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Found 55 results

  1. General John Nicholson, who leads US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, speaks to reporters at Bagram Air Base. AFP BAGRAM: Now is the best time for the Taliban to negotiate for peace, the top US general in Afghanistan said Wednesday, warning that an increased air and ground campaign against the insurgents would only get worse. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last month unveiled a plan to open talks to end the 16-year-old war, offering to negotiate with the Taliban without any preconditions. So far the group's response to the offer has been muted, which analysts said reflects debate among Taliban leaders over the merits of engaging with an administration it has long viewed as illegitimate. But US officials including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said this week that some Taliban elements are open to talking with the Afghan government. General John Nicholson, who leads US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said the Taliban have taken heavy casualties since US President Donald Trump authorised ramped-up air operations last year, pointing to increasingly effective Afghan commando and regular Afghan army units. "In the Taliban's mind, they see what is coming and these capabilities are only going to get greater," Nicholson told reporters accompanying Mattis on a visit to Bagram Airfield, America´s largest air base in Afghanistan that is located north of Kabul. "So this really is probably their best time to attempt a negotiation, because it's only going to get worse for them," he added, as both sides prepare for the start of what is expected to be an intense spring fighting season. Nicholson's comments come as Afghanistan deploys more troops to the western province of Farah where the Taliban have launched multiple attacks in recent weeks. The latest assault in the province, which borders Iran, happened in the early hours of Wednesday when militants stormed a checkpoint manned by police and intelligence officers on the outskirts of the provincial capital Farah, killing seven security forces, officials said. Ghani's peace plan includes eventually recognising the Taliban as a political party. In return, the Taliban would need to recognise the Kabul government and constitution - a perennial sticking point in past attempts to open talks. Despite Nicholson's tough talk, US data shows the Taliban are far from being driven off the battlefield. In October, insurgents controlled or influenced nearly half of Afghanistan's districts - double the percentage in 2015, the US government's office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said in January. Over the same period, the watchdog said, the number of districts under Afghan government control or influence fell to its lowest level since December 2015. Focus on Kabul "My perception of what is going on inside the Taliban is they are tired of this war as well, they'd like to return home, they'd like to rejoin society and, just like the people of this country, would like to see the end of this war as would all of us," Nicholson said. He added that there are "many Taliban who could see a way to work within this framework" but cautioned there would always be those that will never reconcile. "It's encouraging that these offers are on the table and we would appear to be at a point where they could start having a conversation about this," he said. Aside from military pressure, Nicholson said it is important that diplomatic pressure is strong on "those who externally enable the insurgency" and he credited the role that religious pressure from other Islamic countries is playing. The four-star general also underscored the need to strengthen security in Kabul, where a string of devastating attacks in recent months has killed hundreds of civilians. "Kabul is our main effort right now, to harden Kabul, to protect the people of Kabul and the international community that are here because of the strategic impact that has and the importance to the campaign," he said.
  2. An interlocutor appointed by India, Dineshwar Sharma. Photo: File ISLAMABAD: An interlocutor appointed by India, Dineshwar Sharma, has said that India should hold talks with Pakistan to end tensions along the Line of Control. ?The current hostility at the border is a serious problem. I am not going to speak to Pakistan,? Sharma said in an interview in Srinagar. ?It is the government of the day that has to do the talking.? Sharma said he has been visiting Kashmir to hold ?peace talks? with the stakeholders. ?I am talking to Kashmiris [but] the government [of India] will have to talk to Pakistan,? he demanded. In the past week, a number of civilians were killing along the LoC in unprovoked firing by Indian forces. Indian forces target school van along LoC, kill driver: ISPR Such attacks are a violation of the Geneva Convention and a clear violation of the 2003 ceasefire agreement, says ISPR On February 15, the Indian forces deployed along the LoC targeted a school van claiming the life of its driver in Battal sector, Inter-Services Public Relations said. The student of a local degree college, who was present in the vehicle which was fired upon, narrated her harrowing ordeal. ?There was firing while we were on the way and I thought the vehicle had been hit. When we looked, Sajid bhai (the van driver) had been hit and was bleeding profusely," said the student. A few days later, an eight-year-old boy was killed in Jajot village in a similar incident, this time in Jajot village along the LoC. Army destroys Indian post after minor killed in cross-border LoC firing Two Indian soldiers killed by the Pakistan army, said ISPR According to ISPR, the Pakistan Army retaliated by attacking an Indian check post claiming lives of two Indian soldiers. More incidents took place later along the LoC, following which the Pakistani authorities summoned the Indian high commissioner to record their protest.
  3. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the UN Security Council at UN headquarters in New York, US, February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson UNITED NATIONS: The United States declared at the United Nations on Tuesday it was ?ready to talk? with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who rejected US-led Middle East peace efforts as ?impossible? after Washington?s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel?s capital. During a rare UN Security Council address, Abbas instead called for an international conference to be held by mid-2018 to kick-start the stalled peace process with Israel and create a ?multilateral mechanism? to oversee it. He left the chamber before US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley spoke. Palestinians view the Trump administration?s intentions on Middle East peace with deep scepticism after Trump reversed decades of US policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and initiated the move of the US embassy there from Tel Aviv. ?Our negotiators are sitting right behind me, ready to talk. But we will not chase after you. The choice, Mr. President, is yours,? said Haley, referring to Trump?s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, and US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt. Kushner and Greenblatt are working on a new peace plan and met with the 15 Security Council ambassadors behind closed doors after the public meeting on Tuesday. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last week the plan was ?fairly well advanced.? There has been little detail on the plan so far. White House spokesman Josh Raffel said a peace plan would be presented ?when it is done and the time is right.? But following Trump?s decision, the Palestinians no longer view the United States as a neutral negotiator. ?We met with the President of the United States, Donald Trump, four times in 2017, and we have expressed our absolute readiness to reach a historic peace agreement,? Abbas said. ?Yet this administration has not clarified its position. Is it for the two-state solution, or for one-state?? Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be its capital. The Palestinians want the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future independent state of their own that would include the West Bank and Gaza. Jerusalem is home to sites holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians. The Trump administration has given qualified support to the two-state solution, saying it would back it if the parties agreed to it. Abbas, who shunned a visit by US Vice President Mike Pence to the region last month, said the conference should include the Palestinians, Israel, the five permanent UN Security Council members ? the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France ? the European Union and the United Nations. French UN Ambassador Francois Delattre said Paris was open to studying Abbas? suggestions. Deputy British UN Ambassador Jonathan Allen described US leadership on the issue as ?indispensable.? Israel?s UN Ambassador Danny Danon said Abbas was part of the problem, not the solution, and that the ?only way to move forward is direct negotiations? between Israel and the Palestinians. Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the so-called Quartet - made up of the United Nations, the United States, Russia and the EU - and the League of Arab States could play a role in kick-starting the stalled peace process.
