Friday, August 1, 2014

Finally some signs of peace: Gaza unconditional cease-fire announced

After weeks of fighting and hundreds of deaths, some semblance of peace may be coming to the Middle East — at least temporarily.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Thursday that an unconditional humanitarian cease-fire was reached. It began at 8 a.m. Friday in Gaza (10 p.m. Thursday PT). It will last 72 hours — or three days — “unless extended,” the United Nations and United States said in a joint statement.
“During this time, the forces on the ground will remain in place,” the statement said.
Hamas accepted the cease-fire, a spokesman for the militant fundamentalist Islamic organization texted Thursday.
Moments after the announcement, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said it came “after careful deliberations with all the parties.”
The cease-fire is meant to allow humanitarian aid to reach civilians in Gaza caught up in the violence, some of whom have seen their neighborhoods hit hard and loved ones killed, hurt or displaced. The aid will include things like bringing in food, caring for the injured and burying the dead.
As all this is going on, Israeli and Palestinian officials should be meeting in Cairo to try to reach “a durable cease-fire,” the U.N. and U.S. statement said. “The parties will be able to raise issues of concern in these negotiations.”
Will they be able to reach a breakthrough?
The past doesn’t suggest such is likely, at least anything that will lead to a solution to issues that Israelis and Palestinians have been grappling with for decades. And the animosity between Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza, runs especially deep, with both sides accusing each other of putting each others civilians at risk.
The latest round of violence, which started earlier this summer, has been particularly bad. At least 1,432 people have been killed in Gaza during the current conflict, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. That’s more than the 1,417 Palestinians that the Palestinian Center for Human Rights said died in the 22 days of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, which spanned 2008 and 2009.
Those killed in the ongoing hostilities — which are tied to the Israeli military’s Operation Protective Edge — include 327 children and 166 women, the Gaza health ministry reports.
The bloodshed prompted the United Nations’ top human rights official to warn earlier that war crimes may have been committed, accusing Israel of “deliberate defiance of obligations (to) international law.”
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay referred to the shelling of homes, schools, hospitals and U.N. “premises,” while insisting, “We cannot allow this impunity, we cannot allow this lack of accountability to go on.”
“None of this appears, to me, to be accidental,” Pillay said.
The scale of the violence, as well as the international condemnation of it, could drive both sides to peace. But even if it does, some Palestinians — like Samy Bahraqe, who is in a U.N. camp after her home was destroyed — aren’t looking forward to the future.
“Life is meaningless,” Bahraqe said. “… What dreams in life can we have now that everything is ruined?”
More Israeli troops
The Israeli military said Thursday that it is calling up 16,000 additional reservists, bolstering its forces for its fight against Hamas in Gaza after a request for more ammunition from the United States.
The addition brings the total number of reservists Israel has called up since the beginning of the operation against Hamas to 86,000, a military spokeswoman said.
After more than three weeks of fighting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel would complete its goal of destroying Hamas’ network of tunnels with or without a cease-fire. Netanyahu said this is just the first phase of the demilitarization of Gaza.
While U.S. officials have called on Israel to do more to protect civilians, the United States has agreed to Israel’s request to resupply it with several types of ammunition, a U.S. defense official stated on condition of anonymity. It’s not an emergency sale, the official said. The items being bought include tank rounds and illumination rounds, the Pentagon said.
Shells land near U.N. school
As has happened day after day after day, Hamas continued to launch rockets Thursday — many of which Israel intercepted, though some did land.
One rocket hit inside a neighborhood in Qiryat Gat, which is about 20 miles from Gaza on the Israeli side of the border. One man was seriously injured and a car caught on fire, Israeli spokesman Mikey Rosenfeld said.
The man suffered from shrapnel injuries and has been taken to the hospital.
Another rocket hit in an open field.
Fifty-six Israeli soldiers have died, according to the military, and three civilians have been killed in Israel since the conflict began. Many more citizens have been forced to take shelter, as rockets rained overhead.
Still, the level of death and destruction doesn’t compare with what’s happening in Gaza, where health workers are struggling to deal with the relentless stream of dead and wounded.
“The hospitals in Gaza yesterday had a very difficult time. All the hospital morgues were flooding with dead bodies, and the injured were laying on hospital floors because of the lack of hospital beds,” said Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the Gaza Ministry of Health..
Gaza’s health ministry said that Thursday’s toll included 11 people — among them three children — killed by a strike on a house in the Nurisat camp in central Gaza. Another 46 were injured.
Meanwhile, a number of shells fell Thursday next to a U.N. school housing displaced residents — a day after another school-turned-shelter was hit by artillery killing more than a dozen people.
“The school itself was not targeted, it was nearby the school,” Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said about the Thursday incident.
No one was killed inside the school — the Beit Lahiya School for Girls, he said. Eight people were slightly injured.
Calls for civilian protection
The violence between Israel’s military and Palestinian militants is playing out against a backdrop of failed humanitarian cease-fire attempts, with militants firing rockets from Gaza into Israel and Israelis responding with airstrikes.
A large part of the criticism has been leveled at Israel and its airstrikes, which have bombarded Gaza.
Chile, Peru, Brazil and Ecuador have pulled their ambassadors out of Tel Aviv to protest the Israeli offensive.
Israel, in turn, has accused Hamas of hiding weapons, including rockets, in schools and launching attacks from near shelters.
‘This is a disaster’
The incessant attacks and counterattacks are taking a terrible toll on Gazans.
More than 219,000 Palestinians are packed into 86 shelters across Gaza, the U.N. said. That equals about 12% of all of Gaza’s population.
Clean water is inaccessible for most. And some 3,600 people have lost their homes.
“We cannot supply electricity” for hospitals, sewage treatment or domestic use, said Fathi al-Sheikh Khalil, deputy chairman of the Palestinian Energy Natural Resources Authority in Gaza. “This is a disaster.”
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it sent 43 trucks carrying 750 tons of food, medicine and supplies to Gaza on Wednesday. It also said it has sent fuel.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

