Malawi to Transfer 250 Elephants Between National Parks

about 2 months ago

Malawi's government and conservationists have announced plans to move 250 elephants from a park in the country's south to a central one that has lost nearly all its population to poaching. But communities living near the park fear the new arrivals could lead to greater human-wildlife conflict. The month-long exercise starts Monday, when the animals will be transported approximately 350 kilometers by road from Liwonde National Park in southern Malawi to Kasungu National Park in central Malawi.   Brighton Kumchedwa, Malawi’s Director of National Parks and Wildlife, said that in addition to boosting Kasungu’s elephant population, the relocation will minimize human-wildlife conflict in the communities surrounding Liwonde. He said there are currently about 600 elephants in Liwonde, twice as many as the park was intended to hold.  “The elephants in Liwonde have exceeded the carrying capacity of the park,” he said. “Now what is happening is the destruction of the habitats, as they go about looking for food and water.  And also, at the same time human-elephant conflict whereby people have been killed, their property damaged. So, now one way of minimizing that problem is to have these animals relocated.” The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) supports the transfer of the elephants. It says Kasungu National Park was home to about 1,200 elephants in the 1970s. The population drastically declined because of poaching, with only 50 elephants left by 2015. Since then, anti-poaching efforts have helped boost the population back to 120.    Patricio Ndadzela, a top IFAW official. said the new elephants will help Kasungu attract more tourists, and that more animals may follow. “Looking at Kasungu to be the center of tourism attraction to the country, we thought that by bringing more animals in the park, including elephants, and in the future, we are thinking of bringing the big five; there are already leopards there,” he said. “So, we are talking about lions and other species associated with that.” But communities living near Kasungu fear the new elephants, which will triple the park’s elephant population, may lead to more human-wildlife conflict. Rosemary Banda, a small-scale farmer at Linyangwa village in the Kasungu district, is among wary local residents. “Our worry is that the presence of many elephants here would contribute to food shortages because elephants have in the past been destroying our crops,” she said. “There was a time when elephants destroyed my crops and left me without enough food as a person who relies on farm produce for survival.” Allaying local fears, Kumchedwa said the government has constructed a 40-kilometer-long fence in Kasungu to prevent the elephants from entering villages. “If well maintained, it's an effective barrier,” he said. “You don’t get elephants frequently going into the community. But also, to support that when these animals get dropped into Kasungu, some of them will be collared for easy monitoring. But also, we have teams for both on ground and aerial support so that we give real time protection to the communities should these elephants be breaking off.” Malawi undertook one of the largest elephant relocations in history in 2016 when 520 elephants were moved to repopulate the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. At the time of its last survey in 2015, Malawi had about 2,000 elephants in all, a drop of 50% since the 1980s.

Putin's destruction of Ukrainian farms | ShareAmerlca

by ShareAmerica, about 2 months ago

See for yourself satellite imagery showing the damage from Vladimir Putin’s war of choice, which targets Ukrainian farms with aerial attacks.

US Supreme Court Protects Police from 'Miranda' Lawsuits

about 2 months ago

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday shielded police from the risk of paying money damages for failing to advise criminal suspects of their rights before obtaining statements later used against them in court, siding with a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff.  The justices ruled 6-3 in favor of deputy sheriff Carlos Vega, who had appealed a lower court decision reviving a lawsuit by a hospital employee named Terence Tekoh who accused the officer of violating his rights under the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.  Tekoh was charged with sexually assaulting a hospital patient after Vega obtained a written confession from him without first informing the suspect of his rights through so-called Miranda warnings. Tekoh was acquitted at trial.  The court's six conservatives were in the majority in the ruling written by Justice Samuel Alito, with its three liberal members dissenting.  The rights at issue were delineated in the Supreme Court's landmark 1966 Miranda v. Arizona ruling that, under the Fifth Amendment, police among other things must tell criminal suspects of their right to remain silent and have a lawyer present during interrogations before any statements they make may be used in a criminal trial.  Vega was backed by President Joe Biden's administration in the appeal.  At issue was whether the use in court of statements collected from suspects who have not been given a Miranda warning may give rise to a civil lawsuit against the investigating officer under a federal law that lets people sue government officials for violating their constitutional rights.  Vega in 2014 investigated a claim by a Los Angeles hospital patient that Tekoh, who worked as an attendant at the facility, had touched her inappropriately while she was incapacitated on a hospital bed. Vega said Tekoh voluntarily offered a written confession even though he was not under arrest or in custody.  Tekoh disputes Vega's version of events and contends that he was interrogated by Vega, who coerced a false confession.  Tekoh was arrested and charged in state court with sexual assault. His incriminating statement was admitted as evidence during the trial, but a jury acquitted him. Tekoh then sued Vega in federal court, accusing the officer of violating his Fifth Amendment rights by extracting an incriminating statement without Miranda warnings, leading it to be used against him in a criminal prosecution.  The jury reached a verdict in favor of Vega, but the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2021 ordered a new trial on the officer's liability.  The 9th Circuit found that using a statement taken without a Miranda warning against a defendant in a criminal trial violates the Fifth Amendment, giving rise to a claim for monetary damages against the officer who obtains the statement.  Appealing to the Supreme Court, Vega's attorneys said in a legal filing that the 9th Circuit's decision threatened to "saddle police departments nationwide with extraordinary burdens in connection with lawful and appropriate investigative work." Vega's lawyers added that "virtually any police interaction with a criminal suspect" might lead to liability for officers.   

Russia Could Cut Off Gas Supply to Europe, IEA Warns

about 2 months ago

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that Russia could cut gas supplies to Europe entirely in order to boost its leverage against the West following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Russia has severely restricted gas flows to Europe in recent days. The Kremlin blames a delay in servicing equipment caused by European Union sanctions, while Europe accuses the Kremlin of playing geopolitics. "Considering this recent behavior, I wouldn't rule out Russia continuing to find different issues here and there and continuing to find excuses to further reduce gas deliveries to Europe and maybe even cut it off completely," IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement to the Reuters news agency. "This is the reason Europe needs contingency plans." Energy crisis A full cutoff of Russian gas would plunge Europe into an energy crisis, said Tom Marzec-Manser, head of gas analytics at Independent Commodity Intelligence Services. "Gas supplies from Russia at the moment — pipeline supplies, that is — are literally a quarter of what they were a year ago. So, the volumes are very, very low, and clearly that's causing concerns. It means rebuilding storages, storage stocks, ahead of the upcoming winter is that much more difficult," he told VOA. Storage Currently, Europe's gas storage facilities are 55% of capacity. The EU announced last month that it aims to reach 80% of capacity by November. "All the LNG [liquefied natural gas] from America, in particular, has come to Europe, and it's helped rebuild storages at a faster rate than usual," Marzec-Manser said. The declining pipeline flows from Russia have raised doubts over whether the EU storage target can be achieved. The Nord Stream 1 pipeline that carries gas from Russia to Germany is due to close for maintenance next month. The soaring gas prices since the invasion of Ukraine has benefited Russian state-owned Gazprom, Marzec-Manser added, referring to the Russian gas company. "A huge amount of money has been made in a short period of time, which is probably going to carry Gazprom through for the next few years at least, in terms of being able to really restrict flows but still have money in the bank," he said. German emergency Germany gets around one-third of its gas from Russia. The government declared Thursday it had entered the "alarm stage" of its emergency gas plan, calling on Germans to reduce consumption. "We have a disruption of the gas supply in Germany, that is the definition, which is why it's necessary to declare this emergency gas plan," Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck told reporters Thursday. "Gas is from now on in short supply in Germany." European consumers must play their part to avert an energy crisis, German economic analyst Claudia Kemfert said. "It was expected that this situation would come sooner or later. But what is important now is that we do everything we can to save gas," she told Reuters. Analysts say the industrial and power sectors will also be asked to reduce consumption, raising fears that an energy crunch could plunge Europe into a recession. "The industrial demand sector, the power sector, is really going to have to play a key role in conserving gas. We've seen proposals from many governments around Europe to permit continued use of coal," Marzec-Manser told VOA. Continued coal use would reverse Europe's pledge to phase out coal and other fossil fuels. Calls are growing for the faster development and rollout of renewable energies. "That means more space for wind energy. That means a faster program of solar energy on as many roofs as possible — that's not going fast enough. I would like to see a booster program for renewable energies, which is appropriate to the situation because we are in a crisis and emergency situation," Kemfert said. European leaders have been scrambling to find alternatives to Russian gas. U.S. LNG imports have risen sharply, while the EU this month signed a deal to boost LNG supplies from Israel and Egypt. Analysts, however, say Europe will struggle to replace Russian gas within the next few months and warn that a cold winter would exacerbate the crisis.

Saudi Tour Cements Security Positions, Sees Return of Crown Prince to Center Stage

