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Found 111 results

  1. KARACHI: The government on Thursday promoted 17 Police Service of Pakistan (PSP) officers to grade 21. Shahid Hayat and Dr Ameer Ahmed Shaikh were promoted to the rank of additional IG. Others promoted to the rank of additional IG are Ghulam Nabi Memon and Najam Mirza. Meanwhile, 33 other PSP officers were promoted to grade 20. The officers included Asim Qaimkhani, Naeem Sheikh and Javed Akbar Riaz, who were promoted to the rank of deputy inspector general. Others promoted to the rank of DIG are Ahmed Yar Chohan, Javed Mehr and Javed Jiskani, whereas, the services of two DIGs were transferred, DIG Ghulam Sarwar Jamali and Akram Naeem Bharoka were transferred, with Jamali being posted at ANF while Bharoka was transferred to the National Police Foundation.
  2. Islamabad High Court. Photo: File ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has given the government until 1pm today to submit the report of a committee probing the changes in the Finality of Prophethood oath in the Constitution. As the hearing of the Faizabad dharna case (sit-in) began today, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui expressed displeasure at the government's failure to submit the report of the committee, headed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Chairman Senator Raja Zafarul Haq. The committee was formed to reveal those responsible for the changes in the oath regarding the Finality of Prophethood when the Elections Act 2017 was passed last year. Besides Haq, it included Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Climate Change Minister Mushahidullah Khan. Faizabad dharna case: IHC warns government officials of contempt if reports not submitted Justice Shaukat Siddiqui had summoned secretaries of defence, interior and law ministries, among other officials, today The judge warned the government officials present in court to submit the report by 1pm today, adding that otherwise the prime minister will be summoned in person and contempt notices issued to the relevant ministers and secretaries. Moreover, Justice Siddiqui ruled that the court will now conduct daily proceedings of the case. Faizabad dharna case: IHC reiterates contempt warning as government?s delaying tactics continue Government has not yet submitted Senator Zafarul Haq-led committee's report on the amendment in the Elections Act 2017 despite repeated demands At the last hearing on Feb 12, the court had warned of contempt petitions in case of failure to submit the report. Late last year, a religious party protested against the amendment in the oath, which was later reversed by the government, and ended its protest after an agreement was reached with the government, which included the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid. During the protest, Justice Siddiqui had started proceedings over the issue of the controversial amendment as well as the agreement reached between the two sides.
  3. Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visits the Ulma Family Museum of Poles Who Saved Jews during WWII in Markowa, Poland February 2, 2018. WARSAW: Poland?s government said Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki?s comments saying Jews were perpetrators in World War Two as well as Poles and others, which were condemned by Israel, were not intended to deny the Holocaust. Poland sparked international criticism over its stance on the facts of the Holocaust when it passed a law imposing jail terms for suggesting the country was complicit in the deaths of millions of Jews during the war. Morawiecki was asked on Saturday by a reporter whether, under the new law, the reporter himself could be penalised for telling a story in Poland about his mother who survived the Holocaust and told him that some Poles had collaborated with the Gestapo. In his answer Morawiecki equated ?Jewish perpetrators? with Polish and others, drawing immediate criticism from Israel?s prime minister who called Morawiecki?s words ?outrageous?. ?The comments of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki during a discussion in Munich were by no means intended to deny the Holocaust, or charge the Jewish victims of the Holocaust with responsibility for what was a Nazi German perpetrated genocide,? Polish government said in a statement released on late on Saturday night. ?The words (...) should be interpreted as a sincere call for open discussion of crimes committed against Jews during the Holocaust, regardless of the nationality of those involved in each crime,?, the statement also said. Some 3 million Jews who lived in pre-war Poland were murdered by the Nazis, accounting for about half of all Jews killed in the Holocaust. Jews from across the continent were sent to be killed at death camps built and operated by Germans in occupied Poland - home to Europe?s biggest Jewish community at the time - including Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor. Thousands of Poles risked their lives to protect Jewish neighbors during the war. But research published since the fall of communism in 1989 showed that thousands also killed Jews or denounced those who hid them to the Nazi occupiers, challenging the national narrative that Poland was solely a victim. According to figures from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Nazis, who invaded Poland in 1939, also killed at least 1.9 million non-Jewish Polish civilians. ?Attempts to equate the crimes of Nazi German perpetrators with the actions of their victims - Jewish, Polish, Romani among others - who struggled for survival should be met with resolute, outright condemnation,? the government?s statement also said.
  4. Morenada dancers participate in the traditional inaugural parade of Oruro's Carnival ? declared Unesco World Heritage ? in Oruro, Bolivia, February 10, 2018. AFP/Files LA PAS: A bomb triggered a blast that killed four people during carnival celebrations in the Bolivian city of Oruro, police said Wednesday. Police commander Faustino Mendoza said a device packed with three kilograms (6.6 pounds) of dynamite exploded late Tuesday, killing bystanders. "We have four people killed and nine injured," said Mendoza, adding that the blast occurred in a street near the scene of an even deadlier explosion on Saturday that killed eight people. Initially, a government minister said that explosion was likely caused by a street vendor?s gas cylinder. Following the second blast, army units patrolled the streets of the city and regional Governor Victor Hugo Vasquez said: "We are sure that this is a criminal attack." Defense Minister Javier Zabaleta said authorities were now considering "the possibility that the two explosions are coordinated events." Three suspects have been arrested, Interior Minister Carlos Romero said, without giving further details. Traces of ANFO, an industrial explosive widely used in the mining industry, were also found at the site of the latest blast, authorities said. President Evo Morales, in a statement on Twitter, said the South American country had been plunged into mourning. "Very saddened and concerned because we have a tragedy again, and the death of innocent bystanders in Oruro has our country in mourning after another explosion," he wrote. The northwestern Bolivian city is known for its cobblestone streets and colorful carnival celebrations that attract as many as half a million visitors to the city. Thousands of people had danced along a four-kilometer (2.5-mile) circuit of streets during the festivities on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the city?s university and schools located near the incidents remained closed.
  5. Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir. Photo: Geo News file ISLAMABAD: Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir on Wednesday said that Pakistan?s ties with Russia have strengthened under the current government. Speaking on the security policy in the upper house of the parliament, Dastgir said that Pakistan and Russia have held joint military exercises to strengthen the bilateral relations. He also briefed the lawmakers about Pakistan?s improved security relations with Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The defence minister stated that ties with Pakistan?s neighbour China are the strongest that they?ve been. Dastagir, in response to belligerent statements from his counterpart in India, on Tuesday said Pakistan will pay India in its own coin in case of any misadventure from the country's eastern neighbour. India's defence minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, had accused Pakistan of an attack on an army base in Indian-occupied Kashmir which killed 10 people, including five Indian soldiers. Pakistan will pay India in its own coin for any misadventure: defence minister Pakistani forces are vigilant and fully capable of defending the country's territorial integrity, Dastagir warns India Any Indian aggression, strategic miscalculation, or misadventure regardless of its scale, mode, or location will not go unpunished and shall be met with an equal and proportionate response, the defence minister had said in a statement. Referring to India's usual practice of blaming Pakistan after every attack by Kashmiri freedom fighters, Dastagir had further said that instead of knee-jerk reactions and blaming Pakistan, India should answer for its state-sponsored espionage against Pakistan.
