S Gurumurthy meeting Rajinikanth triggers political speculations in Tamil Nadu

Chennai: Political commentator and editor of Tamil magazine Thuglak S. Gurumurthy met superstar Rajinikanth at his Poes Garden residence on Sunday evening and had a two-hour-long chat.  

Though Rajini-Gururmurthy’s meet was described as a ‘courtesy’ call to enquire about the former’s health, the media was agog with speculations about the ‘timing’ of the meet.


Gurumurthy, RSS ideologue, had earlier said Rajinikanth has a bright future in politics and he aligning with BJP would be good for the state.  

It may be recalled that Rajinikanth, a few days ago, said he had been advised against entering politics by doctors during this pandemic as he had undergone a kidney transplant.

However, the actor said he would consult the office-bearers of  Rajini Makkal Mandram and announce at an appropriate time whether he would enter politics or not. He also said on his Twitter handle that the statement hinting that he may reconsider his political entry due to his health condition doing rounds on social media was not from him. However, the content related to his health condition and doctors’ advice are true, he said.   


With Assembly elections nearing in 2021, expectations that he may announce his party have heightened among his fans and people.

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Dark web crackdown on opioid traffickers triggers 179 arrests across world, including four in UK | Science & Tech News

Police have arrested 179 people, including four in the UK, as part of a global crackdown on dark web opioid trafficking.

More than $6.5m (£5m) in cash was seized in a series of arrests and raids across the US and Europe, which came more than a year after the Wall Street Market darknet site was closed down.

At the time the site – which was operated by three German nationals – was one of the largest online illegal marketplaces, allowing users to purchase illicit items ranging from fraudulent documents to drugs and weapons.

It was accessible though the anonymity-preserving Tor browser, which is legitimately used around the world by people whose access to the internet is controlled by authoritarian governments, but which has also provided criminals with a mechanism to frustrate law enforcement.

The US Department of Justice nicknamed the crackdown Operation DisrupTor – a reference to the software – and said its investigators were continuing to work to identify individuals behind darknet accounts.

The three Wall Street Market administrators were arrested last year after conducting a so-called exit scam, suddenly disappearing with the cryptocurrency they held in escrow for the vendors and purchasers who traded on their site.

Alongside cash and virtual currency, the crackdown led to the seizure of more than 500kg of drugs – around 275kg of which was captured in the US – and 64 firearms.

The drugs included 17kg of fentanyl and 97kg of methamphetamine, along with heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and other opioids.

FBI officers in Ohio shut down what was described as “one of the most prolific online drug trafficking organisations” in the US, “which operated using the moniker ‘Pill Cosby’.”

Another narcotics vendor called “NeverPressedRX” was, the FBI said, “so intent on securing his online criminal enterprise that he conspired to use explosives to firebomb and destroy a competitor pharmacy”.

The arrests included 121 in the US, two in Canada, 42 in Germany, eight in the Netherlands, four in the UK, three in Australia and one in Sweden, according to the US Department of Justice.

“There will be no safe haven for drug dealing in cyberspace,” the DoJ said in its statement.

“Today’s announcement is very much a success story in international law enforcement cooperation, as crime on the darknet is truly a global problem that requires global partnership.

“However, the global nature of the threat also means that foreign countries who fail to act can easily become safe harbours for criminals who seek to pump lethal, addictive drugs into the US from abroad.”

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Trump’s RNC finale outside White House triggers Dems: ‘Get off our lawn’

With a first-ever Republican Convention finale held outside the White House on Thursday night, President Trump and the GOP once again ignored Washington’s rules – and left Democrats fuming.

“Get off our lawn,” former presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., tweeted as Trump formally accepted the GOP nomination in a speech on the South Lawn.

The Republican Party brought together more than 1,000 spectators for the final night of its quadrennial gathering – the makeshift event prompted by concerns about the coronavirus.


The party initially planned to hold a traditional-style convention in Charlotte, N.C., but ultimately decided against that, opting instead to have most of its speakers deliver their addresses from Washington’s Mellon Auditorium, just a short distance from the White House.

For Thursday’s finale, however, White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump and the president spoke to the crowd from a stage on the South Lawn.

Two large Trump campaign signs were posted on either side of the stage, irking Democrats who vented their frustrations on social media.

“My blood is boiling over political banners at the White House,” former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri wrote. “Awful. Just awful.”

“Let’s be clear,” wrote former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend, Ind. “It is wrong and illegal to use federal property and taxpayer resources for partisan campaigning.”

“A @JoeBiden presidency cannot come soon enough,” Buttigieg added in another tweet.

Other Democrats seemed bothered that Republicans appeared to be less worried than them about the coronavirus. Few attendees at the White House event appeared to be wearing masks, and most of the spectators sat closer to one another than the recommended social distancing length of six feet.


