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Hands Up: Indian-American artist generates empathy for US police gunbattles victims

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"Hands Up," an interactive digital video project by Roopa Vasudevan and Atif Ateeq in New York sparks discussion of encountr killings of minorities in the United Sttes. Credit: Humai Mustafa
"Hands Up," an interactive digital video project by Roopa Vasudevan and Atif Ateeq in New York sparks discussion of encountr killings of minorities in the United Sttes. Credit: Humai Mustafa
“Hands Up,” an interactive digital video project by Roopa Vasudevan and Atif Ateeq in New York sparks discussion of encounter killings of minorities in the United States.
Credit: Humai Mustafa

New York: An Indian-American digital artist and educator has produced an interactive multimedia installation to explore the problem of killings in police gunbattles in the US. according to a media estimate these gunbattles result in at least two deaths every day.

The “Hands Up” digital exhibit is about “generating empathy”, said Roopa Vasudevan, who created it with fellow Pakistani American artist Atif Ateeq.

“Obviously, there is no way to fully understand what a confrontation like this is, unless it happens to you,” Vasudevan said. “We hoped to allow our visitors to get a degree of understanding of how charged and emotional the situation actually is.”

“Hands Up” simulates the high-adrenaline gunbattle situation in a cacophony of shouts, commands and sirens in a dark scenario ripped by sudden flashes of blue, white and red police car beacons, invoking a sense of dread and foreboding.

As the intimidating voice of the law orders “Hands up,” and a visitor responds, bursts of light simulate gunfire and sounds of explosion ricochet. The viewers are plunged into the virtual reality of split second decisions that become the arbiters of death and life.

It was on display recently at Flux Factory, a community of artists in the city’s Queens borough, an area that is home to a large number of Indians and South Asians.

Asked if she saw police brutality as an issue for Asians and Indians in the US, Vasudevan said: “Absolutely.”

“This is an issue of an imbalance of power,” she explained. “Obviously, most of the focus in the media recently has been on interactions with African American men, but it’s worth noting that this speaks to a larger story of how minorities are looked at and treated in this country.”

In February a visitor from India, Sureshbhai Patel, was left partially paralysed after being roughed up by police in Alabama, although he was not shot.

Last February, an Indian American who had served in the US Army in Iraq returned home to California only to be shot dead by police. Police claimed that Parminder Singh Shergill had charged at them with a knife, but eyewitnesses asserted that he was unarmed.

The Washington Post reported recently that its analysis found that 385 people have been killed in police shootings so far this year.

A disproportionate number of those killed were minorities. Among the unarmed victims, two-thirds were African Americans or Latinos, the newspaper said. When adjusted for proportions in the population in the areas of shootings, African Americans were three times as likely to be killed as other ethnic or racial groups, its analysis found.

Vasudevan said that after grand juries refused last year to indict the white police officers involved in two separate incidents – the choking death of an unarmed man, Eric Garner in New York, and shooting death of a teenager, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri – she and Ateeq wanted to see “how we could productively contribute to the conversation and movement for change.”

“As artists, both of us strongly felt that generating empathy for someone placed in the situation of being confronted by the police was key to the path to understanding, and that the best way to do that was by creating a large, immersive art piece,” she said.

Facing mounting criticism over police conduct, Pat Lynch, the head of the New York City police union, denounced the exhibit, saying “it perpetuates a falsehood about police officers and their use of force”.

The atmosphere of chaos and tension created in the exhibit, however, also illustrate the conditions that police operate under.

Vasudevan, denying it was anti-police, said: “It’s not such a cut and dry thing, so-and-so was right and so-and-so was wrong. There’s a lot happening in the moment. It’s our hope that our work can add to the discussion of what can be done to change things.”

Vasudevan has been a director for MTV’s Emmy award-winning series, “True Life,” and her digital work has been featured by the American Museum of Natural History, National 9/11 Museum, and The New York Times. She also teaches at Fordham and New York universities.

Asked about artists of Indian and Pakistani descent working together, she said: “The piece was more about being a minority in the United States than anything else. We didn’t necessarily keep the specifics of our backgrounds in mind when collaborating.” (IANS)

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Akayed Ullah, the Bangladeshi suspect in New York bombing described as cocky and weird

Recently a bombing had occurred in the Time Square of New York city and a Bangladeshi has been suspected in the bombing who lived in New York for 7 years.

