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NEW DELHI: The Taj Mahal, India’s iconic ivory-white marble mausoleum in Agra, is the second best UNESCO world heritage site in the world, according to a new survey.

With over 8 million visitors per year, the monument of love built by mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, is rated after Cambodia’s Angkor Wat.

Conducted by online travel portal Trip Advisor, the survey lists the UNESCO Cultural and Natural heritage sites best rated by travellers around the globe.

“You can find hundreds of tours and experiences to visit this mesmerizing site, from a private tour with guide and visit at sunset or sunrise, to a visit including a home cooked meal at a local home in Agra,” the travel portal said.

Best toured with a knowledgeable guide, Angkor Wat has in store fascinating facts about its building process as well as history.

“The best views are at dawn or dusk, when the crowds have gone and the lighting reveals its true majesty,” Trip Advisor said.

Other popular heritage sites on the survey include the Great Wall of China built by Xu Da of Northern Qi Dynasty in 1368 AD.

Machu Pichu in Peru in South America has bagged the fourth spot with a 5-day hike of the Inca Trail, the 15th century Inca citadel and much more on offer.

 Iguazu National Park in Brazil, Italy’s Sassi of Matera, Auschwitz Birkenau and historic Krakow in Poland, the old city of Jerusalem in Israel and the historic areas of Istanbul in Turkey have also made to the list.

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SEOUL: A US B-1B bomber on Wednesday joined large-scale US-South Korean military exercises that North Korea has denounced as pushing the peninsula to the brink of nuclear war, as tension mounts between the North and the United States.
The bomber flew from the Pacific US-administered territory of Guam and joined US F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters in the annual exercises, which run until Friday.
The drills come a week after North Korea said it had tested its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States, as part of a weapons programme that it has conducted in defiance of international sanctions and condemnation.
Asked about the bomber’s flight, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing in Beijing: “We hope relevant parties can maintain restraint and not do anything to add tensions on the Korean peninsula.”
North Korea regularly threatens to destroy South Korea, the United States and Japan. Its official KCNA state news agency said at the weekend that US President Donald Trump’s administration was “begging for nuclear war” by staging the drills.
It also labelled Trump, who has threatened to destroy North Korea if the United States is threatened, “insane”.
KCNA said on Tuesday that the exercises in which the bomber took part are “simulating an all-out war”, including drills to “strike the state leadership and nuclear and ballistic rocket bases, air fields, naval bases and other major objects…”
US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on Sunday urged the Pentagon to start moving US military dependants, such as spouses and children, out of South Korea, saying conflict with North Korea was getting close.
The US-South Korea drills coincide with a rare visit to the isolated North by UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman.
North Korean vice-foreign minister Pak Myong Guk met Feltman on Wednesday in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, and discussed bilateral cooperation and other issues of mutual interest, KCNA said.
Feltman, a former senior US state department official, is the highest-level UN official to visit North Korea since 2012. The state department said on Tuesday he was not carrying any message from Washington.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in will visit China next Wednesday for a summit with his counterpart Xi Jinping, Seoul’s presidential Blue House said. North Korea’s increasing nuclear and missile capability would top the agenda, it said.
The military exercises, called “Vigilant Ace”, are designed to enhance joint readiness and operational capability of US extended deterrence, South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said in a statement.
North Korea has vehemently criticised the drills since the weekend, saying the exercise precipitates US and South Korean “self-destruction”.
China and Russia had proposed that the United States and South Korea stop major military exercises in exchange for North Korea halting its weapons programmes. China is North Korea’s lone major ally and fears widespread instability on its border.
Russia also has communication channels open with North Korea and is ready to exert its influence, the RIA news agency quoted Russian deputy foreign minister Igor Morgulov as saying on Tuesday.
North Korea has tested dozens of ballistic missiles, two of which flew over Japan, and conducted its sixth and largest nuclear bomb test in September.
It says its weapons programmes are a necessary defence against US plans to invade. The United States, which has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, denies any such intention

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NEW DELHI: Shashi Kapoor, the embodiment of romance and charm who wooed the top leading ladies of the ’70s and ’80s on the silver screen and captivated millions of fans, died today. He was 79.

