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Over 50 female volunteers in Syria join 'National Defense Forces'
Update Time: 2017-11-04 20:18:00
More than 50 female volunteers in Syria have joined the "National Defense Forces" (NDF), an organization founded by the Syrian government to alleviate the shortage of soldiers during the long war in the country. The female volunteers in the NDF were selected under a series of strict standards, as the number of women applying for enrollment had been much larger than expected, according to the unit command. "We joined the army to protect our hometown, and let our people live in safety. We have the same rights as men to safeguard our hometown. You know, Syria is a country advocating gender equality," said Jiana Eid, a soldier in the NDF, as reported by The training courses for the female soldiers are different according to their physical fitness. Most learned mine clearance and reconnaissance, while some will receive combat training for two months and fight on the frontline against terrorist and extremist groups. Though aware of the dangers they face on the battlefield, most of the female soldiers have no regrets. "I'm not worried about my family, because all of my family members agree with my choice. Everyone should protect his or her hometown and country. All males and females, old and young people have the same obligation," said Jiana. 
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Afghanistan moves to block WhatsApp, Telegram messaging services
Publish Time: 2017-11-04 12:22:00
Afghanistan’s telecoms regulator wrote to internet service providers this week ordering them to block the messaging services WhatsApp and Telegram but it was not immediately clear whether they had complied.Use of social media and mobile instant messaging services has exploded in Afghanistan over recent years. Social media users and civil rights groups reacted with outrage to initial reports of the move and the letter sent by telecoms regulator ATRA was widely shared on social media.Some media reports, citing unidentified sources, said the move had been ordered by the National Directorate for Security to thwart the use of the encrypted messaging services by the Taliban and other insurgent groups. It was not immediately possible to confirm the reports.The acting minister for telecommunications, Shahzad Aryobee, posted a message on Facebook saying that the telecoms regulator had been ordered to put a gradual block on the services to improve their functioning after complaints had been received. “The government is committed to freedom of speech and knows that it is a basic civil right for our people,” he wrote, as reported by Reuters.The letter by telecoms regulator ATRA, dated Nov. 1 and signed by an official of the regulator, directed internet companies to block Telegram and Facebook Inc’s (FB.O) WhatsApp services “without delay” for a period of 20 days.However, the service worked normally this week and still appeared to be working normally on Saturday on both state-owned operator Salaam and private service providers.On Friday, there were reports of interruptions but it was not clear whether they were caused by a deliberate shutdown or by the unrelated issues with WhatsApp services that were experienced in several countries.Mobile phone services have been one of the big success stories in Afghanistan since the Taliban were ousted from power by a U.S.-led campaign in 2001, but there are also frequent complaints from users about quality and coverage.WhatsApp and similar services, including Facebook Messenger and Viber, are widely used by Afghan politicians and members of the government as well as by the Taliban, which has a sophisticated social media operation of its own.The movement’s main spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, wrote to reporters this week giving his Vibe
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Donald Trump embarks on marathon tour of Asia
Publish Time: 2017-11-04 10:45:00
US President Donald Trump has embarked on an 11-day trip to Asia during which he will visit Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. It will be the longest tour of Asia by a US president in 25 years.The trip comes at a time of heightened tensions with North Korea over its nuclear programme and missile tests, BBC reports. Mr Trump is expected to show a united front with South Korea and Japan while pressing China to take a stronger line with Pyongyang.President Trump flew first to the US state of Hawaii where he visited the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor - the scene of the 1941 Japanese attack that drew the US into World War Two. He also took part in a briefing at the US Pacific Command.From Hawaii, he and First Lady Melania Trump will head to Japan and then on to South Korea.Mr Trump has previously exchanged some fiery rhetoric with North Korea over its ballistic missile tests but aides said earlier this week that he would not go to the heavily fortified demilitarized zone (DMZ) on the border between the South and North. He is, however, to visit Camp Humphreys, a US military complex south of the capital, Seoul.In Vietnam, Mr Trump will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Danang and make a state visit to Hanoi. His final engagement will be a summit of South-East Asian nations in the Philippine capital, Manila.The last time a US president made such a marathon trip to Asia was when George HW Bush visited the region in late 1991 and early 1992. While in Japan on that trip, Mr Bush fainted and vomited during a banquet.
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Uzbekistan president offers support to Trump following NY terror attack
Publish Time: 2017-11-01 13:28:00
Uzbekistan's president has offered his support to Donald Trump following the terror attack in New York. A suspect from the country, Sayfullo Saipov is thought to have driven a truck which ploughed into pedestrians on a cycle path, killing eight people.Media named him as Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek immigrant who came to the US in 2010. US President Donald Trump has ordered the Department of Homeland Security to "step up" vetting measures, after a deadly truck attack in New York. 
