Pakistan court issues notice to authorities on delay in release of funds for Sikh crematorium

Pakistan court issues notice to authorities on delay in release of funds for Sikh crematorium

Peshawar: A Pakistani court today issued notice to authorities after a Sikh leader filed a petition urging the court to direct the government to release funds to build a crematorium for the community in the provincial capital so that they can cremate their dead instead of burying them.

Sikh community leader Babaji Guru Gurpal Singh, through his lawyer, submitted the writ petition in the court last week, saying the provincial government had allocated Rs 30 million in the 2017-18 budget to build the crematorium for the Sikh community and a graveyard for Christians in the city.

However, the government has yet to release funds for these projects nor has it made any plans for these projects.

Additional Advocate General, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Qaiser Khan informed the Peshawar High Court bench that the differences among the Sikh community members were the main hurdle in building crematory ground, claiming that the government has already taken measures to provide facilities to Sikhs.

Justice Mussarat Hilali said that the court would retrieve the withheld money for minorities if the government failed to facilitate it for minorities.

The court also summoned the Auqaf Department administrator and Town I nazim on May 31 and adjourned the hearing.

Singh said that about 60,000 Sikhs live in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, including 15,000 who live in Peshawar alone. Despite that, there is no crematorium where Sikh mourners can carry out the last rites of their loved ones.

“Against their religious teachings, they are forced to bury dead one,” Singh wrote in his petition, adding that the nearest crematorium is located near Attock, 45 kilometers away from Peshawar.

Although the Attock crematorium is intended to primarily serve the Hindu community, it is also used by the Sikh community.

While cremation is culturally imperative for Sikhs and Hindus, the cost is a major prohibitive factor for them since many middle and low-income members of the community cannot afford the high costs of cremation.

“We are grateful for such a facility,” Singh said, adding, “But for the poor members of the community, they cannot even afford to transport the funeral.” The petitioner asked the court to direct the government to select a suitable spot to build the crematorium near Peshawar and set up a modern facility, keeping in view the environmental requirements and concerns, so that the community can perform the last rituals of their loved ones without any problem.

The petitioner also claimed that the KP government had allocated millions of funds for establishment of a crematory ground and Christian cemetery, but officials in the Department of Auqaf and Religious Affairs were employing delaying tactics in utilization of these funds for the purpose.

Florida school shooting accused threatened to kill family in past

Florida school shooting accused threatened to kill family in past

New York: Florida High school shooting accused had reportedly threatened to kill his family members in the past. As reported by the Fox News, Nikolas Cruz accused of killing 17 people during the high school shooting on February 14 had earlier threatened to kill his own mother and brother.

This revelation was made by Nikolas’ younger brother Zachary in an interview with Miami Herald. Zachary said that Nikolas had once pointed a loaded gun at him after getting into a spat with him. Though soon after their mother returned home and averted any untoward incident. Nikolas allegedly brought up a loaded gun and held up to his forehead as their mother watched, Zachary added.

Further, during a separate incident, Nikolas allegedly pointed a gun at their mom Lynda after breaking into an argument with her. Following this, Lynda ran from the place. Zachary further claimed that his younger brother was depressed and would sometimes inflict self-harming injuries. Further being an autistic kid, Nikolas would often isolate himself from his schoolmates. The Florida High school shooting took place on February 14 when Nikolas went on a rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and gunned down 17 students and injured 14 others.

He allegedly used an AR-15 assault rifle that he had purchased legally. After the incident, many lawmakers, gun control advocates and student survivors of the Florida school shooting have urged the Trump administration to implement tougher gun measures in the US. Many students across the US held mass protests and walk-ins of pressurising authorities to implement tougher gun laws.

US President Donald Trump congratulates Vladimir Putin on his inauguration

US President Donald Trump congratulates Vladimir Putin on his inauguration

Washington: US President Donald Trump has congratulated his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on being sworn in for a fourth term, saying he looks forward to a time when the two nations can have a good relationship. Putin, 65, who is in power since 1999, was re-elected as Russia’s president in the March election with 76.7 per cent of the vote.

