Home » Page 268
Categorieslatest

As conflict worsens in eastern Congo, 2 armed groups pledge to respect civilians

Under a crystal chandelier in a hall where the first Geneva Convention was signed in the mid-19th century, representatives of two armed groups in Congo signed solemn pledges this week to both their violence-wracked country and the wider world: We will do better to respect and protect civilians. With several Western diplomats looking on, the envoys made commitments that their forces will work to end sexual violence, food insecurity and conditions of famine and to ensure greater access to health care in the parts of increasingly violent eastern Congo that they operate in and control. The ceremony Tuesday at City Hall in Geneva, a Swiss city that’s known for an internationalist bent and as home to the international Red Cross, is the culmination of years of work by the humanitarian group Geneva Call, which works to protect civilians in conflict zones. Congo, Africa’s second-largest country, has seen a recent upsurge in insecurity in its mineral-rich east, an area that has been wracked by conflict for decades. More than 120 armed groups are fighting for land and power and, in some cases, protecting their communities. However, M23, the largest and best-known group, allegedly linked to neighboring Rwanda, has not engaged with Geneva Call. President Felix Tshisekedi, who started his second five-year term in January, had made quelling violence in the eastern parts of the Central African country a priority in his first term — but has struggled to deliver results. In Geneva, two armed groups that are loosely aligned with the government against M23 inked separate “Deeds of Commitment” on the rules they’ve vowed to respect. Geneva Call was quick to say these are not formal agreements and don’t “legitimize” the armed groups. One of the two, CMC-FDP (the French language acronym for Collective of Movements for Change/Self-Defense Force of Congolese People), has worked with Geneva Call for five years and taken steps such as releasing 35 children who were formerly in the group and rehabilitating schools and health centers. “We are here as representatives of a patriotic resistance group in the Democratic Republic of Congo and we’re here in Geneva to reiterate our commitment to respect international humanitarian law and human rights.” said Jimmy Didace Butsitsi, an assistant to the group’s president, Christophe Mulumba. The larger of the two groups is NDC-R/Guidon (Nduma Defense of Renewed Congo/Guidon), which has about 5,000 fighters. It has released over 20 hostages, undergone training in humanitarian law, and handed over 53 “perpetrators” of sexual or gender-based violence in its ranks to authorities as part of its work with the Geneva group. “Before all these training courses that we’ve taken, we could let ourselves do whatever we wanted,” said group spokesman Marcellin Shenkuku N’Kuba, who was accompanied in Geneva by Jérémie N’Kuba, the group’s political chairman. “Now, we feel — we can see — there’s a change on the ground, and so we can’t let ourselves do whatever we want anymore.” Shenkuku N’Kuba acknowledged that respecting the commitments “isn’t easy” and said he’s “not a prophet” but that the group will endeavor to adhere to them now that the pledges have been made. He said his group was also motivated out of a desire to debunk preconceived notions that people around the world might have about resistance groups, and “show our desire and to influence others also to adhere to the philosophy of respect for human rights … despite the circumstances our country is going through for the moment.” Alain Délétroz, Geneva Call’s director-general, said the idea behind such commitments is “to encourage other groups to follow the examples of these bigger groups.” The humanitarian group was born in 2000 out of an effort to ban landmines, and it has shepherded nearly 120 such pledges from armed groups in countries, including Iraq, Myanmar and Syria, on issues like child protection, sexual violence and gender discrimination. Geneva Call will keep tabs on any signs that the two groups might be violating their commitments, and would first raise any issues with their leaders confidentially. If troubles persisted, the aid group could go so far as to “repudiate” the deeds — but that has never happened in any other country. The ceremony took place in the City Hall’s “Alabama Room,” under a painting that commemorates a meeting of bearded and mustachioed envoys from Europe and the United States who signed the first Geneva convention on aid to war-wounded in 1864.

