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July 27, 2018
US looks forward to working with Imran-led govt
- As Pakistan forms a new government, the United States looks for opportunities to work with it to advance the goals of security and stability in South Asia, the State Department said on July 26, 2018.
- In a statement on recent election that gave Imran Khan and his party a clear edge over others, a spokesman for the State Department also expressed concern over some developments.
- `As Pakistan`s elected leaders form a new government, the United States will look for opportunities to work with them to advance our goals of security, stability, and prosperity in South Asia,` the spokesperson said.
- `We are concerned by reports of constraints placed on freedoms of expression, association, and the press leading up to the elections.
- Meanwhile, The Financial Times in a report observed that election in Pakistan produced a rare victory for a candidate who comes from outside the country`s two major dynasties, the Sharifs and the Bhuttos
Pakistan urges bold diplomacy to solve ME crisis
- Pakistan has called for a comprehensive policy and genuine commitment by all parties for a negotiated solution to multiple crises in the Middle East.
- During a debate in the United Nations Security Council on the Middle East, Pakistan`s Ambassador to the UN Maleeha Lodhi said it would not be easy to restore peace and stability in the Middle East but added that a comprehensive policy and bold diplomacy, especially by those who wield influence with principal panies, was essential if the dire predictions of disaster in the region were to be defied.
- Condemning the so-called Jewish `nation state` law, passed by the Israeli Parliament on July 19, the Pakistani envoy said that such racist laws should have no place in today`s world as it provides a vivid manifestation of the legally enshrined policy of discrimination by Israel.
- The plight of the Palestinian people, Ambassador Lodhi said, has reverberated across this chamber for as long as the UN has existed, but sadly no end seems to be in sight to their suffering. She noted that inaction by the Security Council over Palestine had led to a more proactive role by the General Assembly, to fill the void.
ADB evolves new strategy to cope with extreme poverty
- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has unveiled a new long-term corporate Strategy 2030 that sets out the institution`s broad vision and strategic response to the evolving needs of Asia and the Pacific.
- `Under the strategy, we will combine finance, knowledge, and partnerships to sustain our efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and expand our vision towards a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable region,` said ADB President Takehiko Nakao in a statement.
- The statement was issued after the Manila-based agency`s board of directors approved the new strategy.
- ADB`s aspirations are aligned with major global commitments such as the sustainable development goals (SDGs), the financing for development agenda, the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction. Given the size of Asia and the Pacific, achieving such commitments will depend critically on the region`s success.
- It recognises that the ambitious global development agenda must be tailored to specific local circumstances. The ADB will strengthen its country-focused approach, promote the use of innovative technologies, and deliver integrated interventions that combine expertise across a range of sectors and themes and through a mix of public and private sector operations.
1,320MW power plant connected to national grid
- The 1,320MW coal-fired Hubco Power Plant has been connected with the national grid after the National Transmission and Despatch Company completed a new 500kV transmission line.
- The line will also enable the company to evacuate power from its existing plant to the national grid, according to an official source.
- The new coal-fired plant is being constructed under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Since the work on the project was launched last year, its first unit of over 400MW is set to start generation in December.
Brics nations pledge unity as trade war threatens
- Five of the biggest emerging economies on Thursday stood by the multilateral system and vowed to strengthen economic cooperation in the face of US tariff threats and unilateralism.
- The heads of the BRICS group Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa met in Johannesburg for an annual summit dominated by the risk of a US-led trade war, although leaders did not publicly mention President Donald Trump by name.
- `We express concern at the spill-over effects of macro-economic policy measures in some major advanced economies,` they said in joint statement.
- `We recognise that the multilateral trading system is facing unprecedented challenges. We underscore the importance of an open world economy.` Trump has said he is ready to impose tariffs on all $500 billion (428bn euros) of Chinese imports, complaining that China`s trade surplus with the US is due to unfair currency manipulation.
- Trump has already slapped levies on goods from China worth tens of billions of dollars, as well as tariffs on steel and aluminium from the EU, Canada and Mexico.
- `We should stay committed to multilateralism,` Chinese President Xi Jinping said on the second day of the talks.
- `Closer economic cooperation for shared prosperity is the origi-nal purpose and priority of Brics.
US envoy meets Taliban officials in Qatar, says paper
- The top US envoy for South Asia has met Taliban officials for peace talks in Qatar, the Wall Street Journal reported on July 26, 2018.
