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Help pours in for poor Indian schoolgirl selling vegetables to pay for education

India|: Patna: Help is pouring in for Palani Kumari, a poor schoolgirl who was found selling plants on the streets to pay for her education at a local government school in Jharkhand state. The little girl has a dream — she wants to become a nurse to serve humanity. People from all walks of life — from Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren to industrialist Gautam Adani — began offering help to the Grade Seven schoolgirl after a local journalist tweeted about her story. “Palani Kumari studies in Grade seven and wants to become a nurse to serve humanity. She was only 18-month-old when her father left for heavenly abode. She sells gram plants along the road and her mother at the bus stop so that she could continue her study. Please help her,” the journalist tweeted on February 25. The girl had cleared the Grade six examinations with 75 per cent marks. Rushing to help The appeal has worked wonders. Soren was quick to respond asking the deputy commissioner Sushant Gaurav to provide benefits of government welfare schemes to the girl and her family and also make arrangements for her educational facilities. Adani group chairman Gautam Adani sought the contact details of the girl so that he could rush help. “It will be my privilege to take responsibility for her education. Please provide me her contact details,” Adani tweeted. He added these daughters are the hope of a new and empowered India and it’s everyone’s responsibility to have them better tomorrow. Sadly, the family can’t afford a cell phone. Palani stays with her widowed mother Kiran Devi in a small rented room. They eke out their living with small income coming from selling vegetables on the village streets and a few hundred rupees her mother gets as widow pension. The girl sells the goods in two shifts — before going to school in the morning and then returning from the school in the evening. She spares time for her study after dinner but has just no time to play with her friends for obvious reasons.

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Pakistan, Qatar sign 10-year liquefied natural gas agreement

Pakistan|: Islamabad: Pakistan entered into a new ten-year liquefied natural gas (LNG) agreement with Qatar at a significantly lower rate than the previous deal. “The new contract will help save the country $300 million annually or nearly $3 billion in the next 10 years,” announced Prime Minister Imran Khan who witnessed the signing ceremony in Islamabad. The new agreement has been signed at around 31 per cent lower rate than the 2015 contract by the previous PML-N agreement, special assistant to prime minister (SAPM) on Petroleum Nadeem Babar said. 10 years “It is the lowest publicly disclosed [LNG] contract in the world today”, he stated. Under the new contract, Pakistan would pay around $316million less compared to prior agreement saving around $3 billion in LNG import during the next 10 years. The fresh long-term contract has been signed at a rate of 10.2 per cent of Brent for import of 200 million cubic feet a day (mmcfd) LNG as opposed to the previous deal for 500mmcfd in 2015 at a rate 13.37 per cent of Brent. Pakistan will get 3 million tonnes of LNG per year from Qatar Petroleum under the deal from January 2022 starting with average of two ships per month, which would be increased to four vessels in next three years. The new LNG contract has a price renegotiation option after four years rather than 10 years that had been fixed in the earlier signed 15-year contract. Detailing the new changes, Babar said that the letters of credit (LCs) had been reduced to $84 million as compared to the previous $170 million. The deal was finalized after a year-long negotiations between the leaders of Pakistan and Qatar. Expensive contracts The PM’s aide said the new deal would ensure price affordability along with stable gas supply nd economic stability. The fresh supplies would replace the existing expensive contracts with the Gunvor company that expired in December and another contract that will expire in next 14 months. Federal Minister for Energy Omar Ayub Khan and Qatar’s Energy Minister Saad Sherida al-Kaabi inked the agreement between Qatar Petroleum and Pakistan State Oil Company Limited (PSO) on Friday. Qatari minister hoped that the deal would open new venues of collaboration between both countries. “This agreement further extends Qatar’s long standing LNG supply relationship with Pakistan” and continue Qatar’s contributions towards “meeting Pakistan’s increasing energy demand” Saad Al-Kaabi said. “With a well-established gas market and distribution system, Pakistan is a strategically important market for Qatar LNG”. Pakistan currently has two operational LNG receiving terminals, Engro LNG and Pakistan GasPort.

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World War Two plane flypast marks Captain Tom Moore’s funeral

Europe|: London: A World War II-era plane flew Saturday over the funeral service of Captain Tom Moore, in honor of the veteran who single-handedly raised millions of pounds for Britain’s health workers by walking laps in his backyard. Soldiers performed ceremonial duties at the service for the 100-year-old, whose charity walk inspired the nation and raised almost 33 million pounds ($46 million). Captain Tom, as he became known, died Feb. 2 in the hospital after testing positive for COVID-19. Just eight members of the veteran’s immediate family attended Saturday’s private service, but soldiers carried his coffin to a crematorium and formed a ceremonial guard. The family has urged well-wishers to stay at home as the country remains in lockdown. 100 laps A version of the song "Smile" recorded by singer Michael Buble, was to be played at the funeral. Moore, who served in India, Burma and Sumatra during WWII, set out to raise a modest 1,000 pounds for Britain’s National Health Service by walking 100 laps of his backyard by his 100th birthday. But his quest went viral, catching the imagination of millions stuck at home during the first wave of the pandemic. "Please always remember, tomorrow will be a good day’’ became his trademark phrase and it inspired the nation at a time of crisis, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson described him as a "hero in the truest sense of the word". He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in July in a socially distanced ceremony at Windsor Castle, west of London.

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Pakistan, Iraq agree to bolster military cooperation

Pakistan|: Islamabad: Pakistan and Iraq officials agreed to bolster military cooperation as Islamabad offered to provide training to Iraqi armed forces during the visit of Iraqi defence minister to Islamabad. Iraq’s Defense Minister Juma Anaad Sadoun held separate meetings with Pakistan’s top government and military officials during his four-day (24-27 February 2021) visit focused on strengthening bilateral relations especially cooperation in the field of defence. During the interaction, Pakistan’s President Dr Arif Alvi offered training programs for the Iraqi military personnel in Pakistan as well as technical assistance and human resource for infrastructure development in Iraq. “Pakistan attaches great importance to the mutually beneficial relations with Iraq and wants to further strengthen bilateral relations in the areas of trade, economy and defence” President Alvi said. The Iraqi minister expressed Iraq’s desire to improve economic and political relations as well as defence ties with Pakistan. Possible assistance The Iraqi defence minister also discussed measures to further enhance bilateral defence and security collaboration during his meeting with Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the GHQ. Pakistan’s army chief offered all possible assistance and cooperation in development and defence related fields to Iraq, stating that “Pakistan values its brotherly relationship with Iraq and acknowledges sacrifices rendered by the Iraqi nation in fighting terrorism.” The visiting dignitary praised Pakistan’s continuous efforts for peace and stability in the region. Pakistan’s Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Nadeem Raza and Iraq’s defence minister, in a separate session at joint staff headquarters, reaffirmed their determination to work together for enhancing security and stability in the region. Iraq’s Defense Minister Juma Anaad Sadoun also met Pakistani Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Minister For Defense Production Zobaida Jalal on February 26 to exchange views on future collaboration. Qureshi hoped that the visit would “help diversify and deepen collaboration between the two countries in the fields of defence and defence production.” The two ministers reaffirmed the mutual desire to further promote and solidify existing bilateral relations. Pakistan is looking to enhance defense cooperation with Baghdad particularly with the training and development of Iraqi armed forces. Last month, Minister For Defense Production Zobaida Jalal and her delegation visited Baghdad where she held a meeting with the President of Iraq, Barham Salih, to discuss the bilateral cooperation in the defense sector.

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US set to approve third vaccine, but fears grow for poorer nations

Americas|: Washington: A US panel on Friday recommended Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 shot for emergency approval, as some of the world’s most powerful countries issued a unified call for better vaccine access for poorer nations. The United States is the world’s hardest-hit country, and its emergency use authorisation - which is now expected shortly - of the J&J vaccine would follow those for the Pfizer and Moderna doses. “We’re going to use every conceivable way to expand manufacturing of the vaccine... and make even more rapid progress,” said President Joe Biden as the country tries to finally get on top of the virus that has already claimed 510,000 US lives. J&J stressed its vaccine was proven to work with a single shot, and could be stored long-term at standard fridge temperatures, which “offers logistical and practical advantages.” As inoculation campaigns ramp up in wealthier nations, there was unanimous support for a resolution at the UN Security Council calling for improved access to vaccines in conflict-hit and impoverished countries. In a rare gesture, it was co-sponsored by all 15 members of the council, diplomats said, and required just a week of negotiations to draft. “We are all facing the same threat, the same pandemic, and international cooperation and multilateral action is needed,” one diplomat said. But Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, reacted by saying richer countries must waive intellectual property rights on vaccines so more manufacturers can start production. The idea is fiercely opposed by many wealthy countries and the pharmaceutical industry. Hopes of economic recovery Another diplomatic gathering on Friday looked further ahead, with G20 countries discussing post-pandemic economic recovery in a video conference. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has signalled openness to new assistance to less developed countries through the International Monetary Fund. Also in Washington, Democratic leaders expressed confidence that Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package would pass the House of Representatives overnight Friday. The bill - which will still need to pass in the Senate - is on track to be the second-largest US stimulus ever, after the $2 trillion package that Donald Trump signed into law last March to help the coronavirus-battered economy. In Africa, Ivory Coast received its first jabs - a consignment of half a million doses funded by the Covax initiative for poorer countries. And just over half of the population of Israel has now had at least a first dose. Russia and Austria have meanwhile agreed to talks over the delivery and joint production of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. But many poorer countries have struggled to secure supplies and launch inoculations, and there have been repeated warnings over the consequences. The economic recovery will be “long and uncertain”, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva warned in an interview with Italy’s La Stampa newspaper. “The prospects for recovery are diverging dangerously across countries.” There were also reminders of the months ahead, with new virus cases increasing again globally after a month in which they had fallen by half. The global death toll is now above 2.5 million out of a total of some 113 million cases. Brazil suffers In Brazil, several cities and states imposed a new round of curfews and restrictions in a bid to contain a surge of cases. The country, whose death toll passed 250,000 Thursday, has had a piecemeal response to the crisis, with local authorities setting policies as far-right President Jair Bolsonaro dismisses restrictive measures and the use of face masks. Many restrictions worldwide are unlikely to disappear soon, including in France, where a debate erupted over how to respond to infections in Paris. Scepticism greeted a suggestion by Paris city hall for a three-week lockdown to help restore normality, with critics accusing mayor Anne Hidalgo of a PR stunt. France has so far avoided a third lockdown but case numbers are starting to rise. The danger of new variants also remained apparent as Belgian authorities said the more contagious British strain was now the dominant one in the country. In Britain itself, an advisory group said the next phase of vaccines will be administered based on age rather than occupational risks, sparking anger from police and teachers who said they should be prioritised. Britain has vaccinated 19 million people, 35 per cent of all adults, with at least one dose and says it plans to reach the whole population by the end of July. But Estonia was forced to ban church services and to close theatres and museums, while the Czech government said it would stop people from leaving their local districts and shut all schools and shops selling non-essential goods.

