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Twin cities ready for polls

National - 22 min 37 sec ago

The capital’s Deputy Commissioner Mushtaq Ahmed has said the administration is all set v ensure free, fair and transparent local bodies elections in the city.

He was presiding over a meeting of district election commission, attended by officials and representatives of political parties. Ahmed directed all district officials to ensure strict implementation of code of conduct issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan, saying said strict legal action would be taken against anyone found violating the code.

In Rawalpindi, 1,771 polling stations will be set up for holding the local government elections in the district.

District Returning Officer Muhammad Javed Khan said on Tuesday that a total of 4,465 polling booths would be set up for the December 5 elections. He shared that training of returning
officers and presiding officers would be completed on November 28.

To a question, he said the issue of delimitations was in court and decision for holding elections in 16 union councils was thus yet to be taken.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th,  2015.

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Categories: News

Under junta rule, Thailand pivots towards China

Asia - 23 min 35 sec ago

For the last two weeks Thai and Chinese planes have been taking part in the inaugural joint air force drill, an exercise culminating later this week with a performance by Beijing's acrobatic air team. For Group Captain Chanon Mungthanya, a Royal Thai Air Force spokesman involved in the drill at Korat, it is a valuable opportunity to interact with his Chinese counterparts. Historically, Thailand has been one of Washington's staunchest military allies in Southeast Asia and could have expected to see that relationship blossom under US President Barack Obama's "pivot" to Asia.

Categories: News

Amazon ads for Nazi-themed TV show pulled from NYC subway

National - 28 min 54 sec ago

NEW YORK: Amazon.com Inc show featuring Nazi-inspired imagery have been pulled from a busy New York City subway line after Governor Andrew Cuomo intervened, a transit spokesman said late on Tuesday.

The advertisements for “The Man in the High Castle” had completely wrapped the seats, walls and ceilings of one train on the shuttle line that connects Times Square and Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan.

America is the loser in Amazon’s ‘The Man in the High Castle’

Adam Lisberg, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said the train was taken out of service after the evening rush hour so the ads could be removed. An Amazon representative said earlier in the evening that the company had not requested the ads be pulled, contradicting a transit official, who had said the company itself had asked for the removal.

Lisberg would not comment on internal discussions between the MTA and its advertisers but said Cuomo had called the head of the MTA on Tuesday and asked him to ensure the ads were taken down. Earlier on Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had also called on Amazon to pull the ads, saying they were “irresponsible and offensive to World War Two and Holocaust survivors, their families, and countless other New Yorkers.”

Amazon sells Osama bin Laden’s masks as “terrorist costumes” for Halloween

The show, based on a Philip K. Dick novel, depicts an alternate reality in which Nazi Germany and Japan have divided control over the United States after winning World War Two. The advertisements include a version of the American flag with a German eagle and iron cross in place of the stars, as well as a stylised imperial Japanese flag.

In a statement, Amazon did not directly address the controversy, saying the show is part of its lineup of “high-quality, provocative programming that spurs conversation.” The shuttle train ads had been scheduled to run until December 6th. Amazon’s 260 subway station posters for the show have not been removed. The MTA had said the advertisements did not violate the agency’s content-neutral guidelines, which ban political ads. All 10 episodes of the show were released on November 20th on the Amazon Prime streaming service.

Amazon opens first physical bookstore

Frank Spotnitz, the show’s creator, told Entertainment Weekly he agreed the advertisements could be seen as offensive. “It’s very difficult with a show with subject matter like this to market it tastefully,” the magazine quoted him as saying. “If they had asked me, I would have strongly advised them not to do it.”

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Categories: News

Polio case reported in Khyber Agency

National - 29 min 7 sec ago

PESHAWAR: A two-year-old boy in Khyber Agency has tested positive for poliovirus, taking this year’s count of polio cases to 42 across the country. Nine children have been crippled by the virus in the tribal agency alone.

On Tuesday, the National Institute of Health in Islamabad confirmed Abu Sufyan, son of Irfan, from Khoga Khel in Landi Kotal as the latest polio case – the second to be reported from the area in November.

Earlier, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s health minister Shahram Khan Tarakai had directed the district health officers to take result-oriented steps to ensure the eradication of poliovirus from the province by 2016. He said special attention should be paid to the areas where results of polio campaigns have been unsatisfactory.

In a handout issued from the health department, the minster warned the district health officers of stern action if results of anti-polio drives were found unsatisfactory.

