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  1. KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Saturday issued notices to Secretary, Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Director General (Maritime Affairs), Shipping Master of Government Shipping Office, Director General (Immigration Wing) Federal Investigation Agency, and Federal Ombudsman of Pakistan and Deputy Attorney General on a constitutional petition filed by a Mariner Syed Murawat Haider through his counsel Agha Zafar Ahmed. The court summoned the respondents to appear on the second week of March. The counsel for the petitioner submitted that Pakistani Shipping Master is violating Pakistan Merchant Shipping Ordinance, 2001 with particular reference to Sections 123 & 127, in which it is demanding the agents to force Pakistani seafarers joining foreign ships to sign Pakistani article of agreement at shipping office and two yearly medical checkup at port health Karachi so that his staff could blackmail seafarers to get illegal gratification. The petitioner said that the illegal and unlawful demands of the respondents are a major cause of loss of thousands of jobs and millions of foreign exchange remittances, adding that the present antiquated system is not only against the clear wordings of the MSO, 2001 but also against the spirit of the MSO, 2001. According to petition the act of the Shipping Master of requiring the Petitioner to sign-on Pakistan Article of Agreement under section 125 of MSO, 2001 for joining foreign flag ship is illegal, without lawful authority. The provisions of 125 or section 126 of MSO, 2001 applies only to Pakistani ships and not for foreign ships. It said that the Secretary, Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Shipping Master have no jurisdiction over foreign flag ships while they are not in any Pakistani ports and the rules/laws of the ?Flag? state applies to such foreign vessels. In terms of section 127 of MSO, 2001 it is not necessary for the Pakistani seamen to sign-on Pakistani Article of Agreement to join foreign flag ship when the Master, or Owner or Agent of a foreign ship engages a Pakistani seaman, from any port or place in Pakistan. The act of officers of Director General (Immigration Wing) Federal Investigation Agency posted at the Airports not permitting Pakistani seamen for boarding any aircraft for joining foreign flag ships, despite that the Petitioner (and other seamen intending to join foreign vessels) have all the relevant documents including Employment Agreement of foreign flag ships in their possession, on the alleged ground that the Petitioner has not signed-on Pakistan Article of Agreement before the Shipping Master under section 125 of MSO, 2001 is illegal, unlawful and against the law. The Immigration Ordinance, 1979 does not apply to the departure of a person who is engaged as a crew on board a foreign vessel in accordance with (erstwhile Merchant Shipping Ordinance, 1979) now MSO 2001 as per section 27(iv) of the Immigration Ordinance, 1979. The aforesaid act of the Respondents also violates Articles 18 and 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan, which fundamental rights are guaranteed by the Constitution.
  2. QUETTA: Four security personnel were martyred when their vehicle was attacked in Langovabad area of the city early Wednesday. Police officials said the site of the incident has been cordoned off and a search and rescue operation is under way. The identity of the officials is yet to be ascertained. This is a developing story and will be updated as reports come in.
  3. KASUR: Two police officials were arrested on Friday after being accused of conducting a fake encounter in which they had claimed that the rapist of five-year-old Iman Fatima was killed. Inspector Riaz Abbas Doggar and Inspector Younis are suspected of killing Mudassir in a fake encounter, said police officials. Earlier, police also arrested Deputy Superintendent of Police Mirza Arif Rasheed in the same case. He was arrested under instructions from the Joint Investigation Team (JIT). The police allegedly shot and killed Mudassir in an encounter on February 25, 2017. Police had claimed that Mudassir had confessed to raping and killing Iman Fatima. However, when Imran Ali was caught in the Zainab murder case, his DNA matched with the sample taken from Fatima?s body. The case was reopened and the JIT assured Mudassir?s mother that she will receive justice. Mudassir?s mother had alleged that SSP Ali Nasir Rizvi and DSP Mirza Arif Rasheed were involved in the case.
  4. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson greets Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at the State Department in Washington, DC, US, March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/Files WASHINGTON: The United States does not plan to contribute any money at a conference in Kuwait next week to fund Iraq?s reconstruction drive after the war against Daesh forces, US and Western officials said, a move critics say could deal a new blow to American standing internationally. ?We are not planning to announce anything,? a US official said on Thursday regarding financial assistance at the conference, which US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will attend. The official, however, said Tillerson could still decide closer to the time to announce a contribution. Washington instead is encouraging private-sector investment and counting on Iraq?s Gulf neighbours, particularly Sunni regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia, to pour in money as part of a rapprochement with Baghdad meant to reduce Iran?s influence in Iraq. President Donald Trump said during the 2016 US presidential campaign that if elected, ?the era of nation-building will be ended.? Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said his country needs up to $100 billion to fix crumbling infrastructure and cities devastated by the conflict against Daesh. A shortage of reconstruction funds could increase the danger of reinvigorating grievances among the minority Iraqis against Iraq?s government. Asked if the US government will be making an announcement of contributions at the conference, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, ?I?m not aware of any announcements that we will be making.? ?About 2,300 members of the private sector will also be joining ... and talk about ways that they can help facilitate the large-scale reconstruction taking place in Iraq,? Nauert added. Jeremy Konyndyk, who served from 2013 to 2017 as head of the US Agency for International Development?s (USAID) Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance, said that by not contributing to reconstruction, especially in combat-ravaged areas, the Trump administration could help set the stage for a new insurgency. ?We?ve seen this movie before. There is a very real risk if the US doesn?t put money into reconstruction, that having just won the battle, you lose the peace,? said Konyndyk, now a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development think tank. Another US official pointed to the billions of dollars the United States has committed to financing loans and restoring basic services to Iraqi towns and cities in the immediate aftermath of the fighting. ?The immediate stabilization needs remain vast, and limited US government resources alone cannot meet these current and pressing needs, let alone consider supporting long-term reconstruction,? the US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The official said Washington strongly supports the conference and would ?continue to work with the Government of Iraq and the international community to help address the needs of the Iraqi people as they recover and rebuild their country.? Fifteen years after US invasion The United States, which invaded Iraq in 2003 and toppled the late President Saddam Hussein and more recently led an international coalition fighting Daesh, has pumped billions of dollars into Iraq. In January, the United States said it planned to provide $150 million for stabilization operations in 2018 ? funds that would go to restoring basic utilities and grants to small businesses ? bringing Washington?s total contribution to $265.3 million since 2015. The US government has also provided $1.7 billion in humanitarian assistance for Iraq since 2014, making it the single largest donor to address the Iraqi crisis. ?Absolutely nothing,? said a Western official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, when asked whether Washington would announce any financial contributions