• Pentagon releases UFO video for the record

    The United States Department of Defence has released three declassified videos of “unexplained aerial phenomena”.

    The Pentagon said that it was to “clear up any misconception by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulated was real”.

    The video had already been leaked in 2007 and 2017.

    Two were published by the New York Times, while the third was leaked by an organisation c0-founded by former Blink-182 singer, Tom DeLonge.

    In a statement, the Pentagon said: “After thorough review, the department has determined that the authorised release of the unclassified video does not reveal sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigation of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena.

    “The Department of Defence is releasing videos in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is far more to the video.

    “The aerial phenomena observed in the video remain characterised as ‘unidentified’.”

     

  • PM Modi launches metro link to help curb Taj Mahal pollution

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inaugurated a metro project aimed at curbing the impact of air pollution on the Taj Mahal.

    The rail network, in the northern city of Agra, will connect the 17th Century monument and other historic sites with railway stations and bus stops.

    It's estimated the project will cost Rs 8,379.62 crore ($1.1bn; $854.2m) and take five years to complete.

    The Taj Mahal is one of the world's leading tourist attractions.

    It draws as many as 70,000 people a day.

    Taking part in a virtual ceremony, which was broadcast on Twitter, Mr Modi said that the scheme includes 10 million houses for low-income residents. He also highlighted his government's efforts to modernise rail networks nationwide.

    In 2018, India's Supreme Court criticised the government for a "failure" to protect the historic site.

    During May that year, the court had instructed the government to seek foreign help to fix the "worrying change in colour" of the structure, which was built under the rule of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.

    The court concluded that the Taj Mahal, constructed from white marble and other materials, was turning various shades of yellow, brown and green. Pollution, construction and insect dung are said to be among the causes.

    Constant cleaning required to maintain the building's original colouring has since worn away at the delicate stonework.

  • PM says regional Covid rules may get tougher

    UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that regional restrictions in England are "probably about to get tougher" to curb rising Covid infections. He said stronger measures may be required in parts of the country in the coming weeks. He also warned that this included the possibility of keeping schools closed, although this is not "something we want to do". But he added ministers had to be "realistic" about the spread of the new variant of the virus.

    Mr Johnson said the government was "entirely reconciled to doing what it takes to get the virus down," and warned of a "tough period ahead". He also said increasing vaccination would provide a way out of restrictions and that he hoped "tens of millions" would be vaccinated in the next three months.

    Defending his handling of the pandemic, the prime minister said the government had taken "every reasonable step that we reasonably could" to prepare for winter. But he said ministers "could not have reasonably predicted" the new, more transmissible variant of the virus that has emerged over the autumn. He also urged parents to send their children to primary school on Monday if they are open in their area, adding he had "no doubt" schools were safe.

    Secondary schools in England are due to stagger their return - with pupils taking exams in 2021 starting on 11 January, and other year groups returning in person on 18 January. In London and some surrounding areas, primary schools will not open for most pupils until 18 January.

    In other areas of England, primaries are due to return on Monday, with teaching unions and some councils calling for them to also stay closed. However Amanda Spielman, the head of Ofsted, England's schools watchdog, said closures should be kept to an "absolute minimum".

  • Pontiff and Shia cleric in talks over rights of Iraq's Christians

    Pope Francis has discussed the safety of Iraq's Christian minority with one of Shia Islam's most powerful figures, on his landmark trip to the country. Like many communities in Iraq, Christians have been hit by waves of violence over the past two decades.

    The office of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, spiritual leader of millions of Shia Muslims, said the talks had emphasised peace. The meeting was seen as a highly symbolic moment in the Pope's visit.

    The Pope is on his first international trip since the start of the pandemic - and the first ever papal visit to Iraq. Covid-19 and security fears have made this his riskiest trip yet.

    The 84-year-old leader of the Catholic Church earlier said that he had felt duty-bound to make the "emblematic" journey, which will see him visit several sites over four days in Iraq.

