U.N. Security Council adopts resolution calling for urgent humanitarian pauses and corridors in Gaza

The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday adopted its first resolution since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, calling for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses” in Gaza to address the escalating crisis for Palestinian civilians during Israel’s aerial and ground attacks.

The vote in the 15-member council was 12-0 with the United States, United Kingdom and Russia abstaining. The U.S. and U.K. abstained because of the resolution’s failure to condemn Hamas’ surprise cross-border attacks into Israel on October 7, and Russia because of its failure to demand a humanitarian ceasefire, which Israel and the United States oppose.

The final draft watered down language from “demands” to “calls” for humanitarian pauses, and for “the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas and other groups.”

Still, the resolution, which was sponsored by Malta, managed to overcome the serious differences that had prevented the council from adopting four previous resolutions.

“What we have achieved today is an important first step,” Malta’s U.N. Ambassador Vanessa Frazier said. “We will remain steadfast in our commitment to the protection of civilians and the plight of children in armed conflict that continue to suffer in a disproportionate manner.”

No mention of Hamas attacks

The resolution doesn’t mention the October 7 attacks in Israel, where Hamas militants killed around 1,200 people and took some 240 others hostage. Nor does it mention Israel’s response with airstrikes and a ground offensive in Hamas-ruled Gaza that the territory’s health ministry says have killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia tried unsuccessfully to amend the resolution just before the vote with language from a resolution adopted October 27 by the 193-member General Assembly. It calls for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities.”

The vote on the amendment was five countries in favour, the U.S. opposed, and nine abstentions. It was not adopted because it failed to get the minimum nine “yes” votes.

Mr. Nebenzia said he abstained on the resolution because of appeals from the region for council action on the dire humanitarian situation. But he called it a disgrace that the council, which has “a uniquely powerful toolbox” including sanctions and even military action, “finally squeezed out such a weak call.”

“As the old saying goes, the mountain has labored and brought forth a mouse,” the Russian ambassador said.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she remains “horrified” that a few council members can’t condemn Hamas’ “barbaric terrorist attack,” and criticized the resolution for not reaffirming every country’s right to self-defense. She did note that the resolution is the first ever adopted “that even mentions the word Hamas.”

Nonetheless, Ms. Thomas-Greenfield called the resolution “a step forward” and said the U.S. supports its calls for humanitarian pauses and the release of hostages.

Arab support

United Arab Emirates Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh, the Arab representative on the council, said its members supported the resolution, which is the first on the situation in the Palestinian territories since 2016.

“It is difficult geopolitical times, and to bring the unity of the council today to speak with one voice on the subject that has haunted all of us over the last month is, I think, momentous,” she said.

The resolution “is a first, important and overdue step” and will change the world’s perception that the Security Council “is indifferent,” Ms. Nusseibeh said. But the world must not lose sight of the urgent goal of a lasting humanitarian cease-fire, she said.

Meaningless, says Israel

Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan issued a statement saying the resolution “is disconnected from reality and is meaningless.”

He criticised the council’s failure to condemn Hamas, claiming the militants were deliberately allowing the humanitarian situation to deteriorate so the United Nations would pressure Israel to back off of Gaza.

“It will not happen,” Mr. Erdan said. “Israel will continue to act until Hamas is destroyed and the hostages are returned.”

Legally binding

U.N. Security Council resolutions are legally binding, unlike General Assembly resolutions, but in practice many parties choose to ignore the council’s requests for action.

Richard Gowan, U.N. director for the International Crisis Group, said the Security Council has called for ceasefires in wars from the Balkans to Syria “with little or no impact.”

The General Assembly resolution was approved on Oct. 27 by a vote of 120-14 with 45 abstentions. Since then, Israel agreed Nov. 9 to four-hour pauses. But only limited aid has been delivered to Gaza through the Rafah crossing from Egypt, and a humanitarian catastrophe has been brewing.

Mr. Gowan said that the council was able to speak at all gives its member nations “some respite,” but would likely not have any significant impact.

“The resolution is drafted in a way that puts no real political pressure on Israel, but the U.S. will likely urge Israel to show more flexibility on aid issues to satisfy global opinion,” Mr. Gowan told AP. “The council will not move from this text to a call for a cease-fire, unless facts change significantly on the ground.”

Humanitarian pauses for a number of days

The resolution calls for humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip for a “sufficient number of days” for unhindered access by the U.N., Red Cross and other aid groups to get water, electricity, fuel, food and medical supplies to all those in need. It says the pauses also should allow for repair of essential infrastructure and enable urgent rescue and recovery efforts.

It demands that “all parties comply with their obligations under international law, notably with regard to the protection of civilians, especially children.”

It also asks U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to report to the council at its next monthly Mideast meeting, on Nov. 28, on implementing the resolution.

Asked afterward about Israel’s rejection of the resolution, Malta’s Frazier and the UAE’s Nusseibeh said it remains legally binding and pointed to Guterres’ upcoming report. Ms. Nusseibeh said the secretary-general has been asked to bring ideas on what the U.N. would need “for further monitoring and implementation on the ground.”

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, said the Security Council should have called for a ceasefire a long time ago, stressing that “Gaza bleeds death, devastation, destruction everywhere.” It is “a small, modest resolution,” he said.

“Israel considers all of us terrorists,” he told the council after the vote. “Israel is not under threat of destruction. It is destroying Palestine. It considers the Palestinian state as a strategic threat. It is against Palestinian rule anywhere.”

Mr. Mansour said the Palestinians will keep coming back to the Security Council and the General Assembly for action, first and foremost for a cease-fire.

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Maine embarks on healing, searches for answers day after mass killing suspect found dead

October 28, 2023 07:14 am | Updated October 29, 2023 12:00 am IST – LEWISTON, Maine

Police teams had already searched a recycling center in Maine twice before eventually finding the body of the man suspected of killing 18 people in Lewiston was found, authorities said Saturday.

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck said the teams that scoured the Maine Recycling Corp. property, including a tactical team, on Thursday night. He said another state police team returned the site Friday and found Robert Card’s body in a location that hadn’t been searched.

Card died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, Sauschuck said.

At a press conference Saturday, Sauschuck also said Card’s family called investigators to provide his name to law enforcement soon after police released surveillance pictures of the shooter.

“This family has been incredibly cooperative with us,” Sauschuck said. “Truth be told the first three people that called us … were family members.”

The 40-year-old Card of Bowdoin — a firearms instructor who grew up in the area — was suspected of also injuring 13 people during a shooting rampage at a bowling alley and bar on Wednesday night in Lewiston.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills at a Friday night news conference called for the healing process to begin.

“Like many people I’m breathing a sigh of relief tonight knowing that Robert Card is no longer a threat to anyone,” Mills said.

Street life returned to Lewiston Saturday morning after a days-long lockdown in the city of 37,000. Joggers took advantage of the warm weather. People walked dogs through downtown and picked up coffees and visited other shops that had been closed since the shooting.

Whitney Pelletier hung a hand-drawn “Lewiston Strong” sign in the glass door of her downtown cafe, Forage, on Saturday morning.

Like other local businesses, Forage has been closed for days as police searched for Card.

“Last night when they found his body, I think the fear that I had been holding onto just living in downtown Lewiston was replaced with sadness,” she said.

President Joe Biden in a statement called on Congress to take action on gun violence.

The deadliest shootings in Maine history stunned a state of 1.3 million people that has relatively little violent crime and had only 29 killings in all of 2022. In Lewiston, the 37,000 residents and those in surrounding communities were told to stay in their homes as hundreds of police officers, sheriff’s deputies, FBI agents and other law enforcement officials swarmed the area.

Card was a U.S. Army reservist. Leo Madden, who said he ran Maine Recycling Corp. for decades, told the AP that Card worked there for a couple of years and nothing about him stood out. Madden said he didn’t remember when Card was employed or whether he was fired or quit. The facility is located in Lisbon, not far from Lewiston.

Last summer, Card underwent a mental health evaluation after he began acting erratically during training, a U.S. official told the AP. A bulletin sent to police across the country shortly after the attack said Card had been committed to a mental health facility for two weeks after “hearing voices and threats to shoot up” a military base.

A U.S. official said Card was training with the Army Reserve’s 3rd Battalion, 304th Infantry Regiment in West Point, New York, when commanders became concerned about him. State police took Card to the Keller Army Community Hospital at West Point for evaluation, according to the official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the information and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

On Wednesday, Card attacked the bowling alley first, then went to the bar. Police were quickly sent to both locations but Card was able to escape. For the next two days authorities scoured the woods and hundreds of acres of Card’s family-owned property, and sent dive teams with sonar to the bottom of the Androscoggin River.

Law enforcement officials had said they hadn’t seen Card since his vehicle was left at a boat ramp Wednesday shortly after the shootings.

Hours before Card’s body was found, the names and pictures of the 15 men, two women and 14-year-old boy who died in the shootings were released at a news conference.

The Maine Department of Public Safety said it would open a Family Assistance Center in Lewiston starting Saturday morning to offer help and support to victims at the Lewiston Armory.

The Maine Educational Center for the Deaf said the shootings killed at least four members of their community.

Tammy Asselin was in the bowling alley with her 10-year-old daughter, Toni, and was injured when she fell in the scramble as the shooting began. She had said she hoped the shooter would be found alive because she and her daughter had many questions that they hoped he could answer.

On Saturday morning, she told the AP in a text message that her daughter was relieved by the news, and she was able to sleep peacefully.

“I am relieved as well, but also saddened at a lost opportunity to learn as much as we can,” she said. “Now we are on the journey to heal, and I am looking forward to working on this. It will be difficult but I’m optimistic we will be stronger in the long run.”

Authorities have said publicly that the shooter used at least one rifle. They have not released any other details, including how the suspect obtained the firearm.

Authorities found a suicide note at a home associated with Card on Thursday that was addressed to his son, the law enforcement officials said. They said it didn’t provide any specific motive for the shooting.

The Cards have lived in Bowdoin for generations, neighbors said, and various members of the family own hundreds of acres in the area. The family owned the local sawmill and years ago donated the land for a local church.

Family members of Card told federal investigators that he had recently discussed hearing voices and became more focused on the bowling alley and bar, according to the law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. When he was hospitalized in July in New York, Card had told military officials he had been hearing voices and said he wanted to harm other soldiers, the officials said.

Authorities had banned hunting in several communities, in a state where it is immensely popular. However, following confirmation of Card’s death, a public safety alert was issued that announced: “The search is over for Mr. Card. The caution is over. Hunting may resume.”

The Lewiston shootings were the 36th mass killing in the United States this year, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University.

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Zelenskyy makes his case at the US Capitol and Pentagon for more war aid as some GOP support softens

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., left, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., right, at Capitol Hill on September 21, 2023, in Washington.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., left, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., right, at Capitol Hill on September 21, 2023, in Washington.
| Photo Credit: AP

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a whirlwind return visit to Washington on Thursday to shore up U.S. support for Ukraine, this time facing some Republicans who are now questioning the flow of American dollars that for 19 months has helped keep his troops in the fight against Russian forces.

Mr. Zelenskyy, in long-sleeve olive drab, came to the Capitol to talk privately with Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate at a time that the world is watching Western support for Kyiv. He will also meet with President Joe Biden at the White House and will speak with U.S. military leaders at the Pentagon.

House Republican leaders promised tough questions for Mr. Zelenskyy on how he plans to win Ukraine’s counteroffensive against invading Russian forces. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans notably chose not to join in greeting the Ukrainian president before the cameras, leaving House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries to escort Mr. Zelenskyy into the Capitol.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul said Zelenskyy’s message for a bipartisan group of House lawmakers Thursday was “that he’s winning.”

Speaking to reporters, Mr. McCaul played down growing Republican dissent on continuing to support Ukraine with money and arms, saying, “The majority of the majority support this.”

But Mr. McCaul said lawmakers needed confidence that there was a clear strategy for victory for Ukraine.

“War of attrition is not going to win this,” Mr. McCaul said. “That’s what Putin wants,” he said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “He wants to break the will of the American people and the Europeans.”

It is Mr. Zelenskyy’s second visit to Washington since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and comes as Mr. Biden’s request to Congress for an additional $24 billion for Ukraine’s military and humanitarian needs is hanging in the balance. Back home, Russian launched its heaviest strikes in a month in the hours before Mr. Zelenskyy’s arrival at Congress, killing three, igniting fires and damaging energy infrastructure as Russian missiles and artillery pounded cities across Ukraine.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby called the Ukrainian president “our best messenger” in persuading U.S. lawmakers to keep vital U.S. money and weapons coming.

“It’s really important for members of Congress to be able to hear directly from the president about what he’s facing in this counteroffensive,” Mr. Kirby told reporters Wednesday, “and how he’s achieving his goals, and what he needs to continue to achieve those goals.”

Mr. Biden has called on world leaders to stand strong with Ukraine, even as he faces domestic political divisions at home. A hard-right flank of Republicans, led by former President Donald Trump, Biden’s chief rival in the 2024 race for the White House, is increasingly opposed to sending more money overseas.

Mr. Zelenskyy faces challenges in Europe as well as cracks emerge in what had been a largely united Western alliance behind Ukraine.

Late Wednesday, Poland’s prime minister said his country is no longer sending arms to Ukraine, a comment that appeared aimed at pressuring Kyiv and put Poland’s status as a major source of military equipment in doubt as a trade dispute between the neighboring states escalates.

Mr. Zelenskyy’s visit comes with U.S. and world government leaders watching as Ukrainian forces struggle to take back territory that Russia gained over the past year. Their progress in the next month or so before the rains come and the ground turns to mud could be critical to rousing additional global support over the winter. Russian President Putin, who believes he can outlast allied backing for Kyiv, will be ready to capitalize if he sees Ukraine is running low on air defense or other weapons

Since the start of the war, most members of Congress supported approving four rounds of aid to Ukraine, totaling about $113 billion, viewing defense of the country and its democracy as an imperative, especially when it comes to containing Putin. Some of that money went toward replenishing U.S. military equipment sent to the frontlines.

Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona, who traveled to Kyiv this week, said cutting off U.S. aid during the Ukrainians’ counteroffensive would be “catastrophic” to their efforts.

“That would clearly be the opening that Putin is looking for,” Mr. Kelly said Wednesday. “They cannot be successful without our support.”

The political environment has shifted markedly since Mr. Zelenskyy addressed Congress last December on his first trip out of Ukraine since the war began. He was met with rapturous applause for his country’s bravery and surprisingly strong showing in the war.

His meeting with senators on Thursday took place behind closed doors in the Old Senate Chamber, a historic and intimate place of importance at the U.S. Capitol, signifying the respect the Senate is showing the foreign leader.

Mr. Zelenskyy received a warmer welcome from both parties on his stop in the Senate. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer flanked him as he walked in. A few lawmakers of both parties wore clothes with blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

Mr. McCarthy, who faces more opposition within his Trump-aligned ranks to supporting Ukraine, arranged a separate meeting with Zelenskyy, with a smaller bipartisan group of lawmakers and committee chairmen.

“I will have questions for President Zelenskyy,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters before the visit.

The House speaker said he wanted more accountability for the money the U.S. has already approved for Ukraine before moving ahead with more.

And, Mr. McCarthy said, he wants to know, “What is the plan for victory?”

Rep. Steny Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland who attended the House meeting with Zelenskyy and lawmakers, said that Mr. McCarthy made no promises but that Republicans and Democrats were united in supporting Ukraine.

“I think the message was not necessarily a promise but a determination to make sure that we could help Ukraine win this war for freedom and for all of us,” he said.

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Morning Digest | Central team of officials to visit Nipah-hit areas, Joe Biden’s son Hunter indicted on gun charges, and more

Central team of officials to visit Nipah-hit areas

A Central team of officials is expected to visit Maruthonkara and Ayancheri areas in Kozhikode district of Kerala on Friday where two persons died due to Nipah infection recently. Five people have so far tested positive for the virus, of whom two are dead. The others are undergoing treatment. Restrictions are continuing in at least nine grama panchayats in Kozhikode district, where a holiday has been declared for educational institutions till Saturday. The Central team reached Kozhikode on Thursday morning and held parleys with State officials. According to sources, they will coordinate with the State departments of Health and Animal Husbandry in taking up containment measures.

Joe Biden’s son Hunter indicted on gun charges

U.S. President Joe Biden’s son Hunter was indicted on Thursday for illegally buying a gun five years ago at a time when he admits he was using drugs heavily .Mr. Hunter Biden was charged with two counts of making false statements, for claiming on forms that he was not using drugs illegally at the time he bought a Colt revolver in Delaware. A third charge said that, based on the false statements, he illegally possessed the gun — a charge that can bring up to 10 years in prison. The charges were filed by Justice Department Special Counsel David Weiss, who has been investigating Mr. Hunter Biden since 2018.

Asia Cup 2023, SL vs PAK | Sri Lanka’s Mendis and Asalanka script a thrilling win over Pakistan

After displaying a clinical approach in its run-chase, Sri Lanka’s nerves showed towards the end in a two-wicket win over Pakistan at the R. Premadasa Stadium here on Thursday as it booked a date with India in the final of the Asia Cup. The host lost five wickets for 36 runs and was forced to scramble over the line, into the teeth of a thrilling final over, bowled by Zaman Khan. Defending seven runs, the debutant conceded just two runs off the first four balls before the ball took the edge of Charith Asalanka’s blade and went for a boundary. With two needed off the last delivery, Zaman fatally strayed on the pads and the left-hander flicked it for a couple amidst the deafening roar of a capacity crowd.

Business jet veers off Mumbai airport runway, breaks into two

Flight operations at Mumbai’s busy international airport were halted for an hour and 45 minutes on Wednesday, after a business jet arriving from Vishakapatnam veered off the runway .The jet, with a call sign of VT-DBL, “veered off” on the primary runway (runway 27) and then skidded off onto the adjoining grass surface, following bad weather and continuous rainfall.  Photographs of the ill-fated aircraft indicate that it broke into two parts from the cockpit portion, due to the impact of the accident. The eight people on board, including two pilots, were injured and rushed to hospitals by the airport authorities. 

Congress mulls Bharat Jodo Yatra 2.0 ahead of Lok Sabha polls

Many in the Congress are discussing whether a second edition of Bharat Jodo Yatra (Unite India March), from east to west, should be be held before the 2024 general election .With a growing demand from the rank and file within the Congress, all eyes are on the first meeting of the newly constituted Congress Working Committee (CWC) that will be held over the weekend on September 16 and 17 in Hyderabad. The Bharat Jodo Yatra led by former Congress President Rahul Gandhi began from Kanniyakumari on September 7 last year covering 4,000 km and went on for 136 days culminating in Srinagar on January 30.  

Jana Sena, TDP to fight 2024 Andhra Pradesh Assembly polls together

Jana Sena Party (JSP) President K. Pawan Kalyan on Thursday announced that his party and the Telugu Desam Party would form an alliance and together contest against YSR Congress Party in the 2024 Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh. Mr. Kalyan made the announcement immediately after meeting former Chief Minister and TDP Chief N. Chandrababu Naidu, who is lodged at the Rajamundry Central Prison (RCP). “The decision has been taken only for the welfare of the peoples development of the State. It is purely not only meant for political mileage”, said Mr. Kalyan. Mr. Kalyan, along with Chandrababu Naidu’s son Nara Lokesh and Mr. Naidu’s brother-In-law and actor Nandamuri Balakrishna, held talks for about 45 minutes with the former chief minister in the prison, after they were permitted to interact under the ‘Mulakhat’ facility.

SC dismisses appeal against meat ban in Lakshadweep school mid-day meal menu

The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed an appeal against the Lakshadweep administration’s decision to stop serving meat in mid-day meals for school children in the islands. A Bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M. Trivedi rejected arguments by the petitioner, advocate Ajmal Ahmed, a resident of the Union Territory, that meat was part of the islands’ culture and an essential dietary ingredient for the children, who were mostly from tribal families. But the Bench insisted that the decision to pull out meat from the menu was government policy. There was no apparent illegality or arbitrariness in the decision.

BJP ticket fraud case: Many big names involved, claims arrested Hinduvta activist Chaitra Kundapura

A day after the arrest of Hindutva activist Chaitra Kundapura for allegedly cheating a businessman of crores of rupees after assuring him of a BJP ticket to contest from Byndoor in the Assembly elections, the prime accused claimed that there are many big names involved in the case and the arrest of a Swamiji will bring out the truth. Replying to the media question while being escorted to the CCB interrogation center from the State home for women where he was housed for overnight stay, the accused said that her arrest is part of a “conspiracy related to Indira canteen pending bill issue”, and the arrest of a Swamiji will bring many big names out in the open.

Tourists throng Bharat Mandapam to view special installations days after G-20 Summit

The area outside Pragati Maidan’s Bharat Mandapam, which was the venue for the recently concluded G-20 Summit, has become a tourist attraction as Delhi residents and those from neighbouring cities are visiting it in large numbers to take selfies and admire the fountains, lights, and other art installations there. Many people are in awe of the huge statues of lions and panthers installed in New Delhi police district and hope that the authorities would be able to maintain these in future.

Mandatory insurance cover, wearing helmets on two-wheelers applicable to electric vehicles: HC

The Delhi High Court on Thursday said relevant provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act and Central Motor Vehicles Rules are already applicable to electric vehicles, specifically pertaining to mandatory insurance cover, wearing helmets on two-wheelers, and penal provisions for non-compliance of the provisions. A Bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad made the observations while dismissing a public interest litigation (PIL) plea seeking directions to the authorities to make insurance cover compulsory for electric two-wheelers in accordance with the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act. The PIL, filed by Mr. Rajat Kapoor, an advocate, also sought direction to the authorities for mandatory wearing of helmets on all types of electric motorcycles and scooters.

Over 95% chance of El Nino conditions from January-March 2024: U.S. forecaster

There is a more than 95% chance that the El Niño weather pattern will continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter from January – March 2024, a U.S. government forecaster said on Thursday, bringing more extreme conditions .“In August, sea surface temperatures were above average across the equatorial Pacific ocean, with strengthening in the central and east-central Pacific,” the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) said. El Nino is a warming of ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific, and can provoke extreme weather phenomena from wildfires to tropical cyclones and prolonged droughts. The naturally occurring phenomenon is already spurring calamities across the globe, with the stakes seen higher for emerging markets more exposed to swings in food and energy prices.

Veteran actor Govinda may be questioned in connection with Ponzi scheme

The Economic Offence Wing (EOW) of Odisha Police may summon veteran actor Govinda for his alleged involvement in promotion of Solar Techno Alliance (STA), a Ponzi scheme, through which many gullible investors had allegedly lost their investment. The STA is said to be one of the largest crypto currency-based Ponzi schemes in India that involved ₹1,000 crore and 2 lakh people. Last month, the EOW, Odisha had unearthed the scam arresting Gurtej Singh Sidhu (40), the India head of STA. The STA is headed by one David Gez, a young Hungarian national who had visited India multiple times, while Sidhu was said to have reached the top level of STA’s Pyramid structure (Kohinnor leadership in STA language).

Study shows COVID-19 variant XBB is highly infectious, favours booster dose to protect people

A cohort study, which has indicated that one of Omicron’s subvariant, XBB, is highly evasive from available vaccines as 81.1% of the studied infected persons were vaccinated, has highlighted the urgent need for polyvalent vaccines. It also underscores the need for continuous genomic surveillance of SARS-COV-2 to keep a close watch on the emergence of new variants in the community. Tamil Nadu’s State Public Health Laboratory (SPHL), where a whole genome sequencing (WGS) laboratory is functioning, decided to take a closer look at samples that tested positive for XBB variants of Omicron reported from September 2022 to January 2023.

Suu Kyi party says Myanmar junta depriving her of medical care

Myanmar’s junta is endangering the life of jailed democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi, her political party said on Thursday, accusing the military of depriving her of medical care and food. Suu Kyi has been detained since the generals seized power in February 2021, ending a 10-year democratic experiment and plunging the Southeast Asian country into bloody turmoil. In recent days, local media have reported the Nobel laureate, 78, was suffering dizzy spells, vomiting and unable to eat because of a tooth infection. “We are particularly concerned that she is not receiving adequate medical care and they are not providing healthy food nor accommodation sufficiently with the intention to risk her life,” the National League for Democracy said.

Most Libya flood casualties could have been avoided: U.N.

The United Nations said Thursday that most of the thousands of deaths in Libya’s flood disaster could have been averted if early warning and emergency management systems had functioned properly. With better functioning coordination in the crisis-wracked country, the human toll could have been far smaller, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization said. It warned that other conflict-hit countries faced similar, dangerous deficiencies to their early warning systems. If the system in Libya ad worked properly, “the emergency management forces would have been able to carry out the evacuation of the people, and we could have avoided most of the human casualties,” WMO chief Petteri Taalas told reporters in Geneva.

