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PM Imran Khan to launch Sehat Card scheme today in Rajanpur

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan will launch ‘Sehat Insaf Card programme in Rajnapur on Friday (today). Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar will also be present in the ceremony.

According to the details, more than 8000 people of Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur and Muzaffargarh districts will be provided health cards by the end of March.

Earlier on February 4, Prime Minister Imran Khan had launched the first phase of ‘Sehat Card Scheme’.

During the ceremony, PM Khan said “eradicating poverty is central to our all policies,” adding that people become poor owing to expenses of their medical treatment.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government had launched the same health card scheme in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2016.

Under the Sehat Card scheme, the treatment for angioplasty, brain surgery, cancer and other diseases will be done free of cost.

At least 15 million people will benefit from this policy. The card holders could receive medical facilities up to Rs 720,000. The medical facilities would be available in more than 150 private and government hospitals.

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PSL-4: Zalmi beat Kings by 44 runs

F.P. Report

SHARJAH: Peshawar Zalmi outclass the Karachi Kings and registered a thrashing win in the Pakistan Super League encounter at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, on Thursday.

While batting first, Zalmi managed to score a fighting total 153 with the help of Skipper Sammy and Haq powered Zalmi to a fighting total of 153 runs after an initial stutter.

Imam ul Haq scored a fifty for his team and later the blistering cameo of Darren Sammy with 24 runs off 10 balls prompted concerns from the Kings’ side.

In reply, Karachi Kings were destroyed by the Zalmi attack especially Hasan Ali vindicated himself as the X factor between both the teams with his four-for 15 spell. 

With his first-ball LBW to Livingston and a run-out of Babar Azam in the very next over, the fast bowler virtually ended resistance from the Kings’ camp.

Later, the bowler had his last laugh with his wickets of skipper Imad Wasim and Muhammad Aamir.

Kings started their PSL campaign on a high when they defeated Multan Sultans in a close contest by seven runs. However, they lost the next game to Lahore Qalandars by 22 runs.

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India threatens a new weapon against Pakistan: Water

Jeffrey Gettleman

NEW DELHI: India vowed Thursday to cut back on water flowing through its rivers to arid Pakistan, a threat it has made before but now seems more determined to carry out in the wake of a suicide bomb attack last week for which India has blamed Pakistan.

Nitin Gadkari, India’s transport minister, said in a Twitter message that “Our Govt. has decided to stop our share of water which used to flow to Pakistan. We will divert water from Eastern rivers and supply it to our people in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab.”

Some analysts said this was the strongest threat India has made yet since the attack in which a suicide bomber killed more than 40 Indian troops in the disputed region of Kashmir.

A full-blown water war could be catastrophic to the hundreds of millions of people in India and Pakistan who depend on river water. But this latest threat was not accompanied by details on when or how India might act to divert more water from Pakistan downstream or how large, in reality, such diversions would be.

Under a longstanding treaty governing the use of the Indus River and its tributaries, Pakistan still controls most of the water and India has not challenged that.

India has been struggling to find a way to punish Pakistan for the attack last week. The bomber was a young man who grew up in the India-controlled part of Kashmir. He rammed a car full of explosives into an Indian convoy, ripping apart a bus packed with paramilitary troops.

But India was quick to accuse Pakistan, its neighbor and longtime bitter rival, of helping the bomber pull off his deadly mission.

For decades, Pakistan and India have been locked in a violent dispute over Kashmir, a mountainous territory that both nations claim. Western intelligence officials have said that Pakistani security services allow anti-India militants to operate in Pakistan and that some of these militant groups provide material support and expertise, like bomb-making know-how, to insurgents in the Indian-controlled parts of Kashmir.

But Pakistan no longer runs large militant training camps as it had in the 1990s and early 2000s, these officials said.

He Committed Murder. Then He Graduated From an Elite Law School. Would You Hire Him as Your Attorney?

Each day since the attack, India and Pakistan have traded barbs, threatened and insulted each other and, at the same time, tried to carefully woo other countries to their sides. India is eager to isolate Pakistan, but Pakistan has powerful friends in China and Saudi Arabia, both major investors.

Though this latest attack seemed to strike a nerve in India, with many people hungry for revenge, India has few good military options. Both India and Pakistan field nuclear arsenals and thousands of troops on the border. Even the most jingoistic members of India’s military elite are wary of escalating tensions.

So the Indian government has looked for other ways to hit back or, in the views of some of its critics, appear as though it is hitting back. This is hardly the first time it has threatened to reduce Pakistan’s water supply.

In 2016, after militants attacked an Indian Army base near the town of Uri, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “blood and water can’t flow together” and his government threatened to do the same thing. Instead, the Indian military staged what it called surgical strikes against targets just across the border in Pakistan.

This time around, India seems more serious about using water as punishment. Under the Indus Water Treaty, a World Bank-brokered agreement that goes back decades, India and Pakistan divided the rights to the enormous Indus River and its tributaries that wind across the subcontinent.

Both sides have grumbled over certain provisions and both rely heavily on the water flows for hydropower and agriculture.

On Thursday, after Mr. Gadkari’s threat to reduce the flow of water from the Indus’s eastern tributaries into Pakistan, Indian media reported that officials in that same ministry clarified that this was a longstanding policy.

Subscribe for original insights, commentary and discussions on the major news stories of the week, from columnists Max Fisher and Amanda Taub.

Even before the attack, Indian officials said that water allocated to India under the treaty was flowing to Pakistan and that it planned to use those flows for new hydropower projects and farms.

Brahma Chellaney, a professor at Center for Policy Research in New Delhi and an expert on the India-Pakistan water treaty, said that for years India has struggled to harness waters from the rivers that it controls.

“This statement by the Indian government is an attempt by them to show to the country that the government appears to be doing something,” Mr. Chellaney said. “When in actual terms they have done nothing. This is more of a rhetorical statement being used to play to the popular anti-Pakistan sentiment.”

Pakistan has yet to officially respond to the water threat. But on Thursday, Pakistan once again denied any role in the suicide bombing, saying it was “not involved in any way, means or form in the said incident.”

The statement from the office of Prime Minister Imran Khan added, “India also needs deep introspection” to realize “why people of IOK have lost fear of death.”

IOK is shorthand for what Pakistan calls India Occupied Kashmir and the statement was alluding to the legions of young men from villages across India-controlled Kashmir who have joined the militants or taken part in dangerous street demonstrations to protest Indian control. The response to such demonstrations is often heavy handed with Indian security forces firing pellet guns and live ammunition into crowds.

Arif Rafiq, a political analyst at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said India’s threats were driven by national elections expected in the coming months.

Mr. Modi’s government needs to look tough, he said, and is signaling “that it can leverage its upper riparian location to coerce Pakistan.”

“While I don’t see any imminent threat to Pakistan,” Mr. Rafiq added, “we may be getting a glimpse of the future of conflict in South Asia. The region is water-stressed. Water may be emerging as a weapon of war.”

Courtesy: (nytimes.com)

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110 Dead in Bangladesh Fire: ‘This Isn’t About Poverty, It’s About Greed’

Ainara Tiefenthäler

NEW DELHI: The streets were packed Wednesday night when the first explosion ripped through the air.

A car powered by compressed natural gas was traveling through a bazaar in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, when the cylinder stored in the back exploded, witnesses said.

The blast flipped the car. It then ignited several other cylinders that were being used at a street-side restaurant. Then a plastics store on the ground floor of a nearby building caught fire. Then a small shop that was illegally storing chemicals burst into flames.

A wall of fire surged across the street, engulfing bicycles, rickshaws, cars, people, everything in its path. The inferno claimed at least 110 lives in one of the most historic neighborhoods in Bangladesh, a country where hundreds have died in recent years in fires that tore through crowded, unsafe structures, and where a promised crackdown on building violations has fallen short.

“So many people were trying to escape,” said Mohammad Rakib, a restaurant manager, who watched a rickshaw driver try to outrace the flames and then get burned alive.

