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Alan Cumming is speaking out on returning his British Honour: ‘It’s complex’


Alan Cumming is speaking out on why he returned a British Honour he held since 2009.

On the eve of his birthday on Friday, January 27, Scottish actor Alan Cumming announced that he returned his Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire honor.

Speaking with People, on January 29, Cumming noted that the reaction to his act has been “incredible,” and said, “I mean, first of all, I didn’t ever expect so much attention about it.”

The Old School actor continued, “It’s been really positive. People really understood why it’s complicated, it’s complex, it’s not a black or white thing.”

Cumming, 58, added, “I tried to say that in my statement, and people have really responded to that. I think times are changing and things change, and you change how you feel about something.”

In 2009, Cumming received the honor by the late Queen Elizabeth II as part of her birthday honors list. Princess Anne distributed the award to him at Buckingham Palace, cited from People.

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Centre’s tax kitty set to surpass Budget estimate – Times of India


NEW DELHI: The Centre is expected to close the year with higher than budgeted tax collections during 2022-23, marking the second straight fiscal year of the actual collections being more than the Budget estimates.
During the last 22 years, there have been only two occasions – 2006-07 to 2007-08 and 2015-16 to 2017-18 – when the actual collections have been more than the Budget estimates (BE) during successive years.
Against a Budget estimate of Rs 15.5 lakh crore, the Centre’s net revenue collections (after transfers to states) were estimated at over Rs 18 lakh crore, according to the provisional data available with the Controller General of Accounts. During the current fiscal year too, direct tax and GST collections are on course to beat the BE.
For instance, during the fiscal year up to January 10, direct tax collections were estimated to be at 87% of the full-year target, making it almost certain that the FM will revise the target upwards when she presents the revised estimates in Parliament on Wednesday.
Similarly, with average monthly collections of Rs 1.49 lakh crore, GST too is on course to beat the full-year estimate despite a slowdown in imports likely to take a toll over the next few months.
At the start of the financial year, finance ministry officials had suggested that the estimates for 2022-23 were conservative. Economists are now keeping an eye on the Budget estimate for next year, given that it may not be possible to sustain the tax buoyancy that has been seen for two straight years following the pandemic.

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Andrew Tate lashes out at ‘communist’ Romania over justice system


Andrew Tate has reiterated that there’s no justice in Romania after a judge described the “particular dangerousness” of internet personality and his brother Tristan in terms of their ability to target women.

According to BBC, the judge also pointed to what he called their “capacity and effort to exercise permanent psychological control over the victims… including by resorting to constant acts of violence”.

The comments came in a written statement from the main court in Bucharest, in which the judge laid out his reasons for extending the brothers’ detention last week.

Taking to Twitter, Andrew Tate wrote, “Romania is a communist country. Zero evidence and zero proof only suspicions.They will lock you in jail,And try to find you guilty of things.They will then waste your life as they fail.Release you years later and not even apologize.”

Andre Tate and his brother are being held in custody for an extra 30 days, until 27 February, while police investigate allegations of rape and human trafficking. Both deny the charges.

They are being held along with two Romanian women closely associated with them.

Investigators allege that in early 2021, the four constituted an organised criminal group, set up to “recruit.. shelter and transport victims…in order to obtain large sums of money by forcing victims to perform pornographic events” distributed on websites such as TikTok and Only Fans.

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‘Stop asking for favours’, Najam Sethi urges people


PCB Management Committee Chairman Najam Sethi addressing a media conference at Gaddafi Stadium on January 23, 2023. — APP

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Management Committee Chairman Najam Sethi has asked people to stop flooding him with requests to hire or promote people in the board.

Taking to Twitter on Sunday, the former PCB chairman pleaded “relatives, friends, acquaintances and persons in authority” to not request such favours from him.

Last month, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif — in a bid to revive the PCB’s 2014 Constitution — named the 74-year-old as the management committee’s chief. Resultantly, the dissolution of the board ended ex-PCB chairman Ramiz Raja’s era.

“I am flooded with “requests” from relatives, friends, acquaintances & persons in authority to hire or promote people in PCB. Please, Please, everyone, understand PCB is not an employment agency,” he tweeted.

