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Found 61 results

  1. RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's cabinet on Tuesday approved the national policy of its atomic energy programme, state media said, as the kingdom prepares to award contracts for its first nuclear power plants. The policy insists on limiting nuclear activities to peaceful purposes and calls for enhanced safety measures as well as the use of best practises for radioactive waste management, the Saudi Press Agency reported. Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, is seeking nuclear power to diversify its energy supply mix in order to free up oil to boost exports. The policy announcement comes ahead of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's visit to the United States on March 19-22, which is likely to see efforts to reach a civilian nuclear cooperation accord with Washington. The kingdom has accelerated plans to build 16 nuclear reactors over the next two decades, officials and analysts say, at a cost of some $80 billion. Negotiations are underway with the United States for its agreement to export technology needed for their construction. Besides the US company Westinghouse, Russian, French, Chinese and South Korean firms have all been seeking the Saudi contracts. Some analysts have voiced concerns that Saudi Arabia seeks to use its atomic programme as a hedge against its arch-rival Iran, which signed a deal with the United States in 2015 to curb its own nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief. Saudi Arabia, which insists its intentions are peaceful, has signed cooperation agreements with over a dozen countries in recent years to boost nuclear cooperation, including France, China and Russia.
  2. The Dhaka Stock Exchange on February 10 had approved the Chinese offer to buy a quarter of the bourse's 1.8 billion shares-Photo: File Bangladesh has agreed to sell a large stake in its stock exchange to a Chinese consortium, an official said on Tuesday, rebuffing a rival bid from India that raised political sensitivities. The Dhaka Stock Exchange on February 10 had approved the Chinese offer to buy a quarter of the bourse's 1.8 billion shares, but Bangladesh's financial regulator asked it to ?further scrutinise? the decision. ?The board has reconfirmed its decision about approving the Chinese consortium's bid as it is higher than its nearest competitor's,? said stock exchange spokesman Shafiqur Rahman after the meeting on Monday evening. The Mumbai-based National Stock Exchange had offered 15 taka ($0.18) per share during the tender process this month. China's Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges made a joint higher bid of 22 taka per share, or $122 million, and offered additional technical support worth nearly $37 million. The intervention by the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission in the sale sparked allegations in local media that it was trying to favour India. The Bangladesh office of Transparency International, the Berlin-based corruption watchdog, issued a statement ?strongly condemning? what it called unethical and illegal meddling. The regulator ? which at the time defended its final authority to override decisions made by the stock exchange ? was not immediately available for comment. The competing bids have exposed tensions in Bangladesh as it juggles growing interest from China against longstanding ties with its huge neighbour India. New Delhi threw its weight behind the 2014 elections that returned Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to power, despite boycotts by the opposition who feared the vote would be rigged. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has made big investments in Bangladesh and Indian companies have won multi-billion contracts in key sectors in recent years. But increasingly it must counter China, which has also courted India's Pakistan and strategic Indian Ocean nations including Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Xi Jinping in October 2016 became the first Chinese president to visit Bangladesh in more than three decades, signing deals worth more than $20 billion. But there have been setbacks, with Bangladesh last month blacklisting a top Chinese construction firm for allegedly trying to bribe a senior government official.
  3. Imran on the occasion said that PTI is a truly democratic political party and continuous efforts are being made to turn the party into an institution-Photo:File ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan in a meeting on Friday approved a committee to review the party constitution in detail and suggest amendments to it. The committee comprises senior PTI leaders, including Babar Awan, Azhar Tariq, Arif Alvi, Amir Mehmood Kiani and Shahid Naseem Gondal. Imran on the occasion also said that PTI is a truly democratic political party and continuous efforts are being made to turn the party into an institution. A party?s organisation and makeup are dependent on its constitutional structure, he said. ?We will not ignore the internal structure of the party as we progress in politics,? he said. Imran vowed to give a better Pakistan along with a better constitution to future generations.
  4. [embed_video1 url=http://stream.jeem.tv/vod/47bccce3eff066c0a9bb79f7369a2d7f.mp4/playlist.m3u8?wmsAuthSign=c2VydmVyX3RpbWU9Mi8xNS8yMDE4IDE6MjM6NTEgUE0maGFzaF92YWx1ZT0wRUpZRWEyZWx5YVAyYm5xVEtDRjBBPT0mdmFsaWRtaW51dGVzPTYwJmlkPTE= style=center] KARACHI: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) confirmed on Thursday that it has given approval to verify a complaint against PPP MAN Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani for possessing assets disproportionate to his declared sources of income. Jakhrani is an elected legislator of Pakistan Peoples Party from Jacobabad. Meanwhile, the anti-graft body has announced the recovery of millions of rupees from Al-Hamra (Pvt) Ltd Management, Eden Builders (Pvt) Ltd and returned it to Managing Director Shaheen Foundation Air Marshal (retd) Mohammad Jamshed Khan, said a press release. The accountability body claimed that it successfully persuaded the management of Al-Hamra (Pvt) Ltd to return Rs 1832.168 million in total as the accused not only failed to handover the plots despite given payments but also sold the land to other parties. During the inquiry the accused in writing promised to further return Rs 573 million along with the principal amount to the Shaheen Foundation members. In the first phase, Rs 366 million was returned to the affectee of M/s Shaheen Foundation. In the second phase Rs50 million were reimbursed, In the third phase, the returned amount was Rs 117.5 million. In the fourth and fifth phase Rs137 million were returned. DG NAB Rawalpindi Irfan Naeem Mangi said that in light of the directions of NAB Chairman Justice (retd) 0Javad Iqbal the anti-graft watchdog believes in zero tolerance policy against corruption.
