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Philippine leader tells troops not to fear civilian deaths

WORLD

Philippine leader tells troops not to fear civilian deaths

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte assured troops on Wednesday that he would protect them from any legal action if they accidently kill civilians while battling militants who have besieged a southern city.

Duterte ordered the army to destroy the militants aligned with the Islamic State group who attacked Marawi on May 23, sparking fighting that has left more than 400 combatants and civilians dead. On Wednesday, retrieval teams recovered 17 more bodies believed to be those of villagers killed by the militants in an area of Marawi that has returned to government control.

Duterte said in a televised speech that troops don’t intend to kill civilians, but they should “not hesitate to engage just because there are civilians. It is the duty of the civilians to flee or seek cover.”

He assured the troops that he would fight to keep them out of prison for accidental deaths.

“We will face charges, sometimes massacre, you know a bullet hits through and through, one squeeze of the Armalite, it bursts out about three, four. Keep on pressing it,” Duterte said.

Duterte declared martial law in the southern Philippines to deal with the Marawi crisis, in which hundreds of militants stormed into the predominantly Muslim city, occupied buildings, took a Roman Catholic priest and others hostage and hoisted Islamic State group-style black flags.

He warned Wednesday that if militants gather elsewhere, he would consider taking more emergency steps, including empowering law enforcers to make warrantless arrests.

“And my orders to you, if he carries a gun, he is not a soldier, he is not a policeman, just kill him. That is my order, because they will kill us,” Duterte told the troops.

Such remarks have alarmed human rights groups, which have already expressed concern over the killings of thousands of suspected drug dealers and users under a crackdown on illegal drugs that Duterte launched after taking office last June.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch described Duterte’s first year in power as a “human rights calamity.”

“President Duterte took office promising to protect human rights, but has instead spent his first year in office as a boisterous instigator for an unlawful killing campaign,” Phelim Kine, the group’s deputy Asia director, said in a statement.

Duterte has denied condoning extrajudicial killings but has openly threatened drug and terrorism suspects with death.

If the 17 bodies discovered Wednesday in Marawi turn out to be those of villagers killed in the conflict, it would bring the number of civilian deaths to 44 and the overall death toll to more than 400.

At least 299 militants and 71 soldiers and police have been killed in the violence.

Duterte apologized to troops for the military casualties and said he was sad each night as he reads a report about Marawi and learns “how many soldiers I have lost for the day.”

“I really wallow in sorrow, because I’m the one who ordered you to go there and fight, that is the moral burden that I carry all day and all night,” he said.

___

Remains of kidnapped Mexican journalist found

Remains of kidnapped Mexican journalist found

The burned remains were found in the city of Nueva Italia, where Adame worked as the general director of Canal 6 Media TV, state prosecutor José Godoy said.
Adame disappeared May 18, when his family reported him being kidnapped by an armed group.
Because Adame was a journalist and was “referred to in the media as having been a victim of intimidation due to his profession,” the attorney general’s office launched an investigation, the state government said four days after his disappearance.
The Committee to Protect Journalists had a report on Adame in April 2016, saying local police detained him and his wife Frida Urtiz, who was also co-owner of the station, while the two covered a sit-in demonstration to protest the cancellation of a government-funded social project.
Adame told the CPJ that it came as a surprise to him.
“We cover social issues and sometimes annoy the authorities by doing so, but I have never had any problem with them,” he told CPJ.
Mexico is the deadliest country for journalists so far in 2017, according to the CPJ, which says seven journalists have been killed there “in direct retaliation” for their work.
The executive director of the CPJ, Joel Simon, said the failure of the government to adequately investigate the deaths, and impunity for the killers of journalists, adds to the problem.
“It’s basically a situation where drug trafficking organizations, which operate with the protection and collusion of local authorities, recognize there will be no consequences for killing journalists,” Simon said.
“So when they want to control information or punish journalists or censor journalists,” they can do so with impunity, he said.

Shake, Rattle and Roll: Airline Captain Tells Passengers to Pray During Wild Flight

Shake, Rattle and Roll: Airline Captain Tells Passengers to Pray During Wild Flight

It’s never a good sign when your pilot tells you to “pray.”

But that’s exactly what happened — twice — on a scary Air Asia X flight from Australia to Malaysia as the plane shook like a “washing machine” for two hours, according to passengers.

Air Asia Pilots Asks Passengers to ‘Pray’ During Wild Flight1:47

“The rattling started straight away,” Damien Stevens, who was on his way from Perth to Kuala Lumpur with a friend, told NBC News. “It was like being in a washing machine or on a compressor. The crew were really good, although the pilot asked us to pray twice and said he was scared too.”

Stevens said the Sunday morning flight out of Perth began to shake rapidly after they heard a “huge bang” about 75 minutes into the flight, which should have taken the Airbus 330 about six hours.

Footage taken by Stevens, the man in glasses in the video above, and his friend shows seats and passengers shaking rapidly and a rattling sound.

The exact cause of the incident remains unclear. Stevens said the airline was very forthcoming with information, though he said they told him the trouble stemmed from one of the engines and that the pilot had 44 years of experience.

“I’m not 100 percent sure,” he said, noting that he could not see the engine and could not definitively confirm. “It was the left engine, engine one. We flew back on one engine. It was either jammed, frozen, the engine belt broke — apparently a blade broke off.”

Passengers on the left side of the plane were asked by the pilot “to keep an eye on it,” as he could not see the engine well from the cabin.

“The only thing I could think of was my family, because it’s the first day of Eid celebration,” passenger Alia Abdul Rahim told NBC News. “All I wanted to do was go home and hug my parents.”

The flight landed back in Perth two hours later, shaking the entire time, passengers said. They remained in a bracing position while the plane landed, which was reportedly smooth.

“Thank God the pilot and the crew did a great job,” Rahim told NBC News.

No one was injured during the incident, though it seemed some passengers were struggling after getting off the plane.

“I feel fine but a lot of people I’ve spoken with are really shaken and quite apprehensive about the flight,” Stevens said.

The budget airline released a statement later Sunday, though they did not appear to have an immediate explanation for the chaos.

“Passengers were attended to by our ground staff upon landing and were provided with all necessary assistance,” AirAsia said in a statement. “Our engineers are taking the precautionary steps to check the aircraft.”

Prince Harry on Diana: No Child Should Have to Walk Behind Mom’s Casket

 

Prince Harry on Diana: No Child Should Have to Walk Behind Mom’s Casket

LONDON — Prince Harry has revealed the distress he suffered when walking behind his mother Diana’s casket through the streets of London following her funeral.

“No child should be asked to do that,” the 32-year-old said in an interview with Newsweek.

Image: Earl Spencer, Prince William, Prince Harry and Prince Charles look at the coffin of Diana
Prince Harry (right) was aged 12 at the time of his mother’s funeral. Russell Boyce / Reuters

Harry also discussed his future, saying none of the royal family really wanted the throne but were fulfilling a duty.

“We are not doing this for ourselves but for the greater good of the people,” he said.

Harry has spoken candidly in a series of interviews in recent months, revealing in April that he sought therapy to deal with his mother’s death and described having panic attacks.

Diana’s funeral brought huge crowds onto the streets to witness Princes William and Harry — then aged 15 and 12 — following her casket out of Westminster Abbey and through the British capital on on Sept. 6, 1997.

In the Newsweek interview, Harry said the events of that day can still overwhelm him.

“My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television,” he said. “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today.”

FROM MAY 5: Prince William and Prince Harry honor legacy of Princess Diana 1:20

He is grateful to his late mother for teaching him to remain grounded despite his life of privilege, the magazine said.

“People would be amazed by the ordinary life William and I live,” said Harry, who is fifth in line to the U.K. throne. “I do my own shopping. Sometimes, when I come away from the meat counter in my local supermarket, I worry someone will snap me with their phone. But I am determined to have a relatively normal life, and if I am lucky enough to have children, they can have one too.”

However, he admitted the mix of ordinary and extraordinary was “a tricky balancing act” for the monarchy, saying: “We don’t want to dilute the magic. The British public and the whole world need institutions like it.”

Image: Prince Harry
Prince Harry WPA Pool / Getty Images

He added: “The monarchy is a force for good. We are involved in modernizing the British monarchy. We are not doing this for ourselves but for the greater good of the people…. Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time.”

He told the magazine that he often ached to be “something other than Prince Harry.”

Reflecting on the maturity gained since he left the British army in 2015, Harry said he was keen to show he is a more rounded person.

“Sometimes, I can have too much passion,” he said. “It has got me into trouble in the past, partly because I cannot stand the idea of people mincing around the subject rather than just getting on with it.”

Harry, who will launch the latest Invictus games in Toronto, Canada later this summer, last week attended the reopening of London’s Borough Market after the recent terror attack.

