South Korea pushes for renegotiation of trade pact with US

Seoul: South Korea’s trade ministry on Monday stated that it will push to commence the talks with United States over the amendment of free trade agreement (FTA) within a month or so.

The ministry had reported to parliament a plan to renegotiate the five-year-old trade deal with the US, in response to, Trump’s demand to rewrite terms of the pact he called “horrible”, citing trade deficits in the manufacturing sector, reported the South Korean news agency Yonhap. Specific dates for renegotiations will be determined in future.

“There is a possibility that the U.S. could demand abolishing remaining tariffs on goods and adjusting duties on major items to resolve the trade imbalance between the two nations. The U.S is especially interested in improving the market access in auto parts, such as lowering non-tariff barriers,” the ministry said in the report.

The two nations are likely to negotiate a slew of issues, including merchandise, service, investment, source of origin and non-tariff regulations, at the negotiating table, the ministry said. In order to commence talks, the US administration must write a letter to Congress notifying it of the intention to launch FTA negotiations in 90 days.

In addition to this, it ought to hold public hearings and disclose its goal 30 days prior to official talks, the agency reported.

Support FCC’s move on net neutrality: White House

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration backs the Federal Communication Commission’s move to repeal Obama- era net neutrality regulations, the White House said today, while adding that it also supports a free and fair internet. “The Trump administration supports the FCC’s effort to roll back burdensome regulations. But as we have always done and will continue to do, we certainly support a free and fair Internet,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters at her daily news conference.

Sanders was responding to a question on the decision of the FCC, a federal commission headed by Indian-American Ajit Pai, to roll-back the Obama administration’s landmark 2015 internet policy that requires internet providers to treat all traffic equally, without blocking or slowing content. The Republican-majority FCC voted this by 3-2. The decision has been criticised by many lawmakers, mainly those from the opposition Democratic party. They say the move is against the interest of the consumers and favours big corporate companies.

Asserting that a free and open internet has been a driving force of American ingenuity, Congressman John Crowley said the FCC’s decision to end net neutrality will not just restrict Americans’ ability to innovate, it will impinge on their freedom to communicate. “This is unacceptable,” he said. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters at her news conference that the only people advantaged of this are the platforms, the top communications companies.

“All of the entrepreneurial new companies coming up, all the young people who communicate and try to build relationships that will produce jobs on the internet are at a disadvantage,” she said. Congressman John Delaney said the decision will hurt consumers, entrepreneurs and small businesses and undermine the US’ global leadership on innovation.

“I am strongly opposed to the FCC’s actions to end net neutrality and will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to oppose these drastic and unnecessary changes,” he said. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said net neutrality prevents internet service providers from prioritising data for businesses and other organisations that they favor or that pay more.

The rules keep the internet open, free, and unrestricted, preventing ISPs from becoming gatekeepers that can control and manipulate what people access on the internet. “Since the end of the dial-up era, the FCC has enforced network neutrality principles and helped create the internet as we know it,” said the ACLU’s Jay Stanley.

“Today’s misguided FCC action represents a radical departure that risks erosion of the biggest free speech platform the world has ever known,” he said. “Today’s loss means that telecommunications companies will start intruding more on how people use the internet. Internet service providers will become much more aggressive in their efforts to make money off their role as online gatekeepers,” he added.

US harmed by ‘invention’ of Trump collusion, says Putin

Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed allegations of collusion between Russia and United States President Donald Trump’s election campaign team. “It was all invented by people opposed to Trump to make him seem illegitimate. These people are inflicting damage to their domestic political situation, incapacitating the president and showing a lack of respect to the electorate,” the Russian president said on Thursday in response to a question about repeated contacts between members of the US president’s campaign and Russian officials or proxies, during his annual press conference in Moscow.

The Irish Times also reported Putin railing at US politicians for demonising Russia and then expecting it to help on issues such as the North Korean nuclear programme. Putin also announced he would run in the 2018 presidential election as an independent candidate while hoping for support from the political ‘forces sharing his views on the country’s development.’

“This will be a self-nomination. I expect to have support of those political forces (parties and public organizations) that share my view on the country’s development and trust me. I certainly expect this very much,” Russian news agency TASS reported Putin, as saying. “I expect a widespread support of the Russian citizens,” he added.