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Morning Digest | Special Session to debate Parliament’s 75-year journey, take up Bills; Apple farmers urge J&K L-G to restart MIS in Kashmir to save C-grade crop, and more

Special Session to debate Parliament’s 75-year journey, take up Bills

Ending the suspense on the agenda of the Special Session of Parliament, which will be held from September 18 to 22, the Parliamentary bulletin revealed that on the first day of the session, the two Houses will hold a discussion on Parliament’s 75-year journey, starting from the Constituent Assembly that first met on December 9, 1946. The bulletins issued by both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha noted that on September 18, the first day of the special session, there will be a discussion on the subject, “Parliamentary Journey of 75 years starting from Samvidhan Sabha – Achievements, Experiences, Memories and Learnings”.

Andhra Pradesh High Court stays CID proceedings against Chandrababu Naidu till September 18 

Justice K. Sreenivasa Reddy of the Andhra Pradesh High Court on September 13 (Wednesday) restrained the A.P. Crime Investigation Department (CID) from taking former Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu into custody in the ‘skill development project scam’ case till September 18 (Monday) .The directive was in response to a petition filed by Mr. Naidu seeking the quashing of the FIR registered against him, and also the remand order issued by the Vijayawada ACB Court on September 10. Accordingly, the High Court directed the ACB Court not to hear the petition filed by the CID for obtaining Mr. Naidu’s custody up to September 18, and adjourned the case for further hearing to September 19. The petition was scheduled to be heard on September 13.

We don’t recognise legitimacy of buffer zones in Manipur: Meira Paibi leaders in Delhi

Leaders of the Meira Paibi, a Meitei women’s collective in Manipur, on Wednesday said they do not recognise the legitimacy of buffer zones in the State, created by the Central and Manipur government. Such buffer zones are “unconstitutional”, said the women’s group that has often clashed with Central security forces during the last four months of ethnic conflict .The women leaders, who addressed a press conference in Delhi on Wednesday, also stepped up their opposition to the Indian Army’s Assam Rifles and other Central security forces currently posted in Manipur, calling for them to be replaced with other units. 

Commission on Manipur violence to hold public hearings in Imphal, Delhi

The three-member Commission of Inquiry, constituted by the Centre in early June to comprehensively investigate the ethnic conflict underway in Manipur, will hold public hearings at its head office in Imphal and at its camp office in Delhi .The Commission of Inquiry (Manipur Violence) is headed by Justice Ajay Lamba, former Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court, and also includes one retired IAS officer and one retired IPS officer. It was set up in June after Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to the conflict-ridden State in late May.

Responders dig for bodies in Moroccan mountain villages devastated by last week’s earthquake

The stench of death wafted through the village of Imi N’Tala high up in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, where last week’s catastrophic earthquake razed the hamlet’s mud-brick buildings and killed dozens of residents .On Tuesday, bulldozers, rescues crews and Moroccan first responders dug through the wreckage around the clock in the hopes of finding the eight to 10 corpses still underneath. “The mountain was split in half and started falling. Houses were fully destroyed,” a local man, Ait Ougadir Al Houcine, said as crews worked to recover bodies, including his sister’s. “Some people lost all their cattle. We have nothing but the clothes we’re wearing. Everything is gone.”

Apple farmers urge J&K L-G to restart MIS in Kashmir to save C-grade crop

The Apple Farmers’ Federation of India (AFFI), J&K chapter, on Wednesday sought J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha’s intervention to restart the Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) for Kashmir’s apple industry.  The AFFI, in a letter written to the L-G, highlighted the MIS’ role in procuring inferior quality C-grade apples in the Valley since 2017, when the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) first launched the scheme

Ukraine’s Presidential aide clarifies remark on India, China’s ‘intellectual potential’

A day after creating an international flutter with his remark on the “intellectual potential” of India and China, a top Ukrainian official has issued a clarification saying that India, China and Turkiye are “justified” in playing bigger roles in the world. The remarks from Mykhailo Podolyak, Adviser to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, came just days after Ukraine’s foreign ministry described the Joint Declaration at the New Delhi G20 summit as “nothing to be proud of.” “Of course, Turkiye, India, China and other regional powers are increasingly and clearly justified in claiming global roles in the modern world – and there are all the reasons for this: historical, economic, cultural, scientific and political. And these roles have long been much more extensive than Russia’s. But the global world is much broader than even the most thoughtful regional national interests,” said Mr Podolyak in a statement on Wednesday that was circulated through social media platforms.

ENG vs NZ, 3rd ODI | Record Stokes ton leads England to huge win over New Zealand

A record-breaking century by Ben Stokes propelled England to a crushing 181-run win over New Zealand in the third one-day international on Wednesday as the hosts took a 2-1 lead in the four-match series .Stokes, who last month reversed his retirement from ODI cricket, hammered a 124-ball 182 to record England’s highest indiv 15 fours in an entertaining knock to lift the hosts to a total of 368 after being put into bat at The Oval.

India, Russia exploring use of Northern Sea Route, Eastern Maritime Corridor

At talks on widening maritime cooperation, India and Russia on Wednesday also discussed the possibility of exploring new transport corridors like the Northern Sea Route (NSR) and the Eastern Maritime Corridor (EMC) between Vladivostok and Chennai and both sides also agreed that Indian seafarers will be trained on Polar and Arctic waters at the Russian Maritime Training Institute in Vladivostok, which is equipped with simulators. The Indian side was led by Union Minister of Ports, Shipping & Waterways, Sarbananda Sonowal and Russia by the Minister for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic A.O. Chekunkov. The meet was held on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum underway in the far-Eastern city of Vladivostok. He also visited the historic Vladivostok port.

Maratha quota impasse: Video puts Shinde government in spot, CM calls it ‘false propaganda’

Urging people not to fall prey to false propaganda, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Wednesday hit out at a viral video clip which showed him making apparently frivolous remarks on the Maratha quota agitation along with Deputy CMs Ajit Pawar and Devendra Fadnavis, remarking that the distorted video was “a highly mischievous act” on part of his opponents. As the deadlock over the Maratha reservation continued with pro-Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange Patil’s indefinite strike entering its sixteenth day, the video clip, shot before the commencement of a press conference after the all-party meeting on September 11, triggered a fresh bout of political sabre-rattling between ruling and Opposition parties. 

ED arrests JD(U) MLC Radha Charan Seth in Bihar over financial irregularities

Janata Dal (United) MLC Radha Charan Seth has been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday evening in connection with alleged tax evasion. Mr. Seth was arrested from his Arrah residence in Bihar’s Bhojpur district after a lengthy interrogation. Raids were being conducted since morning at several places linked with Mr. Seth. Last week, the ED had summoned Mr. Seth and his son Kanhaiya Prasad for allegedly making huge monies through illegal trade and sand mining. The Income Tax (IT) department also raided his house on Wednesday morning. After the arrest, Mr. Seth complained about chest pain and underwent a medical check-up. 

El Chapo’s wife released from U.S. custody after completing 3-year prison sentence

The wife of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was released from federal custody on Wednesday after completing a three-year sentence for helping him run his multibillion-dollar criminal empire, the federal Bureau of Prisons said. Emma Coronel Aispuro, who pleaded guilty in 2021 to three federal offenses as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors, had been moved from a Texas prison to a California halfway house prior to her release. She will now serve four years of supervised release. Coronel Aispuro expressed “true regret for any and all harm” when she was sentenced after pleading guilty to charges including money laundering conspiracy and engaging in transactions with a foreign narcotics trafficker.

Chhetri only notable face in 17-member Indian football team for Asian Games, Stimac’s status not known

Veteran striker Sunil Chhetri was the only notable face in the 17-member Indian squad for the Hangzhou Asian Games as All India Football Federation (AIFF) finally managed to stich a second-rung team, but there is still a big question mark on head coach Igor Stimac accompanying the team. Most of the clubs had shown unwillingness to release the 22 players named in the Indian squad as the Asian Games’ football competition schedule clashes with the ISL, which starts on September 21. This could be seen as a massive loss of face for AIFF president and BJP leader Kalyan Chaubey, who had actually made hectic parleys with the ministry to send the team despite not meeting the government criteria to compete in the quadrennial extravaganza.


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Morning Digest | Cauvery panel ‘directs’ Karnataka to continue water release, Kuldeep Yadav in the thick of it again as India wins spin test and reaches Asia Cup final, and more

Court rejects Chandrababu Naidu’s plea for house arrest, finds central jail safe

The ACB Court in Vijayawada on Tuesday dismissed former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu’s plea for house arrest. It was convinced that the central jail at Rajamahendravaram is safe for him in view of tight security provided by the State government. This has set the stage for the CID to press for his custody on Wednesday. Mr. Naidu’s advocates filed a lunch motion petition in the High Court earlier in the day, challenging the legality of the arrest. It is likely to be heard on Wednesday.

