World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim to step down on February 1


World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim to step down on February 1

Washington: In a surprise move, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on Monday announced that he will step down from his position on February 1 – much before the end of his term in 2022. Kim, 58, has been in this position for over six years now. The president of the Washington-based World Bank has always been an American citizen nominated by the United States, which is the largest shareholder of this multilateral financial institution.

“It has been a great honour to serve as President of this remarkable institution, full of passionate individuals dedicated to the mission of ending extreme poverty in our lifetime,” Kim said.

Kristalina Georgieva, World Bank CEO, will assume the role of interim President effective February 1.

“The work of the World Bank Group is more important now than ever as the aspirations of the poor rise all over the world, and problems like climate change, pandemics, famine and refugees continue to grow in both their scale and complexity,” Kim was quoted as saying in a World Bank press release.

“Serving as President and helping position the institution squarely in the middle of all these challenges has been a great privilege,” Kim said.

During his term as World Bank President beginning July 2012, Kim emphasised that one of the greatest needs in the developing world is infrastructure finance and he pushed the Bank Group to maximize finance for development by working with a new cadre of private sector partners committed to building sustainable, climate-smart infrastructure in developing nations, the release said.

To that end, Kim announced that, immediately after his departure, he will join a firm and focus on increasing infrastructure investments in developing countries, it said, adding that the details of this new position will be announced shortly.

Under his leadership, the World Bank established two goals: to end extreme poverty by 2030; and to boost shared prosperity, focusing on the bottom 40 percent of the population in developing countries. These goals now guide and inform the institution in its daily work around the globe, it said.

In addition, shareholders strongly supported measures to ensure that the Bank Group be even better positioned to respond to the development needs of clients: The Bank Group’s Fund for the Poorest, IDA, achieved two successive, record replenishments, which enabled the institution to increase its work in areas suffering from fragility, conflict, and violence.

In April 2018, the Bank Group’s Governors overwhelmingly approved a historic USD 13 billion capital increase for IBRD and IFC that will allow the Bank Group to support countries in reaching their development goals while responding to crises such as climate change, pandemics, fragility, and underinvestment in human capital around the world.

“Over the past 6+ years, the institutions of the World Bank Group have provided financing at levels never seen outside of a financial crisis,” the bank said.

Recognising the power of capital markets to transform development finance, the Bank Group during Kim’s tenure also launched several new innovative financial instruments, including facilities to address infrastructure needs, prevent pandemics, and help the millions of people forcibly displaced from their homes by climate shocks, conflict, and violence.

The Bank is also working with the United Nations and leading technology companies to implement the Famine Action Mechanism, to detect warning signs earlier and prevent famines before they begin.

 



8 PIOs compete for Rs 21 crore in Bahamas poker game


8 PIOs compete for Rs 21 crore in Bahamas poker game

Nassau: Eight Indian men from across the country are vying to win one of the largest prize money of over Rs 21 crore in a poker tournament being held over five days in this picturesque island, known for its watersports and casinos. The eight won the entry ticket of $25,000, among the largest, through “platinum passes” offered by the organisers, Pokerstars — by playing and winning other tournaments or online competitions.

In all, 1014 players entered the first day of the five-day tournament with around 250 getting eliminated. The prize pool would be over $25 million with the top player getting a percentage of the pool. It’s all about surviving for five days with enough chips. It’s challenging both mentally and physically,” said Nikhil Segal, a Delhi based architect who was able to hold on to and gain a little from the starting stack in chips of $60,000 on the first day. Segal, who calls himself a recreational poker player said that one had to be totally focussed on the game.

 



Guess this has to go to my 102-year-old father Kirk Douglas, says Michael Douglas


Guess this has to go to my 102-year-old father Kirk Douglas, says Michael Douglas

Los Angeles: Actor Michael Douglas picked up the Golden Globe trophy for his performance in “The Kominsky Method”, and dedicated the honour to his father and actor Kirk Douglas. Michael took home the Golden Globe on Sunday here for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy for his role in “The Kominsky Method”.

