News Flash – 18 May 2017

National News



Metro-3 work begins today, traffic curbs may choke five busy roads



MUMBAI: As construction work for Mumbai’s Metro-III commences on Thursday, brace for traffic congestions on important road junctions in the coming days. Traffic police officials have issued diversions and curbs which will come into effect from Thursday till phase-1 work is completed. The long-haul curbs and an impending monsoon are likely to wreak havoc on Mumbai’s already congested roads. Deputy Commissioner of police (western-traffic) Sanjay Jadhav said that temporary arrangements have been made and they will come into effect from Thursday till phase-1 is completed for smooth flow of traffic movement. The Metro work notification says that construction of Hutatma Chowk station on DN Road; Kalbadevi and Girgaum stations on JSS Road; MIDC station in Andheri; and Worli station on Dr. Annie Besant Road will be done in phase-1. Lane-shifting work on Dnyaneshwar Marg in BKC and at international and domestic airports will also be carried out in the first phase.



Despite 3 runways, IGI takes less burden than Heathrow



NEW DELHI: Indira Gandhi International Airport has three runways, but trails those abroad with as many or fewer landing strips in hourly flight handling capacity. It isn’t surprising then that the airport catering to India’s capital is currently unable to meet the airlines’ growing demand for slots to operate additional flights, thus restricting the flyers’ options. Delhi International Airport Pvt. Ltd, which runs the airport, has informed airlines that it cannot add a single flight between 7am and 10pm this summer. IndiGo alone was denied permission for 30 flights it planned for the summer season. IGIA has been shown up as a laggard in a comparison made by NATS, the UK-based air traffic control services provider which was hired by DIAL to suggest means of augmenting aircraft movement on its three runways. The NATS report accessed by TOI shows two-runway airports like Hong Kong, Dubai International and London’s Heathrow and three-runway airports like Istanbul and Beijing have much higher hourly aircraft movement.

Given that the runways at Heathrow and Dubai are so close to each other as to preclude simultaneous use, IGIA’s lower capacity is significant because two of its runways are distant enough as to allow their use at the same time. IGIA’s runways currently handle 62 schedule and five non-schedule (VIP, defence or charter) flights every hour. On paper, the maximum hourly capacity of IGIA’s three runways is 75 aircraft (70 schedule and five non-schedule). It also handles just 45 flights an hour between 11pm and 6am due to special usage procedures meant to cut down on night-time noise from planes. Delhi, however, has reasons for its sub-par performance, unlike Mumbai, which has become the world’s busiest single-runway airport. As an Airports Authority of India (AAI) official explained, “A significant part of Delhi is a no-fly zone (the entire aerial portion from AIIMS to the VVIP enclave comprising Rashtrapati Bhawan, Parliament House and the prime minister’s residence). There is also the restricted airspace reserved for the Hindon air base in the neighbourhood.” As a result, planes cannot approach IGIA in a circular manner, only through a narrow corridor, irrespective of which direction they are flying in from. The official added, “The constant VVIP flights also hamper regular flights”.

AAI disclosed that NATS, after an earlier study, had suggested enhancement of ground infrastructure such as rapid exits and aprons to reduce the time taken to vacate the runway. However, such infrastructure has not been planned at IGIA. DIAL did not offer a comment for this story. In any case, as the AAI official pointed out, it would be useless to squeeze extra flights into the schedule in the absence of the capacity at the terminals to manage the additional passengers and baggage. “In fact, this is the reason why no low-cost carrier has agreed to shift from Terminal 1 to T2 when such a move led to no extra slots,” the official added. Union aviation minister Jayant Sinha is meeting stakeholders at IGIA to discuss NATS’ roadmap for a phased increase of hourly flight capacity. AAI chairman Guruprasad Mohapatra too will meet the involved parties to see if the targets set for short and medium term are being met. “Some additional infrastructure is required and we are working on that,” said Mohapatra.



