Built to last: Pakistani ‘superman’ defies rare bone disorder

Built to last: Pakistani ‘superman’ defies rare bone disorder
With a goal to transform his body through fitness and bodybuilding, Imran began a daily regimen of moderate and controlled exercise, with a healthy diet. (AN photo)
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Updated 10 June 2021

Built to last: Pakistani ‘superman’ defies rare bone disorder

Built to last: Pakistani ‘superman’ defies rare bone disorder
  • Inspirational bodybuilder says fitness is best weapon in fight against ‘mystery illness’

KARACHI: When doctors told Furqan bin Imran five years ago that he had an “incurable” genetic bone disorder, the diagnosis explained a lifetime of seemingly inexplicable injuries.

Now that the disease had a name — a skeletal abnormality called pycnodysostosis — Imran was determined to fight it.

And fight it he did, going on to become a fitness trainer, bodybuilder and YouTuber.

“The news came as a shock to me,” the 21-year-old told Arab News on Monday. “I had already suffered from the disease for 16 years and was trapped in a difficult phase of my life.”

Just that year, Imran had visited the hospital seeking treatment for his 11th fracture — the first occurred in 2005 when he was only six.

Dr. Salman Kirmani, a consultant medical geneticist and a pediatric endocrinologist at the Aga Khan University in Karachi, finally determined that Imran had pycnodysostosis, a rare disease that affects about one in 2 million live births.

“No one really knows for sure how common it is in Pakistan,” Kirmani said. “But given the fact that we have a lot of intermarriage, and this is an autosomal recessive disorder, it is quite possible that we have a higher incidence.”

Since there is no precise medical treatment for the disorder, the doctor said patients were advised to be careful and avoid strenuous activities that could cause fractures and other injuries.

However, Imran had other ideas, and immediately began following a daily regimen of moderate and controlled exercise, with a healthy diet. He had a goal: To transform his body through fitness and bodybuilding.

“My doctors told me that it was a risk,” he said. “I totally ignored the advice and transformed myself by lifting heavy weights.”

It wasn’t easy, Imran said, describing how the initial training made his backbone “bend backwards” and gave him a sensation of “electric shocks” passing through every inch of his body.

“But I didn’t give up.”

His doctor said Imran’s achievements were unprecedented.

“Such a workout regimen and improving bone strength has never before been reported in cases of pycnodysostosis,” Kirmani said. “Over the years, he has built up his muscle mass to a point that he has no fractures at all.”

The doctor said Imran was a source of inspiration to others facing debilitating illnesses, but warned people not to do “anything that is unsafe or counterproductive for their health” while trying to emulate the bodybuilder’s achievements.

“Never give up — whatever your weaknesses are, turn them into your strengths,” Imran said. “It’s all related to your mind because Allah has built our mind in a beautiful way. If your mind is strong enough to bear all circumstances in your life, you will be able to cure any disease.”

Imran added, smiling: “Now, when I see myself in this phase of my life, I feel like I am out of this world. I feel like I am a superman who can conquer the world with his power.”


Francer’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word

Francer’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word
Updated 56 min 28 sec ago

Francer’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word

Francer’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word
  • Since Britain completed its exit from the EU late last year, relations with the bloc and particularly France have soured

CARBIS BAY, England: French President Emmanuel Macron offered on Saturday to reset relations with Britain as long as Prime Minister Boris Johnson stood by the Brexit divorce deal he signed with the European Union.
Since Britain completed its exit from the EU late last year, relations with the bloc and particularly France have soured, with Macron becoming the most vocal critic of London’s refusal to honor the terms of part of its Brexit deal.
At a meeting at the Group of Seven world’s most advanced economies in southwestern England, Macron told Johnson the two countries had common interests, but that ties could only improve if Johnson kept his word on Brexit.
“The president told Boris Johnson there needed to be a reset of the Franco-British relationship,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
“This can happen provided that he keeps his word with the Europeans,” the source said, adding that Macron spoke in English to Johnson.
Johnson will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel later on Saturday, where she could also raise the row over part of the EU divorce deal, called the Northern Ireland protocol.
The British leader, who is hosting the G7 meeting, wants the summit to focus on global issues, but has stood his ground on trade with Northern Ireland, calling on the EU to be more flexible in its approach to easing trade to the province from Britain.


