U.S. ready to open Jerusalem embassy in May


WASHINGTON: The United States said on Friday it will open its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem in May, a move from Tel Aviv that reverses decades of U.S. policy and is bound to trouble U.S. allies who have already objected.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced last December that the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, infuriating even Washington’s Arab allies and dismaying Palestinians who want the eastern part of the city as their capital.

No other country has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Trump’s decision has sown discord between the United States and the European Union over Middle East peace efforts.

“We are excited about taking this historic step, and look forward with anticipation to the May opening,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, noting that it will coincide with Israel’s 70th anniversary.

The embassy in Jerusalem will be gradually expanded in existing consular facilities in the Arnona neighborhood, while the search for a permanent site has already begun for what Nauert called a “longer-term undertaking.”

The interim embassy will have office space for the ambassador and a small staff and, by the end of 2019, a new embassy annex on the Arnona compound will be opened, Nauert said in a statement.

The consulate in East Jerusalem will continue to serve Palestinians, and for security reasons U.S. Ambassador David Friedman will continue living in the residence in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv, and commute to the relocated embassy, another official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

A May opening is earlier than expected – U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told the Israeli parliament last month that the move would take place by the end of 2019.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Friday’s U.S. announcement as “a great day for the people of Israel”.

Palestinians reacted to the news with anger.

“This is an unacceptable step. Any unilateral move will not give legitimacy to anyone and will be an obstacle to any effort to create peace in the region,” said Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, who is in the United States until Saturday.

The status of Jerusalem — home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions — has been one of the thorniest issues in long-running Mideast peace efforts.

In a speech on Friday to a gathering of conservatives in suburban Washington, Trump recalled his controversial decision, saying he withstood enormous pressure to make the move.

“I put the word out that I may do it. I was hit by more countries and more pressure and more people calling, begging me ‘Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it,’” Trump said.

“I said we have to do it. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do, we have to do it. And I did it.”

Clashes erupted in Gaza and the West Bank earlier on Friday, in a weekly protest against Trump’s stance on Jerusalem.

Palestinian health officials have said at least 20 Palestinians, most of them in Gaza, have been killed in protests against Trump’s decision since he announced it on Dec. 6.

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TAPI gas pipeline project launched


HERAT: Ground-breaking ceremony of Afghanistan section of landmark Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline project was held in Herat on Friday.

It was attended by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, India’s Minister of State External affairs Mobashar Jawed Akbar, NATO and US Forces Commander Gen. John Nicholson and other high-ranking officials.

Addressing the ceremony, PM Abbasi said Pakistan was committed to long-term economic goals which guarantee stability in the region. He wished Afghanistan success for its economic projects.

The Afghan president in his address said Afghanistan will leave no stone unturned to implement the project.

He said today Herat gives the message of confidence, hope and rehabilitation to Afghanistan and the region.

Ghani said this project was the start of trust in Afghanistan. The project would improve regional cooperation and will move us from poverty to prosperity.

The Turkmenistan president meanwhile stressed the need for increasing his country’s cooperation with Afghanistan.

He said the implementation of the TAPI project is the biggest achievement for the countries involved and it has a good impact on Afghanistan’s security and economy.

India’s Minister of State External Affairs at the event said his country is committed to supporting the project.

Earlier, a ceremony on completion of Turkmenistan section of TAPI pipeline project was held at Turkmen city of Serhetabad.

An agreement on Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan power line was also signed on the occasion.

A Pakistani cultural troupe performed at the occasion along with their counterparts from partner TAPI countries.

Addressing the ceremony, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi expressed the confidence that TAPI gas pipeline project would provide shared prosperity, unite people, provide socio-economic development and peace dividends in the region.

He said Pakistan has been able to overcome its challenges and is on the path of economic progress. It will achieve six percent growth this year and the CPEC would provide most efficient connectivity to the region.

Abbasi said Pakistan has added ten thousand megawatts of power in the last four years. By the end of next year, Pakistan would be adding 2500 kilometers of six lane motorways to provide connectivity in the region.

He said Pakistan is a huge market for investors and provides peace, security and stability.

He described groundbreaking of TAPI project as a historic occasion, which recreates historical linkages that the region had.

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Salman Khan says he cannot afford to get married


Salman Khan, still considered Bollywood’s most eligible bachelor, spoke about his marriage at a recently held event and said that he could not afford it.

“Marriage has become such a big thing. You spend lakhs and crores of money in getting somebody married. I can’t afford. That’s the reason I am single man,” he said.

Salman Khan has romanced almost every heroine in the last three decades. But even at 52, Salman is not ready to give up his bachelor tag and is more than happy with his single status.

From Katrina Kaif to Iulia Vantur, Salman has been linked to many in the recent past, but the actor isn’t ready to take the plunge. Salman is also not someone who goes around revealing interesting things about him.

The ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’ star had let go off his brooding image and was seen deep in discussion. Salman was all smiles wearing a tee shirt with a pair of distressed jeans and had a leather jacket.

Salman is rumoured to be dating Romanian TV host Iulia Vantur. Neither have made their relationship official till now and it seems that Salman is not too eager to let go of his bachelorhood anytime soon.

The fact that his fans have always referred to him as Bhai, is a known fact. Salman also revealed the actual story behind it.

He said his brother Sohail called him Bhai, and even his friends started calling him Bhai. Now it so happens that even seniors have started calling me Bhai.

He also said that there were other nicknames that people called him with before Bhai stuck to him. It was this name that his fans really liked and it became everyone’s favourite.

“From Salman, Salu, to Salle, to Sallu Bhai, to Bhai was quite a journey,” he said.

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Actor Stephen Fry reveals battle with prostate cancer


LONDON: British actor and comedian Stephen Fry revealed on Friday he has been battling prostate cancer, adding that he was currently “fit and well”.

The 60-year-old wrote on Twitter that over the last two months he had “been in the throes of a rather unwelcome and unexpected adventure”.

“I’m sorry I haven’t felt able to talk about it (until) now, but here I am explaining what has been going on,” he said, posting a link to a video message on his personal website.

Fry said he underwent surgery to remove part of his prostate and lymph nodes in January, and “it all seemed to go pretty well”.

“As far as we know it’s all been got,” he said, adding: “For the moment I’m fit and well and happy.”

Fry, who hosted last year’s Bafta film awards and pulled out of presenting this month’s ceremony for the first time in years, described the cancer as an “aggressive little bugger”.

He revealed it was discovered after visiting his doctor for a routine flu jab before Christmas.

Fry, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for playing gay writer Oscar Wilde in the 1997 movie “Wilde”, said he had been staying out of the public eye as he continued to recover.

“I’ve been keeping my head down as much as possible because you want to get better without strangers sending you cards and letters because you have to reply to them all,” he added.

Fry first made his name acting in cult British television shows “Blackadder” and “Jeeves and Wooster”, and has starred in more than two dozen films, as well as performing on stage, writing books and directing.

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105 girls missing after Boko Haram school attack: parents


KANO: More than 100 girls are missing after a Boko Haram attack on a school in northeast Nigeria earlier this week, parents told AFP on Friday.

Parents in Dapchi, in Yobe state, said had they set up a support group after Monday’s raid, which has revived memories of the 2014 abduction of more than 200 girls in Chibok.

“Our first step was to compile a comprehensive list of all the missing girls. So far, we have compiled the names of 105,” said Bashir Manzo, the chairman of the newly created group.

Heavily armed militants stormed the boarding school in the remote town, forcing terrified students to flee into the surrounding bush.

But with many girls failing to return home, fears are growing that dozens of the girls have been kidnapped.

Hopes were raised on Wednesday evening, when the spokesman for Yobe state governor Ibrahim Gaidam confirmed the abduction and said “some” of the girls had been rescued.

