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Aid group: Up to 5,000 Afghan refugees a day entering Iran

NASA is extending its target date for sending astronauts back to the moon to 2025 at the earliest, the US space agency’s chief said on Tuesday, stretching out by at least a year the timeline pronounced under former President Donald Trump.Trump’s administration had set the aggressive goal of returning humans to the lunar surface by…

Aid group: Up to 5,000 Afghan refugees a day entering Iran

NASA is extending its target date for sending astronauts back to the moon to 2025 at the earliest, the US space agency’s chief said on Tuesday, stretching out by at least a year the timeline pronounced under former President Donald Trump.Trump’s administration had set the aggressive goal of returning humans to the lunar surface by 2024, an initiative named Artemis intended as a stepping stone toward the even-more-ambitious objective of sending astronauts to Mars.NASA Administrator Bill Nelson cited delays from legal wrangling over the SpaceX contract to build the Artemis lunar landing vehicle as a major reason for extending the target date.“We lost nearly seven months in litigation, and that likely has pushed the first human landing likely to no earlier than 2025,” Nelson told a news conference. “We are estimating no earlier than 2025 for Artemis 3, which would be the human lander on the first demonstration landing.”A federal judge last Thursday rejected a lawsuit by Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin against the US government challenging NASA’s decision to award a $2.9 billion lunar lander contract to rival billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX.The ruling allows the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to resume its collaboration with SpaceX on the lander contract, though Nelson said that Musk’s company had continued development work on its own in the meantime.Citing additional factors for the new timeline, Nelson said Congress had previously approved too little money for the program and that the Trump administration’s “target of a 2024 human landing was not grounded in technical feasibility.”Nelson, a former astronaut and US senator appointed by President Joe Biden to lead the space agency, said delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic also played a role.NASA had previously aimed to return crewed spacecraft to the lunar surface by 2028, after putting a “Gateway” space station into orbit around the moon by 2024.But the Trump administration, in a surprise 2019 pronouncement from then-Vice President Mike Pence, set a deadline for putting Americans back on the moon within five years “by any means necessary.”At the time, Pence said the United States was in a new “space race,” borrowing vocabulary from the 1960s Cold War era, to counter the potential space weaponry capabilities of Russia and China.Competing with ChinaNelson said China’s space program, which has included robotic exploration of the lunar surface and Mars, remains an impetus for the Artemis project.“We’re going to be as aggressive as we can be in a safe and technically feasible way to beat out competitors with boots on the moon,” he said.Since 2020, NASA has launched three astronaut crews aboard SpaceX rocketships to the International Space Station, with a fourth such mission expected in orbit as early as this week.The US Apollo program sent six human missions to the moon from 1969 to 1972, the only crewed spaceflights yet to reach the lunar surface. The Artemis program, named for the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the hunt and moon in Greek mythology, is aimed at eventually establishing a long-term human colony on the moon as a precursor to sending astronauts to Mars.Under the latest frame outlined by Nelson, the very first Artemis mission, an uncrewed test flight of the Orion capsule and the new heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will send it aloft, is targeted for liftoff in February 2022.The first crewed flight of the SLS-Orion spacecraft would come no later than May 2024, a mission that would take astronauts some 40,000 miles beyond the moon — farther than humans have ever flown — and return them to Earth, Nelson said.He said the initial human Artemis landing, now expected no sooner than 2025, would also be preceded at some unspecified date by an uncrewed landing. NASA has said the first Artemis crewed moon landing will include at least one woman, with a person of color on either that mission or the next. Both would be firsts.

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Japan’s ex-princess Mako, husband arrive to new life in New York

COPENHAGEN: Premature deaths caused by fine particle air pollution have fallen 10 percent annually across Europe, but the invisible killer still accounts for 307,000 premature deaths a year, the European Environment Agency said Monday.If the latest air quality guidelines from the World Health Organisation were followed by EU members, the latest number of fatalities recorded…

