Category Archives: World

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Paris Stabbing Attack Termed Act of Islamist Terrorism

French authorities launched an anti-terrorism investigation Friday after an attacker stabbed two people in Paris near the former offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.In an interview with France 2 television station, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the attack was “clearly an act of Islamist terrorism.””Manifestly, the method was one of an Islamist terrorist,” he said. “There is little doubt this is a new bloody attack against our country, against journalists, against our society, which you already mentioned in your report… a great amount of difficulties and emotions over the past few years and I would like the extend my support to them as well.”Darmanin said the chief suspect in Friday’s stabbings came to France, apparently from Pakistan, three years ago as an unaccompanied minor.France’s counterterrorism prosecutor, Jean-Francois Ricard, said the young man was arrested with another person not far from where the attack took place.Ricard said the attacker did not know the victims — a woman and a man from a documentary production company on a smoke break.The motivation for the attack and whether it had any connection to Charlie Hebdo is unclear.Islamist militants attacked the Charlie Hebdo offices in 2015, killing 12 people.A terrorism trial for 14 people accused of being accomplices in that attack is currently going on in Paris.Charlie Hebdo angered many Muslims by publishing cartoons featuring the Prophet Muhammad, and ahead of the trial it recently reprinted some of the same cartoons.Last week, police moved the magazine’s head of human resources from her home after she was the target of death threats around the start of the trial.

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At Least 22 Die in Ukraine Plane Crash

A Ukrainian military plane crashed and burst into flames on Friday evening, killing at least 22 people on board, authorities said.The aircraft crashed while trying to land at Chuhuiv’s airport in the Kharkiv region, about 400 kilometers east of the capital, Kyiv.”There were 27 people on the aircraft,” said Oleksii Kucher, Kharkiv governor. “There were seven officers and 20 military students. We can say for sure now that 22 people died. Two people are in hospital. And there are three people missing.”One pilot reported failure in one of the plane’s two engines, Kucher said, adding that it should not have been a critical situation for an experienced pilot.The Antonov An-26 aircraft was conducting training exercises and most of those on board were air force cadets at the defense ministry’s Kharkiv University of Air Force.Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office said a state commission is being established to identify the circumstances and causes of the incident.

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Lufthansa Cuts Jobs, Plans to Expand COVID-19 Testing

German airline Lufthansa says it will have to make more staff cuts in addition to the previously announced reduction of 22,000 full-time positions — despite receiving a $10.5 billion (9 billion euro) government bailout in June. The airline said it would put some of its fleet into long-term storage and permanently decommission its seven remaining Airbus A340-600s. VOA correspondent Mariama Diallo has this story.

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US Rapper Kanye West Makes Surprise Visit to Haiti

American rap star and third-party U.S. presidential candidate Kanye West visited Haiti on Friday, Haitian President Jovenel Moise announced on Twitter.“I’m with famous American rapper Kanye West who just arrived in the country to visit Labadee and l’Ile de la Tortue. I wish him a great visit,” Moise tweeted.The post, which included four photos, show both the president and West wearing face masks.The purpose of West’s visit to the Caribbean nation remains unclear. He has not posted anything about it on his official Twitter account, @kanyewest. President Moise’s tweet provided no further details.According to local media, the rap star, 43, landed Friday morning at the Cape Haitien international airport and was met there by the president. Official Haitian greeters, fans, airport workers and members of the press crowded into the small airport’s diplomatic lounge to catch a glimpse of West, who was wearing a lilac hoodie, dark pants and his signature sneakers. President Moise accompanied him on a visit to two picturesque islands.Labadee island, located off the coast of Cape Haitien in Haiti’s north, is a resort predominantly frequented by foreign tourists. The island is leased by Royal Caribbean cruise lines and features turquoise waters, sandy beaches and an assortment of water rides.Ile de la Tortue (Tortuga island) is also a popular tourist destination off Haiti’s northwestern coast.Cape Haitien, where West landed, is Haiti’s second-largest city. It is home to the renowned historical site, Citadelle Laferriere, a 19th century fortress that was instrumental in the slave revolution to gain independence from France in 1804.This is the rap star’s second jaunt to the Caribbean in a week. The Miami Herald reported that West made a visit last week to Jamaica, where he was accused of breaking COVID-19 protocols after photos surfaced of him without a face mask with reggae music star Buju Banton.West announced his candidacy for U.S. president on July 4, 2020, and is officially on the ballot for the November election in 11 states.