But Gaidam on Thursday questioned whether there had been an abduction, while his spokesman apologised and said they had been “misled” for publishing inaccurate information.

Manzo, whose 16-year-old daughter, Fatima, is among the missing, said the schoolgirls’ mothers and fathers would seek a meeting with Gaidam.

“We believe he was misinformed. The school authorities from the beginning denied and kept denying that our daughters were taken,” he added.

“We will see the governor and seek his help, as well as anyone who matters that can in one way or another assist in ensuring the freedom of our girls.”

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CM Sindh vows to resist winding up of Pakistan Textile City Company


KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Friday strongly vowed to resist the shifting of the Pakistan Textile City Company (PTC) at Port Qasim, which he said was being destroyed under a under a pre-planned conspiracy so it can be shifted somewhere else in the country.

The chief minister said this during a meeting with a delegation of National Assembly Standing Committee on Commerce and Textile led by Muhammad Siraj Khan. The standing committee informed him that the revival PTC was recommended during their meeting on January 4 and earlier on Friday as well.

After a detailed discussion, the chief minister decided that the winding up of PTC was not in the interest of the country or the province, and the Sindh government will support its revival so that employment opportunities for 80,000 workers can be created.

He said that the land of PTC measuring 1250 acres belongs to Sindh government, and the provincial government owns 16 percent share in the city.  The federal government had formed a company which borrowed and drained over Rs1 billion from National Bank of Pakistan due to ill-planning.

He said the federal government took the unrealistic decision of liquidating the company and then sell out the land to retire the loans. He questioned how the federal government could sell land which does not belong to it, and went on saying that the provincial government would not allow this broad day light robbery

He categorically said that the Sindh government is ready to revive the PTC, and pay the liability as per their share, but the rest would have to be borne by the federal government.

The chief minister directed the Chief Secretary Sindh to write a letter to Barrister Zafarullah Khan, Chairman Winding-Up Committee and apprise the decision of the provincial government. He also directed to write to Port Qasim Authority and take up the issue of illegal allotment of Sindh government land to different parties and leasing it to PTC.

CM Sindh also said that the provincial government would extend full financial support to PTC in case of proposed change in the financial and capital structure of the company.

It may be noted that the Pakistan Textile Company Limited was initiated in 2004 but the development work started in 2007 with initial equity of Rs1.10 billion. However, the equity was not deemed sufficient due to the size of the project, and the company offered 100 percent share which were not subscribed by the majority shareholders.

The company initially faced non-availability of requisite infrastructure and subsequently utilised Rs2.4 billion which were blocked by the NBP. The company was provided land by Sindh government area as share of the provincial government which included the returns from the company.

However, the company spent Rs458.80 million on leveling and grading land and Rs471 million for construction of 3.2 kilometre pipeline, which now requires additional Rs1.5 billion for completion. The company has accrued liability of Rs. 2.4 billion.

Therefore, the prime minister has approved the winding up the company after due process and directed to constitute a committee to provide recommendations for further action

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Pakistan not on FATF’s terrorist financing watch-list, public announcements reveal


PARIS: Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global money-laundering watchdog, did not place Pakistan back on terrorist financing watchlist as reported by a section of Indian and international media, a public statement detailing the outcome of the body’s plenary meeting revealed.

As part of its on-going review of compliance with the AML/CFT  (countering money laundering and combating financing for terrorism) standards, the FATF identifies jurisdictions that have strategic AML/CFT deficiencies and according to reports in Indian media, a decision had been made to include Pakistan in the list.

But the list of jurisdictions identified to have strategic AML/CFT deficiencies does not include Pakistan and instead lists Ethiopia, Iraq, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Vanuatu and Yemen.

 

MORE TO FOLLOW….

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Trump cracks joke about bald spot


NATIONAL HARBOR, United States: US President Donald Trump made a rare public comment on his enigmatic straw mane Friday, jokingly admitting that he suffers from male-pattern hair loss — a bald spot.

“I try like hell to hide that bald spot folks, I work hard,” Trump quipped during a speech to conservatives just outside Washington, in an unusual flash of self-deprecating humor.

“It doesn’t look bad, hey, we’re hanging in,” he added, giving a swirl to the cheering audience.

Trump’s elaborate combing regimen has long been the butt of jokes and speculation.

A tell-all book about Trump’s White House claimed his daughter Ivanka was in the habit of describing the mechanics of the combover to friends:

“It doesn’t look bad, hey, we’re hanging in,” he added, giving a swirl to the cheering audience.

Trump’s elaborate combing regimen has long been the butt of jokes and speculation.

A tell-all book about Trump’s White House claimed his daughter Ivanka was in the habit of describing the mechanics of the combover to friends:

“An absolutely clean pate — a contained island after scalp-reduction surgery — surrounded by a furry circle of hair around the sides and front, from which all ends are drawn up to meet in the center and then swept back and secured by a stiffening spray.”

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Trump to hit North Korea with ‘largest-ever’ sanctions


WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump will on Friday announce sanctions against 56 North Korea-linked shipping and trade entities, hailing the “largest-ever” package of sanctions on the Pyongyang regime.

Trump will use a speech to conservatives just outside Washington to step up his campaign of “maximum pressure,” according to excerpts.

“Today I am announcing that we are launching the LARGEST-EVER set of new sanctions on the North Korean regime,” Trump was to say according to the White House.

The measures include sanctions against “56 vessels, shipping companies, and trade businesses” that Trump will accuse of “assisting North Korea in evading sanctions.”

Trump’s administration is locked in a nuclear standoff with North Korea, which is trying to develop missiles that could deliver a nuke to major cities in the United States.

The latest sanctions are designed to put the squeeze on North Korea’s already precarious economy and fuel supply.

The North Korean military and broader economy depend heavily on imports of coal and oil from China and Russia.

China has steadfastly rebuffed Washington’s calls for a full oil embargo — fearing the chaotic collapse of the Pyongyang regime — but has agreed to caps agreed at the United Nations.

The timing of the new measures coincides with the arrival in South Korea of Trump’s daughter Ivanka.

She is attending the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics, which have taken place against the backdrop of the crisis.

The 36-year-old businesswoman and model-turned-policy-advisor has been tasked with reaffirming US ties with North Korea, which have been strained over how to deal with the North.

She was hosted in Seoul by President Moon Jae-in, who has long advocated talks rather than confrontation with North Korea.

South Korean officials, who sit in a capital well within range of conventional North Korea artillery, have been spooked by Trump’s easy talk of military confrontation.

US officials worry meanwhile that North Korea is luring Moon into talks that are designed to go nowhere.

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CM Sindh vows to continue efforts for promotion of film, restoration of cinema


KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Friday said that the provincial government would continue its efforts for promotion of films and restoration of cinema.

The chief minister was addressing at the inauguration of the ‘Karachi Sub Ka’ – Asia Peace Film Festival organised by Culture department in collaboration with Information department at Expo Centre Karachi.

He said his government would be organising such film festival to promote films in the country as it had become a provincial subject after the 18th Amendment.

He said that the theme of the festival `Karachi Sub ka’ is an inspiring and appealing one. “Karachi being a moderate plural society belongs to each and every one living here, doing business here, linked here directly or indirectly,” he said.

“The ownership of this city would further foster fraternity and brotherhood among the people of different languages, thoughts and religions living here peacefully.”

The chief minister lauded the efforts of Minister for Culture Syed Sardar Shah for organising such events which show the real harmony in our society.

He vowed the provincial government would continue its efforts for promotion of films and restoration of cinema industry in the province.

Over fifty countries are participating in the festival and more than 109 pictures would be screened.

CM Sindh expressed satisfaction and said the event is excellent opportunity for sharing technological experiences, script writing, picture techniques, working in different atmosphere and exploring the film market in different countries.

