No Afghan ‘reintegration’ without progress on rights: UN

Taliban security personnel stand guard as an Afghan woman in burqa (R) walks along a street at a market in the Baharak district of Badakhshan province on Feb. 26, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 22 June 2024
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No Afghan ‘reintegration’ without progress on rights: UN

  • Since their 2021 return to power, Taliban authorities have not been formally recognized by any nation
  • The Taliban applies a rigorous interpretation of Islam, leading to a suppression of women’s freedoms that the United Nations has described as “gender apartheid”

UNITED NATIONS: Restrictions on women’s rights continue to prevent Afghanistan’s “reintegration” into the international community, a senior UN official said Friday, noting the Taliban’s participation in upcoming talks in Doha is not legitimization of the isolated government.
Since their 2021 return to power, Taliban authorities have not been formally recognized by any nation and apply a rigorous interpretation of Islam, leading to a suppression of women’s freedoms that the United Nations has described as “gender apartheid.”
Restrictions on women and girls, particularly in education, “deprive the country of vital human capital” and lead to a brain drain that undermines the impoverished country’s future, Roza Otunbayeva, head of the UN mission in the country, UNAMA, told the Security Council.
“By being deeply unpopular (the restrictions) undermine the de facto authorities’ claims to legitimacy,” she said.
“And they continue to block diplomatic solutions that would lead to Afghanistan’s reintegration into the international community.”
Last year marked the start of a process in Doha to consider strengthening the world community’s engagement with Afghanistan.
The first Doha talks included foreign special envoys to Afghanistan under the aegis of the United Nations, and in the presence of the country’s civil society, including women.
The Taliban had been excluded from the opening talks and refused to take part in the second round if other representatives from the country were involved.
The third round of talks is set for June 30 and July 1 in Doha, and the Taliban has given assurances it will attend.
“For this process to truly begin, it is essential that the de facto authorities participate at Doha,” Otunbayeva said, warning however that high expectations “cannot realistically be met in a single meeting.”
“It cannot be repeated enough that this sort of engagement is not legitimization or normalization,” she stressed.
Responding to criticism over the absence of Afghan civil society representatives, notably women, at the talks that include the Taliban, Otunbayeva said those groups would be present in Doha for a separate meeting on July 2.
“This is what is possible today,” she said.
Afghanistan’s UN ambassador Naseer Ahmad Faiq, who still represents the government that preceded the Taliban’s rise to power, called the absence of civil society and women at the table in Doha “disappointing.”
He also expressed concern the agenda does not include discussions on the political process and human rights in Afghanistan, saying “this will be perceived as a shift away from issues deemed essential to the people of Afghanistan.”
 


US Navy pilots come home after months of shooting down Houthi missiles and drones

Updated 16 sec ago
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US Navy pilots come home after months of shooting down Houthi missiles and drones

  • Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have been attacking ships linked to Israel, the United States or Britain in what they say is a campaign to support the militant group Hamas in its war the Gaza against Israel

VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia: US Navy fighter pilots came home to Virginia feeling relieved Friday after months of shooting down Houthi-launched missiles and drones off Yemen’s coast in the most intense running sea battle the Navy has faced since World War II.
F/A-18 Super Hornets swooped over waiting families in a low formation before landing at their base in Virginia Beach. Dressed in green flight suits, the aviators embraced women in summer dresses and kids carrying American flags. Some handed red roses to their wives and daughters.
“We’re going to go sit down on the couch, and we’re going to try and make up for nine months of lost time,” Cmdr. Jaime Moreno said while hugging his two young daughters, ages 2 and 4, and kissing his wife Lynn.
Clearing the emotion from his voice, Moreno said he couldn’t be prouder of his team and “everything that the last nine months have entailed.”
The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier strike group, which includes three other warships, was protecting merchant vessels and allied warships under fire in a vital Red Sea corridor that leads to the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean.
Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have been attacking ships linked to Israel, the United States or Britain in what they say is a campaign to support the militant group Hamas in its war the Gaza against Israel, though they frequently have targeted ships with no clear links to Israel or its supporters, imperiling shipping in a key route for global trade.
The US and its allies have been fighting back: One round of fire in January saw F/A-18s from the Eisenhower and other ships shoot down 18 drones, two anti-ship cruise missiles and a ballistic missile launched by the Houthis.
US Navy sailors have seen incoming Houthi-launched missiles seconds before they are destroyed by their ship’s defensive systems. Officials in the Pentagon have been talking about how to care for the sailors when they return home, including counseling and treatment for possible post-traumatic stress.
Cmdr. Benjamin Orloff, a Navy pilot, told reporters in Virginia Beach on Friday that most of the sailors, including him, weren’t used to being fired on given the nation’s previous military engagements in recent decades.
“It was incredibly different,” Orloff said. “And I’ll be honest, it was a little traumatizing for the group. It’s something that we don’t think about a lot until you’re presented with it.”
But at the same time, Orloff said sailors responded with grit and resilience.
“What’s impressive is how all those sailors turned right around — — and given the threat, given that stress — — continued to do their jobs beyond reproach,” Orloff said, adding that it was “one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”
The carrier strike group had left Virginia in mid-October. Its deployment was extended twice because of the importance of having a powerful carrier strike group, which can launch fighter jets at a moment’s notice, in the volatile region.
The months of fighting and extensions placed extra stress on roughly 7,000 sailors and their families.
Caitlyn Jeronimus, whose husband Keith is a Navy lieutenant commander and pilot, said she initially thought this deployment would be relatively easy, involving some exercises with other NATO countries. But then Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, and plans changed.
“It was going to be, if you could call it, a fun deployment where he’s going to get lots of ports to visit,” Jeronimus said.
She said the Eisenhower’s plans continued to change, which was exacerbated by the knowledge that there were “people who want to harm the ship.”
Jeronimus leaned on counselors provided by the Navy.
Her two children, aged 5 and 8, were old enough to understand “that daddy has been gone for a long time,” she said. “It was stressful.”

 


Webb Space Telescope’s latest cosmic shot shows pair of intertwined galaxies glowing in infrared

Updated 28 min 47 sec ago
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Webb Space Telescope’s latest cosmic shot shows pair of intertwined galaxies glowing in infrared

  • The Penguin and Egg galaxies have been tangled up and will eventually merge into a single galaxy, according to NASA

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: The Webb Space Telescope has captured a pair of intertwined galaxies glowing in the infrared.
The observatory operated by NASA and the European Space Agency photographed the two galaxies 326 million light-years away, surrounded by a blue haze of stars and gas. A light-year is 5.8 trillion miles.
The pictures, released Friday, marks the second anniversary of Webb’s science operations.
The neighboring galaxies, nicknamed Penguin and the Egg, have been tangled up for tens of millions of years, according to NASA. They’ll eventually merge into a single galaxy. The same interaction will happen to our own Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy in 4 billion years, the space agency said.
Considered the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope, Webb is the biggest and most powerful astronomical observatory ever launched. It rocketed away in 2021 and underwent six months of commissioning, before its first official images were released in July 2022.
It’s positioned 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth.
“In just two years, Webb has transformed our view of the universe,” NASA’s Mark Clampin said in a statement.
 


Alabama agrees to forgo autopsy of Muslin inmate scheduled to be executed next week

Keith Edmund Gavin. (Photo/Social media)
Updated 31 min 17 sec ago
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Alabama agrees to forgo autopsy of Muslin inmate scheduled to be executed next week

  • “No autopsy will be performed on Keith Edmund Gavin. His remains will be picked up by the attending funeral home,” the Alabama Department of Corrections said in an emailed statement

MONTGOMERY, Alabama: Alabama has agreed to forgo an autopsy on a Muslim death row inmate, scheduled to be executed next week, who said the post-mortem procedure would violate his religious beliefs.
Keith Edmund Gavin had filed a lawsuit against the state seeking to avoid the autopsy, which is typically performed after executions in Alabama. The Alabama prison system in a Friday statement said it had agreed to forgo the autopsy.
“No autopsy will be performed on Keith Edmund Gavin. His remains will be picked up by the attending funeral home,” the Alabama Department of Corrections said in an emailed statement.
Gavin, 64, is set to be executed July 18 by lethal injection at a south Alabama prison.
Gavin filed a lawsuit last month asking a judge to block the state from performing an autopsy after his execution. His attorneys did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
“Mr. Gavin is a devout Muslim. His religion teaches that the human body is a sacred temple, which must be kept whole. As a result, Mr. Gavin sincerely believes that an autopsy would desecrate his body and violate the sanctity of keeping his human body intact. Based on his faith, Mr. Gavin is fiercely opposed to an autopsy being performed on his body after his execution,” his attorneys wrote in the lawsuit filed in state court in Montgomery.
His attorneys said they filed the lawsuit after being unable to have “meaningful discussions” with state officials about his request to avoid an autopsy. They added that the court filing is not an attempt to stay the execution and that “Gavin does not anticipate any further appeals or requests for stays of his execution.”
William Califf, a spokesman for Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, said earlier this week that “we are working on a resolution” in the case,
Gavin was convicted of capital murder for the 1998 shooting death of William Clinton Clayton Jr. in Cherokee County in northeast Alabama. Clayton, a delivery driver, had stopped at an ATM to get money to take his wife to dinner when he was shot, prosecutors said.
A jury voted 10-2 in favor of the death penalty for Gavin. The trial court accepted the jury’s recommendation and sentenced him to death.

