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Posted: 26 Dec 2012 02:59 PM PST
George HW Bush takes turn for worse in hospital
Chicago: Former US president George HW Bush has taken a turn for the a worse and is in intensive care after a “stubborn fever” delayed his recovery from bronchitis, a spokesman said Wednesday.
“He’s had a series of setbacks now that have landed him in guarded condition in the intensive care unit,” spokesman Jim McGrath told AFP.
The 88-year-old was first admitted to Methodist Hospital in Houston on November 7 for bronchitis treatment and released on November 19. But he was readmitted on November 23 after his cough flared up again.
Doctors had initially hoped to have the elder statesman home for Christmas, but he was instead forced to spend the holiday in hospital, where he was joined by his wife Barbara, son Neil and grandson Pierce.
“I wouldn’t say he was able to celebrate it in the traditional sense,” McGrath said. “His family was with him, and he’s conscious and he’s able to engage in humorous banter with his doctor.”
Bush, a Republican, was in the White House from 1989 to 1993 and sent US forces into Iraq in the first Gulf war after Saddam Hussein’s forces invaded Kuwait.
During his time in public service, he also served as vice president, congressman and director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He is the father of former president George W. Bush.
Posted: 26 Dec 2012 02:54 PM PST
US to reach debt limit on New Years Eve
Washington: The United States government will reach its statutory 16.39-trillion-dollar debt limit — a ceiling imposed by Congress — on Monday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said.
In a letter Wednesday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Geithner said the treasury would take “extraordinary measures” to postpone the day the US could default on its liabilities, but could not say how long it had.
Geithner warned that if the White House and US lawmakers fail to agree on a budget compromise to prevent the economy plunging over the “fiscal cliff”, also due on December 31, then he could not be sure when the money would dry up.
He said the extraordinary measures — halting the issuance of some state and local government bonds — could create approximately $200 billion in headroom that under normal circumstances would last about two months.
But he added: “However, given the significant uncertainty that now exists with regard to unresolved tax and spending policies for 2013, it is not possible to predict the effective duration of these measures.”
As of midday (1700 GMT) Saturday, the United States will “begin taking certain extraordinary measures authorized by law to temporarily postpone the date the United States would otherwise default on its legal obligations.”
Geithner’s letter came as the White House and Republican lawmakers were locked in an impasse about the “fiscal cliff,” a package of steep tax hikes and spending cuts that are due to take effect in January.
Experts say a failure to strike a compromise on the matter by New Years Eve could plunge the world’s biggest economy into recession, and wrangling over the debt ceiling will only increase the political and economic uncertainty.
Already in July of this year, Washington went through a vicious political battle over raising the debt ceiling. In the end, the fight culminated in the poison pill compromise that has become the fiscal cliff trajectory.
Posted: 26 Dec 2012 02:21 PM PST
English Premier League 2012: Jonathan Walters double helps Stoke stun Liverpool
London: Jonathan Walters scored twice as Stoke beat Liverpool 3-1 in an entertaining affair under the lights at the Britannia Stadium on Wednesday.
Steven Gerrard put Liverpool into an early lead from the spot but Walters replied almost immediately before Kenwyne Jones headed the hosts in front.
After the break Walters made it 3-1 with a superb finish and despite some late pressure, Stoke held on for a more-than deserved win.
Luis Suarez was booed when the announcer read out his name as the home faithful did not forget the dive that the Uruguayan pulled off at Anfield in the October meeting between these two.
While Suarez did not get anything for that then, Stoke manager Tony Pulis was livid he was not punished but it was hard to argue against Howard Webb’s decision to hand Liverpool a penalty in the second minute of this clash.
Ryan Shawcross tugged Suarez’s shirt in the area and the Reds striker went down before Gerrard calmly slotted home the penalty.
However, just three minutes later Shawcross helped Stoke grabbed what many will say is a trademark goal as he launched a long ball forward that Jones nodded on to Walters and the Republic of Ireland international raced through before firing home.
The last two times these sides met in the Premier League, the games ended goalless so it would not have been pessimistic to believe before this it could be dull again but that was proved wrong as Jones made it three goals in 12 minutes.
The Stoke striker rose to head home Glenn Whelan’s corner and send the home fans wild before Matthew Etherington made Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina pull off a stunning save after 21 minutes.
The midfielder fired high but the Spaniard stretched to tip the ball over after a neat cutback by Steven Nzonzi to set up the chance.
Liverpool came into this game on the back of a 4-0 demolition of Fulham at the weekend that proved they were still in with a chance of a top-four place, but they knew away at Stoke would be a much sterner test.
Especially since they have not won on the four visits to the ground in Premier League history but Gerrard had a chance to level the game up moments later but he hit a tame effort wide with Asmir Begovic, the Stoke goalkeeper, seemingly beaten.
