New Delhi: The Finance Ministry is planning to launch an exchange traded fund (ETF) consisting of stocks of PSU banks and financial institutions this fiscal and will soon appoint an advisor to explore its feasibility, according to an official. After the resounding success of CPSE ETF and Bharat-22 ETF, the government is looking at diversifying the ETF basket by including stocks public sector banks and financial institutions. “We will be soon appointing advisor to suggest on launching an ETF with PSU bank scrips. The advisor will also look into the feasibility of including stocks of financial institutions and insurance companies into the basket,” the official said. Also Read – SC declines Oil Min request to stay sharing of documentsThe plan to launch a bank ETF comes on the back of the government seeing huge investor demand for two existing ETFs. It has raised Rs 32,900 crore through two tranches and an additional fund offer of Bharat-22 ETF, and Rs 38,000 crore in five tranches of CPSE ETF in the domestic market. “We expect balance sheet of PSU banks to strengthen going forward and an ETF would provide risk-averse investors an option to hold shares of multiple banks through a single financial instrument,” the official said. Also Read – World suffering ‘synchronized slowdown’, says new IMF chiefCurrently, there are two state-owned insurance companies — General Insurance Corp of India and New India Assurance Co Ltd — and 19 public sector banks that are listed on exchanges. Besides, financial institution IFCI is also listed on the exchanges. The government currently has two exchange-traded funds — CPSE ETF and Bharat-22 ETF — listed on domestic exchanges. ETFs function like a mutual fund scheme and have underlying assets of government-owned companies. The Finance Ministry has also started consultations with global investors for launching CPSE-scrip based ETF in overseas market. The official further said that the government does not intend to launch in the domestic market any new ETFs comprising stocks of public sector companies since in most of these companies government holding is nearing 51 per cent. Bharat-22 ETF, which was launched in 2017-18, has 16 central public sector enterprises covering six sectors, three public sector banks and three private sector companies where the government holds minority stake. CPSE-ETF comprises shares of 11 companies — ONGC, Coal India, Indian Oil Corp, Power Finance Corp, REC, Bharat Electronics, Oil India, NTPC, NBCC (India), NLC India and SJVN Ltd. The government has budgeted to collect Rs 90,000 crore through CPSE disinvestment in the current fiscal as against Rs 84,972 crore mopped up in 2018-19.
Hyderabad: The ruling TRS in Telangana is in an introspection mode after the unexpected Lok Sabha election shocker that’s seen as a setback to the Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao.The Rao-led outfit welcomed into its fold as many of 11 Congress MLA since early March expecting them to further shore up the party’s prospects in the April 11 Lok Sabha elections. But that was not to be. In fact, the move to get them on board may have backfired, a senior TRS leader said. Also Read – Pak activated 20 terror camps & 20 launch pads along LoCBefore the poll in Telangana, which has a total of 17 Lok Sabha segments, TRS was confident of sweeping the elections in the company of AIMIM led by Hyderabad Lok Sabha member Asaduddin Owaisi. And its hope sounded credible in many quarters as both the Congress and the BJP had put up a dismal show in the Assembly elections just four months ago. The Congress won only 19 Assembly seats in the 119-member House, while the BJP could bag only one. The TRS returned to power with a rich haul of 88 seats. Also Read – Two squadrons which participated in Balakot airstrike awarded citations”Admitting the (11 Congress) MLAs created mistrust in the people who questioned the flouting of democratic norms…sort of dictatorship (by the Chief Minister) that is going to happen in future. That was one issue talked by many people,” a TRS leader admitted. “People who voted for (Congress) MLAs felt cheated. So, they wanted to teach TRS a lesson. With such a huge majority, there was no need for the TRS to accept Congress MLAs,” another TRS functionary added. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the TRS bagged 11 seats and the Congress two. The BJP, TDP, YSRCP and AIMIM shared one seat each. This time, the TRS saw its tally going down to nine. The BJP and the Congress won four and three seats respectively. Sources in the TRS alleged “collusion” between the Congress and the BJP to defeat candidates of the party. The big shocker for the TRS was the defeat of the Chief Minister’s daughter K Kavitha in Nizamabad and B Vinod Kumar, the party’s deputy leader in the previous Lok Sabha, in Karimnagar. Both lost to BJP candidates. “The fact that people generally preferred national parties in Lok Sabha elections and sidelining of TRS senior leader and the Chief Minister’s nephew T Harish Rao also played a part in the party losing ground,” a TRS leader said. There was also a wave in favour of the BJP, he added. “We (TRS) are in a shock; how could this happen? Now, in the coming days there could be revamp and reconstruction. Some exercise is going on,” a TRS leader said. The TRS was expecting a hung Parliament and keen to play a role at the national level but the NDA coming back to power on its own strength dashed its hopes. In fact, Rao had spearheaded the effort to bring together non-BJP and non-Congress regional parties on a common platform for a collective bargaining power. “But the whole programme is derailed”, sources in the regional party admitted.
