UAE finance minister and deputy Dubai ruler Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum dead


UAE finance minister and deputy Dubai ruler Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum dead

He underwent surgery abroad last year, though further details were not disclosed.

United Arab Emirates’ Finance Minister and deputy ruler of Dubai, Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has died on Wednesday, the Dubai media office said.

He was the brother of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Prime Minister and ruler of the emirate of Dubai. Hamdan, who was 75 years old, had been finance minister since 1971, when the country was founded.

UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed ordered that flags be flown at half-mast across the country until Saturday to mark three days of mourning, according to a statement by the official news agency WAM, DPA news reported.

Meanwhile, Dubai announced a 10-day mourning period.

Funeral prayers will be restricted to family members due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Dubai media office added.

Hamdan had been unwell, his brother Mohammed wrote on Twitter earlier this month, wishing him well.

He underwent surgery abroad last year, though further details were not disclosed.




Biden to make ex-Senator Bill Nelson new NASA chief


Biden to make ex-Senator Bill Nelson new NASA chief

The total cost to NASA is approximately $331.8 million, including the launch service and other mission-related costs, the US space agency said.

US President Joe Biden is reportedly tapping former Democratic Senator Bill Nelson as the next NASA administrator.

According to a report in The Verge late Thursday, Nelson, who is a former Congressman and three-term Senator from Florida, would succeed former President Donald Trump’s NASA chief, Jim Bridenstine.

“I cannot think of anyone better to lead NASA than Bill Nelson. His nomination gives me confidence that the Biden Administration finally understands the importance of the Artemis programme, and the necessity of winning the 21st century space race,” Senator Marco Rubio, who was Nelson’s Republican colleague from Florida, was quoted as saying.

The Artemis III mission will launch the first woman and next man to the Moon in 2024.

NASA has said it will develop a detailed mission operation plan when human landing system capabilities, a landing site, and other architectural details come into sharper focus.

The procedures and operations techniques developed for Artemis III will also inform future Artemis missions.

As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee that oversees NASA, Nelson laid into then-nominee Bridenstine during his confirmation hearings, criticising his record on climate change and stressing that a politician shouldn’t run NASA.

“This committee has heard me say many times: NASA is not political. The leader of NASA should not be political,” Nelson had said.

NASA last month selected Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX to provide launch services for two major components of the Gateway that will serve as a way station for future Moon missions.

As part of the contract, SpaceX will provide launch services for NASA’s Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) and Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO), the foundational elements of the Gateway.

The total cost to NASA is approximately $331.8 million, including the launch service and other mission-related costs, the US space agency said.

As the first long-term orbiting outpost around the Moon, the Gateway is critical to supporting sustainable astronauts missions under the agency’s Artemis programme.




Several European nations to restart AstraZeneca vax


Several European nations to restart AstraZeneca vax

The World Health Organization has also recommended the continued use of the vaccine.

Several European countries have announced they would restart vaccinations with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 jab after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) deemed it “safe and effective”.

The EMA statement came after an extensive review of possible blood clot risks, the agency’s chief said on Thursday, following reports that some people had developed blood clots in the period after having the injection, reports dpa news agency.

France, Italy, Latvia and Bulgaria announced they would likely restart vaccinations using the AstraZeneca jab on Friday following the EMA advice.


 
Spain would reportedly follow suit next week, according to El Pais newspaper.

In an effort to bolster damaged public confidence in the vaccine, French Premier Jean Castex announced that he himself would receive the injection on Friday.

Swedish health authorities said, on the other hand, that they would need “a few days” to assess the EMA report before lifting the ban on AstraZeneca.

“The suspension remains for the time being,” Johan Carlson, head of the Swedish Public Health Agency, told reporters.

Germany will aim to restart vaccinations using AstraZeneca’s vaccine on Friday, Health Minister Jens Spahn said.

The restart in Germany would come with new advice on the vaccine’s side effects, Spahn added.

Blood clot reports from several countries prompted governments around the world to halt inoculations with the AstraZeneca jab.

This slowed down already sluggish inoculation campaigns in the European Union.

The EMA, which had approved the jab in January, launched a review of the risks.

“The committee has come to a clear scientific conclusion,” the agency’s chief Emer Cooke said when presenting the findings.

“This is a safe and effective vaccine. Its benefits in protecting people from Covid-19, with the associated risks of death and hospitalisation, outweigh the possible risks,” Cooke said.

The agency’s committee concluded that the vaccine was not associated with an increase in the overall risk of thromboembolic events or blood clots.

“When you vaccinate millions of people, it’s invevitable that rare or serious incidences or illnesses will occur in the time immediately following vaccination,” she said.

However, the agency could not definitively rule out a link between cases of rare, very serious clotting disorders and the vaccine, and said it launched additional investigations to understand the issue.

The EMA therefore recommended issuing warnings by including the risks in the product information.

The World Health Organization has also recommended the continued use of the vaccine.