  6. Government College University Lahore/File photo LAHORE: A professor at Government College University (GCU) Lahore was shot dead Wednesday morning while resisting an armed robbery, police said. According to police, Professor Dr Akbar Cheema was travelling in his car when armed robbers intercepted him near Kalma Chowk to rob him of his valuables. When the professor resisted the robbery, they fatally shot him. The suspects, who were on a motorcycle, fled the scene after the shooting. Police transferred the deceased professor?s body to hospital for post-mortem and have launched an investigation into the incident. Dr Cheema was a professor at the GCU?s Botany Department.
  7. Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Revenue Haroon Akhtar Khan speaking in Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath. Photo: Geo News KARACHI: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Revenue, Haroon Akhtar Khan assured on Tuesday that the federal government will review the investigative ?Dubai leaks? news report presented in Geo News programme Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath. According to the report, Pakistanis have bought properties worth an estimated Rs1.1 trillion in Dubai in the past one-and-a half-decade. The majority of them did not mention these properties in their annual returns and were said to be moving their assets out of the country to avoid being caught in the event of a serious crackdown on this unaccounted for money. Speaking in the programme, the federal minister said that the government will seek certified information from the UAE government on the issue. ?We would like to approach the investigative reporter, we would like to take details from him, then we will see how much information we can take from him and match from our records,? said Akhtar. ?The information will only be beneficial if the UAE government provides us certified information.? He added that taxes will only be liable if the investments were made by the residents within five years, and ten years for the non-residents. According to confidential documents available with Geo News, more than 7,000 super-rich Pakistanis bought luxury residential villas, flats, and estates in 12 renowned localities in the Emirati capital. The documents contain particulars of some 34,000 rich families from 118 countries in all. This list of the who's who includes politicians, some of whom are members of the Parliament, retired generals, former judges, real estate tycoons, businesspersons, bureaucrats, lawyers, actors, singers, and a few media personalities.
  8. International economist and academician, Raghuram Rajan came into the cultural conscience and the lives of a billion unsuspecting Indians almost five years ago. Appointed as the country's 23rd RBI Governor on September 4, 2013, Rajan succeeded D. Subbarao, taking the office at a time when the Indian economy was witnessing a massive crisis. Not one to be daunted by the challenge that lay ahead of him, Rajan, not only faced it head-on, but also succeeded in reviving the Indian economy, and most importantly, stabilising the fluctuating Indian rupee. In the next three years that he continued to hold office, Rajan managed the impossible: He made the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) look cool, besides unknowingly becoming the coolest government officer Indians have had the good fortune of witnessing. © Reuters By the end of his tenure, Raghuram Rajan was no mere RBI governor, he was instead a suave, intelligent role-model who hardly minced words (even when it was criticising Narendra Modi and his beloved “demonetisation”), boasted of an incredible foresight and knew how to take bold decisions and stand by them. But, even then, his most astonishing achievement remained how sneakily he broke down economic jargon into easily understood chunks in such a way that every Indian could understand and take an active interest in the proceedings of the country. Terms like GDP growth, inflation, forex reserves and repo rates were surprisingly being tossed around in daily, casual conversations instead of being just printed on the business pages of newspapers that were sadly unread. In doing so, Rajan had then amassed a popularity that matched the level usually accorded to our Bollywood A-listers. In a country mostly obsessed with Hindi film actors and cricketers, an RBI Governor becoming a household name was unheard of. (For example, look how unfavourable Urjit Patel's standing is in the minds of a random Indian citizen) But, Rajan managed to eke out a permanent residence in our hearts, just like Hazel and Augustus in 'The Fault In Our Stars': slowly, and then all at once. He commanded a loyal fan following that included people of all ages, shapes and sizes, all of whom unanimously wanted him to continue as the RBI Governor. Unfortunately for us, the Modi Government wasn't too keen on giving Rajan a second term, and the loss is truly ours. The makeover that Rajan's leadership gave the gloomy Indian economy is for all to see. He reduced red-tape steps that allowed the banks to work faster without needing approval from the RBI, consumer price inflation, food inflation and wholesale inflation came down in under a year since Rajan took charge. Forex reserves were higher, and the rupee was stronger when compared to the US dollar. And, to cap it off there was a noticeable 5.7% GDP growth in the first quarter of 2014-15. © Reuters It was official: There was no better match for the flailing Indian economy than Raghuram Rajan, the same man who predicted the 2008 Wall-Street crisis, three years before it actually happened. 'A disaster will loom”, he had claimed then, and three years later, the arrival of the mortgage crisis only proved him right. In the face of Rajan's unrelenting achievements, there was one question that was on the minds of almost every Indian: How the hell did he manage to do all of this? To answer that, one of the most popular quotes by Rajan comes to mind: “I am Raghuram Rajan, and I do what I do.” Indeed! His towering personal achievements and education qualifications aside, what Raghuram Rajan in his stint as the RBI Governor managed to instil in our country, is hope. Hope that the officials entrusted with the highest levels of the country's workings actually know what they're doing. Hope that we deserve Governors like Rajan, who are educated, intelligent, driven, and are charismatic. He made us believe in the better. © Reuters In fact, Rajan was well-known for his humility. He was the kind of person who would salute a police-officer entrusted with the task of saluting him. He was also the kind of person who spoke our language, and never shied away from taking accountability or being critical of the government when it's of the utmost importance. In his first monetary policy, he emphasised on the importance of the RBI's ability to communicate. “A central bank should never say “NEVER””, he claimed. He was one of the rare officials who would never succumb to pressure. Even when his line of thinking didn't match with the opinion of the best analysts and experts. In short, Rajan taught us to expect better from the people in power. He showed us an economy that was flourishing, and made us reflect on how one could be an RBI Governor, and still possess incredible style and fan following. But, most importantly he was a living proof of the fact that it's possible to break the barriers of policy and economics and educate the public about both in a language they could truly understand and discern. On the former RBI Governor's 55th birthday, take a moment and think about this: Who was the last government official who actually produced the results he promised and made you actively believe in the government? Chances are that the first name coming to your mind would be none other than Raghuram Rajan. In his head, he may not be Bond, and just a banker on the moves, but in the eyes of a billion Indians, he's the best damn Bond we could have ever gotten.
