British man to run four major marathons to help people in crisis in Middle East

Ash Wallace, from Yorkshire in England, aims to raise enough money to build several homes for those most in need. (Supplied/Penny Appeal)
Ash Wallace, from Yorkshire in England, aims to raise enough money to build several homes for those most in need. (Supplied/Penny Appeal)
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Updated 05 August 2022

British man to run four major marathons to help people in crisis in Middle East

British man to run four major marathons to help people in crisis in Middle East
  • Ash Wallace plans to run the London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York marathons from Sept. 25 to Nov. 6
  • He is raising money for humanitarian charity Penny Appeal, and their campaign to help rebuild homes for refugees

LONDON: A British man set has himself the task of running four international marathons in the space of six weeks to raise money for people fleeing war and conflict, victims of natural disaster, and displaced people and refugees in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and the UK.

Ash Wallace plans to run the London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York marathons from Sept. 25 to Nov. 6, having already completed the London 10K on July 10, and will also be taking part in the Great North Run, London Half Marathon, and the Bradford 10K run, starting from Sept. 4, in preparation for his marathons.

“Ash’s determination to complete this mammoth challenge has been driven by his commitment to supporting international humanitarian charity Penny Appeal, and their campaign to help rebuild homes for refugees,” the charity said.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Ash (@ashrafwallace)

Wallace, a father of two from Yorkshire in England, aims to raise enough money to build several homes for those most in need and to support people in crisis. To date, he has raised over £20,000 ($24,115) for the UK-based Penny Appeal by taking part in various challenges.

“After signing up for the Bradford 10K in 2015 — his hometown — he began to run more and more frequently, challenging himself to run marathons and channelling his efforts into fundraising for this significant cause,” the Penny Appeal said.

It added that “he was just a regular dad who took up running to lose weight but turned his personal health challenge into a drive to help others around the world.”

Wallace, who has continued running every day despite the current extreme heat affecting the UK said: “One of the reasons I lost the weight was to make sure when my kids have kids that I’m still around. I now find, if I don’t run, that I’m disappointed in myself — it has become a bit of an addiction that can make a difference to himself and others.

“I’ve just been running three times a week; it gives me peace and allows me to spend time on my own. It also really helps me clear my mind and think about many things in life, including making the world a better place for others,” he said.


UAE: Extreme weather condition over – for now, but chance of rain in coming days

UAE: Extreme weather condition over – for now, but chance of rain in coming days
Updated 17 August 2022

UAE: Extreme weather condition over – for now, but chance of rain in coming days

UAE: Extreme weather condition over – for now, but chance of rain in coming days
  • Weather center also said some parts of the country would experience dusty winds for the rest of the week

DUBAI: UAE authorities say the extreme weather conditions across the country have ended, after a two-day sandstorm earlier this week hampered visibility and caused disruption.
The National Center of Meteorology (NCM) however said there was still a chance that some local convective clouds will form over some eastern and southern regions, in addition to Al-Ain and Al-Dhafra region, with a possibility of rain in the coming days.
The weather center also said some parts of the country would experience dusty winds for the rest of the week.
“Fair to partly cloudy in general and dusty at times, with a probability of convective clouds formation Eastwards by afternoon, may be associated with rainfall. Light to moderate winds, fresh at times, causing blowing dust during daytime. The sea will be slight in the Arabian Gulf and in Oman Sea,” NCM said in its weather bulletin for Wednesday, Aug. 17.
Temperatures could reach as high as 47°C in internal areas of the UAE and as low as 24°C in mountain areas, the center added.


Monkey business behind 911 call from California zoo

Monkey business behind 911 call from California zoo
Updated 17 August 2022

Monkey business behind 911 call from California zoo

Monkey business behind 911 call from California zoo
  • a Capuchin monkey named Route had apparently picked up the zoo's cellphone, which was in a golf cart used to move about the property

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif.: Cops usually have a prime suspect. In this case it's a primate suspect.
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office believes it was a little Capuchin monkey that called 911 from a zoo last Saturday night.
The call disconnected and dispatchers tried to call and text back but there was no response, so deputies were sent to investigate, the office said in a social media post.
The address turned out to be the Zoo to You near Paso Robles, but the deputies found that no one there made the call.
They finally deduced that a Capuchin monkey named Route had apparently picked up the zoo's cellphone, which was in a golf cart used to move about the property.
“We’re told Capuchin monkeys are very inquisitive and will grab anything and everything and just start pushing buttons,” the office's post said.