“I feel proud to see the events like literary festival, food festival, film festival, musical programmes, literary sittings and others in the city that was once the target of terrorists, mafias, outlaws and gangsters,” he said.

He said that today the city is emerging as a city of peace, tranquility, trade, industry and seat of learning and top of it city of lights..

CM Sindh said that the film festival also helps promote tourism which is evident from this film festival that over 400 people of different countries have come here to witness, participate and enjoy this film festival.

Earlier, the chief minister launched the four-day film festival being held from February 23 to 26, 2018.

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PSL3: Lahore wins toss and put Multan into bat first


DUBAI: Lahore Qalandars Skipper Brendon Mccullum have won the toss and invited Multan Sultans to bat first in the third match of the Pakistan super league (PSL) season three.

The newly added franchise Multan have started their campaign on a winning note as they beat Peshawar by 7 wickets in the opener of the tournament on 22 February.

More to follow…

 

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UN wants prosecutions for South Sudan war crimes


NEW YORK: A UN rights commission in South Sudan said Friday there was sufficient evidence to charge at least 41 senior officers and officials with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

South Sudan’s four-year-old civil war has been characterised by extreme brutality and attacks on civilians.

But no high-ranking officials have been held to account, despite African Union (AU) promises to establish a special court to try alleged crimes.

“The court could be set up straight away and the prosecutor could begin working on indictments,” said Yasmin Sooka, chairperson of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.

“Under the peace agreement, those indicted can no longer hold or stand for office. Ultimately this is the only way to stop the rampant devastation of millions of human lives by South Sudan’s leaders,” she said.

The commission said it had forwarded a confidential list of suspects to the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Those named include three state governors, 33 generals and five colonels.

The report — based on 58,000 documents and 230 witness statements — is a litany of horrors and extraordinary cruelty. Some victims were beheaded, burned alive or had their throats cut, others had their eyes gouged out or were tortured.

Sexual violence was particularly prevalent with numerous accounts of gang rape and child rape, and in “cases reminiscent of Bosnia” of people forced to watch or participate in the rape of loved ones.

Men were also attacked, with some castrated and others raped.

‘Sufficient evidence’

“The Commission believes the prevalence of sexual violence against men in South Sudan is far more extensive than documented; what we see so far is likely just the tip of the iceberg,” said Sooka.

The UN commission said soldiers and officials loyal to both President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar were both responsible for crimes.

It dismissed arguments that indisciplined soldiers might be to blame saying both the government and rebel “military hierarchies functioned effectively in terms of issuance, transmission, and respect for orders”.

The commission said its investigations had focussed on incidents where it could make “the case for individual command responsibility for widespread or systematic attacks on civilians.”

The commission also found widespread looting and deliberate ethnic attacks on entire communities and villages with the “destruction of dwellings… on an industrial scale.”

“There is a clear pattern of ethnic persecution for the most part by government forces who should be pursued for crimes against humanity,” said Andrew Clapham, one of the commissioners.

Describing South Sudan’s justice system as “dysfunctional” the commission called on the AU to establish the ‘Hybrid Court’, modelled on tribunals in Sierra Leone, Cambodia and elsewhere.

“There is sufficient evidence to conclude that… the parties to the conflict are deliberately targeting civilians on the basis of their ethnic identity and by means of killings, abductions, rape and sexual violence, as well as the destruction of villages and looting. These acts constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity,” the commission’s report said.

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Pakistan ready to respond to Indian adventures, says Zardari


ISLAMABAD:  Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Friday said that India’s recent success in international diplomacy is more because of incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government’s inefficiency than the neighbouring country’s excellence on the diplomatic front, ARY News reported.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, the former president said that the Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is lobbying with different countries around the world against Pakistan but our current government has failed to effectively respond to this challenge.

“They (the PML-N government) are deceived by the idea that they can work with him or make Greater Punjab but this won’t happen, we will not allow this to happen,” said Zardari.

He added that in case India resorts to any misadventure against Pakistan “we are ready to respond to the challenge in a befitting manner”.

The PPP co-chairman was of the view that India’s current government is turning a secular country created by Nehru and Gandhi into a Hindu Rashtra.

More to follow…

 

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Australia’s lynn averts shoulder injury


MELBOURNE: Australian opener Chris Lynn will not require surgery to make his right shoulder stable after he dislocated it on Wednesday while diving in the field against New Zealand.

The 27-year-old has had three surgeries on his left shoulder and appeared to be protecting it when he fell awkwardly during Australia’s victory over New Zealand in the final of the Twenty20 tri-series at Eden Park in Auckland.

He was immediately taken to hospital for preliminary scans. Lynn had further scans when he returned to Australia.

 “Chris has undergone scans which confirmed some of the expected signs of a shoulder disorders including bleeding in the joint along with some cartilage and ligament damage,” Cricket Australia Sports Science Sports Medicine Manager Alex Kountouris said in a statement.

“After consulting a specialist, at this stage we have confirmed that Chris does not need to undergo stabilisation surgery on his shoulder.”

Lynn, who is well-known for his hard-hitting, was ruled out of the Pakistan Super League but had hoped to be fit for the Indian Premier League competition that runs from April 7 – May 27. He was picked by Lahore Qalandars.

“He will now undergo extensive rehabilitation to give us a better idea of how his shoulder will cope with return to normal function, with a view to being available to play in the IPL and the short-form series in the UK in June,” Kountouris added.

“We will have a better understanding of how possible this will be in a few weeks, once we know how he is responding to the rehabilitation.”

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Two top White House advisers may leave over tensions with Trump: sources


WASHINGTON: Longstanding friction between U.S. President Donald Trump and two top aides, the National Security Adviser and the Chief of Staff, has grown to a point that either or both might quit soon, four senior administration officials said.

Both H.R. McMaster and John Kelly are military men considered by U.S. political observers as moderating influences on the president by imposing a routine on the White House. They have also convinced Trump of the importance of international alliances, particularly NATO, which he has criticized as not equally sharing its burdens with the United States.

However, all the officials were quick to add that the tensions could blow over, at least for now, as have previous episodes of discord between the president and other top officials who have fallen out of favor, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Asked about sources saying that either National Security Adviser McMaster or Chief of Staff Kelly, or both, might be leaving, White House spokesman Raj Shah on Thursday did not address the possibility. He said, “the president has full confidence in each member of the team.” Press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Tuesday that Trump “still has confidence in General McMaster.”

Neither Kelly nor McMaster responded to requests for comment on whether they would remain in the administration.

Trump swatted McMaster in a Twitter post after his comments at a European conference last weekend that he was certain Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election campaign, which Trump has been reluctant to acknowledge.

Kelly and McMaster have chafed at Trump’s treatment of them in public and in private, which both at times have considered insulting, said all four officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The current and most potent irritant, they said, is Kelly’s effort, supported by McMaster, to prevent administration officials who have been unable to obtain permanent high-level security clearances from having access to the government’s most closely held secrets.

Under pressure to act last week, Kelly strengthened the security clearance process in response to a scandal involving Rob Porter, a former official accused of domestic abuse by two ex-wives. Staffers whose interim clearances have been pending since June would have them revoked on Friday.

That would bar Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner from reading the president’s daily intelligence brief, which often contains information on covert operations and intelligence collected from spy satellites, spies, and close U.S. allies.

“There have been running battles between Trump and his generals,” said one of the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Kelly is a retired Marine general and McMaster an Army lieutenant general.

“But the clearance business is personal, and if Trump sets special rules for family members, I‘m not sure if Kelly and McMaster would salute,” the official said.

White House officials were working to find a compromise that would allow Kushner to continue his work as a senior adviser to Trump, another source familiar with the situation said, also speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House matters.

Under current law and regulation, the president has authority to grant any level of clearance to anyone he chooses, but officials wanted to avoid that option, this official said. There was no sense that Kushner would be leaving his job.

