Three dead as ‘Taliban’ attack Afghan wedding over music

Update Three dead as ‘Taliban’ attack Afghan wedding over music
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Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid addresses a press conference at the government media and information center in Kabul city, Oct. 30, 2021. (AFP)
Update Three dead as ‘Taliban’ attack Afghan wedding over music
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Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid addresses a press conference at the government media and information center in Kabul city, Oct. 30, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 30 October 2021

Three dead as ‘Taliban’ attack Afghan wedding over music

Three dead as ‘Taliban’ attack Afghan wedding over music
  • Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said two of the three attackers had been arrested, and denied they were acting on behalf of the movement
  • Music was banned the last time the Taliban ruled and, while the new government has not yet issued such a decree, its leadership still frowns on its use in entertainment

KABUL: Gunmen presenting themselves as Taliban attacked a wedding in eastern Afghanistan to stop music being played and killed at least three people, the government said Saturday.
Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said two of the three attackers had been arrested, and denied they were acting on behalf of the Islamist movement.
“Last night, at the wedding of Hajji Malang Jan in Shamspur Mar Ghundi village of Nangarhar, three people who introduced themselves as Taliban, entered the proceedings and demanded that the music stop playing,” he said.
“As a result of firing, at least three people have been killed and several others have been injured.
“Two suspects have been taken into custody by the Taliban in connection with the incident and one who escaped is still being pursued.
“The perpetrators of the incident caught, who have used the name of the Islamic Emirate to carry out their personal feud, have been handed over to face Sharia law.”
Qazi Mullah Adel, spokesman for the Taliban governor in Nangarhar province, confirmed the incident but did not provide details. A relative of the victims said the Taliban fighters had opened fire while music was being played.
Music was banned the last time the Taliban ruled Afghanistan and, while the new government has not yet issued such a decree, its leadership still frowns on its use in entertainment and sees it as a breach of Islamic law.
“The young men were playing music in a separate room and three Taliban fighters came and opened fire on them. The injuries of the two wounded are serious,” the witness told reporters.
“In the ranks of the Islamic Emirate no one has the right to turn anyone away from music or anything, only to try to persuade them. That is the main way,” Mujahid had told a news conference earlier.
“If anyone kills someone by himself, even if they are our personnel, that is a crime and we will introduce them to the courts and they will face the law.”
The previous Taliban government between 1996 and 2001 imposed a very strict interpretation of Islamic law and harsh public punishments.
But, since returning to power in mid-August after overthrowing the US-backed government, the Taliban — seeking international recognition and an end to sanctions — has tried to show a more moderate face.


Beijing to reopen schools, Shanghai declares victory over COVID

Beijing to reopen schools, Shanghai declares victory over COVID
Updated 25 June 2022

Beijing to reopen schools, Shanghai declares victory over COVID

Beijing to reopen schools, Shanghai declares victory over COVID
  • The two major cities were among several places in China that implemented strict COVID-19 measures

SHANGHAI/BEIJING: Beijing on Saturday said it would allow primary and secondary schools to resume in-person classes and Shanghai’s top party boss declared victory over COVID-19 after the city reported zero new local cases for the first time in two months.
The two major cities were among several places in China that implemented curbs to stop the spread of the omicron wave during March to May, with Shanghai imposing a two month-long city-wide lockdown that lifted on June 1.
The efforts, part of China’s adherence to a zero-COVID policy that aims to eradicate all outbreaks, have brought case numbers down but many of the heavy-handed measures have fueled anger and even rare protests and taken a heavy toll on the economy.
Beijing shut its schools in early May and asked students to move to online learning amid a spike in locally transmitted COVID cases. Senior year students at middle and high schools were allowed to return to classrooms from June 2.
On Saturday, with case numbers trending lower in recent days, the capital’s education commission said all primary and secondary school students in the capital can return to in-person classes from Monday. Kindergartens will be allowed to reopen from July 4.
The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports said separately that sports activities for the young can resume at non-school locations on June 27 in areas where no community cases have been reported for seven consecutive days, with the exception of basement venues, which will remain shut.
The Universal Beijing Resort, which had been closed for nearly two months, reopened on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Shanghai reported no new local cases — both symptomatic and asymptomatic — for June 24, the first time the Chinese economic hub had done so since Feb. 23.
Shanghai Communist Party chief Li Qiang said at the opening at the city’s party congress on Saturday that authorities had “won the war to defend Shanghai” against COVID by implementing the instructions of Chinese President Xi Jinping, and that Beijing’s epidemic prevention decisions were “completely correct.” The city, however, remains on edge. Most students have not been allowed to resume in-person classes and dining indoors is still banned. It also plans to continue conducting mass PCR testing for its 25 million residents every weekend until the end of July.


Oslo shooting suspect is Norwegian of Iranian descent: police

Oslo shooting suspect is Norwegian of Iranian descent: police
Updated 25 June 2022

Oslo shooting suspect is Norwegian of Iranian descent: police

Oslo shooting suspect is Norwegian of Iranian descent: police
  • Attack is being treated as a possible ‘terrorist act’
  • Motive behind attack remains unclear

OSLO: An overnight shooting in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, that killed two people and wounded more than a dozen is being investigated as a possible terrorist attack, Norwegian police said Saturday.
In a news conference Saturday, police officials said the man arrested after the shooting was a Norwegian citizen of Iranian origin who was previously known to police but not for major crimes.
They said they had seized two firearms in connection with the attack: a handgun and an automatic weapon.
The events occurred outside a nightclub and in nearby streets in central Oslo.
Police spokesman Tore Barstad said 14 people were receiving medical treatment, eight of whom have been hospitalized.
Olav Roenneberg, a journalist from Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, said he witnessed the shooting.
“I saw a man arrive at the site with a bag. He picked up a weapon and started shooting,” Roenneberg told NRK. “First I thought it was an air gun. Then the glass of the bar next door was shattered and I understood I had to run for cover.”
Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said in a Facebook post that “the shooting outside London Pub in Oslo tonight was a cruel and deeply shocking attack on innocent people.”
He said that while the motive was unclear, the shooting had caused fear and grief in the community.
Christian Bredeli, who was at the bar, told Norwegian newspaper VG that he hid on the fourth floor with a group of about 10 people until he was told it was safe to come out.
“Many were fearing for their lives,” he said. “On our way out we saw several injured people, so we understood that something serious had happened.”
Norwegian broadcaster TV2 showed footage of people running down Oslo streets in panic as shots rang out in the background.
Norway is a relatively safe country but has experienced violent attacks by right-wing extremists, including one of the worst mass shootings in Europe in 2011, when a gunman killed 69 people on the island of Utoya after setting off a bomb in Oslo that left eight dead.
In 2019, another right-wing extremist killed his stepsister and then opened fire in a mosque but was overpowered before anyone there was injured.


What is causing record floods and heatwaves in China?

What is causing record floods and heatwaves in China?
Rescuers evacuate stranded residents in flood water in Tuojiang Township in central China's Hunan Province on June 22, 2022. (Xi
Updated 25 June 2022

What is causing record floods and heatwaves in China?

What is causing record floods and heatwaves in China?
  • More than half a million people were evacuated this month because of the flood threat
  • The floods in China last year cost $25 billion — the world’s second-worst flood-related loss after Europe

BEIJING: Record floods in southern China this month displaced more than half a million people, while searing heat buckled roads in other parts of the country.
Authorities have issued extreme weather warnings in multiple regions, while experts warned that these phenomena were more evidence of the impact of climate change.