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Pakistan ready for peace talks, says Prime Minister Imran Khan

Pakistan|: Islamabad: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday welcomed the restoration of ceasefire along the de facto border known as the Line of Control (LoC) and said that the country remains ready for peace talks. “We have always stood for peace and remain ready to move forward to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue” Pakistani premier said in a tweet. “The onus of creating an enabling environment for further progress rests with India. India must take necessary steps to meet the long-standing demand and right of the Kashmiri people to self-determination according to UNSC resolutions,” he said. PM Imran Khan’s tweet came two days after the director generals of military operations (DGMOs) of Pakistan and India agreed to enforce the ceasefire and on the day Pakistan is marking the second anniversary of Operation Swift Retort. Recalling Pakistan’s response against Indian military adventure and airspace violation on February 27, 2019, PM Imran Khan said that the country “responded with determined resolve… and also demonstrated to the world Pakistan’s responsible behaviour in the face of India’s irresponsible military brinkmanship, by returning the captured Indian pilot.” Indian pilot On February 27, 2019, a day after the Balakot attack, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) retaliated, shooting down two Indian aircraft, a MiG-21 and a SU-30, and capturing Indian pilot wing commander Abhinandan, whose aircraft had crashed inside Pakistan’s territory. The downed Indian pilot was released the next day as a “peace gesture” by Pakistan’s prime minister. “The whole world witnessed that Pakistan not only resolutely safeguarded its territorial sovereignty, but also acted with tremendous restraint and responsibility” Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Saturday. Pakistan stands “united against any threat or misadventure and will always act with an iron resolve to protect and preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan” he added. Islamabad marked the second anniversary of Operation Swift Retort on Saturday in Islamabad. “We want to live in peace but if our sovereignty is challenged, our response would always be Swift and Resolute as it was on 27 February 2019” PAF Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan said at the ceremony.

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New Zealand's largest city Auckland back to lockdown after COVID-19 case

Oceania|: Wellington: New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Saturday that the country's biggest city, Auckland, will go into a seven-day lockdown from early morning on Sunday after a new local case of the coronavirus of unknown origin emerged. This comes two weeks after Auckland's nearly 2 million residents were plunged into a snap three-day lockdown when a family of three were diagnosed with the more transmissible UK variant of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Health officials, who could not immediately confirm how the person got infected, said genome sequencing of the new infection was under way. The patient developed symptoms on Tuesday and is regarded as having been potentially infectious since Sunday, officials said. The person has visited several public venues during that period. "Based on this, we are in the unfortunate but necessary position to protect Aucklanders again," Ardern said, announcing the lockdown. Health authorities were trying to find out whether the new case was linked to the earlier February cluster, now at 12 infections. The lockdown, with Level 3 restrictions, will allow people to leave home only for essential shopping and essential work, Ardern said. Public venues will remain closed. Restrictions in the rest of the country will be tightened to Level 2 restrictions, including limits on public gatherings. New Zealand, one of the most successful developed nations in controlling the spread of the pandemic, has seen just over 2,000 cases of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. A marquee Twenty20 cricket clash in Auckland between New Zealand and Australia, scheduled for Friday, will be played in Wellington without crowds, said New Zealand Cricket. The new restrictions also complicated the America's Cup Event yacht race scheduled to start on March 6 in Auckland's harbour. America's Cup Event said on Twitter it was working "through the implications."