World en Wed Feb 21 13:16:18 IST 2024 pakistan-pm-shahbaz-sharifs-hyped-china-trip-turns-into-a-dud-a-financial-black-hole <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Pakistan Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif embarked on a much-hyped trip to China a week ago, eyeing Chinese investments in the cash-strapped country. Sharif also planned to cajole Chinese leaders to extend the repayment period of the loans from China for an additional five years, all to cushion economic blows from the IMF norms. </p> <p>The Pakistani government officials hailed the trip a success with images showing a beaming Sharif with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Islamabad called the visit &quot;extremely successful and historic&quot;, adding that the &quot;fruits of the historic visit to China will reach the people of Pakistan.&quot;</p> <p>Both even released a joint statement &quot;underscoring the importance of maintaining peace and stability in South Asia and the need for resolution of all outstanding disputes&quot;, after Sharif briefed Xi about Kashmir. </p> <p>However, reports claim this could all be a facade. Sharif and his entourage of cabinet ministers left nearly empty-handed after finishing a five-day official visit this past weekend, reported <a href="">Nikkei Asia.</a></p> <p>The report added that China has cooled on Pakistan and its much-hyped&nbsp;$50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). &quot;The Chinese have become wary of putting in more money since they know it is a financial black hole due to Pakistan's long-term poor economic circumstances,&quot; Jeremy Garlick, an associate professor of international relations at Prague University of Economics and Business, told Nikkei Asia. &quot;China needs to maintain the facade that CPEC is working because it is supposed to be a key part of the Belt and Road Initiative.&quot; </p> <p>Though Pakistan had claimed that an upgraded version of the multibillion-dollar agreement would be formally launched in Beijing, the Chinese response wasn't encouraging. &quot;Earlier CPEC investments in the power sector were rushed by political needs, and might not have been optimal,&quot; Stella Hong Zhang, a China public policy postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Ash Center, told the Tokyo-based news media. </p> <p>Many believe the promises related to CPEC will remain a major enterprise in words only.</p> <p>One of Pakistan's requirements during the Beijing trip was debt restructuring. Chinese officials say around 13 per cent of Pakistan’s external debt is owed to China, but the International Monetary Fund put the figure at almost 30 per cent in a 2022 report.</p> <p>However, there was no public statement on the topic. &quot;The Pakistani side entered these meetings with realistically low expectations about winning concessions in the form of restructuring Pakistan’s outstanding debt to China. Some form of relief may yet come, but is unlikely to be significant,&quot; Ali Hasanain, an associate professor at Lahore University of Management Sciences, told VOA. </p> <p>That said, both countries have signed 23 agreements and Memoranda of Understanding, or MOUs, in a myriad of fields including cooperation on agriculture, infrastructure, industrial cooperation, inter-governmental development assistance, market regulation, surveying and mapping, media, and film.</p> <p>China may invest in non-governmental firms in Pakistan because it is a strategic partner.</p> Wed Jun 12 14:42:57 IST 2024 uncertainty-after-hamas-seeks-amendments-in-ceasefire-proposal <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Uncertainty still prevailed over the ceasefire proposal mooted by the US with regard to the Israel-Hamas war after the militant group reportedly sought some amendments to the proposal, stating that their priority was to bring a 'complete stop' to the war.&nbsp;</p> <p>Hamas submitted its formal response on Tuesday to Egyptian and Qatari mediators to the proposal outlined by U.S. President Joe Biden on May 31. </p> <p>Though the mediators did not reveal the details of Hamas's response, Hamas political bureau Izzat al-Rishq said on Wednesday in a statement the group's answer was &quot;responsible, serious and positive&quot; and &quot;opens up a wide pathway&quot; for an accord.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Hamas spokesperson Jihad Taha too claimed the response included &quot;amendments that confirm the ceasefire, withdrawal, reconstruction and prisoner exchange.&quot;</p> <p>Though the United States has said Israel accepted its proposal, Netanyahu has not publicly acknowledged this. However, Hamas's response has elicited a reaction from Israel, which stated that the militant group's response was tantamount to a rejection. An Israeli official told Reuters on Tuesday the country had received Hamas' answer from the mediators and that Hamas &quot;changed all of the main and most meaningful parameters.&quot; The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Hamas &quot;has rejected the proposal for a hostage release that was presented by President Biden. </p> <p>The US has said it is evaluating Hamas’ formal response to its Gaza ceasefire proposal. However, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Tel Aviv to meet Israeli officials, called this a &quot;hopeful sign&quot; but said it was not conclusive. &quot;More important is the word coming from Gaza and from the Hamas leadership in Gaza. That's what counts, and that's what we don't have yet,&quot; Blinken told reporters in Tel Aviv.</p> <p><b>What's Biden's ceasefire plan? </b></p> <p>According to the ceasefire proposal mooted by Biden, there will be an initial six-week ceasefire and phased release of Israeli hostages in Gaza in exchange for Palestinians jailed in Israel.</p> <p>In the three-phase plan, the Israeli military will withdraw from the populated areas of Gaza and the release of some hostages while &quot;a permanent end to hostilities&quot; will be negotiated through mediators.</p> Wed Jun 12 13:21:51 IST 2024 us-presidents-son-hunter-biden-found-guilty-on-all-charges-in-federal-gun-trial <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Hunter Biden was convicted on Tuesday of all three felony charges related to the purchase of a revolver in 2018 when, prosecutors argued, the president's son lied on a mandatory gun-purchase form by saying he was not illegally using or addicted to drugs.</p> <p>Jurors found Hunter Biden guilty of lying to a federally licensed gun dealer, making a false claim on the application by saying he was not a drug user and illegally having the gun for 11 days. The jury in Wilmington, Delaware, deliberated for about three hours over two days.</p> <p>Hunter Biden started straight ahead and showed little emotion as the verdict was read. After the verdict, he hugged both of his attorneys and smiled wanly. He kissed his wife, Melissa, and they left the courtroom together.</p> <p>First lady Jill Biden arrived at the courthouse minutes after the jury delivered its verdict and was not in the courtroom when it was read.</p> <p>He faces up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced by Judge Maryellen Noreika, though first-time offenders do not get anywhere near the maximum, and it's unclear whether she would give him time behind bars. The judge did not set a sentencing date.</p> <p>Now, Hunter Biden and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, the chief political rival of President Joe Biden, have been convicted by American jurors in an election year that has been as much about the courtroom as it has been about campaign events and rallies.</p> <p>Joe Biden has steered clear of the federal courtroom in Delaware where his son was tried and said little about the case, wary of creating an impression of interfering in a criminal matter brought by his own Justice Department. But allies of the Democrat have worried about the toll that the trial and now the conviction will take on the 81-year-old, who has long been concerned with his only living son's health and sustained sobriety.</p> <p>Hunter Biden and Trump have both argued they were victimized by the politics of the moment. But while Trump has continued to falsely claim the verdict was rigged, Joe Biden has said he would accept the results of the verdict and would not seek to pardon his son.</p> <p>Hunter Biden's legal troubles aren't over. He faces a trial in September in California on charges of failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes and congressional Republicans have signaled they will keep going after him in their stalled impeachment effort into the president. The president has not been accused or charged with any wrongdoing by prosecutors investigating his son.</p> <p>The prosecution devoted much of the trial to highlighting the seriousness of Hunter Biden's drug problem, through highly personal testimony and embarrassing evidence.</p> <p>Jurors heard Hunter Biden's ex-wife and a former girlfriend testify about his habitual crack use and their failed efforts to help him get clean. Jurors saw images of the president's son bare-chested and disheveled in a filthy room, and half-naked holding crack pipes. And jurors watched video of his crack cocaine weighed on a scale.</p> <p>Hunter Biden did not testify but jurors heard his voice when prosecutors played audio excerpts of his 2021 memoir Beautiful Things, in which he talks about hitting bottom after the death of his brother Beau in 2015, and his descent into drugs before his eventual sobriety.</p> <p>Prosecutors felt the evidence was necessary to prove that Hunter, 54, was in the throes of addiction when he bought the gun and therefore lied when he checked no on the form that asked whether he was an unlawful user of, or addicted to drugs.</p> <p>Defence attorney Abbe Lowell had argued that Hunter Biden's state of mind was different when he wrote the book than when he bought the gun when he didn't believe he had an addiction. Lowell pointed out to jurors that some of the questions on the firearms transaction record are in the present tense, such as are you an unlawful user of or addicted to drugs.</p> <p>And Lowell suggested Hunter Biden might have felt he had a drinking problem at the time, but not a drug problem. Alcohol abuse does not preclude a gun purchase.</p> <p>Hunter Biden had hoped last year to resolve a long-running investigation federal investigation under a deal with prosecutors that would avoided the spectacle of a trial so close to the 2024 election. Under the deal, he would have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor tax offenses and avoid prosecution in the gun case if he stayed out of trouble for two years.</p> <p>But the deal fell apart after Noreika, who was nominated by Trump, questioned unusual aspects of the proposed agreement, and the lawyers could not resolve the matter.</p> <p>Attorney General Merrick Garland then appointed top investigator David Weiss, Delaware's US attorney, as a special counsel last August, and a month later Hunter Biden was indicted.</p> <p>Hunter Biden has said he was charged because the Justice Department bowed to pressure from Republicans who argued the Democratic president's son was getting special treatment.</p> <p>The reason that law enforcement raised any questions about the revolver is because Hallie Biden, Beau's widow, found it unloaded in Hunter's truck on Oct. 23, 2018, panicked and tossed it into a garbage can at Janssen's Market, where a man inadvertently fished it out of the trash. She testified about the episode in court.</p> <p>Hallie Biden, who had a romantic relationship with Hunter after Beau died, eventually called the police. Officers retrieved the gun from the man who inadvertently took the gun along with other recyclables from the trash. The case was eventually closed because of lack of cooperation from Hunter Biden, who was considered the victim.&nbsp;</p> Tue Jun 11 21:42:05 IST 2024 watch-king-charless-first-official-portrait-defaced-by-animal-rights-activists <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The first official portrait of King Charles III, since his coronation, was defaced by two animal rights activists on Tuesday at the Philip Mould Gallery in London. The protesters had stuck the painting with stickers of Wallace and Gromit, from children's film series.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The group 'Animal Rising' posted a video on social media showing the protesters covering the painting with the stickers. The video shows two protesters approaching the portrait and sticking the stickers on the King’s face.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;No cheese, Gromit. Look at all this cruelty on RSPCA farms,&quot; read the message written on the poster. In the social media post, the group also wrote: “Find out why King Charles, patron of the RSPCA [Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals], should ask them to drop the Assured Scheme.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to NBC News, the message refers to the animated characters' love for cheese and the “alleged animal cruelty at a number of farms certified by the RSPCA, a British charity.”&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The portrait of the King unveiled on May 14, shows Charles donned in the uniform of the Welsh Guards with a sword in hand and a butterfly landing on his shoulder.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The portrait was by artist Jonathan Yeo and it was kept on show at the gallery in London till June 21.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The group later in a statement said that the painting was not damaged as the posters were affixed with water sprayed onto the bag and are easily removable.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“With King Charles being such a big fan of Wallace and Gromit, we couldn’t think of a better way to draw his attention to the horrific scenes on RSPCA Assured farms!” said Daniel Juniper, one of the protesters who defaced the painting.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Even though we hope this is amusing to His Majesty, we also call on him to seriously reconsider if he wants to be associated with the awful suffering across farms being endorsed by the RSPCA,” he added.</p> Tue Jun 11 21:16:18 IST 2024 china-4-us-instructors-stabbed-in-public-park-suspect-arrested <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Four US instructors from Iowa's Cornell College teaching at Beihua University in northeastern China were stabbed in a public park on Tuesday. A 55-year-old suspect was arrested by the police relating to the incident.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The injured were rushed to a hospital for treatment. None suffered life-threatening injuries, said Lin Jian, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson. The instructors were on a daytime visit to the park when the attack occurred.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Cornell College President Jonathan Brand in a statement said that the instructors were attacked while in the park with a faculty member from Beihua.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Cornell spokesperson Jen Visser said in an email that the college was still gathering information about what happened.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The US State Department in a statement confirmed the incident and said it was monitoring the situation. The attack happened at a time when China and the US were seeking to break down cultural barriers and help bolster relations amid tensions over trade and existing issues with Taiwan.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, the police said that the attacker had bumped into one of the instructors and then attacked them and the three others with them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A Chinese tourist was also injured while trying to help to stop the attacker, police added. The four were from Cornell College in the US state of Iowa and were teaching at a college in Jilin, police added.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lin said China has taken effective measures to protect the safety of foreigners. We believe that the isolated incident will not disrupt normal cultural and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries, he added.</p> Tue Jun 11 19:32:02 IST 2024 malawi-vice-president-chilima-killed-in-plane-crash <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Malawi Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima and nine others on board an aircraft that went missing on Monday were killed in a plane crash. President Lazarus Chakwera confirmed Chilima's death on Tuesday. The wreckage of the plane was located by the search team in a mountainous area in the north of the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is assumed that poor visibility led to the crash. The military aircraft had left Lilongwe at 09:17 am and was scheduled to land at Mzuzu airport at 10:02 am. Reportedly, due to unfavourable weather conditions, the aircraft was asked to return to the capital but went off the radar.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The aircraft was described as a small, propeller-driven plane operated by the Malawian armed forces. Chakwera said that the air traffic controllers told the plane not to attempt a landing at Mzuzu's airport due to bad weather.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;I'm deeply saddened, I'm sorry to inform you all that it has turn out to be a terrible tragedy. The search and rescue team has found the aircraft near a hill... they have found it completely destroyed with no survivors,&quot; said Chakwera.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While addressing the nation, Chakwera also said that the crash occurred in a mountainous part of the Chikangawa Forest.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A massive search operation was launched after the VP's aircraft went missing. Around 600 personnel, including soldiers, police officers and forest rangers had been searching for the plane in the Viphya Mountains area, where it went missing.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chilima was a potential presidential candidate in the upcoming elections in the country next year. He was arrested in 2022 over graft allegations, however, the charges were dropped after the case was withdrawn by the concerned party.</p> Tue Jun 11 17:14:58 IST 2024 blinken-welcomes-un-vote-in-favour-of-gaza-cease-fire-calls-on-hamas-accept-it <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that the UN Security Council's vote in favour of a US-backed proposal for a cease-fire in Gaza made it as clear as it possibly could be that the world supports the plan, as he again called on Hamas to accept it.<br> <br> Everyone's vote is in, except for one vote, and that's Hamas, Blinken told reporters in Tel Aviv after meeting with Israeli officials. Blinken said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had reaffirmed his commitment to the proposal when they met late Monday.<br> <br> Blinken's latest visit to the region his eighth since Hamas' October 7 attack ignited the war is focused on rallying support for the cease-fire proposal, boosting the entry of humanitarian aid and advancing postwar plans for Gaza's governance.<br> <br> He is travelling on to Jordan as well as Qatar, which along with Egypt has served as a key mediator with Hamas.<br> <br> The proposal, announced by President Joe Biden last month, calls for a three-phased plan in which Hamas would release the rest of the hostages in exchange for a lasting cease-fire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. The group is still holding around 120 hostages, a third of whom are believed to be dead.<br> <br> Biden presented it as an Israeli proposal, but Netanyahu has publicly disputed key aspects of it, saying Israel won't end the war without destroying Hamas and returning all the hostages.<br> <br> Hamas has not yet formally responded to the proposal. The militant group welcomed the UN resolution and supports the broad outline of the agreement but has demanded assurances it will be implemented. The militant group embraced a similar proposal last month that was rejected by Israel.<br> <br> Efforts are continuing to study and clarify some matters to ensure implementation by the Israeli side, Hamas spokesman Jihad Taha said Tuesday. Israel has not given clear approval or commitments to implementation that would lead to ending the aggression, he said.<br> <br> On Monday, the UN Security Council voted overwhelmingly to approve the proposal, with 14 of the 15 members voting in favour and Russia abstaining. The resolution calls on Israel and Hamas to fully implement its terms without delay and without condition.<br> <br> The proposal has raised hopes of ending an 8-month war that has killed over 37,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials, and driven some 80 per cent of the population of 2.3 million from their homes.<br> <br> Israeli restrictions and ongoing fighting have hindered efforts to bring humanitarian aid to the isolated coastal enclave, fuelling widespread hunger.<br> <br> The war began when Hamas and other militants stormed into Israel on October 7, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 hostage. Over 100 hostages were released during a weeklong cease-fire last year in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.<br> <br> Biden's May 31 announcement of the new proposal said it would begin with an initial six-week cease-fire and the release of some hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. Israeli forces would withdraw from populated areas and Palestinian civilians would be allowed to return to their homes.