Taliban arrest fighter who shot dead Hazara woman at checkpoint

Taliban arrest fighter who shot dead Hazara woman at checkpoint
The killing of Zainab Abdullahi, 25, has horrified women, who face increasing restrictions since the Taliban returned to power in August. (File/AFP)
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Updated 19 January 2022

Taliban arrest fighter who shot dead Hazara woman at checkpoint

Taliban arrest fighter who shot dead Hazara woman at checkpoint
  • Abdullahi was “killed by mistake,” Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said on Twitter, adding the arrested fighter would be punished

KABUL: A Taliban fighter has been arrested for shooting dead a Hazara woman at a checkpoint in the Afghan capital as she returned from a wedding, a spokesman for the group said Wednesday.
The killing of Zainab Abdullahi, 25, has horrified women, who face increasing restrictions since the Taliban returned to power in August.
The shooting took place in a Kabul neighborhood inhabited mostly by members of the minority Shiite Hazara community, who have been persecuted by Sunni hard-liners for centuries, with jihadist groups such as Islamic State regularly targeting them in deadly attacks.
Abdullahi was “killed by mistake,” Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said on Twitter, adding the arrested fighter would be punished.
Her family has been offered 600,000 Afghani (around $5,700) for the January 13 shooting in the capital’s Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood, the interior ministry said separately.
Some women’s rights activists have staged small protests in Kabul since Abdullahi’s killing, demanding justice.
The Taliban are increasingly imposing their hard-line interpretation of Islamic law on the country, and women are being squeezed out of public life.
Most secondary schools for girls are shut, while women are barred from all but essential government work.
They have also been ordered not to commute long distances unless accompanied by a close male relative.
Earlier this month, the Taliban’s religious police put up posters around the capital ordering women to cover up.
A spokesman for the feared Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice said it was “just encouragement for Muslim women to follow Sharia law.”
On Tuesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, urged the Security Council to “hold to account” those guilty of abuses in Afghanistan.
She said denying women and girls their fundamental rights was “massively damaging” a country already facing a humanitarian disaster of unprecedented proportions.
The Taliban have promised a softer version of the rule that characterised their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001, but their interim government has no female members.


US warns abortion ruling could increase extremist violence

US warns abortion ruling could increase extremist violence
Updated 19 May 2022

US warns abortion ruling could increase extremist violence

US warns abortion ruling could increase extremist violence
  • Opponents of abortion have carried out at least 10 killings as well as dozens of arson and bomb attacks against medical facilities in their long campaign to overturn Roe v. Wade

WASHINGTON: The leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion striking down the constitutional right to abortion has unleashed a wave of threats against officials and others and increased the likelihood of extremist violence, an internal government report says.
Violence could come from either side of the abortion issue or from other types of extremists seeking to exploit tensions, according to a memo directed to local government agencies from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis.
It’s an added element to what is already a volatile environment in the US, where authorities have warned repeatedly over the past two years that the threat posed by domestic extremists, such as the gunman who committed the racist attack over the weekend in Buffalo, has surpassed the danger from abroad.
The memo, dated May 13 and obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, seeks to differentiate between illegal activity and the intense but legal outpouring of protests that are all but guaranteed when the Supreme Court issues its ruling at the end of its term this summer, regardless of the outcome.
“DHS is committed to protecting Americans’ freedom of speech and other civil rights and civil liberties, including the right to peacefully protest,” the agency said in a written response to questions about the memo.
Those protests could turn violent. The memo warns that people “across a broad range of various ... ideologies are attempting to justify and inspire attacks against abortion-related targets and ideological opponents at lawful protests.”
Violence associated with the abortion debate would not be unprecedented nor would it necessarily be confined to one side or the other, the memo says.
Opponents of abortion have carried out at least 10 killings as well as dozens of arson and bomb attacks against medical facilities in their long campaign to overturn Roe v. Wade.
DHS said there is also a potential for violence from the other side, citing recent damage to buildings used by abortion opponents in Wisconsin and Oregon.
“Historically, violent acts related to this issue were primarily committed by abortion-related violent extremists that opposed abortion rights,” it said. “Going forward, grievances related to restricting abortion access could fuel violence by pro-choice abortion-related violent extremists and other” (domestic violent extremists).
In the Wisconsin incident, it noted, the building was set on fire and the perpetrators left graffiti that said “If abortions aren’t safe (then) you aren’t either.”
The leak of the opinion this month, authorities prompted a “significant increase” in threats through social media of Supreme Court justices, members of Congress and other public officials as well as clergy and health care providers, the memo said.
At least 25 of those threats were forwarded to law enforcement agencies for further investigation.


