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Former Beijing temple named world's best restaurant

It's located in a centuries-old former temple with contemporary sculpture in the central courtyard, and serves European dishes made with local ingredients alongside a 950-strong wine list.

And now Beijing's TRB Hutong has got the seal of approval of TripAdvisor users, whose positive ratings have won it the title of best fine dining restaurant in the world from the reviews aggregator.

The Beijing restaurant, which charges from 688RMB ($97) for a five-course menu, has come top of the website's annual Travelers' Choice rankings, which are based on the millions of reviews and ratings left by TripAdvisor users over the past year.

Owner Ignace Lecleir said that he was "thrilled" by the news and "incredibly proud" of the team, to whom he has dedicated the award.

The restaurant opened in 2012, and last year made the TripAdvisor list at number 7.

"The idea was to find a place that would really represent the Chinese culture," Lecleir told CNN in 2018.

The previous year, CNN ranked its sister restaurant, TRB Forbidden City, as one of the best restaurants in the capital of China.

"Charismatic GM and former sommelier Ignace Lecleir takes pains to make every guest feel like a VIP, and the regular arrivals of complimentary amuse bouche ensures nobody leaves unsatisfied," was the verdict.


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Amal Clooney is taking on ISIS; her husband George has one big concern

Amal’s fight for justice is much different than other celebs who use their platform for good, this is her actual full-time job. She is a career lawyer and human right’s attorney and last month asked the United Nation’s Security Council to prosecute Islamic State Extremists in Iraq and Syria on charges of sexual violence, according to the Associated Press.

On the podcast, George talked about his fame and the anonymity he gave up for it — and what that means for his family. He and Amal are parents to twins Ella and Alexander and keeping them safe is their top priority. The two are already denied small luxuries like walking their kids in Central Park because swarming fans and photographers want a shot of the rarely photographed kids and the Ocean’s 11 star.

Now that Amal is taking on this case against ISIS, however, they have a lot more to worry about than tourists who just want to take a selfie with an a-list Hollywood star.

“We don’t really want our kids to be targets, so we have to pay attention to that,” he said.

Just because he’s worried, doesn’t mean he isn’t behind Amal’s professional efforts. When she first announced she will be representing Nadia Murad, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was kidnapped by ISIS as a 21-year-old and sold several times, in 2016 she said she had the full support of her husband.

As a couple, the pair are activists together. Last year they opened up their home in Kentucky to Hazim Avdal, a young Yazidi man who fled ISIS in war-torn Iraq. They also helped him fulfill his dreams of studying in the United States and he now attends the University of Chicago.

Back in September of 2017, George told The Hollywood Reporter that he and Amal would collectively put $20 million dollars in The Clooney Foundation that would directly go towards supporting refugees.

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Disney to remake Home Alone

Disney has announced it's going to remake Home Alone for its new streaming service.

The studio's chief exec Bob Iger said there will also be "reimaginations" of Night At the Museum, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Cheaper By the Dozen.

Disney now owns the franchises after it bought the film studio 20th Century Fox.

The new service Disney+ launches in the US in November and is expected to hit the UK next year.

The Christmas classic starring Macaulay Culkin was originally released back in 1990 and has an audience rating of 80% on Rotten Tomatoes.

It's also impossible to avoid if you have a TV on around Christmas time.

"So far this year we've released five of the top six movies," Iger told a conference call with investors.

"Including four which have generated more than a billion dollars in global box office."

In addition to Avatar, Planet of the Apes, X-Men and Deadpool, "we're also focused on leveraging Fox's vast library of great titles to further enrich the content mix on our ... platforms," he said.

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Baby meet world: Markle and Prince Harry to show off Baby Sussex to the world

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry will today introduce Baby Sussex to the world - and have insisted a US broadcaster be there to cover the news.

Royal fans will get their first glimpse of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's baby boy this afternoon after Meghan gave birth on Monday morning.
It is hoped the pair will also reveal the name of their son today - with bookies tipping Alexander and Spencer to be a favourite.

The couple were expected to welcome a small contingent of the British media to share a photograph of their newborn this afternoon - but the inclusion of American network CBS at the request of the new parents is a surprise to most.

