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01 Jul

‘British Schindler’ Sir Nicholas Winton dies aged 106?

‘British Schindler’ Sir Nicholas Winton dies aged 106

Unassuming hero who saved the lives of 669 Jewish children from the Nazis in 1939 died peacefully in his sleep

Sir Nicholas Winton has died aged 106

Sir Nicholas Winton, who has died at the age of 106. Photograph: Matej Divizna/Getty Images

Sir Nicholas Winton, who became known as “the British Oskar Schindler” after saving hundreds of Jewish children from Nazi tyranny and slaughter in Czechoslovakia, has died aged 106, his family said.

Sir Nicholas Winton meeting some of the (now grown up) children he helped save.

Sir Nicholas Winton meeting some of the (now grown up) children he helped save. Photograph: REX Shutterstock

The unassuming hero, who saved the lives of 669 children in 1939 by sending them from Prague to London by train, died peacefully in his sleep at Wrexham Park hospital in Slough, his son-in-law, Stephen Watson, said.

A statement from the Rotary Club of Maidenhead, of which he was a member, reported the death “with much sadness” of a man they acknowleged as “probably the oldest active Rotarian in the world”.

Winton organised eight trains from Prague to London to carry the children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, when he feared they would be sent to concentration camps, and helped find them foster families in England.

But he told no one of his war time actions for half-a-century – not even his wife and children.

From a German-Jewish family, he received a knighthood in 2003 and a Hero of the Holocaust medal at Downing Street in 2010. Last year he was awarded the Order of the White Lion by the Czech president, Milos Zeman, at a ceremony in Prague.

Explaining his motivation, he told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme last year that he was well aware of the urgency of the situation in 1939.

“I knew better than most, and certainly better than the politicians, what was going on in Germany. We had, staying with us, people who were refugees from Germany at that time. Some who knew they were in danger of their lives,” he said.

Winton was 29 when he arrived in Prague in 1938 to visit a friend, and through the British committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia he sensed what was going on, and returned to London to organise the trains.

His greatest regret was that a final train of 250 children was prevented from leaving when Poland was invaded, and all are believed to have died along with 1.1 million of Czech Jews at Auschwitz.

His extraordinary humanitarian effort only became known in 1988 when his wife, Grete, found an old briefcase in the attic with lists of children and letters from their parents. His family took the scrapbook to Esther Rantzen’s That’s Life programme, where he was reunited on screen with one of the women he had saved.

He was finally reunited with hundreds of “Winton children”, and their children. Several films have been made of his life story.

The British prime minister, David Cameron, said: “The world has lost a great man. We must never forget Sir Nicholas Winton’s humanity in saving so many children from the Holocaust.”

Among others paying tribute, the home secretary, Theresa May, his local MP, described him as a “hero of the 20th century”.

“Against all the odds, he almost single-handedly rescued hundreds of children, mostly Jewish, from the Nazis – an enduring example of the difference that good people can make even in the darkest of times.”

“Because of his modesty, this astonishing contribution only came to light many years later.”

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who was chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991-2013, described his as a “giant of moral courage”.

“He was ‘the British Schindler’, all the more impressive for thinking that there was nothing special about what he did, seeking neither honour nor recognition”.

Born in London, he attended Stowe School and worked at the London Stock Exchange, then served in the RAF during the war before working as a banker and company director.

Michael Zantovsky, the Czech ambassador to London who became close friends with Winton after they met 20 years ago, said he was “a positive man who radiated good”.

“It was incredibly moving to be present at some of the gathering of him with his so-called children and the children of his children. They all owe their existence to him.”

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01 Jul

United States Wars, News and Casualties

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War News

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Afghanistan News

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07/01/15 KP: 10 soldiers martyred, 44 militants killed in military operations

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07/01/15 CBSNews: 2 U.S. soldiers injured in deadly car bomb attack in Kabul

Afghanistan Casualties, Exclusive of Civilians

Continue Reading »

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30 Jun

Teen goes to extraordinary lengths to give autistic twin the high school graduation to remember

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The Independent

Teen goes to extraordinary lengths to give autistic twin the high school graduation to remember

Submitted by Mark

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The pair developed their own language and worked to change people’s perception about autism

A teenager has earned herself an army of fans after she finally reached her goal to help her severely autistic twin brother across the stage at their high school graduation.

Anders Bonville, 18, from Birmingham, Alabama, was diagnosed with autism when he was two, which left him non-verbal but – along with his sister, Aly – the pair developed their own unique language and set out to alter perceptions of the condition.

When the siblings first started school, Aly told AutismSpeaks how the other children in their class excluded Anders because he was “different.” She remembered: “Having grown up with Anders, I couldn’t imagine not having him be part of classroom activities and so my mother and I made sure to always introduce him to other students and have him give them high-fives.

“Then, they would realise that – even though Anders has autism and couldn’t talk to them and made weird noises – he was just a kid like they were.”

There was a brief period when the pair was separated, for the first time ever, when Anders attended a different school: “Although I was sad,” said Aly, “I realised I could still help Anders be included in his classroom at the other school.”

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Aly with her brother, Anders, and the pair’s mother, Benida

When the other pupils became more curious about Anders and his likes and dislikes, Aly had to explain that he could only vocalise – and not actually speak – so she created an ‘Ask Aly’ box so that the other kids could submit questions about her brother.

She said: “The most important thing, besides educating these fifth-graders about special needs, was that it really humanised my brother.

