India moves 1000-ton historic armory to lay rail track

Sat, 2017-03-11

MYSORE: Dozens of workers are using cranes and jacks to shove and push a 1,000-ton, 18th century armory to make way for a new rail track in a southern Indian state.
The armory was one of the 10 structures built to store gunpowder and weapons by warrior King Tipu Sultan who ruled the Kingdom of Mysore between 1782 and 1799.
Workers are in the process of lifting the 225-year-old brick and lime mortar monument and moving it nearly 130 meters from the original spot near Mysore city in Karnataka state.
The monument is expected to be safely relocated by the weekend, authorities said.
The semi-buried structure at Srirangapatna town was put on steel beams on Monday and moved using hydraulic push rams after experts said it was obstructing construction of a key rail link between Mysore and capital Bangalore.
“We could not alter the line as there were more important monuments in the vicinity where the tracks are being laid,” Ravi Chandra, a senior railway official, told a local newspaper.
Sultan’s Kingdom included parts of the present-day states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu in southern India.
The powerful ruler was killed in the fourth Anglo-Mysore war in 1799 after defeating the British East India Co. in previous battles.
He is credited with developing an indigenous rocket known as Mysorean rocket, a prototype of British Congreve rockets that were used in the Napoleonic wars.

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China’s first stealth fighter enters service

Sat, 2017-03-11

BEIJING: China has put its first stealth fighter into military service, state-run media reported on Friday, in the latest milestone highlighting the modernization of the country’s armed forces.
Swift, stealthy, and armed with long-range missiles, the J-20 represents a leap forward in China’s ability to project power in Asia and potentially compete with the US.
The fifth-generation stealth fighter made its public debut at the Zhuhai Air Show in southern China in November.
In a newscast on state broadcaster CCTV’s military and agricultural affairs channel, an announcer said in a brief statement that the J-20 had “entered” service in the country’s airforce.
The report was widely picked up by Chinese media outlets, which added photos of the fighter.
The J-20 is manufactured by China’s state aerospace company AVIC, which is also working on a second fifth-generation radar-evading stealth fighter called the FC-31, previously known as the J-31.
It is billed as an answer to the F-35, one of the world’s most technically advanced warplanes.
The television broadcast also said China had put into service its new Y-20 transport aircraft, which can move heavy loads and conduct airlifts in support of military operations.
China also recently sent its first aircraft carrier, an overhauled Ukrainian ship, for a debut voyage into the Pacific.
Beijing is seeking to modernize and upgrade its military both to protect its borders and project power into regions such as the South China Sea, a resource-rich strategic waterway where it has disputes with several neighbors.

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2 killed in shooting at Basel cafe

Sat, 2017-03-11

GENEVA: Two men shot dead two people and seriously injured a third on Thursday at a cafe in Basel, northwest Switzerland, police said as they hunt for the suspects.
“Two men came into Cafe 56” around 8.15 p.m. local time (1915 GMT) “and fired several rounds of shots,” police said in a statement, without providing information on a possible motive.
“Two customers were killed. Another is in a critical condition.”
The assailants were on the run following the shooting, according to police, who said they had headed in the direction of the railway station after the attack.
“The reason behind the attack is not yet known and will be investigated,” the Basel prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
Police have asked anyone with information regarding the incident to come forward.
The road next to the cafe has been cordoned off and traffic redirected.
A bullet hole was visible in one of the windows of the establishment, a small cafe in a residential neighborhood.
An AFP photographer at the scene saw police dressed in white forensic garb collecting evidence at the site.
“Cafe 56 doesn’t have a bad reputation,” a neighborhood resident told local newspaper Basler Zeitung.
“It was previously an establishment known for its links to the drug world, but since the owner changed several years ago it became an ordinary cafe,” the paper quoted another resident as saying.
Gun crime is infrequent in Switzerland, even though the country has one of the highest rates of firearm ownership in the world.
Citizens are allowed to keep their army-issue weapons at home outside periods of mandatory military service.
This right has been controversial as sometimes weapons are used at home in domestic incidents.
The number of weapons held at home is believed to be 2 million for a population of 8 million, according to Swiss press.
In January, a man clad in military clothing shot and injured two police officers as they searched his home in northeast Switzerland for a suspected cannabis plantation.
The gunman fled but was eventually cornered and after a standoff lasting several hours, which included negotiations over the telephone, he shot himself dead.
Police searching his home found gun publications.

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31 workers convicted over killing at Indian car plant

Sat, 2017-03-11

NEW DELHI: An Indian court convicted 31 workers on Friday over an outburst of deadly violence at a car plant in 2012, including 13 for murder, during one of the country’s worst episodes of labor unrest.
The court cleared 117 accused who were also facing charges of murder, arson and rioting after hundreds of workers clashed with managers over wages and appointments at the Maruti Suzuki factory in Manesar.
The hearing in Gurgaon, on the outskirts of New Delhi, found 13 workers guilty of murdering Awanish Kumar Dev, whose charred body was found in the remains of a building following the riots in July 2012.
Dev, who was a human resources manager, died after he failed to escape a blaze which was started by workers who went on the rampage in Manesar, which is around two hours’ drive southwest of the capital.
The additional sessions court ruled that 18 others were guilty of rioting, arson and damaging property and will announce the sentences on March 17.
A lawyer for those found guilty on Friday immediately announced plans to appeal against the convictions.
“We will challenge the conviction in a higher court,” Monu Kuhar, part of the defense team, told AFP.
Hundreds of policemen in riot gear were deployed at the court and outside automakers’ offices over threats by workers to mobilize large-scale protests if their colleagues “did not get justice.”
On Thursday, thousands of workers staged a brief work stoppage at Maruti and other auto companies’ offices to express solidarity with the accused.
Prosecutors told the court that the attack was the result of a conspiracy by workers, who were at loggerheads with the management over wages and plans to set up a union at the workplace.
The plant, which manufactures nearly 700,000 cars annually, was shut for 60 days prior to the deadly violence.
Investigators said more than a thousand workers had charged at the administration block and attacked the officials with iron rods and car parts such as axles at the plant.
They beat up officers, including Dev, breaking his limbs, leaving him immobile and leaving him unable to flee the flames.
More than 100 other managers were injured in the day-long violence that shut the plant for over a month.
But union leaders claim it was triggered by an argument between a supervisor and a casual employee, who was abused over his caste.
Maruti Suzuki, a subsidiary of Japanese automobile major Suzuki, has a market share of 51 percent in India.
Workplace violence is not uncommon in India, where workers are often locked in conflict with the management over wages and hostile working conditions, but it is rare for major corporates to be targeted.
Labor unions frequently accuse management of hiring cheap labor through short-term contracts which makes it easier for firms to dismiss workers.
Last year a court in Tamil Nadu sentenced eight workers to life imprisonment over the lynching of a senior manager in violence sparked by the dismissal of 42 workers at an automobile spare parts factory.
In June 2014, around 200 workers bludgeoned to death the owner of a jute firm in West Bengal with iron rods and stones after the management of the loss-making company increased their working hours.

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Malaysia PM Najib calls for unity amid North Korea row

Sat, 2017-03-11

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called for unity on Friday as he tried to bring home nine Malaysians stuck in North Korea amid a growing row over the murder of Kim Jong Nam, while warning Pyongyang not to abuse Malaysia’s “hospitality.”
North Korea barred Malaysians from leaving the country on Tuesday, sparking tit-for-tat action by Malaysia as relations soured over its probe into the Feb. 13 murder of Kim, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Kim Jong Nam was killed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Malaysian police say he was assaulted by two women who smeared his face with VX, a chemical classified by the UN as a weapon of mass destruction.
Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar officially confirmed the identity of the body as Kim Jong Nam on Friday, but gave no details about the identification methods, citing the need to protect the “security and safety of the witnesses.” The man carried a passport under the name of Kim Chol.
In a blog posting, Razak said Malaysia would fall back on its experience dealing with crises such as the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia airlines flight MH370 where multiple countries were involved in the search.
Flight MH370, carrying 239 people, went missing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014. Australia, Malaysia, and China jointly called off a two-year underwater search for the aircraft in January.
“I want to call on all Malaysians, including the leaders of the government and the opposition, to unite in giving us full support toward all efforts that are ongoing to resolve this problem,” Razak said.
“Malaysia always ensures good relations with all countries. However, this does not mean any one of them can abuse our good treatment that Malaysia has given all this while and break the laws of our country, or do anything they like without respecting Malaysia as a sovereign nation.”
Malaysian police have identified eight North Koreans in connection with the case. They say three are still in Kuala Lumpur, hiding at the North Korean embassy.
Malaysia is one of the few countries outside China that has for decades maintained ties with the isolated North Korea.
But as relations plunged in the wake of the murder, Malaysia recalled its envoy from Pyongyang and expelled the North Korean ambassador.
On Thursday, Razak said North Korea had guaranteed the safety of Malaysians banned from leaving the country, as two Malaysian UN employees left the state in a possible sign that diplomatic tensions had begun to settle.

