McDonnell: £37bn paid to shareholders should have been invested

Billions received by shareholders of privatised utilities could have helped reduce prices, says shadow chancellor

More than £37bn has been paid to shareholders of privatised rail, telecoms, energy and water companies which could have been invested in public services, according to the shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

The figure comes from new research by the Labour party into the tens of billions privatised companies have paid out to shareholders in companies such as Royal Mail, Centrica and the National Grid.

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Thailand to require fingerprints, face scans for SIM cards

BANGKOK: Face-scans or fingerprints will be needed to buy SIM cards in Thailand from next month as the kingdom tries to crack down on electronic fraud and encourage mobile banking.

The new biometric system — which follows similar requirements in Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan — will begin on December 15, according to the telecoms regulator.

“We’re entering the digital age, our money now is linked to mobile services. By doing this, trust in mobile banking or payment systems will be improved,” said Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

“Some people used fake ID to register their SIM cards, which created a problem,” he added, assuring users their privacy would be protected. The face and fingerprint scans will be matched to government data linked to Thai national ID cards.

Thailand’s political activity ban stays for now – PM

Tourists will also be required to have face-scans checked against their passport photos. Thailand launched a pilot scheme in June in its insurgency-torn ‘Deep South’, where ethnic Malay rebels have used mobile phones to trigger bombs.

“After a trial in the most concerned areas of the country, people liked it, especially the security officials,” Korkij Danchaivichit, the NBTC’s deputy secretary-general, told AFP.

The lack of regulation in Thailand’s SIM card market was highlighted in June when police arrested three Chinese men who had managed to buy nearly 400,000 Thai SIM cards for a “click farm” operation.

The trio told officers they were hired by Chinese companies to boost “likes” for a number of products through the hundreds of smartphones they had hooked up to a computer.

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For Amazon tribe, rainforest is a whole world

WAIãPI: When Japarupi Waiapi looks into the dense foliage of the Amazon rainforest, he sees the equivalent of a supermarket, pharmacy, furniture store – and that’s just the beginning.

Food like coconuts, roots and bananas grows plentifully. Animals and fish are readily available for hunting, and the bark of many trees has medicinal uses.

Just in terms of different wood types, “we see thatch for our roofs, we see bows, we see arrow heads,” Japarupi Waiapi, 45, says in the heart of Waiapi tribal land in eastern Brazil. Add to that palm for weaving backpacks, calabash for making bowls, reeds to use as drinking straws, banana leaves as table cloths, animal bones for tools – and all this literally there for the taking.

Amazon and Gabo come to capital

“We don’t depend on commerce or money,” Japarupi Waiapi says, explaining the tribe’s ancient, self-sufficient way of life, living in isolation from Brazil’s white settlers. “I tell my son: never put out your hand to the white man. Rely on the forest. Rely on the rivers.”

The Waiapi also believe that just as the planet’s biggest rainforest looks after them, their tribe of 1,200 people is uniquely positioned to guard the Amazon, crucial to regulating global climate, for the rest of the world. For decades, the Waiapi and other indigenous tribes have been under pressure from miners, ranchers and loggers, who consider the ‘Indians’, as they are universally known in Brazil, a nuisance at best.

Pressure intensified this August when President Michel Temer declared a vast protected reserve around Waiapi territory, called Renca, open to foreign mining. Temer had to retreat a month later in the face of withering criticism from environmentalists.

But the Waiapi say they will keep watch as long as they live. “This forest we’re in – we’re the ones who preserve it,” said Tapayona Waiapi, 36, who lives at the edge of tribe’s territory. Hiking into the rainforest, tribesmen warned reporters to keep their eyes peeled for hazards.

One spindly, innocuous-looking plant was said to be so poisonous that the tribesmen, wearing only red loincloths, avoided even getting close. “This is the Amazon – there could be anything,” Jawaruwa Waiapi, 31, said. But for those who know where to look, the forest is more friend than foe.

Akitu Waiapi, 24, stopped every 20 yards meters to point out the benefits of yet another tree. The bark from one helps cure diarrhea, another lowers fever, while a third aids the scarring process.

Many of the trees had already had strips of bark removed. “There are a lot of medicinal elements in the forest and when people need them they just come and get them,” Akitu Waiapi said.

Invisible, but just as present for the animist Waiapi are the spirits inhabiting trees and rivers and animals. The tribesmen pointed out one of the giants of the forest, the Dinizia excelsa tree, a hardwood which the Waiapi call peyryry.

Forests die out as chocolate industry flourishes

The tree, flanked by massive roots, rose as broad and tall as a castle tower. “That one has a whole invisible community (of spirits),” Jawaruwa Waiapi said. “There’s everything in there. We can’t see it.”

Ironically, Waiapi agriculture relies on cutting down trees, but they do this sustainably. Like many other indigenous peoples around the world, the tribe uses a technique called slash-and-burn or swidden, where a patch of forest is cut down and the dead trees are left to dry before being burned to clear new ground.

The ash helps fertilize the soil which is then planted, mostly with their staple food cassava. Once the soil is exhausted, the Waiapi leave the patch fallow, move on and carve out another.

On a large scale, slash-and-burn can devastate the environment. However, when performed by such a small tribe in a big area, the cleared patches are given time to recover, creating a healthy cycle. Japarupi Waiapi says his people know how to maintain the balance, moving village as soon as “the land is tired, the river is tired.”

The tribe’s footprint is exceptionally light. “When you live in the forest, when you hear the music of the animals that live there, it’s different,” Japarupi Waiapi explains during a lunch of smoked monkey meat. “We understand and can talk to the animals.”

Perhaps seeing the look of surprise on his visitors’ faces, Japarupi Waiapi cups his hands and makes three powerful whistles, each with a slight trill. Five seconds of silence follow. Then from somewhere in the dark canopy of virgin forest, a bird calls back. For now, at least, the Waiapi and their beloved Amazon remain in harmony.

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Will India’s new representative in Kashmir be able to bring ‘normalcy’ to the disputed region?

India’s federal government has appointed Dineshwar Sharma, a former intelligence chief familiar with the region, as its new representative to engage with Kashmiri groups from across the political spectrum.

As reported by Voice of America, his task will undoubtedly be an uphill struggle. One of his predecessors, Radha Kumar, has called his job “hugely daunting”, adding, “We are at a point of alienation I could not have even dreamed of 15 years ago.” However, she was hopeful that it would be a step in the right direction, saying, “I think it is a huge breakthrough, that the government has recognised that they really need to start talking to people.”

Ex-RAW chief says dialogue only way to resolve Kashmir dispute

Among Kashmiris themselves, however, there is little optimism. They doubt whether Sharma can combat the anti-India feelings which have been especially heightened since the killing of Burhan Wani, a militant leader, last summer. The move towards dialogue follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day statements that ‘hugs’ and not ‘abuses’ would bring peace to the Kashmir Valley.

While political analysts have stated the the local population has been ‘craving’ such an engagement, recent developments do not bode well for the success of these talks. Most critically, the leaders of the Hurriyat, Kashmir’s main separatist alliance have refused to participate in talks with Sharma, labelling them an “excercise in futility”.

Shujaat Bukhari, editor of the Rising Kashmir newspaper does not believe Sharma can achieve anything by talking with parties which agree with New Delhi on Kashmir not being disputed territory. “The dialogue needs to be done with the people who actually represent the voice of dissent in Kashmir. I don’t think it is going that way”, he said.

The land and people of Kashmir, claimed by both Pakistan and India, have a long history of demanding independence or at least greater autonomy from rule by the Indian federal government. The demands for freedom peaked in the 1990s, but there has been an upsurge in protest activity, especially among students, with slogans for freedom regularly heard in it’s summer capital, Srinagar.

Let’s talk on Kashmir, new FM Khawaja Asif tells India

The increased participation of young people in the protests, and Kashmir’s militant groups, in also the focus of Sharma’s mission, and he is record as saying that he wants to ‘deradicalise’ them amid drawing comparisons between Kashmir and Syria. Bukhari is dismissive of such comparisons, saying that the emergence of a civil war “ is not a remote chance”.