<br> <br> Phase one also requires the safe distribution of humanitarian assistance at scale throughout the Gaza Strip, which Biden said would lead to 600 trucks with aid entering Gaza every day.<br> <br> In phase two, the resolution says that with the agreement of Israel and Hamas, a permanent end to hostilities, in exchange for the release of all other hostages still in Gaza, and a full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza will take place.<br> <br> Phase three would launch a major multi-year reconstruction plan for Gaza and the return of the remains of any deceased hostages still in Gaza to their families.<br> <br> The conflicting signals from Netanayahu appear to reflect his political dilemma. His far-right coalition allies have rejected the proposal and have threatened to bring down his government if he ends the war without destroying Hamas.<br> <br> A lasting cease-fire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza would likely allow Hamas to retain control of the territory and rebuild its military capabilities.<br> <br> But Netanyahu is also under mounting pressure to accept a deal to bring the hostages back. Thousands of Israelis, including families of the hostages, have demonstrated in favour of the US-backed plan.<br> <br> The transition from the first to the second phase appears to be a sticking point. Hamas wants assurances that Israel will not resume the war, and Israel wants to ensure that protracted negotiations over the second phase do not prolong the cease-fire indefinitely while leaving hostages in captivity.<br> <br> Blinken said the proposal would bring an immediate cease-fire and commit the parties to negotiate an enduring one. The cease-fire that would take place immediately would remain in place, which is manifestly good for everyone. And then we'll have to see, Blinken said.&nbsp; Tue Jun 11 16:43:21 IST 2024 never-acceptable-canada-reacts-to-float-depicting-assassination-of-indian-general-a-s-vaidya-in-brampton <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A day after India protested the display of a float depicting the assassination of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in a Khalistani demonstration in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) last week, Canada reacted to the issue, stating violence is never acceptable.</p> <p>Cameron MacKay, the High Commissioner for Canada in India, has reacted to the incident on X. His post read:&quot;The Government of Canada is aware of further imagery displayed in Brampton on Sunday. Canada’s position is clear: The promotion of violence is never acceptable in Canada.&quot;<br> </p> <p>The controversial float was displayed in a parade to mark the 40th anniversary of Operation Bluestar. It depicted an effigy of Indira Gandhi being fired upon by her bodyguards with a poster stating her punishment had been delivered on October 31, 1984. It also carried the photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the caption, 'punishment waiting'.<br> </p> <p>The display also featured images of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a pro-Khalistan figure killed in Surrey, British Columbia on June 18, 2023.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>India had sharply responded to the float with India’s High Commissioner to Ottawa, Sanjay Kumar Verma, urging all levels of government in Canada to take exemplary action against the public display of violence and hatred. Verma raised the issue with Global Affairs Canada, the country’s foreign ministry.<br> </p> <p>&quot;Indian nationals living in Canada feel intimidated by such hatred being propagated. Unfortunately, this has happened in Canada time and again. Canadian systems and society have failed to put any cost on the perpetrators,&quot; Verma said.<br> </p> <p>This isn't the first time that such a float has been displayed. Last year, too&nbsp; Khalistani advocates in Canada displayed a float in a parade depicting the 1984 assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her bodyguards. Video circulated had shown the tableau featuring Gandhi wearing a blood-stained white saree with her hands up as turban-clad men pointed guns at her. A poster behind the scene read: &quot;Revenge&quot;.<br> </p> <p>Then, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar reacted to the issue, stating that was not good for India-Canada relationship. &quot;I think there is a larger underlying issue about the space which is given to separatists, to extremists, to people who advocate violence,&quot; Jaishankar had reacted to the incident.<br> </p> Tue Jun 11 14:31:11 IST 2024 malawi-defense-force-flight-goes-missing-with-vice-president-chilima-on-board-rescue-ops-on <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>An aircraft with Saulos Klaus Chilima, Vice President of Malawi,&nbsp; went missing on Monday. V-P Chilima was on board the fight alongside nine others, Malawi's presidency said in a statement. A search and rescue operation is underway to spot the airplane.<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;All efforts by aviation authorities to make contact with the Aircraft since it went off the radar have failed thus far,&quot; Malawi's Office of the President and Cabinet said in a statement.&nbsp;Aviation authorities lost contact with the plane when it went off radar, the statement added.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was an aircraft belonging to the Malawi Defence Force that the 51-year-old was traveling on, Reuters said in a report. The plane took off from Malawi's capital Lilongwe before going missing. The destination of the aircraft was said to be Mzuzu International Airport, located in the capital city of the Northern Region of the Republic of Malawi.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> Mon Jun 10 22:38:41 IST 2024 pak-pm-shehbaz-sharif-his-elder-brother-nawaz-wish-narendra-modi-on-taking-oath-as-pm <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his elder brother and the ruling party supremo Nawaz Sharif on Monday wished Narendra Modi for taking oath as the prime minister for the third consecutive term.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In his message posted on X, Nawaz, the former prime minister and chief of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), said that Modi's success in recent elections reflects the confidence of the people in his leadership and asked him to seize the opportunity to shape the destiny of the two billion people of South Asia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Modi was sworn in as prime minister on Sunday for a record-equalling third term, heading a 72-member Union Council of Ministers in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shehbaz, the only prime minister from India's neighbourhood who wasn't invited to the swearing-in ceremony in New Delhi, took to X to wish his counterpart on his return from China, Pakistan's all-weather ally.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Felicitations to @narendramodi on taking oath as the Prime Minister of India,&quot; he said in a post.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;My warm felicitations to Modi Ji (@narendramodi) on assuming office for the third time. Your party's success in recent elections reflects the confidence of the people in your leadership. Let us replace hate with hope and seize the opportunity to shape the destiny of the two billion people of South Asia,&quot; Nawaz said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Top leaders from India's neighbourhood and the Indian Ocean region, including Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu, Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' and Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Sunday graced the historic swearing-in ceremony.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, his Bhutanese counterpart Tshering Tobgay and Vice-President of Seychelles Ahmed Afif also attended the glittering ceremony held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India's relationship with Pakistan suffered a setback in 2019 when Islamabad downgraded its ties with New Delhi after the Indian Parliament suspended Article 370 on August 5, 2019.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India has been maintaining that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan while insisting that the onus is on Islamabad to create an environment that is free of terror and hostility for such an engagement.&nbsp;</p> Mon Jun 10 19:25:12 IST 2024 watch-out-of-control-rodeo-bull-leaps-into-oregon-crowd-tosses-woman-along-the-way <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In a shocking incident, an out-of-control rodeo bull known as Party Bus leapt out of the arena in Oregon and charged into the crowd tossing a woman along its way. The videos of the incident, which occurred on Saturday, were widely shared on social media capturing the chaotic scenes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The video shows the bull charging at the woman--wearing a red shirt--as it escaped out of the arena.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The bull tossed the woman into the air, causing her to land directly on its head. It then spun her off its horns a second time, sending her to the ground beneath its feet. The bull crashed through a table and then fled into the parking lot.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to the Sisters Rodeo Association, the bull was captured by the rodeo pickup men next to livestock holding pens.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The association in a statement said that three people were injured &quot;as a direct result of the bull, two of whom were transported to a local hospital.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A deputy also suffered minor injuries, said reports.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The incident happened shortly before 10 pm during the last run of the night at the 84th Sisters Rodeo. The event draws many sports enthusiasts and it attracts the nation’s top cowboys.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The bull spontaneously soared over the 7-foot fence, sending crowds jumping out of the way.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association said Saturday’s incident is a reminder that “while rodeo is a highly entertaining sport, on very rare occasions, it can also pose some risk.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“PRCA sends our thoughts and well wishes to those who were injured or otherwise impacted by this frightening and very rare incident,” the association said.</p> Mon Jun 10 19:09:50 IST 2024 with-benny-gantzs-exit-whats-next-for-netanyahu-government <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Amid the deepening disagreements over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s post-conflict plans for Gaza, Israel's war cabinet minister Benny Gantz quit the emergency government. </p> <p>His exit was not quite sudden or surprising. Gantz had quit three weeks after laying down a deadline for Netanyahu to come up with a clear postwar strategy for Gaza. </p> <p>&quot;Leaving the government is a complex and painful decision,&quot; said Gantz in a televised statement. He added that Netanyahu prevents us from moving forward to a real victory [in Gaza]. “That is why we are leaving the emergency government today with a heavy heart, but with a whole heart.”</p> <p>Netanyahu had reacted to his exit by saying, &quot;Israel is in an existential war on several fronts. Benny, this is not the time to abandon the war - this is the time to join forces.&quot;</p> <p>On May 18, Gantz said that if Netanyahu didn’t come up with a proper plan to bring the hostages and governance of a post-war Gaza, then he would quit the government by June 8. The Israel’s rescue mission of the hostages in between had delayed the ex-defence minister’s exit plans.</p> <p><b>Will Gantz's exit affect the Netanyahu government? </b></p> <p>Gantz, the former chief of staff, is considered Netanyahu’s chief political rival. According to analysts, if the election is held in the country now then Gantz has a good chance of winning. </p> <p>However, his exit does not affect the Netanyahu government as his coalition partners have 64 of the Knesset’s 120 seats. Netanyahu still enjoys the majority and the elections in Israel are due only in October 2026.</p> <p>Amid the intensifying Gaza war, Netanyahu was criticised for handling the hostage situation and there was immense pressure on him to step down. </p> <p>Along with Gantz, Gadi Eisenkot, a centrist member of the Israel war cabinet also resigned from Netanyahu's emergency government. Meanwhile, Gantz's exit might cause a political chain reaction and will give courage to the PM's critics at home and abroad. </p> <p>Eisenkot, a former chief of staff of the Israeli army after giving his resignation said that “We have witnessed that the decisions made by the government and by you are not necessarily motivated by national considerations and the good of the country,” Eisenkot wrote to Netanyahu. “Foreign and political considerations have infiltrated the discussion rooms and influence the decision-making,” he said.</p> <p>Gantz has also addressed Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, a war cabinet from Netanyahu's own Likud party. Gallant has also voiced support for reaching a deal with the militants to bring home the 120 hostages still in captivity, even if it requires painful compromises.</p> <p>Gantz's exit makes Netanyahu more dependent on far-right allies. His exit may further worsen the political crisis in the country as the Gaza war continues.</p> Mon Jun 10 18:11:20 IST 2024 european-union-elections-far-right-surge-rattles-eus-traditional-powers <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Far-right parties rattled the traditional powers in the European Union with major gains in parliamentary seats, dealing an especially humiliating defeat to French President Emmanuel Macron, who called snap legislative elections.</p> <p>Some ballots in the vote for the European Parliament were still being counted Monday, but the outcome showed the 27-nation bloc's parliament membership has clearly shifted to the right. Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni more than doubled her party's seats in the assembly. And despite being hounded by a scandal involving candidates, the Alternative for Germany extreme right party still rallied enough seats to sweep past the slumping Social Democrats of Chancellor Olaf Scholz.<br> </p> <p>Sensing a threat from the far right, the Christian Democrats of EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had already shifted further to the right on migration and climate ahead of the elections&nbsp; and were rewarded by remaining by far the biggest group in the 720-seat European Parliament and de facto brokers of the ever-expanding powers of the legislature.<br> </p> <p>But, the surge by nationalist and populist parties across Europe will make it much harder for the assembly to approve legislation on issues ranging from climate change to agriculture policy for the next five years.<br> </p> <p>Undoubtedly however, the star on a stunning electoral night was the National Rally party of Marine Le Pen, which dominated the French polls to such an extent that Macron immediately dissolved the national parliament and called for new elections to start later this month.<br> </p> <p>In Germany, the EU's most populous nation, projections indicated that voters had not been dissuaded by the AfD's scandals as it rose to 16.5%, up from 11% in 2019. In comparison, the combined result for the three parties in the German governing coalition barely topped 30%.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Scholz's governing Social Democratic party was humiliated as the Alternative for Germany surged into second place. After all the prophecies of doom, after the barrage of the last few weeks, we are the second strongest force, a jubilant AfD leader Alice Weidel said.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Overall across the EU, two mainstream and pro-European groups, the Christian Democrats and the Socialists, remained dominant in the voting that concluded Sunday. The gains of the far right came at the expense of the Greens, who were expected to lose about 20 seats and fall back to sixth position in the legislature. Macron's pro-business Renew group also lost big.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>After having flirted during campaigning with the idea of working with a political group further right, von der Leyen offered late Sunday to build a coalition with the Social Democrats, which mostly held its ground in the elections, and the pro-business Liberals.<br> </p> <p>&quot;We are by far the strongest party, We are the anchor of stability,&quot; von der Leyen said. Reflecting on the rise of the far-right and good showing of the far-left, she added that the result brings great stability for the parties in the center. We all have interest in stability and we all want a strong and effective Europe.<br> </p> <p>In the legislature, provisional results showed that the Christian Democrats would have 189 seats, up 13, the Social Democrats 135, down 4 and the pro-business Renew group 83, down 19. The Greens slumped to 53, down 18.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Germany, traditionally a stronghold for environmentalists, exemplified the humbling of the Greens, who were predicted to fall from 20% to 12%. With further losses expected in France and elsewhere, the Greens' defeat could well have an impact on the EU's climate change policies, still the most progressive across the globe.<br> </p> <p>Senior party members in the EU's parliament were due to hold talks on Monday to see what alliances might be established. Key to the future working of the assembly will be whether the far right unites in a strong enough bloc to challenge the main pro-European groups.<br> </p> <p>The elections come at a testing time for voter confidence in a bloc of some 450 million people. Over the last five years, the EU has been shaken by the coronavirus pandemic, an economic slump and an energy crisis fueled by Russia's war in Ukraine. But campaigning often focused on issues in individual countries rather than on broader European interests.<br> </p> <p>Since the last EU election in 2019, populist or far-right parties now lead governments in three nations&nbsp; Hungary, Slovakia and Italy and are part of ruling coalitions in others including Sweden, Finland and, soon, the Netherlands.&nbsp;<br> </p> Mon Jun 10 14:18:19 IST 2024 macrons-gamble-french-president-calls-snap-elections-after-massive-loss-to-far-right-in-eu-elections <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>French President Emmanuel Macron took a political gamble on Sunday as&nbsp;he dissolved the lower house of France's parliament, making way for a snap election. Macron's decision comes as his party suffered a massive loss to the far-right party of Marine Le Pen in the European Parliament vote.&nbsp;</p> <p>As per the initial projects, Macron's Renaissance party was pushed to second place with just 15.2% of the vote as Le Pen's far-right National Rally (RN) party came out on top with 31.5% of the vote. The Socialist came out third with 14.3% of the vote.<br> </p> <p>Just after the news of an impending defeat came, RN leader Jordan Bardella called on Macron to dissolve the French parliament. He said the gap between the two parties was a &quot;stinging disavowal&quot; for the president.&nbsp; Soon after, Macron made a national address, announcing he would dissolve the French lower house and hold parliamentary elections. &quot;I cannot act as if nothing had happened,&quot; Macron said.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>&quot;I have decided to give you back the choice of your parliamentary future by voting. I am therefore dissolving the National Assembly this evening,&quot; Macron said in the shock announcement. &quot;This decision is serious, heavy. But it is above all, an act of trust. Trust in you, my dear compatriots. In the capacity of the French people to make the most just decision,&quot; the French president added.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Though separate elections are held to choose the country’s president in France - term as president still runs for three more years - the decision, he said, showed his confidence in our democracy and letting the sovereign people have their say.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Under the French system, parliamentary elections are held to elect the 577 members of the lower house, the National Assembly. The last election was held in 2022 and Macron's centrist party won the most seats but lost its majority at the National Assembly, forcing lawmakers into political maneuvering to pass bills.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>The decision was welcomed by RN party chief Le Pen, who said &quot;they were ready for it&quot;. She was the runner-up to Macron in the last two presidential elections. &quot;We're ready to exercise power if the French people place their trust in us in these future legislative elections. We're ready to turn the country around, ready to defend the interests of the French, ready to put an end to mass immigration, ready to make the purchasing power of the French a priority,&quot; Le Pen added.<br> </p> <p>The party sources also said 28-year-old leader, Jordan Bardella, would be its contender for prime minister if it won a majority&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>The party fought the elections promising to limit the free movement of migrants by carrying out national border controls and dialling back EU climate rules. The party no longer wants to leave the EU and the euro but aims to weaken it from within.