Japan’s ex-princess Mako, husband arrive to new life in New York

COPENHAGEN: Premature deaths caused by fine particle air pollution have fallen 10 percent annually across Europe, but the invisible killer still accounts for 307,000 premature deaths a year, the European Environment Agency said Monday.If the latest air quality guidelines from the World Health Organisation were followed by EU members, the latest number of fatalities recorded in 2019 could be cut in half, according to an EEA report.Deaths linked to fine particular matter — with a diameter below 2.5 micrometres or PM2.5 — were estimated at 346,000 for 2018.The clear reduction in deaths for the following year were put down partly to favourable weather but above all to a progressive improvement in air quality across the continent, the European Union’s air pollution data centre said.In the early 1990s, fine particles, which penetrate deeply into the lungs, led to nearly a million premature deaths in the 27 EU member nations, according to the report.That figure had been more than halved to 450,000 by 2005.In 2019, fine particulate matter caused 53,800 premature deaths in Germany, 49,900 in Italy, 29,800 in France and 23,300 in Spain.Poland saw 39,300 deaths, the highest figure per head of population.The EEA also registers premature deaths linked to two other leading pollutants, but says it does not count them in its overall toll to avoid doubling up.Deaths caused by nitrogen dioxide — mainly from car, trucks and thermal power stations — fell by a quarter to 40,000 between 2018 and 2019.Fatalities linked to ground-level ozone in 2019 also dropped 13 percent to 16,800 dead.Air pollution remains the biggest environmental threat to human health in Europe, the agency said.Heart disease and strokes cause most premature deaths blamed on air pollution, followed by lung ailments including cancer.In children, atmospheric pollution can harm lung development, cause respiratory infections and aggravate asthma.Even if the situation is improving, the EEA warned in September that most EU countries were still above the recommended pollution limits, be they European guidelines or more ambitious WHO targets.According to the UN health body, air pollution causes seven million premature deaths annually across the globe — on the same levels as smoking and poor diet.In September, the alarming statistics led the WHO to tighten its recommended limits on major air pollutants for the first time since 2005.”Investing in cleaner heating, mobility, agriculture and industry improves health, productivity and quality of life for all Europeans, and particularly the most vulnerable,” said EEA director Hans Bruyninck.The EU wants to slash premature deaths due to fine air pollution by at least 55 percent in 2030 compared to 2005.If air pollution continues to fall at the current rate, the agency estimates the target will be reached by 2032.However an ageing and increasingly urbanised population could make that more difficult.”An older population is more sensitive to air pollution and a higher rate of urbanisation typically means that more people are exposed to PM 2.5 concentrations, which tend to be higher in cities,” said the report.

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Duterte’s daughter to run for Philippines vice president

KANDAHAR: A small carpeted room serves as a makeshift jail for 12 “criminals” who are awaiting Taliban justice, caught in the legal system which the militants are building at the heart of their new Afghan regime. None of the prisoners being held on the ground floor of the Taliban headquarters in Panjwai district in southern Afghanistan…

Duterte’s daughter to run for Philippines vice president

KANDAHAR: A small carpeted room serves as a makeshift jail for 12 “criminals” who are awaiting Taliban justice, caught in the legal system which the militants are building at the heart of their new Afghan regime.

None of the prisoners being held on the ground floor of the Taliban headquarters in Panjwai district in southern Afghanistan have yet seen the local judge, who is busy in another area.

Until he arrives, the Taliban fighters of the unit in Kandahar province represent the entirety of the justice system.

“They will keep me here until I can pay back the person I owe money to,” said Hajj Baran, a 41-year-old businessman arrested three days earlier for an outstanding debt.

“We have a good system of judgment with the Islamic law of the Taliban,” he said, as a guard watched closely.

After a nearly 20-year insurgency, the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in August by force.

But they long ago placed their version of justice at the center of their ideology, and have “made the courts a means of conquering power,” says Adam Bazco, a researcher who conducted a field investigation on the Taliban judicial system from 2010 to 2016.

From 2004 on, in areas the Taliban controlled, “people were turning to them because of growing discontent with the interference of Western groups in their land disputes and a judicial system that appeared increasingly corrupt and nepotistic,” Bazco says.

In the context of war, he explains, the severity of the Taliban punishments was welcomed by some.

They were known for their harshness — but also their impartiality, speed and predictability.

Three months after the Taliban seized power, however, they are still struggling to implement that system across the country.

At the nearby central prison in the city of Kandahar, the deputy director, Mansour Maulavi, brandishes a length of electric cable as a whip as he shows off the fetid barracks.

