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  1. Jelena Ostapenko storms into second round of Australian Open 2018 MELBOURNE: The stark contrast in form between last year?s two first-time grand slam champions continued as Sloane Stephens was bundled out in the first round of the Australian Open, while Jelena Ostapenko stormed into round two on Monday. American Stephens enjoyed a fairytale run to win the U.S. Open last year ranked 83rd in the world but has not won a match since -- a run that continued with a 2-6 7-6(2) 6-2 defeat by China?s Zhang Shuai on Margaret Court Arena. Not that the 24-year-old was getting too down on herself. ?Even though I lost, I?m not too sad. Everything is good. Relax, everybody. It will be okay. Don?t worry. We will get back to having fun soon,? she told reporters. ?Just give me a little bit to regroup and we will be okay.? Unlike Stephens the 20-year-old Ostapenko, who blazed to the French Open title last June to become Latvia?s first grand slam champion, has suffered no such hangover. She backed up her Paris exploits to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals and third round in New York, and looked every inch a title contender in a 6-1 6-4 defeat of Italian veteran Francesca Schiavone to open proceedings on Rod Laver Arena. Ostapenko, who had an edition of 55,000 stamps printed in her honour last year, all of which were sold in a day, trailed in the second set against the 37-year-old 2010 French Open champion, but clicked into gear to move through. Predictable defeat The seventh seed had lost in the first round of both her tournaments so far this year, but back on one of the sport?s grandest stages, she shone. ?I really enjoy to play on all center courts, especially when there is a lot of people watching and supporting me, I really love that feeling,? Ostapenko, who reached the third round here last year, told reporters. ?Of course it?s tough, especially after winning at the age of 20. Everybody wants to beat you,? she said. ?But on the other side, I have nothing to lose. I already won the grand slam. I just enjoy every match and show my best.? The 24-year-old Stephens lacks the firepower of Ostapenko and while her defeat by Zhang was classified as a first-day surprise, it was quite predictable against an accurate opponent who just missed out on a seeding. Sloane Stephens was bundled out in the first round of the Australian Open Stephens was assured in winning the first set and battled back from a break down in the second and served for the match at 5-4, only to be broken and dragged into a tiebreak. Zhang, who reached the quarter-finals in 2016 as a qualifier, dominated the decider with her pinpoint groundstrokes to send the 13th seed spinning out. Stephens was phlegmatic afterwards, laughing off questions about her loss of form. ?I wouldn?t call them tough times. Everyone is so depressed and so down,? she said. ?I will have the best Instagram picture when I finally snap this losing streak. ?Tennis is definitely a roller coaster. But I have learned to just not panic.?
  2. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) greets his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi (L) at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv on July 4, 2017-Photo: File (AFP) NEW DELHI: Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in New Delhi on Sunday for the first visit by an Israeli leader to India in 15 years, promising closer ties with the regional power. Netanyahu and his wife Sara were welcomed at the international airport in New Delhi by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who made history in July when he became the first Indian leader to visit Israel. "This visit is an opportunity to enhance cooperation with a global economic, security, technology and tourism power," Netanyahu said in a statement ahead of his visit. "Indian Prime Minister Modi is a close friend of Israel and of mine." Modi -- who will accompany Netanyahu for large parts of his five-day tour -- embraced the Israeli prime minister on the tarmac before the pair set off to pay homage at a war memorial in the Indian capital. "Your visit to India is historic and special. It will further cement the close friendship between our nations," Modi said on Twitter. Netanyahu will be only the second Israeli PM to visit India and the first since Ariel Sharon in 2003. He is accompanied by the largest-ever business delegation to travel with an Israeli leader. Executives in technology, agriculture and defence are among those making the journey as Tel Aviv pursues deals with Asia´s third-largest economy. The build up to Netanyahu´s visit was soured this month when India called off a deal to buy 8,000 anti-tank guided missiles from Israel´s state-owned defence contractor Rafael. The Indian army and the government are discussing ways to revive the $500 million order, which was scrapped when the country´s own state-run defence contractor offered to build similar missiles locally. Israel is a major weapons supplier to India, exporting an average of $1 billion of military equipment each year, but Modi wants to end India´s status as the world´s top defence importer. Netanyahu and Modi kicked off the visit with a stop at a memorial to Indian soldiers who fought in World War I to help liberate the Israeli city of Haifa. The Israeli leader will later meet with Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj before a private dinner with Modi. Netanyahu expects to sign new agreements in fields of energy, aviation and cinema production, with stops at the Taj Mahal, a visit to Modi´s home state of Gujarat and meetings with Bollywood luminaries in Mumbai. But he will also make an emotional visit to a Jewish centre targeted in the 2008 Mumbai attacks during his tour, a symbolic gesture to India´s tiny and shrinking Jewish community. Netanyahu will accompany 11-year-old Moshe Holtzberg as the boy returns for the first time to the house where his parents were killed in the attacks that left 166 people dead.
