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|Who was behind the Sri Lanka bombings? Everything we know so far about the Easter Sunday attacks
Easter Day bomb blasts at three Sri Lankan churches and four hotels killed 310 people and wounded around 500, following a lull in major attacks since the end of the civil war 10 years ago. The explosions, some of which officials said were suicide bomb attacks, led to an immediate clampdown, with the government declaring a curfew and blocking access to most major social media and messaging sites. What happened? The powerful blasts - six in quick succession and then two more hours later - wrought devastation, including at the capital's well-known St Anthony's Shrine, a historic Catholic Church. The three hotels hit in the initial attacks were the Shangri-La Colombo, Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo and the Cinnamon Grand Colombo. pic gallery The first six explosions were all reported within a short period in the morning just as church services were starting. Hours later there were two further attacks in the outskirts of Colombo. Police the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers. Who were the victims? The death toll rose to 310 on Tuesday after several people died of their injuries overnight, a police spokesman said. There were hundreds of people injured in hospitals. There were eight British citizens killed in the attack, two of whom had dual US nationality. Ben Nicholson said his wife Anita, 42, son Alex, 14, and daughter Annabel, 11, had been killed as they sat at a table for breakfast in the Shangri-la Hotel in Colombo on Easter Sunday. "Mercifully, all three of them died instantly and with no pain or suffering," Mr Nicholson said. Ben Nicholson (right) with the other members of his family who were killed Daniel Linsey, 19 and his younger sister Amelie, 15, were having breakfast with their father Matthew at the luxury Shangri-La Hotel when the suicide bomber struck. Dr Sally Bradley and her husband Bill Harrop were staying in the Cinnamon Grand Hotel when one of the seven suicide bombers struck. The Manchester couple had been living in the Australian city of Perth since 2013 where Dr Bradley was practising medicine, but were due to return to the UK soon. Read more | Sri Lanka attacks Tulip Siddiq, the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, said she lost a relative in the attacks. "It is all so devastating," she wrote on Twitter. "Solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka." The first American victim of the Sri Lanka terror attack has been named as 40-year-old Dieter Kowalski. Mr Kowalski, from Denver, Colorado, checked into the luxury Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo just hours before it was targeted by the bombers. Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry said the nationalities of 11 foreigners killed in the Easter Sunday blasts have been verified. Three Indians, one Portuguese and two Turkish nationals were killed, while a further nine foreigners were also reported missing. A Dutch national and a Chinese national also have been reported among the victims. Read more about the victims. Who was behind the attacks? A police spokesman said on Tuesday 40 people were now under arrest in connection with the attacks. A Sri Lankan government official said the attacks were carried out by seven suicide bombers from a domestic militant group named National Thowfeek Jamaath. There was no claim of responsibility on Monday. All of the bombers were Sri Lankan citizens, but authorities suspect foreign links, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said at a news conference. Earlier, Ariyananda Welianga, a government forensic crime investigator, said an analysis of the attackers' body parts made clear that they were suicide bombers. He said most of the attacks were carried out by a single bomber, with two at Colombo's Shangri-La Hotel. Documents seen by AFP show that Sri Lanka's police chief Pujuth Jayasundara issued an intelligence alert to top officers 10 days ago, warning that suicide bombers planned to hit "prominent churches". "A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama'ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo," the alert said. The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that was linked last year to the vandalism of Buddhist statues. Sri Lankan police were holding a Syrian national in custody for questioning, three government and military sources told Reuters on Tuesday. "The terrorist investigation division of the police arrested a Syrian national following the attacks for interrogation," a source said. Two other officials with knowledge of the investigation confirmed the detention. "He was arrested after interrogation of local suspects," a second source said. Key intelligence on a possible terrorist attack was not passed onto the Sri Lankan government weeks before the attack. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe acknowledged late on Sunday that “information was there” about possible attacks, adding that “we must also look into why adequate precautions were not taken.” How did Sri Lanka react? The government beefed up security and imposed an immediate and indefinite curfew across the country. It also put in place a "temporary" ban on social media platforms "in order to prevent incorrect and wrong information being spread". Security at Colombo's airport was also enhanced, according to Sri Lankan Airlines, which advised its passengers to arrive four hours before their flights. It added that passengers with passports and tickets will be able to reach the airport during the curfew. he front page of a Sri Lankan newspaper, showing coverage of the Easter Sunday blasts, hangs at a newsstand in Colombo Credit: AFP The Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, called on Sri Lanka's government to "mercilessly" punish those responsible "because only animals can behave like that." Two Muslim groups in Sri Lanka also condemned the church attacks. The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka said it mourned the loss of innocent people in the blasts by extremists who seek to divide religious and ethnic groups. The All Ceylon Jammiyyathul Ulama a body of Muslim clerics, said targeting Christian places of worship cannot be accepted. Embassies in Sri Lanka have warned their citizens to shelter in place. Here is a round-up of the world's reaction to the atrocity.
