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Easter Sunday Bombs in Sri Lanka Target Christians and Tourists, Kill HundredsREUTERS/Dinuka LiyanawatteA series of coordinated bomb blasts at churches and hotels across Sri Lanka killed more than 200 people and left hundreds more injured on Easter Sunday in one of the worst bouts of violence in the island nation since civil war ended a decade ago.Four luxury hotels and three Catholic churches were among the highly populated areas that were targeted, according to the Associated Press. Officials told the AP that at least two of the blasts were carried out by suicide bombers. Late Sunday, Sri Lanka’s Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena said authorities apprehended several people suspected of being involved in the attacks, according to the Associated Press. Three police officers were reportedly killed during operations to arrest the suspects.A further improvised device was found at Bandaranaike International Airport by the Sri Lankan Air Force overnight Sunday. “A PVC pipe which was six feet in length containing explosives in it was discovered,” Air Force Spokesman Gihan Seneviratne told Sri Lanka’s main newspaper the Sunday Times.Two senior intelligence officials told The Daily Beast that a Sri Lankan police official had alerted security officials in an advisory ten days ago about a threat on churches though it remains unseen what, if any, safety measures were taken to protect worshipers. The document, which has been reviewed by The Daily Beast is written in Sinhala, but is dated April 11 and clearly states in English in all caps, “Information of an alleged plan attack.”  Sri Lanka’s prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, said he had not been informed, underscoring tensions within the government, the New York Times reported. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the calculated attacks.Both the Associated Press and AFP quoted local Sri Lankan intelligence officials that they had received warnings that “terrorist elements, including the radical Islamic organization NTJ, would carry out a suicide attack in certain churches during Easter.” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement Sunday confirming that “several Americans” had been killed in the attacks. “While many details of the attacks are still emerging, we can confirm that several U.S. citizens were among those killed,” he wrote in a statement. “These vile attacks are a stark reminder of why the United States remains resolved in our fight to defeat terrorism.”Officials told the Associated Press that at least nine foreigners are among those killed in Colombo, including two people who are dual citizens of the United States and the U.K. At least one American is among those reported missing, the news site said citing the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The dead include one Portuguese citizen and two U.K. citizens, the ministry said. Chinese State Media has confirmed death of one of its citizens, per the AP. All of the foreigners were killed in attacks on hotels.Emergency officials were still combing through the bomb sites for victims as night set in Sunday, but more tourists and foreign nationals are considered to be among the dead. The New York Times reports that the deadliest attack occurred at 8:45 a.m. at the St. Sebastian Catholic Church in the city of Negombo about 20 miles from the capital city of Colombo. Survivors posted photos on social media and described seeing bodies blown to bits, with flesh splattered on the church walls. “It was a river of blood,” a witness named N. A. Sumanapala, t0ld the Times. “The priest came out and he was covered in blood.”The Catholic churches of St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo and the Zion Church in Batticaloa on the eastern side of the island were also bombed, according to reports. Pope Francis, who visited the country four years ago to minister to the island nation’s Christian minority, expressed his condolences in his Easter Sunday mass in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. “I want to express my loving closeness to the Christian community, targeted while they were gathered in prayer, and all the victims of such cruel violence,” he said. “I entrust to the Lord all those who were tragically killed and pray for the injured and all those who are suffering as a result of this dramatic event.”Local media showed images of damage at the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels. One report showed the second-floor restaurant of the Shangri-La gutted. Sri Lanka has not seen such violence since the end of a 26-year civil war that ended over a decade ago. Then, rebels from the Tamil Tigers sought independence from the country’s Sinhala Buddhist majority. Sri Lanka’s prime minsiter Ranil Wickremesinghe called for calm on Twitter. “I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today. I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong,” he wrote. “Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation.”The BBC reported that British nationals were among the injured. Prime Minister Theresa May called the attacks “truly appalling” adding “no one should ever have to practice their faith in fear”.U.S. President Donald Trump also tweeted his condolences, “The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka. We stand ready to help!”The attacks sent officials around the world into high gear taking precautions at churches in preparation for Easter celebrations. A spokesperson for the NYPD confirmed to The Daily Beast that the department has ramped up domestic security measures in the wake of the attacks, and that officers will be visiting all houses of worship, with a focus Sunday on those offering Easter services. —With reporting from Pervaiz Shallwani and Victoria AlbertRead more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast here


4/21/2019 6:23:21 AM

Islamic State behind attack on Saudi security north of Riyadh: Arabiya TVThe assailants who attacked a state security building northwest of Riyadh on Sunday are Saudi militants who belong to Islamic State, Saudi-owned Arabiya TV said in a tweet, citing its own correspondent. Saudi state media said authorities thwarted the attack by four militants targeting the Mabaheth (domestic intelligence) station in Zulfi, a small city about 250 km (155 miles) northwest of the capital Riyadh. There has been no Islamic State claim of responsibility for the attack so far, and the authorities did not officially identify the assailants.