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Law enforcement officials in New York City work after a bomb blast near Times Square, Dec. 11, 2017
Law enforcement officials work following an explosion near New York's Times Square on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, in New York. Police said a man with a pipe bomb strapped to him set off the crude device in an underground passageway under 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
  • The bomb blast occurred on December 11, 2017 in New York
  • Akayed Ullah, a Bangladeshi has been suspected the cause for the bomb blast
  • The suspect has been described as cocky and weird

New York, December 12, 2017: Neighbors described a Bangladeshi man suspected of setting off a bomb Monday near New York’s Times Square as “cocky” and “weird,” but were surprised to hear he was involved in what local authorities called an “attempted terrorist attack.”

The suspect and three other people were injured in the explosion during the morning rush-hour in an underground subway passage about 200 feet from a busy bus terminal in Manhattan, officials said.

Authorities arrested Akayed Ullah, a 27-year-old Brooklyn resident, after he allegedly detonated an improvised explosive device that was strapped to his body, New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said.

The explosion left Ullah “with burns and wounds to his body” and injured three others, officials said.

“He wasn’t very nice. He was kind of cocky,” Ullah’s longtime neighbor, Alan Butrico, told BenarNews. “He was often blocking my driveway.”

Butrico, owner of a locksmith and hardware in Brooklyn’s Flatlands neighborhood, said he was Ullah’s next-door neighbor for about seven years.

“I would ask him to move the car whenever he was blocking my driveway and he would react like he was giving me a favor,” Butrico said.

But Butrico, who lived in the neighborhood for 27 years, said he was surprised to hear that Ullah, whom he described as a former cab driver and electrician, was involved in a terrorist attack.

“I’m glad he didn’t blow up my store,” Butrico said. “I’m glad he went to Manhattan.”

The bomb exploded at around 7:20 a.m. (local time) in a subway corridor on 42nd Street, between 7th and 8thavenues, police said.

“This device was intentionally detonated by the subject,” O’Neill, the police commissioners, said in a statement posted on the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) Twitter page.

Three people in the immediate area suffered minor injuries and the suspect, who suffered severe burns, was placed in custody and transported to a hospital, O’Neill said. Fire officials said Ullah had burns to his hands and abdomen.

A photo published by the New York Post showed a bearded man crumpled on the ground with his shirt apparently blown off and black soot covering his bare midriff.

“Let’s be also clear this was an attempted terrorist attack. Thank God the perpetrator did not achieve his ultimate goals,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters. “The only injuries we know at this point were minor.”

Kat Mara, who works at a real-estate company near Ullah’s home, said the Bangladeshi suspect was “very aloof.”

“He’s like a loner, like there’s always something in his mind,” Mara, 63, told BenarNews, saying that she often saw Ullah at a bagel store across the street from her office.

“He’s very aloof,” she said. “I would say hello and he wouldn’t say anything. He just seemed a little weird.”

No criminal record in Bangladesh

In Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, Police Inspector-General A.K.M. Shahidul Hoque said Ullah had no criminal record in Bangladesh and that he last visited his home country on Sept. 8.

Hoque told the Reuters news service that the information was based on Ullah’s passport number, and said the suspect was from the southern Bangladeshi district of Chittagong.

New York daily newspapers, quoting unnamed law-enforcement sources, said Ullah arrived in the United States from Bangladesh on Sept. 21, 2011 on an F-4 Visa, which is for siblings of American citizens. He is currently a permanent resident, according to officials.

Shamim Ahmad, a spokesman at Bangladesh’s embassy in Washington, did not confirm to BenarNews during a phone interview that Ullah was a Bangladeshi.

Consular officials in New York were awaiting an official report from the NYPD, Ahmad said.

He later on issued a statement saying that the Bangladesh government “is committed to its declared policy of ‘zero tolerance’ against terrorism, and condemns terrorism and violent extremism in all forms or manifestations anywhere in the world, including Monday morning’s incident in New York City.”

“A terrorist is a terrorist irrespective of his or her ethnicity or religion, and must be brought to justice,” the statement said.

Ullah lived with his father, mother and brother and worked as a driver in New York for a few years until his license lapsed in 2015, officials said. Neighbors said he lived with his family on the first floor of a two-story home.

New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill holds a news conference outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan with Mayor Bill de Blasio (left) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, after a pipe-bomb strapped to a man exploded in a crowded subway corridor near Times Square, Dec. 11, 2017. [AP]
New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill holds a news conference outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan with Mayor Bill de Blasio (left) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, after a pipe-bomb strapped to a man exploded in a crowded subway corridor near Times Square, Dec. 11, 2017. [AP]
Six weeks, two terrorist incidents

Monday’s bombing occurred nearly six weeks after a deadly terrorist attack in Lower Manhattan.