Raheem Sterling came on for Suso at the break and the winger almost made an instant impact with a cross for Suarez but the Uruguayan fluffed his effort well wide.
Andy Wilkinson’s long throw in the 49th minute made it 3-1 as he found Jones who nodded on again for Walters.
This time he rose to chest the ball and turn before volleying past Reina who could not keep it out despite getting his fingertips to it.
The Stoke fans sang “3-1 to the rugby team” as Liverpool pressed forward desperately trying to get back into the game with Suarez getting booked for a high challenge on Begovic on the hour mark.
Suarez did have the ball in the net soon after but it was ruled out as Jordan Henderson handled in the build up.
Gerrard tested Begovic late on for the visitors but Stoke held on to the three points.
Posted: 26 Dec 2012 02:07 PM PST
Mobile banking accounts touch 1.8 million mark
Karachi: Mobile banking accounts have jumped to 1.8 million mark depicting a remarkable growth of 25 percent during July-September quarter of 2012, according to Branchless Banking Newsletter released by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on December 26. Branchless Banking (BB) customers conducted almost 31.5 million transactions worth Rs. 139 billion during the quarter. The average size of each transaction was Rs 4,420, while the average number of transaction per day increased to 0.349 million.
The accounts' activity level has also improved considerably during the quarter at the back of significant growth of 84% in Level '0' accounts and 7% growth in Level '1'  accounts.  These accounts are opened at the agents' location largely by those who have traditionally been excluded from the banking services.
The agents' network has reached to 31,637 as of 30th September, 2012 from 29,525 as on 30th June, 2012 registering an increase of 7 percent.
It may be pointed out that transaction limits for Level '0' & Level '1' accounts are Rs 15,000 & Rs. 25,000 per day respectively.
Bills payments & mobile top-ups remained the dominating activity during July-September 2012 quarter with 45 percent share in total numbers, followed by person to person (over the counter) fund transfers with a share of 38 percent. Bulk payments mostly by agents topped, among others, by 41 percent share in total value transacted during the quarter followed by person to person fund transfers with a share of 34 percent.
It may be pointed out that the BB service providers are trying to increase their linkages with microfinance institutions as loan repayments of Rs.646 million were collected through Branchless Banking agents during the quarter.
According to the Newsletter,  the growth expectation in coming quarters is fairly high as the existing two Branchless Banking players are increasing their scale of operations and two banks namely Waseela Microfinance Bank and Askari Bank Limited have launched their branchless banking services under the brand names of  'Mobicash' and 'Timepey' respectively.
Posted: 26 Dec 2012 02:00 PM PST
NUML student Munazzah Ambreen completes her PhD in Education
Islamabad: Scholar Ms Munazzah Ambreen has completed her PhD in Education from National University of Modern Languages (NUML).
Ambreen, daughter of Mr. Ijaz Haider, was awarded the degree on December 26, 2012 after successful defence of her thesis.
She conducted the research on the thesis which is titled as "The Impact of Communication Climate and Managerial Communication Styles upon Quality Assurance in Higher Education in Pakistan" under the supervision of Dr. Rehana Masroor.
Posted: 26 Dec 2012 01:47 PM PST
Commonwealth countries appreciate HEC quality assurance reforms
Islamabad: The vice chancellors of universities from Commonwealth countries appreciate the Quality Assurance QA reforms and ranking model developed by Higher Education Commission HEC Pakistan in a recent meeting of the conference of All Commonwealth Universities (ACU).
The meeting of ACU was held here at Jamaica where presence of Higher Education Commission Pakistan to represent the higher education sector of the country was noticed significantly.
The presentation on QA system implemented in Pakistan and ranking model was made on the first day of the conference one in the plenary session after key note speech along with Phil Baty and Kris, leading higher education experts.
The participants and speakers of the next sessions till end of the conference kept on appreciating the methodology, approach and strategy of HEC to make rankings an internal part of the entire QA system and treating these as one of the External Quality Assurance strategies aiming at improved quality of the higher education with indigenous model equally compatible with international practices and matching with the national context.
Almost all of the delegates of developing countries in general and from South Asia and Caribbean region in particular had shown great interest to adopt the QA and the ranking model developed by HEC for Pakistan.
Finally based on overwhelming interest of the participants from all commonwealth countries and referencing by majority of the speakers, the ACU secretariat requested HEC to provide the copy of Pakistani QA system and Ranking model to be shared with all the commonwealth countries as one the best practices. The group of vice chancellors from Sri Lanka is  already doing a consistent follow up to work with HEC further in January 2013 to adopt the similar model of ranking and QA in their country.
It is matter of pride for Pakistan that the progress made in higher education sector is being recognized as one of the rising stars in the Caribbean region and amongst all commonwealth countries as well.
