INDEPENDENT 2024-07-12 00:08:28


Indian man proposes to girlfriend through her favourite crossword

A filmmaker from Pune in the western Indian state of Maharashtra has proposed to his girlfriend using the crossword of The Indian Express newspaper.

The man, who chose to stay anonymous, got in touch with the daily’s puzzle editor to place the message “Marry Me” in last Thursday’s crossword, with the clue reading, “Words with a nice ring to them?”

He also requested the word “champa,” Hindi for the Frangipani flower, which is of significance to the couple.

“I wanted the proposal to have something that’s part of our everyday life. I also wanted it to be intimate, rather than in a public space. And since IE’s crossword is something we have done together many times, it would be an unexpected surprise,” he told the newspaper.

The woman described being “in shock throughout”.

The couple, who are in a long-distance relationship, did the crossword regularly together over Whatsapp which gave the man the idea to incorporate it in his proposal.

Anant Goenka, executive director of the newspaper, shared the story on his social media, writing: “The girlfriend, a puzzle-loving historian, could not go a day without doing the Express crossword with her morning chai. The boyfriend emails the Express puzzles team enlisting our help to have ‘marry me’ in our mini crossword.”

The day of the proposal, 4 July, the man recalled getting anxious as his girlfriend struggled with a few of the clues.

“When she clicked on 7-Across, the pivotal clue, the answer did not strike her. So she moved on. Meanwhile, I kept fidgeting with the ring in my pocket. Seven minutes later, with more letters filled in, Juhi finally had her eureka moment,” he said.

As soon as she said the words “Marry me” out loud, he pulled the ring out and proposed.

“The moment she said it, everything started moving very fast. I pulled the ring out of my pocket and went down on one knee. Of course, she said yes!”

The crossword enthusiasts spent the next few minutes solving the rest of the crossword together, and called it one of their “slowest attempts”, clocking in at 12 minutes and 57 seconds.

The Internet reacted very happily to the sweet story, with several people praising the daily and the puzzles editor for going along with the idea and many joking this would induce them to start reading the newspaper and solve the crossword as well.

“What an absolutely endearing tale! Finding love between the lines, literally!” said one user on X.

Israeli military tells all residents of Gaza City to evacuate

The Israeli military has ordered all Palestinians in Gaza City to leave the besieged territory as heavy bombardment continued to jolt the region ahead of ceasefire talks.

The army on Wednesday dropped thousands of leaflets over the territory ordering “everyone in Gaza City“, which was home to more than half a million people before the war, to leave for the south. It set out escape routes and warned that the city would “remain a dangerous combat zone”.

Israel claimed the aim behind a revived offensive in Gaza was to seek out Hamas fighters who were allegedly regrouping in parts of the Strip. Wednesday’s warning follows three partial evacuation orders from Israel as the troops along with tanks stormed into the city this week.

Israel’s war in Gaza has already displaced most of the Strip’s 2.3 million people, with “nowhere safe” for them to escape.

The heavy strikes throughout Gaza in recent days, which have killed dozens of people, could be aimed at increasing pressure on Hamas during negotiations for a ceasefire, according to experts. The US, Egyptian and Qatari mediators are meeting with Israeli officials in Qatar for talks trying to push through a deal.

A White House national security spokesperson said the US was “cautiously optimistic that things are moving in a good direction”. “There are still gaps remaining between the two sides. We believe those gaps can be narrowed,” John Kirby told CNN.

Meanwhile, there appears to be no mass exodus southwards to central Gaza as people feared they could be shot or detained.

Maha Mahfouz, a mother of two, said she and five other families will head to Jabaliya refugee camp, which is north of Gaza City. “We will stay in the north to be close to our homes,” she told the Associated Press.

The main UN agency supporting Palestinians in Gaza has said around 200,000 Palestinians remain in the north of the territory.

Israeli tanks deepened their incursion into some districts including Shejaia, Sabra and Tel Al-Hawa, where residents reported the previous day some of the most fierce fighting since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.

Footage circulated on social media on Tuesday showed families packed onto donkey carts and in the backs of trucks piled with mattresses and other belongings racing through the city’s streets to flee areas under Israeli evacuation orders.

“Gaza City is being wiped out, this is what is happening. Israel is forcing us to leave homes under fire,” Um Tamer, a mother of seven, told Reuters via a chat app.

Multiple Israeli airstrikes on Wednesday killed 20 Palestinians in central Gaza, including six children and three women, some of them inside a purported “safe zone” declared by the Israeli military.

