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Two teens held after killing of Northern Irish journalist


Two teens held after killing of Northern Irish journalist

London: Two teenage men have been arrested after the shooting dead of a journalist in Northern Ireland, police said Saturday. The 18 and 19-year-olds were arrested in Londonderry under anti-terror laws and taken to Belfast for questioning, the Police Service of Northern Ireland said. Journalist Lyra McKee was shot in the head late Thursday in Derry by, police believe, dissident republicans linked to the New IRA paramilitary group as they clashed with police on the Creggan estate in Northern Ireland’s second city.

Tributes to the 29-year-old were led by her partner, Sara Canning, who said McKee’s “amazing potential was snuffed out by this single barbaric act”. Detectives hunting the gunman had released footage of the unrest, hoping that the community would help trace her killers. Belfast-born McKee, 29, had posted an image from the riots, accompanied by the words “Derry tonight. Absolute madness”.




Yellow vest anger mixes with Notre Dame mourning


Yellow vest anger mixes with Notre Dame mourning

Paris: French yellow vest protesters marched a new Saturday to remind the government that rebuilding the fire-ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral isn’t the only problem the nation needs to solve. Security was extra-high in Paris as authorities braced for resurgent yellow vest anger, and Paris police said some 70 people were detained by mid-morning.

Multiple protest events are being held around Paris and other cities Saturday for the 23rd weekend of the yellow vest movement against wealth inequality and President Emmanuel Macron’s leadership. One group of about 200 people tried to march on the president’s Elysee Palace in central Paris, but riot police blocked them at the neo-classical Madeleine Church.
Another group gathered around the Finance Ministry in eastern Paris to demand lower taxes on workers and pensioners and higher taxes on the rich.

Yet another group is trying to demonstrate yellow vest mourning over the Notre Dame blaze while also keeping up pressure on Macron. The group wanted to march to Notre Dame itself, but were banned by police, who have set up a large security perimeter around the area. Many protesters were deeply saddened by the fire at a national monument. But at the same time they are angry at the USD 1 billion in Notre Dame donations that poured in from tycoons while their own demands remain largely unmet and they struggle to make ends meet.

Some 60,000 police officers were mobilised for Saturday’s protests across France as the interior minister warned of the risk of resurgent violence. The movement is largely peaceful but extremists have attacked treasured monuments, shops and banks and clashed with police. The heavy police presence meant subway stations and roads around Paris were closed Saturday, thwarting tourists who converged on the French capital for an exceptionally warm spring day.




Suicide blast rocks Kabul, 7 killed


Suicide blast rocks Kabul, 7 killed

Kabul: A suicide blast rocked Afghanistan’s capital Saturday during a gun battle with security forces, officials said, killing at least seven people a day after hopes for all-encompassing peace talks collapsed. At least eight people were wounded.  Police chief Gen. Sayed Mohammad Roshandil said the bomber blew himself up outside the Telecommunications Ministry, clearing the way for four gunmen to enter the building and the heavily guarded government compound in central Kabul. Nasart Rahimi, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said four civilians and three soldiers were killed during the attack. Eight civilians were wounded, he said.

Wahidullah Mayar, spokesman for the Public Health Ministry, said the wounded people were evacuated to hospitals, three of them women. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Both Taliban insurgents and the Islamic State group are ac tive in eastern Afghanistan and have previously claimed attacks in Kabul. The Taliban denied involvement. Rahimi said the security operation ended at the Ministry of Telecommunication “after all four attackers were shot and killed by Afghan security forces.”

The attack came a day  after Afghan-to-Afghan peace talks in Qatar were cancelled. It would have marked the first time that Taliban and Kabul government officials sat together to negotiate an end to the war in Afghanistan and a withdrawal of U.S. troops. Afghan president Ashraf Ghani strongly condemned the attack in a statement, saying the enemies of Afghanistan, by targetin g civil servants, are trying to create terror among the people.

Rahimi said security forces blocked all roads near the attack site and that forced shot and killed four additional suicide bombers before the attackers could reach their target of the nearby central post office. He said as many as 2,700 government employees and civilians were rescue d by security forces after being stuck in several government buildings including the central post office.




