VOA Asia

Japan to Make Crater on Asteroid to Get Samples From Inside

Mon, 03/18/2019 - 19:22
Japan’s space agency said Monday that its Hayabusa2 spacecraft will follow up last month’s touchdown on a distant asteroid with another risky mission — to drop an explosive to make a crater and collect underground samples to get possible clues to the origin of the solar system. Hayabusa2 made history on Feb. 22 when it successfully touched down on the boulder-rich asteroid, where it also collected some surface fragments. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Hayabusa2 is to drop a copper impactor the size of a baseball and weighing 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) on the asteroid on April 5 to collect samples from deeper underground where they had not been exposed to the sun or space rays. The new mission will require an immediate evacuation of the spacecraft to the other side of the asteroid so it won’t get hit by flying shards from the blast, JAXA said. While moving away, Hayabusa2 will leave a camera to capture the outcome. The mission will allow JAXA scientists to analyze details of a crater to find out the history of the asteroid, said Koji Wada, who is in charge of the project. Hayabusa2 will start descending toward the asteroid the day before to carry out the mission from its home position of 20 kilometers (12 miles) above. It will drop a cone-shaped piece of equipment containing explosives that will blast off a copper plate on the bottom. It will turn into a ball and slam into the asteroid at the speed of 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) per second. JAXA has previously planned to have Hayabusa2 briefly touchdown in a crater, but an agency researcher, Takashi Kubota, said they may not force it to prioritize safety for the spacecraft. Kubota said it would be the first time a spacecraft would take materials from underground a space object. The asteroid, named Ryugu after an undersea palace in a Japanese folktale, is about 900 meters (3,000 feet) in diameter and about 300 million kilometers (180 million miles) from Earth.

'Shameless' Scammers Seek to Cash in on Christchurch Massacre

Mon, 03/18/2019 - 19:17
Scammers are trying to cash in on the Christchurch mosque massacres, using phishing emails with links to fake bank accounts to ensnare people keen to donate, New Zealand's cybersecurity body said Monday. The attack on two mosques in which 50 worshippers were killed, allegedly by a white supremacist, has caused an outpouring of grief and prompted a flood of donations — well over NZ$7 million (US $5 million) — to those affected. But CERT NZ, a government agency that responds to cybersecurity incidents, said emails with links to fake banking logins or fraudulent accounts were being sent out requesting money following the tragedy. Westpac New Zealand bank warned separately in a statement that scammers were sending emails under its brand to swindle money out of people. The warning was posted on Facebook, where the scam drew a furious reaction from users. "Disgusting these low lives are trying to scam money out of people when they're most vulnerable" wrote one. "What a shameless act," wrote another. Some NZ$5.8 million has been donated via online fundraising platform givealittle, and a second — launchgood — has received more than NZ$2 million. Forty pages have so far been set up on givealittle to bring in donations to help those affected by the mass shooting, Robyn Lentell of the Spark Foundation that runs the platform was quoted as saying by the New Zealand Herald newspaper. New donation pages are "popping up every hour," she said, adding each was "extensively" checked and had warning signs posted if they had not yet been moderated.

Flash Floods, Earthquake in Indonesia Kill Over 80

Mon, 03/18/2019 - 16:49
The number of people killed after torrential downpours triggered flash floods and mudslides that tore through mountainside villages in Indonesia's easternmost province has climbed to 79, with dozens of others missing, officials said Monday. On Sunday, the disaster-prone country was hit by an earthquake, triggering a landslide that hit a popular waterfall on the tourist island of Lombok, killing at least three people and damaging hundreds of homes. The worst-hit area from the flooding was Sentani subdistrict, where tons of mud, rocks and trees from a landslide on a mountain early Sunday rolled down to a river that burst its banks, sweeping away residents, National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference in the capital, Jakarta. Floodwaters and landslides destroyed roads and bridges in several areas of Papua province's Jayapura district following days of torrential rains, hampering rescue efforts, Nugroho said. "The combination of natural factors and human activities has caused this fatal disaster," he said. Nugroho said 79 bodies had been pulled from the mud and wreckage of crumpled homes by Sunday. Another 74 people were hospitalized, many with broken bones and head wounds. Nugroho said the number of dead and injured would likely increase since affected areas had not been reached and rescuers were still searching for dozens of people reportedly still missing. "We are overwhelmed by too many injuries," said Haerul Lee, the head of the Jayapura health office, adding that some medical facilities had been hit by power outages. "We can't handle it alone." Papua military spokesman Col. Muhammad Aidi said rescuers saved two injured infants who had been trapped for more than six hours. The parents of one of the babies were washed away and died. Nugroho said rescuers evacuated more than 4,200 people to temporary shelters as more than 600 houses and buildings were damaged and submerged. Television footage showed hundreds of rescuers and members of the police and military evacuating residents to shelters at a government office. Others were carrying bodies in black and orange body bags. Ambulances and vehicles were seen carrying victims on muddy roads to several clinics and hospitals. Seasonal downpours cause frequent landslides and floods and kill dozens each year in Indonesia, a chain of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains. Meanwhile, a moderately strong earthquake triggered a landslide on Lombok island on Sunday. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 5.5 and struck at a depth of 23 kilometers (15 miles). The earthquake was felt across the island, located next to Bali, panicking residents still recovering from a major quake last August that killed more than 300 people and left thousands homeless. Sunday's quake triggered a landslide from Mount Rinjani and hit dozens of tourists at the Tiu Kelep waterfall located in the foothills of the active volcano, said Nugroho, the disaster agency spokesman. Two Malaysians and a 14-year-old Indonesian boy were killed in the landslide, Nugroho said. He said rescuers managed to evacuate 22 Malaysians and 14 Indonesians from the waterfall site, and 56 others — mostly local surveyors from government institutions, the military and the police — from the mountainous area. At least 182 people were injured in the quake, including 26 Malaysians, Nugroho said. About 525 homes were damaged, including 32 that were flattened. Indonesia sits on the "Pacific Ring of Fire" and has frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the United Nations was ready to help Indonesia cope with the disasters. "The United Nations expresses its solidarity with the Indonesian authorities and stands ready to work with them as they respond to the humanitarian needs resulting from both natural disasters," the spokesman for the secretary-general said in a statement.

EU May Push China to Open Economy at April Summit

Mon, 03/18/2019 - 16:45
The European Union will seek Beijing's agreement for deadlines to open up China's economy at an April 9 summit in Brussels, according to a draft leaders' statement, trying to coax it into making good on promises to deepen trade ties. China and the EU will "agree by summer 2019 on a set of priority market access barriers and requirements facing their operators," according to a six-page joint communique drafted by the EU, which still requires Chinese approval. The statement, seen by Reuters, said the two trading blocs would set "deadlines for their swift removal by the next EU-China summit 2020 at the latest." The statement, which is likely to change, also sets 2020 as the goal for a special treaty to increase investment flows that has been under negotiation for almost a decade. The communique reflects European frustration over China's reluctance to allow foreign companies to set up without restrictions while taking full advantage of the EU's openness, EU diplomats say. A surge of Chinese takeovers in critical sectors in Europe and an impression in Brussels that Beijing has not kept its promise to stand up for free trade and globalization have given the April meeting new urgency. Despite an agenda dominated by Britain's imminent departure from the EU, leaders will use a March 21 summit to discuss China policy, a first for many years. It is part of a flurry of high-level meetings before President Xi Jinping travels to Italy and France from this week and the bloc holds a summit with China on April 9. The joint draft statement is set to be formally released at the summit between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk.

Water Shortage Reveals Management Issues in Normally Rainy Philippines

Mon, 03/18/2019 - 14:38
A water shortage affecting some 6 million people in the normally rainy Philippines reveals management issue and threatens the the economy if dry conditions persist.   A House of Representatives committee on development in the country's major city Metro Manila was set to hold a hearing Monday on the water shortage. Tap water disruptions this month have caused periodic water outages in parts of the sprawling city and adjacent Rizal province.  The presidential office has vowed to investigate, too, an office spokesperson was quoted saying on Friday via the official Philippine News Agency.   The probes come as Filipinos demand to know why zones served by one water supplier face interruptions while those under another supplier are getting normal flows. The problem could eventually erode business sentiment and the otherwise solid reputation of President Rodrigo Duterte in a mid-term election year, analysts believe.   “It is now confusing, because it’s got so many narratives being spun,” said Antonio Contreras, political scientist at De La Salle University in the Philippines. “Initially, it was because there was a shortage of rainfall. It is now being painted as a problem of management.”   Dry weather, low reservoir level   The cyclical world weather pattern El Nino, which raises ocean temperatures, has brought lower than average rainfall to the Philippines since February, the country’s weather agency says. El Nino has caused parts of nearby Indonesia to run drier this year to date, as well.   Today people around Metro Manila are told their water will stop for several hours at scheduled intervals, prompting families to stock up in advance or buy water outside. In parts of the country hundreds of kilometers away from Manila, farmers are struggling to raise crops on parched land.   The La Mesa reservoir just outside Manila reached a critically low level of 68.9 meters, down from an ideal 80 meters, on March 10. The supplier Manila Water has apologized to users and urged them to conserve as it disrupts flows.   Another reservoir that supplies Manila is staying above crisis levels, and the company that operates it is not disrupting water delivery.   Political, economic fallout   Some Filipinos wonder whether a government agency is fabricating a “crisis” so it can use emergency relief funds, Contreras said. Others suspect the president will leverage the water problem before  mid-term elections in May by solving it and looking like a "hero," he said.   El Nino could eventually “push rates higher” for water, said Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist with Banco de Oro UniBank in Metro Manila. Commodities might cost more along with daily water use, he said. Still, he added, the shortage has not reached nationwide.   “Basically, it’s a disruption until such time you get a replenishment of the dam and other sources where they can get water,” Ravelas said. “I think we will probably see more of the effects in the coming months. If El Nino will be severe, then that could affect some agricultural products.”   A hit to agriculture could raise consumer prices and affect domestic spending, said Rahul Bajoria, senior Asia Pacific economist with Barclays in Singapore. Inflation became an issue in mid-2018 as prices of basic necessities rose.   Getting water back   A Manila Water official told the congressional hearing Monday that a “widespread water interruption plan” that took effect Thursday had allowed reservoirs to refill and pumping stations to stabilize.  “The results I have seen on the ground beginning March 15 and through this most recent weekend have been encouraging,” the official said, as quoted by the company website.   The Philippine government advocates construction of a new dam, called Kaliwa, with funding from China, as another water source, domestic media reports say. But the project has raised fears about environmental degradation.   Separately, the international charity Water.org says by the end of 2019 it plans to help more than three million people get safe water and better sanitation.   “Having a more robust climate change policy is something that would possibly impact long-term investment implications, but I think the near-term focus is pretty much on rehabilitation and making sure disruption is as limited as possible and water supply is adequate for normal day-to-day operations,” Bajoria said.

New Zealand PM Says Cabinet Has Agreed to Gun Law Reform

Mon, 03/18/2019 - 14:29
New Zealand's prime minister said Monday that her cabinet has made decisions about the reform of gun laws, following Friday's massacre at two mosques in Christchurch.  "I intend to give further details of these decisions to the media and the public before cabinet meets again next Monday," Jacinda Ardern said. "This ultimately means that within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism, we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer."  "We have made a decision as as cabinet," the prime minister said. "We are unified."  Authorities have accused a 28-year-old Australian, Brenton Harris Tarrant, of carrying out the horrific attack. He is the only person in custody linked to the killings and has been charged with murder. Tarrant has not yet entered a plea. His next court appearance is set for April 5. Media reports say Tarrant will not use a lawyer, but will represent himself in the court proceedings. Mass shootings and violent crime are rare in New Zealand, a country of nearly 5 million people. Until Friday, the country's worst mass shooting was in 1990, when a gunman killed 13 people in the small town of Aramoana.

New Zealand's Leader, a Longtime Public Servant

Mon, 03/18/2019 - 11:30
On Friday, shortly after news of the mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the incident as one of the country's "darkest days." Ardern -- at 38, the country's youngest prime minister in 150 years -- has received international praise for her calmness and empathy in responding to the attacks that killed 50 people. She took office in October 2017 but has had a long history in politics. Ardern began to turn the Labor party's polling numbers around so fast after becoming its youngest leader that the effect has been dubbed "Jacindamania." She was born into a Mormon family in the small town of Murupara. She has said seeing the town's Maori children "without shoes on their feet or anything to eat for lunch” was what inspired her to enter public service.  She joined the Labor Party at age 17. She remained active in the party through collage and after graduation landed a job on the staff of Prime Minister Helen Clark, the second woman to hold New Zealand’s highest office and Ardern’s political hero and mentor. She is seen as as friendly and direct, and promised to be "relentless positivity" during her bid for the country's highest office. Her other campaign promises included three years of free university education, free community-based mental health services, and banning of foreign speculators from buying existing homes in New Zealand. Her popularity, especially among New Zealand's youth, had the media dubbing her a political rock star, in the mode of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former U.S. president Barack Obama.  She also became something of a feminist icon just hours after being chosen party leader when she slapped down media questions about whether she planned to have children. She said she had previously spoken publicly about the topic. "But," she said, "it is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace. ... It is a woman's decision about when they choose to have children. It should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job, or have job opportunities." She again captured international attention when she let it be known that she and her live-in partner, TV personality Clarke Gayford, were going to have a baby. She also announced that Gayford would be a stay-at-home dad. She gave birth to her daughter on June 21, 2018.  A month later she announced welfare reforms including a weekly stipend for new parents and an increase in paid parental leave from 18 to 22 weeks. Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is the only other world leader to give birth while in office when she had a baby girl in January 1990.

