Kim Jong Un attends K-pop concert in Pyongyang

Kim Jong Un’s wife afforded new level of respect in North Korean media

Referred to in a KCNA report as the “respected First Lady,” paired with an honorific reserved for respected members of society, the title is a step up from the usual “comrade” that she had previously been afforded.

North Korea watcher Peter Ward, a writer for NK News, a blog which follows North Korean political developments, posted on Twitter that the change in title was a sign that Ri “is getting her own personality cult.”

Others agree that the move is significant.

“In North Korea, nothing is accidental. Each move is choreographed for a reason,” Troy Stangarone, Senior Director, Korea Economic Institute, told CNN.

“The elevation of Ri’s status … help(s) to strengthen the Kim family’s status in North Korea, but also changes the international perception of the regime.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol-Ju, seen in an undated handout image from North Korean state media, attending an art performance in Pyongyang.

Rare terminology

The wives of North Korea’s two previous leaders, Kim’s father and grandfather, have generally not been given the same status as that accorded to other leaders’ spouses around the world, Stangarone said.

“The title of ‘First Lady’ was last used by North Korea in the 1970s for Kim Il Sung’s wife Kim Song Ae.

“Since then the term “comrade” was used to signify the wife of either Kim Il Sung or Kim Jong Il.”

Ri’s new title places her “more within Western norms and helps remove some of the old communist vestiges of the past,” Stangarone said.

He added that Kim’s decision to send his sister, Kim Yo Jong, to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea in February was another sign that the ruling family is intent on changing the optics around its power structure.

In writing up Ri’s Saturday visit to a performance by the visiting National Ballet of China, the state media outlet was reporting on an event that Ri attended without being accompanied by her husband, something that is without precedent. During the visit she appears to have met the head of China’s Communist Party’s International Department.

Kim also visited the Chinese troupe on Monday — the second international group of musicians to visit Pyongyang, following a South Korean delegation of pop stars earlier in April.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, claps while posing with his wife Ri Sol Ju, government officials and members of a Chinese art troupe for a group photo at East Pyongyang Grand Theater in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Diplomatic thaw

The apparent shift in policy, in which other members of the ruling family are taking a more visible role, comes as Kim appears to be extending potential olive branches to both foes and allies.

In March Kim traveled to Beijing for his first — and so far only — meeting with a foreign head of state. He will meet South Korean leader Moon Jae-in in a historic summit later this month.
The meetings come after months of thaws, beginning with North Korean participation in the Winter Games, an evolution on various antagonistic policies from Pyongyang including nuclear weapons tests, and culminating in Kim reportedly inviting US President Donald Trump to meet face to face.

“All of these steps are about reshaping the image of the regime,” Stangarone said.

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Virat Kohli was seen having an argument with the on-field umpires (AP Photo)

IPL 2018: Virat Kohli furious after TV umpire’s shocking decision helps Hardik Pandya survive

Virat Kohli was seen having an argument with the on-field umpires (AP Photo)

Virat Kohli was seen having an argument with the on-field umpires (AP Photo)


  • Virat Kohli was seen having an animated conversation with the umpires after Hardik Pandya survived thanks to the DRS
  • Pandya had been ruled out caught behind off Woakes but the TV umpire overruled the on-field umpire
  • Replays showd Pandya had nicked the ball and Kohli lost his cool

Virat Kohli was left fuming as Hardik Pandya got a lucky reprieve during Royal Challengers Bangalore’s crucial tie against Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday.

The controversial umpiring decision took place in the penultimate over of Mumbai’s innings after the third umpire overturned the decision of the on-field umpire who had ruled Pandya out.

Chris Woakes had struck to remove Kieron Pollard with the first ball of the 19th over when Pandya walked out to bat. RCB were up in appeal for a caught behind decision and the umpire raised his finger. However, MI chose to review the decision and even though the snickometer showed a slight edge, the TV umpire ruled in favour of the hosts, leaving Kohli agitated.

Virat Kohli gutted after RCB’s 3rd defeat: ‘Do not feel like wearing this Orange Cap’

The passionate RCB captain could not believe the decision and shook his head and laughed in clear disdain.

Kohli lost his cool after watching the replays on the big screen and was seen having an argument with umpire as he felt his team was hard done by.