The actor-producer took his last breath at the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Mumbai.

“Yes, he has passed away. He had a kidney problem and was on dialysis for several years,” his nephew Randhir Kapoor, the son of the late Raj Kapoor, told PTI.

Randhir Kapoor said the funeral would be held tomorrow morning.

“Shashi Kapoor expired at 5.20pm on December 4 at Kokilaben Hospital in Mumbai,” Dr Ram Narain from the hospital told PTI.

President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the death of the popular actor.

“Sorry to hear of the demise of Shashi Kapoor, well-known actor, with a repertoire of Indian and international films. His support for meaningful cinema as a producer and pivotal role in the theatre movement in India too are cherished. Condolences to his family,” said Kovind in a message on Twitter.

Prime Minister Modi said he was saddened by the news and recalled Kapoor’s contribution to cinema and theatre.

“Shashi Kapoor’s versatility could be seen in his movies as well as in theatre, which he promoted with great passion. His brilliant acting will be remembered for generations to come. Saddened by his demise. Condolences to his family and admirers,” Modi tweeted.

Union minister of information and broadcasting Smriti Irani said Kapoor’s death was “the end of an era”.

Born on March 18, 1938 to the illustrious and formidable theatre and film actor Prithviraj Kapoor, Shashi hit the spotlight at the age of four, acting in plays directed and produced by his father.
He made his debut as a leading man in the 1961 film “Dharmputra” and went on to appear in more than 116 films during the ’70s and until the mid ’80s. The veteran actor is well-known for his roles in films like ‘Deewaar’ (1975), ‘Satyam Shivam Sundaram’ (1978), ‘Junoon’ (1978), ‘Shaan’ (1980), and ‘Namak Halaal’ (1982).

In 2011, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Indian government. In 2015, he became the third in his family to be honoured with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award.
The legendary actor was married to late English actress Jennifer Kendal, with whom he established Prithvi Theatre in 1978.

He is survived by his daughter Sanjana, and sons Kunal and Karan.

 

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The US Supreme Court is allowing the Donald Trump administration to fully enforce a ban on travel to the United States by residents of six mostly Muslim countries.
The justices, with two dissenting votes, said Monday that the policy can take full effect even as legal challenges against it make their way through the courts. The action suggests the high court could uphold the latest version of the ban that Trump announced in September.

The ban applies to travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Lower courts had said people from those nations with a claim of a “bona fide” relationship with someone in the United States could not be kept out of the country. Grandparents, cousins and other relatives were among those courts said could not be excluded.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor would have left the lower court orders in place.

The San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals and the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, will be holding arguments on the legality of the ban this week.

Both courts are dealing with the issue on an accelerated basis, and the Supreme Court noted it expects those courts to reach decisions “with appropriate dispatch.”

Quick resolution by appellate courts would allow the Supreme Court to hear and decide the issue this term, by the end of June.

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A day External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made a stopover in Tehran on her way back from Sochi in Russia, where she attended the annual summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Iran inaugurated its Chabahar Port today.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threw open the newly built extension to the country’s main Arabian Sea outlet in the form of the strategic Chabahar Port on the Gulf of Oman.

Iranian state TV said the inauguration was attended by dignitaries from India, Qatar, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries.