He instructed the officers to focus on localities where parents refused to administer polio vaccination to their children and suggested contacting local Ulema and elected government representatives to convince the parents.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2015.

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Categories: News

FIA illegally shut down Axact: CEO’s wife

National - 31 min 10 sec ago

Ayesha Sheikh, the wife of Axact CEO Shoaib Sheikh, on Tuesday said her and her husband’s businesses had been shut down even though there was no complainant against them.

In her statement before the Senate Standing Committee for Interior headed by Senator Rehman Malik, she said the Federal Investigation Agency had prepared cases against her and other women. “I am a housewife but my name has been placed on the Exit Control List,” she said. “All the money we earned was declared before the State Bank.”

‘Fake degree empire’ collapses: Axact CEO nailed

Ayesha said FIA illegally closed down Axact offices. She said the authority was using delay tactics so that her husband could not get bail. She added that around 8,000 Axact employees have lost their jobs. Their salaries can only be paid if the bank accounts of the organisation are unfrozen.

Ayesha said a media trial had brought the trouble Axact faces today. She said a newspaper published the story of a case against Shoaib Sheikh before it actually happened and that it was the result of a conspiracy. When Senator Javed Abbasi asked as to who had hatched the conspiracy, Ayesha said that everyone knows who without naming anyone.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th,  2015.

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Categories: News

Brazil army chief lauds Pakistan’s counterterror operations

National - 32 min 3 sec ago

ISLAMABAD: Army chief General Raheel Sharif on Tuesday met with Brazil’s armed forces Chief of Joint Staff General Jose Carlos De Nardi, who lauded Pakistan Army’s professionalism and operational achievements especially in ongoing counter terrorism operations.

General Raheel was visiting the Brazil Army Headquarters where he was presented a guard of honour and 19 guns’ salute. After conclusion of his five-day visit to US, where he met top US civil and military leaders including US Vice President Joe Biden, General Raheel had landed in Brazil.

According to the army’s media wing – the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) – matters of mutual professional interest and military to military relations were discussed during the meeting. The two military leaders also discussed regional security, emerging challenges and training exchanges.

The army chief also met Brazil’s defence minister and discussed ways and means for bolstering cooperation in the field of defence.  General Raheel Sharif also invited Brazil defence minister to visit Pakistan.

“We want to further strengthen our ties with Brazil.  Pakistan army is continuing war against terrorism successfully and Pakistan will soon get rid of the menace of terrorism,” the Online news agency quoted General Rageel as saying. 

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2015.

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Categories: News

Hostage situation reported in France

National - 38 min 38 sec ago

A hostage situation has been reported in the northern French town of Roubaix near the Belgian border. Several people have sustained gunshot wounds, Reuters reported citing medical sources.

The area has been cordoned off by police, RTL reported, adding that gunfire can be heard.

La Voix du Nord newspaper says the hostage takers are armed with Kalashnikovs. Witnesses told the daily that the incident occurred at around 7:00pm local time at a service station. It is not clear whether the gunmen are linked to the attacks in Paris on November 13.

“An operation is underway after hostages were taken. Gunshots were fired and the neighborhood has been cordoned off,” a police source told Reuters. “A bank director and his family may have been taken as hostages.”

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th,  2015.


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Categories: News

China says Communist Party officials among Xinjiang attackers

Asia - 39 min 20 sec ago

Officials from China's ruling Communist Party have supported violent attacks in restive Xinjiang, a top regional official said in remarks highlighting internal opposition to tough local policies. China blames the violence on Islamist separatists but rights groups point to Beijing's own actions as a driver. Xu Hairong, the region's top anti-graft official, accused some local party members of participating in the unrest, pointing to a division in implementing Beijing's anti-separatist stance.

Categories: News

Lahore’s ‘Disneyland’ to be constructed on M-2 Motorway

National - 39 min 45 sec ago

LAHORE: Lahore’s Disneyland-like theme park will be constructed on the Lahore-Islamabad M-2 Motorway near Kala Shah Kaku, The Express Tribune learnt on Tuesday.

Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) Director General Shakeel Ahmad confirmed that after surveying different sites, the Chinese company, Golden Bean, has decided to build the country’s first Disneyland-style theme park on the M-2 Motorway.

“It is a huge project and will take around two years to complete,” he added.

Lahore to get its own ‘Disneyland’

Lahore Division Commissioner Abdullah Khan Sumbal said that the Punjab government is playing the role of a facilitator in the project.

