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Seattle becomes first US city to ban caste discrimination

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Seattle has become the first US city to ban discrimination based on caste after a vote by the city council.

Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, who wrote the legislation, said the fight against caste bias “is deeply connected to the fight against all forms of oppression”.

Advocates of the ban say that it is needed to prevent caste bias from becoming more prevalent in the US.

The caste system in India dates back over 3,000 years and divides Hindu society into rigid hierarchical groups.

The ordinance passed by Seattle on Tuesday follows similar bans on caste bias that have been introduced on the campuses of US universities in recent years.

“Caste discrimination doesn’t only take place in other countries,” said Ms Sawant, who is the only Indian American on the Seattle city council.

“It is faced by South Asian American and other immigrant working people in their workplaces, including in the tech sector, in Seattle and in cities around the country.”

Ms Sawant, a socialist, has previously spoken of being raised in an upper-caste Hindu Brahmin household in India and witnessing such discrimination.

The measure has been opposed by some Hindu American groups, who argue a ban is not necessary as US law already prohibits such discrimination.

In an open letter, the Washington DC-based Hindu American Federation said that while the ordinance’s goals were praiseworthy, it “unfairly singles out and targets an entire community on the basis of their national origin and ancestry for disparate treatment”.

They added that Indian Americans made up less than 2% of Washington state’s population, and argued there was little evidence of any widespread discrimination based on caste.

Caste discrimination has been banned in India since 1948, however, discrimination continues, especially against the Dalits, who were once called “untouchables”.

According to the Migration Policy Institute think tank, the US is the second most popular destination for Indians living abroad.

(BBC News)

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Landslide sweeps away 2 buses, over 60 passengers missing

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At least 60 people have gone missing after two passenger buses were swept away by a landslide that occurred in Simaltal of the Narayanghat-Mugling road section on Friday.

According to Chitwan Chief District Officer Indradev Yadav, Kathmandu-bound Angel Deluxe and Ganpati Deluxe, en route to Gaur from the Capital, met with the accident at around 3:30am.

Twenty-four people were onboard the bus travelling to Kathmandu and 41 on the other, police said. Three of the passengers on the Ganpati Deluxe managed to escape after jumping out of the vehicle.

In a separate accident, one person was killed after a boulder fell on another passenger bus in 17 kilo of the same road section.

Bus driver Meghnath BK was seriously injured after a landslide caused the boulder to hit his vehicle, travelling towards Kathmandu from Butwal. He died in the course of treatment at the Chitwan Medical College, said Deputy Superintendent of Police Bheshraj Rijal.

Nepal Police and Armed Police Force personnel have reached the incident sites for rescue operations, Superintendent of Police Bhawesh Rimal informed.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal expressed sadness over the incident, directing concerned agencies to conduct search and rescue operations.

“I am deeply saddened by the news of nearly five dozen passengers missing after a landslide swept away buses in Simaltar of Narayanghat-Mugling road section and the loss caused by the disaster in different parts of the country,” Dahal wrote on X.

“I direct all government agencies, including the home administration, to search and rescue the passengers.”

Debris from landslides at various places has obstructed traffic on the Narayanghat-Mugling road section.

According to the Road Division Bharatpur, it will take around four hours for traffic to resume on the roadway.

Efforts for the same are underway

(kathmandupost.com)

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Israel tells ‘everyone in Gaza City’ to leave

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The Israeli military has told all residents of Gaza City to evacuate south to the central Gaza Strip, amid intensified operations in the north.

Leaflets dropped by aircraft instruct “everyone in Gaza City” to leave what is described as a “dangerous combat zone” via designated safe routes – marked as two roads that lead to shelters in Deir al-Balah and al-Zawaida.

The UN has said it is deeply concerned about the evacuation orders being given. It is the second time since the war began that Gaza City as a whole has been asked to evacuate.

Over the past two weeks, Israeli forces have re-entered several districts where the military believes Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters have regrouped since the start of the year.

Hamas has said Israel’s renewed activity in the city is threatening to derail negotiations over a potential ceasefire and hostage release deal, which resumed on Wednesday in Qatar. The talks are being attended by the intelligence chiefs of Egypt, the US and Israel, as well as the prime minister of Qatar.

Top Hamas official Hossam Badran told AFP that Israel “is trying to pressure negotiations by intensifying bombing operations, displacement, and committing massacres”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasised Israel’s commitment to a deal as long as Israel’s “red lines are preserved”.

There are estimated to be more than a quarter-of-a-million people still living in Gaza City – and some were observed evacuating to the south.

Others, though, were not willing to leave.

“I will not leave Gaza [City]. I will not make the stupid mistake that others have made. Israeli missiles do not differentiate between north and south,” resident Ibrahim al-Barbari, 47, told the BBC.

“If death is my fate and the fate of my children, we will die with honour and dignity in our homes,” he said.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said it had received calls from some residents who were unable to leave their homes because of the intensity of the bombing.

“The information coming from Gaza City shows residents are living through tragic conditions. [Israeli] occupation forces continue to hit residential districts, and displace people from their homes and refuge shelters,” it said.

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South Korea politician blames women for rising male suicides

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A politician in South Korea is being criticised for making dangerous and unsubstantiated comments after linking a rise in male suicides to the increasingly “dominant” role of women in society.

In a report, Seoul City councillor Kim Ki-duck argued women’s increased participation in the workforce over the years had made it harder for men to get jobs and to find women who wanted to marry them.

He said the country had recently “begun to change into a female-dominant society” and that this might “partly be responsible for an increase in male suicide attempts”.

South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates among the world’s rich countries but also has one of the worst records on gender equality.

Councillor Kim’s comments have been criticised as the latest in a series of out-of-touch remarks made by male politicians.

Councillor Kim, from the Democratic Party, arrived at his assessment when analysing data on the number of suicide attempts made at bridges along Seoul’s Han river.

The report, published on the city council’s official website, showed that the number of suicide attempts along the river had risen from 430 in 2018 to 1,035 in 2023, and of those trying to take their lives the proportion who were men had climbed from 67% to 77%.

Suicide prevention experts have expressed concern over Mr Kim’s report.

“It is dangerous and unwise to make claims like this without sufficient evidence,” Song In Han, a mental health professor at Seoul’s Yonsei University, told the BBC.

He pointed out that globally more men took their lives than women. In many countries, including the UK, suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50.

Even so, Prof Song said the reasons behind the sharp rise in men attempting suicide in Seoul needed to be scientifically studied, adding it was “very regrettable” that the councillor had made it about gender conflict.

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