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ADMIN
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172420_9071319_updates.jpgPTI Spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry addressing the media outside the Supreme Court. Photo: Geo News 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Fawad Chaudhry said on Friday that the way the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) presented its appeal before the Supreme Court, "this was bound to happen".

He was referring to the apex court's dismissal of NAB's plea to reopen the Rs1.2 billion Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference against the Sharif family. The reference was struck down by the Lahore High Court. 

Imran submitted all documents before the Supreme Court. 

Addressing the media outside the Supreme Court, Chaudhry said they have serious reservations over the conduct of NAB's prosecution department in the case. 

Criticising the "non-serious attitude of NAB," Chaudhry said the "Supreme Court judges were not guided the right way. Basic documents of the case were not attached to the appeal". 

He said the case involves loot of public funds, adding that it is a great disservice to the people if there is no probe into the matter. 

The PTI leader said if a PTI government is formed, they will take the matter to its logical conclusion. 

He added that the party will review the detailed order of the case once the detailed judgment is released. 


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172413_8480797_updates.jpgTalal Chaudhry/File photo

ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Interior and PML-N leader Talal Chaudhry hailed the Supreme Court?s decision on Friday to dismiss the National Accountability Bureau (NAB)'s appeal to reopen the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case.

Speaking to Geo News, Talal said the Supreme Court?s decision is a win for the courts and the judiciary as it protects the courts? dignity.

?I have always said this, the courts should stay away from cases motivated by political gains. Today?s decision by Pakistan?s top court translates into a victory for the courts, as it protects and restores the courts? dignity,? he said.

Asked if the decision was a positive development for his party, the PML-N leader said he feels it is a neutral decision because there was nothing to the case from the start.

?[Such] cases are politically motivated. [Hudaibiya] case could not even stand its ground during the black era of Musharraf.?

He reiterated that courts should not take up cases motivated by political gains, since it went against their dignity.

?As a political worker, I?d say this: the courts and institutions should stay away from political matters so that their dignity is maintained,? he remarked.

Analysts? reaction

Senior journalist Saleem Safi termed the Supreme Court?s dismissal of NAB appeal as a win for the ruling PML-N party and said if the Hudaibiya case had reopened, the Sharif family?s difficulties would have increased.

?It was clear that if this case had reopened, more difficulties would have been created for the Sharif family and the opposition would have received a boost. Now that the country?s top court has dismissed NAB?s appeal to reopen the case, the only pressure remaining on CM Punjab Shehbaz Sharif is the Model Town report,? he remarked on Geo News.

The veteran journalist added that he believes matters of political significance and repercussions should not be brought before the judiciary.

Senior journalist Mazhar Abbas said the Hudaibiya case had held a lot of importance for the opposition.

?It is now PML-N?s turn to play on this victory,? he said, noting that if PTI chief Imran Khan emerges victorious in the disqualification case verdict today, ?his position would be strong in the 2018 election since his narrative against corruption would get vindicated.?


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ISLAMABAD: The deadline set by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) will expire today (December 15). The deadline was extended on November 30 for filing the returns of 2016-17.

All those whose annual salary from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 is above Rs.400,000 are required to file their income tax returns along with wealth statement for the financial year 2016-17.

The original deadline set by the FBR was August 31, but it was extended to encourage people to file their returns. 


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172401_6357520_updates.jpgMinister of State for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb. Photo:File

ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb said on Friday that democratic continuity boosts performance and prestige of institutions.

Speaking to participants of 4th National Management Development Course at Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services, she regretted that democratic continuity is disrupted repeatedly in the country.

She said people derive strength from the Parliament and therefore, it is our responsibility to work for strengthening of the parliament.

Aurangzeb said everyone should have access to the Parliament. She lauded the services being rendered by NGOs in the fields of education, health and other social services.

The state minister expressed the confidence that such courses for provincial legislators would help increase interaction and understanding between the Parliament and provincial assemblies and expressed her desire that similar courses should also be devised for media persons to give them better understanding of working of the parliament and role of parliamentarians.


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LOS ANGELES: Once cast aside as a cringe-worthy mistake, "Colgate Lasagna" has at last found fame... as a top flop at the Museum of Failure.

The dental care brand's 1980s culinary foray joins the line-up of epic fails on display in Los Angeles at a roving pop-up museum that has proven an ironic success.

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A model of the Titanic, coffee-based Coca Cola and the flashy but under-powered DeLorean car from "Back to the Future" all have a special place among the more than 100 flops of innovation that make up the show, which first opened in Sweden in June before moving to California this month.

The inventions may trigger facepalms, but the show aims to prove that failure is indeed an option.

"For technological progress, you need a lot of failures along the way," said clinical psychologist Samuel West. Without the all-but-defunct monoski, for instance, the snowboard may never have seen the light of day.

