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Mine blast kills district police chief – Paktia

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(Last Updated On: June 3, 2020)

An Afghan security official was killed in a mine blast in Paktia province, local officials confirmed.

Sharif Kaliwal, district governor of Sayid Karam in Paktia, told Ariana News that Homayoun Himat police commander for Sayid Karam was killed in a mine blast on Tuesday.

Himat’s vehicle hit a roadside mine in the district while he was on his way to supply a police outpost that came under attack by the Taliban.

According to Kaliwal, three policemen were also killed and four others wounded in the blast.

The official said that the Afghan forces have also imposed casualties to the Taliban militants but he did not provide further details. The Taliban yet to comment in this regard.

No group or individual including the Taliban militant group has claimed responsibility for the explosion.

Paktia is among the insecure provinces in the east part of the country where the Taliban insurgents are actively operating in a number of its districts.

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WFP receives $49m from USAID to help feed vulnerable Afghans

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(Last Updated On: July 8, 2020)

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has received a new contribution of US$49 million from USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance towards programs that help meet the food and nutrition needs of vulnerable communities in the country.

“Providing food assistance to the most vulnerable families during these uncertain times is important,” said Peter Natiello, Mission Director for USAID Afghanistan.

“USAID is pleased to partner with WFP to help communities become more resilient to the current needs.”

With this new contribution, WFP will provide assistance – through food distribution and cash-based transfers – to nearly one million people, including communities affected by conflict and natural hazards, as well as malnourished children, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, and people participating in risk reduction activities.

“This contribution comes at a critical time when an estimated four million people are facing severe food shortage across the country,” said Robert Kasca, WFP Afghanistan Deputy Country Director and Officer-in-Charge.

“We are grateful for this funding and the steadfast support the United States Government has provided to us over the years. The lives of hundreds of thousands of people will be protected thanks to the generosity and solidarity of the American people.”

Part of the contribution will go towards strengthening WFP’s fleet capacity to deliver food to remote areas, and the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) operated by WFP on behalf of the international community in Afghanistan.

Before COVID-19, WFP’s plan was to reach 7.2 million people through its country operations; but now, an additional three million people are in need of support as a result of the pandemic.

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Scientists find dinosaur ancestors ‘may have been tiny’

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(Last Updated On: July 8, 2020)

Dinosaurs are usually thought of as these giant creatures, but the results of new research released this week outline a different view and find that they might have actually started out small.

This evidence comes from newly described fossils found on Madagascar island, off the east coast of Africa, which indicates the creatures lived about 237 million years ago and stood just 10cm tall.

Scientists say the specimen may also help clarify the origins of pterosaurs, which were winged dinosaurs that ruled the skies during the time of dinosaurs.

Co-author of the research study, Christian Kammerer, from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences told Science Daily this week that “there’s a general perception of dinosaurs as being giants.”

“But this new animal is very close to the divergence of dinosaurs and pterosaurs, and it’s shockingly small,” she said.

The specimen, named Kongonaphon kely, or “tiny bug slayer”, was found in 1998 in Madagascar by a team of paleontologists, led by John Flynn from the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Dinosaurs and pterosaurs both belong to the group Ornithodira. Their origins, however, are poorly known, as few specimens from near the root of this lineage have been found.

The description and analysis of this fossil and its relatives, published on Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may help explain the origins of flight in pterosaurs, the presence of “fuzz” on the skin of both pterosaurs and dinosaurs, and other questions about these charismatic animals.

“This fossil site in southwestern Madagascar from a poorly known time interval globally has produced some amazing fossils, and this tiny specimen was jumbled in among the hundreds we’ve collected from the site over the years,” Flynn said.

“It took some time before we could focus on these bones, but once we did, it was clear we had something unique and worth a closer look. This is a great case for why field discoveries — combined with modern technology to analyze the fossils recovered — is still so important.”

“Discovery of this tiny relative of dinosaurs and pterosaurs emphasizes the importance of Madagascar’s fossil record for improving knowledge of vertebrate history during times that are poorly known in other places,” project co-leader Lovasoa Ranivoharimanana, professor and director of the vertebrate paleontology laboratory at the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar told Science Daily.

“Over two decades, our collaborative Madagascar-US teams have trained many Malagasy students in paleontological sciences, and discoveries like this helps people in Madagascar and around the world better appreciate the exceptional record of ancient life preserved in the rocks of our country.”

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Dubai reopens to tourism and expects ‘aggressive’ bounce back

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(Last Updated On: July 8, 2020)

Dubai expects an “aggressive bounce back in tourism by the end of the year after the Middle East hub reopened to holiday-makers on Tuesday.

In an interview with Bloomberg TV on Wednesday, Helal Al Marri, director-general of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, said: “We’re looking forward to seeing aggressive growth coming once things normalize towards the year-end.”

Dubai has spent years transforming itself into a business and tourism hub and attracts millions of visitors a year.

Dubai closed its borders in March and enforced a strict lockdown policy in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19. Flights in and out of Kabul were also suspended and for three months no visas were issued for Afghans traveling to Dubai.

However, flights have slowly resumed to a handful of countries over the past month, including Afghanistan.

Discussing the latest move to reopen to tourism, Al Marri said: “We’re definitely in a much better place today, people are much more optimistic, and we’re seeing it as definitely something very positive.”

He said that as other countries get things under control, as things normalize, “we definitely see the other side as being a very quick rebound to tourism.”

“We envisage as we move towards the year-end and as the markets do open up, people are going to start recruiting again, people are going to start to really try to drive that growth because that’s what they’re there for with their businesses,” Al Marri said.

This comes after Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum toured Dubai International Airport on Tuesday and said that the Emirate was ready to welcome the world once again through its international airport.

“I have reviewed the procedures and protocols in place to welcome tourists back to Dubai. What we have seen clearly demonstrates Dubai’s comprehensive preparedness to welcome the world once again and resume international tourism.

“We have implemented the highest international safety standards to ensure the wellbeing of travelers and tourists,” Sheikh Hamdan said in a statement.

However, on Wednesday, Emirates airlines updated its travel advisory and informed passengers from selected countries, who intend to fly into Dubai, that they will be required to carry out a COVID-19 test before departure.

Certificates must be issued no more than 96 hours before departure, the Dubai-based airline said.

“All passengers traveling with Emirates from the countries or airports specified below have to carry a COVID-19 negative certificate issued by a local government approved laboratory to be accepted on the flight.

“Where specified, a certificate from a UAE government-designated laboratory in the country of origin is also acceptable,” Emirates stated.

The countries affected are:

Afghanistan

Bangladesh

Egypt

India

Iran

Pakistan

Philippines

Russian Federation

Tanzania

USA – Dallas Fort Worth (DFW), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Orlando (MCO), including passengers originating from California, Florida and Texas connecting to an Emirates flight to Dubai.

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