Category Archives: Current Affairs

Ivanka forced to defend Trump at women´s summit

BERLIN: Ivanka Trump, making her overseas debut as the US “First Daughter” at a women´s summit in Berlin on Tuesday, was forced to defend her father´s attitude towards women.

Sitting on a G20 panel with female leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Donald Trump´s daughter drew chuckles from the audience when she praised “my father´s advocacy” on the issue and his role as “a tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive”.

The panel moderator, a finance journalist, interjected, saying: “Some attitudes toward women your father has publicly displayed… might leave one questioning whether he is such an empowerer for women.”

“I´ve certainly heard the criticism from the media and that´s been perpetuated,” replied the 35-year-old Ivanka.

“I think the thousands of women who have worked with and for my father for decades, when he was in the private sector, are testament to his belief and solid conviction in the potential of women and their ability to do the job as well as any man.”

Trump ´enabled me to thrive´

Ivanka, a glamorous former model who started her own fashion line, has worked for her billionaire-father´s company and now has an office in the White House.

She said her father “encouraged me and enabled me to thrive”.

“I grew up in a house where there were no barriers to what I could accomplish beyond my own perseverance and my own tenacity … There was no difference for me and my brothers.”

Merkel is seen to be cultivating a good relationship with Ivanka as a key communication channel with the Trump presidency.

News magazine Der Spiegel saw the meeting as “a summit of the two women who are supposed to moderate Donald Trump — if that is even possible”.

It said “the hopes of the free world rest on the two women because they supposedly have the power to influence the man who looks down on women”.

´A veritable coup´

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily said that for Merkel to “have lured Ivanka is a veritable coup for the chancellor”.

Even though there are higher-ranking US officials, it said, “it would be difficult to find a more important and influential representative”.

Ivanka has been accused in the United States of benefiting from nepotism, and was ridiculed on the “Saturday Night Live” comedy show for being “complicit” in promoting Trump´s divisive policies.

Undeterred, she has spoken out on women´s empowerment, most recently in a Financial Times op-ed article co-written with World Bank president Jim Yong Kim.

They said only 55 percent of women participate in the paid labour force worldwide and called for better training, improved access to finance and legal changes.

On the panel Tuesday, however, Ivanka immediately faced a tough opening question from the moderator, Miriam Meckel, editor-in-chief of business weekly WirtschaftsWoche.

Asked whether she was in Berlin to represent her father, the American people, or her business, Ivanka replied: “Certainly not the latter… I am rather unfamiliar with this role as well, it is quite new to me.

“It´s been a little under 100 days but it´s just been a remarkable and incredible journey. You know as an entrepreneur and as an individual prior to this, in the private sector, I care very much about empowering women in the workplace.”

A demonstration against Ivanka´s visit was scheduled outside a gala dinner on Tuesday.

Kathleen Brown, of the protest group Coalition Berlin, charged that Ivanka´s clothing line is produced in “sweatshops” with mainly female garment workers in China, Vietnam and Bangladesh.

“How can Ivanka Trump talk of women´s ´empowerment´ at the same time President Trump has blocked funding for international reproductive care? Ivanka´s silence on life-and-death matters for women is deafening.”

Trump was also due to visit electronics giant Siemens for a tour of its technical academy and talk with apprentices, and visit Berlin´s Holocaust memorial.

Source: Geo News

Russia calls US allegation it arms Taliban unsubstantiated

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that a US allegation Moscow was supplying arms to Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan was unsubstantiated.

The head of US and international forces in Afghanistan said on Monday he was “not refuting” reports that Russia was providing support, including weapons, to the Taliban.

General John Nicholson was speaking in Kabul during a visit by US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.

For some time, American officials have complained of what Nicholson once called “malign influence” by Russia in Afghanistan, but Monday’s comments are among the strongest suggestions yet that Moscow is providing arms to the Taliban.

Asked about reports that Russia was providing a range of help, including weapons, to the Taliban, who control large areas of Afghanistan, Nicholson replied: “Oh no, I am not refuting that.”

Moscow has been critical of the United States over its handling of the war in Afghanistan, where the Soviet Union fought a bloody and disastrous war of its own in the 1980s.

Russia has previously denied providing any material or financial aid to the insurgent group, but has said it maintains ties with Taliban officials in order to push for peace negotiations.

