Harry uses an image taken on evening of his wedding to Meghan Markle.

LONDON: Britain’s royals revealed their 2018 Christmas cards on Friday, with Prince William choosing a relaxed family photo while younger brother Harry used an image taken on the evening of his wedding to US actress Meghan Markle.

The striking black and white picture of Harry and Meghan, who is expecting the couple’s first child in the spring, shows the couple watching fireworks at the reception which followed their wedding at Windsor castle in May.

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people sitting, tree, outdoor and nature

William, second-in-line to the throne, selected a more conventional photo for his card. He was pictured with his wife Kate and their three children, George, 5, Charlotte, 3, and smiling baby Louis at their Amner Hall country residence.

Harry and William’s father, Prince Charles, who celebrated his 70th birthday this year, also released his card, which featured a picture of the British heir with his wife Camilla sitting on a bench in the garden of their London home, Clarence House.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, sitting and outdoor

British tabloids have been full of rumours in recent weeks that the relationship between William and Kate and Harry and Meghan has become strained but all the royals are due to spend Christmas together as per tradition at 92-year-old Queen Elizabeth’s Sandringham residence in eastern England.

 

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Abdullah Abdullah hails Pakistan’s role in reconciliation process in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD: Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Saturday hailed Pakistan’s role in reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

Talking to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Kabul, he thanked Prime Minister Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi for the cooperation being extended by Pakistan to attain peace in his country.

The Afghan chief executive expressed hope that the bilateral relations will touch new heights during the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

On the occasion, the foreign minister said Pakistan would continue playing its positive and constructive role in reconciliatory process in Afghanistan.

He said peace in Afghanistan was important not only for Pakistan and Afghanistan but it would have impact on the entire region. He said both the countries had been dealing with the menace of terrorism for over 40 years.

Read More: FM says Pakistan, China, Afghanistan’s collective role to frustrate enemies of peace

Shah Mehmood Qureshi expressed confidence that the Pakistan-China-Afghanistan trilateral dialogue forum will prove useful for peace and stability in the region and social development.

At the trilateral ministerial dialogue among the three neighbouring countries in Kabul on Saturday, FM Mehmood Qureshi said Pakistan, China and Afghanistan would have to collectively foil the designs of enemies of peace in the region.

He stressed for bolstering regional cooperation in diverse sectors.

Reaffirming commitment to eradication of terrorism, the foreign minister said that better border management between Pakistan and Afghanistan and intelligence sharing would be greatly beneficial for both the countries.

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FM says Pakistan, China, Afghanistan’s collective role to frustrate enemies of peace

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Saturday said Pakistan, China and Afghanistan would have to collectively foil the designs of enemies of peace in the region.

Speaking at the trilateral ministerial dialogue among the three neighbouring countries in Kabul on Saturday, he stressed for bolstering regional cooperation in diverse sectors.

Reaffirming commitment to eradication of terrorism, the foreign minister said that better border management between Pakistan and Afghanistan and intelligence sharing would be greatly beneficial for both the countries.

He said Pakistan will continue to play facilitative role on Afghan reconciliation process.

Read More: FM Qureshi in Kabul for trilateral peace talks with China, Afghanistan

Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Pakistan would do everything to support the growing momentum towards reconciliation provided others play their due role and share responsibility and create an enabling environment towards that end.

He said Pakistan had always supported dialogue process for peaceful resolution of the Afghan conflict. “Our stance has now also been vindicated by the international community,” he said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in his remarks said that his country desired to make the Afghan reconciliation process successful.

He said China would play its role to reduce trust deficit between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Wang Yi said that his country also wanted to further strengthen relations with Afghanistan and desired to make it a part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

He said his country supported an Afghan-led and afghan-owned peace process.

The trilateral ministerial talks will also discuss means to bring the Taliban to negotiations table with the United States.

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US judge rules Obamacare unconstitutional

WASHINGTON: A federal judge in Texas has ruled that the US health care law known as Obamacare is unconstitutional — a ruling that opposition Democrats quickly vowed to appeal.

US District Judge Reed O’Connor’s ruling came on the eve of the Saturday deadline to sign up for 2019 coverage in the federal health care program, known officially as the Affordable Care Act.

The White House said it expects the case to be appealed to the Supreme Court. “Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place,” it said in a statement.

At the US Supreme Court, five justices in the nine-judge court who voted to uphold Obamacare in a separate case in 2012 are still on the bench.

Conservative Republicans have long opposed President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare plan which he signed into law in 2010.

President Donald Trump made abolishing the program one of his main campaign pledges.

The Texas-based judge said that the full Obamacare program was unconstitutional because in last year’s tax overhaul, Congress eliminated a penalty for people who failed to sign up for the program if they did not already have their own health insurance.

The 2012 case was over whether such a penalty was legal — but now that it is gone, O’Connor says the whole Affordable Care Act should be stricken down because that provision is “the keystone” of the program.

President Trump lost no time in tweeting his delight at the court’s ruling on a complaint brought by several Republican attorneys general and two Republican governors.

