Tulsa – VIJAY SHAH via STEPHEN SORACE, Associated Press and Fox News
An American woman who shot dead her own son and tried to kill her two daughters claimed that she did it to free them from their abusive father, according to a report published in Fox News today.
Amy Leann Hall, from Tulsa, the capital of Oklahoma state, gunned down her son Kayson Toliver, aged 18. He was hit with a bullet to the head while he was sleeping at his mother’s home early on the morning of Thursday, 1st November, according to police statements. Hall also shot at her daughters in the same fashion, but they survived their injuries, with one managing to escape. Police came to the property thirty-five miles outside Tulsa, and found Toliver deceased. The mother was arrested, and claimed she carried out the shootings to protect her children from their violent father, according to an affidavit issued by the Okmulgee County Sheriff’s Office.
One of the two daughters, aged 16, is still in hospital in a critical condition, Fox News stated. The other daughter, aged 14, managed to escape her mother and hid crying in a bathroom, she later told her mother she was ‘okay’ before somehow managing to get the murder weapon, a pistol, from Hall, the article stated. Hall fled the scene and sped down local roads at 100 mph before police pulled her over, according to FOX 23 Tulsa, a local media outlet. She was arrested on the scene, and police are currently piecing together a motive for the killings.
Police stated that they had received callouts in the past to the family home over ‘domestic incidents’. Hall and the children’s father had separated two years ago and were engaged in a fierce custody battle over the children. She had applied to obtain sole custody of her family, but the father had attempted to overturn that application, stating that Hall was ‘mentally unstable’ and was ‘psychologically abusive’ to her offspring.
The deceased son was remembered as an excellent student and top level American football player for his school team at Beggs High School in Tulsa. “He was a very likeable young man,” head football coach David Tenison told the World. “He had a good heart, good spirit. His smile was infectious. It just infected everyone around him. He made you want to smile.”
Hall is now charged with a single count of first-degree murder, and two counts of shooting with an intention to kill and is currently on bail. She told police that after killing her children, she had intended to take her own life. The case continues.
Santa Monica – VIJAY SHAH via FOX News and other sources
The U.S. state of California is well known for being at the vanguard of revolutionary new technologies, especially if they are environmentally friendly. Its also the birthplace of many a technological trend that has spread across the world. According to Fox News, however, there is one new eco-transport trend that has not only irritated some locals in the Golden State, it’s pushed them to commit vandalism against the objects fuelling that same trend.
Electric two-wheeled scooters, usually popular with youngsters, have become the latest must-have kind to the environment mode of transport. A firm called Bird even has public banks of scooters you can pay to borrow for the day, just like the bicycle docks found in many world cities. But some Californians in the south of the state, sick to death of the new vehicles appearing in random locations and getting in their way, have taken to setting them on fire or throwing them into the Pacific Ocean, Fox News reports.
Another report from local paper the Los Angeles Times claims that city hygiene workers in Santa Monica have found several scooters left for dead amidst the spray of the sea and abandoned in public bins. A policeman in the city of Venice even claimed to have seen dumped scooters stacked up high in piles of ten, but the dumping has not been reported to authorities.
Most of the scooters found dumped are branded ones issued by Bird. Marked with the company logo in simple black and white livery, the company rents out the scooters to the public for as little as US $1 a day and the firm currently operates across the United States and in Paris, France. The problem of scooters being dumped and vandalised has become so commonplace that one wit opened up a Instagram account, Birdgraveyard (@birdgraveyard), that chronicles and celebrates the various unfortunate final resting places of the two-wheelers across California.
A spokesperson with the scooter firm told Fox: “We do not support the vandalism or destruction of any property and are disappointed when it takes place,’
‘Nor do we support the encouragement, celebration or normalization of this behavior.”
Bird appealed for people who spot damaged vehicles to report the sightings to the company directly.
