NEW DELHI, July 14 -- The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said on Sunday that it was all set to launch second lunar mission Chandrayaan-2.
The heavy-lift rocket GSLV-Mark-3 carrying Chandrayaan-2 will be launched from Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, off the Bay of Bengal coast in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, at 2:51 a.m. local time on Monday. "The launch countdown of GSLV MkIII-M1/Chandrayaan-2 commenced today at 6:51 a.m. (local time). The launch is scheduled at 2:51 a.m. (local time) on July 15 (Monday)," ISRO said. "UH25 (fuel) filling of liquid core stage (L110) of GSLV MkIII-M1 completed. Propellant filling of liquid core stage (L110) of GSLV MkIII-M1 completed." Officials said the powerful 3.85-ton rocket will put Chandrayaan-2 in a highly elliptical orbit around the earth, following which its orbit will be raised through a series of maneuvers by remote by the ISRO scientists. Eventually, it will be taken out of the earth's orbit and made to reach the sphere of influence of the moon. Officials said the entire mission has a life of one year. According to the state-run broadcaster All India Radio, President Ram Nath Kovind is scheduled to witness the launch from Sriharikota. Reports said if India succeeds in this endeavour, it will become the fourth country to soft-land spacecraft on the lunar surface after the United States, Russia and China. Israel tried earlier this year but failed.
BANGKOK, July 3 -- The office of the Dalai Lama released a statement Tuesday apologizing for the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's controversial remarks on women during a recent interview with the BBC.
"(In) responding to a question about whether his own reincarnation could be a woman, and suggesting that if she were she should be attractive, His Holiness genuinely meant no offence," the statement said. "He is deeply sorry that people have been hurt by what he said and offers his sincere apologies." In an interview the British broadcaster aired last week, the Dalai Lama said, "If female Dalai Lama comes, then (she) should be more attractive," suggesting that otherwise "people, I think, prefer not (to) see that face." His comment drew criticism from around the world on social media platforms.
According to the statement, the Dalai Lama first referred to the physical appearance of a female successor in 1992 during a conversation with the editor of Vogue magazine, wherein he said a future Dalai Lama could be a woman "if that would be more helpful." At the time, he jokingly added that she should be attractive. "His Holiness consistently emphasizes the need for people to connect with each other on a deeper human level, rather than getting caught up in preconceptions based on superficial appearances," the statement said. "For all his long life, His Holiness has opposed the objectification of women, has supported women and their rights and celebrated the growing international consensus in support of gender equality and respect for women," it added.
Author: Pete McGee
OSAKA, June 28 -- U.S. President Donald Trump made clear on Friday that trade was his top priority at a summit of leaders of Group of 20 nations, as China's Xi Jinping warned against rising protectionism and India, Japan and Russia defended multilateral trade rules.
Trump, who is holding a series of meetings on the sidelines with world leaders, including Japan's Shinzo Abe and India's Narendra Modi, said he saw U.S. trade prospects improving, days after criticising the U.S.-Japan security treaty and demanding that New Delhi withdraw retaliatory tariffs. "I think we’re going to have some very big things to announce. Very big trade deal. We’re doing some very big things with India in terms of trade, in terms of manufacturing," Trump said at the start of talks with the Indian prime minister. Trump, set to hold a high-profile meeting on trade with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday, also made a push to discuss U.S. concerns about Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei at his meetings. Washington has pressed its allies to shun Huawei in their fifth generation, or 5G, networks on security grounds, and has also suggested it could be a factor in a trade deal with Xi. "We actually sell Huawei many of its parts," Trump said at his meeting with Modi. "So we’re going to be discussing that and also how India fits in. And we’ll be discussing Huawei."
Asian shares stumbled during the day amid rising doubts that the highly anticipated meeting between Trump and Xi would ease trade tension. European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker flagged the shadow cast by the U.S.-China trade feud. "The trade relations between China and the United States are difficult, they are contributing to the slowdown of the global economy," he told a news conference. Xi also warned about the protectionist steps he said some developed countries were taking. "All this is destroying the global trade order... This also impacts common interests of our countries, overshadows the peace and stability world wide," Xi told a gathering of leaders of the BRICS grouping of nations on the sidelines of the G20 meet.
