Don’t use IMF dollars to pay back Chinese loans, Pompeo tells Imran Khan of Pakistan

Imran Khan is said to be considering asking for IMF assistance to try and stabilise Pakistan’s economyTEHREEK-E-INSAF/AP

The US secretary of state has told Pakistan that any funds provided to its new government under a possible $12 billion International Monetary Fund bailout programme should not be used to repay Chinese loans.

Mike Pompeo said that there was “no rationale” for an IMF package that would be used to shift funds on to Chinese lenders. Imran Khan, Pakistan’s prime minister-elect after a general election last week, is said to be considering asking for IMF assistance to try to stabilise Pakistan’s economy.

Speaking only hours after he had urged Asian nations to look towards the US rather than Beijing, Mr Pompeo suggested that any IMF deal for Pakistan would have to be scrutinised carefully by Washington. The US is the biggest contributor to IMF…

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Mexico: plane crashes near Durango but all 101 people survived, says governor

An Aeromexico airliner carrying 101 people from the Mexican city of Durango to the country’s capital has crashed soon after take-off, but all 97 passengers and four crew survived the accident, according to Mexican officials.

Eighty-five people were injured in the accident – some seriously – but José Rosas Aispuro, the governor of Durango state, said on Twitter that there were no fatalities.

A spokesman for the Durango state health ministry said two of the victims were in critical condition.


Aeromexico flight 2431 was carrying 97 passengers and four crew, according to Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, Mexico’s secretary of communication and transport.

The plane – an Embraer 190 – landed in a field near the state capital’s airport at around 4pm.

“The plane was taking off,” Rosas told Mexican television, adding that witnesses told him there was “a bang” and then without warning the plane was on the ground.

In a statement, Aeromexico said: “At the moment we have no reports of any casualties … We are deeply regret this accident. The families of all those who have been affected are in our thoughts and in our hearts.”

Protección Civil Durango Capital

Al momento se registró un accidente aéreo en las inmediaciones del Aeropuerto Internacional Guadalupe Victoria, todas las unidades de emergencia acuden al lugar por lo que solicitamos a la población abrir paso a las unidades de emergencia.

July 31, 2018

Durango state civil defense office published photos of a smoking but apparently relatively intact plane lying on its belly in a field. Lines of ambulances were waiting at the accident site.

“We are working to gather further information and will provide more details when they are available and have been confirmed. Our priority is guaranteeing the safety of the clients and crew aboard,” Aeromexico said.

Several injured passengers were able to walk from the wreck, according to the Sin Embargo news website, and victims were taken to local hospitals.

Courts in three states bar release of 3D-printable gun blueprints


Eight states are filing suit against the Trump administration over its decision to allow a Texas company to publish downloadable blueprints for a 3D-printed gun, contending the hard-to-trace plastic weapons threaten public safety. (July 30)

WASHINGTON – Three courts on Tuesday barred the chief promoter of 3D-printable guns from posting his designs online, just hours before a midnight deadline that would have made such information widely accessible.

Courts in New York, New Jersey and Washington State issued rulings barring Cody Wilson and his company, Defense Distribution, from uploading instructions for making 3D-printable guns at midnight Wednesday – as he had planned to do under a settlement reached in June with the Trump administration

“Today Cody Wilson committed to not publish any new printable gun codes nationwide until a court hearing in September,” New Jersey’s attorney general, Gurbir S. Grewal, announced, calling it a “big victory for public safety and law enforcement safety.”

Wilson downplayed the court agreement in an email to USA TODAY. 

“We agreed to maintain the status quo, keep up existing files, block (New Jersey) IP addresses, and not post new files. We gave up nothing,” Wilson said. 

The legal tussle came after President Donald Trump weighed in on the issue – and less than 24 hours before the technology was poised to become widely available under a settlement his own administration reached this year with Defense Distributed, a Texas-based nonprofit. 