Image: Earl Spencer (2L) Prince William (3L) , Prince Harry and Prince Charles (R) watch as the coffin of Diana, Princess of Wales is placed into a hearse
Earl Spencer, Prince William, Prince Harry and Prince Charles watch Diana’s coffin leaving Westminster Abbey in 1997. Kieran Doherty / Reuters

Stabbing at Michigan airport investigated as terrorist act; Canadian charge

Stabbing at Michigan airport investigated as terrorist act; Canadian charge

Police officers gather at a terminal at Bishop International Airport, Wednesday morning, June 21, 2017, in Flint, Mich. Officials evacuated the airport Wednesday, where a witness said he saw an officer bleeding from his neck and a knife nearby on the ground.  On Twitter, Michigan State Police say the officer is in critical condition and the FBI was leading the investigation. (Dominic Adams/The Flint Journal-MLive.com via AP)
Police officers gather at a terminal at Bishop International Airport, Wednesday morning, June 21, 2017, in Flint, Mich. Officials evacuated the airport Wednesday, where a witness said he saw an officer bleeding from his neck and a knife nearby on … more >
– Associated Press – Thursday, June 22, 2017

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A Canadian man from Tunisia shouted in Arabic before stabbing a police officer in the neck at a Michigan airport, and referenced people being killed overseas during the attack that’s now being investigated as an act of terrorism, federal and court officials said.

Amor Ftouhi, 49, of Montreal, was immediately taken into custody. A criminal complaint charging him with committing violence at an airport says Ftouhi asked an officer who subdued him why the officer didn’t kill him.

The attack Wednesday at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan, is being investigated as an act of terrorism, but authorities have no indication at this time that the suspect was involved in a “wider plot,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge David Gelios.

“At this time we view him as a lone-wolf attacker,” Gelios said. “We have no information to suggest any training.”

The criminal complaint says Ftouhi stabbed airport police Lt. Jeff Neville with a large knife after yelling “Allahu akbar,” the Arabic phrase for “God is great.” According to the FBI, Ftouhi said something similar to “you have killed people in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die.”

London Mosque Attack: Britain Vows to Protect Muslims Amid Rise in Hate Crime

London Mosque Attack: Britain Vows to Protect Muslims Amid Rise in Hate Crime

LONDON — Authorities have pledged to protect British Muslims in the wake of Monday’s terror attack outside a London mosque, amid rising hostility and fears of more copycat atrocities.

London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan said he would increase the number of police outside mosques as he revealed there had been a spike in hate crime following attacks on London Bridge and Britain’s parliament.

The city’s police commissioner, Cressida Dick, said Monday’s attack, which hit worshippers during the holy month of Ramadan, was clearly “an attack on Muslims.”

Local residents told NBC News they no longer feel safe.

Suspect charged in London mosque terror attack 2:06

“We’re scared there is no safety,” said Finsbury Park resident Joi Mario, who is a practising Muslim. “People are always blaming Muslims [for attacks]. Of course people are going to hate us,” he said.

In the six days following the London Bridge terror attack, London’s Metropolitan police recorded 120 Islamophobic incidents compared to 36 during the preceding week, according to the Mayor’s office.

Police also recorded 381 racist hate crimes, compared to 313 the week before, the mayor’s office said.

Tell MAMA, a U.K. organisation that monitors anti-Muslim attacks, also detected a sharp rise in such incidents following the May 22 terrorist attack in Manchester, when a suicide-bomber attacked young concertgoers leaving an Ariana Grande gig. The number jumped from 25 in the week before the attack to 139 the following week, according to the organization. The vast majority were recorded in the local area.

Image: Met Police at Finsbury Park mosque in north London
Police guard the entrance of the Finsbury Park Mosque. Richard Baker / Getty Images

Vowing “zero-tolerance” of hate crime, Khan said London would remain “uncowed by terrorism” and would “carry on being a united city.”

Britain’s Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, said extra resources to protect communities would remain in place “for as long as is needed.”

But mosque security-expert Shaukat Warraich warns that little can be done to protect against the emergence of low-tech terror attacks on soft targets such as crowds in the street.

Related: ‘Confusion and Anger’ Grip Muslims After London Attack

“This type of attack cannot be stopped,” said Warriach, who is the director of the Faith Associates, an organisation that provides security to British mosques.

“The only way to stop this is as soon as someone shows signs of radicalization to report it to the police,” he said.

Warriach, who works with some 2,000 mosques across the country and has published a ten-point plan to improve mosque security, said the uptick in attacks on mosques throughout the U.K. could he traced back to the killing of soldier Lee Rigby in a London street four years ago.

“To be honest we were expecting this,” Warriach said, adding: “What we’re seeing is the radicalization of white people.”

Warriach told NBC News that the increased violence was partly a reaction to ISIS and partly due to the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the far-right.

“This rhetoric is galvanizing unhinged people to carry out attacks,” he said.

NBC News security analyst Duncan Gardham agreed that there had been an increase in anti-Muslim racism since Rigby’s murder.

He partly attributed this to the government not doing enough to support Muslims in the aftermath of that killing.

Faith Associates with 8 council of Mosques developed a Mosque security & safety leaflet to keep your safe.

“The murder of Lee Rigby worked as a touchstone for far-right groups,” Gardham said.

But he added that Britain remained a remarkably integrated nation when compared to countries in the rest of Europe and North America and that there had been widespread support for Muslim communities in the wake of recent terrorist attacks.

The suspected driver of the van in Monday’s attack was identified as Darren Osborne, a 47-year-old father of four from Cardiff, Wales.

He was initially arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, but was later also charged with the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism.

Image: London Mayor Sadiq Khan with Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick
Mayor Sadiq Khan and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick. ISABEL INFANTES / AFP – Getty Images

A Muslim neighbor described Osborne as a pleasant, “everyday guy,” telling Reuters said she had never heard him utter any anti-Muslim rhetoric.

However, other Muslims living in Osborne’s neighborhood told The Daily Telegraph that Osborne had become increasingly antagonistic following the June 4 London Bridge attack and a witness to Sunday night’s mopsque attack, Ibn Omar, 25, said he saw Osborne “laughing and ridiculing Muslims.”

Osborne’s mother has said her son had long-standing mental health issues.

The van attack came days after Britain marked the first anniversary of the death of lawmaker Jo Cox, who was killed by a white supremacist who shouted “Britain first” before stabbing her.

U.K. Security Minister Ben Wallace said Monday that the far-right in Britain was becoming increasingly organized.

“At the moment we don’t seem them as organized as other terrorist groups but we certainly see them as taking advantage of the internet and social media to be more organized than they’ve ever been before and to be more slicker in their grooming,” he told Channel 4 News.

London mayor Khan told reporters Monday that the U.K.’s anti-radicalization scheme, known as “Prevent”, tackled other forms of extremist ideology and not just Islamist extremism.

Imam Says He Stopped Crowd Lynching London Attack Suspect 1:11

That was echoed by Wallace, who said that authorities in some parts of Britain made more “Prevent” interventions over far-right radicalization than Islamist extremism

Gardham, NBC News’ security analyst, said far-right and Islamist radicalization mirrored each other.

“We see fathers taking their sons along to rallies with the far-right much as we’ve seen with some of the radical Islamists,” he said. “Rather sadly the two sides do mirror each other and can feed off each other.”

Image: The scene of a van attack in Finsbury Park on Monday
Locals walk past a policewoman standing near the police cordon, close to the scene of a van attack in Finsbury Park, north London on Monday. Isabel Infantes / AFP/Getty Images

Paris Police Targeted Again in Suspected Terror Attack

Paris Police Targeted Again in Suspected Terror Attack

Paris was hit Monday by yet another suspected terror attack — this time involving a motorist who was killed after he plowed his car into a police convoy heading down the Champs-Elysees.

The suspect’s Renault, which was packed with at least two gas canisters, exploded and burst into flames, police said.

Image: Police operation underway on Champs Elysees Avenue
Police secure the Champs Elysees avenue after a car collided a with a police vehicle in Paris on June 19, 2017. Christophe Petit Tesson / EPA

Several police officers then raced over to the vehicle, smashed the windows, and dragged the would-be assassin from the car while others used fire extinguishers to douse the flames, authorities said.

But they were too late. The suspect, the French Interior ministry tweeted, had been “neutralized.”

There were no immediate reports of police officers being injured in the incident. Investigators found more weapons and explosives inside the vehicle.

Asked how many, French interior minister Gerard Collomb said, “Enough to allow him to blow up this car.”

The French authorities have launched a terror investigation and have not named the suspect, who was 31 and from the Paris suburb of Argenteuil. He was, however, known to the authorities, the Associated Press reported.

A witness, Leonard Odihe, said he was talking to a friend who manages a nearby newspaper kiosk when the blast went off about 3:40 p.m. local time.

“When it exploded we all looked to see where it came from,” he said. “We all thought it was a terrorist attack, especially when they took the man out of the car. He was armed and there was also a gun in the car in the back seat.”

Odihe said he watched the police break into the vehicle and drag the man out.

Image: Police operation underway on Champs Elysees Avenue
An officer examines a vehicle on the Champs Elysees avenue after a car collided a with a police vehicle in Paris on June 19, 2017. Christophe Petit Tesson / EPA

“He was dead in the car,” Odihe said. “It was then that we saw, in the car, the guns, the gas canisters, the one that didn’t explode and the other that did.”

It’s the second time this year that police have been targeted on Paris’ most famous thoroughfare.

