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Berkshire Bank parent holds annual meeting

first_imgBerkshire Bank,Berkshire Hills Bancorp, Inc. (NASDAQ: BHLB) held its annual meeting of shareholders on May 5 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. President and CEO Michael P Daly reported on Berkshire’s recent accomplishments and outlook. He discussed Berkshire’s plans to increase core earnings per share by 40-50% in 2011, and noted a 25% increase in core earnings in the most recent quarter. He reviewed the Company’s strong capital, liquidity, and asset quality. Daly reported on the progress towards completing the pending merger with Legacy Bancorp in the third quarter of 2011 and summarized Berkshire’s financial goals, including achieving a$2.00 core earnings per share run rate by the end of 2012. He also reported that Berkshire’s stock produced a 10.5% total return to shareholders in 2010, maintaining a five year total stock return above the industry average.Shareholders approved all proposals which were presented at the meeting. These were:The election of the following four existing directors to new three year terms: Michael P. Daly,Susan M. Hill, Cornelius D. Mahoney and Catherine B. MillerApproval of a non-binding proposal to give advisory approval of the Company’s executive compensation programs and policies  Approval of a non-binding proposal to have shareholders annually vote on executive compensationApproval of the 2011 Equity Incentive PlanRatification of the selection of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP as Berkshire’s independent registered public accounting firm for fiscal year 2011BACKGROUNDBerkshire Hills Bancorp is the parent of Berkshire Bank – America’s Most Exciting Bank(SM).  The Company has $3.2 billion in assets and 48 full service branch offices in Massachusetts, New York, andVermont.  The Company provides personal and business banking, insurance, and wealth management services.  Berkshire Bank provides 100% deposit insurance protection for all deposit accounts, regardless of amount, based on a combination of FDIC insurance and the Depositors Insurance Fund (DIF). The Company completed the acquisition of Rome Bancorp on April 1, 2011 and currently has a pending agreement to acquire Legacy Bancorp. For more information, visit www.berkshirebank.com(link is external) or call 800-773-5601.  FORWARD LOOKING STATEMENTSCertain statements contained in this news release that are not historical facts may constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (referred to as the Securities Act), and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (referred to as the Securities Exchange Act), and are intended to be covered by the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.  You can identify these statements from the use of the words “may,” “will,” “should,” “could,” “would,” “plan,” “potential,” “estimate,” “project,” “believe,” “intend,” “anticipate,” “expect,” “target” and similar expressions.These forward-looking statements are subject to significant risks, assumptions and uncertainties.  Factors that could cause actual results to differ from those discussed in the forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to: local, regional, national and international economic conditions and the impact they may have on us and our customers and our assessment of that impact, changes in the level of non-performing assets and charge-offs; changes in estimates of future reserve requirements based upon the periodic review thereof under relevant regulatory and accounting requirements; the effects of and changes in trade and monetary and fiscal policies and laws, including the interest rate policies of the Federal Reserve Board; inflation, interest rate, securities market and monetary fluctuations; political instability; acts of war or terrorism; the timely development and acceptance of new products and services and perceived overall value of these products and services by users; changes in consumer spending, borrowings and savings habits; changes in the financial performance and/or condition of our borrowers; technological changes; acquisitions and integration of acquired businesses; the ability to increase market share and control expenses; changes in the competitive environment among financial holding companies and other financial service providers; the quality and composition of our loan or investment portfolio; the effect of changes in laws and regulations (including laws and regulations concerning taxes, banking, securities and insurance) with which we and our subsidiaries must comply; the effect of changes in accounting policies and practices, as may be adopted by the regulatory agencies, as well as the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, the Financial Accounting Standards Board and other accounting standard setters; changes in our organization, compensation and benefit plans; the costs and effects of legal and regulatory developments, including the resolution of legal proceedings or regulatory or other governmental inquiries and the results of regulatory examinations or reviews; greater than expected costs or difficulties related to the opening of new branch offices or the integration of new products and lines of business, or both; and/or our success at managing the risk involved in the foregoing items.Additional factors that could cause the results of Berkshire to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements can be found in the filings made by Berkshire with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the Berkshire Hills Bancorp Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2010 and the Berkshire Hills Bancorp Registration Statement on Form S-4 for the registration of common stock to be issuable upon the planned completion of the merger of Legacy Bancorp, Inc.  