  9. SpaceX on Wednesday blasted off a four-ton secure military communications satellite called GovSat-1, a partnership between the government of Luxembourg and the satellite operator SES MIAMI: SpaceX on Wednesday blasted off a four-ton secure military communications satellite called GovSat-1, a partnership between the government of Luxembourg and the satellite operator SES. The prime minister and deputy prime minister of Luxembourg were in Florida for the launch, along with the prince and princess of Luxembourg, SpaceX said. "There you saw a successful liftoff of the Falcon 9," a SpaceX commentator said as the rocket launched on a sunny day from Cape Canaveral at 4:25 pm (2125 GMT). The satellite will enable "secure communication links between theaters of tactical operations, for maritime missions or over areas affected by humanitarian crises," said a SpaceX statement. GovSat-1 is bound for a distant, geostationary orbit and will support communications within Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It will also enable operations over the Atlantic and Indian oceans and the Mediterranean and Baltic seas. SpaceX did not attempt to land the first stage of the rocket after launch. The launch did however use a booster that flew last year. The California-based company headed by space and solar energy tycoon Elon Musk has landed 21 rockets after launch as part of its effort to re-use costly rocket parts and bring down the costs of spaceflight. Wednesday´s launch comes three weeks after SpaceX blasted off a secretive US government payload, called Zuma. According to media reports, the satellite did not make it into orbit, though the Pentagon refused to elaborate on what happened. SpaceX said everything functioned fine with the rocket, and declined to comment further, citing national security concerns.
  10. This was supposed to happen sooner or later. I predicted a few weeks ago that “The Man” will eventually regulate or altogether ban cryptocurrency and as of today, it is banned in India. Finance minister Arjun Jaitley stated in his budget speech today that the government will do everything in its power to discontinue the use of bitcoin in India. It is not only limited to bitcoin and Jaitley has extended the ban to every virtual currency there is. © BCCL He said that India does not recognise the virtual currency as a legal tender and will instead encourage the use of blockchain technology for payment systems. “The government does not recognise cryptocurrency as legal tender or coin and will take all measures to eliminate the use of these crypto assets in financing illegitimate activities or as part of the payments system,” Jaitley said. © YouTube Cryptocurrency was widely popular in India as one in every 10 bitcoin transaction in the world takes place in India. Ever since Bitcoin became a popular investment option, the Reserve bank of India has expressed their reluctance towards cryptocurrency. Last year the RBI stated “There is a real and heightened risk of investment bubble of the type seen in Ponzi schemes which can result in sudden and prolonged crash exposing investors, especially retail consumers losing their hard-earned money,” the ministry had said. “Consumers need to be alert and extremely cautious to avoid getting trapped in such Ponzi schemes.” © YouTube Other countries have also expressed discomfort towards the virtual currency recently and China has already widened its crackdown on cryptocurrency trading. According to Economic Times“RBI's cryptocurrency could be a part of creating its own Blockchain, a distributed digital ledger and technology that supports cryptocurrencies. State Bank of India has taken the lead in bringing lenders and tech companies together into Blockchain technology to share information among banks which will eventually help prevent frauds and tackle bad loans which are almost one-fifth of banks' loan books. The SBI's initiative christened Bankchain, is in partnership with IBM, Microsoft, Skylark, KPMG and 10 commercial banks. Source: Economic Times
  11. A UN chemical weapons expert, wearing a gas mask, holds a plastic bag containing samples from one of the sites of an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Ain Tarma neighbourhood of Damascus, Syria, August 29, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Abdullah/Files THE HAGUE: The Syrian government?s chemical weapons stockpile has been linked for the first time by laboratory tests to the largest sarin nerve agent attack of the civil war, diplomats and scientists told Reuters, supporting Western claims that government forces under President Bashar al-Assad were behind the atrocity. Laboratories working for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) compared samples taken by a U.N. mission in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta after the Aug. 21, 2013 attack, when hundreds of civilians died of sarin gas poisoning, to chemicals handed over by Damascus for destruction in 2014. The tests found ?markers? in samples taken at Ghouta and at the sites of two other nerve agent attacks, in the towns of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib governorate on April 4, 2017, and Khan al-Assal, Aleppo, in March 2013, two people involved in the process said. ?We compared Khan Sheikhoun, Khan al-Assal, Ghouta,? said one source who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the findings. ?There were signatures in all three of them that matched.? The same test results were the basis for a report by the OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism in October that said the Syrian government was responsible for the Khan Sheikhoun attack, which killed dozens. The findings on Ghouta ? whose details were confirmed to Reuters by two separate diplomatic sources ? were not released in the October report to the UN Security Council (UNSC) because they were not part of the team?s mandate. They will nonetheless bolster claims by the United States, Britain, and other Western powers that Assad?s government still possesses and uses banned munitions in violation of several UNSC resolutions and the Chemical Weapons Convention. The OPCW declined to comment. Syria has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons in the conflict now in its seventh year and has blamed the chemical attacks in the rebel-held territory of Ghouta on the insurgents themselves. Russia has also denied that Syrian government forces have carried out chemical attacks and has questioned the reliability of the OCPW inquiries. Officials in Moscow have said the rebels staged the attacks to discredit the Assad government and whip up international condemnation. Under a US-Russian deal after the Ghouta attack in 2013, Damascus joined the OPCW and agreed to permanently eliminate its chemical weapons program, including destroying a 1,300-tonne stockpile of industrial precursors that has now been linked to the Ghouta attack. But inspectors have found proof of an ongoing chemical weapons program in Syria, including the systematic use of chlorine barrel bombs and sarin, which they say was ordered at the highest levels of government. The sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun in April last year prompted US President Donald Trump to order a missile strike against the Shayrat air base, from which the Syrian operation is said to have been launched. Diplomatic and scientific sources said efforts by Syria and Russia to discredit the UN-OPCW tests establishing a connection to Ghouta have so far come up with nothing. Russia?s blocking of resolutions at the UNSC seeking accountability for war crimes in Syria gained new relevance when Russia stationed its aircraft at Shayrat in 2015. Washington fired missiles at Shayrat in April 2017, saying the Syrian air force used it to stage the Khan Sheikhoun sarin attack on April 4 a few days earlier, killing more than 80 people. No Russian military assets are believed to have been hit but Moscow warned at the time it could have serious consequences. In June, the Pentagon said it had seen what appeared to be preparations for another chemical attack at the same airfield, prompting Russia to say it would respond proportionately if Washington took pre-emptive measures against Syrian forces there. 