UK encourages travelling Indians to apply for visitor visa

New Delhi: The United Kingdom has launched their annual #BEATthepeak campaign – to encourage Indian visitors to make the most of UKVI’s post-dated visa offer, which allows travellers to apply three months in advance and date their visa for when they travel.

Visa applicants can benefit from quieter Visa Application Centres and more available appointment slots outside of the peak period. The post-dated service allows Indian visitors to the UK to start their visa on their intended travel date.  For example, those planning to travel in April can apply for their visas in January, whilst keeping the full six month validity for when they intend to travel.

The 2018 BEAT the peak campaign was launched by the British High Commissioner to India, Sir Dominic Asquith KCMG, and will kick-start a range of activities led by the UK High Commission that aim to engage with the Indian tourist market and encourage them to visit Britain and apply early for their visa to do so.

British High Commissioner Sir Dominic Asquith said: “2017 was a record breaking year for the UK-India relationship, with more Indians travelling to the UK than ever before. In the year ending September 2017 well over half a million visas were issued to Indian nationals and visit visas alone were up by 11% year-on-year.

“That is great news for both our countries. We know hundreds of thousands of Indians will travel again in 2018 – and they can expect a quicker visa process if they apply up to three months early and beat the summer peak in April and May.” VisitBritain Interim Director for Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa Tricia Warwick said: “We want the UK to be a ‘must-go-now’ destination for visitors from India. Making it easy to travel here is an important part of our tourism offer.  With our hotels, attractions and shops, all offering great value for Indian visitors right now, it is a great time to come to Britain.”

The UK continues to make improvements to the visa service. There are more UK Visa Application Centres in India than any other country, including a premium lounge recently opened in Bengaluru, Whitefield. UKVI will also be improving the application process during 2018, with new online forms and upgraded technology to make the experience smoother, easier and more customer-friendly.

In addition, UKVI has committed to extending the Registered Traveller Service to Indian nationals – an optional membership scheme which provides expedited crossing through the UK border. Registered Travellers are entitled to use the EEA entry lanes, or if they hold an electronic passport, the ePassport gates, and won’t need to routinely fill in a landing card.

Former-US lawmaker Michael Lange sentenced to 18 years for drug trafficking

Los Angeles: A former US Republican lawmaker was sentenced to 18 years in prison for drug trafficking, officials said.  Michael Lange, 57, will spend 216 months in prison for two felony drug distribution charges, according to a sentence issued by Susan Watters, a US district judge of the Montana district court on Thursday.

Lange served three terms as a state lawmaker in the northwestern US state of Montana. He was the Republican House majority leader during the 2007 legislature, Xinhua reported.  Ironically, Lange had even supported as a lawmaker a bill to give $4 million to the Montana Meth Project, a large-scale prevention programme aimed at reducing first-time teen Meth use.

In September 2016, US agents began an investigation into a broad drug-trafficking organisation selling large quantities of methamphetamine in the Billings area in Montana.  Lange was identified as a large distributor for the organisation, so agents applied for and received search warrants for his cell phone content and ultimately his residence.

Lange’s text messages indicated that he was selling methamphetamine along with cocaine to a number of individuals. On October 11, 2016, agents executed a search warrant on Lange’s residence in Billings where they discovered more than 1 kg of methamphetamine and 442 grams of cocaine.  Interviewed by agents on two occasions, Lange admitted to participating in the conspiracy and obtaining approximately 20 pounds of methamphetamine for redistribution.

North Korea accuses US of plotting another Korean War

Pyongyang: North Korea has accused the US of plotting to provoke another Korean War by convening a foreign ministers’ meeting in Vancouver, Canada.

“The US, in collusion with Canada, created the scene of war simulation by summoning the foreign ministers’ meeting of the countries participated in the Korean War,” Xinhua quoted an official from the North Koreas’ Foreign Ministry as saying.  Some 20 countries, mostly those which joined the US in its aggression war against North Korea in 1950s, participated in the meeting on January 15-16. Japan and South Korea also took part in it.

The official said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “openly trumpeted” at the meeting that the US and its allies would intensify the pressure campaign against the North Korea by limiting export of oil and industrial products, strengthening naval control and expelling North Korean workers abroad until it stops its nuclear program.

Hafiz Saeed should be prosecuted to fullest extent of law: America
“The meeting speaks to the fact that the US is willing to spark a new war in the Korean Peninsula at any cost although it talks about dialogue,” he added.  The official said while the ongoing inter-Korean peace efforts have won broad support at home and abroad, countries which attended the unlawful and ambiguous meeting should consider the potential consequences of further sanctions.

