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 A huge ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano turned the skies of northern Europe into a no-fly zone on Thursday, stranding hundreds of thousands of passengers. The european air safety organisation said the disruption, the biggest seen in the region, could last another two days and a leading volcano expert said the ash could present intermittent problems to air traffic for six months if the eruption continued.

London, England – A cloud of ash from an Icelandic volcano stymied European air traffic and choked international travel on Saturday as airlines cut flights, left stranded passengers, and watched their daily revenue nosedive.

Thousands of flights have been canceled. European air traffic officials said 5,000 flights took place instead of the customary number of 22,000 on Saturday. About 10,400 flights took place in Europe on Friday, compared with the normal 28,000.

President Obama canceled his trip to Poland to attend the funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski because of the snarled air traffic, the White House said Saturday.

There were restrictions on civil flights in 23 countries across most of northern and central Europe. This swath comprises Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, most of France, most of Germany, Hungary, Ireland, northern Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

The eruption began March 20 beneath the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in southern Iceland, blowing a hole in the ice. It worsened this week, forcing local evacuations and eventually affecting European airspace. Although barely visible in the air, the ash — made up of tiny particles of rock, glass and sand — poses a serious threat to aircraft.

The situation has upended lives for millions of travelers but for now, many are adjusting to the inconvenience.

Kara Helwig of Neenah, Wisconsin, told CNN her 15-year-old daughter, Megan Emenecker, was stuck in Paris, France, after her flight home from her French club’s trip was canceled.

“She didn’t sound worried. They’re just definitely ready to get home. They probably don’t even have any clean clothes and are low on money. But they’re all in pretty good spirits,” Helwig said.

She said the group hopes to leave on Tuesday.

On Saturday, airlines such as American and Continental drastically reduced intercontinental flights. About 600 transatlantic flights normally take place each day, 300 in each direction. Instead of the 300 flights that would usually arrive in Europe, just 73 flights arrived on Saturday morning.

British Airways says it has canceled its flights to and from London airports on Saturday and Sunday. Restrictions in place around United Kingdom-controlled air space will remain in place until at least 7 a.m. Sunday (2 a.m. ET), the UK air traffic agency said. Some air space could be available within Scotland, Northern Ireland and England north of Leeds up until 7 p.m.

Other airlines such as Air France, Lufthansa, Ryanair and Qantas announced restrictions to their schedules in Europe because of the ash, which experts have said can stall engines and cause electrical failures on board aircraft. There were delays and cancellations Saturday at all 10 of Russia’s international airports, including those in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the Russian Transport Ministry said.

Upper air space has been made available in some of these restricted areas, depending on the observed and forecasted area of ash contamination, air traffic officials said. Parts of southern Europe, including Spain, the southern Balkan area, southern Italy, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey remained open and flights were taking place in these areas, the officials said.

The Icelandic volcano continued to erupt on Saturday, according to an official with Iceland’s Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management. He said it’s not clear when the eruption will end.

The United Kingdom’s National Air Traffic Services said the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland is moving around and changing shape. Weather forecasts show the ash cloud progressively covering the whole of the United Kingdom after 7 p.m. (2 p.m. ET) Saturday, the agency said.

Airlines were rebooking passengers, and people were turning to other travel options, such as cars, trains and ferries.

Alexey Bekin, a 40-year-old Muscovite who runs a construction company, has been stuck in Geneva, Switzerland. After his flight home to Russia was canceled Saturday, he said Aeroflot offered people hotel rooms that would have to be shared with strangers. Bekin opted to pay for his own hotel room.

He considered taking a train to Milan, Italy, to catch a flight, but all the trains were sold out. He has been rebooked for a flight on Wednesday.

Lets see how ash effects the engine of aircrafts, (just, please click the following link)

The Effect of Volcanic Ash on Airplane.

Posted by: Rehan Today | April 17, 2010

China earthquake toll rises to 1,144

JIEGU: Tibetan monks prayed Friday over hundreds of bodies at a makeshift morgue next to their monastery after powerful earthquakes destroyed the remote mountain town of Jiegu in western China and left at least 1,144 people dead.

State media on Friday reported that another 417 people remain missing —as rescuers neared the end of the 72-hour period viewed as best for finding people alive. They continued to dig for survivors in the rubble, often by hand.

The official toll was likely to climb further. Gerlai Tenzing, a red-robed monk from the Jiegu Monastery, estimated that about 1,000 bodies had been brought to a hillside clearing in the shadow of the monastery.

