Nigerian Police Rescue 67 From ‘Inhuman’ Conditions at Islamic ‘School’

Police in northern Nigeria rescued nearly 70 men and boys from a second purported Islamic school where they were shackled and subjected to “inhuman and degrading treatments.”

The raid in Katsina, the northwestern home state of President Muhammadu Buhari, came less a month after about 300 men and boys were freed from another supposed Islamic school in neighboring Kaduna state where they were allegedly tortured and sexually abused.

“In the course of investigation, sixty-seven persons from the ages of 7 to 40 years were found shackled with chains,” Katsina police spokesman Sanusi Buba said in a statement.

Men and boys are pictured after being rescued by police in Sabon Garin, in Daura local government area of Katsina state, Nigeria, Oct. 14, 2019.

“Victims were also found to have been subjected to various inhuman and degrading treatments.”

The raid occurred on Oct. 12 in Sabon Garin in the Daura local government area of Katsina state. Police issued a statement Monday and said they were working to reunite the victims with their families.

Police arrested one man, 78-year-old Mallam Bello Abdullahi Umar, for running what they called an “illegal detention/remand home.”

Lawai Musa, a trader who lived near the center, told Reuters by phone that families sent unruly men and boys there believing it was an Islamic teaching facility that would straighten them out and teach them Islamic beliefs.

“The way he is treating the children is un-Islamic” he said. “We are not happy, they were treated illegally.”

Islamic schools

Islamic schools, known as Almajiris, are common across the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria. Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), a local organization, estimates about 10 million children attend them.

In June, President Buhari, himself a Muslim, said the government planned to ban the schools, but would not do so immediately. After the incident in Kaduna, the president issued a statement calling on traditional authorities to work with government to expose “unwanted cultural practices that amount to the abuse of children.”

Buhari’s office declined to immediately comment on the Katsina raid, saying it would issue a statement after a full briefing from police.

“The command enjoins parents to desist from taking their children/wards to illegal, unauthorized or unapproved remand/rehabilitation centers,” the police statement said.
 

California Regulator Sanctions Utility Over Power Outages

California’s top utility regulator blasted Pacific Gas and Electric on Monday for what she called “failures in execution” during the largest planned power outage in state history to avoid wildfires that she said “created an unacceptable situation that should never be repeated.”
 
The agency ordered a series of corrective actions, including a goal of restoring power within 12 hours, not the utility’s current 48-hour goal.

“The scope, scale, complexity, and overall impact to people’s lives, businesses, and the economy of this action cannot be understated,” California Public Utilities Commission President Marybel Batjer wrote in a letter to PG&E CEO Bill Johnson.
 

FILE – Pacific Gas and Electric employees work in the PG&E Emergency Operations Center in San Francisco, Oct. 10, 2019.

PG&E last week took the unprecedented step of cutting power to more than 700,000 customers, affecting nearly 2 million Californians. The company said it did it because of dangerous wind forecasts but acknowledged that its execution was poor.
 
Its website frequently crashed, and many people said they did not receive enough warning that the power was going out.
 
“We were not adequately prepared,” Johnson said at a press conference last week.

PG&E spokespeople did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment on the sanctions.

In addition to restoring power faster, the PUC said the utility must work harder to avoid such large-scale outages, develop better ways to communicate with the public and local officials, get a better system for distributing outage maps, and work with emergency personnel to ensure PG&E staff are sufficiently trained.
 
She ordered the utility to perform an audit of its performance during the outages that began Wednesday, saying the utility clearly did not adopt many of the recommendations state officials have made since utilities was granted the authority to begin pre-emptive power shutoffs last year. The review is due by Thursday, and she ordered several PG&E executives to appear at an emergency PUC hearing Friday.

Governor’s criticism
 
Gov. Gavin Newsom has also criticized PG&E for its performance during the outage, blaming what he called decades of mismanagement, underinvestment and lousy communication with the public. On Monday the Democratic governor urged the utility to compensate affected customers with a bill credit or rebate worth $100 for residential customers or $250 for small businesses.

Newsom said the shutoffs affected too many customers for too long, and it is clear PG&E implemented them “with astounding neglect and lack of preparation.”

