Meta Will Introduce an $11.99 Monthly Subscription Service

Reuters, 19 February - In an effort to support the growth and community building of content producers, Meta Platforms announced on Sunday that it is piloting a monthly membership service called Meta Verified. Users will be able to authenticate their accounts using a government ID and receive a blue badge.

The subscription package for Instagram and Facebook, which will go live later this week, will start at $11.99 per month on the web or $14.99 per month on Apple's iOS system and Android. It also provides additional security against impersonation.

Users will be able to verify an "account with a government ID, get a blue badge, get enhanced impersonation protection against accounts pretending to be you, and get direct access to customer support," according to Zuckerberg. Meta Verified will launch this week, starting in Australia and New Zealand.

In a message uploaded on his Facebook account, he said, " This new feature is about boosting authenticity and security across our services.

The business added that verified Facebook and Instagram profiles will remain the same and that only people who are at least 18 years old would be permitted to subscribe. Businesses are not yet able to use the service.

In nations where users cannot afford to pay $12 a month or in cash-based economies where they may have fewer options for sending the money to Meta, Zuckerberg's pricing plans for Meta Verified were not immediately clear.

After Twitter's announcement last month that Twitter Blue will cost $11 per month, Meta has entered the world of subscription services.

The messaging app Telegram and Snapchat, both owned by Snap Inc. (SNAP.N), both introduced paid membership services last year as a new income stream.

Putin Warns the West of Nuclear War in Relation to Ukraine

Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, makes his yearly speech on February 21, 2023, in Moscow. The West wants to defeat Russia strategically and put an end to us once and for all. Because we are discussing the existence of our nation, we will respond properly, Putin stated in his state of the union speech. A total of 1,200 persons were invited to the event, including members of the two-chamber Russian parliament, officials from the government, the chiefs of the Constitutional and Supreme courts, and regional governors.

On Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin issued a nuclear warning to the West regarding the situation in Ukraine. He also announced the suspension of a bilateral nuclear arms control pact, the deployment of new strategic systems for warfare, and the possibility that Moscow may begin nuclear testing.

Putin said that Russia will achieve its military goals and charged the West with attempting to destroy Russia, speaking almost exactly one year after ordering an invasion that led to the largest conflict with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Western elites are open about their goals. The political and military leadership of his nation, a defiant Putin said, " But they also cannot fail to realize that it is impossible to defeat Russia on the battlefield.

Putin said that Russia was suspending its participation in the New START Treaty, the last significant weapons control agreement between Moscow and Washington. He warned the United States that it risked escalating the fight into a worldwide confrontation.

It is set to expire in 2026 and restricts the number of nuclear warheads that the two largest nuclear powers in the world may use.

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is being suspended by Russia, I am compelled to declare today, Putin added.

The largest nuclear powers continue to be Russia and the United States, both of which maintain sizable Cold War-era nuclear arsenals. They contain 90% of the nuclear weapons in existence.

Putin attempted to justify the war by claiming that it had been forced upon Russia and that he understood the suffering of the families of those who had died in battle, in addition to promising to prolong the war and warn the West of a worldwide conflict.

Picture-in-Picture For Video Calls On IOS Is Added By WhatsApp

With its most recent update, WhatsApp is introducing a picture-in-picture capability for its iOS users. By doing this, users may use WhatsApp or other applications without muting the call's video feed.

Picture-in-Picture (PiP) functionality for video conversations on iPhone was initially made available to beta users in December but is now being made accessible to all customers worldwide with an iPhone running iOS 12.0 or later.

WhatsApp, a messaging app owned by Meta, now supports picture-in-picture for video calls in its most recent iOS release. Users of iOS will be able to continue using other applications while participating in video conferences without interruptions thanks to this new technology, which was first tested last year. iOS users will be able to minimize their video call to a tiny window with this update and go to another app.

In the same way that PiP modes on other platforms shrink your video call when you glance at another app, WhatsApp does the same. This lets you multitask while still being able to view the person you're conversing with via the service. If PiP is not available right away, Meta writes that it will roll out "over the next weeks," along with other improvements included in WhatsApp's most recent upgrade.

In terms of other functionality, WhatsApp 23.3.77 now enables you to annotate documents that you submit using the app. WhatsApp is now making it possible to include a caption when transmitting documents on both iOS and Android.

