News Flash – 31 December 2019

National News



This New Year’s Eve, Party Organisers in Pune Hire Women Bouncers for Security



Pune: The rising concern over women’s safety has prompted pubs, hotels and party organizers to hire women bouncers alongside their male counterparts this New Year’s Eve. Among the many establishments to opt for women bouncers is Playboy Beer Garden in Koregaon Park. “Safety of the patrons is among the prime reasons to hire women bouncers. The bouncers would frisk women patrons at the entry and keep an eye on mischief mongers,” a representative of the establishment said. Amita Kadam, founder of Swamini Women Bouncers, said they would deploy 150 women bouncers at pubs, restaurants and events across the city on Tuesday. “We have got bookings in Koregaon Park, Kharadi, Mundhwa, Bhugaon, among other areas”. Kadam said the women bouncers have been trained in self-defense and crowd control. “We trained the women bouncers in taking precautions such as dropping women patrons to the cab, noting the number plate, contact details and handling inebriated persons,” she said. Likewise, Swargate-based Gold Security and Bouncer Services will deploy 60 bouncers at multiple locations. While venues are trying to ensure the security of their patrons, especially women, partygoers have also decided to refrain from drunk driving. Several agencies stated the demand for drivers was quite high. “We try to avoid too many such bookings, as we have had instances of inebriated customers misbehaving with drivers,” Madhav Patil from Indian Drivers, Pune, said.



To Check Crime, All Trains to get CCTV Cameras by 2022



New Delhi: All the 58,600 coaches in mail and express trains will get CCTV cameras by March 2022 to keep a tab on criminals and miscreants. Railway board chairman V K Yadav said on Monday that the national transporter will also use artificial intelligence and a face recognition software so that analytics can be used to recognise faces of criminals and nab them. Yadav also said that during this current financial year, there were no passenger fatalities in any rail accident. “We will put CCTV cameras in all corridors and above the doors of coaches. There will be no breach of privacy. We will also have CCTVs on all 6,100 stations by March 2022,” Yadav said. The Railway Protection Force (RPF) is working on a plan to link the face recognition system with existing criminal databases to identify miscreants in coaches or at stations. “An immediate alert will be issued when a criminal is caught on any of the cameras and security forces can swing into action quickly. The software can be used to fetch photos of suspected criminals and match their faces,” said an official. While highlighting the achievements of railways during this calendar year, Yadav said they are looking to ensure that trains running on the Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Kolkata routes are free from waitlisted tickets within the next five years. He added that the current tracks will be comparatively free after the two dedicated freight corridors become operational by December 2021 and more dedicated freight corridors are opened for traffic in the next 10 years. Yadav also said that the national transporter is focusing on generating more solar power to meet its requirements. He added that the railways will offer its vacant land to install 500-megawatt solar power plants.



Cold Wave Grips North India, 12 Killed in Accidents, Flight & Train Operations Hit

COLD A GREAT LEVELLER: Death does not spare anyone, be it the rich, poor and famous, or for that matter animals or birds – so too cold. It’s a great equaliser as is apparent from these pictures. Humans and animals together were brought down to their knees on Monday as they got a taste of the wintry weather in north India, especially in Delhi. (In pics L-R) People, along with a stray dog, warm themselves around a bonfire on a cold wintry morning in New Delhi on Monday. Two monkeys snuggle together to beat the cold in the national capital. A man cuddles his child fully dressed in winter clothes in Delhi. A person warms himself near a fire sitting next to cows in Prayagraj (UP) on Monday.



Delhi: A cold wave has swamped north, east, northeast, and western regions of India over the last one week, with the national capital taking the lead in shattering historic lows, both in maximum and minimum temperatures. Flight and train operations have been majorly affected due to dense fog in early morning hours across these geographies, including New Delhi. Six people, including two minors, were killed when their car skidded off the road and fell into a canal in Noida on a foggy Sunday night, while two people lost their lives in a road accident due to fog in Ferozepur on Monday. Four people, including a woman, died in Rajasthan, including two in Bharatpur, and one each in Karauli and Alwar. Leh in Ladakh UT recorded the lowest temperature at 20.1 degrees Celsius on Sunday night, even as the authorities of the J&K UT declared winter vacation of two months to all educational institutions in the Valley.



