Florida Shooting Survivors To March On Washington

In this file photo taken on February 17, 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez reacts during her speech at a rally for gun control at the Broward County Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. PHOTO: RHONA WISE / AFP

 

Students who survived a mass shooting at their Florida school on Sunday announced plans to march on Washington in a bid to “shame” lawmakers into reforming laws that make powerful firearms readily available.

The “March for our Lives” will take place on March 24, with sister marches planned across the country, a group of students told ABC News, vowing to make Wednesday’s shooting a turning point in America’s deadlocked debate on gun control.

Nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has confessed to killing 17 people with a legally-purchased AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the latest such atrocity in a country plagued by gun violence.

Among the students announcing the march was Emma Gonzalez, who captured worldwide attention with a powerful speech in which she assailed President Donald Trump over the multi-million-dollar support his campaign received from the gun lobby, and vowed Stoneman Douglas would be “the last mass shooting.”

On Sunday, the 18-year-old Gonzalez urged politicians to join a conversation about gun control — citing Trump as well as Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Rick Scott, who are fellow Republicans.

“We want to give them the opportunity to be on the right side of this,” she said, as she and her four classmates called on students nationwide to help push the message across.

Singling out the links between politicians and the powerful National Rifle Association, fellow student Cameron Kasky said any politician “who is taking money from the NRA is responsible for events like this.”

“This isn’t about the GOP,” he said, referring to the Republican Party. “This isn’t about the Democrats.”

Accusing the NRA of “fostering and promoting this gun culture,” Kasky said the students sought to “create a new normal where there’s a badge of shame on any politician who’s accepting money from the NRA.”

“People keep asking us, what about the Stoneman Douglas shooting is going to be different because this has happened before and change hasn’t come?” said Kasky.

“This is it.”

AFP

Thatcher Refused To Take Panda To Washington In Concorde, Papers Show

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher refused a request to fly a panda in the back of her Concorde when she visited Washington for her first summit with Ronald Reagan, according to papers released on Friday.

The then prime minister was drawn into the scheme in January 1981, the same month that Reagan was inaugurated, when the Smithsonian Institution in Washington appealed to London Zoo for the loan of its male panda.

The president of the London Zoological Society, Solly Zuckerman, seized on the opportunity to create a publicity stunt with the help of the prime minister.

“Lord Zuckerman sees this as a signal demonstration of the special relationship and would be very happy to time the announcement of the loan or the delivery of the panda in any way that the prime minister thought would be most likely to benefit Anglo-American relations,” cabinet secretary Robert Armstrong wrote.

“He even suggested that the prime minister might like to take the panda in the back of her Concorde, when she goes to Washington next month,” he added, according to papers released by the National Archives in Kew, London.

The “Iron Lady” was not convinced, however, that she should be involved in promoting London Zoo’s efforts to bring a new mate to a female panda.

“Lord Z knows more about pandas than I do — I am sure he can arrange these things,” she said in a handwritten note.

Her private secretary, Clive Whitmore, replied to Zuckerman: “She has commented that she is not taking a panda with her — ‘Pandas and politicians are not happy omens!'”

AFP

Worst US Train Accidents

This image from State Trooper Brooke Bova via the official Twitter media page of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department obtained 18 December, 2017, shows the scene of an Amtrak high-speed train after it derailed from an overpass on Interstate I-5 highway earlier in the day near the city of Takoma, Washington state. Brooke BOVA / Pierce County Sheriff’s Department / AFP

Here is a look at the worst train disasters in the United States, after Monday’s deadly accident in Washington state. 

– 1972, Chicago: 45 dead –

The worst rail accident over the past 40 years or so goes back to October 1972 when two suburban trains collided in Chicago, leaving 45 dead and more than 330 injured.

– 1993, Alabama, 44 dead –

In September 1993, 44 people died near Saraland in the southern state of Alabama when a train derailed as it crossed a bridge over the Mobile River.

– 2008, Chatsworth: 25 dead –

The worst accident over the past decade took place on September 12, 2008, when a commuter train with 222 passengers on board crashed into a freight train at Chatsworth, 50 kilometers (30 miles) northwest of Los Angeles, killing 25.

– More recent accidents –

More recently the United States has seen a string of deadly train accidents.

