Pleased to meet Nawaz Sharif: Donald Trump

Riyadh: United States of America President Donald Trump had a brief encounter with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Sunday and said he was pleased to meet him. The interaction took place before the Arab Islamic American Summit at the King Abdulaziz Conference Centre in Riyadh, GEO News reported. The US president shook hands with PM Nawaz and exchange of pleasantries took place between the two leaders.

During the brief meeting, Trump said that he was very pleased to meet PM Nawaz to which the premier responded that the feeling is mutual. King Salman Bin Abdulaziz also warmly welcomed the PM. Trump addressed the summit which was attended by leaders from 55 countries. PM Sharif arrived in Riyadh to attend the summit on the invitation of King Salman Bin Abdulaziz. After departing Islamabad in the morning, the premier arrived along with his delegation, which comprises several government officials and media persons, including foreign affairs’ adviser Sartaj Aziz and lawyer Akram Sheikh. The summit is being attended by around three dozen leaders of Islamic countries, including the prime ministers of Bangladesh and Malaysia, and presidents of Afghanistan, Egypt, as well as Trump.

New organism discovered by NASA in space station named after Kalam

Los Angeles: In great news for India, scientists at NASA have named a new organism discovered by them after much-loved and former Indian President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. Till date, the new organism – a form of a bacteria – has been found only on the International Space Station (ISS) and has not been found on earth!

Researchers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the foremost lab of NASA for work on inter-planetary travel, discovered the new bacteria on the filters of the International Space Station (ISS) and named it Solibacillus kalamii to honour the late president, who was a renowned aerospace scientist.

Kalam had his early training at NASA in 1963 before he set up India’s first rocket-launching facility in the fishing village of Thumba in Kerala. “The name of the bacterium is Solibacillus kalamii, the species name is after Dr Abdul Kalam and genus name is Solibacillus which is a spore forming bacteria,” said Dr Kasthuri Venkateswaran, senior research scientist, Biotechnology and Planetary Protection Group at JPL.

The filter on which the new bug was found remained on board the ISS for 40 months. Called a high-efficiency particulate arrestance filter or HEPA filter, this part is the routine housekeeping and cleaning system on board the international space station. This filter was later analysed at JPL and only this year did Venkateswaran publish his discovery in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.

According to Venkateswaran, even as it orbits the earth some 400 kilometres above, the ISS is home to many types of bacteria and fungi which co-inhabit the station with the astronauts who live and work on the station. Venkateswaran said even though Solibacillus kalamii has never been found on earth till date, it is really not an extra-terrestrial life form or ET.

“I am reasonably sure it has hitch hiked to the space station on board some cargo and then survived the hostile conditions of space,” explained Venkateswaran.

President Donald Trump begins first foreign trip to Middle East, Europe

New York: U.S. President Donald Trump on May 19 embarked on his first foreign visit to Saudi Arabia, Israel and global summits in Italy and Belgium.

As he leaves for Saudi Arabia on Friday afternoon, Trump posted a tweet “Getting ready for my big foreign trip. Will be strongly protecting American interests – that’s what I like to do!”

But the political turmoil in Washington over Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey and the simultaneous developments involving allegations of forcing Comey to stop investigating former security adviser Michael Flynn and the appointment of a special counsel to look into the allegations of Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections and his presidential campaign’s ties to Russia, threatens to overshadow his first overseas trip as President.

With his first stop at Riyadh, President Trump will focus on strengthening relations between the Saudis and America.

President Trump will then land at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel on Monday, May 22 where he will be received in a special ceremony on the tarmac.

President Trump will have meetings with President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump will be the first serving president to visit the Western Wall.

Both, Jerusalem and Riyadh, will question President Trump on the Iran nuclear deal.

In Europe especially, they want to know whether Trump will pull out of the Paris climate accord and want to test his true feelings for Russia, which is seen as a threat in much of Europe, The CNN reported.

Indian detained by US immigration at Atlanta airport dies in custody

Washington: A 58-year-old Indian man died in Atlanta in the US after he was detained by US Customs for not possessing necessary immigration papers.

Atul Kumar Babubhai Patel, taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, died due to congestive heart failure on Wednesday, the American Bazaar Online reported on Friday.

