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Found 37 results

  1. Uber driver Irfan Er drives his car in Istanbul, Turkey March 15, 2018. Picture taken March 15, 2018-Reuters ISTANBUL: Istanbul?s taxi drivers have taken Uber to court, accusing the US-based ride-hailing app of endangering their livelihoods in a case that could crimp its business in Europe?s largest city. It is the latest instance of court action, restrictions, bans and protests around the world over Uber?s high-tech, low-cost challenge to traditional taxi services. Uber was forced to shut down in Denmark and Hungary and has suspended operations in Morocco while it gets in line with local laws. Hundreds of Istanbul taxi drivers rallied in front of a city courthouse holding the first hearing on the case on Monday, holding up signs reading ?We do not want the global thief Uber?. In their court action, the cabbies accuse Uber of running an unlicensed taxi service in Turkey and want the app banned. The next hearing was scheduled for June. Tensions have risen in Istanbul, home to over 15 million people, since Uber entered the Turkish market in 2014. Some Uber drivers say they have been threatened and beaten by yellow cab drivers, an accusations the taxi industry denies. Public sentiment on social media appears to be overwhelmingly in favor of Uber, with ?#idon?tusetaxis? and ?#don?ttouchuber? becoming trending topics in Turkish. Some users of Uber have said they are fed up with what they call the rough manners and reckless driving of conventional cabbies, the circuitous, fare-inflating routes they take and the stench of cigarettes inside their vehicles. ?Until today, taxi drivers chose passengers,? one user, Sinem, tweeted, referring to taxi drivers who won?t accept short trips, even for pregnant women. ?Now we want to choose our means of transportation. #donttouchuber.? Another user, Orhan, said that Uber drivers were more courteous and did not overcharge passengers. Private broadcaster Haberturk reported last week that a group of taxi drivers recently hailed an Uber car and then beat the driver and damaged his vehicle. ?Plots and provocations? Such incidents are staged to sway public opinion and shape the outcome of the court case, according to Eyup Aksu, head of the Chamber of Istanbul Taxi Businesses, which represents around 50,000 taxi drivers with 18,000 licensed cabs. ?The reported incidents are plots and provocations done by Uber drivers in order to influence the case,? Aksu said. The issue has been escalated all the way to President Tayyip Erdogan, Aksu said, adding that the Interior Ministry was drafting regulations to foster a solution. ?If we do not get support politically, we will continue to repeat our stance to the politicians,? he said. No one was available for comment at the Interior Ministry. Taxi drivers point to onerous costs they must pay but Uber does not. Number plates for taxis, required in Istanbul to drive a yellow cab cost around 1.5 million lira ($385,000), though in most cases a cabbie may ?borrow? a plate from its owners for a monthly fee of 4,000-7,000 lira. Uber said that about 2,000 yellow cab drivers use the Uber app to find customers, while another 3,000 work for UberXL, using large vans to transport groups to parties, or run people with bulky luggage to Istanbul?s main airport. It declined to reveal the number of Uber users in Turkey, where it operates in Istanbul, and in the resort towns of Bodrum and Cesme in the summer months. ?We are appalled by the violence and are doing everything we can to support (our) drivers,? Uber said in an emailed statement, adding that it could not elaborate on the court case while it was still ongoing. One Uber XL driver, Irfan Er, said a taxi driver threatened him with a knife one night last week as he was carrying passengers. He said he, too, had once been a yellow cab driver but wanted to be his own boss. ?We need to keep up with technology and current times. Uber is using the latest technology. We have to adjust accordingly.?
  2. Former finance minister Ishaq Dar is accused of amassing assets beyond his known sources of income. Photo: Geo News file ISLAMABAD: Two accused in the Ishaq Dar assets case have petitioned against indictment on March 12. The accountability court hearing the assets accumulation case against former finance minister Dar during the previous hearing on March 5, had ordered to indict the other accused in the case on March 12. The legal counsel of the accused, Naeem Mehmood and Mansoor Rizvi, argued that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had provided their clients with a 700-page long reference, the pages of which are unclear. According to the lawyer, 70 of the 700 pages in the reference are in foreign languages. The defendants prayed to the court that they could not be indicted until the provision of clear documents along with their translations. The accountability court, hearing the petition, issued a notice to NAB to submit its response. The petition will now be heard on March 12. The case Dar, a close aide of Pakistan Muslim League-N chief Nawaz Sharif, is accused of possessing assets disproportionate to his declared sources of income. NAB filed an interim reference against Dar in September last year in light of the Supreme Court's July 28, 2017, verdict in the Panama Papers case. The supplementary reference is based on seven volumes and includes the account details of the accused persons, with transactions amounting to $4.06 million, according to NAB's Special Prosecutor Imran Shafiq.
  3. Abdulla Yameen takes his oath as the President of Maldives during a swearing-in ceremony at the parliament in Male November 17, 2013 The government of the Maldives will resist any attempt by the Supreme Court to impeach President Abdulla Yameen for disobeying its order last week to release jailed opposition leaders, the attorney general said on Sunday. Following are details of the tussle between the court and the president, which is threatening to spark a constitutional crisis and undermine Yameen?s control of the Indian Ocean nation since he took power in 2013. What is behind the tussle between the Supreme Court and President Yameen?s government? The court on Thursday ordered the immediate release of former president Mohamed Nasheed and eight other opposition leaders and ordered they be tried again, saying the previous proceedings had violated the constitution and international law. In its ruling ordering the release of Nasheed, the Supreme Court said it found that prosecutors and judges had been unduly influenced ?to conduct politically motivated investigations? into the allegations leveled at Nasheed and others. The nine had been jailed on charges ranging from terrorism to treason and corruption. The court also ordered the reinstatement of 12 lawmakers who had been stripped of their parliamentary seats by Yameen?s party for defecting last year, saying their removal was unconstitutional. The reinstatement of the dozen legislators, who now belong to opposition parties, would cause Yameen?s party to lose its majority in the 85-member parliament. Should the opposition reach a majority, they would be able to unseat the speaker, who is a member of the ruling party, and pass no confidence motions against government officials. What?s behind the rivalry between President Yameen and former President Nasheed? Former President Nasheed won elections in 2008, but was forced to resign in 2012 after ordering the arrest of a top criminal court judge, Abdulla Mohamed, for alleged corruption. Nasheed then lost the 2013 election to Yameen, and was sentenced to a 13-year jail term in 2015 for arresting judge Mohamed. Though Western countries have said Nasheed?s action against the judge was against the law, they also raised concerns over his trial, which they called unfair. Nasheed is currently in Britain on medical grounds but is seeking to contest elections against Yameen due by October, posing a big threat to the current president. Nasheed, a graduate of Britain?s Liverpool University, is well connected in the West and has been able to bring pressure against Yameen?s administration. He even got the help of human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, married to Hollywood actor George Clooney, to expose alleged human rights violation by Yameen?s administration. What are Yameen?s options now? So far, Yameen has ignored the order, although he has stopped short of saying he will not obey it. He fired two police chiefs who said they would uphold the court verdict last week, however, and continues to jail opposition members. On Sunday, police raided the home of Hassan Saeed, the head of the judicial administration department, which the opposition said was considering a corruption investigation into Yameen. The Supreme Court later annulled the arrest warrant against Saeed. Members of the ruling party have also sought to shut down an independent TV station accusing it of spreading ?discord,? sparking a call from the US embassy in Columbo, Sri Lanka, for Yameen?s government to respect the freedom of the press. But in terms of the order, Yameen has limited options. His administration can seek to arrest the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and other judges on corruption allegations, targeting them the same way he has gone after opposition members, Western diplomats who are closely following developments told Reuters. That would allow him to reverse the Supreme Court ruling, but at the risk of exacerbating a constitutional crisis. Close allies of Yameen say his main concern is that former President Nasheed and former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb have said they can prove the current president engaged in past corrupt deals if they are released. Yameen has denied any corruption allegations. But importantly, the army is supporting the president. On Sunday several police and soldiers said in a live broadcast they were ready to sacrifice their lives ?in the defense of the lawful government?. The combined opposition says they fear a military takeover of the islands to preserve Yameen?s grip on power. What is the international reaction so far? What about domestically? Yameen has ignored calls from the United States and India, among other nations, to heed the court decision on Nasheed. When the Commonwealth pressed Yameen to uphold the rule of law, his government voted for the Maldives to quit the Commonwealth. He has also disregarded all international calls to solve the political crisis through dialogue. China, which has boosted its investments in the Maldives, has so far been silent. But the country is expected to slow down any deals, given concerns about political stability. Male, the capital of the Maldives, experienced some minor clashes between protesters and the police, but the streets were quiet over the weekend. Yameen has sought in the past to suppress protests, and on Sunday the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) said it would stop activities that ?openly threaten the security and safety of the Maldives?.
