AFP

Oct 162017
 
Suspected US drone strike near Kurram Agency kills 5

A suspected United States drone killed five people in an attack on a compound in Kurram Agency on Monday, officials said.At least four missiles were fired during the strike in the Kurram Agency close to the Afghan border, said the officials.“Five people have been killed in a drone strike on a suspected militant's house,” an intelligence official told AFP. A local administration official also confirmed the toll.The drone strike was reported days after the Pakistan Army said that it had recovered "safe and sound" a family of foreign hostages from the custody of a terrorist outfit after it received and acted on intelligence shared by the United States (US).On Monday, one official claimed that the target was a suspected militant Abu Bakar, commander of the Haqqani network.An attack in the same region in September left three people dead and two wounded. It is the second such strike since US President Donald Trump in August accused Pakistan of offering “safe havens” to extremists.The use of US drones has dwindled dramatically in recent years in Pakistan, where the strikes have proven extremely controversial with the public and rights groups. But the US is believed to have ordered at least two other drone attacks this year.The first under Trump killed two men riding a motorbike in Kurram in March, while the second reportedly occurred in late April in North Waziristan, one of seven tribal districts stretching along the Afghan border.Islamabad has repeatedly denied claims of being soft on militancy, accusing the US of [Read More…]

Oct 162017
 

Regulators and programme makers are at odds over whether small children should be banned from watching television or using tablets and smartphones. France urges parents not to allow children under three to watch TV, and American paediatricians also favour a total ban on screen time until at least 18 months. Carole Bienaime-Besse, who sits on France’s TV regulator, the CSA, claimed Sunday that overexposing babies and small children to digital devices has become a “public health issue”. “People are realising that screens can cause addiction even among very small children, and in extreme cases autistic problems, what is called virtual autism,” she said. Google announces new Pixel smartphone “Silicon Valley also knows this. There are lots of educational apps for babies, but in the end the results are counterproductive,” Bienaime-Besse told AFP. Studies show that “children over-exposed to them are the ones who find it hardest at school,” she said. France banned its broadcasters from targetting under-threes in 2008, and blocked Fox-owned BabyTV from launching there. But some programme-makers insist that bans do not work, especially with so many parents using television and devices to “babysit” their children. “It is admirable, but probably unrealistic” to try to keep small children away from screens, said Alice Webb, who heads the BBC’s children’s arm, CBBC, and the CBeebies network for pre-school children. “Those times are long gone. Digital is everywhere. This is a tide you cannot get ahead of,” she told top TV executives Sunday at the MIPJunior gathering at Cannes on [Read More…]

Oct 152017
 

BAGHDAD: Baghdad said on Sunday that foreign Kurdish forces were present in the province of Kirkuk in what amounted to a “declaration of war”, dramatically raising the stakes in its dispute with Iraq’s Kurds. Kurdish officials denied Baghdad’s claim that forces from Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK] were among its peshmerga fighters in an armed standoff with Iraqi troops in the oil-rich province. But the National Security Council headed by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said PKK fighters were among “fighters not belonging to regular security forces in Kirkuk”, a move it called “a dangerous escalation”. Iraq forces retake positions from Kurds in disputed Kirkuk “It is impossible to remain silent” faced with “a declaration of war towards Iraqis and government forces,” it said in a statement. “The central government and regular forces will carry out their duty of defending the Iraqi people in all its components including the Kurds, and of defending Iraq’s sovereignty and unity.” General Jabar Yawer, chief of the peshmerga ministry, rejected the Iraqi claims. “There are no PKK forces in Kirkuk, but there are some volunteers who sympathise with the PKK,” he said. Baghdad’s statement came just hours before the expiry of a new deadline for Kurdish peshmerga fighters to withdraw from disputed areas they took in 2014 during the fightback against the Islamic State group. Crisis talks on Sunday made little headway in resolving the standoff between Kurdish and Iraqi forces in the province, three weeks after a contested Kurdish independence vote. Iraqi President [Read More…]

Oct 132017
 

KIRKUK: Iraqi forces Friday retook positions controlled by Kurdish peshmerga fighters since 2014 in the oil-rich province of Kirkuk amid a bitter row with the Kurds over a vote for independence last month. A senior Kurdish official said thousands of heavily armed fighters had been deployed to defend themselves “at any cost” against the Iraqi operation and called for international intervention. Ethnically divided but historically Kurdish-majority Kirkuk is one of several regions that peshmerga fighters took over from the Iraqi army in 2014 when Islamic State (IS) group swept through much of northern and western Iraq. Iraq forces in fierce Kirkuk clashes with IS Baghdad is bitterly opposed to Kurdish ambitions to incorporate the oil-rich province in its autonomous region in the north and has voiced determination to take it back. The Iraqi army and the peshmerga have been key allies of the US-led coalition in its fights against IS and the threat of armed clashes between them poses a major challenge for Western government. “The Iraqi armed forces are advancing to retake their military positions that were taken over during the events of June 2014,” an army general told AFP, asking not to be identified. Speaking from an area south of the provincial capital Kirkuk, the general said federal troops had retaken “Base 102” west of the city after peshmerga fighters withdrew during the night without a fight. Islamic State attack on Kurdish base in Iraq kills two The peshmerga’s Kirkuk commander, Jaafar Sheikh Mustafa, said his forces had withdrawn [Read More…]

Oct 132017
 
Trump launches new Iran strategy, leaves nuclear deal hanging

'The worst deal' Snap back 'Aggressive and threatening rhetoric' United States President Donald Trump launched a tougher strategy to check Iran's “fanatical regime” on Friday and warned that a landmark international nuclear deal could be terminated at any time. In a much-anticipated White House speech, Trump stopped short of withdrawing from the 2015 accord, but “decertified” his support for the agreement and left its fate in the hands of Congress. And, outlining the results of a review of efforts to counter Tehran's “aggression” in a series of Middle East conflicts, Trump ordered tougher sanctions on Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps and on its ballistic missile programme. Trump said the agreement, which defenders say was only ever meant to curtail Iran's nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief, had failed to address Iranian subversion in its region and its illegal missile programme. The US president said he supports efforts in Congress to work on new measures to address these threats without immediately torpedoing the broader deal. “However, in the event, we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated,” Trump said, in a televised address from the Diplomatic Room of the White House. “It is under continuous review and our participation can be cancelled by me as president at any time,” he warned. Simultaneously, the US Treasury said it had taken action against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards under a 2001 executive order to hit sources of terror funding and added four [Read More…]

Oct 132017
 

WASHINGTON: Facebook announced on Friday a new feature to make it easier for users to order meals from nearby restaurants and service providers without leaving the social network. A new “Order Food” feature rolled out for US users lets Facebook users order delivery or takeout from restaurant chains such as Papa John’s and Panera, and on-demand services including Delivery.com and DoorDash. “People already go to Facebook to figure out what to eat by reading about nearby restaurants, and seeing what their friends say about them. So, we’re making it even easier,” read a blog post by Facebook Vice President Alex Himel. Facebook launches portable VR headset “From local spots to national chains, Facebook connects you with old favourites and new discoveries in just a few taps. You can even check out what your friends have to say about a restaurant before you order your food.” Facebook has been testing this feature since last year and is rolling out the service to users in the United States on its desktop, iOS and Android applications, with new partners. The move expands Facebook’s ability to keep users on its platform, with services such as money-transfer, business services and ride-hailing available from its main application or messaging services. The world’s largest social network has more than 2 billion active users. The post Facebook now lets you Order Food too appeared first on The Express Tribune. Click for detailed story