Patel landed at Atlanta airport on May 10 from Ecuador. After his detention, Patel was shifted to the Atlanta City Detention Centre where he received an initial medical screening and was identified to have high blood pressure and diabetes, according to an ICE statement.

On May 13, two days after being in ICE custody, a nurse checking Patel’s blood sugar noticed he had a breathing problem following which he was shifted to a hospital where he passed away, said the report.

According to the ICE, the agency followed all protocols and all appropriate state health and local law enforcement agencies were notified about the death. The agency said it also informed the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility about the incident.

Patel is the eighth detainee to die in ICE custody in this fiscal year.

ICE officials informed the Indian consular representatives, who notified Patel’s family about his death, the report said.

Emmanuel Macron: From political newbie to youngest French President

Paris, A civil servant who became a millionaire investment banker and eventually a government minister is now the youngest President of France. Welcome Emmanuel Macron, a complete unknown four years ago.

The founder of the political movement “En Marche!”, Macron, 39. is a centrist who never stood for elections before, did not have the backing of a traditional party and had no constituency or firm voter base.

No wonder, he was branded by critics as inexperienced, having served only as Economy minister as his most senior role for just two years.

A part of Macron’s allure is his atypical rise from a civil servant to a popular presidential nominee. He can present himself as anti-establishment to those disaffected by the fractious nature of French politics.

He is staunchly pro-European, wants to put France back at the heart of the European Union and defend the bloc’s single market.

He has styled himself as a progressive maverick who is “neither Left nor right”, economically liberal, pro-business but leftwing on social issues, including on the freedom to practise religion in a secular state, equality and immigration.

Macron puts the problem of unemployment, which President Francois Hollande failed to solve, among his top priorities. He seeks to reduce it to below 7 per cent.

He also wants to cut 120,000 public sector jobs, reduce public spending by €60 billion ($65 billion) and plough billions into investment.

His policies include remaking the “failed” and “vacuous” French political system, relax labour laws, encourage social mobility, reduce number of MPs and establish an eurozone government.

Macron has also unveiled a series of business-friendly measures designed to boost the French economy and is vocal in the fight against terror.

He has announced proposals to hike defence spending, hire 10,000 more police officers and create a task force which would work around the clock to fight Islamic State.

Macron wants better pay for teachers.

His wife Brigitte Trogneux is a former school teacher from Amiens, 24 years older than him.

They first met when he was 15 and have officially been a couple since Macron turned 18. Macron said she is his right hand in preparing campaign speeches.

Trogneux’s influence over Macron’s politics is visible: His manifesto highlights education as a top priority.

On broader foreign policy, Macron has struck a diplomatic tone, promising to seek constructive dialogue with US President Donald Trump and to work with Russia, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia towards lasting political solutions in Syria and elsewhere.

Macron was born on December 21, 1977, in the northern city of Amiens to Francoise Nogues, a physician, and Jean-Michel Macron, a professor of neurology.

He obtained a Master’s degree in public affairs at Sciences Po, before training for a senior civil service career at the Ecole nationale d’ administration in Strasbourg, the training ground for France’s political elite. He graduated in 2004.

But instead of plunging into politics, Macron assumed a post at the Rothschild Bank.

In 2006, Macron became a member of the Socialist Party. From 2012 to 2014, he served as an adviser to President Hollande but quit after the latter failed to appoint him as chief of his administration.

He returned to politics on August 26, 2014 when he was appointed the economy minister. He was seen as a liberal politician, advocating balanced state finances and liberal market.

In 2015, he announced he was an independent politician. In August 2016, he resigned from the government.

This was shortly after he announced the formation of his own political movement “En Marche!”. He called it a mix of elements from both the Left and the right.

Macron led a remarkable campaign, defying the traditional mainstream parties, courtesy his “En Marche!”.

He won endorsement from Hollande, Republicans’ Francois Fillon and Alain Juppe, moderate François Bayrou and Socialist ex-Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

Even former US President Barack Obama threw his weight behind him.

Hindu man arrested over alleged blasphemy in Pakistan

Islamabad: A 35-year-old Hindu man in Pakistan has been arrested for allegedly sending blasphemous contents through WhatsApp. Prakash Kumar, a shop owner, was arrested yesterday in Hub area of Lasbela district in south-western province of Balochistan. Senior Superintendent of Police Lasbela Zia Mandokhel confirmed the arrest after a compliant was registered by the local people against him.

