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Found 20 results

  1. Former SECP chairman Zafar Hijazi/File photo ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday agreed to hear former Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) chairman Zafar Hijazi?s petition against a special court?s dismissal of his acquittal plea in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills record-tampering case. Hijazi, in his petition filed earlier this month, had stated that the special court disregarded the evidence presented in the appeal and had prayed the IHC to declare the former?s decision null and void. The court will hear the former chairman?s petition on December 20. Hijazi was indicted last month at a court, where the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) maintained that the accused was involved in the tampering of mills record. The former SECP chairman had challenged the charge, which was dismissed by the court. A case was then registered against Hijazi on the orders of the Supreme Court. He is accused of pressuring his subordinates to change dates on documents related to the sugar mills. Special Court Central Judge Irum Niazi rejected Hijazi's application on the reasoning that solid pieces of evidence were available to initiate the trial. Hijazi was arrested in the premises of the court by FIA on July 21 after the expiry of his bail before arrest. The FIA team had submitted a 28-page inquiry report to the Supreme Court on July 9, in which it had endorsed the stance of the joint investigation team probing the offshore assets of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family in connection with the Panama Papers case.
  2. Pakistan and India players shake hands after the end of Champions Trophy 2017 The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has hinted at possible resumption of a bilateral cricket series between Pakistan and India if the Indian government gives a go-ahead. Following the board's Special General Meeting in Delhi, BCCI acting secretary Amitabh Chaudhary told media that "if the government agrees, there will be space for India-Pakistan bilateral series." The Indian government has not given a green signal to Indo-Pak bilateral series since the last one was held in India in 2012. Since then, the two neighbours have only met in ICC events. Last month, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) filed a dispute with the ICC, claiming up to $70 million for missed series in 2014 and 2015 from BCCI after the country failed to attend two series as part of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the two boards. The PCB sent a legal notice to ICC to set up a Dispute Resolution Committee for adjudicating the matter of Indian cricket board not honouring its promise of playing bilateral series with Pakistan.
  3. KARACHI: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has agreed to get a bill for new delimitation of constituencies passed by the Senate, sources said Sunday, following backdoor contacts with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). The Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2017, pertains to the fresh delimitation of constituencies in line with the provisional results of the latest census in light of the general elections next year. The bill had been adopted by the National Assembly, however, the government had so far failed to get it approved by the Senate despite repeated attempts. Senate postpones vote on delimitation bill: sources At least 69 votes are required to get the Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2017 approved On November 17, voting on the bill was postponed for the required number of lawmakers were not present in the Senate. The house of 104 needed a two-thirds majority to pass the bill whereas less than 50 lawmakers were present in the house. However, backdoor contacts between the PPP - which has a majority in the Senate - and the ruling PML-N have resulted in a conditional nod by the former. Sources said the government has agreed to PPP's demand that it would hold only one election based on new delimitation. The Senate is likely to adopt the bill in its session due to start from Monday (tomorrow), they added. According to the new delimitation of constituencies, Punjab's seat share in the National Assembly will decrease by nine seats, while Islamabad will get one more seat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa five and Balochistan three more. NA seats for FATA and Sindh will remain unchanged.
  4. BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri rescinded his resignation on Tuesday and said all members of the government had agreed to stay out of conflicts in Arab countries. Hariri quit his job in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia a month ago but later said he might withdraw the resignation, providing all parties in Lebanon?s government agree to adhere to the state?s policy of ?dissociation? from regional conflicts. The Lebanese government said in a statement read by Hariri: ?The cabinet thanks its leader (Hariri) for his position and for revoking his resignation.? ?All (the government?s) political components decide to dissociate themselves from all conflicts, disputes, wars or the internal affairs of brother Arab countries, in order to preserve Lebanon?s economic and political relations,? Hariri said. His resignation offer thrust Lebanon back into a regional tussle between Riyadh and its main regional foe, Iran. Lebanese officials said Saudi Arabia had coerced Hariri, a long-time ally of the kingdom, into resigning and held him there against his will until an intervention by France led to his return to Lebanon. Saudi Arabia denies this. Iran backs the powerful armed Shi?ite group, Hezbollah, which is part of the Lebanese government and which Saudi Arabia accuses of sowing strife in the Arab world with support from Iran. The cabinet meeting on Tuesday where the statement was agreed was the first since Hariri?s resignation plunged the country into political crisis.