Putin further said that both – Trump and North Korea supreme leader Kim Jong-un – needed to ‘calm down’ in order to resolve the worsening crisis on the Korean Peninsula. The Russian premier blamed American policy for creating the current crisis, as reported by Putin said he hoped ‘common sense will prevail’ even as Trump and Kim continue to trade personal insults and threats of nuclear war.

US faces moment of truth on ‘net neutrality’

The Federal Communications Commission is expected to narrowly pass the measure to scrap the 2015 neutrality rules, which require internet service providers to treat all online traffic equally without blocking or hampering of rivals.

Washington : The acrimonious battle over “net neutrality” in America comes to a head later on Thursday with a US agency set to vote to roll back rules enacted two years earlier aimed at preventing a “two-speed” internet.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC0 was expected to narrowly pass the measure to scrap the 2015 neutrality rules, which require internet service providers to treat all online traffic equally without blocking or hampering of rivals.

Backers of the new proposal say it would encourage innovation and investment by removing heavy regulatory burdens. But critics argue it could kill the “open internet” and enable broadband firms to choose what people see or don’t see online.

The rollback is being engineered by FCC chairman Ajit Pai, appointed by President Donald Trump, reports AFP.

As a member of the FCC, Pai was a fierce critic of the neutrality rules adopted in 2015 and earlier this month unveiled his plan named the “Restoring Internet Freedom” order.

Amid a wave of protests from online firms and activists opposing the new plan, Pai said his reforms would usher in a return to a “light-touch regulatory approach” that has allowed the internet to flourish.

 The dispute over net neutrality has been the subject of several court battles over the past decade, with backers arguing strong rules are needed to guard against powerful broadband firms like Comcast and AT&T acting as “gatekeepers” that can punish rivals. Tim Berners-Lee, the British engineer and creator of the World Wide Web, joined other internet pioneers in pleading for neutrality rules to remain, reports AFP.

“Net neutrality —  the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) treat all traffic equally —  underpins the internet as we know it today,” Berners-Lee wrote on the online platform Medium this week.

If the rules are repealed, Berners-Lee said, “ISPs will have the power to decide which websites you can access and at what speed each will load.

In other words, they’ll be able to decide which companies succeed online, which voices are heard —  and which are silenced.”

President Donald Trump promises ‘giant tax cut’ as ‘Christmas gift’ to Americans

Washington: US President Donald Trump today said the Congress has reached an agreement on tax legislation that will deliver more jobs, higher wages, and “massive tax relief” for American families and domestic companies.

Trump recognised the tax reform as a campaign promise during his run-up to the 2016 presidential election, saying the “giant tax cut” will be his “Christmas gift” to fellow countrymen. “Now we’re just days away … from keeping that promise and delivering a truly amazing victory for American families. We want to give you, the American people, a giant tax cut for Christmas,” Trump told a select audience at the White House as he delivered an address to the nation making a final pitch for his massive tax reform.

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“As we speak, Congress has reached an agreement on tax legislation that will deliver more jobs, higher wages, and massive tax relief for American families and for American companies,” he said. Trump cited an example to explain the impact of the tax cut: “The typical family of four earning USD 75,000 will see an income tax cut of more than USD 2,000, slashing their tax bill in half.”

It nearly doubles the amount of income taxed at the rate of zero, he said, adding that the proposed tax reforms also closes special interest loopholes; and lowers tax rates for families. It cuts taxes on businesses, which is expected to raise income by an average of more than USD 4,000, he said. Trump said the current tax code is “burdensome, complex, and profoundly unfair.”

“It has exported our jobs, closed our factories, and left millions of parents worried that their children might be the first generation to have less opportunity than the last. Our factories have left. So many of them, gone,” he said. “But they’re all coming back. And you see it, even before we do this, that they’re starting to come back. Our country is starting to do really well again, and as a country we’re being respected again,” asserted the US President.

Trump told the nation that his administration will “never let bad things happen”, with respect to the economy of the country. “We’re not going to lose our businesses again like has happened over the last number of decades. America is coming back bigger, better, and stronger than ever before,” he said.

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America, he said, isn’t content just by getting by. “America is about getting ahead, about finding the best in ourselves and in each other. We are reclaiming our destinies as Americans, a nation that thinks big, dreams bigger, and always reaches for the stars. We didn’t become great through massive taxation and Washington regulation,” he said.

