Indian couple hold mid-air wedding party flouting COVID lockdown rules

Indian couple hold mid-air wedding party flouting COVID lockdown rules
A video of on-board celebrations posted on social media show people with flowers around their necks and taking selfies. (Twitter screen grab)
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Updated 25 May 2021

Indian couple hold mid-air wedding party flouting COVID lockdown rules

Indian couple hold mid-air wedding party flouting COVID lockdown rules

DUBAI: An amateur video featuring a south Indian bride and groom has gone viral on social media after the couple filmed their post-wedding celebrations on a chartered flight joined by more than 160 guests on board. 

The couple’s party took place on a SpiceJet Boeing 737, surrounded by relatives and guests, in what was described as a clear defiance of Covid-19 lockdown rules in India. 

The unnamed couple were celebrating as the plane flew over historic Meenakshi Amman temple on its way from Madurai to Bangalore, according to Hindustan Times newspaper said.

Online photos showed passengers with flowers around their necks and taking selfies. Most of them were seen without face masks and not observing Covid-19 protocols.

India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has reportedly ordered an investigation into the incident and suspended the plane’s crew.


Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan tours Expo 2020 Dubai site

Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan tours Expo 2020 Dubai site
Updated 28 September 2021

Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan tours Expo 2020 Dubai site

Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan tours Expo 2020 Dubai site

DUBAI: Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, a fitness enthusiast, took a bike tour of the Expo 2020 Dubai site days before the much-awaited global fair opens.

In a video posted on the event’s Instagram account, Sheikh Hamdan could be seen touring facilities and buildings including Al-Wasl Plaza as well as the 15,000-square-meter UAE pavilion, Expo 2020 Dubai’s largest.

Sheikh Hamdan also posted in his Instagram account pictures of his visit, including a snap with Reem Al-Hashimi, the UAE’s Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General of Expo 2020 Dubai.


Deja Vu? Lebanese draw similarities between UK and Lebanon fuel shortages

A BP petrol station that has run out of fuel is seen in south London, Britain, September 27, 2021. (Reuters)
A BP petrol station that has run out of fuel is seen in south London, Britain, September 27, 2021. (Reuters)
Updated 27 September 2021

Deja Vu? Lebanese draw similarities between UK and Lebanon fuel shortages

A BP petrol station that has run out of fuel is seen in south London, Britain, September 27, 2021. (Reuters)
  • Gas station pumps ran dry in major British cities on Monday
  • Until recently, Lebanon had been subsidising the price of gasoline by providing dollars to importers

LONDON: Hours of queues at gas stations in Britain have left Lebanese in the country reeling from an unpleasant deja vu as the UK found itself suffering similar problems to the crisis-riddled Middle Eastern nation.

Gas station pumps ran dry in major British cities on Monday and vendors rationed sales as a shortage of truckers strained supply chains to breaking point in the world’s fifth-largest economy.

“Fuel shortage in Lebanon, people queuing to buy gas. Left Lebanon, came to the UK. Fuel shortage in the UK, people queuing to buy gas. AM I CURSED?” Tweeted Ibrahim Abdallah. 

A dire shortage of lorry drivers as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic recedes has sewn chaos throughout British supply chains in everything from food to fuel, raising the spectre of disruptions and price rises as Christmas looms.

Lebanese who left their home to live or study in the UK cannot help but feel as if their problems are not too far behind, with the country going into its second month of fuel crisis.

“Fuel shortages? Is this the UK or Lebanon?” wrote Amir.

Pumps across British cities were either closed or had signs saying fuel was unavailable on Monday, local media reported, with some limiting the amount of fuel each customer could buy.

“Long fuel queues in London have led to road blocking…I’m sure they do it just for me so I wouldn’t miss Lebanon much while I’m away!” wrote MidEast Correspondent for BBC World Service Nafiseh Kohnavard. 

“On the weekend before my flight to Beirut: Fuel shortages causing queues at UK petrol stations, Bojo considering using army to supply petrol stations, 10 hour power outage in my building. Is the Universe training me for my stay in Lebanon?” Asked Yara.

