Pakistan’s two dynastic parties have reached a power-sharing agreement that will return Shehbaz Sharif to the premiership, leaving out politicians loyal to jailed former leader Imran Khan despite them winning the most seats in this month’s vote.The army-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) said they had settled days of negotiations on securing a majority to form a coalition government that will also include several smaller parties, after the February 8 polls returned no clear winner.Candidates loyal to Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party won the most seats but were forced to stand as independents following a sweeping and often brutal crackdown on the party in the lead-up to the election, which was marred by allegations of massive vote rigging.The proposed new government looks much the same as the shaky coalition that combined to controversially oust Khan in a no-confidence vote in 2022, when Sharif became prime minister for the first time.On the streets of the capital Islamabad, some were sceptical of what the new government had to offer.“Establishing a (coalition) government hasn’t proved beneficial in the past,” said retired 67-year-old Saeed Asmat.“Each time they formed a government, inflation skyrocketed, making it difficult for the poor to survive,” he added. “What actions will they take now?”The deal was announced at a late-night news conference in Islamabad, announcing Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, as president.“The Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz have attained the numbers and we will form a government,” said PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of Zardari and Bhutto.“We are hopeful that Shehbaz Sharif will soon become the prime minister of the country and the whole of Pakistan should pray that the government should be successful.”Bhutto Zardari, who was foreign minister under Sharif in the last government which dissolved in August ahead of elections, said ministerial portfolios had been agreed and would be announced in the coming days.The National Assembly must convene by February 29, when the coalition can be formally approved.PTI lashed out against the agreement, reiterating its accusations of foul play.“The PML-N and the People’s Party deserve some praise for their epic 30-year journey, from stealing taxpayers’ money together to stealing an election together,” the party said on social media platform X.It also referred to Sharif and Bhutto’s parties as “mandate thieves”.PML-N and PPP formed an opposition coalition in 2022 before seizing power from Khan, overseeing a period of massive inflation and dwindling cash reserves that almost caused the nuclear-armed state to default.Sharif’s brother, three-time premier Nawaz Sharif, returned to Pakistan from self-imposed exile to lead the election campaign after analysts said he struck a deal with the military that saw his convictions for graft melt away in remarkably swift time.But Nawaz — who was widely considered to be pulling the strings of his brother’s government from his home in London — failed to secure the expected majority.Former cricketing star Khan has been languishing in jail since August, slapped with lengthy sentences for corruption, treason and an illegal marriage — also in remarkably quick succession— charges he says are politically motivated and designed to keep him from power.Khan was brought to power in 2018 by a young electorate weary of the dynastic politics of PML-N and PPP. He was booted after analysts say he fell out with the military and went on to wage a stellar campaign of defiance against the establishment.Social media platform X has been disrupted across Pakistan since Saturday night, when a senior government official made a public admission of vote manipulation in the February 8 polls.Digital rights activists said the platform was used to protest against alleged rigging of the results.The deal between the two parties to form a coalition government will be based on conditional support from one of them, the PPP, that will review decisions on a case-by-case basis, a top PPP official said yesterday.Such an arrangement could make life difficult for the government, which needs to take tough decisions to steer the country out of financial crisis facing a strong opposition bloc led by supporters of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan.“It will be, of course, a roller coaster,” said political commentator and author Ayesha Siddiqa of the road ahead for the next government.But the PPP is not taking cabinet positions, its secretary of information, Faisal Karim Kundi, told Reuters, and its support in parliament would depend on the party’s stance.“We will support policy decisions on an issue-to-issue basis,” Kundi said, adding that PPP would vote for the PML-N’s prime minister candidate, Shehbaz Sharif, younger brother of party chief Nawaz Sharif.The most challenging task is to agree on critical fiscal tightening conditions under a new International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme.The current IMF programme expires in March.Other big moves include privatisation of loss-making state owned enterprises such as the flagship carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). Kundi said the PPP would not support the privatisation of the airline, while the PML-N would want to fast-track it.In return for supporting the formation of government by PML-N, PPP will seek the offices of president, chairman of the upper house of the parliament, and governors in two of the four provinces, he said.PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb did not respond to a request for a comment.
US firm OpenAI debuted a tool last week that can generate highly realistic snippets of video from just a few lines of text, leading content creators to wonder if they are the latest professionals about to be replaced by algorithms.Reactions to the tool, called Sora, have ranged from head-over-heels enthusiasm to alarm over the future direction of the industry.YouTuber Marques Brownlee called it “frightening” and “threatening” to see an AI doing his job.On the other hand, Caleb Ward, one half of AI filmmaking duo Curious Refuge, told his YouTube followers he could not wait to get his hands on the tool.Yet both Ward and Brownlee agreed that it was a massive moment for their industry.“I can’t stress enough how big a deal this is for the filmmaking and creative world,” said Ward, who recently went viral with a trailer he created for a Wes Anderson-style Star Wars movie.OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, said in its announcement that Sora was not yet available to the public.The announcement did not specify use cases but said “a number of visual artists, designers and filmmakers” had been chosen to help test it.The firm accompanied its statement with sample videos including a stylish woman walking along a Tokyo street, a cat waking up its owner in bed, and a group of charging woolly mammoths.The Internet immediately lit up with awe and praise, as is common with OpenAI products.“I was shocked by their quality,” Anis Ayari, an AI engineer and streamer known as Defend Intelligence, told AFP.He suggested the tool could one day be used to create entirely virtual presenters.But there were also plenty of dissenters who felt the videos were still firmly stuck in the “uncanny valley”, where glitches in otherwise photo-realistic images can leave viewers feeling queasy.Commentator Ed Zitron wrote that in OpenAI’s cat video “the owner’s arm appears to be part of the cushion and the cat’s paw explodes out of its arm like an amoeba”. He wrote in his newsletter that AI video tools were too expensive and resource-hungry to ever be genuinely useful.And styles of clips could not be harmonised, making the tools useless for creating anything other than tiny snippets.Sora enters a marketplace that is heating up, with Google, Stability AI and several other smaller players already in the game.YouTube itself announced last September it was developing a tool to let creators make AI-generated videos and background pictures.However, the tools already available have hardly taken the world by storm.