“The president congratulates him and looks forward to a time when we can hopefully have a good relationship with Russia,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters at her daily news conference yesterday. “However, the United States believes that everyone has a right to be heard and assemble peacefully,” she said, referring to the arrest of protesters in Russia.

Nearly 1,600 protesters, including Putin’s most vocal opponent, Alexei Navalny, were detained on Saturday during nationwide rallies against the Russian leader.  She reiterated that Democrats were using the Russia investigation as an excuse for losing the 2016 election.

“I think he thinks that the idea that this narrative continues to be driven. The fact that, a year-and-a-half later, after spending most all of your time, every single day, looking into this and still finding nothing, the fact that we’re still talking about it and has the potential to impact the 2018 election,” Sanders said.

“The point he’s making is how ridiculous it is that we’re still having this conversation and the depths to which this research has gone on and investigation has been conducted and still produced nothing,” she added.

In 2016, 2017 Indians accounted for more than 74 pc of H-1B visas: USCIS report

In 2016, 2017 Indians accounted for more than 74 pc of H-1B visas: USCIS report

Washington: In 2016 technology professionals from India accounted for 74.2 per cent of the total number of H-1B visas issued by the US and the next year the figure increased to 75.6 per cent, a government report said here today. However there has been a drop in the number of new H-1B beneficiaries from India, the official report has said. China with a little over nine per cent, comes a distant second after India in terms of number of H-1B visas.

The figures for China were 9.3 and 9.4 per cent respectively for 2016 and 2017. “The number of beneficiaries from India approved for initial employment decreased by 4.1 per cent in fiscal 2017, while the number of beneficiaries approved for continuing employment increased by 12.5 per cent in fiscal 2017,” the USCIS said in its latest report titled ‘Characteristics of H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers’. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said petitions for initial employment are filed for first-time H-1B employment with an employer, only some of which are applied to the annual cap.

Examples of petitions for initial employment that are exempt from the cap include petitions submitted by nonprofit research organisations or governmental research organisations. Continuing employment petitions refer to extensions, sequential employment and concurrent employment, which are filed for foreigners already in the US. Extensions generally are filed for H-1B workers intending to work beyond the initial three-year period up to a total of 6 years, the maximum period generally permissible under law. In 2016, as many as 70,737 Indians received initial H-1B visas, which dropped to 67,815.

During the same period, Indians accounted for 185,489 visas for continuing employment, which increased to 208,608 in 2017. In all there were 256,226 Indians on H1B visas in 2016 and 276,423 in 2017. A copy of the report, sent to US lawmakers on April 10, became public this week. Dismantling several myths about H-1B, USCIS said the median salary of beneficiaries of approved petitions increased from USD 82,000 for fiscal year 2016 to USD 85,000 for fiscal 2017.

While the number of H-1B petitions filed increased 1.24 per cent from 398,718 in 2016 to 403,675 in 2017, the number of H-1B petitions approved increased 5.9 per cent from 345,262 in 2016 to 365,682 in 2017. According to the report the number of H-1B petitions approved in 2017 for workers between the ages of 25 and 34 was 66.2 per cent, the number of H-1B petitions approved in 2017 for workers with a bachelor’s degree was 45.2 per cent. In addition, 44.5 per cent of approved petitions were for workers with a master’s degree, 6.8 per cent had a doctorate, and 3.3 per cent were for workers with a professional degree.

The number of H-1B petitions approved in 2017 for workers in computer-related occupations was 69.8 per cent, it said. The number of H-1B petitions approved for workers in computer-related occupations increased by 6.6 per cent from 237,837 in 2016 to 254,592 in 2017. The number of H-1B petitions for all other occupation groups increased by 3.4 per cent from 106,418 in 2016 to 110,009 in 2017, the report said.

Rupee rebounds by 8 paise in early trade

Rupee rebounds by 8 paise in early trade

Mumbai: The rupee strengthened by 8 paise to 66.79 against the dollar in early trade today on fresh selling of the US currency by exporters and banks amid higher opening in the domestic equity market.  Forex dealers said besides selling of the American currency by exporters and banks, weakness in the dollar against some currencies overseas propped up the rupee.

