Feud put aside as UK’s William and Harry unveil statue to Princess Diana

Feud put aside as UK’s William and Harry unveil statue to Princess Diana
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Britain’s Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, unveil their late mother’ Princess Diana’s statue at Kensington Palace. (AFP)
Feud put aside as UK’s William and Harry unveil statue to Princess Diana
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Guy Monson, a member of the statue committee, Princes Harry and William attend the unveiling of a statue they commissioned of their mother Diana, Princess of Wales. (Reuters)
Feud put aside as UK’s William and Harry unveil statue to Princess Diana
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Britain’s Princes William and Harry unveil a statue of their mother, Princess Diana at The Sunken Garden in Kensington Palace, London on Thursday, which would have been her 60th birthday. (AFP)
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Updated 01 July 2021

Feud put aside as UK’s William and Harry unveil statue to Princess Diana

Feud put aside as UK’s William and Harry unveil statue to Princess Diana
  • Princes William and Harry displayed a united front as they revealed the statue commissioned in honour of Diana in Kensington Palace’s Sunken Garden
  • Diana was killed in a Paris car crash in 1997

LONDON: British Princes William and Harry put their differences aside on Thursday when they unveiled a statue to their late mother Princess Diana on what would have been her 60th birthday.
The brothers, whose falling out has been the subject of intense media focus, displayed a united front as they revealed the statue they commissioned in honor of Diana in the Sunken Garden of Kensington Palace in central London, her former home.
Diana was killed in a Paris car crash in 1997.
“Today, on what would have been our Mother’s 60th birthday, we remember her love, strength and character – qualities that made her a force for good around the world, changing countless lives for the better,” the brothers said in a statement.
“Every day, we wish she were still with us, and our hope is that this statue will be seen forever as a symbol of her life and her legacy.”
William, 39, and Harry, 36, were joined by their mother’s brother Charles Spencer and her sisters Sarah McCorquodale and Jane Fellowes for the small, private event at the Sunken Garden, one of Diana’s favorite places.


Hundreds of migrating songbirds crash into NYC skyscrapers

Hundreds of migrating songbirds crash into NYC skyscrapers
Updated 17 September 2021

Hundreds of migrating songbirds crash into NYC skyscrapers

Hundreds of migrating songbirds crash into NYC skyscrapers
  • Stormy weather Monday night into Tuesday contributed to the deaths, said Kaitlyn Parkins of NYC Audubon group
  • But bird strikes on Manhattan skyscrapers are a persistent problem for years, says NYC Audubon

NEW YORK: Hundreds of birds migrating through New York City this week died after crashing into the city’s glass towers, a mass casualty event spotlighted by a New York City Audubon volunteer’s tweets showing the World Trade Center littered with bird carcasses.
This week’s avian death toll was particularly high, but bird strikes on Manhattan skyscrapers are a persistent problem that NYC Audubon has documented for years, said Kaitlyn Parkins, the group’s associate director of conservation and science.
Stormy weather Monday night into Tuesday contributed to the deaths, she said.
“We had a big storm and sort of weird weather and lots of birds, and that’s sort of the perfect combination that can lead to bird-window collisions,” Parkins said.
“It seems that the storm might have brought the birds in lower than they would have otherwise have been, or just disoriented them,” Parkins added. “The effects of nocturnal light on birds is also quite strong, especially when it’s a cloudy night.”
Volunteers with NYC Audubon document bird deaths at high-risk spots during the spring and fall migrations.
Melissa Breyer, the volunteer who tweeted about finding nearly 300 birds on sidewalks surrounding the new World Trade Center towers, said the experience was “overwhelming.”
“As soon as I got to the buildings, the birds were everywhere on the sidewalk,” Breyer said. “Looking north, covered, south, covered, west, covered, the sidewalks were literally covered with birds.”
NYC Audubon wants the owners of the World Trade Center towers and other buildings to help reduce the number of bird strikes by dimming the lights at night and by treating glass to make it more visible to birds.
“Make it so that they can see it and recognize that it’s a solid barrier that they cannot fly through,” Parkins said.
Jordan Barowitz, a spokesperson for the Durst Organization, co-developer of One World Trade Center, said in an email, “The first 200 feet of One WTC are encased in glass fins that are non-reflective. This design was chosen because it greatly reduces bird strikes which mostly occur below 200 feet and are frequently caused by reflective glass.”
Dara McQuillan, a spokesperson for Silverstein Properties, the developer of three other trade center skyscrapers, said, “We care deeply for wild birds and protecting their habitat in the five boroughs. Understanding that artificial night-time lighting in general can attract and disorient migrating birds, we are actively encouraging our office tenants to turn off their lights at night and lower their blinds wherever possible, especially during the migratory season.”
It wasn’t the last flight for all the birds that crashed. Some survived.
A total of 77 birds were taken to the Wild Bird Fund’s rehab facility on the Upper West Side on Tuesday, the majority of them from the trade center area, director Ritamary McMahon said.
“We knew it was going to be a large migration coming in. They could tell from the radar,” said McMahon, who scheduled extra staff to care for an expected influx of injured birds.
The Wild Bird Fund staff members gave the birds food, fluids and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling.
Thirty birds recovered and were released in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park on Wednesday, McMahon said.
“One of our staff took an Uber down to Prospect Park to release them so they wouldn’t face any more tall buildings on their travels,” she said.


