Vietnam quarantines rural community of 10,000 because of coronavirus

Vietnam quarantines rural community of 10,000 because of coronavirus
By Phuong Nguyen

HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam has quarantined a community of 10,000 people near the capital, Hanoi, for 20 days because of fears the coronavirus could spread there, two local officials told Reuters on Thursday.

The rural commune of Son Loi, in the northern Vietnameseprovince of Vinh Phuc, 44 km (27 miles) from Hanoi, is home to11 of the 16 coronavirus cases in the Southeast Asian country,including a three-month-old baby.

“Over 10,000 residents of the commune will not be permitted to leave for the next 20 days, starting from today,” the second of the two the officials told Reuters on Thursday.

“As of this evening, we will still allow those who wish to return home to enter but, in the next few days, this place will be totally be sealed,” the official told Reuters by phone.

Both officials declined to be identified citing the sensitivity of the situation.

The coronavirus arrived in Vinh Phuc after people from the province who had been in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected, returned home to Vietnam for the Lunar New Year holiday.

The province is home to factories operated by Japan’s Honda and Toyota.

On Wednesday, state media indicated that Vietnam’s Communist-ruled government could completely seal off the Son Loi commune.

On the same day, a Reuters photographer could see checkpoints manned by police and marked by coronavirus warning signs already in place outside Son Loi. People were still allowed to enter and leave the commune, which has a population of 10,641, according to official data.

Health officials wearing protective suits sprayed disinfectant on vehicles at the checkpoints. Local authorities have set up shops and provided food and face masks for residents there, the first official said.

“Everything is still under control,” said the official. “We are trying very hard to stop the virus spreading to other areas and provinces.”

Vietnam declared a public health emergency over the epidemic on Feb. 1 and banned all flights to and from China, where more than 1,300 people have died from the virus.

The southeast Asia country has made plans to quarantine hundreds of Vietnamese citizens returning from China, including 950 at military camps outside Hanoi, and another 900 at temporary facilities on the Vietnam-China border.

(Editing by John Stonestreet and Barbara Lewis)

Mass shooting rumor in Facebook Group shows private chats are not risk-free

By Bryan Pietsch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ahead of the annual Blueberry Festival in Marshall County, Indiana, in early September, a woman broadcast a warning to her neighbors on Facebook.

“I just heard there’s supposed to be a mass shooting tonight at the fireworks,” the woman, whose name is held to protect her privacy, said in a post in a private Facebook Group with over 5,000 members. “Probably just a rumor or kids trying to scare people, but everyone keep their eyes open,” she said in the post, which was later deleted.

There was no shooting at the Blueberry Festival that night, and the local police said there was no threat.

But the post sparked fear in the community, with some group members canceling their plans to attend, and shows the power of rumors in Facebook Groups, which are often private or closed to outsiders. Groups allow community members to quickly spread information, and possibly misinformation, to users who trust the word of their neighbors.

These groups and other private features, rather than public feeds, are “the future” of social media, Facebook Inc <FB.O> Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in April, revealing their importance to Facebook’s business model.

The threat of misinformation spreading rapidly in Groups shows a potential vulnerability in a key part of the company’s growth strategy. It could push Facebook to invest in expensive human content monitoring at the risk of limiting the ability to post in real time, a central benefit of Groups and Facebook in general that has attracted millions of users to the platform.

When asked if Facebook takes accountability for situations like the one in Indiana, a company spokeswoman said it is committed to maintaining groups as a safe place, and that it encourages people to contact law enforcement if they see a potential threat.

Facebook Groups can also serve as a tool for connecting social communities around the world, such as ethnic groups, university alumni and hobbyists.

Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging platform faced similar but more serious problems in 2018 after false messages about child abductors led to mass beatings of more than a dozen people in India, some of whom have died. WhatsApp later limited message forwards and began labeling forwarded messages to quell the risk of fake news.

FIREWORKS FEAR

The Blueberry Festival post caused chaos in the group, named “Local News Now 2…(Marshall and all surrounding Counties).”

In another post, which garnered over 100 comments of confusion and worry, a different member urged the woman to report the threat to the police. “This isn’t something to joke about or take lightly,” she wrote.

