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U.S. executes first woman on federal death row in nearly seven decades

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The U.S. government executed convicted murderer Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row, early on Wednesday, after the Supreme Court cleared the last hurdle for her execution by overturning a stay.

Montgomery’s execution marked the first time a female prisoner has been executed since 1953 in the United States.

She was pronounced deceased at 1:31 a.m. EST (0631 GMT) on Wednesday, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said in a statement.

Challenges were fought across multiple federal courts on whether to allow execution of Montgomery, 52, who had initially been scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection of pentobarbital, a powerful barbiturate on Tuesday in the Justice Department’s execution chamber at its prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Kelley Henry, Montgomery’s lawyer, called the execution “vicious, unlawful, and unnecessary exercise of authoritarian power.”

“No one can credibly dispute Mrs. Montgomery’s longstanding debilitating mental disease – diagnosed and treated for the first time by the Bureau of Prisons’ own doctors,” Henry said in a statement.

Montgomery was convicted in 2007 in Missouri for kidnapping and strangling Bobbie Jo Stinnett, then eight months pregnant. Montgomery cut Stinnett’s fetus from the womb. The child survived.

Some of Stinnett’s relatives traveled to witness Montgomery’s execution, the Justice Department said.

As the execution process began, asked by a female executioner if she had any last words, Montgomery responded in a quiet, muffled voice, “No,” according to a reporter who served as a media witness.

Federal executions had been on pause for 17 years and only three men had been executed by the federal government since 1963 until the practice resumed last year under President Donald Trump, whose outspoken support for capital punishment long predates his entry into politics.

Montgomery’s lawyers asked for Trump’s clemency last week, saying she committed her crime after a childhood in which she was abused and repeatedly raped by her stepfather and his friends, and so should instead face life in prison.

It is one of three executions the U.S. Department of Justice had scheduled for the final full week of Trump’s administration. Two other executions scheduled for Thursday and Friday have been delayed, for now at least, by a federal judge in Washington, to allow the condemned murderers to recover from COVID-19.

The American Civil Liberties Union and some liberal lawmakers had previously opposed the government’s plans to execute Montgomery, with ACLU saying her life had been “marred by unthinkable trauma that resulted in documented brain damage and mental illness”.

Montgomery’s execution was the first of 2021 by the federal government and the 11th since last year.

In 2020, the U.S. government executed 10 people and it was for the first time ever that the federal government conducted more executions than all U.S. states combined, according to a database compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20210113/us-executes-first-woman-on-federal-death-row-in-nearly-seven-decades/58766.html

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Aftershock rocks Indonesia quake zone as search continues

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JAKARTA — An aftershock hit Indonesia’s Sulawesi island on Saturday as rescue workers searched for people trapped under rubble after an earthquake killed at least 45 people, injured hundreds and sent thousands fleeing in terror.

Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency said no damage or casualties were reported from the magnitude 5.0 aftershock in the West Sulawesi districts of Mamuju and Majene a day after the magnitude 6.2 earthquake.

Agency head Doni Monardo told Kompas TV the search continued for victims who could still be trapped under rubble.

More than 820 people were injured and about 15,000 people have been evacuated, the agency said.

Some have sought refuge in the mountains, while others went to cramped evacuation centres, witnesses said.

Indonesian Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin visit injured people following an earthquake in Mamuju, West Sulawesi province, Indonesia, January 16, 2021 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Photo: Reuters
Indonesian Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin visit injured people following an earthquake in Mamuju, West Sulawesi province, Indonesia, January 16, 2021 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Photo: Reuters

Friday’s quake and its aftershocks damaged more than 300 homes and two hotels, as well as flattening a hospital and the office of a regional governor, where authorities told Reuters several people had been trapped.

Access to the neighbouring city of Makassar remains cut off, Arianto Ardi of the search and rescue agency in Mamuju told Reuters, adding that the search will focus on the hotels.

Locals who fled to higher ground are seen at a temporary shelter following an earthquake in Mamuju, West Sulawesi province, Indonesia, January 16, 2021 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Photo: Reuters
Locals who fled to higher ground are seen at a temporary shelter following an earthquake in Mamuju, West Sulawesi province, Indonesia, January 16, 2021 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Photo: Reuters

Dwikorita Karnawati, the head of Indonesia’s meteorology and geophysics agency, told Metro TV on Saturday that another quake was possible and could reach a magnitude of 7.0, urging residents to keep out of the water because of the tsunami risk.