DEFENDING WORLD TRADE RULES
Modi at the same meeting called for a focus on reforming the World Trade Organization and Russian President Vladimir Putin decried what he called efforts to destroy the Geneva-based body. "We consider counter-productive any attempts to destroy WTO or to lower its role," Putin said. The situation of the global economy was worrying as global trade was feeling the effect of "protectionism (and) politically motivated restrictions," he added. Trump, who often castigates trading partners on Twitter and in his raucous political rallies, put a positive spin on trade developments with Japan. "I appreciate the fact that you're sending many automobile companies into Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania and North Carolina," Trump told Japanese Prime Minister Abe, referring to U.S. states critical to his effort to win re-election next year. Trump said the two leaders would also discuss Japanese purchases of U.S. military equipment, although a Japanese official said later the topic did not come up. Tokyo and Washington are engaged in difficult trade talks as Trump's administration seeks to lower the U.S. trade deficit. Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer were to meet later in Osaka. Abe welcomed Trump's visit, calling their frequent meetings "proof of the strong U.S.-Japan alliance". He later urged G20 leaders to send a strong message in support of free and fair trade, warning that trade and geopolitical tensions were rising and downside risks to the global economy prevailed. "Today, I want to discuss with leaders measures to further enhance momentum towards reform in WTO," he told them ahead of a working lunch. Trump renewed his criticism of the U.S.-Japan security alliance this week as unbalanced.
"We will go in and we will protect them and we will fight with our lives and with our treasure," he said in an interview on Wednesday with Fox television. "We will fight at all costs, right? But if we’re attacked, Japan doesn’t have to help us at all. They can watch it on a Sony television, the attack." Under the decades-old U.S.-Japan security treaty, the United States has committed to defending Japan, which renounced the right to wage war after its defeat in World War Two. Japan in return provides military bases that Washington uses to project power deep into Asia. After the Trump-Abe talks, a Japanese official told reporters the leaders had agreed to accelerate trade talks and had agreed the alliance was stronger than ever.
LONDON, June 1 -- British comedy icon John Cleese’s claim that London is no longer an “English city” has unleashed a flood of reaction on Twitter as Brits latch onto another topic to fight about.
The Fawlty Towers and Monty Python star dredged up previous comments he made about the UK capital losing its sense of Englishness, tweeting that the observation has since been confirmed by virtually all his friends from abroad. “Some years ago I opined that London was not really an English city any more. Since then, virtually all my friends from abroad have confirmed my observation. So there must be some truth in it… I note also that London was the UK city that voted most strongly to remain in the EU.”
David Aaronovitch, a columnist with the Times, sought to give Cleese a brief history and geography lesson: “London has long been a British city, John. Which you might expect, what with it being the capital.” However numerous people supported Cleese’s views: “The texture and fabric of life in London is not quintessentially English. And many ethnic English outside of London all say the same thing,” author Thomas Clements responded. Some noted that Cleese’s observations were a clear-cut case of confirmation bias while others noted the comedian’s comments were supported by the facts on the ground. Pauls Joseph Watson wrote: “Over 41% of London’s population is foreign born. London also has the second highest foreign-born population of any city in the world. London is clearly the least “English” city in England. Cleese is merely stating a reality that anyone who lives in London understands.” Cleese has been vociferous in his support for Brexit. Explaining why he voted Leave, he said: “I don’t want to be ruled by Brussels bureaucrats who want to create a super state.”
MOSCOW, May 29 -- The probability that debris from an Indian satellite shot down earlier may puncture the International Space Station (ISS) has risen by 5%, Executive Director of Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos for Manned Space Programs Sergei Krikalyov said on Wednesday.
