#Philippine troops battle Islamist militants in city

Philippine troops aboard helicopters and in armoured tanks battled Islamist militants inside a southern city on Thursday, as reports emerged of the gunmen murdering civilians.

An initial rampage by the gunmen, who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, through the mainly Muslim city of Marawi on Tuesday prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to impose martial law across the southern third of the Philippines.

Authorities said ending the crisis was proving extremely hard because the militants were holed up in residential buildings, had planted improvised bombs in the streets and had taken Catholic hostages.

“People are afraid. They do not want to open establishments. Offices are closed. We do not want people to be used as human shields,” Marawi mayor Majul Usman Gandamra said. 

Two military helicopters flew above Marawi and armoured tanks churned through its streets as automatic rifle firing could be heard on Thursday, according to an AFP photographer in the city.

Marawi has about 200,000 residents but many of them have fled because of the fighting.

Five soldiers and one policemen died in the clashes, while 13 gunmen were killed, according to the military.

Authorities have not reported any civilian casualties but the GMA television network showed images of nine people who had apparently been shot dead. The victims had their hands tied together.

They were captured at a roadside checkpoint and murdered by the militants after being identified as Christians, according to the GMA reporter, citing a witness.

Duterte said on Wednesday one policeman was similarly caught at a checkpoint set up by the militants and beheaded.

There are only between 50 and 100 gunmen, according to various military officials.

The militants are also holding between 12 and 15 Catholic hostages abducted from a church, according to the local bishop, Edwin Dela Pena.

The fighting erupted on Tuesday after security forces raided a house where they believed Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the infamous Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom gang and Philippine head of IS, was hiding.

The United States regards Hapilon as one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists, offering a bounty of $5 million for his capture.

However the raid went spectacularly wrong as dozens of gunmen emerged to repel the security forces, then went on a rampage across the city while flying black IS flags.

The militants raided two jails, leading to the escape of more than 100 inmates, according to Mujiv Hataman, the governor of a Muslim self-rule area that includes Marawi.

They also set fire to many buildings, including a church and a university.

Filipino soldiers bring Marawi children in safety.

Source – TheJakartaPost

Tom Cruise says Top Gun 2 in the works

SYDNEY – Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise revealed Wednesday he plans a sequel to the cult action film Top Gun, with filming set to begin next year.

Rumours have swirled for years that he would revisit the 1986 movie that made him a household name, and Cruise finally spoke out while in Australia to promote his latest flick “The Mummy”.

Asked by a Channel Seven breakfast TV host about whether a second instalment of the action drama was on the cards, he replied: “Yes, it’s true.”

“I’m going to start filming it probably in the next year.

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“It’s happening, it’s definitely happening.”

The original Top Gun, which also starred Val Kilmer, Kelly McGillis and Tim Robbins, received mixed reviews but was a huge commercial hit.

Directed by Tony Scott, Cruise played hotshot US Navy pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who has a dangerous and reckless flying style.

He struggles to balance life, responsibility and a love affair while competing at the Navy’s fighter-weapons school.

Source – TheNation

#Indonesia to promote golf tourism in South Korea.

A niche market that the Tourism Ministry is currently promoting is golf tourism.

After a successful promotional event showcasing Indonesian golf courses at the Jinghua Golf Club in Beijing on April 6, the ministry is going to hold the second stage of its Sales Mission Golf in East Asia on May 24 in Seoul, South Korea.

This mission will connect Indonesian operators in golf tourism with 50 to 80 buyers from South Korea.

According to I Gde Pitana, the ministry’s deputy for overseas promotion, the first event in Beijing featured three Indonesian tourist operators.

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“Golfers usually spend an average of $6,000 per visit, six times higher than the amount spent by regular foreign tourists,” explained Pitana.

“Golf is a popular sport among South Koreans, especially the elite. In South Korea, the sport isn’t dominated by men only. Women also love to golf,” added the ministry’s deputy assistant for Asia Pacific tourism promotion, Vinsensius Jemadu.

“Golf courses in Indonesia are unique. There are 114 international-standard golf courses located across Indonesia, each with its own unique challenges. They all offer stunning panoramic views,” Vinsensius said.

Source – TheJakartaPost

Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, the biggest star of all

Actors come and go, radio presenters live or die by their ratings and musicians top the charts only to be dropped, hostages to the vagaries of fickle public opinion.

But some stars are destined to be remembered forever, their successes immortalized in terrazzo and brass on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — a draw for visitors from across the world that has more staying power than any individual celebrity. 

Launched in 1958, the walk has built up more than 2,600 stars, each a tribute to the contribution of a public figure in the fields of motion picture, television, recording, radio or, latterly, live theater. 

“The criteria for getting a star are longevity in the field of entertainment — of five years or more — awards nominations, and very important to us is that they do philanthropic work,” said Ana Martinez, who arranges the ceremonies.

The ceremonies often coincide with the release of a movie as it is the celebrity who chooses the date, and a $40,000 fee is paid by the honoree’s entourage — $15,000 to cover the event and the rest for maintenance.

Read also: Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell get Hollywood stars

– Millions of tourists –

Nearly 50 years after its launch, the 2.5-mile (four-kilometer) stretch smack in the middle of Hollywood now attracts an estimated 10 million tourists a year, who come to soak up the glamour. 

“It’s very special to be here, to be here in person to see the stars of the singers I love and I listen to often, and of the actors that I grew up with,” Brazilian tourist Daniela Oliveira told AFP.

Not all the honorees are actors and musicians, of course — the late film critic Roger Ebert has one, as do hockey announcer Bob Miller, LA Lakers owner Jerry Buss and Winnie the Pooh. 

Other stars often go to groups — fictional or otherwise — such as the munchkins from “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Muppets” and “The Simpsons,” while Kermit the Frog, Mickey Mouse and Godzilla have their own. 

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– Selection controversy –

E.M. Stuart, erstwhile president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, is credited with coming up with the idea in 1953 for an attraction that would “maintain the glory of a community whose name means glamour.”

The walk’s initial costs came to $1.25 million and the first stars honored the likes of Olive Borden, Ronald Colman, Burt Lancaster and Joanne Woodward. 

The selection process for honorees sparked controversy, however, when it emerged that Charlie Chaplin had been turned down for a star and his son sued unsuccessfully for damages amounting to $400,000. 

Chaplin finally got his star in 1972, five years before his death.

The walk was designed to accommodate 2,518 stars, and by the 1990s most of the space had gone, prompting the dedication of a second row.

Now there are hundreds of blank stars — leaving hope for newcomers to the entertainment industry pining after the Hollywood dream. 

Read also: Real places that inspired scenes in Oscar-nominated films

Source – TheJakartaPost

#Indonesia – East Jakarta fire burns house, leaves owner homeless.

Another fire broke out in the capital on Friday as a house in Cakung, East Jakarta, was gutted by flames. A preliminary investigation suggested that the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit.

“There were no casualties, although the house owner lost all of his belongings,” said Gatot Sulaiman of the East Jakarta Fire Department on Friday, as quoted by beritajakarta.id.

He added that the fire started at about 2 p.m.

The fire department deployed two fire engines to extinguish the blaze. The fire was completely put out about 45 minutes later.

The incident was the second of the day as a fire had broken out in a four-story shop house in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, early Friday morning. The earlier fire was also allegedly caused by an electrical short circuit.

Sourse – TheJakartaPost

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#Indonesia – NGO urges Jokowi to issue moratorium on oil palm plantations.

Environmental group Sawit Watch is urging President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to fulfill his pledge to declare a moratorium on the issuance of new permits for oil palm plantations, arguing that a moratorium will provide the necessary momentum to reorganize Indonesia’s palm oil industry.

The group said no progress had been made to follow up on Jokowi’s moratorium pledged in April last year, when he also promised to halt the issuance of new permits for coal mining operations.