  4. Whether you want to admit it or not, we've all taken a selfie at least once with a new smartphone and Apple released a new video to show what the iPhone X is capable of. The ad focuses on the iPhone X's Portrait Mode selfie feature and it has been described with narration from one of the greatest boxers in history, Muhammad Ali. © Twitter The video focuses on Portrait Mode's new lighting feature which basically applies a range of effects to your picture. The ad features a bunch of jump cuts showing different forms of Portrait Lighting selfies. © Twitter The most invigorating part of the advert is a speech from Muhammad Ali that has been used to narrate the features. The speech was given by Ali in 1964 after he defeated Sonny Liston in a bout. The ad ends with the text “Selfies taken with Portrait Lighting on iPhone X. Poetry by the people's champion, Muhammad Ali.” © Twitter Apple has released a slew of advertisements that focus on the iPhone X and its features; where some are focused on the Animoji feature or the camera and Face ID. You can watch the advert for yourself below to see how Apple has got its messaging on point.
  5. The US Capitol Dome is shown after President Donald Trump and the US Congress failed to reach a deal on funding for federal agencies in Washington, US, January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers took a tough stance on Saturday after the US Congress failed to fund federal agencies, saying they would not negotiate on immigration until Democrats help end the government shutdown. Funding for federal agencies ran out at midnight with no agreement in Congress, meaning the second year of Donald Trump?s presidency began without a fully functioning government. Lawmakers failed to resolve an impasse over Democrats? demands to include certain measures, including protections for young undocumented immigrants, in any short-term spending legislation. US government workers were told to stay home or, in some cases, work without pay until new funding is approved in the first federal government shutdown since a 16-day funding lapse in October 2013. The Republican-controlled Senate and House of Representatives were holding rare weekend sessions on Saturday, facing a political crisis that could have an impact on congressional elections in November. ?The president will not negotiate on immigration reform until Democrats stop playing games and reopen the government,? White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said. Her message was echoed by Republicans in Congress, leading to speculation that Washington could be in for a prolonged battle that has interrupted government services. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer gave a stinging portrayal of Trump as an unreliable negotiating partner, saying the two sides came close to an agreement several times only to have Trump back out at the urging of anti-immigration conservatives. ?Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O,? he said on Saturday. ?It?s impossible to negotiate with a constantly moving target.? Democrats? demand of securing permanent legal protections for 700,000 young, undocumented immigrants as a condition for new government funding, Walden said, was ?hostage-taking in its worse form.? The federal government had been running on three consecutive temporary funding bills since the new fiscal year began in October. Democrats say they have been pleading with Republicans for months to approve the immigration measure as a stand-alone bill and were rebuffed. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said a solution to the crisis was ?just inches away? but he blamed Democrats for blocking legislation to pass the stopgap funding measure. One idea being floated by Republicans was to renew government funding through February 8 to end the shutdown, while working to resolve other issues, ranging from immigration, military and non-military spending levels, disaster relief, and some healthcare issues. Immigration hurdle The partial government shutdown was triggered at midnight on Friday when the Senate failed to agree to a House-passed bill to fund the government through February 16. It drew strong opposition from Democrats and some Republicans. Despite tough words from some House Republicans, others were providing conflicting messages. Marc Short, the White House legislative affairs director, told reporters on Capitol Hill, ?We are anxious to get a resolution on DACA.? He was referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that former President Barack Obama created and Trump ended in September. It was providing protection from deportation for the illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children and now known as ?Dreamers.? Moderate Republican Representative Charlie Dent predicted the government shutdown will end only when bipartisan legislation is allowed to advance in Congress, even if it angers conservatives. ?That?s the price of leadership,? he said. The shutdown began a year to the day after Trump was sworn in as president. He portrayed himself as the ultimate dealmaker but his inability to cut a deal despite having a Republican majority in both houses of Congress marks arguably the most debilitating setback for his administration. ?This is the One Year Anniversary of my Presidency and the Democrats wanted to give me a nice present,? he said on Twitter. ?Democrats are far more concerned with illegal immigrants than they are with our great military or safety at our dangerous southern border,? he said. ?They could have easily made a deal but decided to play shutdown politics instead.? Trump said the shutdown showed the need to win more Republican seats in 2018 congressional elections. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi laid blame on Republicans in a floor speech on Saturday. ?Despite controlling the House, the Senate and the White House the Republicans were so incompetent, so negligent that they couldn?t get it together to keep government open,? she said. Faded hope There had been modest hope on Friday Schumer went to the White House to talk with Trump but the 90-minute meeting ended with no deal and led to frantic meetings that ran through midnight but proved fruitless. Democrats and many Republicans want to provide permanent legal status leading to citizenship for so-called Dreamers after Trump ordered the DACA program to expire in March. The immediate impact of the government shutdown was eased somewhat by its timing, starting on a weekend when most government employees normally do not work anyway. The Defense Department said its combat operations in Afghanistan and other military activities would continue, while federal law enforcement officers also would remain on duty. The State Department warned that it could have problems processing passports. Trump?s administration also said it planned to keep national parks open with rangers and security guards on duty. The parks were closed during the last shutdown in 2013, which upset many tourists and resulted in the loss of $500 million in visitor spending in areas around the parks and at the Smithsonian museums. But without a quick deal, most day-to-day operations in the federal government will be disrupted. Hundreds of thousands of government employees will be put on temporary unpaid leave, including many of the White House?s 1,700 workers. Parks and open-air monuments remained open in the US capital and on the National Mall preparations were under way for a second multi-city women?s rights march. Some tourists appeared unaware of the shutdown while others expressed frustration at lawmakers? failure to reach a deal. ?It?s ironic that they get paid ? meaning Congress ? and the rest of the government doesn?t,? Dawn Gaither, 57 ? a Washington teacher ? said. ?That?s what we need to do, kick these guys in the tail and get them to work.?