Kolkata: The Medical Council of India (MCI) had granted 350 seats at the undergraduate level at three medical colleges in the state, including a government-run institution.The newly constructed Diamond Harbour Govt Medical College and Hospital has obtained 100 seats for the academic year 2019-20 while two private medical colleges — ICARE Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Haldia, and Shri Ramkrishna Institute of Medical Sciences and Sanaka Hospitals, Durgapur, have received 100 and 150 MBBS seats each, respectively. Also Read – City bids adieu to Goddess DurgaThe ICARE Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Haldia, have been granted the seats for five years. After five years, the institute may have to seek an approval to function with the increased number of seat. The other two medical colleges will have to seek permission from the MCI every year before admitting candidates in the added number of seats. The Mamata Banerjee government has set up five new medical colleges in the state to mitigate the crisis of doctors in the state and create new opportunities for medical aspirants. Also Read – Centuries-old Durga Pujas continue to be hit among revellersApart from Diamond Harbour Government Medical College and Hospital, four other state-run medical colleges are waiting for the MCI’s nod to get undergraduate seats for the current academic year. A senior official of the state Health department said a total of 400 undergraduate medical seats will be created in the four newly constructed medical colleges at Purulia, Rampurhat, Raigunj and Cooch Behar. In 2016, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced the project to set up five new medical colleges in the state. The Medical Council of India will approve the seats in these in colleges once it gets convinced about the availability of adequate infrastructure. The MCI has increased medical seats in all the other government-run medical colleges in the state having less than 250 sanctioned seats by 10 per cent on the overall number of seats in MBBS except the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital and NRS Medical Colleges and Hospital. No seats were increased in these two medical colleges in the city as they already have around 250 seats. After coming to power, Banerjee felt the need to create more opportunities for aspiring medical students. To address the crises in this sector, she announced to come up with more medical colleges in various districts. According to sources in the state Health department, the combined number of MBBS and BDS seats has increased from 2,205 to 3,750 while the number of post-graduate medical seats has increased from 880 to 1,297. The number of post-doctoral seats has also increased from 107 to 147.
Mumbai: Veteran Bollywood actor Tanuja has undergone operation for diverticulitis and is doing fine, says a source from the hospital. Tanuja, 75, was admitted to city-based Lilavati Hospital on Wednesday. An insider said that she would remain hospitalised for “at least a week”. Diverticulitis, a condition which results in the inflammation or infection of small pouches called diverticula that develop along the walls of the intestines. The news of the actor’s hospitalisation came two days after Kajol’s father-in-law, action director Veeru Devgan’s death.
London: US President Donald Trump meets outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday for trade-centred talks during his state visit to Britain, with protesters set to gather outside the gates. After a glittering banquet thrown by Queen Elizabeth II on Monday, the second day of Trump’s trip turns from pomp and ceremony to politics and business. The president’s three-day visit — centred around Wednesday’s D-Day 75th-anniversary commemorations — comes at a tricky time for Britain, with May stepping down within weeks over her handling of Brexit. Also Read – ‘Hong Kong won’t rule out Chinese help over protests’ The UK-US “special relationship” has been under strain over different approaches to Iran, the use of Chinese technology in 5G networks, climate change, and Trump’s personal politics. May is due to step down as leader of the governing Conservative Party on Friday, her Brexit strategy having imploded after nearly three years in the job. Some 13 candidates so far are jostling to replace her as prime minister by late July. Trump has weighed in on Brexit, saying he would walk away from the European Union without a deal if he could not get a deal he liked. Also Read – Pak Army chief accompanies Imran at key meetings in China He has also said he would like to strike a quick trade agreement once Britain leaves the EU. “Big trade deal is possible once UK gets rid of the shackles,” he tweeted Monday. Trump and May are set to co-host a business breakfast meeting at St. James’s Palace with five top companies each from Britain and the United States. Chiefs from BAE Systems, GlaxoSmithKline, Barclays, Reckitt Benckiser, JP Morgan, Lockheed Martin and Goldman Sachs International are among those expected to attend. “It is a great partnership, but one I believe we can make greater still,” May was to say at the business round-table, according to her Downing Street office. “With a bilateral free trade agreement, with broader economic co-operation… there are opportunities to seize. “Through dialogue like this we can ensure that our economic partnership not only endures but continues