Afghan girl from famous cover portrait is evacuated to Italy

Premier Mario Draghi said Italy organized the evacuation of Sharbat Gulla after she asked to be helped to leave the country. The government will now help to welcome her and get her integrated into life here, the statement said. (AP)
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Updated 25 November 2021

Afghan girl from famous cover portrait is evacuated to Italy

  • Italy organized the evacuation of Sharbat Gulla after she asked to be helped to leave the country
  • The Italian government will now help to get her integrated into life in Italy, the statement said

ROME: National Geographic magazine’s famed green-eyed “Afghan Girl” has arrived in Italy as part of the West’s evacuation of Afghans following the Taliban takeover of the country, the Italian government said Thursday.
The office of Premier Mario Draghi said Italy organized the evacuation of Sharbat Gulla after she asked to be helped to leave the country. The Italian government will now help to get her integrated into life in Italy, the statement said.
Gulla gained international fame in 1984 as an Afghan refugee girl, after war photographer Steve McCurry’s photograph of her, with piercing green eyes, was published on the cover of National Geographic. McCurry found her again in 2002.
In 2014, she surfaced in Pakistan but went into hiding when authorities accused her of buying a fake Pakistani identity card and ordered her deported. She was flown to Kabul where the president hosted a reception for her at the presidential palace and handed her keys to a new apartment.
Italy was one of several Western countries that airlifted hundreds of Afghans out of the country following the departure of US forces and the Taliban takeover in August.
In a statement announcing Gulla’s arrival in Rome, Draghi’s office said her photograph had come to “symbolize the vicissitudes and conflict of the chapter in history that Afghanistan and its people were going through at the time.”
It said it had received requests “by those in civil society, and in particular by non-profit organizations working in Afghanistan” backing Gulla’s plea for help to leave the country.
Italy organized her travel to Italy “as part of the wider evacuation program in place for Afghan citizens and the government’s plan for their reception and integration,” the statement said.


Fists fly in Honduran Congress ahead of new president’s inauguration

Updated 22 January 2022

Fists fly in Honduran Congress ahead of new president’s inauguration

  • Legislators from leftist Libre party protested after 20 rebel members proposed Jorge Calix, one of their cohorts, as provisional congress president
  • Amid cries of "traitors" and "Xiomara!" angry Libre legislators forced their way to the podium while Calix was being sworn in, causing him to flee under a hail of punches

TEGUCIGALPA: Lawmakers exchanged blows in the Honduran Congress Friday as a dispute among members of president-elect Xiomara Castro’s party turned violent.
Legislators from her leftist Libre party protested after 20 rebel members proposed Jorge Calix, one of their cohorts, as provisional congress president.
Castro loyalists claimed this violated a pact with Libre’s coalition partner.
Amid cries of “traitors” and “Xiomara!,” angry Libre legislators forced their way to the podium while Calix was being sworn in, causing him to flee under a hail of punches and much pushing and shoving.
It was the first sitting of the 128-member Congress since elections last November.
Following an emergency party meeting later on Friday, the president-elect announced that the 20 members had been expelled from Libre, calling them “traitors” and “corrupt.”
The crisis began late Thursday when Castro called her party’s 50 legislators to a meeting to ask them to support Luis Redondo of the Savior Party of Honduras (PSH) as congress president.
The 20 rebel members did not attend.
On Friday, Libre leader Gilberto Rios told AFP that the 20 are backed by groups that wish to stop Castro’s promised anti-corruption campaign, including people in “organized crime” and “drug trafficking.”
Castro won elections on November 28 to become Honduras’ first woman president and end 12 years of National Party rule.
She won as part of an alliance between Libre and the PSH, to which the presidency of Congress was promised.
Castro accused the dissidents of “betraying the constitutional agreement” and “making alliances with representatives of organized crime, corruption and drug trafficking.”
Her husband Manuel Zelaya, a former president who was deposed in a 2009 coup supported by the military, business elites and the political right, is a senior Libre party official.
Castro is to be sworn in on January 27 along with other senior officials, including the congress president, at a ceremony attended by international guests including US Vice President Kamala Harris.


