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Afghan major who helped save US pilot begs Pentagon to ‘keep their word’ to protect his family and him

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That’s because as of Monday, the US Department of Defense has ejected them from their safe hiding place on a US military base in Afghanistan, putting them at risk from the Taliban, who, Asadi says, have targeted them for killing.

Asadi is a decorated Afghan helicopter pilot credited with protecting US Air Force pilots in Afghanistan and killing more Taliban than any other pilot in the Afghan air force, according to Stars and Stripes, the US military’s independent newspaper. The Pentagon would not confirm the Stars and Stripes report on Asadi’s record.

Asadi and his family say they could now be in grave danger because of a Pentagon decision to reverse permission for them to come to the US and force them to leave the safety of the US military base in Kabul where they have been staying since October 28. There are two options awaiting him outside of US protection, Asadi told CNN in a conversation Sunday, hours before being taken off the base.

“If I am sent back to Kabul, I’m afraid I will be jailed by the Afghan government or killed by the Taliban,” Asadi said. “We are so stressed.” He and his family are now in hiding at an undisclosed location.

Asadi, 32, says the Afghan government and military he served for more than a decade will see him as a spy for the United States and that the Taliban have been looking to kill him for years because of his identity as a Taliban killer in the skies.

Asadi, Rahima and their daughter, Zainab, had been staying in a small room crammed with a bunk bed on Bagram air base, after the Department of Defense and US Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the Department of Homeland Security, approved the Asadis’ request to take refuge in America.

Asadi’s attorney Kimberley Motley says Asadi has a job offer and a place to stay already arranged in the United States. She says someone seems to be playing politics with the Asadis’ lives.

US announces further drawdown of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq before Biden takes office

“The US has an obligation under the UN convention of torture act that if there’s a substantial ground for believing that a person would be in danger of being subjected to torture, that we have an obligation as a government to not expel that person,” Motley said. “Ultimately we need to be a country of our word.”

A Pentagon spokesperson said it is aware of the situation surrounding Asadi, who is still an active-duty officer in the Afghan air force.

“There are criteria and processes to handle humanitarian parole requests by foreign nationals,” Pentagon spokesperson Army Maj. Rob Lodewick said in a statement. “After completing a full review of the request, the appropriate officials determined that DoD could not support the request. Because this remains a developing situation that involves personal matters and privacy concerns, DoD remains limited in what can be publicly disclosed.”

Asadi says he has proof that his and his family’s lives are being threatened. The threat came in the form of a letter to Asadi’s father demanding he turn his son in for killing members of the Taliban. If not, the letter said, the Taliban would seek revenge on the family.

‘Persecution’

The email was authenticated by a contractor adviser working for the US military’s Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, who wrote: “It is reasonable to infer that the applicant’s family face specific persecution from the Taliban.”

Asadi had applied to come to the US under a program known as Significant Public Benefit Parole, which offers temporary status for non-US citizens who need protection.

In an email Motley provided to CNN, the chief of the Humanitarian Affairs Branch of US Citizen and Immigration Services wrote, “USCIS confirms approval of parole on the basis of DOD evidence related to the direct threat … please issue parole document and coordinate flight processing.”

Asadi says he was filled with relief and joy on October 28 when he was told to come pick up his passport and boarding pass at the US Embassy. But a couple of hours before he was supposed to do that, he says, he was told his passport and boarding pass were not ready “due to some issues.”

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A few hours after that, Asadi says, he received a call from the Afghan government demanding that he go to an Afghan air force commander’s office to answer questions about why he was leaving the Afghan military.

“At that point I knew that he might just jail me. They look at me as a spy now because I was under the protection of the US government,” he said.

The Afghan Ministry of Defense and the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington have not yet responded to requests for comment.

Asked about the Taliban’s threats against Asadi and his worries about the Afghan government, Lodewick said in a statement that “Major Asadi is an officer in good standing with the Afghan Air Force (AAF) and with US Forces – Afghanistan.”

Lodewick said the Defense Department “continues to work with Afghan leaders to mitigate risks to pilots within the AAF. … Taliban threats to our Afghan military partners, no matter how common, are not taken lightly by DoD or the Afghan Government. Taliban violence in Afghanistan has been unacceptably high for too long and must decrease for progress towards peace, which all Afghans deserve, to continue.”

Speaking to CNN before he was forced to leave Bagram Air Base, Asadi told CNN that he was “thankful to be on this base, no matter how small our room. We are at least safe here.”

Keeping their word

As he spoke by video call, his wife sat beside him, holding their daughter tightly. Asadi said he knew he wouldn’t be safe “if they throw me out. My wife and child will have no one.” He can’t believe this is happening to him after years of working with the US against the Taliban and ISIS.

In August, he had received a letter of commendation for leading a formation in a risky last-minute mission to protect and save an American Air Force pilot whose aircraft was downed in Afghanistan’s heavily contested Baghlan province.

The letter, written by US Air Force Capt. Robert V. Yost, said Asadi was “one of our most trusted partners in the MD-530 helicopter community.” And that “Asadi’s actions were vital to the safe rescue and transport of the US pilot.”

