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International Current Affairs September 4th Week 2017
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International Current Affairs September 4th Week 2017

1. India and US armies begin `Yudh Abhyas 2017` military exercise.

The Indian and U.S. armies have started the thirteenth iteration of their Yudh Abhyas series of joint military exercises.

The exercise began on September 14 at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington state in the United States and will go on until September 27.

The United States and India trade off on hosting iterations of the exercises. The first-ever drill under the Yudh Abhyas moniker was carried out in 2004 at the platoon level and has since been expanded.

The exercise this year will focus primarily on the counter-terrorism operations and will also included strategic consultations between senior armed forces officers on both sides.

Last year’s Yudh Abhyas was held in India, in the Chaubatia foothills in India’s state of Uttarakhand near the Sino-Indian border.

As The Diplomat reported at the time, the “focus of the exercise will be counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations in mountainous terrain under a UN mandate.”

Though the U.S. Department of Defense or Pacific Command has not publicly confirmed the exact scope of this year’s exercise, it is likely intended to focus on similar operations under a United Nations mandate.

The Indian Defense Ministry released a statement noting that the exercise would allow troops from both sides to “hone their tactical skills in counter insurgency and counter terrorist operations under a joint brigade headquarter.”

“Both sides will jointly train, plan and execute a series of well-developed tactical drills for neutralization of likely threats that may be encountered in UN peace keeping operations,” it added.

“Experts from both sides will hold detailed discussions to share their experience and expertise on varied operational topics.”

Generally, both sides use the Yudh Abhyas exercises to plan and execute a range of tactical scenarios vital to UN peacekeeping scenarios. This year’s iteration will give particular attention to counterterrorism applications.

Last year’s iteration in India involved a number of Indian Army helicopters, which played a role in helping simulate troop drops into hostile territory.
 
2. Lewis Hamilton won Singapore Grand Prix.
 Lewis Hamilton won Singapore Grand Prix
LEWIS Hamilton won a chaotic and rain-hit Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday to seize control of the Formula One world championship as his title rival Sebastian Vettel crashed out on the first lap.

Ferrari’s Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen all went out just after the start of the first wet race in Singapore, which saw three safety cars and finished with only 12 drivers.

It all played perfectly into the hands of Mercedes driver Hamilton, who went from fifth on the grid to first and held off Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo to clinch his third win in a row.

With his 60th race victory and seventh this season, Hamilton -- who had said he needed a “miracle” after struggling in qualifying -- stands 28 points ahead of Vettel with six grands prix left this year.

“Guys what can I say -- what a turn-around today! Fantastic job with the team strategy,” Hamilton said over the radio, before leaping out of his car and hugging his engineers.

“God blessed me today, for sure,” he said later, dripping with champagne. “I capitalised on the incident -- who would have known that would happen?

“It was really unfortunate for the Ferraris but a great result for the (Mercedes) team.” Ricciardo had to settle for second, while Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas was third and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz finished fourth.

Some drivers had expressed concerns about visibility in the wet under floodlights, but the night race had hardly started when it lost three of the first four cars on the grid.

Raikkonen ploughed into Red Bull’s Verstappen on the first corner, taking both cars out of the race and also heavily shunting Fernando Alonso’s McLaren.

Pole-sitter Vettel, who had been looking to reclaim the world championship lead from Hamilton, spun further ahead and lost his front wing, a crash that also ended his race.

“Obviously it sucks being on the wrong side of the track now, but that’s what it is,” Vettel shrugged after returning to the paddock.

- ‘Another safety car?’ -
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But Hamilton dodged the pile-up and he progressed from fifth on the grid to first, ahead of Ricciardo, as the race finally restarted after a safety car.

Alonso lasted just a few laps before the damage sustained at the first corner forced him to retire, and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat became the fifth man out when he ploughed nose-first into a barrier -- prompting a second safety car.

Mercedes declined to pit Hamilton under the safety car but after the restart, he reeled off a string of fastest laps on the slowly drying track, extending his lead over Ricciardo.

Ricciardo and then Hamilton pitted for ultra-soft tyres after laps 28 and 29 and the Briton emerged 8.7 seconds ahead with 50 minutes left on an increasingly quick track.

Hamilton had a healthy advantage of 9.6 seconds when Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson spun and stopped on Anderson Bridge, bringing out a third safety car and wiping out the Briton’s lead.

“Why another safety car?” Hamilton grumbled over the team radio. But Hamilton shot off after the restart to maintain the gap from Ricciardo and as he finally took the chequered flag, the grandstand came to its feet and fireworks lit up the night sky.

Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen both retired late in the race to bring the total number of casualties to eight.
 
3. Russia and Iraq Restore Air Travel After 13-Year Freeze.
Russia and Iraq Restore Air Travel After 13-Year Freeze
Russia and Iraq restored scheduled commercial airline services on Sunday for the first time since 2004, in what officials hailed as a sign of stability returning to the war-torn country.

An Iraqi Airways plane left Baghdad at 10.31 am (0731 GMT) and was expected to arrive at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport at 2.19 pm (1119 GMT), according to the Russian airport’s online departure and arrival timetables.