 


SpaceX rocket accident leaves company’s Starlink satellites in wrong orbit

Updated 27 min 57 sec ago
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SpaceX rocket accident leaves company’s Starlink satellites in wrong orbit

  • An upper stage engine malfunctioned minutes after the Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from California on Thursday night, carrying 20 Starlink satellites
  • More than 6,000 orbiting Starlinks currently provide Internet service to customers in some of the most remote corners of the world

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: A SpaceX rocket has failed for the first time in nearly a decade, leaving the company’s Internet satellites in an orbit so low that they’re doomed to fall through the atmosphere and burn up.
The Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from California on Thursday night, carrying 20 Starlink satellites. Several minutes into the flight, the upper stage engine malfunctioned. SpaceX on Friday blamed a liquid oxygen leak.
The company said flight controllers managed to make contact with half of the satellites and attempted to boost them to a higher orbit using onboard ion thrusters. But with the low end of their orbit only 84 miles (135 kilometers) above Earth — less than half what was intended — “our maximum available thrust is unlikely to be enough to successfully raise the satellites,” the company said via X.
SpaceX said the satellites will reenter the atmosphere and burn up. There was no mention of when they might come down. More than 6,000 orbiting Starlinks currently provide Internet service to customers in some of the most remote corners of the world.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the problem must be fixed before Falcon rockets can fly again.
It was not known if or how the accident might impact SpaceX’s upcoming crew flights. A billionaire’s spaceflight is scheduled for July 31 from Florida with plans for the first private spacewalk, followed in mid-August by an astronaut flight to the International Space Station for NASA.
The tech entrepreneur who will lead the private flight, Jared Isaacman, said Friday that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 has “an incredible track record” and as well as an emergency escape system.
The last launch failure occurred in 2015 during a space station cargo run. Another rocket exploded the following year during testing on the ground.
SpaceX’s Elon Musk said the high flight rate will make it easier to identify and correct the problem.

 


District court rebuffs fining Netherlands for Israel jet parts

Updated 12 July 2024
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District court rebuffs fining Netherlands for Israel jet parts

  • The Hague District Court’s judges agreed on Friday but stressed February’s judgment “said nothing about the route that parts take via other countries for the production of the F-35”

THE HAGUE: Dutch judges on Friday slapped down an urgent request by a trio of rights groups to penalize the Netherlands for not respecting a ban on supplying F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel.
In a landmark verdict in February, an appeals court ordered the Netherlands to stop delivering parts for fighter jets used by Israel in its offensive in the Gaza Strip.
But the rights groups went back to court in June, saying that the ban has not prevented parts ending up in Israeli planes.
Their lawyers accused the Dutch government of continuing “to deliver (parts) to other countries, including the US.”
The three groups asked The Hague District Court in an urgent request to impose a €50,000 per day fine on the state for not respecting the verdict.
Their lawyers said F-35 parts exported by the Netherlands continued to reach Israel via other routes, including the so-called “Global Spares Pool” — a joint stock of spare parts maintained by countries that operate the F-35.
The Hague District Court’s judges agreed on Friday but stressed February’s judgment “said nothing about the route that parts take via other countries for the production of the F-35.”
The judges said the February judgment had a “more limited scope” than the rights group’s current urgent request.
“It has not been demonstrated that the state is not complying with the ban or does not intend to continue to comply,” the judges said.
“Therefore, there is no penalty for a violation,” the judges said.
In its verdict in February, appeals judges found that there was a “clear risk” the planes would be involved in breaking international humanitarian law.
The Dutch government then acknowledged it could not prevent parts shipped to the US from eventually ending up in Israeli F-35s.
But its lawyers said it did not believe the Netherlands had to restrict exports of F-35 parts to countries other than Israel.
The Dutch government added that it would implement the February verdict but announced that it would appeal to the Supreme Court.