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INDIA: Supreme Court Recognises Transgender as Third Gender
A LANDMARK verdict has been issued by India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday (16/4) which will help millions of people of India’s conservative society. On this verdict India's top court created a third gender category that allows transgendered people to identify themselves as such on official documents. The federal and state governments were directed to include transgendered people in all welfare programmes and jobs to help them overcome social and economic challenges. The spirit of the Indian constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to irrespective of caste, religion or gender. But the fact is before this landmark judgment, transgendered Indians had to identify themselves as male or female in all official documents. Recently, India's election commission for the first time allowed a third gender choice on voter registration forms and some 28,000 voters registered themselves in that category. Overall, there are an estimated 3 million transgender people in India. Laxmi Tripathi, a transgender activist who had petitioned the court said, “All documents will now have a third category marked transgender. This verdict has come as a great relief for all of us. Today I am proud to be an Indian." JM
South Korea: at least 295 missing as ferry sinks
At least 295 are still unaccounted in the accident of South Korean ferry that sank off the country’s south-west coast on Wednesday morning. Officials said two of the ship’s 476 passengers, which included more than 300 children, of which 164 have been rescued. The South Korean coast guard confirmed two dead but there were fears that many passengers may have been trapped inside the vessel as it listed and sank. Dozens of coastguard, navy vessels, military ships and helicopters joined the rescue team to save passengers, including 325 high school pupils and their teachers. Four hours after the accident, Yonhap said 368 people had been confirmed as safe, including 13 injured, with a further 107 unaccounted for."The ship is taking in water and sinking," a coastguard spokesman told AFP by phone as the rescue operation got under way. "There are around 450 people on board and we have coastguard vessels, commercial ships in the area, as well as helicopters all engaged in the rescue operation," the spokesman added. The pupils, from Danwon high school in Ansan city near Seoul, were on their way to Jeju, a popular tourist destination, for a four-day study trip. The ship left Incheon port on Tuesday evening, according to local maritime officials, and was due to arrive at Jeju later on Wednesday.PR
Quidditch Match: JK Rowling going to report for Pottermore website
Quidditch is a competitive sport in the Wizarding World of the Harry Potter universe, featured in the series of novels and movies. It is an extremely rough but very popular semi-contact sport, played by wizards and witches. This play is very unique as here players may be any age or gender. Matches are played between two teams of seven players riding flying broomsticks, using four balls called the Quaffle, two Bludgers, and the Golden Snitch. There are six elevated ring-shaped goals, three on each side of the Quidditch pitch. The sport is monumental throughout the Wizarding World. Harry plays an important position for his house team at Hogwarts: he is the Seeker and becomes the team captain in his sixth year at school. Regional and international quidditch competitions are mentioned throughout the series. And very interestingly JK Rowling is going to write report on the Quidditch match series on her website Pottermore.com. Characters from the books will feature in the reports. Pottermore quoted "knowledgeable Harry Potter fans will spot the link to the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts that JK Rowling is currently writing, the protagonist of which is Newt Scamander, Rolf's grandfather". RA
NEW YEAR FESTIVAL: Same New Year Day in Different Calendars
In the West, you may not have known it, but yesterday (15/04) was New Year's Day for a wide range of people all over the world, including Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Thailand. Amazingly they all use their own calendar but on this specific day they enjoy their new year but all with very different kinds of festivities. Punjabis celebrated Baisakhi, Odiyas celebrated Pana Sankrati or Maha Vishuva Sankranti and Assamese marked the day for Bihu on Monday. Vaisakhi marks the beginning of a new solar year by start of the Indian month Vaishakha. It is one of the most significant holidays in the Sikh calendar. For the Bengalis, first of Baisakh is the first day of Bengali year 1421 according to the Bengali calendar introduced by Mughal Emperor Akbar. The most colourful event of the day was at the Ramna Batamul, where Chhayanaut, a leading cultural troupe, staged an enthralling programme as dawn broke. Three tribal groups of Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh also celebrated their New Year day on the same day. A festive mood is prevalent in the CHT districts as the tribals are preparing to celebrate their biggest social festival “Baisabi”. The acronym “Baisabi” stands for Baisu-Sangrai-Biju. These are three different names of the same festival given by three separate indigenous communities. The Tripuras call it Baisu while it is known as Sangrai and Biju among the Marmas and the Chakmas respectively. The New Year Day is celebrated by all communities with enthusiasm and excitement, made especially attractive by cultural programmes held all through the day. JM