In April, one Parisian police officer was killed and two were wounded by a gunman who ambushed their car. Karim Cheurfi was later shot dead.

ISIS claimed shooter Cheurfi was one of their soldiers. But he was also an ex-con who did time for trying to kill another police officer.

It’s also not the first time a vehicle has been used in France as a weapon of mass destruction. Last July, 84 people were killed in the city of Nice when a petty criminal named Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel mowed down Bastille Day revelers on a seaside promenade with a 19-ton rented truck.

The latest Paris attack came as London was still reeling from what that city’s mayor called “a horrific terrorist attack on innocent people.”

In that incident, the driver of a van rammed into pedestrians near a mosque and injured 10 people — all of them Muslims. The motorist was quickly apprehended.

France has been under a state of emergency since the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

Russia to treat US jets in Syria as ‘targets’ after America guns down first regime warplane

Russia to treat US jets in Syria as ‘targets’ after America guns down first regime warplane

Communication channel between Washington and Moscow to be suspended immediately

 

A Syrian jet (similar to the one pictured on 23 March 2017) was shot down by US forces on Sunday Getty

Russia has said it will treat US warplanes operating in parts of Syria where its air forces are present as “targets” amid a diplomatic row caused by the downing of a Syrian jet.

The country’s defence ministry said the change in position would apply to all aircraft, including those operating as part of the US-backed coalition.

It will also suspend a hotline between Russia and the US set up to prevent mid-air collisions.

The ministry said in a statement: “All kinds of airborne vehicles, including aircraft and UAVs of the international coalition detected to the west of the Euphrates River will be tracked by the Russian SAM systems as air targets.”

The warning followed after a US F-18 Super Hornet shot down a Syrian army SU-22 jet on Sunday in the countryside southwest of Raqqa – the first such downing of a Syrian jet by the US since the start of the country’s civil war in 2011.

Washington said the jet had dropped bombs near US-backed forces but Damascus said the plane was downed while flying a mission against Isis militants.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said the suspension of its communication channel with the Americans would begin immediately.

The US did not use its communication channel with Russia ahead of the downing of the Syrian government warplane, the ministry was quoted as saying, accusing the US of a “deliberate failure to make good on its commitments” under the de-confliction deal.

“The shooting down of a Syrian Air Force jet in Syria’s airspace is a cynical violation of Syria’s sovereignty,” the ministry said.

“The US’ repeated combat operations under the guise of ‘combating terrorism’ against the legitimate armed forces of a UN member-country are a flagrant violation of international law and an actual military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Russia, which has been providing air cover for Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad, since 2015, has an agreement with the US aimed at preventing incidents involving either country’s warplanes engaged in operations in Syria.

Downing the jet was akin to “helping the terrorists that the US is fighting against”, Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, said.

“In accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defence of Coalition partnered forces, it was immediately shot down by a US F/A-18E Super Hornet,” a statement released by US Central Command on Sunday said.

“The Coalition’s mission is to defeat Isis in Iraq and Syria. The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend Coalition or partner forces from any threat.

“The Coalition presence in Syria addresses the imminent threat Isis in Syria poses globally. The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward Coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-ISIS operations will not be tolerated.”

China Says Teachers Kidnapped in Pakistan Likely Dead

| June 9, 2017

China Says Teachers Kidnapped in Pakistan Likely Dead

BEIJING (Reuters) – Pakistan has told China that two Chinese teachers kidnapped by Islamic State militants in Pakistan are likely dead, a foreign ministry spokeswoman in Beijing said on Friday, adding the government was trying to get more details.

Islamic State has claimed that its fighters killed the two teachers, who were kidnapped on May 24 in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, where China is investing billions of dollars in infrastructure projects. The two, a man and a woman, were kidnapped in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, by armed men pretending to be policemen.

“According to the most recent information Pakistan has provided, these two kidnapped Chinese citizens have probably already been murdered,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.

China is trying to verify this information and is also ascertaining details about the victims, she added.

“China resolutely opposes and strongly condemns all forms of terrorism, and supports Pakistan’s efforts to fight terrorism and maintain domestic security and stability,” Hua said.

 Pakistan had gone all out in its rescue efforts and had promised to continue to do its utmost to protect Chinese citizens, she added.

The kidnapping was a rare security incident involving Chinese nationals in Pakistan, where Beijing has pledged $57 billion under its massive “Belt and Road” initiative to build rail, road and power infrastructure.

China says Pakistan, a long-time political and military ally, is a major part of its plans to build a modern day “Silk Road” network of land and maritime routes to connect Asia with Africa and Europe. Key parts of the infrastructure will be in Baluchistan, including the new port of Gwadar, which will be linked to western China under current plans.

 The killing of the teachers was claimed by Islamic State’s Amaq news agency on Thursday.

“Islamic State fighters killed two Chinese people they had been holding in Baluchistan province, southwest Pakistan,” Amaq said.

A Baluchistan government spokesman said officials were in the process of confirming whether the report was correct.

There was no immediate comment from Pakistan’s interior ministry or its foreign office.

GREATER CAUTION

Chinese state-run newspaper the Global Times, published by the official People’s Daily, said in an editorial on Friday China would never bow in the face of terror, but also said Chinese people should exercise greater caution abroad, especially in more remote areas.

“They also need to raise their ability to protect themselves, and as much as possible put distance between themselves and real danger,” it said.

The claim of the killings sparked anger on Chinese social media, with some strongly anti-Muslim comments.

Islamic State, which controls some territory in neighboring Afghanistan, has struggled to establish a presence in Pakistan. However, it has claimed several major attacks, including one on the deputy chairman of the Senate last month in Baluchistan, in which 25 people were killed.

On Thursday, Pakistan’s military published details of a three-day raid on a militant hideout in a cave not far from Quetta, saying it had killed 12 “hardcore terrorists” from a banned local Islamist group and prevented Islamic State from gaining a “foothold” in Baluchistan.

China’s ambassador to Pakistan and other officials have often urged Islamabad to improve security, especially in Baluchistan.

The numbers of Pakistanis studying Mandarin has skyrocketed since 2014, when President Xi Jinping signed off on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

 Consequently, any attack on Chinese interests in Pakistan would come as an embarrassment to Islamabad, which greatly prizes its relationship with Beijing. The two refer to each other as “all weather friends”.

Security in Baluchistan has improved in recent years, but separatists, who view infrastructure projects as a ruse to steal natural resources, killed 10 Pakistani workers building a road near Gwadar this month.

China has also expressed concern about militants in Pakistan linking up with what China views as separatists in the far western Chinese region of Xinjiang, where hundreds have been killed in violence in recent years.

(Removes extraneous word “most” in paragraph 3.)

(Additional reporting by Saud Mehsud in Islamabad; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Copyright 2017 Thomson Reuters.

http://exoticclassifieds.com/news/14180/

Myanmar Navy Recovers Bodies

Myanmar Navy Recovers Bodies

Fishermen have joined navy and air force personnel in recovering bodies and aircraft parts from the sea off Myanmar, where a military plane carrying 122 people including 15 children crashed a day earlier.

| June 8, 2017

Myanmar Navy Recovers Bodies

By ESTHER HTUSAN, Associated Press

DAWEI, Myanmar (AP) — Fishermen joined navy and air force personnel Thursday in recovering bodies and aircraft parts from the sea off Myanmar, where a military plane carrying 122 people including 15 children crashed a day earlier, officials said.

The four-engine Chinese-made Y-8 turboprop aircraft had left Myeik, also known as Mergui, heading for Yangon on a route over the Andaman Sea. It was raining, but not heavily, at the time contact was lost with it at 1:35 p.m. Wednesday, when it was southwest of the city of Dawei, formerly known as Tavoy.

Win Lwin, a police officer in Laung Lone township, a landing point for recovery operations, said 28 bodies had been retrieved by mid-afternoon Thursday but had not yet made it to shore. More than 1,000 people gathered on the beach, including volunteers from dozens of community mutual aid societies with their vehicles.

The bodies were taken on larger boats and navy ships, and were supposed to be transferred to smaller vessels that could be offloaded at the beach in Laung Lone. However, heavy rains and choppy seas delayed the transfer.

Military spokesman Gen. Myat Min Oo earlier said a navy ship had found two life jackets, bodies and an aircraft wheel in the sea west of Laung Lone.

Local fishermen joined nine navy ships, five military aircraft and three helicopters in the search, the spokesman said.

The plane carried 108 passengers — mostly military personnel and their families — and 14 crew members, according to an announcement on the Facebook page of military Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, which originally gave slightly lower numbers. Fifteen of the passengers were children. It is not unusual for such flights to carry civilians to offset transportation costs for military families stationed in the somewhat remote south.

The Facebook page, the main source of official information about the crash, said the plane, carrying about 2.4 tons of cargo in addition to the 122 people aboard, was received in March last year and since then had logged 809 flying hours. It said the pilot and co-pilot both had more than 3,100 hours of flying experience.

