Saturday November 18, 2017

Pool for good luck? Vets extract 915 coins From 25-year-old green Sea Turtle in Bangkok

The coins and other objects removed from the turtle named Omsin — piggy bank in Thai — weighed 5 kg (11 lb)

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Screen show Thai veterinarians operate Omsin, a 25 year old female green sea turtle, during a surgical operation to remove coins from her stomach, during a news conference at the Faculty of Veterinary Science, Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, March 6, 2017. VOA

Thai veterinarians on Monday removed 915 coins from a 25-year-old sea turtle which had been swallowing items thrown into her pool for good luck, eventually limiting her ability to swim.

The coins and other objects removed from the turtle named Omsin — piggy bank in Thai — weighed 5 kg (11 lb). The turtle itself weighed 59 kg (130 lb).

The green sea turtle, living at a conservation center in Sriracha, Chonburi, east of the Thai capital of Bangkok, had been finding it hard to swim normally because of the weight.

The vets said they believed the seven-hour-long operation was the world’s first such surgery.

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“We think it will take about a month to ensure she will fully recover,” said Nantarika Chansue, of Chulalongkorn University’s veterinary science faculty, adding that the turtle would need six more months of physical therapy.

There was no immediate estimate of the value of the coins, some of them foreign and many corroded. (VOA)

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Award-winning Chef Gaggan Anand Wants to Take Indian Food Beyond its Stereotyped Curry Prism

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Chef Gaggan Anand
Dal Curry. Wikimedia

Bengaluru, Sep 24, 2017: Ranked as Asia’s best restaurant for three years in a row for his eponymous “Gaggan” in Bangkok, Kolkata-born Chef Gaggan Anand is all about taking Indian food to the world beyond its stereotyped curry prism. He’s on a mission to prove to the world that the concept of curry doesn’t exist in Indian cuisine.

“I want to show the world that there’s no such thing as a curry. There’s only a curry leaf that gives the taste. Curry is a very British idea. With just a curry leaf oil, I can make anything taste like curry,” the award-winning Anand said in a conversation with IANS at the Taj West End here.

The owner and executive chef of the Bangkok restaurant, which has won the top spot in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, ranked by theworlds50best.com, for three consecutive years since 2015, was on a four-city tour to present his food through pop-ups at Taj Hotels in the country, from where he had started his culinary career.

Anand’s food is all about elevating humble Indian street-food-inspired-dishes through innovation and plating in a fine-dining fashion — from chocolate paani puri to keema pav.

And he’s managed to do so by eliminating knives and forks and letting global diners eat Indian food the way it’s traditionally eaten — using the hands. Thereby, he managed to place Indian food on the world map in a much larger way.

Also Read: Chef Sanjeev Kapoor Brand Ambassador for Food Street at World Food India event 

Served through 25 courses, he presents the tasting menu through emojis, eliminating the long descriptions of dishes that usually feature on a restaurant menu. And it’s certainly not an easy task to guess what’s going to be served by reading the ideograms.

“My idea is to bring all of people’s senses to life. I use food to seduce people and agitate their minds by surprising them without any pretensions. Everybody would have made jalebis into various sweet versions but no one would have thought of a savoury version,” an exuberant Anand explained.

“I have created my own philosophy of food, which is what sets me apart and has got me where I am now,” said Anand, whose restaurant is also the only Indian eatery to grab a spot among the World’s top 10 restaurants, ranked by theworlds50best.com.

Unlike many other kitchens across the world, Anand’s is always blaring out rock music and most often he’s seen in his favourite band’s T-shirt when he’s out of the kitchen. Music is one of the key elements of his food-making process.

He even created a dish named “Lick it up”, inspired by the American rock band “Kiss”, which diners need to lick off the plate, and treats his service like a concert, filled with surprises and theatrics.

And for constant renovation of his food, Anand has dedicated a total of six teams for research and development in his “food laboratory”.

As the Netflix Emmy-nominated “Chef’s Table” show describes in an episode on his restaurant, “his kitchen is a virtual United Nations with people from across the world working in it”.

Anand had started off his restaurant in 2010 majorly using the molecular gastronomy principles, wherein ingredients undergo physical and chemical transformations, and later adopted a “minimalist” approach to food, he shared.

“Most often, Indian chefs give glory to quinoa, zucchini and goji berries while ignoring our own ingredients like drumsticks and colocasia root. We should create from our ingredients rather than seeking to the West for ideas,” Anand asserted.