to grow stronger for many years to come.” Britain’s Prince Andrew, finance minister Philip Hammond and international trade minister Liam Fox are set to take part, along with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. May, Trump and their teams were then set to hold talks at Downing Street, followed by lunch together and press conference. The three-course lunch in 10 Downing Street’s state dining room will consist of Paignton harbour crab, followed by Lake District beef fillet and an Eton mess with peach for dessert. May will give Trump a copy of one of the most significant documents in the transatlantic “special relationship” — a framed copy of Winston Churchill’s personal draft of the 1941 Atlantic Charter, which defined the Allied goals post-World War II. Trump and May will also go on a private tour of the Churchill War Rooms, the bunkers from which Britain’s wartime prime minister ran his operations. Outside, thousands of leftwing anti-Trump protesters are due to rally in London’s Whitehall government district, headed by Labour opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn. The demonstration will rally round a giant inflatable balloon mocking Trump by depicting him as an orange baby. Corbyn, in his capacity as leader the opposition, was invited to Monday’s state banquet but boycotted the occasion, accusing Trump of “racist and misogynistic rhetoric”. He said the protest was “an opportunity to stand in solidarity with those he’s attacked in America, around the world and in our own country”. Corbyn is a late addition to a bill of left-wing lawmakers, trade unionists and protest regulars set to address the crowds. Trump’s day will be rounded off with a dinner at the US ambassador’s Winfield House residence.
New Delhi: Most Indians recognise that India’s global stature has risen in the last five years and this played a role in the NDA government retaining power for a second consecutive term, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Thursday.A “global rebalancing” is taking place and its “sharpest manifestation” is the rise of China and, to an extent, the rise of India as well, Jaishankar said during an interaction at a seminar. “A large majority of people in India recognised that India’s stature in the world has risen in the last five years,” the minister said, adding that the government has kept alive and perhaps even strengthened expectations of change in India. Also Read – Pak activated 20 terror camps & 20 launch pads along LoCThe government looks different from outside than from inside, Jaishankar, who served as foreign secretary from 2015-18, said without elaborating. In his first public event after becoming the external affairs minister, he also said the elections were a vote of confidence in the management of national security and foreign policy was integrated with it. In addition to this, a large part of India’s economy has been externalised and there is need for India’s foreign policy to help Indian companies gain better access to overseas markets. Also Read – Two squadrons which participated in Balakot airstrike awarded citationsJaishankar was addressing The Growth Net Summit 7.0, being organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Ananta Centre. The minister said he will continue with his predecessor Sushma Swaraj’s social media outreach to help Indians abroad. He said “enormous emphasis” will be given to Indians in distress and they now expect the government to reach out to them. This has changed the image of the foreign ministry, he added. The external affairs minister also called for greater integration between government departments to create a stronger focus on the economic issues being faced by Indian companies, especially in overseas markets. While highlighting India’s relationship with its immediate neighbourhood, Jaishankar said the priority has been to focus on the regional grouping BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) rather than SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation). BIMSTEC, he said, is witnessing a great deal of positive energy. It was decided to leverage that and invite the leaders of BIMSTEC nations to the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Modi last month, he added. According to the minister, changes the world is witnessing are very sharp and globalisation is under stress, especially in terms of market access and mobility of labour. Second is the growth of nationalism, which he said is being validated electorally across the globe, and the third is the global rebalancing taking place, especially with the rise of China. He said some of the changes are contradictory in nature. For example, some nations are increasing tariffs while others are focused on improving connectivity. In addition, there has been a rise in bilateral FTAs (free trade agreements) in light of the fact that the World Trade Organization (WTO) system is not working. He was of the view that India needed to find ways to fix architecture such as the WTO and make it more effective. “We can build a closer region through regional connectivity projects,” Jaishankar added. “If we want to propel economic growth, then there is greater responsibility for Indian foreign policy to focus on external aspect of it,” the minister said. There is big responsibility on the External Affairs Ministry to focus on project execution which has strategic significance, he added.
