Woman Jailed In UAE

April 12, 2016 by  
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Woman Jailed In UAE, An unidentified American woman is apparently begging officials in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to let her out of jail.

The 25-year-old has been jailed for seven weeks, and has asked to pay a fine for her alleged crime so she can finally be released and go home, according to the UAE’s English-speaking newspaper The National.

These requests have apparently fallen on deaf ears. The woman has been jailed since Feb. 23 and the verdict in her case won’t be read until early May, the Associated Press reported.

Her crime? Insulting two men who tried to help her at the Abu Dhabi International Airport.

The nature of the incident in question is quite vague. The AP and the National reported slightly different versions of the exchange that got her jailed in UAE.

The woman was waiting for a taxi at the airport when two men approached her and offered to help her in some way. It appears as though Abu Dhabi was a pit stop in her travels and not her destination, as she told the Federal Supreme Court that she had another flight at 1:29 a.m.

It’s not clear who insulted whom. In one account, the men “spoke to her in a manner she did not like.” In another account, the men “did not like the way she spoke to them.”

The woman told the court that she “refused to engage with them and nothing happened.”

It’s not clear when she was picked up by the authorities or how they became aware of the incident. It’s also not clear if any evidence had been presented against her.

Officials have jailed the woman on a charge of insulting the nation and its leaders through “verbal assault.”

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Egyptian Teens Blasphemy

March 15, 2016 by  
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Egyptian Teens Blasphemy, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Egyptian government to overturn the blasphemy convictions lodged against four Coptic Christian teenagers and their teacher, in accordance with the country’s commitment to protect religious minorities.

The teens were sentenced guilty for being a part of a 30-second cell phone video filmed by their teacher in early 2015, where they are seen imitating ISIS prayers, with one kneeling on the floor, another appearing to make a waving sign by hand on his neck to symbolize beheading, and the other two standing and laughing.

Bassem Hanna, 16, Mueller Edward, 17, Alber Ashraf, 16, were given three to four years of imprisonment, while Clinton Yousef, 17, was sentenced to indefinite detention at a juvenile crime center on February 25. Their teacher Gad Yousef Younan was also jailed for three years in a separate trial.

The video was made public when the teacher lost his memory card, which subsequently led angry mobs of Muslims to attack the teenagers’ houses, and to expel their families from their village.

The teens and their teacher were arrested in April 2015, and charged with ‘contempt of Islam’ and causing sectarian strife.

“The judge didn’t show any mercy. He handed down the maximum punishment,” their lawyer Maher Naguib told AFP.

Naguib stressed that the four teenagers did not intend to insult Islam but were just mocking the beheadings done by ISIS.

“These children shouldn’t face prison for expressing themselves, even with an immature joke,” said Nadim Houry, HRW’s deputy Middle East director. “The continued prosecution of blasphemy cases in Egypt goes against the government’s claim to be promoting a more inclusive vision of religion.”

Naguib said that a local union from Egypt’s Radio and Television reviewed the video and gave a prejudiced report to the court, which was based on opinions rather than actual content of the video. The lawyer claimed that he asked the court to study the video to ascertain the validity of the union report, but the judge did not respond.

Edward’s father told the HRW that the teens were “psychologically troubled by the killings of Coptic Christians in Libya and went for entertainment. They didn’t deliberately intend any offense…How can you try someone for mocking ISIS?”

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Starwood Takeover Offer

March 15, 2016 by  
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Starwood Takeover Offer, Around two years ago, the Anbang Insurance Group, an insurer then little known outside of China, announced that it would buy the fabled Waldorf Astoria for $1.95 billion.

Now, the Chinese insurer hopes to expand its hotel empire with an unsolicited bid to acquire Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, the operator of the hotel brands Westin, W and Sheraton, for $76 a share in cash, or $12.8 billion in total.

A consortium of investors, led by Anbang, is hoping to derail Starwood’s $10.8 billion cash-and-stock merger with Marriott International that is set to be considered by shareholders of both hotel operators this month. The other bidders in the competing consortium, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions, include J. Christopher Flowers’ buyout firm, JC. Flowers & Company, and the Primavera Capital Group, whose chairman, Fred Hu, is the former chairman of Goldman Sachs for China.

The cash offer by Anbang and its investment partners is the latest in a wave of overseas deal-making by Chinese companies. So far this year, Chinese companies have announced $81.9 billion worth of foreign deals, compared with just $10.55 billion in the same period a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Anbang’s pursuit of Starwood follows fast on the heels of reports that the Chinese company has agreed to acquire Strategic Hotels and Resorts from the Blackstone Group in a deal valued at $6.5 billion just months after Blackstone bought the company. Strategic Hotels owns the Four Seasons hotels and resorts in Silicon Valley, Washington and Jackson Hole, Wyo., the Fairmont and Intercontinental hotels in Chicago and the JW Marriott Essex House hotel in Manhattan. Anbang, led by its chairman, Wu Xiaohui, has been an aggressive deal maker in recent years. Wu is married to the granddaughter of Deng Xiaoping, China’s former top leader who oversaw the opening of the Chinese economy to capitalism and investment from foreign companies.

In addition to its deal for Waldorf Astoria, Anbang, which is based in Beijing, has also bought an American insurer, Fidelity & Guaranty Life Insurance, for nearly $1.6 billion, and a controlling stake in a South Korean life insurer. Last year, it also unsuccessfully offered to buy a Portuguese lender. Anbang got its start as a car insurer supported in part by the SAIC Motor Corporation, China’s largest automaker. A decade ago, it was a small operator compared with China’s big state-owned insurance companies.

