Apology aftertrain departs 20 seconds early

A rail company in Japan has apologised after one of its trains departed 20 seconds early.

Management on the Tsukuba Express line between Tokyo and the city of Tsukuba say they “sincerely apologise for the inconvenience” caused.

In a statement, the company said the train had been scheduled to leave at 9:44:40 local time but left at 9:44:20.

The mistake happened because staff had not checked the timetable, the company statement said.

“The crew did not sufficiently check the departure time and performed the departure operation,” it said.

It added that no customers had complained about the early departure from Minami Nagareyama Station, which is just north of Tokyo.

A map showing Tokyo and Tsukuba in Japan

The Tsukuba Express line takes passengers from Akihabara in eastern Tokyo to Tsukuba in about 45 minutes.

It is rare for trains in Japan, which has one of the world’s most reliable railways, to depart at a different time to the one scheduled.

The country’s Tokkaido line, which runs from Tokyo to the city of Kobe, is by far the world’s busiest and carries nearly 150 million passengers a year.

South Korea earthquake halts major exam for university entry

South Korea has delayed its nationwide college entrance exam for the first time ever, after the country was struck by an earthquake on Wednesday.

Students and parents usually spend months preparing for the crucial exam.

The 5.4 magnitude tremor hit the south-eastern port city of Pohang in the afternoon, and dozens of aftershocks have occurred since.

The quake was the second-strongest on record, leaving at least 57 people injured and more than 1,500 homeless.

The annual test, sometimes referred to as “life assignment exam”, has been rescheduled for next week for safety reasons.

The exam is considered crucial to ensuring a spot in one of the country’s top universities, and eventually securing a good job.

“It’s a bit hellish thinking I have to do this for one more week,” 20-year-old Cho Hyun-lee told the Reuters news agency. “People are dispirited, lying with their faces down.”

“It feels like I was turning the handle on the exit door from hell then returned to square one,” high school senior Lee Yoon-mi told Reuters. “If you’re not a test-taker, you could never understand.”

A car damaged by falling bricks after a 5.4-magnitude earthquake is seen in the southeastern port city of Pohang on November 15, 2017.

The exam is of such national significance that aircrafts are barred from taking off or landing for 30 minutes to prevent their noise interfering with the exam’s listening section. On Thursday the ban for aircrafts was lifted, the transport ministry said.

South Korea rarely experiences tremors, but seismic activity is very closely monitored because a spike is often the first sign that North Korea has carried out a nuclear test.

Last year, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake hit the nearby city of Geongju, but the damage from Wednesday’s quake has been more severe.

More than 1,000 buildings, homes and vehicles have been destroyed or damaged.

Explosion rocks Kabul near political gathering, 7 dead

Kabul blast, Afghan police cordon the explosion site in Kabul

At least seven people were killed and many wounded in a suicide bomb blast that in the Afghan capital on Thursday near a gathering of supporters of regional leader Atta Mohammad Noor, according to the interior ministry. Noor is the governor of the northern province of Balkh and a leader of the mainly ethnic Tajik Jamiat-i-Islami party.

The explosion was the latest in a wave of violence in Afghanistan that has killed and wounded thousands of civilians this year. Political tensions are up as politicians have begun jockeying for position ahead of presidential elections expected in 2019. A spokesman for the interior ministry said the suicide bomber approached a hotel hosting the gathering in the Khair Khana district of Kabul, on foot. The dead included five policemen and two civilians, and many more were wounded.

President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday sacked the chairman of the Independent Election Commission, raising doubts over whether parliamentary and council ballots scheduled for next year will take place as planned.

Donald Trump’s Asia trip shows America is ready to lead again, says Nikki Haley

Nikki Haley on Donald Trump

<img class=”size-full wp-image-4689655″ src=”http://images.indianexpress.com/2017/06/nikki-haley759.jpg” alt=”Nikki Haley on Donald Trump” />Nikki Haley said President Trump made strides in each country during his Asia trip. (File Photo)

President Donald Trump’s trip to Asia shows the US is ready to lead again, while the visit also helped strengthen the global community’s commitment to address security threats posed by North Korea and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific, US Ambassador to UN Nikki Haley has said.

“President Trump’s recent trip to Asia showed that America is ready to lead again in this crucial region of the world. That includes standing strong with our friends and allies, calling out those who threaten us, and looking out for the best interests of the American people and American businesses,” Haley said. Trump’s visit helped strengthen the international community’s commitment to addressing the security threats posed by North Korea and its lawless regime, she said a day after the president returned from a nearly two-week Asia trip.