Memorials Offer Kindness, Place to Grieve for Shaken Christchurch Residents

Mon, 03/18/2019 - 11:01
Residents here are struggling to make sense of Friday’s attacks that took place at two mosques, claimed at least 50 lives, left an equal number wounded, nearly a dozen of whom remain in critical care. While the city is planning a major vigil and memorial Thursday, several community-driven memorials have been erected near the mosques, parks and throughout the city, allowing places for people to grieve. These monuments also provide an opportunity for the community to offer its support to Christchurch's small Muslim population. Dozens of notes and flowers have been placed next to a tree a block from the Masjid Al Noor mosque, where at least 41 people were killed. One note was accompanied by 50 red paper hearts reading, “We wish we knew your name to write upon your heart. We wished we knew your favourite song, what makes you smile, what makes you cry. We made a heart for you. 50 hearts for 50 lives. Rest in peace. William, Rosa, and Tommy.” Kindness toward community The words of kindness expressed in the note reflect the overall sentiment of Christchurch, and New Zealand overall, toward its Muslim population and immigrants, says Megan Van Tongerer, who was born and reared here. She was working at a restaurant just a few kilometers from the Masjid Al Noor mosque on the day of the attack. She told VOA that as police and other emergency vehicles raced down Bealey Avenue outside the establishment, she felt “on edge” as the horrific details emerged of the attack. Van Tongerer and other servers at the restaurant couldn't explain why, but the establishment became busier than it had in months in the wake of the shooting. It was then that some people started “sharing the video [of the shooting] and cracking jokes.” Van Tongerer said that management moved quickly to end that activity. “That’s not the kind of place we are. We didn’t want that here,” she said. She also noted that several other customers voiced objections to people sharing the alleged attacker’s video. “They aren’t representative of the larger community,” she said, “They’re a small part.” Van Tongerer is unsure how the city will move forward and heal following the attack, but is adamant that it must. “If we don't, we’re lost,” she adds. Since Friday, more than $3.6 million, from nearly 70,000 donations, has been raised for victims of the shootings, according to Givealittle, an online donations site. Disbelief Maryam Allayar said she was in shock after the attack. She came to New Zealand three years ago as a refugee from Afghanistan and had always felt safe in her adopted home country. “This always happened in Afghanistan,” she said, “So when I heard [about the attack], I was really shocked and I didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe it happened to me in New Zealand.” Allayar, a university student, knew some of the victims, including the husband and son of a fellow classmate, and others from the school she attends. For the past three days, she said she has been "very scared," fearing other attacks would occur. Allayar expressed relief, however, at the outpouring of support from the residents in Christchurch, saying she was happy that so many people are being kind. Ann Mintram, 80, expressed similar thoughts following church services Sunday. "Well there's only one way to overcome it (the shooting), and that's with love,” she told Reuters, “But at the moment, I'm feeling too numb to even feel love.” Over the weekend, Australian Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Muslim community leaders, "This is not New Zealand. The only part of the incident and actions that we have seen over the past 24, 36 hours that is New Zealand is the support that you are seeing now. Nothing that led up to it is who we are or who this city is.” “We need to keep having a conversation around how we ensure your ongoing safety in the aftermath of this horrific attack,” she added. "We cannot be deterred from the work that we need to do on our gun laws in New Zealand. They need to change, regardless of what activity may or may not have happened with gun retailers. They will change,” Ardern said Sunday. Christchurch resident Philip Smith visited one of the memorials Sunday. Speaking to Reuters news, he called Friday’s shooting “unbelievably sad.” It’s “going to take a long time to get over this,” he added. Not far from Masjid Al Noor mosque, a man who didn’t want to give his name said he also, was still in shock and, similar to Allayar, never thought it would happen “in a place like New Zealand.” “The world needs more love,” he said, “It doesn’t matter what color skin you have or what religion you are. … We all bleed the same.” Life resumes Despite the tragedy, life in Christchurch continues. People resumed the workweek began on Monday. The City Council, however, warned of inevitable disruptions as the investigation continues. “Please be prepared for delays when traveling in and around the city today. The key areas where you are likely to encounter delays are around Hospital Corner, Linwood/Eastgate and Deans Avenue. These delays are unavoidable so please be patient and courteous," the council warned. In Hagley Park, residents rode their bikes, jogged and walked their dogs -- all just a few hundred meters from where one of New Zealand’s deadliest peacetime shootings took place.

Should Media Avoid Naming the Gunmen in Mass Shootings?

Mon, 03/18/2019 - 07:31
A few months after teen shooters killed 12 classmates and her father at Columbine High School, Coni Sanders was standing in line at a grocery store with her young daughter when they came face to face with the magazine cover. It showed the two gunmen who had carried out one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. Sanders realized that few people knew much about her father, who saved countless lives. But virtually everyone knew the names and the tiniest of details about the attackers who carried out the carnage. In the decades since Columbine, a growing movement has urged news organizations to refrain from naming the shooters in mass slayings and to cease the steady drumbeat of biographical information about them. Critics say giving the assailants notoriety offers little to help understand the attacks and instead fuels celebrity-style coverage that only encourages future attacks. The 1999 Colorado attack continues to motivate mass shooters, including the two men who this week stormed their former school in Brazil, killing seven people. The gunman who attacked two mosques in New Zealand on Friday, killing at least 49 people, was said to have been inspired by the man who in 2015 killed nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Adam Lankford, a criminologist at the University of Alabama, who has studied the influence of media coverage on future shooters, said it’s vitally important to avoid excessive coverage of gunmen. “A lot of these shooters want to be treated like celebrities. They want to be famous. So the key is to not give them that treatment,” he said. The notion hit close to home for Sanders. Seemingly everywhere she turned — the grocery store, a restaurant, a newspaper or magazine — she would see the faces of the Columbine attackers and hear or read about them. Even in her own home, she was bombarded with their deeds on TV. Everyone knew their names. “And if you said the two together, they automatically knew it was Columbine,” Sanders said. “The media was so fascinated — and so was our country and the world — that they really grasped onto this every detail. Time and time again, we couldn’t escape it.” Criminologists who study mass shootings say the vast majority of shooters are seeking infamy and soak up the coverage as a guide. Just four days after the 2017 Las Vegas concert shooting, which stands as the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Lankford published a paper urging journalists to refrain from using shooters’ names or going into exhaustive detail about their crimes. These attackers, he argued, are trying to outdo previous shooters with higher death tolls. Media coverage serves only to encourage copycats. Late last year, the Trump administration’s federal Commission on School Safety called on the media to refrain from reporting the names and photos of mass shooters. It was one of the rare moments when gun-rights advocates and gun-control activists agreed. “To suggest that the media alone is to blame or is primarily at fault for this epidemic of mass shootings would vastly oversimply this issue,” said Adam Skaggs, chief counsel for the Giffords Law Center, which works to curb gun violence. Skaggs said he is “somewhat sympathetic to journalists’ impulse to cover clearly important and newsworthy events and to get at the truth. ... But there’s a balance that can be struck between ensuring the public has enough information ... and not giving undue attention to perpetrators of heinous acts.” Studies show a contagion effect from coverage of both homicides and suicides. The Columbine shooters, in particular, have an almost cult-like status, with some followers seeking to emulate their trench-coat attire and expressing admiration for their crime, which some have attributed to bullying. The gunman in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting kept a detailed journal of decades’ worth of mass shootings. James Alan Fox, a professor at Northeastern University who has studied mass shootings, said naming shooters is not the problem. Instead, he blamed over-the-top coverage that includes irrelevant details about the killers, such as their writings and their backgrounds, that “unnecessarily humanizes them.” “We sometimes come to know more about them — their interests and their disappointments — than we do about our next-door neighbors,” Fox said. Law enforcement agencies have taken a lead, most recently with the Aurora, Illinois, police chief, who uttered just once the name of the gunman who killed five co-workers and wounded five officers last month. “I said his name one time for the media, and I will never let it cross my lips again,” Chief Kristen Ziman said in a Facebook post. Some media, most notably CNN’s Anderson Cooper, have made a point of avoiding using the name of these gunmen. The Associated Press names suspects identified by law enforcement in major crimes. However, in cases in which the crime is carried out seeking publicity, the AP strives to restrict the mention of the name to the minimum needed to inform the public, while avoiding descriptions that might serve a criminal’s desire for publicity or self-glorification, said John Daniszewski, the AP’s vice president and editor-at-large for standards. For Caren and Tom Teves, the cause is personal. Their son Alex was among those killed in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater in 2012. They were both traveling out of state when the shooting happened, and it took 15 hours for them to learn the fate of their son. During those hours, they heard repeatedly about the shooter but virtually nothing about the victims. Not long after, they created the No Notoriety movement, encouraging media to stick to reporting relevant facts rather than the smallest of biographical details. They also recommend publishing images of the shooter in places that are not prominent, steering clear of “hero” poses or images showing them holding weapons, and not publishing any manifestos. “We never say don’t use the name. What we say is use the name responsibly and don’t turn them into anti-heroes,” Tom Teves said. “Let’s portray them for what they are: They’re horrible human beings that are completely skewed in their perception of reality, and their one claim to fortune is sneaking up behind you and shooting you.”

