Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Hurricane Maria moves to St Croix, Puerto Rico

The eye of the “potentially catastrophic” Hurricane Maria was nearing St Croix on Tuesday evening, with Puerto Rico in its crosshairs.

Maria was 30 miles south-southeast of St Croix late Tuesday evening, and about 120 miles southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

It was expected to reach southeastern Puerto Rico Wednesday morning.

Maria’s maximum sustained winds were near 175 miles per hour with higher gusts; the storm was forecast to remain an “extremely dangerous” category 4 or 5 storm as it moved near the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

The National Hurricane Center said storm surges would lead to major flooding, with water expected to reach between six and nine feet above ground in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands if peak surged occurred at high tide.

The projected path of Maria

A Hurricane Warning is now in effect for the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Culebra, Vieques and the portion of the Dominican Republic between Cabo Engano and Puerto Plata.

There were also tropical storm warnings in effect for Saba, St Eustatius and St Maarten, according to the NOAA.

The storm had already caused significant damage in Dominica that Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit called “mind-boggling.”

Although the extent was not yet clear, there were unconfirmed reports of six deaths on the island, which was now experiencing a communications blackout.

Guadeloupe was also hit hard, with at least one dead and two people missing and widespread flooding.

Neighboring Martinique had what officials termed limited damage, however.

It’s the second severe hurricane to hit the Caribbean this month, after Hurricane Irma devastated much of the Virgin Islands, St Maarten and St Barth.

(Source: Caribjournal)

Space station captures chilling Hurricane Maria footage on its fearsome path to Puerto Rico

Hurricane Maria was heading for Puerto Rico in a terrifying vortex of wind and rain on Tuesday, in footage that was captured by the International Space Station (ISS).

The ISS took chilling video of the Category 5 storm as it approached the island, in images that gave a true sense of its scale before it made landfall there.

The footage showed the storm ready to pound an island that was already hit hard by Hurricane Irma only two weeks ago.

Maria’s outer eyewall hit St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Tuesday night with a sustained wind blowing at a speed of 144 km/h, while a gust blew at 204 km/h.

The storm had maximum sustained winds of 280 km/h, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

A hurricane warning was also in effect for the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Culebra, Vieques, and the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to Puerto Plata.

Storm surge as high as nine feet was expected in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and as high as 11 feet in the Leeward Islands and the British Virgin Islands.

Puerto Rico was also expected to see anywhere from 12 to 18 inches of rain, with as much as 25 inches expected in isolated parts.

“Several tornadoes” were also projected for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Tuesday and Wednesday.

A projection of Maria’s winds showed them reaching as far as North Carolina on Saturday.

(Source: Global News)

Myanmar ready to begin verification process for refugees who wish to return: Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi also opened the door to international observers, asking them to visit the south-east Asian country and see things 'for yourself.'

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday said the country will soon begin the verification process for the return of Rohingya refugees who had fled the western Rakhine state in recent weeks in the backdrop of an army crackdown.

Suu Kyi, in a State of the Union address, the first since attacks by Rohingya Muslim insurgents on August 25 sparked a military response forcing over 410,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh, said her administration wants to bring an end to suffering of all people as quickly as possible.

“We don’t want Myanmar to be a nation divided by religious beliefs or ethnicities. Hate and fear are main scourges,” Suu Kyi said. She added the responsibility to establish peace lies with the government.

The pro-democracy leader, who spent 15 years under house arrest during military rule in Myanmar, condemned the violation of human rights and unlawful violence. She has been criticised by the international community for her silence on the conflict that has festered in recent weeks.

“We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence. We are committed to the restoration of peace and stability and rule of law throughout the state…human rights violations and all other acts that impair stability and harmony and undermine the rule of law will be addressed in accordance with strict laws and justice,” she vowed.

Watch Suu Kyi’s speech

Suu Kyi went on to add that Myanmar is making efforts to restore peace and stability in the western state. “We want to find out why this exodus is happening. We would like to talk to those who have fled as well as those who have stayed. I think it is very little known a great majority of Muslims in the Rakhine state have not joined the exodus…the government has been making every effort to restore peace and stability and to bring harmony in Rakhine communities,” she said.