A senior US military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters that intelligence showed that Russia was providing monetary and weapons support to the Taliban, specifically weapons such as machine guns.

The supply of weapons has accelerated in the past 18 months, the official said.

Mattis, visiting Afghanistan for the first time as President Donald Trump’s defence secretary, said that “any weapons being funnelled here from a foreign country would be a violation of international law.”

As recently as late last month, on a visit to London, Mattis had declined to say whether Russian aid had included weapons.

Source: Geo News

Humans threaten ´fossil´ groundwater: study

VIENNA: Human activity risks contaminating pristine water stockpiled deep underground since the age of the mammoths, said a study on Tuesday that warns of a looming threat to a critical life source.

So-called “fossil” groundwater — more than 12,000 years old — trickled into sub-surface aquifers long before it could be tarnished by pollution from farming and factory chemicals.

Generally stored at depths of more than 250 metres (820 feet) under the Earth´s surface, the ancient resource had been assumed to be shielded from pollution by humans — who rely on it more and more as shallower sources dry up.

Now, researchers have found traces of modern-era rainwater in wells that bring “fossil” groundwater to the surface — pointing to a contamination risk.

“It´s a bit like going to an old folks´ home and suddenly realising there are also little kids running around. That´s great, except if the little kids have the flu,” said study co-author James Kirchner of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

The fear, he explained, is that younger water may pollute the ancient aquifers with fertilisers, pesticides or industrial runoff from Earth´s surface — though they have not found any evidence for this yet.

Groundwater is rain or melted ice that filters through Earth´s rocky layers to pool in aquifers — a process that can take thousands, even millions, of years.

It is the largest store of unfrozen fresh water on Earth.

Groundwater is pumped to the surface with wells for drinking and irrigation, and supplies about a third of human water needs.

 Thinking long-term

For the latest study, presented at a European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna, a research team set out to determine how old Earth´s groundwater really is.

They used radiocarbon and tritium content to distinguish old from young groundwater and determine their relative abundance.

New groundwater has more tritium, a short-lived isotope of hydrogen, as it was more recently exposed to Earth´s atmosphere and surface, tainted by nuclear tests since about the 1950s.

Radiocarbon, on the other hand, takes almost 6,000 years to decay. It is therefore much less abundant in fossil water.

The data showed that “most of the groundwater under our feet is surprisingly old,” said Kirchner.

Roughly half — potentially more — dates from 12,000 years ago or more.

“The assumption would be if your groundwater comes from a time when mammoths were roaming the Earth, that those mammoths did not have chlorinated hydrocarbons,” Kirchner explained.

“If your water dates from a… pre-industrial era, the assumption would be it can´t be carrying industrial-era contaminants down underground.”

Against expectations, however, the team found that about half of “fossil” groundwater wells they studied contained detectable levels of tritium, indicating the presence of younger water.

“This observation questions the common perception that fossil groundwater is largely immune to modern contamination,” concluded the study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Fellow author Scott Jasechko, of the University of Calgary, said the findings were worrying on two levels.

Not only may “fossil” groundwater be exposed to contamination, it would also take millennia to replenish once used up.

“Conserving groundwater for future generations is important and requires us to consider time spans beyond the typical political or land management timescales of years or decades,” he told AFP.

The High Plains aquifer in the United States, for example, would take an estimated 6,000 years to refill, according to the study authors.

And Libya´s Nubian aquifer, formed in a geological epoch when the now-dry region was wet and green, is being depleted at a rate of six million cubic metres of water per day.

Source: Geo Health

India plans to tag millions of cows with details like age, breed, horn type

New Delhi: India could issue millions of cows with unique identification numbers, the latest effort to protect the sacred animals amid a spike in violence by Hindu vigilantes against farmers accused of cattle smuggling.

The government has told the Supreme Court that millions of cows will be tagged with a tamper-proof plastic tag linked to a national database in a bid to curb smuggling within India and beyond its borders.

Cows are considered sacred in Hindu-majority India, and their slaughter is a punishable offence in many states.

“Each animal will have a unique number that will have details like age, breed, sex, height, colour, horn type and special marks,” a senior officer from India´s home ministry that prepared the recommendations told AFP.