Categorieslatest

At collapsed Baltimore bridge, focus shifts to the weighty job of removing the massive structure

Teams of engineers are now focused on the formidable job of hauling the shattered remains of the Francis Scott Key Bridge out of Maryland’s Patapsco River, the first step toward reopening the Port of Baltimore and recovering the bodies of four workers who are still missing and presumed dead. A massive cargo go ship felled the span Tuesday after striking one of its main supports. Experts are trying to figure out how to “break that bridge up into the right-sized pieces that we can lift,” U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said Friday at a news conference. The tools that are needed have been coming into place. They include seven floating cranes — one of which is one of the largest on the Eastern Seaboard, capable of lifting 1,000 tons — 10 tugboats, nine barges, eight salvage vessels and five Coast Guard boats. “To go out there and see it up close, you realize just how daunting a task this is,” Gov. Wes Moore said Friday afternoon as the massive crane loomed behind him. “With a salvage operation this complex — and frankly with a salvation operation this unprecedented — you need to plan for every single moment,” Moore added. Moore surveyed the scene and saw shipping containers ripped apart “like papier-mache.” The broken pieces of the bridge, including its steel trusses, weigh as much as 4,000 tons. The wreckage has blocked ships from entering or leaving the vital port and also stymied the search for the missing workers. “We have to bring a sense of closure to these families,” Moore said. Moore also spoke of the disaster’s severe economic impact, saying, “What we’re talking about today is not just about Maryland’s economy; this is about the nation’s economy. The port handles more cars and more farm equipment than any other port in this country.” Maryland’s Department of Transportation is already planning for rebuilding of the span and “considering innovative design, engineering and building methods so that we can quickly deliver this project,” Secretary Paul J. Wiedefeld said. Adam Ortiz, the Environmental Protection Agency’s mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator, said there was no indication in the water of active releases from the ship or materials hazardous to human health. Col. Roland L. Butler Jr., superintendent of the Maryland State Police, said the Federal Aviation Administration has been asked to establish a flight restriction area that would begin 3 nautical miles in every direction from the bridge’s center span and extend upward to 1,500 feet. Butler advised people to keep drones away and said law enforcement is poised to act on any violations of that airspace. The victims, members of a crew fixing potholes on the span when it was destroyed, were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, officials said. At least eight people initially went into the water when the ship struck the bridge column, and two of them were rescued. Divers then recovered the bodies of two men from a pickup truck in the river, but the nature and placement of the debris has complicated efforts to find the other four workers, as have the murky water conditions. “The divers can put their hands on that faceplate, and they can’t even see their hands,” said Donald Gibbons, an instructor with Eastern Atlantic States Carpenters Technical Centers. “So we say zero visibility. It’s very similar to locking yourself in a dark closet on a dark night and really not being able to see anything.” Baltimoreans made morning stops at vantage points Friday to watch for the cranes. Among them was Ronald Hawkins, 71, who used to be able to see the bridge from his home and recalled watching its construction in the 1970s. “I’m going to come up here every day, because I want to see the bridge coming up out of the water,” Hawkins said. “It’s a hurtin’ thing.” President Joe Biden’s administration has approved $60 million in immediate aid, and Biden has said the federal government will pay the full cost of rebuilding the bridge, which was completed in 1977 and carried Interstate 695. Ship traffic at the Port of Baltimore remains suspended, but the Maryland Port Administration said in a statement Friday that trucks were still being processed at marine terminals. Federal and state officials have said the collision and collapse appeared to be an accident that came after the ship lost power. Investigators are still trying to determine why. The crash caused the bridge to break and fall into the water within seconds. Authorities had just enough time to stop vehicle traffic but were unable to alert the construction crew. The cargo ship Dali, which is managed by Synergy Marine Group, had been headed from Baltimore to Sri Lanka. It is owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd. and was chartered by Danish shipping giant Maersk. The loss of a road that carried 30,000 vehicles a day and the port disruption will affect not only thousands of dockworkers and commuters, but also U.S. consumers, who are likely to feel the impact of shipping delays. Scott Cowan, president of the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 333, said the union was scrambling to help its roughly 2,400 members whose jobs are at risk of drying up. “If there’s no ships, there’s no work,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can.” ___ Associated Press writers Sarah Brumfield in Washington, Kristin M. Hall in Nashville, Tennessee, Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee, and Lisa Baumann in Bellingham, Washington, contributed to this report.

Categorieslatest

‘Rust’ Armorer to Remain in Jail Pending Appeal, New Trial Denied

“Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed will remain in jail for her role in the 2021 shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. A Santa Fe, New Mexico judge denied Ms. Gutierrez-Reed’s attorney’s request for the defendant’s release during a remote hearing held on Google Meet. The judge also denied a request for a new trial. On March 6, Ms. Gutierrez-Reed was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter following a trial spanning two weeks. Accusations from the prosecution asserted that she unintentionally introduced live ammunition onto the film set, a serious violation of safety procedures, and neglected to adequately inspect the bullets before inserting one into actor Alec Baldwin’s firearm. Mr. Baldwin also serves as the film’s producer. Ms. Gutierrez-Reed entered pleas of not guilty for both charges against her. Mr. Baldwin, who was handling the firearm when it discharged, similarly pleaded not guilty to an involuntary manslaughter charge. Additionally, the film’s director, Joel Souza, sustained injuries during the incident. After the jury rendered its verdict, Ms. Gutierrez Reed was remanded into custody. The opinion, written by Justice Michael Vigil, stated that “The confusion and misdirection stem from the use of a single and/or connector to separate and join no fewer than four distinct propositions for the jury’s consideration. The term and/or has proved singularly unsuited to formulating clear and effective jury instructions, to the degree that our trial courts would be well-served to avoid its use in jury instructions altogether.” Ms. Gutierrez-Reed’s attorneys contended that the instructions provided in her case were equally perplexing and argued that the precedent set by the Taylor decision strongly indicated that her conviction could be overturned. Nevertheless, prosecutors countered, asserting that the dissimilarities between the two cases were significant. However, Judge Marlowe Sommer, who presides over Ms. Gutierrez-Reed’s case, determined that the two cases are distinguishable and will issue a written order on Monday. The defense is expected to lodge an appeal on various additional grounds, citing alleged deficiencies in the jury instructions and the prosecution’s accidental divulgence of attorney-client text messages to a pivotal witness. Ms. Gutierrez-Reed remains in the Santa Fe County Adult Detention Facility. Her charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 18 months, and her sentencing is scheduled for April 15. Charges against Mr. Baldwin had been dismissed last year following the emergence of evidence hinting at potential modifications to the hammer and the gun’s capability to discharge without trigger activation. But this changed after prosecutors convened a grand jury to pursue fresh charges against him after an independent examination of the single-action revolver corroborated earlier FBI conclusions, affirming that it could not discharge without a trigger pull. The Epoch Times contacted the Santa Fe District Attorney’s office for comment but did not receive a response by press time.

Categorieslatest

Irshad Kamil on Imtiaz Ali and film lyrics: ‘You don’t need heavy words to save you’

Irshad Kamil’s caller tune, Jo Bhi Main from Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar (2011), is a warning, the celebrated lyricist told Scroll: “It gives a heads up to callers that I may say something but you might understand something else, and that’s not my responsibility.” Kamil is the voice inside Imtiaz Ali’s head. Kamil has been translating Ali’s thoughts on love, life and philosophy since his feature debut Socha Na Tha (2005). Kamil’s lyrics for Ali’s song-heavy films perfectly reflect the emotional states of the characters, making the tunes instant chart-toppers as well classics. Kamil and Ali are back together for Amar Singh Chamkila, the biopic of the Punjabi singer who was assassinated with his wife Amarjot in 1988. Starring Diljit Dosanjh and Parineeti Chopra and scored by AR Rahman, the film will be premiered on Netflix on April 12. The producers include Saregama, which has the rights to most of Chamkila’s songs. Dosanjh and Chopra have re-recorded the tunes for the film. Amar Singh Chamkila takes 52-year-old Kamil back to Punjab, where he was born and whose culture he frequently references in his lyrics. Kamil encountered Chamkila’s music in his teens in the 1980s. “More than his singing and composing, it was his lyrics that were most powerful,” Kamil said. “His lyrics cut through middle-class life’s repression. If you heard his songs in the open, people thought you were sex-obsessed. Hearing him at the age of 10 or 12, I realised life was more than school and playing.” Excerpts from an interview. What makes Amar Singh Chamkila so important?He would address things in society that we would be wary of talking about for fear of judgement. He came from a poor family and sang of raw, real things. For example, his song Jija Lak Minle translates to brother-in-law, swing your waist. He would address such relations between, say, a woman and her husband’s older brother. He would also sing about casteism and spiritualism. Naam Jap Le is a spiritual song. Ki Jo Gariba Da asks, what power do the poor have after all? To get an introduction to Chamkila, you should also listen to Lak Mera Kach Warga, Hik Utte Soja Ve and Pani Deya Bulbuleya. What can you tell us about the film’s soundtrack?The six songs address the inner turmoil of Chamkila the artist. The film isn’t just about, this happened and then that happened. The attempt is to paint a picture of Punjab at the time. What circumstances created Chamkila, how his popularity bred enemies, and so on. Ishq Mitaye is Punjab singing about itself. Mere aage duniya ka rang sara fika. All the colours of the world are not as vibrant as in Punjab. And because we have had so much bloodshed in our history, because of continuous wars with surrounding nations, I write apne lahu se hi lagaya maine tika. Dass kyon daran, pakkiyan jadan – why do you fear, my roots are resilient. Jaane kiski meher, chadhi rehti lehar. Kaise jaun main theher batlana… main hoon Punjab. Who knows who has blessed me, I’m always on a high, how do I stop, I am Punjab. Naram Kaalja reverses the power equation between women and men. Mere auratpan sara tere naam vaseeyat hai, main ghar ki kheti hoon meri ye tabriyat hain. I have willed my womanhood to you, you make me think I’m like the land you own. Tu lootta ye sochke main naram tu mardaan hain, you keep taking from me thinking I’m soft and you are manly, par darasal mere liye tu aish ka samaan hai, but actually, you are an object of pleasure for me. Baj Baaja sets up the film’s milieu. Tu Kya Jaane and Bol Mohabbat are romantic songs. You have been the constant on every Imtiaz Ali film. Are you his inner voice, in one sense?A film happens because of multiple contributions. We come and do our work. The public decides how much who is contributing. The viewer is more intelligent than us. We only know how to create. Once we send it to the world, our work is no longer ours. This analysis is surely not wrong, in the sense that no public analysis is ever wrong. But it is impossible for creators to gauge how important we or our work is. I’d like to discuss three of your songs, which are my favourites. They also happen to be from Imtiaz Ali’s films. The first is ‘Jo Bhi Main’ from ‘Rockstar’.Many years back, I had written a ghazal. Tum jaate ho soch bhi meri saath saath chal deti hai (When you go, my thoughts go along with you) Mere andar baitha main tab aur koi ho jata hai(The one inside me then becomes someone else) In lafzon ke maine Kamil jaane kaun badal ta hai(Who knows who changes because of these words of mine, Kamil) Main kehta hu kuch aur matlab aur koi ho jata hai(I say something but the meaning becomes something else) I simplified this thought in jo bhi main kehna chahu, barbad kare alfaz mere. Whatever I want to say, my words ruin them. ‘Safarnama’ from ‘Tamasha’.This song pulls me a lot. Every person is a bundle of possibilities. Who we become at any point depends on which possibility of ours we focus on and how we express it. After a point, some other possibility attracts us and that changes us. A bank employee wasn’t born to be just that, or a teacher to teach. We have to keep rediscovering ourselves in every way, be it in relationships or work. My favourite line in that song is sawere sa, purana bhi, naya bhi hai. We always keep saying naya sawera or new morning. But how can the morning be new? It happened yesterday too. So every possibility is like any other. And life is a book of journeys [safarnama] and each journey is a possibility. ‘Safar’ from ‘Jab Harry Met Sejal’.I love the lines jabse gaaon se main seher hua, itna kadva ho gaya ki zeher hua [Since I moved to the city from my village, I have become bitter like poison]. The city keeps growing. We move from our villages to districts, districts to cities. And we go deeper into ourselves. We become lonely. The song is about the internal journey, external journey, social journey. And in this journey, we have to keep moving on. You can write a song in two ways. Either you give importance to the words, that is, focus on the hook, or have a strong thought. I believe hooks are for crooks. If your thought is strong, you don’t have to beg in front of the vocabulary. You don’t need heavy words to save you. What determines the greatness of a song?Time. Whoever keeps saying that songs were great back in the day don’t realise that most songs at any time are trash, going back to Alam Ara [1931]. Give songs of our time 10-15 years. So many writers were hardly known during their lifetime – Kafka, Nietzsche. They became great after their deaths. Which of your songs has been overlooked?I like Aise Na Dekho from Raanjhanaa. From the second Love Aaj Kal, Aur Tanha. I like Janam Janam from Phata Poster Nikhla Hero. From Priyadarshan’s Aakrosh, Mann ki mat pe mat chaliyo, ye jeeteji marwa dega. [Don’t follow your heart, it will kill you].

Categorieslatest

Delhi liquor policy case: Accused-turned-approver’s father gets Lok Sabha ticket from BJP ally

Magunta Sreenivasulu Reddy, the father of an accused-turned-approver in the Delhi liquor policy case, on Friday got a Lok Sabha election ticket from the Telugu Desam Party, an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party, The Indian Express reported. Reddy’s son Raghav Magunta was granted pardon and made an approver in the Enforcement Directorate’s case on October 3. On February 29, a Delhi court also allowed him to turn an approver in the case filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation, according to PTI. Both Magunta Sreenivasulu Reddy and Raghav Magunta switched from the YSR Congress Party to the Telugu Desam Party on February 28. Magunta Sreenivasulu Reddy is a four-time MP from Ongole. This time as well, he has got a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha election from the same constituency. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday mentioned the father-son duo in his remarks before a city court, and alleged that the Ongole MP gave a statement against him under duress after his son was arrested in February 2023. Kejriwal noted that Raghav Magunta got bail once he turned approver in October. The Aam Aadmi Party chief was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on March 21 in connection with the liquor policy case. He is the first sitting chief minister to have been arrested. Both the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections will be held simultaneously in Andhra Pradesh on May 13. The Telugu Desam Party on Friday announced four candidates for the Lok Sabha election and nine candidates for the Assembly election. Delhi liquor policy case The Enforcement Directorate’s case is based on a first information report registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation alleging irregularities in the Delhi government’s now-scrapped liquor excise policy. The agencies have alleged that the Aam Aadmi Party government modified Delhi’s liquor excise policy to ensure a 12% profit margin for wholesalers and a nearly 185% profit margin for retailers. The Enforcement Directorate has also claimed that members of a “South Group” had paid at least Rs 100 crore in kickbacks to leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party through businessman Vijay Nair, who is currently in jail.

Categorieslatest

Writer Sandhya Mary and translator Jayasree Kalathil on how their new book dissects ‘madness’

Maria, Just Maria is a sweeping novel that follows the life of a recently divorced woman who finds herself in a psychiatric hospital. From this point, the story moves backwards, illustrating Maria’s childhood with her grandparents in Kerala, in a home of strong-willed people and socialist gods with whom she has frequent tête-à-têtes. Told with humour and the whimsical worldview of a child, the novel still manages to address the complexity of a woman growing up against the grain. Written by Sandhya Mary in Malayalam, it has now been translated into English by Jayasree Kalathil. In an interview with Scroll, Mary and Kalathil spoke about the role of religion in the novel and the habit of conflating unconventionality with madness. Excerpts from the conversation: I read that you had started writing the story in little snippets over the years. How did Maria, Just Maria come together as a novel?Sandhya Mary (SM): It started as a conversation between Jesus and me. Even if you are a believer or not, that relationship remains. Jesus was always there, and I used to talk to him a lot; he was like a constant companion. Later, when I realised that these snippets could be a novel, it was a huge editing process to reduce Jesus’s part. Through this, all the other characters came to me. Even without intending or realising it, it turned into a literary work. Religion plays an important role in the novel, but I love that saints and gods are like friends and neighbours. They’re always available to chat whenever Maria needs them, especially Geevarghese Sahada (St George) and Karthav Eesho Mishiha (Jesus Christ). Why did you depict them this way, and what do you think that bond between them says?SM: It should be like that, right? We say that gods are omnipotent, but why should they stay above us? I don’t know whether God is there, and I’m not bothered about it, but at least God should be a socialist. Wealth and resources are abundant in the world, and God doesn’t even know what to do with it! What kind of a God is that? There should be some human element in them; why should they be there to judge us? At least do a better job, that’s all I have to say to them – if they’re there – that’s my earnest request. The chapter from Geevarghese Sahadha’s point of view is so funny as well, and this powerful saint is rendered helpless and unwanted by the end.SM: Poor thing. He just wanted to help everybody. Jayasree Kalathil (JK): Away from the politicised religion, which causes problems worldwide, if you were to take an individual’s relationship with God, it is mostly like this, isn’t it? For instance, my mum is a believer. She has a very special bond with Shri Krishna, and even now, the way she talks about him is almost like a son. There is an everydayness to the relationship between ordinary people and their gods. God becomes something elevated and out there, something that you’re not even allowed to say anything about when religion becomes politicised and divisive. It’s ultimately bad for all of us. This is why Karthav Eesho Mishiha is a full-fledged human like any other character in Maria. He’s just another person. SM: I think a religion-less God will be a beautiful concept. What was the process of translating Maria’s whimsical childhood into English? And what about Maria’s specific point of view drew you in?JK: I’m always interested when a story is told from the point of view of a child, and in the hands of a good writer, it allows for an exciting way of storytelling. The younger version of Maria is quite unique in Malayalam literature. We don’t have many serious adult novels narrated from a child’s point of view because it’s difficult to do that without being condescending. Sandhya has given Maria an independent, innocent, and complex voice – which is rare. It’s also a very political story that asks complex questions about things like normal and pathological, what a society should be like, what we allow people in the society to be, and how we disallow certain kinds of people to be. It’s also an interrogation of patriarchy and religion. At the same time, it’s not told in an overtly political voice, unlike other stories in Malayalam. Maria brings politics into it in a very embedded way, with a gentle touch in terms of where the politics lie because Sandhya is really telling the story of this child and her family and her community. Still, within that, you find all of these different layers. I know it’s probably not the right thing to say, but I do find much of my life in Maria. I could understand and identify with her. The novel is about madness and how anyone, even slightly askew to social norms, is considered abnormal. Can you explain a little bit more about why you thought it was important to talk about madness from Maria’s point of view? What makes this voice different?SM: I think in everyday life we see many people branded crazy, even though they’re all living happily with brilliant lives. Intellectual gems of persons were taken to hospitals just because they were slightly different. I didn’t fit into that particular society. You are expected to marry, have children, have a good job and everything else. I never went for all those things. I just lived my life according to what I wanted. I was never considered mad, but I was an outcast. If you go against the system, you always have to fight. I am fed up of fighting. There are so many questions you have to face about your life. If you’re in a relationship, why? If you’re not, why? Just leave us alone. Not even alone, just leave a little bit more space. That’s what I’m asking. A person’s life shouldn’t be this difficult. I think the title of the novel perfectly encapsulates that sentiment. She’s just Maria.SM: Yes! I just want to be. I want to be just Maria, just Sandhya. Even in literature, you have to become a successful writer! Jayasree, what does it mean to you to be just Maria?JK: I agree with what Sandhya said. For the last 25 years, I have worked in madness and human rights as an activist and a researcher. I am somebody who’s been branded mad and also psychiatrically mad several times; it’s part of being human. Women who got themselves involved in the women’s rights movement were psychiatrically deemed mad and put in hospitals. Homosexuality was deemed a mental illness until the 1970s. Slaves who ran away from their enslavers were diagnosed with a mental illness called drapetomania. So anything people did that was against the norm – against what people of power in society decided – has always been deemed mad. I’m not saying that people don’t experience distress of a certain kind, and they might need help and support. That is different from just calling people crazy or mad or ostracising them from society. So all these very complex and hurtful things in Maria become quite a natural part of the storytelling of this girl growing up to be a woman and then reflecting on her life. We all talk about Maria as a humorous book, but it is actually a very serious and complex story, and Sandhya has brilliantly managed to discuss madness in contemporary society. I think that’s just phenomenal.

Categorieslatest

North Korean foreign minister nixes any contact with Japan

BEIJING – North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui reiterated Pyongyang’s stance Friday that it will reject any contact with Japan and that a dialogue with Tokyo is ‘not a matter of concern’ to her country, the official Korean Central News Agency said.The minister criticized Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s pledge Thursday that Japan will continue to address issues related to North Korea, including its past abductions of Japanese nationals.’I cannot understand why he persistently adheres to the issue that cannot be settled and has nothing to be solved while trying hard to deny and shun the reality,’ Choe said in a statement carried by KCNA.

Categorieslatest

Japanese authorities raid a factory making health supplements linked to 5 deaths

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese government health officials raided a factory Saturday producing health supplements that they say have killed at least five people and hospitalized more than 100 others. About a dozen people wearing dark suits solemnly walked into the Osaka plant of Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co. in the raid shown widely on Japanese TV news, including public broadcaster NHK. The company says little is known about the exact cause of the sicknesses, which include kidney failure. An investigation into the products is underway in cooperation with government health authorities. The supplements all used “benikoji,” a kind of red mold. Kobayashi Pharmaceuticals’ pink pills called Benikoji Choleste Help were billed as helping lower cholesterol levels. Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, based in the western Japanese city of Osaka, said about a million packages were sold over the past three fiscal years. It also sold benikoji to other manufacturers, and some products have been exported. The supplements could be bought at drug stores without a prescription from a doctor. Reports of health problems surfaced in 2023, although benikoji has been used in various products for years. Company president Akihiro Kobayashi has apologized for not having acted sooner. The recall came March 22, two months after the company had received official medical reports about the problem. On Friday, the company said five people had died and 114 people were being treated in hospitals after taking the products. Japan’s health ministry says the supplements are responsible for the deaths and illnesses, and warned that the number of those affected could grow. Some analysts blame the recent deregulation initiatives, which simplified and sped up approval for health products to spur economic growth. But deaths from a mass-produced item is rare in Japan, as government checks over consumer products are relatively stringent. The government has ordered a review of the approval system in response to the supplement-related illnesses. A report is due in May. ___ Yuri Kageyama is on X: https://twitter.com/yurikageyama Yuri Kageyama, The Associated Press

Categorieslatest

Key takeaways about the condition of US bridges and their role in the economy

The rapid collapse of a Baltimore bridge that was struck by large cargo ship highlighted the importance that bridges play in the daily lives of many Americans. Six construction workers who were on the bridge are presumed dead. The drivers of more than 30,000 vehicles that crossed the bridge daily must find a new route around or over the Patapsco River. And shipments at the Port of Baltimore will be shut down for some time, forcing numerous businesses to find alternative means of getting their goods in and out of the U.S. Though the Interstate 895 bridge in Baltimore had been in satisfactory condition before the shipping collision, thousands of other bridges stand in poor shape across the U.S. due to aging piers, beams and key structural components. Here are some takeaways from an Associated Press analysis of the more than 621,000 roadway bridges that are more than 20 feet long and are listed in the federal government’s National Bridge Inventory. THOUSANDS OF POOR BRIDGES Inspectors rate bridges using a 0-9 scale, with 7 or above considered “good.” A “poor” rating reflects a 4 or below on any portion of a bridge’s main components. A mid-range rating is considered “fair.” About 42,400 U.S. bridges are in poor condition, carrying about 167 million vehicles each day, according to the federal government. Those poor bridges are on average 70 years old. Of those poor bridges, four-fifths have problems with their substructures (the legs holding them up) or their superstructures (the arms supporting their load). And more than 15,800 of the poor bridges also were listed in poor shape a decade ago, according to AP’s analysis. Iowa has the greatest number of poor bridges, followed by Pennsylvania, Illinois and Missouri. WHY DO BRIDGES COLLAPSE? Though unusual, the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore was not the first bridge to fall down after being struck by a ship. From 1960 to 2015, there were 35 major bridge collapses worldwide due to ship or barge collisions, with a total of 342 people killed, according to a 2018 report from the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure. Eighteen of those collapses happened in the United States. Though also rare, bad bridges can eventually just collapse. In January 2022, a bridge collapsed over Fern Hollow Creek in Pittsburgh, causing injuries but no deaths to the occupants of several vehicles that were on it. Federal investigators determined the bridge’s steel legs had corroded, creating visible holes, yet inspectors failed to calculate the severity of the problem and the city failed to follow repeated recommendations. “This bridge didn’t collapse just by an act of God. It collapsed because of a lack of maintenance and repair,” National Transportation Safety Board member Michael Graham said. A HIT TO THE ECONOMY When bridges close or collapse, there are financial consequences. Thirteen people died and 145 others were injured when an Interstate 35 bridge collapsed over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis in 2007. A state analysis estimated Minnesota’s economy lost $60 million in 2007-2008 due to increased travel time and operating costs for commuters and businesses. Bridges in Providence, Rhode Island, and Tacoma, Washington, are currently closed because of safety concerns. Nearby businesses have taken a hit because motorists have diverted to other routes. Marco Pacheco, who owns a liquor store along a main road in a Portuguese neighborhood of East Providence, said his business revenue is down 20% since the bridge closed late last year. But he’s even more concerned about the long-term consequences. “That traffic doesn’t instantly come back. Folks have reshaped their patterns, their thought processes and so on,” Pacheco said. Business owners in Washington shared similar concerns about the indefinite closure of the Fishing Wars Memorial Bridge in an industrial area near the Port of Tacoma. A nearby Interstate 5 bridge provides a good alternative, but that means many motorists zoom right past an exit ramp without thinking about the nearby businesses, such as a Harley-Davidson motorcycle store. “Is there a peril that exists?” Harley-Davidson store owner Ed Wallace asked. “Yeah, absolutely, a very serious one for me as a business owner.” FEDERAL FUNDING A massive infrastructure law signed by President Joe Biden in 2021 directed $40 billion to bridges over five years — the largest dedicated bridge investment in decades. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that law already is funding over 7,800 bridge projects. But even that will make only a dent in an estimated $319 billion of needed bridge repairs nationwide, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. “The bottom line is that America’s bridges need a lot of work,” Buttigieg told the AP after visiting the closed Rhode Island bridge. He added: “The sooner we can address those significant bridges, the less likely they will be abruptly taken out of service, or worse, experience the risk of a collapse.”

Categorieslatest

U.S. welcomes new Palestinian gov’t, reportedly authorizes additional arms to Israel

Here are the latest updates from day 176 of the war: ■ State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement that the United States “welcome the nomination of a new Palestinian Authority (PA) cabinet to serve the Palestinian people.” ■ Washington Post reports that the United States authorizes transfer of billions of dollars in bombs and fighter jets to Israel. ■ The United States informed Israel that sanctioned West Bank settlers can still access their Israeli bank accounts for basic sustenance purposes. ■ The Israeli army has announced that Sgt. Major Alon Kudriashov, 21, a combat soldier in the Egoz commando unit, was killed in Khan Yunis. 16 other soldiers were wounded when a terrorist fired an RPG into a building where dozens of combat soldiers were staying. ■ Israel is promoting the creation of a multinational force to secure the delivery of humanitarian aid in Gaza. ■ The IDF reported that the Air Force killed the deputy commander of Hezbollah’s rocket and missile unit, Ali Abdel-Hassan Naim. The attack took place in the town of Zuria, near the city of Tyre in central Lebanon, the IDF said. ■ The Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza said at least 32,623 Palestinians have been killed and 75,092 were wounded since the start of the war. ■ Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that Israel will broaden its offensive on the northern border and increase attacks on Hezbollah. His office said that he has been informed of preparations for further assassinations on the northern front.

Verified by MonsterInsights