Trump criticizes Republican healthcare reform


Washington: US President Donald Trump has called the healthcare reform bill approved in May by the Republicans in the House of Representatives “petty”. The President also called on his colleagues in the Senate to make it “more generous,” sources from Congress told the media on Tuesday, Efe news reported.

A month after praising the House-approved bill and ensuring it was “incredibly well-crafted,” Trump urged the senators to make substantial changes to the same bill, which has been designed to replace President Barack Obama’s health reform implemented in 2010, but still needs the Senate’s approval, according to legislative sources cited by media outlets CNN and The Hill. In particular, Trump believes the bill approved by the House does not go far enough to protect Americans who depend on health insurance under Obama’s Health Care reform.

Modi to meet Trump at White House on June 26, might discuss H-1B issue
Doubts over the future of the bill in the Senate rose after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a report in May predicting that if the Republican reform is to go ahead, 23 million people in the US will lose their medical coverage within a decade. In addition, the Republican majority in the Senate is much narrower than in the House of Representatives and, according to current rules, Trump would need the votes of the 52 Republican Senators plus eight Democrats on his side.

Realizing the difficulty of the reform’s approval, the President suggested two weeks ago that the Senate changes its rules in order to pass the health law with a simple majority of 51 votes instead of 60 which are needed under current rules.

Trump has also vaguely suggested investing more money into the reform to make the US health care system “the best anywhere,” something that may throw conservative Republicans who want to use the law to reduce the budget deficit further.




Uber CEO takes leave of absence amid scandals


New York: Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has said he was taking a leave of absence for personal reasons, an announcement that comes at a time when the company is dealing with a series of workplace scandals. As part of a note announcing policies to improve its corporate culture, Kalanick said on Tuesday he would step aside for an unspecified period of time to focus on personal matters and reflect on how to build a world-class leadership team, Efe news reported.

“The ultimate responsibility for where we’ve gotten and how we’ve gotten here rests on my shoulders,” Kalanick said. “There is of course much to be proud of but there is much to improve.” Kalanick’s decision to step aside comes after an internal investigation conducted by a former US Attorney General, Eric Holder, a probe the company launched due to allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination.

On Tuesday, a report by Holder containing recommendations for improving the company were made public. Uber’s board unanimously accepted those suggestions. Among them, Holder said that Uber should “review and reallocate the responsibilities of Travis Kalanick” and search for a chief operating officer who would work closely with the new CEO to improve Uber’s corporate culture.

Holder also recommended that COO candidates have backgrounds in diversity and inclusion, saying that would reinforce “actions resulting from recommendations … relating to tone at the top and the need to focus on diversity and inclusion at Uber.” San Francisco-based Uber, the world’s largest ride-hailing app, last week fired 20 employees – including some in senior positions – after evaluating more than 200 claims of sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying and unprofessional conduct.

On Monday, a senior vice president at Uber, Emil Michael, stepped down ahead of Holder’s recommendations. The company has been under fire since February, when a former site reliability engineer, Susan Fowler, levelled numerous allegations of sexism against her former superiors in a lengthy blog post.

Her blog was widely shared online and prompted the company to launch an internal investigation. The ride-hailing app, which has roughly 12,000 employees, hired the services of Holder to look into the company’s work culture and contracted law firm Perkins Coie to review the specific harassment allegations.




Toll rises to 125 in Bangladesh landslides


Dhaka, The deaths in devastating landslides triggered by heavy rains in southeast Bangladesh rose to 125, an official said on Wednesday. Heavy rains since Monday morning swept through Bangladesh’s three southeastern districts — Chittagong, Bandarban and Rangamati — and triggered huge landslides early on Tuesday and damaged hundreds of homes, Xinhua news agency reported.

Disaster Management Ministry official G.M. Abdul Quader said that they received highest casualty information from Rangamati district, around 391 km from capital Dhaka. “Eighty-eight bodies have so far been recovered in the Ranganati district,” said Quader who supervises the Disaster Ministry control room in Dhaka.

He said 37 more deaths have been reported from Bandarban, around 316 km away of capital Dhaka, and Chittagong district, 242 km southeast of Dhaka. He said rescuers pulled at least 30 bodies out from the mud and earth in Chittagong while seven people were killed due to landslides in the country’s southeastern Bandarban district.

Scores of people were hurt and some people including a soldier still remained missing.  Officials said the Rangamati death toll included four members of Bangladesh Army including two of its officers. Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) of Bangladesh Army said 10 more army personnel were also injured in the incident while another still remained missing.

Lieutenant Colonel Md. Rashidul Hasan, director of ISPR, told Xinhua that army personnel died while they were working to clear a road in a worst landslide hit area in Rangamati district. Rangamati Police Chief Sayeed Tarikul Hassan told Xinhua that rescue operation is still underway.