Nigeria: Deadly Explosion at Bus Station
At least 71 people have been killed after bomb blast in a busy commuter bus station on the outskirts of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. The attack has bee attributed to the Islamist insurgents Boko Haram. The blast ripped a hole 1.2 metres (4ft) deep in the ground of Nyanya motor park, about 10 miles from the city centre, and destroyed more than 30 vehicles, causing secondary explosions as their fuel tanks ignited and burned. Security experts suspects the explosion was inside a vehicle. The death toll may rise as more bodies and the injured were being brought into nine hospitals around the city centre. Bus driver Julious Kayode said that he and his colleagues noticed a man carrying a bag push his way into an idle bus nearby and disappeared into the rush hour crowds."We noticed because we try to be alert about these things. We were just talking about how he was behaving suspiciously when the explosion went off. I just started running – I could feel people just running everywhere, anyhow," said Kayode. The President, Mr Goodluck Jonathan, added: "Government is doing everything to make sure we move our country forward even with these unnecessary distractions that are pushing us back. We will get over it."PR
CHILE: Forest Fire Destroys 150 Homes
Chile is facing huge a forest fire which has been reported as uncontrollable due to the strong wild winds coming in from the Pacific. The area of impact is around the Chilean port city of Valparaiso where thousands of people have been forced to evacuate and more than 150 homes have been destroyed. Though there are no reports of death, the situation is proving difficult to control. The Chilean President, Michelle Bachelet, has already put the army in charge of the evacuation after declaring the city, 110km (70 miles) west of Santiago, a catastrophe zone. Additionally, large parts of Valparaiso are now without electricity, while the coastal winds have pushed the fire deeper into the city's neighbourhoods. Emergency official Guillermo de la Mazza told reporters, "The weather is complicating the situation … the wind is not doing us any favours. The evacuation is our top priority, along with controlling the fire itself." RA
AUTHOR DIES: Sue Townsend
The novelist famed for charting the highs and lows of the fictional character Adrian Mole has passed away aged 68. Townsend died on Thursday evening after a stroke. Stephen Mangan, who played Adrian Mole in a TV adaptation, tweeted: "Greatly upset to hear that Sue Townsend has died. One of the warmest, funniest and wisest people I ever met.” While The Times writer Caitlin Moran wrote: "One of the funniest women who ever lived." The Adrian Mole series reached worldwide acclaim and has been credited as defining a generation.LZ
INTERNET FLAW: 'Heartbleed' risk continues
The "catastrophic" programming error coined 'heartbleed' is continuing to expose users' personal information and passwords to hackers. Security expert Brue Schneier described the bug as "On the scale of one to 10, this is an 11" with half a million sites thought to have been affected. The bug is found in the open source software called OpenSSL which is designed to encrypt communications but is now open to abuse. However, many large internet companies such as Facebook and Google have now patched the problem. Users are advised to change their passwords, although only after the website has patched the problem – doing so before this will mean changing your password is pointless. LZ
OMAGH BOMBING: Man charged
The man accused of orchestrating the Omagh bombing which killed 29 people sixteen years ago will face trial for mass murder. Republican Seamus Daly, has already been found liable for the bombing in a civil case and will now face a criminal charge of 29 counts of murder. A spokeswoman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland said: "Detectives from serious crime branch investigating the 1998 Omagh bombing have charged a 43-year-old man with the murders of the 29 people who died in the explosion and a number of other offences. LZ
IMPAC PRIZE: Debut Novelists Nominated for World’s Richest Literary Prize
ONE OF the world’s richest literary prizes, the International Impac Dublin Literary award of €100,000, has announced its shortlist of contenders. Amazingly, debut writers like Patrick Flanery and Donal Ryan are competing with 8 other famous writer including Karl Ove Knausgaard and Juan Gabriel Vásquez. The speciality of the award is the contenders are nominated by librarians from around the world. This year, 110 library systems in 39 countries participated, selecting five novels in translation, from Argentina, Colombia, France, Norway, and the Netherlands. In this global shortlist novels ranging from Argentinian author Andres Neuman’s 'Travellar of the Century' to former winner Gerbrand Bakker's Dutch novel 'The Detour' and Malaysian writer Tan Twan Eng’s Booker-nominated novel 'The Garden of Evening Mists' have been selected. Among all these popular writers US writer Flanery is shortlisted for his debut novel 'Absolution' which is about the relationship between an acclaimed South African writer and her biographer, while the Irish debut novelist Ryan was picked for 'The Spinning Heart' which catches the time of Ireland's financial collapse. JM
Indian Women: Still fear walking home
Contesting leaders in India are making political promises, with safety still a concern and an advert by the BJP party in a Delhi metro train promising greater safety for women. In particular, working women in remote villages and ramshackle collection of brick and cheap cement homes on the outskirts of Delhi still feel the danger, as forbidding ten-minute walk from the main highway is the only way home. It's terrifying, I always say a prayer and walk as fast as I can," said 35-year-old Radhika, a cook and cleaner for a middle-class family. On Thursday, 13m people in Delhi are eligible to vote for seven representatives from among 150 candidates in the second phase of India’s protracted general election. A turn out of 65% is expected. But the key issue in the poll is the perceived failure of officials and policy-makers to assure basic security. The gang rape of 23-year-old medical student in December 2012 raised nationwide discussion on the causes of the recent surge in sexual violence in India's sprawling capital. "It just isn't safe. There is so much harassment. Men just call out comments or even touch you. I'm scared," said Malvika Singh, a 21-year-old university student. To ensure their safety political parties like BJP promised "empowerment of women". In his only major TV interview, Rahul Gandhi, the face of the outgoing Congress Party, repeatedly made the same pledge. PR
GREECE: Bank bomb blast
An early morning bomb explosion has taken place outside a Bank of Greece building in Athens, however no one was hurt. It is a vital day as Greece planned its first foray into the international bond markets since it plunged into a debt crisis four years ago, and a day the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, is due to visit. But the most interesting aspect of this attack was that the authorities were warned before the blast via an anonymous caller who informed a newspaper about 45 minutes ahead of the explosion. There was no immediate claim of responsibility; however the police suspect leftist or anarchist groups are behind it. This explosion did not harm anybody though the car contained about 70kg (155lb) of explosives. Witnesses described the scene as, “debris strewn across the street in a busy part of the capital lined with banks, shops and a mall.” RA
CAPTAIN AMERICA: Captain America takes on China
After smashing UK box office the Russos brother's movie Captain America sequel is now booming the China box office. The movie deserveed of the title of one of the best Marvel releases yet after taking more than $300m in 10 days. The Captain America sequel 'The Winter Soldier' earned £6.04m in its first 5 day with its UK debut, while in its opening weekend at China it has earned $39.23m. Though critics are trying to impose all the credits to the tour of Captain America stars towards China last month the fact cannot be denied the movie is giving international popularity to Chris Evans. It is a great achievement for a super hero like him who was only popular in US. The Winter Soldier also opened spectacularly in the US at the weekend, breaking the box office record for April with a haul of $96m. Beating Russell Crowe's boat of Noah, Chris Evan’s Captain America has sailed into world media and come out on top this week. JM
VENEZUELA: Are the US instigating unrest?
In an interview with the Guardian the Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, has accused the US government of attempting to undermine Venezuela’s stability in a bid to control the world's largest oil reserves. President Maduro has suggested that Obama's administration has made a conscious effort to agitate social anxiety in an effort to instigate street protests, a "slow-motion" Ukraine-style coup and "get their hands on Venezuelan oil". The recent Edward Snowden leaks also indicate a history of US intervention in the country with leaked cables outlining US plans to "divide", "isolate" and "penetrate" the late Chávez's government, and extensive US government funding of Venezuelan opposition groups over the past decade. "They are trying to sell to the world the idea that the protests are some of sort of Arab spring," added President Maduro, "But in Venezuela, we have already had our spring: our revolution that opened the door to the 21st century". RA
The UK cabinet member has resigned as culture secretary after a controversy over her expenses refused to die-down. Despite David Cameron offering his warm and strong support for the floundering politician, Maria Miller has decided to leave her post in the cabinet, stating that her continued presence would only distract from the 'vital work' of the government. On Friday Ms Miller issued a 32-page apology over her expenses scandal only after an independent watchdog demanded she pay back some of the money she wrongly claimed. A Labour spokesperson said in response to the resignation, "It is welcome that Maria Miller has finally done the right thing.” LZ
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