The author of the original post did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Facebook’s policy is to remove language that “incites or facilitates serious violence,” the company spokeswoman said, adding that it did not remove the post and that it did not violate Facebook’s policies because there “was no threat, praise or support of violence.”

Cheryl Siddall, the founder of the Indiana group, said she would welcome tools from Facebook to give her greater “control” over what people post in the group, such as alerts to page moderators if posts contain certain words or phrases.

But Siddall said, “I’m sorry, but that’s a full-time job to sit and monitor everything that’s going on in the page.”

A Facebook spokeswoman said page administrators have the ability to remove a post if it violates the group’s proprietary rules and that administrators can pre-approve individual posts, as well as turn on post approvals for individual group members.

In a post to its blog, Facebook urged administrators to write “great group rules” to “set the tone for your group and help prevent member conflict,” as well as “provide a feeling of safety for group members.”

David Bacon, chief of police for the Plymouth Police Department in Marshall County, said the threat was investigated and traced back to an exaggerated rumor from children. Nonetheless, he said the post to the Facebook group is “what caused the whole problem.”

“One post grows and people see it, and they take it as the gospel, when in actuality you can throw anything you want out there,” Bacon said.

(Reporting by Bryan Pietsch; Editing by Chris Sanders)

Israel to name new town on Golan after Trump: Netanyahu

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they pose on the West Wing colonnade in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

GOLAN HEIGHTS (Reuters) – Israel said on Tuesday it would name a new community on the Golan Heights after U.S. President Donald Trump as an expression of gratitude for his recognition of its claim of sovereignty over the strategic plateau.

Israel captured the Golan from Syria in a 1967 war and annexed it, in a move not recognized internationally. The United States broke with other world powers last month when Trump signed a decree recognizing Israeli sovereignty there.

“All Israelis were deeply moved when President Trump made his historic decision,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video statement made on the Golan.

He added that, after the Jewish Passover festival, he would “bring to the government a resolution calling for a new community on the Golan Heights named after President Donald J. Trump.”

Trump’s Golan move followed his decision in December 2017 to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, breaking with decades of U.S. policy over the status of a city contested by the Palestinians.

Israel has said separately that, in appreciation of the U.S. president, it intends to name a proposed train station near Jerusalem’s Western Wall after him.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Fire engulfs London tower block, at least 12 dead, dozens injured

Flames and smoke billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

By Kylie MacLellan and Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) – A blaze engulfed a 24-story housing block in central London on Wednesday, trapping residents as they slept and killing at least 12 people in an inferno that the fire brigade said was unprecedented in its scale and speed.

More than 200 firefighters, backed up by 40 fire engines, fought for hours to try to control the blaze, London’s deadliest for a generation. The Grenfell Tower apartment block was home to about 600 people.

A local residents’ group said it had predicted such a catastrophe on their low-rent housing estate that overlooks affluent parts of the Kensington area of the capital, and London Mayor Sadiq Khan said there were questions to answer.

Prime Minister Theresa May promised there would be a proper investigation into the disaster, which delayed her talks on trying to secure a parliamentary deal to stay in power and launch talks on Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Some residents screamed for help from behind upper-floor windows and others tried to throw children to safety as flames raced through the Grenfell block of about 120 apartments just before 1 a.m.

Firefighters said they had rescued 65 people – some in pyjamas – from the 43-year-old block.

“We could see a lot of children and parents screaming for ‘Help! Help! Help!’ and putting their hands on the window and asking to help them,” Amina Sharif told Reuters.

“We could do nothing and we could see the stuff on the side was falling off, collapsing. We were just standing screaming and they were screaming.”

TYING SHEETS TOGETHER

Another witness, Saimar Lleshi, saw people tying together sheets to try to escape.

“I saw three people putting sheets together to climb down, but no one climbed down. I don’t know what happened to them. Even when the lights went off, people were waving with white shirts to be seen,” Lleshi said.

The fire sent up plumes of smoke that could be seen from miles away. The ambulance service said 68 people were being treated in hospital, with 18 in critical condition.

More than 16 hours after the fire started, crews were still trying to douse flames as they sought to reach the top floors.

But London police commander Stuart Cundy told reporters he did not believe further survivors would be found in the building.

At a nearby community center used to house some of those rescued, tensions were rising as occupants waited for news.