Pakistan PM Imran Khan reshuffles Cabinet amidst mounting criticism over government performance


Pakistan PM Imran Khan reshuffles Cabinet amidst mounting criticism over government performance

Islamabad [Pakistan]: Announcing his first major cabinet reshuffle after taking office, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday brought in five new aides and changed the portfolios of four ministers, including that of Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who has now been assigned Science and Technology ministry.

Chaudhry will be replaced by Firdous Ashiq Awan, an erstwhile Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) stalwart who switched to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in May 2017. Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, former finance minister in the PPP government from 2010 to 2013, has been appointed Advisor Finance. He will replace Asad Umar, who resigned hours before the announcement of the reshuffle, saying Imran Khan offered him energy ministry but he did not want it.

Moreover, a loyalist of former President General Pervez Musharraf and ex-spymaster Brig Ijaz Ahmed Shah, whose appointment last month as Parliamentary Affairs minister came as a big surprise, has been chosen as federal interior minister. Notably, the portfolio was so far kept by Prime Minister Khan himself. Meanwhile, Minister of state for Interior, Shehryar Afridi, has now been named the Minister for States and Frontier Regions (Safron).

Ghulam Sarwar Khan, who was the petroleum minister, has been shifted to aviation ministry. Reportedly, Sarwar had threatened to quit the party if removed from the cabinet. Therefore he was shifted to Aviation portfolio which was until then held by Federal Minister for Privatisation Muhammad Mian Soomro. The reshuffle comes as the South Asian nation is going through a serious economic crisis. Despite owing around USD 10 billion to Beijing and Riyadh, Islamabad is seeking another bailout package of USD 8 to 10 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).




Saturn’s moon Titan has deep methane lakes


Saturn’s moon Titan has deep methane lakes

Washington: Saturn’s largest moon Titan has small liquid lakes that run more than 100 metres deep, perched atop hills and filled with methane, scientists have found using data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The findings are the first confirmation of just how deep some of Titan’s lakes are (more than 300 feet, or 100 meters) and of their composition.

They provide new information about the way liquid methane rains on, evaporates from and seeps into Titan – the only planetary body in our solar system other than Earth known to have stable liquid on its surface.Scientists have known that Titan’s hydrologic cycle works similarly to Earth’s – with one major difference. Instead of water evaporating from seas, forming clouds and rain, Titan does it all with methane and ethane.

We tend to think of these hydrocarbons as a gas on Earth, unless they’re pressurised in a tank. However, Titan is so cold that they behave as liquids, like gasoline at room temperature on our planet. Scientists have known that the much larger northern seas are filled with methane, but finding the smaller northern lakes filled mostly with methane was a surprise.

Previously, Cassini data measured Ontario Lacus, the only major lake in Titan’s southern hemisphere. There they found a roughly equal mix of methane and ethane. Ethane is slightly heavier than methane, with more carbon and hydrogen atoms in its makeup. “Every time we make discoveries on Titan, Titan becomes more and more mysterious,” said Marco Mastrogiuseppe, Cassini radar scientist at California Institute of Technology in the US. –PTI




Pakistan army says India should accept no surgical strike happened in 2016


Pakistan army says India should accept no surgical strike happened in 2016

Islamabad: Pakistan Army took a jibe at India on Thursday after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj acknowledged that no civilian or soldier was killed in the Balakot attack, saying New Delhi should also take back its claim about the shooting down of a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet and the 2016 surgical strike.

The statement by army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor came hours after Swaraj said that no Pakistani soldier or civilian died in the air strike on a terror camp at Balakot in Pakistan in February. “Hopefully, so will be about other false Indian claims i.e. surgical strike 2016, denial of shooting down of 2 IAF jets by PAF and claim about F16. Better late than never,” Ghafoor said in a tweet.

No Pakistani soldier or civilian died in Balakot air strike: Sushma Swaraj
Pakistan has denied that the Indian Air Force jets attacked terrorists in Balakot. In Ahmedabad, addressing BJP’s women workers, Swaraj said that the Indian military was given a “free hand” in the operation but was clearly told that no Pakistani civilian should be killed and also there be “not even a scratch” on the Pakistani army. “We told them (the international community) that our air strike was in self-defence…we had given a free hand to the Army but had also given two directions too – no civilian of Pakistan (Pakistan ka koi nagrik) should die. Pakistan’s Army should not be touched.