“The first commercial flight arrives today,” Sergei Izvolsky, spokesman for Russia’s civil aviation authority, told AFP.


“It is a signal on the part of the Iraqi authorities that Russian nationals can safely visit Iraq.”

The two countries may also later agree on air travel to the Iraqi city of Basra, Izvolsky said.

Russia suspended regular flights to Iraq in 2004 after the US-led invasion in 2003 plunged the Arab country into war.
 
4. Japan releases postage stamps on Indian Yoga experts.
Japan releases postage stamps on Indian Yoga experts
Acknowledging the role played by yoga legend Bishnu Charan Ghosh and his family members in spreading Indian postural yoga in Japan, the Japanese postal department has released postage stamps on four of Bengal’s famous exponents of the ancient Indian practice.

The stamps on Bishnu Charan Ghosh, his son Biswanath Ghosh, daughter Karuna Ghosh and Karuna’s father in law Asutosh Ghosh, that were released recently in Japan, were official showcased here by the Japanese Consul General in Kolkata, Masayuki Taga.

“This is the first time Japan has released postal stamps on any yoga experts. It is a result of the constant endeavour by the four yogis to create a close cultural linkage between the two countries by popularising the Indian form of yoga in Japan,” Taga said during the event.

He welcomed the fruitful exchange between Indian postural yoga and Japanese martial art, stating that both have similar traits and extended good wishes to the Indian martial artists performing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
 
5. China opens dual-use highway to Nepal through Tibet.
 China opens dual-use highway to Nepal through Tibet
China has opened a strategic highway in Tibet to the Nepal border which could be used for civilian and defence purposes, a move that Chinese experts say will enable Beijing to make forays into South Asia, according to a media report on Monday.

The 40.4-kilometre highway in Tibet between Xigaze airport and Xigaze city centre officially opened to the public on Friday with a short section linking the national highway to the Nepal border.

The highway will shorten the journey from an hour to 30 minutes between the dual-use civil and military airport and Tibet`s second-largest city.

State-run `Global Times` quoted experts as saying that the highway "will enable China to forge a route into South Asia in both economic and defence terms" and being a forerunner to a railway line connecting Nepal.

Geographically, any extension of the road and railway connectivity to South Asia is through India, Bhutan and to Bangladesh.
Chinese officials have said in the past that the projects are feasible and could become a trade corridor for India and China if New Delhi comes on board.

The new road runs parallel with the Xigaze-Lhasa railway and links the city`s ring roads with the 5,476-kilometre G318 highway from Shanghai to Zhangmu on the Nepal border, the report said.

As part of G318, the highway connects the border town of Zhangmu with Lhasa, the provincial capital of Tibet. It can link with the future cross-border Sino-Nepali railway, said Zhao Gancheng, director of the Centre for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.
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The G318 with Xigaze in the middle connects to Nepal on one end and other end links to Nyingchi, the Tibetan town close to Arunachal Pradesh border. The highway runs very close to the border.

China has been stepping efforts to improve road connectivity between Tibet and Nepal while speeding up plans to build a railway line connecting to Nepal`s border after K P Sharma Oli, pro-China former Nepalese Prime Minister, signed a Transit Trade Treaty with Beijing last year during his tenure.

Oli signed the treaty at the height of the Madhesi agitation and their blockade of Indian goods to provide a major opening for China to reduce the dependence of the landlocked country on India, even as the transportation of essentials through the Himalayan terrain of Tibet would entail heavy costs for Nepal.

However, since the fall of Oli government, China`s plans to speed up its efforts to make forays into Nepal through infrastructure expansion slowed down even though Kathmandu signed up for Beijing`s Belt and Road Initiative in May this year.

The 25-meter-wide highway between Xigaze peace airport and Xigaze has four double lanes and is classified a first-tier highway, the Tibet Financial Daily reported.

"Highways in China are of a high standard including the one in Tibet. It can be used by armoured vehicles and as a runway for planes to take off when it has to serve a military purpose," Zhao said.

"The road is Tibet`s first real highway. It is our gift toward the upcoming 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China," Wei Qianggao, deputy head of the Tibet transportation department was quoted as saying by the Global Times.

As an important infrastructure programme in the 13th Five-Year Plan and a core section of Tibet highway network, the road will benefit the export-oriented economy of Xigaze and the complex traffic around Lhasa, Wei said.

Over five years, the standard of highways in Tibet and the traffic network have been gradually improved, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Wang Jinhe, another official from the Tibet transportation department, the report said.

The total highway mileage in Tibet reached more than 80,000 kilometres in 2016, increasing nearly 19,000 kilometres since 2011, Wang said.
 
6. International Yoga Festival Starts in Kashmir.
 International Yoga Festival Starts in Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir governor N N Vohra today inaugurated the second International Yoga Festival and International Yoga Sports Championship 2017 in which about 300 people from across the world are participating.

The festival is being organized by the Yoga Society of Kashmir at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Centre, an official spokesman said here, adding that about 300 participants from various parts of India, Vietnam, Taiwan, Canada, Bulgaria, USA and Nepal are participating in the festival.
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Welcoming the participants, the governor complimented Shabir Ahmed Dar, Yoga therapist and Coach, for establishing the Yoga Society of Kashmir and organizing the championship.

