Tag: United States

Loud Music Shooting: Michael Dunn Convicted

By Aglaia Staff

A 47-year-old software developer was convicted Saturday of attempted murder for shooting into a carful of teenagers after an argument over what he called their “thug music,” but jurors couldn’t agree on the most serious charge of first-degree murder.

After more than 30 hours of jury deliberations over four days, a mistrial was declared on the murder charge that Michael Dunn, who is white, faced in the fatal shooting of one of the black teens. The 12 jurors found him guilty of three counts of attempted second-degree murder and a count of firing into an occupied car.

The trial was the latest Florida case to raise questions about self-defence and race, coming six months after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, about 200 kilometres south of Jacksonville. The Dunn trial was prosecuted by the same State Attorney’s Office that handled the Zimmerman case.

Dunn was charged with fatally shooting 17-year-old Jordan Davis, of Georgia in 2012 after the argument over loud music coming from the SUV occupied by Davis and three friends outside a Jacksonville convenience store. Dunn had described the music to his fiancee as “thug music.”

Dunn showed no emotion as the verdicts were read. Each attempted second-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, while the fourth charge he was convicted on carries a maximum of 15. A sentencing date will be set at a hearing next month.

Davis’ parents each left the courtroom in tears, and afterward his mother, Lucia McBath, expressed gratitude for the verdict. Sunday would have been the teen’s 19th birthday.

“We are so grateful for the charges that have been brought against him,” McBath said of Dunn. “We are so grateful for the truth. We are so grateful that the jurors were able to understand the common sense of it all.”

On Dunn’s potentially lengthy sentence, Davis’ father, Ron Davis, said: “He’s going to learn that he must be remorseful for the killing of my son, that it was not just another day at the office.”

Mistrial on 1st-degree murder charge

State Attorney Angela Corey said her office planned to retry Dunn on a first-degree murder charge, and she hoped jurors would come forward and tell prosecutors where they questioned their case. Jurors declined to talk to the media.

Earlier in the day, the panel said in a note to Judge Russell L. Healey that they couldn’t agree on the murder charge. They also had the option of convicting him of second-degree murder or manslaughter. The judge asked them to continue their work, and they went back to the deliberation room for two more hours before returning with a verdict.

“I’ve never seen a case where deliberations have gone on for this length of time,” Healey said afterward, praising the jurors. “They’ve embraced their civic duty, and they are to be commended for that.”

Dunn claimed he acted in self-defence, testifying he thought he saw a firearm pointed at him from the SUV as the argument escalated. No weapon was found in the SUV.

Dunn told jurors he feared for his life, perceiving “this was a clear and present danger.” Dunn, who has a concealed weapons permit, fired 10 shots, hitting the vehicle nine times. Davis was the only person hit.

Dunn’s attorney, Cory Strolla, said the defendant was shocked when the verdict was read.

“He’s in disbelief,” Strolla said. “Even sitting next to me, he said, ‘How is this happening?”‘

He said he plans to appeal.

Self-defence or saving pride?

Prosecutors contended that Dunn opened fire because he felt disrespected by Davis. The teen made his friend turn the music back up after they initially turned it down at Dunn’s request. Dunn was parked in the spot next to the SUV outside the convenience store.

According to authorities, Dunn became enraged about the music and ensuing argument. One person walking out of the convenience store said he heard Dunn say, “You are not going to talk to me like that.”

Dunn testified he heard someone in the SUV shouting expletives and the word “cracker,” which is a derogatory term for white people.

“That defendant didn’t shoot into a carful of kids to save his life. He shot into it to save his pride,” Assistant State Attorney John Guy told the jury earlier in the week. “Jordan Davis didn’t have a weapon, he had a big mouth.”

Strolla told reporters before the verdict that he believed there was political pressure on the prosecutors and an excess of media attention because of Zimmerman’s acquittal.

“I believe there is a lot vested in this case, politically,” Strolla said. “The case, on the heels of not guilty in George Zimmerman, just escalated that political pressure.”


 Loud Music Shooting: Michael Dunn Convicted
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3 Killed, 5 Injured In Maryland Mall Shooting

By Aglaia Staff

A shooter opened fire at a mall in Columbia, Maryland on Saturday, killing two people and injuring one before apparently taking his own life, police say.