'Serious lab work' The chemical tests were carried out at the request of the UN-OPCW inquiry, which was searching for potential links between the stockpile and samples from Khan Sheikhoun. The analysis results raised the possibility that they would provide a link to other sarin attacks, the source said. Two compounds in the Ghouta sample matched those also found in Khan Sheikhoun, one formed from sarin and the stabilizer hexamine, and another specific fluorophosphate that appears during sarin production, the tests showed. ?Like in all science, it should be repeated a couple of times, but it was serious matching and serious laboratory work,? the source said. Independent experts, however, said the findings are the strongest scientific evidence to date that the Syrian government was behind Ghouta ? the deadliest chemical weapon attack since the Halabja massacres of 1988 during the Iran-Iraq war. ?A match of samples from the 2013 Ghouta attacks to tests of chemicals in the Syrian stockpile is the equivalent of DNA evidence: definitive proof,? Amy Smithson ? a US nonproliferation expert ? said. The hexamine finding ?is a particularly significant match,? Smithson said because it is a chemical identified as a unique hallmark of the Syrian military?s process to make sarin. ?This match adds to the mountain of physical evidence that points conclusively, without a shadow of doubt, to the Syrian government,? she said. No chance rebels behind Ghouta Smithson and other sources familiar with the matter said it would have been virtually impossible for the rebels to carry out a coordinated, large-scale strike with poisonous munitions, even if they had been able to steal the chemicals from the government?s stockpile. ?I don?t think there is a cat in hell?s chance that rebels or Islamic State were responsible for the Aug. 21 Ghouta attack,? Hamish de Bretton-Gordon ? an independent specialist in biological and chemical weapons ? said. The UN-OPCW inquiry ? which was disbanded in November after being blocked by Syria?s ally Russia at the UNSC ? also found that Daesh had used the less toxic blistering agent sulfur mustard gas on a small scale in Syria. By comparison, the Ghouta attack was textbook chemical warfare, Smithson and de Bretton-Gordon said, perfectly executed by forces trained to handle sarin ? a toxin more difficult to use because it must be mixed just before delivery. Surface-to-surface rockets delivered hundreds of litres of sarin in perfect weather conditions that made them as lethal as possible: low temperatures and wind in the early hours of the morning, when the gas would remain concentrated and kill sleeping victims, many of them children. Pre-attack air raids with conventional bombs shattered windows and doors and drove people into shelters where the heavy poison seeped down into underground hiding places. Aerial bombing afterwards sought to destroy the evidence. The large quantity of chemicals used ? along with radar images of rocket traces showing they originated from Syrian Brigade positions ? are further proof that the rebels could not have carried out the Ghouta attack, the experts said.
  12. Representational image - Reuters/file TOKYO: A Japanese woman who was forcibly sterilised as a teenager due to intellectual disabilities sued the government on Tuesday in the first case of its kind, seeking compensation because her basic human rights had been trampled on. Under Japan?s eugenics protection law, in force from 1948 to 1996, about 25,000 people were sterilised due to mental or genetic illnesses, Japanese media said. They included leprosy sufferers and some with intellectual and cognitive disabilities. About 16,500 of them are believed to have had the surgery without their consent. The 60-year-old who sued had developed mental problems following surgery for a cleft palate as an infant and was diagnosed with an intellectual disability at 15, after which she was forcibly sterilized, media said, quoting court documents. As the result of side-effects she later had to have her ovaries removed. Subsequently, marriage talks were broken off as a result of her inability to have children. No further details were given, including the woman?s name. ?Thanks to the law, my sister has really suffered, living her life hidden away,? the woman?s sister told a news conference. ?We wanted to stand up and build a society where even people with disabilities can have a happy life.? The woman seeks compensation of 11 million yen ($101,149), saying the government should have set up relief measures for those subjected to the surgery, in recompense for violating their human rights. Health Minister Katsunobu Kato declined to comment, telling reporters he did not know the details of the case, but his ministry would investigate. People with disabilities have long suffered shame and stigma in Japan, although anti-discrimination efforts have gathered pace since a law took effect in 2016. That July, however, Japan was forced to confront its attitudes after a man went on a stabbing spree at a facility for disabled people near Tokyo, killing 19 as they slept and wounding 26. He had previously threatened to ?obliterate? disabled people. Almost nothing about the victims was disclosed except for gender and age, mainly at the request of their families.
  13. Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance (NASA) holds a bible as he takes a symbolic presidential oath of office in Nairobi, Kenya January 30, 2018. REUTERS NAIROBI: Kenyan authorities shut television and radio stations on Tuesday as supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga watched him take a symbolic presidential oath on the Bible in a Nairobi park in a direct challenge to President Uhuru Kenyatta. The government responded by declaring the ?National Resistance Movement? - a loose grouping led by Odinga and other opposition lawmakers - a criminal group, paving the way for potential arrests. So far, the movement?s major achievement has been leading a largely-ignored boycott of some products whose owners it says are aligned with government interests. Odinga?s supporters say he is Kenya?s legitimate leader and Kenyatta?s election was neither free nor fair. Kenyatta?s victory in August was annulled by the Supreme Court over irregularities, but he then won a re-run, which Odinga boycotted over a failure to revamp the electoral commission. Kenyatta was sworn in for a second term in November and state institutions report to him. ?I, Raila Omolo Odinga, do swear that I will protect the nation as people?s president, so help me God,? Odinga said to the cheers of more than 15,000 people in Uhuru Park, next to Nairobi?s main business district. During a speech lasting less than five minutes, Odinga declined to give details of his plans and said they would be disclosed in ?due course?. In a possible sign of division within the opposition alliance, Odinga?s vice presidential candidate and two other senior leaders were absent. Odinga said the vice president would be sworn in at a later date. The attorney-general had warned that Odinga could be charged with treason if the event went ahead - an offense that can carry the death penalty. As people assembled, authorities forced independent television and radio stations reporting on the gathering off air, several outlets said - the most widespread censorship for a decade.
  14. Dr Asim Hussain. Photo: File KARACHI: Former federal minister and Pakistan People?s Party (PPP) leader Dr Asim Hussain has been reappointed as the chairman of the Sindh Higher Education Commission (HEC) by the Sindh government. A notification to this effect was issued by the Sindh chief secretary, it emerged on Sunday. The notification reads: ?In continuation of this department?s notification of even number dated 28.1.2014 & in exercise of the powers conferred under Section 5 (1) of the Sindh Higher Education Commission Act-2013, the Chief Minister Sindh/ Controlling Authority has been pleased to re-appoint Dr Asim as Chairperson, Sindh Higher Education Commission for one more similar term.? In this capacity, Dr Asim enjoys the status of a provincial minister. It is in the same capacity, he was taken into custody by Sindh Rangers in August, 2015. Dr Hussain, a close aide of former president and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, faces several charges including corruption references filed by NAB of Rs 479 billion. He is also alleged to have provided treatment and protection to terrorists at a hospital owned by him. According to NAB, Dr Hussain created an artificial shortage of gas during his tenure as a result urea fertiliser prices skyrocketed and touched Rs1,830 from just Rs850. Meanwhile, Federation of All Pakistan Academic Association has announced to hold a strike in universities all over the province against the decision. The academic association maintains that the former petroleum minister in his previous stint as the chairman Sindh Higher Education Commission failed to give required performance.
