News Flash – 15 June 2017

National News

 

 

Women Security personnel manhandled

 

 

Ahmedabad: Women personnel of a private security agency deployed at JG College in Vastrapur were manhandled by a group of 15 youths, who tried to enter the college without identity cards. The youths then thrashed the male guards who had rushed to help their female counterparts. Vastrapur police said they have taken an application from the women security personnel and are hunting for the goons who had created the ruckus. The incident took place at 8.30am. “The college has deployed private security personnel who have been directed to allow students on to the campus only after checking their identity cards,” said a police official. Police officials said about 15 youths on two wheelers were stopped by women security guards at the gate as they did not have identity cards. “The agitated youths first manhandled the women security personnel and then beat up the male security guards using sticks and wooden logs lying on the campus. The youths fled after creating a ruckus,” said a senior police official. Inspector of Vastrapur police station, H P Karen, said the college administration has asked them to take strict action against the goons. “We have gathered CCTV footage and the vehicle numbers. We will trace them soon,” added Karen.

 

 

Rain clouds thinning out in west and central India

 

Low-flying clouds that usually bring rain in the monsoon have thinned out and reduced over the years in India, according to a study of 50 years of observations by the Indian Met department. This means that there will be more number of hotter days, less rainy days and more days with large difference between day and night temperatures. That’s the average for the whole country over all seasons. In the monsoon season, which brings over 70% of rain to India, most of the northern plains stretching from Punjab to Bihar showed increased low-cloud cover by 4-8% every decade. But on the Western coast and central India, low-cloud cover is declining by 4-6% per decade, which means less rain and more heat. The IMD study has worrying implications for India because over half of farming is still dependent on rains. More or less rain can affect crop yields playing havoc with food security and the economy. More hot days also affects large numbers of people. Low clouds are usually those found up to 6,500 feet. They are very difficult to study and predict but have a great impact on trapping heat as also rain bearing. Changing climate has induced further unpredictability in their behavior. The study, conducted by A.K. Jaswal, P A Kore and Virendra Singh of the IMD, did not say why this decline in low clouds is taking place, although they speculate that increasing particulate matter, called aerosols, made up of smoke and dust may be one cause.

 

 

After 3 nights in choppy sea, Coast Guard saves 4 sailors

The rescued crew members with Coast Guard officials.

 

 

MUMBAI: Four foreigners -a Filipino and three South Africans including a woman -on a sailing expedition spent three scary nights at sea amid heavy downpour around 390 nautical miles off Mumbai shore as their boat engine stopped on May 31. They were tracked down three days later by a passing Marshall Islands merchant ship Seacor Diamond after the Indian Coast Guard sent an alert on June 3. The merchant vessel took the four crew members -James Deweerd Charles (25), Dylan Swanepoel (22), Tarryn Mynhardt (27) and Filipino national Jayson Ordiz (27) -on board and towed their boat ‘Lady Thuraya’ and got it anchored at Indira Dock. The four are now waiting to get their boat repaired so that they can resume their expedition. “This is the fifth year of our expedition, but it is the first time we faced such a situation,” Charles told TOI. “The yacht had a snag in the small engine on May 28 and later the main engine got damaged”. For almost 200 nautical miles the four crew members did not spot a single boat or ship. “Once we saw a merchant ship, but it was too far. We were relieved to see a merchant ship on June 3,” Charles said. After the engine failure, they depended on the last battery back-up that could last for only12 hours. “We switched on the GPS once and continued sailing… We were lost until MV Seacor Diamond came to our rescue,” said Mynhardt. A Coast Guard spokesperson told TOI that MV Seacor Diamond sailing to the UAE was able to contact the sailing boat and was continuously guided by Indian Coast Guard.

