Dhaka, Sep 1 (UNB) - Online discussion in Pakistan this week is being dominated by the commuting habits of Imran Khan, recently elected as prime minister, reports the BBC.
Mr Khan has been making the 9.3-mile (15km) journey - as the crow flies - from his private home to his official residence by helicopter. His choice of transport has come under criticism for being too lavish given his promises to make bureaucrats and politicians tighten their belts.
But it was the defence offered by Information Minister Fawad Chaudry which sparked widespread scorn on social media. Speaking at a press conference he claimed the helicopter was an inexpensive option costing as little 55 rupees ($0.45, £0.34) per km.
"I have seen this on Google," he added.
People were sceptical that travel by helicopter could be so cheap. #Helicopter became the top Twitter trend in Pakistan on Monday with over 16,000 tweets using the hashtag and many making jokes about the claim.
Mr Khan's cost of transport was compared to Careem, a ride-hailing smartphone app in Pakistan.
The Careem Twitter account also got in on the joke by mocking up a version of their app offering flights.
How much does it actually cost?
Was people's scepticism over the information minister's claim justified? The short answer is yes.
According to research by BBC Urdu, the fuel for the prime minister's helicopter, an Agusta Westland AW139, costs 1,600 Rupees ($13, £10) per km, higher than the 55 rupees Mr Chaudry claimed. This is also before other costs associated with running a helicopter are factored in.
Mr Khan's commute may be more expensive than his minster claimed but defenders of the prime minister have pointed out other reasons to use one.
Mr Chaudry echoed these sentiments during his press conference: "We have two options for the travel of the prime minister — by a motorcade that can cause traffic blockades or by helicopter," he said. "There is a difference between VIP culture and security protocol,"
Berlin, Sep 1 (AP/UNB) — Eight people have been injured in a blaze at an oil refinery in Bavaria, and another 1,800 people living close by were temporarily evacuated.
Police said the fire spread quickly after a loud detonation was heard early Saturday in the southern German town of Vohburg an der Donau. A huge smoke cloud could be seen miles away.
Residents were evacuated because of possibly toxic smokes. Air tests later showed it was safe for people to return to their homes.
The German news agency dpa reported all eight injured were Bayernoil refinery employees. It said some 400 fire fighters and police were on the ground to help extinguish the fire.
Authorities said the cause of the explosion was not known.
Jakarta, Sep 1 (AP/UNB) — Indonesia will bid to host the 2032 Olympics following the success of the Asian Games held there over the past two weeks, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said in a surprise announcement Saturday that highlights the rising ambition of the giant but long underperforming Southeast Asian nation.
Jokowi, who is campaigning for a second term, made the announcement at a meeting in Bogor with the presidents of the International Olympic Committee and the Asian Olympic Committee.
"With the experience we have in organizing the 18th Asian Games, we are sure Indonesia can also host a bigger event," Jokowi said in a statement after the meeting.
IOC President Thomas Bach welcomed the candidacy of Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous nation, saying that the Asian Games provided a "strong foundation" for the country's 2032 bid.
He said Indonesia has shown that it has all the ingredients to hold the Olympics successfully.
"You see that Indonesia is on the move. And you see the enthusiasm of the people," Bach told The Associated Press. "It's a very young country. This of course also makes it very interesting for the IOC."
About 12,000 athletes from 45 nations and territories as well as several thousand officials and journalists took part in the Asian Games, which end Saturday. As host, Indonesia provided a spectacular opening ceremony and also exceeded its own expectations in winning 30 golds, placing fourth on the medal table.
Indonesia, projected to be among the world's 10 biggest economies by 2030, used the games to shift perceptions that it's in the "too hard" basket, paving the way for a tilt at even bigger sports hosting baubles.
The country's hosting of the Asian Games without major organizational hitches has been a boost for Jokowi as he heads to elections in April. With the 2032 bid announcement, he gets to extend the shelf life of the Asian Games afterglow.
Bach said the formal selection process for 2032 hasn't begun but Germany and India have also expressed interest.