Foreign ministers from the G20 group of nations gathered in Rio de Janeiro yesterday to discuss world tensions and ways to improve multilateral organisations in preparation for their annual leaders’ summit presided by Brazil.Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva has made reform of global governance a top priority for the G20 this year, along with curbing climate change and reducing poverty.But with continued fighting between Russia and Ukraine and the war in Gaza, diplomats are not optimistic that proposals to upgrade global governance will advance easily within the group of the world’s largest economies.US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Lula in Brasilia on his way to the Rio meeting and expressed US support for his G20 presidency agenda to combat hunger and poverty, mobilise against the climate crisis, and make global governance more effective, spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters.The top US diplomat discussed the conflict in Gaza with Lula, amid a diplomatic spat after the Brazilian leader likened Israel’s war in Gaza to the Nazi genocide during World War Two.Lula has criticised the United Nations for failing to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and his accusations last week of atrocities by Israel in Gaza triggered a diplomatic crisis with an Israeli reprimand and Brazil recalling its ambassador.“We are living in a world with no governance and the proliferation of conflicts is unprecedented. There is a lack of governance to deal with global challenges,” diplomat Mauricio Lyrio, Brazil’s G20 sherpa, told reporters on Tuesday.He said there is consensus today on the need to reform the United Nations, where Brazil has advocated the expansion of the Security Council, a proposal that has not gained momentum due to the resistance of nations with veto power since the world body was created after World War Two.Lyrio acknowledged that divergences arise when it comes to which changes to make at the United Nations, he said.“This meeting will essentially be a venting session to build the case for multilateral reform and diagnosing the problem,” a European diplomat told Reuters.The two-day meeting was due to kick off at a Rio marina with an open discussion of the global situation and its conflicts, including the wars in Ukraine and Gaza.Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will face each other across the table for the first time since they spoke briefly face-to-face at last year’s foreign ministers’ meeting in New Delhi. No meeting is planned between the two men.As an innovation, Brazil will propose holding a second G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in September during the UN General Assembly in New York to advance talks on global governance, Lyrio said, with all UN member states invited to take part.The G20 represents around 85% of the global GDP, over 75% of global trade, and about two-thirds of the world population.
The fashion set shifted to Italy Wednesday for Milan Fashion Week, marked by a new designer at Moschino but held amid an uncertain outlook for luxury.The women's runway shows from Fendi, Prada, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana, among many others, promise a dose of festivity and froufrou in Italy's northern fashion capital.Following fashion weeks in New York and London, Milan again has its moment in the limelight, with 56 runway shows through Sunday on its Fall/Winter 2024-2025 calendar.But they come amid a backdrop of uncertainty in the global luxury fashion market.Muted growth projections, inflation concerns, an economic slowdown in China and geopolitical risk are all weighing on the sector.According to McKinsey's State of Fashion report published in November, it is expected to expand globally by just three to five percent this year.That is down the estimated five to seven percent for 2023.Italy's fashion sector includes clothing and leather, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics and accessories. It grew four percent to nearly 103 billion euros ($110 billion) last year, according to estimates from the National Chamber for Italian Fashion.The association's head, Carlo Capasa, said it was too early to know how the industry would fare in 2024."It's a complex year, it will take resilience," Capasa told journalists earlier this month."We know there are three wars, European and US elections. It's a year of transition."- Glitterati gather -But frayed nerves are rarely on display in the front rows, as the glitterati gather.Wednesday's shows include those from Fendi, Diesel, Alberta Ferretti and Roberto Cavalli.And despite the uncertain outlook, more than 100,000 people -- buyers, media and brand representatives -- are expected for this week's shows, up 10 percent on last February, Capasa said.Thursday's debut collection of Adrian Appiolaza for Moschino will be high on the list for fashion watchers.The Argentine designer, previously at Loewe, was named creative director of the irreverent, pop-influenced brand last month after his predecessor died just 10 days into the job.Gucci veteran Davide Renne, who died in November, had been brought in when Jeremy Scott stepped down, after a decade at the helm.Founded by Franco Moschino, the label is known for playful, quirky creations often embellished with slogans -- such as "Gilt without Guilt" or "Good Taste Doesn't Exist" -- or riffing on iconic consumer brands, from McDonald's to Barbie.Debut collections are also expected from Walter Chiapponi at Blumarine -- the flirty, jeans-heavy brand previously led by Nicola Brognano -- and Matteo Tamburini at Tod's.Chiapponi had been artistic director at Tod's since 2019, and when he left he was replaced by Tamburini, most recently head of ready-to-wear for Bottega Veneta.In a nod to Milan Fashion Week's many fans from Asia, Tuesday night's launch events included the debut of Maison Yoshiki, the label launched by Japanese rock star Yoshiki Hayashi.With the 58-year-old former frontman of heavy metal band X Japan at the piano, models walked the runway showing off the all-black collection of long silhouettes with edgy, asymmetrical necklines or exaggerated shoulders.Yoshiki, who goes by his first name, has already put his name on wine, energy drinks, kimonos, and even an edgy Hello Kitty twin, Yoshikitty.He has described his new fashion line as a "feminine but also genderless collection, flamboyant with a rebellious touch".
