Tanzanian Peacekeepers Ambushed, Killed in DR Congo

News4u-News Desk- In the second attack within 48 hours, two Tanzanian UN peacekeepers have been killed in an ambush in eastern Congo. Their unit was attacked in an area where Islamist Ugandan rebels are active.

The head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, Martin Kobler, condemned the attack on a Tanzanian unit of the peacekeeping force in a village in the Beni region.

The patrol was ambushed in an area where government forces are fighting Ugandan rebels in North Kivu province. “The ambush took place today, this afternoon … The death toll is two and we have a couple of injured,” Felix Basse, spokesman for the mission known as MONUSCO, said on Tuesday.

The ambush was the second attack on UN forces in the area in 48 hours. On Monday, a MONUSCO helicopter was fired on by unidentified gunmen.

Earlier on Tuesday the Congolese army said it had killed 16 Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels during fierce fighting in the same area over the weekend.

The army launched Operation Sukola I against the ADF in 2014. The Islamist group has been accused of killing 300 villagers near Beni between October and December last year.

The UN is pushing for the disarmament of dozens of rebel and splinter groups in eastern DR Congo after two decades of conflict, much of it fueled by the lucrative trade in minerals.

The World Food Program has been providing food assistance to thousands of people. AP


Tanzanian Peacekeepers Ambushed, Killed in DR Congo

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Lok Sabha passes GST Constitutional Amendment Bill

News4u-News Desk- The long-pending GST bill was approved by Lok Sabha on Wednesday after a walkout by Congress even as government vowed to compensate states for any revenue loss and assured that the new uniform indirect tax rate will be much less than 27 per cent recommended by an expert panel.

The Constitution Amendment Bill to implement the Goods and Services Tax (GST), originally mooted by the UPA, was passed by 352 votes against 37 after the government rejected the opposition demand of referring it to Standing Committee.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not present in the House at the time of voting.

Opposition members moved several amendments to the bill which was negated. Some members like Saugata Roy of Trinamool Congress and B Mahtab did not move some of the amendments after assurances by the FINANCE Minister.

The GST, which is proposed to be implemented from April 1, 2016, will subsume excise, service tax, state VAT, entry tax, octroi and other state levies.

Replying to the debate on the bill before Congress walked out, FINANCE Minister Arun Jaitley said the proposal to reform the indirect taxes has been pending for the last 12 years and his predecessor P Chidambaram had also mooted it during UPA rule.

Rejecting the Opposition demand for referring the Bill to the Standing Committee, he said the panel has already examined various provisions of the new legislation and several of its suggestions have been incorporated.

“A bill is not a dancing instrument that it will be jumping from Standing Committee to Standing Committee,” he said.

Commending the bill, he said this is a “very important moment” because the whole process of indirect taxation in India will change once the GST is implemented.

With regard to a recommendation of an expert panel for revenue-neutral GST rate of 27 per cent, Mr. Jaitley said it is “too high” and will be “much diluted”.

He said GST would ensure seamless and uniform indirect tax regime besides lowering inflation and promoting growth in the long run as he sought to allay concerns of the states that they would be hurt by its implementation.


LS approves GST Bill

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Burundian Protests Enter Ninth Day as UN Envoy Meets Government

News4u-News Desk- Protests in Burundi continued for a ninth day as the United Nations said its envoy is meeting with the government to try and defuse tensions raised by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term.

Demonstrators took to the streets of the capital, Bujumbura, again on Wednesday, setting up roadblocks and burning tires, Leonidas Hatungimana, a former presidential spokesman who backs the protests, said by phone. The UN secretary-general’s special envoy for the Great Lakes region, Said Djinnit, is in two days of talks with Burundi’s Interior Ministry over the situation, secretary-general spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in New York on Tuesday, according to a transcript of a press briefing.

Burundi’s unrest, which has left at least nine people dead, is stoking fears of a return to conflict if rebel groups abandon the agreements that ended a 12-year civil war in which 300,000 were killed. It also has the potential to destabilize the Great Lakes region that includes the Democratic Republic of Congo, the world’s biggest source of cobalt and Africa’s top copper producer.