Moreover, Meta has improved group chat settings so that you may add lengthier subjects and descriptions to more fully convey the nature of your conversation groups. A new feature allows you to design an avatar that you may use for your profile picture and stickers.

5 Technology Trends to Watch in 2019

Disruptive technology trends determine the way the new year will be shaped. They will accelerate and transform many industries at a rapid pace throughout the year. They will shape the world and the future and will be present on the horizon of business owners and investors alike. 

The intelligent digital mesh is going to include interconnected humans, robots, devices, content, and services all driven by digital transformation. Disruptive technology trends are going to propel the future where technology innovation leaders must evolve and change at the same pace of the trends they must embrace. Or, they could be left behind and suffer a slowly mass extinction.

Perhaps the obvious technology to watch closely in 2019 --before we can move on to anything else-- will be 5G. 5G is a necessary technology. Without 5G technology, none of the technologies mentioned below would be possible. Autonomous vehicles, drones, the Internet of Things, and supercomputers could not be possible without 5G networks.  

5G technology is going to improve processing speeds by more than 10 times in 2019. This is the technology that can make possible, for instance, the much expected remote surgery in rural areas.

Artificial Intelligence surgery might sound too futuristic to some. However, robot surgeons powered by AI are bringing new innovations and accuracy to the operating room.  

These technologies are worth to watch closely in 2019.

1. Machine Learning will advance Artificial Intelligence (AI)  

Artificial Intelligence (AI) innovations will continue to bring scientific breakthroughs, in part, thanks to the vast amounts of data that new technologies have been collecting and is now available. 

In 2019, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence will be embedded in the business platform creating and enabling smart business operations. 

In the Artificial Intelligence space, China is going to leave the U.S. behind, emerging as a leader in AI developments and applications.

Advances in Machine Learning technology and algorithm training will result in new and more advanced AI. Autonomous vehicles and robotics are the two industries that will see the most rapid developments during 2019. 

In 2019, there is going to be a convergence of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning in business applications. As AI and learning technologies get to work together in order to reach better results, AI will have greater accuracy at all levels. 

So far, humans have only developed Narrow Artificial Intelligence. A superior AI, though, is in the future of mankind. How far should humans go with AI development is still a subject of controversy. Is this really going to be mankind's last invention? 

2. Quantum Computing (Supercomputing)

Quantum Computing, still an emerging technology, is one of the most fascinating things researchers, organizations, and governments have been working on in this century so far. The race toward building the first fully-functional, fully-working quantum computer (also called supercomputer) is on.

With its impressive computational power quantum computers will most like be a cloud service in the near future rather than on-premise machines. IBM is already offering cloud-based quantum computing services. 

The first quantum computer is going to have a significant advantage over the others. In 2019, the competence to achieve supercomputer supremacy will intensify. As a consequence, the last mile in the race will remain mostly secretive, for obvious reasons.

3. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual Reality for automotive engineering design/ Image: Susan Fourtané for Interesting Engineering 

Advances in Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Mixed Reality (MR), all of which can be summarized in R+, will continue to be at the forefront of attention during 2019 with some fascinating new practical applications for industries.

R+, which once was only found in video gaming has been quickly advancing to become a useful tool in industries such as engineering design, manufacturing, healthcare, space exploration, and many others. 

In 2019, Virtual Reality is going to open up to innovative industrial applications that will change how people work and collaborate across geographies. 

Augmented Reality has been rising in the Virtual Reality's shadow for the past year. But in 2019, AR is set to grow exponentially. 

4. Global Internet of Things (IoT) security breach

Hackers never sleep. Everyone in the cybersecurity industry knows that. As long as you connect something to the Internet it immediately becomes vulnerable.

In the past years, we have seen how hackers have turned to unsecure Internet of Things (IoT) devices to create an extensive botnet which then they could use to push enough traffic to take down Dyn, the DNS provider. As a way to refresh your memory, here is how the DDoS attack using IoT devices happened in 2016.

A quick look at the news tells us that not much has been learned. However, the great number of security breaches occurred during 2018 should serve as an alert of what can happen at a global scale in 2019 if organizations don't take the necessary precautions. 

