India Bans Students From Wearing Shoes During Exam

According to the head of Bihar School Examination Board Anand Kishor, in a bid to curb examination malpractice, India’s eastern state of Bihar has banned students appearing for this year’s Class “X” board examinations from wearing shoes and socks.

“The board has decided that candidates wearing only slippers will be allowed to enter the examination halls, those coming to the centres wearing shoes and socks will have to remove them outside the hall,” Anand Kishor told the media.

“The board has taken this decision to prevent cheating,” he added.

A senior official said 1.7 million students are appearing for this year’s Class X board exams in Bihar that began on Wednesday and will continue till Monday.

Bihar hogged limelight for mass cheating in 2015 when photos of parents and friends of students climbing school building walls to pass on answers were published by local media.

Some photos even showed policemen posted outside the exam centers accepting bribes to look the other way.

Some 750 students were expelled and 300 arrested by Bihar government after the incident prompted ridicule on social media.

Cheating in school exams has been going on in Bihar for a long time.

A mafia, comprising teachers and school authorities, connives with parents who bribe them to rig entire answer sheets.

Sometimes teachers even appear at exams on behalf of students.


Sisters Commit Suicide In Russia

Two Russian half-sisters Maria Vinogradova, 12, and her sister Anastasia Svetozarova, 15, were found dead on the pavement beneath their apartment block.

According to the police investigation has began to conclude whether the tragic deaths are linked to the notorious so-called Blue Whale suicide “game”. Hundreds of Russian children and teenagers have taken their lives in recent years after being brainwashed online to complete the 50 steps Blue Whale suicide game which culminates in suicide. Blue Whale and other similar online death groups are said by police to prey on depressed young people.

The sisters are believed to have jumped from the ten-storey rooftop.

According to reports, Maria was “upset and depressed” when their mother took her to a gynaecologist after she allegedly began a relationship with an underage boy called Dmitry. Her mother was reportedly “furious” about her boyfriend.

Seconds before she died, Maria posted a picture of her boyfriend and a message to him with smiles and hearts saying: “Forgive me, please. I love you so much. I know you will find somebody better than me.”

Anastasia also recorded a video in which she said: “Goodbye to everyone! I love you all! This is true. Love you very very much.”


UPDATE: Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Advised To Resign

Following the scandal of embattled Australia’s deputy prime minister which revealed his extramarital affair, Barnaby Joyce has been adviced to step down as the part leader. This is the first such call from a member of the party, which is part of the ruling coalition was made.

Barnaby Joyce, who has campaigned on “family values’’ and who has been married for 24 years, refused to resign when it was made public he was expecting a child with his former staffer.

“He needs to step down as leader of the National Party, take a step back into the back bench for a time,” Andrew Broad a member of parliament from Joyce’s National Party told state-owned broadcaster the ABC.

The National Party is in a ruling coalition with Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberal Party.

The coalition holds a one-seat majority in parliament.
Turnbull has called Joyce’s affair a “shocking error of judgment”.

Broad said he would take up the issue of Joyce’s leadership at a party meeting in the capital, Canberra on Monday.

His call is the latest sign that support for Joyce from within his rural-based party is eroding, amid concern that disapproval of the affair can undermine support in state elections.

A state branch of the party withdrew its support for Joyce on Feb. 20 because of the affair.

Two-thirds of voters want Joyce to resign over the affair, according to the Australian newspaper’s Newspoll.


Kim Jong Nam’s Murder Suspect Visited Cambodia For TV Pranks

It has been revealed in a court hearing that the Indonesian woman charged with murdering the North Korean leader’s half-brother visited Cambodia to take part in what she believed were pranks for a TV show with suspected Pyongyang agents.

Recall that Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese woman Doan Thi Huong are on trial for the Cold War-style assassination of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur airport on February 13 last year while he was waiting for a flight to Macau.

Defence lawyers have argued that the women were recruited to take part in what they thought were prank TV shows but were instead tricked into becoming inadvertent assassins, in an elaborate plot by a group of North Korean agents.

The women, in their 20s, have denied carrying out the murder of Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother by smearing a nerve agent in his face. They face death by hanging if found guilty.