North Korea had earlier warned that the US was preparing to ignite another war crisis during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics by newly deploying another nuclear carrier, Stennis, in the West Pacific, apart from sending special operation forces, electronic planes and other war machines to South Korea during the games.  The two Koreas have agreed to cooperate during the Olympics and take measures to ease the military tension on the Korean Peninsula since the beginning of the new year.

Donald Trump reveals highly anticipated ‘Fake News Awards’

Washington DC: President Donald Trump’s highly anticipated fake awards are out. While people thought the news was “error 404” turns out the website had crashed moments after the link was tweeted by President Trump.

“2017 was a year of unrelenting bias, unfair news coverage, and even downright fake news. Studies have shown that over 90% of the media’s coverage of President Trump is negative,” wrote the website GOP that had published the list.

Following are the winners of “Fake News winners” as mentioned by the website:

The New York Times’ Paul Krugman claimed on the day of President Trump’s historic, landslide victory that the economy would never recover.
ABC News’ Brian Ross CHOKES and sends markets in a downward spiral with false report.
CNN FALSELY reported that candidate Donald Trump and his son Donald J. Trump, Jr. had access to hacked documents from WikiLeaks.
TIME FALSELY reported that President Trump removed a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. from the Oval Office.
Washington Post FALSELY reported the President’s massive sold-out rally in Pensacola, Florida was empty. Dishonest reporter showed picture of empty arena HOURS before crowd started pouring in.
CNN FALSELY edited a video to make it appear President Trump defiantly overfed fish during a visit with the Japanese prime minister. Japanese prime minister actually led the way with the feeding.
CNN FALSELY reported about Anthony Scaramucci’s meeting with a Russian, but retracted it due to a “significant breakdown in process.”
Newsweek FALSELY reported that Polish First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda did not shake President Trump’s hand.
CNN FALSELY reported that former FBI Director James Comey would dispute President Trump’s claim that he was told he is not under investigation.
The New York Times FALSELY claimed on the front page that the Trump administration had hidden a climate report.
And last, but not least: “RUSSIA COLLUSION!” Russian collusion is perhaps the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people. THERE IS NO COLLUSION!
However, the list emphasised on President Trump’s achievements under his tenure till now. “While the media spent 90% of the time focused on negative coverage or fake news, the President has been getting results,” said the website. “The economy has created nearly 2 million jobs and gained over $8 trillion in wealth since the President’s inauguration,” stated one of the points.

It also said that African Americans and Hispanics “are enjoying the lowest unemployment rate” in recorded history. “ISIS is in retreat, having been crushed in Iraq and Syria,” stated another point. Earlier this month, Trump promised to unveil the award winners on Wednesday, and was questioned about the delayed awards.

Employ merit-based system for Indian immigrants: US admin

A merit-based immigration system, the Trump administration feels would admit the best and the brightest around the world while making it harder for people to come to the country illegally.

Washington : The Trump administration wants to admit immigrants who have skills, talent and can speak English, a top official has said, giving insight into the proposed merit-based system that may benefit individuals from countries like India.

President Donald Trump has been pushing for the merit- based immigration system to reduce overall immigration to the US.

A merit-based immigration system, the Trump administration feels would admit the best and the brightest around the world while making it harder for people to come to the country illegally.

The president also wants to scrap diversity lottery visa and chain migration to reform the current system. “..And so, our position, is that a system that prioritise individuals based on their individual skills and merit will certainly produce better results than the system we have now,” the senior administration official said on condition of anonymity.

“We want to bring in individuals, wherever they may be from, who love this country, who love its people, who have skills, who have talent, who have — who speak English, who are committed to supporting our values and our very way of life,” said the official. Such individuals could be from any part of the world given that they fulfil the requirements, the official said.       If such a policy is developed and implemented, it could benefit individuals from countries like India, the majority of whom meet the criterion.

 The Trump administration wants to reform the immigration system to serve the US’ national interest, the official said. The official said some of the existing programmes for immigrants ignored such requirements which are important for individuals to succeed in the US.

“So, what we have with the Diversity Lottery Program or through chain migration is that in these cases there are identified examples of individuals who were not selected to come to the US based on their love of this country, skills, merit, and individual attributes that will lead them to their success,” the official said. “We would like to admit individuals from all backgrounds or any place in the world, based on their own individual merit and their likelihood of success, into the US,” the official said.