Kelly declined to comment on anybody’s specific security clearance. He said in a statement that he had told Kushner days ago that he had “full confidence in his ability to continue performing his duties in his foreign policy portfolio.”

Kelly said those duties include overseeing the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and serving as an integral part of the U.S. relationship with Mexico.

McMaster’s support for Kelly on the security clearance issue is only his latest difference with Trump. Officials in the Defense Department said there have been discussions about him returning to the Army, possibly as head of the Forces Command at Fort Bragg, in North Carolina. McMaster, 55, previously served as deputy commander there.Although he has been supportive of Trump on many issues, including threatening North Korea with military action, McMaster has taken a harder stance on Russia than his boss.

After U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians, a Russian propaganda arm and two other firms on Feb. 16 with tampering in the election to boost Trump, McMaster said the evidence of Moscow’s meddling was “incontrovertible.”

Trump publicly chastised McMaster in a Twitter post, saying McMaster “forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted by the Russians.”

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Moeen’s anxiety for Test cricket after depressing Ashes crowd


England’s all-rounder Moeen Ali said that he fears for the future of test cricket, claiming the “disappointing” turnout in the Ashes series in Australia had opened his eyes to the struggles of the game’s longer format.

While test matches around the world have seen falling attendances in recent years, the rivalry between England and Australia has usually managed to draw in the fans.

Cricket Australia said after the visitors’ recent 4-0 defeat that more than 865,000 people had attended the five-test series, the highest since Ashes (1936-37) .

 The day-night Adelaide test counted 200,000 spectators while 88,172 people squeezed into the MCG on Boxing Day.

Nevertheless, Moeen is worried.

“I feared in the Ashes actually…. The crowds were quite disappointing,” Moeen said on his return to the England squad for a one-day series against New Zealand after being rested for the Twenty20 tri-series.

”There were a couple of big days, but even when they (Australia) won the Ashes there weren’t that many celebrating. That’s when I thought, ‘Actually, we’re struggling a bit’.

“It is a worry. Test cricket is the pinnacle. It is in my opinion where the best players play. You can really see who is the best. It’s been a worry for a while, but Australia really opened my eyes.”

Test cricket has been trying to lure in punters in a number of ways, including the introduction of day-night tests, four-day matches and a new championship.

 “When the idea of four-day tests came up I was against it because it’s always been five days. But maybe it has to change. I don’t really like the pink-ball tests, but maybe if it works and brings crowds in it has to be done.”

England take on New Zealand in the first of five one-day internationals in Hamilton on Sunday.

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Steve Jobs’ pre-Apple job application could fetch $50,000 at auction


LOS ANGELES: A job application filled out by Steve Jobs more than four decades ago that reflects the Apple founder’s aspirations to work in technology and design will go up for auction next month.

With an estimated value of about $50,000, the one-page application from 1973, complete with spelling and punctuation errors, lists his name as “Steven jobs” and address as “reed college,” the Oregon college he attended briefly, Boston auction house RR Auction said on Thursday.

Under a section titled “Special Abilities,” Jobs wrote “tech or design engineer. digital.—from Bay near Hewitt-Packard,” a reference to pioneering California technology company Hewlett-Packard.

The document but does not state what position Jobs was applying for. Jobs and friend Steve Wozniak founded Apple about three years later. Jobs died of cancer in 2011 at the age of 56.

Though Jobs responded on the form that he had a driver’s license, he said his access to transportation was “possible, but not probable.” Next to “Phone:” he wrote “none.”

The document will be part of a pop culture sale by RR Auction that will take place between March 8 and 15.

Two other Jobs items will appear in the same auction – a Mac OS X technical manual signed by Jobs in 2001, valued at $25,000, and a signed 2008 newspaper clipping, valued at $15,000, with a photo of Jobs and a headline that reads “New, faster iPhone will sell for $199.”

The auction will also feature an original fingerprint card from Jimi Hendrix’s 1969 arrest in Toronto on drug charges, signed by the late rock musician, which is valued at $15,000.

It will include a love letter from the late British singer Amy Winehouse to her husband Blake Fielder-Civil. In addition to the text, the one-page Winehouse letter features a sketch of a baby crocodile surrounded by hearts.

“Do nothing ‘til you hear from me handsome, I need your arms around me so I can inhale, open my eyes, breathe my heart’s breathe out,” the letter reads, in part. It is valued at about $4,000.

Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning in London in 2011 at age of 27.

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Soccer is basically medicine, some researchers argue


LONDON: Compared to inactive people, recreational soccer players have lower cholesterol, blood pressure and resting heart rates as well as less fat mass, a research review suggests.

Compared to some other forms of exercise, including running and Zumba, soccer may also be just as beneficial to health, with added social, motivational and competitive benefits, the study team writes in British Journal of Sports Medicine.

“Soccer training is an effective broad-spectrum prevention and treatment of lifestyle diseases for participants across the lifespan, independent of age, gender, fitness level or soccer skills,” said senior study author Peter Krustrup, a professor of sport and health sciences at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense.

“Altogether, comprehensive research shows that soccer is medicine, soccer is for almost all and soccer is for life,” Krustrup said by email.

Exercise has long been a cornerstone of the non-pharmaceutical treatment approaches to a range of diseases influenced by lifestyle habits such as high blood pressure, diabetes and bone deterioration. Plenty of previous research also links high-intensity interval training to improved cardiovascular fitness and strength training to gains in bone and muscle health.

For the current study, researchers examined data from 31 previously published studies of the effects of soccer on blood pressure, resting heart rate, body fat composition, metabolic health and jumping ability. Across all of the studies, researchers looked for the size of the effect soccer appeared to have on these different aspects of health and compared it to no exercise or to other forms of exercise.

Soccer was much better for blood pressure than being inactive. When researchers looked at the “top” blood pressure number, known as systolic blood pressure – the force blood exerts against artery walls when the heart beats – they found soccer was associated with average decreases of 4.2 mmHg (millimeters of mercury).

With the “bottom” number, known as diastolic blood pressure – which indicates how much pressure the blood exerts on artery walls when the heart is at rest between beats – soccer was linked to average decreases of 3.89 mmHg.

The size of the benefit tied to soccer appeared even bigger among people who had slightly elevated blood pressure or already had mild hypertension.

The American Heart Association defines hypertension, or high blood pressure, as a systolic reading of 130 mmHg or higher and diastolic readings of 80 mmHg or higher.

When people had slightly elevated blood pressure that wasn’t yet above the threshold for hypertension, soccer was associated with decreases of 10 mmHg in systolic readings and 7 mmHg in diastolic readings.

People with mild hypertension who played soccer experienced average decreases of 11 mmHg in systolic readings and 7 mmHg in diastolic readings, compared with inactive individuals.

Soccer players also had a resting heart rate of about 6 beats per minute slower than inactive individuals.

Only a few small studies included in the analysis compared soccer to other forms of exercise. They found that compared to a running regimen or to the cardio dance exercise Zumba, soccer held its own with regard to blood pressure, body fat, heart rate, LDL “bad” cholesterol and jumping performance.

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove that soccer directly benefits health.

Football, as soccer is called in most places outside the U.S., obviously isn’t the only way to get exercise, but the current study results suggest that it may be one of the best options around, said Andre Seabra, director of the Portugal Football School, Federacao Portuguesa de Futebol and a sports professor at the University of Porto.

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FIFA says it trusts Russia to ensure safe World Cup despite clashes


GENEVA: The world football governing body FIFA expressed “complete trust” Friday in Russia’s ability to ensure a safe World Cup despite fan violence in Spain during which a policeman died.

A Basque officer died Thursday as hundreds of security forces clashed with supporters of Russian club Spartak Moscow in Bilbao before the start of a Europa League match.