Further, a higher opening in the domestic equity market influenced the rupee uptrend, they added. On Friday, the rupee had lost 23 paise to close at 66.87  against the US currency in highly volatile trade. Meanwhile, the benchmark BSE Sensex rose by 128.38 points, or 0.36 per cent, at 35,043.76 in early trade today.

US: Hawaii volcano destroys 31 homes, spews lava 200 feet in air

US: Hawaii volcano destroys 31 homes, spews lava 200 feet in air

Pahoa: The number of homes destroyed by Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano jumped to 31 as scientists reported lava spewing more than 200 feet (61 meters) into the air.  Some of the more than 1,700 people who evacuated prepared for the possibility they may not return for quite some time. Hawaii officials said the decimated homes were in the Leilani Estates subdivision, where molten rock, toxic gas and steam have been bursting through openings in the ground created by the volcano.

Officials updated the number of lost homes after an aerial survey of the subdivision. “That number could change,” Hawaii County spokeswoman Janet Snyder said. “This is heartbreaking.” Amber Makuakane, 37, a teacher and single mother of two, said her three-bedroom house in Leilani Estates was destroyed by lava. The dwelling was across from a fissure that opened Friday, when “there was some steam rising from all parts of the yard, but everything looked fine,” Makuakane said. On Saturday, she received alerts from her security system that motion sensors throughout the house had been triggered.

She later confirmed that lava had covered her property. “They don’t really understand,” she said about her children. “My son keeps asking me, ‘Mommy when are we going to go home?'” Makuakane grew up in the area and lived in her house for nine years. Her parents also live in Leilani Estates. “The volcano and the lava — it’s always been a part of my life,” she said. “It’s devastating … but I’ve come to terms with it.” Lava has spread around 387,500 square feet (36,000 square meters) surrounding the most active fissure, though the rate of movement is slow. There was no indication when the lave might stop or how far it might spread. “There’s more magma in the system to be erupted. As long as that supply is there, the eruption will continue,” US Geological Survey volcanologist Wendy Stovall said. Traditional Hawaiian beliefs say it depends on Pele, the volcano goddess who is said to reside in Kilauea.

“You have to ask Pele,” Steve Clapper said when asked whether he had any idea when he’d return to his Leilani Estates home. Clapper had to put his ailing 88-year-old mother into a car and leave shortly after hearing an ominous rumbling behind the house. He believes he saw its roof still standing in photos of the area but can’t be sure. Still, the California native was sanguine as he assessed his situation. “What can you do? You have no control over it,” Clapper said as he started his day at a nearby evacuation shelter. “Pele’s the boss, you know.”

Cherie McArthur wondered what would become of her macadamia nut farm in Lanipuna Gardens, another evacuated neighborhood near Leilani Estates.  One of the year’s first harvests had been planned for this weekend. “If we lose our farm, we don’t know where we’re going to go. You lose your income and you lose your home at the same time,” said McArthur, who’s had the farm for about 20 years. “All you can do is pray and hope and try to get all the information you can.” About 240 people and 90 pets spent Saturday night at shelters, the American Red Cross said.

US President Donald Trump to host South Korean President Moon Jae-in on May 22

US President Donald Trump to host South Korean President Moon Jae-in on May 22

Washington: US President Donald Trump will meet with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in at the White House on May 22, ahead of the real estate mogul’s summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, the administration said on Friday. “This third summit between the two leaders affirms the enduring strength of the US-Republic of Korea alliance and the deep friendship between our two countries,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

Trump and Moon will “continue their close coordination” on issues regarding the Korean peninsula and will discuss the inter-Korean summit that took place on April 27, as well as the US president’s upcoming summit with the North Korean leader, Efe reported. Earlier on Friday, Trump said that a time and a place had been set for the meeting with Kim, although he did not provide any details.

The inter-Korean summit came after years of heightened tensions between the two countries, raising hopes that a lasting peace and a denuclearization of the peninsula could soon become a reality. The US President also expressed optimism regarding the release of three US hostages held in a North Korean prison, saying “you’re going to see very good things”.

The Kim and Trump meeting will be the first between the leaders of the US and North Korea, nearly 70 years after the start of the 1950-1953 Korean war.

