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Kurram Tangi Dam project Stage-I to be completed in June 2023: Wapda chairman

The stage-I of Kurram Tangi Dam project will irrigate 16,380 acres of land and generate about 19 megawatt of electricity.

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Kurram Tangi Dam project Stage-I to be completed in June 2023: Wapda chairman
GNN Media: Representational Photo

Kurram Tangi Dam Project’s Stage-I, being constructed in North Waziristan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, will be completed by June 2023, Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) Chairman Lt Gen Muzammil Hussain (Retd) said during his visit to the project on Tuesday. 

The chairman, according to a press release, urged upon the project management to expedite their efforts for completion of Kurram Tangi Dam Project’s Stage-I in accordance with the construction schedule and stipulated standard of works.

Highlighting the benefits relating to irrigation and power generation, he said that the project will help attain sustainable development through irrigated agriculture and low-cost hydel electricity, thus, creating job opportunities and alleviating poverty in the remote and backward area. 

The Chairman said that water security is considered to be an integral part of human development the world over, that is why, Wapda has been constructing about a dozen of projects to tap the water resources to the maximum in the country. Kurram Tangi Dam is one of such projects, he added.

Earlier, WAPDA Chairman visited various components of the project including weir (dam), irrigation system and the power houses.

The project management briefed the Chairman of the progress made so far on Stage-I of Kurram Tangi Dam Project. 

It is worth mentioning that Wapda has been implementing Kurram Tangi Dam Project in two stages.

At present, construction work is continuing on Stage-I, under which a weir (dam) has been completed near Spinwam, 28 kilometers from Mir Ali in North Waziristan. Construction activities are also in progress on irrigation system and small hydel power stations.

On completion, Stage-I of Kurram Tangi Dam Project will irrigate 16,380 acres of land and generate about 19 MW of electricity.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is providing US$ 81 million as grant while Italian Corporation is chipping in US$ 45 million as a soft loan to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government for command area development.

Frontier Works Organization (FWO) Director General (DG)Maj Gen Kamal Azfar accompanied the Wapda chairman during the visit.

Representatives of the consultants, the contractor and WAPDA project management were also present on the occasion. 

 

Faisal Ali Ghumman

Mr. Ghumman is a seasoned journalist who has 19 years of diversified experience in print, electronic and digital media. He has worked with 92 News HD, Daily Pakistan Today, Daily The Business, Daily Dawn, Daily Times and Pakistan Observer as News Reporter, Feature Writer, Editor, Web Content Editor and Article Writer. Mr Ghumman has graduated from the Bahauddin Zakariya University Multan and is currently enrolled in M.Phil in Mass Communication at the University of Punjab.

Health

'Variant of concern': WHO names new Covid variant as Omicron

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday classified the B.1.1.529 variant detected in South Africa as a SARS-CoV-2 "variant of concern," saying it may spread more quickly than other forms.

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'Variant of concern': WHO names new Covid variant as Omicron

Preliminary evidence suggested there is an increased risk of reinfection and there had been a "detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology," it said in a statement after a closed meeting of independent experts who reviewed the data.

Infections in South Africa had risen steeply in recent weeks, coinciding with detection of the variant now designated as omicron, WHO said.

"This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other (variants of concern), it said.

Omicron is the fifth variant to carry such a designation.
"This variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage," the WHO said.

Current PCR tests continue to successfully detect the variant, it said.

Earlier, the WHO cautioned countries against hastily imposing travel restrictions linked to the variant of COVID-19, saying they should take a "risk-based and scientific approach".

Global authorities reacted with alarm to the new variant detected in South Africa, with the EU and Britain among those tightening border controls as scientists sought to find out if the mutation was vaccine-resistant. L1N2SH089

"At this point, implementing travel measures is being cautioned against," WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a U.N. briefing in Geneva. "The WHO recommends that countries continue to apply a risk-based and scientific approach when implementing travel measures."

It would take several weeks to determine the variant's transmissibility and the effectiveness of vaccines and therapeutics against it, he said, noting that 100 sequences of the variant have been reported so far.

People should continue to wear masks whenever possible, avoid large gatherings, ventilate rooms and maintain hand hygiene, Lindmeier added.

Mike Ryan, WHO's emergency director, praised South African public health institutions for picking up the signal of the new variant.

But he warned that while some countries had systems in place to do this, the situation elsewhere was often unclear.

"So it's really important that there are no knee-jerk responses here. Especially with relation to South Africa," he said. "Because we've seen in the past, the minute that there is any mention of any kind of variation, then everyone is closing borders and restricting travel."

SOURCE: REUTERS

 

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World

Ban on travel from Africa widens as new Covid variant sparks fear

WHO names new variant as Omicron which is more infectious than Delta: New virus reaches Europe 

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Ban on travel from Africa widens as new Covid variant sparks fear

New York: The United States, Brazil, Canada, and Saudi Arabia became the latest countries to restrict travel from southern Africa, where a new Covid strain labelled a "variant of concern" has been discovered in a potentially heavy blow to the world's efforts to end the coronavirus pandemic.

The World Health Organization said the new variant is more infectious than the dominant, highly transmissible Delta strain, and renamed this B.1.1.529 strain of Covid-19 as Omicron.

It has reached Europe with one confirmed case in Belgium after being found in South Africa, Botswana and then in Hong Kong.

Anxious tourists in Johannesburg rushed to the airport to catch a last flight out as nations across the globe started shutting their doors, while many worried the new variant could be more resistant to vaccines.

Markets around the world plunged as news of the latest setback in the fight against the pandemic sank in.

US President Joe Biden said countries should donate more Covid-19 vaccines and give up intellectual property protections to manufacture more doses worldwide to stem the spread of the virus.

"The news about this new variant should make clearer than ever why this pandemic will not end until we have global vaccinations," he said.

Scientists are now racing to determine the threat posed by the heavily mutated strain, and whether the current coronavirus vaccines should be adjusted.

The WHO said it could take several weeks to understand the variant and cautioned against imposing travel curbs while scientific evidence was still scant.

EU officials holding an emergency meeting agreed to urge all 27 nations in the bloc to restrict travel from southern Africa, even though many members had already announced flight suspensions.

 

- 'Draconian' travel bans -

Europe is already struggling with a coronavirus surge, and the Netherlands on Friday became the latest country to ramp up anti-Covid restrictions with the early closure of bars, restaurants and shops.

"From Sunday, the whole of the Netherlands is effectively closed between 5pm and 5am," Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.

Belgium announced the first publicly known case of B.1.1.529 in Europe: an unvaccinated person who returned on November 11 from Egypt via Turkey. The health ministry did not give the individual's nationality, age or gender.

"It must be repeated that this is a suspect variant -- we don't know if it is a very dangerous variant," Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said.

Israel said it has quarantined three people, one having just returned from Malawi.

Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Cyprus and the Netherlands joined Britain Friday in suspending flights from southern Africa. 

The United States, Brazil, Canada and Guatemala also restricted travel from the region. The US measures go into force on Monday.

Japan said it will require a 10-day quarantine period for travelers from the area.

The shock measures included South Africa, as well as many of the following: Botswana, Eswatini (Swaziland), Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

South Africa's health ministry called the global rush to impose travel bans "draconian."

Germany on Friday used a military plane to transfer intensive-care patients to less afflicted regions, in an unprecedented move as it battles a vicious fourth wave of the pandemic.

"The last thing we need now is an introduced new variant," Germany's acting health minister Jens Spahn said.

The Philippines also suspended flights from southern Africa, while Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Morocco announced bans, as well.

 

- 'Ridiculous' -

The rush to close off southern Africa comes a day after scientists in Johannesburg said they had detected the new strain with at least 10 mutations, compared with two for the Delta.

The variant is of "serious concern" and had been blamed for a surge in infection numbers, authorities in South Africa said. 

Spooked European markets fell at close by three percent, with airline shares especially hit. Tokyo closed down 2.53 percent.

The new variant caused Wall Street to plunge in Friday's holiday shortened session, with the Dow Jones index suffering its worst loss of the year as it plunged 2.5 percent.

And next week's World Trade Organization ministerial conference, the global trade body's biggest gathering in four years, was called off at the last minute Friday due to the new variant, a source told AFP.

The European Medicines Agency said it was "premature" to talk about modifying current vaccines to target the new variant.

Germany's BioNTech and US drugmaker Pfizer said they were studying the variant, with impact data expected "in two weeks at the latest" to say whether their jointly developed vaccine should be adjusted if Omicron spreads globally.

But Moderna said it will develop a booster specific to the new variant as part of a three-pronged strategy to fight it.  

Omicron variant poses 'high to very high' risk to Europe

The new Covid variant, dubbed Omicron and originally detected in South Africa, poses a "high to very high" risk to Europe, the EU health agency warned on Friday.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) noted in a threat assessment report that there was still "considerable uncertainty related to the transmissibility, vaccine effectiveness, risk for reinfections and other properties of the Omicron variant."

However, the overall risk that Omicron posed to the European Union and European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) was "high to very high."

Given the possibility that current vaccines may not protect against the variant, and the fact that it may be more transmissible, "we assess the probability of further introduction and community spread in the EU/EEA as high," the Stockholm-based agency said. 

"In a situation where the Delta variant is resurgent in the EU/EEA, the impact of the introduction and possible further spread of Omicron could be very high," it added. 

Apart from South Africa, Omicron has been detected in Israel in a person coming from Malawi as well as in Botswana, Hong Kong and EU member Belgium.

The agency urged countries to conduct genomic sequencing and contact tracing of confirmed cases, and called for people to not travel to affected areas.

The World Health Organization on Friday declared the recently-discovered strain to be a variant of concern.

The classification puts Omicron into the most-troubling category of Covid-19 variants, along with the globally-dominant Delta, plus its weaker rivals Alpha, Beta and Gamma.

Nations rushed to ban flights to slow the spread of Omicron on Friday, while stock markets and oil prices plunged on fears surrounding the variant, potentially dealing a heavy blow to the global economic recovery.

SOURCE: AFP

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Technology

Crypto miners are using hacked cloud accounts, Google warns

Cryptocurrency miners are using hacked Google Cloud accounts for computationally-intensive mining purposes, Google has warned.

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Crypto miners are using hacked cloud accounts, Google warns

The search giant’s cybersecurity team provided details of the security breach in a report published Wednesday. The so-called “Threat Horizons” report aims to provide intelligence that allows organizations to keep their cloud environments secure.

“Malicious actors were observed performing cryptocurrency mining within compromised Cloud instances,” Google wrote in an executive summary of the report.

Cryptocurrency mining is a for-profit activity that often requires large amounts of computing power, which Google Cloud customers can access at a cost. Google Cloud is a remote storage platform where customers can keep data and files off-site.

Google said 86% of 50 recently compromised Google Cloud accounts were used to perform cryptocurrency mining. In the majority of the breaches, cryptocurrency mining software was downloaded within 22 seconds of the account being compromised, Google said.

Around 10% of the compromised accounts were also used to conduct scans of other publicly available resources on the internet to identify vulnerable systems, while 8% of instances were used to attack other targets.

Bitcoin, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency, has been criticized for being too energy intensive. Bitcoin mining uses more energy than some entire countries. In May, police raided a suspected cannabis farm to find it was in fact an illegal bitcoin mine.

“The cloud threat landscape in 2021 was more complex than just rogue cryptocurrency miners, of course,” wrote Bob Mechler, director of the office of the chief information security officer at Google Cloud, and Seth Rosenblatt, security editor at Google Cloud, in a blog post.

They said Google researchers also exposed a phishing attack by Russian group APT28/Fancy Bear at the end of September, adding that Google blocked the attack.

Google researchers also identified a North Korean government-backed threat group which posed as Samsung recruiters to send malicious attachments to employees at several South Korean anti-malware cybersecurity companies, they added.

SOURCE: CNBC

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