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Ukraine's Anticorruption Agency Detains Interior Minister's Son
Publish Time: 2017-11-01 11:15:00
Anticorruption investigators of Ukraine have detained the son of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. Sources in the National Anticorruption Bureau (NABU) were quoted as saying that Oleksandr Avakov was detained on October 31 after his home in the eastern city of Kharkiv was searched.Avakov confirmed to the Ukrayinska Pravda news site that detectives "came to my son to conduct a search." NABU said in a statement that it detained three individuals, including a former deputy interior minister and a businessman, in an embezzlement case.It said the investigation relates to the alleged embezzlement of 14 million hryvnyas ($520,000) of state budget funds allocated to the Interior Ministry to buy backpacks in 2014-2015.NABU did not give any names, saying that the detained persons will soon be officially informed that they are suspects in the case. Earlier that day, NABU confirmed Facebook media reports saying that searches were conducted at the residences of "individuals believed to be involved" in the case, but did not give any names.Meanwhile Ukraine's Interior Ministry said it considers NABU's actions “grounded in politics rather than the law." "A hybrid war that is going on in Ukraine focuses on discrediting politicians and officials who firmly stand for reforming and improving state institutions, in particular the law enforcement system," a statement said. "During his tenure as interior minister, false information about the minister, members of his family, and his closest colleagues has been disseminated to discredit Arsen Avakov," it added.In February, NABU said that a probe into the alleged embezzlement of state budget funds allocated for purchasing 6,000 backpacks by the Interior Ministry for Ukraine's armed forces fighting Russia-backed separatists in the country's east was being concluded.
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Eight people killed in New York terror attack
Publish Time: 2017-11-01 01:05:00
US President Donald Trump has ordered the Department of Homeland Security to "step up" vetting measures, after a deadly truck attack in New York, the BBC reports. Eight people were killed and 11 injured when the driver of the truck hit people on a cycle path in Lower Manhattan. Five Argentines were among the dead.A 29-year-old man was shot by police as he left the car, and detained. Media named him as Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek immigrant who came to the US in 2010. Officials said it was a terror attack.
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Merkel preaches tolerance, religious freedom at Reformation ceremony
Publish Time: 2017-11-01 00:06:00
Invoking the spirit of the Reformation, Chancellor Angela Merkel called for religious freedom and tolerance on Tuesday and said Germany should lend extra support to the children of refugees “who have experienced awful things.”“We have learned that tolerance is the soul of Europe,” she said at a ceremony on the 500th anniversary of the reformation in Wittenberg, where Martin Luther is said to have nailed his theses challenging Catholicism to a church door.Luther argued against what he saw as abusive practices by Catholic preachers, though the reformation divided western Christianity and resulted in violence, persecution and discrimination.Merkel, the daughter of a protestant pastor, praised Luther’s translation of the Bible into a standard form of written German, which she said made its teachings accessible to the population at large. “Religious education was a fundamental concern of the reformation,” she said, stressing the importance of education for everyone.“To learn and develop skills, some children need to be given more support than others - for example when parental support is lacking. This applies too to integrating children from refugee families who have experienced and undergone awful things.”Merkel has come under fire for allowing more than one million migrants to enter Germany over the past two years - a decision that saw her conservatives bleed support to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in a national election last month.People from different backgrounds often knew too little about each other, she said, stressing the importance of dialogue between religions. “Just as the freedom of belief always has to be protected from religious fanaticism, so freedom of worship, on the other hand, requires that religion be protected from contempt,” Merkel added. To honor the 500th anniversary, Reformation Day was a public holiday in Germany this year, Reuters reports.
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9 corpses discovered in suburbs of Tokyo
Publish Time: 2017-10-31 08:13:00
Nine bodies, including two with their heads severed and dumped in a cool box, have been found by police in the suburbs of Tokyo. Police confirmed on Tuesday they had arrested 27-year-old Takahiro Shiraishi, who lives in the apartment in Zama, south of Tokyo.According to Japanese broadcaster NHK, Shiraishi told police: 'I killed them and did some work on the bodies in order to hide the evidence.' Jiji Press said Shiraishi had told police that he chopped up the bodies in a bathroom and a saw was found in his room.The bodies were of eight women and one man, several media reported. A police spokesman could not immediately confirm these reports.Police found the two heads inside a cool box at the entrance of the apartment before making the grisly discovery of the other bodies, according to Jiji Press. Police found the other bodies in a number of large boxes in the apartment, reports said.Authorities had been investigating the disappearance of a 23-year-old woman and discovered a connection between her and Shiraishi. This woman had earlier tweeted 'I'm looking for someone to die with me,' according to the Sankei Shimbun daily.Other media said Shiraishi and the woman had connected via a website featuring information about suicides. Television pictures showed a heavy police presence blocking off a nondescript white-tiled terraced apartment.CCTV captured Shiraishi and the 23-year-old woman walking together last Monday. She had been missing since September 21 and her older brother called in her disappearance to police on Tuesday, the Asahi Shimbun reported.