Former US President George H.W. Bush released from hospital

Former US President George H.W. Bush released from hospital

Washington: Former US President George H.W. Bush has been discharged from Houston’s Methodist Hospital where he had been hospitalised in April after contracting an infection, according to his spokesman, Jim McGrath.

“His doctors report he is doing well and is happy to return home,” McGrath tweeted on Friday. Bush, 93, had been admitted to the hospital after contracting the infection that spread to his blood following the funeral for his wife, former First Lady Barbara Bush, reports CNN.

Bush tweeted on Thursday that he had “not taken up residence” at the hospital and was waiting for a “green light” to leave. In response to the hospital naming a new atrium after him and Barbara Bush, he wrote on Twitter: “Quite moved by this announcement by @MethodistHosp. The atrium is beautiful, but recent developments notwithstanding I have not taken up residence here.

“The doctors, nurses and support staff are so nice, but the second I get the green light I’m outta here.” Bush’s son former Florida Governor Jeb Bush also tweeted about the announcement that his father had been released from the hospital. “Thanks for all of your prayers. Dad is doing well and headed home,” he wrote on Friday evening.

Google to verify advertisers buying political advertisements

Google to verify advertisers buying political advertisements

San Francisco: Learning from the Facebook fiasco, Google has rolled out new policies for verifying election advertisers in the US that require additional verification for anyone who wants to purchase an election ad on Google in the country.

“As a first step, we’ll now require that advertisers confirm they are a US citizen or lawful permanent resident, as required by law,” Kent Walker, Senior Vice President at Google, said in a statement late Friday.

This means advertisers will have to provide a government-issued ID and other key information.

“To help people better understand who is paying for an election ad, we also require that ads incorporate a clear disclosure of who is paying for it,” Walker added.

The move comes in the wake of strong evidence that Russia used social media and online ads in an attempt to influence the 2016 US Presidential election.

Facebook data scandal: All you need to know about the massive data breach controversy
Google will soon release a new “Transparency Report” specifically focused on election ads.

This report will describe who is buying election-related ads on its platforms and how much money is being spent.

“We’re also building a searchable library for election ads, where anyone can find election ads purchased on Google and who paid for them,” Walker noted.

Google is already investing in keeping its own platforms secure and working with campaigns, elections officials, journalists, and others to help ensure the security of the online platforms that they depend on.

“We’ve developed a range of ‘Protect Your Election’ tools with Alphabet’s ‘Jigsaw’ that are specifically tailored for people who are at particularly high risk of online attacks,” said the Google executive.

“We’ve partnered with the National Cyber Security Alliance and Digital Democracy Project at the Belfer Centre at Harvard Kennedy School to fund security training programmes for elected officials, campaigns, and staff members,” Walker said.

In order to prevent election interference on its platform, Facebook has also introduced new changes to increase transparency and accountability for electoral ads and pages.

To get authorised by Facebook, advertisers will now need to confirm their identity and location.

“Advertisers will be prohibited from running political ads–electoral or issue-based–until they are authorised,” Rob Goldman, Vice President, Ads at Facebook, said recently in a blog post.

Facebook is also investing in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and adding more people to help find advertisers that should have gone through the authorisation process but did not.

Donald Trump considers travelling to Jerusalem for US embassy opening

Donald Trump considers travelling to Jerusalem for US embassy opening

Washington: US President Donald Trump has said here that he was considering travelling to Israel next month to attend the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, which is being moved from Tel Aviv. “I may go. I’m very proud of it,” Trump said during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the White House on Friday, Efe news reported.

Last December, Trump directed the State Department to start making arrangements to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which implies an official recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This move challenges the international consensus on Jerusalem, which states that the city’s status must be decided through peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

Trump said he was “very proud” of the embassy move since it was something that had been promised for many years during numerous political campaigns.

No country currently has an embassy in Jerusalem, as such a move would imply recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the city at a time when the international consensus is that eastern Jerusalem is Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.

Palestinians have considered the embassy move as a provocation that has disqualified the Trump administration from being an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The White House has not confirmed Trump’s visit, while some Israeli media have said that the US delegation will be led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, who are both presidential advisors.