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Seven nations isolate Qatar for supporting terrorism

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Dubai, June 5: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, the UAE and the Maldives on Monday severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terror groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. The Gulf country denied the allegations.

The dramatic development followed lingering tensions within the once unified Gulf Cooperation Council. Riyadh closed its land border and snapped sea and air links, triggering a run on supermarkets in Qatar.

The Arab and Gulf nations accused Qatar of destablising the region and claimed Doha had links with the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.

Qatar called the decision “unjustified and based on slander”. “The measures were taken despite there being no evidence to support the accusations lodged against the nation,” Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said.

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called the Gulf rift “an internal matter” and that there was “no insecurity because of this” development.

Some 4.82 million Indians live in the Gulf, including 630,000 in Qatar.

The Saudi Press Agency said Riyadh had closed its borders, severing land, sea and air contacts with Qatar to “protect its national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism”.

Media reports in the Gulf said the diplomatic withdrawal was put into motion by Bahrain, followed quickly by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Yemen and Libya. The Maldives in the Indian Ocean followed suit.

Bahrain, the only Shia-majority Gulf nation ruled by Sunnis, said it was cutting ties because Qatar was “shaking the security and stability of Bahrain and meddling in its affairs”.

It said Qatar supported terrorist activities and armed groups as well as financed Iranian-backed groups responsible of violence in Bahrain.

The UAE accused Qatar of “supporting, funding and embracing terrorism, extremism and sectarian organisations”.

Both Bahrain and the UAE gave Qatari diplomats 48 hours to leave their countries. Saudi Arabia told all Qatari visitors and residents to quit the kingdom in two weeks.

UAE airlines Etihad Airways, Emirates and Flydubai suspended all flights to and from Doha from early Tuesday.

Egypt accused Qatar of taking an “anti-Egyptian course” and said Cairo had been unable to dissuade it from supporting terrorism.

Saudi Arabia and its allies announced they would withdraw their diplomatic staff from Qatar and closed their airspace to Qatar Airways, which suspended all flights to the Saudi kingdom, its neighbour.

Yemen accused Qatar of working with its enemies in the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, state news agency Saba reported.

Kuwait and Oman, however, did not embrace the Saudi decision to isolate Qatar.

Libya alleged that Qatar interfered in its domestic affairs. The Maldives expressed “its firm opposition to activities that encourage terrorism and extremism”.

After the diplomatic upheaval, the Qatari stock market dropped 783 points, 7.89 per cent. According to the Qatar Stock Exchange website, the stock market indicator fell sharply from 9,923 to 9,400, followed by a continued decline to around 9,100 points.

The US urged the Gulf nations to stay united. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called for a dialogue and said it was ready to help defuse the diplomatic row.

Like India, Russia too said the diplomatic crisis was an internal affair.

Monday’s move came after Qatar alleged that hackers last month took over the site of its state-run news agency and published what it called fake comments alleged to be from its ruling emir about Iran and Israel, Al Ahram newspaper reported.

Qatar denied that the comments, in which the country’s leader expressed support for Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and Israel while suggesting that US President Donald Trump may not last in power, were ever made.

In March 2014, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar for its alleged backing of then Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood member.

IANS

World

Make Pluto a planet again, 6-year-old girl urges NASA

Pluto was downgraded from a planet to a dwarf planet in 2006 by the governing body of astronomy, the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

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Six-year-old Cara O'Connor, a student from Cork, Ireland, wrote a letter to NASA asking the space agency to reclassify Pluto as a planet. (Courtesy of Glasheen Girls School)

Washington, Feb 19: Six-year-old Cara O’Connor of Ireland, who dreams of becoming a NASA astronaut one day, wrote a letter to the space agency urging it to reclassify Pluto as a planet, The Washington Post reported this week.

Pluto was downgraded from a planet to a dwarf planet in 2006 by the governing body of astronomy, the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

The decision has not gone down well with Cara and she wants NASA to “fix this problem” for her and “make Pluto a planet again.”

“I listened to a song and at the end of it the song said “Bring Pluto Back” — and I would really like that to happen,” Cara wrote.

She talked about the Kuiper belt, a doughnut-shaped ring beyond Neptune where many dwarf planets are located, the Post reported on Saturday.

