Police charge Brussels April Fool’s Day ‘party’ crowd

Police charge Brussels April Fool’s Day ‘party’ crowd
Crowds soaked by Belgian police water canon as officers surround them in Brussels during an unauthorized fake concert announced on social media as April Fool's Day prank. (AFP)
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Updated 01 April 2021

Police charge Brussels April Fool’s Day ‘party’ crowd

Police charge Brussels April Fool’s Day ‘party’ crowd
  • Brussels authorities warned that announcement on social media of a "party" was illegal and organizers could be prosecuted
  • Belgium on Saturday imposed tighter restrictions aimed at curbing surging Covid infection numbers

BRUSSELS — Police on horseback and using water cannon charged a crowd of up to 2,000 people gathered in a Brussels park on Friday for a fake concert announced on social media as an April Fool’s Day prank.
AFP journalists at the scene saw projectiles thrown at crowd.
Police said that three officers were wounded, one of whom was taken to hospital, and four people were arrested.
The police, wearing protective helmets and advancing in a line, moved in to enforce strict Covid-19 social-distancing rules that prohibit gatherings of more than four people outdoors.
Brussels law enforcement authorities on Wednesday had issued a warning that the announcement on social media of a “party” was illegal and that its organizers could be prosecuted.
Belgium on Saturday imposed tighter restrictions aimed at curbing surging Covid infection numbers.
They include closing schools, keeping borders closed, limiting access to non-essential shops and lowering the number of people able to meet outdoors to four.
One participant, Selim Jebira, told AFP that “we were tear-gassed for no reason at all.”
Brussels mayor, Philippe Close, tweeted that, while he could understand people wanting to go outside in the springtime weather, “we can’t tolerate such gatherings.”
He thanked the police “for the difficult job, and for people who have respected the rules for more than a year,” since the start of the pandemic.


Kyrgyzstan pushes poisonous root as virus cure

Kyrgyzstan pushes poisonous root as virus cure
Updated 16 April 2021

Kyrgyzstan pushes poisonous root as virus cure

Kyrgyzstan pushes poisonous root as virus cure
  • Health Minister Alimkadyr Beishenaliyev took sips of the solution that contains extracts of aconite root in front of journalists as he talked up its healing properties
  • Alimkadyr Beishenaliyev: ‘You need to drink it hot, and in two or three days the positive PCR test result disappears and the person immediately becomes better’

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyzstan is promoting a poisonous root as a safe treatment against the coronavirus as the country battles a new wave of infections despite health warnings.
The health ministry unveiled the remedy at a news conference on Friday, claiming the impoverished country’s leader has used the herb to cure “thousands” of sick inmates when he served jail time last year.
Health Minister Alimkadyr Beishenaliyev took sips of the solution that contains extracts of aconite root in front of journalists as he talked up its healing properties.
“There is no harm to health,” Beishenaliyev said after gulping the potion.
“You need to drink it hot, and in two or three days the positive PCR test result disappears and the person immediately becomes better.”
Aconite root is used in traditional medicine even though it is considered highly toxic.
The authorities have said that a third wave of Covid-19 cases is beginning in the Central Asian country of 6.5 million people, which suffered a difficult summer as the virus overwhelmed hospitals last year.
Ahead of the presentation, President Sadyr Japarov took to Facebook late Thursday, releasing a video that appeared to show the remedy being bottled by a team of men who were not wearing protective equipment.
The label on the bottles called the drink effective “against coronavirus and cancer of the stomach” but warned that drinking the solution without heating it up might result in death.
The World Health Organization on Thursday criticized the decision to promote the remedy.
“A drug that has not undergone clinical trials cannot be registered and recommended for widespread use by the population,” the WHO said.
Beishenaliyev claimed Japarov had successfully treated “thousands of prisoners” using the solution prior to being released from jail by protesters and catapulted to power during a political crisis last year.
Japarov is not the first leader to claim a herbal cure for the coronavirus.
In Turkmenistan, another Central Asian country, leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov hailed licorice root as a cure for the coronavirus, a disease he insists has yet to touch his isolated country of six million people.
Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina has promoted a locally-brewed infusion, based on the anti-malarial plant artemisia, to fight the virus.