4/21/2019 10:14:15 AM

John Oliver Digs Into the 'Incredible' Mueller Report on 
 Last Week Tonight"Some of the details in this report were incredible,” said Oliver on Robert Mueller's report on Donald Trump's Administration


4/22/2019 6:43:01 AM

IS claims deadly attack on Afghan ministryThe Islamic State group Sunday claimed responsibility for an attack that killed 10 people and trapped around 2,000 for hours inside the communications ministry in the Afghan capital the previous day. Four IS jihadists detonated explosives near the ministry, then entered and "battled Afghan security forces with machine guns and hand grenades for numerous hours", the group said in a statement on its social media channels. The attack in central Kabul killed seven civilians and three members of the security forces, the interior ministry said on Sunday, in a new toll after three people died of their wounds.


4/21/2019 7:36:06 AM

Professor Who Scanned All of Notre Dame Died Months Before FireAndrew Tallon (Vassar College/Columbia University)Few people outside certain techie and cultural heritage circles had ever heard about self-described ‘gadget geek’ Andrew Tallon’s work until Monday, when Notre Dame cathedral in Paris went up in a cloud of smoke. Tallon, a Belgium-born Vassar College art professor who died six months ago at the age of 49, of terminal brain cancer, was the first—and the last—person to digitally scan the entire 850-year-old cathedral. He used special lasers to create one billion data points, which he did as a labor of love, driven by obsession. His precise measurements, which are accurate to within five millimeters or 0.1969 inches, are now the only modern record of the cathedral just as it was on the day it was partially destroyed, which will prove invaluable to those who hope to rebuild it—if French authorities ask for them.  Andrew Tallon (Vassar College/Columbia University)Tallon’s work wasn’t taken very seriously when he first started scanning structures. He majored in medieval music in Wisconsin and, for a time, contemplated becoming a monk. He ended up a tenured professor in Vassar’s art department. He learned digital scanning techniques on the side and eventually scanned 45 ancient buildings as a hobby. The holy grail was getting the access he needed to Notre Dame, which he finally got in 2015 shortly before he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Roberto Viola, the European Commission’s director-general for communications networks, content and technology, did take Tallon and his work seriously. And, in what is part creepy premonition and part forward thinking, on April 9—one week before the tragic fire—he used Tallon’s digitization of Notre Dame as an example of a “what if the worst would happen” scenario to try to convince 24 European countries to sign on to a declaration of cooperation on advancing digitization of cultural heritage. Viola says his group wants every major cultural heritage site in Europe digitized, both so they can be repaired if they are destroyed by natural or human disaster, and also so that fissures and other structural weaknesses can be found. “I knew I was right, but I had no idea just how right,” he told The Daily Beast about the need for digitization of ancient structures. “I wish Dr. Tallon could have seen how important his work would be.”Tallon became obsessed with Notre Dame when he was in the fourth grade. That year he lived in Paris with his mother while she worked on her theater history dissertation, and he spent all his free time inside the cathedral. “I had this little guidebook and I annotated it like a nutcase,” he told National Geographic in 2015. “I longed to know the usual questions. Who made that thing? How did they make it? Could I ever go up in one of those passages?”But he couldn't tell his art colleagues what he was doing, so he kept his obsession with the Gothic cathedral and his dream to digitize it a secret. “I have a career I don’t really tell my French colleagues about because they’ll think I’m not serious,” he said. Andrew Tallon (Vassar College/Columbia University)Work to digitally scan structures is both expensive and time-consuming. Tallon created a billion data points with his laser scanners inside Notre Dame by taking panoramic laser scans from 50 different spots, including from the high rafters that are sadly no longer there. He also took panoramic photographs at each scanning point, which he then used as a background for the scans to help create an exact replica of the building. All the data can be melded together to create a full 3-D model that will be exactly to scale. French authorities have not yet asked for Tallon’s data, but Vassar said on Thursday that it would be happy to cooperate if they do. “If eventually the authorities wish to use this, then of course it would be shared with them,” Tallon’s former student on the project Lindsay Cook told the AFP. Still, it will take decades to digitally scan every vulnerable historical building just in case something happens to it. Tallon eventually won grants to fund his passion, and Vassar cooperated by providing the digital storage. Copies of some of the scans are also at Columbia University, where they were used on a joint project called “Mapping Gothic” that Tallon was working on when he died last November.  Currently, only 10 percent of the world’s historic sites are digitized, Tibor Navracsics, the E.U.'s commissioner for education and culture, said at the April 9 meeting. “We need to find ways to make our cultural heritage accessible to all. Digital means have an important role to play in this,” he said. “Everyone should have the opportunity to discover how they belong to the complex tapestry that is Europe, no matter their socio-economic background.”In many ways, Tallon could save Notre Dame twice. When he finished his scans of Notre Dame four years ago, he noticed vulnerable areas that looked like they would soon crumble and sounded the alarm bell to a number of groups that privately raised funds for restoration. While the French government was ultimately stingy with funding, Tallon warned that if repairs weren’t made, the whole building could collapse. “The damage can only accelerate,” he told Time magazine in 2017. “The more you wait, the more you need to take down and replace.”On the morning after the fire, Viola tweeted his worst fears. “I fell asleep hoping to wake up from a bad dream,” he wrote. “Europe is full of wonders that no one will bring us back. Preserving with digitization is important for us & for future generations. Close to the Parisians. With NotreDame we've lost a piece of our history.”  Now, thanks to Tallon’s obsession, they know exactly what the lost treasure looked like. Read more at The Daily Beast.