The GOP also appeared to flout the recommendations on previous nights, during a Wednesday event in Maryland featuring Vice President Mike Pence and during a Tuesday speech at the Rose Garden outside the White House featuring first lady Melania Trump.

“Is coronavirus gone? Is COVID-19 gone?” Biden campaign senior adviser Symone Sanders asked Thursday on a call with reporters, according to The Associated Press. “I didn’t see any masks or social distancing happening during the vice president’s speech last night. So, the reality is, there is a lack of leadership here.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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UK weather: Storm Ellen triggers warnings as tropical cyclone to bring 75mph gusts to UK | UK News

Gusts of up to 75mph are forecast to hit parts of the UK this week as Storm Ellen sweeps in from the Atlantic.

After last week’s heatwave, the UK’s fifth named storm of the 2019-2020 season will bring very strong winds to western areas of the UK from Wednesday morning.

Named by Ireland’s Met Office, the storm will sweep across Ireland from a “decayed tropical cyclone” on Wednesday night before hitting all of the UK’s west coast, the Met Office said.

Gusts will start building up to their strongest early on Friday morning
Large swells will come in from the southwest on Friday morning. Pic: Magic Seaweed
Large swells will come in from the southwest on Friday morning. Pic: Magic Seaweed

Yellow warnings have been issued from Scotland’s west coast to western Wales and down to Cornwall from 8am on Wednesday through to 4am on Friday.

Waves of over 20ft are expected on Corwalls’ coast, according to surf reports.

Met Office spokeswoman Nicola Maxey said gusts on the coast will be around 55mph, possibly rising to 65mph on exposed coasts on Wednesday, while winds on Thursday could reach 75mph.

Forecasters predict gusts could bring delays to road, rail, air and ferry transport links, while power supplies could be disrupted.

It is likely some coastal routes and sea fronts will be affected by large waves, and tree damage could cause debris on roads.

As well as heavy rain and wind, temperatures will be much lower than the last 10 days, although East Anglia could still see highs of around 28C on Thursday, the Met Office said.

Met Office chief meteorologist Steve Ramsdale said: “Following the recent hot and thundery weather we are seeing a significant change to very unsettled conditions for August with an unseasonal spell of strong winds associated with low-pressure centres for the second half of the week.”

HM Coastguard and emergency services in Devon and Cornwall warned a combination of strong winds and spring tides “will make our coastlines hazardous for the next few days”.

They said swell will increase in size, while tidal surges will rapidly force water on to beaches and debris could be pushed onto promenades and around harbours.

They added: “No photo is worth a life.”

The Met Office warned campers and walkers on the coast to be aware of the warnings and said homes with garden furniture, trampolines or children’s toys should bring them inside or secure them.

This the second Storm Ellen the UK has experienced this year, with the first one in February, named by the Met Office in the UK and the latest one named by Met Eireann in partnership with the Dutch weather service.

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Major earthquake off Papua New Guinea triggers tsunami warning

A strong 6.9-magnitude earthquake hit jap Papua New Guinea Friday, prompting a tsunami warning for coastal places in 300 kilometres.

The US Geological Study claimed the quake struck at a depth of 85 kilometres at 12:50pm nearby time.

There were no rapid experiences about problems or casualties in the spot.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre explained populations in close by coastal places should be on alert for feasible “hazardous” waves.

Additional to appear

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More stimulus checks? 156 economists urge Congress to pass a bill with ‘automatic triggers’ for more checks

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As cases of the coronavirus spike in Southern and Western states, economists worry the recovery—which already has a long way to go—could get derailed in its infancy.

That’s why a group of more than 150 economists signed a letter released by the Economic Security Project and the Justice Collaborative this week calling on Congress to issue “automatic triggers for cash stimulus payments.” These economists would like to see the federal government send additional stimulus checks to U.S. families until the economy reaches a certain threshold of recovery.

“Congress absolutely has to send out more money,” said Claudia Sahm, director of macroeconomic policy at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, told Fortune on Thursday. She was among the 156 signees, and says her research finds direct cash payments—like the first round of stimulus checks—are one of the best tools for stimulating an economy.

The first round of stimulus checks, signed into law by the March CARES Act, were worth as much as $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples, plus $500 for each qualifying child. That amount decreased for adjusted gross income above $75,000 per individual or $150,000 per qualified couple. Individuals earning above $99,000 (or $198,000 per couple) weren’t eligible for the first round of checks.

Instead of doing just another one-time cash payment, Sahm says, Congress should pass a bill that includes automatic economic triggers for stimulus payments. She used an 8% unemployment rate as an example for a tigger. In that scenario, Congress would mail a second stimulus check now, and then if the jobless rate is above 8% in November it would mail a third round without having to pass another bill.