Analyst firm Gartner forecasts that 20.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide by 2020. And with the rise of autonomous things --I will call this the Internet of Autonomous Things (IoAT)-- there is a good chance that many of these things will show a certain level of weak security. 

In 2019, it will be paramount for IoT manufacturers and all of their supply chain to dramatically increase the security in all the products that come out to market. It can be a connected refrigerator, a robot, a drone, a vehicle, or a health tracker.

Manufacturers must implement a level of security that keeps hackers at bay. Otherwise, there is a good chance we are going to witness a global IoT security breach in 2019. 

5. Blockchain technology

In 2019, for the delight of organizations, Blockchain is going to bring the first enterprise applications in active use. The most innovative corporations will start using Blockchain as a way to improve collaboration.  

Blockchain in 2019 comes out cryptocurrency transaction and becomes an integral part of the business platform. Blockchain enables transactional transparency across a variety of business functions. In 2019, Blockchain will be present in many industries at the core of business innovation





Feroze Khan has filed a defamation lawsuit against celebrities, including his ex-wife Aliza Sultan

Feroze Khan has filed a defamation lawsuit against celebrities, including his ex-wife Aliza Sultan

For the past few months, Feroze Khan has been making headlines. The beginning of it all was his divorce from his ex-wife Syeda Aliza Sultan. The two have been engaged in a highly public custody dispute over their two children, Sultan and Fatima. News of Aliza Sultan's alleged mistreatment by her former spouse Feroze Khan emerged during the custody dispute.

Due to this, Feroze Khan has been the subject of extensive public debate and condemnation.

Khan has refuted the charges and announced that he is defending himself in court; he is now claiming that they are an effort to smear him.

Following a fight with his ex-wife Aliza Sultan, actor Feroze Khan started a legal battle by mailing legal warnings to numerous other celebrities who had publicly expressed their criticism of him.

Feroze Khan tweeted the news to his followers.

The list includes the following celebrities:

The actor's ex-wife Syeda Aliza Sultan.

The filmmakers

Musaddiq Malek(Habs Director)  and 

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy.

The actors

Osman Khalid Butt,

Mira Sethi,

Minal Khan,

Aiman Khan,

Sarwat Gilani,

Yasir Hussain.

The signer

Farhan Saeed,

Asim Azhar.

They all have received the legal notice?

On his official Twitter account, Feroze Khan initially posted the legal paperwork with the addresses and direct phone numbers of these celebrities.

Fahad Mirza, the husband of Sarwat Gillani, expresses his disappointment with Feroze Khan's action in the sharing of personal information about celebrities.

Her husband, Fahad Mirza, called out Khan on Instagram and called him a "moron of the greatest order" when the court notification was made public along with the artists' private information.

But he then deleted the aforementioned notice from social media and added

" Defamation legal notice has been served by my legal team to those false and baseless allegations."

At Least 28 People Were Killed and Over 120 Injured in an Explosion Inside a Mosque Close to a Police Line in Peshawar

An explosion at a mosque in the Peshawar police lines area left at least 120 people injured and 28 dead. There were a number of persons thought to be underneath the fallen part of the structure.

Security personnel said that the suicide bomber was in the front row during the prayers when he blasted himself. It is still unclear if the bomb was placed inside the mosque or if it was a suicide assault.

In the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Peshawar, a powerful explosion took place in a mosque on the police line, in which 28 people have been martyred and 120 injured so far.

It blew up during the Zuhr prayers at around 1:40 pm. According to a spokeswoman, several of the injured patients at Lady Reading Hospital are in severe condition.

Meena Gul, a 38-year-old police officer who survived, claimed to have been at the mosque when the device detonated. He stated he had no idea how he managed to escape unharmed. The bomb detonated, and he heard cries and screams.

In a statement, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif condemned the blast and instructed officials to provide the bombing victims with the finest medical care possible. He also promised to take drastic measures against the perpetrators of the crime.

Imran Khan, a former prime minister, strongly denounced the blast and described it as a terrorist suicide strike in a Twitter post.

People are seen emerging from the debris in the scenes following the Peshawar bomb, many of whom are still buried beneath the destroyed mosque. 28 people have died and 120 have been wounded. Peshawar, DC.