Until recently, Lebanon had been subsidising the price of gasoline by providing dollars to importers from the central bank at heavily subsidised exchange rates. 

Last week, a convoy of trucks carrying Iranian fuel oil entered northeastern Lebanon near the village of Al-Ain, where Hezbollah’s yellow flag fluttered from lampposts.

While such a sight will definitely not be seen around London’s Trafalgar Square, the county’s Lebanese diaspora has seen this fuel crisis hit too close to home.

(With Agencies)


‘Swift chariots of democracy’: all aboard Washington’s secret subway

‘Swift chariots of democracy’: all aboard Washington’s secret subway
Updated 27 September 2021

‘Swift chariots of democracy’: all aboard Washington’s secret subway

‘Swift chariots of democracy’: all aboard Washington’s secret subway
  • The Capitol Subway System has been ferrying politicians back and forth for more than a century
  • Famous patrons have included actors Richard Gere, Chuck Norris and Denzel Washington and the rock star Bono

WASHINGTON: Frequented by presidents, Supreme Court justices and even the occasional movie star, it is the transport of choice for some of the world’s most powerful movers and shakers — yet few Americans know it exists.
The Capitol Subway System, a network of trolleys in the fluorescent-lit bowels of the labyrinthine, 600-room US Congress in Washington, has been ferrying politicians back and forth for more than a century.
It has made headlines as the scene of a botched assassination bid, an impromptu off-Broadway stage and a hiding place for a president who disappeared from the Oval Office without telling anyone.
“Children love it so there are always senators who are willing to bring family members with young children, nieces and nephews, to ride on it,” Dan Holt, an assistant historian at the Senate Historical Office, told AFP.
“And so I think there’s just something kind of special about it.”
The track stretches 3,100 feet — a shade under a kilometer — with the 90-second hop between stations just enough for serious political debate, idle gossip, an impromptu press conference or a moment of quiet reverie.
“Think about getting on the train to ride to work in other contexts, where you have that moment where you can just sit for a minute and think — or sit and have casual conversation,” Holt said.
“The train in the Capitol has served that purpose as well over time.”
It has also provided useful photo opportunities for presidential hopefuls looking to show the common touch, such as Ronald Reagan, although a boyish JFK — then just plain old Senator Jack Kennedy — was once refused entry and scolded to “stand aside for the senators, son.”

Assassination attempt

Today, the bustling main station is abuzz whenever the Senate is in session, with journalists waiting patiently to swarm legislators as they disembark to vote in the upper chamber.
But the cut-and-thrust of political discourse isn’t always as convivial below ground as it is on the Senate floor.
In 1950, Maine senator Margaret Chase Smith was preparing to deliver a rebuke to fellow Republican Joe McCarthy when the intimidating anti-communist crusader and smear-artist saw her in a subway car.
“Margaret, you look very serious,” Smith later recalled McCarthy saying, according to Holt. “Are you going to make a speech?“
“Yes,” she responded, “and you’re not going to like it very much.”

Capitol Hill staffers are seen on a subway car at the US Capitol on Sept. 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP) 

Three years earlier the subway had seen its only recorded assassination attempt, when disgruntled ex-Capitol Police officer William Kaiser opened fire from a .22-caliber pistol on presidential hopeful John Bricker.
The Ohio senator dived for cover into the waiting subway car, yelling at the driver to whisk him away, as a second bullet whistled over his head.
“Only good fortune and the bad marksmanship of his assailant saved the senator,” The New York Times reported after the gunman fled the scene, only to be arrested later.
In less querulous times, political leaders have seen the subway as something of a refuge from the frenetic pace of Washington politics.
William Howard Taft, the 27th president, alarmed aides one Saturday in January 1911 when he went missing for around an hour to go see the trains.
“A keen thrill of fear swept over the city when anxious inquiries at the White House brought forth the reply that the president could not be found. The alarm spread like a forest fire,” the Washington Times reported at the time.