He said a precise count was difficult because bodies continued to trickle in and some had already been taken away by family members.

Hundreds of the bodies were being prepared for a mass cremation Saturday morning.

Genqiu, a 22-year-old monk, said it was impossible to perform traditional sky burials for all. Tibetan sky burials involve chopping a body into pieces and leaving it on a platform to be devoured by vultures.

”The vultures can’t eat them all,” said Genqiu, who like many Tibetans goes by one name.

Relief workers have estimated that 70 per cent to 90 per cent of the town’s wood-and-mud houses collapsed when the earthquakes hit Yushu county, in the western province of Qinghai, Wednesday morning.

The strongest of the quakes was measured at magnitude 6.9 by the US Geological Survey and 7.1 by China’s earthquake administration.

Xinhua reported that as of Friday evening the confirmed death toll had risen to 1,144, up from 791 in the afternoon. It said 11,477 people were injured, 1,174 severely.

Rescue spokesman Xia Xueping was cited as saying they now had more heavy equipment available —speeding up the process of recovering the dead.

Many survivors shivered through a third night outdoors as they waited for tents to arrive.

China Central Television reported that about 40,000 tents would be in place by Saturday, enough to accommodate all survivors.

Also on the way was more equipment to help probe for signs of life under the debris, it said. The tools include small cameras and microphones attached to poles that can be snaked into crevices as well as heat and motion sensors.

President Hu Jintao, in Brazil after visiting Washington, canceled scheduled stops in Venezuela and Peru to come home.

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HYDERABAD: Mirza married Monday after a troubled engagement in a union that bridges the two nations’ bitter sporting and political divide.

The wedding was the final chapter in a complex and often contradictory saga during which Malik consistently denied claims by an Indian woman, Ayesha Siddiqui, that she had married the cricketer in 2002.

The ceremony took place in the presence of family and friends at a hotel in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, Mirza’s spokeswoman Rucha Naik said.

“The (wedding) has just been completed. Please pray for the couple,” Naik told reporters.

The marriage was originally scheduled for April 15. The Press Trust of India cited family sources as saying it had been brought forward after Muslim clerics in Hyderabad criticised the fact that Malik was living in his future bride’s house before the wedding.

Last week, Farisa Siddiqui, Ayesha’s mother, announced that a settlement had been reached and “divorce papers signed,” allowing Malik’s marriage with Mirza to go ahead.

Ayesha had initially lodged a complaint with police in Hyderabad, prompting officers to quiz Malik over the saga and confiscate his passport.

Muslim elders in Hyderabad, where both Siddiqui and Mirza live, were understood to have negotiated the settlement after days of frenzied press coverage and lurid speculation.

Even without the added drama provided by Ayesha’s revelations, the marriage of two of South Asia’s best-known sports personalities across one of the world’s most volatile borders was always going to make headlines.

Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence and broke off all official contact following the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which Indian blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

The stand-off extended to the sporting world, with a freeze on non-tournament matches between their respective national cricket teams.

Malik and Mirza’s sporting marriage is unprecedented in the perennial rivalry between the south Asian nations, and some right-wing Hindu groups in India had denounced the union, accusing Mirza of betraying her country.

The only similar union came when former Pakistani Test batsman Mohsin Khan, who is now Pakistan’s chief selector, married the Indian actress Reena Roy in the 1980s. The couple later separated.

The Pakistani government is preparing lavish celebrations to welcome the couple during a widely expected visit.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will treat the newlyweds to a reception and Pakistan’s minister for population welfare, Firdous Ashiq Awan, told AFP that she would travel to India to attend the wedding reception.

“It is a very happy occasion for both Malik and Mirza and for millions of people in both the countries and we are having a detailed discussion as to how we could celebrate the occasion in Pakistan,” Awan told AFP.

Team-mates of Malik, a former Pakistan cricket captain who is serving a one-year ban on charges of indiscipline during Pakistan’s tour of Australia and New Zealand, also passed on their congratulations.

“It’s a happy occasion that Malik has wed Sania. I congratulate him and wish him the best in his married life,” said Twenty20 captain Shahid Afridi.

Mirza, whose short tennis skirts have drawn the ire of Islamist groups in India, has been a nationwide celebrity since 2005 when, aged 18, she became the first Indian woman to win a WTA Tour title.

She is currently recovering from a wrist injury that has seen her world ranking slip from 27 in 2007 to 89.

The couple, who are both Muslims, are thought likely to base themselves in Dubai.