Berkshire’s actual results, performance or achievements, or industry results, may be materially different from the results indicated by these forward-looking statements. In addition, Berkshire’s past results of operations do not necessarily indicate future results. You should not place undue reliance on any of the forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the dates on which they were made.Berkshire is not undertaking an obligation to update these forward-looking statements, even though its situation may change in the future, except as required under federal securities law.  Berkshire qualifies all of its forward-looking statements by these cautionary statements.ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FOR STOCKHOLDERSThe proposed transaction with Legacy Bancorp, Inc. will be submitted to its stockholders for their approval and to Berkshire’s stockholders for their approval.  In connection with the proposed Legacy merger,Berkshire has filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) a preliminary Registration Statement on Form S-4.  When it becomes final and effective, it will include a Proxy Statement of Legacy Bancorp and a Proxy Statement/Prospectus of Berkshire, as well as other relevant documents concerning the proposed transaction.  Stockholders are urged to read these documents as they become available and any other relevant documents filed with the SEC, as well as any amendments or supplements to those documents, because they will contain important information.  A free copy of the Proxy Statement/Prospectus as well as other filings containing information about Berkshire Hills and Legacy may be obtained at the SEC’s Internet site (http://www.sec.gov(link is external)).  You will also be able to obtain these documents, free of charge, from Berkshire Hills Bancorp at www.berkshirebank.com(link is external) under the tab “Investor Relations” or from Legacy Bancorp by accessing Legacy Bancorp’s website at www.legacy-banks.com(link is external) under the tab “Investor Relations.”Berkshire and Legacy and certain of their directors and executive officers may be deemed to be participants in the solicitation of proxies from the stockholders of Legacy Bancorp in connection with the proposed merger.  Information about the directors and executive officers of Berkshire Hills Bancorp is set forth in the proxy statement for Berkshire Hills Bancorp’s 2011 annual meeting of stockholders, as filed with the SEC on a Schedule 14A on March 24, 2011.  Information about the directors and executive officers of Legacy Bancorp is set forth in the proxy statement for Legacy Bancorp’s 2010 annual meeting of stockholders, as filed with the SEC on a Schedule 14A on March 25, 2010.  Additional information regarding the interests of those participants and other persons who may be deemed participants in the transaction may be obtained by reading the Proxy Statement/Prospectus documents regarding the proposed mergers as they become available.  Free copies of these documents may be obtained as described in the preceding paragraph.NON-GAAP FINANCIAL MEASURESThis document contains certain non-GAAP financial measures in addition to results presented in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (“GAAP”).  These non-GAAP measures provide supplemental perspectives on operating results, performance trends, and financial condition.  They are not a substitute for GAAP measures; they should be read and used in conjunction with the Company’s GAAP financial information.  A reconciliation of non-GAAP financial measures to GAAP measures is included in the accompanying financial tables.  In all cases, it should be understood that non-GAAP per share measures do not depict amounts that accrue directly to the benefit of shareholders.  The Company utilizes the non-GAAP measure of core earnings in evaluating operating trends, including components for core revenue and expense.  These measures exclude amounts which the Company views as unrelated to its normalized operations, including merger costs and restructuring costs.  Similarly, the efficiency ratio is also adjusted for these non-core items.  Additionally, the Company adjusts core income to exclude amortization of intangibles to arrive at a measure of the underlying operating cash return for the benefit of shareholders.  The Company also adjusts certain equity related measures to exclude intangible assets due to the importance of these measures to the investment community.  Non-GAAP adjustments in 2010 and 2011 are primarily related to expense charges related to the Rome and Legacy mergers.SOURCE Berkshire Hills Bancorp, Inc. PITTSFIELD, Mass., May 6, 2011 /PRNewswire/ —last_img read more