First subway

The first subway was opened on March 7, 1909 for senators hoping to avoid the punishing Washington heat as they went between their offices and the upper chamber.
Electric Studebaker automobiles were replaced by a monorail with its own track three years later and, in 1960, officials added four $75,000 electric subway cars — dubbed “swift chariots of democracy” by the Senate chaplain.
A House line connected the Rayburn House Office Building to the Capitol five years after that and, in 1993, an $18 million Disneyland-style driverless train was introduced to great fanfare.
Not everyone supported these improvements. Some senators grumbled about bumpy rides while others complained that their delicately coiffured hair was being ruined by gusts of wind. Ohio’s Mike DeWine banned his staff from riding in protest against government waste.
Future presidents aside, the system’s famous patrons have included actors Richard Gere, Chuck Norris and Denzel Washington, satirist Jon Stewart and the rock star Bono.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Tony Award-winning creator of hit musical “Hamilton,” decided to take a midnight ride and belt out show tunes for his Twitter following when he was in the building to receive an award in 2017.
Some Capitol Hill staff see the gentility of subway interactions becoming rarer as health-conscious politicians with step-counting devices increasingly take to walking between buildings.
But the clientele will never truly disappear as long as the urgent task of running the country requires busy people to be in 10 places at once.
“If you’re in a rush, it’s great,” Holt told AFP.


Man drives from Ohio hoping to help Haitian friend at border

Man drives from Ohio hoping to help Haitian friend at border
Updated 25 September 2021

Man drives from Ohio hoping to help Haitian friend at border

Man drives from Ohio hoping to help Haitian friend at border
  • Dave wore the bright safety vest so his friend Ruth would be able to spot him in the crowd when she arrived with her husband and 3-year-old daughter
  • “I feel like my friend is worth my time to come down and help,” he told AP on Friday

DEL RIO, Texas: As Haitian migrants stepped off a white US Border Patrol van in the Texas border city of Del Rio after learning they’d be allowed to stay in the country for now, a man in a neon yellow vest stood nearby and quietly surveyed them.
Some carried sleeping babies, and one toddler walked behind her mother wrapped in a silver heat blanket. As they passed by to be processed by a local nonprofit that provides migrants with basic essentials and helps them reach family in the US, many smiled — happy to be starting a new leg of their journey after a chaotic spell in a crowded camp near a border bridge that links Del Rio with Ciudad Acuña, Mexico.
Dave, who didn’t want to share his last name because he feared a backlash for trying to help people who entered the US illegally, didn’t see his friend Ruth in this group. But he wore the bright safety vest so she would be able to spot him in the crowd when she arrived with her husband and 3-year-old daughter.
“I feel like my friend is worth my time to come down and help,” he told The Associated Press on Friday.
On Tuesday, Dave set out from his hometown of Toledo, Ohio, and made the nearly 1,300-mile (2,092-kilometer) drive to Del Rio, where up to 15,000 migrants suddenly crossed in from Mexico this month, most of them Haitian and many seeking asylum.
The 64-year-old met Ruth over a decade ago during a Christian mission to Haiti. Over the years, Dave would send Ruth money for a little girl he met in an orphanage whom he’d promised himself he’d support. Ruth always made sure the girl had what she needed.
Last month, Ruth and her family left South America, where they briefly lived after leaving their impoverished Caribbean homeland, to try to make it to the United States. Dave told her he’d be there when they arrived to drive them to her sister’s house in Ohio.
“I just see it as an opportunity to serve somebody,” he said. “We have so much.”
The nonprofit, the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition, has received dozens of drop-offs from US Border Patrol agents since the sudden influx of migrants to Del Rio became the country’s most pressing immigration challenge. Its operations director, Tiffany Burrow, said the group processed more than 1,600 Haitian migrants from Monday through when the camp was completely cleared Friday, assisting them with travel and resettlement necessities.
This is nothing new for Burrow, who has watched Haitian migrants cross into Del Rio in smaller numbers since January. But this recent wave overwhelmed her small group.
“It’s a different volume. And the eyes of the world are on us this time,” Burrow told the AP.
As Dave waited Friday for the next bus to arrive, he shimmied a child seat into place in the back seat of his vehicle. It was for Ruth’s toddler and was the first thing he spotted when he stopped at a thrift store on his way out of Toledo. He viewed it as a little sign he was doing the right thing.
Ruth and her family had spent the past week at the bridge camp and Dave had been communicating with her through WhatsApp. But all communication stopped Thursday around noon, and he said Ruth’s sister in Ohio also hadn’t heard from her.
Still, Dave waited, scrolling through a list of “what ifs.” He wondered aloud if her phone died or if she was in a Border Patrol facility with strict rules about electronic devices. “I’m putting a lot of faith in my phone,” he said, laughing.
Like Dave, Dr. Pierre Moreau made the trip to Del Rio from Miami to help. A Haitian immigrant himself and US Navy veteran, he saw the images unfolding from the camp and booked a flight.
“That was devastating. My heart was crying,” Moreau said. “And I told my wife I’m coming. And she said go.”
Moreau didn’t have a plan — just a rental car full of toiletries and supplies he hoped to pass out to any migrants he came across.
“I’m concerned about my brothers and sisters. And I was concerned with the way they were treated,” he said.
Dave said he hates how politicized the border issue has become. He considers himself a supporter of former President Donald Trump but said he’s more complicated than a single label.
As he waited in his car, Dave gushed over how hard Ruth had worked as a nurse to get to the United States — a dream she’s held for over a decade. He said he knows she’ll do the same in the US and that all he’s doing is giving her and her small family a leg up.
“I help them with their first step,” Dave said. “And like a little child, next time you see them, they’ll be running.”
Every time a Border Patrol bus or van pulled up to the coalition, Dave and his yellow vest would cross the street. He waited as each migrant climbed out, hoping to see Ruth, and he even darted over to one woman thinking it was her. “That sounded just like Ruth’s voice,” he said.
As news broke Friday that the camp had been cleared, Dave still held out hope that she’d arrive. But 10 hours after he pulled up, the coalition announced it had received its last busload and that no more migrants would be arriving from the camp.
This wave, at least for now, was over for Del Rio. But Burrow said there will likely be others.
“Right now, we’re in a cycle,” she said. “We’re learning to work with it.”
Dave stood up from his folding chair and started walking back to his car. He still hadn’t heard anything from Ruth and he again speculated as to where she and her family might be, including that they could have been sent on a deportation flight back to Haiti.
He looked defeated but said he didn’t plan to drive back to Ohio until he heard from Ruth — not until he knew his friend was OK.
“I cringe when I hear the beep that it’s going to be the wrong message,” Dave said. “But I try to keep hoping. I don’t know what else I can do.”


Indian man on bail must wash women’s clothes for six months

Indian man on bail must wash women’s clothes for six months
Updated 24 September 2021

Indian man on bail must wash women’s clothes for six months

Indian man on bail must wash women’s clothes for six months
  • Lalan Kumar will have to buy detergent and other items needed to provide six months of free laundry services to about 2,000 women in the village
  • Kumar, who washes clothes for a living, was arrested in April on charges including attempted rape

PATNA: An Indian man accused of attempted rape has been given bail on condition that he wash and iron the clothes of all women in his village for six months.
Lalan Kumar, 20, will have to buy detergent and other items needed to provide six months of free laundry services to about 2,000 women in the village of Majhor in Bihar state, under the ruling made Wednesday.
Kumar, who washes clothes for a living, was arrested in April on charges including attempted rape, Santosh Kumar Singh, a police officer in Bihar’s Madhubani district, told AFP.
No date has been set for his trial.
“All the women in the village are happy with the court decision,” Nasima Khatoon, the head of the village council, told AFP.
“It is historic. It will boost respect for women and help to protect dignity,” added Khatoon, one of the village dignitaries who will monitor Kumar.
Women in the village said the order had made a positive impact by making crime against women a subject of discussion in their community.
“This is a remarkable step and a different kind of punishment that sends a message to society,” said Anjum Perween.
India’s rape laws were overhauled after a 2012 gang rape in New Delhi but the number of offenses remains high, with more than 28,000 rapes reported in 2020.
Police have long been accused of not doing enough to prevent violent crime and failing to bring sexual assault cases to court.