Monkeypox cases detected in Spain, Portugal and US

Monkeypox cases detected in Spain, Portugal and US
Updated 10 min 43 sec ago

Monkeypox cases detected in Spain, Portugal and US

Monkeypox cases detected in Spain, Portugal and US
  • Monkeypox, which mostly occurs in west and central Africa, is a rare viral infection similar to human smallpox, though milder
  • WHO says coordinating with authorities over the outbreak; CDC confirms first US case

MADRID/BOSTON: Spain and Portugal have detected over 40 suspected cases of monkeypox, while US authorities reported the country’s first confirmed case.

Monkeypox, which mostly occurs in west and central Africa, is a rare viral infection similar to human smallpox, though milder. The virus causes fever symptoms as well as a distinctive bumpy rash.

The outbreaks were concentrated in the Spanish and Portuguese capital cities, officials said Wednesday.

The lone US case was detected in Massachusetts, with health officials saying the man found with the infection had recently traveled to Canada.

The announcements came just days after British health authorities said they had detected seven cases so far this month, with the World Health Organization working with the government to investigate the outbreak.

Health officials have noted some of these infections may be through sexual contact — in this instance among gay or bisexual men — which would be a new development in understanding how the virus is transmitted.

In a statement, health authorities in the Madrid region said they had detected “23 possible cases of monkeypox,” indicating all of them were believed to have been transmitted through sexual activity.

An image created during an investigation into an outbreak of monkeypox in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from 1996 to 1997, shows the arms and torso of a patient with skin lesions due to monkeypox. (CDC Handout via REUTERS)

“In general, its transmission is via respiratory drops but the characteristics of the 23 suspected infections point to it being passed on through bodily fluids during sex relations,” the statement said, without giving further details.

“All of them are young adult males and most of them are men who have sexual relations with other men, but not all of them,” Elena Andradas, head of public health in the Madrid region, told Cadena Ser radio.

Another 20 suspected cases of monkeypox have been detected in the Lisbon region, Portugal’s health ministry said in a statement.

“The cases were all among males, the majority of them young, who had ulcerated lesions,” it said.

Symptoms of monkeypox in humans include a rash which often starts on the face then moves to other parts of the body, fever, muscle ache and chills. Most people recover from the illness within several weeks.

Transmission is usually via close contact with infected animals such as rodents and monkeys, and is limited between people. It has only been fatal in rare cases.


ALSO READ: EXPLAINER: Why monkeypox cases are rising in Europe


The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), a public health protection body, on Monday said it had detected four new cases after registering three cases earlier in May.

All four of the additional cases were men who have sex with men or self-identify as gay or bisexual, it said.

None have known connections with the three earlier confirmed cases, the first of which was linked to travel from Nigeria, raising fears of community spread of the virus.

In the US, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health said it was working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and relevant local boards of health to carry out contact tracing, adding that “the case poses no risk to the public, and the individual is hospitalized and in good condition.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada late on Wednesday issued a statement saying it is aware of the monkeypox cases in Europe and is closely monitoring the current situation, adding no cases have been reported at this time.

Monkeypox was first recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1970s. The number of cases in West Africa has increased in the last decade.

Symptoms include fever, headaches and skin rashes starting on the face and spreading to the rest of the body.

The Massachusetts agency said the virus does not spread easily between people, but transmission can occur through contact with body fluids, monkeypox sores, items such as bedding or clothing that have been contaminated with fluids or sores, or through respiratory droplets following prolonged face-to-face contact.