A regional police spokesman refused to comment on Spanish media speculation that he was killed in the street battles with scores of Russians wearing black hoodies.

FIFA said it “deeply regrets” the incident but did not assign any blame.

“As far as security for the 2018 FIFA World Cup is concerned, FIFA has complete trust in the security arrangements and comprehensive security concept developed by the Russian authorities and the Local Organising Committee,” a FIFA spokesperson told AFP.

“As demonstrated during the FIFA Confederations Cup last year, Russia’s already high security standards have been adapted to meet the specific needs of such major sporting events.”

Russia will be hosting its first World Cup from June 14 to July 15 after securing its rights in a ugly battle with England in 2010.

But preparations have been shadowed by fears of a repeat of the June 2016 rampage by Russian hooligans that erupted in the French port city of Marseille during the Euro tournament.

The clashes left 35 people injured and shocked the world.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin only wondered dismissively “how 200 of our fans could beat up several thousand English”.

German police Thursday announced the arrest of a Russian hooligan wanted for the “attempted homicide” of an England supporter in the violence.

Hooliganism experts say Russia’s powerful FSB security service has cracked down hard on football gangs and blacklisted many of their leaders in the run-up.

The Russian government’s official plan is to force both foreign and domestic supporters to undergo background checks before receiving a special Fan ID card required to enter the country.

A government source said Russian law enforcement agents were also working with their counterparts from England and other countries to determine which fans were safe.

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Myanmar bulldozed scores of Rohingya villages since November: HRW


YANGON: Satellite imagery shows Myanmar authorities have bulldozed at least 55 Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine in recent months, Human Rights Watch said Friday, condemning the government for erasing evidence at sites where troops are accused of atrocities.

Northern Rakhine has been nearly emptied of its Rohingya population since last August, when a military crackdown drove some 700,000 of the persecuted group across the border to Bangladesh.

The UN has accused Myanmar of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Muslim minority, who face acute discrimination in the mainly Buddhist nation.

Myanmar denies the charge but has blocked UN investigators from investigating an area where thousands of Rohingya are believed to have been killed.

Hundreds of Rohingya villages were already damaged by fire during the initial months of violence last year, when soldiers and Buddhist vigilantes terrorised communities with arson, gunfire and rape, according to refugees.

Since November Myanmar authorities have further demolished at least 55 villages with heavy machinery, clearing out all structures and vegetation, satellite images obtained by Human Rights Watch showed.

At least two of the flattened villages were previously undamaged by fires, the watchdog said.

“Many of these villages were scenes of atrocities against Rohingya and should be preserved so that the experts appointed by the UN to document these abuses can properly evaluate the evidence to identify those responsible,” said HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams.

“Bulldozing these areas threatens to erase both the memory and the legal claims of the Rohingya who lived there,” he added.

Myanmar’s government spokesman could not be reached for comment.

– ‘Rehabilitation projects’ –

Haunting images of levelled villages first circulated on social media earlier this month after they were posted by an EU diplomat.

At the time Myanmar’s Social Welfare Minister Win Myat Aye told a French wire service the demolition was part of a plan to “build back” villages to a higher standard than before.

Myanmar has trumpeted a government effort to rebuild violence-gutted Rakhine and welcome back refugees under a repatriation agreement with Dhaka that was supposed to commence in January.

But many Rohingya refuse to return without the guarantee of basic rights and safety.

Analysts have also sounded the alarm over the government’s rehabilitation projects, calling the sweeping destruction of villages, mosques and property only the latest move to erase the Rohingya’s ties to their ancestral lands, and prevent them returning.

On Thursday UN agencies said they had struck a partnership with Myanmar and Japan governments to provide $20 million for humanitarian and development projects in Rakhine state, where authorities have restricted access for aid groups since the crisis.

Food and other assistance would be provided to “people of all communities in Rakhine state,” the UN agencies said in a statement, adding that access had improved but remained restricted in some areas.

The 1.1-million strong Rohingya have been systematically stripped of their legal rights in Myanmar in recent decades.

They have also been targeted by bouts of communal violence with ethnic Rakhine Buddhist neighbours and corralled into grim displacement camps in other parts of the state.

Myanmar’s army says its August crackdown was a proportionate counterstrike against Rohingya rebels who attacked police posts in late August, killing around a dozen officials.

Many in the Buddhist majority revile the Rohingya and brand the group as foreign interlopers, despite their having lived in Rakhine for generations.

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VIDEO: Elephant creates traffic chaos to ‘steal’ sugarcane from passing truck


BANGKOK: A traveler on a road in Thailand captured an incredible video of an elephant blocking traffic for ‘stealing’ sugar cane from passing trucks.

The video, filmed on a road in Chachoengsao, shows the elephant wandering into the road and blocking traffic so it can snatch sugar cane from the backs of passing trucks.

Reports cited eye witnesses as saying that the elephant attempted to steal from more than 12 different vehicles in the span of about two hours before wandering back into the jungle.

elephant steal sugarcane

“He was a big elephant so nobody was brave enough to get near him and push him back into the trees,” witness Arnie Banpho said. “Cars were driving very slowly passed him and there were big queues while they waited for him.”

Kovit, head of wild elephant care at the Khao Ang Rue Nai mountains, said the elephants in the area are not aggressive.

elephant steal sugarcane

“The elephants in this area are friendly and never harm anyone. He only wanted some food,” Boonphanuk said.

“Truck drivers who use the road regularly are familiar with elephants and take extra care but this was an unusual occasion when the animal stopped many vehicles and would not leave.

We would like to remind anyone who encounters elephants while in their vehicles to stay well back, do not use the car horn and do not shout at them.

elephant steal sugarcane

“Let the elephants continue what they are doing, or they may become angry,” he added.

WATCH

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IHC restrains individuals from changing religion without court permission


ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday ruled that no person will change his/her religion without its permission till further orders, ARY News reported.

A single bench, comprising Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, gave this restraining order while hearing a case pertaining to the controversial amendment in the oath of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat for electoral candidates.

Justice Siddiqui further ruled that Nadra will not entertain any request regarding change of religion on National Identity Cards (CNICs).

Advocate Akram Sheikh, Babar Awan and Aslam Khaki have been tasked to assist the court on the matter.

The National Database Registration Authority (Nadra) informed the judge that more than 1,67,473 people belonging to Qadiani group were registered with it.

The acting director general of Nadra informed the bench that there were 10,205 people who got changed their religion from Islam to Qadiani.

He submitted details of all those people in a sealed report.

The judge asked the Nadra chairman if it was empowered to change religion on Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs).

He replied that in the past, people submitted fake affidavits to have their religion changed on CNICs.

Justice Siddiqui claimed that Qadianis in order to secure government employment used to change their religion to Islam on CNICs, and when the purpose was served; they reverted back to their original religion.

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Man creates ‘world’s smallest pencil’, sets record


A man in India’s Uttarakhand has set a record by creating the world’s smallest pencil. The pencil is made of a single piece of wood.

An artist by profession, Prakash Chandra Upadhyay has made a pencil, which is 5 mm long and 0.5 mm wide.

world’s smallest pencil

“This pencil is made of a single piece of wood. The wood has been drilled and the lid has been fixed in it,” the artist said.

Upadhyay said that it took nearly three to four days for him to make the pencil.

Due to his extraordinary talent, he has been conferred with the Assist World Records.

Assist World Records Research Foundation (AWRRF) has been formed with a motive to help all people who have extraordinary talent.

 

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Unilateral steps adversely impact Pak-US ties, says FO


ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office said on Friday the United States is drifting away from Pakistan despite its long-term partnership with Islamabad.

At his weekly news briefing in Islamabad on Friday, Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal expressed his surprise over the recent US intelligence reports that Pakistan was drifting away from Washington.

