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Portland prepares for US agents to step back from protests | USA News

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Oregon police prepared Thursday to take over protecting a federal courthouse in Portland that’s been a target of violent protests, in a deal between the Democratic governor and the administration of US President Donald Trump that aimed to draw down the federal presence and offered hope for a much-needed detente in a city roiled by two months of unrest.

Portland police cleared out a park across from the Mark O Hatfield Federal Courthouse that demonstrators have used as a staging ground, while state troopers headed into downtown Portland in preparation for their first night policing the protests against racial injustice. It is not clear if the move will ease tensions in the liberal city, where people are decrying brutality by law enforcement.

Under the deal announced by Governor Kate Brown, federal agents sent by Trump were to begin a phased withdrawal Thursday, with Oregon State Police taking over outside the building. But federal officials have pushed back, saying agents would not leave the city completely but be on standby in case they are needed.

Trump insisted in a tweet that US officers would stay in Portland until the violence was under control.

“If she can’t do it, the Federal Government will do it for her. We will not be leaving until there is safety!” Trump wrote about Brown, saying that she wasn’t doing enough to control the “anarchists & agitators.”

In preparation for the handover, state troopers, the local sheriff and Portland police met and agreed not to use tear gas except in cases where there’s a danger of serious injury or death, Mayor Ted Wheeler said. Federal agents sent to the city in early July have used it nightly as protesters lob rocks, fireworks and other objects.

“The federal officers are using CS gas broadly, indiscriminately and nightly,” said Wheeler, using another term for the chemical irritant in tear gas. “And that is why it is escalating the behaviour we’re seeing on the streets rather than de-escalating it – and that’s why this must come to an end.”

Wheeler, who himself was gassed when he joined protesters outside the courthouse last week, added that tear gas “as a tactic really isn’t all that effective” because protesters have donned gas masks and often return to the action after recovering for a few minutes. The Democrat also apologised to peaceful demonstrators exposed to tear gas used by Portland police before federal officials arrived.

“It should never have happened. I take personal responsibility for it, and I’m sorry,” said Wheeler, who is also the police commissioner and earned the nickname “Tear Gas Teddy” during the earlier protests.

Police Chief Chuck Lovell said he believes the new collaboration between local law enforcement agencies will be seen “as a victory in many ways”.

“A lot of people came out to express their displeasure of folks from the federal government here and engaging in crowd control with members of our community,” Lovell said. “So I’m hoping that on many levels that people are happy in this development.”

Portland has seen nightly demonstrations since George Floyd died on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into the Black man’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

Demonstrations have at times attracted up to 10,000 people for peaceful marches and rallies around the city. But some protesters have turned to violence that has been increasingly directed at the courthouse and other federal property.

The Trump administration sent federal agents to guard the courthouse earlier this month and quell the unrest, but the deployment had the opposite effect, reinvigorating protesters who found a new rallying point in opposing the federal presence.

Nightly demonstrations at the courthouse now begin peacefully but end with demonstrators hurling fireworks, flares, rocks and ball bearings at federal agents, who respond with tear gas, stun grenades and pepper spray.

Federal law enforcement officers close a street downtown as they move towards protesters during a demonstration against police violence and racial inequality in Portland, Oregon, US [Caitlin Ochs/Reuters]

The US government had arrested 94 people as of Wednesday, and 400 people have been arrested by Portland police.

An AP analysis of more than 200 arrest records shows that even those accused of breaking the law during the nightly rallies do not fit neatly into Trump’s depiction of protesters as “anarchists and agitators”.

The AP found that 95 percent of those arrested by police and federal agents were local. The vast majority have no criminal record in Oregon. Many appear to be college students and their average age was 28, court records show.





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Sri Lanka archbishop criticises gov’t over Easter attacks probe | Sri Lanka News

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On the second anniversary of the Easter attacks, the head of Sri Lanka’s Catholic church says he was ‘deeply saddened’ by the lack of progress in the investigation.

