Calm on Turkish streets after days of protests
‘Cash-for-query affair’ hits UK
28 rebels killed in assault on Syrian village
Thousands rally against N-power in Tokyo
Zardari not to contest Prez poll
First baby born with IVF time-lapse treatment
Religion losing influence, say 77% Americans
Pakistan’s Punjab Assembly gets its first Sikh member
Nigeria sends seafarers to India for training
Istanbul/Ankara, June 2
Pockets of die-hard demonstrators lit bonfires and scuffled with police overnight but the streets were much quieter after two days of clashes in which almost a thousand persons were arrested and hundreds were injured.
The unrest was triggered by protests against government plans to build a replica Ottoman-era barracks to house shops or apartments in Taksim, which had long been a venue for political demonstrations.
But it has widened into a broader show of defiance against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).
On Sunday, rain appeared to keep the crowds away from Istanbul's central Taksim Square, where the protests originated, but did not dampen the spirit of a small group of protesters who remained huddled around a bonfire.
Rubble littered the square after days of stand-off between the protesters and Turkish riot police who fired tear gas and water cannon and played cat-and-mouse with them on side streets. Shopkeepers scrubbed anti-government graffiti off walls.
Slogans were also sprayed on burnt-out vehicles including a police car and a bus. There were calls on social media for further protests on Sunday both in Istanbul and the capital Ankara but it was unclear how many people would turn out.
"We will stay until the end," said Akin, who works in motor trade and has been in Taksim for the past four days. "We are not leaving. The only answer now is for this government to fall. We are tired of this oppressive government. This is no longer about these trees," he said, referring to Taksim's Gezi Park which became the focal point of the protests. — Reuters
‘Cash-for-query affair’ hits UK
London, June 2
Labour suspended Lord Jack Cunningham, the former Cabinet minister, and Lord Brian Mackenzie of Framwellgate, the former police chief.
Lord John Laird resigned the Ulster Unionist whip and has also referred himself to the House of Lords sleaze watchdog.
Undercover 'Sunday Times' reporters, posing as a South Korean solar energy company, filmed Lord Cunningham, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate and Lord Laird as they revealed their readiness to wield their influence in the halls of power to paying clients, escalating what is being referred to as a cash-for-questions row.
However, Ulster Unionist Lord Laird, Labour's Lord Mackenzie and Lord Cunningham all deny wrongdoing.
Lord Laird was also filmed by BBC discussing a regular payment to ask parliamentary questions.
He has since resigned from the Ulster Unionist party, pending a review into the allegations.
The fresh claims over political lobbying came after MP Patrick Mercer resigned as a Conservative party whip on Friday after claims by the BBC's Panorama programme that he broke Parliament's lobbying rules.
Mercer is alleged to have taken money from a fake firm professing to work for the government of Fiji. In Parliament, he subsequently asked questions about Fiji.
The House of Lords code of conduct says peers cannot engage in "paid advocacy", using their access to Parliament to make a profit.
The 'Sunday Times' report suggests the three peers, who it filmed separately, may have broken those rules.
Lord Cunningham, a privy counsellor who led the joint committee on Lords reform under Tony Blair, offered to write to Prime Minister David Cameron to push the solar energy company's supposed agenda.
He asked for a fee totalling 144,000 pounds a year to provide a personal lobbying service.
"Are you suggesting 10,000 pounds a month?" he asked.
"Make that....12,000 a month. I think we could do a deal on that," Lord Cunningham was quoted by the paper as saying.
But in a statement sent to the newspaper, Lord Cunningham said: "I deny any agreement to operate in breach of the House of Lords code of conduct and, in fact, recall that I made it clear that I would only operate within the rules." He added that his reference to "a fanciful 12,000 pounds a month payment" was made to test his suspicion that he had been talking to journalists.
Cunningham told the reporters, posing as representatives of the fake South Korean solar energy company, that he would advise them on parliamentary affairs and become their advocate at Westminster.
Lord Mackenzie, Blair's former law and order adviser who was once a chief superintendent in Durham police, said he could arrange parties for paying clients, including on the terrace of the House of Lords, after being asked if this was possible.
When asked if he had done anything wrong, he told BBC: "Not at all".
"There is nothing in the rules to prevent a peer hosting a function, as long as he has no financial interest.
I was being interviewed in connection, I thought, with a position as a consultant for this energy company... not as a lobbyist," he said.