CHABAHAR PORT: 10 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT

  1. The Chabahar Port is located in the strategically significant southeastern province of Sistan-Balochistan in Iran. It will connect Iran with Afghanistan and Central Asian countries. It gives India a way bypass Pakistan and connect with West Asia and reach Central Asia via Iran.
  2. The newly inaugurated extension includes five new piers, two of them for containers allowing cargo vessels with up to 100,000-ton captaincy to dock. It has more than tripled the Iran’s capacity and poses a challenge for a port under construction in neighbouring Pakistan.
  3. The USD 340 million project was constructed by a Revolutionary Guard-affiliated company, Khatam al-Anbia, the largest Iranian contractor of government construction projects.
  4. It involved several subcontractors, including a state-run Indian company, and brings the capacity of the port to 8.5 million tonnes of cargo annually, from the previous 2.5 million tonnes.
  5. It is also expected to make Chabahar, Iran’s closest sea link to the Indian Ocean, a rival to Gwadar Port, some 80 kilometres away across the border in Pakistan, which Pakistan has been building with Chinese investment.
  6. Rouhani, however, downplayed the rivalry in his inauguration speech and said the port will bring “more engagement and unity” among regional countries. “We should go after positive competition,” he said, adding, “We welcome other ports in the region, we welcome Gwadar’s development.”
  7. Rouhani said Iran also plans to link the port to the country’s railroad network to facilitate transit of goods to neighbouring landlocked Central Asian countries, as well as open a route to eastern and northern Europe through Russia.
  8. For India, the investment in Chabahar was important since the port will bolster a trade route for land-locked Central Asian countries that would bypass rival Pakistan.
  9. Last year, India committed up to USD 500 million for the development of the Chabahar port along with associated roads and rail lines.
  10. In November, New Delhi shipped its first cargo of wheat to Afghanistan through the Iranian port, part of 130,000 tons that India plans to export to Afghanistan. Chabahar also has an international airport and Iran’s Navy and Air Force have bases in the city, adding to the ports value.

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Jamaat-ud Dawah(JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed, who was recently released from house arrest, on Saturday announced that he would take part in the Pakistan general elections 2018 on the National Assembly seat.

Saeed, who continues to remain a free man in Pakistan, told media persons that he would contest the election under Milli Muslim League (MML) party. However, he did not disclose any details about the constituency.

In August, the JuD entered politics by forming a new party, MML and announced Saifullah Khalid, a religious scholar, as its party president.

Khalid had said that the MML will work to make Pakistan a real Islamic and welfare state. He also added that his party will make efforts to cooperate with other like-minded political outfits.

On January 31, the JuD chief was detained under Section 11-EEE(1) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1977 and the court refused to extend his house arrest on November 23. He was subsequently released from detention.

The United States has declared him a global artist for being the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left 166 people dead. Upon his release from detention, India had expressed outrage by calling it an attempt by Pakistan to mainstream terrorists.

India termed the release as a reflection of Pakistan’s continuing support to non-state actors.

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North Korea test fires ballistic missile from Pyongsong; Japan PM office confirms

North Korea has fired another ballistic missile on Wednesday, South Korea’s news agency Yonhap news agency reported. According to Yonhap news agency, the ballistic missile was fired from an area north of Pyongyang.

“North Korea launched an unidentified ballistic missile into the East Sea from the vicinity of Pyongsong, South Pyongan Province, at around 3:17 a.m. today,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

The missile launch was also confirmed by Japanese Prime Minister’s office and said that the missile landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that President Trump was briefed about the missile while the missile was still in air.

Colonel Robert Manning, the Director of Press operations at the US Department of Defense (DOD) in a statement to NK news said that the DOD detected a probable missile launch at 1:30 pm EST. He further added, “We are in the process of accessing the situation and will provide additional details when available”.

The Pentagon in a statement said that the missile was an ICBM that was launched from Sain Ni in North Korea. The missile travelled for about 1,000 km and splashed down into the Sea of Japan.

This is the first missile launch since September 15 when North Korea launched an intermediate ballistic missil over Japan.

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WASHINGTON: India and the US will continue to work together to increase economic opportunities and inclusive growth, US President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump on Thursday said, days ahead of her visit to Hyderabad for a global business summit.

Ivanka, 36, will lead a high-powered American delegation of officials, women entrepreneurs and businessmen for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) 2017 in Hyderabad, a three-day summit beginning November 28.