“Your target should is those terrorists of JeM which had taken responsibility for killing 40 persons in Pulwama,” she said. The IAF had struck a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror training camp in Pakistan on February 26, in response to the February 14 Pulwama attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. Pakistan had categorically said that no F-16 fighter jets were used and denied that one of its planes had been downed by the IAF.

Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after the Pulwama attack. India launched a counter-terror operation against a JeM training camp in Balakot. The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured its pilot, who was handed over to India on March 1.




Notre-Dame esplanade to get ‘ephemeral’ wooden cathedral


Notre-Dame esplanade to get ‘ephemeral’ wooden cathedral

Paris: Catholic worshippers feeling orphaned by the fire that ravaged part of Notre-Dame will be welcomed in an “ephemeral cathedral” of wood in front of the Paris monument until it reopens, Notre-Dame’s chief priest said Thursday.  Speaking to France’s CNews television channel Monsignor Patrick Chauvet said: “We mustn’t say ‘the cathedral is closed for five years and that’s it’.

To give the faithful somewhere to congregate next to Notre-Dame, he suggested: “Can I not build an ephemeral cathedral on the esplanade (in front of Notre-Dame)?” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo had backed the idea and agreed to give over part of the esplanade to the church for a wooden structure, he said.  Chauvet said the wooden “cathedral” would host priests who could address some of the millions of tourists who throng the original 850-year-old Gothic cathedral each year. On Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron said he aimed to rebuild Notre-Dame within five years.

The government said it would launch an international architecture contest to replace the burning steeple which came crashing down during Monday’s inferno, along with a large part of the roof.  Chauvet said the surrogate “cathedral” would be erected quickly, as soon as the esplanade reopens after work to secure the cathedral is completed.  The fire is believed to have been accidentally triggered by restoration work which was being carried out on the steeple.




YouTube accidentally links Notre-Dame fire to 9/11 terror attacks


YouTube accidentally links Notre-Dame fire to 9/11 terror attacks

Singapore: A YouTube fact-check feature which is meant to tackle misinformation accidentally tagged live broadcasts of a fire engulfing Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris with details about the 9/11 terror attacks.

The blaze erupted in the UNESCO world heritage landmark in the French capital Monday, sending its spire and roof crashing to the ground as flames and clouds of smoke billowed into the sky. The fire, which at one point threatened the entire edifice, was brought under control early Tuesday about nine hours after it broke out. News outlets began live-streaming broadcasts of the fire on YouTube, but below some of the clips an unusual text box popped up — an entry from the Encyclopedia Britannica about the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

In those attacks, Al-Qaida militants hijacked two passenger planes and flew them into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York, causing them to collapse, while a third hijacked jet smashed into the Pentagon. Some 3,000 people were killed. A spokesman for YouTube, which is owned by Google, said the text box feature had been disabled for live streams related to the fire. “These panels are triggered algorithmically and our systems sometimes make the wrong call,” the spokesman told AFP. “We are deeply saddened by the ongoing fire at the Notre-Dame Cathedral.”

Also Read: Notre Dame cathedral fire under control, main structure saved
The feature, which also links to other outside sources such as Wikipedia, was introduced last year after YouTube faced intense criticism over videos containing misleading and extreme content. The panels are supposed to combat misleading videos about well-known events — such as the first successful manned landing on the moon — by presenting the true facts, in a bid to stop the spread of conspiracy theories.

YouTube, Facebook and Twitter came under fire last month after a horrific video of a gunman’s deadly rampage at two New Zealand mosques was circulated on the sites. The Christchurch massacre, in which 50 people were killed, was live-streamed on Facebook, which moved to block the footage. But it was then shared repeatedly on the other two sites.




Notre Dame cathedral fire under control, main structure saved


Notre Dame cathedral fire under control, main structure saved

Paris: A devastating fire that engulfed the Notre Dame, the 850-year-old Unesco world heritage landmark in Paris, was brought under control on Tuesday, while the Cathedral’s main structure as well as its two towers has been saved, the city’s fire brigade has confirmed.

