Olympics: 2024 Olympic fight set to go to the wire
Patrick Baumann said neither city presented a risk, saying it came down to a choice of the 95 members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) between "two different visions" on how the Summer Games be held.
Baumann also refused to be drawn on whether the confirmed presence at the decisive vote in Lima on Sep 13 of newly-installed French President Emmanuel Macron could hand Paris the advantage should US counterpart Donald Trump not be present for Los Angeles.
"We're fortunate that we have two city candidates who do not present major risks that we've been able to highlight to host the Olympic Games," Baumann said at his team's closing press conference in Paris, which last hosted the Olympics in 1924, Los Angeles in 1984.
"Both cities have the Olympic tradition, both cities have the venues we need, both cities have very dedicated and motivated teams that want to lead that."
But Baumann added: "Both cities are different. These two cities have the capacity to organise the Games.
"But these cities, because they're in different countries with different cultures, have differing visions. It's one of the key elements. IOC members will have to choose between one vision or the other."
Baumann insisted that it did not matter whether the respective delegations were "made up of X or Y" when asked about Trump, but at the same time praised his team's meeting with Macron, saying it showed "strong, solid support" from all strata of French public authorities.
MACRON CONFIRMED IN LIMA
"Emmanuel Macron told Patrick Baumann that he would definitely be in Lausanne for the IOC's debriefing and also in Lima on September 13," said Paris bid team member Guy Drut, France's 110m hurdle champion at the 1976 Games.
Macron's commitment to securing the Olympics was underlined by his one hour meeting with the IOC taking place just two days after his inauguration as France's youngest president at 39 years of age since Napoleon.
"This is evidence of commitment. It is not just a word, there is a unity up to the highest level of the state," suggested Paris 2024 co-president Bernard Lapasset.
"This could help our candidacy for sure - the new president, who receives the commission just two days after his nomination, and who is the same age as our co-president Tony Estanguet."
Macron is a strong supporter of the Paris bid to host the Olympics for the first time in a century and even before Sunday's investiture he had telephoned Olympic chief Thomas Bach to confirm his support.
On Monday, he told Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo the bid stimulated the kind of national optimism he hopes to generate during his mandate.
"I'm right with you on your venture for the Olympics, Paralympics and the 2024 objective," he declared.
Baumann, whose team deliver their report in Lausanne on Jul 5, said that the "marriage between the Games and Paris was absolutely obvious".
Ever the diplomat, the Swiss head of the world basketball federation added: "The bid team responded to all our questions - all our remarks, as was the case in Los Angeles last week."
PM Lee, Chinese minister Zhao Leji reaffirm 'strong and substantial relationship' between Singapore and China
Mr Zhao, who is also Central Organisation Department Minister, is in Singapore to co-chair the 6th Singapore-China Forum on Leadership.
During the meeting, Mr Lee and Mr Zhao affirmed the "strong and substantial relationship" between Singapore and China, PMO said.
The two leaders noted that bilateral relations dated back to 1976, when then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew first visited China, and 1978 when then-PRC Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping visited Singapore. "Mr Lee and Mr Deng provided a strong foundation for the friendship and cooperation that the two countries now enjoy," PMO noted.
PM Lee and Mr Zhao agreed that, over the last 40 years, bilateral cooperation has evolved greatly, reflecting the development and changing priorities of both countries, the statement said.
Human resource development has become one important area of cooperation, the PMO statement said, adding that both leaders noted the importance of the Singapore-China leadership forum as a key platform to share experiences in the areas of governance and training of officials.
Mr Zhao also expressed appreciation for Singapore’s participation at the “Belt and Road” Forum, which took place in Beijing from May 14 to 15.
On regional issues, both leaders affirmed the close relations between ASEAN and China, and looked forward to meaningful progress on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
French investigate suspected accomplice in militant attacks
Bilan Chatra is suspected of having acted as a scout for Abdelhamid Abaaoud, one of the presumed masterminds of the shootings and bombings in Paris in November 2015 in which 130 people were killed, a source close to the investigation said.
Abaaoud was one of three suspected attackers who were later killed in a police operation in a northern Paris suburb.
Chatra was believed to have fulfilled the same role as scout for Ayoub El Khazzani, who pulled out a Kalashnikov on the high-speed Amsterdam to Paris train in August 2015. He shot and wounded a passenger before being overpowered by off-duty U.S. servicemen.
Chatra, who was arrested by authorities in Germany in July 2016 and recently handed over to France, is under investigation on suspicion of complicity in murder linked to terrorist action and of criminal terrorist association, the judicial source said.
An investigating magistrate will conduct an inquiry to decide whether there is sufficient evidence for Chatra to be sent to trial.
(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; Writing By Richard Balmforth; editing by John Stonestreet)
Arsenal fighting to stave off Champions League 'disappointment'
Arsenal are fifth in the Premier League table with two games to play. They will miss out on finishing in the top four for the first time in more than 20 years if they win their remaining matches but Liverpool and Manchester City do not drop points.
"To not be in the Champions League next season would be a very disappointing situation for us, but we will fight until the end to have as much of a chance to be there next season," Koscielny told Sky Sports.
"The Champions League is a competition that a player wants to play in because you play against the best teams in Europe and it is always an important competition.
"We need to do our job first, to have the two wins, and after that we wait for the results of Liverpool and Man City."
City are currently in fourth place, three points ahead of Arsenal. Liverpool, who have played a game more, are a point above them in third.
Arsenal face relegated Sunderland later on Tuesday, and can still add a trophy to their cabinet this season by beating Premier League champions Chelsea in the FA Cup final on May 27.
Koscielny also said he was nursing a long-term Achilles injury that will affect him for the rest of his career and hinted he was ready to sit out Tuesday's clash to save himself for the cup final at Wembley.
"I have some problems," he added. "Every morning, I have my treatment for my Achilles and I know I need to do this to the end of my career.
"I am prepared to miss Sunderland to be fit for the last two games of this season. Sometimes it is better to miss one game to be fit for the others."
Arsenal end their league season at home to Everton on Sunday.
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru, editing by Larry King)
Prosecutors say no sign of 'terrorist background' to Dortmund attack
"Investigations carried out up until now have not given us any clues that there was a terrorist background to the attack," prosecutors said in a statement.
Letters left at the scene had suggested Islamist militants were behind the bomb attack.
Prosecutors said they believed suspect Sergei V., a German-Russian dual national who was arrested on April 21, carried out the attack "purely for monetary reasons".
(Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Andrea Shalal)
Trump says he has 'absolute right' to share info with Russia
"As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety," he wrote in an early morning tweet.
In his tweet Trump wrote that he was motivated by "humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism."
The Washington Post, citing unnamed officials, had reported that Trump went off script during the meeting, describing details about an Islamic State group terror threat related to the use of laptop computers on airplanes, revealing the city where the information was gathered.
National Security Advisor HR McMaster had denied the president had revealed "intelligence sources or methods" but acknowledged that Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had "reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation."
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dubbed the news "nonsense," saying it was "not an issue for confirming or denying."
The revelations are the latest in a wave of crises to hit the White House, coming just one week after Trump shocked Washington by sacking his FBI director James Comey.
Comey had been overseeing investigations into links between Trump's campaign and alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump's meeting with top Russian diplomats came one day after Comey's firing.
UN has high hopes for private sector after Microsoft rights donation
Microsoft's funds will go towards helping the U.N. agency develop and make better use of technology in its human rights work as part of a five-year partnership, the parties said at a news conference in Geneva.
U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, who has called his agency "dramatically and chronically underfunded", said he hoped the donation would encourage others in the private sector to contribute. On top of funding from the U.N. budget, Zeid has called for voluntary donations of US$253 million in 2017.
Almost all such donations come from governments.
"We're receiving close to zero form the private sector," Laurent Sauveur, head of external relations at the UN human rights office, said at a separate briefing.
"We feel the private sector has a tremendous role to play…. We do believe that it needs to step up to the plate."
Sauveur said the agency had tried to form partnerships with the private sector but lacked capacity.
The U.N. Office for Human Rights has a far smaller budget than the humanitarian arms of the U.N. such as the refugee agency UNHCR, the children's agency UNICEF and the World Food Programme, which are experienced at raising private donations.
Countries that did not make voluntary donations to the human rights office last year include China, Syria, Israel, Iran and North Korea.