Summer floods are common in China, especially in the low-lying Pearl River delta region in the south.
This year, however, the National Climate Center forecast that flooding will be “relatively worse” and “more extreme” than before.
Water levels at one location in Guangdong province “surpassed historical records” this week, according to the ministry of water resources, while parts of neighboring Fujian province and Guangxi region also reported record rainfall.
More than half a million people were evacuated this month because of the flood threat.
In the cities of Guangzhou and Shaoguan in Guangdong province, heavy rainfall turned roads into rivers and people had to be taken to safety in lifeboats.
Authorities in the province estimated the economic damage from the floods to be more than a quarter of a billion dollars.

Seven provinces in northern and central China Wednesday warned millions of residents not to go outdoors as temperatures hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
State broadcaster CCTV this week showed footage of cement roads cracked under extreme heat in central Henan province.
Meanwhile, power demand surged to record levels in several cities in the north this week as residents cranked up the air conditioning to beat the heat.
In China’s second-most populous province Shandong, home to more than 100 million people, electricity use topped 93 million kilowatts on Tuesday, beating the 2020 high of 90 million kilowatts, CCTV said.

China’s central economic planner estimates that extreme weather will shave off one to three percent of the country’s GDP every year.
The floods in China last year cost $25 billion — the world’s second-worst flood-related loss after Europe, a study published in April by reinsurer Swiss Re showed.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang warned Wednesday that floods and heatwaves will affect the production of staple grains, vegetables and pork and push up inflation.

“Extreme weather and climate events in the country have become more frequent, severe and widespread,” China Meteorological Administration said Wednesday.
It followed a warning in March from Xiao Chan, deputy director of the National Climate Center: “Global warming and La Nina events are contributing to abnormally high temperatures and extreme rain in China.”
As the Earth’s atmosphere gets warmer, it holds more moisture, making downpours more intense.
La Nina refers to the large-scale cooling of surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, causing devastating floods in South China, India and Bangladesh.

China has built a network of massive dams and “sponge cities” with permeable pavements to try and limit the devastation during the annual flood season.
“But the most damaging recent floods have occurred in areas historically less at risk,” said Scott Moore, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania focusing on China’s environmental policy.
“This is a classic climate change effect: increased extreme weather in different regions and at different times of year than the historical average.”
China is the world’s biggest coal-burning nation and top emitter of greenhouse gases that lead to climate change.
It aims to become carbon neutral by 2060, but local governments have pushed up investments in both renewables and coal in recent months.
Beijing has also not yet outlined precisely how it intends to achieve its emissions targets.
Environmentalists have warned that without specifying the size of the peak or setting an absolute cap, China can essentially keep increasing emissions until 2030.

A new roadmap for climate change adaptation published by the Chinese government last week says the focus should now shift to predicting extreme weather more accurately using sensors and satellites.
“The usefulness of weather forecasts caps out around 10 days, beyond which their accuracy rapidly drops to that of a coin flip,” think tank Trivium China said in a research note.
“Climate monitoring and forecasting is a whole different ballgame,” helping to predict severe floods and droughts at least a month in advance.
 


Sweltering streets: Hundreds of homeless die in extreme heat

Sweltering streets: Hundreds of homeless die in extreme heat
Updated 25 June 2022

Sweltering streets: Hundreds of homeless die in extreme heat

Sweltering streets: Hundreds of homeless die in extreme heat
  • Temperatures are rising nearly everywhere because of global warming, combining with brutal drought in some places to create more intense, frequent and longer heat waves
  • In the US, excessive heat causes more weather-related deaths than hurricanes, flooding and tornadoes combined