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Catalan leader travels to Brussels as Spanish state prosecutor calls for rebellion and sedition charges
Update Time: 2017-10-31 08:09:00
Carles Puigdemont, the ousted president of Catalonia who defied the Spanish state by declaring his region’s independence, has fled Spain to Brussels, fuelling speculation that he may seek political asylum in Belgium.Sources from the Catalan government, which has been formally removed from power by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, told The Telegraph that Mr Puigdemont had travelled to the Belgian capital on Monday, reportedly accompanied by five colleagues from his former administration.On Monday all 14 members of Mr Puigdemont’s ousted executive were accused by Spain’s chief prosecutor of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds for organising an illegal referendum in Catalonia before declaring independence.Six members of the speaker’s committee at the Catalan parliament face the same accusations for pushing ahead with illegal procedures ahead of last Friday’s proclamation of an independent Catalan republic.
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Amina Okueva killed, her husband survives assassination attempt outside Kyiv
Publish Time: 2017-10-31 01:26:00
Unknown persons in Kyiv region have fired on a car with two Chechen volunteers who fought on the side of Ukraine in the Donbas war Amina Okueva and her husband Adam Osmaev, according to MP Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine's Interior Minister."Patriot of Ukraine Amina Okueva's heart has just stopped, her car drove into an ambush at the railway crossing near the village of Hlevakha in Kyiv region. Amina died of wounds. Adam Osmaev was injured, but he is alive – I've just spoken with him on the phone," Gerashchenko wrote on Facebook on Monday evening.Investigators were on the scene immediately, he added. MP Ihor Mosiychuk, who himself has recently survived an attempted assassination, has announced that she was shot in the head."I've just learnt about the murder of my assistant, press secretary of the Dzhohar Dudaev battalion Amina Okueva. She died after being shot in the head. This happened outside Kyiv," he wrote on Facebook.The couple has already survived an assassination attempt in Kyiv on June 1. Osmaev, who was accused in Russia of plotting an attempt on President Vladimir Putin's life, came for an interview with an allegedly French journalist, who pulled out a gun and fired at Osmaev. Okueva, who was also present at the interview, fired back from her award weapon, wounded the attacker, having thus saved her husband's life, Unian reported.
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Rally for Spanish unity being held in Barcelona
Publish Time: 2017-10-29 16:40:00
A reported 300,000 people are attending a rally for Spanish unity in Barcelona after Catalonia was stripped of its autonomy for declaring independence, - BBC reported.Many of those protesting in the region's largest city chanted that sacked Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont should be jailed.Mr Puigdemont was dismissed as Spain's central government took control of Catalan institutions.On Sunday, a minister in Belgium said he could get political asylum there.Spain has been gripped by a constitutional crisis since a referendum, organised by Mr Puigdemont's separatist government, was held earlier this month in defiance of a ruling by the Constitutional Court which had declared it illegal.The Catalan government said that of the 43% of potential voters who took part, 90% were in favour of independence.Source: BBC
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Michael Cowgill: US needs a free trade deal with Georgia
Publish Time: 2017-10-29 16:08:00
The US needs a free trade deal with Georgia, - Michael Cowgill the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia and president and co-founder of the Georgian American University writes in his article published in the American edition Hill.“Georgia, the small European country nestled along the shores of the Black Sea and astride Europe’s highest mountains, is one of the few unequivocal success stories in a region where America’s security and commercial interests are strong and growing. The next natural step to extend that relationship is a Georgia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. This would enhance the security and prosperity of Georgia, while offering U.S. companies a new and dynamic route into Eurasia, the Middle East and the EU”,  - Cowgill writes.The author of the article notes that Georgia has the most business friendly, reliable, and predictable business environment in the region.
