Jubilance in Times Square as New York marks the new year By Laila Kearney 2 hours agoA couple kisses while ringing in the new year at Times Square, early Friday, Jan. 1, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) By Laila Kearney NEW YORK (Reuters) – More than a million people in New York’s Times Square hailed the arrival of 2016 early Friday with kisses, cheers and a measure of relief as America’s biggest New Year’s Eve celebration unfolded without a hitch under a blanket of unprecedented security.The transition to the new year was marked by the descent of the traditional lighted crystal ball from atop a skyscraper amid fireworks and a blizzard of confetti at the center of the famed Manhattan crossroads, the climax of an annual rite of winter dating back to 1904.With memories of the deadly attacks in Paris and California still fresh, police took extraordinary measures to ensure security at a gathering that has come to define the New York experience for many visitors to the largest U.S. city.But the event, broadcast live on national television, went off without a hint of trouble, as a festive mood prevailed despite – or perhaps because of – the heavy police presence.”This is the center of the world on New Year’s Eve,” said Rick Milley, 60, who traveled from Boston with his wife, Debbie, 59, to ring in the new year in Times Square.”This was on our bucket list,” Debbie Milley said as the couple took pictures of themselves using a selfie stick.Slideshow: 2015 New Year’s Eve celebrations around the world >>>I have been on for almost 16 hrs now and am going to head to sleep. Please email me if you need any further information and I will get back to you in the AM. ET.The pair have spent the holiday in New York before but never before in Times Square, a year-round tourist draw, filled with chain stores, family restaurants and flashy advertising displays.About 6,000 uniformed and undercover police officers, 500 more than last year, patrolled the area, with the force bolstered by mounted patrols, bomb-sniffing dogs, radiation detectors and hundreds of surveillance cameras.As of 1 a.m. (0600 GMT), there were no reports of trouble at the event or any arrests, according to a New York City Police Department spokesman, Sergeant Brendan Ryan.For the first time on a New Year’s Eve, the city deployed its new Critical Response Command, which includes more heavily armed officers. The unit is trained to detect and respond to attacks, such those in Paris that killed 130 people on Nov. 13, or the rampage in San Bernardino, California, in which 14 were slain.A member of the New York Police Department looks on during New Year celebrations in Times Square in the Manhattan …About 700,000 people are expected to turn out for the 127th Rose Parade.PENNED IN FOR THE PARTY The famous New Year’s Eve ball, which is 12 feet (3.6 meters) in diameter and weighs nearly 6 tons, descended on a pole mounted on top of One Times Square, a narrow wedge of a building along 42nd Street at the southern end of the square.Mayor Bill de Blasio pushed the button that began the descent, leading to the 60-second countdown to midnight, when a giant illuminated „2016” sign flashedon, signaling the beginning of the new year.Crowds began assembling in Times Square hours before the official start of the festivities at 6 p.m. Thursday (2300 GMT). The revelers were organized into neat pens formed by police barricades that stretched for many blocks up Seventh Avenue and Broadway north of One Times Square.From a vantage point about 20 floors above, the revelers appeared to be tucked into block-long honeycombs encircled by uniformed officers and support workers dressed in bright red coveralls.This image provided by EarthCam shows a New Year’s Eve scene in Times Square on Broadway on Thursday, Dec. 31, …”I always wanted to come here, but never took the chance,” said James Gomez, 39, of New Haven, Connecticut, as he surveyed the area with friends looking for a prime viewing spot.Gomez came to Times Square even though he said he was concerned about the area being targeted in an attack. „I’m scared,” he said.In the hours before midnight, musical artists such as Carrie Underwood and Jessie J performed on stages set up in the area.More than 100 million Americans and 1 billion people worldwide were expected to watch the festivities on television.In Rochester, New York, a 25-year-old man accused of planning to attack a restaurant on New Year’s