New Zealand Citizens Open to Gun Reform After Massacre

Mon, 03/18/2019 - 05:58
The New Zealand leader’s promise of tightened gun laws in the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings has been widely welcomed by a stunned population. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her Cabinet will consider the details of the changes on Monday. She has said options include a ban on private ownership of semi-automatic rifles that were used with devastating effect in Christchurch and a government-funded buyback of newly outlawed guns. While curtailing gun owners’ rights is a political battleground in the United States, Christchurch gun owner Max Roberts, 22, predicted Ardern won’t face serious opposition to her agenda. “There will be no opposition to it. There’s no movement in New Zealand for that. Our media and politics are more left wing,” said Roberts, a carpenter who uses guns for hunting. Elliot Dawson, who survived the shooting at Christchurch’s Linwood mosque by hiding in a bathroom, hopes New Zealand follows Australia’s lead on gun control. In Australia, a virtual ban on private ownership of semi-automatic rifles and a government-funded gun buyback cut the size of the country’s civilian arsenal by almost a third. The ban followed a 1996 massacre in which a lone gunman used assault rifles to kill 35 people in Tasmania state in 1996. “Personally, I don’t think guns should be legal at all. Maybe in some extreme self-defense, but I don’t think they need such firearms like that,” Dawson said. “New Zealand is not America. America is a totally different situation. I think in America it would be probably more dangerous to take people’s guns away. But here, I don’t think we need them at all.” Akshesh Sharma moved to Christchurch from Fiji to study. He was shocked that the shooter was able to get his hands on such military-style weapons. Sharma agrees with the prime minister that gun laws need to be tightened. “I don’t see this as a place where you need guns to live to feel safe,” Sharma said. “I can understand in the U.S. maybe, but here it’s a different story.” Roberts, the gun owner, doubted banning certain types of weapons would be effective. But he said New Zealand should only allow its own citizens to buy guns. Brenton Harrison Tarrant, the Australian charged in the Christchurch shootings, obtained a New Zealand gun license in November 2017 and started legally amassing an arsenal of five guns within a month. “I think when people harbor hate like, that these things are possible,” Roberts said. “Particularly Australian citizens, I don’t understand how they can get access to firearms in New Zealand when New Zealand citizens can’t get access to firearms in Australia,” he added. Ian Britton uses a rifle for shooting rabbits and target shooting. He favors outlawing assault rifles like those used in Christchurch because they’re unnecessary. “I can’t use the words I’d like to use, but it’s disgusting. I never thought I’d see that in this country,” Britton said. Ardern noted that attempts to reform had failed before under pressure from the gun lobby. “There have been attempts to change our laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017. Now is the time for change,” she said. New Zealand was represented at a meeting of Australian police ministers on May 10, 1996, two weeks after the Tasmanian massacre, where it was agreed that semi-automatic long arms would be banned except for use by licensed professional shooters. New Zealand’s unique relationship with Australia, its nearest neighbor, is close to that of a state. New Zealand was the only one of nine jurisdictions at the meeting to reject the deal. Philip Alpers, a Sydney University gun policy analyst, said New Zealand had rejected the most important reform among a raft of gun restrictions that halved Australia’s gun death rate. If New Zealand “hadn’t been the exception on that day and done what Australia did, this wouldn’t have happened,” Alpers said, referring to the massacre.

New Zealand Attack Prompts Grief, Reflection in America

Mon, 03/18/2019 - 03:08
The deadly mass shooting at New Zealand mosques has prompted an outpouring of grief and rekindled dialogue and reflections about confronting hate and xenophobia in communities spanning the globe, including in the United States. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where stopping the spread of hate messaging in the digital age is a topic of renewed discussion.

White House Rejects Any Trump Link to Accused New Zealand Shooter

Sun, 03/17/2019 - 23:44
The White House on Sunday rejected any attempt to link President Donald Trump to the white supremacist accused of gunning down 50 people at two New Zealand mosques. "The president is not a white supremacist," acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told the "Fox News Sunday" show. "I'm not sure how many times we have to say that. Let's take what happened in New Zealand [Friday] for what it is: a terrible evil tragic act." Alleged gunman Brenton Harris Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, said in a 74-page manifesto he released shortly before the massacre unfolded at mosques in Christchurch that he viewed Trump as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose" but did not support his policies. The statement renewed criticism that Trump has not voiced strong enough condemnation of white nationalists. Asked Friday after the mosque attacks whether he sees an increase in white nationalism, Trump said, "I don't really. I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess." He said he had not seen the manifesto. Mulvaney said, "I don't think it's fair to cast this person as a supporter of Donald Trump any more than it is to look at his eco-terrorist passages in that manifesto and align him with [Democratic House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi or Ms. Ocasio-Cortez," Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic congresswoman. "This was a disturbed individual, an evil person," he said. Scott Brown, the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand, told CNN that he gave no credence to Tarrant's comments about Trump in the manifesto, saying the accused gunman "is rotten to the core." Brown said he hopes Tarrant is convicted "as quickly as he can be" and the key to his prison cell thrown away. Trump was widely attacked in the aftermath of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 when he equated white supremacists with counter-protesters, saying "both sides" were to blame and that there were "fine people" on both sides of the protest. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of numerous Democrats seeking the party's presidential nomination to oppose Trump in the 2020 election, said on Twitter after the New Zealand attack, "Time and time again, this president has embraced and emboldened white supremacists and instead of condemning racist terrorists, he covers for them. This isn't normal or acceptable."                    

Quake-Triggered Landslide Kills 2 on Indonesia's Lombok

Sun, 03/17/2019 - 23:21
Officials say a moderately strong earthquake has triggered a landslide that hit a popular waterfall on Indonesia's Lombok island, killing at least two people and injuring dozens.   The U.S. Geological Survey says the magnitude 5.5 quake struck at a depth of 23 kilometers (15 miles) on Sunday and was felt across the island.   Mujjadid Muhas, the spokesman for the North Lombok district administration, says the quake triggered a landslide from Mount Rinjani and hit the Tiu Kelep waterfall located on the active volcano.   Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman, says two Malaysian tourists were killed in the landslide and 44 other people were injured, including eight Malaysians.    