  3. The moment we hear someone say Gucci, we instantly think of the luxurious and swanky bags, shoes, wallets, watches and perfumes. But, imagine someone saying “Oh, I am hungry, let's head to Gucci?” Can you relate to that? Probably not! But, if you are a foodie and travelling to Italy, chances are that you won't be freaked out by this because the luxury brand is now entering into the hospitality industry. Clearly, Gucci has got us covered from 'haute couture' to 'hot cuisine'. © Gucci The 'Cradle of the Renaissance' aka Florence in Italy, is now home to Gucci's maiden restaurant 'Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura'. This restaurant is the brain child of Gucci's Creative Director Alessandro Michele and Michelin-star chef Massimo Bottura. This 50-seater restaurant is located as Gucci Garden in the historic Palazzo della Mercanzia in Florence, which also houses galleries, museum, and a boutique that displays exclusive Gucci products. This all-day museum restaurant is said to be designed by Italian fashion designer and creative director, Michele. © Gucci What's more, this restaurant serves a lavish menu, which includes Italian classics that will take ages for us to pronounce (unless you say it while having food in your mouth). Some of the dishes served here include Parmigiano Reggiano tortellini, buttery cacao e pepe, Peruvian tostadas, and pork belly buns and piña colada for dessert. Each dish is priced around 20 to 30 euros (1550 to 2320 INR approx). The cuisine speaks volumes about Bottura's eccentric take on classic Italian dishes and the quirky taste he brings to the table. © Gucci Bottura reportedly said in a statement, “Travelling the world, out kitchen interacts with everything we see, hear and taste.” He further added, “The restaurant is a reminder that Florence has always been a centre of cultural exchange, particularly during the Renaissance.” Gucci is not the first luxury brand to venture into fine dining business. Before Gucci, brands like Ralph Lauren, Versace, Giorgio Armani and Tiffany & Co. have already ventured into the business of fine dining. © Gucci Well, this restaurant deserves to be on our bucket list. First, because it's Gucci; and second, because of its larger than life cuisine, which is totally Instagram worthy. Folks just FYI, Valentine's Day is exactly a month away. So, while we don't expect you to take your lady love for a date to Gucci Osteria, you can at least tag her in the pictures instead and show how much you care! Source: Condé Nast Traveler
  4. A wild wolf has been found in the northern Belgian region of Flanders for the first time in more than a century, an environmental group said Saturday. Photo: AFP file BRUSSELS: A wild wolf has been found in the northern Belgian region of Flanders for the first time in more than a century, an environmental group said Saturday. "Our country was the only one in continental Europe to have not been visited by a wolf," since the animal began recolonising the continent, Landschap said. Overhunting, industrialisation and urban sprawl progressively led to the disappearance of the wolf from most of Western Europe since the beginning of the 20th century. Since the Bern Convention of 1979, the wolf has gone from public enemy to a protected species as "a fundamental element of our natural European heritage". In some countries, like Romania and Poland where there have always been wolves, people adapt to treat an attack on sheep "like an accident, like a flock that falls into a ravine", says Farid Benhammou, a specialist on predators. But in the new zones of wolf colonisation ? in France and in some regions of Italy and Spain ? there are major tensions, with farmers particularly unhappy at their re-emergence. The wolf detected in Flanders in early January had an electronic tracker collar around its neck which allowed it to be identified as coming from neighbouring Germany. The same animal had been spotted around Christmas in the Netherlands, according to Landschap. "In recent days the wolf has stayed near the Flemish town of Beringen and the military base at Leopoldsburg. The animal has covered 500 kilometres (300 miles) in ten days," the group said. In 2011 hidden cameras picked up images at night of what was very likely a wolf in the Ardennes region of southern Belgium. But without any DNA traces, or any further appearances, the sighting could not be confirmed. Groups in support of biodiversity welcomed the latest news of a wolf detected in Belgium, calling on the government to adopt a strategy to encourage the return of the species to the country on a more permanent basis, including compensation to farmers whose livestock are attacked.
  5. Root is among 282 foreign players looking to play in this year´s big-paying Indian Premier League NEW DELHI: England Test skipper and star batsman Joe Root is among 282 foreign players looking to play in this year´s big-paying Indian Premier League, the cricket board announced Saturday. The player auction for the 11th IPL Twenty20 tournament is set for January 27-28 in Bangalore, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said. Some 1,122 players will be on the auction block for the eight teams to bid for. "The list that has been sent out to the eight IPL franchises has 281 capped players, 838 uncapped players, including 778 Indians and three players from the associate nations," said a BCCI release. It predicted "a fierce bidding war" for Indian stars Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh, with spinners Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Ajinkya Rahane, Kuldeep Yadav and openers Lokesh Rahul and Murali Vijay also going under the hammer. Foreign stars will include Root, Ben Stokes, Chris Gayle, Chris Lynn, Eoin Morgan and Australian pace bowlers Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins. While Root is a new IPL entrant, England stars like Stokes and limited-overs captain Morgan will be in running to hit the jackpot. England allrounder Stokes, who missed the Ashes after being suspended for a pub brawl, was signed for a record $2.16m by Rising Pune Supergiant last year. South African stars Hashim Amla, who hit two centuries for Kings XI Punjab last season, Faf du Plessis and Morne Morkel will also be expecting high bids. India captain Virat Kohli will pick up the IPL´s largest-ever salary -- $2.7 million -- in this year´s tournament after his team Royal Challengers Bangalore retained the star player.
  6. Friends is a classic TV show, no one can deny that. You can watch any episode at any point on time and still be very entertained. I know I'm not the only one always watching the reruns on Comedy Central these days. Recently, it was voted as the greatest sitcom of all time, and honestly, no surprises there. But, you know what's surprising? There are still so many people in the world who haven't seen even a single episode of 'Friends'. This is all of us when someone tells us they've never seen 'Friends'. It's been 24 years since the show premiered, and finally, on New Year's Eve Netflix released all 10 seasons for streaming in the UK. The One with the Show Everyone's Been Asking Us to Add. — Netflix UK & Ireland (@NetflixUK) December 30, 2017 And, people have a lot of thoughts. Let's see everyone's first impressions of the greatest sitcom of all time, shall we? Fair warning – This may make you start another binge-watch session of the entire show. So first things first... my god the hair — Daniel Faulkner (@TheDanFaulkner) January 5, 2018 Accurate description? Watching Friends for the first time ever. Like Chandler and Rachel, Hate Ross, Joey creeps me out, Phoebe's fun in a scary way. And why does everyone mock Monica for trying to keep a clean, organized home? — Ellen Natalie (@EllenNatalie87) January 7, 2018 Well, Ross just sucks. Watching through Friends for the first time. Ross is a monster. What is Rachel seeing in him — Bee Wakefield (@Bee_Wakefield) January 5, 2018 Just really sucks. I'm watching Friends all the way through for the first time and Ross is an absolute ass. WHY DO PEOPLE LIKE HIM? — Becky ð¾ (@Blupye) January 4, 2018 But, they were just on a break. I'm watching friends for the first time and for fucks sake can we just end the Ross/Rachel thing either way? Even when he's getting married to someone else we gotta do it? — Etruscan she-wolf (@chingchongcw) January 3, 2018 There's appreciation for the famous clothes. watching #friends properly for the first time.....I just want all the outfits minus the awful shoes — alisha (@alishajordanXO) January 9, 2018 And obviously, Monica. no offence but Monica Geller deserves Rachel Green level appreciation and attention. — minnie (@minmakesmusic) January 4, 2018 People caught onto that early. Watching Friends on Netflix and it's basically just nipples — Big Ron Bentham OBE (@UncleRBenson) January 9, 2018 We want answers. Watching FRIENDS on Netflix and I have questions: 1) was there no room in the wardrobe budget to purchase bras? 2) how cold were those sets? — Blake Northcott™ â­ï¸ (@BlakeNorthcott) October 31, 2017 Yay, more hate for Ross. Watching Friends for the first time n all I can say is that Ross is an absolute turnip — ⣠Annie ⣠(@justmagica_l) January 6, 2018 Same. Watching Friends with the boyfriend for the first time. His reaction when Ross says “Rachel” instead of “Emily” ðððð — Ellyn Tyler (@MissEllynphant) November 26, 2017 That's just a normal night for me. There's an episode of Friends where a group of 26 year olds are shocked that they drank 5 bottles of wine between 7 people over an entire evening and honestly that's way more unrealistic than the massive apartment thing. — Rebecca Manning Reid (@RebeccaCNReid) January 9, 2018 What kind of monster skips the into to Friends? Why, when I'm watching Friends, does Netflix ask if I'd like to 'Skip the intro'? Erm, no I want to sing along and do the clap to the intro like the melt I am?? — connor. (@connxrriding) January 9, 2018 You just gotta do it. If you don't drop everything to do the ðð¼ðð¼ðð¼ðð¼ in the friends theme song why even bother watching it ? — Alli Hutchison (@alli__hutchison) January 10, 2018 And, all of us summed up in one tweet. New year, same episodes of Friends I keep rewatching — Netflix Canada (@Netflix_CA) January 1, 2018
  7. DUNEDIN: New Zealand won the toss and elected to bat first in the third ODI at Dunedin on Saturday. The hosts have opted to not change its team combination for today?s match, while, opener Fakhar Zaman after recovering from his injury has made a comeback in place of Imamul Haq. It?s a must-win game for Pakistan to keep their chances of winning the series as the Kiwis have already won two matches of the five-match series. Separately, New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson has called on his bowlers to be more accurate in the final overs. Though New Zealand are already 2-0 in the five-match series but Williamson is not completely happy, especially with the bowling to lower-order batsmen. Pakistan rocketed from 141 for seven in the 37th over to make 246 for nine in game two, repeating a pattern that has been all too common in recent seasons where New Zealand have let the score get away on them after a solid start. "We learnt a few lessons from the last game," Williamson said Friday. "They bat very deep, the Pakistani side, and that is a sign of a good team," he added." "To see their lower order come out and put together a partnership that gave them a total which could have been a tough chase... it´s important that we learn from that."