"It is the same for any other social innovation, even us as individuals when we learn new things, we are going to fail. So I think we should accept it more," says West, who came up with the idea for the museum because he was "tired of the success stories."

Although the infamous Colgate Lasagna features, West said the packaging is actually a well-researched copy. The company known for toothpaste was not keen to provide a sample from its frozen food -- known as one of the biggest marketing duds ever.

Spotlight on Trumpian hiccups

Though he prides himself on his business acumen, Donald Trump also made the show's cut, for several ventures from the time when he was known not as president but as simply "The Donald."

172400_634929_updates.jpgDonald Trump games, books, water, alcohol and other items are displayed at The Museum of Failure in Los Angeles on December 7, 2017 ? AFP 
 

What West calls a "shrine" to the former real estate magnate includes a Monopoly-esque board game named simply "Trump: The Game," a bottle of Trump Vodka and a textbook on entrepreneurship from the for-profit Trump University.

The glass case also includes one of the now-iconic red caps emblazoned with his presidential campaign slogan: "Make America Great Again."

Trump is "a man who built his image on being a successful businessman, it´s his trademark," curator West told AFP.

"But if you look at his business adventures, they are misadventures, he failed over and over and over again," he said, noting that he included the cap to hint at pitfalls the embattled leader may yet hit.

The lasting impact of failure

West has no sponsors -- as "companies don´t want to be associated" with failure -- but every week he receives packages with donations for his collection, from cappuccino-flavoured chips to the astronomically high-priced -- and just as short-lived -- "Juiceiro" juicer.

Today, the museum's exhibits are made up of 40 percent donations, and 60 percent his own finds.

The collection, which will move to other cities in the United States early next year, fits in well in Los Angeles: the city houses museums dedicated everything from broken relationships to bunnies, and even an art gallery featuring only works created using velvet.

172400_9953963_updates.jpgThe Power Glove (1989), the first mass marketed wearable video game controller, is displayed at The Museum of Failure in Los Angeles on December 7, 2017 ? AFP 
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The Museum of Failure also encourages visitors to own their own botched efforts, confessing to them on index cards and publicly posting them on a wall.

"I liked it because I think it was such an unusual idea," said Chris Whitehead, an IT worker who visited the museum -- and wrote on the wall that he failed his driving test six times.

"I think the lesson to take away is even if you fail you might actually have a lasting impact anyway."


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172395_8536617_updates.jpgGhulam Bibi Bharwana. Photo:File

ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq received the resignation letter of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz?s lawmaker Ghulam Bibi Bharwana on Friday, confirmed officials of assembly secretariat.

Ghulam Bibi Bharwana, elected from NA-87, earlier announced to rest her political future with Pir Khawaja Hameeduddin Sialvi in the Khatam-e-Nabuwwat (PBUH) Conference at Faisalabad's Dhobi Ghat. Sialvi is a spiritual leader and custodian of Sial Sharif Shrine of Sargodha.

Already three provincial lawmakers of the ruling party have submitted their resignations to the secretariat of the Punjab Assembly on the directives of Pir Sialvi.

In her resignation letter, Bharwana stated: "A member of the Punjab government's cabinet has had a blasphemous attitude towards the finality of Prophet Muhammad's prophethood."

She adds that her protest was not taken into consideration hence she is now resigning from the NA-88 seat.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MPAs Maulana Rehmatullah, Ghulam Nizamuddin Sialvi and Muhammad Khan Baloch have tendered their resignations in protest against the government for not sacking Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah.

Authorities of the assembly secretariat informed that the resignation submitted by courier have not yet been reviewed by Speaker Ayaz Sadiq. 


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172398_2075036_updates.jpgFacebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has referred to video as a major trend at the social network

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook on Thursday moved to bolster its appeal and money-making potential as an online platform for viewing video similar to YouTube.

The leading social network will next year test showing short ads before videos on a new 'Watch' section devoted to just that activity, according to a blog post by product manager director Maria Angelidou-Smith and product manager Abhishek Bapna.

"While pre-roll ads don't work well in News Feed, we think they will work well in Watch because it's a place where people visit and come back to with the intention to watch videos," they said in the post.

Pre-roll ads are commonly used to support online videos, but Facebook has long opted for 'ad breaks' during videos.

The social network also said it is updating its News Feed content ranking system to ramp up distribution of videos by popular publishers or other creators.

"With this update, we will show more videos in News Feed that people seek out or return to watch from the same publisher or creator week after week," said Bapna and Angelidou-Smith.

"Over time we expect more repeat viewing and engagement to happen in places like Watch."

Facebook will continue ad breaks in videos lasting at least three minutes but planned to delay showing ads for at least a minute.

