At least 10 dead and 10 missing as landslide and flash floods hit Indonesia’s Sumatra island

At least 10 dead and 10 missing as landslide and flash floods hit Indonesia’s Sumatra island
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This handout picture taken and released on Mar. 8 2024 by Indonesia’s Disaster Mitigation Agency shows rescue personnel working at the scene of a landslide in Padang Pariaman, West Sumatra, following days of heavy rain across the province. (AFP)
At least 10 dead and 10 missing as landslide and flash floods hit Indonesia’s Sumatra island
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This handout picture taken and released on Mar. 8 2024 by Indonesia’s Disaster Mitigation Agency shows rescue personnel working at the scene of a landslide in Padang Pariaman, West Sumatra, following days of heavy rain across the province. (AFP)
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Updated 09 March 2024
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At least 10 dead and 10 missing as landslide and flash floods hit Indonesia’s Sumatra island

At least 10 dead and 10 missing as landslide and flash floods hit Indonesia’s Sumatra island
  • Tons of mud, rocks and uprooted trees rolled down a mountain late Friday
  • Rescuers pulled out seven bodies in the worst-hit village of Koto XI Tarusan

PADANG, Indonesia: Torrential rains have triggered flash floods and a landslide on Indonesia’s Sumatra island, killing at least 10 people and leaving 10 others missing, officials said Saturday.
Tons of mud, rocks and uprooted trees rolled down a mountain late Friday, reaching a river that burst its banks and tore through mountainside villages in Pesisir Selatan district of West Sumatra province, said Doni Yusrizal, who heads the local disaster management agency.
Rescuers pulled out seven bodies in the worst-hit village of Koto XI Tarusan, and recovered three others in two neighboring villages, said National Disaster Management Agency’s spokesperson Yusrizal. Ten are still missing.
He said that 46,000 people had fled to a temporary government shelter after the flood and landslide buried 14 houses while 20,000 houses were flooded up to the roof.
“Relief efforts for the dead and missing were hampered by power outages, blocked roads covered in thick mud and debris,” Yusrizal said.
Heavy rains cause frequent landslides and flash floods in Indonesia, where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near floodplains.


WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stops in Bangkok on his way to a US court and later freedom

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stops in Bangkok on his way to a US court and later freedom
Updated 3 sec ago
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stops in Bangkok on his way to a US court and later freedom

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stops in Bangkok on his way to a US court and later freedom

