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2016 in Retrospect: Bidding Final Goodbye by some Legendary Musicians who left undying Music behind

The festive mood got switched off when the news of the legendary singer-songwriter George Michael's death broke on

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Tributes are seen outside the house of singer George Michael, in Goring, southern England, Britain December 26, 2016. VOA

Dec 31, 2016: “Britney Spears is dead by accident!” Fortunately, it was just a hoax and the “Toxic” star is still alive. But not all musicians were as “Lucky” as the star. If it was “Last Christmas” for George Michael, Prince made the rain gods pour “Purple rain” when they breathed their last this year.

It was time for merry making, believing in Santa Claus and hanging lights and gifts on Christmas trees. But the festive mood got switched off when the news of the legendary singer-songwriter George Michael’s death broke on Christmas Day. The Grammy winner was 53.

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The British pop icon, who sold tens of millions of albums as a member of the Wham! duo and on his own, was found dead at his home in Oxfordshire, England, by his boyfriend Fadi Fawaz. Police described the death as “unexplained but not suspicious”.

While the tributes are still pouring in for the “Father figure” hitmaker, the year gone by has been widely tagged as “a curse” as many musicians bid their final adieu.

2016 began with rock legend David Bowie’s death on January 10. Aged 69, Bowie, who enjoyed a string of worldwide hits from the late 1960s onwards, died peacefully surrounded by his family after an 18-month battle with cancer.

Bowie’s last released album “Blackstar” became his first record to top the charts in the US. The record was released two days before Bowie died.

A week after his death, Mott The Hoople drummer Dale Griffin died at the age of 67. He was a founding member of the group, best known for songs including “All the young dudes”, which was penned by Bowie. Griffin died peacefully in his sleep.

January 18 was another day to mourn as Glenn Frey, a founding member of the rock band the Eagles, died at 67. He succumbed to complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia, read a post on the official website of the band, which had churned out hits like “Hotel California” and “Take it easy”.

The time of grief continued in February too. Maurice White, the Earth, Wind and Fire vocalist and co-founder, died in his sleep in Los Angeles on February 4. He was 74. The singer had reportedly been battling Parkinson’s disease since 1992.

Singer Gogi Grant, whose hit track “The wayward wind” pushed music icon Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak hotel” off from the top spot on the Billboard charts, died on March 10. She was 91.

The same day, legendary keyboardist Keith Emerson of English progressive rock supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and The Nice band died at age 71. Emerson’s death was ruled a suicide.

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On March 16, Frank Sinatra Jr, the son of the legendary singer Frank Sinatra, passed away aged 72. He died of cardiac arrest while on tour in Daytona, Florida.

Flamboyant pop musician Prince, who became a global superstar in the 1980s, with albums like “1999” and “Purple Rain”, died at his home in Minnesota on April 21. He was 57. Based on toxicology reports, he died of an accidental overdose of Fentanyl – the same painkiller found at the Los Angeles house where King of Pop Michael Jackson died in 2009.

Congo music star Papa Wemba, 66, died on April 24 after the stage collapsed during a concert in Ivory Coast.

“Me and Mrs. Jones” hitmaker Billy Paul also breathed his last on April 24 “after a serious medical condition”. The soul singer was 81.

Nick Menza, drummer of the former heavy metal band Megadeth, passed away after he collapsed on stage during a show in California on May 21. He was 51.

Renowned Pakistani qawwali singer Amjad Sabri was shot dead in Karachi on June 22, after unknown gunmen fired at his car.

Scotty Moore, “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” Elvis Presley’s guitarist, died at 84 on June 28.

Legendary singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, whose “Hallelujah” was one of the most covered songs, passed away at 82. He died during his sleep following a fall in the middle of the night on November 7.

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Rock icon Leon Russell also died in his sleep on November 13. He was 74.

Noted Carnatic musician M. Balamuralikrishna, 86, passed away in Chennai on November 22. He had been ailing for some time.

Renowned Pakistani singer and preacher Junaid Jamshed died in a plane crash in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on December 7. (IANS)

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Did You Hear about the New Species of Spiders Named After Leonardo DiCaprio, Bernie Sanders and Barrack Obama?

The new species of spiders have been named in honor of leaders and artists who promoted sensible approaches for a better world

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Did you hear about the Bernie Sanders spider? (representational image) Pixabay

Vermont, September 30, 2017 : What if we tell you that a team of researchers has recognized and named 15 new species of spiders in the Caribbean after your favorite stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders?

Not in Hollywood, Washington, DC or Vermont – but you might now be able to catch a glimpse of Spintharus davidattenboroughi, S. barackobamai, S, michelleobamaae, S. berniesandersi, S. davidbowiei along with S. leonardodicaprioi on the Caribbean islands and some other southern spots.

