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Friday, Tmes Friday, November 12, 2021

Kuwait Times - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 20:30

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Saffafir market ready for camping season

Kuwait Times - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 19:15

KUWAIT: Souq Saffafir – a venue selling products made of metals such as copper, brass, and tin – is bracing itself for the upcoming camping season in Kuwait, which begins this year in mid-November and lasts until spring. After a long hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the market is thriving with clients seeking the best tools for their leisure time in the desert. – KUNA photos

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Omani naval ship ‘Shabab Oman II’ docks in Kuwait

Kuwait Times - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 19:09
KUWAIT: Omani naval ship “Shabab Oman II” docks at Shuwaikh Port yesterday. – Photos by Yasser Al-Zayyat and KUNA

KUWAIT: Omani naval ship “Shabab Oman II” docked at Shuwaikh Port yesterday, carrying 28 students from GCC member countries and 16 sisterly and friendly countries. The vessel’s arrival in Kuwait is part of its academic journey of Gulf seaports, ending with participation in the Dubai Expo 2020, bringing with it Oman’s maritime history and present accomplishments. On this occasion, Omani Ambassador to Kuwait Dr Saleh Al-Kharousi said the voyage bears lofty humanitarian goals and contents, and represents the beginning of the ship’s fifth international voyage within the framework of its GCC tour.

Kharousi stressed the depth of relations between the Sultanate of Oman and the State of Kuwait, expressing hope that the Shabab Oman II ship will achieve success on this voyage. Kuwait is the ship’s first stop of its journey, which is the fifth since it was launched in 2014 as part of the fleet of the Royal Navy of Oman.

Deputy Head of the Diplomatic Mission of the Omani Embassy in Kuwait Hilal Al-Shanfari voiced thanks and appreciation to Kuwait for facilitating and welcoming the arrival of the ship. In a statement to Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), Shanfari expressed his appreciation to all Kuwaiti authorities for preparations for the arrival of Shabab Oman II. Welcoming the vessel’s crew, the Omani diplomat said the ship is considered a message of love, friendship and peace, adding that it will sail on to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and finally Dubai.

Meanwhile, the arrival of the Omani ship portrays the brotherly and historic relations between the brotherly countries of Kuwait and Oman, a senior official of the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry said. Ambassador Hamad Al-Meri, assistant foreign minister for GCC affairs, affirmed in a statement to KUNA that the journey was designed to boost cooperation at the cultural and scientific levels. The students on board the ship will visit Kuwait University and Abdullah Al-Salem Cultural Center. – KUNA

 

 

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Defense minister keen on updating services for staff

Kuwait Times - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 19:02
KUWAIT: Defense Minister Sheikh Hamad Jaber Al-Ali Al-Sabah inaugurates the newly-built extension of the central market for ministry of defense personnel yesterday. – KUNA

KUWAIT: The minister of defense yesterday affirmed keenness on fully overhauling the ministry’s facilities and improving services for personnel and their families in gratitude for their patriotic role of defending the homeland.

Sheikh Hamad Jaber Al-Ali Al-Sabah, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, was speaking on the occasion of inaugurating the newly-built extension of the central market for defense personnel, according to a statement by the defense ministry.

The minister, during his visit to the site, was briefed by the head of the central market Col Abdullah Al-Fahad, underscoring a plan to secure high-quality commodities at competitive prices. – KUNA

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Security news now essential aspect of combating crime

Kuwait Times - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 19:00
Nasser Abu Sulaib

DUBAI: Security affairs news has now become an essential part of raising social awareness, combating crime and illegal substances, and prevention of accidents, Director of Security Media at the Interior Ministry Col Nasser Abu Sulaib said Wednesday. The remarks by Abu Sulaib came during the participation of his department in a workshop on the role of security media as part of the activities of the pavilion of the General Secretariat of the GCC at Dubai Expo 2020.

During the workshop, the Kuwaiti department presented two working papers, the first under the title “The experience of the General Administration of Relations and Security Media in the fight against drugs”, presented by Abu Sulaib, and the second on “The role of the General Administration of Relations during the COVID-19 pandemic”, presented by Assistant Director of the Public Relations Department at the Ministry of Interior Col Yousif Marshad.

Abu Sulaib highlighted the qualitative and technical shift witnessed by the Kuwaiti Security Media Department, which formed a prominent informative media window and a main source for obtaining correct and documented information. Abu Sulaib pointed out that the security media strategy in Kuwait is based on intensifying efforts to raise social awareness about illegal drugs through extensive and systematic media campaigns spread over all media and social media platforms. Marshad spoke about the success of the security establishment’s experience in addressing the coronavirus pandemic, which was and still is appreciated and praised. – KUNA

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Police arrest child molester

Kuwait Times - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 18:58

KUWAIT: Farwaniya detectives arrested a resident accused of molesting a child. The child’s father told police that his 12-year-old son told him he was sexually abused by a person he does not know in Farwaniya. He said the suspect lured him to play football, then took him aside and committed the act. A police source said detectives reviewed CCTV recordings and identified the suspect, who was also identified in a lineup by the victim.

Dentist arrested
Public prosecution ordered the arrest of a dentist accused by a teacher of beating her in a Jahra clinic following a dispute between them. The teacher attached a medical report with her complaint stating that she sustained an injury to her lip and various scratches. Detectives are investigating.

