Reuters

Oct 152017
 
California ‘horror’ fires kill at least 40, deadliest in state history

Fast-moving fires spread by shifting winds forced thousands more Californians to evacuate their homes on Saturday as the death toll from the deadliest blaze recorded in the state’s history rose to at least 40, with hundreds of people still missing. More than 10,000 firefighters supported by air tankers and helicopters overhead were battling 16 major wildfires, some encompassing several … Click for detailed story

Oct 122017
 

PARIS: The United States announced on Thursday that it was withdrawing from UNESCO, the UN’s cultural and educational agency, complaining about how it is run and about what Washington described as bias against Israel. “This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation, and continuing anti-Israel bias,” State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. The withdrawal of the US, which provides a fifth of UNESCO’s funding, is a severe blow for the Paris-based organisation which began work in 1946 and is known for designating World Heritage sites such as the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria and the Grand Canyon National Park. UNESCO report places Pakistan in bottom 10 in female education Under UNESCO rules, the withdrawal will become effective as of the end of December 2018. Until that time, the US, which provides around $80 million to UNESCO annually, will remain a full member. The organisation, which employs around 2,000 people worldwide, most of them based in Paris, has long been the object of criticism over its use of resources and resolutions that have been perceived by Israel and other countries as biased. Director General Irina Bokova expressed disappointment at the US decision. “At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack,” she said. “This is a loss to the United [Read More…]

Oct 072017
 

DUBAI: Qatar’s government announced measures to help private sector businesses on Saturday after its economy was hurt by sanctions imposed by other Arab states. Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani decided to cut rents paid by companies in Qatar’s logistics zones in half during 2018 and 2019, official news agency QNA reported. Qatar offers visa-free entry to 80 nationalities New investors in the zones will be completely exempt from paying rents for a year if they obtain building permits by certain deadlines. Qatar Development Bank, a state-founded body which lends to firms, will postpone receiving loan instalments for up to six months to facilitate industrial sector projects. Sheikh Abdullah also told all ministries and government departments to increase their procurement of local products to 100 percent from 30 percent, if the local products meet necessary specifications and the purchases obey tender rules. Arab states demand Qatar closes Jazeera, cuts back ties to Iran Qatar’s economy expanded just 0.6 percent from a year earlier in the April-June quarter, its slowest growth since the 2009-2010 global financial crisis, after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties on June 5. The four states accuse Doha of supporting terrorism, which Doha denies. The sanctions triggered a pull-out of deposits by Gulf states from Qatari banks, deepened a slump in real estate prices and caused a plunge of 18 percent in the stock market. The post Qatar orders aid to private sector as sanctions hurt economy [Read More…]

Oct 072017
 

KANDHAR: Senior Afghan and American officials welcomed the arrival of new US-made military helicopters on Saturday, beginning a process that will radically transform the young Afghan air force. While the plan for new UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters has been in the works for some time, it forms a major part of the US-led military coalition’s training efforts, which were expanded under proposals approved by President Donald Trump in August. “It’s a modernization of their program that will allow them to project power throughout Afghanistan,” said Lieutenant Colonel Trent Alexander, a US military adviser to the Afghan air force. Afghan security forces killed in ‘friendly fire’ incident “While transitioning to the Black Hawk will not be a quick task, it will not be a difficult task.” At a ceremony at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani formally accepted the first new helicopters, calling it a “historic day” that would allow the air force to better respond to the demands on the security forces. The Russian-designed Mi-17 helicopters that currently form the backbone of the Afghan air force worked well for crews used to Russian equipment, but deteriorating relations between Moscow and Washington meant that the Americans were unable to provide new parts and aircraft to replace the overworked aircraft. “The Mi-17 was a great aircraft and it brought the Afghans the ability to be capable, however, with the introduction of the UH-60 they are now sustainable,” Alexander said. Poverty forces child soldiers into endlessly replenishing Afghan Taliban ranks Taliban [Read More…]

Oct 072017
 

RIYADH: Two Saudi guards were shot dead and three others injured on Saturday morning after a man drove up to the gate of the royal palace in Jeddah and began shooting, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by state news. The Royal Guards killed the gunman, who was identified in the statement as Mansour al-Amri, a 28-year-old Saudi national. Bomber planning to attack Makkah’s Grand Mosque blows himself up: ministry Two Saudi guards were shot dead and three others injured on Saturday morning when a man drove up to the gate of the royal palace in Jeddah and began shooting, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by state news. Royal Guards killed the gunman, who was identified in the statement as Mansour al-Amri, a 28-year-old Saudi national. Bomb attack on Saudi police kills one, wounds six: govt The attack occurred at a checkpoint outside the western gate to the Peace Palace in Jeddah, where the royal family conducts official business during the summer months. Saudi King Salman is currently outside the kingdom on a state visit to Russia. The statement did not elaborate on the whereabouts of his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, although recent state news reports have placed him in Jeddah. Islamic State threatens attacks in Saudi Arabia Security forces seized Kalashnikov rifles and petrol bombs that had been in Amri’s possession. Amri did not have a criminal record or any known connection to extremist groups, said Interior Ministry spokesperson Mansour al-Turki, speaking by [Read More…]

