British PM Theresa May wins confidence vote, calls on MPs to work together to deliver Brexit

British PM Theresa May wins confidence vote, calls on MPs to work together to deliver Brexit

London: British Prime Minister Theresa May has called on MPs to “put self-interest aside” and “work constructively together” towards Brexit after surviving a no confidence vote and averting a general election.

The prime minister won by 325 votes to 306 – a majority of 19- on Wednesday, a day after her government suffered a historic parliamentary defeat over her Brexit divorce deal with the European Union. Speaking outside 10 Downing Street after the voting, May said the government has won the confidence of Parliament. This now gives “us all the opportunity to focus on finding a way forward on Brexit”, she said. “Overwhelmingly, the British people want us to get on with delivering Brexit, and also address the other important issues they care about,” the Conservative leader said.

This is now the time to put “self-interest aside”, May said, “Now MPs have made clear what they don’t want, we must all work constructively together to set out what parliament does want.” “That’s why I am inviting MPs from all parties to come together to find a way forward. One that both delivers on the referendum and can command the support of Parliament. This is now the time to put self-interest aside,” she said. The prime minister said she believes it was her duty to deliver on the British people’s instruction to leave the European Union. “And I intend to do so,” May said in the televised interview after the winning the vote of no confidence.

British PM Theresa May suffers crushing defeat over Brexit deal
Earlier, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn argued that May’s “zombie” administration had lost the right to govern during a six hour debate on his motion. His party has not ruled out tabling further no-confidence motions.  After her victory, May told MPs that she would “continue to work to deliver on the solemn promise to the people of this country to deliver on the result of the referendum and leave the European Union”. She invited leaders of all parties to have individual meetings with her on the way ahead for Brexit, starting tonight, but called on them to approach them with a “constructive spirit”.

“We must find solutions that are negotiable and command sufficient support in this House,” she added. During her address form 10 Downing, the prime minister said she has held “constructive” meetings and will be meeting MPs along with senior government officials in the coming days. May also reiterated a promise to return to the Commons on Monday to give MPs another vote on her plans. “The House has put its confidence in this government,” she said in the House of Commons.

“I stand ready to work with any member of this House to deliver Brexit and ensure that this House retains the confidence of the British people.” The Democratic Unionist Party, which props up May’s minority government, also voted to keep her administration in power despite their strong opposition to the Brexit deal. May’s divorce deal to leave the EU was overwhelmingly rejected by MPs on Tuesday, triggering a no-confidence motion against her government and leaving the country with no plans for Brexit on March 29.

The PM’s bid to get the Withdrawal Agreement, struck between London and Brussels, was rejected by 432 votes to 202 – a majority of 230, the biggest defeat ever suffered by a British premier in modern history. Within minutes after the defeat, the biggest for a sitting British government in history, opposition leader Corbyn’s Labour party moved a motion of no-confidence against the May government to be held on Wednesday.

Britain is set to exit the 28-member European Union, which it joined in 1973, on March 29. With just over two months to go until the scheduled departure, Britain is still undecide on what to do. May, 62, has spent two years negotiating the divorce plan aimed at bringing about an orderly Brexit and setting up a 21- month transition period to negotiate a free-trade deal with Brussels. Her deal included both the withdrawal agreement on the terms on which the UK leaves the EU and a political declaration for the future relationship. May had survived a no-confidence vote by her own Conservative Party in December.

United States: Teachers’ strike in Los Angeles affects five lakh students

United States: Teachers’ strike in Los Angeles affects five lakh students

Los Angeles: More than 30,000 public school teachers in Los Angeles walked off the job on Monday to press their demands for better pay, smaller class sizes and more educators. The strike — the first in 30 years — is affecting some 500,000 students in the nation’s second largest school district, with intense negotiations in past weeks failing to lead to a breakthrough.

The action is being watched closely by teaching unions across the country that are engaged in labour negotiations and also considering strikes. “Here we are on a rainy day in the richest country in the world, in the richest state in the country, in a state that’s blue (Democrat) as it can be — and in a city rife with millionaires — where teachers have to go on strike to get the basics for our students,” Alex Caputo-Pearl, the head of the United Teachers Los Angeles union, told a news conference.