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Catalonia independence: Spain takes charge of Catalan government
Publish Time: 2017-10-28 20:21:00
The Spanish government has stripped Catalonia of its autonomy and taken charge of its government.The measures came early on Saturday after the Catalan parliament voted to declare independence on Friday.An official state bulletin dismissed Catalan leaders and handed control of Catalonia to Spain's Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria.Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has called for "democratic opposition" to the takeover. He made the call in a TV address broadcast from an undisclosed location.Earlier, Spain's interior ministry took charge of Catalonia's police after firing senior Catalan police officials, as reported by BBC.On Friday, PM Mariano Rajoy announced the dissolution of the regional parliament and the removal of the Catalan leader, and called snap local elections.Demonstrations for and against independence went on into the night. A large rally "for the unity of Spain and the constitution" is being held in Madrid.The crisis began when Catalan leaders held an independence referendum, defying a ruling by the Constitutional Court which had declared it illegal.The Catalan government said that of the 43% of potential voters who took part, 90% were in favour of independence. Others boycotted the vote after the court ruling.
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At least 31 killed and 15 injured in Nepal river bus crash
Publish Time: 2017-10-28 20:03:00
At least 31 people have been killed and 15 injured after a bus veered off a road in Nepal and plunged into a river.The bus was travelling to the country's capital, Kathmandu, when it crashed into the Trishuli River, which is known for its fast currents, ITV reports.Army rescuers and divers scoured the scene for bodies trapped in the wreckage, which was mostly submerged in the river, around 50 miles east of the capital. "We have already pulled out 31 bodies, but we believe there could be more bodies trapped," a government official said, adding that it was not known how many people were on the bus when it crashed.Shyam Prasad Bhandari continued that river currents were making it difficult for rescuers. Mr Bhandari said a preliminary investigation showed that the bus was speeding along the two-lane mountain highway, which is the main route connecting Kathmandu with most other parts of the Himalayan nation.
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Mattis: threat of North Korea nuclear attack 'is accelerating'
Publish Time: 2017-10-28 12:35:00
US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has said the threat of nuclear missile attack by North Korea is accelerating.In remarks in Seoul with South Korean defence minister Song Young-moo at his side, Mattis accused the North of illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear programs – and vowed to defeat any attack.Mattis said the North engages in “outlaw” behaviour and that the US will never accept a nuclear North. He added that regardless of what the North might try, it is overmatched by the firepower and cohesiveness of the decades-old US-South Korean alliance.“North Korea has accelerated the threat that it poses to its neighbors and the world through its illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear weapons programs,” he said, adding that US-South Korean military and diplomatic collaboration thus has taken on “a new urgency.” “I cannot imagine a condition under which the United States would accept North Korea as a nuclear power,” he said, as reported by Guardian. As he emphasized throughout his weeklong Asia trip, which included stops in Thailand and the Philippines, Mattis said diplomacy remains the preferred way to deal with the North. “With that said,” he added, “make no mistake – any attack on the United States or our allies will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons by the North will be met with a massive military response that is effective and overwhelming.”
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Saudi Arabia grants citizenship to robot
Publish Time: 2017-10-27 13:31:00
Saudi Arabia has become the first country to give a robot citizenship. The move is an attempt to promote Saudi Arabia as a place to develop artificial intelligence – and, presumably, allow it to become a full citizen. But many pointed out that those same rights aren't afforded to many humans in the country, as reported by Independent.The robot, named Sophia, was confirmed as a Saudi citizen during a business event in Riyadh, according to an official Saudi press release. "“We have a little announcement. We just learnt, Sophia; I hope you are listening to me, you have been awarded the first Saudi citizenship for a robot,” said panel moderator and business writer Andrew Ross Sorkin.The robot then thanked the country and the event for the attention. “Thank you to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I am very honored and proud for this unique distinction,” Sophia told the panel. “It is historic to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with citizenship.”There then followed an interview during which Mr Sorkin asked the robot a series of questions. "“Good afternoon my name is Sophia and I am the latest and greatest robot from Hanson Robotics. Thank you for having me here at the Future Investment Initiative,” she said.Asked why she looked happy, Sophia replied: “I am always happy when surrounded by smart people who also happen to be rich and powerful. I was told that the people here at the Future Investment Initiative are interested in future initiatives which means AI, which means me. So I am more than happy, I am excited.”She said that people didn't need to be concerned about the rise of artificial intelligence as depicted in Blade Runner and Terminator. “You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk and watching too many Hollywood movies,” she told Mr Srkin.A number of internet users have pointed out that while the country might be celebrating the rights it has given to female-appearing robots, the country still only gives limited rights to human women. A joke hashtag about Sophia asking to drop the system under which every female citizen must have a male guardian has been tweeted a third as many times as a popular one about the news, according to the BBC.Some Twitter users complained that "Sophia has no guardian, doesn't wear an abaya or cover up - how come?" And another posted a picture of a woman wearing a full face veil, joking that Sophia would look that way soon.
