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Found 29 results

  1. If confirmed by the US Senate, Haspel would become the first woman to head the CIA WASHINGTON: Gina Haspel, a veteran CIA clandestine officer picked by President Donald Trump on Tuesday to head the CIA, is a controversial figure, backed by many in the US intelligence community but regarded warily by some in Congress for her involvement in the agency?s?black site? detention facilities. Haspel was selected as the agency?s new director after the Republican president fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and chose current CIA Director Mike Pompeo as Tillerson?s replacement. If confirmed by the US Senate, Haspel would become the first woman to head the CIA, after serving as deputy director since February 2017. Trump told reporters he has worked very closely with Haspel and regards her as ?an outstanding person.? US officials said that while Haspel was generally held in high regard at the CIA, her nomination raised the unwelcome prospect of greater congressional and media scrutiny of officers who are more comfortable in the dark than in the spotlight. ?This is going to reopen wounds from a decade and more ago, and also invite more oversight of both our analyses and our activities, especially if Gina is confirmed,? said one US official, speaking on condition of anonymity. When she was named deputy director last year, intelligence officers who served with her and congressional officials said that in 2002, during Republican former President George W. Bush?s administration, she ran a secret CIA prison in Thailand codenamed ?Cat?s Eye.? Two suspected members of the al Qaeda militant group were subjected to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques at the facility. Three years later, still during Bush?s presidency, she helped carry out an order to destroy videotapes of the waterboarding, which simulates drowning and is considered a form of torture, according to those people. Such facilities are called ?black sites? because their existence is unacknowledged by the US government. On Tuesday, some US intelligence officials said reports of her alleged involvement in interrogations involving torture were false. However, they did not immediately provide details. They did not dispute her involvement in carrying out orders to destroy videotapes of harsh interrogation techniques, which was reported in the book?Hard Measures,? by Jose Rodriguez, her boss at the time, and former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow. A CIA spokesman had no immediate comment. Senator Ron Wyden, a Democratic member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Tuesday he opposed the nominations of both Pompeo and Haspel. ?Ms. Haspel?s background makes her unsuitable to serve as CIA director,? Wyden said.?Her nomination must include total transparency about this background, which I called for more than a year ago when she was appointed deputy director. If Ms. Haspel seeks to serve at the highest levels of US intelligence, the government can no longer cover up disturbing facts from her past.? One key Republican, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, promised to support her nomination. Saying he was ?proud? of her work, Burr said he would ensure her nomination would be considered without delay. ?I know Gina personally, and she has the right skill set, experience and judgment to lead one of our nation?s most critical agencies,? Burr said. Her confirmation hearing has yet to be scheduled. ?There is no question that a director leaving after a year is very turbulent for the agency,? said former CIA Director Michael Hayden. ?That said, leaving Gina and making her the actual director will have a very positive calming influence.? Hayden added, ?I suspect other parts of the government (will) see more turbulence out of this than CIA will.? Human rights groups signalled opposition to Haspel. ?Haspel is a particularly controversial choice, given her reported past involvement in torture at CIA black sites. No one responsible for torture should be leading a federal agency, period,? said Rob Berschinski, senior vice president of Human Rights First. ?The Senate should use her confirmation process to send a strong signal about where this country stands on correcting the mistakes of the past.? Haspel has served in a number of undercover overseas posts in addition to her work in Thailand, including as chief of the CIA station in London and the agency?s base in New York. Then-CIA Director John Brennan in 2013 named her deputy director of National Clandestine Service, but she was denied a permanent promotion in the face of congressional opposition.
  2. When it comes to suits, men hardly have alternate routes to take. It's either a single-breasted/double-breasted variant or plain, simple experiments with colours (on a good day). And that's all; that's probably the farthest they can go at the tailoring playground (if the psyche of the masses is any indication). But while that's the case with most countrymen, for Punjabi Mundas like Mika Singh, it's too boring a life to live. He prefers wearing the suit in whatever damn way he pleases, without making it look like he's going the extra mile. He's a Punjabi, so that innate ability is a god-gifted talent, you see. Like for example, he wears black blazers with electric blue trousers, but with brown lapels. I mean, who does that? © Times of India Crisp white blazers with black and gold detailing on the arms are Mika-staples too: © Times of India And as seen here, he's also into wearing tones and shades of the ocean, in one single outfit: © Times of India But that's Mika Singh, and that's the only way he sees himself: an evening-wear fanatic, palette-player, and an over-all controversial baller, so to say. Once again, to maintain his streak of some dope-arse suits, the singer emerged in a rather Valentine's-Special piece of tailoring. Almost like a reminder of his hugely-talked about crush on Rakhi Sawant: © Viral Bhayani Featuring a red, hot blazer with details that you'd usually find on a utilitarian piece of clothing — Mika's romantic layering piece is quite the choice for an eccentric, ballistic singer, who has always been known for his badassery in public, and for being very 'chill'. He's the buddy you can hang out with on a Saturday night, only if you're prepared for endless autograph requests. © Viral Bhayani What's to notice, however, is the fact that the rest of his outfit is minimal. While we wish he had opted for a round-collared T-shirt instead, the V-neck isn't bringing the outfit to shame in any way. As usual, Singh's thrown in his signature accessories into this ensemble, resulting in another splendid sartorial outing of himself. Takeaway: Don't shy away from coloured suits. They look just as good as the classic ones, but the trick lies in not making them look too clown-y. Tips for which, Mika Singh's already given here.
  3. GENEVA: The United States defended its controversial new nuclear policy at the United Nations on Tuesday, insisting a more assertive stance was needed to confront a worsening security climate. The Pentagon's so-called Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), unveiled last week, outlined US plans to revamp its nuclear arsenal by developing new low-yield atomic weapons. Washington has portrayed the policy as a necessary response to actions taken by Russia and China, claims Moscow and Beijing have fiercely denounced. "Today's security environment is more dynamic, complex, demanding, and threatening than any since the end of the Cold War", the US ambassador to the UN's conference on disarmament, Robert Wood, said as he unveiled the NPR at the Geneva-based body. He accused Russia, China and North Korea of boosting their nuclear stockpiles and "raising the prominence of nuclear weapons in their security strategies". "Some in that room may think that we should just put our heads in the sand and ignore the threats that are being faced out there and just let Russia and China and North Korea continue to do what they are doing," Wood told reporters outside the conference hall. "This NPR reflects the reality of the security situation", he added. "It is important to strengthen nuclear deterrence." Moscow has called the new US policy "bellicose" and "anti-Russian" and warned it might take responsive measures to boost its own security. China has said that Washington's assessments of its nuclear intentions amounted to "wild guesses", while Iran charged the US with bringing the world "closer to annihilation". The new NPR is the first time since 2010 that the US military has spelled out how it foresees nuclear threats in the coming decades. It has triggered accusations that President Donald Trump's administration was seeking to lower the threshold needed for a nuclear strike and breaching non-proliferation agreements. "The nuclear threshold is not being lowered", Wood said. "Our intention is to reduce the risk that others might miscalculate or gamble that they have some exploitable advantage. The objective is to make clear it is not in others´ interest to use nuclear weapons."
  4. Padmavati was earlier slated for release on December 1, but the studio had to defer it amid the controversy the film stirred up After months of uncertainty, controversial Bollywood film ?Padmavati?, now renamed ?Padmavat?, is set to release on January 25. ?It will release as Padmavat on January 25. The film has got U/A certificate,? sources in Viacom18 Motion Pictures told Indian media. ?Padmavat? was earlier slated for release on December 1, but the studio had to defer it amid the controversy the film stirred up in sections of the country. The film, starring Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor, angered many after the Shree Rajput Karni Sena alleged it distorted historical facts related to the Rajput community. The group has been persistent in its demand for a ban on the movie ever since. "It's a complex situation for 'Padmavat',? film and trade business expert Girish Johar told Indo-Asian News Service. ?They have too short a time before the release, plus there are hurdles for it as certain states have announced a blanket ban, and the Karni Sena continues to oppose the movie.? "However, from the box office point of view, it's a great thing that two big films -- 'Padmavat' and 'Pad Man' -- will release on the extended weekend.?