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Analysts think Macron's move is a big gamble since the move could backfire, as this could also lead to a fraught power-sharing situation called cohabitation, with Macron forced to name a prime minister with different views.<br> </p> Mon Jun 10 13:37:35 IST 2024 who-is-michael-mosley-the-missing-journalist-found-dead-on-greek-island <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>After an extensive search, the missing British TV presenter Michael Mosley's body was found on a Greek island on Sunday morning. Mosley had gone missing on June 5 after setting off on a walk leaving his wife on the Agios Nikolaos beach.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Greek police, Dr Mosley's body was found on a rocky coast by a private boat.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lefteris Papakalodoukas, the Greek island's mayor, said that he was on a boat with other media persons when the body was seen above the Agia Marina beach. &quot;We zoomed with the cameras and saw it was him,&quot; he told The Associated Press.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A search operation was launched by the police after he was reported missing by his family. He has been missing for around five days amid high temperatures.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The effort has included firefighters, dogs, helicopters, drones, local people and officers from Symi and outside the island. His four children and wife, Clare Bailey Mosley, also had joined the search team on the island.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a statement, Mosley's wife said that her husband took the wrong route on a hike and collapsed in a place where his body couldn't easily be seen.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Michael was an adventurous man, it's part of what made him so special, said Clare. &quot;It's devastating to have lost Michael, my wonderful, funny, kind and brilliant husband. We had an incredibly lucky life together. We loved each other very much and were so happy together,&quot; she added.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She thanked the people of the island of Symi, who she said worked tirelessly to find him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some of these people on the island, who hadn't even heard of Michael, worked from dawn till dusk unasked, she said. My family and I have been hugely comforted by the outpouring of love from people from around the world. It's clear that Michael meant a huge amount to so many of you, she said in the statement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mosley is famously known for his 2013 book, The Fast Diet, which he co-authored with journalist Mimi Spencer. He studied medicine in London and qualified as a doctor. However, for the last two decades, he has been a journalist, author and presenter. He was known for his TV programmes including Trust Me, I'm a Doctor.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book proposed the so-called 5:2 diet, which promised to help people lose weight quickly by minimising their calorie intake two days a week while eating healthily on the other five.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mosley has introduced a rapid weight loss programme and has made a number of films about diet and exercise as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(With agencies inputs)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sun Jun 09 19:32:12 IST 2024 iran-approves-6-candidates-for-presidential-race-but-again-blocks-ahmadinejad <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Iran's Guardian Council on Sunday approved the country's hard-line parliament speaker and five others to run in the country's June 28 presidential election following a helicopter crash that killed President Ebrahim Raisi and seven others.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The council again barred former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a firebrand populist known for the crackdown that followed his disputed 2009 re-election, from running.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a title="Iran: Who is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? The hardliner running for presidential election" href="" target="_blank"><b>Also Read | Iran: Who is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? The hardliner running for presidential election</b></a></p> <p>The council's decision represents the starting gun for a shortened, two-week campaign to replace Raisi, a hard-line protege of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei once floated as a possible successor for the 85-year-old cleric.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The selection of candidates approved by the Guardian Council, a panel of clerics and jurists ultimately overseen by Khamenei, suggests Iran's Shiite theocracy hopes to ease the election through after recent votes saw record-low turnout and as tensions remain high over the country's rapidly advancing nuclear program, as well as the Israel-Hamas war.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Guardian Council also continued its streak of not accepting a woman or anyone calling for radical change to the country's governance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The campaign likely will include live, televised debates by the candidates on Iran's state-run broadcaster. They also advertise on billboards and offer stump speeches to back their bids.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So far, none of them has offered any specifics, though all have promised a better economic situation for the country as it suffers from sanctions by the US and other Western nations over its nuclear program, which now enriches uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Such matters of state remain the final decision of Khamenei, but presidents in the past have leaned either toward engagement or confrontation with the West over it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The most prominent candidate remains Mohammed Bagher Qalibaf, 62, a former Tehran mayor with close ties to the country's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. However, many remember that Qalibaf, as a former Guard general, was part of a violent crackdown on Iranian university students in 1999. He also reportedly ordered live gunfire to be used against students in 2003 while serving as the country's police chief.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Qalibaf ran unsuccessfully for president in 2005 and 2013. He withdrew from the 2017 presidential campaign to support Raisi in his first failed presidential bid. Raisi won the 2021 election, which had the lowest turnout ever for a presidential vote in Iran, after every major opponent found themselves disqualified.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Khamenei gave a speech last week alluding to qualities that Qalibaf's supporters have highlighted as potentially signalling the supreme leader's support for the speaker.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet Qalibaf's role in crackdowns may be viewed differently after years of unrest that have gripped Iran, both over its ailing economy and the mass protests sparked by the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman who died after being arrested for allegedly not wearing her headscarf, or hijab, to the liking of security forces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Guardian Council disqualified Ahmadinejad, the firebrand, Holocaust-questioning former president. Ahmadinejad increasingly challenged Khamenei toward the end of his term and is remembered for the bloody crackdown on the 2009 Green Movement protests. He was also disqualified in the last election by the panel.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The election comes at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and the West over its arming of Russia in that country's war on Ukraine. Its support of militia proxy forces throughout the wider Middle East has been increasingly in the spotlight as Yemen's Houthi rebels attack ships in the Red Sea over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Raisi, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and others were killed in the May 19 helicopter crash in the far northwest of Iran. Investigations are continuing, though authorities say there's no immediate sign of foul play in the crash on a cloud-covered mountainside.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Raisi is the second Iranian president to die in office. In 1981, a bomb blast killed President Mohammad Ali Rajai in the chaotic days after the country's Islamic Revolution.</p> Sun Jun 09 18:24:17 IST 2024 whats-at-stake-in-the-european-parliament-election-that-concludes-sunday <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Nearly 400 million European Union citizens have been going to polls this week to elect members of the European Parliament, or MEPs, in one of the biggest global democratic events.</p> <p>Far-right parties are seeking to gain more power amid a rise in the cost of living and farmers' discontent, while the wars in Gaza and Ukraine stay on the minds of voters.<br> </p> <p>One of the biggest questions is whether European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will remain in charge as the public face of the EU.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Here is a look at the election and the biggest issues at stake:<br> </p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">WHEN IS THE VOTE?</b><br> </p> <p>EU elections are held every five years across the 27-member bloc. This year marks the 10th parliamentary election since the first polls in 1979, and the first after Brexit.<br> </p> <p>The elections started Thursday in the Netherlands and finish on Sunday, when most countries hold their election. Initial results can only be revealed in the evening after polling stations have closed in all member states.<br> </p> <p><b>HOW DOES VOTING WORK?</b><br> </p> <p>&nbsp;The voting is done by direct universal suffrage in a single ballot.<br> </p> <p>The number of members elected in each country depends on the size of the population. It ranges from six for Malta, Luxembourg and Cyprus to 96 for Germany. In 2019, Europeans elected 751 lawmakers.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Following the United Kingdom's departure from the EU in 2020, the number of MEPs fell to 705 with some of the 73 seats previously held by British MEPs redistributed to other member states.<br> </p> <p>After the election, the European Parliament will have 15 additional members, bringing the total to 720. Twelve countries will get extra MEPs.<br> </p> <p>National political parties contest elections, but once they are elected, most of the lawmakers then join transnational political groups.<br> </p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">&nbsp;WHO IS VOTING?</b><br> </p> <p>The minimum voting age is 18 in most member states. Belgium lowered it to 16 in a law adopted in 2022. Germany, Malta and Austria are also permitting 16-year-olds to vote. In Greece, the youngest voting age is 17.<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;A minimum age is also required for candidates to stand for election&nbsp; from 18 in most countries to 25 in Italy and Greece.<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>WHAT ABOUT TURNOUT?</b></p> <p>European Union elections usually don't bring a huge turnout, but there was a clear upturn in public interest in the 2019 election. At 50.7 per cent, the turnout was eight points higher than in 2014 after steadily falling since 1979, when it reached 62 per cent.<br> </p> <p>In April, the latest edition of the European Parliament's Eurobarometer highlighted a surge of interest in the upcoming election. Around 71 per cent of Europeans said they are likely to cast a ballot.<br> </p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">WHAT ARE THE MAIN ISSUES?</b><br> </p> <p>&nbsp;Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine is at the forefront of citizens' minds, with defence and security seen as key campaign issues. At the national level, the EU's defence and security was mentioned first in nine countries.&nbsp;&nbsp;The economy, jobs, poverty and social exclusion, public health, climate change and the future of Europe are also featuring prominently as issues.</p> <p><b>WHAT DO EU LAWMAKERS DO?</b><br> </p> <p>The European Parliament is the only EU institution to be elected by European citizens. It's a real counterpower to the powerful EU's executive arm, the European Commission.</p> <p>The parliament doesn't have the initiative to propose legislation, but its powers are expanding. It is now competent on a wide range of topics, voting on laws relating to climate, banking rules, agriculture, fisheries, security or justice. The legislature also votes on the EU budget, which is crucial to the implementation of European policies, including, for instance, aid delivered to Ukraine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;Lawmakers are also a key element of the check and balances system since they need to approve the nomination of all EU commissioners, who are the equivalent of ministers. It can also force the whole commission to resign with a vote of a two-third majority.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>WHAT'S THE CURRENT MAKEUP OF THE PARLIAMENT?</b></p> <p>With 176 seats out of 705 as of the end of the last plenary session in April, the centre-right European People's Party is the largest political group in the European Parliament.<br> </p> <p>Von der Leyen is from the EPP and hopes to remain at the helm of the EU's executive arm after the election.</p> <p>The second-largest group is the S&amp;D, the political group of the centre-left Party of European Socialists, which currently holds 139 seats. The pro-business liberal and pro-European Renew group holds 102 seats ahead of an alliance made up of green and regionalist political parties that holds 72 seats.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>&nbsp;FAR RIGHT LOOKS TO MAKE GAINS</b></p> <p>&nbsp;Two groups with far-right parties, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and Identity and Democracy (ID), could be headed to becoming the third- and fourth-largest political groups at the European Parliament.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>The two groups have many divergences and it's unclear to what extent they could team up to affect the EU's agenda, especially the EU's efforts to support Ukraine against Russia in the war.<br> </p> <p>The EPP and S&amp;D are expected to remain stable. Pro-business liberals and greens could both take a hit after they made big gains at the previous election.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE ELECTION?</b></p> <p>Once the weight of each political force is determined, MEPs will elect their president at the first plenary session, from July 16-19. Then, most likely in September after weeks of negotiations, they will nominate the president of the European Commission, following a proposal made by the member states.<br> </p> <p>In 2019, von der Leyen won a narrow majority (383 votes in favour, 327 against, 22 abstentions) to become the first woman to head the institution. Parliamentarians will also hear from the European commissioners before approving them in a single vote.</p> <p>&nbsp;Von der Leyen has good chance to be appointed for another term, but she needs to secure the support of enough leaders. She has also antagonised many lawmakers by suggesting she could work with the hard right depending on the outcome of the elections.</p> Sun Jun 09 14:13:17 IST 2024 how-israel-rescued-four-hostages-from-hamas-captivity-similar-to-the-entebbe-raid <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>After 246 days in captivity, four Israelis, taken hostage by the Palestinian militant group Hamas during the October 7 attack, were rescued by the Israeli forces on Saturday. A daytime operation, which happened after an extensive planning, saw Noa Argamani, Almog Meir Jan, Andrey Kozlov, and Shlomi Ziv, being extracted and airlifted from Central Gaza.</p> <p>The risky operation was codenamed 'Seeds of Summer' initially but was later changed to Operation Arnon after a security personal Arnon Zamora,&nbsp; who died in the Hamas fire during the mission.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Military officials said the mission was a &quot;hair’s breadth&quot; between success and failure. However, it was planned out weeks in advance, according to Tel Aviv-based 'The Times of Israel.' Though Hamas reportedly kept moving the hostages around Gaza to prevent Israeli rescue operations, the Israelis managed to get intel on hostages locations.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>The report added that the counter-terrorism unit of the Israeli police conducted multiple mock drills practising the extraction from Nuseirat Gaza. According to military officials, these were &quot;similar to the Entebbe raid&quot; of 1976, when Israeli commandos rescued more than 100 hostages in Uganda.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Two days before Operation Arnon was launched, the military launched another operation in a region east of Nuseirat. This was to deceive Hamas's defences from Nuseirat.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Though previous operations were launched during nighttime, the troop decided to launch the mission during morning hours this time. On Saturday morning. At 11:00 a.m. the order was given to two Israeli units, the Yamam and Shin Bet, to raid two multi-story buildings in Nuseirat, where Hamas was holding the hostages. The buildings were about 200 meters apart, and a decision was taken to go for both simultaneously due to the possibility that Hamas may murder the hostages after identifying the rescue operation at the other location.<br> </p> <p>While Noa Argamani was held by Hamas guards alone in the home of a Palestinian family, the other three hostages were held at a separate home, also with guards. According to the IDF, Hamas pays such families to hold the hostages in their houses.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>While Argamani’s rescue was relatively smooth, a major gun battle erupted at the home where Meir Jan, Kozlov, and Ziv were held. In the gunfire exchange, Arnon Zamora and the Hamas guards were killed.<br> </p> <p>Though the forces immediately tried to extract the hostages and severly wounded Zamora out of Nuseirat, their vehicle came under fire, causing it to get stuck in Gaza. Other forces quickly reached the scene to rescue them, bringing them to a makeshift helipad in Gaza, from where they were airlifted to Tel Hashomer Hospital in central Israel, The Times of Israel reported.<br> </p> <p>The operation claimed multiple civilian lives. While Hamas’s government media office said at least 210 people were killed amid the operation, Israel says 100 died. The Israel Defence Forces also placed the blame on Hamas for holding hostages and fighting in a dense civilian environment.<br> </p> <p>&quot;We know about under 100 [Palestinian] casualties. I don’t know how many of them are terrorists,&quot; IDF Spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said in a briefing with journalists.<br> </p> Sun Jun 09 12:07:18 IST 2024 gaza-war-israel-rescues-4-hostages-as-attacks-nearby-kill-94-palestinians <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Deir Al-Balah, Jun 8 (AP) Israel on Saturday carried out its largest hostage rescue operation since the war with Hamas began, taking four to safety out of central Gaza as heavy fighting continued there. At least 94 dead Palestinians, including children, were brought to local hospitals, a health official said.</p> <p>Israelis were jubilant as the army said it rescued Noa Argamani, 25; Almog Meir Jan, 21; Andrey Kozlov, 27; and Shlomi Ziv, 40, in a daytime operation in the heart of Nuseirat, raiding two locations at once and under fire. All were well, the military said. They were taken by helicopter for medical checks and reunions with loved ones after 246 days held.</p> <p>Argamani had been one of the most widely recognised hostages after being taken, like the three others, from a music festival.</p> <p>The video of her abduction was among the first to surface, with her between two men on a motorcycle as she screamed, Don't kill me!</p> <p>Her mother, Liora, has stage four brain cancer and in April released a video pleading to see her daughter before she dies.</p> <p>An elated Argamani spoke by phone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a video message released by the government, she tells him she is very excited, saying she hasn't heard Hebrew in so long.</p> <p>Netanyahu in a statement said Israel does not surrender to terrorism and acts with creativity and boldness that knows no bounds to bring home our abductees. He vowed to continue the fighting until all are freed.</p> <p>The operation was daring in nature, planned brilliantly, and executed in an extraordinary fashion,&quot; Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said.</p> <p>The bodies of nearly 100 Palestinians killed were taken to Al-Aqsa Hospital, where spokesperson Khalil Degran told The Associated Press more than 100 wounded also arrived. AP reporters saw dozens of bodies brought from the Nuseirat and Deir al-Balah areas, as smoke rose in the distance and armored vehicles rolled by.