Biphoo News https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews Latest World News Online Sat, 04 Apr 2020 15:08:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.2 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/cropped-logo-1-32x32.png Biphoo News https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews 32 32 Coronavirus: China stops for three minutes to remember the dead https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/world-news/coronavirus-china-stops-for-three-minutes-to-remember-the-dead.html Sat, 04 Apr 2020 15:07:58 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65408 A day of remembrance has been held in China to honour those who have died of coronavirus. The Qingming festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, is usually a time when people visit the graves of friends and family. But amid fears of another Covid-19 outbreak, the government has advised people to stay away and […]

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A day of remembrance has been held in China to honour those who have died of coronavirus.

The Qingming festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, is usually a time when people visit the graves of friends and family.




But amid fears of another Covid-19 outbreak, the government has advised people to stay away and maintain social distancing as Stephen McDonell reports.

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Coronavirus: Spain ‘close to passing peak’ as deaths fall again https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/world-news/coronavirus-spain-close-to-passing-peak-as-deaths-fall-again.html Sat, 04 Apr 2020 15:03:01 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65406 Mr Sánchez also extended lockdown measures until 25 April, saying the restrictions were “saving lives”. The toll of 809 deaths in one day is the lowest in Spain for a week. Meanwhile, officials are trying to get masks for all citizens as part of plans to eventually ease restrictions. Face masks are currently almost impossible […]

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Mr Sánchez also extended lockdown measures until 25 April, saying the restrictions were “saving lives”.

The toll of 809 deaths in one day is the lowest in Spain for a week.

Meanwhile, officials are trying to get masks for all citizens as part of plans to eventually ease restrictions.

Face masks are currently almost impossible to get hold of in Spain. The government had previously said they served little purpose outside hospitals.

However, views on wearing masks appear to be shifting in Western countries, with US health authorities on Friday recommending their use in public. Austria, the Czech Republic, Israel and Turkey have also mandated the use of masks in various public places.

Globally, more than 60,000 people have died in the pandemic and more than 1.1 million have been infected, Johns Hopkins University in the US says.

What is the latest from Spain?
Officials say 7,026 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in Spain in the past 24 hours – down from Friday’s figure of 7,472.

A total of 11,744 people have died, while the total number of cases – 124,736 – is now higher than in Italy.

Addressing the nation, Mr Sánchez said extending the lockdown for two weeks was necessary to give the health service time to recover.

“These are the most difficult days of our lives,” he said.

Once the number of new infections was under control a “progressive return to a new normal” would get under way to rebuild the economy, he said. New hygiene, detection and tracing measures would be in place.

He also called for European unity to tackle the economic consequences of the pandemic. “Europe must not fail this time,” he said.



“It is clear that the Spanish economy will have to go into debt and we will have to take resources from future generations to tackle the pandemic,” he added.

So far the EU has been unable to agree on a plan to share out coronavirus-incurred debt in the form of special bonds – dubbed coronabonds – despite pleas from Spain, Italy, France and others.

Coronavirus outbreak eats into EU unity
The Madrid region has been Spain’s worst affected area. Care homes have seen large-scale outbreaks leading to a collapse in staffing. In two facilities alone there are reports of almost 90 deaths linked to the crisis.

Last month the military was called in to help at retirement homes and found elderly patients abandoned and, in some cases, dead in their beds.

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Coronavirus: Expert panel to assess face mask use by public https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/health/coronavirus-expert-panel-to-assess-face-mask-use-by-public.html Thu, 02 Apr 2020 14:51:22 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65403 This question is to be assessed by a panel of advisers to the World Health Organization (WHO). The group will weigh up research on whether the virus can be projected further than previously thought; a study in the US suggests coughs can reach 6m and sneezes up to 8m. The panel’s chair, Prof David Heymann, […]

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This question is to be assessed by a panel of advisers to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The group will weigh up research on whether the virus can be projected further than previously thought; a study in the US suggests coughs can reach 6m and sneezes up to 8m.

The panel’s chair, Prof David Heymann, told BBC News that the new research may lead to a shift in advice about masks.

The former director at the WHO explained: “The WHO is opening up its discussion again looking at the new evidence to see whether or not there should be a change in the way it’s recommending masks should be used.”

What is the current advice?
The WHO recommends keeping a distance of at least 1m from anyone coughing or sneezing to avoid the risk of infection.

It says people who are sick and show symptoms should wear masks.

Who should be wearing masks?
US considers cloth face masks for public
But it advises that healthy people only need to wear them if they are caring for others suspected of being infected or if they themselves are coughing or sneezing.

It emphasises that masks are only effective if combined with frequent hand-washing and used and disposed of properly.

The UK, along with other countries including the US, advises that social distancing should mean staying at least 2m apart.

This advice is based on evidence showing that viruses can only be transmitted while carried within drops of liquid.

The understanding is that most of those drops will either evaporate or fall to the ground near to the person who released them.

So what does the new research say?
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, US, used high-speed cameras and other sensors to assess precisely what happens after a cough or sneeze.

They found that an exhalation generates a small fast-moving cloud of gas that can contain droplets of liquid of varying sizes – and that the smallest of these can be carried in the cloud over long distances.

The study – conducted in laboratory conditions – found that coughs can project liquid up to 6m away and that sneezes, which involve much higher speeds, can reach up to 8m away.

What are the implications?
The scientist who led the study, Prof Lydia Bourouiba of MIT, told me that she is concerned about the current concept of “safe distances”.

“What we exhale, cough or sneeze is a gas cloud that has high momentum that can go far, traps the drops of all sizes in it and carries them through the room,” she said.

“So having this false idea of safety at one to two metres, that somehow drops will just fall to the ground at that distance is not based on what we have quantified, measured and visualised directly.”

Does this change the advice about masks?
Prof Bourouiba’s view is that in certain situations, especially indoors in poorly ventilated rooms, wearing masks would reduce the risks.

For example, when facing someone who’s infected, masks could help divert the flow of their breath and its load of virus away from your mouth.

“Flimsy masks are not going to protect from inhaling the smallest particulates in the air because they do not provide filtration,” Prof Bourouiba said.

“But they would potentially divert the cloud that is being emitted with high momentum to the side instead of forward.”

What do the WHO advisers think?

According to Prof Heymann, the new research from MIT and other institutions will be evaluated because it suggests that droplets from coughs and sneezes could be projected further than originally thought.

He said that if the evidence is supported, then “it might be that wearing a mask is equally as effective or more effective than distancing.”

But he adds a warning that masks need to be worn properly, with a seal over the nose. If they become moist, Prof Heymann explained, then particles can pass through. People must remove them carefully to avoid their hands becoming contaminated.

He adds that masks need to be worn consistently.

“It’s not on to wear a mask and then decide to take it off to smoke a cigarette or eat a meal – it must be worn full time,” he said.



The panel, known as the Strategic and Technical Advisory Group for Infectious Hazards, is due to hold its next virtual meeting in the next few days.

A spokesperson for Public Health England said there was little evidence of widespread benefit from wearing masks outside clinical settings.

“Facemasks must be worn correctly, changed frequently, removed properly, disposed of safely and used in combination with good universal hygiene behaviour in order for them to be effective.

“Research also shows that compliance with these recommended behaviours reduces over time when wearing facemasks for prolonged periods.”

Aren’t countries changing their advice on masks anyway?

Long popular in many countries in Asia, masks are now being assessed for public use by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

In Austria, the police now wear them and anyone dealing with the police will have to wear one too. Supermarkets there will insist that customers do too.

A once-rare sight in Europe is becoming more common, and new advice from the WHO would accelerate that change.

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Coronavirus: Interest-free overdraft plan for struggling borrowers https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/business/coronavirus-interest-free-overdraft-plan-for-struggling-borrowers.html Thu, 02 Apr 2020 14:45:12 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65401 The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) also suggested repayments on loans and credit cards should be frozen for up to three months for those in trouble. The FCA said the outbreak had caused an “unprecedented financial shock”. Experts suggest that support from banks at present is “patchy”. Banks said they were facing record numbers of calls […]

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The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) also suggested repayments on loans and credit cards should be frozen for up to three months for those in trouble.

The FCA said the outbreak had caused an “unprecedented financial shock”.

Experts suggest that support from banks at present is “patchy”.

Banks said they were facing record numbers of calls for help, but were supporting customers.

Quick change
In a timeframe reserved for emergency measures, the City watchdog is asking banks to respond to its proposed measures by Monday 6 April, and it wants them to come into force by Thursday 9 April.

After the FCA recently announced an “overhaul” for overdraft charges, many banks increased their charges for some customers and clustered around a similar figure of about 40%.

In its latest announcement, the watchdog said: “Over the next 90 days, firms would have to ensure all consumers are no worse off and not paying more than they would have under previous prices.”

Other measures it has proposed to help struggle borrowers include:

A three-month repayment freeze on loans
A temporary freeze on credit card and store card debt up to three months
Zero interest for three months on up to £500 for customers affected by coronavirus using an arranged overdraft for up to three months
The FCA also said that consumers using any of these measures should not see their credit rating affected.

FCA interim chief executive Christopher Woolard said: “If confirmed, the package of measures we are proposing today will help provide affected consumers with the temporary financial support they need to help them weather the storm during this challenging time.”

Some lenders have already put measures in place to assist people hit by the financial impact of the outbreak, but Martin Lewis, founder of Moneysavingexpert, described the picture as a “banking lottery”.

If approved, these proposals would bring a level playing field for borrowers. However, they would still need to contact their bank to access the help, rather than just stopping repayments.

“If you’re struggling to afford interest and debt repayments, don’t assume any of these things are in place until it’s confirmed by your bank. If you just halt payments without confirmation, you may end up being chased for payments and having charges added to your debt,” said Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

These are emergency rules to make sure that people who are affected by the crisis don’t fall through the cracks.

They could make a big difference because customers can apply for help knowing that the regulator – the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – is on their side.

Banks have already put their own measures in place to help families who are hit by a sudden loss of income.

But their concessions vary and some don’t match up to the level of protection that the FCA wants to see.



On top of that, the new guidance stretches across a wide range of lending, from bank loans to catalogue credit.

Customers still need to be aware that interest charges might build up in the background and have to be paid later on.

But on overdrafts, the stop-gap regime is clear: you can request to pay zero interest for three months.

This could make a big difference because it comes just as most big banks are introducing overdraft rates of nearly 40%.

Contacting banks can be frustrating at present, with long queues, but information is also available on lenders’ websites and some are offering online applications for help.

Apart from the zero interest on £500 of arranged overdrafts, firms would be entitled to charge a “reasonable rate of interest” when a customer requested a repayment holiday on loans, credit cards, and store cards.

Mr Lewis said: “Payment holidays mean exactly what they say – you don’t pay, but you can still be charged interest. And with interest rates often high, especially on cards, that can mean storing up trouble for future.

“Those struggling for cashflow may have no choice, but if you don’t need to do it, don’t.”

Banks are already offering three-month mortgage repayment holidays for some struggling customers.

Stephen Jones, chief executive of UK Finance, which represents banks and other lenders, said: “It is critical that the FCA’s proposals do not disrupt the provision of credit to borrowers and takes account of the business models of all credit providers including those outside the mainstream market.”

Mr Jones said that lenders have been receiving a record number of calls but have also faced staffing pressures. He urged customers to check their lender’s website first to see if it answers their question, and consider getting in touch via online chat, social media and online banking and mobile apps.

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Coronavirus: US death toll exceeds 5,000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/world-news/coronavirus-us-death-toll-exceeds-5000.html Thu, 02 Apr 2020 14:41:06 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65399 The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic in the US has gone above 5,000, while confirmed cases worldwide are close to reaching one million. There were 884 deaths in the US in 24 hours, a new record, according to Johns Hopkins University, which has tracked virus figures globally. The latest victims include a six-week-old baby. […]

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The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic in the US has gone above 5,000, while confirmed cases worldwide are close to reaching one million.

There were 884 deaths in the US in 24 hours, a new record, according to Johns Hopkins University, which has tracked virus figures globally.

The latest victims include a six-week-old baby. More than 216,000 are now infected, the world’s highest figure.

Reserves of protective equipment and medical supplies are almost exhausted.

This has left the federal government and individual US states competing for safety gear, while the unprecedented demand has led to profiteering, officials in the Department for Homeland Security were quoted by the Washington Post as saying.

Follow our latest updates
The Trump administration says it can acquire adequate supplies, and has $16bn (£13bn) available to do so. State and local officials have complained about insufficient protective equipment such as masks and gowns as well as ventilators, needed to help keep patients breathing.

Meanwhile, US Vice-President Mike Pence warned the US appeared to be on a similar trajectory as Italy where the death toll has exceeded 13,000 – the worst in the world.

The number of confirmed infections across the US rose by more than 25,000 in one day. The worst-hit place is New York City, where nearly 47,500 people have tested positive and more than 1,300 have died.

Officials say as many as 240,000 people could die in the US from Covid-19 – the disease caused by the virus – even with the mitigation measures in place. In Connecticut, a six-week-old baby has died from coronavirus, believed to be America’s youngest victim of the virus so far.



What is happening in New York?

Queens, New York City’s second-most populous borough, has the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths. The area is home to a large population of low-income workers employed by the service sector who live in close proximity, and social-distancing guidelines are hard to enforce.

“While we are practising as a city, social distancing, you may have multiple families living in a very small apartment. And so it’s easy to understand why there’s a lot of transmission of Covid occurring,” said Dr Mitchell Katz, head of New York City Health + Hospitals.

The city needed 2.1 million surgical masks, 100,000 surgical gowns and 400 ventilators, among other items, by Sunday, said Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has warned that April would be worse than March as the outbreak gathered pace. He said the goal was to triple the number of hospital beds, to 65,000.

“This will be an epic process through the month of April. It’s herculean, but I believe it can be reached,” he said on Twitter.

Sobering pictures from the city have shown bodies being loaded onto refrigerated mortuary lorries outside hospitals.

What is happening elsewhere in the US?

Other clusters are flaring up in places like Detroit. In New Orleans, Ellis Marsalis Jr, a jazz pianist, teacher and father of musicians Branford and Wynton Marsalis, became the latest high-profile figure to die from complications caused by Covid-19. He was 85.

