Colombia mine explosion kills 11 people, four missing

Colombia mine explosion kills 11 people, four missing
Miners are seen outside a coal mine after an explosion in Tasco, Colombia, on February 27, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 28 February 2022

Colombia mine explosion kills 11 people, four missing

Colombia mine explosion kills 11 people, four missing
  • Colombia’s mining industry includes huge open-pit and underground projects operated by multinational companies

BOGOTA: An explosion at a coal mine in Colombia’s Boyaca province killed 11 people and left four missing, the national mining agency (ANM) said on Sunday.
The accident occurred on Saturday night and was caused by a build up of methane gas at the mine, which is located in the Tasco municipality, the ANM said.
Colombia’s mining industry includes huge open-pit and underground projects operated by multinational companies, as well as hundreds of small, informal deposits.
Accidents in the mining sector occur regularly as some enterprises are illegal, or do not properly enforce safety measures.
The mine in Tasco had approval to operate, the ANM said. Rescue crews and fire fighters fear that the four people still missing were also killed in the explosion.
Colombia saw 128 mining accidents in 2021, which killed 148 dead. So far this year 19 mining accidents have taken place, with 36 deaths, according to the ANM.


Arab Americans losing major benefits from US Census’ ‘discriminatory’ exclusion

Arab Americans losing major benefits from US Census’ ‘discriminatory’ exclusion
Updated 12 sec ago

Arab Americans losing major benefits from US Census’ ‘discriminatory’ exclusion

Arab Americans losing major benefits from US Census’ ‘discriminatory’ exclusion
  • No access to federal grants for minority business and congressional political empowerment programs, says Samer Khalaf, ADC national president
  • ‘Critical data needed for treatment of COVID-19, disability, mental health and other medical issues’

CHICAGO: The continued exclusion of Arab Americans from being counted in the decennial US Census is “another form of discrimination,” resulting in the loss of financial benefits and critical data needed for healthcare and other programs, according to Samer Khalaf, national president of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

During an interview on The Ray Hanania Show on the US Arab Radio Network and sponsored by Arab News, the ADC leader said that while he favors using the term “Arab” on the census, the community consensus to use MENA, or Middle East and North African, has the support of the Biden administration and cuts through the many divisions in the community.

Being excluded in the census, Khalaf said, has resulted in Arab Americans losing benefits — from receiving federal grants to being included in congressional political empowerment programs.

“It’s not just that we lost things. We never got anything that we were entitled to get. It’s not just a financial aspect. There hasn’t been a National Institute Health Study on the Arab community, ever. And the reason why is because there are no reliable data that can be used in the study because we are not counted. We have become the invisible minority,” Khalaf told Arab News.

“So, there are things other than financial that we are not getting. We don’t know what our COVID infection rates are. We don’t know what the percentage of our community is vaccinated because that data is simply not collected. It is beyond just financial detriment to our community. We have lost a lot of stuff … we don’t even realize.”

Khalaf emphasized: “It (the census exclusion) is discrimination because it is basically keeping us out of a lot of the programs that we think we are entitled to. Moreover, it is treating us as if we don’t exist. Literally as we don’t exist at all in this country and that is the biggest problem that we have.”

Khalaf said that over the years the diversity of the Arab world and Middle East has actually played against the US government embracing the term “Arab” as the possible designation on a future census, possibly in 2030. That’s why the emphasis has been on “MENA.”

“The ADC’s always number one preference is ‘Arab.’ That’s always been the case. We use the term and will use the term, and continue to use the term in the future. Our biggest (concern), again, what we thought the big picture was, is that as long as we were counted as a separate and distinct group, Arab (or) MENA, we just need to be counted,” Khalaf said.

“We want the issue to be transformed away from what (term is) to be used, to be that we are counted. Let’s step aside (from) the issue and what terms we are going to use and at least get the issue of being counted done and out of the way. That’s why we, as an organization, said fine. If it is going to be MENA, as long as we are counted, we are okay with that.”

Khalaf said that the Arab community has failed to receive its share of federal government support which ranges from funding to political recognition, and support for cultural and health programs. 

One example of how Arabs have been marginalized, Khalaf said, is in the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the pandemic’s impact on Arab Americans. He said that the government has instead asked the Arab community to gather the necessary community data that is needed to qualify Arab families and businesses for COVID-19 relief.

“One of the pushbacks we are getting from the federal government is … that there are no statistics, or there are no numbers as to how many Arab American businesses are there. Where are they located? Are they successful? They want to know from us do we have issues getting loans. Are our interest rates higher than others because of discrimination? That information is not available,” Khalaf said.

“They went to us and charged us to collect that information. So the ADC right now is doing a study. We are trying to collect data. We are asking Arab American business owners all over the country to fill out a questionnaire that we have on our website which is on ADCRI.org. 

“Business owners can go there and fill out a questionnaire. It will be anonymous so nobody knows who they are. But at least we can now get the data and take that data to the government and say hey look, here is the data we have for you. Now give us the minority business designation.”

“It changed and transformed the landscape. So we did see issues regarding our own businesses. We saw other problems develop because of COVID. And a lot of that had to do more or less with our community unable to sort of fully tap all the benefits that the federal government and state government are offering to the individuals. 

“And some of that was because of our own lack of knowledge. Some of it was because of the barrier to our language, language barriers. And some of it was the fact that as a community, we are not recognized. We are still classified as White. So we were (by) definition not even able to get some of those benefits.”

Khalaf said that exclusion from the census as “Arab” or “MENA” “holds us back,” and Arabs have become an “underserved community” when it comes to providing resources to address challenges that face all communities, including family services, domestic violence, disability, mental health and healthcare. 

“We are denied the resources for us to know how these issues impact our community and how serious they are,” he said.

Khalaf said that the Arab community came close to being fully included in the census during the administration of President Barack Obama, but noted that former president Donald Trump blocked it. President Joe Biden, he said, is “reviewing it.”

“Chances are it is going to happen. It is a matter of time. But we need to be vigilant,” Khalaf said.

“We need to hold the census and OMB — and don’t forget that the OMB is an important player in all of this, the Office of Management and Budget. OMB is the one that defines the classification, and we need to hold their feet to the fire and say this was a done deal and you were about to do it if not for the former administration.”

The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington DC including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.

You can listen to the radio podcast by visiting ArabNews.com/rayradioshow.


WHO: Monkeypox cases in Europe have tripled in last 2 weeks

WHO: Monkeypox cases in Europe have tripled in last 2 weeks
Updated 01 July 2022

WHO: Monkeypox cases in Europe have tripled in last 2 weeks

WHO: Monkeypox cases in Europe have tripled in last 2 weeks
  • “Urgent and coordinated action is imperative if we are to turn a corner in the race to reverse the ongoing spread of this disease,” Kluge said
  • More than 5,000 monkeypox cases have been reported from 51 countries worldwide

LONDON: The World Health Organization’s Europe chief warned Friday that monkeypox cases in the region have tripled in the last two weeks and urged countries to do more to ensure the previously rare disease does not become entrenched on the continent.
Dr. Hans Kluge said in a statement that increased efforts were needed despite the UN health agency’s decision last week that the escalating outbreak did not yet warrant being declared a global health emergency.
“Urgent and coordinated action is imperative if we are to turn a corner in the race to reverse the ongoing spread of this disease,” Kluge said.
To date, more than 5,000 monkeypox cases have been reported from 51 countries worldwide, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kluge said the number of infections in Europe represents about 90 percent of the global total, noting that 31 countries in the WHO’s European region have now identified cases.
Kluge said data reported to the WHO show that 99 percent of cases have been in men — and that the majority of those have been in men that have sex with men. But he said there were now “small numbers” of cases among household contacts, including children. Most people reported symptoms including a rash, fever, fatigue, muscle pain, vomiting and chills.
Scientists warn anyone who is in close physical contact with someone who has monkeypox or their clothing or bedsheets is at risk of infection, regardless of their sexual orientation. Vulnerable populations like children and pregnant women are thought to be more likely to suffer severe disease.
About 10 percent of patients were hospitalized for treatment or to be isolated, and one person was admitted to an intensive care unit. No deaths have been reported.
Kluge said the problem of stigmatization in some countries might make some people wary of seeking health care and said the WHO was working with partners including organizers of pride events.
In the UK, which has the biggest monkeypox outbreak beyond Africa, officials have noted the disease is spreading in “defined sexual networks of men who have sex with men.” British health authorities said there were no signs suggesting sustained transmission beyond those populations.
A leading WHO adviser said in May that the spike in cases in Europe was likely tied to sexual activity by men at two rave parties in Spain and Belgium, speculating that its appearance in the bisexual community was a “random event.” British experts have said most cases in the UK involve men who reported having sex with other men in venues such as saunas and clubs.
Ahead of pride events in the UK this weekend, London’s top public health doctor asked people who have symptoms of monkeypox, like swollen glands or blisters, to stay home.
WHO Europe director Kluge appealed to countries to scale up their surveillance and genetic sequencing capacities for monkeypox so that cases could be quickly identified and measures taken to prevent further transmission. He said the procurement of vaccines “must apply the principles of equity.”
The main vaccine being used against monkeypox was originally developed for smallpox and the European Medicines Agency said earlier this week it was beginning to evaluate whether the shot should be authorized for monkeypox. The WHO has said supplies of the vaccine, made by Bavarian Nordic, are extremely limited.
Some countries including the UK and Germany have already begun vaccinating people at high-risk of monkeypox; the UK recently widened its immunization program to offer the shot to mostly men who have multiple sexual partners and are thought to be most vulnerable.
Until May, monkeypox had never been known to cause large outbreaks beyond Africa, where the disease is endemic in several countries and mostly causes limited outbreaks when it jumps to people from infected wild animals.
To date, there have been about 1,800 suspected monkeypox cases including more than 70 deaths in Africa. Vaccines have never been used to stop monkeypox outbreaks in Africa.
The WHO’s Africa office said this week that countries with vaccine supplies “are mainly reserving them for their own populations.”


Daesh ‘Beatle’ tells victim’s daughter her father asked executioners to make his death ‘quick’

Daesh ‘Beatle’ tells victim’s daughter her father asked executioners to make his death ‘quick’
Updated 01 July 2022

Daesh ‘Beatle’ tells victim’s daughter her father asked executioners to make his death ‘quick’

Daesh ‘Beatle’ tells victim’s daughter her father asked executioners to make his death ‘quick’
  • Alexanda Kotey made revelations during meeting with Bethany Haines, whose father the group murdered in 2014
  • Another so-called ‘Beatle,’ Aine Davis, set to return to UK after release from Turkish jail

LONDON: A British aid worker murdered by Daesh asked his executioners to “make it quick” before they killed him in 2014.

Alexanda Kotey, 37, one of the terror group’s so-called “Beatles” cell, told Bethany Haines, daughter of David Haines — a former Royal Air Force worker from Scotland — that her father had made the request before he was beheaded by fellow terrorist Mohammed Emwazi in 2014.

The revelation came during a meeting between Bethany Haines and Kotey in the US, where the British-born militant is serving a life sentence for his activities with the group.

“He told me that Jihadi John (Emwazi) had been away to execute my father and my father knew what was coming, closed his eyes, and said, ‘Can you make it quick?’ I can picture him saying that, in his orange jumpsuit, with his eyes closed,” Haines said. “I can picture him saying, ‘Please make it quick.’”

Kotey also told her that he had followed David for several days before abducting him in 2013, and that the murder had been delayed so that Daesh could film it from multiple angles to use for propaganda purposed, she added.

“I asked for an apology,” Haines said. “I pressed on with it and eventually he did say, ‘I am sorry for’ — he just used my words for it — ‘abducting and hurting your dad.’ Did he mean it? No.”

Kotey was sentenced to life in prison by a court in Virginia in April, having pleaded guilty to charges of kidnap, torture and executing hostages. Presiding Judge TS Ellis described Kotey as “egregious, violent and inhuman.” 

During his trial, Haines confronted him in the dock, saying he should “rot in hell.”

Co-defendant and fellow “Beatle” El Shafee Elsheikh will be sentenced in August. The duo were stripped of their UK citizenship when they were captured in Syria in 2018, and extradited to the US.

Emwazi, meanwhile, was killed in a drone strike in 2015. The fourth “Beatle,” Aine Davis, was recently freed from a prison in Turkey after serving a seven-and-a-half year sentence, and is set to be deported to the UK on July 9.

Between them, the four are thought to have taken part in the torture and murder of 27 people.

Reg Henning, brother of David Henning, another British aid worker murdered by Daesh, said the UK should deny Davis entry over fears that he may be released on arrival. 

Davis was subject to an Interpol red notice at the behest of British police after his wife, Amal El-Wahabi, was jailed in the UK for 28 months for trying to send him €20,000 ($20,868), which could see him charged with preparing acts of terrorism abroad.

“He’s British when it suits him,” said Henning. “He left to join Islamic State, but is thinking, ‘I’ll go back to Britain because they’re nice and soft.’”

Dr Alan Mendoza, executive director of counter-terrorism think tank the Henry Jackson Society, told the Daily Mail: “A dangerous jihadist is heading back to the UK after a career of extreme violence and we can do nothing about it except spend vast sums to monitor him. 

“We need urgent reform of legislation to ensure national security threats like this are dealt with far from these shores.”

Despite having his citizenship removed, Kotey may also be returned to the UK to stand trial for the deaths of Daesh hostages including David Haines.


UN rights chief urges Taliban to respect women’s rights

UN rights chief urges Taliban to respect women’s rights
Updated 01 July 2022

UN rights chief urges Taliban to respect women’s rights

UN rights chief urges Taliban to respect women’s rights
  • Women face hunger, domestic violence, unemployment, curbs on movement and dress, and lack of access to education
  • “Their future will be even darker, unless something changes, quickly," said the UN human rights chief

ZURICH: The United Nations human rights chief urged the Taliban authorities on Friday to respect the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, which she said were facing the biggest erosion in decades.
Women face hunger, domestic violence, unemployment, curbs on movement and dress, and lack of access to education in a country where secondary schooling for 1.2 million girls has stopped, Michelle Bachelet told a UN Human Rights Council debate in Geneva.
“While some of these concerns pre-date the Taliban take-over in August 2021, reforms at that time were moving in the right direction, there were improvements and hope,” she said.
“However, since the Taliban took power, women and girls are experiencing the most significant and rapid roll-back in enjoyment of their rights across the board in decades. Their future will be even darker, unless something changes, quickly.”
The Taliban seized power for a second time in Afghanistan last August as international forces who had backed a pro-Western government pulled out. Their taking of the capital Kabul marked the end of a 20-year war stemming from a US invasion that toppled a previous Taliban government.
Bachelet said authorities she met during a visit to Kabul in March said they would honor their human rights obligations as far as they were consistent with Islamic sharia law. She decried the progressive exclusion of women and girls from the public sphere.
She urged the Taliban to set a firm date to reopen schools for girls and remove restrictions on women’s movement and attire.
Governors in some regions were applying policies in ways that provide options for women and girls, she said, offering a window to expand women’s role in society and economic life.
Richard Bennett, special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, criticized forced and child marriage and curbs on attire, movement and employment.
“Despite public assurances from the Taliban that they would respect women’s and girls’ rights, they are reinstituting step by step the discrimination against women and girls’ characteristic of their previous term and which is unparalleled globally in its misogyny and oppression,” he told the debate.
When Bennett visited Afghanistan in May, the Taliban deputy spokesman denied human rights concerns.


