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Daily News & Analysis
 •  Investigators identify Russian military unit in downing of flight MH17

A missile system from the 53rd anti-aircraft brigade of the Russian Armed Forces was used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, prosecutors investigating the disaster said on Thursday.

The airliner was hit by a Russian-made missile on July 17, 2014, with 298 people on board, two-thirds of them Dutch, over territory held by pro-Russian separatists. All aboard died.

"The buk (missile system) that was used came from the Russian army, the 53rd brigade," Chief Dutch Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke told Reuters. "We know that was used, but the people in charge of this buk, we don't know."

Investigators appealed to the public to come forward and help identify members of the crew who operated the missile and determine how high up the chain of command the order originated.

"The Russian Federation didn't help us in providing us the information we brought out into the open today," Westerbeke said. "They didn't give us this information, although a buk (missile system) from their military forces was used."

Russia has denied involvement in the incident. There was no immediate comment from Moscow on the investigative development.

In an interim update on their investigation, prosecutors said they had trimmed their list of possible suspects from more than a hundred to several dozen.

He said investigators were not yet ready to identify individual suspects publicly or to issue indictments, but that when they do he expects cooperation, or a firm international political response.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte cut short a trip to India to return in time for a cabinet meeting on Friday to discuss the latest findings in the inquiry, the ANP news agency reported.

A Joint Investigation Team, drawn from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, is gathering evidence for a criminal prosecution in the downing of the plane.

Ukrainian Army General Vasyl Hrytsak, a member of the investigation team, told Reuters it would be crucial to pinpoint who issued the orders to move the missile system.

"The next crucially important step is to identify some members of the military in the 53rd brigade of the Armed Forces of (Russia)...who can directly say who was involved in the transfer or operation of the buk (missile system)."

The Dutch Safety Board concluded in an October 2015 report that the Boeing 777 was struck by a Russian-made Buk missile.

Dutch prosecutors said in September 2016 that 100 "persons of interest" had been identified in the investigation, while Australian and Malaysian officials had initially expressed hope that suspects' names would be made public in 2017.

Eventual suspects are likely to be tried in absentia in the Netherlands after Russia used its veto to block a U.N. Security Council resolution seeking to create an international tribunal to oversee criminal complaints stemming from the incident.

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Thu, 24 May 2018-05:40pm
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 •  Priyanka Gandhi is a game changer; will have a bigger role in 2019: Salman Khurshid

Congress leader Salman Khurshid has said that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is a game changer and has a big role to play ahead of the 2019 elections.

Khurshid made the remarks while speaking to Dainik Bhaskar.

Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, however, added that the decision was Priyanka Gandhi’s alone “It suggests that Priyanka Gandhi plays very important role in the roles she chooses to take up. It is her choice & decision. He has not said that she is standing for elections, there is nothing to speculate,” Singhvi said.

Earlier, Congress President Rahul Gandhi had said that he will become the Prime Minister if the party emerges as largest in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

Speaking at a gathering of prominent personalities in Bengaluru, when asked if he will become the Prime Minister, the Congress chief said that it depends on how well the Congress party does.

On Wednesday, a bevy of leaders, from UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi to NCP's Sharad Pawar, from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to her arch rival CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, attended the swearing in ceremony of HD Kumaraswamy as Karnataka Chief Minister.

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav and BSP supremo Mayawati, who have sewn up an alliance in Uttar Pradesh, were among the first to arrive on stage.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who recently walked out of the NDA and is now a bitter critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his Kerala counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad's son Tejashwi Yadav, former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren of JMM, DMK chief M Karunanidhi's MP daughter Kanimozhi, and RLD leader Ajit Singh were among those present.

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Thu, 24 May 2018-05:10pm
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 •  Race 3 song Selfish teaser: It's a love triangle between Salman Khan, Jacqueline Fernandez and Bobby Deol

The teaser of the second song from the album of Race 3, 'Selfish' is out. The short clip sees Jacqueline Fernandez playing both Bobby Deol and Salman Khan's love interest.

Although we don't get to see her in the red saree, a picture of which was shared by Salman yesterday, it's not hard to make out by the feel of the song that director Remo D'souza has made an attempt to channel his Yash-Raj dreams through this romantic-number, crooned by Atif Aslam.