Police insulted
A Syrian woman insulted several deportation policemen in an attempt to prevent them from deporting her brother. Sources said when several deportees were boarding a bus, policemen were surprised by a woman attacking them and attempting to board the bus that was heading to the airport. She then sat in the middle of the street in protest against the deportation of her brother. When police spoke to her and took her away, she insulted them and threatened them, claiming she has “contacts” and no one can stop her. The woman was arrested and taken to Jleeb police station, where she was detained for further action.

 

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Architecturally-stunning Assima Mall opens to public

Kuwait Times - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 18:44
Photos show the newly opened Assima Mall in Kuwait City. – Photos by Yasser Al-Zayyat and Ben Garcia

By Ben Garcia

A new mall in Kuwait City, Assima Mall, has opened its doors to the public with several prime retail brands in place. The mall’s unique and flowing design creates a spacious, modern shopping experience. Inside, shoppers will find a large hypermarket, cinema and entertainment, F&B, gym, spa and several favorite retail stores. The office tower with stunning sea-views and cityscapes are yet to open and still under construction. True to its name, ‘Assima’ means ‘Capital’ in Arabic where the center of business, trade and commerce can be found.

The project was developed by Assima Real Estate Company owned by Salhia Real Estate Company. The project will also feature ample parking to serve the three main highlights of the project. The Assima project has the great advantage of being located near to many high-rise office towers, which include banks, Kuwait Stock Exchange and the Central Bank of Kuwait. Aside from the greenery from the urban parks, Assima is also designed to be sustainable with state-of-the-art technologies used to reduce energy consumption and the design allows for natural ventilation with green elements used to compliment the eco-friendly features of the project.

The six-level Assima Mall will feature a mix of brands from contemporary, to high-street, many of which have yet to be introduced in Kuwait. The mall will also include the largest hypermarket in Kuwait City. Assima Mall is set to have an enormous lifestyle and leisure element which will include great entertainment for the whole family. It will be the perfect place to spend your weekend or weekday with your family.

The mall utilizes its outdoor spaces with finesse; there will be a range rooftop cafes and restaurants alongside the urban park – perfect for the cooler months. The uniquely designed spaces will serve a range of cuisines, perfect for every taste and palate – there will be a multitude of options to choose from, be it a quick bite, a leisurely lunch, or even a more contemporary meal.

Assima Mall is within walking distance of the busy business district of Kuwait City, and will transform the shopping experience in the city center. Currently the retail options in the city are higher end, and only offer limited options. Assima Mall will fill that gap in the market, and offer a wider range of retail outlets, while at the same time offering a hypermarket in the heart of the city.

 

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Photo of the Day

Kuwait Times - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 18:40
A picture taken yesterday shows the Omani ship ‘Shabab Oman II’ sailing off the coast of Kuwait City. – Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

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Steps for replacing a lost civil ID

Kuwait Times - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 18:37

By Ben Garcia

Recently, I lost my civil ID and had to apply for a new one. In the past, a police report was necessary to get a replacement ID, but the Public Authority for Civil Information has waived this requirement. The original passport (plus a copy) and a copy of the lost civil ID is enough.

But first I had to take an appointment by visiting the PACI website www.paci.gov.kw. From there, I was redirected to the Meta platform, where all services are displayed. First-time users have to register on the Meta platform. It will ask you for your civil ID number, mobile number, civil ID serial number and email address. Failure to register means you will not be allowed to proceed further. Once registered, click on personal services.

If an applicant cannot access the Meta platform for any reason, the solution is to visit the PACI headquarters in South Surra. There, you can get an appointment from offices of private companies stationed in front of the building. These companies help people with the required paperwork, including securing an appointment, typing forms, photocopying and more. They charge KD 3 for booking the appointment.

At PACI, take your appointment paper, original passport and copy and the copy of your lost civil ID. Take a token number from the reception and head to the counter when your turn arrives. It takes only a few minutes to process the application, depending on the number of applicants on that day. The desk officer will give you a form to fill in your full name, mobile number and email address.

A copy of this form will be given to you as proof of applying for a new civil ID. The fee for replacing a lost ID is KD 20, which can be paid online through the PACI website.

Citizens and residents can also download the civil ID app, Kuwait Mobile ID, which shows your valid civil ID and is accepted now in all government offices and border points.

 

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The ‘new normal’ is far from normal

Kuwait Times - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 18:35

By Sahar Moussa

If you are getting ready to travel, what are your concerns? What are your questions? Let’s discuss them. In the past, I used to check my passport validity and my clothes. Did I forget my makeup kit? How many kilos am I carrying? Did I pack my favorite jeans and perfume? Nowadays, added to the list is PCR tests, masks and hygiene kits. Personally, I am looking forward to traveling to my home country because my parents have not seen their grandson since he was born. I cannot deny my excitement, but I cannot hide my worries either.

I am excited because finally they will meet him after all this time. But I’m worried about all the travel safety procedures that I should go through, the PCR tests that I should take in Kuwait before I leave and after I come back. Then in the country where I’m heading to, the importance of wearing masks almost all the time, social distancing and the fear of the sudden closure of airports like what happened when the pandemic first broke out. However, my biggest concern is the safety of my child.

The airports are open, the government has resumed issuing visas, more than 80 percent of the population in Kuwait is vaccinated and somehow we have reached herd immunity. The government and people assume that we are back to normal, but are we really back to normal? Is our reality shifting to something that is called a new normal with all the PCR tests, vaccines and social distancing?

