One person has died in a powerful explosion outside the Italian consulate in Cairo, carried out by Islamic State militants, the first assault on a foreign mission in Egypt since jihadists launched a campaign against security forces two years ago.
A health ministry spokesman said the blast killed an Egyptian civilian and left at least nine others wounded.
IS warned Muslims to stay away from such places.
“Soldiers of the Islamic State in Cairo were able to detonate a parked booby-trapped vehicle laden with 450 kilograms of explosives at the headquarters of the Italian consulate,” the SITE Intelligence Group quoted an IS tweet as saying.
“We advise Muslims to stay away from these security dens, because they are legitimate targets for strikes of the mujahedeen.”
State news agency MENA separately said two policemen were among the wounded.
The blast occurred about 6:30am (2:30pm AEST), when the consulate would have been closed.
MENA cited a senior security source as saying preliminary investigations indicated attackers placed a bomb underneath a car near the consulate and remotely detonated it.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the early morning blast, which caused heavy damage to the consulate and to about 50 nearby buildings.
It shook other buildings downtown and the blast was heard in several surrounding neighbourhoods when it happened.
A small wooden police kiosk outside the consulate was completely destroyed.
The closer New Horizons gets to Pluto, the more puzzling the dwarf planet becomes.
The latest image released by NASA highlights four mysterious dark spots lined up along Pluto’s equator. Each of the spots is about 300 miles across, and they are evenly spaced along a dark belt that rings the planet’s surface.
When New Horizons spied the spots a few weeks ago, mission scientists were left scratching their heads.
“It’s a real puzzle — we don’t know what the spots are,” Alan Stern, the mission’s principal investigator, said at the time.
They still don’t. The new images, taken by New Horizons from about 2.5 million miles away, reveal that the boundaries of the circles aren’t sharp but irregular. This could be a sign that whatever process created the dark areas was more complicated than scientists first thought.
“We can’t tell whether they’re plateaus or plains, or whether they’re brightness variations on a completely smooth surface,” Jeff Moore, a member of the New Horizons team based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., said in a statement.
Curt Niebur, the mission’s program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington, said the position of the spots was perplexing too.
“It’s weird that they’re spaced so regularly,” he said in the statement.
Unfortunately, the scientists aren’t likely to get answers from Tuesday’s historic flyby, which will take place at 3:49 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. The spotted side of the planet will be facing toward the large moon Charon and away from New Horizons as it zooms past at 36,000 mph.
That means this picture is “the last, best look that anyone will have of Pluto’s far side for decades to come,” Stern said.
For more science news, follow me on Twitter @LATkarenkaplan and “like” Los Angeles Times Science & Health on Facebook.
Washington (CNN)Donald Trump wants to “bomb the hell” out of Iraq’s oil fields in order to strike at ISIS.
“If I win, I would attack those oil sites that are controlled and owned — they are controlled by ISIS,” Trump said. “I wouldn’t send many troops because you won’t need ’em by the time I’m done.”
But that strategy might do more harm than good, according to two former U.S. military officers and CNN military analysts who looked at Trump’s suggestion. That’s because bombing Iraq’s oil fields would be a serious blow to Iraq and efforts to recover once ISIS is expelled from the country.
“You’re destroying the infrastructure of Iraq, you’re not really doing much to hurt ISIS,” retired Lt. Col. Rick Francona said. “At some future point those oil fields will have to help regenerate Iraq.”
The United States did strike oil fields in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s, which hurt Kuwait for years after the war.
While Trump suggested that he would then send in Exxon or another oil company to quickly rebuild the infrastructure once the conflict is over, Francona and Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, another CNN military analyst, said rebuilding infrastructure is easier said than done — especially when other surrounding infrastructure has been damaged in the process.
“We’ve made some huge mistakes in terms of just bombing things we think can just bring a nation to its knees,” Hertling said. “It’s not the people you’re going against and yet those are the ones you’re going against the most when you’re talking about indiscriminate carpet-bombing.”
Trump also said that “there is no Iraq” because of longstanding Sunni vs. Shia divides in the country that have come to the fore amid ISIS’ advance.
Hertling said that’s just not true and that “there most definitely is an Iraq” despite political and ethnic divisions.
Hertling points out that he’s remained apolitical throughout his military career but said Trump’s comments are “just troubling.”
“You have to understand the issues a little bit better than just bombing things,” Hertling said. “This is very complex and there are hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who believe they do have a country.”
Trump moves immigration rally to larger venue
Both Francona and Hertling said there are many better ways to hurt ISIS than striking oil fields in Iraq — few of which ISIS actually controls.
A large part of ISIS’s revenue has come from oil sales, but the terrorist group is mostly pumping oil out of refineries in Syria, not Iraq.
And even in Syria, the U.S. military and coalition partners have showed restraint in not bombing oil fields in Syria, though the U.S. did strike mobile refineries in ISIS hands there — not as crippling in the long-term than a blanket bombing of oil fields.