The earthquake magnitude scale is logarithmic; a one-point increase means it is 10 times bigger.

An aerial picture shows a hospital building collapsed following an earthquake in Mamuju, West Sulawesi, Indonesia, January 16, 2021 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Photo: Reuters
An aerial picture shows a hospital building collapsed following an earthquake in Mamuju, West Sulawesi, Indonesia, January 16, 2021 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Photo: Reuters

The difference in energy released is even greater. Straddling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia is regularly hit by earthquakes.

In 2018, a devastating 6.2-magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami struck the city of Palu, in Sulawesi, killing thousands.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20210116/aftershock-rocks-indonesia-quake-zone-as-search-continues/58821.html

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South African scientists discover new chemicals that kill malaria parasite

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JOHANNESBURG — South African scientists have discovered chemical compounds that could potentially be used for a new line of drugs to treat malaria and even kill the parasite in its infectious stage, which most available drugs do not.

The research led by the University of Pretoria, published in the Nature Communications journal this week, found that chemical compounds undergoing trials for the treatment of tuberculosis and cancer — the JmjC inhibitor ML324 and the antitubercular clinical candidate SQ109 — can kill the disease-causing parasite at a stage when it normally infects others.

The World Health Organisation said in November that deaths from malaria due to disruption during the coronavirus pandemic to services designed to tackle the mosquito-borne disease will far exceed those killed by COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa.

Malaria killed more than 400,000 people across the world in 2019, according to the latest WHO figures, all but a few thousand of them in Africa.

There were 229 million cases across the world, 215 million of them on the continent.

“Our innovation was around finding compounds that are able to block the transmissible stages and we if we are able to do so then we stop the spread of malaria,” Research Chair in Sustainable Malaria Control and biochemistry professor Lyn-Marie Birkholtz, who was part of the team, told Reuters on Friday.

Most drugs kill malaria as it gets established in the liver or after it has infected red blood cells, but cannot tackle it once the parasite is released from the cells, which is when it is transmissible to other people via mosquito bites, she said.

The one drug that can have an effect during the transmissible phase, primaquine, is not widely used, owing to concerns about side effects.

“If we can develop these compounds … then we have an additional new tool that we can use to eliminate malaria,” said Birkholtz.

More tests would still need to be carried out before the compounds could be approved as a treatment for malaria but the breakthrough would also address concerns over drug resistance, she said.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20210116/south-african-scientists-discover-new-chemicals-that-kill-malaria-parasite/58816.html

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Global COVID-19 death toll tops 2 million

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The worldwide coronavirus death toll surpassed 2 million on Friday, according to a Reuters tally, as nations around the world are trying to procure multiple vaccines and detect new COVID-19 variants.

It took nine months for the world to record the first 1 million deaths from the novel coronavirus but only three months to go from 1 million to 2 million deaths, illustrating an accelerating rate of fatalities. 

So far in 2021, deaths have averaged over 11,900 per day or one life lost every eight seconds, according to a Reuters tally.

“Our world has reached a heart-wrenching milestone,” United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said in a video statement.

“Behind this staggering number are names and faces: the smile now only a memory, the seat forever empty at the dinner table, the room that echoes with the silence of a loved one,” he said, calling for more global coordination and funding for the vaccination effort.

By April 1, the global death toll could approach 2.9 million, according to a forecast from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. 

Given how fast the virus is spreading due to more infectious variants, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned the worst could be ahead.

“We are going into a second year of this. It could even be tougher given the transmission dynamics and some of the issues that we are seeing,” Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergencies official, said during a Wednesday event.

The United States has the highest total number of deaths at over 386,000 and accounts for one in every four deaths reported worldwide each day.

The next worst-affected countries are Brazil, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

Combined, the five countries contribute to almost 50 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the world but represent only 27 percent of the global population. 

Europe, the worst-affected region in the world, has reported over 615,000 deaths so far and accounts for nearly 31 percent of all COVID-related deaths globally.

In India, which recently surpassed 151,000 deaths, vaccinations are set to begin on Saturday in an effort that authorities hope will see 300 million high-risk people inoculated over the next six to eight months.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20210116/global-covid19-death-toll-tops-2-million/58815.html

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