It will also update ad breaks in live video, supporting them only on pages with more than 50,000 followers, according to the blog post.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has referred to video as a major trend at the social network, predicting it will dominate the platform in a few years.


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PARIS: "The Muscles from Brussels" is back, and this time it isn't serious. The Belgian action hero actor Jean-Claude Van Damme returns to the screen Friday as the bungling star of a new Amazon comedy series.

The "Universal Soldier" actor, whose career went into a tailspin after "Timecop" made him a worldwide star in 1994, plays a comic version of himself in the new streaming series, "Jean-Claude Van Johnson".

Fiction and reality cross over in the show written by "Godzilla" and "Wonder Woman" screenwriter Dave Callaham, in which Van Damme sends up his own desperation to get back into the big time.

But the star has a secret double life. Operating under the alias "Johnson", the martial arts expert comes out of retirement to hire himself out as the most easily recognisable undercover agent in the world.

For Van Damme, 57, most of whose recent work has gone straight to video, the "burlesque, clownesque" series produced by "Blade Runner" creator Ridley Scott is "maybe a way to save my career".

"I wanted to do television for the last nine or 10 years," he told AFP, but realised he was not "Brad Pitt, who can just raise his hand and he would have TV shows calling him."

Nor did Van Damme have any problems playing a parody of himself.

'Used to be super famous'

"It is difficult to make fun of yourself. But since I'm a good actor, why not?"

Van Damme said the show walks the thin line between comedy and tragedy. "It's almost poignant," said the actor just before the series had its world premiere in Paris on Tuesday. "It takes a lot out of you."

He said he would not have done it without trusting the team behind the camera.

"Having Ridley Scott, Dave Callaham and Amazon all together is less of a risk than a movie like 'Pound of Flesh'," Van Damme added, referring to the 2015 Vietnamese action flick where he played a man who woke up one morning to find someone had stolen his kidney.

"The trust was there right away. You can see love in the eyes of a person, you can see if a person doesn't like you," said the actor, who still works out and has not lost his trademark Belgian accent.

Indeed the series opens with the actor staring straight at the camera and saying, "My name is Jean-Claude Van Damme. I used to be super famous."

JCVD, as he is known in Hollywood, had to take risks in the series that few other well-known actors would, according to director Peter Atencio.

"For me, he has always been the most sensitive action hero. We challenged him like he had not been challenged before. He had to do a huge amount of work, way more than one actor would normally do in a movie, and his performance is very brave," he said.

Van Damme's missed talent

The series' creator told AFP he was convinced Van Damme had hidden depths others had missed.

"I have waited my whole life to write something for Jean-Claude," said Callaham, who grew up on Van Damme films.

"My mother is from China, so she raised me watching martial arts films.

"Jean-Claude is still a gigantic international star", particularly in Asia, the writer added, "and I felt very strongly from watching so many of his movies that he had a side to him that no one had fully taken advantage of."

Van Damme's only demand was that the series be premiered in Paris so he could invite his mother to walk the red carpet with him.

"Ten or 15 years ago I was gone in terms of theatrical openings," the world´s best known Belgian after Tintin said.

"But I promised Mama and I knew that one day I would come back, and we´ll do the premiere in Paris," he said.

As good as his word, he brought his parents from their home in Knokke near Bruges to the French capital for the premiere at the Grand Rex.

"I am very proud of him," his mother Eliana Van Varenberg told reporters.

His father Eugene had also recorded a surprise video message for his son, telling him how proud he had made them. "No one would have believed that a European could have made it like that in Hollywood," he said.

"But I have a wish," he continued, as tears welled up in his son's eyes. "I would love you to put your feet up a bit and enjoy life.

"I know that is difficult for you, but you have looked after the whole family, and I don´t see why you have to continue to work so hard."


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172397_8845500_updates.jpgLawyers at their sit-in in Multan. Photo: Geo News

MULTAN: Lawyers across various parts of the country are continuing a protest over the recent arrest of their colleagues in Multan following an incident of vandalism. 

On Wednesday, lawyers protested the shifting of the judicial complex and resorted to vandalising the new building. The police booked over three dozen lawyers and arrested a number of them the following day. 

At present, a group of lawyers is observing a sit-in to press the authorities to release their colleagues and quash the criminal cases against them. 

Similarly, several members of the legal fraternity are protesting across the country and boycotting courts, which is causing difficulties for litigants seeking adjudication of their cases.

On Wednesday, the enraged lawyers broke the windows and doors of the judges' rooms and courtrooms inside the new judicial complex and chanted slogans.

The members of the legal fraternity claimed that they are against the decision to shift the judicial complex. The new judicial complex does not have sufficient facilities, according to the protesting lawyers.