Manchester: Virat Kohli and Vijay Shankar are out in the middle. It will be a fifty over game, meaning the rain stoppage has not affected the game yet. India are at 336-5 (With inputs from Hindustan Times)
New Delhi: Total service tax arrears rose to Rs 1.66 lakh crore in 2017-18, up from Rs 1.18 lakh crore in the preceding financial year, said a CAG report tabled in Parliament Monday. Similarly, in respect of central excise, total arrears increased to Rs 96,496 crore in FY 2017-18 from Rs 84,200 crore in the previous year. “Further, recovery as per cent of gross arrears had reduced from 1.19 per cent in 2016-17 to 1.02 per cent in 2017-18 for service tax. Also Read – How a psychopath killer hid behind the mask of a devout laity!”Similarly, recovery as per cent of gross arrears had reduced from 1.85 per cent in 2016-17 to 1.27 per cent in 2017-18 for central excise,” said the audit report of Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG). It also stated that in central excise, 45,749 cases involving revenue of Rs 1,04,718 crore were pending in appeals at the end of 2017-18 registering a marginal decrease of 3.5 per cent over the amount pending at the end of the previous fiscal. In service tax, 43,718 cases involving service tax revenue of Rs 1,20,907 crore were pending in appeals at the end of 2017-18 registering one per cent decrease over the amount pending at the end of preceding year. The report has 263 audit paragraphs containing 369 audit observations on central excise and service tax, having financial implication of Rs 465.55 crore. The CAG examined and found shortcomings in monitoring mechanism for recovery of arrears in CBIC.
Kolkata: Notwithstanding the party’s dismal performance in the Lok Sabha polls, Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee Friday told the party activists to work hard as she is confident of bouncing back in 2021 assembly polls. During a meeting with leaders of Bankura and Jhargram district, Banerjee asked the “traitors” to leave the party instead of harming its prospects. “Our party supremo told us that she is confident that the TMC will bounce back in 2021 assembly polls. Those leaders who are working for the BJP from within should immediately leave the party,” a senior TMC leader of Bankura said after the meeting. Banerjee, also West Bengal chief minister, rebuked a section of the leaders for the party’s poor performance in the general elections. The TMC lost all the three Lok Sabha seats to the BJP in the two districts. She asked TMC workers to prepare for the 2021 assembly elections in the state and to bring back the old-timers into the party fold, the senior leader said.
Srinagar: Eid al-Adha prayers on Monday morning at various mosques in the Kashmir Valley concluded without any violence, police said. The authorities had on Sunday said people will be allowed to visit neighbourhood mosques to offer prayers. Large gatherings, however, were not allowed in any part of the Valley, an official said on Monday. “#Eid #prayers concluded #peacefully in various parts of the #valley. No untoward incident reported so far,” the Jammu and Kashmir Police said in a tweet. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’ Reports suggested authorities distributed sweets at various mosques. On the eve of Eid al-Adha, restrictions were eased in the Valley to allow people to shop for the festival. However, the usual hustle and bustle of the Eid al-Adha festival was missing in the Valley where normal life has been paralysed following heavy security deployment, restrictions on movement and curtailing of communication links after the abrogation of special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 on August 5. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&K The district administrations are constantly reviewing the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and doing their best to minimise the inconvenience caused to people during the restrictions imposed on movement, the official said. The government has also made arrangements for availability of adequate food and other essential items across the Kashmir Valley and steps are being taken to even deliver certain goods at people’s doorsteps, another official said. The government’s top priority is to maintain peace and prevent any casualty and mischief in Jammu and Kashmir, he said. President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday declared the abrogation of special status given to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 following a Parliamentary approval in the Modi government’s proposal. On Saturday, he gave assent to a bill passed by the Parliament for bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh — which will come into existence on October 31.
Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement faces a major test this weekend as it tries to muster another huge crowd following criticism over a recent violent airport protest and as concerns mount over Beijing’s next move. Ten weeks of protests have plunged the international finance hub into crisis with the communist mainland taking an increasingly hardline tone, including labelling the more violent protester actions “terrorist-like”. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from USChinese state media have put out images of military personnel and armoured personnel carriers across the border in Shenzhen, while the United States has warned Beijing against sending in troops, a move many analysts say would be a reputational and economic disaster for China. The nationalistic Global Times newspaper said there would not be a repeat of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, in which hundreds — or even thousands — are believed to have been killed, if Beijing moves to quash the protests. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential polls “The incident in Hong Kong won’t be a repeat of the June 4th political incident in 1989,” it said, insisting the country now had more sophisticated approaches. It was a rare reference to the bloody events, which are taboo in China. Hong Kong’s protests were sparked by opposition to a plan to allow extraditions to the mainland, but have since morphed into a wider call for democratic rights in the semi-autonomous city. Millions of people have hit the streets while clashes have broken out between police and small groups of hardcore protesters for 10 consecutive weekends. For most of that time, US President Donald Trump has taken a hands-off approach to the unrest but began speaking up this week, suggesting any potential trade deal with Beijing could be upended by a violent response from the mainland. Speaking on Thursday, Trump urged his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to meet protesters and solve the crisis “humanely”. Activists are now planning to hold a major rally on Sunday, which is being billed as a “rational, non-violent” protest designed to show the movement still maintains broad public support after suffering a setback earlier in the week. On Tuesday, protesters blocked passengers from boarding flights at the city’s airport and later assaulted two men they accused of being Chinese spies. The shocking images damaged a movement that until then had largely only targeted the police or government institutions, and prompted some soul-searching among protesters. China’s propaganda apparatus seized on the violence, with state-media churning out a deluge of condemnatory articles, pictures and videos. Sunday’s rally is being put together by the Civil Human Rights Front, a protest group that advocates non-violence and has previously been the driving force behind record-breaking rallies in June and July that saw hundreds of thousands of people hit the streets. “This coming Sunday should be another million-strong march. Hong Kong people can’t be defeated, Hong Kongers soldier on,” prominent pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo wrote on Facebook. But the likelihood of renewed clashes over the weekend remains high. On Saturday, activists have vowed to gather in Hung Hom and To Kwa Wan — two harbourside districts popular with mainland Chinese tourists — despite police banning their proposed marches. And while police have given permission for protesters on Sunday to rally in a major park on Hong Kong island, they have forbidden demonstrators from marching through the city. Previous bans in the last few weeks have simply been ignored by demonstrators, leading to running battles with riot police. Authorities say they have been compelled to ban recent rallies because of increasing violence used by hardcore protesters, who have often targeted police stations alone their marching routes with bricks, slingshots and Molotov cocktails. Hong Kong maintains freedoms unknown on the authoritarian mainland under a 50-year deal that came into effect when the former colony was handed back to China by Britain in 1997. Many Hong Kongers say those liberties are being eroded and have hit the streets in huge numbers in recent years. Yet their demands to elect their own leaders and halt sliding freedoms have fallen on deaf ears. The current protests are the biggest threat to Beijing’s authority since the handover and as violence has escalated, party leaders have only hardened their tone. Beijing has also ordered Hong Kong’s companies and influential tycoons to toe the line. On Friday Cathay Pacific announced the shock resignation of its CEO Rupert Hogg after the Hong Kong carrier was excoriated by Beijing because some staff supported the pro-democracy protests. Many tycoons have published statements calling for an end to the protests, the latest coming from the city’s wealthiest man Li Ka-shing who took out adverts in seven Hong Kong newspapers.
I think that the biggest side-effects of urban living in India are the ensuing health issues. There is perhaps no major city in India that allows for a healthy life. Today, we routinely speak of air pollution in Delhi NCR and the region’s transformation into a gas chamber. Many other Indian cities too have dangerous levels of air pollution. I don’t know if you have noticed but I have since I’m a sky-gazer i.e., I can spend hours looking at the sky. The hues are not the same as they used to be when we were kids in the 90s. That is the direct consequence of air pollution. The country is also reeling under water crisis with 21 cities likely to run out of water by 2020. There is another menace that we aren’t speaking about and I’d like to get the conversation started – the deafening silence surrounding noise pollution (pun intended) is surprising. Also Read – A special kind of bondAccording to reports, Delhi was the second-noisiest city in the world in 2017, preceded by Guangzhou and followed by Cairo and Mumbai. I won’t be surprised if more Indian cities find pride of place should the Worldwide Hearing Index survey other Indian cities such as Kolkata. Did you know that Delhiites have a hearing age similar to that of 20 years older! Which means that a 20-year-old has the hearing ability of a 40-year-old. And, Delhi and Mumbai can’t be the only loud cities. Incessant car honking in Kolkata can literally get onto your nerves! Also Read – Insider threat managementI’ll tell you what happens to me when I hear loud noises, mostly car horns. I immediately have headaches, feel dizzy, have trouble focussing on anything, and more often than not, I’m so stressed and anxious that I’m ready to physically pound the living daylights out of the miscreant who dares honk constantly. And there are thousands of such nincompoops on road every day. Perhaps the continuous honking has already turned them deaf so they just aren’t affected or bothered. The possibility of most of these honking traffic goons being deaf is quite plausible. The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that over 1 billion people risk permanent loss of hearing due to loud sounds, of which transport and automobile sounds occupy a considerable portion. The current permissible level for traffic noise is 53 decibels but it’s hardly implemented in any of the Indian metros. As per a 2014 report in the Indian Journal of Community Medicine, vehicular air horns were found to the primary contributor to noise pollution, day and night-time noise levels were found to be almost always well over the permissible limit, and alarmingly, the ambient noise levels in silence zones was found to go up to 90 dB when only 50 dB is allowed. Not to mention the other physiological effects of noise pollution – hypertension, high stress, tinnitus, hearing loss, sleep disorders among others. Obviously, animals suffer more than human beings. But in spite of all hazards surrounding this grave issue, there is barely any discussion surrounding this. Traffic police across cities never penalise rowdy, honking car drivers and bike riders. So, it was music to my ears when the Delhi police removed aftermarket loud exhausts from over 500 Royal Enfield motorcycles this month. Hopefully, traffic cops in other cities will also follow suit in maintaining proper silence zones near schools and colleges and also rounding up road Romeos who routinely make road travel a jarring experience. Hefty fines and monetary penalties must be levied on people who create noise pollution. But more needs to be done by the administration of various states as well as the Centre. There has to be an urgent rethink on the permissible sound limits; the current noise rules are almost 20 years old (Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000). Loudspeakers used at functions, political gatherings, and religious festivals must all follow permissible sound limits, otherwise, there should be a strict crackdown on those flouting rules. Most importantly, the central government should look at engaging automobile horn manufacturers and allowing only certain kinds of car horns that are within the allowed sound limit. Let’s not wake up to sound pollution only during Diwali; noise pollution is happening daily and it’s time to put the silencer on. (The writer is an author and media entrepreneur. The views expressed are strictly personal)
Washington DC: The US has unveiled new steps to fight terrorism and add muscle to the Trump administration’s ability to pursue terror suspects, their financiers and supporters worldwide. Utilising a new executive order signed by President Donald Trump, issued on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary, the Treasury Department sanctioned over two dozen individuals and entities from 11 terrorist groups, including Pakistan-based Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from USNoor Wali, also known as Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud, from the TTP was one of the sanctioned individuals, the US State Department said, describing him as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. He was named the leader of the terror group in June 2018 following the death of former TTP leader Mullah Fazlullah. Under Noor Wali’s leadership, TTP has claimed responsibility for numerous deadly terrorist attacks across Pakistan, the State Department said in a press release. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential pollsThe executive order allows the US government to better target terror group leaders and provides new tools to pursue individuals who participate in terrorist training, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. This order also authorises secondary sanctions on foreign financial institutions that have knowingly conducted or facilitated significant transactions with sanctioned persons, Mnuchin said. He added that the order targets those actors for and behalf of specially-designated global terrorists. “Specifically, we have leaders, operative and financiers from over 11 terrorist organisations, including Iran’s Quds Forces, Hamas, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and their affiliates,” Mnuchin told White House reporters at a joint news conference with the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Pompeo described the executive order as the “most-significant update” to counter-terrorism sanctions authority since September 2001. The treasury secretary said that his department was enhancing efforts to deny terrorist access to the financial system. “Since the horrific attacks of 9/11, the US government has refocused its counter-terrorism efforts to constantly adapt to emerging threats. President Trump’s modernised counter-terrorism Executive Order enhances the authorities we use to target the finances of terror groups and their leaders to ensure they are as robust as possible,” Mnuchin said. “These new authorities will allow the US Government to starve terrorists of resources they need to attack the United States and our allies, and will hold foreign financial institutions who continue to do business with them accountable. These new tools aid America’s unrelenting efforts to cut off terrorists from their sources of support and deprive them of the funds required to carry out their destructive activities. They serve as a powerful deterrent to radical terror groups and those seeking to aid their nefarious goals, the treasury secretary said. According to Pompeo, the new order amends the previous one by adding clauses that allow the departments of state and treasury to directly target leaders of terrorist groups and their associated entities without having to tie terrorist leaders to specific acts. “Second, it is more effectively and efficiently targets individuals and entities who participate in terrorist training and provides new authorities to impose sanctions on foreign financial institutions that knowingly do business with terrorists,” Pompeo said. “As these actions show, today’s executive order by President Trump adds further muscle to the US counter-terrorism efforts,” the secretary of state said. “It will help us to ensure that the deadly attacks of September 11 that occurred 18 years ago this week are never repeated on American soil. Never,” he said.
Kolkata: The state government has decided to provide freehold land rights to IT major Wipro on its 50-acre plot in New Town. The plot has been leased out to Wipro for 99 years.It has also been learnt that the state government will allow Wipro to use 49 percent of the land for non-IT purposes. The concessions will be given to Wipro for setting up the company’s second campus in the city. The state government has also decided to offer a host of benefits to the company, to compensate for the tax concessions that one gets under Special Economic Zone (SEZ) grounds. The state government has also offered free holding right to the company so that it can develop facilities of its choice. The company’s initial proposal says that the second campus of Wipro is likely to create around 18,000 additional jobs. At present there are around 7,500 people working at the first campus that came up on 25 acres in Salt Lake’s Sector V as an SEZ in 2005, during the Left Front regime. It may be mentioned here that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, while addressing the ‘Save Green Stay Clean’ event in Nazrul Mancha on August 1, had announced that the company has agreed to operate its second campus on a 50-acre plot in the Silicon Valley IT Hub in New Town, with an investment of Rs 500 crore.