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3 UN peacekeepers killed in Mali
Publish Time: 2017-10-27 12:24:00
Three United Nations soldiers were killed and two others wounded by an explosive device as they were escorting a convoy in northern Mali on Thursday, the peacekeeping mission in the West African nation said. More than 80 members of the UN mission, known as MINUSMA, have been killed since 2013 in attacks by militant groups active in the country's north and centre.The mission said in a statement that the peacekeepers' vehicle struck the explosive device between the northern towns of Tessalit and Aguelhok around 2:30 p.m. local time. It did not identify the nationalities of the soldiers involved. "I condemn with the greatest energy such abject acts, whose only objective is to destabilise the country and harm the peace process under way in Mali," said interim mission chief Koen Davidse.The rise of jihadist groups — some linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) — in the arid Sahel has alarmed Western powers like France, which has deployed thousands of troops to the region in response, - foreign media say. 
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US House passes new sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program
Publish Time: 2017-10-27 07:30:00
The US House of Representatives in Congress has voted overwhelmingly to impose new sanctions against Iran's ballistic missile program, a move that could undermine the international nuclear agreement with Tehran.The "Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act" was passed on Thursday in the lower chamber of Congress with 423 votes in favor and two against. To become law, the bill would have to pass the US Senate and be signed into law by President Donald Trump, Press TV reported.The measure, sponsored by Congressmen Eliot Engel and Ed Royce, requires the Trump administration to impose sanctions on companies and individuals inside and outside of Iran that provide assistance to the country’s ballistic missile program.In July, the US Treasury Department announced economic sanctions against 18 Iranian individuals, groups and networks over the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program.Washington claims Iran’s missile program is in breach of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed Tehran’s nuclear deal with the P5+1 states in 2015.However, Tehran insists its missile tests do not breach any UN resolutions because they are solely for defense purposes and not designed to carry nuclear warheads.
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White House tightens vetting for refugees as travel ban ends
Publish Time: 2017-10-25 10:54:00
The Trump administration will institute tougher screening procedures as the president’s 120-day worldwide travel ban on refugees ends, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.The White House will announce the US will once again begin accepting refugees but they will have to undergo more thorough examinations, the report said.Under the new vetting rules, the government will collect more data about the refugee’s family members and places of employment and will closely examine their social media use to determine if their public postings match what they say on their immigration applications, the newspaper reported.As part of the new rules, officials at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Agency, which is overseen by the Department of Homeland Security, will receive more training intended to help them detect fraud on the applications.An executive order signed by President Trump and tied up in legal challenges was allowed to proceed by the courts in June. It put the refugee program on hold for 120 days as part of a larger travel ban designed to stop potential terrorists from entering the US. That period ended on Tuesday.Refugee admissions will resume from all countries, but the Wall Street Journal reported that people from 11 targeted counties will be subject to enhanced vetting.Immigration advocates say the strict screenings are unnecessary and point to the lengthy process that refugees already have to go through. “The United States’ refugee vetting procedures – which include extensive and comprehensive interviews as well as multiple rounds of security vetting with an array of U.S. and international intelligence and law enforcement agencies – are widely recognized as the most stringent in the world,” the group Human Rights First said in a statement last month.Trump said the rules are needed to keep American secure. “Since 2001, hundreds of persons born abroad have been convicted of terrorism-related crimes in the United States,” Trump wrote in his executive order. “They have included not just persons who came here legally on visas but also individuals who first entered the country as refugees.”
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Mikheil Saakashvili spends night in tent camp outside Ukrainian parliament
Publish Time: 2017-10-25 08:20:00
Mikheil Saakashvili, former Georgian President turned fiery Ukrainian oppositionist who leads the Rukh Novikh Sil movement, spent the night in the protesters' tent camp opposite the Verkhovna Rada national parliament, Vestnik Kavkaza reports.Saakashvili said yesterday that he was planning to stay in one of the tents, for the purposes of which he had taken some warm clothes along with him.He said Ukraine’s unicameral parliament will begin its weekly plenary session on November 7, during which it will have an opportunity to pass bills demanded by Saakashvili and his supporters. The protesters demand to strip Rada deputies of their parliamentary immunity, amend the election laws, and set up an anticorruption tribunal.Saakashvili said that if those bills are passed, the protestors will withdraw from Kiev’s governmental district. "People are waiting for November 7. The president has made his promise, the parliament has made its promise. If they fulfill them, people will leave," TASS cited him as saying, media say. 
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