Shelly Sterling talks about Donald, Clippers sale: ‘I just did what I had to do’

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Prospective buyers started lining up. She got an offer of $1.65 billion from David Geffen, and she said an Egyptian princess was entering the bidding war.Ballmer called her at 7 a.m. on a Saturday.“He was really enthusiastic,” she recalled. “He said I want to come see you immediately.”She put him off until the next day and quickly called a girlfriend to find out who he was.“He was a like a little child. He was so excited, so happy,” she said of their meeting. “We sort of connected. I felt he would be good for the team.” She said he asked her how much others had offered and then bid $1.9 billion. Though that was far more than most believed the team was worth, Shelly Sterling wasn’t satisfied.“I told him, ‘You won’t have to build an arena or a practice field.’ So he was getting a bargain. And I told him, ‘We have great players, a great coach, and you’ll never have the chance to buy a team in Los Angeles again.”After her speech, she recalled, “He said, ‘OK, I’ll give you 2.’ He really, really wanted the team.”She said she extracted a promise that he would never move the team to Seattle, his hometown. The deal closed after a bitter probate fight with her husband.Ballmer gave Shelly Sterling the title “owner emeritus” and said she would have floor tickets for all games.In a wide-ranging interview just days before her 80th birthday, the elegant, blond wife of the beleaguered real-estate mogul exuded the energy and enthusiasm of a much younger woman. For a half-century she had worked in Donald’s shadow, renovating and decorating their properties while he built their business empire.“I never liked the spotlight. I didn’t like to get up and speak,” she said. “But you don’t know your potential until you’re thrown into something.”She was thrown into the center of a publicity maelstrom with the release of explosive audiotapes of her husband denouncing his young girlfriend for bringing black men, including former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson, to Clippers games.She declined to discuss details of her legal battle with V. Stiviano, the woman who released the tapes.“I think it was very unfortunate that she would have done what she did,” Sterling said, adding, “She ruined our lives for our whole family.”Once Ballmer’s offer was accepted the drama moved to probate court. Sterling had removed her husband from the family trust, saying he was suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Doctors testified, but he insisted he was in full control of his faculties. When she tried to approach him in court, he growled, “Get away from me, you pig.”It was a painful moment in a 59-year marriage, and she said he has since apologized. She blames his illness.The marriage has had rough patches, she said, and they have been estranged since the death of their diabetic son from a drug overdose last year.She remembered their high school romance, when “he crashed my 16th birthday party,” and the years they spent building a real-estate empire with 160 apartment buildings in Los Angeles.Asked if she knew her husband was unfaithful to her over the years, she said, “I can’t say if I was blind to it or I didn’t know to ask. I was raising my three kids, and I was very involved in taking care of the buildings … There were always excuses that he was working with one girl or another. Maybe I didn’t want to realize it.”She considered divorcing Donald but was told by lawyers it was of no benefit.“What’s the point at our age?” she said. “I still feel sorry for him. I think he’s going to make it right, and he’ll be OK.”These days, “We’re on better terms,” she said. “We try not to talk about the case. We have a business together so we have to talk.”Asked about Donald’s mental condition, she said, “He’s been a little better, a little sweeter and softer. Losing the team he loved was very hard on him. But I’ll always feel it’s our team.”center_img When Shelly Sterling was approached by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer about buying the Los Angeles Clippers, the wife of disgraced team owner Donald Sterling did not know who he was. But in short order, she persuaded him the team was worth an unprecedented $2 billion.In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Shelly Sterling offered details about how she negotiated one of the richest deals in sports after her husband’s racist comments to a girlfriend became public and prompted the NBA to ban him for life and decree he give up the team. At that point, Shelly Sterling stepped in.“I was given the task, and I did it,” she said Thursday. “I just did what I had to do.”She signed up well-known litigator Pierce O’Donnell. He asked how much she wanted for the team, and she handed him a piece of paper on which was written, “$1.5 to $2 (billion),” shocking figures for a franchise that until recently was a perpetual loser.last_img read more