Israel’s war in Gaza in retaliation against the 7 October Hamas attack has killed more than 38,000 Palestinians. The war began after Hamas, in a surprise attack, stormed into southern Israel and killed some 1,200 people – mostly civilians – and abducted about 250 others.

Israeli restrictions, fighting and the breakdown of law and order have limited humanitarian aid efforts, causing widespread hunger and sparking fears of famine. The UN has ordered Israel to take steps to protect Palestinians as it examines genocide allegations against Israel’s top politicians. Israel, however, has denied charges.

11 killed after pickup truck collides with bus in northern Philippines

At least 11 people were killed after a pickup truck collided with a bus in northern Philippines on Thursday morning, police said. Six passengers were injured.

The small Toyota Hilux truck hit the side of the bus, lost control and crashed into a roadside food stall in the town of Abulug, police chief Major Antonio Palattao said. The town lies is 600km north of the capital Manila.

Both the drivers and food stall owner were injured.

The accident took place shortly after midnight and police said that the pickup driver’s unfamiliarity with the terrain was the likely reason.

“The driver of the Toyota Hilux is not well-oriented with the area and was not aware that they were already approaching a highway,” police captain Jun-jun Torio told AFP. “Naturally, you slow down when approaching one.”

Passengers of the pickup truck were members of the same family.

Mr Palattao said police were investigating to determine who was responsible for the accident.

The Philippines has seen several fatal road accidents recently due to weak enforcement of traffic laws, dilapidated vehicles and dangerous road conditions, including inadequate safety signs and barriers on mountainous roads and in remote provinces.

At least 17 people were killed in March when their passenger van was hit by a cargo truck and burst into flames in the southern Philippines.

The 10-wheel truck, carrying sand and gravel, was negotiating a downhill road when its brakes malfunctioned, causing it to slam into the van, police said.

UAE jails 43 activists for life after finding them guilty of terrorism

The Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal in the UAE sentenced 43 people to life in prison in a mass trial on Wednesday.

The trial was criticised by human rights groups who said it targeted political dissidents and activists, linking them to Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the UAE.

The defendants were sentenced for “creating, establishing and managing the Justice and Dignity Committee” for the purpose of committing terrorist acts in the country, state news agency WAM reported.

The court said they “have worked to create and replicate violent events in the country, similar to what has occurred in other Arab states — including protests and clashes between the security forces and protesting crowds — that led to deaths and injuries and to the destruction of facilities, as well as the consequent spread of panic and terror among people”.

The court, however, acquitted 24 other defendants.

Those sentenced included prominent academic Nasser bin Ghaith and activist Ahmed Mansoor.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International condemned the trial for alleged due process violations and called for the immediate release of the defendants.

“These over-the-top long sentences make a mockery of justice and are another nail in the coffin for the UAE’s nascent civil society,” Joey Shea, a researcher focusing on the UAE for Human Rights Watch told news agency Associated Press.

“The UAE has dragged scores of its most dedicated human rights defenders and civil society members through a shamelessly unfair trial riddled with due process violations and torture allegations.”

Amnesty International’s UAE researcher Devin Kenney said in a statement that the Gulf nation “must urgently revoke this unlawful verdict and immediately release the defendants”.

“The trial has been a shameless parody of justice and violated multiple fundamental principles of law, including the principle that you cannot try the same person twice for the same crime, and the principle that you cannot punish people retroactively under laws that didn’t exist at the time of the alleged offence,” he said. “Trying 84 Emiratis at once, including 26 prisoners of conscience and well-known human rights defenders, is a scarcely disguised exercise in punishing dissenters that has been further marred by a myriad of fair trial violations, the most serious of which is uninvestigated allegations of torture and other ill-treatment.”

Khalid Ibrahim of the Gulf Center for Human Rights told the BBC it was “a real tragedy that so many activists and human rights defenders will remain in prison for decades, deprived of watching their children grow up, for no other reason than calling for a better future for Emiratis”.

Chinese tourist rescued 36 hours after being swept out to sea in Japan

A Chinese tourist has been rescued nearly 36 hours after going missing from a beach in Japan.

The woman, 21, who has not been named, was swept out to sea while swimming at Shirahama beach at around 7.30pm on Monday. She was wearing a float ring.

Her friend, who was with her, informed the police.

A search and rescue operation was quickly launched by local police and fire departments and the Japan Coast Guard.

The woman was found by a cargo ship about 80km off the coast on Wednesday morning.

“It was around 7.55pm on July 8 when we received the information after the woman’s friend reported to a nearby convenience store that she was missing,” a coast guard official was quoted as saying by AFP.