“Now more than ever, Kim Jong-un is isolated and feeling the pinch from the strongest set of sanctions ever passed by the UN Security Council,” she said. The President made strides in each country he visited to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific region that will benefit the economies and political stability of the region, she said. “Finally, President Trump stood up for American prosperity by promoting fair trade and new investments that will lead to new jobs for hard-working Americans,” Haley said.

In a fact-sheet, the White House said Trump’s trip to five Asian nations strengthened existing relations and advanced high-standard rules that will enable regional development and prosperity. “President Trump hosted a trilateral meeting with Prime Minster Turnbull of Australia and Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe of Japan, which was followed by a bilateral meeting between President Trump and Indian Prime Minister Modi. Representatives at the working level from all four countries met to discuss issues related to the Indo-Pacific,” it said.

During his trip through Asia, Trump secured new projects and deals that will bring investment back to the US and employ American workers, the White House said. He also advanced fair trade between the US and its partners in Asia, working to end years of one-sided and unbalanced trade that has left too many Americans behind. “While visiting Japan, the Republic of Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines, Trump reaffirmed his commitment to promoting prosperity, development, and security in the Indo-Pacific region,” the White House said.

“In Japan, the two nations launched the Strategic Energy Partnership, which supports universal access to affordable and reliable energy, and agreed to cooperate to offer high-quality infrastructure investment options in the Indo-pacific region,” it said. “In South Korea, Trump delivered a clear message that the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea will be strengthened and grounded in shared values and mutual trust, the White House said.

Ex-Trump aide Manafort charged with US tax fraud over Ukraine work

Donald Trump’s former presidential campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has been charged with conspiring to defraud the US in his dealings with Ukraine.

The 12 charges brought against Mr Manafort and one of his business associates, Rick Gates, include conspiracy to launder money.

They stem from an inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the US election.

It has emerged that another adviser to Mr Trump admitted this month to lying about his links to Russia.

George Papadopolous pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents about his dealings with an unnamed overseas academic who allegedly informed him that the Russians possessed “dirt” on Mr Trump’s presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton.

The charges against Mr Manafort and Mr Gates do not relate to Mr Trump’s campaign but to the alleged concealment of payments from the pair’s Ukrainian business dealings up to 2016.

An investigation headed by special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into any links between Russia and the Trump campaign. Both sides deny any collusion.

Responding to news of the charges, Mr Trump tweeted to point out that they did not concern his campaign and asked why “the focus” was not on alleged wrongdoing involving Mrs Clinton instead.

What does this mean for Trump?

Rick Gates (second from left) and Paul Manafort (second from right) on stage with the Trumps, 21 July 2016

For years Paul Manafort operated on the fringes of power, a once-influential Washington player who worked with some less-than-savoury international characters because his services were no longer in high demand domestically, the BBC’s Anthony Zurcher writes from Washington.

Then, like many other politicos in Donald Trump’s orbit, he was thrust into the spotlight because more established hands wanted nothing to do with the upstart’s presidential campaign.

Mr Manafort got his big break but it may end up breaking him. That resulting spotlight has drawn attention to Mr Manafort’s past dealings and raised questions about his actions while in at the top of the Trump campaign.

The good news for Mr Trump is these charges stem from Mr Manafort’s past business dealings, not his campaign efforts. He is being accused of working for years for pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians and laundering millions in subsequent payments.

It certainly makes Mr Trump’s decision to cut Mr Manafort loose last August after details emerged of his Ukrainian ties seem a wise one.

The good news has its limits, however. Mr Manafort will be under growing pressure to co-operate with the Mueller investigation. If he offers up useful information about his time during the campaign, this could be just the first domino to fall.

What are the charges against Manafort and Gates?

The indictment looks at their links to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine between 2006 and 2015.

It says they acted as “unregistered agents” of Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych and his party, both in opposition and government.

Mr Yanukovych was deposed as president in 2014 amid mass unrest over his pro-Russian policies.

Mr Manafort is accused of having laundered more than $18m (£14m) through offshore bank accounts, using it to buy property, goods and services in transactions concealed from the US authorities.

He is said to have “used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle” in America.

Altogether, at least $75m in payments from Ukraine flowed through the accounts, the indictment says.

Mr Manafort and his lawyer arrived at an FBI office in Washington on Monday.

Mr Gates is accused of having transferred more than $3m from the offshore accounts to other accounts he controlled. He has been ordered to surrender to authorities, according to US media reports.