Sawit Watch deputy director Achmad Surambo said in a press briefing on Friday that an oil palm moratorium was badly needed to stop environmental destruction in the form of land clearing for plantations.

Moreover, there was no sign that the government would revise Presidential Instruction (Inpres) No. 8/2015 on a moratorium of new permits for primary forest and peatland areas, which was due to expire on Saturday, he added.

Achmad said Inpres No. 8 and the promised oil palm moratorium were both important to ensure there would be no more land clearing for oil palm plantations. Land clearing was the prime driver of the annual land and forest fires across Indonesia.

“It will be better if Indonesia has a moratorium, as stipulated in Inpres No. 8 and another moratorium for oil palm plantations. They will complement each other,” said Achmad.

“During the moratorium, the government could revisit and then reform the management of the forests and the palm oil industry,” he went on.

Source – The JakartaPost

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#Thailand – TAO chief and four others held over Big C bombing

Suspected murder of owner of pickup used in Pattani blasts

FIVE MEN, including a Tambon Administration Organisation (TAO) chief, have been detained for questioning over their alleged involvement in the broad daylight bomb blasts in Pattani province, Fourth Army Region Commander Lt-General Piyawat Narkwanich said yesterday.

This is the first time that a state official has been identified and detained for alleged involvement in the insurgency in the deep South. Piyawat did not name the TAO chief.

The chief of Pattani’s Nong Chik district was arrested after another suspect implicated him in the alleged murder of a pickup owner and the theft of the vehicle that was used in the attack in the province’s Muang district on Tuesday.

 Evidence found at the scene and footage from the Big C department store’s security camera led to the arrest of the suspects, Piyawat said.

The five suspects allegedly stole the pickup of Yala resident Nuson Kajornkam, which was used in the car-bomb attack at the Big C outlet.

Piyawat said there was a likelihood that Nuson had been killed as one of the five detained suspects had confessed to wiping blood from the pickup.

The body of Nuson was later found in a paddy field in Pattani’s Nong Chik district. His wife earlier said that someone had telephoned Nuson on Monday, saying he wanted to buy items from him in Pattani.

She said her husband left at around 10am on Tuesday for Pattani. Nuson’s vehicle, bearing Yala licence plate Bor Jor 3303, was later packed with explosives and parked at the Big C store where it exploded at about 2.30pm, leaving more than 80 injured, including children.

Investigators have concluded that the pickup was stolen from a mosque in Ban Mai, a village in Nongchik district’s Tambon Kohpoh in Pattani.

Witnesses told police they saw four men surrounding the pickup before the owner was killed and his body was taken away in another pickup. Despite a fresh concrete floor having been laid, bloodstains were found at the spot identified by the witnesses.

Piyawat called for understanding from the public, as tighter security would mean difficulties in commuting.

“Authorities will be checking every vehicle, including ice-cream trucks because the insurgents are trying to adjust their operations, so we have to be one better than them,” he said.

The insurgents’ attack on the Big C department store in Pattani had led to great loss of support among Thai Muslim local residents, Piyawat said. The bomb attack had most affected Thai Muslims who were shopping in the store, including children, he added. About 95 per cent of the population in the area is Thai Muslim.

“The blasts have badly affected not only the Thai Muslim community but also every group of society, particularly women and children. They are just people who went to the store to buy things before going home,” Piyawat said.

Meanwhile, national police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda said police had been warned about the Big C bombing about an hour before the attack.

Source – TheNation

Bottas seeks to double up in Barcelona

Valtteri Bottas seeks to prove his maiden Formula One success at Sochi was no fluke by repeating the feat for champions Mercedes in this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

The unflappable Finn, who has emerged as a serious threat not only to his more celebrated team-mate Lewis Hamilton, but also Ferrari’s championship leader Sebastian Vettel, believes his determination, form and speed justify his optimism.

“Getting that win has definitely given me a lot of confidence that I can do it – because I always thought that I had the ability.