The Chinese company has committed to invest Rs32 billion in the project. “Golden Bean will work on construction, procurement of land and execution of the project,” Sumbal said.

The commissioner added that the provincial government has guaranteed uninterrupted electricity supply through special feeders for the project. “The government would also build an approach road for the proposed amusement park,” he added.

Further, Sumbal said the proposed theme park would also have a five-star hotel, water aquarium, business and shopping centers, state-of-the-art rides and a breathtaking rollercoaster.

Price hike puts popular US Disneyland annual pass over $1,000

An official in the commissioner’s office disclosed that the Punjab government showed three sites to Chinese investors in the province, including Raiwind Road and Kala Shah Kaku, for the theme park. However, Chinese investors preferred Kala Shah Kaku site as it is located on the M-2 Motorway near densely populated districts of Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sialkot and adjoining areas.

The proposed theme park will be built over an area of 320 to 350 acre and will have direct access from the M-2 Motorway.

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Categories: News

Militants fight their way into army base in Indian-held Kashmir, officer says

National - 43 min 56 sec ago

SRINAGAR: Three gunmen attacked and entered an army base in Indian-held Kashmir on Wednesday, a senior army officer said, raising tension over the disputed border with Pakistan that runs nearby.

The attackers cut a perimeter fence and penetrated the Indian army’s battalion headquarters in Tangdhar in Indian-held Kashmir, the officer told Reuters.

Suspected militants kill soldier in Indian occupied Kashmir

“We heard three blasts initially and a gun battle is on,” said the army officer, who asked not to be identified because he is not authorised to speak on the record.

He said the attackers had taken up positions in the officers’ mess and blown up a kerosene tank, wounding one person.

Suspected militants kill soldier in Indian occupied Kashmir

Earlier this week, four suspected rebels and a soldier were killed in three separate clashes in Indian-administered Kashmir, authorities said.

Government forces acting on a tip-off trapped three suspected insurgents in an alley and killed them near the town of Ashmuqam, 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of the main city of Srinagar.

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Categories: News

Pakistani flag hoisted at Kashmir CM’s house

National - 48 min 21 sec ago

Protesters in Indian-administered Kashmir hoisted Pakistan’s flag at the ancestral residence of the territory’s chief minister on Tuesday, reported the Indian Express.

According to the daily, the residents of Bijbhera, the ancestral town of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, took to the streets in protest against the killing of three Kashmiri youths by Indian troops. The three were killed in an encounter in the village of Sulligam.

Ex-Indian premier’s son donates six flags to Quaid-e-Azam House

During the protest, demonstrators pelted Mufti Sayeed’s ancestral residence in the Baba Mohallah area of Bijbhera with stones, said the Indian Express. Quoting local sources, it said some youths also hoisted Pakistan’s flag at the chief minister’s ancestral house.

Meanwhile, a shutdown persisted elsewhere in Indian-administered Kashmir in protest against Monday’s killings. The strike call had been given by All Parties Hurriyat Conference Chairman Syed Ali Geelani.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2015.

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Categories: News

Army to supervise polling at 62 stations

National - 1 hour 3 min ago

ISLAMABAD: The top election authority has decided to deploy troops at 62 ‘highly sensitive’ buildings in Islamabad for local government polls scheduled for November 30.

The decision was taken on Tuesday during a meeting of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) held to review arrangements for the elections in the Islamabad Capital Territory.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (retd) Sardar Raza Khan presided over the meeting, where the interior secretary, Punjab police chief and Islamabad chief election commissioner among other officials were also present.

The participants discussed the overall arrangements, logistics, security issues and printing of ballot papers for the local bodies elections. They also agreed to the security plan prepared by the police chief, including deployment of paramilitary Rangers at all polling stations.

Voting at all 640 polling stations would start at 7am. The polling results would be declared on December 3.

Sindh delimitations

The ECP has also set the timeline for Sindh government to complete its delimitation process.

According to a notification, the ECP has asked the provincial government to complete the demarcations of urban and rural areas and issue its notification within three days.

The officers shall complete delimitations within three days between November 27 and November 29. Objections may be filed before the delimitation authority for three days from November 29 to December 1.

The authorities will dispose of the appeals within two days by December 3 and delimitation officers will incorporate the decisions and publish them.

Third phase

The election commission also issued the details for the third phase of local government elections in 12 districts of Punjab, scheduled for December 5.

Some 31,848 candidates will be contesting in 6,265 union councils and municipal committee wards. For municipal corporations, 3,831 candidates have filed their nomination papers. Some 22,921 contestants are in the run for district councils while 5,096 are contesting for municipal committees.

