honour those who died in the Chapecoense air crash.After Hazard had latched on to a long ball from Marcos Alonso to sprint clear of Aleksandar Kolarov and net the third, City’s frustration got the better of them as Aguero’s wild knee-high lunge on Luiz resulted in furious scenes with all 22 players and staff being involved in a melee.

Luiz, with his knee bandaged afterwards, refused to be drawn on Aguero’s challenge.”I don’t like to speak about these type of things. Aguero is an amazing player who does a lot for football,” he told Sky Sports.”I want to dedicate this win to the people who died in Brazil. It was difficult to get my head together as I had some friends there. We just need to pray for the victim’s families.” (Reporting by Ian Chadband, editing by Ed Osmond)

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First Published On : Dec 3, 2016 21:01 IST

Exclusive – Standards council to investigate New Oriental after Reuters report | Reuters

By Steve Stecklow
| MIAMI

MIAMI A U.S. standards-setting body said it would investigate New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc (EDU.N) in the wake of a Reuters report that detailed allegations of academic fraud at the company.The American International Recruitment Council, which certifies agencies that recruit foreign students on behalf of U.S. colleges, will investigate the company in response to the report, said Jeet Joshee, AIRC’s president-elect. “It’s concerning, highly concerning,” he said of the allegations in the report.The article can be read here: reut.rs/2gHWbwZAIRC is a non-profit membership organisation comprised of 289 colleges and universities and 78 agencies that refer foreign students to U.S. schools often for a commission. It establishes best practices for international student recruitment and certifies agencies in a process that includes inspections.Joshee said AIRC certified New Oriental’s counselling division – Beijing New Oriental Vision Overseas Consultancy Co — about three or four years ago. He said AIRC could revoke the certification if the fraud accusations are confirmed.

Reuters reported today that eight former and current New Oriental employees had told the news agency that the Beijing-based company had helped to write college application essays and teacher recommendations, and had falsified a high school transcript. A New Oriental student contract reviewed by Reuters stated that its services included “writing or polishing” parts of applications. The contract also said New Oriental would set up an email account on behalf of the client for communicating with colleges, keeping sole control of the password. Several former employees said some students never even saw their applications.“It’s most concerning that they would actually handle the whole application for a student,” said Joshee, who chairs AIRC’s certification body. Joshee also serves as associate vice president for international education at California State University, Long Beach.

New Oriental denies condoning or wittingly engaging in application fraud. The publicly listed company, with annual revenue of $1.5 billion, is China’s largest provider of private education services.The company’s American Depositary Receipts, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange, were down $1.02 Friday afternoon at $47.97 a share, off 2.1 percent on the day.

In addition to offering college counselling services to thousands of Chinese students seeking to study in the U.S., New Oriental has contracts with colleges including Arizona State University, the University of Cincinnati and Temple University. Those colleges pay New Oriental commissions when it refers students who enrol.Two New Oriental employees at AIRC’s annual convention in Miami told Reuters the company had “relationships” with about 100 U.S. colleges and universities. They declined to say how many of those schools pay commissions to New Oriental.Joshee said his school – California State, Long Beach – signed a contract this year with New Oriental, although it hasn’t provided any students to date. He said the university normally pays agents $1,500 to $2,000 for each student who enrols. He said his university would await the results of AIRC’s probe before taking any action. (Edited by Michael Williams)

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First Published On : Dec 3, 2016 00:30 IST

Bolivia suspends airline as Colombian crash probe points to lack of fuel | Reuters

By Daniel Ramos and Fredy Builes
| LA PAZ/MEDELLIN, Colombia

LA PAZ/MEDELLIN, Colombia Bolivian authorities on Thursday suspended the license of a tiny charter airline whose plane crashed in Colombia this week after apparently running out of fuel, killing 71 people and wiping out a Brazilian football team on its way to a regional cup final.Monday night’s disaster sent shock waves across the global football community and plunged Latin America’s largest nation, Brazil, into mourning as it reels from a deep recession and political crisis. The small Chapecoense team was travelling to the biggest game in its history, the final of the Copa Sudamericana.Colombian investigators said the crash might have resulted from lack of fuel on the plane operated by charter airline LAMIA Bolivia. Freddy Bonilla, secretary of airline security at Colombia’s aviation authority, said investigators combing the crash site on a wooded hillside outside of Medellin found no traces of fuel in the wreckage of the BAe 146 made by Britain’s BAE Systems Plc (BAES.L). Air traffic control at Medellin airport asked the LAMIA pilot to wait while another flight made an emergency landing. International flight regulations require aircraft to carry enough reserve fuel to fly for 30 minutes after reaching their destination. “In this case, sadly, the aircraft did not have enough fuel to meet the regulations for contingency,” Bonilla said. Bolivia said on Thursday that it was immediately suspending LAMIA’s operation certificate and would replace the management of its aviation authority in the wake of the crash, to ensure a transparent investigation. It said the moves implied no wrongdoing. LAMIA Chief Executive Officer Gustavo Vargas on Wednesday said the plane had been correctly inspected before departure and should have had enough fuel for about 4-1/2 hours.”It’s a decision that the pilot makes,” Vargas told reporters in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. “Weather conditions influence a lot, but he had alternatives in Bogota in case of a fuel deficiency.”