Temperatures are dipping steeply across J&K with Pahalgam in south Kashmir recording 0.2 degrees Celsius on Sunday night, while Qazigund, gateway to the Valley, recorded 9.2 degrees Celsius. Srinagar city recorded the minimum temperature at 6.5 degrees Celsius. In the Jammu region, Jammu recorded 2.4 degrees Celsius, Katra 4.4, Banihal 1.6, Batote 0.3 and, Bhaderwah 0.9 degrees Celsius. Many parts of Uttar Pradesh continue to see cold wave conditions for the 12th consecutive day on Monday, with the maximum temperatures 6-13 degrees below normal, while minimum temperatures are 1-5 degrees below normal across several cities and towns. Mirzapur was the coldest in the state with a temperature of 0.8 degrees Celsius, followed by Muzaffarnagar with 1degree Celsius, Kanpur 1.6 degrees Celsius, and Agra 1.9 degrees Celsius. The Met office has forecast snowfall at a few places over Arunachal Pradesh and dense fog over Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, and Tripura in the next 24 hours. Kolkata has remained exceptionally cold with minimum temperature frequently plunging to 11-12 degrees.



Robbers in SUV Loot Kasba Liquor Shop, Hit Cop Vehicle

The shop that was looted on Monday.



Kolkata: Three robbers in a Scorpio, who broke into an IMFL shop at Kasba Shantipally in the wee hours of Monday and looted cash worth more than Rs 2 lakh and a dozen foreign liquor bottles, rammed their SUV in a police patrol van before fleeing towards EM Bypass. The entire drama unfolded days after the detective department nabbed some Motihari robbers a couple of kilometres from the spot. Kasba police have lodged a case and are going through the CCTV footage of the area to develop leads. A few neighbouring police stations and the detective department too have joined the probe. The shop owner also runs a popular bar and restaurant in central Kolkata, police said. According to police, the accused had come in a white Scorpio around 3am on Monday. “We believe that at least two to three men were involved. All of them wore mufflers to cover their faces. Within minutes, they managed to break open the locker and went inside. The accused broke through the cash counter and looted Rs 2.7 lakh,” said an investigating officer. The accused were busy loading costly liquor bottles in their car when a light truck belonging to Kasba police pulled up near the shop around 4.05am.



“Our men got curious to find the shutter half open at night and decided to check. It was then that the Scorpio picked up extreme speed and hit our vehicle. It reversed and then hit us again taking us by surprise. The accused then fled Shantipally and moved towards EM Bypass. In all likelihood, they fled towards Ruby,” said an investigating officer. “It was a break-in. While fleeing, the accused damaged our mini truck. The Kasba police have registered a case and investigation has begun to track down this SUV,” said DC (south suburban) Sudip Sarkar. The incident coming at a time when sales were high has left local residents shocked. “We have never had these incidents reported in the area. The fact that they even challenged cops has left us worried,” said an elderly woman. The cops said they informed the owner about the robbery. “We have some footage recorded by the camera located outside the shop. We have also activated our source network. We have asked the owner to calculate and inform us about the total loss. We are also ascertaining if some insider had tipped off the gang about the cash kept at the shop,” said an investigating officer. Sleuths from detective department too had sent a team to the spot.



International News



Taliban Kill 14 Afghanistan Troops Hours After Agreeing to ‘Ceasefire’

The Taliban have intensified their attacks in northern Afghanistan in recent days. They targeted a local militiamen compound in northern Takhar province on Sunday, killing 17. On Friday, 10 Afghan soldiers were killed in an attack in southern Helmand province.



