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Raucous farewell to Maradona

Mourners embrace as they wait to see Diego Maradona lying in state outside the presidential palace in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. The Argentine soccer great who led his country to the 1986 World Cup died Wednesday at the age of 60. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

BUENOS AIRES — Soccer superstar Diego Maradona was buried Thursday in a private ceremony attended by only two dozen people — a stark contrast to earlier in the day when tens of thousands of weeping fans filed past his coffin for hours in an observance that mixed head-of-state-like honors with the chaos of a rowdy stadium. Only family members and close friends were permitted at Jardin Bella Vista cemetery for the final religious ceremony and burial of Maradona next to the graves of his parents, Dalma and Diego. Fans waving Argentine flags had gathered along roads as Maradona’s funeral car drove by under heavy security. Many tried to touch the vehicle whenever it was stopped by traffic. The earlier viewing at the Argentine presidential mansion was halted shortly before 6 p.m., 12 hours after it started, as Maradona’s family wished and the body of the Argentine icon was taken away for burial, frustrating many who were waiting to pay their respects and causing new tensions at the gates of the cemetery. Fans, some draped in the national flag, sang soccer anthems as they formed a line that stretched more than 20 blocks from the Plaza de Mayo, where Argentines gathered to celebrate the Maradona-led triumph in the 1986 World Cup. But with the time for viewing the coffin at the presidential palace drawing short, police moved to cut off the back end of the crowd, enraging fans who hurled rocks and other objects at officers, who responded with rubber bullets. The crowd overwhelmed organizers and the violence resulted in injuries and arrests, which led Maradona’s family to end the public visitation. The casket was placed in a car that carried the former footballer’s name on a paperboard by the window. Desperate to say goodbye, Maradona’s fans climbed on the fences of the presidential mansion as if they were in a soccer stadium, while firefighters worked to clear the ground. “Diego is not dead, Diego lives in the people,” people chanted as the coffin was taken to a cemetery outside Buenos Aires. The motorcade, accompanied by police, was followed on a local highway by dozens of honking cars and motorcycles.

Mink resurface after burial

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Some of the thousands of mink culled to minimize the risk of them re-transmitting the new coronavirus to humans have risen from their shallow graves in western Denmark after gases built up inside the bodies, Danish authorities said Thursday. “The gases cause the animals to expand and in the worst cases, the mink get pushed out of the ground,” Jannike Elmegaard of the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration said. He said it affected “a few hundred” animals. The mink are buried in trenches that are 2.5 meters (8.25 feet) deep and 3 meters (10 feet) wide. A first layer of about 1 meter of dead mink are then covered with chalk before another layer of animals is laid, covered again with chalk and then with dirt, Elmegaard told The Associated Press. But because the soil where they are buried is sandy, some have re-emerged. “We assume it is the mink that were in the upper layer that pop up,” he added calling it “a natural process.” “Had the earth been more clayish, then it would have been heavier and the mink would not have resurfaced,” he told the AP. The animals who resurface are reburied elsewhere, and authorities guard the site to keep away foxes and birds. Denmark culled thousands of mink in the northern part of the country after 11 people were sickened by a mutated version of the coronavirus that had been observed among the animals.

Deal will bring space trash home

BERLIN — The European Space Agency says it is signing a 86 million-euro ($102 million) contract with a Swiss start-up company to bring a large piece of orbital trash back to Earth. The agency said Thursday that the deal with ClearSpace SA will lead to the “first active debris removal mission” in 2025, in which a custom-made spacecraft will capture and bring down part of a rocket once used to deliver a satellite into orbit. Experts have long warned that hundreds of thousands of pieces of space debris circling the planet — including an astronaut’s lost mirror — pose a threat to functioning satellites and even the International Space Station. Several teams are working on ways to tackle the problem. The object being removed from orbit is a so-called Vespa payload adapter that was used to hold and then release a satellite in 2013. It weighs about 112 kilograms (247 pounds).

Virus kills 27 at Illinois VA home

LASALLE, Ill. — State officials are investigating a coronavirus outbreak at a veterans nursing home in rural Illinois that has infected nearly 200 residents and staff, and killed 27 veterans. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office and the state’s Department of Veterans Affairs are attempting to determine what caused the outbreak at the state-run LaSalle Veterans Home in LaSalle, about 90 miles southwest of Chicago. The department on Tuesday requested an independent probe into the facility, which was the focus of a state Senate committee virtual hearing on the outbreak. The current outbreak was identified in late October when a staff member and a resident tested positive for the virus. Since the beginning of November, two-thirds of residents and employees have tested positive.