The area is about 440 miles (700 kilometers) north of the last primary radar contact with Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which vanished on a flight from Malaysia to Beijing on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board. That plane is believed to have flown far off course and crashed into a remote area of the southern Indian Ocean.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Myanmar Military Aircraft Missing After Losing Communication
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German Minister Says Court’s Nuclear Tax Ruling Is Very Irritating

German Minister Says Court’s Nuclear Tax Ruling Is Very Irritating

| June 7, 2017

German Minister Says Court’s Nuclear Tax Ruling Is Very Irritating
Reuters

German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks gestures during the weekly cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany August 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stefanie Loos REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said on Wednesday that a court ruling that declared Germany’s nuclear fuel tax illegal was a “colossal irritation”.

The ruling from the Constitutional Court raised the prospect of a 6 billion euro ($6.8 billion) refund to utilities at a time of strained balance sheets.

Hendricks, a member of the Social Democrats (SPD) – the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition – said the 2009-2013 government, which was made up of Merkel’s conservatives and the Free Democrats (FDP), had caused “chaos” in nuclear policy.

“The fact that this bodge (of the previous government) is paying out for the nuclear power companies years later makes the Constitutional Court’s ruling a colossal irritation,” Hendricks said.

Qatar row: Saudi and Egypt among countries to cut Doha links

Qatar row: Saudi and Egypt among countries to cut Doha links

An aerial view of high-rise buildings emerging through fog covering the skyline of Doha
Image captionQatar’s government said it believed the move was “unjustified”

A number of Arab countries including Saudi Arabia and Egypt have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of destabilising the region.

They say Qatar backs militant groups including so-called Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda, which Qatar denies.

The Saudi state news agency SPA said Riyadh had closed its borders, severing land, sea and air contact with the tiny peninsula of oil-rich Qatar.

Qatar called the decision “unjustified” and with “no basis in fact”.

The unprecedented move is seen as a major split between powerful Gulf countries, who are also close US allies.

It comes amid heightened tensions between Gulf countries and their near-neighbour, Iran. The Saudi statement accused Qatar of collaborating with “Iranian-backed terrorist groups” in its restive eastern region of Qatif and in Bahrain.

What has happened?

The diplomatic withdrawal was first put into motion by Bahrain, then Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Yemen, Libya’s eastern-based government and the Maldives all followed suit.

SPA cited officials as saying the decision was taken to “protect its national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism”.

People buy snacks at a shop in Doha, on 5 June 2017.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionThe diplomatic crisis is likely to disrupt Qatar’s food imports from Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have given all Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave their territory. The three countries have also banned their citizens from travelling to Qatar.

However, Saudi Arabia says it will still allow Qataris to take part in the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

So far, there has been no sign of reciprocal moves by Qatar.

In the latest developments:

  • The UAE and Egypt have given Qatari diplomats 48 hours to leave both countries
  • Airlines from many of the affected countries, including EgyptAir, Etihad Airways and Emirates, said they are to cancel flights to and from the Qatari capital Doha
  • The Gulf allies said they had closed their airspace to Qatar Airways, which has suspended all its flights to Saudi Arabia
  • Bahrain’s state news agency said it was cutting its ties because Qatar was “shaking the security and stability of Bahrain and meddling in its affairs”
  • The Saudi-led Arab coalition fighting Yemen’s Houthi rebels also expelled Qatar from its alliance because of its “practices that strengthen terrorism” and its support of extremist groups.

Food, flights and football at risk

Why has this happened?

US President Donald J. Trump (R), US First Lady Melania Trump (R-2), King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia (C) and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (L) opening the World Center for Countering Extremist Thought in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Image captionUS President Trump met Egyptian President Sisi and Saudi King Salman in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago

While the severing of ties was sudden, it has not come out of the blue, as tensions have been building for years, and particularly in recent weeks.

Two weeks ago, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE blocked Qatari news sites, including Al Jazeera. Comments purportedly by Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani criticising Saudi Arabia had appeared on Qatari state media.

The government in Doha dismissed the comments as fake, attributing the report to a “shameful cybercrime”.

Back in 2014, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar for several months in protest over alleged interference in their affairs.

 

More broadly, two key factors drove Monday’s decision: Qatar’s ties to Islamist groups, and the role of Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival.

While Qatar has joined the US coalition against IS, the Qatari government has repeatedly denied accusations from Iraq’s Shia leaders that it provided financial support to IS.

Map showing Qatar and other Gulf states

Wealthy individuals in the emirate are believed to have made donations and the government has given money and weapons to hardline Islamist groups in Syria. Qatar is also accused of having links to a group formerly known as the Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate.

The SPA statement accused Qatar of backing these groups, as well as the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood – banned in Gulf countries as a terrorist organisation – and that it “promotes the message and schemes of these groups through their media constantly”.

Saudi Arabia itself is a key backer of Islamist rebels, including hardline jihadist groups, in Syria.

 

Qatar – Key facts

2.7m population

  • 2m of whom are men
  • 11,437 sq km in size (4,416 sq miles)
  • 77 years life expectancy (men)
  • 80 years for women
Reuters

While on a visit to Riyadh two weeks ago, US President Donald Trump urged Muslim countries to take the lead in combating radicalisation, and blamed Iran for instability in the Middle East.

“It seems that the Saudis and Emiratis feel emboldened by the alignment of their regional interests – toward Iran and Islamism – with the Trump administration,” Gulf analyst Kristian Ulrichsen told Reuters news agency.

“[They] have decided to deal with Qatar’s alternative approach on the assumption that they will have the [Trump] administration’s backing.”

Saudi Arabia, too, has been accused of funding IS, either directly or by failing to prevent private donors from sending money to the group – allegations it denies.

In recent days, British Prime Minister Theresa May has also come under pressure from election rivals to publish a report thought to focus on the funding of UK extremist groups by Saudi Arabia.

What has been the reaction?

Qatar, which is due to host the football World Cup in 2022, was critical of the decision. The foreign ministry said the decisions would “not affect the normal lives of citizens and residents”.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking in Sydney, urged the countries to resolve their differences through dialogue.

Media captionUS Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urges Gulf states to “address differences”

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said there was a need for “transparent dialogue and diplomacy”, adding: “No country in the region will benefit from the heightened tension.”

Qatar’s stock market closed down 7.27%.

One of the likely knock-on effects is on food stability: about 40% of Qatar’s food is believed to come by lorry from Saudi Arabia.

The Doha News newspaper reported that people had rushed to supermarkets to stock up on food and water.

Nearly 90% of Qatar’s population are migrant workers, many of whom are working on the construction boom fuelled by the successful World Cup bid.


Why this decision now? – Alan Johnston, BBC Middle East analyst

There have long been tensions not far beneath the surface. Qatar has often seemed out of step with its neighbours.

It has tended, for example, to side with Islamist forces in the Middle East – like the Muslim Brotherhood, which is reviled by the Saudis and the current Egyptian leadership.

Past efforts by the neighbours to pull the Qataris into line have had limited impact. But now Doha has suddenly come under much greater and more co-ordinated pressure.

Emboldened by President Trump’s trip two weeks ago, the Saudis and the Emiratis believe that this is the moment to make clear to Qatar that its divergent views will no longer be tolerated.

And right now this small country’s rulers will probably be feeling very lonely indeed.

Covering world news isn’t cheap, but cost of ignoring it is far greater: Peter Mansbridge

Covering world news isn’t cheap, but cost of ignoring it is far greater: Peter Mansbridge

CBC’s foreign correspondents gather in Toronto for final The National in Conversation town hall

By Peter Mansbridge, CBC News

The protection of civilians camp (POC) in Wau was established less than a year ago and quickly became South Sudan’s most congested POC camp, with a population nearing 42,000.

The protection of civilians camp (POC) in Wau was established less than a year ago and quickly became South Sudan’s most congested POC camp, with a population nearing 42,000. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC)

Related Stories

CBC’s foreign correspondents travel the globe to bring Canadians stories from some of the world’s most challenging places. It’s rare that they make it back home to Canada, but on Tuesday night, they gathered in Toronto with chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge for a 90-minute town hall discussion. The event is the last in the series of CBC’s National in Conversation town halls marking Mansbridge’s retirement.

Ahead of the event, which is open to the public and will include an audience Q&A, Mansbridge reflects on why foreign coverage matters now more than ever.

Television special

The National in Conversation will be recorded for a one-hour prime time television special airing June 3 and 4 at 7 p.m. ET on CBC News Network.

Versailles, France, June 1982 — we had just finished hosting a CBC News special from the G7 economic summit.

The annual G7 summits in those days were supposed to deal with the world’s economy, but international events almost always knocked the summiteers off their agenda. They sure did in 1982 as Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Pierre Trudeau, François Mitterand, Helmut Schmidt and the other leaders of the most powerful Western democracies gathered in the historic Palace of Versailles just outside Paris.

The Cold War, the Falklands War, a sudden new war in the Middle East as Israel had just invaded Lebanon — things were very tense.

‘Our correspondents fight to tell stories. We listen to them; we trust them; we support them.’

Late that night, when the summit wrapped up and our news special had aired, we had to decide where our correspondents, all of whom were in Versailles, should go next.

I remember the scene pretty well. We were in the basement of the palace — parts of which looked like they hadn’t been touched since the building was erected in the 17th century — when something happened that I’d never seen before (or since).