"And we have heard from other continents and other cities," he said. "Given that the decision will most likely be taken in 2025, you can understand that we are already very happy at this stage to have such an interest."
Tokyo is hosting the 2020 Olympics. Paris and Los Angeles have already been selected to host the following two games, in 2024 and 2028, respectively.
Massive problems with the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, a developing country with endemic corruption, may count against Indonesia's chances. It cost Brazil about $20 billion to host the Olympics, a bill that is likely to raise objections in Indonesia, where poverty remains widespread.
Washington, Sep 1 (AP/UNB) — John McCain is getting a presidential farewell, but not from the actual sitting president.
At McCain's request, former Presidents Barack Obama, a Democrat, and George W. Bush, a Republican, are speaking about the six-term senator on Saturday at Washington National Cathedral. It is the last event in Washington, where McCain lived and worked over four decades, and part of McCain's five-day, cross-country funeral procession. He died Aug. 25 at age 81.
President Donald Trump was told to stay away, but he won't be far. The president is expected to remain in Washington this weekend.
McCain's procession will come within a mile of the White House as it travels between the U.S. Capitol, where the casket was lying in state overnight, to the cathedral. It will pass the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where McCain's wife, Cindy, is expected to lay a wreath. McCain is a decorated veteran who was held for more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He refused early release.
Trump obtained deferments for his college education and a foot ailment.
The memorial stop will provide another contrast with Trump in McCain's carefully designed funeral procession. But the speeches by the former presidents are expected to carry special weight.
McCain has long urged the Senate and the polarized nation to recognize the humanity even in bitter political opponents. McCain's request for speeches by the former presidents, to some, represents that ideal.
"We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe," McCain wrote in his farewell letter to the nation, read posthumously by a longtime aide. "We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been."
By all accounts, McCain ended up liking both Bush and Obama but was not especially close to either man.
"John McCain and I were members of different generations, came from completely different backgrounds, and competed at the highest level of politics," Obama said in a statement after McCain's death. "But we shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher — the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed."
Bush delivered McCain a decisive defeat in the race for the GOP presidential nomination in 2000. Obama defeated McCain eight years later in the general election.
After his death, Bush called McCain "a man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order. He was a public servant in the finest traditions of our country. And to me, he was a friend whom I'll deeply miss."
McCain's service and dedication to working across the aisle — even as he sometimes infuriated his opponents — was a major theme of Friday's ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda.
Of those who spoke at Friday's ceremony, fellow Republican Mitch McConnell had perhaps the fullest sense of the McCain experience. The two had served in the Senate together since McCain's 1986 election.
"Depending on the issue, you knew John would either be your staunchest ally or your most stubborn opponent," McConnell recalled. "At any moment, he might be preparing an eloquent reflection on human liberty — or a devastating joke, served up with his signature cackle and that John McCain glint in his eye."
But just about anyone who worked in the Capitol over the past 35 years could attest to McCain's iron will and what House Speaker Paul Ryan called his "distinct brand of candor."
"With John, it was never feigned disagreement. The man didn't feign anything," Ryan said. "He just relished the fight."
"This," Ryan added of McCain, "is one of the bravest souls our nation has ever produced."
McCain is to be buried Sunday at his alma mater, the U.S. Naval Academy, next to his best friend from the Class of 1958, Adm. Chuck Larson.
"Back," McCain wrote on the last page of his recent memoir, "where it began."
Ramallah, Sep 1 (AP/UNB) — A spokesman for the Palestinian president says the American decision to cut funding for the U.N. agency aiding Palestinian refugees is "an attack on the rights of the Palestinian people."
Mahmoud Abbas' spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeneh, says Saturday the move does "not serve peace but rather strengthens terrorism in the region."
The U.S. supplies nearly 30 percent of the total budget of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, and had been demanding it carry out significant reforms. The decision cuts nearly $300 million of planned support.
UNRWA was established after Israel's 1948 War of Independence to singularly aid some 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes — and later their millions of descendants too. Israel has long argued the agency merely perpetuates the refugee crisis.