He pointed out that the US took several unilateral steps in recent months which have actually impacted the relationship. It was for the US to rebuild the trust.

The spokesperson said that Pakistan has categorically conveyed to the US that this relationship can move forward in an environment of mutual trust and respect.

Responding to a question, Dr Muhammad Faisal said Pakistan had serious concerns over the motion moved by the US and the UK at the Financial Action Task Force to put the country on a grey-list.

He pointed out that most of the concerns by the US regarding deficiencies in anti-money laundering and combatting the financing of terrorism had already been addressed in 2015 when Pakistan was excluded from the grey list.

The spokesperson said the exit from the grey list was acknowledgment of the country’s robust mechanism against money laundering and terrorism which is in line with the international standards.

When asked about accusations made by the Indian Army Chief that Pakistan and China are behind the influx of people from Bangladesh to India’s northeast, the spokesperson termed them a figment of the Indian Army Chief’s imagination.

He said this was being done to create hysteria against Pakistan.

The spokesperson said tension on the Line of control is a cause of concern for Pakistan and the international community.

Responding to a question, Faisal said the most viable solution to the Afghan conflict is through a politically negotiated settlement between the Afghan government and the warring factions.

He clarified that Pakistan has not sent troops to Saudi Arabia to become part of Islamic military alliance.

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Bitcoin stock exchange operator arrested over fraud charges


NEW YORK: The operator of a shuttered bitcoin-denominated exchange was arrested on federal charges that he lied to U.S. securities regulators to avoid taking responsibility for the theft by hackers of virtual currency now worth nearly $70 million.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan announced the charges against BitFunder founder Jon Montroll the same day the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit accusing him and the company of running an unregistered securities exchange that defrauded its users.

“As alleged, the defendant repeatedly lied during sworn testimony and misled SEC staff to avoid taking personal responsibility for the loss of thousands of his customers’ bitcoins,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.

Montroll, a resident of Saginaw, Texas, was charged in a criminal complaint with perjury and obstruction of justice and was arrested in his home state. A lawyer for Montroll, 37, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Prosecutors said Montroll operated WeExchange Australia Pty Ltd, which functioned as a bitcoin depository and exchange service, and BitFunder.com, which allowed users to sell virtual shares of business entities in exchange for bitcoins.

According to a criminal complaint, hackers in 2013 exploited a weakness in BitFunder’s programming code to cause it to credit them with profits they had not actually earned, allowing them to withdraw 6,000 bitcoins from WeExchange.

Due to the hacking, BitFunder and WeExchange lacked enough bitcoins to cover what Montroll owed users, prosecutors said. Yet they said that during a subsequent SEC probe, Montroll denied that the exploit the hackers used had been successful.

Prosecutors said that he also produced to the SEC a screenshot that falsely represented how many bitcoins were available to BitFunder users as of October 2013.

Three days after the hacking, Montroll, using the alias, “Ukyo,” participated in an online chat in which he sought the help from the principal of a different bitcoin exchange to track down “Stolen bitcoins,” prosecutors said.

He later transferred some of his own bitcoins into WeExchange to conceal the losses, prosecutors said. BitFunder shut down in 2013.

At the time, the more than 6,000 bitcoins the hackers stole were worth about $775,075, the SEC said in its lawsuit. Today, those bitcoins are worth about $69.6 million, according to the criminal complaint.

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Karachi Kings to take on Quetta Gladiators in first match of PSL today


DUBAI: Pakistan Super League (PSL) franchises Karachi Kings and Quetta Gladiators are all set to face each other today (Friday) at the Dubai International Stadium here.

Major changes in Karachi Kings’ lineup and switching of hard hitting all-rounder Shahid Khan Afridi from Peshawar Zalmi have given a tremendous boost to the team.

Kings, led by Imdad Wasim, are determined to take their team to PSL victory this time in their home turf.

On the flip side, Quetta Gladiators have been the runner-up team twice in both previous editions of the league with a burning desire to clinch the trophy.

Gladiators, captained by Sarfraz Ahmed, have also gone through some changes in their squad with induction of former Australian opener and all-rounder Shane Watson and English batsman Jason Roy.

The consistent Gladiators’ side feature Pakistan U-10 skipper Hassan Khan, emerging speedster Jofra Archer and Afghanistan’s spin sensation Rashid Khan.

Karachi Kings

Head coach: Mickey Arthur

Captain: Imad Wasim

Squad: Imad Wasim (c), Babar Azam, Joe Denly, Colin Ingram, Khurram Manzoor, Lendl Simmons, Saifullah Bangash, Eoin Morgan, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammed Taha, Tabish Khan, Ravi Bopara, Hasan Mohsin, Shahid Afridi, David Wiese, Usama Mir, Tymal Mills, Mohammad Amir, Usman Khan Shinwari

Quetta Gladiators

Head coach: Moin Khan

Captain: Sarfraz Ahmed

Squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Rilee Rossouw, Jason Roy, Kevin Pietersen, Rameez Raja, Asad Shafiq, Shane Watson, Umar Amin, Mohammad Nawaz, Mahmudullah, Jofra Archer, Saad Ali, Saud Shakeel, Rashid Khan, Anwar Ali, Hassan Khan Mohammad, Mir Hamza, Rahat Ali

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Defence attachés briefed on Indian ‘atrocities’ along LoC


RAWALPINDI: Defence Attachés of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, Turkey and Indonesia visited the restive Line of Control (LoC) along Rawalakot Sector of Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Friday.

According to the ISPR, the military’s media wing, the attachés were briefed about Indian atrocities along the LoC and Indian forces’ deliberate targeting civilians.

The defence attachés interacted with the victims of ceasefire violations and gained first-hand knowledge about their sufferings.

They were also apprised about activities undertaken by Pakistan army to provide relief to the population of Azad Kashmir.

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Youth killed in cross-border firing by Indian forces


RAWALPINDI: A 19-year-old boy embraced martyrdom in cross-border firing by Indian forces along the Line of Control, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement on Friday.

The military’s media wing said Indian army continues to terrorize civilian population along the LOC.

“An innocent young boy Inzamam s/o M Amin aged 19 embraced shahadat due to Indian unprovoked and targeted firing ,” it said.

“Shaheed Inzamam, resident of village Tetrinote, was carrying out routine work at a crush plant at Poonch river bank. Pakistan Army troops target Indian army post which initiated fire on civil population.”

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VIDEO: Armed with ‘Lathi’, wife saves husband from attackers


HARYANA: Just days after a viral video of wife saving journalist husband with a pistol in India, another video has surfaced proving that women are a force to be reckoned with.

A lady in Haryana took up sticks to protect her husband from getting beaten up by a group.

The entire incident was caught on camera, and has been shared online by Indian news agency ANI.

VIDEO: Gun-wielding wife saves ‘journalist’ husband from attackers

Wife saves husband harayana

The woman swings the stick and makes contact with the stick in the hands of one of the attackers. Another attacker tries to aim a blow at her, but she blocks it.

She then picks up another stick off the ground, which seems to have been dropped by one of the attackers. She backs away towards her husband and drops the second stick, out of reach off the attackers.

Wife saves husband harayana

Earlier this February, another woman brandishing a gun to scare off a bunch of men who were attacking her husband in front of their house in Lucknow had emerged on social media.

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Supreme Court disqualifies PTI MPA from Shangla


ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday disqualified PTI leader Abdul Munim Khan from the membership of the provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, gave this verdict on an election petition of Sher Alam, who challenged the Peshawar High Court verdict that had set aside the Election Commission of Pakistan’s judgement about disqualification of the PTI lawmaker.

Alam, candidate of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) from Shangla, challenged the election of Abdul Munim on PK-88 before the ECP, which allowed his petition, disqualifying the PTI lawmaker.