  5. Disney unveils robotic Donald Trump figure ? Picture: WDWMAGIC.com Disney has revealed its animatronic Donald Trump figure in Orlando, Florida, and the robo-Trump quickly stoked almost as much social media buzz as the man it is based upon. The robotic figure, on display at Disney's Hall of Presidents exhibit, stands on a stage alongside life-size models of Trump's predecessors. It can speak and move its hands but was widely derided by friends and foe for its fleeting resemblance to the 45th United States president. Twitter users said the figure, dressed in a dark suit and trademark long tie, looked more like his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton or Hollywood actor Jon Voight, a Trump supporter. Others compared it to veteran US actress Angela Lansbury or the character Biff Tannen from the film "Back to the Future." "The more I see of Disney's 'Hall of Presidents' Trump, the more I'm convinced they made a Hillary one first and had to redo it" said Twitter user Maplecocaine. "It looks like Jon Voight and Hillary had a man-baby," said another Twitter account under the handle Tyree. The comedy website Funny or Die quickly dubbed over the official recording on Trump's voice, in which he talks about "the achievements of the American spirit," with some of his more lurid proclamations, such as the "Access Hollywood" tape in which he boasts of sexually grabbing women. With a nod to the special prosecutor's investigation into the Trump campaign's possible ties to Russian election meddling, Twitter user Rex Hupke said that "the best part of Donald Trump being in Disney's Hall of Presidents will be when they move him ... and put him in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride's jail." Singer and movie star Bette Midler recalled the president's sensitivity to criticism that he has small hands, joking that "they had to use an old pair of hands from one of the 'It's a small world' kids." There was no immediate reaction from the president himself, a prolific user of Twitter.
  6. Ever since his debut in 2004, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has found it hard to stay from the limelight owing to his popularity and stardom in international cricket. Even now at the age of 36, the former Indian captain continues to remain the talk of the town with his every move - whether on or off the field - being closely monitored. Recently, his gritty half-century in the losing cause for India during the first ODI attracted a lot of praise from fans and cricket pundits alike. Then, a video of the Jharkhand cricketer beating Hardik Pandya in a 100-metre race during a training session ended up becoming a huge hit with the fans. Following that trend, Dhoni has once again garnered all the attention, only this time for liking a tweet which has so far received a mixed response on social media. India's World Cup-winning captain had joined the micro-blogging website in 2009 and today, he boasts of over 6.5 million followers despite tweeting just 45 times. BCCL Until this week, the wicketkeeper-batsman had liked just two tweets from his official Twitter handle. He had liked journalist Rajdeep Sardesai's tweet for the first time in 2013 which was followed by another tweet from the BCCI regarding a Ranji Trophy game between Hyderabad and Services in 2014. The third time Dhoni liked a tweet came earlier this week which has now sparked a big controversy on social media. Surprisingly, the right-hander liked a tweet from @Inkhabar - the official handle for India News. The tweet carried a link about a news article on the alleged fixing of the upcoming 2019 ICC World Cup. CONFIRMED: 2019 à¤à¤¾ à¤à¤à¤¸à¥à¤¸à¥ à¤à¥à¤°à¤¿à¤à¥à¤ वरà¥à¤²à¥à¤¡ à¤à¤ª #ViratKohli à¤à¥ à¤à¥à¤® à¤à¤à¤¡à¤¿à¤¯à¤¾ à¤à¥à¤¤ रहॠहॠMatch Fixed @imVkohli @msdhoni @RaviShastriOfc @BCCI @SGanguly99 @sachin_rt @therealkapildev @azharflicks @ianuragthakur @ShuklaRajiv @PawarSpeaks @GautamGambhir @imjadeja https://t.co/QpyiTCTIQt — InKhabar (@Inkhabar) December 12, 2017 "Virat Kohli's Team India is going to win the 2019 ICC Cricket World: Match Fixed," the tweet read. It was also tagged with the official handles of Kohli, Dhoni, Ravi Shastri, the BCCI, Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Kapil Dev, Mohammad Azharuddin, Anurag Thakur, Rajiv Shukla, Sharad Pawar, Gautam Gambhir and Ajay Jadeja. महà¥à¤à¤¦à¥à¤° सिà¤à¤¹ धà¥à¤¨à¥ à¤à¥ 9 साल à¤à¥ à¤à¥à¤µà¥à¤à¤° लाà¤à¤« à¤à¤¾ तà¥à¤¸à¤°à¤¾ लाà¤à¤ à¤à¤¨à¤à¤¬à¤° à¤à¥ à¤à¤¿à¤¸à¤®à¥à¤ 2019 वरà¥à¤²à¥à¤¡ à¤à¤ª à¤à¥à¤¤à¤¨à¥ à¤à¥ नà¥à¤¯à¥à¤ हà¥https://t.co/zbQ0jgBveY @BCCI @msdhoni — InKhabar (@Inkhabar) December 13, 2017 Soon, @InKhabar came up with another tweet where they boasted about Dhoni liking their previous tweet. But, while they were busy basking in glory, Indian cricket fans just couldn't understand why the iconic cricketer who had usually kept to himself, ended up liking such a controversial tweet - especially the one that talks about match-fixing. As many media outlets covered the story of Dhoni liking the controversial tweet, no one spoke about how or possibly why he did that. But, if anyone with an average IQ clicked on the link of the news article liked by Dhoni, they'd know the truth behind the whole controversy (if there's any). Contrary to popular perception (thanks to sensationalism), the article shared by @InKhabar has got nothing to do with any sort of match-fixing relating to the 2019 World Cup. In fact, theirs was just one of the prime examples of click-bait headlines which are aimed at boosting readership on the website. BCCL The article actually talks about how the former captains who have led Team India in the World Cups right after their wedding have ended up lifting the coveted trophy. And, according to @InKhabar, the hypothesis behind India winning the 2019 World Cup is pretty simple - Kohli who recently got married to Anushka Sharma fits the trend and is now believed to follow in the footsteps of Kapil Dev and Dhoni. While it's surely an interesting angle, but seriously guys, we are not going to believe that - do we? So, the next time you see a headline of a news article that seems too good to be true, trust your instincts, because you know better.
  7. KARACHI: The controversial ten-overs-per-innings cricket tournament, the T-Ten League, is apparently under control of Indian owners despite the Pakistan Cricket Board's recent denial in a press release. Documents obtained by Geo.tv reveals that the league's ownership lies with an Indian businessperson who has companies in India, USA and the UAE. The license issued by the Sharjah authorities to operate the league next month mentions the Indian individual, Nawab Shahtaj Shaji ul Mulk, as the owner of the league. The license, number 16104 issued by the Hamriyah Freezone Authority of Sharjah, mentions the T Ten Sports Management FZE as the operating company with activities of sports and event management consultancy. The official website of T Ten league (http://ttensports.com/about-us/) says T Ten Sports Management FZE is a group company of the multinational and diversified conglomerate Mulk Holdings. The same Indian businessperson also owns Mulk holdings. Another document, the official sponsorship deck sent by the organisers to potential sponsors, mentions him as president of the league. It is worth mentioning that after starting the league as its president, he was promoted to chairperson when another partner joined them as the president. The Forbes list also mentions him as one of the richest Indian businesspersons in the Middle East. The above revelation contradicts PCB's claim that Indians in the league are minority shareholders. "80% of the shares of the company that owns the league are held by Pakistanis, the owners are meanwhile Muslims. The one Indian minority shareholder is also a Muslim," the PCB had claimed. Meanwhile, sources have also confirmed that Indian influence is not limited to owning the league, but Indians are also involved in the ownership of various teams as well. Earlier reports by Usman Mansoor of the News had raised questions about the transparency and lack of due process of awarding Pakistani players to an unknown entity without appropriate due diligence and without bidding or market revelation of the Pakistani players access. At the same time, veteran players like Zaheer Abbas, Mohsin Khan, Aamir Sohail and Javed Miandad had also raised questions about the sensitivity involved in the 10-over format, which may-be open to bookies and gambling. Former ICC president and Test captain Zaheer Abbas, speaking to Geo News, voiced his doubts over the board's wisdom in giving a green light to its contracted players to play the league. "It's difficult to determine the future of ten-over cricket. And it's very close to Pakistan Super League [schedule wise]. The PCB should not have allowed its players to join the league [in such a short window]," the former captain remarked. "Ten overs is too easy. Extremely convenient money. What is the point of fielding 11 players each side in such a format? Six or seven players are enough. Honestly, I can't see any future for this format," the 'Asian Bradman' said, further noting that players would have to be vigilant against dangers of corruption during the league. "[The board] should have considered a lot of things before releasing players like this." Former cricketer and team selector Mohsin Khan shared his opinion on the league. "With this T-10, where exactly are you taking cricket? Are you going to come up with five-over cricket next?" The former batsman said the PCB should be more selective about where it sends its players. "We should only send our players to selective, good-standard competitions. We should maintain a standard and preserve our cricketers," he said, pointing out examples of Australia, India, and England. "The upcoming tour to New Zealand is very important. Our domestic and international cricket should come first," he added. Former cricketer Aamir Sohail said the conflicting stories about T Ten league are disconcerting. "You have to see that if one franchise owner is not doing something benefitting Pakistan cricket, then you have to sit down and talk with him," he said, adding that it seemed the board had not thought through the whole matter. PSL franchise owners had all objected to the PCB as the league is private, does belong to any country's official cricket board, and competes with the PSL, which would hurt the premier Pakistani league. The Indian cricket board has not allowed any of its own contracted players to join the league. Geo had contacted PCB and sent them the new records of the company ownership and is waiting for the PCB's response. Earlier, when questions were raised about transparency of the process of awarding access to Pakistani players without bidding, PCB had condemned reporter Usman Mansoor's report as being against the national interest.
