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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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30 Jun

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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Greece faces deadline for reaching deal with creditors and making €1.6bn IMF payment, otherwise it will lose €7.2bn bailout funds

Rally in Athens on Monday against EU austerity and in favour of no vote in referendum.

Rally in Athens on Monday against EU austerity and in favour of no vote in referendum. Photograph: NurPhoto/REX Shutterstock/NurPhoto/REX Shutterstock

The Greek prime minister’s office has also announced that Tsipras has had telephone contact today with EU president Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi and European parliament president Martin Schultz, reports Helena.Helena Smith has more on a possible deal, with talk that Alexis Tsipras may be set to travel to Brussels soon to discuss it:

Reports are mounting that the Greek prime minister has not only accepted a deal but will travel to Brussels, possibly as early as this evening, to discuss it with senior EU officials.

The deal, based on reforms proposed by EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker late last night, is believed to have been rubber stamped at a meeting of senior government official held at the prime minister’s office, the Megaron Maximou, this morning. The German daily, Bild, is also backing up the reports, saying Tsipras has had contact with high ranking EU officials whom he will meet imminently. “The prime minister’s plane is at the ready,” the paper said……………….

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As today’s deadline passes, Iran’s foreign minister returns to Vienna with the country’s ailing nuclear chief for a few more intense days of extra time

Ready for action.  Cameras outside the Palais Coburg Hotel in Vienna, where a comprehensive nuclear deal is being negotiated.  EPA/GEORG HOCHMUTH

Ready for action. Cameras outside the Palais Coburg Hotel in Vienna, where a comprehensive nuclear deal is being negotiated. EPA/GEORG HOCHMUTH Photograph: GEORG HOCHMUTH/EPA

Today was supposed to be the big day, the deadline for completing a comprehensive and epochal nuclear agreement on the future of Iran’s nuclear programme. But, as with every other deadline along the road to this deal, some wiggle room has been found.

The negotiators now have an extra week or so before they face serious complications imposed by the US Congress, which would undoubtedly be mirrored by the Iranian Majlis. And there is clearly still a lot of work to do. Even if every detail was agreed, diplomats say it would still take a few days to get it down on paper and reviewed by lawyers. And there are still issues that have evidently not been agreed.

With that in mind, the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, returned to Vienna on Tuesday morning, after a day’s break for consultations in Tehran, accompanied by President Rouhani’s brother, Hossein Fereydoun, and the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, who is still recovering from surgery for a perforated bowel. Despite his fragile health, Salehi’s presence was seen as critical for resolving some of the outstanding technical issues rapidly.

Zarif, who has himself suffered from recurring back trouble throughout the talks, immediately went to see John Kerry, who is on crutches following a bicycle accident. A western diplomat suggested, mostly in jest, that it might have been more convenient to organise the talks in a hospital ward………………..

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Justices rule 5-4 to grant emergency appeal from clinics that will for now prevent state from enforcing restrictions that would have caused clinics to close

Texas abortion protest

Protesters demonstrate at the Texas state capitol in Austin in 2013. The state’s abortion laws have been in a legal back and forth. Photograph: Jay Janner/AP

The US supreme court stepped in to postpone reproductive-rights restrictions that would have left the vast state of Texas with fewer than 10 abortion clinics, allowing healthcare providers and women’s rights groups time to petition the nation’s highest tribunal to review their fate.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices granted an emergency appeal to suspend a ruling from a federal appellate court that upheld the most extreme provisions of Texas’s anti-abortion law. Chief justice John Roberts and his fellow conservative justices – Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito – all dissented.

Earlier this month, a three-judge panel on the fifth US circuit court of appeals, one of the nation’s most conservative courts, found that Texas could require abortion clinics to meet hospital-level operating standards, which opponents say are too expensive for small providers and clinics.

The supreme court’s surprise blockade on the shutdown still leaves the second most populous state in the US with just nine abortion clinics until at least autumn, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing the clinics in the challenge.

“The justices have preserved Texas women’s few remaining options for safe and legal abortion care for the moment,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “Now it’s time to put a stop to these clinic shutdown laws once and for all.”………….

Donald Trump’s attack on Mexico that prompted NBC to drop Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants – video

On 16 June, at his campaign launch for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, Donald Trump aired his views on immigration, saying: ‘[Mexico is] sending people that have lots of problems … They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.’ On Monday NBC Universal said that, because of this speech, it would no longer broadcast the Miss USA or Miss Universe pageants, which are co-owned by Trump

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Ken Paxton vows to defend clerks who refuse to register gay unions on religious grounds, but most counties are issuing licences

Ken Paxton

Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general. Photograph: Eric Gay/AP

The attorney general of one of America’s most conservative states has vowed to personally defend marriage clerks who refuse to register gay unions on religious grounds.

The move has sparked speculation that lawsuits could be in the offing challenging states’ obligations to deliver marriage equality following a supreme court ruling on Friday that same-sex marriage is a legal across the US.

Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, called the court’s decision “lawless”. He and the governor, Greg Abbott, issued a memo on Monday directing state employees to “respect and preserve Texans’ religious liberties”, which was interpreted as an invitation to defy the supreme court ruling.

“The government must never pressure a person to abandon or violate his or her sincerely held religious beliefs regarding a topic such as marriage,” Abbott wrote in the memo. “As government officials, we have a constitutional duty to preserve, protect and defend the religious liberty of every Texan.”

Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas, told the Washington Post that most of the 254 Texas counties were still issuing marriage licences to gay couples……………..

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US resumes military aid saying ‘meaningful progress’ had been made on human rights in the kingdom

Shia Bahrainis protest in Manama, Bahrain, on 22 February 2011.

Shia Bahrainis protest in Manama, Bahrain, on 22 February 2011. Photograph: Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters

The United States is resuming security aid to Bahrain’s military forces, saying there had been “meaningful progress” on human rights four years after the kingdom’s deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters.

“The administration has decided to lift the holds on security assistance to the Bahrain defence force and national guard that were implemented following Bahrain’s crackdown on demonstrations in 2011,” said a state department spokesman, John Kirby.

“While we do not think that the human rights situation in Bahrain is adequate … we believe it is important to recognise that the government of Bahrain has made some meaningful progress on human rights reforms and reconciliation.”

US officials did not specify what weapons, security equipment or systems would be transferred to Bahrain, but stressed that apart from items meeting a clear counter-terrorism need, the US “would maintain restrictions on security sales to the Bahrain ministry of interior [MOI]”.

The ministry “bore the preponderance of responsibility for government abuses in 2011”.

“We will lift this restriction as we determine that the government has taken additional, significant steps to improve MOI accountability and its treatment of detainees,” said Kirby.

Human Rights First condemned the decision, calling it a “major blow” to efforts to pressure Bahrain to implement human rights reform.

“There is no way to dress this up as a good move,” said a spokesman, Brian Dooley. “It’s bad for Bahrain, bad for the region and bad for the United States.”

He said Shia-majority Bahrain’s military was almost exclusively Sunni and expressed concern at increased sectarianism in the region……………

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Report by UN rights investigators accuses Sudan People’s Liberation Army of brutality and widespread abuses in civil war

South Sudanese government soldiers are accused of serious human rights abuses, including gang-rape and torture.

South Sudanese government soldiers are accused of serious human rights abuses, including gang-rape and torture. Photograph: Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images

South Sudan’s army raped then burned girls alive inside their homes during a recent campaign notable for its “new brutality and intensity”, a UN rights report said on Tuesday.

Rights investigators from the UN mission in the Republic of South Sudan (Unmiss) warned of “widespread human rights abuses”, including gang-rape and torture in a report based on 115 victims and eyewitnesses from the northern state of Unity, scene of some of the heaviest recent fighting in the 18-month-long civil war.

The military, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), launched a major offensive against rebel forces in April, with fierce fighting in Unity state’s northern Mayom district, once a key oil-producing area.

“Survivors of these attacks reported that SPLA and allied militias from Mayom county carried out a campaign against the local population that killed civilians, looted and destroyed villages and displaced over 100,000 people,” the UN said.

“Some of the most disturbing allegations compiled by Unmiss human rights officers focused on the abduction and sexual abuse of women and girls, some of whom were reportedly burned alive in their dwellings.”

Investigators said they had collected at least nine separate incidents where “women and girls were burned in tukuls (huts) after being gang-raped” as well as scores of cases of sexual violence, many the rape of mothers in front of their children…………

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30 Jun

United States Wars, News and Casualties

War News

Iraq News

ISIS cuts off the heads of 2 women for the first time in Syria

(IraqiNews.com) Baghdad – The ISIS has cut off the heads of two women for the first time in Syria, according…

Abadi dismisses the army chief of staff Gen. Babacar Zebari

(IraqiNews.com) Baghdad- Commander of the armed forces, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi decided on Monday the referral of army chief…

Pentagon: ISIS has fighting force able to cause great destruction

(IraqiNew.com) Baghdad – The US Department of Defense, “Pentagon” considered on Tuesday, that ISIS  has a “fighting force” able…

13 terrorists killed in Karma District, says Defense Ministry

(IraqiNews.com) Baghdad – The Ministry of Defense announced on Monday, the killing of 13 “terrorists” and the destruction of.

60 ISIS elements killed, 5 foreign militants captured in battle for Baiji, says official

(IraqiNews.com) Salahuddin – The commander of the Rapid Intervention Forces announced, on Monday, the killing of 60 ISIS fighters…

Clashes erupt between volunteer forces and ISIS militants in south of Tikrit

(IraqiNews.com) Salahuddin – On Monday, Kataib Hezbollah said, that the Kataib fighters are currently clashing with ISIS elements in…

06/30/15 IraqiNews: Clashes erupt between volunteer forces and ISIS militants in south of Tikrit

06/30/15 IraqiNews: 60 ISIS elements killed, 5 foreign militants captured in battle for Baiji, says official

06/30/15 IraqiNews: 13 terrorists killed in Karma District, says Defense Ministry

06/30/15 Reuters: Islamic State seen as potent force a year after caliphate declaration

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Afghanistan News

06/30/15 KP: Taliban shadow governor for Takhar’s Darqand District killed

06/30/15 KP: 11 soldiers martyred in Taliban attack in Herat

06/30/15 Reuters: One killed, 19 injured in Taliban suicide attack on NATO troops in Kabul

06/30/15 NATO: Resolute Support Casualty, June 27, 2015

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Afghanistan Casualties, Exclusive of Civilians

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