US House censures lone Palestinian-American lawmaker Rashida Tlaib, over Israel comments

US House censures lone Palestinian-American lawmaker Rashida Tlaib, over Israel comments
Rashida Tlaib, speaks during a demonstration calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, near the Capitol in Washington. On Monday, Nov. 6, Tlaib responded to criticisms from fellow Democrats regarding a video she posted Friday, Nov. 3, that included a clip of demonstrators chanting "from the river to the sea" (AP)
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Updated 08 November 2023
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US House censures lone Palestinian-American lawmaker Rashida Tlaib, over Israel comments

US House censures lone Palestinian-American lawmaker Rashida Tlaib, over Israel comments
  • The symbolic rebuke has no specific punishment, although it was previously a rare measure used against members
  • The motion was sponsored by Republican Representative Richard McCormick

WASHINGTON: The US House voted on Tuesday to censure Democratic Representative Rashida Tlaib, Congress’s lone Palestinian-American lawmaker, for comments she made regarding Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.
Twenty-two Democrats joined with most Republicans in the chamber to censure Tlaib for allegedly “promoting false narratives” on Hamas’ Oct. 7 gun rampage in Israel and “calling for the destruction of the state of Israel.”
The motion was sponsored by Republican Representative Richard McCormick. The final vote tally in the Republican-controlled chamber was 234-188 in favor of censure. Four Republicans voted against the motion, while three Democrats and one Republican abstained.
Tlaib has repeatedly condemned Hamas’s assault, which killed some 1,400 people, while also criticizing US support for Israel as the country’s military retaliates with bombardment that has killed thousands of Palestinians in Gaza.
The measure specifically cited a video Tlaib published on social media containing the phrase “from the river to the sea,” a pro-Palestinian rallying cry that is viewed by many Jews as antisemitic and calling for Israel’s eradication.
She also enraged many fellow Democrats on Friday when she posted a video accusing President Joe Biden of supporting “the genocide of the Palestinian people.” Israel vehemently rejects accusations of genocide.
Tlaib rejected accusations of antisemitism during a speech on the House floor on Tuesday.
“I am the only Palestinian-American in Congress, and my perspective is needed more than ever,” Tlaib said.
“My criticism has always been of the Israeli government and (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu’s actions... The idea that criticizing the government of Israel is antisemitic sets a very dangerous precedent,” Tlaib said.
“Palestinian people are not disposable,” Tlaib added, taking a long pause as she became overcome with emotion. Her grandmother lives in a village in the occupied West Bank, a territory Israel captured in a 1967 war.
Representative Pete Aguilar, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, told reporters on Tuesday that while he “strenuously disagreed” with Tlaib’s remarks about Biden, he believed the censure motion was not productive.
The symbolic rebuke has no specific punishment. Although it was previously a rare measure used against members, it has become increasingly common in recent years.
Democrats censured Republican Representative Paul Gosar in 2021 for posting an animated video that depicted his character murdering Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Republicans censured Democrat Adam Schiff for his work investigating former President Donald Trump while he was in power.


Putin states Russian conditions for Ukraine peace talks

Putin states Russian conditions for Ukraine peace talks
Updated 55 min 9 sec ago
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Putin states Russian conditions for Ukraine peace talks

Putin states Russian conditions for Ukraine peace talks
  • Russia peace proposal is not about temporary ceasefire, but for completely ending the conflict
  • Putin says West’s ‘theft’ of Russia’s assets will not go unpunished

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Russia would cease fire and enter peace talks if Ukraine dropped its NATO ambitions and withdrew its forces from four Ukrainian regions claimed by Moscow.
Putin said Russia was ready to guarantee the safe withdrawal of Ukrainian units in order to enable this to happen.
He was speaking on the eve of a summit in Switzerland where more than 90 countries and organizations are due to discuss a possible path toward peace in Ukraine. Russia has not been invited and says the gathering is a waste of time.
Russia controls nearly a fifth of Ukrainian territory in the third year of the war, and Ukraine says peace can only be based on a full withdrawal of Russian forces and the restoration of its territorial integrity.