Four others were injured in the ensuing chaos. Howard County police say they do not know the motive behind the shooting. There is an indication that the suspect may have intended to kill more people. 

“Because of concerns about any other weapons he may have or explosives, we are approaching this with an abundance of caution,” Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon said, stressing that an investigation had just begun. “We’re getting assistance from some of our federal partners and making sure there are no explosives on the body of the deceased.

Police have disabled what they described as “two crude devices that appeared to be an attempt at making explosives using fireworks.”

The victims were identified as Brianna Benlolo, 21, and Tyler Johnson, 25. Both were employees of Zumiez, the skate shop where the shooting took place. The name of the gunman has not yet been released.

“Investigators have tentatively identified the shooter and are following up on investigative leads. It is believed he died from a self-inflicted gun shot wound,” said the police statement

As the scene unfolded, customers were ordered by police to remain inside stores. The mall, which opens at 10:00 a.m. EST on Saturdays, was crowded with weekend shoppers.

The mall will remain closed on Sunday.

Random shootings have occurred with disturbing regularity in the US in recent years. One of the most shocking was the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012, where twenty children and six adult staff were shot dead.

Since then, there have been plans to provide schools with resource officers – a law enforcement officer who has the authority to make arrests and carry a weapon in school. However, plans to radically change America’s gun laws have so far proved largely fruitless, due to the strength of the US gun lobby.


 3 Killed, 5 Injured In Maryland Mall Shooting
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Khobragade Fallout: US Embassy Bypassed Indian Laws

By Aglaia Staff

Thanks to the Devyani Khobragade affair, which has led to intense scrutiny of what American diplomats and their staff and family may be upto in India, the authorities are looking at the prospect of uncovering what could be a multi-crore tax evasion.

Sources told the media that the United States embassy in New Delhi may have been aware of the violation of Indian tax laws and other things for years, possibly decades. The eye of the storm promises to be the American Embassy School, also famous for its abbreviation AES, in New Delhi’s posh Chanakyapuri area.

The school, established way back in 1952, has a staff of hundreds, including a faculty of around 150 teachers. Last month, India had asked the US embassy to provide details about people working in American schools all over the country and other US government facilities to determine if they had permission to do so and if they were paying taxes that are mandatory under Indian law.

A catch point in the tricky Indian government‘s missive to the Americans was that diplomats’ spouses who take up work in schools or other embassy facilities are supposed to inform the host country. India is well aware of the fact the American diplomats stationed in India have routinely been violating the Indian laws.

But the Indian demand from the Americans, made in the wake of the nanny mess in the Devyani incident, has pushed the Americans into the corner as New Delhi is no longer willing to turn a blind eye to such violations any more. The media has learnt that the US diplomats in New Delhi are in jitters as they race against the ticking clock to furnish details.

They know that they have eaten more than they could chew as they never realised that India would go to this extent in the Devyani case. The American embassy in New Delhi sent two internal emails today to its staffers, cautioning them to be ready to face imminent adverse media publicity. Top American diplomats held series of meetings through the day today preparing to deal with the imminent crisis.

At these meetings, sources said, the staffers were even told to be even prepared to the closure of the school. Indian government sources told the media thus: “Tax evasion from a school (read AES) which is charging so much from the students is a willful deceit of Indian laws.” The American Embassy School must be among the most expensive schools in the country where lots of rich Indians send their wards to in the hope of securing a better future for them in the US years later.

See the AES fee structure. A pre-Kindergarten child is charged $10,310 annually in tuition fee, a Grade 6-8 student is charged $21,690 annually and a grade 11-12 student is charged $22,390. This is only tuition fees. There are other fees like the application fee of $300 (which is non-refundable), a registration fee (KG-Grade 12) of $11,110, registration fee (pre-K) of $ 5,110 and English as an additional language (EAL) support fee of $ 2500.

Then there is a lunch fee of $550. Over and above all this, there is a bus fee too which ranges from $1,170 to 1,800, depending on the distance.

Sources have told the media that what has stumped the Americans is that many of their diplomats have their spouses working in the American School or elsewhere but they have not been putting these incomes on record.