A crackling recording obtained by Colombian media of Bolivian pilot Miguel Quiroga’s final words showed he told the control tower at Medellin’s airport that the plane was “in total failure, total electrical failure, without fuel.” He requested urgent permission to land, and then the audio went silent. BRAZIL GRIEVES
In the football club’s small farming hometown of Chapeco in southern Brazil, workers on Thursday erected temporary structures in the stadium to shelter the coffins of 51 victims – players, staff and journalists – expected to arrive back on Friday for an open-air wake.

Some 100,000 fans, about half the city’s population, were expected to attend, as were Brazilian President Michel Temer and Gianni Infantino, president of world football governing body FIFA.On Wednesday night, when the Copa Sudamericana final had been scheduled, tens of thousands of fans assembled in tribute at Chapecoense’s arena and the stadium in Medellin of rival team Atletico Nacional. “We Brazilians will never forget the way in which Colombians have felt as their own the pain of this terrible disaster that ended the historic dream of Chapecoense,” Foreign Minister Jose Serra told the crowds in Medellin.Fox Sports Brasil, which lost six of its journalists in the crash, broadcast 90 minutes of a black screen in the time slot of Wednesday’s game.

BLACK BOXES
A spokesman for Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch said an inspector for the agency and Colombian officials would transport the aircraft’s black boxes back to the United Kingdom, where the information will be downloaded.Only six on board the flight survived: three Chapecoense team members, a journalist and two Bolivian crew members.Some have wondered why Chapecoense used the charter company instead of a commercial airline. Club Vice President Luiz Antonio Palaoro said LAMIA had a track record of transporting football teams around South America, and it had used the airline before. “We are dealing with the humanitarian aspect of the families and the victims,” Palaoro told reporters in Chapeco. “After that, we are going to have to think about restructuring the team and also the appropriate legal measures.”Among surviving players, goalkeeper Jackson Follmann’s right leg was amputated, while defender Helio Neto was in intensive care with severe trauma to his skull, thorax and lungs. Fellow defender Alan Ruschel had spinal surgery. Two of the Bolivian flight crew, Ximena Suarez and Erwin Tumiri, were bruised but not in critical condition, while journalist Rafael Valmorbida was treated in intensive care for multiple rib fractures that partly collapsed a lung. (Reporting by Daniel Ramos in La Paz, Brad Haynes in Chapeco, Julia Symmes Cobb in Medellin, Anthony Boadle in Brasilia, Helen Murphy in Bogota and Tim Hepher in Paris; Writing by Helen Murphy in Bogota and Daniel Flynn in Sao Paulo; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Lisa Von Ahn)

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First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 23:36 IST

Fallen smartphone brand Nokia challenges Apple, Samsung again | Reuters

By Eric Auchard and Jussi Rosendahl
| FRANKFURT/HELSINKI

FRANKFURT/HELSINKI Nokia smartphones are poised for a comeback after former managers at the Finnish company licensed the handset brand from Microsoft and struck up partnerships with Google and phone manufacturer Foxconn. Nokia was once the world’s dominant cellphone maker but missed the shift to smartphones and then chose Microsoft’s unpopular Windows operating system for its “Lumia” range. Nokia quit smartphones in 2014 by selling its handset activities to Microsoft to focus on mobile network equipment. Microsoft continued selling Lumia smartphones under its own name but this year largely abandoned that business, too. HMD Global, led by Nokia veteran Arto Nummela, wants to launch its first Nokia smartphone in the early part of next year using Google’s (GOOGL.O) Android operating system. Success will require a dash for scale by stealing business from Apple (AAPL.O), Samsung (005930.KS) and dozens of other players in a cut-throat industry. “Consumers may be carrying different smartphones now, but are they really in love and loyal to those brands?” said Nummela in an interview. The Nokia consumer brand lives on as the badge on cheaper, entry-level “feature phones” sold mainly in Asia, India and Eastern Europe, though Microsoft invested little to market the name in recent years. Smartphones typically cost anywhere from ten to 30 times as much as these basic phones, which sell for as little as $20. “For a new entrant, having an established brand provides it with an instant on-ramp,” said mobile phone analyst Ben Wood of CCS Insight, who suggested that phone vendors with weaker brands should not take the new challenge lightly.

“The barriers to entry for the Android phone space are low,” said Wood. “What HMD has is the Nokia brand and management experience. The key to its success will be driving scale.” CEO Nummela, who was once responsible for Nokia’s sales and product development, does not lack ambition. “We want to be one of the key competitive players in the smartphone business,” he told Reuters. HMD President Florian Seiche previously worked at Siemens (SIEGn.DE), Orange, HTC and Nokia. Chief Marketing Officer Pekka Rantala is a former CEO of Rovio, the maker of the Angry Birds game, as well as a Nokia veteran.

“We are not going to skip any markets in the long term,” Seiche said, adding that HMD had already set up offices in 40 locations around the world. NO FUNDING FROM NOKIA CORP
HMD is owned by Smart Connect LP, a private equity fund run by Jean-Francois Baril, who was once in charge of Nokia’s world-leading supply chain management system. Other HMD managers have put in money of their own.