“Here we are in a fight for the soul of public education,” Caputo-Pearl added. “The question is: do we starve our public neighbourhood schools so that they (become) privatised, or do we re-invest in our public neighbourhood schools for our students and for a thriving city?” Although the teachers’ union and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) agree that class sizes — some at more than 40 — must shrink, teacher salaries must improve and more support staff are needed, they differ on funding.

School district officials insist they have taken great pains to avert a strike and negotiate with the union and say the district simply doesn’t have enough money to meet all of the demands. A revised offer submitted on Friday and calling for roughly USD 24 million more in funding and 1,200 more teachers for the upcoming school year was rejected.

LAUSD superintendent Austin Beutner on Monday said his office had reached out to the governor’s office and the mayor’s office to see if they could help broker a deal. He said the teachers’ demands would cost about USD 3 billion and push district into insolvency.

“We remain committed to resolve the contract negotiations as soon as possible,” Beutner told reporters. “We urge (the union) to resume bargaining with us anytime, anywhere, 24-7. We’d like to resolve this.” Despite the walkout, the 1,240 schools in the sprawling district remain open, he said, with classes taught by administrators and substitute teachers.

Last spring, a strike by teachers in the state of West Virginia over low wages and rising health care costs set off a wave of similar action in several other states and garnered strong public support. The walkout in Los Angeles could have a similar effect.

In Denver, Colorado, for example, the teachers union has threatened a strike unless an agreement can be reached by the end of this week on salary conditions. Teachers’ unions across the country offered support for those striking in Los Angeles, with many educators and parents wearing red T-shirts in solidarity.

Red became the signature colour of striking teachers last year after an early demonstration called on them to wear “Red4Ed.” Monday’s strike action also drew support from Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren. “I support @UTLAnow & LAUSD teachers who are for fighting for better pay, smaller classes, & better resourced schools for our kids,” she tweeted. “When we fail our public school teachers, we fail their students – and we fail our future. I’m with our teachers all the way.”

Decision time as British MPs vote on Brexit deal

Decision time as British MPs vote on Brexit deal

London: The British parliament holds a historic vote Tuesday on the Brexit deal agreed with the EU and all sides are bracing for turmoil when the text is almost certainly rejected.

With just over two months to go until the scheduled Brexit date of March 29, a bitterly divided Britain is in limbo and the world is on tenterhooks about what will happen next. Few expect the deal to pass, but the scale of Prime Minister Theresa May’s defeat could determine whether she tries again, loses office, delays Brexit — or if Britain even leaves the EU at all. MPs from all parties oppose the agreement, for different reasons, but on the eve of the vote May urged them to look again. “No, it is not perfect. And yes, it is a compromise,” she said.

“But when the history books are written, people will look at the decision of this house… and ask: did we deliver on the country’s vote to leave the European Union? “Or did we let the British people down?” The deal was agreed with the EU in November after 18 months of talks described as Britain’s toughest since World War II. But hardline Brexit supporters fear it keeps Britain too closely tied to the EU and represents a “betrayal”, while pro-Europeans argue it leaves the country half-in, half-out. Rather than heal the divisions exposed by the 2016 Brexit referendum, it has reignited them, with pro-European MPs facing death threats and harassment outside parliament.

Brexit supporters around the country have voiced growing frustration with what they see as parliamentary blockage of their democratic vote, while europhiles see hope in the increased talk of a second referendum to end the impasse. May postponed a House of Commons vote on the deal in December, facing certain defeat, and has since offered MPs clarifications she hopes will convince them. Criticism is focused on an arrangement to keep open the border with Ireland by aligning Britain with some EU trade rules, if and until London and Brussels sign a new economic partnership.

May has offered parliament greater oversight of this so-called backstop, and at her request, EU leaders have also given written assurances that the arrangement would not become permanent. A handful of Conservative MPs have changed their minds to back the deal, but a junior minister resigned on Monday so he could vote against it — and the core of May’s critics say she has not done enough. “Nothing has fundamentally changed,” said Nigel Dodds of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the Northern Irish party on whom May relies for her Commons majority.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said May had “completely and utterly failed” to ease MPs’ concerns and said if she loses the vote on Tuesday night, she must call an election. His party has also threatened a confidence vote in her government. Voting begins at 7:00 pm (1900 GMT), with MPs likely to decide on a number of amendments first, which could seek to change or kill the Brexit deal. In the event of a defeat, the government must set out what happens next by Monday at the latest.