  5. UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council on Wednesday unanimously agreed to beef up the UN mission in the Central African Republic with 900 extra troops and step up measures to prevent *** abuse by peacekeepers. The council voted 15-0 to extend the mandate of the MINUSCA force for a year following negotiations between France, which drafted the resolution, and the United States, the biggest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping. Despite its repeated calls for cuts to peacekeeping, the United States agreed to a request for the 900 extra troops from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has warned of a risk of ethnic cleansing. Guterres argued that the MINUSCA force had reached its limit, struggling to cope with growing violence in the impoverished African country since late last year. The council set a new ceiling for troops to 11,650, up from 10,750. An additional 2,080 police are authorised to serve in MINUSCA. "The Security Council cannot afford to take the risk of allowing the CAR to relapse into a crisis in which it was mired," said French Ambassador Francois Delattre following the vote. The Central African Republic has been struggling to return to stability since an explosion of bloodshed after the 2013 overthrow of longtime leader Francois Bozize by the mainly Seleka rebel alliance. France intervened militarily to push out the Seleka, but the country remains plagued by violence pitting groups competing for control of resources and areas of influence. Part of the instability has been fueled by the withdrawal in April of Ugandan troops combating the rebel Lord´s Resistance Army in the Central African Republic, with backing from US special forces. Delattre told reporters that France and the United States took a pragmatic approach to reach agreement on the troop increase. "With our American Friends, the more the discussions are based on a pragmatic approach, about life-and-death issues, about effects on the ground, the better," he said. All necessary measures Deployed in 2014, MINUSCA was given a strong mandate to protect civilians but as fighting has surged in the interior of the country, the mission has been overstretched. MINUSCA has been hit by a string of *** abuse allegations against peacekeepers that led to the firing of the mission commander in 2015 and the repatriation of contingents which faced repeated accusations. The council requested in the resolution that Guterres take "all necessary measures" to ensure that MINUSCA forces comply with the zero-tolerance policy, and it calls for regular reports to the council on rape allegations. On Monday, the United Nations appointed an independent panel to investigate whether MINUSCA peacekeepers failed to protect civilians when violence broke out in the southeast from May to August this year. The 900 extra peacekeepers are likely to include highly-mobile units, possibly from Brazil, which could rapidly deploy to hotspots. The resolution also backed the redeployment of the re-trained Central African FACA army forces to the interior of the country, with support from MINUSCA. The FACA were swept up in the fighting in 2013, siding with insurgents from all factions, but have since undergone training with help from the European Union.
  6. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the G20 Summit, Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/Files ISTANBUL: Turkey and Russia have agreed to focus on a political solution in Syria, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday. Erdogan said he was glad Turkey had started to send agricultural goods to Russia but wanted the last restrictions on bilateral trade lifted. He was speaking after a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the southern Russian city of Sochi.
  7. LAS VEGAS: The US gun lobby, which has seldom embraced new firearms-control measures, voiced a readiness on Thursday to restrict a rifle accessory that enabled a Las Vegas gunman to strafe a crowd with bursts of sustained fire as if from an automatic weapon. Police have said the gunman, Stephen Paddock, equipped 12 of his weapons with so-called bump-stock devices that allow semi-automatic rifles to operate as if they were fully automatic machine guns, which are otherwise outlawed in the United States. Authorities said his ability to fire hundreds of rounds per minute over the course of 10 minutes from his perch in a 32nd-floor hotel suite was a major factor in the high casualty count of 58 people killed and hundreds wounded. Paddock, 64, killed himself before police stormed his suite. The carnage on Sunday night across the street from the Mandalay Bay hotel ranked as the bloodiest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, surpassing the 49 people shot to death last year at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The influential National Rifle Association (NRA), which staunchly opposed moves to tighten gun control laws following the Orlando massacre and others, said on Thursday that bump stocks, which remain legal, ?should be subject to additional regulations.? Senior Republicans also signaled they were ready to deal with the sale of bump stocks - an accessory gun control advocates regard as work-arounds to bans on machine-guns. ?Clearly that?s something we need to look into,? House Speaker Paul Ryan told radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt. ?I didn?t even know what they were until this week ... I think we?re quickly coming up to speed with what this is,? Ryan said. The No. 2 Republican senator had called for a review of bump stocks a day earlier. Democrats were already urging new legislation, as the shooting reignited the long-standing U.S. debate over regulation of gun ownership, protected under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. US Representative Steve Scalise, a member of the Republican House leadership who is himself a victim of gun violence, voiced concern that hasty congressional action to restrict bump stocks could lead to wider limits on ?the rights of gun owners.?