“The fire, which was unprecedented in its scale and speed, will be subject to a full fire investigation,” said Steve Apter from the London Fire Brigade. “Any lessons learnt from this will be borne out not just across London, across the UK – and lessons learnt globally.”

The emergency services said it was too early to say what had caused the inferno, which left the block a charred, smoking shell. Some residents said no alarm had sounded. Others said they had warned repeatedly about fire safety in the block.

The building had recently undergone an 8.7 million pound ($11.08 million) exterior refurbishment, which included new external cladding and windows.

“We will cooperate with the relevant authorities and emergency services and fully support their enquiries into the causes of this fire at the appropriate time,” Rydon, the firm behind the refurbishment work, said in a statement.

CHILDREN THROWN TO SAFETY

Residents who escaped told how they woke up to the smell of burning and rushed to leave through smoke-filled corridors and stairwells.

There were reports that some leapt out of windows. Other witnesses spoke of children including a baby being thrown to safety from high windows.

Tamara, one witness, told the BBC: “There’s people, like, throwing their kids out, ‘Just save my children, just save my children!'”.

Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn said sprinkler systems should be installed in such blocks and he called on the government to make a statement in parliament.

Fire Minister Nick Hurd said local authorities and fire services across the country would assess tower blocks undergoing similar renovation work to provide reassurance.

“In due course when the scene is secure, when it is possible to identify the cause of this fire, there will be proper investigation and if there are any lessons to be learned, they will be and action will be taken,” May said.

Khan, the London mayor, said there needed to be answers after some residents said they had been advised they should stay in their flats in the event of a fire.

“What we can’t have is a situation where people’s safety is put at risk because of bad advice being given or, if it is the case, as has been alleged, of tower blocks not being properly serviced or maintained,” Khan said.

Resident Michael Paramasivan told BBC radio he had spoken to a woman who lived on the 21st floor: “She has got six kids. She left with all six of them. When she got downstairs, there was only four of them with her. She is now breaking her heart.”

(Additional reporting by Lina Saigol, David Milliken, Costas Pitas, Kate Holton, Neil Hall, Elisabeth O’Leary, Alistair Smout, Megan Revell and Oli Rahman; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Residents shield Christians in bold exodus from Philippines city

Soldiers onboard military trucks ride along the main street as government troops continue their assault on insurgents from the Maute group, who have taken over large parts of Marawi City, Philippines. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

By Tom Allard

MARAWI CITY, Philippines (Reuters) – More than 160 civilians walked out of the besieged Philippines city of Marawi just after dawn on Saturday, deceiving Islamist fighters they encountered by hiding the identity of the many Christians among them.

The audacious exodus came after text message warnings that a major assault by Philippines aircraft and ground troops was imminent in the center of the southern city, where some 250 militants and more than 2,000 civilians remain trapped.

“We saved ourselves,” said Norodin Alonto Lucman, a well-known former politician and traditional clan leader who sheltered 71 people, including more than 50 Christians, in his home during the battle that erupted on May 23 in the town of more than 200,000 on the southern island of Mindanao.

“There’s this plan to bomb the whole city if ISIS don’t agree to the demands of the government,” he said, referring to local and foreign fighters who have sworn allegiance to the ultra-radical Islamic State.

Many evacuees told Reuters they had received text messages warning of a bombing campaign.

“We had a tip from the general commander that we should go out,” said Leny Paccon, who gave refuge to 54 people in her home, including 44 Christians. “When I got the text, immediately we go out … about 7 o’clock.”

By then, Lucman and his guests had begun their escape march from another area, holding white flags and moving briskly.

“As we walked, others joined us,” he told reporters. “We had to pass through a lot of [militant] snipers.”

Some of the civilians were stopped and asked if there were any Christians among them, said Jaime Daligdig, a Christian construction worker.

“We shouted ‘Allahu akbar’,” he told Reuters, adding that thanks to that Muslim rallying cry they were allowed to pass.

Those who fled included teachers from Dansalan College, a protestant school torched on the first day of the battle.

Christians have been killed and taken hostage by the militants, a mix of local fighters from the Maute Group and other Islamist outfits, as well as foreigners who joined the cause under the Islamic State banner.

The vast majority of Filipinos are Christian, but Mindanao has a larger proportion of Muslims and Islam is followed by the vast majority in Marawi City.