Now Asadi says he fears for his life and his family’s lives because of the last-minute decision by the US Department of Defense.

“I am only asking them to keep their word,” Asadi said. “I am most afraid of the Taliban, but in this moment right now, I am most afraid of the Afghan government because they don’t keep their word.”

CNN’s Ryan Browne contributed to this report.

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Riot police squads intervene as pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters clash in Montreal

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People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.


People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.

  • Violence
    between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters in Montreal was condemned by
    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
  • Montreal’s
    city police force intervened and declared the protests illegal after tensions
    heightened and clashes broke out.
  • Israeli
    strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
    toll in almost a week of clashes.

Montreal
– Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday condemned the violence and
“despicable rhetoric” that marked several weekend protests throughout
the country, after clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters in
Montreal.

The
worst violence in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem, is raging between the
Jewish state and Islamist militants.

Israeli
strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of deadly clashes.

Speaking
after protests in Montreal, Trudeau condemned what he said was “despicable
rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend”.

While
insisting on the “right to assemble peacefully and express themselves
freely in Canada”, Trudeau stressed in a tweet that there was no tolerance
for “antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind”.

Earlier
on Sunday, Montreal police used tear gas following clashes between pro-Israel
and pro-Palestinian protesters.

Several
hundred demonstrators, draped in Israeli flags, had gathered in a central
Montreal square to express solidarity with the Jewish state.

‘Protesting is a right’

Although
the protest started peacefully, tensions ratcheted up with the arrival of
pro-Palestinian demonstrators and clashes soon broke out.

The
SPVM, Montreal’s city police force, declared the protests illegal, and squads
of riot police intervened, using tear gas to separate and disperse the two
groups, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.

The
police spent much of the afternoon in pursuit of the pro-Palestinian
protesters, who spread out and regrouped in commercial streets in the city centre.

Following
the clashes, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said on Twitter that
“protesting is a right”, but that “intolerance, violence and
anti-Semitism have no place here”.

She said:

Montreal is a city of peace.

Several
thousand pro-Palestinian demonstrators had gathered on Saturday in central
Montreal to denounce what they said were Israeli repression and “war
crimes” in Gaza.

“Terrorist
Israel”, some protesters chanted, while others held up a banner that read,
“Stop the genocide of Palestinian children”.

Pro-Palestinian
protests happened the same day in multiple Canadian cities, including Toronto,
Ottawa and Vancouver.


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Peter Thiel Helps Fund an App That Tells You What to Do

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“How would you feel about being able to pay to control multiple aspects of another person’s life?” asks the BBC.

“A new app is offering you the chance to do just that.”

When writer Brandon Wong recently couldn’t decide what takeaway to order one evening, he asked his followers on social media app NewNew to choose for him. Those that wanted to get involved in the 24-year-old’s dinner dilemma paid $5 (£3.50) to vote in a poll, and the majority verdict was that he should go for Korean food, so that was what he bought…

NewNew is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Courtne Smith. The app, which is still in its “beta” or pre-full release stage, describes itself as “a human stock market where you buy shares in the lives of real people, in order to control their decisions and watch the outcome”. For many of us that sounds a bit ominous, but the reality is actually far less alarming. It is aimed at what it calls “creators” — writers, painters, musicians, fashion designers, bloggers etc. It is designed as a way for them to connect far more closely with their fans or followers than on other social media services and, importantly, monetise that connection…

Whenever a vote is cast the creator gets the money minus NewNew’s undisclosed commission… In addition to voting, followers can also pay extra — from $20 — to ask a NewNew creator to do something of their choosing, such as naming a character in a book after them. But the creator can reject all of these “bids”, and if they do so then the follower doesn’t have to part with the money…

Co-founder and chief executive Ms Smith, a 33-year-old Canadian, has big plans for NewNew, and has some heavyweight backers. Investors include Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, and the first outside person to put money into Facebook. Others with a stake in the business include leading US tech investment fund Andreessen Horowitz, and Hollywood actor Will Smith (no relation to Courtne). Snapchat has also given technical support.

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Sandpapergate will haunt Australia cricket forever: ex-bowling coach

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Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Brenton Geach - Gallo Images/Getty Images)


Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Brenton Geach – Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The 2018 ball-tampering scandal will haunt Australian cricket forever, much like the infamous underarm delivery of 40 years ago, the team’s former bowling coach David Saker said on Monday.

Saker was responding to opening batsman Cameron Bancroft suggesting that Australia’s bowlers knew about the plan in Cape Town to alter the ball which earned him a nine-month ban and rocked the game.

Saker was Australia’s bowling coach when Bancroft was caught trying to rough up the ball with sandpaper during the third Test against South Africa.

While refusing to be drawn on who knew what, Saker said “the finger-pointing is going to go on and on and on”.

“It’s like the underarm, it’s never going to go away,” he told Fairfax Media, referring to a 1981 incident when Trevor Chappell bowled underarm to ensure New Zealand lost a one-day match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The notorious delivery is still cited in New Zealand and in cricketing circles as a prime example of unsporting conduct.

However, the ball-tampering scandal – dubbed “sandpapergate” – had a greater impact on Australian cricket, with the then-captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner suspended for a year from all cricket and stripped of their leadership roles.

Darren Lehmann also quit as coach and all the top brass from Cricket Australia left after a scathing review blasted their “arrogant and controlling” win-at-all-costs culture.

No one else among the team or coaching staff was held to account but Bancroft’s remarks in an interview with The Guardian newspaper hinted that the team’s bowlers at least knew about the plan.

“Obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory,” he said.

Saker added: “There was a lot of people to blame. It could have been me to blame, it could have been someone else. It could have been stopped and it wasn’t, which is unfortunate.

“Cameron’s a very nice guy. He’s just doing it to get something off his chest … He’s not going to be the last.”

In response, Cricket Australia said that if anyone had new information, they would look into it.

Saker said he was not opposed to a fresh investigation but added “I just don’t know what they’re going to find out.”

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Mexico’s Andrea Meza crowned Miss Universe

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Miss Universe Andrea Meza


Miss Universe Andrea Meza

UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 IS ANDREA MEZA FROM MEXICO:


UPDATE:

THE MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 TOP 5:

1. Mexico

2. India

3. Brazil

4. Dominican Republic

5. Peru


UPDATE:

HERE ARE THE MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 TOP 10 CONTESTANTS:

1. Jamaica 

2. Dominican Republic 

3. India

4. Peru 

5. Australia 

6. Puerto Rico

7. Thailand

8. Costa Rica

9. Mexico

10. Brazil


UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE TOP 21 IN SWIMWEAR:


UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE TOP 21: 

1. Columbia

2. Peru 

3. Australia 

4. France

5. Myanmar

6. Jamaica 

7. Mexico 

8. Dominican Republic 

9. USA

10. Indonesia 

11. Argentina 

12. India

13. Curaçao

14. Puerto Rico

15. Phillipines 

16. Brazil

17. Great Britain

18. Nicaragua

19. Thailand 

20. Costa Rica

21. Vietnam


 UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE SOUTH AFRICA NATASHA JOUBERT WALKS THE STAGE AT MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021:


74 contestants will compete for the title of Miss Universe on 16 May in Hollywood, Florida. 

The Miss Universe pageant takes place on 16 May in the US (02:00 to 05:00 on 17 May SA time). The show will be broadcast live on 1 Magic (DStv Channel 103) with a repeat at 21:30. 

Reigning Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa will crown her successor at the end of the event.

Representing South Africa is Natasha Joubert, and South Africans are hoping for the “magic double” – back-to-back consecutive wins, which has only happened once before in the pageant’s history.

Natasha wowed crowds at the national costume competition last week and on Friday impressed during the preliminary round

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Miss Mexico crowned Miss Universe 2021

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By AFP Time of article published 16m ago

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Washington – Miss Mexico was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday in Florida, after fellow contestant Miss Myanmar used her stage time to draw attention to the bloody military coup in her country.

Sunday night marked the Miss Universe competition’s return to television, after the pageant was cancelled in 2020 for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Andrea Meza, 26, finished first ahead of the Brazilian and Peruvian finalists in a flashy televised event, hosted by American actor Mario Lopez and television personality Olivia Culpo.

Former Miss Universe contestants Cheslie Kryst, Paulina Vega and Demi-Leigh Tebow (who won the title in 2017) served as competition analysts and commentators, and a panel of eight women determined the winner.

Dressed in a sparkling red evening gown, Meza tearfully walked the catwalk as Miss Universe for the first time, before rushing back for a group hug with the other competitors.

Meza beat more than 70 contestants from around the globe in the 69th installment of Miss Universe, which was held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

In the days leading up to the final competition, Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin, who made the top 21, made waves when she used her time in the spotlight to bring attention to the coup in her country.

“Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” she said during her biographical video, which showed photos of her taking part in the anti-coup protests. “Therefore I would like to urge everyone to speak out about Myanmar.”

Natasha Joubert, Miss Universe South Africa 2020 competes on stage in Ema Savahl swimwear during the MISS UNIVERSE® Preliminary Competition.

She also won the award for best national costume: during that competition segment on Thursday, she wore an outfit beaded in traditional Burmese patterns and held up a sign that said, “Pray for Myanmar.”

Myanmar has been in uproar since February 1, when the army ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

At least 796 people have been killed by security forces since then, according to a local monitoring group, while nearly 4 000 people are behind bars.

Miss Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong – who did not make the top 21 – also used the national costume portion to make a political statement.

Dressed in a glittering red bodysuit and matching thigh-high boots, she turned around to reveal her cape – in the colours of the Singaporean flag – was painted with the words “Stop Asian Hate.”

“What is this platform for if I can’t use it to send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence?” she wrote on Instagram alongside pictures of her outfit.

The United States in particular has seen a surge in anti-Asian violence in the past year, which activists have blamed on former president Donald Trump’s rhetoric, especially his repeated description of Covid-19 as the “China virus.”

The pageant has also drawn criticism in the past for objectifying the contestants.

In recent years, the competition has shifted image, focusing more on female empowerment and activism.

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