Mumbai: The Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) on Friday said that as part of the upcoming Mumbai Metro III project it had completed boring the first 3.82 km long tunnel passing underneath some of the most thickly populated areas of south Mumbai. Terming it “a challenging task”, a company spokesperson said HCC has finished the south-bound tunnel between Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) and Mumbai Central stations, becoming the first contractor among all others to complete the entire length of a tunnel for the Metro III project. Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscal The HCC maintained an average drilling rate of around 8.20 metres per day for the 3.82 km long tunnel passing via the station boxes of Kalbadevi, Girgaon and Grant Road. This section is part of the 33.50 km long Metro III line connecting Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ (Andheri East) and will be the first fully underground metro in the city. It is being built at a cost of around Rs 23,136 crore, with a Rs 13,325 crore loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Also Read – Food grain output seen at 140.57 mt in current fiscal on monsoon boost The HCC teams encountered several geological and urban challenges, including proximity to the Arabian Sea, tunneling through heterogeneous reclaimed land, congested working areas and drilling below some of the oldest residential and other buildings, many over a century old, without disturbing their foundations. The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) had awarded the contract to HCC in July 2016 for the design and construction of twin tunnels by Tunnel Boring Machines (TBM) and construction of four underground metro stations at CSMT, Kalbadevi, Girgaon and Grant Road. For the work, HCC procured two TBMs from China with 117 metre long single-shield dual-mode hard rock with a 6.68 metre diameter and weighing 848 tonnes, the company said. These TBMs are equipped to operate in both – open or closed – modes, in the predominantly fresh, and slightly to moderately weathered Basalt and Breccia that was anticipated in the Mumbai Metro projects. After months of geotechnical investigations, planning and procurement processes, the first TBM, Vaitarna I, was launched at CSMT on December 4, 2017. Its initial drive was completed on January 11, 2018, while the main drive ended in mid-February 2018 with a team of 32 people working on it, the spokesperson said. Since congested residential areas are located above the tunnel, structural surveys using sophisticated instruments were carried out prior to starting the boring work in a 30 metre influence zone on either side of the alignment to assess its impact on the buildings. With the tunneling work completed well within the stipulated time, the HCC has now taken up the work of constructing the underground metro stations, each with a unique design.
Srinagar: There has been a steady increase in the number of private vehicles plying in Srinagar with public transport off the roads in Kashmir, where the government-imposed security lockdown entered its 22nd day on Monday. The movement of private transport is more in upscale areas like Humhama, Hyderpora, Jawahar Nagar, Sanat Nagar, Rajbagh and Residency Road, unlike downtown Srinagar, where even the private vehicles are few. “My relatives who live in Habak area (of Srinagar), returned home last week after performing Haj. But I am not taking a chance to visit them. I will wait till the situation normalises,” said Mohammad Amin, who lives in Srinagar’s Batamalloo area. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss bank a/c details The government has eased day-time restrictions from 69 police station areas in the Valley. “This is an increase of 19 police station areas from 50 earlier,” said government spokesperson Rohit Kansal. But commuting is still not easy as even people protesting the abrogation of Article 370 have blocked roads at many places with stones and logs. The security forces have already barricaded roads everywhere. “Multiple blockades have been erected making it difficult for vehicles to ply,” said Ghulam Mohammad from Telbal area of Srinagar. Also Read – Tourists to be allowed in J&K from Thursday Business establishments too remain closed across the Valley. Shops in some areas open for a few hours in the morning (till 9 a.m.) and evening, during which they do brisk business with people desperately buying groceries and milk. “We buy vegetables and other food items early morning, which is the best time for this as all the shops are closed for the rest of the day,” said Abdul Raheem, who lives in Aluchi Bagh area of Srinagar.