  6. Actor Aziz Ansari arrives at the 73rd Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California, US, January 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/Files LOS ANGELES: Less than four months after the #MeToo movement inspired a national conversation about sexual misconduct and led to the downfall of dozens of powerful American men, a backlash seems to be underway. Women are divided among themselves, men are beginning to speak out, and words like ?revenge porn? and ?witch hunt? are turning up in opinion pieces and on social media. Inspired by multiple accusations ? including rape ? against disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein in October 2017, millions of women took to social and mainstream media to share stories of sexual harassment or assault, using the #MeToo hashtag. Weinstein has denied having non-consensual *** with anyone. But one unidentified woman?s account last weekend of a 2017 date with Master of None comedian Aziz Ansari that she said left her feeling violated, prompted fierce debate about whether sexual assault and bad *** were being conflated. Ansari said he believed their sexual activity was completely consensual. ?When I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned. I took her words to heart and responded privately,? the actor said in a statement. Just 10 days after a Golden Globes ceremony where celebrities dressed in black en masse in support of harassment victims and Ansari won the award for best actor in a TV musical or comedy series, New York Times writer Bari Weiss penned an opinion piece calling the Ansari article ?arguably the worst thing that has happened to the #MeToo movement since it began?. Author Caitlyn Flanagan called the woman?s story ?3,000 words of revenge porn? and the Washington Post?s Alyssa Rosenberg wrote that #MeToo could founder in acrimony without a ?distinction between criminal acts and merely unattractive or immoral behavior.? #MeToo and the worldwide reckoning it brought in 2017 'Men sexually harassed because they could. Women are talking today because, in this new era, we finally can' One step forward, two steps back? Those who have been fighting for equality for decades see such misgivings as internal struggles that are to be expected in the early stages of mass movements for change. ?I don?t think it?s a backlash. I think it?s a moment of deep struggle. Women are finally being heard and men are finally listening. This is not going to be easy and people are going to get things wrong,? Melissa Silverstein ? the founder of the Women and Hollywood blog ? said. Author Jessica Valenti ? the founder of the blog Feministing.com ? had less patience with critics. ?When someone says they don?t want #MeToo to be ?derailed? or ?muddied,? all I hear is that they don?t want to do the hard thinking necessary for a nuanced cultural shift,? Valenti tweeted. The divisions are not limited to Hollywood, which has been hardest hit by the misconduct scandal, nor to women. Actress Catherine Deneuve made headlines last week in an open letter with 99 other French women that said #MeToo amounted to Puritanism and was fueled by a hatred of men. Men ? who have mostly confined their remarks to generalized expressions of support for women ? are beginning to speak out. Alec Baldwin described growing sentiment against director Woody Allen and his movies as ?unfair and sad". Woody Allen says claim he molested daughter 'discredited' I never molested my daughter ? as all investigations concluded a quarter of a century ago, says the American film director Allen on Thursday again denied an accusation that he molested his stepdaughter Dylan Farrow in 1992 and said she was using the sexual misconduct scandal to renew her allegation. Wall Street actor Michael Douglas last week took the unusual step of denying a misconduct allegation before it was published, saying he ?felt the need to get ahead of this?. Silverstein said the differing points of view are necessary conversations in the long-term goal for female equality and respect. ?For anyone to think this is over, they are sorely mistaken. This is just the beginning. We need to buckle up and keep pushing forward,? she said.
  7. It's 2018 and fitness is just a filter away. Your credibility is built on the number of followers you have on social media, not by the relentless effort you make moving weights. You are hailed a coach by showing striated triceps, not by talking science or better said, common sense. The lower your body fat, the more you attract starry–eyed girls and star struck boys. In 2018, fitness is less about the truth and more about selling fake promises. And nobody does it better than 'fake natural' IG fitness models, with their silly motivation quotes. If you are one, this is a letter to you, from a natural lifter. Dear Steroid Using 'Fake Natty' Hope you are lifting hard and 'trenning' harder. © YouTube Congratulations on garnering over half a million followers on social media. You killed it and successfully brainwashed battalions of your faithful young fans. You just sold them the dream that one day they will look like you. Of course, they will achieve deep feathered quads, striated hamstrings and a carved-out-of-stone six pack by buying 'your' eating and training plan. We believe in the motivational quotes you post on your inhumanly ripped pictures, 365 days a year. It's actually only your hard work, whey protein and yes, a bit of creatine that got you over a hundred kilos and left you dry like a skeleton in a desert. We believe you, bro. Well, at least untrained rookies do and they are pretty much the majority of your social media following. Sorry, But You Don't Really Know Motivation I'll say this straight up. Motivation comes easy when you are 'roided' to the bone and growing every minute of the day. It doesn't come easy when you slog for years and see muscle growing at the speed of a snail. Motivation comes easy when you know that your fat loss will be taken care of by a couple of pins and tablets. It doesn't come easy when you diet for months on end and lose muscle in the process. © YouTube The truth is that you cheated. While this could be your personal choice, you chose to come out to the world as a natural bodybuilder. You preached motivation and consistency, all while stocking up more anabolic steroids than a medical store. You sold a fake dream. Unlike what you usually preach, lifting and eating right alone weren't enough motivation for you. While you might be a gift from God in regards to training concepts, you will never know what real motivation is. You ask fans to ignore genetics when you yourself took a dump all over your genetics with steroids. Why wouldn't you be motivated when you literally see yourself getting better every day? Drop The Fake Motivation Thing, Please! This is not hate. This is just calling out the unreal promoting the unachievable. Natural bodybuilding is tough and demands decades of consistent work. Enhanced bodybuilding is a different level of the sport, entirely. So please, drop this 'motivational quote marketing' and stop selling fabricated dreams to guys who can barely afford a decent whey protein supplement, let alone the steroid cycle you cruise on year round. Hardly following you, A Natural Lifter
  8. ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan Thursday said that it is painful for him to talk about his marriage. In an interview with a private TV channel, the PTI chief said that he proposed marriage to Bushra Maneka after her divorce, adding that out of 65 years of his age, he spent only 10 years of married life. He said that he wishes to spend rest of his life happily and in peace. Khan said that he is a democratic person and takes decisions himself. No one can force him to do anything, the PTI chief said. The PTI chairman said that his family did not know about the proposal. He said that so far he has only sent a proposal and will let [people] know if things move further. Khan said that he has not seen anyone having such a level of spiritual knowledge as Bushra Bibi. Commenting on his acquaintance with Bushra Maneka, he said that he first met her two years ago, adding that whenever he met her she was behind a veil and that he has not seen her face to this day. The PTI chief further said even his sisters are unaware of his proposal for marriage to Bushra Maneka, adding that it is painful to discuss the matter.
  9. Walt Disney Co. and 21st Century Fox shares were in the spotlight Wednesday amid reports the two media-entertainment powerhouses were readying a major deal for some of Fox's prized television and film assets. Some reports said the deal -- in which Disney would acquire the famed Fox Hollywood studios and key television operations of the Murdoch family-controlled group -- could be announced as soon as Thursday. Fox shares were down 3.6 percent at $32.87 in mid-morning trade, in a pullback after sharp gains over the past few weeks. Disney shares were nearly unchanged at $107.40. According to CNBC television and The Financial Times. Disney is expected to pay $60 billion for the assets. CNBC said the deal would give Fox shareholders 25 percent of an expanded Disney empire. Disney is believed to be bidding for the Fox studios known for their film and television productions as well as the cable channels FX and National Geographic, plus the company's 39 percent stake in British-based pay TV group Sky. The deal would likely shrink the empire created by billionaire Rupert Murdoch, and controlled by him and his two sons, leaving the Fox broadcast network, Fox News and sports cable channels. The tie-up is seen as a response to the shifting landscape in the media-entertainment sector disrupted by streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon. The plan could nonetheless face scrutiny from antitrust regulators because it could concentrate power in the Hollywood studios -- and potentially in broadcast sports. Analyst Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research said a reduced Fox "may lose scale and related efficiencies with the transaction, (but) may benefit from focus, financial leverage and changes to US media ownership rules." In a research note, Wieser said that "international exposure is likely positive for Disney (and) the loss of international exposure is negative for Fox."