Everyone is looking forward to traveling for the winter break and holidays, and since the reopening of the airport, many people have already booked their tickets and traveled to compensate for all the time they were locked in during the pandemic. This is great news for people who were reunited with their families, and it is very positive for the economy in general, and the travel industry in particular. On the other hand, airfares skyrocketed after the pandemic and more flight delays are being reported.

Worldwide, we are hearing that things are opening up – concerts, festivals and fashion weeks are taking place and most tourist destinations are alive after lengthy lockdowns. Things are getting back to normal, but once again, we have to ask ourselves – is this normal or a new normal?

Unfortunately, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Tuesday a 6 percent increase in new weekly COVID-19 cases in Europe, marking a fifth straight week in which cases have increased in the region compared to a decline or stabilization in all others. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added two northwestern European countries to its list of “very high” risk travel destinations this week amid a surge of new cases in Europe.

These reports are not really optimistic, and doesn’t look normal at all to me. It shows that the pandemic is not over yet. It is true that fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread COVID-19, but international travel poses additional risks, and even fully vaccinated travelers might be at an increased risk for contracting and possibly spreading some COVID-19 variants. Let us not forget that there are those who are against being vaccinated, which is making things harder.

Still, with all these warnings and risks, most people feel like it is safe to travel. We are so happy and ready to travel. But it is creating a kind of anxiety worldwide. The question is, will this anxiety become our new normal? Are we going to be accustomed to it, and if so, until when? There are so many questions, and the future is a bit vague with all these speculations.

As pandemic restrictions have been lifted almost everywhere, we should consider how we can develop a new normal rather than returning to pre-COVID routines. There are so many aspects of life we may want to evaluate as we anticipate the return to “normal”. Our ability to adapt to the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic shows that we can change our lifestyles and behaviors when there is a sense of urgency. Meanwhile, we still have a duty to protect others and ourselves by maintaining social distancing, wearing masks and getting vaccinated, hoping one day to really get back to normal.

sahar@kuwaittimes.net

 

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Zapin, a dance with Arabic roots ingrained in Malaysian society

Kuwait Times - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 18:21
Malaysian dancers perform Zapin, a popular traditional dance with Arabic roots.-KUNA photos

Zapin is a popular traditional dance with Arabic roots deeply ingrained in Malaysian society. Accompanied by various instruments, including the gambus-a variant of the Arabic oud-dancers flow with the rhythms of the music, telling stories relating to farming and village traditions.

It said that Zapin could trace its roots to the Arab region and specifically Hadramaut, Yemen. It was carried by Arab merchants in the 14th century to what is known as Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and Singapore. – KUNA

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Hong Kong’s M+ art museum opens as doubts over creative freedom persist

Kuwait Times - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 18:19
Asian Fields by Anthony Gormley is seen during a press tour of the new M+ Museum in Hong Kong.—AFP photos

Hong Kong’s multimillion-dollar art museum M+ will open today without dissident artist Ai Weiwei’s “middle finger series”, highlighting concerns over creative freedom as authorities censor criticism in the city. The 65,000-square-metre (700,000-square-foot) venue on Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor waterfront aims to rival Western leaders in contemporary art curation, such as London’s Tate Modern and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. After years of delay, senior officials from both the Hong Kong and Chinese governments cut the ribbon yesterday. But a photo series by Chinese artist Ai in one of the museum’s collections will not be on display.

In the series, Ai is showing his middle finger to institutions around the world, including the White House, Germany’s Reichstag-and Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. “Artistic expression is not above the law,” said Henry Tang, the official in charge of the cultural park where the museum is located. “We won’t show the middle finger photos but we will show Ai Weiwei’s artwork,” Tang told reporters yesterday.

A women looks at photos of Hong Kong by Canadian photographer Greg Girard.

Earlier this year, pro-Beijing politicians said Ai’s photo of Tiananmen Square in the series was a “national security threat”. This prompted Swiss collector Uli Sigg, whose massive donation to M+ included Ai’s series, to issue an open letter that said “there is a different understanding in much of China-and obviously in parts of Hong Kong society… of what contemporary art is about”.

Tang confirmed that the photo had been censored and M+ welcomed vetting by the police’s national security unit. “If there are any works that the national security department thinks… violated the law, we will act according to the law,” Tang said. Censorship at M+ is not the only indication that freedom of expression in Hong Kong’s once-vibrant arts scene is declining.

Insiders say self-censorship had been on the rise in recent years, but the broad wording of Hong Kong’s national security law-and the fervor with which influential pro-Beijing figures wish to see it applied-added an extra layer of risk. The law, passed in June last year, targets anything deemed “secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces” and has quickly criminalized a host of political views. Last month, Hong Kong passed a toughened film censorship law, empowering authorities to ban past films over “national security” threats and impose stiffer penalties for any breaches. – AFP

Whitewash (1995-2000) by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (below) is seen during a press tour.

 

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Lin-Manuel Miranda debuts ‘tick, tick… Boom!’ and eyes new projects

Kuwait Times - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 18:15
US director Lin-Manuel Miranda attends the world premiere of “Tick, Tick…Boom!” on the opening night of AFI Fest at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles.-AFP

Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of Broadway sensation “Hamilton,” said Wednesday he had returned to his first love of cinema with his directorial debut “tick tick… Boom!”-but is itching to write musical theater again. The movie, which had its world premiere at AFI Fest in Los Angeles, pays tribute to Jonathan Larson, the writer of “Rent” who was Broadway’s wunderkind a generation before Miranda. “Film was my first love. I fell in love with movies, my grandfather owned a VHS video store when I was a kid-Miranda Video,” Miranda told AFP.