ROTTING BODIES, DEBRIS

Lucman said that many of those trapped were on the verge of starvation, which also gave them the courage to leave.

He described a scene of devastation in the town center, where the streets were strewn with rotting bodies and debris. “I almost puked as we were walking,” Lucman said, estimating that there were more than 1,000 dead.

Official government estimates recorded 120 militants, 38 government forces and 20 civilians as dead on Saturday.

Lucman and Paccon said militants had knocked on their doors while they sheltered the terrified Christians. They shooed them away saying there were women and children inside.

Adding to the anxiety, both said they were within 100 meters (320 feet) of militant command posts. Although the Philippines military knew civilians remained in their homes, ordnance exploded nearby repeatedly over the past week.

Resident Asnaira Asis said militants knocked on her door too, offering money or food if she handed over her 11-year-old son. “They wanted him to be a fighter,” she told Reuters after joining the morning exodus. “I said no.”

After an impromptu ceasefire as the civilians evacuated, bombing and ground skirmishes continued on Saturday, and FA50 fighter jets dropped bombs on the town center.

Philippines Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the conflict would be over soon but he gave no operational plans. He said there were 250 militants still in the town, far more than the 20-30 cited by the military on Friday.

“They can still put up a good fight. That’s why it’s giving us difficulty in clearing the area,” he told a news conference.

Lorenzana said there was still a big cohort of foreign fighters in Marawi.

Officials have said militants from as far away as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Chechnya and Morocco joined the battle, raising concerns that Islamic State is seeking to establish a regional foothold there.

(Editing by John Chalmers and Helen Popper)

U.S. leaders seek unity at vigil for slain Louisiana officers

police saluting the caskets of fallen police officers

By Sam Karlin

BATON ROUGE, La. (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Loretta Lynch called for unity to honor three slain Louisiana police officers, speaking at a memorial service on Thursday in Baton Rouge where they were gunned down this month by a U.S. Marine Corps veteran.

Several hundred people and dozens of law enforcement officers attended the vigil, where Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards also implored the community to seek peace and healing after the July 17 attack that also wounded three other officers.

The shootings came amid a series of deadly encounters igniting debate over policing and minorities in the United States. The killings rattled a city already grappling with protests after the fatal police shooting on July 5 of Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man confronted by officers while selling CDs outside a convenience store.

Biden said he heard that Sterling’s aunt, who raised him, had prayed with a slain officer’s father.

“Loss is loss is loss,” he said, speaking at a church in Baton Rouge, the state capital. “Now the city has to reach out, the country has to reach out to law enforcement, and let you know how much we care.”

On the stage behind him, three chairs sat empty, decorated with sashes and uniform caps representing the officers.

Choking back tears, two of the officers’ wives recalled phone calls and door knocks on an initially normal Sunday morning that changed their lives forever.

Slain Baton Rouge police officers Matthew Gerald, 41, and Montrell Jackson, 32, and East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Garafola, 45, were killed in what Louisiana officials described as a calculated attack. Shooter Gavin Long, 29, a black former Marine with ties to an African-American anti-government group, was also killed in an exchange of gunfire.

“No family should ever have to be without their loved ones, especially when these three heroes could be home had a person not been filled with so much hatred,” said Tonja Garafola.

Jackson’s wife, Trenisha, recalled his wish to see healing in the city and directed the crowd to repeat sentiments that he had posted on Facebook in the tense days before his death.

“I will not let hate infect my heart,” the crowd repeated.

The assault followed the deaths of five officers in Dallas, Texas on July 7, who were shot by another black former U.S. serviceman. President Barack Obama traveled to Dallas in the wake of those shootings.

One of the wounded Louisiana officers, Nicholas Tullier, 41, remains hospitalized in critical condition, the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office said on Thursday. At the vigil, Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said he is “fighting for his life.”

(Writing by Letitia Stein; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and James Dalgleish)

Oregon Community Rallies to Renovate Elderly Couple’s Home after Teens’ Taunts

Last month, two teenagers taunted a 75-year-old man over the condition of his house.

“Look at this crappy house, they just need to burn it down,” one of the teens said among the degrading comments thrown at the home of Leonard Bullock.

Bullock was sitting on the porch of his home at the time and heard every word.