  4. Mashal?s father Muhammad Iqbal Lala spoke at a session in Oxford University, where he was welcomed by Malala. Photo: Malala Yousafzai/Twitter LONDON: Social activist and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai shared that she is standing with Mashal Khan?s father to seek justice for his son's killing. Mashal, a journalism student at Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, was killed on April 13, 2017 by a violent mob on the pretext of committing blasphemy. However, investigators found no proof of blasphemy and ruled that the murder was politically motivated. Mashal?s father Muhammad Iqbal Lala spoke at a session in Oxford University recently, where he was welcomed by Malala. After the event, Malala shared on her Twitter account: ?I was honored to welcome Muhammad Iqbal Lala to speak at Oxford Uni. His son, Mashal Khan, was brutally killed by a mob in Mardan Pakistan, based on malicious allegations of blasphemy. Mashal advocated against injustice & corruption. We stand with Lala to seek justice for Mashal.? The anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Abbottabad is expected to announce the verdict in the Mashal Khan murder case on February 7. ATC Judge Fazal-i-Subhan Khan heard the case in the heavily guarded Haripur Central Jail. The Peshawar High Court had transferred the case from Mardan to ATC Abbottabad, which heard the case in the Haripur jail, on a request of Mashal's father, who sought the move fearing his "influential adversaries". 'KP govt failed to honour promises' On January 22, Mashal Khan?s father said that he himself is bearing the expenses of the police security for his family and that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf?s government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has not fulfilled a single promise made to him after the lynching of his son. KP govt failed to honour promises made after Mashal Khan?s murder, laments father Muhammad Iqbal shared that he is paying for the security for his family Muhammad Iqbal - known fondly as Iqbal Lala - was delivering annual Bacha Khan Lecture at the Brunei Gallery of the London University?s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He was joined on stage by Ziauddin Yousufzai, Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousufzai?s father. Iqbal Lala is visiting the United Kingdom on the invitation of Bloomsbury Pakistan. After my son was lynched to death on 13 April, last year, I was given police security by the government but I am paying for the expense of the security and not the KP government, said Iqbal Lala while speaking to media. He said Imran Khan and speaker KP Assembly Asad Qaiser had visited him after his son?s murder and made promises which remain unfulfilled. ?We are commoners, they [PTI govt] are our rulers, we respect them of course but I can't lie that they have helped us. They have done nothing for us so far. We are paying for our own security. My son didn?t have a security threat yet he was murdered in broad daylight,? remarked Iqbal Lala.
  5. Photo: File KARACHI: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will request Indonesian President Joko Widodo to send Pakistani prisoner in Indonesia back to the country on humanitarian grounds as he has been diagnosed with cancer, said Minister for Foreign Affairs Khawaja Asif Thursday. While speaking on Geo News show Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath, the foreign minister said Abbasi would request the Indonesian president to let the Pakistani prisoner in Indonesia, Zulfiqar Ali, complete his prison sentence in Pakistan. ?The prime minister was already aware of the issue when I spoke to him,? Asif said. ?He was hopeful that the Indonesian president would not refuse and would give a solution on humanitarian grounds.? Widodo will be in Pakistan on January 26-27. According to Asif, it has been said that Ali is innocent and that the statements given against him have been taken back. Mother of cancer-suffering Pakistani death row prisoner in Indonesia appeals for release Zulfiqar Ali, 53, has been diagnosed with stage-4 liver cancer Doctors have estimated Ali's life expectancy to be three months, stated a press release issued by Justice Project Pakistan, a human rights organisation that provides free of charge legal counselling for "vulnerable Pakistani prisoners" in overseas jails. ?His attending physician confirmed last month that Zulfiqar has been suffering from cancer in both lobes of the liver. He is also suffering from chronic liver cirrhosis and Diabetes Mellitus,? the press release read. ?After being detained for nearly 14 years for a wrongful conviction, Zulfiqar may die in prison while waiting to be executed.? Father of five from Mughalpura area of Lahore, 53-year-old Ali was arrested in Indonesia on drug-related charges in 2004. His case surfaced in 2016, when Indonesia informed Pakistani embassy in Jakarta that Ali would be soon executed over possession of 300 grammes of heroin. His execution was halted after rights groups and United Nations appealed to the Indonesian government and Pakistani diplomatic authorities also intervened.
  6. FILE PHOTO - Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the meeting of Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition defence ministers in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia November 26, 2017./ Reuters RIYADH: Saudi Arabia?s public prosecutor has said he will pursue extradition for corruption suspects living abroad as part of a two-month-old crackdown that has already netted princes and tycoons. Evidence is being collected against ?fugitives? in order to issue indictments against them and request that foreign governments return them to the kingdom, Saud al-Muajab told Arrajol magazine in an interview published on Thursday. It was not clear how many people are being targeted, or in which countries. Saudi security forces have rounded up dozens of members of the political and business elite, holding them in Riyadh?s opulent Ritz Carlton hotel on the orders of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The move was billed as a war on rampant corruption but also widely seen by analysts as helping Prince Mohammed consolidate his grip on power after ousting his cousin as heir to the throne in the summer. Saudi officials are negotiating settlements with detainees, saying they aim to claw back some $100 billion of funds that rightfully belong to the state. Muajab said last month that most detainees had agreed to settlements in order to avoid prosecution while the rest could be held for several more months. He told Arrajol that those who end up in court will be permitted to hire lawyers to defend them during the investigation and trial phases.
