No evidence Czech leader’s computer hacked with child porn: police

Czech police said Monday they had found no evidence that hackers had infected the computer of the Czech president with child pornography, a claim made as he prepares to run for re-election. Police in Prague closed their probe into the alleged hacking o…

Czech police said Monday they had found no evidence that hackers had infected the computer of the Czech president with child pornography, a claim made as he prepares to run for re-election.

Police in Prague closed their probe into the alleged hacking of President Milos Zeman's computer and refused to comment on how child pornography ended up on his screen.

"The investigation is closed because we found nothing suspicious that would suggest illegal behaviour," national police spokeswoman Ivana Nguyenova told AFP.

"We will not reveal the details of this case, due to the lack of legal grounds," she added.

Zeman alleged last week that hackers based in the US state of Alabama put child pornography on one of his computers a year ago.

A former communist with staunch anti-Muslim, pro-Russian and pro-Chinese views, Zeman announced three weeks ago that he would seek a second five-year term in January's presidential election.

"About a year ago, someone installed child pornography on my computer," Zeman said in an interview with the Frekvence 1 radio station, which was posted on his official website.

"I looked at it for about 10 seconds before I realised what was going on," said Zeman, a 72-year-old veteran leftwinger and the first directly elected Czech head of state.

Zeman said he had initially considered filing a criminal complaint, but then changed his mind after consulting his IT staff.

Ales Spidla, a cybersecurity expert, said Zeman might have haphazardly clicked on a child porn website that had previously been accessed on his computer.

"It's not easy to find this type of content on the internet. You have to really want to," Spidla told the Aktualne news website on Monday.

"I think that someone else went on this kind of site on this computer before the president."

Hackers have previously targeted other senior Czech officials.

Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said in January that hackers had compromised his official email account as well as dozens of others belonging to ministry employees.

Explore Secure Launches New Design for Online Travel Safety Training

Explore Secure understand that business travelers, NGOs and Students have limited time, and potentially limited motivation to complete travel safety training. This is why our courses have been made quicker to complete and more animated content added.

Explore Secure understand that business travelers, NGOs and Students have limited time, and potentially limited motivation to complete travel safety training. This is why our courses have been made quicker to complete and more animated content added.

Ex-U2 man makes big-budget TV thriller about playground of rich

A new big-budget television drama series gives an insider’s peek into the lives of the rich and famous in the oligarchs’ playground of the French Riviera.

“Riviera”, the brainchild of Paul McGuinness, the multimillionaire former manager of rock group U2, premiered Monday night at MIPTV, the world’s top TV gathering at Cannes.

Directed by Neil Jordan, the Oscar-winning maker of “The Crying Game”, much of the inspiration for the taut 10-part thriller comes from McGuinness’s own time rubbing shoulders with some of the richest people on the planet.

The Irishman, who like the members of U2 has a home on the Riviera, told AFP that France’s Mediterranean coast — once described by novelist Somerset Maughan as a “sunny place for shady people” — was thick with stories and scandal.

“The Riviera is a destination for rich people from all over the world. We have Americans, Russians, French and English characters,” McGuinness said.

He said that throughout the making of the series Jordan repeated Balzac’s maxim: “Behind every great fortune there is a crime.”

The show turns on the murder of a billionaire in a mysterious explosion on the yacht of a Russian oligarch.

His widow, an art curator, is played by Hollywood star Julia Stiles, best known for her role in the “Bourne” films.

– ‘Rich doing terrible things’ –

McGuinness said the £30 million production (35 million euros, $37.5 million) was about “rich people in the south of France doing terrible things to each other. There’s money laundering, art fraud, murder, yachts and Ferraris.”

But before shooting began last year, the production was hit by two major shocks — the Nice terror attack and Brexit, with the devaluation of the pound playing havoc with British producers Sky Atlantic’s budget.

McGuinness paid tribute to the French authorities for allowing shoot-out scenes to be filmed on the streets within weeks of the Bastille Day attack last July 14, which left 86 people dead and more than 400 hurt.

He also called in Man Booker prize-winning novelist John Banville to help with the story arc.

McGuinness said he loved the area and would find any excuse to spend time there. “With U2 we used to base our tours in the south of France,” he told AFP. “I started looking for stories set in the area.”

The inspiration came from “the news, gossip, and there’s always a lot of scandals” on the Cote d’Azur, he said.

“There is a huge amount of public curiosity about what rich people do,” he added, and having lived on the Riviera for many years he knew the scene more than most.

Stiles told reporters that she jumped at the sophistication of the show. “It is more poetic and mysterious than much of what I’ve seen on TV recently.”

Sky’s drama chief Cameron Roach said that based on the reaction to the premiere, they believe they have a hit on their hands, in particular with Stiles as a compelling “Alice in Wonderland” lead trying to make sense of a strange world.

“And you have all these unputdownable characters you just want to spend time with,” he said.

A new big-budget television drama series gives an insider's peek into the lives of the rich and famous in the oligarchs' playground of the French Riviera.

"Riviera", the brainchild of Paul McGuinness, the multimillionaire former manager of rock group U2, premiered Monday night at MIPTV, the world's top TV gathering at Cannes.

Directed by Neil Jordan, the Oscar-winning maker of "The Crying Game", much of the inspiration for the taut 10-part thriller comes from McGuinness's own time rubbing shoulders with some of the richest people on the planet.

The Irishman, who like the members of U2 has a home on the Riviera, told AFP that France's Mediterranean coast -- once described by novelist Somerset Maughan as a "sunny place for shady people" -- was thick with stories and scandal.

"The Riviera is a destination for rich people from all over the world. We have Americans, Russians, French and English characters," McGuinness said.

He said that throughout the making of the series Jordan repeated Balzac's maxim: "Behind every great fortune there is a crime."

The show turns on the murder of a billionaire in a mysterious explosion on the yacht of a Russian oligarch.

His widow, an art curator, is played by Hollywood star Julia Stiles, best known for her role in the "Bourne" films.

- 'Rich doing terrible things' -

McGuinness said the £30 million production (35 million euros, $37.5 million) was about "rich people in the south of France doing terrible things to each other. There's money laundering, art fraud, murder, yachts and Ferraris."

But before shooting began last year, the production was hit by two major shocks -- the Nice terror attack and Brexit, with the devaluation of the pound playing havoc with British producers Sky Atlantic's budget.

McGuinness paid tribute to the French authorities for allowing shoot-out scenes to be filmed on the streets within weeks of the Bastille Day attack last July 14, which left 86 people dead and more than 400 hurt.

He also called in Man Booker prize-winning novelist John Banville to help with the story arc.

McGuinness said he loved the area and would find any excuse to spend time there. "With U2 we used to base our tours in the south of France," he told AFP. "I started looking for stories set in the area."

The inspiration came from "the news, gossip, and there's always a lot of scandals" on the Cote d'Azur, he said.

"There is a huge amount of public curiosity about what rich people do," he added, and having lived on the Riviera for many years he knew the scene more than most.

Stiles told reporters that she jumped at the sophistication of the show. "It is more poetic and mysterious than much of what I've seen on TV recently."

Sky's drama chief Cameron Roach said that based on the reaction to the premiere, they believe they have a hit on their hands, in particular with Stiles as a compelling "Alice in Wonderland" lead trying to make sense of a strange world.

"And you have all these unputdownable characters you just want to spend time with," he said.

Liberals feel lure of survivalism in age of Trump

Survivalism — the stockpiling of food and otherwise preparing for a possible end of civilization — is often associated with isolated, rural and conservative Americans.But liberals are now joining the movement in growing numbers, especially wealthy re…

Survivalism -- the stockpiling of food and otherwise preparing for a possible end of civilization -- is often associated with isolated, rural and conservative Americans.

But liberals are now joining the movement in growing numbers, especially wealthy residents of Silicon Valley, thanks to fears fueled by Donald Trump's election in November.

Although survivalists have been around for many decades, the movement gathered momentum after a recent string of natural and financial disasters, particularly Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and the global financial crisis of 2008.

Ron Douglas, who organizes survivalist shows to help people prepare for doomsday, says he has gone from staging an event a year with 5,000 attendees in 2010 to six events a year and 10,000 people.

Besides tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes, "preppers" -- liberal and conservative alike -- "are scared of civil unrest, government collapse, invasion from Russia and China," he says.

But while Republican survivalists who were twitchy under the Obama administration, anxiety is now mounting among liberals.

Before Trump's election, survivalists who came to Douglas's shows were mainly Republican white men. Today the crowds he draws includes men sporting dreadlocks and flip flops along with the more usual military-style outfits.

"More and more people are signing up from locations that are very heavily Democrat and asking questions that are unusual," he said.

"They're (showing) up saying that this election is the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it," Douglas said. "They're asking 'how do we prepare for nuclear fallout?' They're trying to get bunker information."

Facebook pages such as "Liberal Vegan Preppers" are also flourishing.

The movement also is attracting the super-wealthy, especially tech moguls from Silicon Valley, some of whom fear that unemployment caused by automation will further stoke social conflict.

- Billionaires and hideaways -

Numerous television shows attest to a fascination with the survivalist movement, including the reality TV show "Naked and Afraid," in which scantily clad candidates must survive in the jungle, and "Doomsday Preppers," which features a jury deciding who is best prepared to meet the world's demise.

"Since 2008, there's a rise of the populist movement and the one percent are much more aware of this," says Marvin Liao, a former Yahoo executive who is now a partner at 500 Startups, a venture-capital firm.