Russia’s Vladimir Putin hopes US counterpart Joe Biden less impulsive than Donald Trump

Russia’s Vladimir Putin hopes US counterpart Joe Biden less impulsive than Donald Trump
Updated 57 min 13 sec ago

Russia’s Vladimir Putin hopes US counterpart Joe Biden less impulsive than Donald Trump

Russia’s Vladimir Putin hopes US counterpart Joe Biden less impulsive than Donald Trump
  • Russian leader describes Biden as a ‘career man’ who has spent his life in politics
  • Biden has said he is under no illusions about Putin and has described him as ‘a killer’

WASHINGTON: Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced hope Friday that US President Joe Biden will be less impulsive than his predecessor Donald Trump, ahead of his first summit with the new US leader.
In an interview with NBC News, Putin described Biden as a “career man” who has spent his life in politics.
Though he described relations with the United States as having “deteriorated to its lowest point in recent years,” Putin said he expects he can work with Biden.
“It is my great hope that, yes, there are some advantages, some disadvantages, but there will not be any impulse-based movements on behalf of the sitting US president,” he said, according to a translation by NBC News.
“I believe that former US president Trump is an extraordinary individual, talented individual... He is a colorful individual. You may like him or not. But he didn’t come from the US establishment,” Putin was quoted as saying.
Biden plans to raise a range of US complaints, including over purported Russian election interference and hacking, in the summit with Putin on Wednesday in Geneva at the end of the new president’s first foreign trip.
Putin has openly admitted that in the 2016 vote he supported Trump, who had voiced admiration for the Russian leader. At their first summit, Trump infamously appeared to accept Putin’s denials of election interference.
Biden has said he is under no illusions about Putin and has described him as “a killer” in light of a series of high-profile deaths including of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov.
Asked directly if he is “a killer,” Putin chuckled but did not give a yes or no answer.
“Over my tenure, I’ve gotten used to attacks from all kinds of angles and from all kinds of areas under all kinds of pretext and reasons and of different caliber and fierceness, and none of it surprises me,” he said, adding that the term “killer” was a “macho” term common in Hollywood.
Such discourse “is part of US political culture where it’s considered normal. By the way, not here, it is not considered normal here,” he said.
Putin also dismissed as “fake news” a report in the Washington Post that Russia is planning to supply Iran with an advanced satellite system that would allow it to track potential military targets.
“At the very least, I don’t know anything about this kind of thing,” the Russian leader said, speaking from the Kremlin. “It’s just nonsense garbage.”
According to interviewer Keir Simmons, Putin also denied any knowledge of cyberattacks on the United States, and called on Biden to strike a deal with Russia on cyberspace.


China, US diplomats clash over human rights, COVID-19 pandemic origin

China, US diplomats clash over human rights, COVID-19 pandemic origin
Updated 12 June 2021

China, US diplomats clash over human rights, COVID-19 pandemic origin

China, US diplomats clash over human rights, COVID-19 pandemic origin
  • Calls for a more thorough investigation into the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 are particularly sensitive for China