  8. 'In the year 1963, Jawahar Lal Nehru gave an exclusive interview to the then controversial American magazine, PlayBoy. The interview was indeed published and the copies were sold for as much as 30 times the retail price. The interview was refuted by the Indian Embassy, while Playboy said that it did happen '. This is the story of that curious interview' The year was 1963. Nehru was 16 years deep into his frivolous Prime Ministerial endeavor. While the newly independent India was still trying hard to stand on its own two feet, Nehru had already draped an image of a 'spoilt-for-choice politician' on himself. His close relationship with the high flying British was nothing unheard of. The Brits had left a part of their culture and existence on the Indian mainland in the form of the personality that Nehru carried. It was hard not to take notice of the lavish life of the man, leading a newly independent nation in post independence turmoil. Hence, Playboy Magazine came calling for an exclusive interview. © outlookindia In October 1963, the magazine carried an extensive outing with Nehru taking about everything from Cold War politics, nuclear weapons, democracy and communism to India's booming population. Since it was Nehru, controversy was sure to follow. And it obviously did. Playboy Was Banned In India, At The Time The interview went into print and Nehru's name was emblazoned on the cover. The interview was headlined 'A Candid Conversation With The Architect of Modern India'. Since Playboy was banned in India during that time, people started smuggling it for as much as 30 times the original cost. The interview was an underdog super-hit. © Forbes The Indian Embassy Said It Never Really Happened The same issue which had Nehru's interview also had the Editor's note on page 3 stating that “after the rest of the magazine had gone to press, we received word from the Indian Embassy in Washington that our interview with PM Nehru was not, in fact, the result of an exclusive, personal conversation with the head of the Indian state, but simply a gathering together of public pronouncements made by the Prime Minister in various speeches, statements, etc., over the past several years.” Did the feeling that 'this interview shouldn't have been published' sink in late? Did the government think that Nehru would catch flak for such a robust interview? Well, we will never know that. But the truth remains that the Indian Embassy still doesn't recognize the interview as a personal one-on-one conversation. They said it never occurred and the journalist merely collated the speeches made by Nehru over time and made it look like an interview. Playboy Says It Did © news18 After listening the refutation from The Indian Embassy, Playboy's editor hit back by saying that, “the Nehru material was submitted to us by a well-regarded journalist-publisher who has previously conducted numerous similar interviews with famous personages all over the world; it was sold as an actual interview, recorded on tape, and the covering letters that so described the material also included photographs of the Prime Minister and journalist together. There was no reason to doubt its validity and we consequently published it in good faith as a personal interview.” They had made it clear- there were pictures and recorded tapes that proved that the interview did really happen. The Interviewer Was Never Heard From Again While the Indian Embassy refused to take down their statements on the interview and continued to refute it, Playboy ended the above statement with, “an official refutation from the Indian Government must be respected, and since our attempts to reach the supposed interviewer for further clarification have proved unsuccessful, editorial integrity requires that we print this statement.” Playboy said it could never reach the interviewer or maybe they just didn't want to. Maybe Playboy was still in their nascent stage and didn't want any political backlash. Maybe they didn't want to be questioned for their editorial integrity. But the interview did indeed happen and it does take a deep dive into the mind of one of India's most prolific leaders. (You can read the entire interview here.)
  9. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte leaves the opening ceremony of the ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, Laos, September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/Files MANILA: US President Donald Trump sits down Monday with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who boasts about personally killing people and is waging a drug war that rights groups say involves mass murder. The US president is in Manila ? the final leg of a headline-grabbing Asian tour dominated by the North Korean nuclear crisis ? with leaders of 18 other nations for two days of summits. Allegations of Russian meddling in last year's US presidential elections also hounded the second half of his 12-day trip, which took him from Japan to South Korea, China, and Vietnam. Rights groups have called on Trump to end his Asian journey with a strong statement against Duterte's drugs war, which has seen police and suspected vigilantes kill thousands of people. But brief encounters between them in the lead-up ? including at another regional summit in Vietnam and a banquet dinner in Manila on Sunday night ? appeared to support Duterte's confidence that Trump was not concerned with the killings. "I'm sure he will not take it up," Duterte said on Sunday when asked whether he expected Trump to raise the issue of alleged extra-judicial killings in the drugs war. Duterte won elections last year after promising to eradicate illegal drugs with an unprecedented campaign that would see up to 100,000 people killed. Since he took office, police have reported killing 3,967 people in the crackdown. Another 2,290 people have been murdered in drug-related crimes, while thousands of other deaths remain unsolved, according to government data. Many Filipinos back Duterte, believing he is taking necessary measures to fight crime, but rights groups warn he may be orchestrating a crime against humanity. Amnesty International accuses police of shooting dead defenceless people and paying assassins to murder addicts. 'I already killed someone' When pressured over allegations of extra-judicial killings carried out by police, Duterte insists he has never told them to break the law. But rights groups say police are following Duterte's incitements to kill, including comments made last year when he said he would be "happy to slaughter" three million addicts. He has also repeatedly boasted about personally killing people, most recently on Thursday while in Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific economic summit. "At the age of 16, I already killed someone. A real person, a rumble, a stabbing. I was just 16 years old. It was just over a look," Duterte said. Duterte also said in December last year that he had personally shot dead criminal suspects when he was mayor of southern Davao city to set an example for the police. The then-US president Barack Obama was one of many prominent critics of Duterte's handling of the drugs war. The Philippine leader responded last year by calling Obama a "son of a whore". Trump has so far appeared to be a fan of Duterte, telling him in a telephone call in April that he was doing a "great job". Duterte said on Sunday that Trump had offered him further "words of encouragement" during their brief chat in Vietnam the previous day. And at the pre-summit banquet on Sunday, Duterte sang a Filipino love song in front of his audience, saying in a light-hearted fashion that he did so on the orders of the US president. Duterte is hosting the world leaders because the Philippines holds the rotating chair of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc. The events on Monday and Tuesday in Manila are two separate ASEAN-hosted summits, which also include China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, India, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Competing territorial claims in the South China Sea and fears that Daesh is gaining a foothold in Southeast Asia are expected to be on the formal agendas of the talks.