Nobody claimed responsibility for the blast right away.

The area has been blocked off and declared to be under an emergency.

Attack on the MIANWALI Police Station by Terrorists Is Stopped by Punjab Police

MIANWALI: According to ARY News, the Punjab police stopped a significant "terrorist attack" on a police station in the Isakkhel area of Mianwali on Tuesday night.

A gang of 20 to 25 highly armed rebels attacked the Makerwal police station in the Isakkhel area, according to a statement from District Police Officer (DPO) Mianwali.

The DPO said, however, that following a fierce exchange of gunfire, the terrorists were forced to leave. The official reported that some terrorists were hurt as a result of the police's retaliatory shooting.

Inspector General Police (IGP) Punjab Dr. Usman Anwar established a four-person team to investigate the terrorist assault in the meanwhile. Members of the Additional IG Training, DIG IT, Special Branch, and Operations teams make up the four-person team.

The committee and Regional Police Officer (RPO) Sargodha would work together to organize search and combing operations against terrorists. Additionally, he gave the order to begin searching in the regions near Makerwal Police Station.

The terrorist incident happened the day after a mosque in Peshawar's Police Lines was violently rocked after afternoon prayers by a suicide bomber.

According to the most recent statistics, the incident resulted in at least 100 verified fatalities and close to 169 injuries.

According to security officials, the explosion occurred on Monday at 1:40 pm as Zuhr prayers were being delivered, and as a result, the mosque's ceiling collapsed. The victims are still being sought after during the ongoing rescue effort at the mosque site.

The explosion at a mosque in Peshawar's Police Lines has been blamed on the proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The senior leadership of the Pakistani Army made a commitment earlier in the day to subject those responsible for the Peshawar mosque suicide bombing, which lost approximately 100 lives, to the highest standards of justice.

" Such immoral and barbaric deeds cannot break the spirit of the nation," the army commander is reported as saying, " rather they reaffirm our will to triumph in the continuing battle against terror with Zero tolerance for any terrorist entity."

All commanders were given the order by COAS Asim Munir to maintain their attention on counterterrorism operations in conjunction with intelligence and law enforcement organizations with renewed commitment until we achieve lasting peace.

A fourth Massive Earthquake of 7.8 Magnitude Strikes Turkey, killing Around 4,000 People As of Now

The major earthquake, which struck at 04:17 local time, was felt more than a hundred miles away in both directions, in southern Turkey and northern Syria.

After powerful earthquakes shook Turkey's southeast area bordering Syria, 4,300 deaths have been reported by Turkish authorities. Another with 15,834 victims of injuries.

More than 4300 people have died as a result of Monday's earthquake.

Three large earthquakes that occurred on Monday in Turkey and Syria severely damaged infrastructure and killed more than 3,800 people. Numerous aftershocks from the 7.8-magnitude earthquake destroyed entire neighborhoods in important Turkish cities in the area, which were home to millions of people fleeing the civil war in Syria and other crises

The president of Turkey has claimed that the Monay Earthquake is the worst calamity to hit Turkey in many years. Seismologists claim that the first earthquake was one of the biggest ever recorded in the nation. According to the BBC, a second earthquake with a magnitude of 7.5 was started 12 hours later, with its epicenter in the Elbistan region of Kahramanmaras province.

People claim the earthquake caused gas pipelines to rupture and start massive flames in southern Turkey.

Experts warned that there could be more death and that earthquakes could last for days or weeks.

A state of emergency was also proclaimed by the Syrian Civil Defence, a rescue organization working in the opposition-held areas of northern Syria, and an appeal was made to " the international community to facilitate the rescue of civilians in Syria."

In the cities of Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep, rescuers were sifting through the wreckage of demolished structures. Adiyaman, Malatya, and Diyarbakir also reported having buildings that had collapsed.

" Local devastation and significant damage must be anticipated. Right now, there are rescue workers in the region, and their numbers will grow over the next few days.

Pakistan and other nations offer their support and condolences to Turkey after learning that they were severely impacted.


Confidence Vote For Cm Pervaiz Elahi: Opposition Leaves The Punjab Assembly

After a rough day in the Punjab Assembly, Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi was able to secure 186 votes of confidence to save his position.