World Cup 2018: Sweden stand in the way as England aim to reach semis

first_imgEngland take on Sweden on Saturday for a place in the World Cup semi-finals. While the 1966 champions are aiming to reach the last four for the third time in their history, Sweden would reach their fifth semi-finals if they beat England.Sweden reached the semis in 1938, 1950, 1958 (when they were hosts and would go on to play in the final) and in 1994 in the USThe English qualified for the semi-finals in 1966, (when they won the World Cup on home soil) and 1990.The fact that England needed extra time and penalties to defeat Colombia in the last 16 shows that while the supposedly easier half of the draw may not have the heavyweight names, it is still going to produce tight contests.England’s John Stones said before the match that his team is wary of the threat Sweden pose.”There are no easy games. I think if you say it’s an easy game in a quarter-final of a World Cup, then you are pretty stupid to say that,” said Stones.”They’ve got a lot of quality. They play very structured from the back, sit quite deep from what we’ve seen, and we know what we’re up against.2018 FIFA WORLD CUP: FULL COVERAGE”Sometimes they can throw you these teams, they can go kind of under the radar, but there is no question they are a good team. They wouldn’t be where they are if they weren’t,” he said.The highlight of Sweden’s campaign so far was beating Mexico 3-0 to top its group, and Janne Andersson’s side then won a tight contest with Switzerland in the last 16.advertisementSweden have, of course, enjoyed some memorable World Cup campaigns in the past — reaching the final on home soil in 1958 where they lost to Brazil and then the semi-finals in 1994 where again the South Americans ended their dreams.World Cup 2018: Southgate wants England to make most of golden opportunitySwedish captain Andreas Granqvist isn’t worried about England enjoying the greater possession and expects his team to stick to their tried and tested approach.”If you look at the games we have played, the opponent has had more ball possession than we have, but we have created more chances, more dangerous chances,” Granqvist said.”This is how we play, this is what we need to do, this is our strength, and we also need to see our quality against other strong teams. This is the way for us to have success, and we’re going to continue this way”.England could be without substitute striker Jamie Vardy who has a groin injury, but they are hoping that left-back Ashley Young’s ankle knock won’t keep him on the sidelines and that midfielder Dele Alli’s thigh injury isn’t a major problem.The last time the pair met in a competitive fixture was at the European Championship in 2012, when Roy Hodgson’s England won 3-2 thanks to a Danny Welbeck winner.Overall from 24 meetings, England have won eight to Sweden’s seven, with nine games ending in a draw.(With Reuters inputs)last_img read more

Media’s Preseason All-SEC Teams Released, Alabama Leads The Way On The First Team

first_imgA day after the media’s SEC preseason poll was released, the preseason All-SEC teams have been released. Unsurprisingly, Alabama has the most selections on the conference’s first-team with six players. Ole Miss, Georgia, LSU and Auburn are also well represented. Here are all three offensive and defensive teams.   SEC Preseason TeamsSEC Preseason Teams SEC Preseason Teams 2SEC Preseason Teams 2 SEC Preseason Teams 3SEC Preseason Teams 3 SEC Preseason Teams 4SEC Preseason Teams 4 SEC Preseason Teams 5SEC Preseason Teams 5 SEC Preseason Teams 6SEC Preseason Teams 6 SEC Preseason Teams 7SEC Preseason Teams 7 SEC Preseason Teams 8SEC Preseason Teams 8 SEC Preseason Teams 9SEC Preseason Teams 9Nothing too surprising. These teams will surely look a lot different at the end of the season, though.last_img read more