  5. A Johnson & Johnson building is shown in Irvine, California, US, January, 24, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/Files The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday approved Johnson & Johnson?s Erleada treatment for use with prostate cancer patients whose cancer has not spread but continues to grow despite hormone therapy. The drug is the first FDA-approved treatment for non-metastatic, castration-resistant prostate cancer, the FDA said in a statement.
  6. Former PM Nawaz Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain are accused in the reference. Photo: File, ISLAMABAD: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal has given the approval to file supplementary references in the Al-Azizia and Flagship Investments Limited references, sources informed Geo News on Wednesday. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain are accused in the two references. NAB will file both the supplementary references in the accountability court soon. Sources have informed that new evidence, including details of offshore companies of Hasan and Hussain, are part of the supplementary references. Nawaz fails to appear before NAB to record statement in Al-Azizia, Flagship references NAB preparing supplementary references in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investment Ltd cases: sources The NAB filed three corruption references against the Sharif family in September last year in light of the Supreme Court's July 28 verdict in the Panama Papers case. The references pertain to the Al-Azizia Steel Mills, offshore companies including Flagship Investment Ltd, and Avenfield properties of London. On Saturday, Nawaz did not appear before the NAB Rawalpindi to record his statement with regards to the two references after having been summoned at the regional office.
  7. KARACHI: The Sindh government has approved life skills education to be integrated into the syllabus of secondary students (grade 6-9), the Sindh Education Department stated on Wednesday. The Sindh Education Department made the announcement through its official Twitter account. The department said that the life skills education is being imparted to the students of eight districts. The districts include Karachi, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Umerkot, Khairpur, Nawabshah, Dadu, Shahdadkot. The government is trying to approve the subject to be included in primary classes as well ( grade 3-5). The notification stated that the provincial education department consulted with the civil society, teachers, parents and religious ulema to make the content according to the issues present in the Pakistani society. ?Life skills based education content includes 19 modules which teach children to be able to protect themselves, personal hygiene, nutrition, human rights, protection from disease such as hepatitis, and that a boy and girl are equal and have equal rights. This information is critical if we want to move forward with social development and build a society, which is safer for our children and to prevent further tragedies like Kasur,? said the notification. It further mentioned that life skills based education is a part of the National Education Policy as well as the Youth Policy, enabling the students to gain knowledge in order to protect themselves.
  8. QUETTA: Member of provincial assembly (MPA) Majeed Khan Achakzai ? who fatally ran over a traffic policeman near Quetta's GPO Chowk ? was granted bail. The court announced the decision in the bail petition by Achakzai earlier today, ordering the accused to submit Rs 0.5 million personal bond money. The bail plea in a case of tampering his car's chassis was earlier approved, while Achakzai received an ad hoc bail in a case of killing a citizen in Quetta. A court found the MPA innocent in another case of kidnapping a citizen. A sessions court, in September, had indicted Achakzai, whose vehicle was speeding along GPO Chowk intersection when it rammed into Traffic Sub-Inspector Haji Ataullah and wounded him fatally, on June 20. The MPA had refused to accept the charges against him. Slain policeman's son denies pardoning Balochistan MPA Achakzai Uncle, grandfather were misled into signing blank paper, claims son Earlier, a discriminatory attitude in the case was witnessed, when despite the incident's CCTV video, an FIR was registered against 'unidentified persons'. The video of the incident had gone viral on social media after the incident, following which police took action against the death of their colleague. Achakzai, who is associated with the Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party, was elected to the provincial assembly from Killa Abdullah on PB-13.
  9. [embed_video1 url=http://stream.jeem.tv/vod/0a1626419786ffe1a8fd2dbcdf613abf.mp4/playlist.m3u8?wmsAuthSign=c2VydmVyX3RpbWU9MTIvMjcvMjAxNyAyOjUzOjE2IFBNJmhhc2hfdmFsdWU9dFFpWGtrV3pINFplRWNjTjlBNnpiZz09JnZhbGlkbWludXRlcz02MCZpZD0x style=center] ISLAMABAD: The federal government approved on Wednesday the Hajj Policy for 2018, according to which the official hajj scheme quota will be 120,000. Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Muhammad Yousaf in a press conference said that the hajj applications will be accepted from January 15 to 25, 2018. He said that for the official scheme draw will be held on January 26, 2018. Sadar Yousaf said that the policy of the last year will continue and Pakistan?s hajj quota will be 179,000. He said that the hajj policy was revised due to the verdict of the Supreme Court, adding that the public?s trust over the official hajj scheme has been restored. The minister said that if there are any discrepancies in the scheme then the government will bear them. He said that it is the fifth consecutive year that the government has successfully announced a hajj policy.
