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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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More services at your doorstep in Delhi by month-end

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The Delhi government is going to offer 30 new services under its ambitious ‘doorstep delivery of services’ scheme by the end of this month, according to revenue minister Kailash Gahlot. Delayed by six months, the launch of the scheme’s second phase will allow Delhiites to make changes in their driving license or get a bus pass, among other services, without stepping out of their home.

Once opened to public, the total number of government services provided through the doorstep delivery of services initiative will increase to 70, from the existing 40. The 30 new services that will be added involve 10 departments, including labour, SC/ST welfare, tourism, drugs control, higher education, transport and food, and supplies departments.

“Under the second phase of the scheme, we are going to launch 30 new services by the end of this month. This will also help ration card holders as they will be able to add names of beneficiaries and make other changes in their cards. People will also be able to pay their motor vehicle tax or add a new category of vehicle in their driving license,” said Gahlot.

The scheme was launched by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on September 10 last year. The government had announced that the second phase would be launched on February 1. But, Gahlot said, the launch was deferred because of the Model Code of Conduct that came into effect during the Lok Sabha polls.

Officials in the administrative reforms (AR) department running the scheme, however, said the launch was deferred as the back-end team had to be strengthened. “The software used to crash almost every time due to the demand. Over the past six months, we have worked on developing a completely new software. Besides, earlier there was no linkage between the mobile sahayaks and the call centres and both verticals were operating in silos. We have now linked the two branches,” a senior official said.

Each service costs ₹50 and documents are collected from the applicant’s home through government agents or ‘mobile sahayaks’. The final document will be delivered either by hand or post.

Another official said that in the first three months, the AR department and the private concessionaire handling the back-end team faced difficulties in increasing the number of mobile sahayaks and retaining them. “In October and November, over 50 mobile sahayaks left the job as they were dissatisfied with the pay. Recruiting new employees was a problem, as only those who had a two-wheeler could apply, because the job required for them to travel a lot. These issues have now been sorted,” the official said.

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With 60 minutes to go, ISRO calls off Chandrayaan 2 launch due to snag

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With the countdown clock freezing minutes before 2 am, the launch of Chandrayaan-2, India’s second mission to moon, was called off 56 minutes before the scheduled time early Monday morning.

The GSLV Mark III carrying the orbiter, lander, and rover was to take off at 02:51 am from Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, the country’s only launch site.

The launch was aborted as an “abundant precaution” after a technical snag was noticed in the launch vehicle systems after filling liquid hydrogen in the cryogenic upper stage of the rocket.

“A technical snag was observed in launch vehicle system at 1 hour before the launch. As a measure of abundant precaution, #Chandrayaan2 launch has been called off for today. Revised launch date will be announced later,” a statement from the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) said.

There were four suitable window periods for the launch of Chandrayaan 2 in the month of July – July 15 and 16 and then again during new moon on July 29 and 30. The launch window on July 15, which is just days before the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong first walking on moon, was missed.

The launch is unlikely to happen during the next three windows in July.

“The stages will now have to be drained to see what went wrong,” said an official, on condition of anonymity.

The next window for launch will be in September.

The indigenous mission was first scheduled for March 2018 and delayed four times for making changes in the design of the lander and the orbit in which it would reach the surface of the moon. The July 2019 launch date was decided after a design change to the lander, a change in the orbit, and the new GSLV Mark III launch vehicle to carry the now heavier satellite.

India’s second mission to moon had been approved by the cabinet in 2008 just after Chandrayaan 1. Initially, Russia’s Roscosmos was supposed to develop the lander and the mission had to be postponed when Russia was unable to develop the lander on time and later withdrew after the failure of its mission to Phobos, the moon of Mars, prompting India to develop the entire mission on its own.

Chandrayaan 2 mission will make India the fourth country after the US, USSR, and China to land on moon. It will also be the first mission in the world to land near the lunar South Pole to look for water and cold traps with history of the solar system.

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Suspecting her ‘character’, man crushes 19-yr-old girlfriend’s face: Cops

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A 19-year-old aspiring model was allegedly killed by her boyfriend on suspicion of her “character” in Maharashtra’s Nagpur district, police said Sunday, adding that the accused has been arrested.

The victim is identified as Khushi Parihar, a resident of Nagpur, and the accused as Ashraf Sheikh.

A Nagpur police official said they received information on Saturday morning about the body of a woman with her face crushed lying along Pandhurna-Nagpur highway.

Police identified the victim through social media, he said, adding that Parihar used to participate in local fashion shows and was aspiring to become a model.

Sheikh was later arrested, he said.

According to the official, Sheikh has “confessed” that he killed Parihar because he suspected her character and “closeness” with some youths.

Prima facie, Sheikh travelled with Parihar in his car on July 12 and later allegedly killed her by crushing her head at Savli Fata near Pandhurna-Nagpur highway, the official said.

A case of murder has been registered by Nagpur (Rural) police and further investigation is underway.

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