Russell Simmons To Host Annual Art For Life Benefit

first_imgRussell Simmons and Danny Simmons will host the 15th Annual ART FOR LIFE benefit, Saturday, July 26th in Bridgehampton.Soledad O’Brien will emcee the evening that will honor Michael Bloomberg, Valentino D. Carlotti, Jason Flom, Kimora Lee Simmons and Featured Artist Carrie Mae Weems for their career achievements and philanthropic work.The event’s Honorary Chair is Star Jones; and Event Chairs are Jamison Ernest, Kimberley Hatchett, Rhonda R. Mims, Camilla Olsson and Josue Sejour (The Sejour Group); with music by DJ M.O.S. Events sponsors include Gold Sponsor BOMBAY SAPPHIRE Gin and Bronze Sponsor Target.Launched in 2000, ART FOR LIFE is Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation’s primary fundraising event. This year’s benefit will celebrate the gala’s “15” year milestone; highlighting youth that have grownup through our Rush programs, and honoring exemplary individuals who have supported the Foundation’s mission throughout the years.This year’s coinciding ART FOR LIFE online auction via Charitybuzz will launch on July 17th and will run through August 7th. Highlights include: Dinner with Miss Universe Gabriela Isler, Be a Roadie for a day with John Legend, Meet and Greets with Heidi Klum, Michael Strahan and more!
In addition there will be an ART FOR LIFE Art Auction on Charitybuzz from August 27th thru September 17th with select works available during a live auction held at Christie’s NYC on September 8th. The art auction includes works from 2014 AFL Featured Artist Carrie Mae Weems, as well a past Featured Artists Rashid Johnson (2013), Shepard Fairey (2009), Kehinde Wiley (2006); along with His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, Yoko Ono, Sante D’Orazio, and many more!Proceeds from ART FOR LIFE benefit the Foundation’s signature arts education and gallery programs, which directly serve over 3,000 inner-city youth each year. Founded in 1995 by brothers Russell, Danny and Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons, Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation is dedicated to providing inner-city youth with significant exposure and access to the arts, as well as providing exhibition opportunities to under-represented and emerging artists.For more information, visit www.rushphilanthropic.org.WHEN: Saturday, July 26thWHERE: Fairview Farms19 Horsemill Lane Water Mill, NYTICKETS: To purchase tickets, please contact Tracey Doolin at Inez Weinstein Special Events, Inc., at (212) 254-6677 or via email [email protected] Tickets available online here.last_img read more

Trudeau considering more action to keep foreign dumped steel out of Canada

first_imgPrime Minister Justin Trudeau admits he still has some questions about what proposed US tariffs on our steel and aluminum exports could have on Canadian companies.Trudeau made the comments in Hamilton, after meeting with local steelworkers.While this tour is mainly aimed at reassuring workers, the prime minister tells CHCH News that he’s also speaking with industry leaders about what the global tariffs could mean for Canada moving forward.“How will that impact the Canadian steel industry? The Canadian aluminum industry? Will that create a privileged access for us in the US market? Are there things that we can be doing?”Trudeau says he has already spoken with President Donald Trump about foreign steel dumping and is willing to take further action, if necessary, to protect our industry.“Whether it’s Chinese or Russian or wherever, we’ve actually strengthened both the controls and the sort of barriers to that easy entry.”The prime minister adds he is still working hard to gain a permanent exemption to these tariffs and has made it clear the US argument of national security makes no sense.Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is in Washington for a series of meetings to push our message on tariffs and NAFTA.last_img read more

Local Fort St John man wins 50000000

first_imgVANCOUVER, B.C. – After matching all four Extra numbers on the June 21st, 2019 Lotto Max draw local, Kim Peck plans to purchase new horses.“We were at a graduation dinner, and somebody said someone in Fort St. John had won $500,000, which a friend said is not a lot of money anymore, but I thought ‘It’s better than a kick in the butt,” said PeckAccording to the BCLC, the 66-year-old winner is a hard-working husband, father and grandfather who is excited to use his winnings to retire, invest in some horses and get back into his hobby of rodeo roping. “When I found out I had won, I told my wife and she was pretty happy! She didn’t believe me at first until I showed her my ticket.”“(The win) means the bills will all be paid off and the house is ours,” Peck said. I haven’t done roping for three years now, and I would like to pick that back up. I have been working a lot in the past, so it will be nice to have more time off.”British Columbians have claimed over $96 million in Lotto Max prizes so far in 2019 and the BCLC offers socially responsible gambling entertainment while generating income to benefit British Columbians.The BCLC shares, play for fun, not to make money.Visit GameSense.com.last_img read more

UPA govt did not take steps that had to be taken after

first_imgNew Delhi: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Thursday claimed the UPA government did not take the steps it should have after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and there would have been more deterrence against such terror strikes had it been proactive. Addressing the Delhi BJP workers, she said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always been talking about a zero tolerance policy against terrorism. “Whatever had to be done after 26/11 Mumbai attacks was not done by the previous government. Had it been more proactive, there would have been more deterrence,” Sitharaman said. In case of the Pulwama terror attack, in which 40 CRPF men were killed, she said the government waited for 10-12 days and after getting intelligence inputs that suicide bombers were again going to launch attacks, the air force struck their camps in Pakistan, she said.last_img read more