Sethi added that he “cannot, will not, follow bad past practices to erode its professional integrity”.

Since his takeover as the chief of the management committee, Sethi has also been receiving requests for passes of the Pakistan Super League and favours for any player’s selection.

The PCB management committee’s chief, in a tweet, requested his friends and high-profile people “NOT to ask for free tickets/passes to PSL matches starting next month.”

He added: “The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly that audits PCB has warned us to desist from this practice.”

Sethi also requested people not to approach him for any player’s inclusion in the team or employment for an undeserving person.

He wrote: “I am also requesting friends and high-ups not to do sifarish for [the] selection of any player or coach, etc, or to give employment or facilitation to any undeserving person. PCB competes with top professional organisations in the world and cannot afford to be inefficient.”

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Iranian military factory hit by drone attack


Eyewitness footage shows what is said to be the moment of an explosion at a military industry factory in Isfahan, Iran, on January 29, 2023. — Reuters
  • Drones target plant near Isfahan, no casualties.
  • “Cowardly” attack won’t slow nuclear activity: Iran.
  • Says two drones caught in defence traps and blew up.

DUBAI: A loud explosion struck a military industry factory near the central Iranian city of Isfahan overnight in what Tehran said on Sunday was a drone strike by unidentified attackers.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which came amid tension with the West over Tehran’s nuclear activity and supply of arms for Russia’s war in Ukraine, as well as months of antigovernmental demonstrations at home.

Iran’s foreign minister said the “cowardly” attack was aimed at creating “insecurity” in Iran. The Defence Ministry said the explosion caused only minor damage and no casualties. The extent of the damage could not be independently confirmed.

“Such actions will not impact our experts’ determination to progress in our peaceful nuclear work,” Hossein Amirabdollahian told reporters in televised remarks.

Iranian media video showed a flash of light at the plant, which the official news agency IRNA described as an ammunition factory. Footage also showed emergency vehicles and fire trucks outside the complex.

“Around 23:30 on Saturday night, an unsuccessful attack was carried out using Micro Aerial Vehicles (MAVs) on one of the ministry’s workshop sites,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement carried by state TV.

It said one drone was shot down “and the other two were caught in defence traps and blew up. It caused only minor damage to the roof of a workshop building. There were no casualties.”

The attack “has not affected our installations and mission … and such blind measures will not have an impact on the continuation of the country’s progress,” the statement said.

Separately, IRNA reported early on Sunday a massive fire at a motor oil factory in an industrial zone near the northwestern city of Tabriz. It gave no information about the cause of that blaze.

Past explosions, fires

The republic has in the past accused arch-enemy Israel of planning attacks using agents inside Iranian territory. In July, Tehran said it had arrested a sabotage team made up of Kurdish militants working for Israel who planned to blow up a “sensitive” defence industry centre in Isfahan.

An Israeli military spokesperson declined to comment when asked if Israel had any connection to the latest incident. Israel has long said it could attack Iran if diplomacy fails to curb Tehran’s nuclear or ballistic missile programmes, but has a policy of withholding comment on specific incidents.

In Ukraine, which accuses Iran of supplying hundreds of drones to Russia to attack civilian targets in Ukrainian cities far from the front, a senior aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy linked the incident directly to the war there.

“War logic is inexorable [and] murderous. It bills the authors [and] accomplices strictly,” Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted. “Explosive night in Iran – drone & missile production, oil refineries. Did warn you.”

Several Iranian nuclear sites are located in Isfahan province, including Natanz, the centrepiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment programme, which Iran accuses Israel of sabotaging in 2021. There have been a number of explosions and fires around Iranian military, nuclear and industrial sites in recent years.

Talks between Iran and world powers to revive a 2015 nuclear deal have stalled since September. Under the pact, abandoned by Washington in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, Tehran agreed to limit nuclear work in return for easing of sanctions.

Iran has acknowledged sending drones to Russia but says they were sent before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last year. Moscow denies its forces use Iranian drones in Ukraine, although many have been shot down and recovered there.