BANGKOK: A plane believed to be carrying Julian Assange landed Tuesday in Bangkok, as the WikiLeak founder was on his way to enter a plea deal with the US government that will free him and resolve the legal case that spanned years and continents over the publication of a trove of classified documents.
Chartered flight VJT199 landed after noon at Don Mueang International Airport, north of the Thai capital. It was unclear if the plane was only refueling or how Assange will continue traveling to Saipan, the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth in the Western Pacific, where he will appear in court Wednesday morning local time.
He’s expected to plead guilty to an Espionage Act charge of conspiring to unlawfully obtain and disseminate classified national defense information, according to the US Justice Department in a letter filed in court.
Assange is expected to return to his home country of Australia after his plea and sentencing. The hearing is taking place in Saipan because of Assange’s opposition to traveling to the continental US and the court’s proximity to Australia, prosecutors said.
The guilty plea, which must be approved by a judge, brings an abrupt conclusion to a criminal case of international intrigue and to the US government’s years-long pursuit of a publisher whose hugely popular secret-sharing website made him a cause célèbre among many press freedom advocates who said he acted as a journalist to expose US military wrongdoing. Investigators, by contrast, have repeatedly asserted that his actions broke laws meant to protect sensitive information and put the country’s national security at risk.
Attorneys for Assange haven’t responded to requests for comment.
In a statement posted on X, WikiLeaks said Assange boarded a plane and departed Monday after leaving the British prison where he has spent the last five years. WikiLeaks applauded the announcement of the deal, saying it was grateful for “all who stood by us, fought for us, and remained utterly committed in the fight for his freedom.”
“WikiLeaks published groundbreaking stories of government corruption and human rights abuses, holding the powerful accountable for their actions. As editor-in-chief, Julian paid severely for these principles, and for the people’s right to know,” WikiLeaks said.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who has been lobbying for the United States to end its prosecution of Assange, told Parliament that an Australian envoy had flown with Assange from London.
“Regardless of the views that people have about Mr. Assange’s activities, the case has dragged on for too long. There’s nothing to be gained by his continued incarceration and we want him brought home to Australia,” Albanese added.
The deal ensures Assange will admit guilt while also sparing him from additional prison time. He had spent years hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after Swedish authorities sought his arrest on rape allegations before being locked up in the United Kingdom.
Assange is expected to be sentenced to the five years he has already spent in the British prison while fighting extradition to the US to face charges, a process that has played out in a series of hearings in London. Last month, he won the right to appeal an extradition order after his lawyers argued that the US government provided “blatantly inadequate” assurances that he would have the same free speech protections as an American citizen if extradited from Britain.
Assange has been heralded by many around the world as a hero who brought to light military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the files published by WikiLeaks was a video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack by American forces in Baghdad that killed 11 people, including two Reuters journalists.
But his reputation was also tarnished by rape allegations, which he has denied.
The Justice Department’s indictment unsealed in 2019 accused Assange of encouraging and helping US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks published in 2010. Prosecutors had accused Assange of damaging national security by publishing documents that harmed the US and its allies and aided its adversaries.
Prosecutors said in a charging document filed in connection with the plea agreement that Assange conspired with Manning to receive and obtain documents, notes and other writings related to the national defense and to “willfully communicate” those records. The document takes care to note that Assange was “not a United States citizen, did not possess a US security clearance, and did not have authorization to possess, access, or control documents, writings, or notes relating to the national defense of the United States, including classified information.”
The case was lambasted by press advocates and Assange supporters. Federal prosecutors defended it as targeting conduct that went way beyond that of a journalist gathering information, amounting to an attempt to solicit, steal and indiscriminately publish classified government documents.
The plea agreement comes months after President Joe Biden said he was considering a request from Australia to drop the US push to prosecute Assange. The White House was not involved in the decision to resolve Assange’s case, according to a White House official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Assange made headlines in 2016 after his website published Democratic emails that prosecutors say were stolen by Russian intelligence operatives. He was never charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, but the inquiry laid bare in stark detail the role that the hacking operation played in interfering in that year’s election on behalf of then-Republican candidate Donald Trump.
During the Obama administration, Justice Department officials mulled charges for Assange but were unsure a case would hold up in court and were concerned it could be hard to justify prosecuting him for acts similar to those of a conventional journalist.
The posture changed in the Trump administration, however, with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2017 calling Assange’s arrest a priority.
Assange’s family and supporters have said his physical and mental health have suffered during more than a decade of legal battles.
Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012 and was granted political asylum after courts in England ruled he should be extradited to Sweden as part of a rape investigation in the Scandinavian country. He was arrested by British police after Ecuador’s government withdrew his asylum status in 2019 and then jailed for skipping bail when he first took shelter inside the embassy.
Although Sweden eventually dropped its sex crimes investigation because so much time had elapsed, Assange had remained in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison during the extradition battle with the US


Ukraine drone attacks on Russia’s Belgorod region kill one, injure four, governor says

Ukraine drone attacks on Russia’s Belgorod region kill one, injure four, governor says
Updated 36 min 50 sec ago
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Ukraine drone attacks on Russia’s Belgorod region kill one, injure four, governor says

Ukraine drone attacks on Russia’s Belgorod region kill one, injure four, governor says
  • At least six of the drones were destroyed over the Yakovlevsky district in the Belgorod region
  • An elderly woman died in a village near the Belgorod city

An elderly woman was killed, four people injured and scores of buildings damaged in multiple air attacks by Ukraine on the Belgorod region, the governor of the southern Russian region that borders Ukraine said on Tuesday.
The Russian defense ministry said that its air defense systems destroyed a total of 29 Ukraine-launched drones over the region’s territory.
An elderly woman died in a village near the Belgorod city, which is the administrative center of the Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of the region said on the Telegram messaging app.
At least six of the drones were destroyed over the Yakovlevsky district in the Belgorod region, Glakdov said. Two people were injured there with shrapnel wounds, he added.
Another person was injured after a drone was downed over the city of Belgorod, and another woman was injured in one of the region’s villages, Gladkov said.
He said that scores of buildings and cars across the region were damaged.
Reuters could not independently verify the reports. There was no immediate comment from Ukraine. Both sides deny targeting civilians in the war, which Russia started with a full-scale invasion on its smaller neighbor in 2022.
Ukraine says that its attacks on Russia’s military, transport and energy infrastructure undermine Moscow’s overall war efforts and are in response to Russia’s relentless attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure.