Batjer’s letter also said that PG&E’s service territory, design of its transmission lines and distribution network and “lack of granularity of its forecasting ability” mean it can’t do pre-emptive power shut-offs as strategically as some other utilities, but she said it must work harder to reduce the number of customers affected by future outages.
 

У Запоріжжі День захисника України відзначили ходою ветеранів

14 жовтня в Запоріжжі відбулася урочиста хода на честь Дня захисника України. У ній взяли участь ветерани війни на Донбасі, волонтери та родини загиблих на Донбасі військових, повідомляє кореспондент Радіо Свобода.

Учасники акції з національними прапорами та стягами військових частин, де служили бійці, пройшлися центром. Попереду ходи йшли рідні загиблих на Донбасі українських бійців. Закінчилася акція на майдані Героїв Революції, де відбувся мітинг.

«Свято велике – і свято Покрови, і день козацтва, день створення УПА, День захисника України. Саме захисника Ми не розподіляємо. Як вже казали, нема різниці це чоловік або жінка, бо жінки так само стоять на бороні нашої держави, так само гідно відстоюють волю, незалежність. На сьогоднішній день для захисників не має значення як називається ворог, яке ім’я носить: чи це «зелені чоловічки», чи можливо військові збройних сил Московії, чи це якісь сепаратисти. Як би ворог не назвався, наші захисники зроблять все, щоб цього ворога було знищено, тому що іншої мови з ворогом бути не може», – заявив під час мітингу співорганізатор акції, ветеран війни на Донбасі Михайло Пирог.

 

В Україні 14 жовтня відзначають День захисника, встановлений державним святом 14 жовтня 2014 року для «вшанування мужності та героїзму захисників незалежності і територіальної цілісності України».

Свято встановили на заміну радянському 23 лютого. Дату обрали не випадково. В Україні в цей день також відзначають День Покрови Пресвятої Богородиці, День українського козацтва та річницю створення УПА. Богородиця також вважалася покровителькою українських козаків та інших українських збройних формувань.

День захисника України є державним святом.

As Cambodia’s Opposition Leader Plans Return, Government Cracks Down

To protect her family, Him Taing Or lied to local authorities that she and her husband had divorced.

Her husband, Oun Srean is a deputy head of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in Cambodia’s northwest Uddar Meanchey province, on the border with Thailand.

To protect his family, Oun Srean fled Cambodia when Cambodia’s Supreme Court in November 2017 dissolved the CNRP, which represented a growing challenge to Hun Sen, the prime minister for more than three decades. His ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) oversaw a purge of more than 5,000 local CNRP representatives who lost their positions after the party’s dissolution. They were banned from political activity.

The result was that after billions of dollars spent in international effort to build democracy in Cambodia since the early 1990s, Hun Sen won all 125 seats in parliament in the July 2018 national election, and now enjoys an increasingly authoritarian one-party rule.

And for the past month, the Hun Sen government has been doubling down on CNRP supporters because the self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy announced on August 18 that he plans to return to Cambodia on November 9. The official position is that this amounts to “plotting a coup.” The government has made clear that that anyone who supports Rainsy will face legal action.

Dozens of opposition members have been arrested since Rainsy’s announcement. Local TV news programs, all on stations controlled by the government or its allies, feature file footage of demonstrations against Hun Sen in 2013, when the opposition questioned election results that kept him and the CPP in power.

In Cambodia, where 1.7 million people died between 1975 and 1979 as the Khmer Rouge attempted to create a Marxist agrarian paradise, there’s a wariness of anything that might trigger instability. The TV footage in regular rotation shows government forces keeping the peace by shooting water cannons at the protestors.

Soeung Sen Karona, a spokesman for the Cambodian human rights group Adhoc, which has followed the threats against the opposition, said the situation has worsened since Sam Rainsy’s announcement. Adhoc has received written and verbal complaints from activists who have fled and from their families. “Activists and supporters are now scared,” said Soeung Sen Karona.

Police visit

Before the government dissolved the CNRP, “Police came to my house several times,” said Him Taing Or. “So, I told them I have divorced [my husband],” she told VOA Khmer in a recent interview at a restaurant in Anlong Veng, a onetime Khmer Rouge stronghold now best known as the gravesite of Pol Pot, the regime’s mastermind who died in 1998.