He was pitted against Sacha Baron Cohen (“Who Is America?”), Jim Carrey (“Kidding”), Donald Glover (“Atlanta”) and Bill Hader (“Barry”). Thank you, my regard to Hollywood Foreign Press. For 45 years, you’ve always surprised me and treated me so well. Donald and Bill, Sacha, Jim, I can’t even imagine sitting in the same group for this honour in comedy,” Michael said while accepting the award.

This is Michael’s fourth Golden Globe win. The 74-year-old actor also thanked his family, co-stars and “The Kominsky Method” creator Chuck Lorre. The truth be told, I owe all of this to one man out there — Mr. Chuck Lorre,” he said, adding: “Chuck thinks getting old is funny. Thank you for your exquisite work.”

He then dedicated the award to his father and legendary actor, saying, “And I guess this has to go to my 102-year-old father, Kirk. Hosted by Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh, the 76th Golden Globes ceremony was held at The Beverly Hilton hotel here.
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”, which follows African-American/Puerto Rican Brooklyn teen Miles Morales as Spider-Man, was named as the Best Animated Feature film at the ceremony. The award gala was aired in India on Colors Infinity, Vh1 and Comedy Central.

 



Lose weight or lose the job: Pakistan International Airlines warns ‘obese’ cabin crew members


Lose weight or lose the job: Pakistan International Airlines warns ‘obese’ cabin crew members

Islamabad: Pakistan’s flag carrier PIA has asked some of its cabin crew with “excess weight” to shed some kilos within six months or risk being grounded, in a bid to make them “slim, smart and fit”, a media report said. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) also issued a suggested weight chart for differing heights and body types, The Express Tribune reported.

Those already “on weight check” need to report monthly to a “grooming cell” to receive clearance to fly, it said. The carrier’s general manager of flight services Aamir Bashir issued an order on the first day of 2019, saying official excess weight limits would be cut back by five pounds (2.26 kgs) a month, the report said.

In a memo distributed to approximately 1,800 cabin crew, PIA said they must trim down or face being grounded, the report said. The airline said it is cracking down on what it terms the “excess weight” of some of its cabin crew. Currently, flight attendants, who are 30 pounds (13.6 kgs) over are still eligible for flight duty, the report said.

According to the airline’s weight chart, for a “medium frame” woman of 5 feet 7 inches height (1.7 meters), for example, the guide is 133 to 147 pounds (60 to 66 kgs). “Weight check of all the cabin crew will be carried out at their base stations respectively and comprehensive data will be maintained for perusal of management,” the news report quoted the memo as saying.

Around 100, over 5 per cent, of the crew would need to lose weight by July 1 to avoid grounding, Mashhood Tajwar, a PIA spokesman was quoted as saying in the report. He described the crackdown on overweight flight crew as a “regular, routine matter,” and suggested that the memo was issued as standards for weight had lapsed over time.

It was issued to ensure that the flight attendants were “slim, smart and fit”, Tajwar said. “No one would like to have shabby crew in the aircraft,” he said, adding that PIA had received complaints about “obese” flight attendants. Tajwar said the initiative was put in place for reasons of appearance and health, and insisted that PIA was not alone in insisting their cabin crews hit weight targets, the report added.

PIA has been in losses for years but successive governments have failed to improve its financial situation. Its accumulated losses surged to Rs 36,000 crore by the end of June last year, which, according to the finance ministry, speaks volumes about the persistently deteriorating performance of the carrier.

 



Indonesia: 6.5-magnitude earthquake jolts North Maluku province, no tsunami alert issued


Indonesia: 6.5-magnitude earthquake jolts North Maluku province, no tsunami alert issued

Jakarta: An earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale jolted Indonesia on Monday, however no tusnami alert was issued, according to a disaster management official. The quake struck at 12.27 a.m., with the epicentre recorded at 146 km northwest Halmahera of North Maluku province and the shallow at 10 km under sea bed.