Trump said in a tweet Tuesday morning that he was “looking into” easy access to blueprints for 3D-printable guns, saying the idea “doesn’t seem to make much sense.”

Wilson first designed a 3D-printable plastic pistol, called the “Liberator .380,” in 2012 and put the plans online. The State Department quickly advised Wilson to remove the information, saying it could be a violation of international export law.

Wilson complied but sued the State Department and its chief, John Kerry, who ran the agency in the Obama administration. The State Department has purview over the issue because it’s in charge of enforcing the Arms Export Control Act and other arms trafficking regulations. The Arms Export Control Act authorizes the president to control the import and export of defense weapons and defense services and to regulate their import and export.

In June, the State Department, now led by Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, settled the case with Wilson. Under that agreement, Defense Distributed would have been able to post downloadable instructions for 3D-printable guns starting Wednesday, making such firearms available to anyone with the right machine and materials.

The printers needed to make the guns can cost from $5,000 to $600,000, according to Vice News. Would-be gunmakers also need high-quality plastic.

Defense Distributed already sells parts that help users build their own untraceable firearms, known as “ghost guns” for their lack of serial numbers. All 3D-printed guns are untraceable, and since you can make them yourself, no background check is required.

That prospect has rattled gun control advocates, who fear it could worsen the epidemic of gun violence in the U.S. and make it easier for terrorists to gain access to a raft of deadly firearms. New Jersey, along with seven other states and the District of Columbia, sued the Trump administration Monday seeking to block the 3D-printed weapons from becoming available.

Grewal said a New Jersey state court ordered that Wilson and other defendants “have agreed that they will not upload any additional files” on their websites until a hearing this fall.

“I was proud to stand up to Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed, and to make clear that their plans to share printable gun codes with everyone – including terrorists, criminals, and juveniles – was a threat to all our residents,” Grewal said. “Now that Cody Wilson is stepping back from publication, the court is going to hold him to his promise not to post any new files until September.”


After a settlement between the State Department and a Texas-based firearm developer Defense Distributed, the nonprofit will be able to release blueprints for guns online starting in August.

Pompeo suggested last week that he would review the issue, in response to questions from lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But on Tuesday, State Department officials suggested Pompeo was not planning to take further action on the issue.

The agency’s spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, defended the decision to settle the case, saying that move was based on legal advice from the Justice Department.

“The reason that the State Department got involved … is because of our role in controlling foreign access to U.S. defense technology,” she said. “The State Department wants to prevent the wrong people from acquiring weapons overseas.”

But, she said, “we were informed that we would have lost this case in court, or would have likely lost this case in court, based on First Amendment grounds … The Department of Justice suggested that the State Department and the U.S. government settle this case, and so that is what was done.”

Nauert said the debate has now become about domestic gun control, an issue better suited for Congress and law enforcement officials. 

“At least since the year 2013 … these computer-assisted design files have been available online,” she added.

In his tweet Tuesday morning, Trump said he had talked to the NRA about the issue. 

Tuesday afternoon, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said the president was “committed to the safety and security of all Americans and considers this his highest responsibility. In the United States, it is currently illegal to own or make a wholly, plastic gun of any kind – including those made on a 3D printer. The administration supports this nearly two-decade-old law. We will continue to look at all options available to us to do do what is necessary to protect Americans while also supporting the First and Second amendments.” 

The National Rifle Association dismissed the concerns of gun-control advocates, saying even if the blueprints are available, the plastic guns will still be illegal.

“Many anti-gun politicians and members of the media have wrongly claimed that 3-D printing technology will allow for the production and widespread proliferation of undetectable plastic firearms,” Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

“Regardless of what a person may be able to publish on the Internet, undetectable plastic guns have been illegal for 30 years,” Cox said, pointing to a 1988 federal law that prohibits the manufacture, import, sale and possession of an undetectable firearm.

The Wednesday deadline spurred some talk, but no real action, in Congress. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., tried to move legislation to bar the online publication of blueprints used to make functioning 3D-printed guns. But Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, objected, saying the measure raised First Amendment concerns.