New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday directed all his cabinet ministers to begin immediate implementation of seven-point action plan to combat high-level of air pollution during winters, sources said. He directed Health Minister Satyendar Jain to take immediate steps to begin the process of procuring ‘best quality’ N-95 anti-pollution masks, they said. The odd-even road rationing scheme will come into effect in the national capital from November 4 to 15. Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murderKejriwal had announced this last week among a slew of other measures to combat high-level of air pollution caused due to stubble burning in neighbouring states during winters. “There should be no compromise in the procurement of ‘best quality’ N-95 anti-pollution masks. Health of Dehiiites during the critical season will be given priority,” the sources quoted Kejriwal as saying in directive to Jain. On September 13, the chief minister had said his government would make large-scale procurement of around 50-60 lakh N-95 anti-pollution masks which would be distributed among the people in October before the spike in air pollution in next month due to parali burning. The seven-point action plan also includes mass mechanised sweeping and water sprinkling on roads, tree plantation, and special plans for 12 pollution hotspots in Delhi. The Delhi government would hold a mega laser show on the eve of Diwali and appeal to the people to follow the ban on bursting of crackers on the festival, Kejriwal had said.
NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. – A defence lawyer says his client’s ongoing psychosis makes him unfit to stand trial for the murder of a high school girl in Abbotsford, B.C.Martin Peters says Gabriel Klein can’t meaningfully participate in a trial because he has reported hearing voices, has difficulty communicating because of his disordered thinking, and the stress of a trial could cause his mental state to deteriorate further.Klein is accused of the second-degree murder of 13-year-old Letisha Reimer and the aggravated assault of a second Grade 9 student who were attacked in the lobby of Abbotsford Senior Secondary in November 2016.Peters says Klein should be remanded back to the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam, where he has been treated four times since he was arrested.A psychiatrist who has been treating Klein told the court yesterday that the man has schizophrenia and is psychotic.Klein’s trial is set to begin May 7, but a judge first has to decide if he’s mentally fit.
THUNDER BAY, Ont. – Ontario provincial police say a woman wanted following an Amber Alert is facing several charges.Police issued an Amber Alert on Monday after a boy was allegedly taken from a community in the Thunder Bay, Ont., area that morning.The eight-year-old was found safe roughly three hours later at a Tim Hortons in Thunder Bay, but police said they were still looking for a woman.OPP say a 47-year-old Thunder Bay woman was arrested and is charged with abduction in contravention of a court order, break and enter, and assault.Police say she has been released and is scheduled to appear in Thunder Bay court on June 1.OPP say no further information can be released due to a publication ban.
The Canadian government says a citizen is in police custody in Belize in connection with the deaths of a Toronto woman and her American boyfriend.A spokesman with Global Affairs Canada said Thursday afternoon that consular officials are assisting the family of the detained Canadian and are in contact with local authorities.Police in Belize have said 52-year-old Francesca Matus and her American boyfriend, Drew DeVoursney, died of strangulation.Their bodies were found on Monday in a sugar cane field in the country’s Corozal district.They were last seen leaving a bar around 11 p.m. six days earlier.DeVoursney’s mother said earlier on Thursday that the U.S. embassy in Belize told her two people were questioned in the case and have since been released.