“However, we did not issue a warning for tsunami for this quake,” the official told Xinhuanews agency. The intensity of the quake was only felt 3 MMI (Modified Mercalli Intensity) in the province and Bitung of nearby North Sulawesi province, the official said. Indonesia is prone to quakes as it lies on a vulnerable quake-hit zone called “the Pacific Ring of Fire”. 




Pakistan PM Imran Khan calls for friendly ties with India, says Kashmir basic problem


Pakistan PM Imran Khan calls for friendly ties with India, says Kashmir basic problem

Ankara: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has pitched for friendly relations with India while opining that the “basic problem” between the two countries is Kashmir. “We are trying to have a dialogue, trying to move towards a friendly relationship with India…Pakistan obviously wants stability because we want economic progress,” Khan remarked during a joint press conference held with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan here on Friday.

“We’ve had a standoff with India where India refuses to talk to Pakistan under the pretext that until Pakistan stops terrorism, India will not talk to us. It’s a bizarre situation, where we feel that how can you move forward if there’s no dialogue. But the basic problem between Pakistan and India is Kashmir,” he added.

Earlier in September last year, India’s External Affairs Minister (EAM) Sushma Swaraj had called off scheduled talks with Pakistan on the sidelines of the UNGA saying “terror and talks can’t go together”

 



US: Donald Trump ‘threatens’ to continue with govt shutdown for years to get border wall funding


US: Donald Trump ‘threatens’ to continue with govt shutdown for years to get border wall funding

Washington: US President Donald Trump Friday ‘threatened’ to continue with the ongoing, two-week-old partial government shutdown for years if the Congress refused to support funding for a wall along the Mexico border.

Following a meeting with the Congressional leaders at the White House, ending in a stalemate, Trump said he may call a national emergency to build a border wall which, he argues, is essential to stop the illegal immigrants from entering the United States.

“I did say that. Absolutely, I said that,” Trump told reporters in the Rose Garden of the White House after Democratic leaders told media about the president’s “threat”, during their meeting with him, to continue with the partial government shutdown for years.

“We told the president we need the government open. He resisted. In fact, he said he’d keep the government closed for a very long period, months or even years,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters after his meeting with Trump at the White House on ending the partial government shutdown.

“The discussion then – we discussed a bunch of issues – that were somewhat contentious, and we’ll continue discussing, of course, but it’s very hard to see how progress will be made unless they open up the government,” Schumer said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who attended the meeting along with other Congressional leaders stressed on the need to open the government.

“We recognise on the Democratic side that we really cannot resolve this until we open up the government and we made that very clear to the president. Services are being withheld from the American people.

“Paychecks are being held — withheld from people who serve the needs of the American people and our border security will suffer if we do not resolve this issue,” Pelosi said.

Responding to reporters’ questions thereafter, Trump conceded he “threatened” to continue with the government shutdown but, he said, it is unlikely to happen.

“I don’t think it will, but I am prepared and I think I could speak for Republicans in the House and Republicans in the Senate. They feel very strongly about having a safe country, having a border that makes sense. Without borders, I’ve said it many times, we don’t have a country. I hope it doesn’t go on even beyond a few more days. It really could open very quickly,” he said.

Trump said he also has the option of building the border wall with his constitutional provisions under national emergency.

“We could call a national emergency because of the security of our country. Absolutely. No, we could do it. I haven’t done it. I may do it. I may do it. But we could call a national emergency and build it very quickly and it’s another way of doing it. But if we can do it through a negotiated process, we’re giving that a shot,” Trump told reporters in response to a question.

The president, however, denied he threatened the Democrats.

“I’d never threatened anybody, but I am allowed to do that, yes,” he said.

Trump, during the meeting with the Congressional leaders, made another strong case for a border wall.

“I explained to them the problem though as we could have a wonderful port of entry but you have 2000 miles of border between the United States and Mexico and if you take a look and you see like we do through certain technology including cameras in airplanes, not just drones, you will see vast numbers of vehicles driving through the desert and entering where you don’t have a very powerful fence or a wall,” he said.