Peggy Hicks, the U.N. human rights office's head of thematic engagement, said US$5 million would go a long way in the human rights sector, despite a US$100 million funding gap.
"The U.N. human rights office is going to be able to harness the potential of technology to tackle human rights abuse more effectively, and at the same time will be better placed to respond to the new human rights challenges that may be posed by technology," she said.
Microsoft will also give technological support to the agency, according to Hicks.
Microsoft President Brad Smith said the partnership was an opportunity to grow the role of technology in the safeguarding and defence of human rights.
"In many ways we look at the human rights situation around the world and we see a still untapped opportunity for technology to help," Smith told reporters in Geneva via videolink.
One way technology could contribute to the agency would be in the collection and analysis of large amounts of data that is now required for it to carry out its work, he said.
Technology giants such as Google, Apple and Facebook are under scrutiny for their privacy policies as governments want to raid their vast stores of data to conduct surveillance on their own populations.
Hicks said the U.N. had done extensive due diligence before accepting Microsoft's donation, and Smith said that any company making a donation should respect the mission and the needs of the organisation, and "get involved only if you're comfortable."
Last year it received only US$129 million in donations, ranging from US$17 million from the United States to US$1,816 from Mauritius.
(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)
Bitcoin: Hackers' 'anonymous' currency
Bitcoin, heavily-coded electronic tokens that take their name from software first put online in February 2009 by several software designers using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, essentially allow those who possess them to remain anonymous.
The message that flashed up on hundreds of thousands of screens infected by the WannaCry virus over the last few days demanded payment of US$300 (€275) in Bitcoin, saying: "Ooops, your files have been encrypted!"
It warned that if payment was not made within three days the price would double, and if none was received within seven days the locked files would be deleted.
"Bitcoin is digital cash. The transactions are totally anonymous and non-refundable. However they are totally traceable, Nicolas Debock of London-based Balderton Capital that specialises in virtual currencies said.
"All the transactions are stored in databases called blockchains. It's anonymous but anyone can monitor a bitcoin address and see how the money moves," Debock said.
"No-one can take the money off those who hold it, but it is possible to follow in detail the activity on the account."
That is the problem for investigators, according to Pierre-Antoine Gailly, who compiled a study on bitcoin and other cyber currencies for French state body CESE in 2015.
"Bitcoin doesn't need a bank so this monetary flow escapes any supervision and any checks," he told AFP. "The accounts don't have a physical address or a bank address and they are not stored centrally - anonymity comes before anything else."
'RANSOM NOT THE POINT'
The extent of the damage caused to computers around the world, the number of victims and the sheer number of companies concerned is likely to push international investigators and national security agencies to investigate the bitcoin address to which any ransom money has been paid.
Adding to the complexity of tracking the hackers, the holders of bitcoins can use services available on the so-called dark web known as "tumblers" which can offer an additional layer of anonymity.
"The tumbler divides the bitcoin amounts into thousands of tiny pieces, spreads them around to millions of different addresses and carries out lots of transactions," said Manuel Valente, the manager of a Bitcoin-selling service in Paris.
"Within a week, all of the bitcoins can be put on a new address with the aim of covering (the holder's) tracks. It is essentially money-laundering of bitcoins. And people offer this kind of service on the dark web."
Clement Francomme, the director-general of Utocat, a software company that specialises in blockchains, said collecting ransoms was perhaps not the hackers' real aim.
"The idea was perhaps to show the rest of the world that they have pulled off a really, really big coup. With an attack like that, they're going to gain notoriety in the international hacking fraternity.
"They probably don't have any desire to spend the bitcoins, knowing they are being monitored. Their real aim is to use their reputation to sell other services."
And Francomme warned: "This team has made a show of force and I suppose there will be another attack before very long."
European police agency Europol said Tuesday it was too early to say whether North Korea was involved in the massive cyberattack.
Ukraine blocks popular Russian social networks
The decision sparked an immediate outcry from Ukrainian internet users and the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) press freedom group.
Some also pointed out that President Petro Poroshenko himself was an avid user of two of the Russian networks he had banned.
"Hello, North Korea," 112 rolling news channel editor Vitaliy Prudyus wrote on Facebook.
The presidential decree bars access to VK - often referred to as Russia's Facebook and formerly known as VKontakte - and Ukraine's version of the popular Yandex search engine.
The decision also covers the Mail.ru email provider and the Odnoklassniki (Classmates) social network.
A separate safety provision applies to the Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab and Dr.Web cyber security and anti-virus firms.
The provision remains in effect for three years.
Several social media users pointed to the irony of Poroshenko having his own VK and Odnoklassniki accounts that he last updated when Kiev staged the Eurovision Song Contest final on Saturday night.
A January 2016 ranking conducted by the Kiev-based Genius business consulting company placed VK and Mail.ru as the second and third most popular Ukrainian websites after Google.
MORE RUSSIANS BANNED
Kiev has been gradually expanding its list of outlawed Russian products and people barred for entering the country for either voicing support of the Kremlin's March 2014 annexation of Crimea or the self-proclaimed independence of Ukraine's east.
Numerous Russian television series and movies have been thrown off the airwaves and the silver screen. The blacklist also covers some books.
The West strongly supports Kiev's assertion that Russia has both plotted and backed the revolt in the eastern Lugansk and Donetsk industrial regions that has claimed more than 10,000 lives.
The war began less than two months after massive pro-EU street protests toppled a Kremlin-backed president in February 2014.
Both Kiev and the West see the conflict as Russia's retribution for the loss of its ally.
But human rights groups have criticised Ukraine's decision to apply its sanctions against various forms of cultural entertainment as a violation of free speech.
"VK provided a means of communication for Ukrainian individual entrepreneurs who had pages and advertised their goods," Ukraine's Reporters Without Borders representative Oksana Romanyuk wrote on Facebook.
"And this is not to mention the millions of citizens who used it to have a social life," she wrote.
Poroshenko also expanded the number of Russian citizens and Kremlin supporters from other countries who can no longer enter Ukraine to 1,228 from 682.
The sanctions already in place nearly overshadowed the Eurovision television extravaganza that concluded this weekend with the victory of Portuguese crooner Salvador Sobral.
Ukraine banned Russia's contestant for staging a performance in Crimea a year after its annexation.
Russia responded by deciding not to air the kitschy contest and organisers have warned Ukraine that it may be forbidden from taking part in upcoming events over its actions.
Manchester United lifts full-year revenue and profit guidance
United, whose leading players include Paul Pogba and Wayne Rooney, said it expected to report full-year revenue between 560-570 million pounds, better than its previous forecast of between 530-540 million pounds.
Broadcasting revenue grew 12.9 percent to 31.4 million pounds for the quarter ended March 31, primarily due to the impact of the new Premier League broadcasting agreement, the club said.
Total revenue for the quarter grew 3.1 percent to 127.2 million pounds.
United increased its forecast for earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amoritisation to 185-195 million pounds for 2016-17.
(Reporting by Rahul B in Bengaluru; Editing by Keith Weir)
Spread of combat, cholera wreaks misery, collapse in Yemen
The escalating outbreak of disease and displacement of tens of thousands by recent fighting has inflamed one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, pushing Yemen's war-pummelled society ever nearer to collapse.
Cholera - a diarrhoeal disease spread by food or water tainted with human faeces - has killed 180 people in less than three weeks, according to the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Samira Ali, a worried mother, expressed shock at the scene at Sabaeen Hospital in Sanaa, the ancient capital in the north held by the armed Houthi movement since late 2015.
"My young son suddenly started suffering from severe diarrhoea. We went to the hospital and found it full, we couldn't find a place," said Ali, a teacher.
"Only with difficulty were the doctors able to give him the medicines which saved his life. This situation is tragic."
The United Nations now estimates that in Yemen a child under the age of five dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes, two million people have fled fighting near their homes and only half of hospitals have staff and supplies to function normally.
Already one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, Yemen was engulfed in 2015 by civil war pitting the Houthis against the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
A coalition led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the United States intervened on Hadi's side and has carried out thousands of air strikes targeting the Houthis, though U.N. officials said last year these had killed more than 2,000 civilians as well.
The alliance believes the Houthis, who hold most of Yemen's main population centres, are a proxy for their arch-foe Iran. The Houthis deny this and say they are defending Yemen from domineering neighbours and U.S. hegemony.
