Cyprus forest fire that killed 4 now under control

Cyprus forest fire that killed 4 now under control
A firefighter douses the flames to contain a fire near the Kotsiatis area, on the outskirts of Cyprus’ capital Nicosia on Sunday. (AFP)
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Updated 05 July 2021

Cyprus forest fire that killed 4 now under control

Cyprus forest fire that killed 4 now under control
  • Cyprus’ Forestry Department said more than 600 people managed to contain the blaze early Monday
  • President Nicos Anastasiades called the fire “an unprecedented tragedy” for Cyprus

NICOSIA: A deadly brush fire that claimed four lives and has been described as the most destructive blaze in Cyprus’ 61-year history as an independent republic is now fully under control, Cypriot authorities said Monday.
Cyprus’ Forestry Department said more than 600 people managed to contain the blaze early Monday after it scorched more than 55 square kilometers (21 square miles), forcing the evacuation of nine villages and burning down homes, businesses, orchards and forest.
Fire crews remain on the scene in case the blaze reignites amid temperatures reaching 35 C (95 F). Cyprus Electricity Authority officials said they hope to have power restored to at least seven villages by Monday evening.
Search crews on Sunday discovered the bodies of four people who are believed to be Egyptian laborers outside the village of Orou on the southern edge of Cyprus’ main Troodos mountain range.
The men, ages 22 to 29, had gone missing Saturday afternoon when the fire began outside the nearby village of Arakapas and spread quickly amid strong winds.
Officials said the four tried to flee the fire along a dirt mountain track, but their small truck veered off the road and fell down an embankment. They tried to flee on foot, but didn’t make it.
Trade Union PEO has asked for a full investigation into the laborers’ deaths as well as their work safety conditions.
President Nicos Anastasiades called the fire “an unprecedented tragedy” for Cyprus except for the destruction wreaked by a 1974 war that split the island along ethnic lines after Turkey invaded in response to a coup aimed at union with Greece.
Some residents who lost their homes and property to the fire wept as they described seeing a lifetime’s worth of labor going up in flames. People were allowed back to their homes after their villages were declared safe.
Anastasiades, who toured the fire-hit villages on Sunday, pledged immediate government help to farmers and homeowners who lost crops and property and the families of those who perished in the fire.
Crews are assessing the damage so that fire-afflicted residents can receive the first compensation packages later this week.
Anastasiades on Monday opened up a bank account for private contributions to help those who lost their homes and livelihoods.
The Cypriot president said to underscore that commitment, he instructed electricity generators to be sent to all villagers who lost power.
He also ordered a renewed tender process for the purchase of a mobile crisis management center, and asked his Cabinet to come up with ideas by Wednesday on how best to support residents financially.
Police spokesman Christos Andreou told The Associated Press that a 67-year-old man is being investigated on arson charges. He said “more than one witness” had seen the man leave his orchard shortly before a fire broke out there. A court ordered that he remain in custody for eight days.
Fire crews had been joined by police officers, soldiers, Civil Defense and Wildlife Service staff as well as many members of the public who volunteered to help. Authorities said more than 70 fire engines, 14 bulldozers and numerous water tankers were mobilized, while a National Guard drone provided eyes overhead to locate new fire fronts.
A total of nine Cypriot firefighting aircraft, and police and National Guard helicopters were deployed. Two helicopters from British military bases in Cyprus also helped firefighting efforts, along with two Greek Canadair CL-415 aircraft and two Israeli fixed-wing planes.
Anastasiades spoke separately with the prime ministers of Greece and Israel to thank them for their help.


Saudi Arabia and India discuss aspects of cooperation

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in New Delhi. (SPA)
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in New Delhi. (SPA)
Updated 28 sec ago

Saudi Arabia and India discuss aspects of cooperation

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in New Delhi. (SPA)
  • Prince Faisal also participated in a discussion at the Observer Research Foundation during his visit to New Delhi

RIYADH: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in the capital, New Delhi, Monday to discuss various aspects of cooperation.
Prince Faisal conveyed greetings from King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Modi, the Indian government and its people.
During the meeting, they reviewed the “strong and historical Saudi-Indian relations,” and discussed strengthening them to “achieve the aspirations and hopes of the two peoples for further progress and prosperity,” the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said.

The two sides also discussed regional and international issues and ways to enhance international peace and security.
Modi praised the Kingdom’s leading role in protecting the planet, especially through the crown prince’s Saudi and Middle East green initiatives that were announced in March.
They also held talks on ways to consolidate the economic partnership between the two countries in light of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, and ways in which bilateral cooperation has intensified.