The admission of any foreign national who goes on to commit a terrorism-related offense or who conspires to support terrorists is simply an unacceptable outcome for the US, no matter what, the official said. “Our goal is to eliminate terrorism in all of its forms, wherever it may emanate from,” the official said, reports PTI.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters that the president is pushing for a merit-based system irrespective of the country, religion and ethnicity of an applicant. “He wants immigrants to come in from everywhere, but he wants to do that through a merit-based system,” said Sanders. “By definition a merit based system is colour blind. It’s not basing it on any of that criteria.It’s not based on race, religion or country of origin. It’s actually based on the merits of whether or not this person’s going to be contributing to society,” she said in response to a question. Sanders said it was a “much more fair system” and the one supported and voted by Democrats “just years ago”. The White House said the current immigration system jeopardises the US’ national security, reiterating its call to end the chain migration and visa lottery system.

“By failing to impose meaningful selection criteria, such as skills or likelihood to assimilate, our current family- based system is incompatible with national security,” the White House said.

The remarks came soon after the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security released a new report showing three out of every four convicted terrorists entered the US through the current immigration system.

Second high-level inter-Korean meeting on Winter Olympics

Seoul: South and North Korea began their second high-level meeting on Wednesday to discuss North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympic Games to be held in South Korea. The Winter Olumpic Games will begin on February 9 in the South Korean county of Pyeongchang.

This is the second high-level inter-Korean meeting in little more than a week, after both countries held their first such meeting in two years on January 9, Efe reported. Both countries agreed to convene future military meetings to avoid further conflicts and to discuss the appointment of a North Korean delegation to Pyeongchang.

The South Korean delegation is led by Deputy Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung, while the three-member North Korean delegation is led by Jon Jong-su, vice chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC), an organization in charge of inter-Korean affairs.

The meeting will be carried out “in a calm manner, on the basis of the spirit of mutual respect and understanding,” South Korean Vice Unification Minister Chun said. During the meeting, North Korea is expected to announce its decision on South Korea’s offer to march together during the opening and closing parades of the games, as well as on whether or not North Korea will allow its athletes to officially compete in the events.

However, Pyongyang has yet to respond to the request made by Seoul on January 9 to hold a meeting in mid-February for families whose members were separated by the 1950-1953 Korean Wars. South Korea’s vice Unification Minister noted that, given the approaching start of the 2018 Winter Olympics, it is very likely that the Wednesday dialogue will focus only on the sports event.

US President Donald Trump given clean bill of health by White House doctor

Washington: US President Donald Trump is in”excellent” health and mentally fit for the presidency, according to the presidential physician. “All clinical data indicates that the president is currently very healthy and that he will remain so for the duration of his presidency.. the president’s overall health is excellent,” said Navy Rear Adm Dr. Ronny Jackson, who shared the results of Trump’s first physical.

Jackson held an extraordinary news conference — onTrump’s insistence — yesterday at the White House that lasted for about an hour. Amidst allegations from his opponents and some physicians about the status of his mental health, Jackson said that Trump asked him to conduct a test on him in this regard, even though it was not required by law. “A cognitive screening exam using the Montreal Cognitive Assessment was normal, with a score of 30 over 30,” he said. This exam is conducted in older patients for cognitive disorders like Alzheimer disease.

“There is no indication whatsoever that he has any cognitive issues. And, on a day-to-day basis, it has been my experience that the president — is very sharp, he is very articulate when he speaks to me. And, I have never known him to repeat himself around me,” Dr Jackson said. Trump, 71, is 6’3, weighs 108 pounds and has normal cardiac health, Jackson said. “He continues to enjoy the significant long-term cardiac and overall health benefits that come from a lifetime of abstinence from tobacco and alcohol,” he said.

Based on the blood profile and other health parameters, Jackson said he has recommended diet and exercise plan for the president for weight loss. Trump has agreed to get rid of 4.5-6 kg of body fat in the next one year by combining diet, exercise, and medication. “He has a history of elevated cholesterol and is currently on a low dose of Crestor.

In order to further reduce this cholesterol level and further decreases his cardiac risk, we will increase the dose of this particular medication,” Jackson said. Apart from this, Trump has no problems in vision, head, ears, nose, and throat. Tests of the liver, kidney, and thyroid were all normal.