A man killed eight people and injured a dozen others as he drove a pickup truck down a bicycle path near the World Trade Center on Oct. 31. An officer shot and wounded the suspect.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the suspect, identified as a 29-year-old Uzbek, Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, was indicted last month on murder and terror-related charges.

John Miller, the New York Police Department’s deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism, said authorities had thwarted 26 terrorist plots in New York since Sept. 11, 2001.

“We have prevented a significant number of plots,” Miller told reporters Monday.

“Your intel operations are looking for indicators,” he said. “They don’t have an X-ray for a man’s soul.”

The blast on Monday also happened two months after U.S. authorities accused a 37-year-old Filipino doctor of providing funds to support a foiled plot last year to carry out bombings and shootings in crowded areas in New York City, including the subway system and in Times Square.

Russell Salic, a surgeon, was arrested in April 2017 in the Philippines and is awaiting extradition to the United States. Authorities said those thwarted attacks were to be carried out by the suspects under the name of the extremist group Islamic State during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan last year.

Akayed Ullah
Akayed Ullah [Reuters]
Kazi Nishat Tarana, a Bangladeshi living in New York, told BenarNews she was shocked to hear reports that the suspect in Monday’s explosion could be a Bangladeshi.

“I want to say very clearly, he doesn’t represent Bangladesh,” she said. “The people of our country is peace loving and this man no way is influenced by our great tradition of peace and harmony. We are deeply upset. I hope no Bangladeshi student or immigrant will be judged differently after this incident.”

In Dhaka, Sohaili Ferdous, an assistant inspector general of police, said the department would investigate any possible ties between the latest New York attack and Bangladesh.

“Right now, we cannot give information about him. We have to check with our database whether he had any militant or criminal background,” Ferdous told BenarNews.

Kamran Reza Chowdhury in Dhaka contributed to this report. (BenarNews)

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Top US Women Diplomats Speak Out on Sexual Harassment

Women from all sectors are coming out to speak against sexual harassment cases, this time U.S women diplomats lashed out against such incidents

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FILE - Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, who served as the US Ambassador in Malta, addresses participants during a gay pride parade organized by the Malta Gay Rights Movement in Sliema, outside Valletta, June 30, 2012.

As U.S. lawmakers grapple with allegations of sexual harassment in their ranks, some senior American diplomats are speaking out about their struggles over the years.

Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, who was U.S. ambassador to Malta from 2012-2016, told her story about serving at the State Department and the White House.

“There was one occasion in the department when a boss touched me and I told him if he did it again, I’d knock the s— out of him. He did not repeat it, but he did try to get me to curtail from the position,” Abercrombie-Winstanley told the Foreign Service Journal, a publication by the American Foreign Service Association.

The former U.S. envoy recalled another incident in which she said she was harassed by a senior lawmaker while serving on the White House National Security Council.

“Initially, I parried the advance from a senior member of Congress, but when he continued to call me, I reported to the NSC’s executive secretary that it was happening, and told him that if I had to do violence to repel it, I would,” Abercombie-Winstanley said.

“I was letting him know beforehand, I said, because I did not expect to lose my job as a result,” she added. “After a moment of shocked silence, he said ‘Thanks for letting me know.’ And the member stopped calling me.”

She later told VOA these occasions are an “extremely small part of my professional journey” and declined to either comment further on details or identify the congressman.

‘Zero-tolerance’ policy

In a letter electronically distributed to all American diplomats around the world earlier this year, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the department upholds a “zero-tolerance” policy regarding discriminatory and sexual harassment.

“Effective harassment prevention efforts must start with and involve the highest level possible,” Tillerson said in his policy statement.

For years, secretaries of state release their statements on diversity and harassment in the workplace at the beginning of their tenure and review annually thereafter. They usually highlight two anti-harassment policies: one prohibiting sexual harassment, the other banning discrimination.

U.S. Ambassador Laura Dogu. (U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua website)

Male-dominated circles

Still, female ambassadors said they must learn to adjust and handle the challenges involved in working in mainly male-dominated diplomatic circles.

“I am frequently the only woman in meetings outside the office with the host country, and when I have control over the guest list, I insist that we include at least 30 percent women, if not more,” U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Laura Dogu said in the Foreign Service Journal article.

