Bus crash in Croatia leaves 12 Polish pilgrims dead, 32 injured

Bus crash in Croatia leaves 12 Polish pilgrims dead, 32 injured
A crane removes the bus with Polish license plates that slipped off a road, from the scene near Varazdin, northwestern Croatia, on Saturday. (Reuters)
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Updated 06 August 2022

Bus crash in Croatia leaves 12 Polish pilgrims dead, 32 injured

Bus crash in Croatia leaves 12 Polish pilgrims dead, 32 injured
  • Thirty-two people were injured in the crash which happened at 5:40 a.m.
  • Croatian Health Minister Vili Beros said 19 people were in a serious condition

VARAZDIN, Croatia: Twelve people were killed in Croatia on Saturday when a Polish bus filled with religious pilgrims slipped off a road and crashed near Varazdin, authorities said.
Thirty-two people were injured in the crash which happened at 5:40 a.m. (0340 GMT) on the highway between Varazdin, in northwest Croatia, and capital Zagreb.
Croatian Health Minister Vili Beros said 19 people were in a serious condition.
Marcin Przydacz, deputy head of the Polish Foreign Ministry, who was traveling to the site on Saturday, said the injured were being treated at five hospitals in Croatia.
He said there were 44 Polish pilgrims on the bus driving from Poland to Medjugorje, a Roman Catholic shrine in southern Bosnia, including two drivers. Among them were three priests and six nuns, a ministry spokesman said.
Police cleared the area where the accident took place after firefighters and medical teams recovered all the occupants of the vehicle which had Warsaw registration plates.
Polish police officers, in Croatia as part of project “Safe Tourist Destination” project, were helping Croatian authorities in communicating with the survivors.
An investigation has been started into the cause of the accident.


US Senate adopts sweeping climate and health plan, in major victory for Biden

US Senate adopts sweeping climate and health plan, in major victory for Biden
Updated 9 sec ago

US Senate adopts sweeping climate and health plan, in major victory for Biden

US Senate adopts sweeping climate and health plan, in major victory for Biden
  • The bill — officially known as the “Inflation Reduction Act” — passed the Senate with no Republicans voting in favor

WASHINGTON: After 18 months of arduous negotiations and a marathon night of debate, the US Senate on Sunday passed Joe Biden’s ambitious climate, tax and health care plan — a significant victory for the president ahead of crucial midterm elections.
Voting as a unified bloc and with the tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President Kamala Harris, Democrats approved the $430 billion spending plan, which will go to the House of Representatives next week, where it is expected to pass before being signed into law by Biden.
The plan, crafted in sensitive talks with members on the right wing of his Democratic Party, would include the biggest US investment ever on climate — $370 billion aimed at effecting a 40 percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
That would give Biden a clear victory on one of his top agenda items and go some way toward restoring US leadership in meeting the global climate challenge.
Biden hailed the passage of the bill, highlighting the work that went into it — and acknowledging that not everyone is happy with the final result.
“It required many compromises. Doing important things almost always does. The House should pass this as soon as possible and I look forward to signing it into law,” the president said in a statement.
The bill — officially known as the “Inflation Reduction Act” — passed the Senate with no Republicans voting in favor.
Conservative lawmakers have criticized the bill as wasteful spending, with top Republican Senator Mitch McConnell accusing Democrats of voting to “double down on their economic disaster.”
The bill would provide Americans with a tax credit of up to $7,500 when purchasing an electric car, plus a 30 percent discount when they install solar panels on their roofs.
It would also provide millions to help protect and conserve forests — which have been increasingly ravaged in recent years by wildfires during record heat waves that scientists say are linked to global warming.
Billions of dollars in tax credits would also go to some of the country’s worst-polluting industries to help their transition to greener methods — a measure bitterly opposed by some liberal Democrats who have, however, accepted this as a least-bad alternative after months of frustration.
Biden, who came to office with promises of sweeping reforms, has seen his hopes dashed, then revived, then dashed again.
Democrats’ narrow edge in the Senate has given a virtual veto to moderates like Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who earlier had used that power to block Biden’s much more expansive Build Back Better plan.
But in late July, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer managed to engineer a compromise with the West Virginian, whose state’s economy depends heavily on coal mining.
“This bill is gonna change America for decades,” Schumer said after its passage, while Manchin tweeted that it “will lower the inflation taxes that have been so hurtful for West Virginian and American families.”
Senators finally opened debate on the text on Saturday, with final passage not until Sunday afternoon.
Late Saturday, they began working through a marathon procedure known as a “vote-a-rama,” in which members can propose dozens of amendments and demand a vote on each one.
That allowed both Republicans, who view Biden’s plan as too costly, and liberal Democrats, who say it does not reach far enough, to make their opposition clear.
Influential progressive Senator Bernie Sanders used that platform through the evening to propose several amendments aimed at strengthening social planks in the legislation, which were considerably weakened during the months of negotiation.
The bill would provide $64 billion for health care initiatives and ensure a lowering of some drug costs — which can be 10 times more expensive in the United States than in some other rich countries.
But progressive Democrats long ago had to give up their ambitions for free preschool and community colleges and expanded health care for the elderly.
“Millions of seniors will continue to have rotten teeth and lack the dentures, hearing aids or eyeglasses that they deserve,” Sanders said from the Senate floor. “This bill, as currently written, does nothing to address it.”
But fellow Democrats, eager to pass the legislation ahead of November midterms when control of Congress is at stake, have rejected any change in the text.
To help offset the plan’s massive spending, it would reduce the US deficit through a new 15-percent minimum tax on companies with profits of $1 billion or more — a move targeting some that now pay far less.
That measure could generate more than $258 billion in tax receipts for the government over the next 10 years, by some estimates.