While the Iraqi government is seriously reliant on the United States and other countries in its fight against ISIS and as it strives to keep its country together, Iraq’s top leaders would do more than just object to U.S. bombing of oil fields in its country — a central part of the country’s economy and infrastructure.
Trump says he still doesn’t know where Obama was born
From a Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve News Release
SOUTHWEST ASIA, July 9, 2015 – U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.
Officials reported details of the latest strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.
Airstrikes in Syria
Bomber, fighter-attack and remotely piloted aircraft conducted seven airstrikes in Syria:
— Near Bukamal, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle.
— Near Aleppo, two airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units, destroying an ISIL vehicle and two ISIL bunkers.
— Near Raqqah, an airstrike struck 20 ISIL staging areas.
— Near Kobani, two airstrikes struck an ISIL large tactical unit and an ISIL tactical unit, destroying two ISIL fighting positions and three ISIL structures.
— Near Tal Abyad, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed three ISIL fighting positions.
Airstrikes in Iraq
Attack, fighter-attack, bomber and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 14 airstrikes in Iraq, approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense:
— Near Baghdadi, two airstrikes denied ISIL a tactical advantage and suppressed ISIL sniper fire. — Near Huwayjah, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL checkpoint.
— Near Fallujah, three airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units, destroying an ISIL mortar, an ISIL tunnel entrance, an ISIL fighting position, an ISIL recoilless rifle and two ISIL bunkers.
— Near Haditha, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL vehicle bomb.
— Near Kirkuk, an airstrike struck three ISIL staging areas.
— Near Makhmur, two airstrikes destroyed an ISIL building and eight ISIL vehicles.
— Near Mosul, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL building.
— Near Ramadi, an airstrike struck two ISIL excavators.
— Near Sinjar, one airstrike struck an ISIL large tactical unit and an ISIL tactical unit, destroying an ISIL heavy machine gun, two ISIL vehicles and an ISIL command-and-control node.
— Near Tal Afar, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit, and destroyed an ISIL bunker.
Part of Operation Inherent Resolve
The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, the region, and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group’s ability to project terror and conduct operations, officials said.
Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the United States, Bahrain, Canada, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle is set for liftoff Friday with five satellites built in Britain to look down on Earth and test a solar sail’s ability to clean up space junk.
The PSLV is counting down for launch at 1628 GMT (12:28 p.m. EDT) Friday from the Satish Dhawan Space Center on India’s east coast, where liftoff is timed for 9:58 p.m. local time.
India’s workhorse launcher, first developed more than 20 years ago, will make its 30th flight Friday, aiming to delivery its five satellite payloads to an orbit 647 kilometers — 402 miles — above Earth.
Three Earth observing satellites made by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., or SSTL, are the main passengers on Friday’s launch. The spacecraft are the fruits of a 2011 deal inked between Chinese and UK companies worth approximately $170 million to provide high-resolution satellite imagery of China’s growing cities.
The trio of satellites are part of the so-called DMC3 constellation, and together the three platforms can image the same place on Earth daily, according to SSTL officials.
The DMC3 satellites were manufactured under contract to DMC International Imaging, or DMCii, a subsidiary of SSTL. DMCii coordinates a network of Earth observation satellites owned operators based in the UK, China, Spain and Nigeria for commercial imagery sales and humanitarian emergencies.
The acronym DMC stands for Disaster Monitoring Constellation, and DMCii is based in Guildford, near SSTL’s headquarters.
DMCii ordered the three new satellites after it struck a deal with Beijing-based 21AT, which sells imagery to the Chinese government to monitor urban growth, land and water resources, pollution and natural disasters. Under the terms of the agreement, 21AT is leasing 100 percent of the imaging capacity of the three DMC3 satellites over their seven-year design lifetimes, while DMCii will own and operate the spacecraft.
Officials said the structure of the deal gives 21AT access to high-resolution imagery without the complexity of flying its own satellites.
Each DMC3 spacecraft weighs 447 kilograms, or 985 pounds, at liftoff and uses an electric xenon-fueled propulsion system for attitude control and orbital maneuvers.
Once the satellites are in space, ground controllers will spread the spacecraft 120 degrees apart along a single orbital plane. Together, the satellites will observe up to a million square kilometers — nearly 400,000 square miles — per day by pointing up to 45 degrees off their ground tracks to image targets, SSTL officials said.
The satellites carry electro-optical cameras with one-meter (3.3-foot) resolution in black-and-white mode, the highest-resolution Earth observing spacecraft ever built by SSTL.
Another SSTL spacecraft, known only by the acronym CBNT-1, is also mounted aboard the PSLV rocket for Friday’s launch. According to a press kit released by the Indian Space Research Organization, CBNT-1 weighs 91 kilograms — 200 pounds — and will test Earth imaging technologies.
Photos posted on ISRO’s website show CBNT-1 as a cube-shaped spacecraft.