“I spent my summers watching everything-very little of it appropriate to a child of seven or eight years of age, but I watched it all! “And so I feel like I’ve come all the way back around to my first love.” Miranda’s “tick tick… Boom!” is an adaptation of Larson’s stripped-down musical of the same name, which recounted his struggles to create art and his fear of growing old without success.

Larson died aged just 35, never getting to see and enjoy the huge popularity, plethora of Tony Awards and Pulitzer Prize for drama that “Rent” would garner. “It’s the only movie I ever actually daydreamed about [making] as a movie before I even got the opportunity to direct,” said Miranda, who saw Larson’s musical while still at university.

“It was the month after the terrorist attacks of September 11, when everyone was questioning, like, ‘what am I even doing with my life?’ “And the entire musical is about ‘what are you even doing with your life?’ “It felt like a personal attack and a call to action.” The film cuts between Larson-played by Andrew Garfield-performing the original rock monologue of “tick tick… Boom!” on stage in New York, and flashbacks to the life events that inspired it. “I brought the music I loved-hip hop music and Latin music-into my work the same way Jonathan took rock music into his,” said Miranda. “Sort of just advancing his thesis, I feel like a student of his.” “It’s worked out pretty well!”

‘Itching to write’
While “tick tick… Boom!” is Miranda’s first feature film as director, he has been in growing demand in Hollywood since the colossal success of “Hamilton.” Disney bought the streaming rights to a taped stage production of “Hamilton”-which tells the story of the United States’ founding fathers via hip-hop-for $75 million. Miranda also produced a film version of his first musical, “In The Heights,” and wrote the songs for Disney’s forthcoming Colombia-set magical realist fantasy “Encanto.”

Former “The Amazing Spider-Man” star Garfield told AFP that Miranda had “set up an atmosphere of community that you only really get in theater, that you don’t often find in film.” Co-star and “Hamilton” alumnus Joshua Henry joked that while navigating his way as director, Miranda sometimes “would say cut when he meant action and vice versa.” “But seeing him come into his own was a really inspiring thing.”

While delays due to the pandemic closing theaters for months have caused the releases of Miranda’s various big-screen efforts to coincide, he told AFP he is back “seeing as much theater as I can” on Broadway. “And I’m itching to write again too, once I’m on the other side of all of these movies that are all coming out the same week because of the pandemic. “I’m excited to clear my desk.” AFI Fest runs until Sunday. – AFP

 

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Baldwin sued over fatal ‘Rust’ shooting

Kuwait Times - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 18:11
In this file photo US actor Alec Baldwin attends DreamWorks Animation’s “The Boss Baby: Family Business” premiere at SVA Theatre in New York City.—AFP photos

US actor Alec Baldwin is being sued by a “Rust” crew member over the fatal on-set shooting of a cinematographer last month, lawyers said Wednesday. The negligence suit also names armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who claimed through her legal representatives that she was being “framed” for the death of Halyna Hutchins. The low-budget movie’s chief lighting technician Serge Svetnoy says in the lawsuit that the accidental killing “was caused by the negligent acts and omissions” of lead actor and producer Baldwin and others.

“Simply put, there was no reason for a live bullet to be placed in that .45 Colt revolver or to be present anywhere on the ‘Rust’ set, and the presence of a bullet in a revolver posed a lethal threat to everyone in its vicinity,” the suit, submitted to a Los Angeles court, says. Baldwin, assistant director Dave Halls and Gutierrez-Reed did not follow film industry practice on the handling of weapons and “allowed a revolver loaded with live ammunition to be pointed at living persons,” the suit alleges. Cinematographer Hutchins was shot and killed as Baldwin rehearsed a scene on the 19th-century western in which he fires a gun at the camera.

The Emmy-winner was handed the firearm by Halls, who declared it “cold”-industry lingo for an inert weapon. Halls later told investigators he had not fully checked it. The live bullet passed through Hutchins and hit director Joel Souza in the shoulder. Svetnoy, who had worked with Hutchins on a number of previous films said he was close when Baldwin fired the gun on October 21. He felt a “strange and terrifying whoosh” as the bullet flew past him, and he was hit in the face by gunpowder and “residual materials.” The suit describes how he had rushed to help his friend as she lay dying on the ground. “As he held her, he noticed that the hand placed behind her back was becoming wet with her blood,” it says.

“The next 20-30 minutes felt like the longest of plaintiff’s life as he tried to aid and comfort Ms. Hutchins, watching helplessly as her consciousness faded inexorably away.” As the film’s armorer, 24-year-old Gutierrez-Reed was responsible for firearms and ammunition. In a statement issued Wednesday, her lawyers insisted again she did not know why there was a live round on the set. “We are asking for a full and complete investigation of all of the facts, including the live rounds themselves, how they ended up in the ‘dummies’ box, and who put them in there,” attorney Jason Bowles said.