  10. RAWALPINDI: Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC) General Zubair Mahmood Hayat on Sunday participated in Manama Dialogue in Bahrain, according to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). During the dialogue, General Hayat delivered a talk on ?International Campaign Against Terrorism?, the ISPR said in a statement. On the occasion, the JCSC chairman held bilateral meetings with various civil and military leaders participating in the event, it said. General Hayat also held a meeting with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain.
  11. Debiparna tries her best to teach Ankush and Ariel the basics of flirting and dirty talking in Bengali but is in for a hilarious surprise!
  12. TV host Seth Meyers arrives for the 40th Anniversary Saturday Night Live (SNL) broadcast in the Manhattan borough of New York, US, February 15, 2015. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/Files LOS ANGELES: Late night talk show host Seth Meyers will host the 2018 Golden Globe movie and television awards ceremony in January, organizers said on Monday. It will be the first Golden Globes hosting gig for Myers, 43, whose Late Night with Seth Meyers airs on NBC. The Golden Globes ceremony ? an informal and boozy dinner attended by hundreds of A-list stars ? is one of the biggest in the Hollywood awards season that culminates with the Oscars in March. The 2018 ceremony will take place on January 7 in Beverly Hills and will be broadcast live on NBC, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association ? which votes on the awards ? said in a statement. NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt said in a statement that Meyers ?will be taking a closer look at this year?s best movies and television with his unique brand of wit, intelligence, and mischievous humour?. Meyers began his television career on satirical sketch show Saturday Night Live in 2001 and was a cast member for 13 seasons, serving as head writer for nine seasons. As Golden Globes host, he follows in the footsteps of Jimmy Fallon, British comedian Ricky Gervais, and comedy duo Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
  13. MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a telephone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday, the Interfax news agency cited the Kremlin as saying. Putin was paid a rare visit by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday. Greeting Assad at his Black Sea residence of Sochi, Putin said he would follow up the meeting with telephone calls to Trump and to Middle Eastern leaders including the Emir of Qatar.
  14. LONDON: Bitcoin hit an all-time high just below $8,000 (£6,060) on Friday, on talk that a software upgrade whose suspension sent the cryptocurrency into a tailspin at the end of last week was, after all, going ahead within hours. Talk that the upgrade - which could split or ?fork? bitcoin into two versions - would go ahead was driven by a statement on the website of Coinbase, the world?s largest bitcoin company with operations in 32 countries. ?The Bitcoin Segwit2x fork is expected to occur in the next six hours,? it said in a statement published at 1004 GMT. If a bitcoin clone were created, any holders would also in theory instantly become owners of the new spin-off. Bitcoin, generally highly volatile, has been on a particularly wild ride, sliding at the end of last week to as low as $5,555 after plans for Segwit2x were suspended, before bouncing more than 40 percent since Sunday. It reached as high as $7,997 in early Asian trading on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange BTC=BTSP, before easing back a touch to trade broadly flat by 1115 GMT at $7,863. Market-watchers said speculation about the fork was driving bitcoin higher. If it went ahead as expected, holders of the cryptocurrency would be able to sell the spin-off at a profit if the market were to assign it any value. But in a post on the Medium blogging platform, the company?s communications director David Farmer said Coinbase did not expect the fork to successfully split bitcoin in two, as it lacked the necessary support from the network to do so. ?Whenever people hear ?fork? nowadays the price jumps, as people hope to get the free dividend,? said Charles Hayter, founder of cryptocurrency data analysis site Cryptocompare. ?There is also a resulting spike in demand for people entering bitcoin? from other cryptocurrencies. Farmer said the company was actively monitoring the situation and that all funds stored in Coinbase wallets remained safe. All bitcoin buying and selling would be suspended on Coinbase in the hour prior to the fork, which is expected between 1400 and 1600 GMT. Bitcoin is on track for its best week since July. For the year, it is up more than 700 percent.
  15. European Council President Donald Tusk looks on during a news conference at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, October 20, 2017. REUTERS/Dario Pignatelli GOTHENBURG: European Union leaders will press Theresa May to meet their conditions soon for launching post-Brexit trade talks when she holds talks on the sidelines of a summit in Sweden on Friday, EU officials said. The British prime minister dismissed via a spokesman a report on Thursday that she was ready to raise her offer of cash to settle London?s obligations to the Union on leaving but a top EU lawmaker said he came away from a meeting with May in London optimistic that Britain was moving towards a deal with Brussels. At the Gothenburg talks devoted to labour and social reform, May will have a chance to speak to her peers on the sidelines ? though German Chancellor Angela Merkel will skip the event. A key moment may be May?s meeting before lunch with Donald Tusk, the summit chair who is overseeing the withdrawal process. Tusk will remind May, according to an EU source, that ?time is short? to deliver on hopes raised at an EU summit in October that sufficient progress would be made toward agreeing divorce terms this month that leaders would give a green light in mid-December to opening talks on the future relationship. Michel Barnier ? the Union?s chief negotiator ? has said he needs to hear more from Britain on three key divorce conditions, including the financial settlement, by the start of next month if the EU is to be in a position for all 27 other national leaders to trigger the second phase at a summit on December 14-15. EU officials have begun internal preparations to be able to launch trade negotiations after the summit, the source noted but added, ?Tusk will inform May that such a positive scenario is not a given, will require more work and that time is short. ?And he will ask May how the UK plans to progress on the three key issues for Phase One.? More money? May?s spokesman described as ?speculation? a newspaper report that she was planning to spend another 20 billion pounds (26 billion euros) to settle EU demands for Britain to pay its share of spending the EU has already agreed during British membership but will not actually pay out until after it leaves. ?I would say it is yet more speculation,? he said. ?We want to make progress as quickly as possible and we want to move onto talks about the future relationship as quickly as possible.? A further 26 billion euros would go a long way to meeting a demand that Brussels has put at around 60 billion euros. That is because May has already asked for a two-year transition period after Brexit in March 2019. That would bring in some 20 billion euros as Britain would go on contributing to the budget to retain its full membership of the European single market. A Merkel ally in Brussels, Manfred Weber, the German leader of the centre-right bloc in the European Parliament, struck a notably upbeat tone after meeting May and other key British ministers in London on Tuesday. While insisting he had not heard concrete new proposals ? that is not his role ? he came away believing the British wanted to move toward a divorce deal. ?My main message is I am more optimistic,? he told reporters. ?There is progress.? As well as the Brexit ?bill?, Brussels also wants Britain to offer more in the way of rights for EU citizens living there and ensuring that its border with Ireland will remain unobstructed while also not creating a loophole in EU customs arrangements.
