International News

International News (134)

The Catalan regional parliament has formally pardoned hundreds of women executed for witchcraft between the 15th and 18th centuries.

MPs passed a resolution by a large majority to rehabilitate the memory of more than 700 women who were tortured and put to death.

Spanish historians have discovered that Catalonia was one of the first regions in Europe to carry out witch hunts.

It was also considered one of the worst areas for executions.

“We have recently discovered the names of more than 700 women who were persecuted, tortured and executed between the 15th and 18th centuries,” said the groups behind the resolution.

Witches were often blamed for the sudden death of children or for poor harvests, according to Pau Castell, a professor of modern history at the University of Barcelona.

Pro-independence and left-wing groups say the women were “victims of misogynistic persecution” and want their memory honoured by naming streets after them.

Tens of thousands of mostly women are believed to have been condemned to death for witchcraft across Europe.

The move follows similar initiatives in Scotland, Switzerland and Norway.

“Before they called us witches, now they call us ‘feminazis’ or hysterical or sexually frustrated. Before they carried out witch hunts, now we call them femicides,” said regional deputy Jenn Diaz of the ruling ERC, according to the AFP news agency.

 

Source: (BBC)

Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been involved in a car accident in Los Angeles, his spokesman has confirmed.

A woman was hurt in the four-vehicle crash, which occurred on Friday afternoon, Los Angeles Police said.

Photos from the scene show a large SUV on top of three other vehicles at an intersection near his home in the upscale neighbourhood of Brentwood.

Police said that no arrest has been made and ruled out the involvement of drugs and alcohol.

The former California governor’s spokesman confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that he was driving the SUV when the incident occurred, but was not hurt.

 

Photos after the crash show the 74-year-old standing on the side of the road talking to the other drivers and police officers.

A police report, seen by CBS Los Angeles, said that Schwarzenegger was “near the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Allenford Avenue, when a collision occurred with a red Prius making a u-turn as it continued through a ‘red arrow’ signal to turn left.”

It added that the SUV rolled on top of the red Prius and then ended up hitting two other vehicles.

Tabloid news site TMZ reported that the woman driving the Prius had head injuries and was taken to hospital, but her injuries are not thought to be life threatening.

“He is fine, his only concern right now is for the woman who was injured,” a representative told PEOPLE magazine.

 

Source: (BBC)

Tesla is to recall more than 475,000 cars in the US, according to documents filed with the US safety regulator.

The electric vehicle firm announced it was recalling 356,309 vehicles because of potential rear-view camera issues affecting 2017-2020 Model 3 Teslas.

A further 119,009 Model S vehicles will also be recalled because of potential problems with the front trunk, or boot.

The total recall figure is almost equivalent to the 500,000 cars Tesla delivered last year, Reuters reports.

The BBC has approached Tesla for comment.

A safety report, submitted this month, estimates that around 1% of recalled Model 3s may have a defective rear-view camera.

Over time “repeated opening and closing of the trunk lid” may cause excessive wear to a cable that provides the rear-view camera feed, says a Safety Recall report submitted by Tesla to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the US on the 21 December.

If the wear causes the core of the cable to separate “the rear-view camera feed is not visible on the centre display”, the report notes.

The loss of the rear-view camera display may “increase the risk of collision”, it adds.

The Model S recall involves vehicles manufactured between 2014-2021, some of which may have a problem with a “secondary latch” on the front trunk, or boot.

In another Safety Recall report, also filed on 21 December, Tesla notes the fault could mean, if the primary latch is inadvertently released, the front trunk “may open without warning and obstruct the driver’s visibility, increasing the risk of a crash”.

Around 14% of recalled Model S’s may have the defect, the report notes.

In both cases, the reports state that “Tesla is not aware of any crashes, injuries, or deaths” relating to the potential faults.

The latest recall is not the first safety issue to have prompted action from the electric vehicle firm.

Last week Tesla agreed to make changes to its Passenger Play feature, which allows games to be played on its touchscreen while the car is in motion.

It took action after an investigation was launched by the NHTSA.

The feature will now be locked and unusable while the car is moving.

 

Source: BBC

New York City's police force will be led by a woman for the first time in its 176-year history, Mayor-elect Eric Adams announced on Wednesday.

Keechant Sewell, 49, is a 23-year veteran of the Nassau Police Department in nearby Long Island, where she became chief of detectives in September 2020.

For Mr Adams, the move fulfils a campaign pledge to name a female commissioner.

The NYPD is the largest police force in the US.

Speaking to media on Wednesday morning, Mr Adams - a former NYPD captain - said that women often are "sitting on the bench" and "never allowed to get in the game" when it comes to policing.

"That is stopping today," he said.

Ms Sewell, who is originally from the New York borough of Queens, previously served in New York's Nassau County narcotics and major case units, and as a hostage negotiator.

When she takes over the department in January, Ms Sewell will also become only the third black commissioner to take the helm of NYPD.

Ms Sewell said she was "mindful of the historic nature of this announcement" and hopes to improve relations between the police and New York City's residents.

"I bring a different perspective to make sure the department looks like the city it serves, and making the decision, just as Mayor Adams did, to elevate women and people of colour to leadership positions," she said.

She added that as commissioner she plans to be "laser focused" on violent crimes particularly gun crimes.

Bill de Blasio, the outgoing mayor, often had a difficult relationship with the NYPD. In 2015, for example, officers turned their backs on Mr de Blasio at the funeral of a police officer killed in the line of duty.

The decision to name Ms Sewell as commissioner was praised by Patrick Lynch, the president of the largest police union in the city, the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York.

"New York City police officers have passed our breaking point. We need to fix that break in order to get our police department and our city back on course," he said in a statement. "We look forward to working with her to accomplish that goal."

The NYPD employs nearly 35,000 police officers, of whom approximately 18% are women.

 

Source: BBC

Former US President Donald Trump has launched a scathing attack on his once-close ally, ex-Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing him of disloyalty.

Mr Trump said he was furious at Mr Netanyahu for the way he congratulated Joe Biden on his election victory, using an expletive towards him.

He also said he believed he saved Israel from destruction.

Mr Trump made the comments in interviews for a book about his role in Middle East peace-making.

The US administration under Mr Trump, from 2017-2021, is considered the most favourable towards Israel in the two countries' history.

Mr Netanyahu served as Israeli prime minister while Mr Trump was in office, and the two men were portrayed as having particularly warm personal relations, often publicly praising one another.

Speaking to Israeli journalist Barak Ravid for his book Trump's peace: The Abraham Accords and the Reshaping of the Middle East, Mr Trump accused Mr Netanyahu of congratulating too quickly Mr Trump's successor Joe Biden on winning the 2020 US election.

Mr Trump disputed the election result, though his claims were never upheld.

"The first person who congratulated [Joe Biden] was Bibi [Benjamin] Netanyahu, the man that I did more for than any other person I dealt with… Bibi could have stayed quiet. He has made a terrible mistake.

"He was very early," Mr Trump said. "Like earlier than most. I haven't spoken to him since. [Expletive] him.

In actual fact, Mr Netanyahu was not the first foreign leader to congratulate Mr Biden. He also tweeted his gratitude towards Mr Trump minutes later.

 

Source: BBC

The US has imposed visa restrictions on Isabel dos Santos, often described as Africa's richest woman, "for her involvement in significant corruption by misappropriating public funds for her personal benefit", a statement from US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken says.

Her name appears among a list of other people from across the globe accused of corruption who are facing US sanctions. It was released as part of the US government's anti-corruption drive.

Ms Dos Santos is the daughter of Angola's former president, José Eduardo dos Santos, who left office in 2017. While he was president, she was chair of the state oil company.

Mr Blinken's statement does not go into details about what Ms Dos Santos is accused of having done.

Last year, the BBC reported that leaked documents revealed how she had made her fortune through alleged corruption.

She got access to lucrative deals involving land, oil, diamonds and telecoms when her father was president of Angola.

The documents showed how she and her husband were allowed to buy valuable state assets in a series of suspicious deals.

At the time, Ms Dos Santos said the allegations against her were entirely false and that there was a politically motivated witch-hunt by the Angolan government.

Two other Angolans - Leopoldino Fragoso do Nascimento and Manuel Helder Vieira Dias Juniorare - who were both former government officials have also been targeted.

They have been given so-called Magnitsky sanctions which means that US companies cannot have financial dealings with them.

The US Treasury has said that the two men "stole billions of dollars from the Angolan government through embezzlement".

Source: BBC

Travel restrictions imposed by the United Kingdom have dented the tourism hype that is normally associated with the festive season, with bookings being cancelled.

Voice: The United Kingdom and other Western countries announced new Civid-19 restrictive measures after a new variant was detected in South Africa.

Players in the tourism industry have lamented the travel restrictions which have affected the SADC region and coincide with the festive season which is normally associated with a boom in the sector.

Speaking to ZBC News Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe President Wengayi Nhau explained the effect of the travel ban on the local tourism industry.

“The festive season had good occupancy close to 60-80% with most diaspora guests coming home. With the latest flight bans due to Omicron variant, we have started seeing huge cancellations and or postponed travel plans. We are yet to see the full impact of this recent ban but the sad part is we are seeing more and more cancellations of bookings and demand for refunds. This festive season had a good mixture of locals, regional and international tourists booked in our hotels,” he said.

Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe Mat North Chairperson Anald also lamented the travel ban saying it is ill-timed.

“The travel restrictions will have a severe negative impact on the tourism recovery trajectory that we have already started experiencing one in domestic and regional level as a global level. Southern Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa were on the recovery path and now that is gone by the fact that the pronouncement were made. We believe that the timing was wrong in the sense that  there was no proper scientific investigations that were done that would have possibly led to a more friendly intervention than a whole blanket ban on movement of passenger traffic  between Europe and  Southern Africa and as well as other African countries. It will be unfortunate if this continues longer than today. We are hearing that there could be a relaxation of some of some of the requirements we maintain they were supposed not to be there in the first place,” explained Musonza.

 He however added that the sector is turning its attention to domestic tourism to minimise the effects of the travel restrictions.

“We believe that if we can manage to keep our domestic tourism open as much as we can, in strict adherence to the COVID-19 laid down protocols, it would alleviate the loss of income, the loss of jobs as well as save our businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector until such a time we have a permanent or more sustainable solutions that would help as far as combating the effects of COVID-19 are concerned,” he added.

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation has revealed that despite recent improvements, uneven vaccination rates around the world and new Covid-19 strains could impact on the already slow recovery of the sector.

Source: Reuters

Former US Vice-President Mike Pence has called on the Supreme Court to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade case that legalised abortion in the US.

Mr Pence said the ruling was "a misguided decision" that harmed millions of unborn babies.

If Roe v Wade is quashed, millions of women would lose access to abortions.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments over a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks. A ruling is expected by next summer.

The ban includes abortions on pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

The law, however, has not been enforced because of a legal challenge from the state's only abortion provider.

 

At a news conference in Washington DC on Tuesday, Mr Pence said he hoped the Supreme Court will "make history" with a full reversal of Roe v Wade.

"We are asking the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn Roe v Wade and restore the sanctity of human life to the centre of American law," the former vice-president said.

Additionally, Mr Pence argued that the "fiat of unelected judges" is not reflective of popular opinion in the US.

He believes elected, state-level officials are better placed to write abortion laws for their own jurisdictions.

Media caption,

 

A nationwide ban on abortions is not on the horizon, but states might be given control over their own abortion laws.

Such a move would be "devastating" for low-income women, Katherine Franke, director of the center for gender and sexuality law at Columbia University, tells the BBC.

 

Source: BBC

The EU is to reveal details of a global investment plan that's widely seen as a rival to China's Belt and Road initiative.

 

Insiders say it'll set out "concrete" ideas on digital, transport, climate and energy schemes. It's regarded as part of the West's efforts to counter Chinese influence in Africa and elsewhere.

 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will present the "Global Gateway" initiative on Wednesday. The EU is looking at how it can leverage billions of euros, drawn from member states, financial institutions and the private sector.

Mrs von der Leyen said in her State of the Union speech in September: "We want investments in quality infrastructure, connecting goods, people and services around the world."

 

Wednesday's 14-page document isn't likely to explicitly pitch itself as a rival to China's strategy. The Commission also studiously avoided mentioning China when pressed about the plans on Tuesday. But Andrew Small, a Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund, says the backdrop is inescapable: "Global Gateway wouldn't exist if you didn't have Belt and Road."

 

For him it marks "the first serious effort from the European side to put packages together and figure out financing mechanisms, so countries considering taking loans from China have an alternative option".

 

Source: BBC

A 52-year-old Indian businessman has built a scaled-down replica of the iconic Taj Mahal as a home for his wife of 27 years.

Anand Prakash Chouksey built his "monument of love" in Burhanpur city in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

"It was a gift for my wife but also for the town and its people," Mr Chouksey told the BBC.

 

The house cost about 20 million rupees (£199,000; $260,000) to build, he said.

The Taj Mahal is a 17th Century mausoleum in Agra city. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his queen Mumtaz who died while giving birth to their 14th child.

The stunning marble monument, famed for its intricate lattice work, is one of India's biggest tourist attractions. Before the pandemic, it drew as many as 70,000 people every day - a list that has included celebrities and dignitaries.

 

Mr Chouksey's replica - nestled deep inside his sprawling 50-acre property, which includes a hospital, has also been attracting a steady stream of visitors.

People walk in the lawns and click pictures, he said. "A lot of people have also started to do their pre-wedding shoots here," Mr Chouksey added.

"I don't stop them because in our town, we are a close-knit community where everyone knows everyone. So, my house is open for all."

Mr Chouksey said that not all visitors are allowed inside the house because "after all, it is our home and we live there".

 

But sometimes, the family indulges its guests who come and marvel at the house's lush interiors - the intricate flower motifs that decorate the marble walls and floors, and its overarching lattice windows.

The house consists of two main bedrooms that are located on two separate floors. It also has a library and a meditation room. The drawing room flaunts marble columns, a curving staircase and a gilded ceiling.

 

Although the Taj Mahal was the ultimate inspiration, Mr Chouksey said the interiors are not strictly Islamic in design but are infused with contemporary influences, which is evident from the choice of sofas and the curtains.

Building the replica of the famous monument took three years and a flurry of visits to the city of Agra, where the Taj s located, so Mr Chouksey and his wife could study various aspects of the mausoleum.

 

"We also used a lot of 3D images of the Taj Mahal on the internet to build our own," Mr Chouksey added. The idea was to build something similar, so the engineers reduced the size to one third of the actual monument.

Mr Chouksey is not the first one to be inspired by the beauty of Taj Mahal.

The four bedroom house is located in a small city in central India

In 2013, a retired government official in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh had also built a replica of the Taj Mahal in memory of his wife.

But Mr Chouksey says his house is not dedicated to his wife alone.

"Today, there is a lot of hate in our country. People are being divided in the name of religion and caste," he said.

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist BJP government has been widely accused of polarising India along religious lines, and fostering intolerance. Even the Taj Mahal has been caught in the crosshairs - in 2017, a BJP lawmaker called the monument a "blot on Indian culture" built by "traitors". Mr Chouksey said he wanted to "spread love" in such distressing times.

"And this house for me is a symbol of that love - one which goes beyond our social differences and the political noise."

 

Source: BBC

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