  8. KARACHI: Karachi Film Society announced on Friday to hold the first Pakistan International Film Festival, scheduled from March 29, 2018 to April 1, 2018, in Karachi. The PIFF is an initiative of the Karachi Film Society, which hosted a press conference here today. According to the press release, the festival will comprise film premieres and special screenings in the categories of feature length films, documentaries and short films. The statement said that the PIFF management is inviting the overseas delegates of filmmakers, artists and professionals, and expects many renowned names to grace the festival. The festival will hold workshops for young aspiring filmmakers where they can learn the craft from renowned mentors. The press release said that a special mobile screening programme is also included in which the PIFF teams will show selected films to young audiences at different locations of Karachi. The special panel discussions on women?s role in Film/ TV and seminars on the Pakistani film industry will also be an integral part of the agenda, said the press release.
  9. The demand for more Netflix Original Series has been increasing over the last few years because let's face it, most of them are insanely good. And Netflix, being the excellent streaming service that it is, has been giving in to these demands. Venturing into different, unexplored genres is what Netflix has been trying to succeed at and its latest series is just another attempt at it. And from what we have seen till now, we have to say that it has done a good job. © Netflix 'Altered Carbon' is based on the classic cyberpunk noir novel by Richard K. Morgan. Set more than 300 years in the future, the series will portray a society which has been transformed by new technology. But before you dismiss it as another sci-fi series, read further and think again. It is set in a world where death is no longer permanent as consciousness can be digitized and transferred from one human body to another. The series would revolve around Takeshi Kovacs (played by both Joel Kinnaman and Will Yun Lee), a trained 'Envoy' soldier whose mind was imprisoned "on ice", for centuries after he survived a defeat in an uprising on another planet. © Netflix He wakes up again 250 years later on Earth as he is resurrected by a wealthy man named Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy) to investigate Bancroft's own death. © Netflix Bancroft was killed and the last automatic backup of his stack was made hours before his death. As a result of which he has no memory of who killed him and why. While police ruled it a suicide, Bancroft is sure he was murdered and wants Kovacs to find out the truth. © Netflix The story might be mind-boggling and even confusing for some, but the trailer shows some stunning action sequences in a futuristic world, offering a little more clarity. © Netflix Netflix describes the series as an "intriguing story of murder, love, ***, and betrayal." We aren't so sure about the 'love' part but the trailer has got us hooked. Have a look: The best part is that we don't have to wait much longer. All 10 episodes of Altered Carbon will begin streaming on Netflix on February 2, 2018.
  10. Samsung just made everyone's dream come true by making a television that is literally as big as a wall. Samsung befittingly calls it “The Wall” and it is essentially a 4K TV that is 146-inches in size. It uses a brand new display technology called “MicroLED” to produce video. © BCCL The only way a TV of this size was possible is because it is modular. According to Samsung, "users can add or remove modules to make their TV bigger or smaller, in any configuration, removing previous limitations on screen size, with zero impact on performance of the display.” MicroLED has many advantages over the traditional OLED as each micro-LED can emit its own light. This essentially means that it does not require any backlight and in turn creates deeper and crisper colours. It also manages to create deeper blacks than normal OLED panels. These MicroLEDs can achieve 2,000-nit brightness, higher than any other display out there and is ideal for 4K and HDR content. The resolution of the TV was not confirmed by Samsung but a good look at the screen shows that it supports 4K content. © Samsung Samsung said, ”the modular screen can be used to create a wall-sized display, or simply let consumers increase their traditional screen size to suit a new room in their homes.” At the moment “The Wall” is just a concept, however, Samsung has confirmed that it will be making this technology available to the public as early as this spring. It's easy to assume that this TV is not your run of the mill device that you'll find at a store near you, as modular TVs are set to attract very expensive home theatre installations. © BCCL Apart from the fact that the modular TV will ship this year, Samsung has not detailed pricing for their new product. However, we can assume that “The Wall” will cost at least $100,000, simply based on how one can customise it and how hard it would be to manufacture.
  11. Chinese manufacturer Vivo teamed up with Synaptics to launch the first ever device to have an in-display fingerprint scanner at CES 2018. If you remember, last year was filled with rumours about in-display fingerprint scanners, especially about Apple, coming up with an in-display fingerprint scanner in special anniversary edition iPhone. The 6-inch bezel-less smartphone, which doesn't appear to have a name yet, make use of the Clear ID FS9500 sensor within an OLED display. Vivo, which says the phone will enter a full consumer production run, has positioned the sensor in the most logical place, where Home buttons once resided. Synaptics has said the sensor takes just 0.7 seconds to authenticate the fingerprint, and that seems to have played out in various hands-on tests at CES. © Vivo This latest fingerprint scanning technology enables users to unlock their smartphone through one-touch fingerprint scanning directly on the smartphone display while solving the industry's challenge of providing high screen-to-device display ratio and positioning of the fingerprint scanner. Last year Samsung was forced to move the fingerprint scanner to the back in a very uncomfortable position because the front had to accommodate the huge glass display. We saw the same problem arise in the iPhone X, though Apple ultimately decided to skip Touch ID. Users can press the fingerprint graphic on the screen to perform unlocking, payment and other operations. When fingerprint recognition is not required, the UI will be invisible and will not disrupt the overall visual experience. © AndroidHeadlines Synaptics told Digital Trends the sensor is equal to, if not more secure than a sensor not set in the display. Vivo hasn't tested it with mobile payment systems yet, though, so we can't say whether it will support any at launch. Android Pay is not available in China, Vivo's main market - hence it not being an immediate high priority. "With our efforts in extensive consumer research and long-term R&D investment, Vivo is well positioned to pioneer the development of fingerprint scanning technology. We first presented a prototype of our fingerprint scanning solution at MWC Shanghai 2017 based on an ultrasonic sensor, and have remained committed to realizing our vision for future smartphones," said Alex Feng, Senior Vice President of Vivo. The company said that it will announce the availability of its first smartphone with an in-display fingerprint scanner in early 2018, though a date was not specified.