  16. US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan (L) meets with Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour (unseen) at the foreign ministry headquarters in the capital Khartoum, Sudan, November 16, 2017. AFP/Ebrahim Hamid KHARTOUM: The United States is prepared to hold talks on removing Sudan from its blacklist of "state sponsors of terrorism", a senior US official said here on Thursday. Sudan, meanwhile, said it was ready to cut ties with North Korea in a sign of goodwill towards Washington. US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said that given the "positive" steps taken by Sudan since last year, Washington was prepared to discuss removing Sudan from the blacklist, which also includes Iran and Syria. "We are prepared to continue discussions with the government of Sudan on this issue ... and to engage with them on all that would be required to have them removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism," Sullivan told foreign media journalists based in Khartoum. Sullivan is the highest-ranking official from US President Donald Trump's administration to visit Khartoum since Washington lifted its 20-year-old trade embargo on October 12. He is on a two-day visit aimed also at discussing human rights and religious freedoms in the African country. Sullivan held talks with Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour and said Washington was looking forward to "expanding" ties with Khartoum. Ghandour said lifting the sanctions was a "crucial step" to improving ties with Washington and, assured Sullivan that Sudan would break ties with North Korea. "We are also committed to having no trade or military relations with North Korea and hope that the Korean Peninsula remains free of nuclear weapons," he told Sullivan. Khartoum, the foreign minister stressed, was committed to respecting all resolutions passed by the UN Security Council against North Korea. Sullivan said addressing Washington's concerns over ties between Khartoum and Pyongyang had been a key purpose of his visit to Sudan. Human rights concerns "We were gratified to hear today from senior government leaders that I met with that the government of Sudan will cut all of its ties with the DPRK," Sullivan said. "That's an important step in the relationship between the United States and Sudan." Sudan and North Korea have had no diplomatic relations for years, but rights groups allege that the two have engaged in military ties. Sullivan said Khartoum's record of human rights and religious freedom was also a concern to Washington. "We have ... impressed on the government how important it is for the United States for there to be substantial progress on those human rights," he said. Rights groups have accused Sudan's security forces of arbitrarily detaining journalists, opposition politicians, and human rights defenders. Sudan's powerful National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) often confiscate entire print-runs of newspapers without giving a reason, particularly when they publish articles opposing government policies. "Ever since the significantly Christian South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011, the Sudanese government has focused greater attention on reducing the number of churches and their activities in Sudan," John Prendergast of the Washington-based campaign group Enough Project wrote days before the lifting of the sanctions. Khartoum insists that Sudan upholds human rights and religious freedom, which it says is exemplified by several churches existing next to mosques. Sullivan said Washington was keen for "expanding" its ties with Khartoum even as some concerns still remained about Sudan's alleged links with militant groups like Palestinian Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah. Washington had imposed financial sanctions on Khartoum in 1997 for its alleged support for Islamist militant groups. Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden used to live in Sudan between 1992 and 1996. After decades of strained diplomatic relations, ties between Washington and Khartoum improved under the presidency of Barack Obama, later resulting in the lifting of sanctions by Trump ? his successor. Washington and Khartoum is a "relation in transition", said Sullivan. "Our ultimate goal is to work with the government here to create a peaceful, stable, prosperous Sudan that would benefit the entire region."
  17. A pumpjack is seen at an oil field supply yard in Denver, Colorado, US, February 2, 2015. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/Files NEW YORK: Brent crude closed at a 27-month high on Thursday as the market focused more on comments from Saudi Arabia about ending a global supply glut instead of an unexpected increase in US crude inventories and high US production and exports. Brent futures gained 86 cents (or 1.5 percent) to settle at $59.30 a barrel ? its highest close since July 3, 2015. US West Texas Intermediate crude, meanwhile, rose 46 cents (or 0.9 percent) to settle at a six-month high of $52.64 ? its highest close since April 17. With Thursday?s gains, Brent futures were up for three days in a row following comments earlier in the week from Saudi Arabia that the Kingdom was determined to end a global supply glut that has weighed on prices for more than three years. ?We are committed to work with all producers, OPEC and non-OPEC countries? We will support anything to stabilise the oil demand and supply,? Saudi Arabia?s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman told Reuters on Thursday when asked whether the kingdom would support extending an agreement to cut supplies until the end of 2018. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), plus Russia and nine other producers, have cut oil output by about 1.8 million barrels per day (BPD) since January. The pact runs through March 2018, but the member nations are considering extending it. ?When you couple what Mohammed Bin Salman said along with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, you have to realize we have two of the largest oil producers basically putting a blessing on an extension of production cuts through the end of 2018,? Rob Thummel ? a portfolio manager at Tortoise Capital Advisors ? said. Putin said earlier this month the oil supply deal could be extended to the end of 2018, although OPEC ministers have not given specific commitments on doing so. ?Price volatility in the oil market is expected to persist in the run-up to the November OPEC meeting. Saudi Arabia?s bullish stance, together with ongoing geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, will remain supportive of prices,? Abhishek Kumar ? a senior energy analyst at Interfax Energy?s Global Gas Analytics in London ? said. OPEC will next meet on November 30 in Vienna. ?However, the market is also mindful of rising oil production in the United States and persistently high exports from the country, which will cap price gains,? Kumar noted. US crude inventories rose by 856,000 barrels last week, US Energy Information Administration (EIA) data showed on Wednesday, versus analysts? forecast for a 2.6 million-barrel draw. The data also showed that US crude production rose 1.1 million BPD last week to 9.5 million BPD after a decline due to Hurricane Nate, while US oil exports hit a new record four-week average of 1.7 million BPD. ?We continue to highlight a near record level of crude exports that appears sustainable near 2 (million BPD) through next month due to a widening Brent-WTI spread that pushed above $6 per barrel resistance in yesterday?s trade,? Jim Ritterbusch ? the president of Chicago-based energy advisory firm Ritterbusch & Associates ? said in a note. Brent?s premium over WTI was up 6.7 percent on Thursday at $6.68 amidst renewed strength in the global benchmark.
  18. In 2010, Steve Jobs introduced the iPad to everyone and he described it as a device that was extraordinary. He said it will give you the best browsing experience you have ever had--way better than a laptop, way better than a smartphone. It's an incredible experience. Later that evening, on a phone call interview, one of The New York Times journalist asked Jobs whether his kids loved the iPad. But what Steve Jobs said staggered the interviewer. Jobs said, “They haven't used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.” I hope you get a hint here where this discussion is heading. © YouTube/TED Even Microsoft's founder Bill Gates did not allow his children to use a smartphone until they were 14 years old. Also, there is a Waldorf School of the Peninsula in the Silicon Valley which does not introduce the screen till 8th grade. Now, an important thing to note here is that 75 percent of the kids who go there have parents who are high-level silicon valley tech executives. Have you not been fighting the same battle yourself? Here is a map of how we have been spending our daily time during the following period of time. There is a big shift. Do notice it. © YouTube/TED The TED speaker Adam Alter recounts that people at the end of their lives talk about things that were there in that white personal space. That space is getting occupied by screens. Also, below are some apps that make you happy and those that leave you with just the opposite feeling. Still, we spend more time on the latter ones that don't make us feel good about using them. Take a look here. © YouTube/TED We spend thrice the time on apps that don't make us happy. You can do the math yourself. 9 minutes on each app that makes us happy and 27 minutes on each app that makes us unhappy. 9x6 = 54 minutes you are happy each day in that white space. 27x6 = 162 minutes you are not happy each day in that white space. That white space is the most important part of your lives. It is here where you give time to your relationships, make memories, work on your hobbies and anything that makes you feel richer from inside. So where is the cue and what are the precautions you can take from getting trapped in this delusion? Here is your answer. These apps that make you unhappy rob you of stopping cues. Stopping cues were everywhere in the 20th century. They were baked into everything we did. A stopping cue is basically a signal that it's time to move on to something new, something different. Think about a newspaper: eventually, you get to the end, you fold the newspaper away and you put it aside. Same with magazines or books--as you get to the end of the chapter. TV shows that end and then you wait till the next episode is aired. So there are stopping cues everywhere. But the way we consume media today, there are no such no stopping cues. You can keep on scrolling Facebook feed, then Linkedin, then Twitter, then Instagram and so on. There's no end on your smartphone until you exhaust all of its power. So, you need to bring the change. Maybe, you could start with putting your phone away while having dinner or put it on flight mode when you start your morning. It will be tough in the beginning, just like you have to struggle when getting rid of a bad habit. After some time the habit will settle down and you would feel much happier and fulfilled each day than you were ever before. Try it. Watch the brilliantly explained video by Adam Alter to understand more on the subject.
