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Orlando Nightclub Killer Omar Mateen was looking for support from Varied Islamist Extremist groups

No direct links have been found between him and Islamic state.

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Candlelight vigil for the Orlando nightclub shooting held at Morningside Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Wikimedia commons
  • Omar Mateen expressed sympathy for various Islamist extremists
  • President Barack Obama said that Omar was most likely a homegrown extremist
  • The Florida shooting spree began early on Sunday when the club was packed with over 350 people

The man behind the Orlando nightclub killing, Omar Mateen expressed sympathy for various Islamist extremists. The FBI said on Monday that these extremists included the sworn enemies in the Middle East. No direct links have been found between Mateen and Islamic state, the US authorities reported.

President Barack Obama said that Omar was most likely a homegrown extremist.

Mateen, 29, was born to Afghan immigrants. He was shot dead by police who stormed the Pulse club with armored cars after a three-hour siege. In 911 calls during his rampage, the killer expressed allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey said Mateen had made comments favorable to multiple armed Islamist movements and people, which “adds a little bit to the confusion about his motives.”

“So far, we see no indication that this was a plot directed from outside the United States and we see no indication that he was part of any kind of network,” Comey told reporters in Washington. “We’re highly confident this killer was radicalized at least in some part through the internet.”

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Islamic State, which controls territory in Iraq and Syria, reiterated on Monday a claim of responsibility, although it offered no signs to indicate coordination with the gunman.

In calls to authorities on Sunday, Mateen also mentioned support for the Boston Marathon bombers and a Florida man who became a Nusra Front suicide bomber in Syria, Comey said. Nusra is an al Qaeda offshoot which is at odds with Islamic State in Syria’s civil war.

Co-workers reported Mateen to the FBI in 2013 after he had made “inflammatory and contradictory” statements, including a claim that he had family connections to al Qaeda and membership of Shi’ite militant group Hezbollah, a bitter rival.

The FBI’s Miami office investigated Mateen for 10 months and interviewed him twice but found no evidence of a crime or connection with a militant group. Comey said the FBI was also “working to understand what role anti-gay bigotry may have played” in the attack.

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The massacre reverberated on the presidential campaign trail, where Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, the two likely opponents in the Nov. 8 election, clashed over how to confront violent Islamist extremists.

Trump proposed suspending immigration to the United States from countries with a history of terrorism against America, Europe or U.S. allies, while Clinton warned against demonizing Muslims and called for tougher gun safety measures.

Obama is to visit Orlando on Thursday to pay respects to families of the victims.

‘NEEDLES IN NATIONWIDE HAYSTACK’

The Orlando killings followed the massacre of 14 people in San Bernardino, California, last year and raised the question of whether the United States will have to confront jihadist attacks in the homeland for years to come.

A couple at a vigil to unite in the wake of the Orlando Pulse shooting
A couple at a vigil to unite in the wake of the Orlando Pulse shooting

Comey said tracking apparent lone wolf attackers like Mateen was like finding “needles in a nationwide haystack” while also trying to work out what kind of people could become radicalized.

The Florida shooting spree began early on Sunday when the club was packed with over 350 people at a Latin music night. Mateen fired on the crowd with bullets from an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle and a pistol. Many fled the scene.

Mateen was trapped in a bathroom by an initial wave of officers. This allowed many people to flee. However many were still trapped in the washroom with him, leading to a standoff, Orlando Police Chief John Mina told reporters.

Police broke a hole in the wall for the people trapped to flee, after negotiating with Mateen for over three hours. Soon, the killer also emerged from this hole. He was shot dead by the officers, police said.

Some 53 people were wounded and 29 remain hospitalized at Orlando Regional Medical Center. Michael Cheatham, chief trauma surgeon at the hospital, told Fox News he expects all of the survivors in the hospital to survive.

The Orlando nightclub killing is considered one of America’s deadliest mass shooting.

