Today Picture

Virologist who fled to US from Hong Kong accuses China of coronavirus cover-up

At a time when COVID-19 has infected over 12 million people across the globe, a scientist from Hong Kong has revealed that China knew about the deadly virus well before it claimed it did, in an extraordinary claim about cover-ups at the highest levels of government.

In an exclusive interview to Fox News on Friday, Li-Meng Yan, who has specialised in virology and immunology at the Hong Kong School of Public Health, said that China likely had an obligation to tell the world, given their status as a World Health Organisation (WHO) reference laboratory specialising in influenza viruses and pandemics, especially as the virus began spreading in the early days of 2020.

She added that her supervisors, renowned as some of the top experts in the field, also ignored research she was doing at the onset of the pandemic that she believes could have saved lives.

Yan, who says she was one of the first scientists in the world to study COVID-19, was allegedly asked by her supervisor at the University/WHO reference lab, Dr Leo Poon, last year to look into the odd cluster of SARS-like cases coming out of mainland China at the end of December 2019.

"The Chinese government refused to let overseas experts, including ones in Hong Kong to do research in China," she said.

Yan said very soon she and her colleagues across China discussed the peculiar virus but that she soon noted a sharp shift in tone. Doctors and researchers who had been openly discussing the virus suddenly clammed up. Those from the city of Wuhan--which later would become the hub of the outbreak -- went silent and others were warned not to ask them details.

The doctors said, ominously, "We cannot talk about it, but we need to wear masks,'" Yan said. The numbers of human-to-human transmission cases then began to grow exponentially, according to her sources.

Yan made the decision to leave. She packed her bags, sneaked past the censors and video cameras on campus, and boarded a Cathay Pacific flight to the United States, on April 28.

She had her passport and her purse and was about to leave all of her loved ones behind. If she was caught, she knew she could be thrown in jail -- or, worse, rendered one of the "disappeared".

Yan, now in hiding, claims that the government in the country where she was born is trying to shred her reputation and accuses "government goons" of choreographing a cyber-attack against her in hopes of keeping her quiet.

She divulged to the media that the Hong Kong government swarmed her hometown of Qingdao and that agents ripped apart her tiny apartment and questioned her parents. When she contacted her parents, they pleaded with her to come home and told her that she did not know what she was talking about, and begged her to give up the fight.

Yan believes her life is still in danger. She fears she can never go back to her home and lives with the hard truth that she will likely never see her friends or family there again. Still, she says, the risk is worth it.

"The reason I came to the US is that I deliver the message of the truth of COVID," she told Fox News from an undisclosed location.

She added that if she tried to tell her story in China, she "will be disappeared and killed".

Meanwhile, the University of Hong Kong has also taken down her page and apparently revoked access to her online portals and e-mails, even after she says that she was on an approved annual leave.

In a statement to Fox News, a school spokesperson said that Yan is not currently an employee.

'Asatyagrahi': Rahul Gandhi attacks PM Modi over assertion that solar project in MP's Rewa is Asia's largest

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his assertion that the Rewa Ultra Mega Solar project in Madhya Pradesh is the largest in Asia.

Prime Minister Modi on Friday launched the 750 MW solar project in Rewa in Madhya Pradesh through video-conferencing.

"Asatyagrahi" (which roughly translates to 'one who does not believe in the struggle for truth'), said Gandhi on Twitter, tagging a tweet by the Prime Minister's Office which quoted Modi as saying that Rewa has been identified with Narmada and white tigers, but now the name of Asia's largest solar power project has also been added to it.

D K Shivakumar, the Congress' Karnataka unit chief and a former energy minister in the state, had on Friday said, "Union Power Minister must answer as to how the Central government can claim that the Rewa Solar Park (750 MW) opened today is Asia's largest when clearly the Pavagada Park in Karnataka is much larger (2,000 MW) and was opened two years back!"

On Friday, PM Modi had said that solar energy is the pure form of energy and would help the country towards achieving "atmanirbharta" (self-reliance).

"Not just for the present, solar energy will be a medium of energy needs of the 21st century because solar power is sure, pure, and secure. It is sure because the sun would shine throughout the world; it is secure because solar energy rather than polluting the environment, helps in replenishing it and it is secure because it is a testimony and inspiration towards 'atmanirbharta'," the Prime Minister said in his address, via video-conferencing.

"It is important that if we want to become Atmanirbhar Bharat, then we would have to be 'atmanirbhar' in the field of electricity as well. When we speak of self-reliance and progress, the economy is a pivotal part of it. The whole world is in a conundrum that whether to focus on the environment or focus on the economy," he said.