It is worth mentioning that HEC has shared and led the similar model development for Islamic World and would now facilitate rest of the developing regions as they intend to follow HEC model. Finally, HEC has succeeded in getting its own Quality Assurance Model label/ brand that is being recognized globally.  The education experts term this global recognition as outcome of continuous reforms introduced by HEC during last decade aiming at improving quality of higher education and hoped that this journey of success would continue in future as well.
Since its inception, HEC has undertaken a number of practical steps towards improvement of quality of higher education and bringing Pakistani higher education sector at par with international standards.
These steps include: introducing university ranking, establishing 84 quality enhancement cells at all the public sector universities of Pakistan, developing standardized criteria for appointment/promotions of faculty members, standardizing M.Phil and PhD programs & subject classification list, notifying criteria for recognition of journals & PhD supervisors and establishment of Quality Assurance Agency etc.
Posted: 26 Dec 2012 01:23 PM PST
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Posted: 26 Dec 2012 01:09 PM PST
Hawkish Shinzo Abe elected as Japan's new prime minister
Tokyo: Japan’s newly-elected prime minister Shinzo Abe pledged to rebuild the economy and mend Japan’s alliance with the United States in the face of an assertive China at his first press conference on Wednesday.
Abe was elected premier by the lower house of parliament earlier in the day after sweeping to power on a hawkish platform of getting tough on diplomatic issues while fixing the economy.
“A strong economy is the source of Japan’s national strength. Without a strong economy, Japan will not achieve fiscal reconstruction and have a future,” Abe told the late-night press conference.
Earlier Wednesday, the yen had tumbled against the dollar on growing speculation that the Bank of Japan will usher in further easing measures — a key plank of Abe’s campaign.
Abe vowed to defend Japanese territory and waters but stressed that his government will carry out a diplomacy drive to “win back” national interests.
“There are many issues concerning Japan-China relations, Japan-South Korea relations and Japan-US relations — which is the foundation of Japan’s diplomacy,” he said.
“More than anything, we must re-establish trust in the Japan-US alliance,” he said, adding that he has spoken to US President Barack Obama and agreed to foster long-term relations.
Ties with the US were strained under the previous government, which pushed for the relocation of American bases in Okinawa.
Abe also said that his cabinet would stay focused on the reconstruction of the northern region that was devastated by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011.
“By delivering results as soon as possible, I would like to earn the trust of the Japanese people and make this a stable government,” he said.
Abe achieved a resounding election victory earlier this month for his Liberal Democratic Party over the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).
On Wednesday he secured 328 votes to 57 for the DPJ’s new leader Banri Kaieda, the industry minister during last year’s Fukushima nuclear crisis.
Within hours of his election, Abe, who was prime minister from 2006 to 2007, unveiled his new cabinet as he rushed to draft an extra budget.
Taro Aso, another former prime minister in Japan’s revolving-door political system, was appointed as both Abe’s deputy and finance minister.
The foreign minister job went to Fumio Kishida, who was a state minister in charge of Okinawan affairs during Abe’s previous tenure.
His appointment was seen as a reflection of Abe’s desire for progress on the relocation of US military bases in the southern island chain, and comes as Japan is embroiled in a territorial row with China.
At a news conference, Kishida stressed its claim of the disputed islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, while calling for a dialogue with his Chinese counterpart in an effort to patch up ties with Beijing.
“Senkaku islands are undoubtedly part of our country’s territory,” Kishida said. “But Japan-China relations also have many aspects of mutual benefit. We must have firm communications between the two foreign ministers.”
The defence portfolio went to Itsunori Onodera, who served as deputy foreign minister for a year during Abe’s earlier premiership and during that of his successor Yasuo Fukuda.
Sadakazu Tanigaki, the head of the LDP when the party was in opposition after ruling Japan for most of the past six decades, became justice minister.
Abe, Japan’s seventh premier in less than seven years, replaces Yoshihiko Noda whose DPJ suffered a stinging defeat at the polls.
The party, which came to power in 2009, was seen as being punished for policy flip-flops and its clumsy handling of the Fukushima atomic disaster.
Abe won conservative support with nationalistic pronouncements on diplomacy amid the row with Beijing over a group of East China Sea islands, saying Japan would stand firm on its claim to the chain.
He has also said he would consider revising Japan’s post-war pacifist constitution, alarming officials in China and South Korea.
But Abe quickly toned down the campaign rhetoric and has said he wants improved ties with China, Japan’s biggest trading partner. He called for a solution through what he described as “patient exchanges”.
China called on Abe to meet it “halfway” to try and improve relations that have been hurt by the debilitating territorial dispute.
South Korea has its own islands dispute with Japan. But President Lee Myung-Bak sent Abe his congratulations, saying the countries have engaged in “close cooperation and exchanges as close neighbours and friendly nations”.