Lawyer for Paris attacker questions life term with no parole, hints at retrial

Lawyer for Paris attacker questions life term with no parole, hints at retrial
Updated 01 July 2022

Lawyer for Paris attacker questions life term with no parole, hints at retrial

Lawyer for Paris attacker questions life term with no parole, hints at retrial
  • Daesh attacks on Bataclan theater, Paris cafes and France’s national stadium killed 130 people
  • Abdeslam was found guilty Wednesday of murder and attempted murder in relation with a terrorist enterprise

PARIS: The lawyer for the only surviving attacker from the November 2015 terrorist massacre in Paris criticized her client's murder conviction and life prison sentence without the possibility of parole, saying Thursday the verdict “raises serious questions.”
Olivia Ronen did not say if Salah Abdeslam would appeal the verdict and sentence. He has 10 days in which to do so.
Abdeslam was found guilty Wednesday of murder and attempted murder in relation with a terrorist enterprise, among other charges, over his involvement in the Daesh attacks on the Bataclan theater, Paris cafes and France’s national stadium that killed 130 people.
Ronen argued throughout the marathon trial of Abdeslam and 19 other men that her client had not detonated his explosives-packed vest and hadn’t killed anyone the night of the deadliest peacetime attacks in French history.
Nevertheless, Abdeslam, a 32-year-old Belgian, was given the most severe sentence possible in France for murder and that “raises serious questions," Ronen said in an interview with public radio station France Inter.
During his trial testimony, Abdeslam told a special terrorist court in Paris that he was a last-minute addition to the nine-member attacking squad that spread out across the French capital on Nov. 13, 2015, to launch the coordinated attacks at multiple sites.
Abdeslam said he walked into a bar with explosives strapped to his body but changed his mind and disabled the detonator. He said he could not kill people “singing and dancing.”
The court found, however, that Abdeslam's explosives vest malfunctioned, dismissing his claim that he decided not to follow through with his part of the attack because of a change of heart.
The other eight attackers, including Abdeslam's brother, either blew themselves up or were killed by police. Abdeslam drove three of them to the locations of the attacks that night.
The worst carnage was in the Bataclan. Three gunmen burst into the venue, firing indiscriminately. Ninety people died within minutes. Hundreds were held hostage — some gravely injured — for hours before then-President Francois Hollande ordered the theater stormed.
Abdeslam was nowhere near the Bataclan at any time that night, defense lawyer Ronen said, suggesting he therefore did not deserve France’s most severe murder sentence possible.
“We have condemned a person we know was not at the Bataclan as if he was there,” Ronen said. “That raises serious questions.”
The chief prosecutor at the special terrorism court Jean-Francois Ricard said the trial of the 20 extremists, the court's verdicts and sentences, including the harshest one for Abdeslam, were a “triumph for the rule of law” in France.
“Abdeslam dropped off three human bombs and killed by proxy,” Ricard said on Thursday in an interview with another public broadcaster, France Info. “His punishment is just.”
The sentence of life without parole had only previously been given four times in France, for crimes related to rape and murder of minors.
The special terrorism court also convicted 19 other men involved in the attacks. Eighteen were given various terrorism-related convictions, and one was convicted on a lesser fraud charge. Some were given life sentences; others walked free after being sentenced to time served.
Abdeslam apologized to the victims at his final court appearance Monday, saying that listening to their accounts of “so much suffering” changed him.
Georges Salines, who lost his daughter Lola in the Bataclan, felt Abdeslam’s remorse was insincere. “I don’t think it’s possible to forgive him,” he said.
But for Salines, life without parole is going too far.
“I don’t like the idea of in advance deciding that there is no hope,” he said. “I think it is important to keep hope for any man.”