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South Korean president sacked by top court

Sat, 2017-03-11

SEOUL: South Korea’s Constitutional Court removed President Park Geun-hye from office on Friday over a graft scandal involving the country’s conglomerates at a time of rising tensions with North Korea and China.
The ruling sparked protests from hundreds of her supporters, two of whom were killed in clashes with police outside the court, and a festive rally by those who had demanded her ouster who celebrated justice being served.
“We did it. We the citizens, the sovereign of this country, opened a new chapter in history,” Lee Tae-ho, who leads a movement to oust Park that has held mostly peaceful rallies in downtown involving millions, told a large gathering in Seoul.
Park becomes South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be forced from office, capping months of paralysis and turmoil over the corruption scandal that also landed the head of the Samsung conglomerate in detention and on trial.
A snap presidential election will be held within 60 days.
She did not appear in court and a spokesman said she would not be making any comment. Nor would she leave the presidential Blue House residence on Friday.
“Park is not leaving the Blue House today,” Blue House spokesman Kim Dong Jo told Reuters.
Park was stripped of her powers after Parliament voted to impeach her but has remained in the president’s official compound.
The court’s acting chief judge, Lee Jung-mi, said Park had violated the constitution and law “throughout her term,” and despite the objections of Parliament and the media, she had concealed the truth and cracked down on critics.
Park has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.
The ruling to uphold Parliament’s Dec. 9 vote to impeach her marks a dramatic fall from grace of South Korea’s first woman president and daughter of Cold War military dictator Park Chung-hee. Both her parents were assassinated.
Park, 65, no longer has immunity and could now face criminal charges over bribery, extortion and abuse of power in connection with allegations of conspiring with her friend, Choi Soon-sil.
Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn was appointed acting president and will remain in that post until the election. He called on Park’s supporters and opponents to put their differences aside to prevent deeper division.
“It is time to accept, and close the conflict and confrontation we have suffered,” Hwang said in a televised speech.
A liberal presidential candidate, Moon Jae-in, is leading in opinion polls to succeed Park, with 32 percent in one released on Friday. Hwang, who has not said whether he will seek the presidency, leads among conservatives, none of whom has more than single-digit poll ratings.
“Given Park’s spectacular demise and disarray among conservatives, the presidential contest in May is the liberals’ to lose,” said Yonsei University Prof. John Delury.
Relations with China and the US could dominate the coming presidential campaign, after South Korea this month deployed the US THAAD missile defense system in response to North Korea’s stepped up missile and nuclear tests.
Beijing has vigorously protested against the deployment, fearing its radar could see into its missile deployments. China has curbed travel to South Korea and targeted Korean companies operating in the mainland, prompting retaliatory measures from Seoul.
Park was accused of colluding with her friend, Choi, and a former presidential aide, both of whom have been on trial, to pressure big businesses to donate to two foundations set up to back her policy initiatives.
The court said Park had “completely hidden the fact of (Choi’s) interference with state affairs.”
Park was also accused of soliciting bribes from the head of the Samsung Group for government favors, including backing a merger of two Samsung affiliates in 2015 that was seen as supporting family succession and control over the country’s largest “chaebol” or conglomerate.

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Nigeria’s Buhari returns but VP will stay in charge