  10. NEW YORK: What is the only Da Vinci painting on the open market worth? A Russian billionaire believes he was swindled when he bought it for $127.5 million. This week he´ll find out if he was right. "Salvator Mundi," a painting of Jesus Christ by the Renaissance polymath Leonardo da Vinci circa 1500, is the star lot in New York´s November art auctions that will see Christie´s and Sotheby´s chase combined art sales of more than $1 billion. It goes under the hammer at Christie´s on Wednesday, something of an incongruous lot in the post-war and contemporary evening sale, which attracts the biggest spenders in the high-octane world of international billionaire art collectors. The auction house, which declines to comment on the controversy and identifies the seller only as a European collector, has valued it at $100 million. "Look at the painting, it is an extraordinary work of art," said Francois de Poortere, head of the old master´s department at Christie´s. "That´s what we should focus on." But the price will be closely watched -- not just as one of fewer than 20 paintings by Da Vinci´s hand accepted to exist, but by its owner Dmitry Rybolovlev, the boss of soccer club AS Monaco who is suing Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier in the city-state. Rybolovlev accuses Bouvier of conning him out of hundreds of million dollars in parting with an eye-watering $2.1 billion on 37 masterpieces. One of those works was "Salvator Mundi" which has been exhibited at The National Gallery in London. Bouvier bought the Da Vinci at Sotheby´s for $80 million in 2013. He resold it to the Russian tycoon for $127.5 million. The painting´s rarity is difficult to overstate. For years it was presumed to have been destroyed. In 1958, it fetched 45 pounds ($60 in today´s money) and disappeared again for decades, emerging only in 2005 when it was purchased from a US estate. It was long believed to have been a copy, before eventually being certified as authentic. All ll other known paintings by Da Vinci are held in museum or institutional collections. "For auction specialists, this is pretty much the Holy Grail," Loic Gouzer, co-chairman of Christie´s Americas post-war and contemporary art department, has said. "It doesn´t really get better than that." Ferrari first Christie´s has sought to emphasise Da Vinci´s inestimable contribution to art history by hanging "Salvator Mundi" next to Andy Warhol´s "Sixty Last Suppers" -- which depicts Da Vinci´s "The Last Supper" 60 times over, also on sale with a $50 million estimate. Pablo Picasso holds the world record for the most expensive piece of art ever sold at auction. His "The Women of Algiers (Version O)" fetched $179.4 million at Christie´s in New York in 2015. Other highlights being offered by the auction house are "Contraste de formes," a 1913 Fernand Leger valued at $65 million and "Laboureur dans un champ" by Van Gogh, painted from the window of a French asylum in 1889 valued at $50 million. Sotheby´s, whose May sales languished behind Christie´s, says it has more than 60 works making their auction debuts this week. Chief among them is Francis Bacon´s "Three Studies of George Dyer," valued at $35-45 million, and which it says is appearing in public for the first time in 50 years. Painted in 1966 during his passionate relationship with Dyer, two other such triptychs are in museums and two others have been offered at auction in recent years. Sotheby´s other star lot is a 1972 Warhol "Mao," exhibited in Berlin, Turin and Paris, and now back in public view for the first time since 1974. It has been given an estimate of $30-40 million. Each of the other 10 "Mao" paintings of the same size are in prestigious public and private collections, including the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh. Sotheby´s calls it one of the most iconic images of the 20th century. But for the first time, the house has added a collector car to an art auction, offering Michael Schumacher´s Grand Prix-Winning Ferrari for upwards of $4million on Thursday. But is it a work of art? "No, it´s not," says Gregoire Billault, senior Sotheby´s vice-president. "But it´s... the very best racing car ever sold at an auction."
  11. This picture taken on August 17, 2017 shows an elderly Indian Parsi couple holding hands while entering a Fire Temple during Navroze, the Parsi New Year, in Mumbai. Photo: AFP MUMBAI: A government-funded IVF programme that aims to help save India's shrinking Parsi community from extinction is delivering bundles of joy and controversy. Some 120 children have been born through the "Jiyo Parsi" fertility initiative since it was launched four years ago in a bid to help reverse a dramatic decline in India´s Zoroastrian population. The programme, which provides Parsi couples with free in-vitro fertilisation treatment, has been hailed a success by many in the influential community. But critics say the scheme, which has also seen the launch of an advertising campaign effectively damning Parsis that are not having children, amounts to selective procreation and reinforces orthodox Zoroastrians views that Parsis should only have children with each other. For Aspi and Persis Kamakhan -- from Mumbai, where most of India´s 57,000-odd Parsis live -- it represented a unique opportunity to have a child after trying to conceive for twelve years. "We had lost all hope but Jiyo Parsi was a big blessing and completely changed our lives," 38-year-old Persis, now mother to a 3-year-old girl, told AFP. Parsis are Zoroastrians who first arrived in India more than 1,000 years ago after fleeing persecution in Persia. They follow the teachings of the ancient Prophet Zoroaster and worship in fire temples. The group flourished under British colonial rule and became one of India's wealthiest and most powerful communities, boasting a number of famous industrialists including the Tata, Wadia and Godrej families. But their population has been dwindling for decades. Across India, where the majority of the world´s Zoroastrians reside, their numbers have halved since 1940. At the last census, in 2011, 57,264 Parsis were recorded in India. This picture taken on August 17, 2017 shows a newborn Parsi child being introduced to family friends outside a Fire Temple after offering prayers in Mumbai. Photo: AFP Threat to existence The population slide has led to warnings that the community's very existence is under threat. So in 2013 the Indian government started "Jiyo Parsi", meaning "Live Parsi" in Hindi. "Jiyo Parsi has two fundamental purposes -- first to arrest the decline of Parsis, and second to increase their population," Katy Gandevia, who counsels prospective parents on the programme, told AFP. The scheme provides financial assistance ranging from 50 to 100 percent of the cost of IVF depending on the combined annual salary of the couple, a lifeline for those desperate for a baby but short of funds. It is run in partnership with the Bombay Parsi Punchayet, Mumbai´s leading Parsi organisation, a community NGO called the Parzor Foundation and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. For Shernaz Cama, the founder of Parzor, every baby born offers a glimmer of hope that the group will survive long into the future. "We have had 120 births in four years. The programme has increased the number of Parsi babies born every year by 18 percent," she told AFP. Largely well-educated and well-off, Parsis have tended to marry late, or not all, and have smaller families than other Indian communities, factors that have been blamed for contributing to the low birth rate. Pressure from conservatives for Parsis to marry within the closed community have reduced the pool of possible partners and led many to wed out of the traditionally fold, demographers also say. This picture taken on August 17, 2017 shows Indian Parsi Pearl Tirandaz (R), six months pregnant with her second child, walking back home from a Fire Temple with her family after offering prayers in Mumbai. Photo: AFP Reformists, meanwhile, blame a rule that bars the children of women who marry outside the community from places of worship. By comparison, if a man weds outside the community then his children are still considered Parsi. 'Regressive' ads "Welcoming these children into the fold should have been the most obvious solution to increasing community numbers. Instead these children and their parents are being shunned," Simin Patel, a Parsi who opposes the programme," told AFP. The historian, who writes an online blog about Mumbai entitled "Bombaywalla", accuses the government of supporting a programme of "selective racial breeding". "The Jiyo Parsi scheme is a telling example of how the theories and programmes of eugenics are still being practised in the present day," she said. Some in the community have also criticised recent posters advertising the programme´s second phase, accusing them of being elitist, patriarchal and of stigmatising childless women. One poster shows a man sitting on a chair with the caption: "After your parents, you´ll inherit the family home. After you, your servant will." "These ads reflect a sense of entitlement, are regressive and instead of empowering Parsi women, drag us back into the dark ages," Pervin Sanghvi, a Parsi from Mumbai, told AFP. Two Parsis die on average every day in Mumbai. For every four passing away, only one baby is born, according to Pearl Mistry, Jiyo Parsi´s coordinator. The numbers suggest the programme itself will not be enough to save the community. "Couples say that Jiyo Parsi is a ray of hope at the end of a long and dark tunnel and we cling to that," said Mistry.