  8. Mordechai Vanunu spent more than 10 years of his sentence in solitary confinement.Photo: AFP OSLO: Norway has agreed to host former Israeli nuclear technician and whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, his Norwegian wife has told local television. "We made a request for family reunification as that´s exactly the case here, for spouses and a family to be able to live together," Kristin Joachimsen told TV2 late Saturday. "So even if I know the affair is controversial in some circles, it´s the family values that won over," she said. But she said she did not know when her 62-year-old husband could join her in Norway. Karl Erik Sjoholt, an official with Norway´s immigration agency, confirmed the request had been approved. "The ministry sent us the request last week and we reviewed it in the usual manner. We approved the request for family reunification," he told TV2. Israel jailed Vanunu in 1986 for disclosing the inner workings of its Dimona nuclear plant to Britain´s Sunday Times newspaper. He spent more than 10 years of his sentence in solitary confinement. Upon his release in 2004, Vanunu was slapped with a series of restraining orders, forbidding him from travel, contact with foreigners or speaking to the media. He has twice been jailed for breaking those orders. The couple´s Norwegian lawyer, Arild Humlen, said the immigration agency´s decision had increased the likelihood of Vanunu leaving Israel to settle in Norway. "I hope it will resolve a blocked situation and that Israel will seize this opportunity," he told TV2. Vanunu converted from Judaism to Christianity shortly before being snatched by Mossad agents in Rome in 1986 and smuggled to Israel. On Sunday, a spokesman for Israel´s foreign ministry could not say if Vanunu had made a new request to travel to Norway. But he said restrictions on the whistleblower´s freedom of movement were "due to the danger that he posed" to the Jewish state. In a statement, the foreign ministry said: "Israel will continue to review updates of the situation in order to determine appropriate restrictions in accordance with security dangers posed by Vanunu." Israel is the Middle East´s sole if undeclared nuclear power, refusing to confirm or deny that it has such weapons. Israel has refused to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or to allow international surveillance of its Dimona plant in the Negev desert in southern Israel.
  9. GENEVA: The UN Human Rights Council agreed Friday to send war crimes investigators to Yemen, overcoming resistance from Saudi Arabia which sought to fend off an independent international probe. In a resolution adopted by consensus, the council mandated UN rights chief Zeid Ra´ad Al Hussein to send a group of "eminent experts" to Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been bombing Houthi rebels since March 2015. The group will then "carry out a comprehensive examination of all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights" committed in the conflict and try "to identify those responsible." Launching the probe marks a victory for a group of European states and Canada, which pushed hard for an international inquiry fully independent of the Yemeni national investigation that is supported by the Saudis. The Saudi-led coalition has been accused of bombing schools, markets, hospitals and other civilian targets in support of Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi. The Iran-backed Huthi rebels have also been accused of widespread abuses, which the UN team will also probe. Saudi Arabia had for the past two years succeeded in blocking the rights chief's call for an international inquiry. In a letter leaked to several media outlets this week, the kingdom threated economic and diplomatic retaliation against rights council members which voted for the EU/Canadian proposal. The Saudi envoy to the council, Abdulaziz Alwasil, ended up endorsing Friday´s resolution, which was slightly softer than previously EU proposals. An earlier Dutch/Canadian draft asked for a Commission of Inquiry (COI) in Yemen, the UN's highest level investigation, but that call was removed from the adopted version. Countries with significant and lucrative ties to Saudi Arabia, including the United States, Britain and France, were reported to have sought a compromise between the EU and Arab camps, which were deadlocked through the week on a resolution. 'Turning point' A US envoy to the UN in Geneva, Theodore Allegra, said he was pleased the 47-member rights council was "speaking with one voice on Yemen". British ambassador Julian Braithwaite called the resolution "a significant achievement". Yemeni ambassador Ali Mohamed Saeed Majawar said his government will "engage positively" with the team of experts. For Human Rights Watch, which had argued forcefully for a Commission of Inquiry, Friday´s result still amounted to a success. "After more than two years of impunity for horrendous crimes in Yemen, today could mark a turning point," HRW's Geneva director John Fisher said in a statement. The new probe "will bring an unprecedented level of scrutiny to the conduct of all parties to the Yemen war", he said. Amnesty International called the resolution "a breakthrough" and a "victory" for suffering Yemeni civilians. The conflict has killed more than 8,500 people and wounded nearly 49,000 others, according to the World Health Organization. More than 17 million Yemenis are now facing dire food shortages, and a nationwide cholera epidemic has killed more than 2,100 people since April. Cholera cases could hit 900,000 by year's end, the head of the Yemen delegation for the International Committee of the Red Cross, Alexandre Faite, told journalists earlier Friday. The situation in Yemen is often described as "the world´s worst humanitarian crisis."
  10. WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders in the US Congress have agreed to work together on legislation to protect ?Dreamers,? the illegal immigrants who were children when they entered the United States, the lawmakers said on Wednesday, although a dispute erupted over exactly what had been agreed. Following a dinner with Trump at the White House, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said the ?productive meeting? focused on ?DACA,? a program established by former President Barack Obama. ?We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that?s acceptable to both sides,? Schumer and Pelosi said in a statement. All year, Democrats have insisted that they will block any legislation that contains funding for a wall along the length of the U.S. border with Mexico, a top Trump campaign goal that many Republicans in Congress also do not support. While White House officials have suggested legislation on DACA could move forward without wall funding, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders disputed the characterization that a deal had been reached to leave it out of any legislation focused on the Dreamers. ?While DACA and border security were both discussed, excluding the wall was certainly not agreed to,? she said on Twitter. Throughout his 2016 campaign for president and since taking office in January, Trump has demanded the construction of a wall to keep out illegal immigrants and drugs. He initially said Mexico would pay for the wall but has requested money from the U.S. Congress after the government of Mexico refused to pay. The dinner was the latest effort in a new initiative by Trump to work with opposition party Democrats on major legislation. Following the dinner, a White House official said the president, Schumer and Pelosi discussed tax reform, immigration, border security, infrastructure investments and trade as part of Trump?s bid to reach out to Democrats. ?The administration looks forward to continuing these conversations with leadership on both sides of the aisle,? the official said. Over a dinner of Chinese food, Trump and the Democratic leaders also discussed issues related to US-China trade, according to a congressional aide briefed on the meeting. Schumer and Pelosi also said that they urged Trump to make permanent government subsidy payments under the Affordable Care Act, also known as ?Obamacare.? ?Those discussions will continue,? the lawmakers said. Trump and most Republicans in Congress have demanded the repeal of Obamacare but have been unable to agree on a replacement for the healthcare program that became law in 2010. Using his executive powers, Trump canceled Obama?s DACA program in which about 800,000 undocumented young people have escaped the threat of deportation and been able to apply for work permits in the United States. Trump argued that Obama over-stepped his authority in creating the program. But Trump gave Congress six months to come up with a replacement program in the form of legislation to be enacted into law. Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar, who attended a White House meeting with Trump earlier on Wednesday, told reporters the president said he would not insist on wall funding as part of a Dreamers bill, but would pursue it on other, future legislation. Cuellar said Trump urged lawmakers to link a Republican bill to cut legal immigration to the United States with protections for Dreamers. But many Democrats oppose lowering the cap on annual legal immigration.
  11. Beard owners obviously take a lot of pride in their chin tresses, and always take care of it with fancy grooming products. And, it turns out, that beards not only have been scientifically proven to make men more attractive, research also indicates that the grizzly beards have a lot of health benefit too. Researchers from The University of Queensland dug deep into this topic, and it was honestly time well spent as there's now proof that beard owners could be hiding a number of health preserving benefits in their facial bush. One of the benefits is how beards provide a built-in protection from 90-95% of harmful UV rays from the sun, according to the research. The man who led the study, Professor Alfio Parisi, claims face fuzz has a UV protection factor of 21. Talking to the Radiation Protection Dosimetry journal, he said, “While beards will never be as sun-safe as sunscreen, they certainly are a factor in blocking UV rays.” Parisi and his team reached upon this conclusion after conducting an experiment using mannequins. A number of mannequin heads were left out in the boiling sun, with varying beards – some with full beards, some with partial beards and some were left bare faced. To make it a fair fight, the heads were kept on being rotated in order to make sure each was exposed to the same amount of sunlight. After that, the scientists were able to measure the level of radiation absorbed in each. It turns out that since the beard blocks direct sunlight reaching some parts of the face, it, therefore, slows down the ageing process, keeping the skin below young, supple and wrinkle free for longer. Beards could even help reduce the risk of skin cancer. One tiny little problem, though, is that the study requires a full on Viking beard to get this level of protection, because let's face it, you're basically fighting the sun. And, it's not just the sun that beards are keeping at bay, but harsh, face stinging winds as well. With an added layer of protection, the skin beneath will stay as soft as it can be. Moreover, beards also apparently protect eyes, noses and mouths from pesky sneeze-inducing irritants such as pollen and dust. So, the bottom line is, keep growing that beard even if your mother is after your life to shave. Maybe, just show her this study, it might change her mind.
  12. The Kremlin on Friday said it agreed with President Donald Trump's assessment that US-Russian ties were at an all-time and very dangerous low. "We fully share this opinion," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists over Trump's view, expressed on Twitter on Thursday. Peskov said that the danger facing the countries "may lie in a lack of mutual collaboration and cooperation over the topics that are vitally important for both our countries and their people." Trump, writing after he reluctantly signed a bill approved by Congress for strengthening sanctions against Russia, tweeted: "Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. "You can thank Congress, the same people that can't even give us HCare!", Trump said, referring to the Republican-dominated legislature's failure to implement a campaign pledge to change the US healthcare system. Moscow has reacted furiously to the sanctions. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev On Wednesday said they amounted to a "full-fledged economic war" and demonstrated Trump's "total weakness by handing over executive power to Congress in the most humiliating way." The Kremlin spokesman on Friday also slammed the ongoing investigation into Trump's alleged collusion with Russia during the election campaign, calling this "Russiagate," a reference to the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of Richard Nixon. "We have many times talked about the complete absurdity and lack of basis for so-called Russiagate," Peskov said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is set to meet US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Manila at the weekend to discuss bilateral ties, the Russian foreign ministry confirmed Thursday after the diplomatic chiefs spoke by phone.
