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At least 99 dead after consuming toxic alcohol in India

KUALA LUMPUR: From appearing in an R&B music video and trolling social media to vilify the new government, former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been combative before the start of his graft trial, linked to the multibillion-dollar looting of the 1MDB state investment fund that has battered the country’s standing abroad.The trial starting Tuesday…

At least 99 dead after consuming toxic alcohol in India

KUALA LUMPUR: From appearing in an R&B music video and trolling social media to vilify the new government, former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been combative before the start of his graft trial, linked to the multibillion-dollar looting of the 1MDB state investment fund that has battered the country’s standing abroad.The trial starting Tuesday comes nine months after Najib’s spectacular election defeat, spurred by voters’ furor over the 1MDB scandal that is being investigated in the US and several other countries for alleged cross-border money laundering and embezzlement.US investigators say more than $4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB by associates of Najib between 2009 and 2014 and the ill-gotten gains were laundered through layers of bank accounts in the US and other countries to finance Hollywood films and buy hotels, a luxury yacht, art works, jewelry and other extravagances. Some $700 million from the fund that Najib set up for Malaysia’s economic development allegedly landed in his own bank account.One of only a few Southeast Asian leaders to be arraigned after losing office, Najib has denied any wrongdoing. He is charged with 42 counts of criminal breach of trust, graft, abuse of power and money laundering in one of Malaysia’s biggest criminal trials. His wife Rosmah Mansor also has been charged with money laundering and tax evasion linked to 1MDB. She has pleaded not guilty and her trial has not been set.The first of Najib’s multiple criminal trials begins Tuesday but instead of lying low, Najib has fought back with a political makeover on social media that aims to transform his image from an out-of-touch elitist to a leader for the working class.A Malay-language catchphrase translating to “What’s to be ashamed about, my boss?” was coined while he was campaigning in a by-election last month and has become his new rally cry. Expensive tailored suits have been replaced by hoodies and jeans. A picture Najib posted on social media showing himself posing on a Yamaha motorcycle with his new “’no-shame” meme resonated with many Malay youths disenchanted by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s new government.In another offbeat music video that he uploaded on social media, Najib slammed the new government as “liars” and crooned about the “slander and revenge” against him in a Malay-language rendition of the 1970’s R&B soul hit “Kiss and Say Goodbye” by the American group, the Manhattans.He posts a dozen messages daily on social media, mostly mocking the new government and its policies, and touching on the plight of the needy.Last month while visiting vendors at a wet market, Najib jeered government leaders on Facebook: “Let the ministers sleep on this Saturday morning.”Bridget Welsh, political science professor at the John Cabot University in Rome, said Najib is seeking to tap into anger from those who were displaced politically and those disappointed by the new government.“There will actually be two battles — that in the courtroom and that in the public — in which Najib has used a flush-funded social media machine to build support,” said Welsh, a Southeast Asia expert. “He has fanned two sentiments — supposed political victimization and racial insecurity — stemming from the fact that Malay chauvinists do not have the same level of political power in the new government.”Najib’s online campaign isn’t likely to extend beyond his Malay political base but it could split Malaysia along racial lines, she said. Ethnic Malays makeup about 60 percent of Malaysia’s 32 million people, followed by large Chinese and Indian minorities.Despite his smiles and cool public persona, the patrician Najib — whose father and uncle were Malaysia’s second and third prime ministers respectively — could face years in prison if convicted.Once a towering figure in politics and literally beyond the law, Najib has fallen from grace swiftly since his historic electoral loss on May 9, which led to the first change of government since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957.The new government soon after it took office reopened investigations into 1MDB that had been stifled under Najib. He and his wife were barred from leaving the country and grilled by anti-graft officials, and their properties were raided. Truckloads of luggage stashed with cash, jewelry and hundreds of expensive designer bags worth a staggering 1.1 billion ringgit ($270 million) were seized from their home and other properties.The trials for both Najib and his wife will be closely watched but are expected to be long-lasting as defense lawyers could appeals up to the top court. Najib has a team of top lawyers, who are appealing Monday to delay his trial.Farhan Read, one of Najib’s lawyers, told The Associated Press that the defense team wants a deferment to resolve a technical issue that could impair the validity of the hearing. He said Najib’s trials are scheduled back-to-back and that it was unprecedented for a person to be hit with 42 charges.