A small shoebox-sized CubeSat named DeorbitSail is the fifth UK-made spacecraft on Friday’s PSLV flight.
Funded through a grant by the European Commission, DeorbitSail is packed with four Kapton solar sail membranes that will deploy once the satellite is in orbit to cover an area of up to 16 square meters, or 172 square feet.
The DeorbitSail project is led by the Surrey Space Center at the University of Surrey, and its goal is to prove solar sails can hasten a satellite’s descent from orbit by creating drag from solar light pressure.
Proponents of solar sail technology often point to it as a way to explore the solar system by using solar photons, or light particles, to propel spacecraft to tremendous speeds. The same technique could pull old satellites from space back into the atmosphere, helping rid orbital pathways of space debris.
Officials expect it will take about six months for the CubeSat’s solar sail to bring DeorbitSail into the atmosphere for a destructive re-entry.
ISRO’s launch press kit says the five satellites weight 1,440 kilograms, or 3,174 pounds, making the payload the heaviest commercial package ever sent into orbit by PSLV. DMCii booked the PSLV launch with Antrix Corp., the government-owned commercial sales arm of ISRO.
Friday’s flight will be the ninth launch of a souped-up version of the PSLV with six enlarged strap-on solid rocket boosters. The 14-story rocket will blast off with a peak power of 2 million pounds of thrust and initially turn southeast, then veer south in a safety measure to keep from flying over Sri Lanka.
It will take about 19 minutes to release all five satellites into orbit. ISRO has published a timeline of the mission:
T+plus 0: The PSLV’s solid-fueled first stage ignites, followed less than one second later by ignition of four of the rocket’s six solid rocket boosters.
T+plus 25 seconds: The PSLV’s other two solid rocket boosters ignite at an altitude of 2,680 meters, or nearly 8,800 feet.
T+plus 1 minute, 10 seconds: The PSLV’s four ground-lit solid rocket boosters burn out and jettison in pairs.
T+plus 1 minute, 32 seconds: The PSLV’s two air-lit solid rocket boosters burn out and jettison at an altitude of 47 kilometers, or about 155,000 feet.
T+plus 1 minute, 50 seconds: The PSLV’s first stage burns out and jettisons, and the hydrazine-fueled Vikas second stage engine fires.
T+plus 1 minute, 55 seconds: The PSLV initiates closed loop guidance.
T+plus 2 minutes, 34 seconds: The 3.2-meter, or 10.5-foot, diameter aluminum payload fairing jettisons once the PSLV flys above the dense lower atmosphere.
T+plus 4 minutes, 22 seconds: The PSLV’s Vikas engine shuts down and the second stage separates at the conclusion of its burn at an altitude of 231 kilometers, or about 144 miles.
T+plus 4 minutes, 23 seconds: The PSLV’s third stage solid-fueled motor begins a 112-second burn.
T+plus 6 minutes, 15 seconds: The PSLV’s third stage motor burns out, and the rocket begins a coast phase.
T+plus 8 minutes, 37 seconds: The PSLV’s third stage separates from the fourth stage.
T+plus 8 minutes, 47 seconds: The PSLV’s fourth stage, powered by two hydrazine-fueled engines, ignites to propel the DMC3, CBNT-1 and DeorbitSail spacecraft into orbit.
T+plus 17 minutes, 19 seconds: The fourth stage shuts down after achieving a circular target orbit with an altitude of 647 kilometers, or 402 miles, and an inclination of 98.06 degrees.
T+plus 17 minutes, 57 seconds: The three 447-kilogram (985-pound) DMC3 satellites deploy from the PSLV’s multi-payload adapter.
T+plus 18 minutes, 36 seconds: The experimental DeorbitSail CubeSat is released from its canister atop the PSLV’s fourth stage.
T+plus 19 minutes, 16 seconds: The 91-kilogram (200-pound) CBNT-1 Earth observation technology demonstration satellite separates from the PSLV.
Embattled Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta announced Friday she is resigning, one day after the government revealed that more than 22 million people had their data stolen in a pair of massive cyberattacks on the agency.
“I conveyed to the president that I believe it is best for me to step aside and allow new leadership that will enable the agency to move beyond the current challenges and allow the employees at OPM to continue their important work,” Archuleta said in a statement.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Archuleta came to the White House on Friday morning to offer her resignation and President Barack Obama accepted. She did so “of her own volition,” Earnest said at a press briefing.
“It’s quite clear … that new leadership with a set of skills and experiences that are unique to the urgent challenges that OPM faces are badly needed,” Earnest said.
Positive news from overseas Greece-d Wall Street’s wheels on Friday, as traders cheered a possible resolution for the Greek economic crisis and a rebound in Chinese stocks.
The Dow climbed 212 points, or 1.2% to close at 17, 760. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq also rose more than 1%.
“You had positive news flow, whether it was China or Greece,” Todd Salamone, senior vice president of research at Schaeffer’s Investment Research, told the Daily News.
The market reacted favorably to a proposal submitted by Greece on Thursday that makes substantial concessions to the country’s lenders.
The proposal includes raising taxes and eliminating some tax breaks. In exchange, Greece is looking to get $59 billion to cover its debts. On Friday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appealed to his party to back his reform package to save Greece from a financial meltdown.
Euro zone finance ministers are set to meet on Saturday to consider the plan and determine whether Athens will get a bailout.
Wall Street also got a lift from China, where stocks rallied strongly for the second day in a row thanks to government support measures. As of mid-week, panic selling in China had slashed one-third of the market’s value since its peak in June.
“There is optimism that Greece is opening up to accepting a deal which would let it stay in the EU. But to me, the fact that China staged a late week bounce is more meaningful,” Ryan Detrick, strategist at See It Market, told the News. “With both of these worries calming, it allowed the bulls to take charge.”
But investors could be in for a bumpy ride as the U.S. stock market is expected to continue to respond to headlines from overseas, Salamone said.
“Unfortunately, we don’t know what that news will be,” he said.
On the domestic front, Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen said on Friday that she expects the Fed to raise rates this year. But she also noted that the U.S. labor markets remain weak and that more workers could be brought back into the workforce with stronger economic growth.
Greece’s parliament has backed a government package of economic reforms aimed at ending the country’s debt crisis and securing a new bailout.
In a late-night debate, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras admitted many proposals fell short of his party’s anti-austerity promises.
But he said there was a “national duty to keep our people alive and in the eurozone”.
The proposals are to be studied by eurozone finance ministers later.
EU sources says Greece’s creditors – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – believe the plan is positive.
Eurozone officials are also expected to discuss Greek requests for some of the debt to be rescheduled.
While a majority of the 300-member parliament backed the plans in the early hours of Saturday, several government MPs voted against or abstained.
Mr Tsipras is asking for €53.5bn ($59.47bn) to cover Greece’s debts until 2018.
In return, he has given in to demands for a pension overhaul, tax rises and privatisations – measures rejected in a referendum last Sunday.
Greek banks are days away from running out of money and unless a deal is struck the country faces exiting the euro.
The BBC’s Mark Lowen in Athens says the Greek reform package is a major climbdown for the prime minister, whose radical left-wing Syriza party was elected on a strong anti-austerity platform.
The errors that led to accused Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof purchasing a gun even though he faced drug charges fueled both sides of the debate over stricter gun laws Friday.
On Wednesday, two days before the FBI said Roof should not have been allowed to buy the gun he allegedly used to gun down nine church parishioners, those victims’ families rallied on Capitol Hill for a bill that would expand background checks on would-be gun buyers.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said Friday that the bill, H.R. 1217, could have prevented the missteps, including a background check oversight, which allowed Roof to acquire the weapon.
“Dylann Roof’s arrest on a drug charge, combined with his admission of prior drug use, should have prevented him from buying a gun, and it’s a tragedy that is not what happened. This news underscores the urgency of the message that Charleston families and the Brady Campaign took to Capitol Hill this week,” said Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign.
RELATED: Gun Purchase Background Checks: Casting a ‘Wide Net’ With Many Holes
One of the problems that led to Roof’s gun purchase was that a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) examiner couldn’t find the jurisdiction where Roof had been arrested on the drug charges.
Since the NICS system was mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 and launched in 1998, it has blocked more than 2.4 million illegal gun sales, according to the organization Everytown for Gun Safety.
But the Brady Campaign wants to see it do more, and they say H.R. 1217, which according to the bill would “ensure maximum coordination and automation of reporting of records,” can prevent even more illegal gun sales from taking place.
But Daniel Webster, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research said “it’s hard to say whether H.R. 1217 could have prevented mistakes of this type” because the bill focuses more on documenting court records than arrest records.
“That said, there is a public safety interest in improving these records for background checks for gun sales,” Webster added.
H.R. 1217 would also expand background checks to cover gun sales made online and at gun shows, according to the Brady Center.
Regardless of the depth or scope of background checks, current gun sale laws only mandate a three-day period for the checks to be conducted. Roof was sold a gun after the NICS examiner couldn’t find the origin of his drug charges within those three days.
“The scary issue brought to light by this is just how faulty the 72-hour ‘default proceed’ is,” said Garrett McDonough, the Communications Director for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
“Inefficiencies or lack of time and resources leads to criminals and other dangerous people being able to purchase guns and, in this case, kill innocent people,” McDonough said.
On the other side of the stricter gun laws argument, some don’t think the existing system needs improvement. After the FBI said Friday that Roof should not have been able to buy the .45-caliber Glock handgun in question, Sen Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said that the failure didn’t stem from a lack of regulations.
“It’s disastrous that this bureaucratic mistake prevented existing laws from working and blocking an illegal gun sale,” Grassley said in a statement. “The facts undercut attempts to use the tragedy to enact unnecessary gun laws.”