  10. ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau's executive board on Wednesday approved the filing of a reference against deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif, said a statement released by the bureau. The reference pertains to the alleged illegal construction of a two-way road from Raiwind to the Sharif family home in the year 2000. The construction of the road caused a loss of Rs125 million to the national exchequer. The decision was taken in a meeting of the accountability watchdog's executive board meeting, chaired by NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal. The board also approved an investigation in relation to the Nandipur power project in which former minister Babar Awan, former minister for water and power Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and others are included for allegedly causing a delay in the project, due to which the national exchequer incurred a loss of Rs113 billion. During the meeting, NAB decided to pursue six references, four inquiries and 11 investigations., added the statement. The accountability watchdog is already pursuing three other references against the Sharif family after the apex court's verdict in the Panama Papers case. The references The NAB has in total filed three references against the Sharif family and another against former finance minister Ishaq Dar in the accountability court, in light of the Supreme Court's orders in the Panama Papers case verdict of July 28. The anti-graft body was given six weeks, from the date of the apex court's order, to file the reference in an accountability court while the accountability court was granted six months to wrap up the proceedings. The references against the Sharif family pertain to the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment, their London properties, and over dozen offshore companies allegedly owned by the family. Maryam and Safdar are only nominated in the London properties reference. At an earlier hearing, the court also approved Maryam and Safdar's bail in the Avenfield properties case and ordered them to submit surety bonds worth Rs5 million each. Safdar was also directed to take the court's permission before leaving the country from now on. The judge also provided a copy of the reference ? spread over 53 volumes ? to Maryam and Safdar. NAB's Rawalpindi branch prepared two references regarding the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment, and the nearly dozen companies owned by the Sharif family. Its Lahore branch prepared a reference on the Sharif family's Avenfield apartments in London and another against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for owning assets beyond his known sources of income. If convicted, the accused may face up to 14 years imprisonment and lifelong disqualification from holding public office including the freezing of bank accounts and assets.
  11. PM Abbasi chairing Federal Cabinet meeting - File Photo ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday approved formation of a high-level national implementation committee for FATA reforms, read a press statement issued by the PM Office. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi chaired the cabinet meeting, which approved formation of the committee. "The meeting granted ex-post facto approval to the formation of National Implementation Committee on FATA Reforms. Minister for Defence and Corp Commander 11 Corp have been included in the high-level implementation committee," read the statement. Sources informed Geo News that governor and chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will also be part of the committee, according to the notification. The Hajj Policy and Plan, 2018, was also presented before the cabinet during Tuesday's meeting. While deciding not to increase Hajj dues this year under the Government Hajj Scheme, the meeting approved the policy with certain amendments. The statement said the minister for religious affairs would hold a press briefing to highlight salient features of the Hajj Policy 2018, without specifying a date. The cabinet accorded permission to sign the revised Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development and the Ministry of Employment and Labour of the Republic of Korea, on sending and receiving of workers under the Employment Permit System. The meeting approved amendment in the Schedule of FIA Act, 1974, pertaining to blasphemy and pornography. The amendment aims at bringing the offences of blasphemy and pornography within the ambit of Prevention of Electronic Crime Act, 2016. The cabinet also approved appointment of Rear Admiral Zaka-ur-Rehman, SI(M), as director general of the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA).
  12. KARACHI: Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah has approved the summary for a province-wide public holiday on December 27, to mark the death anniversary of slain Pakistan Peoples Party Leader Benazir Bhutto, Geo News reported Tuesday. The summary for the holiday to mark Benazir?s death anniversary was forwarded to the CM by Department of Services General Administration and Coordination of Sindh government. It is expected that all offices, autonomous or semi-autonomous, working under the Sindh government will remain closed on December 27 (Wednesday). On December 27, 2007, Benazir was assassinated during a public gathering at Rawalpindi's Liaquat Bagh.
  13. A view of the Turkish parliament- File photo/Reuters ISTANBUL: Turkey?s parliament has approved the government?s 2018 budget, which includes increased spending on defense and projects a rise in the fiscal deficit to 65.9 billion lira ($17.28 billion). The 2018 budget, approved by parliament late on Friday, introduces changes in tax regulations, such as tax increases for companies and motor vehicles, to help pay for increased security. In 2017, Turkey?s budget is expected to show a deficit of 61.7 billion lira, more than twice the 2016 budget deficit of around 30 billion lira. Turkey?s 2018 budget also projects tax income of 599.4 billion lira, up some 15 percent from estimates for 2017, and a 5.8 billion lira primary surplus. Over the past two years, Turkey?s current account deficit has widened due to increasing government incentives to boost the economy and defense spending. Next year?s budget deficit to gross domestic product ratio is expected to be 1.9 percent. The government says the additional defense spending is urgently needed to modernize the military, the second-largest in the NATO alliance, and meet the costs of domestic and foreign security operations. Turkey?s economy has rebounded from a downturn that followed an attempted coup last year, helped by a series of government stimulus measures. GDP grew 11.1 percent year-on-year in the third quarter, its fastest expansion in six years, according to official data.