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US border chief quits amid outcry over child detainees

WASHINGTON: The acting commissioner of the US Customs and Border Protection agency announced his resignation on Tuesday amid a public outcry over alarming detention conditions of migrant children in Texas.John Sanders, appointed to the post just two months ago, said in a letter obtained by several US media outlets that he planned to step down…

US border chief quits amid outcry over child detainees

WASHINGTON: The acting commissioner of the US Customs and Border Protection agency announced his resignation on Tuesday amid a public outcry over alarming detention conditions of migrant children in Texas.John Sanders, appointed to the post just two months ago, said in a letter obtained by several US media outlets that he planned to step down as acting CBP chief on July 5.Sanders’ departure coincides with the revelation of unsanitary detention conditions for children at an overcrowded Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas, a sign of the increasing strain on resources due to soaring numbers of arrests at the US-Mexico border.The conditions at the center in Clint were described by a team of lawyers, doctors and others who visited the facility about 20 miles (30 kilometers) southeast of El Paso.Nearly 250 children were transferred out of Clint on Monday but a CBP official said Tuesday that some 100 were being sent back there.“The three-year old before me had matted hair, a hacking cough, muddy pants, and eyes that fluttered closed with fatigue,” wrote Clara Long, a researcher with Human Rights Watch who accompanied the team.“His only caretaker for the last three weeks in a United States Border Patrol chain-link cage and then a cell… his 11-year old brother,” Long said.“Children at Clint told us they don’t have regular access to showers or clean clothes, with some saying they hadn’t been allowed to bathe over periods of weeks and don’t have regular access to soap,” she said.Speaking on CNN on Tuesday, Long said “the situation is dire.”“And it’s not just Clint,” she said.Sanders has led CBP since April, when President Donald Trump tapped CBP chief Kevin McAleenan to replace Kirstjen Nielsen as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.In a message to staff, Sanders did not give a specific reason for quitting and officials told The Washington Post and The New York Times it was not clear if his resignation was directly related to the handling of underage migrants at the border.Trump told reporters Tuesday he did not ask Sanders to step down but “knew there were going to be changes there.”US law requires unaccompanied minors to be returned to their parents or transferred to Health and Human Services facilities within 72 hours.But many of the children held by the Border Patrol in Clint had been there for three or four weeks, according to the team which visited the facility on June 17.“The Border Patrol claims that high numbers of border arrivals are causing these delays as they wait for space to open up in the somewhat more child-friendly detention centers and shelters,” said HRW’s Long.Arrivals of undocumented migrants at the southern US border have surged in recent months, with 144,000 people taken into custody in May alone. CBP deputy commissioner Robert Perez said more than 100,000 were children and families.“Everybody understands it is not the Border Patrol’s job to take care of children,” said Warren Binford, a Willamette University law professor who visited the Clint facility.“They are as upset as we are that these children are being put into their care because they don’t have the ability to care for them,” Binford said on MSNBC.“These children need to be with their families.”Perez, the CBP deputy commissioner, made the same complaint recently at a panel discussion in Washington.“We are a border security agency now being called upon to deal with things we’re not designed for,” Perez said.Trump, asked about conditions at the detention centers, said he was “very concerned” and urged Democrats to approve $4.5 billion in emergency humanitarian funding for the southwest border.He said “bad people” were using children to take advantage of lax US immigration laws. “It’s a form of slavery what they’re doing to young children,” he said.Trump also said Mexico “for the first time in 50 years is helping us” prevent border-crossing.“So I just want to thank Mexico,” said the US leader, who had threatened steep tariffs on Mexican goods unless the government did more to slow migration.After a week of tense negotiations, Mexico agreed to reinforce its southern border with 6,000 National Guardsmen and expand its policy of taking back migrants while the US processes their asylum claims. Mexico has also deployed 15,000 troops to the US border.“They’ve done a great job,” said Trump. “Hopefully they can keep it up.”