Rana Sanaullah, the federal interior minister, has disagreed with the figures. After the Opposition staged a walkout, Sanaullah alleged in a media interview that several members of the treasury benches were not in the nation, despite PTI's assertion that they were there for the session.

After a lengthy day marked by a heated standoff between the opposition and the ruling coalition, the vote finally took place.

Following their vocal protest, the opposition legislators left the Punjab Assembly without being able to prevent Chief Minister (CM) Pervaiz Elahi's vote of confidence.

The opposition MPAs encircled the PA speaker's desk and hurled chairs at the government legislators. The security guards prevented them from getting close to Speaker Sibtain Khan's dice.

In the session in which PTI leader and Punjab Assembly member Mian Aslam Iqbal presented a resolution expressing confidence in the Chief Minister, Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain Khan presided over.

Details show that Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), the opposition alliance, skipped the meeting while 186 members of the ruling coalition expressed trust in the leadership of the chief minister.

Prior to it, the members received a briefing on the voting procedure from the secretary of the Punjab Assembly. In the interim, protesters gathered in the Punjab Assembly. The agenda was torn up by the combined opposition members. After then, all actions In anticipation of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz's anticipated protest, the Punjab Assembly prepared strict security precautions (PML-N). Before the vote, a security team was stationed by the speaker's dice.

PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) and its pools made an unexpected move. Pervaiz Elahi, the chief minister of Punjab, was declared to have won the confidence vote, according to Speaker Sibtain Khan.

The opposition MPAs were invited by the speaker to count the number of legislators present in the assembly room.

Later, the opposition requested that the session be called to order by the PA speaker.

The opposition MPAs should stop ordering him about, according to Speaker Sibtain Khan. Even though there was a unanimous vote of confidence, he refused to call the meeting to a close.

The vote of confidence would be appealed in court, according to Sanaullah and another PML-N leader.

In a video speech at a parliamentary party session, PTI Chairman Imran Khan was all praise for PTI-PML-Q MPAs.

The Lahore High Court has Approved Fawad Chaudhry's Temporary Remand

Umar Hameed, Secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), filed an FIR against Fawad Chaudhry, a senior Tehreek-e-Insaf member and former Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, for inciting violence against a national authority.

The ECP Secretary Omer Hamid Khan filed a complaint against Chaudhry Friday night at the Kohsar Police Station in the federal capital, according to Islamabad Police, who confirmed the arrest.

He was the subject of an FIR  because he had threatened the ECP and its members.

According to sources, Fawad's transit remand was seized in Lahore, and today he would be sent to Islamabad.

Fawad Chaudhry appeared with judicial magistrate Rana Mudassir in Lahore's Cantt. Rose petals were poured on Fawad by PTI lawyers at his entrance.

After publicly criticizing the government and the Election Commission of Pakistan for plotting to detain party leader Imran Khan, Fawad Chaudhry was detained from his home early on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a plea against Fawad's arrest was submitted to the LHC by Advocate Muhammad Ahmad Pansota.

The prosecution informed the judge at the hearing that a case had been filed against Fawad and asked the court to accept his temporary custody. Fawad's lawyer responded by asserting that the transitory remand was unnecessary because it only took four hours to travel from Lahore to Islamabad.

Fawad said that he is "proud" of the case that has been filed against him while speaking to the journalists at the court. " Nelson Mandela dealt with a comparable situation. It's said that I acted treasonously.

As a former federal minister and Supreme Court lawyer, the PTI leader claimed that he deserves to be treated with respect.

He stated, " The way I was arrested was not right," and added that if the police had asked, he would have shown up.

He continued by noting that everything he stated about the ECP was being said by everyone in the nation.

Fawad was taken into custody as a huge group of PTI members went to the home of the party's leader, Imran Khan, to make sure he was not arrested.

After Fawad's arrest, as a result of reports that the government was preparing to arrest the former prime minister, Imran Khan, PTI members rushed to the house of the party chairman, Imran Khan, during the full night to assure his safety.

Imran Khan was the party's red line, according to Fawad Chaudhry, and "if someone conspires to arrest Khan, then there would be protests all throughout Pakistan." He predicted that all of Pakistan's cities would be put under lockdown as the people supported their beloved leader.