Hafiz Saeed criticises Pakistan government for not ushering Islamic rule in country

Lahore [Pakistan]: The Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) chief and UN-designated global terrorist Hafiz Saeed has lashed out at the Pakistan government for not ushering Islamic rule in the country. “They have started this work by finishing the message of Prophet Muhammad. Let us unite and pledge that we would not let it happen,” Saeed has said at an event.

Already at loggerheads with the United States (US), especially over its decision to suspend military aid to Pakistan, the 26/11 mastermind criticised both the U.S. and Israel for the political chaos in the country. “This is Israel’s agenda, which America is executing effectively. After losing in Afghanistan, it wants to wage a new war here in Pakistan. The unity that I am seeing today here is good but we need bigger and better unity and start a revolution. We have to stand up and do something better for Islam and Pakistan,” Hafiz Saeed added.

Hafiz Saeed incited jihad in UK in 1990s, says BBC
The JuD chief is also looking to contest the 2018 general elections in Pakistan and has, thereby, formed a party by the name of Milli Muslim League (MML). Earlier this week, Saeed invited all Islamic states to launch ‘Jihad’ against the United States and Israel. Meanwhile, Pakistan recently prohibited Saeed’s JuD and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) from collecting donations.

Saeed has recently been released from house arrest after a Pakistani court cited lack of evidence against him in the 26/11 Mumbai attack case. India has, time and again, protested against Pakistan for harbouring Saeed, who is wanted for plotting the Mumbai attacks.

North Korea steps up tunnelling at nuclear test site

Seoul: North Korea has stepped up tunnelling at its main nuclear test site, a US think tank said, even as tensions cool on the peninsula following the resumption of long-stalled inter-Korean dialogue.

Satellite images showed increased activity at the Punggye-ri site, with mining carts and personnel frequently visible, and excavation waste piles growing, the respected 38North website said Thursday. “These activities underscore North Korea’s continued efforts to maintain the Punggye-ri site’s potential for future nuclear testing,” it said.

The last five of Pyongyang’s six nuclear tests have been carried out under Mount Mantap at Punggye-ri in the country’s north-west, all of them at the North Tunnel. After a series of small earthquakes in the area, 38North said last October that the site may be suffering from the geological condition “Tired Mountain Syndrome”. The syndrome refers to the effect of below-ground nuclear blasts on the surrounding rock, which is extensively fractured and becomes increasingly permeable.

Vladimir Putin calls Kim Jong Un ‘competent and mature’ leader
The latest pictures indicated the North Tunnel was “dormant” with water draining from its entrance, but that “tunnel excavation has been stepped up at the West Portal”. Elsewhere at the site there was unusual activity with some 100-120 personnel lined up in formation in the courtyard, their purpose unknown.

The images were taken in December, shortly before North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un gave a New Year speech warning US President Donald Trump of a “nuclear button” on his desk, while also offering to hold talks with Seoul. The olive branch led to the first official dialogue between the two Koreas in more than two years, and an agreement for Pyongyang to send a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in the South.

The apparent rapprochement came after months of confrontation, during which Pyongyang carried out multiple missile tests and by far its biggest nuclear detonation to date. But North Korea made no promises on its weapons programme at the talks, and lashed out when asked about denuclearisation by South Korean journalists, saying it was not up for discussion.

“The target of all our nuclear and hydrogen bombs and ICBMs and all other sophisticated weapons is the US,” the North’s chief delegate Ri Son-Gwon said. Since Kim inherited power in 2011, North Korea has made rapid progress towards its goal of developing a missile that can deliver an atomic warhead to the United States, which significantly strengthens its negotiating position.

French President Emmanuel Macron discusses Iran, North Korea with Trump over phone

Paris: French President Emmanuel Macron has held talks with his US counterpart Donald Trump on telephone, in which they discussed issues related to Iran and North Korea, according to the Elysee Palace.

In his conversation on Thursday, Macron has reiterated “the determination of France to support the strict implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement and the importance of it being respected by all signatories,” the President’s office said in a press release. “The agreement should be accompanied by a strengthened dialogue with Iran on its ballistic program and its regional policy, in order to guarantee improved stability in the Middle East,” it quoted Macron as saying.

In addition, Macron hailed the “historic” talks between North and South Korea as “a positive signal”, Xinhua news agency reported. “The continuation of the firm policy of the UN Security Council will bring about a political solution and move towards the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” Macron told Trump.

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