Biden denounces killings of four Muslims in US city

President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 5, 2022. (REUTERS)
President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 5, 2022. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 August 2022

Biden denounces killings of four Muslims in US city

President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 5, 2022. (REUTERS)
  • “Investigators believe Friday’s murder may be connected to three recent murders of Muslim men also from South Asia,” the statement said

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Sunday deplored the killings of four Muslim men in New Mexico, which police say may be linked.
“I am angered and saddened by the horrific killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque,” the US president said on Twitter.
“While we await a full investigation, my prayers are with the victims’ families, and my Administration stands strongly with the Muslim community. These hateful attacks have no place in America.”
Police in Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city, said Saturday they are investigating the murders of three Muslim men that they now suspect are related to a fourth homicide from last year.
The Albuquerque police department said in a statement they had discovered the latest victim overnight Friday.
His body was discovered near a Lutheran Family Services office that provides assistance to refugees, TV station KOB4 reported.
Police did not identify the man but said he was in his mid-20s, Muslim and “a native from South Asia.”
“Investigators believe Friday’s murder may be connected to three recent murders of Muslim men also from South Asia,” the statement said.
Two of the previous victims were Muslim Pakistani men, a 27-year-old whose body was found on August 1 and a 41-year-old who was found on July 26.
Detectives are now investigating whether these murders are connected to the death of a Muslim man from Afghanistan who was killed on November 7, 2021, outside of the business he ran with his brother in Albuquerque, the statement said.
The police urged anyone with information to call a tip line and said the FBI was assisting with the investigation.
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham expressed outrage at the killings, calling them “wholly intolerable,” and said she was sending additional state police officers to Albuquerque to aid in the investigation.
She said she was sending additional state police officers to Albuquerque to help with the investigation.
“We will continue to do everything we can to support to the Muslim community of Albuquerque and greater New Mexico,” she said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest US Muslim civil rights group, has offered a $10,000 reward to whoever provides information leading to the killer or killers’ arrest.
Tensions have risen sharply in the city’s Muslim community.
“Now, people are beginning to panic,” Tahir Gauba, the director of public affairs with the Islamic Center of New Mexico, told the Albuquerque Journal.