Sining into law an economic tigger for stimulus payments would help to prevent a changing political environment from stymying up another round of cash payments. Historically, she says, Congress is less likely to act after elections—especially if it’s a lame duck party.

“Regular, lasting direct stimulus payments will boost consumer spending, driving the economic recovery and shortening the recession. Right now, most Americans are just trying to keep their heads above water,” the signees wrote.

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opened the door for more stimulus. However, he suggested they might lower the income threshold this time, for instance only sending checks to those with incomes under $40,000.

Sahm says sending out fewer stimulus checks is a terrible idea, as it both leaves millions of jobless Americans without checks and it lowers the overall amount of money pumped into the economy. She is hopeful that Congress will act before the end of July.

More must-read finance coverage from Fortune:

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Boy with autism missing on Mount Disappointment in Victoria triggers air and ground search

Police have launched an air and ground search for a 14-year-old boy with autism after he was separated from his family on Mount Disappointment, north of Melbourne.

William Callaghan, otherwise known as Will, was last seen on the south side of the summit about 2:20pm.

Mount Disappointment is about 10km north of Whittlesea.

“Police and family are extremely concerned for the 14-year-old who is non-verbal and doesn’t have any food or water with him,” a police spokesperson said.

“He is also not dressed for the elements of a cold evening.

“The Police Airwing, Search and Rescue Squad, Dog Squad, local uniform members in 4WDs and police on bikes are also being supported by the State Emergency Services in searching for Will.”

The temperature on Mount Disappointment is forecast to drop to about 0 degrees Celsius overnight.

Anyone who sees Will is urged to call Triple Zero (000).

More to come.

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Moranbah explosion triggers huge Government response; a new law and an inquiry into 40-plus gas incidents

This week Queensland has seen some of its most significant mine safety reform in years.

Earlier this week Queensland Parliament passed industrial manslaughter legislation for the resources industry, a penalty which holds employers and senior safety officials to account for mining deaths.

It carries a penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment.

The state’s Mines Minister Anthony Lynham is also getting the ball rolling on a Board of Inquiry which will hold public hearings and deliver recommendations on the Grosvenor gas explosion.

The inquiry will also look into 40 other instances of unsafe gas levels in mines since mid-2019.

It comes as four experienced miners recover from extensive burns after a gas explosion at the underground mine near Moranbah, in central Queensland.

All four miners are now in a stable condition as a result of the Grosvenor Mine explosion a fortnight on.

With eight deaths in the resources industry since 2018, the mining union has welcomed the reform, but said it should have been brought in years ago.

Employers will ‘sit up and take notice’: union

Every other workplace in Queensland has faced industrial manslaughter legislation since 2017 and, until Wednesday, the resource industry was exempt.

“This provides these critical officers with confidence that they can raise and report safety issues without fear of reprisal or impact on their employment,” Lynham told Parliament this week.

Queensland’s mining and energy division of the CFMEU trade union has welcomed the new offence, and said previous prosecutions in lower courts have not been effective at improving mine safety.

Dr Lynham told Parliament this week that his department was in the process of prosecuting four of the eight fatalities which have occurred since 2018 in the Industrial Magistrate’s Courts.

In the past, convictions have led to individuals serving jail time and receiving fines in the hundreds of thousands, but Steve Smyth, state president of the mining and energy division of the CFMEU, said the legal avenues available prior to industrial manslaughter legislation were not a strong enough deterrent for mining companies.

“It’s mostly fines, and I’ve gotta be honest, that’s what’s a bit of a joke,” Mr Smyth said.

“[For] a lot of these companies the fine they’ve got isn’t even equivalent to one hour or two hours of production at an underground longwall mine.”

Mr Smyth praised the Queensland Government for pushing for industrial manslaughter to apply to the resources industry because, until now, the industry had been exempt.

“The thought of going to jail … would certainly make them sit up and take notice,” he said.

The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) represents mine and quarry companies and said safety remained its number one priority, but said in a statement:

“The QRC will work with the Minister and the Government to ensure there are no unintended consequences for mine safety from the Bill that may diminish mine safety and that, together, we can secure the fullest possible compliance with mine safety laws.”

The new legislation does not apply retrospectively.

So what is a Board of Inquiry?

Boards of Inquiry are different to Parliamentary Inquiries because they are headed by independent commissioners as opposed to Members of Parliament.

Boards of Inquiry are normally held when multiple deaths or injuries occur, such as the Grosvenor Mine explosion.

Retired District Court Judge Terry Martin SC, as chair, and Professor Andrew Hopkins AO from the Australian National University, an expert in coal mine health and safety, will be on the board.

It will conduct public hearings, call witnesses and make broad inquiries, findings and recommendations relating to the incident as well as 40 other gas-related incidents in Queensland mines which have happened since the middle of 2019.

The inquiry will hand down its findings in November.

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