 


OK Google, get me a Coke: AI giant demos soda-fetching robots

OK Google, get me a Coke: AI giant demos soda-fetching robots
Updated 17 August 2022

OK Google, get me a Coke: AI giant demos soda-fetching robots

OK Google, get me a Coke: AI giant demos soda-fetching robots

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California: Alphabet Inc’s Google is combining the eyes and arms of physical robots with the knowledge and conversation skills of virtual chatbots to help its employees fetch soda and chips from breakrooms with ease.
The mechanical waiters, shown in action to reporters last week, embody an artificial intelligence breakthrough that paves the way for multipurpose robots as easy to control as ones that perform single, structured tasks such as vacuuming or standing guard.
Google robots are not ready for sale. They perform only a few dozen simple actions, and the company has not yet embedded them with the “OK, Google” summoning feature familiar to consumers.

A Google robot moves while carrying a bag of chips during a demonstration for members of the media at a micro-kitchen in Google’s robotics research space in Mountain View, California, U.S. August 11, 2022. (REUTERS)

While Google says it is pursuing development responsibly, adoption could ultimately stall over concerns such as robots becoming surveillance machines, or being equipped with chat technology that can give offensive responses, as Meta Platforms Inc. and others have experienced in recent years.
Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. are pursuing comparable research on robots.
“It’s going to take a while before we can really have a firm grasp on the direct commercial impact,” said Vincent Vanhoucke, senior director for Google’s robotics research.
When asked to help clean a spill, Google’s robot recognizes that grabbing a sponge is a doable and more sensible response than apologizing for creating the mess.
The robots interpret naturally spoken commands, weigh possible actions against their capabilities and plan smaller steps to achieve the ask.
The chain is made possible by infusing the robots with language technology that draws understanding of the world from Wikipedia, social media and other webpages. Similar AI underlies chatbots or virtual assistants, but has not been applied to robots this expansively before, Google said.
It unveiled the effort in a research paper in April. Incorporating more sophisticated language AI since then boosted the robots’ success on commands to 74 percent from 61 percent, according a company blog post on Tuesday.
Fellow Alphabet subsidiary Everyday Robots designs the robots, which for now will stay confined to grabbing snacks for employees.

 


Fighter jets scramble after Beirut-bound commercial plane fails to respond to radio messages

Fighter jets scramble after Beirut-bound commercial plane fails to respond to radio messages
Updated 16 August 2022

Fighter jets scramble after Beirut-bound commercial plane fails to respond to radio messages

Fighter jets scramble after Beirut-bound commercial plane fails to respond to radio messages
  • Two Greek F-16s were sent to intercept and check on the Middle East Airlines flight from Madrid to Beirut with 145 passengers on board, according to aircraft-tracking site IntelSky
  • The fighter pilots found there was nothing to be concerned about; IntelSky said it is thought the airline pilot simply failed to tune his instruments to the correct frequency

DUBAI: Two F-16 fighter jets were scrambled after a Middle East Airlines flight from Madrid to Beirut with 145 passengers on board failed to respond to radio messages, aircraft-tracking site IntelSky said on Monday.

“There were reportedly several attempts to contact the aircraft but no response had been received over the radio, something that was particularly worrying,” IntelSky said in a series of tweets about the incident, which happened on Aug. 10.

As a result, the NATO air traffic control center in Spain sent an alert to Greek authorities. A “Code Renegade” was issued, which is a distress signal usually used to signify that a plane has been hijacked, according to media reports.

Greek authorities sent two F-16 fighters to intercept and check on the aircraft. They did so and determined there was no problem to be concerned about. A video clip posted by IntelSky appeared to show one of the fighter jets flying alongside the passenger jet.

IntelSky said it is thought that the pilot, Abed Al-Hout, the son of the chairman of Middle East Airlines, Mohammed Al-Hout, forgot to tune cockpit instruments to the correct frequency and this was why he failed to respond to hails. The incident did not go unnoticed by residents in the Argos area of Greece, IntelSky said, some of whom reported to the fire department strange noises that sounded like explosions.

In a message posted on Twitter, one of the passengers on the flight, Maria Sfeir, said that after the fighters departed, the “cabin crew reassured us from the captain that these were regular trainings that were notified in advance by the airline.”