“We are convinced that this was sabotage and Hannah is being framed. We believe that the scene was tampered with as well before the police arrived.” Bowles said Gutierrez-Reed had met again with investigators from the Santa Fe County Sheriff, and had “offered to share additional, critical information” with them. Santa Fe county district attorney, Mary Carmack-Altwies, in an interview broadcast Wednesday, rejected the notion of a conspiracy. “We do not have any proof,” she told ABC News. Carmack-Altwies has previously refused to rule out criminal charges over the incident, which has sparked calls for the banning of functional weapons on Hollywood sets.

Baldwin has suggested police officers should be stationed on sets that use weapons. He called the tragedy a “one in a trillion episode” and insisted “Rust” had a “well-oiled crew”. But reports have emerged since the shooting of disquiet among staff over allegedly lax safety procedures, and Santa Fe Sheriff Adan Mendoza has spoken of “complacency” on the New Mexico set. Mendoza said previously his officers seized more than 500 rounds of ammunition from the set, which they believed to be a mix of blanks, dummy rounds and some suspected live ammunition. – AFP

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Amazon deforestation threatens jaguars, giant eagles

Kuwait Times - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 18:07
Mark, a wild Harpy eagle which is given food by guides working for South Wild Safaris in the Fazenda Nicolau, which is managed by a carbon forest NGO linked to French company Peugeot, is seen in Alta Floresta, Mato Grosso, Brazil.—AFP photos

Boating slowly upriver through the Pantanal, the world’s biggest tropical wetlands, Brazilian biologist Fernando Tortato scans the bank for signs of Ousado, a jaguar badly burned in devastating wildfires last year. A thousand kilometers (600 miles) to the north, at the rapidly receding edge of the Amazon rainforest, conservationist Roberto Eduardo Stofel peers through his binoculars, monitoring a baby harpy eagle sitting alone in a giant nest, its parents apparently out searching for increasingly hard-to-find food.

The sleek, majestic jaguar and spectacularly powerful harpy eagle are two of the most iconic species threatened by the accelerating destruction of the Amazon, whose breathtaking biodiversity risks collapsing as the world’s biggest rainforest approaches a “tipping point.” Scientists say that is the point at which a vicious circle of deforestation, wildfires and climate change could damage the rainforest so badly it dies off and turns to savannah-with catastrophic consequences for its more than three million species of plants and animals.

A jaguar cub and its mother are seen in Porto Jofre.

‘Flying rivers’ drying up
The jaguar and harpy eagle are already feeling the impact. Ousado, a four-year-old, 75-kilogram (165-pound) male, was wounded a year ago when wildfires tore through the Pantanal, fueled by the region’s worst drought in 47 years. The region, which sits just south of the Amazon, is known for its stunning wildlife, drawing tourists from around the world. But nearly a third of it burned in last year’s fires, killing or wounding countless animals-including Ousado, who was found with third-degree burns on his paws, barely able to walk.

Veterinarians took the big black-and-yellow spotted cat to an animal hospital, treated him, and then reintroduced him to the wild with a tracking collar to monitor his recovery-which is going well. The destruction of the Pantanal, Tortato explains, is directly linked to that of the Amazon. The rainforest’s 390 billion trees generate water vapor that dumps rain across much of South America-a phenomenon known as “flying rivers.”

Sometimes appearing as wisps of mist streaking skyward, then gathering into giant clouds that look like streams of cotton, these “rivers” likely carry more water than the Amazon River itself, scientists say. As humans raze the forest for farms and pastureland, “the rainfall that would normally arrive in the Pantanal via the ‘flying rivers’ has diminished,” says Tortato, 37, of conservation group Panthera. Classified as “near threatened,” the jaguar, the biggest cat in the Americas, has its stronghold in the Amazon. Its population declined an estimated 20 to 25 percent over the past two decades.

Facing starvation
Known for its massive size, fearsome claws and tufts of feathers protruding Beethoven-like from its head, the harpy eagle is, like the jaguar, an apex predator in the Amazon. Weighing up to 10 kilograms, harpies scope their prey from the canopy, and then swoop in with deadly precision, snatching monkeys, sloths and even small deer. But despite their hunting prowess, they are at risk of starvation. It takes the gray and white eagles, which mate for life, about two years to raise their young. They fledge just one eaglet at a time, but need enormous territory to hunt enough food.

A recent study found harpy eagles are not adapted to hunt for prey outside the forest, and cannot survive in areas with more than 50 percent deforestation-increasingly common at the Amazon’s edges. “They are at high risk of extinction in this region because of deforestation and logging,” says Stofel, 43, who works on a harpy conservation program in Cotriguacu, in Mato Grosso state.

The area sits on the so-called “arc of deforestation.” In a poignant snapshot of the harpy’s plight, AFP journalists saw one eagle eating food set out for it by conservationists, against the backdrop of a logging truck hauling giant tree trunks from the forest. “We’ve monitored nests where the eaglets starved to death because the parents couldn’t hunt enough food,” Stofel says.

Matter of survival (our own)
For Cristiane Mazzetti of environmental group Greenpeace, it is crucial to protect the Amazon’s threatened biodiversity-and not just for the plants and animals’ sake. Nature’s complex interlocking web plays an essential role in the planet’s ability to provide food, oxygen, clean water, pollination and myriad other “ecosystem services” on which all life depends. “Biodiversity isn’t something that can be resuscitated,” says Mazzetti. “It’s important to protect it for our own survival.” – AFP

 

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Mexico City sets world record for free Wi-Fi hotspots

Kuwait Times - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 18:03

Mexico City has set a world record for free Wi-Fi access thanks to thousands of public internet access points across the capital, Guinness World Records announced Wednesday. Official adjudicator Carlos Tapia presented the award for the most hotspots — 21,500 — in a single free urban Wi-Fi network to Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum.