Cyclone smacks southern India

NEW DELHI — Parts of India’s southern coast were flooded Thursday after a cyclone slammed into its shores, triggering heavy rains, uprooting trees and cutting power lines. Cyclone Nivar made landfall in Puducherry, a federal territory near the southern state of Tamil Nadu, with winds of up to 130 kilometers (81 miles) per hour, according to the India Meteorological Department. It said the storm was weakening as it moved north toward Karnataka state. There were no immediate official reports of injuries. In Chennai, a coastal city of about 10 million in Tamil Nadu, heavy rains flooded streets, knocked down trees and cut power for several hours. Many residential areas were flooded and people remained indoors.

Model takes step back

MILAN — Somali-American model Halima Aden has announced that she is taking a step back from the fashion industry, saying the pandemic slowdown has allowed her to see instances when her desire to maintain a hijab was not properly respected. In a detailed Instagram story, Aden wrote this week that she was “not rushing back to the fashion industry” and that she had finally heard her mother’s pleas “to open my eyes.” “My mom asked me to quit modeling a LONG time ago. I wish I wasn’t so defensive,” the 23-year-old model wrote. “Thanks to COVID and the breakaway from the industry I have finally realized where I went wrong on my hijab journey.” Aden became the first hijab-wearing model on the runways of Milan and New York, and has appeared on numerous magazine covers and in print campaigns. Born in a refugee camp in Kenya, she moved to the United States with her family at age 7 and was the first Muslim homecoming queen at her high school in Minnesota, the first Somali student senator at her college and the first hijab-wearing woman in the Miss USA Minnesota pageant. In her Instagram posts, Aden detailed where she felt the religious covering hijab had been respected — for example in a campaign for Rihanna’s Fenty beauty line — and where it had gone astray, showing an instance when her head had been wrapped in jeans. “I was just so desperate back then for any ‘representation,’ that I lost touch with who I was,” she wrote on one post, and on another, wearing a crystal-encrusted headscarf, she said ““I should have walked off the set because clearly the stylist didn’t have a hijab wearing woman in mind.” She said her acceptance of situations that showed a lack of respect for her beliefs was due to a mixture of rebellion and naivete. “What I blame the industry for is the lack of MUSLIM stylists,” she wrote.

Life terms over Turkey’s coup

ANKARA, Turkey — A Turkish court sentenced hundreds of military and civilian personnel at an air base to life prison sentences Thursday, proclaiming them guilty of involvement in the 2016 failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government. A total of 475 defendants, including some generals and fighter jet pilots at the Akinci air base, on the outskirts of the capital, Ankara, had been on trial for the past three years, accused of directing the coup and bombing key government buildings, including a section of Turkey’s parliament. The massive trial was one of two main trials against suspected members of a network led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating the failed attempt. Gulen, who was also named among the defendants, has denied involvement in the coup that resulted in around 250 deaths and injured thousands. About 30 coup-plotters were also killed. The court convicted four men — civilians accused of liaising between Gulen’s movement and some military officers — of crimes against the state, attempts to kill the president as well as 77 counts of murder, and sentenced them to 79 separate “aggravated” life sentences without the possibility of parole. Fifteen officers, including one-star generals, were also sentenced to the same term. All 19 were held responsible for the deaths of nine people who were killed by gunshots and 68 people who died in aerial attacks on the parliament building, a police special operations headquarters, the Ankara police department and an area close to Erdogan’s presidential complex.

Limits on churches blocked

WASHINGTON — With coronavirus cases surging again nationwide, the Supreme Court barred New York from enforcing certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues in areas designated as hard hit by the virus. The justices split 5-4 late Wednesday night, with new Justice Amy Coney Barrett in the majority. It was the conservative’s first publicly discernible vote as a justice. The court’s three liberal justices and Chief Justice John Roberts dissented. The move was a shift for the court. Earlier this year, when Barrett’s liberal predecessor, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was still on the court, the justices divided 5-4 to leave in place pandemic-related capacity restrictions affecting churches in California and Nevada. The court’s action Wednesday could push New York to reevaluate its restrictions on houses of worship in areas designated virus hot spots. But the impact is also muted because the Catholic and Orthodox Jewish groups that sued to challenge the restrictions are no longer subject to them. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said Thursday the ruling was “more illustrative of the Supreme Court than anything else” and “irrelevant from any practical impact” given that the restrictions have already been removed.