13 Beautiful places in India to visit before you visit their foreign counterparts

A lot of people in India are travelling abroad for vacations, honeymoons and just for the sake of visiting beautiful new places in the world. But a lot of us seem to forget that what we seek abroad, we can find as easily in our own country. This doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t travel abroad, but it does mean that one should travel within India and witness all its marvels before we step out into the world. So here are a few places you should visit in India before you visit their counterparts abroad.

Here are my 13 must visits in India before you look for these beauties abroad.

1. Before you get lost in the beauty of Switzerland,

Find your piece of paradise in Kashmir.

2. Before you get drenched at the Niagara Falls,

Get drenched at the Chitrakoot Falls in Chhattisgarh.

3. before you surf the sands of the Sahara,

Come and explore the Thar.

4. Before you visit the Bonneville Salt Flats in America,

Visit the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat.

5. Before you take a trip to Madagascar,

Take a trip to the Andamans.

6. Before you chill on the beaches of Brazil,

Give the beaches of Goa a chance.

7. Before you go 'Woah' about the bridges in Taiwan,

Take a bow at the Howrah bridge in Kolkata.

8. Before you feast your eyes on the flowers in Antelope Valley in the U.S.A

Drink in the colours of the Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand.

9. Before you hear the roar of the African lion,

Be awed by the majesty of the Royal Bengal Tiger.

10. If its french architecture you crave for, why go all the way to Saigon in Vietnam,

When you can see it all in Pondicherry in India.

11. Before taking a stroll in a Japanese flower garden,

Take a romantic walk in Nainital.

12. Before you get dwarfed by the statue of Christ The Redeemer in Brazil,

Get dwarfed by Saint Thiruvalluvar's statue in Kanyakumari.

13. And before you take selfies at the Arc de Triomphe in France

Feel proud and take one at India Gate in New Delhi.

Which of these Indian locations you think have beaten their foreign competitors. Please leave your comments below.

Leonardo Dicaprio raises $25 million in star-studded gala to save endangered animals

He's one of Hollywood's most high-profile environmentalists.
And on Wednesday night, Leonardo DiCaprio put his money where his mouth with the inaugural gala for his namesake foundation.

The A-list actor was joined by dozens of celebrity guests on the French Riviera for event, which raised an amazing $25 million to help protect earth's last remaining wild areas.

"There has never been, since the time of dinosaurs, as many plant and animal species disappearing so quickly,” DiCaprio told the audience during his opening remarks. “We must make efforts to protect rich biodiversity." 

The host of the evening added, "The wild species that depend on us to protect their habitat, like Tigers whose numbers have plummeted to under 3,200 left in the wild, or African elephants, who are being slaughtered at a rate of over 30,000 a year for their ivory tusks — they have no voice. We must be their ambassadors. We must be their protectors. We must stop their slaughter".

The event included an auction of artwork from artists like Damien Hirst and Pablo Picasso, DiCaprio's own Harley Davidson motorcycle signed by Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro and Bono, and rock n’ roll memorabilia available to 500 guests.