Ingi Agnarsson, expert of spiders and professor of biology at University of Vermont, who led the new study revealed the rationale behind the undergraduate study and on choosing the intriguing names. “(We) wanted to honor people who stood up for both human rights and warned about climate change—leaders and artists who promoted sensible approaches for a better world”, he said.

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The Smiley-Faced Spider

Popularly recognized as a global hotspot for biodiversity, there continues to be several species in the Caribbean that are outside the spectrum of research and study. This includes the ‘smiley faced’ spider in the genus Spintharus- named for a smiley face pattern on their abdomens.

Previously recognized as one widespread species, researchers from the UVM discovered that there exist many more endemic species within the genus, 15 of which have been recognized in the research.

These samples were collected from Florida, South Carolina, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico, the Lesser Antilles and Columbia.

Each team member got to decide names for the new species of spiders. Alongside naming them after friends and family members, many species have been named after distinguished figures.

“We all named the Bernie Sanders spider together,” said Lily Sargeant, one of the students who worked on the project. “We all have tremendous respect for Bernie. He presents a feeling of hope.”

Some of the other names include,

Spintharus davidbowiei

Named after the great artist David Bowie, who passed away in 2016. His music will continue to inspire generations and the authors decided to honor his legacy by naming a spider in his name.

Spintharus barackobamai

Named after the widely popular, and largely loved, former President of the United States Barack Obama. The authors love him for his statesmanship and humanitarianism, and named the spider species after him, to honor their president and his devoted service.

Spintharus michelleobamaae

Named in honor of the Former First Lady of the United States for her poise, confidence and elegance, her fight for human rights and for always striving to uphold the principles of justice, fairness and equality for all.

Spintharus davidattenboroughi

The authors of the research also named a species of spiders after the naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, to recognize and celebrate his efforts to educate people of the wonders of the natural world and sowing a seed of caring for nature in humanity.

The study has been published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

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Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)

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June 21 is World Music Day: Here is what some Musicians have to say!

21st June 2017 is World Music Day. We take a look at the messages that musicians would like to give out today

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World Music Day
June 21 is World Music Day. Attributes of music, Wikimedia

June 21, 2017: Wishing all music lovers on the occasion of World Music Day on Wednesday, some of the Indian musicians say the celebration of music should not be restricted to one day since the “world breathes music, every moment, every day”.

While legendary sarod player Amjad Ali Khan gave his blessings to all music enthusiasts, fusion group Midival Punditz shared a song from their archives on social media.

Here is what musicians had to say on World Music Day:

Amjad Ali Khan: A day in honor of Music. Wish all music lovers a very peaceful World Music Day. God Bless.

Midival Punditz: One from our archives. This was a recording we did in 2006, on World Music Day.

Ayaan Ali Bangash: To be a musician is in itself a blessing as you are really not answerable to anyone but yourself.

Amaan Ali Bangash: Wish you all a very Happy World Music Day!

Papon Angaraag: Wishing everyone a very happy world music day. Though every day should be a music day! Leaving for Spain to perform at IIFA Rocks!

Prosenjit Chatterjee: The music is not in the notes but in the silence in between.

Rekha Bhardwaj: Celebrating World Music Day today!

Zaeden: Happy World Music Day. What are you currently listening to?

Amit Trivedi: Happy world music day to all you lovely people who love music. Music forever

Harshdeep Kaur: Aaj Bhangra paun nu jee karda (Today I feel like dancing) Celebrating World Music Day with friends!

Karsh Kale: Wow… I am on a mural created for World Music Day in Bandra. I have officially tagged Mumbai.

Benny Dayal: Wishing everyone a world music day… May all your lives be inspired with more n more music.

Kailash Kher: Happy world music day to all my awesome fans and music lovers listen and dance to the beats of your soul. Love and live music. When I started in music in 2001, didn’t even know there is a day particularly called World Music Day, now feels every day is World Music Day.

Clinton Cerejo: Does World Music Day apply to all music or just world music?

Sunidhi Chauhan: It’s World Music Day today. Just realized… A very happy and prosperous one to all my musicians and music lovers.

Shekhar Ravjiani: Music and love know no boundaries and languages. That’s why I am releasing my second Marathi single ‘Saavli’ on World Music Day.

Meiyang Chang: Tamilian, Indian Chinese, and Assamese singing a Punjabi song on World Music Day! Funjabi! Sarsa, Agnee Mohan, Papon.

Sona Mohapatra: World Music Day? The ‘world’ breathes music, every moment, everyday. Today is no different, me thinks. (IANS)