Observing that Yoga is enormously beneficial for the growth of a healthy mind and body, Vohra emphasized that learning to practise yoga, especially from a young age helps in developing the required mental and physical discipline which enables the practitioner to lead a wholesome, stress free and balanced life, the spokesman said.

He said the governor wished all the participants a happy and comfortable stay here and suggested that the organisers should take them, particularly the foreign visitors, on a sightseeing tour of the scenic Kashmir valley.

Earlier, inspiring performances of rhythmic and artistic yoga were presented by a Yoga group from Jharkhand and Sourabh Singh from Amritsar.
 
7. Cyclist Mark Beaumont Breaks the World Record.
Cyclist Mark Beaumont Breaks the World Record
A British endurance athlete has broken the record for travelling around the world by bike, arriving back in Paris on Monday 78 days, 14 hours and 14 minutes after he set off.

Mark Beaumont was greeted by family, friends and fans at the Arc de Triomphe having cycled for 16 hours a day through 16 countries.

As he removed his helmet and hugged his wife, Nicci, and daughters Harriet, four, and Willa, one, Beaumont learned he had also beaten another record, having cycled a total of 11,315.29km (7,030 miles) in the first month of his challenge.

Cyclist set to finish record-breaking `around the world in 80 days` cycle a day early
 Read more
Beaumont had aimed to complete the journey in 80 days, emulating the French writer Jules Verne, but broke his own target.

“It’s been the longest two and a half months of my life,” he said. “The dream was to get around the world in 80 days. To get back here in 78 days is a dream come true. When I left Paris there were a lot of people wondering if it was possible, if I could actually do this.

“It has been, without doubt, the most punishing challenge I have ever put my body and mind through. The physical and mental stamina required for each day was a challenge in itself. The success of cycling around the world in 80 days shows that what seemed impossible is possible.

“I am very grateful for the support I’ve received from people all over the world, from fellow cyclists joining me on the road to messages and wishes online. The experience has been incredible, and I’m excited to share this journey for years to come.”

Beaumont covered 18,000 miles and endured bitter cold, searing heat and storms. Setting off from Paris on 2 July, the first stage took him through Europe to Russia and Mongolia, ending in Beijing. Then it was on to Australia and New Zealand. Stage three began at Anchorage, Alaska, and finished in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He flew back to Lisbon and pedalled north to Paris.

He suffered physical hardship along the way. After a fall in Moscow, a member of his backup team replaced a filling for him (Beaumont was so tired, he fell asleep during the procedure). He said he had found himself in some “very low places” and had shed tears on four occasions – the first time he had cried in more than two decades of endurance challenges.

Beaumont held the time record previously, completing the journey in 195 days in 2008. His new record beats New Zealander Andrew Nicholson’s 123 days, set in 2015.

In 2012, Beaumont was part of a team that tried to break the world record for rowing across the Atlantic, but they capsized 27 days in and had to be rescued.

Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate - sent direct to you
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He rested for a few years and instead made documentaries about other athletes. But the lure of the open road and the desire to “redefine the limits of human endurance” drew him back, he has said.

Beaumont has been raising money for Orkidstudio, which works to benefit communities worldwide through innovative architecture and construction. The journey was tracked through Twinkl, a global educational platform for primary schools.

As he neared the end of the circumnavigation, he told the Guardian he was unsure how he was viewed by the “mainstream cycling” fraternity.

“I’m still not sure it has accepted me,” he said. “I know that my main fanbase is 40-year-old males in lycra and that’s great, but I still get complaints that I’ve sold out with all my corporate sponsorship, or that I’m not doing it in the proper spirit because I’ve got two support vehicles and am racing through at 240 miles a day.

“But when I originally cycled around the world unsupported 10 years ago, I described myself as an adventurer. These days I’m an athlete. It’s all about the performance, it’s about making a livelihood from what I do and being able to support my family, just like Chris Froome makes his living from cycling. Yet he couldn’t do what I’m doing, and I couldn’t do what he does.”

He made it clear he believed his record can be broken. “After all, I’m hardly your typical cyclist – I’m 6’3” and 90 kilos. Someone who is 75 kilos and a ‘proper’ cyclist might do it faster.”

Lindsay Whitelaw, the founder of Beaumont’s main sponsors Artemis Investment, said it was a “marvellous achievement”.

“He came off the bike and broke a tooth and we think he has a hairline fracture to an arm but he managed to carry on. He just kept going. One of the key things Mark wants to do is to show that if you put your mind to something you can do it. Everyone can have their 80 days … if they focus and concentrate on doing something, whatever it is, they can achieve great things.”

Beaumont’s team has prepared an extensive “decompression” strategy to get him used to ordinary life again. His wife said the family was looking forward to some quality time together and there was some catching up to do. “It may just be 80 days to everyone else, but this was two years in the planning for the rest of us,” she said.

Nicci said their daughter Harriet was not impressed by her father’s world record. “She knows he’s been around the world but she still said one day: ‘He’s taken quite a long time, hasn’t he?”.
 