The war has been largely stalemated for 18 months since the coalition retook swathes of the south and east. Over 10,000 people in all have died, but the last serious peace talks lapsed almost a year ago.
As U.S. President Donald Trump makes his first visit abroad with a stop in Riyadh this week, advancing the shared U.S.-Saudi struggle with Iran may prove the priority despite the humanitarian disaster next door.
HANGING BY A THREAD
More than ever before in the war, state institutions are losing their ability to withstand the spread of pestilence and the mounting death toll.
A battle for control of the central bank has left salaries in Houthi-held lands in and around Sanaa largely unpaid for six months, ruining the lives of hospital and sanitation workers.
Pumps to sanitise the water supply sit idle for lack of fuel, while maintenance agencies tasked with chlorinating aquifers go without salaries and supplies.
Doctors treating the cholera outbreak fare little better.
"The health system has been hanging by a thread," UNICEF's spokesman in Yemen, Rajat Madhok, said.
"Wages haven't come in, humanitarian workers and doctors are trying their best but some leave their work to seek jobs where they can get paid. Declining value of the currency hurts and all this has a cascading effect that is badly hurting the sector."
A streak of misery runs the length of Yemen's western Red Sea coast - from fighting in the north along the border with Saudi Arabia to a new coalition-backed offensive working its way up to the main port of Hodeidah from the south.
The campaign has forced around 50,000 to flee for safety from the area this year, according to the United Nations, many of whom had already escaped homes affected by fighting there.
Clutching her young son on Hodeidah's streets, 19-year-old Saleha Ahmed Ali recounted her weary trek down the coast from the northwest. "We're from Haradh, but because of the war we fled to Bajel to be safe there. But when the air strikes got worse in Bajel, we fled to Hodeidah," she said.
"There's no food or milk for our children. We can't even find a mat to sleep on or a bucket to wash our children. They haven't given us tents and it rained yesterday. We don't know where to hide. We've lost our homes. This war has dragged us from place to place."
Speaking to Reuters by phone from Sanaa, Shabia Mantoo of the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR wondered why the scale of the suffering had not spurred more peacemaking efforts.
"It was already catastrophic, how much worse can it get? Nineteen million people are going through real suffering. Yemen now is an inventory of misery - what more will it take to get the world's attention?"
HAWKISH ON IRAN
Diplomats and aid workers fear that if Hodeidah turns into a war zone, up to half a million people could be uprooted, stretching already strained aid groups to breaking point.
But resolving Yemen's burning humanitarian crisis may take a back seat to scoring a blow in the regional rivalries with Iran.
U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said last month that U.N.-backed talks are needed to resolve the conflict. But the Trump administration is considering an increase in intelligence cooperation with the Saudi-led coalition and has not ruled out U.S. assistance for an assault on Hodeidah.
"The Americans are now much more hawkish on Iran," a Western diplomat told Reuters. "It's possible that they could support an escalation of the conflict in Yemen in order to send Iran a message."
(Additional reporting by Abduljabbar Zeyad in Hodeidah; editing by William Maclean and Mark Heinrich)
Turkey brings back Ottoman sports to revive past glory
It may be 2017, but Istanbul rolled back the years last weekend with the Ethnic Sports Cultural Festival (EKF), which aims to promote the sports practised by modern Turks' ancestors - from the nomadic horsemen of Central Asia to the Janissaries, the elite troops of the Ottoman empire.
More than 800 athletes took part in traditional sports from Anatolia and Central Asia which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government wants to develop to celebrate the glory days of Turkey's past.
The cavalry were taking part in "cirit", a riding sport created in Central Asia in which riders throw wooden javelins at the opposing team's horsemen.
"This is the king of sports, it embodies the Turkish spirit," said Erdem, 32, after dismounting.
The festival is part of Erdogan's efforts to revive Turkey's Ottoman roots after decades of Westernisation drive following the collapse of the empire.
The modern Turkish republic was founded in 1923 after over 600 years of Ottoman rule.
"We want to revive our traditional values, beginning with our sports, in order to move forward with these values," Bilal Erdogan, one of the president's sons and an archery fan who is also EKF's sponsor, told AFP.
ART OF WAR
A huge area on the European side of Istanbul usually used for political rallies was transformed into an Ottoman encampment for the four-day event.
Wresters, archers and riders showed off their skills in between traditional cooking workshops, Central Asian dancing and carpet-weaving.
In front of a yurt, Adnan Balavan takes part in a "sword and shield game" consisting of simulating duels to produce a melody by rattling weapons.
"I started at the age of eight. Today, I am 57 but my hair still stands on end like the first day," said Balavan, originally from the northwestern province of Bursa, which was the first Ottoman capital.
Born of the wars that shaped Ottoman life and forged an empire that stretched from the Balkans to the Gulf, most of these traditional sports died when the old order fell after World War I.
Their survival today is due in large part to families passing the traditions on from one generation to the next.
Turkish Sports Minister Akif Cagatay Kilic promised the government would provide further financial support to develop such activities and suggested it would encourage clubs to show more interest in traditional sports.
'POWER OF THE TURKS'
Traditional Turkish wrestling champion Sadi Bakir - bare-chested and covered in oil - said "interest in the sport has increased in recent times and the state is investing more effort in this field".
As a result, he said, "at the last European (wrestling) championships, we won five gold medals. The past power of the Turks is re-emerging."
Yakup, a traditional archery instructor, also said interest in the discipline has exploded. "We have over 1,000 members" in his archery club, he said as he put arrows in a leather quiver.
For the master archer, young people's enthusiasm comes mainly from television series about the Ottoman sultans which have multiplied in the past few years.
Organisers said 800,000 people came to the festival, voicing hope that it would spark a passion for the sports in schoolchildren visiting with their classes.
They even dream of one day organising a "Turkish Olympics" bringing together sportsmen and women from Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Balkans.
"Some people may not realise the importance of what we are doing here today, but we will reap the fruits one day," Bilal Erdogan said during his opening speech. "And God willing, the 21st century will be ours."
China's Tencent seals exclusive music licensing deal with UMG
Tencent Music Entertainment Group, the Chinese firm's music subsidiary, will also own exclusive rights to sub-license UMG's content to other content providers in China, the two firms said in a statement on Tuesday.
"The digital opportunity in China's music market is truly extraordinary, with over half a billion people enabled with smart phones. Our expansive new partnership with Tencent will enable UMG to fully address this opportunity," said Michael Nash, UMG Executive Vice President of Digital Strategy.
Last year Tencent and leading Chinese music-streaming company China Music Corporation struck a deal to combine their music businesses under a new venture valued at roughly US$6 billion.
In 2015 Germany's BMG music rights company reached an agreement with Tencent rival Alibaba Group Holding Ltd to license 2.5 million copyrights in the Chinese market.
But despite the wide proliferation of streaming sites, China's local music industry is still in its nascent stage compared with neighbours Japan and South Korea, and subscription services are still less developed.
In 2015 the country said it was targeting a music industry output of US$47 billion by 2020. According to research firm IFIR China's music industry was worth US$170 million in 2015.
The growth in China's online entertainment industry has also attracted the scrutiny of regulators, who have clamped down on unsanctioned music, films and livestreaming services in a wide-reaching censorship campaign which they say is designed to protect the country's minors and maintain political stability.
Tencent's music unit, which has over 600 million monthly active users and 15 million paying subscribers, oversees music services QQ Music, KuGou and Kuwo.
It will also work with UMG to build a recording studio "inspired" by the famous UMG Abbey Road studio in London, it said.
(Editing by Greg Mahlich)
England, Ireland set for Six Nations St Patrick's showdown
Ireland beat England 13-9 on the final day of this year's tournament to ruin their rival's hopes of a second successive grand slam and a world record 19th victory in a row, and will be hoping for a similar result on St Patrick's Day next year.
The Six Nations starts on Feb. 3 with Wales and Scotland facing off in Cardiff, and Ireland travelling to Paris to play France. England travel to Italy a day later.
England and Wales renew hostilities in the highlight of round two at Twickenham on Feb. 10, while France take on Italy in round three the Friday after, in a match to be played at a yet-to-be announced venue outside Paris for the first time.
"We are delighted to confirm the fixture dates for the 2018 Championship, coming shortly after a record breaking 2017 edition," Six Nations Rugby chairman Pat Whelan said in a statement.