IPL 2018: Rohit Sharma 94 trumps Virat Kohli 92 not out as Mumbai secure 1st win of season

Pandya, though, did not complain and he hammered Woakes for sixes off the next two deliveries.

Mumbai finished with a commanding 213/6 after a horror start. Umesh Yadav had reduced them to 0/2 off the first two balls before Evin Lewis (65) and Rohit Sharma (94) bailed them out with a 106-run stand for the third wicket.


Kohli, later overtook Suresh Raina to become the highest run-scorer in IPL history. He went on to score his second straight fifty but that was not enough as RCB crashed to a 46-run defeat.

Virat Kohli overtakes Suresh Raina to become highest run scorer in Indian Premier League

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China has contingency plans to deal with U.S. trade frictions: state planner

China has contingency plans to deal with U.S. trade frictions: state planner

BEIJING (Reuters) – China has various contingency plans and policy reserves to deal with trade frictions started by the United States, the country’s top economic planner said on Wednesday.

A truck transporting imported raw materials of industrial chemicals is seen at a port in Qingdao, Shandong province, China April 15, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

The impact from trade frictions between China and the United States on China’s macro economy is limited and manageable, Yan Pengcheng, spokesman for the National Development and Reform Commission, told a news conference.

Trade tensions have been escalating between the world’s top two economies, leading to worries that Washington and Beijing may engage in a full-scale trade war that could damage global growth and roil markets.

Reporting by Stella Qiu, Lusha Zhang and Se Young Lee; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

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1 Dead After Southwest Jet’s Engine Fails, Forcing Emergency Landing

One person died and seven others were injured after an engine blew apart, sending shrapnel into the plane and forcing a Southwest Airlines flight to make an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport on Tuesday.

It was the first passenger fatality on a U.S. carrier since 2009, federal officials said, and the first passenger fatality in Southwest’s 51-year history.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said at about 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, Southwest flight 1380 en route to Dallas Love Field suffered an “apparent in-flight engine failure” of its left engine. The plane was nearly an hour into a journey that had begun at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Tuesday morning when the engine blew out, terrifying passengers.

us crash reuters

A National Transport Safety Board investigator examines damage to the engine of the Southwest Airlines plane (Reuters)

Photos and footage posted to social media showed the aftermath of the apparent explosion, which sprayed shrapnel and caused a plane window to be blown out in a chilling episode that one passenger streamed live on Facebook. Nervous passengers can be seen bracing for impact as oxygen masks dangle from the ceiling of the plane’s cabin.

“Something is wrong with our plane! It appears we are going down! Emergency landing!! Southwest flight from NYC to Dallas!!” tweeted passenger Marty Martinez, who streamed the moments before the emergency landing on Facebook.

Martinez said on Facebook that he purchased the in-flight WiFi so he could reach his loved ones, thinking these might be his final moments.

Sumwalt, who confirmed the fatality, said the NTSB will examine the engine and the plane’s fuselage in Philadelphia before shipping the engine offsite and deconstructing it to determine what went wrong.

Sumwalt spoke to the media at a news conference at Washington’s Reagan National Airport before boarding a flight to Philadelphia with other NTSB investigators.

“We do know that there have been injuries and we would like to give our condolences to all of those who affected by this event,” Sumwalt said. “We’re just now getting out there – this will be an extensive investigation.”

The NTSB said there were 144 passengers and five crew members aboard the flight.

southwest plane crash

This photo shows inside a Southwest airplane sitting on the runway of the Philadelphia airport shows damage to the left engine.

The safety body declined to speculate on the cause of death of the passenger, who was not immediately identified.


Southwest said the plane involved was a Boeing 737-700. The airline said the flight was diverted after the crew reported problems to an engine that damaged the plane’s fuselage. 

Southwest Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly, in a conference call with reporters, said the plane was last inspected Sunday, but did not elaborate as to whether it was Southwest mechanics or the Federal Aviation Administration that did that inspection.

 He called the 737 engines “proven, very reliable.” He said the plane’s pilot has been with the airline since 1994.

“The 737 is a workhorse of the airline industry,” he said. “I think [the crew] handled the aircraft magnificently.”