-prepared by Devika Todi (with inputs from Reuters). Twitter: devika_todi

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Upgrade of murder charge of the white nationalist, James Alex Fields Jr. in Virginia car killing

James Alex Field Jr. murder charge has been upgraded from second degree to first degree who has been accused of killing a 32 year old woman in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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FILE - A photo of Heather Heyer, who was killed during a white nationalist rally, sits on the ground at a memorial the day her life was celebrated at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia.
FILE - A photo of Heather Heyer, who was killed during a white nationalist rally, sits on the ground at a memorial the day her life was celebrated at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia.
  • James Allex Fields Jr., the white nationalist who murdered a woman in Virginia.
  • The murder charge has been upgraded for the accused
  • Second-degree murder changed to first-degree murder

US, December 14, 2017: A white nationalist accused of killing a 32-year-old woman when he plowed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August was charged with first-degree murder Thursday, local media reported.

James Fields Jr., 20, appeared at Charlottesville District Court for a preliminary hearing, during which a previous charge of second-degree murder was changed to first-degree murder, local TV station WSET and others reported from the court.

James Alex Fields Jr., 20, is seen in a mugshot released by Charlottesville, Virginia, police department.
James Alex Fields Jr., 20, is seen in a mugshot released by Charlottesville, Virginia, police department.

Fields would face up to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder, while second-degree murder carries a penalty of five to 40 years in prison, according to the Virginia penal code.

Court officials and the local district attorney were not immediately available for comment.

Ohio-native Fields is suspected of killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 people.

The incident took place amid clashes between hundreds of white supremacists and counterprotesters. After hours of clashes, a sedan driving at high speed plowed into the crowd before reversing along the same street.

Charlottesville is home to the University of Virginia’s flagship campus.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe blamed neo-Nazis for sparking the unrest in the city, where rival groups fought pitched battles using rocks and pepper spray after far-right protesters converged to demonstrate against a plan to remove a statue of a Confederate war hero.

After the rally, Republican President Donald Trump said there were “very fine people” on both sides, drawing condemnation from some Republican leaders and praise from white supremacists. (VOA)

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Will sexual misconduct scandals make Men more cautious towards Women?

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Sexual scandals may wary men's behavioral instincts
FILE - In a Feb. 3, 2015, file photo, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg is photographed at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Some women, and men, worry that the same climate that’s emboldening women to speak up about harassment could backfire by making some men wary of female colleagues. Sandberg recently wrote that she hoped the outcry over harassment doesn’t “have the unintended consequence of holding women back.” (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
  • Sexual Scandals are the new low in business industry
  • Americans were already edgy about male-female encounters at work
  • Gender comes as a barrier in interaction

Some women, and men, worry the same climate that’s emboldening women to speak up about sexual misconduct could backfire by making some men wary of female colleagues.

Forget private meetings and get-to-know-you dinners. Beware of banter. Think twice before a high-ranking man mentors a young female staffer.

“I have already heard the rumblings of a backlash: ‘This is why you shouldn’t hire women,’” Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a recent post .

“So much good is happening to fix workplaces right now. Let’s make sure it does not have the unintended consequence of holding women back,” said Sandberg, author of the working women’s manifesto “Lean In.”

Sexual Scandals
From left, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., accompanied by Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Illinois., and former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, speaks at a news conference where she and other members of congress introduce legislation to curb sexual harassment in the workplace, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Washington. Gillibrand and fellow female Democratic senators have united in calling for Sen. Al Franken to resign amid sexual misconduct allegations. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Ana Quincoces, a Miami-based attorney and entrepreneur who owns her own food line, says her business and its success involves working mostly with men, and sales and other activities are often concluded over lunch or drinks. Those opportunities, she says, are dwindling, because many of the men she knows through her business “are terrified.”

“There’s a feeling of this wall that wasn’t there that is suddenly up because they don’t know what’s appropriate anymore — it’s disconcerting,” Quincoces said. “I feel that they’re more careful, more formal in their relationships with co-workers. And I can’t say I blame them, because what’s happened is pervasive. Every day there’s a new accusation.”

