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Phuket Gazette World News: Egypt balloon crash kills 19; Vatican scrambles in Pope vote; Iran nuclear talks

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Phuket Gazette World News: Egypt balloon crash kills 19; Vatican scrambles in Pope vote; Iran nuclear talks | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Egypt balloon crash kills 19, mostly foreign tourists
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: At least 19 people, most of them Asian and European tourists, died yesterday when a hot air balloon crashed near the ancient Egyptian town of Luxor after a mid-air gas explosion, officials said.

The balloon came down in farmland a few kilometres from the Valley of the Kings and pharaonic temples that draw tourists to Luxor. Rescue workers gathered the dead from the field where the charred remains of the balloon, gas canisters and other pieces of wreckage landed.

One Egyptian was also killed, Health Minister Mohamed Mostafa Hamed told Reuters, listing the other victims as tourists from Japan, China, France, Britain and Hungary. Earlier, officials had said all the dead were foreigners.

The pilot survived by jumping from the basket when it was 10-15 metres from the ground, said Ahmed Aboud, head of an association representing Luxor balloon operators. Two other survivors, both British, were treated at Luxor hospital, said Mohamed Mustafa, a doctor at the hospital.

Travel firm Thomas Cook later said one of the Britons taken to the hospital had died, taking the number of British tourists killed to three. The fatalities were caused by burns and by the impact, Mustafa said.

“We believe a small number of British nationals are involved in an incident in Luxor this morning,” Britain’s Foreign Office said in an emailed statement. The Japanese embassy in Cairo said it believed four Japanese had been aboard and had sent staff to Luxor to confirm this. France’s foreign ministry said two French citizens had been killed.

Aboud said the blast had happened in the pipe linking the gas canisters to the burner. He said that it was an accident.

Konny Matthews, assistant manager of Luxor’s Al Moudira hotel, said she heard an explosion at about 7 am. “It was a huge bang. It was a frightening bang, even though it was several kilometres away from the hotel,” she said by phone. “Some of my employees said that their homes were shaking.”

The balloon crashed on the west bank of the Nile river, where many of the major historical sites are located.

US photographer Christopher Michel, who was on board another balloon, told Britain’s Sky News television that the balloon was one of eight flying at the time. “We heard a loud explosion behind us. I looked back and saw lots of smoke. It wasn’t immediately clear that it was a balloon,” he said.

Hot air ballooning at dawn is popular with tourists, who are a mainstay of the Egyptian economy, although visitor numbers have fallen sharply since a 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak. Two years of political instability have kept away many foreign tourists.

Tourism accounted for more than a 10th of Egypt’s gross domestic product before the revolt. In 2010, about 14.7 million visitors came to Egypt, but this slumped to 9.8 million the next year.

Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Wael el-Maadawi said a committee from the ministry was heading to Luxor to investigate the incident. He said hot air balloon flights would be stopped until an investigation into the cause of the accident.

“We cannot say whether this was because of maintenance or human (error) until the investigation committee is completely done with its investigation,” he told Al Jazeera TV’s Egyptian channel.

Sex, power scandals to loom over Vatican pre-vote talks
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The sex and power scandals haunting the Catholic Church look set to play a big role in meetings before next month’s papal election after two senior cardinals yesterday called for more internal debate about them.

A leading support group for victims of clerical sexual abuse also made what it called a “last-ditch plea” to Pope Benedict to use his authority before resigning on Thursday to discipline bishops who have protected predatory priests in their dioceses.

The abuse issue took on new urgency after Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien, accused of improper behaviour with young priests, quit as Edinburgh archbishop on Monday and pulled out of the Sistine Chapel conclave to elect a new pope.

A Scottish Catholic Media Office spokesman has said O’Brien was taking legal advice and contested the “anonymous and non specific” allegations against him.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, now the only British prelate due to attend pre-conclave talks among cardinals at the Vatican next week, said in London the sexual abuse of children was the most serious scandal in the Church.

“That will be one of the main things the cardinals will be discussing,” said Murphy-O’Connor, who cannot vote because he is over 80 years old but can join the cardinal electors in their closed-door discussions about the challenges for the next pope.

French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran said in a newspaper interview that the cardinal electors, who number 115 after O’Brien stepped down, should also be informed about a secret report on Vatican corruption prepared for Pope Benedict.

The retiring pontiff has decided to reserve the report for his successor, but the three cardinals over 80 years old who drew it up will be allowed to inform the cardinal electors about some of its findings during next week’s consultations.

“The cardinal electors cannot decide to choose this or that name to vote for if they don’t know the contents of this dossier,” Tauran told La Repubblica newspaper.

“If it’s necessary, I don’t see why they should not ask for names,” said Tauran, a former Vatican foreign minister who now heads its department for interreligious dialogue.

Italian newspapers have been speculating for days about conspiracies and alleged sexual scandals inside the Vatican that may have influenced Benedict to become the first pope in some six centuries to step down rather than die in office.

The Vatican has accused these newspapers of spreading “false and damaging” rumours in an attempt to influence the cardinals who are starting to arrive in Rome for the pope’s farewell meeting with them on Thursday.

Sri Lanka security rape, torture Tamil detainees – HRW
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Sri Lanka’s security forces have used rape to torture and extract confessions from suspected Tamil separatists almost four years after the country’s civil war ended, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released yesterday.

The rights group documented 75 cases of predominately Tamil men and women who said they were held in Sri Lankan detention centres and repeatedly raped and sexually abused by the military, police and intelligence officials.

The victims – now living as asylum seekers, most of them in Britain – said once they confessed to being a member of the Tamil Tiger rebel group, the abuse generally stopped and they were allowed to escape by paying a bribe.

“We found that rape was used to secure some sort of confession, but also as a political tool to punish people,” Meenakshi Ganguly, the rights group’s South Asia director, told a news conference in New Delhi.

Other victims said they were “severely tortured, burnt by cigarettes and hung upside down,” he added.

Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to New Delhi, Prasad Kari

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Covid-19 projected to reduce Americans’ life expectancy – USC/Princeton study

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Covid-19 projected to reduce Americans’ life expectancy – USC/Princeton study | The Thaiger
PHOTO: TRT World

With Covid-19 linked to more than 336,000 deaths in the United States, American’s life expectancy will decline, especially among black and latino people, according to researchers from the University of Southern California and Princeton University.

The study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that life expectancy at birth for Americans will shorten by 1.13 years to 77.48 years, while blacks and latinos life expectancy is expected to shorten by more.

For blacks, their life expectancy would shorten by 2.10 years to 72.78 years, and for Latinos, by 3.05 years to 78.77 years. This is said to be the lowest life expectancy estimated since 2003. The disproportionate impact on the 3 groups of populations is believed to relate to social and economic advantages.

The study author Theresa Andrasfay, a postdoctoral fellow at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, says that why the study analyses the number of deaths and how it affects the life expectancy at birth, it also shows the consequences for marginalized groups.

“The Covid-19 pandemic’s disproportionate effect on the life expectancy of Black and Latino Americans likely has to do with their greater exposure through their workplace or extended family contacts, in addition to receiving poorer health care, leading to more infections and worse outcomes.”

The researchers say life expectancy is an important indicator of a population’s health and a tool for examining the impact of COVID-19 on survival.

SOURCE: USA Today | University of South California

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Indonesia

UPDATE: At least 34 dead and 600 injured after Indonesia earthquake

Caitlin Ashworth

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UPDATE: At least 34 dead and 600 injured after Indonesia earthquake | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Soumyajit Pattnaik via Twitter

UPDATE: At least 34 people were killed after a 6.2 magnitude earthquake shook Indonesia’s Sulawesi island just after midnight today. As of this evening, reports say more than 600 people were injured during the earthquake which caused buildings to collapse and residents to flee their homes in the dark.

Original story below…

Indonesian island Sulawesi was shook by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake shortly after midnight today, toppling over buildings and injuring hundreds. Reports are continuously being updated as rescuers search through rubble. As of early this afternoon, at least 10 people were killed.

Thousands evacuated their homes in West Sulawesi. The earthquake impacted the coastal city Majene where at least 3 people died and neighbouring Mamuju where at least 7 people died. Several buildings, including hotels, were severely damaged and many homes were flattened. A hospital was partially damaged and reports say more than a dozen patients and staff were trapped under the rubble. Others are trapped in rubble after their homes collapsed. A rescuer says “We are racing against time to rescue them.”

Videos have been released of those crying for help. A father crying, calling out for help to save his children under their home’s wreckage. In another, a girl’s voice cried out from a collapsed home, saying “please help me, it hurts.” The video was released by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency. Rescuers say they need an excavator to say the girl and other people who are trapped under the collapsed buildings.

The area was first hit by a 5.9 magnitude undersea quake on Thursday. It damaged several buildings, but no deaths were reported.

Since the most recent earthquake is inland, the district’s disaster agency chief says it does not have the potential to cause a tsunami, but people in coastal areas ran to higher ground just to be safe.

The vast archipelago is located on the “Ring of Fire” of volcanoes and fault lines, prone to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.

SOURCE: Associated Press

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US President Trump impeached for a second time, releases video | VIDEO

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US President Trump impeached for a second time, releases video | VIDEO | The Thaiger

US President Donald Trump has been impeached for “incitement of insurrection” relating to last week’s Capitol Hill insurgency. Armed National Guard troops guarded both the inside and outside the Capitol building following the riotous mob that invaded the hallowed halls of America’s democracy, almost precisely one week before the impeachment vote.

Wednesday afternoon, Washington DC time, the US House of Representatives voted to impeach the President by 232 votes -197 votes. Donald Trump is the first president in the US to be impeached twice. Notably, 10 Republicans crossed the floor to vote with the Democrats to support the impeachment vote.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said ahead of the vote… “We know that the president of the United State incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion, against our common country. He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”

President Trump will now face a formal trial in the US Senate. If convicted he will face being barred from holding executive office ever again. With less than a week to go before President-elect Joe Biden takes over as the next president, the Senate won’t have time to reconvene. So the trial will be undertaken by a Senate controlled by the Democrats.

President Trump was defeated in the election on November 4, 2020, losing to to Democrat Joe Biden.

Shortly after the vote to impeach him President Trump released a video (below) calling on his followers to “remain peaceful”. He also broadly mentioned his banning from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, among other social media platforms, but didn’t refer to the impeachment proceedings or show any contrition to his alleged role in inciting the rioters over the past 2 months since the presidential election.

“Violence and vandalism have no place in our country. No true supporter of mine would ever endorse political violence.”

The President read the prepared speech in a calm tone and avoided his usual rancorous rhetoric.

The president was accused by the US Congress of inciting the storming of the Capitol with his January 6 speech to a huge rally of Trump supporters outside the White House. He urged his supporters to “fight like hell” against an election that he repeatedly told them had been “stolen”, a similar message he had been falsely claiming since the election. His supporters then marched to the Capitol, broke into the building, forced lawmakers to suspend the certification of the Presidential election results and seek shelter. Five people died in the melee and many more were injured in the violent insurgency.

The impeachment charge is political, not criminal. The articles read that Mr Trump “repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the presidential election results were fraudulent and should not be accepted”. It says the President then repeated these claims and “wilfully made statements to the crowd that encouraged and foreseeably resulted in lawless action at the Capitol”, leading to the violence and loss of life.

Donald Trump now makes history as the first US president to be impeached twice. A year ago, the move was opposed by the Republican Party in the Senate. This time, a handful of conservatives backed the move. The falling out with some members of his own party and senior staff, and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s private support for the impeachment, is indicative of the President’s declining influence in the fading light of his administration.

Mr McConnell said in a note to colleagues that he had not made a final decision on how he would vote in the forthcoming Senate debate. No US president has ever been removed from office through impeachment. Mr Trump was impeached by the House in 2019 but acquitted by the Senate. Same with Bill Clinton in 1998 and Andrew Johnson in 1868.

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