Kuwait Bans 5 Muslim-Majority Countries, Including Pakistan

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait has suspended the issuance of visas for nationals of Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

After US President Donald Trump’s executive order banning seven Muslim-majority countries last Friday, the Kuwaiti government has told would-be migrants from the five banned nations to not apply for visas, as it is worried about the possible migration of radical Islamic terrorists, Sputnik International reported.

Under the executive order signed by Trump, refugees from all over the world will be denied US entry for 120 days while all immigration from so-called “countries with terrorism concerns” will be suspended for 90 days. The countries included in the US ban are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

Kuwait was the only nation to prohibit the entry of Syrian nationals prior to Trump’s executive action. Kuwait City previously issued a suspension of visas for all Syrians in 2011.
A group of terrorists bombed a Shia mosque in 2015, killing 27 Kuwaiti nationals. A 2016 survey conducted by Expat Insider ranked Kuwait one of the worst nations in the world for expatriates, primarily due to its strict cultural laws.

As a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Kuwait has become embroiled in escalated tensions between the GCC and Iran. Washington has been a guarantor of GCC security since the early 1990s, according to a Congressional Research Service brief.

Observers have pointed out that most of the nations on Trump’s list have substantial Muslim populations and are experiencing some form of economic or military conflict.



Union Budget 2017: 10 Income Tax Changes That Will Impact You

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Union Budget 2017 slashed the income tax rate for individuals in the lowest income tax slab to 5 per cent, a move which will also benefit individuals in higher tax brackets. But tax experts who were expecting a hike in Section 80C limit were a bit disappointed. “The limit of Section 80C (of the Income Tax Act) could have been increased from Rs. 1.5 lakh to Rs. 2 lakh in this Budget as the existing limit is not sufficient to cover various payments like PF, insurance, tuition fees, etc. Further, the cap on certain allowances like, children education allowance, medical reimbursements and hostel allowance have been fixed a long time ago. It could have been increased in this Budget,” said Rakesh Bhargava, director of Taxmann.

Here are 10 things to know about the proposed changes in tax laws for individuals:

1) Mr Jaitley reduced income tax rate on income between Rs. 2.5 lakh and Rs. 5 lakh to 5 per cent from 10 per cent. However, he reduced Section 87A rebate from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 2,500. And no rebate will be applicable for taxpayers having income above Rs. 3.5 lakh.
2) This means tax savings of up to Rs. 7,700 for people with taxable income between Rs. 3 lakh and Rs. 5 lakh. And for persons with taxable income between 5 lakh and Rs. 50 lakh, tax savings of Rs. 12,900. A 10 per cent surcharge has been proposed for individuals having income ranging from Rs. 50 lakh to Rs. 1 crore. (Existing surcharge of 15 per cent will remain same for individuals having income above Rs. 1 crore.)

3) A simple one-page form will be introduced for filing tax return for individuals having taxable income up to Rs. 5 lakh other than business income. The finance minister also said that a person in this category who files income tax return for the first time would not be subjected to any scrutiny in the first year unless there is specific information available with the tax department regarding his high value transaction.

4) No deduction will be allowed for investment in Rajiv Gandhi Equity Saving Scheme from Assessment Year 2018-19. This tax-saving scheme, announced in the Union Budget for financial year 2012-13, was designed exclusively for the first-time individual investors in the securities market with gross total income below a certain limit.

5) Income tax officials can now reopen tax cases for up to 10 years if search operations reveal undisclosed income and assets of over Rs. 50 lakh. Currently, tax officers can go back up to six years to scrutinise the books of accounts of assesses. The amendment to the Income Tax Act will take effect from April 1, 2017. This means that the books of accounts of an assessee can be reopened by the taxman back till 2007.

6) Taxpayers who do not file their returns on time will have to shell out a penalty of up to Rs. 10,000 from Assessment Year 2018-19. However, if the total income of the person does not exceed Rs. 5 lakh, the fee payable under this section shall not exceed Rs. 1,000.

7) Mr Jaitley proposed a number of changes that will attract lower tax on gains from property sale. The holding period of a property for qualifying as long-term gains will get reduced to two years, from three years currently. According to the current tax norms, if a property is sold within three years of buying, the profit from the transaction is treated as short-term capital gains and is taxed according to the slab rate applicable to him/her.

8) To address the existing anomaly of interest deduction in respect of let-out property vs self-occupied property, the finance minister proposed that the set-off of loss under the head “income from house property” against any other head of income will be restricted to Rs. 2 lakh for any assessment year. And the loss not set off would be allowed to be carried forward for set off against house property income for eight assessment years.

