When Economy met Business Class…

When Economy met Business Class…

A flight attendant on a Virgin Atlantic flight to London, Leah Amy, shared this lovely story on Facebook recently, about her two most favourite passengers lately – Jack and Violet.

So Violet Allison, 88, was flying economy class on an overnight flight from New York to London when another passenger, Jack Littlejohn, walked up to her and asked if she’d like to fly first class and he would swap seats with her. Allison thought he was joking. But Littlejohn was not, he meant business.

For Allison, it was an offer too good to be true and she was unsure what to do, so she asked the woman sitting next to her. Go for it, the neighbour said and that’s what happened next. Littlejohn helped her move to his first class seat and he sat in her economy seat, which was directly next to the washrooms.

For Allison, what this exchange meant was being able to lie down and rest in her unexpected, upgraded seat after dinner while Littlejohn had done his bit towards fixing what he considered an inequality – that fliers had to walk all the way through the business class to reach their seats in the lower portion of the plane.

His mother had, as a gift to Littlejohn and his family, booked them first class seats as they were returning home to Scotland after a charity event. Evidently, Littlejohn had decided he would pay it forward and so he did, taking care to inform his mother first.

Amy wrote on FB, “Littlejohn ‘then sat on the row of seats directly next to the economy toilets and never made a peep or asked for anything the rest of the flight. No fuss, no attention, literally did it out of the kindness of his own heart.”

The next morning, he went to check on Allison and Amy decided this event had to be chronicled for the world to see. So the group gathered together for a picture before proceeding on their way and now the whole world knows.

Brings back memories from a few years ago, when the erstwhile aviation minister Jayant Sinha and his wife gave up their front row seats on a flight, to a woman travelling with her sick mother.


Notre Dame Cathedral to miss first Christmas in centuries

Notre Dame Cathedral to miss first Christmas in centuries

Paris: Notre Dame kept Christmas going even during two world wars - a beacon of hope amid the bloodshed.

Yet, an accidental fire in peacetime finally stopped the cathedral from celebrating Midnight Mass this year, for the first time in over two centuries.

As the lights stay dim in the once-invincible 855-year-old Paris landmark, officials are trying hard to focus on the immediate task of keeping burnt-out Notre Dame's spirit alive in exile through service, song and prayer.

It has decamped its rector, famed statue, liturgy and Christmas celebrations to a new temporary home pending the restoration works, just under a mile away, at another Gothic church in Paris called Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois.

And there it will remain, as works slowly progress to rebuild the cathedral after the April 15 fire destroyed its lead roof and spire and was moments away from engulfing its two stone towers.

"This is the first time since the French Revolution that there will be no midnight Mass (at Notre Dame)," cathedral rector Patrick Chauvet said.

There was even a Christmas service amid the carnage of World War I, Chauvet noted, "because the canons were there and the canons had to celebrate somewhere". During World War II, "there was no problem," he said, adding that only once was it closed for Christmas to his knowledge after 1789, when the anti-Catholic French revolutionaries turned the monument into "a temple of reason".

Christmas-in-exile at Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois this year will be a history-making moment.

"We have the opportunity to celebrate the Mass outside the walls, so to speak... but with some indicators that Notre Dame is connected to us," Chauvet said.

Those indicators include a wooden liturgical platform that has been constructed in the Saint-Germain church to resemble Notre Dame's own. A service will be led at midnight on December 24 by Chauvet to a crowd of faithful, including many who would normally worship in the cathedral, accompanied by song from some of Notre Dame's now-itinerant choir.

The cathedral's iconic Gothic sculpture "The Virgin of Paris", from which some say Notre Dame owes its name, is also on display in the new godly annex.

The 14th-century masterpiece, which measures around two metres (six feet) and depicts Mary and baby Jesus, has come to embody the officials' message of hope following the fire, after it was spared from destruction by a "miracle".

"It's a miraculous virgin. Why? Because at the time of the fire, the vault of the cathedral completely crashed. There were stones everywhere, but she was spared. She could have naturally received the vault on her head and have been completely crushed," Chauvet said.

He recalled the moment on the night of the fire when he discovered it was saved, as he was holding hands with French President Emmanuel Macron on the cathedral's forecourt.

Around midnight as the flames subsided, they were finally let inside to look. Chauvet pointed and exclaimed to Macron: "Look at the Virgin, she is there!" He said later that Notre Dame's workmen on the ground implored him to not remove the statue from the cathedral, crying that during the restoration "we need it. She protects us". Chauvet said having it nearby for Christmas is comforting.

"She lived very much in Notre Dame. She watched the pilgrims, all the 35,000 visitors a day...It keeps us going," Chauvet said.