In an earlier statement the airline said, “We are deeply saddened to confirm that there is one fatality resulting from this accident. The entire Southwest Airlines Family is devastated and extends its deepest, heartfelt sympathy to the Customers, Employees, Family Members, and loved ones affected by this tragic event.”

southwest accident

After the plane accident, flights bound for Philadelphia could not depart their originating airports (AFP)

The incident disrupted travel at the airport for several hours. The FAA issued ground stops for Philadelphia – meaning flights bound for the city could not depart their originating airports – that stretched several hours.

Aboard the plane, passengers witnessed a terrifying sequence of events. Joseph Marcus, 24, was seated near the front of the plane when he heard an explosion and a loud sound coming from the back of the plane. He said he looked out the window and saw the engine on his side of the plane was completely black.

“The engine was totally done. Nothing was happening,” said Marcus, who is CEO of an app development company in Manhattan.

Immediately, oxygen masks dropped from overhead. People started screaming and crying. 

Marcus could hear a commotion behind him, which he later learned from other passengers was the sound of them trying to help a woman who was being sucked out of the shattered window. The plane started to tilt toward the left, the side where the explosion occurred.

“It was pretty chaotic,” he said. “I was just trying to make sure everyone was okay. I was trying to be positive and make sure I could help in any way.”

The flight attendants were on the intercom repeatedly, ordering passengers to brace for impact. Passengers grew silent because the masks were over their faces; they could not breathe otherwise, he said.

“We landed somehow. The pilots did an unbelievable job, and thanks to them we made it out of there,” he said.

Once the plane landed, people yelled for help from anyone who had medical training to assist the passenger who had been seated near the window. Marcus said several people responded.

“They took someone out on a stretcher. That person was very bloody,” Marcus said.

Several people said they thought they had blown-out eardrums from the sound of the explosion, Marcus said.

“The crew was amazing,” he said. “I’m just happy that I’m OK, and that most of us are going to be able to go back to their families.”

Passengers took to social media to praise the quick thinking and resolve of the flight crew, calling the pilot a hero. 

Southwest declined to name the pilot, but passengers said she identified herself as “Tammie Jo.” They said she was a calming voice during the crisis and greeted passengers as they got off the plane.

Other media identified her as Tammie Jo Shults.

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon that seven people on board suffered minor injuries, but none of them were taken to the hospital.

“It’s our understanding that the passengers on board the aircraft, in addition to the flight crew and the cabin crew, did some pretty amazing things under very difficult circumstances,” Thiel said.

When firefighters reached the airplane, one of the engines was on fire, Thiel said, and the airplane was still leaking fuel when the fire was extinguished.

It was not the first time that Southwest has experienced an engine failure at cruising altitude. A 2016 flight from New Orleans to Orlando, Florida, had an engine failure at cruising altitude that caused a gash in the fuselage of the 16-year-old aircraft. 

Passengers on that plane said they “heard a loud boom and smoke trailing from the left engine, and saw metal flapping after the smoke cleared.”

Sumwalt said it was too soon to draw conclusions about whether the 737 in Tuesday’s incident suffered the same problem, an “uncontained engine failure,” where engine components come apart from protective features designed to keep them from flying loose.

“We do know that parts came off the engine but those parts may not have been in that section of the engine associated with protection of the engine,” Sumwalt said.

He said NTSB investigators would determine whether the engine failure would be classified as “uncontained.”

“Even though we believe there were parts coming out of this engine,” he said, ” . . . at this point the NTSB, we’re classifying this as an engine failure.”

Sumwalt said the safety body examines three or four midair engine failures per year, not all of which involve U.S. carriers. The panel’s investigators will examine the plane’s propulsion system and airworthiness, and a special team will provide assistance to affected passengers and their family members, he said.

The last incident involving a U.S. airline that resulted in passenger deaths occurred in 2009, when a Colgan Air flight en route from Newark to Buffalo crashed, killing all 49 on board and one person on the ground. The airplane had departed from Newark Liberty International Airport.

The most recent aviation incident on U.S. soil to result in a passenger death took place in 2013, when a Asiana Airlines flying from Seoul crashed on its final approach to San Francisco, ultimately killing three passengers.

