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Thursday, 08 August 2019 18:14

UK to stay in Interrail scheme after U-turn

 By : Nadeemy Haded

UK train companies will stay in the Interrail scheme, reversing Wednesday's decision, the operators' group says.

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents UK train operators, had said the arrangement would end in January.

It had blamed a dispute with Eurail Group which manages the scheme.

Robert Nisbet, Director of Nations and Regions at the RDG said: "Following the strong reaction to news of our departure we and Eurail, the company which runs Interrail, renewed talks.

"We are pleased to be able to tell passengers that we have reached agreement and will be remaining part of both the Interrail and Eurail passes."

The decision to pull out of the scheme had received heavy criticism on social media.

Former Labour Transport Secretary Lord Adonis tweeted yesterday: "This is closing Britain to the next generation of continental Europeans."

RDG said the dispute had originally stemmed from a decision by Eurail Group, a Dutch organisation, to merge its two passes into one.

RDG said the new pass would clash with its own Britrail pass, also aimed at non-European citizens, which covers UK rail travel and offers discounts on local tourist attractions.

It added that Eurail Group decided to end RDG's membership of Interrail/Eurail after RDG declined to sell the new product.

Launched in 1972, the Interrail pass enables European citizens to travel around 31 countries by train and ferry, while the older Eurail pass lets non-European citizens do the same.

Over the decades Interrail journeys have been a rite of passage for millions of mostly young tourists, although older people use the pass too.

 By : Nadeemy Haded 

The UN has said the latest restrictions imposed on Indian-administered Kashmir are deeply concerning and "will exacerbate the human rights situation".

A UN spokesperson highlighted a telecommunications ban, the arbitrary detention of leaders and a ban on political assembly.

The region has been on lockdown since Sunday with communication cut off.

It came as India made the controversial decision to remove its special constitutional status.

Article 370 - as the constitutional provision guaranteeing special status is known - gave the state of Jammu and Kashmir special dispensation to make its own laws on everything apart from matters of foreign affairs, defence and communications.

This formed the basis of its complex relationship with India for some 70 years.

The Himalayan region is claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan, but each country controls only part of it.

By revoking it, Delhi has irrevocably changed its relationship with the region. The move came as a shock, and has been met with harsh criticism from some opposition lawmakers, constitutional experts and even ordinary citizens. But it has also been welcomed by many, including Supreme Court lawyers who have argued that it is not unconstitutional.

In the days leading up to the parliamentary announcement on Monday, India's federal government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had moved tens of thousands of troops into Kashmir.

On Sunday evening, the internet, mobile phone networks and landlines in the region were cut off; and political leaders, including two former chief ministers, were put under house arrest. They are reportedly still detained.

The region remains under lockdown, with Kashmiris in other parts of the country saying that they are unable to get through to their families.

The government has justified the lockdown, saying it was a precaution to prevent unrest or violence over its controversial move.

But the BBC has spoken to people inside the region, and has seen some protests which have involved people throwing stones at security forces.

 

There has been an armed insurgency against Indian rule in the region since 1989, and security forces have repeatedly clashed with stone-throwing protesters, leading to thousands of deaths over the years.

But many say the lockdown this time is unprecedented in its scale.

In the video statement posted on Twitter, a UN spokesperson reiterated the organisation's previous concerns over the human rights situation in Kashmir saying a previous report had "documented how authorities have repeatedly blocked communications networks to muzzle dissent, used arbitrary detention to punish political dissidents and employed excessive force while dealing with protests leading to extra judicial killings and serious injuries".

But he said the new restrictions had taken the situation to "a new level".

The UN was now "seeing again blanket telecommunications restrictions, perhaps more blanket than we have seen before", he said.

He warned the bans would prevent people from "participating fully in democratic debate about the future status of Jammu and Kashmir".

Why is Kashmir considered a disputed territory?

India and Pakistan have fought two wars and a limited conflict over the region.

Pakistan has also announced plans to expel India's top diplomat and suspend trade relations with its neighbour, deepening the row between the countries over Kashmir.

India has responded saying they "regret" Pakistan's statement, adding that Article 370 was an internal matter.

 By : Nadeemy Haded 

Canadian police believe they have found the bodies of two teenage fugitives suspected of three murders, including that of a US-Australian couple.

Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, have been on the run since late July, when three bodies were found in northern British Columbia.

They were later spotted 3,300km (2,050 miles) east, near Gillam, Manitoba, where police concentrated their search.

Two bodies were found nearby on Wednesday.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police assistant commissioner Jane MacLatchy told media on Wednesday: "I'm confident it is them but to identify them officially and to be sure we have to go to autopsy."

What do we know about the victims?

Lucas Fowler and Chynna Deese were killed sometime between 14 July and early 15 July.

Their bodies were found 12 miles (20km) south of Liard Hot Springs along the Alaska Highway.

They were on a two-week-long road trip across Canada and Mr Fowler had been working in the country.

Leonard Dyck, a lecturer at the University of British Columbia, was found dead on 19 July, near Dease Lake

Portsudan, Sudan, Aug. 6, 2019, SPA -- Saudi Ambassador to the Republic of The Sudan Ali bin Hassan Jafar handed over in this port city of Sudan in eastern Sudan a shipment of more than 50,000 tons of agricultural nutrients and other needs of farmers, in the presence of Major General Essam Abdul-Faraj, Governor of the Red Sea Province.
In a press statement following the delivery ceremony, the ambassdor said that the aid comes in continuation of the continuous support for the brotherly people of Sudan to alleviate the burden of the current crisis on Sudanese farmers.
He said the aid is an extension of the $ 3 billion financial support provided by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, including $ 500 million as a deposit at Sudan's Central Bank to support the economy and ease pressure on the Sudanese pound.
-- SPA

Jeddah

Minister of Media Turki bin Abdullah Al Shabana here on Tuesday evening opened Movie Cinema, the first local brand for cinemas in the kingdom.
In a press statement following the inauguration, the minister expressed his delight at the opening of the second cinema in Jeddah.
--SPA

 

Wednesday, 07 August 2019 04:34

Age and wisdom. Seeing beyond the curtain

Written by:

Having been born in February 1955, I'm around six months from the landmark age of sixty-five. Strangely, this doesn't fill me with the fear which I felt at the approach of becoming thirty. 

 
I really have no idea why this should be the case, but possibly it's because I realise there's nothing I can do about it. Also, at the same time of thirty being on the horizon, I felt under pressure to become a responsible adult. 
 
I had been married for three years and had an eight year old stepson to raise, and responsibility had never been much of a priority to me, to say the least. 
This, I think made me feel I had to grow up and stop being myself. 
 
I know it sounds strange, but I hadn't ever expected to have this kind of responsibility. 
 
Moving rapidly forward and skipping the abortive move to the USA. The tragedy and ongoing pain of losing my stepson at the age of eighteen and the subsequent disintegration of my marriage plus the death of my parents, here I am living on my own in small town in the Glasgow area, peering at the prospect of being what used to be pension age. 
 
When we are young, we see anyone ten years our senior, as very old. I also couldn't imagine how "old" people thought. 
Obviously, I have since discovered that we "old" people think in exactly the same way as I did when I was in my twenties. I have discovered that the young person I was is still there and as irresponsible as ever. 
 
What does change however, is our breadth of knowledge. And our doubts about the veracity of all sources of this knowledge. In the age of the internet, facts can be made to fit many different views and twisted to make reality seem unreal. 
This suits political activists and politicians alike. This ability to deny true reality and make their supporters believe this warped version of the truth, makes politics on all sides very dangerous and open to all kinds of manipulation. 
 
But back to the advantages of age. I feel much more confidence as I get older and feel in some ways as if I'm becoming mentally, and in some ways physically younger. 
This of course makes no sense, but this is how I feel, despite my neuropathy getting worse. This can only mean the brain is somehow compensating and expanding to overcome fear of getting older and more vulnerable. 
 
What do we really know about the function of the brain? 
 
The scientists and medical experts don't seem to understand that if we allow ourselves to be open to all possibilities, we will reap the benefits of the Universe. Where do huge leaps of knowledge come from? 
There is no sensible explanation of how this occurs. In my opinion, this knowledge can only come from keeping the mind open, and not closed to allowing the brain to be used to greater potential. 
 
I mean, what makes some people think they know everything and cannot conceive the notion of their being wrong or lacking in knowledge? 
 
This has to be due to arrogance and false self belief. 
Which is why a closed mind is such a dangerous weapon. 
We see wars, and disasters caused by people like this, who have no ability to see past their own knowledge.
 This isn't just short-sightedness. This is non-sightedness. This is knowledge blindness. 
 
