The administration of US President Donald Trump says it will increase aid to states that want to arm school employees following last month’s massacre of 17 people at a high school in Florida.
US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Sunday that arming school staff is part of a "pragmatic plan to dramatically increase school safety.”
But the controversial idea to put weapons in schools has drawn little support from educators.
“We are committed to working quickly because there's no time to waste," DeVos said in a conference call with reporters.
The Trump administration will also provide technical assistance to states preparing temporary "risk protection orders" that allow for guns to be removed from certain individuals, said Andrew Bremberg, a presidential assistant who heads the Domestic Policy Council at the White House.
The White House is urging Congress to pass legislation that will strengthen background checks for gun buyers and implement violence prevention programs.
The measures come during a reignited national debate on gun violence that was revived by survivors of last month's massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a former student with a semi-automatic rifle gunned down 14 students and three staff.
The United States loses around 33,000 people to gun violence every year.
On Friday, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law a gun control bill that was passed by the state’s legislature. The new law raises the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21 and extends the waiting period to three days, a dramatic turnaround in one of the most gun-friendly states in America.
The National Rifle Association (NRA), the nation’s powerful gun lobby, immediately filed a lawsuit at a US federal court in Florida after the gun control bill was signed into law, arguing that it violates the US Constitution.
The NRA has become the focus of a growing movement by activists who are demanding that US politicians stop accepting political donations from the gun lobby.
Trump was endorsed by the NRA in his 2016 presidential election campaign. The president and his fellow Republicans in Congress strongly support Americans’ constitutional right to own guns.


A Bangladeshi airliner with 71 people on board crashed on Monday while coming in to land at the airport in the Nepali capital, Kathmandu, killing at least 50 people, officials said.
The plane, operated by US-Bangla Airlines, was on a flight from Dhaka when it hit an airport fence and burst into flames, said Raj Kumar Chettri, general manager of the hill-ringed airport, which is prone to bird strikes and other hazards.
“We have recovered 50 dead bodies so far,” said army spokesman Gokul Bhandari. Several people had been rescued from the burning wreckage of the Bombardier Q400 series aircraft but nine people were still unaccounted for, he said.
The aircraft burst into flames and came to rest in a field near the tarmac of Tribhuvan International Airport.
Many of the bodies that lay on the tarmac covered by cloth were charred, witnesses said. Thick plumes of smoke could be seen from the aircraft.
Later, photographs showed the fire had been put out, with army personnel and rescue workers at the scene.
Data from tracking website showed the aircraft was 17 years old. The aircraft descended to an airport altitude of 4,400 feet and then ascended up to 6,600 feet before crashing about two minutes later, the website said.
Mountainous Nepal has had a poor air safety record. Small aircraft ply an extensive domestic network and often run into trouble at remote airstrips.
A Thai Airways flight from Bangkok crashed while trying to land in Kathmandu in 1992 killing all on board.
US-Bangla Airlines is a unit of the US-Bangla Group, a U.S. Bangladeshi joint venture company. A spokesman for the airline in Dhaka had no immediate comment.
The Bangladeshi carrier launched operations in July 2014 and operates Bombardier and Boeing (BA.N) aircraft.