HMD on Thursday took over the feature phone business that Nokia Corp (NOKIA.HE) sold to Microsoft. It has a licensing deal with Nokia giving it sole use of the brand on mobile phones and tablets for the next decade. It will pay Nokia royalties for the brand and patents, but Nokia has no direct investment in HMD. HMD is building its smartphone operating system in partnership with Google and all its Nokia devices will be manufactured by Foxconn (2354.TW) of Taiwan, the world’s largest contract manufacturer. Nummela says his team’s enduring relationships with phone service providers and retailers could help HMD quickly convince owners of Nokia feature phones to upgrade in markets like India, Indonesia and Russia. The Nokia name is still on a tenth of the feature phones sold around the world, though in recent years it ceded ground to Samsung and TCL (000100.SZ), maker of Alcatel-brand phones, as well as smaller players, according to market research firm Strategy Analytics. Shipments of Nokia feature phones plunged 40 percent in fiscal year 2015 and HMD must reverse that decline while trying to break back into the smartphone market, where hundreds of vendors compete by selling phones that can be hard to distinguish. “The feature phone is the essence of the business,” Wood said. “Don’t be under any illusions that this market is over.” (Editing by Jane Merriman and Tom Pfeiffer)

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First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 19:56 IST

Vedanta to invest up to $2.9 billion over three years in key India plants | Reuters

By Devidutta Tripathy and Jatindra Dash
| BHUBANESWAR, India

BHUBANESWAR, India Vedanta Resources Plc plans to invest as much as 200 billion rupees ($2.9 billion) over three years to expand its alumina and aluminium producing capacity in Odisha, its chairman Anil Agarwal said.The company plans to expand the capacity of its Lanjigarh alumina refinery to 5 million tonnes from the current 2 million tonnes and double the capacity of its Jharsuguda aluminium smelter to 2 million tonnes.Vedanta has been trying to expand the capacity of its refinery for almost 8 years but a lack of availability of bauxite, the raw material which is refined to make alumina, has proved a hurdle.Vedanta, which currently buys bauxite from elsewhere to feed the plant, is still in talks with state-run Odisha Mining Corp to get access to the raw material locally, Agarwal said in the state’s capital where he was attending an investment summit.”We are looking forward to some bauxite strategy to come,” the metals tycoon said in a group interview.

He said Vedanta, which has already invested 600 billion rupees to build the refinery and smelter, will need to put in a further 150 billion to 200 billion rupees to expand capacity.Vedanta would also be interested in bidding for iron ore mines in the mineral-rich state and elsewhere in India in state auctions, Agarwal said.

Vedanta’s Cairn India unit produces oil in the country.Agarwal said the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ decision to reduce oil output for the first time since 2008 was a positive.”Good for us,” he said. “Prices will increase a bit.”

Vedanta has previously said it planned to invest about 300 billion rupees to augment its oil production capacity.($1 = 68.3355 rupees) (Reporting by Devidutta Tripathy and Jatindra Dash; Writing by Promit Mukherjee, editing by David Evans)

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First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 19:17 IST

Football plane in Colombia crash was running out of fuel – recording | Reuters

By Julia Symmes Cobb and Brad Haynes
| LA UNION, Colombia/CHAPECO, Brazil

LA UNION, Colombia/CHAPECO, Brazil The plane that crashed in Colombia virtually wiping out an entire Brazilian football team was running out of fuel, had no electrical power, and was preparing for an emergency landing, according to the pilot’s final words.The disaster on Monday night killed 71 people and sent shock waves round the global football world. Only six on board the LAMIA Bolivia charter flight survived, including three of the Chapecoense football squad en route to the biggest game in their history: the Copa Sudamericana final.”Miss, LAMIA 933 is in total failure, total electrical failure, without fuel,” Bolivian pilot Miguel Quiroga was heard telling the control tower operator at Medellin’s airport on the crackly audio played by Colombian media.”Fuel emergency, Miss,” he added, requesting urgent permission to land. That matched the account from the co-pilot of an Avianca plane flying close by at the time. He said he overheard the LAMIA plane reporting it was out of fuel and had to land.”Mayday mayday … Help us get to the runway … Help, help,” Juan Sebastian Upegui described the LAMIA pilot as saying in an audio message also played by local media. “Then it ended … We all started to cry.”The BAe 146, made by BAE Systems Plc (BAES.L), slammed into a mountainside next to La Union town outside Medellin. Besides the three players, a journalist and two crew members survived.One survivor, Bolivian flight technician Erwin Tumiri, said he only saved himself by strict adherence to security procedure, while others panicked.”Many passengers got up from their seats and started yelling,” he told Colombia’s Radio Caracol. “I put the bag between my legs and went into the foetal position as recommended.”Bolivian flight attendant Ximena Suarez, another survivor, said the lights went out less than a minute before the plane slammed into the mountain, according to Colombian officials in Medellin. Of the players, goalkeeper Jackson Follmann was recovering from the amputation of his right leg, doctors said. Another player, defender Helio Neto, remained in intensive care with severe trauma to his skull, thorax and lungs.

Fellow defender Alan Ruschel had spinal surgery. Suarez and Tumiri were shaken and bruised but not in critical condition, medical staff said, while journalist Rafael Valmorbida was in intensive care for multiple rib fractures that partly collapsed a lung.INVESTIGATING THE CRASH
Investigators from Brazil have joined Colombian counterparts to check two black boxes from the crash site on a muddy hillside in wooded highlands near the town of La Union.Bolivia, where LAMIA is based, and the United Kingdom also sent experts to help the probe. The plane “came over my house, but there was no noise,” said Nancy Munoz, 35, who grows strawberries in the area. “The engine must have gone.” Some have questioned why Chapecoense used the charter company instead of a commercial airline and why the plane did not have enough fuel for the roughly five-hour flight.