In a statement Tuesday, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said, “Metal detectors and other security measures will be completely useless against the flood of undetectable and untraceable ‘ghost guns’ that the GOP is inviting into our schools, workplaces, airports and public buildings.” 

She called the move to allow 3D-printable guns a “sickening NRA giveaway” that “undermines the very foundations of public safety.”

More: Make an AR-15 at home: 3D printed ‘downloadable guns’ available Aug. 1


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Man Utd vs Real Madrid LIVE stream: How to watch Manchester United online and on TV

The Red Devils take on the Champions League holders Real Madrid tonight in an International Champions Cup match.

Jose Mourinho has not been a happy bunny this summer and has cut a forlorn figure at times in the United States.

And the results have not been great either, after laboured draws against Club America, San Jose and AC Milan before suffering a 4-1 loss to Liverpool at the weekend.

Los Blancos have been all change this summer after Zinedine Zidane’s resignation was followed by the small matter of Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure.

Julen Lopetegui has taken over, and Gareth Bale is expected to play some part in the fixture.

For United, their squad is still depleted from the World Cup but Alexis Sanchez is likely to start.

The game kicks off at 01:05 on Wednesday, August 1.

And you can watch Man Utd vs Real Madrid online and on TV overnight. Here’s how…

How to watch Man Utd vs Real Madrid on TV

Man Utd vs Real Madrid is being broadcast live on TV overnight.

MUTV have the broadcasting rights for the game in the UK.

It means fans with an MUTV subscription will be able to watch the game live.

How to watch Man Utd vs Real Madrid live stream online

MUTV will be streaming Man Utd vs Real Madrid live on their platform for all UK viewers.

Fans in Europe but outside the UK and Ireland can watch it on bookmakers Unibet.

Apple’s earnings lifted by pricier iPhone sales, Wall Street sees industrial rebound


August 01, 2018 08:29:00

Apple’s quarterly results have beaten market expectations — driven by its sales of fewer, but more expensive, iPhones and revenue from services like the App Store, Apple Music and iCloud.

Shares of the world’s most valuable technology company jumped 3.9 per cent, in after-hours trade, to $US197.69 (at 5:25pm, local time).

Apple sold 41.3 million iPhones, slightly below the 41.8 million units that analysts expected.

The average iPhone selling price hit $US724, beating analyst expectations of $US694, according to data from FactSet.

Boosted by iPhone X sales

The company’s chief financial officer Luca Maestri said customers were buying costlier models, and the $US999 iPhone X was the best seller.

Apple posted third-quarter revenue of $US53.3 billion and profits of $US2.34 per share, and forecast its revenue would be between $US60 billion and $US62 billion in the fourth quarter.

As smartphone buying has plateaued, Apple has extended its iPhone line with both pricier and cheaper versions, from the iPhone X to the lowest priced $US349 iPhone SE.

Markets at 7:00am (AEST):

  • ASX SPI 200 futures +0.3pc at 6,237, ASX 200 (Tuesday’s close) flat at 6,280
  • AUD: 74.26 US cents, 56.54 British pence, 63.5 Euro cents, 82.03 Japanese yen, $NZ1.09
  • US: Dow Jones +0.4pc at 25,415, S&P 500 +0.5pc at 2,816, Nasdaq +0.6pc at 7,672
  • Europe: FTSE +0.6PC at 7,749, DAX +0.1pc at 12,806, CAC +0.4pc to 5,511 Euro Stoxx 50 +0.5pc at 3,529
  • Commodities: Brent crude -1pc at $US74.25/barrel, spot gold +0.2pc at $US1,223.41/ounce

It has also soothed investor concerns with a $US100 billion stock buyback program, and promises of growth from services such as streaming music and video — where Apple faces competition from rivals including Spotify and Netflix.

But several of Apple’s services do not face strong rivals.

Mr Maestri said sales from Apple Care, the company’s warranty offering, were up 27 per cent versus a year ago, though the company did not disclose a dollar figure for sales.

Trade war impact

Apple was largely spared in last week’s tech sector sell-off when shares of Facebook, Twitter and Netflix fell sharply on concerns about their future growth.

With a total market value of more than $US900 billion, Apple is tickling at the title of world’s first trillion-dollar company.

Apple’s best-selling products do not yet face duties stemming from the US-China trade disputes, but US President Donald Trump has threatened hundreds of billions of dollars in further tariffs on product categories not yet been enumerated.

But one of the categories potentially affected by tariffs is the Apple Watch, which is one of Apple’s growth drivers.

Mr Maestri said the company’s so-called “wearables” business — which includes the Apple Watch and its AirPods headphones, among other items — has generated $US10 billion in sales in the past 10 quarters and saw sales increase 60 per cent in the most recent quarter.

“We are not able to catch up to demand yet and continue to add capacity for the AirPods,” Mr Maestri said.

Apple’s margins are facing pressure as it moves to put pricier components, such as OLED displays that show more vivid colours, into its products.

The company said it expected gross margins of 38 to 38.5 per cent in the fourth quarter, compared with analyst expectations of 38.3 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Wall Street rebounds

US markets recovered overnight, led by gains in industrial stocks, following reports that the United States and China were renewing their trade negotiations to prevent the trade war from escalating.

Industrial stocks, which have been a proxy for recent trade tensions, were the best performers overnight.

It pushed the Dow Jones Industrial Average higher by 0.4 per cent to 25,415. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed 0.5 and 0.6 per cent higher, respectively.

Looking back at July, the Dow rose 4.7 per cent and the S&P 500 gained 3.6 per cent — their best monthly performance since January.

The Nasdaq lifted by more than 2 per cent last month.

After sliding for the last three trading days, the “FANG” stocks put in a mixed performance. Facebook (+0.9pc) and Netflix (+0.7pc) regained ground, while Amazon (-0.1pc) and Google (-0.2pc) fell.

Technology stocks have lost 5.4 per cent during that period, after some mixed results from the largest companies in the sector.

Facebook reported weaker-than-expected revenue last week, while Twitter posted fewer-than-expected monthly users for the previous quarter.

Australian market today

Australian shares are expected to rise this morning, boosted by Wall Street’s stronger performance and reports of further US-China trade negotiations.

The Australian dollar has strengthened against major currencies, rising 0.4 per cent to 74.3 US cents.

It also lifted against the British pound (+0.4pc), Euro (+0.4pc) and Japanese yen (+1pc).









First posted

August 01, 2018 08:16:54

Facebook warns of midterms election interference, fingers point to Russia


Ahead of the November’s elections…Facebook has Shut Down about thirty accounts and pages that they call “inauthentic.” Veuer’s Sam Berman has the full story.

​SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook has detected a covert campaign to influence the November midterms by targeting hot-button social issues, raising the possibility that Russia is again attempting to interfere in U.S. elections.

The 32 fake pages and accounts, which were created between March 2017 and May 2018 and were first discovered two weeks ago, have not been definitively tied to Russia or the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency. Facebook will leave that determination to law enforcement currently investigating the activity, its security chief Alex Stamos said. 

The revelation comes after warnings from intelligence and law enforcement officials that Russia would engage in election interference in this year’s elections as it did during the 2016 presidential election.

More than 290,000 Facebook accounts followed the fake pages, which had such names as “Aztlan Warriors,” “Black Elevation,” “Mindful Being” and “Resisters,” according to Facebook.

The eight Facebook pages, 17 Facebook profiles and seven Instagram accounts –  which included an African-American group, a Latino group and a women’s group – were not pushing specific candidates ahead of the midterms but sought to stir anger on divisive issues such as race and immigration and appear to have been aimed at left-leaning voters. Facebook declined to characterize the Facebook posts and ads. 

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said the pages and accounts were removed Tuesday.


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Collectively, the fake pages spent about $11,000 on 150 ads on Facebook and Instagram, which were paid for in U.S. and Canadian dollars and were placed between April 2017 and June 2018. The fake pages also created more than 9,500 posts on Facebook and one on Instagram.

“The goal of these operations is to sow discord, distrust, and division in an attempt to undermine public faith in our institutions and our political system. The Russians want a weak America,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said in a statement.

Facebook is in the early stages of its investigation but found connections between the fake accounts and IRA accounts, Stamos said during a conference call with reporters. A known IRA account was briefly – for about seven minutes – the co-administrator of one of the Facebook pages before the account was removed from Facebook.

“Some of the tools, techniques and procedures of this actor are consistent with those we saw from the IRA in 2016 and 2017,” Stamos said. “We can’t say for sure whether this is the IRA with improved capabilities or a separate group, based on what we know today.” 

He later added: “In these situations, it is possible that we will never have good attribution to a specific group or country.”

The tactics deployed in the Facebook campaign were strikingly similar to Russian interference in the presidential election but were more carefully disguised, Facebook said. The fake pages used VPNs, internet phone services and third parties to purchase ads. 

“It’s clear that whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency,” Sandberg said. “We face determined, well-funded adversaries who won’t give up and are constantly changing tactics.” 

As during and after the 2016 presidential election, fake accounts tried to get Facebook users to turn out at real-life political events. 

Since May 2017, some 30 events were created. The largest event had drawn interest from 4,700 accounts and 1,400 users who said they would attend. About half of the events had fewer than 100 accounts who expressed interest in attending.

More: We read every one of the 3,517 Facebook ads bought by Russians. Here’s what we found

More: Russian Facebook ads inflamed Hispanic tensions over immigration after Trump election

Facebook says it decided to alert the public because one event promoted by the “Resisters” page, a counterprotest to the white nationalist gathering “Unite the Right,” was scheduled for Aug. 10 in Washington. 

Fake administrators connected with administrators from five legitimate pages to co-host the protest. According to Facebook, these pages unwittingly helped build interest in the event, which was removed Tuesday. Facebook notified 2,600 Facebook users who had indicated interest in attending.

D.C. organizers say they’re angry Facebook took down the Facebook page for the event which was organized after Jason Kessler, organizer of last year’s Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, announced plans to hold a similar event in Washington. 

Dozens of local groups, including Black Lives Matter and Resist This, are behind the counter-protest, according to activist  Dylan Petrohilos. “I cannot believe I have to say this: the unite the right counter protest is not being organized by Russians,” he wrote on Twitter.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters Tuesday that Congress is looking at various legislative proposals to tighten election security, but said the Trump administration “is not doing close to enough.”

“I think we have to do everything we can to stop this,” he said.

President Donald Trump, who at times questioned Russia’s election interference, has pledged a “whole-of-government” effort to prevent foreign interference in U.S. elections. 

“The fact is Russia meddled in our 2016 elections. That is the unambiguous judgment of our intelligence community and, as the president said, we accept the intelligence community’s conclusion,” Vice President Mike Pence said at a government-hosted cyber summit in New York Tuesday. “While no actual votes were changed, any attempt to interfere in our elections is an affront to our democracy, and it will not be allowed.”

Facebook has intensified efforts to identify and remove bad actors after the Russian-based Internet Research Agency sowed conflict during and after the presidential campaign. Lawmakers have sharply criticized Facebook for failing to stop the election interference in 2016.

The midterms represent the first big test in the U.S. of Facebook’s investment in artificial intelligence and additional human reviewers to spot suspicious activity. Facebook also now requires political advertisers in the U.S. to register before placing ads and is putting all political ads in a public database. Facebook says the fake pages were not able to place ads after the new registration system was instituted.

“From what we can see, they attempted to run one ad after our ads tool was in place,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy. “That ad did not run,  and they made no further attempts.”