    Iraq's Christian minority has experienced considerable violence since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

    Receiving the Pope at his home in the holy city of Najaf, Grand Ayatollah Sistani affirmed his concern that Christian citizens should live like all Iraqis in peace and security and with their full constitutional rights. Pope Francis thanked the ayatollah for having raised his voice in defence of the weakest and most persecuted during some of the most violent times in Iraq's recent history, the Associated Press reports.

    The Shia leader's message of peace, he said, affirmed "he sacredness of human life and the importance of the unity of the Iraqi people. Audiences with the reclusive ayatollah are rare but he received the Pope for around 50 minutes, talking without face masks. Pope Francis later travelled to the ancient city of Ur, where the Prophet Abraham - central to Islam, Christianity and Judaism - is believed to have been born.

    The pontiff said: "From this place, where faith was born, from the land of our father Abraham, let us affirm that God is merciful and that the greatest blasphemy is to profane his name by hating our brothers and sisters."

    About 10,000 Iraqi Security Forces personnel are being deployed to protect the Pope during his visit, while round-the-clock curfews are also being imposed to limit the spread of coronavirus. Some Shia militant groups have reportedly opposed the visit, suggesting the tour amounts to Western interference in the country's affairs.

  • Premier Trudeau says Canada will not welcome unvaccinated tourists in a long while

    Foreign tourists who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 will not be allowed to enter Canada for quite some time because the government is unwilling to jeopardize progress made on containing the virus, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

    “I can tell you right now that’s not going to happen for quite a while,” said Trudeau, when asked by reporters when Canada would allow unvaccinated tourists to enter the country.

    Canada, as of this week, has waived quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated citizens. But non-essential foreign travellers are still not allowed to enter despite pressure from the country’s hurting tourism sector.

    The United States does not have vaccine requirements for visitors. At this point talks about lifting border restrictions are focused on fully vaccinated travellers, Trudeau said. “The next step we’ll be looking at what measures we can allow for international travellers who are fully vaccinated,” he said. “We will have more to say in the coming weeks.”

    Trudeau has previously said authorities are looking closely at domestic vaccination rates, the spread of variants of concern, and how the rest of the world deals with COVID-19. Some 78% of people aged 12 years or older in Canada have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, health officials said on Thursday. About 44% of people 12 years or older are fully vaccinated.

    Governments in Canada and the United States have faced pressure to reopen the world’s largest land border, which has been shuttered to non-essential travel since March 2020. The current restrictions were in place at least until July 21.

  • Preparations in Place for Prince Philip Funeral

    Preparations for the funeral of Prince Philip, at St George's Chapel, in the grounds of Windsor Castle, are under way, with the procession and service to be televised, worldwide, tomorrow (Saturday April 17).

    The guest list includes members of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh's families, including relatives from Germany. Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, will attend but his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, who is pregnant, will not make the trip from the US, on medical advice.

    The Duke of Edinburgh, who died aged 99, will have a ceremonial funeral, rather than a state funeral, with the coffin to be moved from the private chapel to the State Entrance of Windsor Castle. It will be placed on a modified Land Rover, that the duke himself helped design, to be carried the short distance to St George's Chapel.

    The duke is reported to have requested a funeral of minimal fuss and has not laid in state - where members of the public would have been able to view his coffin. Covid restrictions on crowds and numbers attending funerals mean the ceremony - at 15:00 BST - will be much lower key than in more normal of times - although the Palace says this reflects the duke's wishes and it will still celebrate and reflect a life of service.

    Coronavirus restrictions in England mean only 30 people, socially distanced, are allowed to attend funerals, with attendees expected to wear masks in line with government advice. The pallbearers and clergy are not included in the number of attendees. The televised event will be carried out in line with Coronavirus restrictions but there will be a military presence with personnel from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and RAF.