Like Ambassador Dogu, former Ambassador to Mongolia Jennifer Zimdahl Galt said she has been the only woman or one of the only women in the room at virtually every meeting throughout her career. The key to working in such an environment, she said, is to be well-prepared and a good listener.

FILE – U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia Jennifer Zimdahl Galt and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry past a traditional honor guard upon arrival at Chinggis Khaan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, June 5, 2016.

“So you can speak authoritatively and there is no question that you are on top of your brief. It’s also important to dress professionally, which in my book means wearing a suit at all times,” said Galt, who was appointed as principle deputy assistant secretary for educational and cultural affairs earlier this month.

She also said, “Being sure to listen carefully to what others have to say so that you’re not repeating, but rather amplifying and adding value with your remarks.”

Building minority leadership

In a speech to student programs and fellowship participants in August, Tillerson said he had directed relevant committees to develop “minority leadership” at the State Department.

“Every time we have an opening for an ambassador position, at least one of the candidates must be a minority candidate. Now they may not be ready, but we will know where the talent pool is,” Tillerson said.

Seen as part of these efforts, Irwin Steven Goldstein will begin his new position next week (December 4) as the first openly gay undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

In Senate testimony, Goldstein thanked his spouse for supporting his career of developing and executing communications strategies that connect diverse audiences. (VOA)

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Manhattan attack proves all you need is a vehicle, a crowd and a will to kill to be a Terrorist ; Here is how Twitter reacted

Various American news channels have since run chilling NYPD audio that was recorded as the entire scene unfolded. In one of the recordings, an officer can be heard reporting multiple casualties and calling it a “mass-casualty situation”.

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A Home Depot truck which struck down multiple people on a bike path, killing several and injuring numerous others is seen as New York City first responders are at the crime scene in lower Manhattan in New York, NY, Oct. 31, 2017.VOA

New York, November 1, 2017 : A man in a Home Depot rental truck sped for nearly a mile along the Hudson river in lower Manhattan, injuring more than a dozen people, and then shouting “Allahu Akbar”.

The man held responsible for the Manhattan attack, identified as Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old immigrant from Uzebkistan drove a rental truck into a pedestrian and bike path in New York City and went on until the truck rammed into a school bus.

According to a report by the New York Post, Saipov was shot and wounded by the New York Police after he got out of his car with realistic-looking guns, all while screaming “Allahu Akbar” – Arabic which means God is Good.

The Manhattan attack, which unfolded at a close proximity to the World Trade Center has killed eight people and injured at least 11 civilians, which includes three children, who were immediately rushed to local hospitals.

According to briefing by the New York police, six of the victims were pronounced dead at the scene while two victims perished at the hospital.

ALSO READ New York terror attack: 8 dead, suspect in custody (Third Lead)

Various American news channels have since run chilling NYPD audio that was recorded as the entire scene unfolded.

In one of the tapes obtained by CBS, a police officer can be heard saying, “There’s multiple people on the ground, Central. We need buses all the way up to Houston [Street], Central.’’

In another recording, an officer can be heard reporting multiple casualties and calling it a “mass-casualty situation”.

Twitter was quick to react to the slaughter-attack as the hashtags #ManhattanAttack and #NewYork continue to trend. Here is what Twitterati has to say,

While at one end, some Twitter users maintain that an attack by an individual must not fetch backlash for an entire community, some social activists believe otherwise.

The Manhattan attack has also been condemned by India as various news portals and individuals tweeted about the same, expressing grief and concern. ‘India stands by United States’, read a tweet by Indian President, Ram Nath Kovind.

Security is of prime importance; this concern was reflected in multiple tweets from people around the world.

 

Twitter users were quick to point out differences between the Manhattan attack and the Las Vegas shooting.

Such actions are intended to break the spirit of a city, but New Yorkers are strong and resilient. However, that does not mean the attack should be overlooked or dealt with leniently.

US President Donald Trump strongly condemned the attack and took to Twitter to voice his stand – he announced that such acts will not be tolerated in the US and Homeland security will look into it.

The method of the Manhattan attack mimics other ISIS-directed and inspired attacks that have previously occurred in different countries like the attacks in Nice, London and France.

These attacks are difficult to prevent as it is difficult for authorities to know if an individual will ram a vehicle into a crowd of innocent civilians.

However, due to the ease of its execution, these types of attacks are being increasingly carried out in recent years. After all, all you need is a truck, a car or a van, a crowd of people and a will to kill.