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Pakistan names Syed Asim Munir as new army chief : Centre County Report

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Lt. Gen. Syed Asim Munir, seen here November 1, has been appointed to replace General Qamar Javed Bajwa as head of the Pakistan Army when Bajwa ends his term on November 29. Munir, Pakistan’s former spy chief, is taking his new role amid bitter feuds between Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and former Prime Minister Imran Khan. Khan has accused Bajwa of playing a role in his downfall, a charge Bajwa has denied.

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Lt. Gen. Syed Asim Munir, seen here November 1, has been appointed to replace General Qamar Javed Bajwa as head of the Pakistan Army when Bajwa ends his term on November 29. Munir, Pakistan’s former spy chief, is taking his new role amid bitter feuds between Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and former Prime Minister Imran Khan. Khan has accused Bajwa of playing a role in his downfall, a charge Bajwa has denied.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has appointed the country’s former spy chief to head the military, the information minister said on Thursday, ending months of speculation about the new appointment.

The army has historically wielded great political influence in Pakistan, ruling it for half of its 75-year history and also overseeing the country’s nuclear program. Like neighboring countries China and India, Pakistan has nuclear arsenals and a missile system aimed primarily at India.

Lt. Gen. Syed Asim Munir replaces Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, who ends his six-year term on November 29. Munir begins his new role amid bitter feuds between Sharif and former Prime Minister Imran Khan. Khan has publicly accused Bajwa of playing a role in his ouster, an accusation the outgoing army chief has denied.

Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa arrives for a military parade to mark Pakistan’s National Day in Islamabad, Pakistan March 23, 2022. He is retiring early next week.

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Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa arrives for a military parade to mark Pakistan’s National Day in Islamabad, Pakistan March 23, 2022. He is retiring early next week.

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Khan wants early elections and Sharif’s resignation. Sharif, who replaced Khan by a no-confidence vote in parliament in April, has dismissed the demand, saying the next elections will be held in 2023 as planned.

There was no immediate comment from Khan about Munir, who was Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence when Khan was in office. Khan fired Munir without explanation.

Defense Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif told reporters on Thursday that Munir’s appointment as army chief was “on merit, law and in accordance with the constitution.” He hopes that Alvi will not make the most important appointments “controversial” and agree to Sharif’s decision immediately.

“It will also help our country and economy get back on track as everything is at a standstill at the moment,” he said.

Azim Chaudhry, a senior political analyst, told The Associated Press that Munir held key positions under Bajwa, including head of military intelligence. He said he hopes the new army chief will keep the military out of politics, in line with Bajwa’s policy.

Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb also said Sharif had appointed Lt. Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza to chair the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee to replace Gen. Nadeem Raza, who is retiring this week.

It’s not clear if President Arif Alvi will immediately approve the appointments, as he is a former member of Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party. Alvi and Khan met in Lahore on Thursday to discuss Munir’s nomination. Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party did not comment on the meeting. Alvi was due to make a statement on his meeting later on Thursday.

According to constitutional experts, Alvi had to approve the appointments.

Aitzaz Ahsan, a senior constitutional expert, said Alvi could delay approving the appointments by 25 days.

Also on Thursday, Home Secretary Rana Sanaullah Khan said Sharif promoted Munir to the rank of four-star general on Thursday and Munir will not retire this week even if Alvi delays confirming his appointment as army chief.

Khan extended Bajwa’s term in 2019 amid rising tensions with India. But Khan later developed differences with Bajwa over appointing the country’s new spy chief in place of Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed. These differences persisted until Khan was ousted.

Since then, Khan has accused Bajwa of conspiring with the US to force the overthrow of his government – an accusation Washington, Sharif and the military have repeatedly denied.

Bajwa called Khan’s claims a “false narrative” in a recent televised address at an army rally.

“If there were a foreign conspiracy, would we remain silent? That would be a great sin,” he said, without naming Khan.

Bajwa on Wednesday said the military had so far shown restraint but issued what appeared to be a veiled warning to Khan.

“Remember that patience has a limit,” Bajwa said.

Alvi has hosted at least one meeting between Khan and Bajwa in the capital, Islamabad, in an attempt to reconcile them. But government and military officials say Alvi’s efforts have failed as Khan continued to face allegations against Bajwa.

The former cricket hero started a protest march from the eastern city of Lahore on October 28 before surviving a gun attack that killed one spectator and wounded 13 others. Since then, Khan’s protest march has been moving in convoys without him toward Islamabad.

Khan is expected to lead the protest march from the city of Rawalpindi on November 26.

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UPDATE 1-China hopes for fair, transparent environment for companies in EU

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(updates with context, details, quotes)

BEIJING, Dec 1 (Reuters) – China will step up strategic communication and coordination with the European Union, President Xi Jinping told European Council President Charles Michel on Thursday.

At a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in the Chinese capital, Xi told Michel he hoped “the EU institutions and member states will establish an objective and correct perception of China,” state broadcaster CCTV reported.

“China will remain open to European companies and hopes the EU can eliminate interference to create a fair and transparent business environment for Chinese companies,” Xi told Michel.

Neither Xi nor CCTV elaborated on what he meant by interference.

Xi said China and the EU should strengthen macroeconomic policy coordination and complementary benefits, jointly create new engines of growth, and ensure the security, stability and reliability of industrial supply chains.

Michel, who is in China on a one-day visit, will also meet Premier Li Keqiang and Li Zhanshu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.

