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Death toll in E Cape police shooting rises to 6
21 February 2018, 9:04 AM

The death toll in the shooting of police officers at a police station in Ngcobo has risen to six. Six people were killed after a police station in the small town of Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape was attacked by unknown gunmen in the early hours of this Wednesday morning.

Provincial police commissioner, Liziwe Ntshinga said gunmen stormed into the charge office, wearing balaclavas and shot at officers, taking all the firearms at the station and disarming the deceased officers.

Ntshinga says the gunmen disarmed the female officers and locked them in a room and five others were injured and taken to hospital.

A sixth person, a retired soldier who lives close to the police station, was hit and killed by a stray bullet while outside his home.

Meanwhile, there has been a total shutdown at the small town as the road leading to the police station has been cordoned off.

The bodies of the officers are still on the scene.

Ntshinga has despatched officers from the National Intervention Unit, Tactical Response Team, Visible Policing and K-9 units, among others, to the scene.

The unknown gunmen subsequently bombed an ATM.

Survivors of Florida school shooting launch gun control push
21 February 2018, 8:06 AM

Dozens of students and parents from the Florida high school where 17 teens and staff members were slain last week in a shooting rampage arrived in the state capital of Tallahassee on Tuesday to lobby for a ban on assault-style rifles.

Last week’s massacre, the second-deadliest shooting at a public school in US history, has inflamed a national debate about gun rights and prompted young people from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and across the United States to demand action for stricter firearms controls.

Students from the South Florida high school were tearful as they stepped down from the bus in Tallahassee to be welcomed with waves, cheers and somber applause from fellow teens.

“We’re here to make sure this never happens again,” Diego Pfeiffer a senior at Stoneman told the crowd that included hundreds of students from a Tallahassee high school over a crackling microphone.

On Tuesday, less than a week after the shooting, the Republican-controlled Florida House of Representatives rebuffed a bid to bring up a bill to block sales of assault-style rifles in the state.

“I am not going back to school until lawmakers, and the president, change this law,” said Tyra Hemans, a 19-year-old senior, who travelled to the state capital.

“Three people I looked to for advice and courage are gone but never forgotten, and for them, I am going to our state capital to tell lawmakers we are tired and exhausted of stupid gun laws,” Hemans said.

Student and parent activists from the high school in Parkland, Florida, near Fort Lauderdale were expected to stage a rally on Wednesday at the statehouse on Wednesday, about 450 miles (725 km) to the north of the school.

Fourteen students and three educators were killed and 15 other people were wounded in the Feb. 14 attack.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student expelled from Stoneman Douglas High for disciplinary problems, was arrested and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. Authorities say he was armed with a semiautomatic AR-15 assault-style rifle that he legally purchased from a licensed gun dealer last year, when he was 18.

Former classmates have described Cruz as a social outcast and trouble-maker with a fascination for guns, and police have acknowledged responding to numerous calls related to Cruz during the past few years.

On Tuesday a member of the accused gunman’s legal team from the Broward County public defender’s office said Cruz saw his life unravel last year, when he was expelled and his mother died.

The year before, Florida’s Department of Children and Families had opened an inquiry into Cruz after he was reported to have been cutting himself, but the case was closed in November of that year with the finding that he was receiving sufficient support, the agency said.

”In 2017 a lot of the support systems that he had were not there anymore. Those cries of help, however, were still there, and the system, as designed, missed them and failed, said Gordon Weekes, assistant public defender.

STAR POWER

The youth-led protest movement that erupted within hours of the shooting attracted prominent celebrity supporters on Tuesday when film star George Clooney and his wife Amal, a human rights lawyer, said they would donate $500,000 to help fund a planned March 24 gun control march in Washington.

Hollywood director Steven Spielberg and media mogul Oprah Winfrey later joined in contributing $500,000 each toward the march.

A Washington Postal News opinion poll released on Tuesday showed 77 percent of Americans believe the Republican-dominated US Congress is doing too little to prevent mass shootings, with 62 percent saying President Donald Trump, also a Republican, has not done enough on that front.

Trump said on Tuesday he had signed a memorandum directing the attorney general to draw up regulations banning devices that turn firearms into machine guns, like the bump stock used in October’s mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Students and parents elsewhere in Florida and in other states, including Tennessee and Minnesota, staged sympathy protests on Tuesday, according to local media reports. Miami’s WTVJ-TV showed video of about 1,000 teens and adults marching from a high school in Boca Raton to the site of the Parkland shooting, about 12 miles (20 km) to the west.

 

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba
South Africans urged to brace for tax increases
21 February 2018, 6:48 AM

Political parties in Parliament agree that Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba will have an unenviable task when he delivers the budget on Wednesday.

Gigaba will deliver his budget speech amid a growing budget deficit and a slow economic growth.

He will have to strike a delicate balancing act between government’s spending priorities and the increasing budget deficit, with the shortfall estimated at around R50 billion.

Economists expect Gigaba to increase VAT this time around, however, some political parties in Parliament are against that, saying the move is extremely regressive and will affect the poor.

But Gigaba has a daunting task of finding revenue to fund government’s priority projects with a constrained fiscus.

Meanwhile some political parties are warning South Africans to brace themselves for an unpopular budget speech with possible increases in all kinds of taxes.

Abbas calls for peace conference to solve Palestinian Israeli question
21 February 2018, 6:28 AM

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called for an international peace conference by the middle of this year to solve the long-standing Palestinian Israeli question, which is casting doubt on the United States’ role as lead mediator in the conflict.

In a rare address before the United Nations Security Council in New York, the 82 year old Palestinian leader accused Israel of acting like a ‘state above the law’ and again questioned the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Israel reaffirmed its position that Jerusalem would remain its undivided capital while the United States warned the Palestinian leader that rejecting Washington’s historic role would lead the Palestinian people “exactly nowhere”.

President Abbas called on the United States to clarify its position on whether it is for a two-state or one-state solution,  calling Washington’s decision on Jerusalem unlawful while rejecting its singular mediation.

Abbas said, “No country alone can solve a regional or international conflict without the participation of other international partners. Therefore to solve the Palestine questions and this is our position and our belief, it is essential to establish a multilateral international mechanism emanating from an international conference and in line with international law and the relevant resolutions to solve the Palestinian question. A multilateral international mechanism.”

He also criticized inaction in upholding several UN resolutions that settlement activity in the occupied West Bank was in violation of international law.

He added saying, “Israel is acting like a state above the law, it has transformed the occupation from a temporary situation as per international law, into a situation of permanent settlement colonization, that it has occupied territories in 1967, it was supposed to be temporary, however it has become permanent. It colonized all the areas that it wanted, including Jerusalem that your august council considers an occupied territory. How can this happen?”

When Abbas concluded his remarks, he promptly left the chamber, eliciting this response from the Israeli envoy Danny Danon who rejected any change in the status of its capital Jerusalem.

Danon said, “I expected Mr Abbas to stay with us and have a dialogue, unfortunately he’s once again running away. Look what just happened in this room, Mr Abbas came in, he put his demands on the table and he left and he’s expecting you to deliver the results. It’s not going to work that way, the only way to move forward is to have direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Washington indicated its decision on Jerusalem would not change, and again accused the UN of bias against Israel while offering its outstretched hand to the Palestinian people.

US Ambassador Nikky Haley said, “So once again you must choose between two paths, you can choose to denounce the United States, reject the US role in peace talks and pursue punitive measures against Israel in international forums like the UN, I assure that path will get the Palestinian people exactly nowhere toward the achievement of their aspirations or you can choose to put aside your anger about the location of our embassy and move forward with us toward a negotiated compromise that holds great potential for improving the lives of the Palestinian people.”

Palestine no longer views the United States as a neutral negotiator after the decision last year by President Donald Trump to move the country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Russia’s envoy Vassily Nebenzia meanwhile told the meeting Moscow stood ready to offer a venue for talks between Palestinian and Israeli leaders without preconditions.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba
EFF threatens to boycott Budget speech
21 February 2018, 5:45 AM

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has threatened to boycott Wednesday’s Budget speech unless President Cyril Ramaphosa removes Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba with immediate effect.

In a statement, the EFF says while Gigaba was Public Enterprises minister up to 2014, he surrendered State-owned enterprises boards to what it calls the “Gupta syndicate”.

The EFF also says while Gigaba was Home Affairs minister, he ensured that the Guptas attained citizenship in South Africa, aiding them to qualify for BEE deals with State-owned enterprises.

The party says all this makes makes Gigaba a “Gupta stooge”.

Gigaba is set to present his maiden Budget Speech in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon.

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