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India factor may decide Pakistan’s next army chief: Daily

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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is likely to pick Pakistan’s next army chief from among four generals, and a key factor will be the officer’s views on India, a newspaper said on Sunday.

The four officers in line to succeed incumbent General Raheel Sharif are Lt Gen Zubair Hayat, Lt Gen Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmed, Lt Gen Javed Iqbal Ramday and Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Dawn reported.

The daily quoted an unnamed politician close to the Prime Minister as saying that Nawaz Sharif would consider his working relationship with the officers who have interacted with him frequently.

“In addition, the position of the candidates on political developments in the country … will also be a deciding factor.

“For this, it is said, the Prime Minister will be relying on intelligence reports he has been receiving,” the Dawn added.

It said another consideration likely to be taken into account “would be the prospective candidates’ views on foreign policy issues, particularly ties with India”.

The Prime Minister holds a one-on-one consultation with the army chief on prospective candidates, it said.

“Gen Raheel Sharif would not like to become controversial and would not like the Prime Minister to use his recommendation as an excuse to distort the seniority list,” a retired general was quoted as saying.

Lt Gen Hayat is from the artillery and the serving chief of general staff (CGS). His father retired as a major general while two of his brothers are generals.

Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed is considered to have had a textbook career. He is currently serving as Multan corps commander. He belongs to the Azad Kashmir Regiment.

Lt Gen Ramday now leads the Bahawalpur corps and was previously president of the National Defence University in Islamabad.

Lt Gen Bajwa is considered a dark horse “and someone who needs to be closely watched”, the Dawn said. He has extensive experience of handling affairs in Kashmir and the northern areas of the country.

The Dawn said all the candidates appeared to be evenly poised “and there are no clear front-runners”.

Gen Raheel Sharif is set to retire at the end of November.

World

US pullout from INF Treaty may ruin arms control system: Putin

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Putin

Moscow, Dec 18 Russia will have to take additional measures to boost its security if the US withdraws from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.

US withdrawal from the INF Treaty may ruin the entire arms control system, said the Russian President.

“Such a step will have the most negative consequences, and will noticeably weaken regional and global security,” Putin said while speaking at an extended meeting of the Russian Defence Ministry board, Xinhua news agency reported.

“In fact, in the long term, the talk is about the degradation and even collapse of the entire arms control architecture and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” he added.

For a long time, the US has been using unsubstantiated accusations that Russia had violated its obligations under the treaty as a pretext to withdraw from it unilaterally, thus violating the treaty itself, Putin said.

He agreed that the INF Treaty did not involve other countries which have medium and shorter range missiles.

“But what prevents us from starting negotiations on their accession to the current agreement, or starting to discuss the parameters of a new treaty?” Putin said.

The treaty, in modern conditions, plays the role of a stabilising factor, which allows maintaining a certain level of predictability and restraint in the military sphere, he said.

He recalled that the INF Treaty signed in 1987 involved the elimination of medium-range and shorter-range (500-5,000 km) ground-based missiles. At the time, the USSR had no other missiles, while the US had sea-based and air-launched missiles.

Russia, since the signing of the treaty, has developed sea-based and air-launched missiles, which was the cause for Washington’s concern, Putin said.

According to Putin, it will not be difficult for Russia, if necessary, to create appropriate land-based systems as a response to the US withdrawal from the INF.

However, Russia is always open to any proposals and initiatives that lead to the strengthening of universal security including the prevention of a new arms race in the interests not only of Russia, but of the US and the whole world, Putin said.

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Saturn rings may vanish in 100 million years: NASA

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Saturn

Washington, Dec 18: Saturn is losing its iconic rings at the maximum rate estimated from Voyager 1 and 2 observations made decades ago, confirms new NASA research that estimates that the rings have less than 100 million years to live.

Saturn’s rings are mostly chunks of water ice ranging in size from microscopic dust grains to boulders several yards (metres) across.

The rings are being pulled into Saturn by gravity as a dusty rain of ice particles under the influence of Saturn’s magnetic field.

“We estimate that this ‘ring rain’ drains an amount of water products that could fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool from Saturn’s rings in half an hour,” said lead author of the study James O’Donoghue of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“From this alone, the entire ring system will be gone in 300 million years, but add to this the Cassini-spacecraft measured ring-material detected falling into Saturn’s equator, and the rings have less than 100 million years to live. This is relatively short, compared to Saturn’s age of over four billion years,” O’Donoghue said.

Scientists have long wondered if Saturn was formed with the rings or if the planet acquired them later in life.

The new research favours the latter scenario, indicating that they are unlikely to be older than 100 million years.

“We are lucky to be around to see Saturn’s ring system, which appears to be in the middle of its lifetime. However, if rings are temporary, perhaps we just missed out on seeing giant ring systems of Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, which have only thin ringlets today,” O’Donoghue added.

Various theories have been proposed for the ring’s origin. If the planet got them later in life, the rings could have formed when small, icy moons in orbit around Saturn collided, perhaps because their orbits were perturbed by a gravitational tug from a passing asteroid or comet.

The first hints that ring rain existed came from Voyager observations of seemingly unrelated phenomena: peculiar variations in Saturn’s electrically charged upper atmosphere (ionosphere), density variations in Saturn’s rings, and a trio of narrow dark bands encircling the planet at northern mid-latitudes.

These dark bands appeared in images of Saturn’s hazy upper atmosphere (stratosphere) made by NASA’s Voyager 2 mission in 1981.

The new study revealed glowing bands in Saturn’s northern and southern hemispheres where the magnetic field lines that intersect the ring plane enter the planet.

They analysed the light to determine the amount of rain from the ring and its effects on Saturn’s ionosphere.

They found that the amount of rain matches remarkably well with the astonishingly high values derived more than three decades earlier.

IANS

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France to slap Apple, Google, Facebook with new digital tax in 2019

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France President Macron

San Francisco, Dec 18: In a bid to reform a European Union tax law not bringing the desired results, France is going to introduce from January 1, 2019, a digital tax on technology majors including Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon, the media reported.

The French government’s “GAFA” tax” is being introduced to combat attempts by the firms to avoid paying what is considered a “fair share” of taxes in the country, by taking advantage of European tax laws, Appleinsider reported on Monday.

The new tax regime is expected to bring in an estimated 500 million euro ($570 million) to the country’s cofferes for 2019, according to French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, The Local Fr said in a report.

Major technology companies have come under the scrutiny of lawmakers in countries like France and Britain for allegedly routing profits through operations in countries with extremely low tax rates or other arrangements.

Earlier this year, the European Commission published proposals for a three per cent tax on the revenues of major tech companies with global revenues above 750 million euro a year and taxable EU revenue above 50 million euro, the BBC reported.

But to become law, EU tax reforms need the support of all member states. And some countries, including Ireland, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Finland are yet to come on board to bring the reforms.

IANS

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