Because the list of possible assignments was so long, we decided to draw slips of folded paper from a hat.

So David Halton went with Trudeau to Austria; Brian Stewart went to Buenos Aires to cover the Falklands; Joe Schlesinger went to Washington to cover the way the White House was handling the various crises; Mike Duffy went to the border between Israel and Lebanon to cover that war.

foreign correspondents

CBC foreign correspondents. Top, left to right: Margaret Evans, Nahlah Ayed, Matt Kwong. Bottom, left to right: Keith Boag, Nil Köksal, Saša Petricic. (CBC)

And I drew London, to cover how Britain was handling the Falklands and a bonus assignment of covering Reagan’s state visit to meet with the Queen.

It underlined what a different era we were working in, when you weighed the editorial value of a story but rarely calculated the costs.

Things have changed.

Covering today’s world isn’t cheap, and journalistic organizations that are being slashed and burned with budget cuts and landscape changes have to make difficult choices. But the cost of turning our backs on stories outside of our backyard is far greater.

It costs us compassion. It costs us understanding. It costs us good journalism.

Our correspondents are among the best in the world. I don’t just say that; I know it. Other broadcasters tell me that. And they have proved it many times by trying to hire our people.

Our correspondents fight to tell stories. We listen to them; we trust them; we support them.

Not often enough, they would argue. As often as the piggy bank will allow, we respond. Their stories teach us about our world and ourselves.

pyongyang headlines

People crammed into a subway car in Pyongyang, North Korea in a photo taken by Saša Petricic. Foreign correspondents provide glimpses into parts of the world we rarely see up close. ((Saša Petricic/CBC))

Stories from Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, Haiti, India, Vietnam, North Korea — stories of war, tragedy, hope, resilience. Stories of humanity.

Stories from London, Paris, Stockholm, Beijing, Moscow, Baghdad, Rio— stories of struggles, hate, goodness, innovation. Stories of power.

When Margaret Evans was in South Sudan a few weeks ago, she brought to our laptops, to our radios and to our screens the horror that is war, dislocation and starvation. It wasn’t a pretty story to tell, but it was important to tell. That week, much of the rest of the world was focused on the latest Trump tweet. We weren’t, because Margaret was taking us to a place we rarely see and where our attention is desperately needed.

Peter Mansbridge at Vimy Memorial

CBC’s Peter Mansbridge visited the Vimy Memorial in France earlier this year to produce a documentary on the 100th anniversary of Canada’s involvement in liberating the famous ridge during the First World War. (CBC)

In the wake of her reporting, some aid organizations that work in the region reported an increase in donations and just this week the government announced a new famine relief fund that will include aid to South Sudan.

Margaret’s stories had impact — and impact is what journalism is all about.

The world is a big place. It is far too easy to ignore what’s happening outside our country, outside our world view, outside our narrow perspectives. The fact that it is easy should tip us off right away that we need to fight against the easy way out.

The world is big, but it is our job as journalists to help people understand how tiny it really is. We are not that different from our neighbours on the other side of the world.

If your child was starving, what would the look be on your face?

If your family was missing in the wake of a disaster, what would you want people to know?

If your rights and freedoms as a citizen were threatened, what would you say?

Why shouldn’t we hear those people? Why shouldn’t we see them? Why shouldn’t we cover them? I can’t think of a reason.

Forget the money, forget the time, forget the travel. These stories matter. And we owe it to our profession, to our audience and to our world to tell them.

Cameraman Richard Devey filming in Kruger National Park

CBC cameraman Richard Devey films at a game reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Devey has brought Canadians footage from around the world and won numerous awards for his work. (Margaret Evans/CBC

North Korea vows to ‘mercilessly punish’ America after controversial missile launch

North Korea vows to ‘mercilessly punish’ America after controversial missile launch

NORTH Korea has vowed to “mercilessly punish” its Western enemies, just hours after controversial missile launch.

North Korea war USA

North Korea has vowed to ‘punish’ the USA

The rogue state said it would “never pardon” the USA and South Korea, who they claimed were working together to bring down .

 A fiery editorial in a Pyongyang-based newspaper said America’s new Korean “mission centre” and South Korea’s new “eavesdropping” plane could lead to war.

The propaganda rag said: “Such moves are another unpardonable provocation aimed to “overthrow the social system” of the DPRK and ignite a war for aggression on it.

“Their desperate moves cannot prove effective in the face of the invincible might of the DPRK. Eventually, they came to resort to the sinister scheme with hope pinned on the espionage against the DPRK.

Inside North Korea: The pictures Kim Jong-un doesn’t want you to see.

“The espionage serves as an open hostile act against the opposite side and a prelude to war provocation.”

In response, the article said, North Korea would “root out” their enemies, who they described as “the most wicket and brutal in the world”.

North Korea test new anti-aircraft guided weapon system

 The piece concluded: “The DPRK will never pardon in the least the provokers who dare go reckless to do harm to the inviolable sovereignty and dignity of the DPRK while getting engrossed in the despicable acts of espionage.

North Korea war USAGETTY

Kim Jong-un has issued yet another saber-rattling statement

“The Korean-style war on terrorism will be conducted in a consecutive and intensive way to root out the plot-breeding machines of the U.S. imperialists and the puppet group of traitors who are the most wicked and brutal in the world.”

North Korea war USA

North Korea said it would ‘root out’ its Western enemies

The piece was published just days after North Korea mocked Donald Trump, telling the US president: “Don’t dream silly dream!”

A statement said America was “a den of devils” which must be “wiped off the face of the earth”.

 Stepping up the rhetoric due to the improvement in missile capability; once they are allowed to develop nuclear multi-missile technology the opportunity to remove the DPRK effectively will be gone becouse of the nuclear threat. Sooner or later there will be war and I think it would be better to bomb targets in Pyongyang now and destroy the DPRK, so the North and South can be united with minimum casulties. Its the only solution and one we all must face if we are ever to move forward with this.

11 Migrants Detained Near Romania-Hungary Border

11 Migrants Detained Near Romania-Hungary Border

Romanian border police say they have questioned 11 Syrian and Iraqi migrants who are suspected of trying to illegally cross the border and reach the Schengen zone.

| May 29, 2017

11 Migrants Detained Near Romania-Hungary Border

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romanian border police say they have detained 11 Syrian and Iraqi migrants who are suspected of trying to illegally cross the border and reach the Schengen zone.

Police said in a statement Monday that a man with both Romanian and Hungarian citizenship is also being investigated for migrant smuggling.

The statement said that police noticed a car with Hungarian plates which stopped 500 meters (550 yards) from the border with Hungary on Saturday evening.

There were five Syrian and Iraqi citizens, aged 23 to 32, and six minors aged 1 to 10 in the car, traveling with temporary asylum-seeker documents.

They told border police they wanted to illegally cross the Romania-Hungary border to arrive in the visa-free Schengen zone. Hungary is a member of Schengen while Romania isn’t.

Marawi: Foreign fighters ‘among militants in Philippine city’

Marawi: Foreign fighters ‘among militants in Philippine city’

An armoured personnel carrier moves amongst stuck vehicles of residents fleeing Marawi City, in the southern island of MindanaoImage copyrightAFP
Image captionMartial law was imposed in Mindanao as a response to the violence in Marawi

Foreign fighters are among Islamist militants killed in a southern Philippine city in recent days, officials say.

Six jihadists, including Indonesian and Malaysian citizens, were killed as the army continued its operation to drive the rebels out of the city of Marawi.

Attack helicopters and special forces have been deployed in the offensive.

It is a rare admission by the authorities that local jihadists are working with international groups.

Marawi is a mainly Muslim city in Lanao del Sur province on the southern island of Mindanao. The province is a stronghold for the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to so-called Islamic State (IS).

What is happening in Marawi?

Fighting erupted after the army tried to capture top militant leader Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf militant group. He has pledged allegiance to IS and Philippine Solicitor General Jose Calida said IS had designated him its leader in the Philippines.

When the raid failed, dozens of gunmen came out on to the streets of Marawi, reportedly flying IS flags. Buildings were burned, prison inmates freed and hostages taken as the militants battled troops across the city.

A family carrying their belongings flee from Marawi on the southern island of MindanaoImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThousands of people have reportedly fled the city as the fighting continues

At least 11 soldiers and 31 militants had been killed, a military spokesman said. It is not clear if any civilians are among the dead. Thousands of residents have fled from the city.

“We were preparing for exams and we could hear the gunfire and bombs,” one student who evacuated told Reuters news agency. “We were so scared and so were our Muslim brothers and sisters. We were sure they would get to us.”

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law in Mindanao on Tuesday in response to the violence.

Martial law allows the use of the military to enforce order, and the detention of people without charge for long periods. Mr Duterte said it was needed to safeguard national security.

 

What is the IS link?

Mindanao is home to several Muslim rebel groups fighting for greater autonomy. The main ones are now holding peace talks with the government but some smaller, more hardline groups remain active.

Links between some of these groups and those from Indonesia and Malaysia go back many years, predating the formation of IS.

But Mr Calida, the solicitor-general, said domestic rebels had subscribed to the ideology of IS and the situation was evolving.