No immediate comment from lawyers for Mr Manafort and Mr Gates was reported after the charges were revealed.

What were Manafort’s links to Trump?

Mr Manafort, 68, has worked on several Republican presidential campaigns, beginning with Gerald Ford’s in 1976.

He resigned as chairman of the Trump campaign in August 2016 after being accused over his dealings with pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. He denies any wrongdoing.

US intelligence agencies believe the Russian government sought to help Mr Trump win the election.

How does the Papadopolous case affect Trump?

The justice department statement on Mr Trump’s former foreign policy adviser has the potential to damage the US leader because it relates directly to his election campaign.

When Mr Papadopolous was interviewed by the FBI this January, he told them that his interactions with the foreign professor, who is said to have “substantial connections to Russian government officials”, had taken place before he joined the Trump campaign in March 2016.

But according to the US justice department, his meetings with the professor actually took place after he became an adviser to Mr Trump. The professor only took interest in him because of his new status within the Trump campaign, it is alleged.

Mr Papadopolous admitted having sought to arrange a meeting “between the Campaign and Russian government officials”.

The alleged Russian “dirt” on Mrs Clinton took the form of “thousands of emails”. No further details were given.

Why did Trump bring up Clinton?

On Friday, Mr Trump accused Mrs Clinton of links with Moscow.

Republican lawmakers have alleged that a uranium deal with a Russian company in 2010, when Mrs Clinton was secretary of state, was sealed in exchange for donations to her husband’s charity.

A Congressional investigation has been opened into the case. Democrats say it is an attempt to divert attention from the alleged ties between Russia and Mr Trump.

Catalan independence: Spain’s top prosecutor calls for rebellion charges

Policeman leaning against wall, carrying gun

Spain’s chief prosecutor has called for charges including rebellion – which carries a maximum 30 year jail term – to be brought against Catalan leaders.

José Manuel Maza said they should also face sedition charges following the region’s declaration of independence.

It comes as Spain acts to take direct control of Catalonia, replacing senior officials.

Meanwhile, former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is reported to be in the Belgian capital, Brussels.

Mr Puigdemont is with other dismissed Catalan ministers and will meet Flemish politicians, Spanish media report. Belgium’s state broadcaster also reported that he would meet lawyers in Brussels, and a journalist tweeted (in Catalan) that the former president was in a “safe and secret” location.

Spanish authorities sacked Mr Puigdemont as regional leader on Friday, and suspended Catalan autonomy.

José Manuel Maza, Spain's chief prosecutor, called for Catalan leaders to be charged for sedition and rebellion over the region's declaration of independence, 30 October 2017

Speaking at a press conference earlier, Mr Maza, the Spanish attorney-general, called for Catalonia’s leaders to be charged with misuse of funds over the independence referendum they held in October, after it had been declared illegal by the constitutional court.

Under the Spanish legal system, Mr Maza’s requests will be considered by a judge.

What happened on Monday?

There appeared to be no major disruption in Catalan government offices on Monday morning, despite some officials defying instructions from Madrid not to turn up for work.

Any ministers who arrived at their offices were given hours to leave under threat of “action” by Catalonia’s regional police force, Mossos.

Madrid’s temporary move to impose direct control by invoking Article 155 of the constitution – a first for Spain – will see as many as 150 of the region’s top officials replaced.

  • Puigdemont: The man who wants to break up Spain

Mr Puigdemont and his vice-president Oriol Junqueras reject the central’s government’s moves, arguing that they can only be removed from office by the citizens of Catalonia.

What’s next for Catalan autonomy?

Madrid has called for fresh regional elections on 21 December.

A spokeswoman for Mr Puigdemont’s PDeCAT party said it would field candidates “with conviction”. The ex-president could run in new elections if he has not been jailed by then, according to Spain’s Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis.

On Monday, Mr Dastis said he hoped the forthcoming elections would help to “restore legal governance and rule of law in Catalonia”.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido has written to all police officers in Catalonia asking for their loyalty as a “new era” begins in the region

What is the local press saying?

  • The centre-left and unionist Madrid-based El País says that Sunday’s huge pro-union protest in Barcelona “has shown in this difficult moment that Catalan society is much more plural than what the pro-independence block strives to show”
  • The pro-union Barcelona-based El Periódico says the protest was the “start of the election campaign”. It adds that “the new regional elections should serve to move Catalonia out of its current impasse”
  • The pro-independence Catalan language Ara suggests in an editorial that it would be an “error” for the pro-independence parties not to contest the 21 December elections
  • The moderate Barcelona-based La Vanguardia focuses on the importance of “reconstruction” and how to overcome the divisions in Catalan society. “All sides will inevitably discover that there is no political problem that cannot be resolved by dialogue” it says

How did we get here?

Spain has been gripped by a constitutional crisis since a referendum, organised by Mr Puigdemont’s separatist government, was held earlier this month in defiance of a ruling by the constitutional court which had declared it illegal.

The Catalan government said that of the 43% of potential voters who took part, 90% were in favour of independence.

On Friday the regional parliament declared independence.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy then announced the dissolution of the regional parliament and the removal of Mr Puigdemont as Catalan leader.

Mr Puigdemont has urged “democratic opposition” to direct rule from Madrid.

Before this, the region had one of the greatest levels of self-government in Spain.

It has its own parliament, police force and public broadcaster, as well as a government and president.

Catalans had a range of powers in many policy areas from culture and environment to communications, transportation, commerce and public safety.

Singapore to freeze car numbers

Traffic in Singapore

Singapore will freeze the number of vehicles on its roads from next February.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) cited the scarcity of land and public transport upgrades as reasons for the cap.

The tiny, densely populated country has strict policies aimed at limiting the number of cars on its roads.

As a result, car ownership rates are far lower in Singapore than in other wealthy countries.

Permit system

In addition to caps, Singapore has a deliberate policy of elevating the cost of owning a car in an effort to reduce the number of vehicles on the road.

 It does this through a system which requires bidding for the right to own and use a vehicle for a limited number of years, known as a Certificate of Entitlement (COE).

As a result, a mid-range car in Singapore can typically cost about four times as much as it would in the United States.

The LTA said the new cap won’t significantly affect the number of available COEs, because most of them aren’t newly created, and instead come from deregistered cars.

The new growth cap is slightly lower than the existing 0.25% limit, which has been in place since 2015.

It applies to private cars and motorcycles, but not to goods vehicles and buses.

presentational line

Singapore cars: By the numbers

  • A recent Deutsche Bank report found a new midsize car costs around $90,000 in Singapore. The same car would cost about $24,000 in the UK and the US
  • Singapore’s car ownership rate is roughly 11%. In the US, it is nearly 80% and it is just under 50% in Europe
  • Singapore ranked 55th on a global congestion index by navigation firm TomTom. Jakarta ranked 2nd, and Bangkok 3rd in the same congestion index
  • Transport upgrades

Despite the government’s policies, there are nearly one million vehicles on Singapore’s roads. Just over 600,000 of those are private and rental cars, including cars used by ride-hailing services such as Uber and Grab.

The LTA said there are limitations to expanding the tiny country’s road network. Roads take up 12% of the country’s total land area, which is a far higher percentage than in many larger countries.

In addition to a cap on vehicle growth, the government is trying to deal with congestion by investing heavily in the country’s public transport network.

It has added 41 new train stations over the past six years, expanding the city-state’s network by 30%.

Singapore is investing $20bn Singapore dollars ($14.9bn; £11.1bn) in new rail infrastructure, $4bn to upgrade existing infrastructure and $4bn in bus contracting subsidies.

Kim Jong-nam murder: Suspects revisit Malaysia airport

Two women charged with killing Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korea’s leader, are revisiting the crime scene in Malaysia.

Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong were at Kuala Lumpur airport on Tuesday.

The pair are accused of rubbing the highly toxic VX nerve agent on Mr Kim’s face as he waited for a flight.

They have pleaded not guilty to murder, saying it was a TV prank and they were tricked by North Korean agents.

Pyongyang has denied any involvement in the 13 February killing, but four men – believed to be North Koreans who fled Malaysia on the day of the murder – have also been charged in the case.

Kuala Lumpur International Airport was packed with journalists awaiting the women on Tuesday morning.

Media members react during a revisit to the scene of the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North KoreaImage copyrightEPA

The women arrived at the airport soon afterwards, and were seen wearing bulletproof vests.

Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, who is on trial for the killing of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North KoreaImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionPolicewomen held the arms of Doan Thu Huong (centre) as they walked into the terminal
Siti Aisyah (C) of Indonesia - who is on trial for the assasination of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North KoreaImage copyrightEPA
Image captionJournalists at the scene said Siti Aisyah (centre) looked overwhelmed at one point

They were escorted by dozens of armed police officers wearing body armour.

Siti Aisyah of Indonesia and Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam - who are on trial for the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North KoreaImage copyrightEPA
Armed policemen take the escalator as they escort Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, who are on trial for the killing of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North KoreaImage copyrightREUTERS

Halfway during the visit, Ms Aisyah burst into tears while Ms Huong also appeared unwell, reported AFP news agency.

The women were given wheelchairs and officials pushed them around the terminal for the rest of the visit.

Indonesian Siti Aisyah, who is on trial for the killing of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North KoreaImage copyrightREUTERS

They were accompanied by their lawyers and the judge presiding over the trial. The visit was aimed at giving those involved in the case a better understanding of the events.

The group visited an airport cafe at one point during the visit.

Media members react during a revisit to the scene of the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North KoreaImage copyrightEPA

They were also taken to the check-in hall where Mr Kim appeared to have been attacked, and the medical centre where he sought assistance.

If found guilty, the women face the death penalty. Their defence lawyers are likely to argue that the real culprits are North Korean agents who fled Malaysia.

Mr Kim, who was in his mid-40s, was the estranged older half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

At the time of his death, he was believed to have been living in self-imposed exile in Macau and was thought to have had some links to China.

Kenya’s Ruth Odinga to be charged over Kisumu protest

 

Ruth Odinga

Kenya’s chief prosecutor has ordered that opposition leader Raila Odinga’s sister should immediately be charged with inciting violence against the election commission.

Ruth Odinga entered an election centre without permission, and caused damage to property, a statement said.

Odinga, a former deputy governor of Kisumu State, has not yet commented.

Mr Odinga is boycotting Thursday’s presidential election re-run, saying it will not be free and fair.


 

About 70 people have been killed in violence since the election commission declared President Uhuru Kenyatta the winner of elections on 8 August election.

The Supreme Court of Appeal annulled his victory, saying the poll was marred by irregularities and illegalities.

Mr Odinga’s supporters have been holding mass protests to demand reforms, including the sacking of key election officials, before a new poll is held.

Last week, a senior member of the electoral commission (IEBC) fled to the US amid death threats.

Roselyn Akombe said the commission was under political “siege”, unable to reach consensus or take any decisions.

However, Mr Kenyatta and the commission have vowed that Thursday’s poll will go ahead.

Last Wednesday, Ms Odinga was allegedly part of a protest which led to a training session for election officials being disrupted in the opposition stronghold of Kisumu in western Kenya.

She should be charged, along with senator Fred Outa and others, for obstructing an election official from performing his lawful duties, incitement to violence, and malicious damage to property, the office of the director of public prosecutions said in a letter to police.

“The suspects should immediately be charged,” the letter added.

Egypt disputes reported death toll from desert shootout

Mourners carry the coffin of a police officer killed in a shoot-out with militants in Egypt's Western Desert (21 October 2017)Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionEgypt’s government said 11 officers, four conscripts and one sergeant were killed

Egypt’s government has disputed reports that more than 50 policemen were killed in a shootout with militants in the Western Desert on Friday.

The interior ministry said only 16 policemen died when they were ambushed during a mission in the Bahariya oasis.

Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) criticised the BBC and Reuters news agency for citing unnamed sources for the death tolls in their articles.

No group admitted to the attack, some 135km (84 miles) south-west of Cairo.

But hundreds of police and soldiers have been killed by jihadist militants affiliated to so-called Islamic State (IS) since 2013, when the Egyptian military overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

The town of el-Bawity in the Bahariya oasis, some 300km (186 miles) south-west of CairoImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThe clash took place near the Bahariya oasis (pictured)

The interior ministry sent policemen to the Bahariya oasis to carry out a raid on a “terrorist hideout”.

“As soon as the first mission approached the location of the terrorist elements, they sensed the arrival of the forces and targeted them using heavy weapons from all directions,” a ministry statement published on Saturday said.

The ensuing shootout lasted several hours and left 11 officers, four conscripts and one sergeant dead, according to the statement. Another four officers and nine conscripts were injured, while one officer was reported missing, it said.

Fifteen militants were killed or injured as forces pursued them after the battle, the ministry added.

Security sources told Western media the police death toll was far higher.

The BBC was told that 53 officers and conscripts had been killed, while Reuters citedthree sources as saying that at least 52 had died.

The Associated Press also reported that at least 20 officers – including two brigadier-generals, a colonel and 10 lieutenant-colonels – and 34 conscripts were killed, and Agence France-Presse put the death toll at 35.

A statement issued late on Saturday by the SIS criticised the BBC and Reuters for “relying on what they called unidentified security sources” and for failing to “wait or resort to official security authorities to get correct information