A panel from the home ministry was tasked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi´s right-wing government to propose measures against cross-border smuggling after a petition was filed by an animal rights group in the Supreme Court.

Nearly 175,000 cattle are seized annually on the largely porous borders with Bangladesh and Nepal, according to home ministry figures, with unofficial estimates of the illegal cow trade pegged at nearly two million animals.

But the proposal comes amid a spike in violence by Hindu mobs against farmers transporting livestock, and a broader crackdown on butchers in India´s most populous state Uttar Pradesh.

Vigilante squads roaming highways checking livestock trucks for the sacred animals have proliferated since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014.

These so-called “cow protection squads” beat a Muslim man to death on a highway in Rajasthan this month, accusing him of secretly taking cattle to an abattoir for illegal slaughter. The man was a dairy farmer transporting milk cows.

Three men transporting buffaloes in their truck were beaten this week in the capital New Delhi.

At least 10 Muslim men have been killed in similar incidents across the country by Hindu mobs on suspicion of eating beef or smuggling cows in the last two years.

Most Indian states have banned cow slaughter and imposed heavy penalties and jail terms on offenders, while the transportation of cattle across state lines is also barred in several jurisdictions.

Source: Geo News

Thai man murders child, kills himself on Facebook Live

BANGKOK: A man in Phuket filmed himself killing his child and then himself on Facebook Live, Thai police said Tuesday, the latest example of the social network’s live-streaming function being used to broadcast grisly crimes.

Officers on the southern resort island said they were alerted to the video by friends of the man and rushed to an abandoned hotel near the international airport on Monday afternoon.

“They had already died when I arrived there,” Lieutenant Jullaus Suvannin, one of the first on the scene, told AFP, adding a smartphone was found propped up against a wall.

Police said they believed the man had previously argued with the mother of the murdered child, an 11-month girl. The man had hung himself and his daughter, they said.

Channel 3 television broadcast footage of the child’s distraught mother, flanked by relatives, picking up both her daughter’s body and the man’s corpse from the local hospital on Tuesday.

Facebook was not immediately available for comment.

The killing comes just days after Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg vowed to work to keep the world’s leading social network from being used to propagate harrowing acts like murder and suicide.

Zuckerberg was responding to pressure after a man in the US state of Ohio used Facebook Live to broadcast footage of himself walking up to a stranger in the street and shooting him dead.

The killer went on to fatally shoot himself after a massive manhunt and police chase.

During a speech last Wednesday Zuckerberg conceded that Facebook had “a lot of work” to do on the issue.

“We are going to work on building common ground, not just getting more opinions out there,” he added.

Phuket’s governor called on Thais not to share the four-minute clip of the murder and suicide, copies of which could still be found on the social network on Tuesday afternoon.

Source: Geo News

Elderly Muslim man denied seat on Delhi train, told to ?go to Pakistan?

NEW DELHI: Reports of discrimination against Muslims continue in India, with the latest incident taking place on a Delhi train.

According to the Hindustan Times, an elderly Muslim man was denied a seat in the Delhi metro by a group of youth who hurled abused and slurs against him.

When the youth were asked to apologise, they responded by telling the elderly Muslim man to “Go to Pakistan.”

A complaint against those involved was filed at a local police station, however, the elderly man decided not to pursue it.

Source: Geo News

Law and order situation improved significantly during recent years: Nisar

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan says law and order situation has improved significantly during recent years as a result of concerted efforts by all stakeholders including the civilian governments, the armed forces, police, and intelligence agencies. Addressing participants of 106th National Management Course, he said that our fight against terrorism has indeed been […] Source: Aaj Tv news

Govt focusing on achieving sustainable growth after macroeconomic stability: Dar

WASHINGTON: Finance Minister Muhammad Ishaq Dar has said that the government is now focusing on achieving sustainable and inclusive higher growth after macroeconomic stability. Addressing members of US-Pakistan Business Council at US Chamber of Commerce at Washington on Tuesday, he said Pakistan is fast improving ease of doing business in the country. The Minister said […] Source: Aaj Tv news

25 unusual photos you’ll have to look at twice

Source: Aaj Tv news

North Korea puts on live-fire drill as US sub docks in South


SEOUL: North Korea conducted a big live-fire exercise on Tuesday to mark the foundation of its military, media reported, as a US submarine docked in South Korea in a show of force amid growing concern over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

The port call by the USS Michigan came as a US aircraft carrier strike group steamed toward Korean waters and as the top envoys for North Korea policy from South Korea, Japan, and the United States met in Tokyo.