The song has been shot in two exactly opposite geographic locations. While Jacqueline and Salman's sequence seems to have been shot in the snow-clad mountains of Leh-ladakh, the one with Bobby has been shot against the backdrop of a desert.

Interestingly, the lyrics of 'Selfish' have been written by Salman himself and the Jacqueline's part has been sung by his rumoured girlfriend and Romanian singer, Iulia Vantur. 

Talking about writing the song, Salman had earlier said in an interview, "While discussing the creative for the song, I penned down a few thoughts on paper in sync with the plot of the film, which is about the selfishness within the family. When the music director Vishal Mishra heard it, he got extremely excited and said he will come back with a tune for the same. I said, ‘But this is a part of a conversation and not lyrics’. However, he insisted to use the thoughts as it is for the song. Everyone loved the thoughts and wanted it to be used for the song."

Watch the teaser of 'Selfish' here - 

The full song will be out tomorrow, i.e. May 25. Race 3, directed by Remo D'Souza, also stars Anil Kapoor, Daisy Shah and Saqib Saleem. It will release on Eid - June 15. 

 

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Thu, 24 May 2018-04:03pm
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 •  Shocking and baseless: China reacts sharply to report that Xi Jinping asked Pak to relocate terrorist Hafiz Saeed

China today dismissed as ‘shocking’ and ‘baseless’ a media report that President Xi Jinping has asked Pakistan to relocate the Mumbai terror attack mastermind and JuD chief Hafiz Saeed to a West Asian country, amid mounting international pressure on Islamabad to act against him.

According to the report, a close aide of the prime minister of Pakistan said that Xi made the suggestion to Shahid Khaqan Abbasi during their meeting on the sidelines of the Boao Forum in China last month.

"At a 35-minute meeting, at least 10 minutes of the discussion dealt with Saeed. The Chinese President was keen on pressing the Prime Minister to find an early solution to keep Saeed away from the limelight," an unnamed close aide of Abbasi was quoted as saying.

Reacting to it, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson's office said today the report was "shocking and baseless".

"It is shocking and baseless that's all we can say," the official from the spokesperson's office told PTI here, declining to comment further on the report.

Considering the close relations enjoyed between China and Pakistan, there is sense of disquiet here over the report in the backdrop of the current tussle between the Pakistan government headed by Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and the powerful military.

Earlier this month, Pakistan's ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who has been disqualified to hold public office for life by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case, admitted Pakistan's involvement in 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.

Without naming Saeed and Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar's militant organisations operating in the country with impunity, Sharif said: "Militant organisations are active in Pakistan." "Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill over 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can't we complete the trial," he said in an interview to Dawn newspaper, which created furore in Pakistan.

Saeed carries a USD 10 million American bounty for his role in terror activities. He is the mastermind behind the 2008 Mumbai terror attack in which 166 people, including six US nationals, were killed.

While Saeed has been declared a global terrorist by the United Nations after the Mumbai terrorist attacks, China has put repeated technical holds on India, US, UK and France's efforts in the UN to list Azhar as a terrorist for his involvement in the Pathankot terrorist attack.

The JuD is believed to be the front organisation for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) which is responsible for carrying out the Mumbai attack. It has been declared as a foreign terrorist organisation by the US in June 2014.

The US Department of the Treasury has designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and the US, since and the US, since 2012.

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Thu, 24 May 2018-04:17pm
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 •  UK set for parliamentary showdown on Brexit law 'in weeks'

The British government said on Thursday its key piece of Brexit legislation would return to the House of Commons in a matter of weeks, the next stage in what is expected to be a major test of Prime Minister Theresa May's authority.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is central to the government's Brexit plan, repealing the laws that made Britain an EU member and transposing existing EU law into British law.

"I aim to bring back the very important Brexit legislation within weeks," said Andrea Leadsom, leader of the House of Commons, without giving a specific date.

May, who has struggled to unite the government and parliament behind her vision of Brexit, has said Britain will leave the European Union’s single market and customs union after it quits the bloc next March.

Britain's upper house of parliament, the House of Lords, has inflicted 15 defeats on the legislation, including on core Brexit issues such as whether Britain should leave the EU's single market and customs union.

