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ZODIAC

  1. More than 10 Russian missiles also hit the city of Chernihiv about 120 km northeast of Kyiv, says regional Governor
  2. Kabir Khan’s 83 finally released this Christmas weekend after facing a delay of over one and a half years. The movie starring Ranveer Singh in the lead role along with a huge ensemble received rave reviews from the film critics and the audience who watched it. It was expected to bring the glory back to the Bollywood box office which was struggling since the opening up of theatres. While Sooryavanshi had turned out to be a big success, all other Hindi films failed to take off. All hopes of the film industry were pinned on 83 as it was a big-budget biographical sports drama starring a young star with a fair amount of box office pull. Amidst positive reviews, the movie opened below expectations on December 24 and the much-needed growth was missing over its opening weekend despite a big holiday in Christmas. © Reliance Entertainment Trade analyst Taran Adarsh had called the business of the film a disappointment. He had tweeted, “#83TheFilm disappoints… Biz witnessed slight growth *outside metros* on Day 3, but not enough to cover lost ground… The jump on Day 2 [#Christmas] and Day 3 [Sun] had to be massive, since #Christmas is one of the best periods, but it was missing”. #83TheFilm disappoints… Biz witnessed slight growth *outside metros* on Day 3, but not enough to cover lost ground… The jump on Day 2 [#Christmas] and Day 3 [Sun] had to be massive, since #Christmas is one of the best periods, but it was missing… DAY-WISE DATA IN NEXT TWEET… pic.twitter.com/KXEZTbywXA — taran adarsh (@taran_adarsh) December 27, 2021 His follow-up tweet read, “The non-performance of #83TheFilm has sent shock waves, since it comes with a big price tag and bigger expectations… Plus, the extensive screen count [3741 screens; all versions], so it had to deliver… Fri 12.64 cr, Sat 16.95 cr, Sun 17.41 cr. Total: ₹ 47 cr. #India biz.” Let’s see if #83TheFilm gathers pace in the coming days… Besides tough competition from holdover titles [#SpiderMan, #PushpaHindi], the release calendar is chock-a-block with films: #Jersey [31 Dec] and #RRR [7 Jan]… The fact is, #83TheFilm has limited time to score! — taran adarsh (@taran_adarsh) December 27, 2021 After 83 underperformed in its opening weekend, the blame was pinned on the omicron variant of coronavirus and the fear amongst the audience to visit a theatre. However, at the same time, Allu Arjun’s Pushpa has turned out to be a success in Hindi and is headed towards the Rs 50 crore mark, despite zero promotions. And Spider-Man: No Way Home is all set to hit a double century at the box office in India and is still going strong. © Reliance Entertainment A report in Box Office India called 83 a disaster and the reason was its huge budget. It is reportedly one of the top three most expensive films of all time in Bollywood. The report said, “The film is heading to become one of the biggest disasters of all time.” And further compared it to the box office bombs that were Thugs of Hindostan (2018) and Zero (2018). However, both those films featured two of the biggest stars of Indian cinema to absorb the losses. Same can’t be said for 83. Another report in Bollywood Hungama has claimed that the movie will run into losses in crores of rupees. The report quoted a source saying that the blame game will soon start now, “The film looks and feels like a documentary on the 1983 World Cup. Some from the production team had pointed this out while the film was being made. What was the need to shoot at the pricey Lords stadium in London when there are so many similarly vast cricket stadiums right here in India? But the naysayers were shut down by those from the film unit who were fully confident of getting the audience into theatres.” © Reliance Entertainment It is also reported that a large chunk of Ranveer Singh’s fee was pending and now he may have to let it go to counter some of the losses the film is facing. 83 was backed by many producers including Deepika Padukone, Sajid Nadiadwala and Kabir Khan. View the full article
  3. Hamas, the group that runs Gaza, confirmed one of its sites had been struck
  4. Areas of northern Syria held by Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies are regularly rocked by such bombings
  5. Package includes 3,000 GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb I munitions, containers, support equipment, spares and technical support
  6. Sender demanded amount in crypto-currency bitcoins and threatened to send further explosive packages if payment was not made
  7. 'Made in Heaven' is a stellar show. No doubt about it. It is revolutionary in the current crop of series gracing the screen. It demonstrates the fact there has been a dramatic change in the way shows are being made today. Also, it has been instrumental in altering the storytelling abilities and direction of the narrative. Moreover, it has changed the perception of the audience regarding expectations from a show. Mind-blowing performances and a crisp storyline are just a few discerning qualities of the phenomenal series. Now, I won't drone on about how good the show is or how brilliant it is because it has already been said (numerous times). One thing is absolutely true, though the backdrop of the series is the big, fat Indian wedding, the series uncovers its hideous underbelly: it brings various social issues to the fore, things people don't discuss or try to shroud under the guise of gaiety and mirth. 'Made in Heaven' is an intricate series; it addresses issues without being preachy. Its beauty lies in its subtlety. Fiction is inspired by life, so there's no doubt that each new show exemplifies a slice of life, a part of life. Here are 14 truth bombs that 'Made in Heaven' eloquently embodies: 1. Be True To Yourself: Changing yourself for others is never a good bargain. You only end up feeling at war with yourself. People will judge you anyway. Karan (Arjun Mathur) is a closeted gay man and though he portrays himself to be unaffected by people's opinions, he is scared of the society he lives in. To be fair, society does make him feel bad about himself, be it the people around him or even his own family. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video As a young adolescent, he shames his best friend (who is also his lover), Nawab (Vikrant Massey), so that the other students don't judge him. Later in life, when he realizes the importance of speaking up, the fact that people take his silence for his cowardice, that is the moment he becomes himself. He starts accepting himself. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video In fact, Vinay Pathak as Karan's pushy landlord, Ramesh Gupta, wonderfully portrays the pathos of a man stuck in a web of his own creation, one who doesn't have the courage to face himself. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video Reinventing yourself and changing yourself completely are different concepts; reinventing deals with changing certain things about yourself that make you better. Changing yourself completely, removing what makes you unique because of social conditioning and fear is a different ball game, it never leads to happiness. Tara's (Sobhita Dhulipala) character is interesting because she does both things. Tara reinvents herself, from being the slum-dwelling, uncouth girl she goes on to become a lady of the elite class. But in the process of doing so, she changes herself completely and brings out a part of her personality to the fore which isn't her, which makes her unhappy in the end. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video Jazz (Shivani Raghuvanshi) is another example; she tries to change to fit in (Call her Jazz, ok?), even going to the extent of stealing in order to be accepted. More importantly, it is to feel good about herself but her way of doing that is wrong. She realizes that later on and repents for it. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video 2. No Matter How Much You Try, Things Will Go Out Of Hand: The show is about wedding planners, so the storyline is bound to heavily deal with the management of affairs. Things go terribly wrong for Tara and Karan multiple times throughout the season, ranging from the mild “the truck's goods have been stolen” to the fairly disastrous “the bride has run away”. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video The best thing is that they take things in their stride and make do with what is available to them. Instead of name-calling and blaming other people, they manage things efficiently. Yes, being a TV show, it seems essential that they will have a win at the end, but there is some amount of truth in the way they have represented circumstantial disasters, beautifully enacted by the actors. And isn't fiction inspired from real life? :P In Tara's personal life, her fairytale marriage to Adil seems to have hit a rocky patch. Tara tries to control it, but it ends up unravelling her life. In life, things don't always happen the way you want them, even though you ardently wished they did. But instead of ruing the day you were born and let it get the better of you, work with however little you might have. Don't try to micromanage every little aspect of your life, it isn't possible. More importantly, it isn't worth it. 3. Everything Comes With A Price Tag: The series focuses not only on the weddings featured but also the aspirations of the characters. Very intelligently depicted, there are parallels, a juxtaposition, between the wedding they plan and the circumstances they face. The weddings mirror the inner angst of the characters. Tara aspires to be a permanent member of the elite society. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video Karan wants to be successful and have the choice to live life on his own terms. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video Jazz longs for a lavish lifestyle, pretty dresses and all the perks of an upscale life. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video It may sound like a cliché as old as time (but aren't that what clichés are?) but everything does come with a price tag. Tara finds out that even though she has managed to get “the good life”, it is peppered with lies and deceit. Additionally, she had to pay for it by giving up on her principles and has to continue to do so as long as she wants to hold on to that esteemed position in society. Moreover, after achieving her goal, she finds out that the reality is nowhere near her lofty imaginings. On occasion, she has to quiet her suspicions by turning a blind eye to the truth. Jazz discovers that however noble your intentions may be, a crime is a crime. Once you have committed it, you can end up losing more than your job. Karan's success depends on borrowed money: from Jauhari (Vijay Raaz), his father, and Tara. Funnily enough, all want their money back from him but their ways of asking for it are dramatically different: Jauhari uses insistence and brute force, his father uses emotional manipulation. All these are the strings that his success relies on. 4. Sometimes, All You Need Is A Little Courage At The Right Moment: The show deals with poignant issues so brilliantly that it makes you marvel at the superb storytelling capabilities of Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti and Alankrita Shrivastava. Episode 4 (The Price of Love) focuses on Priyanka Mishra, who on the surface seems like the quintessential naive bride on the brink of happiness. Her fiancé, Vishal appears to be a man of principles. The shocking revelation of his true identity flabbergasts Priyanka and leads her to call in her dormant courage, at a moment which hangs in a delicate balance between right and wrong. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video The moment of hesitation before making her decision and the final determination to follow it through is wonderfully portrayed by Shweta Tripathi through her emotive face. The poignant depiction makes one realize that we all are capable of fighting our battles. All we need is a little courage at the opportune moment. Similarly, Karan finds courage after what he faces in jail; an epiphany which makes him take a stand for himself for the first time. On a dramatically opposite note, Pooja, the Mehendiwali, gives into societal pressure and makes a compromise with her life. For her, she chooses money over courage because that is what she needs in life. 5. And Other Times You Have To Play Dirty To Get What You Want: Episode 1 (All That Glitters is Gold) centres around an affluent family, The Roshans, whose son is about to get married to a journalist. The journalist in question is apparently a “gold digger”, as proclaimed by Neena Gupta's Veenu Roshan (who brilliantly plays that “loud, nouveau riche Punjabi lady from South Delhi”) and thus, asks Tara and Karan to do a background check on her. Though it is not ethical, the wedding planners agree to it because they need the job. Also, because they don't want their competitors to get the wedding. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video Perhaps this fact is more established in Episode 5 (A Marriage of Convenience) when Karan takes up a wedding in Ludhiana as a last resort to make money. What Karan and Tara don't realize is that Sukhmani (Yaaneea Bharadwaj), the bride, is as desperate as them, she to achieve her “American Dream” as they are to get what they want. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video An example of Tara's shrewdness comes early on in the series, in Episode 1 (All That Glitters is Gold), when she manages to convince the bride to get the son back to his family; not because she is very invested in the idea of them getting married, but mainly to see that her business succeeds. It also mirrors Tara's ambition; an ambition which has soured overtime Karan does the same on a few occasions: lying and pretending, to fulfil his agenda of keeping the wedding going. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video The series of events is ironical; everyone plays dirty to get what they want, but in the end, does it really provide the happiness they craved from it? 6. Give It Everything You Have Got: Tara gives up her most prized possession to further herself. And in order to put herself out there, she doesn't cut corners. She takes grooming classes in a finishing school; even though she hails from a lower-middle-class background, she makes it a point to learn the intricacies of the high life. Even after getting what she wants, she doesn't stop there, she reinvents herself to fit in the new role of an upper-class socialite. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video Karan asks help from people he doesn't rely on, especially his father. He is never afraid to go to the worst kind of people for money or put himself out there. Both Karan and Tara sometimes manipulate people so that they can go on with the weddings, but it is apparent in a few instances that they do care about the people they are arranging the event for and aren't just fueled by selfishness. 7. Friendship: I love how they have portrayed the essence of friendship without going overboard. Karan and Tara are friends first and business partners later; they do not let the professional differences affect their personal friendship. Tara does put her foot down when he asks for more money to be lent, but it does not mean that they stop being friends. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video They respect each other and care for each other; especially seen in a few heartwarming scenes: when Tara finds out that Adil is cheating on her, and when Tara bails Karan out of jail against all odds and hugs him without bothering about his dishevelled state. Faiza and Tara are good friends in the beginning; as we see in the flashbacks, Faiza makes it a point to make Tara feel included in Adil and her friend group, gives her advice and supports her. She helps her understand the nuances of high society. But it is ironical that it is she who betrays her in the end. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video Kalki does a fabulous job playing Faiza; she brings out the unhappiness inside Faiza, the helplessness, the dilemma she faces with such intensity that it makes you feel a little bit sad about her, even though what she does to her best friend is unforgivable. Jazz and Kabir (Shashank Arora) strike up a camaraderie that is fun to watch; from initial dislike to a grudging respect for each other. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video Karan and Mitali (the landlord's daughter played by Yashaswini Dayama) share a beautiful relationship; they are confidants and each other's secret keepers. They are not necessarily best friends but have an easy, lovable sibling companionship which melts your heart. Shibani makes it a point to be true to her friends even though they didn't part on the best of terms; isn't that what friendship is? 8. At Times, The People Closest To You Can Hurt You: People hurt you. It's normal, it happens. But it hurts a lot more when the person on the other end happens to be someone you love, trust or are close with. Karan's mother, in an attempt to safeguard a young Karan from society, threatens him, beats him up for being different and makes him live a lie. Whenever he tries to break free, his mother holds him back. Karan starts hating Nawab because of the shame his mother attributes to his love. She makes it impossible for him to have a cordial relationship with his father by instilling a sense of fear. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video Adil (Jim Sarbh) cheats on Tara with her best friend, Faiza, someone Tara could never imagine to be a betrayer. Adil is the closest person Tara can ever have. But both of them dupe her all along, they betray her trust and to make it worse by acting like nothing has changed. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video Episode 9 (The Great Escape) deals with a bride whose family members keep her drugged so that they can get her married off to a person of their choice so that they have a stronghold on her; they care about their own interests. In Episode 3 (It's Never Too Late), Deepti Naval's Gayatri is shunned by her children because she falls in love and wants to get married. The reason? She's in her sixties. Her children can't bear to see her getting married, her happiness does not count in their eyes. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video 9. Communicate: Karan never communicates with his father, leading to their strained relationship. He rarely lets his emotions to come to the surface, even with people he loves, because he doesn't want to be vulnerable in anyone's eyes. Adil and Tara meet are always too burdened with their individual problems; when Tara tries to talk to him, he is busy and vice versa. They hardly talk about their relationship, which finally leads to their impassive relationship. Tara finds solace in her work while Adil starts an affair with Faiza. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video Communication is the foundation of any relationship; the thread binding two people in a lasting association. Shibani tries to remain as level-headed as she can and does communicate her problems regarding her position in the company and how she expects to be taken more seriously, but her words fall on deaf ears. When communication does not work effectively, she takes it in her own hands to turn things around for herself. 10. Most Importantly, Don't Let Success Go To Your Head: Jazz is enamoured with her surroundings, courtesy of her new job and the cool people she gets to hobnob with, which goes straight to her head. She lets it cloud her judgement and makes wrong decisions. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video Success always gives one a high, it is in one's hands as to how they deal with it. 11. Not Everybody Is Worthy Of Your Trust & Appearances Can Be Deceptive: Trust is an essential part of life, if you don't trust someone, you can never have a meaningful relationship with them. Meanwhile, trusting someone blindly isn't a strong trait as well; you need to create a perfect balance between the two. The problem with Tara and Adil is that Tara thinks that once she has become Adil's wife she can trust him completely, which isn't such a bad notion when one is in love. But she takes him for granted. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video Faiza appears as the best friend one can possibly hope for, but her reality is far from it. She keeps masquerading herself as a friend to Tara when she loathes her and her guts. Her real identity of a jealous and confused person comes to light in her conversations with her therapist, where she reveals how she simultaneously likes and hates Tara. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video Karan, on some level, trusts that his landlord. He imagines that he will never invade his privacy, however over-friendly he might be. That is where the trouble starts. 12. Frailty, Thy Name Is Underestimation: Humans tend to judge everyone, it is in our nature, we just can't seem to stop. And judgment's cousin, underestimation, is never far away once you start judging someone. Never make presumptions about people you don't know. Underestimating someone's worth can only lead to problems and in some cases, embarrassment. Kabir makes fun of Jazz since the moment he meets her and teases her endlessly. All the characters judge her, underestimate her and humiliate her at times, given her background and her zeal to make everyone happy. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video Funnily enough, she is the one who comes up with solutions (more than once) when the others are clueless about their course of action. Be it when hot-blooded Punjabi puttar, Joginder Sethi (Manjot Singh), in Episode 2 (Star Struck Lovers), finds out that the actor Sarfaraz Khan (Pulkit Samrat) invited for a performance at his pre-wedding bash has kissed his bride-to-be, Harsimran (Dalai Upadhyay), and is ready to kill him (in a hilarious “pakda-pakdi” match), eventually throwing the wedding in jeopardy, it is Jazz's somewhat archaic and filmy solution that comes to Made in Heaven's rescue. Again, in the next episode, Jazz comes up with the idea of emotional manipulation in order to fulfil Gayatri's wish to have her children present at her wedding. Adil underestimates Jauhari's capability as a partner in Made in Heaven only to be shocked when he realizes that he isn't just a “plumber” and has more knowledge about his company than he leads on. 13. Pride And Prejudice: You must have heard it somewhere: “Pride comes before a fall”. If only we learned from it. Episode 8 (Pride and Bridezilla) deals with Tarana Ali (Maanvi Gagroo), a nightmarish bride who wants things to be done her way and can resort to violence if her demands aren't met. She treats other people like lowly mortals (poor Jazz) and tries to lord over everyone. She has pride, but she is unaware of its misplacement and its hollowness. She believes that the world revolves around her because she has money and is extremely proud of being rich. What she is oblivious is that father took out a loan in order to fulfil her wishes, which brings us to another aspect of pride, from the perspective of other people. Tarana's father doesn't want to lose face in society, even he is proud, and that pride makes his bite more than he can chew. Brilliantly, it is echoed in the office peon's aspiration of getting his daughter married with pomp and show, and he too like Mr Ali wants to take out a loan for the same reason. Societal prejudices don't discriminate between poor and rich; such an irony. The royal wedding in Episode 7 (A Royal Affair), featuring the patrician Ranawat family, throws light on both societal prejudice and pride. On the surface, it looks like they are on the brink of modernization, by welcoming Devyani (Amrita Puri), a pilot, as the future daughter-in-law, but the reality is quite different. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video Their erroneous pride about their heritage and their prejudice for people less fortunate than them is exemplified in the treatment of the Mehendiwali by Mr Ranawat, and eventually by Devyani. 14. Love Is What You Make It: Love does not have a textbook definition; it is different for everyone. Everyone loves differently, there isn't a rulebook to be followed. Love also has its flaws; you might love someone to death, and yet love someone else. Or you might betray them, lie to them to save them from themselves. Adil's character is an exemplary example of the fact; he loves both Tara and Faiza in different ways, he doesn't want to hurt any one of them and you can see that his love is true. It is his indecision that makes it impossible to choose between them; a man stuck with two choices and struggling to keep up with the mess he has created. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video Faiza loves Adil. Tara loves Adil. But their reasons and their ways of professing that love are different. Joginder and Harsimran also come under this umbrella; Harsimran lies, not just to protect herself but to keep Joginder's ego and sanity in place. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video Sometimes, love isn't the only reason to get married; Sukhmani's arc shows us that, so does Angad Roshan and Aliya Saxena's story. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video At times, love isn't enough: Priyanka and Vishal love each other but that doesn't justify atrocious behaviour and coercion on one's part. Love leads you to do things you wouldn't normally do; things you would perhaps never had thought possible or would have dismissed as an old wives' tale, as witnessed in Geetanjali and Nikhil's story (Episode 6: Something Old, Something New). When it comes to love, romantic love always clinches the crowning glory. But the love you feel for your family is not any less than it. And it pushes you to do things far beyond your reach, both good and bad. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video But often, love does conquer all as we see in Episode 9 (The Great Escape), with Nutan and John. Perhaps, the best lesson is that love never fades away, it comes in many shapes and forms; be it in friendship like Tara and Karan, or fear like Karan's mom and him, all-encompassing like Karan and Nawab's. © Excel Entertainment/Tiger Baby/Amazon Video Or else a bit later in life or for the second time like for Gayatri and Bijoy, or in another myriad form as illustrated by the different couples on the show. What did you find intriguing? Let us know in the comments section.
  8. BAGHDAD: Several roadside bombs and mortar rounds wounded 11 people in the northern Iraqi oil city of Kirkuk on Wednesday, witnesses said.A police official said the bombs had targeted a commercial district of the city.Security forces in Iraq have...
  9. Police and FBI officers guard the scene of an explosion in Austin, Texas, US, March 17, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Flores AUSTIN: Two package bombs exploded miles apart in the capital city of Texas on Monday, killing a teenager and injuring two women in attacks that Austin police linked to a deadly blast earlier this month. In all three cases, a package was left at the front of a residence and exploded after an unsuspecting victim picked it up or tried to open it, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told reporters. ?We are looking at these incidents as being related,? Manley said, adding that federal investigators were among those looking for suspects and a possible motive for the attacks. All the victims, including a 39-year-old man who died in the March 2 blast, were either African-American or Hispanic, Manley said. ?We cannot rule out that hate crime is at the core of this but we are not saying that that is the cause,? Manley told a news conference. He warned residents to watch out for boxes left outside their homes and to report anything suspicious to police. The attacks took place as Austin hosted thousands of out-of-town visitors for its annual South by Southwest festival. London Mayor Sadiq Khan gave the keynote address on Monday afternoon. The Monday blasts were in homes about 6 kilometres (4 miles) apart in East Austin, a predominantly Hispanic and minority area undergoing gentrification after a surge in the city?s population. The 17-year-old found a package outside his house in a tree-lined, mixed race residential area and brought it into the kitchen, where it exploded, Manley said. A woman at the home, in her 40s, was taken to an area hospital with injuries that were not thought to be life-threatening. The victim of the second Monday blast was a woman in a wheelchair who had been watering her grass, said Brandon Rendon, a 27-year-old contractor who lives four houses down from her home in the mainly working-class Hispanic Montopolis area. ?It looked like small terrorism,? said Rendon, who heard a loud bang and was among locals who poured into the street to see what happened. The March 2 incident, initially investigated as a suspicious death but now considered a homicide, occurred at a house in the city?s wealthy Harris Ridge neighbourhood, about 12 miles northeast of downtown. Police said they had no indication it was related to terrorism.
  10. A young man rides a bicycle near damaged houses in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, Damascus, Syria, February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh BEIRUT: Pro-government forces pounded the rebel-held district of eastern Ghouta outside the Syrian capital Damascus on Tuesday, in a surge of violence that a war monitor said had killed at least 250 people since Sunday night. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was the highest 48-hour death toll in the Syria conflict since a 2013 chemical attack on eastern Ghouta, the last major rebel bastion located near the capital. The wave of air strikes, rocket fire, and shelling has sparked international condemnation. France, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, described the bombardment as a serious violation of the international humanitarian law. There was no immediate comment from the Syrian military. Damascus says it only targets militants. Recent violence in the besieged suburb is part of a wider surge in fighting on several fronts as President Bashar al-Assad?s military pushes to end the seven-year rebellion against him. The Observatory said the bombardment had killed more than 106 adults and children in eastern Ghouta on Tuesday alone. Panos Moumtzis, the United Nations? humanitarian coordinator for Syria, on Tuesday, condemned the bombing of five hospitals in eastern Ghouta and said intentional attacks on medical facilities ?may amount to war crimes?. US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Washington was ?deeply concerned? by the rising violence in Ghouta. ?The Assad regime?s siege and starve tactics are ... adding to the humanitarian disaster there,? she said. Nauert said the United States supported a UN call for a month-long cessation of hostilities to allow for the delivery of aid and an emergency medical evacuation of civilians. She urged Russia to stop supporting the Assad government. In Brussels, Syrian opposition leader Nasr al-Hariri ? a delegation head at stalled UN peace talks ? pleaded for more international pressure on Assad to stop. In Geneva, the UN children?s agency expressed outrage at the casualties among the enclave?s children, saying it had run out of words. Those killed since the escalation began on Sunday include 58 children. Another 1,200 people have been injured in the bombardment, the Observatory said. Warplanes in the sky Rescuers said the air raids created ?a state of terror? among residents in eastern Ghouta, where the UN says nearly 400,000 people live. The pocket of satellite towns and farms has been under government siege since 2013. Factions in Ghouta fired mortars at Damascus on Tuesday, killing six people and injuring 28, Syrian state TV said. The