Southwest is notable among airlines because the only airplanes it flies are various models of the Boeing 737. The airline started out as Air Southwest in 1967, adopting its current name four years later.

While the airline has established a track record of safety, there have been several incidents.

Almost five years ago, a Southwest flight from Nashville, Tennessee, crash-landed at LaGuardia Airport, scraping down the runway in a shower of sparks before ending up just off the runway.

In 2011, a plane bound for Sacramento, California, diverted to Yuma International Airport in Arizona after a portion of the airplane’s skin peeled back, causing a gaping hole in the cabin area.

That 2011 incident came two years after a flight headed from Nashville to Baltimore-Washington International Airport had to land in Charleston, West Virginia, after a hole opened near its tail.

A 6-year-old boy who was sitting in a car died in 2005 when a Southwest plane landing in the snow at Chicago’s Midway International Airport skidded off the runway and into a street.

Five years before that, a passenger named Jonathan Burton broke down the cockpit door on a flight from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City. Other passengers restrained Burton, who died later from the resulting injuries.

That same year, 2000, a plane landing at the Hollywood Burbank Airport overran the runway, injuring 43 on board. The captain of the flight later was fired.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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Minamitorishima Island

How the mud near this small Japanese island could change the global economy

It’s mud. A whole bunch of mud — an estimated 16 million tons, to be exact. And in that mud, there are massive, “semi-infinite” stores of valuable rare earth minerals.

Rare earth minerals contain rare earth elements (located here on the periodic table) that are used in high-tech devices like smartphones, missile systems, radar devices and hybrid vehicles. For instance, yttrium, one of the metals included in this recent discovery, can be used to make camera lenses, superconductors and cell phone screens.

The 16 million tons of materials could contain 780 years worth of yttrium, 620 years worth of europium, 420 years worth of terbium, and 730 years worth of dysprosium. In other words, according to the paper, it “has the potential to supply these materials on a semi-infinite basis to the world.”

That alone is a pretty big deal, but it becomes even more significant given the current supply and demand of rare earth metals.

According to the US Geological Survey, while the minerals are relatively abundant, they have “much less tendency to become concentrated in exploitable ore deposits,” making a find of this scale even more important.

“Most of the world’s supply of (rare earth elements) comes from only a handful of sources,” a USGS report said, adding the long-term shortage or unavailability of the substances “would force significant changes in many technological aspects of American society.”

Yttrium, a rare earth element, is used in the production of LEDs and superconductors.
China currently holds a tight grip on the rare earth minerals — controlling about 95% of global rare earths production as of 2015. Because of this, Japan and other countries rely on China to set prices and availability.

However, Japan has complete economic control over the new supply, and the study said all indications are the new resource “could be exploited in the near future.”

Even though Minamitori Island is more than a thousand miles away from the Japanese capital, it is still technically a part of Tokyo, in the village of Ogasawara, and falls within Japan’s economic borders.

While the discovery is exciting, experts point out there’s a long way to go before the staggering store of resources can actually be extracted and used. Tom Crafford, the Mineral Resources Program Coordinator at the USGS, tells CNN the mineral-rich mud will be difficult to reach. “The water gaps here are on the order of five or six kilometers, in the range of 16,000 to 20,000 feet,” he says. “That’s pretty severe. You’d really require some very sophisticated technology to operate at these kinds of depths.”

This, however, could eventually be a huge opportunity as companies and countries expand their sea floor mining technology.

“There is a lot of international interest in sea floor mining, but there has not been any commercialization of it yet and one day it could very well turn out to be a source of some of these critical minerals. But how far in the future is anyone’s guess.”

Crafford says the environmental consequences of such a project will also be a critical consideration as the world learns more about this 16-million-ton treasure trove.

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Trump's intelligence chief had secret meeting with North Korean leader: U.S. official

Trump’s intelligence chief had secret meeting with North Korean leader: U.S. official

WASHINGTON/PALM BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State nominee and CIA Director Mike Pompeo made a secret visit to North Korea over the Easter weekend and met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday.

Pompeo’s conversations fueled President Donald Trump’s belief that productive negotiations were possible with North Korea, but far from guaranteed, according to the official briefed on the trip, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Trump said earlier on Tuesday the United States was engaged in direct talks at “extremely high levels” with North Korea to try to set up a summit between him and its leader, Kim Jong Un.

Trump sowed some confusion by suggesting he had been speaking to Kim directly, but later clarified by saying: “Let’s leave it a little bit short of the highest level.”

Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders added: “The president said the administration has had talks at the highest levels and added that they were not with him directly.”

Asked about Pompeo, she said: “The administration does not comment on the CIA director’s travel.”

Pompeo’s trip made him the most senior U.S. official to visit North Korea since then-intelligence chief James Clapper in 2014.

The president’s comments came as he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe opened two days of talks at the president’s Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida.

Reflecting the closeness of their ties, the meetings included a walk around the carefully manicured grounds of the beachfront club and dinner on the patio with their wives. A round of golf was planned for Wednesday.

Trump said he believed there was a lot of goodwill in the diplomatic push with North Korea, but added it was possible the summit – first proposed in March and which the president said could take place in late May or early June – may not happen.

Efforts to arrange an unprecedented meeting between the U.S. and North Korean leaders have helped ease tensions over Pyongyang’s development of nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States. Kim has agreed to discuss denuclearization, according to U.S. and South Korean officials.

“We have had direct talks at very high levels – extremely high levels – with North Korea. I really believe there’s a lot of goodwill; a lot of good things are happening.” Trump told reporters.

“As I always say, we’ll see what happens, because ultimately it’s the end result that matters, not the fact that we’re thinking about having a meeting or having a meeting.”


Contacts between the two side in recent weeks have involved U.S. intelligence and State Department officials, a U.S. official told Reuters this month.

Trump, who has exchanged bellicose threats with Kim in the past year, said U.S. officials were looking at five locations for a meeting with Kim. Asked if any of those were in the United States, Trump replied: “No.”

A U.S. official said sites in Southeast Asia and Europe were among those under discussion. Kim has rarely left North Korea.

Speculation has centered on a range of sites including Pyongyang, the demilitarized zone between the Koreas, Stockholm, Geneva and Mongolia.

Talks between Trump and Abe are largely focused on the prospective summit with Kim as Japan seeks a U.S. commitment that any denuclearization deal the president seals with Kim will include not just long-range missiles but those that could be aimed at Japan.

“For the North Korean issue, I’d like to underscore the importance of achieving the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization, as well as the abandonment of missile programs of North Korea,” Abe told Trump.

FILE PHOTO: A combination photo shows CIA Director Mike Pompeo (L) in Washington, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) in Pyongyang, North Korea and U.S. President Donald Trump (R), in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., respectively from Reuters files. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (L) & KCNA handout via Reuters & Kevin Lamarque (R)

Abe also obtained an agreement from Trump to bring up the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea, a highly emotive issue for the Japanese.


Trump stressed that the two sides in this week’s talks were unified.

“Japan and ourselves are locked, and we are very unified on the subject of North Korea,” he said.

Trump said it was possible that diplomatic efforts to arrange a Kim summit would fall short and if it does not happen, the United States and its allies would maintain pressure on Pyongyang through sanctions.

“It’s possible things won’t go well and we won’t have the meetings and we’ll just continue to go on this very strong path we have taken,” he said.

Trump also backed efforts between South Korea and the North aimed at ending a state of war that has existed between the two countries since 1953.

“They do have my blessing to discuss the end of the war. People don’t realize the Korean War has not ended. It’s going on right now. And they are discussing an end to the war. Subject to a deal, they have my blessing and they do have my blessing to discuss that,” he said.


Trump and Abe could use a successful summit to give themselves a political boost at home. Trump has been hounded by controversies linked to an investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, and Abe is struggling with declining popularity because of scandals over suspected cronyism.

Trump has forged close ties with Abe during his 15 months in power and the two have bonded over rounds of golf during Abe’s last visit to Florida more than a year ago and Trump’s visit to Tokyo last November.

Slideshow (9 Images)

Japan fears Trump will try to link vital security matters with touchy trade topics. Tokyo is eager to avoid being pushed into talks on a two-way free trade agreement aimed not only at market access but at currency policies, something South Korea recently accepted when it renegotiated a trade deal with the United States.