Aggrieved at the decision, the PTI candidate approached the high court, which restored his membership of the provincial assembly.

Afterwards, the JUI-F candidate went to the Supreme Court assailing the high court verdict.

Sher Alam claimed that Abdul Munim was a school teacher and tendered his resignation to contest the election on provincial assembly seat (PK-88) few days before scrutiny of his nomination papers.

He contended the PTI leader should be disqualified on the ground that he had remained a government employee and contested the polls even before the mandatory period of two years had not lapsed since his resignation.

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ATC refuses to exempt Imran Khan from personal appearance in 2014 sit-in cases


ISLAMABAD: An anti-terrorism court here on Friday discarded a plea filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan seeking an exemption from personal appearance in cases related to the attack on the state buildings and then SSP Islamabad (Operations) Asmatullah Junejo during the 2014 sit-in in the federal capital.

Khan through his lawyer Advocate Shahid Naseem Gondal had submitted two pleas on February 15, at the last hearing, to the court.

During the court proceedings of last hearing, the PTI chief appeared before the court and filed two pleas through his lawyer, seeking acquittal and an exemption from personal appearance in the cases.

Judge Shahrukh Arjumand then asked the defence lawyer to provide copies of the requests to prosecution.

Gondal pleaded with the judge to announce a decision pertaining to his client’s acquittal before the charges framed against him.

The judge then remarked that a notice to the prosecution would be issued to prepare the arguments over the request.

He directed the PTI chairman to ensure his appearance during the court proceedings until a decision on his plea seeking an exemption from personal appearance announced.

The court then adjourned the hearing till February 26.

Cases against political cousins

Police had booked Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri along with their supporters in a number of cases during the 2014 sit-in calling for the resignation of the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

In a case, 70 people were booked after a mob of protesters belonging to the PTI and PAT stormed PTV headquarters and forced its staff to take two of the state broadcaster’s flagship channels — PTV News and PTV World — off the air on Sept 1, 2014.

The protesters were also charged with attacking government properties including the Parliament House building.

Another case related to the attack on then-Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Operations Asmatullah Junejo.

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Trump threatens to withdraw law enforcement agents from California


WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump threatened to pull immigration and other federal law enforcement agents from California on Thursday, a warning shot to the country’s richest and most populous state.

Complaining that California was not complying with his hardline position on migrants, Trump warned he could cut vital help from Washington and prompt a crime wave.

“Frankly it’s a disgrace, the sanctuary city situation,” he said, referring to a policy adopted by around 300 local authorities, cities and states of limiting cooperation with strict federal immigration edicts.

“We are getting no help from the state of California,” Trump continued, claiming the state was protecting members of the violent MS13 gang.

“Frankly if I wanted to pull our people from California you would have a crime mess like you’ve never seen,” he said focusing on the role of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other agencies.

“All I would have to do is say ICE and Border Patrol leave California alone and you would be inundated, you would see crime like no one has ever seen crime in this country.”

Trump has repeatedly equated migrants with criminals, and made hardline migration policies a central plank of his political platform.

“In two months they’d be begging for us to come back. They would be begging. And you know what, I’m thinking about doing it.”

 

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PHC moved to transfer Asma Rani murder case from Kohat to Peshawar


PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Friday summoned the police official investigating the murder of a medical student in Kohat along with record of the case on next hearing.

A bench of the high court was hearing a petition filed by the brother of the deceased girl seeking the transfer of the murder case from Kohat to Peshawar.

The petitioner’s lawyer argued that the suspected murderer of Asma Rani belonged to an influential family. He was using his influence to extend threats to the victim’s family, he added.

He said that was the reason that no lawyer was ready to plead the case on behalf of her family in Kohat.

The counsel, thus, pleaded with the high court to order the transfer of the case from Kohat to any court in Peshawar for trial.

Earlier this week, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar directed the authorities concerned to ensure the arrest of absconding prime accused, Mujahidullah Afridi, in Asma Rani murder case within a month.

A three-judge bench of Supreme Court, headed by Justice Nisar, heard the suo motu case of Asma’s murder in Kohat, who was shot dead by Afridi after she turned down his proposal of marriage.

Asma Rani’s murder

Asma Rani, a third year student at Ayub Medical College, was shot dead in January after she rejected a marriage proposal of the accused.

She was returning home in a rickshaw with her sister-in-law when suspect Mujahid Afridi who was already present outside their house shot her dead.

Asma received three bullet wounds and was shifted to a hospital in critical condition but later she died of her wounds.

The victim revealed the name of the person who fired on her in the moments before her death.

She said his name was Mujahid Afridi and he was the nephew of PTI district vice-president Kohat Aftab Alam.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had also approached the Interpol Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) to locate and get extradition of the accused to Pakistan.

Police had registered an FIR of the case on the complaint of the brother of the deceased, Muhammad Irfan, under Section 324 and 304 of Pakistan Penal Code.

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CM Sindh holds meeting to discuss last budget of PPP tenure


KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah presided over a meeting regarding preparation of next budget for financial year 2018-19 on Thursday evening.

The CM directed his team to control non-development expenditures, increase allocations in social sector such as education and health and water schemes be given special focus so that they could be completed well in time.

The chief minister was told that during 2016-17 the total provincial receipts, including SRB (GST on Services), Tax excluding GST and non tax were Rs166.033 bn.

In 2016-17 the provincial receipts rose Rs159.294 billion in the same heads and during 2017-18 the estimated amount is Rs199.627 and receipts of first seven months is around Rs100 billion.

The meeting was informed that during the current financial year, 2974 schemes, including 2158 on-going and 816 new are in progress against an amount of Rs244 billion , including Rs39.884 million revenue. The CM was told that the provincial government has released 60 percent of the allocated amount which comes to Rs146.388 billion which is itself a record while the 50 percent of the released amount or Rs72.485 billion has been utilization.

The chief minister said that the health department was showing some progress, particularly in the hospitals which have been out-sourced, therefore this policy must be strengthened and more health units may be out-sourced in the next financial year.

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Pakistan retain top T20 ranking after ICC error


WELLINGTON: Australian cricket chiefs have clarified that Pakistan still top the Twenty20 world rankings, despite Australia’s victory in the T20 tri-series also featuring New Zealand and England.

Cricket Australia said this week that Australia would take the number one spot if they were unbeaten in the tri-series, a feat they achieved with a 19-run win over New Zealand in Auckland on Wednesday.

Pakistan T20 top ranking Australia

Ranking via ICC website

But in a statement late Thursday, it said…

‘a “clerical error” by the International Cricket Council meant the calculation was wrong and Pakistan retain the number one ranking.’

When ratings points were rounded off, it said, Australia were second on 125.65, 0.19 points behind Pakistan on 125.84.

It means Australia have still not been rated the number one T20 side in the world since the shortest form of the game began in 2011.

Australia are currently ranked third in Tests and fifth in ODIs.

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Australian deputy prime minister resigns after affair with staffer


SYDNEY: Australia’s deputy prime minister said on Friday he will resign as leader of his party after weeks of pressure over an affair with a staffer that brought him into open conflict with his premier and threatened to shatter a decades-old coalition.

Barnaby Joyce said he will step down on Monday as leader of the National party, the junior partner in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s centre-right coalition, after resisting earlier calls to quit over the affair with his former media secretary, with whom he is expecting a child.

He will remain in parliament, safeguarding Turnbull’s shaky one-seat majority.

Joyce’s decision came after a falling-out with Turnbull, who is in the United States for meetings with President Donald Trump and who declined to leave him in charge while he is out of the country.

Turnbull called Joyce’s affair a “shocking error of judgment” last week, to which Joyce responded by calling Turnbull “inept”.

Joyce, a practising Catholic, has been married for 24 years and has campaigned on family values. He said he decided to quit after an allegation of sexual harassment emerged on Friday.