Japan's two biggest airlines admitted that subsidiaries allowed employees to cheat on written driving exams, according to a statement and local media, the latest embarrassing episode for the country's aviation sector.Japan Airlines (JAL) said that 11 employees from two of its subsidiaries "engaged in the malpractice of answering questions while looking at textbooks" between 2022 and 2024.Their driving permits have been returned to authorities, JAL said, adding that five test supervisors were also involved in the cheating.Bloomberg reported that the workers who cheated had driven baggage cars and catering vehicles at Tokyo's Haneda Airport.The misconduct is "a compliance violation and a serious act that can threaten to undermine the flight safety", JAL said in a statement released Tuesday.Similar instances of wrongdoing were also found to have taken place at two subsidiaries of rival ANA, local media said.A total of 82 test-takers from the ANA subsidiaries had been erroneously assured by supervisors that they were allowed to peek at textbooks, according to the Yomiuri daily.Safety scrutiny of the Japanese aviation industry is intensifying after a litany of collisions and mishaps that made global headlines this year.The most serious was a near-catastrophic collision at Haneda airport between a Japan Airlines aircraft and a smaller coast guard plane on January 2.All 379 people on board the JAL Airbus escaped just before the aircraft was engulfed in flames, but five of the six people on the smaller aircraft died.Also in January, snowy conditions caused the wing tip of a Korean Air plane to strike an empty Cathay Pacific airliner while taxiing at an airport in Hokkaido.
Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations Zhang Jun expressed his country's strong disappointment at and dissatisfaction with the US veto on a Security Council draft resolution that would have demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.The draft resolution won 13 votes in favor among the 15 members of the Security Council. Britain abstained."The outcome of today's vote clearly shows that on the issue of a ceasefire to halt the fight in Gaza, it is not that the Security Council does not have an overwhelming consensus, but rather it is the exercise of veto by the United States that stifles the council consensus," China's news agency (Xinhua) quoted Zhang as saying.The US claim that a resolution would interfere with the ongoing diplomatic efforts is totally untenable. Given the situation on the ground, the continued passive avoidance of an immediate ceasefire is nothing different from giving the green light to the continued slaughter, he said.The US veto sends a wrong message, pushing the situation in Gaza into a more dangerous one, said Zhang.The Security Council must take action to push for a ceasefire, he said, adding that this should not be a matter of debate, but rather a moral obligation that the council cannot shy away from. (QNA)
British authorities said that the crew of a Belize-flagged, British-registered cargo vessel (Rubymar) have abandoned ship off Yemen after it was hit by missiles fired by the Houthi group.The Rubymar was in the Gulf of Aden near the Bab al-Mandab Strait when it was hit and the crew abandoned ship, (BBC) reported.On Monday a Houthi spokesman said the vessel suffered "catastrophic damage" and had sunkHe also said that Houthi forces had attacked two US-owned cargo vessels in the Gulf of Aden.The strikes on the Rubymar are among the most damaging attacks so far by the Houthis.The UK government said the Rubymar was taking on water, had been abandoned and the crew taken to safety.It condemned the attacks as "completely unacceptable" and said the UK and its allies reserved the right to respond appropriately.The Houthis have launched dozens of missiles and drones at Western commercial and naval ships since mid-November, prompting many shipping companies to stop using the critical waterway, which accounts for about 12% of global maritime trade.The US and British forces began carrying out airstrikes on military targets across Houthi-controlled western Yemen in response to their attacks last month. (QNA)
Two of Pakistan's political parties have formally announced the formation of a coalition government.The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) and the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) announced the coalition late Tuesday, naming former Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif as prime minister and Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) as president.The deal was finalised between the coordination committees of both parties, Pakistani media sources said, adding that the agreement ends days of uncertainty and negotiations after the Feb 8 elections produced a hung national assembly.PML-N is the largest party with 79 seats and PPP is second with 54. They, along with four other smaller parties, have a comfortable majority in the legislature.The delay in forming a government has caused concern as Pakistan is grappling with an economic crisis amid slow growth and record inflation, rising militant violence, and needs a stable administration with the authority to take tough decisions. (QNA)
An international operation led by UK and US law enforcement has severely disrupted “the world’s most harmful cybercrime group”, the Russian-linked ransomware specialist LockBit, officials announced on Tuesday.LockBit and its affiliates have targeted governments, major companies, schools and hospitals, causing billions of dollars of damage and extracting tens of millions in ransoms from victims.Officials from Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA), working with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Europol and agencies from nine other countries in Operation Cronos, said in a news conference in London that it had infiltrated LockBit’s network and taken control of its services.“We have hacked the hackers, we have taken control of their infrastructure, seized their source code, and obtained keys that will help victims decrypt their systems,” NCA director-general Graeme Biggar told reporters.LockBit’s website – selling services that allow people to organise cyberattacks and hold data until a ransom is paid appears – was taken over on Monday evening.A message appeared on the site stating that it was “now under control of law enforcement”.“Together, we have arrested, indicted or sanctioned some of the perpetrators and we have gained unprecedented and comprehensive access to Lockbit’s systems,” Biggar said. “As of today, Lockbit is effectively redundant. Lockbit has been locked out”.A representative for Lockbit did not respond to messages from Reuters seeking comment.The US Justice Department (DOJ) said that the law enforcement agencies had seized control of “numerous public-facing websites used by LockBit to connect to the organisation’s infrastructure” and taken control of servers used by LockBit administrators.The NCA added that it had obtained more than 1,000 decryption keys and will be contacting UK-based victims in the coming days and weeks to offer support and help them recover encrypted data.Biggar said that the network had been behind 25% of all cyberattacks in the past year.LockBit has targeted more than 2,000 victims and received more than $120mn in ransom payments since it formed four years ago, according to the DOJ.In November last year, Lockbit published internal data from Boeing, one of the world’s largest defence and space contractors, and said that the US arm of China’s ICBC had paid a ransom following an attack that disrupted trades in the US Treasury market.In early 2023, Britain’s Royal Mail faced severe disruption after an attack by the group.In January 2023, US law enforcers shut down the Hive ransomware operation which extorted some $100mn from more than 1,500 victims worldwide.Since then, LockBit has been seen as the biggest current threat.Hive and LockBit are part of what cybersecurity experts call a “ransomware as a service” style, or RaaS – a business that leases its software and methods to others to use in extorting money.Ariel Ropek, director of cyber threat intelligence at cybersecurity firm Avertium, told AFP last year that this structure makes it possible for criminals with minimal computer fluency to get into ransomware by paying others for their expertise.On the so-called darkweb, providers of ransomware services pitch their products openly.At one end are the initial access brokers, who specialise in breaking into corporate or institutional computer systems.They then sell that access to the hacker, or ransomware operator.However, the operator depends on RaaS developers like Hive or LockBit, which have the programming skills to create the malware needed to carry out the operation.Typically, their programs – once inserted by the ransomware operator into a target’s IT systems – are manipulated to freeze, via encryption, the target’s files and data.RaaS developers offer a full service to the operators, for a large share of the ransom paid out, said Ropek.When the ransomware is planted and activated, the target receives a message telling them how much to pay to get their data unencrypted.That ransom can run from thousands to millions of dollars.On Tuesday the US unsealed an indictment against two Russian nationals, bringing to five the number of Russians it has charged in connection with LockBit.In a separate notice, the US Treasury Department said it is imposing sanctions on the pair, affiliates of LockBit, who “actively engaged” in ransomware attacks.Biggar said that a “large concentration” of the cyber criminals are in Russia and are Russian-speaking, but law enforcement agencies have not seen any direct support for LockBit from the Russian state.“There is clearly some tolerance of cyber criminality within Russia,” he added.
