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Cladding on 120 tower blocks failed safety tests, says May




London, June 29: British Prime Minister Theresa May said that cladding on over 100 high-rise buildings had failed fire safety tests.

May on Wednesday made her comments as part of the weekly session of the government’s question time in Parliament, Efe news reported.

“As of this morning, the cladding from 120 tower blocks across the country, in 37 local authority areas had been tested, and had failed the combustibility test,” May said.

The buildings underwent safety tests in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in west London, which left 79 people dead or missing when the 24-floor residential building was ravaged by a blaze.

In her debut question time appearance since the general election of June 8, May urged local authorities to carry out safety checks on buildings that they own.

“Given the 100-per cent failure rate,” May said, local authorities and housing associations “should not wait for test results,” but should get on with fire safety checks and take necessary action.

The Conservative leader the day before called for a national investigation into the use of flammable materials in the cladding used on public housing blocks in Britian.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, for his part, pointed out cuts in the number of firefighters across the country and said the Grenfell fire had exposed “the disastrous effects of austerity”.

“I urge the Prime Minister to come up with the resources needed to test and remove cladding,” Corbyn said.

London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed that the Grenfell blaze that began early on June 14 started “in a fridge freezer”, before rapidly spreading to the other floors.

In recent days, residents of similar tower blocks in London have been moved to alternative accommodation over safety concerns.



Donald Trump wants death penalty for drug traffickers



Donald Trump

Washington, March 20: President Donald Trump has said that he would ask for the death penalty for certain “really bad” convicted drug traffickers and will try to toughen sentencing guidelines in an attempt to fight the opioid epidemic that takes 175 lives per day in the US.

On Monday, Trump travelled to New Hampshire to present his plan to deal with the opioid crisis that will have the Department of Justice request the death penalty for drug traffickers although current law does not allow it, reports Efe news.

“This scourge of drug addiction in America will stop,” Trump said in a speech in Manchester.

“It will stop. Failure is not an option. We will raise a drug-free generation of American children.”

Trump and First Lady Melania Trump were accompanied by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and several cabinet members to launch the administration’s “Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse” at the Manchester Community College.

“We have to get tough on these people,” said Trump.

“These are terrible people, and that toughness includes the death penalty. They will kill thousands of people in their lifetime, and yet they get caught and go away for 30 days.

“This isn’t about nice anymore… No more ‘let’s have everyone go to a blue ribbon committee and get a medal.’ This is about a very tough problem. If we don’t get tough on these dealers, we are not going to win this battle. I don’t want to leave at the end of seven years and still have this problem,” he said.

Trump said that it was “possible” that Americans might not be prepared to impose the death penalty on all drug traffickers, as some other nations do.

The event was attended by more than 250 community members, law enforcement officials, first responders and local families affected by the opioid crisis.

Also in the audience were New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu.

Sessions confirmed in a statement that his department will utilise federal law to seek the death penalty “when appropriate”.

US law permits applying the death penalty only in cases of murders linked to drug trafficking or drugs, according to the independent Death Penalty Information Centre.

The Trump administration also had considered imposing capital punishment on people who traffic even small quantities of fentanyl, a dangerous synthetic opioid used as a painkiller.

Current anti-drug law establishes penalties of up to 20 years behind bars for small traffickers and reserves a term of life in prison for especially serious cases.

According to US Centres for Disease Control figures, 64,000 people died of opioid overdoses in in 2016.


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Afghan government’s peace offer to Taliban

China and the European Union believe the Taliban should accept Ghani’s offer to recognize the movement as a legitimate political group.



Ashraf Ghani

US is concerned over the increasing number of high-profile attacks in Kabul orchestrated by Taliban that is aimed at undermining the Afghan government and international resolve to bring peace to war-torn Afghanistan after 16 years of war as Jakarta is preparing to host a trilateral conference where religious scholars from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Indonesia would seek to establish peace and security, and the end of terrorism.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has assured unconditional talks to the Taliban and offered to recognize the group as a political party. The president also offered to provide passports to Taliban members and their families, along with an office in Kabul, but the Afghan Taliban remains skeptical about the Indonesia conference.

Kabul is our main effort. To harden Kabul, to protect the people of Kabul and the international community that are here,” US General John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan stated.

To defeat ISIS and Taliban, Washington has shifted resources from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan by adopting the regional approach, Considering the complexities of political realities in Afghanistan, US is working to achieve a reconciliation, a political reconciliation, not a military victory.

As regards with strategic framework of U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s South Asia strategy unveiled in August 2017, it was hoped that Ghani would embark on a path toward more inclusive politics by shaping a broad-based consensus to prepare the grounds for the success of the new U.S. strategy.

General John Nicholson, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan said the United States held a series of private talks with Pakistani officials about the elimination of insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan.

US asserted that the recent pressure applied to Pakistan has not resulted in the reduction of violence in Afghanistan and reiterated that Washington will take steps to cut the aid coming from Pakistan to the Taliban and other groups.

Meanwhile, Head of Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has called on the Taliban to accept government’s peace offer.Hekmatyar said he has sent a peace outline to government and to the Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada and asked him to use the opportunity and join the peace process.

According to Hekmatyar, war is of no benefit to anyone and only the Afghan people are victims of the ongoing conflict. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reaffirmed NATO’s support of an Afghan-led peace deal. “I commend President Ghani for his courageous leadership. His offer to the Taliban is the clearest invitation to peace yet. So I call on the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. There is an opportunity now to end the conflict”, he added.

China and the European Union believe the Taliban should accept Ghani’s offer to recognize the movement as a legitimate political group.

Arti Bali

Sr Journalist

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Republicans warn Trump over Mueller’s Russia inquiry

The warnings came after Trump on Sunday morning criticised Mueller on Twitter, one day after his lawyer John Dowd issued a statement saying he prays for the Justice Department to end the special counsel’s investigation.



Donald Trump

Washington, March 19: Key Republicans have warned President Donald Trump not to interfere with special counsel Robert Mueller and his team’s ongoing probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the media reported.

The warnings came after Trump on Sunday morning criticised Mueller on Twitter, one day after his lawyer John Dowd issued a statement saying he prays for the Justice Department to end the special counsel’s investigation.

In his tweets, Trump reiterated that there had been “no collusion” between his team and Russia and called the probe a “witch hunt”.

He added that it was dominated by “hardened Democrats”.

Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake on Sunday told CNN that he expected his colleagues in Congress to push back on the President’s comments on Mueller and any potential move to force the end of the probe.

“I mean, talking to my colleagues all along it was, you know, once he goes after Mueller, then we’ll take action,” Flake said.

He called Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ firing of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe late Friday, who was ousted a little over 24 hours before he was to retire, as a “horrible day for democracy”.

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said that he continues to believe that any attempt to fire Mueller would be catastrophic for Trump.

“If he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency,” Graham told CNN.

Graham also said the Senate Judiciary Committee should conduct a public hearing on the firing of McCabe for the sake of transparency.

Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio told NBC News: “I remain confident that the special counsel is going to conduct a probe that is fair and thorough and is going to arrive at the truth…”

Meanwhile, Democrat leaders also voiced their disapproval of Trump’s tweet.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and California Democratic Representative Adam Schiff both called on their Republican colleagues to temper the President.

Also on Sunday, White House lawyer Ty Cobb said in a statement: “In response to media speculation… The White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel,” the BBC reported.


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