She said many of the men she knows are now avoiding one-on-one social occasions that were normal in the past.

“This is going to trickle down into all industries. … It’s going to become the new normal,” Quincoces said. “It’s a good thing because women are not afraid anymore, but on the other side, it’s a slippery slope.”

Americans were already edgy about male-female encounters at work: A New York Times/Morning Consult poll of 5,300 men and women last spring found almost two-thirds thought workers should be extra careful around opposite-sex colleagues, and around a quarter thought private work meetings between men and women were inappropriate.

But in a season of outcry over sexual misconduct, some men are suddenly wondering whether they can compliment a female colleague or ask about her weekend. Even a now-former female adviser to the head of Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party suggested on Facebook that men would stop talking to women altogether because of what she portrayed as overblown sexual misconduct claims.

Certain managers are considering whether to make sure they’re never alone with a staffer, despite the complications of adding a third person in situations like performance reviews, says Philippe Weiss, who runs the Chicago-based consultancy Seyfarth Shaw at Work.

Philadelphia employment lawyer Jonathan Segal says some men are declaring they’ll just shut people out of their offices, rather than risk exchanges that could be misconstrued.

“The avoidance issue is my biggest concern, because the marginalization of women in the business world is at least as big a problem as harassment,” Segal says. A recent report involving 222 North American companies found the percentage of women drops from 47 percent at the entry level to 20 percent in the C suite.

Vice President Mike Pence has long said he doesn’t have one-on-one meals with any woman except his wife and wants her by his side anywhere alcohol is served, as part of the couple’s commitment to prioritizing their marriage. The guidelines have “been a blessing to us,” the Republican told Christian Broadcasting Network News in an interview this month.

Employment attorneys caution that it can be problematic to curb interactions with workers because of their gender, if the practice curtails their professional opportunities. W. Brad Johnson, a co-author of a book encouraging male mentors for women, says limiting contact sends a troubling message.

“If I were unwilling to have an individual conversation with you because of your gender, I’m communicating ‘you’re unreliable; you’re a risk,’” says Johnson, a U.S. Naval Academy psychology professor.

Jessica Proud, a communications professional and Republican political consultant in New York City, said it would be wrong if this national “day of reckoning” over sexual misconduct resulted in some men deciding not to hire, mentor or work with women. She recalled a campaign she worked on where she was told she couldn’t travel with the candidate because of how it might look.

“I’m a professional, he’s a professional. Why should my career experience be limited?” she said. “That’s just as insulting in a lot of ways.” VOA

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US to begin Jerusalem Embassy move preparations: Tillerson

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Photo: wikimedia commons

Washington, Dec 7. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has stated that the State Department will “immediately” act on President Donald Trump’s order and start preparations to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump announced in a televised speech that he officially recognises Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and instructed the State Department to relocate the US embassy to the city, reports Xinhua news agency. (Read: Trump to Announce US Recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli Capital, Move Embassy)

Tillerson, who is on a Europe visit, said in a statement on Wednesday night that the US has consulted with “many friends, partners and allies” about the relocation ahead of Trump’s decision.

Though hailed by Israel, Trump’s announcement immediately drew strong opposition and widespread criticism from Arab and European countries that such a move would inflame tensions and fuel violence in the Middle East.

Tillerson said that the US had taken measures to protect Americans in the region.

“The safety of Americans is the State Department’s highest priority, and in concert with other federal agencies, we’ve implemented robust security plans to protect the safety of Americans in affected regions.”

Trump’s announcement marked a dramatic departure from his predecessors’ foreign policy.

Although the US Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 which required the relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, former Presidents, including George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, consistently renewed a presidential waiver to delay the relocation out of consideration for national security interests.

The status of Jerusalem, revered by Muslims as the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest site by Jews, lies at the core of the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.

The international community does not recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and no foreign countries have their embassies in the city.(IANS)