It said no monkeypox cases had previously been identified in the US this year. Texas and Maryland each reported a case in 2021 in people with recent travel to Nigeria.

The CDC also said it is tracking multiple clusters of monkeypox reported in Europe within the past two weeks.

 


EXPLAINER: Why monkeypox cases are rising in Europe

EXPLAINER: Why monkeypox cases are rising in Europe
Updated 4 sec ago

EXPLAINER: Why monkeypox cases are rising in Europe

EXPLAINER: Why monkeypox cases are rising in Europe

LONDON: A handful of cases of monkeypox have now been reported or are suspected in the United Kingdom, Portugal and Spain.
The outbreaks are raising alarm because the disease mostly occurs in west and central Africa, and only very occasionally spreads elsewhere.
Here’s what scientists know so far.

’Highly unusual’
Monkeypox is a virus that causes fever symptoms as well as a distinctive bumpy rash. It is usually mild, although there are two main strains: the Congo strain, which is more severe – with up to 10 percent mortality – and the West African strain, which has a fatality rate of more like 1 percent of cases. The UK cases are least have been reported as the West African strain.
“Historically, there have been very few cases exported. It has only happened eight times in the past before this year,” said Jimmy Whitworth, a professor of international public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who said it was “highly unusual.”
Portugal has logged five confirmed cases, and Spain is testing 23 potential cases. Neither country has reported cases before.

Transmission
The virus spreads through close contact, both in spillovers from animal hosts and, less commonly, between humans. It was first found in monkeys in 1958, hence the name, although rodents are now seen as the main source of transmission.
Transmission this time is puzzling experts, because a number of the cases in the United Kingdom — nine as of May 18 — have no known connection with each other. Only the first case reported on May 6 had recently traveled to Nigeria.
As such, experts have warned of wider transmission if cases have gone unreported.
The UK Health Security Agency’s alert also highlighted that the recent cases were predominantly among men who self-identified as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men, and advised those groups to be alert.
Scientists will now sequence the virus to see if they are linked, the World Health Organization (WHO) said this week.

Why not?
One likely scenario behind the increase in cases is increased travel as COVID restrictions are lifted.
“My working theory would be that there’s a lot of it about in west and central Africa, travel has resumed, and that’s why we are seeing more cases,” said Whitworth.
Monkeypox puts virologists on the alert because it is in the smallpox family, although it causes less serious illness.
Smallpox was eradicated by vaccination in 1980, and the shot has been phased out. But it also protects against monkeypox, and so the winding down of vaccination campaigns has led to a jump in monkeypox cases, according to Anne Rimoin, an epidemiology professor at UCLA in California.
But experts urged people not to panic.
“This isn’t going to cause a nationwide epidemic like COVID did, but it’s a serious outbreak of a serious disease – and we should take it seriously,” said Whitworth.


UN urges Ukraine grain release, World Bank pledges extra $12 bn

UN urges Ukraine grain release, World Bank pledges extra $12 bn
Updated 19 May 2022

UN urges Ukraine grain release, World Bank pledges extra $12 bn

UN urges Ukraine grain release, World Bank pledges extra $12 bn
  • UN chief says the Russia-Ukraine war “threatens to tip tens of millions of people over the edge into food insecurity”
  • Russia and Ukraine alone produce 30 percent of the global wheat supply