The summit will be attended by 1,500 entrepreneurs from 170 countries and would have around 350 participants from the US, a large number of whom are Indian-Americans.

Ivanka would deliver the keynote address at the summit, which would be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

She said that her aim for this summit is to serve as an open and collaborative environment for the exchange of ideas, to broaden networks, and to empower entrepreneurs to take their ideas and passion to the next level.

“The US and India will continue to work together to increase economic opportunities and inclusive growth. I very much look forward to my visit and to seeing Prime Minister Modi and Foreign Minister (Sushma) Swaraj once again,” Ivanka told reporters on Tuesday.

Incredibly excited to be visiting India next week for the eighth annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), she said.

The summit, co-hosted by the US and India, “is a testament to the strong friendship between our two people and the growing economic and security partnership between the two nations,” she said.

“Entrepreneurship, domestically and abroad, is a key priority for this administration. The US recognises innovation and entrepreneurship as essential tools for job creation, economic growth and stability across communities, countries, and regions,” she said.

The summit will be attended by over 1,200 entrepreneurs, of which 350 are from the US, representing 38 US States.

“I am particularly proud of the fact that this is the first time that women will be the majority of participants at the GES. Currently 52.5 per cent of entrepreneurs will be women, attending from 127 different countries,” Ivanka added.

More than 10 countries including Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Israel will be represented by an all-women delegation, the State Department had said.

According to the officials, Ivanka is likely to spend some time on sightseeing, including a possible stop at the Charminar during her visit.

Prime Minister Modi during his visit to the White House in June had invited Ivanka to visit India.

Ivanka is an American television personality, fashion designer, author and businesswoman, besides being an advocate for the education and empowerment of women and girls.

The daughter and adviser of the US President has been an executive vice president of the family owned ‘The Trump Organisation’ as well as serving as a boardroom judge on her father’s TV show ‘The Apprentice’.

According to Tom Vajda, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, the GES will underscore the US-India partnership and the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship that our two countries share.

In addition to the 1,200 emerging entrepreneurs, the summit will also see participation of an additional 300 investors and supporters, such as incubator and accelerator representatives, joining from around the world.

 “The event will create an important platform for entrepreneurs and particularly women to pitch their ideas, build partnerships, secure funding and find their target customers.

“Both the US and India are firmly committed to promoting entrepreneurship, not just in our own two countries but around the world, because we share the belief that entrepreneurship drives economic growth and creates jobs, establishing a foundation for a more prosperous world,” Vajda said.

The GES really is the preeminent annual gathering of emerging entrepreneurs, investors and policy makers from all around the world, said Michelle Bekkering, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator and Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.

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President Donald Trump delivered a sharp warning to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Wednesday, telling him the weapons he’s acquiring “are not making you safer. They are putting your regime in grave danger.”

In a speech delivered hours after he aborted a visit to the heavily fortified Korean demilitarized zone due to bad weather, Trump called on all nations to join forces “to isolate the brutal regime of North Korea — to deny it any form of support, supply, or acceptance.”

“Today, I hope I speak not only for our countries, but for all civilized nations, when I say to the North: Do not underestimate us. And do not try us,” he told South Korean lawmakers. “We will defend our common security, our shared prosperity, and our sacred liberty.”

Trump had been scheduled to make the unannounced early morning trip to the DMZ amid heightened tensions with North Korea over its nuclear program.

The Marine One presidential helicopter left Seoul at daybreak and flew most of the way to the DMZ but was forced to turn back just five minutes out due to poor weather conditions. Reporters traveling in a separate helicopter as part of the president’s envoy saw fog through the windows, and weather reports from near the heavily fortified border showed misting conditions and visibility below one mile. Pilots, officials said, could not see the other helicopters in the air.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president was disappointed he couldn’t make the trip. “I think he’s pretty frustrated,” she told reporters. “It was obviously something he wanted to do.”

Before he left for Asia, a White House official had ruled out a DMZ visit for Trump, claiming the president didn’t have time on his schedule and that DMZ visits have become a little cliche.