  19. Below is the picture of a real human brain. © Youtube/usaportlandor You can see from the picture above that there are two cerebral cortexes which are completely separate from one another. To understand a scientifically proven ability of our brain you must know about parallel and series connection. Our right brain works as a parallel processor and our left brain as a serial processor. The two hemispheres also communicate with each other through corpus callosum which is made up of nearly 300 million axonal fibers. Other than that, the two hemispheres are completely separate. The Right Hemisphere Of Our Brain So, the right hemisphere of our brain is all about this present moment. It is all about right here, right now. This part of the brain thinks in pictures and it learns kinesthetically through the movements of our bodies. Information in forms of energy streams in simultaneously through all of our sensory system and then it explodes into this enormous collage of what this present moment looks like, feels like, taste like, smells like and sounds like. It makes us feel like an energy being connected to the energy all around us through the consciousness of our right hemisphere. In this moment we are perfect, we are whole, and we are beautiful. The Left Hemisphere Of Our Brain The left hemisphere of our brain works linearly and methodically. It is all about the past and it is all about the future. Our left hemisphere is designed to take the enormous collage of the present moment and start picking out details, and more details about those details, and then categorize all that information and associate with everything in the past we have ever learned. Then, it projects into the future all of our possibilities. Our left hemisphere thinks in a certain language and it is that constant ongoing chatter that connects our internal world to our external world. It could be that little voice that says 'hey you need to refuel your car' or 'it is the time to power charge your phone'. The Bigger Question © isha.sadhguru What is meditation? It is being able to be 100 percent there in the present moment. And from now on, we know that our right hemisphere is responsible to keep us in the present moment. Now, what if our left brain suffers a hemorrhagic stroke? It means we will be detached from our present and future. We will be left alone in the present. Won't that be like what we try to achieve with different kinds of meditation practices? The same happened with Jill Bolte Taylor, an American neuroanatomist, author, and inspirational public speaker. One day she suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in her left hemisphere and thus got a chance to study her brain from inside. Here is her story of a life-changing experience.
  20. This week, we were inspired to discuss home automation after @Joel R raised the question in a topic. With so many commercial options available now, such as Alexa, Siri and Google Home, we started discussing what automation we have in our homes. This week we'll focus on the a few team members who have heavily automated teams. Although @bfarber's answer "I have kids to help automate the home" was a clear winner. Marc S (Support technician & cycle injury enthusiast) For me I just have Hive, which is automation for my central heating system, and an Echo. So I can tell my heating to switch on and off by speaking to the echo if I wish, but to be honest its very rare that I do so. I tend to just use my phone, as it would rely on me being in the same room as my echo. I have some lights which are on sensors in my en-suite, and in my entrance hall. I have thought about getting bulbs I can switch on and off with voice control, but I'm honestly not sure how much they would be used in comparison to what they cost to buy. Because of the way my lights are configured, it would cost a fortune to do (for example my living room would need 5 bulbs for the main light). If I decided to go down that route, I would be looking for lightswitch adaptations, rather than bulbs. Andy (Developer and Support technician) This is a hobby of mine so might be a long answer! When I fully renovated my apartment I took the opportunity to go wild and put structured cabling and do all the prep work for a complete system. I use a system designed and manufactured by a company in my local area (Idratek.com) as the “controller” which handles heating, lighting, presence detection, intercoms, door locks etc and binds everything together. I installed everything myself and in total used about 2km worth of cat5e wiring with hidden magnetic reed switches recessed in door and window jams. I’ve then extended this by adding integrations with other things such as Hue lighting, automated curtains, zoned heating, a smart kettle and cameras etc. A particular favourite of mine is the integration with Logitech Squeezebox. If somebody rings the doorbell or calls me on Skype then the volume automatically decreases in the room I’m in so I can take the call. This system goes beyond the mainstream ad hoc automation kits such as Hue and other retail “smart” products in that it’s not just motion detection but presence. So for example if you’re in a room and the doors and windows are closed the system knows you are in that room until the door is opened. So if you’re sat still reading the light won’t turn off on you but it will still turn off automatically as soon as you leave. There’s no relying on extended 10 minute time outs. Lighting is controlled using internal and external light level sensors too so there’s no messing about adjusting the on/off times with seasonal changes. The system has all the usual smartphone controls but the idea is that it is truly “smart” in that once set up there is little intervention required. Heating is weather compensated for example and although curtains open automatically once the sun comes up, they won’t do so if you’re still in the room to prevent inadvertent flashing to neighbours. If you open a window in a room then the radiators in that room and connecting rooms are automatically switched off so you’re not wasting money heating the outside. I like to kid myself that I’m saving money but in reality the money I have spent probably exceeds any savings I will make in two lifetimes. So if I’m not saving money at least I’m being eco friendly whilst having some fun seeing how far I can push the tech. Mark W (The Senior Developer) I'm not as crazy as Andy, but I do have quite a bit of stuff: All the lights in the house are Hue. These are coupled with motion sensors (Hue motion sensors which also handily double as temperature and light sensors) but for completeness, I took all of the light switches off the walls, replaced the switches with a blank plate which I then added Hue Dimmer Switches on top of - this means that I can still use "normal" light switches when I want to. I have a Hive thermostat, and wrote a Homebridge plugin (https://github.com/mark-wade/homebridge-hive) to allow me to control it with Homekit, which is what I use to tie all my stuff together (Homebridge itself is running on a Raspberry Pi) I have a coffee machine and kettle from Smarter, which I also have Homebridge plugins for. Every room has a Sonos (Play:1 in bedroom and bathroom, Play:3 in office, kitchen and living room), again with Homebridge plugins I have automation set up to: Turns the lights and music on and off as I move throughout the house Turn the coffee machine on after I go into my office in the morning Turn everything off and turn the thermostat down once everyone has left the house But, because I use Homekit to tie it all together, I also use Siri quite a lot. "Hey Siri, turn the coffee machine on" literally never gets old. I'd really like to get a smart door lock and window blinds, but I'm still waiting for products that are actually decent to arrive on the market (there's a lot of US-centric stuff available, but here in the UK we normally need to wait a bit longer). Mark H (Support Technician and part-time Phil) I use an ISY-994i by Universal Devices, which controls *almost* all lights in the house, the door locks (Schlage Z-wave), and is integrated with my: Elk security system OneLink fire/CO alarms 3 Raspberry PI's with temperature sensors (DS2482-100 I2C to 1-Wire IC) Logitech Harmony Davis weather station (Vantage Pro 2) The mobile App I use to control this all, is Orchestrated Mobilinc. Daniel (Support Technician and Developer) A Raspberry Pis running HomeBridge 2 Amazon Dots + 3 Logitech Harmony Hubs & Elite Controllers allow me to control everything via remote controls, phone or voice. Lights: Hue Sound: Sonos in all rooms I have also dozen of homekit compatible sockets to control some none smart devices via the system. The Harmony Hub but also the Raspberry allow me also to control Dyson Fans. Since I moved to a Samsung Phone it's quite a mess because I had to find an alternative to control the homekit stuff Quite clearly, giving developers a box of gadgets and some spare time can lead to very creative things. Do you have any home automation? Do you prefer Alexa to Google Home? Do you also want to move into Andy's house? Let us know.