PHOENIX: Hundreds of blue, green and grey tents are pitched under the sun’s searing rays in downtown Phoenix, a jumble of flimsy canvas and plastic along dusty sidewalks. Here, in the hottest big city in America, thousands of homeless people swelter as the summer’s triple digit temperatures arrive.
The stifling tent city has ballooned amid pandemic-era evictions and surging rents that have dumped hundreds more people onto the sizzling streets that grow eerily quiet when temperatures peak in the midafternoon. A heat wave earlier this month brought temperatures of up to 114 degrees (45.5 Celsius) — and it’s only June. Highs reached 118 degrees (47.7 Celsius) last year.
“During the summer, it’s pretty hard to find a place at night that’s cool enough to sleep without the police running you off,” said Chris Medlock, a homeless Phoenix man known on the streets as “T-Bone” who carries everything he owns in a small backpack and often beds down in a park or a nearby desert preserve to avoid the crowds.
“If a kind soul could just offer a place on their couch indoors maybe more people would live,” Medlock said at a dining room where homeless people can get some shade and a free meal.
Excessive heat causes more weather-related deaths in the United States than hurricanes, flooding and tornadoes combined.

Around the country, heat contributes to some 1,500 deaths annually, and advocates estimate about half of those people are homeless.
Temperatures are rising nearly everywhere because of global warming, combining with brutal drought in some places to create more intense, frequent and longer heat waves. The past few summers have been some of the hottest on record.
Just in the county that includes Phoenix, at least 130 homeless people were among the 339 individuals who died from heat-associated causes in 2021.
“If 130 homeless people were dying in any other way it would be considered a mass casualty event,” said Kristie L. Ebi, a professor of global health at the University of Washington.
It’s a problem that stretches across the United States, and now, with rising global temperatures, heat is no longer a danger just in places like Phoenix.
This summer will likely bring above-normal temperatures over most land areas worldwide, according to the latest seasonal forecast map produced by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University.
Last summer, a heat wave blasted the normally temperate US Northwest and had Seattle residents sleeping in their yards and on roofs, or fleeing to hotels with air conditioning. Across the state, several people presumed to be homeless died outdoors, including a man slumped behind a gas station.
In Oregon, officials opened 24-hour cooling centers for the first time. Volunteer teams fanned out with water and popsicles to homeless encampments on Portland’s outskirts.
A quick scientific analysis concluded last year’s Pacific Northwest heat wave was virtually impossible without human-caused climate change adding several degrees and toppling previous records.

A man takes a photo of a sign at El Arroyo restaurant in Austin, Texas, on a hot afternoon, on  June 23, 2022. (Austin American-Statesman via AP)/ 

Even Boston is exploring ways to protect diverse neighborhoods like its Chinatown, where population density and few shade trees help drive temperatures up to 106 degrees (41 Celsius) some summer days. The city plans strategies like increasing tree canopy and other kinds of shade, using cooler materials for roofs, and expanding its network of cooling centers during heat waves.
It’s not just a US problem. An Associated Press analysis last year of a dataset published by the Columbia University’s climate school found exposure to extreme heat has tripled and now affects about a quarter of the world’s population.
This spring, an extreme heat wave gripped much of Pakistan and India, where homelessness is widespread due to discrimination and insufficient housing. The high in Jacobabad, Pakistan near the border with India hit 122 degrees (50 Celsius) in May.
Dr. Dileep Mavalankar, who heads the Indian Institute of Public Health in the western Indian city Gandhinagar, said because of poor reporting it’s unknown how many die in the country from heat exposure.
Summertime cooling centers for homeless, elderly and other vulnerable populations have opened in several European countries each summer since a heat wave killed 70,000 people across Europe in 2003.
Emergency service workers on bicycles patrol Madrid’s streets, distributing ice packs and water in the hot months. Still, some 1,300 people, most of them elderly, continue to die in Spain each summer because of health complications exacerbated by excess heat.
Spain and southern France last week sweltered through unusually hot weather for mid-June, with temperatures hitting 104 degrees (40 Celsius) in some areas.
Climate scientist David Hondula, who heads Phoenix’s new office for heat mitigation, says that with such extreme weather now seen around the world, more solutions are needed to protect the vulnerable, especially homeless people who are about 200 times more likely than sheltered individuals to die from heat-associated causes.
“As temperatures continue to rise across the US and the world, cities like Seattle, Minneapolis, New York or Kansas City that don’t have the experience or infrastructure for dealing with heat have to adjust as well.”
In Phoenix, officials and advocates hope a vacant building recently converted into a 200-bed shelter for homeless people will help save lives this summer.
Mac Mais, 34, was among the first to move in.
“It can be rough. I stay in the shelters or anywhere I can find,” said Mais who has been homeless on and off since he was a teen. “Here, I can stay out actually rest, work on job applications, stay out of the heat.”
In Las Vegas, teams deliver bottled water to homeless people living in encampments around the county and inside a network of underground storm drains under the Las Vegas strip.

People crowd the registration counter at Tej Bahadur Sapru Hospital in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, on June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Ahmedabad, India, population 8.4 million, was the first South Asian city to design a heat action plan in 2013.
Through its warning system, nongovernmental groups reach out to vulnerable people and send text messages to mobile phones. Water tankers are dispatched to slums, while bus stops, temples and libraries become shelters for people to escape the blistering rays.
Still, the deaths pile up.
Kimberly Rae Haws, a 62-year-old homeless woman, was severely burned in October 2020 while sprawled for an unknown amount of time on a sizzling Phoenix blacktop. The cause of her subsequent death was never investigated.
A young man nicknamed Twitch died from heat exposure as he sat on a curb near a Phoenix soup kitchen in the hours before it opened one weekend in 2018.
“He was supposed to move into permanent housing the next Monday,” said Jim Baker, who oversees that dining room for the St. Vincent de Paul charity. “His mother was devastated.”
Many such deaths are never confirmed as heat related and aren’t always noticed because of the stigma of homelessness and lack of connection to family.
When a 62-year-old mentally ill woman named Shawna Wright died last summer in a hot alley in Salt Lake City, her death only became known when her family published an obituary saying the system failed to protect her during the hottest July on record, when temperatures reached the triple digits.
Her sister, Tricia Wright, said making it easier for homeless people to get permanent housing would go a long way toward protecting them from extreme summertime temperatures.
“We always thought she was tough, that she could get through it,” Tricia Wright said of her sister. “But no one is tough enough for that kind of heat.”
 


US abortion ruling sparks global debate, polarizes activists

US abortion ruling sparks global debate, polarizes activists
Updated 25 June 2022

US abortion ruling sparks global debate, polarizes activists

US abortion ruling sparks global debate, polarizes activists
  • WHO chief, French president and Canadian prime minister among those who have expressed outrage
  • “This is being done in America, which should be an example when it comes to the women’s rights movement,” says Kenyan activist for abortion rights.

NAIROBI, Kenya: The end of constitutional protections for abortions in the United States on Friday emboldened abortion opponents around the world, while advocates for abortion rights worried it could threaten recent moves toward legalization in their countries.
The US Supreme Court’s overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision “shows that these types of rights are always at risk of being steamrolled,” said Ruth Zurbriggen, an Argentinian activist and member of the Companion Network of Latin America and the Caribbean, a group favoring abortion rights.
But in El Salvador, anti-abortion campaigner Sara Larín expressed hope the ruling will bolster campaigns against the procedure around the globe.
“I trust that with this ruling it will be possible to abolish abortion in the United States and throughout the world,” said Larín, president of Fundación Vida SV.
In Kenya, Phonsina Archane watched news of Friday’s ruling and said she froze for a while in a state of panic.
“This is being done in America, which should be an example when it comes to the women’s rights movement,” said Archane, an activist for abortion rights. “If this is happening in America, what about me here in Africa? It’s a very, very sad day.”

