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Bollywood Bhakts

first_imgIn the Kingdom of Bollywood, Shahrukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai may be King and Queen and Amitabh Bachchan the Maha-Emperor, but in reality where does the power really lie? Who calls the shots, who is the real life-blood of that unreal temple of Bollywood?You may be surprised to learn it’s you, me and the chap searching for samosas at the concession stand and yes, also that entire family (father, mother and two kids) who have journeyed on their Bajaj scooter in Lucknow or their dust gold Toyota van in Edison, N.J., or San Jose, Calif., to catch the latest Hrithik Roshan starrer.In fact, there are millions and millions of Bollywood Bhakts or devotees, spread all over the world from India to Pakistan to Russia to the United States. If Bollywood were an organized religion, the Bollywood Bhakts would make it the most revered church in history with their total, undying devotion.Vinay Srivastava, who has taught film studies at the State University of San Francisco, aptly compared this fervent devotion to the Bhakti Movement, albeit tongue in cheek: “We have this tradition of hero worship and it continues to this day. We used to have this in Hollywood too in the 30’s and 40’s, but it declined in the 50’s. In India it persists and we do worship special characters.“Even in politics, one family ruled for a long time, not because of any special characteristics, but because we love to give divine status to one important person. The same hero worship is transferred to film heroes and heroines.” Aishwrya Rai in concert Film critic Maithili Rao also describes this phenomenon in her book, Bollywood: “Film stars have been the unifying icons in a country starved of role models, particularly in the post-independent days of cynical disillusionment.”Thus you have Amitabh Bachchan turned into a virtual god by legions of passionate fans. When the superstar was injured on the film sets of ‘Coolie’ in 1982, India’s collective heart missed a beat. Hundreds of thousands of fans mobbed the Breach Candy Hospital, some offering their blood, others their prayers. Even the prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi, came to the star’s bedside. Amitabh’s critical condition had some distraught fans trying to commit suicide while one enterprising fan actually ran backwards for 550 kms in a novel form of penance to appease the Gods.Surely the award for most devoted Bollywood Bhakt has to go to A.B.Kamat, the general secretary of the Amitabh Bachchan Fan Association in Calcutta, who has ambitions of building an Amitabh Temple and held huge pujas as part of an 11 day Amitabh Mahotsav in 2001. He was quoted in the media at the time, “The traditional Hindu way of worship began around 8:30 a.m. First Lord Ganesh (the elephant god) was worshipped, then Lord Narayan and finally god Amitabh Bachchan.” The magnum-opus Mughal-e-Azam , which chronicled the ultimate romance between a prince and a courtesan and the clash of love and duty has been re-released in color.Media reports noted that six Hindu priests conducted the ceremony, chanting from scriptures before a huge garlanded photograph of a young Amitabh at the ABFA Club in the Dum Dum neighborhood. Photographs of the Hindu gods Ganesh and Narayan were part of the pantheon along with those of the film god, and a sculptor had been commissioned to build a 12-foot plaster of paris bust of the superstar for the ceremony. Plans were afoot to build an Amitabh Temple where an idol of the super star would be installed and religious hymns would be substituted with the chanting of dialogues from his famous movies.Now, if this isn’t bhakti, what is?The devotion comes in many forms and Amitabh’s recent visit to New York for a retrospective of his films had the entire South Asian community a-buzz. While he is hardly known to mainstream Americans, the 1,100 seat Alice Tully Hall was quickly sold out at $60 a pop, for a “darshan” of the star. The films were sparsely attended by the South Asian community, after all, they had probably seen them so many times they could recite them backwards. But they certainly turned out in full force for this live viewing, setting off on a teerth yatra or pilgrimage from all over the tri-state area, with grandparents, parents, children and even babies in tow.And being in that huge hall with Amitabh enthroned on the stage was no less than being at a religious revival. The first time he opened his mouth to greet the audience in his rich baritone, the crowd went wild. Clips of his films were met with howls, whistles and claps. Although cameras were banned in the auditorium, hundreds of flashes went off from digital cameras and camera cell phones. Scene from latest Amitabh Bachchan thriller Waqt No rules could come between Amitabh and his devotees. And the babies seemed to bowl their appreciation too.During Q&A, people in the crowd threw etiquette to the wind and shouted out questions simultaneously, bubbling over, asking if they could come up to shake his hand, yelling in unison, “We love you!”And this was a group of well-heeled, savvy, upscale, even suburban Indians. It was obvious that although Amitabh had never set eyes on them, he was a part of their family, a part of their lives. They jostled him with verbal embraces and exclamations of love that comes from the intimate familiarity one would have for a dearly loved family member. Decorous Alice Tully Hall had probably never seen such an exuberant outpouring.The Hindi film aesthetic connects villages and big cities, rural communities and sophisticated urbanites and in fact has been doing so for over 100 years, long before it got nicknamed Bollywood. The Indian frenzy for films and stars has been captured in Jonathan Torgovnik’s splendid book of images, Bollywood Dreams, which reveals the hold cinema has on the masses – right from the larger-than-life hoardings of Bollywood films that tower over mortals, almost like gigantic statues of Gods in ancient Egypt, to the lines of ordinary people waiting to buy a ticket for a cinematic entrée into a dream world. Film producers embraced diasporic fans by integrating them into Bollywood in film stories such as the highly popular Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge..Nasreen Munni Kabir, the UK based film expert, explored the Bollywood bhakti phenomenon in her essay in Torgovnik’s book. She says the early theatrical forms, such as Ram Leela and Ras Leela, the exploits of the gods, had a great impact on the evolution of Indian cinema. Early films from 1913 onwards were shown in villages and small towns in tents, close to the temple, and were visited right after prayers. “Such devotion can still be seen in the hero worship accorded to Bollywood stars. People want to act, talk and look like their idols. Barbers down the decades have been asked to give their customers an Ashok Kumar, Dilip Kumar or Shahrukh Khan cut and tailors have been told to copy the clothes of the beautiful Madhubala or Aishwarya Rai.”Stars may be ordinary mortals in real life, but the giant screens give them a larger than life persona and Bollywood cinema is an intriguing canvas with its potent mix of music, stars, drama, dance, lavish costumes and sets. Kabir says Hindi films take on the grand themes – redemption, survival against the odds, the importance of honor and self-respect, and the mission to uphold religious and moral values, something which Hollywood does only rarely now.“Not so in India, where film directors routinely tackle the big questions head on, even when making a formulaic run-of-the-mill entertainer. It is this particular kind of story-telling that has offered people of Indian origin their most beloved form of popular entertainment.”Little wonder then that these films hit home with viewers at multiple levels and they associate so strongly with the stars that make it all come alive. So it’s not just Amitabh or Shahrukh or Aishwarya, but practically every star has a huge fan following and everyone from the rag picker on the streets to the suave college girl is excited to see a movie star in the flesh. Scene from Devdas “The word ‘fan’ comes from fanatic,” points out Madhulika Khandelwal, director of the Asia Center at Queens College. “Idol is a term routinely used for film stars in India. There has been a worshipping tradition in India of leaders and of turning them into demi gods – and this is not just in Hinduism, it’s almost the national culture.The stars become leaders, where they are presenting our own lives and views on a big scale. So by seeing Amitabh Bachchan our own identity becomes bigger; our own life could be mundane but by being in touch with these stars and films somehow it’s all on a much bigger scale.”It is this devotion that has made Bollywood the success story that it is. The Bhakts go to see favorite movies again and again. Take the magnum opus Mughal-e-Azam, which chronicled the ultimate romance between a prince and a courtesan and the clash of love and duty. When it was released in 1960, it became the biggest money-grosser, opening in 150 theaters. It ran uninterrupted for three solid years at the Maratha Mandir Theater in Bombay – yes, the name of the theater was just a coincidence, but it could have been a temple for all the devotion shown!   Mumtaz Hussain, a filmmaker from Pakistan who lives in Manhattan, has seen the film no fewer than 34 times and can rattle off dialogues, songs and trivia. While Mughal-e-Azam did very well the first time, the new colorized restored version of the film is drawing a cult following too. The box office collection in India was $6 million with just 180 prints, as compared to the biggest grosser of the year, the hot new Bollywood film Veer Zaara, which did $10 million with 550 prints.The film ‘Sholay’ is perhaps the most popular film of all time, breaking all records, running for five years in a theater in Bombay. When fans connect with a film, they return to it time and again, so popular films routinely celebrate silver jubilees and golden jubilees.With Indians moving out into the Diaspora, the audiences have multiplied tremendously with generations born on foreign soil being introduced to the power of Indian cinema. There are devoted fans from South Africa to Dubai to the UK and Indian films like Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham are top grossers abroad, because of the vast South Asian fan base. Scene from Dhoom.Indeed, while children of the Diaspora may not know the language or may be reluctant to embrace all aspects of their Indian culture, Bollywood is something parents and children often can agree on. Many children get their first exposure to Indian music, dance and values – albeit a Bollywood version – through cinema, since most immigrant parents wean their newborns on Bollywood videos along with the baby food. One can discover 7 year old Indian girls saying with utmost gravity, “I’ve been a fan of Amitabh Bachchan since I was 2 or 3 years old.”Says Khandelwal, “There’s a special experience in watching a film together with other people who understand. There’s a cultural language that we all share. I think it’s very much a part of ethnic identity. It’s very hard to first transmit and then to preserve certain traditions and cultural practices, and films are somewhat an easier medium to do that.