"The gap between the rich and poor has grown and there's some anger against the affluent class."

"If you're a billionaire, you probably have a hideaway," he added. "I do know people who have places in Canada, an island in the Caribbean, somewhere in Latin America, and New Zealand is very popular among certain people."

Another rich prepper, Antonio Garcia-Martinez -- a former executive at Facebook, Twitter and Goldman Sachs -- has a well-equipped home on an island near Seattle, in Washington state.

Liao, who describes himself as a "light" prepper, says Trump's presidency has heightened his fears of Armageddon.

His friend Adam Taggart, also a former Yahoo executive, left Silicon Valley several years ago to live in the Sonoma wine region north of San Francisco.

- Doomsday scenarios -

Besides Trump's election, mounting debt, inflation and the overexploitation of natural resources are also pushing Western society toward a doomsday scenario, Taggart says.

Taggart -- president and co-founder of PeakProsperity.com, which provides advice on building resilience -- lives a "semi-autonomous" life with his own orchard, poultry, pigs and enough canned food and water to last several months.

"We grow a percentage of our own calories," he says. "I'm not vulnerable to food having to be shipped."

He has a stash of cash and gold bars, a generator, a supply of wood and a water filtration system.

He also owns a "couple of guns" in case he needs to hunt for his own food.

To be on the safe side, he underwent laser surgery on his eyes to avoid having to wear glasses.

He hardly feels alone.

"There's less wealth disparity where I live now," Taggart says, adding that he has a group of prepper friends who meet on a weekly basis.

"If things were going bad, we would all band together," he said. "It's just amazing how hard it is to survive alone."

Gibraltar: a Brexit negotiating weapon for Madrid, EU

Madrid and London are once again locking horns over Gibraltar, a British overseas territory that appears to have become a Brexit negotiating weapon for Spain and the EU and signals difficulties ahead for Britain.Tensions over the territory known as “th…

Madrid and London are once again locking horns over Gibraltar, a British overseas territory that appears to have become a Brexit negotiating weapon for Spain and the EU and signals difficulties ahead for Britain.

Tensions over the territory known as "the Rock" have ebbed and flowed over the years, but they spiked again Friday when draft guidelines setting out the EU's position in upcoming negotiations stipulated Spain must have a say over whether any post-Brexit deal is extended to Gibraltar.

A European source said the clause "was added at the request of (Spanish Prime Minister) Mariano Rajoy".

Fearing that Spain is trying to take advantage of Brexit to impose its control over the 32,000-strong rocky outcrop on the country's southern tip, Gibraltar reacted angrily, and London pledged its support for a territory ceded to Britain in 1713 but long claimed by Madrid.

"The Spanish government is a little surprised by the tone which the United Kingdom has adopted, a country known for being phlegmatic," Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis retorted Monday.

- Rocky history -

The clause means that Spain, which will still be a member of the European Union when Britain leaves, could potentially block Gibraltar's access to a trade accord negotiated between the bloc and London.

Madrid argues that Gibraltar must not be included in Brexit negotiations, as it is not fully recognised by the international community as an integral part of the United Kingdom.

The United Nations defines it as "non-self-governing territory", a special status that means it is administered by Britain but is not formally part of it.

Seizing the opportunity soon after Britain voted to leave the EU in June last year, Madrid proposed to share sovereignty over Gibraltar with London, which it argued would allow the Rock to remain in the 27-member bloc.

But Gibraltarians had already rejected such a proposal in a 2002 referendum, and they want to stick with the Union Jack despite voting by 96 percent to remain in the EU.

Spain has a history of putting pressure on Gibraltar's tiny land border on which the territory depends for many of its supplies, tourists and workers.

Dictator Francisco Franco closed the border altogether in 1969, all but stranding inhabitants who had to rely on air and boat links until it was fully re-opened in 1985.

More recently, Spain's conservatives upped checks at the border in 2013, creating hours-long logjams and forcing the EU to intervene.

Madrid could therefore ask for concessions in exchange for keeping trade fluid across the border.

- 'Britain on the defensive' -

Dastis, who met with Brexit minister David Davis Sunday evening, tried to ease tensions on Monday, saying Madrid did not want "to put stumbling blocks in relations with the United Kingdom, or with the people of Gibraltar".

After all, some 10,000 Spaniards cross the frontier to work in Gibraltar every day, aiding a border region plagued by unemployment.

Still, according to Jonathan Eyal, associate director of the RUSI military think tank, "Brexit allows Spain to beef up its claim to have a say over Gibraltar".

"It puts Britain on the defensive and reminds Britain that when it comes to anything in Europe, the other member states will rally to support each other," he said.

For Richard Whitman, a Europe expert at the Chatham House think tank, Gibraltar is just one issue that "illustrates how complicated it is to forge a new agreement with the UK".

But he adds that it is unlikely to escalate out of control given the large number of Britons who live in Spain -- more than 300,000 officially, and likely far more as many do not register as residents or spend only part of their time in the country.

"The UK will need a good relationship with the Spanish government, particularly if there is the prospect of a sort of cliff-edge Brexit, or if it looks as if a full deal might not be done with the EU in time," he says.

Russia heads 2015 doping offences

Russian athletes topped the rankings of drug cases in 2015, the World Anti-Doping Agency revealed Monday in its annual report.Numbers from WADA for 2015, the most recent full year available, found that 176 Russian athletes were guilty of anti-doping ru…

Russian athletes topped the rankings of drug cases in 2015, the World Anti-Doping Agency revealed Monday in its annual report.

Numbers from WADA for 2015, the most recent full year available, found that 176 Russian athletes were guilty of anti-doping rule violations, more than any other nation.

Italy was next on the list with 129 cases while India was third with 117.

France posted 84 drug cases while Belgium had 67. The United States had 50 drug cases in 2015, placing it ninth on the list.

Bodybuilding had the most drug cases in 2015, with 270, followed by athletics with 242 incidents.

The perennially drug-plagued sport of weightlifting accounted for 239 cases while cycling was fourth with 200.

Powerlifting recorded 110 cases while football was sixth on the list with 108, ahead of rugby union (80).

In total WADA dealt with 1,929 rule violations in 2015 involving 122 nationalities from 85 sports.

Some 1,649 of the cases arose from adverse analytical findings (AAFs) or positive test results.

The remainder -- some 280 cases -- derived from "evidence-based" intelligence, which WADA attributed to increased embrace of investigations and whistleblowing.

"Whilst testing remains vital to detecting doping, recent events have shown that investigative work is becoming ever more important as we look to protect clean athletes? rights worldwide," WADA President Craig Reedie said in a statement.

Paris calls French Guiana demand for €2.5 billion euro aid package ‘unrealistic’

France will not give in to demands for an “unrealistic” 2.5 billion euro ($2.7 billion) aid package for French Guiana, which has been swept by social unrest, Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Monday.

France will not give in to demands for an "unrealistic" 2.5 billion euro ($2.7 billion) aid package for French Guiana, which has been swept by social unrest, Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Monday.

Google: machine learning may fix ad placement dispute

Google on Monday said it will apply machine smarts and outside eyes to help ensure brands don’t find ads paired with hateful videos on YouTube.

The move come as the internet colossus scrambles to derail an advertising boycott of Google’s money-making engine.

Google said it was using new machine-learning or artificial intelligence systems to enforce its policies, to help content objectionable to advertisers.

These systems will be adapted to advertiser preferences, Google said.

The tech giant also said it would work with third parties to help advertisers protect their brands from unwanted placement.

“As part of our commitment to provide even more transparency and visibility to our advertising partners, we’ll be working with trusted vendors to provide third-party brand safety reporting on YouTube,” a Google spokesperson said on Monday.

Google chief business officer Phillip Schindler recently apologized and said the company was taking a “tougher stance” on hateful, offensive, or derogatory content while ramping up safeguards to make sure ads only appear with acceptable material from legitimate creators.

Google has continued to downplay the effect of the boycott.

California-based Google, which has seen a slew of companies withdraw ads fearing placement alongside extremist content, has introduced new tools to give firms greater control.

The boycott began in February after the Times newspaper of London found BBC programs were promoted alongside videos posted by American white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan member David Duke as well as Wagdi Ghoneim, an Islamist preacher banned from Britain for inciting hatred.

The analysis found more than 200 anti-Semitic videos, and that Google had failed to remove six of them within the 24-hour period mandated by the European Union after it anonymously signaled their presence.

The British government subsequently put its YouTube advertising on hold, saying in a statement, “it is totally unacceptable that taxpayer-funded advertising has appeared next to inappropriate internet content.”

Others to pull the plug included the BBC, The Guardian newspaper group, McDonalds UK and the British arm of the major advertising agency Havas.

The movement spread to the United States, with AT&T and Verizon pulling ads from Google.

A solution may not be easy. Google needs to strike a balance between pleasing advertisers and those who upload videos to YouTube and are free to take their creations elsewhere if unsatisfied with their shares of ad revenue.

Google on Monday said it will apply machine smarts and outside eyes to help ensure brands don't find ads paired with hateful videos on YouTube.

The move come as the internet colossus scrambles to derail an advertising boycott of Google's money-making engine.

Google said it was using new machine-learning or artificial intelligence systems to enforce its policies, to help content objectionable to advertisers.

These systems will be adapted to advertiser preferences, Google said.

The tech giant also said it would work with third parties to help advertisers protect their brands from unwanted placement.