  7. ´Baaghi´, which means ´Rebel´, charts the rise of Baloch from young, exploited girl to internet sensation infamous for her provocative selfies until her shocking murder, with her brother confessing to the high-profile killing ISLAMABAD: In life, she chased fame, hoping to make her mark in Pakistani society. In death, murdered social media starlet Qandeel Baloch may have achieved her goal. Today she is a household name, and her tragic story has been turned into a soap opera -- one of several immensely popular TV shows seeking to challenge the country´s conservative taboos. ´Baaghi´, which means ´Rebel´, charts the rise of Baloch from young, exploited girl to internet sensation infamous for her provocative selfies until her shocking murder, with her brother confessing to the high-profile killing. The show airs on private TV channel Urdu 1 every Thursday. Viewing figures are unavailable, but its pilot episode has been viewed more than 1.6 million times on YouTube. "That girl was a lioness. She should not have died yet," says Shazia Khan, a writer on the series. Baloch´s fate polarised Pakistan. For some, it inflamed outrage over so-called "honour" killings in which hundreds of predominantly women are killed each year, usually by male relatives, for bringing what they perceive as shame on their families. But the concept of "honour" is deeply embedded in parts of Pakistan´s patriarchial culture, and other voices argued that Baloch had made herself a target by her actions -- tame by Western standards but deemed provocative in the conservative country. The decision to turn her death into one of Pakistan´s popular television soap operas has ensured the debate surrounding such murders of women endures. Notorious for its high-profile story, Baaghi is just one of a wave of soap operas and dramas airing plotlines that revolve around such social issues: from domestic violence to child abuse, forced and child marriages, misogyny and women´s rights. They are devoured by Pakistan´s 207 million strong population. Research by Pakistan´s media regulator shows that in 2016, 65 percent of television viewers watched drama channels featuring such soap operas. Another survey by Gallup Pakistan shows 67 percent of adult female viewers and 56 percent of adult male viewers watch entertainment shows, mainly soaps. Their popularity makes them a potentially powerful vehicle for progress, says lawyer Benazir Jatoi, who works for women´s rights watchdog the Aurat Foundation and has long argued that laws protecting women are not enough to effect grassroots change. Blowback "Mujhe Jeene Do" (Let Me Live), another soap on Urdu 1, highlights the issue of child marriages. "If there (is) not widespread awareness, who would know that it is a crime?" Angeline Malik, the show´s director, tells AFP. Pakistan´s biggest entertainment channel, Hum TV, is a pioneer in using social issues as soap opera fodder. In 2016 the channel aired "Uddari", or "Flight", which told the story of a young girl sexually abused by her stepfather and ignited a debate about the sexual abuse of children inside the home. "Uddari took the sensitive subject ... to every household where discussion on *** is still a taboo," says one avid fan, Aabida Rani. In "Sammi", which revolves around its eponymous star character, the station highlighted honour killings, forced marriages, and denial of property inheritance to women all in one show. Sultana Siddiqui, a producer who later set up her own TV station, said they wanted Sammi to be a mirror of society, and an example of "how a taboo issue could be displayed in proper manner." Their efforts are not without backlash, and Siddiqui describes pressure from media regulators as well as a wave of vitriol on social media with people accusing her and her channel of spreading vulgarity and destroying social values. But the shows´ popularity kept them on the air despite the blowback, she says. Flawed portrayals Even as the shows push for awareness and change, the way soap opera heroines are portrayed can cause consternation. Sadaf Haider, a blogger at the country´s major Dawn.com news portal, wrote in October that the storyline for Baaghi followed a predictable Pakistani track relieving the heroine of autonomy -- essentially portraying Baloch as a victim. "The actual Qandeel didn´t consider herself a beychari (helpless) at all, even a cursory reading of her interviews shows she worked hard and was proud of what she had achieved," Haider wrote. "Qandeel took full responsibility for her choices... So why has Baaghi portrayed something else entirely?" Pakistani journalist Fifi Haroon has complained the portrayal of women in such shows still fits in to a patriarchal narrative. "Simpering, dewy-faced heroines ... suffer in obstinate silence or misguided stoicism," she wrote in a BBC piece. "Tears are plentiful. Producers now claim that if you don´t show women crying, the drama won´t garner ratings." Lawyer Jatoi, while praising soap operas as vehicles for change, took a cautious view. "They must ensure they are responsible enough to handle such sensitive topics and address underlying issues so as not to add to the already existing stigmas," she told AFP. Haroon agreed, writing that their makers must be aware of their audience. "It is not just women," she wrote. "Men too are observing what it takes to be a man in Pakistani society and of course, what they can expect from the women in their lives and homes."
  8. Minister of State for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal KARACHI: Minister of State for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal has said the government has no intention of seeking any new financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Addressing a news conference in Karachi earlier today, Afzal said the economic outlook of the country is positive and the government is receiving enough funds to meet development expenditures. He said Pakistan has enough foreign exchange reserves to meet its debt obligations. The government will make efforts during the next six months to leave the country in a healthy condition financially before the next elections. The country has foreign exchange reserves of 19.7 billion dollars, he noted. The minister said import of unnecessary goods is being reduced and exports have increased by 17 percent in the last five months. He expressed hope that the fiscal deficit would decrease in the days to come. Agriculture would have more share in the GDP growth this year, he pointed out. To a question, Afzal said Pakistan wants to resolve all issues with the United States through dialogue. He remarked that the country would satisfy the United States on every objection. On the Afghanistan situation, the minister said instability in the region is not in Pakistan?s interests. He added that Pakistan is erecting barbed wire on its border with Afghanistan to prevent illegal cross-border movement. Taking a jibe at Imran Khan, Afzal said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman has never uttered words of praise for any positive development.
  9. I often hear guys saying they want a 'chill girl'. And I was. I didn't care, I was driven, I did my own thing. I was chill because I was independent, self-aware, and aloof. I didn't need to change myself for someone. And they found that attractive. I was fun, but also serious, and refused to fit a mould. He finally found a girl like him; but he hated my chill-ness…I didn't base all my decisions around him. That was the perfect desirability factor, keeping him hooked without even trying. “You didn't call me? Whatever, I'll call you.” “If you don't answer, I'll move on.” I knew how to move on. I hadn't been f****d over yet. But then, he wanted me to change, as they all do. He put me down, questioned my behavior, got possessive, and I went with it. That tends to happen when you fall in love and surrender power. I started losing my chill-ness. When I realized what was happening I turned it around, regaining lost power, till I screwed up again. (c)Thinkstock/Getty Images And so it went, round and round the merry-go-round, oscillating between love and power- an emotional rollercoaster that completely obliterated the chill. Till we parted ways, broken and beaten down, enveloped in a sea of conflicting emotions and insecurities. He told me I was too complex now, soon after he started dating someone else – new chill girl, 'simple girl'. And somewhere that struck me – “was I too complicated?” “How do I be a chiller, like 'simple girl'?” So easy, no drama! So I tried to emulate that, till I became 'easy girl'. No principles, no boundaries. “Walk all over me? Sure, I'm chill. Abuse me? Sure, I'm easy. You're being rude? That's okay; you're supposed to like me and can't seem rude.” I'm supposed to be nice, be friendly. And in the process of trying to be someone, all the noise started filtering in: “Chill. Be a chill girl. Be cool. Be easy. Not too easy. You're too easy. Be quiet, less friendly. Be assertive. Don't ask. Be grateful. Be happy. Stop complaining. Don't be dramatic. Be stand-offish. But chill.” Soon, confused by all the mixed-messages, it became easy to start over thinking and doubting myself. (c)Thinkstock/Getty Images A shadow of my former self and then the complex games of modern dating kicked in. So I played. That's who this turned me into: a spontaneous chill girl who's game for whatever, except I'm not. So I internalized it all, and appeared unfazed on the outside. Because I had to keep up the façade of the 'chill girl', except I'd secretly crossed over to 'too chill', while secretly hating it. I learnt the rules, and played by them, but kept thinking and over thinking and stressing out. And little bits of this emerged every now and then, making them question the real me. Except it wasn't the real me, it was angst-y, insecure leftovers from a scorned past. It was pent-up passive-aggressiveness from all those times I pretended to be chill when I actually wasn't. I learnt to be adaptable and accepting; can't relate to anyone while relating to everyone. A mirror to every passer-by; will be what you want me to be, colored with faint hints of self-assured-ness and interesting, while being coy and compliant. Enough to keep you intrigued, but not enough to make you stay, full of interesting stories and opinionated remarks, well-travelled and exotic. (c)Thinkstock/Gety Images You'd never be able to keep up; or so we convince each other, so you wouldn't have to stay. I'll listen to you and nod in agreement, but you know I'm not relatable. Too out there, not chill enough, but there are titbits of your interests sprinkled in and secret personality layers that you want to peel, enough to keep you momentarily captivated, but not enough to make you stay.
