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Hearing to be held to determine probable cause of Kobe Bryant fatal crash

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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said today it would hold a hearing on February 9th to determine the probable cause of the January 2020 helicopter crash that killed retired NBA star Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others.

The board said in June the pilot of the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter that crashed outside Los Angeles into hilly terrain likely became disoriented in the fog.

Pilot Ara Zobayan told air traffic controllers that his chopper was climbing out of heavy clouds when in fact it was descending immediately before slamming into a hillside near the town of Calabasas, the NTSB said in June.

The board said pilots can become confused about an aircraft’s attitude and acceleration when they cannot see the sky or landscape around them, causing “spatial disorientation.”

“Without outside references or attention to the helicopter’s attitude display, the actual pitch and bank angles have the potential to be misperceived,” the NTSB said in June. Zobayan was killed in the wreck.

An attitude indicator is an instrument used to reference the helicopter’s pitch and orientation relative to the Earth’s horizon.

An NTSB board member told reporters in the days after the Janruary 26th crash that clouds and fog causing limited visibility in the foothills north of Los Angeles would likely be a key focus of the investigation.

In February, the board said an examination of the helicopter’s engines and rotors found no evidence of “catastrophic mechanical failure” that could explain why the airship would have plunged into the terrain.

A series of charts released by the NTSB in June shows the aircraft gaining speed, banking sharply to the left and plummeting just seconds after Zobayan told air traffic controllers he was “climbing to 4,000” feet to fly above the cloud layer.

Bryant (41) an 18-time National Basketball Association all-star with the Los Angeles Lakers, was traveling with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, two other girls and several friends to a youth basketball tournament at the time of the crash, which prompted an outpouring of shock and grief from sports fans worldwide.

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Dutch police clash with protesters in Amsterdam and Eindhoven

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Dutch police have clashed with protesters demonstrating against the country’s lockdown in Amsterdam and the southern city of Eindhoven, a day after rioting youths torched a coronavirus testing facility in a fishing village.

In Amsterdam, police used a water cannon to disperse protesters taking part in a banned demonstration in a major square ringed by museums. Video images showed the water cannon spraying people grouped against a wall of the Van Gogh Museum.

Police in Eindhoven used a water cannon and tear gas against a crowd of hundreds of demonstrators that also included supporters of the anti-immigrant group Pegida.

Eindhoven police said they made at least 30 arrests and warned people to stay away from the city centre. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

It was the second Sunday in a row that police had clashed with protesters in Amsterdam angry at the country’s lockdown.

The burned-out testing facility in Urk (Peter Dejong/AP)

The unrest followed a night of rioting in the fishing village of Urk on the first night of a curfew imposed by the Dutch government to rein in the spread of the more transmissible variant of the coronavirus.

Police said on Sunday that they had fined more than 3,600 people nationwide for breaching the curfew that ran from 9pm on Saturday until 4.30am on Sunday, and arrested 25 people for breaching the curfew or for violence.

Video from Urk, 50 miles north east of Amsterdam, showed youths breaking into the coronavirus testing facility near the village’s harbour before it was set alight on Saturday night.

The police and municipality issued a statement on Sunday expressing their anger at rioting, “from throwing fireworks and stones to destroying police cars and with the torching of the test location”.

“This is not only unacceptable, but also a slap in the face, especially for the local health authority staff who do all they can at the test centre to help people from Urk,” the local authorities said, adding that the curfew would be strictly enforced for the rest of the week.

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I kill you or rape you’: abuse accusations surge in Ethiopia’s war

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The young coffee seller said she was split from family and friends by an Ethiopian soldier at the Tekeze river, taken down a path, and given a harrowing choice.

“He said: ‘Choose, either I kill you or rape you’,” the 25-year-old told Reuters at the Hamdayet refugee camp in Sudan where she had fled from conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

The doctor who treated her when she arrived at the camp in December, Tewadrous Tefera Limeuh, confirmed to Reuters that he provided pills to stop pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases, and guided her to a psychotherapist.

“The soldier… forced a gun on her and raped her,” Mr Limeuh, who was volunteering with the Sudanese Red Crescent, said the woman told him. “She asked him if he had a condom, and he said ‘why would I need a condom?’”

