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Oregon And West Virginia Will Shrink Social Gatherings To Combat COVID-19

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Oregon And West Virginia Will Shrink Social Gatherings To Combat COVID-19

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced a statewide ban on indoor dining at bars and restaurants at a press conference in Portland on March 16. Nearly four months later, with COVID-19 cases on the rise after a phased-in economic reopening, she announced new restrictions including a 10-person limit on social gatherings.

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Gillian Flaccus/AP

As coronavirus cases continue to climb in the U.S., two governors on opposite sides of the country took a similar step on Monday: reducing the number of people allowed at social gatherings, among other restrictions.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced that indoor social get-togethers of more than 10 people will be prohibited starting Wednesday.

Gatherings of up to 25 people were allowed in Phase One of the state’s reopening plan, and indoor limits increased to 50 for counties that reached Phase Two.

Brown also extended the statewide face covering requirement, which took effect earlier this month, to outdoor public spaces where six feet of distance cannot be maintained.

Oregon recorded 332 new cases on Sunday, bringing its cumulative total to 12,170. Brown said on Monday the state reported more cases in the past week than the entire month of May.

“Today we are sounding the alarm because we are at risk of letting the virus spiral out of control,” she said. “The question now is whether Oregon will be the next New York or the next Texas.”

In West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice imposed several new statewide restrictions, including reducing the social gathering limit from 100 to 25 people, effective Tuesday. The same executive order also closes all fairs, festivals and similar events, and prohibits both indoor and outdoor concerts.

Justice also ordered all bars closed for ten days in Monongalia County, which has seen a significant uptick in infections and had 340 active cases as of Monday.

“We want everyone to know this is not playtime stuff,” Justice told viewers at a daily briefing. “We now, in West Virginia, have 1,338 active cases. We have grown 206 active cases since I saw you the last time on Friday.”

Governors in both states stressed that the new limits apply only to social gatherings.

Justice said the new order does not cover any activity, business or entity designated as essential, such as religious services or group conferences. Attendees of such events must practice social distancing based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, he said.

And Brown said Oregon’s new rule would not change the operation of businesses or churches “at this time.” She added failure to comply will lead to more outbreaks, as well as more restrictive closures.

“We need to do absolutely everything we can to reduce transmission in ways that do not require us to close down businesses again,” Brown said. “The proof here will be in the numbers. Either people will adhere to this requirement and be a positive force for stopping COVID-19, or I will be forced to take more restrictive measures.”

Governors across the country are reimposing certain restrictions to combat the spread of the virus, though few have officially rolled back limits on social gatherings.

Many of the latest measures have been aimed at bars and other indoor establishments.

On Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the statewide closure of all bars and indoor operations of several types of businesses. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott closed bars and tightened business restrictions in June, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also previously ordered bars to close. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster imposed an 11 p.m. curfew on bars and restaurants last week.

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Schools, Businesses, Cities Push Back On Rule Blocking Some International Students

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Schools, Businesses, Cities Push Back On Rule Blocking Some International Students

Pedestrians in Harvard Yard in 2019. Schools and businesses have gone to court to stop the Trump administration from barring online-only international students from entering or staying in the United States.

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Charles Krupa/AP

One week ago, the Trump administration announced it would ban international students from attending U.S. colleges in the fall if they only take online classes. Now hundreds of colleges and universities, dozens of cities, and some of the country’s biggest tech companies are pushing back.

In several court filings Friday and Monday, the groups stand with the international students. They argue providing remote education is crucial given how contagious COVID-19 is — and they say they crafted policies for the fall by depending on earlier assurances from the federal government that international students would be able to attend class remotely “for the duration of the emergency” while still retaining their F-1 or M-1 visa status.

They’re supporting an initial legal challenge by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the first to sue the administration over its new policy. Existing law had prohibited international students from taking all their courses online, but the administration temporarily lifted that rule in March.

In a response Monday, the government said that just because it offered leniency in March, it doesn’t have to extend that policy through the fall. The request to do so “subverts the deference afforded administrative agencies in complex and interrelated fields like immigration enforcement,” the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said.