The lawyers also remarked that they had given the relevant officials a month to meet their demands.

Superintendent judicial complex lodged an FIR against 40 lawyers at the Bahauddin Zakariya police station on Thursday. The case was registered under Section 7 of Anti-Terrorism Act and Section 16 of the Punjab Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance.


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172391_2055374_updates.jpgPPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira - File photo 

LAHORE: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Qamar Zaman Kaira said on Friday that statements made by National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq have raised several questions.

Sadiq on Wednesday night during an interview on Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath said he feared assemblies would not be able to complete their tenure. According to Sadiq uncertainty was looming which was being fueled by instances such as the delimitation bill not being passed.

?Imran wants early elections and Fazlur Rehman is with him,? Kaira told reporters. The PPP leader said his party would not allow democracy to be derailed.

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Posted by Geo News Urdu on Thursday, 14 December 2017

A day earlier, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly, Khursheed Shah had said Sadiq?s statement was the ?inside story?. Shah stressed that the speaker had more sense and understanding of the situation.

?It is my personal opinion that elections would be held on time and assemblies will complete their tenure,? Shah added.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also responded to Sadiq?s statement, telling reporters in London that the government would complete its tenure.

"The reservations the speaker have spoken of are in reference to the events of the last three to four months. He made this in reference to the July 28 order which has impacted the economy and politics. Maybe it [Sadiq?s statement] is being taken out of context. This is his opinion,? the prime minister said. 


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ISLAMABAD: A three-member Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice Mushir Alam and comprising Justices Qazi Faez Isa and Mazhar Alam Miankhel, resumed on Friday the proceedings of the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case.

The Rs1.2 billion Hudaibiya Paper Mills case, involving money laundering charges against the Sharif family, was initiated by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in 2000 but quashed by the Lahore High Court (LHC) in 2014. The NAB has now appealed the LHC decision in the Supreme Court.

As the hearing began, NAB counsel Imranul Haq stated that the LHC decision has flaws and sought the reopening of the Hudaibiya case so that legal responsibilities are fulfilled. 

He informed the bench further that Senator Ishaq Dar, on whose 'confession' NAB initiated the reference in 2000, submitted an apology in court.

Justice Isa remarked that the statement on which the case is based has not been attached to the documents by NAB. 

Similarly, Justice Alam observed that if Dar?s statement is taken out of the case, then his status will be that of an accused, adding that he [Dar] has not been made a respondent in the case. 

"We are hearing the [Hudaibiya] appeal and not [the Hudaibiya] reference," observed Justice Alam, and directed NAB to satisfy the court on its delay in filing the appeal. 

Justice Isa observed that the case went on for years and the charges were not framed. 

The NAB counsel also informed the bench regarding the procedure of its chairman?s appointment. 

The hearing is under way. 

Hudaibiya Paper Mills case

The Hudaibiya Paper Mills was allegedly used as a cover by the Sharif family to launder money outside the country in the 1990s.

It was in relation to this case that the Sharif family's trusted aide, Ishaq Dar, recorded a confessional statement on April 25, 2000 in front of a magistrate in Lahore accepting his role in laundering money.

On the basis of that confession, a reference was filed by the NAB in 2000 before an accountability court against the Hudabiya Paper Mills, three Sharif brothers, Dar and others.

Dar was not charged as he had become an approver for the prosecution.

That reference was struck down by a referee judge of the LHC on March 11, 2014 in response to a writ petition filed in 2011 stating that Dar's confession was coerced.

Dar had claimed that he had made the 'confession' under duress and disowned the statement. 


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172389_9534231_updates.jpgCustomers use the internet at a Starbucks in the financial district in New York City, US, December 14, 2017. Photo: Reuters 
 

WASHINGTON: The US Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines on Thursday to repeal landmark 2015 rules aimed at ensuring a free and open internet, setting up a court fight over a move that could recast the digital landscape.

The approval of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai?s proposal in a 3-2 vote marked a victory for internet service providers such as AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc and hands them power over what content consumers can access. It also is the biggest win for Pai in his sweeping effort to undo many telecommunications regulations since taking over at the agency in January.

Democrats, Hollywood and companies such as Google parent Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc had urged Pai, a Republican appointed by US President Donald Trump, to keep the Obama-era rules barring service providers from blocking, slowing access to or charging more for certain content. The new rules give internet service providers sweeping powers to change how consumers access the internet but must have new transparency requirements that will require them to disclose any changes to consumers.

The meeting, held amid protests online and in front of the FCC headquarters in Washington, was evacuated before the vote for about 10 minutes due to an unspecified security threat, and resumed after law enforcement with sniffer dogs checked the room.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters the administration ?supports the FCC?s efforts. At the same time, the White House certainly has and always will support a free and fair internet.?