Another Arab Spring

first_imgThe Arab Spring that swept much of the Arab countries eight years ago seems to be knocking at the doors of the Arab world once again if one goes by the recent eruption of anti-government protests in Algeria and Sudan. The protesters in these countries are voicing the same sentiments that led to uprisings also known as Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria in 2011. Tens of thousands of people from all sections of society have been demonstrating across Algeria since last month, after the country’s 82-year-old wheelchair-bound ailing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his decision to run for a fifth term in the presidential elections to be held on April 18. Also Read – A special kind of bondThe protestors turned out not just in the capital Algiers and major cities of Oran and Constantine but also in cities and town such as Batna, Blida, Skikda, Borja Bour Arreridj and elsewhere. They had no organisers. Initially, it began online by demonstrating the power and reach of social media, particularly among the youth. Later, people from other generations also actively participated in the demonstrations. The protestors also highlighted corruption and unemployment plaguing the country and demanded an overhaul of a stagnant political system dominated by veterans of the 1954-62 war of independence against France. Also Read – Insider threat managementAfter many days of silence and perhaps sensing the public mood, Bouteflika – who has been in power since 1999 – in a letter read out on the state television on March 11, announced that he would not seek the office for a fifth term but gave no indication of whether he would step down when his mandate expires next month. The Algerian leader, who has barely appeared in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, also postponed the April elections and announced that a new constitution would be put to a referendum. There was no word as to when either would be held. This shows that “he gives in on the presidential but not on power,” independent newspaper El Watan wrote in an editorial titled “Bouteflika’s last trick”. Ali Benflis who worked as Bouteflika’s prime minister from 2000 to 2003 before launching his own party, Talaie El-Hurriyet, and establishing himself as one of the leading opposition figures said in a Facebook post: “The extension of the fourth term is an act of aggression against the constitution by non-constitutional forces (hinting at the shadow advisers surrounding the president, mainly his brother Said).” Continued protests in various cities, even after Bouteflika’s letter, sent a clear message that the demonstrators do not intend to back down. Four of Bouteflika’s long-ruling counterparts – in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya were all ousted following the 2011 Arab uprisings. Although some observers have likened the protests to the 2011 Arab uprisings, many said this comparison is reductive and fails to account for Algeria, whose power structure extends beyond the leadership’s inner circle and whose history or revolutionary fervour and pro-democracy activism that led to a multiparty system in 1988 remain important. However, it is to be noted that young Algerians have no bond with the independence war except through their grandparents. Their priorities are to get employment and better services that the North African country is failing to provide despite its oil and gas wealth. The country’s opposition also remains badly fragmented. Although Algerian analysts have spoken for promoting prominent figures within the political system, it remains to be seen if this would happen. Bouteflika also promised “deep reforms” and an “inclusive and independent national conference” that would lead to a “transformation of our nation state”, and fixed polls. He also removed the “unpopular” Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and appointed the high-profile 59-year-old interior minister Noureddine Bedouin in his place. However, initiatives by the veteran revolutionary to defuse the situation have failed to satisfy many Algerians who want the power to move to a younger generation with fresh ideas. There is no indication that the demonstrations will come to an end in the near future. Bedouin said his government would rule for “a short period of time” and an independent commission will oversee the next presidential election. He also urged opposition to accept dialogue but lawyers and activists, who protestors have chosen to lead the drive for reforms, are in no mood to compromise and have said that they will not negotiate, at least for now. Albara, a town in northeastern Sudan, last erupted in protest on December 19 against the military dictatorship that has ruled the country for almost three decades following a tripling of bread prices to demand “freedom, peace, justice and the downfall of the regime.” The protests intensified into nationwide demonstrations against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s three-decade regime. Demonstrators set fire to the ruling National Congress Party’s headquarters. On February 22, the government declared a state of emergency and imposed curfew in towns where some of the first protests took place. Several tough measures including a ban on unauthorised rallies and permitting security forces to carry out raids and searches without warrants have been imposed. Schools and universities were closed. National newspapers were censored or shut down. Internet service was disrupted and mobile phone operators restricted access to WhatsApp and other social media sites. At least 31 people have officially died so far in actions by security forces against the protestors. However, the Human Rights Watch has put the death toll at 51. Even on Thursday, scores of protesters rallied in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, as Bashir swore in a new cabinet to tackle the economic crisis that has triggered months of protests against his rule. Possibly, this represented the greatest threat to the regime of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir since he came to power in a military coup in 1989. Observers say that Bashir is unlikely to give in to such protests as during his three decades in power he has never hesitated to unleash violence against his own population. However, it is clear that decades of pent up frustration of the people against the ruling class is slowly finding its release. Sudan has for years been grappling with soaring inflation and an acute shortage of foreign currency, especially since the secession of the South in 2011 that took away the bulk of oil earnings. The sustained popular uprising in both Algeria and Sudan seems to be gathering force, indicating that Arab uprising is resuming but it is too early to predict the outcome. (The author is a former Editor of PTI. He has also served as West Asia Correspondent for PTI, based in Bahrain from 1988 to 1995. The views expressed are strictly personal)last_img read more