Blackout in Bengaluru as power station collapses

BENGALURU: Wednesday’s rain in several parts of the city resulted in the collapse of Hoody station of Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited, plunging most areas in Bengaluru East and North into darkness for several hours from 6pm. With at least nine sub-stations supplying power to the city failing, some areas in West Bengaluru and the CBD too had no power from 8pm onwards. Hoody station, which supplies power to areas like Fraser Town, Cooke Town, Banaswadi, Kalyan Nagar, HRBR Layout, Hennur and even parts of Hebbal and surrounding areas, could not re solve the issue until late night. KPTCL cited the sudden downpour on Wednesday evening as the reason for the station collapse. Bescom said the sudden power outage was due to incoming supply failure from various MUSS linked to the 400KV Hoody station. “The lines tripped due to heavy wind followed by rain. We hope to restore power supply before midnight. But the continuous strong winds are a concern,” an officer said on Wednesday night. People’s misery was compounded as a heavy downpour, accompanied by strong winds, started about 9.30pm. Darkness covered a large swathe of the city and its suburbs – from Hoskote and Whitefield to Murugesh Palya, Indiranagar, Ulsoor, Vasanthnagar, Malleswaram, Lingarajapuram, Thanisandra, Nagawara, Sanjaynagar, Hebbal, and Shantinagar, Cubbonpet, Chamarajpet, City Market and Sampangiramnagar.

Citizens flooded Bescom helplines with complaints through the night. “They haven’t told us when power will be restored… How can such a light shower disrupt power in so many areas? What will happen when the real monsoon hits the city next month?” asked concerned residents. The power outage resulted in complete darkness on the streets, and collapse of traffic signals. Traffic clogs were reported on major link roads in East and North Bengaluru. “It took me two hours to cross a main road due to a huge pileup of traffic,” said an office-goer in Marathahalli. The weatherman said Wednesday’s rain was normal, and was characterized by strong and gusty winds which are likely to continue for the coming 24-36 hours. Four trees uprooted: At least four trees were uprooted owing to late evening rain, accompanied by strong winds that hit Bengaluru city on Wednesday. According to BBMP, tree fall was reported from Cox Town, Commercial Street, Sulthan palya and the Orion Mall area.



IIT-Gandhinagar buildings offer lessons in earthquake resistance



AHMEDABAD: Drawing upon the experiences of building its own campus, Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IIT-Gn) has started a five-day course called “Seismic Analysis and Design of Confined Masonry Building”. The thirty-six buildings at the new IIT-Gn campus in Palaj constitute the largest engineered application of confined masonry construction in the public sector in India. “The course, which began on May 15, is being taken by more than 25 postgraduate engineering students from IIT-Gn, along with those from several Ahmedabad-based institutions such as CEPT, LD College of Engineering, Nirma University, and Islamic University of Science and Technology from Jammu and Kashmir,” said a statement from IIT-Gn. Confined masonry is a composite masonry and reinforced concrete construction technology, where masonry walls are constructed first and reinforced concrete elements are cast afterwards. IIT-Gn director, Professor Sudhir K Jain, who is also the president of International Association for Earthquake Engineering (IAEE), said, “We need building typologies that are suitable for our requirements”.



Now, TTD systems under attack as ransomware makes way to the gods



HYDERABAD: WannaCry ransomware that is creating havoc the world over has hit the computers of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) too. On Wednesday the computers being used by the TTD staff fell prey to WannaCry ransomware. TTD officials said that 30 systems, which were running on old version of operating system, were affected. There was no interruption to services related to devotees as they were loaded with the latest operating systems. These systems are being used by various administrative offices of the TTD located in Tirupati. TTD executive officer Anil Kumar Singhal on Wednesday said though a few systems were affected, officials are taking precautionary measures to prevent damage or further attack.

TTD authorities said the TTD has about 2,000 computers and of them 500 systems are used for booking and online services for devotees. The TTD used Windows 8.2, 10 version of operating system. Only a few are loaded with outdated versions. ‘They were being used for the data entry purpose by clerks. We did not lose any data. We have printed versions of the data,” they said. When IT wing noticed WannaCry in some computers, it immediately disconnected the systems. Officials said that they have taken all the measures including disabling the virus, which breaks the firewall and corrupts the systems. “We have also loaded patches released by Microsoft for further protection of all the systems as advisories from agencies have said that even computers with the latest software may be affected,” said officials.



Provide dedicated lanes to ambulance, HC tells NHAI



CHENNAI: The Madras high court has given four weeks to National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to provide dedicated lanes and separate booths at toll gates so that their response time in case of road accidents is as short as possible. When a PIL filed by a Congress advocate, A P Suryaprakasam, came up for hearing before a vacation bench on Wednesday, the bench comprising Justice R Mahadevan and Justice M Govindaraj said: “This court is of the opinion that the relief claimed in the writ petition is reasonable and, therefore, NHAI and the Union ministry of surface transport are directed to consider the representation dated June 1, 2016 and April 20, 2017, positively and take further action within four weeks.”