Facebook Still Working to Remove All Videos of New Zealand Terrorist Attack

Sun, 03/17/2019 - 22:30
Facebook is continuing to work to remove all video of the mass shooting in New Zealand which the perpetrator livestreamed Friday, the company said Sunday. "We will continue working directly with New Zealand Police as their response and investigation continues,” Mia Garlick of Facebook New Zealand said in a statement Sunday. Garlick said that the company is currently working to remove even edited versions of the original video which do not contain graphic content, "Out of respect for the people affected by this tragedy and the concerns of local authorities." In the 24 hours following the mass shooting, which left 50 people dead, Facebook removed 1.5 million videos of the attack, of which 1.2 million were blocked at upload, the company said. Facebook's most recent comments follow criticism of the platform after the shooter not only livestreamed the 17 graphic minutes of his rampage, using a camera mounted on his helmet, but also had posted a 74-page white supremacist manifesto on Facebook. Earlier Sunday, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference that there were "further questions to be answered" by Facebook and other social media platforms. "We did as much as we could to remove or seek to have removed some of the footage that was being circulated in the aftermath of this terrorist attack. Ultimately, though, it has been up to those platforms to facilitate their removal and support their removal," she said. The attack came during Friday prayers when the Al Noor Mosque and the nearby Linwood Mosque were filled with hundreds of worshippers. The victims of Friday's shooting included immigrants from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia.

New Zealand Begins Returning Bodies from Mosque Shootings to Families

Sun, 03/17/2019 - 22:06
New Zealand authorities on Sunday started returning some of the bodies of the 50 people killed in Friday's massacre at two mosques to their families so that they can be buried according to Muslim tradition. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said all bodies will be returned by Wednesday. She said that six disaster victim identification experts have flown in from Australia to help in the identification process. Chief Coroner Deborah Marshall said her office is "working as quickly as possible" to make sure it returns the right body to the right family. "There could be nothing worse," she said, "than giving the wrong body to the wrong family. This is not going to happen here." Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha said Sunday that his office has met with leaders of the Muslim community to help them to understand the lengthy autopsy process necessary for a criminal investigation, since it is traditional in Islam to bury a body within 24 hours after death. The names of the victims have not been made public, although a preliminary list has been shared with relatives. Authorities have accused a 28-year-old Australian, Brenton Harris Tarrant, of carrying out the horrific attack. He is the only person in custody linked to the killings and has been charged with murder. New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said three other people who were initially detained were not involved in the attack, but has not ruled out the possibility of other suspects. "I will not be saying anything conclusive until we are absolutely convinced as to how many people were involved, but we hope to be able to give that advice over the next few days," Bush said. He said that because of the need for evidence against Tarrant in legal proceedings to come, authorities "have to be absolutely clear on the cause of death and confirm their identity" before bodies can be released to their loved ones. "But we are so aware of the cultural and religious needs. So we are doing that as quickly and as sensitively as possible." Ardern said that she was one of more than 30 recipients of a 74-page white nationalist manifesto emailed by Tarrant nine minutes before his terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch. He denounced Muslims and called immigrants "invaders" in the manifesto. She said, however, that she did not "directly receive it" and the document did not give a location for the attacks. Ardern said Tarrant, a self-proclaimed white nationalist, "will certainly face the justice system of New Zealand." Earlier Ardern called the mass shooting "an extraordinary act of violence." She said the shooter had five guns, two of them semi-automatic. All the weapons were legally obtained. The prime minister asserted several times during a Sunday afternoon press conference that "there will be changes to our gun laws." She said details will be discussed at a meeting of her government's Cabinet on Monday. The death toll in the mass shooting rose to 50 after emergency workers found another body at one of the crime scenes. Police Commissioner Bush announced that all the bodies from both mosques had been removed and and that in doing so, police were able to locate a further victim. Tarrant, the suspect, was led by two armed guards into a Christchurch court Saturday where a judge read one charge of murder to him. He wore prison robes and handcuffs and did not speak. Reporters in the courtroom said the suspect smiled during his appearance. A photo shows him holding his left hand in an upside-down "OK" symbol, a gesture used by white supremacist groups. After the suspect left the court, the judge said that while "there is one charge of murder brought at the moment, it is reasonable to assume that there will be others." Tarrant has not yet entered a plea. His next court appearance is set for April 5. Ardern said 34 people are in hospitals after being wounded in the shooting. Twelve of those people are in critical condition. Ardern said Saturday that Tarrant's onslaught was cut short when he was apprehended. "It was his intention to continue his attack," the prime minister said.