  10. Safety investigators hope the engineer of an Amtrak passenger train that careened off a bridge onto a highway in Washington state can help explain why his locomotive was going more than twice the speed limit when the deadly derailment occurred, officials said on Tuesday. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials said they plan to interview all the crew members in the next two days, once they sufficiently recover from injuries suffered in the wreck, including a conductor-in-training who was in the locomotive cab with the engineer at the time. Safety board member T. Bella Dinh-Zarr told reporters that NTSB investigators would seek to determine, among other factors routinely examined, whether the engineer was distracted while driving the ill-fated train. She also said investigators had determined that the train?s emergency brakes were automatically activated while the derailment was occurring, rather than engaged manually by the engineer. In addition, she confirmed that a safety system known as positive train control (PTC), which automatically slows trains if they are going too fast, was not installed on the section of track where the wreck occurred. None of the crew, all of whom are believed to have survived, has been identified, and were hospitalized, Dinh-Zarr said. Three people aboard the train were killed in the Monday morning wreck near the town of DuPont, in which all 12 carriages and one of the train?s two locomotives tumbled off the rails, officials said. Another 100 people were taken to hospitals, 10 with serious injuries. Some motorists on Interstate 5 were among the injured, though nobody on the highway died. The accident occurred as the train was making its inaugural run on a new, slightly quicker route between Seattle and Portland, Oregon, with 86 people aboard, 80 of them passengers, Amtrak said. Recorded data recovered from the rear locomotive showed the train was going 80 miles (129 km) per hour on a curved stretch of track where the speed limit was 30 mph (48 kph), National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials said on Monday night. The board said it was investigating whether other factors besides speed were involved. Speaking at an afternoon news conference on Tuesday, Dinh-Zarr said that a conductor ?who was getting experience and familiarizing himself with the territory? was present in the locomotive cab with the engineer. NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson described that second Amtrak employee as a ?conductor-in-training.? Dinh-Zarr said it was not unusual for conductors who are learning a new train route to ride in the cab with the engineer. She said another conductor was posted in the passenger section of the train at the time. The derailment placed Amtrak, the country?s main passenger rail service, under renewed scrutiny following a series of fatal incidents.
  11. Lawyers at their sit-in in Multan. Photo: Geo News MULTAN: Lawyers across various parts of the country are continuing a protest over the recent arrest of their colleagues in Multan following an incident of vandalism. On Wednesday, lawyers protested the shifting of the judicial complex and resorted to vandalising the new building. The police booked over three dozen lawyers and arrested a number of them the following day. At present, a group of lawyers is observing a sit-in to press the authorities to release their colleagues and quash the criminal cases against them. Similarly, several members of the legal fraternity are protesting across the country and boycotting courts, which is causing difficulties for litigants seeking adjudication of their cases. 40 lawyers booked, several arrested for vandalising judicial complex in Multan Case also registered against Lahore High Court Bar Multan bench president On Wednesday, the enraged lawyers broke the windows and doors of the judges' rooms and courtrooms inside the new judicial complex and chanted slogans. The members of the legal fraternity claimed that they are against the decision to shift the judicial complex. The new judicial complex does not have sufficient facilities, according to the protesting lawyers. Lawyers not involved in chaos at Multan judicial complex: sessions judge Members of the legal fraternity vandalised judicial complex in Multan, claiming it does not have 'adequate' facilities The lawyers also remarked that they had given the relevant officials a month to meet their demands. Superintendent judicial complex lodged an FIR against 40 lawyers at the Bahauddin Zakariya police station on Thursday. The case was registered under Section 7 of Anti-Terrorism Act and Section 16 of the Punjab Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance.
  12. WASHINGTON: The US Department of Defence, in a press briefing, said the US will look for common ground with Pakistan and move towards a political reconciliation in Afghanistan. The statement from the US DoD comes days after a one-day visit by Secretary of Defence James Mattis to Pakistan where he said that the US wants to take its longstanding ties forward with Pakistan. "It's in the interests of Pakistan, the US, the region to ensure that we can encourage that Afghanistan has a political reconciliation. So we'll look for ways to work with Pakistanis to find that common ground and move forward," said Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana W. White. White also acknowledged Pakistan's sacrifices in the war on terror and said, "no one has lost more troops and lives to terrorism than the Pakistanis. So again, this is about broadening our relationship and looking for opportunities". "They've lost thousands of troops, and they've lost thousands of innocents as well." Elaborating on Mattis' visit to the country, the Pentagon spokesman said that the defence secretary had "very fruitful conversations" regarding where a common ground can be found. White further said that Mattis' trip showed that there are opportunities and "it's a conversation that's about common ground". Mattis had said a common way needs to be found for continuous ties with Pakistan after his meeting with Pakistan's leadership. He had also assured the army chief that the US is ready to play its role in addressing Pakistan?s legitimate concerns, saying he wanted to find common ground rather than make demands. However, the Secretary Mattis expressed concern that some elements continue to use Pakistani territory to further their terrorist agenda in Afghanistan. In a statement released by the US Embassy, Mattis had said Pakistan and US can jointly play an important role in the Afghan peace process. ?Pakistan and the United States, together, can play an important role to establish peace in Afghanistan,? Mattis said according to a press note issued by the US embassy. The US Secretary of defence further said that Pakistan should double its efforts against the war on terrorism.
  13. Sudanese migrants in Ouistreham, a year after the dismantling of the 'jungle' migrant camp in Calais. Photo: AFP A year after France dismantled the notorious "Jungle" migrant camp at Calais, nearly 100 Africans can be found living out in the cold in the northern port of Ouistreham. They survive thanks to donations from local people and despite the systematic intervention of the authorities to close down any encampment. "It's hell," says a 25-year-old man from Sudan. "Last night we couldn't sleep in the woods, it rained all the time. But each time we tried to sleep somewhere in the city, the police came to tell us to leave," the migrant who gave his name as Badr tells AFP. Behind him, a group of volunteers from this small city of 9,000 people are handing out food. Sudanese migrants in Ouistreham,a year after the dismantling of the 'jungle' migrant camp in Calais. Photo: AFP1 Every day Badr says he tries to slip onboard a ferry crossing the Channel to England. The African migrants, mostly from Sudan, wander the streets of the Ouistreham port amid passengers heading for and coming from the British coast. Three ferries leave daily for Portsmouth. Ouistreham is a far cry from Calais where 40 ferries leave each day for Britain and police say nearly 450 migrants are still holed up despite the French government closing the "jungle" camp and relocating thousands of migrants who had lived in the immense slum there. But after the Calais camp was shut down, migrants began showing up in this small coastal town in Normandy. In the woods The migrants, all young men, seek refuge in the woods around Ouistreham. One afternoon last week four of them were warming themselves around a fire amid intermittent freezing rain. "It's very cold, life is very hard here. The French people are good to us but not the authorities," says one of them named Ahmad. Another man is sleeping nearby covered with a blanket and under a tarpaulin. But when police and city workers arrive, the migrants scatter. A dumpster leaves the woods with a pile of abandoned blankets and duvets -- donations from the Ouistreham group helping migrants (CAMO). Claims of harassment For city's mayor Romain Bail, the migrants "for the most part do not pose any problem, in terms of aggression". But he says he doesn't want his city to become a magnet for migrants. He has taken steps to ensure that camps are not set up and has increased the police numbers. The CAMO group has accused some police of using measures such as tear gas on the migrants -- though the authorities say they intervene only to enforce the law. "They (the police) take their duvet, their phone. It's harassment," says Michel Martinez, one of the founders of CAMO. "These men have known worse. They saw bodies floating in the Mediterranean, but still, there is no reason" for harassing them. "It's the citizens who take steps so the migrants don't freeze to death or die of hunger in the woods." While some city residents are hostile to the migrants, he adds, that nevertheless "every day around 15 to 20 cars come to my home to bring the migrants" food and clothing. Near the port terminal, fish merchant Sandrine Simon says she also manages to give the migrants some help. "They are looking for water to wash themselves, and electricity to charge their cellphone," she explains.
  14. LONDON: The UK Home Office on Friday announced an extension of two months to a policy allowing residents of Grenfell Tower tragedy to remain in the United Kingdom irrespective of immigration status. The initial policy was announced in July 2017, to ensure victims of the tragedy had access to vital services was to expire on November 30 but was confirmed by the Home Office to have been extended till January 31, 2018. In October 2017, it was announced, those who qualified under the policy would be granted an initial 12 months to remain in the UK and would be eligible to have their leave extended and then qualify permanent residence after five years, subject to meeting security, criminality and fraud checks. According to a statement released by the Home Office, Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis said, "the welfare of survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire is a top priority for this government. The policy we have introduced will enable those who are eligible to regularise their stay in the UK, ensure there is a firm legal basis for providing support, and enable these victims to assist with the Inquiry in the knowledge that their immigration status is secure." Grenfell Tower tragedy In the early hours on June 14, 2017, a fire broke out in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower, a social housing block in west London. The fire spread with terrifying speed, tearing through the building with residents trapped inside. While emergency services were widely praised for their handling of the disaster, the government was criticised for a slow and inadequate response. Cladding 'not compliant' Grenfell Tower had undergone a refurbishment and suspicion fell on the cladding with allegations that it contributed to the rapid spread of the fire. The US supplier of the Reynobond PE cladding used announced on Monday that it was stopping global sales of the material for use in high-rises. Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament that it was her understanding that "this particular cladding was not compliant with building regulations". Sixty companies involved in the refurbishment have been identified by the police.
  15. NEW YORK: Manhattan´s district attorney is preparing a criminal case against disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein which he could present to a grand jury as early as next week, US media reported Tuesday. The reports, quoting anonymous law enforcement officials, came after police confirmed they had a credible rape allegation against the embattled producer and were gathering evidence for a possible arrest warrant. District Attorney Cyrus Vance plans to present the case to a grand jury and wait for an indictment, NBC television and the New York Post tabloid reported. The move could come as early as next week, they reported. His office was not immediately reachable for comment Tuesday. Police referred AFP to the district attorney´s office. "Boardwalk Empire" actress Paz de la Huerta accused Weinstein of raping her twice at her New York apartment in late 2010. Her claims were published in Vanity Fair magazine on Thursday and she has been interviewed by police. "She put forth a credible and detailed narrative to us," NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce told reporters last Friday. "We have an actual case here," he added. "Mr Weinstein is out of state. We would need an arrest warrant to arrest him. So right now we´re gathering our evidence." De la Huerta´s allegations are at least the third Weinstein case to have been investigated by New York police in recent years. Boyce did not rule out others. Vance´s office, which has been working closely with police, last week assigned a senior *** crimes prosecutor to the case. Around 100 women have come forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct since a New York Times expose was published in early October. The accusations range from harassment to rape. Weinstein denies any non-consensual relations.
  16. Captains pose with the T20I series trophy Unstoppable Pakistan, after winning the opening T20 international by seven wickets on Thursday, will face Sri Lanka in the second, and series-deciding, T20I match at Abu Dhabi today. Medium pacer Hasan Ali finished with a career best bowling to once again anchor Pakistan's convincing victory over Sri Lanka in the first T20I, taking 3-23 in 3.3 overs as Pakistan skittled Sri Lanka out for a paltry 102 in 18.3 overs. The Green Shirts were seen through to the target by Shoaib Malik 42 not out and Mohammad Hafeez 25 not out, with 16 balls to spare. All six Pakistan bowlers took wickets with spinner Mohammad Hafeez (2-10) and pacer Usman Shinwari (2-24) supplementing Hasan to the best effect. It was the 70th T20I win for Pakistan, the most by any team in the shortest format of the game. It also marked 10th victory in 12 T20Is for Sarfraz Ahmed as captain, bringing his win percentage to 83.33%. The teams will fly to Lahore for the third and final T20I at Gaddafi Stadium on Sunday, October 29. The day will mark the return of top-flight cricket to Pakistan, as Sri Lanka become the first major cricket team to visit the country since they were targeted in a deadly ambush in 2009 -- with attack survivors among those returning to the scene. Sunday´s game comes after Lahore also hosted this year´s Pakistan Super League final and the Independence Cup series between Pakistan and World XI last month.
  17. US President Donald Trump steps off Air Force One upon arrival at Greenville?Spartanburg International Airport, Greer, South Carolina, October 16, 2017. AFP/Mandel Ngan WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Monday suggested he would beat former rival Hillary Clinton in a 2020 rematch, encouraging the Democrat to try her luck against him in the next presidential campaign. "I hope Hillary runs," he said during a press conference. "Hillary, please run again! Go ahead." The Republican leader also suggested that Clinton's words of support to protesting professional athletes ? who in recent weeks have drawn the president's ire by kneeling during the national anthem before sporting events, a statement against racial injustice ? was one example of why she lost the 2016 race. "Honestly, it's that thinking and that is the reason she lost the election," Trump said, after dubbing Clinton's position on the issue "wrong." Kneeling during "The Star-Spangled Banner" is "disrespecting our flag" Trump repeated concerning the issue he has reignited in recent weeks, after saying players who refused to stand for the traditional pre-game anthem should be fired. Democrat Clinton has already ruled out the possibility of another White House bid.
  18. LAS VEGAS: Police and FBI agents, chasing down more than 1,000 dead-end leads since a gunman killed 58 people in Las Vegas, are seeking more help from the public in solving the central mystery of their investigation - the shooter?s motive. Clark County Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said investigators remain largely in the dark about what drove retired real estate investor and high-stakes gambler Stephen Paddock to carry out the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history. ?We have looked at everything, literally, to include the suspect?s personal life, any political affiliation, his social behaviors, economic situation, any potential radicalization,? McMahill told reporters late on Friday. ?We have been down each and every single one of these paths, trying to determine why, to determine who else may have known of these plans.? McMahill acknowledged that Daesh had repeatedly claimed responsibility for the attack, but said investigators had uncovered ?no nexus? between the Mideast-based militant group and Paddock. In an unusual bid to cast a wider net for tips, the FBI and police have arranged with communications company Clear Channel to post billboards around Las Vegas urging citizens to come forward with any information they believe might help investigators. The billboards will bear the slogan, ?If you know something, say something,? and carry a toll-free number to an FBI hotline, said Aaron Rouse, special agent in charge of the Las Vegas FBI office. The public appeal came a day before US Vice President Mike Pence was slated to join Mayor Carolyn Goodman and other local leaders at a City Hall commemoration for victims of the shooting, following a prayer walk through the city. President Donald Trump paid a visit to Las Vegas earlier in the week. Paddock, 64, unleashed a torrent of gunfire onto an outdoor music festival from the windows of his 32nd-floor hotel suite overlooking the concert on Sunday night, then shot himself to death before police stormed his room. In addition to the 58 people who died, nearly 500 were injured, some by gunfire, some trampled or otherwise hurt while running for cover. Unlike so many other perpetrators of deadly mass shootings before him, Paddock left behind no suicide note, no manifesto, no recordings and no messages on social media pointing to his intent, according to police. McMahill said investigators remained certain Paddock acted alone in the shooting. But police have said they suspect he had help before the killings, based on the large number of guns, ammunition and explosives found in the hotel suite, his home, his car and a second home searched in Reno. Authorities have said that 12 of the weapons recovered from Paddock?s hotel suite were equipped with so-called bump-stock devices that enable semi-automatic rifles to be operated as if they were fully automatic machine-guns. Paddock?s ability to fire hundreds of rounds per minute over the course of his 10-minute shooting spree was a major factor in the high casualty count, police said. The bloodshed might have lasted longer, with greater loss of life, but for a hotel security officer who was sent to check an open-door alarm on the 32nd floor, and discovered the gunman?s whereabouts after the shooting started, McMahill said. The security officer, Jesus Campos, was struck in the leg as the gunman strafed the hallway with gunfire from behind his door, apparently having detected Campos via surveillance cameras Paddock set up outside his hotel suite. Campos, though wounded, alerted the hotel?s dispatch, ?which was absolutely critical to us knowing the location as well as advising the responding officers as they arrived on that 32nd floor,? McMahill said. ?He?s an absolute hero.? In a new disclosure, authorities said two bullets Paddock fired struck a large jet fuel storage tank at the edge of the city?s main airport, about a block from the concert grounds, indicating an apparent attempt by the gunman to create even greater havoc. There was no explosion or fire from the two rounds, one of which penetrated the tank, as jet fuel in storage is almost impossible to ignite with gunshots, airport officials said on Friday. Paddock?s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, 62, was questioned by the FBI on Wednesday and said in a statement she never had any inkling of Paddock?s plans. Danley, who returned late on Tuesday from a family visit to the Philippines, is regarded by investigators as a ?person of interest.? The Australian citizen of Filipino heritage is cooperating fully with authorities, her lawyer said.
  19. COX?S BAZAR: Humanitarian organisations helping Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh said on Wednesday they need $434 million over the next six months to help up to 1.2 million people, most of them children, in dire need of life-saving assistance. There are an estimated 809,000 Rohingya sheltering in Bangladesh after fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar, more than half a million of whom have arrived since Aug. 25 to join 300,000 Rohingya who are already there. ?The Rohingya population in Cox?s Bazar is highly vulnerable, many having experienced severe trauma, and are now living in extremely difficult conditions,? Robert Watkins, U.N. resident coordinator in Bangladesh, said in a statement, referring to the area where most Rohingya are living. Bangladesh and humanitarian organizations are struggling to help the 509,000 Rohingya who have arrived since attacks by Rohingya militants in August triggered a Myanmar military offensive that the United Nations has branded ethnic cleansing. Myanmar rejects accusations of ethnic cleansing. It says its forces are fighting insurgents of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) who claimed responsibility for attacks on about 30 police posts and an army camp on Aug 25. The insurgents were also behind similar but smaller attacks in October last year that led to a brutal Myanmar army response triggering the flight of 87,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh. The aid agencies? plan factors in the possibility of another 91,000 refugees arriving, as the influx continues, Watkins said. ?The plan targets 1.2 million people, including all Rohingya refugees, and 300,000 Bangladeshi host communities over the next six months,? he said. Aid groups seek $434 million for Rohingya crisis for next six months. Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has faced scathing criticism for not doing more to stop the violence, although she has no power over the security forces under a military-drafted constitution. She has condemned rights abuses and said Myanmar was ready to start a process agreed with Bangladesh in 1993 under which anyone verified as a refugee would be accepted back. But many Rohingya are pessimistic about their chances of going home, partly because few have official papers confirming their residency. Most are also wary about returning without an assurance of citizenship, which they fear could leave them vulnerable to the persecution and discrimination they have endured for years. Human Rights Watch said it had found evidence that the Myanmar military had summarily executed dozens of Rohingya in a village called Maung Nu in Rakhine state, on Aug. 27, two days after the insurgent attacks triggered the violence. The rights group said it had spoken to 14 survivors and witnesses who were now refugees in Bangladesh. They described how soldiers entered a compound where people had gathered in fear of military retaliation. ?They took several dozen Rohingya men and boys into the courtyard and then shot or stabbed them to death. Others were killed as they tried to flee,? said the rights group, which has accused Myanmar of crimes against humanity. Spokesmen for the government, the military and police did not answer their telephones and were not available for comment. Wednesday is a holiday in Myanmar. Reuters was not able to independently verify the report. The U.N. committees for women?s and children?s rights called on Myanmar to immediately stop violence in Rakhine State, saying violations ?being committed at the behest of the military and other security forces? may amount to crimes against humanity. The United States and Britain have warned that the crisis risked derailing Myanmar?s progress in its transition to democracy after decades of military rule. The World Bank said it could hit foreign investment, though it did not factor the violence into its latest forecast for Myanmar?s growth, which it cut by 0.5 percentage points for both 2017 and 2018, to 6.4 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively. The bank said businesses appeared to have delayed investment as they awaited a clearer government economic agenda.
  20. The North Korean town of Sinuiju is seen behind the Friendship Bridge (L) ? which connects Sinuiju and the Chinese border city of Dandong ? and the Broken Bridge (R), in Dandong, in China's northeast Liaoning province. September 4, 2017. AFP/Greg Baker BERLIN: Germany, Italy, and France on Sunday urged tougher EU sanctions against North Korea after Pyongyang "reached a new dimension of provocation" with its latest nuclear test. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed during a phone call "that North Korea has trampled on international law and that the international community must, therefore, react with determination against this new escalation", the chancellery said in a statement. Both leaders "are calling for tougher EU sanctions against North Korea", Berlin added. Separately, Macron also spoke on the phone with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who shared the German-French position "on the necessity of a strong international reaction". These include action by "the Security Council and the European Union, which should adopt new sanctions" against Pyongyang, the French presidency said. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel also said Pyongyang's latest test "means that we have to find a level-headed but clear answer". "We will discuss this reaction with our partners in the EU. I am sure that the UN Security Council will also take necessary measures in a decisive manner," he said. The EU has steadily ramped up its sanctions against Kim Jong-un's North Korea, particularly in the last few months. Most recently, in August, the bloc expanded its North Korea sanctions blacklist after Pyongyang tested an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the US mainland. EU sanctions against North Korea date back to 2006 and are part of international efforts to halt Pyongyang´s nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions.
  21. Muslim pilgrims sit on Mount Mercy on the plains of Arafat in the early morning during the annual Haj pilgrimage near the holy city of Mecca, October 25, 2012. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Files LONDON: Some 2 million people are travelling across the globe to eat, sleep, and pray in unison as the annual Islamic pilgrimage of Haj gets underway in Mecca. For billions of Muslims who are physically and financially able, Haj is a mandatory act of worship. But the religious celebration also has a substantial impact on the environment. Environmentally aware worshippers say that that should be reduced, inspiring Muslims to adopt a greener lifestyle. "Haj is all about living lightly and centring yourself around God," 28-year-old pilgrim Shanza Ali ? the chair of the UK-based group Muslim Climate Action ? told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Mecca in Saudi Arabia. "We make many journeys in our life, and we go to many places, but this is the only journey that's physical, mental and spiritual," she added. Ali has found many similarities between Haj's message of simplicity and being environmentally conscious and has tried to minimise her own carbon footprint and waste during the pilgrimage, which lasts for at least six days and takes worshippers to a series of holy sites in Saudi Arabia. Haj ? which predates Islam and is traced to Abraham ? is now the world's largest annual gathering of Muslims. Saudi Arabia stakes its reputation on its guardianship of the faith's holiest sites. For The Green Guide for Hajj author Husna Ahmad, Muslims are doctrinally required to be stewards of the Earth. Tackling climate change is no longer about preserving the planet for future generations as its effects are evident now, she said. The majority of Muslims live outside Saudi Arabia and could collectively influence the greening of the sacred rituals, Ahmad added. "Consumer power is something that people need to think about in terms of flights, what they take, what they wear, the rubbish they throw, plastic bottles, and all those sorts of things. We have to be conscious of that," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Muslims need to move away from a fast, disposable society, she added, with Haj being the potential start of that journey. Green city audit In recent years, Saudi Arabia has taken steps to green the Haj, such as setting quotas for pilgrim numbers and developing the Mecca metro system to limit pollution. The Saudi Green Building Forum ? a Riyadh-based non-governmental group recognised by the United Nations ? has recently been tasked with auditing green efforts in Medina, the country's second holy city where the Prophet Mohammad is buried and a site visited by millions of pilgrims. The Forum's secretary-general Faisal Alfadl said his team will measure the green credentials of the holy cities of Mecca, Medina, and others against international guidelines on energy use, waste, water, transport, and human well-being. People now realise it is politically and culturally incorrect not to respect the environment, said Alfadl. "We have moved forward," he said, noting a shift in the public mood from desert Bedouins to city dwellers on the importance of protecting the environment, with the focus now on action rather than simply raising awareness. Reviving traditional practices could help ? for example, sharing water among pilgrims from a communal source, which was common before plastic bottles became ubiquitous. And the white marble stones surrounding the central cube-shaped Kaaba building in Mecca naturally prevent the heat-island effect found in other urban areas, Alfadl said. Recycling may not be at the top of pilgrims' minds, but Muslims have a duty to recognise the creator of the environment and reflect on Islamic teachings not to harm animals, waste water or cut down trees unnecessarily, said Fatima Ragie of Green Deen South Africa ? a Muslim environmental network. Ragie ? who completed Haj in 2009 ? urged greater efforts once the pilgrimage ends. For instance, to ensure food is not wasted when millions of animals are slaughtered, marking Abraham's near sacrifice of his son and the start of the Eid holiday. More mosques and Muslim leaders should also speak up about climate change and the environment, she said. Taking the message home From Bangladesh to North Africa, climate change is a reality for many Muslims, as floods and droughts fuel instability and conflict, said Nana Firman ? who participated in the UN climate talks in Morocco last year for the Global Muslim Climate Network. "A lot of people feel like they don't know what to do, so it's really important that we engage (them)," she said. Indonesia ? which has the world's largest Muslim population, according to the Pew Research Center ? has launched initiatives, from a phone app showing pilgrims how to enjoy a green Haj, to offsetting carbon emissions from flights by planting trees, and limiting the number of times each person can undertake the pilgrimage, said Firman. She urged Haj pilgrims to "reflect and make a change in their lives when they go back, and care more for the environment". As Ali prepares herself to undertake the challenging pilgrimage in the Gulf heat with her husband and mother, the natural environment offers a way for her to draw closer to God. "I think just reflecting on the fact you're with humanity, you see people from every corner of the world? That really makes you appreciate the idea that we're all sharing the Earth together," she said. ?via Thomson Reuters Foundation
  22. Railways Minister Saad Rafique on Friday criticized the Pakistan Peoples Party and the heirs of Benazir Bhutto by saying that they did not do enough except for passing statements to get justice in her murder case. Commenting on the Benazir case verdict in a series of tweets, the minister expressed his disappointment over recent verdicts, saying the decision to disqualify Nawaz Sharif and the Benazir verdict has cast doubts over the ?system?. 5 accused acquitted, 2 sentenced, Musharraf declared absconder in Benazir murder case The ATC had reserved verdict on Wednesday in the nine-year-old case The minister said that the judiciary was restored as a result of the struggle for an independent judiciary, but ?we couldn?t restore its independence and honour?. Rafique said that former military dictator Pervez Musharraf, one of the accused in the case, has turned out to be more powerful than the country?s judicial system. The Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) on Thursday announced its verdict in the murder case of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto after almost ten years. The verdict announced by ATC Judge Asghar Khan at Adiala Jail cleared five accused in the case, sentenced two former police officials and declared former president Musharraf as an absconder.