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US’s Pompeo faces thorny issues on India visit, from trade to Russia arms deals

WASHINGTON: The acting commissioner of the US Customs and Border Protection agency announced his resignation on Tuesday amid a public outcry over alarming detention conditions of migrant children in Texas.John Sanders, appointed to the post just two months ago, said in a letter obtained by several US media outlets that he planned to step down…

US’s Pompeo faces thorny issues on India visit, from trade to Russia arms deals

WASHINGTON: The acting commissioner of the US Customs and Border Protection agency announced his resignation on Tuesday amid a public outcry over alarming detention conditions of migrant children in Texas.John Sanders, appointed to the post just two months ago, said in a letter obtained by several US media outlets that he planned to step down as acting CBP chief on July 5.Sanders’ departure coincides with the revelation of unsanitary detention conditions for children at an overcrowded Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas, a sign of the increasing strain on resources due to soaring numbers of arrests at the US-Mexico border.The conditions at the center in Clint were described by a team of lawyers, doctors and others who visited the facility about 20 miles (30 kilometers) southeast of El Paso.Nearly 250 children were transferred out of Clint on Monday but a CBP official said Tuesday that some 100 were being sent back there.“The three-year old before me had matted hair, a hacking cough, muddy pants, and eyes that fluttered closed with fatigue,” wrote Clara Long, a researcher with Human Rights Watch who accompanied the team.“His only caretaker for the last three weeks in a United States Border Patrol chain-link cage and then a cell… his 11-year old brother,” Long said.“Children at Clint told us they don’t have regular access to showers or clean clothes, with some saying they hadn’t been allowed to bathe over periods of weeks and don’t have regular access to soap,” she said.Speaking on CNN on Tuesday, Long said “the situation is dire.”“And it’s not just Clint,” she said.Sanders has led CBP since April, when President Donald Trump tapped CBP chief Kevin McAleenan to replace Kirstjen Nielsen as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.In a message to staff, Sanders did not give a specific reason for quitting and officials told The Washington Post and The New York Times it was not clear if his resignation was directly related to the handling of underage migrants at the border.Trump told reporters Tuesday he did not ask Sanders to step down but “knew there were going to be changes there.”US law requires unaccompanied minors to be returned to their parents or transferred to Health and Human Services facilities within 72 hours.But many of the children held by the Border Patrol in Clint had been there for three or four weeks, according to the team which visited the facility on June 17.“The Border Patrol claims that high numbers of border arrivals are causing these delays as they wait for space to open up in the somewhat more child-friendly detention centers and shelters,” said HRW’s Long.Arrivals of undocumented migrants at the southern US border have surged in recent months, with 144,000 people taken into custody in May alone. CBP deputy commissioner Robert Perez said more than 100,000 were children and families.“Everybody understands it is not the Border Patrol’s job to take care of children,” said Warren Binford, a Willamette University law professor who visited the Clint facility.“They are as upset as we are that these children are being put into their care because they don’t have the ability to care for them,” Binford said on MSNBC.“These children need to be with their families.”Perez, the CBP deputy commissioner, made the same complaint recently at a panel discussion in Washington.“We are a border security agency now being called upon to deal with things we’re not designed for,” Perez said.Trump, asked about conditions at the detention centers, said he was “very concerned” and urged Democrats to approve $4.5 billion in emergency humanitarian funding for the southwest border.He said “bad people” were using children to take advantage of lax US immigration laws. “It’s a form of slavery what they’re doing to young children,” he said.Trump also said Mexico “for the first time in 50 years is helping us” prevent border-crossing.“So I just want to thank Mexico,” said the US leader, who had threatened steep tariffs on Mexican goods unless the government did more to slow migration.After a week of tense negotiations, Mexico agreed to reinforce its southern border with 6,000 National Guardsmen and expand its policy of taking back migrants while the US processes their asylum claims. Mexico has also deployed 15,000 troops to the US border.“They’ve done a great job,” said Trump. “Hopefully they can keep it up.”