Moreover, when the AES started, the Indian government had given certain leverages and concessions to the Americans, including exempting the school and a particular number of its faculty members from income tax. The problem is that the Americans have unilaterally elongated the tax-exemption list sizably. There are many staffers in the US embassy in New Delhi, mostly Americans, who have been evading taxes as per Indian laws for years for the simple reason that Indian government has been turning a blind eye to this malpractice.

However, the Devyani episode has forced India to call the Americans’ bluff. The Americans were at the wrong end of the stick several years ago when the American School in Mumbai was found to be indulging in the same malpractices and as a result of the intervention of the Bombay High Court the Americans were made to shell out huge money (with arrears) to India. The current scenario looks the same. The Americans are all set to be embarrassed as one of their major media flagships—New York Times—is expected to come up with a damning disclosure on the same lines.




 Khobragade Fallout: US Embassy Bypassed Indian Laws
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U.S, South East Endures 2nd Day Of Polar Vortex

By Aglaia Staff

The record-breaking polar air that has made the Midwestern U.S. shiver over the past few days spread to the East and South on Tuesday, setting record low temperatures from Boston and New York to Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and Little Rock — places where many people don’t know the first thing about extreme cold.

The morning weather map for the eastern half of the U.S. looked like an algebra worksheet: lots of small, negative numbers. In fact, the Midwest and the East were colder than much of Antarctica.

The big chill started in the Midwest over the weekend, and by Tuesday, it covered about half of the country. In New York City, the high was expected to be -12 C; in Boston, around -8 C.

Across the South, records were shattered like icicles. Birmingham, Alabama, dipped to a low of -14 C), breaking the record of -11.7 C set in 1970. Atlanta saw a record low of -14.5 C. Nashville, Tennessee, got down to -16.7 C, and Little Rock, Arkansas, fell to -13 C. It was just -17 C at Washington Dulles International airport, eclipsing the 1988 mark of -13 C.

The deep freeze dragged on in the Midwest as well, with the thermometer reaching -24 C overnight in the Chicago area and -25.5 C in suburban St. Louis.

More than 500 Amtrak passengers were stranded overnight on three Chicago-bound trains that were stopped by blowing and drifting snow in Illinois. Food ran low, but the heat stayed on.

The cold turned deadly for some: Authorities reported at least 21 cold-related deaths across the country since Sunday.

The worst should be over in the next day or two. Warmer weather — at least, near or above freezing — is in the forecast for much of the stricken part of the country.

On Tuesday, many schools and day care centres across the eastern half of the U.S. were closed so that youngsters wouldn’t be exposed to the dangerous cold. Officials opened shelters for the homeless and anyone else who needed a warm place.

With the bitter cold slowing baggage handling and aircraft refuelling, airlines cancelled more than 2,000 flights in the U.S., bringing the four-day total to more than 11,000.

In New Orleans, which reported a low of -3 C, hardware stores ran out of pipe insulation.

A pipe burst in an Atlanta suburb and a main road quickly froze over. In downtown Atlanta, a Ferris wheel near Centennial Olympic Park that opened over the summer to give riders a bird’s eye view of the city closed because it was too cold.

Farther south in Pensacola, Florida, a Gulf Coast city better known for its white sand beaches than frost, streets normally filled with joggers, bikers and people walking dogs were deserted early Tuesday. A sign on a bank flashed 19 F (-7 Celsius). Patches of ice sparkled in parking lots where puddles froze overnight.

The continental U.S., when averaged out, reached a low of -10 C overnight Monday, according to calculations by Ryan Maue of Weather Bell Analytics.

An estimated 190 million people in the U.S. were subjected to the icy blast, caused by a kink in the “polar vortex,” the strong winds that surround the North Pole.

In Chicago, it was too cold even for the polar bear at the Lincoln Park Zoo. While polar bears can handle below freezing cold in the wild, Anana was kept inside Monday because she doesn’t have the thick layer of fat that bears typically get from feeding on seals and whale carcasses.

What Is The Polar Vortex?

The polar vortex refers to winds that whip around the polar ice cap, trapping Earth’s coldest temperatures there.

Its deterioration with global warming, however, can send arctic weather south into areas as far away as the southern U.S. and Europe, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists.