For the third and final phase, 14,012 polling stations will be set up. The presiding officers would be helped by 7,628 assistant presiding officers, 38,718 polling officers and 2,636 naib qasids.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th,  2015.

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Categories: News

Horoscope: November 25, 2015

National - 1 hour 13 min ago

Aries | March 20 – April 19

For ages you’ve been avoiding discussions that promise to be as tedious as they are pointless. Or so it seems. Actually, you’ll learn a huge amount from them. Knowing that, resist the temptation to skip certain facts. Those that seem least important could, when all is said and done, be crucial.

Taurus | April 20 – May 20

Don’t be surprised if you’re unexpectedly upset about certain changes. They may be timely and welcome, but you’re still saying farewell to familiar and longstanding arrangements. Tempting as it is to shore these up, you’d regret it. They really must go, and the longer you wait, the more complicated it will be.

Gemini | May 21 – June 20

Tolerance may be a virtue. But there are times when you must draw the line, and judging by the current planetary setup, that point has been reached. The real challenge is making it abundantly clear where you stand, and that the situation in question must change, no discussion or negotiation.

Cancer | June 21 – July 22

Although it undoubtedly seems the time for decision making and dynamic action has come, do no more than indicate what’s of interest to you. First, you’re dealing with changes in circumstances. Even more important, the Cancer Full Moon, in a month’s time, will substantially alter your perspective and priorities.

Leo | July 23 – August 22

Long ago you realised that while rational discussion achieves little, when a situation reaches crisis point, things get done. This could be the case now. If so, it means talking over issues frankly, revealing your feelings and listening carefully to those of others. While challenging, the result more than justifies the effort.

Virgo | August 23 – September 22

Sometimes issues are best sidestepped for as long as possible. At the moment, it’s the reverse. The sooner you begin discussing and defining differences, the better. First, you’ll realise many conflicts were based on misunderstandings not genuine differences. Better yet, simply talking things over could lead to potential solutions.

Libra | September 23 – October 22

It may seem that somebody hasn’t just not kept their word, they’ve turned their focus to something else entirely. While it’s true, their attention has been diverted elsewhere, there’s good reason. Wait a few days, then ask what’s been going on. They’ll be happy to explain everything in detail.

Scorpio | October 23 – November 21

Many would use the words ‘strong’ and, on occasion, ‘tough’, to describe you. Yet you’re also a sensitive water sign and can sometimes be swamped by feelings of doubt or anxiety. If you reacted that way to the recent Full Moon, be conscious they’ll pass as swiftly as they arose.

Sagittarius | November 22 – December 21

Facts may be facts. But during periods of change, even seemingly straightforward matters can become confused. Urgent as decisions and, indeed, action seem, take it slowly. A series of powerful aspects to the practical and thorough Saturn, between now and early next week, will expose precisely the information you require.

Capricorn | December 22 – January 19

You’re on the verge of powerful insights. These are being triggered by the rare and potent clash between your ruler Saturn and Neptune, planet of vision and illusion. While you may not recognise them for what they are right away, gradually you’ll view certain alliances and arrangements in a very different light.

Aquarius | January 20 – February 17

Unsettling as last minute developments are, they’re timely. In fact, what arises could lead to breakthroughs in increasingly stuck arrangements. Despite hours of discussion, nobody seems ready to make a change. While what’s arisen may not be ideal, it will get things going. You can deal with the details later.

Pisces | February 18 – March 19

When you were discussing certain pivotal matters recently, you left out facts you regarded as being irrelevant to the individual you were talking with. At the time, they were. Since then these have not only become important, they’re crucial. Discuss this now, explaining in detail what you didn’t say, and why.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th,  2015.

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Categories: News

Court acquits Zardari in SGS-Cotecna cases

National - 1 hour 13 min ago

An accountability court has acquitted former president and PPP Co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari in the SGS and Cotecna corruption cases over lack of evidence.

Zardari had pleaded for acquittal in February, alleging the cases were politically motivated and there was no incriminating evidence against him. On Tuesday, Judge Muhammad Bashir exonerated him of the corruption charges.

The case of Societe Generale Surveillance (SGS) – a Geneva-based certification company – was in continuance of a corruption reference filed in 1997, accusing slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and her spouse of receiving kickbacks on a government contract.

The Cotecna case was based on the then PPP government’s award of a contract to a Swiss company allegedly after receiving 6% cut on revenue proceeds.

In his arguments, the former president’s attorney, Farooq H Naek, reiterated that the records in both references were not present and only photocopies were presented to the court. “In such a situation,” he said, “cases cannot be taken forward, and his client should be acquitted.”

On a previous hearing, the judge had observed that the case record consisted of attested copies, asking if the real documents could be obtained from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Naek had maintained that whoever certified the records should come before the court and testify, as NAB had said the records of the references were not available. “Even the investigation officer has not seen the records,” he had claimed.

Earlier, NAB ex-deputy chairman Hassan Waseem Afzal had recorded his statement, saying he personally went to Switzerland to bring back the original records of the SGS case and submitted it in the Lahore High Court.

Afzal maintained the original documents related to the agreements with the offshore companies and Swiss bank accounts were submitted to the court and should be with the court or NAB. The court had reserved its verdict on November 12 after both sides concluded their arguments. The court announced an accused cannot be punished without the availability of original documents.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2015.

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Categories: News

Mental scars of war leave Ukraine troops battling suicide threat

National - 1 hour 17 min ago

BROVARY: Artur Galtsov survived the bombs and bullets on the frontline in east Ukraine but after returning home the army volunteer faced another battle, overcoming his horrifying memories.

Haunted by the recollection of seeing two comrades blown apart before his eyes in fighting with pro-Russian rebels, Galtsov, 24, got drunk one day and jumped from a third-floor window in a bid to end his life.

Power outages plague Crimea as Russia threatens to cut Ukraine gas

Now a year on, the young man lies on a hospital bed in a small town near Kiev, still unable to talk and barely recognising relatives due to the injuries he sustained in the fall.

“Look at me, Artur. Look at me. You have made great progress, we are so proud of you,” a doctor says to him gently.

As the conflict in east Ukraine has plunged the region into bloodletting and seen thousands of young men called up to fight in their own country, Galtsov’s story is far from unique.

Suicide is the main cause of non-combat losses in the Ukrainian army since the beginning of conflict.

The defence ministry says 171 soldiers committed suicide in 2014 and 2015 but volunteers working with ex-combatants say the real figure is much higher.

“We know perfectly well that there are a lot of suicides among those guys, who took part” in the fighting, says volunteer Kseniya Negrey, who has been taking care of Galtsov since his arrival at the private clinic.

“There is a moment between the return from the conflict zone and coming back home, when they start drinking, when they just can’t cope without their comrades around.”

The fighting in east Ukraine has for the most part been waged by inexperienced soldiers firing Soviet-era mortars and rockets at rebels across a sometimes narrow frontline.

Psychologist Tetiana Nazarenko from the Povernennya (Return) trauma treatment centre in Brovary, a town outside Kiev, says that witnessing the devastating impact leaves psychological scars.

“The worst thing in terms of psychological effects is when they evacuate the bodies”, she told AFP.

Russia upholds 20-year sentence for Ukrainian film maker

“Very often these bodies are in pieces, they are in a bad state and coming into contact with them is very tough.”

Not only that, but given the stop-start nature of much of the fighting in the conflict, which Kiev and the West says involved Russian troops; the long periods of waiting for an attack took a heavy mental toll on the soldiers.

“There is psychological exhaustion because of the waiting, they start to think; what are we doing here, why are we here? We want to go home,” she said.

Semen Gluzman, the president of the Ukrainian Psychiatric Association, says that alcoholism and drug addiction are the biggest problems Ukrainian soldiers face.

What they need above all are not psychologists and psychiatrists, but qualified social workers and loving care from family members to help them readjust after the fighting.

“A man comes back home after a year’s absence, after a year of sitting in trenches, losing touch with his family and a normal way of life, after getting used to living in danger,” Gluzman said.

“The experiences he had at war are something he must learn to live with. His pain will decrease with time, but initially he needs social assistance”, Gluzman adds.

But, while the Ukrainian parliament this month passed a law making it mandatory for soldiers to go through a programme of psychological rehabilitation after coming back home, Gluzman says the government provision is woefully inadequate.

No one knows when the mental health screenings will start to happen and how such a massive scheme will be handled.

“This is a nonsense”, Semen Gluzman says, spreading his hands widely.

Eurasia: a new political entity

Even if measures are put in place to treat soldiers as they come back from the front, Gluzman says the conflict in Ukraine will have a long psychological impact on those who fought.

“It’s too early to diagnose war traumas now, they will reveal themselves later,” he adds.