Trump said that his administration is cutting regulation at a rate “never seen before in the history of the country”. “We became great because our people, and because of our freedom. We became great because of our drive to find the next horizon, to unlock the next mystery, and to begin the next adventure,” he said.

“That’s who we are: a nation of strivers and builders and dreamers and doers, people who treasure their independence and don’t know how to quit. Never quit. Never, ever give up — never, ever,” he said. Earlier in the day at a luncheon with bicameral tax conferees, Trump said the bill is going to cut taxes for American businesses — both big and small ones — so that they can grow, hire, and compete all around the world.

“Right now they’re paying 35 per cent, and that’s the highest in the industrialized world — in many cases, by far. And we’ll be bringing that down to a number that will be extremely impressive to a lot of people,” he said. The plan, he said, is going to bring trillions of dollars back into the United States, money that’s offshore.

“You’ve been hearing me say USD 2.5 trillion for years. Well, 2.5 has grown, and it’s going to be a lot more than that — probably USD 4 trillion. It could be even higher than that. It’s so much money, we don’t even know how much it is,” he said. Trump said that “great companies” like Apple, have billions of dollars overseas that they want to bring back. “Now they’re going to be able to bring it back, and we’ll be spending that money, and they’ll be spending that money right here. And it will be jobs and lots of other good things,” he said.

Brexit bill: British government loses key vote after Tory rebellion

London: The British government has been narrowly defeated in a key vote on its Brexit bill after a rebellion by 11 Tory MPs.  In a blow to Prime Minister Theresa May, MPs voted to give Parliament a legal guarantee of a vote on the final Brexit deal struck with Brussels, BBC reported on Wednesday.

The government had argued this would jeopardise its chances of delivering a smooth departure from the European Union (EU).  Despite a last-minute attempt to offer concessions to rebels, an amendment to the bill was backed by 309 to 305.  Ministers said the “minor setback” would not prevent the UK leaving the EU in 2019.

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Of the Conservative MPs who voted against the government, eight are former ministers.  One of them, Stephen Hammond, was sacked as Conservative vice chairman in the aftermath of the vote.  “Tonight I put country and constituency before party and voted with my principles to give Parliament a meaningful vote,” he tweeted.

The government said it was “disappointed” at losing – its first defeat on Brexit – despite the “strong assurances” it had offered.  Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the defeat was “a humiliating loss of authority” for May on the eve of an EU summit where leaders will discuss Brexit.  It’s the first time that Theresa May has been defeated on her own business in the Commons. She has to front up in Brussels tomorrow with other EU leaders only hours after an embarrassing loss in Parliament.

Beyond the red faces in government tonight, does it really matter? Ministers tonight are divided on that. Two cabinet ministers have told me while it’s disappointing it doesn’t really matter in the big picture.  It’s certainly true that the Tory party is so divided over how we leave the EU that the Parliamentary process was always going to be very, very choppy.  But another minister told me the defeat is “bad for Brexit” and was openly frustrated and worried about their colleagues’ behaviour.

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The defeat came after opposition parties joined forces with Conservative rebels during a heated debate in the Chamber on the amendment.  Critics accused those behind the amendment — which was authored by former attorney general Dominic Grieve and championed by other pro-Remain campaigners – of trying to “frustrate” Brexit and tying the government’s hands.

After the result was announced, one of the rebels, former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, tweeted: “Tonight Parliament took control of the EU Withdrawal process.”  But other Conservative MPs reacted angrily, with one, Nadine Dorries, saying the rebels should be de-selected.  The Tory rebels were Grieve, Heidi Allen, Ken Clarke, Jonathan Djanogly, Stephen Hammond, Sir Oliver Heald, Nicky Morgan, Bob Neill, Antoinette Sandbach, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston.

Another Conservative MP, John Stevenson, abstained by voting in both lobbies.  Two Labour MPs, Frank Field and Kate Hoey, voted with the government.  The UK is due to leave the EU in March 2019, and negotiations are taking place on what their relationship will be like in the future.  The EU Withdrawal Bill is a key part of the government’s exit strategy.

Women detail sexual allegations against President Donald Trump

New York: A group of women who have publicly accused Donald Trump of sexual harassment and assault, have detailed their accounts of being groped, fondled and forcibly kissed by the US President, the media reported.