Since 2012, after completing a period of preliminary growth and a period of rapid growth, China’s economy has entered a third, more prosperous period. Meanwhile, a “new normal” has arrived, marking a shift from high-speed growth to high-quality development, from a middle-income society to a high-income country, and from “some get rich first” to “common prosperity.” The country has since ushered in a new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
On March 5, 2018 at the First Session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC), Premier Li Keqiang unveiled projected targets for development this year in the Report on the Work of the Government: GDP growth of around 6.5 percent, CPI increase of around 3 percent, at least 11 million new urban jobs, urban unemployment rate within 5.5 percent and basic parity in personal income growth and economic growth.
These targets consider the need to secure decisive victory in the construction of a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2020 and are designed to align with China’s economic transition from a phase of rapid growth to a stage of high-quality development.
In 2017, China’s economy continued growing steadily and healthily, achieving better-than-expected performance. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the reform and opening up that began in 1978, as well as a crucial year for achieving the 2020 development goals and implementing the 13th Five-Year Plan. This year will herald efforts to put the guiding principles of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) into action. In this new stage of development, China needs solid progress in all aspects of economics to achieve high-quality development that is more innovative, coordinated, environmentally friendly, open and fair.
First, China needs to strengthen innovation-driven economic development and maintain continuous improvement of the quality of economic growth. Innovation capacity is the fundamental driver of high-quality development. Wider implementation of an innovation-driven development strategy will further enhance overall labor productivity, total factor productivity and potential growth rate and further promote the trend of technology-driven development. This year, major measures to help innovation play the lead role in vitalizing the real economy include full implementation of a plan to develop strategic emerging industries, progress in fostering emerging industries to create stronger new momentum for economic development, acceleration of the upgrade of traditional industries and vigorous promotion of advanced manufacturing to nudge made-in-China towards middle and high ends. Additional new policies will accelerate the development of modern service industry and services trade and strengthen the construction of infrastructure networks concerning water conservancy, railways, highways, water transportation, aviation, pipelines, power, information and logistics.
Second, China needs to design new, effective mechanisms to promote more coordinated economic development. The coordinated development philosophy is crucial to tackling imbalanced growth hindering high-quality development. In 2018, China needs to further optimize its economic structure and fully unleash the potential of service consumption and green consumption in driving economic growth to achieve a more balanced economic structure. China will continue implementing the coordinated regional development strategy to make the regional development occur more rationally. China will also accelerate the construction of beautiful special towns and beautiful countryside areas and promote integrated urban-rural development.
Third, China needs to focus on green development and advance its ecological progress. The green development philosophy is important to achieving harmonious coexistence between man and nature, which is a characteristic of high-quality development. This year is crucial to comprehensive improvement of environmental quality. To achieve this goal, China needs to reform the system to build an ecological civilization and improve the functional area system. It needs to promote an energy production and consumption revolution to create a clean, low-carbon, safe and efficient energy system. Moreover, the country needs to launch low-carbon pilots and demonstrations, play an active role in international cooperation on climate change and make Chinese contributions to global environmental governance.
Fourth, China needs to make its economic development more open and develop new advantages in international cooperation. The open development philosophy is essential for China to increase its economic strength and overall national strength. It is expected to solve problems related to interactions with the outside world along the road to high-quality development. This year, China needs to improve the structure, institutions and mechanisms for opening up to create a new and more comprehensively open landscape. In the process, it needs to lighten market access in an orderly manner, fully implement the management model of pre-establishment national treatment and a negative list, improve laws concerning foreign investment and strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights. China will continue improving the business environment to attract foreign investment and expand the scope of non-financial foreign direct investments. China will promote the orderly, healthy development of outbound investment and gradually form a global trade, investment, financing, production and service network.
Fifth, China needs to realize fairer economic development and let all people enjoy the new fruits of development. Enhancing living standards is the ultimate goal of development. To safeguard and improve the people’s livelihood, it requires solving the most specific problems of utmost and immediate concern to the people. The government must do all it can within its capacity and accurately define the most prominent issues and their root causes. In 2018, China needs to improve the level and quality of public services and take correct measures in areas like education, employment, income, social security, medical care and senior care to meet the public’s growing demand for better living standards—and enable people from all walks of life to share the fruits of reform and development.

(This content is provided by Beijing-based China Pictorial.)


China's parliament has scrapped presidential term limits, paving the way for President Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely over the world's most populous country.
Out of 2,963 delegates at the annual session of the National People's Congress, 2,958 voted yes to changing the constitution on Sunday.
Three abstained and two voted against, the parliament announced.
The results were shown on a blue screen inside the cavernous Great Hall of the People. The delegates voted using paper ballots, which they filled out and dropped inside red ballot boxes.
The move reverses the era of "collective" leadership and orderly succession that was promoted by late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping to ensure stability following the turbulent one-man rule of Communist China's founder Mao Zedong.
Xi, 64, has consolidated power since taking office as general secretary of the Communist Party in 2012 - his most important title, which has no term limits but which his two predecessors both gave up after two terms.
He would have had to give up the presidency after the end of his second term in 2023, but he can now have a lifetime to push his vision of a rejuvenated China as a global powerhouse with a "world-class" military.
China enacted its first Constitution in 1954. The current Constitution was adopted in 1982 and amended in 1988, 1993, 1999 and 2004.
While the reform and opening-up drive, which began 40 years ago, has made amazing progress, it brought major changes to the country's Constitution, Xinhua reported.
From 1988 to 1999, amendments included reform of land-use rights, a legal status for the private economy, the theory of building socialism with Chinese characteristics, replacing the phrase "planned economy" with "socialist market economy," and incorporation of Deng Xiaoping Theory.
The most recent amendment in 2004 protected private property and human rights and gave the Theory of Three Represents constitutional authority.