Malik had admitted beginning a telephone relationship with Siddiqui in 2001 after she sent him photographs — but said he later believed the pictures were of another woman.

Before the divorce settlement, Siddiqui appeared on television news channels to denounce Malik as a cheat who dumped her because his team-mates said she was overweight.

Posted by: Rehan Today | April 10, 2010

Family denies changing Malik-Mirza wedding date

HYDERABAD: The family of Indian tennis player Sania Mirza denied Friday that they had moved up the date of her wedding to former Pakistan cricket captain Shoaib Malik.

The proposed marriage stirred controversy when another woman claimed she was already married to Malik.

Muslim elders brokered a divorce between the pair earlier this week, clearing the way for the wedding.

Earlier in the day, the cleric slated to perform the ceremony, Azamatullah Jafri, said the family had asked him to marry the pair Friday night, instead of April 15 as scheduled. New barricades were erected outside their home in Hyderabad to keep the media away.

But Mirza’s aunt ,Hameeda Usman, denied the wedding date had been changed.

”There is no function today,” she said. ”It is scheduled to take place on April 15 according to the original program.”

Posted by: Rehan Today | April 10, 2010

Walk-out staged in Senate over renaming NWFP

ISLAMABAD: The wave of violence that has emerged within the Hazara division on the renaming of the NWFP as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, echoed on the floor of the Senate on Friday.

ANP assured the house that no discrimination would occur on the basis of race or language in the province.

Senator Afrasiyab Khattak of ANP told the upper house that provincial government was trying to stop the violence in the Hazara division. He said no arrests had been made as it was the democratic right of the people to protest.

Senator Talha Mehmood said that a name should be suggested for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa which should be acceptable to all as the new name has given rise to a separatist movement in the Hazara division.

Senator Saleem Saifullah staged a walk-out in the senate over the renaming of NWFP, while the opposition members walked out over the issue of load shedding. Mir Hassan Bijenjo said that load shedding was affecting the farmers adversely in Balochistan.

The Sacked Employees Reinstatement Ordinance 2010 was also tabled before the Senate.

The Senate is due to meet again on Monday at 5 pm.

Posted by: Rehan Today | March 31, 2010

Shoaib family rejects Aisha ’nikah’ claim

LAHORE: Shoaib Malik’s brother in law Imran Zafar Malik has denied that nikah happened between Malik and Aisha Siddiqi. 

Speaking to Geo here on Wednesday, Malik said that Aisha’s family was welcome to go to the court.

“India’s Siddiqi family has disgraced Shoaib, he said, adding, we will also not hesitate to take a legal course against them,” said Malik.

On the issue of marriage reports with Aisha Siddiqi, he said that Shoaib remained mum o the issue due to the involvement of a girl.

Posted by: Rehan Today | March 31, 2010

CRC members sign 18th Amendment draft

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee agreed on a constitutional amendment Wednesday that strips the president of powers inherited from the country’s former military ruler, fulfilling a long-standing opposition demand.

”This was a difficult job that has been done amicably and with consensus,” Senator Raza Rabbani, the head of the parliamentary committee, told reporters Wednesday.

He thanked all the members of the committee and said the nation’s interest is kept first after setting aside party’s interest.

Federal Law Minister Babar Awan, after singing the draft, said there are nearly 100 clauses in the draft amendment.

“We will soon announce when we will take the draft to the parliament,” said Awan.

The draft amendment transfers a variety of powers, including the ability to fire an elected government and appoint military chiefs, from the office of the president to the prime minister, said Senator Hasil Baloch, another member of the committee.

LAHORE: Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik and Indian tennis star Sania Mirza are going to tie the knot on April 15, Sania’s father Imran Mirza confirmed to media and Shoaib confirmed the date on Internet.

As per reports, the two sports stars have been in an affair for the last six months, which had led to Sania’s earlier engagement to break.

Sources said that the mother of Shoaib Malik went to Indian city of Hyderabad Deccan where she met with the family of Sania Mirza and finalized Shoaib and Sania’s marriage.

This may be recalled that earlier engagements of both Malik and Mirza had come to an end.

Malik was engaged with Ayesha Siddiqui also from Hyderabad Deccan on June 3, 2002 while Sania on the other side was engaged with childhood friend Sohrab Khan which ended in January 2010.

The wedding ceremony of Shoaib Malik and Sania Mirza will take place in India on April 15 while the valima reception will be hosted by Malik on April 16 in Lahore.