“This was serial misconduct and perversion on the part of Trump. Unfortunately, this behaviour isn’t rare in our society, and people of all backgrounds can be victims. The only reason I am here today is that this offender is now the President of our country,” Rachel Crooks, a former Bayrock Group receptionist who accused the President of kissing her on the mouth without her consent in 2005, said at a press conference on Monday.

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Samantha Holvey, the former Miss North Carolina 2006 who has accused Trump of inspecting beauty pageant contestants, and Jessica Leeds, who said the President of grabbing her chest and attempting to move his hand up her skirt on a flight, also appeared with Crooks at the conference, reports CNN.  Brave New Films, a production company that released a film on the women who have accused Trump of sexual assault, hosted the event.

At least 15 women have come forward with a wide range of accusations against Trump, ranging from sexual harassment and sexual assault to lewd behaviour around women.   In addition to the woman at Monday’s press conference, Trump’s accusers include Temple Taggart, the former Miss Utah USA who accused Trump of kissing her on the lips in 1997; Mindy McGillivray, who accused Trump of grabbing her behind at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida in 2003 and Natasha Stoynoff, who accused Trump of “forcing his tongue” down her throat during a photo shoot at Mar-a-Lago in 2005.

Crooks called on Congress to “put aside party affiliations and investigate Trump’s history of sexual misconduct”, reports CNN.  “In an objective setting, without question, a person with this record would have entered the graveyard of political aspirations, never to return… Yet here we are with that man as President.”  Leeds added that while some areas of society were “being held accountable for unwanted behaviour… We are not holding our President accountable for what he is and who he is”.

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On Monday night, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that the allegations took place “long before he was elected president” and that Trump has “addressed these accusations directly and denied all of these allegations”.  Sanders also claimed that “eyewitnesses” have backed up Trump’s denials.  “The President has denied these allegations, as have eyewitnesses.

“Several reports have shown those eyewitnesses also back up the President’s claim in this process and again, the American people knew this and voted for the President and we feel like we are ready to move forward in that process.”  On Sunday, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said that women who accuse a man of inappropriate sexual behaviour including Trump “should be heard”, CNN reported.

The renewed focus on Trump’s accusers comes as Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore fights to win a Republican seat, despite accusations that he pursued relationships with teenagers, including molesting a 14-year-old and sexually assaulting a 16-year-old when he was in his 30s.   Moore has denied all the allegations and Trump has stood by Moore despite the accusations.

New York terror suspect pledged allegiance to ISIS: officials

This undated handout photo obtained December 11, 2017, courtesy of New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission shows pipe bomb suspect Akayed Ullah. A man detonated a pipe bomb strapped to his body in a crowded New York subway passageway during the morning rush hour December 11, 2017, injuring three people -- putting the city again on edge just six weeks after a deadly truck attack.New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called the bombing an "attempted terrorist attack," and identified the 27-year-old suspect -- who suffered serious injuries -- as Akayed Ullah.The blast took place in the subway station at the Port Authority bus terminal, not far from the city's iconic Times Square, sparking commuter panic and travel disruptions. / AFP PHOTO / NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission / Handout / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / NYC TAXI & LIMOUSINE COMMISSION/HANDOUT" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

New York: The Bangladeshi-origin suspect, who triggered a blast at a metro station in New York City, has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, officials have said.

Akayed Ullah, the 27-year-old suspected bomber, had wires and a pipe bomb strapped to his body, police said. The device prematurely exploded between two subway platforms near Port Authority, America’s largest bus terminal, injuring four persons and causing chaos in one of the busiest commuter hubs in the metropolis, officials said.

He has pledged allegiance to the ISIS terror group and told investigators that his planed terrorist attack in New York was mainly because of the recent Israeli actions in Gaza, officials said as per multiple media reports. Ullah, who came to the US some seven years ago from Bangladesh, was apprehended yesterday with wires and a pipe bomb strapped to his body. He sustained injuries when the explosive devise tied to his body detonated prematurely at a New York metro station during the morning rush hour. Three others were injured in the “attempted terrorist attack” at about 7.20 AM.

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The Homeland Security spokesman Tyler Houlton said Ullah is now a lawful permanent resident. He came to the US in 2011 on an F43 family immigrant visa, which is granted to children of American citizens siblings. He lives in Brooklyn and is of Bangladeshi descent. According to Taxi and Limousine Commission, Ullah held a Taxi and Limousine Commission license from March 2012 to March 2015. His license was not renewed after that.

