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9 die in western Mexico shootout, official slain in south


9 die in western Mexico shootout, official slain in south

Mexico City: A shootout between rival gangs in western Mexico killed at least nine people and wounded four, authorities said Wednesday.

Prosecutors in the state of Michoacan said the confrontation occurred near the city of Uruapan. They did not identify the gangs involved, but the Jalisco cartel and a small gang known as the Viagras have been active in the state.     Assault rifles were found at the scene. Also Wednesday, authorities said gunmen killed a city official in the southern state of Guerrero.

The state prosecutors’ office said in a statement that Simón Gama García was exercising Wednesday morning when two people approached and shot him. He was identified as secretary-general of the town of Coyuca de Catalan. Prosecutors released an image showing forensic investigators examining the scene with evidence markers on the ground near a bicycle.

Killings of Mexican political officials rose in 2018, an election year, and then tapered off, but are still not uncommon. On April 25 a mayor and two others were slain in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz. The previous day a mayor was kidnapped and killed in Michoacan. Overall homicides in Mexico were up 9.7% in the first quarter, compared with the same period in 2018.




Mobile networks in Asia, Europe suspending orders of Huawei smartphones post US restrictions


Mobile networks in Asia, Europe suspending orders of Huawei smartphones post US restrictions

Hong Kong: Mobile networks in Asia and Europe have issued suspending orders for Huawei smartphones following the US decision last week to restrict the company’s access to American technology, the media reported.

The inclusion of Huawei on an export blacklist means the Chinese company can no longer source software or components from US suppliers without a license. Existing devices are unaffected but the restrictions threaten future Huawei products and its leading position in building super-fast next generation 5G networks, CNN reported.

Vodafone, the world’s second largest mobile operator, said on Wednesday that it had paused pre-orders in the UK for the Huawei Mate 20X (5G) smartphone. “This is a temporary measure while uncertainty exists regarding new Huawei 5G devices,” a company spokesperson told CNN Business.

The UK’s biggest carrier, EE, is also delaying the introduction of Huawei’s new smartphones. The company had touted the Mate 20X in a preview of its 5G network last week. Japan’s top mobile operators took similar steps against another device, the Huawei P30 Lite, earlier on Wednesday. The phone was scheduled to launch in the country later this month.

Leading Japanese telecoms firm NTT Docomo announced that it has stopped taking reservations for the phone, and is “looking into the impact of the US restrictions”, Docomo spokesperson Yoshikumi Kuroda said. Rival carriers KDDI and SoftBank Corp. said they will delay the release of the new Huawei phone.

The suspension of orders is the first tangible evidence that US President Donald Trump’s administration’s latest escalation of its campaign against Huawei on grounds of national security is hurting the company’s business, CNN reported. Huawei overtook Apple last year to become the world’s No. 2 smartphone brand behind Samsung, and it relies on markets outside of China for half of its sales. The US export ban has forced Google to cut Huawei’s new devices off from its Android ecosystem. A temporary reprieve by the US Commerce Department allows Google to service existing Huawei devices for the next 90 days.




US man put plane on autopilot to have sex with minor, faces jail


US man put plane on autopilot to have sex with minor, faces jail

Washington: A 53-year-old millionaire trader could get five-year jail term after pleading guilty to engaging in sex acts with a 15-year-old girl, once even putting his private plane in autopilot mode for the purpose.

Stephen Bradley Mell, 53, of Bedminster, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to federal charges of engaging in interstate travel to engage in illicit sexual conduct and receiving child pornography in December 2018 and is now due for sentencing on Tuesday.

Mell, a father-of-three who had a brokerage firm, was accused of committing sex acts with a 15-year-old girl whose mother had approached him so that he could give her flying lessons, the Daily Mail reported.

Ahead of his sentencing, Mell’s legal team has argued he is a ‘humble man’ who was on ‘multiple anti-depressants’ after falling into ‘a spiral of depression’ brought on by survivors’ guilt over giving up his seat on a fatal helicopter trip with friends in 2012. Mell started his own charity, Air LifeLine, which flew children with medical needs anywhere in the US for treatment.




First PIO lawmaker in Australian Parliament


First PIO lawmaker in Australian Parliament

Melbourne: Dave Sharma, the Liberal candidate and former Australian ambassador to Israel, has scripted history by becoming the first Indian-origin lawmaker in the country’s Parliament after winning a seat in Sydney suburb in the federal election.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is close to securing a majority government as the election’s final results are being counted. Sharma, 43, defeated independent candidate Kerryn Phelps for the eastern suburb seat of Wentworthin district.

Sharma, who had lost to Phelps in a by-election six months ago, claimed the seat of Wentworth with 51.16 per cent of the vote. Very humbled by the trust placed in me by the people of Wentworth. Look forward to being a voice for them in Parliament and the party room,” Sharma said in a tweet.