“I desire to get married soon. You will soon get some good news but it depends on my family. I fully expect to get married this year,” Shoaib had said in a recent interaction with the media.

Now, the Shoaib confirmed  on internet that his wedding will take place in India on April 15 and he further said that if Sania wants to continue his tennis career than he will not stop her from continuing her career.

Asked if it would be an arranged marriage, he said, “No can say what will happen, but it will take place with the concurrence of my family.”

Posted by: Rehan Today | March 29, 2010

Gilani in bid to break deadlock with PML-N

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is trying to break a deadlock created by a sudden change in PML-N chief’s stance on the 18th amendment. 

The prime minister went to Lahore on Saturday evening to try to use his contacts in the PML-N to get in touch with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, his son Hamza Shahbaz or Senator Ishaq Dar, a member of the parliamentary committee on constitutional reforms. 

The committee’s chairman Mian Raza Rabbani said: “I am optimistic about the outcome of the efforts initiated by the prime minister to break the deadlock. A positive development is likely in a couple of days.” 

Senator Rabbani said he had met Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party’s leader Mehmood Khan Achakzai to seek their support for the success of the committee. 

He discussed with the two leaders ways of forging a consensus on renaming the NWFP. Both the leaders have supported ‘Pakhtunkhwa’, the name for the province proposed by the Awami National Party. 

PML-N leader Siddiqul Farooq said: “My party is sincerely cooperating in finalising the draft of the 18th amendment without compromising on independence of the judiciary, provided the government side also shows sincerity.” 

He said it was up to Prime Minister Gilani to handle the issue after having expressed his readiness to meet Mian Nawaz Sharif. 

When asked if there had been contacts between the prime minister and the PML-N leadership, he said: “Everyone has realised the seriousness of the matter.” 

The sources said that Mr Gilani had been upset by Law Minister Babar Awan’s ‘premature’ announcement about the convening of a joint session of the two houses of parliament without consulting him. 

The move drew an adverse reaction from the PML-N and upset the entire scheme of things, they said. 

During a meeting with Senator Rabbani, the sources said, the prime minister expressed regret over the incident and promised that he would try to control the damage by using his influence in the PML-N. 

According to the sources, Senator Rabbani who is also an adviser to the prime minister indicated that he would step down if uncertainty persisted over the work being done by his committee. 

Meanwhile, a leader of the Pakistan People’s Party said a section in the government was thinking of getting the proposed constitutional reforms bill approved by parliament without PML-N’s support by winning over the PML-Q and its splinter groups.

Posted by: Rehan Today | March 29, 2010

Dimming out for Mother Earth

This image released by the Nasa Earth Observatory of the Earth’s city lights was created with data from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) Operational Linescan System (OLS). Originally designed to view clouds by moonlight, the OLS is also used to map the locations of permanent lights on the Earth’s surface. The brightest areas of the Earth are the most urbanized, but not necessarily the most populated.

Glasses containing candles form the number 60 in celebration of Earth Hour in La Paz.
People light candles during Earth Hour in Cancun.
In this combo picture, a view of Malaysia’s landmark Patronas Twin Towers is seen before (L) and during lights out (R) for Earth Hour in Kuala Lumpur.
A combo shows the Eiffel tower submerging into darkness at 8-30 pm (local time) in Paris as part of the Earth Hour switch-off.
Jordanians hold candles, as they gather to mark ‘earth hour’ in Amman, Jordan.
A newly married couple Ruchita and Vishvas Sawant participate in candle light rally for Earth, in Mumbai, India.
A fire acrobat performs in front of the Bulgarian National Theatre, with lights turned off as part of Earth Hour in Sofia.
A man lights candles during Earth Hour by the West lake in Hanoi.
An Indian family eats under candlelight at a restaurant in observance of Earth Hour in Amritsar, India.
Emirati girls stand next to mascots Spark and Splash during the Earth Hour lantern march in Dubai. Hundreds of people, from white-robed Emiratis to foreigners in shorts, marched with small lanterns to mark Earth Hour, as the lights went out in some of Dubai’s landmarks and most iconic buildings.

A Pakistani boy holds a candle in front of the national assembly in Islamabad.

During last Saturday’s Earth Hour, homes, office towers and landmarks around the world turned off their lights from 8.30 pm local time, for an hour, to raise awareness about climate change and the threat from rising greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings in some 4,000 cities in more than 120 countries unplugged to reduce energy consumption. –Photos by Agencies

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