“The fire is completely under control. It is partially extinguished, there are residual fires to put out,” the Guardian quoted a fire brigade spokesman as saying on Tuesday morning. Some 500 firefighters worked to prevent one of the bell towers from collapsing, according to fire chief Jean-Claude Gallet, adding that several invaluable artefacts had also been rescued from the burning cathedral. The fire began at around 6.30 p.m., on Monday and quickly caused the collapse of the Cathedral’s spectacular Gothic spire and the destruction of its roof structure, which dated back to the 13th century.

Consumed by flames, the spire leaned to one side and fell onto the burning roof as horrified onlookers watched. Parisians raised their voices in song on Monday night outside the burning Cathedral which is one of the city’s most revered historic sites. French President Emmanuel Macron praised firefighters for saving the Cathedral’s iconic facade and towers, saying “the worst has been avoided”, CNN reported. Yet he lamented the damage already done to “the Cathedral of all French people”. He asked the country to commit to rebuilding Notre Dame together, announcing an international fundraising campaign to raise money for the repairs.

“Notre Dame is our history, it’s our literature, it’s our imagery. It’s the place where we live our greatest moments, from wars to pandemics to liberations… This history is ours. And it burns. It burns and I know the sadness so many of our fellow French feel.” A site taking online donations has been launched. The cause of the fire is not yet clear. Officials have said that it could be linked to the renovation work that began after cracks appeared in the stone, sparking fears the structure could become unstable, the BBC reported.

Paris prosecutor’s office said it had opened an inquiry into “accidental destruction by fire”.  Several churches around Paris rang their bells in response to the blaze, which happened as Catholics celebrate Holy Week. The Vatican said the Holy See learned with “shock and sadness the news of the terrible fire that has devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, symbol of Christianity, in France and in the world”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has offered her support to the people of France, calling Notre-Dame a “symbol of French and European culture”. UK Prime Minister Theresa May said in a tweet: “My thoughts are with the people of France tonight and with the emergency services who are fighting the terrible blaze at Notre-Dame cathedral”. US President Donald Trump said it was “horrible to watch” the fire and suggested that “flying water tankers” could be used to extinguish the blaze. UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres said: “Horrified by the pictures coming from Paris with the fire engulfing Notre Dame Cathedral – a unique example of world heritage that has stood tall since the 14th century…”

The Notre Dame’s foundation stone was laid in 1163 by Pope Alexander III, and the Cathedral was completed in the 13th century. Today, with its towers, spire, flying buttresses and stained glass, Notre Dame is considered a feat of architecture as well as a major religious and cultural symbol of France. It is one of Paris’ most popular attractions, drawing an estimated 13 million visitors a year.

It was the site of Napoleon Bonaparte’s coronation as Emperor in 1804. The central spire was built in the 19th century amid a broad restoration effort, partly buoyed by the success of Victor Hugo’s novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” in 1831. The Cathedral also houses the grand organ, one of the world’s most famous musical instruments, as well as the Crown of Thorns, a relic of the passion of Christ.




World’s first armed amphibious drone boat from China: Report


World’s first armed amphibious drone boat from China: Report

Beijing: China has successfully tested the world’s first armed amphibious drone boat which the Chinese military analysts claimed could be used in land assault operations and is capable of forming a combat triad with aerial drones and other drone ships, according to a media report. The drone ship, named Marine Lizard, has successfully passed delivery checks. Having a maximum operation range of 1,200 km, the Marine Lizard can be remotely controlled via satellites, an official said.

In ship form, the 12-meter-long Marine Lizard is a trimaran propelled by a diesel-powered hydrojet and can reach a maximum speed of 50 knots while maintaining stealth, it said. When approaching land, the amphibious drone ship can release four continuous track units hidden under its belly, and travel at 20 km an hour on land, an official said.

The Marine Lizard’s payloads include an electro-optical system and a radar system. In the weapon department, it is equipped with two machine guns and a vertical launching system for anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, the official said. It can autonomously sail, avoid obstacles and plan routes, he said. This amphibious drone boat is suitable for island assault operations as a swarm of such drone ships could lead an attack following a first wave of artillery and air strikes, an anonymous military expert told daily.

Approaching land from the sea is a dangerous task, and the Marine Lizard can take advantage of its unmanned nature to discover enemy positions and provide suppressive fire as troops follow, the expert said.  The drone boat is also a great choice for coastal defence.




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