News Update

British warjets on Cyprus ready for military action in Syria

UK’s Royal Air Force jets on Cyprus are ready to swoop into action if the cabinet authorizes airstrikes on Syria. British fighter jets have been operating from the RAF Akrotiri airbase in the Eastern Mediterranean, from where they have been attacking the Daesh terror group.

This comes in response to last Saturday’s alleged chemical attack on the city of Douma in the Eastern Ghouta region near Damascus. Syrian authorities have denied any wrongdoing after destroying its stockpile of chemical weapons. US President Donald Trump threatened Syria with a missile strike.

Libya producing 1 million barrels of oil Per day as country remains in chaos

Rebels killed Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and toppled his regime in late 2011, as part of the wider so-called “Arab Spring.” Almost seven years on, the country is ramping up its oil exports, but remains divided between opposing militant factions. Libya is producing around 1.05 million barrels of per day (bpd) of oil, with much of it being exported abroad, primarily to Europe.

Libya, which is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), has the largest proven oil reserves in Africa. The country’s oil output has been subject to fluctuations, as the local industry has underdeveloped upstream infrastructure. A number of Libyan oil fields and facilities aren’t operational due to strikes by workers and technical failures, but oil companies operating in many parts of the country are continuing to extract and export oil.

Many parts of the north African state are still witnessing violent clashes between warring rebel groups. After Gaddafi was toppled, the slave trade made a return, and various human rights groups are still reporting of widespread torture by numerous rebel groups, including those who were directly supported by the NATO-led coalition.

Iran mulls over constructing major route through 3 states to reach the medi-terranean Sea

The ambitious project will reportedly connect Iran with three other Middle Eastern countries and is expected to serve as Tehran’s main transit route for exports. Iran plans to build a highway connecting Tehran with cities in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and provide the country with access to the Mediterranean Sea. According to the media outlet, Iranian authorities have already signed bilateral agreements on the construction of a 1,700 km long land route with authorities in Baghdad and Damascus.

The project is expected to be implemented within two years. The highway will connect Tehran with ports in Syria and Lebanon (as well as with their capitals) and is expected to be used primarily as a transit route of Iranian goods to the ports in the Mediterranean Sea for their subsequent export. The project’s budget has not yet been disclosed, but according to latest estimates, it is expected to pay off in five years after the highway’s launch.

Is China preparing a yuan surprise in the trade war with the US?

US President Donald Trump imposed 10% and 25% tariffs on imported aluminum and steel respectively in March 2018, prompting a harsh response from China, which has so far suffered the most under the new regulation.

China is viewing a gradual depreciation of the yuan as one of the possible instruments in a trade war with the US. They are currently performing a two-pronged analysis of the yuan in terms of the current situation with the US. One scenario supposes using it in trade negotiations, the other — devaluing it to negate effects of the trade tariffs that curb export.

US President Donald Trump imposed the trade tariffs on steel and aluminum in March, although it has temporarily excluded some of the countries from being affected by it, such as Canada, Mexico and European countries. China, which will reportedly suffer the most from the tariffs (with an estimated $150 billion loss annually), has imposed 10-25% in taxes on 128 categories of goods imported from the US as a reciprocal measure.

Trump later expressed his opinion that eventually Beijing will lift its trade barriers, as it’s “the right thing to do” and that the intellectual property theft issue with China will be resolved. Beijing, for its part, announced that it doesn’t want to wage a trade war with the US, but noted that is ready to do so if needed. The spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that Washington is solely responsible for starting the latest trade war.

Religious ministry celebrates easter with christian community

Currently Pakistan is on the US Special Watch List for ‘severe violations of religious freedoms’. However, the country is making all-out efforts to brush off these accusations.

The Federal Ministry for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony while playing its due role continues celebrating religious events of the minorities living in Pakistan, officially, in order to give a loud and clear message to the world that all religious minorities enjoy equal rights under the Constitution and have full liberty to perform their religious duties and celebrate their holy days.

In this regard the Federal Ministry of Religious Affairs organized an event to celebrate Easter with the Christian community living in Pakistan.

