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NASA Selects Sri Lanka's Piyumi For Simulated Mission

NASA has selected a new crew of four volunteers to participate in a simulated mission to Mars within a habitat at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

And among them is Sri Lanka's Piyumi Wijesekara, who is joined by Jason Lee, Stephanie Navarro, and Shareef Al Romaithi.

All four will step into the agency’s Human Exploration Research Analog, or HERA, on Friday, May 10th.

Once inside, the team will live and work like astronauts for 45 days. The crew will exit the facility on June 24 after they “return” to Earth. Jose Baca and Brandon Kent are this mission’s alternate crew members.

HERA enables scientists to study how crew members adapt to isolation, confinement, and remote conditions before NASA sends astronauts on deep space missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Crew members will carry out scientific research and operational tasks throughout their simulated mission to the Red Planet, including a “walk” on Mars’s surface using virtual reality. They will also experience increasing communication delays lasting up to five minutes each way with Mission Control Center as they “near” Mars.

This crew is the second group of volunteers to participate in a simulated Mars mission in HERA this year. The most recent crew completed its HERA mission on March 18. Two other missions will follow this year, with the final HERA crew slated to wrap up on Dec. 20.

In a first for HERA, one crew member, Shareef Al Romaithi, hails from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and will participate in the mission through a partnership between NASA and the UAE’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC).

As with the previous HERA mission this year, NASA’s Human Research Program is conducting 18 human health studies during the mission. The experiments will evaluate the physiological, behavioral, and psychological responses of crew members in an environment similar to what astronauts will face on a trip to Mars. Seven of these studies are collaborations with the MBRSC and the European Space Agency (ESA). Insights gleaned from the studies will allow researchers to develop and test strategies aimed at helping astronauts overcome obstacles on long missions deep into space.

Piyumi Wijesekara is a postdoctoral research scientist in the Radiation Biophysics Laboratory at NASA Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

Her research focuses on developing tissue models to investigate the effects of spaceflight stressors, including ionizing radiation and lunar dust on the human respiratory system.

Wijesekara earned her bachelor’s degree in bioengineering from the University of California, San Diego, and her master’s and doctorate degrees in biomedical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Penn. Her doctoral research focused on stem cell and organ engineering, with an emphasis on engineering lung models that mimic human lung physiology, to study respiratory diseases.

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Sri Lankan athlete Kaushalya Madushani dies by suicide

Sri Lankan athlete and the national women’s 400m hurdles champion Kaushalya Madushani has died at the age of 25.

A resident of Dummalasuriya in Kuliyapitiya, she was reportedly found dead at her home while Kuliyapitiya Police said that the death is believed to be a suicide.

The youth athlete, who has represented Sri Lanka at several international athletic championships and won medals, has also won several titles at national level and at junior level.

Madushani had clinched the silver medal in the 400m Hurdles event at the 2019 South Asian Games in Nepal while she was also part of the Sri Lanka women’s 400m relay team at the 13th South Asian Games.

She had won silver in 400m hurdles at the 2014 Asian Junior Championships and bronze at the 2016 South Asian Games.

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World’s oldest man dies in Venezuela

Venezuelan Juan Vicente Perez Mora, certified in 2022 by Guinness World Records as the oldest man in the world, died on Tuesday at the age of 114, officials and relatives said.

“Juan Vicente Perez Mora has transcended into eternity at 114 years of age,” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on social media platform X.

Perez was officially confirmed as the oldest man alive on February 4, 2022, when he was 112 years and 253 days old, according to Guinness.

A father of 11, as of 2022 he had 41 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and 12 great-great-grandchildren.

The farmer known as Tio Vicente was born in the town of El Cobre, in the Andean state of Tachira on May 27, 1909, and was the ninth of 10 children.

“At the age of five years old, he started working with his dad and brothers in agriculture and assisted with sugar cane and coffee harvesting,” a Guinness statement from 2022 said. (AFP)

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Actor Sarath Chandrasiri remains in hospital

Veteran actor Sarath Chandrasiri remains in serious condition following a brain hemorrhage.

He is under intensive care at Colombo National Hospital, a hospital spokesman said.

His colleague Sriyantha Mendis refuted reports that Chandrasiri has died in hospital.

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‘Dhoom’ director Sanjay Gadhvi dies at 56, family suspects heart attack

“Dhoom” director Sanjay Gadhvi died on Sunday morning at his residence here, his elder daughter Sanjina said. He was 56.

Gadhvi, who was three days shy away from his 57th birthday, is best known for helming two blockbuster hits in the Yash Raj Films’ “Dhoom” franchise -- “Dhoom” (2004) and “Dhoom 2” (2006).

According to Gadhvi’s daughter, the director was “perfectly healthy”.

“He passed away at 9.30 am this morning at his residence. We are not sure what it is, but it is most likely a heart attack. He wasn’t unwell, he was perfectly healthy,” Sanjina told PTI.

Gadhvi made his directorial debut in 2000 with “Tere Liye”, which he followed up with 2002’s “Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai”, his first project with Yash Raj Films.

Besides Sanjini, Gadhvi is survived by his wife and another daughter.

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Contestant of SL-origin wins ‘Miss Teen International Botswana 2021’

Gimhani Perera of Sri Lankan -origin has won the ‘Miss Teen International Botswana 2021’ pageant that was held in Botswana.

The 17-year-old had won the pageant that was held yesterday (19) after representing her district Pilikwe.

She was announced as the winner from among 14 finalists who were chosen from 42 contestants who had competed in the preliminary rounds of the event.

Gimhani Perera will next represent Botswana in an international-level pageant to be held in India shortly. (NewsWire)

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French rapper MHD gets 12 years in jail for murder

French rapper MHD has been given a 12-year jail term for the murder of a young man in Paris in 2018.

A court in the capital found the 29-year-old MHD, real name Mohamed Sylla, guilty of involvement in the gang-related killing of Loic K, 23.

The victim was knocked down by MHD’s Mercedes, then beaten and stabbed to death by a crowd of about 12 people.

MHD, who is known for blending trap and West African music to get “Afro trap”, pleaded not guilty to the charges.

“From the beginning, I have maintained my innocence in this case and I will continue to maintain my innocence,” he told the packed court in Paris, AFP news agency reports.

He denied being at the scene of the murder, arguing that the case against him was based on rumours.

However, a local resident filmed the incident in the summer of 2018 from his window, and the car was quickly identified as belonging to MHD.

Other witnesses identified him by his haircut and a jumper, AFP reports.

Five of MHD’s co-defendants were also given prison terms ranging between 10 and 18 years.

Another three were acquitted.

It was not immediately known if those sentenced to jail were planning to appeal.

MHD, who has a huge following on social media, was working as a pizza delivery boy in Paris before turning to music professionally.

Five years ago, he spoke to BBC’s What’s New? programme about how he came up with the idea of “Afro trap”.

Source: BBC --Agencies

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SLT embarks on FTTH extension vendor financing

Amidst protests of trade unions, Sri Lanka Telecom is hurriedly embarking on a vendor financing project aimed at further extending the previous Rajapaksa regime’s accelerated FTTH programme, the country’s first fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) broadband service initiative.

The vendor financing agreement is to be signed (or has been already signed as per certain reports) with international vendor firms Huawei, ZTE and Nokia (Alcatel), the former handlers of the FTTH programme at a financing cost of Rs 69 billion.

This money should have to be repaid by SLT in three years in US$ terms with accumulated inters and dollar depreciation under the vendor financing agreement, Telecommunication Engineers Union (TEU) said.

It has been planned to provide 160,000 fibre loops under this FTTH extension programme, TEU revealed. ,

Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) is now initiating long term financial agreements to implement artificially built-up or massive scale projects with investments running up to billions of rupees in a hurry on the eve of upcoming presidential elections, SLT engineers alleged.