New Zealand Mosque Attack: The Victims, Their Stories

Sun, 03/17/2019 - 17:00
An attack on a New Zealand mosque took the lives of 50 worshippers Friday and left dozens more wounded when a white supremacist opened fire and live-streamed the shootings. Here are the stories of some of those killed and wounded. THE DEAD Husna Ahmed Farid Ahmed refuses to turn his back on his adopted home, despite losing his 45-year-old wife, Husna Ahmed, in the Al Noor mosque attack. They had split up to go to the bathroom when it happened. The gunman live-streamed the massacre on the internet, and Ahmed later saw a video of his wife being shot. A police officer confirmed she died. Despite the horror, Ahmed, originally from Bangladesh, still considers New Zealand a great country. “I believe that some people, purposely, they are trying to break down the harmony we have in New Zealand with the diversity,” he said. “But they are not going to win. They are not going to win. We will be harmonious.” Syed Areeb Ahmed, 26 Ahmed had recently moved from his house in Karachi, Pakistan, for a job in New Zealand to help support his family back home. On Saturday, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry informed his family that Ahmed was among those killed during the mosque attack. One of his uncles, Muhammad Muzaffar Khan, described him as deeply religious, praying five times a day. But education was always his first priority, Khan said. Ahmed was an only son who had immigrated to New Zealand for work, his uncle said. “Education had always remained his first priority,” Khan said. “He had gone to New Zealand recently where he got his job. He had only started his career, but the enemies took his life” Family members, relatives and friends have gathered at Ahmed’s house to express their condolences. His body is expected to arrive there in the coming days. ​Farhaj Ahsan, 30 The software engineer moved to New Zealand six years ago from the city of Hyderabad in India, where his parents live, according to the Mumbai Mirror. “We received the disturbing news,” Ahsan’s father, Mohammed Sayeeduddin told the newspaper Saturday. Friends and family had been trying to reach Ahsan since the attack. Ahsan was married and had a 3-year-old daughter and an infant son. Abdullahi Dirie, 4 Four of Adan Ibrahin Dirie’s five children managed to escape Friday’s attacks, but the youngest, Abdullahi, was killed, his uncle, Abdulrahman Hashi, 60, a preacher at Dar Al Hijrah Mosque in Minneapolis, told the New Zealand Herald. Dirie also suffered gunshot wounds and was hospitalized. The family fled Somalia in the mid-1990s as refugees and resettled in New Zealand. “You cannot imagine how I feel,” Hashi said. He added: “He was the youngest in the family. This is a problem of extremism. Some people think the Muslims in their country are part of that, but these are innocent people.” Ali Elmadani Elmadani and his wife immigrated from the United Arab Emirates in 1998. The retired Christchurch engineer always told his children to be strong and patient, so that’s what they are trying to do after the tragedy, his daughter, Maha Elmadani, told Stuff. “He considered New Zealand home and never thought something like this would happen here,” she said. She said her mother “is staying as strong as possible. My younger brother isn’t doing too well with the news.” ​Atta Elyan Atta Elyan, who was in his 30s, died of his wounds from the shooting, Muath Elyan, his uncle, told The Associated Press. His father, Mohammed Elyan, a Jordanian in his 60s who co-founded one of the mosques in 1993, was among those wounded, said Muath Elyan, Mohammed’s brother, who said he spoke to Mohammed’s wife after the shooting. Muath said his brother helped establish the mosque a year after arriving in New Zealand, where he teaches engineering at a university and runs a consultancy. He said his brother last visited Jordan two years ago. “He used to tell us life was good in New Zealand and its people are good and welcoming. He enjoyed freedom there and never complained about anything,” Muath told the AP. “I’m sure this bloody crime doesn’t represent the New Zealanders.” Lilik Abdul Hamid The longtime aircraft maintenance engineer at Air New Zealand was in the Al Noor mosque when he was killed, his employer said in a statement. “Lilik has been a valued part of our engineering team in Christchurch for 16 years, but he first got to know the team even earlier when he worked with our aircraft engineers in a previous role overseas,” Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Christopher Luxon said. “The friendships he made at that time led him to apply for a role in Air New Zealand and make the move to Christchurch. His loss will be deeply felt by the team. Hamid was married and had two children, Luxon said. “Lilik, his wife Nina and their children Zhania and Gerin are well known and loved by our close-knit team of engineers and their families, who are now doing all they can to support the family alongside our leadership team and the airline’s special assistance team,” he said. Mucaad Ibrahim, 3 Mucaad Ibrahim was lost in the melee when the firing started at the Al Noor mosque as his older brother Abdi fled for his life and his father pretended to be dead after being shot. The New Zealand Herald reported that the family searched in vain for the toddler at Christchurch hospital and later posted a photograph of Mucaad, smiling with Abdi with the caption: “Verily we belong to God and to Him we shall return. Will miss you dearly brother.” Abdi described his little brother as “energetic, playful and liked to smile and laugh a lot,” confessing he felt nothing but “hatred” for his killer. Mohammad Imran Khan A handwritten cardboard sign outside Mohammad Imran Khan’s restaurant, the Indian Grill in Christchurch, on Sunday said simply CLOSED. A handful of pink flowers laid nearby. The owner of the convenience store next door, JB’s Discounter, Jaiman Patel, 31, said he helped the staff with the keys after the terrorist attack that claimed Khan’s life. “He’s a really good guy. I tried to help him out with the setup and everything,” Patel said. “We also put the key out for them when the terrorists come, and sorted it out for him.” Khan had a son who was 10 or 11, Patel said. The two were business neighbors who helped each other out when needed, he said. “We are helping each other. It’s so sad.” ​Sayyad Milne, 14 Milne was described as a good-natured, kind teenager. The high school student was at the Al Noor mosque for Friday prayers when the attack started, his half-sister, Brydie Henry, told the Stuff media outlet. Sayyad was last seen “lying on the floor of the bloody mosque, bleeding from his lower body,” she said her father told her. Sayyad’s mother, Noraini, was also in the mosque and managed to escape, Henry said. The teenager has two other siblings, 15-year-old twins Shuayb and Cahaya. “They’re all at home just waiting. They’re just waiting and they don’t know what to do,” Henry told the news site. Junaid Mortara, 35 Javed Dadabhai is mourning for his gentle cousin, 35-year-old Junaid Mortara, believed to have died in the first mosque attack. His cousin was the breadwinner of the family, supporting his mother, his wife and their three children, ages 1 to 5. Mortara had inherited his father’s convenience store, which was covered in flowers Saturday. Mortara was an avid cricket fan, and would always send a sparring text with relatives over cricket matches when Canterbury faced Auckland. Haji Daoud Nabi, 71 Nabi moved his family to New Zealand in 1979 to escape the Soviet-Afghan war. Days before the shootings, his son, Omar, recalled his father speaking about the importance of unity. “My father said how important it is to spread love and unity among each other and protect every member of the society we live in,” Omar told Al-Jazeera. Omar told the news network his father ran an Afghan Association and helped refugees settle in to a new country. “He used to make them feel at home,” Omar said. Husne Ara Parvin, 42 Parvin was struck by bullets while trying to shield her wheelchair-bound husband, Farid Uddin Ahmed, her nephew Mahfuz Chowdhury told The Daily Star, a Bangladesh newspaper. Chowdhury said Uddin had been ill for years and Parvin took him to the mosque every other Friday. She had taken him to the mosque for men while she went to the one for women. Mahfuz said relatives in New Zealand told him when the shootings began, Parvin rushed to her husband’s mosque to protect him. He survived. The Bangladeshi couple had moved to New Zealand sometime after 1994, Chowdhury said. Hussein al-Umari An Iraqi who born in Abu Dhabi was killed in the attack on two mosques in New Zealand. His family and friends had been seeking information on al-Umari, in his mid-30s, who had failed to return after going to Friday prayers at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. His mother, an Iraqi calligraphy artist named Janna Ezzat, wrote on Facebook that her son had become a martyr. Ezzat wrote: “Our son was full of life and always put the needs of others in front of his own.” Indian citizens killed India’s ambassador to New Zealand issued the following names of Indian citizens who were killed in the mosque attacks: Maheboob Khokhar Ramiz Vora Asif Vora Ansi Alibava Ozair Kadir ​Nine Pakistani victims Pakistan’s foreign ministry confirmed nine Pakistanis were killed in the Christchurch mosque attacks. They have been identified as: Zeeshan Raza, his father, Ghulam Hussain and mother Karam Bibi; Sohail Shahid; Syed Jahandad Ali; Syed Areeb Ahmed; Mahboob Haroon; Naeem Rashid and his son Talha Naeem. Naeem Rashid and his son Talha Naeem, 22, died after trying to disarm the shooter. Rashid had migrated to New Zealand in 2009. He was teacher. Rashid’s 75-year-old mother Bedar Bibi was devastated and wanted to fly to New Zealand for a last look at her son and grandson.  “I want the New Zealand government should take me there so I can have one last look of my beloved son and my grandson Talha,” she said. The foreign ministry provided more information about other citizens who died in the attacks: Sohail Shahid, son of Muhammad Shabbir, age 40. Syed Jahanand Ali, age 34. Mahboob Haroon, son of Shahid Mehboob, resident of Rawalpindi, age 40. ​THE WOUNDED Waseem and Elin Daraghmeh A Jordanian man says his 4-year-old niece is fighting for her life after being wounded. Sabri Daraghmeh said by phone from Jordan on Saturday that the girl, Elin, remains “in the danger phase” and that her father, Waseem — Sabri’s brother — is in stable condition. Daraghmeh says the 33-year-old Waseem moved to New Zealand five years ago and that he described it as the “safest place one could ever live in.” The Daraghmehs are of Palestinian origin, but have Jordanian citizenship, like several others listed as Jordanian nationals among those killed and wounded in the mosque attacks. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said Saturday that at least four Palestinians were among those killed, but acknowledged they could have been counted by Jordan or other countries. Shihadeh Nasasrah Shihadeh Nasasrah, 63, who was wounded in the New Zealand mosque shooting, said he spent terrifying minutes lying underneath two dying men as the gunman kept firing. The assailant “would go out and bring more ammunition and resume shooting,” said Nasasrah, speaking by phone from a Christchurch hospital where he was recovering from two shots to the leg. “Every time he stopped, I thought he was gone. But he returned over and over again. I was afraid to leave because I didn’t know the safest way out. I died several times, not one time.” Nasasrah had attended Friday prayers at the Al Noor Mosque with his friend, Abdel Fattah Qasim, 60, who was killed in the shooting. Both were originally from the West Bank — Nasasrah from the town of Beit Furik and Qasim from the town of Arabeh. Nasasrah said about 200 to 300 worshippers were in the mosque for Friday prayers, and that he and his friend were sitting in the front, near the imam, or prayer leader. The imam was delivering the sermon when the gunman burst into the mosque, he said. “Panic spread all over the place,” Nasasrah said. “Some started saying Allahu Akbar [God is great]. We scrambled to leave toward a second door that leads to a hall and then to the street, but the bullets brought us down.” “Two people came on top of me, and he [the gunman] approached us and opened fire. Both were killed and I felt them dying,” Nasasrah said. “I felt their blood. I myself was shoot and I thought ‘I’m dying.’” He said he uttered the words that devout Muslims speak before their death — “there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger.” Nasasrah said most of the worshippers were from Asia, including Indonesia, India, Singapore and Malaysia, and that Arabs made up a smaller part of the congregation. The attack left him and other Muslims in the area worried and puzzled. “I never heard a racist word in this country,” he said. “I don’t know what happened and why. I will not leave this country. Our lives are well established here, our homes, works, family is here and we will not leave.” As a young man, Nasasrah studied English in the Syrian capital of Damascus, and then worked as a translator at the New Zealand embassy in Saudi Arabia for 14 years. The father of three moved to New Zealand in 1990. His three children graduated from universities in New Zealand and have established their lives in the country. Muhammad Amin Nasir, 67 Nasir and his son were 200 meters (219 yards) from the Al Noor mosque on Friday when everything went wrong. They had no idea that a white supremacist had just slaughtered more than 40 people inside the mosque. A car that was driving by suddenly stopped, and a man leaned out the window pointing a gun at them. They ran as the bullets began to fly. But at 67, Nasir could not keep up with his 35-year-old son. He fell behind by two or three fateful steps. The gunman drove away. A pool of blood poured from Nasir’s body. Nasir, who lived in Pakistan, had been regularly visiting his son in New Zealand. He was on the third week of his visit when he was shot. He remains in an induced coma with critical injuries, though his condition has stabilized. Adeeb Sami, 52 As the rampage inside the mosque began, Sami was shot in the back as he dove to protect his two sons, Abdullah, 29, and Ali, 23, the Gulf News reported. “My dad is a real hero. He got shot in the back near his spine in an attempt to shield my brothers but he didn’t let anything happen to them,” Adeeb’s daughter, Heba, 30, told the Gulf News. Sami, described by the Gulf News as a Dubai-based New Zealander of Iraqi origin, underwent surgery to remove the bullet and his daughter said he’s recovering.

