Sri Lanka to tour South Africa for two-test series

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka will travel to South Africa in December to play a two-test series, a local media report said on Sunday, marking their return to international cricket after a 10-month gap due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since hosting West Indies for a limited-overs series in February, Sri Lanka cricketers have seen a number of fixtures, including test matches against England and a limited-overs series against India, postponed because of the pandemic.

The team under Dimuth Karunaratne will play a two-test series beginning on Dec. 26 though venues have not been finalised yet, the Island newspaper reported, quoting Sri Lanka Cricket officials.

The first match is set be played in Durban or Port Elizabeth, with Cape Town the likely venue for the New Year test.

Sri Lanka last toured South Africa in 2019, becoming the first Asian team to win a test series there.

Most of Karunaratne’s team-mates will be seen in action in the Lanka Premier League Twenty20 competition beginning on Nov. 21.

Former South African skipper Faf du Plessis and team-mate David Miller are among overseas players set to appear in the five-team tournament.


Afghanistan security forces kill senior al-Qaeda leader Abu Muhsin al-Masri

KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan security forces have killed Abu Muhsin al-Masri, a senior al Qaeda leader who was on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Most Wanted Terrorists list, Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) said in a tweet late on Saturday.

The head of the US National Counter-Terrorism Center, Chris Miller, confirmed al-Masri’s death in a statement, saying his “removal .. from the battlefield is a major setback to a terrorist organization that is consistently experiencing strategic losses facilitated by the United States and its partners.”

Al Qaeda’s loss of al-Masri, Miller continued, “highlights the diminishing effectiveness of the terrorist organization.”

Al-Masri has been charged in the United States with having provided material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organisation, and conspiracy to kill US nationals.

Al-Masri, believed to be al Qaeda’s second-in-command, was killed during a special operation in Ghazni province, the NDS said.

The FBI declined to comment.

The al Qaeda operative, who also went by the name Husam Abd-al-Ra’uf, was an Egyptian national, according to the FBI.

Last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said fewer than 200 al Qaeda operatives remain in Afghanistan.

This month marks 19 years since the United States invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban rulers, who had harboured al Qaeda militants who attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

The United States has been gradually drawing down its troops from Afghanistan after striking a landmark deal with the Taliban in February.

That deal is set to see foreign forces leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power sharing formula with the Afghan government.

The intra-Afghan peace process kicked off in Doha last month. Despite the talks, fighting between Taliban and Afghan government forces has raged in recent weeks.

Last week, US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said the Taliban had agreed to “re-set” their commitments under a troop withdrawal deal and reduce the number of casualties in the country.


CM Punjab, MD PDM discuss measures for welfare of weaker segments of society

LAHORE – Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar has agreed on a proposal to set up Langar-khana in every district of the province.

The agreement came during a meeting with Managing Director of Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal Aon Abbas Buppi in Lahore on Sunday. During the meeting, both discussed measures for welfare of weaker segments of society.

Chief Minister directed to monitor working of Shelter Homes and Langar-Khanas.

Speaking on occasion, Chief Minister said present government gives priority to welfare of weaker segments of society. He said that helping the helpless and needy persons is one of top priority.


832 new coronavirus cases, nine deaths reported during last 24 hours

ISLAMABAD – As many as 832 new coronavirus cases and nine deaths were reported during the last 24 hours on Sunday.

According to the latest statistics, the contagion claimed lives of 9 more people during the last 24 hours.

The figure of patients recovered from the virus has reached 310,491. There are now 10,668 active cases in the country.


Zverev beats Sinner to keeps hopes of Cologne double alive

COLOGNE (Reuters) Top seed Alexander Zverev reached his second final in the space of a week in Cologne with a clinical 7-6(3) 6-3 victory over Italian wild card Jannik Sinner in the semi-finals of the bett1HULKS Championship on Saturday.

The German world number seven claimed his first ATP crown of the year after besting Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3 6-3 to win the bett1HULKS Indoor title at the same venue last Sunday.

Zverev, who was beaten by Sinner in the French Open last-16, made the more nervy start and soon found himself trailing 3-1 in the opening set.  “I was playing a player I just lost to at Roland Garros. That was still in the back of my head. I was not going to lose today,” Zverev said.

The German broke Sinner in the seventh game and drew level at 4-4, but neither player was able to hold serve again as the set headed to a tiebreak, where Zverev’s booming forehand came to the fore as he sealed the opener.