  12. CHERNOBYL: At ground zero of Ukraine´s Chernobyl tragedy, workers in orange vests are busy erecting hundreds of dark-coloured panels as the country gets ready to launch its first solar plant to revive the abandoned territory. The new one-megawatt power plant is located just a hundred metres from the new "sarcophagus", a giant metal dome sealing the remains of the 1986 Chernobyl accident, the worst nuclear disaster in the world. "This solar power plant can cover the needs of a medium-sized village", or about 2,000 flats, Yevgen Varyagin, the head of the Ukrainian-German company Solar Chernobyl which carried out the project, told AFP. The solar installation is to go on stream within weeks, the company says. The group has spent one million euros on the structure which has about 3,800 photovoltaic panels installed across an area of 1.6 hectares, about the size of two football fields, and hopes the investment will pay for itself off within seven years. Eventually, the region is to produce 100 times the initial solar power, the company says. The amount of sunshine "here is the same as in the south of Germany," says Varyagin. Ukraine, which has stopped buying natural gas from Russia in the last two years, is seeking to exploit the potential of the Chernobyl uninhabited exclusion zone that surrounds the damaged nuclear power plant and cannot be farmed. Return of industry Reactor Number Four of the Chernobyl plant exploded April 26, 1986, and the fallout contaminated up to three-quarters of Europe, according to some estimates, especially hitting Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Following the disaster, Soviet authorities evacuated hundreds of thousands of people and this vast territory, over 2,000 square kilometres wide, has remained abandoned. The plant continued to operate the remaining reactors, the last of which was shut down in 2000, ending industrial activity in the area. People cannot return to live in the zone for "more than 24,000 years", according to the Ukrainian authorities, who nevertheless argue that a prudent industrial use can be possible again. "This territory obviously cannot be used for agriculture, but it is quite suitable for innovative and scientific projects," Ostap Semerak, Ukrainian Minister of the Environment and one of the promoters of placing solar projects in Chernobyl, told AFP in 2016. The installation of a huge dome above the ruins of the damaged reactor just over a year ago made the realisation of the solar project possible. Funded by the international community, it covered the old concrete structure which had become cracked and unstable, to ensure greater isolation of the highly radioactive magma in the reactor. As a result, radiation near the plant plummeted to just one-tenth of previous levels, according to official figures. Even so, precautions are still necessary: the solar panels are fixed onto a base of concrete blocks rather than placed on the ground. The soil remains contaminated, explains Varyagin, whose group is a joint venture between the Ukrainian firm Rodina Energy Group and Germany´s Enerparc AG. "We can not drill or dig here because of the strict safety rules," he says. Special price Last year the consortium completed a 4.2-megawatt solar power plant in the irradiated zone in neighbouring Belarus, not far from Chernobyl. Ukrainian authorities offered investors nearly 2,500 hectares (25 square kilometres) for potential construction of solar power plants in Chernobyl. Kiev has received about 60 proposals from foreign companies - including American, Chinese, Danish and French - who are considering participating in future solar developments in the area, according to Olena Kovalchuk, spokeswoman of the State Administration for the zone of Chernobyl. Investors are attracted by the price that Ukraine has set for solar electricity, which "exceeds on average by 50 percent of that in Europe", Oleksandr Kharchenko, executive director of the Energy Industry Research Center, told AFP. He adds that cheap land and the proximity of the power grids makes Chernobyl particularly attractive, though there is still no rush of western investors to the region. Safety concerns and Ukraine´s notorious bureaucracy and corruption has put some off. "It is very important to have guarantees that working in the Chernobyl zone will be safe for those who will be doing it," says Anton Usov, adviser to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The bank does not currently foresee any investment to Ukraine in this field.
  13. Skiing is not a common sport in our country and we seldom hear about people indulging or learning the sport, leave alone winning medals for it. But all that is now in the past, thanks to the brilliant talent house called Aanchal Thakur, a girl from Manali who has created history by winning a bronze medal for India in Turkey. Finally something unexpected happened. My first ever international medal.ð Federation International Ski Race (FIS). At the end turkey served me well ðð. PC- @alwyncreed #strangethingshappen #skiteamindia #onehimachal #himalayangirls — Aanchal Thakur (@alleaanchal) January 9, 2018 She won the medal in the slalom race category at the Alpine Ejder 3200 Cup which was organised by Skiing's international governing body in Erzurum in Turkey. In an interview with TOI, she explained how elated she felt. “Months of training have finally borne fruit. I started well and managed to take a good lead, which helped later in getting the third-place finish.” One needs to consider that the infrastructure for winter sports is not a known thing in our country so this win is obviously special. “I hope Aanchal's medal helps our cause (in getting financial support from the Centre). I want to see my daughter and son represent the country in the 2018 Winter Olympics. The Centre only funds travel and logistics from one Olympic to another. Rest of the time, you have to fend for yourself,” her father added. congratualtions poured in for Aanchal and even PM Modi sen her his best wishes. Well done @alleaanchal for winning an international medal in skiing! The entire nation is ecstatic on your historic accomplishment at the FIS International Skiing Competition in Turkey. Wishing you the very best for your future endeavours. — Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 10, 2018 Everyone is proud and is elated with this victory. Congrats Aanchal Thakur @alleaanchal for the Slalom Skiing Bronze in the FIS International Skiing Competition in Turkey. India opens account by a first ever medal in skiing ð Well done! @jairamthakurbjp — Rajyavardhan Rathore (@Ra_THORe) January 10, 2018 Congratulations #AanchalThakur for winning India's first ever international medal in #skiing. Proud of your achievement! — Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) January 10, 2018 Let's hope for a bright future for the budding star and wish that this achievement inspires other youngsters to follow suit.