UNITED NATIONS: The UN warned Wednesday that a growing global food crisis could last years if it goes unchecked, as the World Bank announced an additional $12 billion in funding to mitigate its “devastating effects.”
Food insecurity is soaring due to warming temperatures, the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has led to critical shortages of grains and fertilizer.
At a major United Nations meeting in New York on global food security, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war “threatens to tip tens of millions of people over the edge into food insecurity.”
He said what could follow would be “malnutrition, mass hunger and famine, in a crisis that could last for years,” as he and others urged Russia to release Ukrainian grain exports.
Russia and Ukraine alone produce 30 percent of the global wheat supply.
Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and international economic sanctions on Russia have disrupted supplies of fertilizer, wheat and other commodities from both countries, pushing up prices for food and fuel, especially in developing nations.
Before the invasion in February, Ukraine was seen as the world’s bread basket, exporting 4.5 million tons of agricultural produce per month through its ports — 12 percent of the planet’s wheat, 15 percent of its corn and half of its sunflower oil.
But with the ports of Odessa, Chornomorsk and others cut off from the world by Russian warships, the supply can only travel on congested land routes that are far less efficient.
“Let’s be clear: there is no effective solution to the food crisis without reintegrating Ukraine’s food production,” Guterres said.
“Russia must permit the safe and secure export of grain stored in Ukrainian ports.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who chaired the summit, and World Food Programme head David Beasley echoed the call.
“The world is on fire. We have solutions. We need to act and we need to act now,” implored Beasley.
Russia is the world’s top supplier of key fertilizers and gas.
The fertilizers are not subject to the Western sanctions, but sales have been disrupted by measures taken against the Russian financial system while Moscow has also restricted exports, diplomats say.
Guterres also said Russian food and fertilizers “must have full and unrestricted access to world markets.”

Food insecurity had begun to spike even before Moscow, which was not invited to Wednesday’s UN meet, invaded its neighbor on February 24.
In just two years, the number of severely food insecure people has doubled — from 135 million pre-pandemic to 276 million today, according to the UN.
More than half a million people are living in famine conditions, an increase of more than 500 percent since 2016, the world body says.
The World Bank’s announcement will bring total available funding for projects over the next 15 months to $30 billion.
The new funding will help boost food and fertilizer production, facilitate greater trade and support vulnerable households and producers, the World Bank said.
The bank previously announced $18.7 billion in funding for projects linked to “food and nutrition security issues” for Africa and the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and South Asia.
Washington welcomed the decision, which is part of a joint action plan by multilateral lenders and regional development banks to address the food crisis.
The Treasury Department described Russia’s war as “the latest global shock that is exacerbating the sharp increase in both acute and chronic food insecurity in recent years” as it applauded institutions for working swiftly to address the issues.
India over the weekend banned wheat exports, which sent prices for the grain soaring.
The ban was announced Saturday in the face of falling production caused primarily by an extreme heatwave.
“Countries should make concerted efforts to increase the supply of energy and fertilizer, help farmers increase plantings and crop yields, and remove policies that block exports and imports, divert food to biofuel, or encourage unnecessary storage,” said World Bank President David Malpass.


Tesla’s Musk says he ‘can no longer support’ Democrats, ‘will vote Republican’

Tesla’s Musk says he ‘can no longer support’ Democrats, ‘will vote Republican’
Updated 19 May 2022

Tesla’s Musk says he ‘can no longer support’ Democrats, ‘will vote Republican’

Tesla’s Musk says he ‘can no longer support’ Democrats, ‘will vote Republican’
  • Musk rejects proposals by Democrats to tax billionaires and give more tax incentives to union-made electric vehicles
  • Electric vehicle maker Tesla, founded and led by Musk, does not have unions at its US factories.

SAN FRANCISCO, US: Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk said on Wednesday that while he voted for Democrats in the past, he will now vote for Republicans.
“In the past I voted Democrat, because they were (mostly) the kindness party. But they have become the party of division & hate, so I can no longer support them and will vote Republican,” he tweeted.
“Now, watch their dirty tricks campaign against me unfold,” said Musk, the world’s richest man, who has agreed to buy Twitter Inc.
The 50-year-old billionaire recently said he would reverse Twitter’s ban on former US President Donald Trump, a Republican, when he buys the social media platform. He also said Twitter is far-left-biased because it is headquartered in California, a state known for its progressive politics.
Musk has been a vocal critic of the Biden administration and Democrats for their proposals to tax billionaires and give more tax incentives to union-made electric vehicles. Tesla does not have unions at its US factories.
Last year, Tesla, which counts California as its biggest market in the United States, moved its headquarters from California to the more politically conservative Texas.
Musk moved his personal residence from California to Texas, where there is no state income tax. He has sold about $25 billion worth of Tesla stock since last year in order to pay taxes and finance his proposed acquisition of Twitter. Analysts said the sales helped him cash in on Tesla’s stock rally and diversify his wealth.