The head of Sri Lanka’s Roman Catholic Church on Wednesday accused the government of stalling investigations into Easter Sunday bombings two years ago that killed 279 people.

Nearly 200 people were arrested within days of the attacks on hotels and churches, but no one has yet been charged.

Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, who led commemorations on the second anniversary Wednesday, said he was “deeply saddened” by the lack of progress in the investigation.

“We have to stress that what is happening at the moment is an attitude of ‘no care’ where all factors are not properly investigated,” the cardinal said at a commemorative service in Colombo.

Catholic priests and nuns march while holding images of the victims of April 21’s Easter Sunday bomb attack in 2019, next to St. Sebastian’s Church, one of the attacked churches, during the second anniversary, in Katuwapitiya, Sri Lanka, April 21, 2021 [Dinuka Liyanawatte/REUTERS]

Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez, reporting from Negombo, Sri Lanka, said Ranjith accused the government of political posturing and the need to protect alliances had hindered the probe.

“He went as far a few days ago as saying that the bombings had nothing to do with religious extremism, but rather were about politics and people who wanted to ensure essentially grabbing power,” she added.

The cardinal has previously called for former president Maithripala Sirisena to be prosecuted for failing to prevent the attacks despite advance warnings.

An investigation ordered by Sirisena soon after the bombings found that he and his intelligence officials had precise information from India about the attack 17 days earlier, but failed to act.

Sirisena, who did not offer himself for re-election in November 2019 polls, is currently a legislator with the party of his successor Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Although none of the 200 in custody have been indicted, 16 Muslim men among them were charged on Tuesday in connection with desecrating Buddhist statues in December 2018.

The authorities have said that the destruction of the statues in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka was the forerunner to the Easter Sunday attacks four months later.

Anniversary service

Wednesday’s multi-faith remembrance service was held at the St. Anthony’s Church where 56 people died in the attacks, which came 10 years after the end of Sri Lanka’s 37-year Tamil separatist war.

Cardinal Ranjith appealed to the country’s Muslims on Wednesday to join Catholics in determining the truth behind the Easter bombings.

Two local groups that had pledged allegiance to the ISIS [ISIL] group have been blamed for the attacks.

A family member kisses the grave of one victim of April 21’s Easter Sunday bomb attack in 2019, next to St. Sebastian’s Church, one of the attacked churches, during the second anniversary [Dinuka Liyanawatte/REUTERS]

Islamic cleric Hassan Moulana, who also spoke at the service, said Muslims around the world condemn the attacks and that Islam offers no justification for the crime.

He said the Muslim community in Sri Lanka has disowned the attackers and has not allowed their bodies to be buried in its cemeteries to show their acts are not part of Islam.

Last week Sri Lanka banned 11 organisations, including the ISIL (ISIS) group and al-Qaeda.

Anyone linked to the groups – the other nine of which are local religious and social organisations – faces up to 20 years in jail, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said in a gazette notification.

Muslims, who make up nearly 10 percent of Sri Lanka’s 21 million people, have faced increased attacks from majority Sinhala Buddhist hardliners following the end of a civil war between Tamil separatists and government forces in 2009.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Bitcoin: After weekend dip, chart watchers share crypto clues | Banks News

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Bitcoin has yet to recover from its unexplained weekend swoon, and now the investing public is on edge about the notoriously volatile token’s next move. Enter the chart watchers.

Noting that “a chart is a chart is a chart,” Tallbacken Capital Advisors’s Michael Purves sent a note Wednesday with a technical analysis of the coin’s trading patterns. Bitcoin’s recent highs weren’t confirmed by its relative strength index, among other things, and its upward momentum is fading, he said.

“From purely a technical perspective, the bullish case looks highly challenged here in the near term,” after its recent rally, wrote Purves, chief executive officer at the firm.

It’s another sign that Bitcoin has become too big for Wall Street to ignore. With more firms allowing customers to dabble in the asset and more institutional money tied to its performance, no wonder chart watchers are capitulating and now lending their expertise to the growing batch of analysis.

Earlier, JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s analysts also chimed in with their take. The last few times Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou witnessed such negative price action in Bitcoin, buyers returned in time to prevent deeper slumps. This time, the strategist is worried.

If the largest cryptocurrency isn’t able to break back above $60,000 soon, momentum signals will collapse, strategists led by Panigirtzoglou wrote in a note Tuesday. It’s likely traders including Commodity Trading Advisers (CTAs) and crypto funds were at least partly behind the buildup of long Bitcoin futures in recent weeks, as well as the unwind in past days, they said.

“Over the past few days Bitcoin futures markets experienced a steep liquidation in a similar fashion to the middle of last February, middle of last January or the end of last November,” the strategists said. “Momentum signals will naturally decay from here for several months, given their still elevated level.”

In those three previous instances, the overall flow impulse was strong enough to allow Bitcoin to quickly break out above the key thresholds, yielding further buildups in position by momentum traders, JPMorgan noted.

“Whether we see a repeat of those previous episodes in the current conjuncture remains to be seen,” the strategists said. The likelihood it will happen again seems lower because momentum decay seems more advanced and thus more difficult to reverse, they added. Flows into Bitcoin funds also appear weak, they said.

Bitcoin rose as high as $64,870 around the time of the Nasdaq listing of Coinbase Global Inc., but has retreated back to $55,000. The cryptocurrency is still up about 90% year-to-date.

The coin, down five of the last six sessions, is struggling to overtake its 50-day moving average around $56,819. For many chartists, that’s a bearish indicator since it tends to determine price momentum trends. Should Bitcoin be unable to breach its short-term trend line, it could move lower and test the $50,000 level, about a 10% decline from where it’s currently trading. The next area of support would be its 100-day moving average around $49,212. That would signify a 11% retreat from Wednesday’s trading levels.

Tallbacken’s Purves, who says the coin’s 2017 breakout and subsequent decline is a useful case study, also points Bitcoin’s daily MACD signal — or the moving average convergence divergence gauge — which has turned bearish in the intermediate-term. And its performance is still correlated to Cathie Wood’s uber-popular ARK Innovation ETF.

“Trading Bitcoin on the bullish side right now does not appear to have favorable risk-reward and if you have made profits, it seems like a good time to go to the sidelines for now,” Purves wrote.

To be sure, he said, it’s difficult to conclude how much further it could decline. Key to the issue will be how strongly institutional buyers step in. “While upside momentum is clearly looking challenged here, it is inconclusive how much downside risk remains,” he wrote in a note. “It is entirely possible that Bitcoin could simply consolidate in a range for some time.”

Bitcoin fell as much as 4.3% Wednesday to $54,341 before recouping some losses. Smaller and alternative coins that had run up in recent days also suffered declines Wednesday, with Dogecoin — the poster-child for crypto risk-taking — declining roughly 15% to trade around 31 cents. That’s down from a high of 42 cents the day prior, according to CoinMarketCap.com.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Pakistan: Several killed in explosion at Quetta hotel | Pakistan News

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Blast in parking area of Serena Hotel also wounded nine people, with some in critical condition, police say.

At least three people have been killed and nine others wounded in a powerful explosion in the parking area of an upscale hotel in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, according to authorities.

Police said rescuers were transporting the victims of Wednesday’s blast at Serena Hotel to nearby hospitals. Footage on local news channels showed cars in flames.

Security forces rushed to the hotel and no one was allowed to approach the site of the explosion. Police said they had opened an investigation.

“Our officers are working to determine whether it was a bomb and what type of device it could be,” police official Nasir Malik told Reuters news agency.

According to senior police official Azhar Akram, some of the wounded were listed in critical condition. They were brought to Quetta’s main hospital.

No other information was immediately available.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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