The club’s vice president, Luiz Antonio Palaoro, said LAMIA had a track-record of transporting football teams around South America and it had used the airline previously. “We are dealing with the humanitarian aspect of the families and the victims,” Palaoro told reporters in Chapeco. “After that, we are going to have to think about restructuring the team and also in the appropriate legal measures.”Rescuers have recovered all of the bodies, which are to be sent to Brazil and Bolivia. All of the crew members were Bolivian.Forty-five of the bodies have been identified, Colombian officials said.Since there was no fire on board, bodies are being identified by fingerprints, Julio Bitelli, Brazil’s ambassador to Colombia, told Reuters.”There’s no need for family members to come,” he said. “If they want to come, that’s an individual decision that we respect, and we will give all the support needed.”

He said returning the bodies to Brazil was complicated by the number of victims, but air force planes were ready to take them from Medellin direct to Chapeco, in remote southern Brazil.Soccer-mad Brazil declared three days of mourning. It was a bitter twist to a fairy-tale story for Chapecoense. Since 2009, the team rose from Brazil’s fourth to top division and was about to play the biggest match in its history in the first leg of the regional cup final in Medellin. Global football greats from Lionel Messi to Pele sent condolences.In the small city of Chapecó in remote southern Brazil, black and green ribbons were draped on fences, balconies and restaurant tables. Schools cancelled classes, and businesses closed.”It’s a miracle,” Flavio Ruschel, the father of Alan Ruschel, told Globo News as he prepared to fly to Colombia. “I don’t think I’ll be able to speak, just hug him and cry a lot.”Black banners hung from a cathedral downtown and wrapped around a 14-meter statue of one of the town’s founding explorers.Outside the team’s Conda stadium, a group of hardcore fans put up a tent and promised to keep vigil until the bodies of their idols returned to the city.”We were there for them in victory, and we’re here for them in tragedy, rain or shine,” said fan Caua Regis. “Like family.” The club is planning an open wake at their stadium, a city official said.A homage was also planned for later on Wednesday at the stadium in Medellin of Atletico Nacional, which had been due to play Chapecoense in the regional final in the evening.The Colombian team wants the trophy to be given to Chapecoense in honour of the dead. “As far as we are concerned,” the team said, “Chapecoense will forever be the champions of the Copa Sudamericana Cup 2016.” (Writing by Helen Murphy and Andrew Cawthorne; Additional reporting by Anthony Boadle and Daniel Flynn in Brazil; Editing by Kieran Murray, Lisa Von Ahn and Lisa Shumaker)

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First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 05:01 IST

Supreme Court orders cinemas to play national anthem | Reuters

By Tommy Wilkes and Suchitra Mohanty
| NEW DELHI

NEW DELHI Cinemas must play the national anthem before screening a film and the audience must stand and listen, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday in a ruling echoing growing nationalist sentiment under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.The court ordered that an image of India’s national flag also be displayed on screens during the anthem, and it gave cinemas 10 days to comply, saying its decision would help “instil a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism”.”People must feel this is my country and this is my motherland,” the New Delhi court said in an interim order issued in response to a petition from a local retiree.”The time has come for people to realise that the national anthem is a symbol of constitutional patriotism.”Nationalist fervour surged when Modi’s government said in September it had sent troops into territory controlled by bitter rival and neighbour Pakistan to strike at Islamist militants suspected of preparing to attack.

India’s wildly popular Bollywood film industry found itself caught up in the aftermath when a filmmakers’ body banned the hiring of Pakistani actors and some regional politicians said that those prepared to work with their neighbours were unpatriotic.Playing the national anthem in Indian cinemas was common in the 1960s, but the practise fell out of favour as fewer and fewer people paid attention. A few states had since made it compulsory for theatre halls and cinemas to broadcast the anthem, but there is no nationwide law mandating it.

Some commentators mocked the court’s ruling as idiotic. “The Supreme Court’s moral, constitutional and political idiocy in the national anthem order is truly breathtaking. More dark times ahead,” Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of the Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research think-tank said on Twitter.Thousands took to the streets early this year in India’s biggest nationwide student protests in 25 years after the arrest of a student accused of sedition, prompting accusations that Modi’s government was clamping down on freedom of expression.

To support his case in the court, petitioner Shyam Narayan Chouksey said the Prevention of Insults to National Honor Act of 1971 had been breached, Indian media reported.The court also ruled that broadcasting a shortened version of the anthem would not suffice, and it prohibited playing the anthem at “undesirable” or “disgraceful” places. (Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 23:44 IST

In India’s ‘Dollar City’, exploited garment workers are silent – filmmaker | Reuters

By Anuradha Nagaraj

CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A fish tank with expensive Arowana fish is prominently displayed in many factories making hosiery in the Indian textile hub of Tirupur – the owners believe it will bring them wealth. But any prosperity is limited to factory owners. Few profits trickle down to the tens of thousands of workers they employ, says filmmaker P.R. Amudhan, who has made a documentary that chronicles the plight of those at the bottom of a global supply chain.The name of his film, “Dollar City”, refers to Tirupur city, which is home to an expanding garment industry, one of the pillars of India’s economy – and the foreign exchange it generates through exports.”It is the owners who are receiving, enjoying and consuming the dollars that come into this city, which produces garments for brands across the world,” Amudhan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.”The worker earns very little in the city that is often referred to as dollar city. And today, there is complicit silence on the issue, even the super exploited worker is not complaining.”The film has been screened 50 times across India since its release on May 1, to audiences that include manufacturers, workers and policymakers – sparking a debate on what some unions fear is the acceptance of exploitative conditions in the sector.”The documentary has revealed the enormous power wielded by the garment industry, the abominable conditions in which factory workers live and work in Tirupur,” Sujatha Mody, president of Garment and Fashion Workers Union, wrote in a blog after watching a screening with workers in Chennai.