Five aid workers for international and Ethiopian aid groups said they had received multiple similar reports of abuse in Tigray. The United Nations appealed this week for an end to sexual assaults in the region.

Among a “high number” of allegations, particularly disturbing reports have emerged of people being forced to rape relatives or have sex in exchange for basic supplies, the UN Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, said in a statement on Thursday.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the military did not immediately respond to questions from Reuters about the reports of rape. On Saturday, Ethiopia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Taye Atske Selassie, told Patten that Ethiopia has a zero tolerance policy on sexual violence, according to state-affiliated braodcaster Fana TV.

Ethiopian authorities have previously denied rights abuses, pointing the finger instead at the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the region’s former ruling party whose forces they accuse of insurrection.

“I call on all parties involved in the hostilities in the Tigray region to commit to a zero-tolerance policy for crimes of sexual violence,” UN special representative Patten said in the statement.

Women and girls in refugee camps within Ethiopia appear to have been particularly targeted, and medical centres are under pressure for emergency contraception and tests for sexually-transmitted infections, the statement said.

Reuters could not independently verify the accounts of rape. Media have been largely banned from Tigray, aid agencies have struggled for access, and communications were down for weeks.

Abusers in uniform

The 25-year-old woman who spoke with Reuters said her abuser wore an Ethiopian federal army uniform.

The five aid workers said other women described their alleged assailants as being militia fighters from Ethiopia’s Amhara region or Eritrean soldiers, both allied with Abiy’s troops. Reuters was unable to determine the identity of the woman’s assailant.

Abiy’s spokeswoman, Tigray’s interim governor, the mayor of the regional capital Mekelle, Eritrea’s foreign minister and Ethiopia’s army spokesman did not immediately reply to requests for comment on rape allegations. Reuters could not reach TPLF representatives.

“I don’t have any information about that,” Amhara regional spokesman Gizachew Muluneh told Reuters by phone.

Ethiopia and Eritrea have both denied that Eritrean troops are in Ethiopia, contradicting dozens of eyewitness interviews, diplomats and an Ethiopian general.

‘Why is a woman raped?’

At a meeting of security officials in Mekelle broadcast on Ethiopian state TV earlier this month, one soldier spoke of abuses even after the city had been captured by federal forces.

“I was angry yesterday. Why does a woman get raped in Mekelle city? It wouldn’t be shocking if it happened during the war… but women were raped yesterday and today when the local police and federal police are around,” said the soldier, who was not identified.

Local authorities did not immediately respond to efforts to seek comment on whether any soldiers might be investigated or brought to justice.

Mr Tewadrous, the refugee camp doctor, described two other rape cases he had handled. One woman, who said she had escaped from Rawyan town in Tigray, told of three soldiers she identified as Amhara special forces knocking at her door, the doctor said. When she refused them entry, they broke in and assaulted her.

An aid worker in the town of Wukro told Reuters victims had recounted how a husband was forced to kneel and watch while his wife was raped by soldiers they identified as Eritrean.

A medical worker in Adigrat said he treated six women who had been raped by a group of soldiers and told not to seek help afterwards.

They found courage to come forward days later, but there were no medicines to treat them, the medic said.

In Mekelle, one man was beaten up after begging soldiers to stop raping a 19-year-old, according to a medical worker who treated both victims. Mekelle charity Elshadai said it has prepared 50 beds for rape victims.

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French FM makes unfounded claims on Iran’s nuclear program

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French FM makes unfounded claims on Iran's nuclear program

The French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian repeated a number of baseless allegations regarding Iran’s nuclear program on Sunday, claiming that the Islamic Republic seeks to make nuclear weapons.

“This is a very dangerous situation. Iran’s access to nuclear weapons has significant geostrategic consequences. We are in a position opposed to what Trump wanted,” he further claimed.

Soon after the US unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018, European signatories of the deal asked Iran to remain committed to the agreement, vowing to help Iran enjoy the economic benefits of the deal. However, they took almost no practical steps to safeguard Iran’s interests under the deal. They had vowed to establish a special vehicle mechanism to continue trade with Iran but it has not yet become fully operational.

FA/FNA 13991105000737

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