“When the polar vortex … breaks down, this allows cold air to spill south, affecting the eastern United States and other regions,” says NOAA’s Dr. James Overland.

“This can result in a warmer-than-average arctic region and colder temperatures that may include severe winter weather events on the North American and European continents.”


 U.S, South East Endures 2nd Day Of Polar Vortex
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US May Be Violating Its Own Norms

By Aglaia Staff

The US embassy and its consulates may be in violation of their own laws concerning the wages paid to the Indian staffemployed by these missions as well as by individualdiplomats, informed sources said here today.

Keeping up the pressure on the US, a special group set up in the External Affairs Ministry will meet here tomorrow to scrutinise the available information regarding the wages being paid to their Indian staff amid indications that these may be violative of the laws.

US embassy and its consulates are still dragging their feet in furnishing to the government the details it has sought about the number of Indian staff employed both in the diplomatic mission and also at the residences by their diplomats. The details sought include the wages paid as well as the tax details.

The deadline to provide such information was December 23 but according to the Ministry of External Affairs no information has been provided as yet. It is understood that the US Embassy has cited Christmas and New Year holidays as the reason for the delay.

The government’s action is a fallout of the arrest and strip-search of Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade, who was arrested in New York on visa fraud charges.

Enforcing strict reciprocity, Indian government has withdrawn extra privilges enjoyed by American Ambassador Nancy Powell and other diplomats such as special access at Indian airports.

While the government is awaiting American response, information available indicates that Indian staff like cooks and drivers were being paid between Rs 12,000-15,000 which is equivalent to $200-250, way below the minimum wage of $9.47 per hour applicable in New York or in any other US city.

Thus, American diplomats would be in violation of US law of minimum wages since their residences as well as the embassy and consulates are treated as American territory.

Even if they provide legal justifications and claim exemption from US laws for the salaries being paid to Indian employees, the public disclosure of such payment practices by US Embassy and diplomats in their personal capacities is likely to deeply embarrass the US.

The US insists on high hourly wages for Indian diplomats employing maids but pays much lower salaries to Indians being employed by its own Embassy and diplomats in India for similar work. There was no immediate response from the US Embassy when contacted by PTI.

The government’s reaction to set up the special group, comprising inter-divisonal experts, including from legal, financial and human resources departments of MEA, to assess and monitor the inputs sought by the governments came after Khobragade, the 39-year-old 1999-batch IFS officer, was arrested in New York on December 12.

Khobragade is accused of making false declarations in a visa application for her maid Sangeeta Richard. The diplomat’s arrest and subsequent treatment had sparked an outrage in India which demanded an apology and dropping of all charges against her.


 US May Be Violating Its Own Norms
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Michelle Obama Helped Out With NORAD’s Santa Tracker

By Aglaia Staff

A handful of kids calling to pinpoint Santa’s progress on his Christmas Eve journey may have been surprised to hear Michelle Obama‘s voice on the other end of the line.

The first lady is vacationing with President Barack Obama and their daughters in Hawaii, but spent about a half-hour Tuesday manning the phones for the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The agency’s NORAD Tracks Santa program takes calls each Christmas from children wanting to ensure their presents are on track for timely delivery.

Around the time Mrs. Obama was taking calls, NORAD’s tracker showed Santa and his reindeer making their way through Europe. NORAD started tracking Santa around 7 a.m. ET Christmas Eve morning. He was making good time most of the day, according to NORAD.

Children can track Santa by phone, Twitter, Facebook or email. Everything more you have ever wanted to know about NORAD’s Santa tracker program can be read here.


 Michelle Obama Helped Out With NORADs Santa Tracker
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India Smacks The United States

By Aglaia Staff

Furious with the US for the arrest and alleged strip search of its high-ranking diplomat Devyani Khobragade, India today retaliated with a slew of measures to pare down the privileges of American diplomats. 

US diplomats in consulates across India have been asked to surrender identity cards issued to them and their families, which entitle them to special privileges. India has also withdrawn all airport passes for consulates and import clearances for the embassy. 

The Delhi police removed barricades outside the sprawling US embassy in the capital.

Ms Khobragade was subjected to a humiliating strip search and was kept in a cell with drug addicts after her arrest for alleged visa fraud in New York last week.