Other viewers were shocked by the urban squalor and poverty in Tirupur.India is one of the world’s largest textile and garment manufacturers serving the international and increasingly, domestic market. Many of the workers employed in the $40-billion-a-year industry are trapped in debt bondage, face abuse or are forced to work long hours in poor conditions, campaigners say.

Traditionally, the dyeing units, spinning mills and apparel factories have drawn on cheap labour from villages across the state of Tamil Nadu to cater to the demand from Western high street shops.”Tirupur is a massive attraction for young workers because the city promises a better future,” said Amudhan.”But if they want to be part of it, they have to follow the script. There is no room for questions or protest, not even when the better future does not materialise.” The documentary, which also explores the government’s complacency in implementing labour laws, featured uncomplaining, muted voices of workers from Tirupur.

“None of the garment workers interviewed in the film spoke of their difficulties,” Mody said. But at screenings in Chennai, New Delhi and Hyderabad, this silence was questioned.”I view it as a collective crime, where everyone is equally responsible, even the worker,” Amudhan said.”It has the workers’ consent, the unions are lethargic, the government is complacent and aspirational manufacturers are busy chasing profits.” (Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Katie Nguyen.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 23:16 IST

India to raise awareness on adoption after ‘heinous’ baby smuggling racket uncovered | Reuters

By Nita Bhalla

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – India plans to launch a public awareness drive on adoption procedures to curb the buying and selling of children after the police found stolen babies and infant skeletons during raids on charities, clinics and homes for the mentally ill and elderly.Thirteen babies have been rescued, and the remains of two other infants uncovered, in a series of raids in West Bengal over the last 10 days, as police investigate a suspected international human trafficking racket.Eighteen people, including doctors, midwives, owners of charities and clinics in North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas districts have been arrested, suspected of stealing babies from women who delivered at clinics, but told they were stillborn. The babies were then smuggled by road in cardboard biscuit boxes and kept in homes for the elderly and disabled until they sold for adoption within India and overseas, say police.

Ministry of Women and Child Development said on Wednesday the discovery had prompted Maneka Gandhi to take action to stem the crime of baby smuggling.”We are convening meetings to sensitise (the) public about adoption procedure as laid down by law to avoid such heinous incidents,” said the statement posted on the ministry’s Facebook page and on its Twitter account. The social media post also included photographs of the some of rescued babies, all under 10 months old, lying in the intensive care unit of a local hospital, where they are being treated for malnutrition, skin and respiratory infections.

Reports of human trafficking in India increased by 25 percent in 2015 compared to the previous year, with more than 40 percent of cases involving children being bought, sold and exploited as modern day slaves, government crime data showed.There were 6,877 cases related to human trafficking last year against 5,466 in 2014, with the highest number of cases reported in the northeast state of Assam, followed by West Bengal, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

Thousands of children are lured to big cities each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into domestic or sex work or to industries such as textile workshops.Often they are unpaid or held in debt bondage in sectors such as construction and agriculture. Children are also abducted for slavery or for sale for adoption using fake documentation. (Reporting by Nita Bhalla. Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

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First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 23:09 IST

Thriving on raw eggs, world’s oldest person marks 117th birthday in Italy | Reuters

By Reuters Staff
| VERBANIA, Italy

VERBANIA, Italy Emma Morano, thought to be the world’s oldest person and the last to be born in the 1800s, celebrated her 117th birthday on Tuesday, still swearing by her diet of two raw eggs a day.Morano was born in November 1899, four years before the Wright brothers first took to the air. Her life has spanned three centuries, two World Wars and over 90 Italian governments.Friends, neighbors and her doctor gathered in her small apartment in the northern town of Verbania, on the shores of Lake Maggiore, to mark the latest milestone, presenting her with a large white birthday cake.

“My life wasn’t so nice,” she told Reuters TV as she sat in an armchair by her window, a white shawl over her shoulders. “I worked in a factory until I was 65, then that was that.”In an interview with La Stampa newspaper five years ago she said her fiance had died in World War One and that she had then been forced to marry a man she did not love.

“‘Either you agree to marry me or I will kill you’,” Morano said, recalling his proposal. “I was 26. We got married.”It was not a happy marriage. They had a boy in 1937, but the baby died after just six months and the following year Morano kicked out her abusive husband. “I separated from him in 1938. I think I was one of the first in Italy to do that.”

Morano lives alone and has outlived all her eight brothers and sisters, including one who died at 102. She has thrived despite an unorthodox, unbalanced diet. “When I first knew her she used to eat three eggs a day. Two raw, and one fried. Today she has slowed down a bit, reducing the number to two some days because she says three can be too much,” her doctor Carlo Bava told Reuters TV. “She has never eaten much fruit or vegetables. Her characteristic is that she always eats the same thing, every day, every week, every month and every year.”