BEIJING: Top US and Chinese diplomats appear to have had another sharply worded exchange, with Beijing saying it told the US to cease interfering in its internal affairs and accusing Washington of politicizing the search for the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi and Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a phone call Friday that revealed wide divisions in a number of contentious areas, including the curtailing of freedoms in Hong Kong and the mass detention of Muslims in the northwestern Xinjiang region.
Calls for a more thorough investigation into the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 are particularly sensitive for China because of suggestions that it might have Blinked escaped from a laboratory in the central city of Wuhan, where cases were first discovered.
Yang said China was “gravely concerned” over what he called “absurd” stories that the virus escaped from the Wuhan lab.
China “firmly opposes any despicable acts that use the epidemic as an excuse to slander China and to shift blames,” Yang was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.
“Some people in the United States have fabricated and peddled absurd stories claiming Wuhan lab leak, which China is gravely concerned about,” Yang said. “China urges the United States to respect facts and science, refrain from politicizing COVID-19 origin tracing and concentrate on international anti-pandemic cooperation.”
The State Department said Blinken “stressed the importance of cooperation and transparency regarding the origin of the virus, including the need for (World Health Organization) Phase 2 expert-led studies in China.”
The US and others have accused China of failing to provide the raw data and access to sites that would allow a more thorough investigation into where the virus sprung from and how it initially spread.
Equally contentious were the issues of Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Taiwan and accusations that China has arbitrarily detained two Canadian citizens in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of an executive of Chinese communications technology giant Huawei, who is wanted by US law enforcement.
The US has “fabricated various lies about Xinjiang in an attempt to sabotage the stability and unity in Xinjiang, which confuse right and wrong and are extremely absurd. China is firmly opposed to such actions,” Yang said.
“Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs,” and those found in violation of a sweeping national security law imposed on the former British colony “must be punished,” Yang said.
Blinken, on the other hand, underscored US concern over the deterioration of democratic norms in Hong Kong and the ongoing “genocide and crimes against humanity against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang,” the State Department said.
He also urged Beijing to ease pressure against Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy China claims as its own territory, to be annexed by force if necessary.
According to Xinhua, Yang said Taiwan involves China’s “core interests” and that Beijing “firmly defends its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The tone of the phone call seemed to echo contentious talks in March in Alaska, when the sides traded sharp and unusually public barbs over vastly different views of each other and the world in their first face-to-face meeting since President Joe Biden took office.
At that meeting, the US accused the Chinese delegation of “grandstanding,” while Beijing fired back, saying there was a “strong smell of gunpowder and drama” that was entirely the fault of the Americans.
Relations between them have deteriorated to their lowest level in decades, with the Biden administration showing no signs of deviating from the established US hard-line against China over trade, technology, human rights and China’s claim to the South China Sea.
Beijing, meanwhile, has fought back doggedly against what it sees as attempts to smear its reputation and restrain its development.
On Thursday, its ceremonial legislature passed a law to retaliate against sanctions imposed on Chinese politicians and organizations, threatening to deny entry to and freeze the Chinese assets of anyone who formulates or implements such measures, potentially placing new pressure on foreign companies operating in the country.


China urges US, Russian nuclear cuts and progress in Iran talks

China urges US, Russian nuclear cuts and progress in Iran talks
Updated 12 June 2021

China urges US, Russian nuclear cuts and progress in Iran talks

China urges US, Russian nuclear cuts and progress in Iran talks
  • Says "unilateral bullying acts of the US" were the root cause of the Iranian nuclear issue.

GENEVA: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged the United States and Russia on Friday to further cut their nuclear arsenals, days before US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold a summit in Geneva.
Wang, addressing the UN-backed Conference on Disarmament from Beijing, said that fresh reductions by the two powers would help spur multilateral nuclear disarmament, and he also took a thinly-veiled swipe at the United States.
“China opposes the development and deployment of regional and global missile defense systems by a certain country that undermine strategic stability, and China opposes the deployment of land-based intermediate-range ballistic missiles by the same country in the neighborhood of other countries,” Wang said.
The Biden administration has said the United States intends to compete with China’s growing influence and military strength in the Asia-Pacific. China is also a nuclear power but its arsenal is much smaller.
US disarmament ambassador Robert Wood took the floor at the Geneva forum to urge China to engage in bilateral talks on risk reduction and strategic stability, in line with previous statements.
“To date, China has rebuffed US efforts to initiate bilateral talks on risk reduction and strategic stability,” Wood said.
Wang said “unilateral bullying acts of the United States” were the root cause of the Iranian nuclear issue.
In 2018, then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from world powers’ 2015 accord with Iran designed to deny it the ability to build nuclear weapons, then reimposed harsh US sanctions on Tehran.
“To return to the deal, lifting sanctions on Iran first is the natural thing to do,” Wang said.
As talks between Iran and the United States in Vienna to revive the 2015 deal were in a “final sprint,” parties to the accord must redouble diplomatic efforts to “bring the JCPOA back on track,” Wang said, using the agreement’s official acronym.