“I went to Thailand to live with my husband for a while in July 2018 and then came back in November,” said Him Taing Or, 47, the mother of two children.

“I told local authorities a year ago that I have divorced,” she said.

Him Taing Or, who earns about $5 a day packing rice cookies made in her village, is afraid of giving an interview at her home because she believes she is under surveillance by local authorities.

Oun Srean has been a wanted man since October 7 when he was charged with “plotting” because he backed Sam Rainsy’s return. Him Taing Or found out authorities has issued an arrest summons for her husband when her father called with the news.

“I am worried that he will be arrested and jailed,” she said, knowing that the Uddar Meanchey provincial municipal court asked local police to arrest him.

Oun Srean is just one of dozens of activists who have been charged with “plotting.”

The opposition activists arrested this month and who have been charged with “plotting” face prison terms of up to 10 years if found guilty. Others are in hiding or have fled the country.

“The political situation is still dire for the opposition in Cambodia,” said Ear Sophal, an associate professor in diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College, Los Angeles, California. “Phnom Penh loves power and money more than freedom and democracy.”

Unafraid activist

Chhun Vean, a former deputy CNRP commune chief from the Kdey Run commune in Siem Reap province, now works in construction in Thailand. “I am not scared or willing to stop my work for democracy in Cambodia,” he said.

A banner of outlawed opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, hung at Chek Chhun’s house in Siem Reap province’s Kdey Run commune, October 11, 2019.

The Siem Reap provincial court issued a summons dated October 8 for the opposition activist in Pouk district’s Kdey Run commune. VOA obtained a copy of the summons.

Chhun Vean joined a precursor to the CNRP in 2008, a year marked by CPP-dominated national elections. He became active in commune politics. “That is why they want to intimidate me, to stop me.”

 “Cambodia’s courts are a tool politicians use to threaten their opponents,” said Chhun Vean, the 30-year-old father of a six-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son. His wife is with him in Thailand, and the children are with their grandparents in Cambodia.

The summons allows him to confess. If he does, he will be released and the charges dropped.

The government has been making good on this promise. When Seng Sokhun, a former CNRP commune chief in Phnom Penh, confessed on video on October 10, the government dropped charges. Local media featured the story which lit up social media.

On Friday, as VOA spoke with Chhun Vean’s 67-year-old father Chek Chhun, police vehicles drove by his house in Tapang village of Siem Reap province’s Pouk district’s Kdey Run commune.

“They may come and question me,” said Chek Chhun, who was once active in the opposition and now worries about his son. “There are no equal political rights. I don’t know what to say now.”

More arrests threatened

Hun Sen has threatened to deploy the military if CNRP leaders and supporters return from exile with Sam Rainsy. On Monday, he threatened to arrest opposition activists living in Thailand.

“Those who are in Bangkok, it is not certain that you will be safe,” he said. “I will arrest and bring you all back.”

His threat is not empty. Cambodia and Thailand signed an extradition agreement in 2001, and Thai authorities have handed over opposition activists in the recent past.

“Under the military guided government of [Prime Minister] Prayut Chan-ocha, it’s clear Thailand is no longer safe for opposition activists,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch in an email.

“There’s no doubt Thailand is prepared to sell or barter Cambodian asylum seekers and refugees in exchange for favors from Phnom Penh,” he added.

The Thai government did not respond to a request for comment.

Mork Vanvuthy, a former CNRP council member in Bansayrak commune, is also wanted by Hun Sen’s government and living outside Cambodia.

“I have not done anything illegal. We expressed our opinion,” said Mork Vanvuthy, 47, adding that if he remained in Cambodia, “I would die or be jailed.”

Sok Thai, 37, a villager in Cambodia’s Kampong Thom province, said her husband, Nou Phoeun was arrested early in September because he expressed his political opinions and criticized the government about the price of rice in their neighborhood and online. Three other Kampong Thom province activists were arrested at the same time, she said.

Increased violence

Human rights advocates are concerned that more activists will be arrested and violence against CNRP sympathizers will increase as Rainsy’s return date nears.

“Cambodia is intensifying its campaign of repression against CNRP activists because they want to prevent the return of Sam Rainsy and the other senior CNRP leaders in exile,” said Robertson. “It’s likely it will get even worse the closer we get to November 9.”