“Police registered a case and started a probe after arresting the accused. The cellphone used to send alleged content was also seized,” he said. A local court has sent the suspect to jail for further interrogation in the case. Kumar owns a shop in Hub where local people also organised a rally in protest against him. The protesters staged a demonstration outside a police station in Hub, demanding the closure of the shop owned by Prakash. Deputy Superintendent of Police Lasbela Jan Mohammad Khosa and other officials were injured as the protesters hurled stones at them during the demonstration, The Express Tribune reported.

The controversial blasphemy laws were introduced in Pakistan by former military ruler Zia-ul Haq in the 1980s and anyone charged under the laws become an easy target for extremists. The laws have been misused by miscreants and efforts to reform them have failed due to opposition by religious groups. Former governor Punjab Salman Taseer was killed by his police guard in 2011 for criticising the blasphemy laws. Last month, a university students was killed by fellow students in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province for alleged blasphemy.

Macron ‘convinces’ majority of French viewers in TV debate

Paris: French centrist Emmanuel Macron impressed more viewers than his far-right rival Marine Le Pen in a fiery TV debate, a poll found today, underlining his status as the favourite for this weekend’s presidential runoff. The candidates clashed repeatedly over terrorism, the economy and Europe in yesterday’s hot-tempered debate that was watched by 16.5 million people. A poll by French broadcaster BFMTV found that 63 per cent of viewers thought Macron was the “most convincing” of the two, broadly mirroring the forecast result for the decisive election on Sunday. The duel was billed as a confrontation between Macron’s call for openness and pro-market reforms and Le Pen’s France- first nationalism.

Le Pen branded the former economy minister and investment banker “the candidate of the elite” and the “darling of the system”. Macron responded by describing the 48-year-old scion of the National Front (FN) as “the heir of a system which has prospered from the fury of the French people for decades”. “The high priestess of fear is sitting before me,” he said.

The 39-year-old frequently branded Le Pen a liar and even a “parasite of the system”, who he said lived off the frustrations of France’s stalled political system. On Europe, Le Pen accused Macron of being “submissive” towards German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying: “France will be led by a woman, either me or Mrs Merkel.” She also accused Macron of an “indulgent attitude” towards Islamic fundamentalism and constantly sought to remind viewers of his role as a minister in unpopular President Francois Hollande’s Socialist government.

But Macron was in combative form throughout, repeatedly portraying Le Pen’s stance as simplistic, defeatist or dangerous and targeting her proposals to withdraw France from the euro in particular. The euro policy “was the big nonsense of Marine Le Pen’s programme,” he said midway through the 140-minute debate. Le Pen called the euro, shared by 19 countries in the European Union and blamed by some in France for a rise in prices, as “the currency of bankers, it’s not the people’s currency”.

Like much of the French press, Le Monde said the debate had been “brutal” and “violent from start to finish”. Former Socialist prime minister Manuel Valls said Le Pen “showed her true face” in the debate and “it’s worrying”. Trailing in the polls, the debate was probably Le Pen’s last chance to change the dynamics of the race ahead of the final weekend of a long and unpredictable campaign.

But the poll by Elabe for BFMTV showing that Macron had convinced 63 per cent of viewers compared to 34 per cent for Le Pen suggests she did little to win over new support. Macron would win around 60 per cent to 40 per cent if the vote were held now, surveys suggest. Today, Macron was holding a campaign event in the southwest town of Albi while Le Pen was heading to Ennemain in the north.

The TV duel marked a new step into the mainstream for Le Pen, whose party was once considered by France’s political establishment to be an extremist fringe that should be boycotted. When her father Jean-Marie Le Pen made it into the final round of the presidential election in 2002, his conservative opponent Jacques Chirac refused to debate with him out of fear of “normalising hate and intolerance”.

In the first round of the election on April 23, Marine Le Pen finished second scoring 21.3 per cent after softening the FN’s image over the past six years – but without fully removing doubt about the party’s core beliefs. She sees her rise as the consequence of growing right- wing nationalism and a backlash against globalisation seen in the election of Donald Trump in the United States and Britain’s shock vote to leave the European Union. “I am the candidate of the people of France such as we love it, of the nation that protects jobs, security, our borders,” she said in her opening comments. The debate was unlikely to have swayed any committed supporters of either candidate, but it could influence the roughly 18 per cent of undecided voters and others who were planning to abstain.