Leh: Pakistan has no locus standi on Kashmir and no country is backing it on the “current issue”, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Thursday amid Islamabad’s efforts to internationalise the Centre’s move to abrogate provisions of Article 370. Addressing a DRDO event here, Singh asked how can India talk to Pakistan when it keeps trying to destabilise India using terror. India wants to have a good neighbourly relationship with Pakistan, but it should first stop exporting terror to India, Singh said. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss bank a/c details “Pakistan has no locus standi on Kashmir. However, it is in illegal occupation of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, including Gilgit Baltistan,” the minister said after inaugurating the ‘Kisan-Jawan Vigyan Mela’. Parliament had passed an unanimous resolution in February 1994 in which India’s stand had been made clear, Singh said. “I want to ask Pakistan, when had Kashmir belonged to it. Pakistan was also formed out of India,” he said. India respects Pakistan’s existence, but that does not mean that it can keep making statements on Kashmir, Singh said. Also Read – Tourists to be allowed in J&K from Thursday “Kashmir has been ours, there has been no doubt about that in the country. The truth is that PoK and Gilgit Baltistan is in illegal occupation of Pakistan. Pakistan should focus on addressing human rights violations and atrocities in PoK,” Singh said. He said US Defense Secretary Mark Esper during a telephonic conversation told him that abrogation of provisions of Article 370 was an internal matter of India. “No country is with Pakistan on the current issue,” Singh said. He also cited Hindi proverb ‘begani shaadi mein abdullah deewana’ to assert that Pakistan had nothing to do with Kashmir. Earlier this month, the government had revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and divided the state into Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. “When we made a law to make Ladakh a separate Union Territory then we not only respected the public sentiment here but also gave a solution to the problems of the people,” Singh said. “Our prime minister has made it clear that localised solution will be brought in for India’s strategic areas,” he said. Organised by Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR) DRDO, the ‘Kisan Jawan Vigyan Mela’ is a big step towards strengthening the strategic ecosystem in Ladakh, Singh said.
Linkou: India’s Karandeep Kochhar birdied each of the four Par-5s to open his campaign at the Yeangder TPC with a solid five-under 67 that placed him Tied-third after a rain-hit first round here on Thursday. The 20-year-old from Chandigarh was among the five players who had completed their rounds at five-under. Playing partners Wang Wei-hsuan and Lien Lu-sen of Chinese Taipei are on six-under-par through 13 holes, while countryman Lee Chieh-po trails the duo by two shot after nine. The 19-year-old Wang is yet to complete his round, but has already matched the Tour’s record of most birdies made at the start of the round with his seven birdies in-a-row. Also Read – Puducherry on top after 8-wkt win over ChandigarhLong-hitting Karandeep, who turned pro at 17, won a pro title while being an amateur but has not won after moving into the paid ranks. He started from the back nine and had three birdies against one bogey and on the back nine he had two birdies, both on Par-5s and then closed the day with a birdie on Par-4 ninth. Among other Indians, who had finished play, Abhijit Chadha and S Chikkarangappa shot two-under 70 each, while 2017 winner Ajeetesh Sandhu started with one-under 71, as did Aman Raj. Also Read – Vijender’s next fight on Nov 22, opponent to be announced laterJeev Milkha Singh shot even par 72. Other Indians who are yet to complete their rounds are Shiv Kapur, Chiragh Kumar, Khalin Joshi, Viraj Madappa and Aadil Bedi. Kochhar, whose best finish this season has been T-12 in Bangladesh, had his round interrupted twice by the rain and winds. “It was a tough day. My round was suspended twice. I am lucky to finish before they blew the horn again. The second time we went out, the winds were really blowing hard on the last three holes. But I think I held up very well. I putted very well and I think that was the key,” he said. “The greens are quite tricky here. They are not easy to read. Overall, my game is in a good shape. I am happy with the way I played. I made a good up and down for birdie on the fourth hole. My second shot went into the bunker but I hit it to 10 feet from there and made the putt. “I really wanted to get the round done when I was playing the last few holes. I have been up since 4 am and its been a long day. It’s been awhile since I played this well.” Kochhar has mixed memories of his last visit here. “I played here last year as well. The Asian Tour was really nice to give me an invite this year. I remember playing in similar conditions last year too. I shot a seven-over in the first round and then a six-under in the second round to make the cut and eventually finished in the top-15,” he said.