Cauvery panel ‘directs’ Karnataka to continue water release

The Cauvery Water Regulation Committee on Tuesday “directed” Karnataka to continue releasing 5,000 cubic feet per second (cusecs) of water to Tamil Nadu for another 15 days. The first 15-day spell of water release, as fixed by the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA), came to an end on Tuesday. Clarifying that it was a “direction” and not a “recommendation”, Vineet Gupta, the Chairman of the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee, told The Hindu over the phone from New Delhi that the Committee had the power to issue such a direction. When it was pointed out that Karnataka had told the Supreme Court last week that it might not be feasible to release any water from its reservoirs after September 12, citing a “severe drought situation” in the Cauvery and Krishna basins, Mr. Gupta said, “Let us see what Karnataka is going to do.”

Asia Cup 2023, IND vs SL | Kuldeep Yadav in the thick of it again as India wins spin test and reaches final

On a turning track at the R. Premadasa Stadium, the Sri Lankan spinners claimed all 10 wickets as India was bowled out for 213 in 49.1 overs despite an impressive opening partnership by captain Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill. However, Kuldeep Yadav (four for 43) had another field day as the Men in Blue bowled out the hosts for 172 in 41.3 overs. Jasprit Bumrah removed Pathum Nissanka and Kusal Mendis while Mohammed Siraj sent back Dimuth Karunaratne. Sri Lanka slid to 99 for six before a 63-run stand between Dhananjaya de Silva (41) and Wellalage (42 n.o.) raised hopes..

SpiceJet-Credit Suisse case: SC threatens to throw SpiceJet CMD into ‘Tihar jail’ over non-payment of dues to Swiss firm

The Supreme Court has come down hard on SpiceJet Chairman and Managing Director Ajay Singh, warning him he will be sent to Tihar jail for non-compliance with its order on making payment to global investment bank and financial services firm Credit Suisse AG. The top court asked Singh to pay ₹5,00,000 towards an instalment to the Swiss firm along with ₹1 million defaulted amount. “We have to move to the next drastic step. We are not worried even if you shut down,” a bench of Justices Vikram Nath and Ahsanuddin Amanullah observed.

Citing ‘inadequate progress’ on rights front, India urges Sri Lanka to keep its promises 

ndia on Tuesday said the progress made by Sri Lanka, on its commitment to fulfill the Tamils’ aspirations, was “inadequate” and urged the island nation to “work meaningfully” to keep its promises. “We have taken note of reaffirmation by the Government of Sri Lanka on implementation of its commitments. However, progress on the same is inadequate and we urge the Government of Sri Lanka to work meaningfully towards early implementation of its commitments to ensure that the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all its citizens are fully protected,” India’s representative told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva at its ongoing 54th session. The position was consistent with New Delhi’s remarks last year, that voiced concern over the “lack of measurable progress”.

France orders Apple iPhone 12 sales halted over radiation

French regulators on Tuesday ordered Apple to halt sales of the iPhone 12 for emitting too much electromagnetic radiation, and to fix existing handsets .The French agency that regulates radio frequencies, the ANFR, said testing found that the model emits more electromagnetic waves susceptible to be absorbed by the body than permitted. The ANFR said it “ordered Apple to remove the iPhone 12 from the French market from September 12 due to the model exceeding the limit” for electromagnetic absorption by the body.

Nobel winner Maria Ressa acquitted of tax evasion

Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa was acquitted of a final tax evasion charge on September 12 though she still faces two remaining legal cases she believes the former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte used to muzzle her critical reporting. Ms. Ressa and her online news organisation Rappler had faced five tax evasion charges but a court acquitted her of four of the charges in January. A different court heard the fifth charge and acquitted her Tuesday. “Facts wins, truth wins, justice wins,” she told reporters outside the courthouse.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max launched with A17 Pro SoC

Apple on Tuesday launched iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone Pro Max powered by a new processor called A17 Pro. Available in similar sizes as the vanilla models, the new Apple iPhone 15 Pro models get a new Action Button with haptic feedback that can be used to record, shortcuts and more. Apple iPhone 15 Pro series new chipset also supports ray tracing for faster gaming. For first time, the Pro series uses USB 3 support for faster file transfers. The A17 Pro is built on 3nm process and features 6 core CPU and 6 core GPU which is 20% faster, as claimed by Apple. There are 19 billion transistors present on the new chip. Apple has also used AV1 decoder on the processor.

Ahead of INDIA meet, Uddhav calls on Sharad Pawar

Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray met on Tuesday with his ally, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar at the latter’s Mumbai residence. The meeting comes a day before the first meeting of the coordination committee of the Opposition INDIA bloc, which is to be held at Mr. Pawar’s Delhi residence on Wednesday. Mr. Thackeray was accompanied by his aide, Sena (UBT) spokesperson Sanjay Raut during the 90-minute meeting with Mr. Pawar at the latter’s ‘Silver Oak’ residence. Among the issues discussed were coordination within INDIA bloc as well as coordination issues between the three Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies in Maharashtra– the Sena (UBT), the Congress and the NCP, said senior NCP leader Jayant Patil after the meeting.

Apple Watch series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 launched with gesture controls

Apple on Tuesday launched Series 9 Watch powered by S9 chip and operated on WatchOS 10. The new Apple Watch 9 for the first time brings gesture controls and double tap option that can answer/end call, play/pause music, and scroll through the widget .Apple said that the new chip holds 5.6 billion transistors, comes with 4 core neural engine and promises up to 18 hours of battery life. Apple Watch series 9 will be 25% accurate in diction and can now be seamlessly integrated with Siri with on-device computing. Users can sync health data on series 9 and it will be available in English and Mandarin languages with more dialects to follow. Apple also claims that series 9 can find your phone up till 22 feet.

Nipah: 16 teams set up for surveillance, containment in Kozhikode

The Health department has formed 16 core teams to monitor the surveillance and containment steps being taken in Kozhikode district where two persons have died due to Nipah infection in recent days. Two others too tested positive for the virus. Health Minister Veena George told the media late on Tuesday that an alert has been sounded in Kozhikode district and it will be extended to nearby districts too. The department declared the alert in Kozhikode after two persons died of suspected Nipah symptoms on August 30 and September 11. However, body fluid samples of the first person who died could not be sent for laboratory tests. 

Former No. 1 tennis player Simona Halep gets 4-year ban in doping case

Two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep has been suspended from professional tennis for four years for doping violations, the International Tennis Integrity Agency said Tuesday .The 31-year-old Romanian had been accused of two doping offenses — failing a drug test during the 2022 U.S. Open and for irregularities in her Athlete Biological Passport, the ITIA said. A panel concluded that Halep “had committed intentional anti-doping rule violations.” Halep had been provisionally suspended since October 2022. The four-year ban will run to Oct. 6, 2026.

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Morning Digest | China says New Delhi Declaration reaffirms G-20 is body for economic issues, ‘not geopolitics’, Congress slams Modi Government for exceeding G-20 budget, and more

New Delhi Declaration reaffirms G-20 is body for economic issues, ‘not geopolitics’: China

China on September 11 in its first official reaction to the G-20 Summit said it welcomed the New Delhi Declaration which had “reaffirmed” that the G-20 was a form for “economic cooperation” and “not a platform to resolve geopolitical and security issues.” Beijing said it also “welcomed” the ambitious new India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) plan unveiled on Saturday — announced by India, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Italy and the European Union, seen as a counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) — but said it should not become a “geopolitical tool”. The IMEC comprises an Eastern Corridor connecting India to the Gulf region and a Northern Corridor connecting the Gulf to Europe, and will include a railway and ship-rail transit network and road transport routes.

Congress slams Modi Government for exceeding G-20 budget

A day after the G-20 summit, the Congress attacked the Narendra Modi Government for over-shooting the budget allotted for the summit and urged him to at least now turn his attention back to the more pressing issues facing the country like inflation, unemployment and Manipur violence. In a detailed post in Hindi on X (formerly Twitter), party president Mallikarjun Kharge said that the people have started paving the way for the BJP-led government’s departure in 2024 general elections. “Modi ji is trying hard to conceal the truth. But the public is only interested in hearing the truth and not the distractionary issues,” he said.

Several hill villages in Manipur wrongly included in valley districts: ST panel

A report by the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) has observed that several hill villages in Manipur were wrongly included in the valley districts during the Census 2011 exercise. It said that in the Booklet of Census of India 2011 and Administrative Atlas, “Manipur has wrongly included several hill villages under valley districts” and that the issue had been flagged to the State government by the office of the Registrar General of India in 2017. Following this, the Revenue department of Manipur had in October 2022 asked the deputy commissioners of the districts concerned to rectify the list of hill villages (around 400) overlapping between the districts of Kakching, Tengnoupal, Kangpokpi, Imphal West, Bishnupur Districts, the NCST report noted.

Mamata reshuffles Cabinet, Babul shunted out of Tourism department

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday reshuffled the State’s Council of Ministers and shifted singer-turned-politician Babul Supriyo from the State’s Tourism department. Indranil Sen, another a singer-turned-politician, was given the Independent charge of the State’s Tourism department. He also holds the portfolio of the Technical Education, Training, and Skill Development Department. Mr. Supriyo, who holds the charge of the Information Technology department, has been assigned to the Department of Non-conventional and Renewable Energy Sources. Forest Minister Jyoti Priya Mallick was given additional charges of the Department of Public Enterprises and Industrial Reconstruction, the bureaucrat said. Minister Pradip Mazumdar, who holds the Department of Panchayats and Rural Development, was given charge of the Department of Co-operation. Arup Roy, Minister of Food Processing Industries and Horticulture was earlier in charge of the Department of Co-operation.

After year’s delay, CSIR’s Bhatnagar awards for 2022 announced

After nearly a year’s delay, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has publicised the list of awardees for the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar (SSB) awards for 2022, considered among the prestigious prizes for science in India. While usually announced on September 26 – CSIR’s Foundation Day – the prizes weren’t announced last year, without any official reason being ascribed. Last year, the Ministry of Home Affairs constituted a committee to review all the national awards administered by various science and medical ministries and whittled down some of them. The SSB awards were however retained.

U.S. approves updated COVID vaccines to rev up protection this fall

The U.S. approved updated COVID-19 vaccines Monday, hoping to rev up protection against the latest coronavirus strains and blunt any surge this fall and winter. The Food and Drug Administration decision opens the newest shots from Moderna and Pfizer and its partner BioNTech to most Americans even if they’ve never had a coronavirus vaccination. It’s part of a shift to treat fall updates of the COVID-19 vaccine much like getting a yearly flu shot. There’s still another step: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must sign off. A CDC advisory panel is set to issue recommendations Tuesday on who most needs the updated shots. Vaccinations could begin later this week, and both the COVID-19 and flu shot can be given at the same visit.

2020 riots | Court reserves order on Sharjeel Imam’s bail

A court here on Monday reserved for September 25 its order on the bail plea of student activist Sharjeel Imam, who has been in custody since January 28, 2020. Mr. Imam was arrested in a case relating to alleged inflammatory speeches against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. He was initially booked under the IPC sections pertaining to sedition, among others. Later, he, along with Umar Khalid, Asif Iqbal Tanha, Safoora Zargar, Natasha Narwal and others was booked under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the IPC for alleged consipiracy behind the 2020 riots in the national capital. Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat of Karkardooma Court was hearing the plea of Mr. Imam, seeking bail on the ground that he has already served half the maximum prison sentence of seven years under the UAPA.

Kashmir Valley’s growers are anxious as import duty is relaxed on American apples

The Union government’s decision to relax 20% customs duty on apples imported from the U.S. at the recently concluded G-20 summit left orchardists in the Kashmir Valley jittery. The announcement has come in the wake of a dip in apple prices this year. Kashmir’s apple industry is battling a number of issues. “Farmers in Kashmir have always sought 100% duty on apple imports to ensure better returns for locals. We will keep demanding an increase in import duties,” Majid Aslam Wafai, chairperson, All Kashmir Fruit Growers Dealers, told The Hindu.

We told KL to get ready five minutes before toss and his performance showed his mindset: Rohit

Virat Kohli was brilliant in pacing his innings as usual but India captain Rohit Sharma doffed his hat for comeback man KL Rahul, whose hundred was equally important in team’s record breaking 228-run victory over arch-rivals Pakistan in an Asia Cup Super 4 match here on Monday. Kohli scored an unbeaten on 122 and Rahul remained 111 not out as their 233-run stand for the third wicket took India to a record equalling 356 for two. Kuldeep Yadav blew away the Pakistan batters with a five-wicket haul to set up the big win. “Virat’s innings was brilliantly paced. And then KL, last minute to get back from injury and play 5 minutes before the toss. We told him to get ready. Shows the mindset of the player. Looking at how we batted, there were lots of positives with the openers and then Virat and KL,” said Rohit.

People are not bothered about arrest of Naidu, says Andhra Pradesh Home Minister

Andhra Pradesh Home Minister Taneti Vanitha has said that people of the State are bothered about the arrest of TDP national president N. Chandrababu Naidu and it is evident from the poor response to the State-wide bandh called by the party on September 11 Monday. Addressing the media on the sidelines of the two-day 8th National Conference of Heads of Prisons of All States and Union Territories on Prisons and Correctional Services in Amrit Kaal, at Rushikonda here on Monday, Ms. Vanitha claimed that people were happy with the arrest of Mr. Naidu. “TDP is trying to misguide people to gain sympathy. The State government had offered a special helicopter for Mr. Naidu’s safe journey from Nandyal to Vijayawada. However, he (Mr. Naidu) refused and took the road route only to gain sympathy,” said the Home Minister.

Congress conducts bhoomi puja to clear all hurdles for its Vijaya Bheri meeting

Telangana Congress conducted ‘Bhoomi Puja’, a ritual performed in honour of Goddess Bhoomi Devi and Vastu to eradicate the ill-affects in the land, for its upcoming ‘Vijaya Bheri’ public meeting on September 17 where Sonia Gandhi will announce five guarantees for the people of Telangana, seeking their support in the ensuing Assembly elections. AICC incharge for Telangana Manikrao Thakare, TPCC president A. Revanth Reddy, TPCC Campaign Committee Chairman Madhu Yaskhi Goud and DCC president Challa Narsimha Reddy performed the puja to start the process of cleaning up the land for its important public meeting, which the Congress says, will kickstart the poll campaign in Telangana.

Juventus midfielder Pogba provisionally suspended for doping

Juventus and France midfielder Paul Pogba has been provisionally suspended after a doping control detected elevated levels of testosterone, Italian anti-doping authorities (Nado) told AFP on Monday. After a nightmare season between injuries and a blackmail affair, the 30-year-old’s dreams of bouncing back were shattered by the alleged doping offence after Juventus’s 3-0 win at Udinese on August 20, during which he was an unused substitute. On Monday, the 2018 world champion had told Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera of his “desire to play” after a “difficult year” which could have “destroyed” him. Instead he received a new blow.

Foreign rescuers join Morocco quake race against time

Moroccan rescuers supported by newly-arrived foreign teams on Monday faced an intensifying race against time to dig out any survivors from the rubble of mountain villages, on the third day after the country’s strongest-ever earthquake .The 6.8-magnitude quake struck the Atlas mountains late on Friday southwest of the tourist centre of Marrakesh. It killed almost 2,500 people and injured a similar number, according to the latest official toll. In the disaster-stricken community of Talat Nyacoub, 12 ambulances and several dozen 4X4s from the Army and police were deployed while around 100 Moroccan rescuers were searching for signs of life amid the collapsed buildings.

Climate change ‘dystopian future already here’, says UN rights chief

Climate change is sparking human rights emergencies in numerous countries, the UN rights chief said on Monday, stressing the need to fight the impunity of those who “plunder our environment”. Speaking before the United Nations Human Rights Council, Volker Turk pointed to recent examples of the “environmental horror that is our global planetary crisis”. He described visiting Basra, Iraq, where date palms once lined canals, but now “drought, searing heat, extreme pollution and fast-depleting supplies of fresh water are creating barren landscapes of rubble and dust”. “This spiralling damage is a human rights emergency for Iraq, and many other countries,” he said in his address opening the 54th council session in Geneva.

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Biden opens Vietnam visit by saying the two countries are ‘critical partners’ at a ‘critical time’

U.S. President Joe Biden opened a brief visit to Vietnam on Sunday by telling the country’s leadership that the two nations have a chance to shape the Indo-Pacific for decades to come.

Mr. Biden said he hoped progress could be made on climate, the economy and other issues during his 24-hour visit.

“Vietnam and the U.S. are critical partners at what I would argue is a very critical time,” Mr. Biden told Nguyễn Phú Trọng, general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, during the public portion of their meeting at party headquarters.

Mr. Trọng agreed that their meeting presented an “excellent opportunity“ to expand bilateral ties. He thanked Mr. Biden for inviting him to visit Washington soon.

Vietnam is elevating its relationship with the U.S. to the status of being a comprehensive strategic partner, which one of Biden’s top national security advisers said represents Vietnam’s highest tier of international partnership.

Other countries that Vietnam has extended the designation to include China and Russia. Elevating the U.S. to the same status suggests that Vietnam wants to hedge its friendships as U.S. and European companies look for alternatives to Chinese factories.

Mr. Biden, who arrived in Hanoi on Sunday afternoon, said last month at a fundraiser in Salt Lake City that Vietnam doesn’t want a defense alliance with the U.S., “but they want relationships because they want China to know that they’re not alone” and can choose its own partners. The president decided to tack a visit to Vietnam on to his trip to India for the Group of 20 summit that wrapped up Sunday.

With China’s economic slowdown and President Xi Jinping’s consolidation of political power, Mr. Biden sees an opportunity to bring more nations — including Vietnam and Cambodia — into America’s orbit.

“We find ourselves in a situation where all of these changes around the world are taking place,” Mr. Biden explained last month about Vietnam. “We have an opportunity, if we’re smart, to change the dynamic.”

Mr. Biden was welcomed with a pomp-filled ceremony outside the mustard-colored Presidential Palace. Scores of schoolchildren lined the steps waving small U.S. and Vietnam flags and Mr. Biden watched from an elevated review stand as high-stepping members of the military marched past. The president waved to the children before he got into his limousine to go to Communist Party headquarters to meet with Trong.

The president and Trong expressed mutual happiness over seeing each other again after last meeting some eight years ago in Washington, said Mr. Biden, who was vice president at the time.

Trong sought to flatter Mr. Biden, who faces persistent questions at home about being 80 years old and running for reelection next year.

“You have nary aged a day, and I would say you look even better than before,” Trong said. “I would say every feature of you Mr. President is complementing your image.” Mr. Biden chuckled in response.

Earlier Sunday, Jon Finer, Mr. Biden’s chief deputy national security adviser, said the elevated status represents Vietnam’s highest tier of international partnership.

“It’s important to make clear that this is more than words,” Finer told reporters aboard Mr. Biden’s flight to Hanoi. “In a system like Vietnam, it’s a signal to their entire government, their entire bureaucracy about the depth and cooperation and alignment with another country that is possible.”

Finer noted a five-decade arc in U.S.-Vietnam relations, from conflict during the Vietnam War to normalization and Vietnam’s status as a top trading partner that also shares Washington’s concerns over security in the South China Sea.

“We will be deepening that relationship through this visit,” he added.

Finer also addressed reports that Vietnam was pursuing a deal to buy weapons from Russia, even as it sought deeper ties to the United States. Finer acknowledged Vietnam’s lengthy military relationship with Russia and said the U.S. continues to work with Vietnam and other countries with similar ties to Russia to try to limit their interactions with a nation the U.S. accuses of committing war crimes and violating international law with its aggression in Ukraine.

U.S. trade with Vietnam has already accelerated since 2019. But there are limits to how much further it can progress without improvements to the country’s infrastructure, its workers’ skills and its governance. Nor has increased trade automatically put the Vietnamese economy on an upward trajectory.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said that the CEOs she talks with rank Vietnam highly as a place to diversify supply chains that before the pandemic had been overly dependent on China. Raimondo has been trying to broaden those supply chains through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, an initiative Mr. Biden launched last year.

“Whether it’s Vietnam or Malaysia, Indonesia, India, companies are really taking a hard look at those countries as places to do more business,” Raimondo said. “It is also true that they need to improve their workforce, housing, infrastructure and, I’d say, transparency in government operations.”

Vietnam’s economic growth slipped during the first three months of 2023. Its exporters faced higher costs and weaker demand as high inflation worldwide has hurt the market for consumer goods.

Still, U.S. imports of Vietnamese goods have nearly doubled since 2019 to $127 billion annually, according to the Census Bureau. It is unlikely that Vietnam, with its population of 100 million, can match the scale of Chinese manufacturing. In 2022, China, with 1.4 billion people, exported four times as many goods to the U.S. as did Vietnam.

There is also evidence that China is still central to the economies of many countries in the Indo-Pacific. A new analysis from the Peterson Institute of International Economics found that countries in IPEF received on average more than 30% of their imports from China and sent nearly 20% of their exports to China. This dependence has increased sharply since 2010.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan saw an opening to broaden the U.S. relationship with Vietnam when one of its top officials, Lê Hoài Trung, visited Washington on June 29.

After talking with Trung, Sullivan walked back to his office and decided after consulting with his team to issue a letter to the Vietnamese government proposing that the two countries take their trade and diplomatic relations to the highest possible level, according to an administration official who insisted on anonymity to discuss the details.

Sullivan picked the issue back up on July 13 while traveling with Mr. Biden in Helsinki, speaking by phone with Trọng, the general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam.

At a fundraiser at a barn in Maine a few weeks later, Mr. Biden went public with the deal.

“I’ve gotten a call from the head of Vietnam, desperately wants to meet me when I go to the G-20,” Mr. Biden said. “He wants to elevate us to a major partner, along with Russia and China. What do you think that’s about?”

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Burning Man festival flooding strands tens of thousands at Nevada site; authorities investigate 1 death

September 04, 2023 07:09 am | Updated 07:09 am IST – Nevada, U.S.

An unusual late-summer storm turned a week-long counterculture fest into a sloppy mess with tens of thousands of partygoers stuck in foot-deep mud and with no working toilets in the northern Nevada desert in the U.S. But some Burning Man revelers said Sunday that their spirits remained unbroken.

Organisers closed the festival to vehicles after one death was reported. Officials provided no details of the fatality.

The annual gathering in the Black Rock Desert about 110 miles (177 kilometers) north of Reno attracts nearly 80,000 artists, musicians and activists for a mix of wilderness camping and avant-garde performances. Disruptions are part of the event’s recent history: Organisers had to temporarily close entrances to the festival in 2018 due to dust storms, and the event was twice cancelled altogether during the pandemic.

“We are a little bit dirty and muddy but spirits are high. The party still going,” said Scott London, a Southern California photographer, adding that the travel limitations offered “a view of Burning Man that a lot of us don’t get to see.”

More than half an inch (1.3 centimeters) of rain and possibly close to 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) fell this weekend in parts of northwest Nevada, which includes the area where the Burning Man festival was being held, said Mark Deutschendorf, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno.

For the Reno area, which is about 141 miles (227 km) south of the festival, the average rainfall for the whole month of September would be 0.21 inches (0.53 centimeters), Deutschendorf said.

“Already, everywhere from Reno up to the Burning Man area, Black Rock, we’ve already exceeded that — and it’s only three days into the month,” he said. Rainfall for the area around the festival was ending on Sunday, he said.

The road closures came just before a large wooden effigy was supposed to have been burned Saturday night. Organisers said that all burning had been postponed, and authorities were working to open exit routes by the end of the Labor Day weekend.

Officials said late Saturday they didn’t yet know when the roads would “be dry enough for RVs or vehicles to navigate safely,” but they were hopeful vehicles could depart by late Monday if weather conditions improved.

President Joe Biden told reporters in Delaware on Sunday that he is aware of the situation at Burning Man, including the death, and the White House is in touch with local officials. He doesn’t know the cause of the death, Mr. Biden said.

With their party closed to motorised traffic, attendees trudged through mud, many barefoot or with plastic bags on their feet. Revelers were urged to conserve supplies of food and water, and most remained hunkered down at the site.

A few, however, managed to walk several miles to the nearest town or catch a ride there.

Celebrity DJ Diplo posted a video to Instagram on Saturday evening showing him and comedian Chris Rock riding in the back of a fan’s pickup truck. He said they had walked six miles through the mud before hitching a ride.

“I legit walked the side of the road for hours with my thumb out,” wrote Diplo, whose real name is Thomas Wesley Pentz.

The event is remote on the best of days and emphasizes self-sufficiency — meaning most people bring in their own food, water and other supplies.

Those who remained Sunday described a resilient community making the most of the mucky conditions: Many posted selfies of themselves covered in mud, dancing or splashing in the makeshift lakes.

“We have not witnessed any negativity, any rough times,” organizer Theresa Galeani said. “Some people … were supposed to leave a few days ago, so they’re out of water or food. But I am an organiser, so I went around and found more water and food. There is more than enough here for people. We just have to get it to everyone.”

London, the southern California photographer who was attending his 20th Burning Man and just published a book on the festival, “Burning Man: Art On Fire,” spent much of Saturday walking barefoot across the site, which is about 5 square miles. He said that the biggest challenge was logistics because no vehicles could traverse the site, supplies could not be brought in and most people could not leave.

“Usually it’s very crowded with art cars, bikes and people all over the place. But yesterday it was like an abandoned playground,” he added.

Rebecca Barger, a photographer from Philadelphia, arrived at her first Burning Man on August 26 and was determined to stick it out through the end.

“I’m not leaving until both ‘The Man’ and ‘The Temple’ burn,” Ms. Barger said, referring to the wooden effigy and wooden structure that are traditionally torched during the event’s last two nights.

She said one of the biggest concerns has been the lack of toilet options because the trucks that normally arrive to clean out the portable toilets multiple times a day haven’t been able to reach the site since Friday’s rainstorm. Some revelers said trucks had resumed cleaning on Sunday.

To prevent her shoes from getting stuck in the muddy clay, Barger says she put a plastic bag over each of her shoes and then covered each bag with a sock. Others were just barefoot.

“Everyone has just adapted, sharing RVs for sleeping, offering food and coffee,” Ms. Barger said. “I danced in foot-deep clay for hours to incredible DJs.”

Ed Fletcher of Sacramento, a longtime Burning Man attendee, arrived in Black Rock City over a week ago to start setting up. When the rain hit, he and his campmates threw a party and “danced the night away” in their muddy shoes.

“Radical self-reliance is one of the principles of Burning Man,” he said. “The desert will try to kill you in some way, shape or form.”

The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office did not release the identity of the deceased person or the suspected cause of death but said it is being investigated.

On their website, organizers encouraged participants to remain calm and suggested that the festival is built to endure conditions like the flooding. They said cellphone trailers were being dropped in several locations Saturday night and that they would be briefly opening up internet overnight. Shuttle buses were also being organized to take attendees to Reno from the nearest town of Gerlach, a walk of about five miles (eight kilometers) from the site.

The event began on Aug. 27 and had been scheduled to end Monday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the Black Rock Desert, where the festival was held.

John Asselin, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Land Management, said he had seen “a steady stream” of vehicles leaving the festival site.

“People are getting out,” he said.

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Soldiers in Gabon say they’ve seized power and appointed the republican guard chief as head of state

Mutinous soldiers in Gabon announced late Wednesday that the head of the country’s elite republican guard would lead the Central African country, hours after saying they had placed the country’s newly re-elected president under house arrest.

The coup leaders said in an announcement on Gabon’s state TV that Gen. Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema had been “unanimously” designated president of a transitional committee to lead the country.

Explained | What led to the coup in Niger? Does it follow a wider pattern in the Sahel?

Gen. Oligui is the cousin of President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who earlier Wednesday had been declared the winner of the country’s presidential election in a victory that appeared to extend his family’s 55-year rule in the oil-rich nation.

In a video apparently from detention in his residence, Mr. Bongo called on people to “make noise” to support him. But the crowds who took to the streets of the capital instead celebrated the coup against a dynasty accused of getting rich on the country’s resource wealth while many of its citizens struggle.

“Thank you, army. Finally, we’ve been waiting a long time for this moment,” said Yollande Okomo, standing near soldiers from Gabon’s elite republican guard, one of the units that staged the takeover.

Coup leaders said there would be a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. local time but that people would be allowed to move about freely during the day on Thursday.

“The president of the transition insists on the need to maintain calm and serenity in our beautiful country … At the dawn of a new era, we will guarantee the peace, stability and dignity of our beloved Gabon,” Lt. Col. Ulrich Manfoumbi said on state TV Wednesday.

Mr. Bongo, 64, has served two terms since coming to power in 2009 after the death of his father, who ruled the country for 41 years, and there has been widespread discontent with his reign. Another group of mutinous soldiers attempted a coup in 2019 but was quickly overpowered.

The former French colony is a member of OPEC, but its oil wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few — and nearly 40% of Gabonese aged 15 to 24 were out of work in 2020, according to the World Bank. Its oil export revenue was $6 billion in 2022, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, or $2,720 per capita.

Gabonese military appear on television as they announce that they have seized power following President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s re-election, in this screen grab obtained on August 30, 2023

Gabonese military appear on television as they announce that they have seized power following President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s re-election, in this screen grab obtained on August 30, 2023
| Photo Credit:
Via Reuters

Nine members of the Bongo family, meanwhile, are under investigation in France, and some face preliminary charges of embezzlement, money laundering and other forms of corruption, according to Sherpa, a French NGO dedicated to accountability. Investigators have linked the family to more than $92 million in properties in France, including two villas in Nice, the group says.

A spokesman for the soldiers who claimed power Wednesday said that Mr. Bongo’s “unpredictable, irresponsible governance” risked leading the country into chaos. In a later statement, the coup leaders said people around the president had been arrested for “high betrayal of state institutions, massive embezzlement of public funds [and] international financial embezzlement.”

Some analysts warned that the takeover risked bringing instability and could have more to do with divisions among the ruling elite than efforts to improve the lives of ordinary Gabonese. Celebrating soldiers hoisted the head of the republican guard — who is a relative of Bongo — into the air. It’s unclear if the military intends to name him as their new leader.

The coup came about one month after mutinous soldiers in Niger seized power from the democratically elected government, and is the latest in a series of coups across West and Central Africa in recent years. The impunity those putschists enjoyed may have inspired the soldiers in Gabon, said Maja Bovcon, senior analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, a risk assessment firm.

In weekend elections, Mr. Bongo faced an opposition coalition led by Albert Ondo Ossa, an economics professor and former education minister whose surprise nomination came a week before the vote. Every election held in Gabon since the country’s return to a multiparty system in 1990 has ended in violence, and there were fears this one would as well.

The vote was criticized by international observers, but a relative calm prevailed until the early hours of Wednesday, when Mr. Bongo was declared the winner. Minutes later, gunfire was heard in the center of the capital, Libreville. Later, a dozen uniformed soldiers appeared on state television and announced that they had seized power.

Soon after, crowds poured into the streets. Shopkeeper Viviane Mbou offered the soldiers juice.

“Long live our army,” said Jordy Dikaba, a young man walking with his friends on a street lined with armored policemen.

Libreville is a stronghold of support for the opposition, but it was unclear how the coup attempt was seen in the countryside, where more people traditionally back Bongo.

The President pleaded for support in a video showing him sitting in a chair with a bookshelf behind him. He said he was detained in his residence and that his wife and son were elsewhere.

“I’m calling you to make noise, to make noise, to make noise really,” he said in English. The video was shared with The Associated Press by BTP Advisers, a communications firm that helped the president with polling for the election.

The coup leaders have said the president was under house arrest, surrounded by family and doctors.

Ossa, the opposition leader, told The AP he wasn’t ready to comment and was waiting for the situation to evolve.

“Gabon was in a midst of another electoral coup, so a coup chased another coup and the latest one has more chances of being popular, but let’s remain cautious,” said Thomas Borrel, a spokesperson for the Paris-based human rights group Survie, which advocates against France’s interventionist policies in Africa. “If a military dictatorship replaces Bongo’s dictatorship, the Gabonese population would lose again.”

The mutinous officers vowed to respect “Gabon’s commitments to the national and international community.” But the coup attempt threatened to bring the economy to a halt.

A man who answered the phone at the airport said flights were canceled Wednesday, and the private intelligence firm Ambrey said all operations at the country’s main port in Libreville had been halted, with authorities refusing to grant permission for vessels to leave. Several French companies said they were suspending operations and moving to ensure the safety of their staff.

“France condemns the military coup that is underway in Gabon and is closely monitoring developments in the country,” French government spokesperson, Olivier Veran, said Wednesday.

France has maintained close economic, diplomatic and military ties with Gabon, and has 400 soldiers stationed in the country leading a regional military training operation. The U.S. Africa Command said it has no forces stationed in the Central African nation other than at the U.S. Embassy.

Unlike Niger and two other West African countries run by military juntas, Gabon hasn’t been wracked by jihadi violence and had been seen as relatively stable.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the events in Gabon were being followed with “great concern.” He said it was too early to call it part of a trend or a “domino effect” in military takeovers on the continent.

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, however, cited a “contagion of autocracy we are seeing spread across our continent,” in a statement issued by his office. It said he was conferring with other heads of state and the African Union, whose commission condemned the coup and called for a return to “democratic constitutional order.”

The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said Gabon would be discussed by the bloc’s ministers this week, adding that another military coup. if confirmed, would increase “instability in the whole region.”

A spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, Wang Wenbin, called on the parties to resolve the issue peacefully.

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