Pakistani, Afghan visa applicants to face extreme vetting: Trump

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump has indicated that both Pakistan and Afghanistan will be among the countries whose citizens will have to go through an “extreme vetting” process before entering the United States.

In an interview to ABC News, Mr Trump also said he was going to sign an order placing a ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the US on Wednesday but it was delayed, apparently because of a huge public backlash.

The interview, broadcast on Wednesday night, was his first to a television channel since he took oath as president on Jan 20 and covered a wide range of subjects, from Obamacare to immigration and war against terrorists.

Editorial: Trump vs America

Reports that the Trump administration would establish a registry for collecting data about Muslims living in the US brought thousands of protesters out in a New York park on Wednesday night and a former secretary of state said she too would register as a Muslim if Muslims were asked to do so.

Madeleine Albright, the first woman US secretary of state, tweeted: “I was raised Catholic, became Episcopalian and found out later my family was Jewish. I stand ready to register as Muslim in solidarity.”


US shouldn’t have invaded Iraq, admits president


Her message was re-tweeted by about 20,000 people and liked by almost 40,000.

In the ABC News interview, recorded on Wednesday morning, President Trump said he was going to sign an order banning at least some Muslims from entering the United States in two hours. Later he did sign two orders — authorising the construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border and deportation of illegal immigrants — but those did not include the proposed ban on Muslims.

Asked to name the countries whose citizens would not enter the US, the president said: “You’ll be hearing about it in two hours because I have a whole list. You’ll be very thrilled.”

He said he was focusing on the people who came “with evil intentions. I don’t want that. They’re ISIS [Islamic State militant group]. They’re coming under false pretence. I don’t want that.”

Later, he defended his plan in a tweet as well, saying “as your president, I have no higher duty than to protect the lives of the American people”.

When the interviewer, David Muir, asked why Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were not on the ban list, Mr Trump said: “We’re going to have extreme vetting in all cases. And I mean extreme. And we’re not letting people in if we think there’s even a little chance of some problem.”

Asked if this was the Muslim ban that he had talked about during the election campaign, he said: “It’s not the Muslim ban. But it’s countries that have tremendous terror…. And it’s countries that people are going to come in and cause us tremendous problems.”

He said: “It’s going to be very hard to come in. Right now it’s very easy to come in. It’s gonna be very, very hard.”

Mr Trump said he would also create safe zones in Syria for refugees to live in, as he would not allow them to enter the US.

He said his predecessor Barack Obama and secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and John Kerry had allowed tens of thousands of people to enter the country.

“The FBI is now investigating more people than ever before having to do with terror, and it’s from the group of people that came in,” he said, adding: “Our country has a lot of problems… they’re deep problems, they’re serious problems. We don’t need more.”

Referring to the involvement of a Muslim Pakistani couple in the 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, the president said: “I don’t want terror in this country. You look at what happened in San Bernardino…. You look at what happened in the World Trade Centre.”

Asked if he was concerned that these measures could cause more anger among Muslims, he said: “There’s plenty of anger right now. How can you have more? The world is as angry as it gets.”

Explaining why he thought there was so much anger in the world, Mr Trump said: “All of this has happened. We went into Iraq. We shouldn’t have gone into Iraq. We shouldn’t have gotten out the way we got out.”

He also defended the suggestion he made as a presidential candidate that the US should have “kept the oil” in Iraq. “We should’ve kept the oil when we got out… had we taken the oil, you wouldn’t have ISIS because they fuel themselves with the oil… when we left, we left Iraq, which wasn’t a government. It’s not a government now,” he explained.

“We should’ve taken the oil. And if we took the oil you wouldn’t have ISIS. And we would have had wealth. We have spent right now $6 trillion in the Middle East. And our country is falling apart.”

8 winter looks Pakistani fashionistas nailed

Keeping up appearances isn’t easy when it’s practically freezing, but don’t let the dreary weather totally spoil your style.

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t have as much fun getting dressed as you did during the warmer months—and look just as fashionable!

In fact, the endless layering possibilities that come with the chill of winter kick the sartorial part of our brain into high gear. Here’s some outfit inspiration from style icons to get you started:

Mawra Hocane:

Not all of us can splurge on a monogrammed Burberry cape but hey, there are always cheaper alternatives. Throw on a tank top or plain tee and pair it with a fun cape to feel like a sartorial superhero!