"As part of our commitment to provide even more transparency and visibility to our advertising partners, we'll be working with trusted vendors to provide third-party brand safety reporting on YouTube," a Google spokesperson said on Monday.

Google chief business officer Phillip Schindler recently apologized and said the company was taking a "tougher stance" on hateful, offensive, or derogatory content while ramping up safeguards to make sure ads only appear with acceptable material from legitimate creators.

Google has continued to downplay the effect of the boycott.

California-based Google, which has seen a slew of companies withdraw ads fearing placement alongside extremist content, has introduced new tools to give firms greater control.

The boycott began in February after the Times newspaper of London found BBC programs were promoted alongside videos posted by American white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan member David Duke as well as Wagdi Ghoneim, an Islamist preacher banned from Britain for inciting hatred.

The analysis found more than 200 anti-Semitic videos, and that Google had failed to remove six of them within the 24-hour period mandated by the European Union after it anonymously signaled their presence.

The British government subsequently put its YouTube advertising on hold, saying in a statement, "it is totally unacceptable that taxpayer-funded advertising has appeared next to inappropriate internet content."

Others to pull the plug included the BBC, The Guardian newspaper group, McDonalds UK and the British arm of the major advertising agency Havas.

The movement spread to the United States, with AT&T and Verizon pulling ads from Google.

A solution may not be easy. Google needs to strike a balance between pleasing advertisers and those who upload videos to YouTube and are free to take their creations elsewhere if unsatisfied with their shares of ad revenue.

New sex harassment suit against Fox News, ousted chief

Fox News and its ousted chief Roger Ailes were hit Monday with a fresh sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a female contributor who says she was denied a job after refusing the chairman’s advances.The lawsuit by Julie Roginsky, a political strategist wh…

Fox News and its ousted chief Roger Ailes were hit Monday with a fresh sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a female contributor who says she was denied a job after refusing the chairman's advances.

The lawsuit by Julie Roginsky, a political strategist who was a contributing commentator, came eight months after Ailes, a confidant of the cable network's founder Rupert Murdoch, was forced out over an earlier harassment suit.

Monday's complaint filed in New York state court said Ailes repeatedly made sexual advances and inappropriate comments to Roginsky.

It said Ailes often looked down Roginsky's dress and made clear his sexual intentions during their meetings, and that when she rebuffed him, he refused to give her a promised hosting opportunity.

"Roginsky refused to engage in a sexual relationship with Ailes. As a result, Fox News and Ailes retaliated," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also named Fox News co-president Bill Shine, claiming he refused Roginsky a permanent job at Fox, in part because she failed to side with Ailes in the harassment suit filed by on-air host Gretchen Carlson.

According to the suit, Shine retaliated against Roginsky "because of her complaints of harassment and... because (she) refused to malign Gretchen Carlson and join 'Team Roger' when Carlson sued Ailes for sexual harassment."

Roginsky seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the complaint against the cable channel, which did not immediately respond to an AFP query.

Ailes stepped down as chairman of Fox News and the Fox Business Network on July 21 last year in a chain of events touched off when Carlson filed a lawsuit accusing Ailes of firing her because she resisted his sexual advances.

Ailes denied the allegations but was reportedly forced to resign under pressure.

In September, Fox News settled the Carlson lawsuit for a reported $20 million, and apologized for her treatment on the job.

Separately, the New York Times reported this past weekend that Bill O'Reilly, a star Fox News commentator, has been accused of harassment by at least five women associated with the network.

It said the company and O'Reilly had paid the five women a total of $13 million in the cases that span 15 years.

O'Reilly did not deny the allegations, but said his prominence made him "vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity."

DRRT files US$500 million lawsuit against Toshiba

DRRT, on behalf of a large group of institutional investors, files a second lawsuit against Toshiba for losses resulting from its accounting fraud.

DRRT, on behalf of a large group of institutional investors, files a second lawsuit against Toshiba for losses resulting from its accounting fraud.

FND Hope: Awareness Day 2017 (International)

PRESS RELEASE Contact Information: Josette Langevine Communications Director media@fndhope.org March 27, 2017         FND Hope: Awareness Day 2017          Fighting for Research, Education, Hope Seizures,…

PRESS RELEASE Contact Information: Josette Langevine Communications Director media@fndhope.org March 27, 2017         FND Hope: Awareness Day 2017          Fighting for Research, Education, Hope Seizures,...

Paraguay president calls for talks after riots

Paraguay’s conservative President Horacio Cartes reached out to his opponents Monday for talks after a bid to lift a ban on him seeking re-election sparked deadly riots.His left-wing opponents say the constitutional change would raise the risk of a ret…

Paraguay's conservative President Horacio Cartes reached out to his opponents Monday for talks after a bid to lift a ban on him seeking re-election sparked deadly riots.

His left-wing opponents say the constitutional change would raise the risk of a return to dictatorship for a country that transitioned to democracy in 1989 after 35 years of military rule.

In a televised address, Cartes called on lawmakers and political leaders from across the political divide to join in a dialogue along with church leaders.

"I propose to open a broad debate, the only condition for which is the will to come to an agreement for a lasting democracy," he said.

A left-wing opposition activist was shot and killed by police in a raid on his party's offices after the riots erupted late Friday.

Protesters had earlier broken into the Congress in anger after senators loyal to Cartes approved the reform.

Cartes is seeking to amend the constitution to enable himself to run for office again in 2018 after his current term ends.

Removing the ban would also allow left-wing former president Fernando Lugo to run again. He held power from 2008 to 2012, when he was removed after an impeachment trial.

After the Senate sidestepped opposition resistance and approved the bill, it was due to be voted on Saturday in the Chamber of Deputies, where the president has a majority.

That vote was postponed after the violence, but was expected to go ahead on Tuesday.

Civil groups opposed to the reform called for a vigil outside Congress on Monday to protest ahead of that vote.

The leader of the main opposition Liberal Party, Efrain Alegre, said his side would only join in talks if the bill is withdrawn.

Trump son-in-law Kushner visits Iraq, meets PM

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top aide Jared Kushner visited Baghdad Monday with the US’s top military officer, meeting Iraq’s premier to discuss the fight against the Islamic State group.The visit comes as Iraqi forces battle to retake Mosul…

President Donald Trump's son-in-law and top aide Jared Kushner visited Baghdad Monday with the US's top military officer, meeting Iraq's premier to discuss the fight against the Islamic State group.

The visit comes as Iraqi forces battle to retake Mosul from IS with support from US-led air strikes that have recently been criticised for causing civilian deaths in the city's west.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office said the premier met with General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as Kushner and other officials including White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert.

They discussed "the battle of Mosul and the international coalition's support for Iraq and the training and arming of Iraqi forces in addition to the (issue) of displaced people," Abadi's office said in a statement.

Iraqi forces have been engaged in a grinding battle for west Mosul since last month, fighting that has pushed more than 200,000 civilians to flee.

Dunford asked Kushner -- who has no previous experience in government -- and Bossert to accompany him on the trip, Navy Captain Greg Hicks said in an emailed statement.

"General Dunford invited Mr Kushner and Mr Bossert to meet with Iraqi leaders, senior US advisors, and visit with US forces in the field to receive an update on the status of the counter-ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria," Hicks said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.

"As well as receiving briefings and updates, Mr Kushner is travelling on behalf of the president to express the president's support and commitment to the government of Iraq and US personnel currently engaged in the campaign," he said.

- Civilian casualties -

"Mr Bossert is travelling in his role as assistant to the president and will participate in meetings and briefings to reinforce the strong US-Iraqi partnership to defeat ISIS," he added.

Dunford and Kushner were also to meet Iraqi Defence Minister Irfan al-Hayali, ministry spokesman Colonel Laith al-Nuaimi said.

The United States is leading an international coalition that is carrying out air strikes against IS and providing other support to forces fighting the jihadists in both Iraq and Syria.

The operation to retake Mosul, Iraq's second city, began last October, with security forces recapturing its eastern side before setting their sights on the smaller but more densely populated west.

The coalition has admitted that it "probably" played a role in recent civilian casualties in the city, but has sought to place responsibility for the deaths on IS, saying the jihadists are gathering civilians together and seeking to provoke strikes.

Despite his inexperience, Kushner has become one of the most powerful men in Washington as a trusted adviser to the president with a broad portfolio of responsibilities.

Valued by Trump for his discretion and loyalty, the baby-faced 36-year-old is officially a White House senior adviser with far-reaching influence over domestic and foreign policy.

Among other responsibilities, Trump has tapped Kushner to play a leading role in efforts to secure an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal -- an achievement that has eluded experienced policymakers for decades.

Kushner's wife Ivanka, the 35-year-old first daughter, also plays a key role in advising her father.

A regular presence in the White House since Trump's election, she officially became assistant to the president last week amid accusations about possible conflicts of interest involving the couple's business interests, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

IQV Construction & Roofing Garners GAF Master Elite Roofing Certification

IQV Garners GAF Master Elite Roofing Certification San Jose, CA (3/31/17) – IQV Construction & Roofing announces new exclusive status as a GAF Master Elite™ Roofing Contractor.

IQV Garners GAF Master Elite Roofing Certification San Jose, CA (3/31/17) – IQV Construction & Roofing announces new exclusive status as a GAF Master Elite™ Roofing Contractor.

PTSD, THE INVISIBLE SCAR, will be showing June 2017

Christopher Boats Oshana is proud to announce his solo photo documentary show PTSD, The Invisible Scar at Public Image during PTSD Awareness month, June 2017.

Christopher Boats Oshana is proud to announce his solo photo documentary show PTSD, The Invisible Scar at Public Image during PTSD Awareness month, June 2017.

Edward Jones Investments in the Community

We value the communities where we work, so we’re committed to giving back. You’ll find our associates serving clients in our offices, but you’ll also find us investing our time and talents to support local organizations and great causes.

We value the communities where we work, so we're committed to giving back. You'll find our associates serving clients in our offices, but you'll also find us investing our time and talents to support local organizations and great causes.

Regime strikes kill 22 civilians near Damascus: monitor

Air strikes by Syrian warplanes on a rebel-held region near Damascus killed at least 22 civilians on Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.The highest toll was in Douma, the largest town in the Eastern Ghouta region, where raids …

Air strikes by Syrian warplanes on a rebel-held region near Damascus killed at least 22 civilians on Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.

The highest toll was in Douma, the largest town in the Eastern Ghouta region, where raids killed 16 civilians including at least one child and wounded 22, it said.

An AFP correspondent at the town hospital said he saw many wounded people, their faces bloodied. All the facility's beds were occupied by men, women and children.

A child burst into tears when he found his father in the hospital, the correspondent said.

Five more civilians were killed in the town of Sabqa and one in the town of Harasta, both also in Eastern Ghouta, the Observatory said.

The Eastern Ghouta region is adjacent to the capital's eastern neighbourhood of Jobar, which is divided between regime and rebel control.

Last month, the armed opposition launched a surprise assault against regime forces from Jobar, but was repelled after a week of fighting.

Eastern Ghouta has been under a devastating government siege since 2012, and is targeted regularly by air strikes and artillery.

It is the last remaining opposition stronghold near Damascus, where a string of local "reconciliation deals" have seen villages and towns brought back under the control of President Bashar al-Assad's government.

The regime is fighting to push rebels out of five neighbourhoods in Damascus.

The rebels control almost all of Qabun and Tishreen in the northeast, as well as half of Jobar in the east.

They are also present in Barzeh in the north and Tadamun in the south, but the neighbourhoods are covered by a truce with the regime.

More than 320,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria's war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

No more Bok ‘chaos’, vows Coetzee

South Africa coach Allister Coetzee vowed Monday that the defensive “chaos” of last season will not reoccur when they host France during June in a three-Test series. “It was chaos last year,” admitted the coach of his debut season in which the Springbo…

South Africa coach Allister Coetzee vowed Monday that the defensive "chaos" of last season will not reoccur when they host France during June in a three-Test series.

"It was chaos last year," admitted the coach of his debut season in which the Springboks conceded 35 tries in losing a record eight of 12 Tests.

Fifteen of those tries were scored by New Zealand, the greatest rugby rivals of South Africa, including nine in Durban.

Coetzee is banking on new defence coach and former Springbok centre Brendan Venter to plug the gaping holes of last season.

"Brendan has worked overseas for a long time and has a good knowledge of many things related to rugby coaching, particularly the building of a defensive system.

"There will be a big improvement in our defence this year," he predicted during a three-day training camp in western Cape university town Stellenbosch.

Venter has coached in varying roles with the Western Stormers and Coastal Sharks in South Africa and London Irish and Saracens in England.

He was the Italy defence coach in the Six Nations championship this year and credited with the no-ruck ploy that initially baffled England at Twickenham.

‘Hysterical Russophobia’: Moscow blasts Lithuanian report on numerous Russian ‘threats’

Preview Lithuanian intelligence agencies have produced a security report claiming that Russia threatens the country in numerous ways, from a possible military incursion to promoting a positive image of itself. The Kremlin called the report an example of “hysterical Russophobia.”
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Lithuanian intelligence agencies have produced a security report claiming that Russia threatens the country in numerous ways, from a possible military incursion to promoting a positive image of itself. The Kremlin called the report an example of “hysterical Russophobia.”
Read Full Article at RT.com

Trump vows to work with Egypt’s Sisi to fight Islamic militants

U.S. President Donald Trump moved to reset U.S. relations with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday after the prior Obama administration’s strained ties, giving him firm backing and vowing to work together to fight Islamic militants.

U.S. President Donald Trump moved to reset U.S. relations with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday after the prior Obama administration's strained ties, giving him firm backing and vowing to work together to fight Islamic militants.

A rock in a hard place: UK-Spain tensions flare over Gibraltar as Brexit talks begin

The future of Gibraltar has become the first dispute of the Brexit talks, with tensions flaring between the EU, Britain and Spain over whether the future of the British enclave lies with London or Madrid.

The future of Gibraltar has become the first dispute of the Brexit talks, with tensions flaring between the EU, Britain and Spain over whether the future of the British enclave lies with London or Madrid.

WTO creates panel to decide on China, EU trade flap

The World Trade Organization Monday set up a panel to examine the so-called “surrogate country” approach used by the European Union to calculate anti-dumping measures applied to Chinese exports, following a request from Beijing.When China joined the WT…

The World Trade Organization Monday set up a panel to examine the so-called "surrogate country" approach used by the European Union to calculate anti-dumping measures applied to Chinese exports, following a request from Beijing.

When China joined the WTO in 2001, it was agreed that other member states could treat it as a non-market economy for 15 years.

The deadline passed late last year, but the EU still wants to operate on rules that protect it from cheap Chinese products flooding its markets.

China last week asked the WTO to establish a panel of experts to rule on its demand that the EU stop using a "surrogate country" system -- judging the price of Chinese goods against a third country's -- to determine whether China is selling its products below market prices.

The EU rejected that request, but when China submitted a second demand, WTO rules required the body to set up a panel.

China in December filed its initial disputes against both the EU and the United States over the issue, which are being handled separately.

When the sides were unable to reach a deal during WTO-led consultations, the door was left open for China to ask the WTO to create a panel of experts to study the case.

The EU has indicated it would like the US to be an ally against alleged unfair Chinese practices at the WTO, but US President Donald Trump's administration has said it may ignore all rulings made at the Geneva-based body.

Experts have warned a US dismissal of the WTO could degrade the international trading system and trigger a rise in harmful tit-for-tat tariffs.

WTO's panels of independent trade and legal experts usually take several months to render their decisions.

They can authorise retaliatory trade measures if they rule in favour of a plaintiff.

The WTO polices global trade accords in an effort to ensure a level playing field for its 164 member economies.

Russia metro blast: What we know

Ten people were killed and dozens injured in a blast on the Saint Petersburg metro system on Monday that authorities are investigating as an “act of terror.”Here is what we know about the blast in Russia’s second city: – What happened? -The blast took …

Ten people were killed and dozens injured in a blast on the Saint Petersburg metro system on Monday that authorities are investigating as an "act of terror."

Here is what we know about the blast in Russia's second city:

- What happened? -

The blast took place at 2:40pm local time (1140 GMT) on an underground train travelling between the Technological Institute and Vosstaniya Square stations, located in the heart of the city centre.

Investigators said the train driver did not stop between stations, a decision that enabled a quick evacuation.

Authorities gave an initial death toll of around 10 dead but this could still rise further as dozens were taken to hospital with injuries.

Russia's national anti-terrorism committee (NAK) later confirmed that the security services had found another explosive device at the Vosstaniya Square metro station. This device did not explode and it was immediately "neutralised", the committee said.

- Was it terrorism? -

Russia's Investigative Committee said it had launched a probe into an "act of terror" but insisted it would nonetheless investigate "all other possible versions of this incident."

President Vladimir Putin had said earlier Monday that authorities were looking into all possible causes for the blast but said that a terror attack was being probed "first of all".

Russian authorities have claimed to have foiled multiple terror attacks on transportation systems in Moscow, some by suspected jihadist cells.

And Russia's transport has been targeted before.

In 2013 the country was hit by twin suicide strikes on a station and a trolleybus that claimed 34 lives and raised alarm over security at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

If this latest blast is confirmed to be an attack, it will raise jitters around a year before Russia is due to host the 2018 football World Cup in 11 cities, including Saint Petersburg.

- How did authorities react? -

Emergency vehicles rushed to the scene and authorities immediately blocked off some of the city's main arteries surrounding the transport hub.

The metro network said it was shutting down completely and Moscow's metro announced it was stepping up security in light of the Saint Petersburg blast.

The NAK said that security was being boosted at transportation hubs and crowded places across the country.

- What was the impact? -

Television pictures showed the door of a train carriage blasted out and bloodied bodies strewn across the platform.

Local authorities announced three days of mourning in the city while Putin, who was holding a meeting outside Saint Petersburg, offered "condolences" to those hurt in the blast and to the loved ones of those killed.

With heightened security measures, Russians are certain to face more checks at airports, train stations and in the country's metro systems.

Review group to look into France-Wales substitute row

Six Nations chiefs still have to make a ruling on whether improper substitutions took place in last month’s France and Wales clash with the controversial closing stages now under review.The March 18 match in Paris ended in a 20-18 win for France, with …

Six Nations chiefs still have to make a ruling on whether improper substitutions took place in last month's France and Wales clash with the controversial closing stages now under review.

The March 18 match in Paris ended in a 20-18 win for France, with referee Wayne Barnes allowing an extraordinary 20 minutes of added-on time at the end of the game.

With France 18-13 behind and camped on the Welsh line, a series of scrums took place late in the match as they went in search of an equalising try.