  23. LAHORE: Zhang Yang, a businessman from Chongqing in southwest China, is searching online forums for fellow stout-hearted entrepreneurs willing to cast aside security concerns and join him on a scouting mission to Pakistan. Zhang, 48, is one of a growing number of Chinese pioneers sensing an opportunity across the Himalayas in Pakistan, where Beijing has pledged to spend $57 billion on infrastructure projects as part of its ?Belt and Road? initiative. Numbering in the thousands, this second wave of Chinese arrivals are following in the wake of workers on Belt and Road projects. Some are opening restaurants and language schools, while others are working out what products they could sell to a market of 208 million people, or what goods they could make cheaply in Pakistan to sell around the world. ?A lot of industries are already saturated in China,? said Zhang, who has worked in property, electrical appliances and household goods in China and says he wants to explore the potential for setting up factories or importing Chinese goods. ?Pakistan?s development is behind China, so it will hold better opportunities compared to home.? But the new arrivals face dangers, creating a headache for Pakistani security officials. Daesh?s killing of two Chinese nationals in the restive Baluchistan province in June highlighted the risks posed by militants, who may see them as soft targets in their war with the state. Beijing has also long fretted about hardened fighters linking up with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a Uigher militant group Beijing accuses of seeking to split off its western region of Xinjiang, Pakistani officials say. Islamabad does not release immigration data but a source in the foreign ministry said about 71,000 Chinese nationals visited in 2016. A senior immigration official added 27,596 visa extensions were granted to Chinese that year, a 41 percent increase on 2015, suggesting more are staying in the country for longer. For Pakistan, the stakes in keeping all those Chinese nationals safe are high. Beijing?s infrastructure splurge has helped revive Pakistan?s sputtering economy, and deepening ties between the two nations have turned Pakistan into a key cog in China?s grand plan to build a modern-day ?Silk Road? of land and sea trade routes linking Asia with Europe and Africa. While the first phase of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as the Pakistan leg of this new Silk Road is called, concentrated on infrastructure projects, the second part will focus on setting up special economic zones and integrating Chinese firms into the local economy to help Pakistan develop its industries ranging from mining to agriculture. China has also surged to become by far the biggest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) for Pakistan, topping $1 billion in 2016/17, and is betting on its neighbor at a time when many Western companies are still put off by security concerns and corruption. ?Pakistan really needs foreign investment and we are not going to miss out on this because of some idiots with a gun,? said Miftah Ismail, a special adviser to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. ?We won?t let them mess with the Chinese.? Security challenge Pakistan receives friendly coverage in Chinese media and regularly features in state broadcaster CCTV?s programs on the Belt and Road initiative, which include promotions of CPEC and interviews with Chinese workers living in the country. That has not been enough to assuage concerns about security for Zhang and other Chinese businessmen and women who spoke to Reuters. ?It?s a big lesson for us,? said Derek Wang, referring to the Baluchistan killings. Wang, deputy chief executive of Infoshare, an Islamabad-based consultancy assisting Chinese entrepreneurs and businesses, said security was the number one concern of Chinese newcomers. Pakistan is taking the threat seriously. Guards and police with automatic rifles shield Chinese-staffed offices and language schools, while security officials say plainclothes officers form a less visible layer of protection at such sites. Unlike the engineers and construction workers who reside in heavily-guarded compounds while building the roads and power plants that make up CPEC, the entrepreneurs seeking riches on the back of it mostly arrive on their own and disperse across the country. Few inform authorities of their plans. ?This is the biggest challenge right now,? said Muhammad Faisal Rana, who heads an 8,000-strong Special Protection Unit set up by Punjab province in 2014 to guard foreigners. Ninety percent of those it protects are Chinese, he said. Rana said growing numbers of Chinese entrepreneurs turn up with tourist visas. Many are conducting market research, while some launch their products and then flit back to China. ?All these elements are sometimes out of our radar, and we have no idea from which flight they are coming in and where they are heading towards,? he said. SPU officials have cultivated ties with guesthouses popular with Chinese and set up liaison desks at airports to register the Chinese entrepreneurs before they vanish, while governments in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces are accelerating plans to build up special protection units akin to the one in Punjab. Language schools, bribes In Islamabad, where Chinese visitors were seldom seen before 2014, their prominence is growing. They now outnumber other foreigners, and the country?s first-ever Chinese-language newspaper, Huashang, has been launched. Visitors arriving at the capitals airport are handed flyers written in Mandarin advertising a Chinese courier service, and in the city shop signs in the Chinese language are increasingly common. Chinese restaurants are sprouting to cater for new arrivals who are rarely fond of Pakistani food. Pakistanis, sensing their neighbor?s growing power, are flocking to study at new Chinese language schools. A boom in business has prompted Ami Quin, a Chinese restaurateur and owner of a guesthouse for employees of Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE (000063.SZ), to open a spa and a second guesthouse. ?More and more people are very interested to come to Pakistan after CPEC,? she said. ?They are looking for partners all the time.? In one of Quin?s restaurants in Islamabad, civil engineer Pan Denghao lamented the oppressive Pakistani heat but conceded the money and jobs on offer exceeded what young people like him could expect back home. ?Every year in China you have so many graduates from colleges and universities, but the opportunities and chances for jobs are limited,? said Pan, 25, whose company is building Islamabad?s new airport. Chinese businessmen who arrived before CPEC was unveiled in 2014 are capitalising on their experience to launch consultancies, advising newcomers how to circumnavigate the country?s notorious bureaucracy or match them with Pakistani partners. Another Chinese businessman who did not wish to give his name, said he and fellow Chinese executives often pay bribes to speed up imports or obtain government permits. That used to be a regular aspect of Chinese life before President Xi Jinping?s anti-corruption drive of the past few years. ?This is one of the reasons why us Chinese are comfortable here. We know how to deal with this,? he said. Salary, then safety Although Chinese habits sometimes clash with local customs in a deeply conservative Muslim nation - Chinese restaurants, for example, sometimes turn a blind eye to customers drinking smuggled alcohol - there is little sign of hostility to the new arrivals from ordinary Pakistanis. Unlike Western nations, China is widely seen as having been a consistent ally to Pakistan, and Chinese visitors often recount stories of being let off minor misdemeanors - such as driving without a license - by police and government officials with comments like "you are our friends". Officials have portrayed the Daesh killings in Balochistan as a one-off, saying the two Chinese victims were targeted because they were Christian missionaries masquerading as business people. But at least one Chinese business delegation canceled its trip to Pakistan as a result of the attack. Pakistan has since tightened business visa rules for Chinese nationals and vowed improved security. At a CPEC site guarded by the Punjab SPU in Lahore, policemen clad in bullet-proof vests demonstrated to Reuters how armed officers sitting on the back of pick-up trucks shield Chinese executives when transporting them in convoys. One Chinese executive said police provided her with an armed convoy for a four-hour trip from the disputed Kashmir region to her office in Islamabad. "It was quite touching," she said. But security officials concede not everyone can be given round-the-clock protection, and many businessmen do not want their freedom curbed. Still, China-based recruiters such as Ms Yang, of Zaozhuang Xincai Services, say the killings have not dented the stream of applicants seeking work in Pakistan, thanks to pay that can be more than four times what they would earn at home. "First concerns are about how high or low the salary is, when it will be paid," she said. "And then safety."