“He would get to be a part of the classroom and would carry the box to them every day and interact with them while they submitted their questions, It made Anders a part of the classroom and made students more accepting of him.”

When the pair was finally reunited at Oak Mountain High School, Aly began to think about graduation almost straight away. “I quickly realised that my imagination included Anders walking with me at graduation and I began to think of a way to have him there next to me,” she said.

“For my mother and I, it was never a matter of ‘if’ Anders would walk with me at graduation.”

As the big day drew nearer, Aly signed up for a cap and gown and registered for her own diploma and well as her brother’s – but she kept it secret from her family and friends.

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Working closely with her teachers, though, she took into account the many things that could possibly go wrong: “Was he going to be mad, was he going to be content, would he be vocalising, would he be having a break down? All of these things were going through my head and I had a plan for each one in case something did not go as planned.”

Aly was called first on-stage to receive her diploma. With her brother being walked quietly behind a curtained area in his wheelchair to keep him calm, she quickly exited to get him before his name was called out.

Aly zoomed down the hallway with her brother in his wheelchair so that he would be happy when the big moment came.

Although the principal had ordered the audience to hold all applause until the end – the moment Aly took her brother’s hand and led him across the stage – the entire hall rose to its feet and erupted into applause – including the principal herself.

Telling Anders to high-five the principal as he walked off the stage, Aly and Anders’ moment couldn’t have been more perfect, she recalled: “Anders was smiling from ear to ear and I knew, from his eyes, that he understood he had just done something amazing.”

With Aly now set to head-off to Auburn University to study music, she expressed her vision for the future: “Our lives will never be perfect by any typical standards. But, it is our normal and it is perfect to us.”

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30 Jun

Federal report faults police actions during Ferguson unrest?

Federal report faults police actions during Ferguson unrest

FILE - In this Aug. 11, 2014 file photo, a protester yells at police outside the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department. Police antagonized crowds gathered to protest the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, violated free-speech rights and made it difficult to hold officers accountable, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report summary published Tuesday, June 30, 2015 by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

FILE – In this Aug. 11, 2014 file photo, a protester yells at police outside the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department. Police antagonized crowds gathered to protest the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, violated free-speech rights and made it difficult to hold officers accountable, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report summary published Tuesday, June 30, 2015 by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

ST. LOUIS — Police antagonized crowds who gathered to protest in Ferguson after Michael Brown’s death last summer, violated free-speech rights and made it difficult to hold officers accountable, according to a Justice Department report that found across-the-board flaws in law enforcement’s response.

The report summary, which covers the two-week period of unrest that followed a white officer fatally shooting the unarmed black 18-year-old in August, also faulted officers for inappropriately using tear gas, withholding information that should have been made public and relying on military-style equipment “that produced a negative reaction” in the community.

The summary is part of a longer after-action report to be released in the coming weeks focusing on the actions of police in Ferguson, St. Louis city and county and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Details of the summary were first reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Tuesday. The Associated Press later obtained a copy.

The report suggests that the protests after Brown’s death on Aug. 9 were aggravated by the community’s hostility toward Ferguson police and worsened when authorities didn’t quickly divulge details of his death.

“Had law enforcement released information on the officer-involved shooting in a timely manner and continued the information flow as it became available, community distrust and media skepticism would most likely have been lessened,” according to the document.

A grand jury and the Justice Department both declined to prosecute officer Darren Wilson, who is white and later resigned, but another Justice Department report released in March was critical of Ferguson police and the city’s profit-driven municipal court system.

The after-action report was announced in September by then-Attorney General Eric Holder and is separate from the other federal civil rights inquiries.

The summary, which includes 45 findings, identified a slew of poor policing tactics: The use of dogs for crowd control incited fear and anger, tear gas was sometimes used without warning on people who had nowhere to retreat and officers were inconsistent in using force and making arrests, the Justice Department said.

More broadly, though, the report chastised the Ferguson Police Department for failing to manage the community reaction and develop a long-term strategy, as well as for maintaining poor relationships with the black community — a problem that “over time led to devastating effects.”

“The protests were … also a manifestation of the long-standing tension between the Ferguson (Police Department) and the African-American community,” the report summary stated.

The report was prepared by the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services office, a component that works to build trust between police departments and the communities they serve. The office, which also conducts after-action reports on high-profile police responses, said Tuesday it’ll release its final report on the Ferguson response in coming weeks.

St. Louis Police spokeswoman Schron Jackson told the AP that department officials “are interested in the final report to identify what we did well and what we may need to improve upon.

“The department reached out to COPS to inquire about a blueprint for handling similar situations,” Jackson said in an email. “We were told none exist and we were forging new ground. Now, agencies around the country look to our region for input on issues relating to civil unrest.”

Representatives from the other police agencies who were analyzed either declined to comment Tuesday or did not return messages from the AP seeking comment.

Among the problems singled out in the report summary is the “highly elevated tactical response” that police used from the beginning, which set a tone that “limited options for a measured, strategic approach.” It acknowledges that a tactical response was sometimes called for, but an “elevated daytime response was not justified and served to escalate rather than de-escalate the overall situation.”

The report also found that police “underestimated the impact social media had on the incident and the speed at which both facts and rumors were spread and failed to have a social media strategy.”

In repeating “vague and arbitrary” commands for protesters to keep moving, the police wound up violating demonstrators’ First Amendment rights.

“While law enforcement must meet its duty to protect people and property during mass demonstrations and protests,” the Justice Department said, “it can never do so at the expense of upholding the Constitution and First Amendment-protected rights.”

Tucker reported from Washington, D.C.

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