He said the three main issues he wanted to focus on were national security, female workforce participation and making sure Australia remains at the high end of the value chain. Sharma, who was Australia’s ambassador to Israel from 2013 to 2017, also brushed aside questions as to whether he will be given a position in Prime Minister Morrison’s new Cabinet.




Indian medical students can appear in exams: Nepal Supreme Court


Indian medical students can appear in exams: Nepal Supreme Court

Kathmandu: Nepal’s Supreme Court has ordered a prominent university here to allow 32 Indian students pursuing medical studies in one of its affiliated colleges to appear in their annual examinations, months after they were debarred for not passing an entrance conducted by the institution’s Institute of Medicine, according to a media report.

The apex court in its order May 17 ordered the Tribhuvan University to allow the 32 Indian students from appearing in their annual examinations, observing that they had cleared the Indian government-conducted National Eligibility cum Entrance Test, which meant that they had fulfilled the criterion set by Nepal Medical Council under the MBBS programme, the Himalayan Times reported.

The students, who are pursuing MBBS at Nepal’s Janaki Devi Medical college affiliated to the Tribhuvan University, were to appear for their annual examination on December 20 last year.

However, they were not allowed to appear in the exams citing none of them had cleared an entrance conducted by the Institute of Medicine, the paper reported on Saturday. The students filed a case but then the apex court had denied staying the TU’s order, saying the exam had already started.

However, the apex court on Friday ordered the university to allow the students from appearing in their annual examination.
The court said that foreign students pursuing their MBBS studies at Kathmandu University were being allowed to appear for exams and hence, it would be unfair to bar the students from appearing in the exam, the paper reported.




Eleven killed in shooting in a bar in Brazil: officials


Eleven killed in shooting in a bar in Brazil: officials

Rio de Janeiro: Gunmen killed at least 11 people in a bar in northern Brazil on Sunday, officials said. The shooting took place in the city of Belem, the public safety department of northern Para state said.

There was no immediate word on the motive of the shooting. The attackers fled but the news website G1 quoted police as saying one was wounded and is in police custody. The fatalities are six women and five men, G1 said. Seven men carried out the shooting after arriving on a motorcyle and in three cars, said G1. They fled after the attack. The bar where the shooting took place is in a neighbourhood which got police reinforcements in March to fight crime.




Sweden set to ban smoking in public places


Sweden set to ban smoking in public places

Stockholm: Sweden is set to ban outdoor smoking from July this year, in a bid to prevent diseases associated with smoking and passive smoking, such as cancer, according to the Minister for Health and Social Affairs. The latest ban is a step towards achieving the “Smoke-Free Sweden 2025” goal. The initiative is aimed at reducing smoking to less than 5 per cent of the population by 2025, Xinhua reported.

Under the ban, smoking will not be allowed in outdoor serving areas at cafes and restaurants, along with public playgrounds, bus shelters, and train platforms, sports arenas and entrances to civic buildings. Vapes or e-cigarettes are also covered under the ban.

Around 8,30,000 US dollars have been allocated to Sweden’s Public Health Agency for 2019 to run a national awareness campaign to implement the change in law. They will also be extending support to municipalities to implement the law locally.

“The contribution to the voluntary sector is an important part. We need to have a community-based approach to ensure that the law has an impact, but also because in the long term we will achieve the goal of a tobacco-free Sweden 2025,” Lena Hallengren, the Minister for Health and Social Affairs told the Swedish national public television broadcaster SVT. Almost half the funding will be given to organisations that work preventatively to reduce tobacco use, as per the public broadcaster.

Sweden’s governing body voted to extend the smoking ban as of July 1, 2019. Smoking is currently allowed in designated smoking areas in most workplaces and public places. Official figures show only 11 per cent of the Swedish population of 10 million smoked daily in 2016, with about 10 per cent smoking occasionally.




US holding Iran scientist ‘hostage’ for seven months


US holding Iran scientist ‘hostage’ for seven months

Tehran: The US has detained an Iranian scientist for nearly seven months for allegedly attempting to ship growth hormones, Iranian media said Sunday, quoting his brother as saying he is being held “hostage”.

Masoud Soleimani, 49, a professor and senior stem cell researcher at Tehran’s Tarbiat Moddares University, left for the US on October 22, 2018, IRNA said. He was to undertake a six month study in the US, but was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation at Chicago airport.




Voting under way in climate-dominated Australians election


Voting under way in climate-dominated Australians election

Sydney: Australians flocked to the polls Saturday capping a bitterly fought election that may be the first anywhere decided by climate policy. Between 16 and 17 million people are expected to vote across the vast island-continent, with the opposition centre-left Labor party tipped for victory. Casting his ballot in Melbourne, would-be prime minister Bill Shorten was bullish about forming a majority government after a final poll showed his lead increasing.