Earlier this month, Gleicher declined to directly answer questions on whether Facebook had detected Russian interference in the midterms.

“We know that Russians and other bad actors are going to continue to try to abuse our platform before the midterms, probably during the midterms, after the midterms and around other events and elections,” he said. “We are continually looking for that type of activity, and as and when we find things, which we think is inevitable, we’ll notify law enforcement, and where we can, the public.”

Thousands of ads released by House Democrats and analyzed by USA TODAY showed Russian operatives focused on race during the presidential election in what experts say was a clear effort to amplify existing divisions.

They didn’t stop there. In the first half of 2017, as President Trump aggressively moved to restrict immigration, fake Facebook pages set up by a Russian propaganda operation started pushing ads on both sides of the immigration debate.

Contributing: Erin Kelly


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It’s make or break for Adil Rashid: Pressure is on lone spinner to turn the tide for England against India

It is somewhat ironic that Adil Rashid will have to take on not just Virat Kohli and his star-studded India at Edgbaston but also seemingly most of Yorkshire on a day dedicated to the white rose.

Not even ‘Yorkshire day’ is likely to bring together the warring forces of Rashid and pundits like Michael Vaughan and Geoffrey Boycott, who on Tuesday labelled him a ‘spoilt brat’, in time for the start of a seismic series on Wednesday.

The latest bout of internal strife in a county that has long specialised in it is hardly helpful to England’s chances against the best Test team in the world and there is no doubt an often fragile character is under enormous pressure.

Adil Rashid will not just be taking on India but seemingly Yorkshire as well after his inclusion

Adil Rashid will not just be taking on India but seemingly Yorkshire as well after his inclusion

Adil Rashid will not just be taking on India but seemingly Yorkshire as well after his inclusion

Joe Root – another Yorkshireman who has apparently had doubts about Rashid at Test level before now – backed the leg-spinner on Tuesday but could hardly have left him out of England’s side after the furore of the last week.

Clearly England planned to include Rashid and Moeen Ali when they picked their first Test squad but Edgbaston just does not look like a two-spinner pitch, even though India are likely to go with Ravichandran Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav.

So Rashid will have to shoulder England’s spinning burden without his great friend Moeen at the start of a Specsavers series that will not only make or break him at this level but will also tell us if Root’s England are able to arrest their Test decline.

Joe Root has got a great idea of how to captain the leg-spinner who he's known for many years

Joe Root has got a great idea of how to captain the leg-spinner who he's known for many years

Joe Root has got a great idea of how to captain the leg-spinner who he’s known for many years

To that end the decision to name Jos Buttler as Root’s vice-captain just two games into his Test comeback is as significant as Ed Smith’s audacious move to select Rashid despite his refusal to play red-ball cricket for his home county.

England are trying to replicate the formula that has seen them so successful in white-ball cricket and, as Sportsmail revealed, they want Root, Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow to lead across all formats.

Buttler, who will surely become white-ball captain after next year’s World Cup, has been named deputy only for this five-match series, with Stokes perhaps back in the frame after his legal issues.

Yet clearly new national selector Smith, who has been bold and brave in his first summer, sees Buttler (right) as the best man to succeed Root as long as he proves that he can bring his unique gifts to the Test stage.

There is no doubt Root has been a disappointment as Test captain so far and has yet to prove he can be the bold, imaginative leader he was expected to be when succeeding Alastair Cook.

It is fascinating England have taken the vice-captaincy away from Jimmy Anderson in favour of their younger, perhaps more dynamic group. Could they be saying that the experienced axis of Anderson, Stuart Broad and Cook needs to stand back to allow the new white-ball led broom to sweep through?

Can Root really need the help of Buttler in captaining three all-time greats who remain integral to the side but are maybe a little world-weary, conservative and even cynical compared to the ‘to dare is to do’ brigade? ‘One thing that’s for sure is that this is not a way to push Jimmy out of the team,’ said Root of the elevation of Buttler. 