"We enjoyed record figures across TV and digital and look forward to continuing that trend over the next two seasons."
The 2019 edition of the Six Nations will begin on Feb. 1 and runs until March 16.
2018 Six Nations championship fixtures (times GMT):
Wales v Scotland 1415
France v Ireland 1645
Italy v England 1500
Ireland v Italy 1415
England v Wales 1645
Scotland v France 1500
France v Italy 2000
Ireland v Wales 1415
Scotland v England 1645
Ireland v Scotland 1415
France v England 1645
Wales v Italy 1500
Italy v Scotland 1230
England v Ireland 1445
Wales v France 1700
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by John O'Brien)
Syrian government denies US accusation of crematorium at prison
A foreign ministry statement published by state news agency SANA said the U.S. administration had come out with "a new Hollywood story detached from reality" by alleging the crematorium had been built at Sednaya military prison near Damascus.
Stuart Jones, acting U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, said on Monday that U.S. officials believe the crematorium could be used to dispose of bodies at a prison where they believe Assad's government authorized the hanging of thousands of inmates during Syria's six-year-old civil war.
Amnesty International reported in February that an average of 20 to 50 people were hanged each week at the Sednaya military prison. Between 5,000 and 13,000 people were executed at Sednaya in the four years since a popular uprising descended into war, it said.
The government also denied that accusation.
Amnesty said the executions took place between 2011 and 2015, but were probably still being carried out and amounted to war crimes.
In a briefing on Monday, Jones showed aerial images of what he said was the crematorium at the Sednaya site.
(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
US allies seen cooperating despite alleged Trump secrets leak
Some experts added, however, that the reports could undermine trust between partners.
In a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak, Trump disclosed intelligence about a planned Islamic State operation, which was supplied by a U.S. ally, two officials with knowledge of the situation said.
The name of the ally or intelligence-sharing operation was not disclosed.
The White House declared the allegations, first reported by the Washington Post, incorrect. Interfax news agency quoted the Russian foreign ministry saying they were "fake".
Two of Washington's allies in the intelligence sharing network known as "Five Eyes" - which groups the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - played down the impact on their relationship with Washington.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told a radio station in Adelaide he would maintain "my normal circumspection and discretion" on classified matters, adding the alliance with the United States "is the bedrock of our national security".
Trump and Turnbull met last week aboard a decommissioned aircraft carrier in New York City after beginning their relations with a testy phone call in February.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee noted the story had been denied.
"The media reports have been rejected by senior U.S. officials who were in the meeting," he said in an email via his spokeswoman. "If there is ever to be a resolution of the dreadful situation in Syria, it will require concerted efforts from both the U.S. and Russia."
A Japanese government official said it was simply not possible to stop cooperating with Washington on intelligence matters."If the report is true and Mr. Trump is an untrustworthy person, it doesn't necessarily mean that we don't share information with the U.S. anymore," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
While the president has the authority to disclose even the most highly classified information at will, in this case he did so without consulting the ally that provided it, which threatens to jeopardize a long-standing intelligence-sharing agreement, the two U.S. officials said.
National security analysts said relations could be damaged.
"Effectively, Trump's actions have thrown world's most important intel sharing relationship into doubt at best, serious jeopardy at worst," Stephanie Carvin, a former national security analyst for the Canadian government, said on Twitter, referring to the "Five Eyes" arrangement.
James Curran, professor of foreign policy at the University of Sydney, said the intelligence relationships were too important and productive to be damaged by Trump's alleged disclosures to the Russians.
"No real practical impact, but I do think it will raise more eyebrows about this president's style and his cavalier attitude to this type of thing, said Curran.
Over the long term, however, such behaviour "can potentially have very serious consequences for America's intelligence relationships across the world", Curran said.
Rhys Ball, who formerly worked for New Zealand's intelligence service and is now a Massey University security and defence analyst, said he thought it would be "business as usual" for the "Five Eyes" community.
"Clearly someone has gulped at what was discussed or exchanged. But this might be the new norm when it comes to the United states and its attitude and foreign policy approach to the likes of the Russians," Ball said.
Even before Trump's meeting with the Russians, Washington's intelligence partners abroad have noted a barrage of reports around Trump, the Russians and spies.
They include the investigations into his election campaign's ties to Moscow, probes into Russian interference in the election, the president's own expressions of disdain for the U.S. intelligence community and his claim that former President Barack Obama spied on him, citing a media report that Britain's spy agency GCHQ was behind the surveillance.
"Five Eyes is far too significant for anyone to wash their hands of it and Five Eyes has weathered a few storms over the years," Ball said.
(Additional reporting by Takashi Umekawa and Yoshifumi Takemoto in Tokyo; Writing by Bill Tarrant; Editing by Mike Collett-White)
Tennis: Japanese tennis player Mitsuhashi gets life ban for match-fixing
He has also been fined US$50,000 (€$45,230) after being found to have made corrupt approaches to other players and to have placed bets on matches.
The ban applies with immediate affect and means Mitsuhashi, 27, cannot "compete in, or attend, any tournament or event organised or sanctioned by the governing bodies of the sport," the TIU said.
In November 2015 he asked Joshua Chetty, a player he had previously coached, to make a corrupt approach to a fellow player during an ITF Futures tournament in Stellenbosch, South Africa.
The player was offered US$2,000 to underperform in a singles match and US$600 in a doubles match.
Chetty received a lifetime ban last September.
The following month, Mitsuhashi directly approached a different player at a tournament in Lagos, Nigeria to ask him to fix aspects of a match.
He also illegally placed 76 bets on tennis matches between October and November 2015 and refused to cooperate with the TIU investigation, both of which are separate offences.
Mitsuhashi achieved a career-high singles ranking of 295 in 2009. He was ranked 1,997th at the time of his offences.
Arsenal failure to make top four would be 'frustrating', Wenger says
Arsenal were third in the table after 19 league games but have since won just nine out of 17 matches to fall to fifth, on course to lose out on a Champions League spot for the first time in 20 years under Wenger.
Arsenal must win their two remaining games and rely on third-placed Liverpool or fourth-placed Manchester City slipping up. If both their immediate rivals manage to get wins, then Wenger's side will miss the top four by one point.
"It will be frustrating," Wenger told reporters on Monday. "I still think we just have to give our best to get to 75 points, and if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. At least we have done our job well to the end.
"I would say we would be a victim of a lack of consistency that we have shown through the season...
"We are a victim of nobody. If we make 75 points, we can only be beaten by one point. That point can happen in the season one side or the other. You will always have regrets because you could have one point more ..."
Arsenal will host already-relegated Sunderland in their penultimate league game on Wednesday followed by seventh-placed Everton on Sunday before facing champions Chelsea in the FA Cup final on May 27.
(Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru, editing by Larry King)
Iran Air takes delivery of its first four ATR 72-600s planes
Earlier this year, ATR and Iran Air had signed a firm contract for 20 ATR 72-600s and options for a further 20 planes. Deliveries of the 20 firm aircraft be completed by the end of 2018.
ATR is a joint venture between Airbus and Italian company Leonardo .
"As Iran's traveling public gains access to increased supply of air transportation, it will benefit from the highest standards of comfort, efficiency and reliability with the ATR´s we are delivering today and over the coming months," ATR Chief Executive Christian Scherer said in a statement.
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Andrew Callus)
Philippines' Duterte open to South China Sea deals
Duterte also emphasised he had no immediate plans to pressure China over an international tribunal's ruling last year that its sweeping claims to most of the sea were unlawful.
"If we can get something there with no hassle at all, why not," Duterte told reporters when asked about a proposal for jointly exploring the sea with China and Vietnam.
He emphasised the deal would have to be "fair and balanced".
Duterte made no mention of Malaysia and Brunei, the two other Southeast Asian nations that also have claims to the sea.
The competing claims to the sea, which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits, have for decades made it one of Asia's potential military flashpoints.
Beijing's efforts to cement its claims in the sea in recent years by building artificial islands and expanding a military presence there have added to the tensions.
Duterte, who took office last year, abandoned the policy of his predecessor, Benigno Aquino, to forcefully challenge Beijing in diplomatic circles and instead sought to repair bilateral relations.
Duterte has said his decision has earned the Philippines billions of dollars in Chinese investments and aid.