about 2 months ago

Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, met officially with leaders in Egypt, Jordan and Turkey this week. His goal, say analysts, is to unify their positions on security issues, such as mounting concerns over Iran. Enhancing economic cooperation and strengthening bilateral relations with oil-producing Saudi Arabia also were part of the visits, analysts say, as the COVID-19 pandemic and Russian invasion of Ukraine continue to take a heavy toll. Bin Salman’s visits this week in the region, analysts say, signal his desire for recognition on the global stage and an end to years of international isolation following the 2018 murder and dismemberment of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, of which the prince has denied personal involvement. U.S. President Joe Biden had labeled Saudi Arabia a “pariah” when he campaigned, but the two countries are historic allies. Jordanian analyst Amer al-Sabaileh told VOA that Russia’s war in Ukraine, while driving up oil prices and causing food shortages around the world, has opened for Saudi Arabia “changes in the rules of engagement with the American administration.” Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter and the Middle East’s strategic political kingpin. A non-resident fellow at the Washington-based Stimson Center, al- Sabaileh said that Biden’s participation in a July 16 summit in Jeddah, bringing together the leaders of the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries along with those from Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, gives MBS, as Bin Salman is known, “a kind of credit” and an ability to help set the regional agenda, particularly on Iran and Israel. Saudi Arabia is one of the GCC members. “It’s obvious that he wants to pave the way for his regional presence and re-bring this old issue of the Sunni [axis] in facing Iran, the danger of Iran,” al-Sabaileh said. “Then he has another important card he wants to play politically—the relation with Israel. If you have the Emiratis and Bahrainis in the Abraham Accords and you don’t have Saudi Arabia, it has nothing. Without Saudi Arabia as the representative of the Sunni world, it doesn’t function.” The United States brokered the Abraham Accords in 2020, normalizing diplomatic and economic relations between Israel and the Gulf states of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Neither country had ever been at war with Israel, unlike Egypt and Jordan, which signed peace treaties with the Jewish state in 1979 and 1994 respectively. Jordanian political commentator Osama al-Sharif told VOA that Jordan “is a bit anxious about the agenda of the summit” if it means preparing “an anti-Iranian alliance” of Sunni Muslim states as that could undermine the country’s moderate stance. Jordan, a key U.S. ally, is also a longtime champion of the two-state solution for ending the festering Israel-Palestinian conflict. In a joint statement Wednesday after Bin Salman’s visit with Jordan’s King Abdullah, both leaders underscored their support for international efforts to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons as well as curbing Iran’s “destabilizing activities” in Arab nations, such as Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. As an oil swing producer with money to invest, Al Sharif says Bin Salman is plying Saudi funds to finance projects in Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, which are all suffering from severe economic downturns due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. “Economically, Saudi Arabia is a very important supporter of Jordan, the biggest investor with about between $10- to $13 billion of investments in the country,” al-Sharif said. “A $3 billion fund has been very active, signing MOUs [memoranda of understanding] with regard to investing in Jordan’s railway system, in start-ups, in new ventures. In Cairo, they signed deals [worth] $7.7 billion.” Saudi Arabia and Turkey are signing agreements on energy, security and economy, including a plan for Saudi funds to enter capital markets in Turkey, according to Reuters. Turkey is experiencing its worst economic crisis in two decades. Some analysts believe that Washington may encourage Arab states to take on a greater role to defend themselves and work in coordination with Israel to combat ongoing threats posed by Iran. But Khaled Shneikat, the head of the Jordanian Political Science Society, told the online Middle East Eye publication it is likely that "regional countries are going to request a bigger security role for the U.S.” at the summit.

Helping countries vaccinate children against COVID-19

by Leigh Hartman, about 2 months ago

More than 30 countries and international groups attended a June meeting on the COVID-19 Global Action Plan. Learn the latest developments.

South Africa Releases Damning Report Into Zuma-Era Graft

about 2 months ago

South Africa’s Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has released a final and damning report after a long-running inquiry into influence-peddling and corruption during former President Jacob Zuma’s nine years in office. It recommends several high-ranking officials face investigation and prosecution. Acting Chief Justice Zondo late Wednesday gave the final report on the plunder of state resources under Zuma to his former deputy and successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa. The latest installment of the five-part report focused on alleged wrongdoing by the state security agency and at the public broadcaster and other state-owned enterprises. It said Zuma’s former spy chief should be prosecuted for graft and targeting the president’s foes. It also found that Zuma’s son, Duduzane, acted as a conduit between the wealthy Gupta family — business friends of Zuma’s whose influence over the president was said to amount to state capture. The report said Duduzane should also be investigated. Ramaphosa said the inquiry had presented evidence of abuse of power and praised the whistleblowers and journalists who helped uncover it. “State capture was an assault on our democracy and violated the rights of every man, woman and child in this country," he said. Previous parts of the report recommended Zuma be further investigated with a view towards prosecution and that the Guptas and several ministers face prosecution. Two of the Gupta brothers were arrested in Dubai this month and are facing extradition to South Africa. The inquiry ran for almost four years, with South Africans watching the daily televised hearings shocked by repeated witness testimony on corruption at the highest levels of government. Zondo spoke of some of the challenges the commission had faced while probing the graft. “A few members of the legal team that I know went through situations when their security needed to be beefed up because of the work that they do, that they did, in the commission,” he said. Ramaphosa said the inquiry was vital to ensuring the survival of South Africa’s democracy. “The report is far more than a record of widespread corruption, fraud and abuse; it is also an instrument through which the country can work to ensure that such events are never allowed to happen again,” he said. But the report was also critical of Ramaphosa as Zuma’s deputy for failing to do more against “state capture.” It was also highly critical of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party. Independent political analyst Ralph Mathekga praised the inquiry for surviving political attempts to interfere with the process. “The major finding actually here is that the ANC dropped the ball, the ANC-led government, the state capture inquiry speaks about major lapses in governance,” he said. “President Jacob Zuma comes out as the chief suspect.” Zuma, who was forced to step down in 2018, is already facing trial on multiple counts of corruption in a separate case. He’s denied all wrongdoing. Spokesman for the Jacob Zuma Foundation Mzwanele Jimmy Manyi told VOA the report was “a lot of hogwash.” Ramaphosa has four months to make his recommendations to parliament on what action must be taken. South Africans will be waiting to see what arrests and prosecutions might follow.