4/20/2019 9:23:21 PM

Israeli election may have dimmed hopes for 2-state solutionJERUSALEM (AP) — Is the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict dead?


4/21/2019 12:13:36 AM

The 8 best deals and sales you can get online this SundayWhat better way to relax and recharge than with some retail therapy?


4/21/2019 8:32:53 AM

Here's An Idea: The Air Force Builds 200 B-21 Stealth BombersThe B-21 has disappeared into the “black” world of military technology, and will only reemerge when the bomber is ready.On October 27, 2015, nearly thirty-four years to the day after Northrop Grumman was awarded the contract to develop the first stealth bomber, the U.S. Air Force awarded Northrop a contract for a new bomber: the B-21 Raider. While many of the details of the Raider are shrouded in mystery, we do know a few things about it, and can infer others.(This first appeared in 2017.)The B-21 Raider bomber takes its name from both the twenty-first century and the legendary 1942 raid by Gen. James “Jimmy” Doolittle’s force of B-25 Mitchell bombers against targets in and around Tokyo, Japan. In invoking the Doolittle Raid, the Air Force is drawing attention to attack’s audacious nature, the strategic and tactical surprise, and the epic distances General Doolittle and his “raiders” flew to accomplish their mission.Recommended: Why Doesn't America Just Kill Kim Jong-un?


4/21/2019 8:00:00 PM

How 11 People Are Trying to Stop Fake News in the World’s Largest ElectionOne of the operations most vital to Facebook Inc. at this moment is a world away from its Menlo Park, California, headquarters, and in more ways than one. This is Boom Live, one of seven tiny fact-checking firms at the heart of Facebook’s efforts to rebuild some of its credibility during India’s elections. Based on the early tallies, more than 60 percent of India’s 900 million eligible voters are expected to cast ballots between now and May 19, as the center-left Congress Party tries to seize power from the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party.