SpaceX, NASA give ‘go’ for astronaut launch, 3rd for Dragon

SpaceX, NASA give ‘go’ for astronaut launch, 3rd for Dragon
Updated 16 April 2021

SpaceX, NASA give ‘go’ for astronaut launch, 3rd for Dragon

SpaceX, NASA give ‘go’ for astronaut launch, 3rd for Dragon
  • SpaceX has been shipping cargo to the space station since 2012, using the same kind of rocket and similar capsules, and recycling those parts as well

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: SpaceX is gearing up for its third astronaut launch in under a year, after getting the green light from NASA a week ahead of next Thursday’s planned flight.
Managers from NASA and Elon Musk’s space company Thursday cleared the Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule for a dawn liftoff with a crew of four to the International Space Station. They will spend six months at the orbiting lab, replacing another SpaceX crew that’s close to coming home.
This will be the first crew flight using a recycled Falcon and Dragon. Both were designed for reuse.
The rocket was used to launch the current station crew last November from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The capsule, dubbed Endeavour, also will be making a repeat performance; it carried two test pilots to the space station on SpaceX’s first crew flight last spring.
SpaceX refurbished both and added safety upgrades. Most of the capsule is already “flight proven,” company officials noted, except for some new valves, thermal protection covers and parachutes.
Kathy Lueders, head of NASA’s human exploration office, said it was “moving” to be on the verge of flying three SpaceX crew flights in 11 months.
“Looking back, it’s really, really amazing what both the SpaceX and NASA teams have accomplished,” she said.
SpaceX said it must resolve one issue before conducting a test firing at the launch pad this weekend. It appears the company has been loading more liquid oxygen into its first-stage boosters than anticipated, and engineers want to make “extra certain” that poses no safety risks, said Bill Gerstenmaier, a new SpaceX vice president who used to work for NASA.
Three of the astronauts are back for their second space station mission: NASA’s Shane Kimbrough, France’s Thomas Pesquet and Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide. NASA astronaut Megan McArthur was part of the final Hubble Space Telescope repair team in 2009.
For nearly a decade, the only route to the space station for astronauts was on Russian rockets. NASA turned to private companies for taxi service after the space shuttles retired in 2011. SpaceX has been shipping cargo to the space station since 2012, using the same kind of rocket and similar capsules, and recycling those parts as well.


Lebanon’s economic crisis takes Ramadan sweets off the table

Lebanon’s economic crisis takes Ramadan sweets off the table
Worker filing a plate of Ramadan sweets [Hadaf] for a client at El Karout Sweets, whose owner said production and profits went down due to economic crisis. (AN photo)
Updated 15 April 2021

Lebanon’s economic crisis takes Ramadan sweets off the table

Lebanon’s economic crisis takes Ramadan sweets off the table
  • Plunging currency value sends prices for traditional treats spiralling
  • Customers stay away from Beirut’s bakeries amid financial gloom

BEIRUT: Samir, a 10-year-old boy, excitedly accompanied his father into a sweet shop to buy Ramadan treats for iftar in Beirut.

Yet his excitement soon turned to disappointment after his father checked the prices and told him “we cannot afford kellaj today.”

A famous, traditional Ramadan sweet, kellaj are phyllo pastry sheets stuffed with cheese or cream, fried, dipped in sugar syrup and served after breaking fast at sunset.

Despite being an Iftar favorite, Lebanese have been left unable to afford the traditional sweets this year due to skyrocketing prices amid Lebanon’s economic disintegration.

Kellaj, along with other famous sweets like kunafa, shu’aybeyyat baklawa and qatayef usually decorate every home’s Ramadan table. This year, however, they are absent.

When asked why he looked sad outside the shop in Aiche Bakkar district on Tuesday, Samir said he was looking forward to having kellaj but his father would not buy any.

“I couldn’t earn much today,” Samir’s father, Ramez, a taxi driver, told Arab News. “I only bought four pieces of qatayef for my family.”

The father had promised his children kellaj, but the new price was 48,000 Lebanese pounds for 12. Qatayef were cheaper, so he bought four pieces for 10,000 Lebanese pounds.

The Lebanese currency has lost more than 85 percent of its value on the informal market since 2019.

The currency keeps hitting new lows against the dollar on the black market as Lebanon remains gripped by political deadlock and a worsening economic crisis.

Positioned at Beirut’s busy junction of Karakon Drouz, Al Shami Sweets’ manager Khaled Al-Imad told Arab News that sweet prices have “soared nearly 60 percent due to the dollar increase.”

Eventually that led to a “frightening plunge” in the number of clients by around 40-50 percent.

“We sold kellaj last year for 36,000 Lebanese pounds per dozen … this year we are selling it at 84,000,” Al-Imad said.

Al Shami’s staffer in charge of frying the kellaj said in past years he used to fry over 15 dozen per day. During this Ramadan, he just fries a few pieces every hour.

“The price of shu’aybeyyat has doubled from 30,000 pounds last Ramadan to 60,000 pounds this year,” Al-Imad said.