Over 130 ISlinked suspects in Lanka Prez Sirisena

first_imgColombo: Over 130 suspects linked to the Islamic State (IS) terror group have been operating in Sri Lanka, President Maithripala Sirisena said Friday, days after the terror outfit claimed responsibility for the Easter bombings that claimed the lives of 253 people. The president said that several suspects have already been arrested following the Easter Sunday attacks, and the terror network will be completely eliminated from Sri Lanka. Information is that around 130-140 ISIS suspects linked to the terror network are in Sri Lanka. Around 70 are arrested, we will arrest them all very soon ending this (terror),” Sirisena said. Speaking further, the president said the Defence Secretary and Inspector General of Police had failed in their duties and that is why he called for their resignation. He said that they had failed to share prior information obtained by them over a possible terror attack in the country. The president added that he and the entire Government will also take the full responsibility for the attacks. Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara and defence secretary Hemasiri Fernando have resigned from their posts over the security establishment’s alleged failures which led to the attacks on three hotels and three churches on Sunday. “The IGP has resigned. He has sent his resignation to the acting defense secretary. I’ll nominate a new IGP soon,” the president said. The police chief’s resignation came a day after the country’s defence secretary Hemasiri Fernando handed over his resignation letter to the president. Nine suicide bombers carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and three luxury hotels on Easter Sunday. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the government has blamed a local Islamist extremist group National Tawheed Jamath (NTJ) for the attacks. Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan police which wrongly identified an American Muslim woman as a suspect in the deadly bombings on Easter Sunday has apologised for the goof-up, according to media reports on Friday. The police on Thursday issued a flyer with the names and photos of six persons — three men and three women — wanted in connection with the attacks that killed 253 people. On the flyer, a photograph of Amara Majeed was put wrongly by Sri Lankan authorities, identifying her as a suspect linked to the bloodshed. The name attached to the picture was Abdul Cader Fathima Khadiya — but the picture was of Baltimore-born Majeed, whose parents are from Sri Lanka. “I have this morning been FALSELY identified by the Sri Lankan government as one of the ISIS Easter attackers in Sri Lanka,” she tweeted. “What a thing to wake up to!” Around 253 people died and hundreds were injured in the Sri Lanka attacks, where suicide bombers struck three hotels and three churches. “This is obviously completely false and frankly, considering that our communities are already greatly afflicted with issues of surveillance, I don’t need more false accusations and scrutiny,” Majeed wrote on Twitter. “Please stop implicating and associating me with these horrific attacks,” Majeed urged. “And next time, be more diligent about releasing such information that has the potential to deeply violate someone’s family and community.” Sri Lankan police confirmed the error in a statement, saying “the individual pictured is not wanted for questioning”. Nine persons are suspected of carrying out the deadly attacks, and dozens have been arrested. The authorities blamed a local Islamist extremist group, National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), soon after the blasts but said the bombers must have had outside help.last_img read more

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