Take Rohingya issue to UN BNP asks govt

first_imgMirza Fakhrul Islam AlamgirAccusing the government of having failed to take any step to resolve the Rohingya crisis, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) on Wednesday urged it to raise the issue at the United Nations.”Foreign ministers from Indonesia and Turkey are arriving here over the Rohingya crisis. The United Nations has issued a statement to stop persecution on them immediately. But, our government didn’t send any envoy anywhere and it still didn’t take any step to take the issue to the United Nations,” said BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.He further said, “From this meeting, I strongly demand the government immediately raise the issue at the United Nations and take proper steps to resolve the problem.”The BNP leader came up with the comments while speaking at a discussion programme arranged by Dhaka North city unit BNP at the National Press Club, marking the 10th ‘jail release’ day of BNP senior vice chairman Tarique Rahman.Fakhrul said the government has failed to give shelter to thousands of Muslim and Hindu Rohingyas who are fleeing their country in the face of mass killing and persecution by the Myanmar army.”The current government has also failed to force the Myanmar authorities to take back the Rohingya refugees ensuring their rights and dignity through diplomatic efforts,” he observed.The BNP secretary general alleged that the current government is again trying to hold a lopsided election like 5-January 2014 one.He warned that the country’s people will not allow the ruling party to hold any lopsided election. “The 11th parliamentary elections must be held under a neutral election-time supportive government conducted by an impartial Election Commission.”Fakhrul said the government is killing people and making them disappeared as it has no accountability.He called upon BNP leaders and activists to get united to get rid of the ‘misrule’ of the current regime through putting up a strong resistance at every locality.last_img read more

Rohingya aid truck crash kills 9

first_img.At least nine people were killed and 13 others injured after a relief-laden truck for Rohingya people had fallen into a roadside ditch near Chhadkhola BGB border post in Naikhyangchhari upazila on Thursday.The deceased are day laborers, said district superintendant of police Sanjit Kumar Roy.Bandarban Red Crescent Society secretary AKN Jahangir said driver of a relief truck for the Rohingya refugees of Shonkhola temporary Rohingya camp lost his control over the streering and the truck veered off the road.The truck fell into a roadside ditch in the area around 7:45am, leaving six people killed on the spot and eight others injured, he added.Local upazila health complex resident physician Salman Karim Kahn said some 16 injured were admitted in the hospital and three of them succumbed to their injuries. Another injured was sent to Cox’s Bazaar Sadar hospital as his condition deteriorated.Bandarban deputy Commissioner (DC) Dilip Kumar Banik confirmed the incident.last_img read more

Schoolboy killed over seniorjunior feud

first_imgMd Hasan. Photo collected from FacebookA schoolboy was stabbed to death due to dispute between local ‘senior group’ and ‘junior group’ at Chandni Ghat of Chakbazar in Old Dhaka early Saturday, reports UNB.The victim is Md Hasan, a JSC candidate of Islambagh Ideal School.Hasan, son of Mohammad Ali, was residing at 20 Hazi Rahim Box Lane of Posta in Lalbagh.Quoting the father of the victim, sources at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) said one Ali, 15, allegedly stabbed Hasan centring dispute between ‘senior group’ and ‘junior group’ at Chandni Ghat Shishu Hospital Goli at around 9:00pm on Friday.He was rushed to DMCH with fatal injuries where he succumbed to his injuries at around 4:30am, said ASI Babul Miah of DMCH police camp.last_img read more

Barkatullah 22 other BNP leaders face arrest warrant

first_imgFile Photo: Barkatullah BuluA Dhaka court on Sunday issued a warrant for the arrest of 23 Bangladesh Nationalist Party leaders and activists, including its joint secretary general Barkatullah Bulu, in a sabotage case with Ramna police station, reports UNB. M Kamrul Hossain Mollah, judge of the Metropolitan Session’s Court, passed the order taking cognisance of the charge-sheet.It ordered the officer-in-charge of Ramna police station to submit a report on 27 March complying with the arrest warrant.The warranted leaders include BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia’s press secretary Maruf Kamal Khan, chairperson’s personal secretary Shimul Biswas, BNP leaders Habib-un-Nabi Khan Sohel, Shafiul Bari, Mir Sharafat Ali and Shirin Sultana.In the case, 17 BNP leaders were, earlier, granted bail and one kept in the jail.According to the case statement, a group of miscreants torched a passenger-carrying bus in front of National Bank branch in city’s Malibagh area under Ramna police station on 3 February, 2015 during the indefinite blockade programme enforced by the BNP-led 20 party alliance.Following the incident, police filed a case under the Explosive Substances Act and Special Power Act.Later in March, 2015, police submitted the charge sheets accusing 41 people in the case under the Explosive Substances Act and Special Power Act.last_img read more

Law enforcement to determine accuracy of news

first_imgLaw enforcement to step up control of mediaLaw minister Anisul Huq and telecommunications minister Mustafa Jabbar on 19 April said, the Digital Security Act was not made to target the media. It would not affect freedom of expression or freedom of press either. The ministers said this at a meeting with cabinet members at the time.Legal experts, however, say if the bill is passed, the government law enforcement agencies like RAB, police, BGB and Ansar will eventually emerge as the ultimate ‘editors’ or ‘super editors’.“Which news content is right and which one is harmful- all of this will depend on their own logic and whims,” they said.According to the experts, the law enforcers will be able to use this act to request BTRC to block any digital media at any time.Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) is an autonomous organisation. To be a member of BTRC, one has to have the criteria of a judge of the Supreme Court. Still, if they receive any ‘request’ from RAB, police or any other law enforcement agencies, they will ‘immediately’ respond.The law enforcement agencies were not even given such power in the IT Act of 2006. Law enforcers had to seek court permission to seize computers used to commit any alleged crime under that act.Under sub-section- 1 of section-8 in the current proposed act, it is possible to remove any news content published in digital media if it seems to be a threat to digital security.Sumon Ahmed, a member of the advisory committee of the United Nations Internet Governance Forum, told Prothom Alo, BTRC can block any newspaper’s webpage containing standard Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (http), if they cannot remove contents of the page. BTRC, however, will not be able to remove or block the webpage where ‘s’ (secured) is added to the http.Apart from that, BTRC can block the newspapers’ webpage only in Bangladesh.Law enforcers to be more powerfulUnder section-43 of the act, if a police officer suspects any crime or evidence, he can register the incident in his office and conduct a search into any media office, seize computers, search and arrest anybody, without arrest warrant.In sub-section-2 of section-8, the law enforcement agencies can request BTRC to remove news contents that violate the country’s solidarity, affect economic activities, defence and security, religious values or public order and spread communal hatred among people.In sub-section 3, it is said that the contents will be removed or blocked by BTRC immediately upon receiving such request.Acknowledging these concerns, media experts said such rules would certainly violate the freedom of expression and instigate a hostile reaction towards media persons.Shahdeen Malik, a Supreme Court lawyer told Prothom Alo, “It seems we are going back to the Special Powers Act of 1974.”Another lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan thinks the definition of law enforcement agencies should be clarified, as the army also falls under the definition of law enforcement agencies.Under the act, a digital security agency is said to be created under a director general. An emergency response team will be formed for constant monitoring. Their work will be determined by a policy.So this bill is not the final word. There is scope to make the rules even more difficult.Digital act includes 8 ‘crimes’ from 1974 actThe eight definitions of the relevant 1974 act interpreted by justice Muhammad Habibur Rahman and Anisuzzaman in ‘Ain Shabdokosh’ (dictionary of legal terms), bears resemblance to the the law related to blocking websites.Also, the current digital act contains almost all the eight crimes mentioned in the 1974 act. The similarities in the digital act include, three in section 8 (defence, security, ethnic hatred), one in section 25 (intimidation), two in section 27 (foreign states and public order), and two in section 31 (related to security and community).Muhammad Habibur Rahman and Anisuzzaman recorded in eight points the reasons why newspapers were confiscated. This indicates that the special power of the law enforcing agencies to block online newspapers given in digital act is akin to the confiscation of newspapers in the 1974 act.The eight points are: 1. Sovereignty or defence of Bangladesh; 2. Having friendly relations with foreign countries; 3. Threat to the country’s security or public security or public order; 4. Instigating hatred or hostility among different communities and classes; 5. Intervention or incitement in law enforcement; 6. Obstructing supply of essential goods; 7. Creating panic or anarchy in society; 8. Causing or intending to cause financial and social damage of the state. No safeguard for editorsIn some of the instances, the terms used to define punishable crimes for online publication are severer than those in the much debated sections annulled in 2006.Many legal experts are surprised at the free access given to the law enforcement that will enable indiscriminate abuse of the law. They observe, it will add to the spree of arrests, filing of cases and harassment.The editors and journalists have to depend on the police for their online publications. But in the 1973 printing presses and publications act under CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure) section 108, safeguards were provided for editors, publishers and presses. The 108 section still has the provision.It says, any charges could be filed against the owner, editor, publisher or printer of any newspaper registered under the 1973 presses and publications act alleging instigation of sedition, hatred, fear, if the concerned government authorities or officials issue an order in this regard.Though safeguards remain in place for the press for the same crimes, they are not ensured for online publications.The digital security act vests the power to determine objectionable content, with the police and Ansar, BGB and RAB. Such free license for the law enforcement is unprecedented in the country. This development implies that BTRC will become paper tiger.Deviation from 1974 actIn the 1974 act there were remedies for banning or forfeiture of newspapers. The digital act does not address this. This act does not specify any authority to approach for or record any appeal. The span of time for a website to remain blocked is not specified either. There was no provision to confiscate any newspaper on grounds of hurting religious sentiment in the 1974 special powers act nor in section 99 of the 1991 CrPC enacted by the BNP government.In the much-debated Act 57, there was provision for action against crimes of hurting ‘religious sentiment’. But Awami League has made the matter ambiguous by defining ‘hurting religious values’ as a crime under which online media can be blocked.Now police, Ansar, coast guard, BGB and RAB will determine the degree of religious values being offended and will search, arrest without any warrant, and block online publications without any trial.Section 17 of 1974 said, the government will inform the publisher, editor as soon as possible of the confiscation and will issue written orders to submit the printed copies, stop distribution, and file the writer’s name. The act also says that the government must state reasonable grounds in the order and let the accused editor and journalist to present an answer in response to the order. The government must also mention that the accused has the right to self defence.The government has not expressed any intention of adding such provisions in the new digital act. The law minister Anisul Huq and the information technology minister Mustafa Jabbar have said they would take all the concerns of the editors’ council into consideration.The 1974 act stated that a police official, not below the rank of sub-inspector, with a warrant and with the magistrate’s approval, can search a newspaper office. Any search was forbidden after sunset and before sunrise. But the digital security act lacks such safeguards.Notably, in the abolished section 18 under the 1974 act there was provision for any report on security, friendly relations with foreign states, public order to be cleared for publication within 72 hours of submission to the government.There was even provision for appeal to be filed within seven days of a certain report being banned. Another provision stated that the appeal should be disposed after hearing by a district judge. In the proposed digital act, the stated crimes are the same as in the 1974 act, but with no scope for seeking remedy. *This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat and Nusrat Nowrin.last_img read more

N Korea names delegates for interKorean talks

first_imgNorth Korea`s leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a New Year`s Day speech in this photo released by North Korea`s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on 1 January, 2018. Photo: ReutersNorth Korea has named its delegation for a rare high-level meeting with the South this week, the unification ministry in Seoul said Sunday, as Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe cautiously welcomed the talks.The two Koreas agreed Friday to hold their first official dialogue in more than two years and are expected to discuss the North’s participation in next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.The North Korean delegation for Tuesday’s meeting in the border truce village of Panmunjom will be led by Ri Son-Gwon, head of the North’s agency handling inter-Korean affairs, the ministry said.Pyongyang informed the South that four other officials will accompany Ri, it added, including those in charge of sports.The tentative rapprochement comes after the North’s leader Kim Jong-Un warned in his New Year speech that he had a nuclear button on his desk, but also said Pyongyang could send a team to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.Seoul responded with an offer of talks and last week the hotline between the neighbours was restored after being suspended for almost two years.The message comes a day after South Korea suggested unification minister Cho Myoung-Gyon would lead its delegation for the upcoming talks.Kim said in his New Year speech that his country wished success for the Olympics, to be held from February 9-25, while Seoul and Washington have decided to delay their annual joint military drills — which always infuriate the North — until after the Games.The Japanese prime minister voiced cautious hopes for the talks but stressed that having a meeting for the sake of a meeting would be a waste.”The Olympics is a celebration of peace. I want to recognise that change,” Abe said in a recorded interview aired Sunday on national broadcaster NHK.His comments came as US President Donald Trump went a step further and said he was open to holding direct talks with Kim under certain conditions.The two Koreas have been separated by the world’s most heavily militarised border since the Korean War ended in a stalemate in 1953.In recent months, the North has held multiple missile launches and its sixth and most powerful nuclear test — purportedly of a hydrogen bomb — in violation of UN resolutions.Abe, who long has taken hawkish stance against the hermit state, said Japan must upgrade its defence capacity in the face of the North’s missile threats.He reiterated the importance of “maximising pressure” on Pyongyang in order to force Kim’s regime to change its policies and said North Korea had violated past agreements designed to stop its nuclear programmes, adding: “We cannot afford to be fooled again.”last_img

3 more Bangladeshi women in Sri Lanka drug trafficking

first_imgHeroin packets in a Colombo flat. File PhotoDuring recent investigations by Sri Lanka’s enforcement agencies, so far 6 Bangladeshis have been found involved in drug smuggling there. On 31 December the Sri Lankan police had mentioned three Bangladeshis were involved in drug trafficking, including one woman. They are being held in custody in Colombo.Three more Bangladeshis have now been named as part of the drug smuggling scam. All three of them are women.The Sri Lankan authorities have informed Bangladesh than these Bangladeshi nationals have been travelling between Dhaka, Colombo and Kuala Lumpur. Sri Lanka’s law enforcement agencies believe that more Bangladeshis are likely to be involved in this smuggling.According to Colombo’s immigration authorities, the three Bangladeshi women are Shaheena Akhter, Rehana Akhter and Tania.Shaheena Akhter has visited Colombo at least 10 times between 30 March 2017 and 16 December 2018. She sometimes travelled from Kuala Lumpur to Colombo and then back to Dhaka or, at times, back to Kuala Lumpur.Or sometimes it was from Dhaka to Colombo and back to Dhaka. During those 19 moths she basically travelled around these three destinations by either  Sri Lankan Airlines or Malinda Air.The Sri Lankan authorities informed the Bangladesh high commission in Colombo that Shaheena Akhter was in regular contact over phone with a Bangladeshi in Australia. She is not in Sri Lanka at present and they do not know the present whereabouts of the other two women.Sri Lanka’s largest drug haul in the country’s recent history was last month, on 31 December. Two Bangladeshis were caught and arrested in the haul – Mohammed Jamaluddin of Bogura and Dewan Rafiul Islam of Joypurhat. When caught during the operation by the Sri Lankan police in Mount Lavinia in the suburbs of Colombo, they had 272 kgs of heroin and 5 kgs of cocaine in their possession, amounting to around 1.52 billion taka in worth. The flat where the huge drug haul was recovered had been rented for a year by Shaheena Akhter in January 2018.Previously, on 15 December last year, a Bangladeshi woman named Surjomoni had been arrested with 32 kgs of heroin from the same area in Colombo’s suburbs.In the meantime, Sri Lanka’s Special Task Force (STF) interrogated Rafiul Islam on 3 January in presence of a Bangladeshi diplomat.Before being caught in Sri Lanka, on 12 August 2017 Jamaluddin had been arrested in Bangladesh by Bogura district police detective branch (DB) in the town’s Rupkatha Housing area with 30 yaba tablets. He was charged under the narcotics control act and the case remains under trial in the Bogura court.After Prothom Alo published news on 2 January of Jamaluddin’s arrest in Colombo, police searched his house in Bogura.The Bangladeshi woman in Sri Lankan policy custody had told them during interrogations that she could only understand Bangla. However, it was later discovered she also could speak in English and Singhalese.Meanwhile in Bangladesh, the Foreign Ministry has called for an inter-ministerial meeting on Sunday to discuss what is to be done about the involvement of Bangladeshis in Sri Lankan drug trafficking.last_img read more

Nipah virus death toll in India jumps to 10

first_imgAnimal Husbandry department and Forest officials deposit a bat into a container after catching it inside a well at Changaroth in Kozhikode in the Indian state of Kerala on 21 May, 2018. Photo: AFPThe death toll from an outbreak of the rare Nipah virus in southern India jumped to 10 Tuesday with more than 90 people quarantined to try to stem the spread of the disease, officials said.With tests from other suspect deaths awaited, authorities in Kerala state have ordered emergency measures to control the virus, which is spread by fruit bats.Three of the fatalities are members of the same family — dead bats were found in a well at their home. A nurse who treated one of the family has also died, leaving a heart-wrenching note for her family.”We sent 18 samples for testing. Out of these 12 tested positive. Ten of those who tested positive have died and the remaining two are undergoing treatment,” a health official in Kerala’s Kozhikode district, the centre of the outbreak, told AFP.Ninety-four people who have come into contact with those who died have been isolated in their homes.”They have been quarantined as a precaution,” Kerala state health surveillance officer K.J. Reena told AFP.Nipah has killed more than 260 people in Malaysia, Bangladesh and India since 1998 and has a mortality rate of nearly 70 percent, according to the World Health Organisation.There is no vaccination for the virus which induces flu-like symptoms that lead to an agonising encephalitis and coma.The WHO has named Nipah as one of the eight priority diseases that could cause a global epidemic, alongside the likes of Ebola and Zika.- Nurse hailed -Among the dead in the Kerala outbreak was nursing assistant and mother-of-two Lini Puthussery, who had helped to treat one of the original family suffering from Nipah.Puthussery died on Monday and was cremated before her family members could bid her a final goodbye because of fears the virus could spread.In a final note she scribbled in a hospital isolation unit, she urged her husband to take care of the children.”I don’t think I will be able to see you again. Sorry. Please take care of our children,” she said.Kerala state Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Puthussery’s “selfless service will be remembered”.He also said many professionals had expressed their willingness to work in Nipah affected areas. “The government of Kerala welcomes their service,” he said on Twitter.Health authorities across the state were on high alert, setting up medical camps and a control room to tackle the emerging situation.They have urged residents to take precautions include avoiding eating fruit fallen on the ground and drinking raw date palm sap.U.V. Jose, district collector of Kozhikode, said government and private hospitals were working in close coordination.”Health staff are visiting individual households giving them specific instructions including about eating fruits from outside and other precautions,” he told AFP.Authorities in Goa and Tamil Nadu states, neighbouring Kerala, said they were monitoring the spread of the outbreak.Nipah first appeared in Malaysia in 1998. It spread to Singapore and more than 100 people were killed. On that occasion, pigs were the virus hosts but they are believed to have caught it from bats.In India the disease was first reported in 2001 and again six years later, with the two outbreaks claiming 50 lives.Both times the disease was reported in West Bengal state bordering Bangladesh.Bangladesh has borne the brunt of the disease in recent years, with more than 100 people dying of Nipah since a first outbreak was reported in 2001. In 2004, humans became infected with Nipah after eating date palm sap contaminated by fruit bats.last_img read more

Woman killed as tree falls on her

first_imgProthom Alo IllustrationA woman in her mid twenties was killed and seven other pedestrians injured after a coconut tree fell on them in front of Shishu Academy in Shahbag area of the capital city on Friday night, reports UNB.The deceased is Mitu Ghosh, 25, betrothed to a certain Dhononjoy Ghosh.Witnesses said the accident took place around 9:30pm when the tree suddenly fell on a rickshaw that was carrying the betrothed couple, leaving her dead on the spot and injured him.The injured were taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital, said DMCH police outpost inspector Bachhu Mia.One of the injured Shopna was shifted to Square Hospitals as her condition deteriorated, he added.last_img read more

Khaleda not produced before court for illness

first_imgBNP chairperson Khaleda Zia. Prothom Alo File PhotoA Dhaka court on Monday fixed 17 April for the next hearing in the Gatco corruption case filed against Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson Khaleda Zia and others as she could not be produced before the court due to illness, reports UNB. Judge Abu Syed Diljar Hossain of the Special Judge Court-3 of Dhaka set the date.Earlier on 27 February, the court fixed today (Monday) for hearing on charge framing against BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and 16 others in the case.On 7 February, the prosecution began hearing on charge framing in the corruption case.On 25 November last, the High Court directed the trial court to conclude the trial proceedings in the case within six months.On 2 September, 2007, the Anti-Corruption Commission filed the case against two Gatco directors, Khaleda and others.They were accused of causing a loss of Tk 10 billion to the state by awarding the contract of container handling at the Chittagong port and Dhaka’s Inland Container Depot to Gatco.The ACC pressed charges on 13 May the following year against 24 people, including nine former ministers and state ministers of Khaleda’s cabinet. Six of the accused have so far died.last_img read more

Sri Lanka attacks carried out by suicide bombers

first_imgSri Lankan Special Task Force (STF) personnel gesture outside a house during a raid — after a suicide blast had killed police searching the property — in the Orugodawatta area of the capital Colombo on 21 April, 2019, following a series of blasts in churches and hotels. Photo: AFPSeven suicide bombers took part in the devastating attacks on churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka that killed 290 people and wounded more than 500, a senior investigator said on Monday.Two of the suicide bombers blew themselves up at the luxury Shangri-La Hotel on Colombo’s seafront, said Ariyananda Welianga, a senior official at the government’s forensic division. The others targeted three churches and two other hotels.A fourth hotel and a house in a suburb of the capital Colombo were also targeted, but it was not immediately known how the attacks were carried out.”Still the investigations are going on,” Welianga said.There was no claim of responsibility for the Easter Sunday attacks, which mainly took place during church services or at hotel breakfast buffets.”Guests who had come for breakfast were lying on the floor, blood all over,” an employee at Kingsbury Hotel, one of those targeted, told Reuters.”We just picked up everyone, dead or alive and evacuated them.”Four of the bombs went off at roughly the same time, at 8.45 a.m., with two others coming within 20 minutes. The explosions at the fourth hotel and the house were in the afternoon.Sri Lankans accounted for the bulk of the dead and wounded although government officials said 32 foreigners were killed, including British, U.S., Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals.President Maithripala Sirisena, who was abroad when the attacks happened, had called a meeting of the National Security Council on Monday, a government source said. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would attend the meeting, the source said.The U.S. State Department said in a travel advisory “terrorist groups” were continuing to plot possible attacks in Sri Lanka and targets could included tourist spots, transport hubs, shopping malls, hotels, places of worship, airports and other public areas.The government announced a curfew in Colombo from 8 p.m. until 4 a.m. A Sunday night curfew was lifted in the morning.The Sri Lankan military, who were clearing the route from Colombo airport late on Sunday in preparation for Sirisena’s return, found a crude bomb near the departure gate, an air force spokesman said.They destroyed the device in a controlled explosion.There were fears the attacks could spark a renewal of communal violence, with police also reporting late on Sunday there had been a petrol bomb attack on a mosque in the northwest and arson attacks on two shops owned by Muslims in the west.Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka was at war for decades with ethnic minority Tamil separatists but violence had largely ended since the government victory in the civil war, 10 years ago.Sri Lanka’s 22 million people include Christian, Muslim and Hindu minority populations.The explosion at the house in the Colombo suburb occurred when security forces raided a house there on Sunday afternoon, several hours after the attack. Police reported an explosion at the house and said three officers were killed.Police said on Monday 24 people had been arrested, all of whom were Sri Lankan.SOCIAL MEDIA BLOCKEDTraffic was uncharacteristically thin in normally bustling Colombo after the island-wide curfew was lifted.Soldiers with automatic weapons stood guard outside major hotels and the World Trade Centre in the business district, where the four hotels were targeted, a Reuters witness said.Scores of people who were stranded overnight at the main airport began making their way home as restrictions were lifted.The government also blocked access to social media and messaging sites, including Facebook and WhatsApp, making information hard to gather.A British mother and son eating breakfast at the luxury Shangri-La hotel were among those killed, British media reported.An Australian survivor, identified only as Sam, told Australia’s 3AW radio the hotel was a scene of “absolute carnage”.He said he and a travel partner were also having breakfast at the Shangri-La when two blasts went off. He said he had seen two men wearing backpacks seconds before the blasts.”There were people screaming and dead bodies all around,” he said. “Kids crying, kids on the ground, I don’t know if they were dead or not, just crazy.”There were similar scenes of carnage at two churches in or near Colombo, and a third church in the northeast town of Batticaloa, where worshippers had gathered for Easter Sunday services. Pictures from the scene showed bodies on the ground and blood-spattered pews and statues.Dozens were killed in one of the blasts at the Gothic-style St. Sebastian church in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo. Police said they suspected that blast was a suicide attack.DOMESTIC FEUDWickremesinghe acknowledged on Sunday that the government had some prior information about possible attacks on churches involving a little-known Islamist group but said ministers had not been told.The apparent lapse could feed into a feud between the prime minister and the president.Sirisena fired the premier last year and installed opposition strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa in his stead. Weeks later, he was forced to re-instate Wickremesinghe because of pressure from the Supreme Court but their relationship is still fraught as a presidential election nears.last_img read more

President Trump Gets A Head Start On Shaping The Federal Courts

first_img Share Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesPresident Trump has a large number of judicial vacancies to fill, since Senate Republicans held up President Barack Obama’s nominees.President Trump is moving quickly to put his personal stamp on the federal courts.On Monday the president nominated 10 people for federal judgeships. Thanks to an unusually large number of vacancies on the bench, there could be many more to come.“This is just a down payment,” said John Malcolm of the Heritage Foundation. He noted there are more than 100 open seats on the federal district courts and appeals courts.“Starting with a Supreme Court vacancy, which has now been filed, President Trump certainly has a very good opportunity early on to have an impact on the federal bench,” Malcolm said.Indeed, Trump came into office with a chance to fill more than twice as many court vacancies as President Barack Obama had. That’s partly because for the last two years, the Republican-controlled Senate dragged its feet in confirming judges. The Senate confirmed only 20 of Obama’s judicial nominees during 2015 and 2016, less than a third the number that were confirmed in the last two years of the Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.“Just as they held the Merrick Garland seat open on the Supreme Court, they also held open an awful lot of vacancies on the district courts and the courts of appeals,” said Russell Wheeler, who tracks judicial nominations at the Brookings Institution.At last month’s swearing-in ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump acknowledged that Senate stonewalling had given him a rare opportunity.“I especially want to express our gratitude to [Senate Republican Leader] Mitch McConnell for all that he did to make this achievement possible,” Trump said. “So thank you, Mitch.”The Heritage Foundation’s Malcolm cautions it wasn’t a risk-free strategy. Had Hillary Clinton won the election, she might now be packing the courts with a slate of more liberal judges.“So it took some guts and some daring on behalf of Sen. McConnell, and it paid off,” Malcolm said.Trump campaigned on the promise that he would appoint conservative judges to the bench — a key selling point for many Republican voters. He even released a list of potential candidates for the Supreme Court, which Malcolm and the Heritage Foundation had a hand in crafting.Two of the nominees announced Monday — Joan Larsen of the Michigan Supreme Court and David Stras of the Minnesota Supreme Court — are drawn from that list. Larsen was nominated to a seat on the federal appeals court in Cincinnati while Stras was tapped for the appellate court in St. Louis.All of the nominees appear to be cut from similar judicial cloth.“They are all highly regarded in conservative legal circles and by practitioners in the states where they reside,” Malcolm said.All presidents leave a mark on the courts, especially if they serve for two terms. But with so many early vacancies, Trump has a chance to accelerate his impact, quickly chipping away at the narrow Democratic advantage that Obama left on the federal bench.Wheeler says 51 percent of the current judges were appointed by Democrats, up from 36 percent on the appellate courts and 40 percent on the district courts when Obama took office.Partisan pedigree is not always predictive of how judges will rule. The Seattle judge who blocked Trump’s original travel ban, for example, is a George W. Bush appointee. But Trump has made no secret of the kind of judicial philosophy he’s looking for.“We can assume the Trump administration is going to continue to nominate judges, especially for courts of appeals, who have fairly strong conservative credentials,” Wheeler said. “A big variable is whether or not Democratic senators can put a brake on it.”Senate Democrats gave up the right to filibuster nominees for the lower courts. But there is still a tradition that nominees should not be confirmed over the objection of their home-state senator. Democratic senators from Michigan and Minnesota have promised to give close scrutiny to the nominations of Larsen and Stras, assuming that genteel tradition survives in today’s more rough-and-tumble Senate.Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.last_img read more

So Many Babies In There Church Shooting Claims 8 Children

first_img Share Twitter via @ABCShrine to the victims of the Sutherland Springs shootingBy the time Paul Brunner rolled up in his ambulance to the worst mass shooting in Texas history, the First Baptist Church was a chaotic triage scene. Parents cried and kids screamed, and nearly all the victims appeared to have been hit more than once.Two of the first four patients the burly volunteer medic loaded into ambulances were children.“Our inclination is to protect children. The thing is, that wasn’t his inclination,” Brunner said, referring to the gunman. “He wasn’t separating going: ‘I’m not going to hurt the kids. I’m going to go after whatever adults wronged me.’”When gunfire tore through the church in tiny Sutherland Springs, killing more than two dozen, the bullets claimed eight children and teenagers who were sitting through Sunday services with their families. It was the largest number of children killed in a mass shooting since 20 died at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.Like that massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, the fact that the assailant slaughtered defenseless children compounded the anguish. Nearby schools quickly added grief counselors.The shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, had a turbulent and violent past that included a court-martial while serving in the Air Force on charges that he assaulted his then-wife and hit her child hard enough to fracture the boy’s skull. Kelley, who had a rifle and left behind at least 15 empty magazines holding 30 rounds each, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he was chased by bystanders and crashed his car.Investigators have said the shooting appeared to stem from a domestic dispute involving Kelley and his mother-in-law, who sometimes attended services at the church but was not present on Sunday.One couple who survived the attack, Rosanne Solis and Joaquin Ramirez, said Kelley went aisle by aisle through the pews and shot crying children at point-blank range.Authorities put the death count at 26, including the unborn baby of one of the slain women and the 14-year-old daughter of the church’s pastor, Frank Pomeroy.“There were just so many babies in there. It was a church. It was families,” said Torie McCallum, the former sister-in-law of Crystal Holcombe, the pregnant woman. “Watching them take person after person after person out was so heartbreaking.”McCallum is also a volunteer medic in nearby Floresville who spent 12 hours at the scene Sunday. She identified Crystal and her three dead children — 11-year-old Emily, 13-year-old Greg and 9-year-old Megan.Another of Crystal’s children, 7-year-old Evelyn, ran out of the church to a neighbor’s house. She suffered a head contusion, which McCallum thinks may have been caused by her head hitting a pew.The kids were smart and liked church. Their father died six years earlier, but McCallum was relieved when John Holcombe entered the picture and helped raise them as his own.They called him Dad and thrived in the 4-H Club. Emily liked archery while Greg, Evelyn and Megan did karate. Crystal homeschooled the children, and the girls sang in church, where the family got a kick out of how their different voices harmonized.McCallum said the kids were excited for a new sibling and decided that the baby’s name, whether a boy or girl, should be Billy Bob Wigglebottom — which they found hilarious.The official list of those killed released by Texas authorities Wednesday included Carlin Brite “Billy Bob” Holcombe.By Wednesday, an online fundraiser had collected more $72,000 for the family.“To see seasoned FBI agents and seasoned paramedics and seasoned law enforcement officers, when you see their eyes red, I feel so awful for all of the people who responded to that scene. Because they should never have to see anything like that, especially with so many children,” McCallum said.One of the wounded children, 5-year-old Ryland Ward, was hit multiple times and opened his eyes at the hospital Tuesday for the first time since the shooting, said Leslie Ward, the boy’s aunt.“Seeing the children that were killed. It’s one thing to see an adult, but to see a 5-year-old, that’s tough,” Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said.Alison Gould, 17, returned Wednesday to the church where she had waited hours on Sunday for word about her best friend, 16-year-old Haley Krueger. She got the news she feared later that night.“I am trying my best to cope. I want to see her really bad, and it’s kind of hard because I know that I can’t,” Gould said. “Me and her mom keep thinking that maybe she’s in the hospital, and they just identified her wrong. We’re trying really hard.”Brunner, chief of the ambulance service in nearby La Vernia, had been at lunch with his own family when he heard about the shooting.“You had parents screaming about their kids. They got stuff in front of them that they never imagined they would see in their life,” Brunner said. “Not really a war zone, because at least people in a war know they’re in the middle of a war. This is just hard to describe.”last_img read more

Cold Weather To Continue Through Wednesday National Weather Services Forecast

first_imgNational Weather Services Share Cold temperatures can be expected Wednesday and Thursday and another Hard Freeze Warning might be needed. A warming trend can be expected at the end of the week and over the weekend.NWS Houstoncenter_img There will be some accumulations of sleet and ice on structures and vegetation. Where temperatures are below freezing longer, impacts to roads and possibly power lines are expected with icing. Precipitation will end from north to south beginning this afternoon, so portions of the warning may be cancelled early. The area will see breezy north winds, gusting to 25 to 35 mph and even higher at the coast. There will also be hazardous wind chills falling into the teens areawide by this afternoon. Hard Freeze Warnings and Wind Chill Advisories will likely be needed tonight through Wednesday morning.last_img read more

FEMA Awards Harris County 51 Million For More PostHarvey Buyouts

first_imgStaff Sgt. Daniel J. Martinez, US Air National GuardThis file photo shows a Houston neighborhood that Harvey flooded in summer 2017. FEMA has awarded more than $51 million to the Harris County Flood Control District for the acquisition of 294 flood-prone homes damaged by the hurricane.The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Thursday it has awarded more than $51 million to the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) for the acquisition of 294 flood-prone homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey.FEMA informed in a news release that, after the structures are removed, the land will be dedicated and maintained as open space to conserve natural floodplain functions.The HCFCD had already been awarded more than $25 million to acquire and remove 169 residential structures.These awards, FEMA’s news release detailed, are part of a larger project to acquire and remove 985 flood-prone properties in Harris County. The overall proposed federal share is $163 million.The acquisition and removal of properties is a part of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). The program requires a 25 percent non-federal match. The total cost of the project is $217 million. Sharelast_img read more

Texas DPS 2018 Report On Gangs Notes MS13 Uses Houston As Hub

first_img Share Edgard Garrido/APThe Texas DPS says the gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) is increasing its membership in Texas and using Houston as a “hub” for criminal activity.The Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), one of the most violent and feared gangs in the world, is increasing its criminal activity in Houston, according to the Texas Gang Threat Assessment for 2018, which the Department of Public Safety has released this week.MS-13 is involved in drug and human smuggling, prostitution, murder and extortion, among other illegal activities. It was founded in Los Angeles in the 1980s by immigrants from El Salvador and later spread throughout the United States, Central America, and Canada.The report describes MS-13 as a Tier 1 threat and notes the gang has historically used Texas as “a transitional area or as a location to hide from criminal charges in other states or countries.” However, recent intelligence indicates Houston has gained relevance in the Mara Salvatrucha’s activity, so much that is has become a “hub.”The report adds that trend “is likely the cause of increased membership in Texas.” It also highlights MS-13’s relationship with drug cartels and its practice of recruiting juveniles.One of the findings of the report is that MS-13 is refining and changing techniques to evade law enforcement detection, for instance by changing the gang’s long-standing rules on clothes and tattoos.Citing the U.S. Department of Justice, the report gives an example of a local crime that occurred in 2018 when an MS-13 member who lived in Virginia instructed gang members based in Houston to shoot rival gang members who allegedly killed an MS-13 member.The report highlights that law enforcement agencies participating in the Texas Anti-Gang Centers (TAG) have made over 9,000 arrests since the first TAG center opened in Houston in 2013.last_img read more

Public School Chancellor Announces New School Budget

first_imgThe early part of the calendar year for government entities is both a trying and exciting time. Why? Because budget season is on the horizon. From the largest department to the smallest, contracting programs, everything is up for financial examination and review. What is not needed is cut, and what is seemingly imperative for growth, expanded.DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced the new school budget on March 17.In the case of the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) FY 2016 budget, its central office was cut, while its comprehensive high school programs, and school-based staff size, expanded. The news was announced March 17 by DCPS Chancellor, Kaya Henderson.Comprehensive high school programs throughout the district will receive $13 million in new funding to increase the number of advanced placement courses and elective courses, such as African-American literature, and school-based positions will increase by 200. The new funding does not include additional money for specific special education or alternative high school programs.“Our budget process this year started with strong input from our community and included honest conversations and hard decisions. This has allowed us to set a higher bar and higher expectations for our students and our schools,” said Chancellor Henderson in a press release. “Together, this budget will allow us to continue to transform DCPS into the best urban school district in the country, and the school district we all want for our children.”The budget represents a 3.4 percent increase in funding from FY 2015, which comes out to $25 million more dollars and a total local budget of $726 million for D.C.’s students. New schools will also be opened through the Chancellor’s new budget.The schools include:• Brookland Middle School (Ward 5);• Van Ness Elementary School (Ward 6);• River Terrace Elementary School (Ward 7); and• Community Academy Public Charter School Amos I CampusThe Community Academy will now operate under DCPS, Ward 4. DCPS continues to experience enrollment increases, including 1,500 new students expected next year. These new schools will help furnish DCPS’ growing population.Related to new schools, is the extension of an extended school-year program at the Raymond Education Campus (Ward 4) made possible through a $1 million pilot investment. The money will give students extra instruction time, and the program will affect planning decisions for other D.C. schools in the future.The most alarming part about the newly announced DCPS budget is the large reduction of the central office. At the time of the budget announcement, Chancellor Henderson said the school system still is not sure how the 25 percent decrease would translate into positions and staff. She was clear however, telling the AFRO on March 12, “Schools will feel it. There will be some limits to what the Central Office can provide.”The increase in funding aligns with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s dedication to improving D.C. schools, and more specifically, transforming middle school grades by 2020. While many D.C. public agencies experienced budget decreases, DCPS did not.While still early, DCPS’ budget shows promise for the upcoming school year. Individual school budgets still need to be determined. The budgets should be submitted within the next few weeks.last_img read more

Unveiling of Mural at the Arch Social Club

first_imgThe Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts announces the completion of a new mural at Arch Social Club on Pennsylvania and North avenues, the site of the April 2015 uprising. The official ribbon-cutting and unveiling of the mural takes place Nov. 8 at 3 p.m. followed by the Arch Social Club Reunion at 5 p.m. The unveiling and reunion are free and open to the public. The Arch Social Club is located at 2426 Pennsylvania Avenue. The mural was painted by local artist Ernest Shaw with the help of local street artist Nether and Eric Hendricks III, a graduate of the Art @ Work: Sandtown program. For more information on the Art @ Work: Sandtown program, visit www.promotionandarts.org or http://arts.jubileeartsbaltimore.org/. For more information on the reunion at Arch Social Club, visit www.archsocialclub.com.last_img read more

Tonight AFROs First Edition with Sean Yoes Tuesday February 2

first_imgListen at WEAA Live Stream: http://amber.streamguys.com.4020/live.m3uA recap of the historic results of the 2016 Iowa Caucuses. What does the Cruz victory and the virtual tie between Clinton and Sanders mean going forward to New Hampshire? We’ll ask our political pundits. Plus, a report on the 2016 legislative session in Annapolis thus far, with Dayvon Love, co-founder of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle.These stories and more coming up this evening on AFRO’s First Edition with Sean Yoes.last_img read more