</p> <p>A baby was among the dead. Small children wailed, covered in blood. Bodies were placed on the ground outside, their feet bare, as more wounded were rushed in.</p> <p>My two cousins were killed, and two other cousins were seriously injured. They did not commit any sin. They were sitting at home, one relative said in the chaos.</p> <p>Israel's military said it had attacked threats to our forces in the area. The military said one commando died from his wounds.</p> <p>A US hostage cell provided advice and support throughout the process of locating and rescuing the hostages, according to a Biden administration official. The official, who was not authorized to comment and requested anonymity, declined to offer further detail on the American involvement. The hostage cells are multi-agency teams.</p> <p>We won't stop working until all the hostages come home and a cease-fire is reached,&quot; US President Joe Biden said.</p> <p>Hamas took some 250 hostages during the October 7 attack that killed about 1,200 people. About half were released in a weeklong cease-fire in November. About 120 hostages remain, with 43 pronounced dead. Survivors include about 15 women, two children under the age of 5 and two men in their 80s.</p> <p>Saturday's hostage recovery operation brings the total of rescued captives to seven. Two men were rescued in February and a woman was rescued in the aftermath of the October attack. Israeli troops have recovered at least 16 bodies of hostages, according to the government.</p> <p>The latest rescue was expected to lift spirits in Israel at a time when the war is dragging on and divisions are deepening over the best way to bring hostages home.</p> <p>It was unclear what effect it might have on apparently stalled cease-fire efforts. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return to the Middle East next week, seeking a breakthrough.</p> <p>The hostage release and cease-fire deal that is now on the table would secure the release of all the remaining hostages together with security assurances for Israel and relief for the innocent civilians in Gaza, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.</p> <p>Netanyahu faces growing pressure to end the fighting in Gaza. Many Israelis urge him to embrace a deal Biden announced last month, but far-right allies threaten to collapse his government if he does.</p> <p>International pressure also mounts on Israel to limit civilian bloodshed in its war in Gaza, which reached its eighth month on Friday with more than 36,700 Palestinians killed, according to Gaza's Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between fighters and civilians.</p> <p>Palestinians face widespread hunger because fighting and Israeli restrictions have largely cut off the flow of aid.</p> <p>Israel is intensifying operations across central Gaza, where the hostages were rescued. On Thursday, an Israeli airstrike hit a UN-run school compound in Nuseirat, killing over 33 people inside the school, including three women and nine children.</p> <p>Israel said some 30 militants were inside at the time and on Friday released the names of 17 militants it said were killed. However, only nine of those names matched with records of the dead from the hospital morgue.</p> <p>One of the alleged militants was an 8-year-old boy, according to hospital records.</p> <p>Israel's military on Saturday asserted that Hamas is a terror organization that often uses fake documents disguising terrorists as women or children.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat Jun 08 22:44:13 IST 2024 maldives-india-ties-heading-in-positive-direction-says-muizzu-as-he-accepts-invitation-to-attend-pm-modis-swearing-in-event <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Amid ongoing bilateral tensions, the invite to the Maldives President to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi's swearing-in ceremony was welcomed by the Mohamed Muizzu.<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Muizzu on Saturday said that he would be honoured to attend PM Modi's swearing-in ceremony. It will be Muizzu's first visit to India after assuming office on November 17 last year.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Muizzu accepted the invitation to attend the swearing-in ceremony of PM Modi in Delhi formally and thanked the Indian High Commission for personally delivering the invitation. Modi will be administered the oath of office on Sunday.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After taking charge as president, Muizzu had travelled to Turkey first and then to China in January.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Munu Mahawar, India's Higher Commissioner to the Maldives, presented the letter of invitation to the President during a courtesy call at the President's Office.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The High Commissioner extended greetings from Prime Minister Modi, stating that the PM is looking forward to having the president attend this momentous ceremony, the statement said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The president expressed his gratitude to the PM for the invitation, adding that he would be honoured to attend this historic event. He also stated that he looks forward to working with the PM to further strengthen the close relations with India, noting that the Maldives-India relationship is heading in a positive direction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Earlier on Wednesday, Muizzu had congratulated Modi and expressed his desire to work with him to advance the bilateral ties.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Congratulations to Prime Minister @narendramodi and the BJP and BJP-led NDA, on the success in the 2024 Indian General Election, for the third consecutive term. I look forward to working together to advance our shared interests in pursuit of shared prosperity and stability for our two countries,&quot; Muizzu posted on X.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pro-China leader Muizzu had demanded the removal of 88-odd Indian military personnel from his country, straining bilateral ties.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In addition to the Maldives, the swearing-in ceremony is expected to witness the presence of top leaders from neighbouring countries, including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Mauritius, and Seychelles.</p> Sat Jun 08 17:39:36 IST 2024 kate-middleton-apologises-for-missing-irish-guards-final-rehearsal-before-kings-parade <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Kate, the Princess of Wales, wished the Irish Guards good luck on their final rehearsal on Saturday before the Trooping of the Colour parade in honour of the king's birthday.</p> <p>Kate, who has been recovering from cancer, apologised for not being there in her capacity as the guards' honorary colonel.</p> <p>Being your colonel remains a great honour and I am very sorry that I'm unable to take the salute at this year's Colonel's Review,&quot; she wrote in the letter shared by the Irish Guards on the social media platform X. &quot;Please pass my apologies to the whole regiment, however I do hope that I am able to represent you all once again very soon.</p> <p>The review is a dress rehearsal for the annual military parade held each June to mark the monarch's official birthday. King Charles III will oversee the ceremony June 15.</p> <p>It's still unclear if Kate will attend the ceremony next week. She's been treated for an unspecified type of cancer she announced in March after speculation proliferated on social media about her wellbeing because she had not been seen in public for several months. She has revealed few details about her illness or treatment.</p> <p>The king has eased back into public duties while continuing to undergo his own treatment for cancer. He attended commemorations this week for the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe on June 6, 1944.</p> <p>Trooping the Colour is a 460-year old tradition in which troops in full dress uniform parade past the king with their ceremonial flag, also known as their colour.</p> <p>Charles is likely to travel to the event by carriage with Queen Camilla and is expected to watch the ceremony seated on a dais, rather than on horseback as he did last year.</p> <p>The Irish Guards said they were touched by the letter from Kate and wished her well in her recovery.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat Jun 08 22:44:37 IST 2024 uk-pm-rishi-sunak-faces-backlash-over-leaving-d-day-event-early-apologises <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Friday apologised for skipping the D-Day event in France, Normandy. Ahead of the elections, Sunak had left the event early for an election campaign television interview.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sunak apologised for flying back early after it raised many eyebrows among the global leaders. He was criticised and judged by some leaders for not supporting the Armed Forces and veterans.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Scottish First Minister John Swinney while speaking to the reporters in Glasgow said that Sunak's decision to leave early during the D-Day commemorations was &quot;a truly, breathtaking terrible decision.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was &quot;disrespectful&quot; to veterans. Sunak &quot;should have been there to represent the international interests of the United Kingdom,” Swinney added.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sunak said that he had attended various D-Day events, both in Portsmouth and France and he &quot;deeply care for the war veterans&quot;.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Around 25 world leaders attended the D-Day event hosted in France on Thursday. US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, King Charles III and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy were among the leaders present for the event at Omaha Beach in Normandy.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sunak had attended a ceremony at the British memorial in Normandy alongside King Charles III earlier in the day of the event.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;The 80th anniversary of D-Day has been a profound moment to honour the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our values, our freedom and our democracy...This anniversary should be about those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. The last thing I want is for the commemorations to be overshadowed by politics,&quot; Sunak wrote on X.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He further said that he deeply cares about veterans and has been honoured to represent the UK at a number of events in Portsmouth and France over the past two days.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;After the conclusion of the British event in Normandy, I returned back to the UK. On reflection, it was a mistake not to stay in France longer – and I apologise,&quot; said Sunak.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The UK elections are slated to be held on July 4.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Jun 07 17:23:22 IST 2024 hunter-bidens-ex-girlfriend-testifies-in-trial-the-shocking-moment-she-discovered-a-gun-in-his-vehicle <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Hunter Biden's ex-girlfriend testified before a US court on Thursday about the day she found a gun inside his vehicle, thereby revealing intimate details about the President's son's alleged drug use.&nbsp;</p> <p>As a witness in the criminal federal gun case against Hunter, Hallie lifted the lid off the pair's &quot;volatile&quot; and &quot;off-on&quot; relationship that led her to use crack cocaine. Her testimony bolstered the prosecution's case that Hunter broke the law barring illegal drug users from owning firearms.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Hallie Biden, who is also the widow of the defendant's late brother Beau, said she found the revolver amid piles of clothes and litter in the glove compartment of Hunter Biden's truck. She said she threw the gun away out of fear of his spiralling addiction. The jurors in the first criminal trial of Hunter also saw the surveillance camera footage of Hallie Biden tossing<br> </p> <p>Hunter Biden's gun in a supermarket trash can.</p> <p>&quot;I didn't want him to hurt himself, and I didn't want my kids to find it and hurt themselves,&quot; Hallie said. &quot;I was afraid to kind of touch it. I didn't know it was loaded,&quot; she added.&nbsp;&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>She wrapped the .38 calibre Colt Cobra revolver into a leather pouch, stuffed it into a purple &quot;little gift shopping bag&quot; and drove to a nearby grocery store, where she threw it in a rubbish bin. &quot;I realise it was a stupid idea now,&quot; she said. &quot;But I was panicking.&quot;&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>The weapon was reportedly discovered by a man who often rummaged through the grocery store’s refuse to gather recyclable items.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Though she did not plan on telling Hunter about this, the President's son realised it next morning. &quot;Did you take that from me Hallie,&quot; read one angry text shown to jurors. &quot;You really need to help me think right now, Hallie. This is very serious.&quot;<br> </p> <p>She returned to the store to find the gun but was unable to. She then filed a police report. &quot;I'll take the blame,&quot; she texted him from the scene. &quot;I don't want to live like this.&quot;&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Hallie also told the court that she realised about Hunter's drug use only after their relationship began. She found crack cocaine at her house - where he would frequently stay and later repeatedly saw him use the drug.<br> </p> <p>She also testified that she began using crack cocaine herself after he introduced her to the drug. &quot;It was a terrible experience that I went through, and I'm embarrassed and ashamed, and I regret that period of my life,&quot; she said, adding that she stopped using the drug in August 2018.<br> </p> <p>But, Hunter continued to use it.<br> </p> <p>In the case that could land him in prison for 25 years, Hunter has pleaded not guilty. He is accused of knowingly lying on federal paperwork when he purchased the revolver and ammunition from a gun shop in Wilmington, Delaware, on 12 October 2018. However, his lawyers claim Hunter was in recovery at the time, so was truthful when he indicated on the paperwork that he was not a drug user.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Meanwhile, Joe Biden said on Thursday he would not pardon his son Hunter if he was found guilty..In an interview with ABC News, Biden replied &quot;yes&quot; when asked if he would rule out pardoning Hunter. He also replied &quot;yes&quot; when asked if he would accept the outcome of the trial,&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">which started this week.&nbsp;</span></p> Fri Jun 07 14:09:22 IST 2024 d-day-80th-anniversary-joe-biden-calls-for-solidarity-with-ukraine <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>US President Joe Biden marked the 80th anniversary of D-Day on Thursday by saying we will not walk away from the defence of Ukraine and allow Russia to threaten more of Europe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To surrender to bullies, to bow down to dictators, is simply unthinkable, he said during a ceremony at the American cemetery in Normandy. &quot;If we were to do that, it means we'd be forgetting what happened here on these hallowed beaches.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>D-Day was the largest amphibious assault in history, and Biden called it a powerful illustration of how alliances, real alliances make us stronger. He said that was a lesson that I pray we Americans never forget&quot;.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The comment by the Democratic president was a reminder that US commitments around the globe hang in the balance in this year's White House election. Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has said he would not defend European allies that are delinquent in their own security spending.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The former president also has expressed little enthusiasm for Ukraine's defence, criticising the endless flow of American treasure&quot; and voicing admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Biden, who is expected to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Paris on Friday, hopes new deliveries of US munitions after months of delay can help stem Russian advances on the battlefield.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In his remarks, Biden cited the American troops that stormed Normandy's beaches on June 6, 1944, and said let us be worthy of their sacrifice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We must remember that the fact that they were heroes here that day does not absolve us of what we have to do today,&quot; he said. &quot;Democracy is never guaranteed. Every generation must preserve it, defend it and fight for it. That's the test of the ages.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Before Biden's remarks, French President Emmanuel Macron told US veterans that you came here because the free world needed each and every one of you, and you answered the call.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Macron awarded the Legion of Honour to several of them, and he kissed them on each cheek as he pinned on their medals. Biden followed with handshakes and embraces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Earlier, Biden and first lady Jill Biden met with more than two dozen American veterans near Omaha Beach, where the fiercest D-Day fighting took place. Those who could stand were helped out of wheelchairs to pose for photos. Most shook hands with Biden or saluted; one hugged him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Biden told a veteran that you saved the world. The president led the audience in singing happy birthday to another. Steve Spielberg and Tom Hanks, the Hollywood heavyweights behind movies and television shows about World War II, were nearby.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Army veteran Robert Gibson approached, the first lady clutched his arm to help him stand next to the president as they shook hands.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Don't get old, the 100-year-old man from New Jersey joked to the 81-year-old president, who was a toddler on D-Day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This anniversary of the invasion is a particularly somber one because it will be among the last with living veterans. The youngest survivors are in their late 90s. Biden met one veteran who is 104.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an interview with The Associated Press a few days ago, Gibson described himself as living on borrowed time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He was part of the second wave of troops that landed on Utah Beach. Gibson said he expected this year would be the last anniversary ceremony that he could attend, but he was pleased to be back one more time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I want to see the beach again, he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the end of his visit to the American cemetery, Biden paused in front of the grave of John S Greenfield, an Army private first class from Delaware. Greenfield landed at Omaha Beach with the 115th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As his regiment fought inland, Greenfield was killed during a German ambush, 10 days after D-Day. Greenfield's family learned of his death when a package of cigarettes that has been mailed to him as a gift was returned undelivered, according to the Wilmington Morning News. The word deceased had been written over his name.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Standing at Greenfield's grave, Biden made the sign of the cross and touched the letters engraved on the white marble headstone.&nbsp;</p> Thu Jun 06 22:24:55 IST 2024 israeli-strike-kills-at-least-33-people-at-gaza-school-the-military-claims-was-being-used-by-hamas <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>An Israeli strike early Thursday on a school sheltering displaced Palestinians in central Gaza killed more than 30 people, including 23 women and children, according to local health officials.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Israeli military said that Hamas militants were operating from within the school.<br> </p> <p>It was the latest instance of mass casualties among Palestinians trying to find refuge as Israel expands its offensives in the Gaza Strip. A day earlier, the military announced a new ground and air assault in central Gaza, pursuing Hamas militants it says have regrouped there.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Troops repeatedly have swept back into sections of the Gaza Strip they have previously invaded, underscoring the resilience of the militant group despite Israel's nearly eight-month onslaught in the territory.<br> </p> <p>Witnesses and hospital officials said the predawn strike hit the al-Sardi School, run by the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees known by the acronym UNRWA. The school was filled with Palestinians who had fled Israeli offensives and bombardment in northern Gaza, they said.