MONTREAL – While water levels continued their slow decline in some parts of Quebec on Wednesday, the province’s environment minister warned the situation could deteriorate in others this weekend because of heavy rain.David Heurtel said the central Quebec region of Mauricie is expected to bear the brunt of the precipitation.“We’re looking at considerable rainfall on the weekend,” he told a news conference.“Depending on the region, we’re talking about 20 to 40 millimetres but in Mauricie the impact will be even greater, so we should expect another tough weekend there.”Heurtel said the combination of rain, melting snow in the St-Maurice River basin and rising tides could prove to be damaging in the region.Trois-Rivieres resident Patrice Bourassa, who has been co-ordinating volunteer efforts in Mauricie, said citizens in some of the worst-hit regions are losing energy and patience.“It’s reached the point they have to leave their homes in the morning and take a canoe to their vehicle 500 metres away because it’s too flooded,” he said in a telephone interview.Bourassa said the Facebook page he created has already drawn 1,200 members, with many spending the last few days building dikes, packing sandbags and helping citizens.He says that while city officials have offered all the help they can, some of the smaller towns in the region have fewer resources to deal with flooding.The mayor of Nicolet, Que. said the small town at the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Nicolet rivers had put out a voluntary evacuation order in advance of the rising waters.Genevieve Dubois fears the water levels could rise by 25 centimetres putting up to 300 homes at risk and cutting off road access to the town.But she said most people were staying put and planned to simply monitor the water level after a major sandbagging effort she hopes will keep most houses dry.“People are starting to get tired but the morale is still there,” she said.Levels are expected to remain stable in flooded areas in the Greater Montreal area, where Heurtel credited the management of water flow from the Ottawa River and Great Lakes basins with preventing the situation from getting worse.Weekend rain isn’t expected to cause a spike in Montreal-area water levels, Heurtel said.“The flow will continue decreasing and ultimately the rains that are going to come are going to slow down the decrease,” Heurtel said.“We’re not looking at the rainfall rising the levels. It’s going to slow down the decrease or it’s going to be maintained at the same levels.”Meanwhile, Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux told the same news conference that 3,882 residences in the province have now been affected by the floods.Coiteux also said 2,721 people have had to leave their homes and that there have been 126 landslides.One of the hardest-hit areas is the Gatineau region of western Quebec. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard were scheduled to tour the area by helicopter on Thursday morning to get a close look at the damage.In Ottawa, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the military is deploying several hundred more Canadian soldiers to help with flood relief efforts in Quebec, bringing the total to 2,200 by the end of the day.Sajjan said about 470 army reservists from Ontario had started arriving in Quebec to fill sandbags, evacuate people and provide other assistance.In Montreal, fire Chief Bruno Lachance said the focus is on consolidating dams and that he doesn’t expect the number of evacuees to rise.A state of emergency remains in effect in Montreal until Sunday, with Lachance saying 243 people have been evacuated and about 400 homes flooded in the city.“We know it will take days before it recedes totally — maybe weeks,” he said. “We ask people to be patient, we’re going to help them when the time comes, (but) for the moment, we’re still in an emergency situation.”At least one person has died in the province because of the floods — a man whose car ended up in a surging river in the eastern Gaspe region on Sunday.Authorities resumed their search Wednesday for a two-year-old girl who disappeared in the same incident but put it on hold later in the day. It will pick up again Thursday with additional provincial police officers who are specialized in searches in water and on riverbanks.The Canadian Red Cross has set up a relief fund, with the federal government contributing $1 million and the Quebec government $500,000.Other Quebec municipalities have also contributed, notably Montreal, which has pledged $250,000.— with files from Morgan Lowrie in Montreal.
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the safety of children is a priority, but he won’t say whether his government will move ahead with a public registry for high-risk sex offenders.In the House of Commons, Conservative MPs demanded Wednesday to know whether the Liberals would create the online tool, made possible by legislation the previous government ushered through Parliament.The Canadian Press recently reported that Public Safety officials had urged the Liberals to put the brakes on a public registry.An internal March 2016 memo says “a number of concerns have been raised” — from resource pressures to fears of vigilante-style attacks on offenders — that would support dropping the idea of a public database.“If the Liberals have a problem with the public being informed about dangerous criminals living in their neighbourhood, then Canadian parents have a right to know,” Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said during question period Wednesday.Trudeau said police are already advised when high-risk sex offenders are released and that officers can inform the public of any concerns.The Conservatives wouldn’t let the issue go.MP Rob Nicholson, a former justice minister, said Canadians should a public registry would give people information to help keep their children safe. “Will the prime minister do the right thing, yes or no? Canadians deserve to know.”Trudeau accused the Opposition of playing “the worst kind of crass political games” on a serious issue.The Conservatives tabled legislation for the public registry, but “did not put any money toward it,” which was typical of the previous government, Trudeau said.“It was all talking a big game, not actually delivering. We are focused on concretely keeping our communities safe and giving police the tools necessary to keep our communities safe.”The Canadian Press used the Access to Information Act to recently obtain the March 2016 memo and other internal notes on legislative measures to crack down on child predators.The proposed database would provide the public with a national inventory of high-risk child sex offenders in their communities and allow them to take appropriate precautions, the notes say. Currently such information is available only to authorities.The notes indicate that officials recommended proceeding with elements of the legislation that impose new reporting requirements on registered sex offenders and allow for better information sharing between federal agencies.But officials suggested Public Safety Canada and RCMP would undertake a review and consult interested parties “for a fully informed assessment of the proposed new database” and develop options for the government.A Public Safety official said last week that “work on this initiative is ongoing.”— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter