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Danziger: It’s Not Terrorism, Just Collateral Damage

Jeff Danziger’s award-winning drawings are published by more than 600 newspapers and websites. He has been a cartoonist for the Rutland Herald, the New York Daily News and the Christian Science Monitor; his work has appeared in newspapers from the Wall Street Journal to Le Monde and Izvestia. Represented by the Washington Post Writers Group, he is a recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army as a linguist and intelligence officer in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. Danziger has published ten books of cartoons and a novel about the Vietnam War. He was born in New York City, and now lives in Manhattan and Vermont. A video of the artist at work can be viewed here.

Attacks On Brussels Airport, Metro Kill 34: Public Broadcaster

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Thirty-four people were killed in attacks on Brussels airport and a rush-hour metro train in the Belgian capital on Tuesday, according to public broadcaster VRT, triggering security alerts across Europe and bringing some cross-border traffic to a halt.

A witness said he heard shouts in Arabic and shots shortly before two blasts struck a packed airport departure lounge at Brussels airport. The federal prosecutor said one of the explosions was probably triggered by a suicide bomber.

The blasts occurred four days after the arrest in Brussels of a suspected participant in November militant attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. Belgian police and combat troops on the streets had been on alert for reprisal but the attacks took place in crowded areas where people and bags are not searched.

All public transport in Brussels was shut down, as it was in London during 2005 Islamist militant attacks there that killed 52. Authorities appealed to citizens not to use overloaded telephone networks, extra troops were sent into the city and the Belgian Crisis Centre, clearly wary of a further incident, appealed to the population: “Stay where you are”.

British Sky News television’s Alex Rossi, at the airport, said he heard two “very, very loud explosions”.

“I could feel the building move. There was also dust and smoke as well…I went towards where the explosion came from and there were people coming out looking very dazed and shocked.”

VRT said police had found a Kalashnikov assault rifle next to the body of an attacker at the airport. Such weapons have become a trademark of Islamic State-inspired attacks in Europe, notably in Belgium and France, including on Nov. 13 in Paris.

An unused explosive belt was also found in the area, the public broadcaster said. Police were continuing to scour the airport for any further bombs or attackers.

Alphonse Youla, 40, who works at the airport, told Reuters he heard a man shouting out in Arabic before the first explosion. “Then the glass ceiling of the airport collapsed.”

“I helped carry out five people dead, their legs destroyed,” he said, his hands covered in blood.

A witness said the blasts occurred at a check-in desk.

Video showed devastation in the hall with ceiling tiles and glass scattered across the floor. Some passengers emerged from the terminal with blood spattered over their clothes. Smoke rose from the building through shattered windows and passengers fled down a slipway, some still hauling their bags.

Public broadcaster RTBF said police were searching houses in the Brussels area.

VRT said 20 were killed in the metro train and 14 at the airport. Authorities had earlier put the toll at 11 in the airport bombing and 15 in the underground train.

Many of the dead and wounded at the airport were badly injured in the legs, one airport worker told Reuters, suggesting at least one bomb in a bag on the floor.

Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands, all wary of spillover from conflict in Syria, were among states announcing extra security measures.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel spoke of “a black time for our country”.

“What we feared has come to pass. Our country has been struck by attacks which are blind, violent and cowardly.”

The blast hit the train as it left Maelbeek station, close to European Union institutions, heading to the city center.

The VRT public broadcaster carried a photograph of a metro carriage at a platform with doors and windows completely blown out, its structure deformed and interior mangled and charred.

A local journalist tweeted a photograph of a person lying covered in blood among smoke outside Maelbeek metro station, on the main Rue de la Loi avenue which connects central Brussels with the EU institutions. Ambulances were ferrying the wounded away and sirens rang out across the area.

 

“We Are At War”

“We are at war and we have been subjected to acts of war in Europe for the last few months,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said.

Public broadcaster VTM said the Tihange nuclear power plant had been evacuated as part of the security clampdown.

Brussels airport said it had canceled all flights until at least 6 a.m. (0500 GMT) on Wednesday and the complex had been evacuated and trains to the airport had been stopped. Passengers were taken to coaches from the terminal that would remove them to a secure area.

All three main long-distance rail stations in Brussels were closed and train services on the cross-channel tunnel from London to Brussels were suspended.

Security services have been on a high state of alert across western Europe for fear of militant attacks backed by Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the Paris attack.

While most European airports are known for stringent screening procedures of passengers and their baggage, that typically takes place only once passengers have checked in and are heading to the departure gates.

Although there may be discreet surveillance, there is nothing to prevent member of the public walking in to the departure hall at Zaventem airport with heavy baggage.

Following an attempted ramraid attack at Glasgow Airport in 2007, several airports stepped up security at entrances by altering the pick-up and drop-off zones to prevent private cars getting too close to terminal buildings.

European stocks fell after the explosions, particularly travel sector stocks including airlines and hotels, pulling the broader indices down from multi-week highs. Safe-haven assets, gold and government bonds rose in price.

The attacks appeared to be linked to the arrest of French citizen Salah Abdeslam – the prime surviving suspect for November’s Paris attacks on a stadium, cafes and a concert hall – who was captured by Belgian police after a shootout on Friday.

Belgium’s Interior Minister, Jan Jambon, said on Monday the country was on high alert for a revenge attack.

It was not clear what failings if any allowed the plan for Tuesday’s operation to go ahead and whether the double attack was planned in advance or put together at short notice.

“We know that stopping one cell can … push others into action. We are aware of it in this case,” Jambon said.