POSTED APRIL 23, 2019 2:44 AM
|Armed border group shuts down camp at border in New Mexico
SUNLAND PARK, N.M. (AP) — An armed group that has been patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border left its post in the New Mexico desert Tuesday amid pressure from law enforcement following videos that showed militia members stopping migrants who had illegally crossed into the country.
POSTED APRIL 23, 2019 9:44 PM
|Hillary Clinton: Russian interference 'certainly had an impact' on the 2016 election
Amid efforts by President Trump and the White House to downplay the effectiveness of Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential election, Clinton said it's clear that Moscow's efforts affected the outcome.
POSTED APRIL 23, 2019 3:58 PM
|Rouhani says U.S. must lift pressure and apologize before Iran will negotiate
GENEVA (Reuters) - Iran is willing to negotiate with America only when the United States lifts pressure and apologizes, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday, according to state media. Oil prices hit their highest level since November on Tuesday after Washington announced all waivers on imports of sanctions-hit Iranian oil would end next week, pressuring importers to stop buying from Tehran and further tightening global supply. "We have always been a man of negotiation and diplomacy, the same way that we've been a man of war and defense. ...
POSTED APRIL 24, 2019 4:20 AM
|Demoted and sidelined: Google walkout organizers say company retaliated
Staff who organized mass protests say in internal letter their roles were changed after November 2018 demonstration Workers protest against Google on 1 November 2019 in Mountain View, California. Photograph: Noah Berger/AP They helped to organize an unprecedented global protest that saw tens of thousands of Google employees walk off the job in November 2018. Now two Google employees, Meredith Whittaker and Claire Stapleton, are alleging that Google is retaliating against them and other employee activists. “Google has a culture of retaliation, which too often works to silence women, people of color, and gender minorities,” reads a letter from Whittaker, Stapleton and 10 other employees that was published internally on Monday and seen by the Guardian. “Retaliation isn’t always obvious. It’s often confusing and drawn out, consisting of icy conversations, gaslighting, project cancellations, transition rejections, or demotions. Behavior that tells someone the problem isn’t that they stood up to the company, it’s that they’re not good enough and don’t belong.” Stapleton, a nearly 12-year veteran at Google, wrote that two months after the walkout, she was demoted, had a previously approved project cancelled, and was “told to go on medical leave, even though I’m not sick”. “Only after I hired a lawyer and had her contact Google did management conduct an investigation and walked back my demotion, at least on paper,” she wrote. “While my work has been restored, the environment remains hostile and I consider quitting nearly every day.” Whittaker, who co-founded the AI Now Institute, wrote that after Google decided to scrap its AI ethics council, she was told that her “role would be changed dramatically”. “I’m told that to remain at the company, I will have to abandon my work on AI ethics and the AI Now Institute,” she wrote. Neither Whittaker nor Stapleton responded immediately to a request for comment. The letter was first reported by Wired. A Google spokeswoman said that the company has already investigated these cases and determined there was no retaliation. “We prohibit retaliation in the workplace, and investigate all allegations,” the spokeswoman said in a statement. “Employees and teams are regularly and commonly given new assignments, or reorganized, to keep pace with evolving business needs. There has been no retaliation here.” Google employees have been at the forefront of a wave of tech worker activism that has swept the industry over the past year. Employee-organized protests have taken aim both at the company’s business decisions – such as its work for a Department of Defense drone project or plans to build a censored search engine for China – and its treatment of employees and contractors. The November walkout was sparked by a New York Times report that revealed that a former executive, Andy Rubin, had received a $90m severance package despite being forced out over an allegation that he had forced a female employee to perform oral sex. The report unleashed a flood of anger and frustration among Google employees who had faced harassment or discrimination. In Monday’s letter, the organizers say that they “collected over 350 stories” during the walkout, and discovered a “sad pattern”: “People who stand up and report discrimination, abuse, and unethical conduct are punished, sidelined, and pushed out. Perpetrators often go unimpeded, or are even rewarded.” The organizers are planning to host a Retaliation Town Hall for workers on Friday. They have reserved conference rooms and plan to live stream the discussion internally.
Have you experienced retaliation for workplace activism in the tech industry? Contact the author: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
POSTED APRIL 22, 2019 6:25 PM
|Galaxy Fold review: Should you pay $2,000 for Samsung's delayed folding phone tablet?