Marsalis spent most of his career in his native New Orleans, and released more than 15 albums. “Ellis Marsalis was a legend. He was the prototype of what we mean when we talk about New Orleans jazz,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

Florida, Georgia and Mississippi have become the latest US states to issue lockdown orders. More than 75% of the country’s population are now under orders to stay at home.

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis softened his stance banning two cruise ships hit with coronavirus from docking in the state. He had been adamant that the ships should not land passengers at Fort Lauderdale, but now said the decision was up to the local authorities.

A staunch ally of President Trump, the governor faced pressure from the president on Wednesday to relent. He said he had understood the passengers were all foreigners, mainly Canadians and British, and did not realise that US citizens were also aboard.

What is happening elsewhere?

In the UK, the Wimbledon tennis tournament has been cancelled for the first time since World War Two
British government officials vowed to ramp up testing within weeks, as the number of deaths in the UK saw its big daily increase – 563
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised the largest economic programme in the country’s history
The official death toll in Iran has passed 3,000 while in Spain more than 9,000 have died

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Coronavirus: India defiant as millions struggle under lockdown https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/news/coronavirus-india-defiant-as-millions-struggle-under-lockdown.html Sat, 28 Mar 2020 14:19:08 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65395 The country’s response had been “pre-emptive, pro-active and graded”, it said in a statement. India’s population of 1.3 billion was given less than four hours’ notice of the three-week lockdown on Tuesday. Officially about 900 people have coronavirus in India. However, experts worry that the real number of infections could be far higher. India has […]

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The country’s response had been “pre-emptive, pro-active and graded”, it said in a statement.

India’s population of 1.3 billion was given less than four hours’ notice of the three-week lockdown on Tuesday.

Officially about 900 people have coronavirus in India.

However, experts worry that the real number of infections could be far higher. India has one of the lowest testing rates in the world, although efforts are under way to ramp up capacity.

There are fears that an outbreak in the country – one of the world’s most densely-populated – could result in a catastrophe. So far 20 people are reported to have died.

People are banned from leaving their homes under the “total lockdown” measures.

However, there have been reports of long queues and panic buying as people struggle to get supplies.

Meanwhile, millions have been left jobless and without money by the shutdown, sparking an exodus from major cities.



Thousands of migrant workers are walking long distances back to their villages after transport was stopped.

Several state governments have promised cash handouts. Uttar Pradesh in the north is putting on buses to help stranded workers.

But there are concerns about the logistics of delivering the aid.

The government had already put in place a “comprehensive response system” at its borders before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern on 30 January, it added.

Meanwhile, the virus continues to spread rapidly in other countries around the world.

The city in China where the coronavirus pandemic began, Wuhan, has partially re-opened after more than two months of isolation. People are being allowed to enter but not leave, according to reports.
Nearly 600,000 infections have been confirmed globally and almost 28,000 deaths, according to figures collated by Johns Hopkins University
The death toll in Spain has exceeded 5,000, after it reported 832 more fatalities in the past 24 hours. Spain is the world’s worst hit country after Italy
The US now has the highest number of confirmed infections at 104,000

South Korea says that for the first time it now has more people who have recovered from the virus than are still infected. It reported 146 new cases on Saturday, taking the total to 9,478 – of whom 4,811 have been released from hospital

Russia and Ireland are among the latest countries to bring in new restrictions to try to slow the spread of the virus. In Russia, shopping centres, restaurants and cafes have been ordered to close. In Ireland, people will have to stay at home with limited exceptions for the next two weeks

In the UK, frontline National Health Service staff in England will begin being tested this weekend to see if they have coronavirus

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Coronavirus cradle Wuhan partly reopens after lockdown https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/world-news/coronavirus-cradle-wuhan-partly-reopens-after-lockdown.html Sat, 28 Mar 2020 14:10:49 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65393 Crowds of passengers were pictured arriving at Wuhan train station on Saturday. People are being allowed to enter but not leave, according to reports. Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, saw more than 50,000 coronavirus cases. At least 3,000 people in Hubei died from the disease. But numbers have fallen dramatically, according to China’s figures. […]

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Crowds of passengers were pictured arriving at Wuhan train station on Saturday.

People are being allowed to enter but not leave, according to reports.

Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, saw more than 50,000 coronavirus cases. At least 3,000 people in Hubei died from the disease.

But numbers have fallen dramatically, according to China’s figures. The state on Saturday reported 54 new cases emerging the previous day – which it said were all imported.

As it battles to control cases coming from abroad, China has announced a temporary ban on all foreign visitors, even if they have visas or residence permits. It is also limiting Chinese and foreign airlines to one flight per week, and flights must not be more than 75% full.

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2020 Tokyo Olympics Will Be Postponed Due to Coronavirus, Says IOC’s Dick Pound https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/sports/2020-tokyo-olympics-will-be-postponed-due-to-coronavirus-says-iocs-dick-pound.html Thu, 26 Mar 2020 10:45:43 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65390 The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, likely until 2021, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound told Christine Brennan of USA Today. “On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” Pound said. “The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games […]

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The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, likely until 2021, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound told Christine Brennan of USA Today.

“On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” Pound said. “The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.”

Prominent sports leagues across the world suspended play indefinitely to limit the spread of COVID-19, while UEFA postponed Euro 2020 until 2021.

The Olympics remained the most prominent holdout, however.

Japan’s Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto told reporters March 17 the country was still proceeding with the expectation the event would begin July 24.

“A complete Olympics is what we are aiming for,” she said, per BBC Sport. “We will do our utmost to prepare [to hold the Olympics] as scheduled so that the International Olympic Committee will be convinced we are capable of hosting the games.”



The International Olympic Committee also issued a statement saying it planned to wait before making a final call: “The IOC remains fully committed to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and with more than four months to go before the Games there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage; and any speculation at this moment would be counter-productive.”

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe acknowledged that delaying the Olympics was on the table but expressed concern over how the move might impact events already scheduled for 2021.

Still, many argued operating the Olympics as scheduled this summer risked not only the health of those in attendance but others to whom they would potentially spread the coronavirus as well.

Matthew Pinsent, a four-time gold medalist rower, took umbrage when IOC president Thomas Bach hedged on postponing the Olympics:

In addition to the public health concerns, USA Today’s Nancy Armour highlighted how Olympic athletes were adversely affected by the self-isolation tactics recommended by health officials. Athletes have been unable to perform their usual training regimen.

The U.S. Olympic training centers in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Lake Placid, New York, shut the doors to their athletic facilities, for example, after the governors in their respective states ordered the temporary closure of public gyms.

Postponing the 2020 Olympics undoubtedly presents some logistical problems for the IOC and the city of Tokyo, but it’s the most reasonable way to handle what are extraordinary circumstances.

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India coronavirus: $22bn bailout announced for the poor https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/business/economy/india-coronavirus-22bn-bailout-announced-for-the-poor.html Thu, 26 Mar 2020 10:28:26 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65388 India has announced a $22bn (£19bn) bailout for the country’s poor to help counter the economic effects of the Covid-19 outbreak. “We don’t want anyone to remain hungry, and we don’t want anyone to remain without money in their hands,” finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said. The package, which includes free food and cash transfers, was […]

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India has announced a $22bn (£19bn) bailout for the country’s poor to help counter the economic effects of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“We don’t want anyone to remain hungry, and we don’t want anyone to remain without money in their hands,” finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.

The package, which includes free food and cash transfers, was for “those who need immediate help”, she said.

She also said health workers would get medical insurance of up to $66,500.

Correspondents point out that this amounts to just 1% of India’s GDP – in stark contrast to the US and Singapore which are spending about 10% of their GDP on similar packages.




‘I fear hunger may kill us before coronavirus’
Is India prepared for a coronavirus outbreak?
However, this could be just stage one, with similar packages set to be announced later, they added.

India’s economy was already in the midst of a severe slowdown before the country went into lockdown, shutting workplaces, factories and affecting millions of daily-wage and informal workers.

They form India’s vast informal sector, which constitutes a large part of its workforce. The lockdown and social distancing have left many of them with no viable means of getting any income, and many have expressed fears that they could starve.

Growth had slumped to 4.7% last month – the slowest pace in years – as a steep drop in manufacturing affected overall economic health.

Barclays said the total shutdown cost to India would be around $120bn, or 4% of the country’s GDP.

Ms Sitharaman, who is also the head of an economic task force announced by the prime minister, said that workers under an employment guarantee scheme would get a wage increment, and that recipients of other welfare schemes would also get benefits, like free gas cylinders instead of just subsidised ones.

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Coronavirus: US Senate passes $2tn disaster aid bill https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/health/medical/coronavirus-us-senate-passes-2tn-disaster-aid-bill.html Thu, 26 Mar 2020 10:11:43 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65382 The US Senate has passed a $2 trillion (£1.7tn) coronavirus aid bill that is the largest economic stimulus in US history. The vote was delayed by a last-minute row between Republican and Democratic senators over unemployment benefits. The plan includes direct payments of $1,200 to most American adults and aid to help small businesses pay […]

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The US Senate has passed a $2 trillion (£1.7tn) coronavirus aid bill that is the largest economic stimulus in US history.
The vote was delayed by a last-minute row between Republican and Democratic senators over unemployment benefits.
The plan includes direct payments of $1,200 to most American adults and aid to help small businesses pay workers.
US coronavirus deaths are around the 1,000 mark and there have been nearly 70,000 confirmed infections.
More than 21,000 people with coronavirus have died across the world since it emerged in China’s Hubei province in December, while the number of infections is racing towards half a million.
Southern Europe is now the centre of the pandemic, with Italy and Spain recording hundreds of new deaths every day.
What was the snag in Congress? President Donald Trump, a Republican, said on Wednesday he would sign the fast-tracked bill as soon as it reached his desk.
But the plan hit a speed bump as Republican senators Tim Scott, Rick Scott, Ben Sasse and Lindsey Graham said its major expansion of unemployment benefits provided “a strong incentive for employees to be laid off instead of going to work”.

They said they would oppose the bill unless it was fixed to ensure workers could not have a higher income while unemployed than in a job.
Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, said he would oppose the bill unless the Republicans dropped their objections. He also demanded tougher conditions on the legislation’s “corporate welfare”.
In the end the Republican senators were allowed a vote on their amendment, which failed.
The bill does have cross-party support but it must still be passed in votes in the Senate and House of Representatives before the president signs it into law.
With revisions being made to the bill late into Wednesday, the Republican-majority Senate finally, and unanimously, approved it with a 96-0 vote. It now moves on to the House which is expected to vote on Friday.
The face of America’s fight against Covid-19 Trump says US tested more than S Korea – is he right? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was “proud” that not a single senator voted against the bill.
The chamber’s senior Democrat, Senator Chuck Schumer, said: “And so this is a good ending, twists and turns were enormous. I always had faith we would [pass this bill] because America and the American people demanded it.”
What do we know about the deal? The agreement reached by Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate includes tax rebates, loans, money for hospitals and rescue packages.
The nearly 900-page bill has a price tag that amounts to roughly half the size of the US government’s annual budget, and includes:
Direct payments of $1,200 to millions of individuals who earn $75,000 or less, and an additional $500 per each child An expansion of unemployment aid including payments, for the first time, to people who are self-employed or work in the gig economy A $500bn fund to help companies, which includes loans to hard-hit sectors such as the airline industry $350bn in loans for small businesses $100bn for hospitals and related health systems on the frontlines of the pandemic Mr McConnell described the package as a “wartime level of investment” in the US nation.
The Democratic speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said she hoped the bill could be passed by voice vote.
That would allow members of Congress – several of whom have coronavirus or are self-isolating – to stay away from the chamber in order to cast their votes.
But if any member objected, lawmakers would be asked to return to Washington and vote over the course of an entire day, in order to limit how many people are present on the House floor at one time.
What’s the latest from the virus hotspot of New York? New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday it was likely half of America’s most populous city of more than eight million would catch coronavirus by the time the pandemic ran its course.
The city’s death toll reached 280, officials said on Wednesday night, with 20,011 confirmed cases.
On Tuesday, 13 patients died in a matter of hours at a hospital in the Queens borough of the city, with a young doctor there describing “apocalyptic” scenes, according to the New York Times.
But there were signs of hope. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke of tentative indications that the spread of the disease may be slowing.
On Sunday, hospital admissions were doubling every two days. But by Monday that rate had fallen to every 3.4 days, and on Tuesday every 4.7 days, Mr Cuomo said.
The whole of New York state has had 285 coronavirus deaths and more than 30,800 patients – about half the total US caseload.
What is the situation elsewhere in the US? The US Federal Emergency Management Agency said New York, North Carolina and Hawaii had requested special mortuary teams to be ready for mass casualties.
New Orleans, in Louisiana, where crowds celebrated Mardi Gras last month, has recorded the world’s highest growth rate in coronavirus cases.
California’s Governor Gavin Newsom said one million Californians had registered as unemployed just this month.
The US is more than midway through a 15-day attempt to slow the spread of the virus through social distancing.
Two more states – Minnesota and Idaho – issued state-wide “stay at home” orders on Wednesday, joining at least 17 others.
The president said on Tuesday that reopening the country by Easter would be a “beautiful timeline”.
But Dr Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease expert who is helping lead the US response to coronavirus, told CNN on Wednesday: “The virus makes the timeline.”
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Coronavirus LIVE: ‘With folded hands’ PM announces 21-day India lockdown https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/news/coronavirus-live-with-folded-hands-pm-announces-21-day-india-lockdown.html Tue, 24 Mar 2020 17:25:19 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65368 Coronavirus LIVE updates: Prime Minister Narendra Modi locked down India for 21-days barring essential services from Tuesday midnight amid Coronavirus pandemic.  “If the virus doesn’t control in these 21-days, India will go back by 21 years. I appeal with folded hands that please don’t  get out of your homes during lockdown,” PM Modi said during his address to […]

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Coronavirus LIVE updates: Prime Minister Narendra Modi locked down India for 21-days barring essential services from Tuesday midnight amid Coronavirus pandemic. 