<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;Ayman Rashed, a man displaced from Gaza City who was sheltering at the school, said the missiles hit classrooms on the second and third floor where families were sheltering. He said he helped carry out five dead, including an old man and two children, one with his head shattered open. It was dark, with no electricity, and we struggled to get out the victims, Rashed said.<br> </p> <p>Casualties from school strike arrived at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in nearby Deir al-Balah, which had already been overwhelmed by a stream of constant ambulances since the central Gaza incursion began 24 hours earlier, said Omar al-Derawi, a photographer working for the hospital.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Videos circulating online appeared to show several wounded people being treated on the floor of the hospital, a common scene in Gaza's overwhelmed medical wards. Electricity in much of the hospital is out because staff are rationing fuel supplies for the generator.<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;Hospital records and an Associated Press reporter at the hospital recorded at least 33 dead from the strike, including 14 children and nine women. Another strike on a house overnight killed six people, according to the records.<br> </p> <p>Both strikes occurred in Nuseirat, one of several built-up refugee camps in Gaza dating to the 1948 war surrounding Israel's creation, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes in what became the new state.<br> </p> <p>Footage showed bodies wrapped in blankets or plastic bags being laid out in lines in the courtyard of the hospital. Mohammed al-Kareem, a displaced Palestinian sheltering near the hospital, said he saw people searching for their loved ones among bodies, and that one woman kept asking medical workers to open the wraps on the bodies to see if her son was inside.<br> </p> <p>&quot;The situation is tragic,&quot; he said.<br> </p> <p>The Israeli military said Hamas had embedded a compound within the school and that Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants inside were using it as a shelter where they were planning attacks against Israeli troops, though it didn't immediately offer evidence. It released a photo of the school, pointing to classrooms on the second and third floor where it claimed militants were located.<br> </p> <p>It said it took steps before the strike &quot;to reduce the risk of harming uninvolved civilians ... including conducting aerial surveillance, and additional intelligence information.<br> </p> <p>UNRWA schools across Gaza have functioned as shelters since the start of the war, which has driven most of the territory's population of 2.3 million Palestinians from their homes.<br> </p> <p>Last week, Israeli strikes hit near an UNRWA facility in the southern city of Rafah, saying they were targeting Hamas militants. An inferno that followed ripped through tents nearby housing displaced families, killing at least 45 people.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu Jun 06 16:49:44 IST 2024 fauci-testifies-publicly-before-house-panel-on-covid-origins-controversies <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert until leaving the government in 2022, faces heated questioning Monday from Republican lawmakers about the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.</p> <p>A Republican-led subcommittee has spent over a year probing the nation's response to the pandemic and whether US-funded research in China may have played any role in how it started. Democrats opened the hearing saying the investigation so far has found no evidence that Fauci did anything wrong while missing an important opportunity to prepare for the next scary outbreak.</p> <p>Fauci alternately a trusted voice during the pandemic and the target of partisan attacks, even death threats spent 14 hours over two days in January being grilled by the House panel behind closed doors. On Monday, they're questioning him again, in public and on camera for the first time since he ended more than five decades of government service.</p> <p>This time around he'll face a new set of questions about the credibility of his former agency, the National Institutes of Health. Last month, the House panel revealed emails from an NIH colleague about ways to evade public records laws, including by not discussing controversial issues on government email.</p> <p>The main issue: Many scientists believe the virus most likely emerged in nature and jumped from animals to people, probably at a wildlife market in Wuhan, the city where the outbreak began. There's no new scientific information supporting that the virus might instead have leaked from a laboratory. A US intelligence analysis says there's insufficient evidence to prove either way -- and a recent Associated Press investigation found the Chinese government froze critical efforts to trace the source of the virus in the first weeks of the outbreak.</p> <p>Fauci has long said publicly that he was open to both theories but that there's more evidence supporting Covid-19's natural origins, the way other deadly viruses including coronavirus cousins SARS and MERS jumped into people.</p> <p>&quot;I have repeatedly stated that I have a completely open mind to either possibility and that if definitive evidence becomes available to validate or refute either theory, I will ready accept it, he said in an opening statement for Monday's hearing.</p> <p>Republicans also have accused Fauci of lying to Congress when he denied in May 2022 that his agency funded gain of function research the practicing of enhancing a virus in a lab to study its potential real-world impact at a lab in Wuhan.</p> <p>NIH for years gave grants to a New York nonprofit called EcoHealth Alliance that used some of the funds to work with a Chinese lab studying coronaviruses commonly carried by bats. Last month, the government suspended federal funding to EcoHealth Alliance and proposed barring it from future funding citing its failure to properly monitor some of those experiments.</p> <p>The definition of gain of function covers both general research and especially risky experiments to enhance the ability of potentially pandemic pathogens to spread or cause severe disease in humans. In transcripts of Fauci's January interviews with the House panel, he stressed he was using the risky experiment definition.</p> <p>It would be molecularly impossible for the bat viruses studied with EcoHealth's funds to be turned into the virus that caused the pandemic, he reiterated in Monday's opening statement.</p> <p>As for hiding public records, Fauci said in the opening remarks that to the best of my knowledge I have never conducted official business via my personal email.</p> <p>Fauci became a household name in the pandemic first under President Donald Trump and later as a chief adviser to President Joe Biden -- trying to explain the latest public health advice to a frightened public even as scientists were struggling to learn about the new virus. Research from the agency he led for 38 years, NIH's National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases, led to vaccines that allowed a return to normalcy.</p> <p>The House panel also will question him about the science behind some controversial advice, including social distancing.</p> Mon Jun 03 22:43:46 IST 2024 trump-joins-tiktok-guess-how-many-followers-he-attracted-in-less-than-a-day <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Former United States president Donald Trump has joined TikTok, the popular video-sharing app that he once tried to ban. He had attracted 3 million followers rapidly in less than a day since joining the app.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He had tried to ban the app on grounds of national security. Trump's decision will help the former president reach younger voters in his third bid for the White House.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though Joe Biden has already signed a bill to ban the app, his election campaign is in TikTok, which is used by 170 million US citizens, with over 3,40,000 followers.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Trump made his appearance in the app with the address @realdonaldtrump on Saturday. His launch video had crossed over 56 million views. The video showed Trump greeting fans at an Ultimate Fighting Championship fight in New Jersey. &quot;It's an honour,&quot; Trump said in the TikTok video</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Will use every tool available to speak directly with the American people,&quot; said Trump's spokesman Steven Cheung in a statement.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;There's no place better than a UFC event to launch President Trump's Tik Tok, where he received a hero's welcome and thousands of fans cheered him on,&quot; he added.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>FBI and other officials had warned that TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, could share user data such as browsing history, location and biometric identifiers with China's government.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Banning the platform was a hot topic of debate during the 2024 GOP primary campaign as well. Trump attempted to ban the app in 2020 when he was the president but was blocked by the courts.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The legislation signed by Biden gives ByteDance nine months to sell the company, with a possible additional three months if a sale is in progress. If it doesn't, TikTok will be banned. Biden barred the app on most government devices in December 2022.</p> Mon Jun 03 19:07:46 IST 2024 how-us-reacted-to-chinas-anger-over-exchange-of-messages-between-modi-taiwan-president <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>One of the leaders who congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his re-election was Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te, who took to X to state how he was looking forward to &quot;enhancing the fast-growing Taiwan-India partnership.&quot;</p> <p>In his reply, Modi thanked Ching-te for &quot;his warm message&quot;. However, the exchange angered China, which reacted sharply to the interaction between Modi and Lai.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>In a terse statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said China had diplomatic relations with India and opposes all forms of official interactions between the Taiwan authorities and countries having diplomatic relations with China.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>&quot;First of all, there is no such thing as ‘president’ of the Taiwan region. As for your question, China opposes all forms of official interactions between the Taiwan authorities and countries having diplomatic relations with China. There is but one China in the world. Taiwan is an inalienable part of the territory of the People’s Republic of China,&quot; Ning said when asked about the Modi-Lei exchange.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>&quot;The one-China principle is a universally recognised norm in international relations and a prevailing consensus in the international community,&quot; Mao said, adding, &quot;India has made serious political commitments on this and is supposed to recognise, be alarmed about and resist the Taiwan authorities’ political calculations. China has protested to India about this.&quot;<br> </p> <p>The US on Thursday responded to the issue calling such congratulatory messages between two foreign leaders &quot;part of diplomatic business.&quot;<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;&quot;I haven't seen those specific reports, so I don't want to comment on them in detail, but I would say that such congratulatory messages are the normal course of diplomatic business...&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p>India and Taiwan have been forging closer economic ties under Modi, with the two sides planning a labour-supply pact that could see Taiwan hire as many as 100,000 Indian workers.<br> </p> <p>China views Taiwan as a rebel province that must be reunified with the mainland, even by force.<br> </p> Fri Jun 07 09:06:43 IST 2024 who-is-claudia-sheinbaum-mexicos-first-woman-president <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Claudia Sheinbaum's name will go down in the Mexican's history. The Nobel Prize-winning climate scientist became Mexico's first female president after sweeping the election.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sheinbaum (61), of the ruling MORENA party, won by securing votes between 58.3 per cent and 60.7 per cent. It is the most support won by a candidate in the Mexican presidential election since the end of one-party rule in 2000.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;We made history,&quot; said Sheinbaum on Monday while cheering with the crowd gathered in the Zocalo square. She said she will be continuing the work of her mentor and outgoing leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. He is &quot;an exceptional, unique man who has transformed Mexico for the better,&quot; she said.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reportedly, Opposition leader, Xochitl Galvez, conceded defeat after mustering just 26.6%-28.6% of votes.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sheinbaum will take office on October 1. With the historic victory, Mexico now joins Latin American counterparts including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Costa Rica, which have boosted women to the highest office.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The way ahead</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sheinbaum's way ahead is not going to be a smooth one with a hefty budget deficit and low economic growth. She has promised that she will focus on expanding the welfare policies and improving security in the violence-hit country. Though the homicide rate in the country had come down, more people died during the mandate of Lopez Obrador than any other administration in Mexico's modern history.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to analysts, she needs to come up with a game-changing formula in order to improve security and policies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Mexico, key institutions, such as the Senate, the Supreme Court and the National Electoral Institute are led by women.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some of the key issues, the new president will face is gender-related issues. Many Mexican women disappear or are killed on a daily basis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to the UN, up to 10 women are victims of femicide each day in Mexico. The number totalled 3,000 in 2023.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thousands more have disappeared and in many cases, mothers are felt abandoned by the government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Due to an existing inefficient justice system, most femicides go unpunished. According to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, more than 40% of Mexican women who are 15 years old or older say they have been victims of some sort of violence in their lives.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sheinbaum had assured to adopt measures against gender-based violence including the creation of an anti-femicide prosecutor's office and legislation that would force offenders to leave their homes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The gender employment gap is another issue that she will need to address. According to official figures, 76% of Mexican men and only 47% of women are employed. Women have been demanding equal rights and it remains to see whether the new president will adopt measures to improve the same.</p> Mon Jun 03 17:00:03 IST 2024 south-africas-anc-says-wont-replace-ramaphosa-to-form-coalition <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>After losing its 30-year majority in the South African elections, the African National Congress (ANC) has started talks with opposition parties to form a stable coalition government. However, the party vowed not to replace President Cyril Ramaphosa amid the coalition talks.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Former President Jacob Zuma's MK party had said that they were ready for coalition talks but with one condition that Ramaphosa would step down from the post.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ANC won just over 40% of the vote in Wednesday's election. The main opposition Democratic Alliance came second with around 21% of votes.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula said the party was open to all negotiations, even with the main opposition Democratic Alliance. ANC could be flexible though both the parties have ideological differences, said Mbalula.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Talks are also progressing with several smaller opposition parties as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>South Africa’s new parliament will need to elect a president within 14 days of the election results being declared. President Cyril Ramaphosa, the leader of the ANC, is seeking a second and final term.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The elections have humbled us, they have brought us where we are, Mbalula said, adding the ANC respected the will of the South African people.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mbalula said the ANC would not consider the demands by the MK Party of former President Jacob Zuma that Ramaphosa step down as a condition for talks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Amid many options, the ANC could also join with MK and the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters, although they have been cast as partners that would make investors uneasy. Both have pledged to nationalise parts of South Africa's economy, including its gold and platinum mines, among the world's biggest producers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(With PTI inputs)</p> Sun Jun 02 22:00:28 IST 2024 zelenskyy-accuses-china-of-pressuring-other-countries-not-to-attend-upcoming-ukraine-peace-talks <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused China on Sunday of helping Russia to disrupt an upcoming Swiss-organised peace conference on the war in Ukraine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Speaking at Asia's premier security conference, Zelenskyy said that China is pressuring other countries and their leaders not to attend the upcoming talks. He did not say which ones.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Russia, using Chinese influence in the region, using Chinese diplomats also, does everything to disrupt the peace summit, he said at a news conference at the Shangri-La defence forum.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Regrettably, this is unfortunate that such a big independent powerful country as China is an instrument in the hands of (Russian leader Vladimir) Putin.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>China has staked out what it says is a neutral position on the war, putting it at odds with Ukraine, the United States and most of Europe. Its trade with Russia has grown, easing the economic impact of Western sanctions. And American, Ukrainian and other intelligence agencies say there is evidence that Chinese parts are winding up in Russian weaponry, even if China is not directly arming its neighbour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Swiss had been hoping China would attend the peace conference in mid-June, but Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning signalled on Friday that that was unlikely. China has been calling for a peace conference with equal participation of all sides, including Russia, which has not been invited.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is still a clear gap between the arrangements for the meeting and the demands of the Chinese side, as well as the general expectations of the international community, Mao said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This makes it difficult for China to participate in the meeting.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The foreign ministry did not respond immediately to a request for comment on Zelenskyy's accusation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Ukrainian leader said of China's pressure on others, That is not only support to Russia, that is basically support of war.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a speech to the security conference earlier in the day, Zelenskyy urged top defence officials to attend the upcoming talks in Switzerland, saying he was disappointed at the failure of some countries to commit to joining.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chinese Defense Minister Dong Jun spoke before Zelenskyy at the Shangri-La conference but he did not appear to be in the room when Zelenskyy made his appeal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Zelenskyy said that Ukraine had proposals to make at the summit as a basis for peace, addressing nuclear security, food security, the release of prisoners of war and the return of Ukrainian children abducted by Russia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Time is running out, and the children are growing up in the Putin-land where they are taught to hate their homeland, he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the same time, Zelenskyy said Ukraine is ready to hear various proposals and thoughts that lead us ... to an end of the war and a sustainable and just peace.