In the midst of this, France prop Uini Atonio was replaced -- despite telling Barnes he was not injured but his back was hurting -- by preferred tighthead prop Rabah Slimani, known for his devastating scrummaging power.

France coach Guy Noves insisted it was a genuine call by his medics under the head injury assessment (HIA) procedure, which would leave Barnes with no choice but to allow France to bring back the previously substituted Slimani under rules governing the treatment of suspected concussion.

But Wales caretaker coach Rob Howley said there was "evidence to suggest that the integrity of the game has been brought into disrepute" by France fabricating the head injury call.

Monday's Six Nations statement, rather than drawing a line under the incident, instead promised a new inquiry.

"Following its preliminary investigation into the replacements made in the latter stages of the France v Wales match on 18 March 2017 (and in particular the replacement of Uini Atonio by Rabah Slimani), Six Nations Rugby has decided to refer the matter to the independent Six Nations Untoward Incident Review Group (UIRG) for review."

The statement added: "Six Nations Rugby will send the file to the UIRG later this week and it is anticipated that the review process will begin shortly thereafter."

The UIRG came into being a couple of seasons ago when the HIA procedure for dealing with suspected concussion was introduced.

Officials have already decided they will take no further action against France wing Virimi Vakatawa, sin-binned for a high tackle, and not pursue a biting complaint from Wales wing George North for lack of evidence.

Last week, France vice-captain Yoann Maestri was fined 30,000 euros ($32,000) for a post-match criticism of English referee Barnes where he said: "Anglo-Saxon referees always talk about fair play but the reality is that they think we (the French) are cheats."

Deadliest terrorist attacks on Russia’s transportation systems in recent years

Preview An assumed IED hit a train in the St. Petersburg Metro on Monday, killing 10 and injuring dozens. While suspects are yet to be identified, RT recalls the worst bombings that have struck Russia’s transportation system in recent years.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview An assumed IED hit a train in the St. Petersburg Metro on Monday, killing 10 and injuring dozens. While suspects are yet to be identified, RT recalls the worst bombings that have struck Russia’s transportation system in recent years.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Surge in coal pollution led to smaller newborns: study

In fresh evidence about the dangers of coal pollution, a scientist on Monday said a switch to coal-fired power in a southern US state after a nuclear accident in 1979 led to a sharp fall in birthweight, a benchmark of health.The study looked at the aft…

In fresh evidence about the dangers of coal pollution, a scientist on Monday said a switch to coal-fired power in a southern US state after a nuclear accident in 1979 led to a sharp fall in birthweight, a benchmark of health.

The study looked at the aftermath of the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania, which caused two nuclear plants in Tennessee to be shuttered and their power to be replaced locally by coal generation.

After the energy switch, the weight of newborns fell by 5.4 percent in Tennessee Valley counties that had the highest levels of air pollution from coal particles emitted by the replacement plants, the investigation found.

Birthweight reductions of just over five percent can result in illness, stunted growth and neurodevelopment problems later in life, earlier research has shown. They are also strongly linked to lower IQ and income.

"Average birth weight declined approximately 134 grams (4.7 ounces) after the nuclear shutdown," said Edson Severnini, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In the most affected places, "infant health may have deteriorated," he added.

The research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Energy, touches on a debate about the risks of coal versus nuclear energy, triggered most recently by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster In Japan.

The accident prompted a slew of countries to curb nuclear plans, resulting in greater use of fossil fuels -- especially coal -- to meet their energy needs.

- Fear of nuclear -

Supporters of nuclear, while acknowledging concerns about accidents, say that the technology has a far better record for safety and public health than coal, which generates particles that are a respiratory hazard as well as climate-altering greenhouse gases.

Scientists estimate that in China and India alone, more than 200,000 people die prematurely each year due to coal pollution.

In contrast, supporters of coal say that pollution technology today is far better than four decades ago, and promote a vision of a "clean coal" with a far lower risk to the environment and health.

US President Donald Trump's administration is currently setting down plans to revive the American coal industry, including in the region examined in this study.

Severnini said the findings of his research call for reflection on the perceived benefits of shuttering nuclear plants.

"The shutdown of nuclear power plants in the United States and abroad might not generate as much net benefit as the public perceives," he suggested.

In a commentary also published in Nature Energy, Michael Shellenberger of US research and policy group Environmental Progress agreed.

"Public fears of nuclear power are widespread, especially in the aftermath of accidents, yet their benefits are rarely considered," he wrote.

"Where the normal operation of coal plants results in significant, measurable health impacts, the Fukushima accident -- the second worse nuclear accident in history -- will have no quantifiable impact on public health outside Japan."

The percentage of global electricity generated by nuclear power has dropped from nearly 18 percent in 1996 to about 11 percent today.

US conducts around 20 more strikes in Yemen: Pentagon

US aircraft have conducted about 20 additional air strikes on Al-Qaeda in Yemen in recent days, the Pentagon said Monday, as it continues its stepped-up campaign against the jihadists.The strikes occurred over the weekend, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capta…

US aircraft have conducted about 20 additional air strikes on Al-Qaeda in Yemen in recent days, the Pentagon said Monday, as it continues its stepped-up campaign against the jihadists.

The strikes occurred over the weekend, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said without providing details of where or how they were conducted.

The new attacks bring the total number of strikes the United States has conducted in Yemen since February 28 to more than 70.

"We continue to target AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) in Yemen and this is done in the interests of disrupting this terror organization that presents a very significant threat to the United States," Davis said.

The Pentagon has increased attacks against AQAP since President Donald Trump took office in January.

An ill-fated American raid against AQAP in January left multiple civilians and a US Navy SEAL dead.

The raid was the first authorized by Trump, who drew criticism after he blamed "the generals" for having "lost" Navy SEAL Ryan Owens.

A small contingent of US forces remains on the ground in Yemen, Davis said, adding that they have not been involved in combat.

Separately from AQAP, Yemen is locked in a deadly civil war that broke out in 2015 between Iran-supported Houthi rebels and government forces backed by an Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

America has supported the Saudi-led coalition through weapons sales, air-to-air refueling of jets and some limited intelligence sharing.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reportedly supports increasing military support for the Saudi-led coalition.

However, Davis said there had been no official change in the US position vis-a-vis the level of support.

Twitter drops egg icon in battle with internet ‘trolls’

An egg icon that for years marked profiles of new Twitter users was gone Monday, a victim of “trolls” who often hid behind them to launch anonymous online attacks.For seven years, anyone who created a Twitter account automatically got an egg icon as th…

An egg icon that for years marked profiles of new Twitter users was gone Monday, a victim of "trolls" who often hid behind them to launch anonymous online attacks.

For seven years, anyone who created a Twitter account automatically got an egg icon as their profile picture, which they were then invited to customize with images of their own.

"This was a playful way to reference how eggs hatch into birds that send all the Tweets you see on Twitter!" the San Francisco-based one-to-many messaging service said in an online post.

Some people left the eggs as their profile images for the fun of it, but "trolls" who created accounts just to fire off abusive comments were known to leave eggs unchanged as well.

"We've noticed patterns of behavior with accounts that are created only to harass others -- often they don?t take the time to personalize their accounts," Twitter said.

"This has created an association between the default egg profile photo and negative behavior."

New Twitter users with eggs as profile pictures risked being mistaken for trolls at first glance, according to the service.

The new profile icon is a generic silhouette of a person, slightly reminiscent of a small egg atop a larger one.

"The new default image feels more like an empty state or placeholder, and we hope it encourages people to upload images that express themselves," Twitter said.

Some took to Twitter to mock the move, contending that getting rid of the beloved egg icon in the name of fighting abuse was superficial and, likely, ineffective.

"Rather than addressing harassment on the platform, Twitter removes the default egg avatar, removing our ability to make pithy egg jokes," read a message posted on the service by @SinowBeats.

Twitter in February stepped up its campaign to crack down on "abusive accounts."

The effort came with Twitter and other social platforms struggling to keep up with online abuse, especially from anonymous accounts.

"We're taking steps to identify people who have been permanently suspended and stop them from creating new accounts," said a statement from Twitter engineering vice president Ed Ho.

Another effort unveiled at the time enabled "safe searches" which remove Tweets that "contain potentially sensitive content" and tweets from blocked and muted accounts.

Twitter has faced problems of harassment since its inception, and cracking down has been difficult because users can create an account anonymously with only an email account.

Hostile environments created by trolls on Twitter has been seen as a hindrance to growth, which is a priority at the service.

Euro MPs ‘unanimously’ condemn Eurogroup chief’s no-show

European Parliament lawmakers on Monday “unanimously condemned” the refusal by Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem to appear at a hearing on Greece this week.

Dijsselbloem, who is also the Dutch finance minister, has been facing calls to step down since he suggested in an interview in a German newspaper that southern European countries blew their money on “drinks and women”.

In the wake of the controversy, the parliament had invited the head of the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers to discuss the stalled Greek bailout at this week’s plenary session in Strasbourg.

Expectations were that MEP’s would use the opportunity to harshly criticise Dijsselbloem.

“Unanimous condemnation by the European Parliament against Jeroen Dijsselbloem for umpteenth refusal to answer questions on sacrifices made by our citizens,” European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani posted on Twitter.

MEP Gianni Pittella, the head of the left-of-centre S&D group, said Dijsselbloem’s refusal to attend was “a further slight after his previous shameful remarks”.

“He should resign,” Pittella added.