Azaan resounds in Hagia Sophia, first prayers will be on July 24

When Istanbul (formerly known as Constantinople) was conquered by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II in 1453 it was converted to a mosque


ISTANBUL: Call for prayer from loudspeakers is heard for the first time from Hagia Sofia in Istanbul after the stunning edifice was once again turned into a mosque.

Brushing aside international warnings not to change the status of the the 15-century-old structure that is revered by Christians and Muslims alike, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed the decree revoking its status as a museum.

Following a court ruling, people awaiting outside it chanted “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is great!) when the news broke.

A video of an imam calling on the faithful to pray from Hagia Sophia is posted on Twitter and a crowd of Muslims later prayed at the UNESCO cultural site.

First prayers at Hagia Sophia
Erdogan said that the first prayers at famed Sophia will be held on July 24 for Jumma (Friday) prayers after 86 years.

“God willing, we will perform Friday prayers all together on July 24 and reopen Hagia Sophia to worship,” Erdogan said an a televised address to the nation.

“Like all our mosques, the doors of Hagia Sophia will be wide open to locals and foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims.”

Turkey‘s highest administrative court issued a ruling Friday that paves the way for the government to convert Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia – a former cathedral-turned-mosque that now serves as a museum – back into a Muslim house of worship.

The Council of State threw its weight behind a petition brought by a religious group and annulled a 1934 cabinet decision that changed the 6th century building into a museum. The ruling allows the government to restore the Hagia Sophia’s previous status as a mosque.

History of Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia-Turkey’s most popular tourist site has a long and complicated history.

It began in the year 537 when it was built on the order of Byzantine emperor Justinian I as the great Christian cathedral of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire.

When Istanbul (formerly known as Constantinople) was conquered by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II in 1453 it was converted to a mosque and the Friday prayers was performed inside Hagia Sophia by the victorious conqueror.

During the rule of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey  in the 1930s, the nearly 1,500-year-old monument was re-opened as a museum in a drive to make Turkey more secular.

Coronavirus in Pune: BJP MLA Siddharth Shirole slams Maha Govt, says 'lockdown enforced to disguise failures'

Pune: Amid rising COVID-19 cases and citizens flouting social distancing norms, lockdown is all set to be reimposed in Pune, Pimpri- Chinchwad and a few other parts of the district starting July 13.

Meanwhile, BJP MLA Siddharth Shirole from Pune's Shivajinagar slammed the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra Government and said that the state leadership has failed in preparing Pune for the spike in COVID-19 infections. He said that the state govt has been misleading people with projections and stats of preparedness. Shirole added that the govt has enforced a lockdown, only to disguise its failures.

In a long thread on Twitter, Shirole said, "The graph of building a city’s medical infrastructure should always be higher than the progressive cases of #COVID19 infection. #LockDown is not a remedy, it is supposed to be an intervention to give administration time to better equip & strengthen medical infrastructure."

"It’s been more than 100 days since we had #LockDown1 and its unfortunate that even after me raising concerns for weeks now, the state leadership has failed woefully in preparing #Pune for this spike in #COVID19 infections, forecasted by most epidemiology studies & models."

"Pune’s COVID Warriors including our very own Mayor have done a commendable job in helping curtail the spread of virus. I truly believe that 1000 cases/day for city the size of #Pune is alarming only because of the lack of hospital beds & infrastructure for early treatments."

"Enforcing the #Lockdown to disguise failures of the state government and administration is iniquitous to the citizens of our city who were slowly getting back to normalcy. The LockDown has now become a compulsion, which could have easily been prevented with proactive action."

Lashing out at Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Shirole said that Thackeray stays in the neighbouring city and yet has not made a single visit to Pune in the past 100 days to oversee the preparedness or even encourage the COVID warriors. "Let alone a visit to #Pune, Hon CM @OfficeofUT ji has not had a single update or review call / video conference with elected representatives of the City who are working on the ground during this unprecedented Pandemic. Even emails from me are yet to receive a reply," he added.

Meanwhile, with 1,598 people testing positive for novel coronavirus, Pune district saw its highest jump in COVID-19 cases, taking the total count to 35,997, an official said on Friday.

The death toll crossed the 1000-mark and reached 1,007 as 28 people succumbed to the infection during the day, he added.

Coronavirus in Mumbai: WHO Chief puts Dharavi alongside New Zealand as an example of how to battle COVID-19

World Health Organisation (WHO) director Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus late Friday hailed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for controlling the number of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Dharavi.