CM Punjab says opposition parties doing politics on coronavirus

hief Minister of Punjab Sardar Usman Buzdar on Monday has said that opposition parties doing politics on coronavirus situation is alarming. In a statement, the CM said that Pakistani nation will never forgive those doing negative politics in this time of need. The incumbent government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has not left the people alone to suffer in this current situation, he added. Earlier, CM Sardar Usman Buzdar had assured to resolve the issues of traders and businessmen who are facing difficulties due to the coronavirus lockdown. He said that the government is keen to provide more relief to the industrialists in this time of need. 

PAT chief Tahir-ul-Qadri announces retirement from politics

Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) founder Tahir-ul-Qadri announced his retirement from politics on Saturday in a live conference.  “I am taking retirement from PAT chairmanship and politics,” Qadri said in a video message on social media. “It was due to our struggle that the accountability process began and the corrupt mafia has now been held accountable.”

He continued, “We tried to stop unethical means from coming into the assembly and put all our energies to stop these ways. Unfortunately, in our politics, there is no room for the poor and the middle-class people.”“My political struggle is only 10 per cent of my overall working which I have been doing side by side,” Qadri said. “We have focused on eradicating illiteracy from Pakistan and formed 5000 educational institutions around Pakistan.”

“It was through the platforms of Pakistan Awami Tehreek that we introduced Article 62 and 63 to the common people of Pakistan and made them aware of their fundamental rights,” he added.“The martyrs of the Model Town incident are the result of the struggle of the movement. We protested for three months in Islamabad to create awareness in the people,” he asserted.

Qadri continued, “As a result of our movement, those who could never be arrested were. Now it’s a test for the new people how they will continue the process of accountability.” He added that he wants to focus on his academic commitments and writing. "I have health issues as well which is why I am retiring from politics and handing over all the power to the Supreme Council," Qadri added.  


Trump announces major cut in US Military presence in Iraq, Afghanistan

The US will call back some 2,200 soldiers from Iraq by the end of September, a top commander announced on Wednesday. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of the US Central Command, told reporters that the number of US troops in Iraq will be brought down from about 5,200 to 3,000, according to the BBC.He said the remaining soldiers will continue to cooperate with Iraqi security forces in efforts for “ rooting out the final remnants” of the Daesh/ISIS terror group.

Last month, US President Donald Trump reiterated his desire to call back all American troops from Iraq, saying the withdrawal would take place as soon as possible. During his 2016 presidential election campaign, Donald Trump pledged specifically to reduce the United States' foreign military involvement, gradually taking steps towards the goal by withdrawing servicemen from conflict zones where US troops are dispatched. US President Donald Trump is set to announce " further troop withdrawals" from Iraq on Wednesday, according to White House pool reporters, citing an unnamed senior administration source.

Along with that, another statement on Afghanistan will be given " in the coming days" " A senior administration official told reporters on Air Force One to expect an announcement tomorrow on further troop withdrawals from Iraq, and another announcement in the coming days about Afghanistan," White House reporter for the Los Angeles Times Chris Megerian tweeted Tuesday. A senior administration official told reporters on Air Force One to expect an announcement tomorrow on further troop withdrawals from Iraq, and another announcement in the coming days about Afghanistan.

— Chris Megerian (@ChrisMegerian) September 9, 2020

The reduction of troops' numbers in foreign countries was one of Trump's key campaign pledges, with POTUS   stressing his opposition to " endless wars" recently. Currently, around 5,200 American troops are located in Iraq, justified by a goal to fight remnants of Daesh* in the area. In August, The Wall Street Journal reported that the US will be reducing its troops in Iraq by one-third, to about 3,500, due to the shift from combating Daesh* to developing Iraq's own security forces. The unnamed sources cited in the report claimed that the withdrawal was connected with the upcoming US presidential election. 

The gradual withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan began in February, after Washington signed an agreement with the Taliban*, envisaging total drawdown within the next 14 months along with the start of intra-Afghan negotiations and a prisoner exchange. A full withdrawal of US troops will be conducted, provided that the Taliban* complies with the deal's requirements.