  13. Los Angeles announced its intent to host the 2028 Olympics on Monday, paving the way for Paris to host in 2024 in a deal hailed as a win-win-win for both cities and the Olympic movement. "I am proud to announce the Olympic Games are coming back to the United States of America," Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti said at ceremony at the StubHub Center stadium. "In 2028, we are bringing the Games back to LA, one of the great capitals of the Olympic movement. A city that has always been a Games changer and will be again in 2028." Los Angeles had been in a race with Paris to follow Tokyo 2020 as the 2024 host with the winner to be named by the IOC on September 13 in Lima. But the possibility that Los Angeles would abandon a 2024 bid and instead accept the 2028 Games has been growing since the IOC decided in July that it would attempt to award both Games at its Lima meeting. Paris had remained insistent on hosting in 2024, on the 100th anniversary of the city's 1924 Olympics. LA officials, who had put forward a $5.3 billion bid for 2024, said an agreement had been reached with the IOC on financial considerations that would make waiting an extra four years feasible. Bid chief Casey Wasserman said the IOC had waived various fees and payments that could ultimately save LA organizers millions. The IOC will also advance $180 million to LA organizers to lessen the impact of the longer leadup time, money that normally wouldn't be disbursed until closer to the Games kickoff. "The IOC contribution as stipulated by the HCC is $1.8 billion and has the potential to exceed $2 billion according to the evaluation of the LA bid committee when taking into account the estimated value of existing sponsor agreements to be renewed and potential new marketing deals," the bid committee said in a statement. Garcetti added: "This deal was too good to pass up." The deal will bring the Games back to Los Angeles for a third time, after the city hosted in 1932 and 1984. The agreement must still be approved by the Los Angeles City Council and the United States Olympic Committee -- both of which backed the 2024 bid. City Council president Herb Wesson, an enthusiastic supporter of the Games, said the council committee on the Games would thoroughly vet the new proposals before making its recommendation to the full council for a vote hopefully within two weeks. Local backing is crucial to the success of any Games, but federal government support is also key since the national government will play a key role in security. Wasserman singled out the support of US President Donald Trump as helping to bring the Games back to the United States. The USA last hosted the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 while the Winter Games were held in Salt Lake City in 2002. Garcetti said that if all goes according to plan, LA is confident it will receive 100 percent support by IOC members in Lima for a bid that relies largely on existing infrastructure and features iconic venus such as the Memorial Coliseum -- slated once again to host athletics. IOC president Thomas Bach also said he was confident any remaining hurdles could be cleared. "We are very confident that we can reach a tripartite agreement under the leadership of the IOC with LA and Paris in August, creating a win-win-win situation for all three partners," he said. "This agreement will be put forward to the IOC Session in Lima in September for ratification." 'At the finish line' The IOC's efforts to streamline the bidding process didn't help boost the number of candidates for 2024. Boston was first selected by the USOC as a prospective host but dropped out amid local opposition and money concerns. Hamburg, Budapest and Rome also pulled out of the race. "In sports terms, there is no other metaphor it was a marathon," Garcetti said of the arduous process. "Today, we are at the finish line." Paris, which will also be hosting the Games for a third time, endured the disappointment of failed bids in 1992, 2008 and 2012. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said on Twitter: "Happy that my friend @MayorofLA has made an important new step on an agreement that will have three winners: Paris, Los Angeles and the IOC #Paris2024." Garcetti downplayed any risk involved in taking on the Olympics so far in advance, saying political or economic setbacks in the interim, or even a natural disaster such as an earthquake, wouldn't prove fatal to the preparations. "Los angeles is resilient," Garcetti said. "I'm not worried about those things. We aren't going to see sports go away. We're not going to see stadiums disappear. "When you look at those risks, sure in some scenario if the entire Earth falls apart probably the Olympics aren't happening in Los Angeles. "But short of that," Garcetti said, "We're going to have a great Games here in LA."