Sat, 2017-03-11

ABUJA: Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said on Friday he would need more rest and health tests after coming home from nearly two months of medical leave in Britain during which his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, stamped his authority on economic policy.
Shortly after arriving back from London, the 74-year-old former general told officials he was feeling “much better” but wanted to rest over the weekend, raising questions about his ability to run Africa’s biggest economy and most populous nation.
Osinbajo, a lawyer who is seen as more business-friendly than Buhari, played an active role in driving policy changes in Africa’s top oil producer during the president’s seven-week absence.
The Nigerian stock market jumped to a one-month high when Buhari returned, but trimmed gains after his comments about his continued ill-health raised fears of policy confusion and a power vacuum.
Dressed in a dark kaftan and Muslim prayer cap, Buhari walked stiffly but unaided from his plane after it landed at an air force base in the northern city of Kaduna.
After greeting a handful of provincial and military officials, he boarded a helicopter to Abuja to address Osinbajo and his top military and security commanders in a brief speech.
“I deliberately came back toward the weekend so that the Vice President will continue and I will continue to rest,” Buhari said at the presidential villa. “All I need is to do further follow-ups within some weeks.”
He said he was “conscious” of the needs of the economy, mired in its first recession in 25 years due to a collapse in oil revenues, but failed to clarify Osinbajo’s role or the extent of his powers now Buhari is back home.
Buhari had formally made him acting president when he left for treatment, but that appointment can only stand when the president is out of the country.
Buhari also did not reveal details of his sickness.
“I could not recall when last I had a blood transfusion,” he said. About his treatment in London he added: “Blood transfusions, going to the laboratories and so on and forth.”
Buhari has traveled to Britain several times to consult doctors since his election two years ago.
Officials have refused to disclose details, saying only that he had undergone routine tests. This fueled speculation that his health was worse than publicly admitted.
Buhari, who first came to power in a military coup in 1983, is a northern Muslim while Osinbajo is a lawyer from Nigeria’s predominantly Christian south, a political arrangement that reflects Nigeria’s broad geographic and religious divisions.
Reflecting his popularity in the north, armed police had to control hundreds of cheering supporters as Buhari’s plane landed in Kaduna.
Osinbajo played a prominent and active role in Buhari’s absence, chairing Cabinet meetings and finishing work on an economic reform plan needed to secure a World Bank loan to help plug a deficit caused by low oil revenues.
He also traveled several times to the commercial capital Lagos and the Niger Delta oil hub to calm tensions with militants attacking oil facilities — two regions Buhari had largely ignored.

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Silence is golden — May plays down Brexit talk at EU Summit

Sat, 2017-03-11

BRUSSELS: It was her last EU Summit before launching Brexit, but British Prime Minister Theresa May was keener to talk about pretty much anything else.
May, who will trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty to launch two years of divorce talks later this month, was keen not to linger on her plans for some of the most complicated negotiations Britain has faced since World War II.
At a meeting held in the shadow of Brexit but dominated by more immediate concerns like re-electing the EU Summit chairman, May set out to show her fellow leaders that Britain was still a reliable member, despite choosing “a different path.”
She offered suggestions on everything from countering Russian “disinformation” to tackling organized crime — topics that helped her to underline Britain’s contribution in areas like security and intelligence.
Underlying her arguments was an implicit reminder to her partners in the upcoming negotiations that the UK has strengths that they need.
“At this summit we’ve shown once again how Britain will continue to play a leading role in Europe long after we have left the EU,” she told reporters, announcing for example that she would boost security cooperation and host a summit for the western Balkans.
But on the EU’s most pressing question — the timing of triggering Article 50 — she gave little away, only reiterating that she would launch the talks by the end of this month.

Wish them well
May enters the negotiations with a long wish list — wanting the closest possible trading ties, security cooperation, regaining control over immigration and restoring sovereignty over British laws.
The EU has balked at her demands, saying they amount to “having your cake and eating it,” and May’s government acknowledges it is a bold opening position.
But she promised to remain “a good friend and ally” to the EU, reminding the leaders of the benefits of cooperation with Britain to try to persuade them to maintain “frictionless trade” and strong economic ties.
Apart from justice cooperation, Britain has talked up its deployment of troops on the EU’s eastern fringe to stem an emboldened Russia. May’s team has also signaled areas for possible compromise, including fisheries policy.
She has not ruled out paying into EU coffers to participate in “some specific European programs.”
But the fact that May left the summit after a dinner late on Thursday was a reminder that Britain is already, more often than not, out of the room.
The other 27 leaders use Friday to prepare for a “unity” summit to be held in Rome on March 25, the 60th anniversary of the treaty that laid the EU’s foundation.
“We’ve chosen a different path and we wish them well,” a British government source said on Wednesday when asked whether May will be invited.