“I really think Pluto should be a main planet again like Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus & Neptune, because in one video I watched called ‘Let’s go meet the planets,’ Pluto was at the very end,” she wrote.

In another video, she said, Pluto “was put in the trash can and was scared by planet Earth.”

“This was really mean,” Cara wrote, “because no one or no planet or dwarf planets should be put in the trash can.”

Cara’s plea did not fall on deaf ears as she received a reply from James Green, Director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, who complimented her on her interest in Pluto.

“I agree with you that Pluto is really cool — in fact, who would have believed that Pluto has a heart? … It’s a fascinating world that appears to be constantly changing. To me, it’s not so much about whether Pluto is a dwarf planet or not; it’s that Pluto is a fascinating place that we need to continue to study,” Green wrote.

“I hope that you will discover a new planet, and I trust that if you continue to do well in school we will see you at NASA one of these days,” he added.

IANS

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I should pay significantly higher taxes, says Bill Gates

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New York, Feb 19: Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates has said that he should pay more in taxes and that the government should require other super-wealthy people like him to contribute “significantly higher” amounts.

“I need to pay higher taxes,” Gates, who is worth over $90 billion, said in a CNN interview on Sunday.

“I’ve paid more taxes, over $10 billion, than anyone else, but the government should require the people in my position to pay significantly higher taxes,” he said.

Gates, the second richest man in the world after Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, did not mince his words when it came to the Republican tax law, which cut taxes for corporations.

“It was not a progressive tax bill. It was a regressive tax bill,” Gates said, arguing that the biggest benefits will be felt by the super-rich, despite the Republicans’ insistence that the tax cuts will help America’s working and middle classes.

“People who are wealthier tended to get dramatically more benefits than the middle class or those who are poor, and so it runs counter to the general trend you’d like to see, where the safety net is getting stronger and those at the top are paying higher taxes,” he told CNN.

Asked of how he felt about “rising inequality” in the US, Gates, who has given away more than $40 billion of his personal wealth to charitable causes, said: “All advanced democracies have to think about that.

“You still have about a sixth of the population living in conditions that should be very disappointing to us, and government policies need to really think, ‘Why aren’t we doing a better job for those people?'”

IANS

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Imran Khan gets married for a third time, marries faith healer Bushra Maneka.

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Imran Khan is no more single, and it’s official. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has confirmed that their chairman has tied the knot for a third time.

Photographs of Imran Khan’s Nikah with Bushra Wattoo have been unveiled. The photographs show Imran and a veiled Bushra along with several others, including PTI leaders Awn Chaudhry and Zulfi Bukhari.

On January 3, media was abuzz with reports of the PTI chief having contracted a third Nikah with the lady he used to visit for spiritual guidance.

But the party said that the Nikah ceremony was solemnised in Lahore on Sunday by Mufti Saeed.

Party spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry has wished the couple a happy married life.

PHOTO: EXPRESS

After much drama, Imran had broken his silence about his third marriage last month, clarifying that he had only sent a wedding proposal to Bushra and was awaiting her response.

According to a statement issued by the spokesperson for the PTI chief, Imran had sent a marriage proposal and the lady had sought time to consult her family, especially her children, before making any decision.

The statement insisted that the PTI chief would announce it publicly if Bushra accepted the marriage proposal.

PHOTO: EXPRESS

Last month, a local newspaper had claimed that Imran had already married for a third time and the woman in question was someone he used to visit for spiritual guidance.

The report also claimed that the wedding was held in Lahore on January 1 and was attended by Imran’s close aides.

In response, the PTI said an extremely private and sensitive matter was made the subject of an erroneous story leading to all manner of public conjecture.

“This has put an unacceptable burden, especially on the children of Bushra and Khan, who have had to learn of such a private and intimate issue from the media,” the statement said.

Stressing the need for restraint, Imran had urged the media to “give the two families, especially the children, their privacy”.

Imran Khan was previously married twice, but neither of his marriages lasted. He married Jemima Goldsmith, a British socialite, in 1995. The relationship ended in divorce in 2004. He then married journalist Reham Khan in 2015, but the marriage ended after just 10 months.

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