The woman was found heavily dehydrated but conscious, the coast guard told Kyodo News.

The tourist said she found herself drifting about 30 minutes after she began swimming and tried hard to return to the coast, but was not able to, reported NHK Japan.

She was airlifted by a coast guard helicopter and taken to a hospital in Yokohama City. She did not require hospitalisation and was quickly discharged.

“She is strong, optimistic and full of hope. We are incredibly grateful that she did not give up on herself,” a friend of the woman wrote on Chinese social media, according to the Shanghai Daily affiliate Shine.

Police say father tried to ‘prevent rescue’ of children from fire

A father in Australia has been charged with murder after he allegedly set fire to his home and trapped his children inside.

The 28-year-old man, who was not named by the police, has been charged with killing his two boys, aged three and six, and a five-month-old baby girl.

He first attacked his partner before setting his Lalor Park home on fire and then attempted to trap his seven children inside at about 1am on Sunday, the local police said.

The man was charged with three counts of murder, five counts of attempted murder, and one charge of destroying property with the intent to endanger life, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The mother of the children, three boys, and a nine-year-old girl escaped the house fire.

The 29-year-old woman has since been discharged from the hospital and is in stable condition, police said. Four children are in stable condition as well.

The father remains under police guard at Westmead Hospital, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

“We’re alleging that 28-year-old man took direct actions to prevent the rescue of those young lives,” NSW Police Homicide Squad Superintendent Danny Doherty said, adding it was “unimaginable how the family is coping”.

Mr Doherty said the matter was being treated as a “domestic (violence) related multiple homicide”.

“At this stage it does appear the 28-year-old is responsible for multiple deaths of young lives that have been tragically taken away,” Supt Doherty said.

“The 28-year-old man is currently in police guard at hospital, he is in an induced coma at the moment being treated for smoke inhalation and other medical issues related to the fire.

“He has spoken and communicated. He recovered fairly well.

“He understands that three of his children have died as a result of this house fire, and he understands he’s been charged with those nine offences,” he said.

On Sunday, one of the neighbours heard the shouts of the children and stepped out to check. Jarrod Hawkins was quoted as saying that he struggled to see past a thick layer of smoke once he stepped outside.

“I then heard kids coughing and yelling to my right,” he said.

“Those kids were unreal, very happy, full of energy, just typical kids,” he recalled. “The front door was locked, but I kept shoulder-barging it until I smashed it in,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“There was too much smoke, I couldn’t see a thing, but I knew the daughter was inside.”

Meanwhile, the father’s case was heard in a local court on Thursday. He did not apply for bail, and his case was adjourned until 6 September.

Pakistan allows powerful spy agency to tap phone calls and messages

Pakistan has authorised its powerful spy agency to tap phone calls and messages, tightening the army’s grip on the South Asian nation.

Citizens and human rights advocates have criticised the move amid fears it could be weaponised to suppress political opponents and throttle dissent.

The ISI, which is run by the military, will be able to legally intercept and trace phone calls and messages in the interest of “national security”.

Federal law minister Azam Nazeer Tarar told the parliament that the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications has been advised of the authorisation in an 8 July notice.

”Anyone who misuses the law will face action,” he said on Tuesday while claiming that the authorisation is limited to tracking criminal and terrorist activities and that the government will ensure it doesn’t infringe people’s lives and privacy.

“The federal government in the interest of national security and in the apprehension of any offence is pleased to authorise officers,” the notice states, according to Reuters, “to intercept calls and messages or to trace calls through any telecoms system.”

Parliamentarians from jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party opposed the decision.

Khan has previously backed the ISI’s surveillance of telephone calls of politicians, even his own, in the absence of legal authorisation.

Omar Ayub Khan, the opposition leader in the parliament, said the spy agency will use its powers even against lawmakers and vowed that his party will mount a legal challenge.

A Pakistani citizen challenged the notification in the Lahore high court on Monday.

The opposition leader said the authorisation, which allows the spy agency to monitor social media accounts as well, gives it power to control free speech.

“Only a fascist government would grant an intelligence agency complete authority to tap citizens’ phones,” he was quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper.

By promulgating this measure, he said, prime minister Shehbaz Sharif has “cut his own throat”.

The law minister responded that police and intelligence agencies already “operate under this law whenever access to some data or interception is required”.

He recalled that former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassins were tracked down using similar methods in 2007.

“Time and again, we have witnessed that in the name of national security, individual freedoms are consistently under attack,” Iqbal Khattak, executive director of the Freedom Network civil liberties group in Islamabad, told Arab News.

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