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, said in a statement he will lead a multi-state lawsuit to challenge the reversal. 

Shares of Alphabet, Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp moved lower after the vote. 

The FCC said the rules would take effect in a few months after the White House Office of Management and Budget formally approves them.

Pai has argued that the 2015 rules were heavy handed and stifled competition and innovation among service providers.

?The internet wasn?t broken in 2015. We weren?t living in a digital dystopia,? he said on Thursday.

Next steps 

Consumers are unlikely to see immediate changes but smaller startups worry the lack of restrictions could drive up costs or lead to their content being blocked.

Internet service providers say they will not block or throttle legal content but may engage in paid prioritisation. They argue that the largely unregulated internet functioned well in the two decades before the 2015 order.

Republican FCC Commissioner Mike O?Rielly noted that self-driving vehicles and remotely monitored medical procedures may require internet service and that their needs could be given priority ?over cat videos.?

O?Rielly said it is unlikely any internet provider would voluntarily submit to a ?PR nightmare? by ?attempting to engage in blocking, throttling or improper discrimination. It is simply not worth the reputation cost.?

Still, Democrats have pointed to polls showing a repeal is deeply unpopular and say they will prevail in protecting the rules, either in the courts or in US Congress.

Immediately after the vote, Senator Edward Markey, a Democrat, said he and 15 other senators planned to introduce a resolution to undo the FCC action and restore the net neutrality rules.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, said in a written dissent released on Thursday that the decision grants internet providers ?extraordinary new power? from the FCC.

?They have the technical ability and business incentive to discriminate and manipulate your internet traffic,? she said. ?And now this agency gives them the legal green light to go ahead.?

Several state attorneys general said before the vote they would oppose the ruling, citing issues with the public comment period. Other critics have said they will consider challenging what they see as weaker enforcement.


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172384_2295591_updates.JPGChairs being placed at the rally's venue. Photo: Geo News

SANGHAR: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) plans to show its political might in Tando Adam Khan today.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan, central and provincial leaders of the party will address the party workers. 

Party sources have informed that more than 15,000 chairs have been set up at the Sohri sugar mills ground.

Imran is presently on a four-day visit to Karachi. The party has been holding a string of public rallies in Punjab and Sindh since the past few months. 

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will announce its earlier-reserved judgment in the disqualification case against Imran and PTI secretary general Jahangir Tareen today.

The apex court had reserved the verdict against the two PTI leaders on November 14. The decision is expected to be announced at 2pm today.


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172381_5977291_updates.jpgPPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. Photo:File

MULTAN: In a bid to show its political strength, Pakistan Peoples' Party will hold its rally today in Multan today.

Pakistan Peoples' Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will address a rally in Multan. Khawaja Rizwan Alam, party's senior vice-president for South Punjab informed that as many as 80,000 chairs have been set up for the party workers at the Qasim Bagh stadium, and the party is expecting 150,000 people to attend the gathering.

The rally organisers have claimed that the stage will have the capacity to accommodate 200 leaders.

PPP's Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani, Opposition leader Khursheed Shah, Raja Pervaiz Asharf, Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood and other party leaders are also expected to address participants of the gathering today. 


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172380_3086200_updates.jpgFoggy conditions in Punjab 

LAHORE: A dense layer of fog resulted in closure of several routes on the Motorway on Friday morning, as foggy conditions prevailed in plain areas of Punjab and upper Sindh overnight.

The M2 route leading from Kot Momin to Lahore and Faisalabad, M3 route from Pindi Bhattian to Faisalabad and M4 route from Faisalabad to Gojra have been completely closed to traffic owing to the persisting fog.

Authorities have cautioned drivers to reduce speed and use fog lights on the highway to avoid any untoward incident.

Visibility suffered in parts of Punjab due to the fog. In Gujranwala and Multan, visibility dropped to 150 and 180 metres, respectively. Visibility was recorded at 35 metres and 40 metres in Sialkot and Faisalabad, respectively.

Mainly cold and dry weather is expected in most parts of the country over the next 24 hours. According to the Pakistan Meteorological Department, more rain-thunderstorm (with snowfall over the hills) is expected at a few places in Malakand division and Gilgit-Baltistan.

Very cold weather conditions are likely to prevail in northern parts of the country including Quetta.

In Karachi, the weather is expected to stay cold and dry over the next 24 hours, with minimum temperature recorded at 10°C. Humidity level was recorded at 52 percent, the Met Office said.

The lowest minimum temperatures yesterday were recorded at Kalat, Kalam, Skardu (-08 °C), Quetta (-07°C), Dalbandin, Gupis, Malamjabba, Astore, Parachinar (-05°C).