“And now it’s done all I want to do is to go and win again and again,” said Bottas.

Another Bottas win would not be a surprise at a venue that has a habit of producing more different winners than anywhere else – if he is successful, he will be the 11th different winner in as many years.

The Circuit de Catalunya, a track drivers and teams know intimately from days of pre-season testing, is capable of throwing up the most unexpected and unpredictable results.

That was demonstrated last year by Dutch teenager Max Verstappen’s win on his debut for Red Bull.

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Bottas’ recent bright form – pole position in Bahrain and victory at Sochi – has confirmed him as a worthy successor to retired 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg at Mercedes where, temporarily, he has managed to put three-time world champion Hamilton in the shade.

But that does not mean much as the teams, all with upgraded packages, begin the European season with Ferrari likely to set the pace if the weather conditions put the onus on tyre management.

– marginal –

The Italian team has a car that is less demanding on its rubber and operates well across a wider range of temperatures than the Mercedes.

For Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, it is a concern, but not yet a serious worry.

“I don’t think there is a particular pattern yet,” he said. “It is all very marginal with tyre compounds, interaction with the track, the surface of the track and the track temperature itself.

“But, one thing is for sure — we have a very fast race car and a fast qualifying car. We just need to tune it and this is an exciting exercise.”

Tyre suppliers Pirelli will take their harder tyres, not greatly loved by Mercedes on the evidence so far this year, to Barcelona this weekend.

“I think it will be close – in fact more than very close,” added Wolff.

“Ferrari came out of the winter with a good car and it seems to suit Sebastian a lot. So, we just need to stretch ourselves to perform as good as we can and, if we do like we did in Russia with Valtteri, we are able to compete.”

He said the team had no immediate explanation for Hamilton’s uninspired form in Sochi where he struggled with the car.

“Lewis had a difficult weekend in both qualifying and the race,” said Wolff.

“We’ve since been unpicking what happened to understand why we couldn’t get the car in the right window so he could feel comfortable with it.”

Hamilton said he was mystified by his lack of pace as he finished fourth to fall 13 points adrift of Vettel after four rounds of the championship.

“We must give him the tools he needs to do the job in the next races and that will be a big focus for us,” added Wolff.

“Barcelona will be interesting as our pre-season was not spectacular in Spain. It’s a very different track to Sochi and we’ll be running with harder tyres. So, we are taking this season one race at a time…”

Ferrari and Mercedes may be the front-runners again, but Red Bull expect to be close in pursuit with a heavily-updated car while local hero Fernando Alonso has more modest hopes.

After failing to start in Russia, he is just hoping his revised McLaren will be on the grid to take part in his home race this Sunday.

Source – TheJakartaPost

Atlético Madrid 2-1 Real Madrid

Real Madrid defeated Atletico Madrid 4-2 on aggregate in the UEFA Champions League semifinals after a 1-2 loss in the second leg to set up a final clash against Juventus.Get highlights of Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid here.

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A match more than two years ago is keeping Atletico Madrid hopeful of a comeback against Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals. Atletico Madrid need to overturn a 3-0 loss from the first leg tonight, but it wasn’t too long ago that fans at the Vicente Calderon Stadium witnessed the type of feat that can put Atletico in the final. It was on a Saturday afternoon in February 2015 that Atletico had one of its greatest victories over Madrid, a 4-0 rout in the Spanish league. Get live score and live football commentary of Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid here.

#Thailand – Pattani bombers targeted back-to-school shoppers.

Police forensics specialists and an Explosive Ordnance Disposal squad on Wednesday morning inspected the scene outside a Big C department store in Pattani’s Mueang district where a powerful car bomb had exploded the previous day, injuring 61 people.

Investigators believe the culprits parked a pickup truck at the store’s entrance containing two cylinders of cooking gas in its rear cab space. 

The explosion occurred at about 2.30pm on Tuesday when the store was crowded with parents and their children buying school materials for the new semester.

Source – TheNation