Zverev tightened his grip on the match with an early break in the second set, and with his potent serve finally firing, raced into a 5-2 lead before closing out the contest with a confident hold to love.

The German will face Diego Schwartzman in Sunday’s final after the Argentine second seed survived a spirited fightback from Auger-Aliassime to beat the youngster 6-4 5-7 6-4 in the other semi-final.


Opposition parties doing negative politics to hide corruption: Shibli

ISLAMABAD – Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Senator Shibli Faraz has said that the opposition parties are doing negative politics by leveling baseless allegations against the government to hide their corruption.

Talking to Media, He said the previous government of PML-N has ruined the national institutions while the incumbent government is revamping and restructuring them.

Minister said the government is also effectively working to resolve all issues including bringing down inflation to provide relief to the common man.

He said the PML-N has nothing to do with democracy as their leaders are involved in massive corruption and now are absconders.

Shibli Faraz said the opposition parties will not succeed in concealing their corruption and escaping from the accountability process.


United frustrated by Chelsea in goalless draw

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Manchester United remain winless at Old Trafford in the Premier League this season after they were held to a disappointing 0-0 draw by Chelsea.

United, who had lost their opening two home games of the season, have seven points from five games and are in 15th place while Chelsea are in sixth on nine points from six games.

Given both teams’ defensive troubles of late — United’s last outing at Old Trafford was a 6-1 thrashing from Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea’s previous Premier League game ended in a 3-3 draw with Southampton — it was perhaps understandable that both managers took a cautious approach.

Paul Pogba started on the bench for the third league game in a row for United, who were solid in midfield and at the back, where Harry Maguire returned from injury.

Yet Dan James, partnering Marcus Rashford in attack, struggled and Bruno Fernandes found it difficult to create many openings.

Rashford produced the first real effort on goal in the 35th minute when he found himself in space on the right but his low drive was well saved by the out-stretched right leg of Chelsea keeper Edouard Mendy.

Mendy was in action again, six minutes later, as he dived to push a Juan Mata snap shot wide of the post.

Searching for a spark to bring the game alive, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer brought on Pogba and Edinson Cavani in the 58th minute.

Uruguayan Cavani, making his United debut, almost scored from his first touch with a clever flick from a Fernandes cross that zipped into the side-netting.

Chelsea offered little threat and it was United who went the closest to a winner, in the 90th minute with Mendy at full stretch to keep out a well-struck, curling effort from Rashford.

Solskjaer said his side had edged the encounter.

“Their keeper made two fantastic saves from Marcus, they were the two brightest moments and they were great saves. If there was a winner, it should have been us,” said the Norwegian.

Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta conceded his side could have done more but felt VAR should have reviewed a penalty appeal where he was grabbed by Maguire when challenging for a header.

“I felt arms around my neck and shoulders. The referee can make the decision, the VAR is there (to help). In any situation the referee takes the main decisions and the monitor is there for him to help. It was 50-50 so why not take 20 seconds to review it?” he said.


As COVID-19 hits swing states, Biden and Trump show sharp contrast

CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio/DALLAS, Pa. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden gave starkly contrasting messages on Saturday about the coronavirus pandemic, taking their campaigns for the White House on the road to swing states where COVID-19 cases are surging again.

Trump addressed a few thousand supporters at a tightly packed, in-person, outdoor rally in North Carolina, one of the battleground states in the Nov. 3 election. He again said America was turning the corner in the fight against COVID-19 and mocked Biden’s more cautious campaigning style.

Biden, a former vice president, addressed supporters in vehicles at two drive-in rallies in Pennsylvania and warned of a grim winter ahead unless the Trump administration did a better job of halting the disease, which has killed 224,000 Americans.

Opinion polls show Biden leading Trump nationally, but the race is much closer in the battleground states that will decide the election.

In Lumberton, North Carolina, he told supporters he was offering a fast recovery from the economic damage wrought by virus lockdowns, which have devastated small businesses and put millions out of work.

“It’s a choice between a Trump super boom and a Biden lockdown,” the Republican president said. “We are rounding the turn,” he said, repeating a claim he has been making for months that America is close to getting the better of the virus.

By contrast, Biden warned that the cold months ahead could be even harsher due to a resurgence of the virus, which has killed more people in the United States than anywhere else and is on the rise in several battleground states.