“If the virus doesn’t control in these 21-days, India will go back by 21 years. I appeal with folded hands that please don’t  get out of your homes during lockdown,” PM Modi said during his address to the nation.
“There is absolutely no need to panic, by converging around shops, you are risking spread of Covid-19,” he added


The government had earlier deferred deadlines for filing tax returns, extended a tax amnesty program and unveiled other relief steps, while promising more measures to support the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic that’s infected over 400,000 people globally and 519 in India and brought normal life to a halt.
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Stocks Rebound From Monday’s Collapse https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/business/stocks-rebound-from-mondays-collapse.html Tue, 24 Mar 2020 12:44:10 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65365 After suffering their worst day in decades, stocks bounced back on Tuesday as Washington policymakers talked up plans to try to cushion an economy careening toward a deep recession driven by the coronavirus outbreak. The S&P 500 rose 6 percent, rebounding from a 12 percent collapse on Monday, which was its steepest drop since 1987. […]

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After suffering their worst day in decades, stocks bounced back on Tuesday as Washington policymakers talked up plans to try to cushion an economy careening toward a deep recession driven by the coronavirus outbreak.

The S&P 500 rose 6 percent, rebounding from a 12 percent collapse on Monday, which was its steepest drop since 1987.


Early trading was unsteady, and stocks briefly fell into negative territory. They then surged after the Federal Reserve said it would use its emergency lending powers to try to keep credit flowing to households and businesses in the United States by buying up commercial paper. Shares in Europe also recovered from early losses to end higher.

The market for commercial paper is part of the normally invisible plumbing of the American financial system, but it had become frozen in recent days. Companies and financial entities borrow billions by issuing commercial paper to fund their operations and manage their daily cash flows.

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On Tuesday evening, the Fed announced yet another program intended to spur lending. The new Primary Dealers Credit Facility is similar to one the central bank unveiled in 2008 to help banks — known as primary dealers — that are conduits between the Fed, Treasury Department and broader financial system.

Still, even if the financial system functions well, a daunting economic challenge continues to face the American economy, as the spread of the coronavirus forces federal, state and local officials to take simultaneous actions that will cut consumer spending. Such spending accounts for roughly 70 percent of American gross domestic product.

On Tuesday, economists from S&P Global Ratings wrote that they expected the United States’ economy to shrink by 1 percent in the first quarter, and 6 percent in the second quarter, putting the country in recession. That 6 percent drop would be the sharpest falloff in economic activity since 2008.

Even as stocks gained, the trading on Tuesday reflected some of these concerns. The best performing parts of the market were traditionally defensive areas, such as the utilities and consumer staples, where investors typically hide out during trying economic times. Oil prices also fell.


“This is the type of news the market wants,” Ilya Feygin, managing director at the institutional brokerage firm WallachBeth, said in an email. “Aid to households and businesses and attacking the virus directly, not monetary gimmicks.”

Latest Updates: Markets and Business
The Fed’s rescue plan is undermined by a drum beat of bad news.
As Fox News played down the coronavirus, its chief protected himself.
As virus surveillance escalates, personal privacy plummets.
See more updates
More live coverage: Global U.S. New York
Airlines and lawmakers discuss terms of a bailout.
Congressional leaders and airlines on Tuesday started to negotiate a bailout for the industry, which has been hobbled by the coronavirus outbreak, a day after an airline association proposed more than $50 billion in federal grants and loans.

The Trump administration has said that it wants to help airlines, and intends to include aid for them in a broader $850 billion package of economic stimulus measures it is proposing as a response to the outbreak. Separately, Democratic leaders in the House spoke with airline chief executives by phone Tuesday afternoon after hearing from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has been a central point of contact within the administration.

In Tuesday’s call, the airline executives and members of Congress specifically discussed limiting executive bonuses and shares buybacks and protecting employees from layoffs or furloughs. They also discussed protecting collective bargaining and reversing any union concessions when the industry recovers. The airlines indicated that furloughs would be a last resort, according to a person familiar with the call, but unauthorized to discuss it publicly.

Airlines for America, an industry association, asked the federal government on Monday for a $58 billion bailout, equally split between grants and loans and loan guarantees, for passenger and cargo airlines. It is also seeking help in the form of a temporary tax break.

“Carriers are burning through cash as cancellations far outpace new bookings,” Katherine Estep, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, said in a statement.

In a sign of the stress on the industry, Moody’s on Tuesday downgraded the debt of Southwest Airlines, which borrowed $1 billion last week, and put it on watch for further downgrades. Moody’s said the carrier, the most consistently profitable U.S. airline, “remains vulnerable to the outbreak continuing to spread” and that the outbreak could depress travel demand through “at least June.”

Mnuchin warns that unemployment could approach 20 percent without government help.

The comments came while Mr. Mnuchin was making the White House’s pitch to lawmakers to back a $1 trillion fiscal stimulus package that would include $250 billion of checks being sent to Americans suffering from the fallout of the coronavirus epidemic.

Mr. Mnuchin said that the jobless rate could go up by 5, 10 or 15 percentage points if there is no intervention, according to two people familiar with his comments. The jobless rate currently sits at 3.5 percent.

Monica Crowley, a spokeswoman for Mr. Mnuchin, said that the Treasury secretary’s comments were not a projection and that because Congress was taking additional action, he did not believe the unemployment rate would reach 20 percent.

“During the meeting with Senate Republicans today, Secretary Mnuchin used several mathematical examples for illustrative purposes, but he never implied this would be the case,” Ms. Crowley said in a statement.

Since World War II, the United States has never seen unemployment rise above 11 percent, the level it nearly reached in the recession of the early 1980s. It reached 10 percent, briefly, during the 2008 financial crisis.

The White House is seeking ways to use smartphone location data in its virus response.
The Trump administration has spoken with large technology companies about how their access to geolocation data from smartphones can aid in the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

At a recent meeting, a group of tech companies discussed the use of anonymous, aggregated geolocation data to respond to the spread of the virus with the White House and other administration officials, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. They also discussed how that would intersect with user privacy, the people said.

The Centers for Disease Control asked during the meeting about the prospect of using the data to track demand for hospitals around the country, which are expected to be deluged by patients, one of the people said. The conversations were first reported by The Washington Post.

Facebook has also discussed with the U.S. government the maps it produces to track disasters using satellite and census data, said a company spokesman, Andy Stone. It is also working to provide nonprofit groups — which can work with local, state and federal authorities — with a second set of mapping tools that use smartphone location data that Facebook users can choose to share.

The possible use of geolocation data raises questions about user privacy, especially as policymakers are increasingly asking about the power of major tech companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google.

But analysis of aggregated data would be different from aggressive measures to track individual patients using their phones. In Israel, for example, the government has moved to use cellphone data to retrace the steps of virus patients.

Autoworkers demand that the Big 3 shut down, while European factories are idled.

Pressure mounted Tuesday for General Motors, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler to close their factories, while Europe’s auto manufacturing was brought virtually at a standstill after Daimler, Ford Motor and Nissan joined Volkswagen and most other major carmakers in shutting down.

The United Automobile Workers union has called on the three Detroit carmakers to shut down manufacturing plants across the United States for two weeks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, a request the companies have so far denied.

In an email sent to U.A.W. members on Tuesday, the union’s president, Rory Gamble, said he had requested the shutdown in a meeting on Sunday with the chief executives of General Motors, Ford Motor, and Fiat Chrysler, based on the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

“Your U.A.W. leadership feels very strongly, and argued very strongly, that this is the most responsible course of action,” Mr. Gamble said in the email.

The automakers have responded by taking actions to protect workers, such as extending down time between shifts to allow for sanitizing of equipment and common areas in the plants.

Jim Cain, a G.M. spokesman, said the company was trying to keep factory workers safe while being mindful of the potential economic impact of a broad shutdown and of the hardship employees could face if they were no longer earning paychecks.

In Europe, Ford said the suspension would take effect Thursday and last “for a number of weeks” depending on the spread of the pandemic, as well as disruptions to supply chains, government restrictions on travel, and declines in sales.

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Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.
Facebook announced a $100 million grant program for small businesses around the world that are affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The company said in a blog post that it would begin accepting applications in the coming weeks.

Macy’s said on Tuesday that it would close all its stores, including Bloomingdale’s, through March 31. The company added that it would provide benefits and compensation to its work force.

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Coronavirus: Boris Johnson announces three-week UK lockdown https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/world-news/coronavirus-boris-johnson-announces-three-week-uk-lockdown.html Tue, 24 Mar 2020 12:35:05 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65363 Boris Johnson has announced a complete lockdown of the UK, banning people from leaving their homes or meeting in groups of more than two people as the Government scrambles to enforce social distancing measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. In a public address to the nation this evening, the Prime Minister said the public […]

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Boris Johnson has announced a complete lockdown of the UK, banning people from leaving their homes or meeting in groups of more than two people as the Government scrambles to enforce social distancing measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

In a public address to the nation this evening, the Prime Minister said the public will not be allowed to leave their homes except for a few specific reasons, and could be fined £30 for meeting outside in groups of more than two people.




All non-essential shops will close, as will outdoor gyms, kiosks and places of worship, except for funerals.

The unprecedented measures were prompted by fears in Downing Street that its coronavirus suppression measures have been ignored by the public, and modelling that suggests at least three quarters of people must follow them for the NHS to be kept afloat.

Under the new lockdown, members of the public must not leave their house except to :

Shop for essentials, as infrequently as possible
Exercise outdoors once per day, alone or with household members
Receive medical treatment or provide care
Travel to and from work if impossible to work from home

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U.S. safety agency reviewing fatal Tesla crash in Florida https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/technology/u-s-safety-agency-reviewing-fatal-tesla-crash-in-florida.html Fri, 11 May 2018 07:38:27 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65341 U.S. safety agency reviewing fatal Tesla crash in Florida The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Thursday it was reviewing a Florida crash of a Tesla Inc vehicle earlier this week that killed two teenagers. NHTSA said in a statement it was “gathering information on the tragic crash in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to […]

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U.S. safety agency reviewing fatal Tesla crash in Florida

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Thursday it was reviewing a Florida crash of a Tesla Inc vehicle earlier this week that killed two teenagers.

NHTSA said in a statement it was “gathering information on the tragic crash in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to understand all of the facts. The agency will take appropriate action based on its review.”

The National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday it was opening a probe into the crash and sending four investigators.

Earlier, Tesla said its autopilot system was unlikely to have been a factor in the crash. Autopilot, a form of advanced cruise control that has come under scrutiny after two crashes this year, was not engaged when the Model S car drove off the road and hit a concrete wall, catching fire, the company said, adding it had not yet seen logs from the crash.

“We have not yet been able to retrieve the logs from the vehicle, but everything we have seen thus far indicates a very high-speed collision and that autopilot was not engaged,” a Tesla spokesperson said.

The NTSB has four active investigations into crashes of the company’s electric vehicles.

While admitting that serious high-speed collisions could result in a fire, the Tesla spokesperson defended the car’s safety record, saying a gas car in the United States is five times more likely to catch fire than a Tesla vehicle.

In the event of an accident, eight airbags protect front and rear occupants, and the battery system automatically disconnects from the main power source, Tesla has said previously in promotional materials for the car.

“Should the worst happen, there is no safer car to be in than Model S,” according to a company brochure for the 2014 Model S.

NHTSA previously has said it is investigating two other Tesla crashes earlier this year, including a fatal March crash involving Autopilot in California.

Source:- https://www.reuters.com/article/us-tesla-crash/u-s-safety-agency-reviewing-fatal-tesla-crash-in-florida-idUSKBN1IB1HX

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Facebook asks European users which news sources they trust https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/technology/facebook-asks-european-users-which-news-sources-they-trust.html Fri, 11 May 2018 07:24:59 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65332 Facebook asks European users which news sources they trust Facebook is asking users in Europe which news sources they trust to help it gauge whether to extend a change to its News Feed that it made in the United States earlier this year, designed to filter out misinformation. In January, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg […]

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Facebook asks European users which news sources they trust

Facebook is asking users in Europe which news sources they trust to help it gauge whether to extend a change to its News Feed that it made in the United States earlier this year, designed to filter out misinformation.

In January, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the News Feed, the social media company’s centerpiece service, would prioritize “high quality news” over less trusted sources as part of its fight against false information on the platform.

Facebook has been criticized for failing to prevent false reports – originating from alleged Russia operatives, for-profit spammers and others – spreading on its platform, notably during the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign.

It has also had a stormy relationship with news organizations, especially those with strong political leanings.

Zuckerberg said in January there was too much “sensationalism, misinformation and polarization” in the world, and social media was making the problem worse.

“Social media enables people to spread information faster than ever before, and if we don’t specifically tackle these problems, then we end up amplifying them,” he wrote then.

The company, which has more than 2 billion monthly users, turned to its members to determine how news outlets ranked in terms of trustworthiness, using short surveys on the site.

On Thursday, it said it would start showing similar two-part surveys to users in Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, asking them if they are familiar with specific news sources, for example BBC News or the Guardian, and if they trust them.

A Facebook spokesman said the results of the survey would not currently affect the ranking or the composition of News Feed in Britain or any of the other countries yet.

The company said it would announce if it decided to implement any changes.

Source:- https://www.reuters.com/article/us-facebook-media-europe/facebook-asks-european-users-which-news-sources-they-trust-idUSKBN1IB2IN

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Chipmaker Nvidia sees fewer crypto miners, more gamers in future https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/technology/chipmaker-nvidia-sees-fewer-crypto-miners-more-gamers-in-future.html Fri, 11 May 2018 07:20:43 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65331 Chipmaker Nvidia sees fewer crypto miners, more gamers in future Too many cryptocurrency clients and fewer cloud computing orders than expected underwhelmed Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O) investors on Thursday, although the graphics chip maker said a supply shortage that hit its core video game audience had eased. The U.S. company best known for chips that enhance […]

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Chipmaker Nvidia sees fewer crypto miners, more gamers in future

Too many cryptocurrency clients and fewer cloud computing orders than expected underwhelmed Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O) investors on Thursday, although the graphics chip maker said a supply shortage that hit its core video game audience had eased.

The U.S. company best known for chips that enhance video game graphics has diversified into an array of businesses including artificial intelligence, self-driving cars and digital mining, but investors are most concerned with its inroads in the market for cloud computing.

Revenue from Nvidia’s data center business, which powers cloud-based services such as Amazon.com’s (AMZN.O) Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Corp’s (MSFT.O) Azure as well as Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google Cloud, rose 71 percent to $701 million, but missed analysts’ estimate of $703 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The Santa Clara, California company for the first time disclosed that it made $289 million in sales – about 9 percent of its overall $3.2 billion in revenue – from chips for mining cryptocurrencies.