Fears have risen in recent weeks that North Korea could conduct another nuclear test or long-range missile launch in defiance of UN sanctions, perhaps on the Tuesday anniversary of the founding of its military.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that the North appeared to have deployed a large number of long-range artillery units in the region of Wonsan on its east coast on Tuesday, for a live-fire drill.

The report, citing an unidentified South Korean government source, said the exercise was possibly supervised by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

South Korea’s Defence Ministry said it could not immediately confirm the report.

“Our military is closely monitoring the North Korean military’s movement in Wonsan areas and we are firmly maintaining readiness,” South Korea’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

North Korea’s state media was defiant in a commentary marking the 85th anniversary of the foundation of the Korean People’s Army, saying its military was prepared “to bring to closure the history of US scheming and nuclear blackmail”.

“There is no limit to the strike power of the People’s Army armed with our style of cutting-edge military equipment including various precision and miniaturized nuclear weapons and submarine-launched ballistic missiles,” the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a front-page editorial.

North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threat is perhaps the most serious security challenge confronting US President Donald Trump.

Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile and has said all options are on the table, including a military strike.

He sent the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group for exercises in waters off the Korean peninsula as a warning to North Korea and a show of solidarity with US allies.

South Korea’s navy said it was conducting a live-fire exercise with US destroyers on Tuesday in waters west of the Korean peninsula and would soon join the carrier strike group approaching the region.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshide Suga told media that China’s nuclear envoy, Wu Dawei, would hold talks with Japanese Foreign Ministry officials on Tuesday. A ministry source said Wu was likely to meet his Japanese nuclear counterpart on Wednesday.

Japan’s envoy on North Korea, Kenji Kanasugi, said after talks with his U.S. and South Korean counterparts that they all agreed China should take a concrete role to resolve the crisis and it could use an oil embargo as a tool to press the North.

“We believe China has a very, very important role to play,” said the US envoy for North Korea policy, Joseph Yun.

Rare US Senate briefing

Matching the flurry of diplomatic and military activity in Asia, the State Department in Washington said on Monday U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would chair a special ministerial meeting of the U.N. Security Council on North Korea on Friday.

Tillerson, along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Joint Chiefs chairman General Joseph Dunford, would also hold a rare briefing for the entire US Senate on North Korea on Wednesday, Senate aides said.

A North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said those meetings called by US officials clearly reflected the U.S. pressure that could “ignite a full-out war” on the Korean peninsula.

“The reality of today again proves the decision to strengthen nuclear power in quality and quantity under the banner of pursuing economic development and nuclear power was the correct one,” the unidentified spokesman said in a statement issued by the North’s state media.

On Monday, Trump called for tougher UN sanctions on the North, saying it was a global threat and “a problem that we have to finally solve”.

“The status quo in North Korea is also unacceptable,” Trump told a meeting with the 15 UN Security Council ambassadors, including China and Russia, at the White House. “The council must be prepared to impose additional and stronger sanctions on North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programs.”

The official China Daily said on Tuesday it was time for Pyongyang and Washington to take a step back from harsh rhetoric and heed voices of reason calling for a peaceful resolution.

“Judging from their recent words and deeds, policymakers in Pyongyang have seriously misread the U.N. sanctions, which are aimed at its nuclear/missile provocations, not its system or leadership,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

“They are at once perilously overestimating their own strength and underestimating the hazards they are brewing for themselves,” it said.

In a phone conversation with Trump on Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for all sides to exercise restraint.

As the carrier group drills continued, the USS Michigan arrived in the South Korean port of Busan on Tuesday, the US Navy said. The nuclear-powered submarine is built to carry and launch ballistic missiles and Tomahawk cruise missiles.

As well as his military show of force, Trump has sought to press China to do more to rein in its nuclear-armed neighbor.

China, North Korea’s sole major ally, has in turn been angered by Pyongyang’s belligerence, as well as its nuclear and missile programs.

Source: Geo News