"The Americans have carried out calculations on the probability of the station getting punctured because of more debris surfacing and being dispersed. There are numerical estimates raising the probability of a puncture by about 5%," Krikalyov said at a session of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Space Council.Senior Assistant to the Section Head at the Main Center for the Surveillance of the Space Situation Roman Fattakhov said earlier that more than 100 pieces of the debris appeared after India had tested its anti-satellite weapon, shooting down a satellite. The debris may eventually pose a threat to the ISS.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a televised address to the nation on March 27 that the country’s Air Force had successfully tested its own anti-satellite weapon, shooting down a satellite in low near-Earth orbit. As Modi noted, the tests have enabled India to join the club of the world’s space super-powers, which includes the United States, Russia and China. The interceptor missile developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) was launched from a testing range located on Abdul Kalam Island in the Bay of Bengal. The satellite shot down by an interceptor missile was a space vehicle produced by India domestically.
COLOMBO, May 7 -- Every suspect connected to the Sri Lankan Easter Sunday suicide bombings has either been arrested or killed, authorities said.
"All those terrorists directly involved in the bombings are either dead or under arrest," Sri Lanka's acting Inspector General of Police Chandana Wickramaratne said in a statement late Monday. The announcement comes two weeks after coordinated bomb attacks ripped through three hotels and three churches throughout the country, killing 257 people and injuring many. The National Thowheeth Jama'ath terrorist organization has been blamed for the attacks and the Islamic State has claimed responsibility. Wickramaratne said among the dead were two bomb experts linked to the attacks and police also uncovered explosives stashed to be used in future attacks. He also said life will slowly return to normal, adding that security measures were being beefed up at schools, the Sunday Times reported. "This is not because there is a direct threat on schools," he said. "But everyone must understand the manner in which security measures must be undertaken."
He also urged the public to disregard what they read on social media and rely directly on the security forces for information. Wickramaratne was appointed acting inspector general last week by President Maithripala Sirisena, who had demanded the resignation of Pujith Jayasundara, the former inspector general, for failing to uphold his duties by not thwarting the Easter Sunday bombings. Wickramaratne's Monday announcement follows the government having declared a state of emergency April 22 that allowed police and military forces to detain and question potential suspects without a court order. Meanwhile, Army Commander Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake said the military has also increased national security measures under the emergency declaration while urging the public to return to their regular, daily activities.
In recent days authorities in Orissa state, where 10,000 people died in a 1999 cyclone, have evacuated more than a million people as they fret about a possible 1.5-metre (five-foot) storm surge sweeping far inland. One man died of a heart attack in one of several thousand shelters that have been set up.
“Another person went out in the storm despite our warnings and died because a tree fell on him,” Orissa special relief commissioner Bishnupada Sethi said. “The winds outside right now must be around 200kph,” he said by phone from Orissa state capital Bhubaneswar. Hundreds of thousands more people in West Bengal state have also been given orders to flee. Local airports have been shut, while train queues and roads were closed.
“It just went dark and then suddenly we could barely see five metres in front of us,” said one Puri resident. “There were the roadside food carts, store signs all flying by in the air,” the man said from a hotel where he took shelter. “The wind is deafening.” Another witness said he saw a small car being pushed along a street by the winds and then turned over. “We have been unable to make contact with our team in Puri for some time now to get the latest update about the situation there,” said, H.R. Biswas, Indian Meteorology Department director in Bhubaneswar. Fani was expected to barrel north-eastward into West Bengal and towards Bangladesh, on a trajectory that will take it over the homes of 100 million people. Authorities in West Bengal have started evacuating thousands of people from coastal villages, disaster management minister Javed Ahmed Khan said. “We are bracing for the worst on Saturday when the cyclone is forecast to batter the city of Kolkata,” said Khan. “We are monitoring the situation 24X7 and doing all it takes … Be alert, take care and stay safe for the next two days,” West Bengal’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted.
COLOMBO, April 30 -- The first Sunday church services after a series of terror attacks will be held in Sri Lanka’s Catholic churches on May 5, Agence France-Presse (AFP) tweeted on Tuesday, citing a source.