While speaking on the occasion, participants highlighted challenges such as extremism, sectarian violence and hatred being faced by people belonging to different religions across the globe. They were of the view that such attitude towards society is playing a major role in spreading hatred among people and also defaming religions.

They gave out the message of peace, unity, love and said that together they can all address these issues and make this world a peaceful place to live. On the occasion the Christian community pledged with special prayers to serve for the maintenance of religious obligations by the community besides for the welfare of the community and uplift and prosperity of the country.

The celebration was attended by MNA Asiya Nasir, Pastor Pervez Sohail, and Bishop Humphrey Sarfaraz Peters among others. However, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs, Sardar Muhammad Yousaf could not attend the event due to prior engagements.

World’s last male northern white rhino dies

The world’s last male northern white rhino has died leaving only two females left to save the subspecies from extinction.

The 45-year-old rhino named Sudan had been in poor health in recent days and was being treated for age-related issues and multiple infections. A veterinary team made the decision to euthanize Sudan after his condition deteriorated significantly, the conservation group Wild Aid announced.

Sudan lived in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, surrounded by armed guards in the days leading up to his death to protect him from poachers. “He was a gentle giant, his personality was just amazing and given his size, a lot of people were afraid of him. But there was nothing mean about him,” said Elodie Sampere, a representative for Ol Pejeta.

Researchers were able to save some of Sudan’s genetic material in the hopes of successfully artificially inseminating one of the two females left, Sampere said. “We can only hope that the world learns from the sad loss of Sudan and takes every measure to end all trade in rhino horn. While prices of rhino horn are falling in China and Vietnam, poaching for horn still threatens all rhino species,” said Wild Aid CEO Peter Knights.

Rhinos are targeted by poachers, fueled by the belief in Asia that their horns cure various ailments. Experts say the rhino horn is becoming more lucrative than drugs. In addition to round-the-clock security, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy also put radio transmitters on the animals and dispatched incognito rangers into neighboring communities to gather intelligence on poaching.

New Zealand stops new offshore oil and gas exploration to fight climate change.

The country’s PM says the move will tackle climate change for a “sustainable future” but critics say it is “economic vandalism”. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the move, saying: “(We are) taking an important step to address climate change and create a clean, green and sustainable future for New Zealand.”

The Labour Party leader, who came to power vowing to reduce the country’s net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, said existing exploration permits would not be affected. There are currently 31 oil and gas exploration permits, 22 of them offshore.

New Zealand’s oil and gas industry brings in about NZ$2.5bn (£1.3bn) a year and it employs some 11,000 people. Its 1% contribution to the economy is small compared to sectors such as agriculture and tourism, but it is extremely important to the North Island’s Taranaki region, where most of the industry is based. There is also the potential for vast gas fields off the South Island, with the most promising existing permit being the Barque Prospect, estimated to contain 5 trillion cubic metres of oil and gas.

Ms Ardern said she had been inspired by a recent visit to the Pacific islands of Samoa and Tonga, where she saw the impact of climate change. “(New Zealand has) been a world leader on critical issues… by being nuclear free, the first to support women to vote,” she said. “Now we could be a world leader in becoming carbon neutral. “We owe this to future generations.” Environmental group WWF New Zealand welcomed the move, describing it as a “huge step forward” and a “landmark moment”. But Jonathan Young, energy spokesman for the opposition National Party, said it was “economic vandalism”.

He said: “This decision is devoid of any rationale. It certainly has nothing to do with climate change. “These changes will simply shift production elsewhere in the world, not reduce emissions.” Neil Holdom, mayor of Taranaki’s main city New Plymouth, told Radio NZ that it was a “kick in the guts” for the region.

Petroleum Exploration and Production NZ chief executive Cameron Madgwick told TV3: “We now join the elite club of Belize, Costa Rica and France that have banned exploration. “I don’t think that’s really the way the world’s going,” But Ms Ardern said: “Transitions have to start somewhere and unless we make decisions today that will essentially take place in 30 years’ time, we risk abrupt shocks.” The news comes two weeks after the Netherlands said it would rapidly cut production at Europe’s largest gas field to cut fossil fuel use.

Migrants drown off Libyan coast as hundreds are rescued

Eleven migrants have died at sea and 263 have been rescued off the coast of Libya, the country’s navy said. The migrants died as they were trying to cross from the country’s western coast to Italy. The migrants were found in two separate operations.

In the first operation, the coastguard found 11 bodies and 83 survivors off the town of Sabratha, while in the second, the coastguard rescued 180 migrants on two inflatable boats near the town of Zliten. The migrants were believed to be from various sub-Saharan African countries.

Libya was plunged into chaos following a 2011 uprising, and remains split between rival governments in the east and west, each backed by an array of militias. Libya has since been a frequently used route to Europe for migrants fleeing poverty and conflicts in Africa and the Middle East.

More than 600,000 crossed the central Mediterranean to Italy in the past four years, the vast majority from Libya.

NASA’s Tess spacecraft begins search for new planets

NASA’s Tess spacecraft has blasted off from Earth in a search for new planets that could support life. Tess lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, riding a SpaceX Falcon rocket.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite will spend two years scouring 85% of the sky and hundreds of thousands of its brightest stars. The satellite, about the size of a washing machine, will scan the stars for signs of periodic dimming, which may mean that planets are orbiting around them.

It is hoped that Tess will find around 20,000 exoplanets – planets outside our solar system – with more than 50 expected to be Earth-sized. There are already 3,700 exoplanets that we know of, with another 4,500 on the not-yet-verified list. Tess is looking for the ones that are Earth-like and close enough to allow scientists to study them further.

They are particularly interested in those in the so-called Goldilocks or habitable zone of a star, where temperatures are right for water and, therefore, human life. Once Tess has discovered the planets, strong telescopes will be used to learn more about them, looking for signs such as oxygen, methane, carbon dioxide and water vapour. The mission is inexpensive by space exploration standards – £237m – and Wednesday’s launch went without a hitch.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said: “We are thrilled Tess is on its way to help us discover worlds we have yet to imagine, worlds that could possibly be habitable, or harbour life. “With missions like the James Webb Space Telescope to help us study the details of these planets, we are ever the closer to discovering whether we are alone in the universe.”

Martin Lewis to sue Facebook over fake adverts with his name

Martin Lewis is to sue Facebook over claims it has published over 50 bogus adverts bearing his name, many of which have been used to scam thousands of pounds out of people. The MoneySavingExpert founder is due to lodge court papers at the High Court  for a defamation lawsuit against Facebook.

He said the legal action was the result of months of frustration with scammers piggybacking on his reputation and preying on Facebook users with get-rich-quick scams. Mr Lewis said: “There are customers who have lost a lot of money. Some of them won’t even talk to me because they’ve seen my face on the advert and think it’s me who has scammed them – it’s an absolute disgrace.

“I’ve had enough of this. It’s affecting my reputation, but more importantly it is affecting real people who are handing over money in good faith while the scammers are raking in the cash.” The television personality and journalist pledged that if he wins any money in damages, he will donate it to charity. He said the action was not designed to win the defamation case itself but to force the company to change its policy on advertising. He wants the company to have inbuilt settings notifying well-known people every time their image is used in an advert, requiring their approval.

Mr Lewis said: “I hope to open up a legal remedy for other people who have found themselves in the same boat. “I don’t do adverts. I’ve told Facebook that. Yet it simply continues to repeatedly publish these adverts and then relies on me to report them, once the damage has been done. “I’ve got no idea how successful this legal action will be or how long it will take but I can’t sit back and let it (scamming) happen. I’m trying to give Facebook a bloody nose and actually get some changes made – or at least get people talking about this.”

Mr Lewis said he would be prepared to call a halt to the defamation claim if Facebook pledged to tackle the scam ads problem. Facebook said: “We do not allow adverts which are misleading or false on Facebook and have explained to Martin Lewis that he should report any adverts that infringe his rights and they will be removed. “We are in direct contact with his team, offering to help and promptly investigating their requests, and only last week confirmed that several adverts and accounts that violated our advertising policies had been taken down.”

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