  14. BRUSSELS: NATO will increase troop numbers in Afghanistan to help train local forces facing a resurgent Taliban but will not return to a combat role, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday. The alliance ended its longest-ever military operation in 2014 when it handed over post-9/11 frontline duties to the Afghan military and took on an advice and training mission. But NATO commanders have asked for more troops following recent Taliban gains, stoking fears that NATO could get sucked back into the conflict just as it faces a host of new threats including Russia, terrorism and cyber attacks. "I can confirm we will increase our presence in Afghanistan," Stoltenberg said as he arrived for a defence ministers meeting at the 29-nation alliance's headquarters in Brussels. An increase of up to 3,000 troops from the current figure of 13,500 soldiers is under consideration, diplomatic sources said, though Stoltenberg did not give a precise figure. He said 15 countries had already pledged more contributions and he hoped for more. "We have to understand this is about training, assistance, advice... It is not to conduct combat operations but to help the Afghans fight," Stoltenberg said. The extra troops could help bolster Afghan special forces, improve Kabul's air force to provide ground support and evacuations, and step up officer training, he added. 'The long haul' About half of the soldiers in what is known as the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan are currently from the US. US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis is due to brief the allies later Thursday but Stoltenberg said he did not expect him to give specific troop numbers. "We will look into how we together can... have enough troops to help the government and break the stalemate and so lay the ground for a political solution," Stoltenberg said. US President Donald Trump has pushed the Cold War-era alliance to do more to counter terror and for the allies to increase defence spending to ease the burden on Washington. British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said London would provide just under 100 troops, on top of 500 already in Afghanistan. Fallon also emphasised that the troops would have no combat role and that the deployment was needed to help Afghanistan combat terrorism which threatened regions across the globe, including Europe. "We're in it for the long haul," Fallon told reporters. "There is every incentive to stay the course." Separately, a senior NATO military official played down concerns that the alliance would get embroiled once again in Afghanistan, where it took over the lead role from US forces in 2003. The real increase would number only in the hundreds to meet fresh tasks contained in a new Afghan government plan for the war, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. It only comes to thousands if current shortfalls in Resolute Support Mission numbers were included, the official said. Terror, cyberattacks, Russia Stung into action by Russia's intervention in Ukraine, NATO has embarked on its biggest military buildup since the end of the Cold War to face a more assertive Moscow. Defence ministers will discuss progress just as four "tripwire" battalions totalling some 4,000 troops complete their deployment in the three Baltic states and Poland. In a statement to mark the event, the four countries and the four lead nations -- Britain, Canada, Germany and the United States -- said the battlegroups were "ready and able to deter and, if necessary, immediately respond to any aggression." Stoltenberg warned on Wednesday that NATO must also step up its defences against cyber attacks after ransomware hackers caused chaos worldwide. NATO agreed last year that a cyberattack could warrant invoking Article 5 -- the alliance's 'all for one, one for all' mutual security guarantee. The global terror threat, highlighted by the Daesh militant group, also figures high on the ministers' agenda after NATO leaders agreed at a summit last month to join the US-led anti-IS coalition.
  15. LE BOURGET: Lockheed Martin has agreed with Tata Advanced Systems Ltd to jointly build F-16 fighter planes equipped with new-generation electronics in India, both companies said on Monday. The fighters are of the Block 70 type, "the newest and most technologically advanced F-16 ever", they said. "The F-16 Block 70 is ideally suited to meet the Indian Air Force´s single-engine fighter needs and this unmatched US-Indian industry partnership directly supports India´s initiative to develop private aerospace and defense manufacturing capacity in India," said the statement, released on the Paris air show´s opening day. The Indian air force does not currently use F-16s, but industry experts say that local production would be a strong argument in favour of the US plane against its rivals, including French company Dassault´s Rafale, in future procurement decisions. India in 2016 agreed to buy 36 Rafale combat planes for around eight billion euros. Accompanying that deal was a partnership agreement between Dassault and India´s Reliance Group and a promise by Dassault to invest about half of the value of the contract in India. The French company recently said it was in talks for India to buy at least 50 more. India, the world´s top defence importer, is conducting a $100-billion upgrade of its Soviet-era military hardware, facing border disputes with its northern and western neighbours, China and Pakistan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has moved to reduce India´s reliance on expensive imports and called for the manufacturing of defence equipment locally. Modi´s government has raised the limit on foreign investment in the defence sector and encouraged tie-ups between foreign and local companies. The announcement comes a week before Modi visits Washington for talks with President Donald Trump, who has been putting pressure on American companies to keep production at home. The multi-role F-16 has been in production since 1978, with Lockheed so far producing a total of 4,500 units of the aircraft of which 3,200 are currently in service. Tata Advanced Systems Ltd, a subsidiary of Tata Sons, already runs manufacturing partnerships with several global players, including Boeing, Airbus and Sikorsky.