The access points are spread across the sprawling city of some nine million people, particularly in public transport, although at times the network can become saturated. When schools closed for more than a year during the Covid-19 pandemic, some students turned to the service to take part in online classes. Sheinbaum said that the aim was to make internet access a right for all, in particular disadvantaged families with no connection at home. – AFP

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S Africa’s last white president dies

Kuwait Times - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 17:37
PHILADELPHIA: File photo shows South African President Frederik de Klerk (L) shakes hand with African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela (C) as US President Bill Clinton (R) looks on after de Klerk and Mandela received the Philadelphia Liberty Medal. – AFP

JOHANNESBURG: FW de Klerk, South Africa’s last white president, dismantled the apartheid regime that brought him to power when he freed Nelson Mandela from prison and negotiated a path to democracy. He shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela in 1993 for leading the “miracle” transition from white rule. But as the new democracy matured, many inside the country came to see him as a symbol for the failure of white South Africa to acknowledge the full horrors of apartheid and to bring perpetrators to justice. De Klerk, aged 85, died yesterday after a battle with cancer, his foundation said in a statement.

“It is with the deepest sadness that the FW de Klerk Foundation must announce that former president FW de Klerk died peacefully at his home in Fresnaye earlier this morning following his struggle against mesothelioma cancer,” it said. “Mr De Klerk was 85 years old. He is survived by his wife Elita, his children Jan and Susan, and his grandchildren.” De Klerk ensured his place in history when on February 2, 1990, he announced Mandela’s release from 27 years in jail and lifted the ban on black liberation movements, effectively declaring the death of white-minority rule.

“I would hope that history will recognise that I, together will all those who supported me, have shown courage, integrity, honesty at the moment of truth in our history. That we took the right turn,” De Klerk said. Twenty years after that speech, De Klerk said freeing Mandela had “prevented a catastrophe”. Frederik Willem de Klerk was born in Johannesburg on March 18, 1936. His father, Jan de Klerk, was a minister in the National Party (NP) government that instituted apartheid. His uncle, JG Strijdom, was a prime minister notorious for stripping mixed race people of voting rights.

De Klerk followed in their footsteps. After practising law for 11 years, he won a seat in parliament for the NP in 1972 and climbed the political ladder through cabinet until he became the party’s leader in February 1989. Just six months later, after PW Botha was forced to resign, De Klerk became president of South Africa. “When he became head of the National Party, he seemed to be the quintessential party man, nothing more and nothing less,” Mandela wrote of him. “Nothing in his past seemed to hint at a spirit of reform.”

Negotiated end to apartheid
Yet Mandela sensed an opening and sent him a letter outlining a negotiated end to apartheid. Less than two months later, De Klerk announced Mandela’s unconditional release and the end of the ban on the African National Congress. De Klerk helped negotiate a new constitution, transforming South Africa into a non-racial democracy. He served for two years as Mandela’s deputy.

Despite relinquishing power and ushering in democracy, De Klerk never moulded to the new South Africa. He appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, apologising for apartheid. He also stormed out and accused the panel of bias. As Mandela became a global icon, De Klerk in a 2012 speech insisted: “He was by no means the avuncular and saint-like figure so widely depicted today.” In his later years, De Klerk called on the ANC government to take accountability for rampant poverty and joblessness.

But he would bristle at efforts to hold him accountable, and never accepted responsibility for the torture, rapes, and killings committed by the whites-only government. He tried to make excuses for apartheid’s network of “bantustans”, intended to confine black South Africans to supposed ethnic homelands. And in 2020, he sparked a national furore by refusing to call apartheid a crime against humanity. He always backtracked, especially if the scandals rippled into international headlines.

But even when he found the right words, he was never able to strike the right tone in modern South Africa. For all he gave the country, what he couldn’t give was a sense of remorse. De Klerk and his first wife, Marike, who married in April 1958, had three adopted children. The couple divorced in 1998 after he admitted to an affair with Elita Georgiades, the wife of a Greek shipping tycoon. De Klerk and Georgiades married the same year. – AFP

 

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UK sleaze crisis: what’s it all about?

Kuwait Times - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 17:34
HEXHAM: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) speaks with Marion Dickson, Executive Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals during a visit to Hexham General Hospital. Johnson faced pressure to appear before British lawmakers debating the standards system Monday, as days of sleaze and cronyism claims against his government intensified with new revelations. – AFP

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ruling Conservative party is facing a slew of sleaze allegations, largely centred on some of its lawmakers with lucrative second jobs. Johnson faced a barrage of questions about the claims on Wednesday, forcing him to deny that Britain and its political institutions were corrupt.

What are the claims?
UK MPs are permitted to hold second jobs, as long as they declare them, but are not allowed to use their parliamentary offices or resources for such work. Paid lobbying is also forbidden, with wrongdoing accusations probed by parliamentary standards watchdogs. The current scandal erupted last week when Johnson tried-and failed-to overhaul how the watchdogs system operates after Owen Paterson faced suspension over lobbying ministers for two firms that had him on the payroll.