Addressing his staff and the rest of the world through a video conference, Dr Tredos said countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, New Zealand, Italy, Spain, and even in Dharavi - a densely packed area in Mumbai - focused on community engagement and the basics of testing, isolation and treating all those that are sick. “This is the key to breaking the chains of transmission & suppressing the virus," he said.

Dr Tredos used these places as examples from across the world that have shown that “even if the COVID19 outbreak is very intense, it can still be brought back under control."

His full speech can be read here.

The BMC is of course delighted at the acknowledgment from the WHO. "WHO itself has now praised the efforts by BMC in Dharavi. Dr Tedros himself has mentioned this is unique case across the World. We are replicating the pattern across the city. "Chase the virus" campaign will continue until we chase it out of Mumbai and completely," Iqbal Singh Chahal, BMC commissioner told the Free Press Journal.

"The WHO acknowledgement comes as an encouragement to BMC frontline workers who have been working day and night to ensure the spread is contained risking their own lives. Mission Dharavi has become an example of not just for India but for congested regions across the globe," said a senior BMC official.

Member of Parliament from Mumbai South Constituency Rahul Shewale said: "WHO's acknowledgment of Dharavi Pattern of fighting coronavirus spread is an honour for the collective efforts and struggle of the state government, BMC, public representative and all the frontline workers, not to forget the people of Dharavi."

Incidentally, the number of coronavirus positive patients in Dharavi, the biggest slum in Mumbai, increased to 2,359 on Friday with the addition of 12 cases, a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) official said.

Dharavi currently has 166 active cases and 1,952 patients have been discharged from hospitals following recovery so far, the official said.

After the first COVID-19 case that was reported from Dr Baliga Nagar on April 1, Dharavi soon became a cause of global concern— with nearly a million people living with poor sanitation in a 2.5-kilometre area. Maintaining physical distancing was impossible.

A slew of steps taken by the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) with maximum testing and maximum isolation of COVID-19 positive patients and their high-risk contacts under 'Mission Dharavi' helped Dharavi, known as Asia's largest slum to contain the spread of the infectious disease to a large extent.

As on July 2, the count of COVID-19 cases in G (north) ward that constitutes Dharavi, Dadar and Mahim stands at 4,967, of which only 1,412 cases are currently active, and 3,185 have already been cured and discharged. Of the 4,967 cases, 2,301 cases were recorded from Dharavi alone.

Are 3 'Khan Musketeers' above the law? Subramanian Swamy wants investigation in assets of Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir

BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy has on Saturday demanded investigation in the assets of Bollywood superstars Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan.

Taking to Twitter, Swamy said, "The assets created by these 3 Khan Musketeers in India and abroad especially in Dubai need to be investigated. Who gifted them bunglows and properties there and how they bought it and the cartelisation needs to be investigated by SIT of ED , IT and CBI. Are they above the law?"

Twitter users also echoed Swamy and demanded the same. "Definitely sir, their assets needs to be investigated. Every detail should be made public so that some pple who support them can also see their dark side & not only glamour & fake socialization(sic)," a Twitter user wrote.

"Absolutely. Time this is proved. The Mafia #DawoodIbrahim link to Bollywood how they promote whom as heroes and block some is too well known in the corridors . All that is needed a detailed probe to make it public with stamp of authenticity .@PMOIndia #bollywoodcriminallink (sic)," wrote a retired IAS officer.

Here are a few reactions:

Earlier, 'Dabangg' director Abhinav Kashyap had claimed that Salman Khan's charity 'Being Human' is used as a front for money laundering and demanded a probe into it.

"They are making money by fooling the innocent public. They are selling Rs 500 jeans for Rs 5000 and laundering money in the name of charity. Their intention is not to give anything to anyone, but to only acquire from people. The government needs to probe Being Human…I will cooperate with the government," Kashyap wrote in a Facebook post.

Stand-up comedian Agrima Joshua apologizes for 'hurting sentiments' of followers of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj

In India, it is very easy to hurt people's sentiments, religious or otherwise. Painters, writers, filmmakers, politicians and now even stand-up comedians have over the years been accused of hurting sentiments of the people. However, with the internet coming in, these "hurt" people have found a platform to outrage and with a sizeable people tweeting the same, they become successful to form a trend and make it to the news.

Recently, stand-up comedian Agrima Joshua's old video has surfaced on the internet and she has been slammed for "hurting sentiments" of the followers of Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

In the video, Joshua is seen cracking jokes on Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj's upcoming statue in the Arabian Sea. She goes on to tell "funny things" that she read on Quora. Someone on the question-and-answer website wrote, "This Shivaji statue is an amazing masterstroke by Prime Minister Modi Ji. It will have solar cells which will power all of Maharashtra," Joshua said. She went on to crack a few more jokes.