Earlier, for properties rented out, a borrower could deduct the entire interest paid on the home loan, after adjusting for the rental income. However, according to the proposed change, the borrower could claim deduction of up to Rs. 2 lakh after adjusting for rental income. Experts say the move will dampen the demand for buying a second property for the purpose of earning rental income. “High net worth individuals used to buy properties on loan and were able to set off the full interest liability against the lettable value of property usually resulting in loss which would substantially bring down tax liability and consequently their borrowing costs. This avenue is now closed and loss above 2 lakh would have to be mandatory carried forward,” said Sandeep Sehgal, director of tax and regulatory at Ashok Maheshwary & Associates LLP.

9) Individuals will be now required to deduct a 5 per cent TDS (tax deducted at source) for rental payments above Rs. 50,000 per month. Tax experts say that the move will ensure that persons who get large rental income come into the tax net. It will be effective from June 1, 2017.

10) Partial withdrawals from National Pension System (NPS) will not attract tax. According to the proposed changes, an NPS subscriber can withdraw 25 per cent of his/her contribution to the corpus for emergencies before retirement. Remember that withdrawal of 40 per cent of the corpus is tax-free on retirement.


Is Mark Zuckerberg Getting Ready to Run for President?

As America changes presidents, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is doing something. This week, he did something in Texas: He went to his first rodeo. He wore a hard hat and a safety vest. He thanked police officers in Dallas for their hard work. He helped plant a community garden.

So what, exactly, is Mark Zuckerberg doing? Well, even without a peep from the man confirming any interest in the job, some have started to believe that Zuckerberg is running for president.

The reason people think that is, well, because whatever it is that Zuckerberg is doing looks a lot like what presidential hopefuls do:

In this case, Zuckerberg was in Dallas to testify in a $2 billion (roughly Rs. 13,616 crores) lawsuit. The Facebook-owned Oculus VR company has been accused of corporate theft by ZeniMax – an accusation that Facebook has denied. But the chief executive managed to make the most of his trip on Facebook itself by looping it into an unrelated personal project.

Zuckerberg’s New Year’s resolution this year is to make sure that he has visited each of the 50 states by the end of the year. He has been to several already, (for instance: Hawaii, where he owns a house and is suing some of his neighbours), so the resolution will mean making sure he visits about 30 additional states by December.

“My work is about connecting the world and giving everyone a voice. I want to personally hear more of those voices this year,” Zuckerberg wrote in his Facebook post explaining the resolution.

But that resolution wasn’t the first thing Zuckerberg that sounded a bit presidential to some. Over the holidays, Zuckerberg said he no longer considers himself an atheist and that religion is “very important” to him. He also hired David Plouffe, President Barack Obama’s former campaign chair, to work for the philanthropic organization that he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, created.


India Budget 2017: A Quick Look At Winners And Losers

India’s annual budget is one of the nation’s most closely watched events — not just for the numbers, but for the political message during a speech that runs for about 90 minutes.

The thrust of Wednesday’s speech by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for the fiscal year starting April 1 was on rural and infrastructure spending after advisers warned of a steep slowdown triggered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cash ban. Here are the winners and losers.

*Farmers — Pledges a record agricultural credit of 10 trillion rupees by the fiscal year through March 2018; 480 billion rupees allocated for its rural job guarantee program; electrification of villages. Companies that may benefit include tractor makers such as Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.

*Real estate — Proposes extension of affordable housing program to five years; gives the sector infrastructure status. Plans to also lower holding period for taxing capital gains on sale of immovable property to two years from three. Shares of DLF Ltd., Godrej Properties Ltd. and Oberoi Realty Ltd. could be affected.

*Consumer goods and automakers — Jaitley proposed cutting the tax rate for people with income of between 250,000 rupees and 500,000 rupees to 5% from 10%, leaving more cash in the hands of consumers to spend more on toiletries, household goods, cars and two-wheelers. Shares that may be affected are ITC Ltd., Hindustan Unilever Ltd., Marico Ltd., Maruti Suzuki Ltd. and Hero MotoCorp Ltd.

*Banks — Government proposes to inject at least 100 billion rupees of capital into state-owned lenders and provide additional capital. Also proposed increasing allowable provisions for bad loans. Stocks involved include State Bank of India, Bank of India, Bank of Baroda.


*Drug makers — As part of the rural focus, government proposes to amend rules governing pharmaceuticals to help lower prices, make healthcare affordable and encourage generics. Stocks affected include Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd. and Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.


Seventh Pay Commission: Higher Allowances Likely After Union Budget 2017

Some analysts are hopeful that the government will implement Seventh Pay Commission-related allowance hikes after the Budget 2017, which is scheduled for February 1. The Centre implemented the Seventh Pay Commission (CPC) pay hikes in September 16 and is expected to implement the allowance hikes in March after the state elections, domestic brokerage Religare said in a report. This will boost the income of one crore central government employees and pensioners, the brokerage added.

Another brokerage HSBC Securities says that “about 70 per cent of the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations (i.e. pay and pension) have already been accounted for in the FY17 Budget. The remaining item – the housing allowance – is likely to get implemented in FY18.”

“At worst, if the government is under pressure, this allowance can be pushed to the next year, as was done in the previous pay commissions. The housing allowance does not attract arrears,” HSBC Securities said.
Religare, however, said that implementation of the housing allowance portion of the Seventh Pay Commission as well as GST or Goods and Services Tax is expected to push up average inflation. Another global brokerage Morgan Stanley said that higher pay commission-related payouts could put pressure on government finances. “Trailing higher wage spending and further drain are expected as the government is likely to pay the higher allowances due as part of the Seventh Pay Commission wage hikes,” it said in a report.

The Union Cabinet had in June accepted the recommendation of Justice A K Mathur headed Seventh Pay Commission in respect of the hike in basic pay and pension but its suggestions relating to allowances were referred to a committee. The 7th Pay Commission examined a total of 196 existing allowances and, by way of rationalisation, recommended abolition of 51 allowances and subsuming of 37 allowances.

DUTA On Budget 2017 Proposals In Education Sector: ‘Backdoor Implementation Of Discredited Draft National Education Policy’

NEW DELHI: The policy direction for education contained in the Finance Minister’s budget speech yesterday is a recipe for social exclusion and decline of educational standards and it furthers the case for commercialisation of public funded institutions along with greater reliance on privatization, said Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) in a statement. The statement has also called that the proposal to grant autonomous status to colleges identified on the basis of accreditation and ranking as “to incentivise commercialisation in the form of self-financing”. Regarding the proposal to launch SWAYAM, an online portal similar to MOOCs for students to attend courses, DUTA accused that the idea is being peddled as a means to provide “quality education” in non-formal ways instead of strengthening public-funded institutions by greater funding towards teaching positions and infrastructure.

“The MHRD too has been emphasising greater financial autonomy i.e., less dependence on budgetary support and more on the market. It is absolutely clear that the Government is trying to peddle the idea that the quality of education will only improve by letting educational structures and contents be determined by market forces. It is neither interested in addressing the real issues that ail education, specifically higher education, nor sensitive to the inequalising effect of such a move,” said the statement.

The DUTA condemned the attempt by the government to implement parts of the Draft National Education Policy for Inputs into National Educational Policy which the Minister had announced as withdrawn after widespread protests across the country. We demand that these provisions be dropped and debates initiated before any education policy is formulated.
Union Minister Arun Jailtey submitted the Budget 2017-2018 yesterday and proposed various programmes to ‘reform’ the higher education sector of the country which included a National Testing Agency, Swayam online platform with 350 courses, Autonomy to colleges and institutions based on accreditation, All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Jharkhand and Gujarat etc.


In Call With Australian Leader, Trump Badgers And Brags

It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief – a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.

Instead, President Donald Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refugee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

At one point Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day – including Russian President Vladimir Putin – and that, “This was the worst call by far.”

Trump’s behavior suggests that he is capable of subjecting world leaders, including close allies, to a version of the vitriol he frequently employs against political adversaries and news organizations in speeches and on Twitter.

“This is the worst deal ever,” Trump fumed as Turnbull attempted to confirm that the United States would honor its pledge to take in 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center. Trump, who one day earlier had signed an executive order temporarily barring the admissions of refugees, complained that he was “going to get killed” politically and accused Australia of seeking to export the “next Boston bombers.”

U.S. officials said that Trump has behaved similarly in conversations with leaders of other countries, including Mexico. But his treatment of Turnbull was particularly striking because of the tight bond between the United States and Australia – countries that share intelligence, support one another diplomatically and have fought together in wars including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The characterizations provide insight into Trump’s temperament and approach to the diplomatic requirements of his job as the nation’s chief executive, a role in which he continues to employ both the uncompromising negotiating tactics he honed as a real estate developer and the bombastic style he exhibited as a reality television personality.


UP Elections 2017: Akhilesh ‘My Son After All’: Father Mulayam Singh’s Flip-Flop On Alliance

NEW DELHI/ LUCKNOW: In the latest twist in the Yadav family battle ahead of the Uttar Pradesh polls, Mulayam Singh Yadav has taken a 180-degree turn and said he will not just campaign for his Samajwadi Party but also the Congress; days ago, he had gone public with his deep resentment at the alliance forged by his son, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.