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Haiti Policeman Released from Jail After Violent Demonstrations

Haitian National policeman Pascal Alexandre is a free man — for now — after being conditionally released Friday from the National Penitentiary, where he had been held for nearly five months, after violent protests by a rogue police group calling for his freedom.Alexandre, who is a member of the national police’s anti-drug force, was arrested May 8 and accused of assault with a deadly weapon and destruction of public property. He was arrested after an altercation between the rogue police group Fantom 509 and a member of the elite Special Weapons and Tactics force (SWAT), during which the SWAT officer was allegedly disarmed and forced into a vehicle.Alexandre, wearing a dark gray T-shirt and face mask as he left the Port-au-Prince court where he was arraigned, was accompanied by his lawyer, Andre Michel.Michel told reporters the judge agreed to release his client on the condition that he make himself available to respond to any questions that may arise and to appear in court, if necessary, in the coming weeks.Lawyer Andre Michel talks to reporters about the conditions for Alexandre’s release from prison. (Matiado Vilme /VOA Créole)”Pascal Alexandre is a lucky man because he appeared before an independent judge, a courageous judge, an honest judge, a judge who knows his job,” the lawyer said. “After examining the case and the accusations against him, the judge agreed that they were groundless, a veritable tempest in a teapot.”Many Haitians distrust the judicial system, alleging that most of its judges are corrupt.Haiti’s National Police force has also struggled to improve its image, investing in training and equipment, partially financed by the United States.The Trump administration has requested $128.2 million in assistance for Haiti in fiscal year 2021, intended to “foster the institutions and infrastructure necessary to achieve strong democratic foundations and meaningful poverty reduction” according to Rapper 222 Flow says the neighborhood is thrilled to have Pascal Alexandre back home. (Matiado Vilme /VOA Créole)The policeman’s release was a key demand during a series violent protests orchestrated by Fantom 509 (Ghosts of 509, which is the area code for Haiti) in the Haitian capital earlier this month. The group claims to represent officers who have died in the line of duty and says their goal is to correct injustices.The group, armed with high-powered weapons, has orchestrated several violent street protests, demanding justice.Among state buildings targeted in their most recent protests, September 12-14, were the Immigration Service, the newly constructed National Identification Office (ONI), which distributes the ID cards required for bank transactions, property purchases, travel and other official matters. Government vehicles including garbage trucks were also damaged.During the September 12 protest, members of Fantom 509 fired at the home of chief prosecutor Ducarmel Gabriel to demand the release of four fellow police officers charged with dereliction of duty. They had been accused of failing to secure the crime scene in the home where Port-au-Prince bar association chief Monferrier Dorval was slain.Dorval’s home was ransacked, and potentially valuable evidence was destroyed, according to the lead investigator. A short time after the shooting incident, the four officers were released from jail.During a September 14 protest, VOA asked one of the Fantom 509 officers what sparked their rampage.”We’re fighting for our brother’s freedom,” the policeman, dressed in uniform and wearing a facemask, told VOA Creole. “That’s why each time we hit the streets and our demands are not met by officials, we will hold them responsible (for whatever happens). We will keep this up until Pascal Alexandre is free. Wherever we see injustices – we will respond with civil disobedience.”Fantom 509 threatened during the September 14 protest to burn the capital city down to the ground if Alexandre was not released. When VOA Creole asked them why they were resorting to violence rather than petitioning the minister of justice, they responded that their colleague was unjustly arrested, so that “is not an option.””The government had Pascal arrested, so we are dealing directly with the government,” the officer told VOA.

