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.
WASHINGTON, March 5 -- At President Donald Trump's direction, the United States intends to scrap the preferential trade status granted to India and Turkey, the US trade chief's office has said.
Washington "intends to terminate India's and Turkey's designations as beneficiary developing countries under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme because they no longer comply with the statutory eligibility criteria," the Office of the US Trade Representative said in a statement on Monday. India has failed to provide assurances that it would allow required market access, while Turkey is "sufficiently economically developed" that it no longer qualifies, the statement said. Under the GSP programme, "certain products" can enter the US duty-free if countries meet eligibility criteria including "providing the US with equitable and reasonable market access".
India, however, "has implemented a wide array of trade barriers that create serious negative effects on United States commerce," the statement said. It said Turkey, after being designated a GSP beneficiary in 1975, has meanwhile demonstrated a "higher level of economic development," meaning that it can be "graduated" from the programme.
The changes cannot take effect for at least 60 days following the notification of the US Congress as well as the countries affected - a process Trump began on Monday with letters to the speaker of the House of Representatives and the president of the Senate. The change for India came after "intensive engagement" between New Delhi and Washington, Trump wrote in one letter, the text of which was released by the White House.
"I will continue to assess whether the government of India is providing equitable and reasonable access to its markets, in accordance with the GSP eligibility criteria," the US president wrote. In his letter on Turkey, Trump said the country's economy "has grown and diversified," and noted that Istanbul has already "graduated from other developed countries' GSP programmes".
SILICON VALLEY, March 4 -- The world is literally a greener place than it was 20 years ago, and data from NASA satellites has revealed a counterintuitive source for much of this new foliage: China and India.
A new study shows that the two emerging countries with the world’s biggest populations are leading the increase in greening on land. The effect stems mainly from ambitious tree planting programs in China and intensive agriculture in both countries. The greening phenomenon was first detected using satellite data in the mid-1990s by Ranga Myneni of Boston University and colleagues, but they did not know whether human activity was one of its chief, direct causes. This new insight was made possible by a nearly 20-year-long data record from a NASA instrument orbiting the Earth on two satellites. It’s called the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, and its high-resolution data provides very accurate information, helping researchers work out details of what’s happening with Earth’s vegetation, down to the level of 500 meters, or about 1,600 feet, on the ground. Taken all together, the greening of the planet over the last two decades represents an increase in leaf area on plants and trees equivalent to the area covered by all the Amazon rainforests. There are now more than two million square miles of extra green leaf area per year, compared to the early 2000s – a 5% increase.
“China and India account for one-third of the greening, but contain only 9% of the planet’s land area covered in vegetation – a surprising finding, considering the general notion of land degradation in populous countries from overexploitation,” said Chi Chen of the Department of Earth and Environment at Boston University, in Massachusetts, and lead author of the study. An advantage of the MODIS satellite sensor is the intensive coverage it provides, both in space and time: MODIS has captured as many as four shots of every place on Earth, every day for the last 20 years. “This long-term data lets us dig deeper,” said Rama Nemani, a research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, in California’s Silicon Valley, and a co-author of the new work. “When the greening of the Earth was first observed, we thought it was due to a warmer, wetter climate and fertilization from the added carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, leading to more leaf growth in northern forests, for instance. Now, with the MODIS data that lets us understand the phenomenon at really small scales, we see that humans are also contributing.”
China’s outsized contribution to the global greening trend comes in large part (42%) from programs to conserve and expand forests. These were developed in an effort to reduce the effects of soil erosion, air pollution and climate change. Another 32% there – and 82% of the greening seen in India – comes from intensive cultivation of food crops. Land area used to grow crops is comparable in China and India – more than 770,000 square miles – and has not changed much since the early 2000s. Yet these regions have greatly increased both their annual total green leaf area and their food production. This was achieved through multiple cropping practices, where a field is replanted to produce another harvest several times a year. Production of grains, vegetables, fruits and more have increased by about 35-40% since 2000 to feed their large populations. How the greening trend may change in the future depends on numerous factors, both on a global scale and the local human level. For example, increased food production in India is facilitated by groundwater irrigation. If the groundwater is depleted, this trend may change.
“But, now that we know direct human influence is a key driver of the greening Earth, we need to factor this into our climate models,” Nemani said. “This will help scientists make better predictions about the behavior of different Earth systems, which will help countries make better decisions about how and when to take action.” The researchers point out that the gain in greenness seen around the world and dominated by India and China does not offset the damage from loss of natural vegetation in tropical regions, such as Brazil and Indonesia. The consequences for sustainability and biodiversity in those ecosystems remain. Overall, Nemani sees a positive message in the new findings. “Once people realize there’s a problem, they tend to fix it,” he said. “In the 70s and 80s in India and China, the situation around vegetation loss wasn’t good; in the 90s, people realized it; and today things have improved. Humans are incredibly resilient. That’s what we see in the satellite data.”
NEW DELHI, March 2 -- India’s MiG-21 fighter upgraded by Russia possesses combat capabilities identical to those of the F-16 of Pakistan’s Air Force.
An air fight between the planes of the two types occurred on the Indian-Pakistani border on February 28. At least one MiG-21 was shot down. The pilot ejected himself and was taken prisoner by Pakistan. According to the Indian Air Force, in the same clash another MiG-21 shot down Pakistan’s F-16 of US manufacture. Pakistan has not confirmed the loss of the plane so far.
"The MiG-21, upgraded by Russia has an onboard radar and a wider range of guided air-to-air missiles. By its combat capabilities and flight parameters it is an equal of the F-16 version at the disposal of Pakistan’s Air Force," the editor-in-chief of National Defense magazine, Igor Korotchenko said about recent clashes involving these planes. India’s MiG-21-93 fighters, eventually named MiG-21UGP Bison, were upgraded to be equipped with a new radar, wider range of weapons, modern indicators on the windshield, helmet-mounted sights and multifunctional display screens in the cockpit. The coating reduces radar visibility. The plane’s life cycle and endurance have been prolonged. On February 28, India’s NDTV broadcaster said that 24 planes of Pakistan’s Air Force and eight Indian planes, including four Sukhoi-30MKI and two MiG-21 participated in a clash over Kashmir. Korotchenko said if that was really so, the incident was evidence of the high professionalism of Indian pilots, good control of the equipment and competent air fight tactics.
India-Pakistan air clash
Tensions in relations between India and Pakistan soared when a convoy of Indian military came under attack on February 14 in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, which claimed 45 lives. The group calling itself Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility.
On February 26, India carried out an attack against a camp of this group in the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir. On February 27, Pakistan’s planes attacked military targets in Jammu and Kashmir. New Delhi and Islamabad claimed that each other’s planes had been shot down.