“I was so terrified,” he said, “I ran out of the restaurant and left behind all the money.”

Bangladesh, one of Asia’s poorest countries, is very crowded — it is about the same size as Iowa, but, with 170 million people, has more than 50 times the population. Those conditions, however, tell only part of the story.

“This isn’t about poverty, it’s about greed,” said Nizamuddin Ahmed, an architect in Dhaka. “The people storing these chemicals in residential buildings are rich — they have cars, nice homes, children studying abroad.”

Government officials need to “knock on doors and tell these businesses to get out and get lost,” he said.

 “But,” he added, “they haven’t.”

By the time the fire brigade quenched the flames on Thursday morning, the neighborhood, Chawkbazar, resembled a war zone.

Mangled cars, all the paint scorched off, sat with their doors hanging half open. Blackened shards of metal poked up from the ground. Firefighters and volunteers carried the bodies away in clean white bags.

At nearby hospitals, families packed the hallways, craning their necks to glimpse handwritten lists of the living and the dead that had been taped to the walls.

“Why has this nightmare happened to me and my children?” cried out a young mother named Mukta who was all but certain that her husband had died. “What will I do now?”

Sadly, none of this is new. In Bangladesh, fire and safety disasters come one after the other.

In 2010, more than 120 people died in a Dhaka fire that started when an electrical transformer exploded and ignited chemicals that were being illegally stored in shops on the ground floor of a residential building — a strikingly similar situation to Wednesday night’s.

In the inferno nine years ago, as in the most recent one, fire engines trying to reach the area were slowed by impenetrable traffic.

After the 2010 fire, government officials vowed to take strong action against building violations. Dhaka has clear zoning rules: For instance, it is illegal to store dangerous materials, such as the chemical compounds used to make plastics, in a residential building.

But these rules are often ignored because of lax enforcement or, sometimes, corruption. Analysts said that wealthy business owners routinely paid off government officials or simply lied about where their businesses were really located.

In 2012, a fire broke out at a garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka. Gigantic piles of yarn and fabric fueled the flames, which burned for more than 17 hours before firefighters extinguished them.

By the time the fire brigade quenched the flames on Thursday morning, the neighborhood, Chawkbazar, resembled a war zone.

It was later discovered that the factory’s fire escapes had been very narrow, trapping dozens. In the end, more than 115 people, mostly poor factory hands, died.

Less than a year after that, an even deadlier disaster struck the garment industry, when an eight-story building in a Dhaka suburb collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people.

Fire officials said on Thursday that they were investigating what exactly had happened in the latest blaze.

The United States Energy Department says that natural-gas-powered vehicles are generally as safe as or safer than those that use gasoline. While private passenger vehicles powered by natural gas are relatively rare in the United States, the Asia-Pacific region is the biggest market for such cars.

A doctor at a government hospital said that dozens of people had been horribly burned in the fire and that some had damaged lungs from inhaling toxic gases, perhaps the burning chemicals.

The fire broke out at a busy intersection in Chawkbazar, which is in a part of town often referred to as Old Dhaka. It is full of teeming, serpentine streets so narrow that buses and big trucks cannot use them, another problem on Wednesday night as fire engines struggled to get in.

“The road was very crowded at the time,” said Mr. Rakib, the restaurant manager. “Terrified people on the street were trying to escape anywhere to save their lives.”

Mr. Ahmed, the architect, noted that years ago the Dhaka authorities had succeeded in relocating tanneries from central Dhaka to outside the city, and he said that was what needed to be done now for businesses storing flammable chemicals.

“We’ve had success in raising awareness for other major public issues, such as family planning,” he said. “We can do this.”

Courtesy: (nytimes.com)

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Space crew unfazed ahead of first launch since rocket failure

MOSCOW (Reuters): Two astronauts who survived a midair rocket failure in October said on Thursday they had received counselling following their brush with death and felt ready to fly again next month.

Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and U.S. astronaut Nick Hague appeared relaxed in Russia’s Star City as they discussed preparations for their first space flight since then.

Together with NASA astronaut Christina Koch they are due to blast off for the International Space Station shortly after midnight on March 15.

A sensor failure two minutes after launch on Oct. 11 forced Ovchinin and Hague to perform an emergency landing from which they escaped physically unscathed.

“We had conversations with psychologists… I understood they were assured both that everything was in order with us and that we felt that everything was in order psychologically,” Ovchinin told reporters.

“So I think …everything will work out for us this time.”

Hague said he had not experienced lingering problems since the launch failure.

“It was for me fairly uneventful in terms of any kind of lingering effects and for my family we’ve been able to prepare for this flight just like we prepared for the last one,” he said.

As the pair hurtled back to Earth in a capsule in October, Ovchinin could be heard in video inside the capsule saying “that was a quick flight.”

He later described the G-forces they experienced during the landing as a akin to a concrete block seven times his weight being placed on his chest.

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Some immune cells can fight all three strains of Influenza virus: Research

Monitoring Desk

TEHRAN: A new discovery indicated that certain immune cells can fight off all three strains of influenza – perhaps permanently, or at least for several years.

At the moment, the various types of influenza – strains A, B, and C – are put into the annual vaccine at different rates every year to stay ahead of the mutated versions of the virus. If our immune system could fight all of them, we wouldn’t need to keep vaccinating so often.

The potential for particular immune cells to take care of all three flu strains was spotted in an earlier analysis of people exposed to the H7N9 (bird flu) virus in 2013. Those who had a strong response from CD8+ T cells were much more likely to recover, Science Alert reported.

These CD8+ T cells are often known as ‘killer cells’ because of the way they fight incoming threats – like a security force guarding the gates of our bodies.

“Our team has been fascinated by the killer cells for a long time,” says lead researcher Katherine Kedzierska, from the University of Melbourne in Australia. “So our next step was to discover how their protective mechanism worked, and if it had potential for a flu vaccine.”

This is where the new research comes in. Mass spectrometry analysis was used to sift through 67,000 viral sequences, looking for specific peptides or chemical bonds common among all three flu strains in humans.

Particular combinations known as epitopes can act as flags to CT8+ T cells, telling them a virus has arrived and initiating the orders to kill it.

“We identified the parts of the virus that are shared across all flu strains, and sub-strains capable of infecting humans,” says one of the team, Marios Koutsakos from the University of Melbourne.

In tests on mice, the team then used these parts of the virus to immunise the animals against the flu, and it worked – infection and inflammation levels were “remarkably reduced” the researchers say.

There’s still a long way to go before we have an all-in-one flu jab that’s ready to be used, though. According to the team’s estimates, roughly 54 percent of the world’s population have the right type of CT8+ T cells in their bodies that can initiate this protective immune response.

That said, this is a key step forward in working out how we might develop better tools for fighting influenza – by getting our killer cells to see off all incoming strains, instead of the annual dance around the strains we think are most likely to hit.

Strain A is usually associated with flu pandemics (large scale spread over multiple countries), while strains A and B are associated with annual epidemics (notable rises in a more limited geographical area). Strain C is less common but can cause serious illness in children.

Importantly, these strains mutate frequently, quickly changing from sub-strain to sub-strain, meaning that even getting a jab every year isn’t always effective.

A jab to protect us from all of the strains at once could prevent thousands of deaths a year. And if this option doesn’t work out, we’ve got others to explore: last year scientists harnessed antibodies found in camelids – camels, alpacas, and llamas – to protect against strain A and strain B in mice.

“This work highlights the underlying power and versatility of the mass spectrometry approach, and we’re excited about the future potential of these epitopes in the development of universal vaccines,” says one of the researchers, Anthony Purcell from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute in Australia.

Courtesy: (tasnimnews.com)

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Five insights that could move tourism closer towards sustainability

Monitoring Desk

Tourism is New Zealand’s biggest export earner, contributing 21% of foreign exchange earnings. The latest data show tourists added NZ$39.1 billion to the economy and the industry has seen a 44% increase over the past five years.