Others who don’t want stricter gun laws might use Roof’s illegal purchase of a gun to argue that NICS doesn’t work and therefore shouldn’t be expanded, Webster said.
“But on an average day, 526 people are denied from purchasing firearms because of the laws,” he said. “The more comprehensive the system is in terms of covering all sales, the more types of records are checked abd … the more effective (it is) in keeping guns from dangerous people and saving lives.”
Remember a few weeks back, when we learned that Google’s artificial neural network was having creepy daydreams, turning buildings into acid trips and landscapes into Magic Eye pictures? Well, prepare to never sleep again, because last week, Google made its “inceptionism” algorithm available to the public, and the nightmarish images are cropping up everywhere.
The “Deep Dream” system essentially feeds an image through a layer of artificial neurons, asking an AI to enhance and build on certain features, such as edges. Over time, pictures can become so distorted that they morph into something entirely different, or just a bunch of colorful, random noise.
Now that the code for the system is publicly available, anyone can upload a photo of their baby and watch it metamorphose into a surrealist cockroach, or whatever. If you need some inspiration, or an excuse to crawl back into bed, pull the covers over your face, and wait for the world to end, just check out the hashtag ‘DeepDream’ on your social media platform of choice.
Earlier this week a video emerged that showed the singer, her new boyfriend Ricky Alvarez and some friends in a bakery. Ariana was caught on tape licking some of the produce out on the counter and proceeded to slam a tray of baked goods brought out by a shop assistant, branding them “disgusting” and the reason she “hates America”.
The 22-year-old issued a statement to Us Weekly afterwards, clarifying she loves the US and is merely an “advocate of healthy eating”. However, she’s now decided further remorse is needed.
“I’m making this video from wisdom tooth recovery hell. I just want to make a video to apologise again for the whole doughnut fiasco and craziness because I feel like the apology I posted, I kind of missed my opportunity to actually sincerely apologise and express how I was feeling because I was too busy preaching about my feelings with the food industry, which is not relative,” she says in a clip posted on YouTube.
It seems the footage, which inadvertently outed Ariana’s relationship with dancer Ricky, has proved a real shock to the star. Trying to prove how sorry she is, she detailed how mortified she was when she first saw it.
“Seeing a video of yourself behaving poorly that you had no idea was taken is such a rude awakening. I was so disgusted with myself,” she continues.
“I shoved my face in a pillow and wanted to disappear, but instead of that I’m going to come forward, own up to what I did, take responsibility, and say I’m sorry… I reacted in a way that wasn’t necessary to say the least and also wasn’t me at all. I apologise for my poor choice of words and my behaviour. Seeing how ugly it looks when you behave a certain way makes you never want to behave that way again.”
Yesterday it emerged the incident is being investigated by public health officials but no crime was committed by Ariana, so she likely won’t come under investigation.
Facebook wants you to see more of what you want to see.
New tools will help you weed through the clutter of boring, unwanted information, often from long-forgotten acquaintances, and surface the gems from close friends and interesting pages.
You’ll now be able to choose the friends and pages you want to see on your news feed first.
To do this, go to the friend’s profile. Click on the box that says “following” and select “see first.”
Facebook’s computer software uses a wide range of information you provide to decide what to show. This includes what friends you interact with and how often, or whether you tend to like photos, videos or text updates more.
In announcing the new tools Thursday, Facebook acknowledged that its automated system isn’t perfect, so it wants to give users a way to set their own preferences.
In addition to selecting who or what page you will see first, you’ll still to be able to “unfollow” friends so you won’t see them at all. This option has been available before to people who don’t want to take drastic step of unfriending someone but would rather not read about their lives.
For the rest, though, Facebook will continue to use its software to choose what to show you. So unless you want to see someone’s posts all the time or not at all, you’re stuck with what you’ve got.
The update is available Thursday on iPhones and iPads and is being rolled out in the coming weeks to Android phones and personal computers.
(CNN)Omar Sharif, the dashing actor whose career included star turns in “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Doctor Zhivago,” died Friday. He was 83.
The Egyptian-born actor suffered a heart attack this afternoon in Cairo, according to his agent, Steve Kenis. Egyptian state media report that Sharif had been in the hospital for a month.
Antonio Banderas, who starred with Sharif in 1999’s “The 13th Warrior,” expressed his sorrow on Twitter.
“My great friend Omar Sharif has passed away. I will always miss him. He was one of the best,” Banderas posted.
In his prime, Sharif — with his dark eyes, debonair demeanor and exotic accent — was considered one of the most handsome men on the planet, his looks getting as much attention as his acting ability.
“When he walked on the ‘Zhivago’ set in Spain, I took one look and said, ‘I can’t act with that man. He’s too gorgeous!’ ” one of his “Zhivago” co-stars, Geraldine Chaplin, told The New York Times in 1965.
