South Sudan plane crash kills all 10 on board

The authorities in South Sudan have confirmed that a small plane crashed on Tuesday evening in the eastern Jonglei State, killing all the 10 people on board.

The plane crashed at Pieri airstrip shortly after takeoff while heading to the capital, Juba.

A team of investigators will on Wednesday be sent to the site of the crash to conduct preliminary investigations, according to Transport Minister Madut Biar Yel.

The plane belonged to a local aviation company, the South Supreme Airlines. The firm has not yet issued a statement on the crash.

Jonglei State Governor Denay Jock Chagor said he received the news with “shock and horror” and sent condolences to the families and friends of the deceased.

South Sudan’s air safety profile is not yet rated by the International Aviation Safety Assessment Programme. 

But the database on Aviation Safety Network (ASN) shows that at least 10 planes crashed in different locations in South Sudan between 2018 and 2020, which caused about 30 fatalities.

By: Nichola Mandil, BBC News, Juba

Hannu Mikkola: Finnish rallying great dies aged 78

Hannu Mikkola, nicknamed ‘The Flying Finn’, won 18 world championship races

Hannu Mikkola

Finland’s rallying great Hannu Mikkola has died at the age of 78.

He won the world title in 1983 at the wheel of an Audi Quattro and was runner-up in the championship three times.

Mikkola also claimed his home 1,000 Lakes event on a record seven occasions.

“We lost my father Hannu to cancer this weekend. Most knew him as a rallying great who ushered in the golden years of the sport,” said his son Vesa.

The 2003 world champion Petter Solberg was among those to pay tribute.

“Really sad to hear the news about Hannu Mikkola – he was a legend, a proper gentleman, a real champion, and a great father to great kids. Sending all my condolences to his family and friends. RIP,” he said on Twitter.

Daniel Prude: No charges for US officers over ‘spit-hood’ death

New York police officers filmed restraining an unarmed black man until he stopped breathing will not be charged over his death, officials say.

Daniel Prude, who had mental health issues, died in Rochester city after officers put him in “spit hood” designed to protect police.

The death in March last year led to days of protests against police.

On Tuesday, New York’s attorney general said a grand jury had declined to indict any officers in the case.

“I know that the Prude family, the Rochester community and communities across the country will rightfully be disappointed by this outcome,” Letitia James said at a news conference.

“My office presented an extensive case, and we sought a different outcome than the one the grand jury handed us today.”

A grand jury is set up by a prosecutor to determine whether there is enough evidence to pursue a prosecution. In legal terms, it determines whether probable cause exists to believe a crime has been committed.

Ms James expressed disappointment with the grand jury’s verdict, alluding to other cases in which officers had not been held accountable for “the unjustified killing of unarmed African Americans”.

Mr Prude’s death was one of the key events in months of unrest over racial injustice in the US last year.

Source: BBC

Covid: US on verge of exceeding 500,000 deaths

The US is on track to top 500,000 deaths from Covid-19 – the most for any country in the world – on Monday.

It comes just over a year after the first infection of the novel coronavirus, first detected in China, was recorded on the US west coast.

The grim milestone will be marked by a candle-lighting ceremony and moment of silence at the White House. President Joe Biden will also deliver remarks.

More than 28.1 million Americans have been infected – another global record.

The number of Americans who have had the coronavirus is nearly double that of second-highest India (11 million) and Brazil (10.1 million). Brazil has recorded the second-largest death toll at 244,000 while Mexico is in third with 178,000.

“People decades from now are going to be talking about this as a terribly historic milestone in the history of this country, to have these many people to have died from a respiratory-borne infection,” the nation’s top immunologist, Dr Anthony Fauci, told CNN on Sunday.

At least 90,000 more Americans are expected to be killed by 1 June, according to a recent projection from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

The IHME estimates that by late May, the virus will kill around 500 Americans per day – down from approximately 2,000 daily deaths now.

Hospital admission rates have fallen for 40 straight days, as approximately 1.6 million vaccinations are administered to Americans daily.

How is the US death toll being marked?

At the White House, President Biden will be accompanied by his wife Jill, as well as Vice-president Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff.

They will gather at the building’s South Portico for a candle-lighting ceremony, which will take place just after sunset. Mr Biden will also deliver remarks and a moment of silence will be held for the victims of the pandemic.

Mr Biden’s approach to the pandemic is different to his predecessor Donald Trump, who cast doubt on the impact of the deadly virus and was viewed as having politicised the wearing of masks and other measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

On 19 January, one day before Mr Biden took office, he held an event to mark 400,000 Americans dying of the disease.

“To heal, we must remember, and it’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal,” he said from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.

“Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights in the darkness along the sacred pool of reflection, and remember all whom we lost,” he said less than one month ago.

Source: BBC

Wall Street Charging Bull sculptor Arturo Di Modica ‘dies aged 80’

The sculptor behind Wall Street’s famous Charging Bull statue has died aged 80, reports say.

"Charging Bull" statue artist Arturo Di Modica speaks at a press conference addressing legal rights over the "Fearless Girl" installation on Wall Street on April 12, 2017 in New York City.
image captionArturo Di Modica originally installed the bull in New York in 1989

Friends of Arturo Di Modica told Italian media that the sculptor died in his home town of Vittoria, Sicily. He had been fighting cancer for many years, La Repubblica reported.

The bull was originally installed in New York in 1989 without permission.

It was designed to represent the “strength and power of the American people” after the 1987 market crash.

Police seized the 7,100 pound (3,200 kg) bronze statue from its position outside the New York Stock Exchange. But following a public outcry, city officials allowed it to be reinstalled days later in the heart of Manhattan’s financial district.

It has gone on to become one of the most recognisable images of New York, and a major tourist attraction. 

The Charging Bull or Wall Street Bull is pictured in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 16, 2019.

In recent years, Di Modica opposed the temporary installation of another now famous statue, called Fearless Girl, opposite the bull. 

Di Modica complained at the time that his bull was meant to embody “strength, power and love”, and that having Fearless Girl – designed to call attention to gender inequality and the pay gap in the corporate world – face off against it turned its message into something negative.

Other notable works by Di Modica include marble pieces exhibited at the Rockefeller Center, works in bronze at Castle Clinton National Monument, and a bronze horse exhibited in the Lincoln Center, his biography on chargingbull.com says.

Myanmar coup: Woman shot during anti-coup protests dies

A 20-year-old woman has become the first protester to die in the anti-coup demonstrations in Myanmar after she was shot in the head.

Flowers lay over the image of Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing
image captionMya Thwe Thwe Khaing had just turned 20

Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing was injured last week when police tried to disperse protesters using water cannon, rubber bullets and live rounds. 

Her wound was consistent with one from live ammunition, rights groups said.

Myanmar has seen days of protests following a coup which overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government.

The hospital in the capital Nay Pyi Taw confirmed her death at 11:00 local time (04:30 GMT). A funeral service will be held on Sunday, her family said.

“We will look for justice and move forward,” a doctor told AFP news agency, adding that staff had faced immense pressure since she was taken to their intensive care unit. 

Authorities said they would investigate the case.

Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing, who turned 20 after she was shot, had been on life support since she was taken to hospital on 9 February.

She had taken part in a protest in the south-east Asian nation which saw police use water cannon against protesters who refused to retreat. 

According to BBC Burmese, who spoke to an unnamed medical officer shortly after she was brought to the hospital, she suffered a serious head injury. 

Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing’s family are all supporters of Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD). Her brother said she voted for the first time in last November’s general election, which the NLD won by a landslide. 

“I want to encourage all the citizens to join the protests until we can get rid of this system,” her sister, Mya Tha Toe Nwe, told reporters shortly after the death was announced on Friday. “That’s all I want to say.”

Why are people protesting in Myanmar?

Myanmar is in a year-long state of emergency after the military seized power. They claim the November election results were fraudulent but have not provided any evidence of that, and demand a rerun of the vote.

Power has been handed to Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing. Ms Suu Kyi is under house arrest, accused of possessing illegal walkie-talkies and violating the country’s Natural Disaster Law.

Protesters are calling for her release, along with the release of other NLD members. The country is now seeing some of the largest demonstrations since the so-called Saffron Revolution in 2007.

Clashes have taken place between security officers and protesters, and the military has also blocked the internet in a bid to stifle dissent.

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Myanmar – the basics

  • Myanmar, also known as Burma, was long considered a pariah state while under the rule of an oppressive military junta from 1962 to 2011
  • A gradual liberalisation began in 2010, leading to free elections in 2015 and the installation of a government led by veteran opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi the following year
  • In 2017, Myanmar’s army responded to attacks on police by Rohingya militants with a deadly crackdown, driving more than half a million Rohingya Muslims across the border into Bangladesh in what the UN later called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”
  • Aung San Suu Kyi and her government were overthrown in an army coup on 1 February
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What’s the latest on the ground?

Thousands of people gathered in the largest city, Yangon, on Friday for further demonstrations. Many wore uniforms to demonstrate that they were boycotting work.

“Don’t go to the office!” they chanted, according to AFP. “Go strike! Go strike!”

The mass protest marked two straight weeks of unrest in the country, but police have ramped up efforts to block the demonstrations.

Officers sealed off Yangon’s main protest site on Friday, and set-up barricades at an intersection where a major protest was held the previous day.

But hundreds of people gathered at the barricades anyway, a witness told Reuters.

Elsewhere, video footage posted on social media showed clashes between police and protesters in Myitkyina in northern Kachin state.

Map with Mandalay

Rush Limbaugh, US conservative icon, dies aged 70

Rush Limbaugh, the controversial US radio personality and political commentator, has died aged 70. 

His wife Kathryn Adams announced his death on his radio show on Wednesday. He had been suffering from lung cancer. 

Best known as the host of the long-running talk radio programme The Rush Limbaugh Show, he was a towering figure in the conservative movement for years. 

Three presidents appeared on his show, and he received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2020.

But he was as controversial as he was influential, voicing racist, sexist and homophobic views throughout his career.

The climate change denier peddled numerous conspiracy theories on the air, staunchly opposed immigration, and was a hard-line advocate for US exceptionalism. He was also a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump.

Born in Missouri on 12 January 1951, Limbaugh first began working in radio at his local station when he was in high school. After graduating in 1969, he started at Southeast Missouri State University but dropped out after two semesters and took his first job at a music radio station in Pennsylvania.

Limbaugh initially struggled to succeed in broadcasting. He was fired from his first two jobs and moved back in with his parents in Missouri. He became the host of a public affairs talk show in Kansas City, but again lost his position. 

Rush Limbaugh presenting his radio show in 1995
image captionThe Rush Limbaugh Show has been on the air since the 1980s

In 1979, he began working for the Kansas City Royals baseball team. During this time he took trips to Europe and Asia, experiences Limbaugh later said reinforced his belief in US exceptionalism.

“I go to Europe and say, ‘Wait a minute. Why is this bedroom so damned old-fashion and doesn’t work? What the hell is this? They call this a toilet?’ So I started asking myself: ‘How is it that we, who have only been around 200 years, are light-years ahead of people that have been alive a thousand?'” he told his listeners in 2013.

Limbaugh returned to radio in 1983, launching The Rush Limbaugh Show the following year at California’s KFBK radio station.

But the outspoken conservative only began to find widespread success after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed its fairness doctrine in 1987 – a regulation requiring US broadcasters to present both sides of a controversial opinion. As the Wall Street Journal put it in 2005, this decision led to “hyper-articulate conservative hosts opening their microphones to millions of hyper-angry conservative voters”.

In 1988 the show became nationally syndicated, broadcast live on hundreds of radio stations around the country. By 2020, it attracted around 27 million listeners each week. 

The programme and its host developed huge influence in the Republican Party and the US conservative movement. 

President George HW Bush appeared on the programme during his re-election campaign in 1992, while his son George W Bush appeared six times – before, during and after his time in office. President Donald Trump also came on the show in January 2020, when Limbaugh – an ardent advocate of US interventions abroad – praised him for ordering a US drone strike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

Rush Limbaugh with President Donald Trump
image captionRush Limbaugh was a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump

Limbaugh’s controversial views frequently caused outrage. 

He drew strong criticism for his use of racial stereotypes on his show, including once claiming that all newspaper composite images of wanted criminals looked like civil rights activist Rev Jesse Jackson. 

He declared his opposition to LGBT rights, and made derogatory remarks about victims of the HIV/Aids epidemic.

He dismissed sexual consent and disparaged advocates of women’s rights. “Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women access to the mainstream of society,” he once wrote, frequently dismissing women as “femi-Nazis”. 

And he voiced a number of lies and fringe theories to his listeners, claiming that President Barack Obama was not born in the US, denying the existence of man-made climate change, accusing environmentalists of deliberately causing the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, and arguing that the dangers of smoking had been exaggerated while the benefits dismissed. “I would like a medal for smoking cigars, is what I’m saying,” he told listeners in 2015.

Rush Limbaugh at a rally in 2018
image captionHe was a hugely influential figure on the right in the US

In February 2020 he claimed the coronavirus was “the common cold” and said it was being “weaponised as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump”. 

Mr Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2020. The president said the highest civilian honour in the US was to recognise Limbaugh’s “decades of tireless devotion to our country” and his millions of daily listeners “that you speak to and inspire”. 

It came just the day after Limbaugh announced that he had advanced lung cancer.

In October he told his audience that the illness had progressed in “the wrong direction”. 

“I never thought I would see 1 October,” he said. 

Limbaugh married four times and divorced three times but never had any children. He leaves behind his wife Kathryn Rogers.

Source: BBC

Covid: US congressman Ron Wright dies with coronavirus, aged 67

US Republican congressman Ron Wright has died aged 67 after testing positive for Covid-19 last month, officials say.

The Texas lawmaker “passed away peacefully” with his wife Susan by his side on Sunday, his office said.

The couple had both been infected with the virus and were receiving treatment at Baylor Hospital in Dallas.

Mr Wright, who had also been battling cancer in recent years, is the first sitting member of Congress to die with the coronavirus.

On 21 January, he released a statement announcing that he had tested positive for Covid-19.

“I am experiencing minor symptoms, but overall, I feel okay and will continue working for the people of the 6th [Congressional district] from home,” his statement said. 

Mr Wright was elected to the House of Representatives in 2018.

Announcing his death on Monday, his office said that he would be “remembered as a constitutional conservative” who was “a statesman, not an ideologue”.

“Despite years of painful, sometimes debilitating treatment for cancer, Ron never lacked the desire to get up and go to work, to motivate those around him, or to offer fatherly advice,” it added.

The office provided no further details.

Several members of Congress, from both the House of Representatives and the Senate, have tested positive for Covid-19 over the past year.

In December, 41-year-old Congressman-elect Luke Letlow died due to complications from the coronavirus, just days before he was due to be sworn in.

The US is by far the world’s worst-hit nation, with more than 463,000 coronavirus-related deaths and over 27 million cases since the start of the pandemic.

The average number of daily infections in the US, however, has been gradually falling since early January.

George Shultz: US secretary of state who helped end Cold War dies

George Shultz, a former US secretary of state who significantly shaped foreign policy in the late 20th Century, has died at the age of 100.

He died on Saturday at his home in Stanford, California, the Hoover Institution think tank said.

He served three Republican presidents – Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan – in various roles.

Under Mr Reagan, Mr Schultz spent much of the 1980s trying to improve relations with the Soviet Union.

The Hoover Institution, where Mr Schultz worked as a distinguished fellow, said the statesman had been instrumental “in changing the direction of history by using the tools of diplomacy to bring the Cold War to an end”.

Hoover Institution Director Condoleezza Rice – a former secretary of state herself – said: “Our colleague was a great American statesman and a true patriot in every sense of the word.”

“He will be remembered in history as a man who made the world a better place.”

US Secretary of State George Shultz watches as US President Ronald Reagan speak on the phone
image captionMr Shultz held various positions in the governments of presidents Nixon and Reagan

Who was George Shultz?

Born in New York City in 1920, Mr Shultz studied economics before serving in the US Marine Corps during World War II.

In the 1950s he held senior academic posts and worked in the Eisenhower administration as economic adviser. When Republicans returned to the White House with Richard Nixon in 1969, Mr Shultz was appointed secretary of labor.

He later became Mr Nixon’s secretary of the treasury and chairman of the Council on Economic Policy. 

In 1982, Ronald Reagan made Mr Shultz his secretary of state. In the Reagan White House, notorious for infighting, Mr Shultz was one of the least controversial figures, cultivating ties with allies and enemies.

In the second half of the 1980s, Mr Shultz courted then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to try to ease Cold War tensions.

By 1987 Mr Reagan and Mr Gorbachev signed a landmark arms control agreement, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. A few years later, the Soviet Union collapsed.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev meets with American Secretary of State George Schultz in Moscow
image captionMr Schultz reached out to Mr Gorbachev at a time when US-Soviet relations were sour

Mr Schultz also was involved in talks with Iran in the 1980s. In an interview with the BBC in 2013, the diplomat suggested Iran was “a tough customer” to deal with.

The Iranians are good at “smiling, encouraging you on and then cutting your throat”, he said.

Last December Mr Shultz celebrated his 100th birthday.

In an opinion piece for the Washington Post to mark the occasion, Mr Shultz reflected on the lessons he had learned over his life in politics.

“Trust is the coin of the realm,” he wrote. “When trust was in the room, whatever room that was – the family room, the schoolroom, the locker room, the office room, the government room or the military room – good things happened. When trust was not in the room, good things did not happen.”

Utah avalanche: Four skiers killed after snowslide near Salt Lake City

Four skiers have been killed following an avalanche at a popular recreation area in the US state of Utah, officials say.

A further four people were injured in the incident, which happened on Saturday at Millcreek Canyon near Salt Lake City.

All of the eight caught in the avalanche knew one another and were aged between 23 and 38.

It is the joint deadliest avalanche in the history of the state.

The deadly avalanche was triggered accidentally by the skiers, according to the Utah Avalanche Center. The weight of a skier can cause an unstable layer of snow to slide.

The organisation had earlier tweeted to say there were “dangerous avalanche conditions” in the region.

There had been a smaller landslip nearby a day earlier but no-one was injured.

All eight skiers had been carrying safety gear such as avalanche beacons, which submit a radio signal to help rescuers locate those buried under the snow.

The survivors managed to dig themselves out of the avalanche and call the emergency services.

Rescuers were dispatched to the area and are working to recover the bodies. Video footage showed emergency workers being lowered on to the side of the canyon by helicopter.

“This is a terrible tragedy and our prayers go out to the victims and families involved,” Utah Governor Spencer Cox said.

“We are grateful to the first responders and others who engaged in this rescue and recovery effort,” he added. “With avalanche danger high right now, please exercise extreme caution.”