But the company broadened its operations to sell investment products and other services and has increasingly made aggressive bets. It was helped by the Chinese government’s move in recent years to give Chinese insurers greater freedom to invest their money, making them major players in real estate and other areas in China.

The consortium’s cash offer, which was made on March 10 and announced publicly by Starwood on Monday, represents a significant premium to Marriott’s deal, which has been affected by a decline in the hotel operator’s stock price since it was announced in November.

Starwood said on Monday that its board had not changed its recommendation in support of the Marriott deal, but that it would carefully consider the outcome of its discussions with the consortium led by Anbang to determine the course of action that is in the “best interest of Starwood and its stockholders.”

Starwood said that it had received a waiver from Marriott to allow it to engage in discussions and due diligence with the consortium. The waiver expires on Thursday.

Marriott described the rival takeover approach to Starwood as “highly conditional and nonbinding.”

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John Boyega Finn Hospital

March 15, 2016 by  
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John Boyega Finn Hospital, The mother of a seriously ill five-year-old boy living with a brain tumour has described meeting Star Wars actor John Boyega as “priceless”.

The Peckham-born actor, who plays Finn in the film franchise, delivered toys to sick children at the Royal London Hospital.

Among the youngsters he visited was Daniel Bell, from Ormskirk, who said he wished he could hand out presents to children alongside his favourite film character.

Mr Boyega said he “jumped at the chance” to grant the request and taught Daniel how to use a lightsaber as part of the special treat, organised by Rays of Sunshine Children’s Charity.

(left to right) Collin Bell, Seren Bell, 18 months, Star Wars actor John Boyega, Daniel Bell, 5, Rosalind Bell and Layla Bell, 6, at The Royal London Hospital
The Bafta-winning actor described Daniel as “an amazing and inspirational boy”.

He said: “When I heard about Daniel’s wish to meet Finn, I jumped at the chance to make it come true. It was fantastic to be a part of his very special wish with Rays of Sunshine.

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Miami Beach Shooting

March 15, 2016 by  
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Miami Beach Shooting, A grief-stricken mother broke down in tears as she demanded an explanation behind her son’s shooting.

“I don’t know why! For a fight to turn into a death? I don’t know why! Why does it have to be like this?” said Wilda Decade, her voice hoarse as loved ones held her. “Please! Help! Help! Because I can’t take it anymore.”

Police are still searching for a shooter, after a South Florida spring break destination turned into a crime scene. According to police, a fight broke out and shots rang out, leaving one man dead.

The victim, later identified as 20-year-old Antoinne Decade, was shot in the chest along the 900 block of Ocean Drive, Sunday, just before 1 a.m., said Miami Beach Police.

According to reports and Antoinne’s family, he was celebrating his older brother’s birthday when a fight broke out. Police described a large spring break crowd when the shots went off. Cell phone video captured the scuffle.

Witness Emily Medlin said the shooting happened quickly and unexpectedly. “They started moving so fast. Everybody was just moving so fast,” she said.

“Anybody hears gunshots, the first thing for us to do is duck, dodge, run,” said witness Seneca Patterson.

Police said Antoinne walked to a nearby officer and collapsed. He was rushed to Ryder Trauma Center, where he later died.

“My son didn’t deserve to die. I don’t deserve that,” said Wilda.

Officers were in the area at the time of the shooting, but they were unable to apprehend the suspect. Cellphone video posted on social media captured the scene as police began their investigation.

Investigators later located and interviewed a person of interest. They said all parties involved in the shooting are Miami-Dade residents and are known to each other.

Wilda said her son survived being shot three times back in 2011 and leaves behind a young child. “He was back alive now! That person have the nerve to shoot him! He has a son! I don’t know what to tell his son. What now? ‘Cause he’s asking for him,” she said.

A second shooting occurred just before 1 a.m. on the 700 block of Ocean Court. However, no victims were found when officers arrived.

As police continued their investigation Sunday afternoon, things returned to normal on South Beach. For Wilda, however, she said she will not be at peace until her son’s shooter is in custody. “Please, if anybody knows something, come forward, call police,” she said.

If you have any information on either shooting, call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a $3,000 reward.

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Tugboat Sinks In Hudson

March 15, 2016 by  
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Tugboat Sinks In Hudson, New York State Police say one person is dead after a tugboat sank on the Hudson River north of New York City early Saturday morning.

Trooper Dermont Summers of the New York State Police says searchers are looking for two more people who were aboard.

The 90-foot tugboat named Specialist went down after authorities say it hit something around 5:20 a.m. The crash happened where the new Tappan Zee Bridge is being built.

State police say it hit the base of a construction cane, while the U.S. Coast Guard says the boat struck a barge.
WABC-TV in New York reports two people on the tugboat have been pulled from the water. The station reports one person died on the way to the hospital and the other survived.

The Coast Guard confirms the boat was carrying workers on the West Nyack side of the bridge.

Westchester County Police spokesman Kieran O’Leary says the tugboat hit a barge that is part of the bridge construction project.

O’Leary says the tugboat was pushing a separate barge down the Hudson when it crashed. He says the water is about 35 to 40 feet deep where the crash occurred.

The victim’s name has not been released.

The new $5 billion bridge under construction a few yards to the north of the existing Tappan Zee Bridge and will connect to the existing highway approaches of the New York State Thruway (I-87/I-287) on both river banks. Construction is scheduled to be completed by 2017. Bridge tolls could rise from $5 to $12 to $15 for cars, reports Reuters.

The George Washington Bridge, which crosses the Hudson River south of the Tappan Zee, has a cash toll of $12, which is expected to rise to $15 in 2015.

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