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India & Pak should work together to solve the problem: Kerry

(Washington, Jan 4, 2016): US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to Pakistani Finance Minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar over phone on Indus Water Treaty issue and encouraged both the South Asian neighbours to work together to resolve their differences.

"I can confirm that he (Kerry) did speak on the 29th of December with Finance Minister Dar.

"I am not going to read that out in any great detail," State Department spokesperson John Kirby told reporters at his daily news conference.

"The Indus Waters Treaty has served, as a model for peaceful cooperation between India and Pakistan for now 50 years.

"We encourage, as we have in the past, India and Pakistan to work together to resolve any differences," Kirby said.

However, he refused to entertain questions on if the US has offered help to India and Pakistan resolve the issue.

"As I said, we encourage India and Pakistan to work together bilaterally to resolve their differences," he said.

"We are in regular communication with the Indian and Pakistani governments on a wide range of issues," Kirby said.

Earlier, Pakistan had sought support of the US on the implementation of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) with India even as Secretary of State John Kerry had called for an amicable settlement of the issue between New Delhi and Islamabad. (PTI)

5 Indian Americans take oath as members of Congress

(Washington, Jan 4, 2016): Creating history for a minority ethnic community that comprises just one per cent of the US population, five Indian Americans took oath as members of the Congress.

52yearold Kamala Harris whose mother was from India and father from Jamaica of African heritage, was sworn in yesterday as the Senator from California by the outgoing US Vice President Joe Biden. She is the first Indian American to have ever served in the Senate.

She was accompanied by her husband Doug Emhoff, sister Maya Harris and other members of her immediate family members during the swearing in ceremony.

Harris, who before the swearing in held the position of California Attorney General replaced Senator Barbara Boxer, who decided against seeking reelection. She is one of the seven new Senators to have taken office in the new Congress.

"Today I was swornin to the US Senate. I am humbled and honoured to serve you and the people of California. Let's get to work," Harris said immediately thereafter.

After her elections, she has made it clear that her top priority would be to fight out the alleged divisive policies of the Republicans who are now in majority in both the House of Representative and the Senate.

A few hours later, the focus of the community shifted to the House Chambers wherein as many as four Indian Americans were sworn in as its members, including Congressman Ami Bera, who has been reelected for the third consecutive term.

In the process he equalled the record of Dalip Singh Saundh, who exactly 60years ago became the first Indian American to be elected as a member of the US Congress.

Joining Bera were young and dynamic Ro Khanna (40) representing the Silicon Valley. He was sworn in on a bicentennial edition of the Constitution on loan from the rare books division of the Library of Congress.

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, 42, who won the election from Illinois took the oath on Gita. He is only the second US lawmaker after Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii to take the oath on a Gita. Gabbard, the first ever Hindu to be elected to the US Congress took the oath for third consecutive term. (PTI)

Trump ripped into Australian leader on call: report

Washington, Feb,2,2017 :President Donald Trump ripped into his Australian counterpart during their call last week, reports said, castigating a refugee accord he later described on Twitter as a "dumb deal."

The Washington Post said Trump abruptly cut short the fiery conversation after criticising the agreement to resettle people kept in Pacific camps, sparking a war of words with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today after the report surfaced.

Australia is considered a close US ally one of the socalled "Five Eyes" with which the US routinely shares sensitive intelligence and the call might have been expected to be smooth sailing.

But, according to the Post, Trump's assessment was the opposite.

Of his four conversations with world leaders that day "This was the worst call by far," it cited him as telling Turnbull, shortly before he terminated the telephone meeting.

Australian government sources told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation the report was "substantially accurate".

Turnbull said he was disappointed details of the "very frank and forthright" exchange had been leaked.

"As far as the call is concerned I'm very disappointed that there has been a leak of purported details of the call in Washington," he told Sydney radio station 2GB.

"But I want to make one observation about it the report that the president hung up is not correct. The call ended courteously."

He added that Canberra had "very, very strong standards in the way we deal with other leaders and we are not about to reveal details of conversations other than in a manner that is agreed".

The Post's account is markedly different from the official readout of the call provided by both governments.

Turnbull said Monday that Trump had agreed to honor the deal struck with then president Barack Obama to resettle an unspecified number of the 1,600 people Australia holds in offshore processing centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

There were fears the new US president would rescind it after he signed an executive order last week to suspend the arrival of refugees to the US for a least 120 days, and bar entry for three months to people from seven Muslimmajority countries.

After the Post story broke late Wednesday, Trump weighed in on Twitter and threw the agreement into doubt.

Kuwait imposes visa ban on five Muslim-majority nations including Pak

Moscow, Feb,2,2017:Tourism, trade, and visitor visas from the above mentioned nations have been restricted following an order from the Kuwaiti Government to slap a "blanket ban" on possible migrants, according to Sputnik News.

The Kuwaiti Government has asked wouldbe migrants from the five banned nations not to apply for visas, as Kuwait City is worried about the possible migration of radical Islamic terrorists.