Speculation is growing on both sides of the Channel that May could ask to delay Brexit, but she said Monday: “I don’t believe that the date of March 29 should be delayed.” The withdrawal agreement includes plans for a post-Brexit transition period to provide continuity until a new relationship is drawn up, in return for continued budget contributions from London. Without it, and if there is no delay, Britain will sever 46 years of ties with its nearest neighbours this spring with no new arrangements to ease the blow.

MPs fearful of a “no deal” scenario have vowed to use parliamentary procedures to force the government to seek an alternative plan that the Commons can support. Some commentators suggest May could return to Brussels, seeking further assurances on the deal and the future EU-UK relationship and ask parliament to vote again. “At the second time of asking, MPs might just vote for her deal over the catastrophe that would be no deal,” said John Springford, deputy director of the Centre for European Reform.

Government shutdown because of Democrats: Donald Trump

Government shutdown because of Democrats: Donald Trump

Washington: President Donald Trump on Monday attributed the partial government shutdown, which is now into its 24th day, to the opposition Democrats who have blocked his proposal of USD5.6 billion in Congressional funding to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.

He also said that he will “never ever back down” when its comes to keeping the American people safe. The partial government shutdown, which is the longest ever, has left more than 800,000 federal government workers out of work across the key departments. “The government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only, the Democrats will not fund border security, our safety, our national security,” Trump said, addressing to a rally of farmers in Louisiana.

Referring to his visit to the Mexico border last week, Trump said illegal aliens not only from Mexico, but also from other nations enter the country from the southern border. “People come from many countries. When I was at the wall the other day, Border Patrol said they have 150 people they caught that day who weren’t from Mexico. I said that’s a strange statement,” he said. “They said no, these are the people that weren’t from Mexico and I was surprised. Three were from Pakistan, four from another Mideast, two Mideast countries and many were from other countries including China, countries all over the world.

“150 of the people, as he said, were not from Mexico. Now they caught, many, many more but that’s 150 people coming from countries that you wouldn’t believe,” Trump said. He said the Democrats will not approve the measures he needs to keep America safe. “We can’t do that. We can’t do that because this is of paramount importance to our country and again, I could take it nice and easy. I could enjoy myself. I could relax. I have been in the White House because I think it’s very important to be there,” he said.

He alleged that the Democrat leaders went on a nice wonderful vacation over the weekend. “They had a great time but I would have loved to have been with them. I didn’t like the look of it. I would have loved to have been with them but we have a very big problem. This should have been done by other presidents just like the moving of the embassy to Jerusalem should have been done. It was promised by many other presidents,” the US President said.

Trump insisted that the US needs a wall all around, all the length of the border. “We have got to stop the drug packers bringing drugs to poison our people,” he said, arguing that walls, as being said by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are not immoral. “I’ve travelled around the world and the biggest wall I have ever seen is around the Vatican. Now you can’t tell me that the wonderful priests and officials of the Roman Catholic church including the Pope are immoral. They have a wall. Why can’t we?” he said.

Asserting that the defense of the nation is his highest and most important duty, Trump said when it comes to keeping the American people safe, he will never ever back down. “I didn’t need this fight. This is a real fight. We are dealing against people who think if they can stop me from building the wall again, we’ve already done a lot of work but they think that’s a good thing for 2020 because they’re not going to win. “They think if they can’t stop me from building the wall that’s good. This is the reason why they don’t want the wall built because they all know it works, they all approved it numerous times,” he said.

Canada to welcome over 1 mn new immigrants

Canada to welcome over 1 mn new immigrants

Ottawa: Canada’s Parliament has announced plans to add more than one million new permanent residents in the next three years, which is nearly 1 per cent of the country’s population each year.
Canada welcomed more than 286,000 permanent residents in 2017 and projects that number could reach 350,000 this year, CNN reported.

“Thanks in great part to the newcomers we have welcomed throughout our history, Canada has developed into the strong and vibrant country we all enjoy,” Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC), said on Thursday.

Hussen, himself an immigrant from Somalia, said the influx will help offset Canada’s aging population and declining birth rate while growing its labour force.
Canada’s friendly stance towards new residents comes as many other Western nations, including the US, are adopting more restrictive immigration policies.

Canada is especially dedicated to offering protection to refugees.
The UN Refugee Agency reported unprecedented levels of refugees in 2017, with the number of forcibly displaced people reaching 68.5 million.

The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has pledged $5.6 million to support global resettlement initiatives.


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”.