Duterte spoke Tuesday after returning from Beijing, where he had separate meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang on the sidelines of a summit on a global trade infrastructure project.
Duterte praised China's leaders as "generous", "very liberal" and "sincere".
Duterte described his trip to Beijing, his second since assuming office, as a "windfall" for the Philippines, saying more Chinese investments or aid had been offered although he gave few details.
Duterte said he told Xi and Li that he would not raise last year's international tribunal ruling, which was filed by Aquino and deeply angered China.
"We decided that there is a time for me to ask about the ruling but it is not now," Duterte said.
Xi hailed the "all-round improvement" of relations between the two nations during the forum, calling the Philippines an "important partner" in his Belt and Road infrastructure project.
Chinese and Philippines officials will meet in China on Friday for the first round of bilateral talks on their dispute.
Aquino had avoided direct talks with China for fear of placing the Philippines in a vulnerable negotiating position.
Duterte said he wanted discussions to involve a code of conduct for the sea, which China and Southeast Asian nations have been discussing for some 15 years.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin and Philippine Ambassador Jose Santiago Santa Romana will co-chair the meeting in China's southern Guizhou province, the Beijing said on Tuesday.
Their talks will follow the 14th meeting on Thursday of senior officials from China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the implementation of a code of conduct in the South China Sea.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Tuesday that the talks would help Beijing and Manila "properly manage differences and promote maritime cooperation for the final settlement of relevant disputes".
The Philippines, under then president Gloria Arroyo, entered into an agreement with China and Vietnam in 2005 to jointly study potential oil deposits in the sea.
But the deal collapsed after Filipino politicians questioned its legality. They alleged it infringed on Philippine sovereignty and accused Arroyo of treason.
Tottenham 'family' will stick together next season, Kane says
Kane, who is Tottenham's leading scorer this season with 22 goals, scored the last goal at White Hart Lane on Sunday as Tottenham secured second position with a 2-1 win over sixth-placed Manchester United.
Multiple Tottenham stars, including Kane and midfielder Dele Alli, are targets for Europe's elite clubs, according to media reports, but Kane is confident that a majority of the club's players will stay.
"We're a family on and off the pitch," Kane told British media.
"We work so hard as a group and the staff, the manager and, look, there are not many better teams to be at around the world at the moment.
"It's a special bond and I don't think you always get that at clubs, that's why we've got to hold onto that, make that motivate us to hopefully be out there next year at Wembley lifting a Premier League together."
Tottenham finished third in the last campaign and second this season but have failed to win any trophies since winning the League Cup in 2008. Kane said that his team had the ability to win titles.
"That's got to be the next step, lifting the trophy and having celebrations like that but with a title or a cup. That's got to be our aim and we've got to use this as motivation to get there ... " Kane added.
"We're young but we're getting more experience year in, year out.
"We've just got to go and make it happen. We've got the team, we've got the belief, so next season hopefully it's our year."
Tottenham travel to last year's champions Leicester City on Thursday and play their final game at already-relegated Hull City on May 21.
(Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru, editing by Larry King)
Fire breaks out at Changi Airport T2 departure hall
According to Changi Airport, the fire alarm was activated at about 5.40pm due to "smoke coming through the air vents."
In an update at about 6.45pm, Changi Airport said the situation is under control and the cause of the fire has been identified. It added, however, that flight operations at Terminal 2 are affected.
SCDF said the fire has since been put out using a hosereel jet.
"Passengers on flights departing from T2 this evening should expect significant delays," said Changi Airport. "We will advise when operations resume."
People were evacuated onto the tarmac of Terminal 2, including passengers waiting to board, those already on board as well as staff.
Nearly two hours after the firm alarm went off, people were still waiting outside the terminal. Some passengers who were evacuated told Channel NewsAsia that they were directed to shuttle buses which would take them to Terminal 3 for their flight out.
Earlier, Channel NewsAsia reader Noorazli Noor said his fiancee, who works at the airport, was told to evacuate as the smoke worsened.
Another Facebook user, Glinise Lorenzo-Singh, told Channel NewsAsia the fire happened at Gate F of the terminal. Her sister-in-law was inside the terminal waiting to board her flight when she was told that the flight would be moved to a different gate, Ms Lorenzo-Singh said.
Due to the incident, bus services 24, 27 and 53 will skip the bus stop at Terminal 2, said transport operator SBS Transit.
Cahill counts on past lessons to help Chelsea defend title
Chelsea sealed a second league title in three seasons after beating West Bromwich Albion 1-0 on Friday and followed that up with a 4-3 win over Watford on Monday, but Cahill is already looking ahead to the next challenge.
"Retaining the trophy next year has to be the goal," he told British media. "I really hope we have learned the lessons from what happened the last time we tried to do that."
Chelsea were crowned champions under Jose Mourinho in 2014-15 but endured a miserable defence of their title the following season, finishing 10th as 5,000-1 outsiders Leicester City emerged as surprise winners.
Leicester have also struggled following their unlikely success and are currently 11th in the table with two games to play.
"People talk about the hangover after success. Leicester felt a bit of that this season and we did last year," Cahill added. "The fact no one has done it for so long shows how very difficult it is to do."
Manchester United were the last team to successfully defend the league title, winning three in a row from 2006, while Chelsea notched consecutive wins in 2004 and 2005.
"History has proved it's very tough to win it back-to-back, but it has to be a target for us next year, 100 percent," Cahill said.
"But we have to be right for that. When you talk about winning it again, you look at the great players over the years who have won championships time and time again, it's like an addiction. You want to have this feeling again and again."
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by John O'Brien)
Controversy over Trump Israel policy ahead of visit
Separately, a reported comment by a US official helping prepare Trump's visit also led to Israeli criticism, with the official allegedly telling Israeli counterparts that the Western Wall was part of the occupied West Bank.
The Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, is located in east Jerusalem, which was occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.
Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Both highly sensitive issues made headlines in Israel on Tuesday as preparations intensified for Trump's visit to the country and the Palestinian territories on May 22 and 23.
Trump's controversial new ambassador also presented his credentials to the Israeli president at a ceremony in Jerusalem.
Israel's right-wing had placed high hopes in Trump's presidency following his pledges of ardent support for Israel and a commitment to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed city of Jerusalem.
Some even called for the end of the idea of a Palestinian state.
But Trump has since backed away from the embassy move, saying it was still being looked at, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced political backlash at home over the issue.
A Fox News reporter cited sources saying Netanyahu had asked Trump not to move the embassy now, leading the prime minister to issue an angry rebuttal.
In an unusual move, Netanyahu also partially released the minutes of a meeting he had with Trump in Washington in February, showing he had pressed the new president to move the embassy.
The rival claims to Jerusalem lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and no countries currently have their embassies in Jerusalem, instead basing them in Israel's commercial capital Tel Aviv.
Palestinians say moving the embassy would be a de facto recognition of Israel's control of all Jerusalem.
SWEARING IN CEREMONY
Separately, Israeli officials have reacted angrily to reports in local media that representatives of the American consulate had suggested the Western Wall did not belong to Israel.
Trump is reportedly planning to visit the wall in Jerusalem's Old City and Israel's Channel Two reported that Israeli officials offering to help plan the event were told by American counterparts it was not their remit.
One US official said the Western Wall was part of the West Bank, Channel Two reported.
The White House distanced itself from the alleged comments, saying in statements to US media that they did not reflect the views of the administration.
The US, like most of the international community, considers Jerusalem disputed ahead of final-status negotiations.
Also on Tuesday, Trump's controversial choice for ambassador David Friedman presented his credentials in a ceremony at President Reuven Rivlin's residence in Jerusalem.
Jewish-American Friedman, a strong supporter of Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, entered the residence with a marching band playing.
Speaking after the ceremony, Friedman did not directly respond to the dispute over the Western Wall but pledged to "support the state of Israel in every way".
"I pledge to you to do all that I can to strengthen and enhance the relationship between our two great nations," he told Rivlin.
Speaking of Trump, he said: "His love for and commitment to the state of Israel is rock solid and it enjoys his highest priority."
Rivlin called on the "whole world to recognise Jerusalem as the official capital of the state of Israel".
Friedman arrived Monday and immediately visited the Western Wall, praying there and kissing the sacred site.