at the conference to fund long-term reconstruction projects. Mdhair Saleh, Abadi?s economic advisor, would neither confirm nor deny the lack of a US contribution. ?The question is not about direct financial assistance,? Saleh said. ?I think US policy is to support private-sector investment in Iraq. As for direct support in the Kuwait conference on the part of the government, I have not heard anything.? ?Sinews of a strategy? James Jeffrey, a former US ambassador to Iraq, said the United States had already ?poured billions and billions of dollars into Iraq? for the fight against Daesh, equipping Iraqi forces and humanitarian aid. ?Only the United States can organize the diplomatic, reconstruction, military and political sinews of a strategy for the international community,? Jeffrey told Reuters. ?The fact that we?re not putting any money up will weaken our case, and that?s unfortunate.? A US official in Baghdad said the American role in the Kuwait conference would be focused on opportunities ?for true private-sector investment or public-private partnerships with the Iraqi government.? ?What we are trying to do in Kuwait next week is to put together companies that want to look at Iraq ... and possibly also talk about ways to finance projects,? added the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. A State Department official said Washington was counting on other countries to step up, adding that more than 100 US companies would be at the event. Konyndyk, the former USAID official, said business people would want to see the risks of their investments in Iraq mitigated by US government contributions. ?If the US government wants to see private-sector investment go in, they need to put skin in the game,? added Konyndyk, saying a contribution also would demonstrate American commitment to reducing Iran?s influence. Iran, by leveraging its ties with Iraq?s majority, emerged as the main power broker in Iraq after the United States withdrew its troops in 2011.
  5. Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan greets members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, February 6, 2018. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS BRUSSELS: Top European Union officials will meet Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Bulgaria on March 26 to discuss EU-Turkey relations as well as regional and international issues, an EU spokesman said on Tuesday. The meeting in the city of Varna will take place against a background of hostility between Turkey and the bloc and diplomats in Brussels acknowledged that the meeting had been agreed to only reluctantly by some on the EU side. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov will host Erdogan as well as Donald Tusk, who chairs meetings of EU leaders, and the head of the bloc?s executive European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, for a dinner. ?This will be a good opportunity to jointly assess matters of mutual interest and recent developments in your country, including in the area of the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, which remain fundamental to the fabric of and prospects for the EU-Turkey relations,? the two top EU officials said in their invitation to Erdogan. Ties between Ankara and the EU have gone from bad to worse since a botched 2016 coup in Turkey and over Erdogan?s verbal assaults on Germany and the Netherlands, two of the bloc?s member states. But the EU also depends on Turkey, NATO?s second-biggest army, for support in the security field and for keeping a tight lid on immigration from the Middle East. This reality had swayed the EU to agreeing, with some reluctance, to Ankara?s push for the top-level meeting, diplomats said.
  6. Afghan Wakhi nomad families travelling on yaks in the Wakhan Corridor in Badakhshan province of Afghanistan KABUL: Worried about militants sneaking into a restive Chinese region from war-torn Afghanistan, Beijing is in talks with Kabul over the construction of a military base, Afghan officials say, as it seeks to shore up its fragile neighbour. The army camp will be built in Afghanistan´s remote and mountainous Wakhan Corridor, where witnesses have reported seeing Chinese and Afghan troops on joint patrols. The freezing, barren panhandle of land -- bordering China´s tense Xinjiang region -- is so cut off from the rest of Afghanistan that many inhabitants are unaware of the Afghan conflict, scraping out harsh but peaceful lives. However, they retain strong links with neighbours in Xinjiang, and with so few travellers in the region local interest in the Chinese visitors has been high, residents told AFP on a recent visit there. China´s involvement in the base comes as President Xi Jinping seeks to extend Beijing´s economic and geopolitical clout. The Chinese are pouring billions of dollars into infrastructure in South Asia. With Afghanistan´s potential to destabilise the region, analysts said any moves there would be viewed through the prism of security. Beijing fears that exiled Uighur members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) are passing through the Wakhan into Xinjiang to carry out attacks. It also worries that the Daesh group militants fleeing Iraq and Syria could cross Central Asia and Xinjiang to reach Afghanistan, or use the Wakhan to enter China, analysts say. Afghan and Chinese officials discussed the plan in December in Beijing, but details are still being clarified, Afghan defence ministry deputy spokesman Mohammad Radmanesh said. "We are going to build it (the base) but the Chinese government has committed to help the division financially, provide equipment and train the Afghan soldiers," he told AFP recently. A senior Chinese embassy official in Kabul would only say Beijing is involved in "capacity-building" in Afghanistan. NATO´s US-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan declined to comment. But US officials have previously welcomed China´s role in Afghanistan, noting they share the same security concerns. Joint patrols Members of the Kyrgyz ethnic minority in Wakhan told AFP in October they had been seeing Chinese and Afghan military patrols for months. "The Chinese army first came here last summer and they were accompanied by the Afghan army," said Abdul Rashid, a Kyrgyz chief, adding that he had seen vehicles flying Chinese flags. The Afghan army arrived days earlier "and told us that the Chinese army would be coming here", he said, adding: "We were strictly told not to go near them or talk to them and not to take any photos." Rashid´s account was confirmed by other Kyrgyz, including another chief Jo Boi, who said the Chinese military spent almost a year in Wakhan before leaving in March 2017. Beijing recently flagged the possibility of including Afghanistan in the $54-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) linking western China to the Indian Ocean via Pakistan Both Chinese and Afghan officials deny the claims, with China´s defence ministry telling AFP that the "Chinese army is not engaged in any military operation in the Wakhan Corridor". With little access to the corridor, Kabul provides almost no services to those who live there -- but the Chinese, Boi said, have been bringing "a lot of food and warm clothes". "They are very good people, very kind," he told AFP. After their March visit, he said, they returned in June for roughly a month. "Since then they come every month... to distribute food." Economic interests China fears militancy could threaten its growing economic interests in the region, Ahmad Bilal Khalil, a researcher at the Kabul-based Center for Strategic and Regional Studies, told AFP. "They need to have a secure Afghanistan," he said, estimating Beijing had provided Kabul with more than $70 million in military aid in the past three years. It recently flagged the possibility of including Afghanistan in the $54-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) linking western China to the Indian Ocean via Pakistan. "The anti-terrorism motivation is an important one but it´s not as important as the bigger move to boost the CPEC," said Willy Lam, a political analyst in Hong Kong. Kabul is also keen for Beijing to have a "more active role", Andrew Small, author of The China-Pakistan Axis, told AFP. It hopes China will use its "special relationship" with Islamabad to encourage the Pakistani military to "force the Taliban into peace talks", Small said. "In the end China has vastly greater financial power than anyone else. So having them engaged... may end up being critical to the country´s basic economic viability," he said.