It soon emerged numerous other MPs had high-paying second jobs, in particular lawyer and former attorney general Geoffrey Cox. He has been accused of using his parliamentary office for outside legal work, which has netted him more than £6 million ($8 million, 7 million euros) since becoming an MP in 2005, on top of his annual MP’s salary-currently around £82,000. Cox denies breaking the rules.
Who is involved?

Dozens of other Tory MPs have second jobs collectively earning them more than £1.7 million this year alone, according to reports yesterday based on parliament’s register of interests. They include Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who will have been paid £150,000 by the end of 2021 by the international investment bank JP Morgan. Meanwhile Mark Pawsey made £30,000-a-year as chairman of a packaging lobby group. He was reported to have spoken in parliament on multiple occasions in favour of watering down environmental laws to benefit plastic producers.

Former Conservative defence minister Philip Dunne has also been paid £51,000 by aerospace company Reaction Engines, while consistently asking questions in the House of Commons suggesting more defence spending. The issue has also started to impact other political parties, with The Times reporting Labour leader Keir Starmer, a former chief prosecutor, has earned tens of thousands of pounds from legal work in recent years. In addition to the furore around second jobs, a weekend report said the Conservatives have been “systematically” awarding seats in the unelected House of Lords, parliament’s upper chamber which scrutinises legislation, to its high-value donors.

What are the implications?
The revelations have renewed scrutiny about MPs’ potential conflicts of interest and evoked memories of a damaging scandal more than a decade ago over their expenses. That stoked intense public anger, prompted a string of resignations and is widely seen as contributing to a significant loss of trust in politicians preceding the 2016 anti-establishment Brexit vote.

The latest scandal has already led Owen Paterson to resign from parliament and heightened speculation that Cox and others in the firing line may follow suit. Parliamentary watchdogs are likely to probe Cox’s case after Labour wrote to the independent standards commissioner, Kathryn Stone, demanding she investigate the alleged use of his MPs office for legal work.

An opposition MP has written to police asking officers to examine the Tory donations-for-peerages accusations. Meanwhile, calls are growing for more wholesale reform of standards rules, with Labour demanding paid directorships and consultancy roles are outlawed. Johnson does not favour an outright ban on all second jobs, because it would target lawmakers also working in health, education and other public service roles. But the British leader has said he is eager to see expected proposals from House of Commons Speaker Lindsey Hoyle, the current holder of the politically impartial post overseeing the chamber.

What about Johnson?
More than a week of damning headlines have cast Johnson’s government in a dismal light just as he browbeats world powers to show moral leadership over climate change at the ongoing COP26 summit in Glasgow. The 57-year-old Brexit architect is himself facing questions about who paid for his recent holidays to the Caribbean and Spain, as well as the expensive makeover of his Downing Street flat.

The results of several probes are expected soon. “All my declarations are in conformity with the rules,” Johnson insisted Wednesday to a question from AFP. But the past week has seen his poll ratings slump, with his personal ratings for trustworthiness and competence at record lows. Tory MPs are reportedly increasingly dissatisfied with their leader. “I can’t recall a moment quite like this since he became leader,” one Tory lawmaker told the Politico website. – AFP

 

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China, US unveil surprise climate pact at COP26 summit

Kuwait Times - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 17:30
GLASGOW: An activist from the climate change group Extinction Rebellion (XR) holds a sign next to fellow protesters pretending to be dead under white sheets during a “Remember climate death” sit-in on the sidelines of the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow yesterday. – AFP

GLASGOW: China and the United States on Wednesday vowed to work together to accelerate climate action this decade, in a surprise new pact in the face of global warming that is already wreaking disasters across the world. The announcement came as the crunch COP26 summit in Glasgow entered its pivotal final days, with negotiators wrestling over ways to limit global warming to 1.5-2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.

“This document contains strong statements about the alarming science, the emissions gap, and the urgent need to accelerate action to close that gap,” US special envoy John Kerry told reporters in a surprise announcement. “It commits to a series of important actions now this decade when it is needed.” The plan is light on concrete targets but heavy on political symbolism at a conference that began with the US and China-the world’s two biggest emitters-seemingly at loggerheads. Last week US President Joe Biden criticised the decision of China’s President Xi Jinping not to attend the Glasgow summit, saying China “walked away”.

China hit back at the time, but ties appear to have thawed ahead of long-awaited bilateral talks next week. On Wednesday both US and China envoys stressed their countries’ collaboration, saying they had agreed to put other differences aside to work on climate. “Both sides recognise that there is a gap between the current effort and the Paris Agreement goals so we will jointly strengthen climate action,” Beijing’s longtime climate envoy Xie Zhenhua said.

‘Seriousness and urgency’
A document outlining the agreement includes a focus on lowering methane emissions, which Kerry described as the “single fastest and most effective way to limit warming”. It says the two sides will meet regularly to “address the climate crisis”. The document also stresses the need to boost emissions efforts in the short term, with scientists warning that emissions efforts before 2030 are crucial for halting catastrophic global warming. The declaration said both countries “recognise the seriousness and urgency of the climate crisis”.

“They are committed to tackling it through their respective accelerated actions in the critical decade of the 2020s,” the document said. China and US are the two largest emitters in the world and together account for nearly 40 percent of all carbon pollution. The US has already said it plans to be carbon neutral by 2050, while China announced its intention last month to reach net-zero emissions before 2060. The 2015 Paris climate accord commits nations to work towards limiting global temperature rises to between 1.5C and 2C through sweeping emissions cuts.