A Haitian judge has indicted dozens of people over alleged involvement in the 2021 assassination of president Jovenel Moise, including his widow, a former prime minister and an ex-police chief, according to court documents seen by AFP.Moise, 53, was gunned down in July 2021 at his private residence by a group of about 20 assailants, most of them Colombian mercenaries.His security detail did not intervene to protect him.Since his death, Haiti has only spiraled deeper into chaos. No election has been held and Moise has not been succeeded as president.An order believed to be from the judge investigating the assassination was leaked to media including AFP.In it, the magistrate ordered the referral of Moise’s widow, Martine Moise, and 50 other people to the criminal court “to be judged on the facts of criminal conspiracy, armed robbery, terrorism, assassination and complicity in assassination”.The document goes on to say that “indications of the involvement of the ex-first lady ... are sufficient” to indict, adding that her statements were “so tainted by contradictions that they leave something to be desired and discredit her”.Martine Moise was also wounded in the deadly attack.The 122-page report includes some of her graphic testimony, recounting how, as she was “losing a lot of blood” and left for dead on the floor of the couple’s bedroom, she whispered to her husband that she would try to get medical aid, only to realise that he was already dead.It listed some of the issues it said the judge had with her testimony, including her claim that at one point she tried to hide beneath the couple’s bed.The report claimed that “as this piece of furniture is made, not even a giant rat ... measuring between 35cm-45cm can get under it to hide”.Former interim prime minister Claude Joseph and ex-director-general of the national police Leon Charles were also found to have “sufficient indications” of involvement in the killing, the document says.The report did not clearly identify the masterminds of the assassination, nor who may have financed the killing. None of the people named in the indictment immediately reacted publicly.Martine Moise has however criticised on social media what she calls unjust arrests and political persecutions.Joseph meanwhile told the Miami Herald that the president’s de-facto successor, Prime Minister Ariel Henry, was the main beneficiary and was now “weaponising the Haitian justice system” to persecute opponents in “a classic coup d’etat”.A spokesperson for Henry’s office said the judge was independent and “free to issue his order in accordance with the law and his conscience”.Henry was appointed to replace Joseph, who now leads an opposition party, days before the assassination.
Thousands of Greek farmers protested in Athens yesterday to demand financial aid, escalating a four-week showdown with a government that says it has no more funds to help.Meanwhile, protests by Polish farmers sparked anger in neighbouring Ukraine yesterday, as Kyiv called on the European Commission to take robust action after demonstrators blockaded the border and opened railway carriages to let grain spill out.Honking horns and waving Greek flags on dozens of tractors driven to the capital from across the country, some 8,000 farmers took part in the protest, according to police.About 130 tractors and dozens of pickup trucks and vans parked in front of parliament on Syntagma Square.Hundreds more were expected during the day.“Without agricultural production, there is no future in Greece,” said one banner.“We are here to express our solidarity with our colleagues in Europe,” said Manolis Karkadatsos, head of a farm association on the island of Crete.Farmers began protesting last month, joining a wider movement that has seen roads blocked in France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain, among other countries.Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the demonstration would be useful to persuade the European Union to change its agriculture policies.“This is leverage for me as well, when I go to Brussels to negotiate,” he told Star TV on Monday.Greek discontent is partly fuelled by anger at the slow pace of reconstruction after devastating floods in September in Thessaly, the centre of Greece’s agricultural production.Farmers want import controls, lower fuel taxes, better prices for products and an easing of European Union environmental regulations.Karkadatsos said the EU’s common agricultural policy was a “noose” around the necks of farmers, who should be entitled to cheap fuel under the same regulations as Greek shipowners.“Our problems are the same as elsewhere in Europe, but in Greece, we are smallholders and production costs are enormous, especially for fertiliser and fuel,” said Giorgos Charisanis, a farmer from the northern region near Thessaloniki.Mitsotakis, who made concessions in a meeting last week with protest leaders, stressed on Monday that the government had “nothing more to give”.The government has offered to lower energy bills for farmers over the next 10 years, as well as to cut tax on fertilisers and animal feed from 13% to 6%.Mitsotakis last week also promised to deliver financial aid by the end of the month to those affected by natural disasters.Having paid farmers between €2,000 ($2,150) and €4,000 last year, the government has promised more aid worth between €5,000 and €10,000 this year.Farmers’ unions say the aid is not enough.On the border between Poland and Ukraine, Polish farmers protested in an escalation from previous demonstrations, with a near-total blockade of all Ukrainian border crossings and disruption at ports and on roads nationwide.Warsaw has been a staunch supporter of Kyiv in its fight to repel a full-scale Russian invasion launched in 2022, but protests from farmers complaining of unfair competition have strained ties that were already on edge after truckers blocked border crossings around the turn of the year.Television footage showed protesters at the Medyka border crossing opening railway carriages to allow grain to pour onto the tracks.“The scattering of Ukrainian grain on the railroad tracks is another political provocation aimed at dividing our nations,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said in a post on X.Ukrainian Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko said Kyiv has informed the European Commission of the actions of Polish protesters at the Ukrainian border and expected a robust response.Agriculture Minister Mykola Solskyi said the grain was headed to Germany and would not have entered the Polish market.Aside from the usual grievances expressed by farmers across Europe, farmers in Poland target what they say is unfair competition from Ukraine, after an EU decision in 2022 to waive duties on Ukrainian food imports.Protesters’ tractors carried banners that read: “With grain flowing from Ukraine, Polish farmers will go bankrupt.”An organiser of the protest at Doruhusk crossing, Marcin Wielgosz, said that buses would be allowed to cross once an hour, but no truck would be allowed through.