  15. ISLAMABAD: Senator Aitzaz Ahsan criticised the Punjab government over its handling of the Zainab murder case questioning how the provincial government can claim it handled the case well when the facilitators are still out there. Speaking to Geo News, Ahsan asked what the Punjab chief minister will do when the facilitators start issuing threats to Zainab's family. He said another important issue was the matter of the 250+ children who were sexually abused in Kasur. "The world raised hell over the issue on the media but the Punjab government was not even aware of the matter. 260 children were sexually abused in Kasur and their videos were made, those involved are still roaming free in Punjab in cahoots with the police and are threatening the mothers and the victims." The Senator was pointing towards the Kasur child abuse scandal that surfaced in August 2015 when a local journalist uncovered the story of hundreds of videos of children performing sexual acts that were filmed in Kasur between 2006 and 2014. The incident was recognised as the largest child sexual abuse scandal in the country's history.
  16. US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gestures to reporters after lawmakers struck a deal to reopen the federal government three days into a shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis WASHINGTON: US senators struck a deal on Monday to lift a three-day government shutdown as Democrats agreed to end the standoff in exchange for President Donald Trump?s Republicans promising a debate on the future of young illegal immigrants. Legislation to renew government funding easily cleared a procedural hurdle in the Senate and was expected to pass both the Senate and House of Representatives, allowing the government to reopen through February 8. Most Democratic lawmakers had initially opposed the funding bill, demanding that the Senate also approved protections for young undocumented immigrants known as ?Dreamers.? Democratic leaders ? worried about being blamed for a disruptive shutdown ? accepted a Republican promise to hold a full Senate debate over immigration and the 700,000 Dreamers who were brought to the United States illegally as children. Trump took a new swipe at Democrats as he celebrated. ?I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses,? Trump said in a statement. ?We will make a long-term deal on immigration if and only if it?s good for the country.? Tens of thousands of federal workers had begun closing down operations for lack of funding on Monday ? the first weekday since the shutdown ? but essential services such as security and defence operations had continued. The shutdown undercut Trump?s self-crafted image as a dealmaker who would repair the broken culture in Washington. It had forced Trump to cancel a planned weekend trip to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and created uncertainty around his scheduled trip this week to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Although Trump stayed in Washington, the deal to reopen the government was cut without him. The US government cannot fully operate without funding bills that are voted in Congress regularly. Washington has been hampered by frequent threats of a shutdown in recent years as the two parties fight over spending, immigration and other issues. The last US government shutdown was in 2013. Both sides in Washington had tried to blame each other for this shutdown. Liberals angry Some liberal groups were infuriated by the decision to reopen the government. ?Today?s cave by Senate Democrats ? led by weak-kneed, right-of-center Democrats ? is why people don?t believe the Democratic Party stands for anything,? Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder Stephanie Taylor said. Trump was expected to sign the legislation, which would give Congress more time to try to reach agreement on a long-term spending bill that would resolve issues including immigration, border security, and spending caps. The House of Representatives Republicans have been told by their leaders to plan on voting on re-opening the government immediately. Markets have absorbed the shutdown drama over the last week. US stocks advanced on Monday as each of Wall Street?s main indexes touched a record intraday level after the shutdown deal. ?The only way politics affects what the market does is if they end of having a negative impact on the economy and corporate earnings and so far that hasn?t been the case,? Michael Arone ? the chief investment strategist at Boston-based State Street Global Advisors ? said. A bipartisan group of more than a dozen senators ? led by Republican Susan Collins of Maine and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia ? crowded in front of an ornate 19th-century clock in a hallway outside the Senate chamber to claim credit for the breakthrough and pledge their interest in overcoming partisan gridlock. ?This represents the first time in a long time that we?ll have the Senate actually functioning, working,? said Republican Senator Jeff Flake. While there was optimism from Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer that an immigration bill to protect Dreamers and bolster border security can pass the Senate, it was not clear that the more conservative House would accept such legislation. In 2013, the Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration bill only to see the House ? controlled by Republicans ? refuse to act. For Jovan Rodriguez of Brooklyn ? a Dreamer whose family came from Mexico when he was three years old and ultimately settled in Texas ? the latest development was more of the same. ?Why do we have to wait ? again? It?s like our lives are suspended in limbo,? he said. "And they have been for months. I don?t trust the Republicans and I don?t trust (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell with just a promise. That?s not good enough anymore.?
  17. A Syrian boy holds an oxygen mask over the face of an infant at a make-shift hospital following a reported gas attack on the militant-held besieged town of Douma. -AFP DOUMA: At least 21 people, including children, suffered breathing difficulties Monday, a monitor said, in a suspected Syrian government chemical attack on a besieged militant enclave near Damascus. United Nations inspectors have accused President Bashar al-Assad's regime of being behind multiple deadly poison gas attacks during the country's devastating seven-year war. Monday's attack targeted the city of Douma in the militant-held region of Eastern Ghouta, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. "After regime forces fired rockets into the western part of the city of Douma, white smoke spread, causing 21 cases of suffocation," it said. An AFP correspondent at a hospital in the city saw people carrying babies wrapped in blankets, breathing through oxygen masks, some of them screaming. Young girls and men sat on hospital beds, tears in their eyes, unable to stop coughing. A doctor at the hospital who gave his first name as Bassil said patients were suffering "respiratory irritation, breathing difficulties, coughing and reddening of the eyes". "We noticed that they smelled like bleach, or chlorine, and we stripped them of their clothes," he said. Six children and six women were among those affected, the Observatory said "Residents and medical sources talk of chlorine gas," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said, adding that his group - which relies on a network of sources inside Syria could not confirm those reports. On January 13, a similar attack targeted the outskirts of Douma and the Observatory reported seven cases of suffocation. Days later, Human Rights Watch head Kenneth Roth accused the Syrian regime of using chlorine gas during the siege of Eastern Ghouta. Besieged since 2013 by regime forces, the rebel stronghold's 400,000 inhabitants are already experiencing a crushing humanitarian crisis and severe shortages of food and medicine. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations blamed the Syrian air force for an April 2017 sarin gas attack on the opposition-held village of Khan Sheikhun which left scores dead. The attack triggered an unprecedented American missile strike on the airbase it is believed Syrian forces used to carry out the attack. The regime is also accused of using chlorine gas in three areas of northern Syria in 2014 and 2015. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for efforts to punish officials responsible for chemical attacks in Syria. Syrian state TV said Monday that rebel mortar fire had killed nine people in two neighbourhoods of Damascus. Syria's nearly seven-year war, which began as the regime brutally crushed anti-government protests, has claimed more than 340,000 lives, forced millions to flee their homes and left the country in ruins.
