Archive for February, 2017


February 21, 2017

BEIRUT (AP) — France’s far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen refused to don a headscarf for a meeting with Lebanon’s top Sunni Muslim cleric on Tuesday and walked away from the scheduled appointment after a brief squabble at the entrance.

Le Pen, who is on a three-day visit to Lebanon this week and has met senior officials, was to meet with the country’s grand mufti, Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian. Shortly after she arrived at his office, one of his aides handed her a white headscarf to put on. Following a discussion with his aides that lasted few minutes, she refused and returned to her car.

Le Pen has tried to raise her international profile and press her pro-Christian stance with her visit to Lebanon, a former French protectorate. On Monday, she met with President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri. She said Syrian President Bashar Assad was “the most reassuring solution for France,” adding that the best way to protect minority Christians is to “eradicate” the Islamic State group preying on them — not turn them into refugees.

Some Lebanese officials including, including Hariri, a Sunni, have taken umbrage at what is widely seen as her stigmatization of Muslims, who her followers claim are changing the Christian face of France. There was also apparent displeasure at her comments on Assad.

Christian right-wing leader Samir Geagea said after meeting with Le Pen on Tuesday that “terrorism has no religion.” He described Assad as “the biggest terrorist in Syria and the region.” Walid Jumblatt, a leftist politician in Lebanon, tweeted on Tuesday that Le Pen’s statements in Lebanon “were an insult toward the Lebanese people and Syrian people.”

After walking away from the meeting with the grand mufti, Le Pen said she had previously told the cleric’s office that she would not wear a headscarf. “They didn’t cancel the meeting, so I thought they would accept the fact that I wouldn’t wear one,” she said. “They tried to impose it upon me.”

The office of Lebanon’s mufti issued a statement saying that Le Pen was told in advance through one of her aides that she would have to put on a headscarf during the meeting with the mufti. “This is the protocol” at the mufti’s office, the statement said. It said the mufti’s aides tried to give her the headscarf and that Le Pen refused to take it.

“The mufti’s office regrets this inappropriate behavior in such meetings,” the statement said. Le Pen said she had met in the past with Egypt’s Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, the head of the Sunni world’s most prestigious learning institute, without wearing a headscarf. Photos of Le Pen with Ahmed al-Tayeb in 2015 in Cairo show her with the cleric with her hair uncovered.

Le Pen’s refusal on Tuesday to don a headscarf would be in line with her strong support for French secularism, and a proposal in her presidential platform. French law bans headscarves in the public service and for high school pupils.

Le Pen’s proposal aims to extend a 2004 law banning headscarves and other “ostentatious” religious symbols in classrooms to all public spaces. While the 2004 law covers all religions, it is aimed at Muslims.

Later Tuesday, a group of Lebanese held a small protest in Beirut against Le Pen’s visit. One protester raised a drawing of Le Pen between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump, with “Neo-fascists” emblazoned underneath.

Associated Press writers Andrea Rosa in Beirut and Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this report.

Singapore (XNA)

Jan 19, 2017

Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has successfully launched its 7th satellite into space from the International Space Station (ISS) Monday evening, said NTU in a press release on Tuesday.

Named the AOBA VELOX-III, the satellite is the first Singapore satellite to be launched from the ISS, a 110-meter habitable human-made satellite that orbits the earth, according to the release.

NTU said the satellite was delivered to the ISS in December 2016 by Japan’s national aerospace agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, on a resupply rocket from the Yoshinobu Launch Complex at Tanegashima Space Center, Japan.

Unlike the conventional way of launching a satellite directly into space from a rocket, the two-kilogram VELOX-III was shot into orbit around earth using a special launcher by a Japanese astronaut at the ISS.

The AOBA VELOX-III is a joint project between NTU and Japan’s Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech). The nano-satellite features a unique micro-thruster built by NTU, which enables the satellite to remain in space twice as long than it usually would.

Traditionally, small satellites do not have thrusters due to modest budgets and insufficient space to mount conventional thrusters used by bigger satellites. Without thrusters, satellites have no means to keep them in orbit and will gradually lose altitude.

Director of the NTU Satellite Research Center Lim Wee Seng said they have successfully made contact with AOBA VELOX-III, which is now orbiting 400 kilometers above the Earth.

The satellite will be conducting several tests, including the made-in-NTU micro-propulsion system, a new wireless communication system developed by Kyutech and experiments to evaluate the durability of commercial off-the-shelf microprocessors in space.

Professor Mengu Cho, Director of Kyutech’s Laboratory of Spacecraft Environment Interaction Engineering, said the launch of AOBA VELOX-III is the tangible result of research collaboration between Kyutech and NTU for the past three years.

AOBA VELOX-III is an important milestone in the Japan-Singapore inter-university space exploration.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Singapore_university_launches_7th_satellite_into_space_999.html.

Islamabad (AFP)

Dec 30, 2016

China’s State Grid Corporation is set to build a $1.5-billion power line across Pakistan to enable the transmission of 4,000 megawatts of electricity from the country’s north to south, the government said Friday.

Pakistani and Chinese officials signed an investment agreement in Beijing on Thursday to build the country’s first high-voltage, direct current (HVDC) line, according to a government statement.

The power transmission line would link the national grid between the southern Pakistani town of Matiari and easternmost city of Lahore, some 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) apart.

Pakistan has been struggling to provide enough power to its nearly 200 million citizens for years, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed to solve the crisis by 2018.

Sharif inaugurated Pakistan’s fourth nuclear power plant on Wednesday, a joint collaboration with China that adds 340 megawatts to the national grid as part of the government’s efforts to end a growth-sapping energy deficit.

The energy sector has traditionally struggled to cover the cost of producing electricity, leading the government to divert $2 billion annually as a subsidy, according to a recent report commissioned by the British government.

China is ramping up investment in its South Asian neighbor as part of a $46-billion project unveiled last year that will link its far-western Xinjiang region to Pakistan’s Gwadar port with a series of infrastructure, power and transport upgrades.

Last week Pakistan’s main bourse announced that a Chinese consortium was set to acquire a 40 percent stake in the stock exchange in a deal estimated at $84 million.

Shanghai Electric announced in August it would buy a majority stake in the utility that supplies energy to Karachi for $1.7 billion, in the country’s biggest ever private-sector acquisition.

Source: Energy-Daily.

Link: http://www.energy-daily.com/reports/China_to_build_15_billion_power_line_across_Pakistan_999.html.