Press Roundup


US sends 12 Guantanamo detainees to native countries

WASHINGTON: Twelve inmates have been transferred from the United States military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to Afghanistan, Yemen and the breakaway Somali enclave of Somaliland, the US Justice Department said on Sunday. The department said six Yemeni and four Afghan detainees were sent over the weekend to their home countries while two Somalis were transferred to regional authorities in Somaliland. The transfers are the latest from the controversial prison President Barack Obama has pledged to close next month, but that deadline will likely be missed because of diplomatic and political hurdles. There are now 198 prisoners left at Guantanamo. Some of the remaining detainees are likely to face trials in US criminal or military courts while others are expected to be transferred abroad.



Troops kill four Taliban at Bajaur-Malakand border

PESHAWAR: Security forces killed four Taliban in Kalangi area located at Malakand’s border with Bajaur Agency, officials said on Sunday.

Security officials said the Taliban were trying to enter Malakand through Bajaur, and fired at the forces when they were intercepted near the Kalangi checkpost.

The subsequent gun battle led to the killing of four Taliban.

The forces recovered a rocket launcher, four machine guns, sixteen magazines and six grenades from the Taliban’s possession.

Bodies: The forces also found bodies of four Taliban and a sub-inspector in Buner district, officials said.

They said the beheaded body of sub-inspector Umar Ghani was recovered from Manyari Gokad area of Buner.

Ghani was the in-charge of Gagra police station and had been abducted in June while he was on his way home.

The bodies of the Taliban, identified as Imtiaz, Israr, Saadat and Ismail, were found in the limits of Nawagai police station.

Also, the security forces arrested 60 suspected Taliban during search operations in various parts of Swat.

Meanwhile, unidentified men blew up a school in Mithra village with explosives planted close to the school’s outer wall, APP reported.

The blast destroyed two rooms, however, no loss of life was reported.

Also on Sunday, police in Lakki Marwat seized a large cache of arms and arrested 20 suspects during a raid in Dodah Jungle area



Obama seeks drug imports outside of US health bill

WASHINGTON: The White House pledged on Sunday to move forward on allowing imports of safe prescription drugs from nations like Canada where they are less expensive, but this proposal will not be incorporated in the healthcare reform legislation currently before Congress. The pharmaceutical industry’s powerful Washington lobbying group backs the healthcare reform legislation that is President Barack Obama’s top legislative priority, but its important support for that effort could evaporate if drug imports are included. White House Adviser David Axelrod said the administration will pursue the issue, but not in the healthcare reform bill. “Let me be clear. The president supports ... safe re-importation of drugs into this country,” Axelrod told CNN’s “State of the Union” programme.



Mosques to be locked after Isha prayers

ISLAMABAD: Clerics from various sects agreed on Sunday that mosques across the country would be locked after Isha prayers in order to curb terrorists from taking refuge in mosques.

The decision was announced in a press statement issued after Interior Minister Rehman Malik met the clerics.

The clerics praised the interior minister’s efforts to combat terrorism and assured him of their full cooperation in the government’s anti-terror drive. The clerics criticised elements that are involved in terrorism and suicide bombings.

“The clerics appreciated the efforts of the government to ensure security and safety of the citizens. They unanimously agreed that ... all mosques would be locked after Isha prayers so that the premises cannot be used as a refuge by any miscreant,” the statement said.

The measure would be enforced by the heads of various sects without the involvement of the government,” the statement added.

The interior minister appealed to the religious leaders to promote peace and harmony during Muharram.

The clerics agreed to promote harmony in the society.



140 million Arabs live in poverty, says UN report

CAIRO: Nearly 140 million Arabs live below the poverty line, according to a report published on Sunday by the United Nations Development Programme and the Arab League. The joint report stressed “there has been no decrease in the rates of poverty in the Arab region over the past 20 years,” with some countries actually showing an increase. “Overall poverty remains high, reaching up to 40 percent on average, which means that nearly 140 million Arabs continue to live under the upper poverty line.” The document entitled “Development Challenges for the Arab Region: A Human Development Approach” also indicated youth unemployment was ’the highest in the world’ in Arab countries.



Govt employees to get houses on first-come, first-served basis

ISLAMABAD: Federal Government Employees Housing Foundation (FGEHF) has registered around 18,000 employees under the government’s scheme to provide houses to government servants. The prime minister launched the scheme on August 28 this year.

Talking to APP, FGEHF Director Finance Kashif Ahmed Noor said the scheme would help overcome the housing backlog, which had been affecting significant number of employees for the last several years, he added.

He told this news agency that under the scheme; every registered employee would have an access to a house in the capital, an opportunity that had so far eluded most of them.

“Government employees working in different scales have been asked to apply with fixed amount for each category. These forms can be downloaded directly from the ministry’s website as well, where all other related details are also available,” he elaborated.

Noor said that the plots and apartments would be offered to employees on ’first come, first served basis’.

Replying to a question, he said no specific deadline had been fixed for submission of registration forms.

Giving details, he said 2,500 plots would be available in Bahara Kahu, while 1600, 2544 flats would be available in sector G-13 and along Murree Expressway respectively.



Coffee, tea, even decaf lowers diabetes risk

WASHINGTON: People who drink coffee and tea, even decaff versions, can dramatically lower their risk of diabetes, researchers reported on Monday. The study does not say why this might be, but supports the findings of earlier studies showing these beverages may prevent Type-2 diabetes. “Every additional cup of coffee ... in a day was associated with a 7 percent reduction in the excess risk of diabetes,” according to Rachel Huxley of The University of Sydney in Australia and an international team of colleagues. This meant that people who drank three to four cups a day had a 25 percent lower risk of developing diabetes than those who drank little or no tea or coffee. Huxley’s team carried out a meta-analysis, taking a look at smaller published studies to add up greater numbers to show patterns more clearly. While studies covering more than 450,000 people showed a clear trend, the reasons were not clear. “Protective effects of coffee and tea are unlikely to be effects of caffeine alone, but rather ... they likely involve a broader range of chemical constituents ... in these beverages,” said the researchers.



Hasan Nawaz sole owner of multi-million pound London business: spokesman

LAHORE: No Sharif family member other than Hasan Nawaz owns Flagship Investments Ltd and the premises being used as the company’s offices are rented, said a Sharif family spokesperson in a press statement.

Issued in reply to an article (Sharifs own property worth billions in London, Daily Times, December 24, 2009), the release points out that Hasan Nawaz “has paid millions of pounds in taxes” to the UK tax authorities as a resident and has even been featured in the Who’s Who of Britain’s Young Business Elite.

The release also states that the offices in Tower Bridge House are of a multinational auditing and accounting firm and do not belong to the company. However, the address for Hasan Nawaz Sharif, as listed in the 2009 edition of the Who’s Who of Britain’s Young Business Elite  a copy of which was attached to the Sharifs’ statement  is indeed ’Tower Bridge House, St Katherine’s Way, London’, contrary to the spokesman’s claims.

The statement also claims, “a property near Buckingham Palace valued at 4,450,000 pounds has nothing to do with the company”. It may be noted that the said property is still listed on the company website even as this report is being filed.

The statement does not contradict the facts of the published report in any way and concedes that most of the information contained in it already exists in the public domain.