WINNIPEG – A treaty regarded by some as the founding document of Winnipeg is about to mark a milestone anniversary.The 1817 Peguis-Selkirk Treaty was signed 200 years ago this Tuesday.The treaty established the Red River Settlement in the valley of the river by the same name.It was signed after an agreement was reached between Salteaux Chief Peguis and Thomas Douglas, the 5th Earl of Selkirk.Members of the Manitoba Living History Society marked the anniversary on Sunday by dressing in the appropriate attire and re-creating the event at Seven Oaks House Museum.The treaty also established the initial relationship between First Nations and the Crown in Western Canada, despite it being signed well before Confederation in 1867.“Chief Peguis came from the Great Lakes area and settled in Netley Creek, the Selkirk Settlers arrived in 1812, and both had difficulties with seasons, with planting crops and with basically existing,” said Marie Zorniak of the Manitoba Living History Society.“They each shared their resources with each other and their knowledge, so it was an agreement set up to establish a community.”(CTV Winnipeg, The Canadian Press)
QUEBEC – A package containing a defaced Qur’an and a note expressing hate toward a Muslim cemetery project has stoked renewed fears at a Quebec mosque where six men were killed in January, the mosque’s secretary general said Wednesday.Mahedine Djamai said when the parcel arrived Friday he expected it to contain more of the sympathy cards that have poured in from across Canada since the shooting.Instead, he said, it contained a Qur’an that had been slashed and a note suggesting the Quebec City mosque should use a pig farm as a cemetery.“I was shocked,” Djamai said in a phone interview.“I thought, once again we’re getting this kind of message we didn’t expect at all. It reminds us that there’s always a fear that a terrible event like what happened on Jan. 29 could happen again.”Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard condemned the incident, describing it as “unacceptable and repulsive.”“It’s hard to prevent the darker sides of human nature,” Couillard said in Edmonton as he attended a meeting of the country’s premiers.“It’s a repulsive act done by a coward, essentially, and it should be condemned and rejected. And it is rejected by the majority of Quebecers.”Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the incident has nothing to do with Quebec or Canadian values.“In any society, there will be people who are intolerant or racist and I think the challenge of a strong society is to spend our time focusing on where we are similar and not where we are different,” Trudeau said in Quebec City.“We consider it to be an attack that is outside of our values and our way of living.”The package arrived two days before a referendum on a proposed Muslim cemetery was held Sunday in Saint-Apollinaire, about 35 kilometres from Quebec City.Djamai said the mosque informed police about the package but decided not to go public until after the referendum to avoid influencing the vote.A zoning change that would have allowed the burial ground project to move forward was rejected by 19 votes to 16.Trudeau expressed disappointment with the referendum outcome.“Certainly, I’m pleased to see that various authorities are looking to move forward and ensure discrimination doesn’t happen, that people who are proud Quebecers, proud Canadians, who also happen to be Muslim, will have the capacity to bury their loved ones here in their country,” he said.“And that kids and grandkids who have lost their grandparents will be able to visit them regularly here at home.”Quebec City police spokesman David Poitras said security has been increased around the Centre culturel islamique de Quebec mosque and that authorities were taking the matter of the package seriously.He added it was too soon to know whether charges will be laid.This is not the first time a hateful gesture has been directed toward the mosque.In June 2016, a pig’s head was left at its entrance during Ramadan. The pig’s head was wrapped in paper and was accompanied by a note that read “Bonne (sic) appetit.”The mosque has said it has also received hateful letters since the attack.— Written by Morgan Lowrie in Montreal
WINNIPEG – A teen who took part in two brutal, high-profile sex attacks in Winnipeg — one of which left a girl clinging to life on the banks of a river — has been sentenced to 17 years in jail.Robert McKay, who was 17 at the time of the random attacks on a teen and a woman in November 2014, was sentenced as an adult Wednesday after pleading guilty to aggravated sexual assault last year.Justice Gerald Chartier gave McKay nine years for each assault. He took one year off because he noted McKay had no previous criminal record, has shown remorse, pleaded guilty, and suffers from cognitive difficulties.“While there are mitigating factors… the egregious nature of these crimes and its impact on the complainants require a lengthy period of incarceration,” Chartier said. “Mr. McKay was a willing and active participant.”The sentence includes credit for time served so McKay will be behind bars for just under 13 years.Court has heard McKay and his cousin, Justin Hudson, went out to celebrate McKay’s birthday the night of Nov. 8, 2014, planning to steal cars.They first came upon a 16-year-old girl, and beat and robbed her. McKay held her down while Hudson sexually assaulted her. She ended up in the Assiniboine River, crawled out 100 metres downstream and was attacked again with a hammer.Court heard the temperature was -11 C with the windchill at the time.A passerby found her hours later. She was technically dead for 45 minutes before being revived in hospital, and would go on to become an advocate for a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.“I have spent a lot of time in hospitals since you attacked me, repairing injuries to my body,” the teen wrote in a victim impact statement read at Hudson’s sentencing hearing in December 2016. “I have scars on most of my limbs, everyday reminders of that night.“I feel sad. Angry. Confused. It’s more than those words can possibly convey. The pain is a heavy weight for me to carry.”A few hours later, the pair came across a 23-year-old woman. They beat her severely and repeatedly sexually assaulted her. She spent three days in hospital with a concussion and facial injuries.“At the time it was happening, I was so scared,” the woman wrote in her victim impact statement, also read at Hudson’s sentencing hearing.