The Syrian army and rebel groups engaged in fierce battles early on Sunday on a critical front in eastern Ghouta where government advances have in effect splintered the insurgent enclave into three, a war monitor said.
More than 1,100 civilians have been killed in the onslaught on the biggest rebel stronghold near Damascus since it began three weeks ago with a withering bombardment, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
It said there was intense fighting on several fronts accompanied by a government artillery barrage, continuous air raids and attacks by helicopters.
State television on Saturday broadcast from the town of Mesraba after the army captured it, driving a wedge deep inside the insurgent territory that left the major towns of Douma and Harasta all but cut off.
Rebels said the towns had not been entirely cut off from each other, or from the larger rebel area to their south, but the Observatory said army fire on the roads linking those three places meant the enclave had been split.
Failaq al-Rahman and Jaish al-Islam, the two largest rebel groups in eastern Ghouta, have vowed to resist the army’s offensive, but they have lost more than half the enclave’s area in two weeks of ground fighting.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his ally Russia see the rebels as terrorist groups, and say their offensive is needed to end the rebels’ rule over eastern Ghouta’s large population.
But the violence of their assault has prompted condemnation from Western countries and repeated calls by United Nations aid agencies for a humanitarian ceasefire.
While the government and Russia say they have set up safe routes into government-held territory, no civilians are known to have crossed through them yet.
Damascus and Moscow accuse rebels of firing on anybody who tries to leave, something the insurgents deny though a Reuters witness said there was shelling and gunfire near one exit route on Friday.
Rebels and some eastern Ghouta residents contacted by Reuters have said people there do not want to come back under Assad’s rule for fear of persecution, an idea the government says is groundless.
Defeat in eastern Ghouta would deliver the rebels their biggest blow since December 2016, when a government offensive drove them from Aleppo, their largest urban stronghold.
Backed by Russian war planes and other military assistance since 2015, Assad has gained momentum on several fronts across the country, driving rebels from numerous pockets and recapturing swathes of the east from Islamic State.
But he is still far from regaining control over the entire country. Rebel groups hold large areas of the northwest and southwest, while northeastern Syria is in the hands of Kurdish fighters and allied militias.
Meanwhile, the increasingly global nature of the war means that military attempts to regain several of those areas could pit Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers against forces that are also directly supported by powerful foreign countries.


US president Donald Trump on Saturday unveiled a new campaign slogan for his second term run — “Keep America Great!”
He couldn’t use the old one — “Make America Great Again”, he told an election rally in Pennsylvania, because he had already delivered on that. “We can’t say ‘Make America Great Again’ because I already did that.”
“Our new slogan when, we start running in, can you believe it, two years from now, is going to be ‘Keep America great, exclamation point,” he said, drawing an exclamation mark in the air and punching in the period mark at the bottom.
The President just finished 13 months of his first term in office but has already started his run for his second term, which will be determined by Americans voters in 2020.
The Trump campaign announced a new manager recently, Brad Parscale, a long-time Trump organization employee who served in the last campaign as head of digital media.
In fact, Trump had launched his re-election campaign, “Trump 2020”on February 19, 2017, at a rally in Florida, then barely a month in office, as the country and the world were getting used to an unusual American president, who has still not stopped delivering surprises — the last one being his decision to accept an invitation for talks from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Trump announced the new campaign slogan while stumping for Rick Saccone, a Republican candidate running for the US House of Representatives in a special election — bye-election — from Pennsylvania.
The president had won that congressional district by a wide margin in November 2016, but the Republican candidate is not doing so well, with his Democratic rival just two points behind in polls. The polling takes place on Tuesday.
But while seeking vote and support for the candidate, the president looked itching to start his own. He attacked Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren, who is among those widely expected to run, and Oprah Winfrey, the talk-show icon who triggered talk of a run with an impassioned speech at the Golden Globe awards recently.
But Trump said he looked forward to running against Winfrey, who has since the awards denied she is interested in a run. “I know her weakness.”
“Wouldn’t we love to run against Oprah?” he asked. “I would love it. I would love it. That would be a painful experience for her.”