8. IDF and US Army Inaugurated First Permanent American Base in Israel.
IDF and US Army Inaugurated First Permanent American Base in Israel
Israel on Monday inaugurated with its US ally a joint missile defense base on Israeli soil, the first ever, a senior Israeli air force officer said.

The new facility, at an undisclosed location in southern Israel, was announced as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to meet US President Donald Trump in New York on the fringes of the UN General Assembly.

"We inaugurated, with our partners from the United States Army, an American base, for the first time in Israel," Brigadier General Tzvika Heimowitz, head of Israeli missile defenses, told journalists.

"An American flag is flying permanently over a US army base situated inside one of our bases."

Heimowitz said the move was not a direct response to any specific incident or immediate threat, but was a combination of "lessons learned" in the 2014 war in Gaza and intelligence analysis of future dangers.

"We have many enemies around us, near and far," he said.

The outgoing Israel air force chief in June warned neighbours of the "unimaginable" military power at the country`s disposal.

On September 7 Syria`s army accused Israeli warplanes of hitting one of its positions, killing two people in an attack that a monitor said targeted a site where the regime allegedly produces chemical weapons.
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Israel, without confirming it was behind the attack, indirectly warned Syria and Iran that it would not tolerate any "Shiite corridor from Tehran to Damascus".

Israel accuses Iran of building sites to produce "precision-guided missiles" in both Syria and Lebanon and Netanyahu is expected to reiterate the point in his talks with Trump.

The country has bought 50 F-35 stealth fighters from the United States.

Israel has a sophisticated anti-missile defense system, including the Iron Dome short-range interceptor which has successfully brought down rockets fired from Syria, Lebanon, Egypt`s lawless Sinai region and the Gaza Strip.

It also has the medium-range David`s Sling and the Arrow missile defense system, designed to counter more distant threats.

Heimowitz did not comment on the specific role of the new joint base, but said the "few dozen" US personnel there would be under Israeli command.

"This is not part of an exercise or maneuver," he said. "It is a presence as part of the joint effort of Israel and the US to improve defense."
 
9. Afghan Air Force got its first four U.S.-made UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
Afghan Air Force got its first four U.S.-made UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters
The Afghan Air Force took delivery of its first four U.S.-made UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters on Tuesday as part of a planned replacement of its aging fleet of Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters, officials said.

The U.S. plans to supply a total of 159 Black Hawks to Afghanistan in the coming years as it boosts the capacity of the AAF, considered one of the best-performing parts of the Afghan Defence and Security Forces.

“The first Afghan Air Force UH-60s arrived today in Kandahar. They will help further develop a capable and sustainable AAF,” the NATO-led Resolute Support mission said.

The robust Soviet-era Mi-17 is the workhorse of the AAF, accounting for around half of all sorties in recent months and is very popular with Afghan pilots.

As well as moving troops and casualties and flying in supplies to areas difficult to reach by road, the helicopters can also be fitted with weapons for close air support to units on the ground.
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However their age makes them increasingly difficult to maintain and replace and they are to be phased out over the coming years and replaced with refurbished Black Hawks, one of the mainstays of the U.S. Army’s helicopter force.

According to a report in July by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan, a U.S. Congressional watchdog, 19 of the AAF’s 46-strong Mi-17 fleet were unusable because they were undergoing overhaul or repair.

In addition to operational considerations, the Pentagon has also long faced political pressure from Congress to switch spending to U.S.-built aircraft.

Strengthening the Afghan Air Force is a central part of President Ashraf Ghani’s four year plan to improve Afghan security forces which have struggled to contain the Taliban insurgency since the NATO-led coalition backing the government ended its main combat operations in 2014.
 
10. Russia unveils statue of AK 47 inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov.
 
Russia unveils statue of AK 47 inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov
 
Russian officials and Orthodox priests on Tuesday (Sep 19) unveiled a statue in Moscow of inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov, whose iconic AK-47 assault rifle has claimed countless lives worldwide.

A priest sprinkled holy water on the seven-metre tall statue of Kalashnikov gripping his deadly creation, which will now loom over motorists from a traffic island in one of the sprawling capital`s central thoroughfares.

Culture minister Vladimir Medinsky praised the inventor and called the rifle - which has been reproduced an estimated 100 million times worldwide - a "cultural brand for Russia."

Kalashnikov had "the best traits of a Russian: an extraordinary natural gift, simplicity, integrity," Medinsky said.

Born in a Siberian village in 1919, Mikhail Kalashnikov died in December 2013 in Izhevsk, the capital of the Russian republic of Udmurtia, where he lived.

Kalashnikov came up with the idea of inventing a new automatic rifle that could work in all conditions after becoming disgruntled by the Soviet weaponry as he recovered from an injury during WWII.

Eventually that would lead to the creation of the AK-47 - short in Russian for Avtomat Kalashnikova 1947 (Kalashnikov Automatic Rifle 1947) - that would become the standard issue for the Soviet Union`s vast armed forces.

Known for its simplicity, the gun became a symbol for independence struggles and leftist radicals around the world during the Cold War, finding its way onto the national flag of Mozambique and the banner of Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah.

But Mikhail Kalashnikov never touched the fortunes from the sales of millions of the rifles that bear his name and used by the armies of over 80 countries. He stopped working only a year before his death, at the age of 93.

