George W Bush to eulogise his late father at funeral


George W Bush to eulogise his late father at funeral

Washington: Former US President George W. Bush is set to eulogise his late father, George H.W. Bush, at the Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday, the most high-profile event in a week of proceedings that will remember the remarkable life of the former leader who died last week. George H.W. Bush will also be eulogised by former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, former US Senator and close friend Alan Simpson and historian Jon Meacham, the late President’s biographer.

President Donald Trump will not speak at the funeral, informed sources told CNN on Monday, but has said that he will attend a memorial later on Wednesday. Despite the fact that Trump’s rise to power included lambasting former Presidents, including both Bushes, the President has responded to Bush Sr’s death with repeated laudatory comments. Trump will pay a condolence call to the Bush family on Tuesday at Blair House, according to the sources, a government house across the street from the White House. Besides Trump, all other living Presidents — Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter — are expected to attend the funeral.

The casket bearing the late leader’s remains arrived at the Capitol on Monday shortly after being transported to Andrews Air Base on the outskirts of Washington. Bush will lie in state until Wednesday morning when his casket will then be transported to the National Cathedral for the first of two funeral services. The German government press service announced on Monday that Chancellor Angela Merkel will fly to Washington D.C., to take part in the memorial service for the late President, who oversaw the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany.

On Thursday, Bush’s casket will travel back to Houston, where he will be memorialised at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church and eulogised by his grandson, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, and former Secretary of State James Baker, a man who has been by Bush Sr’s side since he failed 1970 Senate campaign in Texas. The former President passed away in Houston on the night of November 30 at the age of 94. The patriarch of the Bush family served as a fighter pilot during World War II, later being elected to Congress, serving as UN Ambassador, CIA Director, Vice President under Ronald Reagan between 1981 and 1989 and finally being elected President and serving for one term from 1989-1993 during which time he presided over the end of the Cold War and launched the Gulf War to drive invading Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.




COP24 conference: World Bank pledges USD 200 billion to combat climate change


COP24 conference: World Bank pledges USD 200 billion to combat climate change

Katowice, Poland: The World Bank on Monday pledged to commit as much as USD 200 billion from 2021 to 2025 towards fighting the threat of climate change during the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP 24) summit here. Addressing the event, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim highlighted the plight of the world’s smallest and financially weak countries in the face of climate change, saying that they will bear the brunt of the impacts from climate change, CNN reported.

He further called upon the international community to follow its footsteps and support the smaller countries. “We are pushing ourselves to do more and to go faster on climate and we call on the global community to do the same. This is about putting countries and communities in charge of building a safer, more climate-resilient future,” Kim said.

The meeting, which is being held from December 3 to 14, is taking place amidst calls for world leaders to implement norms to curb the rising carbon dioxide levels and maintain temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had in October issued a warning that the Earth could reach those temperature levels by 2030 if the current trend of greenhouse emissions continues.

In order to prevent that, by 2030, worldwide CO2 emissions would have to fall by 45 per cent from the 2010 levels and have to reach ‘net zero’ by 2050. However, the UN Emissions Gap Report 2018 indicated last week that, “global greenhouse gas emissions,” which reached a record high in 2017, “show no signs of peaking.” “While there has been steady progress in the number of countries that have peaked their GHG emissions or have pledged to do so in the future, the 49 countries that have so far done so, and the 36% share of global emissions they represent, is not large enough to enable the world’s emissions to peak in the near term,” the report stated.

A report published by the World Meteorological Organization confirmed that the last four years have been the hottest on record. Addressing the COP 24, nature broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, who was representing “the people”, said, “Right now we’re facing a man-made disaster on a global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years, climate change.” “I am only here to represent the voice of the people to deliver our collective thoughts, concerns, ideas and suggestions. The people have spoken. Leaders of the world you must lead. If we don’t take action the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon,” he added.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted some of the key areas where efforts need to be directed. “Climate change is running faster than we are and we must catch up sooner rather than later before it is too late. We need a complete transformation of our global energy economy, as well as how we manage land and forest resources. We need to embrace low-carbon, climate-resilient sustainable development,” the UN chief said.