The former bankruptcy lawyer has expressed scepticism over the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the basis of years of US peace efforts. He has also advocated moving the embassy to Jerusalem.
China's Xi offers help for Myanmar peace process
Fighting in March in Myanmar pushed thousands of people into China to seek refuge, prompting Beijing to call for a ceasefire between ethnic militias and the security forces there and carry out military drills along the border.
Xi met Nobel laureate Suu Kyi - who serves as Myanmar's foreign minister while also being de facto head of its civilian government - following China's Belt and Road Forum on Sunday and Monday.
"China is willing to continue to provide necessary assistance for Myanmar's internal peace process," China's official Xinhua news agency cited Xi as saying.
"The two sides must jointly work to safeguard China-Myanmar border security and stability," Xi said.
The news agency did not elaborate on what assistance China would provide.
China has repeatedly expressed concern about fighting along the border that has occasionally spilled into its territory, for instance in 2015, when five people died in China.
Xi also said China would work to enhance cooperation with Myanmar on his Belt and Road development plan, which aims to bolster China's global leadership by expanding infrastructure between Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond.
The president promised US$124 billion on Sunday to expand the reach of the initiative during the two day summit of world leaders in Beijing.
Suu Kyi told Xi that Myanmar was grateful for Chinese help and that it would work with China to safeguard stability in the border region, Xinhua said.
Beijing last month offered to mediate a diplomatic row over the flight of around 69,000 minority Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh to escape violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, according to officials from Bangladesh.
Myanmar has been sharply criticised in the West over violence against the Rohingya.
Suu Kyi is barred from the presidency under Myanmar's army-drafted constitution, but effectively leads the government through the specially created post of "state counsellor".
(Reporting by Michael Martina; Edioting by Nick Macfie)
Would-be Islamic State girl recruit planned school bombings, Danish court finds
The girl was arrested at her home in January last year, when she was aged 15, and charged with planning the attacks after acquiring chemicals for making bombs, police said.
Police who searched the residence found a handwritten note with the words "Allahu Akbar!" (God is greatest), a date, and the address of the Jewish school in Copenhagen
A second note was marked "bomb attack on the infidels" and gave the address of her own school near Holbaek, a town west of the capital.
Police said they also found chemicals, a list of ingredients for making a bomb and a container marked "Tatp" - a common abbreviation for the explosive triacetone triperoxide.
A jury in the Holbaek district court found the girl - who is white European and was not named - guilty of attempted terrorism, the court said in a statement. Sentencing was deferred to Thursday.
The court said the girl had written two Twitter profiles in which she offered to fight for Jihadist group Islamic State.
Prosecutors last month presented the court records from her preliminary questioning, stating she initially confessed to planning the attacks. The girl later changed her plea to not guilty.
Defence attorney Mette Grith Stage told Reuters her client would await sentencing before deciding whether to appeal.
In February 2015, a gunman killed two people in shooting attacks at a debating event and a Copenhagen synagogue before being shot dead by police.
(Reporting by Julie Astrid Thomsen; Editing by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and John Stonestreet)
Oddities in WannaCry ransomware puzzle cybersecurity researchers
Some researchers have found evidence they say could link North Korea with the attack, but others are more cautious, saying that the first step is shedding light on even the most basic questions about the malware itself.
For one thing, said IBM Security's Caleb Barlow, researchers are still unsure exactly how the malware spread in the first place. Most cybersecurity companies have blamed phishing e-mails - e-mails containing malicious attachments or links to files - that download the ransomware.
That's how most ransomware finds its way onto victims' computers.
The problem in the WannaCry case is that despite digging through the company's database of more than 1 billion e-mails dating back to March 1, Barlow's team could find none linked to the attack.
"Once one victim inside a network is infected it propagates," Boston-based Barlow said in a phone interview, describing a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows that allows the worm to move from one computer to another.
The NSA used the Microsoft flaw to build a hacking tool codenamed EternalBlue that ended up in the hands of a mysterious group called the Shadow Brokers, which then published that and other such tools online.
But the puzzle is how the first person in each network was infected with the worm. "It's statistically very unusual that we'd scan and find no indicators," Barlow said.
Other researchers agree. "Right now there is no clear indication of the first compromise for WannaCry," said Budiman Tsjin of RSA Security, a part of Dell.
Knowing how malware infects and spreads is key to being able to stop existing attacks and anticipate new ones. "How the hell did this get on there, and could this be repeatedly used again?" said Barlow.
Some cybersecurity companies, however, say they've found a few samples of the phishing e-mails. FireEye said it was aware customers had used its reports to successfully identify some associated with the attack.
But the company agrees that the malware relied less on phishing e-mails than other attacks. Once a certain number of infections was established, it was able to use the Microsoft vulnerability to propagate without their help.
There are other surprises, that suggest this is not an ordinary ransomware attack.
Only paltry sums were collected by the hackers, according to available evidence, mostly in the bitcoin cryptocurrency.
There were only three bitcoin wallets and the campaign has far earned only US$50,000 or so, despite the widespread infections. Barlow said that single payments in some other ransomware cases were more than that, depending on the victim.
Jonathan Levin of Chainalysis, which monitors bitcoin payments, said there were other differences compared to most ransomware campaigns: for instance the lack of sophisticated methods used in previous cases to convince victims to pay up. In the past, this has included hot lines in various languages.
And so far, Levin said, the bitcoin that had been paid into the attackers' wallets remained there - compared to another campaign, known as Locky, which made US$15 million while regularly emptying the bitcoin wallets.
"They really aren't set up well to handle their bitcoin payments," Levin said.
The lack of sophistication may bolster those cybersecurity researchers who say they have found evidence that could link North Korea to the attack.
A senior researcher from South Korea's Hauri Labs, Simon Choi, said on Tuesday the reclusive state had been developing and testing ransomware programs only since August. In one case, the hackers demanded bitcoin in exchange for client information they had stolen from a South Korean shopping mall.
Choi, who has done extensive research into North Korea's hacking capabilities, said his findings matched those of Symantec and Kaspersky Lab, who say some code in an earlier version of the WannaCry software had also appeared in programs used by the Lazarus Group, identified by some researchers as a North Korea-run hacking operation.
The Lazarus hackers have however been more brazen in their pursuit of financial gain than others, and have been blamed for the theft of US$81 million from the Bangladesh central bank, according to some cybersecurity firms. The United States accused it of being behind a cyber attack on Sony Pictures in 2014.
Whoever is found to be behind the attack, said Marin Ivezic, a cybersecurity partner at PwC in Hong Kong, the way the hackers used freely available tools so effectively may be what makes this campaign more worrying.
By bundling a tool farmed from the leaked NSA files with their own ransomware, "they achieved better distribution than anything they could have achieved in a traditional way" he said.
"EternalBlue (the hacking tool) has now demonstrated the ROI (return on investment) of the right sort of worm and this will become the focus of research for cybercriminals," Ivezic said.
(Additional reporting Ju-Min Park in Seoul, Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)
Commentary: Starting school later a cornerstone of solution to sleep problem faced by Singapore students
Feedback from the public seems to be largely positive, but there have also been concerns raised about the potential costs of starting school later. Our team is not blind to these challenges and we would like to share why we believe that starting school later is advisable in spite of them.
STUDENTS SHOULD GET APPROPRIATE AMOUNT OF SLEEP
Sleep is important for health and from the responses to the article, it seems that most readers agree with this. However, it has become the accepted norm for students to get insufficient sleep on weekdays and try to catch up on sleep on weekends. A common belief is that these cycles of short weekday and long weekend sleep will average out to a healthy and recommended amount.
We disagree. Research indicates that sleep is like food: It is needed every day and in appropriate amounts for healthy functioning. Health professionals have recommendations for daily nutritional requirements and many parents do their best to ensure that their children get three balanced meals a day.
We might think it odd to allow children to skip a meal a day on weekdays and then make up for it by eating double the amount on weekends. And yet, this is what we expect of our students when it comes to sleep. We expect that they should be able to function optimally on an imbalanced “diet” of inadequate sleep on school nights and oversleep on weekends.
Some may subscribe to the idea that sleep restriction builds resilience. Again, we could not disagree more. Sleep loss does not confer the same kinds of benefits as exercise, where the mantra goes “no pain no gain”. It is not like willpower or discipline, where the more you train and push your boundaries, the stronger you become. We do not consider starving our children to make them more resilient, or worry that giving them their daily nutritional requirement every day is pampering them. Why should we think differently about sleep?
