Skipping ‘Davos in the Desert,’ Mnuchin to attend later Saudi event

By Damian Paletta and Josh Dawsey | Washington Post

WASHINGTON – Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has decided to take part in an anti-terror finance meeting with Saudi security officials and their Middle Eastern counterparts in Riyadh later this month, opting to attend despite growing global outrage over the suspected murder of a U.S.-based journalist at the hands of Saudi operatives, according to three people familiar with his travel plans.

The security gathering next week is separate from a Riyadh financial summit that Mnuchin announced on Thursday he would not attend. Numerous other Western officials and corporations have pulled out of the “Davos in the Desert” financial summit because of the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote for The Washington Post.

The event Mnuchin still plans to attend – a gathering of the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center in Riyadh – would include participation by Saudi security services that are under scrutiny in Khashoggi’s death.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the presumptive king and one of Trump’s closest allies in the region – is under growing pressure to explain the disappearance of Khashoggi, who U.S. intelligence officials believe was killed and dismembered by a Saudi “murder team” inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey on Oct. 2. He has not been seen since.

The White House has been hesitant to criticize Saudi Arabia, although President Donald Trump acknowledged for the first time Thursday that Khashoggi was likely dead.

In announcing his withdrawal Thursday from the financial summit, called the Future Investment Initiative, Mnuchin said he reached the decision with the help of Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Mnuchin did not give a reason for pulling out of the conference, but he was under growing pressure from congressional Republicans not to attend as it could have been seen as a sign the Trump administration was not …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World


Train plows through crowd in India, killing dozens

Associated Press

NEW DELHI — A speeding train ran over a crowd watching fireworks during a religious festival in northern India on Friday, killing at least 50 people and injuring dozens more, a Congress party leader said.

The train failed to stop after the accident on the outskirts of Amritsar, a city in Punjab state, said the politician, Pratap Singh Bajwa.

Amrinder Singh, the state’s top elected official, told reporters that he had reports of 50 to 60 people dead. Thirty bodies had been removed from the site by Friday evening.

A witness said the train didn’t even sound its whistle as it sped past the site, where hundreds were watching the burning of an effigy of demon Ravana during the Hindu festival of Dussehra.

“Why did authorities allow the fireworks display so close to the railroad track,’” he asked. He told the Republic television channel that he lost two brothers.

Another witness said the victims didn’t realize that a train was coming their way because the fireworks were too loud.

Navjot Kaur Siddhu, a local Congress party politician who was the chief guest at the religious function, said the celebrations take place in the area every year and railroad authorities are alerted to run the trains at slow speeds.

A large number of people live in the area with homes on both sides of the railroad track, she said.

Shatrughan Das, an injured 35-year-old factory worker, said he was sitting close to the railroad track watching the fireworks. “I didn’t see the train coming. I fell unconscious. I saw the police taking me to a hospital as I regained consciousness.”

“I am feeling a strong headache and pain in my back and legs,” Das said from his hospital bed. “But I don’t have serious injuries.”

Following the accident, people rushed to the site and shouted at railway officials for not …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World


Migrant caravan prepares to cross into Mexico

By SONIA PEREZ D., Associated Press

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Map: Where is the migrant caravan now?

TECUN UMAN, Guatemala (AP) — Members of a 3,000-strong U.S.-bound migrant caravan massed in a Guatemalan border town and prepared to begin crossing the muddy Suchiate River to Mexico Friday, in spite of U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats of retaliation.

The first members of the group began arriving in Tecun Uman on buses and trucks early Thursday, but the bulk of the caravan sloshed into town on foot in a downpour late in the afternoon and into the evening. Before dawn Friday, the migrants decided to wait a few more hours for stragglers to arrive before heading to the border crossing.

Some planned to walk toward Mexican territory in a formation that put the men along the edges and women and children in the center. Others prepared to cross the river in rafts, the traditional way migrants enter. As the sun rose, a military helicopter flew along the Mexican side of river foreshadowing the difficulties they could face.

Jonathan Guzman joined the caravan en route. “It’s the third time that I’m trying to cross,” said the 22-year-old Salvadoran who dreams of finding a construction job in Los Angeles.

On Thursday, hundreds had walked to the river’s edge where they sang the national anthems of Honduras and Guatemala.

A smaller group walked to the border crossing but was blocked by Guatemalan police. They eventually retreated to await the rest of the caravan.

The exhausted travelers, the majority from Honduras, dispersed to the local migrant shelter and parks where volunteers offered them food.

Jonathan Perales, 22, arrived with his wife Heidy and their daughters ages 2 and 4. They’d been traveling since 4 a.m. and got to the border after dark. They paid for bus tickets they could ill …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World


Why Little Free Libraries are wearing white ribbons this week

2015 photograph: Todd Bol, seen in Hudson, Wis. founded the non-profit Little Free Library, a book-exhcange movement, in 2009. (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)

On the last day he could speak, Little Free Library founder Todd Bol had a message for the world:

“I really believe in a Little Free Library on every block and a book in every hand,” he said from a hospice near Minneapolis. “I believe people can fix their neighborhoods, fix their communities, develop systems of sharing, learn from each other, and see that they have a better place on this planet to live.”

Bol, who spent the last nine years putting little libraries on neighborhood blocks, died Thursday of complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 62.

The people carrying on the nonprofit Bol created have a request for the volunteer stewards of the more than 75,000 Little Free Libraries in all 50 states and in 88 countries: Please tie silver or white ribbons around the little libraries in memory of their founder and executive director.

Margaret Bernstein, a board member and a library steward, tied the first ribbon around one of the Little Free Libraries that Bol installed in her community in Cleveland, Ohio.

“I do think by the time we wake up in the morning there will be a national movement to say thanks to Todd,” Bernstein said on Thursday. “That’s what I hope.”

Back in the fall of 2009, Bol established the first little library in his front yard in Hudson, WIsconsin. Like many of the best ideas and companies, it started in his garage. That’s where Bol, a lifelong entrepreneur, built the first library, in the shape of a schoolhouse to honor his late mother, June, a teacher.

He realized the little library’s big influence the following spring, when his family had a garage sale.

“The library was a hit,” …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World


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