The third peer, Lord Laird, said he could arrange to get other peers involved. — PTI
Beirut, June 2
"The number of rebels killed yesterday (Saturday) in an ambush and clashes with regime forces on the outskirts of Kafr Nan rose to 28," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement.
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP the rebels, who control Rastan and much of Houla, the towns on either side of the village of Kafr Nan, launched an assault yesterday.
Regime troops pushed back the attack on the village, mostly inhabited by members of the Alawite community -- the offshoot branch of Shiite Islam to which Assad belongs.
Rebels also attacked a nearby regime checkpoint outside the town of Talbisseh, in the north of Homs province.
"At least six regime forces were killed but the rebels were not able to seize control of the checkpoint," the Observatory said.
Abdel Rahman said rebel fighters appeared to be "opening these battlefronts in northern Homs to relieve pressure of the town of Qusayr," where the regime launched an assault two weeks ago.
The battle for the rebel stronghold, near the border with Lebanon in southern Homs, continued today, with the Observatory reporting a continued flow of reinforcements to the regime lines.
Aid groups have expressed concern about thousands of civilians believed to be trapped in the city, with no way to escape.
Around 1,500 wounded people are also thought to be trapped inside the embattled town, a strategic prize because of its proximity to the Lebanese border and the route between Damascus and the coast. — AFP
Tokyo, June 2
Organisers said 7,500 people gathered at a park in the city centre, including disaster victims and celebrities such as Nobel literature laureate Kenzaburo Oe.
Protesters later marched through the capital, holding anti-nuclear banners including one which read: "No Nukes! Unevolved Apes Want Nukes!" They also demonstrated outside the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Co, operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant which was crippled by meltdowns after the March 2011 tsunami.
Abe, whose Liberal Democratic Party has close ties with the nation's powerful business circles, has repeatedly said he would allow reactor restarts if their safety could be ensured.
Japan turned off its 50 reactors for safety checks in the wake of the disaster but has restarted two of them, citing possible summertime power shortages. — AFP
Zardari not to contest Prez poll
Islamabad, June 2 Zardari said he felt he no longer has the right to contest the next presidential election, which will be held once he completes his tenure in September. Zardari, 57, was elected President in September 2008, when the PPP and its allies were in power at the centre and in Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh provinces. The PPP currently is in power only in Sindh and controls the Senate or upper house of parliament. It no longer has the numbers to ensure the re-election of Zardari, who became chief of the PPP after his wife was assassinated in December 2007. Referring to his future plans, he said he would take on the leadership of the PPP if the party wants him to play such a role. "This time, I will not have the right (to contest the presidential election) because we do not have a majority. Yes, there can be a fight but that fight will become messy," Zardari said. —
Islamabad, June 2
Zardari said he felt he no longer has the right to contest the next presidential election, which will be held once he completes his tenure in September.
Zardari, 57, was elected President in September 2008, when the PPP and its allies were in power at the centre and in Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh provinces.
The PPP currently is in power only in Sindh and controls the Senate or upper house of parliament.
It no longer has the numbers to ensure the re-election of Zardari, who became chief of the PPP after his wife was assassinated in December 2007.
Referring to his future plans, he said he would take on the leadership of the PPP if the party wants him to play such a role.
"This time, I will not have the right (to contest the presidential election) because we do not have a majority. Yes, there can be a fight but that fight will become messy," Zardari said. — PTI
London, June 2
The child was conceived using a technique which monitors the growth of the embryo, to select the one which is most likely to result in a successful pregnancy.
Ruth Carter, a clinical psychologist, gave birth to the girl at Liverpool Women's Hospital. The girl is the first in the world to have been conceived using a technique called Eeva - Early Embryo Viability Assessment - which uses timelapse technology to take thousands of pictures of the developing embryo and pinpoint the most viable, 'The Telegraph' reported.
By capturing images at one-minute intervals, scientists can see for the first time how the embryo is growing and predict which will lead to successful pregnancies. In recent years, scientists have been using imaging techniques in an attempt to improve IVF success rates, with researchers pioneering different monitoring methods to identify which of the embryos will be successful.
Carter said she and her husband had been trying for a kid for several years, but she had suffered several miscarriages.
The couple's daughter was born by Caesarean section after the clinic used the Eeva technique to identify the most promising embryos.
"As a unit, we have never been prouder to be at the forefront of such pioneering technology. By investing into research and technology, we have been able to debut Eeva in Europe and lead the way in time-lapse imaging technology," Professor Charles Kingsland, clinical director at The Hewitt Fertility Centre, said. — PTI
Washington, June 2
According to a new Gallup survey, over three-quarters of Americans (77 per cent) say religion is losing its influence on American life, while 20 per cent say religion's influence is increasing.