‘Julian Assange is free’, has left Britain — WikiLeaks

‘Julian Assange is free’, has left Britain — WikiLeaks
Updated 25 June 2024
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‘Julian Assange is free’, has left Britain — WikiLeaks

‘Julian Assange is free’, has left Britain — WikiLeaks
  • Assange, accused of divulging US military secrets, was due in London court next month after winning appeal against extradition
  • Was initially detained for skipping bail and held in custody while the US extradition request wound its way through court

LONDON: Julian Assange’s wife Stella on Tuesday thanked campaigners for their support as the WikiLeaks founder was released after five years in British custody.
“Julian is free!!!!” she wrote on the social media platform X following confirmation that he had left Belmarsh high-security prison in southeast London.
“Words cannot express our immense gratitude” to everyone who had backed the global push for his release, she added.
Stella Assange met the Australian publisher while he was holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges that were later dropped.

A filing from the U.S. Department of Justice to the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands describes a plea deal regarding Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, in this image obtained by Reuters on June 24, 2024. (REUTERS)

Assange, accused of divulging US military secrets related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, had been due back in court in London next month after winning an appeal against extradition.
But WikiLeaks said in a statement: “Julian Assange is free. He left Belmarsh maximum security prison on the morning of June 24, after having spent 1,901 days there.
“He was granted bail by the High Court in London and was released at Stansted airport during the afternoon, where he boarded a plane and departed the UK.”
The media freedom group said sustained campaigning, from grassroots supporters to political leaders and the United Nations, “created the space for a long period of negotiations with the US Department of Justice,” leading to a deal.
The organization said the deal “has not yet been formally finalized.”
Assange was initially detained for skipping bail in relation to the Swedish case and held in custody while the US extradition request wound its way through court.
He will now be reunited with his wife, whom he married at a ceremony in the prison, and their two young children, it added.
“WikiLeaks published ground-breaking stories of government corruption and human rights abuses, holding the powerful accountable for their actions,” the statement read.
“As editor-in-chief, Julian paid severely for these principles, and for the people’s right to know.
“As he returns to Australia, we thank all who stood by us, fought for us, and remained utterly committed in the fight for his freedom. Julian’s freedom is our freedom.”


‘Julian Assange is free’, has left Britain: WikiLeaks

‘Julian Assange is free’, has left Britain: WikiLeaks
Updated 25 June 2024
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‘Julian Assange is free’, has left Britain: WikiLeaks

‘Julian Assange is free’, has left Britain: WikiLeaks
  • The plea agreement comes months after President Joe Biden said he was considering a request from Australia to drop the US push to prosecute Assange

LONDON: Julian Assange’s wife Stella on Tuesday thanked campaigners for their support as the WikiLeaks founder was released after five years in British custody.
“Julian is free!!!!” she wrote on the social media platform X following confirmation that he had left Belmarsh high-security prison in southeast London.
“Words cannot express our immense gratitude” to everyone who had backed the global push for his release, she added.
Stella Assange met the Australian publisher while he was holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges that were later dropped.

A filing from the U.S. Department of Justice to the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands describes a plea deal regarding Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, in this image obtained by Reuters on June 24, 2024. (REUTERS)