Eve was arrested on Wednesday and charged with attempting to provide support to Islamic State, the U.S. Justice Department said.Afterwards, Rochester, about 330 miles (530 km) northwest of New York City, canceled its New Year’s Eve fireworks display.Before entering Times Square, visitors were required to pass through tight security checkpoints, with police stopping anyone from carrying backpacks and large bags while searching smaller bags and scanning people with metal detectors.The tradition of gathering in Times Square to celebrate the new year began in 1904, according to the Times Square Alliance, the area’s business-development association.That was the year that the New York Times opened a new headquarters building at One Times Square and the city officially renamed the square after the newspaper.(Additional reporting by Steve Gorman from Los Angeles and Frank McGurty in New York; Writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Robert Birsel)
Why Hillary Clinton’s online persona doesn’t connect with minoritiesAlyssa Bereznak National Correspondent, Technology December 31, 2015(Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)On October 13, Saturday Night Live kicked off its show with a parody of the most recent Democratic debate. It was back when the stage had more candidates; Vice President Joe Biden had yet to decide whether he’d run for president and Bernie Sanders was having a moment. After the Vermont senator (played by Larry David) rattled off a few nonsensical promises, a worried Hillary Clinton (depicted by Kate McKinnon) interrupted:“I’m not losing, am I?” she asked the audience with a furrowed brow. “I mean in 2008 of course I lost, I was running against a cool black guy. But this year I thought I got to be the cool black guy!”Though the mere suggestion that a 68-year-old woman who regularly wears pantsuits and watches The Good Wife could somehow be this election’s “cool black guy” earned laughs from the crowd, it also hinted at what has lately been an identity struggle for Clinton’s campaign. The former secretary of state has built an undeniably savvy social media team that has mastered the art of shade, successfully co-opted the feminist declaration “yas queen,” and scheduled well-timed selfies with Kim Kardashian. But at the same time, her campaign has made tellingly awkward attempts at reaching and relating to young minority voters.In early December, for instance, Clinton updated her social media accounts’ profile photos with a redesigned version of her campaign’s ubiquitous H logo, featuring an illustration of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks. Though meant to commemorate the anniversary of Park’s civil disobedience, it drew criticism because Parks appeared to be sitting at the back of the bus. Then there was the infamous listicle, “7 Things Hillary Clinton Has in Common With Your Abuela,” (Spanish for grandmother) that appeared on Clinton’s website shortly after the her daughter, Chelsea, tweeted she was pregnant with a second child. It caused intense backlash in the Latino community on Twitter, where the hashtag #NotMyAbuela began trending worldwide, and people shared stories of their immigrant grandmothers’ hardships (far from the life experience of Clinton). Just two days later, her Twitter avatar was changed to yet another paint-by-numbers H logo, this time as a Kwanzaa candleholder. Black Twitter promptly clapped back with a #NewHillaryLogo campaign, that included memes depicting other blatantly pandering redesigns of the image. Her Twitter avatar was quickly replaced.A parody of Drake’s 2013 album, “Nothing Was the Same.” (Screen shot: via @awwwchris)This unfortunate series of events have led some observers to call out Clinton for her endless thirst for attention or to charge that Clinton is sidestepping actual issues with cheap attempts at relating to minorities. But the Clinton team’s real problem in online outreach is one of tone. Slate’s Amanda Hess rightly characterizes the candidate’s online presence as less a reflection of Clinton than a series of accounts “written in the voice of a Hillary Clinton enthusiast eager to build an online fandom in her idol’s image.” This approach successfully walks the line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation, at least with respect to certain Internet-savvy and feminist subcultures. And even when the campaign got too enthusiastic with emoji, it was far from offensive.