The High Court in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, earlier heard that Aisyah was offered money by Ri Ji U, a North Korean posing as a Japanese man named “James”, to carry out what she was told were practical jokes for TV shows in shopping malls, hotels and airports.

Aisyah’s lawyer Gooi Soon Seng said Thursday that the supposed pranks involved sneaking up behind people and smearing their face with a lotion — apparent practice runs for the attack on Kim, which was carried out in a similar fashion.

The court heart that Aisyah travelled to Phnom Penh on January 21 last year where she met “James” and another alleged North Korean agent Hong Song Hac, known by the pseudonym “Mr. Chang”, at the Cambodian capital’s airport.

Aisyah carried out three pranks at the airport, for which she was paid $600, the police’s chief investigating officer Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz testified.

On her return to Malaysia, she conducted another four pranks at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in early February, Wan Azirul said.

The court heard after a prank on February 7, she posted a message on Facebook saying: “Last day of shooting, hopefully I will gain their trust and my contract will be extended.”

Gooi told the court that the post was proof that she was not guilty: “She is proud of being an actor, she was tricked to do the pranks.”

But the Malaysian police believe the women knew they were carrying out an assassination.


Ivanka Trump, North Korean General, To Attend Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony

The daughter of the President of the United States, Ivanka will be attending the Winter Olympics closing ceremony in the south this weekend with a top North Korean general also in attendance.

Recall that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un dispatched his sister Kim Yo Jong to the opening ceremony — which US Vice President Mike Pence also attended — and during her visit she extended an invitation to South Korean President Moon Jae-in to come to a summit in Pyongyang.

The family connections will be reversed at Sunday’s closing ceremony. The White House said Donald Trump had asked his eldest daughter — who is also one of his top advisers — to travel to Pyeongchang to lead up a “high level delegation”.

The 36-year-old businesswoman and former model will be joined by press secretary Sarah Sanders and is going in part because “she is something of a winter sports enthusiast”, an official said.

The North will send an eight-member delegation Sunday headed by Kim Yong Chol, a top general who oversees inter-Korean relations for the ruling Workers’ Party, Seoul’s unification ministry said in a statement.

Kim Yong Chol’s presence is a demonstration of how Pyongyang is testing the limits of the multiple different sanctions imposed on it over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

The general is blacklisted under Seoul’s unilateral sanctions against the North — meaning he is subject to an assets freeze — although he is not named in the UN Security Council’s measures.

He is believed to have once led the North’s spying agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, and to have ordered a deadly torpedo attack on the South’s corvette Cheonan in 2010 that left 46 sailors dead.

Seoul blamed the North for the attack but Pyongyang denied involvement.

South Korea’s defence ministry has also linked him to the shelling of its Yeonpyeong island the same year, which killed four people.

Moon dinner
The Games have seen a flurry of cross-border visits and diplomacy on the habitually tense peninsula, where strains were racked up last year as the North conducted a battery of weapons tests and its leader Kim Jong Un exchanged personal insults and threats of war with Trump.

Moon — who did not immediately accept the invitation to go to the North — has been trying to use what Seoul promotes as a “peace Olympics” to defuse tensions and open a door for dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington.

But at the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, Kim Yo Jong sat just a few seats away from US Vice President Mike Pence, who did not exchange a word with her at any point.

Pence had earlier denounced the North’s “murderous regime”, and according to US officials the North Koreans later cancelled a meeting that had been scheduled for the day after the Games’ opening.

Ivanka Trump is scheduled to have dinner with Moon on Friday, and Yonhap news agency cited the presidential Blue House as saying he was also likely to meet Pyongyang’s delegation during its three-day trip.

But a senior administration official ruled out any possible meeting between Ivanka and officials from North Korea, and a Seoul government source also said such an encounter was unlikely.

Pyongyang has used the Games to try to soften its image in the international community and push for talks with Seoul — which would lessen the possibility of a US military strike, touted as an option by Trump administration officials.

But North-South discussions would have a limited impact on wider tensions, said Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert and a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul.

“The major problem is between North Korea and the United States,” he told AFP. “Therefore, no amount of talks between North and the South… is going to change anything significantly.”