  18. A sign announcing the closure of the Statue of Liberty, due to the US government shutdown, sits near the ferry dock to the Statue of Liberty BEIJING: China?s official news agency said in a commentary on Sunday that the shutdown of the US government exposed ?chronic flaws? in the US political system. Funding for federal agencies ran out at midnight on Friday in Washington after lawmakers failed to agree on a stopgap funding bill. ?What?s so ironic is that it came on the first anniversary of Donald Trump?s presidency on Saturday, a slap in the face for the leadership in Washington,? China?s Xinhua News Agency said in a commentary by Xinhua writer Liu Chang. The commentary said that the Trump administration had ?backtracked? on policies supported by his predecessor, Barack Obama, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and US participation in the Paris climate agreement. ?If there was any legacy that has survived the transfer of power, it was the spirit of non-cooperation across party lines,? the Xinhua commentary said. While Xinhua commentaries are not official statements, they offer a reflection of Beijing?s thinking. ?The Western democratic system is hailed by the developed world as near perfect and the most superior political system to run a country,? it said. ?However, what?s happening in the United States today will make more people worldwide reflect on the viability and legitimacy of such a chaotic political system,? it said. At a twice-a-decade congress of China?s ruling Communist Party in October, President Xi Jinping was anointed for a second term as party chief, strengthening his grip on power.
  19. The US Capitol Dome is shown after President Donald Trump and the US Congress failed to reach a deal on funding for federal agencies in Washington, US, January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers took a tough stance on Saturday after the US Congress failed to fund federal agencies, saying they would not negotiate on immigration until Democrats help end the government shutdown. Funding for federal agencies ran out at midnight with no agreement in Congress, meaning the second year of Donald Trump?s presidency began without a fully functioning government. Lawmakers failed to resolve an impasse over Democrats? demands to include certain measures, including protections for young undocumented immigrants, in any short-term spending legislation. US government workers were told to stay home or, in some cases, work without pay until new funding is approved in the first federal government shutdown since a 16-day funding lapse in October 2013. The Republican-controlled Senate and House of Representatives were holding rare weekend sessions on Saturday, facing a political crisis that could have an impact on congressional elections in November. ?The president will not negotiate on immigration reform until Democrats stop playing games and reopen the government,? White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said. Her message was echoed by Republicans in Congress, leading to speculation that Washington could be in for a prolonged battle that has interrupted government services. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer gave a stinging portrayal of Trump as an unreliable negotiating partner, saying the two sides came close to an agreement several times only to have Trump back out at the urging of anti-immigration conservatives. ?Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O,? he said on Saturday. ?It?s impossible to negotiate with a constantly moving target.? Democrats? demand of securing permanent legal protections for 700,000 young, undocumented immigrants as a condition for new government funding, Walden said, was ?hostage-taking in its worse form.? The federal government had been running on three consecutive temporary funding bills since the new fiscal year began in October. Democrats say they have been pleading with Republicans for months to approve the immigration measure as a stand-alone bill and were rebuffed. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said a solution to the crisis was ?just inches away? but he blamed Democrats for blocking legislation to pass the stopgap funding measure. One idea being floated by Republicans was to renew government funding through February 8 to end the shutdown, while working to resolve other issues, ranging from immigration, military and non-military spending levels, disaster relief, and some healthcare issues. Immigration hurdle The partial government shutdown was triggered at midnight on Friday when the Senate failed to agree to a House-passed bill to fund the government through February 16. It drew strong opposition from Democrats and some Republicans. Despite tough words from some House Republicans, others were providing conflicting messages. Marc Short, the White House legislative affairs director, told reporters on Capitol Hill, ?We are anxious to get a resolution on DACA.? He was referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that former President Barack Obama created and Trump ended in September. It was providing protection from deportation for the illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children and now known as ?Dreamers.? Moderate Republican Representative Charlie Dent predicted the government shutdown will end only when bipartisan legislation is allowed to advance in Congress, even if it angers conservatives. ?That?s the price of leadership,? he said. The shutdown began a year to the day after Trump was sworn in as president. He portrayed himself as the ultimate dealmaker but his inability to cut a deal despite having a Republican majority in both houses of Congress marks arguably the most debilitating setback for his administration. ?This is the One Year Anniversary of my Presidency and the Democrats wanted to give me a nice present,? he said on Twitter. ?Democrats are far more concerned with illegal immigrants than they are with our great military or safety at our dangerous southern border,? he said. ?They could have easily made a deal but decided to play shutdown politics instead.? Trump said the shutdown showed the need to win more Republican seats in 2018 congressional elections. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi laid blame on Republicans in a floor speech on Saturday. ?Despite controlling the House, the Senate and the White House the Republicans were so incompetent, so negligent that they couldn?t get it together to keep government open,? she said. Faded hope There had been modest hope on Friday Schumer went to the White House to talk with Trump but the 90-minute meeting ended with no deal and led to frantic meetings that ran through midnight but proved fruitless. Democrats and many Republicans want to provide permanent legal status leading to citizenship for so-called Dreamers after Trump ordered the DACA program to expire in March. The immediate impact of the government shutdown was eased somewhat by its timing, starting on a weekend when most government employees normally do not work anyway. The Defense Department said its combat operations in Afghanistan and other military activities would continue, while federal law enforcement officers also would remain on duty. The State Department warned that it could have problems processing passports. Trump?s administration also said it planned to keep national parks open with rangers and security guards on duty. The parks were closed during the last shutdown in 2013, which upset many tourists and resulted in the loss of $500 million in visitor spending in areas around the parks and at the Smithsonian museums. But without a quick deal, most day-to-day operations in the federal government will be disrupted. Hundreds of thousands of government employees will be put on temporary unpaid leave, including many of the White House?s 1,700 workers. Parks and open-air monuments remained open in the US capital and on the National Mall preparations were under way for a second multi-city women?s rights march. Some tourists appeared unaware of the shutdown while others expressed frustration at lawmakers? failure to reach a deal. ?It?s ironic that they get paid ? meaning Congress ? and the rest of the government doesn?t,? Dawn Gaither, 57 ? a Washington teacher ? said. ?That?s what we need to do, kick these guys in the tail and get them to work.?