On Wednesday, the Journal, citing U.S. officials, said the Obama administration was preparing to sanction nearly a dozen companies and individuals in Iran, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates for their role in developing Iran’s ballistic-missile program.The U.S. sanctions were expected to be formally announced this week, the newspaper said.Sources familiar with the situation confirmed to Reuters that the United States was preparing sanctions.The Obama administration is committed to combating Iran’s missile program and the sanctions being developed by the U.S. Treasury Department remain on the table, the Journal reported on Thursday, citing U.S. officials.But U.S. officials offered no definitive timeline for when the sanctions would be imposed, the newspaper said. At one point, they were scheduled to be announced on Wednesday morning in Washington, according to a notification the White House sent to Congress, the Journal reported.Imposing such penalties would be legal under the landmark nuclear agreement forged between global powers and Iran in July, the officials said, according to the Journal.Iranian officials have said the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would view such penalties as violating the nuclear accord.U.S. officials have said the Treasury Department retains a right under the nuclear deal to blacklist Iranian entities suspected of involvement in missile development.Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered his defense minister on Thursday to expand Iran’s missile program, in defiance of the U.S. threat to impose sanctions over a missile test Iran carried out in October.(Writing by Eric Beech; Editing by Bill Rigby and Leslie Adler
EU-Ukraine trade deal comes into force, angers MoscowBy Laetitia Peron, Oleksandr Savochenko 4 hours ago Kiev (AFP) – Ukraine’s free-trade deal with the EU comes into effect Friday, coinciding with the start of Moscow’s food embargo against Kiev that will force the impoverished former Soviet republic to revisit its economic model.Related Stories
The free-trade accord is part of the broader EU Association Agreement — signed at the end of June 2014 — and stands at the heart of the drastic deterioration of Ukraine’s relations with Russia, furious at seeing its Soviet-era satellite turn to the West.Ukraine, whose market has been traditionally oriented toward Russia, will now have to turn itself toward the European market and abide by its rules.”The agreement will contribute to the modernisation and diversification of the Ukrainian economy and will create additional incentives for reform,” the European Commission said in a statement on Thursday.Brussels also said the deal would help Ukraine improve its business climate and attract foreign investment, a view shared by Yegor Perelygin, an analyst at UniCredit bank.The road to Ukraine’s adoption of the deal has been peppered with obstacles.Ukraine’s free-trade deal with the EU is coming into effect, coinciding with the start of Moscow …In November 2013, Ukraine’s then pro-Kremlin president Viktor Yanukovych rejected the association agreement, triggering pro-European protests that led to his downfall and eventually to the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has left more than 9,000 people dead.- Retaliatory measures -Fearing the deal could see its market flooded with European goods, Russia has taken retaliatory measures, suspending its free-trade agreement with Ukraine and banning the import of Ukrainian food starting on Friday.Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk has put the cost of Moscow’s measures to his country at some $600 million.President Petro Poroshenko admitted earlier this month that Russia’s retaliatory move would cause „damage” to Ukraine’s economy but said he was „ready to pay the price” and press on with efforts to join a European Union free-trade zone.Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyk has put the cost of Moscow’s suspension of its free-trade agreem …He blasted the embargo in his New Year address, saying Moscow was trying to „economically strangle” Ukraine.”Moscow closing its market to Ukrainian merchandise, a powerful economic attack, is another part of the war (…) against us,” Poroshenko said.Kiev has vowed to strike back with its own measures and is expected to announce a list of banned Russian products in the near future.- ‘Very competitive’ Ukraine -Ukraine mostly exported agricultural products, vegetables, fruit, dairy and sweets to Russia, with the countries’ trade ties shrinking by 70 percent compared to 2011, according to Russia’s deputy minister of economic development Alexei Likhachev.”This (the Russian embargo) will of course be a problem for Ukrainian food producers, but let’s not forget that many of them have already entirely or partially reoriented their production toward alternative markets: the EU, Africa, Kazakhstan, China, the Middle East,” said UniCredit analyst Perelygin.The impact of European products flooding onto the Ukrainian market remains unclear according to investment specialist Olexandra Brovko, with other analysts saying the effects of the deal will only be tangible in the long term given the current economic slowdown in Europe.”It’s difficult to predict how competition will be established and what consequences this will have on Ukrainian producers,” said Brovko, who works for a Ukrainian NGO that aims to facilitate business and investment in the country.Brovko added that the arrival of European products on Ukraine’s would not necessarily dampen demand for Ukrainian goods.”It’s possible that certain European products will find buyers and find a niche on the market where there are no competitors,” she said.According to economist Olexandr Valchyshen of Investment Capital Ukraine, the free-trade agreement with the EU will boost investment in the country given the „very competitive” cost of Ukrainian labour.