  14. A currency trader counts Pakistani rupee notes while preparing an exchange of US dollars in Islamabad, Pakistan, December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Caren Firouz/Files KARACHI: The World Bank has granted Pakistan an $825-million loan to upgrade the energy and public finance sectors in a country that has long struggled with chronic power shortages and poor fiscal management. Just over half the loan ? approximately $425 million ? would be used to modernise the national grid, the World Bank said on Wednesday. The government has had some success in generating more electric power to ease a years-long energy crisis but its distribution has been hampered by poor transmission. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said recently that 10,000 megawatts had been added to the national system, with another 10,000 megawatts available in the next two years. "The improved power supply will help meet the unserved demand from consumers and reduce the number and duration of power outages," Illango Patchamutu ? the country manager for the World Bank ? said in a statement. The remaining $400 million was allocated to improve the management of public finances and, thus, assist the delivery of much-needed health and education services. Pakistan?s economy grew 5.3 percent in the fiscal year up to June 2017 and the government has set a growth target of around six percent for the current year. However, economists are wary of Pakistan?s hefty fiscal deficit of around four percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). A record trade deficit of $15 billion for the first four months of the current financial year has also caused jitters about a potential balance of payments crisis. The value of the rupee has fallen by roughly five percent in recent weeks against US dollar.
  15. WASHINGTON: The World Bank today approved a package of $825 million to improve the national power transmission system in Pakistan, and enhance health and education service delivery by strengthening financing management and procurement systems. The $425 million National Transmission Modernization Project-I (NTMP-I) will modernize the national transmission system to enable new power generation to reach consumers by upgrading, expanding and rehabilitating selected 500kV and 220kV substations and transmission lines. ?With a substantial volume of new generation now coming online, the strengthening of the transmission and distribution systems is critical,? says Illango Patchamuthu, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan. ?The improved power supply will help meet the unserved demand from consumers and reduce the number and duration of power outages?. NTMP-I will improve supply reliability and lower losses in the transmission network. The project will also modernize the information and communication technology infrastructure and strengthen financial and accounting systems of the National Transmission and Dispatch Company using information technology. This will result in more efficient operation and business decision-making processes, higher productivity and upgraded staff skills. Public financial management inefficiencies contribute to Pakistan?s weak performance in health and education sector, and despite a substantial increase, financial resources fail to reach clinics and schools on time. [embed_video1 url=http://stream.jeem.tv/vod/40d13facc987641ef41424c4152edfc2.mp4/playlist.m3u8?wmsAuthSign=c2VydmVyX3RpbWU9MTIvMjAvMjAxNyA2OjM3OjMzIEFNJmhhc2hfdmFsdWU9U1M5L0VJUzNKWFQyWEdGVTY2Z2hOZz09JnZhbGlkbWludXRlcz02MCZpZD0x style=center] The $400 million Public Financial Management (PFM) reform program will address these challenges through the enactment of a robust public finance management law, which will lead to decentralization of payment and empower the front-line service delivery managers. The program will also focus on strong cash management; timely and comprehensive reporting; improved federal-provincial coordination; timely release of funds; streamlined payroll and pension systems; efficient and transparent procurement, and user-friendly reports for citizen engagement. ?The public financial management challenges undermine the delivery of health and education services to the population?, said Illango. ?The new program will support the government to strengthen their public financial management and make it more transparent and accountable by introducing new aspects like, social audit of public expenditures by beneficiaries.? The NTMP is financed by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, part of the World Bank Group that lends to credit-worthy low and middle income countries. It is a fixed-spread loan with a maturity of 21 years, including a grace period of 6 years. The PFM reform program is financed by the International Development Association, the World Bank?s fund for the poor, with a maturity of 25 years, including a grace period of 5 years.
  16. ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Tuesday approved the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2017. The bill was introduced in the House by Minister-In-Charge of Law and Justice and moved for passage. There were 84 votes in favour of the bill and one vote against it. Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani read the clauses of the bill, during which the house was open to questions from lawmakers. Senator Hafiz Hamdullah asked about the hurdles in the delay in the bill, saying that the reservations were approved The other agenda items included three adjournment motions for admissibility, two motions under Rule 194 (1), two Calling Attention Notices, the COMSATS Institute of Information Technology Bill, 2017 and ministerial response to a point of public importance. The National Assembly passed this bill on November 16, 2017 with a two-third majority to consider the provisional results of census 2017 to make delimitation of constituencies for upcoming general elections 2018. A total of 233 members voted in favour of it and one member opposed it. It is worth noting that two-thirds majority in the Senate, having a total strength of 104, was required to get the Constitutional Amendment passed. The government had developed consensus with main political parties in the House to attain the required strength of 69 members. The passage of the bill will not change the 272 seats strength of the National Assembly. The bill will decrease nine National Assembly seats (seven general and two women seats) of the most populous Punjab province, and will increase five seats (four general and women seats ) of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, three seats of the largest province of Balochistan (two general, one women seats) and one of federal capital. The number of NA seats for Sindh province and FATA will remain the same. PPP agrees to get delimitation bill passed by Senate: sources Govt has agreed to PPP's demand that it would hold only one election based on new delimitation, sources say The bill seeks to carry out fresh delimitation of constituencies on the basis of officially published census results. It asks to allow delimitation for the general elections 2018 on the basis of the provisional results of the 6th Population and Housing Census 2017. The amendment sought in Article 51 (5) will allow to re-allocate seats as per provisional census results. The existing Article 51 (5) requires that the ?seats in the National Assembly shall be allocated to each Province, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the Federal Capital on the basis of population in accordance with the last preceding census officially published?. However, this bill will allow having delimitation on the basis of provisional results of the census.