“So, my food is all about honesty in using seasonal produce, while keeping the plate as minimalist as possible. Only the elements that belong on the plate stay on it”.

This simplistic approach is perhaps what late President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam loved the most about Anand’s food. “I used to travel along with Kalam sir when he was the President. He used to eat the rice and rasam I used to make for him at 6 a.m. each morning,” the chef reminisced.

But restaurants come with an expiry date, Anand believes. “Gaggan will close by 2020. It’s the end of an era. For a decade I cooked at Gaggan, and now I want something else.”

The celebrated chef will be heading to Japan’s Fukuoka city in 2021 to do a 10-seater restaurant.

“It’ll be an inaccessible place. I really want to control the crowd and reduce the volume. Now the volume is too high and I want to do food that pleases my soul now,” he said.

With the Michelin announcing the launch of their prestigious Michelin Guide in Bangkok by the end of 2017, Anand said if he gets three Michelin stars, he would claim the fame of being the first such Indian to be so recognised.

“Even if I don’t get it, I don’t have much to lose; they’ll have to answer to the people who have loved my food,” he said with a nonchalant shrug.

“I still haven’t given my Indian passport away though. I’ll always remain very much Indian at heart, even though nobody in Kolkata really knows me and that I’ve made the region and its food so famous,” Anand concluded. (IANS)

 

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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.

ALSO READ: Flashback to Terror: 1993 Mumbai Blasts Judgement to Hail on June 27 After 24 Years

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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India’s Textile and Fashion Heritage now part of Google project

Google's project 'We Wear Culture' is collaborating with 183 renowned cultural institutions from all around the world including India and its objective is to let people explore history of clothes dating as early as 3,000 years ago

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we wear culture
Google's new art project 'We wear Culture' digitizes fashion, Wikimedia
  • Google’s project ‘We Wear Culture’ is collaborating with 183 renowned cultural institutions from all around the world including India
  • It intends to trace the story and importance of Indian textiles from ancient sculptures
  • Its objective is to let people explore history of clothes dating as early as 3,000 years ago

June 15, 2017: To a certain extent, a culture is defined by what is worn by its people. In a country as diverse as India, vast and varied spectrum of cultures and clothes is one of the specialties. Google’s latest virtual exhibition project now provides us the opportunity to explore and know more about it.

Google’s project ‘We Wear Culture’ is collaborating with 183 renowned cultural institutions from all around the world including India and its objective is to let people explore history of clothes dating as early as 3,000 years ago, from the ancient Silk Road to the unmatched elegance of the Indian Saree,  from the courtly fashion of Versailles, to the Victorian ballgowns with intricate thread work.

According to Amit Sood, director of Google Arts and Culture,”We invite everyone to browse the exhibition on their phones or laptops and learn about the stories behind what you wear. You might be surprised to find out that your Saree, jeans or the black dress in your wardrobe have a centuries-old story. What you wear is true culture and more often than not a piece of art.”

Culture is defined by what is worn by its people. Click To Tweet

The company also mentioned that noteworthy collections from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) and varied weaves from across India, from Gharchola to Patola to Temple to Ikat sarees will be included in the online project, as it intends to trace the story and importance of Indian textiles from ancient sculptures.

ALSO READ: New Google Project Digitizes World’s Top Fashion Archives.

According to PTI reports, the world fashion exhibit also includes designs from north-eastern India including the weaves of tribes such as the Nagas, Meitis. it will showcase the traditional attire from Meghalaya called ‘Dhara’ or ‘Nara’ worn by the Khasi women as well.

As a part of the exhibit, Sewa Hansiba Museum has brought the unique colorful and rich embroidery arts, applique and mirror work from different communities such as the Ahir, Rabari, Chaudhury Patel and many others from the western part of India online.

The exhibition conducted by Salar Jung Museum brings to light the Sherwani and its journey of becoming the royal fashion statement of the Nizams from 19th century Hyderabad. Fashion and textiles enthusiasts can revisit Colonial Indian attires with Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum. Over 400 online exhibitions and stories sharing a total of 50,000 photos, videos and other documents on world fashion are open to exploration as well.

The ‘We wear Culture’ initiative highlights significant events in the growth of the world fashion industry; the icons, the movements, the game changers and the trendsetters like Alexander McQueen, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Gianni Versace, Audrey Hepburn and many more.

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang