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Phuket Media Watch: Hope for Kashmir; Girl Rescue; Virginity tests

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Phuket Media Watch: Hope for Kashmir; Girl Rescue; Virginity tests | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

India, Pakistan consider demilitarizing Kashmir border
Phuket Gazette / News Wires

The governments of Pakistan and India are considering a proposal to demilitarize the border of the disputed region of Kashmir, according to media reports yesterday.

A senior Pakistani foreign ministry official told The Express Tribune that Pakistan has proposed the redeployment of heavy weaponry along the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border that divides the Pakistani and Indian-administered regions of Kashmir.

“We (Pakistan) have proposed to redeploy artillery and mortar 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) away from the LoC,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The proposal is an effort by both countries to demilitarize the disputed Himalayan region, where in the past the two sides often exchanged fire, leaving hundreds killed. The official added, however, that discussions on the proposal were in their initial stages and no major breakthrough is expected during the ongoing round of talks.

The suggestion is part of several other proposals being discussed at the two-day talks in Islamabad between senior officials from the two sides on conventional and nuclear confidence building measures (CBMs). The talks, part of the peace process, resumed earlier this year after India had halted them following the 2008 attacks in Mumbai.

Although cross-border attacks in Kashmir are now a rarity because of a ceasefire the two countries agreed to in 2003, fatal firing incidents still occur.

A guerrilla war has been going on in India-administered Kashmir between militants, who have been blamed for attacks, and the Indian troops, who have been accused of rights abuses.

The Indian government says more than 45,000 people – including civilians, militants and troops – have died in the region over the past two decades.

Afghan girl rescued from toilet after months in lock-up
Phuket Gazette / News Wires

Police in northern Afghanistan have rescued a young girl who had been locked up in a toilet for at least half a year and was frequently beaten for refusing to have sex with men, local media reported yesterday.

The 15-year-old girl, who was identified as Sar Gul, married 30-year-old Mohammad Azim about nine months ago. She had since been living with her husband and parents-in-law in Baghlan province, where she was frequently beaten and denied food.

The Pajhwok Afghan News (PAN) agency reported that about six months ago Gul was locked inside the toilet after she had refused to have sex with men who were brought to the home by her parents-in-law. The victim’s parents, who live in Badakhshan province, recently discovered the situation and informed police who freed her.

Following her rescue, officials took Gul to the Pul-i-Khumri Civil Hospital where she is being treated for severe mental stress. She is also being treated for various injuries, including burns across her body. All of her nails had been pulled off with pliers.

Hospital chief Dr Gul Mohammad Wardak told the news agency that the girl was in a critical condition and may be transferred to the capital of Kabul in order to receive further treatment. The report said Gul’s mother-in-law had been arrested, but her husband was able to flee.

It was not immediately clear if Gul’s husband would also face arrest.

According to Afghanistan’s civil code, girls cannot marry before they reach the age of 16. Nonetheless, child marriages remain widespread across the country with some girls being married as young as nine years. According to a 2005 report, nearly 60 percent of marriages in Afghanistan involve girls below the age of 16.

Egyptian court suspends virginity tests
Phuket Gazette / News Wires

An Egyptian court has suspended the practice of forcing female detainees arrested by the military police to undergo ‘virginity tests’, the Al-Ahram daily newspaper reported.

The verdict was returned yesterday afternoon (local Phuket time) after two women, Samira Ibrahim and Maha Mohamed, who had been detained in March, filed a lawsuit calling for the revocation of virginity tests at military facilities. The 25-year-old Ibrahim, who was among seven female protesters who were subjected to these tests, is the only one who has publicly given an account of the abuse she underwent.

The female detainees were subjected to virginity tests after military forces dispersed a sit-in at Tahrir Square on March 9, arresting several protesters. Some of the women told Amnesty International that they were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches while being photographed by male soldiers, then forced to submit to ‘virginity checks’ and threatened with prostitution charges.

During yesterday’s session, hundreds of political activists gathered before the building of the Administrative Court in solidarity with the abused women, holding placards that read “Egypt’s women are a red line.” After the session, Ibrahim and a host of other protesters celebrated in Tahrir Square.

The case sparked widespread condemnation from local and international human rights groups. Shortly after the incident, Amnesty International called on the Egyptian authorities to bring to justice those responsible for ordering or conducting virginity tests.

Months after the incident, a senior Egyptian general admitted during an interview that women detained on March 9 at Cairo’s Tahrir Square had been forced to undergo virginity tests. The general, speaking on condition of anonymity, justified the abuse by saying that the women “were not like your daughter or mine. These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters.”

The general also said that the reason for the ‘tests’ was because “[w]e didn’t want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren’t virgins in the first place.”

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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United Kingdom approves new Covid-19 vaccine, first jabs start next week

Caitlin Ashworth

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United Kingdom approves new Covid-19 vaccine, first jabs start next week | The Thaiger

The United Kingdom approved the new Covid-19 vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech for emergency use and will start injections next week. The UK became the first country in the world to license the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which Pfizer says marks a historic moment in the fight against the coronavirus.

The UK purchased 40 million doses of the vaccine and 800,000 doses will be available next week, according to Health Secretary Matt Hancock. He says the most vulnerable people will get the first jabs. 50 hospitals are ready to receive the vaccine, he says.

“From early next week we will start the programme of vaccinating people against Covid-19 here in this country… It’s very good news.”

The new Covid-19 vaccine was authorised for emergency use by the private Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla says the company applauds the agency for conducting a careful, yet timely, assessment of the vaccine.

“As we anticipate further authorizations and approvals, we are focused on moving with the same level of urgency to safely supply a high-quality vaccine around the world.”

The vaccine has been shown to have a 95% efficacy in its final trials. A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson says the approval of the vaccine follows months of rigorous clinical trials and experts have concluded that the vaccine meets strict safety, quality and effectiveness standards.

SOURCES: Reuters | Guardian

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Chinese probe collects rock samples from surface of the Moon

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Chinese probe collects rock samples from surface of the Moon | The Thaiger

The Chinese, like the rest of us, are mostly prohibited from travelling at the moment, but it hasn’t stopped them travelling to the Moon. A Chinese space probe has landed on the surface of the Moon to bring back the first lunar samples in nearly 5 decades. Since the US dropped its Apollo missions to the Moon in 1972, the Earth’s only natural satellite has been a bit lonely.

The Chinese space program has poured billions into its space program, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022 and of eventually sending humans to the Moon to establish an ongoing lunar base. No Chinese have been participating in the International Space Station.

The Chang’e-5 spacecraft adds to a string of successes for Beijing’s increasingly ambitious space program. Chang’e is the name for the mythical Chinese moon goddess. The probe touched down on the near side of the Moon yesterday. It will spend a total of 48 hours on the surface of the moon before re-uniting with it’s mother-ship which will then bring the lunar probe back to Earth.

The unmanned Chang’e-5 probe will collect lunar rocks and soil to help scientists learn about the Moon’s origins, formation and volcanic activity, the first such collections since the 1970s when an unmanned Russian lunar probe conducted a similar mission. The probe is the latest venture by a Chinese space program that sent its first astronaut into orbit in 2003, has a spacecraft en route to Mars and aims eventually to land a human on the moon.

If Chang’e-5 returns to Earth successfully, China will be only the third country to have retrieved samples from the Moon, following the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s.

The probe was launched from China’s southern tropical island of Hainan last week and entered lunar orbit aver the weekend after a 112 hour journey. The probe will collect 2 kilograms of material in a previously unexplored area known as “Ocean of Storms”, a vast lava plain of grey rocks and dust.

The probe will collect samples from the surface and drill a 2 metre deep hole to gather soil and rock samples from beneath the lunar surface as well.

Thomas Zurbuchen, a NASA official from the mission directorate, says the mission was no easy task.

“When the samples collected on the Moon are returned to Earth, we hope everyone will benefit from being able to study this precious cargo that could advance the international science community. Congratulations to China on the successful landing of Chang’e 5.”

The Chang’e 5 flight is China’s third successful lunar landing. Its predecessor, Chang’e 4, was the first probe to land on the Moon’s lesser-explored far side which is perpetually facing away from the Earth.

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No evidence of voter fraud that would change election outcome – US Attorney General

Caitlin Ashworth

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No evidence of voter fraud that would change election outcome – US Attorney General | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikimedia

After repeated claims on voter fraud from United States President Donald Trump, and refusal to concede his loss to president-elect Joe Biden, the US Justice Department says they have found no evidence of widespread voter fraud “that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election”, according to US Attorney General William Barr.

President Trump has repeatedly posted on Twitter with comments such as “fake election results”, “impossible result” and “rigged election.” His posts are often flagged on Twitter with a warning saying “This claim about election fraud is disputed”, linking to a page with information from various news outlets.

US attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up on complaints and information on voter fraud, but nothing they uncovered impact the outcome of the election, Barr told the Associated Press.

“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome on the election.”

Before the election, Barr, who is considered to be one of Trump’s most loyal allies, said mail-in votes could be vulnerable to fraud this year since many Americans would rather vote from home rather than going to the polls due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With some states flipping from red to blue once all the mail-in ballots were counted, the Trump campaign has been alleging a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to count illegal ballots and rig the election. The Trump campaign has been calling out problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks. But local courts have repeatedly thrown out the lawsuits saying the claims have not been backed up with any evidence.

AG Barr says government agencies have also looked into claims that machines were programmed to skew election results and says that, so far, there is no evidence to back the claim.

In response to Barr’s statements, Trump’s attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis wrote a statement saying the opinion doesn’t seem to be backed by their investigation into the matters.

“With all due respect to the Attorney General, there hasn’t been any semblance of a Department of Justice investigation … with the greatest respect to the Attorney General, his opinion appears to be without any knowledge or investigation of the substantial irregularities and evidence of systemic fraud.”

SOURCE: Aljazeera

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