Another irritant on trade is that Japan has not been given an exemption to tariffs on steel and aluminum exports to the United States, unlike the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

Reporting by Steve Holland in West Palm Beach, Fla. and John Walcott in Washington; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington and Linda Sieg, Kaori Kaneko and Stanley White in Tokyo; Editing by James Dalgleish and Peter Cooney

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Knowing EPF balance is easy, here is what you have to do

Knowing EPF balance is easy, here is what you have to do

Saving money for future is an age-old practice and not having enough savings is the eternal regret. The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) tries to strike a balance for middle and lower-middle class salaried people. Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) is an integral component of employees’ savings in both the government and private sector.

Information about the balance in an employee’s EPF account helps him/her plan for sudden major expenses by a withdrawal from it or availing a loan against the amount deposited there. With annual increment, it also helps an employee to plan for retirement.

With new procedure in place, checking one’s EPF balance has become very easy and hassle-free. An employee can check his/her EPF balance any time and from any place. There is no need to go to the EPFO office and stand in queue for balance enquiry.

EPF balance can be checked in four ways – on the EPFO portal, using the EPFO app, by sending an SMS or by giving a missed call.

To check EPF balance on the EPFO portal, one needs to visit but before that the employee must have his/her Universal Account Number or UAN activated. A UAN is unique to every employee. It is provided by the EPFO but activated by the employer. The UAN does not change even if the employee switches job.

If the UAN is activated, employee is required to follow the following steps:

Step 1: Visit to the EPFO portal. Click on ‘Our Services’ tab and choose “For Employees” option from the dropdown list.

Step 2: On the “For Employees” page, you need to click on the option “Member Passbook” under the “Services” option.

Step 3: Click on the “Member Passbook” button will lead to a new window. This is the log-in page. Here you need to enter his/her UAN and password.

Step 4: After logging-in, you can view your EPF account details.

Using EPFO app

The EPFO also has an app, which can be used to log in and get details of EPF balance. The app – m-sewa app of EPFO – can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. But the EPFO member needs to make sure that the UAN is activated by the employer.

Step 1: If you have downloaded the EPFO app, you need to click on “Member” and proceed to “Balance/passbook” option.

Step 2: Enter your UAN and registered mobile number. The app will first verify the mobile number for your UAN. If you log in from other mobile number than the registered one, it will show an “error”. For the correct match, the app displays updated EPF balance details.

Sending an SMS to know EPF balance:

An activated UAN and its integration with bank account, Aadhaar or PAN (Permanent Account Number) are required to know your EPF account balance. KYC details must be complete to know EPF balance by sending an SMS from your registered mobile number.

Step 1: Type a message like this: EPFOHO UAN ENG if you want information in English. For other languages type the first three letters from the spelling of the word, e.g. HIN for Hindi, TAM for Tamil, MAL for Malayalam and the like.

Step 2: Send the SMS to from your mobile phone to EPFO number 7738-299-899.

Giving a missed call

You can know your EPF balance by giving a missed call. But here again, you need to have your UAN integrated with your KYC details from bank account, Aadhaar or PAN.

Step 1: Dial 011-22901406 from your registered mobile number and disconnect the phone after a couple of rings.

Step 2: Your missed call will be followed by an SMS on your registered mobile number. The SMS will have the EPF account details including the balance.

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Trump says 5 locations are being considered for Kim Jong Un meeting

Trump says 5 locations are being considered for Kim Jong Un meeting

Speaking amid talks with his skeptical Japanese counterpart, Trump said that “very high levels” of discussion between Washington and Pyongyang are already underway.

“We have had direct talks,” Trump said alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “I really believe there’s a lot of goodwill. We’ll see what happens, as I always say. Because ultimately it’s the end result that counts.”

It was a dramatic opening to a two-day summit with Abe where North Korea will dominate the agenda. Both men hope the summit can smooth over differences on that issue as well as trade.

CNN has previously reported that secret talks between North Korean and US officials are underway through intelligence channels. But Trump’s confirmation of those discussions is the clearest indication yet that preparations are proceeding for what would be a historic and audacious diplomatic opening.

Asked whether any of the possible locations for the meeting with Kim are in the United States, Trump shook his head no — and offered no additional details.