President Vladimir Putin also said  that the West’s seizure of Russian sovereign assets was theft and would not go unpunished.
Putin, speaking at a meeting with Foreign Ministry officials, said the way the West had treated Moscow showed that “anyone” could be next and fall victim to a similar Western asset freeze.
Putin spoke a day after the leaders of the Group of Seven major democracies agreed on an outline deal to provide $50 billion of loans for Ukraine using interest from Russian sovereign assets frozen after Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in 2022 in what it called a special military operation.


Greece migrant boat disaster relatives demand answers, one year on

Greece migrant boat disaster relatives demand answers, one year on
Updated 14 June 2024
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Greece migrant boat disaster relatives demand answers, one year on

Greece migrant boat disaster relatives demand answers, one year on
  • Up to 700 migrants from Pakistan, Syria and Egypt were crammed in Libya into a fishing trawler bound for Italy

ATHENS: Demonstrators were due to rally in Athens on Friday to mark the anniversary of a shipwreck that killed hundreds of migrants off Greece and demand answers about the causes of the disaster and the fate of relatives.
Up to 700 migrants from Pakistan, Syria and Egypt were crammed in Libya into a fishing trawler bound for Italy. It capsized off southwestern Greece on June 14, 2023, even though the Greek coast guard had been monitoring it for hours.
Some 104 survivors were rescued but only 82 bodies were recovered. The catastrophe, one of the worst Mediterranean boat disasters on record, raised searching questions about how the European Union is trying to stem flows of migrants.
“I wake up to nightmares. Even now, I swear by God, my body still hurts,” said one Egyptian survivor called Mohamed. “We, thanks to God, are alive ... Where are the rest of the bodies?“
Survivors and activists were planning rallies in Athens, London, Paris and Berlin. In the Pakistani city of Lalamousa, victims’ relatives prepared a memorial ceremony.
Survivors say the coast guard caused the ship to capsize when it tried to tow the vessel in the early hours of the morning. Authorities say the movement of migrants on board tipped the overcrowded boat over.
A year on, a probe by a naval court into the coast guard’s role is still at a preliminary stage, frustrating survivors, relatives and rights groups. Greece’s shipping minister has called for patience.
Pantelis Themelis, commander of Greece’s Disaster Victim Identification unit, said 74 of the 82 dead had been identified. But many more families from Africa, the Middle East and Asia have sent DNA samples to Greece for checks to no avail.
Hasan Ali, an Athens resident from Pakistan, said his brother Fahad was among the missing, and their parents back in Pakistan would not accept that he could be dead.
“My mother and father are waiting for him,” Ali said. “They say he’s alive, that he’s in Greece.”


Indian relatives grieve as bodies of 45 Kuwait fire victims return

Indian relatives grieve as bodies of 45 Kuwait fire victims return
Updated 14 June 2024
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Indian relatives grieve as bodies of 45 Kuwait fire victims return

Indian relatives grieve as bodies of 45 Kuwait fire victims return
  • Wednesday’s dawn blaze quickly engulfed a housing block home to some of the many foreign laborers servicing the oil-rich gulf state’s economy
  • Most of Kuwait’s 4 million population is made up of foreigners, many from South and Southeast Asia working in construction and service industries