“In my opinion, the border should be closed. Procedures and systems should be clarified and then maybe it could reopen but not with the rules that we have now. Because right now you can bring whatever you want, however much you want ... into Poland,” he told Reuters.Kyiv says its exports through eastern Europe have not damaged EU markets.Exasperated by the Polish protests, Ukrainian hauliers began their own round-the-clock counter-demonstration at three crossings.Their protest is planned to last till March 15.Images circulated by media outlets showed Ukrainian trucks at the border bearing banners with slogans such as “Ukraine loses – Poland loses” and “The blockade of Ukraine is a betrayal of European values”.Poland’s new pro-European government has expressed sympathy for the farmers’ demands but has also urged them not to take action that could damage Kyiv’s war effort.Ukraine says the blockades are affecting its defence capability and helping Russia’s aims.Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday that the situation at the border demonstrated “the erosion of solidarity on a daily basis”.
An intensifying conflict between Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) army and the Tutsi-led M23 rebels, allegedly backed by Rwanda, has disrupted food supplies to the eastern city of Goma, affecting over 2mn residents and displaced individuals.Clashes have escalated since the start of the year in towns and villages around the provincial capital as rebels seized territory, forcing thousands to seek refuge in the city.The use of heavy artillery and shelling has killed dozens, and hospitals in Goma have struggled to cope with the influx of injured civilians.The United Nations and other aid agencies have warned that the fighting risks worsening the humanitarian crisis in the eastern Congo region, where more than 5mn people have been displaced in the four provinces of the region due to conflicts.The government of Congo, United Nations officials and Western powers have accused Rwanda of supporting the resurgent rebels who claim to defend ethnic Tutsi interests against Hutu militias whose leaders participated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide of more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.The US urged Rwanda on Saturday to immediately withdraw all of its military personnel from Congo and remove surface-to-air missile systems, saying these threatened the lives of civilians, UN and other regional peacekeepers, humanitarian workers, and commercial flights in eastern Congo.France too on Tuesday said it was “very concerned” about the situation in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and called on Rwanda to cease its support for the M23 rebel group.“France condemns the continuation of the M23 offensives with the support of Rwanda, and the presence of Rwandan forces on Congolese territory,” France said in a government statement, adding to growing international pressure on Rwanda.“We call on Rwanda to cease all support for the M23 and to withdraw from Congolese territory,” it said, reiterating its support for a regional mediation process to put an end to the conflict. With the rebels advancing towards the town of Sake, approximately 25km west of Goma, the city now relies on scant food supplies brought in by canoes from villages around Lake Kivu. The Kituku market, on the lake’s banks, has become a critical source of food for Goma. Esperance Nyota, a banana seller, warned of an impending famine if the conflict persists and the routes supplying Goma from surrounding farmlands remain cut off.“The entire city of Goma depends on this small market for supplies of cassava, corn, and bananas,” Nyota said.Approximately 135,000 internally displaced people have fled Sake in the past week, according to the United Nations refugee agency. They join the hundreds of thousands already displaced around Goma since 2022 due to the ongoing conflict.The UN agency has warned that the conflict, including indiscriminate bombing, risks exacerbating the strain on limited resources to cater for more than 800,000 internally displaced people, and 2.5mn already displaced in the North Kivu province.The Norwegian Refugee Council said on Thursday that the advance of the armed groups towards Sake, a crucial link to Goma, posed an imminent threat to the entire aid system in eastern Congo, with potentially devastating consequences for the civilian population.The Kyeshero hospital in Goma, which provides free treatment to conflict victims, has seen an influx of patients injured by gunfire and bombings, doctors said.
Israeli occupation forces continue to bomb many areas in the Gaza Strip with warplanes, artillery, and gunboats, committing several massacres, killing and injuring dozens of Palestinian citizens, most of them women and children, on the 137th day of its aggression against Gaza.WAFA News Agency reported that a large number of civilians were martyred and others were injured in missile and artillery shelling and gunfire from Israeli drones on Al-Zaytoun neighborhood, southeast of Gaza City.Large Israeli military vehicles entered Al-Zaytoun neighborhood from Tal Al-Hawa area west of the city, and Mahmour Salah Al-Din to the south, and were stationed near the intersection of Street 8 and Salah Al-Din Street amid bombardment by Israeli warplanes and the firing of artillery shells that hit a number of citizens homes, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens.Israeli warplanes, occupation artillery, and tanks launched raids and fired shells at a number of residential neighborhoods in the city of Khan Yunis, south of the Gaza Strip, killing six civilians and wounding 15 others.In the central Gaza Strip, Israeli warplanes bombed several homes in the Nuseirat, Bureij, and Maghazi camps, and in Deir al-Balah, killing four citizens and wounding about 10 others. They were transferred to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the center of the Gaza Strip.In Rafah, the occupation bombed a number of shells in the center and west of the city, causing injuries among the displaced.In an infinite toll, the number of martyrs Palestinians has risen to more than 29,092, the majority of whom are women and children, while 68,883 others were wounded, since the beginning of the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip on October 7th, 2023.