However, the video did not go down well, with netizens demanding Mumbai Police to take strict action for hurting their sentiments.

"Dear @CMOMaharashtra stand up Comedian @Agrimonious cracked jokes and made fun of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. She has hurt feelings of crores of Maharaj devotees across the globe. Please take strictest action against her CC @AnilDeshmukhNCP @CPMumbaiPolice @MumbaiPolice," wrote Hindutva activist Ramesh Solanki.

Here are a few Twitter reactions:



After the outrage, the stand-up comedian tagged Maharashtra Cabinet Minister Aaditya Thackeray and said that BJP IT cell has unleashed a bunch of trolls at her. Taking to Twitter she wrote, "Dear @AUThackeray If you aren't already aware of this, the @BJP4India IT Cell has unleashed a bunch of trolls at me claiming they're Shiv Sena. Now, I am pretty sure the Shiv Sena, has better things to take care of in Maharashtra right now, than some comic doing her job."

"Also, while they are flooding my timeline here, trying to enter my private online platforms like Insta, they also published comedian @lolmanKhan's number, claiming it's mine. @BJP4India is just using Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj's name to silence us," she said.

She added, "One look at my timeline and you'll see these followers flooding my mentions with filth. No follower of a great warrior will ever stoop to this filth. I know it's you, @BJP4India. It's really obvious. Your bhakhts have a very distinct vocabulary for women. I know who you are :)"

Meanwhile, Joshua on Friday apologized for hurting the sentiments of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj's followers and said that video was taken down. "I am sorry for having hurt the sentiments of the many followers of the great leader Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. My heartfelt apologies to followers of the great leader, who I sincerely respect. The video has already been taken down. Please amplify," she tweeted.


Solar energy will help India achieve 'atmanirbharta': PM Modi inaugurates 750-MW solar power project in MP's Rewa

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi while inaugurating Asia's largest 750 MW solar power project set at Rewa in Madhya Pradesh said that solar energy is the pure form of energy and would help the country towards achieving "atmanirbharta" (self-reliance).

"Not just for the present, solar energy will be a medium of energy needs of the 21st century because solar power is sure, pure, and secure. It is sure because the sun would shine throughout the world; it is secure because solar energy rather than polluting the environment, helps in replenishing it and it is secure because it is a testimony and inspiration towards 'atmanirbharta'," the Prime Minister said in his address, via video-conferencing.

"It is important that if we want to become Atmanirbhar Bharat, then we would have to be 'atmanirbhar' in the field of electricity as well. When we speak of self-reliance and progress, the economy is a pivotal part of it. The whole world is in a conundrum that whether to focus on the environment or focus on the economy," he said.

The Prime Minister further said that the schemes launched by the Centre are keeping environmental protection as a top priority.

"Today you will see that in all the schemes of the government, a priority is being given to environmental protection and ease of living. For us, the protection of the environment is not limited to just a few projects, but it is the way of life," he said.

"When we are launching large projects of renewable energy, then we are also making sure that our determination towards clean energy is seen in every aspect of life. We are trying that its benefits reach every corner of the country, every section of society, every citizen," the Prime Minister said.

Notably, this mega solar power project is comprised of three solar generating units of 250 MW each located on a 500-hectare plot of land situated inside a solar park.

Central financial assistance of Rs 138 crore has been provided to Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Limited (RUMSL) for the development of the solar park.

From Mahakal Temple to Kanpur encounter: Tracing Vikas Dubey's last moments

Gangster Vikas Dubey, who was arrested in Madhya Pradesh's Ujjain on Thursday morning, was killed in an encounter on Friday after a police vehicle carrying him from Ujjain to Kanpur met with an accident and he tried to escape from the spot, a senior police official said.

Inspector General of Police (Kanpur) Mohit Agarwal said Dubey was killed in the encounter after he tried to flee from the spot following the road accident at Barra area in Kanpur.

ADG Kanpur range, J N Singh said, "Dubey was injured in the encounter and he was declared dead in the hospital." After the accident, Dubey snatched the pistol of an STF personnel and tried to flee but was surrounded by the police team and he was injured in an exchange of fire. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was declared dead.

Let us try to trace the dreaded gangster's last moments:

Dubey, wanted in connection with the Kanpur ambush in which eight policemen were killed, was arrested in Madhya Pradesh's Ujjain on Thursday. He was spotted at the town's famous Mahakal temple by the security guards, who informed the police.