“These films are not just films and these stars are not actors and actresses. They really come out of the screen and become a part of people’s lives. For Indians, especially who are living away from home, Bollywood has a much larger role, almost integral to the life away from home, and that’s a kind of connection.”Cinema for immigrants is about community, of social interactions at theaters, of being with like-minded people who speak the same cultural language. For the young, stars become trendsetters in fashion and style. The latest filmi music is mandatory at weddings and wedding style is inspired by that seen in the movies. Just recently at a huge Indian wedding in Miami, the entire decor was inspired by the lush sets of the film Devdas. Scene from LagaanIndeed, stars assume larger than life, leadership roles. The India Day Parades in California or New York do not have a national leader or politician as the grand marshal – it’s always a movie star, who draws huge crowds. Says Khandelwal, “They become almost symbolic not only of the national identity of India, but also a cultural identity of India.”Busy professionals seem to melt at the sight of a movie star. When Amitabh Bachchan was at a press conference at the Lincoln Center on a week day morning, an entire contingent of fans turned up bearing a huge silver trophy for him. Dr. Akshay Dave, a physician in New Jersey, is an active member of this online fan club, which was started by Fatima Mohammad of South Africa and has 500 members in several countries. The fans meet online to discuss the superstar’s movies.Asked how a busy physician connected with being a fan, Dave fluttered about the Bachchan charisma, “I’ve always been fascinated by movies, even before I went to medical school. I always wanted to do something with movies, but I went into medicine so I couldn’t accomplish my other dream.” Manisha Koirala.India may be a land of engineers and doctors and IT professionals, but at heart Indians are all Bollywood Bhakts. Many would have liked to be a part of the Indian cinema, which they grew up on and around which their teen years revolved. The passion for cinema remains, no matter where they go or the professions they pursue.Whether it is a huge national conference of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) or Asian American Hotel Owner’s Association (AAHOA), one of the chief guests is bound to be a star, such as Madhuri Dixit or Hema Malini. At a conference of Indian psychiatrists, Khandelwal was taken aback observing a psychiatrist in the audience ask about the psychological meaning behind a song from the popular Dev Anand movie Guide, “Tu Jahega Kaha, musafir, jahega.” (Where are you going, traveler?) The audience did not find it odd , however, and the panelist responded seriously to the question.Another time, Khandelwal attended a conference on the city of Bombay, where an anthropologist presented an entire paper on Dev Anand’s films in Bombay! Bollywood is certainly getting a lot of respect, and the films are not just being seen, they are being analyzed in academia!During the last few years with the advent of the world wide web, the influence of Bollywood has multiplied many times over, creating a virtual community, an entire online nation of Bollywood Bhakts united by the miracle of the Internet and email. Perhaps more than any other community, people of Indian origin have the most computer geeks and IT professionals. Scene from Mughal-e-Azam This band of Bollywood fans is adept at using technology. In a recent BBC online poll, Amitabh Bachchan was voted Star of the Millennium, beating out legends like Marlon Brando, Sir Laurence Olivier, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin and Sir Alec Guinness. For Bollywood fans, clicking that mouse was almost their religious duty!The Internet is currently abuzz over the reigning Queen of Bollywood, the gorgeous Aishwarya Rai. Fans have created no less than17,000 websites in her honor. She receives a mind-boggling 5000-10,000 emails dailyfrom around the world. Since it’s not possible to reply to all of them, she selects them at randoms for response.Bollywood Bhakts have set up a thriving community on the web – it’s like a huge colorful souk, a bustling bazaar where you can go from link to link, from Shahrukh to Salman to Preity to Rani – each star has its ardent devotees. While some sites are hi-tech marvels, others are pure labors of love of individuals.Aishwarya appearing on Oprah? Amitabh on Charlie Rose? The news goes out lightening fast through the tom-tom drums of email and thousands of Bollywood fans tune in to watch their heroes in action. The Internet has a thriving culture of countless sites for Bollywood news, movies, stars and fan clubs. There are Bollywood meet-groups from London to Vancouver to Houston to Bombay, in which online fans actually get together to view Bollywood movies. There’s a meet-up group even in Paris! Rani Mukherjee.Click around and you come to bollywhat.com, a fun site for the clueless Bollywood fan who doesn’t know Hindi or Indian culture. It answers such weighty questions as “Why don’t the characters kiss already?” “What does it mean to wear red stuff in the part of your hair?” and “What does it mean to touch someone’s feet?” It also provides detailed synopses, vocabulary lists and transliterated and translated lyrics for films, making it easier for non-Hindi speaking fans to understand the mysteries of Bollywood.Bollywood Bhakts are a quirky lot who transform their obsessions into their life work: there’s a site hosted by Uday Mahadeo Talwalkar, who has made the world’s biggest typewritten portrait (21.4 feet by 13.3 feet) of Lata Mangeshkar. He used 364 A-4 size sheets of paper and took approximately 236 hours over five years to create his masterpiece.For Bollywood Bhakts, stars are as important as food, air and water. One fan wrote in an essay on the web, “1942 is an important year in Indian history. Not only because it marks the Quit India Movement, but also because the film industry’s biggest blockbuster Amitabh Bachchan was born.”Nor are they averse to risking life and limb for their tinsel gods. In Bombay: Maximum City, Suketu Mehta relates the story of two Pakistani boys who were caught by Indian soldiers as they illegally crossed the border in Kashmir: “It turned out that they hadn’t crossed to join the jihad: they had braved death at the border in order to see their idol in the flesh. They had planned to travel to Bombay to see Shahrukh Khan.” Scene from SarfaroshWith the new interest in India around the world, Bollywood fans are riding high with each new victory of their stars, be it Lagaan’s Oscar nomination, Aishwarya’s appearance on Time’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world or Amitabh Bachchan’s appointment as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. Now Hindi movies often show in mainstream theaters in Manhattan and reviews appear with frequency in major media from The New York Times to The Village Voice. Each becomes a matter of pride for the Bhakts, a validation of what they knew all along – that Bollywood is the best.    Film producers have also embraced the diasporic fans by making them a part of Bollywood stories in films such as the hugely popular Dil Wale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, which showed that you can live outside India, and yet always be an Indian and carry on Indian values. The recent ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’ focused on NRIs in New York and further incorporated the lives of immigrants into Bollywood, making overseas fans feel even more connected.Bollywood has had its share of detractors who deride it as lowbrow and over simplistic, but the fact remains that it’s got hooks, which nothing can match. Even in today’s day and age, Bollywood films are often a morality play – such as the recent Bagabaan, which touched upon the very real issues of ageism and the problems faced by seniors.These ugly truths are usually swept under the rug, but when Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini talk, everyone listens.Indian cinema is also a great unifier, a Utopia where class, color, status and religion don’t matter, and this appeals to the innate love of fairness that most people harbor and admire. Shahrukh Khan can play a Hindu and Preity Zinta a Muslim, and no one blinks an eye. The best talents of all religions and regions come together as one to create Hindi cinema, and that perhaps is one of the strongest virtues of Bollywood. As Maithili Rao says, “The Hindi film is the all-India film: this is a truism. It is a cementing secular force that heals and binds a contentious, clamorous people.”   Bollywood has its high-brow fans too, authors such as Salman Rushdie to Shashi Tharoor to Suketu Mehta. All of them grew up watching Bollywood films and the color and surrealism of Hindi cinema finds its way into their writing. Hollywood directors from Ismail Merchant to Mira Nair to Gurinder Chadha have also been impacted by Bollywood. And now a whole generation of young Indian American actors, producers and directors are starting out in their careers, carrying the magic of Bollywood cinema in their sub-conscious.Bollywood is all encompassing. As Khandelwal says, “This is who we are, this is part of our culture. Whether we like it or not, it looks like Bollywood has hit the mark really in terms of how cultural identity will be defined. It’s about easy doses, it’s about relaxing and enjoying our culture.”Bollywood fans have spawned entire industries, from DVDs and music CDs, live Bollywood shows to movies inspired fashions. Bollywood music plays in clubs and Bollywood dance has become popular as a fitness routine. And now with the new and improved, technically superior Bollywood films, a whole new fan base is being created worldwide, from Latin America to China. Russians have been avid fans since the days of Raj Kapoor but now we even have Vietnamese grocery stores in the Mid-West stocking Bollywood videos!Even mainstream Americans are no longer immune to Bollywood’s siren call. At the recent Amitabh Bachchan retrospective, a caucasian couple admitted that whenever they put on a Bollywood video at home, even their little dog starts dancing! Another woman came out of the theater, exhausted, but jubilant, “It’s like going to the opera!”Rochelle Goldman of Brooklyn, who recently visited India and attended some movies there, needed her Bollywood fix. She heard the world’s most famous film star was coming to town and decided to pop in for a Bachchan film at the retrospective and was completely hooked. She was sitting through movie after movie – and on one day she saw three movies back to back. She said, “I’m just emotionally drained! You can’t take your eyes off him when he’s on the screen.”Evelyn Alter of Manhatan once wandered accidentally into a showing of Devdas at a multiplex where she had gone to see a Hollywood movie. She was so intrigued by the costumes, music and dance, that she decided to see the movie from start to finish. She too is addicted now and heads to every new Bollywood film that opens. She sat through several of Amitabh Bachchan movies and cooed, “I’ve just become a complete, total fan.”Looks like a whole new contingent of Bollywood Bhakts is being recruited! But then, who is not a Bollywood fan? When Amitabh Bachchan was asked whom he looked up to, in essence who was Amitabh Bachchan’s Amitabh Bachchan, he promptly replied, “Mr. Dilip Kumar.” Looks like even God is a Bollywood fan. scene from Veer ZaaraEven seasoned journalists turn to jelly when it comes to movie stars. At the recent one-on-one interview session with the Big B, scribes towed along a massive Bachchan biography for autographs by the star while others posed for pictures with him.And who can blame them? Meeting Amitabh Bachchan and not taking a picture with him would be like passing up a memory snap by the Taj Mahal.Taking the Bhakti analogy a step further, fans give the dakshana or offering in the form of the price of the movie ticket as they step into the darkened auditorium to sit in union, in silence to meditate on the utterances and exploits of their mighty cinematic gods. The problems of the real world are forgotten as they concentrate on the one truth, the one reality of the celluloid world. That’s as close to a religious experience as one gets!   Related Itemslast_img read more

(REOPENS DEL19)

first_imgModi noted that all countries across the world were associated with Yoga Day celebrations.”Through United Nations, International Yoga day is being celebrated throughout the world. The whole world supported it whether it was developed or developing nations. Every section of the society supported it.”There are several days celebrated by UN including World Cancer Day, World Health Day, World Mental Health Day, and several others. In the field of sports, there are several days which are celebrated. But this (IDY) is the only, which has direct relation with health and also with physical, mental and social health,” he said adding, “I think, this speaks about the power of this heritage, identity of this heritage which was given by our ancestors.”The Prime Minister also noted that Yoga has turned into a “very big business” and has been offering job opportunities for youth.In his nearly 25 minute address, he said the Centre was working in the direction of fixing protocols and norms for promoting Yoga across the world.Before performing Yoga asanas himself, the Prime Minister first met “Divyangs” and then walked around surveying people performing asanas.Towards the end, Modi freely mingled with the participants, who surrounded him and took the opportunity to take selfies with the Prime Minister.Over 30,000 people from all ages — 10,000 each from Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana — performed yoga asanas on pink, red and blue coloured mats during the function.Separately, about 10,000 people also performed yoga at over 100 other locations in Chandigarh itself. PTI SUN CHS AKA DVadvertisementlast_img read more

2018 FIFA World Cup: Analysing the eight groups

first_imgAnalysis of the eight World Cup groups:Group ARussia, a lowly 65th in FIFA’s rankings, will be reasonably confident of making progress to the last 16 after being drawn against Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay.Group A ??Interactive Team Profiles ??????Russia – https://t.co/H5agdsDha5????Saudi Arabia – https://t.co/xGiIXdMwv0????Egypt – https://t.co/3PMcWNuwzi????Uruguay – https://t.co/hsqcktF5D3#WorldCupDraw pic.twitter.com/n13H4bzzfB- #WorldCupDraw ?? (@FIFAWorldCup) December 1, 2017The hosts will face the Saudis, ranked 63rd, in the tournament’s opening match where a win will be essential. Uruguay will be favourites to top the section with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani forming a fearsome attack although Egypt, back at the finals for the first time since 1990, boast Liverpool’s prolific forward Mohamed Salah.Group BEuropean champions Portugal and Spain meet in Sochi to kick off the group and while that is not the start either side would have wanted, they both should still make progress with Morocco, qualifiers for the first time since 1998, and Iran, managed by Carlos Queiroz, the other sides involved.Group B ??Interactive Team Profiles ??????Portugal – https://t.co/981oAFV1Mc????Spain – https://t.co/GqszldP8LS????Morocco – https://t.co/6IzYhOzUO0????IR Iran – https://t.co/3VMkdU5jTL#WorldCupDraw pic.twitter.com/JhwBJIFHds- #WorldCupDraw ?? (@FIFAWorldCup) December 1, 2017Spain will be keen to make up for their flop in Brazil four years ago when they failed to survive the group stage while for Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo it could be his last chance to make a real impression at a World Cup.advertisementGroup CPerhaps not a ‘group of death’ but 1998 champions France will have to be on their toes if they are to avoid an early flight home with 10th-ranked Peru, a dangerous Denmark and Australia keeping them company.Group C ??Interactive Team Profiles ??????France – https://t.co/etJkwocSFg????Australia – https://t.co/ISoLBpdVax????Peru – https://t.co/WXF9Fu2Mfg????Denmark – https://t.co/IyLZIrxNwy#WorldCupDraw pic.twitter.com/GBHazZeFfm- #WorldCupDraw ?? (@FIFAWorldCup) December 1, 2017With players such as Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud in attack and Paul Pogba powering up the midfield Les Bleus should win the group with the other three scrapping for runners-up spot. Peru have qualified for the first time for 36 years.Group DArgentina made a meal of qualifying for the World Cup but were saved by a superb Lionel Messi hat-trick in their final game against Ecuador. Messi will be the key man as they navigate a group containing Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria.Group D ??Interactive Team Profiles ??????Argentina – https://t.co/QYSdkbi3E2????Iceland – https://t.co/6YMv9acdLI????Croatia – https://t.co/OXjmAcY4y8????Nigeria – https://t.co/5SKP9GEbfU#WorldCupDraw pic.twitter.com/Y42TYRtITV- #WorldCupDraw ?? (@FIFAWorldCup) December 1, 2017Iceland, sensations at Euro 2016 where they knocked out England to reach the quarter-finals, are the smallest nation by population ever to qualify but cannot be taken lightly while Croatia boast creative talents such as Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic.Group EFive-times champions Brazil will be heavy favourites to win the group, leaving Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia in a battle to join them in the knockouts.Group E ??Interactive Team Profiles ??????Brazil – https://t.co/IkKx0RzZ4E????Switzerland – https://t.co/CQVQuoihNE????Costa Rica – https://t.co/9qeiDY88tv????Serbia – https://t.co/ejdUCP0INU#WorldCupDraw pic.twitter.com/JtGwpuHI9u- #WorldCupDraw ?? (@FIFAWorldCup) December 1, 2017Costa Rica showed they can cause an upset at the 2014 tournament when they won a group that included England, Italy and Uruguay, while Serbia eased through a testing qualifying campaign.Group FDefending champions Germany are unlikely to fear a group that also features Mexico, Sweden and South Korea.Group F ??Interactive Team Profiles ??????Germany – https://t.co/wmlD1J6O6u????Mexico – https://t.co/W1uPrxeabm????Sweden – https://t.co/po7n2oeE2b????Korea Republic – https://t.co/XA00N7JPSt#WorldCupDraw pic.twitter.com/iDmiZ4YRvP- #WorldCupDraw ?? (@FIFAWorldCup) December 1, 2017Sweden will be buoyed up after knocking out Italy in the playoffs, showing the sort of defensive mettle that can bring success in tournament football. Mexico are World Cup stalwarts who have reached the last 16 in the previous six editions.Group GBelgium are the highest ranked team in the group that also features England, Tunisia and Panama. Roberto Martinez’s side, however, have not beaten England in their last 11 meetings and only once in their history.advertisementGroup G ??Interactive Team Profiles ??????Belgium – https://t.co/hRh0b1P9MN????Panama – https://t.co/siMoLyZHLX????Tunisia – https://t.co/mKFdr9peVz??????????????England – https://t.co/oTXzqsP5d8#WorldCupDraw pic.twitter.com/XVzPZu8Nex- #WorldCupDraw ?? (@FIFAWorldCup) December 1, 2017England, who failed to get out of their group in 2014 and were knocked out by Iceland at the last European Championship, will have fond memories of beating Tunisia in the 1998 tournament, when manager Gareth Southgate played centre back.Group HPoland, spearheaded by Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and ranked seventh in the world, cruised through qualifying and will fancy their chances of topping a group that includes Senegal, Colombia and Japan.Group H ??Interactive Team Profiles ??????Poland – https://t.co/Wzs3qP2Flk????Senegal – https://t.co/BnrlfoTISG????Colombia – https://t.co/VgEC9XSxig????Japan – https://t.co/UIj4WbeYea#WorldCupDraw pic.twitter.com/UUeHTEBeeQ- #WorldCupDraw ?? (@FIFAWorldCup) December 1, 2017Senegal, with Liverpool’s Sadio Mane in attack, will believe they have the firepower to reach the knockouts, while Colombia boast 2014 Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez.last_img read more

Messi Joined by Griezmann as Barca Chases Champions League

first_imgBARCELONA, Spain — Lionel Messi has the support of new signing Antoine Griezmann in attack as Barcelona starts the new season with one mission: to lift the Champions League trophy again and end a five-year drought.Barcelona has won consecutive Spanish league titles and dominated with eight titles in the past 11 years.But after back-to-back second-leg collapses in the knockout rounds of the Champions League, Barcelona’s players — and above all coach Ernesto Valverde — are under immense pressure to reclaim that status as the best in Europe.Even though Messi has changed the history of the Spanish club by leading it to 34 trophies, including 10 Spanish league crowns, some fans had started to complain the club has not done enough to provide him with the support he needs to fully exploit his unparalleled talent.Messi continues to churn out 50-goal seasons, but Barcelona hasn’t won the Champions League since 2015, when the Argentine great claimed his fourth European crown with Barca.FC Barcelona’s Luis Suarez, center, talks with his teammate Lionel Messi, right, prior of the Joan Gamper trophy soccer match between FC Barcelona and Arsenal at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)Now, he has the help of Griezmann, who was instrumental in France winning the World Cup last summer and has joined from Spanish rival Atlético Madrid to link up with Messi and Luis Suárez in a potentially formidable forward line.“I believe in this squad, in these players and this coaching staff,” Messi told Barcelona’s fans at a preseason match at Camp Nou Stadium. “I have no doubt that together we will again fight to win it all.”Messi is now 32 years old, and even though he hasn’t lost a step and has improved his passing, vision and leadership skills with each season, the clock is ticking on how long he can sustain his exceptional level of performance.Feeling that pressure, Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu agreed to two transfers that will potentially cost the club over 200 million euros for a pair of players the club believes will be difference-makers.MAJOR REINFORCEMENTSForward Griezmann and Netherlands midfielder Frenkie de Jong will be expected to make an immediate impact for Barcelona this season.The 28-year-old Griezmann arrived after Barcelona triggered his 120-million-euro ($134-million) buyout clause to free him from Atlético. He should add even more fire power up front after Messi and Suárez combined for 76 goals last season.Griezmann’s departure from Atlético will also hurt Barcelona’s biggest rival in the Spanish league in recent years. Atlético was runner-up to Barcelona the last two seasons.De Jong is Barcelona’s hope for now and for the future. At 22, he arrives after a breakout campaign with Ajax, which made it to the Champions League semifinals after upsetting both Real Madrid and Juventus.Barcelona believes De Jong can become its leading playmaker in a midfield that has taken a step back since the exits of greats Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta.ANOTHER CHANCE FOR COUTINHO?Barring a last-minute transfer before the end of the summer market on Sept. 2, Philippe Coutinho will get another chance to win over Barcelona’s supporters after failing to live up to expectations from a club-record transfer from Liverpool worth 160 million euros (then $192 million) in 2017.The Brazil playmaker has scored 21 goals in 75 appearances for Barcelona but has been criticized by fans for not playing his best in decisive games.A poor start to the season would only rekindle speculation that his days at Camp Nou are numbered.Ousmane Dembele is in a similar position of needing to reset after a disappointing end to last season.Dembele has shown spectacular flashes of talent but the speedy 22-year-old winger has also been plagued by injuries. His challenge now is to remain healthy so he can blossom into the future star Barcelona thinks he can become.COACH YET TO CONVINCEValverde has an almost impeccable record in the Spanish league. He has led Barcelona to consecutive titles after losing only four of 76 matches in those combined league campaigns.But Valverde has been unable to avoid stunning setbacks in the Champions League. Barcelona lost 3-0 at Roma, squandering a 4-1 first-leg win, in the 2018 quarterfinals, and relived the nightmare last year when Liverpool overturned a 3-0 deficit by crushing Barcelona 4-0 in their semifinal second leg.Barcelona also came up short in last season’s Copa del Rey Final, losing 2-1 to Valencia.Club president Bartomeu has been unflinching in his backing of Valverde. But the former Athletic Bilbao manager has little margin left and any rough patch would again put his job in danger.Barcelona opens its league defense at Bilbao on Friday, when Messi will likely not play after picking up a right calf strain on the first day of practice for the new season.By: Joseph Wilson, Associated PressTweetPinShare0 Shareslast_img read more

Pogba: Germany want revenge over France

first_imgWorld Cup Pogba: Germany want World Cup revenge over France Dom Farrell Last updated 1 year ago 21:48 12/1/17 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Comments(0) MesutOzilPaulPogba - cropped Getty Images World Cup Paul Pogba Germany v France France Germany European Championship After Les Bleus dumped their neighbours out of Euro 2016 thanks to a couple of Antoine Griezmann goals, the Manchester United man is wary of them France star Paul Pogba fears Germany will be gunning for revenge if the two sides meet at the 2018 World Cup.Joachim Low’s reigning world champions and Les Bleus, led by Didier Deschamps, cannot be paired together in Friday’s group-stage draw in Moscow, with both nations ranked among the top seeds.A meeting at the business end of the tournament is possible, just as in the Euro 2016 semi-final, which saw France win in Marseille thanks to an Antoine Griezmann brace. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Lyon treble & England heartbreak: The full story behind Lucy Bronze’s dramatic 2019 Liverpool v Man City is now the league’s biggest rivalry and the bitterness is growing Megan Rapinoe: Born & brilliant in the U.S.A. A Liverpool legend in the making: Behind Virgil van Dijk’s remarkable rise to world’s best player Pogba and company suffered heartache of their own as Eder fired Portugal to a shock extra-time win in the final, but the Manchester United midfielder is confident a lavishly gifted squad can go all the way in Russia.Antoine Griezmann France Germany Friendly“I’m really excited,” he told Sport Bild. “Ultimately, the opponents do not matter. I travel with France to win everything.”Germany will certainly want revenge for the semi-final against us at the European Championships last year.”Germany have improved since the European Championships and have many new promising talents. They are certainly among the favourites.”But we have also got even stronger and have a young, hungry team.”last_img read more

Coutinho wizardry perfect for Barca magic school

first_imgPhilippe Coutinho Messi. Ronaldinho. Coutinho? Brazilian’s wizardry perfect for Barcelona magic school Chris Burton Last updated 1 year ago 03:29 12/10/17 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Comments(7) Philippe Coutinho Liverpool Getty Philippe Coutinho Barcelona Liverpool Primera División Premier League The Liverpool playmaker continues to be heavily linked with a move at some stage, and he would add another dose of match-altering quality to Camp Nou The Amex Stadium December 2, 2017 and Philippe Coutinho wheels away in celebration after finding the target for Liverpool in a Premier League meeting with Brighton.Those in a rather bemused defensive wall crash down to earth with a bump, with the ball in the back of the net and the away support rising to savour another stroke of impudent brilliance from their Brazilian playmaker.Standing over a free-kick moments earlier, Coutinho’s footballing brain had been working faster than anyone else on the pitch. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Lyon treble & England heartbreak: The full story behind Lucy Bronze’s dramatic 2019 Liverpool v Man City is now the league’s biggest rivalry and the bitterness is growing Megan Rapinoe: Born & brilliant in the U.S.A. A Liverpool legend in the making: Behind Virgil van Dijk’s remarkable rise to world’s best player Quickly sizing up the sporting conundrum in front of him, the 25-year-old concluded: Why go over the wall when you can go under it?He is, of course, by no means the first to adopt such an approach, with his effort on the south coast coming almost 11 years to the day that Ronaldinho famously made mugs of Werder Bremen in a Champions League outing for Barcelona.Since then, the great and good of the global game have tried their luck at outwitting the opposition by doing the exact opposite of what is expected of them – see Lionel Messi for Argentina against Uruguay in 2012 and a couple of strikes from Cristiano Ronaldo versus Newcastle and Bayern Munich.Coutinho, though, is the latest to pull off the trick in front of a global audience, and at a time in which he finds himself firmly in the shop window – despite the best efforts of Liverpool to lock the door and roll down the shutters.Ronaldinho Philippe Coutinho perfect BarcelonaBarcelona made no secret of their admiration over the summer, with several bids from Camp Nou testing the resolve of those at Anfield to retain the services of a prized asset tied to a long-term contract.The La Liga giants are, however, used to getting what they want and the transfer rumblings have refused to go away as another window of opportunity prepares to swing open in January.Maybe Barca will test the water once again, maybe they won’t.Whatever happens in the new year, though, it is expected, almost guaranteed, that at some stage Liverpool will be getting another knock at the door and a sizeable offer for Coutinho thrust under their collective noses.He is, after all, seemingly tailor-made for the ranks in Catalunya.Having shown that he is capable of emulating the aforementioned Ronaldinho and Messi, while also seeing Barca lose one dose of Samba swagger when Neymar packed his bags for Paris, it is easy to see why Coutinho has become such a sought-after commodity.Ronaldinho himself told Sky Sports in November: “I would be very happy to see such a talented player wear the shirt I wore for so many years. I believe the way he plays will perfectly suit Barcelona and would be delighted to see a player of such quality wear the shirt. I like the way Coutinho plays and the type of football he brings.”Coutinho boasts that sprinkling of magic dust which separates the great from the good, with his cheeky free-kick against Brighton – and a stunning Champions League hat-trick against Spartak Moscow four days later – helping to further highlight the almost priceless qualities that would add to Ernesto Valverde’s squad.Since joining from Inter in January 2013, no player in the Premier League has netted more goals from outside the box than the Liverpool man – with his tally now standing at 18 and counting.Philippe Coutinho goals outside outside boxOver the same period, only Messi and Ronaldo can claim to have bettered that return in Europe’s top five divisions – and they have 10 Ballon d’Ors between them.Coutinho is not part of such illustrious conversations at present, having finished joint-29th in 2017, but he could well be in the future.Put him under Messi’s wing at Camp Nou – like Neymar before him – and there is no reason to believe that his game will not be taken to even greater heights, while offering welcome assistance to those around him.Barca often look to an Argentine talisman for moments of inspiration, but having another potential match-winner on the books who is capable of conjuring up something out of nothing would serve to ease that workload and pose a different kind of threat to opponents.Having already invested €105 million in Ousmane Dembele, and with Luis Suarez currently filling the No. 9 berth and the promise of a high-profile successor to come if the Uruguayan is moved on, Coutinho can slot into a deep-lying post where he can be utilised best.In such a role, he will also be able to pick the brains of one Andres Iniesta, allowing his influence from outside the penalty area to stretch beyond merely finding the net and into the art of picking stubborn locks with precision passing.Coutinho showed against Brighton that he possesses the mentality of a Barcelona player and it may now be only a matter of time before that quality – along with his penchant for a spectacular strike – is gracing La Liga rather than Liverpool.last_img read more

10 months agoMinotti warns Cagliari midfielder Nicolo Barella against Chelsea move

first_imgMinotti warns Cagliari midfielder Nicolo Barella against Chelsea moveby Paul Vegas10 months agoSend to a friendShare the loveFormer Italy international Lorenzo Minotti has warned Cagliari midfielder Nicolo Barella against a move to Chelsea.Minotti, who used to play for Cagliari, has questioned whether Barella would get a game with the Blues.He told TMW: “Risk of a [Marco] Verratti-situation? The Premier [League] is a competitive championship.”Now the Italian teams are not ready to spend a similar amount, and those with chances [to] have [full squads].”If he goes to Chelsea he will struggle to find a starting shirt and be ready for the national team.” TagsTransfersAbout the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your saylast_img

Ricky Ponting surprised at India’s ‘X-factor’ Rishabh Pant not being in World Cup squad

first_img Press Trust of India New DelhiApril 17, 2019UPDATED: April 17, 2019 17:55 IST Ricky Ponting had nothing but words of encouragement for Rishabh Pant (AP Photo)HIGHLIGHTSRicky Ponting said Rishabh Pant should have been in India’s playing XI in the World CupPonting said Pant’s exlcusion surprised him and that the player himself was disappointedPonting though feels that Pant can now focus for Delhi Capitals in the second half of IPLAustralian great Ricky Ponting on Wednesday expressed surprise at Rishabh Pant’s exclusion from India’s World Cup squad, saying he could have been the X factor in the playing eleven.Ponting met Pant on Monday night, hours after the India squad was announced with Dinesh Karthik being preferred over the 21-year-old for the reserve wicketkeeper’s slot.”Yes I was surprised when he was left out of the Indian squad. I thought he would be in and he would be in the starting eleven. I thought someone like him batting at four or five could have been that X factor and the difference between India and the other teams,” said the Delhi Capitals head coach.Ponting had nothing but words of encouragement for the star Delhi Capitals player.”One thing we know about Indian cricket is that there is a lot of depth around in batting and this time Rishabh has missed out. Knowing what he is like and the talent he has, I would be surprised if he doesn’t play in at least three World Cups before his career is over.”I had a quick chat with him. He seems to have taken it pretty well. There is no doubt that he is disappointed, he would have loved to be in that squad but the thing he still has to remember is, potentially, he will get the opportunity to play in three to four World Cups.”What is negative thing for the Indian team is positive for Delhi Capitals. Really happy that the decision has been made and he can focus on the back half of the tournament.”advertisementPant at times has been criticised for throwing away a good start. Asked if that could be the reason selectors did not pick Pant, Ponting said: “I don’t know the selection criteria. Don’t know why he is not being picked. I don’t why the other guys have been picked ahead of him. To be honest it is none of my business.”Though I don’t think he is impatient, he is a very smart player. I think he sums up situations and conditons really well. But they obviously have their reasons for not picking him and I am not going to comment on that.”I actually think he missing out you will see a different player in th IPL. His determination will shine through and I am sure he will score heavily in the back half of the tournament,” he said.On the game against Mumbai Indians, Ponting said his team has adjusted to the wicket and the opposition will have a tough time on a slow and low Kotla pitch.”It should not be difficult for us anymore. We have an understanding of how the wicket is going to play. It is going to be quite slow and slow and we expect it to turn a little bit. I feel it would be difficult for Mumbai to come play on this wicket. The last wicket caught us a bit off guard, we though it was going to play better.Also Read | Rishabh Pant and Ambati Rayudu named standbys for India World Cup squadAlso Read | A bit surprised: Sunil Gavaskar on Rishabh Pant omission from World Cup squadFor sports news, updates, live scores and cricket fixtures, log on to indiatoday.in/sports. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for Sports news, scores and updates.Get real-time alerts and all the news on your phone with the all-new India Today app. Download from Post your comment Do You Like This Story? Awesome! Now share the story Too bad. Tell us what you didn’t like in the comments Tags :Follow Ricky PontingFollow X-FactorFollow Rishabh PantFollow 2019 ICC World CupFollow India world cup squad Ricky Ponting surprised at India’s ‘X-factor’ Rishabh Pant not being in World Cup squadDelhi Capitals head coach Ricky Ponting said Rishabh Pant’s exclusion from India’s World Cup squad left him surprised and feels that the left-handed wicketkeeper-batsman could have been their X-factor.advertisementlast_img read more

2018/19 Financial Year Officially Begins Today

first_imgThe 2018/19 Financial Year officially begins today (April 1), with the Government projecting to spend $773.6 billion for the year.When former Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Audley Shaw, tabled the 2018/19 Estimates of Expenditure in the House of Representatives in the afternoon on Thursday, February 15, the document outlined that the Government expects to spend $560 billion for Recurrent (house-keeping) expenses and $213.6 billion on Capital (development) projects for the year.Before the tabling of the Estimates, Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, delivered the Throne Speech, outlining the programmes and policies to be pursued by the Government during the year.The fight against crime remains a major national priority, with the Government committing additional resources and support to the security forces for the 2018/19 fiscal year.The Governor-General noted that organised crime, along with the violence and homicide it produces, is the biggest threat to citizens’ security and continues to stymie the growth and prosperity of the country.He said the Administration will be seeking approval for a number of legislative measures designed to improve crime-fighting efforts and better enable law-enforcement agencies to interdict criminals.These include the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act, Finger Prints(Amendment) Act, Firearms (Amendment) Act, Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Act, Parole (Amendment) Act, and The Justice Protection(Amendment) Bill.In addition to the legislative measures, the Government will continue to focus on strengthening its administrative and technological capabilities, crime-prevention and community safety measures, and rehabilitation and redemption.The justice system will also be given special attention in order to reduce the backlog of cases and improve efficiency and effectiveness.The Governor-General said the Government has committed to enabling growth and national development through a sound and predictable macro-economic policy framework that maintains low inflation, a stable exchange rate and competitive interest rates; and improving revenue administration by creating a simple, equitable andcompetitive tax environment to enhance growth and ensure greater compliance.Other areas of focus highlighted in the Throne Speech include programmes to rehabilitate and make new investments in critical health infrastructure; accelerating construction of affordable housing and providing greater access to funding; construction and maintenance of water and irrigation systems; commencement and completion of road projects to ease congestion and improve road safety and security; and scaling up progammes to reach more unattached youth.Social programmes for protected groups will continue to receive priority with respect to the allocation of resources, to ensure that overall spending in these areas is not eroded by inflation.Included are programmes for youth employment, poor relief, children’s homes and places of safety, school feeding, the elderly, and pregnant and lactating women.Special attention will be placed on the Programme of Advancment Through Health and Education (PATH), which targets some of the most vulnerable segments of the population – children and students aged zero to 19 years; the adult poor, including the disabled, elderly, pregnant and lactating mothers and the destitute Measures to establish a National Identification System (NIDS) will be advanced with the National Identification and Registration Authority Regulations to be developed and tabled in the House by September 2018.Work will continue to digitise the records of the Registrar General’s Department (RGD); develop processes to link the records of births and deaths to prevent identity theft; commence transformation of the RGD into the National Identification and Registration Authority; and establish a National Address Database, which will indicatewhere all parcels of land are located within the island in order to support the enrolment of persons in the NIDS.The Government will embark on an aggressive legislative agenda to support its strategic priorities to ensure food security, sustainable use of agricultural land and fisheries resources, and facilitate an enabling local business environment.Fire stations will be constructed in Montego Bay, Port Maria and Yallahs, two drop-in centres in Trelawny and St. Thomas, and homes built for indigent persons.Additional garbage trucks will also be purchased.The Government will be putting measures in place to increase protection of women and girls with the tabling of the Sexual Harassment Bill this year.The proposed Gender Advisory Council is also to be established.Work will begin to build out entertainment zones in Fort Charles and Fort Rocky, Port Royal; Seville, St. Ann; and Westmoreland and St. Catherine.The necessary legislative work and amendments to the various laws regulating entertainment will alsobe done in parallel.As it relates to education, five new schools are to be constructed, while money is to be provided from the e-learning budget to assist in the sustainability of information and communications technology (ICT) in schools from the early-childhood to secondary levels.The support programme for children zero to three years will be given focus, and the Early Childhood Rationalisation programme continued.When Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, made his contribution to the 2018/19 Budget Debate in the House on March 20, he emphasised that achieving economic growth and curbing crime remain national priorities.Mr. Holness said the Administration is taking positive action in securing the nation’s prosperity, through effective stewardship reflected in delivering jobs and housing and undertaking infrastructural development.The Prime Minister argued that if Jamaica is to grow and develop into the desired inclusive, nurturing and caring society, Government spending will have to be “reprioritised towards critical growth areas, infrastructure spending and poverty alleviation.”last_img read more

Deep freeze offers only cold comfort for natural gas producing firms

first_imgCALGARY – Analysts say the cold snap that continues to blanket many parts of North America is driving short-term natural gas prices higher but the trend is unlikely to significantly affect either Canadian consumer bills or producer profits.Cold weather typically increases demand for the home heating fuel, which draws down storage levels and pushes prices higher, but the affect is being blunted this year because North America is awash in gas from U.S. and Canadian shale wells.Gerry Goobie, a principal with Calgary-based consulting company Gas Processing Management Inc., says higher prices are generally passed through to consumers but the distribution companies that buy the gas have long-term contracts to mitigate price spikes and can draw from storage to handle higher demand.GMP FirstEnergy commodity analyst Martin King says U.S. prices have recently rallied to about $3 per million British thermal units, but points out similar cold weather events in previous years would likely have resulted in prices spiking into the US$4 or US$5 per mmBTU range.King says Western Canada gas production fell by as much as two billion cubic feet per day on some days in the last week of December due to supply interruptions caused by extreme cold weather that froze gas well production equipment.last_img read more

Intensive work needed to reintegrate returning Afghan refugees UN agency warns

The international donor and humanitarian community must work even more intensively to ensure that Afghan refugees returning home are able to resume a normal life, with the lack of land, shelter and jobs posing a very long-term challenge for which there are no quick fixes, the United Nations refugee agency has warned. Since 2002, some 5 million Afghan refugees have returned to their battle-scarred homeland, mostly from Pakistan and Iran, a majority aided by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). There are currently 3 million registered Afghans left in neighbouring countries, most of whom have been abroad for more than two decades. “The return of millions of Afghans to their homes and communities has been one of the major success stories of Afghanistan’s recovery,” UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Judy Cheng-Hopkins said yesterday at the end of a three-day visit to see first hand the challenges faced by refugees returning to Afghanistan. “Repatriation will certainly continue but we will have to work even more intensively with the Government of Afghanistan, the donor community, and our implementing partners if we are to make return and reintegration sustainable for those who choose to return home in future,” she added. She noted that the deteriorating security situation in part of the country and difficult economic conditions underlined how important it will be to continue to maintain a gradual and voluntary approach to repatriation. “The primary responsibility lies with the government of Afghanistan. But UNHCR will look closely at how we and our partners will need to work from now on to meet the reintegration needs of the long staying population,” she declared. Ms. Cheng-Hopkins left Afghanistan yesterday for Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, to extend the Tripartite Agreement governing the voluntary repatriation of refugees from Pakistan. The agreement, first signed in 2003, is a joint programme between the Governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan and UNHCR to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of registered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. From Pakistan, she goes to Iran, where there are currently just over 900,000 registered Afghan refugees. The main purpose of her mission to Afghnaistan, where she met with senior Government officials, was to review UNHCR’s activities in the country, one of the agency’s most important operations in the world alongside Iraq and Sudan. She visited one of the busiest returnee centres, close to Kabul, the capital, where she met with families as they received a UNHCR cash grant for transport and reintegration expenses and prepared to travel onwards to resettle in their places of origin. She then went to Parwan province to see a land allocation site. 1 August 2007The international donor and humanitarian community must work even more intensively to ensure that Afghan refugees returning home are able to resume a normal life, with the lack of land, shelter and jobs posing a very long-term challenge for which there are no quick fixes, the United Nations refugee agency has warned. read more

UN launches International Year to draw attention to global sanitation crisis

The United Nations today kicked off the International Year of Sanitation in a bid to accelerate progress for the 2.6 billion people around the world who do not enjoy the basic right to proper sanitation facilities. Speaking at the official launch at UN Headquarters in New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said access to sanitation is one of the most “overlooked, and underserved human needs.”International efforts to deliver on this basic right have proved “lacklustre,” with an estimated 42,000 people dying every week from diseases related to low water quality and an absence of adequate sanitation, he stated. “This situation is unacceptable.”The Secretary-General stressed that investments in sanitation are among of the most important allocations any nation can make. “For every dollar spent on improving sanitation it is estimated that at least nine dollars are saved in costs related to health, education, and social and economic development.”He called on the international community, national governments and civil society to take up the cause of sanitation with “unprecedented vigour” to accelerate progress towards the global target to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation by 2015 – one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set at a 200 UN summit.According to the UN, although more than 1.2 billion people worldwide have gained access to improved sanitation between 1990 and 2004, an estimated 2.6 billion people – including 980 million children – still lag behind.If current trends continue, there will be 2.4 billion people without basic sanitation in 2015, with children continuing to pay the price in lost lives, missed schooling, in disease, malnutrition and poverty.The International Year will include major regional conferences on sanitation, including one focusing on school sanitation. It will also encourage public and private partnerships to bring real changes for the billions who bear the brunt of the crisis. “Today, we go from a stage of planning to one of implementation,” said His Royal Highness Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, Chairperson of the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation. “It is vital that progress is accelerated if we are to reach the Millennium Development Goal target on sanitation, and indeed the other development goals.” 21 November 2007The United Nations today kicked off the International Year of Sanitation in a bid to accelerate progress for the 2.6 billion people around the world who do not enjoy the basic right to proper sanitation facilities. read more

UN urges end to interethnic clashes in Southern Sudan

Clashes on 8 May between the rival Lou Nuer and Jikany ethnic groups in the village of Torkech reportedly wounded 57 people, the majority of them children with some in critical condition, and forced at least 1,550 from their homes.“The UN is seriously concerned about the increasing violence in the area and the continuing loss of innocent lives of women, men and children,” stressed UN Deputy Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Southern Sudan Lise Grande.Ms. Grande called on “community leaders, and all relevant authorities to intervene and resolve the conflict through peaceful means and reconciliation.” The UN has sent an assessment mission to the area, and the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC) is mobilizing food assistance to be distributed to the displaced people.Security in Nasir town, where many of the displaced have taken up camp, is calm but there is fear of retaliatory attacks in the neighbouring Ulang County, part of which is composed of the same ethnic groups fighting in Torkech.In a related development, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has dispatched some 120 civilian, military and police personnel to Jonglei State, where thousands are taking shelter after fleeing recent tribal confrontations.The move is aimed at supporting the Government of Southern Sudan in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), and in providing humanitarian assistance and protection to civilians in the state.Last week, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that up to 1,000 people have been killed and over 100,000 uprooted from their homes since January in seven states in Southern Sudan due to the activities of the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and inter-ethnic clashes.UNMIS personnel will assist the local communities in restoring dialogue by supporting peace and reconciliation conferences between communities in the area to prevent a further deterioration in relations and address the root causes of the conflicts, as well as to ensure a quick delivery of humanitarian aid to the affected populations. Military and police units from UNMIS will also provide technical and logistical assistance on security issues to the state government. 13 May 2009The recent surge in deadly ethnic violence in Southern Sudan, killing at least 66 people, is cause for serious concern, a United Nations official in the region warned today, calling for an immediate and peaceful resolution to the clashes. read more

UN official discusses global organized crime with US congressional delegation

Yury Fedotov, the UNODC Executive Director, and the US delegation took note of the interconnections between the various forms of illicit crimes across the globe, with the US legislators showing particular interest in the linkages between transnational organized crime, drug trafficking and terrorism, during the meeting at the UNODC headquarters in Vienna on Friday.The congressional delegation voiced concern over organized crime, and were informed about the linkage between opium production in Afghanistan and the instability in the country, including the insurgency, and illicit money flows from piracy activities off the coast of the Horn of Africa.The United States has been collaborating with UNODC in the UN agency’s country programme for Afghanistan, while counter-piracy work has been ongoing, particularly under the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia of which the US has been a keen supporter.“This meeting was of enormous help in strengthening the already good cooperation between UNODC and the United States in the areas of our mandate,” said Mr. Fedotov. “Hopefully, it is the first of many such discussions and we will continue to work together in areas of mutual interest,” he added.Last year, the United States pledged $34.3 million to assist in implementing UNODC’s work across the globe, and Washington is a lead supporter of the Office’s programmes.On the linkage between transnational organized crime, drug trafficking and terrorism, Mr. Fedotov stressed the need for an integrated approach to all forms of crime.“UNODC is already doing everything possible to mainstream the issues of transnational organized crime both inside and outside the United Nations system and I am glad that the congressional delegates showed such a keen understanding of these trends,” said Mr. Fedotov.The US delegation was made up of representatives Harold Rogers (Republican, Kentucky), Norman D. Dicks (Democrat, Washington [state]), Edward Lopez Pastor (Democrat, Arizona), Steve Austria (Republican, Ohio), Ken Calvert (Republican, California), Steven A. Womack (Republican, Arkansas) and John J. Duncan, Jr. (Republican, Tennessee). 3 September 2011The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has had a meeting with a United States congressional delegation during which they discussed the situations in Mexico and Colombia, drug production and trafficking in Afghanistan, cyber security, money laundering, piracy and human trafficking. read more

Canadian real estate market to slow down modestly as interest rates rise

TORONTO — Activity in Canada’s real estate market will slow “modestly” next year as interest rates begin to rise, according to a new report from RBC Economics.The report pegs the risk of an outright crash in real estate as low, saying RBC expects the economy to grow and that interest rates will likely rise gradually starting next year.However, the bank says there could be a “severe” downturn in the real estate market if employment plunges due to a deep recession or if interest rates surge dramatically.Meanwhile, RBC says the economic shock from lower oil prices hasn’t been big enough to derail Canada’s overall real estate sector.In fact, it says the Canadian housing market is poised to post one of its best years on record despite a drop in home resale activity in the oil-sensitive provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.RBC says rock-bottom interest rates have fuelled demand for housing elsewhere, particularly in Ontario and British Columbia.In July, the Bank of Canada cut its overnight lending rate — which affects variable-rate mortgages and other products — by 25 basis points to 0.5 per cent.CMHC says Toronto housing market at ‘high risk,’ as economists fear Tories ‘throwing fuel on fire’Are millennials better off renting? Why young Canadians may want to put off home ownershipRBC predicts the central bank will raise the rate by 75 basis points to 1.25 per cent in the second half of 2016.“It has long been our view that the eventual rise in interest rates from generational low levels will produce significant headwinds for Canada’s housing sector,” the report said.“Much of the market’s vibrancy in the past several years can be attributed to exceptionally low — and declining — interest rates.”RBC said it expects the cooling to be moderate and controlled — for instance, home resales declining by less than 10 per cent over several years and price growth slowing to a rate of 3.2 per cent in 2016.“In our opinion, the risk of a crash — resales plummeting by more than 25 per cent nationwide for instance — is low for three main reasons,” the report says. “First, we expect the Canadian economy to grow and create jobs and boost incomes. Severe housing downturns usually coincide with recessions.”The other two reasons cited are strong immigration and the gradual pace at which interest rates will rise.RBC says it doesn’t expect national home prices to fall outright, at least in the short term, although certain segments of certain markets — for example, condos in Montreal — could see a decrease.The risks of a nationwide collapse in prices — such as a drop of 25 per cent or more — are “quite remote,” according to the report. read more

Sierra Leone disarmament begins in two more districts UN Mission reports

When the effort began yesterday, 64 combatants from the Civil Defence Force (CDF) were disarmed in Mongeri, located in the government-controlled Bo District, while three fighters from the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) handed in their weapons in Batkanu, Bombali District, at a ceremony attended by UNAMSIL chief Oluyemi Adeniji. Another three RUF and two CDF were reported to have disarmed yesterday in Makeni.Weapons handed in by the RUF ex-combatants included a G3, an AK-47, a rocket-propelled grenade, bombs and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. In Batkanu, villagers cheered, sang and danced as the weapons were turned over to UNAMSIL military observers and disabled by the ex-combatants.According to RUF officials, the apparent slow start in the disarmament exercise in Bombali District was due to the choice of the disarmament camp – set up at St. Francis Secondary School by the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration, UNAMSIL said. The RUF’s Eldred Collins told UNAMSIL officials that they would have preferred to have used the military barracks in the area. While conceding that the slow start of the disarmament process was a disappointment, Mr. Adeniji said both parties were committed to the peace process. read more

SecretaryGeneral launches new initiative to protect worlds oceans

“The seas and oceans host some of the most vulnerable and important ecosystems on Earth, but the diversity of life they host is under ever-increasing strain,” Mr. Ban said at an event in the city of Yeosu in the Republic of Korea (ROK), to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the opening for signature of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Convention, also known as the “constitution of the oceans,” governs all aspects of ocean space, from delimitation of maritime boundaries, environmental regulations, scientific research, commerce and the settlement of international disputes involving marine issues. It was first opened for signature in 1982 and entered into force in 1994; there are 162 parties to it – 161 States and the European Union. Mr. Ban praised the achievements of the Convention in helping countries establish a legal framework to guide the management of the oceans, the settlement of disputes, and the administration of the international seabed. “Among its principles, the Law of the Sea recognizes that all ocean issues are related and that they need to be addressed as a whole,” Mr. Ban said, adding that this is in line with the development framework put forward at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. However, Mr. Ban also emphasized the need to address multiple issues that threaten the marine environment. To do this, he announced the launch of the Oceans Compact, which will seek to support and strengthen the implementation of the Law of the Sea. “What we need is to create new momentum for ocean sustainability,” Mr. Ban said. “The Oceans Compact sets out a strategic vision for the UN System to deliver more coherently and effectively on its oceans-related mandates, consistent with the Rio+20 outcome.” The Compact, Mr. Ban added, will provide a platform to help countries protect the ocean’s natural resources, restore their full food production to help people’s whose livelihoods depend on the sea, and increase awareness and knowledge about the management of the oceans. To achieve the objectives of the Compact, Mr. Ban proposed a results-oriented Action Plan along with the creation of an Ocean Advisory Group made up of high-level policymakers, scientists and experts, as well as representatives of the private sector and civil society. During his visit, Mr. Ban also spoke to young people at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) youth forum, where he asked participants to practice solidarity among generations and lead the way in implementing sustainable measures in all aspects of society. “From public squares to cyberspace, youth are a transformative force; you are creative, resourceful and enthusiastic agents of change,” Mr. Ban said. “A sustainable future can be ours. The work starts now, and it starts with you. This is a generational imperative… a generational opportunity… that your generation must seize.” read more

Brock gives thanks on National Philanthropy Day

Brock University is marking National Philanthropy Day with a great big ‘thank you.’As Canada comes together for the Nov. 15 celebration, the University will be reflecting on the alumni, faculty, staff and donors who provide the support necessary for the institution to thrive.Students are the main focus of charitable support at Brock, and the impact created by giving is not lost on them.This support has helped to make Brock the student-centred, community-minded University it is today, said Rushna Imran.The fourth-year business economics student hoped to express her gratitude to anyone who has contributed to the school in some form, whether providing generous donations to create additional academic and social spaces on campus, or offering volunteer opportunities to broaden student involvement.Imran is grateful for the chances she’s had to donate her time through Brock, including a cherished Brock Cares experience visiting with residents at Linhaven, a long-term care facility in St. Catharines.She’s proud to say her school encourages students to get involved outside the classroom and hopes her peers will embrace opportunities to give back to the Brock and Niagara communities, just as donors before them have done.“Both past and current students have benefitted from what you’ve given back to Brock,” Imran said in a message of thanks to the University’s supporters. “We appreciate all you do and hope future students will benefit too.” read more

Spring Lamb in Snow Pic of the Day

first_imgPICS: 16 reader images of snow day > (Niall Carson/PA Wire)Spring lambs and snow – the two should never meet, but here is a newborn sheep frolicking in the snow covered Wicklow Mountains in the middle of March.At least he has a woolly jumper.More: ‘Nothing a Good Bun* Can’t Fix’ Pic of the Day >last_img

Liberty City lunch giveaway honors XXXTentacions final wishes

first_imgNORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) – Days after South Florida rapper XXXTentacion was fatally gunned down, organizers of a charity event have honored his final wishes.Before his death on Monday, XXXTentacion, born Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy, had a food giveaway scheduled in Liberty City.He had planned to hand out bagged lunches to all who came out for them.Related: Memorial set at BB&T Center for slain rapper XXXTentacionOn Sunday, despite his absence, the event went on as planned, as people celebrated the entertainer’s life.Copyright 2019 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.last_img