As he walked out of another small sweetshop, Beirut resident Mahmoud told Arab News: “Iftar tables look almost abandoned without traditional Ramadan sweets decorating them.”

A block away from Al Shami sits one of Mar Elias Street’s oldest sweetshops — Mekari and Sherkawi. Owner Ahmad Sherkawi said the demand for Ramadan sweets has declined dramatically this year.

“Our clients are only purchasing one piece per family member,” he said, as he plunged a dozen kellaj into the fryer. He estimated that the number of customers had dropped by 70 percent.

The steep rise in the dollar against the pound has forced Sherkawi, like many other sweetshop owners, to increase prices.

Sweet suppliers refuse to deliver the items except in exchange for dollar payments. But since banks were ordered not to allow dollar withdrawals, the currency is in short supply.

“Ramadan is a special occasion that families decorate their iftar meals with special sweets. We were expecting an increase in orders but unfortunately the demand wasn’t as high,” Sherkawi added.

Storekeeper and father of four Abu Mazen said he did not enter the sweetshop after reading the price list posted at the door.

“What a pity. My kids love kellaj and qatayef but I cannot afford it,” he said. “I will buy some cheaper cookies.”

Wissam Karout, owner of famous El-Karout Sweets in Zaydaneyye, said prices had tripled this Ramadan compared to last year.

“Our production went down and so did our profits,” he said.


Iranian TV slammed for interrupting football to prevent fans seeing female referee’s legs

Each time Sian Massey-Ellis appeared on the screen, the broadcaster cut away to landscape shots of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and the streets around the ground. (Daily Mail/Screenshot)
Each time Sian Massey-Ellis appeared on the screen, the broadcaster cut away to landscape shots of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and the streets around the ground. (Daily Mail/Screeshot)
Updated 14 April 2021

Iranian TV slammed for interrupting football to prevent fans seeing female referee’s legs

Each time Sian Massey-Ellis appeared on the screen, the broadcaster cut away to landscape shots of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and the streets around the ground. (Daily Mail/Screenshot)
  • Each time Sian Massey-Ellis appeared on screen, the broadcaster cut away
  • Iranian women’s rights group: ‘Censorship is in the DNA of the Islamic Republic’

LONDON: Football fans in Iran had to endure state TV cutting away from its broadcast of Tottenham Hotspur’s Premier League match against Manchester United on Sunday to avoid showing the legs of assistant referee Sian Massey-Ellis.

Each time Massey-Ellis appeared on the screen, the broadcaster cut away to landscape shots of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and the streets around the ground.

According to Iranian women’s civil rights group My Stealthy Freedom, the decision was to prevent viewers seeing her bare legs.

“The television censors were rattled by the presence of a female referee in shorts,” the group said in a statement.

“Their solution was to cut away from the action to views of London’s backstreets, which made a mockery of the game. At the end of the game, one of the commentators joked that he hoped the viewers enjoyed the geographic show,” it added.

“Censorship is in the DNA of the Islamic Republic of Iran. We should not normalise this practice. This is not our culture. This is the ideology of a repressive regime.”

In 2018, an Iranian state TV channel blurred out AS Roma’s badge during coverage of their Champions League quarterfinal with Barcelona due to it containing an image of a female wolf feeding the mythical founders of the city, Romulus and Remus.


Queen returns to royal duties after death of Prince Philip

Queen returns to royal duties after death of Prince Philip
Updated 14 April 2021

Queen returns to royal duties after death of Prince Philip

Queen returns to royal duties after death of Prince Philip
  • Prince Philip died at the age of 99
  • The royal family is observing two weeks of mourning

LONDON: Queen Elizabeth II has returned to royal duties, four days after the death of her husband, Prince Philip.

The 94-year-old British monarch attended a retirement ceremony for a senior royal official on Tuesday, according to the Court Circular, the official record of royal engagements.

The royal family is observing two weeks of mourning for Philip, who died Friday at the age of 99. The palace has said members of the royal family will “undertake engagements appropriate to the circumstances” during the mourning period.

The queen attended a ceremony at Windsor Castle for Lord Chamberlain Earl Peel, who has retired as the royal household’s most senior official. He oversaw arrangements for the funeral of Prince Philip, also known as the Duke of Edinburgh, until handing over to his successor days before the duke’s death.

Philip’s funeral will take place Saturday at Windsor Castle, with attendance limited to 30 because of coronavirus restrictions.

Servicemen and women from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and Royal Air Force will take part in the funeral procession, and Philip’s coffin will be borne to St. George’s Chapel at the castle on a specially adapted Land Rover, which he designed himself.