KOCHI: Grieving families kept a solemn vigil in the terminal of an Indian airport Friday as the bodies of dozens of migrant workers killed in a Kuwait building fire returned home.
Wednesday’s dawn blaze quickly engulfed a housing block home to some of the many foreign laborers servicing the oil-rich gulf state’s economy.
Fifty people died in the resulting inferno, 45 of them Indians, with dozens more hospitalized and anguished relatives back home frantically chasing news of whether their loved ones had perished.
“We held on to hope till the last minute that maybe he got out, maybe he’s in the hospital,” Anu Aby, the neighbor of 31-year-old victim Cibin Abraham, told AFP.
Aby said that Abraham had been due to return to his home in Kerala state in August for his child’s first birthday.
Abraham had been on the phone to his wife just an hour before the fire began, he added.
Others sat in a waiting area at Kochi airport in India’s south, wiping away tears as the Indian Air Force plane carrying the remains of their relatives touched down.
Most of oil-rich Kuwait’s population of more than four million is made up of foreigners.
Many of them are from South and Southeast Asia working in construction and service industries, and living in overcrowded housing blocks like the one that went up in flames on Wednesday.
Nearly 200 people were living in the building and many of the dead and injured suffocated from smoke inhalation after being trapped by the flames, according to a fire department source.
The bodies of many of the dead were charred beyond recognition and needed to be formally identified through DNA testing before they were repatriated.
One Kuwaiti and two foreign residents have been detained on suspicion of manslaughter through negligence of security procedures and fire regulations, authorities in the Gulf state said Thursday.
On Wednesday, Interior Minister Sheikh Fahd Al-Yousef vowed to address “labor overcrowding and neglect,” and threatened to close any buildings that flout safety rules.
Three Filipinos were also among the dead, with the country’s migrant workers secretary Hans Leo J. Cacdac saying authorities in Manila were in touch with next of kin.
The blaze was one of the worst seen in Kuwait, which borders Iraq and Saudi Arabia and sits on about seven percent of the world’s known oil reserves.
In 2009, 57 people died when a Kuwaiti woman, apparently seeking revenge, set fire to a tent at a wedding party when her husband married a second wife.


Indian relatives grieve as bodies of 45 Kuwait fire victims return

Indian relatives grieve as bodies of 45 Kuwait fire victims return
Updated 11 min 10 sec ago
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Indian relatives grieve as bodies of 45 Kuwait fire victims return

Indian relatives grieve as bodies of 45 Kuwait fire victims return
  • Wednesday’s dawn blaze quickly engulfed a housing block home to some of the many foreign laborers servicing the oil-rich gulf state’s economy

KOCHI: Grieving families kept a solemn vigil in the terminal of an Indian airport Friday as the bodies of dozens of migrant workers killed in a Kuwait building fire returned home.
Wednesday’s dawn blaze quickly engulfed a housing block home to some of the many foreign laborers servicing the oil-rich gulf state’s economy.
Fifty people died in the resulting inferno, 45 of them Indians, with dozens more hospitalized and anguished relatives back home frantically chasing news of whether their loved ones had perished.
“We held on to hope till the last minute that maybe he got out, maybe he’s in the hospital,” Anu Aby, the neighbor of 31-year-old victim Cibin Abraham, told AFP.
Aby said that Abraham had been due to return to his home in Kerala state in August for his child’s first birthday.
Abraham had been on the phone to his wife just an hour before the fire began, he added.
Others sat in a waiting area at Kochi airport in India’s south, wiping away tears as the Indian Air Force plane carrying the remains of their relatives touched down.
Most of oil-rich Kuwait’s population of more than four million is made up of foreigners.
Many of them are from South and Southeast Asia working in construction and service industries, and living in overcrowded housing blocks like the one that went up in flames on Wednesday.
Nearly 200 people were living in the building and many of the dead and injured suffocated from smoke inhalation after being trapped by the flames, according to a fire department source.
The bodies of many of the dead were charred beyond recognition and needed to be formally identified through DNA testing before they were repatriated.
One Kuwaiti and two foreign residents have been detained on suspicion of manslaughter through negligence of security procedures and fire regulations, authorities in the Gulf state said Thursday.
On Wednesday, Interior Minister Sheikh Fahd Al-Yousef vowed to address “labor overcrowding and neglect,” and threatened to close any buildings that flout safety rules.
Three Filipinos were also among the dead, with the country’s migrant workers secretary Hans Leo J. Cacdac saying authorities in Manila were in touch with next of kin.
The blaze was one of the worst seen in Kuwait, which borders Iraq and Saudi Arabia and sits on about seven percent of the world’s known oil reserves.
In 2009, 57 people died when a Kuwaiti woman, apparently seeking revenge, set fire to a tent at a wedding party when her husband married a second wife.


