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Al Jazeera


UAE gets American drones as China ramps up sales

Al Jazeera

The White House's recent decision to allow the sale of advanced weapons systems to the United Arab Emirates highlights the deliberate shift in US policy towards the UAE after it signed "normalisation" accords with Israel. Why would the UAE want American drones as it already has dozens of Chinese armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in its inventory? And why has the United States now agreed to these sales, overcoming its traditional reticence to sell sophisticated weapons to other countries? Chinese armed drones have made a significant effect on the battlefields across the Middle East and North Africa. They have been used to assassinate Houthi rebel leaders in Yemen, kill ISIL-affiliated fighters in the Sinai, and for a time help Khalifa Haftar dominate the battlespace in Libya.


Iran warns US against 'strategic mistake' after Trump's threat

Al Jazeera

Iran has warned the United States against making a "strategic mistake" after President Donald Trump threatened Tehran over reports it planned to avenge the killing of top general Qassem Soleimani. "We hope that they do not make a new strategic mistake and certainly in the case of any strategic mistake, they will witness Iran's decisive response," government spokesman Ali Rabiei told a televised news conference on Tuesday. Trump on Monday promised that any attack by Iran would be met with a response "1,000 times greater in magnitude," after reports said Iran planned to avenge Soleimani's killing in a US drone attack in January this year. A US media report, quoting unnamed officials, said an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the US ambassador to South Africa was planned before the presidential election in November. "According to press reports, Iran may be planning an assassination, or other attack, against the United States in retaliation for the killing of terrorist leader Soleimani," Trump tweeted.


Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan to lend voice to Amazon's Alexa

Al Jazeera

Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan will be the first Indian celebrity to lend his voice to Amazon's Alexa digital assistant starting next year, as the Silicon Valley giant expands its presence in the significant market. The 77-year-old actor has been a household name in India for nearly half a century, and his deep baritone is instantly recognisable to listeners in the country of 1.3 billion. Foreign firms such as Amazon have spent tens of billions of dollars in India in recent years as they fight for a piece of the Asian giant's burgeoning digital economy. In a blog post on Monday, Amazon India said Bachchan's "voice experience" feature will become available for purchase on Alexa next year. "It will include popular offerings like jokes, weather, shayaris (poetry), motivational quotes, advice and more," the firm said.


'We lost everything': Thousands homeless as Sudan battles floods

Al Jazeera

Wading through waist-deep water, residents of the al-Shigla neighbourhood in Omdurman, twin city of Sudan's capital Khartoum, tried to rescue what was left of their possessions as they floated by. Others stood by in despair, observing the aftermath of days of torrential rains that brought record-breaking flash floods to the country where the Blue and White Niles join to become the Nile River. Pieces of furniture, broken tiles, damaged vehicles and more were washed away by this year's rain that fell profusely and continuously for nearly two weeks. The rain and flooding exceeded records set in 1946 and 1988, killing more than 100 people and forcing the government to declare a three-month state of emergency this week. To many Sudanese like Amna Ahmed, seasonal rains, in and of themselves, are nothing new.


India bans 118 more Chinese apps as border dispute escalates

Al Jazeera

India has banned 118 more Chinese apps in a stepped-up backlash over an increasingly bitter border showdown between the neighbours. India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on Wednesday said the apps - including the mobile version of the popular video game PUBG and other services provided by China internet giant Tencent - promoted activities "prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order". India and China have been embroiled in a series of deadly clashes and showdowns on their Himalayan border in recent weeks. In June, 20 Indian soldiers were killed in hand-to-hand combat in the Ladakh region of the border. An Indian special forces member was killed in one of two incidents at the weekend.


Pakistan blocks Tinder, other dating apps over 'immoral' content

Al Jazeera

Pakistan has blocked Tinder, Grindr and three other dating apps for not adhering to local laws, its latest move to curb online platforms deemed to be disseminating "immoral content". Pakistan, the second-largest Muslim-majority country in the world after Indonesia, is an Islamic nation where extra-marital relationships and homosexuality are illegal. On Tuesday, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority said it has sent notices to the management of the five apps, "keeping in view the negative effects of immoral/indecent content streaming". Press Release: PTA has blocked access to five dating/live streaming applications i.e. PTA said the notices issued to Tinder, Grindr, Tagged, Skout and SayHi sought the removal of "dating services" and moderation of live streaming content in accordance with local laws.


Iran retrieves data, cockpit talk from downed Ukraine plane

Al Jazeera

Iran has retrieved some data, including a portion of cockpit conversations, from the Ukrainian plane accidentally downed by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) forces in January, killing all 176 people on board. Analysis of the black boxes showed it was hit by two missiles, 25 seconds apart, and that passengers were still alive for some time after the first impact, an Iranian official said on Sunday. The announcement by the head of Iran's Civil Aviation Organisation marks the first official report on the contents of the cockpit voice and data recordings, which were sent to France for analysis in July. Tehran has said it accidentally shot down the Ukraine airliner at a time of extreme tensions with the United States. In remarks quoted by state media, Captain Touraj Dehghani Zangeneh said the black boxes have only 19 seconds of conversation following the first explosion.


How disabled Americans are harmed by a system meant to help them

Al Jazeera

Boston, United States - In 2015, I fell 25 feet (7.6 metres) from a Redwood tree and was in a coma for 10 days. I spent the rest of that year using an arm crutch and went through four months of outpatient rehabilitation. Nine months later, I had eye muscle surgery to correct double vision that resulted from damage to my occipital lobe. Five years later, I still suffer from fine motor deficits, balance issues, and have trouble with my memory and speech. My first application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) - a government grant which provides health insurance and a monthly allotment of money for people with disabilities to live on - was filled out on my behalf by my parents. I have no recollection of it and my short-term memory is still impaired.


Pakistan Taliban reunites with two splinter groups

Al Jazeera

The Pakistan Taliban has brought two splinter groups back into its fold, it announced in a statement, days after the army said nationwide operations against armed groups had brought "hard-earned success". The Pakistan Taliban, fighting to overthrow the government, is an umbrella of Sunni armed groups called Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has broken into many divisions. The TTP, designated a "terrorist" group by the United States, has been in disarray in recent years, especially after several of its top leaders were killed by US drone attacks on both sides of the border, forcing its members into shelter in Afghanistan, or fleeing to urban Pakistan. "Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan welcomes them," the TTP statement said of the two splinter groups, adding that it would like all groups to unite. The reunion with Jamat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) and Hizb-ul-Ahrar (HuA) appears significant in view of the rise in attacks against security forces, most claimed by the TTP, including some suicide bombings. Pakistani army spokesman Major General Babar Iftikhar said last week, however, the military's operations against armed groups had been very successful.


Iraq fumes against Turkey over deadly drone attack

Al Jazeera

Iraq cancelled a ministerial visit and summoned Turkey's ambassador on Wednesday as it blamed Ankara for a drone attack that killed two high-ranking Iraqi military officers. Iraqi officials called the attack a "blatant Turkish drone attack" in the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, where Turkey's military has for weeks raided positions of fighters it considers "terrorists". Two border guard battalion commanders and the driver of their vehicle were killed on Tuesday, the army said in a statement, marking the first Iraqi troop deaths since Turkey launched the cross-border operation in mid-June against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels. Iraq's foreign ministry - which already summoned the Turkish envoy twice over the military action on its soil - said the ambassador would this time be given "a letter of protest with strong words" rejecting the offensive. The ministry also confirmed the Turkish defence minister would no longer be welcomed for a planned visit on Thursday.