Government defers BSNL stake decision as Jio rocks sector

first_imgA man speaks on his mobile phone as he walks past a Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) advertisement painted on a wall outside its office in Kolkata on August 24, 2017. REUTERS/Rupak De ChowdhuriThe government has deferred a decision on selling a stake in state-run telecoms firm Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) as falling profits and market share in the booming handphone sector dim the prospects of a successful sale, federal government officials said.Chief Executive Anupam Shrivastava said the government, which fully owns BSNL, should wait until the company returns to profit before attempting to sell a stake.However, the firm has lost about $7 billion in the last eight years, making it the country’s biggest loss-making state-run company after national carrier Air India.Since the launch of free voice and unlimited data plans by telecoms upstart Reliance Jio Infocomm, the state firm has fallen further behind, Shrivastava said. BSNL offers landline and 3G services in a market dominated by operators that have moved on to 4G connectivity.”Reliance Jio has hit hard our revenue, particularly in the mobile segment,” he said, adding it could take two years to three years before the company posts a net profit.The entry of Jio, backed by billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries, has shaken the entire sector, not just BSNL.Internal documents reviewed by Reuters showed that in January the government considered a plan to privatise BSNL.The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pushing ahead with the privatisation of Air India and the closure of a dozen other companies as he seeks to cut state losses and revive private investment to boost economic growth.But the BSNL plan has been put on the backburner, a senior federal government official with direct knowledge of the issue said, while the government focuses on Air India. Modi’s cabinet approved plans in June to privatise the flag carrier.The documents show that the government had discussed privatising BSNL’s subsidiaries, joint ventures and units and laying off 100,000 of the 200,000 workforce. The firm spends 55 percent of its earnings on wages compared with 5 percent to 7 percent for private operators.The telecoms union went on strike for a day in July to protest the stake-sale plan and P. Abhimanyu, national convenor of the BSNL Employees’ Union, said he would launch an indefinite strike if the government tried to privatise the company. BSNL is battling for survival, he said.Once India’s largest telecoms company, the number of BSNL landline subscribers has fallen by 8 million in the last five years to 25 million. Its market share in broadband services fell to 10 percent this year from near 30 percent in 2013.BSNL’s outstanding debt was just over $1.2 billion at the end of March 2016, its latest public financial data shows. The debt has been capped in part by the use of cash reserves of $5 billion.last_img read more

6 dead 11 injured in fire at multistorey building near Zakir Nagar

first_imgSeven cars and eight motorcycles were gutted in the fire.Twitter/ANIA major fire broke out at a residential building in southeast Delhi at around 2 am on Tuesday. The fire broke out at the four-storey building located in Zakir Nagar, a densely-populated neighbourhood near Jamia Millia Islamia University.At least six people, including two children, were killed and 11 injured in the mishap. The incident happened when most of the residents of the area were fast asleep.Several people jumped off the building to save themselves. The injured were shifted to a nearby hospital for treatment.Seven fire tenders rushed to spot to douse the blaze. Though the narrow lanes posed a major challenge for the fire brigade team to enter the area and the building, however, the rescue personnel managed to successfully rescue everybody trapped in the fire.Visuals posted on Twitter showed black smoke billowing into the air.Delhi Fire Service: 5 people dead & 11 injured in a fire that broke out in a multi-storey building in Zakir Nagar, late last night. pic.twitter.com/9ERr91u80i— ANI (@ANI) August 6, 2019 Meanwhile, seven cars and eight motorcycles were reportedly gutted in the fire.Speaking to news agency ANI, Dr Mala, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) at Holy Family Hospital said, “5 patients are in the intensive care unit (ICU), some are in the ward and one is in Pediatric ICU.”last_img read more

When it is about luxurious Interior Designs No one can match Katerina

first_imgThere is something about the KATRINA ANTONOVICH interior design and style which has attracted lots of A-grade people around the world from many years now. She is different effortless and influential because whether its fashion, or interior design Katrina Antonovich is constant in her work, and she produces Chic designs.A Katrina Antonovich work signifies quality and timelessness, and all her projects are of the pure class which makes her wah ahead then ordinary interior designers of the world. Katrina Antonovich is known for decorative masterpieces with the perfect fusion of classic and contemporary.She comes from a blue-blooded family with a noble history. She is a talented professional and leading interior designer and interior fit-out company. She works for Retail, leisure, commercial, residential sectors. She also has an excellent team in her company “Luxury Antovinch design”.Her office is in Dubai, but her clients are from worldwide. She is managing interior work for various countries top class business people. Her customers are mostly the VIP category people. Katrina’s designs are the combination of the old and today’s hybrid classic models.She is a genius in making a master bedroom, living room designs, Dining designs, customised curtains, children room designs, restaurant designs, bathroom designs, Flooring designs, Restaurant designs, dressing room designs, cinema hall, apartments, family halls, luxurious hows plans, clinics.Katrina Antonovich main aim is to provide the most comfortable and also stylish designs to her customer, which says forever in their place and heart. For her business is not everything, relations matter for her and it’s beyond business.IBT does not endorse any of the above content.last_img read more

Q3 results Xiaomi pips Apple and Fitbit in wearable devices segment

first_imgXiaomi Mi Band 3 [Representational Image]MIUI official blogRiding on the success of its Mi Band 3 in India and other markets beyond China, Xiaomi grabbed the top position with 21.5 market share in the global wearable segment in the third quarter as Apple came second with 13.1 per cent share, the International Data Corporation (IDC) said on Tuesday.Global shipments of wearable devices reached 32 million units in the third quarter of 2018 — up 21.7 per cent from the previous year, according to IDC’s “Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker”.Though typically China accounts for well over 80 per cent of Xiaomi’s shipment volume, that share fell to 61 per cent as the company managed to grow its presence in other markets such as India, Europe, Middle East and Africa.Xiaomi shipped 6.9 million wearables as compared to 4.2 million by Apple. Fitbit at third place shipped 3.5 million wearables.Many of the new basic wearables include features like notifications or simple app integrations that bleed into smartwatch territory.”This has helped satiate consumer demand for more capable devices while also maintaining average selling prices in a market that faces plenty of downward pressure from low-cost vendors and declining smartwatch pricing,” said Jitesh Ubrani, Senior Research Analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers.”As more features get added and as the price differential between basic trackers and smartwatches narrows, brands could potentially move consumers upstream to smartwatches,” he added.New products from the likes of Fitbit, Garmin and Huawei helped the basic wearables category return to growth during the quarter, said IDC.Another driving factor was growing demand in markets like Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan), which accounted for more than half of all shipments and grew 21.4 per cent over the previous year.”The smartwatch market also evolved during the quarter as the two largest smartwatch brands, Apple and Fitbit, continued to delve deeper into the healthcare market,” said Ubrani.Apple managed to launch its Series 4 Watch, its first watch approved for medical use, towards the end of the quarter.The new design and sizes along with the latest version of Watch OS were welcome changes though the latest series only accounted for less than 20 per cent of all Apple Watch shipments, said IDC.Huawei finished just ahead of Samsung to maintain its number four position worldwide, emphasizing its newest “TalkBand B5” series of wristbands.Samsung closed some of the gap with Huawei and stretched its lead past other contenders, capturing the fifth position for the quarter.The company launched its next generation smartwatch, the Galaxy Watch, marking the first time that a wearable device moved away from its traditional “Gear” moniker to the “Galaxy” sub-brand, said IDC.last_img read more

BIWTCs 101 vessels in operation Minister

first_imgShajahan KhanThe Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) has been providing service with 101 water transports across the country, shipping minister Shajahan Khan said.“We have 181 water transports in the BIWTC fleet and 101 transports are in operation,” the minister said while replying to a question from treasury bench member Sadhan Chandra Majumder of Naogaon-1 in the Jatiya Sangsad on Tuesday, state news agency BSS reports.The government has procured and repaired 151 water transports to the BIWTC fleet for improving river route service, the minister said adding that the government brought and repaired 19 ferries, 10 pontoons, two passenger vessels, 12 water buses, four sea trucks and four container ships alongside 10 water transport for aid to the BIWTC fleet.“The BIWTC is providing service on eight ferry routes across the country and on an average more than 7,500-8,000 motor transports are being ferried per day,” the minister told the parliament.He said said some eight water transports are under manufacturing at a cost of Tk 168.1 million.last_img read more

Trump says time to work constructively with Russia

first_imgDonald Trump. File PhotoUS president Donald Trump said Sunday it was time to work “constructively” with Russia but ruled out easing sanctions while the countries remained at odds over the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.In a series of tweets on his return from Europe, Trump said he had confronted his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin over evidence from the US intelligence agencies that Moscow meddled in the 2016 election when the two leaders met for the first time in Germany on Friday.And while he welcomed an agreement for the start of a ceasefire in Syria, Trump said it was too early to consider any easing of US sanctions on Russia “until the Ukrainian & Syrian problems are solved.”“I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election,” Trump said of their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit. “He vehemently denied it. I’ve already given my opinion…..”Trump said he and Putin had talked about the idea of setting up what he called “an impenetrable cyber security unit” to prevent hacking in future elections, without giving details.He also said the two men had discussed the implementation of a ceasefire in Syria which began on Sunday, saying “it will save lives.”“Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!”Syria has been a particular source of friction between the two countries, as Russia is a close ally of President Bashar al-Assad.Moscow has warned that a program of sanctions imposed by the US, which was tightened last month, threatens their whole relationship.Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama ordered the seizure of two Russian diplomatic compounds in the United States last December after accusing Russia of trying to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.And last month, the United States added 38 individuals and entities to its sanctions list targeting the Russians and pro-Russian rebels it blames for the fighting in Ukraine.“Sanctions were not discussed at my meeting with President Putin. Nothing will be done until the Ukrainian & Syrian problems are solved,” said Trump.The US and Russian sides have issued sharply conflicting accounts of the meeting, with Putin saying on Saturday that Trump had been “satisfied” by his denials of any Russian interference in the polls.Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said the Russian denials had been expected but cut no ice.“This is Russia trying to save face,” she told CNN. “And they can’t. They can’t.“Everybody knows that Russia meddled in our elections.”last_img read more

PMs press conference Thursday

first_imgPrime minister Sheikh HasinaPrime minister Sheikh Hasina will talk about the outcome of dialogues with different political alliances and parties at a press conference on Thursday. The press conference will be held at 12:00 noon at Ganabhaban, sources at the Prime Minister’s Office said. The prime minister sat with leaders of the newly floated opposition alliance Jatiya Oikya Front on 1 November followed by meetings with Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh and Jatiya Party.She is also speaking to Islami Oikya Jote and left alliances today (Tuesday). The second phase of the dialogue with Jatiya Oikya Front is scheduled to be held on Wednesday.last_img read more

Oikya Fronts Rajshahi rally begins

first_imgThe photo shows people at the rally of Jatiya Oikya Front at Madrasa Maidan in Rajshahi on Friday. Photo: UNBThe Jatiya Oikya Front rally began at Rajshahi Madrasa Maidan on Friday afternoon to mobilise public support in favour of the alliance’s 7-point demands for holding the 11th parliamentary elections in a fair and credible manner, reports UNB.The rally formally started around 2:00pm with recitation from the holy Quran and holy Gita. BNP chairperson’s adviser Mizanur Rahman Minu is presiding over the rally.Oikya Front chief and Gono Forum president Kamal Hossain was supposed to address the rally as the chief guest, but he could not attend it due to his reported illness.On Thursday, the alliance got conditional permission from the Rajshahi Metropolitan Police (RMP) to hold the public rally.As per the conditions, the rally must be concluded by 5:00pm.This is the fourth rally of the Oikya Front as the alliance held rallies in Sylhet, Chattogram and capital Dhaka on 24 and 27 October and 6 November respectively.As the rally is being held a day after the announcement of the election schedule, the alliance leaders are expected give an indication about whether they will join the polls or not.A top BNP leader said the alliance leaders may call upon the election commission to defer the election schedule and create a level-playing field.They are also likely to urge the government to reach an understating over the election through discussions for ensuring inclusive polls.Several thousand leaders and activists of the BNP holding placards, banners and portraits of its founder Ziaur Rahman, chairperson Khaleda Zia and acting chairman Tarique Rahman started gathering at the rally venue from 11:00am.They were chanting various slogans demanding Khaleda’s release from jail.Huge contingents of law enforcers have been deployed around the rally venue to maintain law and order.The Oikya Front’s seven-point demand includes installation of a neutral interim government, dissolution of parliament, reconstitution the Election Commission, release of all the political prisoners, deployment of army and cancellation of the move to use Electronic Voting Machines (EVMS) for holding the next polls in fair and acceptable manner.On 13 October, BNP together with Kamal Hossain-led Jatiya Oikya Prokriya, JSD and Nagorik Oikya launched the Jatiya Oikya Front to press for their seven-point demand.Later, Krishak Sramik Janata League, led by Kader Siddiqui, joined the alliance.last_img read more

Myanmar jails Whistleblowing policeman

first_imgIn this file photo taken on 20 April, 2018 Myanmar deputy police major Moe Yan Naing (C) leaves the court following the ongoing trial of two detained journalists in Yangon. Photo: AFPA Myanmar police officer who shocked observers by testifying against his force when he described their effort to “entrap” two Reuters journalists has been sentenced to jail, a police spokesman said Monday.Deputy police major Moe Yan Naing was brought out as a prosecution witness earlier this month in a pre-trial hearing against the journalists, who face up to 14 years in prison for possessing classified documents.The policeman surprised the courtroom, including the prosecution, when he broke rank and described how his colleagues were ordered by a senior officer to “get” reporter Wa Lone by handing him sensitive documents at a meeting.The 32-year-old Myanmar journalist and his colleague Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, have been detained since they were arrested in December after the meeting, in a case that has ignited global alarm over slipping press freedoms.The policeman’s testimony was an extremely rare case of a security official openly challenging superiors in the formerly junta-run country.On Monday a police spokesman confirmed that Moe Yan Naing was jailed for breaching a police disciplinary act — a charge he had been facing before delivering the testimony.Police sources said he was sentenced before he gave his testimony.”He was sentenced because he told others about information concerned with the police force without permission,” Police Colonel Myo Thu Soe told AFP.”He was found to have breached the police disciplinary act,” he added.Moe Yan Naing’s wife told AFP she was informed of her husband’s sentencing on Sunday night.”The police told me yesterday (Sunday) evening that he had been sent to Insein prison to face a year-long sentence,” Tu Tu said through tears.Less than 24 hours after her husband gave the testimony on 20 April, Tu Tu and her children were evicted from their police housing in the capital.A police spokesman denied any connection between the two events, saying it was a “coincidence”.The case against the Reuters reporters has brought Myanmar’s fledgling democracy — emerging from decades of military rule — under intense international scrutiny.At the time of their arrests the reporters were investigating security officers’ roles in the extrajudicial killing of 10 Rohingya men in northern Rakhine, the site of an army crackdown that the UN says amounts to ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority.Some 700,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since the army-led campaign was launched last August, ostensibly to combat Rohingya insurgents.The stateless group has faced decades of systematic discrimination and persecution in mainly Buddhist Myanmar.last_img read more

Third Afghan blast kills 11 children

first_img.A suicide attack on a foreign military convoy in southern Afghanistan on Monday killed at least 11 children who were nearby, officials said, amid a spate of attacks across the war-torn country.Sixteen others were wounded, including foreign and Afghan security forces, when a bomb-laden car exploded in the southern province of Kandahar, provincial police spokesman Qasim Afghan told AFP.Kandahar governor spokesman Said Aziz Ahmad Azizi confirmed the casualty toll. He said five Romanian soldiers and two Afghan police were among the injured.There was no immediate claim of responsibility.Romanian soldiers are tasked with providing security at Kandahar airport which is used by foreign forces.The attack came hours after two suicide blasts in the Afghan capital Kabul killed at least 25 people including Agence France-Presse chief photographer Shah Marai.The Islamic State group claimed the Kabul attacks.last_img read more

Trump violates constitution accepting foreign favours Democrats

first_imgUS president Donald Trump greets a worker after a hurricane response briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Washington, US on 6 June 2018. Photo: ReutersLawyers representing nearly 200 Democrats in Congress plan to argue in federal court that president Donald Trump is violating the Constitution by accepting foreign state favours without first seeking congressional approval.The case cites as foreign government favours Chinese government trademarks for Trump companies, payments for hotel room stays and event space rentals by representatives of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and proceeds from Chinese or Emirati-linked government purchases of office space in Trump Tower.Ethics experts say the constitutional emoluments clause was created by the Founding Fathers to ensure that government officials act with the interests of the American public in mind instead of their own pocketbooks. Since then, it has been applied to the lowest of government of officials up to the president without a court challenge.”This argument on Thursday will essentially put to the test the proposition that no one is above the law, not even the president,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who is leading the effort. “He’s thumbed his nose at the plain text and in doing so he’s thumbed his nose at the American people.”Unlike prior presidents, Trump chose not to divest from his assets and he remains the owner of the Trump Organization, a sprawling business empire with 550 entities in more than 20 countries that include branded hotels, golf courses, licensing deals and other interests. His Washington, DC, hotel just steps from the White House has become a magnet for foreign governments, including groups tied to Kuwait, Bahrain, Turkey, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.The District of Columbia case is one of three that argues the president is violating the emoluments clause, which bans accepting benefits from foreign governments unless a majority of both houses of Congress consent.But Thursday’s case is different in that the plaintiffs in the suit – members of Congress – are mentioned in the clause itself, and they believe that Congress not only has a right but is required, as part of their jobs, to weigh in on potential emoluments such as a $6.5 million condo purchase by the Qatari government or a Chinese-government owned company’s investment in a project that will include a Trump-branded hotel and golf course in Indonesia.”These members of Congress are injured every time the president accepts a foreign government benefit, whether that benefit is a trademark from China or proceeds from a government buying space in a Trump property,” said Brianne Gorod, the non-profit Constitutional Accountability Center’s chief counsel who will argue the plaintiffs’ case Thursday.Separate emoluments cases in Maryland and New York are based on a claim of competitive standing, arguing that the president’s businesses are being used by lobbyists, government officials and political groups to curry favour with Trump, and thus have an unfair advantage over other businesses. The New York case was dismissed and is being appealed. Justice Department lawyers have argued that such business activity, including hotel room stays, isn’t an emolument.Thursday’s arguments before US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan will be solely focused on whether the lawmakers have standing to sue the president by showing they’ve suffered harm from the alleged violation of the clause.In papers supporting the plaintiffs’ suit, nearly two dozen former national security officials, including Madeleine Albright and Chuck Hagel, said that “allowing private business deals with foreign governments to go undisclosed, unapproved, and unmonitored creates substantial danger that national security or foreign policy decisions (could) be motivated by something other than the public’s interest.”The Justice Department, which has filed for dismissal of the case, declined to comment. Its lawyers argued in court papers that the 198 Democrats suing the president are not being injured by him at all but by their colleagues in Congress, who have refused to take up the emoluments issue.The Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment.”The enforcement of the emoluments clause is the only way we can preserve our ability to do our job,” Blumenthal said. “If Congress does not have standing, no one does.”last_img read more

WC exit puts Putin under pension reforms pressure

first_imgRussia`s president Vladimir Putin (C) poses for a picture with (L-R) former player of team Germany Lothar Matthaeus, FIFA president Gianni Infantino, first vice president of the Russian Football Union Nikita Simonyan, former player of team Denmark Peter Schmeichel and former player of team Mexico Jorge Campos during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, on 6 July 2018. — Sputnik/ReutersRussia’s elimination from the soccer World Cup on Saturday poses a challenge for the Kremlin: How to manage public anger over reforms that will hit voters’ pockets without the distraction of national sporting success.After months of delaying a change it knew was liable to anger voters, the government said it was pushing back the retirement age. It made the announcement on the day of the tournament’s opening game, when many Russians were distracted by their team’s emphatic win against Saudi Arabia.Since then, Putin’s popularity rating has suffered a rare dip, opinion polls show. A separate survey found that most Russians take a negative view of the plan to raise the pension age to 65 from 60 for men and to 63 from 55 for women.Russia’s unexpected passage to the quarter-finals — their best World Cup since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union — has captivated the nation and kept the reform out of mind.But after Saturday’s defeat to Croatia and with the tournament due to end on July 15, the reforms are bound to resurface in Russia’s collective psyche, political analysts say.Though perceived outside Russia as an all-powerful ruler unruffled by what people think, Putin’s authority in fact depends in large part on his ability to command popular support, which he and his aides devote massive energy to nurturing.Following the polling backlash, officials were now considering ways to soften the pension reform, two sources familiar with discussions told Reuters.“Any victory comes and goes. People forget,” said Nikolai Petrov, a political analyst at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics.“…Every day people will remember that they could be receiving their pension but are not getting it because of this bad government,” referring to how some people were likely to perceive Putin’s administration.SHIFTING AGENDAA survey conducted by FOM before Russia’s World Cup exit showed Putin’s approval rating down six points at 75 percent. Another by state pollster VTsIOM showed a five percentage point drop.The World Cup took some of the sting out of that unpopularity. A survey conducted by the independent Levada Center before Russia were eliminated showed the competition was occupying Russians’ thoughts more than the pension plan.Levada Center sociologist Stepan Goncharov said this situation would now change.“It’s fair to say that the issue of pension reforms will return to the top (of the agenda) after the end of the tournament,” he said.The extent of popular outrage at the plan, which aims to ease pressure on state coffers from an ageing population and a struggling economy further weakened by sanctions, would depend on what the government did next, he said.A final decision on what form it will take is expected in autumn.Thousands of Russians protested this month against the planned rise in the retirement age, but there were no demonstrations in World Cup host cities because of security restrictions in place during the tournament.The Kremlin this week shrugged off the idea it might face greater public pressure over the reforms once the World Cup ended.“It is the job of experts to reach these conclusions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “Let them do that.”last_img

Wife of Briton hopes for clemency release from UAE jail

first_img.The wife of a British researcher sentenced to life in prison in the United Arab Emirates on espionage charges told AFP she was cautiously optimistic he could be freed.Daniela Tejada said the family of her husband Matt Hedges had submitted a letter asking for clemency from UAE authorities on Wednesday, just hours after he received the jail term.The country’s ambassador to Britain said Friday the authorities were reviewing the request, while insisting the government “does not dictate verdicts” to the courts.“I want to remain hopeful,” Tejada said in an interview in London. “It’s hard to do so after all of our hopes have been shattered repeatedly for six months.“I hope that the UAE… see that this is an innocent man, and that he deserves that clemency.”Tejada, who Thursday met foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt after criticising British efforts at securing Hedges’s release, vowed she would keep fighting no matter what.The 27-year-old added that the decision to seek clemency, with its implied admission of guilt, appeared the best option available.“I know in the bottom of my heart that Matt is innocent, but even if it takes me subjugating myself to the UAE I will, because I have the conviction that Matt deserves his freedom,” Tejada said.“Until I have him safe, back home with me, I will not rest.”‘Absolutely terrified’ -Hedges, 31, was detained in Dubai on 5 May while researching the UAE’s foreign and internal security policies after the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011.After months of uncertainty the scholar was released on bail on 29 October, prompting hopes of his imminent release.But his family and British officials were left stunned by Wednesday’s ruling, in a country considered a strategic Middle East ally supplied with British arms.Amid increased diplomatic pressure, the UAE foreign ministry said Thursday it wanted an “amicable solution”.Tejada hopes that could mean her husband is released in the coming weeks.“We’ve had so many deadlines but Christmas definitely is something we’re all hoping for,” she said. “It would really mean the world to have him back by then.”Tejada spoke to her husband for around five minutes Thursday, and said he was not allowed to reveal where he was being held and “didn’t sound well”.“He’s absolutely terrified,” she added, noting Hedges has suffered from anxiety, depression and panic attacks.“Until he receives adequate medical treatment and personal support, he will not be OK and I’m very concerned about that because… he has experienced suicidal thoughts during his detention.“I just wish I could be there to truly just hold him and tell him ‘it’s going to be OK.’”‘A dark cloud’ -The UAE envoy in London, Sulaiman Hamid al-Mazroui, dismissed criticism of the case’s handling, saying three judges had evaluated “compelling evidence” in three hearings over a month-long period.He insisted that genuine researchers were able to visit his country “freely”.But Tejada said Hedges was denied due process from the outset.She said he had been held in solitary confinement and initially not given a lawyer or adequate consular access, and was subjected to “intense interrogations” lasting up to 15 hours.“The fact that he was held in such conditions, and that he was subject to such mistreatment, already breaches every due process standard,” Tejada said.Colombia-born Tejada, who married Hedges in January last year after the couple began dating in 2011, said she has been heartened by the “overwhelming demonstration of support in the UK and abroad”.An online petition she launched following the sentencing has already garnered more than 200,000 signatures.Meanwhile more than 100 academics last month signed an open letter expressing their concern over the case.Tejada revealed she has also been getting support from Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of British-Iranian dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who remains held in jail in Iran on sedition charges.“(They) have been an inspiration for me—just the strength of their relationship and resilience and how brave they’ve been,” she said.“I’m a firm believer that every sky has a dark cloud that has to pass at some point.”last_img read more

Hong Kong at centre of banned China gender test

first_imgShady middle-men are openly advertising on Chinese social media to smuggle blood samples of pregnant women to Hong Kong to skirt the mainland’s ban on gender testing, an AFP investigation has found.The business thrives on a well-organised underground network that serves the huge demand for illicit sex-selective abortion in mainland China — driven by limits on family size and an entrenched cultural preference for sons.Chinese authorities vowed to crack down on the trade in 2015.But dozens of blood smuggling agents are openly advertising services on the Twitter-like platform Weibo and on websites, despite China’s proven ability to scrub digital content.Gender testing — except on medical grounds — is outlawed in China, where sex-selective abortions have helped create a surplus of about 31.6 million men, with some 115 boys born for every 100 girls last year.A long-standing one-child policy was eased to permit two children in 2016 but gender testing continues, with many parents of daughters trying for a son the second time around.Gender testing is legal in Hong Kong, with some clinics apparently turning a blind eye to the origins of the smuggled samples.Three agents contacted by an AFP reporter posing as a customer offered to arrange in-person appointments with medical testing labs or transport blood samples to Hong Kong for around US$580, promising results starting from six weeks into pregnancy.Upon payment of a deposit, the agent sends a testing kit to the client through a delivery service. One advised using an app to hire a nurse who could come to the patient’s home in mainland China to extract blood.Nothing will go wrongThe client sends the blood sample to Shenzhen from where it is smuggled across the border to Hong Kong. The agents did not directly address questions about how the samples would be transported, but assured the reporter they would arrive safely at their destination.”They will be taken to the lab in a designated vehicle, the samples can be safely sent over for testing, nothing will go wrong,” one representative said, adding that results would be sent out in one working day.Other agents use human smugglers. In February, a 12-year-old girl headed to Hong Kong was caught at the Shenzhen border carrying 142 vials of blood samples from pregnant women in her backpack.The tests analyse small fragments of foetal DNA in a pregnant woman’s blood and can detect the presence of a Y chromosome. They are also used to screen for chromosomal disorders such as Down’s syndrome.They can often accurately predict the gender of a foetus weeks before doctors can see the sex organs in an ultrasound.Some mainlanders take the legal option of travelling directly to Hong Kong for gender testing.”I have three daughters already. To be honest I want a son,” a 39-year-old man surnamed Wang told AFP outside a lab in Kowloon where his wife was getting her blood tested.Wang, who circumvented the one-child policy as many well-connected or wealthy Chinese families do, said he was under intense parental pressure to produce a male heir and had made the journey from the southern province of Guizhou.”Chinese people still want to have a son to carry on the ancestral line, this is an antiquated way of thinking, but back home there are lots of people who think this way,” he explained.He added he and his wife would terminate the pregnancy in China if it turned out be a girl.”Right now she’s only about 50 days along, so it can be solved by taking some medicine,” he said.Ethically unacceptableThe trade raises questions over the willingness of Hong Kong labs to ignore their own rules. According to industry guidelines, laboratory technicians should not test blood without a patient referral from a local doctor, and risk losing their licence if they do.It is illegal to mail or transport blood samples out of China without a permit, but Hong Kong only outlaws importing blood samples if a person has reason to suspect that it contains an infectious agent.The city’s Department of Health told AFP the number of cases it investigated every year has tripled since 2016 but none was prosecuted due to insufficient evidence.A lab that one agent claimed to be working with told AFP it does not perform tests on couriered samples and denied working with mainland middle-men.Multiple Chinese government departments did not respond to requests for comment.Hong Kong lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki, who is also a doctor, called on the territory’s government to work with mainland authorities to take down the networks.”Ethically this is completely unacceptable because this will only encourage more people to perform gender selection,” he told AFP.”And in mainland China, gender selection has already led to many tragedies and a skewed population with more males than females — they are all directly affected, so how can we abide this?”last_img read more

Houston City Council Set To Vote On Changes To Campaign Finance Ordinance

first_imgUntil now, candidates for city offices could collect $5,000 from individual donors and $10,000 from political action committees for their election every two years.But last fall, Houstonians voted to extend terms for mayor, city council and controller to four years, so the council is now looking to adjust the campaign finance rules.“It’s the same rules but split up, a four-year term into two year,” said Jack Christie, who chairs the council’s budget committee. It came together last week to discuss the proposed ordinance.But because terms are now four years, it would double the amount candidates can raise per election cycle.Council member Michael Kubosh didn’t like the idea of breaking it up into two fundraising cycles. He said most people don’t decide to run four years before an election.“I think it benefits those who have big contributors lists,” he said. “And it works against those who don’t.”Another concern is that it puts pressure on non-incumbent candidates to start campaigning early.The ordinance would also raise the amount self-funded candidates can reimburse themselves.For example, a candidate for a district city council position who loaned himself money would get up to $50,000 back from campaign contributions. Currently the maximum is $5,000.Some worry this will give an advantage to wealthier candidates, who are able to self-finance their campaigns.But Brandon Rottinghaus, political scientist at the University of Houston, said that doesn’t have to be the case.“If you are somebody who has less means but who has still the desire to be able to jump into the race, having the opportunity to be able to reimburse yourself for some early investment in your own campaign is probably something that will encourage people to self-fund,” the professor said.The council is set to vote on the ordinance on Wednesday. 00:00 /01:46 To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: Listen X Sharelast_img read more

HISD Board Member Calls for Halt on New School Construction After Critical

first_imgListen Laura IsenseeIn 2012, Houston voters agreed to pay for nearly $2 billion in school construction at HISD. Since then, costs have increased and a critical audit highlighted weak oversight.School Board Trustee Jolanda Jones wants to stop all new school construction projects, following a critical report from outside auditors that highlighted weak oversight at the Houston Independent School District.Jones, who chairs the board’s audit committee, reviewed the report from KPMG and said she agrees with their auditors that HISD wasn’t prepared to handle so many construction projects so fast. Voters approved nearly $2 billion in taxpayer money to rebuild and renovate 40 campuses.“Let me just remind what they currently say is wrong, that our policies and procedures are not sufficiently developed, that we’re lacking effective and efficient organizational structure,” Jones said.The list went on.Jones said that she wants to fix the things that HISD can control. Until that’s done, she said that they need to put on hold any new school construction.“I think we need to stop. We have a new superintendent coming in. He needs to get people in place so we can stop wasting taxpayer dollars so that we’re not having to ask or try to explain where the two hundred eleven million dollars went, when we don’t even know,” she said.The administration under then-Superintendent Terry Grier blamed a building boom in the city that inflated construction costs. After the district ran over budget last year, the HISD board told taxpayers they would need an extra $200 million. To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: X 00:00 /01:11 Sharelast_img read more

Goodbye Islamabad Hello Karachi

first_imgListen 00:00 /01:00 X Share To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: Laura IsenseeAn airport worker on the ramp in Islamabad.Houston Public Media/News 88-7 Education Reporter Laura Isensee flies from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad to the port city of Karachi as a visiting journalist with ICFJ-International Center For Journalists.Shortly after disembarking, she immediately takes note of some differences between the cities–and one similarity with her hometown of Houston.We invite you to listen to the latest entry of her notebook above. You can also follow her journey on Twitter and Facebook.And check out Laura’s earlier entries on the special page on our website.last_img read more

BREAKING HUD Says Houston Broke Law Nixing Affordable Housing Complex

first_imgSee Mayor Turner’s response below:Mayor Sylvester Turner is in strong disagreement with a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development letter of findings regarding the Houston Housing Authority project on Fountain View in the Galleria area. “I have spent my entire career working to improve the lives of the less fortunate, and that continues now that I am in the mayor’s office,” said Mayor Turner.  “We are taking a hard look at the letter, but there should be no misunderstanding about my commitment to providing options for low income families.  I do not believe that only wealthy areas can provide what our children need.  I have chosen to stay in the neighborhood where I grew up and I will not tell children in similar communities they must live somewhere else.  Our underprivileged families should have the right to choose where they want to live, and that choice should include the right to stay in the neighborhoods where they have grown up.  I categorically reject any position to the contrary.  Somehow this discussion has veered far away from meeting the needs of our underserved populations and it is time to get it back on track.”Within a matter of weeks, the City, in conjunction with the Houston Housing Authority, is expected to announce a plan to provide vouchers for as many as 350 low income housing units in areas with high performing schools.  This is part of the alternatives that have been in the works since the Fountain View project decision. One of Mayor Turner’s primary concerns about the Fountain View project was the cost.  The multi-family, mixed income project of 233 units would have cost $56 million, or about $240,000 per unit.  Only 23 of the units, just 10 percent of the entire project, were to have been designated for families living below the poverty line.  The rest would have been available for people with incomes considerably higher than the poverty line.  There were also concerns about the $6 million developer’s fee associated with the deal. The City strongly takes issue with the letter from HUD and will utilize all available avenues to challenge their findings. Share See Houston Public Media’s Al Ortiz previous pieces on this story:Some Galleria Residents Oppose Plan For A Mixed-Income Apartment Complex In The AreaMayor Opposes Housing Authority’s Plan For ‘Mixed Income’ Complex In Galleria Areacenter_img The US Department of Housing and Urban Development found the city’s decision to nix the complex was motivated at least in part by the race, color, or national origin of the likely tenants.Houston mayor Sylvester Turner and City Council terminated the proposed affordable housing development on Fountainview near Westheimer after fierce opposition from people in the neighborhood.Turner in a statement says his motivation was the cost of the project, which was estimated at $56 million for 233 units. About ten percent of the units were designated for families below the poverty line.HUD sent a letter to Turner with the results of their probe and an order for the city to move forward with the Fountainview project, or a low income housing project in a similar area.Turner says the city is exploring all available options to challenge the findings in the HUD letter.See the letter from HUD to Turner here:last_img read more

Trump Hints At Military Action To Retaliate Against Assad

first_imgAPPresident Donald Trump speaks with reporters on Air Force One while in flight from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., to Palm Beach International Airport, Fla., Thursday, April 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)President Donald Trump hinted at possible military action against Syria Thursday as his administration considered how to strike at President Bashar Assad after this week’s chemical weapons attack that killed more than 80 people.Trump suggested strongly that Assad may have to leave power, and his comments were underscored by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who told reporters “there’s no role for (Assad) to govern the Syrian people.”The administration has been put to the test this week amid an international outcry over newly horrifying violence in Syria. Over the past seven years, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the nation’s civil war, triggering the worst refugee crisis since World War II.Trump’s tone has grown more grave with the passing days. On Wednesday, he said this week’s attack crossed “a lot of lines” — not just the “red line” of chemical weapons use that President Barack Obama once set as an ultimatum for the Assad government.“I think what happened in Syria is a disgrace to humanity,” Trump said onboard Air Force One on Thursday, en route to meet China’s President Xi Jinping at a Florida summit. Asked if Assad should remain in power, he said that “he’s there and I guess he’s running things so something should happen.”Tillerson, who spoke almost simultaneously after greeting Xi in West Palm Beach, said the U.S. is evaluating an appropriate response.“The process by which Assad would leave is something that will require an international community effort,” Tillerson said, adding that there needs to be a balance between defeating the Islamic State group and stabilizing Syria to prevent the civil war from escalating further.Tillerson also issued a warning to Russia that its support of the Assad government is something that it should “consider carefully.” Sharelast_img read more

American Airlines And Pilots Work Out Deal To Save Holiday Flights

first_imgWilfredo Lee/APAmerican Airlines has a deal with its pilots to keep its end-of-the-year flights staffed. The airline had inadvertently given too many pilots the holidays off.There is no need to charter a sleigh pulled by reindeer for your air travel to holiday destinations after all. American Airlines and its pilots have worked out a deal to staff cockpits in late December after a scheduling snafu threatened to cancel thousands of flights.Because of what the airline is calling “a processing error” in its scheduling system, American mistakenly allowed many more pilots to take time off over the holidays that it should have.Capt. Dennis Tajer, who serves as spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, told NPR earlier this week that many of his fellow pilots “went to their sons, daughters, husbands and wives and said, ‘Guess what? I’m off for Christmas! First time in 10 years!’ “But it turned out to be too good to be true, and Tajer said more than 15,000 flights between Dec. 17 and Dec. 31 were without a captain, first officer or both, assigned to fly the plane. He said the scheduling mess-up threatened to cancel many of the flights.The airline tried to cover the scheduling error by staffing flights with reserve pilots and offering some pilots premium pay to work. But the union filed a grievance saying the airline’s efforts to restrict premium pay and trip trading for December flights violated terms of the pilots’ contract.The timing of the snafu couldn’t have been worse, said transportation professor Joe Schwieterman of Chicago’s DePaul University. “You look at the holiday season and [full flights] and you throw this kind of problem into the mix and no doubt, travelers get nervous,” he said. “Many dread the crowds already without this lingering uncertainty.”The world’s largest airline had a lot on the line and not just because of the possibility of ruining holiday travel plans for thousands of occasional customers.“American has a huge business traveler base that they need to keep happy,” said Schwieterman, adding that he expected the airline to “open the wallet to fix this the best they can.”American apparently did just that. After a meeting Friday between union leadership and American’s senior management, they reached “an agreement in principle addressing our respective needs, and we have withdrawn our grievance,” the Allied Pilots Association said in a statement.American Airlines thanked its pilots “who are doing their part to cover the holiday schedule and beyond.”“We can assure our customers that among the many stresses of the season, worry about a canceled flight won’t be one of them,” the airline’s statement adds. “In short, if Santa is flying, so is American.”Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Sharelast_img read more