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Hollywood actress Drew Barrymore says she is being selective about her work as she wants to invest more time in her business and with her family.

The 41-year-old, who owns Flower Beauty, is married to art consultant Will Kopelman and has two daughters Olive and Frankie.

Read: George Clooney gushes about his ‘super-extraordinary’ wife

“Flower has changed my life because it lets me be a mom the way I want to be and I still get to do something meaningful and think about girls and women and empowering messages. I love movies, but the hours right now for where my kids are in their life, it’s few and far between that I’ll work,” eonline.com quoted Barrymore as saying.

The “50 First Dates” star also shared that she has turned down “a lot” of recent offers.

Read: ’50 First Dates’ in real life: Meet the girl who forgets everything each morning

“Flower Beauty is a full-time job. We do a lot of travelling for it. I do a lot of press. I go to labs all over the country, truly seeking out the most innovative things,” she said.

The post What’s keeping Drew Barrymore busy? appeared first on The Express Tribune.

MUMBAI: India’s central bank kept its key interest rate on hold on Tuesday as analysts had expected, resisting government pressure for a fourth cut of the year.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said the benchmark repo rate — the level at which it lends to commercial banks — would remain at 7.25 per cent.

“It is prudent to keep the policy rate unchanged at the current juncture while maintaining the accommodative stance of monetary policy,” RBI governor Raghuram Rajan said in a statement following the bank’s monetary policy review meeting in Mumbai.

Rajan had already snipped rates three times this year to aid India’s economy, which at 7.5 per cent growth outperformed China’s for the first three months of 2015.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s business-friendly government was keen for a further cut as it seeks to quicken the pace of growth in Asia’s third-largest economy.

But Rajan has insisted that any further reduction would have to wait until the inflationary effect of annual monsoon rains is known in a couple of months’ time.

Heavy monsoon rains are vital for crops and a dry season can reduce farm output, raising food prices which can be crippling for India’s tens of millions of poor.

“Significant uncertainty will be resolved in the coming months, including the likely persistence of recent inflationary pressures, the full monsoon outturn, as well as possible Federal Reserve actions,” Rajan said.

The bank left room for a cut at its next meeting on September 29. A survey of 42 economists by Bloomberg had overwhelmingly predicted Rajan would hold rates on inflationary concerns.

The governor has made controlling inflation a priority, setting a target of bringing it consistently below six per cent by next January and to four per cent for the 2016/17 financial year.

Inflation increased 5.40 per cent in June, faster than analysts’ expectations, with food prices rising during the monsoon.

Modi’s government has made reviving India’s economy a priority since coming to power last May, introducing reforms aimed at boosting demand and increasing investment.

After cuts in January and March, the RBI kept rates unchanged in April, citing inflation concerns and a failure of most commercial banks to on pass lower loan rates to customers. In June it lopped off a further 25 basis points.

Pressure on Rajan to announce another cut was eased by data released Monday that showed factory output climbed to a six-month high in July on strong demand.

The post India’s central bank keeps interest rates unchanged appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Makeup can do tricks to make the most average looking person pretty but an Algerian groom shocked everyone when he sued his wife for ‘tricking him into’ marriage using makeup as her ‘weapon’.

Read: American makeup artist astounds everyone with his mad skills

According to Emirates 24/7, the groom took his bride to court just a day after their marriage, accusing her of not looking as pretty as she looked before the wedding. He blamed her of cheating him with makeup.

The newly wed is seeking $20,000 in damages. He told a court in the capital Algiers that he was shocked when he got up in the next morning and found that his wife looked so different he could not recognise her.

Read: Six ways to sweat proof your make-up

The groom reportedly swore in court that he even mistook his wife for a “thief who came to steal his apartment”.

“He said he was deceived by her as she used to fill up her face with makeup before their marriage,” Emirates 24/7 quoted a court source as saying.

“He said she looked very beautiful and attractive before marriage, but when he woke up in the morning and found that she had washed the makeup off her face, he was left frightened.