In a letter on Thursday, Dijsselbloem said he was unable to attend the hearing because of a scheduling conflict.

In an interview with Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung last month, Dijsselbloem said that while coming to the aid of eurozone partners is important, “I can’t spend all my money on drinks and women and then ask for help.”

The words stung in the southern European countries of Portugal, Greece and Cyprus that have all received eurozone bailouts in recent years, with Spain’s banks also receiving support.

Dijsselbloem, 50, holds one of Europe’s most influential positions, chairing the meetings of finance ministers from the 19-country eurozone.

But he has been under pressure since his party lost heavily in last month’s Dutch election, a showing that puts his role as finance minister at risk. He has said he has no intention of stepping down as head of the Eurogroup while he remains minister.

European Parliament lawmakers on Monday "unanimously condemned" the refusal by Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem to appear at a hearing on Greece this week.

Dijsselbloem, who is also the Dutch finance minister, has been facing calls to step down since he suggested in an interview in a German newspaper that southern European countries blew their money on "drinks and women".

In the wake of the controversy, the parliament had invited the head of the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers to discuss the stalled Greek bailout at this week's plenary session in Strasbourg.

Expectations were that MEP's would use the opportunity to harshly criticise Dijsselbloem.

"Unanimous condemnation by the European Parliament against Jeroen Dijsselbloem for umpteenth refusal to answer questions on sacrifices made by our citizens," European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani posted on Twitter.

MEP Gianni Pittella, the head of the left-of-centre S&D group, said Dijsselbloem's refusal to attend was "a further slight after his previous shameful remarks".

"He should resign," Pittella added.

In a letter on Thursday, Dijsselbloem said he was unable to attend the hearing because of a scheduling conflict.

In an interview with Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung last month, Dijsselbloem said that while coming to the aid of eurozone partners is important, "I can't spend all my money on drinks and women and then ask for help."

The words stung in the southern European countries of Portugal, Greece and Cyprus that have all received eurozone bailouts in recent years, with Spain's banks also receiving support.

Dijsselbloem, 50, holds one of Europe's most influential positions, chairing the meetings of finance ministers from the 19-country eurozone.

But he has been under pressure since his party lost heavily in last month's Dutch election, a showing that puts his role as finance minister at risk. He has said he has no intention of stepping down as head of the Eurogroup while he remains minister.

S&P cuts South Africa’s credit rating to ‘junk’

Credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s downgraded South Africa’s rating to junk status on Monday, as the country’s currency continued to slide following a controversial cabinet shuffle.

“The executive changes initiated by President Zuma have put at risk fiscal and growth outcomes,” S&P said in a statement.

It said the rating cut to below investment grade reflected “heightened political and institutional uncertainties” after President Jacob Zuma’s shock purge of critical ministers on Friday, including Pravin Gordhan, a respected former finance minister.

The rand has fallen three percent against the US dollar since the Friday night shake-up, and fell further after the S&P downgrade.

The ratings agency added that “political risks will remain elevated this year, and that policy shifts are likely, which could undermine fiscal and economic growth”.

Moody’s, another ratings agency which has South Africa two notches above “junk” status, is expected to deliver a review on Friday.

Zuma has faced widespread criticism for replacing Gordhan with a loyalist, former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba.

All of South Africa’s main opposition parties have condemned the move, as has deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, an ANC member, and the communist partners in the ANC’s coalition government.

Shortly after his appointment Gigaba stressed the need to maintain South Africa’s investment grade status.

The country was granted a reprieve at the end of last year when rating agencies did not drop it to the “junk” investment category following a series of downgrades.

South Africa’s opposition parties on Monday vowed to press ahead with a no-confidence vote against Zuma.

The opposition call came as the ruling ANC’s own integrity commission delivered a stinging rebuke over Zuma’s cabinet shuffle, saying it was “deeply perturbed” by the lack of consultation, according to media reports.

“Opposition parties are fully behind the motion of no confidence in Jacob Zuma,” said Mmusi Maimane, leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), ahead of the downgrade.

The DA and the third-largest opposition party, the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters Party (EFF), wrote to the national assembly speaker requesting an urgent sitting to debate the no-confidence motion, since Parliament is currently in recess.

– ‘Remove Jacob Zuma’ –

Speaker Baleka Mbete, who is also the chairwoman of the ANC, cut short an official trip to Bangladesh and returned home on Sunday to consider the opposition request.

“I am alive to the extreme challenges and sense of anxiety our young democracy is going through at this moment,” Mbete said on Sunday.

Zuma has survived several no-confidence votes in recent years.

However, “When other motions of no confidence failed, we were not facing the crisis that we are facing currently,” said the president of the African Christian Democratic Party, Kenneth Meshoe.

“Now it is not only members of the opposition that acknowledge that we have a crisis, but members of the ruling party,” he said.

“This is not an academic exercise, we are serious about this,” said Maimane. “We are working to remove Jacob Zuma.”

With 249 seats, the ANC commands a strong majority in the 400-member parliament. For a no-confidence vote to pass, the opposition would have to secure a simple majority — meaning it would need to secure at least 50 votes in favour by ANC lawmakers.

Analysts say they believe the no-confidence vote is unlikely to pass.

“I don’t see the ANC caucus splitting ranks — that will be quite a momentous day. It would also give far too much prominence to the opposition, which I don’t think even those who dislike Zuma would want to do,” said Daniel Silke, an independent analyst.

But Zuma’s cabinet overhaul exposed deep divisions within the ANC, and DA officials are confident they can recruit enough support from ruling-party MPs to unseat the president.

“There are quite a number of other colleagues and comrades who are unhappy about this situation, particularly the removal of the minister of finance who was serving the country with absolute distinction,” Ramaphosa, the ANC deputy president, said after the cabinet shuffle.

Credit rating agency Standard and Poor's downgraded South Africa's rating to junk status on Monday, as the country's currency continued to slide following a controversial cabinet shuffle.

"The executive changes initiated by President Zuma have put at risk fiscal and growth outcomes," S&P said in a statement.

It said the rating cut to below investment grade reflected "heightened political and institutional uncertainties" after President Jacob Zuma's shock purge of critical ministers on Friday, including Pravin Gordhan, a respected former finance minister.

The rand has fallen three percent against the US dollar since the Friday night shake-up, and fell further after the S&P downgrade.

The ratings agency added that "political risks will remain elevated this year, and that policy shifts are likely, which could undermine fiscal and economic growth".

Moody's, another ratings agency which has South Africa two notches above "junk" status, is expected to deliver a review on Friday.

Zuma has faced widespread criticism for replacing Gordhan with a loyalist, former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba.

All of South Africa's main opposition parties have condemned the move, as has deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, an ANC member, and the communist partners in the ANC's coalition government.

Shortly after his appointment Gigaba stressed the need to maintain South Africa's investment grade status.

The country was granted a reprieve at the end of last year when rating agencies did not drop it to the "junk" investment category following a series of downgrades.

South Africa's opposition parties on Monday vowed to press ahead with a no-confidence vote against Zuma.

The opposition call came as the ruling ANC's own integrity commission delivered a stinging rebuke over Zuma's cabinet shuffle, saying it was "deeply perturbed" by the lack of consultation, according to media reports.

"Opposition parties are fully behind the motion of no confidence in Jacob Zuma," said Mmusi Maimane, leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), ahead of the downgrade.

The DA and the third-largest opposition party, the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters Party (EFF), wrote to the national assembly speaker requesting an urgent sitting to debate the no-confidence motion, since Parliament is currently in recess.

- 'Remove Jacob Zuma' -

Speaker Baleka Mbete, who is also the chairwoman of the ANC, cut short an official trip to Bangladesh and returned home on Sunday to consider the opposition request.

"I am alive to the extreme challenges and sense of anxiety our young democracy is going through at this moment," Mbete said on Sunday.

Zuma has survived several no-confidence votes in recent years.

However, "When other motions of no confidence failed, we were not facing the crisis that we are facing currently," said the president of the African Christian Democratic Party, Kenneth Meshoe.

"Now it is not only members of the opposition that acknowledge that we have a crisis, but members of the ruling party," he said.

"This is not an academic exercise, we are serious about this," said Maimane. "We are working to remove Jacob Zuma."

With 249 seats, the ANC commands a strong majority in the 400-member parliament. For a no-confidence vote to pass, the opposition would have to secure a simple majority -- meaning it would need to secure at least 50 votes in favour by ANC lawmakers.

Analysts say they believe the no-confidence vote is unlikely to pass.

"I don't see the ANC caucus splitting ranks -- that will be quite a momentous day. It would also give far too much prominence to the opposition, which I don't think even those who dislike Zuma would want to do," said Daniel Silke, an independent analyst.

But Zuma's cabinet overhaul exposed deep divisions within the ANC, and DA officials are confident they can recruit enough support from ruling-party MPs to unseat the president.

"There are quite a number of other colleagues and comrades who are unhappy about this situation, particularly the removal of the minister of finance who was serving the country with absolute distinction," Ramaphosa, the ANC deputy president, said after the cabinet shuffle.

Ukraine president says IMF releases $1 billion loan

The International Monetary Fund has decided to release the next $1-billion loan payment to Ukraine, which had been postponed following the blockade imposed on the separatist east of the country, the Ukrainian president said Monday.”The IMF board took t…

The International Monetary Fund has decided to release the next $1-billion loan payment to Ukraine, which had been postponed following the blockade imposed on the separatist east of the country, the Ukrainian president said Monday.