In the ’90s, he had both a perfume and a brand of cigarettes named after him.
But he could also be a formidable actor, earning an Oscar nomination for his supporting role in “Lawrence of Arabia” and winning Golden Globes for it and “Zhivago.”
Sharif was already an established star in the Middle East when he was cast in the role as Sherif Ali Ibn El Karish in director David Lean’s epic 1962 production of “Arabia.” The film, which was also the movie debut of Peter O’Toole, won seven Oscars, including best picture, and is still considered one of the greatest of all time.
It made Sharif a worldwide name, about which he had mixed feelings, he said in 1995.
“I don’t know if I wouldn’t have been a happier person if I had never even made ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ or become internationally famous,” he said. “I was in Egypt. I had a home. I had a wife. I had a kid. I might have had more. It might have been good. But then again, it might have been terrible, I don’t know.”
In ‘the Hollywood of the Middle East’
Sharif was born Michael Demitri Shalhoub in Alexandria, Egypt, on April 10, 1932. He grew up in Cairo, the son of a lumber merchant.
He wanted to be an actor from a young age and performed in theatrical productions as a teenager. In his early 20s, he was cast in an Egyptian film opposite actress Faten Hamama. The 1954 film, whose Arabic title translates to “Struggle in the Valley,” made him a star; the next year, Hamama became his wife. The two were married until 1974.
In a 2007 interview with CNN, he remembered a thriving industry.
“When I started in the Egyptian film industry, we used to produce about 120 films a year,” he recalled. “All the Arab(ic)-speaking films came from Egypt. We were the Hollywood of the Middle East.”
In the early ’60s, Lean cast him in “Lawrence.” Originally, Sharif had a different role, but when Lean was unable to get his other choices — including Horst Buchholz and Alain Delon — Sharif won the part of Sherif Ali. His slow-building entrance, from a far-off dot in the desert distance in Lean’s widescreen masterpiece, is one of the most arresting in cinema.
Lean could be difficult, Sharif said, but the pair got along fine.
“He hated actors, but he loved me. I don’t know why, because I didn’t know myself what I was going to do, and the first shot I had to make, I spent the whole night to practice it for the next day — my first shot in the film. And he knew about this, and he loved me for it,” he told NPR in 2012.
Lean cast Sharif again in his next epic, 1965’s “Doctor Zhivago.” This time he had the lead, as an altruistic Russian physician who romances a wife (Chaplin) and a lover (Julie Christie) before and after the Russian Revolution.
“Sharif, largely through expressions of indignation, compassion and tenderness, makes the character very believable,” wrote Variety’s A.D. Murphy.
The film was an even bigger hit than “Arabia,” making more than $100 million at the box office — at a time when that was an almost unbelievable sum — and finishing second to “The Sound of Music” for the year. Though nominated for 10 Academy Awards, it was also an also-ran to “Music” for best picture.
Moving to bridge
However, Sharif, now one of the biggest stars in the world, had just one more notable hit: 1968’s “Funny Girl,” opposite Barbra Streisand. The film brought him some woe; his films were banned in Egypt because of his onscreen relationship with Streisand, a Jewish woman.
As the ’60s turned into the ’70s, he had started growing indifferent to acting. Though there were some good turns — 1974’s “The Tamarind Seed” and 1975’s “Funny Lady” both did respectably — others were outright bombs.
One film, 1969’s “Che!” in which he played Che Guevara, was named as one of the “50 Worst Films of All Time” in a 1977 book. He also appeared in 1980’s “Oh Heavenly Dog” and 1981’s “Inchon.”
“Only bad films since 1972, (197)3. I’m thinking of really bad,” he told the UK’s Guardian. “To learn bad dialogue is so difficult and so boring, and to work with a stupid director who tells you to do the wrong thing, et cetera, it’s just unbearable.”
He admitted that, by then, he was putting more interest into his other passion: the card game bridge, at which he was an expert player. He wrote a regular column, wrote books and hosted a computer video about the game.
“I refused in my life many films because they happened at the same time as an important tournament,” he told the Guardian. Not that he was always happy with that choice, calling it “stupid.”
He still popped up in occasional productions. He was in the parody “Top Secret!” created by the “Airplane!” team and appeared as the Sorcerer in a production of “Gulliver’s Travels.”
He won a Cesar — the French Oscar — for 2003’s “Monsieur Ibrahim,” a French film about a Muslim who becomes friends with a young Jew.
“I thought it was the right moment to make it, to make a little statement about loving each other and being able to live with each other,” he told the Guardian.
His life wasn’t the romantic lark his image suggested. He acknowledged some issues with gambling — the Guardian noted that he lost £200,000 in one 2003 experience that concluded with Sharif head-butting a police officer — and told Guernica magazine in 1996 that he lived a “sedate” life.
“I don’t go out a lot,” he said. “I’ve always done it. I’ve never had a riotous-living sort of life.”
Romantic? That’s what he aspired to, he said.