  24. WASHINGTON/CARACAS: US President Donald Trump signed an executive order that prohibits dealings in new debt from the Venezuelan government or its state oil company in an effort to halt financing that fuels President Nicolas Maduro?s ?dictatorship?, the White House said on Friday. The order is Washington?s biggest sanctions blow to date against Maduro and is intended to punish his leftist government for what Trump has called an erosion of democracy in the oil-rich country, already reeling from an economic crisis. ?Maduro may no longer take advantage of the American financial system to facilitate the wholesale looting of the Venezuelan economy at the expense of the Venezuelan people,? US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday. Banning Americans from trading new bonds will make it tricky for Venezuela?s ailing state-run company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) to refinance its heavy debt burden. Investors had expected that it would seek to ease upcoming payments through such an operation, as it did last year, which usually requires new bonds be issued. That could push the cash-strapped company closer to a possible default, or bolster its reliance on key allies China and Russia, which have already lent Caracas billions of dollars. The decision also blocks Venezuela?s US refiner Citgo Petroleum from sending dividends back to the South American nation, a senior official said, in a further blow to PDVSA?s coffers. However, the order stops short of a major ban on crude trading that could have disrupted the oil industry and plunged Venezuela into an even more severe economic crisis amid food shortages and rampant inflation. It also protects holders of most of the existing Venezuelan government and PDVSA bonds, who were relieved the sanctions did not go further. Venezuelan and PDVSA bonds were trading broadly higher on Friday afternoon. Venezuela, which says Washington is seeking to sabotage socialism to get its hands on Venezuela?s crude reserves, slammed the sanctions as an effort to spark a humanitarian crisis. ?These financial sanctions announced today are the worst aggressions to Venezuela in the last 200 years maybe? Maybe after the Spanish empire was defeated by our liberators,? Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said at the United Nations in New York. ?What do they want? They want to starve the Venezuelan people,? he added. Venezuela?s Oil Ministry and PDVSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. PDVSA under pressure The sanctions heap fresh pressure on PDVSA, the financial engine of Maduro?s government, which is already struggling due to low global oil prices, mismanagement, allegations of corruption and a brain drain. Washington last month sanctioned PDVSA?s finance vice president Simon Zerpa, complicating some of the company?s operations as Americans are now banned from doing business with him. Trump has so far spared Venezuela from broader sanctions against its vital oil industry, but officials have said such actions are under consideration. The Republican president has also warned of a ?military option? for Venezuela, although White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said on Friday that no such actions are anticipated in the ?near future?. Opposition politicians applauded the targeted sanctions. ?These sanctions are not against Venezuela, but rather the corrupt people who seek to sell the nation?s assets at a discount,? said opposition lawmaker and economist Angel Alvarado. Venezuela has for months struggled to find financing because of PDVSA?s cash flow problems and corruption scandals have led institutions to tread cautiously, regardless of sanctions. Russia and its state oil company Rosneft have emerged as an increasingly important source of financing for PDVSA, according to a Reuters report. On at least two occasions, the Venezuelan government has used Russian cash to avoid imminent defaults on payments to bondholders, a high-level PDVSA official told Reuters. "At this point, our view is that the country can scrape by without defaulting this year, largely with the help of Chinese and Russian backing and by further squeezing imports. Next year is a toss-up," said Raul Gallegos, an analyst with the consultancy Control Risks. However, China has grown reticent to extend further loans because of payment delays and corruption. Russia has been negotiating financing in exchange for oil assets in Venezuela, sources have told Reuters, but going forward it would be difficult for the OPEC member to provide enough assets to keep up loans destined for bond payments. Venezuela's government has around $2 billion in available cash to make $1.3 billion in bond payments by the end of the year and to cover the import of food and medicine, according to documents reviewed by Reuters. COVER IMAGE: (L-R) Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee arrive at a news briefing at the White House in Washington, US, to announce sanctions against Venezuela, August 25, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
  25. Many people who survive cancer fear recurrence after their treatment ends, according to a study that suggests these concerns may lead to unnecessary tests. Data from 12 previously published studies involving 849 patients show that after completing treatment, patients want as many follow-up exams and tests as possible to reassure them that tumours have not returned, researchers found. ?Patients want intensive follow-up which comprises a lot of testing,? said senior study author Geertruida de Bock, of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. ?Though this is understandable, it is not desirable since care for cancer is already under pressure due to rising numbers of survivors,? de Bock said by email. Worldwide, an estimated 33 million people are cancer survivors. Their ranks are expected to grow due to rising cancer rates in an ageing population as well as improved survival odds with advances in diagnosis and treatment. As cancer increasingly becomes a chronic disease instead of a death sentence, doctors and patients are struggling to strike the right balance between doing enough follow-up tests to catch any new tumours quickly and avoiding too many needless tests that can lead to unnecessary interventions that don?t help people live longer. Cancer survivors typically get care focused on monitoring for the return of tumours or the development of malignancies in other parts of the body. This can include invasive tests like biopsies as well as expensive imaging like positron emission tomographic (PET) scanning. Guidelines for follow-up tests depend on many factors including the type of cancer, how advanced it was when it was first detected and treated, and individual patient characteristics like age and other health problems. While the current analysis didn?t examine the outcomes of giving cancer survivors too many or too few tests, it offers fresh evidence that patients may often want more testing than doctors should do based on current treatment guidelines. For example, some patients said the process of getting more tests and waiting for the results made them anxious, but some patients also said they wanted to continue with a lifetime of extensive follow-up testing. Patients often said they had lost confidence in their body and feared recurrence so much that they requested screenings that they understood might not be needed. They also expressed a desire for mental health care and psychological support. The study wasn?t a controlled experiment designed to test how or if patients? preferences about follow-up care influence treatment for cancer survivors. Even so, the findings suggest that doctors and patients may need to have more-frank conversations about how follow-up tests can help and when extensive testing may do more harm than good. Patients should understand how many recurrent cancers are typically detected with a specific test and how often they might get what?s known as a false-positive result, when the test result suggests that tumours have returned even though that?s not the case, de Bock said. False negatives, when people with new tumours think they?re cancer-free, are also possible. ?Intensive surveillance can lead to false-positive results and to unnecessary tests and potentially harmful biopsies of suspicious lesions seen on body imaging,? said Dr Carlos Barcenas, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. ?In addition, a false-negative result of a test may also give a false reassurance to a patient.? ?Patients and doctors should clearly discuss the surveillance plan after active treatments have finished and clarify expectations,? said Barcenas, who wasn?t involved in the study.