“I did my best to ‘act’ as they wanted me to out of fear that they would hurt me even more. This made me so disgusted with myself and I hated my body for such a long time after.”Both sexual assaults involved “gratuitous violence” using weapons and were “beyond brutal,” Chartier told the court Wednesday.The defence had asked for a seven-year sentence, minus three and a half years for the time McKay has spent in custody. The Crown had asked for a 20-year sentence minus time served.At his sentencing hearing earlier this year, McKay wept and apologized for what he had done.“I feel really bad, really frickin’ bad for what I did,” McKay said at the February hearing. “I know what (the victims) went through. I went through it for five years by my own uncle.”Court heard McKay experienced sexual abuse and neglect as a child and suffers from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and has a low IQ.He told a psychologist he felt pressured into taking part in the attacks believing Hudson would assault him if he refused. An expert said it was likely his FASD made him vulnerable to peer influence.Hudson was sentenced earlier this year to 23 years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of aggravated sexual assault.
AIRDRIE, Alta. – Alberta RCMP have added a feather to their cap by coming to the rescue of a great horned owl entangled in a school soccer net.Mounties in Airdrie, just north of Calgary, were waved down Monday morning after students and staff at an elementary school found the owl.RCMP said the owl, which is Alberta’s provincial bird, was conscious and breathing but upset with its predicament.A former wildlife conservation officer joined the rescue and helped RCMP calm the owl.It was removed from the netting and taken to a veterinarian.RCMP say the owl is expected to make a full recovery.
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is figuring out how to ensure the proposed small business tax changes will make the tax code fair without stifling growth for small businesses and start-ups.The Liberals have been saying for weeks the proposals circulated in a discussion paper by Finance Minister Bill Morneau in July were meant for discussion and the final legislation will take into account feedback from Canadians.The consultation period on the proposals ends next week and how soon after the extent of the changes will be known is causing anxiety for business and for politicians getting an earful.Two new reports released on the matter Monday show how varied the reaction has been.The Canadian Taxpayers Federation notes people who make more than $100,000 account for just 8.4 per cent of taxpayers but pay 52 per cent of the total tax bill.On the other hand, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says just 0.7 per cent of Canadian families are going to be impacted by the government proposal to not allow businesses to sprinkle income to other family members.
OTTAWA – When he announced the federal strategy of ramping up the number of immigrants to Canada over the next three years, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen described it as what Canadians wanted and needed — especially with governments around the world closing their doors to immigrants and refugees.It was a subtle jab at the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has cracked down on immigration in the name of the “America First” sentiment that got him elected a year ago Tuesday.But over the course of those 12 months, Canadian views on immigration appear to have shifted in that same direction, according to the survey the federal government carries out each year as part of its immigration planning process.Partial results of the internal survey were posted online in connection with last week’s release of the plan, which calls for 310,000 people admitted to be admitted in 2018, up from 300,000 this year.By 2020, the level of new admissions will rise to 340,000.About 27 per cent of the survey’s 2,503 respondents said they felt that number is too high — an increase of four percentage points over the responses to the same question in the 2016 survey, which had only about 1,600 respondents.While the survey is done annually, the questions aren’t always the same, and the sample size also varies.The 2017 survey was conducted between July 31 and Aug. 30, and carries a margin of error of plus or minus 1.96 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The 2016 survey — used by the department as a point of comparison in their analysis — surveyed 1,598 people with a margin of error of 2.45 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.The timing of the 2017 study coincided with a spike in asylum seekers crossing illegally into Canada.The influx generated heated debate about the integrity of Canada’s asylum system. The Opposition Conservatives have repeatedly accused the government of placing Canada’s historically high support for immigration at risk as a result.In 2005-06, 1,598 Canadians were asked about the positive impact of immigration on a national and local level. Seventy-two per cent agreed there was one for Canada, while 58 per cent saw a personal benefit. When the question was repeated this year, only 70 per cent saw a positive national effect, while 56 per cent believed there was a positive impact on them personally.Though the surge of asylum seekers in the summer drew attention, more people have been seeking asylum in Canada since Trump won.The divisive U.S. president campaigned on promise to curb immigration in general and refugees in particular. His first actions upon taking office in January included an executive order, a move that prompted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to say publicly that Canada would continue to welcome those fleeing persecution.The poll suggests attitudes towards refugee resettlement in Canada have also dampened in the last year.When asked in August which of the three main immigration categories should grow, 25 per cent of respondents singled out the refugee category, down from 29 per cent in 2016, when a similar question was asked.Thirty-two per cent also told pollsters in 2017 that too many refugees were coming to Canada, up from 30 per cent in 2016.The 2017 poll also asked respondents about their comfort levels around people of different races and religions, a question that was also asked in 2005-06.This year, 89 per cent said they were comfortable around people of a different race, down from 94 per cent in 2005-2006.When asked if they felt comfortable in social situations with people from a different religion, 82 per cent said yes, down from 88 per cent the last time the question was asked.