The US has already withdrawn around 3,000 soldiers from Afghanistan this year, reducing current troop numbers in the country to about 6,800, according to Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman. Earlier in July, the Pentagon also confirmed that it was handing five bases that were previously occupied by American troops to the Afghan government under the agreement with the Taliban*. Initially, US soldiers were deployed in Afghanistan in 2001 to oust the Taliban*.

China slams US defense secretary's article on Chinese army

A Chinese military spokesperson has slammed as unfounded a recent article by U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper against the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA). The article was full of Cold War mentality and ideological bias, groundlessly misrepresented the PLA, and hyped up the so-called "Chinese military threat," Ren Guoqiang, spokesperson for China's Ministry of National Defense, said Sunday. Published in late August, the article titled "The Pentagon Is Prepared for China" claimed that the PLA "is not a military that serves the nation," but belongs to and serves the Communist Party of China (CPC). Voicing firm opposition to the article, Ren said facts have proved that any attempt to sever the close ties between the Chinese military and the people is doomed to fail. China's Constitution has made it clear that the Chinese armed forces belong to the people. Led by the CPC, the PLA shares the purpose of the Party, which is to wholeheartedly serve the people, Ren said.

The armed forces have made huge sacrifices for national independence and the people's liberation, and made outstanding contributions to economic growth, disaster relief and safeguarding lives and property, he added. Since its founding in 1949, the People's Republic of China has never started a war or occupied an inch of others' land. The development of China's military force contributes to the growth of world's peaceful forces, Ren said. Calling the U.S. attempt to play up regional tensions and sow discord between China and other countries in the region a pipe dream, Ren said the Chinese armed forces will continue to play their due role in building a world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity.

Malaysia celebrates 63rd anniversary of independence

Malaysia marked the 63rd anniversary of its independence on Monday, with a scaled back celebration due to the restrictive measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. Malaysia's king Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah officiated the celebration at the administration center of Putrajaya, being joined by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and members of his cabinet. In his royal address, Sultan Abdullah urged Malaysians to appreciate and to practise the Rukun Negara, Malaysia's declaration of national philosophy, which should guide all citizens of the multiracial country.

He also called on the people to appreciate and safeguard the country's independence and peace. No assemblies and parades by uniformed bodies, government agencies and private sector were held due to COVID-19 restrictions. Instead, small official celebrating events were held in several venues in Putrajaya and the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, which were broadcasted live to the Malaysians.

In his address to the nation on Sunday, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin called for his compatriots to care for each other in the face of challenges including those caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, ahead of the country's national day to celebrate the 63rd anniversary of independence. In the televised address, Muhyiddin urged Malaysians to care for the country, work towards maintaining the peace and harmony Malaysia presently enjoys and push the country forward to be more successful in various fields. On Aug. 31, 1957, the then Federation of Malaya gained independence from British rule.

Trump to give TikTok's Chinese parent company 45 days to negotiate sale, Report says

President Donald Trump has purportedly approved a 45-day window for the Chinese firm ByteDance to agree to sell its now popular short-video app TikTok to Microsoft Corp, according to three people familiar with the potential deal, as quoted by Reuters. The time lapse will ostensibly serve as a transition period for Microsoft to develop technology for TikTok that will be completely separate from ByteDance, one of the sources said. US officials have insisted a number of times that TikTok under its Chinese owner poses a threat to the nation due to the specifics of the personal data it handles.

POTUS on Friday said he was planning to completely ban TikTok in the United States after ditching the idea of its acquisition by Microsoft. However, he has reportedly had a change of heart on the matter following talks with fellow Republicans. One of the sources shared that many in the GOP believed putting an outright ban on the social network would alienate quite a few of its young users ahead of the US presidential polls in November, and could in all likelihood trigger legal complications.

"A win-win in the making", Republican Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted in response to Trump's apparently updated stance on Sunday, ahead of the White House's official announcement. While ByteDance did not directly address the potential deal in its Sunday comments, Microsoft weighed in saying it "fully appreciates the importance of addressing the president's concerns". "It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury", the tech giant stressed in a statement.

A top priority task is understood to be separating TikTok's technology from ByteDance's infrastructure and access, so as to effectively ease the US's multiple concerns about the integrity of personal data. ByteDance's valuation for the app climbed above $50 billion, although US pressure to divest it could lower the price, a Reuters report from last week has it.