“He is my son after all,” Mulayam Singh said, asked by a reporter if Akhilesh Yadav had his blessings.

The Samajwadi patriarch also said he would start campaigning for his party “after the 9th”.

Would he campaign for the Congress as well, asked NDTV. The 77-year-old replied with another question – “They are our ally so why won’t I do it?”

On January 22, when Akhilesh Yadav unveiled the Samajwadi Party’s manifesto for the February-March election in the state, his father’s absence was striking.

The same evening, Akhilesh Yadav posted on Facebook a photograph of his father holding up a copy of the manifesto.
A day later, a sulking Mulayam Singh hit out at the Samajwadi-Congress alliance – announced jointly by Akhilesh Yadav and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, and threatened that he would not campaign for it.

“The Samajwadi Party is completely capable of fighting elections alone. When we did that, we formed the government with a majority. So this was not needed. I am completely against this alliance, I won’t campaign,” Mulayam Singh had said.

At the start of this year, Akhilesh Yadav, backed by a majority of his party members, was recognised legally as the leader of party that Mulayam Singh founded. The Election Commission decided that the 43-year-old junior Yadav had the rights to use the Samajwadi name and symbol of the cycle.

The “coup” marked an escalation after months of bickering in which Mulayam Singh, egged on by younger brother Shivpal Yadav, repeatedly undermined Akhilesh Yadav, not allowing him any say in crucial party decisions like the selection of poll candidates.

Akhilesh Yadav then released his own list of candidates, after which both factions took the fight to the Election Commission.


Who Will Pay For San Francisco’s $750 Million Tilting Tower?

Nina Agabian, a retired director of research in global health science at the University of California, bought a 29th-floor apartment in San Francisco’s Millennium Tower in 2010. “It was supposed to be a wonderful building,” she said in January, sitting in a leather chair in the building’s vast, low-lit, owner’s-club level. “For many of us, who left our business lives to start our older years, this had become a nice, comfortable place.”

The building, which opened in 2008 and was touted as the most luxurious tower in San Francisco, became a beacon of the city’s burgeoning wealth, attracting tech millionaires, venture capitalists, and even the San Francisco 49ers retired quarterback Joe Montana.

The 58-story tower’s shine faded on May 10, 2016, when Agabian attended a homeowners association meeting and was informed that the building had sunk 16 inches into the earth and tilted over 15 inches at its tip and 2 inches at the base, according to suits filed by residents and the city of San Francisco.

“You can imagine how distressed we were to know that, for one, our lifetime investment and savings are at risk,” she said. “And we have no idea whether or not there’s a fix to it, and if there is a fix to it, what it will entail.”

The building, meanwhile, continues to sink.

As Agabian and more than 20 other residents file multiple lawsuits against the building’s developer, the city of San Francisco, and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, another, potentially more ominous development has emerged. Two people with knowledge of Millennium Partners’ liability policy say the developer is insured to cover some $100 million in damages caused by settlement or construction defects; the policy is split among several insurers. Ancillary policies held by the building’s architect, structural engineer, and general contractor are worth another $50 million to $100 million, according to one of the people. Any legal fees incurred by the policyholders could be deducted from their policies. But according to experts, fixing whatever is causing the building to tilt could cost far more than that amount.


State of Dissent: US mandarins revolt against Trump’s refugee ban

WASHINGTON: Nearly 1,000 State Department authorities have marked a contradiction note submitted to the Trump organization scrutinizing its travel strictures against exiles and settlers in what is said to be the biggest bureaucratic revolt in US history.

The update was settled notwithstanding vocation officers being cautioned by the White House that they ought to stop in the event that they can’t help contradicting the President. Undaunted by White House fierceness, the mandarins on Tuesday formally presented the reminder to the State Department’s strategy arranging executive to be sent to the Secretary of State.

Ordinarily, best authorities are approached to react substantively inside 30 to 60 days to notices from the Dissent Channel. There were clashing records concerning whether the White House Damocles’ sword hanging over them, clear after two senior disagreeing law authorization authorities were let go, prodded or restrained more marks.

The State Department’s Dissent Channel was set up amid the Vietnam War to guarantee that senior authority in the office would have admittance to option arrangement sees on the war, with nonconformists given resistance from retaliation. There are four to five contradiction takes note of every year, some with just a single or two signatories, albeit a year ago, more than 50 negotiators sent a difference link restricting US inaction in Syria.

Source:- Timesofindia