Another reason for hope: Since November, after months in the dark, the facade of the cathedral is being lit up after dusk for the first time since the fire. Tourists over the festive period can now see the famed gargoyles and stone statues at night in their full illuminated splendour from the adjacent bridges, although the forecourt is still closed.

Cathedral officials carefully chose Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois as the new temporary home because of its proximity to Notre Dame, just next to the Louvre, allowing ease of movement for clerics who lived near the cathedral. Also, because of its prestigious history.

It was once a royal church that boasted among its faithful French kings, in the days when they lived in the nearby Louvre Palace. The kings, Chauvet explained, would simply cross the esplanade to come and attend Mass.

Since September, the church has been welcoming the cathedral's flock each Sunday.

Though Notre Dame has moved liturgically to a new home, Notre Dame will always remain Paris' cathedral - officials are at pains to point out - so long as the bishop's physical chair, or "cathedra" doesn't move.

Derived from the Greek word for "seat", and giving the building its very name, a cathedral's entire identity technically boils down to the presence of a chair.

"The cathedra is at the cathedral and so it remains Notre Dame Cathedral, which is the cathedral in the heart of Paris," Chauvet said.

It is not only the faithful who have been displaced since April's devastating blaze.

Notre Dame was home to a vibrant 160-strong choir-school, which provided singers for each and every one of the cathedral's some 1,000 annual services. Midnight Mass at Christmas was always a special event in the year: One of the rare times the entire choir sung together and used the cathedral's famed acoustics to their fullest.


Shah Mahmood Qureshi again writes to UN on Kashmir, claims India deploys missiles in region

Shah Mahmood Qureshi again writes to UN on Kashmir, claims India deploys missiles in region

Islamabad: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has written another letter to the UN Secretary General, claiming that India has deployed and tested several types of missiles and could launch an attack against his country to divert world's attention from the "grave situation" in Kashmir.

In his seventh letter written on December 12, Qureshi "apprised the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary General on Indian actions that continue to escalate tensions in an already tense environment in South Asia", the Foreign Office said on Wednesday.


The actions, Qureshi claimed, included "deployment and testing of missiles of various ranges and capabilities" by India. He also warned that India could launch "false flag" attack on Pakistan to divert the world's attention from the "grave situation" in Kashmir.

In a series of letters in recent months, Qureshi has consistently updated the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on the situation in Kashmir, the Foreign Office said.

Qureshi also urged the UNSC to play its rightful role and reiterated Pakistan's proposal to strengthen the UNMOGIP's presence in the region.

India maintains that the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), established in January 1949, has outlived its utility and is irrelevant after the Simla Agreement and the consequent establishment of the Line of Control (LoC).

The foreign minister also asked the UNSC to intervene and avert any threats to peace and security in South Asia as well as bringing an immediate end to the suffering of the Kashmiri people.

The earlier letters by Qureshi to the UNSC and UN Secretary General were written on August 1,6,13 and 26, September 16 and October 31.


Maldives arrests 3 suspected religious extremists on island

Maldives arrests 3 suspected religious extremists on island

'Democrats have no proof. I want an immediate trial': Trump on impeachment proceedings

'Democrats have no proof. I want an immediate trial': Trump on impeachment proceedings

Washington: US President Donald Trump demanded an immediate trial in the Senate and alleged that the Democrats failed to give him a due process in the House of Representatives.

"So after the Democrats gave me no Due Process in the House, no lawyers, no witnesses, no nothing, they now want to tell the Senate how to run their trial. Actually, they have zero proof of anything, they will never even show up. They want out. I want an immediate trial!" Trump tweeted on Thursday (local time).

Sputnik reported that Trump tweeted, apparently responding to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's purported indecisiveness to continue with the impeachment trial in the US Senate.

The President also asserted that Republicans have never been so united.

"The House Democrats were unable to get even a single vote from the Republicans on their Impeachment Hoax. The Republicans have never been so united! The Dem's case is so bad that they don't even want to go to trial!" Trump said in another tweet.

Earlier, Trump had once again hit out at House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying that she is afraid to present her "phony impeachment hoax" to the Senate.

"Pelosi feels her phony impeachment HOAX is so pathetic she is afraid to present it to the Senate, which can set a date and put this whole SCAM into default if they refuse to show up! The Do Nothings are so bad for our Country!" Trump had said in a tweet.

US House of Representative on Wednesday voted to support the two articles of impeachment against President Trump.

The trail in the Republican-controlled Senate is likely to begin in January, Al Jazeera reported. However, that is only after House Democrats send articles of impeachment to the Senate.


Chile military plane with 38 on board disappears en route to Antarctica

Chile military plane with 38 on board disappears en route to Antarctica

Santiago: A military plane with 38 people aboard disappeared Monday after taking off from the south of the country for a base in Antarctica, the Chilean Air Force said.

The plane was carrying 38 people on board - 17 crew members and 21 passengers, reported Sputnik.

"A C-130 Hercules aircraft took off at 16:55 (19:55 GMT) from the city of Punta Arenas to the President Eduardo Frei Antarctic Base... 38 people are traveling," the Air Force said in a statement.

According to the Air Force the flight lost radio contact at 06:13 p.m [21:13 GMT].

According to ANI, a state of alert has been declared and the rescue team have been activated by the authorities.

Further details awaited.

(With inputs from agencies)

SG’s Tamil community more than 2,000-year old

SG’s Tamil community more than 2,000-year old

Singapore: The Tamil community has been present in South East Asia and Singapore for more than 2,000 years, according to a new book which explores the lesser-known aspects of Tamil history and heritage.

Titled 'From Sojourners To Settlers - Tamils in Southeast Asia and Singapore', the book was launched on Saturday by Singapore's Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran at the Indian Heritage Centre.

It explores the lesser-known aspects of Tamil history and heritage in South East Asia and Singapore, examining evidence of Tamil connections with the region for more than 2,000 years.

Among evidence looked at are the inscriptions on the Singapore Stone, which some experts say date back to the 10th century, The Straits Times reported.

Lights on fishing nets save turtles, dolphins

Lights on fishing nets save turtles, dolphins

New Delhi: Placing lights on fishing nets reduces the chances of sea turtles and dolphins being caught by accident, new research shows. LED lights along the top of floating gillnets cut accidental “bycatch” of sea turtles by more than 70%, and that of small cetaceans (including dolphins and porpoises) by more than 66%.

The study, by the University of Exeter and Peruvian conservation organisation ProDelphinus, looked at small-scale vessels departing from three Peruvian ports between 2015 and 2018, and found the lights didn’t reduce the amount of fish caught from “target species” (ie what the fishers wanted to catch).

The findings support previous research which suggested LED lights reduce bycatch of seabirds in gillnets by about 85%. Gillnets, which can be either anchored or move with the ocean currents, are designed to entangle or snare fish by the gills, and are the largest component of small-scale fisheries in many countries.

“Gillnet fisheries often have high bycatch rates of threatened marine species such as sea turtles, whales, dolphins and seabirds,” said lead author Alessandra Bielli, who carried out analyses as part of her masters research at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

“This could lead to declines in the populations of these non-target species — yet few solutions to reduce gillnet bycatch have been developed. Sensory cues — in this case LED lights — are one way we might alert such species to the presence of fishing gear in the water.”

The researchers placed lights every 10m along the float line of 864 gillnets, pairing each with an unlit net to compare the results.

“The dramatic reduction in bycatch of sea turtles and cetaceans in illuminated nets shows how this simple, relatively low-cost technique could help these species and allow fishers to fish more sustainably. Given the success we have had, we hope other fisheries with bycatch problems will also try illuminating their fishing nets,” said Exeter PhD graduate Dr Jeffrey Mangel, of Peruvian NGO ProDelphinus.

Key risk factors for teenage suicide identified

Key risk factors for teenage suicide identified

Canberra: A new Australian research has found that young people who report suicidal thoughts along with experiencing auditory hallucinations and psychological distresses are at the greatest risk of future suicide attempts.

The study by researchers from QIMR Berghofer and The University of Queensland’s Centre for Clinical Research examined risk factors that prompted 12 to 17-year-olds to transition from thinking about hurting themselves to acting on those thoughts. The research findings have been published in the international journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica.

Primary researcher and PhD candidate Emily Hielscher, from QIMR Berghofer’s Child and Youth Mental Health Research Group, said the study gathered psychological, social, and behavioural data from more than 1600 Australian high school students.

“Of those adolescents, 216 reported experiencing suicidal thoughts at the start of the study, and they were interviewed 12 months after that time to see who actually went on to attempt suicide,” Ms Hielscher said.

“Interestingly, we found that adolescents who said they’d been diagnosed with depression and had experienced stressful life events, such as bullying, were not at significantly increased risk of suicide attempts. These findings support other studies that show such factors as depression and impulsivity are not good at predicting who will go on to transition from suicidal thoughts to attempts.”


Donald Trump honours military dog that helped kill Al Baghdadi

Donald Trump honours military dog that helped kill Al Baghdadi

Washington: US President Donald Trump has honoured Conan, the specially trained "hero dog" who helped American commandoes in the mission that led to the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr-al Baghdadi.

Baghdadi, 48, died in October after the world's most wanted terrorist was chased by the US special forces along with military working dogs. He blew up his suicide vest following the US raid on his compound in Syria's Idlib province.

The dog, who was injured during the mission that killed Baghdadi, visited the White House on Monday and met President Trump in his Oval Office.

It later appeared before the White House press corps in the Rose Garden along with Trump, the First Lady Melania and Vice President Mike Pence.