army retaliated and pounded militant targets, according to the state news agency SANA. The Syrian foreign ministry accused militants in Ghouta of targeting Damascus and using people as ?human shields?. It said in a letter of complaint to the United Nations that some Western officials were denying the government?s right to defend itself. The Civil Defence in eastern Ghouta, a rescue service that operates in rebel territory, said jets battered Kafr Batna, Saqba, Hammouriyeh and several other towns on Tuesday. ?The warplanes are not leaving the sky at all,? said Siraj Mahmoud, a civil defence spokesman in Ghouta, as the sound of explosions rang out in the background. Mahmoud said that government forces bombed houses, schools and medical facilities and that rescuers had found more than 100 people dead ?in one day alone? on Monday. Reuters photos showed bandaged people waiting at a medical point in the town of Douma, some of them with blood streaming down their faces and their skin caked in dust. Bombs struck five hospitals in the enclave on Monday, said the UOSSM group of aid agencies that funds medical facilities in opposition parts of Syria. De-escalation zones Russia, Assad?s most powerful backer, has been pushing its own diplomatic track which resulted in establishing several ?de-escalation zones? in rebel territory last year. Fighting has raged on in eastern Ghouta even though it falls under the ceasefire plans that Moscow brokered with the help of Turkey and Iran. The truces do not cover a former al Qaeda affiliate, which has a small presence in the besieged enclave. Residents and aid workers say the ?de-escalation? deals have brought no relief. Food, fuel and medicine have dwindled. The two main rebel factions in eastern Ghouta, which signed the deals with Russia last summer, accused Damascus and Moscow of using the extremist presence as a pretext for attacks. Moscow did not comment on the renewed bombing in eastern Ghouta on Tuesday. On Monday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov blamed ?armed provocations? by Nusra militants, formerly linked to al Qaeda, for conditions in Ghouta. He said Moscow and its allies could ?deploy our experience of freeing Aleppo ... in the eastern Ghouta situation?. UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura warned on Tuesday that the escalating battle in Ghouta could turn into a repeat of the bloody fight for Aleppo, over which Damascus regained full control in late 2016 after years of fighting.
  11. A worker repairs a house in Mosul, Iraq January 28, 2018. Picture taken January 28, 2018. REUTERS GENEVA: The Iraqi city of Mosul will remain strewn with unexploded bombs for a decade, endangering a million or more civilians who want to return home following the end of three years of Daesh occupation, a UN demining expert said on Wednesday. Pehr Lodhammar, a senior program manager at the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) said the destruction of Mosul had left an estimated 11 million tonnes of debris and two-thirds of the explosive hazards were thought to be buried under the rubble. ?We estimate that it?s going to be over a decade until western Mosul has been cleared. The density and the complexity will not allow this clearance to be completed within months or even within years,? he told a news conference in Geneva. ?We see air-dropped ammunition, 500-pound bombs that were dropped, that go 15 meters into the ground or even further. Just getting one of those pieces out is a matter of days and sometimes weeks.? Last year, UNMAS removed 45,000 explosive hazards and 750 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) across Iraq, including over 25,000 in western Mosul alone. Other areas such as Falluja and Sinjar also need more de-mining help. Last week de-miners discovered Daesh factory for manufacturing improvised explosive devices littered with mortar rounds, artillery ammunition, hand grenades, rockets and 250,000 electronic components. ?It basically looked as if there had been a tornado going through an electronic store,? Lodhammar said. Clearing buildings such as the main western Mosul hospital, formerly Daesh headquarters site, was vital for restoring services for citizens. ?In this one location we removed over 2,500 explosive items, ranging from suicide belts, rocket propelled grenades, mortar shells, hand grenades - you name it, it was all there.? At Mosul?s High Court, there were 44 suicide vests and belts, nine active IEDs, 64 IED switches, 231 mortar rounds, 48 rockets, 72 air dropped improvised munitions, 220 fuses and 109 grenades. Once that was all cleared, stacks of property ownership deeds were found, a boost for returning citizens trying to prove legal ownership of their homes. Most IEDs were based on readily available ingredients such as fertilizer, aluminum powder, diesel and ?anti-lift devices? based on fridge door light switches. They were placed in private homes or at regular intervals in ?belts? up to 10 km long, with an IED every two meters, each with 10-20 kg of home-made explosives. Some were complex, involving infra-red sensors or shaped charges that could penetrate armor. ?IEDs are not new, what is new is the complexity we see and the density, and the numbers, and that they have manufactured ammunition and IEDs on an industrial scale. That is new. and the fact that they have also manufactured conventional ammunition,? Lodhammar said.
