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Time Square preparing for International Yoga Day celebrations

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In preparation for International Yoga Day on June 21, banners have been put up at the United Nations in New York
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In preparation for International Yoga Day on June 21, banners have been put up at the United Nations in New York
In preparation for International Yoga Day on June 21, banners have been put up at the United Nations in New York (IANS)

New York: As the world celebrates International Day of Yoga on Sunday in a unique event that is in many ways an endorsement of the Indian way of life, more than 30,000 people are expected to participate in a mass demonstration of the ancient art in the city’s Times Square, after global leaders and diplomats from around the world launch the observance at the UN headquarters.

Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon is to deliver the keynote address at the start of the day’s celebrations at the UN headquarters in an open plaza along the East River. India’s Permanent Representative, Asoke Kumar Mukerji, told reporters here Tuesday. General Assembly President, Sam Kutesa and External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj are slated to speak on the occasion along with representatives of some of the nations that co-sponsored the International Day of Yoga resolution.

Sri Sri Ravishankar, the founder of the Art of Living Foundation, is to give a lecture on the benefits of yoga and lead a demonstration by several hundred people at the UN and, through a video link, the thousands on Times Square – which is known as “the crossroads of the world.”

The UN celebrations are to be webcast on the UN network, and also are supposed to be shown on the NASDAQ market building’s giant, seven storey-tall video screen, and also on Times Square.

“Yoga offers a simple, accessible and inclusive means to promote physical and spirtual health and well-being,” Ban said in his message for International Day of Yoga. “It promotes respect for one’s fellow human beings and for the planet we share.”

He said that he had tried out yoga by doing the tree pose or Vrksasana, and “appreciated the simple sense of satisfaction that yoga can bring.”

A manifestation of the universal value of “vasudhaiva kutumbakam” — the world is one family, the UN General Assembly resolution for International Day of Yoga was co-sponsored by 177 nations, and adopted by acclamation by the 193-member organisation, Mukerji said. This was the largest number of co-sponsors ever for such a resolution, he added.

The idea of an International Day of Yoga was proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the General Assembly last September, calling yoga “a holistic approach to health and well being” and to finding “the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”

“Yoga embodies the unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; the harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”

For yoga day to be observed starting this year, Mukerji said that the resolution for it had to be passed by the General Assembly before the end of last year but the calendar had already been set with no room for fresh items.

The Indian Mission found a way around this, by invoking the association Modi made between health and yoga, Mukerji said. They had the Yoga Day resolution introduced as part of the health agenda, that was already on the calendar for December, he said.

The Mission brought the full force of multilateral diplomacy to bear the project, he said. The Indian diplomats were able to have the 18-sponsors they initially had, which then snowball to reach a total of 177 co-sponsors. And when both the United States and China signed on, the effort gained momentum.

Asked by a reporter about the role of Muslim countries as co-sponsors, and the controversies raised in India by some Muslims, Mukerji said that yoga was presented as a health matter with no religious undertones, and he pointed out that 47 of the 56 members of the Muslim grouping, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, joined as co-sponsors. While Pakistan and Saudi Arabia did not co-sponsor, they did not object to the resolution either. (IANS)

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Mysterious Health Incidents Affect 1 More American in Cuba

In all, 25 Americans have been affected by the mystery ailment in Cuba

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A view of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba on Sept.18, 2017.
A view of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba on Sept.18, 2017. VOA

One more U.S. Embassy employee in Havana, Cuba, has been affected by mysterious health incidents, the State Department said.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said one of two Americans recently evacuated from Cuba was “medically confirmed” to have been affected, while the other was “still being evaluated” by doctors.

25 Americans affected

In all, 25 Americans have been affected by the mystery ailment in Cuba.

“We still don’t know, to this day, what is causing it and who is responsible,” Nauert said, noting that investigations were underway in Havana as well as Guangzhou, China, where one employee experienced similar symptoms recently.

The United States has said that the Cuba incidents started in late 2016. The State Department calls them “specific attacks” but has not said what caused them or who was behind them. Cuba has adamantly denied involvement or knowledge.

Initial speculation centered on some type of sonic attack owing to strange sounds heard by those affected, but an interim FBI report in January found no evidence that sound waves could have caused the damage, The Associated Press has reported.

Secretary Kerry Touts Virtues of 10-Year U.S.-China Business and Tourism Visas Before Presenting First Documents in Beijing
Secretary Kerry Touts Virtues of 10-Year U.S.-China Business and Tourism Visas Before Presenting First Documents in Beijing, flickr

Warning issued in China

The State Department issued a health warning after the employee in China reported experiencing “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure” and was diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described it as a “serious medical incident.”

Also read: Cuba Invites United Nations human rights Investigator for first time in decade regarding Human Trafficking

The new confirmation came less than a week after the U.S. renewed demands on Cuba to determine the source of the “attacks” on U.S. diplomats. Cuba responded by again denying any involvement in or knowledge of any such attacks. (VOA)