Washington has sought to project resolve in the face of a growing threat from the North — which has tested intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the US mainland and last year carried out its most powerful nuclear blast to date.

The US insists it will persist with its campaign of “maximum pressure and engagement”, and has repeatedly sought to underscore the importance of a troubled alliance with Seoul.


Donald Trump Supports Arms For High School Teachers

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday during an hour-long session at the White House with about 40 students, teachers and families touched by gun violence, suggested arming teachers to curb school shootings in the US. He also supported making improved and detailed background checks mandatory for buying guns.

Trump said a teacher with a gun could stop an attack “very quickly”.

Though a few people at the meeting agreed with Trump’s suggestion of arming teachers, some echoed the prominent sentiment, calling it bullshit.

“Nobody wants to see a shoot-out in a school,” said Mark Barden, whose son was killed in 2012’s Sandy Hook school shooting.

“Schoolteachers have more than enough responsibilities right now, than to have the awesome responsibility to take a life,” he added.


African Migrants Start Hunger Strike Over Israel Expulsion

Hundreds of African migrants launched a hunger strike to protest Israel’s implementation of its controversial policy to expel or indefinitely imprison them, a spokesman for the group said Wednesday.

Israel has resolved to expel thousands of Eritreans and Sudanese who entered illegally over the years, giving them an ultimatum to leave or risk being imprisoned indefinitely.

As the migrants could face danger or imprisonment if returned to their homelands, Israel is offering to relocate them to an unnamed third country, which the migrants and aid workers say is Rwanda or Uganda.

Authorities on Tuesday transferred seven Africans from the Holot detention centre to a nearby prison, prompting the 750 men held in Holot to launch a hunger strike that evening, said Abdat Ishmael, an Eritrean held at the southern Israel open facility.

On Wednesday, another five were taken to prison, Ishmael told AFP.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli interior ministry confirmed they had begun implementing the deportation or prison policy on Holot detainees ahead of the April 1 mark for the rest of the Africans who had entered Israeli illegally.

Ishmael said they would prefer prison over deportation to Africa.

“We saw what happened to people who went (to other African countries) a year or two ago, they don’t receive asylum and can die,” he said.

Migrants began entering Israel through what was then a porous Egyptian border in 2007. The border has since been strengthened, all but ending illegal crossings.

Israel’s deportation or imprisonment plan has drawn criticism from the United Nations’ refugee agency as well as some in Israel.

According to interior ministry figures, there are currently some 42,000 African migrants in Israel, half of them children, women or men with families, who are not facing the April deportation deadline.

Israeli officials stress that no one they classify as a refugee or asylum seeker will be deported.


Spain Court Orders Arrest Of Self-Exiled Catalan Separatist

A Spanish court on Wednesday issued an arrest warrant valid only in Spain for a former Catalan MP who is in self-imposed exile in Switzerland to avoid jail while she is investigated over her role in the region’s secession drive.

The Supreme Court “ordered the arrest” of Anna Gabriel, who failed to turn up on Wednesday before a judge for questioning, it said in its ruling. The arrest warrant applies only “nationally”, a court spokesman told AFP.

Public prosecutors had asked the court to issue an arrest warrant for Gabriel and ask Swiss authorities to extradite her.

Asked earlier on Wednesday if extradition was a possibility, Swiss justice ministry spokesman Folco Galli said: “Switzerland does not grant, like most other states, extradition and any other form of mutual legal assistance for political offences.

“If there is a request, we have to look at it thoroughly, and from what the media say, it seems to be a political offence, so there is no extradition,” he added.

Gabriel, a top member of the far-left separatist CUP party, is the latest separatist to leave the country after deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and four former regional ministers went to Belgium shortly after a failed bid to break from Spain.

She had been due to appear before a Supreme Court judge on Wednesday over her role in Catalonia’s failed independence drive, which eventually led Madrid to impose direct rule on the region in October, sack its government and dissolve its parliament.

The CUP held the balance of power in Catalonia’s parliament during that time, as ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont’s ruling coalition lacked a majority and relied on the smaller party’s 10 seats to pass legislation and advance his independence “roadmap.”

Gabriel, a former university law professor and the party’s most famous member, is popular with CUP supporters for her fiery speeches in parliament in favour of independence.

Puigdemont and several of his former ministers left for Belgium just hours before he and other separatist leaders were charged with rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds over their role in Catalonia’s independence drive. Like Gabriel, they face arrest if they return to Spain.

“I won’t go to Madrid. I’m wanted for my political activities and the government press has already declared me guilty,” Gabriel told Swiss daily Le Temps on Tuesday.


Malaysian Woman Charged With Murdering Indonesian Maid

A Malaysian woman was charged Wednesday with the murder of an Indonesian maid who was found with wounds covering her body and was allegedly forced to sleep outside with a dog.

M. A. Ambika, 60, will be sentenced to death if found guilty of murdering Adelina Sau, in a case that has sparked new tensions between Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur over a long-standing flashpoint issue.

About 2.5 million Indonesians work in neighbouring Malaysia — both legally and illegally — including many as maids, but there have been repeated cases of abuse of domestic helpers over the years.

The victim, in her 20s, died at a Malaysian hospital this month, a day afer being rescued by a migrant workers’ protection group.

Her head and face were swollen and she had wounds on her hands and legs. A Malaysian lawmaker said she had been forced to sleep on a porch next to a dog.

Ambika was charged during an appearance at the magistrate’s court in the northern town of Bukit Mertajam with the murder of the maid at her home on February 10, state news agency Bernama reported.

She did not enter a plea, the agency said. A murder conviction carries a mandatory death sentence in Malaysia.

Her daughter, R. Jayavartiny, 32, was charged with employing the victim despite being aware she did not have a valid work permit. She denied the charge.

Local media reported Ambika’s son, who was also initially arrested after the helper’s death, will appear as a witness in the case.

Two people have also been arrested in Indonesia on human trafficking charges in connection with the death of the maid, with police alleging they used forged documents to send the victim to Malaysia.

Indonesia is reportedly considering reinstating a ban on sending maids to Malaysia following the case. Jakarta last imposed a ban in 2009 to 2011.

Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has urged Jakarta not to go ahead with the ban, insisting recently employers who abuse maids will be brought to justice.

“The Malaysian government will never protect any employer who is found to have acted cruelly,” he said.



No Lavish Birthday Celebration As Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Turns 94

Former Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, who ruled the country with an iron fist for decades, turned 94 on Wednesday, with no lavish celebrations like previous years.

This will be his first birthday since being ousted in a military coup in 2017.

February 21 is still a holiday in the southern African nation, but, unlike in previous years, huge amounts of money have not been spent on extravagant celebrations or outlandish birthday cakes.

Mr. Mugabe ally and former government minister, Jonathan Moyo, who fled the country after November’s coup, posted a picture to Facebook that he said showed Mugabe and his wife marking the occasion at their Harare home.

Mugabe, known for his penchant for Savile Row suits, was immaculately dressed, but sat slumped in his chair, while his wife, often derided for her expense tastes as “Gucci Grace,” was dressed in bright pink.

The much-loathed former first lady gave a slight smile, in contrast to a picture of her released earlier this week with her husband and the chief of the African Union in which she appeared decidedly unhappy.

The Mugabes were allowed to stay in Zimbabwe after the coup that brought current leader Emmerson Mnangagwa to power.

The former liberation hero was also reportedly given a generous retirement package.

In 2017, Mr. Mugabe, for his 93rd birthday, had a cake weighing 93 kgs, a symbol many found distasteful in a country mired in economic crisis.


20 Die In Peru Bus Crash

At least 20 people were killed when a bus veered off a mountain road and plunged into a ravine in southern Peru on Wednesday, state news agency Andina reported.

At least 20 other passengers were injured when the bus left the Pan-American highway and tumbled 80 meters (260 feet) down a jagged slope in the southern region of Arequipa.

The accident happened around 1.30 am (0630 GMT), the agency said.

Rescue teams “have been working since dawn, coordinating the transfer and care of the injured,” Arequipa governor Yamila Osorio wrote on her Twitter account.

The injured were taken to hospital in the city of Camana.

It was the second major accident on Peru’s roads this year. On January 2, a bus crashed into a ravine in the country’s central coastal area, leaving 52 dead.