The government will seek to overturn these amendments when the legislation returns to the lower House of Commons.

But there are concerns that the government may be defeated by pro-European rebels in May's Conservative Party on whether Britain should leave the customs union that could force her into a damaging policy U-turn.

 

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Thu, 24 May 2018-04:09pm
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 •  Aamir Khan: I was constantly swimming against the tide to do the films I believed in

His box office credentials are unmatched today but Aamir Khan says despite facing initial scepticism of the industry people, he has always been someone who believed in experimenting with film roles. The actor, who has completed 30 years in Bollywood, walked down the memory lane to reflect on the film choices that set him apart from the crowd and made him feel like a "lone ranger".

"When I came into the industry, I was a minority, I was a lone ranger, who was trying to do films that I believed in, but the market did not believe in it and a host of people also did not believe in it," Aamir said in a group interview here. With hits such as "Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak", "Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander", "Baazi", "Earth", "Sarfarosh", "Lagaan" and "Dangal", Aamir has come to be known as one of the most bankable stars in cinema today but the actor said it has not been an easy ride to stardom.

"I was constantly swimming against the tide to do the films I believed in. Now the tide has changed. So the films that I believed in then and no one else did, have actually become more mainstream today." Aamir, 53, believes the audiences' sensibilities are changing and if "Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander" would have released today, it had better chances at the ticket window.

Asked if he thinks the risk has paid off now, he said, "I don't know if I can say that, I was not doing it for a pay-off, I was just doing it. I was not concerned if it will pay-off or not, my focus was to do films that I believed in. When I do a film like 'Talaash', I know it is not going to be the biggest hit of the year but I want to do it." The actor has bridged the gap between commercial and content-driven cinema but insisted he is not searching for social content in a film.

"I am not setting out for what the next social issue (should be). I have had a mix range of films like 'Delhi Belly', 'Thugs of Hindostan', 'Dangal', etc, I am getting drawn to stories which I like."
The actor said he reacts to a script like an audience member.

"It has to be something that excites me, engages me, sometimes it might have a message, sometimes it might not. I don't think whether it is commercial or not. I am not able to think like that. I feel my cinema should be good and I want it to be loved by as many people (as possible)." He became a star overnight with success of his debut film as lead actor "Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak" in 1988 and realised he had become famous when he could no longer use the public transport. In 1973, Aamir appeared as child actor in his uncle Nasir Hussain's film "Yaadon Ki Baaraat".

"The first time I sensed I had become popular was after 'Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak'. It was quite mad. I did a successful film, but I didn't have the money to buy a car. I used to travel by autorickshaw, bus or a train but after a point, I couldn't," he said.
"I used to ask my uncle, 'Can I borrow your car? I have to go somewhere... There are just people everywhere I go'," he added. Aamir said he earned Rs 11,000 for his debut. 
 

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Thu, 24 May 2018-04:02pm
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 •  Don't think Christians are being attacked: Cardinal Oswald Gracias slams Delhi Archbishop's remark

The president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India has hit out at the Delhi Archbishop's circular to churches and other Christian institutions across the country to hold prayers nad observe a fast on Fridays for the sake of the nation.

In his letter, Anil Couto, the Archbishop, said that, ‘We are witnessing a turbulent political atmosphere which poses a threat to the democratic principles enshrined in our Constitution and the secular fabric of our nation…As we look forward towards 2019, when we will have new government, let us begin a prayer campaign for our country from May 13, 2018 which marks the anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Mother at Fatima, consecrating ourselves and our nation to the Immaculate Heart.’

In response to the circular, Cardinal Oscar  Gracias, President of Catholic Bishops' Conference of India said he didn't think Christians were being attacked all over the country. "It's unfortunate that there are misguided elements who create problems. Govt must give a strong message that such incidents won't be tolerated," he told ANI.

Cardinal Gracias, who is also the Archbishop of Mumbai, was one of the 22 Cardinals who selected Pope Francis.

Delhi's Archbishop Anil Couto's circular drew a lot of flak.  Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that, ‘PM is working towards inclusive growth without discriminating while breaking barriers of religion and castes. We can only ask them to think with progressive mindset.’