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172376_7992302_updates.jpgLleyton Hewitt/File photo 

MELBOURNE: Former world number one Lleyton Hewitt is to come out of retirement temporarily and play doubles with compatriot Sam Groth at next month?s Australian Open, local media reported on Friday.

Hewitt, a US Open and Wimbledon singles champion, officially retired from top-level tennis after his home grand slam in 2016, where he also played doubles with Groth. He did, however, play doubles during the Davis Cup and Wimbledon last year.

?It?s going to be a bit of fun. That?s what the Australian Open is about,? Hewitt told News Corp Australia on Friday.

?I?m going to really enjoy it. We?ve been hitting a lot of balls, hitting every day, and we?re not just going out there making up the numbers.

?We want to give it a fair crack.?

172376_2443291_updates.jpgSam Groth of Australia celebrates a point with Lleyton Hewitt/File photo

Groth, who is retiring after the season-opening grand slam and is hoping for a wildcard for the singles draw, will also play mixed doubles with Sam Stosur.

?Its something Lleyton and I have talked about and it?s perfect for me,? Groth said.

?I was there when Rusty retired in 2016 and its great that he?ll be there with me when I bow out. He?s not just someone I know through tennis, he?s a great mate.?


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172374_9449126_updates.jpgDustin Hoffman/File photo

LOS ANGELES: Three more women have accused Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman of sexual misconduct, Hollywood trade publication Variety reported, bringing to six the number of people accusing him of impropriety decades ago.

Variety reported that two of the women said Hoffman sexually assaulted them in 1987. A third woman said he exposed himself to her in 1980, when she was 16, and asked for a foot massage, the Variety report said. In the story, two women went on the record and a third was not identified.

Variety quoted Hoffman?s attorney, Mark Neubauer, as saying the accusations were ?defamatory falsehoods.?

Neither Neubauer nor Hoffman?s representative immediately replied on Thursday to requests for comment.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm the accusations.

Three other women have come forward in the last six weeks accusing Hoffman of sexual harassment that they said took place more than 30 years ago.

Hoffman issued an apology to the first woman, who was a teenage intern on the set of his 1985 TV film ?Death of a Salesman.? He said in a Nov. 1 statement the behavior the women described was ?not reflective of who I am.?

He has declined comment on the other accusations.

Hoffman has won Oscars for his roles in ?Rain Man? and ?Kramer vs. Kramer.?


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A suburban New York hospital technician accused of using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to launder money meant for the militant group Daesh was arrested on charges of money laundering in support of a foreign terrorist organization and bank fraud, prosecutors said Thursday.

Federal prosecutors in New York?s Suffolk County claimed in court papers that Zoobia Shahnaz, 27, used fraudulent credit cards and loans to accumulate $85,000, which she attempted to transfer to the Daesh group before attempting to go to Syria to join it.

Prosecutors said that after traveling to Jordan to work with the Syrian American Medical Society, Shahnaz returned to the United States and applied for six credit cards, which she used to buy bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

The resident of the hamlet of Brentwood in Islip on Long Island appeared before a federal judge late on Thursday and was ordered detained, prosecutors said.

Shahnaz? lawyer, Steve Zissou, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the case.

After borrowing about $85,000 with fraudulently obtained credit cards and loans and withdrawing another $22,000 from bank accounts in her own name, Shahnaz sent funds to recipients in Pakistan, China and Turkey, prosecutors said.

Some of that money came in the form of $63,000 in bitcoin and other crypto-currencies purchased with the credit cards, prosecutors said.

Arraignment and detention documents released on Thursday showed that Shahnaz, a US citizen born in Pakistan, was arrested on Wednesday.

Prosecutors said that in July Shahnaz obtained a Pakistani passport and booked a flight to Pakistan with a layover in Istanbul with the intention of going to Syria. She was stopped by law enforcement investigators at John F. Kennedy airport and questioned about her trip and the financial transactions, prosecutors said.

She had $9,500 in cash with her, just under the limit of $10,000 that a person can take out of the country without declaring it to immigration and customs officials, they said.

Subsequent searches of Shahnaz? electronic devices showed numerous searches for Daesh-related material, including travel checklists.

She faces three charges of money laundering, including money laundering in support of a foreign terrorist organization, and is also charged with bank fraud. She faces up to 20 years in prison on each of the money laundering charges and up to 30 years for the bank fraud charge.


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Two astronauts, from the US and Italy, and a Russian cosmonaut on Thursday landed in Kazakhstan after almost five months on the International Space Station, footage from the Russian space agency showed.

American Randy Bresnik, Paolo Nespoli of Italy and Sergey Ryazanskiy of Russia landed on the Kazakh steppe at 2.37pm local time (0837 GMT) in a Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft.