In his petition, Suryaprakasam said during long road drives in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, he had noticed that there were no dedicated and separate toll gates for ambulances and other public utility services. He said the net result was that by the time the vehicles reached the accident spot it would be too late for accident victims. National highways in these two states have a high incidence of accidents due to reasons such as bad driving behaviour of drivers and influence of alcohol. Suryaprakasam said it was very essential to provide quick and immediate medical treatment within the golden hour to accident victims. Delay of every minute in providing medical aid to accident victims will cost their life, he said, adding that dedicated lanes and separate entry booths ambulances, fire service and other government vehicles at toll gates and booths in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry alone would prevent such delays, he said.



Ahmedabad 7th cleanest A1 railway station



AHMEDABAD: The Ahmedabad Railway station which ranked below 25 in terms of cleanliness in 2016 has now been ranked as the seventh cleanest station in the A1 category. Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Beas in Punjab are the cleanest stations in A1. In A category stations, Bhuj was ranked 10th cleanest station in the country. The results were declared on Wednesday. The results had surprises for the state as Surat and Vadodara, which were ranked among the top ten stations last year, did not find a place among the top ten this year. The first survey was conducted by IRCTC in 2016 by conducting interviews of passengers at the stations on various parameters of cleanliness and rating them. The second survey ion 2017 has been conducted by Quality Council of India (QCI), who with the help of their partners have conducted the survey of 407 major railway stations (75 A1 category and 332 A category stations) of Indian Railways. Officials said that in Ahmedabad, they have implemented around the clock cleaning of the platform and have ensured that the tracks at the station were also washed regularly. The Ahmedabad was in the Western Railway division, which ranked fifth among all divisions in the country. Railway officials said that on-board cleaning in several trains originating from Ahmedabad was the main feature for passengers expressing their satisfaction.



International News



Another large-scale cyberattack under way: Experts



PARIS: Another large-scale, stealthy cyberattack is under way on a scale that could dwarf last week’s assault on computers worldwide, a global cybersecurity firm told AFP on Wednesday. The new attack targets the same vulnerabilities the WannaCry ransomware worm exploited but, rather than freeze files, uses the hundreds of thousands of computers believed to have been infected to mine virtual currency. Following the detection of the WannaCry attack on Friday, researchers at Proof point discovered a new attack linked to WannaCry called Adylkuzz, said Nicolas Godier, a researcher at the computer security firm. “It uses the hacking tools recently disclosed by the NSA and which have since been fixed by Microsoft in a stealthier manner and for a different purpose,” he said. Instead of completely disabling an infected computer by encrypting data and seeking a ransom payment, Adylkuzz uses the machines it infects to “mine” in a background task a virtual currency, Monero, and transfer the money created to the authors of the virus. Virtual currencies such as Monero and Bitcoin use the computers of volunteers to record transactions. They are said to “mine” for the currency and are occasionally rewarded with a piece of it.

Proof point said in a blog that symptoms of the attack include loss of access to shared Windows resources and degradation of PC and server performance, effects which some users may not notice immediately. “As it is silent and doesn’t trouble the user, the Adylkuzz attack is much more profitable for the cyber criminals. It transforms the infected users into unwitting financial supporters of their attackers,” said Godier. Proof point said it has detected infected machines that have transferred several thousand dollars’ worth of Monero to the creators of the virus. The firm believes Adylkuzz has been on the loose since at least May 2, and perhaps even since April 24, but due to its stealthy nature was not immediately detected. “We don’t know how big it is” but “it’s much bigger than WannaCry”, Proof point’s vice president for email products, Robert Holmes, told AFP. A US official on Tuesday put the number of computers infected by WannaCry at over 300,000. “We have seen that before – malwares mining cryptocurrency – but not this scale,” said Holmes. The WannaCry attack has sparked havoc in computer systems worldwide. Britain’s National Health Service, US package delivery giant FedEx, Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica and Germany’s Deutsche Bahn rail network were among those hit.