    With the armed forces important to the duke – who served in the Royal Navy - they will play a part in his funeral, with military top brass present. Servicemen and women will be prominent tomorrow with some 730 members of the Armed Forces set be on parade.

    The government confirmed that the period of national mourning will continue until after the funeral while a two-week period of royal mourning will be observed by members of the royal family, who will be undertaking appropriate engagements while wearing black mourning bands. There will be no public access for the funeral.

    Away from the funeral, the Duke of Edinburgh's Award has announced that it is launching a new fund in memory of Prince Philip, which will give one million more young people the chance to take part in the programme he founded over the next five years.

  • Presenter Scott proud of accent after criticism from former CBI head Lord Jones

    The latest BBC presenter Alex Scott says that she is proud of her London accent after ex-House of Lords member Digby Jones criticised her pronunciation.

    Lord Jones tweeted on Friday she spoils a good presentational job on the BBC Olympics Team with her very noticeable inability to pronounce her 'g's at the end of a word. Scott said she was "proud" to be from a working class family in east London.

  • President Buhari 'salutes honest Nigerian'

     

    Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari has commended a Nigerian doctoral student in Japan for returning a missing wallet full of money and not taking the 10% reward, his social media assistant Bashir Ahmad has tweeted.

     

    Reports from earlier this week said that Ikenna Nweke was out buying a take-away in the Japanese city of Tsukuba when he saw the wallet on the ground. He then handed it in to the police.

     

    “The police told me that according to Japanese law, that I was entitled to 10% of the money found inside the wallet but I declined," he told the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.

     

    "I told him that there was no need for that because I was raised by responsible parents, and that I am also a Christian.”

     

    Mr Buhari praised the student "for projecting the values of honesty, integrity and contentment that should be the hallmark of a people", Mr Ahmad said.

     

    Mr Nweke had already received a letter from the Nigerian embassy in Japan saying he was a "good example to all".

     

  • Prime Minister Holness remains in power after early Jamaica election

    Jamaica's ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was re-elected with a landslide victory after Prime Minister Andrew Holness called for an early vote in what was seen as a bid to capitalise on people's satisfaction with his economic agenda and early response to the coronavirus pandemic. His centre-right party won 49 of 63 seats - one of the largest margins of victory in decades, but also one of the lowest voter turnouts at 37% - in the parliamentary election.

    With face masks and temperature checks made compulsory in polling stations the campaign was dominated by discussions over the economy, how to fight crime and the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Despite the victory, he continues to face criticism amid an increase in coronavirus cases as restrictions in the country were lifted.

    After seeing his JLP gain 16 seats he said: "There is cause for celebration, but there is also significant cause for consideration.

    "There are many Jamaicans who did not participate, there are many Jamaicans, who for fear of the virus, did not come to the polls, but for other reasons, apathy, frustrations, decided not to participate."

    Also, despite facing criticism over high rates of crime and violence, and alleged corruption among public officials, Holmes, who has been Prime Minister since 2016, did highlight that up to 100,000 jobs had been created during his time in office while 22,000 Jamaicans had had the chance to buy their own homes. He also highlighted tax cuts, and that poverty was at its lowest level in 10 years.

    He defended his decision to call the election six months ahead of schedule despite the pandemic, and rejected claims by opponent and leader of the People's National Party (PNP), Peter Phillips, that he had ignored expert advice.

    PM Holness became Jamaica's youngest prime minister, at the age of 39, in 2011, but lost an election to the country's first female leader Portia Simpson Miller.

     

  • Qatar Airways celebrates the opening of a new state-of-the-art engine facility to streamline technical operations

    Qatar Airways are celebrating the opening of a new state-of-the-art Engine Facility as part of the vision to streamline the cost of its Technical Maintenance operations by more than $2.2m per year, further supporting the airline’s growth despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Located in the Qatar Airways Technical Maintenance complex, the new 9,000 sq. ft. Engine Facility was officially opened by the Minister of Transport and Communications His Excellency Mr Jassim Saif Ahmed Al-Sulaiti, in the presence of the President of the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority, His Excellency Mr. Abdulla Nasser Turki Al Subaey, and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, along with other senior officials and VIPs.

    It is estimated the new facility will enable the airline to improve workflow by over 1,800 man hours per month, or 23,400 man hours per year, by centralising its engine production and engine parts storage processes, increasing the number of its engine production lines from four to eight covering a variety of aircraft engine types. In addition to this, the ultramodern facility is able to house a total of 80 engines of varying sizes in a temperature and humidity controlled environment, with two specialist ‘Dust Control’ rooms to limit the presence of dust and harmful particles, as well as a dedicated Supply Chain area to minimise waiting times for the ordering and transportation of spare parts.

    Minister of Transport and Communications His Excellency Mr. Jassim Saif Ahmed Al-Sulaiti, said: “This achievement will boost the ongoing growth of the aviation industry in Qatar and contribute to localising that major industry. This event also keeps pace with the remarkable development in transportation sector in the country in light of the upsurge in development under the country’s wise leadership.

    “Lately, the nation’s milestones in the field of aviation industry have increased despite the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hamad International Airport, has continued winning awards as the best airport in the world in terms of efficiency, service and amenities for travellers and Qatar Airways has ranked first and won several global awards.

    “The State of Qatar, will continue the course of giving and work, as well as carrying out several projects in the future to keep pace with all developments in aviation industry, which is one of the most advanced industries in the world, toward a promising future and an advanced country that takes its position among world countries, until reaching the horizons of Qatar National Vision 2030.”

    Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr Akbar Al Baker, said: “The continuous improvement and expansion of our Technical Maintenance facilities is a key element in supporting the airline’s ongoing efforts to rebuild our global network to more than 140 destinations by the summer peak season.

    “With the new Engine Facility, we have not only created one of the most technologically-advanced engine assembly and disassembly facilities available within the commercial aviation industry to date, but also doubled our engine production capabilities. The facility’s extensive dedicated Supply Chain area also means that we have instant access to a ready supply of engine parts and equipment, reducing our reliance on external suppliers and further supporting the reliability and technical capability of Qatar Airways’ fleet of next-generation aircraft.”

    Qatar Airways has become the first global airline in the world to achieve the prestigious 5-Star COVID-19 Airline Safety Rating by international air transport rating organisation, Skytrax. This follows HIA’s recent success as the first and only airport in the Middle East and Asia to be awarded a Skytrax 5-Star COVID-19 Airport Safety Rating. These recognitions provide assurance to passengers across the world that airline health and safety standards are subject to the highest possible standards of professional, independent scrutiny and assessment. 

    A multiple award-winning airline, Qatar Airways was named ‘World’s Best Airline’ by the 2019 World Airline Awards, managed by the international air transport rating organisation Skytrax. It was also named ‘Best Airline in the Middle East’, ‘World’s Best Business Class’, and ‘Best Business Class Seat’, in recognition of its ground-breaking Business Class experience, Qsuite. Qsuite is available on flights to more than 45 destinations including Johannesburg, Frankfurt, New York and Singapore.

    Qatar Airways is the only airline to have been awarded the coveted ‘Skytrax Airline of the Year’ title, which is recognised as the pinnacle of excellence in the airline industry, five times. In addition to this, Qatar Airways home and hub, Hamad International Airport (HIA) was ranked the ‘Best Airport in the Middle East’ and ‘Third Best Airport in the World’ by the SKYTRAX World Airport Awards 2020.

  • Qatar Airways joins ICAO Global Coalition for Sustainable Aviation

    Qatar Airways is pleased to announce its participation on the Global Coalition for Sustainable Aviation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), becoming the first airline in the Middle East to join the global coalition, reaffirming its commitment to work together with the relevant industry stakeholders, such as manufacturers, academia, governments and non-government organisations towards aviation decarbonisation and promoting sustainable air transport.

    The ICAO Global Coalition promotes sustainable international aviation, acting as a forum through which stakeholders can develop new ideas and accelerate innovative solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the source.

  • Queen’s birthday celebrated outside capital for only second during her reign

    The Queen’s official birthday was marked with a unique ceremony that was performed by the Welsh Guard at Windsor Castle.

    It came after the traditional Trooping the Colour parade was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

    It was only the second time in her 68-year reign that the parade did not go ahead in London.

    In what was her first official public appearance since the lockdown began, flanked by officials, Her Majesty sat alone for the ceremony.

    Dubbed the mini-Trooping, the ceremony was performed by a small number of Welsh Guardsmen and the band of the Household Division.

    The Queen received a royal salute that was followed by a display of marching with strict social distancing measures kept throughout.

    It was the first time that Her Royal Highness celebrated her birthday at Windsor Castle – where she and the Duke of Edinburgh have been spending time in isolation since the coronavirus lockdown.

    She celebrated her 94th birthday in April, but it is officially – and publicly – celebrated on the second Saturday of June annually. It is also typically accompanied by the announcement of The Queen’s Birthday Honours’ List.

    This year, however, she agreed to postpone publication of the list until the autumn.

  • Rackspace Technology to make $65-$70 million investment in growth businesses

    Rackspace Technology (NASDAQ: RXT) has announced an expected $65-$70 million of new investments designed to closely align the company’s resources with fast-growing product and service offerings.

  • Rapper, West, said to run for president for second time

     

    US rapper Kanye West has said he is running for president, potentially pitting him against a man he says he admires, Donald Trump.

     

    "We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future," he tweeted. "I am running for president of the United States!"

    His wife Kim Kardashian West and entrepreneur Elon Musk endorsed him. But it's unclear whether West is really running.

     

    He does not appear to have registered his name with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for November's election. The closest name the FEC database shows is a candidate called "Kanye Deez Nutz West", who filed their papers with the Green Party in 2015 under the address "1977 Golddigger Avenue, Suite Yeezus" and appears to have raised no money.

     

    It is also not the first time West has claimed that he is running for the White House.

     

    At the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, he said he had decided to run for president in 2020.

    But last November he pushed the date back, saying he would actually run in the 2024 contest.

     

    "What are you laughing at?" he asked the crowd at Fast Company's Innovation Festival.

     

    "We would have created so many jobs that I'm not gonna run, I'm gonna walk," he said, adding he was considering changing his name for the run to "Christian Genius Billionaire Kanye West".

     

    In his tweet on Saturday, US Independence Day, West, 43, did not say if his supposed run would be affiliated with a particular political party.

     

    In any case, contesting the nomination of one major parties would be impossible at this stage, with the election only four months away.

     

    In order to appear on the ballot as an independent candidate, West would have to gather a certain amount of signatures and register in states by a particular deadline. The deadline has already passed in some major states but the music star would still technically have time to file in many others.

     

    This year's contest is likely to be a straight battle between Republican President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.

     

    In 2018, West made a bizarre appearance at the White House with President Trump during which he wore a Make America Great Again hat and made an expletive-filled rant that Trump described as "quite something".

     

    "I love this guy right here," West said, walking behind the desk to hug the seated president, who said: "That's really nice."

     

    The rapper also pushed back on the idea that African-Americans are overwhelmingly Democratic Party voters, saying: "People expect that if you're Black, you have to be Democrat."

     

    Kim Kardashian West retweeted her husband's statement about the presidential run with an American flag.

     

    She has in recent years become a significant voice in the US movement for criminal justice reform and has successfully lobbied President Trump to release several prisoners.

     

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  • Referendum set on decriminalising cannabis in Italy

    Italy is set to decide whether to decriminalise cannabis in a referendum next year after Italian activists gathered half a million signatures, the threshold required by law to trigger a nationwide vote.