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First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 21:26 IST

Samsung Elec says reviewing shift to holding company structure | Reuters

Samsung Elec says reviewing shift to holding company structure | Reuters

Nov 29, 2016 05:19 IST

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SEOUL Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) said on Tuesday it is reviewing options for its optimal corporate structure including the possibility of establishing a holding company amid growing calls for improved transparency and governance. Samsung, in a statement, said it is also considering the potential benefits of listing its shares on other overseas markets and hired advisers for a thorough review.

“The review does not indicate the management or the board’s intention one way or another,” the company said, adding the review process would take at least six months.

(Reporting by Se Young Lee; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 05:19 IST

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‘Very impressed’ with Petraeus as he weighs top diplomat job – Trump | Reuters

By Steve Holland and Melissa Fares
| NEW YORK

NEW YORK President-elect Donald Trump stepped up his search on Monday for a new U.S. secretary of state, with the focus on David Petraeus, a former U.S. military commander in Iraq whose mishandling of classified information led to his resignation as CIA chief in 2012. “Just met with General Petraeus–was very impressed!” Trump said on Twitter shortly after Petraeus, a retired general, left an hour-long meeting with the Republican winner of the Nov. 8 election at Trump Tower in Manhattan.Trump’s consideration of Petraeus, who has also been mentioned as a contender for the top job at the Pentagon – adds a new layer of drama to his unusually public deliberations over the top diplomatic job for his administration. Petraeus, who led international forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, was sentenced to two years’ probation and fined $100,000 last year for the unauthorised removal and retention of classified information.He admitted sharing classified information with his biographer, with whom he was having an affair. The scandal forced Petraeus to resign from the CIA in 2012.Petraeus said after meeting Trump that the New York businessman “basically walked us around the world” in their discussion. “He showed a great grasp of the variety of challenges that are out there and some of the opportunities as well,” Petraeus told reporters.Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, plans to hold talks with Mitt Romney on Tuesday in his second recent meeting with the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.A Republican source close to the transition team said it had appeared late last week that Trump was leaning toward choosing Romney as his secretary of state but that the appearance of Petraeus at Trump Tower suggested the president-elect was still undecided and casting a wider net for the position.

U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani are also in the mix for the job of America’s top diplomat, Trump aides say.Frances Townsend, a national security aide during the administration of Republican President George W. Bush, also met Trump on Monday.PETRAEUS TROUBLES

Petraeus’ past mishandling of classified documents is unlikely to be an obstacle to Trump offering him a top government post, said a source who has advised the transition team on national security. That is despite Trump harshly criticizing Democratic rival Hillary Clinton during the election campaign for using a private email server while she was secretary of state.Trump often compared the prosecution of Petraeus with the lack of legal action against Clinton, who was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation but never charged with any offence.”Just based on his public statements, I think (Trump) sees Petraeus as a good man who made a mistake, who did a fraction of what other people have done and received a lot more punishment,” Among the Trump transition team, Petraeus and Romney are supported by Republicans looking for a candidate with gravitas who can unify the party, the source said.

Giuliani is favoured by loyalists who worked on the election campaign. Kellyanne Conway, his campaign manager, has said Romney would cause a backlash among his supporters.Ideological conservatives hope Trump picks John Bolton, the former ambassador to the United Nations, the source said. Corker is well regarded, but some in the Trump camp do not want too many senators coming into the Cabinet, the source said.Trump arrived back in New York on Sunday after several days in Florida for Thanksgiving. He caused a stir on Sunday when he alleged on Twitter that “serious voter fraud” had occurred in the presidential election in New Hampshire, Virginia, and California – states won by Clinton – but provided no evidence to back his assertion.The White House said on Monday there had been no evidence of widespread election fraud in the presidential contest, and all three states rejected Trump’s allegation. New Hampshire’s deputy secretary of state, David Scanlan, said: “There’s no evidence that we’ve seen that supports claims like that. Voter fraud does occur, but it occurs in isolated instances.”California Secretary of State Alex Padilla called Trump’s allegations unsubstantiated and Virginia Commissioner of Elections Edgardo Cortes said they were unfounded. (Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington and Julia Harte in Washington; Writing by Alistair Bell and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)

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First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 04:02 IST

OPEC experts end meeting, no agreement on detail | Reuters

OPEC experts end meeting, no agreement on detail | Reuters

Nov 29, 2016 01:31 IST

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VIENNA OPEC experts ended their meeting on Monday without agreeing on concrete details of a planned reduction in oil output by individual countries that will be presented to an OPEC ministerial gathering on Nov. 30, an OPEC source told Reuters.

(Reporting by Rania El Gamal and Alex Lawler)

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First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 01:31 IST

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Pakistan PM Sharif names General Qamar Javed Bajwa as new army chief | Reuters

By Drazen Jorgic and Mehreen Zahra-Malik
| ISLAMABAD

ISLAMABAD Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday picked Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa to replace outgoing army chief Raheel Sharif, the popular military leader credited with improving security and driving back Islamist militant groups.The army chief is arguably the most influential person in Pakistan, with the military having ruled the country for about half of its 69-year history since independence from Britain and enjoying extensive powers even under civilian administrations. General Bajwa will likely take charge of the world’s sixth-largest army by troop numbers in a formal handover on Tuesday, when General Sharif, who is no relation to Prime Minister Sharif, formally retires.The appointment of Bajwa is expected to help reset fraught relations between the military and the civilian government in a nuclear-armed nation of 190 million people.Lieutenant General Zubair Hayat has been appointed chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee.”On the advice of Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, President Mamnoon Hussain has approved the promotion of Lieutenant General Zubair Mehmood Hayat and Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa,” the prime minister’s office said.As well as controlling security, the army operates a vast business empire in the country and often dictates key areas of Pakistan’s foreign policy, including relations with historic foe India and its war-torn western neighbour Afghanistan.General Sharif, 60, becomes the first army chief in more than 20 years to step down on time. Several previous military leaders had obtained extensions to their three-year terms. Though security across Pakistan has vastly improved under General Sharif, with number of reported “terrorist” attacks down, Bajwa will face vast challenges at home and abroad.Islamic State (IS) is trying to make inroads into the country and militant groups such as the Pakistani Taliban continue to stage large-scale bomb and gun attacks.Since August, 184 people have been killed in three major attacks in the restive Baluchistan region alone.