However, US officials have floated several possible venues over the past month, including: the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar; the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea; a neutral European capital like Stockholm or Geneva; a location at sea like Jeju island or a ship; Southeast Asia, including possibly Singapore or Malaysia; the South Korean capital Seoul; or the North Korean capital Pyongyang, a seemingly unlikely choice that no US official has yet ruled out.

During his remarks, Trump also said that he’d given his “blessing” to North and South Korea ahead of anticipated talks over concluding the Korean War, which technically never ended even after hostilities ceased more than six decades ago.

“People don’t realize the Korean War has not ended. It’s going on right now,” Trump said.

Trump’s comments on North Korea occurred inside his ornate, gold-leafed ballroom at Mar-a-Lago. It’s the second time Trump has welcomed Abe to his Florida club, and the two men plan to “sneak out,” as Trump put it to reporters, for a round of golf Wednesday.

In February last year, the two men conferred on the dining patio after Kim had ordered the test launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile. Fourteen months later, Trump is preparing for talks with Kim, leaving Abe sidelined.

Japanese officials have signaled Abe will raise his concerns about direct talks during his two-day summit with Trump. White House aides say Trump will take those concerns into serious consideration as he prepares for the historic talks with Kim.

Abe faces awkward Trump summit on North Korea amid plummeting support in Japan

But there is little to suggest Trump will be deterred from holding the meeting with North Korea’s leader, which is expected by late May or early June.

“I’d like to commend Donald’s courage,” Abe said on Tuesday, referring to Trump’s decision to meet with Kim.

Trump and Abe’s Tuesday afternoon meeting was set to be focused intently on North Korea before a formal welcoming ceremony on the Mar-a-Lago lawn. Later, the two men and their wives will dine together. The talks will continue Wednesday, expanding to include trade issues, before a news conference and another joint dinner.

It amounts to hours of face time for Abe, who is the foreign leader Trump has met and spoken with the most since entering office last year. The Japanese leader has focused on fostering the relationship, including orchestrating multiple rounds of golf and ordering up white ball caps emblazoned with the words: “Donald & Shinzo: Make Alliance Even Greater.”

Comey who? Buoyant Trump kicks off week in Florida

But even those efforts haven’t prevented new levels of tension from arising. Like much of the world, Japan was caught off-guard by Trump’s on-the-spot acceptance of an invitation for talks with Kim. As other Asian leaders like China’s Xi Jinping and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in meet with Kim, Abe has been left out.

He’s expected to press the importance of ensuring Japanese safety in his talks with Trump, particularly stressing the need to end test launches of intermediate range missiles, some of which have landed in the waters off Japan.

“They’ve conferred extremely closely,” said Matt Pottinger, the top Asia official on Trump’s National Security Council, during a Tuesday briefing. “Prime Minister Abe and the President are going to want to exchange views in advance of a summit with the North Korean leader so that we make sure Japanese and American interests are both fully accounted for.”

Aside from differences over North Korea, Trump has taken harsh new measures on trade that are expected to come up during the two leaders’ meetings. Japan was the only major US ally not to be exempted from Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. US officials said they expected Abe to lobby for an exemption during talks on Wednesday.

CNN’s Sophie Tatum and Elizabeth Landers contributed to this report.

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Another Threat For Parmish Verma From Gangster Dilpreet Singh Dhahan: “Next Time 500 Bullets”

'Next Time 500 Bullets': Another Threat For Singer Parmish Verma From Gangster

In a Facebook post, Dilpreet Singh Dhahan said he would use “500 bullets” to kill Parmish Verma

Mohali:  Five days after he allegedly shot Punjabi singer Parmish Verma in the leg and boasted about it on Facebook, local gangster Dilpreet Singh Dhahan’s threats have only grown larger. In another Facebook post, the gangster threatened to kill Parmish Verma, whenever he wants to, with 500 rounds. “This was just a trailer of 50 rounds. When I want to kill, will kill with 500 rounds,” Dilpreet Singh Dhahan wrote on his Facebook page. The gangster, recalling last Friday’s shooting, said Parmish Verma was “lucky to be alive”, and posted the names of three members of his gang, who he claimed were involved in that incident.

It is still not clear why the gangster is targeting the singer, but Dilpreet Singh Dahan says it will be Parmish Verma who will give the “real reason” why he was shot.