Over 139 days in space the three men "have supported hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard humanity?s only microgravity laboratory," NASA said in an earlier statement.

Bresnik took part in several spacewalks to fix a robotic arm that latches onto incoming spaceships packed with supplies, while all three men were involved in a live video chat with Pope Francis from the space station.

On Sunday Scott Tingle of NASA, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will blast off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome to replace the returning astronauts and cosmonaut.

The space travellers will join three other crew members currently on the ISS.

In October Russia's space agency said a manned Soyuz rocket had suffered a partial loss of pressure as it returned to Earth from the ISS in April this year.

The incident did not put the lives of the crew in danger, Roscosmos said, but it was the latest in the string of glitches to hit the country's space programme, which this month extended to a failed satellite launch.

NASA stopped its own manned launches to the ISS in 2011 but recently moved to increase its crew complement aboard the ISS as the Russians cut theirs in a cost-saving measure announced last year.

The ISS laboratory, a rare example of American and Russian international cooperation, has been orbiting Earth at about 28,000 kilometres per hour (17,000 miles per hour) since 1998.


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WASHINGTON: Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump discussed the crisis over North Korea?s nuclear program in a phone call Thursday, in which the US president took the unusual step of thanking his Russian counterpart for praising America?s economy.

The two heads of state discussed "the situation in several crisis zones, with a focus on solving the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula," the Kremlin said in a statement, without elaborating.

The White House said the two "discussed working together to resolve the very dangerous situation in North Korea."

But Trump?s thanks to Putin took top billing in the US statement.

"President Trump thanked President Putin for acknowledging America?s strong economic performance in his annual press conference," it said.

Earlier in the day, Putin told his press conference: "Look at how the markets are reacting, they are growing. This shows confidence in the American economy. With all due respect to [Trump?s] opponents, these are objective facts."

The pair have lavished praise on each other in the past, with commentators describing their cozy relationship as a "bromance."

Special counsel Robert Mueller is currently investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow to tilt the White House race in his favour.

Washington this week said it was ready to talk to North Korea -- which has launched several intercontinental ballistic missiles in recent months -- "without preconditions."

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that while the Trump administration was still determined to force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear arsenal, it was willing to "have the first meeting without preconditions."

Putin, in his annual press conference with hundreds of journalists in Moscow, welcomed the United States? "awareness of reality" in the crisis.

However, he called on all sides to "stop aggravating the situation" and said Moscow did not recognise North Korea?s status as a nuclear power.


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No alien signals have been detected from an interstellar, cigar-shaped space rock discovered travelling through our Solar System in October, researchers listening for evidence of extraterrestrial technology said Thursday.

The object, dubbed Oumuamua, was spotted by several Earthly telescopes two months ago.

Given its weird trajectory, surprised researchers immediately concluded it was from beyond our planetary system -- the first interstellar object ever identified in our midst.

The rock is thought to be about 400 metres (1,300 feet) long, and thin -- only about 40 m wide, a never-before-seen shape for an asteroid.

After its discovery was announced last month, a project called Breakthrough Listen, dedicated to finding signs of extraterrestrial intelligence, said it would study the rock for artificial signals.

"No such signals have been detected" by its network of telescopes, the project said Thursday, adding: "the analysis is not yet complete".

Oumuamua is a Hawaiian name meaning "messenger" or "scout". This scout may have been travelling through space for hundreds of millions, even billions, of years.

Prior to its discovery, none of the 750,000-odd known asteroids and comets in the Solar System were thought to have originated elsewhere.

"Oumuamua is most likely an asteroid, ejected from its host star in some chaotic event billions of years ago, and finding its way to our Solar System by chance," Andrew Siemion of the University of California Berkeley told AFP. He heads the Breakthrough Listen laboratory.

According to NASA, the object is travelling at about 38.3 kilometres per second relative to the Sun. It is about 200 million kilometres (125 million miles) from Earth.

It passed Mars' orbit in November, and will pass by that of Jupiter in May next year, before exiting beyond Saturn's orbit in January 2019.


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Robert Lewandowski has fired his way into 10th place in the list of the Bundesliga's all-time top scorers as the Polish striker just keeps on hitting the net.

Lewandowski rescued Bayern with a second-half winner in Wednesday's 1-0 victory over bottom side Cologne as the league leaders struggled to break down a determined defence at the sold-out Allianz Arena.

"It is unbelievable that he is in the top 10 - he is simply a goal hunter," Arturo Vidal said of his team-mate as Bayern went nine points clear at the top of the table.

The Poland international has now scored 21 goals in 24 games in all competitions this season, plus five more in World Cup qualifiers to help book Poland's place in Russia.

Lewandowski's goal against Cologne was his 166th since 2010 in Germany's top flight -- a tally achieved with Bayern and former club Borussia Dortmund.