This money spending spree of vendor financing initiatives will impact the company bottom line and will eventually lead towards curtailing benefits of employees, Telecommunication Engineers Union (TEU) said.

SLT trade unions will lodge a complaint at the National Election Commission urging them to inquire into this matter and suspend vendor financing Projects which will be used as cover up for siphoning money to sponsor fvourite candidate of SLT top management.  

In a letter of protest, TEU stated that at a time of elections where the people of the country including the pubic and private sectors are adopting a wait and see stance, SLT is venturing into mega projects unrealistically.

The TEU has sent this letter to the President, Prime Minister, Finance Minister and other relevant authorities focusing their attention on money spending attempts of the top management of the company.

TEU has urged the current SLT board of directors to suspend unrealistic vendor financing initiatives aimed at siphoning money for election propaganda activities and leave the decision for funding of mega projects to a new board which will be appointed after elections following the normal procedure.

Another demand of TEU is to desist from entering into any agreements on any vendor financing projects or long term investments during the presidential election period.

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Indian actress, 20, found dead on set, Co-Star named in suicide case

Mumbai: Tunisha Sharma, a television actor, today allegedly died by suicide on the set of a serial in Vasai in Maharashtra’s Palghar district, and her co-actor, Sheezan Mohammed Khan, has been charged with abetting the suicide.

The 20-year-old went to the washroom on the set and did not return for a long time. When the door was broken down, she was found hanging inside. People on the set took the actor to a hospital, where she was declared dead.

A police team was at the spot, said senior inspector Kailash Barve of Waliv police station. While those on the set say that Tunisha Sharma died by suicide, cops said that they are probing all angles.

The actor and her co-star, who’s been booked on her mother’s complaint, played main roles in the show ‘Ali Baba: Dastaan-E-Kabul’, at the sets of which she was found hanging.

She got into acting as a child actor in the Sony TV show ‘Maharana Pratap’, where she played the role of Chand Kanwar. Since then, she featured in several shows and Bollywood movies, most prominently playing childhood roles of Katrina Kaif’s characters.

Tunisha Sharma was active on Instagram hours before her death. She posted a photo from the shoot set, and captioned it “Those who are driven by their Passion Doesn’t stop.” (NDTV)

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'Hat-trick at 65': Imran Khan marries for the third time

Ending weeks of speculation, Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan on Sunday tied the knot with his "spiritual guide", his party confirmed. This is Imran Khan's third marriage.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) spokesperson Fawad Chaudhary said party chief Khan married Bushra Maneka, a "respected Pir" (faith healer) in a simple ceremony in Lahore yesterday.

65-year-old Khan's previous two marriages ended in divorce. His first marriage was with Jemima Goldsmith, daughter of a British billionaire, in 1995, which lasted nine years. Khan has two sons from her.

His second marriage with TV anchor Reham Khan in 2015 ended after a brief 10 months.

Source : DNA

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Veteran actress Liyoni Kothalawala passes away

Veteran Sri Lankan actress Liyoni Kothalawala has passed away at the age of 78, family sources confirmed today.

A well known name in Sri Lankan cinema and television industry, she had starred in a number of popular films, teledramas as well as stage dramas.

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KFC Sri Lanka under fire for serving raw meat!

KFC in Sri Lanka has come under fire after a customer posted a video on social media this week of an exchange between him and the branch manager of a KFC outlet regarding the quality of the meal served to him. According to the customer, the meat despite cooked on the outside was found to be raw. He also accused the store manager of speaking to him in an inappropriate manner. The incident is reported to have taken place at the KFC Kottawa outlet.

However, releasing a statement today KFC Sri Lanka claimed that the chicken served is cooked in an automated cooking system and that it appeared to its staff members that it was cooked to requisite standards. The statement also said it regretted that its staff were treated in a derogatory manner.

Opinion on social media has been divided with some accusing KFC of providing low-quality meals while others accused the customer of behaving in a rude manner.

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