BJP’s Shaina NC also criticised the Archbishop’s circular, saying, ‘Wrong to try and instigate castes or communities. You can tell them to vote for the right candidate or party but to suggest to vote for one party and not another and term yourself as secular is unfortunate.’

The RSS also slammed the circular. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue Rakesh Sinha termed the move as a ‘direct attack on Indian secularism and democracy’.

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Thu, 24 May 2018-03:37pm
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 •  'Those were the days when we all liked each other', Preity Zinta shares throwback picture featuring SRK, Priyanka Chopra

Preity Zinta might be away from Bollywood as she is not doing any films currently, but she surely knows how to stay connected with her buddies. She is one actress who is friends with almost all the members of the Hindi Film Industry - be it the Khans, Bachchans or Kapoors. 

Giving us a sweet reminder of the yesteryears, the dimple-girl of Bollywood shared an epic throwback picture on Instagram today, featuring Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Rani Mukherjee, Arjun Rampal and Saif Ali Khan. This one is from their 'Temptation Tour' which was held in London in 2004. 

Preity captioned the pic as, "Those were the days when there was no social media and we all liked each other ! Today we like each other’s comments but hardly have time to hang out like this!"

Here's what she posted - 

While the picture obviously got instant likes, it was the caption that resonated the most with her followers. "Golden days. golden for you as well as for us," wrote a fan.

A twitterati got so excited about it that he went ahead and unleashed a pandora of pictures from the 2004 tour. And we must say that they are all worth preserving! 

Here have a look at them - 

This is not the first time when she took to the photo-sharing app to share an old picture. The actress has shared several pictures with her co-stars in the past. Earlier in March this year, she had posted a movie still from her debut film 'Dil Se' with Shah Rukh Khan. 

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Thu, 24 May 2018-02:55pm
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 •  Sonam Kapoor to give Lisa Mishra, the girl whose 'Tareefan' rendition went viral, her big Bollywood break?

The Veere Di Wedding team recently had a big music launch in Mumbai during which they introduced us to four songs from their album - the title track 'Veere', the party number that's on everyone's playlist these days ' Tareefan', the song that's going to be a hit this shaadi season 'Bhangra Ta Sajda' and Jasleen Royal's 'Laaj Sharam'. 

But, if Sonam Kapoor's recent Instagram story is to go by, then there might be an interesting addition to this list. YouTube sensation Lisa Mishra, whose latest video (in which she has remixed 'Tareefan' with Justin Bieber's 'Let Me Love You') has the entire Bollywood industry mesmerised, might make her big Bollywood break this year, through Veere Di Wedding. 

Sonam posted a small video of Lisa on her Insta story and wrote, "Guess who we brought down! Lisa Mishra recording something beautiful for us." The singer further confirmed the news by making the same story a 'highlight' on her official Instagram account. 'Cat's outta the bag,' she wrote. 

"Blown away with this rendition of Tareefan! What a fresh and beautiful voice," Anil had earlier tweeted about Lisa. 

Here's the video that has garnered 175,460 views in just 4 days of its release - 

Having over 1 million subscribers on her YouTube channel and a cool folowing of 63K on Instagram, Lisa's bio reads - "Brown girl writing code by day and songs by night." Lisa has also done Bollywood covers of songs like Dil Diyan Gallan, Zaalima, and Kabira. 

The double-major in Economics and Religion, recently collaborated with Jamila Woods on the theme song for the Emmy-nominated web series called “Brown Girls.”

Lisa left India in 2000 and now resides in Chicago but she clearly couldn't leave behind her love for Bollywood songs. As unreal as may sound, she is not a trained singer and films her songs in single takes!

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Thu, 24 May 2018-01:04pm
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 •  Apple to join hands with Volkswagen in employee transport technology

Even as people are not too confident of autonomous technology, Apple is reportedly partnering with Volkswagen to use the technology for its employee transport.

The two giants have joined hands to turn the existing T6 Transporter vans into self-driving shuttles for Apple employees, The Verge reported.

Apple is long-known to be working on its own self-driving car technology. However, the technology is yet to be seen in its full bloom.

The reported partnership with Volkswagen comes after Apple's negotiations with other car majors such as BMW and Mercedes did not materialise owing as the iPhone maker wanted control over the design of the vehicle and the data it generates.