Iran’s clerical rulers have also faced internal turmoil in recent months, with a crackdown on widespread anti-establishment demonstrations spurred by the death in custody of a woman held for allegedly violating its strict dress code.

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Punk icon Tom Verlaine dies at age 73


Punk icon Tom Verlaine dies at age 73

Founding member of Television and an innovative guitarist, Tom Verlaine has breathed his last at 73 in Manhattan.

According to The New York Times, the late popstar daughter, Paris Smith, confirmed the news, revealing the musician’s cause of death was a “brief illness.”

Critic Robert Palmer stated in “Rock & Roll: An Unruly History” (1995), “When the punk rebellion began taking shape in the mid-seventies, Television in particular carried on the [Velvet Underground’s] legacy of street-real lyrics and harmonic clang-and-drone, with appropriate nods to John Coltrane’s modal jazz and the Byrds’ resonating raga-rock from lead guitarist Tom Verlaine.”

“He was my guitar hero at a time when I needed one most,” Wynn said in a statement.

“I spent the entire year of 1981 practicing daily to Marquee Moon. Tom Verlaine’s soloing (and Richard Lloyd‘s as well, of course) showed me you could be a virtuoso and dangerous at the same time, more Coltrane or Ornette than the arena rockers of the day.

Part of rock band Television as frontman, they have bagged three UK Top 40 hit singles and were lauded for their albums Marquee Moon and Adventure.

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Biden is set to meet with McCarthy on Wednesday to discuss the debt ceiling


WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Wednesday, a White House official confirmed to NBC News, amid Republicans’ debt-ceiling showdown with Democrats.

McCarthy first announced the meeting to discuss the debt ceiling in an interview CBS’ “Face the Nation” earlier Sunday. The House speaker said Republicans would not allow the U.S. to default and expressed an interest in reaching an agreement with the president.

“I know the President said he doesn’t want to have any discussions, but I think it’s very important that our whole government is designed to find compromise,” McCarthy said. “I want to find a reasonable way we can lift the debt ceiling but take control of this runaway spending.”

The U.S. government hit its statutory debt limit earlier this month. The Treasury Department said at the time that it had begun resorting to “extraordinary measures” to pay the bills and that there is a June 5 deadline to act or risk default.

House Republicans have been demanding spending cuts in exchange for lifting the debt ceiling and averting a default on U.S. debt. Party leaders, however, have not put forward a unified plan to cut spending, complicating McCarthy’s task of passing a bill with his narrow majority.

The White House previously said there won’t be any negotiations, and Congress must allow the government to pay its bills. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have backed Biden, demanding that McCarthy present his plan and pass it through the House before any discussions occur.

“I will not let anyone use the full faith and credit of the United States as a bargaining chip,” Biden said last week, in his first major economic remarks of the year, arguing that GOP proposals would lead to higher inflation.

McCarthy swiftly rebuked Biden’s stance, saying that he’s “disappointed” but remains determined in his demand for spending cuts.

“Here’s the leader of the free world pounding on the table, being irresponsible, saying ‘no, no, no, just raise the limit, make us spend more.’ No. That’s not how adults act,” McCarthy told reporters at the Capitol last week. “Let’s find common ground, and let’s eliminate the wasteful spending to protect the hard-working taxpayers.”

“So the longer he waits the more he puts the fiscal jeopardy of America up for grabs,’ the House speaker added.

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Netlfix, Spotify ‘doubling down’ on demands with Prince Harry


Spotify and Netflix are reportedly counting on more juicy revelations from Prince Harry.

This admission has been brought to light by Perez Hilton during the course of his interview with the Daily Star.

Hilton warned, “I think going forward their partner will be much more demanding and making sure that they don’t release boring content, which I’m sure is what they want to be releasing — boring content, safe content.”

After all, “Harry knows the media is a game and he is an active, willing participant that needs to keep feeding the machine.”

“Or else, he won’t be able to keep making the money he wants to make.”

This is especially true considering, “The number one main reason Prince Harry has done everything over the last 12 months is for money. And he has not once — not a single time — acknowledged that. And it reveals a real sour taste in my mouth.”