Ahead of its now delayed release, we got to test Samsung's foldable Galaxy Fold. It has plenty of potential despite early screen problems.
POSTED APRIL 23, 2019 10:09 AM
|UPDATE 2-PG&E get approval to pay employees $350 mln to meet safety goals after wildfires
PG&E Corp can pay employees up to $350 million in bonuses this year to spur them to help meet the bankrupt California power provider's safety goals to prevent wildfires, a judge said on Tuesday. PG&E's management has said the company needs to implement the bonus plan to carry out tasks such as clearing trees and branches around power lines to avert contact that triggers wildfires. While the maximum cost of the plan is $350 million, PG&E has said it expects the likely cost will be around $235 million.
POSTED APRIL 23, 2019 7:18 PM
|US stocks lifted to records amid earnings deluge, oil gains again
Wall Street stocks surged to fresh records on Tuesday following a plethora of mostly good quarterly earnings that reinforced confidence in the economic outlook.
POSTED APRIL 23, 2019 8:34 PM
|Elizabeth Warren’s College Plan Is a Dance with Elves
Elizabeth Warren may be the least jolly member of the Senate, but she is nonetheless offering up her best Santa Claus impersonation as she seeks the Democratic presidential nomination, complete with a trillion-dollar-a-decade student-loan giveaway — to be paid for by those on her naughty list.Senator Warren proposes to pay off Americans’ student loans in a tiered fashion: Up to $50,000 in bailouts for those earning up to $100,000 a year, gradually phased out to $0.00 for those earning $250,000 a year or more. That would eliminate all student debt for about 75 percent of borrowers and provide some reduction for all but 5 percent of borrowers.Lest this be taken as a warrant to go out and borrow big on the chance that there will be another round of debt forgiveness in the future, Senator Warren also proposes to make college free for all students, not only eliminating tuition costs but also radically expanding federal higher-education spending to cover books, student housing and living expenses, and child care — a parallel welfare state for undergraduates.So: Free if you’ve already gone and borrowed money for it, and free if you haven’t. As the Democrats’ 2020 presidential-giveaway bidding war gets under way for real, that makes Senator Kamala Harris’s measly hundreds of billions of dollars to pay public-school teachers more look like an amuse-bouche.Even though the facts of the so-called crisis are grossly exaggerated — as our Robert VerBruggen points out, most student-loan borrowers pay less than 5 percent of their income in student-loan debt service — the inflation of college costs is a genuine concern, and one that is of especially intense interest to the federal government ,which, thanks to the Obama administration, made itself into a monopolist in the student-loan business. But Senator Warren here proposes to put out a fire with gasoline, i.e. to mitigate the effects of inflation by dumping money on the problem.In inflation-adjusted terms, government spending on higher education has never been higher. In has climbed by nearly $2,000 per student (in inflation-adjusted dollars) since 2001. As the Foundation for Economic Education points out, Pell Grant spending alone rose 72 percent in the few short years from 2008 to 2013. Tuition and other expenses have risen right along with that spending, driven mainly by an explosion in administrative costs. In the 1980s, there were about twice as many professors as administrators on our college payrolls; today, that number has been reversed, and there are about twice as many administrators and staff as instructors. Administrative spending has increased substantially relative to spending on instruction — and both are much higher in real per-student terms.Most of this goes to personnel costs, with generous salaries for faculty and staff and benefits that a University of California audit called, gently, “atypical.” Senator Warren is well-positioned to know this: She was paid more than $350,000 a year to teach a single class. Harvard and other colleges are full of clever people such as Senator Warren: Offer them $1 trillion, and they will find a way to spend it. Cheap financing enables higher college prices in the same way that cheap financing enables higher housing prices — the higher-education bubble is the subprime bubble with even worse underwriting standards and, in many cases, even less valuable underlying assets.If you want to get control over tuition inflation, try turning off the spigot. Senator Warren suggests opening it up all the way and adding some new ones.Senator Warren proposes to pay for all this with an annual tax on the savings of certain Americans — only the wealthy ones, we are assured — a new tax that it is not even clear Congress has the constitutional power to enact and whose effects will be unpredictable and likely destructive. Such wealth taxes used to be common in Europe, but all except three have been abandoned for the most obvious reasons: They do not produce the kind of revenue they promise, they are difficult to administer (what’s Jeff Bezos’s net worth right now? What will it be in 15 minutes?), and they encourage capital flight, as France’s many millionaire expatriates can attest.That’s a high price to pay for . . . what, exactly? We are familiar with all the fine rhetoric about higher education being the key to preparing the 21st-century work force and maximizing its productivity, but we cannot help but notice that this is being championed by the same people who have helped to make our K–12 education system the grotesque laughing stock that it is. The public schools are in effect a dysfunctional and wildly corrupt full-employment program for Democratic constituencies, and that same dynamic has driven much of the growth in college administration, too: There are a lot of deputy deans of social justice out there. We don’t need one more, much less 10,000 more.It is ridiculous that it costs as much as it does to get a decent undergraduate education — and it is even more ridiculous that so many American families are paying the price for a decent undergraduate education without getting one. Reform is in order, but the scheme envisioned by Senator Warren is the wrong idea, to the extent that it is an idea at all and not a promissory note to Democratic primary voters as the lady from Massachusetts looks to Milwaukee and hopes for Christmas in July.