Remarking on the United State’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, Hollywood star and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger stated that while the President Donald Trump-led administration is a “little bit backwards”, the US’ efforts to lower emission levels are led by the city and state-level governments.

“Every time you talk about America, you’re right when you say that our leadership in Washington is a little bit backwards. But you’re wrong when you say that America dropped out of the Paris agreement. Because if you look a little bit beyond Washington you will see that it is the states and the cities, it’s local governments, that can draw 70 per cent of our emissions. And you will see all the extraordinary work that is going on a state and city level in America,” Arnold said.

During the recently concluded G20 Summit in Argentina, a number of world leaders agreed on a statement, which included a segment on the climate issue. The statement said that the Paris climate agreement “is irreversible and commit to its full implementation, reflecting common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances. We will continue to tackle climate change while promoting sustainable development and economic growth”.

However, the United States stressed its decision to withdraw from the pact. A clause of the statement stated that the US, “reiterates its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and affirms its strong commitment to economic growth and energy access and security, utilizing all energy sources and technologies, while protecting the environment”.




SpaceX launches 64 small satellites in single mission


SpaceX launches 64 small satellites in single mission

Los Angeles: US-based private spaceflight company SpaceX launched Falcon 9 rocket carrying 64 small satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base in the state of California on Monday. The mission, dubbed SSO-A, or “SmallSat Express,” set a US launch record for most satellites put into space at a single time. It is also SpaceX’s first flight to reuse the Falcon 9 first-stage booster a third time.

The rocket blasted off from Space Launch Complex 4 at the air force base at 10:34 a.m. PST (1834 GMT), Xinhua news agency reported. At about two minutes and 21 seconds after liftoff, SpaceX confirmed first stage main engine cutoff. Following stage separation, the first stage of the rocket successfully landed on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship stationed in the Pacific Ocean. It completed Falcon 9’s third launch and landing this year.

Later on, SpaceX confirmed second stage engine cutoff and successful deployment of four microsats and the upper and lower free flyer with additional payloads for SSO-A. The Falcon 9 carried to orbit 64 spacecraft, in particular 15 Micro satellites and 49 cubesats, from 34 different organisations from 17 countries. The “ride share” mission, SpaceX’s 19th mission of 2018, was arranged by a company called Spaceflight Industries. A series of six deployments will occur approximately 13-43 minutes after liftoff, after which Spaceflight will begin to command its own deployment sequences. Spaceflight’s deployments are expected to occur over a period of six hours, according to SpaceX.

“We’ve developed a deployment sequence that’s based off a high-fidelity analysis that we did specifically to make sure our customers don’t collide into each other upon deployment, so we’re taking our time,” said Jeff Roberts, Spaceflight’s SSO-A mission manager. “We make sure that we phase that to maximize the distance in separation between all of our customers,” he said. The mission was previously scheduled for three times, but was postponed to Monday for additional inspections prior to the launch.




Air Force One arrives in Houston to carry George H W Bush casket to Washington


Air Force One arrives in Houston to carry George H W Bush casket to Washington

Houston: A US government plane arrived here on Sunday afternoon to transport the body of former president George H W Bush to Washington for a state funeral. The 41st US president died Friday, aged 94, at his home in Texas.

According to Jim McGrath, a spokesperson for the Bush family, the aircraft’s flights to carry the casket of the former US president will be called “Special Air Mission 41”. United States President Donald Trump had Saturday said he would send his presidential aircraft to carry the casket of his late predecessor to Washington. The aircraft is called Air Force One when the president is on board. Officials also held what appeared to be a dry run for moving Bush’s casket to Washington.