He denied any wrongdoing but acknowledged the allegation had hastened his decision.

“I will say on Monday morning at the party room I will step down as the leader of the National Party and deputy leader of Australia,” Joyce said.

Joyce, whose support base rests in Australia’s traditionally conservative rural areas, wore his trademark Akubra bushman’s hat as he spoke to journalists in Armidale, the farming town he represents about 485 km (300 miles) northeast of Sydney.

Little-known outside Australia, Joyce made international headlines in 2015 when he deported two dogs brought into Australia by U.S. actor Johnny Depp without the proper paperwork, a row that became known as the “war on terrier”.

‘DISUNITY IS DEATH’

Joyce had only been back in parliament less than a month after falling victim to a citizenship crisis that has dogged Turnbull’s government. Australia’s High Court deemed Joyce was a New Zealand citizen in October, forcing Turnbull to rule in minority until Joyce re-contested and won his seat.

National Party federal director Ben Hindmarsh said on Friday the party had received the sexual harassment allegation against Joyce but declined to give any details.

A spokesman said Joyce believed the claim to be “spurious and defamatory” and had asked for it to be referred to police.

The National Party will now elect a new leader, who will also become deputy prime minister under the terms of the coalition agreement with Turnbull’s Liberal party.

Joyce’s resignation will potentially heal the rift between the Liberal and National parties, a political alliance that has existed for nearly 100 years.

Nick Economou, senior lecturer in Australian politics at Monash University in Melbourne, however said it would have been impossible for both Turnbull and Joyce to return to parliament next week after their public falling-out.

“In Australian politics, disunity is death,” Economou said.

Two-thirds of Australian voters wanted Joyce to resign, The Australian newspaper’s Newspoll showed earlier this week.

Joyce’s decision to resign should get the row off the front pages, offering Turnbull at least temporary respite, although Joyce will now sit on the backbench along with former prime minister Tony Abbott, the man Turnbull ousted in a 2015 party-room coup.

Freed from Cabinet restraints, Abbott has criticized Turnbull’s policies from the backbench, although Joyce said he would not destabilize the government.

Turnbull must head back to the polls by May 2019.

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400kg of cocaine found in Russian embassy in Argentina


BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA: Police have seized nearly 400 kilos of cocaine from the Russian embassy in Buenos Aires and arrested several members of a drug trafficking gang, Argentina’s security minister announced Thursday.

Patricia Bullrich told a press conference that the drugs discovered in an annex of the embassy had a street value of around 50 million euros (about $62 million).

“A gang of narco-criminals was trying to use the diplomatic courier service of the Russian embassy” to ship the drugs to Europe, she said.

Russian embassy Cocaine Argentina

She told reporters that Russian and Argentine police had decided to mount a sting operation after the Russian ambassador informed them of the drugs find in December 2016.

“The cocaine was replaced by flour and monitoring devices were placed to monitor delivery” of the 16 bags of the drug, Bullrich said. She said the sting had resulted in the arrest of five suspects — two in Argentina and three in Russia.

Russian embassy Cocaine Argentina

The drug, of “very high purity,” was destined for Russia and probably also Germany, where the suspected mastermind lives. “We believe the German police will arrest this fugitive,” Bullrich said.

The minister said Russian security service agents “came to Argentina on three occasions to assist in the investigation”, which took more than a year.

One of the two people arrested in Argentina is a naturalized Russian who was a member of the police force in Buenos Aires, said Bullrich.

Investigators believe the cocaine likely originated in Colombia or Peru.

 

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Shahbaz Sharif likely to be elected new PML-N chief: sources


ISLAMABAD: In the aftermath of deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification from the presidency of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the ruling party is facing a tough call of electing its new head.

Quoting sources, ARY News reported on Friday, that the party has decided to elevate Shahbaz Sharif, who is the chief minister of Punjab, as the next head of the PML-N.

A meeting of General Council of the PML-N will be called soon after the Senate polls for rectifying the decision, sources said. In the meantime, the party would elect an acting president as a stop-gape arrangement to run the party affairs.

Reports suggest that Maryam Nawaz, daughter of the former premier, is also being considered for the coveted slot.

It would be a tough challenge for the party to elect its chief as electing either one of the two possible candidates – Shahbaz and Maryam, – is likely to offend the other.

Since July 28 when Sharif was dislodged from the office of the prime minister of Pakistan, speculations about a power struggle between his side of the family and that of Shahbaz Sharif have been rife.

However, members of the ruling party have often denied such rumours. Of late, in a show of unity, the former premier and his daughter shared stage with his younger brother Shahbaz and nephew MNA Humza Shahbaz during a public meeting in Lodhran.

A number of PML-N leaders from Punjab want to see Shahbaz Sharif taking over the reins of the party.

Maryam’s elevation to the top party slot is likely to affront some senior party leaders who repeatedly disapproved of the idea of electing her to the top position in the past.

Among them is PML-N stalwart and former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar, who recently made it clear that he would not serve in the ruling PML-N under the leadership of juniors.

Sharif disqualified from being PML-N chief

On Wednesday, former premier Nawaz Sharif was also declared ineligible to head his party.

The three-member bench of Supreme Court , headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar gave this verdict on a number of petitions assailing the controversial amendment to the Election Act 20117, which allowed Sharif to head his party.

The court also declared that all decisions taken by Nawaz as PML-N president since July 28 stand null and void after the judgment.

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NAB court to resume graft reference hearing against Dar today


ISLAMABAD: The accountability court here on Friday is to resume the hearing of graft reference filed against former finance minister Ishaq Dar in compliance with the Supreme Court’s landmark July 28 verdict.

Accountability Judge Muhammad Bashir will conduct Dar’s trial in absentia on charges of amassing wealth beyond his known sources of income.

At the last hearing on Feb 14, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor informed the court that the graft body intends to file a supplementary reference against the former finance minister.

The prosecutor pleaded informed the judge that all witnesses had testified against the accused other than the last prosecution witness, Inamul Haq.

“The prosecution plans to file a supplementary reference against the accused in the court after the testimony of last witness Inamul Haq,” he then said.

On the occasion, he informed the judge that Haq was unwell and didn’t turn up at court in the last hearing, while urging the judge to issue arrest warrant for the witness as he has recovered and deliberately skipping the hearings.

The judge then declined the request to issue the warrants and warned the witness to ensure his presence in the next hearing.

The court then adjourned the hearing till February 23 (today)

According to the NAB reference, Dar had acquired assets and pecuniary interests/resources in his name or in the name of his dependents of an approximate amount of Rs831.678 million as per the investigation conducted so far.

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SC to resume hearing of contempt case against Daniyal Aziz today


ISLAMABAD: Supreme Court of Pakistan on Friday is to resume hearing of the contempt of court case against Privatization Minister Daniyal Aziz.

A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saaed, of the apex court will conduct hearing into the case.

On Monday, the top court had issued a show-cause notice to Aziz to explain as to why contempt of court proceedings should not be initiated against him for issuing contemptuous and derogatory remarks against the judiciary.

The PML-N leader appeared before the bench and sought time to submit his response in the case.

The bench observed that the minister made contemptuous remarks about the judiciary, which were telecast by various television channels on December 15. These remarks, prima facie, constituted contempt of court, he explained.

On February 2, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar took a suo motu notice of the federal minister’s remarks against the judiciary.

Earlier, the court had issued a show-cause notice to State Minister Talal Chaudhry, which said, “You have made derogatory and contemptuous speeches and statements at public gatherings, telecast by different TV channels.”

The speeches, prima facie, constituted interference with and obstruction of the process of the court as well as aimed at belittling the stature of this apex court within the contemplation of Article 204 of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973, read with Section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003, it added.

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