There are fears that if violence in Baluchistan escalates it could disrupt work on the road, rail and energy projects central to the $54 billion China-funded economic corridor which aims to link Western China to the Arabian Sea at Pakistan’s deepwater port of Gwadar in Baluchistan.Abroad, Pakistan’s relations with the United States, a long-time ally, as well as nuclear-armed rival India, have worsened over the past year.Both countries accuse Pakistan of harbouring Islamist militant groups, with Afghanistan incensed by the presence of Afghan Taliban leaders inside Pakistan. Islamabad denies all such charges.LOW-KEY STYLE
Little is publicly known about Bajwa, who has been heading the army’s Training and Evaluation Wing. It is also not clear how he would approach sensitive issues such as military-civilian relations or his ideological stance towards India.

The military, in a statement, only sent out a brief army history of Bajwa, who was commissioned in 1980 and was partly educated abroad, including staff college training in Canada and naval post-graduate studies in the United States.Bajwa had also served abroad, commanding the Pakistan Contingent in Congo, and had spent time commanding infantry divisions.One cabinet minister told Reuters that Prime Minister Sharif picked Bajwa because of his low-key style, and felt the incoming general would be more willing to cede control of key areas to the civilian government. “He is essentially a very low-profile person and after our last experience (with General Sharif) this is just a very important consideration; someone who doesn’t want the limelight at all,” said the minister, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.”FINEST MILITARY LEADER”

When Prime Minister Sharif chose his namesake as army chief in 2013, it was because the general was the most apolitical figure among the candidates, sources close to the premier said at the time.But once appointed, General Sharif maintained the army’s strong influence within Pakistani politics. Though he did not overtly meddle and rarely made public political statements, he was seen as a key player in behind-the-scene decision making.Analysts say the political tussle is likely to occur again with the new chief, saying that all military leaders have ended up challenging the prime minister’s authority in some way once they began to represent the interests of the army.General Sharif, who hails from a military family, built a huge following among ordinary Pakistanis who saw him as a protector against Islamists, corruption and foreign aggression.His popularity came on the back of the military operation Zarb-i-Azb, which drove back Pakistani Taliban militants from their tribal strongholds and improved security.An army-led crackdown in Karachi also drastically reduced crime in the country’s biggest city.But General Sharif’s popularity, enhanced by the army’s slick media unit, also unnerved members of the ruling PML-N party who were suspicious of efforts to glorify the army chief.After their final official dinner together on Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif praised the departing general.”He proved beyond a shadow of doubt that he is one of the finest military leaders of his generation,” the prime minister said. “Pakistan today is much safer and stronger than in 2013.” (Additional reporting by Asad Hashim; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Alexander Smith and Mike Collett-White)

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First Published On : Nov 26, 2016 20:16 IST

Indian cash crunch hits gold demand during peak wedding season | Reuters

By Rajendra Jadhav and Sethuraman N R
| MUMBAI/BENGALURU

MUMBAI/BENGALURU Mumbai resident Shashikant Zhalte’s wedding this weekend will be less sparkling than his family had hoped, thanks to a cash shortage following Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s shock withdrawal of high-value notes to fight “black money”.Zhalte bought gold jewellery for his wife-to-be months ago, but had delayed purchases for his mother and sisters.Then came the Modi bombshell on Nov. 8, in the middle of the wedding season when gold demand spikes, forcing Zhalte to drop his plans to buy an additional 50 gms, worth around $2,200.The scenario is being played out across India, the world’s second biggest consumer of gold, where it is customary to gift jewellery in marriages.The wedding season stretches from September to April, and Thomson Reuters-owned metals consultancy GFMS says it accounts for more than half of the country’s annual demand for gold.More than two-thirds of that demand of around 800 tonnes a year comes from the countryside, where farmers are struggling to get enough cash to buy seeds and fertilisers in the sowing season. Penetration of credit or debit cards and money apps is very low in rural India.The resulting drop in incomes and tepid buying in the wedding season means gold imports, which spiked in the immediate aftermath of the banknote announcement amid panic buying, are likely to drop sharply in the coming months, said traders in India and in the supply hubs of Dubai and Hong Kong.”Instead of shopping, we were busy visiting banks and government offices to prove that there is a wedding in the family,” said Rahul Ahire, a cousin of Zhalte.The Indian government has put strict limits on the amount of money people can withdraw from banks, although a larger sum, 250,000 rupees ($3,600), is allowed for weddings, as long as participants can prove that the marriage is genuine.Gold demand from India is not a major factor in global prices, but has historically provided support when the international market is falling.

