Home » Archives by category » World (Page 151)

Japan’s capital begins same-sex partnership recognition

TOKYO — Japan’s capital, Tokyo, began issuing certificates recognizing same-sex couples on Tuesday, becoming the largest municipality to do so in a country in which same-sex marriage is not allowed.Seven years after Tokyo’s Shibuya district first introduced same-sex partnership recognition in 2015, more than 200 smaller towns have joined the move, accounting for less than one-fifth of Japanese municipalities. The certificates are not legally binding but allow same-sex partners to apply for public housing like married couples, give them access to medical data and allow them to be beneficiaries in auto and life insurance. Support for sexual diversity has grown slowly in Japan, and legal protections are still lacking for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. They often face discrimination at school, work and at home, causing many to hide their sexual identities. Still, many sexual minority couples say the partnership recognition will improve their daily lives, allowing them to rent apartments and sign documents in medical emergencies, and in inheritance.“With this (certificate), there is no need to explain, and I think I will be able to talk to other people about the relationship between myself and my partner with a bit more confidence,” said Soyoka Yamamoto, who campaigned for same-sex partnership recognition by Tokyo.She said she has worried constantly about discrimination and had to make an extra effort in explaining her relationship with her partner. A certificate recognizing their partnership was issued Tuesday with Gov. Yuriko Koike’s signature. Her partner, Yoriko, who uses only her first name, also welcomed the certificate, saying it “publicly recognizes our relationship for the first time after we have lived together for more than 10 years.”Same-sex couples are often barred from jointly renting apartments, visiting each other in the hospital and other services available to married couples. When Yoriko called an ambulance after her partner had a medical emergency at home, she was told to obtain consent from Yamamoto’s parents, the couple said. “Our goal is to use the certificate as a springboard for achieving a society where the rights of sexual minorities are protected,” Yamamoto said at a news conference sponsored by Partnership Act for Tokyo, a group she leads.Fumino Sugiyama, a transgender activist, said the certificates recognize the presence of sexual minorities and the need to recognize their rights.“Until now, all the systems, rules and services in Japan have been formed as if LGBTQ+ people are invisible in this society, and Tokyo’s system has been the same,” Sugiyama said. He called the partnership certificate “a big step,” but added, “This is not the goal, but rather the beginning.”The Tokyo metropolitan government said it received 137 applications as of last Friday. Applicants are limited to adult residents of the capital, including foreign nationals. Campaigns for equal rights for sexual minorities, including same-sex marriage, have faced resistance from conservatives in Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s governing party who oppose more inclusivity for sexual minorities, calling them “unproductive.”Satoko Nagamura and Mamiko Moda, a same-sex couple, are raising their 11-year-old son Ittan, who was given birth by Nagamura by sperm donation.Moda said the certificate only recognizes partnerships between adults and needs to cover children of same-sex couples. “From a child’s perspective, it’s like you are abandoned. When the child asks, ‘What is this family?’ then I also want to have proof as a parent.”———Associated Press videojournalist Haruka Nuga contributed to this report.

Friends, families mourn lives lost in India bridge disaster

MORBI, India — Naseema Ben Shamdar and seven members of her family were making their way across Morbi’s jam-packed suspension bridge when its cables gave way Sunday, plunging them into the deep, wide waters of Machchu river and killing 134 people. In just seconds, Naseema was gasping for breath and trying desperately to swim to shore, struggling through a quagmire of mud and weeds. All around her, people were pleading for help. Some of those who fell into the river were stuck in its deep silt. Some were knocked unconscious by the aluminum walkway that crashed into the water along with the hundreds of people who had been walking on it. Many tried to climb cables dangling into the water, sometimes losing their grip and falling on others mired in the murky water.The disaster in Morbi is one of India’s worst in years. The collapse of the pedestrian bridge while it was crowded with hundreds of holiday goers has raised questions about why the 143-year-old landmark, touted as an artistic and engineering marvel, failed just four days after reopening after months of repairs. Police arrested nine people, including managers of the bridge’s operator, Oreva Group, as they began investigating the catastrophe. In Morbi, shock and anger were overtaken by mourning and grief. Friends have lost friends and parents have lost children. In many cases, families have lost several members.When she surfaced, Naseema could only think of her 21-year-old daughter, Muskan, who was nowhere in sight.“One moment she was there with me and the next she was gone. She just disappeared in the water,” Naseema said Tuesday at her home in Morbi. By the time rescuers pulled Naseema to safety, the river had consumed every other family member who had been on the bridge that evening. She lost her daughter, her two nephews, two nieces and two sisters-in-law.“We were eight family members there and now I am the only one left alive,” Naseema said, her voice choking with tears. “Everyone is gone.”“Everyone I loved is dead,” said Arif Shamdar, a painter. He said that like many others, his daughter and son were excited to visit the bridge and watch the sunset. He stayed behind, asking his wife Aneesa to keep the children, Aliya and Afreed, safe because he expected a huge crowd.Barely an hour later, a relative called Shamdar, telling him of the disaster. Rushing to the site, he saw the bridge snapped in two, its metal walkway dangling. Banks on both sides of the river were strewn with bodies. For five hours, Shamdar scoured the waters searching for his family. He swam to the middle of the river. He got on an inflatable raft and screamed their names. Crestfallen and anxious, he rushed to a nearby hospital where he saw his two children lying dead on stretchers. His wife was on the floor, also dead.“I screamed and screamed and asked doctors to help. But there was nothing they could do. My family had already been dead for hours,” Shamdar said.Hundreds of people gathered in his neighborhood Monday for the funeral. His wife, two children, and his niece Muskan were buried in the local graveyard. Three other family members were buried in an ancestral burial ground in a nearby town.In the town’s crematoriums and burial grounds, workers said they had never seen so many dead brought for final rites on a single day.“I have never seen anything like this in my life,” said Gaffar Shah, caretaker of the main Muslim graveyard in Morbi. He helped bury 25 bodies on Monday. “Entire families have been wiped out,” he said. All through Morbi, a city famed for its ceramics and clock industries, friends, relatives and neighbors gathered in the homes of the mourning, emerging from the town’s narrow lanes in twos and threes.“We are devastated,” said Raydhan Bhai, whose two nephews drowned in disaster. Yash Devadana, 12, and Raj Bhagwanji Bhai, 13, were cousins who lived in the same house. They were good friends, too, their relatives said, always playing together and often swimming in the river.On Sunday, the two cousins left for the bridge hand in hand. By midnight, they were both dead, having perished in those same waters. As mourners sat beside garlanded photo frames of Yash and Raj on Tuesday, Raydhan Bhai pointed to Yash’s pet dog. It hasn’t eaten, waiting for Yash to return, he said.“Yash loved the dog and even slept with it in his bed,” Raydhan Bhai said. “Even his pet has felt Yash’s absence.”

50 countries urge China to implement UN recommendations regarding violations against Uyghurs

Fifty mainly Western countries urged China on Monday to fully implement all recommendations in a U.N. report accusing the country of possible “crimes against humanity” against Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups, including taking prompt steps to release all those “arbitrarily deprived of their liberty” in the far western province of Xinjiang.Canada’s U.N. Ambassador Bob Rae read the statement at a meeting of the General Assembly’s human rights committee expressing grave concern at the human rights situation in China, and Beijing’s failure so far to discuss the report’s findings on the ongoing violations against the Uyghurs and other Muslim groups.Human rights groups have accused China of sweeping a million or more people from the minority groups into detention camps where many have said they were tortured, sexually assaulted, and forced to abandon their language and religion. The camps were just one part of what the rights organizations have called a ruthless campaign against extremism in Xinjiang that also included draconian birth control policies and all-encompassing restrictions on people’s movement.HACKED XINJIANG FILES REVEAL CHINA’S UYGHUR GENOCIDE DETAILS: ‘JUST KILL THEM’The assessment from the Geneva-based U.N. human rights office was released in the final minutes of High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s four-year term on Aug. 31. It largely corroborated earlier reporting by researchers, advocacy groups and the news media.The report concluded that China has committed serious human rights violations under its anti-terrorism and anti-extremism policies and called for “urgent attention” from the U.N., the world community and China itself to address them.
Almost a decade after fleeing from China, more than 50 Uyghurs are languishing in Thai immigration centers. Pictured: An immigration detention center in the Sathorn area of Bangkok, on Sept. 30, 2022.
(JACK TAYLOR/AFP via Getty Images)US, CHINA, PLANNING BIDEN, XI MEETING BUT ‘NO RESOLUTION YET’: OFFICIALThe statement from the 50 countries calls the report “an independent, authoritative assessment that relies extensively on China’s own records” and “makes an important contribution to the existing evidence of serious and systematic human rights violations in China.”In light of “the gravity” of the report’s assessment, the countries expressed concern “that China has so far refused to discuss its findings” and urged the government “to fully implement the recommendations.”In addition to calling for fulfillment of the recommendation to release of all those arbitrarily detained the 50 countries urged China to clarify “the fate and whereabouts of missing family members” and arrange safe contacts and reunions.In response to the statement, the Uyghur Human Rights Project tweeted that “A growing number of UN member states are pushing back on China’s treatment of Uyghurs.”Britain’s Foreign Minister James Cleverly tweeted that the statement “supported by a record 50 countries across 6 continents, demonstrates growing breadth of international concern.”The 50 countries that signed on to the statement were: Albania, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Eswatini, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Monaco, Montenegro, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Palau, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkiye, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.UN REPORT CITES ALLEGED ‘PATTERNS OF ABUSE’ IN CHINA’S TREATMENT OF UYGHUR MINORITYLast week, the U.S., UK and others organized a meeting following up on the former high commissioner’s report that included U.N. ambassadors, Uyghur human rights advocates, the U.N. special investigator on minority rights and Human Rights Watch.China’s U.N. Mission sent a letter to all U.N. member states expressing its “resolute opposition” to the meeting and strongly recommending that they boycott “this anti-China event.””It is a politically motivated event,” said the letter, obtained by The Associated Press. “The co-sponsors use human rights issues as a political tool to interfere in China’s internal affairs like Xinjiang, to create division and turbulence and disrupt China’s development.”CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPCalling the event “disinformation propaganda,” the letter accused the sponsors of violating “the purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter and norms of international relations.”

2 dead, 1 injured as helicopter crashes in central Norway

HELSINKI — A helicopter on a leisure flight crashed in central Norway Tuesday killing both passengers and severely injuring the pilot, authorities said.Norwegian police identified the dead passengers as a Norwegian man and a woman in their 60s. The pilot was found alive at the crash site just outside the town of Verdal, and was rushed to a hospital in the city of Trondheim.There was also a dog in the helicopter which survived the crash and was taken to a vet, Norwegian public broadcaster NRK said.Norwegian media reported that the helicopter crashed into a field outside a densely built-up area in thick fog after several unsuccessful attempts to land.Forensic technicians from the police were working in cooperation with the Norwegian Air Accident Investigation Board to establish the cause of the crash.The type and model of the helicopter were not made public.Norway’s VG newspaper reported that it belonged to Norwegian helicopter service provider Midtnorsk Helikopterservice AS., which offers flights to locals and tourists in central Norway’s scenic mountainous landscape.

Sicily court convicts 91 in massive fraud of EU pasture fund

ROME — A court in Sicily on Tuesday convicted 91 defendants of roles in a organized crime scheme that bilked the European Union of some 5 million euros (dollars) in subsidies for grazing land on the Mediterranean island. The reading of the verdicts and sentences took so long, the court in Patti began announcing its decision late Monday night and finished early the next day. The sentences ranged from two years to 30. Ten defendants were acquitted. The trial began in March 2021 and deliberations lasted a week.Prosecutors alleged that dozens of reputed Mafia members and white-collar professionals had colluded to defraud the EU of subsidies for use of grazing land, including Nebrodi state parkland in the eastern end of Sicily. In its account of the trial, Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica said 150 companies fraudulently obtained some 5 million euros from 2010 to 2017, including for land that only existed on paper.Former park director Giuseppe Antoci, who helped investigators to uncover the scheme, was in the courtroom to hear the verdicts. He narrowly escaped death in 2016 when bullets raked his car. Investigators suspected the attack was the work of local members of Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian Mafia.Antoci told reporters that hearing the verdicts was an emotional moment after “years of sacrifice for myself and my family.” Among the charges that resulted in convictions were extortion and fraud against the European Union. Prosecutors contended that in some instances, defendants used violence and threats to gain control of existing pastures so they could apply for the subsidies. Prosecutors said the elaborate fraud scheme involved the extensive use of figurehead owners to obtain the EU funds. The allocated funds then moved through a complex system of financial instruments, including accounts abroad, before winding up with the fraudsters, prosecutors alleged. To obtain the funds, applicants had to certify they had no links to organized crime, and the attestations provided were often false, investigators said. In arguing for indictment, prosecutors alleged that complicit notaries and bureaucrats handling the paperwork helped Cosa Nostra clan bosses carry out the scheme.

Brazil truckers jam traffic to protest Bolsonaro loss

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian truckers supportive of President Jair Bolsonaro blocked hundreds of roads early Tuesday to protest his election loss to former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.Since the leftist da Silva’s’s victory Sunday night, many truck drivers have jammed traffic in areas across the country and said they won’t acknowledge Bolsonaro’s defeat. Bolsonaro hasn’t spoken publicly since official results were released roughly 36 hours ago, nor phoned da Silva to concede.The highway to and from the international airport in Sao Paulo – Brazil’s most populous state and largest economy – was blocked and dozens of flights were canceled. Videos on social media showed travelers rolling their suitcases at night along the highway to the airport. Access was partially reestablished as of 8 a.m. local time.In neighboring Minas Gerais, a key battleground state in the election, a video on social media showed a protester telling a reporter from O Tempo: “We won’t stop as long as we don’t have a response from our president.”The man, wearing a green-and-yellow shirt – the colors of the Brazilian flag and of the nation’s conservative movement – claimed the election was “fraudulent” and warned of future protests. “We want Bolsonaro in 2023 and for the years to come,” he said.In 2018, an 11-day trucker strike brought Brazil to a halt, caused food prices to spike, and left supermarket shelves without products as gas stations ran out of fuel. It caused billions in losses and revealed the vast power that truckers possess, particularly when they organize through social media platforms.Bolsonaro, a lawmaker at the time and months away from winning that year’s presidential election, was an outspoken supporter of the truckers, who became a constituency of his. This year, his administration limited interstate fuel taxes to help bring down prices and launched a financial aid program for truckers just ahead of the presidential election campaign.A majority of Brazilian Supreme Court justices early Tuesday voted to order the federal highway police to clear the blocked roads immediately. The vote was still taking place as of 9 a.m. local time, with partial results posted on the court’s website.As of 8 a.m. local time Tuesday, highway police had removed nearly 200 blockades, according to the Ministry of Justice. Federal public prosecutors in Sao Paulo and Goias states said they had opened investigations into the blockades. Da Silva’s Workers’ Party has accused Bolsonaro’s campaign of deploying the police force to create traffic jams and deter people from voting on election day, when videos of officials stopping buses shot across social media. The party said the alleged efforts were particularly focused in the northeast region that is a Workers’ Party stronghold. Alexandre de Moraes, who presides over the the nation’s electoral authority, said police check points merely delayed voters from reaching polls. He ordered the immediate suspension of all highway police operations.Bolsonaro lost the race by a thin margin, garnering 49.1% of the vote to da Silva’s 50.9%. It was the tightest presidential race since Brazil’s return to democracy over three decades ago. Much like former U.S. President Donald Trump, whom Bolsonaro openly admires, the far-right incumbent repeatedly questioned the reliability of the country’s electoral system, claiming electronic voting machines are prone to fraud. He never provided any proof, even when ordered to do so by the electoral court.Dozens of journalists from both national and international media remained camped outside the presidential residence in the capital, Brasilia, awaiting any sign that Bolsonaro might speak about the election or the highway blockades.

Israelis vote again, as political crisis grinds on

JERUSALEM — For the fifth time since 2019, Israelis were voting in national elections on Tuesday, hoping to break the political deadlock that has paralyzed the country for the past three and a half years. Although the cost of living is surging, Israeli-Palestinian tensions are boiling over and Iran remains a central threat, the foremost issue in the vote once again is former leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his fitness to serve amid corruption charges. His main rival is the man who helped oust him last year, the centrist caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid.“These elections are (a choice) between the future and the past. So go out and vote today for our children’s future, for our country’s future,” Lapid said after voting in the upscale Tel Aviv neighborhood where he lives.Polls have predicted a similar result: stalemate. But a powerful new player is threatening to shake things up. Itamar Ben-Gvir, a leading far-right politician, has surged in opinion polls recently and will be seeking a harder line against the Palestinians if he helps propel Netanyahu to victory.After he cast his vote in the West Bank settlement where he lives, Ben-Gvir promised that a vote for his party would bring about a “fully right-wing government” with Netanyahu as prime minister.With former allies and proteges refusing to sit under him while he is on trial, Netanyahu has been unable to form a viable majority government in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament. “I’m a little worried,” Netanyahu said after casting his ballot. “I hope we end the day with a smile.” Netanyahu’s opponents, an ideologically diverse constellation of parties, are equally hamstrung in cobbling together the 61 seats needed to rule. That impasse has mired Israel in an unprecedented political crisis that has eroded Israelis’ faith in their democracy, its institutions and their political leaders.“People are tired of instability, of the fact that the government is not delivering the goods,” said Yohanan Plesner, a former legislator who now heads the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank. Buoyed by his followers’ almost cult-like adoration, Netanyahu, 73, has rejected calls to step down by his opponents, who say someone on trial for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes cannot govern. Netanyahu denies wrongdoing, but embarrassing details from his ongoing trial repeatedly make front page news.In Israel’s fragmented politics, no single party has ever won a parliamentary majority, and coalition-building is necessary to govern. Netanyahu’s most likely path to the premiership requires an alliance with extremist ultra-nationalists and religious ultra-Orthodox parties.These parties would demand key portfolios in a Netanyahu government, and some have promised to enact reforms that could make Netanyahu’s legal woes disappear.The ultranationalist Religious Zionism party, whose provocative top candidate Ben-Gvir wants to deport Arab legislators and is a disciple of a racist rabbi who was assassinated in 1990, has promised to support legislation that would alter the legal code, weaken the judiciary and could help Netanyahu evade a conviction. Ben-Gvir, promising a tougher line against Palestinian attackers, this week announced he would seek the Cabinet post overseeing the police force.Critics have sounded the alarm over what they see is a destructive threat to Israel’s democracy.“If Netanyahu is triumphant,” wrote columnist Sima Kadmon in the Yediot Ahronot daily, “these will be the final days of the state of Israel as we have known it for 75 years.”Netanyahu’s Likud party has tried to tamp down worries, saying any changes to the legal code won’t apply to Netanyahu’s case and that the extremist elements of his potential coalition will be reined in. Netanyahu, currently opposition leader, paints himself as the consummate statesman and only leader capable of steering the country through its myriad challenges. Polls say the race is too close to predict.Netanyahu was ousted last year after 12 years in power by the diverse coalition forged by Lapid, Netanyahu’s main challenger. The coalition, made up of nationalists who oppose Palestinian statehood, dovish parties that seek a peace agreement, as well as for the first time in the country’s history, a small Arab Islamist party, united over their distaste for Netanyahu but collapsed this spring because of infighting.The centrist Lapid, a former author and broadcaster who became premier as part of a power-sharing agreement, has portrayed himself as an honest and scandal-free change from the polarizing Netanyahu.In his short term as caretaker leader, Lapid welcomed President Joe Biden on a successful visit to Israel, led the country in a brief military operation against Gaza militants and signed a diplomatic agreement with Lebanon setting a maritime boundary between the enemy nations.Still, Lapid’s chances to return to leadership are shaky. He is relying on voters from Israel’s Palestinian minority, who make up one fifth of the population. Their turnout is predicted to reach historic lows, but if they unexpectedly do come out to vote, that could slash the Netanyahu camp’s numbers.After the votes are tallied, the parties have nearly three months to form a government. If they can’t, Israel will head to yet another election.“I hope this time it will be final,” said Avi Shlush, a voter in Tel Aviv. “But it will not be final. We are heading to another election.”