His body will lay in state at the Capitol Rotunda after an arrival ceremony on Monday. The public is invited and can pay their respects from Monday evening until Wednesday morning. The casket will be flown back to Houston on Wednesday afternoon. A public viewing will be held from Wednesday evening until 6 am on Thursday. According to sources in the White House,  President Trump and first lady Melania would attend the funeral service in Houston on Thursday. Bush will be buried in Texas next to his wife, Barbara, and their daughter, Robin, who died in 1953.




Jamal Khashoggi called bin Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman a ‘beast’, ‘pac-man’ prior to killing


Jamal Khashoggi called bin Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman a ‘beast’, ‘pac-man’ prior to killing

London [UK]: Slain Journalist Jamal Khashoggi had labelled Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman a “beast” and a “pac-man” adding that “the more victims he eats, the more he wants”. The revelation was made in over 400 WhatsApp messages Khashoggi had sent to a Canada-based activist and fellow Saudi exile Omar Abdulaziz in the year prior to his killing. CNN was granted exclusive access to the messages.

“Arrests are unjustified and do not serve him (logic says), but tyranny has no logic, but he loves force, oppression and needs to show them off. He is like a beast ‘pac man’ the more victims he eats, the more he wants. I will not be surprised that the oppression will reach even those who are cheering him, then others and others and so on. God knows,” the former Washington Post scribe said in one message to Abdulaziz. Speaking to CNN, Abdulaziz said that Jamal believed bin Salman, commonly referred to as MBS, was the problem. “MBS is the issue, is the problem and he said this kid should be stopped,” Abdulaziz said.

After a number of their conversations were believed to have been intercepted by Saudi officials in August this year, Khashoggi wrote, “God help us” and two months later, he was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. On Sunday, Abdulaziz pursued legal action against an Israel-based company that created the military-grade spyware he believes was used by Saudi to hack his phone. According to Bill Marczak, a research fellow at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, the software was invented by the NSO group and was used on Abdulaziz’s phone following directions from the Saudi government.

“The hacking of my phone played a major role in what happened to Jamal, I am really sorry to say. The guilt is killing me,” the Montreal-based activist said. The messages revealed that the two had initiated plans to start an online movement, hoping to rope in the Saudi youth and disparage the government’s propaganda on social media. Abdulaziz said that their, and the Saudi government’s, greatest weapon was Twitter.

“We have no parliament; we just have Twitter. Twitter is the only tool they’re (Saudi) using to fight and to spread their rumours. We’ve been attacked, we’ve been insulted, we’d been threatened so many times, and we decided to do something,” Abdulaziz said. Khashoggi and Abdulaziz planned to get foreign sim cards into the country, allowing the “cyber bees” to tweet without being traced, and raise money. Abdulaziz said that Khashoggi had committed an initial USD 30, 000 and planned to raise more from donors.

“Once they heard about the bees, they were really worried and disturbed, the officials. They arrested a lot of people and raided many places. I bore the brunt of having the group and communication. I’m glad you’re abroad and you are safe,” Abdulaziz wrote to Khashoggi following the interception of their messages by Saudi in August. Abdulaziz also mentioned that two Saudi emissaries, who claimed to have been sent by MBS, had sought to meet him in Montreal in May. The two men, referred to as Malek and Abdullah, said that bin Salman watches him on Twitter and wants to offer him a job.

Abdulaziz recorded over ten hours of their conversations. These recordings are a crucial development in the narrative so far as Saudi Arabia has maintained over the course of the two months since Khashoggi’s murder that their Prince had no connections with the plot for the same. The two men asked Abdulaziz to meet at the Saudi embassy in order for the latter to collect some documents. Abdulaziz further stated that Khashoggi adviced him to not go there, an advice he believes saved his life. “He told me not to go and only to meet them in public places,” he said. However, Khashoggi did not follow his own advice on October 2. He entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to collect documents for his marriage to fiancée Hatice Cengiz, never to be seen again.




Over 288 arrested in Paris protests against fuel price hike; 100 injured


Over 288 arrested in Paris protests against fuel price hike; 100 injured

Paris: At least 288 people have been arrested and some 100 others injured as protesters took to the streets of Paris against rising fuel prices, clashing with riot police, authorities said.

A police spokesman told CNN that clashes erupted on Saturday after the protesters from the ‘gilets jaune’ or ‘yellow vest’ movement demonstrated against rising gas prices and taxes on polluting forms of transport.

Saturday’s protests marked the third consecutive week of such demonstrations, although with an estimated 36,500 participants across the country they were smaller than those in weeks past, according to the French Interior Ministry. Last week, about 53,000 participated and there were about 113,000 the week before.

“All the police, the gendarmes and civil security forces were mobilised,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said, adding that 65,000 agents had been deployed around the country and 4,000 in Paris, a number that proved insufficient to deal with the 3,000 violent protesters identified by the authorities.

The Minister said the famous Arc de Triomphe was occupied and damaged by the rioters during the protests, reports Efe news. The arch was spattered with yellow paint saying, “The ‘yellow vests’ will triumph” and later a group of demonstrators managed to get access to the top of the monument.

“I am shocked by the challenge against symbols of France,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said.

“The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier encircled, the Arc de Triomphe daubed,” he added.

As the day wore on, the area surrounding the Champs Elysees began to look like a war zone, with protesters launching Molotov cocktails and cobblestones at police who responded with tear gas and water cannon. But the protests evolved into a broader demonstration against French President Emmanuel Macron, his government and tensions between the metropolitan elite and rural poor, CNN said.

The violent protests and vandalism in Paris have “absolutely nothing to do with the peaceful demonstrations of a legitimate unhappiness or discontent”, Macron told the media on Saturday in Buenos Aires, where he’s attending the G20 summit. Those responsible will be identified and taken to court, he added.




120,000 Indian kids aged 0-19 were living with HIV in 2017: Report


120,000 Indian kids aged 0-19 were living with HIV in 2017: Report

United Nations: An estimated 120,000 children and adolescents aged 0-19 were living with HIV in India in 2017, the highest number in South Asia, according to a report by UNICEF which warned that around 80 adolescents will be dying of AIDS every day globally by 2030 if progress in preventing transmission is not accelerated.

The report noted South Asia has made substantial progress in reducing HIV risks and vulnerability among children, adolescents, pregnant women and mothers.  In India, an estimated 120,000 children and adolescents aged 0–19 were living with HIV in 2017. In Pakistan, this number was 5,800, followed by Nepal (1,600) and Bangladesh (less than 1,000), according to the UNICEF report released on Thursday ‘Children, HIV and AIDS: The World in 2030’.

In 2017, the estimated number of children under 5 years old newly-diagnosed with HIV was 43% lower than the comparable estimate in 2010 — a decline greater than the 35% recorded globally.  The estimated share of those aged 0–14 living with HIV who had been initiated on lifesaving antiretroviral therapy (ART) was 73% in 2017, an increase of nearly 50 percentage points from 2010.

The report however warned by 2030, around 80 adolescents will be dying of AIDS every day if “we don’t accelerate progress in preventing transmission.” The report said current trends indicate AIDS-related deaths and new infections are slowing, but the downward trajectory is not happening fast enough. “The report makes it clear, without the shadow of a doubt, that the world is off track when it comes to ending AIDS among children and adolescents by 2030,” said UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore.




United States: Multiple earthquakes in Alaska shatter roads, houses


United States: Multiple earthquakes in Alaska shatter roads, houses

Anchorage: Back-to-back earthquakes measuring 7.0 and 5.7 shattered highways and rocked buildings Friday in Anchorage and the surrounding area, sending people running into the streets and briefly triggering a tsunami warning for islands and coastal areas south of the city.

No tsunami arrived and there were no immediate reports of deaths or serious injuries. The US Geological Survey said the first and more powerful quake was centered about 12 kilometers north of Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, with a population of about 300,000. People ran from their offices or took cover under desks. The 5.7 aftershock arrived within minutes, followed by a series of smaller quakes.

“We just hung onto each other. You couldn’t even stand,” said Sheila Bailey, who was working at a high school cafeteria in Palmer when the quake struck. “It sounded and felt like the school was breaking apart.” A large section of an off-ramp near the Anchorage airport collapsed, marooning a car on a narrow island of pavement surrounded by deep chasms in the concrete. Several cars crashed at a major intersection in Wasilla, north of Anchorage, during the shaking.

Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll said he had been told that parts of Glenn Highway, a scenic route that runs northeast out of the city past farms, mountains and glaciers, had “completely disappeared.” Traffic in the three lanes heading out of the city was bumper-to-bumper and all but stopped Friday afternoon as emergency vehicles passed on the shoulder.

The quake broke store windows, knocked items off shelves, opened cracks in a two-story, downtown building, disrupted electrical service and disabled traffic lights, snarling traffic. It also threw a full-grown man out of his bathtub. Flights at the airport were suspended for hours after the quake knocked out telephones and forced the evacuation of the control tower. And the 800-mile Alaska oil pipeline was shut down while crews were sent to inspect it for damage.

Anchorage’s school system canceled classes and asked parents to pick up their children while it examined buildings for gas leaks or other damage. Gov. Bill Walker issued a disaster declaration. He was in an elevator in a high-rise Anchorage office building and said it was a “rough ride” coming down. He described the quake as a 7.2, though it was unclear why his figure differed from that of the USGS.

Walker says it will take more than a week or two to repair roads damaged by the earthquake. “This is much more significant than that,” he told reporters at a news conference. Walker leaves office on Monday, and he said members of Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy’s staff had been involved with the earthquake response to ensure a smooth transition.

“This isn’t a time to do anything other than take care of Alaskans, and that’s what we’re doing,” he said. Alaska was the site of the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in the US. The 9.2-magnitude quake on March 27, 1964, was centered about 120 kilometers east of Anchorage. It and the tsunami it triggered claimed about 130 lives.

The state averages 40,000 earthquakes a year, with more large quakes than the 49 other states combined. Southern Alaska has a high risk of earthquakes because the Earth’s plates slide past each other under the region. Alaska has been hit by a number of powerful quakes over 7.0 in recent decades, including a 7.9 last January southeast of Kodiak Island. But it is rare for a quake this big to strike so close to such a heavily populated area.




US proposes changes to H1B visas; to be given to most skilled, highest paid foreign workers


US proposes changes to H1B visas; to be given to most skilled, highest paid foreign workers

Washington: The Trump Administration on Friday proposed major changes to the H-1B application process, including a new rule requiring companies to electronically register their petitions in advance, aimed at awarding this popular American work visa to the most skilled and highest paid foreign workers.

The H1B visa, popular among Indian IT companies and professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China. Under the new proposed merit-based rule, a notice for which was issued on Friday, companies employing foreign workers on the H-1B visa – under the Congressional mandated annual caps – would first have to electronically register with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during a designated registration period.

The H1-B visa has numerical limit cap of 65,000 visas each fiscal year as mandated by the Congress. The first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries with a US master’s degree or higher are exempt from the cap. Under the new rule, the USCIS would also reverse the order by which it selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B cap and the advanced degree exemption. This is likely to increase the number of foreign workers with a master’s or higher degree from a US institution of higher education to be selected for an H-1B cap number. As such the proposed rule will introduce a more meritorious selection of beneficiaries, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a statement.

The DHS said public comments on the proposed rule may be submitted starting December 3, when the proposed rule publishes in the Federal Register, and must be received on or before January 2. “Currently, in years when the H-1B cap and the advanced degree exemption are both reached within the first five days that H-1B cap petitions may be filed, the advanced degree exemption is selected prior to the H-1B cap. “The proposed rule would reverse the selection order and count all registrations or petitions towards the number projected as needed to reach the H-1B cap first,” the DHS said.