In the ever-evolving landscape of human understanding, the realms of science and spirituality have long been considered separate. However, a growing body of thought, championed by thinkers like Robert Simic, suggests there is a connection between these seemingly separate domains, and mastering that connection can lead to fulfillment in all aspects of life.At first glance, science and spirituality appear to operate in separate spheres. Science, with its empirical methods and evidence-based approach, unravels the mysteries of the physical world. On the other hand, spirituality delves into the intangible realms of purpose, meaning, and interconnectedness. Yet, a closer examination reveals that these two realms share more common ground than meets the eye.One key point of intersection is the pursuit of knowledge. Both science and spirituality are, at their core, quests for understanding. While science works to understand our world through observation, experimentation, and analysis, spirituality does the same through introspection, meditation, and a sense of connection to something greater.Robert Simic, a prominent life coach in Dubai, founder of Robert Simic Coaching Institute, and creator of the world-renowned RS Method, advocates for the integration of science and spirituality in the pursuit of fulfillment and well-being. He suggests that a comprehensive approach to personal development should not limit itself to the confines of either scientific exploration or spiritual introspection. Instead, he proposes that true well-being emerges from the connection of both these diverse perspectives. As the creator of the RS Method, Simic unites science and spirituality to help people elevate their wellbeing.The combination of empirical evidence with the wisdom gained through spiritual exploration can provide a more holistic understanding of human experience. Mindfulness practices, meditation, and other spiritual techniques, he states, can complement the scientific understanding of mental health. This integration forms the basis of his RS Method and holds the potential to unlock new dimensions of growth and fulfillment.Simic uncovered this after a decades-long quest of growth and finding his own purpose. “It was a gradual journey of me discovering deeper tools and techniques that actually create lasting change. Fast forward to now, two decades or so later, I'm sitting on a really strong collection of techniques that I found from all over the world. Now I can't imagine doing science without spirituality.” he says.Simic’s RS Method helps individuals overcome their limitations, no matter how large or small, to achieve their biggest life goals. It is a meaningful approach to personal development that truly empowers people. “It unlocks their true potential and enables them to create, achieve, and become what they really want in life,” emphasizes Simic.He says the RS Method operates at the intersection of science and spirituality to dig deeper and uncover the untapped potential within an individual. Simic firmly believes that limiting yourself to either scientific exploration or spiritual introspection overlooks the possibility that arises from their fusion, as it allows you to reset your conditioning and create lasting change.“The picture that I like to paint to explain what I mean is that for as long as you work on a surface level or just treat the symptom, even if you make some change, that change doesn't last. The problem still comes back. We have to find the root cause of the problem, looking at it from all angles, scientific and spiritual, to overcome it. If you do that, whatever was causing those issues in life in the first place simply disappears.”You might be thinking, how does something “simply disappear?” Especially if it’s an issue, belief, or limitation that’s been a part of your life for years, perhaps even longer. Simic says it all comes down to resetting your conditioning and overcoming the root cause of the problem.He explains that a lot of the time when it comes to making change, people tend to approach it by working with either the conscious mind or the subconscious mind, but rarely ever the two together.“Some will try to approach making change consciously, meaning insisting on positive states, on doing affirmations every day, making all that kind of conscious effort, but, it usually takes about two years of such drilling to actually make those thoughts and beliefs stick. And then we have the complete opposite of that, which are people who are interested more in psychology, things like hypnosis to rewire their subconscious.”Simic believes that individuals spend too much time on either the conscious mind or the subconscious mind, and very rarely marry the two together. But when you do, you work with the whole picture rather than one particular side. "When it comes to keeping the change, that's the key,” he says.“There's no judgment. There's no telling people how to live their life. I give them science. I give them spirituality, regardless of religion or beliefs,” he continues. “It fits everybody, because we're talking about nature. Then, they get the understanding, and they choose what they want to change. They just need to raise their hand and say, ‘I want to change this.’”Simic explains that during the RS Method workshop, you can “become the person you would rather be.” If that's somebody who's confident, you can do that. If that's somebody who's a leader, you can do that as well, he says. “There's no template for how I want you to be. It’s all about you and your desired journey.”“I just want to help you increase the quality of your life or create the life of your dreams, as cliche as that sounds,” he concludes. In a world where well-being is increasingly becoming a multifaceted concept encompassing physical, mental, and spiritual dimensions, the RS Method is a testament to the transformative power of a diverse approach.Simic's work exemplifies that science and spirituality, far from being mutually exclusive, can together allow you to reset your conditioning and illuminate a path toward an even more profound and harmonious existence. To learn more about how he can help you achieve your goals, visit his website today!
Al Jazeera Media Institute (AJMI) won the Kuwait Creativity Award 2024 in its 11th edition in the community service category. The award was given to Dr Rania al-Jamal, the youth category trainer at the institute, during a ceremony organised on this occasion in the Kuwaiti capital on Tuesday evening, February 13, 2024, in the presence of Dr Nasser al-Muhaisen, the Undersecretary of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Information, and Madi Al-Khamis, the Secretary-General of the Arab Media Forum (AMF).Rania al-Jamal expressed her happiness with this award, which represents the culmination of the institute’s work in the field of talent development in general, and caring for young people in particular. She added, "Thank you to the beloved State of Kuwait and its hospitable people, and thanks also to the management of the AJMI, whose support played a major role in reaching this achievement."Iman al Ameri, Director of the AJMI, confirmed that this award is a tribute to the institute’s valuable efforts in the field of social responsibility and the important roles it plays in this context. She stressed that there are many upcoming awards in the institute’s various fields of work, which confirm its leadership in the field of media training in the region, and its keenness to maintain this leadership.Madi al-Khamis, Secretary-General of the AMF, confirmed that the great efforts made by the AJMI development are well-known and appreciated, noting that this award comes in appreciation of these valuable efforts, especially in the field of training young people in various modern media skills.