Apple has its own car division, codenamed Project Titan. The company once aimed to build both the hardware and software for a new autonomous vehicle, but since last year, the new shuttle service known as

PAIL or Palo Alto to Infinite Loop has taken precedence over other goals. 

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Thu, 24 May 2018-02:53pm
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 •  Qualcomm announces Snapdragon 660 with 710 SoC for mid-range Android phones

Qualcomm has announced the successor to its mid-range processor Snapdragon 660 with the new Snapdragon 710.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 SoC includes AI enhancements compared to its predecessor. Qualcomm says the newer chipset will be able to offer improvements in applications including voice-based user interfaces from photography to biometrics, The Verge reported.

It includes the X15 LTE modem and Spectra 250 image processor. Other features include improved up to 800 Mbps download speed, 10-bit colour support, and overall 20 percent performance enhancement with reduced power consumption.

The new Snapdragon 710 SoC will be the first Qualcomm chips to support playback of 4K HDR video outside of the flagship offerings.

Qualcomm is promising the first Snapdragon 710-powered phones to be released sometime in second quarter of 2018. 

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Thu, 24 May 2018-01:58pm
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 •  Facebook develops AI to convert meaningless whistling into melodious tune

Facebook has developed an AI that can turn simple whistling into musical masterpieces with the help of neural network training.

The AI can not only turn whistling, but theoretically can convert music in one style or genre into any other on its own.

The system uses unsupervised training to teach a neural network on creating similar noises on its own instead of repeating notes. It prevents the AI from simply memorising the audio signal by purposefully distorting the input, Engadget reported.

It will be able to redo a Metallica riff as a classical piece, Mozart symphony into harpsichord-heavy performance, whistling into orchestral Indiana Jones, and so on.

The possible use case is simple, allowing musicians to experiment with genre-defying covers and remixes. While it is not clear where Facebook will use this technology, but it won?t be far-fetched to see it turn into a music app allowing people to turn musicians without conventional instruments. 

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Thu, 24 May 2018-01:49pm
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 •  Israel to approve new West Bank settlements, 2,500 new homes to be built

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Thursday he would request approval from a planning committee for the building of 2,500 new homes in 30 West Bank settlements.

"The 2,500 new units we'll approve in the planning committee next week are for immediate construction in 2018," Lieberman said in a statement, adding he would also seek the committee's approval for a further 1,400 settlement units for later construction.

"We committed to advancing construction in Judaea and Samaria and we're keeping our word," Lieberman said, using the biblical terms for the West Bank.

"In the coming months we will bring forward thousands more units for approval." Israel's West Bank settlements are considered illegal under international law and are bitterly opposed by Palestinians.

In a Tuesday appeal to the International Criminal Court, the Palestinian foreign ministry called Israeli settlements "the single most dangerous threat to Palestinian lives and livelihoods".

While Israel would expect to retain certain settlements in any two-state peace deal, longstanding international consensus has been that their status must be negotiated. 

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Thu, 24 May 2018-01:35pm
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 •  Thailand police raids four Buddhist temples, arrests senior monks in temple

Thai police raided four Buddhist temples on Thursday, arresting several prominent monks and worshippers in the year's biggest such operation amid a crackdown on illegal financial dealings by temples.

The raids are the military government's latest bid to reform Buddhism, which is followed by more than 90% of Thailand's population of 69 million, but whose image has been tarnished by money and sex scandals involving monks.

"This is the investigation stage... it will all come down to facts and evidence," police official Thitiraj Nhongharnpitak, of the Central Investigation Bureau, which is investigating the monks, told reporters.

More than 100 police commandos raided four temples in Bangkok, the capital, and the adjacent central province of Nakhon Pathom, in the early hours of Thursday.

Among those arrested was Phra Buddha Issara, 62, an activist monk who led street protests in 2014 and launched a campaign to clean up Buddhism, but gained enemies by publicly naming other religious leaders he accused of wrongdoing.

He was held over a robbery said to have been committed during the anti-government protest in 2014, police said.

Phra Phrom Dilok, 72, a member of the Sangha Supreme Council, which governs Buddhist monks in Thailand, was arrested over alleged embezzlement of temple funds, they added.