Led by the nose: Meet the UAE’s coronavirus sniffer dogs

Led by the nose: Meet the UAE’s coronavirus sniffer dogs
Updated 16 September 2021

Led by the nose: Meet the UAE’s coronavirus sniffer dogs

Led by the nose: Meet the UAE’s coronavirus sniffer dogs
  • UAE has 38 sniffer dogs working at its airports

DUBAI: One year after completing one of the first studies into canine detection of COVID-19, the UAE now has 38 sniffer dogs working at its airports that can identify infected persons at a 98.2-percent success rate.
Dubai Police trained the cohort, which includes German Shepherds, Labradors, Cocker Spaniels and Border Collies, to recognize the scent of COVID-19 using samples of sweat from people with confirmed infections, collected by holding a swab in an armpit for a few minutes.
“A very small amount of that is then put into a jar — it has the scent of the patient — then we put the sample out for the dog to sniff ... When he gives us a sign, we give him a treat,” said First Lt. Nasser Al-Falasi of Dubai Police, supervisor of the program at the K9 training center in Dubai’s Awir region.
In the center’s large training hall, police handlers walk the dogs along a row of metal boxes, of which only one contains a positive sample.
The dogs sniff the samples and within seconds sit down to signal that they have found something.
Police trainer Fatima Al-Jasmi, who is on the COVID-19 detection team, guides an excited-looking black and white Border Collie through the exercises, getting it right every time.
“The training was a bit of a challenge, learning a new skill at an international standard, and then training the dog in that,” she said.
The study in Dubai, published in June in Communications Biology, part of the British scientific journal Nature, concluded with a 98.2 percent detection success rate. The study used sweat samples and PCR tests from 3,290 people to compare the dogs detection abilities.
Several other countries, including Finland, the US and France have been running their own dog training and trials of canine detection of COVID-19. ​
Falasi said the dogs currently carry out around 30-40 tests a day at airports. Bolt, a black and tan Belgian Malinois, was the first COVID-19 detection dog that he trained.
“He goes on assignments often. He has maybe done more than 1,000 COVID-19 tests,” Falasi said proudly.
The dogs are mainly used in airports across the UAE, but are ready to be used wherever required.
Dubai has received requests from around the world to share knowledge about how to train dogs to sniff out COVID-19, Dubai Police’s Maj. Salah Khalifa Al-Mazroui said.
Dubai Police also has dogs trained to sniff out drugs and explosives, skills put to use as the emirate of Dubai prepares to open the Dubai Expo2020 world fair exhibition site next month.


Cyprus recovers looted 18th century church doors from Japan

Cyprus recovers looted 18th century church doors from Japan
Updated 16 September 2021

Cyprus recovers looted 18th century church doors from Japan

Cyprus recovers looted 18th century church doors from Japan
  • Communications and Works Minister said the wooden doors were discovered at the Kanazawa Art College more than 20 years ago
  • The doors were stolen after the island’s ethnic split in 1974

NICOSIA, Cyprus: Cyprus’ Orthodox Church formally took charge Thursday of two ornately decorated 18th century doors stolen from a church in the ethnically divided island’s breakaway north and reclaimed from a Japanese art college after a long legal battle.
Communications and Works Minister Yiannis Karousos said the wooden doors — painted with religious scenes, carved and gilded — were discovered at the Kanazawa Art College more than 20 years ago and their return followed “long and intensive efforts.”
No information was provided on how the college acquired them.
The artifacts originally stood in the central gateway of the iconostasis — the ornately decorated screen that separates the sanctuary from the rest of an Orthodox church — of Saint Anastasios in Peristeronopigi village.
Built in 1775, the church sits atop a cave where the saint’s grave is preserved.
The doors were stolen after the island’s ethnic split in 1974, when Turkey invaded in response to a coup aimed at union with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared independence in the north, that’s recognized only by Turkey.
In what Karousos called “cultural genocide,” hundreds of frescoes, mosaics and other religious works of art were looted from churches in the north after the invasion.
Since 1974, Cypriot government and church authorities have fought long legal battles in the United States, Europe and elsewhere to reclaim them.
Karousos said the doors’ repatriation sends the message to antiquities smugglers and “the international ring of crooks that however many years go by, (Cyprus) will hunt them down, because cultural genocide cannot be tolerated anywhere in the world.”