  7. Sergei Naryshkin ? the speaker of the Russian Duma ? and Russia's President Vladimir Putin near Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, June 22, 2016. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor/Files WASHINGTON: Russia?s foreign spy chief ? who is under US sanctions ? met last week outside Washington with US intelligence officials, two US sources said, confirming a disclosure that intensified political infighting over probes into Moscow?s alleged meddling in the 2016 US election. Sergey Naryshkin ? the head of the Russian service known by its acronym SVR ? held talks with US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and other US intelligence officials, the sources said. The sources did not reveal the topics discussed. A Russian Embassy tweet disclosed Naryshkin?s visit. It cited a state-run ITAR-Tass news report that quoted Anatoly Antonov ? Russia?s ambassador to Washington ? as telling Rossiya-1 television that Naryshkin and his US counterparts discussed the ?joint struggle against terrorism?. Antonov did not identify the US intelligence officials with whom he met. The Central Intelligence Agency declined to comment. Coats? office said that while it does not discuss US intelligence officials? schedules, ?any interaction with foreign intelligence agencies would have been conducted in accordance with US law and in consultation with appropriate departments and agencies.? News of Naryshkin?s secret visit poured fresh fuel on the battles pitting the Trump administration and its Republican defenders against Democrats over investigations into Moscow?s alleged 2016 election interference. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer demanded that the administration ?immediately come clean and answer questions ? which US officials did he meet with? Did any White House or National Security Council official meet with Naryshkin? What did they discuss?? Sergei Naryshkin ? the speaker of the Russian Duma ? on a visit to Finland, April 3, 2013. Image Courtesy: Finland Today/Tony Öhberg The key question, Schumer told reporters, is whether Naryshkin?s visit accounted for the administration?s decision on Monday not to slap new sanctions on Russia under a law passed last year to punish Moscow?s purported election meddling. ?Russia hacked our elections,? Schumer said. ?We sanctioned the head of their foreign intelligence and then the Trump administration invites him to waltz through our front door.? A January 2017 US intelligence report concluded that Russia conducted an influence campaign of hacking and other measures aimed at swinging the 2016 presidential vote to Trump over Hillary Clinton ? his Democratic challenger. Last week, the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant reported that the Netherlands intelligence concluded that some of the Russians running a hacking operation ? known as ?Cozy Bear? ? against Democratic organizations were SVR agents. CIA Director Mike Pompeo told the BBC in an interview last weekend that he had not ?seen a significant decrease? in Russian attempts at subversion in Europe and the US, and he expects Moscow to meddle in November?s US mid-term elections. Congressional panels and Special Counsel Robert Mueller are investigating Russia?s alleged interference and possible collusion between Moscow and Trump?s election campaign. Russia denies it meddled and Trump dismissed the allegations of collusion as a political witch hunt. Naryshkin?s visit coincided with other serious disputes in US-Russian relations. They include Russia?s 2014 seizure of Crimea and its interference in Ukraine and Russia?s military intervention on the government?s side in the Syrian civil war. Washington and Moscow cooperate in some areas, including the fight against Islamic militant groups, officials said. For example, a month ago the United States provided advance warning to Russia that allowed it to thwart a terrorist plot in St. Petersburg, the White House said. Naryshkin ? who was appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin to head the SVR in September 2016 ? was sanctioned by the Obama administration in March 2014 as part of the US response to Russia?s annexation of Crimea. At the time, he was speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament. He was banned from entering the US but sanctions experts said there are processes for providing people under sanction permission to enter for official business. Meetings between foreign intelligence chiefs, even from rival nations, are mostly kept secret but are not unusual.
  8. [embed_video1 url=http://stream.jeem.tv/vod/04a8b99db8399ed89355e78e0b31219d.mp4/playlist.m3u8?wmsAuthSign=c2VydmVyX3RpbWU9MS8yNy8yMDE4IDk6NDQ6NDYgQU0maGFzaF92YWx1ZT10bTZRQ3lHanovdkM4eER5eXppZG1nPT0mdmFsaWRtaW51dGVzPTYwJmlkPTE= style=center] KABUL: The bodies of several people killed in a car bomb explosion were taken to Kabul hospitals on Saturday and more than 50 wounded were taken to a hospital run by the aid group Emergency, officials said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the blast came after heightened security alerts following an attack on the Intercontinental Hotel a week ago. That attack, which killed more than 20 people, was claimed by the Taliban. On January 21, at least five people were killed and six injured after gunmen attacked Kabul?s Intercontinental Hotel, seizing hostages and exchanging gunfire with security forces as the building in the Afghan capital caught fire and residents and staff fled. The operation to rescue the hostages was completed the next day, with 126 hostages, 41 foreigners among them, rescued. At least five dead as gunmen attack top Kabul hotel; 126 hostages rescued According to a witness who did not want to be named, the attackers took some hotel staff and guests hostage The ministry's spokesperson, Najib Danish, said three attackers were killed in the operation. Hotel manager Ahmad Haris Nayab ? who escaped unhurt ? said the attackers had got into the main part of the hotel through a kitchen and people tried to get out amid bursts of gunfire. The attack came days after a US embassy warning of possible attacks on hotels in Kabul.