Dilpreet Singh Dhahan also said the people who were commenting on his previous post, in which he boasted about the shooting, were adding a religious angle to it. He said that many people were saying “inappropriate things”. He said that he did not “have any enmity with any religion”.

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Dilpreet Singh Dhahan also posted this photo of him and his associates posing with several weapons

With the Haryana Police making their first arrest in the case – from Himachal Pradesh’s Solan district – Gangster Dhahan has a request for them. “Do not trouble any innocent,” he writes.

In his Facebook post, Dilpreet Singh Dhahan also added a collage of photos of him, along with others, posing with several weapons. The post has received around 10,000 likes and over 1,000 shares.

The gangster’s earlier post on the shooting seems to have been deleted from his Facebook page.

Haryana police had then said that they would investigate the case taking into account Dhahan’s claim.

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Dilpreet Singh Dhahan earlier said Punjabi singer Parmish Verma was “lucky to be alive”

On Friday night, Parmish Verma was shot in his leg by unidentified men, when he was returning home in Punjab’s Mohali, from an event at a mall in Chandigarh. Parmish Verma’s friend was shot as well. He was taken to Fortis Hospital in Mohali, where Parmish Verma and his friend were said to be out of danger.

Parmish Verma, in an emotional Facebook post, had said that he did not have any enmity with anyone.

“None of the sons in Punjab should see their mother cry, the way I have seen my mother cry,” he said in the post, thanking his fans for their wishes.

(With Inputs From Agencies)

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Starbucks to close 8,000 U.S. stores for one afternoon for racial-bias training

Starbucks to close 8,000 U.S. stores for one afternoon for racial-bias training

(Reuters) – Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O) will close 8,000 company-owned U.S. cafes for the afternoon on May 29 so 175,000 employees can undergo racial tolerance training in response to protests and calls for boycotts after the arrest of two black men waiting in a Philadelphia store.

The company said in the Tuesday announcement that it will also provide training materials for non-company workers at the roughly 6,000 licensed Starbucks cafes that will remain open in locations such as grocery stores and airports.

The announcement from world’s biggest coffee company comes as it tries to cool tensions after the Philadelphia incident last week sparked accusations of racial profiling at the chain, which is the subject of a boycott campaign on social media.

The controversy is the biggest public relations test yet for new Starbucks Chief Executive Kevin Johnson, who already was fighting to boost traffic to Starbucks amid competition from coffee sellers ranging from hipster cafes to fast-food chains and convenience stores.

“While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution,” said Johnson, a former technology executive who took the helm about a year ago.

Even if the threatened boycott does not materialize, the 8,000 temporary store closures will almost certainly have an impact on sales. Starbucks did not say how many hours the stores would be shuttered on May 29, but the afternoon is the slowest time for Starbucks’ business.

Starbucks is one of the most high-profile and beloved brands in the world and its long-time CEO Howard Schultz was not one to shy away from difficult conversations over thorny issues such as gay marriage, gun control and Congressional gridlock.

However U.S. race relations have proven more challenging, even for a company that touts its diverse workforce — minorities account for 18 percent of Starbucks executives with the title of senior vice president or higher and 43 percent of employees overall.

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For example, the company’s 2015 “Race Together” campaign to foster a conversation on the topic following the high-profile police shootings of several unarmed black men stirred an intense social media backlash.

Johnson has apologized for the “reprehensible” arrests of the two men in Philadelphia on Thursday and took personal responsibility for the incident, which was captured in a customer video that was shared widely.

Starbucks attorneys said Johnson and the men, who were released without charges, have “engaged in constructive discussions about this issue as well as what is happening in communities across the country.”

The manager, whose call to Philadelphia police led to the men’s arrests, is no longer working for Starbucks.

Philadelphia’s police commissioner defended the arrests, saying his officers had to act after Starbucks employees told them the pair were trespassing.

“It’s good that Starbucks is giving all staff race trainings on May 29. But let’s not lose sight of the real problem which is police accountability,” Tiffany Dena Loftin, director of the youth and college division at NAACP, told Reuters

Shares in Starbucks closed up 0.7 percent at $59.83 on Tuesday and are relatively unchanged in the week since the arrests.

Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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