Describing Myanmar as a “complex country”, Suu Kyi said the country does not fear scrutiny from international community. “Burma is a complex nation. People expect us to overcome all the challenges in shortest time possible,” she said. “Myanmar does not fear international scrutiny, we are committed to finding a sustainable solution in Rakhine state.”

At the same time, she opened the door to international observers, asking them to visit the south-east Asian country and see things ‘for yourself.’

“We would like you (world) to think of our country as a whole, not just as little afflicted areas,” she said.

Suu Kyi holds offices of state counsellor and foreign minister even though she is barred from the presidency as her children have British citizenship.

(Source: The Indian Express)

Hurricane Maria devastates Dominica

Hurricane Maria made landfall on the Eastern Caribbean island of Dominica on Monday night as a Category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour, according to the NOAA’s National Hurricane Center.

The storm had already caused “significant damage to structures” in Dominica.

“So, far the winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with. The roof to my own official residence was among the first to go and this apparently triggered an avalanche of torn away roofs in the city and the countryside,” said Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.

Skerrit had posted on Facebook that his home lost its roof and then flooded, although he was eventually rescued.

“We do not know what is happening outside. We not dare look out. All we are hearing is the sound of galvanize flying. The sound of the fury of the wind. As we pray for its end!” he posted during the storm.

The storm brought immense winds and dangerous storm surges that could raise water levels by as much as 7 to 11 feet above normal tide levels, along with as much as 20 inches of rain.

Maria was about 85 miles west of Guadeloupe and about 170 miles southeast of St Croix on Tuesday morning, with maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour.

The storm was moving west-northwest at around 9 miles per hour, with the eye of Maria expected to approach the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Tuesday night and Wednesday.

Hurricane warnings were in effect for Guadeloupe, Dominica, St Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques.

Tropical storm warnings were in effect for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba, St Eustatius, St Maarten, Anguilla, St Lucia and Martinique.

The eye of Maria was expected to move over the northeastern Caribbean sea on Tuesday and then approach the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Tuesday night and Wednesday.

Some fluctuations are expected in the next day or two, according to the National Hurricane Center, but Maria is forecast to remain an extremely dangerous storm as it heads toward Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

(Source: Caribjournal)

Remembering Anant Pai, the master storyteller who created Amar Chitra Katha

On the birth anniversary of Anant Pai, the Better India gives us the fascinating story of how the much-loved author created the iconic Amar Chitra Katha series. Read on: 

“Unless you have continuity with the past, you can’t easily be adjusted with the present.The acquaintance with the past is a must. You may not agree with it. You can disagree with it, but be aware of it.” – Anant Pai

In 1967, while watching a TV quiz show on the state-run Doordarshan network, a young journalist realised that while the Indian children on the show could easily answer questions about Greek mythology, they couldn’t answer a simple question about an important character in Ramayana, one of India’s greatest epics.

Upset by thought, he set out to change this by start a comic-book series that would tell stories from Indian epics through beautifully illustrated, child-friendly narratives.The comic book series was Amar Chitra Katha and the young journalist was Anant Pai, the avuncular writer and illustrator who would go on to become widely recognised as the “father of Indian comics”.

For an Indian child born before the year 2000, Amar Chitra Katha and its engrossing world of stories were synonymous with growing up. Bridging the distance between convoluted Sanskrit texts and the Enid Blytons found in school libraries, this iconic book series taught several generations of Indian children about the country’s rich heritage of folk tales and mythology.

Such was the love that children had for the series that they gave Anant Pai the affectionate nickname of “Uncle Pai”. On the birth anniversary of this master storyteller, we bring you the fascinating story of how he created his much-loved comic series.

Born on Sept. 17, 1929, in Karkala in Karnataka) Anant Pai was orphaned when he was just two-years-old and grew up with relatives first in Mangalore and later in Mumbai. He fell in love with literature at a young age and devoted much of his time to learning several Indian languages.