Ullah told investigative officers that he made the explosive devise at his work place, which as per some media reports was an electric company. Even though Ullah pledged allegiance to ISIS, law enforcement officials said as of now there is no known linkage between him and the terrorist outfit. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the device was a low intensity explosive device.

According to The New York Times, he chose the location of subway because of its Christmas-themed posters, recalling strikes in Europe against Christmas markets, and set off his bomb in retaliation for US airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria and elsewhere, several law enforcement officials said.

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Ullah told investigators that he was inspired by propaganda from the Islamic State terror group, according to law enforcement officials, The Washington Post reported. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the attempted terrorist attack by an immigrant is a failure of logic and sound policy not to adopt a merit-based immigration system.

“The President has asked Congress to work with him on ending the diversity lottery and chain migration. He has proposed switching to a merit-based system of immigration similar to the Canadian and Australian systems. That means welcoming the best and the brightest and turning away not only terrorists but gang members, fraudsters, drunk drivers and child abusers. Such a merit-based system would make us safer and welcome individuals who would be best able to assimilate and flourish in our country,” he said. The 20-year-old son of the sister of a US citizen should not get priority to come to this country ahead of someone who is high-skilled, well educated, has learned English and is likely to assimilate and flourish here, Sessions added.

Security beefed up in Chicago following New York explosion

Chicago: Chicago Police are increasing the number of patrol officers at transit hubs in response to a terrorist attack in New York on Monday, a police spokesman said.

Anthony Guglielmi, spokesman for the Chicago Police Department wrote on his Twitter “there are no credible threats to Chicago”, Xinhua news agency reported. But he added that the department plans to make officers “highly visible” at Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) stops and Metra rail stations.

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Guglielmi said the department has been in contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and New York’s police department and they are monitoring everything very closely.  More officers and police cars are seen in Chicago’s most populated area like North Michigan Avenue and Daley Plaza. At Christmas market in downtown, there are more more security guards at the entrance with several officers patrolling in between different vendors.

“You see there are cycling policemen coming over frequently, and we feel very safe in downtown Chicago,” Lashawn Bell, a public transportation staff told Xinhua.  Four people were injured in an explosion in a passageway near Times Square, Manhattan in New York City early Monday morning.

A Bangladeshi-origin man was arrested on Monday after a “low-tech” suicide bomb he was allegedly wearing went off injuring him and three others at the city’s transportation hub at the start of the rush hour.  Police Commissioner James O’Neil told reporters that 27-year-old Akayed Ullah had on an “improvised low-tech explosive device attached to his body,” which he “intentionally detonated”.

Prince William, Harry announce sculptor for mother Princess Diana’s statue at Kensington Palace

New Delhi: As a mark of respect to Diana, the Princess of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge, Prince William and his brother, Prince Harry announced that a statue of their late mother was being created. The statue, which will be erected at the grounds of the Kensington Palace, has been commissioned as a celebration of the late Princess’ life and legacy, and is estimated to be unveiled in 2019.

The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry have chosen Ian Rank-Broadley as the sculptor, who was also the brains behind the effigy of Queen Elizabeth that has been used to decorate all British coins since 1998.

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Kensington Palace

The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry are pleased to announce that they have chosen Ian Rank-Broadley as the sculptor to create the statue of their mother Diana, Princess of Wales.
2:20 PM - Dec 10, 2017
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Speaking on the announcement, Their Royal Highnesses, in a statement, said: “We have been touched by the kind words and memories so many people have shared about our mother over these past few months. It is clear the significance of her work is still felt by many in the UK and across the world, even twenty years after her death.”

“Ian is an extremely gifted sculptor and we know that he will create a fitting and lasting tribute to our mother. We look forward to unveiling the statue, which will allow all those who visit Kensington Palace to remember and celebrate her life and legacy,” it further noted.

Known as the people’s Princess, Diana died in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997. Her sudden death sent the whole Britain into a period of mourning.

Diana has been considered as a fashion icon, time and again. Her style continues to be emulated by women around the world, even in the present day, and has many accolades to her kitty in this regard. The Princess was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1989.

Further, in 2004, People magazine cited her as one of the all-time most beautiful women, and in 2012, Time included Diana on its All-TIME 100 Fashion Icons list.

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