These represent Americans' most negative evaluations of the impact of religion since 1970, although similar to the views measured in recent years, Gallup said.
"It may be happening, but Americans don't like it," Frank Newport, Gallup's editor in chief, said of religion's waning influence. "It is clear that a lot of Americans don't think this is a good state of affairs." According to the Gallup survey released this week, 77 per cent of Americans say religion is losing its influence. Since 1957, when the question was first asked, Americans' perception of religion's power has never been lower.
According to the poll, 75 per cent of Americans said the country would be better off if it were more religious. Only 17 per cent said they had a negative view on this.
The poll does not reflect Americans' personal religiosity, such as church attendance, but rather how large events and trends shape shared views, Newport was quoted as saying by CNN.
For example, the sexual revolution, the Vietnam War and the rise of the counterculture fed the perception that religion was on the wane during the late 1960s, he said.
Views of a secularising America peaked in 1969 and 1970, when 75 per cent of Americans said faith was losing its clout in society. A similar view dominated from 1991-94 and from 2007 to the present.
Americans saw religion increasing its influence in 1957, in 1962 and at a few points during the Reagan presidency in 1980. This number also spiked to its highest point ever — 71 per cent — after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The pollster did not speculate on the contemporary factors that led to the current views on faith's influence.
Still, the poll numbers are dramatically influenced by church attendance, according to Gallup. More than 90 per cent of people who attend church weekly responded that a more religious America would be positive, compared with 58 per cent of Americans who attended church "less often." A total of 1,535 people were sampled for the poll held from May 2 to May 7, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. — PTI
Lahore, June 2
Arora belongs to Narowal district, 80 km from Lahore, and is associated with the Pakistan Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. He took oath along with 340 other lawmakers during the first session of the new Punjab Assembly yesterday.
He was nominated to a seat reserved for minority communities by the PML-N, which has formed governments in Punjab and at the centre after its victory in the May 11 polls.
Arora came to the assembly wearing a white shalwar-kameez and a saffron turban. “It’s a festive occasion for which I have got stitched a special waistcoat, shalwar-kameez and turban,” he told reporters.
“June 1 will be remembered as a special day as it brought a triumph to the local Sikh community and other minorities living peacefully in Pakistan,” he said.
“As the first Sikh to take oath as a lawmaker in the Punjab Assembly since 1947, I am absolutely delighted to be part of this august house. The position certainly comes with a lot of responsibility. I will not only be representing my own community but all minorities in the province,” he said.
Arora said he would work to rehabilitate historical and religious sites of the Sikhs. “Sites sacred to other religions will also be restored through the Evacuee Trust Property Board,” he said.
The reform of the Pakistan Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee was underway and the body will be made more effective and efficient, he said. “I will do the best I can to serve minorities. That is my aim and my party’s policy,” he added.
Arora praised senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal for taking interest in inducting him in the Punjab Assembly. Iqbal represents Narowal in the parliament.
Media reports described Arora’s induction as a member of the provincial assembly as a “historic milestone for the Sikh community”.
Several lawmakers and officials welcomed him when he arrived at the assembly and shook hands with him. Some of Arora’s relatives and friends came to the assembly to watch him taking oath. — PTI
Abuja, June 2
Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi said the seafarers would receive training at Chennai-based AMET University of Maritime Transport.
Akpobolokemi said the training is aimed to place Nigeria in a strategic position to "effectively take control of its coastal trade within the next 10 years." The beneficiaries were enjoined to treat the opportunity given to them by the country and the agency as a rare one by dedicating themselves fully to their studies and be guided by the rules and regulations of the university in addition to the laws of India, Akpobolokemi said.
"President Goodluck Jonathan is interested in the seafarers development programme and the cadets were admonished to be good ambassadors of Nigeria while in India," he said adding that he hopes Nigeria would become a hub of maritime activities in Africa as far as human capacity is concerned.
Many Nigerians have benefitted from government sponsored scholarships in India. In August 2011, 25 Nigerian repentant militants were sent to India to undergo trainings in diving and underwater welding under the African country's post-amnesty programme designed to make the former rebels more relevant in the petroleum sector.
After an education fair held in Nigeria by India in 2012 more than 1,200 Nigerians went to India to study and the high commissioner to the oil-rich African country enthused that he expects this growth to accelerate further after an exhibition held in May 2013. — PTI
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