4/22/2019 1:20:53 AM

Sri Lanka attack victims: British mother and son killed while Labour MP's relative also among deadA British mother and son were killed while eating breakfast at a five-star Sri Lankan hotel as a string of suicide bombs ripped through the country on Easter Sunday, killing almost 300 people. Alex Nicholson, 11, his mother, Anita, 42, were killed while dining at the second-floor restaurant in the Shangri La hotel in the country’s capital, Colombo, on Sunday as it was gutted in one of several explosions which hit the country. The schoolboy’s father, Ben, survived, while The Telegraph was unable to account for the whereabouts of the couple’s youngest daughter. Mr Nicholson is not believed to have suffered life-threatening injuries and was seen at the capital’s Judicial Medical Office with his ear plastered. He was said to be left “completely in shock”. The couple both work as lawyers in Singapore, according to their professional profiles online. Mr Nicholson is understood to be a partner in the Singapore office of Kennedys Legal Solutions and advises clients on insurance law. His corporate profile describes him as a committee member of the Asia Power Forum and “a strong supporter of [the insurance sector in Asia] and a regular at events in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand”. Meanwhile, according to her LinkedIn profile, Mrs Nicholson was a former legal adviser to HM Treasury in London from 1998 to 2010 and relocated to Singapore to work for the oil giant, BP, in April 2012. Her profile lists her current place of employment as managing counsel at the mining and metals company, Anglo American. Alex and Anita were killed while dining at the Shangri La hotel in Colombo Credit: Facebook Mrs Nicholson shared photos of her family on social media sporting the kit of the British and Irish Lions Rugby team. In 2013 she shared a photo of her smiling son sitting between England fly half, Owen Farrell and Wales winger, George North. Her social media photographs also show her pictured at a fundraising even for First Hand, a Singapore-based volunteer group dedicated to helping children and families in Cambodia. The Nicholson family were among at least five British nationals - including two dual US citizens - caught up in the Easter Sunday attacks after a series of explosions which ripped through churches and luxury hotels. The US authorities are leading on the developments regarding the dual nationals, whose identity remains unknown. Alex Nicholson pictured with Lions rugby players Owen Farrell, left, and George North Credit: Facebook Tulip Siddiq, the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, said she lost a relative in the attacks. "It is all so devastating," she wrote on Twitter. "Solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka." News of the death of the British nationals came as the first victims of the Easter bombings were named as a television chef, Shantha Mayadunne, and her London-based daughter, Nisanga. They had been staying at the Shangri-La hotel in the capital Colombo, which was one of four hotels bombed on Sunday morning. Nisanga, believed to be aged in her 30s, had posted a photo of the family in the hotel shortly before the explosion with the caption, "Easter breakfast with my family". Six sites across the country were hit with almost simultaneous explosions, with officials saying two smaller blasts followed a few hours later. The Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand hotels, all in Colombo, were targeted, and three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo's Kochchikade district were also hit during Easter services, leaving blood-stained pews, rubble and body parts strewn all over the buildings. Shantha Mayadume, a television chef, and her daughter Nilanga were also killed Credit: Twitter Hours later, a further two explosions occurred at a guesthouse in Dehiwala and near an overpass in Dematagoda, on the outskirts of Colombo. Three police officers died near the overpass after entering a property to question suspects following a tip-off. Mahen Kariyawasan, former president of the SriLanka Inbound tour operators (SLAITO), told The Telegraph that he met Mr Nicholson on Sunday as he went to the capital’s general hospital to help survivors. “They were at the Shangri La hotel when the explosion happened,” he said. “That’s where they got injured.” Mr Kariyawasan said that Mr Nicholson also met James Dauris, the UK's High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, who has been visiting British victims in hospital. The attache later took to Twitter to condemn the "deplorable violence". “I've been speaking this afternoon with Brits in hospital who have been affected by today's senseless attacks,” the High Commissioner said. “My team's and my thoughts go out to all those people who are suffering as a result of the deplorable violence SriLanka has witnessed this Easter Sunday.” Read more | Sri Lanka attacks The Nicholson family are believed to have been in Sri Lanka for around a week and had booked their trip via Adhvan Tours, a spokeswoman said. “I spoke to Ben in the morning,” she said. “Naturally he was shaken up. The hospital authorities are very supportive. I think he was in shock.” Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry said the nationalities of 11 foreigners killed in the Easter Sunday blasts have been verified. Three Indians, one Portuguese and two Turkish nationals were killed, while a further nine foreigners were also reported missing. A Dutch and a Chinese national have been reported among the victims, while Japan also confirmed one of its citizens was killed. pic gallery The Easter attacks mark the worst bloodshed Sri Lanka has seen since its brutal civil war ended a decade ago. The authorities said 290 people were killed and around 500 injured in the attacks, most of which were blamed on suspected suicide bombers. No one has taken responsibility for the killings. A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said: "We can confirm that British nationals were among those killed in today’s horrific attacks in Sri Lanka. “Our staff are supporting the relatives of the victims and are continuing to work with the relevant authorities to obtain further information. We extend our deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones and all those affected by this senseless tragedy.”


4/21/2019 5:14:20 PM

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