Sea swamps Bangladesh at one of world’s fastest rates

Sea swamps Bangladesh at one of world’s fastest rates
Updated 14 June 2024
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Sea swamps Bangladesh at one of world’s fastest rates

Sea swamps Bangladesh at one of world’s fastest rates
  • The three-part study calculated the low-lying South Asian nation was experiencing a sea level rise in places more than 60 percent higher than the global average

PATUAKHALI: After cyclone gales tore down his home in 2007, Bangladeshi fisherman Abdul Aziz packed up what was left of his belongings and moved about half a kilometer inland, further away from storm surge waves.
A year later, the sea swallowed the area where his old home had been.
Now, 75-year-old Aziz fishes above his submerged former home and lives on the other side of a low earth and concrete embankment, against which roaring waves crash.
“The fish are swimming there in the water on my land,” he told AFP, pointing toward his vanished village. “It is part of the advancing ocean.”
Government scientists say rising seas driven by climate change are drowning Bangladesh’s densely populated coast at one of the fastest global rates, and at least a million people on the coast will be forced to relocate within a generation.
“Few countries experience the far-reaching and diverse effects of climate change as intensely as Bangladesh,” Abdul Hamid, director general of the environment department, wrote in a report last month.
The three-part study calculated the low-lying South Asian nation was experiencing a sea level rise in places more than 60 percent higher than the global average.
By 2050, at present rates of local sea level rise, “more than one million people may have to be displaced,” it read, based on a quarter of a century of satellite data from the US space agency NASA and its Chinese counterpart CNSA.
Sea levels are not rising at the same rate around the world, due chiefly to Earth’s uneven gravity field and variations in ocean dynamics.
Study lead A.K.M Saiful Islam said Bangladesh’s above-average increases were driven by melting ice caps, water volumes increasing as oceans warm, and the vast amounts of river water that flow into the Bay of Bengal every monsoon.
The study provides “a clear message” that policymakers should be prepared for “mitigation and adaptation,” he said.
Islam, a member of the UN’s IPCC climate change assessment body, examined the vast deltas where the mighty Himalayan rivers of the Ganges and Brahmaputra reach the sea.
“In recent decades, the sea level rose 3.7 millimeters (0.14 inches) each year globally,” Islam added.
“In our study, we saw that the sea level rise is higher along our coast... 4.2 millimeters to 5.8 millimeters annually.”
That incremental rise might sound tiny. But those among the estimated 20 million people living along Bangladesh’s coast say the destruction comes in terrifying waves.
“It is closing in,” said fisherman Aziz about the approaching sea. “Where else can we escape?“
The threat is increasing.
Most of the country’s coastal areas are a meter or two above sea level, and storms bring seawater further inland, turning wells and lakes salty and killing crops on once fertile land.
“When the surge is higher, the seawater intrudes into our houses and land,” said Ismail Howladar, a 65-year-old farmer growing chilli peppers, sweet potatoes, sunflowers and rice.
“It brings only loss for us.”
Cyclones — which have killed hundreds of thousands of people in Bangladesh in recent decades — are becoming more frequent as well as growing in intensity and duration due to the impact of climate change, scientists say.
Shahjalal Mia, a 63-year-old restaurant owner, said he watches the sea “grasp more land” each year.
“Many people have lost their homes to the sea already,” he said. “If there is no beach, there won’t be any tourists.”
He said he had experienced cyclones and searing heatwaves grow worse, with temperatures soaring above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
“We are facing two, three, even four cyclones every year now,” he said.
“And I can’t measure temperatures in degrees but, simply put, our bodies can’t endure this.”
Bangladesh is among the countries ranked most vulnerable to disasters and climate change, according to the Global Climate Risk Index.
In April, the nation of around 170 million people experienced the hottest month, and the most sustained heatwave temperatures, in its history.
Last month, a cyclone that killed at least 17 people and destroyed 35,000 homes, was one of the quickest-forming and longest-lasting seen, the government’s meteorological department said.
Both events were pinned on rising global temperatures.
Ainun Nishat, from Brac University in the capital Dhaka, said that the poorest were paying the price for carbon emissions from wealthier nations.
“We cannot do anything for Bangladesh if other nations, notably rich countries, do not do anything to fight emissions,” he said.
Bangladesh is running out of time, Nishat added.
“It is becoming too late to prevent disasters,” he said. “We are unequipped to bring change.”