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Donald Trump threatens ‘obliteration,’ Iran calls White House ‘mentally retarded’

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US president Donald Trump threatened on Tuesday to obliterate parts of Iran if it attacked “anything American,” in a new war of words with Iran which condemned fresh US sanctions on Tehran as “mentally retarded.”

But Trump later left the door open for talks, saying that Iran should speak to the United States “peaceably” to ease tensions and potentially lift US economic sanctions.

The US president on Monday signed an executive order imposing additional, largely symbolic, sanctions against Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other senior figures, with punitive measures against Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expected later this week.

Iran shot down a US drone last week and Trump said he had called off a retaliatory air strike with minutes to spare, saying too many people would have been killed. It would have been the first time the United States had bombed the Islamic Republic in four decades of mutual hostility.

In rhetoric similar to the kind of harsh words he used to aim at North Korea, Trump tweeted: “Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration.”

In a televised address on Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the new sanctions against Khamenei would have no practical impact because the top cleric had no assets abroad.

Rouhani, a pragmatist who won two elections on promises to open Iran up to the world, said the White House’s actions were “mentally retarded” – an insult that other Iranian officials have used in the past about Trump, but a departure from Rouhani’s own comparatively measured tone over the years.

“Tehran’s strategic patience does not mean we have fear,” said Rouhani, who with his cabinet runs Iran’s day-to-day affairs while Khamenei, in power since 1989, is the country’s ultimate authority.

But Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said Iran would let the United States know what it wanted to do, including negotiate.

“Whatever they want to do, I’m ready,” Trump said.

“Their country is not doing well economically at all. That could be changed very quickly, very easily,” Trump said. “But they have to get rid of the hostility from the leadership. The leadership – I hope they stay, I hope they do a great job – but they should talk to us peaceably.”

ESCALATING US SANCTIONS

The United States has imposed crippling financial sanctions against Iran since last year when Trump withdrew from a 2015 deal between Tehran and world powers under which Iran curbed its nuclear programme.

Tension has escalated sharply since last month when the Trump administration tightened its sanctions noose, ordering all countries to halt purchases of Iranian oil.

That has effectively starved the Iranian economy of the main source of revenue Tehran uses to import food for its 81 million people, and left the pragmatic wing of Iran’s leadership, led by Rouhani, with no benefits to show for its nuclear agreement.

Trump says the accord reached under his predecessor Barack Obama was a failure because its terms were not permanent and did not cover security issues beyond the nuclear programme, such as missiles and role in various Middle East conflicts.

The downing of the US drone – which Iran says was over its air space and the United States says was in international skies – followed weeks of rising tensions that had begun to take on a military dimension.

Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, visiting Israel, repeated earlier offers to hold talks, as long as Iran was willing to go beyond the terms of the 2015 deal.

“The president has held the door open to real negotiations to completely and verifiably eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, its pursuit of ballistic missile delivery systems, its support for international terrorism and other malign behaviour worldwide,” Bolton said in Jerusalem. “All that Iran needs to do is to walk through that open door.”

Iran says there is no point negotiating with Washington when it has abandoned a deal that was already reached.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said imposing “useless sanctions” on Khamenei and Zarif would mark “the permanent closure of the path of diplomacy.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that the situation surrounding Iran was developing toward a dangerous scenario, the RIA news agency reported on Tuesday.

The United States and some regional allies have blamed Iran for explosions that damaged tankers in the Gulf, which Tehran denies. Washington’s European allies have repeatedly warned both sides of the danger that a small mistake could lead to war.

Tehran has given European signatories until July 8 to find a way to shield its economy from U.S. sanctions, or else it will enrich uranium to higher levels banned under the deal to help ensure no development of a nuclear weapon results.

Acting US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he hoped to recruit support from NATO allies in Brussels this week for US efforts to deter conflict with Iran and “open the door to diplomacy,” as he made his first trip as Pentagon chief.

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Delhi air gets toxic, NASA’s crop burning images point to worse days ahead

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The concentration of particulate matter — PM 10 and PM 2.5 — shot up twice the safe limit on Tuesday, when the national capital region’s (NCR) emergency action plan to tackle bad air came into effect, which includes a ban on diesel generator (DG) sets.

Vacuum and water-cleaning of roads will be intensified, pollution hot spots put under closer scrutiny and emission regulations are enforced under GRAP.

The Delhi government is monitoring data from NASA satellite imagery that warned that air pollution is set to worsen in Delhi on account of increase in the number of incidents of stubble burning in the neighbouring states of Haryana and Punjab.

The red dots indicate stubble burning in neighbouring states.

There was a steep rise in PM 10 and PM 2.5 — the prominent pollutants in Delhi air — over the past five days, when compared to the levels recorded in the first week of October, an analysis by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) shows.

According to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data, on Tuesday, PM 10 was recorded as 263ug/m3 while PM 2.5 was 120ug/m3. The permissible standards for PM 10 and PM 2.5 are 100 and 60, respectively. The air quality index (AQI) till 4pm was 270 in the ‘poor’ category.

There was a steep rise in PM 10 and PM 2.5 — the prominent pollutants in Delhi air — over the past five days, when compared to the levels recorded in the first week of October, an analysis by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) shows.

According to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data, on Tuesday, PM 10 was recorded as 263ug/m3 while PM 2.5 was 120ug/m3. The permissible standards for PM 10 and PM 2.5 are 100 and 60, respectively. The air quality index (AQI) till 4pm was 270 in the ‘poor’ category.