  14. There have been very few instances where the whole of internet has come together and appreciated someone winning an award, and no one is mad that some other person didn't win. One of the biggest examples of that can be Leonardo DiCaprio finally winning an Oscar last year, after years and years of waiting. And, another one happened last night at the 75th Golden Globe awards when Aziz Ansari won Best Performance by an actor in a television Series – musical or comedy for 'Master of None'. Everyone is just ecstatic about his win, and the best part is that Aziz's first ever Golden Globe win is truly a historic one. By bagging this award, he became the first Asian actor to win a Golden Globe award for that category. © AP Over the years, he has become a prominent name in America with his long list of amazing performances, but the actor is still humble as ever, and that was proved by his own surprise at his win. He said, “I genuinely didn't think I would win because all the websites said I was going to lose.” While accepting the award, he also added, “I'm glad we won this one because it would've really sucked to lose two of these in a row; it would've been a really shitty moment for me, but this is nice.” And the winner of Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy at the #GoldenGlobes is... @azizansari for @MasterofNone! — Golden Globe Awards (@goldenglobes) January 8, 2018 Previously, he was nominated for the same award, but unfortunately lost. But, his loss was our gain since we got this iconic and hilarious picture. © NBC Finally winning an award for 'Master of None' is probably very special for him since the highly acclaimed TV series is based on his own life and follows the experiences and struggles of an actor in New York. Making this incredible achievement even better is the wholesome response from everyone. People are genuinely happy for him and can't stop congratulating him for making history. What A Humble Guy! One of the few times I've seen @azizansari nervous on stage. I think the dude was truly shocked and surprised he won. Nice to see that genuine emotion. #GoldenGlobes — Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) January 8, 2018 Yes, He Is. That's our boy! ð @azizansari #GoldenGlobes — Parks and Recreation (@parksandrecnbc) January 8, 2018 Kal Penn And His Mom Couldn't Be Happier. This text from Mom was great. Congrats @azizansari! #GoldenGlobes — Kal Penn (@kalpenn) January 8, 2018 All Of Us Are This Gif Right Now. Aziz Ansari is the first Asian male actor to win a 'Best Actor' #GoldenGlobes in Television, and the second Asian 'Best Actor' winner (Ben Kingsley was 1st) in the history of the award. No Asian woman has ever won a 'Best Actress' #GoldenGlobe in any category. — Nancy Wang Yuen (@nancywyuen) January 8, 2018 #Blessed how are we blessed with @azizansari & @donaldglover ? — zacky ren (@zacenski) January 8, 2018 Congratulations to my man @azizansari on his historic win! #GoldenGlobes — aasif mandvi (@aasif) January 8, 2018 Finally. i nearly broke out in tears when @azizansari won that golden globe. finally, some south asian sort of muslim representation. finally finally finally. — nimrað (@nimraa222) January 8, 2018 What A Quote! My favorite @azizansari quote in honor of his well deserved #GoldenGlobes win. — ilyse hogue (@ilyseh) January 8, 2018 Yay! Yessssss @azizansari it's about time!!! — haydeeeeeee (@moodyfoodygrl) January 8, 2018 Truly an icon. "I really didn't think I was going to win because all the websites said I was going to lose??" @azizansari , an ICON #GoldenGlobes — P⨠(@keenkylo) January 8, 2018 And, as for us, we just have one thing to say to Aziz now –
  15. Macron plans to seek a 'strategic partnership' with Beijing, notably on terrorism and climate change PARIS: In Mandarin, Emmanuel Macron´s name is rendered "Makelong", or "the horse vanquishes the dragon" -- an encouraging image for the French president as he heads to China on Sunday hoping to forge closer ties with President Xi Jinping. During the three-day trip which begins Monday, Macron plans to seek a "strategic partnership" with Beijing, notably on terrorism and climate change, an official in the president´s office said. In particular, France is hoping Beijing will join it in playing a decisive role in implementing the Paris accord to fight climate change after the US pullout pledged by President Donald Trump. Although China is the world´s biggest polluter, it is also the biggest investor in clean energy technologies. Macron also said this week that China had a key leadership role to play in easing the crisis provoked by North Korea´s nuclear programme, following Trump´s escalating war of words with Kim Jong-Un. "The ambition of the Chinese leadership is to persuade the French president to position himself on issues like North Korea as a ´go-between´, defending ´dialogue´ against the more aggressive posture of the United States, and to implicitly recognise by his choices the pre-eminence of China in the region," analyst Valerie Niquet said. Macron will also ask Beijing to help support the G5 Sahel force being created with forces from Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania, tasked with fighting jihadist forces spread across an area of desert the size of Europe. China has already become a key business partner across Africa, with total investments reaching $31.6 billion in 2016 in projects including railways, highways, ports and power stations. They are part of the extensive network of transport links Xi is developing as part of his "One Belt, One Road" initiative for increasing trade. ´Mutual confidence´ The state visit will be the first by a European leader since China´s Communist Party conference in October, which reinforced Xi´s grip on power as he was formally handed a second term. China has praised Macron´s decision to make it the first Asian nation he visits. "We hope this visit will reinforce mutual political confidence and strategic communication," China´s foreign minister Wang Yi said this week. Macron will be travelling with a delegation of business executives hoping for a bonanza of contracts, including from AccorHotels, LVMH, Airbus and BNP Paribas. "We will be signing an exceptional number of strategic deals, about 50," the official said, including sales of Airbus planes and Safran jet engines. State nuclear giant Areva is also negotiating a contract to build a reprocessing site for radioactive waste. France is pushing to "rebalance" its trade relations with China. Although China is France´s second-biggest supplier of goods, it ranks eighth in terms of the top buyers of French goods. That leaves France with a Chinese trade deficit of 30 billion euros ($36 billion), its biggest with any trading partner. "Paris intends to seek a rebalancing and market access, for example in financial services," the official at the Elysee palace said, at a time when major French banks are hoping to tap into the rapidly expanding Chinese market. The two leaders also plan to announce a French-China investment fund worth 1 billion euros which would help midsize companies, mainly from France, get a foothold in China. Museums and a manifesto Accompanied by his wife Brigitte, Macron will begin his visit in the northern city of Xi´an, "an important symbol because it is the cradle of Chinese civilisation, and the starting point for the ancient Silk Roads," the Elysee official said. After visiting the terracotta statues of warriors near the city excavated from the tomb of emperor Qin Shihuangdi, who ruled from 221 to 210 BC, Macron will give a speech on the future of France-China relations. An agreement is also expected to be finalised for a temporary exhibition in Shanghai by Paris´s Pompidou Centre for modern art. Not least, Macron will also be exporting his "Revolution" -- the campaign manifesto published in 2016 ahead of his sweep to the presidency. The Chinese edition of the book, in which France´s youngest president lays out his vision for France, hits bookstores on Monday.