One wing houses 1,000 drug addicts going through forced withdrawal, he says. Now 200 “criminals” are also being held there.

“It is better for Islamic law to decide” who is a criminal, says Maulavi, who used to run the region’s clandestine Taliban prison. Under the previous ineffective and often corrupt system, “they didn’t know.”

Mohammad Naeem, sitting cross-legged in the prison yard, is among those awaiting judgment.

He was arrested two months ago while at home with his wife and a 14-year-old girl he said he wanted to marry.

“The girl agreed but the parents didn’t,” the 35-year-old says, explaining that the parents called the Taliban to complain of sexual assault.

If he is found guilty of having sexual relations outside marriage he risks being condemned to death by stoning.

“I just want to be judged according to Islamic law, because I did nothing wrong,” he says.

In some cases since the takeover, the Taliban judges — wary of losing support — have tried to avoid being too harsh.

Bazco recalls an infamous case from the Taliban’s previous regime in the 1990s in which a wall was pushed onto a man convicted of sodomy, killing him.

Now, he says, such cases “do not represent the daily life under Taliban justice.”

Instead, Afghanistan’s masters say they are seeking international respectability.

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Ecuador prison violence leaves at least 68 dead, dozens injured

KANDAHAR: A small carpeted room serves as a makeshift jail for 12 “criminals” who are awaiting Taliban justice, caught in the legal system which the militants are building at the heart of their new Afghan regime. None of the prisoners being held on the ground floor of the Taliban headquarters in Panjwai district in southern Afghanistan…

Ecuador prison violence leaves at least 68 dead, dozens injured

KANDAHAR: A small carpeted room serves as a makeshift jail for 12 “criminals” who are awaiting Taliban justice, caught in the legal system which the militants are building at the heart of their new Afghan regime.

None of the prisoners being held on the ground floor of the Taliban headquarters in Panjwai district in southern Afghanistan have yet seen the local judge, who is busy in another area.

Until he arrives, the Taliban fighters of the unit in Kandahar province represent the entirety of the justice system.

“They will keep me here until I can pay back the person I owe money to,” said Hajj Baran, a 41-year-old businessman arrested three days earlier for an outstanding debt.

“We have a good system of judgment with the Islamic law of the Taliban,” he said, as a guard watched closely.

After a nearly 20-year insurgency, the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in August by force.

But they long ago placed their version of justice at the center of their ideology, and have “made the courts a means of conquering power,” says Adam Bazco, a researcher who conducted a field investigation on the Taliban judicial system from 2010 to 2016.

From 2004 on, in areas the Taliban controlled, “people were turning to them because of growing discontent with the interference of Western groups in their land disputes and a judicial system that appeared increasingly corrupt and nepotistic,” Bazco says.

In the context of war, he explains, the severity of the Taliban punishments was welcomed by some.

They were known for their harshness — but also their impartiality, speed and predictability.

Three months after the Taliban seized power, however, they are still struggling to implement that system across the country.

At the nearby central prison in the city of Kandahar, the deputy director, Mansour Maulavi, brandishes a length of electric cable as a whip as he shows off the fetid barracks.

One wing houses 1,000 drug addicts going through forced withdrawal, he says. Now 200 “criminals” are also being held there.

“It is better for Islamic law to decide” who is a criminal, says Maulavi, who used to run the region’s clandestine Taliban prison. Under the previous ineffective and often corrupt system, “they didn’t know.”

Mohammad Naeem, sitting cross-legged in the prison yard, is among those awaiting judgment.

He was arrested two months ago while at home with his wife and a 14-year-old girl he said he wanted to marry.

“The girl agreed but the parents didn’t,” the 35-year-old says, explaining that the parents called the Taliban to complain of sexual assault.

If he is found guilty of having sexual relations outside marriage he risks being condemned to death by stoning.

“I just want to be judged according to Islamic law, because I did nothing wrong,” he says.

In some cases since the takeover, the Taliban judges — wary of losing support — have tried to avoid being too harsh.

Bazco recalls an infamous case from the Taliban’s previous regime in the 1990s in which a wall was pushed onto a man convicted of sodomy, killing him.

Now, he says, such cases “do not represent the daily life under Taliban justice.”

Instead, Afghanistan’s masters say they are seeking international respectability.

Continue Reading
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