As general elections approach and Pakistani politicians return to their constituencies to muster support, the anger of some people on how the government has performed seems to be coming to the fore.
On Sunday, two men lobbed shoes at ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif while he was addressing a gathering in Lahore. On Saturday, a man threw ink at foreign minister Khawaja Asif during a workers convention in Sialkot. The same day, a shoe was hurled at interior minister Ahsan Iqbal in his home constituency of Narowal. So far, all the attacks have been on the ruling Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) politicians.
Sharif was attacked as he reached the podium to deliver a speech at an event organized by the Jamia Naeemia outside a madrassa.
The shoe hurled by a man hit him between the neck and shoulder.
The attacker then jumped on the stage and raised slogans in favor of Mumtaz Qadri – the killer of Punjab governor Salman Taseer – before fainting as the crowd tackled him down.
Meanwhile, another man hurled his shoe at the former premier, nearly hitting him. It landed on a man standing behind Sharif.
The Punjab police took both attackers and one witness into custody.
Sharif appeared shaken by the incident which also suggests the challenges his party faces from militant religious parties, some of which were once allies of his government.
The attacks on key members of the ruling party have been going on during the past week. On Saturday, a man was taken into police custody after he threw ink at foreign minister Khawaja Asif during his speech at the PML-N workers convention in Sialkot.
Asif, however, directed the concerned authorities to release the suspect, saying he did not have any personal enmity with him, adding that the man must have carried out the act at the behest of someone in return for some money.
The same day, a man lobbed a shoe at interior minister Ahsan Iqbal while he was addressing a workers’ convention in Narowal. Media reports suggested that the man, identified as Bilal Haris, tried to get closer to the minister as soon as he arrived on the stage in Aliabad to address PML-N supporters.
He then hurled a shoe at Iqbal, which reportedly touched his arm.
Party workers soon got hold of the man and handed him over to police.
According to a private news channel, the minister had to leave his speech incomplete and came down from the stage. Police are investigating the case.
Reacting to the reports, Ahsan Iqbal said, “It was a 3rd degree cheap PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) tactic.”
“Nothing happened, neither touched me nor interrupted my speech,” he said, adding, “However PTI (was) exposed, condemned by people.”


President Trump has tweeted that a deal with North Korea is "very much in the making", a day after revealing he had agreed to meet its leader Kim Jong-un.
The North has yet to make a statement on the meeting, announced by the South.
Earlier, the White House said the meeting would not take place unless Pyongyang took "concrete actions".
US media report that Trump made the decision to meet without consulting key figures in his administration, who are now scrambling to catch up.
The top US diplomat, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, was on his first official trip to Africa when the announcement was made.
He told reporters on Friday the decision to meet Mr. Kim was one "the president took himself".
"I spoke to him very early this morning about that decision and we had a very good conversation," Mr. Tillerson added.
Mr. Trump stunned observers when he agreed to the summit following an invitation delivered by South Korean envoys. No sitting US president has ever met a North Korean leader.
Confusion mounted when Mr. Trump's own press secretary, Sarah Sanders, told reporters that North Korea has "promised to denuclearize". She added: "We're not going to have this meeting take place until we see concrete actions."
South Korean envoys - who recently met with Mr. Kim in Pyongyang - have said North Korea is "committed to denuclearization" as an end goal, but they have not said this would start before a meeting with the US.
Instead, North Korea is understood to have agreed to halt its testing program as negotiations continue.
US Vice-President Mike Pence has pledged to maintain pressure on North Korea, and Mr. Trump spoke with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Friday to agree to maintain sanctions for the time being.
There has been no mention of the meeting in North Korean media.
An initial statement from the South Korean delegation said the meeting would take place by May - but no place or date has officially been set.
The Korean border's demilitarized zone (DMZ) and Beijing are seen as possible venues.
Kim Jong-un unexpectedly used his New Year's message to reciprocate an offer of talks made by the South last year. This led to North Korea sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics in the South.
After the Games, South Korean envoys met Mr. Kim in Pyongyang this week. The envoys then travelled to Washington to brief Mr. Trump.
Speaking outside the White House after the meeting, South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong said Mr. Kim was prepared to sit down with the US president and was now "committed to denuclearization".
However, the North has halted missile and nuclear tests during previous talks, only to resume them when it lost patience or felt it was not getting what it demanded, analysts say.
Some expressed concern the Trump regime could "fall into the North Korean trap" of granting concessions with nothing tangible in return.