  20. Donald Trump/File photo WASHINGTON: The US government officially shut down on Saturday, the first anniversary of President Donald Trump´s inauguration, after lawmakers failed to agree a stop-gap spending deal. Senators were still negotiating on the Senate floor as the clock turned midnight, but Trump´s office issued a statement blaming opposition Democrats for the crisis. Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the Democrats´ insistence that the interim measure include protection for undocumented immigrants who arrived as children killed the deal. "Senate Democrats own the Schumer Shutdown," she declared, referring to the minority leader, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who met with Trump earlier Friday. "Tonight, they put politics above our national security, military families, vulnerable children, and our country´s ability to serve all Americans. "We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands," she warned. US federal services and military operations deemed essential will continue, but thousands of government workers will be sent home without pay until the crisis is resolved. Trump admitted Friday that chances were "not looking good" that 11th-hour talks in Congress would break an impasse over spending and avert a US government shutdown. Less that two-and-a-half hours before a midnight deadline to reach a short-term deal to keep the federal government running at full capacity, Trump lashed out at Democrats. "Not looking good for our great Military or Safety & Security on the very dangerous Southern Border," he tweeted, citing some of the government projects and agencies that will find themselves unfunded. "Dems want a Shutdown in order to help diminish the great success of the Tax Cuts, and what they are doing for our booming economy," he alleged.
  21. National parks were closed in last govt shutdown and overnight visitors were given two days to depart, resulting in a loss of 750,000 daily visitors, according to the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association-Reuters President Donald Trump and Republican leaders in Congress are racing to meet a midnight Friday deadline to pass a short-term spending bill to keep the US government open and prevent agencies from shutting down. During government shutdowns, employees in all three branches of government are vulnerable to furlough, or temporary unpaid leave. Other ?essential? workers, including those dealing with public safety and national security, continue working, some with and others without pay. After previous government shutdowns, Congress passed measures to ensure that essential and nonessential employees received retroactive pay. The last government shutdown in October 2013 lasted more than two weeks and more than 800,000 federal employees were furloughed. Here is a sampling of what happened, based on previous Reuters reports and government sources: NATIONAL PARKS: National parks closed and overnight visitors were given two days to depart, resulting in a loss of 750,000 daily visitors, according to the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association. The National Park Service estimated that the shutdown resulted in $500 million in lost visitor spending in areas surrounding parks and the Smithsonian museums. WASHINGTON TOURIST SIGHTS: Popular tourist destinations such as the Smithsonian closed, with barricades going up at the Lincoln Memorial, the Library of Congress and the National Archives. The National Zoo closed to visitors and its popular ?Panda Cam? went dark shortly after the birth of a much-watched cub. TAXES: The Internal Revenue Service furloughed 90 percent of its staff, according the liberal Center for American Progress. About $4 billion in tax refunds were delayed as a result, according to the Office of Management and Budget, or OMB. MAIL DELIVERY: Deliveries continued as usual because the US Postal Service receives no tax dollars for day-to-day operations and relies on income from stamps and other fees. TRAVEL: Air and rail travelers did not feel a big impact because security officers and air traffic controllers remained at work. Passport processing continued with some delays, as operations are funded by both fees and money appropriated by Congress. COURTS: Federal courts, including the Supreme Court, remained open. The Administrative Office of the US Courts has said federal courts could continue to operate normally for about three weeks without additional funding. HEALTHCARE: Sign-ups for the newly created Obamacare health insurance exchanges began as scheduled. The Medicare health insurance program for the elderly also continued largely without disruption. A program at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track flu outbreaks was temporarily halted. Hundreds of patients could not enroll in National Institutes of Health clinical trials, according to the OMB. CHILDREN: Six Head Start programs operating in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina serving about 6,300 children shut for nine days before reopening with money provided by philanthropists, according to the OMB. SOCIAL SECURITY: Social Security and disability checks were issued with no change in payment dates and field offices remained open but offered limited services. There were delays in the review process for new applicants. MILITARY: All military personnel continued on normal duty status but about half of the Defense Department?s 800,000 civilian employees were placed on unpaid leave. Nearly all were recalled one week into the shutdown after the Defense Department implemented the Pay Our Military Act, which had recently been passed by Congress. LOANS: The processing of mortgages and other loans was delayed when lenders could not access government services such as income and Social Security number verification. The Small Business Administration was unable to process about 700 applications for $140 million in loans until the shutdown ended, according to the Congressional Budget Office. VETERANS: Department of Veterans Affairs services continued, including the operation of VA hospitals. FOOD INSPECTIONS: Department of Agriculture meat inspectors stayed on the job. Agricultural statistical reports ceased publication. The USDA?s website went dark and linked to a page explaining the shutdown.
  22. US President Donald Trump flanked by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (L) speaks in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, US, January 18, 2018. AFP/Mandel Ngan WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump warned Thursday of the "devastating" consequences of a government shutdown even as he lobbed wrenches into intense Republican manoeuvring to avoid a politically embarrassing funding debacle. With the federal government set to run out of money at midnight Friday, the president added to the chaos with a burst of early morning tweets. He second-guessed Republican leaders in Congress and slapped down his own chief of staff who had been leading a White House push on Capitol Hill for a budget compromise. Arriving at the Pentagon for a visit, Trump told reporters the government "could very well" shut down Friday. The House of Representatives was expected to vote as early as Thursday on a short-term funding measure, but it was unclear if Republicans had the votes to prevail. In the event of a shutdown, federal employees for agencies considered non-essential are ordered to stay home until a budget deal is struck, at which point they are paid retroactively. The most recent shutdowns ? in 1995, 1996 and 2013 ? saw some 800,000 workers furloughed per day. Key government bodies such as the White House, Congress, State Department and Pentagon would remain operational, but would likely furlough some staff. The military would still report for duty, but troops ? including in combat ? would potentially not be paid. "A government shutdown will be devastating to our military... something the Dems care very little about!" Trump tweeted. And yet in another tweet, Trump criticized the Republican short-term funding measure, opposing a sweetener intended to make it hard for Democrats to vote against it. House Speaker Paul Ryan said later he had spoken to the president and insisted, "He fully supports passing what we're bringing to the floor today." Bargaining chip The sweetener is a six-year extension of a popular children's health insurance program, known as CHIP, a program Democrats have worked hard to protect. But Trump insisted: "CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!" Republican Senator John Cornyn quickly corrected Trump in a counter-tweet: "The current house Continuing Resolution package has a six-year extension of CHIP, not a 30 day extension." Up against a similar deadline last month, lawmakers had passed a short-term resolution to keep the federal government funded until January 20. Many Democrats are already opposed to another short-term fix, leaving Republicans to rely on their own divided caucus to advance the measure. If it fails, Democrats will gain greater leverage to insist on a funding compromise that includes protection from deportation for the so-called "Dreamers," the estimated 700,000 immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. Negotiations on a bipartisan compromise that includes a fix on the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program collapsed in acrimony at a White House meeting last week. Trump's reported reference to African nations and Haiti as "shithole countries" ignited a still smouldering political firestorm. No 'evolution' White House chief of staff John Kelly met Wednesday with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to make the case that Trump had "evolved" on his signature campaign promise to build a wall the length of the US border. Funding for border security, but not a full-blown wall, was part of the bipartisan budget compromise presented at last week's contentious White House talks. Participants at the meeting with Kelly quoted the retired general and former head of the Department of Homeland Security as saying Trump was not "fully informed" when he made the wall promise. But Trump hit back on Twitter Thursday, writing: "The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it." "If there is no Wall, there is no Deal!" Trump said in another tweet that described Mexico as "now rated the most dangerous country in the world." The president said some of the wall will be "see through" ? a protection, he said last July, against people throwing "large sacks of drugs" over ? and repeated that it will be paid for "directly or indirectly" by Mexico. "The $20 billion dollar Wall is 'peanuts' compared to what Mexico makes from the U.S. NAFTA is a bad joke!" he said, reasserting his position on the trade pact which is currently being renegotiated. Mexico once again said it would not pay for the wall. The mixed messages from the White House prompted a rebuke Wednesday from frustrated Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. "I'm looking for something that President Trump supports, and he's not yet indicated what measure he's willing to sign," McConnell told reporters. "As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels."