What's the best way to tackle teacher burnout?

by Boston University, about 2 months ago

Teachers are facing a range of challenges old and new, and many are experiencing burnout as a result. Here, two experts explain how to improve things.

New pic sheds light on the death of 'hypergiant' stars

by Daniel Stolte-Arizona, about 2 months ago

Astronomers are working to learn more about what happens when supergiant stars die. A new image has helped them uncover some answers.

Supreme Court Strikes New York Gun Law in Major Ruling 

about 2 months ago

The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a restrictive New York gun law in a major ruling for gun rights.  The justices' 6-3 decision is expected to ultimately allow more people to legally carry guns on the streets of the nation's largest cities — including New York, Los Angeles and Boston — and elsewhere. About a quarter of the U.S. population lives in states expected to be affected by the ruling, the high court's first major gun decision in more than a decade.  The ruling comes as Congress is actively working on gun legislation following recent mass shootings in Texas, New York and California.  Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority that the Constitution protects "an individual's right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home."  In their decision, the justices struck down a New York law requiring people to demonstrate a particular need for carrying a gun in order to get a license to carry one in public. The justices said the requirement violates the Second Amendment right to "keep and bear arms."  California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island all have similar laws likely to be challenged as a result of the ruling. The Biden administration had urged the justices to uphold New York's law.  Backers of New York's law had argued that striking it down would ultimately lead to more guns on the streets and higher rates of violent crime. The decision comes at a time when gun violence already on the rise during the coronavirus pandemic has spiked anew.  In most of the country gun owners have little difficulty legally carrying their weapons in public. But that had been harder to do in New York and the handful of states with similar laws. New York's law, which has been in place since 1913, says that to carry a concealed handgun in public, a person applying for a license has to show "proper cause," a specific need to carry the weapon.  The state issues unrestricted licenses where a person can carry their gun anywhere and restricted licenses that allow a person to carry the weapon but just for specific purposes such as hunting and target shooting or to and from their place of business.  The Supreme Court last issued a major gun decision in 2010. In that decision and a ruling from 2008 the justices established a nationwide right to keep a gun at home for self-defense. The question for the court this time was about carrying one outside the home.  The court has previously indicated there is no problem with restrictions on carrying guns in "sensitive places" including government buildings and schools. It has said the same about restricting felons and the mentally ill from carrying guns.  The challenge to the New York law was brought by the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, which describes itself as the nation's oldest firearms advocacy organization, and two men seeking an unrestricted ability to carry guns outside their homes.  The court's decision is somewhat out of step with public opinion. About half of voters in the 2020 presidential election said gun laws in the U.S. should be made more strict, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of the electorate. An additional third said laws should be kept as they are, while only about 1 in 10 said gun laws should be less strict.  About 8 in 10 Democratic voters said gun laws should be made more strict, VoteCast showed. Among Republican voters, roughly half said laws should be kept as they are, while the remaining half closely divided between more and less strict.   

Iraq Parliament Swears in New Members After Walkout of 73

about 2 months ago

BAGHDAD - Iraq's Parliament swore in new lawmakers on Thursday, replacing 73 legislators who resigned collectively earlier this month amid a prolonged political impasse over the formation of the country's next government. The walkout by followers of Iraq's most influential Shiite politician, Muqtada al-Sadr, threw Iraq into further uncertainty, reshuffling the deck following the Oct. 10 elections, which gave the cleric the biggest bloc in Parliament. Although he emerged as a winner, al-Sadr was unable to cobble together a coalition that can form a majority government. He has been locked in a power struggle with internal Shiite rivals backed by Iran, preventing the formation of a new government. Two weeks ago, he ordered lawmakers from his parliamentary bloc to resign in a bid to break the eight-month impasse. The unprecedented move threw Iraq's political landscape into disarray. According to Iraqi laws, if any seat in parliament becomes vacant, the candidate who obtains the second highest number of votes in their electoral district would replace them. In this case, it made al-Sadr's opponents from the so-called Coordination Framework, a coalition led by Iran-backed Shiite parties and their allies, the majority with around 122 seats. It puts al-Sadr out of parliament for the first time since 2005, and allows pro-Iranian factions to determine the makeup of the next government. "Today, the first step has been completed, which is the replacement deputies taking the oath," said Lawmaker Muhammad Saadoun Sayhod, from the Rule of Law coalition represented in the Framework. "We will now start the process of electing the president and naming the prime minister from the Coordination Framework," he said, adding he expected the formation of a new government to begin soon. There was no immediate reaction from al-Sadr to the swearing in of new lawmakers. The political deadlock has led to concerns of renewed protests and street clashes between supporters of al-Sadr and their Shiite rivals. Even though Parliament is in recess, lawmakers mostly from the Framework alliance called for an extraordinary session Thursday to vote on the new lawmakers. Sixty-four lawmakers were sworn in Thursday, while nine other replacements did not attend. On Wednesday, al-Sadr accused Iranian proxies of political meddling. He also accused them of applying pressure against newly elected political independents and allies of his Sadrist bloc. He called on parliamentarians not to succumb to pressure. "I call on blocs to stand bravely for the sake of reform and saving the nation, and not to give in to sectarian pressures, as they are bubbles which will disappear," he said in a statement. Munaf Al-Musawi, a political analyst and director of the Baghdad Center for Strategic Studies, said that the statement by al-Sadr against Iran's proxies also sends a message to his former allies — Massoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, and Speaker of Parliament Mohammed Al-Halbusi — to avoid holding a parliament session. He said if a session is held, the Coordination Framework and its allies would control parliament and Sadr's allies would pay the price. Iraq's election was held several months earlier than expected, in response to mass protests that broke out in late 2019 and saw tens of thousands rally against endemic corruption, poor services and unemployment.

Nike Fully Leaving Russia Over Ukraine Invasion

about 2 months ago

U.S. sports apparel giant Nike says it is fully quitting the Russian market, three months after suspending its operations in the country.  Nike said in a statement Thursday that it was joining other major Western brands in leaving the Russian market over Moscow's ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.  "Nike Inc. made a decision to leave the Russian market. ... The Nike stores were temporarily closed recently and will not reopen," the company said, adding that its Russian website and app will also be shut down.    Last month, Nike said it would not extend its franchise agreement with Russia's Inventive Retail Group (IRG), the largest retailer of Nike products in the country.    In early March, Nike suspended online sales in Russia and several days later temporarily closed all of its shops in the country, including those operating on franchise agreements. Nike was active on the Russian market for 28 years.    Dozens of major international companies from a broad range of sectors have exited Russia since it launched the war against Ukraine on February 24.  Some information in this report came from Reuters. 

Would closing the 'boyfriend loophole' in gun legislation save lives? Here's what the research says

about 2 months ago

Russian TV Protester Caught in 'Information War'

about 2 months ago

When Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova stormed a live TV broadcast to denounce the war in Ukraine, she expected a backlash from Russia — but not so much from the rest of the world. Three months later, now living in exile, Ovsyannikova, 43, is afraid to return to Russia and her two children, 11 and 17, for fear of being thrown straight in jail. But she is also facing an increasingly hostile response from Ukraine and the West, with critics accusing her of being a spy still embedded in the Russian propaganda machine. "I'm in the middle of this information war," Ovsyannikova told AFP in Berlin, where she is giving a speech for the Women's Forum for the Economy and Society network. "It's a really very hard situation for me. I had never expected such things after my protest." Ovsyannikova, who was born to a Russian mother and a Ukrainian father in Odesa, was until March working as an editor at Russia's Channel One television. Then, in a stunt that made headlines around the world, she barged onto the set of its flagship Vremya (Time) evening news holding a hand-made poster reading "No War" in English. It was a highly unusual event in Russia where state media is strictly controlled. German job She was detained and questioned for 14 hours before being released and ordered to pay a fine of $280. But under draconian new laws she could face further prosecution, risking years in prison. The case drew international attention and raised alarm over press freedom in Russia in the wake of President Vladimir Putin's decision to send troops into Ukraine. In the immediate aftermath of her protest, Ovsyannikova was hailed as a hero by the West and even landed herself a new job as a freelance correspondent for Germany's Die Welt newspaper. But a spokeswoman for Die Welt told AFP that Ovsyannikova is no longer working for the newspaper. The arrangement "simply did not fit in terms of concrete collaboration and daily work processes, which were also new for both sides", according to editorial sources. In early June, Ovsyannikova traveled to Ukraine with the intention of reporting on the war for Russian media. "I wanted to show Russian people what's really happening in Bucha ... to explain to Russian people what's really happening in Ukraine, maybe record an interview with [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelenskyy," she said. 'Absolute vacuum' "Russians are living now in an absolute vacuum. They don't have true information because every independent media in Russia is blocked now, [there is] only information from Kremlin side." But she was met with a wave of hostility from critics who suspect her of still secretly working for Russia. "Ukrainians do not trust in her sudden change of heart," Ukrainian journalist Olga Tokariuk, a non-resident fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, wrote on Twitter. She dismissed Ovsyannikova's social media posts from the front line as "manipulative, incorrect and patronizing." Ovsyannikova spent a large part of her childhood in Grozny, the capital of the breakaway province of Chechnya. "When I was a child, my house was destroyed in Grozny. So, I feel I understand what Ukrainian women and children are feeling now," she says. "Maybe it will take a few months for people from Ukraine to start to understand [that there are also] good Russian people who protest against the war." As for her own future, she is looking for a new job — but for now, going back to Russia is out of the question. "My friends say to me, ‘would you prefer poison, a car crash?’" she jokes — and then, noticing the shocked faces around the room: "Without humor in my situation I think it's impossible to live."