A new truck arrives in the South Sudanese town of Renk, packed with dozens of elderly men, women and children, their exhausted faces betraying the strain of their traumatic journey out of war-ravaged Sudan.They are among more than half a million people who have crossed the border into South Sudan, which is struggling to accommodate the new arrivals.Renk is just 10 kilometres (six miles) from Sudan, where fighting broke out in April last year between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).Since then, Renk's two UN-run transit centres have been overwhelmed by an uninterrupted influx of frightened people, fleeing for their lives.The journey is rife with danger, said Fatima Mohammed, a 33-year-old teacher who escaped with her husband and five children from El-Obeid city in central Sudan."The bullets were entering our house. We were trapped between crossfire in our own street. So we understood that we needed to leave for the good of our kids," she told AFP, describing the situation in Sudan as "unsustainable".It took them five days to make their escape, with Sudanese soldiers and RSF fighters "making (it) difficult for us to leave the country"."They took all our phones at one checkpoint, a lot of our money (at) another one. We saw abuses happening at those checkpoints," she said.- 'Stuck here' -Since the start of the conflict, nearly eight million people, half of them children, have fled Sudan.Around 560,000 of them have taken refuge in South Sudan, according to the United Nations, which estimates that around 1,500 new arrivals turn up in the country every day.Many spend months waiting in the transit camps, hopeful that someday soon they will be able to return home.Iman David fled fighting in Sudan's capital Khartoum with her then three-month-old daughter, leaving her husband behind."It was supposed to be a short stay, but I am still stuck here in Renk after seven months," the 20-year-old told AFP."My hope is to go back to Khartoum and reunite with my husband but I don't know his fate."The war has claimed the lives of thousands of civilians, according to UN figures.Around 25 million people, more than half of Sudan's population, need humanitarian assistance, while around 3.8 million children under the age of five are suffering from malnutrition, the UN says.- 'Better than Khartoum' -While many in Renk long to return home, others hope to travel onwards to the town of Malakal in Upper Nile state, which is also hosting a huge number of refugees.At Renk port, hundreds of people lined up under the oppressive glare of the midday sun, waiting hours to hop aboard the metal boats which make the trip at least twice a week.As she waited, Lina Juna, a 27-year-old mother of four, told AFP her final destination was the South Sudanese capital Juba."I have nothing to do in Juba, no family members or friends, no business or work to take care of because I have spent all my life in Sudan," she said."But I still expect Juba to be much better than Khartoum," she added, recalling days spent struggling to find food as heavy fighting rocked the city.Several hours later, she managed to board a boat, one of two carrying some 300 people each."Today is a good day for us," said Deng Samson, who works for the International Organization for Migration."Some weeks we have seen ourselves completely overwhelmed," he told AFP, adding that the approaching monsoon made him nervous."We are truly afraid of what will happen when the rainy season comes, with waters rising from the river and disrupting the normal functioning of the port."With up to 10 trucks and buses turning up in Renk every day, the UN is trying to mobilise the international community, launching an appeal for $4.1 billion this month to respond to the most urgent humanitarian needs.
Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor demanded the establishment of an international legal team, the application of pressure to secure this team's entry into the Gaza Strip, and the start of an inquiry into crimes and violations committed by the Israeli occupation forces during the ongoing aggression against the Gaza Strip.The recent statement by United Nations experts on Israel's flagrant human rights violations of Palestinian women and girls in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank was welcomed by Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor. The rights group emphasised the significance of the statement given the Israeli genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, ongoing since Oct. 7, 2023."We are shocked by reports of the deliberate targeting and extrajudicial killing of Palestinian women and children in places where they sought refuge, or while fleeing," according to the UN experts' statement."Some of them were reportedly holding white pieces of cloth when they were killed by the Israeli army or affiliated forces," the experts add.The experts express further concern that an unknown number of Palestinian women and children, have reportedly gone missing after contact with the Israeli army in Gaza, the Euro-Med Monitor said.UN experts' statement should be adopted as an additional document to hold Israel responsible for its violations against Palestinian civilians, stressed Euro-Med Monitor. This is especially important as the International Court of Justice is deliberating over South Africas lawsuit, which accuses Israel of committing genocide in the Gaza Strip.Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor once again urged the international community to pressure Israel to end its policy of forced disappearance, which affects nearly thousands of Palestinian detainees from the Gaza Strip, including women and children, and to disclose the whereabouts of the dozens of women it has detained from refugee centers and from their own homes.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the number of children suffering from malnutrition in the Gaza Strip has risen sharply as a result of the ongoing Israeli occupation aggression since Oct. 7."90% of children under the age of 2 and 95 per cent of pregnant and breastfeeding women face severe food poverty meaning they have consumed two or less food groups in the previous day and the food they do have access to is of the lowest nutritional value", WHO said in a statement, adding that "95 per cent of households are limiting meals and portion sizes, with 64 per cent of households eating only one meal a day, and over 95 per cent of households said they had restricted the amount of food adults received in order to ensure small children had food to eat".WHO said that surveys in the north of the strip showed that 15.6 per cent of children there, or one in six children under the age of two, suffer from acute malnutrition, with nearly 3% of them suffering from severe wasting, which is the most threatening form of malnutrition, and puts young children at risk of medical complications and death unless they receive urgent treatment.Similar surveys in the city of Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, showed that 5 per cent of children there under the age of two suffer from acute malnutrition. These numbers are "clear evidence" that there is a need for humanitarian aid, WHO noted.