  23. PRAGUE: The cabinet of Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis resigned on Wednesday, a day after losing a confidence vote on the billionaire politician?s first attempt to form a government while battling fraud allegations. Babis?s ANO party won a national election last October but holds only 78 of 200 seats in the lower house and has thus far been unable to persuade any of the eight other parliamentary parties to join a coalition because of the allegations, which concern EU subsidies. The government will stay in office until a new cabinet is put in place, which could take months. President Milos Zeman, who is due to accept the cabinet?s resignation later this week, has promised Babis a second try to form a government. With the economy powering ahead and wages rising as unemployment hovers around two-decade lows, markets have brushed off the political uncertainty. Much of the electorate also appears unconcerned, and support for ANO has grown despite the subsidy scandal. A CVVM institute poll in December showed the party at 35.5 percent compared to the 29.6 percent it won in October. This has made other parties wary of forcing a new election and several have declared they were open to negotiation. However, the prime minister?s role remains a sticking point. Police allege Babis, the country?s second-richest person, hid ownership of one of his companies a decade ago to win a 2 million euro subsidy, mostly from European Union funds, meant for small businesses. He denies wrongdoing. Parliament?s second-biggest party, the conservative Civic Democrats, has made Babis stepping aside a condition for talks. The Social Democrats and Christian Democrats - ANO?s former ruling partners - are open to talks but say they will not join a government with a prime minister facing a police investigation. The far-right SPD party and far-left Communists have signaled willingness to work with ANO, but Babis does not want a government with them. Ready to fight Babis was charged in the case but regained immunity from prosecution when he was re-elected to parliament. Lawmakers will vote on Friday whether to lift that immunity and are expected to do so. Babis, who calls the subsidy case a ploy by adversaries to chase him out of politics, said on Tuesday he would request it be lifted. In past months, Babis has repeatedly ruled out mirroring the arrangement in Poland whereby the head of the ruling PiS party, Jarorslaw Kaczynski, is considered de-facto leader despite holding no formal position in government. But Babis shifted slightly this week when asked by reporters on whether he could rule out a government without him, saying everything would depend on the upcoming negotiations. Babis founded ANO in 2011 after building an empire in food, agriculture, chemicals and media valued at $4 billion. After support for the party surged in a national election in 2013, it joined a government led by the Social Democrats. ANO won the October election with promises to fight political corruption, bring a businessman?s sense to government and raise the country?s profile within the EU. It has also said it will boost spending on crumbling roads, digitalize government and cut taxes. The vote brought gains for protest parties at mainstream parties? expense, tracking a trend that has spread across Europe, often complicating coalition-building as in Germany. The possible departure of Zeman as president is further muddying Czech political waters. His bid for re-election is facing a formidable challenge from academic Jiri Drahos in a run-off ballot on Jan. 26-27. Drahos has said it would be unacceptable for someone charged with a criminal offense to be prime minister.
  24. Japan's public broadcaster NHK's false alarm about a North Korean missile launch which was received on a smart phone is pictured in Tokyo, Japan January 16, 2018. Reuters TOKYO: The Japanese government called on public broadcaster NHK on Wednesday to make sure a false alarm warning of a North Korean missile launch will not be repeated, with tensions still high because of the North?s missile and nuclear programs. NHK issued an erroneous alarm on its website on Tuesday evening, saying North Korea appeared to have launched a missile and urging people to take shelter. A similar gaffe caused panic in the US island state of Hawaii at the weekend. Japan?s public broadcaster put out another message on its website within five minutes correcting itself and said no government warning, known as a ?J-alert?, had been issued. ?The J-alert system is information of extreme importance in maintaining the security and safety of the people, so we?ve asked that they ensure this does not happen again,? Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference. There have been no reports of panic or other disruptions following the NHK report. NHK said the false alert was sent by mistake when it was trying to issue another news flash. The broadcaster declined to say what the other news flash was about, but some domestic news outlets issued bulletins at around the same time about the latest recipients of a Japanese literary award. NHK is looking into measures to prevent a recurrence but could not comment on specific details because the plan had not been firmed up yet, an NHK spokeswoman said. The false alert was also sent to mobile phone users of NHK?s online news distribution service. It was not clear how many of its 300,000 users have a function to let news alerts pop up on the cellphone screen when activated, NHK said.
  25. LAHORE: The Government of Punjab decided Monday night to offer full-fledged security to the participants of a sit-in being staged by the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) on January 17, Geo News reported, citing sources. On the day of the protest, strict checking will be conducted at the city's entry and exit points, sources in the provincial government added, explaining that police officers on duty will remain unarmed. Police personnel from adjoining cities will also be called on duty in order to provide additional security to the protesters on a larger scale. 'Will get justice' for Model Town martyrs Prior to this, Pakistan People's Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari ? upon reaching Lahore ? said, "Enough is enough; we will get justice for the martyrs of the Model Town tragedy." Zardari also met the PPP party leaders and discussed various matters, including the January 17 protest and campaign against the government. The co-chairman advised his party leaders to ensure that more and more members should come to Mall Road for the protest on January 17. Shehbaz Sharif's government cannot go on anymore, Zardari stressed, adding that he will make sure that justice prevails.