But Sanders said the visit had been planned well before Trump’s departure for Asia. The trip was kept secret for security reasons, she said.

Trump had been scheduled to make the visit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who traveled separately and landed about a 20-minute drive from the DMZ. Sanders said the military and the U.S. Secret Service had deemed that landing would not be safe, and Trump deferred to them.

After returning to Seoul, administration officials had hoped they might be able to wait out the bad weather and make a second landing attempt. At the U.S. Army’s Yongsan Garrison landing zone, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Sanders frequently glanced up at the clouds to see if the sky was clearing. But time would not allow it.

The aborted visit came hours before Trump addressed the South Korean National Assembly before closing out his two-day visit to the nation and heading to his next stop, Beijing.

Visiting the border that has separated the North and South for 64 years has become something of a ritual for U.S. presidents trying to demonstrate their resolve against North Korea’s ever-escalating aggression. Every American president since Ronald Reagan, save for George H.W. Bush, has made the trip, peering across the barren north through binoculars, hearing broadcast propaganda and reaffirming their commitment to standing with the South.

The attempted visit was scheduled for a day after Trump made a striking shift in tone for a president, who for months has issued increasingly dire threats to answer any hostile North Korean action with “fire and fury.” In a recent speech at the United Nations, Trump said he would “totally destroy” the nation, if necessary, and has derided Kim as “little Rocket Man.”

But on Tuesday, his first day on the Korean Peninsula, Trump signaled a willingness to negotiate as he urged Pyongyang to “come to the table” and “make a deal.” He also he’d seen “a lot of progress” in dealing with Pyongyang, though he stopped short of saying whether he wanted direct diplomatic talks.

“It makes sense for North Korea to come to the table and make a deal that is good for the people of North Korea and for the world,” Trump said at a news conference with Moon. “I do see certain movement.” He also sounded an optimistic note on disagreements with the North, saying confidently, if vaguely: “Ultimately, it’ll all work out.”

Ever the showman, Trump had teased that he had a surprise in store, saying at a Tuesday evening banquet that he had an “exciting day” planned Wednesday — “for many reasons that people will find out.” He did not elaborate on what turned out to be the aborted trip to the DMZ.
North Korea has fired more than a dozen missiles this year but none in nearly two months. Analysts caution against reading too much into the pause.

 There’s no public sign of any diplomatic progress between Washington and Pyongyang. U.S. officials say the back channel between the State Department and the North Korean mission at the United Nations in New York remains intact, but contacts have not been substantive other than achieving the release of American college student Otto Warmbier in June. He died days after his repatriation to the U.S.
Still, Trump’s conciliatory comments would be welcome in South Korea, where both the government and the wider population have been unnerved by the president’s threats against the North.

Trump did note the United States’ military options, mentioning that three aircraft carrier groups and a nuclear submarine had been deployed to the region. But he added that “we hope to God we never have to use” the arsenal. And he accused Kim of “threatening millions and millions of lives, so needlessly.”

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Chinese President Xi Jinping has been “very helpful” in dealing with the threat posed by nuclear- armed North Korea, US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday, a day before he heads to Beijing.

Pyongyang was “a worldwide threat that requires a worldwide action”, according to Trump, but he said that Xi “really has been very, very helpful”.

“We hope that Russia likewise will be helpful,” he added.

China is the North’s key ally and diplomatic protector, their alliance forged during the Korean War when hundreds of thousands of Chinese “people’s volunteers” died fighting US- led United Nations troops.

All nations must implement UN Security Councilregulations and cease trade and business entirely with North Korea,” Trump said.
“It is unacceptable that nations would help to arm and finance this increasingly dangerous regime.”

 But while Beijing has become increasingly frustrated at its neighbour’s nuclear antics, seeing them as destabilising the region, it says its power to influence Pyongyang is limited.
China is the source of around 90 per cent of the North’s commerce, and under Trump, Washington has consistently urged it to do more.