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UN Urges Belarus to Release Opposition Figure Kolesnikova

Independent human rights experts from the United Nations on Friday urged the Belarusian government to free leading opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova, saying she faces a five-year prison term after being charged with undermining national security.The musician and political activist was jailed recently amid ongoing mass protests against the country’s authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, who was re-elected August 9 in a vote that opponents allege was rigged. The rights experts said Kolesnikova was “snatched off the streets” of Minsk, the capital, September 7, threatened with death or deportation and secretly imprisoned.The statement noted that after three days with no information on her whereabouts, authorities announced that Kolesnikova was in pre-trial detention. It added that on the 16th, she was officially charged.“It is particularly troubling that the authorities have resorted to enforced disappearances in an effort to quash protests, stifle dissent and sow fear,” the U.N. experts said, adding, “We urge the authorities not to use national security concerns to deny individuals their fundamental rights, among others the rights to opinion, expression, or peaceful assembly and association.”The rights experts also said in their statement they wanted authorities to bring to justice those responsible for her disappearance. They noted she had campaigned for opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who fled with her children to Lithuania for safety.Kolesnikova was a key member of a council set up by the opposition to push for new elections. Separately, another activist, Olga Kovalkova, said that authorities forced her out of the country and that she was dropped off at the Polish border.Lukashenko said he won the August 9 election in a landslide. He claimed the beginning of his sixth term Wednesday, following an inauguration ceremony held in secret. The president, who has ruled Belarus for 26 years, said the protesters were being backed by foreign powers.
 

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Thousands March in Berlin Climate Rally

Thousands of mostly young people gathered Friday in Berlin to demand more action on climate change, part of a global day of action for the environment.Defying gray skies, the participants, many on bicycles, brought placards and banners to a rally near the iconic Brandenburg Gate. Most wore face masks as a COVID-19 precaution. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.Germany is a focal point for the demonstrations in Europe because it holds the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union, which together with Britain accounts for 22 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans.The climate has made headlines around the world recently, from melting Arctic ice to record Siberian heat to wildfires in California and elsewhere.German climate activist Luisa Neubauer told the crowd, “We’re here because we know that climate justice is possible as long as we keep fighting for it. That’s why we’re here today.”Fridays for Future activists protest calling for a “Global Day of Climate Action” in Berlin, Germany, Sept. 25, 2020.The demonstration was one of 3,000 scheduled to be held around the world Friday, as part of the youth activist movement “Fridays for Future.” COVID-19 restrictions forced many of the activities online.In Stockholm, the person considered to be the founder of the movement, teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, was in her usual location, in front of the Swedish parliament. She told a reporter the main goal of the protests was to raise awareness and sway public opinion on the urgency of climate issues.She said, “We need to treat the climate crisis as a crisis. It’s just as simple as that. The climate crisis has never once been treated as a crisis, and unless we treat it as a crisis, we won’t be able to so-called ‘solve’ it.’ ”In 2018, at age 15, Thunberg began skipping school on Fridays and going to the parliament to hold demonstrations for legislation on climate change. Soon, she was joined by others, and the protests eventually went viral through social media.
 

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Eight in 10 Britons Ignore COVID-19 Self-Isolation Rules, Survey Finds

A new survey indicates more than 80% of people living in Britain with COVID-19 symptoms or who have had contact with someone who has tested positive are ignoring self-isolation guidelines.
 
The survey, released Friday and conducted by Kings College London and the National Health Service (NHS), found that only 18.2% of people who reported having symptoms of COVID-19 in the previous seven days have stayed isolated since their symptoms developed, and only 11.9% requested a COVID-19 test.
 
The research also shows fewer than half those surveyed were able to identify the symptoms of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.
 
The research also found that only 10.9% of people told to self-isolate after close contact with a COVID-19 case had done so for 14 days as required.
 
In a statement, the survey’s senior author, Kings College researcher Dr. James Rubin, said the research indicated that while the public seems to have good intentions to adhere to the test, trace and isolate guidelines, financial constraints are the most common reason given for non-compliance, among other factors.
 
Britain this week introduced fines of up to $12,780 for breaking self-isolation rules, and it is offering nearly $640 in support payments to low-paid workers who lose income from quarantining.
 