  12. BENGHAZI: A double car bombing in the east Libyan city of Benghazi on Tuesday left at least 22 people dead and 30 wounded, including senior security figures, according to officials and a Reuters witness. The first explosion struck outside a mosque in Benghazi?s central Al Salmani district as worshippers were leaving evening prayers. Some 10 to 15 minutes later ? after security and health officials had arrived on the scene ? a second, more powerful blast was detonated from a Mercedes parked on the opposite side of the street, hitting an ambulance and causing a higher number of casualties. The victims included both military personnel and civilians, officials said. One of those killed was Ahmed al-Feitouri of the investigation and arrest unit attached to the general command of east Libyan security forces. Mahdi al-Fellah ? an intelligence official ? was wounded. It was not immediately clear who was responsible. Benghazi was the scene of more than three years of warfare from 2014 until late last year, as forces loyal to eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar battled extremists and other opponents. There were a number of bombings during the latter stages of the conflict targeting figures linked to Haftar?s Libyan National Army (LNA). LNA claimed control of its rivals? final holdout in the port city in December. The fighting in Benghazi was part of a broader conflict that developed in Libya after former ruler Muammar Gaddafi was removed from power and killed in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.
  13. MOGADISHU: A car packed with explosives blew up outside a hotel in Mogadishu on Saturday as a minibus also exploded at a nearby junction, with the emergency services reporting "many dead bodies". Witnesses reported hearing gunfire and said the entire area around the Nasa Hablod hotel was sealed off by security forces to keep people away. "A car loaded with explosives went off at the entrance of Nasa Hablod Hotel and there is gunfire," police official Ibrahim Mohamed told AFP, saying it looked like a coordinated attack. "There was another minibus loaded with explosives which went off a nearby intersection," he said, confirming there were casualties but without giving an initial number. The blasts occurred just two weeks after a huge truck bombing in the Somali capital which killed at least 358 people, making it the deadliest attack in the country's history. Somalia's Aamin ambulance service said there were "many dead bodies" in a posting on its official Twitter feed, adding that it had already evacuated 15 wounded people from the area. An AFP correspondent at the scene also reported seeing two people lying on the ground but their condition was not immediately clear. The Nasa Hablod is a popular hotel located in the north of the city.
  14. Choosing a career path is quite a hard decision, and it happens very often that you realize that you're not made for the job you've just started working on. Well, seems like it's a universal thing as Lulu the Labrador is also going through the exact same thing. The adorable pupper was training to be an explosive detection K-9 for the CIA. Well, I don't have to explain what an important (or should I say 'im-paw-tant') and noble job it is, but Lulu quickly came to a realization that this wasn't the career path for her. And, it turns out she just couldn't even pretend to be motivated, she basically just didn't care about sniffing out bombs, which is literally a life and death kind of a situation. We're sad to announce that a few weeks into training, Lulu began to show signs that she wasn't interested in detecting explosive odors. pic.twitter.com/c6lxHPfC09 — CIA (@CIA) October 18, 2017 In an extremely important 'pupdate' blogpost, the CIA explained how they had no choice other than letting Lulu go : “For some dogs, like Lulu, it becomes clear that the issue isn't temporary. Instead, this just isn't the job they are meant for. Lulu was no longer interested in searching for explosives. Even when they could motivate her with food and play to search, she was clearly not enjoying herself any longer.” Lulu wasn't interested in searching for explosives. Even when motivated w food & play, she was clearly no longer enjoying herself. pic.twitter.com/puvhDk1tRX — CIA (@CIA) October 18, 2017 Even though Lulu was going through her explosive training to become a bomb dog, but she decided that maybe she didn't want to be a bomb dog. But, it's okay, it happens to the best of us. But, on a happier note, she has been adopted by her handler and spends her days playing happily with the children of the family, as well as their other pet Labrador, Harry. Apparently, now she is the best at sniffing out dead rabbits and squirrels in the backyard of her new house. Lulu was adopted by her handler & now enjoys her days playing w his kids & a new friend, & sniffing out rabbits & squirrels in the backyard. pic.twitter.com/WOImM75P1D — CIA (@CIA) October 18, 2017 Even though it wouldn't have been easy to lose such an adorable recruit, this was still the best decision for Lulu, and it seems like she's fully enjoying her retirement now. We'll miss Lulu, but it was right decision for her & we wish her all the best in her new life!https://t.co/nPZl6YWNKb pic.twitter.com/Mbcr9C7wUY — CIA (@CIA) October 18, 2017 All the best, Lulu! You have your whole life ahead of you to just relax and play now.