  16. Eurozone ministers struck a long-delayed bailout deal with Greece on Thursday to unlock badly needed rescue cash, but warned Athens would have to wait for debt relief. After hours of talks in Luxembourg IMF chief Christine Lagarde and the eurozone's 19 finance ministers greenlit a payout of 8.5 billion euros to avoid Athens defaulting in July and avert another summer of Greek crisis. Payment of the latest tranche of Greece's 86-billion euro ($97-billion) bailout, agreed in 2015, has been held up for months by a row over its needs for debt relief which has pitted bailout-weary Germany against the International Monetary Fund (IMF). "I am pleased to announce we have achieved an agreement on all elements," Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem told a news conference in Luxembourg. "I think this is a major step forward," he added. In a breakthrough, Lagarde agreed in Luxembourg that the Washington-based IMF would join Greece's massive bailout, but said any payouts depended on the eurozone coming up with a full debt relief plan. "Nobody claims that this is the best solution. This is a second-best solution, but it's not a bad solution," said Lagarde, a former French finance minister. Greater clarity The deal averts a repeat of the summer of 2015 when Greece spectacularly defaulted on an IMF loan, and allows Athens to meet seven billion euros of debt repayments due in July. "We feel that after this Eurogroup there is much greater clarity for both the Greek people and the financial markets," Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said after the talks. "There is now light at the end of the tunnel," he said. Athens had insisted all week it would veto the deal, bitter that the latest disbursement would come without firm debt relief commitments after it delivered on tough reforms. As a consolation, in a compromise negotiated by France, Greece won a certain amount of clarity from the eurozone on debt relief, including an agreement to link debt repayments to Greek growth. Debt relief "will be implemented at the end of the programme, conditional on its successful implementation" in 2018, said Dijsselbloem, who is also Dutch finance minister. Exit strategy The eurozone will now draw up an "exit strategy" over the next year "to enable Greece to stand on its own feet again", Dijsselbloem said. He thanked the "Greek people for their intense efforts and resolve" after the government in Athens passed the latest in a series of tough reforms to get the cash. After three bailouts, Greece's debt currently stands at a staggering 180 percent of annual output, by far the biggest national debt pile in Europe. The IMF, which took part in Greece's two first bailouts, has long insisted that more debt relief was a necessary step to put the economy back on track. But Berlin, Greece's sternest critic and biggest lender, has resisted any fresh commitment to debt relief, saying Athens doesn't need it and must continue reforms. The IMF's decision to come on board was therefore a breakthrough. Lagarde said it would put $2 billion into the programme. Lagarde's move is controversial, with critics accusing the Washington-based organisation of bending its own rules to satisfy Berlin. The IMF had insisted repeatedly that Greece's debt is not sustainable, and that the country would require significant debt relief from Europe before the fund could approve a new loan programme. Greece nearly crashed out of the euro in 2015 after a furious fight over the bailout deal, and says its fragile recovery has suffered from the most recent delay. In an emotional editorial published on Wednesday in France, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Thursday's meeting was "essential" for the "future of Europe".
  17. Shane Warne, one of the best-known Australian bowlers is an England fan. Well, it doesn’t end here, as he is all hopped up to get the England ODI shirt for himself. Don’t believe us, have a look for yourself: .@SGanguly99 Trying to get an England ODI shirt sent to me so I can wear it in honour of our bet. Will tweet a picture asap ! 😩 #CT17 — Shane Warne (@ShaneWarne) June 12, 2017 Wait a minute. BET? What’s this bet he’s mentioned in that tweet. So yeah, in an Aaj Tak Salam Cricket event in London, Ganguly claimed how he thinks team England can perform way better than Australia. Australia. Warne agreed to disagree but ended up challenging Dada for the Eng-Aus Champions Trophy clash. While Ganguly firmly believed England to be the better side, the former spinner picked up a bet. Warne who’s always been anti-team-England said if Australia loses he would wear the England ODI shirt for a whole day. But if Australia wins, Dada would wear Australia’s shirt. Shane Warne also added that the loser treats the winner to a dinner that’s not Mc Donald’s. .@SGanguly99 You win our bet mate. I will find an England shirt and wear it all day ! 😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😩😩😩😩😩😩 — Shane Warne (@ShaneWarne) June 11, 2017 After the match, Warne was obviously disappointed. But the legendary spinner is a man of his word and hence soon we’re going to see him pull off the England Jersey with sass. Dada’s confidence in the English team is commendable. Our former captain showed how his judgment of a team is way better than anyone else. Australia's performance... I didn't like the team that Aust put on the park & the team lacked energy for the #CT17 tournament ! England don't fear Aust anymore. #ashes https://t.co/W99h6NjBfq — Shane Warne (@ShaneWarne) June 11, 2017 Well, be it a cricket match or any bet, Sourav Ganguly has never disappointed his. Cheers to winning more bets, Dada.