He is in good company as Bayern head coach Jupp Heynckes is third on the list with 220 goals scored for Borussia Moenchengladbach and Hanover 96 between 1963 and 1978.

But Lewandowski is a distance off the record 365 goals scored by Bayern and West Germany legend Gerd Mueller.

The 72-year-old former World Cup winner, nicknamed 'Der Bomber', netted the phenomenal tally between 1964 and 1979 -- and Lewandowski is not even halfway to that mark.

The 29-year-old Poland forward is also 25 goals short of becoming the highest-scoring active player in Germany.

Veteran Peru striker Claudio Pizarro, 39, now at Cologne, has scored 191 goals over multiple stints at Bayern and Werder Bremen.

Lewandowski has twice lifted the 'Golden Cannon' trophy, awarded to the Bundesliga's top scorer, and narrowly missed out to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang last season despite a return of 30 goals in 33 league games.



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LAHORE: Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri Thursday bragged that he can have Asif Ali Zardari and Imran Khan seated on his either side, whenever he wished to do so.

Addressing a lawyers' convention organised by Awami Tehreek, Qadri said whenever the time came, he would unite all democratic forces in the country.

"I would have Zardari and Imran seated on either side, whenever I wished so," he told participants.

The statement comes days after the two party chiefs held separate meetings with Qadri in Lahore, and extended their support to him following the release of the Model Town inquiry report.

The PAT chief blames the Punjab government for the June 2014 killing of 14 people during an 'anti-encroachment operation' by the Punjab Police outside Idara Minhajul Quran in Lahore.

"Humanity was massacred on June 17, 2014," he said, while addressing the participants.

"Every individual of the society will avenge the sanctity of humanity. We have the option of protest open."

Lawyers' representatives, who addressed the convention, said that those responsible for Model Town tragedy do not deserve forgiveness.

They maintained that states cannot function in the absence of justice.


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NEW YORK: Oil prices rose on Thursday as a pipeline outage in Britain continued to support prices despite forecasts showing global crude surplus in the beginning of next year.

US West Texas Intermediate futures CLc1 settled up 44 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $57.04 a barrel.

Brent crude futures LCOc1 settled up 1.4 percent, or 87 cents, at $63.31 a barrel.

Prices have been supported by an outage on the Forties crude pipeline that was expected to last several weeks.

?At present you can?t ignore the impact of the Forties pipeline outage,? said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital Llc in New York, ?It?s a significant amount of oil that the market is going to miss and is missing. And it?s almost surprising it?s not generating more support.?

A reformer was shut on Thursday after a fire in the East Plant at Citgo Petroleum Corp?s 157,500-bpd Corpus Christi, Texas, refinery, said sources familiar with plant operations.

The Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) expects the oil market to have a surplus of 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the first half of next year before reverting to a deficit of about 200,000 bpd in the second half. That means 2018 overall should show ?a closely balanced market?.

The IEA said US crude output next year would increase by 870,000 barrels per day, up from its November forecast of 790,000 bpd.

With cash pouring into the US shale oil industry, the United States is on track to deliver up to 80 percent of the world?s oil production gains through 2025, the IEA estimates.

Yet after lows of $56.09 earlier in the day for US crude and $62.01 for Brent crude, both grades had rallied again by settlement.

?The market seems to have digested (the IEA report) and is turning its attention to the fact that we?re beginning to tighten,? said Gene McGillian, director of market research at Tradition Energy.

A fall in US crude inventories last week also lent some support. Stocks fell by 5.1 million barrels in the week to Dec. 8, the fourth consecutive week of decline, to 442.99 million barrels, the lowest since October 2015.

The front month of the US crude curve for February and March remains in backwardation. Backwardation, in which the futures contract trades below the crude oil?s expected spot price at the contract?s maturity, is an indicator of a tight market.


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LONDON: Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has been asked by the Football Association to explain comments he made before his club?s Premier League derby match against Manchester City on Sunday.

The FA said on Thursday that Mourinho had been asked for his ?observations? on comments he made on Dec. 8 in interviews ahead of Sunday?s game, which United lost 2-1.

It did not, however, specify the comments under investigation or what -- if any -- rules might have been broken.

During a pre-match news conference, Mourinho questioned City players? ability to stay on their feet, saying: ?A little bit of wind and they fall.?

He also doubted he would be allowed to make the sort of political statement that his opposite number, Pep Guardiola, had when wearing a yellow ribbon in apparent protest against the imprisonment of pro-independence politicians in Catalonia.

The FA is already investigating an incident after the match in which milk was thrown at Mourinho after he reportedly complained about City?s ?excessive? dressing-room celebrations following their victory at Old Trafford.