Americans Applying for UK Visas Turned Down Over ‘Technical Issue’

Americans Applying for UK Visas Turned Down Over ‘Technical Issue'

A glitch in the system has created a bureaucratic fence for applicants in the US who were told the biometric enrolment service provided by the Department of Homeland Security was suspended.

“Alert for UK visa customers: Biometric enrolment services provided by US Dept. of Homeland Security Application Support Centers are temporarily suspended due to a technical issue. Work is ongoing to restore service as soon as possible. Follow link in thread for info & updates,” the British Embassy in Washington DC tweeted.

— British Embassy Washington (@UKinUSA) April 12, 2019​

The British government allegedly missed a payment to the Department of Homeland Security, causing a halt in services.Meanwhile, US visa centres have arranged access to a limited standard service via VFS Global, which manages visa and passport issuance-related administrative and non-discretionary tasks for its client governments. 

With 10 VFS Premium Application Centres across the US, American citizens are encouraged to find the closest office to them in order to submit a work, study or settlement visa application.

“We are working on setting this in place as soon as possible — please monitor this page for updates on restoration of ASC services. We apologise for the inconvenience caused,” UK Visas & Immigration said.

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Fans baffled by Kim K‘s weird bathroom

Kim Kardashian recently let the cameras into her Californian mansion — but left fans baffled after they noticed she didn’t have any basins in her bathroom sinks.

The 38-year-old was doing an interview alongside husband Kanye West, 41, recently when the cameraman gave viewers a glimpse around the reality star’s home, reports The Sun.

Fans baffled by Kim K‘s weird bathroom

The reality TV star took Vogue on a tour of her home.Source:YouTube

But, as the interviewer continued to ask Kardashian questions for her latest Vogue interview, the attention soon turned to her minimalist bathroom.

One eagle-eyed fan took to Twitter to demand an explanation for the missing basins.

They said: “can someone PLEASE explain the sinks at kim & kanye’s house.”

And it seems as though she wasn’t alone, as many other fans began commenting on the fan’s post.

this is THE most bafffling thing i have ever seen— han (@hannahharp1) April 11, 2019

Everything about their home makes me anxious— Kara (@thebostonista) April 13, 2019

pic.twitter.com/kuOAcmEU67— Marie McClain (@mariemac1908) April 13, 2019

Saw that too. I’m so intrigued!!!!! I need answers.— •You Should See Me In A Crown• (@narislobster) April 13, 2019

However, others came up with logical explanations about the sink’s design.

It looks flat from a distance, but it’s not fully flat. I would say it’s maybe half an inch deep in total, and there’s a slight groove to it, and a very carefully tested direction of the tap.— Gustaf (@iswdn) April 13, 2019

you all need to look closely, the countertop is not flat so the water flows to the small slot drain, it may not be for everyone but i think it is really cool— Peter DeWitt (@Witts_end_D) April 15, 2019

Zero depth. Drains are the narrow slots you can see. Pretty cool— Johnny NoDak (@johnspiek) April 13, 2019

Earlier this week, Kardashian hit back at critics who mocked her for studying law.

She revealed in the chat with Vogue she hoped to qualify as a lawyer in four years.

Her comments prompted a backlash on social media, with some claiming Kardashian was making a mockery of the legal system because she’d never been to law school.

She turned on her critics in a scathing Instagram post and said she had a right to study for the bar, as she lived in one of the four states in America where anyone can train without having to go to college.

Kardashian wrote: “I’ve seen some comments from people who are saying it’s my privilege or my money that got me here, but that’s not the case. One person actually said I should ‘stay in my lane’.

“I want people to understand that there is nothing that should limit your pursuit of your dreams and the accomplishment of new goals.

“The state bar doesn’t care who you are. Everyone can take this route if you live in a state where this is allowed.”

This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced here with permission

Maduro Asks Portugal to Unblock Over $1.7Bln of Venezuela Funds

Maduro Asks Portugal to Unblock Over $1.7Bln of Venezuela Funds

CARACAS (Sputnik) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro demanded that more than $1.7 billion of Venezuelan funds that were used to buy medicines be unblocked by the Portuguese authorities.

“In one of the Portuguese banks they robbed us of $1,726 billion that we were using to buy medicines and food… I call on the government of Portugal to free this money. Why do they leave us without money? It is ours,” Maduro told the state television.Venezuela has been suffering from an economic crisis for months, which worsened as the United States imposed several rounds of sanctions against the country after opposition leader Juan Guaido illegally declared himself interim president in late January.