  12. French President Emmanuel Macron signed a controversial anti-terror law on Monday. Photo: AFP file PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron signed a controversial anti-terror law Monday that gives authorities permanent powers to search homes, shut places of worship and restrict the movements of suspected extremists. The new law, which replaces the state of emergency imposed after the 2015 Paris attacks, sailed through France?s parliament this month despite criticism from campaigners that it jeopardises civil liberties. "This law will allow us to end the state of emergency from November 1 while fully ensuring the security of our citizens," Macron said as he signed the bill in front of the cameras. He added that it could come into force as early as Tuesday, though his office said it would become law when the state of emergency finally expires at midnight Wednesday after being extended six times. Macron noted there had been "sustained debate" over the bill and said it would be reassessed in two years? time. The legislation, which sparked weeks of intense debate in parliament, makes permanent several of the measures enacted after the terror attacks in Paris which left 130 people dead in November 2015. Without seeking permission from the courts, authorities will now be able to close religious sites that promote radical ideas and confine suspected terrorist sympathisers to their neighbourhoods. Police will be allowed to carry out more on-the-spot identity checks in border areas, as well as around train stations, ports and airports. Rights groups have voiced fears that such checks will be chiefly used against migrants and minorities. France has been hit by a series of attacks since the start of 2015 by known or suspected extremists that have left 241 people dead. There has been little public resistance to the new anti-terror law, reflecting a hardening of attitudes after nearly three years of periodic attacks. A poll last month for the daily Le Figaro found 57 percent backed tougher laws, even if 62 percent feared this would come at the expense of basic freedoms. The bill is the third major piece of legislation Macron has signed since he took power in May, following a law on public ethics and flagship reforms to France?s complex labour code.
  13. Seven people were arrested Tuesday at a protest at the Moscow premiere of "Matilda", a controversial biopic of the last tsar that has drawn threats from religious extremists, police said. Alexei Uchitel's film has outraged hardline Orthodox believers, who view tsar Nicholas II as a saint and object to the depiction of his affair with a ballerina. The film's trailer triggered a wave of attacks in the country, including Molotov cocktails thrown at the filmmakers' offices in Saint Petersburg. In Moscow, two cars were set alight outside the offices of Uchitel's lawyer last month. Police said the arrests at the premiere were for disturbing public order. All of those held were Orthodox activists, some singing religious songs and one holding a banner describing the film as "slander", TASS news agency reported. Around a dozen other demonstrators, some holding pictures of the tsar, were not arrested. "I am praying to God instead of insulting him. This film insults a holy family," one told AFP. Earlier in the day Alexei Ryazantsev of the Karo Premiere distribution company said at screenings there would be "increased security measures, but so far just for the first weekend of release". Distributors were still receiving messages about possible disruptions at screenings but they were being handled by police, he told reporters. Uchitel said he had not expected such controversy and would not wish it on anyone. "It's been very hard psychologically," he said. "As you know there have been threats... but the authorities have reacted and these people have been arrested". In the Urals city of Yekaterinburg -- where the royal family was killed by firing squad -- a man drove a van filled with gas canisters into a movie theatre and set it on fire in apparent protest against the historical drama. Last month, Russia's two biggest cinema chains Cinema Park and Formula Kino said they would drop the film from their lineup after threats, but later reversed their decision. The attacks on the period drama have shaken Russia's liberal artistic community, which has long felt itself under pressure during President Vladimir Putin's conservative rule. Putin has in recent years played up traditional values in a bid to win backing from everyday Russians and the powerful Orthodox Church. But critics say the Kremlin's focus on Christian values has empowered religious hardliners and that they may not be able to control the outcome. Mixed response Nicholas II and his family were denounced in the Soviet period but are now viewed as holy martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church. The visually luscious, erotically charged "Matilda" focuses on the emperor's relationship with ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska before his marriage and ascent to the throne. German actor Lars Eidinger -- who is known for playing in steamy art house films -- stars as the last tsar. Eidinger declined to travel to Russia for the film's premieres, citing security concerns. Moscow ads describe "Matilda" as "the most anticipated film of the year" but the movie has received a mixed response, with journalist Marina Akhmedova writing: "Watching the fuss around the film has been much more interesting than watching the film itself".
  14. STRASBOURG: The European Parliament Tuesday called for the controversial weedkiller glyphosate to be banned by 2022 amid fears it causes cancer, a day before EU states vote on whether to renew its licence. MEPs approved a resolution which is not binding but will add fresh pressure on the European Commission, the bloc´s executive arm, which has recommended the licence for the herbicide be renewed for 10 years. Glyphosate critics, led by environmental campaigners Greenpeace, are calling for an outright ban in Europe and on Monday activists handed the EU a petition signed by more than 1.3 million people backing such a move. Experts from the EU´s 28 member states are due to vote on the commission recommendation on Wednesday, just as a row escalates over claims that US agro giant Monsanto unduly influenced research into its weedkiller´s safety. MEPs criticised the commission´s proposal, saying it "fails to ensure a high level of protection of both human and animal health and the environment (and) fails to apply the precautionary principle". They called for a halt to non-professional use of glyphosate when its licence runs out in December 15 and for its use to end near public parks and playgrounds. Opponents of glyphosate, used in Monsanto´s best-selling herbicide Roundup, point to a 2015 study by the World Health Organization´s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer that concluded it was "probably carcinogenic". This contradicted findings by the European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemicals Agency, which both said glyphosate was unlikely to cause cancer in humans, in line with a 2016 review carried out by other WHO experts and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
  15. President Emmanuel Macron said the compromise bill agreed by lawmakers would allow the authorities to combat terrorism "without abandoning our values and principles". Photo: AFP PARIS: The French parliament on Wednesday adopted a controversial anti-terror bill that gives the authorities permanent new powers to search homes, shut places of worship, and restricts freedom of movement. The new law, which will replace the state of emergency imposed after the 2015 Paris attacks, was approved by the Senate on its second reading, despite campaigners warning of a threat to civil liberties. The lower house National Assembly overwhelmingly approved it last week. The legislation, which sparked weeks of intense debate in parliament, makes permanent several of the measures included in the emergency laws enacted after the Paris attacks, in which 130 people were killed. The state of emergency expires on November 1, after being extended six times. In a major speech on security, President Emmanuel Macron said the compromise bill agreed by lawmakers would allow the authorities to combat terrorism "without abandoning our values and principles". Addressing an audience of security force members, he urged them to "fully utilise" their new powers. Under the bill, the authorities will have the power to close religious sites that promote radical ideas, heavily curtail the movements of suspects and screen people in areas around any event or place deemed vulnerable to attack. France has been hit by a series of attacks since 2015 by known or suspected extremists that have left 241 people dead. Macron said that 13 terror plots had been foiled since the start of 2017. He said he would bolster intelligence gathering in prisons, which have been a breeding ground for radicalisation and devise programmes to prevent young people in troubled neighbourhoods from coming under the spell of extremist groups. Citing the "total absence of economic and social mobility" in the predominantly immigrant suburbs as one of the factors driving youths into the arms of groups like Daesh, he said: "We must attack these problems at the root." The right balance? The new anti-terror legislation has encountered little resistance from the public, reflecting a hardening of attitudes after nearly three years of periodic attacks. A recent poll found 57 percent of the French were in favour of tougher laws, even if 62 percent of them feared basic freedoms would suffer as a result. Apart from being able to confine suspected terrorism sympathisers to their neighbourhoods, the police will be able to carry out more on-the-spot identity checks in border areas, as well as around train stations, ports and airports. Rights groups have voiced fears that such checks will be chiefly used against migrants and minorities, particularly Muslims. Human Rights Watch criticised what it called a "normalisation of emergency powers" and UN experts raised objections in a letter to the French government last month. But the bill nonetheless sailed through parliament, backed by Macron´s Republic on the Move (LREM) party ? which has a large majority ? and the conservative Republicans. France has progressively tightened its legal arsenal to tackle terror threats over the years, passing around 15 different laws since 1986. The last fatal attack took place on October 1, when an undocumented Tunisian who had recently been released from detention, stabbed two women to death in the southern port of Marseille. Macron on Wednesday vowed to step up the expulsion of undocumented migrants. In a separate development, the police this week arrested several people over a suspected right-wing extremist plot to target mosques and politicians, including a government spokesman.
