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Toronto van attacker found guilty of killing 10, injuring 16

Americas|: Toronto, Canada: A 28-year-old Canadian who plowed a van into pedestrians in a deadly attack three years ago in Toronto was found guilty on Wednesday of murdering 10 people and trying to kill 16 others. Ontario Superior Court Judge Anne Molloy rejected defence arguments that Alek Minassian's autism spectrum disorder (ASD) made him incapable of discerning right from wrong in what she termed a "horrific" crime. Minassian, 28, faces a minimum life term of 25 years in prison. A sentencing hearing will be set mid-March in a case that is considered one of Canada's most horrific attacks. "His attack on these 26 victims that day was an act of a reasoning mind, notwithstanding its horrific nature and notwithstanding that he has no remorse for it and no empathy for his victims," Molloy said in her ruling. "He knew it was morally wrong by society's standards," she said, but "he chose to commit the crimes anyway." Molloy ruled that he was "criminally responsible for his actions." The six week trial had heard from several psychiatrists. Minassian's mother had said he suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism that includes impaired social interactions or communication. Defence lawyer Boris Bytensky said in his closing arguments that Minassian's ASD left him incapable of discerning right from wrong and making a rational choice when he decided to target bystanders. Because he raised a not criminally responsible defense, Bytensky would have had to prove that Minassian more likely than not had a mental disorder that affected his actions to this extent. Stigmatising autism Advocacy groups had condemned the use of autism as a defence, concerned it would further stigmatise those with the disorder. Minassian had driven a rented van at high speeds along two kilometers (more than a mile) of roads and sidewalks, indiscriminately targeting passers-by. He had stopped his rampage, he told police, only after his windshield was obscured by a splashed coffee drink. His trial heard he'd do it all again if he were let out of jail to better his "kill count." Just prior to the attack, he posted on Facebook: "The incel rebellion has already begun" and referred to American mass killer Elliot Rodger, who committed a similar attack in California. During a police interrogation, Minassian described the anger he felt toward women and said this had motivated the attack. He said he had joined an online community of like-minded men who described themselves as "incels" or "involuntary celibates," whose sexual frustrations led them to embrace a misogynist ideology. But in subsequent interviews with doctors, he gave different motives for the attack, including seeking notoriety. Molloy noted in her decision that the "carnage against innocent people" in this case was "one of the most devastating tragedies this city has ever endured, for the purpose of achieving notoriety." Seeking to limit the publicity that Minassian sought, she referred to him as John Doe as she read out the verdict livestreamed on Youtube.

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PTI loses Islamabad seat in Senate elections, fares well overall

Pakistan|: Islamabad: In a serious blow to the ruling party, the joint candidate of opposition parties and former premier, Yousaf Raza Gilani, won the crucial Senate seat from Islamabad, beating PTI’s Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, a well-known economist. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Yousaf Raza Gilani defeated his rival Hafeez Shaikh by five votes while seven votes were rejected in the high-profile contest between the two candidates. However, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Fozia Arshad won the women’s seat from Islamabad after beating Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Farzana Kausar. The Senate elections have been seen as a test for Prime Minister Imran Khan, who came to power in 2018 parliamentary elections. Khan had hoped to improve his standing in the 100-member Senate, where his party had only 15 seats entering the elections. Former Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani Image Credit: AFP Until recently, the upper house had 104 seats but four were abolished after the merger of former northwestern tribal regions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Both chambers of parliament have legislative powers, and any bill passed by the National Assembly must be approved by the Senate before it becomes a law. In turn, any legislations by the Senate goes to the National Assembly, where Khan has a simple majority. Apart from the major setback, PTI witnessed a better performance in the overall results winning 15 new seats, raising its strength to 23 in the Senate, according to unofficial results. PPP won 7 new seats bringing its strength to 19 while PML-N won 5 new seats taking its tally to 18 seats in the upper house of the parliament, as per unofficial and unverified results. Another government ally Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) won six additional seats, reaching a total of 12 seats in the Senate. The opposition ally Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) gained two new seats, bringing its total to four seats. As many as 78 candidates from different political parties contested the 2021 Senate elections. The polling started at 9am and continued till 5pm after which unverified results started pouring in. There was no polling in Punjab assembly where all Senate candidates were elected unopposed last month. Election process The Senate election in Pakistan is held through secret voting on the basis of single transferable vote through preference voting. Senators are elected by members of the country’s provincial and national assemblies. Each senator serves a term of six years but 50 per cent of the total number retire after every three years. Pakistan’s Senate will now comprise 100 lawmakers, 23 each from all the provinces and four from the federal capital territory. Unofficial results: PTI: 23 PPP: 19 PML-N:18 BAP: 12 Independents: 6 JUI-F: 4 MQM: 3 PKMAP: 2 ANP: 2 BNP: 1 JI: 1