Trump said he only wants to stop the flow of illegal immigrants, human trafficking and smuggling of drugs, by having a solid steel structure or concrete structure.

“Now the steel is actually more expensive than the concrete but I think we are probably talking about steel because I really feel the other side feels better about it and I can understand what they are saying. It is more expensive,” he said.

“We mentioned the price that we want USD 5.6 billion. This is national security we’re talking about. We’re not talking about games. We’re talking about national security. This should have been done by all of the presidents who preceded me and they all know it. Some of them have told me that we should have done it,” Trump said.

“We’re not playing games. We have to do it. And just remember human traffickers, remember drugs, the drugs are pouring into this country. They don’t go through the ports of entry. When they do, they sometimes get caught,” said Trump.

He said even Democrats want to check the inflow of drugs and illegal immigrants in the country.

“When we finish, and the Democrats do want this, they want ports of entry strengthened and I want to do that too. In fact, we have it done. It’s about USD 400 million and we can have the best equipment in the world,” he said.

Vice President Mike Pence said the nation is in the midst of a crisis on the southern border.

“And today President Trump convened (this meeting) for the second time this week (for the) the Republican and Democrat leaders from the Congress to address both issues. And we are truly grateful for the candid and constructive dialogue that took place today here at the White House with Speaker Pelosi and leader Schumer, with our Republican Senate leadership as well, and we look forward to continued dialogue over the course of this weekend,” he said.

 



5 teens dead in Polish escape room fire


5 teens dead in Polish escape room fire

Warsaw: Five teenage girls died and one man was seriously injured on Friday when a fire broke out in a room where they were playing an escape game in the northern Polish city of Koszalin, officials said. “The victims of this tragedy are 15-year-old children, girls celebrating a birthday,” Interior Minister Joachim Brudzinski told broadcaster TVN24.

Fire spokesman Tomasz Kubiak could only confirm that the dead were women, telling AFP that “one man with severe burns was taken to an intensive care unit”. Local police press officer Monika Kosiec told reporters that the injured man was thought to be 25 years old.

Police and fire officials said they did not yet know what started the blaze in the escape room, which was reported in the early evening. Brudzinski directed the state fire service to carry out fire security controls in every escape room across the country, of which there are more than 1,000. Escape rooms are popular around the world and offer a live-action experience in which players are locked in a room with one hour to figure out a series of clues and riddles to get out.

 



US judge dismisses facial recognition lawsuit against Google


US judge dismisses facial recognition lawsuit against Google

San Francisco: A judge in Chicago has dismissed a lawsuit that alleged that Google violated privacy of users by using facial recognition technology to scan their photos without their explicit consent.

In the original suit, which was filed in March 2016, a woman sued Google for allegedly uploading her data to Google Photos and scanning it to create a template of her face without her permission, The Verge reported on Saturday. The judge dismissed the suit citing lack of “concrete injuries”.

The suit alleged that Google violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, recognised as the toughest biometric privacy law in the US. The law requires companies to obtain people’s explicit permission in order to make biometric scans of their bodies.

Besides Google, Snapchat, and Facebook also faced lawsuits for allegedly violating the Illinois law. Of the three companies, Google is the first to win a dismissal of a lawsuit over the biometric privacy act, The Verge report said.

 



Bangladesh Elections 2018: Five killed in clash between Awami League and BNP supporters


Bangladesh Elections 2018: Five killed in clash between Awami League and BNP supporters

Dhaka: At least five people were killed in poll-related violence on Sunday as voting was underway across Bangladesh amid allegations from both the ruling Awami League and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of attacks on supporters and candidates.

Voting began at 8 am (local time) in the morning with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina appearing as the first voter in Dhaka centre from where her nephew and party candidate Fazle Nur Taposh was a contender.

“People will cast their vote for Awami League to ensure the win of pro-Liberation forces,” she said.

While Hasina is seeking re-election for a fourth term as the prime minister, her rival ex-premier and BNP chief Khalida Zia, who is reportedly partially paralysed, faces an uncertain future in a Dhaka jail.