Noel Clay, a spokesperson for the US State Department, told NDTV that standard procedures had been followed during Ms Khobragade’s arrest. 

The US has implied that she enjoyed only limited immunity.

As part of its reciprocal measures, India is asking for details like salaries paid to Indian staff employed in US consulates, including those working as domestic helps with the families of American officials. 

New Delhi has also asked for the visa details of all teachers at US schools, details of their salary and their bank accounts.

Senior leaders like Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi have refused to meet a visiting US Congress delegation. Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar had also cancelled their meetings with the Americans.



 India Smacks The United States
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Fractured Dynamics

By Sunil Kumar

In the macabre dance of Indian democracy, we have witnessed another sordid chapter. When protests break out in the heart of the nation; the Prime Minister does nothing but maintain a studied silence. The things that make our country great are freedom of speech, expression and the ability to innovate.

Sycophantic politicians outdo each other in avoiding the main issue; and playing the usual blame game. The whole thing symbolises a malaise; something seriously wrong with our entire way of thought. Television channels hijack the whole episode, assuming an air of feigned nobility. Admittedly; the media has brought multiple things to the fore; but the whole idea is acting out like an orchestrated television show.

Last week, we saw the President of the United States coming on television and expressing his regret. So, there you have it, I am expressing admiration for Barack Obama.  There may be genuine anger at the way our collective governance has become nothing but a bunch of wimps; unable to defend itself from criticism and thwarting any attempts at protest. The sad part is; some of these ministers are well-educated accomplished manipulators. Their non-seriousness lies in an attempt at obfuscation; deliberately scuttling the main issue. Something they learnt from their colonial masters; elevated into a fine art.

Prakash Jha‘s “Chakravyuh” is an insightful look at the economics of development. Where does all of India’s money go? A few industrialists living in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore or Chennai. The vast majority of people are struggling against a corrupt system everywhere, across the country. For the wolves in sheep’s clothing; if you are reading this, please do not jump onto the bandwagon.

Coffee-table discussions often discuss changing our entire system. So, if the host is a little generous; everybody feels secure that they have done their bit for society. The Naxalites have established a parallel government in many districts; unleashing their own brand of justice. Chairman Mao, China‘s revolutionary ideologue revolted in the 1930s.

Today’s China is not the Communist utopia he imagined; but a capitalist-communist hybrid that may resemble Manhattan more than anything else. Not an ideal role model. As Deng Xiaoping said; to get rich is glorious. A far cry from what may have inspired local rebels. Slogans of development ring hollow in the dark corridors of the Indian hinterland; where nothing has changed much in the last fifty years. The media sincerely lacks empathy.

In classic Guns ‘N’ Roses speak; what we have here is “failure to communicate”. The vast majority of people do not connect with the narrative; the gains of liberalization are skewed; only enriching a select few; who are sending this ill-gotten wealth to the secure vaults of Swiss financial institutions. Despite all of this being public knowledge; action is seldom taken; ensuring that the status quo remains and becomes even murkier over the years. The blatant love for power borders on the ridiculous; ensuring that we get Z-security for princelings everywhere around the nation; and prime pieces of land allocated at measly prices to the most favored bidder.

The world has not denied you aspirations; but kindly do not pocket the tax-payer’s money for frivolous causes. Brutality inflicted on innocent civilians is more like a dictatorship; rather than the world’s largest “speak”-o-cracy. Oh yes; I like movies and television shows by the way. Read my reviews. Godmother. The blindfolded Gandhari in the Mahabharata.  The freedom to interpret mythology as history; or vice-versa.








 Fractured Dynamics
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Kenyans Win Boston Marathon

boston marathon military shadow run at bagram 270x300 Kenyans Win Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon- Visit Aglaia.co.in and Aglaia Interactive

By Sunil Kumar

A permanent resident of the United States, and a Kenyan citizen, Wesley Korir has won the Boston Marathon. A Kenyan woman, Sharon Cherop won the female leg of the competition. The event witnessed very high temperatures, rising from 69 at the start to 81 at midpoint.

Canadian Joshua Cassidy won the wheelchair race in the fastest time in the event’s history. Begun in 1897, the event is one of the world’s oldest known racing events. It also attracts 500,000 visitors every year, making it one of the world’s oldest events.

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