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AFP

Junkyard of empires: Afghans sift through leftovers of US occupation

Squatting in the dust by the main road to Afghanistan's biggest air base, Mir Salam sifts through a pile of broken electronics in front of him, salvaged from departing US troops. All around are heaps of junk and scrapped equipment -- ranging from telephones and thermos flasks to computer keyboards and printer cartridges. "This is what the Americans do," the 40-year-old told AFP. "They destroy absolutely everything." The Pentagon is vacating Bagram air base as part of its plan to withdraw all forces by this year's 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States, and it could be completed by the end of the month.
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TravelPosted by
AFP

Lifting off? Sudden travel surge tests US airlines

US airlines are scrambling to ramp back up to meet soaring travel demand that has transformed America's airports from cavernous to crowded almost overnight. The surge in pent-up demand is exposing immediate staffing shortfalls in the aviation workforce, as well as medium-term labor challenges following an exodus of experienced workers during the downturn. The issues came to a head over the weekend when American Airlines canceled 400 flights and said it would cut one percent of its flights in July to better manage an  "incredibly quick ramp-up of customer demand." While American was more aggressive than rivals in adding capacity, all major carriers face challenges in the sudden rush, analysts said.
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Spain and Portugal risk early exits at Euro 2020, rainbow row overshadows Germany game

Spain and reigning champions Portugal are at risk of a shock early exit from Euro 2020 on the last day of group matches on Wednesday, while UEFA's refusal to allow Munich to light the Allianz Arena in rainbow colours has overshadowed a crucial game between Germany and Hungary. Germany need a draw to reach the last 16 but defeat would see Hungary go through and possibly condemn Joachim Loew's side to another group-stage exit, just like at the 2018 World Cup. That is unthinkable for the Germans, who beat Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal 4-2 at the weekend to kickstart their campaign but could be without Thomas Mueller due to a knee injury. The build-up has been overshadowed by the fall-out from UEFA's decision to block plans by Munich authorities to light the stadium in rainbow colours. The German city wanted to protest at a law passed by Hungary's right-wing government banning the "promotion" of homosexuality to minors.
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AFP

More than 150 Texas hospital staff fired or quit over vaccine ruling

More than 150 employees at the Houston Methodist hospital in Texas were fired or resigned after failing to comply with orders to get a Covid-19 vaccination to continue working there, a hospital spokeswoman said Tuesday. Officials Houston Methodist told its staff they needed to have received a Covid vaccination by June 7 or be suspended for two weeks. Hospital spokeswoman Gale Smith told AFP that 153 employees "either resigned in the two-week suspension period or were terminated today. "The employees who became compliant during the suspension period returned to work the day after they became compliant," she said.
WorldPosted by
AFP

'Godfather' of Tibetan rap spits karmic rhymes

In his tracksuit, silver chain and sparkling trainers, MC Tenzin would look like any other rapper if not for the backdrop of towering Himalayan peaks in his videos and rhyme-dropping about karma. The self-described "Godfather" of Tibetan rap is a leading light of the region's hip-hop scene, where tight social constraints are at odds with the in-your-face art form. Tibetan rappers walk a tightrope unfamiliar to their peers overseas, with some cautiously exploring local pride and Buddhist identity in coded lyrics to avoid the unwanted attention of Chinese authorities. Most, however -- MC Tenzin included -- give politics a wide berth to be able to continue creating their music.
Public HealthPosted by
AFP

Sydney residents banned from leaving city as coronavirus cluster grows

Sydneysiders were largely banned from leaving the city Wednesday as Australian authorities rushed to stop a growing outbreak of the highly contagious Delta Covid-19 variant from spreading to other regions. The virus has repeatedly escaped Australian hotels used to quarantine returning travellers, and health experts say the outbreaks will continue until large numbers of Australians are vaccinated.
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AFP

Twin joy as Tokyo panda gives birth to two cubs

A panda at Tokyo's Ueno zoo gave birth to twins on Wednesday, weeks after news of Shin Shin's pregnancy sent stocks in nearby restaurants soaring. They were born in the early hours of Wednesday, the zoo said in a statement, adding that it had not yet confirmed the sex of the pair. "Officials are currently doing their best to protect and observe the mother and babies," the statement added. Zoo director Yutaka Fukuda said the twin birth was a first for the Ueno facility.
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AFP

US defense chief favors reform to how military prosecutes sex crimes

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday he favors amending the Pentagon's justice system to remove decisions about prosecuting sexual assault from the military chain of command. The Pentagon chief had appointed an independent commission to submit recommendations as to how best to deal with perpetrators of sexual violence in the armed forces, and how to prosecute them more effectively. He said in a statement he had received the recommendations of the panel and pledged to "work with Congress to amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice, removing the prosecution of sexual assaults and related crimes from the military chain of command." The commission recommended including other related crimes such as domestic violence among those that would be removed from the chain's purview.
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US seizes Iranian state news websites

US Justice Department said Wednesday it had seized 33 Iranian government-controlled media websites, as well as three of the Iraqi group Kataeb Hezbollah, which it said were hosted on US-owned domains in violation of sanctions. Visitors to leading Iranian media sites like Press TV and Al-Alam, the country's main English language and Arabic language broadcasters, as well as the Al-Masirah TV channel of Yemen's Huthis, were met with single-page statements declaring the website "has been seized by the United States Government" accompanied by the seals of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Commerce Department. The 33 websites were held by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU), itself controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC). Both IRTVU and IRGC have been placed on the US sanctions blacklist, making it illegal for Americans, US companies, and foreign or non-American companies with US subsidiaries to have business with them or their subsidiaries.
EnvironmentPosted by
AFP

Coastal cities face their mortality on the climate 'frontline'

For thousands of years, people have built their great metropolises right up against the contours of coasts, in estuaries and deltas, confident of the ebb and flow of the tides. Domination of the seas allowed many coastal cities to become trading powerhouses and cultural melting pots. But now that strength is becoming a liability as climate change swells the oceans, redrawing the map and putting hundreds of millions at risk. That's the warning of an unpublished draft report by the UN's climate science advisory panel, seen exclusively by AFP, which outlines the vast and urgent climate threats facing the planet.
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AFP

Hunger, drought, disease: UN climate report reveals dire health threats

Hunger, drought and disease will afflict tens of millions more people within decades, according to a draft UN assessment that lays bare the dire human health consequences of a warming planet. After a pandemic year that saw the world turned on its head, a forthcoming report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), seen exclusively by AFP, offers a distressing vision of the decades to come: malnutrition, water insecurity, pestilence. Policy choices made now, like promoting plant-based diets, can limit these health consequences -- but many are simply unavoidable in the short term, the report says. It warns of the cascading impacts that simultaneous crop failures, falling nutritional value of basic foods, and soaring inflation are likely to have on the world's most vulnerable people.
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AFP

US lawmakers take first step toward Big Tech regulation

US lawmakers take a first step toward regulating Big Tech on Wednesday with a vote on a series of bills with potentially massive implications for large online platforms and consumers who use them. The House Judiciary Committee scheduled a "markup" on a series of antitrust reform bills, setting the stage for consideration by the full House of Representatives in the coming weeks. The five bills, if enacted, could pave the way for a reorganization or breakup of giants such as Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon while shaking up the entire internet ecosystem. The measures would bar tech giants from operating a platform for third parties while offering competing services on those platforms. Lawmakers also seek to ban tech firms from prioritizing their own products or services. The largest tech firms additionally would be prohibited from acquiring competitors.
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AFP

Senate Republicans block sweeping US voting rights measure

US Senate Republicans on Tuesday torpedoed a Democratic effort to protect voting rights and expand ballot access for all Americans, a flashpoint issue months after an election marred by Donald Trump's baseless allegations of fraud. Waving off broad bipartisan public support for election law updates, the opposition party united to block the advancement of a sweeping package which would amount to the most expansive federal election reform in decades. Democrats brought the "For the People Act" to the floor as a test vote, in reaction to controversial efforts by Republicans to enact strict new voting laws in dozens of states. Critics have widely savaged those measures, which include restricting mail-in ballots, criminalizing the delivery of water to people waiting to vote, and limiting early Sunday voting hours as a way to deny Black churches' "souls to the polls" events.
EnvironmentPosted by
AFP

UN draft climate report: Impacts on people

A draft report from the UN's climate science advisory panel offers the most exhaustive look yet at how our warming planet will impact humankind's health, wealth and well-being. AFP had exclusive access to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) draft, set to be published next year. Here are some of its findings on impacts on people:
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Britney Spears to address court in guardianship battle with father

Under a controversial legal guardianship since 2008, US pop singer Britney Spears is scheduled to address a Los Angeles court on Wednesday in the battle over her father's control of her affairs. "Britney wants to address the court directly," her lawyer Samuel Ingham said in April, without specifying exactly why the singer wanted to be heard in person by Judge Brenda Penny.
EnvironmentPosted by
AFP

After Covid, could the next big killer be heatwaves?

Searing, unrelenting heat scorches large swathes of the Earth, killing millions who have no means to escape. Shade is useless, and shallow bodies of water are warmer than the blood coursing through people's veins. This is a scene from a new sci-fi novel, but the suffocating horror it describes may be closer to science than fiction, according to a draft UN report that warns of dire consequences for billions if global warming continues unchecked. Earlier climate models suggested it would take nearly another century of unabated carbon pollution to spawn heatwaves exceeding the absolute limit of human tolerance. But updated projections warn of unprecedented killer heatwaves on the near horizon, according to a 4,000-page Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, seen exclusively by AFP before its scheduled release in February 2022.
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AFP

US experts to review heart problems among teens after Covid shots

A panel of experts convened by the top US health agency will hold a meeting Wednesday to review data surrounding more than 300 confirmed cases of heart muscle inflammation among adolescents and young adults after receiving mRNA Covid vaccines. The committee, hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will hear a risk-benefit analysis as researchers explore whether the shots can cause myocarditis, as well as cases of inflammation of the heart lining, pericarditis. Israel first was the first country to identify a possible link. "These cases are rare, and the vast majority have fully resolved with rest and supportive care," said CDC director Rochelle Walensky last week ahead of the meeting, which was initially scheduled for last Friday but postponed because of a new public holiday.
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Crushing climate impacts to hit sooner than feared: draft UN report

Climate change will fundamentally reshape life on Earth in the coming decades, even if humans can tame planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, according to a landmark draft report from the UN's climate science advisors obtained by AFP. Species extinction, more widespread disease, unliveable heat, ecosystem collapse, cities menaced by rising seas -- these and other devastating climate impacts are accelerating and bound to become painfully obvious before a child born today turns 30. The choices societies make now will determine whether our species thrives or simply survives as the 21st century unfolds, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says in a draft report seen exclusively by AFP. But dangerous thresholds are closer than once thought, and dire consequences stemming from decades of unbridled carbon pollution are unavoidable in the short term.
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Coming out in sport: NFL's Nassib adds momentum

American football player Carl Nassib made history on Monday by becoming the first NFL player to come out as gay during his career. Openly gay players in US team sports have been very rare. In basketball, the NBA's Jason Collins in 2013 became the first player in a major US team sport to declare he was gay, an announcement that had a big impact.