“Wow, but not surprisingly, ObamaCare was just ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL by a highly respected judge in Texas. Great news for America!” Trump wrote on twitter.

“As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster!” he said.

Trump urged Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic House of Representatives speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi to “pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare.”

‘Monstrous endgame’

Angry Democrats vowed to fight back as they blamed Republicans for what they see as a debacle that will leave millions of Americans without healthcare.

Polls consistently show that the ACA coverage guarantee regardless of pre-existing health conditions has strong popular support — an issue the Democrats used with great success in the recent November midterm elections in which they won control of the House of Representatives.

O’Connor’s late Friday ruling “exposes the monstrous endgame of Republicans’ all-out assault on people with pre-existing conditions and Americans’ access to affordable healthcare,” Pelosi said in a statement.

While the court’s “absurd ruling will be immediately appealed, Republicans are fully responsible for this cruel decision,” she said.

She vowed that when Democrats take over the House of Representatives in January, lawmakers “will move swiftly to formally intervene in the appeals process” to uphold Obamacare.

Opposing the Republican lawsuit were 17 Democratic attorneys general led by Xavier Becerra of California.

They argue that the tax law changes do not mean that the whole Affordable Care Act becomes unconstitutional.

The Texas ruling “is an assault on 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions” and on “the 20 million Americans who rely on the A.C.A.’s consumer protections for healthcare,” Becerra said in a statement.

“Our fight to save Obamacare is far from over. We will continue to fight these efforts to take Americans’ healthcare away,” he tweeted.

 

West Virgina Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, a state where Trump is popular and whose conservative attorney general is one of the lawsuit plaintiffs, issued a statement attacking the ruling as “misguided and inhumane.”

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Pakistan condemns killing of 14 Kashmiris in held-Kashmir

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday strongly condemned the killing of 14 innocent Kashmiris and injuring 200 others by Indian forces in occupied Kashmir.

According to the details, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal said that United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) Commission of Inquiry (COI) is imperative for bringing an immediate halt to Indian state sponsored terrorism and human right abuses in occupied Kashmir.

He said in a tweet that India makes a mockery of human rights everyday in held Kashmir and added that Indian troops killed at least 14 innocent people and injured above 200 over holding protest demonstration in Pulwama.

It is pertinent to mention here that the fresh barbarism of Indian troops in occupied Kashmir martyred 14 Kashmiri youth in Pulwama district on December 15 (today).

According to details, three youth were shot down during a so-called cordon and search operation by Indian officers in Kharpora Sirnoo area of the district.

Following the martyrdom of innocent youth, Kashmiris took to the streets and staged aggressive protests against the atrocities. In response, Indian troops fired bullets, pellets and teargas shells to disperse the protesters, leaving another 11 people dead and dozens others injured.

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Work on forts, fence continues on Pak-Afghan border: DG ISPR

RAWALPINDI: Speedy work on forts and fence along Pakistan-Afghan border, the Durand Line, is continued with the aim to complete the project by December 2019.

Spokesman of armed forces of Pakistan, Director General Inter Services Public Relations Major General Asif Ghafoor on Saturday said work on forts and fence was continued on Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Total length of the border is 2,611 km, he said.

“Work on 233 of 843 forts and 802 of 1200 KM pri 1 areas has been completed. The army is aiming speedy completion in pri 1 areas and overall completion by December 2019, Insha Allah,” he wrote in a tweet.

The DG ISPR said the fence shall benefit peaceful people of Pakistan and Afghanistan while restricting terrorists.

Read More: Federal Cabinet approves fencing of Pak-Afghan border

The federal cabinet in November approved proposal for fencing and lighting of Pak-Afghan border as part of a security measure on the border line.

According to sources, the work on the border fencing will now begin after its approval from the federal cabinet.

It is also pertinent here to mention that a six-member Russian army delegation led by Vice Admiral Osipov lgor Vladimirovich, upon its visit to Pakistan, was briefed on Pakistan Army’s campaign against terrorism and fencing along Pak-Afghan border.

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Minister promises restoration of gas supply in Sindh

KARACHI: Federal Minister for Petroleum Ghulam Sarwar Khan on Saturday announced that the supply of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) will be restored in Karachi and Sindh at around 8PM today, ARY News reported.

Addressing media in Karachi alongside Governor Sindh Imran Ismail, the petroleum minister said that the days long crisis will be over as the supply will be restored to CNG sector at 8PM before he flies off to Islamabad at 9PM.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered me to immediately fly to Karachi and resolve this issue,” said the minister, adding that he will only fly back after resumption of gas to CNG stations in Karachi.

He told media that upon his arrival in the city, he met all stake holders after which he reached an agreement with CNG association.

The minister maintained that the federal government is trying to ensure that Sindh’s industrial sector doesn’t go through gas load shedding, adding that a large number of industries shifted to LNG to survive in Punjab.

It is pertinent to note here that the people of the province continued to suffer owing to closure of CNG pumps for the sixth day on Saturday as SSGC suspended gas supply to CNG stations and power plants of all general industries for an “indefinite period of time.”

The company said it was facing acute shortage of gas and low pressure in the system.