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – A 24-year-old man is dead in what British Columbia police say is the third such targeted shooting within a week.Abbotsford police responded to a suspected shooting Thursday in a rural area of the city.Police say Alexander Blanarou of Surrey was found dead of gunshot wounds.The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has taken over the case and the B.C. Coroners Service is helping to gather evidence.Two men were killed in separate shootings in Maple Ridge and North Vancouver on Dec. 22, including a man who police say was connected with past gang activity.Cpl. Frank Jang says police are looking for witnesses or any information on the latest shooting to come forward.
OTTAWA — A design deficiency in the temporary home of the Senate chamber over the next decade is delaying when cameras will finally start broadcasting proceedings in the upper chamber.The Senate’s internal-economy committee made the decision this morning to delay sittings in the interim Senate chamber until Feb. 19, and pushed back video broadcasts no later than March 1.In a statement, the committee says work is underway to close a ceiling gap in the temporary chamber that was causing “disruptive noise levels” so bad that they would affect operations, including broadcasts.Years of efforts to broadcast proceedings from the chamber have previously been stymied by traditionalists who feared debate would degenerate if senators knew they were on camera — even though Senate committees have been broadcast for years.An official hand over of the temporary Senate building is scheduled for this morning.The Senate and House of Commons are moving into temporary homes for the next decade as a result of long-planned and badly needed renovations to the Centre Block.The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — The Crown asked a Vancouver Island man who denies killing his two young daughters whether he was worried about the safety of the girls when two men came to drop off a bag presumed to contain drugs months before their deaths.Andrew Berry is charged with second-degree murder in the stabbing deaths of six-year-old Chloe Berry and four-year-old Aubrey Berry in Oak Bay on Christmas Day in 2017.Berry says the men who came to his apartment in March 2017 dropped off what he thought were drugs that he was storing in exchange for a delay of a payment to a loan shark named Paul.The Crown’s theory is that Berry killed the girls and then tried to kill himself, but Berry says he owed thousands of dollars to the loan shark and was attacked in his apartment.Berry says his daughters were in the apartment watching a movie while the two men hid the bag in his closet.Crown counsel Patrick Weir asked whether it occurred to Berry that the girls should have “zero part” in the situation.Berry said in hindsight, it was “potentially very, very dangerous” but at the time he didn’t think it was a big deal.The Canadian Press
ShoeDazzle is pleased to announce that actress and host Vanessa Lachey is the newest member of its “Celebrity Shoe Design Program for Charity.”Vanessa Lachey’s Design for ShoeDazzleCredit/Copyright: ShoeDazzleVanessa designed a military-inspired faux snakeskin high heeled bootie named “Monroe,” after the icon Marilyn Monroe, who was known for both her fashion sense and for her support of the troops. The shoe will be available for purchase exclusively at ShoeDazzle.com on August 7th, and all profits from the sales of the shoe will benefit Operation Shower.Operation Shower is a non-profit organization dedicated to celebrating and honoring military families by providing joyful baby showers for expectant moms whose husbands are deployed. Since its inception in 2007, Operation Shower has showered more than 800 military moms from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and National Guard on military bases and other locations.“I am so thrilled to be able to raise awareness for a great charity like Operation Shower,” said Lachey. “Growing up, my father was in the Air Force, so I have an understanding of what it’s like to have a loved one overseas during life’s biggest events. ShoeDazzle has provided me with a fun and fashionable way to support the military – and new moms!”“ShoeDazzle is pleased to have actress and soon-to-be new mother Vanessa Lachey show her support of Operation Shower with this exclusive ShoeDazzle design,” said Bill Strauss, Chief Executive Officer, ShoeDazzle. “ShoeDazzle has always been a proud supporter of our troops and their families. The on-trend, military-style bootie is perfect for the fall and a fashionable way to show your support for the women behind our troops.”ShoeDazzle launched its first cause-marketing campaign in fall 2009. Prior to Lachey’s shoe release, ShoeDazzle partnered with LaLa Anthony, Carmen Electra, Perez Hilton, Carson Kressley, Jenny McCarthy, singer Mel B and actresses Kristen Bell, Garcelle Beauvais, Kristin Cavallari, Kristin Chenoweth, Jennie Garth and Denise Richards and for its “Celebrity Shoe Design Program for Charity.”