After completing his schooling, Pai was interested in pursueing journalism but on the insistence of his elder brother, he joined the University of Bombay for a degree in chemical engineering . However, early in his career, he gave up engineering and joined work as a journalist for The Times of India. Here, his work involved managing Indrajal Comics, a series that brought American comics like The Phantom, Flash Gordon and Mandrake to Indian readers.

This was when the Pai saw the aforementioned quiz show in a television shop in the Karol Bagh market (in Delhi) and was inspired to launch a series of comics based on Indian history and mythology.

After leaving his job in 1967, he tried his luck with several publishing houses but was his idea was rejected by all of them. After much persuasion, the determined writer managed to convince GL Mirchandani of India Book House to take a chance on Amar Chitra Katha (ACK).

Knowing that they were taking a risk, the Pai-Mirchandani team began small. This concern was justified when the series started loosing money in its early years. Schools would not buy ACK for their libraries because they considered comic books frivolous while book shops refused to stock them because the series was not associated with an established brand.

But things were about to change. To showcase the impact of his comic books, Pai persuaded a Delhi school to run an unusual experiment. Under this, one group of students was taught history using ACK and another using traditional methods. Later, when both groups were tested, the results showed that the students who had studied using ACK had learned more than those who did not!

As word of this experiment spread, more parents, schools and shopkeepers began buying Pai’s comic books. ACK’s easy to read, beautiful illustrated stories about brave warriors, exquisitely dressed queens, stately gods, scheming villains and scary demons quickly grabbed the attention of young readers and interest in the series continued to rise.

There was no looking back after that. Amar Chitra Katha released titles by the hundreds and sold books by the millions (it reportedly still sells 3 million copies annually, with its 440 titles having sold more than 100 million copies till date).

Two years later, Pai launched the first comic and cartoon syndicate in India, Rang Rekha Features,
that issued interesting factoids and snippets for children. In 1978, he founded the Partha Institute of Personality Development, which conducted personality development workshops through correspondence for teenagers.

In 1980, Pai debuted a children’s magazine that would go on to become just as popular as ACK. A super fun comic digest, Tinkle covered contemporary Indian history, illustrated biographies of national and the delightful capers of characters created by Pai. It also contained quizzes, contests and non-fiction articles on history, science and geography.

It was also through Tinkle that Pai acquired his famous nickname “Uncle Pai” — he would solicit questions from children and answered their letters under that name in the magazine.

A stickler for rigour, Pai was always involved in every aspect of the creative process. He would look at everything, from the script to the sketches, and insist that every book (or digest) have months of research behind it. A person for whom every book was a labour of love, Pai ended up editing 439 ACK titles.

Within the ACK family, Pai was considered a walking encyclopedia as he had a story for every occasion and would often correct his employees by telling a story. There are several other interesting anecdotes that surface in a retelling of the legend’s life – from a story about Pai’s early days of personally selling ACK copies at petrol pumps to Soviet statesman Mikhail Gorbachev calling him to crosscheck the meaning of a Sanskrit quote.

However, one of the most enduring tale about Pai is his enjoyment of days spent sitting among young children and reading from one of his own comic books. This was a role he delighted in and he continued doing so till the end of his illustrious life.

In 2007, India Book House was sold to a new team of entrepreneurs but Pai stayed on as chief storyteller. Several days after undergoing surgery for a fracture, he passed away due to a heart attack on February 24, 2011. Six days before he died, he was honoured with the lifetime achievement award at India’s first comic convention.

The father of Indian comics did not have any children — other than the millions of young readers across the globe who delighted in his work and still continue to do so. As we end Anant Pai’s story, here’s a little known incident that tells volumes about the love and goodwill enjoyed by the legend and his comic books.

In 1994, the office of ACK caught fire in which all the artwork and original copies of the comic series were destroyed. A devastated ACK team published an appeal asking children to send any spare copies they had to them in the in the next issue of Tinkle. Thanks to the overwhelming response the appeal received, the team was able to recover a copy of every single Amar Chitra Katha book that was ever published!