‘We’re not trying to replicate the white-ball side but maybe grab a few things from them because they’ve had huge success and it would be wrong not to tap into that.’

Virat Kohli

Virat Kohli

Jimmy Anderson dismissed Kohli four times from just 50 balls in 2014

Jimmy Anderson dismissed Kohli four times from just 50 balls in 2014

The battle between Virat Kohli (left) and Jimmy Anderson might hold the key to the Test

As for Rashid, whatever the objections to picking a man who is at loggerheads with Yorkshire, in particular coach Andrew Gale, more than he is red-ball cricket, all Smith has tried to do is pick the best spinner available.

So did you want Rashid too, Joe? ‘I’ve known Adil from being a very young lad at Yorkshire,’ said Root, neatly evading the question. ‘He’s always been talented but over the last couple of years, with experience, he has grown as a player massively. He’s developed his game in a way that has given him a better understanding of what he’s trying to do and how to work batters out.’

But do you know how to get the best out of Rashid? ‘I’ve got a great idea of how to captain him,’ smiled the England captain. ‘I have seen Adil’s success in white-ball cricket over the last year and I have an opportunity to get the best out of him in this format.’

The first Test looks like being held in front of a small crowd at the Edgbaston fortress

The first Test looks like being held in front of a small crowd at the Edgbaston fortress

The first Test looks like being held in front of a small crowd at the Edgbaston fortress

What a first Test is in prospect in front of what still looks likely to be a disappointingly small crowd at England’s Edgbaston fortress.

It is a series India have a better chance of winning under a captain, in Kohli, who cares about Test cricket much more than predecessor MS Dhoni. Yet India have hardly sent out the right signals so far and their arrogance in treating their only red-ball warm-up game against Essex at Chelmsford with such disdain was breathtaking.

They will arrive at Edgbaston on Wednesday undercooked but with Kohli desperate to break the stranglehold Anderson held over him in 2014, dismissing him cheaply four times in just 50 balls.

That battle might hold the key to the outcome of England’s most important series outside the Ashes, with Root’s ability to go big and Rashid’s response to the scrutiny the other pivotal sub-plots.

The highlight of the cricketing summer is finally here. It should be a cracker.


South Africa to seek constitutional change for land reform

South Africa to seek constitutional change for land reform


"It has become patently clear that our people want the constitution to be more explicit about expropriation of land without compensation," said South African President Cyrcil Ramaphosa

"It has become patently clear that our people want the constitution to be more explicit about expropriation of land without compensation," said South African President Cyrcil Ramaphosa

“It has become patently clear that our people want the constitution to be more explicit about expropriation of land without compensation,” said South African President Cyrcil Ramaphosa

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday that his ruling party would seek to change the constitution to speed up redistribution of land to the country’s poor black majority.

Much of the most productive land in South Africa is still owned by white people, 24 years after the end of apartheid which systematically disenfranchised black people.

White farmers control 73 percent of arable areas and it is widely understood to be that land which could be forcibly seized and transferred to the previously disadvantaged.

“It has become patently clear that our people want the constitution to be more explicit about expropriation of land without compensation,” he said in a televised address.

“The (ruling) ANC will, through the parliamentary process, finalise a proposed amendment to the constitution that outlines more clearly the conditions under which expropriation of land without compensation can be effected,” he added, vowing the change would “unlock economic growth”.

The issue of whether to take land without compensating current owners is by far the most divisive and emotive issue facing modern South Africa with critics drawing parallels with Zimbabwe’s disastrous reforms.

Until now the government has pursued a policy of “willing buyer, willing seller” to enable land transfer.

But in February lawmakers voted to establish a commission charged with rewriting the constitution to allow for forcible land transfers without compensation.

Observers have suggested constitutional reform is a ploy by the African National Congress (ANC), which has faced political pressure from the radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, to win votes in elections due next year.

“The intention of this proposed amendment is to promote redress, advance economic development and increase agricultural production and food security,” said Ramaphosa.

He has previously endorsed land reform on the condition that it should not hurt agricultural production or economic output.

The ANC alone does not have the two-thirds parliamentary majority required to amend the constitution but would be able to pass changes with the support of the EFF.


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Ellie Soutter death: father criticises demands on young athletes

The father of the British snowboarder Ellie Soutter who died suddenly on her 18th birthday believes the intense pressure of competing in elite-level sport may have contributed to her death.

Tony Soutter said his daughter, who was tipped to represent Britain at the 2022 Winter Olympics, was unhappy about missing a flight shortly before her death last Wednesday which meant she was unable to train with the Team GB squad.

She grew up in Oxted, Surrey, but since 2010 had lived with her father in Les Gets in the French Alps where she was spotted by Team GB officials and offered a trial for the junior team.

Ellie’s funeral is scheduled to take place in Les Gets on Thursday 2 August, comprising a church service followed by a private cremation.

Soutter, 53, believes his daughter’s history of mental health problems and the pressure she felt may have led to her death.

“She wanted to be the best,” he told BBC South East. “She didn’t want to let anybody down. Unfortunately it all came about from missing a flight which then meant she didn’t go training with the GB squad.

“She felt she’d let them down, felt she’d let me down and just tragically it just takes one silly little thing like that to tip someone over the edge, because there’s a lot of pressure on children.”

The snowboarder secured Team GB’s only medal at the European Youth Olympic Winter Festival in Turkey last year after winning bronze.

She had been selected for the British team for the Junior World Championships in New Zealand in August and was tipped to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Her family have set up a foundation in her name to help young winter sports competitors with financial support.

Soutter added he had lost his “best friend” and called for action to support young athletes with their mental wellbeing. He said: “Mental health awareness needs to be really looked at and made more public.

“I have lost my best friend, my total buddy. She was my rock.”

Last week, Soutter wrote in a tribute on Facebook: “This cruel world took my soulmate and ‘Bessie’ from me on her 18th birthday.

“I was so proud of the beautiful young woman she had turned into. Ellie I will miss you more than you could have ever imagined. Rest in peace you little champion!”

UK Sport said it was working with organisations to provide support for athletes. A spokesman said: “This is a desperately sad situation and our thoughts are with all of Ellie’s family and friends.

“We are working with all of our Olympic and Paralympic programmes and the mental health charity Mind to make sure appropriate support is in place.”

In a statement, British Ski and Snowboard said: “Ellie was an incredibly popular and well-liked member of the team and the country has lost a great talent.

“The wellbeing of all athletes across every discipline is the primary concern of any sporting organisation.

“We commend the family for setting up the Ellie Soutter Foundation and they have our full support.”

  • In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at

Over 4 million people participate in Apple’s software beta programs


Apple CEO Tim Cook reveals that an extraordinarily large number of people are taking part in the company’s beta program, which covers early versions of iOS, macOS and the company’s other major operating systems.

Apple WWDC 2018

In an investor conference call following Apple’s release of fiscal quarter three earnings on Thursday, Cook said some four million people are running beta software on their iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV devices.

“In June, we hosted an extremely successful developers conference that previewed many major advances coming this fall to our four operating systems: iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS,” Cook said. “Developer and customer reaction has been very positive and we have over four million users participating in our new OS beta programs.”

The number of beta program participants is not something that Apple typically releases, so it’s unclear how that number compares to past years. Also unknown is how the participation statistics break down by operating system, and whether developers are included in the number.

Apple frequently touts both the growth of the App Store and its contributions to the app development profession as a whole, so it’s a good guess that the four million figure for software beta participants in one year is among the largest ever for Apple, if not for the history of computing altogether.

At WWDC, Apple unveiled iOS 12, Mac OS 10.14, watchOS 5 and TV OS 12, and has periodically released beta editions of each in the weeks since. The full releases are scheduled for this fall.