But tourism also brings unwanted pressures on infrastructure and natural resources. Recently, a conference focused on sustainability in tourism and how the industry could contribute to the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), ratified in 2015 as the playbook for global development to 2030.

The meeting challenged the growth agenda that continues to dominate thinking in the tourism industry. The rhetoric around the SDGs came under fire for being based on ideas of utilitarianism (maximising growth and profits) and managerialism (all problems are solvable with good management).

An uneasy tension was evident in how sustainability is viewed. On the one hand, the narrative was one of hopelessness because sustainability in tourism is constantly counter-punched by commercialism and inequalities between locals and outsiders. On the other hand, there was hope. Sustainability in tourism should be possible because corporates allude to re-imagined approaches to social responsibility and indigenous tourism operators see SDGs as compatible with their values and needs.

Here are five major insights on the role of tourism in sustainable development.

1) The SDGs are not infallible

They are full of contradictions and tensions, and born of an institution of ultimate compromise – the United Nations. The UN advances progress based on a “middle ground” approach. For now, the SDGs represent accepted wisdom about what a good life might look like in 2030.

2) Sustainability means change

Sustainability requires a change in mindset, beliefs, assumptions, habits and behaviours – not just of some, but everyone. Everybody stands to lose if we do not achieve a more sustainable world.

According to ancient indigenous wisdom, we are all interconnected, and the UN is beginning to appreciate that. The real challenge is how we institute a shift toward sustainability, after generations of market-driven economics that will not easily release us from its grasp. Like during all major disruptions, we must address root causes to procure lasting effects.

In economic parlance, achieving a shift from growth to sustainability requires us to rethink the incentives and rules (carrots and sticks) we use to guide entrepreneurs and enterprises. We might see sustainability rise in the entrepreneur’s estimation because of natural catastrophes, abhorrence at widespread poverty, and when consumers demand it.

3) We are a long way off

Companies and policymakers are a long way off working out how to do the SDGs justice, but some are making a pretty good start. One global tourism operator, for example, immediately after a major earthquake in one of its prime destinations raised $400,000 from an appeal. They also believed that getting tourists to return would offer longer term benefits to locals, so donated 100% of the profits from travel to the region in the year after the quake to the rebuild. Their philosophy: profit first, then purpose follows. More growth enables the company to do more good. This makes sense because you cannot help anyone if you don’t have the money. But if you wait until you have money to have purpose, then sustainability is merely about economic attainment, only one strand of the many ideals within the SDGs. We should, instead, be aiming for ‘inclusive tourism’ which moves us some way toward tourism being the transformative, partnership-centred, equitable benefit-sharing between companies and local communities that might sustain people and environments over generations.

4) Indigenous perspective

Indigenous knowledge presents alternative sets of values and behaviours that are inherently sustainable and offer potential models.

Indigenous communities are often deprived of opportunity and resources to develop sustainable enterprises of their own. Some indigenous entrepreneurs who start their own enterprises are affected by public doubt about whether they can or should do it. There is also the issue of how indigenous lands should be used – either for large-scale foreign-owned resorts that usually preclude local ownership or for small-scale locally owned ones that are accessible to locals.

5) Customer power

As tourists, tourism operators and tourism agencies, we ought to be prepared to look beyond the idyllic post card images to understand the undesirable consequences of tourism: waste, working conditions, water quality and impacts on the environment. It is important we become discerning customers who ask about sustainability of products and services.

Courtesy: (phys.org)

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Aamir Khan visits ailing Rishi Kapoor in New York

Monitoring Desk

MUMBAI: Bollywood veteran Rishi Kapoor who is undergoing medical treatment in New York was recently joined by Aamir Khan. Sharing a picture from the day, Neetu Kapoor wrote, “It’s not how many hours one spends with a person it’s how much u give in that time !!! Aamir gave so much n more Love Respect Warmth Laughter !! He is a true superstar.”