So did Josh Cyganik, a worker for Union Pacific Railroad who starts his workday across the street from Bullock’s home.

“I saw him put his head down and it was clear he was upset,” Cyganik told Today.com. “I thought about saying something to the boys, but sometimes anger is better left unsaid and I took a different course of action that ended up paying off more so than if I yelled at them.”

Cyganik spoke to a local hardware store, Tum-A-Lum Lumber, who agreed to donate the paint necessary to make the renovations to Bullock’s home.  The good samaritan then went on Facebook to ask his friends to help him during a workday on July 18th to make a difference in Bullock’s life.

It ended up much more than just a new coat of paint.

A family brought Bullock a new set of patio furniture so he could sit outside his home in comfort.  Starbucks brought six gallons of water and iced tea for the workers.

And then a lumber company showed up unannounced, unloaded new lumber and built Bullock a brand new porch.

“The house is real nice now,” Bullock told ABC News. “It makes me feel good to look at it, especially after what [the teenagers] said.”

“They’re great people. You never know about someone unless you get to know their struggles,” Cyganik told the Union Pacific blog. “Yeah, it was a random act of kindness, but to me it’s more about respect. I was raised to respect the people who came before you, to help others out who don’t have much. Leonard can now sit on his front porch for the rest of his years while feeling good about his home.”

Band of Brothers Prepping

On one of our recent shows, Pastor Scott Hunt came to share his wisdom about being ready for anything in his book, “The Practical Prepper’s Complete Guide to Disaster Preparedness.” There were many things he talked about that really hit home, but the two I want to talk about is: 1) the importance of community; 2) water.

Scott talked of the “Band of Brothers” and the concept of networking and prepping as a community so that everyone brings something to the table.  He emphasized that this is the key to survival in Times of Trouble.  I totally agree with Pastor Scott and have said so many times over many years.  It’s important who you have around you in these Last Days when we can almost count on going through at least some kind of difficulties as the prophecies of Matthew 24 come to pass. Good friends and family (including Church family) should come together and support each other with prayer and practical things. Continue reading

God’s Ark of Safety

The Church standing together is God’s ark of safety for the Last Days. God has been speaking to me about not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25) and that’s what we’re doing in many different ways throughout this ministry.

There are literally millions of people that come together every day to watch our daily broadcast, watch live streaming on our website and stay connected through our social media! This is what you are a part of – and it’s bigger than any single one of us alone. Together we are stronger and safer because God designed it that way!

This has been one of the most brutal winters in history. Records have been broken daily! Not only have we had cold, cold, cold weather, but we have also seen extreme drought, like in California. This drought has caused our fruit and vegetable prices to skyrocket because much of what we see on our produce shelves is grown in the state of California!

It’s shocking to see a single piece of fruit costing two or three dollars! It’s not hard to see why the Revelation says that a loaf of bread will cost a whole day’s wages in the End Times (Revelation 6:6)! Food will never be any cheaper than it is right now!

As you stay in the Word, you begin to understand more and more about the Times we are living in. Even the Revelation becomes clearer as we learn about each piece. We don’t want you to have just a piece here and a piece there, but we want you to see whole picture!

If we stick together and keep hearing from anointed people like those we are bringing to you on our broadcasts, we will be far more prepared for anything that comes our way.

Always remember that God loves you – He really does! And we love you too!

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California City Rallies To Save Solider’s Stolen Christmas

Army Cpl. Chris Petrossian was winding down his 17 month tour of Afghanistan when he purchased about five thousand dollars worth of Christmas gifts online for his family in Lodi, California.

The Monday before he was to return home from his deployment, robbers broke in and ransacked the home of his family, taking all the Christmas gifts and other items.

“After being gone that long, you want to have a good Christmas and good homecoming,” Petrossian told WCRA-TV. “It was all sitting on the desk and they just ripped open all the packages and helped themselves to whatever they wanted, which was everything.”

When Cpl. Petrossian arrived home on Wednesday, he found a huge surprise waiting for him.

The residents of Lodi, California came together to raise funds to restore about ¾ of the presents that Petrossian had bought for his family. Local police and firefighters sparked the fund drive.

The Corporal’s wife told the Lodi News-Sentinel the best gift was her husband home for the holidays.

“I don’t know what I would do here, right now, without him,” Cheryl Petrossian said.