Pakistani politicians loyal to jailed former prime minister Imran Khan will forge an alliance with a little-known political group, his party said on Monday, after polls marred by allegations of manipulation returned no clear winner.Candidates backed by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party won the most seats in this month’s election but were effectively sidelined because they were forced to stand as independents.The army-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) failed to secure a ruling majority but has forged a partnership with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and a handful of smaller parties to form the next government.However, PTI still hopes to seek a majority by having its candidates join the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), a registered political party whose chairman was the only one from the alliance of Islamic political and religious parties group to win a seat.“We have reached a consensus that our provincial and National Assembly candidates will join Sunni Ittehad Council,” PTI chairman Gohar Ali Khan told a news conference.Successful PTI-backed candidates will send their applications to join the SIC this week to the Election Commission of Pakistan, which must approve the alliance.If the commission signs off on them, the alliance could then be entitled to seats reserved for women and religious minorities that are allocated according to election results.“After this alliance, PTI will be in a position to form a government in the provinces as well as in the Centre,” Omar Ayub Khan, PTI’s candidate for prime minister, told the news conference, referring to the National Assembly.There have been widespread allegations of vote-rigging and result manipulation after authorities switched off Pakistan’s mobile phone network on Election Day and the count took more than 24 hours.A senior bureaucrat announced at a news conference on Saturday that he had helped rig the February 8 election and would hand himself in to police.“We converted the losers into winners, reversing margins of 70,000 votes in 13 National Assembly seats,” said Liaqat Ali Chattha, commissioner of the garrison city of Rawalpindi where the powerful military has its headquarters.The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a leading advocacy group, said after Chattha’s announcement that the “involvement of the state bureaucracy in rigging in Pakistan is beginning to be exposed”.Imran Khan’s PTI held nationwide protests against the alleged rigging on Saturday.Police detained senior party member Salman Akram Raja and around a dozen supporters in the central city of Lahore, where they surrounded the party headquarters, but said they had all been released by late afternoon.Meanwhile the PML-N and PPP were on Monday trying to bridge differences over forming a minority coalition government.Monday’s talks were the fifth such round after former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif was named by his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party to lead the country again.“Both the parties haven’t yet agreed on final points,” said Ishaq Dar, a senator of Sharif’s party, who is leading it in the talks.“Negotiations are underway on various proposals” for power sharing, he added in a statement on Sunday posted on social media platform X.The PPP of former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has announced conditional support for the PML-N, saying it will vote for Sharif to form the government, but would not take positions in cabinet.“I can confirm that it has been decided in principle that the political parties will form a coalition government,” Dar told domestic broadcaster Geo TV.Sharif, 72, who was prime minister of the South Asian nation for 16 months until August, has been named the coalition’s candidate to be the next premier by his elder brother, Nawaz Sharif, who is the PML-N chief.
The European Union on Monday moved closer to new sanctions against Moscow over its war on Ukraine, as Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Russia’s top opposition leader who died in prison last week, said President Vladimir Putin must be held accountable.Germany, Lithuania and Sweden were among EU countries calling for specific new penalties against Russia over the death of Alexei Navalny in a remote penal colony in Russia’s Arctic.That came during a meeting of the 27 EU foreign ministers, which had been scheduled before Navalny’s death, to discuss a package of fresh penalties to mark two years since Russia’s unleashed a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24.Hungary, the last EU country needed to pass the proposed new restrictions against nearly 200 more firms and people deemed involved in the war, said it would not stall the bloc’s 13th package of Russia sanctions since Moscow invaded Ukraine.The EU’s top diplomat suggested that Russian prison officials linked to Navalny’s death could be added to the list of those subjected to asset freezes and travel bans.There was no immediate word of any more hard-hitting measures that could target Russia’s broader economy and an EU diplomat said so far it seemed any specific new sanctions related to Navalny’s death would be “symbolic” and come later.“The EU will spare no efforts to hold Russia’s political leadership and authorities to account, in close co-ordination with our partners; and impose further costs for their actions, including through sanctions,” EU foreign ministers said in a joint statement after their meeting with Navalnaya in Brussels.They said Putin and Russian authorities held the ultimate responsibility for the death of Navalny and called for “an independent and transparent international investigation”.German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said she hoped the 27-nation EU would agree on the package of sanctions soon. EU officials say that could happen tomorrow.“We have seen the brutal force with which the Russian president represses his own citizens who take to the streets to demonstrate for freedom or write about it in newspapers,” she said. “We will propose new sanctions in light of the death of Alexei Navalny.”The bloc’s top diplomat said he expected EU countries to seek targeted sanctions against certain Russian officials over the death of the 47-year-old former lawyer who built his profile on fighting state corruption in Russia.“(EU) member states will propose sanctions for sure against those responsible,” said the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell who chaired Monday’s talks.“We can go down the institutional structure of the penitentiary system in Russia,” he said indicating whom the bloc might sanction next for what he called “slow murder” of Navalny in Russian jails.Navalny collapsed after a walk at the “Polar Wolf” penal colony last Friday, Russian authorities said, where he was serving a three-decade sentence following years of persecution that included poisoning with a nerve agent in Siberia in 2020. His wife, who attended Monday’s meeting in Brussels, said separately she would continue her late husband’s fight, and called on supporters to hold Putin accountable and fight him with more determination than ever.Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said that imposing more EU sanctions on Russia made no sense and would only hurt the bloc’s economy. But he added Budapest would not veto the package.“There is no reason to veto it,” he said. “Although I think the EU is making a wrong decision.”Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has said in the past that he is “proud” about his Russia contacts, has stalled previous rounds of sanctions, as well as EU agreements on financial assistance to Kyiv.The EU says it has cut Russia trade by some €135bn since the invasion through military, energy, aviation, transport and financial sanctions, among others.