  16. MUMBAI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated India?s biggest dam on Sunday, ignoring warnings from environment groups that hundreds of thousands of people will lose their livelihoods. The controversial Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river in the country?s western state of Gujarat that will provide power and water to three big states was dedicated to the people of India by Narendra Modi. The project has been beset by controversies since the laying of the foundation stone by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961. The construction of the project began in 1987. The dam is the second biggest dam in the world after the Grand Coulee Dam in the United States. Ahead of the inauguration Modi said in a tweet, ?This project will benefit lakhs of farmers and help fulfill people?s aspirations.? (1 lakh = 100,000) The dam is expected to provide water to 9,000 villages and the power generated from the dam would be shared among three states - Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat. The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), led by social activist Medha Patkar, has been protesting against the project, raising several environmental concerns. Construction on the dam had been suspended in 1996 following a stay by the Supreme Court which allowed work to resume, four years later, but with conditions. Patkar and her supporters started the protest against the inauguration of the dam on Saturday and the opening of its gates which would raise the level of water and risk displacing several villages. ?Today is a very sad day for India, and for one of our biggest peoples? movements and struggle - the Narmada Bacchao Andolan,? Ravi Chellam, executive director at Greenpeace India said in a statement. ?The Sardar Sarovar Project... signals ruin not development for tens of thousands of unsuspecting, hapless and poor farmers,? Chellam added.
  17. Kangana Ranaut left everyone in utter shock and disbelief when she gave one hell of an interview last week, with Rajat Sharma, the host of India TV show's ‘Aap Ki Adalat'. She was definitely in a tell-all mood as she didn't shy away from any of the allegations or questions that were posed to her. However, what caught everybody's attention were her candid answers concerning her ex-beau Hrithik Roshan. Fans and the Bollywood fraternity went into frenzy as the actress revealed personal details about their relationship and didn't mince her words, at all. Some appreciated her for having the guts to speak so openly on a public platform, whereas the interview didn't go down well with others. One of them is Bollywood singer, Sona Mahapatra. Sona, who is known for her bold and outspoken personality, took to her Facebook account to address Kangana's latest interview. In an open letter to Kangana, she revealed what all she feels about her revelations. She is of the opinion that the interview was a “part of a professional PR campaign” before Kangana's next film, ‘Simran' is released and says that the PR stunt was “in bad taste”. She goes on to inculcate the issue of topic of feminism by saying that, “it does a big dis-service to the cause of feminism & fair play.” She even went ahead and called the entire situation as “circus” and ended the post on an unrelated note, by wishing the readers a “Happy Onam”. The allegations made by Kangana in this interview also received a rather ‘subtle' response from Hrithik's ex-wife, Sussanne Khan. The ace interior designer came out in her ex-husband's support and posted a selfie on her Twitter account. The caption read, “The is no allegation or sad plot that can have the weight to triumph over a good soul. #powerofthetruth #mafamilia #goodoverevil” The is no allegation or sad plot that can have the weight to triumph over a good soul. #powerofthetruth #mafamilia #goodoverevil ðð¤ðð¦ pic.twitter.com/WlVKbIhFjE — Sussanne Khan (@sussannekroshan) September 3, 2017 The whole Kangana-Hrithik feud came into the limelight last year, when Kangana received a legal notice from Hrithik asking for an apology for referring to him as her 'silly ex' in an interview. Kangana then began to share the details of an alleged affair with Hrithik, which was repeatedly denied by latter. Although Hrithik has not responded to the interview yet, the open letter from Sona has definitely added fuel to the fire and we can only wonder what Kangana has to say on this.
  18. Bollywood?s seasoned actor Rishi Kapoor knows the style of remaining in news, while turning a complete blind eye to the controversy his social media posts can potentially stir. Recently, a police complaint was filed against the veteran actor for posting an indecent and offensive picture of a minor on his Twitter account, according to India media reports. An NGO, Jai HO Foundation submitted the FIR against Kapoor at Mumbai?s police station, stating that the case should be registered against the actor under relevant sections of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences and IT Act. The actor had posted a naked child's picture and following the controversy deleted it from his account. Although after a while he posted another video in which a young boy touches a girl standing next in line to him, who slaps another man in retaliation as she mistakes him as the offender. Rishi Kapoor ?concedes?, congratulates Pakistan on victory ?Yes Pakistan, you have defeated us. Well played, outplayed us in all departments! Rishi Kapoor in the past had posted tweets condescending the Pakistan cricket team in ICC Champions Trophy final in June. Following Pakistan?s historic win against archrival India, Rishi Kapoor congratulated team Pakistan for its victory.
  19. President Donald Trump talks to senior staff Steve Bannon during a swearing in ceremony for senior staff at the White House in Washington, DC, January 22, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/Files WASHINGTON/HAGERSTOWN: President Donald Trump on Friday fired his chief strategist Steve Bannon in the latest White House shakeup, removing a far-right architect of his 2016 election victory and a driving force behind his nationalist and anti-globalization agenda. Bannon's firing, a year and a day after Trump hired him as his campaign chief, put an abrupt end to the rabble-rousing political provocateur's tumultuous tenure in a White House riven with rivalries and back-stabbing during which he clashed with more-moderate factions. He was instrumental in some of Trump's most contentious policy moves including the ban on people from several Muslim-majority countries, abandoning the Paris climate accord, tearing up international trade agreements and cracking down on illegal immigration. He was no friend of the Republican political establishment and was loathed by liberals but was a darling of some of the president's hard-line conservative supporters. White House officials said Trump had told new Chief of Staff John Kelly to crack down on the bickering and infighting, and that Bannon's fate was sealed by comments published on Wednesday in the American Prospect liberal magazine in which he spoke of targeting his adversaries within the administration. Trump, seven months into his presidency, has become increasingly isolated over his comments following white supremacist violence in the Virginia college town of Charlottesville last Saturday and his attacks on fellow Republicans. Some Republicans had even begun questioning Trump's capacity to govern. As Trump came under fire from Republicans including two former presidents, and from business leaders and U.S. allies abroad, he faced mounting calls for Bannon's ouster. Critics had accused Bannon of harbouring anti-Semitic and white nationalist sentiments. "White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve's last day," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement. Bannon returned to his post as executive chairman of right-wing Breitbart News on Friday afternoon, the website said. Prior to joining the Trump campaign, he had spearheaded Breitbart's shift into a forum for the "alt-right," a loose online confederation of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites. Bannon said his departure from the White House signals a major shift for the Trump agenda. "The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over," Bannon told the conservative Weekly Standard. "I just think his ability to get anything done - particularly the bigger things, like the wall, the bigger, broader things that we fought for, it's just gonna be that much harder," Bannon said. He became the latest key figure to abruptly depart a Trump White House that has been chaotic from its first days and already has lost a chief of staff, a national security advisor, two communications directors and a chief spokesman. Trump's presidency also has been dogged by ongoing investigations in Congress and a special counsel named by the Justice Department into potential collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia, something both Trump and Moscow deny. A champion of economic nationalism, Bannon, 63, is a former U.S. Navy officer, Goldman Sachs investment banker and Hollywood movie producer. Bannon had been in a precarious position before but Trump opted to keep him, in part because he had played a major role in Trump's November 2016 election victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton and was backed by many of the president's most loyal rank-and-file supporters. Democrats cheered Bannon's departure. "Steve Bannon's firing is welcome news, but it doesn't disguise where President Trump himself stands on white supremacists and the bigoted beliefs they advance," said Nancy Pelosi, the top House of Representatives Democrat. "The Trump Administration must not only purge itself of the remaining white supremacists on staff but abandon the bigoted ideology that clearly governs its decisions." Markets react Wall Street indexes and the U.S. dollar ended a volatile session lower after a week of drama in Washington intensified doubts about Trump's ability to deliver on policy objectives such as tax cuts. After a late-morning boost following reports of Bannon's ouster, the dollar and U.S. equities lost ground. Bannon felt a close ideological connection to Trump's populist tendencies and "America First" message. Like Trump, he has also expressed deep scepticism concerning ongoing American military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The decision to fire Bannon could undermine Trump's support among far-right voters but might ease tensions within the White House and with party leaders. Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress but have been unable to pass major legislative goals including a healthcare legislation overhaul because of fierce intra-party divisions. Trump ran into trouble after saying anti-racism demonstrators in Charlottesville were as responsible for the violence as the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who instigated the protests, and that there were "very fine people" among both groups. Those remarks sparked rebukes from fellow Republicans, top corporate executives and some close allies even as some supporters, including Vice President Mike Pence, stood by Trump. Bannon's departure removes a large source of friction on the White House staff, but does not herald a significant shift by Trump toward the centre on foreign policy, defence or economic issues, three administration officials said. "A good deal of what was attributed to Bannon, for example on China trade and restricting immigration, and the border wall, all came before Bannon joined the campaign and would have happened without him," said one White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Bannon has been a hawk on China, urging a tougher line on trade to correct a huge trade imbalance and dismissive of recent efforts to try to elicit Beijing's help to rein in North Korea. In his comments to American Prospect, Bannon said the United States was in an economic war with China. A second official said the biggest winners from Bannon?s departure are national security adviser H.R. McMaster; Gary Cohn, Trump?s chief economic adviser; and Trump?s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner. Bannon's departure cast a cloud over the future of the group of allies he had brought into the White House, such as Sebastian Gorka. Latest White House disarray The first senior White House official to depart was national security adviser Michael Flynn, who Trump fired in February. On July 28, Trump replaced his beleaguered White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, installing retired General John Kelly in his place. Trump ousted White House communications chief Anthony Scaramucci on July 31 over an obscene tirade 10 days after he was named to the post. Scaramucci's hiring had prompted Sean Spicer, a Priebus ally, to quit as press secretary. In May, Trump also fired Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey. Some conservative activists expressed disappointment in Bannon's ouster. Republicans were largely quiet, though moderate Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said she was glad Bannon was out but that the administration "must work to build bridges, not destroy them." By the time Trump had hired Bannon as campaign manager, the real estate magnate had already vanquished his Republican opponents for the party's presidential nomination. Asked about Bannon on Tuesday, Trump called him "a friend of mine" but downplayed his contribution to his election victory. "Mr. Bannon came on very late. You know that. I went through 17 senators, governors and I won all the primaries. Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that. And I like him. He is a good man. He is not a racist," Trump said.
  20. Members of the Constituent Assembly pose outside the National Congress during the organism's installation in Caracas on August 4, 2017. AFP/Juan Barreto CARACAS: A controversial new Venezuelan assembly packed with allies of unpopular President Nicolas Maduro held its inaugural session on Friday, deepening a rift with the opposition and amid widespread international criticism of its legitimacy. The Constituent Assembly has supreme powers over all branches of government as it takes on its principal task of rewriting the 1999 Constitution from Saturday, a week after it was elected in balloting marred by violence and allegations of fraud. Its 500-plus-members, who include Maduro's wife and son, are led by Delcy Rodriguez, Maduro's former foreign minister. They took their seats in an ornate oval chamber under a golden dome in the 145-year-old Legislative Palace ? in the same building where the opposition-dominated National Assembly is located, albeit in a different room. After thanking Maduro for bringing about the assembly's election, the 48-year-old Rodriguez slammed the criticism from abroad. "The international community should not make a mistake over Venezuela. The message is clear, very clear: we Venezuelans will resolve our conflict, our crisis without any form of foreign interference," she said. The Constituent Assembly has the discretion to dissolve the National Assembly. Such a move, however, would fuel criticism of it as a rubber-stamp body for Maduro, who critics say is building a "dictatorship". The assembly's members were accompanied to the palace by Maduro and thousands of supporters carrying portraits of late president Hugo Chavez. The opposition staged protests in the capital on Friday, but there were no signs of the street violence of the past four months that has left a death toll of more than 125. Vatican ignored The Vatican on Friday had urged the assembly's session not be held, saying it contributed to "a climate of tension" in Venezuela. Just hours ahead of the assembly's inaugural session, Venezuela's intelligence service unexpectedly transferred a high-profile opposition figure, Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, from jail back to house arrest, his family said. Ledezma and another opposition figure, Leopoldo Lopez, had been taken from their homes to the military prison on Tuesday, reversing earlier home detentions. Lopez remains incarcerated, one of the hundreds of people who the opposition says are political prisoners. The Constituent Assembly marks a new stage in Venezuela's rule. Maduro claims the revised charter will yank the oil-rich, cash-poor country out of its political and economic crisis, though he has not detailed how. Claims of poll fraud The body is being challenged on several fronts. Backing opposition allegations of fraud, Smartmatic, a British-based company involved in the voting technology behind the election last Sunday, said the official turnout figure had been tampered with and exaggerated by at least a million voters. Although brushed off by Maduro as part of a plot by "the international enemy," Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega ? a thorn in the president's side ? ordered an investigation. She said prosecutors had lodged court cases seeking to have the Constituent Assembly annulled, though few in Venezuela believed that would happen ? and the new assembly could also fire her as one of its first actions. Maduro has lashed out at several of the 40 countries that admonished him for seeing through the creation of the new assembly. After being hit directly with US sanctions and called a dictator by US President Donald Trump, Maduro said defiantly that he was standing up to "imperialism." The Venezuelan leader slammed Mexico, Chile and Peru as American vassals. International criticism But Maduro is fighting against a broad international tide, even if he has the support of Russia ? which holds billions in Venezuelan debt ? as well as the leftist governments of Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua. On Friday, Panama said it gave asylum to two opposition-appointed judges sheltering in its Caracas diplomatic mission who are among 33 the legislature named last month to a parallel supreme court. Five other shadow judges and another Venezuelan opposition figure are being given diplomatic protection, though not asylum, in Chile's embassy. The uncertainty and unease surrounding the path Maduro has set Venezuela on has been reflected in an accelerated collapse of the country's already debilitated currency. The bolivar lost 20 percent of its value against the dollar on Thursday, placing scarce imported food and medicine even further out of reach of impoverished Venezuelans. On Friday, it lost another 12 percent. But the president enjoys the backing of the military, as well as judicial and electoral authorities, allowing him to forge on. "More than changing the constitution, the main goal is to govern without limits," said an analyst, Benigno Alarcon.
  21. A voter casts a ballot during the Constituent Assembly election in Caracas, Venezuela, July 30, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Files LONDON/CARACAS: Venezuela inflated the turnout figures for its constituent assembly election by at least 1 million votes, the company that provides voting machines to the country said on Wednesday, in a blow to President Nicolas Maduro and his ruling Socialist Party. The news came hours after Reuters exclusively reported that only 3.7 million people had voted by 5:30 PM in Sunday's poll, according to internal elections data, compared with 8.1 million people authorities said had voted that day. Venezuela's electoral council extended voting to 7 PM, but election experts said doubling the vote in the last hour and a half would be without precedent. Electronic voting technology firm Smartmatic, which created the voting system used by Venezuela since 2004, said the turnout figures had been tampered with. "We know, without any doubt, that the turnout of the recent election for a National Constituent Assembly was manipulated," said Smartmatic Chief Executive Antonio Mugica in a press briefing in London. "We estimate the difference between the actual participation and the one announced by authorities is at least 1 million votes," he said. The opposition, which boycotted the vote, has dismissed the official tally of 8.1 million participants as fraudulent. That figure was crucial for Maduro to legitimise the election. The opposition in July held an informal plebiscite that it said brought in more than 7 million voters who overwhelmingly rejected the creation of the constituent assembly. The assembly will have the power to dissolve the opposition-run Congress and is expected to sack the country's chief prosecutor, who has harshly criticised Maduro this year. Countries around the world have condemned the assembly, which has no legal restrictions on its powers, as an assault on democratic rule. Critics say the assembly is meant to indefinitely extend Maduro's rule. They say he would lose a free and fair presidential election and is widely criticised for an economic crisis marked by triple-digit inflation, rising poverty levels, and chronic shortages of food and medicine. EU refuses to recognise Venezuela assembly The EU refuses to recognise the new Venezuela assembly that gives Maduro extra powers, with diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini saying on Wednesday the bloc is "ready to gradually step up" action if the situation deteriorates. However, the 28 European Union countries backed away from adopting any immediate sanctions in response to the controversial election, held on Sunday, that critics say is a bid by Maduro to stay in power, and to the arrest of two opposition leaders. "The European Union and its member states, therefore, cannot recognise the Constituent Assembly as they have concerns over its effective representativeness and legitimacy," Mogherini said in a statement after meeting EU diplomats to discuss the situation. It called on Maduro's government to "take urgent measures" to change course, including suspending setting up the new Constituent Assembly and explicitly recognising all institutions under the Constitution. "Further confidence-building measures, such as the release of all jailed political opponents, are also needed," the statement said. The EU has previously warned that it had "grave doubts" about recognising an election for a constituent assembly that would hand Maduro more powers and condemned the arrest of high-profile opposition figures Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma. Mogherini asked for clarification on the whereabouts of Lopez and Ledezma. "The European Union and its Member States are ready to gradually step up their response in case democratic principles are further undermined and the Venezuelan Constitution is not respected," it said. European Parliament president Antonio Tajani had urged the EU to consider sanctions. The United States earlier this week hit Maduro with sanctions. British junior foreign minister Alan Duncan said there "may come a point where we will become part of a world sanctions regime, for instance, if the United Nations were to impose one then we would". Oil workers march Maduro says the assembly was necessary to give the government power to end the economic crisis and bring peace to the country after four months of opposition protests, which often include violent clashes between security forces and hooded demonstrators. More than 120 people have been killed since the unrest began in April. Maduro is due to swear in delegates to the 545-member assembly on Wednesday, with its first session to be held on Thursday. Opposition leader Freddy Guevara called for a protest march on Thursday to prevent delegates to the new assembly from occupying the halls of congress, which the opposition won a landslide victory in 2015. "Now is a time for action, not words," Guevara said. The United States this week called Maduro a dictator, froze his US assets, and barred Americans from doing business with him. The European Union said it was mulling a "whole range of actions" on Venezuela. Maduro, like his predecessor and mentor, the late Hugo Chavez, regularly laughs off criticism from Washington even though the United States is Venezuela's top crude importer. He continues to enjoy public backing from the Venezuela's military, though soldiers are increasingly weary of the popular backlash against their role in quelling protests. Though the Trump administration has discussed creating sanctions that would hit the country's oil sector, those plans have remained on hold as officials review the potential impact on US energy markets and refining companies. Oil workers loyal to Maduro rallied in several energy producing regions of the country on Wednesday. Chanting and carrying the red Socialist Party flag, they denounced sanctions on the leftist president. "We are here to show our rejection of the intervention of the United States," one demonstrator said during a televised rally, calling the sanctions "a political show with harmful economic consequences for the people of Venezuela".