A group of militants bombed a Shia mosque in 2015, killing 27 Kuwaiti nationals. A 2016 survey conducted by Expat Insider ranked Kuwait one of the worst nations in the world for expatriates, primarily due to its strict cultural laws.

Kuwait was the only nation to prohibit the entry of Syrian nationals prior to Trump's executive action. Kuwait City previously issued a suspension of visas for all Syrians in 2011.

Trump Imposes New Sanctions on Iran as Tehran Vows to Retaliate

Washington, Feb 4, 2017: The U.S. imposed fresh sanctions on Iran as President Donald Trump sought to punish Tehran for its ballistic missile program, prompting a warning from the Islamic Republic that it will respond in kind.

The Treasury Department published a list Friday of 13 individuals and 12 entities facing new restrictions for supporting the missile program, having links to terrorism or providing support for Iran’s hardline Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The entities include companies based in Tehran, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and China.

In response, Iran “will take action against a number of American individuals and companies that have played a role in generating and supporting extremist terrorist groups in the region or have helped in the killing and suppression of defenseless people in the region,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement published by the staterun Islamic Republic News Agency. It said the targets of its sanctions will be named later.

The Trump administration has sought to take a harder line on Iran, banning its citizens from entering the U.S. and accusing the nation of interfering in the affairs of U.S. allies in the Middle East. But the U.S. sanctions announced Friday were limited in scope, serving mostly as a warning signal.

“These are not major players,” Sam Cutler, a sanctions lawyer at Horizon Client Access in Washington, said of those on the list. “It seems to be a followup on a previous action that the Obama administration took in terms of identifying people in existing networks that had been previously sanctioned. I see this as consistent with prior policy rather than anything new, the rhetoric notwithstanding.”

The sanctions wouldn’t affect a deal signed between Boeing Co. and Iran’s national carrier in December, according to a Trump administration official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity. The agreement to sell 80 planes is valued at $16.6 billion and is the first of its kind since 1979.

“This action reflects the United States’ commitment to enforcing sanctions on Iran with respect to its ballistic missile program and destabilizing activities in the region,” the Treasury Department said in its statement. It called the actions “fully consistent” with a nuclear accord Iran reached with the U.S. and five other world powers.

While Trump’s decision to take action against Iran early in his administration pleased U.S. lawmakers in both parties who were never comfortable with President Barack Obama’s tentative rapprochement with Iran, it could unsettle domestic Iranian politics as President Hassan Rouhani seeks reelection in May.

“With the increase in sanctions, the perception that the U.S. might be rolling back on the Iran deal and the antiIran mood that is emerging in Washington will further empower hardliners in Iran, where the rhetoric will be, ‘we told you so these people cannot be trusted,” said Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center.

Putin 'ready to provide recording' of Lavrov-Trump exchange

(Sochi, May 17,2017):Russian President Vladimir Putin said today that Moscow could provide a recording of the exchange between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US President Donald Trump, who is accused of sharing classified intelligence.

"If the US administration finds it possible, we are ready to provide a recording of the conversation between Lavrov and Trump to the US Congress and Senate," Putin said during a press conference.

He mocked the idea that Trump went offscript to share secrets with the Russians, saying he could issue a "reprimand" to Lavrov since he hasn't passed on the information.

"(Lavrov) didn't share these secrets with us neither with me nor with the representatives of the Russian security services. That is very bad of him," Putin said to sniggers from the audience as he answered questions after talks with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni in the southern Russian city of Sochi.

Citing unnamed sources, The Washington Post reported that Trump had shared intelligence with Lavrov regarding an Islamic State group terror threat related to the use of laptop computers on airplanes.

According to sources cited in the report, that intelligence came from a US ally who had not authorised Washington to pass it on to Moscow.

Putin slammed critics who spread allegations about Trump's ties with Russia.

"What else will the people generating such drivel and nonsense think of next?" he said. "They are shaking up their internal politics while using antiRussian slogans."

"They either don't understand that they are hurting their own country, and then they are simply dumb, or they understand everything and then they are dangerous and corrupt," Putin added.

Ransomware: Is North Korea behind the global cyber-attack?

(Washington, May 16,2017):As the world struggles to identify the cybercriminals behind the global ransowmware attack that hit 150 countries over the weekend, Neel Mehta, an Indianorigin security researcher working with Google, has claimed on Twitter that the hackers may have links to North Korea.

According to Mehta`s discovery, the "Lazarus Group" that works on behalf of North Koreans may be behind the attack as the hacking group has, in the past, used the same coding and tools as were used in "WannaCrypt" the software used in the current hacking into the Microsoft operating software, the BBC reported on Tuesday.

Mehta, a University of British Columbia graduate who earlier worked with IBM Internet Security Systems, posted "codes" on Twitter, potentially pointing at a connection between the "WannaCrypt" ransomware attacks and the malware attributed to the infamous "Lazarus Group", responsible for a series of devastating attacks against government organisations, media and financial institutions.