Taliban Urge International Aid as Afghanistan Deals With Aftermath of Deadly Quake

about 2 months ago

Afghanistan’s Taliban appealed for international aid Thursday as the war-ravaged country struggles to deal with the aftermath of a powerful earthquake that killed at least 1,000 people, injured many more and destroyed nearly 2,000 households. The 6.1 magnitude quake struck eastern and southeastern Afghan provinces, bordering Pakistan, during the early hours of Wednesday. Officials said the calamity had buried entire families, including women and children, under the rubble across districts in the worst-hit provinces, Paktika and Khost. On Thursday, authorities and aid workers struggled to reach the disaster zone, citing lack of communications and proper road networks in some of the poorest and most remote areas in Afghanistan. The most affected areas lack infrastructure to withstand calamities like this week’s earthquake, the worst in two decades. Heavy rains and mudslides also hampered rescue efforts, forcing displaced families to spend the night without any shelter. Provincial health director Hematullah Esmat told local media that at least 3,000 families needed urgent humanitarian aid in Paktika alone. Abdul Qahar Balkhi, a Taliban foreign ministry spokesman in Kabul, said that victims were urgently in need food, drinking water, medicine, mobile medical teams, warm clothing and shelter. “But even more crucial for [the] U.S. to end callous attitude towards lives of Afghans by lifting sanctions and unfreezing Afghan assets so people can rebuild their lives destroyed by two-decade occupation and this latest natural disaster,” Balkhi told VOA. “People and relief agencies that want to help rebuild lives of families - majority of whom have lost [their] sole breadwinners in earthquake - are unable to send much needed money. This depraved cruelty needs to end urgently,” Balkhi argued. He said the government quickly deployed a few helicopters to help in rescue efforts, but they needed more of them because emergency rescue teams and relief aid have to be delivered by air. Balkhi reiterated the majority of Afghan aircraft were “damaged beyond repair or taken to third countries by the United States” before the Taliban seized power last August. The United Nations World Food Program said Thursday that post-disaster assessments were still ongoing but it had rapidly deployed food and logistics equipment to provide emergency relief to an initial 3,000 households in the earthquake-affected areas. "The Afghan people are already facing an unprecedented crisis following decades of conflict, severe drought and an economic downturn,” said Gordon Craig, the WFP deputy country director. “The earthquake will only add to the already massive humanitarian needs they endure daily, including for the nearly 19 million people across the country who face acute hunger and require assistance,” Craig added. Taliban officials said trucks and aircraft carrying humanitarian aid, including, food, medicine, shelter, and other necessities arrived from Pakistan, Iran and Qatar on Thursday. The relief was being transported onward to the calamity-hit areas, they said. The Islamist group took over Afghanistan days after U.S. and NATO partners withdrew their final troops on August 30, ending almost two decades of foreign military intervention in the South Asian nation. Washington and other Western countries swiftly halted financial assistance to largely aid-dependent Afghanistan, seized its foreign assets worth more than $9 billion, mostly held by the U.S, and isolated the Afghan banking system. The actions and long-running terrorism-related sanctions on senior Taliban leaders pushed the war-hit Afghan economy to the brink of collapse, deteriorating an already bad Afghan humanitarian crisis blamed on years of war and persistent drought. The international community has not yet recognized the Islamist Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan, citing concerns over terrorism and human rights. The U.S. government Wednesday expressed “deep sorrow” for the Afghan quake victims. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement that President Joe Biden was “monitoring developments and has directed USAID and other federal government partners to assess U.S. response options to help those most affected.” Sullivan underscored that the U.S. was the single largest donor of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and its humanitarian partners were already delivering medical care as well as shelter puppies on the ground. “We are committed to continuing our support for the needs of the Afghan people as we stand with them during and in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy.” The U.S. Geological Survey said Wednesday the earthquake struck about 44km from the southeastern Afghan city, Khost, at a depth of 51km. Tremors were felt across more than 500km of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, according to the European Mediterranean Seismological Center.