“What is happening in Mindanao is no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens. It has transmogrified into an invasion by foreign fighters,” he told a news conference. “They want to make Mindanao part of the caliphate.”

Government soldiers on military vehicles patrol after a continued assault on fighters from the Maute group who have taken over large parts of Marawi cityImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionMarawi has seen intense fighting in recent days

The admission confirms what observers see as moves by IS targeting Muslim-majority parts of the southern Philippines to establish a stronghold in South-East Asia.

“It is clear that the number of men from both Indonesia and Malaysia who have travelled to Mindanao has increased over the past year,” Sidney Jones, director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta, told the BBC.

“And it’s crucial that the government acknowledges that there is a serious IS problem in the Philippines,” she said, saying much better co-ordination between local and national authorities was needed to deal with the situation.

She warned that images of militants in Marawi were already having an impact on social media, working as PR for the militant groups. “There’s a lot of praise and enthusiasm,” she said.

A Philippine military spokesman, however, said that while the groups in Marawi were inspired by IS, they had not seen “any concrete evidence of material support from IS”.

What now?

With fighting ongoing in Marawi, Mr Duterte said on Friday he was willing to talk to the militants. “My message mainly to the terrorists on the other side is we can still solve this through dialogue,” he said.

But he has also indicated that martial law could be expanded to the rest of the country if he felt it was necessary, a potentially controversial move in a nation that spent almost a decade under martial law under Ferdinand Marcos.

Map of Mindanao in the Philippines

On Friday, former President Fidel Ramos, who served under Marcos but then helped oust him, warned against the use of martial law.

“Let us not talk about spreading it to the… rest of the Philippines. Let’s talk about confining it to the part of Mindanao and making it smaller and smaller,” he said.

Queen Visits Bombing Victims

Queen Visits Bombing Victims

While visiting with victims she called the attack ‘wicked.’

| May 25, 2017, at 8:21 a.m.

Queen Visits Bombing Victims
Britain's Queen Elizabeth speaks to Millie Robson, 15, from Co Durham, and her mother, Marie, during a visit to the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital in Manchester, Britain May 25, 2017.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth speaks to Millie Robson, 15, from Co Durham, and her mother, Marie, during a visit to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital in Manchester, on Thursday. (REUTERS/PETER BYRNE)

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Queen Elizabeth met some of the young victims of the Manchester bombing in hospital on Thursday as well as doctors, nurses and members of the emergency services who responded to the attack that killed 22 and injured more than 100.

The queen spoke to patients at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, where 19 casualties are still being treated after what she called the “wicked” blast, five in critical care.

Asked by the queen if she had come to Manchester especially for the Ariana Grande concert, 14-year-old Evie Mills, from Harrogate, said yes, it was a birthday present.

“She (Grande) sounds very, very good, a very good singer,” the queen responded in footage broadcast by Sky News. “It’s dreadful. Very wicked … to target that sort of thing.”

Wearing an orange hat and bright blue jacket, the queen was met with cheers at the hospital and in comments to Mills and her parents, noted how “everyone’s united here”.

Eight hospitals in and around the northern English city treated 116 casualties injured in the blast after the concert on Monday evening, NHS England said on Thursday, and 23 remain in critical care.

“She’s lovely, it was just … mindblowing really — you just wouldn’t really expect it,” 15-year-old Millie Robson from County Durham told Sky News after meeting the queen.

(Reporting by William James; Writing by Paul Sandle; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Copyright 2017 Thomson Reuters.

Queen Elizabeth Meets Victims Of The Manchester Bombing Attack
Inform

The Latest: President Trump Arrives in Brussels

The Latest: President Trump Arrives in Brussels

President Trump arrives in Brussels for NATO meetings, his fourth stop on overseas trip.

| May 24, 2017

The Latest: President Trump Arrives in Brussels
The Associated Press

US President Donald Trump, right, and First Lady Melania Trump wave to reporters before boarding the Air Force One to Brussels, at the end of a 2-day visit to Italy including a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, at Rome’s Fiumicino international airport, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump’s first trip abroad (all times local):

4:12 p.m.

President Donald Trump arrived in Brussels Wednesday afternoon ahead of meetings with NATO leaders.

Trump was harshly critical of NATO as a candidate, declaring the military alliance “obsolete.” He’s also criticized member countries for not following NATO guidelines to spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.

The president has been similarly critical of Brussels, the Belgian capital that is home to both the NATO and European Union headquarters. After the city’s recent struggles with terrorism, Trump called Brussels a “hellhole.”

 Brussels is Trump’s fourth stop on his maiden overseas tour. His fifth and final stop will be Sicily, where he’ll meet with the leaders of the Group of 7 wealthy nations.

___

3:16 p.m.

Thanks to the Pope and the U.S. first lady, a traditional Slovenian dish is hitting the headlines.

As Melania Trump approached and shook hands with Pope Francis on Wednesday, Pope asked in Spanish through his interpreter pointing toward Trump: “What do you give him to eat? Potica?”

She looked puzzled at first. “Potica, ah yes,” the Slovenian-born first lady smiled before stepping aside.

Potica (pronounced paw-tee’-tzah) is a typical highly nutritious Slovenian festive strudel with nut, poppy seed, cottage cheese, hazelnut, chocolate, tarragon, leek or honey fillings.

It also sounds a lot like “pizza,” which is what reporters originally thought the pope had said.

The dish has been prepared for more than 200 years in earthenware baking-dishes or directly in ovens. Potica remains the pride of each Slovenian housewife.

Born Melanija Knavs, Melania Trump left Slovenia in her 20s to pursue an international modeling career.

___

2:23 p.m.

President Donald Trump says meeting with Pope Francis was the “honor of a lifetime.”

Trump tweeted Wednesday that a private meeting with the pontiff at the Vatican leaves him “more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world.”

Trump met with Francis Wednesday for a half hour. The president and pope have a contentious history, but appeared on good terms after their conversation.

Trump will soon be leaving Rome, en route to Brussels for meetings with NATO leaders.

The president has spent the week traveling to holy Muslim, Jewish and Christian sites during his first official trip abroad.

___

1.45 p.m.

The European Union is hoping that Thursday’s talks with U.S. President Donald Trump will stress continuity in their relations after the early months of his administration increased fears that the trans-Atlantic friendship was on the wane.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says that even if Trump’s policies diverge greatly from his predecessors on many points, continued close contact must avoid fundamental disagreements on climate change and other global issues. She says, “What I am expecting tomorrow is a message of continuity.”

Mogherini adds that, “We do realize there are points of difference where we have different points of view and where we will need to discuss things further, but it is vital to work on climate change” and the role of international organizations like the United Nations.

Mogherini will join EU Council President Donald Tusk and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker for a short meeting with Trump at EU headquarters early Thursday.

___

1 p.m.

First lady Melania Trump has visited the Vatican’s children’s hospital, meeting with patients, painting pictures with them and taking selfies.

 Mrs. Trump went to the Bambino Gesu (Baby Jesus) pediatric hospital after she and President Donald Trump met with Pope Francis earlier at the Vatican.

She toured the cardiac intensive unit as well as the recreation room, where she painted with the children from nine different countries and took selfies with them. She ended the visit by praying in the hospital chapel.

Before leaving, Mrs. Trump wrote in the guest book that she was praying for the children: “Great visiting you. Stay strong and positive. Much love, Melania Trump.” With a red pen, she drew a small flower and heart.

___

12:39 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he had “a fantastic meeting” with Pope Francis earlier Wednesday.

The president offered brief remarks as he sat down with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni in Rome.

Trump tells reporters, “It was an honor to be with the pope.” He adds of the pope: “He is something.”

Trump ignored a question about whether they discussed climate change.

The president arrived at the Villa Taverna shortly after noon, following a meeting with the country’s president at Quirinale Palace.

He’ll be departing Rome for Brussels later today.

___

12:05 p.m.

The Vatican says after a visit by President Donald Trump that it is hoping for “serene collaboration” with the United States to help immigrants and provide health care and education in the U.S.

Trump met for about 30 minutes Wednesday morning with Pope Francis and afterward with the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

In a statement, the Vatican said the two sides agreed on their “joint commitment in favor of life and freedom of worship and conscience.”

The statement continued: “It is hoped that there may be serene collaboration between the state and the Catholic Church in the United States, engaged in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants.”

It said talks also covered promoting peace through dialogue with people of other faiths.

___

11:58 a.m.

Ivanka Trump says she came to a Catholic charity in Rome to meet with several women who have been freed from human traffickers so she can hear about “their struggles and how they will build their lives.”

Still dressed in black after her earlier visit at the Vatican to meet Pope Francis, President Donald Trump’s daughter spoke briefly to reporters as she stood under a grape arbor in the courtyard of the Rome headquarters of the Sant’Egidio Community.

She said the liberated African women she was going inside to meet were testament to “strength, faith, perseverance in the face of unspeakable adversity.”

Community officials said she would be chatting with several women from Nigeria who had been trafficked into prostitution before becoming free in Rome. At least one Eritrean woman was also invited to the closed-door conversation sitting around a square table.

Ivanka Trump has had meetings about the subject at the White House.