Rishi Kapoor moved to the U.S. in September last year with wife Neetu Kapoor. The 66-year-old actor is there for medical treatment but exact details about his treatment have not been disclosed by the family.  Rishi Kapoor has been worked with Aamir Khan in 2006 film Fanaa which turned out to be a great hit and was loved by the audience.

Before Aamir Khan, Bollywood celebrities Priyanka Chopra, Sonali Bendre, Anupam Kher amongst others have visited the actor. Talking about his health condition in a recent interview, Rishi Kapoor told an entertainment portal, “My treatment is on, hopefully, I will recover soon and God willing I will return. The procedure is long and tedious and one needs immense patience which unfortunately is not one of my virtue.”

It was in December last year when Ranbir Kapoor along with his girlfriend Alia Bhatt went to New York to spend time with his parents.

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Varun Dhawan and Shraddha Kapoor shoot for ‘Street Dancer’ in London

Monitoring Desk

MUMBAI: Soon after wrapping the Punjab schedule of Street Dancer 3D, Varun Dhawan headed to London with co-star Shraddha Kapoor for film’s 40-day schedule. Varun and Shraddha kicked off the shoot on February 10 and the latest we hear that the actors have shot a special song on top of London’s O2 arena, which is the ninth largest building in the world.

A source close to the project informed Mumbai Mirror that the song has been shot on the rooftop of the dome-shaped O2 arena. The source informed, “This is the first time that a Hindi film song is being shot at the top of a stadium in the Queen’s City. It’s a fun, romantic track and besides the dome, it will also feature the interiors of the stadium.”

The source even informed that for the shoot of the song, the team was allowed only to take a crew of 20 members besides Shraddha and Varun. It said, “Getting to the top felt like a 10-minute trek. We were attached to harnesses to ensure that no one lost balance,”

Sharing a picture from the shoot location, ecstatic Shraddha wrote, “This is us on top of the 02 arena! We had to climb up & then @varundvn & I had to remove all this gear & of course shoot in the freezing cold. P.S – my outfit was shorts & a crop top”

Helmed by Remo D’Souza, Street Dancer 3D features Varun and Shraddha as dancers grown up in the UK. The film co-stars Nora Fatehi, Sonam Bajwa, Punit Pathak in pivotal roles and also marks the debut of Shakti Mohan and Vartika Jha.

Pretty active on social media, Varun recently took to his social media handle to thank fans for always showering love on him.

Being an actor is awesome I get to do such amazing things put smiles on peoples faces and I can do this because of the crazy love I get from my fans so this video is for u guys #kalank #sd3 #2019

The much-awaited film is slated for November 8release this year. Street Dancer 3D will be shot in 3D and later converted to 4DX later.

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Noted Indian producer Raj Kumar Barjatya passes away

Monitoring Desk

MUMBAI: Noted producer Raj Kumar Barjatya passed away this morning. His father Tarachand Barjatya founded the Rajshri banner in 1947. After his father’s death in 1992, he helmed the business and continued with his father’s legacy of producing critically as well commercially acclaimed films.

Family values were the hallmark of their productions and Raj Kumar Barjatya made sure the trend continued even in the modern era. He was the producer of such blockbusters like  Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! (1994), Hum Saath Saath Hain (1999), and Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo (2015). The 75-year-old breathed his last at the Sir H.N. Reliance Foundation hospital. The official Twitter account of Rajshri banner confirmed his passing away by displaying this message: “It is with profound grief that we mourn the loss of Raj Kumar Barjatya, father of Sooraj Barjatya. May his soul Rest In Peace.”

It is with profound grief that we mourn the loss of Raj Kumar Barjatya, father of Sooraj Barjatya. May his soul Rest In Peace.

He is survived by wife Sudha and son Sooraj, who is an acclaimed filmmaker and directed most of his father’s films. Raj Kumar Barjatya’s last production venture was Hum Chaar (2019). He was the winner of the Filmfare Best Film Award for Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!

Many Bollywood celebrities took to Twitter to offer their condolences.