The study shows other reasons for non-compliance ranged from not knowing government guidance to being unable to identify the symptoms.
 
Kings College says the data was collected through surveys conducted among 30,000 people living in Britain between March and August of this year.
 

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Canceled Flights Strand 25 Easter Islanders for 6 Months

For people around the world, the coronavirus has caused distressing separations and delayed homecomings. But the situation for a group of 25 residents from remote Easter Island stands out.  
For six months now the group has been stranded far across a vast stretch of ocean on Tahiti in French Polynesia. Children remain separated from their parents, husbands from their wives.  
Mihinoa Terakauhau Pont, a 21-year-old mom who is among those stranded, is due to give birth to her second son any day now but can’t have her husband by her side because he’s back home. Her grief has left her exhausted.
“I can’t cry anymore,” she said. “My heart is cold.”
Usually considered a tropical paradise, Tahiti has become a kind of prison to them. Many arrived in March planning to stay for just a few weeks — they’d come for work, or a vacation, or for medical procedures. But they got stuck when the virus swept across the globe and their flights back home were canceled.
Each day they have been going to the authorities and begging for help in Spanish, in French, and in English. They’ve considered chartering a plane or trying to hitch a lift on a military ship to make the journey of some 4,200 kilometers (2,600 miles). But each time their hopes rise a little, their plans turn out to be too expensive or impractical.
Home to about 8,000 people, Easter Island is a tiny speck in the vast Pacific Ocean, located midway between Polynesia, in the South Pacific, and South America. Also named Rapa Nui, the Chilean territory is renowned for its imposing moai — giant heads carved from volcanic rock by inhabitants hundreds of years ago. For Easter Islanders, Tahiti has long been a stopping-off point, a connection to the rest of the world.
Until the virus struck, LATAM airlines ran a regular return route from Santiago, Chile, to Easter Island and on to Tahiti. LATAM said it suspended the route in March because of the virus and doesn’t have a timeline for restarting it. No other airlines offer a similar service.
“The resumption of this flight is subject to the development of the pandemic and travel restrictions in place,” the airline said in a statement.
Terakauhau Pont arrived in Tahiti in January to visit her first son, who was staying on a nearby island with her parents. She was due to fly home in March. As the weeks trying to get a flight back slipped into months, she heard from afar that her husband had lost his job at a hotel because of the downturn in the tourism industry caused by the virus.
Now, Terakauhau Pont’s mother has started a garden and her father is going fishing so they have enough food to eat each day.
“It’s the only way to survive,” she said.
She has pleaded with the authorities to help, and has even written to leaders in mainland Chile and on Easter Island, but without any success.  
“It is so much grief for all of us,” she said.
She said the person who has done the most to help is Kissy Baude, a 40-year-old administrative technician who has lived in Tahiti for years but was due to start a new job on her native Easter Island in April.  
Because of her contacts on Tahiti, Baude has become the unofficial leader of the group — its social worker, psychologist and spokesperson. Baude said the group has survived thanks to the generosity of Tahitians, who have been providing them with food and accommodation long after many of them ran out of their own resources.
Baude said that before the virus struck, she was eagerly anticipating returning to Easter Island. She was looking forward to seeing her mother, who has a room prepared and waiting. But now, her mother’s husband also remains stranded with her on Tahiti, after traveling there for colon surgery in March.
Baude said one option they’ve been exploring is to fly a circuitous route to Los Angeles and then to Santiago and hope they get repatriated from there. But even then their return isn’t certain and many in the group can’t afford the expense.
Among the 16 females and nine males stranded are seven children aged between 2 and 14. And the clan is expected to grow by one on about Oct. 3, the day Terakauhau Pont is due to give birth to a son that she and her husband plan to name Anuihere.
Some in the group have struggled to find enough money simply to eat, while others have found it tough going emotionally. Lately, they have been able to collect some money online after setting up two donation pages.
Baude gets emotional when talking about their situation. She said some of them fear speaking up in case they face repercussions back on Easter Island, but she isn’t afraid.
“We just want to go back to our homeland,” she said.

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