“This is a problem that will last for years, for decades. This is something Ukraine will be dealing with for a very long time.”

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Categories: News

Hilton hotels hit by cyber attack

National - 1 hour 23 min ago

SAN FRANCISCO: US hotel chain Hilton revealed Tuesday that hackers infected some of its point-of-sale computer systems with malware crafted to steal credit card information.

Hilton would not disclose whether data was taken, but advised anyone who used payment cards at Hilton Worldwide hotels between November 18 and December 5 of last year or April 21 and July 27 of this year to watch for irregular activity on credit or debit card accounts.

TalkTalk attack: 15-year-old arrested over British cyber attack

Malicious code that infected registers at hotels had the potential to take cardholders’ names along with card numbers, security codes and expiration dates, Hilton said in an online post.

Hilton said that it is investigating the breach with the help of third-party forensics experts, law enforcement and payment card companies.

The announcement came just four days after Starwood Hotels, which operates the Sheraton and Westin chains, said that hackers had infected payment systems in some of its establishments, potentially leaking customer credit card data.

The hack occurred at a “limited number” of its hotels in North America, according to Starwood, whose other well-known chains include St Regis and W Hotels.

Starwood said that an investigation by forensic experts concluded that malware was detected in some restaurants, gift shops and other points of sale systems at hotels.

“The malware was designed to collect certain payment card information, including cardholder name, payment card number, security code and expiration date,” the group said in a statement.

The cyber attacks on Hilton and Starwood sounded similar to one disclosed last month by Trump Hotel Collection.

“We believe that there may have been unauthorised malware access to some of the computers that host our front desk terminals and payment card terminals in our restaurants, gift shops and other point-of-sale purchase locations at some hotels,” Trump Hotel Collection said at a website devoted to details of the incident.

The access may have taken place between May 19 of last year and June 2 of this year, according to Trump hotels.

Locations affected were listed as Trump SoHo New York, Trump National Doral, Trump International New York, Trump International Chicago, Trump International Waikiki, Trump International Hotel & Tower Las Vegas, and Trump International Toronto.

An independent forensic investigation did not turn up evidence that customer information was removed, but not was provide by Trump hotels in “an abundance of caution,” according to the website.

Data targeted by the malware appeared to include account numbers, card expiration dates, and security codes.

Britain says Islamic State militants plotting deadly cyber attacks

Cyber threats blogger Brian Krebs at KrebsonSecurity.com described the infiltration of Trump payment systems as “just the latest in a long string of credit card breaches involving hotel brands, restaurants and retail establishments.”

Krebs placed fault on slow adoption in the US of encrypted chip technology on payment cards that provide more protection for data than does magnetic strips.

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Categories: News

Paris ringleader planned suicide attack in business district: prosecutor

National - 1 hour 26 min ago

PARIS: The suspected ringleader of the deadly Paris attacks and an accomplice planned to carry out a suicide attack on the city’s La Defense business district the following week, the chief prosecutor said Tuesday.

Revealing the latest findings of the vast investigation into the attacks, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said Abdelhamid Abaaoud had aimed to target the area in the west of the capital where many major French companies have their headquarters.

The ‘un-Islamic’ lifestyle of Paris attackers

Belgian national Abaaoud was killed with his female cousin and another man in a ferocious shootout with police at an apartment in northern Paris five days after the series of shootings and suicide bombings on November 13 in which 130 people were killed.

“The two terrorists, Abaaoud and the man found next to him, were planning an attack which involved blowing themselves up on Wednesday 18 November or Thursday 19 November, at La Defense,” Molins said.

The man killed in the apartment siege who has not yet been identified “is perhaps” the third assailant spotted by witnesses, who sprayed cafe terraces and restaurants with gunfire on November 13, killing dozens, the prosecutor said.

Abaaoud’s female cousin, Hasna Aitboulahcen, had helped to organise the hideout in Saint-Denis which was attacked in the ferocious shootout with police, the prosecutor said.

“She was absolutely aware of her cousin’s implication in the November 13 attacks,” he said.

US warned of Paris attack ‘mastermind’ in May

She was first believed to have blown herself up, but the prosecutor said it is now thought she was asphyxiated when another man — the unidentified individual — detonated his explosive vest as police closed in.

Investigators have fingerprints and DNA samples from the man, “but they do not match any records in France”, Molins said. They have been matched to those on a Kalashnikov rifle found in a car thought to have been used in the attacks.