While his invention made Kalashnikov a household name around the globe, the man himself had a more nuanced view of his lethal creation.

Six months before his death he wrote to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, expressing regret for his role in making the world`s most commonly used rifle.
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"My spiritual pain is unbearable," he wrote in the letter which was later published in the Izvestia newspaper.

The erection of a monument to the gunmaker - who met personally with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013 - has raised eyebrows among some Muscovites.

But the move chimes with a surge of nationalist pride under Putin that has seen the Kremlin glorify the military achievements of the Soviet period while playing down the gross abuses.

The Kalashnikov factory that makes the rifles, in decline since the death of the inventor, has since been modernised, with most of its capital coming from private investors.

It has also been transformed by a PR campaign to improve its image in Russia and abroad, even opening a souvenir store in Moscow`s main Sheremetyevo Airport.

 10. International Day of Peace is observed around the world.

International Day of Peace is observed around the world
Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.

The theme for 2017 is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.”

The theme honours the spirit of TOGETHER, a global initiative that promotes respect, safety and dignity for everyone forced to flee their homes in search of a better life. TOGETHER unites the organizations of the United Nations System, the 193 Member States of the United Nations, the private sector, civil society, academic institutions and individual citizens in a global partnership in support of diversity, non-discrimination and acceptance of refugees and migrants. It was initiated during the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants on 19 September 2016.
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“In times of insecurity, communities that look different become convenient scapegoats,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. “We must resist cynical efforts to divide communities and portray neighbours as ‘the other’. Discrimination diminishes us all. It prevents people — and societies — from achieving their full potential.” He added, “Together, let us stand up against bigotry and for human rights. Together, let us build bridges. Together, let us transform fear into hope.”

This year, the International Day of Peace will focus on engaging and mobilizing people throughout the world to show support for refugees and migrants. Its messages will be shared with communities hosting refugees and migrants as well as people concerned that refugees and migrants may bring physical and economic insecurity to their lives.

The Day will highlight solidarity with refugees and migrants and showcase the shared benefits of migration to economies and nations, while also acknowledging legitimate concerns of host communities. Ultimately, it will be about bringing people together and reminding them of their common humanity.

Young people will have a vital role to play. For example, they can volunteer to welcome and help refugees and migrants in their communities. They can also extend the hand of friendship to young refugees and migrants who they might meet in their classrooms and neighbourhoods.
 
11. 50 Nations signed a UN treaty to ban nuclear weapons.
50 Nations signed a UN treaty to ban nuclear weapons
Fifty countries have signed a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, a pact that the world’s nuclear powers spurned but supporters hailed as a historic agreement nonetheless. “You are the states that are showing moral leadership in a world that desperately needs such moral leadership today,” Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said as a signing ceremony began.

Before the day was out, 50 states as different as Indonesia and Ireland had put their names to the treaty; others can sign later if they like. Guyana, Thailand and the Vatican also have already ratified the treaty, which needs 50 ratifications to take effect among the nations that back it.

They would be barred from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, otherwise acquiring, possessing or stockpiling nuclear weapons “under any circumstances.”

Seven decades after the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan during World War II , the only use of nuclear weapons, there are believed to be about 15,000 of them in the world today.

Amid rising tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday that the threat of a nuclear attack is at its highest level since the end of the Cold War. “This treaty is an important step towards the universally held goal of a world free of nuclear weapons,” he said yesterday.

Supporters of the pact say it’s time to push harder toward eliminating atomic weapons than nations have done through the nearly 50-year-old Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Under its terms, non-nuclear nations agreed not to pursue nukes in exchange for a commitment by the five original nuclear powers — the US, Russia, Britain, France and China — to move toward nuclear disarmament and to guarantee other states’ access to peaceful nuclear technology for producing energy.
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More than 120 countries approved the new nuclear weapons ban treaty in July over opposition from nuclear-armed countries and their allies, who boycotted negotiations. The US, Britain and France said the prohibition wouldn’t work and would end up disarming their nations while emboldening “bad actors,” in US Ambassador Nikki Haley’s words.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has called the treaty “wishful thinking” that is “close to irresponsible.”

The nuclear powers have suggested instead strengthening the non-proliferation treaty, which they say has made a significant dent in atomic arsenals.

Brazil was the first country to sign onto the ban yesterday, followed by nations from Algeria to Venezuela. “Those who still hold nuclear arsenals, we call upon them to join this date with history,” Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis said as he prepared to sign.
 
12. India will rank top in Retail Destination in 2017 by replacing China.
India will rank top in Retail Destination in 2017 by replacing China 
India has replaced China as the numero uno retail destination in 2017 as part of the global retail development index, according to industry experts.

"India has replaced China this year as the top retail destination as part of the study on global retail development index," AT Kearney partner Subhendu Roy said on the concluding day of the two-day India Retail Forum 2017.

The change in ranking was an outcome of four factors including increased consumer spending beyond essentials, rising mobile and internet penetration, favourable foreign investment climate and bold action on cashless transaction and GST, Roy explained.

