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Bangladesh votes for rural councils amid fear of violence

CAPE CANAVERAL: NASA and private rocket company SpaceX launched four astronauts into orbit late on Wednesday, sending a veteran spacewalker, two younger crewmates chosen for future lunar missions and a German materials scientist on their way to the International Space Station.The SpaceX-built launch vehicle, consisting of a Crew Dragon capsule and a two-stage Falcon 9…

Bangladesh votes for rural councils amid fear of violence

CAPE CANAVERAL: NASA and private rocket company SpaceX launched four astronauts into orbit late on Wednesday, sending a veteran spacewalker, two younger crewmates chosen for future lunar missions and a German materials scientist on their way to the International Space Station.The SpaceX-built launch vehicle, consisting of a Crew Dragon capsule and a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket, blasted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at about 9 p.m. (0200 GMT Thursday), with a reddish fireball lighting up the night sky as its nine Merlin engines roared to life.The liftoff of the Dragon spacecraft, named Endurance by the crew, was aired live from Cape Canaveral on NASA TV, punctuated by the sound of cheers and applause from mission controllers. Intermittent rain and clouds over the Cape earlier in the day had cast doubt on launch prospects, but the weather cleared by flight time, NASA said.The mission had been confounded by a string of weather delays since its original launch window on Oct. 31. One postponement earlier this month was attributed to an astronaut’s unspecified medical issue, although NASA said the problem was later resolved.Live video footage webcast by NASA showed the four crew members strapped into the pressurized cabin of their capsule and seated calmly in their helmeted white-and-black flight suits moments after a launch that appeared to go flawlessly.Within 10 minutes of liftoff, the rocket’s upper stage had delivered the crew capsule into orbit, according to launch commentators. Meanwhile, the rocket’s reusable lower stage, having detached from the rest of the spacecraft, flew itself back to Earth and successfully touched down on a landing platform floating on a drone vessel in the Atlantic.Hope you enjoyed the rideAs the Dragon separated from the upper rocket stage moments later, a launch engineer on the ground radioed to the crew: “Welcome to orbit. Hope you enjoyed the ride. Dragon will take you from here. Safe travels.”The three American astronauts and their European Space Agency crewmate were due to arrive at the space station, orbiting some 250 miles (400 km) above the Earth, on Thursday evening following a flight of about 22 hours.The flight marks the third “operational” space station crew sent to orbit aboard a Dragon capsule since NASA and SpaceX teamed up to resume space launches from American soil last year, following a nine-year hiatus at the end of the US space shuttle program in 2011.“Crew 3” includes two members of NASA’s latest graduating class of astronauts — Raja Chari, 44, a US Air Force combat jet and test pilot serving as mission commander, and mission specialist Kayla Barron, 34, a US Navy submarine officer and nuclear engineer.The team’s designated pilot and second-in-command is veteran astronaut Tom Marshburn, 61, a medical doctor and former NASA flight surgeon who has logged two previous spaceflights to the space station and four spacewalks. Rounding out the crew is European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer, 51, of Germany, a materials science engineer.Bridge to the FutureChari, Maurer and Barron were all making their debut spaceflights with Wednesday’s launch, becoming the 599th, 600th and 601st humans in space.Both Chari and Barron also are among the first group of 18 astronauts selected for NASA’s upcoming Artemis missions, aimed at returning humans to the moon later this decade, over a half century after the Apollo lunar program ended.NASA has extolled space station missions in low-Earth orbit as critical training grounds and incubators for technologies that will help achieve the goals of a sustainable lunar presence and eventual human flights to Mars.With the Crew Dragon flying autonomously through space at more than 17,000 miles per hour (27,360 kmph), the four astronauts were expected to have a meal and get some sleep before arriving at the space station to begin a six-month science mission aboard the orbiting laboratory.The launch stands as SpaceX’s fifth crewed flight overall in 17 months, and the fourth under NASA’s public-private partnership with the rocket company founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, the billionaire chief executive of electric car maker Tesla IncThe first was a two-astronaut trial run to the space station in May 2020, followed by the maiden NASA-SpaceX operational “Crew 1” in November of that year.“Crew 2” flew to the space station in April of this year, and just returned safely to Earth on Monday night with a splash-down capping a record 199 days in orbit.The latest mission also follows a flurry of recent high-profile astro-tourism flights, including the SpaceX launch in September of “Inspiration 4,” the first all-civilian crew sent to orbit without a professional astronaut on board.The “Crew 3” team, on arriving at the space station, will be welcomed aboard by its three current occupants — two cosmonauts from Russia and Belarus and a US astronaut who shared a Soyuz flight to orbit earlier this year.

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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.

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