  9. Pakistan Peoples Party MNA Naveed Qamar. Photo: File ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party MNA Naveed Qamar believes it was inappropriate of Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif to applaud the officials and government functionaries ? who caught Zainab?s rapist, murderer ? a day earlier at a news conference. While speaking on Geo News? show Capital Talk, Qamar said it was Shehbaz?s own lookout whether he would apologised for clapping or not. But the the Punjab chief minister could appreciate the effort of police officials at any other instance, the PPP leader added. Qamar was referring to the controversy erupted over Shehbaz applauding the officials and government functionaries at a news conference held after Zainab?s murderer was arrested Many said the Punjab chief minister should not have done so given the sensitivity of the matter. 'Applause shameful?: Shah slams Shehbaz's presser on Kasur 'If the world's second-biggest lab is in Lahore, why were the other suspects not apprehended?' Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MNA Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh was also of the view that no one at the news conference should have given an ovation. But, he added, the applause should not be criticised, as the ones who clapped did so as a sign of relief. Qaiser Ahmed said the arrest of serial rapist and killer Mohammad Imran was a matter of great relief for the authorities concerned. The same was reiterated by another MNA of PML-N, Chaudhry Asad-ur-rehman, who said the chief minister applauded the officials as the chief minister was under tension when the accused was at large. However, PML-N MNA Raza Hayat Hiraj was of the opinion that Shehbaz should have appreciated the police officials at any other event but the one related to the killing of seven-year-old Zainab. Earlier in the day, Leader of the Opposition Khursheed Shah slammed the Punjab government officials on clapping while the arrested of Zainab?s rapist, murderer was being announced. Zainab's murderer caught, is a 'serial killer', confirms CM Shehbaz According to sources, the accused has confessed to the heinous crime Shah criticised the applause, saying sixty cases of child sexual abuse were reported in Kasur in 2016 and thousands of similar incidents happened across Punjab. Dozens of suspects were arrested but not one was punished, he said. The opposition leader added these incidents happen all over the world, but no one applauds and claps while announcing the apprehension of the criminals. ?You should be ashamed of clapping after apprehending the culprit,? he said.
  10. BENGHAZI: A double car bombing in the east Libyan city of Benghazi on Tuesday left at least 22 people dead and 30 wounded, including senior security figures, according to officials and a Reuters witness. The first explosion struck outside a mosque in Benghazi?s central Al Salmani district as worshippers were leaving evening prayers. Some 10 to 15 minutes later ? after security and health officials had arrived on the scene ? a second, more powerful blast was detonated from a Mercedes parked on the opposite side of the street, hitting an ambulance and causing a higher number of casualties. The victims included both military personnel and civilians, officials said. One of those killed was Ahmed al-Feitouri of the investigation and arrest unit attached to the general command of east Libyan security forces. Mahdi al-Fellah ? an intelligence official ? was wounded. It was not immediately clear who was responsible. Benghazi was the scene of more than three years of warfare from 2014 until late last year, as forces loyal to eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar battled extremists and other opponents. There were a number of bombings during the latter stages of the conflict targeting figures linked to Haftar?s Libyan National Army (LNA). LNA claimed control of its rivals? final holdout in the port city in December. The fighting in Benghazi was part of a broader conflict that developed in Libya after former ruler Muammar Gaddafi was removed from power and killed in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.
  11. Sindh High Court. Photo: File KARACHI: The Sindh High Court ordered on Friday departmental action against Counter Terrorism Department DSP Abdul Hafeez Junejo and other officials for their involvement in illegal detention and filing fake cases against citizens. The court has summoned a report from Sindh IG A D Khawaja at its next hearing on the case seeking details of action taken against the CTD officials and asking if cases have been filed against them. In the petition before the SHC, it is stated that the CTD officials illegally detained Khanzada, Syed Waqas Hussain, and Aziz Gul. A judicial magistrate recovered them in a raid as directed by a sessions court. The petition stated that rather than releasing the citizens, terror charges were filed against them, and without informing the court their physical remand was taken by the authorities. The case has been adjourned until January 24.
  12. Larry Nassar ? a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges ? stands in the courtroom during his sentencing hearing in Lansing, Michigan, US, January 18, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid CHICAGO: At least 14 university officials were warned over two decades that former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar was abusing patients, according to an investigative report published Thursday. More than 100 victims have accused Nassar of sexual assault under the guise of medical treatment, including members of the Olympic gold-medal winning gymnastics team ? Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, and Gabby Douglas. As victim testimonies during a sentencing hearing continued for a third day in Michigan, The Detroit News reported that officials at Michigan State University ? Nassar's employer ? had been informed of sexual abuse allegations as early as 1997. The officials include MSU President Lou Anna Simon ? who was informed in 2014 ? as well as athletics trainers, assistant coaches, a university police detective, and others, according to the newspaper. Simon and some others named are still employed at the university, which did not return a request for comment. In a statement published on its website, spokesman Jason Cody said "any suggestion that the university covered up Nassar's horrific conduct is simply false". Nassar has pleaded guilty to 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct. The 54-year-old could face life in prison when he is sentenced. As victim statements resumed, Michigan state judge Rosemarie Aquilina revealed that Nassar had written asking to be excused from the hearing of victim testimonies, fearing his mental health could not withstand them. The judge dismissed the request and could hand down Nassar's sentence as early as Friday.
