World’s best and worst passports revealed

World’s best passports (by number of countries granting visa-free access)

1. Germany — 177

2. Sweden — 176

3. Finland, France, Italy, Spain, UK — 175

4. Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, U.S. — 174

5. Austria, Japan, Singapore — 173

6. Canada, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, South Korea, Switzerland — 172

7. Greece, New Zealand — 171

8. Australia — 169

9. Malta — 168

10. Czech Republic, Hungary, Iceland — 167

11. Slovakia — 165

12. Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Slovenia — 164

13. Latvia — 163

14. Estonia, Lithuania — 162

15. Poland — 161

16. Monaco — 160

17. Cyprus — 159

18. San Marino — 156

19. Chile — 155

20. Hong Kong — 154

World’s worst passports

94. Liberia — 43

95. Burundi, North Korea, Myanmar — 42

96. Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lebanon, Sri Lanka — 39

97. Kosovo, South Sudan, Yemen — 38

98. Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Nepal, Palestinian Territory, Sudan — 37

99. Libya — 36

100. Syria — 32

101. Somalia — 31

102. Iraq — 30

103. Pakistan — 29

104. Afghanistan — 25160301100336-sweden-passports-01-exlarge-169

IMRAN KHAN ANNOUNCES ‘CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE’ MOVEMENT

Aamir Qureshi—AFP

CRICKETER-TURNED-POLITICIAN TELLS SUPPORTERS TO STOP PAYING TAXES AND UTILITY BILLS TO FORCE GOVERNMENT TO RESIGN.

Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan on Sunday announced that he was launching a civil disobedience movement to force the sitting prime minister to resign and call for fresh elections.

“I ask all Pakistani citizens not to pay tax, including general sales tax, or any utility bills, to protest the sitting Pakistani government that won through fraudulent elections in 2013,” he told thousands of his supporters in Islamabad on the third day of his party’s “long march.”

Khan accused the government, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in particular, of bribing stakeholders during the 2013 elections to secure a landslide victory. He also warned the government to resign within two days or he would lose control of his followers.

“I promised the interior minister [Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan] that my workers would not cross into the ‘Red Zone’ but I can’t control you indefinitely,” he said. “After two days, my workers will no longer be in my control and can cross into the ‘Red Zone’ and occupy Parliament House and even drag [Prime Minister] Nawaz Sharif out,” he warned. Later, he said he would personally lead his followers into the ‘Red Zone’ if the Sharifs did not resign within two days. The ‘Red Zone’ in Islamabad is the location of several foreign embassies and offices and Parliament House. The interior minister said on Saturday that no action would be taken against the protesters unless they tried to enter the ‘Red Zone.’

The government has already announced intent to initiate dialogue with Khan, but he said during his speech that he would not settle for anything less than the resignation of Nawaz Sharif. “I know you [Sharif] will try to send people to convince me to back down,” he said. “Don’t waste my time.”

However, Khawaja Saad Rafique, railways minister, said the government was ready to accept any constitutional demand of Qadri and Khan. “I have requested them to meet us for talks, as this would be the most useful process to meet their demands,” he said.

Also addressing supporters on Sunday, Canadian-Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri said that what he called a corrupt system of governance could not be changed without a revolution. “The country’s survival will be at stake if Nawaz Sharif and his cronies are allowed to rule the country,” Qadri said. “We don’t want mid-term elections … what we want is revolution,” he said, adding that corruption and plundering of the national wealth was rampant. “We will not allow this system to continue any more.”

Qadri has called for Sharif’s arrest over what he alleges was the murder of his supporters, and for the installation of an interim national government. The cleric, who late Saturday issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the government to accept his demands, said he would not be responsible for any repercussions if they were not met.

He said Sharif and his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif, who is chief minister of Punjab province, had no right to sit in government, their cabinets should be dissolved and they should be arrested on murder charges.

Analysts warned there was no quick solution to the impasse. “Apparently there are no signs that the government and the two parties are working towards a solution of the problem … both are sticking to their positions, leading to a deadlock,” said analyst Hasan Askari. “If political leaders fail to resolve this problem and violence starts, then the initiative will shift to the military—either to mediate the problem or see to it that the stalemate is resolved,” he said.

Senior politicians have intensified their efforts to avert a crisis, however. Siraj-ul-Haq, chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, met the opposition leader in the National Assembly, Syed Khursheed Shah, to discuss the situation. “The entire nation is upset over what is happening in Islamabad … we have to steer the country out of this crisis with a cool mind,” Haq told reporters after meeting Shah in Karachi. “We will not allow democracy to be derailed at any cost.”