  15. Somali policemen secure the scene of an explosion near Waberi police station station in Mogadishu, Somalia June 22, 2017. Photo: Reuters 1 MOGADISHU: Two car bombs in separate parts of Somalia?s capital Mogadishu killed at least 22 people on Saturday and injured several others, police said. The first explosion - in the city?s K5 Junction area which is lined with government offices, hotels, and restaurants - destroyed several buildings and set dozens of vehicles on fire. geo_embedgallery ?We know that at least 20 civilians are dead while dozens of others are wounded,? said Abdullahi Nur, a police officer who was in the area. ?The death toll will surely rise. We are still busy transporting casualties,? he said, adding that there were bodies under the rubble. About two hours later, a second blast took place in the city?s Madina district. A Somali woman walks past the scene of an explosion near Waberi police station in Mogadishu, Somalia June 22, 2017. Photo: Reuters ?It was a car bomb. Two civilians were killed, ? Siyad Farah, a police major, told Reuters, adding that a suspect had been caught on suspicion of planting explosives. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although the al Shabaab group has carried out regular attacks The al Qaeda-allied group is waging an insurgency to topple the weak UN-backed government and its African Union allies. They frequently launch gun, grenade and bomb attacks in Mogadishu and other regions controlled by the federal government, though in recent years the militants have lost most territory under their control to African Union peacekeepers and government troops.
  16. MOGADISHU: Long associated with pirates, famine and bombs, Somalia showed a different face to the world this week as it welcomed foreign writers for the first time to its annual book fair. The event took place for the third time in the scarred seaside capital Mogadishu, but until now security was too precarious for overseas authors to take part. Their participation is a sign that things are changing as government troops, backed by African Union peacekeepers, claw back territory from insurgents in the Horn of Africa country. Still, there were 60 guards on duty on Friday outside the hotel where the book fair was taking place, as well as plainclothes security inside. ?In 2015, authors were afraid, but now security has improved,? said organizer Mohamed Diini. ?But authors are not yet brave (enough) to write or present books on the chaos of the country.? Somalia has been riven by civil war since 1991, when clan-based warlords overthrew a dictator and then turned on each other. Although the al Shabaab militia was pushed out of the capital in 2011, it continues to mount almost daily bomb attacks and assassinations. That didn?t stop 31 authors, including a Rwandan, three Kenyans and a British doctoral student, from presenting their books, Diini said.Fartumo Kusow, a Somali-Canadian fiction writer who holds dual nationality, made her first trip home in 27 years. ?It?s like the country has been hit by an earthquake. No building is where it is meant to be,? she said sadly. ?The landscape by the sea is different.? Her novel, ?The Tale of a Boon?s Wife?, tells a story that reverberates across cultures: a love affair forbidden by powerful clans. It was published in Canada by Second Story Press, she said, but only after she had received 104 rejection slips. Rwandan author Dominik Alonga said she came to the book fair out of solidarity - like Somalia, her tiny east African nation is also inextricably associated with past violence. ?When you hear Rwanda, you think ?genocide?. So I write about culture to show the sympathetic and the good side of life,? she said. Abdirahman Ali Mohamed, 21, is an accountancy student from Mogadishu who works as a waiter between classes. His book, ?A Country whose Citizens Migrate?, tells the story of an ordinary life in a failed state. ?I was born after central government collapsed and during a civil war. So writing in my own mother tongue was a pain in the neck because I did not get a good teacher who could teach Somali literature,? he said with a grin. ?But I studied the literature of many foreign countries by myself... I want Somalis to read my book so their life can be a little bit better and they can stay home.?
  17. Damage of Hurricane Irma in Philipsburg, on the Dutch Caribbean island of Saint Maarten. -AFP The destructive energy of Hurricane Irma is about twice that of all bombs dropped in the Second World War, reported The Independent. Louis Uccellini, director of the National Weather Service, said all hazards associated with the storm will be dangerous and added that he was concerned about Florida, starting with the Florida Keys. Another hurricane expert, Kerry Emanuel of MIT, calculated and said Irma hold 7 trillion watts of energy which is twice that of all bombs used in World War II. The hurricane has cut a swathe of deadly destruction as it roared through the Caribbean on Wednesday, claiming at least nine lives and turning the tropical islands of Barbuda and St Martin into mountains of rubble. One of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record, the rare Category Five hurricane churned westward off the northern coast of Puerto Rico early Thursday on a potential collision course with south Florida where at-risk areas were evacuated. Guadeloupe prefect Eric Maire called the situation in St Martin "dramatic," saying the island -- which is divided between the Netherlands and France -- was without drinking water or electricity, and warning the death toll was almost certain to rise. To the southeast, Barbuda, part of the twin island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, suffered "absolute devastation" with 95pc of properties damaged, and up to 30pc demolished, according to Prime Minister Gaston Browne. Threat to Florida Category Five is the highest on the scale for hurricanes in the Atlantic and hurricanes of this intensity are rare. They can cause severe flooding, tear off roofing, shatter windows and uproot palm trees, turning them into deadly projectiles. Irma follows hot on the heels of Hurricane Harvey which devastated swaths of Texas and Louisiana in late August. Irma was hitting the Caribbean even as two other tropical storms, Jose in the Atlantic Ocean and Katia in the Gulf of Mexico, were upgraded to hurricane status. Florida Governor Rick Scott said Irma posed a severe threat to the entire state. The governor has activated 1,000 members of the National Guard and another 6,000 reserve troops will be reporting for duty no later than Friday morning. A US aircraft carrier with a field hospital and dozens of aircraft able to conduct rescue or supply missions have been put on standby.
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