  21. Depression is a serious issue. You should never treat it lightly. Hear what these four men have to say about depression.
  22. Even before its release, Rajinikanth and Akshay Kumar starrer ‘2.0' has been stirring quite a storm by releasing images and videos from behind the scenes. Earlier this year, the makers shared a glimpse of their magnum-opus project, through a short clip that showed how the team is gearing up for one of biggest releases of 2018 that will be larger than life. Well, when you have two stalwarts in one frame even terms like ‘unparalleled' and ‘exceptional' are understatements. © Lyca Productions While our excitement has already reached the pinnacle, the makers are ensuring that it stays there until the movie's release, by sharing awesome videos of the film's making. Director Shankar is spreading his Midas touch on ‘2.0' and thanks to him our curiosity and excitement is growing with each passing day. And if you feel that we are exaggerating about the potential of this film, then this video is for you. For those who don't know, this movie has been shot using the latest 3D technology cameras directly. While talking about the film, Rajinikanth said “I was mesmerized when I saw the first shot in 3D on the screen. I was repeatedly watching it.” Akshay Kumar too voiced his opinion stating that “Working in 3D was much harder than I imagined. From the film set to every single shot, it was important for everything to be perfect.” The actors were joined by the film's cinematographer Nirav Shah, and lead stereographer Ray Hannisian who further discussed about the challenges and efforts that go in while shooting a 3D movie. Hannisian has earlier worked with big guns like Katy Perry, U2 and The Black Eyed Peas. © Lyca Productions As we all eagerly await the release of this promising film, this 3D featurette gives us an idea of how opulent and kickass this movie is going to be. While Rajinikanth reprises his role as Dr. Vaseegaran, Akshay Kumar is making his Kollywood debut and will play the role of his nemesis. Actress Amy Jackson too is a part of this project. After watching this video, we can say that this movie is going to be one of the biggest blockbusters of 2018, possibly surpassing the likes of ‘Baahubali' and Stephen King's ‘It'. It is slated for a January release.
  23. This week's question is inspired by liquidfractals's reply to last weeks question. What is your favorite music and which bands would you have loved to see live? We learned many things; mostly that our team have poor taste in music. Brandon (Senior tech support and development) I like a lot of different genres. I grew up with rap and pop, but I like R&B, country, electronic and rock too. Krayzie Bone of Bone Thugs n Harmony is probably my favorite rapper (and I've seen the group perform live), with Chamillionaire being a close second (and I've actually met him and talked to him one on one). I'd love to see Pentatonix live, that's on my bucket list I'd say. Mark H (Tech support) My tastes in music are quite eclectic. Given my age, "Rock & Roll" is at the top of the list, but after that it's "anything except Rap and Country". Who I'd like to see? Well.... I did have an invite from an older friend to attend Woodstock with him and his even older brother. Problem being, I was still very much a minor. Dad put the kibosh on that idea. I do wish I had gone. Marc S (Tech Support) I have lots of different genres of music that I listen to. Pretty much everything from Classical to hard trance, Whitney Houston to Marilyn Manson. I think if I was forced to pick just one, then it would likely be Progressive, or uplifting Trance. I could listen to this all day and night, and have produced some tracks, alongside one of my friends in the past. Rhett (Cloud Support) That's a hard one for me, I have kids, and a wife, we listen to all sorts of music, I'm not often in control of the station 😂 Matt (Senior Developer) Music is a huge part of my life. I listen to music all day while I work and I always have a pair of headphones in my pocket. My tastes change considerably depending on my mood but Sigur Ros, Radiohead, The National and Metallica are often on repeat. I quite like Apple Music as it often suggests bands that I've not heard of. I used to be a guitarist in a Metallica cover band in school. Thankfully it was before the internet existed so no shameful footage exists of those days. Mark W (Senior Developer) <looks over to now playing... "Miley Cyrus"> Maybe I won't take part this week... Jennifer (Designer) I listen to a lot of different genres and artists. Honestly my music tastes depend on my mood and what I'm focusing on. Thank god for Spotify. I listen to nearly everything except for Death Metal and Country (although I'm sure there are exceptions to the rule for both of them). I tend to lean to female voices over male voices most of the time. I have a special love for Five Nights At Freddys Fan songs, Portal Music and Pink Fluffy Unicorns (dancing on rainbows). I'd say some of my top artist loves would be: Amanda Palmer, Janelle Monae, Lily Allen, Nicki Minaj, The Pretty Reckless, Muse, Black Veil Brides, Fall Out Boy, Maroon 5 and Skillet Daniel (Senior tech support and development) All kind of electronic music (DnB, Electro, Frenchcore... literally everything) Stuart (Senior tech support and development) I listen mostly to classical music (being married to an Opera singer does that to you). I do also enjoy listening to rock and metal. One band I would have loved to see live is Queen, but unfortunately that was a little (not much) before my time. Drop us a line and let us know what your favorite music is. If you have any questions for the team that you'd like to be featured, let us know and we'll queue them up!
