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Yemen mosque suicide bomb attacks leave 137 dead

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Suicide bombers slay 137 in Yemen mosque attacks
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Suicide bombers killed at least 137 worshippers and wounded hundreds more during Friday prayers at two mosques in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, in coordinated attacks claimed by Islamic State.

The attacks on mosques used by supporters of the Shi’ite Muslim Houthi fighters who control the city were the deadliest in a years-long campaign of violence in the country, where Washington has been waging a drone air war against a local branch of the Sunni Muslim militant group al Qaeda.

Sectarian unrest has increased in recent months after the Iran-backed Shi’ite fighters seized the capital last year.

Four bombers wearing explosive belts targeted worshippers in and around the crowded mosques. State news agency Saba, which is controlled by the Houthis, put the death toll at 137 and the number of wounded at 357.

Hospitals were overwhelmed, appealing for blood donors to help treat the large number of casualties.

A Reuters journalist at the Badr mosque counted at least 25 bloody bodies lying in the street and inside the building. One man carried a child in his arms.

Islamic State, the al Qaeda offshoot that controls swathes of Syria and Iraq and has been attracting followers in other countries, considers Shi’ites to be heretics.

Both groups have now rallied against the Houthis in Yemen, giving them the same enemies as the U.S.-backed government in a complex, multi-sided conflict in the Arab world’s poorest country.

“Let the polytheist Houthis know that the soldiers of the Islamic State will not rest and will not stay still until they extirpate them,” the group said in a statement posted by supporters on Twitter, claiming responsibility for the attacks.

“God willing, this operation is only a part of the coming flood.”

Among the dead was Almortada al-Mahatwary, a leading figure in Yemen’s Shi’ite Zaidi sect, the Houthi-controlled al-Masirah television channel said.

Badr mosque was hit by two bombers and two others struck a second mosque. A fifth bomber was killed when he tried to attack a mosque in Saada province, a northern Houthi stronghold, but the device went off prematurely, a security source told Reuters.

“I was going to pray at the (Badr) mosque then I heard the first explosion, and a second later I heard another one,” a witness told Reuters.

Television footage showed young men in traditional Yemeni clothes carrying lifeless bodies, some dripping with blood, out of the mosque.

In Washington, the White House condemned the bombings and said it could not confirm that the attackers were affiliated with Islamic State.

HURTLING TOWARD CIVIL WAR

Yemen has been hurtling toward civil war since last year, when the Houthis seized most of the north, including Sanaa.

President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, a U.S. ally, fled the capital in February after a month imprisoned by the Houthis under house arrest and has set up a power base in the southern city of Aden.

Unidentified warplanes have attacked his Aden palace for the past two days.

Anti-aircraft guns fired on two planes that dropped bombs on an area that includes his residence on Friday. He was unharmed, sources at the presidency said.

While Yemen is one of the main bases of al Qaeda, it has not previously been known as a major base for Islamic State, the Al Qaeda offshoot also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Since last year, when Islamic State swept across northern Iraq and declared a caliphate to rule over all Muslims, militants in other countries have expressed their support for the group, although it is not clear if it actually directs them.

In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said there was no clear operational link between the people who carried out Friday’s attacks in Yemen and Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned “the terrorist attacks” and called on all sides “to immediately cease all hostile actions and exercise maximum restraint.”

Yemen has been sliding into turmoil since its long serving ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh was toppled after “Arab Spring” protests that began in 2011. Saleh is now believed to have allied himself with the Houthi fighters that he tried to crush while president.

Since fleeing the capital, Hadi has been trying to consolidate his hold over Aden to challenge the Houthis’ ambitions to control the whole country.

Thirteen people were killed on Thursday when forces loyal to Hadi fought their way into Aden’s international airport and wrested an adjacent military base from a renegade officer, Aden governor Abdulaziz bin Habtoor said.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

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Environment

Asia holds 99 of the 100 most environmentally at-risk cities

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Verisk Maplecroft's global risk assessment for environmentally vulnerable cities. (via Verisk Maplecroft)

If you live in 1 of the 100 most environmentally vulnerable cities in the world, then unless you live in Lima, Peru, we can guess what continent you’re on. According to a recent risk assessment study, 99 out of the top 100 most environmentally vulnerable cities are located in Asia with 80% of them in India or China alone. 1.5 billion people in 400 large cities worldwide are considered to be at high or extreme risk. Natural disasters and climate change, heatwaves, water shortages, and pollution that shortens the average life span are amongst the environmental risks facing people today.

City’s hold more than half the world’s population and are the financial drivers of a country’s economy, but most cities will continue to suffer worse and worse air quality, pollution, extreme weather, water scarcity, and other natural hazards. Asian cities are hard hit, with Karachi ranked 12th, Manila 71st, and Bangkok holding the 84th spot on the list of cities at risk environmentally.

Holding the uncoveted top spot on the list is the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, with frequent heatwaves, flooding, and pollution only increasing. New Delhi ranked second, joined by other Indian cities such as Chennai in 3rd, Agra in 6th, Kanpur in 10th, Jaipur in 22nd, Lucknow in 24th, and Mumbai in 27th. In total, 13 of the top 20 at-risk cities on the list are in India.

Indian cities also fill the entire top 20 list of urban areas housing over a million inhabitants with the worst air quality, with New Delhi ranking first. Every year a million people die in India due to air pollution with 7 million total deaths globally. A lot of the air pollution issues stem from burning coal and other fossil fuels.

Turning from the skies to the water, China holds 35 of the top 50 cities with the most water pollution plus 13 of the top 15 water-stressed cities. There is hope that China’s emerging middle class will push for a higher quality of life, rallying for cleaner air and water and persuading the government to act more environmentally responsible.

China’s government seems to be beginning to act, shutting down factories until they meet emission goals and taking other strong steps. India has a less cohesive economy and a government with a looser grip on industry, putting it at a disadvantage in tackling environmental issues.

The Middle East and North Africa are the regions most at risk of environmentally calamitous events outside of Asia. Focusing on global warming, sub-Saharan Africa holds 40 of the 45 most at-risk cities. Abidjan, Brazzaville, Freetown, Kigali, Mombasa, Monrovia and other large cities are vulnerable. Lagos and Kinshasa are the two cities in Africa with the largest populations and are included in the list of threatened cities.

Africa is in the unenviable position of being the continent that contributes the least to global warming and climate change but will suffer the most from the results which will bring heatwaves, increasingly bad droughts, flooding and more powerful storms. Large portions of the continent are not nearly prepared enough to deal with the resulting environmental disasters.

To compile the list of risk assessment environmentally for cities, researchers at Verisk Maplecroft looked at human vulnerability, the danger of extreme natural events, and how well the country could adapt to environmental change. They evaluated the livability and operational capacity of a city including its real estate assets and investment potential. The full report can be seen here.

SOURCE: Yahoo

 

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Thailand

Supreme streetwear makes deal over T-shirt featuring monk

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Supreme now has the temple's permission to use the monk's image. (via Pinterest)

Wat Ban Rai, a small temple in Nakhon Ratchasima, has reached an agreement with popular streetwear brand Supreme for using an image of their monk. In February the temple became aware that the global clothing brand was using a stylised photo of a well-known monk from their temple, Luang Por Khun, without having ever asked permission. They had threatened lawsuits and other legal action until the settlement was reached.

Luang died at age 91 in 2015 and donated his body to Khon Kaen University for study, after which he was cremated in 2019. Before his death, he was popular throughout Thailand with many believing that he possessed magical power. People would visit him with belief that his blessings could protect them from danger and even gunshots.

The photo had been taken around 2003 and he had given permission for it to be used on t-shirts locally to raise money for the temple itself. But relatives and Temple members were shocked to see the image of the monk squatting and smoking an enormous cigarette with a sacred “yant” script encircling him appear on a trendy t-shirt from Supreme, a fashion company based in New York.

The temple manager said they finally received a written request asking for permission to use the image of the late monk on 1,000 Supreme t-shirts. They reached an agreement when Supreme pledge to donate a portion of the proceeds to the temple.

Relatives and religious officials criticised Supreme for using the monk image as Thai people don’t use such sacred images as decoration and are sensitive about the destruction of such images which could inadvertently occur with a carelessly discarded old t-shirt. They had previously tried to explain these reasons to the clothing brand.

The threats of a lawsuit have now been dropped and it appears the Supreme monk shirts will now be sold with the temple’s blessing and with an undisclosed portion of the profits being donated to the temple.

SOURCE: Coconuts

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Australian government provides grant to cover 1 million vaccine doses in Laos

Tanutam Thawan

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Photo via Facebook/Australia in Laos

To help the mass rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in Laos, the Australian government is providing a 15.2 million AUD grant to cover around 1 million vaccine doses in the Southeast Asian country. The grant also covers training for healthcare workers on how to safely administer the vaccines.

Laos reported a spike in cases over the past month, after a year of containing the spread of the virus with active cases remaining under 20. Yesterday, Laos reported 1,088 active cases, a sharp increase after months of just a few active Covid-19 cases at a time.

Australian Ambassador to Laos, Paul Kelly, says the Australian government is “pleased to be able to support the people of Laos in a time of need.”

“Ensuring Laos has access to safe and effective vaccines is a major and immediate priority for the Australian government… We recognise that no one is safe until everyone is safe. Our support will vaccinate hundreds of thousands of Lao people as well as support long term health security. Australia has been a long-standing and trusted partner for Laos over the past 69 years.”

Laos Vice President Pany Yathotou says the grant from Australia is a significant contribution to ensures the efficient rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in Laos. Most of the funds will be used to purchase the doses and to help Laos distribute and administer vaccines. It will also support a public information campaign, spreading facts about vaccines and also translating the information to ethnic languages.

The Australian Embassy says the country also contributed to the multilateral COVAX facility which covers free vaccinations for more than 20% of the Laos population.

Australian government provides grant to cover 1 million vaccine doses in Laos | News by Thaiger

Active Covid-19 cases in Laos as of 12 May 2021, according to Worldometers.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

 

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