With their current sleep patterns, our students do get by in school and some may argue: If it isn’t broken, why fix it? However, we believe that students should be flourishing and not merely getting by. Research shows that getting the appropriate amount of sleep not only helps students feel better, but also helps them learn better - a win-win situation.
There are also those who are not genetically predisposed to function well without sleep. These individuals will certainly accomplish more if they are not struggling to stay awake most of the time and if they have better psychological and emotional health.
ADOLESCENTS CAN FIND IT DIFFICULT TO FALL ASLEEP EARLIER
Some have questioned: Instead of starting school later, why not just get students to sleep earlier? The answer to this lies in our circadian biology. The human body is governed by processes that regulate when we fall asleep (or feel sleepy) and when we wake up (or feel alert).
Research has shown that during adolescence, changes occur that gradually push the human body clock back by several hours. This means that while younger children have less trouble falling asleep earlier at night, many adolescents can find it difficult to fall asleep before 11pm.
Think about the last time you had jet lag and were trying to fall asleep when your body was telling you to stay awake. Telling adolescents to go to bed earlier is putting them through a version of that experience every single day.
Starting school later is only one part of the solution to the sleep problem faced by Singapore students. Others, which we are also working toward, include instilling good sleep habits and encouraging proper time management.
However, because of our circadian biology, starting school later remains a cornerstone of that solution.
Even in the ideal situation of good sleep habits, or even reduced workload, as some readers have suggested, most teenagers would still only be able to fall asleep around 11pm. They should therefore only wake up after 7am to get at least eight hours of sleep, which is the minimum recommended sleep duration for their age.
Yet, unless students only take 30 minutes to get ready and make their way to school, there is no way that students can get those eight hours of sleep if school starts at 7.30am.
ADJUSTMENTS AND COMPROMISE NECESSARY TO MAKE LATER SCHOOL START TIMES A REALITY
Starting school later will come with its challenges. One of the biggest concerns that has been raised is that there will be more traffic congestion because the school crowd will collide with the work crowd.
This is a difficult problem, but not an insurmountable one. Innovative ways to relieve rush-hour congestion already exist and will continue to be developed. For example, Schoolber is a ride-sharing platform that provides carpooling for students.
Adjustments and compromise will be necessary to make later school start times a reality.
The change we envisage will not happen overnight. NYGH spent half a year in preparing to shift their start time. They went through many rounds of revising the curriculum before rolling out one that would allow school to end at around the same time without comprising curriculum coverage.
They were aware of the potential impact on transport, so they surveyed their students to understand their transport situation and concerns. The school also monitored local traffic conditions before the change to determine how much of a delay would be tolerable.
In short, NYGH spent significant effort to figure out how to delay school start time in the most optimal, least disruptive way.
The results from the experiment were clear: Students were happier, more alert and more positive about going to school. Isn’t this something precious, even if change is hard and will lead to short-term inconvenience?
When facing pushback against her campaign for healthier school cafeteria lunches, Michelle Obama had this to say: “Don’t play with our children. Don’t do it.” We urge teachers, parents and stakeholders to come forward and say the same.
Julian Lim is Assistant Professor at the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke-NUS Medical School. Lee Su Mei is a postdoctoral fellow at the same centre.
Former world number 10 Monaco hangs up his racket
Monaco, who reached his highest ranking of number 10 in the world in July 2012, won nine ATP singles titles during his career, eight of them on clay. He also won three doubles titles.
"Although it creates me a lot of nostalgia I am sure I am making the right decision," Monaco said in a statement on his verified Twitter account. "I retire from professional tennis.
"There are so many feelings that it is very difficult to write them down... Thanks for what tennis gave to me: education, friendship and unforgettable moments."
(Reporting by Simon Jennings; Editing by John O'Brien)
Home Depot's quarterly profit jumps 12 percent
Net income rose to US$2.01 billion, or US$1.67 per share, in the first quarter ended April 30, from US$1.80 billion, or US$1.44 per share, a year earlier.
Net sales rose 5 percent to US$23.89 billion.
(Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Martina D'Couto)
KLIA runway closed after Malaysia Airlines plane tyres deflate upon landing
Flight MH726 from Jakarta had two tyres deflate after it landed at 7.13am on Tuesday (May 2) on Runway 2.
In a statement, Malaysia Airlines said the Boeing 738 aircraft's passengers and crew safely disembarked and were transferred by bus to the terminal, and that it would be investigating the incident.
"The airline will be investigating the cause of the incident on the Boeing 738 aircraft," it said. "Due to an aircraft shortage, some flights utilising this aircraft will be upgraded to the Airbus 330 - and we are looking into deploying the Airbus 380 aircraft to service the Australian routes."
It added: "Runway 2 at KLIA will be closed until further notice."
US aims to eliminate IS from Afghanistan this year
While US and Kabul government forces have mainly been combatting Taliban fighters since 2001, IS's local offshoot -- also known as Islamic State-Khorasan, or ISIS-K -- has a stronghold in eastern Afghanistan.
First emerging in 2015, ISIS-K overran large parts of Nangarhar and Kunar provinces, near the Pakistan border, but their part in the Afghan conflict had been largely overshadowed by the operations against the Taliban.
Many Americans first heard of ISIS-K last month when the US dropped the "Mother Of All Bombs" on its Nangarhar bastion -- an aerial munition that the Pentagon said was the biggest non-nuclear weapon it had ever used in combat.
US and Afghan forces then raided a compound last week close to the site of the bombing, with the Pentagon saying it believed it had killed ISIS-K's leader Abdul Hasib during the operation.
Captain Bill Salvin, spokesman for US Forces-Afghanistan, said the local IS presence peaked at between 2,500 to 3,000 but that defections and recent battlefield losses had reduced their number to a maximum of 800.
"We have a very good chance of destroying them in 2017, making it very clear that when the ISIS fighters are destroyed elsewhere around the globe that this is not the place for you to come to plot your attacks," Salvin told AFP.
US-backed fighters also appear to have IS on the ropes in Syria and Iraq, where an operation to wrest back control of the major northern city of Mosul has been ongoing since October.
MILITANTS ON THE MOVE
But both the military and analysts acknowledge there is a danger of IS fighters heading to Afghanistan if they are forced out of Iraq and Syria.
Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, said that while IS should ultimately be defeated in Afghanistan, the Pentagon's timeline may be overly optimistic.
A definitive victory could take "a long time due, partly (due) to the proximity of Pakistan as well as the possible flow of fighters" from the Middle East as the "group loses sanctuaries there," O'Hanlon told AFP.
The Taliban, which first emerged in the mid-1990s in southern Afghanistan, managed to conquer most of the country before its 2001 ouster with the help of a range of foreign jihadists, including Pakistanis, Saudis and Chechens.
Analysts say that as well as Afghans, ISIS-K includes disaffected Pakistani and Uzbek Islamists among its ranks who used to fight for the Taliban.
It first emerged as a significant player in Afghanistan in early 2015 when its fighters overran the Taliban in parts of the east and has subsequently claimed responsibility for a string of bomb attacks.
ISIS-K's defeat would be an important victory for the US, which has struggled to boast of clear wins after forcing the Taliban out of Kabul in 2001 in the initial aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and editor of the Long War Journal, said ISIS-K had "withstood multiple US-backed offensives over the past two years."
But while their defeat would be a boost to the US, Roggio said the Taliban and their long-time Al-Qaeda allies were still a much bigger challenge.
"It's not that they don't pose a threat, but I would argue that the Taliban pose a far greater threat to the stability of Afghanistan," Roggio told AFP.
"It would be basically winning a battle, but we are still losing the war, which is basically the story of Afghanistan since we've been involved there."
America has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. Most belong to a NATO mission to train and advise Afghan partner forces fighting the Taliban.
How two cutting edge US nuclear projects bankrupted Westinghouse
The delay, which a nuclear specialist monitoring the construction said was longer than the time required to make the section, was emblematic of the problems that plagued Westinghouse Electric Co as it tried an ambitious new approach to building nuclear power plants.
The approach - building pre-fabricated sections of the plants before sending them to the construction sites for assembly - was supposed to revolutionize the industry by making it cheaper and safer to build nuclear plants.