“It’s a beautiful word,” he said. “I like it. I think probably I’m sentimental, which is not a beautiful word, but I want to graduate to being romantic.”
Sharif is survived by a son, Tarek, and two grandchildren. He acknowledged a second son out of wedlock in various interviews.
George Soros, the hedge fund manager credited with “bringing down the Bank of England,” is at it again, this time in Greece; although it does not seem the scale of the bet was anywhere near as large as Soros’ GBP bet.
Soros and his Quantum Fund are among 20 Hedge Funds who have waged a short war against Greek banks and Hellenic regulators are now fighting back. Quantum Fund, along with other major names such as Toscafund, Everest Capital and Abbeville Partners, have all received fines in the past three months from the Hellenic Republic Capital Market Commission, the Greek version of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Greek tragedy: 1 million euro short selling fine remains unpaid by Soros, hedge funds
The fines, totaling nearly 1 million euros, are related to “naked” short selling of stock in various Greek banks, the Financial Times is reporting. The fines have not been paid by the hedge funds, the FT reports, citing sources close to the funds.
The trades in question must have been profitable. Over the past year, for instance, the Piraeus Bank stock price lost nearly 75 percent of its value as has the National National Bank of Greece (ADR) (NYSE:NBG), which is currently trading near all-time lows.
The issue of Greek fines for short selling will be heard before the European Securities Markets Authority, as the Alternative Investment Management Association, a London-based lobby group that is representing the hedge funds, the FT report noted. A spokesperson for the ESMA, however, said a complaint has yet to be formally launched.
According to an April 2015 filing on the Greek regulatory website.
A fine of 65,000 euros to the company Quantum Partners LP because short selling of shares of National Bank of Greece AE without to cover the delivery obligation of openly sold shares clearing system (failed trade), in breach of Article 12 of Regulation 236/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of Europe.
Soros, hedge funds say Greek regulator overly strict, regulations not consistent with other EU market regs
The hedge funds are arguing that the Greek regulator has been unduly strict regarding short selling restriction and inconsistent for other market regulation in the EU region.
The moves come as Greece continues to play a game of chicken with European financial leaders as the nation teeters on the brink of exiting the Euro. In this environment the hedge funds have been engaged in the politically controversial method of selling stock the hedge funds don’t own.
The issue has reached a head of late. The Bank of Greek has requested 3 billion euros from the ECB to shore up their balance sheets, and the ECB is currently considering injecting $2 billion as Greek deposits flee in anticipation of capital controls being placed on the Greek population as emergency economic measures could be required if Greece walks away from the EU.
Many hedge funds have been on the long side of the Greek stock trade, as we have noted many times in the past.
The United States and other major powers are not in a rush to reach a nuclear deal with Iran, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday, suggesting an accord was unlikely hours ahead of a deadline set by the U.S. Congress for a quick review.
Adding to signs that a deal was not close at hand, a top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader was quoted by Iranian news agency Tasnim as saying Tehran’s “redlines” should be respected in talks aimed at a deal under which Iran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
“A deal can be reached only if our redlines are respected,” said Ali Akbar Velayati, the adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He also accused Kerry of making comments that were “part of America’s psychological warfare against Iran.”
Velayati’s reported remarks came after a senior Iranian official in Vienna accused the United States and others nations of shifting their positions and backtracking on an April 2 interim agreement that was meant to lay the ground for a final deal.
“We’re here because we believe we are making real progress,” Kerry told reporters in the Austrian capital. “We will not rush and we will not be rushed.”
However, Kerry said Washington’s patience was not unlimited. We can’t wait forever,” he said. “If the tough decisions don’t get made, we are absolutely prepared to call an end to this.”
He did not say how much longer the talks could continue. Shortly after Kerry spoke, the White House said the talks would not likely drag on for “many more weeks.”
Briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, the senior Iranian official sought to put the onus on the West for any failure to reach an agreement.
“There have been changes of position … particularly since last night,” said the official, “Suddenly everyone has their own red lines. Britain has its red line, the U.S. has its red line, France, Germany …”
Negotiators have given themselves until the end of the day on Friday. But if a deal is not reached by 6:00 a.m. in Vienna (0400 GMT), the skeptical Republican-led U.S. Congress will have 60 days rather than 30 days to review it, extra time U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration worries could derail it.
’96 PERCENT COMPLETE’?
The central bargain of an interim deal struck on April 2 in Lausanne, Switzerland as well as of the final deal that the two sides are now trying to work out is to limit Iran’s nuclear work in return for easing economic sanctions crippling its economy.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi has said the main text of a final agreement, as well as five technical annexes, were “around 96 percent complete.”
While the lifting of sanctions was largely agreed, Araqchi said Tehran’s demand for an end to a U.N. Security Council arms embargo was among the most contentious unresolved points.
Other sticking points in the negotiations have included Iran’s research and development on advanced centrifuges and access to Iranian military sites and nuclear sites.
Tehran says a U.N. embargo on conventional arms has nothing to do with the nuclear issues and must be lifted in any deal. Western countries do not want allow Iran to begin importing arms because of its role supporting sides in Middle East conflicts.
Iran has powerful support on this issue from Russia. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a summit of BRICS countries – Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa – that the U.N. arms embargo should be among the first sanctions lifted.
Over the past two weeks, Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have twice extended deadlines for completing the long-term nuclear agreement.
In a sign that the Friday morning U.S. congressional deadline was likely to be missed, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, a key member of the U.S. negotiating team, was due to fly to Portugal on Friday to accept an honor and make a speech, returning on Friday evening.
Western countries accuse Iran of seeking the capability to build nuclear weapons, while Tehran says its program is peaceful. A deal would depend on Iran accepting curbs on its nuclear program in return for the easing of economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations, United States and European Union.
A successful deal could be the biggest milestone in decades towards easing hostility between Iran and the United States, enemies since Iranian revolutionaries stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979.
It would also be a political success for both Obama and Iran’s pragmatic President Hassan Rouhani, who both face resistance from powerful hardliners at home.
(Additional reporting by John Irish and Arshad Mohammed and Shadia Nasralla in Vienna and Katya Golubkova and Denis Pinchuk in Russia, writing by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Anna Willard, Peter Graff, Giles Elgood and Bernard Orr)
WASHINGTON — The massive hack last year of the Office of Personnel Management’s system containing security clearance information affected 21.5 million people, including current and former employees, contractors and their families and friends, officials said Thursday.
That is in addition to a separate hack – also last year – of OPM’s personnel database, which affected 4.2 million current and former employees. That number was announced previously.
Together, the breaches arguably comprise the most consequential cyber intrusion in U.S. government history. Administration officials have privately said they were traced to the Chinese government and appear to be for purposes of traditional espionage.
The 21.5 million figure includes 19.7 million individuals who applied for a background investigation, and 1.8 million non-applicants, predominantly spouses or people who live with the applicants. Some records also include findings from interviews conducted by background investigators, and about 1.1 million include fingerprints, officials said.
Individuals who underwent a background investigation through OPM in 2000 or afterward are “highly likely” affected, officials said. Background checks before 2000 are less likely to have been affected, they said.
ACCESS TO PERSONAL DETAILS
The lapse enabled hackers to gain access not only to personnel files, but also personal details about millions of individuals with government security clearances – information a foreign intelligence service could potentially use to recruit spies.
Because the exposed records included information on individuals who served as references on security clearance applications, U.S. official said that stolen data includes details on certain employees’ relatives and friends.
Thursday’s announcement only seemed to strengthen Republican calls on Capitol Hill for OPM Director Katherine Archuleta and her chief information officer, Donna Seymour, to resign.
“Since at least 2007, OPM leadership has been on notice about the vulnerabilities to its network and cybersecurity policies and practices,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said in a written statement. “Their negligence has now put the personal and sensitive information of 21.5 million Americans into the hands of our adversaries. Such incompetence is inexcusable.”
The intrusion of OPM’s system containing security clearance data took place in June or early July of 2014, officials said. The hack of a separate OPM database containing personnel records occurred in December.
In both cases, officials said, the hackers worked for the Chinese government, although the Obama administration has not formally accused Beijing. “It is an enormous breach, and a huge amount of data that is personal and sensitive . . . was available to adversaries,” FBI Director James Comey said at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Wednesday.
“We’re talking about millions and millions of people affected by this,” he said. “I’m sure the adversary has my SF86 now,” referring to the Standard Form 86, which all applicants for security clearances must fill out.
He noted it lists “every place I’ve lived since I was 18, every foreign trip I’ve taken, all of my family and their addresses. . . . I’ve got siblings. I’ve got five kids. All of that is in there.”
Said Comey: “It is a huge deal.”
SOME SPYING INTELLIGENCE VALUE
Not every spy’s data is in the system. The CIA conducts its own security clearance investigations and keeps that data to itself. Even so, some U.S. officials have said that a foreign spy service might be able to identify U.S. intelligence operatives by comparing stolen OPM records with rosters of U.S. personnel at embassies overseas.
Names that appear on U.S. embassy lists but are missing from the OPM files might enable a foreign intelligence service with sophisticated computer capabilities to identify CIA operatives serving overseas under diplomatic cover.
OPM has been under fire for the breaches.
OPM officials have defended the agency, saying that it was only because of a strategic plan put in place by Archuleta shortly after she became director in November 2014 that the breaches were discovered.
“There are certainly some people I would like to see given the boot for not paying attention to cybersecurity, but Katherine Archuleta is not one of them,” said one administration official, requesting anonymity to discuss personnel issues. Maybe they didn’t move as fast as they should have but they were at least moving in the right direction and were prioritizing it in an agency that didn’t think of itself as having a security mission.”