Gold is trading at its lowest levels in nearly 10 months in anticipation of a U.S. interest rate hike in December. Higher U.S. rates would boost the dollar and increase the opportunity cost of holding the metal.A senior official with a Hong Kong bank, which caters mainly to Indian and Chinese gold buyers, said that it was worrying that the slowdown in Indian buying was overlapping with an expected rate hike by the U.S. Federal reserve next month.”In the past, physical Indian demand gave support whenever there was a sharp fall in global prices,” said the official. “Without Indian buying, prices could fall steeply.”SLOWDOWN IN INDIAN GROWTH

Surendra Mehta, secretary of the India Bullion and Jewellers Association, said imports would be “negligible” in December and January, but did not give any numbers.Traders said that a year ago India bought 182.2 tonnes in those two months, a figure that could fall to 60 to 70 tonnes this time around.”Retail demand is very weak and since prices are falling, jewellers are not willing to build inventory,” Mehta said. “They are postponing purchases.”Another factor that could hit imports is a plan reportedly being considered by the government to impose curbs on domestic holdings of gold. A third of India’s gold demand is paid for by unaccounted money.The scrapping of 500 and 1,000 rupee banknotes, or 86 percent of the value of cash in circulation, is part of a crackdown on corruption, tax evasion and militant financing.

But brokerage Ambit Capital says the decision could pull down economic growth, which was 7.6 percent last year, by as much as 4.1 percentage points in the year to March 2017.”It wasn’t possible to change the wedding date at the last moment, so I curtailed spending,” says Dashrath Jagtap, whose daughter got married this week in a small village in the western state of Maharashtra.Most Indian weddings are held on days considered auspicious in the Hindu calendar. Between Nov. 8 and end-December, there are 15 such days, or nearly a quarter of the total in 2016, making the note ban particularly painful for service industries that rely on weddings.”There is a huge drop in the wedding demand as many people don’t have the new currency,” said Chirag Thakkar, a director at gold wholesaler Amrapali Group in the western city of Ahmedabad.”It could be more than 50 percent (on a) year-on-year basis. Most people used to purchase in cash and now they are confused whether to buy gold or spend on something else.”A wholesale trader in Dubai said demand will continue to be weak until people feel comfortable with their cash levels. The government expects the cancelled notes to be replaced in a few months, but some experts say it could take up to a year. ($1 = 68.4250 Indian rupees) (Additional reporting by Jan Harvey in LONDON; Editing by Krishna N. Das and Mike Collett-White)

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First Published On : Nov 25, 2016 20:24 IST

No special favours for Britain, EU lawmakers tell Brexit chief | Reuters

By Alissa de Carbonnel
| STRASBOURG

STRASBOURG European Parliament leaders told London’s Brexit negotiator on Tuesday that Britain should expect to be shut out of cooperation in areas it values once it leaves the European Union.David Davis met Guy Verhofstadt, the EU legislature’s lead Brexit negotiator, and Manfred Weber, a conservative ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel who leads the biggest bloc in the parliamentThe European Parliament must approve Britain’s divorce deal.The meetings were part of preparations before British Prime Minister Theresa May triggers negotiations under Article 50 of the EU treaty, which she has pledged to do by March. They focused on procedure, but there were hints of clashes to come.Weber voiced impatience with a lack of clarity from May on what she will ask for.In notably harsh terms, he said a suggestion from Davis that Britain remain in or closely tied to the EU’s single market while rejecting free immigration by Europeans or the oversight of EU courts was not workable.”Brexit means Brexit,” he said in Strasbourg, echoing May’s famously opaque definition of what her government will ask for following the June referendum vote to leave the Union.”I see a British government that keeps saying where it wants to cooperate closely and not how it wants to leave the European Union,” he told reporters after meeting Davis.

He said Davis voiced an interest in maintaining economic ties and also close cooperation in areas such as justice and criminal affairs.”So I must stress again: Brexit means Brexit, that means leaving the European Union, that means cutting off relations … and not cherry picking, not special relationships,” Weber said.Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister and champion of much closer EU integration, again insisted that Britain could not enjoy the three freedoms of movement for goods, services and capital without the fourth, freedom of labour.He also insisted that the Brexit deal be wrapped up before the next EU legislative elections in May 2019.

UNDERSTANDING PROCESS
Davis, asked if he wanted single market membership, said: “What we are after is that which is in the interest of the Union and in the interest of the United Kingdom: trading interests, business, manufacturing and services and the aim is to make it as open as possible … That’s the clear overarching aim.”He said he found Verhofstadt “a very nice man”. In September, when asked about the Belgian’s appointment, he remarked to a British lawmaker “Get thee behind me, Satan!”

“It is important to … first get to know each other, meet each other, get to trust each other and secondly to understand the structures,” he told Reuters after the meetings, a day after talks in Brussels with Michel Barnier, who will lead the overall negotiations run by the executive European Commission.Despite general efforts to maintain politeness on both sides, there were reminders in Strasbourg of the anger many European politicians feel toward Britain’s Brexit campaigners.Weber lashed out at Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson for having told Turkey he would help it join the EU after he had used the prospect of Turkish accession to urge British voters to leave the bloc to avoid immigration by Turks.”It’s unbelievable, it’s a provocation and it’s arrogant,” he said.Verhofstadt derided both fellow European Parliament lawmaker and Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who suggested on Tuesday that May name Farage her U.S. envoy.”One clown in Washington is more than enough,” Verhofstadt told the chamber. (Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 23:38 IST

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