  17. WASHINGTON: The World Bank's Board of Executive Directors approved US$300 million under the 'Strengthening Markets for Agriculture and Rural Transformation' (SMART) project for Punjab. The SMART project aims to modernise agriculture in Punjab to raise farmers' incomes and give consumers better, safer quality produce at lower prices. It also aims to create jobs on farms and agribusinesses and improve use of irrigation water, according to a WB statement. improve the use of irrigation water.
  18. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks to demonstrators during a protest against government's tax reforms next to the New York Stock Exchange in the Manhattan borough in New York, US, December 2, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz WASHINGTON: The US Senate narrowly approved a tax overhaul on Saturday, moving Republicans and President Donald Trump a big step closer to their goal of slashing taxes for businesses and the rich while offering everyday Americans a mixed bag of changes. In what would be the largest change to US tax laws since the 1980s, Republicans want to add $1.4 trillion over 10 years to the $20 trillion national debt to finance changes that they say would further boost an already growing economy. Speaking to reporters as he left the White House for New York hours after the pre-dawn vote, Trump praised the Senate for passing ?tremendous tax reform?, saying, ?people are going to be very, very happy?. Once the Senate and House of Representatives reconcile their respective versions of the legislation, he said, the resulting bill could cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent ?to 20 (percent). It could be 22 (percent) when it comes out. It could also be 20 (percent).? US stock markets have rallied for months on hopes that Washington would provide significant tax cuts for corporations. Celebrating their Senate victory, Republican leaders predicted the tax cuts would encourage US companies to invest more and boost economic growth. ?We have an opportunity now to make America more competitive, to keep jobs from being shipped offshore and to provide substantial relief to the middle class,? said Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate. The Senate approved their bill in a 51-49 vote, with Democrats complaining that last-minute amendments to win over skeptical Republicans were poorly drafted and vulnerable to being gamed later. ?The Republicans have managed to take a bad bill and make it worse,? said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. ?Under the cover of darkness and with the aid of haste, a flurry of last-minute changes will stuff even more money into the pockets of the wealthy and the biggest corporations.? No Democrats voted for the bill, but they were unable to block it because Republicans hold a 52-48 Senate majority. Talks will begin, likely next week, between the Senate and the House, which already has approved its own version of the legislation, to reconcile their respective bills. Trump, who predicted that the negotiations would produce ?something beautiful,? wants that to happen before the end of the year. This would allow him and his Republicans to score their first major legislative achievement of 2017 after having controlled the White House, the Senate and the House since he took office in January. Republicans failed in their efforts to repeal the Obamacare healthcare law over the summer and Trump?s presidency has been hit by White House in-fighting and a federal investigation into possible collusion last year between his election campaign team and Russian officials. The tax overhaul is seen by Trump and Republicans as crucial to their prospects at mid-term elections in November 2018, when they will have to defend their majorities in Congress. In a legislative battle that moved so fast a final draft of the bill was unavailable to the public until just hours before the vote, Democrats slammed the proposed tax cuts as a giveaway to businesses and the rich financed with billions of dollars in taxpayer debt. The framework for both the Senate and House bills was developed in secret over a few months by half-dozen Republican congressional leaders and Trump advisers, with little input from the party?s rank-and-file and none from Democrats. Six Republican senators, who wanted and got last-minute amendments and whose votes had been in doubt, said on Friday they would back the bill and did so. Senator Bob Corker, one of few remaining Republican fiscal hawks who pledged early on to oppose any bill that expanded the federal deficit, was the lone Republican dissenter. ?I am not able to cast aside my fiscal concerns and vote for legislation that ... could deepen the debt burden on future generations,? said Corker, who is not running for re-election. Key changes Numerous last-minute changes were made to the bill on Friday and in the early morning hours of Saturday. One was to make state and local property tax deductible up to $10,000, mirroring the House bill. The Senate previously had proposed entirely ending state and local tax deductibility. ?The tax reform measure that passed the Senate is negative overall for state and local government finances. Lower federal tax rates for businesses and individuals could result in a modest boost to hiring and consumption, positively affecting state and local revenues,? Nick Samuels, Vice President at Moody?s Investors Service, said in a statement. ?However, the change to the state and local tax (SALT) deduction would reduce disposable income for many taxpayers, likely outweighing the positive effect of lower federal rates on consumption in many communities and states.? In another change, the alternative minimum tax (AMT), both for individuals and corporations, would not be repealed in full. Instead, the individual AMT would be adjusted and the corporate AMT would be maintained as is, lobbyists said. Another change would put a five-year limit on letting businesses immediately write off the full value of new capital investments. That would phase out over four years starting in year six, rather than be permanent as initially proposed. Under the bill, the corporate tax rate would be permanently slashed to 20 percent from 35 percent, while future foreign profits of US-based firms would be largely exempt, both changes pursued by corporate lobbyists for years. On the individual side, the top tax rate paid by the highest-income earners would be cut slightly. The Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank, analyzed an earlier but broadly similar version of the bill passed by the Senate tax committee on November 16 and found it would reduce taxes for all income groups in 2019 and 2025, with the largest average tax cuts going to the highest-income Americans. Two Republican senators announced their support for the bill on Friday after winning more tax relief for non-corporate pass-through businesses. These include partnerships and other companies not organized as public corporations, ranging from mom-and-pop concerns to large financial and real estate groups. The bill now features a 23 percent tax deduction for such business owners, up from the original 17.4 percent. The Senate bill would gut a section of Obamacare by repealing a fee paid by some Americans who do not buy health insurance, a step critics said would undermine the Obamacare system and raise insurance premiums for the sick and the old. Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican, said she obtained commitments from Republican leaders that steps would be taken later in separate legislation to minimize the impact of the repeal of the ?individual mandate? fee.
  19. The CSF is a US Defense Department program to reimburse allies that have incurred costs in supporting counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations The US Congress on Thursday overwhelmingly authorised $700 billion in national defense spending for next year, a substantial increase over Donald Trump's request, and sent the measure to the president for his signature. The bill has allocated Rs35 billion for Pakistan under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF). The CSF is a US Defense Department program to reimburse allies that have incurred costs in supporting counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations. Regular payments to Pakistan under the CSF programme began in 2001, when Pakistan joined the US-led coalition in Afghanistan as a "frontline ally" Pakistan in March this year received US$350 million under CSF, the State Bank of Pakistan said in a statement. The National Defense Authorisation Act of 2018 is a negotiated compromise between the two chambers of Congress. The Senate passed it Thursday on a unanimous voice vote, two days after it cleared the House on a vote of 356 to 70. The bill is some $26 billion above Trump's initial military budget requests, and about 15 percent higher than the authorization in 2016, the last full year of Barack Obama''s presidency. It provides for $626 billion in base budget requirements, $66 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations, or warfighting, and an additional $8 billion for other defense activities. $4.9 billion is reserved for Afghanistan security forces, including a program integrating women into the country'?s national defense. The figure is substantially more than Trump?s baseline missile defense request, at a time of heightened tensions with North Korea over its testing of nuclear devices and ballistic missiles.
  20. US President Donald Trump departs the US Capitol after meeting with House Republicans ahead of their vote on the 'Tax Cuts and Jobs Act' in Washington, US, November 16, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein WASHINGTON: Republican US lawmakers on Thursday took an important step toward the biggest tax code overhaul since the 1980s as the House of Representatives approved a broad package of tax cuts sought by President Donald Trump. The tax debate now moves to the US Senate, where that chamber?s separate plan has already encountered resistance from some Republicans. No decisive Senate action is expected until after next week?s Thanksgiving holiday. Trump, who is looking for his first major legislative win since he took office in January, went to the US Capitol just before the vote to urge House Republicans to pass the tax bill, which Democrats call a giveaway to the wealthy and businesses. ?A simple, fair and competitive tax code will be rocket fuel for our economy, and it?s within our reach. Now is the time to deliver,? White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said after the largely party-line House vote of 227-205. Congress has not thoroughly overhauled the sprawling US tax code since Republican Ronald Reagan was president. The House measure is not as comprehensive as Reagan?s 1986 sweeping package, but it is more ambitious than anything since then. But the path forward for the tax plan in the Senate, where Republicans have a narrow majority, is fraught with obstacles about concerns over the federal deficit, health care and the distribution of tax benefits. Republicans can lose no more than two Senate votes if Democrats remain united in opposition. Senate Republican tax writers made the risky decision to tie their plan to a repeal of the requirement for people to get healthcare insurance under former President Barack Obama?s Affordable Care Act. That exposed the tax initiative to the same political forces that wrecked Republicans? anti-Obamacare push earlier this year. The House bill, which is estimated to increase the federal deficit by nearly $1.5 trillion over 10 years, would consolidate individual and family tax brackets to four from seven and reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. It also would scale back or end some popular tax deductions, including one for state and local income taxes, while preserving a capped deduction for property tax payments. Democrats have pointed to analyses showing millions of Americans could end up with a tax hike because of the elimination of popular deductions. Repealing or cutting some deductions is a way to offset the revenue lost from tax cuts. ?It?s a shameful piece of legislation, and the Republicans should know better,? House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi told lawmakers before the vote. Thirteen House Republicans opposed the bill, all but one from New York, New Jersey and California - states with high taxes where residents would feel the pinch from eliminating the deduction for state and local income taxes. ?This fight is not over. I look forward to continuing negotiations to improve this proposal for my constituents,? said Republican US Representative Lee Zeldin of New York, who opposed the bill. Investors have cheered the prospect of a tax overhaul and US stocks rose and the dollar edged higher against a basket of major currencies on Thursday after the House passed its bill. Brian Battle, director of trading at Performance Trust Capital Partners in Chicago, said stocks? strong gains on the day were helped by the House vote. ?Higher hurdle? ?It?s helping stocks now and the bond market?s turned around,? he said. ?The tax plan isn?t a foregone conclusion but it passed the lowest hurdle in the House. The even higher hurdle is to have something pass in the Senate.? Republicans have long promised tax cuts and see enacting the legislation as critical to their prospects of retaining power in Washington in the November 2018 congressional elections, particularly after failing to meet their promise to repeal Obamacare. But it will be a challenge in the 100-seat Senate, where Republicans can lose no more than two votes from their 52-48 majority if they hope to enact tax reform. The Senate version has already faced criticism from several Republican lawmakers, including Senator Susan Collins, who helped sink the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare. Republican US Senator Ron Johnson said Trump called him on Wednesday after Johnson announced his opposition to the current Senate plan because of what he said were unequal rates for small businesses and non-corporate enterprises known as ?pass-throughs,? versus corporations. Still, Johnson said he was hopeful a final bill could be passed by year?s end. He said he had gotten ?total cooperation? from the White House, and they were interested in fixing the problem. ?All this stuff moves pretty fast, which I?m not wild about. I?d rather take a little bit more time,? Johnson told reporters. Senator John McCain, a Republican who also voted against the health care overhaul effort this summer, and his colleagues Bob Corker and Lisa Murkowski, are considered critical votes along with Collins and Johnson. Nonpartisan congressional analysts say the provision to repeal the health insurance mandate in the Senate version would drive up premium costs and cause some 13 million Americans to lose coverage. The Senate plan also sets individual tax rate cuts to expire while reductions for corporations are permanent. The House and Senate versions will eventually have to be reconciled before they can be sent to Trump?s desk for his signature, but Republican Representative Tom Cole said that should not be a problem. ?There?s no issue here that can?t be ironed out and settled between us,? Cole told reporters. The Senate Finance Committee was voting on amendments to the Senate Republican tax bill on Thursday as congressional leaders race toward an informal end-of-year deadline for the tax plan. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer warned Republicans that by increasing the federal deficit, the tax bill would imperil other important priorities like military spending. ?Any defence hawk should be wary of this bill,? he said.
  21. WASHINGTON: US regulators have approved the first pill that contains a digital tracking sensor to alert doctors and caregivers as to whether a patient is taking a medication as scheduled. The pill, called Abilify MyCite (aripiprazole tablets with sensor), is designed for patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression, according to the US Food and Drug Administration. A patient ingests the pill, and a sensor inside the pill activates when it reaches the stomach fluids, sending a message to a wearable patch. This patch then transmits the information to a mobile app, so that a doctor and up to four caregivers, friends or family members can see the information through a web-based portal. "Being able to track ingestion of medications prescribed for mental illness may be useful for some patients," said Mitchell Mathis, director of the division of psychiatry products in the FDA´s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, in a statement Monday afternoon. "The FDA supports the development and use of new technology in prescription drugs and is committed to working with companies to understand how technology might benefit patients and prescribers." Although the sensor can alert caregivers, the makers of Abilify, Japan-based Otsuka Pharmaceutical, said it is unclear whether the tracking device will actually help improve patients´ ability to take their medication daily as prescribed. The FDA approved Abilify in 2002 to treat schizophrenia, which affects about one percent of the US population. The ingestible sensor used in Abilify MyCite was first allowed on the market by the FDA in 2012. The sensor technology and patch are made by Proteus Digital Health, and are approved for use with existing medications in the United States and Europe. But until now, the FDA had not approved a sensor-pill combination.
  22. JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities on Wednesday approved building permits for 240 new homes in settlement neighbourhoods in Jerusalem's eastern sector, Deputy Mayor Meir Turjeman told AFP. A city planning committee approved 90 units in Gilo and another 150 in Ramat Shlomo, Turjeman said, the latest in a series of moves to enhance Jewish presence in the contested Israeli-annexed Palestinian sector of the city. Turjeman noted the committee also approved 44 units for Palestinians in their neighbourhood of Beit Hanina. The Ramat Shlomo units are part of plans announced in 2010 to build 1,600 settler homes in Ramat Shlomo, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood in east Jerusalem. The 2010 announcement came as then US vice president Joe Biden was visiting Israel, provoking fierce US opposition and souring relations with Washington for months. Wednesday's approvals were granted weeks after the same committee voted on an expansion creating the largest Israeli settlement within a Palestinian neighbourhood in the city. Jerusalem's status is ultra-sensitive and central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Earlier this month, the Israeli ministers were set to approve a bill absorbing major Israeli settlements currently in the occupied West Bank into Jerusalem by enlarging the city limits. Its opponents argue that it is a step towards full unilateral annexation of the West Bank settlements affected -- a move that would be sure to spark international outrage. But opposition from US President Donald Trump´s administration prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to remove the bill from the agenda, with an official saying "diplomatic preparation" was needed. The White House has been seeking ways to restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and a US official said the bill would "distract the principals from focusing on the advancement of peace negotiations." Israeli NGO Ir Amim, which opposes settlement construction, said approving new settler homes distances the possibility of a two-state solution to the conflict. "Jerusalem residents deserve to live in a safe and thriving city, which will only happen once there's a fair agreement that recognises the Israeli and Palestinian ownership of the city," the organisation´s Aviv Tatarsky told AFP. "Instead of advancing such an agreement, Israeli authorities continue with the same familiar unilateral moves that only distance it," he said. Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community. It sees the entire city as its indivisible capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
  23. ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal remarked on Friday that Prime Minister House has approved forwarding 29 cases to military courts. ?In the last cabinet meeting, 29 cases were cleared to be forwarded to military courts,? he shared while exclusively speaking to Geo News. He also remarked that PM House has received Chief of Army Staff?s letter pertaining to forwarding cases to military courts and that its reply has already been forwarded. Eighty more cases will be sent to military courts, he remarked, adding that these 80 cases will be first approved in next cabinet meeting. ?After this, the interior ministry will not have any more cases pending,? he added. On March 28, the 28th Amendment Bill 2017, which sought the extension of military courts for another two years, was passed in the Senate after two-third majority votes came in its favour. After President?s signatures, the bill became an act and the duration of the military courts was extended for another two years, starting from January 7, 2017. Earlier on March 10, the Senate passed the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2017 but postponed voting on the 28th Amendment Bill 2017 to March 28. The Army Act 2017 further amends the Pakistan Army Act 1952. In January 2015 the Pakistan Army Act 2015, along with the 21st Constitution amendment, was passed to try hardcore terrorists in military courts. Four additions have been made in the previously passed Pakistan Army Act 2015.