 

 


French army kills Mali jihadist linked to journalist murders

French army kills Mali jihadist linked to journalist murders
Updated 11 June 2021

French army kills Mali jihadist linked to journalist murders

French army kills Mali jihadist linked to journalist murders
  • French forces in the Sahel region killed "four terrorists" during an operation in northern Mali on June 5
  • Bayes Ag Bakabo was in Aguelhok village and preparing an attack against UN peacekeeping forces when he was killed

PARIS: French soldiers have killed a Malian jihadist suspected of being responsible for the kidnapping and deaths of two French journalists in 2013, Defense Minister Florence Parly said Friday.
Parly said French forces in the Sahel region killed “four terrorists” during an operation in northern Mali on June 5, including Bayes Ag Bakabo, the prime suspect in the deaths of RFI radio reporters Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon.
“His neutralization means the end of a long wait,” Parly said, adding that Bakabo was in the village of Aguelhok and was preparing an attack against UN peacekeeping forces when he was killed.
Dupont and Verlon, both in their 50s and veteran journalists for RFI, were seized in the flashpoint northern Malian town of Kidal in November 2013 after interviewing a separatist Tuareg leader.
Their bullet-riddled bodies were found few hours later, with the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group later claiming the killings as revenge for France’s decision to intervene against jihadist groups in the country earlier that year.
A French investigation into the murders concluded that Bakabo, also a known drug trafficker, drove the pick-up truck used to kidnap the two journalists.
Parly expressed her “thoughts for the family and loved ones of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon.”
The exact circumstances of their deaths have never been revealed, and relatives charge that military secrecy has hampered efforts toward that end.
In November, Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, noted that “the alleged perpetrators have been named but are yet to be arrested and prosecuted.”
Callamard pressed the governments of France and Mali “to advance the investigation without further delay so that justice may be served.”
On Friday, Parly said the operation “illustrates one of the main priorities of France in the Sahel region: taking down the main heads of terrorist groups that are causing havoc in the region.”
The news of Bakabo’s death emerged just a day after French President Emmanuel Macron announced a drawdown of French troops in the Sahel region, who number 5,100 in bases across the arid and volatile region on the southern fringe of the Sahara desert.
Macron did not give figures for the drawdown, but he made clear he wanted future French involvement to be limited to counter-terror operations and be part of a multi-nation European force.
“The objective stays the same: France remains committed to the fight against international terrorism, besides Sahelian countries and for the security of Europe and French people,” Parly said.
The Sahel is seen by many Western politicians and experts as a major global security risk because of the growing strength of jihadist groups there, as well as its role as a crossroads for arms and people-smuggling.
Journalists covering the insurgency in the Sahel often find themselves targeted by armed groups, either because of their reporting or for their ransom value.
French reporter Olivier Dubois, 46, disappeared in April and is believed to be in the hands of the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), the biggest jihadist alliance in the Sahel.
The 46-year-old freelancer was in the northern Malian town of Gao, where he had traveled to interview a Qaeda-linked jihadist commander.
Last year, French soldiers serving in the Barkhane force killed the head of AQIM, Abdelmalek Droukdel, in a major breakthrough, while regular air strikes target other senior commanders.
Another senior AQIM figure linked to the murder of the RFI journalists, Amada Ag Hama, was killed in a raid in northern Mali in May 2015.