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PIA slashes fares for international flights

KARACHI: The country’s flagship carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on Saturday slashed its fares for a limited time on international flights on the eve of new year.

According to the details, the national flag-carrier has announced special packages for the passengers leaving for Europe, China and Afghanistan from December 14 to 28.

PIA has reduced Rs8,000 on return ticket for Beijing and Rs2,000 for Kabul during December 14 to 28.

The PIA spokesperson said that fares for Paris, Oslo, Copenhagen and Barcelona were slashed by Rs5,000 to Rs6,000.

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No decision about resumption of gas supply to CNG pumps made yet: SSGC

KARACHI: The Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) on Saturday said no decision has been made with regard to resumption of gas supply to CNG pumps in Sindh.

A spokesperson for the SSGC said gas supply would be restored to CNG stations once gas pressure improves.

He said that at least 10 CNG stations which resumed operation without prior permission of the gas utility have been sealed off, adding that gas supply to these CNG pumps will remain suspended for 48 hours.

The people of the province continued to suffer owing to closure of CNG pumps for the sixth day on Saturday as Federal Minister for Petroleum Ghulam Sarwar Khan’s visit to the metropolis to resolve the current gas crisis failed to bear any fruit.

Speaking to media a day earlier, the minister said there was no immediate relief for the citizens in terms of gas supply.

The SSGC earlier this week suspended gas supply to CNG stations and captive power plants of all general industries for an “indefinite period of time.” It said it was facing acute shortage of gas and low pressure in the system.

The SSGC spokesperson had assured that all household consumers will receive gas at all costs, however, after fixing the technical faults in the field, the CNG sector and industries will be supplied gas by the gas company.

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Scientists developed world’s first vaccine to protect bees against disease

HELSINKI: Scientists in Finland have developed what they believe is the world’s first vaccine to protect bees against disease, raising hopes for tackling the drastic decline in insect numbers which could cause a global food crisis.

Bees are vital for growing the world’s food as they help fertilise three out of four crops around the globe, by transferring pollen from male to female flowers.

But in recent years bee populations around the world have been dying off from “colony collapse disorder”, a mysterious scourge blamed on mites, pesticides, virus, fungus, or some combination of these factors.

UN-led research in 2016 found that more than 40 percent of invertebrate pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, are facing extinction.

The study also found that 16.5 percent of vertebrate pollinators, such as birds and bats, are under threat.

Scientists warn that the die-off will result in higher food prices and the risk of shortages.

Medical breakthrough

The vaccine, developed by a team at Helsinki University in Finland, works by giving bees resistance to fight off severe microbial diseases that can be fatal for pollinator communities.

“If we can save even a small part of the bee population with this invention, I think we have done our good deed and saved the world a little bit,” lead researcher Dalial Freitak said.

“Even a two-to-three percent increase in the bee population would be humongous,” she told AFP.

Vaccinating insects was previously thought to be impossible because the creatures lack antibodies, one of the key mechanisms humans and other animals use to fight disease.

But a breakthrough came in 2014 when Freitak, a specialist in insects and immunology, noticed that moths who are fed certain bacteria can in fact pass on immunity to their offspring.

“They could actually convey something by eating. I just didn’t know what the mechanism was,” Freitak said.

“I met with Heli Salmela, who was working on honey bees and a protein called vitellogenin. I heard her talk and I was like, ‘OK, I could make a bet that it is your protein that takes my signal from one generation to another’.”

The pair started to collaborate and created a vaccine against American foulbrood, the most globally widespread and destructive bee bacterial disease.

The treatment is administered to the queen bee via a sugar lump, similar to the way many children are given polio vaccines. The queen then passes the immunity to her offspring, spreading it through the bee community.

As well as working on vaccines against further diseases, the team has also begun trying to raise funding to make the vaccine commercially available, with “very positive” feedback so far, according to Freitak.

“There are many regulatory hurdles. Four to five years until reaching the market is an optimistic estimate,” she said.

Crop growth affected

Diseases are believed to be just one of a number of reasons for the loss of pollinators, alongside pesticides and intensive farming, which reduces the diversity of insects’ nutrition.

But the team believes that protecting bee populations against disease will make them stronger, and therefore better able to withstand the other threats.

The European Union and Canada have voted to introduce bans on insecticides based on neonicotinoids after studies showed the chemicals harmed the ability of bees to reproduce.

UN-backed research in 2016 estimated that up to $577 billion (511 billion euros) worth of food grown every year relies directly on pollinators.

The study said the volume of food produced that depends on pollinators has risen by 300 percent in the last half century.

As pollinator numbers have declined, some farmers have turned to either renting bees or pollinating by hand — as with fruit trees in some parts of China — in order to replace the processes that nature previously provided free of charge.

In Helsinki the project relied on external funding, but the team has now taken up a more secure tenure at Graz University in Austria, where further research on vaccinations will begin early next year.

Graz is also the previous seat of noted zoologist Karl von Frisch, whose discovery that honey bees communicate by performing the figure-of-eight “waggle dance” won him the Nobel Medicine Prize in 1973.

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