The US network's morning show is fronted by Gayle King - a close friend of both Meghan Markle who even attended her New York baby shower.

It was reported the move was made to reflect the "international interest" in the story - but has been seen as a "slap in the face" to other broadcasters including those from around the Commonwealth.

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World's largest entertainment city to open to public in 2030

The world’s largest entertainment city which is currently under construction in Al Qidiya, 45 km southwest of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia is set to open to the public in the next 11 years.

Construction works on this one of a kind structure featuring sports, cultural and recreational facilities begun in April 2018. The project has been divided into five development nodes; a Resort Core, a City Centre, an Eco Core, a Motion Core, and a Golf and Residential Neighborhood.

Entertainment city

The entertainment city’s design, was made by a consortium that includes Bjarke Ingles Group (BIG), a Denmark-based company after extensive consideration of the natural patterns of site.

The designers agreed that construction shall only cover 30% of the entire land set aside for the project, which is 334 sq. km, leaving the rest of the land for natural conservation. The project is being developed by the Qiddiya Investment Company (QIC) which is fully owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia

Phase one of the project which is expected to be complete by 2022, will have six Flags Qiddiya, a family-oriented park filled with rides and attractions distributed throughout six themed lands.

Neighboring this pedestrian-oriented district shall be a major outdoor entertainment venue, capable of accommodating events that can host 5,000 to 40,000 heads in a park-like setting, punctuated with active skating and skiing facilities.

The entertainment city is expected to make a qualitative leap in the Kingdom and support the country’s vision to achieve more prosperity, progress for society and raising the status of the capital Riyadh to the best top 100 cities for living in the world.

It is also expected to contribute into the diversification of the kingdom’s economy away from oil-based sources of revenue while creating job opportunities for Saudi’s young population.

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British comedy stars to host Sri Lanka fundraising gig 

Comedy stars are set to perform a fundraising gig for victims of the Sri Lanka bombings.

A Night For Sri Lanka will take place at Indigo at The O2 in London on Sunday 12th May.

The show will be hosted by Nihal Arthanayake, perhaps better known as DJ Nihal, and Romesh Ranganathan. Both the hosts have family backgrounds in Sri Lanka.

Set to appear on the bill are Harry Hill, Jo Brand, Rob Beckett, Katherine Ryan and Kerry Godliman. The event will conclude with a DJ set by Martin 2 Smoove.

Agency Off The Kerb, which has organised the gig, says: "Following recent tragic events in Sri Lanka, the cream of comedic talent will be joining forces in London next week to support the victims and their families."

Talking about the acts, they add the performers will "take to the stage to do what they do best - make people laugh - to support the relief effort."

The proceeds from the show will to those affected by the terrorist attacks, with funds going via the British Asian Trust charity

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Coral reef stayed hidden until now discovered off Kankasanthurai harbour

A diving team attached to the Northern Naval Command had discovered a beautiful coral reef which remained a well-hidden secret until a recent deep-sea expedition carried out over the past week in Kankasanthurai.

The diving expedition to uncover this coral reef which extends approximately 400 metres along the seaward side of breakwater was conducted by a diving team led by Command Diving Officer, under the directives of Commander Northern Naval Area, Rear Admiral Kapila Samaraweera.

Coral reefs can be identified as an essential element to balance the biodiversity in the ocean and they would decay due to natural causes or harmful human activities. It is in this backdrop, under the directives of Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Piyal De Silva, the Northern Naval Command is committed to protect these coral reefs as well as conserve underwater marine sites in northern seas.


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Nilmini Sigera wins Yakushi Pearl Award at Osaka film festival

Actress Nilmini Sigera won the Yakushi Pearl Award for the given to the ‘Most Brilliant Performer’ at the Osaka Asian Film Festival (OAFF) 2019 which was held in Osaka City, Japan, from March 8 to 17. The Film Festival which celebrates and appreciates film productions in the Asian cinema industry and has been conducted annually since 2005.

Sigera received the award for her performance in Asoka Handagama’s latest film ‘Asandhimitta’. The film was programmed under main competition of OAFF, with movies from Korea, Hong-Kong, China, India, Japan, Vietnam, Philippine and Taiwan. ‘Asandhimitta’ marked Sigera’s maiden appearance on the silver screen.

Based on a novel by Saman Wickramarachchi ‘Asandhimitta’ portrays the ‘fictional aspect of reality’. It is about a filmmaker who receives a request from one of his former acquaintances – Asandhimitta – to make her life story into a film. The director recalls that Asandhimitta is a large and voluptuous woman and is skeptical about her request till she confesses that she was recently involved in the murder of three women and will soon be taken into custody and probably hanged. She is willing to confess all and only to him so long as he makes her story into a film.

‘Asandhimitta’ held its World Premiere at the Busan Film Festival and was screened at many more international film festivals. It stars Nilmini Sigera, Dharmapriya Dias, W Jayairi, Shyam Fernando, Yashoda Wimaladharma, Rukmal Nirosh, Anula Bulathsinhala, Gayani Gisanthika, Sandali Handagama, Rithika Kodithuwakku, Widath Weerakoon and Ahas Dissanayake ‘Asandhimitta’ is produced by H D Premasiri and will be screening at CEL circuit cinemas from March 22. (Daily News)

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ABHIMANI - Queer Film Festival in Sri Lanka

THE ABHIMANI QUEER FILM FESTIVAL will be launched today (17) at the Lighthouse at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute (LKI), 24 Horton Place, Colombo 07. The festival is scheduled to take place from the 17th to the 20th of this month.

Formally known as "Celluloid Rainbows", Abhimani is the only International LGBTIQ film festival in Sri Lanka and the oldest LGBTIQ Film Festival in South Asia.

It is held each year in conjunction with Colombo PRIDE and presents a collection of Queer short and feature length films from countries around the globe.

This year's festival will feature films from not just the Asian Region, but also from Europe and Australia.

Screening will start at 6 pm today at the Lighthouse at LKI.

abimani 1

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Rare African black leopard photographed for the first time in over 100 years

Biologists have photographed rare footage of the sleek big cat walking majestically in Kenya, the first time the animal has been photographed in Africa since 1909.

Nick Pilfold, a San Diego Zoo global scientist, said they captured the footage after months of watching and waiting. His team of biologists had placed remote wildlife cameras to track the leopard population near Loisaba Conservancy in Laikipia County last year when they heard unconfirmed reports of a possible black leopard sighting.

"We intensified our camera placement in the area the reports were being made," he said Tuesday night. "Within a few months, we were rewarded with multiple observations on our cameras."

The female leopard's coat color is pitch black as a result of melanism, a gene mutation that results in an over-production of pigment, Pilfold said. It's the opposite of albinism and although the leopard's coat appears black during the day, its rosette patterns are visible in nighttime infrared imagery.

While there have been reports of sightings of black leopards also known as black panthers the last confirmed observation was in Ethiopia more than a century ago, he said.

"Melanism occurs in about 11% of leopards globally, but most of these leopards live in South East Asia," Pilfold said. "Black leopards in Africa are extremely rare, and prior to the observations in our published paper, the last confirmed observation was 1909 in Ethiopia."

Black leopards may have been living in Kenya all along, but there's been no footage to confirm the observations until now, Pilfold said. The black leopard's sighting was published in the African Journal of Ecology.

Leopards are described as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.

The total extent of the animal's population decline is still unknown, San Diego Zoo said in a statement. But several factors have sharply reduced their numbers, including hunting, habitat loss, competition for prey, and conflict with livestock and farmers.

Pilfold is part of a team from the San Diego Zoo working with local partners, including the Kenya Wildlife Service, to monitor leopard populations in the area and help preserve the species.

He marveled at the coincidence of the location of an animal that's also called the black panther the title of one of last year's biggest movies.
"Coincidentally, our observations are very close to where the fantasy Marvel comic country of Wakanda is suggested to be located," he said.


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World’s rarest Panda caught on camera for the first time ever

Wildlife cameras have captured an image of what is believed to be the world’s only known albino giant panda, China’s state-run media reported over the weekend.

The People’s Daily said the panda was spotted last month at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in Sichuan:

Panda 1

There are other images of pandas often described as “albino” in online posts. However, they are not true albino pandas. Most maintain the distinctive panda markings, but with lighter colors.

China Daily said the panda in the new image is believed to be a juvenile between 1 and 2 years old.

Its gender is not known, but the website said wildlife officials are planning to set up more cameras in an attempt to capture additional images.

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Which is the world's most LGBT-friendly city? 

A mid a mass of colour and pounding Latin rhythms, revellers at this year’s Bogotá Pride march waved banners stating “not one step back”.

They were among tens of thousands who took to the streets to celebrate and support Colombia’s LGBT community. Many annual Pride marches that were once solemn protests against repression have become celebrations of now-existing rights or progress, reflecting the strength of LGBT communities.

In Bogotá, for example, the capital of a macho and socially conservative country, there has been surprising progress in LGBT rights.

In March, Angélica Lozano Correa, a former member of the Bogotá city council, became the first openly LGBT person to be elected to the country’s Senate. In 2016 the country’s government passed laws allowing same-sex couples to adopt and marry, and the previous year it granted transgender people the right to change their identity on official government documents – policies which have allowed more equality and openness.

But while these laws and political representation might suggest Bogotá is “friendly” and tolerant of the LGBT community, the issue is not clear-cut. This year’s Bogotá Pride march was marked by an undertone of resistance to and fear of the right-wing government of the new president, Ivan Duque.

Duque openly opposes the LGBT-inclusive peace agreement his predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, signed with leftist rebels Farc in 2016. Activists claim he is also against same-sex marriage and adoption rights.

“Although the government promised there would be no setbacks to LGBT rights, the appointment of several anti-LGBT officials, cuts in resources for public policies and the continued strengthening of radical religious movements that promote hate speech and misinformation against the LGBT population are worrying,” says Marcela Sánchez, director of Colombia Diversa, a leading LGBT rights organisation.


A man decorates his facade with clothes of the rainbow flag in Spain during the week of Pride celebrations. Photograph: Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images 

Rough measuresIndeed, determining a city’s attitude towards the LGBT community is complex. Studies that try to do this often look at political or legal metrics such as freedom to marry, or laws protecting against discrimination.

Equaldex, a collaborative knowledge base for the global LGBT movement that maps the legality of homosexuality, identifies a number of factors including freedom to change gender and to adopt – although it hasn’t ranked countries or cities in order of best to worst.

An index from the Human Rights Campaign looks at municipal services, law enforcement and the city leadership’s public position on equality across the US.

Seventy-eight out of 506 US cities had a “perfect score” of 100, for reasons such as introducing trans-inclusive health benefits to city employees, as in Brookings, South Dakota. Birmingham, Alabama, obtained a full score for passing comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinances, along with other cities such as Cleveland in Ohio, a state that had previously prohibited same-sex marriage and civil unions.

However, the Human Rights Campaign clearly states its index does not and cannot reflect a city’s friendliness.

Other global surveys have tried to assess friendliness by covering public attitudes, access to nightlife and personal safety. A 2017 survey by the housing website Nestpick ranked the best LGBT cities by asking thousands of people how friendly they felt their city was based on safety and nightlife. Madrid, Amsterdam and Toronto came out as the top three.


San Francisco has the biggest proportion of LGBT residents in the US. Photograph: Brigitte MERLE/Getty Images/Photononstop RF

“Modern strongholds for LGBTQI culture remain in western Europe and Canada,” says Merryn Johns, editor and chief for Curve, a lesbian-focused magazine in New York.

Arguably the size of the LGBT population in urban areas could reflect the level of friendliness, as “many LGBTI folk head to cities from rural areas because of the promise of a freer, more tolerant life there,” says André du Plessis, executive director of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

A study of US metro areas found San Francisco has the biggest proportion of LGBT residents in the country at 6.2%, followed by Portland and Austin. San Francisco has often been called the “gay capital of the world” for its culture of tolerance and vibrant scene.

But even when cities seem progressive on the surface, the lived experience of members of the LGBT community can tell a dramatically different story.

“For a certain social strata [sic], Cape Town and Johannesburg are gay meccas, but at the same time black lesbians living in poor areas there are dealing with violence and targeted rape,” says Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT rights programme at Human Rights Watch.

A study in 2017 found that four in 10 LGBT South Africans know of someone who has been killed for “being or suspected of being” LGBT.

Black members of this community are twice as likely (49%) as white people (26%) to know of an LGBT person who has been murdered.

Even in London and Paris, which both have a reputation of being queer-friendly cities, hate crimes have increased in recent years. A report from Stonewall in 2017 found that 25% of London’s LGBT community had experienced harassment or assault.

Brazil’s second-largest city, Rio de Janeiro, has been branding itself as an LGBT tourist destination for years. It has made huge efforts in providing anti-bullying projects aimed at students, and has outlawed discrimination in nightclubs. However, the last year has seen record numbers of violent attacks against the queer community.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro once said: ‘Yes, I’m homophobic – and very proud of it.’ Photograph: Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images 

And with a newly elected far-right government, there are fears it could get worse.

“With the election of an openly homophobic president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has infamously said he would rather have a dead son than a gay son, Rio’s reputation as a destination city may falter, and violence increase,” Reid says. “Rio is seen as a liberated city, but also has high levels of [homophobic] violence.”

‘Gay Disneyland’Conversely, in some countries with backward and dangerous attitudes to the LGBT community, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, discreet but vibrant underground scenes can thrive. This is even the case in Russia, where activists say two people were killed last week and nearly 40 detained, as part of a new homophobic crackdown by police in the Chechnya region.

“You’ll find a gay scene in many places that may surprise you,” says Ed Salvato, an LGBT travel expert. “Some places like Moscow and St Petersburghave vibrant gay communities, despite the homophobic laws there.”

In Dublin, an exciting scene exploded out of a staunchly Catholic country.

“Dublin is like gay Disneyland now, and that wasn’t the case 20 or 30 years ago,” says Prof Andrew Reynolds, founder of the University of North Carolina’s LGBTQ Representation and Rights Research Initiative.

“With the last couple of referendums, Ireland and Dublin have embraced their new presentation as an inclusive, progressive and loving place.”

When Reynolds visited Ireland in 2016, many from the LGBT population told him stories of growing up in conservative coastal towns and moving away due to prejudice. The country was the first to legalise gay marriage by popular vote, in a 2015 referendum with a yes vote of 62%.

He says: “They went to Australia. They went to America. Now they’ve come home.”

Ireland became the first country in the world to adopt same-sex marriage by popular vote in 2015. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters 

Progress in politicsThe political glass ceiling has broken for many LGBT people across the world, which inevitably has ripple effects on the community.

Minneapolis made US history last year by electing Andrea Jenkins, the first openly trans woman of colour to office in 2017. The gay stronghold of Palm Springs, California, has elected an entire city council that identifies as LGBT. And in November, Jared Polis became the first openly gay man to be elected as a US state governor.

In Poland, one of Europe’s most Catholic and conservative countries, voters in the small city of Slupsk this year elected a gay atheist mayor, Robert Biedron. Just a few years ago, Biedron was attacked on the streets of his city because of his sexuality.

In Kathmandu, Nepal, Sunil Pant became Asia’s first openly gay federal-level elected official in 2008, resulting in a spate of public scrutiny.
“I think that the spinoff is that Kathmandu is a lot more gay-friendly than it was before,” says Reynolds. “Whilst it is not perfect by any stretch, like Bogotá, it is a place now that I feel like is much more friendly and accepting – and that’s obviously coming from a place where the Hindu religion was not helpful before.”

As the most direct representatives of citizens, city officials are uniquely positioned to understand and address the needs of their communities, says Xavier Persad of the Human Rights Campaign, pointing to “the need to provide for one’s family without the fear of being fired, to secure housing without the fear of eviction, and to participate in community life”.

“When cities enact LGBTQ-inclusive protections,” he adds, “they send a clear message that they value and welcome everyone, attracting the country’s top talent and spurring economic growth.”

Ultimately, even the most progressive laws and equal representation at political levels do not necessarily reflect the efficiency of enforcement, or indeed capture the lived experience of discrimination and fear many LGBT people face every day.

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