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Dharavi slum beats Taj Mahal as India’s top tourist destination

NEW DELHI: One of the world’s biggest slums, located in Mumbai, has pipped the famous Taj Mahal to become India’s favorite tourist destination. Dharavi, where close to 1 million people live in an area of just over 2.1 square kilometers, was named by travel website TripAdvisor.com as the 2019 top visitor experience in India and among…

Dharavi slum beats Taj Mahal as India’s top tourist destination

NEW DELHI: One of the world’s biggest slums, located in Mumbai, has pipped the famous Taj Mahal to become India’s favorite tourist destination.

Dharavi, where close to 1 million people live in an area of just over 2.1 square kilometers, was named by travel website TripAdvisor.com as the 2019 top visitor experience in India and among the 10 most favorite tourist sites in Asia.

The slum has grown up on swamp land in the center of the coastal city of Mumbai over the past 150 years and has poor infrastructure and a lack of basic sanitation and hygiene facilities.

The squalid district was featured in the 2008 Oscar-winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire,” which tells the story of a Mumbai teenager accused of cheating on the Indian version of TV gameshow “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”

However, in 2012, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Katherine Boo portrayed a new side of life in the slum in her book “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum,” which showed it bubbling with hope in a changing world.

The recent Bollywood movie “Gully Boy” also gives the slum a new look with a coming-of-age tale based on the lives of street rappers.

“Slum tourism started in 2003 for the first time but it picked up after the movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’” said Dinesh Bhurara, who runs travel agency Mumbai Dream Tours.

“Dharavi is not like a slum, but it is a city within the city. It is well-organized and people from all communities and religions coexist together. They work very hard. When tourists come, they see a new life in the slum which they don’t see in Mumbai and outside. This connects with foreigners,” Bhurara told Arab News.

Bhurara, 24, was born and brought up in Dharavi and started his travel business three years ago after gaining experience with other tour operators.

“People have lots of misconceptions about Dharavi. Movies like ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ stereotyped the slum by showing its poverty, underbelly and by typecasting characters. But it’s not like that. When tourists visit it’s an eye-opener for them,” he added.

Tour groups to Dharavi normally consist of around five to six people, with visitors guided through its cramped alleys, and shown around houses and businesses.

“For tourists this is an educational tour. They learn how business is done here, and how people survive with their sheer efforts and aspirations. They also go to business and industry areas,” said Bhurara.

The peak season to visit Dharavi is between November and May with travel agents recording an average of 200 foreigners touring the slum every day during the season.

Bhurara charges 700 rupees ($10) per person for a four-hour trip to Dharavi and has five partners who run the tours with him. “When we take tourists inside the slum, we not only take them into an area, but we also take them into our lives and show them how life can exist even in this space. Many get inspired and are awestruck by the sheer energy inside the slum.”

He said the tourist influx had encouraged many Dharavi youngsters to learn foreign languages as a way to earn a living and he himself had taken up Spanish.

According to Bhurara the majority of tourists are from Europe and China. “People in Dharavi are now attuned to foreigners visiting them and they really appreciate that. For youngsters it’s an extra opportunity to earn some more. So many college students pick up foreign languages to earn something extra,” he added.

Dharavi is a hub of small industries with exports of leather and recycled goods reportedly worth $1 billion a year. More than 4,000 businesses operate there alongside thousands of single-room factories where migrants workers from eastern and western India are employed.

“Many people, even in Mumbai, are not aware of this part of Dharavi,” Vinay Rawat, a tour operator, told Arab News. “In Mumbai people come to see the most expensive house of the industrialist Mukesh Ambani and they also want to see the cheapest place in Mumbai which is Dharavi.”

Rawat added that wealthy people lived in Dharavi where new high-rise buildings had been constructed. He said people had lived there for four generations but that there were fears that the prime land could fall into the hands of property developers.

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