Posted: 26 Dec 2012 12:58 PM PST
Starbucks boss Howard Schultz: 'Come together' on fiscal deal already
Washington: Starbucks stirred the political pot Wednesday by urging its baristas to write “come together” on its cups as a way to pressure US lawmakers to compromise on a deal to avert a year-end fiscal crisis.
Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz said the American coffee giant was recommending its first-ever message on the side of tall, grande and venti (small, medium and large) drinks sold at its Washington stores as a way to help break the capital’s gridlock on the so-called “fiscal cliff.”
“As many of you know, our elected officials in Washington DC have been unable to come together and compromise to solve the tremendously important, time-sensitive issue to fix the national debt,” Schultz said in a letter posted on the Starbucks website.
“Rather than be bystanders, we have an opportunity — and I believe a responsibility — to use our company’s scale for good by sending a respectful and optimistic message to our elected officials to come together and reach common ground on this important issue.”
Lawmakers and the White House have less than a week to work out a deal aimed at preventing tax hikes from hitting all Americans and a series of deep, mandated spending cuts from kicking in beginning January 1.
Economists warn that failure to agree to a new deficit-reduction deal could tilt the US economy back into recession.
President Barack Obama and members of Congress return to Washington Thursday after a Christmas break.
There are more than 50 Starbucks stores in downtown Washington alone, including about a dozen within a three-block radius of the White House.
One Starbucks some two blocks from the presidential mansion had “Come Together” written on a slip of paper taped to the counter, but some of the drinks were being handed to customers without the message scribbled on the cups.
Posted: 26 Dec 2012 12:22 PM PST
Manchester City vs Sunderland: Adam Johnson leaves Man City's title bid in tatters
SUNDERLAND, United Kingdom: Manchester City’s hopes of retaining the Premier League title are in tatters after their former midfielder Adam Johnson fired Sunderland to a shock 1-0 win over the champions on Wednesday.
Roberto Mancini’s side wasted a chance to keep the pressure on Manchester United at the top and they are now seven points behind the leaders, who scored a late winner to beat Newcastle 4-3.
Johnson’s 53rd-minute winner eased Sunderland’s relegation fears as the England international profited from a rare error by goalkeeper Joe Hart to hand City their first away league defeat since April.
With City protesting at a foul on Pablo Zabaleta in the build-up, Johnson accepted a pass from defender Carlos Cuellar to cut in from the right past David Silva and fire in a low shot which should have been collected by Hart.
However, he was guilty of failing to cover his near post, allowing the ball to creep into the bottom corner under his outstretched left hand.
Stephane Sessegnon should have doubled the lead within moments, dragging a clear chance across the face of goal, before Hart partly made amends, blocking with his feet as the Benin international raced onto a through-ball from Fraizer Campbell to see his first-time shot denied.
Sunderland’s margin of victory could have been more clear cut, with substitute Campbell spurning a close-range chance to double the lead seven minutes from time.
It’s now almost four-and-a-half years since City have won at the Stadium of Light, with the pain of defeat heightened after the loss was inflicted by one of their old boys.
Despite earning a title-winner’s medal with City, Johnson enjoyed mixed fortunes in a two-and-a-half-year spell at Eastlands, returning to his native North-East in a £10 million move in August after making just 39 top flight starts.
The 25-year-old has struggled to scale the heights in the first half of the season, but helped his bid to win over the Wearside faithful with a goal that could have ramifications at both ends of the season at the end of the campaign.
Manchester City vs Sunderland: Adam Johnson leaves Man City's title bid in tatters
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini takes his seat at The Stadium of Light in Sunderland on December 26, 2012 © AFP
City skipper Vincent Kompany came up from the back to send an early header from 10 yards against the bar from Silva’s corner, with keeper Simon Mignolet using his feet to save the close-range follow-up from Yaya Toure.
Mignolet was called into action again, this time with an agile save to pluck a 25-yard effort from Yaya Toure out of the air that was destined for the top corner.
Mignolet rounded off an impressive first-half with a fine point-blank block to deny Silva, who arrived at the near post to deflect a Sergio Aguero cross towards goal in a swift counter-attack launched by an incisive 40-yard pass from Carlos Tevez.
It proved to be a much quieter half for Mignolet’s opposite number Hart, but the City keeper was equal to the task in the only major threat to his goal before the break.
Steven Fletcher, the eight-goal top scorer, reacted first to a Sessegnon flick to fire in a firm 20-yard effort, but the low shot was brilliantly saved by England number one Hart diving to his right
Mignolet made a fine reaction save to deny Aguero after the Argentine beat Sunderland’s offside trap to meet Silva’s slide-rule pass.
But it was the hosts who looked more likely to add to Johnson’s strike as the contest wore on in what proved to be a famous victory for Martin O’Neill’s side.


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