"The IMF board took the decision to grant Ukraine one billion dollars," wrote Petro Porochenko on his Facebook page, seeing it as "another sign of the reforms under way in Ukraine."

Cash-starved Ukraine has been desperately waiting for the next instalment of a $17.5-billion rescue programme that has been held up repeatedly since it was agreed in 2015 over delays by Kiev to carry out reforms.

Ukraine has thus far seen only $7.3 billion of that money.

The IMF had delayed its decision on the next loan instalment, originally scheduled for March 20, saying it needed to reassess the "implications of recent developments for the programme".

The postponement came after Kiev's pro-Western leadership in March imposed a trade blockade on Russian-backed rebel-held eastern regions.

The head of Ukraine's Independent Association of Banks in Ukraine Roman Shpek has said that nearly all the money would go into refinancing the former Soviet republic's outstanding debt to the IMF.

Nakaitaci blow for Clermont

Top 14 and European Champions Cup title-chasers Clermont received another injury blow Monday with Noa Nakaitaci ruled out for the rest of the season with a serious knee injury.The 26-year-old Fiji-born France international wing ruptured cruciate ligame…

Top 14 and European Champions Cup title-chasers Clermont received another injury blow Monday with Noa Nakaitaci ruled out for the rest of the season with a serious knee injury.

The 26-year-old Fiji-born France international wing ruptured cruciate ligaments in his knee during Sunday's 29-9 European Champions Cup victory over Toulon.

As a result he will miss the semi-final against Irish province Leinster in Lyon in April, the final phase of the Top 14 championship and France's tour of South Africa in June.

A cruciate ligament injury usually requires a six-month layoff meaning Nakaitaci could also miss the beginning of next season.

The 15-times capped player will undergo surgery during the week at a private hospital in Clermont.

It is the latest blow for Clermont, the only French club remaining in the European tournament, with centre Wesley Fofana also out with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Danish church opens more night-time services to combat exodus of faithful

Churches in Denmark have opened more night-time services to boost attendances, according to a Diocese of Copenhagen survey. The move follows reports that parishioners are leaving the Church in big numbers, with more Danes becoming atheist…

Preview Churches in Denmark have opened more night-time services to boost attendances, according to a Diocese of Copenhagen survey. The move follows reports that parishioners are leaving the Church in big numbers, with more Danes becoming atheists.
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Konta withdraws from Charleston WTA event

Britain’s Johanna Konta withdrew from this week’s WTA Charleston event on Monday, citing a shoulder injury and illness which developed during her Miami Open victory.Konta, 25, who became the first British woman to win the Miami Open with victory over C…

Britain's Johanna Konta withdrew from this week's WTA Charleston event on Monday, citing a shoulder injury and illness which developed during her Miami Open victory.

Konta, 25, who became the first British woman to win the Miami Open with victory over Caroline Wozniacki on Saturday, was the highest-ranked seed due to play in Charleston.

"Charleston is a great tournament and I was really looking forward to taking part," Konta said in a statement.

"I was battling a slight shoulder injury and sickness during Miami which has taken hold since the end of the tournament."

With Konta out, Madison Keys becomes the highest ranked player in the tournament.

Venus Williams is also due to take part in the clay-court event.

US states begin legal action on Trump energy delay

Twelve US states and municipalities on Monday announced legal action against the Trump administration over delayed or stalled enforcement of energy saving standards for various consumer and commercial products.A lawsuit was filed Friday at an appeals c…

Twelve US states and municipalities on Monday announced legal action against the Trump administration over delayed or stalled enforcement of energy saving standards for various consumer and commercial products.

A lawsuit was filed Friday at an appeals court in New York disputing a six-month delay on ceiling fan standards coming into effect and demanding a court order to enforce them immediately, said a New York state official.

A 60-day notice of intention to sue the federal department of energy was filed Monday over apparent stalling by the Trump administration on publishing dates to introduce energy-saving standards for other products.

The standards would eliminate 292 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, save consumers and businesses $24 billion, and conserve the equivalent of 36 million households' annual electricity consumption over a 30-year period, said the petitioners quoting from previous federal estimates.

The lawsuit was filed by the state attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, the Pennsylvania department of environmental protection and the city of New York, the most populous metropolitan area in the country.

The attorney general of Maryland joined the coalition in sending the 60-day notice regarding the other standards.

New York state attorney general Eric Schneiderman said the delays meant the Trump administration was violating federal law.

The ceiling fan standard was due to come into effect on March 20, as announced one day before President Donald Trump was sworn into office.

The petitioners say the Trump administration has pushed back the date to September 30, and stalled on final standards for other items such as portable air conditioners, walk-in coolers and power supply equipment.

Making good on an election promise, Trump last week moved to curb rules that underpin US emissions targets and signed an order to review some of the climate legacy of his predecessor Barack Obama.

California and New York -- two of the most populous states -- had already signalled that they will press ahead with climate mitigation plans.

Trump has repeatedly questioned humans' role in warming the planet, vowed to slash Environmental Protection Agency funding and appointed anti-climate litigator Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA.

The United States is the world's second largest polluter. Around 37 percent of domestic carbon dioxide emissions come from electricity generation.

UN urges more support for states hosting Syria refugees

Syrian refugees are increasingly desperate after years in exile and face rising social tensions in overstretched regional host nations, a UN representative warned Monday, urging more funds and resettlement.”The refugee situation is not one country’s pr…

Syrian refugees are increasingly desperate after years in exile and face rising social tensions in overstretched regional host nations, a UN representative warned Monday, urging more funds and resettlement.

"The refugee situation is not one country's problem, it's everyone's problem, and everyone has to respond together," said Mireille Girard, UN refugee agency UNHCR's representative in Lebanon.

A conference in Brussels this week will seek to secure new funding and resettlement pledges from the international community, with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri expected to request upwards of $10 billion over five to seven years.

More than one million Syrians have taken refuge in Lebanon since their country's conflict began in March 2011, equal to a quarter of the tiny nation's native population.

The influx has strained Lebanon's limited resources and infrastructure, and caused resentment in some quarters.

"What we see at the moment is more tension between communities, we see demonstrations by some communities between the others," Girard said, echoing warnings from Hariri last week.

"We see some xenophobia mounting a bit, though... it's actually much less than in Europe," she added.

Among the refugee population, she said, there was increasing desperation, with many dependent on shrinking assistance and unable to support themselves.

"The levels of vulnerability of people have increased tremendously over the last two years," she told AFP.

"If they don't pay bills, they don't pay their rent, they accumulate debt -- this is a cause of social tension."

Girard said much of the Brussels conference's focus would be on funds for infrastructure, describing it as a way to create jobs, improve services and benefit host communities.

Hariri last week warned that Lebanon was at "breaking point" and "facing a crisis" over the number of Syrian refugees.

"I fear civil unrest," he said, adding that he would ask the Brussels conference for funds to improve schools, roads and security in Lebanon.

The Beirut government says the true number of Syrian refugees in the country is closer to 1.5 million rather than the official one million registered with the UN.

The UN stopped registering refugee figures in Lebanon in 2015, at the government's request.

Israel fears ‘Iranian crescent’ in Middle East

Israel fears an “Iranian crescent” may be forming in the Middle East because of Tehran’s influence in Syria and its connections with regional Shiite groups, an intelligence official said Monday.The comments from Chagai Tzuriel, director general of Isra…

Israel fears an "Iranian crescent" may be forming in the Middle East because of Tehran's influence in Syria and its connections with regional Shiite groups, an intelligence official said Monday.

The comments from Chagai Tzuriel, director general of Israel's intelligence ministry, illustrate his country's growing concerns over its arch-foe Iran's involvement in the conflict in neighbouring Syria.

Iran's support for Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, which also backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, also concerns Israel, as does Tehran's influence in Iraq and its support for groups such as the Huthi rebels in Yemen.

"I think that... Israel believes that if Iran bases itself for the long run in Syria it will be a constant source of friction and tension with the Sunni majority in Syria, with the Sunni countries outside Syria, with Sunni minorities outside the region, with Israel," Tzuriel told foreign reporters.

"And I think that may be only the tip of the iceberg," he added. "We're talking here about the creation of an Iranian crescent."

Part of it, he said, involved worries that Iran could complete a "land bridge" through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean.

Israel has sought to avoid being dragged into the six-year Syrian conflict, but has acknowledged carrying out strikes to stop advanced weapons deliveries to Hezbollah, with whom it fought a devastating war in 2006.

Last month, in the most serious incident between the two countries since the Syria war began, Israeli warplanes struck several targets there, drawing retaliatory missile fire.

Israel used its Arrow interceptor to destroy what was believed to have been a Russian-made SA 5 missile, and Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened to destroy Syria's air defence systems "without the slightest hesitation" if it happened again.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has held a series of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent months on how to avoid accidental clashes in Syria.

A "hotline" has been set up between the two countries, but Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz has said Moscow is not notified in advance of an Israeli strike.

Russia backs Assad in Syria, but Israeli officials say they are confident they can continue to coordinate with Moscow despite their differing interests.

Student debt may drag on home ownership: Fed’s Dudley

US students’ debt burden is soaring, creating a barrier to home ownership and economic mobility as well as a potential drag on consumer spending, a senior Federal Reserve policymaker said Monday.The phenomenon persists even as the overall picture for U…

US students' debt burden is soaring, creating a barrier to home ownership and economic mobility as well as a potential drag on consumer spending, a senior Federal Reserve policymaker said Monday.

The phenomenon persists even as the overall picture for US household debt has steadily improved.

A decade after the financial crisis, rising incomes and housing prices as well as steady job creation mean more mature borrowers are in better financial shape, said William Dudley, president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank.

Dudley is also vice chair of the Federal Reserve committee that sets the central bank's benchmark interest rates.

"Despite an improving labor market, overall delinquency rates on student debt remain stubbornly high, and repayment progress has slowed further, likely reflecting the recent introduction of more accommodative payment plans," Dudley said in prepared remarks.

According to research Dudley presented from the New York Fed, student debt levels have risen 170 percent since 2006, reaching about $1.3 trillion by the end of last year.

Furthermore, the number of students who borrow has grown, the amounts they borrow has risen and the rate at which they repay has slowed, all of which has contributed to higher overall debt levels.

Housing market analysts say pent-up demand from millennial would-be homeowners, many of whom delayed leaving their parents' homes during the Great Recession, is one factor driving up housing prices.

However, New York Fed research released Monday found that, while 65 percent of students owed $25,000 or less, those with debt at this level were significantly less likely to own a home by age 33 than people with no student debt at all.

"This finding is consistent with other past and ongoing research here at the New York Fed that points to the potential longer-term negative implications of student debt on homeownership and other types of consumer spending," Dudley said.

Turkey plans new ‘anti-terror’ offensives after Syria op: Erdogan

Turkey is planning new offensives this spring against groups deemed terrorist organisations by Ankara, even after the completion of a half-year operation inside Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday.Turkey announced last week that it had co…

Turkey is planning new offensives this spring against groups deemed terrorist organisations by Ankara, even after the completion of a half-year operation inside Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday.

Turkey announced last week that it had completed the Euphrates Shield operation in Syria, which began in August to expel Islamic State (IS) militants and Kurdish militia groups from the border area.

But Erdogan indicated that this by no means meant an end to cross-border operations by Ankara against IS and Kurdish groups classified by Turkey as terror groups, like the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

"The first stage, the Euphrates Shield operation... is over. But more will follow," Erdogan said in a speech in the Trabzon region near the Black Sea ahead of the April 16 referendum on expanding his powers.

"There is no stopping, the road continues. We are making preparations for new operations in other regions for getting to the terrorists on their hills. We will give new names to the new operations," he said.

Erdogan said IS, the PKK and also the Peoples' Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia, would face enduring "very nice surprises" from the spring.

The YPG is an ally of the United States in the fight against IS fighters in Syria, but is seen by Turkey as a terror group and the Syrian branch of the PKK.

"The next months with God's permission will be spring for the Turkish nation and a black winter for the terrorists," Erdogan added.

He did not specify where the new operations could take place.

Plans for a joint operation with the United States to capture the de facto IS capital of Raqa in Syria have floundered over Washington's support for the involvement of the YPG.

Turkey meanwhile wants to shunt the YPG out of the strategic Syrian town of Manbij. There has also been repeated speculation of new action to defeat the PKK in its stronghold of northern Iraq.

Analysts have said that Turkey risks being sidelined as the war in Syria enters a new phase, with the United States working with the Kurdish fighters, and Russia also open to cooperation with the YPG.

The Euphrates Shield operation which began on August 24 saw Syrian opposition fighters backed by the Turkish army recapture towns including Jarabulus, Al-Rai, Dabiq and Al-Bab.

Diver finds first-ever European cave fish

A diver spotted an unusual pink fish swimming in an underwater grotto in Germany, and researchers now say it is the first known cave fish ever discovered in Europe.The fish, known as a loach in the genus Barbatula, was found in the dark, remote, frigid…

A diver spotted an unusual pink fish swimming in an underwater grotto in Germany, and researchers now say it is the first known cave fish ever discovered in Europe.

The fish, known as a loach in the genus Barbatula, was found in the dark, remote, frigid underground caverns at the junction of the Danube River and Aachtopf springs in southern Germany, said the study in Current Biology.

Until now, more than 150 types of cave fish -- which typically have little pigment and no or very small eyes -- were known to reside on all continents except Antarctica and Europe.

Diver Joachim Kreiselmaier first spotted the strange-looking fish in August 2015, while exploring the deepest parts of the Danube-Aach system, said the study.

"No more than 30 divers have ever reached the place where the fish have been found," said Kreiselmaier.

"Due to the usually bad visibility, strong current, cold temperature, and a labyrinth at the entrance, most divers do not come back again for diving."

He took some photos, showed them to cave fish experts, and went back. He caught some live loaches and brought them back for study.

Researchers compared the loaches' physical and genetic characteristics to fish that swim near the surface by the cave and confirmed "that the cave loaches are indeed an isolated population and the first known European cave fish," said the report.

Since they live in darkness, the loaches' have smaller eyes that appear to be curved inwards, and their color is drastically faded compared to other fish.

Other adaptions by the cave fish include long, whisker-like barbels on their heads and larger nostrils.

Researchers say the European cave loaches likely arose in the last 20,000 years.

"It was only when the glaciers retreated that the system first became a suitable habitat for fish," said Arne Nolte from the University of Oldenburg and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology.

Trump welcomes Sisi in landmark visit, praises ‘fantastic job’ in Egypt

US President Donald Trump on Monday welcomed Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to the White House, the first such visit from an Egyptian president in almost a decade. “I just want to let everybody know that we are very much behind President al-Sisi, he has done a f…

US President Donald Trump on Monday welcomed Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to the White House, the first such visit from an Egyptian president in almost a decade.

"I just want to let everybody know that we are very much behind President al-Sisi, he has done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation," Trump said as the pair met in the Oval Office.

Matthews tops all Aussie podium to Basque sprint

Michael Matthews of Sunweb looked convincing as he won a bunch sprint on stage one of the Tour of the Basque Country on Monday.The 28-year-old got the edge on two other Australians Jay McCarthy of Bora and Simon Gerrans of Orica at the end of the 153km…

Michael Matthews of Sunweb looked convincing as he won a bunch sprint on stage one of the Tour of the Basque Country on Monday.

The 28-year-old got the edge on two other Australians Jay McCarthy of Bora and Simon Gerrans of Orica at the end of the 153km ride from Pamplona to Sarriguren.

Quick-Step's Julian Alaphilippe made a late solo break that appeared to have handed him the stage before he suffered an untimely puncture.

Defending champion Alberto Contador fell in the final kilometre of the race but rolled home unharmed.

"I'm not hurting anywhere for the moment," Spain's top Tour rider Contador said after losing no time in the race.

Tuesday's second of six stages should also end in a bunch sprint after a flat 173km run from Pamplona to Elciego.

EU, French militaries prepare to go it alone after Brexit, US warnings

Brexit will see the departure of the EU’s largest military force, leaving France as the bloc’s main military power. And as the US pressures Europe to take more responsibility for its own defense, much of that burden will likely fall on Paris.

Brexit will see the departure of the EU’s largest military force, leaving France as the bloc’s main military power. And as the US pressures Europe to take more responsibility for its own defense, much of that burden will likely fall on Paris.

Saudi Arabia’s Air Force pilots to receive pay raises of up to 60% as Yemen war rages on

Preview Saudi Arabia has announced a pay raise of up to 60 percent for the country’s air force pilots, according to SPA state news agency. It comes as the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen enters its third year.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Saudi Arabia has announced a pay raise of up to 60 percent for the country’s air force pilots, according to SPA state news agency. It comes as the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen enters its third year.
Read Full Article at RT.com

FIFA proposals on Israel settlements fall short: Palestinians

Palestinian football chief Jibril Rajoub on Monday renewed calls for FIFA to exclude Israel over games played in settlements on occupied land, expressing disappointment at the world’s body’s recommendations.Palestinians argue the presence of six Israel…

Palestinian football chief Jibril Rajoub on Monday renewed calls for FIFA to exclude Israel over games played in settlements on occupied land, expressing disappointment at the world's body's recommendations.

Palestinians argue the presence of six Israeli football clubs playing inside settlements in the occupied West Bank that are seen as illegal under international law is in breach of FIFA statutes.

They want football's governing body to force Israel to change policy.

A FIFA commission chaired by South Africa's Tokyo Sexwale was created in 2015 to try to resolve the dispute.

In March, Sexwale presented his recommendations to Palestinians and Israelis in a session described as "stormy".

Rajoub, who was present at the meeting, explained the potential solutions proposed by Sexwale during a press conference on Monday in Al-Ram, near Israel's separation wall that cuts through the West Bank.

Rajoub said none of the three options offered by Sexwale met Palestinian expectations.

He said he would "prefer that we go right away to sanction and to suspension (of the Israeli football federation)" but declared himself "realistic".

"I appreciate and I respect what (FIFA) did?.

The first recommendation proposes maintaining a status quo, which Rajoub said was in violation of international law.

The second stresses that FIFA statutes ban any federation from organising matches on a territory that is not its own, without the agreement of the federation of the country concerned.

The third would be to seek a compromise, but efforts to do so have failed.

"We were flexible, we were realistic but the other side insisted to act according to a policy of an expansionist, racist government," Rajoub said.

The UN Security Council condemned settlements in December for the first time since 1979.

Israel rejected the resolution but Human Rights Watch said it increased the pressure on FIFA to act.

Football's governing body has repeatedly postponed a decision on the issue.