"This has triggered the entry of global brands into India with transparency and ease," he added.
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According to India Retail Report 2017, over the past 12-15 months, 100 per cent cash and carry operations are gaining significance in India with Thailand`s Siam Makro being the latest entrant in this space following Metro, Walmart and Booker.

Furthermore, Swedish-furniture maker Ikea plans to open its lone distribution centre or warehouse in the country in Pune by end 2017 and its first store in Hyderabad by early 2018 with overall plans to invest USD 1.56 billion to set up 25 stores in India.

In addition to the bigger retailer and brands, the mid-size brands from across the world are also looking to cash on the relaxed retail policy in India.

Food as well as retail Brands such as Korres, Migato, Evisu, Wallstreet English, Pasta Mania, Lush Addiction, Melting Pot, Yogurt Lab and Monnalisa and many others from across the world, are expected to invest about USD 300-500 million cumulatively to open roughly 2,500-3,000 stores, the study said.

With increasing global participation in Indian retail, the sector will further evolve and become more organised and competitive in providing better assortment to the consumer.
 
13. FIFA Women World Cup France 2019 official slogan, emblem launched.
Women`s football was implored to `Dare to Shine` as the next step in the countdown to the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ took place in Paris on Tuesday, with the launch of the tournament’s Official Emblem and Slogan.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino, French Football Association (FFF) President Noel Le Graet, and French Sports Minister Laura Flessel attended the event, as well as FIFA`s Head of Women`s Football Sarai Bareman, which took place in the beautiful Musee de l`Homme in the centre of the French capital.

“I think it will the best Women’s World Cup in the history of FIFA," President Infantino told the gathered media and figures from the footballing world, including members of the French national team, fresh from a 3-1 win over Spain the night before. "I think it will be magnificent. France is a great football nation for both men and women.”

The tournament, which will run from 7 June to 7 July 2019, will kick off in the Parc des Princes, Paris, featuring the hosts France. The 24 teams will then be whittled down to the final four, with the semi-finals and final taking place in Lyon on 2/3 July and 7 July respectively. 

"I hope that in the aftermath of the 2019 World Cup, young girls will be wearing football boots in their thousands," Flessel said.
 
14. China and Australia joint military training exercise called Panda Kangaroo 2017 held in Kunming.
 
Chinese and Australian ground forces started their bilateral joint training named "Exercise Panda-Kangaroo 2017" on September 10 at a training ground of the PLA Southern Theater Command in Kunming, capital city of southwest China`s Yunnan Province.

This is the first joint training held in China by Chinese and Australian armies. The two ground forces have conducted such joint training in 2015 and 2016 in Australia.

This joint training, focusing on mountain comprehensive skills, aims to practice and improve the ground forces` comprehensive skills in mountainous areas.

China and Australia each sent 10 personnel to participate in the training. The Chinese participants are selected from the army of the PLA Southern Theater Command.

During the over ten-day activity, participants from both sides will undergo such wild survival training items as marching, overcoming natural obstacles, making and using floating equipment, camping and picnicking in complex and unfamiliar mountainous area.

It is said that the joint training between the Chinese and Australian armies is a pragmatic measure to enhance the military training cooperation and promote the steady development of the relations between the two armed forces.

The Exercise Panda-Kangaroo training is also an important platform for enhancing the mutual understanding and trust and deepening the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.

Besides, cultural exchanges and other friendly activities will also be held during the training.

15. Australia invited to first Asiad in 2022.

Australia invited to first Asiad in 2022
Athletes from Australia and the rest of Oceania have been invited to compete at the 2022 Asian Games, Australian Olympic chief John Coates said Thursday, days after the Olympic Council of Asia said such a move was unlikely.

The OCA’s invite to theAsian Games in China’s Hangzhou is for selected sports only to enable regional athletes to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics through Asian competition, Coates said.

Oceania -- Australia, New Zealand and a swathe of Pacific islands -- has not taken part in the regional Olympics before, but sporting ties with Asia have been growing.

Australia has been a member of the Asian Football Confederation since 2006, and Oceania nations are currently competing at the Asian Indoor Games and Martial Arts Games in Turkmenistan.

Coates, who is also a member of the Association of Oceania NOCs, said the decision on Hangzhou -- the next but one Asian Games, after Indonesia hosts the tournament in 2018 -- was made by OCA President Sheikh Ahmad al Fahad al Sabah.

Sheikh Ahmad said on Monday that the number of Asian Games athletes was capped at 15,000, suggesting Australia and Oceania would be unable to take part -- although exceptions could be made in some team sports.

Coates said because of the 15,000 maximum, “the numbers from the NOCs of Oceania will be capped at around 300 athletes and 150 support staff”.
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“Volleyball, football, basketball and equestrian are among the sports for which Olympic qualification for Australia is likely to be through Asia,” Coates said in a statement.

However, it is unlikely that equestrian will take up the opportunity because rules generally require horses to be quarantined for up to six months on return from China.

Coates said international federations were currently determining their qualification rules for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics “and these will provide a guide as to all of the sports and NOCs for which qualification from Oceania will be through Asia for Paris 2024”.

Australia has 18 athletes currently competing in taekwondo, weightlifting and wrestling at the Asian Indoor Games in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, the first OCA event to feature athletes from the Oceania region.
 
16. Worlds largest aircraft Stratolaunch built by Microsoft Co founder Paul Allen completed its first engine test.
Worlds largest aircraft Stratolaunch built by Microsoft Co founder Paul Allen completed its first engine test
 
For the first time, the private spaceflight company Stratolaunch tested all six of the engines on a colossal airplane with the largest wingspan of any aircraft in the world.

"In these initial tests, each of the six engines operated as expected," Stratolaunch, which is led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, announced on Tuesday (Sept. 19). The 747 turbofan engines were loaded with fuel, started one at a time and then allowed to idle at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, the company said.

The double-bodied airplane is designed to serve as a mobile launch platform to carry rockets into low-Earth orbit. [Supersonic! The 11 Fastest Military Airplanes]

According to the scheme, the Stratolaunch plane will make a runway-style takeoff, and when the aircraft reaches a cruising altitude of 36,000 feet (11,000 meters), the rockets it`s carrying will detach and then launch small satellites into low-Earth orbit.

Stretching 386 feet (118 m) across, the aircraft`s wingspan is longer than a professional football field. The vehicle weighs 500,000 lbs. (nearly 227,000 kilograms) when empty and unfueled, but it`s designed to carry another 550,000 lbs. (nearly 250,000 kg) between the two fuselages.
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Allen founded Stratolaunch Systems in 2011 with a goal of making access to low-Earth orbit "more convenient, reliable and routine," according to the company`s website. To build the huge carrier plane, Allen partnered with Scaled Composites, the aerospace company founded by spaceship builder Burt Rutan. (Perhaps it should be no surprise, then, that the design for the Stratolaunch plane resembles that of Rutan`s double-bodied White Knight Two, the mothership built to launch Virgin Galactic`s SpaceShipTwo, a passenger-carrying space plane.)

Last year, Stratolaunch signed a deal with Orbital ATK, which will provide its Pegasus XL air-launch rockets to be used with the Stratolaunch aircraft. These rockets can carry satellites weighing up to 1,000 lbs. (about 450 kg), and Stratolaunch could fit up to three of them on a single flight of its plane, underneath the conjoined center wing.

The aircraft rolled away from its scaffolding supports and out of the hangar for the first time only in May. Company officials have said they hope to have the plane fully in service by the end of the decade.

"Over the next few months, we will continue to test the aircraft`s engines at higher power levels and varying configurations, culminating to the start of taxi tests," Stratolaunch officials said in a statement. The company said that it already began testing the aircraft`s flight control system as well as the electrical, pneumatic and fire-detection systems.
 
17. Catalyst E2 Max electric bus set a World Record by driving 1,771 km on a single charge.
Catalyst E2 Max electric bus set a World Record by driving 1,771 km on a single charge
Proterra revealed that one of its Catalyst E2 Max electric buses just set a new world record for the longest distance traveled by an electric vehicle on a single charge. The bus, which packs a hefty 660kWh of storage—equivalent to 11 Chevy Bolts—drove a total of 1,101.2 miles (1,772.2km) at the Navistar Proving Grounds in Indiana. It`s quite an impressive feat, considering the previous record holder was a lightweight experimental single-seat EV.

While 1,100 miles is a lot more than an average bus drives in a day, Proterra`s record may prove quite helpful in persuading range-anxious transit authorities to ditch internal combustion in favor of battery power for future fleets.

Of course, the other factor is how long it takes to recharge. This is probably less of an issue with vehicles like buses, delivery trucks, and garbage trucks that spend their lives crawling around cities, since that kind of low-speed, stop-and-go duty cycle plays right into the strengths of an electric powertrain, and the vehicles can recharge at the end of their route. Proterra also developed a high-speed charging system for buses (which it`s offering to anyone without licensing fees), although even with its high-voltage system in operation, the 660kWh record-breaking bus would still need at least an hour to get back to a full charge.

The electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicle segment appears to be gathering steam. In addition to Proterra and the Chinese EV bus builder BYD, Daimler recently announced plans to supply short-haul electric trucks to UPS. And both Cummins and Tesla are working on electric semi trucks.
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Beyond pure EVs, several other outfits are developing or selling hybrid medium- and heavy-duty EVs: Wrightspeed has its hybrid garbage trucks, Toyota is testing hydrogen fuel cell trucks at the Port of Long Beach, and Nikola and Bosch just announced plans to team up on hydrogen fuel cell long-haulers.

All of the EV truck and bus companies Ars has spoken with in the past have touted the superior cost-per-mile of EVs versus fossil fuel vehicles, and the fact that EV powertrains have few moving parts should mean maintenance costs are lower, so the higher purchase price should be recouped within three to four years. "Driven by the best cost savings-per-mile, we believe the business case for heavy-duty electric buses is superior to all other applications, and that the transit market will be the first to transition completely to battery-electric powered vehicles," said Ryan Popple, Proterra`s CEO.
 