He said flood caused by the incessant rain inundated many areas of the Rangamati since Monday.  Rescue teams, using shovels and bare hands, are still searching for more bodies under tons of mud and debris, he said. But rescue operations were delayed due to bad weather. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced after unusually heavy rain on Monday triggered a string of mudslides.




Pakistani man sentenced to death for blasphemy on Facebook


Islamabad: An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has sentenced a man to death for allegedly committing blasphemy on Facebook, the media reported. According to a report in the Guardian on Sunday, a court in Bahawalpur in Punjab province of Pakistan handed out the verdict, the harshest yet for such a crime, after finding Taimoor Raza, 30, guilty of insulting the prophet Muhammad.

Raza had indulged in a debate about Islam last year with a man who later turned out to be a counter-terrorism agent. Soon after the sectarian debate, Raza was arrested. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Raza, who belongs to Pakistan’s minority Shia Muslim community, was one among 15 people arrested by the counter-terrorism department last year, accused of blasphemy.

“My brother indulged in a sectarian debate on Facebook with a person, who we later come to know, was a (counter-terrorism department) official with the name of Muhammad Usman,” the report quoted Waseem Abbas, Raza’s brother, as saying. According to Raza’s defence attorney, he has been charged with two unrelated sections of the law to ensure the maximum penalty.

“Initially, it was a case of insulting remarks on sectarian grounds and the offence was 298A, which punishes for derogatory remarks about other religious personalities for up to two years,” said Fida Hussain Rana, the defence counsel. “Raza was later charged under section 295C of the penal code, related to “derogatory acts against prophet Muhammad”, Rana added.

To battle the blasphemy, Pakistani authorities have asked Twitter and Facebook to help identify users sharing blasphemous content. The government has also circulated text messages encouraging citizens to report fellow citizens sharing blasphemous content.

However, human rights defenders have expressed concern and opine that the stringent blasphemy laws are used as a tool to carry out personal vendettas.

“The casual manner in which death sentences are handed in blasphemy cases coupled with the lack of orientation of Pakistani courts with technology makes this a very dangerous situation,” said Saroop Ijaz, a lawyer with Human Rights Watch in Pakistan. Also, the sentence was handed down by an anti-terrorism court and not a regular court, sowing the confusion between national security and religion.




JIT summons Sharif on Jun 15 in Panamagate case


Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been summoned by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) investigating the high-profile Panamagate case on June 15 to question him about the scandal, the first sitting premier to
appear before a team probing graft charges. JIT chief Wajid Zia, in a letter dated Saturday, asked the prime minister to appear before the six-member probe team at 11.00 am on June 15 with all documents relevant to the
case.

The summon was issued to Sharif after he returned from his Kazakhstan visit where he attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit. Sharif, who is currently in Lahore, met with his close confidantes this morning to discuss the issue. After consulting with his aides, the prime minister has decided to honour the summons and appear before the JIT on Thursday, the Dawn reported.

Xi snubs Sharif by skipping bilateral meet after murder of Chinese nationals
The Joint Investigation Team, formed by the Supreme Court to probe the money trail of the property owned by Sharif family in London, had questioned Sharif’s sons – Hussain and Hasan – last month over the family’s alleged improper business dealings. His eldest son Hussain was questioned five times while Hasan, the younger son was summoned twice.
The court last year took up the case and issued split decision regarding allegations that money laundered when Sharif was prime minister in 1990s was used to buy the property.

On May 5, the Supreme Court set up a high-level six- member JIT to probe Sharif and his sons’ alleged corruption in
the Panama Papers case. The JIT is bound to complete the probe in 60 days unless it is granted additional time. It is for the first time that a sitting prime minister is appearing before a high-level probe team traditionally constituted to investigate high-profile criminal cases. It is not yet clear that Sharif will be questioned for once or he would be called again like his two sons.




North Korea launches multiple missiles: South Korea defence ministry


Seoul, North Korea launched what appear to be ballistic missiles from its east coast today, South Korea’s defence ministry said — in what would be the latest in a series of tests by Pyongyang in defiance of UN sanctions.

“North Korea fired multiple unidentified projectiles, assumed to be surface-to-ship missiles, this morning from the vicinity of Wonsan, Gangwon Province,” it said.




UK to vote in general election today


London: Millions of people across the UK are set to vote in the general election on Thursday where the ruling Conservatives are predicted to secure an overall majority despite an energetic bid for power by the opposition Labour Party, the media reported. Voting will begin at 7 a.m. (local time) in over 40,000 polling stations across the country, the BBC reported. Counting will start once the voting ends at 10 p.m.

A total of 650 Westminster MPs will be elected, with about 46.9 million people registered to vote. Some votes have already been cast, through postal voting. A handful of seats will be declared by Thursday midnight, with the final results expected on Friday afternoon. To form a majority in the House of Commons, one party must win 326 seats.

On Wednesday, the last day of election campaigning, Prime Minister Theresa May said she was “feeling good” and used her final push to pitch for what she termed as “fiercely patriotic” voters across Labour Party strongholds — the West Midlands, Yorkshire and the north-east, reports the Guardian.