Many supporters of Communist-backed candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who came fourth in the first round, have said they will not vote on Sunday, comparing the final round as a choice between “the plague and cholera” Macron quit Hollande’s government last August to concentrate on his new centrist political movement En Marche, which has drawn 250,000 members in 12 months.

Queen Elizabeth II’s husband Prince Philip to retire from royal engagements

London: Prince Philip, 95-year-old husband of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, is retiring from royal duties, Buckingham Palace announced on Thursday.

The Palace said in a statement it was the Duke’s decision taken with the support of the Queen.

“His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh has decided that he will no longer carry out public engagements from the autumn of this year. In taking this decision, the Duke has the full support of the Queen,” a statement said.


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Duke of Edinburgh,  who is 95 to step down from royal duties this autumn: 

The Duke, who turns 96 next month, will attend previously scheduled engagements between now and August but will not accept new invitations, BBC reported. The Queen “will continue to carry out a full programme of official engagements”, the palace said.

Prince Philip carried out 110 days of engagements in 2016. He is patron, President or a member of more than 780 organisations and will continue to be associated with them, but “will no longer play an active role by attending engagements”, Buckingham Palace said.

In the statement, the palace spokesman said the Duke “may still choose to attend certain public events from time to time”. On Thursday, Prince Philip and the Queen are due at a service for members of the Order of Merit at the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace before hosting a lunch for those attending.

The Duke and the Queen celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary in November.

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Duke of Edinburgh,  who is 95 to step down from royal duties this autumn: 

South Koreans begin early voting to replace ousted Park

Early voters can cast ballots today and tomorrow at about 3,510 polling stations across the country before the election next Tuesday, the National Election Commission said in a statement. It’s South Korea’s first presidential election with early voting after introducing it for parliamentary and mayoral elections in recent years, the statement said. Pre-election surveys show liberal candidate Moon Jae-in comfortably leading his two main rivals – a centrist and a conservative.

The winner will be sworn in as the new president immediately, forgoing the usual two-month transition. Park’s impeachment and removal from office changed South Korea’s election schedule, so the new president will serve one full five-year term.

Park is currently jailed at a detention centre near Seoul awaiting her trial on allegations that she extorted money from businesses, took kickbacks from some of those companies and committed other wrongdoing, all in collaboration with a longtime confidante. The trial is to formally start later this month.

A commission-run website showed about 4 million people had voted by midafternoon. South Korea has 42,479,710 eligible voters, according to the election commission.

First Muslim female judge in US found dead

New York: Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first-ever female Muslim judge in US history and the first African-American woman to serve on New Yorks highest court, was found dead in the Hudson River, police said. The body of Judge Abdus-Salaam, 65, was discovered floating fully clothed on the Manhattan side of the river by the Henry Hudson Parkway — just a mile from her central Harlem home — on Wednesday afternoon, officials said. She was taken to a pier on the Hudson River and was pronounced dead by paramedics, New York Daily News reported.

The police were investigating how she ended up in the river, and it was not clear how long Judge Abdus-Salaam, who lived nearby in Harlem, had been missing. There were no signs of trauma on her body, the police said. She was fully clothed. A law enforcement official said investigators had found no signs of criminality. Her husband identified the body.

Since 2013, Judge Abdus-Salaam had been one of seven judges on the State Court of Appeals, reported The New York Times. Before that, she served for about four years as an associate justice on the First Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court, and for 15 years as a State Supreme Court justice in Manhattan. She was previously a lawyer in the city’s Law Department.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement on Wednesday that Judge Abdus-Salaam was a pioneer with an “unshakable moral compass”. “Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a more fair and more just New York for all.”

He added: “As the first African-American woman to be appointed to the state’s Court of Appeals, she was a pioneer. Through her writings, her wisdom and her unshakable moral compass, she was a force for good whose legacy will be felt for years to come.” Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said her colleague will be “missed deeply.” “Her personal warmth, uncompromising sense of fairness and bright legal mind were an inspiration to all of us who had the good fortune to know her,” she said.

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