 


Alabama town disbands police department over racist text

A Bessemer police vehicle patrols in Bessemer, Alabama. (AFP file photo)
A Bessemer police vehicle patrols in Bessemer, Alabama. (AFP file photo)
Updated 08 August 2022

Alabama town disbands police department over racist text

A Bessemer police vehicle patrols in Bessemer, Alabama. (AFP file photo)
  • The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office on Friday condemned the two officers’ actions and said it stands with the city “in providing emergency law enforcement related service to the citizens (of Vincent) at this time”

VINCENT, Alabama: A racist text message sent by a police officer has prompted officials in a small Alabama town to disband their police department and fire the police chief and assistant chief.
Vincent Mayor James Latimore on Thursday confirmed that Police Chief James Srygley and Assistant Chief John L. Goss had been dismissed, al.com reported.
The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office on Friday condemned the two officers’ actions and said it stands with the city “in providing emergency law enforcement related service to the citizens (of Vincent) at this time.”
In the message, which recently surfaced on social media, someone identified as “752″ texts: “What do y’all call a pregnant slave?” An unidentified recipient responds twice: “?” and “??”
“752″ answers: “BOGO Buy one, get one free”
“This has torn this community apart. It doesn’t matter what color we are as long as we do right by people,” City Councilman Corey Abrams said during Thursday’s council meeting.
On Tuesday, Latimore said “appropriate action has been taken” against the officer alleged to have sent the text, though at the time he would not name the person or anyone involved.
The city’s website lists three people in its department: Srygley, Goss and Officer Lee Carden.
During the council meeting, Latimore announced he had suspended the chief and assistant chief, and the council voted to end the agency. Latimer said Carden turned in his resignation via text message just hours after the city council voted to dissolve the department.
Located in central Alabama, southeast of Birmingham, Vincent has a population of just under 2,000 people. It’s located in Shelby, St. Clair, and Talladega counties.

 


Sri Lanka faces diplomatic concerns with expected arrival of Chinese ship 

Sri Lanka faces diplomatic concerns with expected arrival of Chinese ship 
Updated 07 August 2022

Sri Lanka faces diplomatic concerns with expected arrival of Chinese ship 

Sri Lanka faces diplomatic concerns with expected arrival of Chinese ship 
  • Chinese research and survey vessel expected to arrive in Sri Lanka on Aug. 11
  • Colombo has requested that Beijing delays the ship’s arrival 

COLOMBO: The planned visit of a Chinese ship to Sri Lanka has sparked diplomatic concerns on the island nation, with the government in Colombo requesting that Beijing delay the vessel’s arrival next week.  

The Chinese research and survey vessel, Yuan Wang 5, is on its way to Sri Lanka’s second-largest port, Hambantota, where it is expected to arrive on Aug. 11. The $1.5 billion port, located near the main shipping route from Asia to Europe, had been built and leased by Beijing. 

The ship’s scheduled arrival had sparked concerns, including from India, over China’s influence in Sri Lanka, with the country attracting interest from the two regional giants due to its strategic location. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said on July 28 that New Delhi “carefully monitors any developments having a bearing on India’s security and economic interests, and takes all necessary measures to safeguard them.” 

Amid concerns that it could affect Sri Lanka’s diplomatic relations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo requested “that the arrival date of the vessel Yuan Wang 5 in Hambantota be deferred until further consultations are made on this matter,” according to a report from The Sunday Morning. 

“The Indian Ocean is of strategic importance to all nations in the South Asian region, and the docking of a spy ship poses a major threat to maritime security in the region,” Rishad Bathiudeen, a former Sri Lankan minister of industry and commerce, told Arab News.

“The entry and exit of any ship into the territorial waters of Sri Lanka is not only an issue of Sri Lankan sovereignty and territorial integrity, but also poses security concerns for other neighboring countries,” Bathiudeen said. 

Belt & Road Initiative Sri Lanka, a consulting firm based in the country, said on its website that the Yuan Wang 5 would be in Hambantota for a week. According to the firm, the vessel “will conduct satellite control and research tracking” in the northwestern part of the Indian Ocean region. 

The Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka did not immediately respond to Arab News’ request for comment. 