Analysts had expected $200 million and the greater reliance on the fast-growing but volatile business contributed to shares falling 3.3 percent to $251.66 in extended trading. Nvidia shares have gained 34.4 percent this year, propelling the stock to the top of the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index .SOX. They touched a record high at $260.50 on Thursday before the announcement.

Chief Financial Officer Colette Kress said that the company expects cryptocurrency-related revenue to fall 65 percent to about $100 million in the next quarter. Retail prices for Nvidia’s gaming chips surged earlier this year as miners snapped up chips, a development Nvidia addressed by releasing mining-specific chips.

“While supply was tight earlier in the quarter, the situation is now easing,” Kress told investors on a conference call. “Gamers who had been priced out of the market last quarter” were able to get their hands on new chips a reasonable price, she said.

Analyst Kevin Cassidy from Stifel said the reliance on cryptocurrency concerned some investors. Moreover, he said, Nvidia’s earnings were mostly in line with expectations, “which may not be good enough for shares trading at 40x forward earnings.”

Data center industry sales have boomed as cloud services build out new facilities. Intel Corp (INTC.O) last month said it had posted its biggest-ever quarterly jump in its data center business. For its part, Nvidia said it doubled sales of chips used by cloud companies for so-called deep learning.

Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy said he was not concerned by the lower-than-expected data center revenue because the buying patterns of huge cloud customers were “lumpy.”

Revenue from Nvidia’s best-known business of gaming chips rose 68 percent to $1.72 billion, beating analysts’ average estimate of $1.65 billion.

“At the core of it, gaming is strong,” Chief Executive Jensen Huang told investors on the conference call. “The pent-up demand is quite significant and I’m expecting the gamers to be able to buy new GeForces pretty soon.”

A cryptocurrency boom has powered growth at Nvidia and rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc (AMD.O), but the sector is battling volatility caused by swings in the currency’s value.

Revenue from Nvidia’s automotive business, which includes its Drive platform used in self-driving cars, rose 4 percent to $145 million, also topping analysts’ estimate of $132 million.

Nvidia in March suspended self-driving tests across the globe, a week after an Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] autonomous vehicle struck and killed a 49-year-old woman crossing a street in Arizona. But CEO Huang remained optimistic.

“I expect that driverless taxis will start going to market about 2019,” Huang told investors.

The company’s net income rose to $1.24 billion, or $1.98 per share, in the first quarter ended April 29, from $507 million, or 79 cents per share, a year earlier.

Total revenue rose to $3.21 billion from $1.94 billion.

Excluding items, Nvidia earned $2.05 per share.

Analysts on average had expected revenue of $2.91 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Source:- https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nvidia-results/chipmaker-nvidia-sees-fewer-crypto-miners-more-gamers-in-future-idUSKBN1IB2X8

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Cisco pulls all online ads from YouTube https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/technology/cisco-pulls-all-online-ads-from-youtube.html Fri, 11 May 2018 07:17:20 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65330 Cisco pulls all online ads from YouTube Network gear maker Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) is pulling all online ads from YouTube due to fears of the ads appearing on sensitive content on the platform, Cisco’s chief marketing officer, Karen Walker, said in a blog on Wednesday. The blog, which seemed to have been removed from […]

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Cisco pulls all online ads from YouTube

Network gear maker Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) is pulling all online ads from YouTube due to fears of the ads appearing on sensitive content on the platform, Cisco’s chief marketing officer, Karen Walker, said in a blog on Wednesday.

The blog, which seemed to have been removed from Cisco’s website on Thursday, said the company would not like its ads to “accidentally end up in the wrong place, such as on a streaming video with sensitive content,” adding that the network gear maker will continue to use YouTube as a platform to share Cisco’s video content.

Alphabet Inc’s Google (GOOGL.O), which owns YouTube, said it has partnered with advertisers to make changes.

“We have partnered with advertisers to make significant changes to how we approach monetization on YouTube with stricter policies, better controls and greater transparency. We are committed to continuing this dialogue and getting this right,” a Google spokesperson told Reuters.

Cisco’s action follows a CNN report cnnmon.ie/2jOhAXZ in April that said ads from over 300 companies, including Cisco, ran on extremist channels on YouTube.

The companies may have unknowingly helped finance some of these channels through the advertisements they paid for YouTube, according to the CNN report.

Cisco did not respond to a request seeking comment on the blog’s removal from its website.

YouTube said in a report released last month that it had deleted about 5 million videos from its platform for content policy violations in last year’s fourth quarter before any viewers saw them.

Source:- https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cisco-systems-youtube-advertising/cisco-pulls-all-online-ads-from-youtube-idUSKBN1IB38B

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U.S. ‘net neutrality’ rules will expire on June 11: FCC https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/technology/u-s-net-neutrality-rules-will-expire-on-june-11-fcc.html Fri, 11 May 2018 07:13:40 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65329 U.S. ‘net neutrality’ rules will expire on June 11: FCC Landmark U.S. “net neutrality” rules will expire on June 11, and new regulations handing providers broad new power over how consumers can access the internet will take effect, the Federal Communications Commission said on Thursday in setting the date. The FCC in December repealed the […]

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U.S. ‘net neutrality’ rules will expire on June 11: FCC

Landmark U.S. “net neutrality” rules will expire on June 11, and new regulations handing providers broad new power over how consumers can access the internet will take effect, the Federal Communications Commission said on Thursday in setting the date.

The FCC in December repealed the Obama-era open-internet rules set in 2015, which bars providers from blocking or slowing down access to content or charging consumers more for certain content.

The prior rules were intended to ensure a free and open internet, give consumers equal access to web content and bar broadband service providers from favoring their own material or others.

The new rules require internet providers to tell consumers whether they will block or slow content or offer paid “fast lanes.”

Comcast Corp, Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc have all pledged to not block or discriminate against legal content after the net neutrality rules expire.

Reuters first reported the June 11 effective date, disclosed in an FCC document on Thursday.

Acting New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, a Democrat, said “the repeal of net neutrality would allow internet service providers to put their profits before the consumers they serve and control what we see, do, and say online.” A spokeswoman for Underwood said the state attorneys general have not sought a stay of the FCC order yet.

A group of 22 states led by New York and others have sued to try to block the new rules from taking effect, and the U.S. Senate may vote as early as next week to reject the December repeal.

The revised rules were a win for internet service providers, whose practices faced significant government oversight and FCC investigations under the 2015 order, but are opposed by internet firms like Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc.

Some internet providers have said they could eventually offer paid fast lanes, also known as paid prioritization, for some future internet traffic.

The repeal of net neutrality is the latest thread in a broader pattern of Republican Trump administration reversals of Democratic Obama administration policies or achievements, such as the Paris climate accords and the Iran nuclear agreement.

Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told reporters on Thursday the rollback of the rules would not harm consumers and would return the internet to the pre-2015 era. “The effect of this will be better, faster, cheaper internet access and the free and open internet that we have had for many, many years,” he said.

Pai said the FCC gave internet providers 30 days to comply with the new transparency rules. He said many politicians had sought to “mislead” the public about the repeal’s impact.

“Now everyone will be able to see the truth for themselves,” Pai said.

Democrats objected.

“The agency failed to listen to the American public and gave short shrift to their deeply held belief that internet openness should remain the law of the land,” FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, said on Thursday. “The FCC is on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American people.”

The U.S. Senate is set to vote as early as next week on whether to reject the FCC repeal of the net neutrality rules, but that effort faces an uphill battle.

Proponents currently have the backing of 47 Democrats and the two independents who caucus with Democrats, as well as Republican Senator Susan Collins. With the prolonged absence of Republican Senator John McCain due to illness, proponents believe they will win on a 50-49 vote.

Senator Ed Markey said it was “likely” the vote will take place in the middle of next week. On Wednesday, senators officially filed a petition to force a net neutrality vote and 10 hours of floor debate under the Congressional Review Act.

Following Thursday’s FCC announcement, Markey wrote on Twitter: “the Senate must act NOW and pass my resolution to save the internet as we know it.”

If the Senate approves the measure, it would not likely pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. If the legislation were to pass the House, President Donald Trump would be expected to veto it.

The FCC voted in December 3-2 to reverse the Obama-era rules barring service providers from blocking, slowing access to or charging more for certain online content, but said under government regulatory rules it would take months before they could legally take effect.

In February, a coalition of 22 state attorneys general refiled legal challenges intended to block the repeal of net neutrality. A number of states have adopted laws aimed at dissuading internet providers from abandoning net neutrality.

Democrats have said they believe the issue would be key in November’s midterm congressional elections, especially among younger internet-savvy voters.

Republicans have said the FCC repeal would eliminate heavy-handed government regulations and encourage investment.

Source:- https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-internet/u-s-net-neutrality-rules-will-expire-on-june-11-fcc-idUSKBN1IB1UN

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Malaysia’s Mahathir says king willing to grant full pardon for Anwar https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/world-news/malaysias-mahathir-says-king-willing-to-grant-full-pardon-for-anwar.html Fri, 11 May 2018 05:49:33 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65321 Malaysia’s Mahathir says king willing to grant full pardon for Anwar Malaysia’s newly-elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Friday that the country’s monarch has indicated he was willing to grant a full pardon to jailed politician Anwar Ibrahim immediately. The Southeast Asian nation’s political landscape has been shaped for nearly two decades by a […]

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Malaysia’s Mahathir says king willing to grant full pardon for Anwar

Malaysia’s newly-elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Friday that the country’s monarch has indicated he was willing to grant a full pardon to jailed politician Anwar Ibrahim immediately.

The Southeast Asian nation’s political landscape has been shaped for nearly two decades by a bitter feud between Anwar and Mahathir, whose decision to sack Anwar as his deputy sparked an opposition movement, Reformasi, or Reform, in 1998.

But in 2016, Mahathir abandoned the long-ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, and joined Anwar’s opposition alliance to fight against scandal-hit former premier Najib Razak.

“It is going to be a full pardon, which means not only pardoned, but he is released immediately and after that he will be free to participate fully in politics,” Mahathir told reporters a day after he was sworn to office following his alliance’s shock win in Wednesday’s election.

At 92, he is the world’s oldest elected leader.

Mahathir said the king indicated he was willing to pardon Anwar immediately. A full pardon by the king would mean Anwar can return to active politics.

Before the election, Mahathir had said he would step down and give the prime minister’s post to Anwar when he is pardoned. He has said Anwar’s wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail will be the deputy prime minister in his cabinet.

Reporters and Anwar supporters were gathering outside a hospital in Kuala Lumpur where he is recovering from a shoulder surgery. His wife also arrived at the hospital and an alliance source said Mahathir was due to visit later in the day.

Anwar, 70, was due to be released on June 8 with time taken off his sentence for good behavior. He began a five-year sentence for sodomy in 2015, a charge he and his supporters say was politically motivated.

Mahathir said he will announced a cabinet on Saturday that would include himself, Wan Azizah and 10 others, including the ministers for finance, foreign affairs, defense and home affairs.

“Whether Anwar will be part of the cabinet or not will be decided when the time comes,” he said.

Mahathir said initial policies would focus on fulfilling promises made in alliance’s manifesto, including the abolition of a goods and services tax (GST).

“In the case of foreign affairs, we want to maintain good relations with all countries regardless of their policies,” he said. “We do not want to favor any country, we want to ensure that the market for Malaysia is as large as possible.”

NERVOUS INVESTORS

Mahathir has vowed to reassure financial markets and return billions of dollars lost in a graft scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which was a major factor in the election and in the ouster of Najib, Mahathir’s predecessor and former protege.

The new prime minister said the country’s attorney general was wrong to clear Najib in the 1MDB probe in 2016.

“He, in fact, has hidden evidence of wrongdoing, and that is wrong in law. We have to do what is permitted by the laws of this country,” Mahathir said.

Malaysian markets were closed and will reopen on Monday, but overseas investors were nervous about Najib’s ouster after a decade in office.

Mahathir said his government would look into measures to stabilize the ringgit, and talk to departments on what could be done.

Mahathir, dubbed the “Father of Modern Malaysia” during his previous 22 years in power until 2003 was known for his strong-arm, sometimes pugnacious style of rule, marked by an intolerance for dissent. But he was also credited for transforming his Southeast Asian country from a sleepy backwater into a modern industrialized nation.

Source:- https://www.reuters.com/article/us-malaysia-election/election-over-new-malaysia-pm-gets-down-to-business-idUSKBN1IC09J

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Exclusive: Sanctioned Russian tycoon hands back his private jets https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/world-news/exclusive-sanctioned-russian-tycoon-hands-back-his-private-jets.html Fri, 11 May 2018 05:45:15 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65319 Exclusive: Sanctioned Russian tycoon hands back his private jets Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska has handed back three private jets he was leasing because U.S. sanctions imposed on him last month make it impossible to keep using the planes, the firm retained by the owners to sell the aircraft said on Thursday. The aircraft are Gulfstream […]

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Exclusive: Sanctioned Russian tycoon hands back his private jets

Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska has handed back three private jets he was leasing because U.S. sanctions imposed on him last month make it impossible to keep using the planes, the firm retained by the owners to sell the aircraft said on Thursday.

The aircraft are Gulfstream executive jets, favored by jet-setting business people for their long range and plush interiors. They are now on sale, with the asking price for two of them set at $29.95 million each.

The return of the aircraft is an indication of how deeply the sanctions have affected Deripaska’s business empire, extending beyond the direct impact on his Rusal aluminum firm, whose sales and supply chains have been heavily disrupted.

Alireza Ittihadieh, director of Freestream, an aviation sales company that listed the three jets for sale, said the jets were owned by lenders Credit Suisse and Raiffeisen, and were then leased via a management company to Deripaska-controlled firms.

“Who was using it? Senior management, including Deripaska himself,” Ittihadieh told Reuters in a phone interview.

“He’s sanctioned, his companies are sanctioned, he has to return the aircraft. He has to early-terminate the leases, under sanctions rules,” he said, without specifying which sanctions rules applied in this case.

A representative of Rusal’s press service said the firm declined to comment.