  13. Axact?s call centre agents are impersonating govt officials to extort ?legalisation fees? from fake degree holders, reveals report published in Gulf News After tricking thousands of unsuspecting people into buying fake degrees, the fake diploma mill Axact is now conning its victims again, reveals an investigative report published in Gulf News. According to the leading Dubai-based publication, Axact?s call centre agents are impersonating UAE government officials to extort ?legalisation fees? from fake degree and diploma holders in the country. [embed_video1 url=http://stream.jeem.tv/vod/2a09d42e6c6d6c4e205184f540f1ba03.mp4/playlist.m3u8?wmsAuthSign=c2VydmVyX3RpbWU9MS8xOC8yMDE4IDEwOjQ0OjI3IEFNJmhhc2hfdmFsdWU9bUcrWWxKNUR1dVVtUzdwRVJqSFhBdz09JnZhbGlkbWludXRlcz02MCZpZD0x style=center] Speaking in an Emirati accent, Axact?s telesale agents are calling clients and demanding thousands of dollars from degree holders towards the ?legalisation fees? of their certificates. And since they use spoofing techniques which allow them to mimic any phone number -- complete with area code -- the recipients are deceived into believing that the calls are legitimate, the report reveals. The report narrates experiences of some of Axact?s victims. A South African expat in Dubai, who forked out thousands of dollars for an academic certificate, received a call from a man claiming to be a Dubai Police officer, in which he threatened him to remit $5,000 to the university towards degree ?legalisation fee? or face action. ?When I called back [the number] that showed up on my cellphone it was answered by someone at Dubai Police Headquarters. Initially, I got scared and thought it was indeed them who had called but then I found out it was a scam so I ignored their subsequent calls,? he said. Another resident who was duped, a medical technologist in Al Ain, sold all her jewellery out of fear to raise almost $70,000 of which $30,000 was remitted to Axact the very night she got a call from an agent claiming to be a representative of the UAE embassy in the US. Speaking fluent Arabic, the agent threatened the woman with legal action if she did not immediately pay the amount to cancel her many degrees and get an accredited one from a Sharjah university. The victim had bought 18 degrees from various Axact-run universities over three years for $60,000 to get a promotion, the report states. Axact sold fake degrees to thousands of UK citizens: BBC One British citizen spent as much as £500,000 on bogus documents from Axact, says BBC report Axact claims to be the "world's largest IT company" and operates hundreds of fake online universities run by agents from a Karachi-based call centre. In 2015, it sold more than 215,000 fake qualifications globally through approximately 350 fictitious high schools and universities, making $51m (£37.5m) that year alone. Axact's chief executive was arrested and an investigation launched by the Pakistani authorities after a New York Times expose in 2015. A senior manager of the company, Umair Hamid, was sentenced to 21 months in a US prison in August 2017 for his part in Axact's fraud.
  14. BAGHDAD: A double suicide bombing killed 26 people in Baghdad on Monday, officials said, the second such attack in the Iraqi capital in three days. Dr Abdel Ghani al-Saadi, health chief for east Baghdad, reported: "26 dead and 90 wounded". "Two suicide bombers blew themselves up in Tayyaran Square in central Baghdad," said General Saad Maan, spokesman for the Joint Operations Command, which includes the army and the police. Tayyaran Square is a bustling centre of commerce and a place where day labourers gather in the early morning waiting for jobs. It has been the site of deadly attacks in the past. An AFP photographer at the site of the bombing said many ambulances had gathered and security forces had been deployed in large numbers. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but most such attacks in Iraq are the work of the Daesh extremist group. In December, the government announced the "end of the war" against Daesh, which has been expelled from the Baghdad region and urban areas of Iraq that it controlled. Extremist elements are still active, however, north of Baghdad.
  15. None of the elements of a coherent policy was in place when the president tweeted to end US aid to Pakistan, said one official WASHINGTON: A surprise New Year?s Day tweet by US President Donald Trump in which he appeared to decree an end to US aid for Pakistan, sent US officials scrambling to suspend security assistance without even knowing how much aid they were freezing, four US officials said. The decision to freeze up to about $2 billion in security aid, according to a later estimate by US officials, to a nuclear-armed ally is the latest example of how, nearly a year into Trump?s presidency, US officials sometimes have to scurry to turn his tweets into policy. The Trump administration had been weighing an aid freeze for months, including in a meeting of top national security advisers before Christmas. Washington has for years accused Islamabad of providing sanctuary to terrorists. At the time of Trump?s tweet, a US assessment of Pakistani compliance with those demands was still under way. A cohesive US policy - including preparations for possible Pakistani reaction - was not expected to be completed until March or April, three US officials interviewed said. ?None of the elements of a coherent policy was in place, or even close at hand, when the president, in effect, made a policy announcement,? said one US official, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity. ?Despite a mad scramble to backfill a tweet, we still don?t have ... an effective policy in place.? Michael Anton, a spokesman for the National Security Council, did not address whether the tweet had sped up the policy process, saying Trump had made clear his intent to take a new, tougher stance toward Pakistan as part of the Afghanistan war strategy he unveiled in August. ?This action is being taken after months of careful interagency review. Any suggestion to the contrary is false,? he said. The State Department declined to comment. Trump was at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida when he posted his tweet at 7:12 am on January 1, after hosting a lavish New Year?s Eve party. Until then he had kept a relatively low public profile while he mostly golfed. The United States, he tweeted, had ?foolishly? given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid and ?they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!? It is not clear what prompted Trump to issue the tweet, which infuriated Pakistani officials. Pakistan?s National Security Committee of senior civilian and military officials denounced it as ?completely incomprehensible.? US Ambassador David Hale was summoned to the Foreign Ministry for an explanation. Caught by surprise on their New Year?s Day holiday, a small group of White House aides and other top officials scrambled to make good on the president?s unexpected statement, said a senior US official who was part of the consultations. There was no time to issue a formal White House policy directive outlining the amount of frozen funds, four officials said. When the administration confirmed that it was suspending security aid to Pakistan four days after Trump?s tweet, the State Department was still not able to quantify how much aid was at stake, underscoring how far US officials had been from implementing any policy before the president?s statement. Trump?s attempt to humiliate Pakistan unlikely to work: Olson Former US ambassador to Pakistan says Pakistan has greater leverage over the US than many imagine US officials later said the decision could affect about $1 billion in planned security assistance and $900 million to reimburse Pakistan for counter-terrorism operations. Another sign of the haste was the failure to give Pakistan the usual diplomatic courtesy of a warning before the president?s tweet, US officials said. Perhaps most seriously, they said, there was no time to prepare for possible retaliation. Tweet in search of strategy The Pentagon and State Department were especially concerned that Pakistan might close the air and land corridors on which US-led troops and Afghan forces in landlocked Afghanistan depend for supplies, the officials said. So far, Pakistan has not done so. At the time the decision was made, there was no agreement with neighbouring countries for alternative routes, five US officials said. ?It appeared to be a tweet in search of a strategy,? said Dan Feldman, a former US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. ?There seemed to be a flurry of inter-agency activity after that tweet to arrive at some sort of policy to frame it ... to prove it wasn?t just an impulsive tweet.? It was not the first time that US officials have been caught off guard by Trump?s fondness for formulating policy by tweet. Last year, Trump tweeted that the US government would not accept transgender people to serve in the military, catching the Pentagon leadership by surprise. His statement eventually had to be walked back.
  16. New York Fire Department crew respond after a fire broke out at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, US, January 8, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly NEW YORK: Three people were injured in an early-morning fire at the top of Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan, the New York Fire Department said on Monday, as the city?s workday rush began. US President Donald Trump was in Washington at the time. Trump?s primary residence was in the building before his election victory and inauguration nearly a year ago. One firefighter was hospitalized with nonlife-threatening injuries, while two people received minor injuries that were treated at the scene, including a building worker whose injury was initially described as serious, the Fire Department said. Eric Trump, one of the president?s sons, said on Twitter that it was a small electrical fire in the cooling tower on the building?s roof. ?The New York Fire Department was here within minutes and did an incredible job,? said the younger Trump. ?The men and women of the #FDNY are true heros and deserve our most sincere thanks and praise!? The Fire Department said the fire was not inside the building, but on top of it. ?We had flames coming out of the vents. No smoke condition or fire was on the inside,? Manhattan Borough Commander Assistant Chief Roger Sakowich said on Twitter. The cause of the blaze is being investigated by the city fire marshal, a department spokesman said. Once the investigation is complete, the results will be released, Firefighter Jim Long ? the spokesman ? said. As firefighters battled the blaze, a plume of smoke spewed from the roof of the 68-story structure. The fire was reported by phone shortly before 7 AM EST (noon GMT) on the top floor of the building and was declared under control about an hour and 15 minutes later, the department said. Some 84 firefighters and medical crews responded as 26 emergency units with lights flashing converged on the crowded midtown Manhattan location, it added. In addition to the president?s 66th-floor penthouse, Trump Tower houses the headquarters of the Trump Organization as well as other residences, offices and stores.
  17. A screengrab from the video circulated on social media after the incident in 2011. ISLAMABAD: Officials of the President House have rejected media reports saying President Mamnoon Hussain has granted pardon to Rangers personnel sentenced to life imprisonment for involvement in the June 2011 killing of a citizen inside a public park in Karachi. The case had drawn public outrage after a video of the June 8, 2011 incident went viral on social media, showing the 22-year-old victim Sarfraz Shah lying in a pool of blood after being shot by Rangers personnel at the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Park in the city's upscale Clifton area. Earlier this week, a local news outlet quoting sources in the Sindh Home Department had reported that President Mamnoon Hussain in exercise of his powers under Article 45 of the Constitution had granted pardon to the convicted men. But officials on Monday rejected the media reports, saying the President House has not received any such summary.
  18. ISLAMABAD: Minister of Defence Khurram Dastagir, following a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) on Tuesday, said that the committee has been reviewing negative statements by US officials, including President Donald Trump, for the past few months. The minister, in an interview with BBC Urdu, said that Tuesday's meeting of the NSC observed that 'better results can be yielded if all the stake-holders cooperate and jointly struggle for peace in Afghanistan and fight against terror, instead of achieving objectives through negative statements'. He further said that "straightforward talks will be held with the US, yet in a courteous manner". Dastagir said if Trump only understands the 'language of dollars', then not only did we invest our own resources in the war on terror but did not demand anything in return for it, for we are serious in eradicating terrorism. Asked if Pakistan would demand an apology from the US over the statements, he said Trump is the elected president of the United States and so we take his tweets seriously, however, the matter has not yet gone that far. NSC session expressed its disappointment over US President Donald Trump's anti-Pakistan statement and decided not to take measures in haste in reply to US accusations. A statement added that during visits by US officials, it was decided to move forward with mutual trust and cooperation, which would also lead to stability in Afghanistan. Pakistan also voiced its support for the Afghan government's efforts for peace, with the NSC agreeing that peace in Afghanistan is not only linked to peace and stability in the region but also important for peace in the world. Referring to the international coalition operating in Afghanistan, the Pakistani leadership stated that the country, even today, is helping the coalition. The committee further said Pakistan's anti-terrorism operations have wiped out al-Qaeda from the region. The NSC also said that the Pakistani nation knows how to defend itself and vowed to continue efforts for stability in the region, adding that the country fought the war on terror with its limited economy and resources.