China is one of Sri Lanka’s biggest lenders and has financed infrastructure projects like airports, roads, and railways under Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative. In 2017, Colombo formally handed over commercial activities in its main southern port to a Chinese company on a 99-year lease after struggling to repay debts.  

As Sri Lanka battles its worst economic crisis since gaining independence in 1948, India has provided the country of 22 million people nearly $4 billion in support.  

Diplomatic relations between India and China have been strained since clashes involving troops along the remote Himalayan border in 2020 killed at least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers. The incident led to a massive troop build-up on both sides.  

Mohamed Zuhair, Sri Lanka’s former ambassador to Iran and president’s counsel, told Arab News that the country’s relations with both India and China are “very crucial.”  

But as India’s immediate neighbor, Zuhair said, Colombo must be cautious as a good relationship with New Delhi “is also something very sensitive that we should protect.

“We need not antagonize either of these countries,” Zuhair said. “Particularly India, we need to maintain a very good relationship; does not mean we antagonize China in the process, (but) in the vessel matter, China should accept the request of Sri Lanka to put it off.” 


Ex-US envoy Richardson ‘optimistic’ Griner will be freed

Ex-US envoy Richardson ‘optimistic’ Griner will be freed
Updated 07 August 2022

Ex-US envoy Richardson ‘optimistic’ Griner will be freed

Ex-US envoy Richardson ‘optimistic’ Griner will be freed
  • Bill Richardson: ‘I think she’s going to be freed, I think she has the right strategy of contrition, there’s going to be a prisoner swap — though I think it will be two for two, involving Paul Whelan’
  • Some Americans have asked why Marc Fogel, a US citizen serving a 14-year sentence in Russia on marijuana charges — which he said he had for medicinal purposes — has not been mentioned

WASHINGTON: Former US diplomat Bill Richardson said Sunday that he was “optimistic” about efforts to negotiate a “two for two” prisoner swap with Russia that would free US basketball star Brittney Griner and another American.
Richardson, a former ambassador to the UN, has negotiated the release of several Americans held in other countries. Reports last month said he was expected to travel to Russia for talks over Griner, who on Thursday was sentenced to nine years in prison on a drug charge.
While insisting Sunday that he is only a “catalyst” in any negotiations, Richardson’s mention of a “two-for-two” swap including Griner suggested inside knowledge.
“My view is, I’m optimistic,” he told ABC’s “This Week.”
“I think she’s going to be freed, I think she has the right strategy of contrition, there’s going to be a prisoner swap — though I think it will be two for two, involving Paul Whelan.”
Whelan is a former US Marine who was convicted of espionage in June 2020 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. He has insisted on his innocence.
His case and Griner’s have been enmeshed in the deep US-Russia tensions since Russian troops invaded Ukraine in February.
But recent comments from both sides — including from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov — have suggested signs of movement, and US President Joe Biden has faced repeated calls to arrange a deal.
Reports suggested that Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death,” might be freed in exchange for Griner and Whelan. The Kremlin has long sought his release.
But Richardson’s mention of a “two for two” swap raises questions about who the second Russian in the equation might be.
And some Americans have asked why Marc Fogel, a US citizen serving a 14-year sentence in Russia on marijuana charges — which he said he had for medicinal purposes — has not been mentioned.
Griner was sentenced Thursday to nine years in a Russian penal colony and ordered to pay a fine of one million rubles ($16,590) for smuggling narcotics.
She was arrested at a Moscow airport for possessing vape cartridges with a small amount of cannabis oil.
The 31-year-old, who was in Russia to play for the professional Yekaterinburg team during her off-season from the Phoenix Mercury, said the substance was prescribed by a US doctor to relieve pain.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist and Women’s NBA champion pleaded guilty but said she did not intend to break the law.
Richardson is a prominent Democrat, having served in the US Congress, as governor of New Mexico, and both as UN envoy and energy secretary in the Bill Clinton administration.
Since then, he has worked as a discreet go-between in several sensitive hostage talks with foreign countries, including North Korea. In November 2021 he helped secure the release of US journalist Danny Fenster from a prison in Myanmar.