Observers are not confident that talks will be successful with New Delhi’s current position on not granting any further autonomy to Kashmir, with Radha Kumar saying that “It does not help when the government says that they consider autonomy to be secessionist and they wont even consider it. ” Sharma is more confident, howevr, as he seeks to induce “long-term normalcy… which does not fizzle away quickly.”

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Stamps issued to commemorate Pakistan’s Champions Trophy triumph

KARACHI: Pakistan Post has issued a commemorative Champions Trophy postage stamp and souvenir sheet in remembrance of Pakistan’s historic win over India in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy final.

Per Pakistan Post senior post master treasury Tariq Awan, 300,000 stamps and 50,000 souvenir sheets have been made available on all the major post offices of Pakistan.

Despite the announcement, the said collection hadn’t yet been made available for sale, leaving stamp collectors disappointed.

One such folk was former national commissioner Mohammad Ali Jahangir, who rushed to a post office to add to his invaluable assortment, only to be told to try his luck the next day.

“As soon as I heard about these stamps I came here to add to my collection, but then I was told that they will be issued tomorrow so I will come back again,” he said.

Jahangir, whose collection has entries from as early as 1947, further revealed that he also owns a copy of stamp that was issued to commemorate Pakistan’s 1992 World Cup win under the captaincy of the great Imran Khan.

While he was appreciative of the new issuance, he feels the stamps’ Rs30 and souvenir sheet’s Rs50 price is a bit on the expensive side.

“Pakistan post should issue more stamps and souvenir sheets and also bring down the price so that every citizen can buy them easily,” he suggested.

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PCB prohibits quartet from playing cricket

KARACHI: Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has barred Babar Azam, Imad Waseem, Usman Shinwari and Rumman Raees from playing until they secure their medical clearances.

Apart from the aforesaid quarter, eight others have been asked to not take part in any cricket matches, although those who want to play league cricket in Bangladesh have been issued conditional No Objection Certificates.

Per The Daily Express, Azam, Waseem, Shinwari and Raees are all nursing niggling injuries and have been told to get fully fit before taking the field again.

Moreover, captain Sarfraz Ahmed, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir, Shadab Khan, Shoaib Malik, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Hafeez and Fakhar Zaman have also been advised against partaking in any cricketing activity before the National T20 Cup, scheduled to begin from November 11.

The edict means that the seventh round of the ongoing Quaid-e-Azam Trophy kicked off on Thursday without any of the aforementioned players.

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Turkey’s Erdogan takes legal action after lawmaker calls him ‘fascist dictator’

ISTANBUL: President Tayyip Erdogan filed a criminal complaint against a prominent opposition lawmaker, one of Erdogan’s lawyers said on Tuesday, after the deputy called the Turkish leader a fascist dictator.

In blistering criticism of Erdogan, the spokesperson for the main opposition Republican People’s Party Bulent Tezcan attacked what he said was a “fearful atmosphere” in Turkey.

Turkey’s Erdogan says US decision to suspend visa services ‘upsetting’

Erdogan’s lawyer Huseyin Aydin said on Twitter: “We have filed a legal petition concerning Bulent Tezcan with the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office for the crime of insulting the president.” Aydin also posted photos of the petition.

Tezcan’s comments prompted a swift backlash from Erdogan’s office and lawmakers from his ruling AK Party, with Erdogan’s spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin saying his “hate speech is an example of disgrace for the main opposition”.

Turkey sentences 34 to life in jail over Erdogan death plot

Insulting the president is a crime punishable by up to four years in prison in Turkey.

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Can consumers keep the British economy going?

GDP watchers will be out in force this week as third-quarter figures are revealed

This week’s big economic number is GDP for the third quarter, due on Wednesday morning. Economists reckon output rose by 0.3% or 0.4% in the three months to the end of September.

Assuming the figure isn’t lower than expectations, economy watchers will turn quickly to the underlying trends, such as business investment. The economy has confounded predictions of a sharp post-Brexit vote slowdown or recession, mainly because of resilient consumer spending.

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Martin Rowson on Brexit divorce talks – cartoon

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