POSTED APRIL 23, 2019 6:30 AM
|First picture of 'mastermind' behind Sri Lanka suicide bomb attacks as identity of UK student is revealed
This is the first image of Inshaf Ahamed Ibrahim, the Sri Lankan suicide bomber and alleged mastermind of the atrocity which killed 359 people. Ibrahim, 33, blew himself up at the Shangri-La Hotel at just before 9am local time in a third-floor restaurant. The hotel was full of tourists including British victims Anita Nicholson, 42, and her two children Alex, 14, and 11-year-old daughter Annabel. Ibrahim’s younger brother Ilham also killed himself when he detonated a suicide bomb at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, also in the capital Colombo, five minutes later. The father of the two dead terrorists is a senior and wealthy businessman in Sri Lanka who ran a large spice trading company. Inshaf Ibrahim was involved in the spice export company but also ran a copper factory where it is thought the bombs were manufactured. It also emerged one suicide bombers who perpetrated the Easter Sunday attacks was former UK student Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed, The Telegraph has learned. A group of men claiming to be the the Sri Lanka bomb attackers appear in an Isil propaganda video Credit: Twitter Mohamed is understood to have studied in south east England at some point between 2006 and 2007 before later enrolling on a postgraduate course in Australia. He is then believed to have returned to Sri Lanka. He was one of nine terrorists who carried out a series of blasts targeting churches and hotels in the country, killing 359 people - including eight from Britain. More than 500 were injured. His identity came to light after Sri Lanka's deputy defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene said earlier today that one of the bombers had studied in the UK. “We believe one of the suicide bombers studied in the UK and then later on did his postgraduate in Australia, before coming back to settle in Sri Lanka,” said Mr Wijewardene, without naming the suspect. He said one of the bombers was a woman. He told a press conference in the capital, Colombo, that most of the suicide bombers were “well-educated and come from middle or upper-middle class,” adding that they were “financially quite independent.” Some held law degrees,” he added. Mr Wijewardene’s comments came as the police confirmed that the death toll for Sunday’s massacre had risen to 359. The attacks were claimed on Tuesday by the Islamic State militant group, which did not give any evidence to support its claim. If true, it would make it one of the worst attacks linked to the group outside Iraq and Syria. The deputy defence minister said that 60 people “have been arrested on possible links to the attacks” and 32 of those are still in custody. All are Sri Lankan. Sri Lanka attacks - Locator map Among those assisting police, reported India’s First Post, is Mohammed Yusuf Ibrahim, a wealthy spice trader and pillar of the Sri Lankan business community, whose two sons Imsath Ahmed Ibrahim, 33, and Ilham Ahmed Ibrahim, 31 allegedly bombed the breakfast buffets at the Cinnamon Grand and Shangri La hotels. Indian intelligence sources told the website that a third son Ijas Ahmed Ibrahim, 30, was also reportedly asked about the attack. Police are understood to be investigating possible links to overseas jihadist networks and training camps that had been hidden on a remote compound near Wanathawilluwa, on the island’s west coast. The compound, believed to be linked to the chief suspects in the Easter Sunday bombings, the National Thawheed Jamaath group, was raided by police in January. Read more | Sri Lanka attacks Officers found 100kg of military grade explosives and arrested four suspects, all of whom were released on bail. One Sri Lankan minister alleged on Monday that political pressure had been applied to free them. Outside the Ibrahim family home in Colombo, neighbours told The Telegraph that Imsath was the business brains and Ilham was more aloof and awkward. "Imsath was the best of the sons. He runs the business and he drives good cars and wears Western brands,” said one neighbour. "Ilham was not so bright and not well educated." At a copper factory owned by Imsath in the Colombo suburb of Wellampitiya, workers said they had not seen him for a week. Sri Lankan staff and supervisors at Colossus Ltd had been arrested for questioning leaving only abandoned Bangladeshi migrant workers.
POSTED APRIL 24, 2019 10:43 AM