“The groom told the court that he is demanding $20,000 in damages for his psychological suffering.”

Read: #NoMakeUpSelfie: What do you think of these beauties without make up?

The post Groom sues bride for not looking ‘pretty’ without makeup appeared first on The Express Tribune.

An Arizona man who admitted to decapitating his wife and her two dogs in a bloody incident last month in Phoenix told authorities he was attempting “to get the evil out” of her, according to court documents.

Kenneth Dale Wakefield, 43, also told police that he had smoked marijuana and the designer drug Spice about an hour before the gruesome killings in a Phoenix apartment on the morning of July 25, the documents showed.

Read: Watch out for aggressive, big bird, Britons told

Wakefield, a transient with a history of mental illness who also maimed himself in the incident, was booked into a Maricopa County jail Aug. 1 on one count of first-degree murder and two counts of animal cruelty after being released from a local hospital. He is being held on $2 million bond.

In court papers, police said Wakefield told them during an interview that he stabbed his 49-year-old wife, Trina Heisch, multiple times before decapitating her, and killed the dogs by cutting their heads off.

“He said he was trying to get the evil out of Trina,” police said in a probable cause statement filed in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Police said the Phoenix man then severed his left arm at the elbow and gouged out one of his eyes before being discovered.

The blood-splattered scene was found by a neighbor who told police he was checking on the couple he knew had mental illness issues.

The neighbor said he saw Wakefield naked, with part of his arm cut off and his right eye missing, when he opened the door to the apartment. The neighbor then called police.

Officers said they entered the home and found the headless Heisch in a bedroom closet along with the two dogs.

Large amounts of blood was spread across the floors, cabinets and walls of the apartment, police said. Several bloody knives were recovered.

Investigators said both Wakefield and his wife had histories of mental illness, domestic violence and drug abuse.

In a video also released on Monday, Wakefield can be seen during his initial court appearance on Saturday lowering his head, then putting his right hand to his mouth and emitting a wail as the prosecutor spoke.

Read: Mexican firm sorry for royally selling president short

He is expected to appear in court for a status conference on Aug. 7.

Wakefield was arrested in 2003 for attempting to kill a family member. Heisch was arrested in March for domestic violence assault, when it was alleged she tried to stab Wakefield, police said.

Family members told police that the two married after meeting in a mental health facility.

The post Arizona man says he beheaded wife ‘to get the evil out’: police appeared first on The Express Tribune.

LAHORE ': The Punjab Food Authority (PFA) will soon extend its operations to other districts of the province, Operations Director Ayesha Mumtaz said on Monday.

She said that knowingly selling unhygienic food was tantamount to endangering lives. “Right now, district coordination officers are performing the task of ensuring food quality in most districts under the Punjab Pure Food Ordinance 1960. The necessary amendments are being considered by the provincial government to extend the Punjab Food Authority Act 2011,” she said.

She said that inspection of popular food-outlets in Lahore had revealed that some of them were not following the hygiene code. “People visit these outlets believing that they serve quality food,” she said. The PFA director said that road-side food vendors were also being given guidelines for serving safe food.

“We are not victimising anyone. We are working to protect the consumers. The PFA has the responsibility to check hygiene standards in the entire food industry,” she said.

“We have conducted raids at 6,000 food outlets. Only 250 of them were sealed. 3,000 were issued notices,” she said.

Mumtaz said that the authority had also started a campaign against adulterated milk. “So far, we have disposed of 52,000 liters of adulterated milk,” she said.

She said that the PFA would continue to perform its duties fearlessly.

Meanwhile, PFA inspectors set up pickets at Ravi Bridge, Thokar Niaz Beg, Sagrian Bridge and Babu Sabu Interchange on Monday and seized thousands of liters of adulterated or sub-standard milk and imposed fines on milkmen.

Talking to The Express Tribune, a milk transporter Muhammad Sabir, said that the authority had also seized dozens of milk-carrying vehicles. “PFA officials take the vehicles to the authority’s office. In many cases, good quality milk is seized without proper inspection. In a couple of hours, it becomes unfit for consumption.” he said. 