New Zealand to Begin Releasing Remains of Mosque Shooting Victims

Sun, 03/17/2019 - 13:37
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said Sunday that the body of “at least one victim” of Friday’s mass shooting at two mosques will be given to family members Sunday night. Chief Coroner Deborah Marshall said her office is “working as quickly as possible” to make sure the office returns the right body to the right family. “There could be nothing worse,” she said than delivering the wrong body to a family. Police Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha said Sunday that his office has met with leaders of the Muslim community to help them understand the lengthy autopsy process necessary for a criminal investigation, because it is traditional in Islam to bury a body within 24 hours after death. The government hopes to return all victims’ bodies to their families by Wednesday. A preliminary list of victims has been released to families, police said. ​Manifesto sent minutes before attacks New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Sunday that she was one of more than 30 recipients of a 74-page white nationalist manifesto emailed by shooting suspect Brenton Tarrant nine minutes before his terrorist attacks on two New Zealand mosques. He denounced Muslims and called immigrants “invaders” in the manifesto. She said that it was emailed to her office and that she did not “directly receive it” and the document did not give a location for the attacks. Ardern said 28-year-old Tarrant, an Australian citizen and self-proclaimed white nationalist who has been charged with murder in connection with the shootings “will certainly face the justice system of New Zealand.” Earlier Ardern called the mass shooting “an extraordinary act of violence.” She said the shooter had five guns, two of them semi-automatic. All the weapons were legally obtained. The prime minister asserted several times during a Sunday afternoon press conference that “There will be changes to our gun laws.” ​Death toll at 50 The death toll in the mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques Friday has risen to 50 after emergency workers found another body at Al Noor mosqueas they removed the victims. Forty-two people were killed at Al Noor, seven at Linwood mosque and one person died later at a hospital. Ardern said 34 people remain hospitalized after being wounded in the shooting. Twelve of those people are in critical condition. Tarrant, the suspect, was led by two armed guards into a Christchurch court Saturday where a judge read one charge of murder to him. He wore prison robes and handcuffs and did not speak. Reporters in the courtroom said the suspect smiled during his appearance. A photo shows him holding his left hand in an upside-down “OK” symbol, a gesture used by white supremacist groups. After the suspect left the court, the judge said that while “there is one charge of murder brought at the moment, it is reasonable to assume that there will be others.” Tarrant has not yet entered a plea. His next court appearance is set for April 5. Others face weapons charges Three other people, a woman and two men, were also detained in connection with the shootings. The woman has been released without charge. A man in the car with the woman received firearms charges and he will appear in court Monday. An 18-year-old man also has a court date Monday for possessing a firearm. He is not connected to the couple. Police officials say they do not believe the men were linked to the shootings. Ardern said Saturday that Tarrant’s onslaught was cut short when he was apprehended. “It was his intention to continue his attack,” the prime minister said. ​Flowers, mementos, money Residents of Christchurch have been bringing flowers and other mementos to a makeshift memorial, and an online fund for the victims gathered $684,000 in a single day. The victims of Friday’s shooting included immigrants from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Mass shootings and violent crime are rare in New Zealand, a country of nearly 5 million people. Until Friday, the country’s worst mass shooting was in 1990, when a lone gunman killed 13 people in the small town of Aramoana.

6 Pakistanis Among New Zealand Dead

Sun, 03/17/2019 - 10:09
Pakistan has confirmed that at least six of its citizens are among the dead in Friday’s terrorist attack on worshippers in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters Saturday that efforts were underway to establish the identity of three missing Pakistanis with the help of local authorities. “We are waiting for identification (of missing Pakistanis). Obviously I’m getting increasingly worried with the passage of time and I fear that they might be on the list of martyrs,” Qureshi said. One of the slain Pakistanis, Naeem Rashid, reportedly tried to overpower the shooter after his young son, Talha Naeem, was gunned down, but he was critically wounded in the process and later died in a local hospital. The Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman said Rashid and his son will be buried in Christchurch. Mohammad Faisal noted that a local Muslim and Pakistani association has assisted in putting the burial arrangements in place. The Pakistani government is working with families of other victims for possible transport of the other remains to Pakistan, the ministry added. The Christchurch attacks killed 50 people and injured dozens more.