Opponents of scooter rental schemes like Bird’s say the vehicles are often carelessly left in public places and they are an eyesore. Some cities in the US originally opposed Bird expanding into their streets but relented and allowed them in, due to their enviro-credentials. The Californian town of Beverly Hills, however voted to ban scooters for six months, citing safety concerns. The town’s council member, Lili Bosse, said last month: “If you imagine just walking on the sidewalk and somebody on a scooter at 15 miles an hour hits you, it can be fatal…”
In a sign of the decline of print journalism in the face of the digital age, the Associated Press (AP) news agency reports that three senior executives of an American paper, the Denver Post, have left their positions in protest at recent cuts in staff and finances at the struggling local outlet. One is reported to have been a former owner of the newspaper, AP reports.
The trimming of operational costs, along with the controversial reduction in staff numbers, was ordered by the Post’s New York-based owners, a hedge fund named Alden Global Capital. As part of the cost-cutting measures, thirty members of staff were let go, substantially reducing the newspaper’s workforce and causing tension among the remaining employees.
Reporters still working at the paper tweeted this past Friday that chairman and member of the editorial board, Dean Singleton, had renounced both positions that day. Singleton owned the Denver Post, which has been publishing since 1892 and has a weekly circulation of more than 134,000, from 1987 to 2013, helping steer the paper through difficult economic periods and an intense rivalry with another local news outlet. The Post is run by a media company named Digital First Media, of which the hedge fund has a controlling stake.
Singleton was joined in resigning by the Post’s senior editors, named by AP as Dana Coffield and Larry Ryckman.
“I’m sad to leave, but it was time to go. I will be rooting for those still fighting the good fight,” Ryckman tweeted.
The advent of digital news and the internet has seen advertising and revenue figures for print newspapers in a steady decline, forcing many papers, whether local, regional or national to shed staff and departments, merge with other titles, or in some cases, go online only and cease distributing their printed versions, as British newspaper The Independent did in 2016.
Chula Vista – VIJAY SHAH via KAREN KUCHER and San Diego Union-Tribune
Four people are now recovering in hospital after a three-car pile-up in the U.S. city of Chula Vista began when a driver executed an illegal U-turn on a highway there, The San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper reported yesterday.
The accident occurred on Friday morning when the driver of a white Honda vehicle was going westbound on Telegraph Canyon Road in the Californian city. The male driver then made a prohibited turn at the junction with Apache Drive, causing a fellow road user in a Camaro to crash into him, according to local police lieutenant Christopher Kelley. The Camaro was found to have been unlicensed and surprisingly, was been driven by a fifteen-year-old boy.
Police said the Honda was then pushed back by the impact into an oncoming car, also said to be a Honda vehicle, grey in colour. That crashed into the first car, causing serious injuries to the driver of the second Honda. The U-turn driver, who was travelling with his two children, also suffered injuries, though much less severe, and all three, plus the second Honda driver were taken to local hospitals, the Union-Tribune said.
Chula Vista lies just south of the San Diego metropolitan area in southern California and is popular with tourists and families.
Guerilla artistBanksy, famed for his powerful street art laced with socio-political commentary, has resurfaced again, this time at the notorious refugee camp, dubbed ‘The Jungle’ in Calais, France, online magazine The Wrap and the New York Timesreported yesterday.
As the debate on the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis reverberates across Europe and much of the world, the Bristol artist, famed as much for his guarded anonymity as for his works of many of which have sold for several thousand pounds, left behind an artwork on a wall in the Jungle, depicting the late founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, whose father was said to have emigrated from Homs in Syria to the United States shortly after World War II.
The technology visionary is shown in his characteristic black turtle neck top and denim carrying a sack over one shoulder and holding a vintage Apple monitor in the other hand. The look in his face mirrors the same of many Syrian and other refugees, who often face dangerous trips across open seas and walking thousands of kilometres to reach safety in Europe.
Job’s birth father, a Syrian named Abdul Fattah Jandali, met Job’s mother one summer in his native hometown and later emigrated to the US.
“We’re often led to believe migration is a drain on the country’s resources, but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant,”Banksy said in a statement. “Apple is the world’s most profitable company, it pays over $7 billion a year in taxes — and it only exists because they allowed in a young man from Homs.”
Nowadays, the debate about allowing Syrian refugees to settle in the United States has became increasingly negative, in comparison to places such as Germany and Canada, where refugees have been largely welcomed with open arms, including one planeload of refugees who were greeted by the Canadian prime minister himself. In the recent light of the tragic San Bernardino killings, where a foreign-born health service worker and his wife gunned down fourteen of their colleagues last week, and comments about banning Muslims from American territory made by presidential candidate Donald Trump, a recent poll among American state governors said that thirty-one were not open to allowing refugees to move to their states, according to The Wrap.
Banksy’s artworks, nearly always done in public areas using traditional stencils and paints have commented on everything from rampant consumerism, the credit crunch, politics, the war on terror to social media, celebrity culture and the British monarchy.
In between the colourful pages of comics or the viewing recommendations on Netflix, there are many fictional towns plagued by baddies, criminals and no-gooders of all sorts, terrorising the inhabitants and making everyone’s life a sodding misery. Crime is rampant, evil prevails and no-one is foolish enough to walk the streets at night.
But, where there is bad, there must be good to put it in its place. A vigilante to right wrongs, put baddies behind bars and fight evil while living for another day. Gotham City has Batman, Smallville has Superman, and New York has Spiderman. Although these are fictional examples, does having a vigilante who takes it upon his or her self to protect decent and upstanding citizens make the difference to a huge, bustling and crowded city like our London?
London is a cool place to live. It is brimming with culture, history, trends, fun, entertainment, and the everyday trappings of life. With a population of eight million, it is a hard city to police. The Met, the British Transport Police and the City of London Police do a fantastic job keeping our streets safe and managing Londoners’ welfare, but even before the current wave of Tory cutbacks and tougher rules for recruitment of new police officers, it is an obvious fact that the days of the ‘bobby on the beat’ are long dead, and logistically it would be impossible to have a cop patrolling each and every street, road, avenue, drive, cul-de-sac and alleyway. London has more than 60,000 streets. It’s a tall order and an impossible one at that.
As much as London is a fun and vibrant place to live, let’s not kid ourselves. Like in any big city or town even, crime is a fact. People do get robbed, murdered, assaulted and conned. According to the latest crime figures published by the Met Police and other sources, crimes number in their tens of thousands. Since 1990, an average of 171 homicides takes place across the 32 London boroughs every year. In 2008–09 alone, there were 70,962 assault with injury offences. London is also home to many gangs involved with everything from guns and drugs to prostitution and illegal immigration. Gang members have no qualms about wandering the streets tooled and ready to main and kill. In 2009 alone, 3,295 gun-related offences were reported to crime-fighting authorities. At about the same time, 12,611 offences were reported where a knife was involved. Even teenagers are not safe, with around 13-15 fatally stabbed or shot every year in our city. Add to that, 35,857 robberies, and thousands of other crimes such as assaults, muggings, vandalism, shoplifting. Figures reported by London newspaper The Evening Standard in January this year suggest the violent crime has increased by 22 per cent, with Haringey borough alone seeing a 38 per cent jump.
Now don’t get me wrong, London isn’t some crim-infested hellhole where you are fleeced (or as we say, rinsed) of your worldly possessions the moment you step out of your front door. I am a born and bred Londoner who has lived here all of his thirty-one years of life. I have been mugged only twice, saw one opportunistic attempt at a burglary (someone had opened the back door of my houseshare while us housemates were out) and once had someone point a knife at me years ago in school. I live in one of the roughest and poorest parts of London.
Back to our main question, does London need a vigilante?. There are a lot of criminals in this city and having a vigilante around to mop up crime would be a huge help to the police with their stretched and shrinking resources. The British media have been awash lately with stories of ordinary people who have taken on superhero-like personas and even got themselves kitted out in costumes to boot. In March 2015, the Mirror reported on the appearance of 200 ‘superheroes’ in cities across America, all ordinary people with day jobs and family responsibilities who don masks and capes (and maybe underpants over Spandex bottoms) and protect their communities. In Seattle, Phoenix Jones dresses in a superhero outfit of his own design and tackles car theft, street fights and change the car wheels of distressed motorists five days a week. The American capital, Washington, DC, has its ‘Guardian’ who wears a full-body stars-and-stripes outfit and wanders the troubled areas behind the Capitol building. Then there’s RazorHawk, from Minneapolis, who was a professional wrestler for fifteen years before joining the Real Life Super Hero movement. Some even come equipped with a sense of witty humour that would make the Fantastic Four beam with pride. New York, home of the fictional Spiderman and Superman/Clark Kent, does actually have a real-life superhero fighting against its troublesome trade in narcotics. The Big Apple’s ‘Dark Guardian‘ approaches drug dealers making sales in cannabis in the city’s Washington Square Park at night, shines a light in their faces, and sends the pot merchants scurrying with the firm words “This is a drug-free park!”. American real-life superheroes and city vigilantes also carry out community services such as helping the homeless and elderly people and giving advice to schoolkids.
London, too, has its guardian of the streets and protector of the innocent. Step forward The Shadow. Wearing a bandana and keeping his identity well-hidden as a superhero should, he has been credited with saving a woman from a pervert who attempted to assault her in Greenwich. The crook had tried to grope her, The Shadow appeared from the shadows, and put the octopus fingered creep in a hold lock, while telling the woman to flee to safety. “If anyone thinks they can get away with this sort of thing then they are mistaken,” the Shadow told the Evening Standard. “I live in hope that one day people who cause fear through crime to others will fear me enough to think twice about their actions,” he added. The unknown hero was previously called the Bromley Batman, after an area of south Greater London near to Kent and he has been fighting crime for three years. Some people however had dismissed the existence of The Shadow as a mere urban legend.
It’s not just London, mind you. The UK’s other big metropolises also have their iconic crime-fighting legends. Head to Salford, near Manchester and you may have a chance encounter with Knight Warrior, a youngish lad in blue and black with some tough biking gloves. His real name is Roger Hayhurst, a 19-year-old gardener by day, who possesses the superpower of a “supernatural desire to make the world a better place.”. He mainly tackles the drunk hooligans that regularly pour out of Salford’s pubs, kicking off ‘cos someone looked at their ‘bird’. He also distributes food to the city’s street dwellers. Yeovil, a charming seaside resort in Somerset, southern England, can lay claim to having its very own ninja, 33-year-old Ken Andre, whose alter-ego is Shadow. Wearing the mysterious black suit of a true master of the dark ninja arts, Andre’s approach to vigilante justice includes stopping drug dealers and muggers. He is well-versed in the sacred martial art of ninjutsu to which he was inducted as a child and once caught a carjacker in his tracks by hurling nunchuks at him. In his own words, “I tied him to the lamppost using his own legs and called the police.”
Does London need a superhero dispensing vigilante justice? In many ways yes. Vigilantes can help the police with tackling crime, assisting them and reaching out to the community, a badly needed thing in a city notorious for its individualistic mentality, where people mind their own business and not everyone is helpful or considerate. Vigilantes can be the best option in places where the police are simply not there, due to their falling numbers and strained resources, such as on housing estates or tourist areas late at night, when most police patrols end. They are more personable and relatable, particularly as many people feel uncomfortable or downright dismissive of the police, and let’s face it, superheroes are pretty cool, right? Vigilantes can be tolerated by the police and community, even encouraged, provided they stick by the rules of the law and don’t take things too far, for example by shooting dead a rapist. Having a vigilante around your area can also do wonders for people’s perception of crime and their safety too. Knowing that there is someone around making crims feel tetchy and always looking over their shoulder means you don’t have to worry about constantly looking over yours. Having a vigilante around means we can feel safe, knowing there is a good guy out there, selflessly giving up their time to make our homes safer and more secure. Being such a massive sprawl of a city, London has more than enough room for different kinds of vigilantes, and with common goals, they could easily form a Justice League of their own.
There are some cons to having vigilantes that should be mentioned. London is a massive city, with hundreds of communities and peculiarities. Unless he or she had real superpowers, it would be nigh on impossible to tackle every crime and stop every crook. Even the police can’t be everywhere at once. Vigilantes can put their lives at risk should criminals be armed. Use your imagination as much as you like, but it is highly unlikely that your rented Superman costume can actually stop a bullet or a jab from a flick-knife. Vigilantes, with or without the superhero costume, are only human. There is always the risk of a vigilante getting too ‘drunk’ on their power, and taking things into their own hands. There are also moral implications of vigilante justice, not to mention legal ones.
Everyone loves superheroes and superheroines, whether real or imagined. They are larger-than-life personifications of the best bits of humanity, putting their own lives at risk to help others. But while we can salute one-man crime fighters and their special brand of vigilante justice, we shouldn’t forget the many unsung heroes who make London a better and safer place – neighbours looking out for each other, people who give to charities, ambulance staff, police officers, doctors, nurses, social workers, foster parents, and many others who may not wear capes or tie up criminals with webs, but are just as valuable for our London.
The US military, currently working alongside Afghan forces to hold back the Taliban, once Afghanistan’s rulers before the 9/11 attack, had acknowledged today that it may have been responsible for the attack on the hospital facility, which is managed by international medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The casualty estimate at the moment stands at three dead and another thirty missing, possibly more.
According to a statement released by US colonel Brian Tribus, the US sorties were sent in around 2.15 am local time as the Taliban were engaged in street fighting with the Afghan national army following their biggest surprise victory in the last fourteen years. Hundreds of Taliban fighters swarmed into Kunduz, completely catching the local provincial government by surprise.
In the statement, Col. Tribus also said: “The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility,” he added. “This incident is under investigation.”
Eyewitness reports of the damage to the hospital state that one wall of the main building has been completely obliterated, leaving behind debris including shattered wooden door frames and broken glass from the hospital’s windows. Three of the facility rooms are also said to be on fire, according to Saad Mukhtar, director of public health in Kunduz.
Mukhtar was one of those who witnessed the damage from the strike. In a visit to the MSF building, the director said: “Thick black smoke could be seen rising from some of the rooms,”
“The fighting is still going on, so we had to leave.”
Due to the ongoing fighting, MSF have not been able to take a complete note of casualties or to assess structural damage. At the time of the strike, there were believed to be around 200 patients and staff present in the Kunduz hospital. It is the only hospital in the Kunduz Province, which borders Tajikistan, equipped to deal with major injuries.
“We are deeply shocked by the attack, the killing of our staff and patients and the heavy toll it has inflicted on healthcare in Kunduz,” the aid group’s operations director, Bart Janssens, said.
MSF staff members are currently battling to not only treat existing patients, but also those injured in the strike.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, told Reuters that US air strikes had targeted the hospital, killing patients, doctors and nurses. He denied allegations that Taliban militants were being treated at the hospital, which might have made it a target for US drones trying to pick off Taliban leadership figures.
The hospital’s chief, Dr Masood Nasim, said the hospital was under increasing strain and risk as the battle frontline reached it this week, with gunfights taking place just outside its gates. Medical staff reported hearing all manners of ammunition, such as shelling, rockets, and fighter jets passing overhead, Nasim claimed. Staff even discovered stray bullets coming through the roof of its intensive care unit.
MSF have said they have so far treated almost 400 patients at the Kunduz hospital since fighting broke out six days ago. Most of the people rushed to the 150-bed facility were victims of gunshot wounds sustained in the fighting, although it did not state if they were civilians or military personnel of whatever side. The hospital had been struggling to cope the massive influx, with many new patients being forced to recuperate on mattresses laid on floors or in the hospital’s offices.
There is no word on who ordered the strike on the Kunduz hospital, or whether it was deliberately targetted in hit in error.