“Today is the people’s day,” he said. “Be it buying a ‘democracy sausage’, the kids having a bit of a sugar cake or what have you, and voting.” “In the event that the people of Australia voted to stop the chaos and voted for action on climate change, we will be ready to hit the ground from tomorrow.” Weeks ago, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative Liberals had been heading for an electoral drubbing.

But he has closed the gap with a fiercely negative campaign — backed by powerful right-wing media — targeting older, wealthier voters who face fewer tax breaks under Labor. On the eve of the election, Morrison predicted it would be “the closest election we’ve seen in many, many years”. But anger over his government’s inaction on climate change may prove the difference between the two parties.

A season of record floods, wildfires and droughts have brought the issue from the political fringes to front and centre of the campaign. In traditionally more conservative rural areas, climate-hit farmers are demanding action. And in several rich suburbs, a generational shift has seen eco-minded candidates running Liberal party luminaries close.

In northern Sydney, former prime minister Tony Abbott — who once described climate change as “crap” — appears at risk of losing a seat he has held for more than two decades to independent challenger Zali Steggall, a lawyer and Olympic medallist in Alpine skiing.

Early rising voters in the constituency trickled into a beachside surf club to cast their ballots, as volunteers wearing bright orange “I’m a climate voter” t-shirts handed out pamphlets. “I’m worried about the climate and that Australia is not doing enough,” volunteer Catherine Willis told AFP. Shorten has pledged quick legislation to increase renewable energy, while the Liberals said they would not risk the coal-fuelled economy’s health to make the air cleaner.

Australia is among the world’s largest exporters of coal, providing thousands of jobs in the northeast of the country. A final survey by Newspoll published Saturday showed voters still deeply divided, with Morrison’s coalition trailing Shorten’s Labor 48.5 to 51.5 percent. The campaign has been an often ill-tempered pitched-battle. Candidates have been egged and abused, and a slew have resigned for racist, sexist and otherwise jaw-dropping social media posts.

In Abbott’s battleground seat, a 62-year-old man was arrested and charged with thrusting a corkscrew into the stomach of someone putting up campaign banners on the eve of the election. If Morrison wins, it would be a monumental comeback, having scraped for his political life in the hope of not entering the history books as one of the shortest-serving prime ministers in Australian history.

He took office last August after a party room coup by conservative hardliners that ousted moderate pro-climate leader Malcolm Turnbull — the latest in a series of political fratricides that have made Canberra politics look like “Game of Thrones” meets “The Hunger Games”.

Much of Morrison’s cabinet has resigned or gone into virtual hiding during the campaign because of their unpopularity. If Shorten is elected, he would become the sixth prime minister sworn into office in a decade. The former union leader has struggled with low personal approval ratings but has become a more polished campaigner as the election has neared. Still, his relative lack of charisma was underlined Thursday by the death of much-loved former prime minister Bob Hawke, an Oxford-educated lovable rogue, equally at home chugging a pint or debating Keynesian economics.

But the upswelling of sadness about Hawke’s death could remind voters of less contentious times under Labor. Should Labor win, Australia will likely get a vote on becoming a republic and, as Shorten put it, returning a head of state that the country has borrowed from the other side of the world for more than two centuries. Polls opened at 8:00 am (2200 GMT) and the first exit polls are expected around 10 hours later.




No benefit in breaking up Facebook: COO Sheryl Sandberg


No benefit in breaking up Facebook: COO Sheryl Sandberg

San Francisco: As the chorus grows to break up Facebook, the social networking platform’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg has said that it won’t serve any purpose.

“You could break us up, you could break other tech companies up, but you actually don’t address the underlying issues people are concerned about,” she told CNBC in an interview on Friday.”People are concerned about election security, content, privacy and data portability,” Sandberg added. Several US Senators have called for breaking up the social network amid repeated data breaches and privacy violations on the platform.

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris has stressed that authorities should take a serious look at breaking up Facebook as the social network platform is a “utility that has gone unregulated. Another Democratic 2020 candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren has also stressed upon the possibility of breaking up Facebook.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, however, rejected these calls, saying the size of the social media giant was actually a benefit to its users and the security of the democratic process. Facebook has kept aside $3 billion, anticipating a record fine coming from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) related to the Cambridge Analytica data scandal that involved 87 million users.

In an opinion piece in The New York Times last week, Facebook Co-founder Chris Hughes said the government must hold Mark (Zuckerberg) accountable. “Mark’s personal reputation and the reputation of Facebook have taken a nose-dive,” wrote Hughes, adding that it was time to break up the company.




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