In a strange twist of irony, Dubey, reportedly had come to the temple to atone for his sins. According to sources present at the temple, Dubey purchased a temple ticket for Rs 250 to enter the complex. Meanwhile, a priest at the temple and a security guard have two different stories to tell. While the security guard said he tried coming from the back gate and was recognised before getting a darshan, following which the police was alerted, the priest said that he visited the temple's sanctum sanctorum and got the darshan. However, it is clear that he did not try to put a fight when the police arrived.

Ujjain SP Manoj Kumar Singh, in a press conference on Thursday evening, said Dubey had reached the temple and purchased flowers and prasad from a shop, as well as buying a Rs 250 ticket for darshan. "The owner had seen him on TV and suspected him. He called up the private security agency at the temple and informed them," explained Singh.

"When he entered, the private security jawans informed our officials at Mahakal Chowki and started talking to him and asked his name. He gave them a false name but later gave his correct name. He was taken to Police station. We reached there and interrogated him seriously," he adds.

Singh said that as a final confirmatory step, they had contacted the Kanpur SSP and STF and sought his photo. When the STF reached here, he was handed over.

According to news agency ANI, Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force (STF) team along with Dubey had reached Kanpur on Friday morning after which the encounter took place at Barra area.

On Thursday, Bahua Dubey and Prabhat Mishra, close aides of the main accused, were killed in separate encounters in Etawah and Kanpur respectively.

Dubey's other aide Shyamu Bajpai was arrested by the Chaubeypur police following an encounter. He carried a reward of Rs 25,000, the police informed on Wednesday. Earlier the same day, Uttar Pradesh's Special Task Force (STF) gunned down Vikas Dubey's close aide Amar Dubey in Hamirpur district.

Here is how the Opposition and other political leaders reacted after the incident:



(With input from Agencies)

'Akhilesh Yadav we have your poster with Vikas Dubey': MP Home Minister Dr Narottam Mishra mocks SP leader

The opposition parties slammed the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government over the encounter of dreaded gangster Vikas Dubey, while being brought back to the state from Madhya Pradesh's Ujjain.

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra took a swipe at the Yogi Adityanath government over the encounter and questioned what will happen to those who gave patronage in this case. "The culprit has been killed but what about crime and people who gave patronage?" Priyanka Gandhi said in a tweet.

Raising similar questions, senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh tweeted in Hindi, "What was suspected has happened? Now, it will not be known which political leaders, police and other government officials was Vikas Dubey in contact with. In the last 3-4 days, two aides of Vikas Dubey have also died in encounters, but why is the pattern of the three encounters same?

"It is necessary to find out why Vikas Dubey chose Ujjain Mahakal temple in Madhya Pradesh for surrender? Who is the most influential person of Madhya Pradesh he trusted to escape the encounter of Uttar Pradesh Police?" said Singh in his tweet.

UP Congress, in a tweet, has named Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Dr Narottam Mishra as having allegedly facilitated the surrender of Dubey in Mahakaal temple at Ujjain.

Former Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party Chief Akhilesh Yadav also took to twitter and wrote, "Actually, his car has not overturned, but the government has been saved from turning over the secret."

Meanwhile, BJP leader Dr Narottam Mishra, in a tweet counter, attacked Congress for "its narrow-minded views".

"Instead of congratulating MP police for arresting a dreaded gangster involved in killing of 8 police officers, Congress is questioning the very role of the police," he said in a tweet from his official handle as Minister of Home, Health and Family Welfare.

Mishra also mentioned that Vikas Dubey was a member of Samajwadi Party, and that his wife had contested the elections. He added that there’s a poster too.

'Akhilesh Yadav we have your poster with Vikas Dubey': MP Home Minister Dr Narottam Mishra mocks SP leader
Source: Zee News
Dubey’s mother during his arrest also stated that her son is with the SP. Sarla Devi said, "The government should do whatever it feels appropriate (sarkar jo uchit samjhe, woh kare)."

“At this time, he is not in the BJP, he is with the SP,” she told reporters.

Meanwhile, an SP spokesman said Vikas is "not a member of the party" and strict action should be taken against him. His call record details should be made public as demanded by party president Akhilesh Yadav to expose his links, added the party spokesperson.

According to reports, as the convoy bringing Dubey from Madhya Pradesh's Ujjain reached the Bhauti area under the Barra police circle in Kanpur on Friday morning, the vehicle in which Vikas was seated, overturned after skidding on the road due to heavy rain.

Dubey, along with two other police personnel in the vehicle, was injured in the accident. As soon as the gangster was taken out of the vehicle, he allegedly snatched a pistol from the STF team and tried to fire at the police. He was fatally injured in retaliatory firing. Dubey received a bullet injury in the chest which proved fatal. Five members of the Dubey gang have been killed in police encounters over the past seven days.