Cambodia Takes Aim at Critics Who Post on Facebook

Sun, 03/17/2019 - 09:40
On the night of Jan. 16, Kol Sat could not locate her husband even after contacting everyone she thought might know the whereabouts of Kong Mas. The next morning, her mother-in-law called with news: Police were questioning Kong Mas after arresting him the day before. Kol Sat, a garment worker in Phnom Penh, told VOA her husband had accepted a friend’s invitation to have coffee only to be picked up by authorities around 9:30 a.m., just hours after Kong Mas arrived in Phnom Penh from Siem Reap province, where he worked as a construction supervisor. His arrest was related to Facebook posts, said Kol Sat, 35. Among other things, he criticized the Cambodian government for its role in the possible suspension of Everything but Arms (EBA), the European Union’s initiative that grants Cambodia preferential access to its markets, a structure that can be removed if beneficiary countries fail to respect core human rights. Since then, the EU has taken the first step to suspend EBA. “I think it is just constructive criticism and he is just an ordinary citizen and he has personal rights to post,” Kol Sat said. “I think perhaps it is not wrong.” Article 41 enshrined in the Constitution of Cambodia states that “Khmer citizens shall have the freedom to express their personal opinions, the freedom of press, of publication and of assembly.” A series of arrests Kong Mas, 33, was one of the leading members in Svay Rieng province of the now-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party. His arrest is the latest in a series related to Facebook posts that the Cambodian government said were intended “to insult and/or incitement,” a charge often used to imprison government critics. It carries a prison sentence of six months to two years. The first prominent arrest occurred in August 2015 and resulted in university student Kung Raiya being charged with incitement for posting a call for a “color revolution.” In July 2017, police arrested Rom Chamroeun for posting an image of two pistols on his Facebook page with text seemingly directed at Cambodia’s prime minister that read, “Hun Sen I will kill you. Because if you aren’t killed, Cambodia will never have peace. Me and my siblings will shoot Mr Hun Sen someday, and his wife and children.” In February 2018, Sam Sokha was arrested after a video surfaced on Facebook that showed her throwing a shoe at a roadside billboard depicting Hun Sen and National Assembly President Heng Samrin. She could be heard saying, “These are the men who are destroying our nation.” She fled to Thailand requesting political asylum and was arrested for insulting Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party when she returned to Cambodia. All told, more than a dozen Cambodians have been arrested or detained for making political statements on Facebook, some of them after running afoul of a lese-majeste law passed in February 2018 that criminalizes criticism of the king and allows for sentences as long as five years. In some cases, however, the posters were released after writing a letter of apology to Hun Sen and pledging to stop political posting on Facebook. ‘Insulting and incitement’ charge Sam Sokong, the lawyer for Kong Mas, said his client’s arrest was “completely politically motivated” because the evidence consists of posts from April to December 2018 criticizing the government, supporting the campaign to not vote in the 2018 election, and calling for Sam Rainsy, an opposition leader, to return to Cambodia. On Jan. 16, just before his arrest, Kong Mas posted a 2-day-old Reuters story saying the EU had decided to take the first step in sanctioning [Cambodia] by removing the preferential treatment of its products such as garments and rice. Then he shared Sam Rainsy’s schedule of public meetings during a U.S. visit. And he posted that Hun Sen’s administration ignored problems faced by farmers such as the falling market prices for their output, according to his post viewed by VOA Khmer. “When authorities or the government are angry, they will file complaints and 100 percent of the time, the court has to take action in accordance with the complaints, whether or not they’re based on the law,” said Sam Sokong, who has represented five people arrested for their Facebook posts. Kong Mas has been charged with insulting and incitement. Silencing criticism The government has a history of silencing voices it believes have been raised in opposition. In November 2017, the CNRP, which nearly defeated Hun Sen’s ruling party in the 2013 elections, was dissolved. This came after a crackdown on critical media outlets including the closure of the influential English-language Cambodia Daily after the publishers received a large, overdue tax bill, and several local radio stations that broadcast factual programming in rural Cambodia, where ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) traditionally draws its support base. In addition to suppressing traditional media that are not pro-government, the CPP has pushed to dominate the internet, which the CNRP used to its advantage during the 2013 elections by attracting many young people through its mastery of platforms such as Facebook. ​Hun Sen is no slouch on Facebook. On his page, Samdech Hun Sen, Cambodian Prime Minister, the onetime Khmer Rouge commander posts photographs of himself posing with garment workers and students, and gushes about his love for his wife. If this makes the man who became prime minister in 1985 seem more approachable to Cambodia’s young and increasingly tech-savvy population, 40 percent of whom are avid Facebook users, that’s the point. At a groundbreaking ceremony for a flood protection and drainage improvement project in Phnom Penh on March 4, Hun Sen waved off rumors that Facebook might go dark by saying, “I am also a Facebook user, so why would I shut down Facebook?” Instead he ordered officials to draft an new anti-cybercrime law, and Meas Po, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, said it will not affect freedom of expression. According to Meas Po, approximately 13.6 million people, or 82 percent of Cambodians, use the internet, and about 7 million use Facebook, making it the nation’s most popular social media platform. Among those Facebook users are community activists and opposition supporters who are increasingly subject to the same pressures as their counterparts in the traditional media, according to “Going Offline? The Threat to Cambodia’s Newfound Internet Freedoms,” a report released by the Cambodian rights group, Licadho in May 2015. “I don’t believe the authorities do not understand what freedom of expression means, but we know it depends on their interpretation,” said Am Sam Ath, Licadho’s monitoring manager. Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ly Sophana could not be reached for comment. ​Rights group’s concerns United Nations Special Rapporteur to Cambodia, Rhona Smith, said in an email to VOA Khmer that she is following a number of cases involving people arrested and even charged in connection with online posts. “I am reminded that freedom of expression and the controls that can be legitimately placed thereon are the same irrespective of whether the comments are made on Facebook, through other social media, or in printed media,” she said. “I have previously expressed concern at various provisions of the criminal code being used to limit freedom of expression in Cambodia,” she added. Am Sam Ath expressed his concern that if Hun Sen’s requested cybercrime law passes, it will be used to stifle citizens’ freedom of expression. “We are worried that [the government] will become even more strict about citizens’ freedom [of expression],” he said. “Perhaps more will be arrested.” “With respect to the cybercrime law,” Smith said, “I have not received information on this law. I can simply state that I hope that any law will give effect to Cambodia’s international obligations to ensure the appropriate balance between protecting national security and internet freedom.” Kong Mas’ lawyer, Sam Sokong, said he is asking the Supreme Court to release his client on bail. Kol Sat who visits her husband once or twice a week, said her husband has lost weight and has developed high blood pressure while jailed, adding “He should be released now.”

42 Reported Dead in Floods in Indonesia's Papua

Sun, 03/17/2019 - 09:04
Flash floods in Indonesia's easternmost province of Papua have killed at least 42 people and left 21 badly injured, a local disaster agency official told  Reuters on Sunday.  The Sentani area near the provincial capital, Jayapura, has been hit by torrential rain since Saturday which triggered the floods, said the official, Cory Simbolon. This is a developing story. Check back with voanews.com for further details.

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