Arizona sues Biden to keep school anti-mask rules

Updated 22 January 2022

Arizona sues Biden to keep school anti-mask rules

  • Ducey's lawsuit said the Treasury Department created restrictions on spending the money Arizona receives under President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan Act
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal mask-wearing in school settings to prevent the spread of COVID-19

PHOENIX: Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey sued the Biden administration on Friday over its demand that the state stop sending millions in federal COVID-19 relief money to schools that don’t have mask requirements or that close due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in Phoenix comes a week after the US Treasury Department demanded that Ducey either restructure the $163 million program to eliminate restrictions it says undermine public health recommendations or face a repayment demand.
The Treasury Department also wants changes to a $10 million program Ducey created that gives private school tuition money to parents if their children’s schools have mask mandates.
Ducey’s lawsuit said the Treasury Department created restrictions on spending the money Arizona receives under President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act on its own and without legal authority. It asks a court to declare that the Treasury Department’s rules are illegal and permanently block enforcement and any demands that it pay back the $173 million it is spending on the two programs.
“Nothing in that underlying statute authorizes Treasury to condition the use of (ARPA) monies on following measures that, in the view of Treasury, stop the spread of COVID-19,” the lawsuit says. “If Congress had truly intended to give Treasury the power to dictate public health edicts to the States, and recoup or withhold (monies) ... it would have spoken clearly on the matter. It did not.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal mask-wearing in school settings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“By discouraging families and school districts from following this guidance, the conditions referenced above undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19,” the Treasury Department wrote in last week’s letter.
The Treasury Department started demanding that Ducey change the programs in October. It was part of a concerted effort to force Arizona and some other Republican-led states that have opposed mask mandates or were using pandemic funding to advance their own agendas to end those practices.
Ducey rejected Treasury’s request the following month, and last week the Biden administration followed up with a formal demand that it cease using the money for the disputed programs or face either repayment demands or withholding of additional money it is set to receive under Biden’s COVID relief bill.
Friday’s lawsuit said the Treasury Department initially recognized that states have “broad latitude to choose whether and how to use the (money) to respond to and address the negative economic impact” of COVID-19. But then it changed course, and created the new rules, the suit said.
The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new lawsuit.
At issue are two state programs the Republican governor created last summer meant to help schools and students.
Arizona’s Education Plus-Up Grant Program provides $163 million in funding to schools in higher-income areas that received less than $1,800 per student in federal virus aid. Districts that require face coverings or that have closed due to virus outbreaks are ineligible.
Another called the COVID-19 Educational Recovery Benefit Program provides for up to $7,000 for parents if their child’s school requires face coverings or quarantines after exposure. It lets parents use the money for private school tuition or other education costs and its design mirrors the state’s existing school voucher program.
In a letter sent last week, the Treasury Department warned that the state has 60 days to remove the anti-masking provisions before the federal government moves to recover the relief money, and it threatened to withhold the next tranche of aid as well.
Ducey created the programs in part to up the pressure on school districts that had mask mandates or other COVID-19 restrictions, saying they were hurting children and parents who had endured more than a year of school shutdowns, remote learning and other restrictions. Provisions in the state budget that barred school mask mandates statewide were later thrown out by the Arizona Supreme Court because they were improperly adopted, but Ducey did not change the programs.
“Safety recommendations are welcomed and encouraged — mandates that place more stress on students and families aren’t,” Ducey said in August. “These grants acknowledge efforts by schools and educators that are following state laws and keeping their classroom doors open for Arizona’s students.”
Arizona has received about half of the $4.2 billion awarded to it under the 2021 coronavirus relief bill, and the Treasury Department said it may withhold payments if Ducey failed to comply with its demands.


Search on for humpback whale entangled in debris off Hawaii

Updated 21 January 2022

Search on for humpback whale entangled in debris off Hawaii

  • First responders removed about 600 meters of heavy-gauge line from the animal over the weekend when it was off the island of Kauai
  • Officials plan to try to find the whale and clear more line from it as conditions permit

POIPU, Hawaii: A marine mammal rescue team is looking for an adult humpback whale entangled in debris off the coast of Hawaii.
First responders removed about 2,000 feet (600 meters) of heavy-gauge line from the animal over the weekend when it was off the island of Kauai, The Garden Island newspaper reported. Authorities detached most of the gear but weren’t able to get all of it off before the whale moved on.
Officials plan to try to find the whale and clear more line from it as conditions permit. They will study the removed gear to try to determine what it is and where it came from.
Large whales can become entangled in active or abandoned fishing gear or other ropes and lines in the ocean. The drag from debris can cause whales to use more energy to swim. It can also make it harder for them to feed, potentially leading to starvation. The debris can also injure the animals and trigger infections.
The entangled whale was emaciated, light-colored and rough-skinned, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. It had patches of rust-colored whale lice, indicating it was distressed.
Graham Talaber, who lives in the community of Koloa on Kauai, noticed rope and a dark spot in the water while filming green sea turtles from with a drone-mounted camera on Sunday. After 10 to 15 minutes of hovering over the area, his worries were confirmed when he saw a humpback at the end of a big net.
“It’s just right there, right in front of you, this massive, bus-size animal struggling for its life,” Talaber said. He asked his father to alert NOAA.
The responder team attached a satellite telemetry buoy to the whale, which will self-release in about a week. The buoy signaled when the whale returned to Kauai waters on Wednesday but the team could not spot the whale.