  18. Music streaming leader Spotify has agreed to set up a $43.45 million fund to settle a potentially costly pair of US copyright lawsuits from artists, lawyers said Monday. The move marks the latest effort by the Swedish company to turn the page on messy disputes as it considers a public listing amid the soaring growth of streaming. The settlement would end lawsuits spearheaded by two indie songwriters who double as academics -- folk rock singer Melissa Ferrick and David Lowery, frontman of alternative rock bands Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven. The two had pursued class-action cases -- meaning a mass of musicians could claim payouts -- with Ferrick seeking $200 million and Lowery asking for $150 million. The artists had accused Spotify, which boasts of offering instant access to 30 million songs, of recklessly putting music online without securing mechanical rights -- the permission to reproduce copyrighted material -- from the tracks' composers. Spotify and other streaming services pay royalties both to performers and songwriters -- who are often lesser known and, for older and more obscure songs, more difficult to identify. Under the settlement filing that needs to be approved by a federal judge in New York, Spotify would set up the $43.45 million fund to compensate songwriters for lack of licensing. Spotify would also pay for streams of the tracks afterward -- which the filing said would "easily total tens of millions of dollars in future royalties." Steven Sklaver, a Los Angeles-based lawyer who co-led the case, called the settlement especially significant as Spotify had already reached a deal last year with the National Music Publishers' Association. The association, which represents songwriters under major US publishers, secured substantially less at around $21 million over songs whose composers had been difficult to identify. - Substantially bigger deal - Sklaver, a partner with the firm Susman Godfrey, estimated that hundreds of thousands of songwriters would qualify as part of the class seeking payment from Spotify. But the national association has said that more than 96 percent of music publishers accepted last year's deal. They are ineligible for the latest settlement -- meaning much bigger payouts for indie artists such as Lowery and Ferrick who held out. Under the settlement, Spotify would work with other industry players including record labels to digitize copyright records for musical works before 1978, when US law in its current form took effect. Spotify would also support the creation of an outside body to help identify unmatched tracks and set up an auditing system so songwriters can verify the accuracy of royalty payments. Spotify did not respond to a request for comment on the settlement. The company, which as a private company does not need to disclose financial figures, was estimated to be worth more than $8 billion in 2015 when it secured investors' financing. That figure is likely to have risen sharply with the rapid growth of streaming and Spotify, which said in March that it had more than 50 million paying subscribers. Spotify has long mulled going public, likely by listing on the New York Stock Exchange. Last week the company again raised expectations by naming four new members to its board, three of them with experience in the entertainment industry. Fueled by streaming, the global music industry has posted two straight years of solid growth, the first substantial expansion since the start of the internet age two decades ago. But Spotify and other streaming services have frequently been hit by complaints by artists who say that they are insufficiently paid -- although the number of musicians who boycott streaming has dwindled to a trickle.
  19. In a recent interview with GQ, his first one since his divorce, Brad Pitt revealed that he had started therapy and had cut back on excessive drinking and marijuana smoking. In the candid interview, he opened up about the difficulties he faced folowing his separation from Jolie and their six children. But, along with the serious interview was a questionable photoshoot. He was photographed by Ryan McGinley, a photographer who is best known for his portraits of young, frequently nude people in wide, open landscapes of spectacular beauty. People on Twitter obviously had a lot to say about the pictures and here are the best reactions : Things have been tough for Brad Pitt since Angelina got gravity in the divorce. pic.twitter.com/pUz8XrioFf — Matt Fernandez (@FattMernandez) May 3, 2017 Brad Pitt from left-right as: Post-crack Justin Bieber, Man Sorry for Masturbating in Public Park, Robert Downey-Junior in new drag role pic.twitter.com/9rpNzOvDlk — Alexandra Haddow (@MissAHaddow) May 3, 2017 GQ photographer: imagine you're a worm, right? and a bird's just dropped you from its beak. can you show me that? Brad Pitt: pic.twitter.com/n4WZ9A7A5l — Alex Bruce-Smith (@alexbrucesmith) May 3, 2017 Brad Pitt's GQ photo shoot went well. pic.twitter.com/MgYZque5Z8 — Born Miserable (@bornmiserable) May 3, 2017 Is anyone going to point out that these Brad Pitt pics are just the Harry Styles photoshoot part 2 pic.twitter.com/8m9pBnMDlx — Miranda Langford (@mirandalang) May 3, 2017 Brad Pitt in his latest role as a fallopian tube here pic.twitter.com/Ts0pw9r7mZ — Alexandra Haddow (@MissAHaddow) May 3, 2017 Brad Pitt posing for GQ looks like an actual Saturday Night Live sketch about Brad Pitt posing for GQ. pic.twitter.com/VZijMX7chv — Jamie Woodham (@jwoodham) May 3, 2017 mood: brad pitt in a onesie laying in the snow pic.twitter.com/Q98hjj6uRF — Alayna McClintock (@laynarebecca) May 3, 2017 This was all I saw while glancing through the Brad Pitt GQ photos. #whoworeitbetter pic.twitter.com/wIDKzBkp9f — blynken (@blynken) May 5, 2017 the same photographer that did Harry's Another Man did Brad Pitt's GQ piece and he only has access to one (1) sweater vest apparently pic.twitter.com/pGIdgPoZf6 — Allyson Gross (@AllysonGross) May 3, 2017
  20. Whenever Rakhi Sawant opens her mouth, everyone just expects it to be something outrageous. But, she has outdone herself this time. A couple of days ago, Ram Gopal Verma showed the world how creepy he is with his tweets on Women’s Day, and any normal woman would disagree with his derogatory comments. But not Rakhi Sawant. Recently while talking to the media, she said, “Whatever Ram Gopal Varma said is right. I am with him, where he has praised Sunny Leone. I would also like to say that every woman, as said by Ram Gopal Varma, should learn to give pleasure.” © Twitter “Women should let go their responsibilities of kitchen and should take coaching classes of how to give pleasure,” she further added. We can’t even begin to explain how wrong and ridiculous this is. She’s basically telling women to give up everything and just revolve their lives around men and just to focus on how to pleasure them. Her defence was that if women give their husbands pleasure, these men would not leave them after 20-30 years of marriage. Seems like these two are just trying to outdo KRK at this point.