Air strikes have hit Douma in Syria's rebel-held Eastern Ghouta just after 13 trucks of food aid crossed into the enclave, heading for the town, according to opposition activists and a monitor.
The development came on Friday after an overnight pause in fighting encouraged the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to send the convoy in, that had previously been delayed due to violence.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) had previously said that the besieged enclave had witnessed no air strikes for the first time in the last 10 days.
However, shortly after the aid convoy crossed into the enclave on Friday, the SOHR said, the air strikes resumed.
The UN estimates that 400,000 people live in the rebel-held areas of Eastern Ghouta.
The attack on Douma as the aid convoy entered the area is part of a larger trend. On Friday, the World Health Organization verified 67 attacks on health facilities in the first two months of 2018.
Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from Beirut in neighboring Lebanon, said on Friday that the aid delivered was enough for just 12,000 people.
"The ICRC is saying that they have positive indications that a bigger convoy will be allowed in the coming days," she said, prior to the reports that air raids had resumed.
"But it is unlikely to include any medical supplies, because the government does not want rebels to be treated."
In less than two weeks, the Syrian army has retaken nearly all the farmland in Eastern Ghouta, under cover of near-ceaseless shelling and air strikes, leaving only a handful towns - about half the enclave - still under rebel control.
The SOHR on Friday said at least 931 civilians have been killed since February 18.
According to Doctors Without Borders (MSF), more than 1,000 people have been killed.
UN aid agencies have pleaded with the Syrian government and its ally, Russia, to halt the air campaign and allow access.
Syria and Russia have both said the assault is needed to stop rebel shelling of Damascus.
The government and Russia's military have opened what they say are safe routes out of the enclave, but nobody has left yet.
The two allies accuse the Syrian rebels of shooting at civilians to prevent them from fleeing the fighting into government areas.
The rebels deny the accusation and say the area's inhabitants have not crossed into government territory because they fear persecution.


All sides to lose in trade war: France

Sunday, 11 March 2018 03:31

French President Emmanuel Macron has warned his US counterpart Donald Trump against the implementation of planned tariffs on European steel and aluminum, saying that the controversial measure could provoke a mutually destructive “trade war.”
Macron made the remark in a telephone conversation with Trump on Friday, days after Washington announced plans to impose 25-percent tariffs on steel imports and 10-percent tariffs on aluminum.
The French leader expressed his “deep concerns,” and said the hefty tariffs due to come into effect in two weeks would “risk triggering a trade war, in which all affected countries would be losers.”
Macron also said “such measures against allied countries, who respect international trade rules, would not be effective in fighting unfair practices,” adding that the European Union (EU) would respond in a “clear and proportionate manner to all practices that are unfair or contrary to international trade rules.”
A senior official with the EU said Brussels was prepared to retaliate against the tariffs but was still seeking talks with the US over the decision to settle the dispute.
European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said that the 28-nation bloc stood ready to take Washington to the World Trade Organization (WTO) if necessary but expressed hope that it would not be “forced” to use rebalancing measures.
A day earlier, Trump had announced that the US tariff plan would take effect in 15 days and not initially apply to Canada and Mexico. The US president also said that Washington’s close partners on security and trade could negotiate exemptions.
Trump believes the tariffs will safeguard US jobs, but economists say the measures will destroy more jobs than they create and will hurt the very US companies and workers that Trump has said he aims to protect.
The tariff plan has sparked a flurry of criticism both at home and aboard.
During his presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly blamed what he called unfair trade deals and allegedly abusive practices by countries like China and Mexico for the massive US trade deficit and the loss of high-paying American factory jobs.
EU hopes for clarity from crunch US trade talks
Meanwhile, top EU trade officials are set to hold crunch talks with their US counterparts in Brussels on Saturday, expressing hope to get “clarity” on Trump’s controversial import tariffs.
EU trade Chief Cecilia Malmstrom was scheduled to meet US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Brussels on Saturday along with Japanese Economy Minister Hiroshige Seko.
Speaking to reporters before the meeting, Malmstrom criticized Trump’s “wrong” approach on the imposition of the plan, hoping to get confirmation from the US that the bloc would be excluded from the tariffs.
Malmstroem said the EU was circulating among member states a list of iconic US products to potentially target with tariffs, such as Harley Davidson motorcycles, Levi’s jeans and bourbon, so that it could respond as quickly as possible.
The German government also threw its weight behind EU’s plans to respond if Trump pressed ahead with the tariffs decision, calling for multilateral talks to address overcapacity in the steel sector.
Denouncing the tariffs as an “affront to close partners,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged dialog and warned that “no one can win in such a race to the bottom.”
According to the US Census data, America annually imports more goods and products from Europe than the continent absorbs in US goods, to the tune of a trade deficit worth over 11 billion dollars in 2017.