Oct 132017
 
Qatar official hits back at criticism over 2022 World Cup

A senior Qatar World Cup official took to social media on Friday to re-assert that the Gulf state will host the 2022 tournament, even as it faces a torrent of fresh criticism. A defiant Nasser al-Khater, assistant secretary-general at Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, responded on Twitter after a noted critic claimed bookmakers had shortened odds on the World Cup being taken away from Qatar. Earlier on Friday, Ghanem Nuseibeh had tweeted: “William Hill offering odds 25 per cent chance FIFA 2022 will not be held in Qatar. In business terms, 25 per cent is 'high risk'.” That prompted an uncharacteristic outburst from Khater, who wrote: “The odds were 6000 to 1 against us winning the bid in 2009. Guess what happened on Dec 2, 2010." He added: “Go figure, #mercenary.” Nuseibeh had already provoked anger in Qatar last week when his company, Cornerstone Global Associates, produced a controversial report claiming there was an “increasing political risk” of Doha losing the World Cup because of the ongoing diplomatic crisis in the region. Since June 5, Qatar has been isolated by neighbouring states including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), over claims that it supports extremism and is fostering ties with Iran. Qatar denies all the charges, but the region is currently in the grip of its worst political crisis in years. Also read: Qatar crisis can end if Doha gives up FIFA World Cup: UAE security officialThe Cornerstone report though did kick-off a tumultuous week for [Read More…]

Oct 132017
 
Samsung Electronics CEO resigns, even as record profits expected

The CEO of Samsung Electronics Kwon Oh-Hyun resigned Friday, saying the South Korean tech giant was facing an “unprecedented crisis”, even as it expected profits to hit an all-time high in the third quarter.Kwon's resignation comes as the company struggles to overcome a bribery scandal that sent Lee Jae-Yong, its de-facto head and heir to the Samsung empire, to jail.But in a sign of good news for the company, its estimated operating profits for the July-September period of 14.5 trillion won ($12.8 billion) marked a record for quarterly profit, nearly tripling the 5.2 trillion won earned a year earlier.Sales are expected to have surged 29.65 per cent on-year to 62 trillion won, with the booming semiconductor business boosting the company's bottom line.Despite the spectacular performance, CEO Kwon said the company was in the throes of an “unprecedented crisis” as he announced his intention to step down.“Fortunately, the company is now producing best-ever results but this is merely a fruit of decisions and investment made in the past”, he said in a statement.“As we are confronted with unprecedented crisis inside out, I believe that time has now come for the company (to) start anew, with a new spirit and young leadership to better respond to challenges arising from the rapidly changing IT industry,” Kwon said.Samsung did not announce the performance estimates of each business division but its semiconductor business is widely believed to have contributed greatly to the record-beating report.The company is set to release its final earnings report later this [Read More…]

Oct 122017
 

OTTAWA: Canada voiced relief Tuesday at the release of a Canadian man, his American wife and their three children born in Taliban captivity. The kidnapped couple were taken hostage in Afghanistan while backpacking in Central Asia in 2012. “We are greatly relieved that after being held hostage for five years, Joshua Boyle and his wife Caitlan Coleman, as well as their young children, have been released and are safe,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. “Joshua, Caitlan, their children and the Boyle and Coleman families have endured a horrible ordeal over the past five years,” she added in a statement. Pakistan Army recovers US-Canadianfamily abducted in Afghanistan in 2012 Freeland said Canada had been “actively engaged with the governments of the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan” in trying to free the couple, but provided no details. The post Canada hails family’s release from Taliban captivity appeared first on The Express Tribune. Click for detailed story

Oct 122017
 

MOSCOW: Russia on Thursday presented a new bank note that shows images of Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014. The note worth 200 rubles ($3.50) shows a naval memorial in the city of Sevastopol, where Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based, and UNESCO-protected Greek and Roman ruins at nearby Chersonesus. The design also includes a map of the peninsula. The images on the bank note were chosen after a national competition last year to pick symbols of Russia. “The Russian people chose these symbols,” the head of Russia’s central bank, Elvira Nabiullina, told journalists in Moscow. “This reflects the desire of the people of Russia to see these symbols on notes.” She insisted that the new images “will not harm the position of the ruble in any way.” By putting images of Crimea in the nation’s wallets, Russia is capitalising on the wave of patriotism prompted by the peninsula’s annexation in March 2014. It also comes as a defiant response to Kiev and to the sanctions imposed by European Union and the United States that have hit the ruble hard. Putin takes victory lap to annexed Crimea The green-tinged note has now become legal tender, along with a new 2,000-ruble bill that shows Russia’s new cosmodrome in Vostochny in the far east. They are Russia’s first new bank notes since 2006 and the new denominations of 200 and 2,000 rubles aim to speed up cash transactions. The notes will first go into circulation in Moscow, the far east [Read More…]

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