  19. Afghan policemen investigate at the site of a suicide bomb attack in Nangarhar province, March 5, 2012. ? Reuters FILE JALALABAD: A suicide attacker blew himself up at a funeral in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, killing at least 15 mourners and wounding another 14, officials said, capping a deadly year for civilians. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Taliban and Daesh (Islamic State) militants have stepped up assaults in recent months, with ordinary Afghans bearing the brunt of the violence. "The death toll of the attack targeting a funeral ceremony in Behsud district of Nangarhar has increased to 15," Nangarhar governor spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP. Another 14 were wounded. All the casualties were civilians. An earlier statement from the governor?s office said 12 people had been killed in the attack near the provincial capital Jalalabad. The bomber struck during the funeral ceremony for a former governor of Haska Mina district who died recently of natural causes, the statement said. Provincial health director Najib Kamawal confirmed the toll. Photos posted on Twitter and Facebook purportedly of the scene showed pools of blood, clothes and shoes scattered on the ground. Other photos showed bodies lying in blood and a plume of black smoke rising into the sky. Terrified mourners, mostly elderly men, could be seen running from the scene. While the Taliban are still responsible for the majority of attacks and casualties across Afghanistan, Daesh militants have been on a rampage this month. The incident in Nangarhar, a restive province bordering Pakistan and a stronghold for Daesh, comes days after the group claimed an assault on a cultural centre in Kabul that left 41 people dead and more than 80 wounded. That followed a Christmas Day attack, also claimed by Daesh, near an Afghan intelligence agency compound in the Afghan capital that left six civilians dead. On December 18, militants from the group stormed an intelligence training compound in Kabul, triggering an intense gunfight with police, two of whom were wounded. The Middle Eastern militant outfit has gained ground in Afghanistan since it first appeared in the region in 2015, and has scaled up its attacks in Kabul and elsewhere, including on security installations. The latest news comes at the end of a particularly deadly year for Afghans, with the number of civilian casualties on track to be one of the highest on record since the US invasion in 2001. More than 8,000 civilians were killed or wounded in conflict-related violence in the first nine months of this year, according to data compiled by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. Last year?s civilian casualty toll of 11,418 was the highest for a single year since the UN began systematically documenting civilian deaths and injuries in 2009.
  20. Fire Department of New York (FDNY) personnel work on the scene of an apartment fire in Bronx, New York, US, December 28, 2017. REUTERS/Amr Alfiky NEW YORK: A 3-year-old boy playing with the burners on a kitchen stove started a fire in a New York City apartment building that killed 12 people, including four children, city officials said on Friday. The toddler had a history of fiddling with the stove in the kitchen of his family?s first-floor apartment, his mother told officials investigating the deadliest fire in the city since 1990. Shortly before 7 PM (midnight GMT) on Thursday the child, who had been left unattended, started screaming as the kitchen filled with smoke and fire, Daniel Nigro, the city?s fire department commissioner, told reporters at a news conference. His mother grabbed him and a younger sibling, running outside to safety and leaving the apartment door open. ?The stairway acted like a chimney,? Nigro said at the Friday news conference. The blaze swept out the apartment doorway to higher floors of the five-story building, fanned by fresh oxygen each time frightened tenants flung open windows. ?People had very little time to react,? he said. ?They couldn?t get back down the stairs. Those that tried perished.? Apartment fire kills 12 in New York's Bronx A one-year-old child was among those killed in the fire on a bitterly cold night with temperatures well below zero Children aged 1, 2, and 7 ? as well as a boy whose age was unknown ? died, along with four men and four women, according to the New York Police Department. Among the dead were at least three members of the same family Karen Francis, 37, Charmela Francis, 7, and Kylie Francis, 2. Also identified as deceased were Maria Batiz, 58, and 19-year-old Shantay Young. ?Children starting fires is not rare,? Nigro said. He emphasized that young children should not be left unattended, and those fleeing apartment fires should always shut doors behind them once the last person is out. Authorities said firefighters rescued 12 people from the building and four people were in the hospital in critical condition. More than 160 firefighters responded to the four-alarm blaze, the first arriving about 3 minutes after emergency calls came in. About 20 people were already on fire escapes, Nigro said. New York City is going through a bitter cold snap with temperatures in the low-teens Fahrenheit (minus teens Celsius)and high winds. At least 14 families were homeless, and four of them were taken to hotels, according to the American Red Cross. ?There?s still around 10 families we have not connected with yet,? said Michael de Vulpillieres, a Red Cross spokesman. Red Cross representatives stationed on the block offered blankets and smoke alarm installations to residents. Firefighters sifted through the charred interior of the building, but the exterior showed little damage and the red fire escapes were intact. Shards of glass and chunks of ice littered the sidewalk outside. The building, with 26 apartments, has at least six open building code violations, according to city records. One violation was for a broken smoke detector in an apartment on the first floor, reported in August. ?I know there were concerns raised about the building itself,? Mayor Bill de Blasio told WNYC. ?Based on the research we have at this moment, it does not appear there was anything problematic about the building or the fire safety in the building.? The building is in the Belmont section of the Bronx, a primarily residential, close-knit neighbourhood known as the ?Little Italy? of the borough, near Fordham University and the Bronx Zoo. It was the deadliest fire in the city since an arsonist torched a Bronx nightclub in 1990, killing 87 people inside the venue that did not have fire exits, alarms or sprinklers, the New York Times reported. In 2007, 10 immigrants from Mali, including nine children, died after a space heater caught fire in a Bronx building.
  21. TEHRAN: Iranian officials reported fresh protests over the struggling economy on Friday, a day after dozens were arrested in second city Mashhad. First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri suggested hardline opponents of the government may be behind the demonstrations, which spread to Tehran and the city of Kermanshah in western Iran on Friday, though numbers reportedly remained small. "Some incidents in the country these days are on the pretext of economic problems, but it seems there is something else behind them," Jahangiri said in comments carried by state broadcaster IRIB. "They think by doing this they harm the government," he said, but "it will be others who ride the wave". Tehran?s deputy provincial governor Mohsen Hamedani said "less than 50 people" had gathered in one of the city?s squares and several had been arrested after refusing to move on, according to the reformist newspaper Etamad. He said they were "under the influence of propaganda" and were "unaware that the majority of these calls to protest come from abroad". The rally in Kermanshah appeared larger ? with hundreds shown protesting in videos shared on social media ? and was reportedly focused on those who lost money in the collapse of unauthorised lending institutions in recent years. "Protesters asked for clarifications on the fate of their accounts and police dealt with them with tolerance despite them having no permission to protest," Tasnim news agency reported. It came a day after 52 people were arrested in Mashhad, an important pilgrimage site, for protesting high prices and the poor state of the economy under President Hassan Rouhani. Videos published by reformist media group Nazar showed people chanting "Death to Rouhani" while others shouted "not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran", reflecting anger in some circles that the government is focusing too much on regional politics rather than tackling domestic problems. One lawmaker said these protests were also rooted in the collapse of credit institutions and other financial scandals. Unauthorised lending institutions mushroomed under former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad due to weak regulation of the banking sector. An uncontrolled construction boom left many banks and credit companies stuck with toxic debts, which combined with soaring inflation and the chaos caused by international sanctions, pushed many to default on their debts. Since coming to power in 2013, Rouhani has shut down three of the biggest new credit institutions ? Mizan, Fereshtegan and Samen al-Hojaj. He tasked the central bank with reimbursing lost deposits, but many are still waiting for compensation. Mashhad was among the areas hardest hit by the closure of Mizan, which had around one million accounts, according to the official IRNA news agency. Kermanshah was particularly affected by problems at another credit institution, Caspian, according to the Tasnim agency.