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The greater the participation, the more likely it will be that Russia will have to listen, he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The global majority can ensure with their involvement that what is agreed upon is truly implemented, he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Zelenskyy said he planned to meet one-on-one with Singapore's prime minister and would urge him to participate in person in the Switzerland talks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The same goes for the countries in the region, Zelenskyy said through an interpreter. &quot;We truly count on you supporting this summit, and that you will be present in Switzerland.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen, who shared the stage with Zelenskyy, did not say whether his country's leaders would attend, but did note Singapore had condemned the invasion and provided Ukraine with military ambulances.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We stand with you, and I think your appearance at this Shangri-La Dialogue is the epitome of what we are all hoping for, a rules-based order that guarantees the security and survival of large nations and small, he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dong did not specifically mention the Switzerland meetings in his address to the forum, but did say on the Ukraine crisis, China has been promoting peace talks with a responsible attitude.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He added that China had not provided weapons to either side of the conflict.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have never done anything to fan the flames, he said. We stand firmly on the side of peace and dialogue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin sat in the front row as Zelenskyy talked. In an address Saturday, Austin told the security conference that Putin's war of aggression has provided us all with a preview of a world that none of us would want.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We've all been inspired by the courage of Ukraine's troops and the resilience of Ukraine's people, Austin said. People around the world have rushed to help Ukraine defend itself, including countries across the Indo-Pacific.'&nbsp;</p> Sun Jun 02 18:18:04 IST 2024 shooting-at-pittsburgh-bar-2-killed-many-injured-what-we-know-so-far <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A shooting at a bar in Pittsburgh, United States, left two dead and around seven injured on Sunday.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to the Penn Hills Police Department, the incident occurred at the Ballers Hookah Lounge and Cigar Bar. The Allegheny County Police Department's homicide unit was called in by the Penn Hills Police Department after the early morning shooting was reported.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>First responders discovered the bodies of an adult male and female inside the bar around 3 am Sunday. Seven additional victims were also found. Some were transported from the scene and additional victims walked into area hospitals, Allegheny County police said in a statement on social media.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The statement also added that one of the victims was in critical condition. The remaining victims all had injuries that were not life-threatening, it added.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Preliminary information shows an altercation took place inside the bar and multiple individuals opened fire, the county police said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The statement did not say whether any suspects were in custody.</p> Sun Jun 02 18:05:03 IST 2024 iran-who-is-mahmoud-ahmadinejad-the-hardliner-running-for-presidential-election <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Former Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be contesting in the upcoming presidential elections. Ahmadinejad, who is known for his hardline views, registered as a possible candidate for the elections to be held on June 28 on Sunday.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The populist former leader's registration puts pressure on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Relations between the both became tense as there was disagreement over Ahmadinejad's domestic police when he was in power.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ahmadinejad was a controversial figure both for Iran and the world. He was criticised for his hostility towards countries including Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. He was also criticised over his Holocaust remarks claiming that the Jews invented it. However, his return comes at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran's rapidly advancing nuclear program, Israel-Hamas intensifying war and its arming of Russia in its war on Ukraine.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ahmadinejad previously served two four-year terms from 2005 to 2013. Under Iranian law, he became eligible to run again after four years out of office. He had also registered to run for the 2021 presidential election despite Khamenei's dissent. But he was rejected by the Guardian Council, a 12-member panel of clerics and jurists aimed at overseeing the election and legislation in Iran. Khamenei warned Ahmadinejad that his standing for office again would be a polarized situation that would be harmful to the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2009, his disputed re-election sparked massive Green Movement protests and a sweeping crackdown in which thousands of people were detained and dozens were killed. He's also criticised government corruption, though his own administration faced graft allegations and two of his former vice presidents were jailed. He is known for the nuclearisation of Iran. He also served as mayor of Tehran from 2003 to 2005. He was also the main political leader of the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran, a coalition of conservative political groups in the country.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, Ahmadinejad remains popular among the poor for his populist efforts and home-building programs. Also, he raised his profile after leaving office by being active in social media and writing publicised letters to world leaders.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That Guardian Council has never accepted a woman or anyone calling for radical change to the country's governance. The panel could also reject Ahmadinejad again. However, the race to replace Ebrahim Raisi, who died recently in a helicopter crash, has yet to draw a candidate with clear, overwhelming support from Khamenei.</p> Sun Jun 02 17:38:54 IST 2024 trouble-for-netanyahu-far-right-israeli-ministers-threaten-to-topple-govt-if-pm-agrees-ceasefire-proposal <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Pressure seems to be mounting on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after two far-right Israeli ministers threatened to quit and collapse the coalition government if he agrees to a Gaza ceasefire proposal unveiled by US President Joe Biden on Friday.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said they would oppose any deal that would entail ending the war without the elimination of Hamas. &quot;Such a deal would be &quot;foolhardy, constituting a victory for terrorism and a threat to Israel's national security,&quot; the ultranationalist head of the Jewish Power party said on X. </p> <p>Both ministers took to X to clear their stance. While Smotrich said he had already informed Netanyahu he would &quot;not be part of a government that agrees to the proposed outline and ends the war without destroying Hamas and bringing back all the hostages&quot;, Ben-Gvir said the deal means the end of the war and the abandonment of the goal to destroy Hamas. </p> <p>Netanyahu himself has vowed not to end the war until Hamas's military and governing capabilities were destroyed and all hostages released.</p> <p>However, the Prime Minister received a lifeline in the form of opposition leader Yair Lapid has pledged to back the government if Mr Netanyahu supported the plan. His Yesh Atid party hold 24 seats. He said Mr Netanyahu &quot;has our safety net for a hostage deal if Ben-Gvir and Smotrich leave the government&quot;.</p> <p>This comes as Israel witnessed a <a href="">massive protest</a> in the last days with demonstrators seeking Netanyahu's resignation. Protestors said they fear he could torpedo the proposal and this could endanger the lives of those held in Gaza. Scuffles had broken out between protesters and police during the protests. </p> <p><b>What's Biden's ceasefire proposal?</b></p> <p>As per the new ceasefire proposal, the six-week ceasefire will have the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) withdrawing from populated areas of Gaza. The exchange of hostages will follow this in addition to the surge in humanitarian aid. </p> <p>The deal would eventually lead to a permanent &quot;cessation of hostilities&quot; and a major reconstruction plan for Gaza. Biden said the proposal would &quot;bring all the hostages home, ensure Israel’s security, create a better day after in Gaza without Hamas in power, and set the stage for a political settlement that provides a better future for Israelis and Palestinians alike.&quot;</p> <p>Netanyahu said earlier on Saturday that there would be no “permanent ceasefire” in Gaza until Hamas’s military and governing capabilities were destroyed.</p> Sun Jun 02 13:23:54 IST 2024 north-korea-is-sending-more-trash-carrying-balloons-to-south-korea <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>North Korea launched more trash-carrying balloons toward the South after a similar campaign earlier in the week, according to South Korea's military, in what Pyongyang calls retaliation for activists flying anti-North Korean leaflets across the border.</p> <p>South Korea's Defence Ministry did not immediately comment on the number of balloons it had detected or how many have landed in South Korea. The military advised people to beware of falling objects and not to touch objects suspected to be from North Korea, but report them to military or police offices instead.</p> <p>In Seoul, the capital, the city government sent text alerts saying that unidentified objects suspected to be flown from North Korea were being detected in skies near the city and that the military was responding to them.</p> <p>The North's balloon launches added to a recent series of provocative steps, which include its failed spy satellite launch and test-firings of about 10 suspected short-range missiles this week.</p> <p>South Korea's military dispatched chemical rapid response and explosive clearance teams to recover the debris from some 260 North Korean balloons that were found in various parts of the country from Tuesday night to Wednesday. The military said the balloons carried various types of trash and manure but no dangerous substances like chemical, biological or radioactive materials.</p> <p>In a statement on Wednesday, Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, confirmed that the North sent the balloons to make good on her country's recent threat to scatter mounds of wastepaper and filth in South Korea in response to leafleting campaigns by South Korean activists.</p> <p>She hinted that balloons could become the North's standard response to leafletting moving forward, saying that the North would respond by &quot;scattering rubbish dozens of times more than those being scattered to us.</p> <p>North Korea is extremely sensitive about any outside attempt to undermine Kim Jong Un's absolute control over the country's 26 million people, most of whom have little access to foreign news.</p> <p>In 2020, North Korea blew up an empty South Korean-built liaison office on its territory after a furious response to South Korean civilian leafleting campaigns. In 2014, North Korea fired at propaganda balloons flying toward its territory and South Korea returned fire, though there were no casualties.</p> <p>In 2022, North Korea even suggested that balloons flown from South Korea had caused a COVID-19 outbreak in the isolated nation, a highly questionable claim that appeared to be an attempt to blame the South for worsening inter-Korean relations.</p> Sat Jun 01 22:38:03 IST 2024 florida-sheriffs-office-fires-deputy-who-killed-black-us-air-force-officer-at-his-home <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A Florida sheriff's deputy, who fatally shot a Black US Air Force airman at his home, was fired from his job on Saturday. Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden fired Deputy Eddie Duran saying that his life was never in danger and he should not have fired his weapon.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Senior Airman Roger Fortson <a title="Black Lives Matter: Now, US Air Force officer killed after cop mistakes his Florida apartment for another" href="" target="_blank">was shot by the officer on May 3</a> after responding to a domestic violence call and being directed to Fortson's apartment. The deputy had fired multiple times after Fortson, 23, opened the door. The body camera footage shows that Fortson was holding his legal gun, pointing at the ground, in his right hand.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An internal investigation was conducted over the incident which concluded that Fortson did not make any hostile, attacking movements, and therefore, the “former deputy's use of deadly force was not objectively reasonable”.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This tragic incident should have never occurred, Aden said in the statement. The objective facts do not support the use of deadly force as an appropriate response to Fortson's actions. He did not commit any crime. By all accounts, he was an exceptional airman and individual, added Aden.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Florida Department of Law Enforcement is still investigating the case.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to the internal affairs report, Duran told investigators that when Fortson opened the door, he had seen aggression in the boy's eyes. He said he fired as he thought he was going to get shot.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is him or me at this point and I need to, I need to act as opposed to react, he told investigators.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Attorney Ben Crump, representing Fortson's family, said Duran's firing is a step forward, but it is not full justice for Roger and his family.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The actions of this deputy were not just negligent, they were criminal, Crump said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Duran is a law enforcement veteran. He began his career as a military police officer in the Army. In 2015, he was hired by an Oklahoma police department and later he joined the Okaloosa County sheriff's office in July 2019.&nbsp;</p> <p>An apartment complex manager called the sheriff's office at 4:24 pm, telling the officials about frequent arguments coming from the apartment complex. Duran arrived three minutes after the call and met the manager in the parking lot. She had directed the officers to Fortson's fourth-floor apartment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reportedly, Fortson was on a video call with his girlfriend when the officers arrived at his door. Fortson's girlfriend told investigators that the airman asked who was there but did not get a response. She said Fortson told her that he was not going to answer the door as no one comes to his apartment. She said neither of them heard the deputy yell that he was with the sheriff's office.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After the third knock, she said Fortson told her, I'm gonna go grab my gun because I don't know who that is.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Fortson opened the door holding his gun, Duran said Step back, and then immediately began firing. Fortson fell backwards onto the floor. Though he was rushed to the hospital, he could not be saved.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(With PTI inputs)</p> Sat Jun 01 21:57:13 IST 2024 south-africa-election-anc-loses-30-year-majority-focus-shifts-to-coalition-options <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>As suspected, the African National Congress (ANC) party lost its <a title="South Africa election: Why is Nelson Mandela’s ANC party facing setback after 30 years of enjoying the majority?" href="" target="_blank">parliamentary majority</a> in a historic election result. This is a major blow to the ANC party, which enjoyed the parliamentary majority for about 30 years.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With nearly 99 per cent of votes counted, ANC had received just over 40 per cent in the election on Wednesday. However, the final results are still to be formally declared by the electoral commission.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the country reeling under deep poverty, unemployment and inequality, the opposition parties hailed the historic breakthrough. ANC will now have to form a coalition with smaller opposition parties to form the government and reelect Cyril Ramaphosa for a second and final term. Busy negotiations have already started among parties to form the government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance received around 21%. The new MK Party of former President Jacob Zuma, who was once part of ANC, came third with just over 14% of the vote in the first election it has contested.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the Parliament required to elect a president within 14 days of the final election results, all eyes are on the ANC as to which parties they might approach to co-govern.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The MK Party had made it clear that they were willing to negotiate with the ANC but not with Ramaphosa at the helm. “We are willing to negotiate with the ANC, but not the ANC of Cyril Ramaphosa,” MK Party spokesperson Nhlamulo Ndlela said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the low percentage, ANC will need to approach more than two opposition parties to form the government.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>MK and the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters have called for parts of the economy to be nationalised. The centrist Democratic Alliance is viewed as a business-friendly party and analysts say an ANC-DA coalition would be more welcomed by foreign investors.</p> Sat Jun 01 19:22:57 IST 2024 robert-pickton-killed-in-prison-attack-all-about-the-canadian-serial-killer-who-fed-his-victims-remains-to-pigs <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Serial killer, Robert Willie Pickton (74), who fed his female victims to pigs, has died after being assaulted in prison. Pickton was one of Canada's notorious serial killers and he was charged with the murders of 26 women.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a statement on Friday, the Correctional Service of Canada said that Pickton died in hospital following the injuries he suffered in the May 19 assault involving another inmate. He was an inmate of Port-Cartier Institution in the province of Quebec.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A 51-year-old inmate was in custody for the assault on Pickton, said a police spokesman in May.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pickton was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2007. He went on a crime spree in the 1990s and early 2000s near Vancouver. Several women in the area were reported missing which paved the way for a years-long investigation leading to Pickton's farm in the Vancouver suburb of Port Coquitlam.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>DNA of 33 women were found on Pickton's farm in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. Reportedly, Pickton had told an undercover police official that he had killed 49 women. It was also alleged that the Vancouver police were not taking the missings seriously as most of them were sex workers or drug users.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During the trial, witnesses' accounts of Pickton's crimes shocked the entire courtroom. The prosecution witness had revealed how Pickton strangled his victims and fed their remains to his pigs.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;It's karma,&quot; said Cynthia Cardinal, sister of Georgina Papin murdered by Pickton. She said was &quot;overwhelmed&quot; with happiness when she received a text message regarding the attack.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An investigation into the Pickton attack was launched by Canada's correctional service. “The investigation will examine all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the assault, including whether policies and protocols were followed,” the service said in the statement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We are mindful that this offender’s case has had a devastating impact on communities in British Columbia and across the country, including Indigenous peoples, victims and their families. Our thoughts are with them,” the statement said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(With PTI inputs)</p> Sat Jun 01 17:46:05 IST 2024 hostage-families-call-for-cease-fire-deal-pushed-by-biden-israel-says-conditions-must-be-met <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Families of Israeli hostages held by Hamas called for all parties to immediately accept a proposal detailed by US President Joe Biden to end the nearly 8-month-long war and bring their relatives home, but Israel's government said conditions for a cease-fire still must be met.</p> <p>Biden outlined a three-phase deal Friday proposed by Israel to Hamas, saying the militant group is no longer capable of carrying out another large-scale attack on Israel.