Constitutionally elected Maduro has accused the United States of trying to orchestrate a coup in order to install Guaido as a US puppet. Russia, China, Cuba, Bolivia, Turkey, and a number of other countries have voiced their support for Maduro as the only legitimate president of Venezuela.

Foxconn’s Gou says will follow order of sea goddess to run for Taiwan presidency

Foxconn's Gou says will follow order of sea goddess to run for Taiwan presidency

FILE PHOTO: Terry Gou, founder and chairman of Foxconn, greets during an event that marks the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act, in Taipei, Taiwan April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Terry Gou, chairman of Apple supplier Foxconn, said on Wednesday he will follow the order of a sea goddess who has told him to run in Taiwan’s 2020 presidential election, although he added he has not yet formally declared his intention to contest.

Gou was speaking as more than 100 people crowded into Ci Hui temple in Banqiao, New Taipei City, where the billionaire executive was born and grew up.

The temple is devoted to the sea goddess Mazu, a popular figure in Taiwan that governs everything from safety to fortune.

On Tuesday, Gou said he was considering whether to run for Taiwan’s presidential election, a day after Reuters reported he planned to step down as chairman from Foxconn.

Venezuelan Crisis Can End if US Halts Economic War – Former UN Official

Venezuelan Crisis Can End if US Halts Economic War – Former UN Official

Despite all the efforts of the US and its allies, the Venezuelan government has continued to survive internal and international pressure. Speaking to Sputnik, analysts specialising in Venezuelan affairs have shared their views on the current developments and explain why the US has so far failed to coerce Caracas into submission.

The Venezuelan economy has been facing an acute crisis since the beginning of the decade; its economy has contracted, its GDP has fallen steadily and more than 3 million people having left the country. The US and its Western allies blame Maduro’s governments and that of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. However, analysts say that the mainstream media narrative is completely detached from reality.

‘US Took Machiavellian Advantage of Venezuela’s Vulnerability’

“The mainstream narrative is demonstrably false. Here we have to do with an economic war dating back to 1999 and with draconian measures to asphyxiate the Venezuelan economy since 2015,” Alfred de Zayas, an American lawyer, writer, historian, and former UN rapporteur to Venezuela, told Sputnik.However, Zayas does not try to gloss over Caracas’ mistakes: “Perhaps the worst mistake Chavez and Maduro made was not to diversify the economy in the years 1999-2014, before the price of crude oil collapsed. A country that depends 95% on oil exports is hugely vulnerable to the volatility of the market,” he explained, adding that Washington had taken “Machiavellian advantage of the Venezuelan vulnerability”.

Ricardo Vaz, a writer and editor at Venezuelanalysis.com, echoed the lawyer by stressing that the US’ unilaterally imposed sanctions had had “a devastating effect on Venezuela’s economy, with the expressed purpose of causing as much suffering as possible so as to provoke a coup, or force the government to resign”.

“It hearkens back to Nixon’s famous quote of ‘making the economy scream,’ at the time in reference to Chile,” Vaz recalled.

The writer highlighted that contrary to the MSM narrative, “Venezuela actually enjoyed the most prosperous time in its history during the 10 years” before the crisis erupted in 2013-2014.

Commenting on the issue, Alina Duarte, a journalist at TeleSUR, elaborated that the Western MSM had waged an extensive information war against the country.

“Saying that there is a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is just one of the last episodes of the hegemonic narratives against the government of Venezuela that began in December 1998 when Hugo Chavez took power,” she said, adding that political, economic and media attacks have been going on for the last two decades.According to the journalist, “the US blockade against Venezuela can only be compared to the one imposed against Cuba since 1960.” Duarte pointed out that according to Caracas’ February estimates, “direct losses to the nation’s economy were 38 billion dollars, 15 billion related to the siege against the company Citgo, a subsidiary of the state oil company Venezuelan Petroleum in the US”. Additionally, the Bank of England has frozen 1.2 billion dollars in Venezuelan gold reserves.

In early April, the Trump administration stepped up sanctions against the country, this time targeting oil shipments between Venezuela and Cuba. On 15 April, the US Treasury Department blacklisted four more shipowners and nine tankers involved in Venezuelan oil trade with Cuba.

Guaido’s Economic Programme Has All the Hallmarks of Neoliberalism

Meanwhile, the MSM is intensively covering Juan Guaido, the head of the dis-empowered National Assembly, who proclaimed himself interim president of Venezuela on 23 January 2019. Very little is known about his political programme which prompts questions as to whether he is competent and what reforms he would have carried out if he had come to power.

According to Vaz, “Guaido’s intentions and political plan are actually quite clear”.

“A ‘country plan’ (‘Plan País’) has been published and presented on different occasions, with all the hallmarks of neoliberalism one can think of”, the writer explained. “There are plans to open up state sectors to private capital, particularly the oil industry, remove regulations, tax reform, and expectations of a hefty loan from the likes of the IMF, with all that it entails.”For his part, Zayas highlighted that “Guaido is an industrial engineer, not an economist nor a lawyer”.

“Basically he is an unknown who has been manufactured by the United States, and, of course, he follows instructions,” the lawyer suggested. “Guaido would usher in massive retrogression in economic, social and cultural rights and return the country to the good old days ‘when the rich were rich and the poor were poor’.”

Referring to Guaido’s presidential bid, the former UN rapporteur to Venezuela underscored that the Venezuelan Constitution “does not recognise the competence of the National Assembly to nominate the interim president”.

“Should Maduro die or become incompetent, it is the Vice-President, Delcy Rodriguez, who would be the constitutional successor”, he explained. “Article 233, which Guaido invokes, simply does not apply to his case. But, of course, he is not a constitutional lawyer.”

Opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido speaks to supporters during a rally to protest outages that left most of the country scrambling for days in the dark in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, April 6, 2019

Guaido’s Support Has Been Dwindling

Guaido has failed to command nation-wide support so far, Vaz noted. According to the journalist, “the success of the coup hinged on two variables: Guaido’s ability to generate massive support beyond the opposition’s traditional middle and upper class base, and a rupture in the Venezuelan armed forces.”

“[However] neither has happened”, he emphasised. “Guaido’s support has also been dwindling, with enthusiasm in his ranks withering away.”

According to the analysts, Guaido’s major supporters are the US and its allies, as well as Venezuelan oligarchs inside and outside the country.

Duarte drew attention to the fact that what the US was trying to do in Venezuela does not differ much from what it had done “in Libya, Iraq, Honduras, even in Venezuela in 2002 but they failed”.

“What we need is to understand that the Venezuelan problems need to be solved by the Venezuelan people and that if the international community want to stand for the people in Venezuela they need to make a call to the US to stop the sanctions that are deepening the crisis instead of solving it,” she stressed.

There is Nothing More Undemocratic Than Coup D’etat

Despite the ongoing economic crisis, power outages and Western MSM smear campaign, the situation in Venezuela remains relatively calm, Vaz noted.

“The situation on the streets of Venezuela, in contrast to the frenzied picture broadcast by the media, has been one of relative calm,” he said. “This is not a country at war or anything like it. However, it is undeniable that there is a severe economic crisis going on, which has hit people very hard, especially the poorest sectors of society. Everyday problems such as accessing food have now been compounded by an electricity crisis.”He reiterated that “it [was] not the case that what we have is a humanitarian crisis”.

“Experts have warned against the misuse of this term, which the US and the Venezuelan opposition employ to justify or provide cover for a foreign intervention,” the writer stressed.

Commenting on this, Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) remarked that one of the ways to solve the Venezuelan conflict is the “re-democratisation of the country”; the analysts opined that he missed the point.

“The Venezuelan crisis is artificial,” Zayas stressed. “It can be solved by lifting the sanctions, ending the economic war and the financial blockade, and by stopping the manipulation of the currency, resulting in induced inflation… Luis Almagro has been acting in a highly unprofessional manner, contrary to the OAS Charter and thereby undermining the credibility and authority of the Organisation.”According to the lawyer, “there is nothing more undemocratic than a coup d’etat, and Almagro’s shenanigans contravene many articles of the OAS Charter, particularly 3, 19 and 20.”

“Amazing how language has been corrupted — to speak of ‘re-democratising’ Venezuela is surrealistic,” he added.

Vaz shares a similar stance: “the Venezuelan crisis can certainly be solved without overthrowing the Maduro government”, he underscored.

“[However], the Venezuelan opposition, the US and its allies are instead determined to ensure that the crisis is not solved as long as Maduro is in power. In fact, the two issues are not separate, since, for example, the deliberate worsening of the crisis due to sanctions has the goal of removing the government,” the writer said.

The views and opinions expressed by the speakers do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

28 killed as flash floods, thunderstorms lash Pak

28 killed as flash floods, thunderstorms lash Pak

Islamabad: Massive thunderstorms lashed several parts of Pakistan, including Punjab and Sindh provinces, killing at least 26 people and injuring several others, according to media reports on Tuesday.

Heavy rain and storm caused by a westerly wave uprooted electricity poles and trees in different parts of the country and also damaged properties on Monday.

Intermittent downpour in western, central and northern parts of the country for the past few days has rendered mud houses susceptible to the collapse, while landslide and flash floods in some areas have already made several roads dangerous for travel, Dawn reported.

Thunderstorm in Punjab province resulted in the collapse of several buildings, killing at least nine persons, including two women.

Four deaths were reported in Khanewal district; three in Hasilpur area of Bahawalnagar district; and two Dunyapur tehsil of Lodhran district.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s Chitral valley, a woman and two men died when the roof of their house collapsed and fell on them.

In Balochistan province, authorities declared emergency on Monday after torrential rains and flash flooding wreaked havoc and killed at least nine persons, including a child.

On Tuesday, at least three people, including two children, were killed in flash floods in different areas of Balochistan, Levis sources said.

Heavy rainfall in Quetta, Gwadar, Chagai, Harnai, Duki, Jewani, Jaffarabad, Kohlu, Sibi, Barkhan, Chaman and other districts of Balochistan caused flooding in nullahs and drains which severed land link in various parts of the province, the Express Tribune

Rebuilding Notre Dame will be long, fraught and expensive

Rebuilding Notre Dame will be long, fraught and expensive

FILE – This April 18, 1967, file photo, shows the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Art experts around the world reacted with horror to news of the fire that ravaged cathedral on Monday, April 15, 2019. One shell-shocked art expert is calling the beloved Gothic masterpiece ‘one of the great monuments to the best of civilization.’ (AP Photo/File)(AP)

Notre Dame in Paris is not the first great cathedral to suffer a devastating fire, and it probably won’t be the last.

In a sense, that is good news. A global army of experts and craftspeople can be called on for the long, complex process of restoring the gutted landmark.

The work will face substantial challenges — starting immediately, with the urgent need to protect the inside of the 850-year-old cathedral from the elements, after its timber-beamed roof was consumed by flames .

The first priority is to put up a temporary metal or plastic roof to stop rain from getting in. Then, engineers and architects will begin to assess the damage.

Fortunately, Notre Dame is a thoroughly documented building. Over the years, historians and archeologists have made exhaustive plans and images, including minutely detailed, 3-D laser-scanned re-creations of the interior.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of the conservation organization Historic England, said Tuesday that the cathedral will need to be made secure without disturbing the debris scattered inside, which may provide valuable information — and material — for restorers.

“The second challenge is actually salvaging the material,” he said. “Some of that material may be reusable, and that’s a painstaking exercise. It’s like an archaeological excavation.”

Despite fears at the height of the inferno that the whole cathedral would be lost, the structure appears intact. Its two rectangular towers still jut into the Paris skyline, and the great stone vault stands atop heavy walls supported by massive flying buttresses. An edifice built to last an eternity withstood its greatest test.

Tom Nickson, a senior lecturer in medieval art and architecture at London’s Courtauld Institute, said the stone vault “acted as a kind of fire door between the highly flammable roof and the highly flammable interior” — just as the cathedral’s medieval builders intended.

Now, careful checks will be needed to determine whether the stones of the vaulted ceiling have been weakened and cracked by the heat. If so, the whole vault may need to be torn down and re-erected.

The cathedral’s exquisite stained-glass rose windows appear intact but are probably suffering “thermal shock” from intense heat followed by cold water, said Jenny Alexander, an expert on medieval art and architecture at the University of Warwick. That means the glass, set in lead, could have sagged or been weakened and will need minute examination.

Once the building has been stabilized and the damage assessed, restoration work can begin. It’s likely to be an international effort.

“Structural engineers, stained-glass experts, stone experts are all going to be packing their bags and heading for Paris in the next few weeks,” Alexander said.

One big decision will be whether to preserve the cathedral just as it was before the fire, or to take a more creative approach.

It’s not always a straightforward choice. Notre Dame’s spire, destroyed in Monday’s blaze, was added to the Gothic cathedral during 19th-century renovations. Should it be rebuilt as it was, or replaced with a new design for the 21st century?

Financial and political considerations, as well as aesthetic ones, are likely to play a part in the decision.