“It’s going to be a dark winter ahead unless we change our ways,” he said of Trump’s attempts to contain the coronavirus.

Biden was addressing supporters in the town of Bristol who had gathered in pickup trucks or cars, many with their windows or sunroofs down, to avoid possible coronavirus infection. Biden’s campaign limited each vehicle to a maximum of four passengers.

At one point, Biden called out a group of Trump supporters who were shouting into microphones nearby. “We don’t do things like those chumps out there with the microphone are doing. The Trump guys. It’s about decency.”

At his event in Lumberton, Trump made fun of the Biden rally, which he said he had seen on television.

“There were so few cars. I’ve never seen an audience like that,” he said. “It was a tiny, tiny little crowd. You could hear the cars: honk honk.”


The United States set a single-day record of more than 84,000 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, according to a Reuters tally, with the spike in infections hitting election swing states Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

North Carolina reported 2,584 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, down from a record high of 2,716 the day before.

Many states have expanded in-person early voting and mail-in ballots as a safer way to vote during the pandemic.

Trump voted in his adopted home of Florida on Saturday, joining more than 56 million Americans who have cast early ballots at a record-setting pace.

Trump cast his ballot at a library in West Palm Beach, near his Mar-a-Lago resort, after switching his permanent residence and voter registration last year from New York to Florida, a must-win battleground for his re-election bid.

In New York state, voters jammed polling places and stood in line for hours to cast ballots on the state’s first day of early voting on Saturday. Long lines formed before polls opened across New York City and Long Island, videos on social media showed.

With 10 days to go in the campaign, the pace of early voting could lead to the highest voter turnout rate in more than a century, according to data from the U.S. Elections Project.

Trump has regularly condemned mail-in voting without evidence as prone to fraud, even though experts say it is as safe as any other method.

The large number of early voters is a sign of the intense interest in this year’s election, as well as concerns about avoiding crowded polling places on Election Day and reducing the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

In Pennsylvania, polls show Biden narrowly leading. A Reuters/Ipsos survey released earlier this week showed Biden with a four-percentage point advantage over Trump in the state, down from seven points the week before.

Apart from the coronavirus, the candidates sparred over energy policy, an important issue in Pennsylvania which is the nation’s second-largest producer of natural gas after Texas.

Biden denied Trump accusations that he plans to ban fracking, a process to extract natural gas from shale.

“I will not ban fracking, period,” he said in Dallas, Pennsylvania at his second rally of the day. “I don’t think big oil companies need a handout from the federal government. We’re gonna get rid of the $40 billion fossil fuel subsidies, and we’re going to invest it in clean energy and carbon capture,” Biden said.

At an outdoor, in-person Trump rally in Circleville, Ohio, the crowd booed at a video Trump played showing various times when Biden said he would like to move away from fossil fuels.

Biden got some help from former President Barack Obama, who held a drive-in rally in Miami and delivered a blistering attack on Trump’s leadership.

“This pandemic would’ve been tough for any president because we haven’t seen something like this in 100 years, but the idea that somehow this White House has done anything but completely screw this up is nonsense,” Obama said.


Journalist Ali Imran Syed reaches home after 22 hours

KARACHI – Journalist Ali Imran, who went missing on Friday, reached home after 22 hours on Saturday.

He phoned his wife and informed her about reaching the home of his mother.

Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan had taken notice of the missing of journalist Ali Imran in Karachi. He directed the Interior Ministry to help the Sindh government recover the journalist.

PM Imran Khan said that security of all journalists should be ensured.

Federal Minister for Information Shibli Faraz also wrote on Twitter that all federal departments have been directed to cooperate with the Sindh government.


Maulana Fazalur Rehman says Quetta public meeting will be held at any cost

QUETTA – JUI-F chief Maulana Fazalur Rehman said that the Quetta public meeting will be held at any cost.

Reacting to the government’s request to postpone the public meeting on Saturday, he said that the government should leave if it cannot provide security to the people.

“The fake government is bewildered by the public meetings of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM),” he added.

He said that Imran Khan and his fake government is a comedy. “We have started the battle,” he declared.

The JUI-F chief said that the government was not formed through the elections.

Meanwhile, arrangements have been finalized for the public meeting. PML-N vice-president Maryam Nawaz and PDM leaders will attend the meeting.

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto will address the meeting through the video link.

The police have made foolproof security arrangements for the public meeting. Emergency has been declared in hospitals across the city.