FIFA boss Infantino living in Doha before World Cup

Updated 20 January 2022

FIFA boss Infantino living in Doha before World Cup

  • Swiss newspaper Blick revealed that Infantino was living in Doha, where he rents a house
  • Two of his four daughters attend school in the build-up to the World Cup

PARIS: FIFA president Gianni Infantino has moved to Doha on a temporary basis to oversee the build-up to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar later this year, world football governing body confirmed on Thursday.
“As communicated in October 2021, the FIFA President informed the FIFA Council that he would divide his presence between Zurich, Doha and across the world, in order to deliver his presidential duties and be closer to the FIFA World Cup,” FIFA said in a statement.
“As he did during the FIFA Arab Cup, he will work alongside other FIFA staff in our office in Doha, when required, until the conclusion of the tournament. For the avoidance of doubt, Mr.Infantino has residency, and remains liable to pay taxes, in Switzerland.”
Swiss newspaper Blick revealed that Infantino was living in Doha, where he rents a house and two of his four daughters attend school in the build-up to the World Cup which takes place in Qatar from November 21 to December 18.
Meanwhile, Infantino’s predecessor Sepp Blatter said it was “incomprehensible” that the 51-year-old should be based elsewhere than FIFA’s headquarters which have been in Zurich since 1932.
“The place of the president of Fifa is where the headquarters are and it’s in Zurich,” Blatter told French radio on Thursday.
“I cannot say that it is outrageous. But I can say that it is incomprehensible that he has gone to live there with his family. It leaves a bitter taste,” said Blatter.
“It’s an abandonment of responsibility, because he must stay where Fifa has its headquarters, especially at a time when we have internal problems.”
Blatter, 85, was FIFA president between 1998 and 2015 when he was forced to stand down and banned from football for eight years, reduced later to six, over ethics breaches.


Colombian author García Márquez had secret Mexican daughter

Updated 18 January 2022

Colombian author García Márquez had secret Mexican daughter

  • Márquez died in Mexico City in 2014, where thousands of his readers lined up to see his casket in a concert hall

BOGOTA, Colombia: For decades renowned Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez kept the public from knowing about an intimate aspect of his life: He had a daughter with a Mexican writer, with whom he had an extramarital affair in the early 1990s.
The closely guarded secret was published by Colombian newspaper El Universal on Sunday and confirmed to the Associated Press by two relatives of the Nobel Prize-winning author, who is famous for novels like One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera.
Márquez died in Mexico City in 2014, where thousands of his readers lined up to see his casket in a concert hall. He was married for more than five decades to Mercedes Barcha and the couple had two children named Rodrigo and Gonzalo. They lived in Mexico City for much of their lives.
El Universal said that in the early 1990s Márquez had a daughter with Susana Cato, a writer and journalist who worked with Márquez on two movie scripts and who also interviewed him for a 1996 magazine story. Cato and Marquez named their daughter Indira: She is now in her early 30s and uses her mother’s surname.
Shani García Márquez, one of the writer’s nieces, told the AP that she had known for years about her cousin Indira, but had not mentioned her to the media because her parents always asked her to be discrete about her uncle’s personal life.
Gabriel Eligio Torres García, who is also a nephew of the Colombian writer, said he has been in touch with Indira Cato through social media, though he has never met her in person.
“My cousins Rodrigo and Gonzalo told me about her casually during a reunion,” he said.
Other members of García Márquez’s family, cited by El Universal, said they had not spoken about the writer’s daughter previously out of “respect” for Mercedes Barcha who died in August 2020. Torres García said that Indira Cato’s mother, Susana, had also been discrete about her daughter’s lineage, to keep her away from the media spotlight.
Indira Cato is now a documentary producer in Mexico City. She won several awards for a 2014 documentary on migrants passing through Mexico.
García Márquez’ family said they didn’t want to share her contact information because they were not authorized to do so, and the AP could not contact Indira Cato independently.
“She leads a very artistic lifestyle, like many people in this family,” said Shani García. “It makes us very happy that she has shined on her own.”

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