Protests erupted on April 26 after Burundi’s ruling party nominated Nkurunziza to run for president in elections scheduled for June. Opponents say his candidacy violates a peace accord signed 15 years ago in Arusha, Tanzania, that stipulates a two-term presidential limit. They suspended protests on May 2 for two days to allow Nkurunziza to reconsider.

Another opposition spokesman, Shovinau Mugwengezo, accused Imbonerakure, the ruling party’s youth wing, of attacking people with hand grenades and clubs in the south of the capital on Wednesday. Imbonerakure leader Denis Karera said by phone that he wasn’t aware of the attacks and any such action wouldn’t have been ordered by his group. Bloomberg


Burundian Protests Enter Ninth Day

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Hezbollah vows to attack al-Nusra Front on Syria frontier

News4u-News Desk- Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah says his Lebanon-based Shia group will attack Sunni militants from al-Nusra Front along the border with Syria.

Mr Nasrallah said al-Nusra units based in the Qalamoun Mountains would be targeted, but did not specify when.

He said the group, which has launched a series of attacks on Hezbollah fighters in Syria, posed an unacceptable threat.

Hezbollah, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has sent hundreds of fighters to join the Syrian civil war.
‘Time will tell’

In a televised address on Tuesday, Mr Nasrallah said attacks by militants from the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front posed an unacceptable threat to Lebanon’s security and required “radical treatment”.

“The [Lebanese] state is not able to address this issue… so we will proceed with the necessary treatment and assume the responsibility and consequences,” he added.

He declined to say when the operation would begin adding: “Even when we start, we will not issue a statement. When we begin, the operation will speak for itself.”

Most of the border region was recaptured from rebel forces last year after a major assault by Syrian government troops, backed by Hezbollah fighters.

However, jihadists entrenched there have continued to launch attacks, with clashes reported as recently as Tuesday.
Lebanese officials say several hostages, including soldiers and police officers, are still being held after being seized in the Lebanese border town of Arsal last year.

Fighting from Syria frequently spills over into neighbouring Lebanon, with cross-border clashes and bombings.

The conflict in Syria has also exacerbated existing tensions in Lebanon - which suffered its own civil war between 1975 and 1990 - and made Hezbollah and areas which support it targets for Sunni militant bomb attacks.


Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah

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Cameron’s Conservative Party takes 3-point lead over Labour Party

News4u-News Desk- Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party took a 3-point lead over the opposition Labour Party ahead of Thursday’s national election, according to an opinion poll.

The opinion polls by ComRe showed Conservatives at 35 percent, up 2 points from Saturday, versus the Labour Party at 32 percent, down 1 point.

The poll had earlier showed both the parties tied at 33 percent.

The two main parties have been neck-and-neck in most opinion polls since the start of the year, with neither establishing a sustained lead exceeding the 3-point margin of error.

Opinion polls have consistently shown that neither of the two main parties is likely to win an overall majority in the 650-seat Parliament.


David Cameron

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Nepalese PM expresses gratitude to international community

News4u-News Desk- Nepal’s Foreign Ministry has said the government has asked countries to withdraw their ‘first response’ teams as the focus now shifts to relief rather than rescue. Speaking to DD News, Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has said the country desperately needs tents in huge numbers.

Over a week after the earthquake struck Nepal and left a trail of destruction..the focus has now shifted from rescue to relief and rehabilitation.

After Nepal asked rescue teams to end their work, India’s NDRF also began withdrawal of its men.

The government had pressed a total of 16 NDRF teams, with 45 members in each, to undertake humanitarian aid, relief and rescue operations.

The first phase of rescue and relief operations in most earthquake affected districts of Nepal is complete.

Even as the rescue teams start leaving the Himalayan nation, the relief work is going on unhindered.

Relief material is the need of the hour that India and other countries too have responded to but distribution remains a major challenge.

AS THE himalayan state grapples with the enormity of challenge, Indian efforts conitnue unabated.

Nepalese people have shown resilience in the hour of crisis, and have sown exemplary courage to deal with the calamity, as far as the relief is concerned, help is never far away.