  16. If we talk about the most underrated actors in Bollywood, R Madhavan is definitely going to make it to that list. Comparing him to the likes of the Khans or the newbies in the Bollywood industry, Maddy's Bollywood career hasn't exactly been that great. Despite that, he has a loyal fan following who wait with bated breath to see him on the big screen. This time, however, he is taking a different route and is coming to your TV screens. Or on your Amazon Prime account, to be precise. Over the last few weeks, Madhavan has taken to his social media to give us small glimpses of his digital series 'Breathe' with Amazon Prime. Breathe..the next Amazon Prime Original Coming Soon. #BreatheOnAmazon @AmazonVideoIN @BreatheAmazon @Abundantia_Ent @TheAmitSadh @SapnaPabbi — Ranganathan Madhavan (@ActorMadhavan) December 19, 2017 Get ready for a breathless experience. #BreatheTeaser in 3 days! @BreatheAmazon @AmazonVideoIN — Ranganathan Madhavan (@ActorMadhavan) January 2, 2018 And we were beyond stoked when we read the official synopsis which says, “Breathe is a gritty psychological drama that follows the lives of ordinary men faced with extraordinary circumstances. Kabir Sawant (Amit Sadh), a brilliant but unconventional officer of the Mumbai Crime Branch, puts the pieces together of seemingly unconnected deaths that lead to an unlikely suspect – the affable Danny Mascarenhas (R. Madhavan). As Danny faces the difficult choice between morality and the slim possibility of saving his dying son's life, Kabir will not stop till he cracks the case and delivers justice.” And finally, today, a teaser was released. © Amazon Prime Video We get to see some chilling visuals of someone getting drowned and a woman being hit by the car while Madhavan's voice in the background thrills us to the core. © Amazon Prime Video Bottom line being, the teaser has left us wanting for more and will do the same to you. Have a look: The show is set to be Amazon's first trilingual digital series and will stream in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. Directed by Mayank Sharma, the series also stars Amit Sadh and Sapna Pabbi and is set to release on 26th January across 200+ countries and territories worldwide.
  17. Crypto currency Ethereum tokens (Ethers) have reached $1,000 on multiple major exchanges for the first time ever. This is an all-time high and the result of a multiple-day rally. The total market capitalization of others currently available is now $100 billion. One week ago, Ether was trading at USD 752. Since then, it has seen a surge of about 40 percent in its valuation. For the major part of December, the value of one Ether was swinging between USD 700 and USD 800. It is currently the third-largest cryptocurrency by market value, after being dethroned by another altcoin, Ripple's XRP, last week. Its market capitalization shot above $100 billion for the first time Thursday, according to Coinmarketcap data. © ETHNews Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin said in a blog post-Tuesday that the non-profit foundation that oversees the blockchain network was launching two new subsidy programs to support research into the scalability and development of the distributed ledger. Distributed ledgers store vast amounts of transactions on a decentralized network of computers. Ethereum also runs on a blockchain, also maintained by miners. But unlike the Bitcoin blockchain, Ethereum is designed specifically to carry out “smart contracts,” which are automated agreements for an exchange of value. (also called “scripting.”) Smart contracts are a way to cut the middleman out of financial transactions; a network of nodes carry out agreements by independently verifying them. The Ethereum blockchain not only records every ether transaction, but also the most up-to-date form of every smart contract. © Ehtereum Founder Vitalik Buterin, Picture by TechCrunch Banking giants have also increasingly looked to Ethereum for another set of solutions. In mid-December, a group of financial companies including UBS, Credit Suisse, and Barclays announced plans to test the Ethereum blockchain in the hopes of making it easier to meet new European Union reporting standards under the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II. Ripple, however, has overshadowed Ethereum's recent rise, with the former cryptocurrency now ranking as the second largest by market capitalization, according to CoinMarketCap—outranking Ethereum's $100 billion value by nearly $40 billion. © YouTube The largest cryptocurrency by market cap, Bitcoin, is down on the day, having dropped from its week's high of $15,393, according to CoinDesk's Bitcoin Price Index (BPI). Bitcoin has mostly traded sideways over the last week, with prices staying in the $13,000 to $14,000 range interrupted briefly with a drop to nearly $12,000 on Dec. 30.
  18. Children run down the stairs of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, US, October 29, 2012. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/Files NEW YORK: Visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art will now have to pay $25 to enter if they do not live in New York state starting March 1, a first in half a century. Since 1970, this cultural landmark on New York's Fifth Avenue only asked for a "suggested" donation of $25 per adult, which Met president Daniel Weiss noted was "uncommon". Under the new policy, the fee ? which will be paid largely by tourists ? will fetch a ticket that lasts for three days and also covers entry to the museum's annexes ? Met Breuer for modern and contemporary art, and The Cloisters for medieval and decorative arts. "We think that is an extraordinary value," Weiss said. In order to not penalize students from New York and the surrounding region, they will only be asked to pay what they can. Students and seniors visiting from other regions will get reduced fares of $12 and $17, respectively. Entry will be free for children under the age of 12. The move follows months of talks with New York City Hall. Fred Dixon, president of the city's destination marketing organization NYC & Company, said City Hall accepted the new policy of this "catalyst" of cultural tourism, confident it would not negatively impact tourism. "The role the Met plays (in tourism) is tremendous," added Dixon. Weiss, who landed in his current post in 2015 to bolster the prestigious museum's finances, noted that while 63 percent of visitors paid the full suggested price in 2004, only 17 percent did so last year. So while attendance kept increasing, admission revenues were flat. Pointing to "a significant diminution in the effectiveness of our policy," Weiss stressed that "admission revenues would still be one of the lowest of all art institutions we have seen in the last 12 years." Admissions would still account only for a fraction of the Met's annual budget of $305 million. They currently account for 14 percent of revenue. Even with the new mandatory fee, they would still only represent no more than 17 percent of revenue, according to Weiss. The Met receives relatively minimal public subsidies ? compared to the world's other top public institutions, such as the Louvre in Paris ? and obtains most of its revenue from donations, which cover half of its annual budget.