18. Qatar Airways becomes the Worlds First Airline to launch Double beds in Business Class.
Qatar Airways becomes the Worlds First Airline to launch Double beds in Business Class
Qatar Airways is well-known for the comfort and amenities that it provides to its passengers and in a first, it has launched double bed suites within the business class. The business class called a Qsuite allows passengers to recline two middle seats into a flat-bed with partition panels to create an illusion of a private bedroom with two entertainment screens inside. The double beds are a first-time venture for Qatar Airways as well as the industry and take the comfort quotient to a whole new level. The feature was launched on a daily Boeing 777 service from Heathrow Airport in London. There is another feature to this, about four passengers traveling together can transform their seats to form a private are or a booth in which they can dine, hold meetings or socialize as a group.

As reported by Daily Mail, Jonathan Harding, and Qatar Airways’s senior vice president described the Qsuite as a ‘’first class product in business class’. He told the Press Association, “It’s a revolutionary, brand new, game-changing product which we are going to roll out across our business class fleet, raising the business class experience to a new level. We have the first double bed in the sky so people traveling together are able to avail themselves of that. If you’re traveling by yourself you get privacy, particularly in one of our window seats, but our quads can be configured in a way that is very flexible and comfortable.”

Qatar Airways fully lie-flat bed comes with pillows, quilted mattress, and a plush duvet. Complimentary sleepwear and slippers are also provided. The private Qsuite has a door as well as a Do Not Disturb indicator to ensure that you have a good night’s sleep.of both devices.

Despite their relatively large batteries, the Eluga Ray 500 and Eluga Ray 700 don`t feel too bulky and are easy to hold even with one hand. Both models feel sturdy and seem to have good build quality.

The Eluga Ray 500 sports a 5-inch HD (720x1280 pixels) IPS display while the Eluga Ray 700 has a larger 5.5-inch HD (1080x1920 pixels) IPS display. We found that both phones could get quite bright, and we hope that these screens will hold up as well outdoors as indoors. Due to the increase in resolution along with screen size, we didn`t find the larger Eluga Ray 700 screen to be any less sharp than the one on the Eluga Ray 500.
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Coming to the performance, the Panasonic Eluga Ray 500 is powered by a 1.25GHz quad-core MediaTek MTK6737 SoC, while the Eluga Ray 700 packs a more powerful octa-core MediaTek MTK6753 SoC clocked at 1.3GHz. Both phones have 3GB of RAM despite their low prices, and both have 32GB of built-in storage, which is expandable using a microSD card (up to 128GB).

Both phones also run Android 7.0 Nougat and support Panasonic`s own Arbo Digital assistant, but as it requires some time to learn user behaviour, we couldn`t get an idea of its performance. We didn`t face any issues with performance when flipping through the Android UI and trying out the pre-loaded applications.

The Panasonic Eluga Ray 500 does have competition from other smartphones with dual cameras in the budget category, such as the Micromax Evok Dual Note and the Coolpad Cool 1 Dual. It also faces the competition from other handsets like Xiaomi Redmi 4 and Yu Yureka Black. On the other hand, the Eluga Ray 700 will be competing with the Moto E4 Plus and Xiaomi Redmi Note 4. Stay tuned to Gadgets 360 for a detailed analysis of the performance of both phones.
 
19. Australias largest bank to sell its life insurance unit to AIA Group for 3 billion dollar.
Australias largest bank to sell its life insurance unit to AIA Group for 3 billion dollar
Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA.AX) said on Thursday it had agreed to sell its life insurance arm to Hong Kong’s AIA Group Ltd (1299.HK) for $3.05 billion, in the biggest Asian buyout of an Australian financial services firm.

CBA also flagged a possible wealth management IPO as Australia’s major lenders come under regulatory pressure to boost capital in the face of a frothy property market.

The sale of insurance business CommInsure follows damaging media revelations last year that it had used discredited methods to refuse legitimate payouts, leading to policy cancellations.

The scandal was one of a series of crises that has rocked CBA in recent times, culminating in allegations of systemic breaches of money-laundering and terror-financing laws that could expose it to billions of dollars in fines.

“CBA has done well selling CommInsure on a good multiple,” Shaw and Partners analyst David Spotswood said in a note to clients, adding it gave the bank “flexibility” in the event of hefty fines stemming from the money-laundering civil case.

CBA shares rose as much as 0.5 percent in morning trade while the broader Australian market was down 0.7 percent. It was rare respite for CBA shareholders, with the stock down 9 percent since the money-laundering allegations broke on Aug. 3.

The CommInsure sale is part of a broader trend of asset sales across Australia’s banking sector. Asian life insurers are potential buyers due to Australia’s growing population and economy, and its stable regulatory regime compared with emerging markets.

National Australia Bank Ltd (NAB.AX) sold an 80 percent stake of its life insurance unit to Japan’s Nippon Life Insurance Co last year.
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Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ.AX) has said it may sell its life insurance and wealth divisions, while Westpac Banking Corp (WBC.AX) also has started exploring a possible life insurance sale, according to reports in the Australian media.

Under the AIA deal, CBA said it would continue to sell life insurance for the world No. 2 life insurer for 20 years, and customers would keep their existing benefits.

The Australian lender also said it was considering spinning off asset management business Colonial First State Global Asset Management in an initial public offering. Colonial has A$219 billion in assets under management.

CBA did not give further details about the plan but said its wealth management chief executive, Annabel Spring, would leave the company in December.

 

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