  24. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson steps off the plane at Al-Udeid Air Base, Qatar, October 24, 2017. AFP/Pool/Alex Brandon/Files WASHINGTON: The United States government on Wednesday approved a $1.1 billion deal to service Qatar's F-15 fighter jets despite the diplomatic stand-off between the Gulf emirate and its neighbours. Qatar, home to one of the largest US military bases in the Middle East, is locked in a bitter dispute with Washington's other Arab allies in the region, led by Saudi Arabia. US President Donald Trump took Riyadh's side in June when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has taken a more cautious line, attempting to broker an agreement to cool ties and build a regional front against Iranian influence and extremism. On Wednesday, the State Department announced it had approved a $1.1 billion contract to service Qatar's F-15QA jets and build them ground facilities and hardened bunkers. "Qatar is an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Persian Gulf region," the department said, in a note from its Defense Security Cooperation Agency. "Our mutual defence interests anchor our relationship and the Qatar Emiri Air Force plays a predominant role in Qatar's defence." The new maintenance and training facilities will also come with improved "cybersecurity services, mission-critical computer resources, support services, force protection services." Tillerson visited both Riyadh and the Qatari capital Doha last month in an effort to curb Iran's influence in the region and urge the Arab monarchies to negotiate away their differences.
  25. JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities on Wednesday approved a major expansion of an east Jerusalem settlement, signing off on plans to add 176 homes, the city's deputy mayor said. The latest approvals come after Israel last week advanced plans for more than 2,600 settlement homes in various areas of the occupied West Bank. The expansion approved on Wednesday would create the largest Israeli settlement inside a Palestinian neighbourhood of the city, NGOs say. It will allow the Nof Zion settlement to add 176 housing units to the 91 existing homes. The settlement is located in the annexed east Jerusalem Palestinian neighbourhood of Jabel Mukaber. The plans were approved by a Jerusalem planning committee, Deputy Mayor Meir Turjeman told AFP. However, the property remains the subject of an ongoing ownership dispute between two different firms and the court case must be resolved before construction can move ahead, a spokeswoman for the Peace Now settlement watchdog told AFP. The approvals were granted but made conditional upon the case being resolved. Peace Now and other NGOs say the approvals would make Nof Zion the largest Israeli settlement inside any Palestinian neighbourhood of east Jerusalem and possibly also of the West Bank. Most settlements, particularly in the West Bank, are located outside of Palestinian residential areas. They are typically far larger than Nof Zion. Jerusalem´s status is ultrasensitive and central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community. It sees the entire city as its indivisible capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state. 'Actions on the ground' Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said in a statement earlier this week announcing the expected approval of the permits that "we are continuing to build and to strengthen Jerusalem". "We are reunifying Jerusalem with actions on the ground," he said. Palestinians and human rights groups however strongly criticised the plans, saying they would further diminish hopes for an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital. Palestinian cartographer Khalil Tufakji spoke of the "sensitivity" of the area of the project and its "strategic location" south of Jerusalem's Old City. Senior Palestine Liberation Organisation official Hanan Ashrawi said earlier this week that the new Nof Zion units were part of Israel´s plan "to impose a de facto one-state solution." "Without Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, there will be no Palestinian state, and without a Palestinian state, there will be no peace or stability in the region," she said. Government officials have pledged a major boost in settlement home approvals this year, with US President Donald Trump so far much less critical of such plans than his predecessor Barack Obama. Israeli officials say around 12,000 housing units will be given various stages of approval this year, four times the number in 2016. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads what is seen as the most right-wing government in Israel´s history, and settlement advocates wield heavy influence in his ruling coalition. Settlement building in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is considered illegal under international law. It is seen as a major obstacle to peace as the settlements are built on land the Palestinians regard as part of their future state. Prominent members of Netanyahu´s coalition openly oppose the idea of a Palestinian state and advocate annexing most of the West Bank. Netanyahu recently said he plans no uprooting of settlements, blaming Palestinian "incitement" and attacks against Israelis, among other issues, for the lack of progress in peace efforts.