A spokesman for Credit Suisse declined to comment on a specific case, but said: “Credit Suisse works with international regulators wherever it does business to ensure compliance with sanctions. This includes compliance with the recent sanctions involving Russia.”

A spokeswoman for Raiffeisen said she could not reply to Reuters questions because Thursday was a public holiday in Austria. She also said that “due to the banking secrecy law we cannot comment on potential clients.”

Deripaska was included on a U.S. sanctions blacklist on April 6 because, officials in Washington said, he and other Russian oligarchs had profited from the “malign activities” of the Kremlin around the globe.

Anyone included on the list is barred from entering the United States, and U.S. firms and citizens are barred from doing business with individuals or companies that have been blacklisted.

Non-U.S. companies can also be punished by Washington if it deems they have engaged in significant transactions with a sanctioned entity. Banking sources say that has made European banks wary of handling transactions involving Deripaska or any firms connected to him.

GREY-AND-WHITE LIVERY

According to the Isle of Man civil aircraft register, where the three jets are registered, their owners are offshore companies whose shareholders are not publicly disclosed.

All three are Gulfstream G550 aircraft, which each cost around $50 million when new. They each have the same distinctive grey-and-white livery, according to photographs accompanying the sales listings, and images posted online by amateur plane-spotters.

The G550 jets have a range of 12,500 km (7,770 miles) and can come fitted with options such as a private stateroom and hand-tailored leather seats.

Ittihadieh, the aviation sales executive, said the owners of the aircraft opted to sell once Deripaska and his businesses ended the lease.

“The bank doesn’t need the assets,” he said. “Banks take assets. Once the lease return takes place, they either sell it or they re-lease it. And in this case they have a five-year old asset and they have chosen to sell them.”

The two aircraft for sale at $29.95 million were manufactured in 2012 and carry the tail numbers M-ALAY and M-UGIC. The third aircraft, with the tail number M-SAWO, was manufactured in 2005, and no asking price was listed.

When the sanctions were imposed, the M-UGIC aircraft was in Basel, Switzerland, publicly-available flight tracking data shows. The day after the sanctions on Deripaska, April 7, the jet flew back to Moscow.

The older aircraft, with the tail number M-SAWO, was in Buffalo, New York State, the day the sanctions were imposed, according to data available on two websites that track private jets, Virtual Radar and adsbexchange.com. The following day it flew to New York City and from there on to Russia.

A week later, the aircraft made a tour of cities in Siberia where Deripaska has factories. Sources close to Rusal told Reuters that at the time Deripaska was visiting those factories.

In one past case of sanctions affecting the travel arrangements of a Russian tycoon, oil trader Gennady Timchenko told Russian state news agency Tass that Gulfstream stopped servicing his jet because he was put on a U.S. sanctions blacklist in 2014.

Source:- https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-sanctions-russia-rusal-jets-exclu/exclusive-sanctioned-russian-tycoon-hands-back-his-private-jets-idUSKBN1IB2JR

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Trump seeks ‘very meaningful’ summit in Singapore with North Korea https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/world-news/trump-seeks-very-meaningful-summit-in-singapore-with-north-korea.html Fri, 11 May 2018 05:41:15 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65318 Trump seeks ‘very meaningful’ summit in Singapore with North Korea U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he had high hopes of “doing something very meaningful” to curtail North Korea’s nuclear ambitions at a summit in Singapore next month, after Pyongyang smoothed the way for talks by freeing three American prisoners. The date and location […]

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Trump seeks ‘very meaningful’ summit in Singapore with North Korea

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he had high hopes of “doing something very meaningful” to curtail North Korea’s nuclear ambitions at a summit in Singapore next month, after Pyongyang smoothed the way for talks by freeing three American prisoners.

The date and location of the first-ever meeting of a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader were announced by Trump on Twitter.

“The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th. We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!” Trump wrote.

He made the announcement after a U.S. government aircraft touched down at Joint Base Andrews near Washington carrying the Americans who were released by North Korea in a move to clear the way for the bilateral summit.

The ex-prisoners are Korean-American missionary Kim Dong-chul, who was sentenced in 2016 to 10 years’ hard labor; Kim Sang-duk, also known as Tony Kim, who taught for a month at a foreign-funded university before he was arrested in 2017; and Kim Hak-song, who also taught there and was detained last year.

North Korean state media said they were arrested for subversion or “hostile acts” against Pyongyang.

Trump faces a difficult task persuading Kim to abandon nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests that heightened U.S.-North Korean tensions throughout 2017.

The two men exchanged fiery rhetoric last year over North Korea’s attempts to build a nuclear weapon that could reach the United States.

But tensions have since eased, starting around the time of the North’s participation in the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February.

Trump greeted the freed Americans in the early morning hours. He said on their arrival that he believed Kim, who has led North Korea for seven years and is believed to be in his mid-30s, wanted to bring his country “into the real world.”

“I think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful,” Trump said. “My proudest achievement will be – this is part of it – when we denuclearize that entire peninsula.”

New U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has visited Pyongyang twice in recent weeks – once as head of the CIA – but there has been no sign he cleared up the central question of whether North Korea will be willing to bargain away nuclear weapons that its rulers have long seen as crucial to their survival.

Trump is embarking on the meeting with Kim after announcing on Tuesday the United States was pulling out of a 2015 accord imposing international oversight of Iran’s nuclear program.

The move raised questions over whether North Korea might now be less inclined to negotiate its own nuclear deal with Washington.

Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke by telephone on Wednesday. The White House said they “affirmed” the shared goal of North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons program.

Japan worries it could be the target of any first use of nuclear weapons by Pyongyang.

White House officials, without providing specifics, said on Thursday the meeting could be scuttled if North Korea did anything unacceptable over the next month.

“We’re not under any illusions about who these people are,” National Security Council official Victoria Coates told reporters. “We know who we’re dealing with here. But we got up front our people home rather than that having been an afterthought.”

‘PHOTO OP’ WORRY

Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the U.S. Senate, warned Trump against going too far, too fast in Singapore. The Republican president, he said, should insist on strong, verifiable disarmament commitments from North Korea.

“I worry that this president, in his eagerness to strike a deal and get the acclaim and a photo op, will strike a quick one and a bad one, not a strong one, not a lasting one,” Schumer said.

During Trump’s presidency, Kim has overseen a series of weapons tests to showcase his military’s progress on medium- and long-range missiles and atomic weapons that put the world on edge.

Last year, North Korea conducted more than a dozen tests that had missiles flying over the Sea of Japan, while another led experts to believe North Korea could possibly hit the mainland United States with a missile.

Trump has credited a U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign for drawing North Korea to the negotiating table and vowed to keep economic sanctions in place until Pyongyang takes concrete steps to denuclearize.

But former spy chief Kim Yong Chul, director of North Korea’s United Front Department, said in a toast to Pompeo over lunch in Pyongyang this week: “We have perfected our nuclear capability. It is our policy to concentrate all efforts into economic progress.”

Kim recently promised to suspend missile tests and shut a nuclear bomb test site.

The choice of Singapore will put the summit on friendly turf for Trump, as the island nation is a strong U.S. ally and the U.S. Navy frequently visits its port. White House spokesman Raj Shah said Singapore was chosen because it could ensure the security of both leaders and provide neutrality.

The wealthy financial and shipping hub is seen as a gateway between Asia and the West and has been called the “Switzerland of Asia,” in contrast to North Korea’s isolated economy that its leaders now want to modernize.

Nonetheless, Human Rights Watch has described Singapore as having a “stifling” political environment with severe restrictions on “basic rights.”

Singapore said in a statement late on Thursday it was pleased to host the meeting between Trump and Kim, adding: “We hope this meeting will advance prospects for peace in the Korean Peninsula.”

U.S. officials had looked at several sites other than Singapore for the historic meeting.

Trump’s own preference was for the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, but aides argued it would look too much like Trump going to Kim’s turf.

Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in held a rare round of talks at their heavily fortified demilitarized zone at the end of April, pledging to pursue peace after decades of conflict.

South Korea said on Thursday: “We hope the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula as well as permanent peace on the peninsula will successfully come about through this summit.”

Source:- https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-usa/trump-seeks-very-meaningful-summit-in-singapore-with-north-korea-idUSKBN1IB240

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‘This is taking an awfully long time!’, says scientist before assisted suicide https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/world-news/this-is-taking-an-awfully-long-time-says-scientist-before-assisted-suicide.html Fri, 11 May 2018 05:34:39 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65312 ‘This is taking an awfully long time!’, says scientist before assisted suicide A 104-year-old Australian scientist killed himself in Switzerland on Thursday by lethal injection in an assisted suicide he hoped would trigger more lenient euthanasia laws in his home country. British-born David Goodall, who was not terminally ill, personally triggered a lethal dose of […]

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‘This is taking an awfully long time!’, says scientist before assisted suicide

A 104-year-old Australian scientist killed himself in Switzerland on Thursday by lethal injection in an assisted suicide he hoped would trigger more lenient euthanasia laws in his home country.

British-born David Goodall, who was not terminally ill, personally triggered a lethal dose of a barbiturate and died at 1030 GMT in a clinic near Basel, the assisted suicide group Exit International said.

Goodall, a member of the Order of Australia for work as a botanist that included publications on arid shrublands, said he had unsuccessfully tried to kill himself in Australia after his faculties including his hearing deteriorated.

He came to Switzerland for its laws that have made assisted suicide legal since the 1940s, a legal curiosity that has made the country what some call a “death tourism” magnet.

“My life has been rather poor for the past year or so, and I am very happy to end it,” Goodall told reporters on Thursday, shortly before his death. “All the publicity that this has been receiving can only, I think, help the cause of euthanasia for the elderly, which I want.”

Physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia remains illegal in many countries, including Australia, though the state of Victoria became the first to pass a euthanasia bill last November to allow terminally ill patients to end their lives. It takes effect in June 2019.

Several family members were with Goodall until his death, which was preceded by formal paperwork that visibly frustrated Goodall, who said “What are we waiting for?”

His last meal was fish and chips, and Exit International director Philip Nitschke helped organize Beethoven’s 9th Symphony to be played at his death, a spontaneous request by Goodall prompted by a reporter’s question at a news conference on Wednesday.

“The infusion started to drip as he activated the process — he had to do that himself — after answering questions which said he knew who he was, where he was and what he was about to do, and he answered these questions with great clarity,” Nitschke told Reuters after Goodall’s death.

“In fact his last words were ‘This is taking an awfully long time!’ “ Nitschke said.

Goodall, a 20-year member of Exit International, was born in London in 1914 and moved to Australia in 1948, where he was a lecturer at the University of Melbourne. He also worked in Britain and held academic posts at U.S. universities, including at Utah State University in Logan.

‘I DID MY BEST’

There, news of his death prompted debate over his legacy, with some former colleagues suggesting his public suicide fit a personality that did not shy the limelight.

Others called Goodall a fine scholar who was well-liked.

“If I had been asked to provide my own comments on David Goodall, I would have said he is perceptive, brilliant and inventive,” said Robert Russon, a 30-year professor at the Logan school in a letter to the Herald Journal newspaper.

Before his death, Goodall said there were things he would have changed, had he to do it all over again.

“I’m not satisfied with what I have done, by any means,” he said. “But I did my best.”

Source:- https://www.reuters.com/article/us-swiss-euthanasia-goodall/this-is-taking-an-awfully-long-time-says-scientist-before-assisted-suicide-idUSKBN1IB2A7

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Iraqis voting in first election since Islamic State https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/world-news/iraqis-voting-in-first-election-since-islamic-state.html Fri, 11 May 2018 05:30:32 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65311 Iraqis voting in first election since Islamic State For the first time since driving out Islamic State, Iraqis go to the polls on Saturday in an election that will shape attempts to heal the country’s deep divisions and could shift the regional balance of power. Iraq’s three main ethnic and religious groups, the majority Shi’ite […]

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Iraqis voting in first election since Islamic State

For the first time since driving out Islamic State, Iraqis go to the polls on Saturday in an election that will shape attempts to heal the country’s deep divisions and could shift the regional balance of power.

Iraq’s three main ethnic and religious groups, the majority Shi’ite Arabs and the minority Sunni Arabs and Kurds, have been at loggerheads for decades and the sectarian rifts are as apparent as ever 15 years after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The election of a new prime minister and parliament also takes place the same week U.S. President Donald Trump announced he was pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, raising tensions between Iraq’s two main allies: Tehran and Washington.

Whoever wins the May 12 election will face the challenge of rebuilding Iraq after four years of war with Islamic State, jump-starting a flagging economy, balancing the interests of powerful foreign patrons and maintaining the country’s fragile unity in the face of sectarian and separatist tensions.

“We want security. We have killings, theft, kidnappings. We never had this before. In the past 15 years the people have been destroyed,” said 29-year-old Khalid Radi, a laborer in Baghdad.

Incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is considered by analysts to be marginally ahead but victory is far from certain.

Even though he announced Islamic State’s defeat during his first four-year term, diffused sectarian tensions enflamed by his predecessor, and maintained Iraq’s unity in the face of a Kurdish independence bid, he faces a tough battle.

THREE-WAY RACE

Abadi has faced criticism about persistent government corruption, tough economic conditions and the austerity measures his cabinet introduced after the slide in global oil prices and to help pay for the fight against Islamic State.

He also cannot rely solely on votes from his community as the majority Shi’ite voter base is unusually split this year. Instead, he is looking to draw upon support from other groups.

Many, but not all, Sunnis see Abadi as a less sectarian alternative to his two main Shi’ite rivals and credit him with liberating their areas from Islamic State.

There’s bad blood between Abadi and the Kurds, however, after Baghdad imposed sanctions on the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region following its failed independence bid last year.

Even if Abadi’s Victory Alliance list wins the most seats he still has to navigate the long-winded and complicated backroom negotiations required to form a coalition government.

His two main challengers are his predecessor Nuri al-Maliki and Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia commander Hadi al-Amiri.

Both have a more passionate voter base than Abadi, who is mostly appealing to more pragmatic voters who see him as having better relations with the outside world and a cross-sectarian appeal needed to avoid further bloodshed and attract investment.

Like Abadi, Amiri is running on a platform highlighting the victory against Islamic State, though the militia leader’s narrative is more compelling as he was a frontline commander and is viewed as war hero by many Shi’ites.

Maliki, who was sidelined after eight years in office in 2014 after losing a third of the country to Islamic State, is looking to make a political comeback.

In contrast to the cross-sectarian message of Abadi, Maliki is again posing as Iraq’s Shi’ite champion and is proposing to do away with the country’s unofficial power-sharing model in which all the main parties have cabinet representatives.

COALITION HORSE-TRADING

Ever since Saddam fell in 2003, ending decades of dominance by the Sunni minority, senior government positions have been unofficially split between the country’s main groups.

The post of prime minister has been reserved for a Shi’ite, the speaker for a Sunni, and the ceremonial presidency has gone to a Kurd – with all three being chosen by parliament.

More than 7,000 candidates in 18 provinces, or governorates, are running this year for 329 parliamentary seats.

The Iraqi constitution sets a 90-day deadline for forming a government after the election results are formally announced and the horse-trading can be protracted.

The new government will also have to cope with the simmering tension between the United States and Iran.

As prime minister, Abadi has won praise for his deft juggling of the competing and colliding interests of his two main backers. While his government maintains good relations with Iran, he is seen as balanced and Western diplomats say he would be the easiest candidate to work with.

Maliki, who pushed for U.S. troop withdrawals and Amiri, who speaks fluent Farsi and spent years in exile in Iran during the Saddam Hussein era, are both seen as much closer to Tehran.

DIVISIONS ALL ROUND

The election is also taking place in an atmosphere of division and disillusionment within Iraq’s three main groups.

The Shi’ite vote is split as many are unhappy with their leaders after 15 years in power that have only yielded violence and unemployment and left the country’s infrastructure crumbling.

But if the Shi’ites are split because they have too many leaders, Sunni Arabs are divided because they have none.

Sunnis are at their lowest point yet. Millions languish in displacement camps, many are out of pocket and trying to rebuild destroyed homes in cities reduced to rubble – and they feel collectively branded as Islamic State sympathizers.

The Sunni politicians that have held positions in government are largely discredited and there is no national Sunni leadership or party structure.

Iraq’s Kurds, meanwhile, blame their leaders for gambling away hard-won autonomy in the failed independence referendum and might punish them by voting for non-traditional parties, which in turn could undermine the historically unified Kurdish bloc’s position as kingmakers in parliament.

Voters go to the polls on Saturday, though security forces and Iraqis abroad started voting on Thursday. The electoral commission has said results will come “hours” after polls close.

Islamic State has threatened to attack polling stations amid a recent uptick in security incidents in areas retaken from the militants while many voters simply do not feel the election will bring any change.

“I propose the state just cancel parliament. Shake it and uproot it,” said 27-year-old mechanic Mustafa Tabbar using a popular Iraqi phrase meaning radical change.

Source:- https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-election/iraqis-voting-in-first-election-since-islamic-state-idUSKBN1IB26L

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Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria after rocket fire https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/world-news/israel-strikes-iranian-targets-in-syria-after-rocket-fire.html Fri, 11 May 2018 05:26:21 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65310 Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria after rocket fire Israel said it attacked nearly all of Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria on Thursday after Iranian forces fired rockets at Israeli-held territory for the first time in the most extensive military exchange ever between the two adversaries. It was the heaviest Israeli barrage in Syria since […]

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Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria after rocket fire

Israel said it attacked nearly all of Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria on Thursday after Iranian forces fired rockets at Israeli-held territory for the first time in the most extensive military exchange ever between the two adversaries.

It was the heaviest Israeli barrage in Syria since the 2011 start of the civil war in which Iranians, allied Shi’ite Muslim militias and Russian troops have deployed in support of President Bashar al-Assad. The confrontation came two days after the United States announced its withdrawal, with Israel’s urging, from a nuclear accord with Iran.

Israel destroyed dozens of Iranian military sites in Syria, as well as Syrian anti-aircraft units that tried unsuccessfully to shoot down Israeli planes, Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said.

Syrian state media said Israel launched dozens of missiles and hit a radar station, Syrian air defense positions and an ammunition dump, underscoring the risks of a wider escalation involving Iran and its regional allies.

The Syrian Army Command said Israel’s attack killed three people and injured two others. A Britain-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the strikes killed at least 23 military personnel, including Syrians and non-Syrians.

The White House, in a statement, condemned Iran’s “provocative rocket attacks” from Syria and said it supported Israel’s right to defend itself.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s air strikes were “appropriate” because Iran had “crossed a red line.”

“We are in the midst of a protracted battle and our policy is clear: We will not allow Iran to entrench itself militarily in Syria,” Netanyahu said in a brief video address.

Expectations of a regional flare-up, amid warnings from Israel that it was determined to prevent any Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, were stoked by U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement on Tuesday about the withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

The United States portrayed its rejection of that agreement as a response, in part, to Iran’s military interventions in the Middle East, underpinning Netanyahu’s tough line towards Tehran.

Israel said 20 Iranian Grad and Fajr rockets were shot down by its Iron Dome air defense system or did not reach targets in the occupied Golan Heights, territory captured from Syria in a 1967 war. The Quds Force, an external arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, carried out the rocket salvo, Israel said.

There was no immediate comment from Iran.

Iran and Israel were already drawing deeper into confrontation before Trump pulled the United States out of the deal, but his move has shaken up the region. Within Iran, it could empower hardliners while weakening the moderate camp that has sought better relations with the West.

‘EVERYONE GOT THE MESSAGE’

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the Iranian rockets either fell short of their targets – military bases in the Golan – or were intercepted.

“We hit … almost all of the Iranian infrastructure in Syria,” Lieberman said at the annual Herzliya security conference near Tel Aviv. “I hope we finished this chapter and everyone got the message.”

The White House said, “The Iranian regime’s deployment into Syria of offensive rocket and missile systems aimed at Israel is an unacceptable and highly dangerous development for the entire Middle East.”

The Syrian foreign ministry said the Israeli attack indicated “the start of a new phase of aggression” against Syria.

Thursday’s exchange followed a suspected Israeli rocket strike in Syria on Tuesday on a military base in Kisweh, hours after Trump’s announcement on the nuclear deal.

The Syrian Observatory for Human rights said 15 people, including eight Iranians, were killed in that attack. A commander in the pro-Syrian government regional alliance said there were no casualties. Israel, as it has typically done in similar incidents, neither confirmed nor denied a role.

France urged Iran on Thursday to refrain from all “military provocation” and cautioned it against “all temptations for regional hegemony”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the overnight attacks by Iranian forces and called on Iran to contribute to de-escalation of tensions in the region.

Russia, generally friendly to Israel but fighting in Syria’s civil war on the same side as Iran, called on both to show restraint and resolve differences through diplomatic means.

Russia’s defense ministry said Syria had shot down more than half of the missiles fired by Israel, RIA news agency reported.

Conricus, the Israeli military spokesman, said the military focused on inflicting “long-term damage on the Iranian military establishment in Syria” and assessed “it will take a substantial time to replenish”.

The Israelis fear that Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah are turning Syria into a new front against them. Israel says its occasional strikes in Syria aim to prevent such an outcome. Israel regards Iran as its biggest threat and has repeatedly targeted Iranian forces and allied militia in Syria.

Source:- https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-israel/israel-strikes-iranian-targets-in-syria-after-rocket-fire-idUSKBN1IA3GF

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H.R. McMaster’s father died in a Philadelphia nursing home. A nurse has been charged in his death. https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/news/h-r-mcmasters-father-died-in-a-philadelphia-nursing-home-a-nurse-has-been-charged-in-his-death.html Fri, 11 May 2018 05:14:46 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65292 H.R. McMaster’s father died in a Philadelphia nursing home. A nurse has been charged in his death. A nurse in Pennsylvania has been charged in the death of former Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster’s father for failing to provide proper care at the senior living facility where the 84-year-old died, authorities say. Herbert R. […]

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H.R. McMaster’s father died in a Philadelphia nursing home. A nurse has been charged in his death.

A nurse in Pennsylvania has been charged in the death of former Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster’s father for failing to provide proper care at the senior living facility where the 84-year-old died, authorities say.

Herbert R. McMaster Sr., 84, was found dead in a wheelchair around 7 a.m. April 13 in the lobby of the Cathedral Village in Upper Roxborough, outside Philadelphia, after falling and suffering a head injury, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a news release Thursday. Christann Gainey, 30, of Philadelphia, was arrested and charged with neglect of a care-dependent person, involuntary manslaughter and tampering with records stemming from the death, Shapiro said.

At about 11:30 p.m. April 12, staff found McMaster on the floor of his room after he had an “unwitnessed fall” at the facility, officials said. Shapiro’s office said that Gainey did not subsequently administer eight required neurological checks to McMaster. Those steps “could have indicated the severity of his injuries and steps could have been taken to save his life.” The facility requires frequent neurological assessments for patients who experience unwitnessed falls, which include tests of motor and verbal skills, vital signs and eye response.

“This nurse ignored her job responsibilities, falsified paperwork, lied to her supervisors and neglected Mr. McMaster,” Shapiro said in a statement.

McMaster had been admitted to the facility after suffering a stroke days before. When he was discovered in the lobby of the building April 13, an administrator asked Gainey for the paperwork that documented the neurological assessments, officials said.

But the attorney general’s office said Gainey’s paperwork indicated that the most recent check on McMaster had been after his death and that it determined that Gainey did not perform any neurological exams on McMaster after he had fallen.

“She did not perform one — not one — neurological check on Mr. McMaster, and even lied on the paperwork that she did,” Shapiro said. “The evidence shows that Gainey intentionally, knowingly and recklessly caused serious bodily injury to Mr. McMaster by failing to provide treatment or care. We will hold her — and anyone else who knowingly neglects a care-dependent person in Pennsylvania — accountable.”

Sharon Piper Donovan, Gainey’s lawyer, said in a statement that the allegations levied by Shapiro “seem more appropriate in a civil court rather than a criminal one.”

“Ms. Gainey is a single mother and was simply doing her job. She had nothing to do with causing the death of Mr. McMaster,” Donovan said. “Ms. Gainey looks forward to her day in court and having all of the facts presented. When all of the evidence is heard, we fully expect her to be exonerated.”

The Philadelphia chief medical examiner ruled that McMaster’s death was caused by blunt-impact head trauma and that untreated subdural hematoma was a contributing factor, Shapiro’s office said.

Donovan told the Associated Press that Gainey will plead not guilty to the charges.

Cathedral Village said in a statement Thursday that Gainey was employed by an outside staffing agency and had been removed “from our community” immediately following McMaster’s death.

McMaster’s family released a statement from the sister of the former national security adviser, Letitia McMaster.

“Our family is grateful for the work that the dedicated professionals of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and Philadelphia Police Department have done to investigate our father’s death and prosecute those responsible,” she said. “Our father, Lieutenant Colonel Herbert R. McMaster (U.S. Army, retired), was a tough and compassionate soldier and public servant. He was committed to his neighbors, his fellow soldiers, his community and his country.”

Source:- https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/05/10/h-r-mcmasters-father-died-in-a-philadelphia-nursing-home-a-nurse-has-been-charged-in-his-death/?utm_term=.09e1180cb346

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A former NFL player was arrested after he said police mistook a phone for a gun. The officer has been fired. https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/news/a-former-nfl-player-was-arrested-after-he-said-police-mistook-a-phone-for-a-gun-the-officer-has-been-fired.html Fri, 11 May 2018 05:05:52 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65300 A former NFL player was arrested after he said police mistook a phone for a gun. The officer has been fired. A police officer in the Atlanta suburbs has been fired after an internal investigation found he used unnecessary force in the arrest of a black man for possessing a firearm — which in reality, […]

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A former NFL player was arrested after he said police mistook a phone for a gun. The officer has been fired.

A police officer in the Atlanta suburbs has been fired after an internal investigation found he used unnecessary force in the arrest of a black man for possessing a firearm — which in reality, the man said, was his cellphone.

Henry County police officer David Rose was administratively charged with maltreatment or unnecessary force during the Dec. 2 arrest of Desmond Marrow, a 30-year-old former NFL player, as well as conduct violations. Chief Mark Amerman said in a statement posted to Facebook Thursday that he agreed with the investigation’s findings and fired Rose.

“The Henry County Police Department upholds its mission to serve and protect and does not tolerate this type of conduct from its officers,” the statement said.

Henry County District Attorney Darius Pattillo also said in a statement Thursday that no felony charges would be brought against Marrow. Marrow had been arrested on charges of terroristic threats, felony obstruction of a law enforcement officer, reckless driving and aggressive driving.

A magistrate judge already dismissed the terroristic-threats charges, and the misdemeanor charges will be turned over to a county solicitor general for review, Pattillo said.

Rose could not immediately be reached for comment.

Marrow on April 26 posted a video to Facebook showing what appeared to him to be three white Henry County police officers taking him to the ground and pinning him down as he cried and screamed, telling them that he was not resisting. He said officers slammed him to the ground and choked him until he passed out.

“During the arrest the police knocked my teeth out, slammed me on my head and choked me out until I was unconscious,” he wrote in the Facebook post.

It’s unclear in the video whether Marrow lost consciousness. He said he also suffered a shoulder strain and a concussion.

“This has affected me mentally and impacted my life in a way I can’t even humanly describe,” Marrow wrote. “This isn’t a cry for sympathy, I just need it to be known . . . My cry is for JUSTICE.”

In the Facebook post, Marrow asked social-media users to help give him a voice, writing, “PLEASE HELP ME GET MY VOICE HEARD!!!” Marrow’s past as a professional football player might help him do just that.

Marrow was listed on the preseason roster of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012, according to NFL.com.

Amerman said in the statement that the department had “promised to find the truth for Desmond Marrow,” no matter what that truth was. The investigation found that Rose was recorded on his in-car video camera system saying he choked Marrow but that he was not going to include that information in his report, Amerson said.

The investigation found that another officer, Matt Donaldson, acted within departmental policy, he said.

“It is important to note what the brief cellphone video doesn’t show — which is the level of resistance by Mr. Marrow while officers were arresting him, and the struggle officers encountered while trying to get control of the situation while Mr. Marrow was fighting with those officers,” Amerson wrote.

“This is what police officers are trained to do when they cannot get control of a suspect,” he wrote.

WXIA reported that the arrest may have been in response to an altercation between Marrow and another driver. The station described a Dec. 2 police report, which stated that someone in another vehicle had tossed coffee at Marrow’s car and he chased the car into a shopping center outside Atlanta.

The report said that a police officer witnessed the incident and responded to the scene, where a witness said he overheard Marrow threatening to “shoot them,” according to the station.

It said that officers asked Marrow whether he had a gun and he said no, and that the officers could not find one in his possession.

Still, the station reported, officers arrested him on the allegation that he threatened harm.

It’s unclear when the video was filmed, but in it, a police officer can be heard warning Marrow that he has a stun gun.

“I’m not even doing nothing. I’m not even fighting back,” Marrow, who appeared to be handcuffed, shouted as two officers slammed him against a white pickup truck. One of the officers held Marrow’s arms behind his back and the other officer pulled his legs out from under him, swiftly taking him to the ground.

Marrow cried out as his body hit the concrete.

“Oh, my God,” he said, weeping. “I didn’t even do nothing.”

A bystander who appeared to be filming the scene said, “That’s unbelievable, man.”

As Marrow continued to struggle and scream at the officers, one of them pressed down on his throat. Marrow made choking sounds and told the officers in a panicked, high-pitched voice, “I can’t breathe.”

A third officer then knelt down and told him to “settle down.”

Following the incident, one of the police officers patted him on the chest, saying, “You okay?”

Marrow wrote on Facebook that he showed “ZERO resistance” during the arrest:

“I thought I was going to die. I was sure I was passing out or dying when Officer #D. Rose was choking me as my breath kept slipping away. Henry county police dept. was trying to keep me quiet, but once they found out I was a former #NFLplayer & there was a video of the incident did they then try to drop my charges. They were basically trying to get me to sell my soul in exchange for the video not being posted and they would drop all the felonies and clear my record. They said I was resisting arrest, being out of control, spitting and assaulting the Officers by head butting them. But GOD recorded it and I have PROOF! You know the truth take a lil longer to make it around lies travel faster.”

Marrow did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Washington Post on Thursday.

The case is still being reviewed by the district attorney’s office, Amerson wrote.

“The Henry County Police Department is confident that this is an isolated incident, and is not a reflection of the many dedicated officers who perform the duties of their office every day, often putting their lives on the line to keep our community safe,” he wrote. “Moving forward, we will continue to conduct necessary training to ensure that our officers uphold the high standards set by the Henry County Police Department in serving the public.”

Source:- https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/05/10/a-former-nfl-player-was-arrested-after-he-said-police-mistook-a-phone-for-a-gun-the-officer-has-been-fired/?utm_term=.7b2face3b048

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Thousands of Facebook ads bought by Russians to fool U.S. voters released by Congress https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/news/thousands-of-facebook-ads-bought-by-russians-to-fool-u-s-voters-released-by-congress.html Fri, 11 May 2018 04:59:30 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65299 Thousands of Facebook ads bought by Russians to fool U.S. voters released by Congress Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released thousands of Russian Facebook ads on Thursday, offering the public its first in-depth look at the troubling messages used to heighten tensions among Americans during and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The release […]

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Thousands of Facebook ads bought by Russians to fool U.S. voters released by Congress

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released thousands of Russian Facebook ads on Thursday, offering the public its first in-depth look at the troubling messages used to heighten tensions among Americans during and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The release of the ads, which Facebook says were purchased by the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency to sway public sentiment, comes as the giant social network races to tighten restrictions on political ads to head off manipulation of upcoming elections, including this fall’s hotly contested midterms.

Pressure has intensified since the Justice Department charged 13 Russians and three companies in February, exposing a wide-ranging effort to subvert the election and to support the Trump campaign.

Facebook pages with points of view that span the political spectrum from “Blacktivist” to “Heart of Texas” bought ads. Some of the more than 3,000 ads denounced Donald Trump, others his Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton.

Many of the ads, placed by Russians posing as Americans, didn’t endorse a specific candidate but spread inflammatory messages on sensitive subjects such as immigration and race to amplify fault lines in American life, targeting users from specific backgrounds and tight races in key states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Virginia.

These negative appeals included a group called Fit Black, which urged people to attend “Black Fist Free Self-Defense Classes.” Another from the Army of Jesus encouraged voters to pick a president with “godly morals” with a picture of Jesus arm-wrestling Satan.

The Facebook ads varied in their effectiveness and reach, with some only being shared a few hundred times, others seen hundreds of thousands or more than 1 million times. They ran just over two years starting in June 2015, increasing in volume in October and November 2016, just before and after the presidential election, but also showing spikes in April and May of 2016 and also April and May of 2017.

Patterns quickly emerge in sampling the ads. Many of the hundreds of ads placed in April 2016 targeted racial divisions in American society, encouraging African-American political activism by imitating the language and messaging of the Black Lives Matter movement with posts highlighting racist incidents and others the resilience and beauty of the African-American community.

A smaller contingent that month targeted conservative Facebook users. Festooned with American flags, they sounded patriotic themes including reverence for the constitution. Still others contained calls for Americans to “take care of our vets, not illegals.”

Facebook says it has taken a much more aggressive stance on political and issue ads, forcing people who buy them to verify their identity and location and to reveal publicly who they are.

Until September, when it identified 470 accounts that purchased 3,000 ads for more than $100,000 over a two-year period, Facebook repeatedly denied the Russians exploited its platform. In fact, Russian operatives availed themselves of the precise nature of the ad targeting offered by Facebook, zeroing in on categories of Facebook users, such as gun lovers, Trump supporters, residents of certain places, and more. They also took advantage of Facebook’s computer algorithms, which at the time favored sensationalist posts that drive more reaction.

Ten million Americans saw the ads, Facebook estimates, and 146 million Americans, or nearly half of the U.S. population, may have been reached by content from Russian operatives such as status updates and videos on Facebook and Instagram, also owned by Facebook.

The extent of election meddling put Facebook on the defensive and served as a wake-up call for Facebook users, who for years allowed the culling of their personal information in exchange for the free service without much thought to what happens to that data, let alone whether an adversarial foreign power could exploit it to provoke outrage over polarizing issues from gay rights to gun rights.

After Facebook handed over the ads to Congress, lawmakers made dozens of them available to the public. House Intelligence Committee leaders pledged at the time to provide all of the ads to the public to increase awareness of the Russian manipulation.

With the spotlight on upcoming midterms in the U.S. and other key elections around the globe, Facebook says it’s moved aggressively to prevent foreign interference and anticipate new tactics to undermine the integrity of the electoral process.

Political ads will be labeled and Facebook users will be provided more information about them, such as who paid for them. Facebook users will be able to see who placed an ad and some information about those users who saw the ad, as well as view other ads run by the same page. That includes the hot-button social issue ads.

Facebook also reduced the ad targeting capability, removing nearly one-third of the terms used by the IRA, some because they weren’t often used, others because Facebook says they didn’t reflect Facebook’s “principles.”

It’s a major turnabout for Facebook, which for years resisted complying with federal ad disclosure rules that apply to other types of media. Pressured by lawmakers, Zuckerberg promised last year to take steps to deter foreign governments from using Facebook to manipulate elections and to increase disclosure in political ads. Zuckerberg now says he supports a bipartisan Senate bill, the Honest Ads Act, which would bring political advertising on social media more in line with what is required on television and radio.

Since the 2012 presidential election, political campaigns are increasingly using Facebook to target particular voters in a more precise, cost-effective way. Yet the social network is not currently required to follow any of the campaign finance laws that apply to other media.

“Going forward, we’re going to address this by verifying the identity of every single advertiser who’s running political or issue-oriented ads to make it so that foreign actors or people trying to spoof their identity or say that they’re someone that they’re not cannot run political ads or run large pages,” Zuckerberg said during last month’s testimony on Capitol Hill.

Ridding Facebook of election meddling is part of a widening campaign to rebuild consumer trust after the personal information of 87 million users was harvested by Cambridge Analytica without their permission.

Cambridge Analytica capped a tumultuous period for Facebook, which has been dragged down by one damaging revelation after another, from the proliferation of fabricated news and hoaxes to violence on its Live streaming service.

In February, special counsel Robert Mueller filed criminal charges against 13 Russian nationals and three businesses for a wide-ranging effort to undermine the presidential election, including actions aimed at boosting Trump’s campaign. Federal law bars foreign interests from making campaign contributions or otherwise working to influence U.S. elections.

The charges included conspiracy, identity theft, failing to register as foreign agents, and violating laws that limit the use of foreign money in U.S. elections. One of the companies that was charged was the Internet Research Agency, which prosecutors accuse of waging “information warfare” against the United States with the goal of “spreading distrust toward the candidates and the political system.”

Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, and possible obstruction of justice by the president. In addition to Mueller’s probe, three congressional committees have been conducting their own Russia investigations.

Both the House and Senate intelligence committees have investigated Russia’s manipulation of social media, which the Kremlin continued even after the 2016 election.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is continuing its investigation, and the Senate Judiciary Committee has been conducting a more limited probe.

Republicans on the House Intelligence committee recently concluded their investigation, finding no signs that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. The panel’s Democrats are continuing to investigate on their own.

Last fall, representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google appeared before two intelligence committees to talk about Russia’s manipulation of their platforms. A sampling of Facebook ads paid for by the Internet Research Agency were released at those hearings, but the bulk of the ads had to be scrubbed of personally identifiable information before they could be publicly released.

The Democrats said they decided to release the Facebook ads Thursday because they had promised to make them public over the objections of Republicans.

Late last year, Zuckerberg told USA TODAY he was not sure if Facebook could prevent the problems of the 2016 presidential campaign from recurring in this year’s elections.

“We have a pretty good track record as a company of — once we set our mind to doing something, we eventually get it done,” the Facebook CEO said in November. But, he conceded, “I don’t know how long it will take to address this.”

In April, Zuckerberg, who initially dismissed the idea that misinformation on Facebook played a role in the outcome of the presidential election, said: “We’re committed to getting this done in time for the critical months before the 2018 elections.”

Source:- https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2018/05/10/thousands-russian-bought-facebook-social-media-ads-released-congress/849959001/

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Cohen’s $600,000 deal with AT&T specified he would advise on Time Warner merger, internal company records show https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/news/cohens-600000-deal-with-att-specified-he-would-advise-on-time-warner-merger-internal-company-records-show.html Fri, 11 May 2018 04:52:28 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65291 Cohen’s $600,000 deal with AT&T specified he would advise on Time Warner merger, internal company records show Three days after President Trump was sworn into office, the telecom giant AT&T turned to his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, for help on a wide portfolio of issues pending before the federal government — including the company’s proposed […]

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Cohen’s $600,000 deal with AT&T specified he would advise on Time Warner merger, internal company records show

Three days after President Trump was sworn into office, the telecom giant AT&T turned to his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, for help on a wide portfolio of issues pending before the federal government — including the company’s proposed merger with Time Warner, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

The documents detail the full scope of Cohen’s $600,000 deal with AT&T and how his contract specified that he would provide advice on the $85 billion merger, which required the approval of federal antitrust regulators.

Trump had voiced opposition to the merger during the presidential campaign, and his administration ultimately opposed the AT&T effort. The Justice Department filed suit in November to block the deal, and that case is pending.

Cohen’s deals with AT&T and other corporate clients were first revealed this week by an attorney for adult-film star Stormy Daniels, but the new documents obtained by The Post offered greater detail about his arrangement with the telecom company and the type of work he had been hired to perform.

It is unclear what insight Cohen — a longtime real estate attorney and former taxicab operator — could have provided AT&T on complex telecom matters.

At the same time that he was collecting $50,000 a month from AT&T, Cohen was being paid large sums to advise other companies on a broad variety of issues, including the Affordable Care Act, accounting practices and real estate.

In the wake of Trump’s election, corporate clients paid Cohen at least $2.95 million through a company called Essential Consultants, according to figures confirmed by the companies.

Essential Consultants was the same company Cohen used in October 2016 to route money to Daniels in exchange for her agreement not to disclose an alleged affair with Trump.

The corporate payments he received demonstrate how Cohen was able to turn his ties with the new president into moneymaking opportunities, despite Trump’s campaign pledges to “drain the swamp.”

AT&T and the pharmaceutical company Novartis, another Cohen client, said this week that they provided information about their dealings with Trump’s lawyer to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III last year. Cohen is also under investigation by prosecutors in New York for possible bank fraud and campaign finance violations.

The $600,000 that flowed to Cohen from AT&T was about 3.5 percent of the $16.8 million the company spent on lobbying in 2017, according to disclosure forms.

A “scope of work” describing Cohen’s contract in an internal AT&T document shows that he was hired to “focus on specific long-term planning initiatives as well as the immediate issue of corporate tax reform and the acquisition of Time Warner.”

He was also directed to “creatively address political and communications issues” facing the company and advise the company on matters before the Federal Communications Commission.

AT&T declined to comment on the documents, which were provided to The Post anonymously, but it did not challenge their authenticity.

Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, declined to comment. Cohen did not respond to requests for comment.

The internal AT&T documents show that Cohen was supposed to spend half his time on “legislative policy development” and the other half on “regulatory policy development.” Payments to Cohen were approved by two executives in AT&T’s public affairs office in Washington.

The New York Times first reported that Cohen offered advice on how AT&T should approach the administration about the Time Warner merger.

The documents specified that Cohen, who was not a registered lobbyist, was to spend none of his time engaged in lobbying. They described his work as advising the company, not contacting federal officials.

Under federal rules, individuals must register as lobbyists if they spend 20 percent of their time working for a client on legislative and executive branch issues and if they have had contact with at least two government officials related to that client, according to Larry Noble, a former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission and an expert on lobbying law.

Cohen’s work for AT&T did not appear to meet that definition, Noble said. However, he noted that hiring the president’s lawyer could trigger ethical questions.

“It is an ethical concern if you have a lawyer who appears to be selling access to a current client, who is president,” Noble said.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, a lawyer for Trump, said Wednesday that the president was unaware of Cohen’s consulting agreements.

AT&T has declined to comment on the specific amount it paid to Essential Consultants. Under the one-year contract, the company has said, Cohen was hired to provide “insights into understanding the new administration.”

In an internal email to employees obtained by The Post, AT&T said Cohen was among “several consultants” the company hired in early 2017 “to help us understand how the President and his administration might approach a wide range of policy issues important to the company, including regulatory reform at the FCC, corporate tax reform and antitrust enforcement.”

At the time the contract was signed, AT&T was trying to build ties to the new administration. Months earlier, Trump had come out strongly against the proposed AT&T merger with Time Warner, which owns CNN — a network he often berates as producing “fake news.”

“As an example of the power structure I’m fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few,” Trump said during a speech in Gettysburg, Pa., in October 2016.

On Jan. 12, 2017, Cohen and AT&T’s chief executive, Randall Stephenson, were both seen visiting Trump Tower in New York, days before the contract with Essential Consultants was signed.

But although the two men arrived within minutes of each other, they did not meet that day and have never met, AT&T said this week.

At the time, AT&T said that Stephenson had “a very good meeting” with Trump but that the Time Warner merger “was not a topic of discussion.”

“The conversation focused on how AT&T can work with the Trump administration to increase investment in the U.S., stimulate job creation in America, and make American companies more competitive globally,” the company said.

After the revelation of Cohen’s link to AT&T, ranking Democrats on antitrust subcommittees in the House and Senate sent a joint letter to the Justice Department’s top competition enforcer, Makan Delrahim, asking whether he knew of the company’s payments to Cohen during his agency’s independent review of the Time Warner merger.

The Justice Department declined to comment.

According to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe ongoing litigation, Delrahim was not aware of AT&T’s payments to Cohen.

Meanwhile, Novartis chief executive Vasant Narasimhan sent an email to employees Thursday calling the company’s $1.2 million contract with Cohen a “mistake” and acknowledging that the revelation “was not a good day for Novartis.”

“We made a mistake in entering into this engagement and, as a consequence, are being criticized by a world that expects more from us,” Narasimhan wrote.

Narasimhan joined the company in 2005 but did not take the helm of the global drug company until this February. “I was not involved with any aspect of this situation,” Narasimhan wrote to employees, adding that it had been a difficult day for him and his family.

Source:- https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/cohens-600000-deal-with-atandt-specified-he-would-advise-on-time-warner-merger-internal-company-records-show/2018/05/10/cd541ae0-5468-11e8-a551-5b648abe29ef_story.html?utm_term=.23e5c790cd12

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Military investigation of Niger disaster finds numerous failures in planning https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/news/military-investigation-of-niger-disaster-finds-numerous-failures-in-planning.html Fri, 11 May 2018 04:45:50 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65290 Military investigation of Niger disaster finds numerous failures in planning A months-long military investigation of a disastrous 2017 mission in Niger found that multiple individual and institutional failures contributed to a chain of events culminating in a militant ambush that left four Americans dead. Senior officials, in a summary of their report, cited two lower-level […]

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Military investigation of Niger disaster finds numerous failures in planning

A months-long military investigation of a disastrous 2017 mission in Niger found that multiple individual and institutional failures contributed to a chain of events culminating in a militant ambush that left four Americans dead.

Senior officials, in a summary of their report, cited two lower-level officers for poorly planning operations with Nigerien forces but did not recommend disciplinary action. A separate, ongoing review will make that determination.

Marine Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, who heads U.S. Africa Command, said the team of 11 Americans involved in the firefight was inadequately trained and prepared even before it stepped off its base for the ill-fated mission near the village of Tongo Tongo.

Waldhauser said he had taken steps to better ensure service members’ safety, including increased force protection firepower and clarified systems for mission approval.

“We are now far more prudent,” Waldhauser told reporters at the Pentagon. “The missions we actually accompany on have to have some type of strategic value in terms of the enemy we’re going against. Do they have a strategic threat to the United States?”

The four Americans killed were Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright and Sgt. La David T. Johnson. Black and Wright were Special Forces soldiers, while both Johnsons were conventional soldiers assigned to the same 3rd Special Forces Group team.

The report follows months of conflicting media accounts about what happened the day of the battle, particularly regarding the fate of La David Johnson, who remained missing and was feared captured for about 36 hours before his bullet-ridden body was recovered by villagers.

Contrary to some of those reports, the summary said Johnson was killed while returning militant fire after getting separated from other troops.

Missing from the report’s presentation was mention of the political controversy generated by the incident, which in an unusual turn pitted President Trump and his chief of staff against one of the fallen men’s widows and a Democratic congresswoman, both of whom accused the president of insensitivity as he offered condolences to the family.

According to Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has concluded that systemic problems “must be addressed immediately,” suggesting that more far-reaching changes will be made to the way U.S. forces train and operate.

In releasing an eight-page summary report Thursday, the Pentagon withheld thousands of pages of witness statements, maps and other documents and a longer report of about 180 pages. The U.S. military often releases those materials at the conclusion of an investigation, but said it is still working to declassify additional information.

Waldhauser said a review of any potential disciplinary action or valor awards will be carried out by U.S. Special Operations Command. Navy Capt. Jason Salata, a SOCOM spokesman, said after the news briefing that the command has received the report and “initiated a line-by-line review.” No disciplinary steps have been taken.

Don Christensen, a former chief prosecutor for the Air Force, said the decision to publicly assign blame to junior officers for planning failures — actions that the chief investigator, Maj. Gen. Roger L. Cloutier Jr., said had no bearing on the ambush or its results — rather than senior officers was noteworthy.

In addition to citing the two captains, including the team leader, for failing to appropriately secure approval for their initial mission, the report laid out additional missteps. Those included insufficient predeployment training, inadequate pre-mission rehearsal and a failure to use protective gear. The problems were further compounded by communications issues between the United States and its partners and the remoteness of the area where the attack took place.

“These two captains were not the ones who created all these issues,” Christensen said. “They may have made horrible decisions. But they were put into those positions by people who knew the shortcomings of what they were doing.”
At least five Nigerien soldiers also were killed in the ambush, and others were wounded, including two Americans. They were identified in December as Capt. Michael Perozeni, the team commander, and Sgt. 1st Class Brent Bartels.

U.S. officials focused much of their investigation on how the unit, called Team Ouallam, after the location of a base it used, secured approval for its operations.

According to the Pentagon, the unit set out on Oct. 3 from Niamey on a mission that was initially identified by Perozeni and another captain as a routine reconnaissance mission near Mali’s border. No one higher in the chain of command was “aware of the true nature of the mission,” the report summary said.

In fact, the unit was searching for Doundoun Cheffou, an Islamic State leader who U.S. officials believed may have been linked to the kidnapping of an American. Later, the men were tasked on two different missions, both of which did have approval from more-senior officers.

Late the following morning, the unit was on its way back to base after an impromptu stop in Tongo Tongo when it started receiving fire from behind.

Soon, the gunfire intensified. Although the soldiers did not know it at the time, they were facing attack from about 100 militants linked with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), the summary said. The team quickly reported contact with the enemy to U.S. soldiers at their base nearby.

Believing they were facing a small enemy force, a handful of soldiers attempted to launch a counterattack on foot, but soon discovered a larger group of militants on motorcycles and in trucks mounted with machine guns. Assessing the severity of the situation, the Americans began to load their vehicles.

A small group of soldiers — Black, Wright and Jeremiah Johnson — prepared to move out. But Black, trying to shield himself as he walked along the protected side of his vehicle, was quickly shot and fell, the investigation found. Wright and Johnson stopped the vehicle to assess Black’s wounds but were forced to withdraw as the attack continued. Shortly afterward, Johnson was shot, then Wright. All three died quickly about noon.
Unaware of what had befallen their comrades, other U.S. and Nigerien soldiers drove about 700 meters south, establishing a defensive position they hoped would allow them to fend off the advancing militant force. Perozeni, facing intensifying mortar and machine-gun fire, ordered a withdrawal.

Survivors told investigators that they saw one of the Americans on the scene, La David Johnson, preparing to get into a vehicle and depart. The sergeant fought back using an M240 machine gun and sniper rifle, but ultimately was forced amid heavy fire to escape on foot.

U.S. military investigators estimated that Johnson ran 450 meters southwest on his own. He sought refuge behind a thorny tree and fired at the advancing militants, who wounded him with machine-gun fire and then, approaching by foot, killed him with small-arms fire. His death was said to occur about an hour after the ambush began.

Investigators found that Johnson was not captured alive by militants or executed, but was “killed in action while actively engaging the enemy,” the report said. That assessment disputes an account provided to The Post in November by Nigerien villagers. They said that Johnson’s hands appeared to have been tied behind his back, suggesting that he had been executed after being captured.

Reached by phone Thursday, the two villagers , Mounkaila Allassane and Adamou Boubacar, said they stood by their story but both declined to comment further.

The Pentagon released no further details on Johnson’s death.

The bodies of Black, Wright and Jeremiah Johnson were retrieved a few hours after the firefight, on the evening of Oct. 4. But the military was unable to recover La David Johnson’s remains until the evening of Oct. 6, an unusual amount of time to be missing on a modern battlefield.

The other soldiers, meanwhile, were being pursued by militant forces as they tried to flee. Five of seven men in the car were shot, including Perozeni. After getting stuck in the mud, the troops radioed for assistance and then disabled that equipment. They fled enemy fire to the west through a swampy area, establishing a defensive position until the militants were forced to retreat when French aircraft arrived at the scene.

It’s unclear how inadequate aerial surveillance may have contributed to the incident or how a force of 100 militants could have massed quickly enough to surprise the unit. Investigators said they were not able to determine whether villagers tipped off the attackers or were coerced into withholding warnings.

The events around Tongo Tongo generated an immediate outcry from lawmakers, who said they had not been properly informed about activities in Niger, and potentially beyond.

The episode ignited a larger political controversy after a Democratic congresswoman reported that President Trump had upset La David Johnson’s widow in a condolence call, saying that the president had stumbled over the soldier’s nameand that he suggested that the soldier “must have known what he signed up for.”

Trump denied the account, and his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, blasted the lawmaker, Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.). Kelly, whose son was killed in the war in Afghanistan, called Wilson an “empty barrel” and made a subsequently disproved claim that she had improperly taken credit for funding an FBI facility in Florida.

The controversy was a departure from how previous administrations handled military casualties, and provided another illustration of how Trump has been willing to feud publicly, even with individuals typically seen as beyond reproach.

Johnson’s mother later corroborated Wilson’s account of the conversation and said the president “did disrespect my son.”

Source:- https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/military-investigation-of-niger-disaster-finds-numerous-failures-in-planning/2018/05/10/4a43cddc-4359-11e8-ad8f-27a8c409298b_story.html?utm_term=.ed528eb8e462

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Trump unloads on Homeland Security secretary in lengthy immigration tirade https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/news/trump-unloads-on-homeland-security-secretary-in-lengthy-immigration-tirade.html Fri, 11 May 2018 04:38:24 +0000 https://www.biphoo.com/bipnews/?p=65287 Trump unloads on Homeland Security secretary in lengthy immigration tirade President Trump berated Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a dispiriting Cabinet meeting on immigration Wednesday, according to three administration officials, but her colleagues denied reports that she has threatened to quit. Trump lashed out at his Cabinet, and Nielsen in particular, when told that […]

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Trump unloads on Homeland Security secretary in lengthy immigration tirade

President Trump berated Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a dispiriting Cabinet meeting on immigration Wednesday, according to three administration officials, but her colleagues denied reports that she has threatened to quit.

Trump lashed out at his Cabinet, and Nielsen in particular, when told that the number of people arrested for illegally crossing the Mexico border topped 50,000 for the second consecutive month. The blowup lasted more than 30 minutes, according to a person with knowledge of what transpired, as Trump’s face reddened and he raised his voice, saying Nielsen needed to “close down” the border.

“Why don’t you have solutions? How is this still happening?” he said, adding later, “We need to shut it down. We’re closed.”

Administration officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide a candid account of the private meeting.

Trump’s tirade went on so long that many present began fidgeting in their seats and flashing grimaces, White House aides said. Eventually, the topic moved on to health care, bringing relief to many in the room.

Trump’s outburst at Nielsen was first reported Thursday by the New York Times.

The president’s eruption was witnessed by Cabinet members plus a number of senior White House officials — including counselor Kellyanne Conway, advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, immigration adviser Stephen Miller and chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow.

Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, Nielsen’s top ally who recommended her to Trump for the Homeland Security job, also was present.

Nielsen battled back, one person said, telling Trump that laws limit some of what she could do to block the flow of undocumented immigrants. Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended her, saying the administration was looking for new ways to deter illegal crossings.

Mostly, though, Nielsen struggled to get a word in, said one senior official.

The New York Times and Politico reported that Nielsen, who began the job in December, drafted a resignation letter. In a statement Thursday, a spokesman for the agency said that was false. Two senior White House officials described Nielsen as upset after the meeting, but said they were unaware of such a letter or threats to resign.

One White House official said Nielsen was in the building again Thursday. Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesman, did not respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment.

One person close to Nielsen said she is unlikely to resign. “She feels like she’s doing the best she can and doing a good job on immigration, but she also has to follow the law,” this person said. “It’s frustrating to have your boss unhappy about that.”

Homeland Security’s deputy secretary position is vacant, so there would be no immediate replacement if Nielsen were to step down.

Trump has never viewed Nielsen favorably, and complains to colleagues that she is “not tough enough,” according to a senior White House official. He reminds staff that she was a “George W. Bush person” because of her previous tenure as a White House Homeland Security adviser.

In recent weeks, Nielsen has announced measures aimed at deterring illegal migration, including criminal prosecutions for parents who cross the border illegally with their children. Families are typically broken up in those circumstances, as federal immigration agents send children to government shelters while their mothers and fathers remain in custody awaiting court dates.

Trump has asked for frequent updates about the number of people attempting to cross the border illegally and has grown increasingly irritated at the recent trends.

A caravan of Central American migrants traveling through Mexico seized the president’s attention this spring, and in the weeks that followed he frequently asked Homeland Security for updates, administration officials said.

Illegal crossings plunged in the early phase of Trump’s presidency, but have since returned to levels consistent with the last several years of the Obama administration. Arrests along the border with Mexico typically rise during springtime, when migrants seeking jobs on U.S. farms and ranches return for the summer growing season.

Source:- https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-unloads-on-homeland-security-secretary-in-lengthy-immigration-tirade/2018/05/10/f0ded152-54a0-11e8-9c91-7dab596e8252_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.a98416e1ce94

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