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Overloaded bus plunges into gorge, kills at least 48 people

Officials on Sunday said at least 48 people were killed when an overloaded bus plunged off a mountain road into a narrow valley in northern India. Authorities said the 28-seat bus was carrying about 60 people.

 

Trivendra Rawat, the chief Minister of Uttarakhand, said the bus fell into a 700-foot-deep gorge in the Himalayan foothills. He added that about a dozen other people were injured and hospitalized, while at least seven of the injured were in critical condition. “People were packed like sardines” said another police officer Jagat Ram Joshi.

 

Police official Manoj Kumar said rescuers recovered 48 bodies from the accident site.

 

Senior police official Sanjay Gunjiyal said, earlier, rescue and retrieval work was hampered by bad weather.

 

It was not clear what caused the crash, however Gunjiyal said bad weather could have caused the bus to skid off the road.

 

Mr. Gunjiyal added ‘’ it is raining (in the area) since morning. Two days back there was a landslide in that area ‘’, he said, adding that resident were the first to reach the site and help the victims.

Gunjiya said the terrain was inhospitable and communications were poor.

India has the world’s deadliest roads, with more than 110,000 people killed annually. Most crashes are blamed on reckless driving, poorly maintained roads and aging vehicles.

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Dozens of illegal immigrants abandoned by smugglers in the Arizona desert

Almost five dozen illegal immigrants who traveled from Central America to the U.S. were reportedly rescued by Border Patrol agents last week after their smugglers allegedly abandoned them during a heatwave in the Arizona desert, west of Lukeville, which also has a Port of Entry.

In a news release, agents from the Tuscon Sector of the U.S.-Mexico border said they responded to a call from someone within the group who called Mexican authorities for help.

The caller said the group of 57 people had crossed the border illegally and needed help.

Rescue agents who responded to the distress call said they found 21 adults and 36 minors, 17 of whom were unaccompanied in the area with a 108 degrees temperature.

Most of the illegal immigrants appeared to be dehydrated, while only one person needed further medical assistance.

All of them were given food and water and brought to the Ajo Station for processing. The pregnant woman who was part of the group was given intravenous fluids and taken to a hospital for treatment.

“Regardless of the unscrupulous and ill regard for human life attitude by smugglers, Border Patrol Agents work tirelessly to ensure not only the safety and security of our nation but also the safety of those who they come in contact with,” the agency said.

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Geert Wilders finally cancel Prophet Muhammad cartoon competition

Prophet Muhammad’s cartoon contest that sparked protests in Pakistan has finally been canceled. The contest, which was planned for November was organized by Geert Wilders, an anti-Islam opposition leader in the Netherlands, was canceled after it sparked protests in Pakistan.

The far-right politician who is known for his incendiary speeches and protests against immigration and Islam said Thursday that he canceled the program because he did not want to endanger others by the contest.

“To avoid the risk of victims of Islamic violence, I have decided not to let the cartoon contest go ahead,” he said in a written statement, claiming to have received death threats.

The event sparked angry protests in Pakistan and a death threat this week from a 26-year-old man, reportedly a Pakistani, who was arrested on Tuesday in The Hague.

Earlier on Thursday, a Dutch judge extended by two weeks the detention of the man who allegedly threatened to attack Wilders.

Prosecutors in a statement said that an investigating judge ordered the suspect held while he is investigated on charges of making a threat, making preparations for a murder and incitement.

However, Stijn van Kessel, a political scientist at Queen Mary University of London, told Al Jazeera that the competition was a publicity stunt by Wilders to get media attention in the face of waning public support.

 

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Protesters in Pakistan begins march against Muhammad cartoon contest in Netherlands: reports

Thousands of Islamists protesters stormed the street of Pakistan to demand Imran Khan’s new government to sever ties with the Netherlands over a “blasphemous” cartoon competition.

The march, which was organized by Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP), a political party established to punish blasphemers, presents the first major test of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) administration. Last year, a similar protest by the TLP shutdown the capital city Islamabad, for almost a month.

In June, Geert Wilders, the anti-Islam MP and the second largest party in Netherlands was found guilty of inciting hatred, after the party invited submission of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, which Islam forbids. The competition, which begins in November, will see the winner going home with $10,000 (£7,700). The competition has registered 200 entries so far.

“We can be martyred or arrested,” said one of the TLP’s leaders, Peer Afzal Qadri, “but we will not return until either the cartoon contest is stopped or the Dutch envoy is expelled.”

On Wednesday, thousands of activists came out from the eastern city of Lahore for Islamabad, where they plan to stage a sit-in.

Khadim Rizvi, the cleric who founded the TLP, said condemnation of the contest by the Pakistani government was not enough and “only jihad” was the solution.

In another instance before the country’s general elections, Rizvi said if he had the power, he would order a nuclear strike against the Netherlands if its government allowed the competition to go ahead.

Also, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, has termed the completion “disrespectful” but defended the right to hold it on the grounds of freedom of expression.

 

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Cambodia court jails Australian filmmaker 6 years for espionage

An Australian filmmaker working in Cambodia has been sentenced to six years in prison after he was convicted of espionage.

After a six-day trial, a Cambodian judge Seng Leang on Friday found James Ricketson guilty on two charges of espionage.

“We have decided to convict [him] to six years in prison for espionage and collecting harmful information that could affect national defence,” he said.

The prosecution had accused Ricketson of working as a filmmaker in Cambodia for years, while in actuality he is a spy.

“Unbelievable. Which country am I spying for?” Ricketson asked out loud in court.

Ricketson has been held in jail since he was arrested in June last year after he flew a drone over a rally held by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), which was disbanded months later.

Speaking to reporters after the verdict, Ricketson’s lawyer Kong Sam Onn told reporters that he plans to request a royal pardon from the Cambodian king.

The family of the 69-year-old filmmaker hopes he will be released soon.

“This is absolutely devastating for James and for us, and for his family, and his friends, and everyone. It’s been such a long hard process and to get this result is just devastating. I don’t know … we need some time to get our thoughts together and work out what to do next. Obviously we won’t be giving up,” said his son Jesse.

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Death toll in Italy bridge collapse reaches 39: reports

The Italian port city of Genoa on Wednesday began a two official days of mourning amid an urgent search for survivors of a catastrophic bridge collapse that claimed at least 39 lives, including three children, authorities said.

“It continues to be a rescue operation until they have searched all the rubble,” Italian fire official Emanuelle Gissi told ABC News. “They finished one side of the river bank and moved to the other side.”

Some 400 rescue workers remain at the scene, working in a dangerous environment as they work to find more survivors, Gissi said. Buildings under the bridge were damaged in the collapse and there is a great concern that the rest of the bridge could fall, he added.

Investigators are trying to establish the cause of the collapse. Fifteen people were also injured, authorities said.

The incident, which happened Tuesday, saw dozens of cars and trucks fell about 150 feet to the ground on Gebona’s Morandi Bridge, just one day before Italy’s major summer holiday.

Meanwhile, Italian transport minister Danilo Toninelli on Wednesday called on the top management of Autostrade, the company operating the bridge to resign. The Italian government is also in the process of revoking Autostrade’s concession to manage the motorway that included the Morandi Bridge and is considering handing out fines to the company, Toninelli said in a Facebook post.

However, Autostrade in a statement said it had done regular checks on the bridge in accordance to the law.

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Pope Francis warns parent not to condemn gay children: reports

Pope Francis has urged parents of gay children not to condemn them ignore their orientation or chase them out of the house. Rather he said they should pray, talk, and try to understand them.
After closing out a Catholic family rally in Ireland, Pope Francis told reporters that “there have always been gay people and people with homosexual tendencies.”
Reporters also asked him what he would tell a father of a child who just came out as gay. The pope suggested he would first suggest prayer.
“Don’t condemn. Dialogue. Understand, give the child space so he or she can express themselves.”
The Pope added that it might be necessary to seek psychiatric help should a child begins to exhibit “worrisome” traits, but it is another case entirely if an adult comes out as gay.
He also urged parents not to respond with silence. “Ignoring child with this tendency shows a lack of motherhood and fatherhood.”
He said: “This child has the right to a family. And the family not throwing him out.”
Presently, the Catholic Church is facing one of the biggest and serious sexual abuse scandals of the 21st century.
Last weekend, a former Vatican official, ex-papal nuncio Carlo Maria Vigano, published an incendiary open letter, where he called on Francis to resign for willfully turning a blind eye to ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s decades of sexual abuse and harassment against junior seminarians under his authority.

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Dome Karukoski is set to direct his first movie in the United States

40-year-old Karukoski is the brains behind the recently released Tom of Finland film. He has also directed some modern domestic classics.

A US online website released the news.

Karukoski says he would have preferred the announcement to remain secret, but the film’s US production company, PalmStar, wanted to quash online speculation surrounding the choice of director.

A script by writer Matt Harris entitled The Starling will be used to produce the movie.  The director terms the film as a ‘comedy about sorrow.’

“It’s one of the best scripts I have read in years,” Karukoski says.

Superstar Keanu Reeves and Australian comedy actress Isla Fisher are pegged to headline the flick.

According to Karukoski, the two actors seem invested in the project, but contract talks are ongoing.

“Agents negotiate with agents in Hollywood,” said Karukoski, likening such talks to buying a house.

Karukoski has been invited to Hollywood before. International interest in him spiked after his 2013 film, Heart of a Lion. The movie was about a neo-Nazi who changes his ways for the sake of a biracial child.

The director has however declined all offers, until now.

Karukoski has been on record saying that he does want to be a wheel in a huge Hollywood machine, doing nothing more than yell ‘action’ and ‘cut.’ He wants to have complete control, and PalmStar came closest to agreeing to his terms, giving him a say in the casting.

Karukoski is currently marketing his newest film, Tom of Finland.

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Toronto City Council votes to ban sales of handguns: reports

The Toronto City Council has voted has voted in support of the Canada’s federal and provincial government to the ban and sale of handguns ammunition in the largest city in the country. The council voted 41-4 just two days after a man shot two people death and wounded 13 others in the city.

The council members discussed gun violence, its causes, its effects and potential solutions during a meeting that began Tuesday morning and lasted into the evening.

Canada’s public safety minister says Ottawa had already been considering tightening handgun laws even before Sunday’s shooting.

Officials says it unclear how the shooter obtained his weapon, and they have are yet to determine a motive for why 29-year-old Faisal Hussain fired a handgun into crowds in Toronto’s popular Greektown neighborhood, killing a 10-year-old girl and her 18-year-old sister.

Canadian investigators say there was no national security risk following the mass shooting. However, investigation for clues to what prompted the deadly rampage is still ongoing.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Tuesday: “At this stage, based on the state of the investigation, which is led by the Toronto police service, there is no connection between that individual and national security.”

The assailant died after an exchange of gunfire with police. His family has said he suffered from lifelong “severe mental health challenges” and never imagined him doing such a thing. It was not immediately clear whether he took his own life or was killed by police during the attack.

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Pope Francis accepts Archbishop Philip Wilson resignation after sex abuse cover-up

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Australian Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, who was convicted of covering up sex abuse. The archbishop is the highest-ranking Catholic official ever to be convicted in history.

The Vatican made the announcement in a statement sent to CNN on Monday.

Wilson, 67, in May was found guilty of concealing the abuse of altar boys in the 1970s by pedophile priest James Fletcher.

Last week, Wilson said he intended to appeal the ruling under the “due process of law.”

“Since that process is not yet complete, I do not intend to resign at this time. However, if I am unsuccessful in my appeal, I will immediately offer me resignation to the Holy See,” he said.

Wilson who was spared prison earlier in July was in return sentenced to six months’ home detention in Australia because of his poor health and advanced age.

Another hearing is scheduled for August 14 to determine whether home detention is appropriate for Wilson and where he could stay, with his sister’s house raised an option.

The ruling against Wilson has a landmark significance that could have far-reaching implications for other clergy members as the child sexual abuse scandal continues to rock the Catholic Church globally.

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of another senior Church official, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, after a decades-old allegation of sexual abuse of a teenage altar boy forced the Vatican to remove him from public ministry.