“There has been a rise in PM 10 levels because of dust emissions. Road dust and open storage of construction material are the major factors contributing to high PM 10 levels. We have found huge amount of dust in the air in a series of inspections,” said Bhure Lal, chairperson, Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority.

The pollution watchdog has also warned the India Metrological Department (IMD) that the air may turn ‘very poor’ on Wednesday.

“The smoke travelling to Delhi from stubble burning contributes to PM 2.5 emissions here. With the rise in number of farm fires in the past few days, there is a rise in concentration of particulate matter. Calm surface winds blowing over Delhi from the west and northwest are not able to disperse pollutants,” the analysis stated.

However, System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), a unit under Union ministry of earth sciences (MoES), said that stubble burning activity in Haryana and Punjab has shown a slight trend over the past 24 hours. The effect from stubble burning to PM 2.5 level in Delhi was 5% on Tuesday, which was lower than 9% on Sunday.

The ban on DG sets in Delhi and vicinity towns came as a pre-emptive measure under the Graded Response Action Plan (Grap) that was enforced in Delhi-NCR from Tuesday. The plan defines specific actions to tackle different levels of air pollution throughout the year.

According to a senior DPCC official, so far no violations of the generator set ban had been recorded. “We have developed a mechanism for monitoring such violations and have alerted all district heads as well as municipal corporations to inform us of any such complaint.”

Delhi sees a rise in pollution during this time of the year owing to a change in meteorological conditions, combined with local emissions and the effects of crop residue burning in neighbouring states. This is because wind patterns change and blows from the northwest during , bringing pollutants such as smoke, to Delhi with it.

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Delhi govt to announce fitness fee, GPS charges waiver for taxis

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The Delhi government on Monday gave its nod to fully waive the fitness test fees and GPS-related charges for all taxis in the national Capital. It also slashed charges of other documentation and penalties by 60-80% for all cabs registered in Delhi.

The move comes ahead of the assembly elections scheduled in Delhi early next year. As per government data, the scheme will benefit at least a lakh taxis in the city.

Transport minister Kailash Gahlot said the revised fees will be applicable only for those cabs, which are registered under an individual and not in the name of private companies.

“There are only over 15,000 such taxis that are registered directly under cab-aggregators or other taxi companies. So, the scheme will cover most of the cab drivers in Delhi. Also, after the steep hike in penalties under the amended Motor Vehicles Act, these reduced rates will come as a relief for them. It will encourage them to regularly get their cars checked for fitness and help in curbing vehicular emission,” the minister said.

In August, the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had announced a similar scheme for auto-rickshaws which is now benefiting nearly 95,000 autos.

The decision to waive fitness test fees for taxis, be it manual or automatic and GPS related fees (Rs 1200 for tracking and Rs 450-Rs550 for SIM card) was taken by the Delhi Cabinet led by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday. The transport department has been asked to issue an order and roll out the scheme from November 1.

The government also slashed the fees for taking a new permit and renewing the same from the existing rate of Rs 1500 and Rs 2,000 to a flat rate of Rs 500. The revision specifically of the permit-fee will, however, need an amended in the Delhi Motor Vehicle Rules which transport department officials said will be done soon.

Besides, registering a newly bought cab will also get cheaper by 70% and so will the subsequent re-registration charges. This fee is currently Rs 1000 which has been revised to Rs 300. Duplicate registration rates will be Rs 150 instead of the current fee of Rs 500.

For drivers who have bought their taxis on loan, the government has reduced the ‘hire purchase’ or hypothecation charge from Rs 1500 to Rs 500.

Similar reductions have also been done in various penalties that are levied by the state government. The fine for delay in getting a cab checked for its fitness will be Rs 300 instead of Rs 1000.

Officials said an estimate of how much this latest scheme is going to cost the government is being ascertained. “It is likely to be less than Rs 20 crore, could be between Rs 10-15 crore in all likelihood,” said an official.

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‘Next war will be fought with indigenous weapons and will win it’: Army chief Bipin Rawat

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In an unequivocal push for inclusion of indigenous technology in the armed forces Army chief Bipin Rawat and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval said on Tuesday that it will give India an edge over its adversaries.

Rawat said India will fight the next war with indigenous weapons and win it, and the time was ripe to focus on future warfare. “We are looking at systems for future warfare. We have to start looking at development of cyber, space, laser, electronic and robotic technologies and artificial intelligence,” Rawat said at the 41st DRDO directors conference in New Delhi.

Lauding the Defence Research and Development Organisation, the Army chief said DRDO has made strides to ensure that the needs of the armed forces are met through home-grown solutions. He said while preparing systems for future warfare the military establishment and DRDO needs to focus on “non-contact warfare.”

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, accompanied by the NSA and the three chiefs of the armed forces paid tributes former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. Known as the ‘Missile Man’, Kalam was considered the father of the country’s missile programme.

NSA Doval said niche technologies have to be need based and they can make India more secure. “We have to make a hard assessment of what we need to give us an edge over our adversaries,” he said.

Doval said armies that were better equipped have always decided the destiny of mankind and India historically has always been a runner-up. “There is no trophy for the runner up. Either you are netter than your adversaries or you are not there at all,” the National Security Advisor said.

He also identified two key factors that will shape global politics— technology and money. Doval said winning will depend on a country’s strength in these two categories. Of these, he said, technology is more important.

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