On September 22, Sam Rainsy’s bodyguard, Pouk Chanda, was beaten on a Phnom Penh street. He suffered head injuries.

Sim Bona, a former CNRP commune chief in Phnom Penh’s Koh Dach commune was attacked September 25 by an unidentified man wielding an iron pipe.

“They tried to beat my head but I had a helmet,” he told VOA Khmer at his home in Koh Dach commune the day after the assault. Sim Bona, 59, defended himself at a cost: the attacker broke his left arm in three places.

Others in the opposition told VOA the beatings may have been a form of political retribution or intimidation.

Phay Siphan, a government spokesman, said making accusations against the government is the CNRP “culture.”

“Whenever there are victims, [they say] it is political,” he said. “I don’t want to have a prejudgment. Let’s wait for the investigation.”

Back in Anlong Veng, Him Taing Or, who takes herbal medicine daily for diabetes and high blood pressure, is hopeful that her husband will be able to return without fear of arrest or jail.

“Life is difficult since we are separated,” said Or. “I hope that my husband can come back and we live together.”

Biles Dazzles on Floor to Win Record 25th World Championship Medal

American Simone Biles became the most decorated gymnast in world championship history on Sunday when she won the beam and floor finals to take her career tally to 25 medals.

Soon after securing a convincing victory on the beam in Stuttgart to overtake Belarusian Vitaly Scherbo’s record tally of 23 world medals, the 22-year-old Biles successfully defended her floor title to win medal number 25.

The four-time Olympic champion is now the owner of 19 gold medals across four championships against 12 for Scherbo, who competed in five world events between 1991 and 1996.

Making her final appearance of the week in front of a raucous crowd, Biles wasted no time as she landed a superb triple-twisting double back flip — known as the Biles II – on her first pass.

Biles’s double layout with a half turn — another skill named after her — put her out of bounds for a 0.1 penalty but she did enough to post a winning score of 15.133.

“Honestly, I just couldn’t move. I was so tired,” Biles said of her final pose on the stage.

“This is really the best worlds performance I have ever put out.”

The Americans took a one-two finish as Sunisa Lee finished with 14.133 for the silver medal, while Russian Angelina Melnikova came third.

<!–[if IE 9]><![endif]–>FILE - US gymnyst Simone Biles poses with her gold medal for artistic gymnastics during the victory ceremony at the Rio Olympic Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 16, 2016.
Olympic Champ Simone Biles Says She was Abused by Doctor

Simone Biles watched as her friends and former Olympic teammates came forward to detail abuse at the hands of a now-imprisoned former USA Gymnastics team doctor.Drawing in part from their strength, the four-time gold medalist acknowledged Monday she is among the athletes who were sexually abused by Larry Nassar.Biles, who won five medals overall at the 2016 Olympics, released a statement via Twitter outlining that abuse.

BEAM BRILLIANCE

Earlier, Biles delivered a polished routine on the beam before a full twisting double tuck dismount for an impressive 15.066.

Although Biles had twice before won the world beam title, in 2014 and 2015, it has not always been plain sailing for her on the apparatus.

Her slip on the landing of a front tucked somersault at the 2016 Rio Olympics meant she had to settle for a bronze in the event. Last year again, she dropped off the beam during the women’s all-around final at the world championships.

But she has regained her swagger this week, under the watchful eyes of balance beam coach Cecile Landi, and posted top scores in all four attempts — qualifying, the team and all-around finals and Sunday’s apparatus final.

“It meant a lot because Cecile has really been working on bringing my confidence back up to where it used to be on the beam,” Biles said.

“To go out there and nail the routine, just like I do in practice, it felt really good and I knew she was really proud.”

As another title-winning score was announced in the arena, Biles punched the air in jubilation before joining celebrations with the U.S. team.

“I was really excited,” she added. “I thought it was going to be at least 14.8, 14.9, but to see 15, I was like well that’s pretty crazy, so I was very proud.”

Last year’s winner Liu Tingting of China took silver with 14.433, while team mate Li Shijia won the bronze.

Biles finished her campaign in Stuttgart with five gold medals from six events to mark ideal preparations for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Her barnstorming run included a record fifth all-around gold, an individual vault title, as well as helping the U.S. to a fifth straight world team title.