Mahira Khan:

Go 50 shades of beige like Mahira or grey or any other colour that floats your boat. A nice jumpsuit or simple top paired with pleated culottes coupled with a trench will land you on every best-dressed list out there this season.

Sadaf Kanwal:

A bright coat that pops and a funky clutch is a simple, no-fuss look that you can throw on to look instantly on trend. We’re also really digging Sadaf K’s dangly earrings.

Amna Baber:

When all else fails, just throw on a casual sweatshirt with a fun slogan and messy hair and you’re good to go.

Ainy Jaffri:

We’ve said it before and we’ll reinforce it again: the bomber jacket is here to stay. Ainy Jaffri goes monochrome with quirky kicks but we’re also really loving khaki jackets.

Sanam Saeed:

Though it can fall on the wrong side of the fashion curve, Sanam Saeed gets it right with her trendy velvet separates with just enough embroidery on the jacket without being OTT.

Tooba Siddiqui:

We’re loving Tooba’s effortlessly chic look; go plaid or go home!

Anaum Hammad:

Stylist to the stars Anaum is rocking patchwork jeans, an oversized coat and oxfords with ankle socks like nobody’s business.

Facebook takes aim at fake news with new ‘trending’ formula

Facebook is updating its “trending” feature that highlights hot topics on its social networking site, part of its effort to root out the kind of fake news stories that critics contend helped Donald Trump become president.

With the changes announced Wednesday, Facebook’s trending list will consist of topics being covered by several publishers. Before, it focused on subjects drawing the biggest crowds of people sharing or commenting on posts.

The switch is intended to make Facebook a more credible source of information by steering hordes of its 1.8 billion users toward topics that “reflect real world events being covered by multiple outlets,” Will Cathcart, the company’s vice president of product management, said in a blog post.

Facebook also will stop customising trending lists to cater to each user’s personal interests. Instead, everyone located in the same region will see the same trending lists, which currently appear in the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia and India.

That change could widen the scope of information Facebook’s users see, instead of just topics that reinforce what they may have already heard or read elsewhere. The broader perspective might reduce the chances of Facebook’s users living in a “filter bubble” — only engaging with people and ideas with which they agree.

Facebook introduced its trending list in 2014 in response to the popularity of a similar feature on Twitter, the short-messaging service that competes for people’s attention and advertising revenue.

Questions about Facebook’s influence on what people are reading intensified last summer after a technology blog relying on an anonymous source reported that human editors routinely suppressed conservative viewpoints on the site.

Facebook fired the small group of journalists overseeing its trending items and replaced them with an algorithm that was supposed to be a more neutral judge about what to put on the list.

But the automated approach began to pick out posts that were getting the most attention, even if the information in them was bogus. Some of the fake news stories targeted Democratic presidential nominee Hilary Clinton, prompting critics to believe the falsehoods help Donald Trump overcome a large deficit in public opinion polls.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially brushed off that notion as “crazy ,” but in December the company announced a slew of new measures to curb the spread of fake news.

To discourage the creation of fake news in the first place, Facebook also is banishing perpetual publishers of false information from its lucrative ad network.

Google, which operates an even larger digital ad network, has taken a similar stand against publishers of fake news. In a report released Wednesday, Google said it had exiled about 200 publishers from its AdSense network for various misrepresentations as part of a review conducted during the six weeks of last year.

Iran keen to join CPEC, says envoy

ISLAMABAD: Iran on Thursday reiterated its de­­sire to join the China-Pakis­tan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and offered to commit its ‘full potential’ for the mega regional connectivity project.

“Iran is eager to join CPEC with its full capabilities, possibilities and abilities,” Iran’s Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost said while speaking at the Oxbridge Lecture here.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani first expressed interest in joining the CPEC during his meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in September last year.

China welcomed Iran’s interest and its envoy in Islamabad Sun Weidong has said that his country is awaiting Iranian inclusion in the project. Pakistan too has described it as a “good step”.

However, analysts fear that progress towards embracing Iran was being impeded by Pakistani concerns about Tehran’s close association with India and Saudi Arabia’s apprehensions about Iranian involvement in the project.