Getting materials may also be a challenge. The cathedral roof was made from oak beams cut from centuries-old trees. Even in the 13th century, they were hard to come by. Nickson said there is probably no country in Europe with big enough trees today.

Alternatives could include a different type of structure made from smaller beams, or even a metal roof — though that would be unpopular with purists.

The restored building will have to reflect modern-day health and safety standards. But Eric Salmon, a former site manager at the Paris cathedral, said it is impossible to eliminate all risk.

“It is like a street accident. It can happen anywhere, anytime,” said Salmon, who now serves as technical director at the Notre Dame cathedral in Strasbourg, France.

The roof of Strasbourg’s Notre Dame was set ablaze during the 1870 Franco-Prussian War. It took up to five years to restore the wooden structure. Nowadays the roof is split into three fire-resistant sections to make sure one blaze can’t destroy it all. Smoke detectors are at regular intervals.

Still, Salmon said that what worked in Strasbourg may not be suitable for Paris. Each cathedral is unique.

“We are not going to modify an historic monument to respect the rules. The rules have to be adapted to the building,” he said.

Experts agree the project will take years, if not decades. Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural organization, said restoring Notre Dame “will last a long time and cost a lot of money.” A government appeal for funds has already raised hundreds of millions of euros (dollars) from French businesses.

But few doubt that Notre Dame will rise again.

“Cathedrals are stone phoenixes — reminders that out of adversity we may be reborn,” said Emma Wells, a buildings archaeologist at the University of York.

“The silver lining, if we can call it that, is this allows for historians and archaeologists to come in and uncover more of its history than we ever knew before. It is a palimpsest of layers of history, and we can come in and understand the craft of our medieval forebears.”

University student dies trying to get selfie on rocky outcrop

University student dies trying to get selfie on rocky outcrop

Andrea Norton, 20, was reportedly trying to take a picture of herself when she fell from a well-known rock formation in Arkansas.Source:Facebook

A 20-year-student has plunged 30 metres to her death trying to take a selfie on a popular hiking trail in the United States.

Andrea Norton was reportedly trying to capture a picture of herself when she fell from a well-known rock formation in the Ozark–St. Francis National Forest in Arkansas.

The student from Briar Cliff University had been repositioning herself to take a photograph when she fell, and suffered fatal injuries.

The young woman fell from the Hawksbill Crag, also known as Whitaker Point, according to police. The dramatic rocky outcrop is a tourist hotspot known for resembling the beak of a hawk.

Hikers standing on the Hawksbill Crag in Arkansas, where police say Andrea Norton fell to her death. Picture: iStockSource:istock

The 20-year-old student plunged 30 metres from the rocky outcropSource:Facebook

The young woman was hiking with a group of BCU classmates when the tragic accident occurred, according to police.

Ms Norton had been studying environmental science at the university in Sioux City, Iowa, and was a volleyball player on the university team. She also sang in the university choir.

The university shared a touching tribute to the lost student, saying she made a great impact on the college and would be missed.

“Our deepest condolences and prayers go to the family and friends of BCU student Andrea Norton,” the university wrote in a statement.

The young woman was hiking with friends at a well-known rock formation in the Ozark–St. Francis National Forest.Source:Facebook

The environmental science student from South Dakota had reportedly stopped to take a selfie when she slipped and fell.Source:Facebook

“Andrea was a passionate environmental science major, exemplary student and dedicated athlete. She lived BCU’s values in everything she did from the classroom to the court and everywhere she went.

“Andrea made a tremendous impact on the BCU community and everyone she met and will be greatly missed. Please keep her family, friends and BCU family in your thoughts and prayers.”

Ms Norton was raised in the town of Hot Springs in South Dakota by parents Mark and Tamara and has a younger brother called Matt.

Angelina Jolie drops Pitt from her name officially

The former couple’s children were also mentioned in the documents, but their names will continue to be hyphenated as Jolie-Pitt.

Angelina Jolie drops Pitt from her name officially

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie legally took Brad Pitt’s last name when they wed in 2014, but she’s now dropped it as their prolonged divorce proceedings are inching closer to a conclusion. The 43-year-old actress and philanthropist legally removed Pitt from her last name, according to documents acquired by TheBlast.com.

The former couple’s children were also mentioned in the documents, but their names will continue to be hyphenated as Jolie-Pitt.

The news comes just a week after it was revealed that Angelina and Brad are officially single.

While the duo are no longer married, their divorce is still ongoing while they divides their millions of dollars in assets.