He said that milkmen were formulating a strategy to protect against the PFA. “If the authority does not stop the action, we will stop supplying milk to Lahore.”

The post Crackdown continues: PFA set to expand operations to other districts appeared first on The Express Tribune.

SEOUL: For four years Samsung Electronics Co Ltd has basked in the success of its Galaxy smartphones, making billions of dollars competing with Apple Inc in the premium mobile market.

The coming years are set to be more somber for the South Korean tech giant, as it is forced to slash prices and accept lower margins at its mobile division in order to see off competition from rivals including China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Xiaomi Inc in the mid-to-low end of the market.

Behind Samsung’s reality-check is the fact it is stuck with the same Android operating system used by its low-cost competitors, who are producing increasingly-capable phones of their own.

Read: Samsung Galaxy S6 to become cheaper after disappointing sales

“The writing has long been on the wall for any premium Android maker: as soon as low end hardware became ‘good enough,’ there would be no reason to buy a premium brand,” said Ben Thompson, an analyst at Stratechery.com in Taipei.

Margins at Samsung’s mobile division fell to 10.6 per cent from 15.5 per cent a year earlier during the second quarter of 2015, despite the April launch of its critically acclaimed Galaxy S6 range.

It remains the world’s biggest smartphone maker but it is Apple that is reaping most of the rewards.

While the US giant’s smartphone sales in its last financial quarter fell short of market expectations, it is still estimated by some analysts to earn 90 per cent or more of the industry’s profits.

Samsung said last week that it will continue trying to maximize profitability and market share, disclosing plans to launch new larger-screen premium phones as well as more bargain-priced handsets.

Investors and analysts say the group is right to dig its heels in for a business that continues to generate piles of cash and drives sales for its components divisions.

But they say Samsung will not be able to compete with Apple in the premium market based on hardware and will continue to trail the US firm in the absence of a major technological breakthrough.

“Some still seem to think that a well-made product will sell well, but the Galaxy S6 showed that assumption is wrong,” said IBK Securities analyst Lee Seung-woo, who predicts Samsung’s mobile division margins will fall to 9.3 per cent this year – the lowest since before the first Galaxy S phone launched in 2010.

Price cuts

Acknowledging the headwinds, the South Korean firm said last week it will “flexibly adjust” prices of its flagship Galaxy S6 and S6 edge models to boost third quarter sales. Samsung cut the retail price of S6 edge smartphones in South Korea by around 100,000 won ($85.46) during July.

Read: Apple roars back to close smartphone gap with Samsung

The company also plans to launch more price-competitive products in the mid-to-low end of the market.

Nomura analyst C W Chung says Samsung still has the economies of scale to outlast rivals, adding the smartphone industry will face a consolidation similar to the one in the memory chip industry that the South Korean firm now dominates.

“The ones that ultimately survive will then have plenty to be happy about,” said Chung.

Nomura forecasts the smartphone market will grow from $276 billion last year to $315 billion by 2017, far larger than the DRAM and NAND memory chip markets where Samsung competes.

Further, the mobile division will remain an important client for Samsung’s components businesses. Use of its own Exynos mobile processors and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays in premium devices like the Galaxy S6 boosts its chip and display sales and serves as an advertising billboard for potential customers.

“When everybody comes out to dig for gold, jeans and pickaxes are what make money; that’s what Samsung’s semiconductor business is doing through the smartphone market,” said Nomura’s Chung.

The post Is Android behind Samsung’s fall in the smartphone market? appeared first on The Express Tribune.

ISLAMABAD: The head of Taliban’s political office in Qatar, Sayed Tayyeb Agha, resigned late on Monday over the appointment of the militant organisation’s new chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor.

Agha, who was a close confidant of Mullah Omar, said he would no longer represent the Taliban political office but would remain a member of the Taliban movement.

“I have decided to step down as head of the political office of the Islamic Emirate, because my political role has come to an end. I will not be part of any decision and statements of the Islamic Emirate Taliban,” he said.