 

 

Cyberbullying: At least 7 women write to ministry every month

 

 

BENGALURU: Be it a Kannada actor writing to the cybercrime police about morphed pictures of hers being circulated online or Delhi University student Gurmehar Kaur being trolled extensively, women are vulnerable to abuse and threats even in the virtual world. After getting reports on the increasing attacks on women on social media platforms, the ministry of women and child development (MWCD) in July 2016 created a special email account (complaint-mwcd@gov.in) to receive complaints. At least seven women have been writing to MWCD every month since then, complaining of hateful conduct and stalking. As on June 13, 2017, the ministry had received 81 complaints, 45% of which are unresolved. The remaining have been closed because of lack of response from the complainant or deactivation of accounts or if the cases were found to be subjective. The cases are pending with cybercrime cells of various police departments and the respective social media platforms. Replying to email queries from TOI, Chetan B Sanghi, joint secretary (women welfare and women and cybercrime) at MWCD, said: “Firstly, the complainant is asked if she has filed an FIR or reported the offence to the social media platform (Facebook, Twitter et al).

 

 

If not, the complainant is provided the links to do so”. “If the social media platform or police fail to respond within seven days, the ministry intervenes, asking for an action taken report,” the email read. According to data shared with TOI, most complaints involve Facebook (18 unresolved, 20 closed), followed by Twitter (4 and 15) and Instagram (6 and 1). Messenger applications such as WhatsApp, abuse through email and other online platforms together have nine unresolved complaints while eight have been closed. “This (initiative) is intended to curtail online abuse against women. Every complaint is forwarded to either the social media platform concerned or to the cybercrime cell. In most cases, the ministry intercedes in order to expedite the matter,” Sanghi’s email read. Ministry met Twitter team: He said the ministry recently met officials from Twitter in India. “The Twitter team explained their redressal procedure and brought into focus other options to help the complainants have access to a safe space,” he said. Sources said similar meetings with Facebook and other firms offering social media platforms are in the pipeline.

 

 

44 per cent of India’s aged treated badly in public: Survey

 

 

NEW DELHI: Respect for the elderly is supposed to be ingrained in Indian culture, but it may not be reflected in daily life, if the results of a countrywide survey released on the eve of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day are any indication. At 44%, almost half the elders surveyed for a HelpAge India study said they were treated badly in public, while at 53%, more than half said they believed that Indian society discriminates against elders. And, for those above 60, living in the Garden City of India is not a walk in the park but a nightmare. In Bengaluru, 70% of elders said they had experienced abuse and mistreatment in public spaces. On the bright side, however, Delhi emerged as a comparatively caring society, with only 23% elders facing any abuse in public. Worryingly, 64% believe it is easy to get away with being rude to the elderly. This discontent is highest in Bhubaneswar (92%), followed by Guwahati (85%), Lucknow (78%), Hyderabad (74%), Bengaluru (71%), Chennai (64%), Kolkata 62% and Mumbai 61%. Delhi’s where it is the lowest, at 16%.

 

Rude Delhi is kinder to senior citizens: Sharing the findings of ‘How India Treats its Elderly – A National Study 2017’ released in the Capital on Wednesday, HelpAge India CEO Mathew Cherian said, “The findings worry me. Elder abuse is a sensitive topic. Over the past few years we have been studying and researching elder abuse within the closed doors of one’s home. This year we decided to move out into the much broader area of public space, where mistreatment and abuse is inexcusable”. On most parameters, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Bhubaneswar and Chennai emerged as the worst five cities where elders are ill-treated in public spaces. Delhi, usually seen as a place marked by indifference and rudeness, seemed to be not doing so badly on this front. But on one count the Capital punishes the elderly the most – bad behaviour of government hospital staff towards the old, at 26%, followed by Bengaluru at 22%. The study is based on a sample survey of 4,615 elders (2,377 male and 2,238 female) across 19 cities and covers four main areas — actual experiences of elders as they interact with people, elders’ perceptions of ill-treatment of the old, general state of mind of elders as they step out of their homes and a wish list of their expectations from society.