Once a sufficient number of registrations or petitions have been selected for the H-1B cap, the USCIS would then select registrations or petitions towards the advanced degree exemption. “This proposed change would increase the chances that beneficiaries with a master’s or higher degree from a US institution of higher education would be selected under the H-1B cap and that H-1B visas would be awarded to the most-skilled and highest-paid beneficiaries,” it said. The proposed process would result in an estimated increase of up to 16 per cent (or 5,340 workers) in the number of selected H-1B beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a US institution of higher education, the DHS said.

The USCIS said it expects that shifting to electronic registration would reduce overall costs for petitioners and create a more efficient and cost-effective H-1B cap petition process for the agency. The proposed rule would help alleviate massive administrative burdens on the USCIS since the agency would no longer need to physically receive and handle hundreds of thousands of H-1B petitions and supporting documentation before conducting the cap selection process, it said.

“This would help reduce wait times for cap selection notifications. The proposed rule also limits the filing of H-1B cap-subject petitions to the beneficiary named on the original selected registration, which would protect the integrity of this registration system,” it added. President Donald Trump, who insists on the ‘Buy American and Hire American’ strategy, last year instructed the DHS to propose new rules and issue new guidance to supersede or revise previous rules to protect the interests of US workers. He had directed DHS and other agencies to “suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.”




5 dead, 32 injured after coach hits taxi at Hong Kong’s airport


5 dead, 32 injured after coach hits taxi at Hong Kong’s airport

Hong Kong: Five people were killed and 32 injured when a coach carrying Cathay Pacific staff to Hong Kong’s airport collided with a taxi on Friday, police said, with passengers thrown from the coach’s windows on impact. The back half of the taxi was completely crushed and both sides of the bus were damaged with traces of blood on the outside following the crash on the island of Tsing Yi.

“We believe the taxi was broken down and stopped on the left lane of the road. Around 40 seconds later, a coach hit it from behind,” police superintendent Yip Siu-ming said. The coach then lost control, Yip added, hitting the right hand side crash barrier and then the left one and throwing three passengers out of the coach. The 62-year-old driver was also hurled from the vehicle and injured.

The taxi driver and two men and two women coach passengers were killed, according to police. Debris including glass and personal belongings was strewn across the road, which remained closed early Friday. Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific confirmed “a shuttle bus carrying our employees was involved in a traffic accident this morning”.

“It is a tragic and very sad incident. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those who have sadly passed away,” the airline said. Superintendent Yip said police would look into whether the coach driver — who had been working for 10 hours at the time of the accident — had been tired or affected by alcohol, whether he’d been drinking.

“From what we can see, it’s obvious that the driver did not see the broken-down taxi on the road and hit it from behind,” Yip said, adding that his working hours were from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am. Tsing Yi is connected by a freeway to Hong Kong International Airport which is located on neighbouring Lantau island.

Television footage showed the injured being treated by the side of the road before they were taken to four hospitals. The South China Morning Post reported that several of the injured were in serious condition. One coach passenger said the bus had been travelling fast before it crashed into the taxi which had its hazard lights on, according to SCMP.

“It seemed to me that the coach did not slow down. I fell onto the floor (when it crashed),” the passenger said. A passenger told local television channel TVB the scene on the bus was “very chaotic, we were crushed together”. Another said “the bus hit once, then hit left and right, and hit the roadside to stop.” Television footage showed the crash barrier on either side of the road was damaged.

The accident happened at 5:00 am (2100 GMT Thursday) near the exit of a tunnel. Hong  Kong prides itself on having one of the world’s best public transport systems but deadly bus accidents are not unknown. A speeding double-decker overturned in northern Hong Kong in February, killing 19 people and leaving more than 60 injured. The bus driver was arrested for dangerous driving. And in 2003 a double-decker bus collided with a truck and plummeted off a bridge, killing 21 people and injuring 20.




Top