While the rate of new infections has slowed, researchers at cybersecurity firm Check Point said the malware continues to spread rapidly. And another expert added that despite a quick breakthrough that WannaCry to be slowed down, researchers don’t fully understand it. “The problem is that we’re still not certain about the origin of the infections” as contrary to many previous attacks it wasn’t via emails which deceive users into installing the virus, said the expert on condition of anonymity. More attacks could be soon be underway as the hacker group TheShadowBrokers that leaked the vulnerabilities used by WannaCry and Adylkuzz has threatened to publish more. It said in a post it would begin providing information monthly by subscription in June, saying that in addition to Windows 10 vulnerabilities it would include “compromised network data from Russian, Chinese, Iranian, or North Korean nukes and missile programs”.



Gunmen attack state TV station in Afghanistan, 2 civilians among 4 killed

Afghan security forces arrive at the site of an attack in Jalalabad city, eastern Afghanistan May 17, 2017.


JALALABAD: Suicide bombers stormed the national television station in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad today, triggering gunfights and explosions as journalists remained trapped inside the building, officials and eyewitnesses said. At least two people were killed and 14 others wounded in the ongoing assault, which underscores the growing dangers faced by media workers in Afghanistan. No insurgent group has so far claimed responsibility for the raid in Nangarhar province, a hotbed of Islamic State jihadists, where the US military dropped its largest non- nuclear bomb last month in an unprecedented attack. “Four attackers entered the RTA (Radio Television Afghanistan) building this morning. Two blew themselves up and two others are still resisting,” government spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP. He had earlier said there were three attackers. “At least two civilians have been killed and 14 others wounded so far,” Khogyani said, with a health worker telling AFP that many of those brought to hospital suffered gunshot wounds. An RTA photographer said he fled the building as soon as the gunfight erupted, but many of his colleagues were still stuck inside. Unconfirmed reports said that Islamic State militants have claimed responsibility for the attack. Islamic State insurgents are active in Nangarhar province, of which Jalalabad is the capital.

The US military last month dropped the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb- dubbed the “Mother Of All Bombs”- on IS positions in Nangarhar, killing dozens of jihadists. The bombing triggered global shock waves, with some condemning the use of Afghanistan as what they called a testing ground for the weapon, and against a militant group that is not considered as big a threat as the resurgent Taliban. According to the US Forces-Afghanistan, defections and recent battlefield losses have reduced the local IS presence from a peak of as many as 3,000 fighters to a maximum of 800. The Pentagon has reportedly asked the White House to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan to break the deadlocked fight against the Taliban. US troops in Afghanistan number about 8,400 today, and there are another 5,000 from NATO allies, who also mainly serve in an advisory capacity- a far cry from the US presence of more than 100,000 six years ago. Today’s attack marks the latest militant assault on an Afghan media organisation. Afghanistan suffered its deadliest year on record for journalists in 2016, according to the Afghan Journalists’ Safety Committee (AJSC), adding that the country is the second most dangerous for reporters in the world after Syria.

At least 13 journalists were killed last year, AJSC said, claiming that the Taliban was behind at least ten of the deaths. In January last year, seven employees of popular TV channel Tolo, which is often critical of the insurgents, were killed in a Taliban suicide bombing in Kabul in what the militant group said was revenge for “spreading propaganda” against them. It was the first major attack on an Afghan media organisation since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001 and spotlighted the dangers faced by journalists as the security situation worsens. Dan Coats, the head of US intelligence agencies, warned last week that the security situation “will also almost certainly deteriorate through 2018, even with a modest increase in the military assistance by the US”. US-led forces have been fighting in Afghanistan for almost 16 years, making it America’s longest war.