40 years for chat room operator

SEOUL, South Korea — The operator of online chat rooms in South Korea was sentenced Thursday to 40 years in prison on charges of blackmailing dozens of women, including minors, into filming sexually explicit videos and selling them to others. The Seoul Central District Court convicted Cho Ju-bin, 24, of violating laws on protecting minors and organizing a criminal ring, court spokesman Kim Yong Chan said. The court ruled Cho “used various methods to lure and blackmail a large number of victims into making sexually abusive contents and distributed them to many people for an extended period,” according to Kim. “He particularly disclosed the identities of many victims and inflicted irreparable damage to them.” Cho has maintained he only cheated victims into making such videos but didn’t blackmail or coerce them, prompting some of the victims to testify in court. Kim said the court decided to isolate Cho from society for a prolonged period in consideration of his attitude and the seriousness of his crime. Prosecutors formally arrested or indicted Cho and seven accomplices in June for allegedly producing sexually abusive videos of 74 victims, 16 of them minors, and distributing them on the Telegram messaging app, where users paid in cryptocurrency to watch them in 2019-2020. A prosecutors’ statement called Cho’s group “a criminal ring” of 38 members. On Thursday, the Seoul court sentenced five of Cho’s accomplices, one of them a 16-year-old, up to 15 years in prison. When he was shown before the media following his initial detainment at a police station in March, Cho said “Thank you for stopping the life of a devil (I) couldn’t stop.”

Thailand approved transfer of 3

BANGKOK — Thailand said Thursday it transferred three Iranians involved in a botched 2012 bomb plot back to Tehran, as Iran released an Australian academic who was imprisoned for more than two years on spying charges. While Thai officials declined to call it a swap and Iran referred to the men as “economic activists,” the arrangement freed academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert and saw the three men linked to a wider bomb plot targeting Israeli diplomats return home to a hero’s welcome. The bombers wore Iranian flags draped over their shoulders, their faces largely obscured by black baseball caps and surgical masks. It was a sharp contrast to other prisoner exchanges Iran has trumpeted in the past, in which television anchors repeatedly said their names and broadcasters aired images of them reuniting with their families. The reason for Iran’s refusal to name those freed remains unclear. However, Tehran has long denied being behind the bomb plot and likely hopes to leverage the incoming administration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden to ease American sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump. Israeli officials declined to immediately comment on the release. In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was “thrilled and relieved” that Moore-Gilbert, 33, had been released but added that it would take time for her to process her “horrible” ordeal.

US considers Somalia pullout

NAIROBI, Kenya — No country has been involved in Somalia’s future as much as the United States. Now the Trump administration is thinking of withdrawing the several hundred U.S. military troops from the Horn of Africa nation at what some experts call the worst possible time. Three decades of chaos, from warlords to al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabab to the emergence of an Islamic State-linked group, have ripped apart the country that only in the past few years has begun to find its footing. The U.S. Embassy returned to Somalia just last year, 28 years after diplomats and staffers fled. Somalia faces a tense election season that begins in the next few weeks to decide the presidency and parliament. United Nations experts say al-Shabab, supporting its 5,000 to 10,000 fighters on a rich diet of extorting businesses and civilians, is improving its bomb-making skills. And an ever bigger military force, the African Union’s 19,000-strong AMISOM, has begun its own withdrawal from a country whose forces are widely considered unready to assume full responsibility for security. It is not clear whether President Donald Trump will order the withdrawal of the some 700 U.S. military forces from Somalia, following his orders for Afghanistan and Iraq, or whether the reported urge will pass before he leaves office in January. But the idea is taken seriously, even as U.S. drone strikes are expected to continue in Somalia against al-Shabab and IS fighters from neighboring Djibouti and Kenya — where al-Shabab carried out a deadly attack against U.S. forces early this year. The U.S. Africa Command has seen a “definitive shift” this year in al-Shabab’s focus to attack U.S. interests in the region, a new report by the Department of Defense inspector general said Wednesday — and the command says al-Shabab is Africa’s most “dangerous” and “imminent” threat.

Anti-monopoly probe set

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s anti-monopoly commission said it has begun a formal investigation into possible monopolistic practices in wholesale and retail goods distribution and sales, a probe that appears to involve Wal-Mart’s Mexican subsidiary. While the Federal Economic Competition Commission did not identify its target, Wal-Mart de Mexico told investors earlier this week that it had been notified of an investigation involving the company in exactly those areas. It was not clear what the supposed practices involved, but as Mexico’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart has significant leverage with suppliers.

Many British pubs to stay shut

LONDON — Most people in England will continue to face tight restrictions on socializing and business after a nationwide lockdown ends next week, with pubs and restaurants ordered to remain shut in areas that are home to more than 20 million people. The government announced details on Thursday of three-level regional measures that will take effect Dec. 2. Only three remote and island areas with a total population of 700,000 are in the lowest tier, where pubs and restaurants can open almost as normal and members of different households can meet up indoors. More than half of England’s 56 million people, including London’s 8.6 million residents, are in the middle level, where most shops, restaurants and leisure businesses can open — with some restrictions — and audiences can return in limited numbers to theaters and sports stadiums.

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