His visit comes after European leaders expressed concerns over economic dependence on China at a meeting in October. (Reporting by Ethan Wang and Ryan Woo; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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Spectacular view of glowing lava draws thousands to Hawaiian island

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The world’s largest volcano spilled into rivers of glowing lava on Wednesday, drawing thousands of awed spectators who blocked a Hawaii highway that could soon be covered by the flow.

Mauna Loa awoke from its 38-year slumber Sunday, dumping volcanic ash and debris from the sky.

A major highway connecting towns on the east and west coasts of the Big Island became an impromptu vantage point with thousands of cars blocking the freeway near Volcanoes National Park.

Anne Andersen left her night shift as a nurse to watch Wednesday’s spectacle, fearing the road would soon be closed.

“It’s Mother Nature showing us her face,” she said as the volcano spewed gas on the horizon. “It’s pretty exciting.”

People in the foreground taking a picture of the erupting volcano in the distance.
A main road became a makeshift rest stop as people stopped to view the eruption. (Marco Garcia/The Associated Press)

The lava slowly tumbled down the slope and was about 10 kilometers from the highway known as Saddle Road. It wasn’t clear when or if it would cover the road that runs through ancient lava flows.

Plumes of smoke rising from burning lava flows.
Lava fountains were seen from an overflight at Fissure 3 of the noCentre County Reportheast rift zone. (USGS/Reuters)

The road bisects the island, connecting the cities of Hilo to the east and Kailua-Kona to the west. People traveling between them would have to take a longer coastal road if Saddle Road becomes impassable, adding several hours of driving time.

Ken Hon, the lead scientist at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said at the current flow rate, the lava would not reach the road for at least two days, but it will likely take longer.

“If the lava flow spreads, it will likely disrupt its own progress,” Hon said.

What looks like flaming rivers flowing down the side of a mountain.
Scientists estimate that at the current rate, it will take at least two days for the lava to reach the island’s main road. (USGS/Civil Air Guard/Reuters)

Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984. The current eruption is the 34th since written records began in 1843.

Its smaller volcanic neighbor, Kilauea, has been erupting since September 2021, allowing visitors to the national park to experience the rare sight of two simultaneous eruption events: the glow from Kilauea’s lava lake and lava from a Mauna Loa fissure.

A young person smiles with their arms raised and the volcano in the distance.
Since the lava poses no immediate threat to communities, people enjoy the place. (Gregory Bull/The Associated Press)

Officials were initially concerned that lava flowing down Mauna Loa would flow toward the community of South Kona, but scientists later reassured the public that the eruption had moved into a rift zone on the volcano’s noCentre County Reportheast flank and was not threatening communities.

The stench of volcanic gases and sulfur hung over Saddle Road, where people watched the broad lava flow draw closer.

A distant view of a volcano with burning lava pouring out and clouds overhead.
A view from Saddle Road of lava flowing down from the noCentre County Reportheast rift zone. (USGS/Reuters)

Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation to allow emergency responders to arrive quickly or limit access as needed.

“There is no physical or technological way to change the course of the lava,” Ige said at a news conference. He recalls wishing he had that in 2018, when an eruption on Kilauea spilled lava over homes, farms and roads.

Scientists are trying to measure the gas released in the eruption. (Gregory Bull/The Associated Press)

Lava crossed the access road to the Mauna Loa Observatory Monday night, disrupting power to the facility, the Hon said. It is the world’s leading station measuring heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The federal government is looking for a temporary alternate location on the Hawaiian island and is considering flying a generator to the observatory to restore its power supply so it can staCentre County Report taking measurements again.

Meanwhile, scientists are trying to measure the gas released by the eruption.

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Founder of bankrupt crypto firm FTX Sam Bankman-Fried breaks his silence, with thousands locked out of savings | Business News

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A crypto entrepreneur says his net worth has fallen from more than $26 billion to $100,000 after his company imploded.

Sam Bankman-Fried admitted it was a “bad month” after FTX went bankrupt and thousands of people lost their life savings.

The 30-year-old, who once positioned himself as the savior of ailing companies, is accused of misusing customer funds and secretly withdrawing $10 billion from the company.

At least a billion dollars are said to have disappeared.

Speaking at the New York Times’ DealBook summit, Mr Bankman-Fried insisted he had never attempted to commit fraud and said he was “shocked” at how the crisis had unfolded.

FTX has new management as it navigates bankruptcy, with the CEO saying he has never seen “such a complete failure of corporate controls” in his 40-year career.

It has been alleged that funds from FTX users were mixed with funds from Alameda Research, a trading firm that Mr Bankman-Fried also ran.

FTX, a global cryptocurrency exchange, collapsed when panicked traders withdrew $6 billion from the company in three days following a spate of bombshell allegations.

Via video link from the Bahamas, Mr Bankman-Fried said he now has “almost nothing” and only one working credit card after his business failed.

He has admitted that his companies “completely failed” at risk management and said it was “quite embarrassing in hindsight”.

“Whatever happened, why it happened, I had a duty to our stakeholders, our customers, our investors, the world’s regulators, to prove them right,” added Mr. Bankman-Fried.

Although the embattled entrepreneur believes American users should get their money back in full, he has warned in other interviews that international clients may only get 20% to 25% of the money they had locked on FTX.

A number of companies in the cryptocurrency sector have collapsed in recent months, coinciding with Bitcoin’s sharp fall in value.

Some companies have been accused of offering interest rates on savings that were simply too good to be true, while others have been likened to “Ponzi schemes”.

The Bahamas has now launched a criminal investigation into the circumstances of FTX’s sinking.

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