’Really alive’: France unveils wrapped Arc de Triomphe

’Really alive’: France unveils wrapped Arc de Triomphe
Updated 16 September 2021

’Really alive’: France unveils wrapped Arc de Triomphe

’Really alive’: France unveils wrapped Arc de Triomphe
  • The finishing touches are being put to the transformation of one of France's most iconic monuments
  • The imposing war memorial has been wrapped in 25,000 square metres of silver-blue recyclable polypropylene

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron was set to unveil a strange and spectacular sight in Paris on Thursday, the entire 50-meter-high Arc de Triomphe wrapped in fabric, fulfilling the long-held dream of late artist Christo.
After weeks of preparation, the finishing touches are being put to the transformation of one of France’s most iconic monuments ahead of its opening to the public this weekend.
At a press conference earlier in the day, Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot called it “a posthumous testament to an artistic genius” and “a wonderful gift to Parisians, to the French, and to all art-lovers.”
The imposing war memorial has been wrapped in 25,000 square meters (270,000 square feet) of silver-blue recyclable polypropylene.
It is the signature of Christo, the Bulgarian-born artist who died last year, who had dreamt of sheathing the monument since renting a nearby apartment in the 1960s.
Despite completing other major public works during his lifetime, including wrapping the oldest bridge in Paris in 1985 and the German parliament in 1995, the Arc de Triomphe project never materialized before his death.
The completion of his vision — and that of his co-designer and wife Jeanne-Claude — has been overseen by his nephew Vladimir Javacheff in coordination with the Pompidou museum and French authorities.
“Christo always said the hardest part is getting the permissions,” Javacheff told reporters with a smile.
“When you realize that this is really alive, for me and for my team, when you realize this fragility, this beauty, it is quite amazing.”
Protective barriers will be removed on Saturday, allowing the public to get up close to the transformed monument.
The wrapping will then stay in place until October 3.
Not everyone has welcomed the project.
Architect Carlo Ratti, a friend of Christo, wrote last week that it was wrong to waste so much fabric at a time when the fashion industry was responsible for such high levels of carbon emissions.
Javacheff countered that the entire fabric is recyclable, along with half the metal used for scaffolding.
For Christo, who left sketches and photo montages of his plans, the vision was that the Arc would become “like a living object stimulated by the wind and reflecting the light.”
The monument, which was built by Napoleon to commemorate fallen soldiers during his military campaigns, has recently been restored after being defaced by anti-government “yellow vest” protesters in December 2018.
Born in 1935, Christo left his home country in 1957, living in several countries before arriving in Paris, where he met his future wife Jeanne-Claude.
He died of natural causes at his home in New York in May last year.


Advancing human fraternity falls on everyone, HCHF secretary-general says

Advancing human fraternity falls on everyone, HCHF secretary-general says
Updated 15 September 2021

Advancing human fraternity falls on everyone, HCHF secretary-general says

Advancing human fraternity falls on everyone, HCHF secretary-general says
  • The theme of this year’s forum is ‘Time to heal: Peace among cultures, understanding between religions’

DUBAI: Human fraternity is the key to alleviate the troubles facing today’s world and is a responsibility shared by everyone, Higher Committee of Human Fraternity (HCHF) Secretary-General Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam said Tuesday at the closing ceremony of the G20 Interfaith Forum in Bologna, Italy.
“Human fraternity is a shared responsibility, which no individual or institution can achieve without real cooperation with others,” Abdelsalam said, adding that the HCHF prioritizes cooperation as “change can only be achieved through solidarity and unification of efforts.”
Two of the world’s leading religious figures –Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Professor Ahmed Al-Tayeb – have paved the way for the rest of the world to follow, he said, culminating in the historic Document on Human Fraternity.
To achieve the goals in the Document, the HCHF has adopted ambitious initiatives including the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity and the Abrahamic Family House, a symbol of interfaith and intercultural appreciation, Abdelsalam said. 
Judge Abdelsalam shared a moment of human fraternity he witnessed between Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar during a private dinner, in which Pope Francis picked up a piece of bread, cut it in two halves, and gave the other half to the Grand Imam. Each ate their half in a symbolic act of coexistence.
“Humanity is in dire need of this culture of sharing bread - not only by words, but by actions,” Abdelsalam told the audience, in reference to a moment of human fraternity he witnessed between Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar during a private dinner, in which Pope Francis picked up a piece of bread, cut it in two halves, and gave the other half to the Grand Imam. 
“Religious institutions are called to guide societies towards values of mercy and peace; artists are called to reveal the beauty of these values; and media professionals are called to build a public opinion characterized by coexistence and tolerance,” he said.
“Our common goal is a better world for our youth, children, and future generations; a world in which everyone believes that life, security, peace, goodness, justice and equality are rights that every person should have,” Abdelsalam added.
Abdelsalam’s remarks came at the closing ceremony of the G20 Interfaith Forum, an annual platform where a network of religiously linked institutions and initiatives engage on global agendas. The theme of this year’s forum is “Time to heal: Peace among cultures, understanding between religions.”