- Alice Wells, the senior official for the State Department`s Bureau of South and Central Asia Af fairs, met with the Taliban this week to try to find a new path toward ending Afghanistan`s 17-year conflict, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
- A member of the Taliban`s leadership council the Quetta Shura confirmed that members of the militant group had met US officials in Doha on July 23, 2018.
- The Taliban leader did not name Wells but said `a woman` was in the US delegation.
- The first round of talks was aimed at building trust between the two sides, he said. The next meeting, which could happen as early at July 31, would be `more important.` The State Department did not directly confirm the Journal report, but noted Wells had been in Doha this week, where she met with Qatari government officials `to discuss recent progress towards an Afghan-owned, and Afghan-led peace process.
- Officials noted they did not have any other meetings to describe `at this time` and said the US `is exploring all avenues to advance a peace process in close consultation with the Afghan government.
Syrian govt raises flag on its side of Golan, four years after losing control
- Syrian government forces raised the country`s two-star flag on the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on July 26, 2018, a monitor said, four years since they were last deployed there.
- The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime forces had entered the buffer zone separating Syrian territory from the Israeli-annexed Golan and hoisted the flag there.
- Al Watan, a pro-regime newspaper, reported on July 26, 2018 that `army troops raised the Syrian flag above the Quneitra crossing, a few dozen metres from enemy Israeli troops.
- Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres of the Golan during the Six-Day War of 1967, then annexed it in 1981 in a move never recognised internationally.
- Some 510 square kilometres of the Golan remain on the Syrian side of the ceasefire line, with United Nations peacekeeping forces overseeing the buffer in between.
Philippine leader approves Muslim rebel autonomy law
- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on July 26, 2018 approved a long awaited law to allow minority Muslims in the south to start moving towards self rule by 2022, a bid to tackle extremism and defuse a half-century of separatist conflict.
- The green light is the culmination of a lengthy and rocky peace accord with separatists, during which militants linked to IS have expanded their influence, most notably in their devastating occupation of Marawi City last year.
- Duterte signed the measure into law after a visit to a southern city.
- Ebrahim Murad, chairman of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said he was confident the law would help bring splinter separatist groups back into the political fold and eliminate prospects of any incidents like Marawi.
- The new law gives the new entity, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, political and economic powers that successive governments have promised separatists, in order to halt conflict that has killed about 120,000 people, displaced 2 million, and helped radical Islam gain a foothold in the region.
- Mindanao remains under martial law until the end of this year, to allow security forces to halt a regrouping by a pro-IS alliance that held Marawi through five months of air and ground assaults, in a battle reminiscent of Raqqa or Mosul in the Middle East.-Reuters
Scientists confirm Einstein`s supermassive black hole theory
- A team of international scientists observing a star in the Milky Way have for the first time confirmed Einstein`s predictions of what happens to the motion of a star passing close to a supermassive black hole.
- Einstein`s 100-year-old general theory of relativity predicted that light from stars would be stretched to longer wavelengths by the extreme gravitational field of a black hole, and the star would appear redder, an effect known as gravitational red shift.
- A team of scientists at the European Southern Observatory started monitoring the central area of the Milky Way using its Very Large Telescope to observe the motion of stars near the supermassive black hole 26 years ago.
- The scientists selected one star, S2, to follow. With an orbit of 16 years, they knew it would return close to the black hole in 2018.
Investigator of Cambodian genocide wins ‘Asia’s Nobel’
- A Cambodian who has devoted his life to documenting the killing of almost two million of his countrymen in the 1970s was named on July 26, 2018 among the winners of this year’s Magsaysay Awards, widely regarded as Asia’s version of the Nobel prize.
- Youk Chhang, 57, was given the award for his role as head for more than two decades of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, an institute that investigates atrocities committed under the Khmer Rouge.
- The Khmer Rouge was a murderous, ultra-Maoist organisation that killed one quarter of Cambodia’s population from 1975 to 1979.
- The Manila-based Ramon Magsaysay Award, named after a Filipino president killed in a plane crash, was established in 1957 to honour people and groups tackling development problems.
- Two Indians were also honoured this year: Sonam Wangchuk, 51, who promotes alternative education systems in his home Himalayan region Ladakh; and Bharat Vatwani, 60, a psychiatrist who started a foundation to rescue people living on the streets with mental health problems.