  19. Timberlake's fifth solo studio album 'Man of the Woods' comes out on February 2 NEW YORK: Pop superstar Justin Timberlake on Tuesday announced his first album in nearly five years, promising more "personal" songwriting inspired by his home and family. The 36-year-old singer and actor said that "Man of the Woods," his fifth solo studio album, will come out on February 2 -- two days before he headlines entertainment during the Super Bowl, generally the most watched television event of the year in the United States. Timberlake unveiled the album with a short video on social media that, true to the album´s title, shows him walking reflectively in scenes of nature from a snowy forest to a sunny corn field. "This album is really inspired by my son, my wife, my family, but -- more so than any other album I´ve ever written -- where I´m from," Timberlake says in the video. "And it´s personal." Timberlake -- who had a son in 2015 with his wife, actress Jessica Biel -- grew up near Memphis, Tennessee, one of the capitals of blues and soul music as well as rural-rooted country. The video features snippets of acoustic guitar, hinting perhaps at a more somber sound for the album, but closes with Timberlake in the studio with all-star pop producer Pharrell Williams. Timberlake, one of the top-selling artists of the 21st century both as a solo artist and with boy band NSYNC, rose to fame with an electronic pop sound before finding a new voice by bringing in R&B, notably on his 2006 album "FutureSex/LoveSounds." Timberlake has been offering hints of his upcoming album for years. In a 2016 interview with the BBC, Timberlake declined to describe it as a country album but acknowledged the influence. "I really did grow up in a place in America where I was like two hours from the country music capital of the world (Nashville), home of the blues, birthplace of American rock ´n´ roll," he said. Timberlake last released full albums in 2013, putting out "The 20/20 Experience" and "The 20/20 Experience -- 2 of 2" in quick succession. Even without albums, Timberlake has kept putting out music, scoring a mega-hit in 2016 with "Can´t Stop the Feeling!" a giddy summer song that appeared in the animated film "Trolls." But Timberlake has focused increasingly on acting rather than music in the past several years, most recently starring as a bookish and seductive lifeguard in Woody Allen´s "Wonder Wheel."
  20. The 'Bigg Boss 11' finale is coming closer and while fans have their favourites, the most popular faces are definitely Vikas Gupta and Shilpa Shinde. © Colors This is perhaps the first season where the commoners are giving stiff competition to the celebrity housemates. Luv Tyagi is definitely a hot favourite amongst people as well. Last night the first task for the finale took place and the finalist who has made it to the top is none other than Puneesh Sharma. #BB11 Puneesh Sharma Has won Ticket To Finale! And Becomes First finalist — Sameer (@StoicSameer) January 2, 2018 Puneesh was always tagged as someone who was playing behind the backs of Vikas and Hiten and was in the show out of pure luck. Even Akash Dadlani was merely called 'lucky' for surviving in the house. However, we wonder if that's true because since the audience decides who stays, they clearly did something right to be surviving the war. The duo's friendship is a topic of banter mostly. © Colors Puneesh Sharma 'fell in love' with co-contestant Bandagi Kalra and hails from Delhi. Wonder who is making it to the top 3 with him? The voting lines are closed this week so we are guessing it's only going to get tougher.
  21. DUBAI: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates introduced value-added tax from Monday, a first for the Gulf which has long prided itself on its tax-free, cradle-to-grave welfare system. Saudi Arabia compounded the New Year blow for motorists with an unannounced hike of up to 127 percent in petrol prices with immediate effect from midnight. They are the latest in a series of measures introduced by Gulf oil producers over the past two years to boost revenues and cut spending as a persistent slump in world prices has led to ballooning budget deficits. The five percent sales tax applies to most goods and services and analysts project that the two governments could raise as much as $21 billion in 2018, equivalent to 2.0 percent of GDP. But it marks a major change for two super-rich countries where the mall is king. Dubai has long held an annual shopping festival to draw bargain hunters from around the world to its glitzy retail palaces. Saudi Arabia has deposited billions of dollars in special accounts to help needy citizens face the resulting rise in retail prices. The other four Gulf states - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar - are also committed to introducing VAT but have delayed the move until early 2019. None of the Gulf states levy any personal income tax and none have any plans to do so. The International Monetary Fund has repeatedly urged Gulf states to diversify their revenues away from oil, which accounts for more than 90 percent of the Saudi budget and 80 percent in the UAE. Both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi asked all companies with earnings of $100,000 or more a year to register in the VAT system. The UAE finance ministry said that VAT returns will be used "for infrastructure development ... (to) upgrade public services ... and boost UAE economy competitiveness." The hike in fuel duty in Saudi Arabia was the second in two years. But it still leaves petrol prices as some of the lowest in the world. 'They'll tax the air' The introduction of VAT coupled with the increase in fuel duty is expected to bring an abrupt end to a year of negative inflation in Saudi Arabia. Riyadh-based Jadwa Investment predicted that inflation could reach as much as five percent after the new measures. Saudis reacted sarcastically on social media to the new sales tax. "They are even taking taxes on car parking. I am afraid they will next tax the air," wrote Ahmed bin Fatima. Saudi Arabia, whose economy contracted by 0.5 percent last year for the first time since 2009, has introduced a raft of measures to raise revenue and cut spending as it bids to balance its books. Last month, it cut the government subsidy on electricity supply for the second time in two years, leading to a sharp rise in bills. Riyadh posted budget deficits totalling $260 billion over the past four fiscal years and does not expect to balance its books before 2023. To finance its mounting public debt, the kingdom has withdrawn around $250 billion from its reserves over the past four years, reducing them to $490 billion. It has also borrowed around $100 billion from the international and domestic markets.
  22. The moon will appear to be 16 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter tonight. Photo: KARACHI: The first supermoon of the New Year, Wolf Moon, will be visible to people tonight (Monday night), confirmed Institute of Space and Planetary Astrophysics Professor Dr Javed Iqbal. The moon will appear to be 16 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter tonight, remarked Dr Iqbal. He also shared that two supermoons will be visible this month; the next month will become visible on January 31. Interestingly, there will also be a lunar eclipse on January 31, he added. The first Full Moon of the year has been named after howling wolves. In some cultures, it was known as Old Moon, Ice Moon, Snow Moon, and the Moon after Yule. A full moon rises when the Earth sits directly between the sun and the moon. On December 3, 2017, a supermoon had lit up the skies across different countries in the world.