Meanwhile in Belgium, prosecutors issued an international arrest warrant for a “dangerous” man seen driving a car with key Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam two days before the atrocities.

Mohamed Abrini, 30, was filmed along with Abdeslam at a motorway petrol station in Ressons, north of Paris, in a Renault Clio later used in the attacks, Belgium’s federal prosecutor said in a statement.

Abdeslam remains at large, 11 days after the carnage in Paris.

In the French capital, prosecutor Molins revealed that an explosives vest found Monday in a bag of rubbish in the suburb of Montrouge was “exactly the same construction as the others” used by the suicide bombers in the attacks.

Returning to Abaaoud, thought to be an Islamic State operative who had planned other attacks in Europe, the prosecutor said telephone analysis showed he had returned to the scene of the Paris atrocities while the bloody siege at the Bataclan concert venue was still under way.

Suspected mastermind of Paris attacks Abaaoud died in police raid: prosecutor

The Bataclan was the scene of the worst violence — 90 people were killed by three assailants as they attended a rock concert.

The analysis “leads us to believe that Abaaoud returned to the scene of the crimes after the attack carried out on the people sitting at tables at restaurants and while the BRI (elite police) was intervening at the Bataclan”, the prosecutor said.

Abaaoud had also been in contact by phone with Bilal Hadfi, one of the suicide bombers who detonated his explosives outside the Stade de France stadium, the prosecutor said.

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Categories: News

PPP-era illegal land transfer case referred to NAB

National - 1 hour 27 min ago

The parliamentary anti-corruption watchdog has referred to the National Accountability Bureau a case involving illegal handover of a piece of land left behind by non-Muslims who had migrated to India in 1947 by the previous government to the legal fraternity.

In November 2011, then prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had directed the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) to transfer an ‘under construction’ parking plaza located along Lahore’s Dev Samaj Road to the Lahore Bar Association (LBA) for construction of a lawyers’ hospital, ETPB Chairman Siddique-ul-Farooq told the Public Accounts Committee on Tuesday.

NAB acquits Zardari in SGS-Cotecna references

The property, measuring four kanals and worth at least Rs400 million, was handed over by Gilani without fulfilling legal formalities, he said. “Since the land is in LBA’s possession, it is impossible for us [ETPB] to retake it due to pressure from the legal fraternity.”

According to the office of the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP), the PPP government had stopped work on the parking plaza after spending a whopping Rs66.1 million. The government had never recovered the Rs20.2 million mobilisation advance paid to the contractor after the project was shelved, the auditors said.

According to Farooq, those involved in corruption while constructing the plaza played a role in handing the land to the LBA to hide their crime. He said the ETPB has blacklisted the contractor but could not recover the money.

I am a Sindhi and I have no sympathy for PPP anymore

On recommendation of the AGP and the ETPB, acting PAC chairperson Dr Azra Pechuho referred the case to NAB with directions to recover Rs20.2 million from the contractor and to take action against responsible ETPB officials.

PAC Chairman Syed Khursheed Shah refused to chair the meeting on grounds that he was the federal minister for religious affairs when the handover took place.

The PAC also referred another case to NAB for inadmissible payment of Rs2 million to the same contractor by ETPB officials. The auditors also pointed out that the PPP government had unlawfully spent Rs69.2 million from the Zakat Fund on an advertising campaign and sought directives from the PAC to fix responsibility against officials involved in the matter.

Illegal: Aleem accused of fraudulent land sale

During the financial year 2009-10, the government had used money from the Zakat Fund for an advertisement campaign to convince the people to pay more Zakat.  AGP Rana Assad Amin said that instead of recording any increase in Zakat donations, the amount actually went down.

The religious affairs secretary said the Central Zakat Council had the authority to sanction funds for advertisement campaign. However, the auditors were of the view that the Central Zakat Council cannot use the Zakat Fund for advertisement.

Instead of ordering an inquiry, the PAC asked the Ministry of Religious Affairs to seek an interpretation of the law from the law ministry as to whether the council had such rights.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2015.

The post PPP-era illegal land transfer case referred to NAB appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: News

MNAs decry ‘flawed’ trials in Bangladesh

National - 1 hour 58 min ago

Members of the National Assembly on Tuesday unanimously decried as ‘flawed’ the trials of opposition leaders sentenced to death in Bangladesh and urged the government to take up the matter in the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Noting that recent treason trials in Bangladesh were aimed at punishing those who had supported Pakistan before separation in 1971, both ruling party and opposition MNAs said the government’s response on the issue has been ‘insufficient’. Pakistan’s foreign office (FO) and interior ministry have already raised concern over the executions.