– One person died and 114 were injured on September 29, 2016, when a morning rush hour commuter train ploughed into a station in Hoboken, New Jersey, a major transport hub for Manhattan.

– Ten people died on January 14, 2015, when a bus carrying 15 prison inmates and staff plunged off a Texas highway overpass and onto railway tracks below, where it was hit by a train.

– Eight died on May 12, 2015 when an Amtrak train linking Washington and New York with 243 people on board derailed in Philadelphia, killing eight and injuring more than 200. The accident took place when the train entered a curve as it travelled at 170 kilometers (106 miles) an hour, twice the permitted speed.

– Six died on February 3, 2015 outside New York City when a packed commuter train and a car which was crossing the track collided, leaving six dead and 15 injured.

– Four died on December 1, 2013, when a suburban train travelling too fast missed a bend as it arrived in the Bronx in New York, killing four and injuring 67.

AFP

‘Multiple’ Deaths As Train Derails Over Washington State Highway

 

This image from State Trooper Brooke Bova via the official Twitter media page of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department obtained 18 December, 2017, shows the scene of an Amtrak high-speed train after it derailed from an overpass on Interstate I-5 highway earlier in the day near the city of Takoma, Washington state. Brooke BOVA / Pierce County Sheriff’s Department / AFP

An Amtrak passenger train traveling on a new route for the first time derailed Monday in Washington state, killing “multiple” people as cars flew off a bridge onto a busy highway at the height of rush hour, officials said.

Pictures from the scene near the city of Tacoma showed one Amtrak train car overturned and crashed on the interstate highway and others dangling from the overpass.

The incident occurred over Interstate 5, a busy highway that connects the busy Seattle metro area to the state’s capital city Olympia to the southwest.

The train, which was carrying 78 passengers and five crew, was part of a newly expanded rail service along the route linking Seattle and Portland, Oregon — featuring new locomotives and a new bypass to make the trip quicker.

The train derailed about halfway between Tacoma and Olympia on a curve that passes over the highway during the morning rush hour at about 7:40 am (1540 GMT).

“There’s multiple fatalities,” said Ed Troyer, spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.

“It’s pretty horrific,” he said.

Troyer put no number on the fatalities, but local media said at least three people were killed. None of the people in vehicles traveling on the highway below the train were killed, according to Troyer.

Local officials had expressed safety concerns in recent months ahead of the start of the new, faster service. The National Transportation Safety Board has sent a team of experts to investigate the incident.

Dozens of people were reportedly taken to area hospitals for treatment, with several said to be in serious condition.

“When we got to the scene, it was obvious there were fatalities and injuries, and some people were able to get off the train,” Troyer said.

“No fatalities on the roadway. As you can see by the large response, we have taken them out and people that were able to walk are under the tents being cared for by multiple groups,” he said.

‘People were screaming’

The accident snarled morning rush hour traffic and officials warned that that section of Interstate 5, would be blocked for at least the rest of the day.

“We had just passed the city of DuPont and it seemed like we were going around a curve,” passenger Chris Karnes — the chair of the Pierce Transit Community Transportation Advisory Group (CTAG) — told local CBS News affiliate KIRO-TV.

“All of a sudden, we felt this rocking and creaking noise, and it felt like we were heading down a hill,” said Karnes, adding that several cars had gone off the tracks and passengers kicked out the windows to escape.

“The next thing we know, we’re being slammed into the front of our seats, windows are breaking, we stop, and there’s water gushing out of the train. People were screaming.”

Karnes said the tracks were supposed to have been upgraded to accommodate higher speeds.

“I’m not sure what happened,” he said.

Safety concerns

A passenger identified as Alex told the local KOMO News TV channel that the train had attracted rail buffs excited over the new service.

“There were a bunch of people who wanted to be a part of this historic moment and they were on board the train this morning headed for Portland,” he said.

The new service came after tens of millions of dollars were invested to modify a part of the tracks on the line, improve signalling and add newer locomotives.

Local officials had worried about trains going at higher speeds through the curves in the area. The trains were expected to reach speeds of 79 miles (127 kilometers) per hour through the densely populated area with the improved systems and track.

In early December, Don Anderson — the mayor of Lakewood, Washington, a Tacoma suburb just a few miles from the accident site — had warned that more needed to be done to ensure safety on the route.

“Come back when there is that accident, and try to justify not putting in those safety enhancements,” he said, according to KOMO News.

US President Donald Trump said the accident underscored the need to invest in infrastructure.

“The train accident that just occurred in DuPont, WA shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly,” he wrote.

“Seven trillion dollars spent in the Middle East while our roads, bridges, tunnels, railways (and more) crumble! Not for long!”

The new train cars were to be pulled by new Siemens Charger locomotives that include an “on-board positive train controls system,” designed to automatically stop the train in dangerous situations and mandated for trains around the country.

But on the Washington train, the technology was only expected to be used next year when it is activated on the entire rail corridor, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

In 2015, an Amtrak train going far over the designated speed for a stretch of curves in the track in Philadelphia derailed, killing eight.

At the time, analysts said positive train control technology could have prevented the accident.

AFP

Notorious Gang ‘Behead Man’ Near Washington

An ultra-violent Latino street gang that President Donald Trump has vowed to wipe out beheaded a man and cut out his heart before burying him in a park near the US capital, reports said Wednesday.

The victim, who has not yet been identified, was stabbed more than 100 times in the attack in Wheaton, Maryland just outside Washington DC, according to a statement by the Montgomery County Police Department.

Authorities have so far arrested Miguel Angel Lopez-Abrego, 19 and an alleged member of the MS-13 gang, on first-degree murder charges. Other suspects are being sought.

Charging documents obtained by Montgomery Community Media and WBALTV11 added the victim was decapitated and had his heart removed from his chest, in an attack planned for weeks and involving up to 10 people.

Detectives began investigating in September thanks to a tip from an informant who said he knew of a murder committed in the spring in a Wheaton park, the Washington Post reported, quoting court records. The informant led police to the gravesite deep side the park.

The grave was prepared before the attack, the paper said. It added that gang members lured the victim to the park and spoke to each other on walkie-talkies as he arrived, the paper added.

The charging documents do not cite a motive for the slaying, which investigators believe the attackers had been preparing for about two weeks, the Post said.

Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, is estimated to have 10,000 members in the United States.

The gang works as an umbrella grouping of units known in Spanish as “clicas,” some of which are larger and more violent than others.

It has become a focus of Trump’s crackdown on crime, which he claims has surged as a result of borders easily crossed by gang members.

Most members trace their heritage to El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala, and among the members there are as many immigrants as there are US citizens. Many were born in the United States.

Authorities last week announced they had netted 214 members of the gang in a month-long nationwide sweep.

More than half of those picked up in the action which was led by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, were arrested on immigration violations. But 93 were dealt federal criminal charges including murder, robbery, drugs and racketeering.

AFP

Vatican Recalls Priest From U.S. Over Child Porn Probe

Caution tape is seen near the front of the Vatican Embassy, Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See, in Washington, DC on September 15, 2017.
AFP PHOTO / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS

The Vatican has recalled a priest serving as an envoy in Washington and opened a child pornography investigation after US officials asked the church to lift his diplomatic immunity.

The Vatican said on Friday that US officials complained in August “of a possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images by a member of the diplomatic corps of the Holy See.”

In Washington, a State Department official confirmed to AFP that the diplomat in question had been allowed to leave the United States because he enjoys immunity from criminal prosecution.

“The United States formally requested that the Nunciature waive diplomatic immunity for the individual, but the Nunciature declined to do so,” the official said, on condition of anonymity.

Neither the church nor US officials named the priest — one of four assigned to the Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican embassy in Washington — but the Vatican said an investigation is underway.

The Vatican press service said “efforts had been made through international collaboration to obtain elements relative to the case,” suggesting that Rome is seeking evidence from US officials.

But with the investigation at a preliminary stage, the case is subject to confidentiality, the Vatican said.

The State Department referred questions about the investigation to the Vatican, and US officials made it clear that they expect church authorities to take the matter seriously.

“The United States condemns the abuse and exploitation of children wherever it exists, and we offer sincere condolences to victims,” the official said.

The official noted that Pope Francis has vowed to “act decisively with regard to cases of sexual abuse” — after decades of scandals that have dogged the Catholic Church around the globe.

“The United States encourages the Holy See to ensure full implementation of its reforms and policies designed to protect minors and provide justice regarding allegations,” he said.

“We would refer you to Vatican officials on the current state of those efforts.”

The withdrawal of the Washington priest is not the first time that a Vatican diplomat has been caught up in such a scandal — and the last case was particularly embarrassing for the church.

In 2013, Polish priest Jozef Wesolowski was recalled as the papal nuncio or ambassador from the Dominican Republic, after press reports that he had paid for sexual encounters with children.

The Vatican refused to extradite Wesolowksi to Poland to face trial, but an ecclesiastical court found him guilty and he was defrocked — the maximum penalty then available.

But Pope Francis, whose elevation in March 2013 raised hopes for church reform, ordered that Wesolowski face criminal charges for child abuse, a first in Vatican history.

The accused was held under house arrest but he died in August 2015, aged 67, on the eve of his trial.

He had been charged with sexual assault on children aged 13 to 16 and with possession of a large quantity of child pornography, downloaded from the internet after his return to Rome.

He faced up to seven years in jail if convicted.

Details of the latest case involving the Washington-based priest remain confidential, but Vatican authorities have passed the case to “the Promoter of Justice of the Vatican Tribunal.”

Thiem To Make Citi Open Debut In Washington

Dominic Thiem, Citi Open, Washington
Dominic Thiem// Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

Top seed Dominic Thiem, who is ranked seventh in the world, will make his Citi Open debut in Washington, D.C. this week.

The 23-year-old Austrian has passed on the ATP stop in Kitzbuhel this year in order to get a jump on his hard court season preparation. The Generali Open in his home country is played on clay.

Thiem will have a first round bye and open play against Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen.

Other players of note in this week’s field include previous winners Juan Martin Del Potro and Kei Nishikori.

In opening round action Norway’s Casper Rudd retired in his match with American Tommy Paul who advanced 3-6,7-5,3-0.

Speaking about the competition, Thiem said: “Of course I love to play in Austria but I lost four times in a row and the week after in Canada. It’s a very important tournament so I decided to try something else this year and it’s a very nice tournament here so no problem. Yeah, We’ll see if it works better and it was a decision for the hard court series in summer”.

Also, Nishikori said: “Yeah it’s been a good year. Not winning a tournament yet but I hope I can win some of the tournaments by the end of this year. I hope I can play good this week. I have good memory here and I always play good here so I’ll try to win this tournament.”

On his part, Del Potro noted: “Well I’ve been training hard in Buenos Aires getting ready for this tournament, I like to play in the United States”.

“I like to play the tournaments before the U.S. Open which means something special also but Washington, D.C. is a great challenge to me to see how I feel on hardcourt after the grass and also a good training moment because the facilities here are great.”

U.S. Lawmakers Criticise Turkey After Washington Street Brawl

Gun Control, US CongressUnited States lawmakers want the House of Representatives to formally condemn Turkish security forces’ violent response to a street protest in Washington during a recent visit by President Tayyip Erdogan.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing with alleged victims of the May 16 brawl between Erdogan’s security forces and protesters outside the Turkish embassy.

Witnesses said they were injured after Erdogan’s bodyguards lunged past Washington, DC police and kicked and beat them to the ground.

Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman called the incident an “attack on American sovereignty.”

“This was not just an attack on American values, on international values of human rights, this was an attack on American sovereignty. Quasi-military forces of a foreign nation beat and attacked Americans on American soil,” Sherman said.

“This was deliberate because Erdogan believes that this helps him politically back in Turkey. We have to demonstrate to the world that aggression on American soil is not going to pay off.”

Another Democratic Congressman David Cicilline called for decisive action.

He said, “Our State Department and Secretary Tillerson have rightfully condemned this egregious action by Turkish security forces and have called the Turkish ambassador in to raise their concerns. These are good first steps, but by no means do they resolve this issue.

“There are a few steps that absolutely must be taken as a follow-up to this horrific incident. The United States government should request a waiver of immunity for anyone involved in the violent attack against peaceful protesters.

“The U.S. government must make clear that we expect full cooperation by the Turkish government into the investigation of this crime. The U.S. government has made clear to Turkey and any other government who wishes to have a presence in the United States that our laws including the freedom of speech and assembly are the binding laws of the land when they are on U.S. soil.”

At least 11 people were injured in the encounter, two so seriously they had to go to the hospital.

Turkey blamed the violence on demonstrators linked to the militant Kurdistan Workers Party while Washington’s police chief described the incident as a “brutal attack” on peaceful protesters.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement the conduct of Turkish security personnel during the incident was “deeply disturbing.”

Washington Reacts With Shock To Trump’s Firing Of Comey

President Donald Trump defended his firing of FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday (May 10) fighting a storm of criticism that the ouster was aimed at blunting an agency probe into his presidential campaign’s possible collusion with Russia to sway the 2016 election.

The Republican president’s abrupt move on Tuesday stunned Washington and was swiftly condemned by Democrats and by some in his own party.

People on the street in Washington early Wednesday reacted to Comey’s firing with “shock” and “concern.”

Many Democrats have criticized Comey’s management of the Clinton probe, they said they were troubled by the timing of his dismissal, given that Trump could have acted soon after taking office on Jan. 20 and has repeatedly criticized the FBI and congressional probes into Russian involvement in the election.

Nigerian Embassy In Washington Shut Down

Nigerian Embassy In Washington Shut DownWorkers at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington have been on a sit-in, paralysing activities at the mission in the United States.

The workers said they have not been paid salaries for the past five months, forcing them to embark on the strike.

Although some departments of the embassy are said to still be functional, they threatened to report the embassy to the U.S. Labour Department.

There were no official functions at the embassy on Tuesday, as the workers only gathered at the lunch room in the basement.

The embassy in Washington and the consulate in New York are said to be currently cash strapped, with staff and local workers not being paid for months.

A source close to the Presidency said there has been a lot of mismanagement of resources in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, causing a lack of concern for staff welfare and difficulty in the missions being able to carry out their functions.

World Bank: Remittances To Developing Countries Fall In 2016

Abacha LootRemittances to developing countries fell for a second consecutive year in 2016, and that is a trend that has not been seen in three decades.

This is according to the latest edition of the Migration and Development Brief released on Friday at the World Bank’s spring meetings in Washington D.C.

The global lender estimated that officially recorded remittances to developing countries amounted to $429 billion in 2016, showing a decline of 2.4 per cent from 2015.

Global remittances, which include flows to high-income countries, contracted by 1.2 per cent to $575 billion in 2016, from 582 billion dollars in 2015.

The World Bank attributed the decline to weaker Euro, British Pound and Russian Ruble against the U.S. Dollar.

The bank, however, predicted that remittances to developing countries are expected to recover in 2017, growing by an estimated 3.3 per cent to $444 billion.

U.S. Lauds Nigeria’s Efforts In Tackling Boko Haram Insurgency

U.S. Secretary of States, Mr Rex Tillerson,
U.S. Secretary of States, Mr Rex Tillerson

The United States has advised countries facing challenges of terrorism to take a cue from Nigeria in winning the war against global terrorism.

The U.S. Secretary of States, Mr Rex Tillerson, gave the recommendation on Thursday at the ‘Meeting of the Ministers of the Global Coalition on the Defeat of ISIS’ in Washington.

The meeting was convened at a time when the activities of terrorist groups across the globe were on the increase.

Experts identified sharing of ideas at different fora as an important step in winning the war against terror.

Mr Tillerson also noted that information sharing was one way countries could defeat terrorism, adding that Nigeria and West African countries have done well in sharing information which he said resulted in foiling a great number of attacks.

He asked countries that have challenges of domestic terror groups to build up their information sharing systems, just as Nigeria did to win the war against Boko Haram insurgency.

The U.S. Secretary of States, however, recounted with sadness the attacks on some countries by terrorists groups and proffered solution on how to tackle them.u-s

Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonishakin, on his part pledged Nigeria’s resolve to mobilise resources in order to confront violent extremists.

The Charge d’ Affaires of Nigeria to the United States, Mr Hakeem Balogun, also highlighted the effects of the commendation on Nigeria.

The meeting was attended by representatives from 68 countries including Nigeria, Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco and Somalia.