Two other senior monks, Phra Sri Khunaporn and Phra Wichit Thammaporn, both assistant abbots of Bangkok's Golden Mount temple, were also arrested over alleged embezzlement, police said.

A representative for Buddha Issara, who declined to be identified, expressed concern.

"We are concerned because we do not know what Phra Buddha Issara is being charged with," he told Reuters.

Representatives of the other three monks did not immediately respond to Reuters' telephone calls to seek comment.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said the arrests were about getting to the bottom of the allegations. "This is part of the investigation," Prawit said.

Thailand's temples, which earn billions of dollars every year from donations, have been embroiled in scandals ranging from murder, sex and drugs to shady financial dealings.

Under pressure from the junta, Thailand's body of Buddhist monks has been trying to clean up its own act since last year, by enforcing tougher discipline for more than 300,000 monks.

The military took power in a 2014 coup it said was needed to restore order after months of anti-government protests, and has promised to hold elections next year, despite postponing the date several times.

Buddhist monks are highly respected in Thailand and taking action against them was historically considered taboo. But recent scandals have forced authorities to rethink how they handle allegations against Buddhist religious leaders. 

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Thu, 24 May 2018-01:06pm
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Phra Phrom Dilok, 72, a member of the Sangha Supreme Council is escorted by police officers at the Thai Police Crime Suppression Division headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, May 24, 2018.
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 •  Facebook expands counter-intuitive anti-revenge porn approach in US, UK, Canada

Facebook has announced that it is expanding its unusual approach at combating revenge porn floating on its platform to the US, UK, and Canada.

The pilot program had been running only in Australia in partnership with only the office of the Australian government's e-Safety Commissioner.

The unusual method, which is still work in progress, uses a technical approach called hashing to tag sexually explicit photos that a user fears may be circulating without their consent, The Verge reported.

Hashing adds a numerical code to an image which Facebook says cannot be read by humans. The viewable image is then removed from the company's servers once the hash is logged.

Facebook is partnering with safety organisations in the select regions so as to allow people to securely submit their photos, so that the company can block them from being uploaded to Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger.

The process includes contacting one of the Facebook's trusted partners. A user is required to fill out a form and upload the images from a one-time upload link. Once the image is uploaded and hashing is done, Facebook notifies the user through an email and deletes the images from the servers within seven days. 

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Thu, 24 May 2018-12:50pm
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Thursday, 24 May 2018 - 12:50pm
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 •  Tough conditions make human brains grow large: Study

Tough conditions are responsible for making the human brain unusually large, says a study which contradicts the notion that we evolved bigger brains to cope with complex social relationships.

The study, published in the journal Nature, sheds light on a mystery long cast over the story of human evolution.

Researchers at the University of St Andrews in the UK found that when human ancestors cooperated to solve problems, this made brains smaller as working together allowed human beings to save investing resources in the brain.

"The findings are intriguing because they suggest that some aspects of social complexity are more likely to be consequences rather than causes of our large brain size," said Mauricio Gonzalez-Forero from University of St Andrews.

"The large human brain is more likely to stem from ecological problem-solving and cumulative culture than it is from social manoeuvring," said Gonzalez-Forero.

For decades debate has raged over why the human brain has evolved to be so unusually large.

A number of theories exist including the 'social brain hypothesis', which suggests that bigger brains evolved to help manage our increasingly complex social lives.

The researchers created a new mathematical model to ascertain which situations are actual causes, rather than just side effects, of large brains.

It mechanistically models the energy costs of brain growth and maintenance and the brain's ability to enable its bearer to solve environmental and social problems.

The study found that human-sized brains and bodies can evolve when individuals live in tough environments, engage in lots of cooperation, and undergo a reasonable amount of between-group conflict.

However, in contrast to current understanding, the study found that it is tough environments in particular that expand brain size, provided that individuals can keep improving their skills through their youth.

Such sustained improvement of the individuals' skillsets as they age may be facilitated by cultural processes, ie, learning things that previous generations have figured out rather than figuring them out for themselves.

The study concluded that a combination of difficult environments and cultural processes likely caused human brain expansion.

The effect of cooperation and between-group competition is not to increase brain size, but actually to decrease it, researchers said.

The reason is that, by cooperating, individuals can rely on each other's brains and so can save resources by growing smaller brains themselves, they said. 