    If the public votes to decriminalise the purchase, sale and cultivation of cannabis, it could set off a domino effect across Europe.

  • Remembering the HMT Empire Windrush generation and first Commonwealth arrivals

    Sandwell Museums are launching a project to remember the first Commonwealth arrivals to the UK. 

    The ‘What’s in the case?’ project is funded jointly by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s Windrush Scheme and Sandwell Council's Museums and Arts Service.

    The aim is to collect the stories of the first wave of Commonwealth citizens travelling to Britain to live, work and make it their home in the years after the Second World War.

    Councillor Danny Millard, cabinet member responsible for museums, said: “Sandwell and the rest of the UK would not be the diverse and culturally rich place it is today without the Windrush generations and every new Commonwealth arrival since then.

    “We want to hear from that generation and their descendants, about their journey and the lives and experiences they have had since arriving.”

    Cabinet member for Sustainable Transport, Cllr Jackie Taylor, who became the first African Caribbean councillor elected in Sandwell in 2014, said: "'What’s in the case?’ captures the dreams of my parents when they arrived in Birmingham in 1957.

    "I am immensely proud of the bravery of that generation of people who travelled into the unknown from the Commonwealth. My parents arrived from Jamaica with not only the dreams for themselves and their families, but also that of British society and what they could contribute to it. I look forward to the project and richness of stories that I know will emerge, to inspire a new generation."

    Deputy Leader Councillor Maria Crompton added: “It’s important to remember the first Commonwealth arrivals to the UK and to celebrate diversity and the many cultures and people that make Sandwell great.”

    Sandwell Museums would like participants to take part in a series of interviews via phone, Skype or Zoom to collect their stories and memories of their journey to Britain and of course, what they packed in their cases. 

    To take part and request more information email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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  • Report says Chinese economy will overtake US by 2028

    A report says China will overtake the US to become the world's largest economy by 2028, five years earlier than previously forecast. The UK-based Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) said China's "skilful" management of Covid-19 would boost its relative growth compared to the US and Europe in coming years. Meanwhile India is tipped to become the third largest economy by 2030.

    The CEBR releases its economic league table every year and although China was the first country hit by Covid-19, it controlled the disease through swift and extremely strict action, meaning it did not need to repeat economically paralysing lockdowns as European countries have done. As a result, unlike other major economies, it has avoided an economic recession in 2020 and is in fact estimated to see growth of 2% this year.

    The US economy, by contrast, has been hit hard by the world's worst coronavirus epidemic in terms of sheer numbers. More than 330,000 people have died in the US and there have been some 18.5 million confirmed cases. The economic damage has been cushioned by monetary policy and a huge fiscal stimulus, but political disagreements over a new stimulus package could leave around 14 million Americans without unemployment benefit payments in the new year.

    "For some time, an overarching theme of global economics has been the economic and soft power struggle between the United States and China," says the CEBR report. "The Covid-19 pandemic and corresponding economic fallout have certainly tipped this rivalry in China's favour." The report says that after "a strong post-pandemic rebound in 2021", the US economy will grow by about 1.9% annually from 2022-24 and then slow to 1.6% in the years after that.

    By contrast the Chinese economy is tipped to grow by 5.7% annually until 2025, and 4.5% annually from 2026-2030. China's share of the world economy has risen from just 3.6% in 2000 to 17.8% now and the country will become a "high-income economy" by 2023, the report says.

    The Chinese economy is not only benefitting from having controlled Covid-19 early, but also aggressive policymaking targeting industries like advanced manufacturing, said CEBR deputy chairman Douglas McWilliams. He said: "They seem to be trying to have centralised control at one level, but quite a free market economy in other areas. And it's the free market bit that's helping them move forward particularly in areas like tech."

    But the average Chinese person will remain far poorer in financial terms than the average American even after China becomes the world's biggest economy, given that China's population is four times bigger.