  22. Debris seen at the office of Afghan news agency in Kabul KABUL: At least five people were killed and six others wounded in multiple blasts near a media outlet and mosque in Kabul on Thursday, officials said, in the latest violence to hit the Afghan capital. "There were two explosions. We still do not know the target of the attack, but Afghan Voice Agency is in the area of the attack," interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said. "Our initial information shows there are five dead and six wounded but this toll could change." AFP reporters near the scene of the blast heard a third explosion, suggesting the attack may still be under way. A hospital official told local TV that 18 wounded had been brought to his facility, including five in a critical condition. Photos posted on Afghan Voice Agency´s Facebook page showed the inside of a compound with debris and bodies lying on the ground. This is a breaking story and will be updated as reports come in.
  23. WASHINGTON: The United States on Tuesday announced sanctions on two North Korean officials for their roles in developing the country?s ballistic missiles, the latest step in a campaign to press Pyongyang to give up its nuclear and missile programs. The US Treasury named the officials as Kim Jong Sik and Ri Pyong Chol. It said Kim was reportedly a key figure in North Korea?s efforts to switch its missile program from liquid to solid fuel, while Ri was reported to be a key official involved in the country?s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) development. ?Treasury is targeting leaders of North Korea?s ballistic missile programs, as part of our maximum pressure campaign to isolate (North Korea) and achieve a fully denuclearized Korean Peninsula,? Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. ?These actions follow Friday?s United Nations Security Council Resolution, which imposed strong new sanctions on North Korea further shutting down its ability to raise illicit funds.? The U.N. Security Council imposed new sanctions on North Korea last week over a recent ICBM test. The sanctions sought to limit the country?s access to refined petroleum products and crude oil and its earnings from workers abroad. North Korea, which has been working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the United States, declared those steps to be an act of war and tantamount to a complete economic blockade against the country.
  24. CAIRO: Egyptian authorities on Tuesday executed 15 prisoners convicted of attacks on security forces in the restive Sinai Peninsula, police officials said. The men were hanged in two jails where they had been held since military courts sentenced them for the attacks in the Sinai, where militants are waging an insurgency, the officials said. It was the largest mass execution carried out in the North African country since six convicted militants were hanged in 2015. The hangings come a week after Daesh attacked a helicopter with an anti-tank missile at a North Sinai airport as the country's defence and interior ministers were visiting. The ministers were unhurt in the attack but an aide to the defence minister was killed along with a pilot. Daesh's Egypt affiliate has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers in attacks in the Sinai and also targeted civilians in the mainland. Egyptian courts have sentenced hundreds to death over unrest since the military ousted divisive Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013. But most defendants have appealed and won retrials. Egypt has struggled to defeat the militants in Sinai. While their attacks have become less frequent, But they have increasingly targeted civilians over the past year. In November, suspected Daesh gunmen massacred more than 300 worshippers at a mosque in Sinai. The militants have killed more than 100 Christians in church bombings and shootings since December last year. After the mosque massacre, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi instructed his military chief of staff to quell the attacks in three months using "brutal force".
  25. Nepal banned the practice of performing bears in 1973 but it still lingers on in parts of its southern region. Photo: AFP Nepali authorities have rescued the country's last known "dancing bears", officials said Sunday, in a major step towards ending the medieval tradition of abuse of the beasts for entertainment. The Himalayan nation the practice of performing bears back in 1973 but the tradition, an occupation for some street performer communities, lingered on in parts of its southern region. Police and animal charities said they spent more than a year hunting the captors of the two sloth bears before they were traced to the Rautahat district near the border with India on Tuesday. "We received information that they were in our area and managed to rescue the bears," district police chief Yagya Binod Pokharel told AFP. Dancing bears are captured and bought as cubs and taught to dance on their hind legs. Their snouts are pierced with a heated rod so they can be controlled by the tug of a rope or chain. Animal activists said the rescued bears ? 19-year-old male Rangila and Sridevi, a 17-year-old female ? showed signs of trauma such as cowering, pacing and paw-sucking. "We are thrilled that the last two known Nepali dancing bears have been rescued from their lifetime of suffering... our hard effort and dedication has helped to bring an end to this illegal tradition in Nepal," said Manoj Gautam of the Jane Goodall Institute of Nepal, which worked with the police and World Animal Protection to rescue them. The bears were located by tracking the owners' mobile phones. The bears are being cared for by the Parsa Wildlife Reserve, Nepal's largest such reserve. Dancing bears on the Indian subcontinent date back to the 13th century, when trainers belonging to a tribe that enjoyed royal patronage and performed before the rich and powerful. In neighbouring India, the practice came to an end in 2012, decades after an official ban in 1972. Sloth bears, a critically endangered species, are found in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. But shrinking habitats and rampant poaching have reduced their numbers, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The IUCN has put them on its red list of threatened species and their total estimated population is 20,000. They can grow up to 1.8 metres (six feet) tall and weigh up to 140 kilograms (310 pounds).