 

For instance, the report has a section on the challenges the elderly face on roads. It turns out that 89% of them find the behaviour of motorists and bikers a challenge while 66% feel threatened by the general law and order situation. Sadly, even as the study shows that a large section of the elderly like going out and cope with challenges, a massive 42% said they avoid stepping out as far as possible. The biggest concern for 38% of the outgoing elderly was fear of mishaps due to negligence by others. Twenty-two percent cited lack of medical help in emergency as a major worry while 10% feared theft and snatching of valuables. A key concern for 6% was inadequate restrooms/lavatories. Among other aspects of public life, the study also brought to light the elderly’s experience ranging from public transport, banks, post offices, interaction with vegetable vendors, chemists to hospitals both private and government and bill payment counters. The experiences are varied reflecting that small interactions too can be anywhere from good to bad for an elderly person. For instance, the study reveals that it turned out that 17% of mall staff behave badly with elders, the worst with any service delivery point. Besides the bus, the study also looks at the newest form of transport — the metro. Nearly 43% of those surveyed use the metro and 78% use buses. Of those who use the metro, 72% said that almost always or very often they were offered a seat, but a significant 28% said “sometimes”, and 1% even said “never”. For bus travel, more than 62% said they were offered a seat.

 

The study also touches upon a critical fact related to the desire to work after retirement. While there were just about 14% who were in favour of continuing to work, 60% of them did not get the job they applied for. In terms of support system, 72% of the elderly said they shared their unpleasant encounters in public spaces with their families. About half of the men (49%) shared their experiences with their wives though only 32% of women shared their encounters with husbands. Around 55% women shared their experiences with their children. Speaking on the concerns raised in the study, Manjira Khurana, country head, Communications and Advocacy, HelpAge India said, “The core of it all is ageism, which is discrimination on the basis of age. Few understand it, but practice it knowingly or unknowingly. Simple things like assuming elders don’t understand technology, or being impatient with elders are examples”. Khurana said that Help-Age is running a campaign against ageism and it is aimed at making people aware of their own transition to senior citizenship. The voluntary organisation has data on cases of elders facing abuse within the home. This is not uncommon and elders are in need of care and protection as they face abuse within their own homes. HelpAge’s study on public spaces, additionally, reiterates the enormity of the social problem confronting the elderly outside their homes.

 

 

Zika-related infection leaves Bengaluru doctors worried

 

 

BENGALURU: The threat of a Zika virus-related infection looms large over Bengaluru, say doctors, citing the increasing incidence of Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS), largely seen in patients with the virus. GBS, an acute disorder of peripheral nerves accompanied by respiratory infection and weakening of the limbs, not only follows Zika but also makes the patient vulnerable to it, doctors say. Confirming a 10%-20% increase in GBS incidence in the city in the past few years, especially during monsoon, Dr. Shiva Kumar R, senior consultant neurologist and epileptologist at Sakra World Hospital, said: “The major concern is that the Zika virus leads to GBS. Although we haven’t come across any such cases in the city yet, the increasing incidence of GBS puts patients at a greater risk to Zika”. The doctors’ concern comes in the wake of three Zika cases being reported in Ahmedabad. But they say the GBS cases seen in Bengaluru could also have been be triggered by the influenza virus and varicella zoster virus. Dengue fever has also been associated with GBS episodes.

 

A recent study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in South India shows the highest incidence of GBS (over a five-year period) was seen during monsoon (32.39%), followed by winter (26.40%), summer (23.59%) and post-monsoon (17.60%). Dr. Aju Abraham John, consultant neurologist, Columbia Asia, Whitefield, said the causes for GSB can be many, depending on the individual, environment and the immune system’s response to infections. “Given the monsoon influence, gastrointestinal infections, food poisoning (especially if caused by campylobacter bacteria), fever, diarrhoea and Zika virus can be the possible reasons for GSB,” he said. “One-third of the patients with GBS experience an episode of gastroenteritis or a respiratory tract infection before the onset of the syndrome,” Dr. Shiva Kumar said.

 

 

Fire breaks out in Hyderabad lodge; 30 rescued

 

 

HYDERABAD: Firefighters rescued 30 people from a lodge, where fire broke out in the early hours of Wednesday, in Shamshabad on the outskirts of Hyderabad, police said. The fire, suspected to be caused by short-circuit, engulfed first two floors of the eight-storey building of Anupama Residency lodge. The guests were trapped on top floors. Fire tenders rushed to the spot and the firefighting personnel, with the assistance of police, rescued the people. A police officer said the fire tenders controlled the fire. He said quick response by the firefighting personnel prevented loss of life. Senior officials rushed to the spot. Police began an investigation to find out the cause of the fire.