  24. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on September 30, 2017. Photograph: Getty Images BEIJING: Washington has opened channels to North Korea to find out if the regime is ready to talk about giving up its nuclear weapons, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Saturday. Speaking after a day of talks with China´s President Xi Jinping and top diplomats, Tillerson told reporters that US officials are in touch with Pyongyang. The disclosure follows an escalating war of words between US President Donald Trump and North Korean strongman Kim Jong-Un, and Tillerson issued a call for calm. Asked how he could know whether the North would even contemplate responding to new sanctions by coming to the table, the US envoy said: "We are probing, so stay tuned." Washington has no diplomatic ties with Kim´s autocratic regime, and has been leaning on Beijing to rein in its neighbour´s behaviour through tougher sanctions. But Tillerson said US diplomats do not rely on China as a go-between in overtures to North Korea, and have themselves talked directly through "our own channels." "We ask," he said. "We have lines of communication with Pyongyang. We´re not in a dark situation, a blackout, we have a couple, three channels open to Pyongyang." "We can talk to them, we do talk to them," he said. The US has not ruled out the use of force to compel Pyongyang to halt missile and nuclear tests, and last week Trump threatened to "totally destroy" the country. But privately senior figures admit the military options do not look promising, with ally South Korea´s densely populated capital Seoul in range of the North´s artillery. Rocket man Tillerson, meanwhile, has been a proponent of a campaign of "peaceful pressure", using US and UN sanctions and working with China to turn the screw on the regime. But his efforts have been overshadowed by an extraordinary war of words, with Trump mocking Kim as "little Rocket Man" and Kim branding the US leader a "dotard". Even as Tillerson met Xi and China´s top diplomats State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the North´s propaganda agency fired a new barrage of insults. The statement proclaimed Trump an "old psychopath" bent on the "suicidal act of inviting a nuclear disaster that will reduce America to a sea of flames". North Korea´s rhetoric has been backed by a provocative series of ballistic missile tests and on September 3 it conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test. In the decade since the North´s first nuclear explosion, it has made rapid progress in developing the kind of missile technology that would allow it to hit US targets. Washington, backed by most of the international community, has declared North Korea´s programme unacceptable, fearing that its own vast arsenal will not deter Kim from attack. With the world on edge, fears are growing that a miscalculation from either side could trigger a renewed deadly conflict on the divided Korean peninsula. Some recent tests saw North Korean missiles flying over Japan en route to the Pacific, and its latest underground detonation seems to have been of a powerful hydrogen bomb. Observers have expressed concern that if the North carries out an atmospheric nuclear test over the ocean, Washington will feel obliged to take risky military action. Heated rhetoric But Tillerson said that decision would be up to Trump alone and that "as far as I know the commander in chief has issued no red lines." Tillerson instead called for calm, singling out Pyongyang´s missile tests for criticism, but not rushing to defend Trump´s own heated rhetoric and bellicose tweets. "The whole situation is a bit overheated right now. I think everyone would like for it to calm down," he said in response to a question about Trump´s threats. "I think if North Korea would stop firing all the missiles, that would calm down things a lot," he said. Tillerson, who was in Beijing to plan for a summit that Xi will host for Trump in November, welcomed recent measures taken by China to crack down on its neighbour. The opening remarks at his three meetings with Xi, Yang and Wang contained no reference to North Korea, but he said afterwards the issue had been discussed. US leaders criticised Beijing for taking too soft a line with Pyongyang, but in recent weeks China has taken more drastic measures to cut off trade and finance. And in public, at least, the Chinese officials were all smiles for their guest. Xi touted what he said was his "good working relationship and personal friendship" with Trump and predicted that the summit "will be a special, wonderful and successful one".
  25. US defence minister James Mattis delivers a speech during a press conference at the Nato Defense Council meeting at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, June 29, 2017. AFP/John Thys/Files NEW DELHI: US Defence Secretary James Mattis during his visit to capital city Delhi this week is slated to hold talks pertaining to India's collaboration with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and demand it put an end to the alliance, Geo News reported. Mattis' visit will be the first one by a top state official since US President Donald Trump assumed office in January, earlier this year. The matter of Indo-TTP relationship was brought to light by an Indian media outlet, which said the American federal defence chief will be discussing with top state officials the issue of terrorism in South Asia, the trilateral strategic relationship between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India, as well as the aforementioned banned outfit during his trip. However, the publication acknowledged that it will be challenging for Pakistan's eastside neighbour to accept Mattis' demand to sever ties of cooperation with TTP since India's linkage with the banned terrorist group is a vital element against Pakistan with regard to the protracted tensions in Jammu & Kashmir. "Severing relations with TTP will mean India surrendering an active card in Pakistan and a role in Afghanistan as TTP additionally provides access to certain Afghan Taliban factions. This [?] ensures that no solution for peace in Afghanistan can be cobbled together without India?s help," Bharat Karnad ? an author and blogger and a national security expert ? wrote in the Hindustan Times. The former head of the US Central Command "appreciates Pakistan?s indispensability as a base for military operations to bring the Taliban in Afghanistan to their knees", the report continued. India is the 'world's largest hypocrisy' Maleeha Lodhi ? Pakistan?s permanent representative to the UN ? during her address to the General Assembly (UNGA) early Sunday morning had said India is the "mother of terrorism in South Asia". Voicing her rebuttal to Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj's comment that Pakistan is a "pre-eminent export factory for terror", Lodhi claimed that India's posture is that of a predator. India 'mother of terrorism' in South Asia, Lodhi hits back at Swaraj Pakistan's Permanent Rep to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, emphasised that India should stop supporting and aiding terrorism across the border Alleging that Swaraj slandered against Pakistan in her comments earlier in the day, she said that Pakistan desires to resolve problems through constructive talks, which are conditional to India doing away with its policy of terrorism. Lodhi also emphasised that India ? a nation ruled by fascist ideology ? should stop supporting and aiding terrorism and related activities across the border. India has fought wars with or in all of its neighbouring countries, she said, slamming the 'largest democracy' as "the world's largest hypocrisy". "Indian leaders have Muslim blood on their hands," Lodhi added. Pakistan calls for an inquiry into the war crimes perpetrated by India in Occupied Kashmir (IoK), the Pakistani UN representative stated, noting that forceful occupation of the troubled, conflict-ridden region is illegal. "Kashmir is not part of India," Lodhi stressed, adding that the global community needs to collectively make India stop violating the ceasefire arrangement between the two countries. 'Valued and influential partner' Fighter jets, drone deals, and shared concerns over Afghanistan's security challenges look set to dominate the agenda of Mattis' visit to India. The US defence minister will be arriving in Delhi late Monday and is expected to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nirmala Sitharaman ? the new defence minister. "The United States views India as a valued and influential partner, with broad mutual interests extending well beyond South Asia," a Pentagon statement said. Trump and Modi had met in Washington in June and Mattis' visit is a sign "the political leadership in both countries place defence cooperation as a top priority", Mukesh Aghi ? the president of the US India Strategic Partnership Forum ? told AFP. Delhi and Washington share concerns about Afghanistan, and last month, Trump announced a new strategy for the war-torn country, which cleared the way for the deployment of thousands more US troops there. The billionaire businessman-turned-president has urged India to boost assistance to Afghanistan's economy and lambasted Delhi's arch-rival Pakistan for offering safe haven to "agents of chaos". Mattis "will express US appreciation for India's important contributions toward Afghanistan's democracy, stability, prosperity, and security", the Pentagon said. India has long vied with Pakistan for influence in Afghanistan, building dams, roads and a new parliament in the troubled country. Last year, it offered some $1 billion in aid. Delhi frequently accuses Islamabad of stirring up violence in Afghanistan and harbouring militant groups.