Dhaka executions: Asma Jahangir says govt reaction out of place

During the debate in the lower house, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Moeen Wattoo urged the FO to lodge a strong protest with Bangladeshi authorities. “We have always expressed love for Bangladesh but the response we are receiving is tragic,” he said.

His fellow party lawmaker Mian Abdul Manan said the flawed trials should be taken up before the ICJ.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Shireen Mazari said the execution of opposition leaders both violated the 1974 tripartite agreement between Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, and went against international laws and principles.

Pakistan voices anguished concern at Dhaka hangings

Jamaat-e-Islami’s Sahibzada Tariqullah, meanwhile, said Bangladeshi opposition leaders were being punished for supporting a united Pakistan.

Kashmir issue and HRC membership

Opposition MNAs also criticised the PML-N government’s failure to obtain membership of the Human Rights Council (HRC), saying that Kashmir in particular would suffer as a result.

“The Kashmir issue will suffer the most due to the government’s inability to get membership of the Human Rights Council,” PTI’s Shafqat Mahmood said.

Bangladesh to hang opposition leaders in hours

“Why did the government change its ambassador [in Geneva] just a week before the elections for the council membership,” he asked.

Fellow party lawmaker Shireen Mazari said the government had not effectively canvassed for support from member countries. “It seems like the government was not taking membership in the council seriously.”

Without HRC membership, Pakistan cannot draw attention to the atrocities being committed by India in Kashmir, she added.

On the other hand, Asiya Nasir of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl blamed the loss of membership on Pakistan’s dismal human rights record.

Six sentenced to death for brutal Bangladesh child murders

“The international community has been observing rights violations in Pakistan closely. This could be one reason why some countries didn’t vote for Pakistan in the HRC elections,” she said. “The rights of minorities [in Pakistan] are being trampled routinely,” Nasir added, drawing attention to forced conversion and marriages of Hindu and Christian girls in Punjab in particular.

Responding to criticism, Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch said the incumbency factor also worked against Pakistan’s bid to get re-elected to the council.

“We have won [HRC] membership three consecutive times. This could also have contributed to some countries not voting for Pakistan,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th,  2015.

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Categories: News

PM rules out special treatment for Punjab

National - 2 hours 8 min ago

Amid scathing and unrelenting criticism from his political rival, especially Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif dismissed claims on Tuesday that the federal government was giving a preferential treatment to its political powerhouse, Punjab.

“Our government is working to change the socioeconomic conditions of the downtrodden, irrespective of their political affiliations,” he said while addressing a ceremony at Mai Heer Stadium in Jhang. At the ceremony, cash handouts were given to farmers through the multibillion-rupee Kissan Relief Package ahead of the third phase of the local government polls in Jhang.

Punjab govt releases Rs364 million for Jati Umra’s security

He said the ‘unprecedented’ Rs341 billion package would benefit over 1.2 million farmers across the country. “So-called well-wishers of growers did their best to sabotage the Kissan Package.  But my government immediately moved the Supreme Court to get it restored because we sincerely want to help farmers,” he said.

The premier was referring to his political arch-nemesis PTI which had challenged the Kissan package in the Election Commission of Pakistan, claiming that it was a ploy by the ruling party to influence the LG elections in Sindh and Punjab. Implementation on the package was stayed which was subsequently vacated by the Supreme Court.

The prime minister said his government would bring qualitative and quantitative changes in the country’s socioeconomic conditions by pursuing people-friendly policies. He specially referred to the continuing decrease in the price of petroleum products in line with the slump in prices on the global market.

Over 1.2m farmers to benefit from Kissan Package, claims PM

He said the ruling party had set a new political tradition by respecting the mandate of other parties and inviting them to form governments in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan after the 2013 general elections. He reiterated his oft-repeated claim of banishing the chronic power crisis from the country by the end of his government’s five-year tenure.

G-B governor’s swearing-in

Premier Nawaz Sharif also made a whirlwind visit to Gilgit-Baltistan where he attended the oath-taking ceremony of the region’s new governor, Mir Ghazanfar Ali, in the historic Chinar Bagh. Ali has replaced Barjees Tahir.

Speaking at the swearing-in, the premier said G-B had an immense tourism potential, and his government would tap this potential by improving access to the far-flung areas and constructing runways in Gilgit and Skardu towns to allow landing of big aircraft.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2015.

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Categories: News