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Thu, 24 May 2018-04:12pm
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 •  Nipah virus claims one more life in Kerala, toll goes up to 11

The death toll due to Nipah rose to 11 in Kerala, with one more person succumbing to the deadly virus here this morning.

The deceased, V Moosa (61), had been battling for life since the past few days in a private hospital here and was on ventilator support.

Kozhikode district medical officer, Dr Jayasree E told reporters.

About 160 samples have been sent for testing at the virology institute and 13 cases have been found to be positive, she said.

Of the 13 confirmed cases, 11 people have died so far.

The official further said confirmation is awaited with regard to one more death in Kozhikode.

This is the fourth death in Moosa's family.Moosa's sons Mohammed Saliah (28), Mohammed Sadiq (26) and a relative Mariumma had died earlier.

While two of the deaths have been confirmed due to Nipah, the blood samples of one of his sons had not been tested for the virus, sources said.

Nurse Lini Puthussery, who had initially treated members of Moosa's family who had been affected at Perambra Taluk hospital in the district, also died after being infected by the virus.

The state government has also issued an advisory, asking travellers to avoid visiting the four districts of Kozhikode, Malappuram, Wayanad and Kannur.

"Travelling to any part of Kerala is safe. However, if travellers wish to be extra cautious, they may avoid the four districts," Health Secretary Rajeev Sadanandan said.

The government has also called for an all-party meeting at Kozhikode on May 25 to discuss the issue.

Most of the deaths reported are from Kozhikode and Malappuram districts from where 11 deaths have now been reported and 18 are undergoing treatment in various hospitals, including one in Wayanad.

Isolation wards have also been set up in Thalassery government hospital in Kannur, according to media reports.

In Kozhikode, from where seven deaths have been reported, District Collector U V Jose has ordered temporary stoppage of all training programmes and summer camps in affected areas such as Changaroth, Koorachund, Kottur, Cheruvannur, Chekyad, Chakkittapara and Olavanna.

The anganwadis in these regions too have been asked to close down to avoid spread of the virus among children.

However, no decision has been taken yet on reopening of schools after the summer vacation.

The administration is hoping that the situation will be under control by the time schools reopen after a week.

In neighbouring Malappuram, where three persons have died due to the virus, orders have been issued in four panchayats to stop Anganwadi classes for the time being.

A crisis management group has been constituted to coordinate the response of government agencies following the deaths in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts.

An expert team from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), including its director, Dr Sujeet Kumar Singh and Head of Epidemiology, Dr S K Jain, and a high-level team from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) are camping in Kerala to take stock of the situation.

Surveillance has been increased in all districts.

The outbreak of the virus infection, which is a newly emerging zoonosis that causes severe disease in both animals and humans, is suspected to be from an unused well which was infested with bats.

The natural host of the virus is believed to be fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family, Pteropus genus.  

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Thu, 24 May 2018-12:17pm
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 •  PM Narendra Modi lauds lawmakers and central, state officials for success of Gram Swaraj Abhiyan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday thanked lawmakers and central and state officials for making Gram Swaraj Abhiyan a success.

The Prime Minister took to Twitter and wrote, "Gram Swaraj Abhiyan was a success due to the active participation of Ministers, MPs, MLAs, representatives of various local bodies, officials of the state governments, topmost officers of the Central government, civil society members and Self Help Groups. I thank them all."

Prime Minister's tweet came two days after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah held a press conference in this regard and released various figures related to the campaign.

Prime Minister Modi said the aim of the Abhiyan was to take the fruits of development to the poorest of the poor in 16,850 villages from April 14 to May 5 as a tribute to Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.

Sharing the key details of the campaign, he wrote on Twitter, "During 21 days of Gram Swaraj Abhiyan: 7.53 lakh Ujjwala connections distributed. 5,02,434 households electrified under Saubhagya Yojana. 25.03 lakh LED bulbs distributed across 16,682 villages. Immunisation of 1,64,398 children and 42,762 women under Mission Indradhanush."

"From 14th April to 5th May 2018: 20,53,599 Jan Dhan beneficiaries were added. 16,14,388 Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana beneficiaries were added. 26,10,506 beneficiaries were added under Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana," he added.

The Prime Minister further emphasised that the movement is a great example of effective service delivery at the doorstep and furthering ease of living.

He wrote, "As a part of the Gram Swaraj Abhiyan, various teams ventured across the villages and ensured complete coverage of 7 leading Central Government schemes. This movement is a great example of effective service delivery at the doorstep and furthering ease of living."

With the campaign, the Centre seeks to "promote social harmony, spread awareness about pro-poor initiatives of government reach out to poor households to enroll them as also to obtain their feedback on various welfare programmes".

As part of the campaign, the Centre seeks to enroll eligible beneficiaries in 21,058 identified villages across 530 districts under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Saubhagya, Ujala scheme, Pradhan Mantri

Jan Dhan Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana and Mission Indradhanush.

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Thu, 24 May 2018-12:21pm
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Thursday, 24 May 2018 - 12:21pm
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 •  Cyclone Mekenu hits Yemeni island, 7 missing and hundreds evacuated

Seven people were missing and hundreds of others evacuated from their homes after Cyclone Mekunu hit the Yemeni island of Socotra, causing severe flooding and damage to houses, officials said.

Four of the missing were crew on board a boat that sunk when the storm hit the island in the Arabian Sea, a fisheries ministry official told the news agency.

Another official said that 150 families had been evacuated and moved to government facilities after downpours caused houses and streets to flood, trapping people in their homes.

Some residents carrying children tried to escape through the flooded streets, an AFP correspondent said.

Authorities called on humanitarian organisations and the Saudi-led military coalition that is battling Huthi rebels in the country to help, according to state-run news agency Saba.

In neighbouring Oman, authorities announced through the official news agency they were taking "necessary precautions" in case the cyclone hits the Gulf sultanate.

Millions of Yemenis are living in dire conditions as a result of a long-running civil conflict, which since 2015 has pitted a Saudi-led coalition against the Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

But Socotra has been spared involvement in the violence, which has claimed nearly 10,000 lives since March 2015 and triggered what the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

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Thu, 24 May 2018-12:07pm
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(Cyclone Mekenu hits Yemeni island)
Heavy rain and strong winds from Cyclone Megh took Socotra’s port out of service and caused extensive damage to the island’s roads, 80 percent of which became impassable.
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 •  Donald Trump fundraiser launches over 40 subpoena blitz in Qatar legal fight

Lawyers for Elliott Broidy, a top fundraiser for US President Donald Trump, have sent out more than 40 subpoenas to internet service providers, lobbying firms and others in an escalating legal fight against Qatar for allegedly hacking into his emails, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

The subpoenas, issued in recent weeks as part of a civil suit filed by Broidy in a Los Angeles federal court in March, come as Qatar and its rivals wage a multi-million dollar battle for influence in Washington over the Trump administration's policies toward the Gulf region.

The lawsuit accuses Qatar of orchestrating the theft and leaking of Broidy's emails as retribution for his support of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which along with Egypt and Bahrain levied economic sanctions against Qatar last June.

The emails were distributed to various media outlets, leading to weeks of damaging stories about Broidy.

Nicolas Muzin and his lobbying firm Stonington Strategies LLC are also named as defendants in the case. Both Qatar and Muzin have denied involvement in any hacking.

Broidy is scheduled to file an amended complaint on Thursday to the Los Angeles federal court. His lawyers will expand the list of defendants, adding people suspected of carrying out the hack or disseminating material, a third person with knowledge of the matter said.

One subpoena seen by Reuters asked the recipient to hand over documentation of any communications related to Broidy with more than a dozen lobbying and public relation firms, some of which are registered as foreign agents for Qatar.

Another recipient of a subpoena was Avenue Strategies Global LLC, a lobbying firm founded by former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and Barry Bennett, according to two sources with knowledge of the subpoena.

Lewandowski had left Avenue Strategies by the time it was hired by the Qatari embassy as a client. Bennett, who was an adviser to the Trump campaign, did not respond to a request for comment.
It was not clear whether the subpoenas would prove effective. One source said he believed most of the lobbying firms would at least initially decline to provide information and contest the matter in court.

 

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Thu, 24 May 2018-11:54am
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Thursday, 24 May 2018 - 11:54am
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