</p> <p>He urged the Israelis and Hamas to come to an agreement to release some 100 remaining hostages, along with the bodies of around 30 more, for an extended cease-fire.</p> <p>Cease-fire talks ground to a halt last month after a major push by the US and other mediators to secure a deal in hopes of averting a full Israeli invasion of Gaza's southern city of Rafah. Israel says the Rafah operation is vital to uprooting Hamas fighters responsible for the October 7 attack on southern Israel that triggered the war.</p> <p>Israel on Friday confirmed its troops were operating in central parts of the city. The ground assault has led to an exodus of around 1 million Palestinians out of the city and has thrown UN humanitarian operations based in the area into turmoil.</p> <p>Following Biden's speech, hostage families said Saturday time was running out with the onus on both Israel and Hamas to accept the deal.</p> <p>We want to see people coming back from Gaza alive and soon,&quot; Gili Roman told The Associated Press. His sister, Yarden Roman-Gat, was taken hostage and freed during a weeklong ceasefire in November, but Yarden's sister-in-law, Carmel, is still being held.</p> <p>This might be the last chance to save lives. Therefore, the current state must be changed and we expect all to adhere to Biden's call for accepting the deal on the table, immediately. There is no other way towards a better situation for all. Our leadership must not disappoint us. But mostly, all eyes should be on Hamas, he said.</p> <p>The proposal came after what hostage families said was an aggressive meeting Thursday with Israel's national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, who told them that the government wasn't ready to sign a deal to bring all of the hostages home and that there was no plan B.</p> <p>Hanegbi said this week he expects the war to drag on for another seven months, in order to destroy the military and governing capabilities of Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group.</p> <p>Netanyahu has promised a total victory that would remove Hamas from power, dismantle its military structure and return the hostages, and on Saturday, the government said its conditions for ending the war had not changed. Putting a permanent cease-fire in place before the conditions are fulfilled is a non-starter,&quot; it said.</p> <p>Many hostage families blame the government's lack of will to secure a deal for the deaths of many of the hostages in captivity.</p> <p>We know that the government of Israel has done an awful lot to delay reaching a deal and that has cost the lives of many people who survived in captivity for weeks and weeks and months and months. Our hearts are broken by the amount of people we will receive that are no longer alive, Sharone Lipschitz told AP. Her mother Yocheved was freed in the November cease-fire, and her father Oded is still in captivity.</p> <p>The first phase of the deal announced by Biden would would last for six weeks and include a full and complete cease-fire, a withdrawal of Israeli forces from all densely populated areas of Gaza and the release of a number of hostages, including women, the elderly and the wounded, in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.</p> <p>The second phase would include the release of all remaining living hostages, including male soldiers, and Israeli forces would withdraw from Gaza. The third phase calls for the start of a major reconstruction of Gaza, which faces decades of rebuilding from devastation caused by the war.</p> <p>Biden acknowledged that keeping the Israeli proposal on track would be difficult, saying there were a number of details to negotiate to move from the first phase to the second. The proposal says that if the negotiations take longer than six weeks for phase one, the cease-fire will still continue as long as there are negotiations. Israel will always have the right to defend itself against the threat of security. Biden said that if Hamas fails to fulfil its commitment under the deal, Israel can resume military operations.</p> <p>Hamas said in a statement Friday it viewed the proposal presented by Biden positively and called on the Israelis to declare explicit commitment to an agreement that includes a permanent cease-fire, a complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, a prisoner exchange and other conditions.</p> <p>While the proposal is similar to previous ones, the main difference is the readiness to stop the war for an undefined period, according to analysts. It still leaves Israel the option the renew the war and diminish Hamas' ability to govern, but over time, said Michael Milshtein, head of the Palestinian Studies Forum in Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University.</p> <p>Still, experts say Biden's speech was one of the first times in the war that provided hope that it might end and bring the hostages home.</p> <p>It was a very good speech ... it seems that Biden is trying to force it on the Israeli government, he was clearly speaking directly to the Israeli people, said Gershon Baskin, director for the Middle East at the International Communities Organization. Israelis must take to the streets to demand that the government of Israel accept it, he said.</p> <p>Meanwhile fighting continued in Gaza.</p> <p>On Saturday, Israel's army said it killed a Hamas fighter responsible for directing attacks in Israel and the West Bank and earlier this week, it said its aircraft killed a Hamas fighter in central Gaza who was head of the technology department for its internal security forces.</p> <p>More than 36,170 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by Israel's campaign of bombardment and offensives over the past eight months, according to Gaza's Health Ministry. Its count does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat Jun 01 16:51:45 IST 2024 watch-man-goes-on-a-stabbing-spree-in-germany-shot-down-by-police <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In an unfortunate incident, an unidentified man went on a stabbing spree in the central square in the southwestern German city of Mannheim on Friday. Police had shot the attacker, who was also hurt.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to the police the violence took place after 11:30 am (0930 GMT). Several people suffered injuries in the attack. However, the specific number of those who got injured is yet to be confirmed, said the officials. Among the victims included a police officer as well.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Police in a statement said that there was no danger to the public.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reportedly, the incident occurred on the sidelines of an event organised by a group known as Pax Europa. The group describes itself as an organisation that cautions the public about the dangers posed by the increasing spread and influence of political Islam.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The group added one of its anti-Islam activists, Michael Strzenberger, was also among the injured.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The motive behind the attack is still unclear. Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said that it's up to the investigation to determine a motive. In a statement, she said that if the investigation shows an Islamist motive, that would be another confirmation of the great danger from Islamist acts of violence that we have warned of.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chancellor Olaf Scholz wrote on X that the pictures from Mannheim are terrible and that violence is absolutely unacceptable in our democracy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The stabbings happened on the Marktplatz, a square in Mannheim's downtown area. The city of about 300,000 people is located south of Frankfurt.</p> Fri May 31 20:07:48 IST 2024 houthi-rebels-say-at-least-16-killed-35-injured-in-joint-us-british-airstrikes-in-yemen <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Joint British-US airstrikes targeting Yemen's Houthi rebels killed at least 16 people and wounded 35 others, the rebels said Friday, the highest publicly acknowledged death toll by the rebels from the multiple rounds of strikes carried out over their attacks on shipping.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Three US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe a then-ongoing attack, described the strikes Thursday as hitting a wide range of underground facilities, missile launchers, command and control sites, a Houthi vessel and other facilities. They called it a response to a recent surge in attacks by the Iran-backed militia group on ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden over the Israel-Hamas war.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The US F/A-18 fighter jets involved in the strikes launched from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier in the Red Sea, officials said. Other US warships in the region also participated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the Houthis focused Friday morning on just one of the strikes, which they said struck a building housing Hodeida Radio and civilian homes in the port city on the Red Sea. Their Al Masirah satellite news channel aired images of one bloodied man being carried down stairs and others in the hospital, receiving aid.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Houthis described all those killed and hurt in Hodeida as civilians, something The Associated Press could not immediately confirm. The rebel force that's held Yemen's capital, Sanaa, since 2014 includes fighters who often are not in uniform.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Other strikes hit outside of Sanaa near its airport and communication equipment in Taiz, the broadcaster said. Little other information was released on those sites likely signaling that Houthi military sites had been struck.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We confirm this brutal aggression against Yemen as punishment for its position in support of Gaza, in support of Israel to continue its crimes of genocide against the wounded, besieged and steadfast Gaza Strip, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam wrote on the social media platform X.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the United Kingdom, the country's Defense Ministry said Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4s conducted strikes on both Hodeida and further south in Ghulayfiqah. It described its targets as buildings identified as housing drone ground control facilities and providing storage for very long range drones, as well as surface-to-air weapons.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The strikes were taken in self-defense in the face of an ongoing threat that the Houthis pose, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said. There's an ongoing threat that the Houthis pose.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Houthis have stepped up attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, demanding that Israel end the war in Gaza, which has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians there. The war began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, killed three sailors, seized one vessel and sunk another since November, according to the US Maritime Administration. This week, they attacked a ship carrying grain to Iran, the rebels' main benefactor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On Wednesday, another US MQ-9 Reaper drone apparently crashed in Yemen, with the Houthis claiming they fired a surface-to-air missile at it. The US Air Force didn't report any aircraft missing, leading to suspicion that the drone may have been piloted by the CIA. As many as three may have been lost in May alone.</p> Fri May 31 16:52:27 IST 2024 debris-analysis-proves-russia-using-north-korean-missiles-in-kharkiv-us-military-report <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Russia did use North Korean missiles in Ukraine, according to a report by a Pentagon intelligence agency. A report by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said the analysis of debris imagery confirmed that Kremlin had been using ballistic missiles and artillery rounds made in North Korea in Ukrainian territory.</p> <p>The report reasserts US findings that Russia received ammunition from North Korea after the country's leader Kim Jong Un, met Russian&nbsp; President Vladimir Putin last September.<br> </p> <p>The DIA report showed different aspects of North Korean solid-propellant short-range ballistic missiles in the missile debris found in Ukraine's Kharkiv region, according to Reuters. The wreckage was compared with the images published by North Korean state media.<br> </p> <p>&quot;Analysis confirms that Russia used ballistic missiles produced in North Korea in its war against Ukraine. North Korean missile debris was found throughout Ukraine,&quot; the DIA said in a statement accompanying the release of an unclassified summary of the report.<br> </p> <p>Not just the US, but even Ukrainian state prosecutors have said that they examined debris from 21 of around 50 North Korean ballistic missiles launched by Russia between late December and late February. The Ukrainian military says the North Korean missiles have killed at least 24 people and injured more than 70.<br> </p> <p>According to Conflict Armament Research (CAR), an organisation that retrieves weapons used in the Ukraine war, the wreckage of a missile that landed in Ukraine, estimated to be made in Korea, revealed the latest foreign technology. While most of the electronic parts had been manufactured in the US and Europe over the past few years, it also had a US computer chip made as recently as March 2023.&nbsp; This showed that the country, despite all the sanctions imposed on it, had been procuring vital weapon components illegally.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>However, Russia and North Korea have denied arms deals, which would&nbsp;violate U.N. embargoes on Pyongyang, but have vowed to deepen&nbsp;cooperation in all sectors.</p> <p>This comes as North Korea said on Friday it had fired 18 short-range ballistic missiles during a drill, which South Korea said was a possible display for would-be weapons buyers, including Russia.&nbsp; Photos released by state media showed Kim watching from a distance at least 18 projectiles soaring after being fired from launch trucks.<br> </p> <p>However, Pyongyang claimed the drill was a demonstration of its willingness to launch a pre-emptive strike against South Korea's &quot;gangsters' regime&quot; if necessary to counter an attack.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Experts say North Korea's large-sized artillery rockets blur the boundaries between artillery systems and short-range ballistic missiles because they can create their thrust and are guided during delivery.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri May 31 14:59:18 IST 2024 donald-trump-found-guilty-in-hush-money-case-whats-next-for-the-former-president <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A jury composed of 12 Manhattan residents found Donald Trump guilty of 34 felonies in the hush money case on Thursday. The conviction was a quick one, the jury found Trump guilty in just two days, after a trial that lasted nearly 50 days. </p> <p>Justice Juan Merchan set sentencing for July 11, just days before the Republican Party is scheduled to formally nominate Trump for president ahead of the November 5 election.</p> <p>Meanwhile, there is intense speculation whether Trump would face prison time, now that he has been found guilty. </p> <p>The hush money case involves Trump falsifying business documents to cover up the $130,000 payment made to adult movie actor Stormy Daniels to ensure her silence about an alleged sexual encounter in 2006. The payment was made during the 2016 presidential election season. Trump was charged with 34 counts of falsifying records to hide the payments. Each one of them carries a maximum sentence of four years and a fine of $5,000, but there is a 20-year sentencing cap in New York for such offences. The judge could also decide that the sentences could be served concurrently. And the New York penal code permits judges to impose lenient sentences—like less than a year—for first-time convicts in non-violent cases. </p> <p>Conventional wisdom, however, suggests that Trump is unlikely to go to jail because class E felonies are the least serious category and Trump has no previous felony convictions. Moreover, he is 77, is a former president, is the presumptive Republican nominee in this year's presidential elections and the crime in question is not a violent one. An analysis of recent similar cases prosecuted by the Manhattan district attorney shows that only one in ten convicts had to serve jail time.</p> <p>As the jury has given a guilty verdict, the next step would be reassessing Trump's bail conditions. Prosecuting attorneys might ask for an increased bail and/or stricter bail terms. But since Trump is not exactly a flight risk and he has already posted a $175 million bond, the presiding judge, Juan Merchan, is unlikely to change the terms. </p> <p>The next stage is sentencing which nearly coincides with the Republican National Convention, where Trump would be formally anointed as the party's presidential nominee. </p> <p>Merchan, the presiding judge, has the sole authority of sentencing Trump. State law gives him a fairly wide margin in deciding the punishment. He could send Trump home by considering time served, deeming that the time spent for trial in itself is the punishment. Or Merchan could opt for a conditional discharge, essentially setting Trump free and ordering him to perform some sort of community service. Another option is probation, in which case Trump will have to report to a probation officer regularly and may face jail time if he breaks any law or violates any other conditions imposed by the judge. The last option is to impose a prison sentence. </p> <p>Going by Merchan's statements so far, he may not be keen to send Trump to jail, especially because of its political ramifications. &quot;He is a candidate for the presidency of the United States. So those First Amendment rights are critically important,&quot; observed Merchan. &quot;I also worry about the people who would have to execute that... court officers, correction officers, Secret Service detail.&quot; </p> <p>During the trial, Merchan had imposed a gag order on Trump to stop him from threatening and publicly criticising witnesses and court officials. He found Trump in contempt for violating the order ten times and fined him $1,000 for each violation. Although Merchan said he would consider putting Trump in jail for the repeated violations, he chose not to follow up on the threat. </p> <p>If Trump is indeed awarded a prison sentence, he will certainly appeal the verdict, and the process could take months or even years, till all possible options are exhausted. He would have 30 days to file a notice of appeal and then six months to file a full appeal. Trump's first stop would be the appellate division in Manhattan and if the guilty verdict is upheld, he can approach the court of appeals in Albany. The seven-member body is the highest appellate court in New York, which also has the discretion over whether to admit the appeal or not. </p> <p>If the court of appeals upholds the verdict, Trump is likely to approach the Supreme Court. But since the case deals with a state issue, Trump will have to convince the apex court that there has been some federal or constitutional violation for the court to admit the appeal. On the practical side, this means that it could take a long time before Trump actually sees the inside of a New York jail. However, if the conviction stands, Trump will not be able to pardon himself as this is a state crime and only the governor of New York has the power to issue a pardon. </p> <p>If Trump receives a sentence of one year or less, he would be sent to the infamous Rikers Island, home to the Department of Correction's seven jails. And, he would be eligible for parole after serving two-thirds of his sentence. But if the sentence is for more than a year, the New York Department of Corrections would choose from one of its 44 prisons to house the former president. </p> <p>Trump would continue to enjoy Secret Service protection even when he is in jail as the agency is mandated to protect the former president round the clock. Trump will have to be kept away from other inmates and his food and other personal items will have to be monitored and tested all the time. According to a <i>New York Times</i> report, “a detail of Secret Service agents would work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, rotating in and out of the facility.... While firearms are obviously strictly prohibited in prisons, the agents would nonetheless be armed.” </p> <p>Interestingly, Trump can run for president even if he is lodged inside a New York prison. That is because nothing in the US Constitution prevents a convicted or incarcerated person from running for the highest office if he is a natural-born citizen who is at least 35 years old and has lived in the US for at least 14 years. He could still run and win even if he is in jail. But what happens next will be interesting, for instance, how Trump will take oath as president and discharge his official duties from a prison cell. Technically, the vice president and a majority of the cabinet could invoke the 25th Amendment and transfer the presidential authority to the vice president if the president is unable to discharge his duties. But all those cabinet positions will be filled by hardcore Trump loyalists so nothing could happen without Trump's approval.</p> <p>Clearly, the founding fathers never contemplated the possibility of a convicted felon running the country.&nbsp;</p> Fri May 31 16:53:49 IST 2024 south-africa-election-why-is-nelson-mandelas-anc-party-facing-setback-after-30-years-of-enjoying-the-majority <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The early trends of the South African general election results showed the ruling African National Congress (ANC) losing its ground, while the Opposition parties were performing well. However, ANC deputy secretary-general Nomvula Mokonyane said it was still early to say whether it would lose its majority. </p> <p>&quot;The race is not over yet,&quot; said Mokonyane. </p> <p>The ANC had 2.5% of the vote after the election commission released results from 27.18% of polling stations. </p> <p>The party of Nelson Mandela will be forced to form a coalition with other small parties if it does not get enough majority to form the government. ANC had held the parliamentary majority for at least 30 years. </p> <p>The opposition party, Democratic Alliance (DA) received 25.1% and Marxist Economic Freedom Fights (EFF) party got 9 % as per the latest results released by the electoral commission. The new party led by former president Jacob Zuma, uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) got 8.6 % of the votes as well. </p> <p>The final results will come in only on Sunday. </p> <p><b>What led to ANC losing ground in South Africa? </b></p> <p>Among various reasons, experts believe that Zuma's new party is one of the major reasons for eating up the ANC's votes. Around 50 % of the votes that should have gone to ANC are going to MK, they said. </p> <p>Also, corruption scandals have adversely affected the party. Unemployment, poverty, infrastructure crumbling, and power outage issues paved the way for many citizens to lose faith in the government.</p> <p>ANC has won every national election since a landmark 1994 vote ended white minority rule and brought Mandela to power.</p> <p>In South Africa, the parties' shares of vote determine the number of seats they get in the National Assembly, which then elects the next president. </p> <p>The business community had raised its concerns over a coalition with EFF and Zuma MK as they stand for the nationalisation of mines and banks and the seizure of white-owned land. </p> <p>EFF leader Julius Malema and MK's Zuma had left ANC to form another party. In 2018, Zuma was forced to quit as president after scandals. </p> <p>The DA has vowed to oust the ANC, though its leader John Steenhuisen has not ruled out a partnership if it would prevent what he has called a &quot;doomsday coalition&quot; with the ANC bringing the EFF or MK into government, reported Reuters.</p> <p>The new parliament must convene within 14 days of final results being declared and its first act must be to elect the president.</p> Thu May 30 22:38:05 IST 2024 imran-khan-says-his-only-regret-was-trusting-then-pakistan-army-chief-gen-bajwa <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Jailed former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan has said that his only regret from his time in office was trusting Gen (retd.) Qamar Javed Bajwa, accusing the former army chief of single-handedly spreading &quot;stories&quot; about him to secure a second extension as the military head.</p> <p>Khan, 71, who was ousted from power in April 2022 via the opposition's no-confidence motion, had blamed Gen Bajwa for playing a vital role against his government.</p> <p>Khan, the founder of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, who is currently lodged at Adiala Jail in connection with several cases, slammed Pakistan's political and military leaders with a special focus on his friend-turned-foe Gen Bajwa, Dawn newspaper reported, citing Khan's interview with journalist Mehdi Hasan for Zeteo that was published on Wednesday.</p> <p>The interview was conducted through a letter Mehdi sent with questions for Khan, and the journalist was not allowed to ask follow-up questions, the paper said.</p> <p>&quot;I am certain that this ordeal was orchestrated by General Bajwa. I hold no one else responsible. He meticulously planned and executed this scheme, presenting himself as a deceitful figure, creating lies and false narratives to cause national and international chaos all to secure his extension,&quot; Khan said in response to a question on who he blames for his imprisonment.</p> <p>Khan said as the prime minister he had approved an extension for Gen Bajwa for another three years in 2019, barely three months before the army chief was set to retire. However, in a 2022 interview with Bol News, Khan said he committed a mistake by granting the extension.</p> <p>&quot;He (Bajwa) utterly failed to grasp the detrimental impact of his actions on democracy and Pakistan, Khan said in his interview.</p> <p>When asked whether he still believed the administration of US President Joe Biden was involved in a coup to remove him from office, Khan put the blame firmly and solely on ex-chief of army staff Bajwa.</p> <p>General Bajwa single-handedly spread stories about me to countries like the US, painting me as anti-American or uninterested in good relations with them, he said.</p> <p>His insatiable thirst for power rendered him unpredictable, Imran said, adding that [Gen Bajwa's] personal greed turned him into a bull in a china shop.</p> <p>The former cricketer-turned-politician said that he has consistently fought for the rule of law in Pakistan, adding that if justice were served equally, there would be no need for someone like him in the country's politics.</p> <p>&quot;General Bajwa's poison may have had a short-term effect, but it will not last, Khan said.</p> <p>Most countries view our army as a stabilising force in a volatile political landscape. When the chief of this one constant' uses brute force and deceit, it becomes difficult for many countries to speak out.</p> <p>I don't mind if no one speaks about my treatment, but the world should raise its voice for democracy and the 250 million people of Pakistan, whose mandate has been stolen in broad daylight.</p> <p>Since the February 8 general elections - which his party was unable to contest - Khan has maintained that he was ready for any potential dialogue after the stolen mandate was returned, referring to alleged rigging in the elections.</p> <p>The ruling coalition of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Peoples Party has invited Khan's party to abandon its street protests and engage in &quot;meaningful&quot; dialogue with the government.</p> <p>When asked whether he recognised the current government, Khan said it lacks legitimacy, and that PML-N barely won any seats in Parliament.</p> <p>Khan has been in jail since August last year after being convicted in some of the nearly 200 cases slapped on him since his ouster in April 2022.</p> Thu May 30 21:51:44 IST 2024 hong-kong-what-led-to-the-conviction-of-14-pro-democracy-activists <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Fourteen pro-democracy activists were convicted and two were acquitted in Hong Kong's biggest national security law violation case on Thursday. The case goes back to 2020 when pro-democracy activists held an informal 2020 primary election to determine the best candidates to win a majority in the legislature.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While ruling, the court pointed out that they &quot;would have created a constitutional crisis for Hong Kong&quot; if they had been elected to the legislature. High Court judges Andrew Chan, Alex Lee, and Johnny Chan agreed with the prosecutor's argument that they would have tried to &quot;veto or refuse to pass any budgets&quot; introduced by the Hong Kong government which would have led to the dissolution of the government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The scheme, if carried out in accordance with the intentions of the parties as alleged, would necessarily amount to ... undermining the performance of duties and functions in accordance with the law by the government,” they said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;The power and authority of both the Government and the Chief Executive would be greatly undermined,&quot; the court said in the verdict adding that would create a constitutional crisis for Hong Kong.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, the court had acquitted--former district councillors Lawrence Lau and Lee Yue-Shun, saying it &quot;cannot be sure&quot; that they were &quot;parties to the scheme&quot; or that they &quot;had the intention to subvert the state's power&quot;.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The court on June 25 will hear the plea of the convicted defendants seeking a lenient sentence. Later, the judges will deliver the sentences to the convicted people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Who are the 47 activists?&nbsp;</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hong Kong police arrested 47 pro-democracy activists in 2021. Among the arrested include men and women in their 20s to 60s. Former lawmakers, democracy advocates, and activists were among those detained by the police. They were arrested for allegedly violating the NSL that was imposed by Beijing for participating in unofficial election primaries for Hong Kong's 2020 legislature.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Legal scholar Benny Tai,&nbsp; pro-democracy lawmakers Claudia Mo and Alvin Yeung, activists Joshua Wong, and Lester Shum, lawmakers Leung Kwok-hung Raymond Chan and journalist-turned-activist Gwyneth Ho were among those imprisoned. Some of those arrested pleaded guilty to a shorter jail term.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What's the 2020 primary election?&nbsp;</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A huge anti-government protest erupted in 2019 in Hong Kong. The pro-democracy camp was set up to make gains in the 2020 legislative election. The camp was held for the primaries to determine the best candidates to win a majority in the legislature. It also had plans to vote down major bills that would eventually force the Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to resign. The protesters had put forward the demand for democratic elections and greater police accountability.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tai, the key organiser of the primary election, said that a majority in the legislature could be a &quot;constitutional weapon with great destructive power&quot;. Despite the government's warning that the camp was against the national security law, the activists went ahead with it. An unexpected turnout of 6,10,000 voters voters turned up for the elections held in July 2020. Soon the Hong Kong government questioned the vote and in 2021 around 50 activists were arrested in connection with the NSL violation.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Authorities had argued that the activists' plan was to subvert state power.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The security law criminalises secession, acts of subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers to intervene in Hong Kong's affairs. Offenders could face a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu May 30 17:55:34 IST 2024 did-israel-offer-iran-a-compromise-in-gaza-to-avoid-retaliation-to-embassy-attack <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Israel sent a message to Iran via Egypt that it was willing to compromise in Gaza if Tehran avoided a reaction to the attack on its embassy in Syria, according to Iran's semi-official media Tasnim news agency.</p> <p>The report cited the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Aerospace Force Amirali Hajizadeh. &quot;Israel sent messages through Egypt's foreign minister&nbsp;that it will compromise in the war in Gaza to avoid Iran's retaliation&quot;, Hajizadeh said, adding that Iran’s attack &quot;destroyed&quot; targeted Israeli military bases.&nbsp;</p> <p>Hajizadeh also claimed that Israel struck the IRGC officers in Damascus because it was looking for an easy win after the failures of October 7. He said Israel did not think it would trigger a direct response from Tehran.<br> </p> <p>Israel's attack on the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, Syria, had pushed West Asia to the edge after Iran retaliated by sending explosive drones and missiles to Israel, its first direct attack on Israeli territory. Israel is yet to respond to the report.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Houthis get 'Ghadr'</b><br> </p> <p>Tasnim said in another report that Tehran’s sea-launched ballistic missile 'Ghadr' has been made available to Yemen’s Houthis.<br> </p> <p>&quot;Iran’s sea-launched ballistic missile, named Ghadr, now has been made available to Yemen’s (Houthi) fighters,&quot; the report said, adding that the missile has become &quot;a weapon capable of presenting serious challenges to the interests of the United States and its main ally in the region, the Zionist regime.&quot;<br> </p> <p>Interestingly, though Iran has pledged support for the Houthis, it, for long, did not acknowledge that it was supplying arms to the rebel groups. However, analysts believe Houthis were receiving weapons from Iran by 2014, the year they captured Sanaa.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Ever since the Israel-Hamas war broke out, the Houthis have been attacking ships affiliated to Israel or links with Israeli businessmen, in a show of support for the Palestinians.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>However, the rebel groups mistakenly attacked a Greek-owned, Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier with a cargo of grain bound for Iran last week. A statement released by French naval forces based in the UAE that patrol the Middle East also identified the vessel's grain shipment as being bound for Iran.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Initially, after the attack, the Laax had listed its destination as Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates. On Thursday, however, its listed destination instead appeared to be Bandar Khomeini, Iran.&nbsp;<br> </p> Thu May 30 17:08:04 IST 2024 operation-rafah-us-says-israel-has-not-violated-us-red-lines <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The US said Israel has not violated Joe Biden's red line even as it condemned the loss of life of dozens of civilians in the Israeli airstrike in Rafah.</p> <p>National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Israel had not violated Biden's red line for withholding future offensive arms transfers because it has not, and it appears to the US that it will not, launch a full-scale ground invasion into the city.</p> <p>He said the US does not believe Israel launched a full-scale invasion of Rafah, but described images from the aftermath of the strike &quot;horrific&quot;.</p> <p>&quot;Everything that we can see tells us that they are not moving into a major ground operation in population centres in the centre of Rafah,&quot; Kirby said.</p> <p>“There should be no innocent life lost here as a result of this conflict,&quot; Kirby said.</p> <p>“We don't support, we won't support a major ground operation in Rafah. The president said that should that occur, then it might make him have to make different decisions in terms of support. We haven't seen that happen at this point. We have not seen them smash into Rafah. We have not seen them go in with large units, large numbers of troops, in columns and formations in some sort of co-ordinated manoeuvre against multiple targets on the ground,&quot; he said.</p> <p>Asked whether the strike would result in any US policy changes, Kirby said, I have no policy changes to speak to.</p> <p>The US state department said it was watching closely for the Israel military to hold a thorough probe into the airstrike.&nbsp;</p> Wed May 29 15:40:00 IST 2024 bushra-bibis-ex-husband-assaulted-by-former-pak-pm-imran-khans-lawyers-outside-court <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The ex-husband of Imran Khan's third wife Bushra Bibi was attacked by one of the lawyers of the former Pakistan prime minister outside a court here as he appeared for a hearing on appeals against the couple's conviction in the un-Islamic marriage case.</p> <p>Khan, 71, and Bibi, 49, were sentenced to seven years in prison each on February 3 by a trial court for contracting the marriage during iddat, a mandatory period for a woman in Islam to wait before a second marriage after the death of her husband or divorce.<br> </p> <p>The case was filed by Bushra's ex-husband Khawar Maneka against the couple in November 2023, alleging that they married without Bushra observing the mandatory waiting period of iddat. He asked the court to declare the marriage null and void.<br> </p> <p>The court, on May 23, reserved the verdict on the appeals which was to be announced on Wednesday.<br> </p> <p>During the hearing of appeals filed by Bushra and her husband and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Khan against conviction in the case, Islamabad District and Sessions Judge Shahrukh Arjumand went into his chamber without announcing the verdict.<br> </p> <p>Following the development, PTI lawyers hurled bottles in the courtroom which prompted Maneka's lawyers to escort him out.<br> </p> <p>However, while being escorted out, a PTI lawyer attacked Maneka within the court premises after which he fell to the ground.&nbsp;&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>The couple had married in 2018, the year Khan went on to win elections and become prime minister. Bushra was ostensibly his spiritual guide but the two developed affection for each other during their meetings. She got a divorce from her husband of 28 years with whom she had five children.<br> </p> <p>She is the third wife of Khan, a former cricketing hero, who during his heydays of sporting career had a playboy reputation.&nbsp;<br> </p> Wed May 29 14:51:17 IST 2024 over-260-balloons-from-north-korea-crosses-south-korean-border-with-trash-and-poop-crass-action <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>North Korea said this was in retaliation against South Korean activists sending materials to the North<br> </p> <p>North Korea is allegedly sending white balloons carrying &quot;garbage and filth&quot; across the South Korean border, according to Seoul officials. The balloons have been found in eight of nine provinces in South Korea.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>The white balloons contain filth and garbage, with some carrying material which appears to be faecal matter, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>The South Korean military began noticing large white balloons arriving from the North on Tuesday night, according to the country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). It added that over 150 balloons landed from across the border till Wednesday morning.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>The JCS also released images of the balloons showing plastic bags carried by two giant translucent balloons. The packages were seen spilling scraps of plastic, sheets of paper, and dirt onto roads and sidewalks. Toilet paper, dark soil and batteries were among the contents of the bags.<br> </p> <p>The authorities have alerted the residents in the northern Gyeonggi and Gangwon provinces, warning them against touching the &quot;unidentified objects.&quot; They have also been told to avoid outdoor activities. The packages risk damaging residential areas, airports and highways, the JCS added.<br> </p> <p>Both countries have used balloons in their propaganda campaigns since the Korean War in the 1950s.<br> </p> <p>According to North Korean state media KCNA, this was to retaliate against South Korean activists who sent materials to the North – including propaganda leaflets, food, medicine, radios and USB sticks containing South Korean news and television dramas - to North Korea. All these materials are prohibited in North Korea.&nbsp;&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>&quot;Mounds of wastepaper and filth will soon be scattered over the border areas and the interior of the ROK and it will directly experience how much effort is required to remove them,&quot; North Korea's vice-minister of Defence Kim Kang Il said in a statement to state media on Sunday.<br> </p> <p>&quot;Scattering leaflets by use of balloons is a dangerous provocation that can be utilised for a specific military purpose,&quot; said Kim Kang Il, North Korea’s Vice Minister of National Defense, KCNA reported on Sunday.<br> </p> <p>He accused South Korea of using psychological warfare&quot; by scattering various dirty things near border areas, declaring that the North would take tit-for-tat action.</p> <p>Though South Korea’s parliament banned such actions in 2020, the campaigners in the South, including defectors from North Korea, have long sent these materials through balloons, drones, and bottles floating down the cross-border river.<br> </p> <p>South Korea's military had earlier said it was investigating whether there were any North Korean propaganda leaflets in the balloons. &quot;North Korea’s actions clearly violate international law and seriously threaten the safety of our citizens,&quot; it added. &quot;All responsibility arising from the North Korean balloons lies entirely with North Korea, and we sternly warn North Korea to immediately stop its inhumane and low-level actions.&quot;<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Wed May 29 14:43:05 IST 2024