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British royals to move out of Buckingham Palace wing for repairs

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London: Britain’s royal family are to move out of the famous front wing of London’s Buckingham Palace later this year as part of a multi-million pound building repair project, palace aides said .
The royal household will “decant” from the east wing of the palace, the public facade which houses the balcony on which Queen Elizabeth and her family appear for significant events, as part a program of urgent work to replace aging electrical wiring and heating systems.
“In terms of the outward appearance of the front of the palace I think that people will notice very little change,” said a palace spokesman, adding there would be no need for scaffolding.
News of the renovations was revealed by royal aides as they gave details of the “Sovereign Grant”, the annual government handout that covers staffing costs, upkeep of royal palaces and travel expenses.
The grant is based on 15 percent of surplus revenue from the Crown Estate, a property portfolio belonging to the monarchy, from two years previously. In 2016, this percentage was raised to 25 percent for a decade to pay for the overhaul of Buckingham Palace.
That meant the royals received 76.1 million pounds for 2017-18 and next year will get 82.2 million pounds. Michael Stevens, the queen’s treasurer, known as Keeper of the Privy Purse, said the cost of the monarchy to every Briton last year equated to 69 pence, up four pence from last year.
Buckingham Palace was originally a large house townhouse built in 1703 and acquired by George III in 1761. It was extended in the reign of Queen Victoria while the front was refaced in 1914 when George V was king.
The 10-year overhaul will cost 369 million pounds ($485 million).
The emptying of the east wing will mean the queen’s children Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward moving their offices, while Andrew and Edward, who also have overnight rooms in the wing, will have to be found accommodation elsewhere in the palace.
It will not directly affect the 92-year-old monarch and her husband Prince Philip, 97, whose private apartments are located in the north wing, nor heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles whose London home is Clarence House.
However, 10,000 items including paintings and other works of art will have to be moved, put in storage or sent out on loan while 120 members of staff are being relocated.
Anti-monarchy republicans in Britain say the true cost of the royals to taxpayers is at least 345 million pounds a year because some items such as security are ignored. Meanwhile newspapers have often been critical of the amount spent on minor royals and travel expenses.
This year’s report revealed that by far the biggest travel expense was incurred by Prince Charles and his wife Camilla whose trip to India, Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei amounted to 362,149 pounds.


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Amid Indo-Pak tension, Navy deployed nuclear submarines, aircraft carrier

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New Delhi: Aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, nuclear submarine Chakra, 60 ships and nearly 80 aircraft were put on operational deployment by the Indian Navy in the North Arabian sea in the wake of escalating tensions between India and Pakistan following the Pulwama terror attack, officials said.

They said the naval assets were part of a mega exercise but they transited from the area of the drill for operational deployment soon after the February 14 Pulwama terror attack that increased tensions between Pakistan and India.

At a tri-services press conference on February 28, the Indian Navy said it was in a high state of readiness to “deter, prevent and defeat” any “misadventure” by Pakistan in the maritime domain, reflecting a sense of its preparedness as well as seriousness of the situation.

 

“The major combat units of the Indian Navy including the Carrier Battle Group with INS Vikramaditya, nuclear submarines and scores of other ships, submarines and aircraft swiftly transited from exercise to operational deployment mode as tensions between India and Pakistan escalated,” Navy Spokesperson Capt DK Sharma said.

The naval assets comprising 60 ships of the Indian Navy, 12 ships of the Indian Coast Guard, and 60 aircraft were part of the theatre level operational readiness exercise (TROPEX 19), which commenced on January 19 in Andaman and Nicobar islands, and was to be concluded on March 10.

However, the Jaish-e-Mohammed sponsored Pulwama attack on February 14 led to the rapid redeployment of ships, submarines and aircraft for operations in North Arabian sea, Capt Sharma said.

“The overwhelming superiority of Indian Navy in all three dimensions — on surface, under-sea and in air — forced the Pakistan Navy to remain deployed close to the Makran coast and not venture out in the open ocean,” he said.

Twelve days after the Pulwama attack, Indian fighter jets bombed the Jaish-e-Mohammed’s biggest training camp near Balakot deep inside Pakistan on February 26. Pakistan retaliated by attempting to target Indian military installations next day.

Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba will assess outcome of the TROPEX in the Kochi naval base on Monday.

The day-long review by Admiral Lanba with all operational commanders is intended to examine the conduct of the exercise and to assess the operational preparedness of the Indian Navy, said the Navy spokesperson.

Exercise Tropex was followed by the largest coastal defence drill — ‘Sea Vigil’ on January 22 and 23 with participation of 13 coastal states and union territories along with all maritime stakeholders.

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‘Don’t have any grudge’: Husband of victim says he forgives NZ mosque gunman

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Christchurch: A man whose wife was killed in the Christchurch attack as she rushed back into a mosque to rescue him said he harbours no hatred toward the gunman, insisting forgiveness is the best path forward.

“I would say to him ‘I love him as a person’,” Farid Ahmad told AFP. “I could not accept what he did. What he did was a wrong thing.”

Asked if he forgave the 28-year-old white supremacist suspect, he said: “Of course. The best thing is forgiveness, generosity, loving and caring, positivity.”

 

Husna Ahmad, 44, was killed at the Al Noor mosque — the first of two targeted by the gunman.

Fifty people, at least four of them women, were killed in the attack on the mosques where worshippers had gone for Friday prayers.

Ahmad and his wife emigrated from Bangladesh to New Zealand in 1990 and have one daughter.

When the shooting started, Husna helped several people escape from the women’s and children’s hall.

“She was screaming ‘come this way, hurry up’, and she took many children and ladies towards a safe garden,” Ahmad said.

“Then she was coming back for checking about me, because I was in a wheelchair, and as she was approaching the gate she was shot. She was busy saving lives, forgetting about herself.”

Ahmad, 59, who has been confined to a wheelchair since being hit by a drunk driver in 1998, believes he escaped the hail of bullets because the gunman was focused on other targets.

“This guy was shooting one person two, three times, probably that gave some time to us to move out… even the dead he was shooting them again.”

Ahmad, who was a butcher but now sells homeopathy products, did not see his wife when he left the mosque and only learned of her death after someone photographed her body.

“Her picture was out in the social media, so somebody showed me the picture and I identified quite easily.”

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China says 13,000 Xinjiang ‘terrorists’ arrested since 2014

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Beijing: China says it has arrested nearly 13,000 people it describes as terrorists in the traditionally Islamic region of Xinjiang since 2014 and broken up hundreds of “terrorist gangs.”

The figures were included in a government report on the situation in the restive northwestern territory that seeks to respond to growing criticism over the internment of an estimated 1 million members of the Uighur (WEE-gur) and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups.

China describes the camps as vocational training centers and says participation is voluntary. Former detainees say they were held in abusive conditions, forced to renounce Islam and swear allegiance to China’s ruling Communist Party.

 

The lengthy report issued Monday also says “law-based de-radicalization” in Xinjiang has curbed the rise and spread of religious extremism.

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