UN launches 1st online platform on migration


UN launches 1st online platform on migration

The hub is expected to disseminate peer-reviewed information from different sources, such as reports by international organisations, academic articles and government statistics.

The UN Network on Migration has launched its first online platform to share “knowledge, expertise, good practices and initiatives” on migration-related issues, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

The platform, named Migration Network Hub, aims to be a community tool for use by the UN member states, the IOM said in a statement on Thursday.

The tool was designed to encourage online discussions, and resource and publication-sharing and its users can attend webinars, the IOM said, adding that later this year, “governments will have access to migration-related services and support”, Xinhua news agency reported.

“The launch of the hub is a milestone as it allows us to work better together, learn from each other’s experiences and exchange ideas on how to foster the implementation of the Compact at all levels,” said Antonio Vitorino, coordinator of the UN Network on Migration.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration is an inter-governmental agreement prepared under the auspices of the UN.

The hub is expected to disseminate peer-reviewed information from different sources, such as reports by international organisations, academic articles and government statistics.

One of the key challenges this platform is supposed to address is the “proliferation of competing (and sometimes contradictory) information on migration”, the IOM said.

The UN Network on Migration was established in December 2018 to strengthen cooperation on migration, with the IOM playing a central role in the institution.




Houthis claim drone attack on Saudi airport


Houthis claim drone attack on Saudi airport

Most of the attacks were foiled by the Saudi-led coalition forces.

Yemen’s Houthi militia said they attacked the Abha international airport in Saudi Arabia, using a bomb-laden drone.

“The drone hit a military target in the airport accurately,” the Houthi-run al-Masirah TV quoted a statement by the militia’s military spokesman Yehya Sarea as saying on Thursday.

“The attack was in response to the aggressor’s military escalation and blockade,” the spokesman said, referring to the Saudi-led coalition that has intervened in the war in Yemen since 2015.

The Houthis have stepped up cross-border attacks against Saudi cities and oil facilities recently.

Most of the attacks were foiled by the Saudi-led coalition forces.

Yemen has been mired in a civil war since late 2014 when the Iran-backed Houthis seized control of several northern Yemeni provinces and forced the internationally-recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi out of the capital Sanaa.

The Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened in the Yemeni conflict in 2015 to support Hadi’s government.




Imran Khan govt incapable of running country, says Pak Supreme Court


Imran Khan govt incapable of running country, says Pak Supreme Court

According to the judge, the government and its allies rule in three provinces, and yet not a single decision had been taken by the CCI.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has expressed its displeasure with the Imran Khan government, saying it was incapable of running the country or taking decisions.

Hearing the local bodies case, a two-judge bench, headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Sardar Tariq, expressing annoyance over the issuance of an ordinance on delimitation of constituencies by the Punjab government, referred the matter to the Chief Justice, the Express Tribune, Pakistan, reported.

During the hearing, the apex court was informed that the decision regarding the census had not been taken by the Council of Common Interests (CCI). “Why hasn’t the Council of Common Interests met in two months,” Justice Isa asked, expressing his anger, the report said.


 
“Is it not a priority of the government to release the census results,” he asked.

According to the judge, the government and its allies rule in three provinces, and yet not a single decision had been taken by the CCI. “The government is incapable either of running the country or taking decisions,” he added.

He also took exception to the postponement of the CCI meeting despite the court order, terming it an insult to the constitutional institution.

According to the court, there were no war conditions that could prevent the CCI from holding its meeting. Justice Isa pointed out that nowadays meeting could take place via a video link. He mentioned that four years have passed since the census was conducted in 2017, the report said.

Additional Attorney General Amir Rehman informed the court that the meeting of the CCI would be held on March 24, adding that it was a sensitive matter and therefore the government wanted to take decision with consensus.

At this, Justice Isa asked why the report of the CCI has been kept secret. He observed that if good deeds are kept secret, it would raise doubts in the minds of the people. He further observed that the people should know “what are the provinces doing, and what is the federation doing”, as per the report.

The judge expressed his displeasure over the promulgation of an ordinance for fresh delimitation by the Punjab Governor. According to the Election Commission, the ordinance has created complications, he said. Simply put, he added, the Punjab government does not want local elections to be held.




Top EU official urges greater coordination on migration


Top EU official urges greater coordination on migration

Besides, Borrell pointed out that legal migration opportunities “have to be part of the equation” as well as the removal of incentives for the dangerous crossings.

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has called for improving the external and internal coordination on the bloc’s migration issues.

The EU Ministers of Foreign and Home Affairs on Monday held an informal video conference on the external aspects of the bloc’s migration policy under the new pact on migration and asylum, reports Xinhua news agency.

“The internal and external strands of migration have to go hand in hand,” Borrell told a press conference following the meeting, stressing that a strong common EU approach will be crucial to make progress on migration.