The country’s authorities earlier recommended the island churches suspending religious services until security conditions are improved in the country. Last week the National Security Council cancelled lessons at Sri Lanka’s schools and universities until May 6. On April 21, the heaviest in the country’s history series of terror attacks occurred in Sri Lanka. Eight explosions shook the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa, in particular in Catholic churches during Easter services and in hotels. It was earlier reported that 359 people were killed in the attacks, but it later emerged that physicians set these figures too high by mistake. According to latest information, about 250 people were killed in the terror attacks.
COLOMBO, April 21 -- At least 52 people were killed in Sri Lanka on Sunday, when a string of blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches as worshippers attended Easter services.
A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least 42 people were killed in Colombo, where three hotels and a church were hit. Another 10 people were confirmed dead in the town of Batticaloa, in the east of the country, where another church was targeted. There were also reports of casualties in a blast at a church north of the capital and the toll was expected to rise. The nature of the blasts was not immediately clear and there were no immediate claims of responsibility.
President Maithripala Sirisena in an address said he was shocked by the explosions and appealed for calm. Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, writing on his verified Twitter account, said the attacks had killed "many innocent people" and appeared to be a "well-coordinated attempt to create murder, mayhem & anarchy." The first explosions were reported at St Anthony's Shrine, a church in Colombo and St Sebastian's Church in the town of Negombo just outside the capital. Dozens of people injured in the St Anthony's blast flooded into the Colombo National Hospital by mid-morning, "A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there," read a post in English on the Facebook page of the St Sebastian's Church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo. Shortly after those blasts were reported, police confirmed three hotels in the capital had also been hit, along with a church in Batticaloa. An official at one of the hotels, the Cinnamon Grand Hotel near the prime minister's official residence in Colombo, said that the blast had ripped through the hotel restaurant. He said at least one person had been killed in the blast. An official at the Batticaloa hospital said more than 300 people had been admitted with injuries following the blast there. "Emergency meeting called in a few minutes. Rescue operations underway," Sri Lanka's Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, Harsha de Silva, said in a tweet on his verified account. He said he had been to two of the attacked hotels and was at the scene at St Anthony's Shrine and described "horrible scenes." "I saw many body parts strewn all over," he tweeted, adding that there were "many casualties including foreigners." "Please stay calm and indoors," he added.
Photos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost blown off in the blast. The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood. Several people could be seen covered in blood, with some trying to help those with more serious injuries. The images could not immediately be verified. Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.
HOUSTON, April 2 -- NASA has criticised India’s Mission Shakti, the launch of an anti-satellite (ASAT) missile a few days ago, for the space debris it has left behind.
Lives of the astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS), the US space agency’s flagship satellite, were put in danger as the risk of a collision rose 40% in the 10 days following the Indian exercise, NASA head Jim Bridenstine said in a town hall with employees on April 01. “Intentionally creating orbital debris fields is not compatible with human spaceflight,” Bridenstine said. “It’s unacceptable and NASA needs to be very clear about what its impact to us is.”
In a televised address on March 27, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi announced that the country had shot down a live satellite from the lower-earth orbit using an ASAT missile. The Indian government also clarified that “the test was done in the lower atmosphere to ensure there is no space debris. Whatever debris that is generated will decay and fall back onto the earth within weeks.” However, the US has identified 400 pieces of orbital debris from the launch, Bridenstine said, adding they are able to track only 60 pieces that are about 10 centimetres in size or bigger. Of these, 24 pieces have gone above the apogee, or the highest point, in the ISS’s orbit, he added. “That is a terrible, terrible thing to create an event that sends debris in an apogee that goes above the International Space Station,” he said. “The good thing is, the debris is low enough in orbit that in time, this will all dissipate. A lot of the debris from China’s anti-satellite test in 2007 is still in orbit, and we’re still dealing with it,” he added.
India is the fourth country to launch an ASAT missile, after the US, Russia, and China. The last test, conducted by China in 2007, at almost triple the height as India’s, had left behind 3,000 pieces of space debris.