However, when other users pointed out that such training activity was unlikely with passengers on board, she said she had not believed the crew’s explanation.

Other Twitter users also commented on the incident. “Why would NATO send armed F-16s on a civilian aircraft unless it’s kind of a political” message, one person asked. Several accused the pilot of negligence.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Russian tourists to Finland greeted with Ukrainian anthem

A man and a woman believed to be Russian tourists walk inside a shopping center in Lappeenranta, Finland on August 12, 2022.
A man and a woman believed to be Russian tourists walk inside a shopping center in Lappeenranta, Finland on August 12, 2022.
Updated 15 August 2022

Russian tourists to Finland greeted with Ukrainian anthem

A man and a woman believed to be Russian tourists walk inside a shopping center in Lappeenranta, Finland on August 12, 2022.
  • Many Russians visit Lappeenranta to shop for clothes and cosmetics, for example, and Russian number plates can be seen on numerous cars

LAPPEENRANTA, Finland: A crowd of people gathers in the Eastern Finnish city of Imatra on a bridge overlooking Imatrankoski rapids, one of the Nordic country’s most well-known natural attractions.
At the same time every day, the river’s almost century-old dam is opened and water rushes under the bridge, to the sound of music by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.
It is a popular attraction especially for Russian tourists. Even Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, visited Imatrankoski in 1772.
But since the end of July, the city of Imatra has started the show by playing the Ukrainian national anthem, to protest the Russian invasion.

Tourists takes photo from the bridge over the Vuoksi river near the dam at The Imatra Rapids in Imatra, Finland, on August 12, 2022. (AFP)

Finland, which shares 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) eastern border with Russia, is also preparing to limit tourist visas issued for Russians.
“This is bad for the Russians who love Finland,” says Mark Kosykh, a 44-year-old Russian tourist who has come to see the rapids with his family.
“But we understand the government of Finland,” he says.
Kosykh emphasises that there are Russians who do not like the war.
“Not all Russians are for Putin. The government and all people must understand this.”

Also in the nearby city of Lappeenranta, the Ukrainian national anthem is played every evening above its city hall, overlooking shopping centers popular with Russian tourists.
“The aim is to express strong support for Ukraine and to condemn the war of aggression,” Lappeenranta’s Mayor Kimmo Jarva told AFP.
Many Russians visit Lappeenranta to shop for clothes and cosmetics, for example, and Russian number plates can be seen on numerous cars.
But tourism from its eastern neighbor has caused discontent in Finland due to the war in Ukraine.
A poll published last week by Finnish public broadcaster Yle showed 58 percent of Finns in favor of restricting Russian tourist visas.
“In my opinion, they should be restricted very strongly. I don’t see any other way to make Russian politicians think,” Lappeenranta local Antero Ahtiainen, 57, says.
Although he has nothing against individual tourists, Ahtiainen says his relationship with Russians has changed.

Spurred by the rising discontent, Finland’s Foreign Minister presented a plan last week to limit tourist visas issued to Russians.
The Nordic country remains Russia’s only EU neighbor without restrictions on tourist visas to Russian citizens.
As flights from Russia to the EU have been halted, Finland has become a transit country for many Russians seeking to travel further into Europe.
“Many saw this as a circumvention of the sanctions regime,” Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told AFP.
Although the Schengen regime and Finnish law do not allow for an outright ban on visas based on nationality, Finland can reduce visa numbers issued based on category, Haavisto noted.
“Tourism category can be restricted in the terms of how many visas can be applied for in a day,” Haavisto said.
Haavisto said he believed the final decision to adopt the plan could be taken by the end of the month.

Although many Finns are unhappy with Russian visitors now, traditionally people on both sides of the border region have lived in close contact with each other.
“In Saint Petersburg, many people have grandpapas and grandmamas from Finland, like my wife,” Kosykh says and adds that he visits Finland every year.
Russian tourists are also an essential source of income for many Finnish border towns.
After Russia lifted Covid travel restrictions on July 15, the number of Russian tourists heading to Finland has steadily increased.
While the numbers are still well below pre-Covid levels, there were more than 230,000 border crossings in July — up on the 125,000 seen in June.
“Of course, if Russian tourists do not come here, there will be a loss of income for businesses, which is unfortunate,” Jarva says.
But Jarva believes that there is strong support for limiting Russian tourist visas.
“We have to make a choice. We are strongly behind Ukraine.”