The United Nations said that all countries emissions cutting plans, taken together, were currently set to warm Earth 2.7C by 2100. UN Chief Antonio Guterres welcomed the US-China pact. “Tackling the climate crisis requires international collaboration and solidarity, and this is an important step in the right direction,” he said on Twitter.

‘No excuse’
Negotiators are in Glasgow to work out how to keep to the Paris Agreement degree limits, as countries across the world are battered by ever-fiercer floods, droughts and storms linked to rising temperatures. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said earlier that countries have “no excuse” for failure. Wednesday saw the release of draft text “decisions”, which were the first real indication of where nations are 10 days into deeply technical discussions. The text, which is liable to change during ministerial debates, called for nations to “revisit and strengthen” their decarbonisation plans by next year, instead of 2025 as previously agreed.

The Paris accord contains a “ratchet” mechanism requiring countries to update emissions plans every five years. But several large emitters missed the 2020 deadline for submitting new plans, known as nationally determined contributions. Others handed in plans that were no more ambitious-or even less so-than their initial plans. Vulnerable nations say that the next deadline, in 2025, is too distant to deliver essential short-term emissions cuts. “Rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions” were needed to avert the worst impacts of heating, the text said.

In what observers said was a “significant first mention” of the fuels driving global warming, the draft summit called on countries to “accelerate the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels”. Last week more than 100 countries-but not China-signed a pledge to slash methane emissions by at least 30 percent by 2030. – AFP

 

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Would-be immigrants see a ray of hope in re-opened US border

Kuwait Times - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 17:26
SAN DIEGO: Colombian Magarita Padilla reacts on a phone call with her son nearby in their room at a migrant shelter run by Catholic charities in San Diego, California on Tuesday. – AFP

SAN YSIDRO, US: Maria fled the violent drug gangs of Michoacan with just three changes of clothes, and traveled 1,500 miles (2,500 kilometers) to the edge of Mexico where she now waits to claim political asylum in the United States. The 38-year-old is part of a record wave of Central and Southern Americans trying to escape violence and poverty at home and make a new life in the world’s richest country over the last year, even as its borders have been shut because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now they have opened again, Maria sees a chink of light. “Now I have hope,” she told AFP in a makeshift camp in Tijuana, where hundreds have gathered waiting to travel a few miles north across the frontier. “We came to get away from organized crime. Not because we are criminals,” says Maria, whose real name is being withheld at her request. Her eldest son was recruited by a brutal gang last year. That was when the threats began.

This year she, her husband, two young children and other family members gathered their meager possessions and headed north, in the hope of getting over the border somehow. Migration advocates say if they can just make it onto US soil, they can tell a border guard they want asylum and will be dealt with in-country. But with the border closed to all but US nationals, legal residents and certain exempt individuals, getting across was not possible and she had to stake her asylum claim from Mexico. That was six months ago. While she waits, she lives in the grubby and crowded El Chaparral camp, where dozens of families seek out an existence in flimsy tents.

‘I would cross by river’
When the border swung open again this week, fellow resident Perez was also flooded with hope. “I was very happy,” she said. Life in a camp with no electricity is not easy, she adds, though she is hopeful her request for asylum will be granted. “But if they deny me political asylum, my thought is to cross illegally. I would even cross by river if needs be.” In the 12 months to September, the United States recorded 1.7 million people entering illegally at the southwest border, the highest figure since records began in 1960.

Those illegal crossings are high, says University of San Diego School of Political Science Director David Shirk, because there is no legitimate route. “By restricting… crossing for asylum purposes, what US border policies have done is to create a very, very large and desperate population of people waiting on the Mexican side,” he said. Many are “trying to wait their turn, but finding that the length of time is too long.”

‘If we wait… we get killed’
For Margarita, waiting was never an option. She and her husband Luis and their two children fled their native Bogota after being threatened by members of the FARC, Colombia’s main armed rebel group. Like other people AFP spoke to for this piece, the couple declined to give their real names. Margarita says she ruled out legal routes for migration because they would just take too long. “I said ‘if I wait to do it in 2022 or 2023, they kill us’.” They packed four suitcases and left for Mexico. In Tijuana, they followed directions until they reached a river that marks the border, which they waded into.

As the water rose to their chests, they lost almost everything. “All we had left were our papers, our bible and two changes of clothes,” says Margarita, showing their belongings in two nylon sacks. US authorities took them to a detention center and separated them for three days. The couple and their five-year-old son were transferred to a migrant shelter operated by Catholic charities in San Diego to await a court hearing, while their 19-year-old daughter remained in the detention center. As Margarita was speaking to an AFP team, her daughter phoned and the two spoke for the first time in ten days. “Forgive me, forgive me,” she sobbed as she gazed at the video of her daughter on the screen.

For David Shirk, the post-COVID economic boom in the United States is likely to attract more immigrants in search of work, making fixing the migration system a priority. He sees little material difference between policies pursued under President Joe Biden and those of his predecessor Donald Trump. While Biden has not talked about Trump’s border “wall”, he is nevertheless at pains not to appear soft. “It’s a kind of nuclear arms race, of… trying to show who’s tougher on border controls,” he says. “That’s not good for US immigration policy. It actually is not good for the United States and the US economy, it’s something that we absolutely need to fix, but for which there is no obvious immediate solution in sight.” – AFP

 

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