BERLIN (Reuters) – German police took the decision to shut down two main train stations in Munich after receiving “very concrete information” from the intelligence service of a friendly country that the Islamic State militant group had planned to carry out attacks in the southern city on New Year’s Eve, Bavaria Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told a news conference on Friday.Munich police chief Hubertus Andrae said the militant group had planned to use suicide bombers in the attack.(Reporting by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Neil Fullick)
Rouhani expands Iran’s missile program despite U.S. sanctions threat15 hours ago An Iranian Emad rocket is launched as it is tested at an undisclosed location October 11, 2015. REUTERS/farsnews.com/Handout …DUBAI (Reuters) – President Hassan Rouhani ordered his defense minister on Thursday to expand Iran’s missile program, in defiance of a U.S. threat to impose sanctions over a ballistic missile test Iran carried out in October.Related Stories
Under a landmark agreement it clinched with world powers in July, Iran is scaling back a nuclear program that the West feared was aimed at acquiring atomic weapons, in return for an easing of international sanctions. It hopes to see these lifted early in the new year.But sources familiar with the situation said on Wednesday that Washington is preparing new sanctions against international companies and individuals over Iran’s testing of a medium-range Emad rocket on Oct. 10.The escalating dispute centers on the types of missile that the Islamic Republic is allowed to develop and whether they are capable of, or designed to, carry nuclear warheads.”As the U.S. government is clearly still pursuing its hostile policies and illegal meddling … the armed forces need to quickly and significantly increase their missile capability,” Rouhani wrote in a letter to Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan, published by the state news agency, IRNA.”The defense ministry, with the support of the armed forces, is tasked with putting in place new programs by all available means to increase the country’s missile capability,” he added.U.S. officials have said the Treasury Department retains a right under the nuclear deal to blacklist Iranian entities suspected of involvement in missile development.Iranian officials have said the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would view such penalties as violating the nuclear accord. Earlier on Thursday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari condemned the U.S. plans to impose additional sanctions as „arbitrary and illegal”.A team of U.N. sanctions monitors said in a confidential report seen by Reuters on Dec. 15 that the Emad rocket tested by Iran was a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead, making it a violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution.Ballistic missiles follow a high, arching trajectory before falling under gravity to their target, unlike low-flying cruise missiles. Ballistic tests by Iran are banned under Security Council resolution 1929, which dates from 2010 and remains valid until the July nuclear deal between Iran and world powers goes into effect.Once it does, Iran will still be „called upon” not to undertake any ballistic missiles work designed to deliver nuclear weapons for a period of up to eight years, according to a Security Council resolution adopted in July, right after the nuclear deal.Iran says the resolution would ban only missiles „designed” to carry a nuclear warhead, not „capable of” carrying one, so it would not affect its military program as Tehran does not pursues nuclear weapons. Iran has called Emad a conventional missile.In his letter to Dehghan, Rouhani said Iran’s missile program had nothing to do with its nuclear program and that the missiles have „not been designed to carry nuclear warheads”.The Iranian missiles under development boast much improved accuracy over the current generation, which experts say is likely to improve their effectiveness with conventional warheads.(Reporting by Sam Wilkin and Dubai newsroom; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
China says extremism losing grip in restless Xinjiang1 hour ago A local woman on a crutch shouts at Chinese paramilitary police wearing riot gear as a crowd of angry …BEIJING (Reuters) – The religious atmosphere in China’s violence-prone far western region of Xinjiang became markedly less radical last year and the government was broadly successful in maintaining stability, the top official there was quoted as saying on Friday.Hundreds of people have been killed over the past few years in resource-rich Xinjiang, strategically located on the borders of central Asia, in violence between the Muslim Uighur people who call the region home and ethnic majority Han Chinese.The government has blamed the unrest on Islamist militants, though rights groups and exiles say anger at Chinese controls on the religion and culture of the Uighurs is more to blame for the unrest. China denies any repression in Xinjiang.In a New Year’s address carried in the Xinjiang Daily, the region’s Communist Party boss, Zhang Chunxian, said that in 2015 the government deepened its „de-radicalization” efforts.”The atmosphere for religious extremism has weakened markedly,” Zhang said, without elaborating.Uighurs have traditionally followed a moderate form of Islam but many have begun adopting practices more common in more conservative Muslim countries, such as full-face veils for women, while China has stepped up security in recent years.The government has responded by cracking down on what it sees as overt signs of religiosity, like veils or beards, and has periodically issued interviews with those captured after attacks who say they had been radicalized.Zhang said the authorities had also maintained „high pressure” on beating back militants in the past year.”Social management and stability maintenance abilities continued to improve, and society generally remained stable,” he said.The government announced in November that 16 people had been killed in an attack at a coal mine in September, and that security forces had subsequently killed 28 of „terrorists” involved.(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)