Mr Honardoost, while responding to a question, acknowledged that Pak-Iran ties were not at the “best point”. He attributed the problems to an ‘external element’ affecting the relationship and the two neighbours not fully comprehending each other’s point of view due to lack of information.

“We expect Pakistan to move forward. Trade should not be affected by other developments,” he said in a general comment.

The envoy, who candidly responded to several queries, parried a question about how Iran planned to collaborate in CPEC, while having partnership with India that is not only opposed to the project, but is believed to be involved in sabotaging it.

“It is not important if some country is not keen to join it,” he observed almost downplaying New Delhi’s opposition.

Iran, he stressed, could contribute significantly to CPEC.

He said Iran’s rich energy resources, well-developed transport infrastructure, and progress in other fields, including nanotechnology, would add to CPEC once it joins it.

Moreover, Mr Honardoost expected that some other countries could follow Iranian example and join CPEC after its entry.

“Iran believes our region should not be under the dark shadows of tensions and friction. We don’t look at CPEC as just a trade, business and economic project. It is about peace and tranquillity in the region. It could help address many issues in this region,” the envoy noted.

Talking about bilateral trade, Mr Honardoost said it had grown by about 30 per cent over the previous year and hoped that it would further increase when “other impediments are removed”. He expected progress by ‘Nauroze’, the start of Iranian year, which is in March.

The Chairman of the Committee for Foreign Policy and National Security of the Islamic Consultative Assembly of Iran, Allaudin Boroujerdi, also spoke on the occasion.

Mr Boroujerdi said Iran did not consider the Saudi-led military alliance as against it. Many countries included in the alliance, he noted, were friendly with Iran. He said Pakistan and Iran needed to “sit together” for resolving issues in their relationship.

Mr Boroujerdi earlier called on Adviser to the PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz.

The two sides discussed areas of mutual cooperation and agreed to further deepen bilateral ties with particular focus on trade and economic cooperation, the Foreign Office said in a statement.

Nepra assailed over ‘windfall profits’ of KE

KARACHI: The Ministry of Water and Power has taken the National Electric and Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) to task over its negligence which caused K-Electric consumers to pay an additional amount to the tune of Rs62 billion.

The ministry has estimated roughly that with the help of excessive tariff setting, the KE consumers have been made to pay at least Rs60bn extra due to multi-year tariff and Rs2bn because of high generation cost allowed by Nepra to the utility company.

The secretary of the ministry, Mohammad Younus Dagha, in a letter addressed to Nepra chairman retired Brig Tariq Saddozai drew his attention to the fact that the objectives which Nepra was expected to achieve included amongst others, a responsibility towards the consumers to pay a reasonable price for services which covered reasonable costs of the service providers. In recent revelations, the secretary said, it was noted with concern that the KE consumers had been made to pay a very high tariff resulting in windfall profits for the power utility.


Ministry wants extra amounts returned to consumers


However, by a strange tariff setting method, the tariff mechanism applicable to KE limits tariff reduction on account of reduced Transmission and Dispatch (T&D) loss benchmark only on “the change in cost of generation” rather than “the total cost of generation,” hence limiting the benefit to KE consumers of the reduced T&D benchmark and effectively allowing the KE higher T&D losses than the state benchmark.

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This showed that while the declared T&D losses allowed to KE were 15 per cent but effective losses allowed came to around 28.5pc which was 4.8 percentage points higher than even its actual T&D loss at 23.7pc. This had provided a windfall for KE of Rs12.91bn in just 2015. The secretary observed that under the law it was supposed to be passed on to KE consumers. Since the practice of high T&D losses had been going on for past several years, the estimated cumulative loss to KE consumers added up to more than Rs60bn on this account.

Mr Dagha noted that now it had become evident as to how in all these years of falling oil prices, KE consumers were denied the benefit in fuel price adjustments.

Another area of such flaws in KE tariff calculations, he said, was cost of generation allowed to KE for its own generating units. While Nepra has been very strict with state-owned power generating units which were, many a time, even not allowed their actual cost of generation, the KE had been allowed to recover very high price against its actual generation costs which were much lower.

Mr Dagha advised Nepra to remove the anomalies and transfer these excessive payments back to KE consumers.