North Korea: New long-range missile can carry heavy nuke



SEOUL, South Korea: North Korea on Monday boasted of a successful weekend launch of a new type of “medium long-range” ballistic rocket that can carry a heavy nuclear warhead. Outsiders also saw a significant technological jump, with the test-fire apparently flying higher and for a longer time period than any other such previous missile. Amid condemnation in Seoul, Tokyo and Washington, a jubilant North Korean leader Kim Jong Un promised more nuclear and missile tests and warned that his country’s weapons could strike the US mainland and Pacific holdings. North Korean propaganda must be considered with wariness — Pyongyang has threatened for decades to reduce Seoul to a “sea of fire,” for instance — but Monday’s claim, if confirmed, would mark another big advance toward the North’s goal of fielding a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the US mainland. Some experts, including officials in Tokyo, estimate that Sunday’s launch successfully tested a new type of missile, potentially the longest in North Korea’s arsenal. The test is also an immediate challenge to South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, a liberal elected last week who expressed a desire to reach out to North Korea. Pyongyang’s aggressive push to boost its weapons program also makes it one of the Trump administration’s most urgent foreign policy worries, though Washington has struggled to settle on a policy.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency called the missile a “new ground-to-ground medium long-range strategic ballistic rocket,” and said the “Hwasong-12” was “capable of carrying a large, heavy nuclear warhead”. Kim witnessed the test and “hugged officials in the field of rocket research, saying that they worked hard to achieve a great thing,” according to KCNA. The rocket, “newly designed in a Korean-style,” flew 787 kilometers (490 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 2,111 kilometers (1,310 miles), the North said, and “verified the homing feature of the warhead under the worst re-entry situation and accurate performance of detonation system”. South Korea’s Defense Ministry said more analysis is needed to verify the North’s claim on the rocket’s technological features. Spokesman Moon Sang Gyun said it’s still unlikely that North Korea has re-entry technology, which would return a warhead safely back into the atmosphere. Japanese officials said Sunday that the missile flew for half an hour and reached an unusually high altitude before landing in the Sea of Japan. Several South Korean analysts, including Lee Illwoo, a Seoul-based commentator on military issues, said the missile flew higher and for a longer period than any other the North has ever test-fired. North Korea has also launched satellites into orbit on long-range rockets that share some of the same technology as missiles.

North Korea is not thought to be able yet to make a nuclear warhead small enough to mount on a long-range missile, though some outside analysts think it can arm shorter-range missiles with warheads. Each new nuclear and longer-range missile test is part of the North’s attempt to build a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile. Kim said North Korea would stage more nuclear and missile tests in order to perfect nuclear bombs needed to deal with U.S. “nuclear blackmail”. State media paraphrased North Korea’s leader as saying that “the most perfect weapon systems in the world will never become the eternal exclusive property of the U.S.,” warning that “the U.S. should not … disregard or misjudge the reality that its mainland and Pacific operation region are in (North Korea’s) sighting range for strike”. The launch complicates the new South Korean president’s plan to talk to the North, and came as U.S., Japanese and European navies gather for joint war games in the Pacific. “The president expressed deep regret over the fact that this reckless provocation … occurred just days after a new government was launched in South Korea,” senior presidential secretary Yoon Young-chan said. “The president said we are leaving open the possibility of dialogue with North Korea, but we should sternly deal with a provocation to prevent North Korea from miscalculating”.

Moon, South Korea’s first liberal leader in nearly a decade, said as he took his oath of office last week that he’d be willing to visit North Korea if the circumstances were right. In Seoul, some citizens expressed frustration. Kim Do-hoon, 31, said that South Korea, while keeping the “door open for conversation” with the North, should also “show a stern attitude at some level”. “As South Korea’s diplomatic situation matures, North Korea should also show a more mature attitude, not a childish one, and contribute to (establishing a better) diplomatic relationship,” said Jin Hyo-seon, 33, a painter. The UN Security Council will hold closed consultations about the launch on Tuesday afternoon, according to the U.N. Mission for Uruguay, which holds the council presidency this month. The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said on ABC television that the United States has been working well with China, Pyongyang’s closest ally, and raised the possibility of new sanctions against North Korea, including on oil imports. The Security Council has adopted six increasingly tougher sanctions resolutions against North Korea. President Donald Trump’s administration has called North Korean ballistic and nuclear efforts unacceptable, but it has swung between threats of military action and offers to talk as it formulates a policy.

While Trump has said he’d be “honored” to talk with leader Kim under favorable conditions, Haley seemed to rule out the possibility. “Having a missile test is not the way to sit down with the president, because he’s absolutely not going to do it,” she told ABC. The U.S. Pacific Command said Sunday’s test flight “is not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile”. David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the missile could have a range of 4,500 kilometers (about 2,800 miles) if flown on a standard, instead of lofted, trajectory — considerably longer than North Korea’s current missiles. He said Sunday’s launch — the seventh such firing by North Korea this year — may have been of a new mobile, two-stage liquid-fueled missile North Korea displayed in a huge April 15 military parade. The White House, in a statement, said that North Korea has been “a flagrant menace for far too long”. The launch came as troops from the U.S., Japan and two European nations gather near Guam for drills that are partly a message to North Korea. The USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft supercarrier, is also engaging with South Korean navy ships in waters off the Korean Peninsula, according to Seoul’s Defense Ministry.

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