According to the Institute of International Education, more than 1 million international students take courses in the U.S. — about 5% of the total student body.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “blindsided the whole of higher education,” more than 180 colleges and universities wrote in their amicus brief filed with U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, where Harvard’s challenge is being heard. The schools range from small private colleges to large public universities, spread across the nation. “Though diverse in faith, academic mission, geography, and size, these institutions are deeply concerned with and impacted by ICE’s July 6 directive,” they wrote.

“ICE’s abrupt policy change guts the enormous reliance interests of higher education institutions and their students — all of whom planned for the fall 2020 semester based on ICE’s earlier confirmation that its March 2020 position would remain so long as the ’emergency’ continued,” the schools wrote.

They’re arguing that, legally, ICE can’t just change its mind after so many schools spent months crafting policies based on the government’s guidance. To change course so completely without adequate justification is “arbitrary and capricious,” the schools wrote, citing the legal standard used by courts.

They are asking the federal court to put a hold on the government’s proposal until the courts can rule on its legality.

When the coronavirus began to spread, schools across the country moved their coursework online. And they immediately had to make hard decisions about the fall term. The California State University system — one of the largest higher education systems in the country, with 480,000 students — felt it would be “irresponsible” to postpone a decision on in-person classes until the summer. “Because of its size, the CSU system had to sacrifice flexibility for certainty,” the filing said. So CSU decided in the spring that its 23 campuses would mostly offer classes remotely for the fall term.

The administration’s plan could be catastrophic to some schools. At the Stevens Institute of Technology — a private research university in Hoboken, N.J. — international students make up one-third of its overall student body and 61% of graduate students. “With such a large volume of international students, inability to continue educating these students would be devastating,” the schools wrote.

And international students make “immense contributions” to campuses nationwide, they said, fostering diversity and enhancing schools’ intellectual and athletic competitiveness. Blocking these students from attending American schools would only send them elsewhere, giving an advantage to foreign nations, the schools said.

An amicus brief filed by America’s top technology companies makes a similar point. International students are both customers and future employees of these companies, wrote Google, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Adobe and others in a filing Monday. If international students lose their visas and are forced to return home, American businesses and the economy at large will suffer, they said.

In addition to the tens of billions of dollars that international students contribute directly to the U.S. economy each year, they also help ensure that American companies “continue leading the world in innovation,” they wrote.

And without international students, American schools will suffer, they said: “The loss of international students as a result of the July 6 Directive threatens the very existence of educational programs — for both American and international students — that are critical to training the employees U.S. businesses need and supporting the research that enables America to lead the world in innovation.”

If international students are barred from studying in the U.S. until the coronavirus pandemic is over, the companies said, many will simply never return. Companies in turn won’t be able to recruit those students. And the entire economy will suffer.

Dozens of municipalities filed their own brief in support of Harvard and MIT’s challenge. International students “make significant economic contributions” to their communities, wrote the municipalities, which include Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, New York and about two dozen other cities large and small.

“In New York City, international students contribute more than $3 billion in economic value annually,” they wrote. “In Pittsburgh, one job is created for every two international students enrolled in the city’s colleges and universities. And in Iowa City, the 2,500 resident international students at the University of Iowa contribute millions of dollars to the city’s economy annually.”

The federal government’s “rash” decision could also have health consequences, they wrote: It’s “likely to send students threatened with removal into the shadows, where public health efforts will not reach them, in the midst of a pandemic.”

The court in Massachusetts is scheduled to hear arguments in the case on Tuesday.

Several other organizations have filed their own lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s new policy. Massachusetts filed a federal suit joined by attorneys general in 16 states and the District of Columbia; Johns Hopkins University filed suit Friday; and the University of California system has pledged its own lawsuit.

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Margo Price On The Mysterious Process Of Album-Making And Motherhood

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Margo Price On The Mysterious Process Of Album-Making And Motherhood

Price has been at home in Nashville trying to keep her feet on the ground. “If you let things like fame or money cloud your mind and poison your spirit, I think your art will really suffer,” she says.

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Bobbi Rich/Courtesy of the artist

The day Margo Price walked into the studio to start recording her new album, That’s How Rumors Get Started, she had butterflies in her stomach, a mixture of excitement, trepidation — and morning sickness.

“I definitely was not expecting to be pregnant,” she says. “I had planned to go into the studio regardless of what was happening in my personal life.”

Her daughter Ramona was born last June — and her new album is now out in the world, too. Price says that the two processes, making an album and having a baby, were eerily similar.

“I think when you’re making art and you’re creating something, you have this feeling of protection,” she says. “You keep it to yourself at first, and it’s evolving and growing and changing. And the same [can be said] when you’re carrying a baby. It’s such a process that it’s really hard to describe either one. I think they’re both kind of mysterious in their own way. It’s something that’s just so personal.”

NPR’s Ailsa Chang spoke to Margo Price about staying positive in quarantine and being present for her daughter’s developmental milestones, how the challenges of her life so far have made her the musician she is today and how she wants to prove to her children with her career that they can’t give up on their dreams. Listen in the audio player above.

Noah Caldwell and Patrick Jarenwattananon produced and edited the audio of this interview.

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South Africa Introduces Alcohol Ban And Curfew As Coronavirus Surges

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South Africa Introduces Alcohol Ban And Curfew As Coronavirus Surges

A pupil receives hand sanitizer upon returning to school in Johannesburg on July 6. After South Africa eased its lockdown, the government is introducing some restrictions now that the coronavirus is spiking.

Denis Farrell/AP


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Denis Farrell/AP

In a somber speech broadcast in prime time on Sunday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa painted a worrying picture as the new coronavirus spikes in the country.

“The storm is upon us,” he said.

South Africa has now surpassed Italy, Pakistan, Spain and Iran in the number of confirmed COVID-19 infections, with more than 276,000 cases and more than 4,000 related deaths. Ramaphosa warned that the worst is yet to come, with some models predicting 40,000 to 50,000 deaths in the country before the end of the year.

He said some hospitals have begun turning away sick patients. So, he reimposed a ban on the sale and distribution of alcohol and rolled out a nighttime curfew. The hope is that alcohol-related incidents will plummet and open up emergency room beds for COVID-19 patients.

In March, South Africa imposed one of the earliest and most draconian lockdowns of any country and successfully flattened the curve of new infection numbers. Ramaphosa said that bought the country time to learn about COVID-19, expand testing and beef up hospital capabilities. He credited the social restrictions for bringing down the death rate to about 1%, among the lowest in the world.

Slowly, however, South Africa rolled back its confinement and, as it did, the virus began to spread faster. It is now reporting more than 10,000 cases a day and a quarter of the total deaths have been recorded in the past week.

But, the president said that at this point — with the economy in recession and the virus so prevalent — a new lockdown would cause more harm than good, so he pleaded with South Africans to take personal responsibility, wear masks, keep a distance from each other and stop gathering en masse.

“This is in our collective hands,” he said. “Let us remember that every individual action that we undertake does and can make a big difference. … Now more than ever we are responsible for the lives of those around us.”

The Economic Freedom Fighters, one of the main opposition parties in South Africa, issued a statement condemning the president. If the country is not shut down, they warned, many more South Africans will die.

“Despite this, Ramaphosa continues to ignore pleas to prioritize life over profits,” the statement read, “and keeps casinos, restaurants, hotels and domestic air-travel operational in the face of the death of the people of this country.”

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South Africa Introduces Alcohol Ban And Curfew As Coronavirus Surges

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South Africa Introduces Alcohol Ban And Curfew As Coronavirus Surges

A pupil receives hand sanitizer upon returning to school in Johannesburg on July 6. After South Africa eased its lockdown, the government is introducing some restrictions now that the coronavirus is spiking.

Denis Farrell/AP


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Denis Farrell/AP

In a somber speech broadcast in prime time on Sunday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa painted a worrying picture as the new coronavirus spikes in the country.

“The storm is upon us,” he said.

South Africa has now surpassed Italy, Pakistan, Spain and Iran in the number of confirmed COVID-19 infections, with more than 276,000 cases and more than 4,000 related deaths. Ramaphosa warned that the worst is yet to come, with some models predicting 40,000 to 50,000 deaths in the country before the end of the year.

He said some hospitals have begun turning away sick patients. So, he reimposed a ban on the sale and distribution of alcohol and rolled out a nighttime curfew. The hope is that alcohol-related incidents will plummet and open up emergency room beds for COVID-19 patients.

In March, South Africa imposed one of the earliest and most draconian lockdowns of any country and successfully flattened the curve of new infection numbers. Ramaphosa said that bought the country time to learn about COVID-19, expand testing and beef up hospital capabilities. He credited the social restrictions for bringing down the death rate to about 1%, among the lowest in the world.

Slowly, however, South Africa rolled back its confinement and, as it did, the virus began to spread faster. It is now reporting more than 10,000 cases a day and a quarter of the total deaths have been recorded in the past week.

But, the president said that at this point — with the economy in recession and the virus so prevalent — a new lockdown would cause more harm than good, so he pleaded with South Africans to take personal responsibility, wear masks, keep a distance from each other and stop gathering en masse.

“This is in our collective hands,” he said. “Let us remember that every individual action that we undertake does and can make a big difference. … Now more than ever we are responsible for the lives of those around us.”

The Economic Freedom Fighters, one of the main opposition parties in South Africa, issued a statement condemning the president. If the country is not shut down, they warned, many more South Africans will die.

“Despite this, Ramaphosa continues to ignore pleas to prioritize life over profits,” the statement read, “and keeps casinos, restaurants, hotels and domestic air-travel operational in the face of the death of the people of this country.”

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Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire Mixes The Playful And Solemn On A New Album

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Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire Mixes The Playful And Solemn On A New Album

The Bay Area trumpet player broke out in jazz over a decade ago. A new album by his quartet, on the tender spot of every calloused moment, shows just how pretty Akinmusire can play.

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Fresh Scrutiny For Fox’s Tucker Carlson As Top Writer Quits Over Bigoted Posts

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Fresh Scrutiny For Fox’s Tucker Carlson As Top Writer Quits Over Bigoted Posts

A top writer for Fox News’ Tucker Carlson resigned after CNN revealed his racist and sexist posts, reviving criticism of Carlson’s commentaries. Carlson is set to address the controversy on Monday.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The revelation that Fox News prime-time star Tucker Carlson’s top writer had posted racist, sexist and homophobic sentiments online for years under a pseudonym has led to renewed scrutiny of Carlson’s own commentaries, which have inspired a series of advertising boycotts.

On Monday, Carlson is set to address the growing controversy, which led to the resignation of the writer, Blake Neff, after questions were raised by CNN’s Oliver Darcy. It also led to a condemnation of Neff’s views by the network’s chief executive.

In an internal memo, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and President and Executive Editor Jay Wallace called the postings “horrific racist, misogynistic and homophobic behavior.” Neff had, among other things, assailed the intelligence of Black Americans, African immigrants and Asian Americans, according to CNN. He also repeatedly demeaned a woman, posting details about her dating life and mocking her on personal terms.

Carlson has publicly cited the importance of the value of Neff’s work on his show and for Carlson’s earlier book. The host has courted criticism repeatedly for severe rhetoric, especially toward people of color, immigrants and women.

“I think his show is very close to what his writer, Blake Neff was doing, apparently anonymously for five years,” former CNN and NBC host Soledad O’Brien, who is Black and Latina, tells NPR. On his program, she says, Carlson is “anti-immigrant, he’s frequently racist. He says despicable things about women, he says despicable things about Asians. He says despicable things about Latinos. He talks about the kind of people who ‘hate’ America.”

President Trump is known to be a frequent viewer and often cites Carlson’s arguments publicly. In recent days, some Republican strategists have even looked to Carlson as a Republican presidential candidate in 2024 should Trump lose this November.

The irony is that even as Carlson has just set a record for viewers for any cable news show in the history of the industry in this country, sponsors are peeling away.

An estimated 4.3 million Americans tuned in to watch his program each night for the second quarter of this year — more than anyone ever in cable news. And yet Disney, Papa John’s, and T-Mobile are among the most recent major advertisers who have pulled commercials from the show, in their cases, citing his remarks about Black Lives Matter protests.

“This may be a lot of things, this moment we are living through, but it is definitely not about Black lives,” Carlson said in early June. “Remember that when they come for you. And at this rate, they will.” (A Fox News spokesperson told reporters that “they” referred to Democrats, not Black protesters.)

Fox did not comment beyond the memo from Scott and Wallace, which was shared with reporters and offered neither support nor criticism for Carlson. The two executives also announced that Carlson would address the controversy on his program Monday. Carlson declined several requests for comment from NPR.

These concerns are not new, along with pressures on and from advertisers.

Back in 2018, for example, Carlson told his viewers: “Our leaders demand we shut up and accept this. We have a moral obligation to admit the world’s poor, they tell us, even if it makes our own country poorer and dirtier and more divided.”

Fox News is part of Rupert Murdoch’s larger media empire. Last year, Joseph Azam, a former lawyer and senior vice president for Murdoch’s publishing arm, told NPR that Carlson’s comments on immigration and rhetoric from other Fox News hosts led him to leave the company. Azam is Muslim and an immigrant from Afghanistan.

Just last week, Carlson questioned the patriotism of two Democratic members of Congress who are both women of color: Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, who immigrated from Somalia, and Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, whose mother is Thai of Chinese descent.

Duckworth is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. She lost both her legs and partial use of an arm when a helicopter she was piloting was shot down by Iraqi insurgents in 2004. After Duckworth tweeted in response that Carlson should “walk a mile in my legs and then tell me whether or not I love America,” Carlson escalated his attacks the next night, calling her a “coward” and a “fraud.”

On his show, Carlson has hosted Pete D’Abrosca, who has expressed sympathy for alt-right leaders; the British commentator Katie Hopkins, banned from Twitter for violating its hateful conduct policy and who told his viewers that white Christian women were “endangered”; and disgraced U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who Carlson defended for tweeting that America could not “restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

Similarly, the Daily Caller, a publication which Carlson co-founded and in which he owned a major stake until last month, has repeatedly faced public outcry over various contributors and staffers who were revealed to have written white supremacist rhetoric on other platforms and outlets.

White nationalists including David Duke and Richard Spencer have hailed Carlson’s show as echoing their own talking points. For his part, Carlson has called the idea of white supremacy in the U.S. a hoax.

“Tucker’s show itself skates that line very closely,” says O’Brien, now an independent television host, reporter and producer. “He’s a guy who’s beloved by white supremacists. I mean, clearly, they say so. That is an indication that he says the kinds of things that they like to hear. He frames arguments that are basically white supremacist argument. He’s not going to use the N-word on TV, certainly. But I think he goes right up to that line.”

Last year, when the liberal watchdog Media Matters published a series of offensive past remarks Carlson had made about women on radio shows, the Fox News host issued his own challenge in return:

“Rather than express the usual ritual contrition, how about this: I’m on television every weeknight live for an hour. If you want to know what I think, you can watch.”

His Monday show, on which he is to address his former writer’s writings, begins 8 p.m. ET.

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Iranian Report Details Chain Of Mistakes In Shooting Down Ukrainian Passenger Plane

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Iranian Report Details Chain Of Mistakes In Shooting Down Ukrainian Passenger Plane

Rescue teams examine the wreckage of a Ukrainian airliner shot down shortly after take-off in the Iranian capital Tehran on Jan. 8. Iran says a tragic series of mistakes led to the missile strike.

Akbar Tavakoli/IRNA/AFP via Getty Images


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Akbar Tavakoli/IRNA/AFP via Getty Images

Human error, a misaligned missile guidance system and a decision to fire without authorization contributed to Iran’s downing of a civilian passenger plane in January, according to a new report from Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization.

Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down shortly after takeoff from Tehran, killing all 176 people on board. For several days, no one took responsibility, but signs pointed toward it being struck by a missile. Eventually, Iran admitted it had targeted the plane after mistakenly believing it was a U.S. missile.

“PS 752 was identified by one of the air defense units as a threat and targeted consequently,” Iran’s accident investigation says in its introduction, before laying out the pertinent facts. The Kyiv-bound plane received permission from air traffic control to take off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport. The flight plan was relayed to Iran’s air defense coordination center, and the military granted clearance for the plane to depart.

That’s when everything went awry. Mistake number one: One of Iran’s air defense units had been moved — but due to human error, its radar system was never realigned. So when the unit spotted an object traveling on an unknown flight path, it didn’t realize that was the Boeing 737-800 that had already gotten clearance.

The air defense unit operator notified command about the object, and identified it as a threat. But command never responded and let the unit operator know it was the Kiev-bound flight. “Another link in the chain of events was formed at this point,” the report says.

By now, the tragedy still could have been averted, the report says, if not for mistake number three: “If at this point he had identified the target as a passenger aircraft, the missile would not have been launched.”

The errors continued. From air traffic control’s vantage point, PS 752 was following its assigned flight path. But, having not heard back from command, the air defense unit operator fired upon the target. He wasn’t supposed to do that; Iran’s military procedure states that individual units aren’t authorized to fire without explicitly getting orders to do so. “The fourth link leading to the firing of the missile was now formed.”

The first missile likely hit the plane, the report says. But the rogue unit, still tracking the object, fired again. By now, the aircraft had lost radio communication. It turned to the right. A fire broke out inside the plane. Two minutes later, it crashed into a playground in Khalajabad, exploding on impact. “The aircraft then kept hitting the ground and bouncing on a route towards the airport, making the aircraft pieces, victims’ properties, objects and body remains disintegrate completely in a vast area near a residential complex, recreational and sports park, gardens and the surrounding agricultural land,” the report says.

All passengers and crew were killed.

“The sequence of events clearly shows the occurrence of a chain of events initiated by a human error,” the report says.

Iran’s government had previously explained that it was on high alert after it fired missile strikes on Iraqi bases hosting U.S. troops. That attack was a retaliation for a U.S. drone strike that killed the prominent Iranian military commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad on Jan. 3.

Iran has delayed providing international investigators with the flight’s black box recorder but has reportedly pledged to provide it to French investigators on July 20.

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Iranian Report Details Chain Of Mistakes In Shooting Down Ukrainian Passenger Plane

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Iranian Report Details Chain Of Mistakes In Shooting Down Ukrainian Passenger Plane

Rescue teams examine the wreckage of a Ukrainian airliner shot down shortly after take-off in the Iranian capital Tehran on Jan. 8. Iran says a tragic series of mistakes led to the missile strike.

Akbar Tavakoli/IRNA/AFP via Getty Images


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Akbar Tavakoli/IRNA/AFP via Getty Images

Human error, a misaligned missile guidance system and a decision to fire without authorization contributed to Iran’s downing of a civilian passenger plane in January, according to a new report from Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization.

Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down shortly after takeoff from Tehran, killing all 176 people on board. For several days, no one took responsibility, but signs pointed toward it being struck by a missile. Eventually, Iran admitted it had targeted the plane after mistakenly believing it was a U.S. missile.

“PS 752 was identified by one of the air defense units as a threat and targeted consequently,” Iran’s accident investigation says in its introduction, before laying out the pertinent facts. The Kyiv-bound plane received permission from air traffic control to take off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport. The flight plan was relayed to Iran’s air defense coordination center, and the military granted clearance for the plane to depart.

That’s when everything went awry. Mistake number one: One of Iran’s air defense units had been moved — but due to human error, its radar system was never realigned. So when the unit spotted an object traveling on an unknown flight path, it didn’t realize that was the Boeing 737-800 that had already gotten clearance.

The air defense unit operator notified command about the object, and identified it as a threat. But command never responded and let the unit operator know it was the Kiev-bound flight. “Another link in the chain of events was formed at this point,” the report says.

By now, the tragedy still could have been averted, the report says, if not for mistake number three: “If at this point he had identified the target as a passenger aircraft, the missile would not have been launched.”

The errors continued. From air traffic control’s vantage point, PS 752 was following its assigned flight path. But, having not heard back from command, the air defense unit operator fired upon the target. He wasn’t supposed to do that; Iran’s military procedure states that individual units aren’t authorized to fire without explicitly getting orders to do so. “The fourth link leading to the firing of the missile was now formed.”

The first missile likely hit the plane, the report says. But the rogue unit, still tracking the object, fired again. By now, the aircraft had lost radio communication. It turned to the right. A fire broke out inside the plane. Two minutes later, it crashed into a playground in Khalajabad, exploding on impact. “The aircraft then kept hitting the ground and bouncing on a route towards the airport, making the aircraft pieces, victims’ properties, objects and body remains disintegrate completely in a vast area near a residential complex, recreational and sports park, gardens and the surrounding agricultural land,” the report says.

All passengers and crew were killed.

“The sequence of events clearly shows the occurrence of a chain of events initiated by a human error,” the report says.

Iran’s government had previously explained that it was on high alert after it fired missile strikes on Iraqi bases hosting U.S. troops. That attack was a retaliation for a U.S. drone strike that killed the prominent Iranian military commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad on Jan. 3.

Iran has delayed providing international investigators with the flight’s black box recorder but has reportedly pledged to provide it to French investigators on July 20.

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At The U.N., Russia Forces Reduced Access For Aid To Syrians

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At The U.N., Russia Forces Reduced Access For Aid To Syrians

A U.N.-supported shelter center in Idlib de-escalation zone hosted the disabled, children and elderly before it was evacuated due to the Assad regime and Russia attacks in January.

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Kusay Sibib/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A divided United Nations Security Council approved a resolution on Saturday to allow just one border crossing — instead of the current two — to remain open for U.N. aid convoys into Syria, dealing another blow to a humanitarian assistance program for millions of displaced people.

The outcome alarmed aid groups struggling to help those trapped and in danger in the nine-year civil war.

In its fifth and final attempt this week to vote on the issue, 12 nations voted in favor of the resolution, including the U.S. Three countries — Russia, China and the Dominican Republic — abstained.

“Today’s resolution leaves us bitterly disappointed,” said U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Kelly Craft.

The U.S. and European countries wanted to maintain U.N. aid routes through the two border crossings. The remaining crossing for U.N. aid is the Bab al-Hawa crossing point from Turkey, where the U.N. serves millions of displaced people in Syria’s Idlib province. And even that route approval will last just one year.

The council wrangled all week over the issue, and had already missed a deadline a day earlier to renew the program that had been running for six years.

Craft said a series of Russian and Chinese vetoes this week on resolutions that would have allowed more aid is a “stain on humanity.”

Russia, a close ally of the Syrian regime, led the effort to cut the aid program, as it has in the past, because the aid is not done in cooperation with the Syrian government.

The food and medicine is sent via Turkey into areas outside the Syrian government’s control, including an area in Idlib province that’s mainly in rebel hands.

After the vote, Russian deputy U.N. envoy Dmitry Polyanskiy said those areas are “controlled by international terrorists and fighters and it’s impossible to monitor.” He said Russia favored aid deliveries in coordination with “its legal government,” referring to the Syrian regime.

As the Security Council considered renewing the cross-border aid convoys, a new crisis emerged Thursday with the first confirmed coronavirus case in rebel-held Idlib. A Syrian doctor, who resides in a Turkish border town and works in one of the few remaining hospitals along the Syrian, border tested positive. By Saturday morning, two additional cases had been reported.

Humanitarian aid organizations have been preparing for an outbreak, as well as warning of disaster amid fears for more than a million destitute Syrians living in tent camps. Social distancing is impossible, soap and water is in short supply. The population of the camps is mostly women and children who have been displaced from other parts of Syria during the war.

Aid groups warn that the current level of aid being delivered is already far from what’s needed, and that those needs are growing.

“The cynical and cruel maneuvering of Russia with China’s support is one tragic example of the broken U.N. humanitarian system,” said Susannah Sirkin, the director of policy and a senior advisor at Physicians for Human Rights. She briefed the Security Council earlier this week as her group, among others, pushed to have the aid continued.

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