But Westinghouse miscalculated the time it would take, and the possible pitfalls involved, in rolling out its innovative AP1000 nuclear plants, according to a close examination by Reuters of the projects.
Those problems have led to an estimated US$13 billion in cost overruns and left in doubt the future of the two plants, the one in Georgia and another in South Carolina.
Overwhelmed by the costs of construction, Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy on March 29, while its corporate parent, Japan's Toshiba Corp , is close to financial ruin . It has said that controls at Westinghouse were "insufficient."
The miscalculations underscore the difficulties facing a global industry that aims to build about 160 reactors and is expected to generate around US$740 billion in sales of equipment in services in the coming decade, according to nuclear industry trade groups.
The sector's problems extend well beyond Westinghouse. France's Areva is being restructured, in part due to delays and huge cost overruns at a nuclear plant the company is building in Finland.
Even though Westinghouse's approach of pre-fabricated plants was untested, the company offered aggressive estimates of the cost and time it would take to build its AP1000 plants in order to win future business from U.S. utility companies. It also misjudged regulatory hurdles and used a construction company that lacked experience with the rigor and demands of nuclear work, according to state and federal regulators' reports, bankruptcy filings and interviews with current and former employees.
"Fundamentally, it was an experimental project but they were under pressure to show it could be a commercially viable project, so they grossly underestimated the time and the cost and the difficulty," said Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who has written and testified about the AP1000 design.
Westinghouse spokeswoman Sarah Cassella said the company is "committed to the AP1000 power plant technology", plans to continue construction of AP1000 plants in China and expects to bid for new plants in India and elsewhere. She declined to comment on a detailed list of questions from Reuters.
PROBLEMS FROM THE START
By early 2017, the Georgia and South Carolina plants were supposed to be producing enough energy to power more than a half a million homes and businesses. Instead, they stand half-finished. (For a graphic see http://tmsnrt.rs/2oQEKgE)
Southern Co , which owns nearly half the Georgia project, and SCANA Corp , which owns a majority of the South Carolina project, have said they are evaluating the plants and could abandon the reactors altogether.
"We will continue to take every action available to us to hold Westinghouse and Toshiba accountable for their financial responsibilities under the engineering, procurement and construction agreement and the parent guarantee," Southern said in a statement. A spokesman declined to elaborate.
The projects suffered setbacks from the start. In one instance, to prepare the Georgia plant for construction, Westinghouse and its construction partner in 2009 began digging out the foundation, removing 3.6 million cubic yards of dirt.
But half of the backfill – the material used to fill the excavated area - failed to meet regulatory approval, delaying the project by at least six months, according to William Jacobs, the nuclear specialist who monitored construction of the plant for Georgia's utility regulator.
He declined to be interviewed.
But the source of the biggest delays can be traced to the AP1000's innovative design and the challenges created by the untested approach to manufacturing and building reactors, according to more than a dozen interviews with former and current Westinghouse employees, nuclear experts and regulators.
Unlike previous nuclear reactors, the AP1000 would be built from prefabricated parts; specialized workers at a factory would churn out sections of the reactor that would be shipped to the construction site for assembly. Westinghouse said in marketing materials this method would standardize nuclear plant construction.
Westinghouse turned to Shaw Group Inc, which held a 20 percent stake in Westinghouse, to build sections for the reactors at its factory in Lake Charles, Louisiana. There, components for two reactors each in Georgia and South Carolina would be manufactured.
Seven months after work began in the May 2010, Shaw had already conducted an internal review at the behest of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to document problems it was having producing components.
In a letter to the NRC, Shaw's then-executive vice president, Joseph Ernst, wrote: "The level and effectiveness of management oversight of daily activities was determined to be inadequate based on the quality of work."
He laid out a laundry list of deficiencies ranging from Shaw's inability to weed out incorrectly made parts to the way it stored construction materials.
Ernst did not respond to a phone call seeking comment.
Over the next four years, regulatory and internal inspections at Lake Charles would reveal a slew of problems associated with the effort to construct modular parts to fit the new Westinghouse design, NRC records show.
When a sub-module was dropped and damaged, Shaw managers ordered employees to cover up the incident; components were labeled improperly; required tests were neglected; and some parts' dimensions were wrong. The NRC detailed each one in public violation notices.
Then there was the missing and illegible paperwork.
The section that was delayed more than eight months by missing signatures would become one of 72 modules fused together to hold nuclear fuel. The 2.2 million pound unit was installed more than two years behind schedule.
It was not until June 2015 that the Lake Charles facility was building acceptable modules, according to a report by Jacobs. By then, Shaw had been bought by Chicago Bridge & Iron .
Gentry Brann, a CB&I spokeswoman, said the company put the Lake Charles plant under new management and installed new procedures after the 2013 acquisition. She said Westinghouse was to blame for subsequent delays, citing "several thousand" technical and design changes made after work had already started on various components.
Westinghouse declined to comment.
To some extent, Westinghouse also was hamstrung by the NRC, which imposed stringent requirements for the new reactors. To comply, Westinghouse made some design changes that were tiny tweaks; others were larger.
For instance, before the NRC would issue the utilities an operating license for the Georgia plant, it demanded changes to the design of the shield building, which protects against radiation leaks. The regulator said the shield needed to be strengthened to withstand a crash by a commercial jet, a safety measure arising from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
The NRC issued the new standard in 2009, seven years after Westinghouse had applied for approval of its design. The company, in bankruptcy court filings, said the NRC's demand created unanticipated engineering challenges.
A spokesman for the NRC, Scott Burnell, said the changes should not have come as a surprise, since the agency had been talking about the stringent requirements for several years.
Westinghouse changed its design to protect against a jet crash, but at that point the NRC questioned whether the new design could withstand tornadoes and earthquakes.
Westinghouse finally met the requirements in 2011, according to a report by Jacobs.
By 2016 Westinghouse began to grasp the scope of its dilemma, according to a document filed in its bankruptcy: Finishing the two projects would require Westinghouse to spend billions of dollars on labor, abandoning them would mean billions in penalties.
Westinghouse determined it could not afford either option.
Graphic: Cost overruns at Westinghouse's nuclear plants - http://tmsnrt.rs/2qnmtML
(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; additional reporting by Makiko Yamazaki in Tokyo; editing by Paul Thomasch)
Tencent steps up AI push with research lab in Seattle
Yu, who has been appointed as deputy head of Tencent's AI Lab division, will run the new lab as well as spearhead research in speech recognition and natural language understanding, the company said.
Tencent, which owns the popular WeChat messenging app, is Asia's most valuable company with a market capitalisation of nearly US$300 billion.
Shenzhen-headquartered Tencent is one of a number of Chinese technology juggernauts that are stepping up efforts in AI research. Tencent's WeChat has more than 889 million monthly active users.
Tencent has more than 50 researchers and more than 200 engineers at its AI Lab in Shenzhen, which was established in April 2016, according to the company.
China's "Big Three" tech firms - Tencent, Baidu Inc and Alibaba - have been competing to attract top-notch talent.
Yu, a speech recognition and deep learning expert, was the principal researcher at Microsoft Research Institute's Speech and Dialog Group before joining Tencent.
Baidu suffered a setback to its AI ambitions after its chief scientist Andrew Ng resigned in March, shortly before Tencent announced it has poached Baidu's former big data director Zhang Tong to head up its AI Lab.
Yu is looking to build a team of around 20 for the Seattle lab, according to Tencent.
(Reporting by Sijia Jiang; Editing by Richard Pullin)
Tottenham targeting West Ham win to pile pressure on Chelsea
Second-placed Tottenham can keep their title chase alive and cut the lead at the top to one point if they beat West Ham and Chelsea fumble against Middlesbrough three days later.
"We just have to try to finish strong," Kane told British media.
"We've got another game Friday night and it's good to play first. Hopefully, we can drop the gap to one point and then see what happens."
Kane said that Tottenham knew the pressure of playing later as they often played after champions Leicester City in the closing stages of last season and eventually faltered.
"We know what it's like from when Leicester were playing last year before us, and even today, that it's good to play first and put the pressure on," he added.
"It will be a tough game away from home but hopefully we can get that win, put that pressure on and just wait and see."
Tottenham lost 1-0 at West Ham last year but beat their London rivals at White Hart Lane earlier this season.
(Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)