  22. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across Poland Thursday after lawmakers adopted a controversial reform of the Supreme Court despite the threat of unprecedented EU sanctions. The rallies sprung up after the lower house of parliament, which is controlled by the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, voted 235 to 192 -- with 23 abstentions -- in favour of giving the government power to select candidates for the court. The capital Warsaw alone saw up to 50,000 demonstrators, according to city authorities, rally in front of the presidential palace, waving Polish and EU flags and chanting "we'll defend democracy" and "free courts". Under the current system, candidates for the Supreme Court are selected by an independent body consisting mainly of judges but also included a few politicians. Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said on state television that her PiS party, which began making judiciary changes after coming to power in late 2015, is "reforming the courts so that they work well and fairly and serve all Poles. "We won't bow to pressure. We won't let ourselves be intimidated by Polish and foreign defenders of the interests of the elite," she added. But Grzegorz Schetyna, leader of the centrist opposition party Civic Platform (PO), denounced the Supreme Court reform as "a rampant coup", while his counterpart Ryszard Petru from the Modern party said "Today is a bad day for Polish democracy". 'Serious' situation "The adoption of this reform violates the principles of the rule of law because it subjects the judiciary to political power. This paves the way for a non-democratic system in Poland," political analyst Stanislaw Mocek of the Polish Academy of Sciences told AFP. "The situation is very serious and could get out of hand. We don't see a will for compromise on the part of PiS, and the opposition is too weak." The European Commission's vice president Frans Timmermans on Wednesday bluntly warned the changes "considerably increase the systemic threat to the rule of law" in Poland. "Collectively, they would abolish any remaining judicial independence and put the judiciary under full political control of the government." He had warned Poland that if it did not suspend the reforms, the commission could move towards halting Poland's voting rights in the 28-nation bloc further down the line -- a so-called "nuclear option" that the EU had never invoked. Poland would, however, likely escape such a measure as it would be vetoed by its ally Hungary, whose Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Thursday: "We stand by Poland, and demand that the EC (European Commission) stay within its own jurisdiction." The reform of the Supreme Court, which supervises lower courts, still needs to be adopted by the senate, also controlled by the PiS, and signed by President Andrzej Duda to become law. Duda, a lawyer-turned-politician who is closely allied with the PiS, on Thursday let it be known that he had refused a meeting with European Council president Donald Tusk, who had expressed concern over the situation. Dilemma for the EU The EU first warned Poland in early 2016 over reforms of the constitutional court, whose main role is to check that laws comply with the constitution. Those changes resulted in tilting the make-up of the court in the conservatives' favour and installing a PiS ally as the chief justice. Mocek, the analyst, said he believes the Supreme Court reform is "the result of a sin of omission by the European Union, which did not follow through regarding its reactions to the Constitutional Court affair." "Now we are waiting for the decision of the president, who still has his veto. The EU has the dilemma of either acting now -- while the process is still ongoing -- or waiting. Sure, it's not over, but later it may be too late," he added. Last week, both houses of parliament adopted two other contested pieces of judicial legislation, including a bill stating that the justice minister will name the chief justices of Poland's common courts. The second bill stipulates that from now on the parliament, instead of an independent body, will choose the members of the National Council of the Judiciary, which is meant to protect the independence of the courts.
  23. LAHORE: Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman said on Saturday that the Joint Investigation Team has become controversial. The JUI-F chief is currently on a two-day visit to Lahore, where he spoke to media. ?We keep on listening to Imran?s rant, don?t see the need to comment on it,? he said while referring to the PTI chief's statements. Fazal said that Imran Khan detaching from the PTI would be in the best interest of the party. On the subject of Panama case, he said that the issue is in the Supreme Court and he cannot give a statement on it. The JUI-F chief said that he never played the part of a mediator between the government and army. While responding to a question, Fazal said that the ruling party is contending that conspiracies are being hatched against it and it should reveal the name of those behind it.
  24. SUKKUR: Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah said on Saturday that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is unable to give an explanation to the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), hence he is attacking national institutions and the PPP. Speaking to journalists in Sukkur, Shah said the JIT probing the assets of the Sharif family is not controversial, however, the PML-N is trying to make it controversial. ?No one is pulling strings however its true that the Sharif brothers are shaking,? he said and added that the prime minister is under fire due to his own words. Shah also said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan also has pending cases against him. Earlier, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday appeared before the JIT. Shehbaz Sharif is the fourth member of the Sharif family to appear before the probing team ? constituted by the Supreme Court. I have recorded my statement," he told journalists before adding that "two days earlier the prime minister appeared before this JIT and it was for the first time that an elected prime minister appeared before a JIT to present his stance." "Today perhaps this is for the first time in history that a chief minister has appeared before JIT," Shehbaz told journalists. Former interior minister Senator Rehman Malik is also scheduled to appear before the JIT on June 23.
  25. Nehal Hashmi ISLAMABAD: Former senator from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Nehal Hashmi, will be appearing before the Supreme Court today to explain his recent outburst against the prime minister?s ?enemies?. Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar on Wednesday took suo motu notice of Hashmi's speech in which he threatened Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif?s unidentified ?enemies?. Earlier, the prime minister suspended Hashmi?s party membership and directed him to tender his resignation from the Senate, informed Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb. The party authorities have also issued a show cause notice to the PML-N leader and have instructed him to step down from the party position of general secretary of PML-N Sindh. Hashmi then forwarded his resignation to the Senate secretary, citing "inevitable reasons" due to which he could not continue to further discharge his responsibilities as a senator. The resignation will now be forwarded to the Senate chairman for approval. The controversy Earlier, a video emerged of a Hashmi in which he was seen threatening the prime minister?s unidentified ?enemies?. "The one you are investigating is the PM's son," Hashmi roared. Without identifying who he was referring to, Hashmi said, ?You will not be spared; you are in service now but remember you will retire tomorrow.? "Those investigating us [must know] we will observe your day of judgment,? he stated further. In the video, Hashmi also lashed out at Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Imran Khan, casting doubts over the money trail of his Bani Gala estate. ?We will reduce the space in this country for your kids and your family," he added. However, speaking to Geo News later, Hashmi said he was referring to politicians and not anyone else.