"Our researchers analysed this information, identified and confirmed clear code similarities between the malware sample highlighted by the Google researcher and the malware samples used by the `Lazarus Group` in 2015 attacks," Altaf Halde, Managing Director of Kaspersky Lab (South Asia), told IANS.

"Neel Mehta`s discovery is the most significant clue to date regarding the origins of WannaCrypt," Kaspersky Lab added.

In 2014, Mehta uncovered the "Heartbleed" security bug that left millions of websites, online stores and social networks with a major security hole in place, exposing user information and financial information to hackers.

"Lazarus Group", that according to Mehta is based in China, was responsible for a major hack on Sony Pictures in 2014 and another on a Bangladeshi bank in 2016.

Kaspersky Lab, however, noted that a lot more information was needed about earlier versions of "WannaCrypt" before any firm conclusion could be reached.

"We believe it`s important that other researchers around the world investigate these similarities and attempt to discover more facts about the origin of `WannaCrypt`," the cyber security company added.

Though North Korea has never admitted any involvement in the Sony Pictures hack, security researchers and the US government are confident in the theory and neither can rule out the possibility of a false flag.

"Although this similarity alone doesn`t allow proof of a strong connection between the `WannaCrypt` ransomware and the `Lazarus Group`, it can potentially lead to new ones which would shed light on the `WannaCrypt` origin which to the moment remains a mystery," Halde noted.

There are possibilities that skilled hackers might have simply made the hack look like it had origins in North Korea by using similar techniques.

Kaspersky noted that false flags within "WannaCrypt" were "possible" but "improbable", as the shared code was removed from later versions.

There is another possibility that "Lazarus Group" may be working independently and without the instructions from North Korea, the report added.

Meanwhile, the White House said on Monday that less than $70,000 has been paid in the ransomware attack globally.

"We are not aware of payments that have led to any data recovery," White House Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert said at a daily briefing.

Specially, no US federal systems are affected, he said.

Gunmen attack state TV in eastern Afghanistan, 10 killed

(Kabul, May 17,2017):Gunmen stormed the local headquarters of Afghanistan's state media in the eastern Nangarhar province on Wednesday, setting off clashes that killed 10 people, officials said.

Inamullah Miakhial, a spokesman for the provincial hospital in Nangarhar, said four state TV employees and two police officers were among those killed, and that 18 other people were wounded.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said four attackers were killed in the assault, which began with an explosion, followed by a gun battle with Afghan security forces.

The state media building is close to the governor's compound and a police station. Video footage from Jalalabad showed hundreds of Afghan security forces fanning out across the city, where shops were closed.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack. Both the Taliban and an Islamic State affiliate are active in Nangarhar, a mountainous province that borders Pakistan. Elsewhere in Afghanistan, three civilians were killed in separate bomb blasts, according to officials.

Qais Qadri, spokesman for the governor of eastern Kapisa province, said two civilians were killed and two others were wounded in a bomb blast late Tuesday in the Nijrab district.

Samim Khpolwak, spokesman for the governor of the southern Kandahar province, said a civilian was killed and 10 people were wounded, including three policemen, in a double bombing in the provincial capital.

No one immediately claimed either attack. The Taliban have stepped up their attacks since announcing their spring offensive last month.

Manning leaves U.S. prison seven years after giving secrets to WikiLeaks

(Kansas, May 17,2017):Chelsea Manning walked out of a U.S. military prison on Wednesday, seven years after being arrested for passing secrets to WikiLeaks in the largest breach of classified information in U.S. history.

Manning, 29, was released from the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, at about 2 a.m., the U.S. Army said in a brief statement.

"First steps of freedom!!" Manning wrote alongside a photograph of sneakerclad feet that she published on social media.

Manning was convicted of providing more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to WikiLeaks, an international organization that publishes such information from anonymous sources, while she was an intelligence analyst in Iraq.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a target of criminal investigations in Sweden and the United States, had promised to accept extradition if Manning was freed. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said Assange's arrest was a priority.

Former U.S. president Barack Obama, in his final days in office, commuted the final 28 years of Manning's 35year sentence, effective four months later. That decision angered national security experts who say Manning put U.S. lives at risk, but it won praise from transgender advocates who have embraced her transition to a female gender identity.

Once known as Private First Class Bradley Manning, she is likely to become a highprofile transgender advocate, said Chase Strangio, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who has represented her.

Manning announced her gender transition while the U.S. Army was keeping her in the men's prison and forcing her to wear a male haircut. She twice tried to commit suicide and faced long stretches of solitary confinement as well as denial of healthcare, Strangio said.

Last year, the U.S. Defense Department lifted a longstanding ban against transgender men and women serving openly in the military. The Pentagon estimated it affected 7,000 activeduty and reserve personnel.

Although transgender people still complain of widespread discrimination in education, employment and medical care, awareness of the issue has exploded since Manning went to jail. Transgender celebrities such as Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox have become part of the mainstream.

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