 

 

International News

 

 

London tower fire: 12 killed, cops fear death toll could rise further

 

LONDON: At least 12 people have been killed in the huge blaze that engulfed a 24-storey residential tower block in west London housing over 100 families, with police suspecting the death toll could rise further. The fire at Grenfell Tower on the Lancaster West Estate in Latimer Road was reported at 01:16 local time. About 600 people were believed to have been inside the tower’s 120 flats when the blaze ripped through the building. The Metropolitan Police, which previously had put the number of fatalities at six, has raised the death toll to 12. Commander Stuart Cundy, of the Metropolitan Police said the recovery operation would be complex “over a number of days”. He said it was likely to be some time before police could identify the victims, and it was too early to speculate on the cause of the fire. The fire is thought to have started because of a faulty refrigerator on the 3rd or 4th floor of the building soon after midnight and destroyed flat after flat. By noon, the building looked to be just smoking ruins but the fire again took hold, and cladding began to fall to the ground. Firefighters rescued many people and are still trying to put the fire out in the 24-storey block 12 hours on. Police say there may still be people in the building who are unaccounted for. Eyewitnesses said they saw lights – thought to be mobile phones or torches – flashing at the top of the block of flats, and trapped residents coming to their windows – some holding children. They described people trapped in the burning tower, in north Kensington, screaming for help and yelling for their children to be saved.

 

It is understood that “several hundred” people would have been in the block when the fire broke out shortly after midnight, most of them sleeping. “This is an unprecedented incident. In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never ever seen anything of this scale,” London Fire Brigade chief Dany Cotton told reporters. “Extensive cordons remain in place and a number of nearby residents have been evacuated as a precaution,” Cundy said. Commander Stuart Cundy, of the Metropolitan Police, said the recovery operation would be “complex and lengthy”, and the number of fatalities was expected to rise. He declined to give any details of the number of people who may be missing. Firefighters rescued “large numbers”, but London Mayor Sadiq Khan said “a lot” of people were unaccounted for. People screamed for help as the fire took hold of the building. Some residents were seen using bedsheets to make their escape from the tower block. As fire-fighters fought the blaze, witnesses said a baby was caught by members of the public after being dropped from the window of the 9th floor. Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said firefighters expected to be on the scene for at least another 24 hours and she would not speculate about the cause of the blaze. She said there were concerns that people were still inside the tower and she urged all residents to make sure they had reported themselves to police so that the authorities know they are safe. Prime Minister Theresa May is “deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life”, said Downing Street.

 

The area around Grenfell Tower is home to a large number of Muslims. Many were awake at the time the fire broke out having their early morning meal before beginning the daily fast for the holy month of Ramzan. The survivors, whose belongings are presumed to have been destroyed, gathered in the nearby Rugby Portobello community centre where they were given water, clothes and blankets. Michael Paramasivan, who lives on the seventh floor with his girlfriend and young daughter, said he ignored official advice to stay in your home. “If we had stayed in that flat, we would’ve perished. My gut instinct told me just to get the girls out. I wrapped the little one up because of the smoke and I just got them out,” he said. “I’m lucky to be alive – and lots of people have not got out of the building I’ve lost everything I own. I’m standing here in everything I’ve got,” one survivor said. Paul Munakr, who lives on the seventh floor, spoke of his escape. “As I was going down the stairs, there were firefighters, truly amazing firefighters that were actually going upstairs, to the fire, trying to get as many people out the building as possible,” he told the BBC. Another resident, Zoe, who lives on the fourth floor, said she was woken by a neighbour banging on her door. “The whole landing was thick with smoke. The smoke alarms weren’t going off but the way it spread so quickly from the fourth floor, all the way up to the 23rd floor was scary,” she said.

 

 

Refurbishment of the housing block had been completed last year and the Fire Brigades Union said something had gone badly wrong with fire prevention procedures at the building. London Mayor Khan declared the fire as a “major incident” and said questions will need to be answered over the safety of such tower blocks. “We can’t have a situation where people’s safety is put at risk because of bad advice being given or if it is the case, as has been alleged, of tower blocks not being properly serviced or maintained,” he said. Grenfell Tower is managed by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation on behalf of the local council. The local Grenfell Action Group had claimed, before and during the refurbishment, that the block constituted a fire risk and residents had warned that access to the site for emergency vehicles was “severely restricted”. Eyewitnesses reported seeing the building burning through to “its very core”. Distraught relatives have been using social media to try and make contact with missing loved ones.

 

 

Four, including gunman, killed in San Francisco UPS facility shooting

 

SAN FRANCISCO: A man dressed in a UPS uniform and armed with an “assault pistol” opened fire at a United Parcel Service Inc. package sorting hub in San Francisco, killing three people before turning the gun on himself, police said. Police did not identify the suspect or say if he was a UPS employee. They told a news conference the incident was not terrorism-related and they recovered two firearms from the scene. Two other people were shot and have been taken to an area hospital, police said. The shooter and the victims were all drivers, said Steve Gaut, head of investor relations at UPS. The incident took place while the workers were gathered for their daily morning meeting before going out on their routes, he added. Gaut said the facility’s employees have been released from work and he believes most have left the building. The company is providing trauma and grief counseling to employees.

 

Live video showed a massive police presence near the facility, with workers being led out and embracing each other on the sidewalk outside. “The company is saddened and deeply concerned about affected employees, family members and the community we share. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those touched by this incident,” UPS said in a statement. Victims were taken to the Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, spokesman Brent Andrew said. He said he could not say how many patients were taken to the hospital or give their conditions. In 2014, a man shot and killed two of his supervisors before turning the gun on himself at a UPS distribution center in Birmingham, Alabama. The gunman had recently been fired from the facility.

 

 

Hostages held, 9 killed in attack at Somalia restaurant

 

 

MOGADISHU: Gunmen posing as military forces were holding dozens of hostages inside a popular restaurant in Somalia‘s capital in an attack that began when a car bomb exploded at the gate, police and a witness said tonight, while the extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility. Police said at least nine people had been killed and several wounded. Most of the victims were young men who were entering the Pizza House when the vehicle exploded, Captain Mohamed Hussein said. A burst of gunfire was later heard inside the restaurant, Hussein said. The gunmen “were dressed in military uniforms. They forced those fleeing the site to go inside” the restaurant, witness Nur Yasin told The Associated Press. The blast largely destroyed the restaurant’s facade and sparked a fire. While al-Shabab claimed to have attacked the neighboring Posh Treats restaurant, which is frequented by the city’s elite and was damaged in the blast, security officials said the Pizza House was targeted instead. Security forces rescued Asian, Ethiopian, Kenyan and other workers at Posh Treats as the attack continued, Hussein said. The Somalia-based al-Shabab often targets high-profile areas of Mogadishu, including hotels, military checkpoints and areas near the presidential palace. It has vowed to step up attacks after the recently elected government launched a new military offensive against it.

 

Al-Shabab last year became the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa, with more than 4,200 people killed in 2016, according to the Washington-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies. The extremist group also faces a new military push from the United States after President Donald Trump approved expanded operations, including airstrikes, against al-Shabab. On Sunday, the U.S. military in Africa said it carried out an airstrike in southern Somalia that killed eight Islamic extremists at a rebel command and logistics camp. Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed confirmed that airstrike and said such attacks would disrupt the group’s ability to conduct new attacks. With a new federal government established, pressure is growing on Somalia’s military to assume full responsibility for the country’s security. The 22,000-strong African Union multinational force, AMISOM, which has been supporting the fragile central government, plans to start withdrawing in 2018 and leave by the end of 2020. Also today, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution extending the UN political mission in the Horn of Africa nation, which is trying to rebuild after more than two decades as a failed state, until March 31, 2018. The resolution recognized that “this is a critical moment for Somalia”.


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