Meanwhile, sporadic violence marred the polling in parts of the country with officials confirming five deaths while unconfirmed reports put the figure as high as nine with three of them being the ruling party activists. According to the local media, more than 30 people were wounded in the poll-related violence.

A Jubo League – the youth wing of the Awami League – leader was killed and 10 others injured in a clash between the ruling party and opposition BNP supporters in Rangamati’s Kawkhali. The deceased was identified as Md Basir Uddin, the Jubo League general secretary of Ghagra Union, Bdnews24 reported.

The injured were admitted to Kawkhali Upazila Health Complex, said upazila Awami League General Secretary Ershad Mia.

A BNP activist was killed in Chattogram, while an Awami League supporter died in Rajshahi, the news portal reported. Two political activists were killed in separate incidents of election violence. At least seven candidates – six being BNP nominees – announced to stay off the polls with most of them alleging that their agents were ousted from polling centres by the ruling party workers.

BNP’s Ruhul Kabir Rizvi alleged that polling centres are being occupied across the country, the party’s agents are being driven out and that its supporters and activists are facing violence. BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said he is hopeful of a Jatiya Oikya Front victory if people are allowed to vote freely.

Jatiya Oikya Front (National Unity Front) leader Kamal Hossain expressed concern over the poll-related violence and said, “It’s sad and shameful.”

The Jatiya Oikya Front is a coalition of four parties – Gono Forum, BNP, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal-JSD, Nagorik Oikya and Krishak Sramik Janata League – led by Hossain. Bangladesh police chief Mohammad Javed Patwary said the nationwide polls are ‘progressing peacefully’ and vowed to investigate the “isolated” incidents of violence.

Over 600,000 security personnel including several thousand soldiers and paramilitary border guards have been deployed across the country to help conduct the election in which 10.41 crore people are eligible to vote.

Security agencies have been asked to keep an extra vigil on religious minority communities as media reports said at least three Hindu households were set on fire by miscreants between December 16 and 26.

According to the eyewitnesses, posters bearing the ruling party’s “boat” symbol outnumbered those of the main opposition’s ‘sheaf of paddy’. BNP earlier said intimidation and police harassment kept their activists away from the campaign and polling process.

“Barring some unwanted incidents, the polling so far was smooth and peaceful…We could tell you at the end of the day if the election was participatory,” Chief Election Commissioner Nurul Huda told reporters.

The 11th parliamentary poll is the first fully competitive general election in a decade since 2008 while it is widely expected to be won by the Awami League of Hasina, who is likely to be the country’s first premier for the fourth terms and three consecutive ones.

Citing security reasons, authorities temporarily blocked mobile data services and slowed down the internet while the election commission enforced a ban on ordinary vehicles movement in the capital and other cities.

According to the Election Commission, 1,848 candidates are contesting for 299 out of 300 Parliament seats. The polls are being held at 40,183 polling stations. Voting was suspended in one seat due to the death of a candidate. Hasina on Saturday expressed fears that the opposition could boycott polls in the middle of voting as part of a “political trick” to evade a “humiliating defeat”.

“I want to caution all about the character of (main opposition) BNP…they may say in the middle (of the elections) that we are boycotting the polls,” she said.

“In that case (opposition boycott) I will ask our candidates and other contenders to continue polls until the voting is ended,” 71-year-old Hasina said.

Her comments came as the BNP is contesting the polls in a state of disarray in the absence of 73-year-old Zia and her fugitive son Tarique Rahman who is the acting party chief.

Zia, serving a 10-year prison term on graft charges, has been barred from contesting the polls while Rahman is living in London ostensibly to evade the law as a court has sentenced him to life imprisonment for masterminding a grenade attack on a rally in 2004 that killed 24 Awami League leaders and activists.

The BNP has stayed out of parliament since 2014 when it boycotted the last election over its demands for a poll-time non-party government. The opposition parties have expressed doubts about credibility of Sunday’s election alleging their supporters were intimidated and arrested.

 
 



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