Kabul: The Taliban targeted a pro-government militia compound in northern Afghanistan before dawn on Monday, killing 14 members of the Afghan security forces, a local official said. The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the attack. The attack came even as Taliban officials told the Associated Press and other media outlets just hours earlier that a temporary, nationwide ceasefire has been agreed upon among their council leaders. It wasn’t clear when the ceasefire would go into effect. However, an AFP report claimed that the Taliban had denied agreeing to any ceasefire. “In the past few days, some media have been releasing untrue reports about a ceasefire… The fact is that, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has no ceasefire plans,” the Taliban said, after multiple media reports, including a story in the Wall Street Journal, suggested the group was on the verge of announcing some type of temporary truce. Of the 14 fatalities in the predawn attack in Jawzjan province, 13 were members of a pro-government militia and one was a policeman, said Abdul Maroof Azer, the governor’s spokesman. Five other militiamen were wounded and two are missing, according to Azer. He said reinforcements later managed to reach the area and that the compound is now firmly back under government control. Meanwhile, the US military in its daily report of overnight military operations with Afghan forces said that 30 Taliban fighter were killed across the country and several other insurgents detained.



The Taliban have intensified their attacks in northern Afghanistan in recent days. They targeted a local militiamen compound in northern Takhar province on Sunday, killing at least 17 Afghan militiamen. On Friday, at least 10 Afghan soldiers were killed in an attack on a checkpoint in southern Helmand province. Last Monday, an American soldier was killed in combat in northern Kunduz province. The Taliban claimed they were behind a fatal roadside bombing that targeted American and Afghan forces there. Also last week, a Taliban attack on a checkpoint killed at least seven Afghan army soldiers in northern Balkh province. Another six Afghan troops were killed in the same province Thursday in an attack on an army base. The Taliban today control or hold sway over half of the country and, along with IS, stage near-daily attacks targeting Afghan and US forces and Afghan government officials. Scores of civilians die in the cross-fire. The insurgents are at their strongest point in the 18-year war, America’s longest conflict. A ceasefire had been demanded by Washington before any peace agreement could be signed. A peace deal would allow the US to bring home its troops from Afghanistan and end its 18-year military engagement there, America’s longest. The White House said it would have no comment on the ceasefire reports. The US wants any peace deal to include a promise from the Taliban that Afghanistan would not be used as a base by terrorist groups.



Churchgoers Kill Gunman Who Shot 2 at Texas Church

A video grab shows churchgoers taking cover while an armed congregant (top left) engages the shooter (encircled) inside the church.



White Settlement (Texas): A gunman who killed two people during a Texas church service was fatally shot within seconds by armed congregants, said Texas officials, who hailed the state’s gun laws that allow weapons in places of worship. More than 240 parishioners were in the West Freeway Church in the Fort Worth area town of White Settlement at the time of the shooting on Sunday, authorities said. Parishioner Isabel Arreola told the Star-Telegram that she sat near the gunman and that she’d never seen him before Sunday’s service. She said he appeared to be wearing a disguise, perhaps a fake beard, and that he made her uncomfortable. She said the man stood up, pulled a shotgun from his clothing, opened fire and was quickly shot by two congregants who were part of a volunteer security team. “I was so surprised because I did not know that so many in the church were armed,” she said.



Tiffany Wallace told Dallas TV station KXAS that her father, Anton “Tony” Wallace, was one of the victims killed in the attack. She said her father was a deacon at the church and had just passed out communion when the gunman approached him. “You just wonder why? How can someone so evil, the devil, step into the church and do this,” she said. At a press conference on Sunday night, Texas Lt Governor Dan Patrick said the gunman was killed within six seconds of opening fire. Patrick hailed the state’s gun laws, including a measure enacted earlier this year that allowed licensed guns in places of worship, unless the facility bans them. “Two of the parishioners who were volunteers of the security force drew their weapons and took out the killer immediately, saving untold number of lives,” Patrick said. Britt Farmer, senior minister of the church, said, “We lost two great men today, but it could have been a lot worse”.

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