Oct 062017
 
Trump to unveil new responses to Iranian 'bad behavior': White House

President Donald Trump will announce new U.S. responses to Iran’s missile tests, support for “terrorism” and cyber operations as part of his new Iran strategy, the White House said on Friday. “The president isn’t looking at one piece of this. He’s looking at all of the bad behavior of Iran,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, told … Click for detailed story

Oct 062017
 
'Jihadi Gran' gets 10 years after joining son in Syria

A court on Friday sentenced a radicalized French woman to 10 years in prison after traveling to Syria where her son was fighting alongside Islamic State militants. Christine Riviere, 51, dubbed by investigators as “Jihadi Gran”, was arrested in 2014 after three trips to Syria, which she said were aimed at spending time with her son in case he was killed. Announcing the decision, the … Click for detailed story

Sep 302017
 

ANKARA: Turkey opened its biggest overseas military base on Saturday in Somalia’s capital, cementing its ties with the volatile but strategic Muslim nation and building a presence in East Africa. More than 10,000 Somali soldiers will be trained by Turkish officers at the base, a senior Turkish official said ahead of a ceremony in Mogadishu attended by Turkish military chief of staff Hulusi Akar. The opening of the $50 million base signals ever-closer ties between Turkey and Somalia. Turkey’s relations with the Horn of Africa date back to the Ottoman Empire, but President Tayyip Erdogan’s government has become a close ally of the Somali government in recent years. Turkish troops in Qatar for joint exercises At the opening ceremony on Saturday, Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire thanked the Turkish government for opening the training school and said it would help the government “reconstruct” its national force — “not based on clan…not from a particular place, but well-trained forces that represent the Somali people.” He noted that the military school was Turkey’s biggest overseas. The facility can train and house 1,000 soldiers at a time and also has sports courts and a running track. Erdogan, whose roots are in political Islam, is an outspoken defender of Muslims, particularly those in need of humanitarian aid, such as Syrian refugees and Myanmar’s Rohingya. Analysts say that, in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, as Turkey’s foreign policy forays close to home have floundered, Ankara has found a willing partner in Somalia. Erdogan says [Read More…]

Sep 282017
 

RIYADH: Saudi women will be allowed to drive from the age of 18, a government spokesman said on Thursday, partially allaying speculation they could still face tighter controls than men when finally allowed behind the wheel. In a royal decree issued on Tuesday, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud ordered an end by next year of the ban on women drivers, a tradition that has limited women’s mobility and been seen by rights activists as an emblem of their suppression. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women from driving. In historic move: Saudi Arabia allows women to drive The decree stipulated that the move must “apply and adhere to the necessary sharia standards”, but did not elaborate, sparking speculation that restrictions might include a higher minimum age or limited hours of the day. The king ordered a ministerial committee to report within 30 days on how to implement the new policy by June 24, 2018. Asked on al Arabiya TV about the minimum age for Saudi women, Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al Turki said: “Eighteen years is the age at which a person can obtain a driver’s licence and drive a car in the kingdom.” ‘Doubts’ over Saudi order said to ease control on women United Nations human rights experts praised the ban’s removal as a major step towards women’s autonomy and independence, but urged the kingdom to do more to ensure gender equality. “We now encourage the government to repeal all remaining discriminatory laws,” two experts [Read More…]

Sep 282017
 

WASHINGTON: Rocky outcrops in eastern Canada contain what may be some of the oldest evidence of life on Earth, dating back about 3.95 billion years. Scientists said on Wednesday they found indirect evidence of life in the form of bits of graphite contained in sedimentary rocks from northern Labrador that they believe are remnants of primordial marine microorganisms. NASA discovers 10 new Earth-size planets that could have life The researchers carried out a geological analysis of the Labrador rocks and measured concentrations and isotope compositions of the graphite, and concluded that it was produced by a living organism. They did not find fossils of the microorganisms that may have left behind the graphite, a form of carbon, but said they may have been bacteria. Humans are bringing about sixth mass extinction on Earth “The organisms inhabited an open ocean,” said University of Tokyo geologist Tsuyoshi Komiya, who led the study published in the journal Science. Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago and the oceans appeared roughly 4.4 billion years ago. The new study and some other recent research indicate that microbial life emerged earlier than previously known and relatively soon after the Earth’s formation. Scientists ‘solve’ mystery of how first animals appeared on Earth Canada has produced some of the most ancient signs of life. Another team of scientists in March reported that microfossils between 3.77 billion and 4.28 billion years old found in northern Quebec, relatively close to the Labrador site, are similar to the bacteria that thrive today [Read More…]

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