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Islamabad High Court rejects Nawaz Sharif, Maryam’s bail plea

Justice Muhammad Bashir of the Islamabad Accountability Court, Who Sentenced Nawaz Sharif to 10 years in jail in a graft case, has recused himself from hearing other to graft cases: Al-Azizia steel mills and the Flagship corruption cases

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Islamabad, July 17 : The Islamabad High Court on Tuesday rejected the bail plea of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz and upheld the 10-year jail term for the PML-N leader and his daughter.

A Pakistani anti-corruption court judge who had sentenced Nawaz Sharif to 10 years in jail in a graft case, has recused himself from hearing two other corruption cases against the former prime minister.The move came on the heels of Khawaja Haris  filing of separate appeals by Sharif, 68, his daughter Maryam, 44, and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar, challenging the verdict.

He also filed another appeal  to transfer of two more corruption cases pending — Al-Azizia and Flagship — before accountability court Judge Mohammad Bashir.

The court, while hearing the petition filed by Sharif’s counsel Khawaja Haris, said the ex-premier and Maryam have been convicted under serious charges of graft and fixed the last week of July as the next date of hearing.

A two-judge bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday issued notice to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to submit response on appeals of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar against their conviction in the Avenfield properties reference.

The division bench comprising Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kyani and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb took up their appeals seeking to set aside the accountability court judgment that awarded 10 years imprisonment to Sharif, seven years to Maryam and one year to Captain (retd) Safdar.

Justice Muhammad Bashir of the Islamabad Accountability Court, in a letter addressed to Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Anwar Khan Kasi, said that the Al-Azizia steel mills and the Flagship corruption cases should be transferred to some other judge, according to the IHC sources.

In the letter, the judge said that he had no objection if the cases were transferred as he could not hear these cases, they said.

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Sri Lanka’s disputed PM Rajapaksa resigns amid crisis

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Mahinda Rajapaksa

Colombo, Dec 15: Sri Lanka’s disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned on Saturday, seven weeks after he was appointed in a surprise move that sparked a political crisis in the island nation.

The former strongman signed his resignation letter, surrounded by his party members at his official residence in the capital, television footage showed.

Rajapaksa’s resignation is likely to bring to an end a nearly two-month-long power struggle and will pave way for a new government to be established under President Maithripala Sirisena.

Sri Lanka plunged into political turmoil when Sirisena abruptly sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on October 26 and replaced him with former President Rajapaksa.

Wickremesinghe is now expected to return to office on Sunday. “The President has agreed to swear in Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister tomorrow at 10 am,” his United National Party’s spokesman Harin Fernando told the BBC.

Fernando said this would end the political deadlock, remarking that the the country and its economy had suffered “huge damage” since the crisis began 50 days ago.

Rajapaksa’s son, Namal, said his father had quit to ensure national stability.

IANS

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Rocket Lab to launch 10 NASA CubeSats on Sunday

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Nasa-wefornews

Washington, Dec 15: In its first mission for NASA, the American aerospace manufacturer Rocket Lab is set to launch 10 small research satellites, or CubeSats, from New Zealand, the US space agency said.

Owing to bad weather, Rocket Lab was forced to postpone the earlier decided launch on December 12.

Rocket Lab is now targeting the ELaNa-19 launch on December 15 with a launch window opening at 11 p.m. EST from the company’s launch complex on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, NASA said in a statement on Friday.

The CubeSats were built by three NASA centres, seven universities, and a middle school under the NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites, or (ELaNa-19) mission.

ElaNa-19 is NASA’s first to be completely dedicated to launching CubeSats under the agency’s Venture Class Launch Services program for small-satellite launches.

More than 250 students have been involved in the design, development and construction of the CubeSats scheduled to be flown as payloads on Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket.

“The major difference between today’s launch and previous #ELaNa missions is that for the first time, NASA will have a launch completely dedicated to CubeSats rather than having the small satellites ride along with a much larger spacecraft that is the primary mission,” NASA Launch Services Program officials wrote on Twitter on December 12.

The 10 CubeSats are named as CubeSail, CeREs, NMTSat, CHOMPTT, ALBus, STF-1, ISX, RSat, Shields-1 and DaVinci, NASA said.

These are built to standard dimensions of one unit (1U), and can be 1U, 2U, 3U or 6U in size. They generally weigh less than 1.33 kg per U — 6U may be up to 12 kg.

They will be placed in RailPODs aboard the Electron rocket that will ferry them to space.

After the main payload deploys, the CubeSats will separate from their RailPODs. After 45 minutes in orbit, the CubeSat transmitters will turn on and university ground stations will listen for their beacons, determine their small satellites’ functionality and announce operational status.

CubeSat mission durations and orbital life vary but are anticipated to last at least three years. Upon mission completion, the CubeSats fall to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere, NASA noted.

IANS

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Wall Street collapses, S&P 500 ends at lowest since April

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Wall Street

New York, Dec 15: US stocks fell sharply on Friday as investors grew concerns over a possible slowdown of the global economy and a slew of corporate news.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 496.87 points, or 2.02 percent, to 24,100.51. The S&P 500 decreased 50.59 points, or 1.91 percent, to 2,599.95. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 159.67 points, or 2.26 percent, to 6,910.66, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Dow slumped more than 550 points at its low during the session and dived to its lowest close since May.

The S&P 500 dipped to its lowest closing level since April. All the 11 primary S&P 500 sectors closed lower, with health and technology down 3.37 percent and 2.48 percent, respectively, leading the laggards.

After Friday’s steep sell-off, the tech-heavy Nasdaq is now just up 0.11 percent for the year.

The Cboe Volatility index, widely considered the best fear gauge in the stock market, rose 4.75 percent to 21.63 on Friday.

Global markets were in risk-off mode with investors simply trying to limit performance damage rather than reach for outperformance, according to some analysts.

“Traders are again selling shares of profitable trades before the closing of the year. There isn’t a great deal of volume in stock trading today, so that means there is less resistance against the pressure from sellers today,” John Monaco, a trader at Wellington Shields & Co. LLC, told Xinhua.

Meanwhile, a strong U.S. dollar also complicated the situation. The U.S. dollar rose in late trading on Friday.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against six major peers, rose 0.39 percent to 97.4441 at 3:00 p.m. (2000 GMT).

“Today’s lower market index seems to be derived from another day of strong U.S. currency. The U.S. dollar’s strength must be monitored closely as too much strength in the dollar hurts global corporate profits,” said John.

Wall Street also digested a slew of corporate news.

Shares of Johnson & Johnson, a Dow member, plunged more than 10 percent on Friday after Reuters reported the company knew about asbestos in its baby powder for decades.

Apple stock slid 3.2 percent after top analysts from TF International Securities cut iPhone shipment estimates by 20 percent.

On the economic front, U.S. retail sales increased 0.2 percent last month, led by online stores, the Commerce Department said on Friday. The reading beat market expectations.

Meanwhile, U.S. industrial production rose 0.6 percent in November, topping market forecasts as gains in mining and utilities offset declines in manufacturing, according to the Federal Reserve.

IANS

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