Shah confirmed that the government had called an emergency meeting of the Parliamentary Committee to discuss the ongoing protests. “The Parliamentary Committee meeting tomorrow will decide how and which demands can be accepted to avoid any chaos in Islamabad,” he said.

Aitzaz Ahsan, leader of the Opposition in the Senate, said he believed Khan’s allegations were true, but disagreed with the route he had adopted to seek redress. “Even the Pakistan Peoples Party has raised objections to the massive rigging in the 2013 elections, and there is evidence for it, but the way Imran Khan has taken to the streets of Islamabad is not a solution,” he told Newsweek via phone. “It will only raise agitation in the country,” he added.

UAE to use drones for government services

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates says it plans to use unmanned aerial drones to deliver official documents and packages to its citizens as part of efforts to upgrade government services.

The wealthy Gulf state is known for its showmanship, it boasts the tallest skyscraper in the world, and its love of high-technology gadgets.

The drone project appears to satisfyboth interests.

“The UAE will try to deliver its government services through drones. This is the first project of its kind in the world,”Mohammed al-Gergawi, a minister of cabinet affairs, said on Monday as he displayed a prototype developed for the government.

The battery-operated vehicle, about half a metre across, resembles a butterfly with a top compartment that can carry small parcels.

Coloured white and enblazoned with the UAE flag, it is propelled by four rotors.

Local engineer Abdulrahman Alserkal, who designed the project, said fingerprint and eye-recognition security systems would be used to protect the drones and their cargo.

Gergawi said the drones would be tested for durability and efficiency in Dubai for six months, before being introduced across the UAE within a year.

Services would initially include delivery of identity cards, driving licences and other permits.

Proposals for the civilian use of drones have run into practical difficulties elsewhere in the world.

In December Amazon.com Inc chief executive Jeff Bezos said his company planned to deliver goods to millions of customers with a fleet of drones, but safety and technical issues mean the plan is unlikely to become a reality in the United States this decade, engineers say.

The UAE drone programme faces similar obstacles, plus temperatures which often exceed 40 degrees Centigrade in summer and heavy sandstorms which occasionally sweep across the desert country.

“Within a year from now we will understand the capabilities of the system and what sort of services, and how far we can deliver. Eventually a new product will be launched across all the country,” Gergawi said.

Hacker took over BBC server, tried to ‘sell’ access

London: A hacker secretly took over a computer server at the BBC, Britain’s public broadcaster, and then launched a Christmas Day campaign to convince other cyber criminals to pay him for access to the system.

While it is not known if the hacker found any buyers, the BBC’s security team responded to the issue on Saturday and believes it has secured the site, according to a person familiar with the cleanup effort.

A BBC spokesman declined to discuss the incident. “We do not comment on security issues,” he said.

We could not determine whether the hackers stole data or caused any damage in the attack, which compromised a server that manages an obscure password-protected website.

It was not clear how the BBC, the world’s oldest and largest broadcaster, uses that site, ftp.bbc.co.uk, though ftp systems are typically used to manage the transfer of large data files over the Internet.

The attack was first identified by Hold Security LLC, a cybersecurity firm in Milwaukee that monitors underground cyber-crime forums in search of stolen information.

The firm’s researchers observed a notorious Russian hacker known by the monikers “HASH” and “Rev0lver,” attempting to sell access to the BBC server on December 25, the company’s founder and chief information security officer, Alex Holden, told Reuters.

“HASH” sought to convince high-profile hackers that he had infiltrated the site by showing them files that could only be accessed by somebody who really controlled it, Holden said.

So far Hold Security researchers have found no evidence the conversations led to a deal or that data was stolen from the BBC, Holden said.

It is common for hackers to buy and sell access to compromised servers on underground forums.

Buyers view the access as a commodity that grants them the chance to further penetrate the victim organization. They can also use compromised servers to set up command-and-control centers for cyber-crime operations known as botnets, run spam campaigns or launch denial of service attacks to knock websites off line.

The BBC offer stands out because the media company is such a high-profile organization, Holden said. “It’s definitely a notch in someone’s belt.”

BBC has some 23,000 staff and is funded largely by license fees paid by every British household with a television.

Justin Clarke, a principal consultant for the cybersecurity firm Cylance Inc, said that while “HASH” was only offering access to an obscure ftp server, some buyers might see it as a stepping stone to more prized assets within the BBC.

“Accessing that server establishes a foothold within BBC’s network which may allow an attacker to pivot and gain further access to internal BBC resources,” he said.

Media companies, including the BBC, have repeatedly been targeted by the Syrian Electronic Army, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and other hacker activist groups that deface websites and take over Twitter accounts.

Last January the New York Times reported that it had been repeatedly attacked over four months by Chinese hackers who obtained employees’ passwords.