Chart topping boy band One Direction is supporting Alzheimer’s Society by donating a hand signed T-shirt that will be auctioned on eBay until tomorrow (Thursday 20 December).Band member twenty year old pop sensation Louis Tomlinson from Doncaster is supporting the charity after his girlfriend’s grandfather was diagnosed with dementia.They are offering one lucky fan a T-shirt which is personally signed by all of the boys from the band: Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson. You can bid on the t-shirt now on eBay.“I’m so pleased the boys have decided to support Alzheimer’s Society in this way,” said Eleanor Calder, Louis Tomlinson’s girlfriend. “My grandfather has dementia and my family and I have had first hand experience of how the condition affects every aspect of a person’s life. I hope people will get bidding on eBay to raise money to help those families who live with dementia.”Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society said: “We are hugely grateful to One Direction for auctioning an item in aid of Alzheimer’s Society. Money raised from the auction will help people live well with dementia and fund research to find a cure. The boys support will help us reach new audiences and raise awareness of dementia amongst younger people. Everyone has a role to play in improving the lives of people with dementia.”Get your bids in quickly before the auction ends tomorrow! Bid now!Source:Alzheimers.org.uk
This week, actor and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Board Member Leonardo DiCaprio helped launch WWF’s Hands Off My Parts initiative.The initiative represents a week-long effort tied to WWF’s Stop Wildlife Crime campaign to raise awareness and mobilize support to end the illegal trade of wildlife.Wildlife crime has reached levels never seen before in WWF’s 50-year history. Rhinos, tigers, and elephants are being killed at alarming rates for their skins, bones, tusks, horns and other body parts.Tens of thousands of elephants are being poached every year for their ivory. Thailand is home to the biggest unregulated ivory market in the world. Exploiting a legal loophole that permits the sale of ivory from Thailand’s domesticated elephants, criminals are getting away with selling massive amounts of illegally poached African ivory alongside legal ivory in the country.In addition to raising awareness of this global crisis, the Hands Off My Parts initiative highlights what people can do to help, including spreading the word and signing a global petition calling on Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to ban all ivory trade in Thailand.In support of this effort, DiCaprio sent a personal email to WWF supporters, celebrities and other influencers encouraging them to join the wildlife crime campaign and sign the petition.“Illegal wildlife trade is the most urgent threat facing species like tigers, rhinos and elephants. These animals are being killed every day to feed an escalating demand for their body parts,” said Leonardo DiCaprio. “Whole populations are at risk of being wiped out if we don’t take immediate action to shut down this illicit trade. As a key step, I am joining WWF and others calling on Thailand’s government to show leadership on elephant conservation by shutting down its ivory market before the country hosts a meeting of 177 nations on wildlife trade in March 2013.”“With knowledge comes the imperative to act,” said Carter Roberts, president & CEO of WWF. “This story needs to be told. We’re grateful to Leonardo DiCaprio and others for being the voice for animals who cannot speak for themselves.”Other prominent voices joining this initiative include: Emily VanCamp, Josh Bowman, Stacy Keibler, Alyssa Milano, Ian Somerhalder, and Ethan Suplee.“Hands Off My Parts” is the latest initiative in WWF’s global campaign to raise awareness about illicit wildlife trade as a serious crime with far-reaching implications for species and communities around the world. To learn more and what you can do to help, please visit worldwildlife.org/wildlifecrime or HandsOffMyParts.org.