During a 48-hour tour of places in marginal constituencies such as Fleetwood, Bradford, Stoke, Southampton and Nottingham, she also made clear that she wanted people to vote in defiance of the terror attacks. May also stressed to voters that there were only 11 days until the Brexit negotiations start, saying the “final” choice was between her or Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn, attended six rallies, starting at Glasgow, Scotland at 8 a.m. and ending in Islington, London with a speech at 9 p.m., where he claimed that Labour’s anti-austerity message was the “new centre ground” of British politics. Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron urged supporters to “send a message” to May on issues such as Brexit and social care by supporting his party.

Campaigning in Edinburgh, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said re-electing Scottish National Party (SNP) MPs would ensure Scotland retained a “strong voice” in Westminster and deny the Conservatives a “crushing majority”, reports the BBC. At their final election rally, the Green Party called on people to “vote with their hearts”.

Visiting Great Yarmouth, UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Paul Nuttall said only his party could keep the pressure on the next government to deliver a “real Brexit” — with lower immigration, exclusive fishing rights for British trawlers within UK territorial waters and no “divorce bill”.




Myanmar military finds wreckage of plane that went missing with 120 on board in Andaman Sea


Yangon: Myanmar’s military said today it has found the wreckage of a plane in the Andaman Sea that went missing with around 120 people on board, along with several bodies. “We have found the plane and some dead bodies this morning about 8.25 AM (0725 IST),” a spokesman from the military’s information team told AFP.

The country’s Commander in Chief confirmed in a Facebook post that the wreckage had been found off the coast of Launglon, in southern Myanmar, by a navy search team this morning. Nine navy ships and three air force planes had been dispatched to search for the aircraft, which disappeared yesterday as it flew from the southern city of Myeik to Yangon.

There was conflicting information on the number of people on board, but in the latest update the military said the plane was carrying a total of 122 people. More than half of the passengers were from military families, including 15 children, along with 35 soldiers and 14 crew members, the army chief’s office said in a statement.

“Some were on their way for medical checkups and to attend school,” said a spokesman from the military’s information team. It is monsoon season in Myanmar but there were no reports of stormy weather in the area at the time. Sources told AFP that debris had been found in the sea off the coastal town of Dawei, which lies an hour’s flight southeast of Yangon.

The commander-in-chief’s office said the plane lost contact with air traffic control at 1:35 PM (local time) yesterday, about half an hour after takeoff. The military named the captain of the Chinese-made Y-8F- 200 four-engine turboprop as Lieutenant Colonel Nyein Chan, who it said had more than 3,000 hours of flying experience.

The plane was bought in March 2016 and had a total of 809 flying hours. Myanmar’s military fleet has a chequered recent history of plane crashes. A five-strong crew died when an air force plane burst into flames soon after taking off from the capital Naypyidaw in February last year.

Three army officers were also killed in June when their Mi-2 helicopter crashed into a hillside and burst into flames in south-central Bago




Trump lashes out at Germany over trade and NATO, promises ‘change’


President Donald Trump has renewed his criticism of Germany following Chancellor Angela Merkel’s suggestion that her country needs to adopt a more independent stance in world affairs.

US President Donald Trump is seen at the Naval Air Station Sigonella following the G7 Summit, in Sigonella, Sicily, Italy, May 27, 2017. (Reuters Photo)

President Donald Trump has renewed his criticism of Germany following Chancellor Angela Merkel’s suggestion that her country needs to adopt a more independent stance in world affairs.

Trump posted a tweet Tuesday saying “we have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change.”Trump rattled some in Europe with his statements on NATO last week.

Merkel said Tuesday Germany’s relations with the United States are of “outstanding importance” but it must engage with other key nations going forward. She also suggested in the wake of the Trump visit that Europe’s relationship with Washington had shifted significantly and reiterated her position that “we in Europe have to take our fate into our own hands.”




Female driver on drugs mows down five pedestrians in Rome


Police in Rome on Tuesday arrested a woman motorist who knocked down five pedestrians including a mother and son, seriously injuring two of them.

All five victims were hospitalised.

One of the pedestrians, a 30-year-old man, is in intensive care at Rome’s San Camillo Hospital after he was dragged under the car’s wheels for several metres, while a young woman suffered a spinal cord injury, local daily Il Messaggero reported.

Passers by had to lift the car off the 30-year-old man who was trapped underneath it after the accident, the paper said.

Police ruled out an act of terrorism after the 43-year-old woman tested positive for drugs and was found in possession of 6 grammes of cocaine.

The woman allegedly felt unwell at the wheel and lost control of her Smart, which jumped a red light in the via dei Colli Portuensi in west Rome on Monday evening as people were crossing the road, police said.

The woman, referred to as MLA, lost her driving licence in February 2016, according to the police. She had allegedly knocked pedestrians before also, Il Messaggero said, without citing its sources.




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