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Taliban put alleged kidnappers’ bodies on display

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A journalist in the city told CNN that a group of four men kidnapped a merchant with his son in Herat province a few days ago.

The Taliban freed the merchant and his son and killed the kidnappers. The bodies of the kidnappers were then hanged in four different locations of Herat city on Saturday, the journalist and one other source said.

The Deputy Governor of Herat, Shir Ahmed Ummar Muhajir, also told a local journalist: “Four people were killed and one armed member of the Islamic Emirate was wounded in a clash in the 14th district of Herat.”

Video and images from Herat show one man hanged from a crane in a central square. A witness told CNN a crowd gathered to view the body.

A student and activist in the city told CNN the men “were shot during the operation and then were hanged for people to take a lesson.”

There has been no comment from the Taliban.

Earlier this month the bodies of four alleged kidnappers were dumped in a central square in Mazar-i-Sharif. They were reported to have been killed in a shoot-out with the Taliban after abducting several children.

The events follow recent reports of harsh crackdowns by the Taliban across Afghanistan that have come since they seized power of the nation in August.

While the militant group have said that their rule would be milder than it was during their previous time in government, there have been numerous reports since then that have pointed to severe violence inflicted on Afghans by the Taliban. These include the detention and assault of journalists, the use of whips against women taking part in protests and the use of gunfire and beatings to crush dissent at Kabul’s largest demonstration against Taliban rule so far.
Angry and afraid, Afghanistan's LGBTQ community say they're being hunted down after Taliban takeover
The public display of the alleged kidnappers’ bodies in Herat is further evidence of the Taliban’s increasingly hardline governance and the news comes in the same week that the future of democracy — and the rights of women and girls — under the Taliban has served as a key talking point among world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
The Taliban requested representation at the General Assembly, as they instructed the UN on Monday to replace Ghulam Isaczai — an appointee of Afghanistan’s former democratic government — with their own representative. A diplomatic battle has since ensued over who represents the country at the UN.

Meanwhile, the Taliban have also recently denied claims that Afghan girls and women will be banned from secondary education — but the militant group have not yet said when they will be allowed to return to school, despite calling on boys to resume education.


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Exit polls show close race to succeed Angela Merkel

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BERLIN — The first exit poll from Sunday’s German elections showed the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) in a dead heat at 25%, leaving the race to succeed Angela Merkel too close to call.

The state of play: A second exit poll showed the SPD narrowly ahead. That’s the one televisions displayed at SPD headquarters in Berlin, where the room erupted into cheers. Official results will roll in throughout the evening.

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The big picture: Merkel’s retirement after 16 years as chancellor — the first time in the history of the Federal Republic that an incumbent did not run — left a massive vacuum at the heart of German politics, which have long been known for moderation and political stability.

  • The three candidates to succeed Merkel were all relatively unpopular, and polls leading up to election day reflected a wide-open race between the SPD and Merkel’s CDU, which has been in power since 2005.

  • The complex system of proportional representation by which voters elect members of the German Bundestag means large parties must rely on the support of smaller ones in order to form a majority government.

  • Coalition negotiations could take months, but the likeliest scenario is that either the SPD or CDU join with the center-left Greens and pro-business Free Democrats (FDP).

The exit poll, by the numbers:

Data: Forsa; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

How we got here: Cracks began to form in Merkel’s catch-all conservative party once she stepped down as chair of the CDU in December 2018, setting off a series of leadership contests that devolved into bitter public feuds.

  • The party eventually selected Armin Laschet, the head of Germany’s largest state, as its leader and 2021 chancellor candidate, despite his weak approval ratings.

  • Laschet’s repeated flubs on the campaign trail, including his inability to name his top three policy priorities during an interview, caused the CDU’s poll numbers to nosedive this spring.

  • The initial beneficiaries were the climate-focused Greens, who nominated a chancellor candidate for the first time ever after years of strong polling. But a series of errors by the 40-year-old Annalena Baerbock, including a plagiarism scandal, stalled the party’s momentum.

Flash forward: Biding their time amid the volatility were the Social Democrats, who emerged from their 2017 election post-mortem with a new strategy, according to top officials and campaign strategists:

  • Platform: The SPD focused on traditional economic issues like pension security and a €12 minimum wage, as well as climate action and an underlying campaign theme of “respect.” Top aides say Scholz chose to emphasize the importance of human dignity after studying the disaffected voters who drove the outcome of the Brexit referendum and 2016 U.S. election.

  • Unity: SPD general-secretary Lars Klingbeil and vice chairman Kevin Kühnert, who come from opposite wings of the party, both told Axios that presenting a united front has been critical to their success. Klingbeil and other top officials say the party steered clear of discussing “identity politics” during the campaign.

  • The candidate: The SPD selected Olaf Scholz, a boring but trusted figure who served as Merkel’s finance minister, months before the other parties chose their standard bearers. As it became clear that similarities to the historically popular Merkel would be a competitive advantage, the campaign closed with the simple message: Wer Scholz will, wählt SPD. “If you want Scholz, vote for the SPD.”

The SPD’s opening came in July, when Laschet was caught on camera laughing during a visit to site of devastating floods in western Germany that had killed hundreds of people.

  • The incident was raised in nearly every conversation about Laschet that Axios had with candidates, voters and campaigners in the final days of the election, and it catapulted the SPD to the top of polls for the first time in years.

  • Few CDU candidates and supporters were enthusiastic about discussing Laschet on the campaign trail, with their arguments mostly centering on the party’s record under Merkel and their desire to keep leftists out of government.

Between the lines: Merkel’s longevity was a testament to her ability to stave off a conservative civil war and push politics to the background of everyday German life.

  • “You know me,” Merkel famously said in her last campaign, as she encouraged voters to trust her to lead Germany as she had for the past 12 years.

  • Up to 80% of the electorate is made up of swing voters, according to some estimates, and yet the CDU remained the dominant force in German politics for nearly two decades thanks to its leader. Her party now looks significantly weaker without her.

Go deeper … Special report: End of Merkel era poses big questions for Europe

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Heavy rains as Cyclone Gulab makes landfall in India | Weather News

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Thousands evacuated to storm shelters in the coastal areas of southern Odisha and northern Andhra Pradesh.

A cyclone packing strong winds and rains has barrelled into India’s east coast, as tens of thousands of people in three states were evacuated to shelters.

Heavy rains and strong winds were reported along the coast on Sunday evening as the tropical storm over the Bay of Bengal began making landfall, barely four months after another cyclone hit the region, leaving destruction in its wake.

Cloud bands had touched the coastal regions of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh indicating Cyclone Gulab had begun to make landfall, the India Meteorological Department tweeted.

The storm with wind speeds up to 95km/h (59mph) was expected to cross the coasts of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh states by midnight (19:30 GMT).

The weather office said very heavy rainfall was expected.

Thousands of people have been moved to storm shelters in the coastal areas of southern Odisha and northern Andhra Pradesh, officials said. Others were advised to avoid rivers and canals and stay at home.

“People have been asked to stay alert, as the high-speed winds can uproot electricity poles, trees, hoardings and the rains can cause sudden overflows in canals and streams,” Andhra Pradesh official G Srijana said.

Odisha Special Relief Commissioner PK Jena said seven districts in the state were on high alert and evacuation efforts were under way.

In Andhra Pradesh, some 85,000 families were expected to be moved from low-lying areas to temporary relief shelters.

Rescue teams of disaster relief operations personnel had been deployed across the entire region, National Disaster Response Force chief Satya Pradhan said.

In May, more than a million people were evacuated from their homes along India’s east coast before it was battered by Cyclone Yaas with winds gusting up to 155km/h (96mph) – equivalent to a category two hurricane.

At least 20 people were killed and tens of thousands were displaced in the storm, which caused widespread damage worth more than $2bn in Odisha and West Bengal states and in neighbouring Bangladesh.

Cyclones often form over the Bay of Bengal between April and November, bringing widespread destruction and flooding to Indian coastal areas.

In Andhra Pradesh, some 85,000 families were expected to be moved from low-lying areas to temporary relief shelters [National Disaster Response/AP]




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Jonathan Mirsky, Journalist and Historian of China, Dies at 88

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Dr. Mirsky managed to dictate his article by phone. The next morning he cycled back to Tiananmen, where he saw soldiers shoot parents who were trying to enter the square to look for children who had not returned home. He said he also saw soldiers shoot doctors and nurses who had come to the scene to help the injured. (Many China scholars still regard as unresolved how many people were killed in the crackdown and where they died; estimates range from the hundreds to the thousands.)

“Tiananmen Square became a place of horror,” Dr. Mirsky wrote in his front-page article on the day of the crackdown, “where tanks and troops fought with students and workers, where armored personnel carriers burned and blood lay in pools on the stones.”

Dr. Mirsky was named international reporter of the year at the 1989 British Press Awards for his Tiananmen coverage.

Jonathan Mirsky was born on Nov. 14, 1932, in Manhattan to Alfred E. Mirsky, a prominent biochemist, and Reba Paeff Mirsky, a musician and author of children’s books. He studied at the Fieldston School in New York and received a bachelor’s degree in history from Columbia University. He studied Mandarin at the University of Cambridge and in 1958 moved with his wife, Betsy, to Taiwan, where he studied Chinese and Tang Dynasty history for four years.

Dr. Mirsky’s first marriage ended in divorce, and in 1963 he married Rhona Pearson, a British neurobiologist. After he received a Ph.D. in Chinese history from the University of Pennsylvania in 1966, he began teaching at Dartmouth College, where he was the co-director of the East Asia Language and Area Studies Center.

As a professor, Dr. Mirsky was an active participant in the anti-Vietnam War protest movement. He traveled to Southeast Asia multiple times and conducted lengthy interviews with North Vietnamese government officials. He participated in meetings and sit-ins, and he was arrested in 1972, along with other Dartmouth faculty members and students, for blocking a bus carrying draftees.

Dr. Mirsky failed to receive tenure at Dartmouth. So in 1975 he and his wife moved to London, where he eventually became a journalist. In addition to working as a China correspondent for The Observer, he wrote over the decades for a range of publications, including The Independent and Literary Review.


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