Women in science get less credit on papers and patents

by Robert Polner-NYU, about 2 months ago

Women in science are 13% less likely to be named as authors in related scientific articles than male counterparts, and 59% less likely to have their name on patents.

UN to Hold New Libya Talks as Stalemate Persists

about 2 months ago

The United Nations said Thursday it will broker new talks between rival institutions from war-torn Libya next week to try to break a deadlock on the rules for long-awaited elections. "[Parliament speaker] Aguila Saleh and President of the High Council of State Khaled Al-Mishri have accepted my invitation to meet at the U.N. Office at Geneva 28-29 June to discuss the draft constitutional framework for elections," the U.N.'s top Libya official Stephanie Williams tweeted. "I commend the heads of the two chambers for committing to seek consensus on the remaining issues after last week's Joint Committee meeting in Cairo." Presidential and parliamentary elections, originally set for December last year, were meant to cap a U.N.-led peace process following the end of the last major round of violence in 2020. But the vote never took place due to several contentious candidacies and deep disagreements over the polls' legal basis between rival power centers in the east and west of the country. A week of talks between the Tripoli-based council and Saleh's eastern-based House of Representatives (HoR), aimed at agreeing on a constitutional basis for a vote, ended on Monday without a deal. The prospect of elections appears as distant as ever since the HoR, elected in 2014, appointed a rival government to replace that of interim prime minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah, arguing that his mandate has expired. After failing to enter Tripoli in an armed standoff in May, the rival administration has taken up office further east in Sirte -- hometown of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, whose overthrow in a NATO-backed revolt in 2011 plunged the country into years of often violent chaos. HoR-backed premier Fathi Bashagha said Wednesday in a letter to UN chief Antonio Guterres that he would "now be leading all efforts to bring elections to Libya at the earliest possible opportunity." Recent weeks have seen repeated skirmishes between armed groups in Tripoli, prompting fears of a return to full-scale conflict.

Cameroon Woos Potential Disapora Investors, But Faces Distrust of Government

about 2 months ago

Cameroon's President Paul Biya has for the first time sent a delegation to Europe to try to encourage well-off Cameroonians living there to invest back home. But members of Cameroon's diaspora say undemocratic practices and corruption in Biya's government put off investors. Government officials say a delegation led by Youth Affairs and Civic Education Minister Mounouna Foutsou was dispatched to Germany this week to ask Cameroonians there to invest in their country of origin. Foutsou said his wish is for all Cameroonians in the diaspora to put aside their differences and help develop Cameroon. "The head of state reiterated his call to the Cameroonian diaspora to come and build Cameroon. We seize this opportunity to come and exchange with the whole Cameroonian diaspora here in Europe so that we can present the different opportunities offered by the president of the republic and his government so that the Cameroonian diaspora can come back and participate in the development of the nation,” said Foutsou. Foutsou said the government will offer tax exemptions of up to 40 percent for diaspora investments in Cameroon, and loans of up to $10,000 with no interest rates for diaspora youths who return to invest in agriculture and livestock. Kennedy Tumenta is a Cameroonian investor who lives in Germany. He said many in the diaspora find it hard to trust promises made by their government. He said corruption, high taxes and a lack of confidence in President Biya, who has been in power for 40 years, scare investors. "Freedom is restricted and they are afraid to move around in Cameroon and do their businesses and speak freely. Most diasporans believe that there is widespread corruption when it concerns opening businesses in the country or the Northwest-Southwest crisis is not being taken into consideration seriously by the government in place. It makes them frustrated and the only way to express this frustration is either to withdraw their investments in the country or attacking the head of state,” said Tumenta. Separatists have been fighting to carve out an independent English-speaking state in mainly French-speaking Cameroon, since 2016. The U.N. says 3,300 people have died in the fighting. Some disgruntled Cameroonians in the diaspora have become hostile to the government, and at least seven Cameroonian embassies have been attacked or ransacked since January 2020.   Felix Mbayu is a top official with Cameroon’s Ministry of External Relations. He said Cameroonians taking part in such protests are hurting the country’s image. "Those who left Cameroon unhappy and have not been able to make it there are those who would speak ill of Cameroon. Those who left Cameroon to better their lot in life and have made it there are those who come back to invest in Cameroon. That is why you see medical doctors who have built hospitals, built clinics, who bring back home medical supplies. You don't see them in the idle marches abroad. In fact, when you talk ill of your own home, you tarnish your own image," said Mbayu. An estimated five million Cameroonians live abroad. The government says the largest diaspora population is in Nigeria where about two million live. There are also high concentrations in Belgium, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Racial disparities showed up in opioid addiction treatment during COVID

by Patti Verbanas-Rutgers, about 2 months ago

The COVID-10 pandemic limited access to opioid addiction treatment for some racial and ethnic minority groups, but not for white people.