During his visit, Prince Faisal also participated in a discussion session with a group of researchers and thinkers at the Observer Research Foundation, along with its chairman Sunjoy Joshi.
The discussion touched on several topics, including the Kingdom’s green initiatives, Saudi Arabia and India’s leading roles in the G20, and the joint coordination on enhancing international peace and security.
The discussion also dealt with the rapid developments in Saudi Arabia stemming from its Vision 2030, including renewable energy projects and investment in technology.


Cryptocurrencies slide as market selloff deepens

Cryptocurrencies slide as market selloff deepens
Updated 2 min 19 sec ago

Cryptocurrencies slide as market selloff deepens

Cryptocurrencies slide as market selloff deepens
  • Digital currencies gaining popularity among Indians in smaller cities

RIYADH: Prices of cryptocurrencies plunged on Monday as concerns over the spillover risk to the global economy from Chinese property group Evergrande’s troubles rippled over to wider markets.

Bitcoin tumbled 7.33 percent to $43,804 at 4:29 p.m. Riyadh time. Its rival Ether, the coin linked to the Ethereum blockchain network, fell 8.74 percent to $3,050.45, according to data from CoinDesk.

The loss in the value of cryptocurrencies comes at a time when institutional interest in the space has surged and some investment banks have ramped up their forecasts for cryptocurrencies in the coming months.

“Their fate seems a little tied to equities at the moment, and the price action is incredibly similar too,” said John Marley, CEO of forexxtra, a London-based FX consultancy. 

Ether price

Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou, managing director of JPMorgan said that the fair value of Ether is much lower than its current price.

According to a set of measurements based on the network’s activity, it calculated the value of the digital coin at $1,500, 55 percent below its market price.

One of the reasons cited was that Ethereum was not unique anymore, and it faced stiff competition from other chains such as Solana and Avalanche.

“We look at the hash rate and the number of unique addresses to try to understand the value for Ethereum. We’re struggling to go above $1,500. There is a question mark here. The current price is expressing an exponential increase in usage and traffic that might not materialize,” he stated.

 

Lawsuit

In the midst of an ongoing lawsuit with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Ripple's legal team said they have no plans to settle with the SEC.

They are confident that SEC President Gary Gensler will be convinced that pursuing the case is to pick winners and losers in the crypto space based on innovation.

"Ripple’s legal team told Fox Business they have no plans to settle with SEC over lawsuit on XRP, confident they can show Gary Gensler in pursuing the case is picking winners and losers in the crypto business to the detriment of innovation,” Charles Gasparino tweeted.

 

Indians embrace crypto

Indian citizens are embracing cryptocurrencies to invest and earn extra money after the pandemic, according to reports from the regional media.

But what is even more interesting is that this growth has been greater in smaller cities, where interest in cryptocurrency is at its peak.

The profile of these participants was also interesting, as they are highly educated and open to diversifying their investment portfolios and not only focus on Bitcoin.

 A local exchange, Wazirx, has reported astonishing levels of new customers coming from these small towns, classified as Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities.

“Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities have driven almost 55 percent of the total user signups on Wazirx in 2021, thereby overtaking Tier 1 cities, which demonstrated a signup growth of 2,375 percent,” Wazirx CEO Nischal Shetty was quoted as saying in local media reports.


Azerbaijan seizes large heroin shipment bound for Europe

Azerbaijan seizes large heroin shipment bound for Europe
Updated 6 min 34 sec ago

Azerbaijan seizes large heroin shipment bound for Europe

Azerbaijan seizes large heroin shipment bound for Europe
  • Customs officers in the town of Bilasuvar inspected a car travelling from Iran to EU member Latvia
  • Criminal groups have previously used "Azerbaijan's occupied territories" as a drugs' transit route

BAKU: Azerbaijan has impounded more than half a ton of heroin, one of the biggest ever seizures in the country situated on a major smuggling route to Europe, officials said Monday.
The state customs committee said in a statement that its officers in the town of Bilasuvar — the Caucasus nation’s south-east — inspected a car traveling from Iran to EU member Latvia.
The statement added that 527.6 kilogrammes, about 1,160 pounds, of “heroin were found during the inspection.”
The committee said that criminal groups have previously used “Azerbaijan’s occupied territories” as a drugs’ transit route.
It referred to territories in the Nagorno-Karabakh region that were under the de-facto control of neighboring Armenia until last November, when Yerevan ceded the disputed lands to Baku following a deadly six-week war.
According to the committee, since the “restoration of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity” criminal groups have started using Azerbaijan’s customs and border points to smuggle drugs.
Azerbaijan has in the past reported numerous incidents involving drug traffickers attempting to cross over from Iran, with hundreds of kilogrammes of heroin seized annually.
The oil-rich ex-Soviet Caspian nation lies on a major drug smuggling route from Afghanistan and Iran to Europe and Russia, according to the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report released by the US Department of State.