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Rep. Michael McCaul on Air Force general’s prediction of war with China: ‘I hope he’s wrong… I think he’s right’


A top congressional Republican on Sunday said he agrees with a memo by a four-star Air Force general that predicts the U.S. will be at war with China in two years.

In the memo sent Friday and obtained by NBC News, Gen. Mike Minihan, head of Air Mobility Command, wrote, “I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me will fight in 2025.”

Asked to weigh in on the prediction in an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Tx., who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “I hope he’s wrong as well. I think he’s right, though, unfortunately.”

McCaul also accused the Biden administration of “projecting weakness” on the world stage and argued that there are “very high” odds of war with China because of it.”

Later on “Fox News Sunday,” Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., a ranking member of the House Armed Service Committee, pushed back on the prediction. Smith said that although “anything is possible,” he is “really worried when anyone starts talking about war with China being inevitable.”

“I want to be completely clear. It’s not only not inevitable, it’s highly unlikely,” Smith said, of the possibility of war with Beijing. “Generals need to be very cautious about saying we’re going to war.”

The Air Mobility Command has nearly 50,000 service members and nearly 500 planes and is responsible for transport and refueling. The signed memo was addressed to all air wing commanders in Air Mobility Command and other Air Force operational commanders.

In his memo, Minihan instructed the officers he commands to get ready to prep by firing “a clip” at a target, and “aim for the head.” He said that because both Taiwan and the U.S. will have presidential elections in 2024, the U.S. will be “distracted,” and Chinese President Xi Jinping will have an opportunity to move on Taiwan.

Minihan outlined his goals for preparing, including building “a fortified, ready, integrated, and agile Joint Force Maneuver Team ready to fight and win inside the first island chain.” 

The memo also orders all air wing comments to report all major efforts to prepare for the China fight to Minihan by Feb. 28.

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India win their first-ever Women’s Under-19 World Cup


Shafali Verma lifts the Under-19 Women’s T20 World Cup, India vs England, U-19 Women’s T20 World Cup, final, Potchefstroom, January 29, 2023. — ICC

India thrashed England by seven wickets to clinch their first-ever Women’s Under-19 World Cup in a one-sided clash at the Senwes Cricket Stadium in South Africa’s Potchefstroom.

Opting to bowl first, India bowled out England for a paltry 68 runs before chasing down the target in 14 overs.

In reply to the meagre target, India’s Soumya Tiwari and Gongadi Trisha scored 24 runs each.

England sent skipper Shafali Verma (15) and Shweta Sehrawat back to the pavilion but Soumya and Trisha partnered up to chase down the target.

For England, Hannah Baker, Grace Scrivens, and Alexa Stonehouse took a wicket each.

Earlier, England struggled on the big stage and were bowled out for just 68 as a result of excellent bowling and outstanding fielding.

Ryana MacDonald-Gay top-scored for the English side as she smashed 19 runs off 24 balls. Meanwhile, Alexa Stonehouse and Sophia Smale could gather 11 runs each.

For India, Titas Sadhu, Archana Devi, and Parvashi Chopra claimed two wickets each, while Mannat Kashyap, Shafali Verma, and Sonam Mukesh Yadav secured a scalp each.

Scrivens was awarded the player of the tournament.

“Big congratulations to the U-19 girls cricket team for winning the World Cup. Well done on making the nation proud,” Rohit, senior men’s skipper, tweeted.

Kohli called the win a “special moment”.

“Women’s Cricket in India is on the upswing and the World Cup triumph has taken the stature of women’s cricket several notches higher,” Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary Jay Shah wrote on Twitter.

“This is surely a path-breaking year.”

The BCCI announced a cash prize of more than $600,000 and invited the squad to witness the third and final T20 men’s match between India and New Zealand in Ahmedabad on Wednesday.

The victory comes ahead of the inaugural women’s Indian Premier League scheduled in March.

BCCI recently earned $572.5 million as it announced the winners of bids to own five WIPL teams.

The media rights for the league were sold for $116.7 million to Viacom18 for the next five seasons.

— Additional input from AFP

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