She worried the ruling will embolden abortion opponents across Africa who have charged into reproductive health clinics or threatened attacks. “There is no safe place on the continent,” she said.
Abortion in sub-Saharan Africa is already more unsafe than in any other region of the world, and the overwhelming majority of women of child-bearing age live in countries where abortion laws are highly or moderately restricted, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based research organization that supports abortion rights.
Archane said civil society groups in Africa will have to come together to work out strategies on how to keep themselves and women safe. Just months ago, many saw hope when the World Health Organization released guidelines on quality abortion care, she said. “We had a step ahead, and now we have to go five steps back again.”
The decision, which leaves it up to lawmakers in individual US state to decide whether to allow or ban abortions, lit up social media across Argentina, where a law that legalized elective abortion up to the 14th week of gestation took effect in January 2021 after years of debate.
Anti-abortion activists cheered the ruling, with legislator Amalia Granata tweeting: “There is justice again in the world. We are going to achieve this in Argentina too!!”
In more conservative countries like El Salvador, where abortions are illegal no matter the circumstance and where some 180 women with obstetric emergencies have been criminally prosecuted in the last two decades, Larín warned that the ruling could inspire yet more efforts to loosen abortion restrictions outside the US
“Campaigns promoting abortion may intensify in our countries because funding and abortion clinics in the United States are going to close as they have been doing in recent years,” she said.
At the Vatican, the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, joined US bishops in saying it is a time for reflection, healing wounds and civil dialogue.
“The fact that a large country with a long democratic tradition has changed its position on this issue also challenges the whole world.” the academy said.
In Mexico, lawyer and activist Verónica Cruz said the ruling could give a boost to anti-abortion groups, but added it likely won’t have any impact in Mexico where 10 of the country’s 32 states have legalized abortion up to 12 weeks gestation in recent years.
She noted the ruling could lead to an increase in calls for help from US women seeking to have abortions in Mexico or to buy pills to interrupt pregnancies at Mexican pharmacies.
So far this year, local activists have accompanied some 1,500 US women who traveled to Mexico for those purposes, Cruz said.
Ricardo Cano, with the anti-abortion group National Front for Life, also doubts the ruling would have any impact in Mexico or elsewhere in Latin America, given the advance of leftist ideologies in the region.
Colombia, which became in February the latest Latin American country to expand access to abortion, also will not be affected by the ruling, said Catalina Martínez Coral, director for Latin America and the Caribbean for the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Ahead of US President Joe Biden’s trip overseas, the heads of at least two Group of Seven members called the decision “horrific.”
“No government, politician or man should tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, adding that he “can’t imagine the fear and anger” women in the US must be experiencing in the wake of the ruling.
The French Foreign Ministry urged US federal authorities “to do everything possible” to ensure American women have continued access to abortions, calling it a “health and survival issue.” France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, added in a tweet that “abortion is a fundamental right of all women.”


Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organiztion, said on Twitter that he was “concerned and disappointed” by the ruling. saying it reduces both ”women’s rights and access to health care.”

The UN agency dealing with sexual and reproductive health said that whether or not abortion is legal “it happens all too often” and global data shows that restricting access makes abortion more deadly.
The United Nations Population Fund issued a statement following the Supreme Court’s decision noting that its 2022 report said that nearly half of all pregnancies worldwide are unintended and over 60 percent of those pregnancies may end in abortion.
“A staggering 45 percent of all abortions around the world are unsafe, making this a leading cause of maternal death,” the agency said.
It said almost all unsafe abortions occur in developing countries, and it fears that “more unsafe abortions will occur around the world if access to abortion becomes more restricted.”
In the only part of Latin America directly affected by the ruling, Puerto Rico, the island’s Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would prohibit abortions after 22 weeks or when a doctor determines a fetus is viable, with the sole exception being if a woman’s life is in danger. The bill is now before the island’s House of Representatives.
Dr. Migna Rivera García, president of Puerto Rico’s Association of Psychologists, said the US Supreme Court’s ruling has prompted abortion rights activists to reformulate their strategy.
“It causes a lot of uncertainty given the environment right now in Puerto Rico,” she said. “This bill harms poor women and black women the most. ... They don’t have access to services like other social groups.”