___

11:26 a.m.

President Donald Trump is meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

Trump was greeted by Mattarella at the Quirinale Palace in Rome on Wednesday morning. The meeting follows a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Trump is expected to next meet with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

Trump is in the middle of his first international trip — a nine-day journey through the middle east and Europe. He will leave for Belgium later on Wednesday.

___

11:01 a.m.

President Donald Trump has arrived at Quirinale Palace for his meeting with the Italian president.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump had been scheduled to have private tour of the Sistine Chapel before the meeting.

The intimate chapel features Michelangelo’s masterpiece, “The Last Judgment,” behind the altar as well as the iconic “Creation of Adam” on the ceiling. Works of other Renaissance greats, including Botticelli and Perugino, line the walls.

The Sistine Chapel is the highlight of tours of the Vatican Museums as well as a functioning part of the Vatican.

Trump also met with the Vatican secretary of state Wednesday following his meeting with the pope.

___

10:40 a.m.

Ivanka Trump plans to meet with human trafficking victims in Rome.

Trump will meet Wednesday with African women who have been freed in Italy from human traffickers. The encounter was arranged by the Rome-based Catholic charity Sant’Egidio Community, which has ties with the Vatican and which has helped Syrian refugees arrive safely in Italy via “humanitarian corridors.”

The president’s daughter and adviser has held meetings at the White House on human trafficking.

Community officials said several women will chat with Trump. She was expected to make a brief statement to the media after the closed-door meeting at the charity’s headquarters.

Ivanka Trump was part of the delegation that met Pope Francis with President Donald Trump Wednesday.

___

10:30 a.m.

Pope Francis shared a light moment with First Lady Melania Trump.

After Francis met with President Donald Trump he was introduced to members of Trump’s delegation, including Mrs. Trump. Smiling for the staff, Francis asked via translator, “What do you give him to eat, Potica?”

He was referring to a local pastry, pronounced paw-tee’-tzah — though some thought he’d said “pizza.”

When it comes to food, the president is known for his traditional American palette. When he traveled in Saudi Arabia, caterers ensured that his favorite meal – steak with a side of ketchup – would be offered alongside the traditional local cuisine.

___

9:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump has gifted Pope Francis a first-edition set of writings from Martin Luther King Jr.

Trump presented Francis with the books after a private meeting at the Vatican Wednesday. The White House notes that Francis spoke about King and his civil rights legacy during his address to Congress in 2015.

The White House said the set includes the five books King wrote in his lifetime. Each one is custom bound and the books are in a custom display case. A piece of granite from the Martin Luther King. Jr. Memorial in Washington is also included.

The White House says the gift “honors Dr. King’s hope, vision, and inspiration for generations to come.”

Trump also gave Francis a bronze sculpture. Named “Rising Above,” the White House says it “represents hope for a peaceful tomorrow.”

___

9:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump appeared moved by his private meeting with Pope Francis, telling the pope that he “won’t forget what you said.”

The president and pope have a contentious history and disagree on a host of issues, including environmental protection.

The White House did not immediately provide details about what was discussed during their 30-minute private conversation. But the two men appeared on good terms Wednesday, including during a traditional gift exchange.

The pope’s gifts to Trump included a medal by a Roman artist depicting an olive branch, which is a symbol of peace.

The president responded, “We can use peace.”

The pope also gave the president a signed message of peace along with copies of his three main teaching documents.

The president told the pope he’d be reading them.

___

9:28 a.m.

Rome police say Greenpeace activists briefly projected the message “Planet Earth First” on the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica on the eve of the pope’s meeting with President Trump.

Police said in a statement Wednesday that the officers allowed the action to proceed for “a few moments” given the peaceable nature of the protest. They then identified all of the activists participating, eight total.

Trump met early Wednesday with the pope, and the environment is one key area of difference. Pope Francis has made protection of the environment a keystone of his papacy, issuing a major encyclical on climate change. Trump’s administration, meanwhile, is reviewing policies related to climate change and the reduction of green gasses.

___

9:09 a.m.

President Donald Trump and Pope Francis are exchanging gifts after a private meeting.

Trump and Francis met privately for about 30 minutes Wednesday morning at the Vatican.

Pope Francis gave the president copies of his three main teaching documents as parting gifts, as he typically does for visiting heads of state. The red leather-bound booklets to some degree define his papacy and priorities. Some of the main themes contained in them contrast sharply with President Donald Trump’s policies and campaign promises, particularly concerning approaches to the environment and income inequality.

Trump’s gift for Francis was wrapped in a big blue box. The president said he was delivering “books from Martin Luther King. I think you’ll enjoy them. I hope you do.”

___

9:03 a.m.

Pope Francis is meeting first lady Melania Trump, Trump’s oldest daughter Ivanka, and other members of the U.S. delegation.

Mrs. Trump smiled and chatted with Francis after the two warmly shook hands.

Francis also shook hands with other members of the president’s team, including former bodyguard Keith Schiller and social media director Dan Scavino.

The greetings happened after Trump and Pope Francis held a nearly 30 minute private meeting.

___

8:31 a.m.

President Donald Trump is meeting Pope Francis for the first time.

Trump greeted Francis in Sala del Tronetto, the room of the little throne, on the second floor of Apostolic Palace Wednesday morning.

The men shook hands and Trump could be heard saying it was a “very great honor” to be there.

They then posed for photographs and took a seat at the pope’s desk to continue their conversation. They will now meet in private

Prior to the handshake, Trump walked toward the Saint Ambrose room, led by Gentlemen of his Holiness, which is a sort of honor guard of nobility. He was joined by his wife Melania Trump, who had a veil on her head, in adherence to Vatican tradition.

___

8:20 a.m.

President Donald Trump has arrived at the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis.

Trump arrived Wednesday morning at the Apostolic Palace for an audience with the pontiff. The meeting comes midway through his 9-day international trip.

The president and pope have not always seen eye to eye. The two men’s often opposite worldviews collided head-on early last year, when Francis was sharply critical of Trump’s campaign pledge to build an impenetrable wall on the Mexican border and his declaration that the United States should turn away Muslim immigrants and refugees.

 Papal audiences usually last for about 20-30 minutes of private talks, followed by introductions of delegations, a photo and exchange of gifts.

___

6:10 a.m.

President Donald Trump is poised to call on Pope Francis, the famously humble pontiff with whom he has publicly clashed.

Trump is midway through his grueling nine-day maiden international journey. He will meet the pontiff at the Vatican early Wednesday where the two will have a private audience laden with religious symbolism and ancient protocol.

The meeting will last scarcely more than an hour. But it could provide powerful imagery to Catholic voters back in the United States as well as the possibility for conflict between a president and a pope who have not often seen eye-to-eye.

The two men’s often opposite worldviews collided head-on early last year, when Francis was sharply critical of Trump’s campaign pledge to build an impenetrable border wall.

___


Manchester Arena Suicide Bombing: Random Acts of Kindness Follow Attack

Manchester Arena Suicide Bombing: Random Acts of Kindness Follow Attack

Image: The first floral tributes to the victims of the terrorist attack

Flowers paying tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack in Manchester. Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

MANCHESTER, England — As a dramatic red-sky dawn washed over Manchester early Tuesday, many residents were oblivious to the tragedy that struck this proud northern English city just hours before.

Those early-to-bed didn’t learn until morning that a suicide bomber had targeted an Ariana Grande concert at the 21,000-capacity Manchester Arena — an occasion the attacker must have known would be packed full of families and many young girls.

But alongside the grief was an undeniable sense of community spirit.

One man who embodied this ethos was 35-year-old Sam Arshad, who co-owns the city’s Street Cars Manchester taxi firm. He happened to be driving past the arena on his way home when he heard screams.


Sam Arshad Alexander Smith / NBC News

“I was stuck in traffic and that’s when I saw people rushing out,” Arshad recalled. “I spoke to a police officer and he told me there had been an explosion and that we needed to evacuate the area.”

He asked his fleet of drivers to turn off their their meters and not charge families, teenagers and children aiming to get home through the chaos to be reunited with their loved ones.

Arshad said he didn’t think twice about giving free taxi rides to help those stranded.

“The audience was a very young audience and some people had come from far away, expecting to be picked up by their parents,” he said. “It came down to parents ringing us trying to get their kids home to them safely.”

Related: Desperate Parents Hunt for Missing Children After Carnage

He added that he “spoke to the drivers and pleaded with them that, if we could do anything, this was our time to help the people of Manchester. This is our city, at the end of the day … money’s not everything, do you know what I mean?”

His drivers told him: “Whatever you want, gaffer, we’re there for you,” he recalled — gaffer being affectionate British slang for boss.

Moment Blast Shook Manchester Arena Caught on Camera0:33

Many Manchester residents echoed this sentiment, offering up their homes to stranded concertgoers under the trending Twitter hashtag #roomsformanchester.

Arshad, who had been awake for more than 24 hours when he spoke with NBC News at his office on Tuesday morning, said he was particularly determined to help out because of the Islamophobic online messages that often surface after terrorist attacks.

He is a Muslim, as are most of his drivers.