Georgian chess champion sues Netflix for ‘sexist’ portrayal in ‘The Queen’s Gambit’

Netflix faces defamation suit for wrong portrayal of female chess champion in the Queen's Gambit. (Netflix)
Netflix faces defamation suit for wrong portrayal of female chess champion in the Queen's Gambit. (Netflix)
Updated 32 min 44 sec ago

Georgian chess champion sues Netflix for ‘sexist’ portrayal in ‘The Queen’s Gambit’

Netflix faces defamation suit for wrong portrayal of female chess champion in the Queen's Gambit. (Netflix)

LONDON: Georgian chess champion Nona Gaprindashvili filed a defamation lawsuit on Thursday against Netflix, accusing the streaming giant of incorrectly portraying her in the hit series “The Queen’s Gambit.”

Gaprindashvili, 80, said Netflix’s claim in the series that she “never faced men” is “grossly sexist and belittling.”

The lawsuit refers to a specific line in the series finale which compares the main character, Elizabeth Harmon, to Gaprindashvili. The series makes a notable distinction between the fictional character and Gaprindashvili, which is that the latter never faced men during her chess tournaments. 

In the finale, a character narrates: “Elizabeth Harmon’s not at all an important player by their standards. The only unusual thing about her, really, is her sex. And even that’s not unique in Russia. There’s Nona Gaprindashvili, but she’s the female world champion and has never faced men.”

Gaprindashvili began playing chess at 13, became the female world champion at 20 and was the first woman to be awarded the title of grandmaster, the highest title a chess player can attain. 

Contrary to Netflix’s portrayal, Gaprindashvili did indeed face men, 59 of them, including 28 in one simultaneous match when the series was supposedly set in 1968. 

“They were trying to do this fictional character who was blazing the trail for other women, when in reality I had already blazed the trail and inspired generations,” Gaprindashvili said in an interview with the New York Times. “That’s the irony.”

Another notable item in the lawsuit relates to Gaprindashvili’s nationality. While the series portrayed her as Russian, she in fact is Georgian and was born in Zugdidi, Georgia.

Netflix responded to Gaprindashvili and said it “has only the utmost respect for Ms Gaprindashvili and her illustrious career, but we believe this claim has no merit and will vigorously defend the case.”


Korean superstars BTS address UN General Assembly

Korean superstars BTS address UN General Assembly
Updated 33 min 15 sec ago

Korean superstars BTS address UN General Assembly

Korean superstars BTS address UN General Assembly
  • Pop group delivered speech that emphasized the youth’s hope and optimism in addressing global challenges
  • They also performed their hit song “Permission to Dance” in the General Assembly hall

NEW YORK: K-pop supergroup BTS addressed the UN General Assembly on Monday and performed a song ahead of a day of high-level dialogue about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

BTS are designated by the UN as special presidential envoys for future cultures and generations, and have taken a leading role in advocating for youth worldwide — particularly on environmental issues.

In a powerful speech delivered on Monday in the UN’s Headquarters, the Korean group said that the COVID-19 pandemic had been “a time to discover how precious each and every moment we had taken for granted was.”

And among the most special of those moments, they said, were those spent in nature — “I shudder to think about mourning the earth,” they added.

“Climate change is an important problem. But talking about what the best solution might be — that’s not easy. It’s a topic that is tough to draw conclusions about. But there are many young people who have an interest in environmental issues, and choose it as their field of study,” said the group’s members.

“I hope we don’t just consider the future as grim darkness. We still have many pages in our story, and we shouldn’t talk as if the ending is already written.”

After their speech, BTS performed their hit song “Permission to Dance” inside the General Assembly hall and the grounds of the UN headquarters.

BTS have been vocal in their advocacy on behalf of the youth, with a particular emphasis on climate change and environmental issues — and the group’s millions of dedicated fans have followed their lead, raising cash for forests and environmental disaster victims alike. 

The group delivered their speech ahead of a day of focus on the SDGs in the UN and a behind-closed-doors meeting between leaders, convened by British PM Boris Johnson, which will gather leaders to discuss how to best build consensus on environmental issues. 

The SDGs are a set of 17 goals aimed at delivering the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which “provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.”

Poverty alleviation, climate action, preservation of nature and gender equality are among the 17 goals, which will be discussed throughout Monday and the rest of the week by world leaders and their UN delegates.  

Speaking ahead of BTS’ appearance, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the COVID-19 pandemic was putting the SDGs “further out of reach” and that “only by recovering together can we get the Sustainable Development Goals back on track.” 

But first, he said, “we need to end this pandemic.”