Assange, accused of divulging US military secrets related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, had been due back in court in London next month after winning an appeal against extradition.
But WikiLeaks said in a statement: “Julian Assange is free. He left Belmarsh maximum security prison on the morning of June 24, after having spent 1,901 days there.
“He was granted bail by the High Court in London and was released at Stansted airport during the afternoon, where he boarded a plane and departed the UK.”
The media freedom group said sustained campaigning, from grassroots supporters to political leaders and the United Nations, “created the space for a long period of negotiations with the US Department of Justice,” leading to a deal.
The organization said the deal “has not yet been formally finalized.”
Assange was initially detained for skipping bail in relation to the Swedish case and held in custody while the US extradition request wound its way through court.
He will now be reunited with his wife, whom he married at a ceremony in the prison, and their two young children, it added.
“WikiLeaks published ground-breaking stories of government corruption and human rights abuses, holding the powerful accountable for their actions,” the statement read.
“As editor-in-chief, Julian paid severely for these principles, and for the people’s right to know.
“As he returns to Australia, we thank all who stood by us, fought for us, and remained utterly committed in the fight for his freedom. Julian’s freedom is our freedom.”
 

 


Kenya youth protesters gear up for nationwide strike

Kenya youth protesters gear up for nationwide strike
Updated 25 June 2024
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Kenya youth protesters gear up for nationwide strike

Kenya youth protesters gear up for nationwide strike

NAIROBI: Kenya braced for a nationwide strike Tuesday in response to a call by youth protesters for a countrywide shutdown, as opposition to the government’s proposed tax hikes gathers momentum.
The mainly Gen-Z-led demonstrations have taken President William Ruto’s government by surprise, with the Kenyan leader saying over the weekend that he was ready to speak with the protesters.
Discontent over the already high cost of living spiralled into nationwide rallies last week, sparked by the Ruto administration’s proposed tax hikes in the annual finance bill, which parliament must vote on by June 30.
The protests were mostly peaceful, as Ruto noted Sunday in his first public comments on the demonstrations. But the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) watchdog and rights groups said that two people had died following Thursday’s rallies.
Protest organizers called for the police to be held accountable and reiterated their demands for the finance bill to be scrapped in its entirety.
“We’re past the talking stage and won’t be silenced. We demand an end to police violence, respect for our constitutional rights, and the freedom to speak up without fear of arrest or harm,” Hanifa Adan told AFP Sunday.
Several organizations, including Amnesty International Kenya, said at least 200 people were wounded in the protests in Nairobi.
“The country stands at a crossroads,” Amnesty’s Kenya chapter said in a statement Monday.
“Despite mass arrests and injuries, the protests have continued to grow, emphasising the public’s widespread discontent.”
Amnesty added that the movement leaves government and police at a “critical juncture, where the escalation of force could lead to more fatalities and legal repercussions.”
Rights watchdogs have accused the authorities of abducting protesters in violation of the law.
“These abductions are intended to intimidate protesters planning to attend future peaceful demonstrations aimed at pressuring MPs to reject the bill,” the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) said Monday.
“These abductions, mostly occurring at night, are conducted by police officers in civilian clothes and unmarked cars,” KHRC added, calling for the “unconditional release of all abductees.”
The police have not responded to requests from AFP for comment on the allegations.
In addition to a strong social media campaign and street rallies, the protesters have deployed unconventional tactics, including asking bars to stop playing music at midnight on the weekend as partygoers burst into chants saying: “Ruto must go” and “Reject finance bill.”
Small numbers of Kenyans also protested at the weekend at several embassies abroad, including in Washington and Paris, according to TV images, organizers and social media.
The protests have also drawn support from some Anglican and Catholic church leaders.
During Sunday mass, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops chairman Archbishop Maurice Muhatia urged the government to take the matter seriously, “and not be in denial.”
The cash-strapped government agreed last week to roll back several tax increases.
But Ruto’s administration still intends to raise some taxes, saying they are necessary for filling the state coffers and cutting reliance on external borrowing.
Kenya has a huge debt mountain whose servicing costs have ballooned because of a fall in the value of the local currency over the last two years, making interest payments on foreign-currency loans more expensive.
The tax hikes will pile further pressure on Kenyans, with well-paid jobs remaining out of reach for many young people.
After the government agreed to scrap levies on bread purchases, car ownership and financial and mobile services, the treasury warned of a budget shortfall of 200 billion shillings ($1.56 billion).
The government now intends to target an increase in fuel prices and export taxes to fill the void left by the changes, a move critics say will make life more expensive in a country already saddled with high inflation.
Kenya has one of the most dynamic economies in East Africa but a third of its 52 million people live in poverty.