In attendance were names like Selena Gomez, Joan Collins, Petra Nemcova, Cara Delevingne, Jared Leto, Marion Cotillard, Robin Thicke and Bono (who auctioned off his personal guitar for $1 million). It’s been reported that tickets to the event cost between between $7,000 and $130,000. The proceeds went toward the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which funds projects and programs to help save endangered and threatened species around the world.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Cholesterol-free foods could kill you!

Did you know that cholesterol free foods can actually lead to higher cholesterol levels because they have a component known as trans fat? 
This type of fat along with saturated fats is a recipe for disaster. Both the compounds require a large amount of processing by the body and can lead to higher levels of LDL or bad cholesterol which then go and clog arteries leading to heart disease, infertility, raise your chances of strokes and according to certain experts even Alzheimer’s.
What is LDL cholesterol? Why is it the ‘bad boy’ of the cholesterol world?
LDL also known as low density lipoprotein is actually simply a carrier of one type of cholesterol. Since the carrier when combined with cholesterol can cause severe conditions like heart disease it has been labelled as the ‘bad boy’ of cholesterol carriers.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Real Madrid sign James Rodriguez

Real Madrid have signed World Cup Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez from French league club Monaco.
The 23-year-old Colombia forward has agreed a six-year deal at the Bernabeu.
The reported fee of about 80million euros (£63m) makes Rodriguez the fourth most expensive transfer of all time after Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez.
A Real Madrid statement read: 'Real Madrid have reached an agreement with Monaco for the transfer of James Rodriguez, who will join the club for the next six seasons.

The player will be presented today, Tuesday 22 July, at 20:00 (Spanish time), in the Santiago Bernabeu's presidential box.

'Following that, James Rodriguez will take his first steps on the Santiago Bernabeu's pitch wearing the Real Madrid shirt and will attend the media in the press room.
"I'm very happy," Rodriguez said as he left the clinic. "Everything went well."

Monaco vice-chairman Vadim Vasilyev said his club had no plans to sell Rodriguez, but were proud to be part of "one of the most significant transfers in football history".
Vasilyev said: "The time came when the solution of a transfer was considered to be the most beneficial solution for all parties."
Rodriguez's goal against Uruguay in the round of 16 at the World Cup, when he chested the ball down and then volleyed it in, was voted the best of the tournament. He scored a total of six times.

Rodriguez will strengthen Madrid's offensive lineup by joining Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema in attack.
The Colombia forward will likely wear the No. 10 jersey, vacated when Mesut Ozil left Madrid for Arsena.
So who has the upper hand now, with Barcelona already having splashed the cash on Liverpool's Luis Suarez for a reported amount of 75million. Lets wait and watch to see what unfolds in the coming days.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Malaysian passenger plane crashes in Ukraine near Russian border

A Malaysia Airlines passenger flight has crashed with 295 people on board, according to a Russian news agency. 

According to the reports, a Boeing 777 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and was shot down in the Donetsk region. the plane lost contact at about 4:20 p.m. Ukraine time and that the airplane was brought down by a "ground-to-air missile

The crash comes just months after Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared in March. 

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the jet may have been shot down. 

"We do not exclude that the plane was shot down and confirm that the Ukraine Armed Forces did not fire at any targets in the sky," Mr Poroshenko said in a statement posted on the president's website. 

Separatist leader Aleksander Borodai blamed the crash on the Ukrainian government's forces. "Apparently, it's a passenger airliner indeed, truly shot down by the Ukrainian Air Force," Mr Borodai stated.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Neymar coming to Kerala for Ayurveda treatment?

Now this is some news. The TV channels in Kerala Tuesday went berserk, saying injured Brazilian footballer Neymar was likely to come to the state to undergo ayurveda treatment for his injured back.

The Brazilian international who broke a bone in his back from a reckless challenge in the World Cup quater final game against Colombia, has been ruled out for the rest of the World Cup.

The TV channels said the Brazilian Football Federation has got in touch with Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. However, Chandy has stated that nothing of that sort has happened.

He said there was a request from football fans in Kerala, asking the government to put up a proposal for treating Neymar using ayurveda. "I spoke to Health Minister V.S. Sivakumar, who called up leading doctors of the state-run ayurveda college here. They got details of Neymar's injury through the internet and (were) studying what sort of treatment should be adopted."

"We were planning to tell the media about this tomorrow (Wednesday). But now that everything is out in the media, with distortions, the health minister will tell you all." "Please don't get it wrong, we are only going to decide whether to put up a proposal to Neymar whether he wants our treatment," Chandy said.