Read: Rift widens as Taliban name Omar’s successor

In a statement issued late on Monday night, Agha opposed the election of the new chief ‘outside Afghanistan’ and said the new leader of the ‘Islamic Emirate’ should have been elected among the Taliban fighters and in the bunkers.

Agha also regretted the leadership’s decision to keep news of Mullah Omar’s death a secret. He said he had insisted at times to receive “verbal instructions from Mullah Omar” but rejecting his requests, the leaders would say there was no need for them.

Read: New Taliban chief: Rare video of allegiance pledge released

The resignation comes at a time when splits among the Taliban are apparent over the election of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor as Mullah Omar’s successor. Mullah Omar’s son Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir and several other top leaders and council members are unhappy with the decision to name Mansoor as supreme leader.

Taliban officials told The Express Tribune that Agha had never been on good terms with Mansoor even during Mullah Omar’s life.

Earlier, the Taliban office in Doha distanced itself from the Pakistan-brokered peace talks.

Read: Afghan Taliban dismiss reports of Mullah Omar’s son’s murder in Pakistan

The Taliban representatives met face-to-face with Afghan government officials in Murree on July 7. According to Taliban sources, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor had approved the talks. However, in his first audio after assuming the role as Taliban chief, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor cast doubts on peace talks after he said, “Peace talks are the enemy’s propaganda.”

Read: Mullah Omar’s successor casts doubts on talks

Agha’s resignation could further complicate the fragile peace process.

The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has also joined the dissident Afghan Taliban in rejecting Mullah Mansoor’s election with a commander saying they were not consulted on the matter.

On Monday, the TTP expressed disappointment over the election of Mullah Mansoor as the new Afghan Taliban chief. “The way he has been elected is unacceptable to us. We were not consulted,” a TTP leader said requesting not to be identified.

Mullah Mansoor was chosen to replace Mullah Omar days after the death of the Taliban creator was officially confirmed by the Afghan Taliban on July 30.

The post Taliban’s chief negotiator resigns over appointment of Mullah Omar’s successor appeared first on The Express Tribune.

If you want to shed some pounds fast these tips — by people who have put them to the test successfully — are what you’re looking for.

While exercise is essential, these tips will help you achieve your weight loss target faster.

1) Right portions

PHOTO: DIABETESNEWS

Portion control is a key part of losing weight. However, it does not require memorising tables and measurements. As Bethenny Frankel, the author of Naturally Thin put it, “Portion control isn’t about measuring; it’s about ordering two appetizers instead of an entrée and cutting back on bread if you have pasta.”

2) Make snacking on fruit a habit

PHOTO: ELIGIBLEMAGAZINE

Instead of snacking on unhealthy food items such as crisps or chocolate, snack on fruit. Keep fruit handy and each time you crave a sugary snack, grab a piece of fruit instead.

3) Don’t skip breakfast

PHOTO: ELLAPHANTEATS

Regularly eating a healthy breakfast can help you shed surplus weight by reducing hunger later in the day; suggests research, whereas skipping breakfast can heighten the body’s insulin response increasing fat storage.

4) Get enough sleep

PHOTO: ELLAPHANTEATS

Not getting enough sleep is very common and it not just affects your metabolism but also affects your waistline. Sleep deprivation makes you low on energy according to Dr Susan Zafarlotfi, PhD, Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey and you reach for food more often to recharge the depleted energy.

5) Make drinking green tea a habit

PHOTO: HDSCREEN

Yes! Green tea can help with your weight loss goals. A recent study concluded that green tea is able to reduce fat mass. Green tea also carries antioxidants that are protect cell damage and improve the health and quality of your skin.

6) Drink lots of water

PHOTO: EATINGRICHLY

The often repeated advice to drink water is really beneficial. Water can boost metabolism and helps burn calories. Drinking about half a liter of water before meals helps the dieter consume less calories and positively affects weight loss.

The post 6 ways to quicken your weight loss appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Five people, including three children and two women, were injured early Tuesday morning as India’s Border Security Force (BSF) resorted to ‘unprovoked firing’ along the Working Boundary near Sialkot.

“Three children and two women were injured due to Indian unprovoked shelling near Sukhial village on Working Boundary near Sialkot,” the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.

“Pakistan Rangers befittingly responded to Indian fire,” the statement added.

Read: Unprovoked Indian firing: BSF violates ceasefire at LoC again

The firing comes days after India’s BSF resorted to ‘unprovoked’ firing at the LoC. However, no casualties were reported.

In a similar attack in the same week,  a civilian was critically injured as a result of unprovoked firing by BSF on LoC in the Chirikot sector. He later succumbed to his injuries at the Combined Military Hospital.

Read: India resorts to unprovoked shelling on LoC

Both sides have exchanged gunfire this month with four people killed on the Pakistani side. Five more have been left injured by the attacks from across the border.

The post Five injured in Indian BSF firing near Sialkot: ISPR appeared first on The Express Tribune.

MUMBAI: A dilapidated building collapsed outside Mumbai on Tuesday killing at least 11 people, the second such accident around the Indian financial capital in a week, a rescue official said.

Rescuers were searching through the rubble for any survivors after the three-storey structure crumbled overnight while families were sleeping inside, the official said.

“Eleven bodies have been recovered and seven people pulled out alive. Another one person is missing,” National Disaster Response Force official Alok Avasthy told AFP.

The building, which crumbled around 2:00 am, was situated in the Naupada area of Thane city near Mumbai.

“It was a 50-year-old structure that was in a dilapidated state and had been declared unsafe by the government two years back but people still lived there,” Avasthy said.

“We pulled a family of five to safety with the help of a sniffer dog who tells us that there is still some life in there,” he said.

The accident is the latest in a long line of deadly building collapses recently, some of which have highlighted poor construction standards.

It comes just a week after nine people were killed when another old three-storey building collapsed under heavy monsoon rains in the Mumbai suburb of Thakurli.

Millions in India live in dilapidated buildings, many of which cave in during the annual monsoon season.

An 11-storey apartment tower being built in the southern state of Tamil Nadu came crashing down in July last year following heavy rain, killing 61 people, mostly labourers.

A booming economy and rising real estate prices have also often led unauthorised multi-storey structures to mushroom on the outskirts of cities and towns, some of which have collapsed.

The post India building collapse kills 11 near Mumbai appeared first on The Express Tribune.

KUALA LUMPUR: China was on a diplomatic collision course with some of its neighbours and the United States over its controversial island-building, as regional security talks opened Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur.

Beijing is expanding tiny reefs in the flashpoint South China Sea into islands and topping some with military posts to reinforce its claims over the strategic waters, fanning fears of a conflict.

Ahead of the gathering hosted by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that kicked off on Tuesday in Malaysia, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi signalled no compromise.

Read: China proposes joint mining of Indian Ocean ahead of Modi’s visit to Beijing

During a stop in Singapore on Monday, Wang insisted that the issue should not be raised at the talks, and that China would press ahead with its controversial land-reclamation works.

“China has never believed that multilateral fora are the appropriate place for discussing specific bilateral disputes,” Wang told reporters before travelling to Malaysia.

Attempts to bring the issue up are “counter-productive” and “heighten confrontation”, he warned.

However US and Southeast Asian officials say the hot-button issue will be raised in Malaysia this week.

In his opening remarks Tuesday, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman took a swipe at Beijing’s refusal to address the thorny issue with its neighbours at the talks.

“ASEAN can and should play a vital part in effecting an amicable settlement” on the South China Sea, he told fellow foreign ministers.

“Above all we must be seen to address this issue peacefully and cooperatively. We have made a positive start but we need to do more.”

Beijing claims control over nearly all of the strategically important South China Sea, a key shipping route thought to hold rich oil and gas reserves.

Read: China’s rise and the shaping of a new Asian order

Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei — all ASEAN members — also have various claims to the South China Sea, as does Taiwan.

Beijing has long insisted that disputes must be handled on a bilateral basis with rival claimants, rather than with a united bloc.

Adding to the tensions, a Washington-based think tank said this week Beijing could be preparing to build a second airstrip on an artificial island.

China is already building a 3,000-metre (10,000-foot) runway on Fiery Cross reef, which could ultimately be used for combat operations, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Wang rejected calls by some rival claimants and the United States to suspend the land reclamation.

“The freeze proposal may seem even-handed on the surface but it is actually unrealistic and will not work in practice,” he said.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario of the Philippines, which has been one of the most vocal critics of China’s actions at sea, said on the meeting’s sidelines that Manila was checking into the reports of a new runway.

Only Southeast Asian foreign ministers met on Tuesday, but the talks will expand over the following two days into the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry, China’s Wang, and envoys from the wider region including Japan, the Koreas, Russia and elsewhere.

Kerry is to meet Wang on Wednesday morning on the sidelines.

He had been due to meet his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on Tuesday evening, as both sides grapple with the threat posed by the Islamic State, but the one-on-one has since been dropped from a schedule provided to journalists.

The post South China Sea tensions flare at Asia security talks appeared first on The Express Tribune.

A former American soldier testifying in the trial of Irek Hamidullin on Monday said the accused Russian Taliban leader was compliant when captured, and said he was doing “God’s work.”

Hamidullin, a former Soviet tank commander who converted to Islam and was allegedly fighting for the Taliban, is the first Afghan War military combatant to be tried in US federal court.

Believed to be in his 50s, Hamidullin was charged last year with 15 criminal counts ranging from supporting terrorists to firearms offenses stemming from an assault on an Afgan Border Police base in November of 2009.

“He raised his hands and said [in English], ‘Don’t kill me, I’m a Russian citizen’” said Todd Marcum, who shot and wounded Hamidullin as he and other soldiers pursued insurgents who had attacked Camp Leyza in Khost Province. “He said he was just doing ‘God’s work.’”

No Americans or Afghan troops were killed in the attack, and Hamidullin was the sole survivor among about 30 insurgents.

Marcum, now a 31-year-old fishing guide in Huntington, West Virginia, said Hamidullin threw down his weapon as he surrendered.

A bloody photo flashed on a courtroom screen showed a gaping wound where Marcum’s shot had entered Hamidullin’s hip, exiting through his buttocks.

Hamidullin was arrested and was held by the Pentagon in unnamed Afghan facility for five years before being brought to the United States to face charges.

After the attack failed, Hamidullin opened fire on Afghan and US forces with a machine gun, prosecutors say. He faces life in prison if convicted on all counts.

The court was repeatedly shown videos made from US helicopters and fixed-wing helicopters depicting rockets, bombs and heavy machine guns decimating the group of insurgents that Hamidullin is alleged to have led.

Later, Marcum could only shake his head as he thought about what might have been going through Hamidullin’s mind as he watched his former brothers in arms being killed.

Besides Marcum, prosecutors called six other witnesses on Monday, including the American helicopter pilots and gunners who attacked the group of insurgents, as well an American commander who visited Hamidullin in the hospital shortly after he was taken prisoner.

The trial, which began last Thursday, is expected to last a week.

The post Accused Taliban leader said he was doing ‘God’s work’: testimony appeared first on The Express Tribune.

WASHINGTON: The United States on Monday said it has used air power in Syria in defense of allied rebel groups, signaling deeper involvement in the country’s brutal four-year civil war.

The Pentagon confirmed that an air strike was carried out Friday in support of the New Syria Force, a US-allied group.

“We’ll take action to defend the New Syria Force that we’ve trained and equipped,” Pentagon spokesperson Commander Bill Urban told AFP.

Read: US, Turkey join forces to drive Islamic State from Syria

He said “last Friday was the first one,” referring to the air strike.

Earlier, a senior administration official said the United States had hit al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate the al Nusra Front in response to attack on US trained rebels.

President Barack Obama’s administration said Monday it was prepared to take “additional steps” to defend US-trained and equipped forces, warning Bashar al Assad’s regime “not to interfere.”

“The president approved this recently upon the recommendation of his senior military advisers,” a senior administration official told AFP.

White House spokesmperson Josh Earnest said Assad’s regime had not so far hampered US-backed forces, but he nonetheless raised the possibility of strikes against it should the need arise.

The United States, Earnest said, was “committed to using military force where necessary to protect the coalition-trained and equipped Syrian opposition fighters.”

The decision was taken under a 2001 rule authorizing the use of military force against terror groups, which critics say has already been stretched too far.

Officials argue that authority includes the ability to provide “defensive fire support.”

The United States has trained and equipped a number of fighters — screened and determined to be “moderate” — to operate against the extremist Islamic State organization.

But US-backed forces have yet to play a major role in turning the war and its fledgling local ground force has already suffered a series of reversals.

A 54-strong unit inserted into the rebels’ Division 30 has come under withering attack from the al Nusra Front, with several members reportedly killed or captured.

Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations said the “truly significant decision” could potentially extend well beyond that small force.

US forces are “interspersed among large coherent units of several hundred fighters,” he said, explaining that: “You can’t give air cover just to individual rebels.”

The United States recently agreed with Turkey to create what has been termed an “Islamic State-free zone” in northern Syria.

Details of the zone “remain to be worked out”, according to a senior administration official, who asked not to be named.

Read: US-led anti-IS strikes kill family in Syria: monitor

It would, however, entail Turkey, NATO’s only mainly Muslim member, supporting US “partners on the ground” already fighting the extremists.

Ankara has also granted the United States permission to use one of its bases to carry out air raids against the group.

Washington has long pushed for the use of the Incirlik base due to its location relatively close to Syria just outside the Turkish city of Adana, but Turkey had hesitated for months.

Monday’s announcement comes as diplomatic efforts to halt the carnage in Syria resume.

An estimated 140,000 people have died in the conflict, which began as an uprising against the Assad regime but has morphed into a multipronged religious and ethnic civil war.

A UN envoy recently presented his plan to resuscitate failed talks and foreign ministers from the United States, Russia and Saudi Arabia held talks in Qatar on Monday.

The trio agreed to the “need for a meaningful political transition” according to State Department spokesperson Mark Toner.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later condemned Washington’s move toward a more robust involvement in Syria.

“We believe it’s counterproductive to announce publicly that some US-trained armed groups… will be under the protection of the coalition’s air forces,” Lavrov said.

Separately on Monday, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on seven entities and four individuals its says are providing energy products to Assad’s regime, and named seven vessels as blocked property.

The post US uses air power to support beleaguered Syrian allies appeared first on The Express Tribune.

ISLAMABAD: 

The first meeting of the Sales Tax Committee on Monday deliberated on tax-related issues facing different sectors.

The committee, which is among the three ones constituted by the government last week to facilitate talks and resolve issues facing the business community, met at the FBR Headquarters with Parliamentary Secretary Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal Khan in the chair.

It discussed various suggestions and proposals put forward by the members and identified sectors with potential issues requiring threadbare deliberations in sessions August 6 and 7.

Speaking on the occasion, Rana Muhammad Afzal Khan said that the government was keen to resolve the sales tax issues facing the business community and it was open to all suggestions and recommendations. 

Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2015.

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The post Sales tax issues: First meeting held appeared first on The Express Tribune.

LAHORE: 

With its aim to end corruption, National Accountability Bureau’s chief refused to meet two officers facing investigation.

Director General NAB Sindh Col (retd) Naeem Siraj refused to see chief secretary Muhammad Siddique Memon and Inspector General Police Ghulam Haider Jamali, who have been accused of corruption.

According to information gathered by the Express Investigation Cell, both the officers facing NAB investigations, tried to visit DG NAB but were turned down saying that they should meet the concerned investigation officer. The DG also advised them to pass on all the information to the relevant officer probing the allegations.

It may be recalled that a high level meeting of the bureau had approved investigations against the corrupt officers of Sindh Police including IG Sindh and chief secretary Muhammad Siddique Memon. (TRANSLATION MUHAMMAD ARSHAD SHAHEEN)

Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2015. 

The post Anti-corruption drive: Sindh NAB chief shuns graft-tainted officials appeared first on The Express Tribune.

ISLAMABAD: The much-awaited ground breaking ceremony of the of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project would be held in December this year, Deputy Prime Minister for Oil and Gas and Special Envoy of the President of Turkmenistan, Baymurat Hojamuhamedov said on Monday.

In a meeting with Nawaz Sharif at the PM House, the deputy premier of Turkmenistan also extended the prime minister an invitation to visit Turkmenistan to attend the president’s ceremony.

Accepting the invitation, the prime minister reiterated that Pakistan strongly supported the project and its early completion. He said TAPI would meet energy requirement of the region besides benefiting countries in the region.

He discussed the regional connectivity initiative with Hojamuhamedov and said that rail and road links between Gwadar and Central Asia would increase the economic activity in the region adding that Pakistan would facilitate Turkmenistan and Central Asian countries to develop rail and road links up to Gwadar.

Chairman State Agency for Management and Use for Hydrocarbon Resources, Yagshygeldy Kakaev Ambassador for Turkmenistan AladjanMovlamov, Federal Minister for Petroleum Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Advisor to PM on National Security Sartaj Aziz and Minister of State for Petroleum Jam Kamal attended the meeting.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2015. 

The post Work on TAPI to start by December appeared first on The Express Tribune.

LAHORE: 

After a 19-year long legal battle, the Sharif family finally got its appeal accepted against “wrongful assessment” of income tax.

The Lahore High Court (LHC) has suspended the 1989 verdict by Income Tax Appellant Tribunal against the Sharif family and the directors of Ittefaq Foundries. The court also accepted all appeals filed by the Sharif family in this regard.

A division bench of LHC has allowed an appeal filed by the Sharif family in 1996 against assessment by the Income Tax Department and subsequent decisions taken by a tax appellate tribunal upholding assessment for the year 1988-89.

The assessment and subsequent appeals remained subject of political interference during the governments of PPP and PML-N.

The appellants are Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Farooq Barkat, Iqbal Barkat, Hassan Barkat, Hussain Barkat, Zahid Shafi, Javed Shafi, Tariq Shafi, Pervez Shafi, Idrees Bashir, Aslam Bashir and Ittefaq Textile Mills.

The appellants said that the Income Tax Department had assessed the liability of the Ittefaq Group and its directors at Rs20 million, but the tax was raised to Rs400 million during late Benazir Bhutto’s first government in 1988. They said, on appeal before the department, during Nawaz Sharif’s first government in 1990, the amount was slashed to Rs20 million.

However, they said, during Benazir’s second tenure as premier in 1993, the Income Tax Department moved a second appeal and raised the tax amount to Rs650 million.

The appellants said the objection on assessment was raised after over 40 months instead of the 60-day stipulated period and was therefore illegal and asked the court to declare the assessment illegal.

Condoning the delay

The reference application by the Sharif family was admitted for regular hearing on June 9, 1996 and continued over the years till today.

On Monday, a bench comprising Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh and Justice Shahid Karim heard arguments on whether the income tax tribunal was justified in condoning the delay in filing the appeals.

Counsel for the Income Tax Department appealed that the appellants exercised political influence and had successfully manoeuvred their way out of the liability.

However, the bench observed that the department had failed to establish that action had been taken against any of the department’s functionaries for recalcitrance and negligence. It further observed that the counsel for the department had not been able to produce evidence showing that the appellants had exercised political influence before the tribunal.

The bench allowed the appeal and set aside the impugned decisions of the Income Tax Tribunal passed on July 16, 1995 and December 2, 1995.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2015. 

The post LHC ruling: Sharifs win income tax case after 19 years appeared first on The Express Tribune.

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