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Poland ‘alone’ in the EU after Tusk re-election: Media

Sat, 2017-03-11

WARSAW: Polish media on Friday underscored their country’s isolation in the EU after the bloc’s leaders re-elected liberal Donald Tusk as president despite strident opposition from the rightwing government in his native Poland.
“Tusk won 27 to 1,” read the headline splashed across the Gazeta Wyborcza liberal daily, while the centrist Rzeczpospolita daily concluded that “Poland is alone in the EU.”
The bloc’s leaders voted by 27 to one at the summit in Brussels on Thursday to give former Polish premier Tusk a new two-and-a-half-year mandate, with only Poland’s current Prime Minister Beata Szydlo voting against.
Szydlo, whose right-wing euroskeptic Law and Justice (PiS) party has nursed a long and bitter enmity with the centrist Tusk, announced that she would block the summit’s final communique in revenge.
Polish media close to her government on Friday welcomed her “courage and the intransigence” in the face of “terrible pressure” in Brussels.
But Rzeczpospolita dubbed Tusk’s re-election “the unprecedented failure of the Law and Justice government.
“It’s obvious that Warsaw is isolated and has no allies in Europe,” the daily said in an acerbic editorial.
Gazeta Wyborcza meanwhile observed that “the open war against the EU will have detrimental consequences for Poland,” particularly in terms of the future EU budget and regional policy.
“If (PiS party leader Jaroslaw) Kaczynski forces the government to get angry with the EU, it’s not the EU that will lose but Poland,” it said.
Radoslaw Sikorski, a former Polish foreign minister, called Poland’s failure in Brussels the “political Waterloo,” evoking the crushing defeat of its rightwing government.
But according to the nationalist news website, Tusk’s re-election demonstrates that the EU is “in Germany’s sphere of influence.”
“It (Tusk’s re-election) is an element of German domination in Europe,” the site said in an editorial echoing earlier comments by Kaczynski and Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski.
“Poland finally has a diplomatic policy and a prime minister that work in the national interest, without humbly waiting for praise” from others, it said.

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Amal Clooney to Iraq: Allow UN probe of Daesh crimes

Fri, 2017-03-10

UNITED NATIONS: International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and a young Yazidi woman who was enslaved and raped by Daesh fighters pushed Iraq on Thursday to allow a United Nations investigation into crimes by the militant group.
Britain is drafting a United Nations Security Council resolution to establish a UN investigation, but Clooney said the Iraqi government needs to send a letter formally requesting the inquiry before the 15-member council can vote.
Daesh is committing genocide against the Yazidis in Syria and Iraq to destroy the minority religious community through killings, sexual slavery and other crimes, UN experts reported in June last year.
Clooney, who represents Nadia Murad and other Yazidi victims of Daesh, said that despite public support by Iraq for a UN investigation, the government has not yet made a request.
“We do want to see an investigation take place with the cooperation of the Iraqi authorities,” Clooney told Reuters in an interview after speaking at a United Nations event on accountability for crimes committed by Daesh.
“But ultimately if that support is not forthcoming in terms of real action, then the UN has to think of other ways in which to achieve accountability,” she said.
The Yazidis are a religious sect whose beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions. Daesh militants consider the Yazidis to be devil-worshippers.
Clooney said the Security Council could establish an inquiry without Iraq’s consent, the 193-member UN General Assembly could establish a special team to preserve evidence and prepare cases — as it did for Syria in December — or the Security Council could refer the case to the International Criminal Court.
“All these options are on the table. They must be seriously considered, because victims like Nadia can’t expect to wait forever,” said Clooney, adding that it was extremely important that evidence was preserved for future prosecution.
When asked what may be preventing Iraq from requesting the investigation, Murad, 23, speaking through a translator, said: “They think that all Iraqis are persecuted by Daesh and they have to seek justice for everybody.”
“We will be seeking help and assistance,” Iraq’s UN ambassador, Mohamed Ali Alhakim, told the UN event where Murad also spoke. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why Iraq had not yet requested a UN inquiry.
Britain’s UN ambassador, Matthew Rycroft, told the UN event that he was working with Iraq on the issue.
“The proposal should support Iraq’s national efforts and fully respect it national laws and sovereignty. But it is also an urgent task. And we look forward to finalizing that proposal with you very, very soon,” he said.
Murad was abducted and held by Daesh fighters for three months in 2014 in Mosul. She told her story to the UN Security Council in December 2015 and since then has been campaigning for justice.
An exhausted Murad told UN ambassadors on Thursday: “My words, tears and my testimony have not made you act. I wonder whether there is any point in continuing my campaign at all.”

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