  23. Colin Munro flashes one through the off side, New Zealand v West Indies, 1st T20I, Nelson, December 29, 2017/Getty Images NELSON: Debutant Seth Rance sparked a West Indies batting meltdown as New Zealand cruised to a 47-run victory in the opening Twenty20 match at Saxton Oval in Nelson on Friday. Rance took two wickets in successive balls in his second over, including the prized scalp of Chris Gayle, to set the tourists on a downward spiral that ended in the 19th over. New Zealand, sent in to bat first, posted 187 for seven with their total bolstered by 25 off the final over by Mitchell Santner and Tim Southee. But the West Indies, the reigning world Twenty20 champions, never looked like reaching their 188-run target after star batsman Gayle fell cheaply for 12. Because the batsmen crossed when Gayle skied the ball to Glenn Phillips, Chadwick Walton on seven faced he next Rance delivery and he smacked it straight to Anaru Kitchen at cover-point. It left the West Indies at two for 19 and they never recovered from the initial setback. After 16 overs they were 103 for eight before a late slog by Jerome Taylor (20) and Ashley Nurse (not out 20) produced 28 off 12 before Rance came back for his final over to end the West Indies innings with six balls to spare. Rance returned the impressive figures of three for 30, while Tim Southee took three for 36. It continued a miserable tour for the West Indies, who were comprehensively outplayed in the two Tests and three one-day internationals earlier in the month. Their luck looked to have changed when Carlos Brathwaite won the toss for the opening Twenty20 and put New Zealand into bat. Apart from an 86-run stand for the second wicket by Colin Munro (53) and Glenn Phillips (56), New Zealand struggled for runs. They were 162 for seven going into the last over, when Santner launched his late salvo to finish unbeaten on 23 with Southee not out 10. Samuel Badree finished with one for 22 off his four overs while Brathwaite took two for 38. The second match in the series is in Mount Maunganui on Monday.
  24. Electoral officers count votes ? following the second round of the presidential election ? at Monrovia Stadium, Monrovia, Liberia, December 27, 2017. AFP/Seyllou MONROVIA: Liberians were waiting Wednesday to find out who will succeed Africa's first elected female head of state, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, marking the country's first democratic transfer of power in decades. Initial provisional results of the presidential run-off poll, pitting former international footballer George Weah against Vice President Joseph Boakai, are expected to be announced on Thursday, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) said on Facebook. Back in 2003 Sirleaf's predecessor Charles Taylor had fled the country with hopes of avoiding prosecution for funding rebel groups in neighbouring Sierra Leone, while two presidents who served prior to Taylor were assassinated. The tumult of the last seven decades in Liberia, a small West African nation where an estimated 250,000 people died during back-to-back civil wars between 1989-2003, means a democratic handover has not taken place since 1944. "No matter the results, we will accept it without causing problems. We don't need trouble here anymore," said Samuel Nuahn, 46, who voted for establishment candidate Boakai in Tuesday's run-off. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed the "peaceful conduct" of the second round vote, commending in a statement "the government, political parties and the people of Liberia for the orderly poll." The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) praised the peaceful nature of the vote While the NEC did not indicate what time it could start releasing results on Thursday, local media was already saying Weah, the only African ever to have won FIFA's World Player of the Year and the Ballon d'Or, was ahead. As observers hailed a credible election held without a single major incident of violence, despite weeks of delays caused by legal challenges, Liberians said they were looking forward to the baton of peace held for 12 years under Sirleaf being handed over. 'Exciting moment' "Since years of civil war, this is the first time we see the transition of power from one person to another. So today is an exciting moment for me especially as well as an exciting moment for Liberia," voter Oscar Sorbah told AFP after casting his ballot on Tuesday. The Sirleaf administration, elected in 2005, guided the nation out of the ruins of war and through the horrors of the 2014-16 Ebola crisis but is accused of failing to combat poverty and corruption. Weah's CDC party watched their icon miss out on the presidency in a 2005 bid and was similarly frustrated when he ran for vice-president in 2011, but has repeatedly urged its young and exuberant supporters to keep cool. "No matter what the provocation will be, CDC will not respond with violence," Jefferson Kotchie, head of the youth wing of the CDC, told supporters assembled at the headquarters of the party. The run-off vote was delayed for seven weeks due to legal challenges lodged by Boakai's Unity Party against the electoral commission over the conduct of the first round, but many of the complaints appeared to have been addressed in the second round.
  25. Syrian civilians sit in an ambulance during an evacuation operation by the International Committee of the Red Cross in Douma in the eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus. -AFP DOUMA: Aid workers have evacuated the first few ill patients from Syrian militant bastion Eastern Ghouta under a deal struck after the UN said hundreds are in critical condition following a four-year government siege. Three children and a man were loaded overnight into ambulances bound for hospitals in Damascus before being transported out past government lines that have held the region's estimated 400,000 residents in a stranglehold since 2013. A total of 29 emergency medical cases are expected to be evacuated under a deal with the government that saw militants release five workmen detained during fierce clashes with the army in March. The four patients allowed out were a girl with hemophilia, a baby with the autoimmune disorder Guillain-Barre, a child with leukemia, and a man in need of a kidney transplant, Red Crescent official Ahmed al-Saour told AFP. Eight-year-old Ingy, the girl with hemophilia, gave a broad smile as she boarded an ambulance, wearing a woolly hat and gloves against the cold. In another ambulance, one-year-old Mohammed lay in the lap of a Red Crescent worker, his mother sitting beside them in a long black cloak and a veil showing only her eyes. "The operation is a positive step which will bring some respite to the people of Eastern Ghouta," said International Committee of the Red Cross spokeswoman Ingy Sedky. "We hope these medical evacuations are only the beginning." The Syrian American Medical Society, another medical relief organisation, said the remainder of the 29 critical cases approved for evacuation should leave in the coming days. The dominant militant faction in Eastern Ghouta, Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), said the militants had agreed to free some of their prisoners in return for the evacuations. "We have agreed to the release of a number of prisoners... in exchange for the evacuation of the most urgent humanitarian cases," the group said a statement. The years of government siege have caused severe shortages in Eastern Ghouta, one of the last remaining rebel strongholds in Syria. Baby among dead While some food is still grown locally, or smuggled in, humanitarian access to the region has been limited despite regular appeals from aid agencies. Last week, Jan Egeland, the head of the UN's humanitarian taskforce for Syria, said at least 16 people had died while waiting for evacuation from Eastern Ghouta. A list put together several months ago of nearly 500 civilians in desperate need of evacuation was rapidly shrinking, said Egeland. "That number is going down, not because we are evacuating people, but because they are dying," he told reporters in Geneva. "We have confirmation of 16 having died on these lists since they were resubmitted in November, and it is probably higher," he said, highlighting the case of a baby who died on December 14, as the latest round of Syria peace talks in Geneva ended in failure. Egeland said evacuations and efforts to bring aid into the region had been blocked by a lack of authorisations from the Syrian authorities. The Eastern Ghouta region, near the capital Damascus, is one of four "de-escalation" zones agreed in May in a deal brokered by government backers Russian and Iran and rebel supporter Turkey. The agreement led to some reduction in fighting but the government kept up its blockade and renewed its bombardment of the enclave in mid-November. Militant fighters pulled out of second city Aleppo and third city Homs, as well as districts of Damascus, only after prolonged blockades caused serious hardship to their families and other civilians. More than 340,000 people have been killed and millions have been driven from their homes since Syria´s conflict erupted with anti-government protests in 2011.