I have seen on occasions, the other side of the curtain. The side beyond knowledge blindness. 
 
Proof of where the brain can take us if we allow ourselves to be open to what other people cannot even consider. 
But most people are scared of anything they cannot understand and that stops them from making the most of what they have. 
 
Why would someone like Einstein be a genius not only in his own field of science, but in his entire outlook on life?He was young for his entire life, because he was open to all forms of knowledge. His mind wasn't blocked by rigid thoughts of convention. He saw all the possibilities. 
 
All great people have this ability to see beyond the curtain. They are usually somewhat anti authoritarian and kick against the traces of organised politics and religion. 
Independent of thought and deed, and not followers of the herd, they go their own way despite being ridiculed by their peers and teachers. 
 
I often hear people say that they are open minded, but they don't understand what being truly open minded actually means. This means not condemning anyone for life choices made.
 
 It also means treating all people as equals and not picking and choosing which you want to be your equal. A person begging on the street is a person nonetheless. 
Talk to all people in the way which you yourself would want to be spoken, do not assume someone with a mental illness is less than human. 
 
I'm not saying that we can all be a genius like Einstein or Stephen Hawking, but in order to make the most of ourselves, we have to be open to all knowledge and experience. 
 
Staying young at heart is essential to making the most of our brain. We have to allow our carefree youth to stay active and at the forefront of our thinking, otherwise we are doomed to the trap of knowledge blindness. 
 
Dare to see beyond the curtain. 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 London

by Naddima Hadid

 

The searing July heatwave that hit Europe last week was made both more likely and more intense by human-induced climate change, scientists say.

A rapid attribution study says that heating added up to 3C to the intensity of the event that scorched the UK, France and the Netherlands.

In France, the heatwave was made at least 10 times and up to 100 times more likely by human activities.

The shorter event in the UK was made at least twice as likely, experts say.

The World Weather Attribution Group has carried out a number of similar studies in recent years to work out the impact of climate change on extreme events.

This new report looks at the July heatwave that saw temperatures soar above 40C in many countries including Belgium, France and the Netherlands.

In Paris, the mercury smashed through a historic high of 40.4C. It beat the record by more than 2 degrees, to the new mark of 42.6C.

In the UK, the heat event only lasted 1-2 days but a new record was set at Cambridge University's botanic garden with 38.7C.

Researchers combined information from both long term temperature observations and climate models to look at how the events would have unfolded with or without the human influence on the climate.

So when they look at France they can say that the chances of having a heatwave like the one that struck last week were made more likely by at least a factor of 10, but could in fact have been up to 100 times.

"We conclude that such an event would have had an extremely small probability to occur (less than about once every 1,000 years) without climate change in France," the study says.

The picture across Europe was the same say researchers.

"Every European heatwave we and others have analysed was found to be made much more likely and more intense due to human-induced climate change, so it was not surprising that climate change played a role," said Dr Friederike Otto, acting director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford.

"But how much more likely the heatwave is depends very strongly on the event definition: location, season, intensity and duration. This July 2019 heatwave was so extreme over continental Western Europe that the observed magnitudes would have been extremely unlikely without climate change."

The researchers say the intensity of the heatwave was increased by between 1.5 and 3C.

"When I bicycled home from work last week it was still 37.1 degrees," said co-author Dr Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, from KNMI in the Netherlands.

"I would have felt a difference at 34C - you don't need a thermometer anymore to notice a difference."

While the event lasted little more than a day in the UK, the researchers estimate that climate change made it at least twice as likely. The impact on intensity was estimated to be between 1.5 and 2.5C.

The researchers also talk about the likely return period of these events - meaning the chances of having another one of the same magnitude. For Cambridge they estimate it's 30 years.

"A return period of 30 years like in Cambridge, means that every year in the current climate you have about 3% chance of having a heatwave like that," says Dr van Oldenborgh.

"It was much smaller in the old climate and every year that we keep on emitting CO2 the probability of having a heatwave like that will just increase."

One problem that the researchers keep encountering when they carry out these rapid attribution studies is the fact that the climate models they are using underestimate the high temperature observations that are being made in the real world.

"We know for 10 years or so that the models have problems with these relatively short, very intense events," says Geert Jan van Oldenborgh.

"They have been designed to simulate global mean temperatures and large scale heat patterns, they have not been designed to get heatwaves right.

"Everybody now agrees that this needs to be figured out, because the trend in heatwaves is just so much higher than the model trend."

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