“So, if I can do a gesture of this kind, and the majority of my drivers are Muslim, it just shows that we’re not all what you make us out to be,” he said, directing his comments to those who seek to tarnish Islam as a whole.

“At the end of the day, every religion, every culture, you always have bad apples and unfortunately in our religion you have the same,” he added. “But you can’t group us all in one group … tonight showed, from us, it showed that we’re not that kind of people. We’re the opposite.”

One of the concertgoers-in-need was 34-year-old waitress Alison Pritchard. She traveled to Manchester with her 9-year-old daughter, Carmen, making the 350-mile journey from their home in the Scottish city of Aberdeen.

She tried to leave the event early, concerned that her daughter might get swamped in the crowds attempting to leave the enormous venue. She was in the foyer when the blast struck — but her early exit meant it was behind the pair.

“All of a sudden there was just an almighty explosion behind us,” she said, just yards away from the reams of police tape sealing off all routes to the venue. “We were so lucky because otherwise we would have been caught up in it.”

Image: Eyewitnesses to the Manchester Arena bomb attack
Carole Taylor, 49, (left) with her son Jago Stephens, 9, and Alison Pritchard, 34, with her daughter Carmen Pritchard, 9. Alex Smith / NBC News

“I was so scared,” her daughter chipped in.

“You were scared, we were all scared,” added Carole Taylor, a 49-year-old teacher also from Aberdeen who was watching the concert with the Pritchards. She was with her son, Jago Stephens, also 9.

“We just grabbed their hands and ran, ran, ran,” Taylor said. “We didn’t stop running until we go out down the stairs, round the corner. We had to get out of there really quickly.”

On Tuesday morning, with many streets blocked off, and countless workers stranded, Manchester was far quieter than its usual bustling self.

Haunting remnants of the night before littered the area around the police cordon.

A used makeup brush, a broken black tiara and and abandoned pack of cigarettes all told of a hasty escape in the wake of the worst terror attack to strike British shores since the July 7 bombings that killed 52 people in 2005.

Taylor described the mood in the city as “a sort of stillness this morning that I can’t explain; just a quietness that, for some people, their life has changed forever.”

She said that “to think somebody’s actually targeted that is absolutely disgusting. Awful. I can’t even get my head around it to be honest. I feel so, so sad.”

But she also credited the “amazing” community spirit in the city. “The hotel we were staying at were taking people in, they were opening the bar up, giving people drinks … we felt really safe,” she said.

‘We had to pull nails out of children’s faces’: Steve, a homeless man who was sleeping near Arena, rushed to help young victims

 The residents of Manchester — Mancunians, as they’re known — would agree.

The city is a thriving economic and cultural metropolis, which many inhabitants proclaim as the unofficial capital of England’s north.

Once a thriving textile manufacturer that boomed during the industrial revolution, it is now known for its art, culture and history — with a glut of galleries and museums — as well as enjoying two of the wealthiest soccer teams on the planet: Manchester United and Manchester City.

Perhaps Manchester has an added resilience because it has been targeted before.

In June 1996, the Irish Republican Army detonated the biggest bomb the group had ever exploded on the British mainland.

Image: Emergency workers after Manchester explosion on June 15, 1996
Emergency workers examine a rubble-strewn street following an IRA bomb blast in Manchester on June 15, 1996. Associated Press

Just a few hundred yards from Monday’s attack, it left no building within a half mile unscathed.

The IRA phoned ahead to warn of the blast, but still more than 200 people were injured and much of the city center lay in ruins.

“Manchester will always bounce back,” said Anthony Fisher, a 43-year-old electrician prevented from getting to a job because the police cordon. “Just look at this place,” he added gesturing to the street on which he was stood. “It was wrecked 20 years ago with the IRA bomb. It bounced back then and it will bounce back again.”

For Arshad, the taxi firm co-owner, there was another side to the tragedy of the attack.

“I would say people have woken up to a very horrified city,” he said. “It’s not something that we’re used to. But … people are reaching out, still reaching out, to see if they can help in any way, which is fantastic.”

Robot Performs First-Ever Surgery Inside Human Eye

Robot Performs First-Ever Surgery Inside Human Eye


The technique is being called “a vision of eye surgery in the future.” air009/Shutterstock

In a medical first, surgeons have used a robot to operate inside the human eye, greatly improving the accuracy of a delicate surgery to remove fine membrane growth on the retina. Such growth distorts vision and, if left unchecked, can lead to blindness in the affected eye.

Currently, doctors perform this common eye surgery without robots. But given the delicate nature of the retina and the narrowness of the opening in which to operate, even highly skilled surgeons can cut too deeply and cause small amounts of hemorrhaging and scarring, potentially leading to other forms of visual impairment, according to the researchers who tested out the new robotic surgery in a small trial. The pulsing of blood through the surgeon’s hands is enough to affect the accuracy of the cut, the researchers said.

In the trial, at a hospital in the United Kingdom, surgeons performed the membrane-removal surgery on 12 patients; six of those patients underwent the traditional procedure, and six underwent the new robotic technique. Those patients in the robot group experienced significantly fewer hemorrhages and less damage to the retina, the findings showed.

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The technique is “a vision of eye surgery in the future,” Dr. Robert E. MacLaren, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, who led the study team and performed some of the surgeries, said in a statement. MacLaren presented the results Monday at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), happening this week in Baltimore.

“These are the early stages of a new, powerful technology,” said MacLaren’s colleague Dr. Marc de Smet, an ophthalmologist in the Netherlands who helped design the robot. “We have demonstrated safety in a delicate operation. The system can provide high precision [at] 10 microns in all three primary [directions], which is about 10 times” more precise than what a surgeon can do, de Smet said. (The three primary directions are up/down, left/right, and towards the head/towards the feet.)

This $500 Mechanical Arm Could Bring Precision Surgery to the Masses 1:01

Membrane growth on the retina results in a condition called epiretinal membrane, a common cause of visual impairment. The retina is the thin layer at the back of the eye that converts light waves into nerve impulses that the brain then interprets as images.

An epiretinal membrane can form because of eye trauma or conditions such as diabetes, but more commonly it is associated with natural changes in the vitreous, the gel-like substance that fills the eye and helps it maintain a round shape. As people age, the vitreous slowly shrinks and pulls away from the retinal surface, sometimes tearing it.

The membrane is essentially a scar on the retina. It can act like a film, obscuring clear vision, or it can distort the shape of the retina. The membrane can form over the macula, a region near the center of the retina that sharply focuses images, a crucial process for reading or seeing fine detail. When membranes form here, a person’s central vision becomes blurred and distorted, in a condition called a macular pucker.

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Removing the membrane can improve vision, MacLaren said, but the surgery is very intricate. The membrane is only about 10 microns thick, or about a tenth the width of a human hair, and it needs to be dissected from the retina without damaging the retina … all while the eye of the anesthetized patient is jiggling with each heartbeat, MacLaren said.

Faced with the need for such precision, de Smet and his Dutch-based group developed a robotic system over the course of about 10 years. Robot-assisted surgery is now commonplace, particularly for the removal of cancerous tumors and diseased tissues, as in the case of hysterectomies and prostatectomies. But it has never been tried on the human eye, given the finer precision needed, the researchers said.

De Smet’s group had a working model of the robotic system in 2011, devised by de Smet and Maarten Steinbuch, an engineering professor at the University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands. They demonstrated the system’s utility in 2015 on pigs, which have similar size eyes as humans.

MacLaren’s team first used the system on a human, a 70-year-old priest from Oxford, England, in September 2016. Upon the success of that surgery, MacLaren’s team conducted a study on 11 more patients in a randomized clinical trial, hoping to measure the robotic system’s accuracy compared to the human hand.

Could Robots Create a ‘Jobless Future’ for Humans? 11:56

The robot acts like a mechanical hand with seven independent motors that can make movements as precise as 1 micron. The robot operates inside the eye through a single hole less than 1 millimeter in diameter and goes in and out of the eye through this same hole during various steps of the procedure. But the surgeon is in control, using a joystick and touch screen to maneuver the robot hand while monitoring movements through the operating microscope, MacLaren explained.

During the trial, two patients who underwent the robotic surgery developed micro-hemorrhages, which means a little bit of bleeding, and one experienced a “retinal touch,” which means there was an increased risk of retinal tear and detachment. In the traditional surgery group, five patients experienced micro-hemorrhages, and two had retinal touches.

MacLaren said the precision offered by the robotic system may enable new surgical procedures that surgeons have dreamed about but figured were too difficult to accomplish. For example, MacLaren said he hopes to next use the robotic system to place a fine needle under the retina and inject fluid through it, which could aid in retinal gene therapy, a promising new treatment for blindness.

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“The robotic technology is very exciting, and the ability to operate under the retina safely will represent a huge advance in developing genetic and stem cell treatments for retinal disease,” MacLaren told Live Science.

The surgical system was developed by Preceyes BV, a Dutch medical robotics firm established at the University of Eindhoven by de Smet and others.

Follow Christopher Wanjek @wanjek for daily tweets on health and science with a humorous edge. Wanjek is the author of “Food at Work” and “Bad Medicine.” His column, Bad Medicine, appears regularly on Live Science.