 

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Additional reporting by Andrew Heavens; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

Photo: Injured people are seen at the scene of explosions at Zaventem airport near Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2016, in this handout courtesy of David Crunelle via Twitter. REUTERS/David Crunelle via Twitter  @davidcrunelle/Handout via Reuters

Bomb In Thai Capital Kills 16, Wounds 81 In Bid ‘To Destroy Economy’

By Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Andrew R.C. Marshall

BANGKOK (Reuters) – A bomb planted at one of the Thai capital’s most renowned shrines on Monday killed 16 people, including three foreign tourists, and wounded scores in an attack the government called a bid to destroy the economy.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast at the Erawan shrine at a major city-center intersection. Thai forces are fighting a low-level Muslim insurgency in the predominantly Buddhist country’s south, but those rebels have rarely launched attacks outside their heartland.

“The perpetrators intended to destroy the economy and tourism, because the incident occurred in the heart of the tourism district,” Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told Reuters.

Several media outlets had earlier reported that 27 people were killed but national police chief Somyot Poompanmuang told reporters the death toll was 16 in an attack he said was unprecedented in Thailand.

“It was a pipe bomb,” Somyot said. “It was placed inside the Erawan shrine.”

The shrine, on a busy corner near top hotels, shopping centers, offices and a hospital, is a major attraction, especially for visitors from East Asia, including China. Many ordinary Thais also worship there.

The government would set up a “war room” to coordinate the response to the blast, the Nation television channel quoted Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha as saying.

Two people from China and one from the Philippines were among the dead, a tourist police officer said. A rescue agency said 81 people were wounded and media said most of them were from China and Taiwan.

“It was like a meat market,” said Marko Cunningham, a New Zealand paramedic working with a Bangkok ambulance service, who said the blast had left a two-meter-wide (6-foot-) crater.

“There were bodies everywhere. Some were shredded. There were legs where heads were supposed to be. It was horrific,” Cunningham said, adding that people several hundred meters away had been injured.

POLITICAL TENSION

At the scene lay burned out motorcycles, with rubble from the shrine’s wall and pools of blood on the street.

Earlier, authorities had ordered onlookers back, saying they were checking for a second bomb but police later said no other explosive devices were found.

Authorities stepped up security checks at some major city intersections and in tourist areas. The city’s elevated railway, which passes over the scene, was operating normally.

While initial suspicion might fall on Muslim separatists in the south, Thailand has been riven for a decade by an intense and sometimes violent struggle for power between political factions in Bangkok.

Occasional small blasts have been blamed on one side or the other. Two pipe bombs exploded outside a luxury shopping mall in the same area in February, but caused little damage.

Police said that attack was aimed at raising tension when the city was under martial law.

The army has ruled Thailand since May 2014, when it ousted an elected government after months of at times violent anti-government protests.

The shrine intersection was the site of months of anti-government protests in 2010 by supporters of ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Dozens were killed in a military crackdown and a shopping center was set ablaze.

(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Andrew R.C. Marshall; Additional reporting by Khettiya Jittapong, Martin Petty and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Photo: People pray at the famous San Phra Phrom shrine, known as the Erawan shrine in English, of the Hindu god Brahma, in Bangkok’s shopping district, in this March 30, 2013 file picture. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/Files 

Boston Defense Focuses On Tsarnaev’s Troubled Family

By Richard A. Serrano, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

BOSTON — Close to wrapping up their case, defense lawyers for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev portrayed their client Tuesday as the product of a troubled and ailing Chechen father who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and an angry, aggressive older brother who often picked fights in Boston.

Tsarnaev was found guilty last month on all 30 charges in the April 2013 bombings, and the jury of seven women and five men will soon be deciding whether the 21-year-Russian immigrant is moved to death row or spends the rest of his life in prison with no parole.

Defense lawyers, hoping for the life sentence, on Tuesday sought to show how he was affected by family members, from their history in the Chechen region to their immigration to Boston when Tsarnaev was eight.

There has been much testimony in the trial about his mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaev, who became a strict Muslim at the time that her oldest son, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was becoming an Islamic radical.

Testimony Tuesday was the first that centered on his father, Anzor Tsarnaev.

Dr. Alexander Niss, a former Boston psychiatrist who now practices in Los Angeles, testified that for two years he treated the father for PTSD, nightmares, anxiety, hallucinations, and near dementia. Niss said the father, a former boxer, was deeply affected by the Chechen wars in the 1990s.

“He had a lot of anxiety, and panic attacks,” Niss said. “He had flashbacks. He had a lot of paranoia. He was afraid of the Russian KGB, thought they were following him and looking through his window at his home.”

The father, who is living in Russia, was not called to testify.

Amanda Ransom, a college friend of Tamerlan’s wife, described Tamerlan’s cruel behavior, saying he dressed flashy, drove a Mercedes and was prone to starting fights. She recalled him once angrily punching a man for speaking to his wife Katherine and said she sometimes could hear him screaming and throwing things at her as well.

One night in their school dorm, she said, “I heard him laughing and she was crying in her room. After they had had sex he told her he had AIDS and when she started to cry, he laughed at her. He said he wasn’t serious, it was a joke.”

Henry Alvarez, a fellow high school wrestler with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, said he had been shocked to learn that his former teammate was arrested in the bombings. “I never could imagine he would do something like this,” Alvarez said.

The defense is expected to put on expert testimony about the harsh conditions at the federal Supermax prison, where Tsarnaev presumably would go if he is sentenced to life, and then end its case Wednesday or Thursday.

Photo: Boston Marathon Bombing via Facebook