Fiery 28-Vehicle Pileup Closes I-70 Just West Of Denver Co.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Colorado Highway Crash: Fiery 28-Vehicle Pileup Closes I-70 Near Denver

A chain-reaction crash on I-70 in western Denver killed multiple people and shut down the highway near Colorado Mills Parkway in both directions Thursday.

Hyoung Chang/ News Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

A highway crash killed “multiple” people and started a large fire on Interstate 70 along the western edge of Denver Thursday, in a disaster that police say was triggered by a semi that slammed into a group of cars that were stopped in traffic. The exact number of fatalities is still unknown.

The crash took place around 4:50 p.m. local time and involved at least 24 cars and four semis, according to Ty Countryman of the Lakewood Police Department, in an update on the crash Friday morning.

Witnesses reported a chain-reaction of collisions, followed immediately by a large fire. The truck that police say started the crash was carrying a flatbed full of lumber. ‘2×4’s’ were strewn across the road like match sticks. Diesel fuel also spilled on the roadway, fire officials said.

The intense fire melted aluminum and burned as hot as 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, said Josh Laipply, chief engineer at the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Six people were taken to the hospital, including the driver of the semi. That driver, who sustained minor injuries, is now in police custody and is being charged with multiple counts of vehicular homicide, Countryman said. Police did not identify the driver, other than to say he’s not from Colorado.

Parts of I-70 remain closed Friday morning — and highway officials say it isn’t likely to open until sometime Saturday. The closure caused long delays in the morning commute, with investigators still combing the area, and workers trying to clean up debris in the eastbound lanes where the crash took place. Westbound lanes are also closed, with motorists using a detour to avoid a bridge where the greatest damage occurred.

Police are still assessing the scene, trying to identify the dead and account for everyone who was involved. It wasn’t until late Thursday night that police investigators could gain access to the worst area of the crash.

“We are trying to put together the vast amount of cars to the vast amount of people that we’re trying to get a hold of,” Countryman said.

Transportation officials are also evaluating the damage to the bridge, caused by the intense heat of the fire.

One firefighter was injured while responding to the accident, “hit by debris when potentially a tire exploded,” the West Metro Fire department said.

Images from the scene showed a blooming cloud of black smoke hanging over the road. In the struggle to get water to the crash site and combat the flames, a group of nearby residents helped firefighters carry a long fire hose to a hydrant in an apartment complex.

Soon after the crash, videos circulated online showing what witnesses say was the semi in question, barreling down the highway at speeds as high as 80 mph and possibly out of control, moments before the crash.

In a news briefing near the scene last night, Countryman said the police have seen those videos, adding, “if the driver’s out of control, that’s certainly a big concern that we have. The question is, why is he out of control?”

In an update Friday morning, Countryman said the police have probable cause to believe the driver was at fault. He added that there was no evidence that the driver was under the influence of either drugs or alcohol.

Investigators are working to examine the mechanical condition of the driver’s semi, Countryman said.

Israel: Prime Minister Netanyahu Pledges To Annex West Bank Settlements

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Ahead Of Israeli Election, Netanyahu Pledges To Annex West Bank Settlements

People walk by election campaign billboards showing Israeli Prime Minister and head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu (left) alongside the Blue and White party leaders, including Benny Gantz. Ahead of Tuesday’s election, Netanyahu has pledged to annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Oded Balilty/AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he will annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if he is re-elected.

Netanyahu staked out the position on television on Saturday, ahead of Tuesday’s election where he faces a challenge from his former army chief of staff Benny Gantz

The first-time move from the prime minister appears to be aimed at galvanizing support among his nationalist base and right-wing political allies. The annexation of parts of the West Bank would likely be considered the final blow to the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu was asked on Israeli Channel 12 TV why he hasn’t annexed Israeli settlement blocs in occupied territory, as NPR’s Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.

The prime minister replied: “Will we go to the next phase? The answer is yes. We will go to the next phase to extend Israeli sovereignty.”

“I will impose sovereignty, but I will not distinguish between settlement blocs and isolated settlements,” he continued, The Associated Press reports. “From my perspective, any point of settlement is Israeli, and we have responsibility, as the Israeli government. I will not uproot anyone, and I will not transfer sovereignty to the Palestinians.”

On Sunday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki responded to that pledge and accused the U.S. of encouraging Netanyahu.

“If Netanyahu wants to declare Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, then you know he has to face a real problem, the presence of 4.5 million Palestinians, what to do with them,” Malki told the AP while attending the World Economic forum in Jordan, apparently citing the combined total of Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

He said Israel cannot expel the Palestinians, adding, “The international community has to deal with us.”

Netanyahu has actively supported the growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since the Six-Day War in 1967. But Israel has so far stopped short of formally annexing the West Bank, leaving the door open for further negotiations with Palestinians.

Some 400,000 Israeli settlers and 2.8 million Palestinians now live in in the West Bank.

The Israeli settlements – which include large subdivisions and cities full of middle-class villas – have long complicated efforts for a two-state solution: Palestinians have said the settlements would make it impossible to create a viable state in the West Bank, as NPR’s Greg Myre has reported.

Another 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem, part of the West Bank that Israel annexed shortly after the 1967 war.

Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization, criticized Netanyahu’s statement on Saturday.

“Such a statement by Netanyahu is not surprising,” Erekat wrote on Twitter. “Israel will continue to brazenly violate international law for as long as the international community will continue to reward Israel with impunity, particularly with the Trump Administration’s support and endorsement of Israel’s violation of the national and human rights of the people of Palestine.”

Netanyahu’s political campaign has emphasized his close ties with President Trump, Estrin reports. In his prime time interview on Saturday, Netanyahu portrayed those moves of support from the Trump administration as his own achievements, the AP reports.

Last month, Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in 1967. In his first year in office, Trump had also recognized Jerusalem — the disputed city claimed as capital by both Israeli and Palestinian people — as Israel’s capital, breaking with decades of U.S. foreign policy.

Polls indicate a close race, though Netanyahu’s Likud Party and its traditional allies, smaller right-wing parties, are predicted to win a slight majority of the votes. That gives Netanyahu the edge on forming a ruling coalition over Gantz’s Blue and White political alliance – unless some right-wing parties choose to side with Gantz, Estrin reports.

Gantz has accused Netanyahu of inciting against Israel’s Palestinian Arab citizens and embracing extremists by allying with the far-right Jewish Power Party.

Ethiopia Swears In First Woman Supreme Court Chief

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Ethiopia Swears In First Woman Supreme Court Chief

Meaza Ashenafi is Ethiopia’s first female Supreme Court chief, and one of several women appointed to senior government positions by its new reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

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Ethiopia swore in its first female Supreme Court chief on Thursday, part of a wave of appointments of women to top government positions backed by Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The new chief, Meaza Ashenafi , a champion of women’s rights, was a judge on Ethiopia’s High Court from 1989 to 1992 and adviser for the UN Economic Commission for Africa. She founded the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association and started the country’s first women’s bank.

Meaza also tried a case that resulted in an end to the tradition of kidnapping girls and forcing them to marry. The case sparked debate over the issue throughout the country and became the subject of the 2014 film “Difret,” executive produced by Angelina Jolie. Underage marriage remains common in rural Ethiopia, where most of the population lives.

Abiy Ahmed, 42, Africa’s youngest head of government, was elected prime minister in April, and has promoted a series of measures to improve gender parity in the country. After a cabinet reshuffling, women now make up half of Ethiopia’s ministerial positions.

Abiy said he nominated Meaza “with the firm belief that she has the capacity required, with her vast international experience in mind,” according to Reuters. The parliament approved the nomination unanimously.

Fitsum Arega, Abiy’s chief of staff, tweeted congratulations to Meaza following her swearing in.

“Ethiopia’s march towards gender parity in key leadership positions continues unabatedly,” Fitsum wrote.

Abiy has also invited exiled opposition leaders back to Ethiopia and released thousands of political prisoners, including journalists and bloggers. He made peace with Ethiopia’s neighbor, Eritrea, after a border war and 20 years of bitter relations, and has begun opening up the country’s state-run economy.

3 Czech NATO Service Members Killed In Afghanistan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

 

3 Czech NATO Service Members Killed In Afghanistan

Three Czech service members with NATO’s Resolute Support mission were killed Sunday in eastern Afghanistan by a suicide bomber, the U.S. military and Czech authorities said.

In addition, one American service member and two Afghan soldiers were injured.

They were on foot patrol with Afghan forces, according to NATO.

The Czech Republic’s Interior Minister Jan Hamáček confirmed the deaths on Twitter, saying, the “Czech Republic has suffered a terrible loss. Our three soldiers were killed in a suicide attack while on a foot patrol with Afghan forces in Parwan province. My thoughts remain with the families and friends of our fallen [soldiers].”

The Czech Republic “had recently approved a plan to deploy 390 soldiers in Afghanistan through 2020, up from the current 230,” as part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission, according to The Associated Press.

“My thoughts and prayers, along with those of all of the 41 Resolute Support nations, are with the families and friends of our fallen and wounded service members, and our injured Afghan brothers and their families,” U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said in a statement.

The Taliban claimed responsibility, Reuters reported, and claimed to have killed “eight U.S. invaders in a tactic bombing,” according to a spokesperson quoted by the wire service.

The bombing happened in the area of Charakar, in the east of the country and north of Kabul, according to reports.

Separately, The Associated Press reports the Taliban attacked a district headquarters in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province Saturday, killing four Afghan soldiers, while nine Taliban fighters died in a gunfight with Afghan soldiers.

ISIS affiliates have also continued to carry out deadly attacks in Afghanistan. ISIS claimed responsibility this weekend for a Friday attack on a Shiite mosque in Afghanistan’s Paktia province that killed at least 29 people and injured at least another 80 people, according to reports.

NATO describes the Resolute Support mission as “a NATO-led, non-combat mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).” The organization says the current mission includes about 16,000 personnel.

NATO formally ended its main combat mission against the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2014.

As of almost a year ago, the U.S. military reported having 13,329 uniformed American forces in Afghanistan, but has since stopped providing troop numbers.

U.S. service member Cpl. Joseph Maciel of South Gate, Calif. was killed last month in southern Afghanistan in what the military called an “insider attack.”