In celebration of troops and their families stationed around the globe, the USO and President Obama will once again honor, salute and celebrate those in uniform with the Fifth Annual “Salute to the Military” USO Concert Event on the South Lawn of the White House this Independence Day.The patriotic celebration will include a barbecue, family-friendly games, a musical selection by “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band and a free 60-minute USO show by Grammy Award-winning indie pop band fun. More than 1,200 troops and their families are expected to attend, with hundreds more watching live via stream on whitehouse.gov/Live.Over the past five years, the “Salute to the Military” USO Concert Event has lifted the spirits of more than 6,200 troops and military families, beginning with its first event in 2009 with Jimmy Fallon, Michelle Branch and the Foo Fighters. Last year’s event included a USO performance by Brad Paisley.“Saying ‘thank you’ to our servicemen and women and their families is what the USO is all about,” said USO President Sloan Gibson. “It is what we do at our centers all over the world every day and is an integral part of our mission. As we near the Fourth of July and our fifth annual “Salute to the Military” celebration hosted by our Commander in Chief, we encourage Americans to take a moment and join us as we pay homage to the extraordinary service of our men and women in uniform and celebrate the support of their families back home.”
The International Fund For Animal Welfare (IFAW) today released its new PROTECT PSA campaign.Video: PROTECT Whales – IFAW PSA 2014The series, which was conceived, directed and edited by actress, director and IFAW ambassador Joely Fisher, features notable Hollywood personalities discussing pressing issues facing animals around the world and calling upon the public to take action for animals.Discussing the plight of elephants, big cats and whales, IFAW’s campaign drew overwhelming support from celebrities including Joely Fisher (‘Til Death), Amber Valletta (Revenge), Goran Visnjic (ER), Kristin Bauer van Straten (True Blood), Michelle Monaghan (True Detective), Blake Lewis (American Idol), Brian Austin Green (Desperate Housewives), Camryn Manheim (The Practice), Dean Norris (Breaking Bad), Denise Richards (Love Actually), Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses), Josh Bowman (Revenge), Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses), Ed Begley Jr. (Six Feet Under), Melissa Rivers (Fashion Police), Hudson Thames (Bride Wars), Kate Mara (House of Cards), Kenny Lattimore (Columbia Records), Kym Whitley (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Lee DeWyze (American Idol), Mark Feuerstein (Royal Pains), Marla Sokoloff (Full House), Nestor Serrano (Dexter), Nicole Sullivan (The King of Queens), Odette Annable (House), Tricia Leigh Fisher (’Til Death) and William McNamara (Copycat).“As a longtime IFAW supporter, I am honored to have the opportunity to shed light on these issues,” said Fisher. “Well-known advocates help engage and rally the public to take up the cause of animal welfare. We’re excited to release these spots now since it is a critical time for impact on these campaigns. We’re proud to join IFAW in their important and meaningful mission of saving animals in need all around the world.”The PSA campaign also promotes IFAW’s “I Found A Way” campaign and its Animal Action Education program, designed to empower young people and their communities to take positive action for animals.“We are grateful to Joely Fisher and all the caring people who were willing to lend their celebrity to raise awareness for animals in the PROTECT PSAs,” said Azzedine Downes, President and Chief Executive Officer, IFAW. “Animals face more threats today than ever before from cruelty, poaching and habitat loss — all the result of one species, us. A key part of the PROTECT PSA campaign involves capturing the American public’s attention and making sure people understand the issues, as well as how they can help.”The species highlighted in these PSAs face significant pressures: elephants are hunted mercilessly for their tusks, fueling a worldwide ivory trade – in which the United States represents the second largest market. There are currently more tigers living in captivity in the US than there are left in the wild. Majestic, wild creatures such as these big cats are meant to live freely — not to be killed and locked up for human entertainment. Whales are hunted by commercial whalers, entangled in fishing gear, struck by ships and injured or sometimes killed from deafening ocean noise.The PSA spots are being launched online with social support from several of the celebrities involved and online and pro bono TV broadcast placement. To watch the collection of PROTECT PSAs, please visit: www.ifaw.org/protect.
Top British celebrities have today criticised the UK Government for failing to resettle more refugees from Syria.The stars, including British Oscar winner Emma Thompson, Michael Palin, Dame Vivienne Westwood, Vanessa Redgrave and musician Sting, have written an open letter to David Cameron in support of a joint Refugee Council, Amnesty International and Oxfam call for Britain to do more to help Syria’s refugees find safety in the UK.On 29 January 2014, the Government announced it was setting up a special resettlement scheme for Syrian refugees following considerable public pressure. However, one year on, the latest figures show that just 90 people have arrived.Meanwhile, the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding Syria and the surrounding region continues to worsen, with the number of refugees swelling to over 3.7 million; many of whom are struggling to survive in the region’s severe winter conditions.As Syria’s refugees struggle to survive snow and freezing temperatures in makeshift shelters, the stars’ letter says they are ‘ashamed’ of the size of Britain’s resettlement scheme, issuing a stern reminder to David Cameron that helping those in need chimes with Britain’s most cherished values.The celebrities say in their letter:“In a climate where children are sent to work in order to help their parents survive, where young girls are sold off as child brides and where torture victims are unable to rebuild their lives, every resettlement place countries like Britain provide is a lifeline.“Resettling ‘several hundred people’ just isn’t good enough for a global leader. This issue isn’t about migration statistics or party politics, it’s about people. It’s about the values that we in Britain hold dear; compassion and humanity.“Your choice is simple, yet historic. You are in a position to offer some of the most vulnerable people in the world safety in Britain. You can offer hope. You can offer a future.”The UN’s Refugee Agency UNHCR is calling on governments from around the world to offer 100,000 resettlement places for Syria’s refugees in 2015/2016.So far, the British Government has said it anticipates resettling just ‘several hundred people’ over a three year period and has resisted calls to resettle more people. Other countries, including Germany and the USA, have promised to resettle thousands. In early January, Canada announced it would open its doors to 10,000 Syrian refugees.Refugee Council Chief Executive Maurice Wren said: “The Syrian crisis presents us with one of the greatest refugee crises of our time and, arguably, one of the greatest moral questions of our time.“The UK’s commitment to the relief effort has been laudable but it’s not enough. The question is, does David Cameron want to go down in history as the Prime Minister who rationed his compassion to a few hundred people when there was the opportunity to offer safety to so many more?”Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen added: “The UK often prides itself on its history of offering sanctuary to refugees but this government can’t hold its head high when it comes to the most vulnerable refugees from the conflict in Syria. Millions are living in extremely precarious conditions in neighbouring countries. Given the numbers, it is shocking that the UK has only taken in 90 refugees since it agreed to a resettlement programme a year ago. ”The international community must urgently step up its efforts to take the pressure off Syria’s neighbours and resettle the most vulnerable of these refugees for whom protection here could literally be a matter of life or death.”Oxfam Chief Executive Mark Goldring said: “This is about Britain standing side by side with a region in crisis and offering to improve the lives of some the most desperate Syrian refugees. Our aid contribution has been highly generous, but we can no longer continue to treat this problem solely at arms length. For some refugees, life in camps or makeshift shelters is not just hard, it is impossible. A year ago we promised to reach out to these most vulnerable people, but so far Britain has not done enough to live up to that promise.”The celebrities’ letter follows a call made by over 30 leading aid and refugee agencies for the British Government to resettle up to 10,000 refugees from Syria by the end of 2015.Source:Refugee Council
Last week, celebrities graced the red carpet to attend the British Heart Foundation’s Roll out the Red fundraising ball at The Savoy, London, which raised over £160,000 for life saving research.The star-studded evening included a welcome speech from BHF Ambassador Pippa Middleton and was hosted by newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky.They were joined by celebrity supporters including actor Hugh Grant, singer Sinitta, Made in Chelsea star Ollie Proudlock, model Emma Louise Connolly and The Only Way is Essex Star Jessica Wright.Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon got everyone on their feet and guests also enjoyed performances from vocal group BLAKE and a classical performance from DUO. The night ended with a set by International DJ Judge Jules.Lord Jeffrey Archer conducted an exclusive live auction which raised a phenomenal £55,500 alone. The star prize for the evening was a limited edition experimental moving portrait of legendary musician David Bowie, the last of only 15 which sold for £12,000.There was also the chance to bid on lots in the online auction including a Valentine’s weekend away at Downton Abbey’s Highclere Castle and a date with Made in Chelsea’s, Ollie Locke.Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director at the BHF, said: “It was an incredible evening raising vital funds for our fight against heart disease. Thank you to everyone for making Roll out the Red a night to remember.”