Iran Replaces Taeb as Head of Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Unit - State TV

about 2 months ago

Iran has dismissed the powerful chief of the Revolutionary Guards' intelligence unit, Hossein Taeb, Iranian state TV reported on Thursday, days after Israeli media accused him of being behind an alleged Iranian plot to kill or abduct Israeli tourists in Turkey. The station gave no reason for the change, but said Taeb had been appointed as an advisor to the Guards' Commander-in-Chief Hossein Salami. He will be replaced by Mohammad Kazemi, previously head of the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Protection unit. Israel raised its Istanbul travel advisory to the highest alert level on June 13 because of what it said was a threat of Iranian attempts to kill or abduct Israelis vacationing in Turkey. Before becoming the Guards Intelligence Chief in 2009, Taeb worked at the office of Iran's top authority Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

New sunscreen component would last longer

by Rachel Harrison-NYU, about 2 months ago

Research on cancer drugs shifted course to produce a longer-lasting version of avobenzone, a common ingredient in sunscreen.

UN Expert Calls Myanmar's Pledge for Clean Elections 'Preposterous'

about 2 months ago

Military-ruled Myanmar's promise of free and fair elections next year is "preposterous,'' a U.N. expert said Thursday as he warned the international community not to fall for the army regime's propaganda to legitimize its rule. Tom Andrews, the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said the military has been working hard to "create an impression of legitimacy" after ousting the government of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a February 2021 takeover.  "Any suggestion that there could be any possibility of a free and fair election in Myanmar in 2023 is frankly preposterous. You can't have a free and fair election if you locked up your opponents. You can't have a free and fair election if you put your opponents on death row. This is outrage,'' he told a news conference during a visit to Malaysia. "Their propaganda machine works around the clock and they'll take any shred of evidence that they could find to make it appear as if the international community recognizes them as legitimate. That is something that we are very cautious about and very careful not (to) fall into that propaganda trap," Andrews added. The army seized power citing widespread fraud in the 2020 general election. It appointed new members to the election commission, which said that new multiparty polls next year would be free and fair. Andrews said ASEAN must ratchet up pressure on the Myanmar army to halt its violence and release all political prisoners. He said ASEAN's five-point consensus plan should be stepped up to include clear actions and time frames. "The five-point consensus is meaningless if it is just sitting on a piece of paper,'' he said. "Its only chance of making a difference is to put it into meaningful action with a strategy, with an action plan, with a time frame." Andrews praised Malaysia for engaging Myanmar's opposition National Unity Government, which was set up by elected lawmakers who were denied their seats in Parliament by the army coup. He urged other countries to do the same, calling the NUG a "legitimate entity" fighting a brutal military. He said the NUG could also offer resources in delivering humanitarian aid to Myanmar so the junta can't use the aid as a "weapon of war." The military has faced widespread opposition to its rule. After soldiers and police used deadly force to crush peaceful demonstrations, a low-level armed insurrection has emerged in both the cities and countryside. According to Myanmar's Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, more than 2,007 protesters and bystanders have been killed in the junta's crackdown, though the government puts the death toll at about a third of that. Rohingya, but voiced concern over their treatment in the country. He said refugees he spoke to in Malaysia cited fears of being sent to migration detention, insufficient education opportunities for children and instances of extortion by police. Andrews said he was deeply worried about reports that hundreds of children, including victims of trafficking, may be held in detention facilities. The UN refugee agency has been denied access to these facilities since 2019. On Malaysia's plan to issue its own refugee card, Andrews said the process should be transparent. Andrews said government officials should be willing to engage in discussions and partner with the U.N. refugee agency to map out clear and consistent policies. Malaysia's Home Ministry said in April it should determine who can stay in the country by issuing its own cards to refugees. Although it doesn't grant refugee status, Malaysia houses about 180,000 refugees and asylum seekers accredited with the U.N. refugee agency, including more than 100,000 Rohingya and other Myanmar ethnic groups. Thousands more remain undocumented after arriving in the country illegally by sea.

To cut emissions, give microbes more copper?

by Brandie Jefferson-WUSTL, about 2 months ago

When wetland microbes don't get the copper they need, the result may have consequences for the environment.

Look at 3 enduring stories Americans tell about guns to understand the debate over them

about 2 months ago

Abortion and bioethics: Principles to guide U.S. abortion debates

about 2 months ago

Demolishing schools after a mass shooting reflects humans' deep-rooted desire for purification rituals

about 2 months ago

What is BPA and why is it in so many plastic products?

about 2 months ago

Federal gas tax holiday: Biden says it will provide ‘a little bit of relief’ – but experts say even that may be a stretch

about 2 months ago

Yes, fireworks prices are skyrocketing, but there should be plenty of bottle rockets and sparklers for you and your family this Fourth of July

about 2 months ago

Red flag laws saved 7,300 Americans from gun deaths in 2020 alone – and could have saved 11,400 more

about 2 months ago

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