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China to gift 500,000 more doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Pakistan

Pakistan|: Islamabad: China will give an additional 500,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine as a gift to Pakistan for frontline health workers and senior citizens. This was announced by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi while talking to the media after attending a virtual event marking establishment of 70 years of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and People’s Republic of China. Earlier, on Feb 1, Pakistan had received the first batch of 500,000 doses of vaccine as a gift from China. State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi attended the event from Beijing. Speaking on the occasion, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Qureshi expressed gratitude to China for additional supply of doses as vaccination process has been underway in Pakistan since Feb 3. The country has already begun the vaccination campaign and in the first phase, frontline health workers and those over age 65 are being inoculated. In January, the government announced it has secured 17 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine through the UN-led COVAX initiative. 70 years of friendship A logo was also launched at the ceremony symbolising Pakistan-China ties. On the special occasion of the 70th anniversary, both sides have planned a series of events, including people-to-people exchanges spread over the entire year to commemorate this historic milestone. China’s foreign minister said Pakistan was the first country to receive vaccines and “this fully attests to the special, iron-strong friendship that we have”. Casualties up in Punjab Pakistan on Wednesday reported 75 deaths and 1,388 cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours. Out of the countrywide 75 fatalities, 50 died in Punjab alone. With these fresh numbers, COVID-19 death toll has surged to 5,441 in the province which is the highest as compared to other federating units. In Sindh, 19 people lost their lives in the last 24 hours while KP recorded 6 in the same period. Punjab also recorded 712 new cases. The province’s total number of cases stood at 554,255. 6,849 recoveries in a day According to the official portal of the National Health Ministry, with 75 deaths, Pakistan’s toll has reached 13,013. The number of recoveries jumped to 6,849 in the last 24 hours reaching 554,255 overall.

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Bihar launches zero-emission e-buses to cut pollution

India|: Patna: The Indian state of Bihar has launched zero-emission electric buses to cut pollution and clean the environment. The air quality which improved significantly as a result of the lockdown has once again turned alarming in the state with the capital city Patna being in the severe grip of pollution. The state government launched the eco-friendly e-buses on Tuesday. In the first phase, 12 e-buses have been rolled out while 13 more such buses are scheduled to run by the month end. However, they have higher fares compared to fuel-run buses, which have not gone down well among the daily commuters. These buses are equipped with various facilities such as panic buttons, GPS, CCTV cameras, speed governors, fire safety devices, mobile charging points, alarm bells and digital boards. The availability of panic buttons and alarm bells assumes much significance in the light of increasing incidents of sexual harassment of girls. The buses are also fully air-conditioned. “The plying of electric buses will not only give a better travelling experience to the passengers but will also reduce the conventional fuel consumption which in turn will help conserve the environment,” chief minister Nitish Kumar said. The chief minister said the number of electric buses would be increased in future. Praise from passengers The introduction of e-buses has drawn praise from passengers who find it a major initiative to cut pollution and provide clean air to citizens battling various health complications. “Such zero-emission e-buses are the need of the hour. They will go a long way in reducing air pollution,” said a resident Farheen Khan. Electric buses lined up on a Patna road before their inauguration. Image Credit: Public Relations Department, Bihar The transport department has arranged for eight charging stations in the state. Three more charging points are being created in Muzaffarpur and Nalanda. Officials said the bus can run for at least 250km on a full charge. Bihar transport secretary Sanjay Kumar Agarwal said these buses were being run by trained drivers. The drivers have been provided by the firms from where these buses were purchased. He said charging infrastructure with the capacity 1200 KW for these e-buses had been created at an upcoming transport complex near the Patna airport. Measures to cut pollution The state has, of late, initiated a variety of measures to cut air pollution. Last month, the state government signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations Environment Protection (UNEP) for climate resilience and low carbon development strategy formulation. Officials said the UNEP would provide technical assistance to Bihar to prepare its greenhouse gas inventory and carry out climate impact scenarios and vulnerability assessments. It will also suggest revision to the State Action Plans on Climate Change. Apart from them, the state is set to install smog towers on the lines of New Delhi to absorb and reduce air pollution. These measures come amid the state government already launching a mega green campaign across the state in a bid to conserve the environment. Under part of this campaign, the state government planted 34.7 million trees in 2020. Patna was ranked the seventh most polluted city in the world in a recent Greenpeace report which was released in 2018. According to the 2018 World Air Quality Report jointly prepared by IQAir AirVisual and Greenpeace, the annual level of PM 2.5 --particulate matter less than 2.5 microns-- in 2018 was 119.7 micrograms per cubic meters in Patna. The Bihar State Pollution Control Board has described vehicular emission, domestic fuel burning, open waste burning, construction activities, industrial emissions and road dust as the main causes of air pollution.