The Ministers, who focused in particular on migration as an important element in relations with key third countries, discussed at the meeting how to best develop and further enhance cooperation between countries of origin, transit and destination in a comprehensive and mutually beneficial manner.

“We cannot look at the migration policy in isolation from overall relations with our partners and in order to achieve the results we are looking for,” Borrell said, urging member states to work in partnership with the countries of origin and transit.

Besides, Borrell pointed out that legal migration opportunities “have to be part of the equation” as well as the removal of incentives for the dangerous crossings.

The European Commission proposed a new Pact on Migration and Asylum in September 2020 for a comprehensive European approach to migration, which sets out improved and faster procedures throughout the asylum and migration system, while keeping in balance the principles of fair sharing of responsibility and solidarity.




4,129 illegal migrants rescued off Libyan coast in 2021


4,129 illegal migrants rescued off Libyan coast in 2021

Many illegal migrants were either rescued at sea or arrested by the authorities, and detained inside overcrowded reception centres in Libya, despite repeated international calls to close them.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that a total of 4,129 illegal migrants have been rescued and returned to Libya so far in 2021.

The rescued migrants comprised 293 women and 215 children, Xinhua news agency quoted the IOM as saying on Monday.

It added that 73 migrants died and 159 others went missing on the Central Mediterranean route so far this year.

A total of 11,891 illegal migrants were rescued and returned to Libya in 2020, according to IOM estimates.

At least 381 migrants died and 597 went missing on the Central Mediterranean route during the year.

Due to the insecurity and chaos in the North African nation following the fall of its leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, thousands of illegal immigrants, mostly Africans, chose to cross the Mediterranean from Libya towards Europe.

Many illegal migrants were either rescued at sea or arrested by the authorities, and detained inside overcrowded reception centres in Libya, despite repeated international calls to close them.




71 new Covid cases, 3.5 lakh inoculated in Odisha


71 new Covid cases, 3.5 lakh inoculated in Odisha

A total of 86,21,715 sample tests have been conducted in the state so far including 23,173 on Saturday. Odisha has reported a 3.92% positivity rate while 96.08% samples have tested negative for COVID-19.

Odisha on Sunday reported 71 new cases of COVID 19. The fresh cases were reported from 20 districts during the past 24 hours.

Khordha district with 11 new cases topped the list .

Currently, Kendrapara and Malkangiri districts in the State have become COVID-free with no active cases.

Kendrapara district had accounted for a total caseload 9,155 with 9,126 patients recovering from the disease. The district’s case fatality rate stands at 28 with one infected patient dying of co-morbidity. The Malkangiri district located on the southernmost tip of Odisha reported a caseload of 5,246 with 5,218 recovering. 25 people died of COVID-19 while three patients succumbed to comorbidities, said officials.

Odisha currently has 652 active cases. The State’s recovery rate stands at 99.22%.

A total of 86,21,715 sample tests have been conducted in the state so far including 23,173 on Saturday. Odisha has reported a 3.92% positivity rate while 96.08% samples have tested negative for COVID-19.

Meanwhile a total of 3,48,309 people have been inoculated till Saturday evening. Around 84 per cent of health professionals and 98 per cent of frontline workers in the state have already received the second dose of vaccine, said a senior official of the health and family welfare department.




Bitcoin tops $60,000 mark for first time


Bitcoin tops $60,000 mark for first time

The value of Bitcoins has risen more than double this year, up to 107 per cent from December 31 closing price of $28,987.60.

Just a few weeks after topping the $50,000 mark, cryptocurrency bitcoin hit a new record high of $60,000 on Sunday.

The digital currency hit $60,197 at 12:34 GMT and continued to hover around $60,000, according to the website CoinMarketCap.

“After 20 years as a trader, I’m frankly not excited by this latest all-time high Bitcoin price, but I do enjoy the rocket-emoji messages in my inbox. My old veteran’s advice is still: education first. Learn why rallies happen and why they always end. What goes up must come down, so don’t get distracted by price guessing (I won’t say predictions). Never blindly chase a rally in any market,” Vikram Rangala, Chief Marketing Officer at ZebPay, told IANS.

Within a few days, Bitcoin hit the $30,000 and $40,000 levels over a period of few days in January. The circulation of Bitcoins is worth more than $1 trillion.

The value of Bitcoins has risen more than double this year, up to 107 per cent from December 31 closing price of $28,987.60 after tech billionaire Elon Musk’s electric vehicle company Tesla invested $1.5 billion in it. The electric automaker also said that it was looking to letting customers to buy its cars via Bitcoins.

Bitcoin, which was launched back in 2009, hit the headlines in 2017 after soaring from less than $1,000 in January to almost $20,000 in December of the same year.

Buyers are aggressively accumulating more and more Bitcoin (BTC). This is the driving factor that has propelled the price growth of BTC towards this new all-time high value.

After the unit crossed $1,000 for the first time in 2013, it has been increasingly attracting the attention of financial institutions.




Top