Nepalese PM expresses gratitude to international community

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Germanwings crash: Co-pilot Lubitz ‘practised rapid descent’

News4u-News Desk-The co-pilot of the Germanwings plane which crashed in the French Alps in March may have practised a rapid descent on a previous flight, the German newspaper Bild has said.

It quoted French investigators as saying Andreas Lubitz tried a controlled descent earlier that day.

Lubitz is suspected of deliberately crashing the Airbus 320, killing all 150 people on board.

The plane had been flying from Barcelona to Duesseldorf on 24 March.

The French authorities are due to publish an interim report on the investigation later on Wednesday.

Bild quoted sources close to the investigation as saying that Lubitz tried a “controlled, minute-long descent for which there was no aeronautical reason”.

The descent occurred on the plane’s outbound flight from Duesseldorf to Barcelona on the same day, they added, citing data on its “black box” flight recorder.

The co-pilot is known to have suffered depression in the past.

Last month German prosecutors revealed that Lubitz had rehearsed suicide methods and the security of cockpit doors.
Voice recorder findings suggest he locked the pilot out of the cockpit on the doomed flight. BBC


Andreas Lubitz

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US offers $20m in rewards on ‘four IS leaders’

News4u-News Desk- The US government is offering rewards totalling $20m (£13m) for information on what it says are four leaders of the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

It named the four as Abdul Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili and Tariq bin al-Tahar bin al-Falih al-Awni al-Harzi.

They join a list of suspects sought under the Rewards for Justice Program.

On Tuesday, Islamic State said it was behind an attack in Texas.

It said “two soldiers of the caliphate” had attacked a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest being held at a conference centre in Garland near Dallas.

Zawahiri tops list

The US State Department offered up to $7m for information on Qaduli whom it described as a senior IS official who originally joined its precursor, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

It offered $5m each for Adnani and Batirashvili and up to $3m for Harzi.

It describes Adnani as an official IS spokesman, Batirashvili - who is also known as Omar Shishani - as a battlefield commander in northern Syria, and Harzi as chief of the group’s suicide bombers.

IS has seized swathes of territory in eastern Syria and northern Iraq, declaring them a caliphate and imposing a harsh interpretation of Islamic law on the inhabitants.

The state department said the group was responsible for systematic human rights abuses, including mass executions, rape and the killing of children.

The highest reward offered under the Rewards for Justice scheme is up to $25m for Ayman al-Zawahiri who was named leader of al-Qaeda in June 2011, shortly after Osama Bin Laden’s death.

It also offers up to $10m for IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

On Tuesday, a report on IS’s al-Bayan Radio said the exhibition in Garland had been “portraying negative pictures of the Prophet Muhammad”.

The contest had offered a $10,000 (£6,600) prize for a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad. Depictions of Muhammad are offensive to many Muslims.

Both gunmen were shot dead by a police officer after they opened fire outside the venue on Sunday.
US officials later said they doubted the group’s direct involvement. BBC


The US issued images of the four, from left, Qaduli; Adnani; Batirashvili and Harzi

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EU to probe big tech companies in digital market overhaul

News4u-Business Desk- The European Union will announce a wide-ranging probe on Wednesday into how big technology companies such as Google (GOOGL.O), Amazon (AMZN.O) and Facebook (FB.O) use their market power as it considers whether to regulate them more tightly.

The inquiry, which by its nature will inevitably focus heavily on U.S. firms, follows calls from France and Germany for regulation of so-called “essential digital platforms”, encompassing everything from e-commerce sites such as eBay (EBAY.O) to social media companies.

European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip will unveil his “Digital Single Market Strategy” at noon (1000 GMT) in Brussels. It will aim to update copyright rules, knock down barriers to cross-border parcel deliveries and ensure European online businesses can compete with their bigger U.S. counterparts.

The inquiry differs from an antitrust investigation of the kind launched by the EU into Google five years ago, in that it is not aimed at enforcing existing law through penalties.

Rather it will look at whether Internet platforms are transparent enough in how they display search results and if they promote their own services to the detriment of competitors, according to a draft of the strategy seen by Reuters.

Politicians and businesses across Europe have been calling for the market power of dominant U.S. tech firms to be curbed to help Europe’s fledgling web industry compete, leading to accusations of protectionism from U.S. President Barack Obama.

‘GEO-BLOCKING’

The Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), whose members include Google, Microsoft, eBay, Facebook and Amazon, said the idea of regulating platforms was ill-conceived given that businesses from newspapers to e-commerce sites to cars were increasingly becoming digital platforms.

“Platform regulation would hit European platform companies hardest given they grow here,” it added.

As part of its strategy, the Commission will also announce on Wednesday an “ambitious overhaul” of the bloc’s regulation of the telecoms sector, to take place next year. It will take into account the increased competition from services such as Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Skype (MSFT.O), a decision that will be cheered by the telecoms industry.

The Commission wants to boost economic growth in the 28-country bloc by knocking down barriers between countries in the online world as it has done in the offline one, pushing businesses to sell across borders.

It will seek to clamp down on so-called “geo-blocking”, the practice whereby businesses restrict access to websites based on location or re-route customers to their local website, which may have different prices.

“These unjustified practices should be expressly prohibited so that EU customers and businesses can take full advantage of the single market in terms of choice and lower prices,” the draft strategy states. Reuters


The European Union

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Greenpeace faces shutdown after India freezes funds in charity crackdown

News4u-News Desk- Greenpeace India is facing imminent closure after authorities froze its bank accounts leaving it with little funds, the environmental group’s head said late on Tuesday, accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government of “strangulation by stealth”.

India’s home ministry last month blocked foreign funding to the local branch of Greenpeace and suspended its registration for six months. Officials said the charity was misreporting funds and using unaccounted foreign aid to stall development projects.

Greenpeace India, which has campaigned against coal mining, genetically modified food and nuclear power projects, rejects the allegations. It says the government is trying to silence criticism and dissent in the world’s largest democracy.

Samit Aich, Greenpeace India’s executive director, said the freezing of its domestic accounts meant the charity - which has been in the country for 14 years and has more than 300 staff - only had enough funds left to operate for one month.

“The question here is why are 340 people facing the loss of their jobs? Is it because we talked about pesticide-free tea, air pollution, and a cleaner, fairer future for all Indians?” Aich said in a statement.

“The home minister is trying to strangle us by stealth, because he knows an outright ban is unconstitutional. We ask him to confirm that he is trying to close Greenpeace India and suppress our voice.”

Officials from the home ministry were not immediately available for comment.

CHARITY CRACKDOWN

India has in recent months tightened its surveillance of the tens of thousands of foreign funded non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in sectors from health and education to environmental protection and human rights.

Government officials say they suspect that some charities are violating the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) - a law that bars overseas donations to NGOs of a “political nature” - hinting that foreign hands may be trying to disrupt the progress of one of Asia’s fastest growing economies.

A leaked intelligence service report in June last year said local branches of organisations such as Greenpeace, Amnesty International and ActionAid were damaging the country’s economy with their activities against industrial projects.

The groups have been involved in many campaigns in which they have supported indigenous communities to successfully mobilise against big mining firms such as Vedanta and Essar.

But critics argue that this is an attempt to muzzle the voices of those who oppose Modi’s development model, which they say is more about industrialisation, rather than the rights of the poor and the protection of the environment.

The home ministry last month cancelled the registration of nearly 9,000 charities for failing to declare details of funds from abroad.

It also put U.S.-based Ford Foundation on a security watch list, ordering government approval of any of its activities in the country. The charity is being investigated for funding a local group run by a prominent activist and critic of Modi.

This prompted the United States to express concern, saying the crackdown against Greenpeace and the Ford Foundation risks limiting “necessary and critical debate”.

Aich warned that the actions against Greenpeace could affect others striving to represent the voice of the poor on issues such as sustainable development, environmental justice and clean, affordable energy.

“His (the home minister’s) arbitrary attack could set a very dangerous precedent: every Indian civil society group is now on the chopping block,” said Aich. Reuters


Greenpeace faces shutdown

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