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The Star Online: World Updates

Knife-wielding student wounds 22 in Pennsylvania school

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 08:10 PM PDT

MURRYSVILLE, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - A 16-year-old student wielding two knives went on a stabbing rampage in the hallways of a Pittsburgh-area high school on Wednesday, wounding 22 people before he was tackled by an assistant principal, officials said.

The attacker moved furtively through the halls of Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, stabbing his victims in the torso and slashing their arms and faces, students and officials said. Some of the injured taken to nearby hospitals were listed in critical condition.

Alex Hribal, a 16-year-old sophomore, was taken into custody, said Captain Rob Liermann of the Murrysville Police Department.

Charged as an adult, Hribal faces four counts of attempted homicide and 21 counts of aggravated assault, Liermann said, and was ordered to face a preliminary hearing in seven to 10 days.

Students described a scene of panic, with the school hastily evacuated after a fire alarm was pulled.

"He did it so stealthily that at first no one knew what was happening," freshman Josh Frank said. "We heard a girl scream bloody murder. Then two seniors were running down the hall and we followed them out of the school."

The attacker, described by a classmate as a quiet boy who kept to himself, began the stabbings at around 7:13 a.m. EDT (12.13 p.m. British Time), walking along the hallways to several classrooms at the school in Murrysville, 20 miles (32 km) east of Pittsburgh, officials said.

Assistant Principal Sam King tackled the boy, who was armed with two straight knives about 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) long, and an armed security officer handcuffed him with help from King, said Murrysville Police Chief Thomas Seefeld.


Twenty-one students and a security officer were stabbed in the incident, said Dan Stevens, a spokesman for Westmoreland County emergency management. Two other students suffered minor injuries trying to get out of the school, Stevens added. He said

the teenage suspect was not counted among the wounded.

The suspect was also being treated for injuries to his hands, Seefeld said. By late afternoon, he said, one or two of the victims were "still pretty critical."

Among those praised for heroics during the incident was Nate Scimio, the student who pulled the fire alarm and helped shield classmates, witnesses said.

"There's not enough words to describe how much of a hero he is," classmate Trinity McCool posted on Facebook.

The victims, most of them 14 to 17 years old, were transported to area hospitals, four by medical helicopters. Several had life-threatening injuries, hospital officials said.

Dr. Louis Alarcon of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center operated on a 17-year-old student and said he had "a large injury to his abdominal wall." The knife "went through his liver, diaphragm and major blood vessels," he said. "Fortunately for this young man, the knife missed his heart and his aorta."

While the United States has seen a number of large-scale school shootings in recent years, mass stabbings are less common.

Police and the FBI were searching the suspect's home, situated at the end of a quiet cul de sac. Neighbours said both parents work, and the teen has a brother who also attends Franklin Regional High School.


Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said he had ordered state police to help local law enforcement respond to the incident. The FBI also said it had deployed agents to work with local officials.

The high school will be closed for the next two to three days while police conduct an investigation, officials said.

"I don't know him really well, but he's always said 'hi'," said neighbour Lori Renda, 47, who said he played with her own children. "The family is so nice. Very, very nice."

As they were reunited with parents near the hilltop high school in the relatively affluent Pittsburgh suburb with a population of about 20,000, teens spoke about the incident.

Michael Float, an 18-year-old senior, described running down a staircase and finding a friend badly wounded.

"There was a pool of blood," Float said. "He had blood pouring down the right side of his stomach," and a teacher was applying pressure on the wound.

Zak Amsler, a 17-year-old junior, said the attack occurred just before his first class was about to begin.

"I saw a girl with blood running out of her sleeve," Amsler said as he waited to pick up his younger sister, a student at the nearby middle school. "It was pretty mind-blowing."

On Wednesday evening members of the community held candle-light vigils for the wounded.

Kaitlyn Pepper, holding a candle in front of Calvary Lutheran Church, said that she now attends another high school but knows the suspect from her time at Franklin.

"He was literally a shadow in the hallways. They said he had a girlfriend who goes to another school, but I don't know. No one really knew of him. But they know him today." Pepper said.

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York, Dave Warner in Philadelphia and Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Scott Malone and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Gunna Dickson, Prudence Crowther, Lisa Shumaker and Ken Wills)

Move to oust Thai PM more than just a walk in the park for protesters

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 08:00 PM PDT

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Two months ago, Piyavadee Boonmak was living comfortably at home. But she quit her job as a civil servant and now works as a volunteer cleaning toilets at Lumpini Park, the new focal point of anti-government protests in the Thai capital.

Piyavadee now lives in a khaki tent in the central Bangkok park, once a haven for joggers but now a temporary home for more than 10,000 supporters of a movement that has been trying for five months to oust Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Their aim is also to rid Thailand of the influence of her billionaire brother, ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

"Everyone has to do their part," said Piyavadee, 50, who spends her days cleaning the park's portable toilets. "We're like one big family. We're all here for the same reason: to get rid of that lying, cheating bastard, Thaksin."

The protesters took over Lumpini Park last month after moving blockades that had clogged Bangkok intersections, a tactical retreat they said was to "give Bangkok back".

Yingluck remains in office, albeit as head of a weakened caretaker government, despite the best efforts of protesters that included huge street rallies, sit-ins at state offices and a promise to disrupt a February 2 election.

Piyavadee's humble new job is a good sign that the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), as the main anti-government group is known, is in it for the long haul. They have set up six "villages" in the park, equipped with showers, portable toilets, washing machines, a medical centre and even a part-time school.

To keep unwanted guests out, there are 2,300 weather-beaten security volunteers from far-flung provinces who take turns in manning checkpoints and rummaging through bags for guns and other contraband. If trouble breaks out, a rapid deployment team of "elite guards" is available, too.

The PDRC says the rules for its on-duty muscle are simple: No alcohol, no drugs.

"People from all over the country are camped in this park. We're an example that Thais can live together harmoniously," said Thaworn Senniem, a protest leader who heads PDRC security. "But with so many people under one roof issues are bound to crop up, which is why we have security guards."

Things are not always as rosy as protest leaders might suggest. Twenty-four people have been killed and scores wounded since the protests began, some in clashes with security forces and others in mysterious bombings and shootings.


The signs that once pointed the way to Lumpini's tennis courts and paddle boats have been replaced by a new one at the western entrance that makes clear the PDRC is in charge.

Thailand has been locked in a bitter political conflict since a coup ousted Thaksin in 2006. He now lives abroad to avoid a graft conviction he says was politically motivated, but parties he controls have won every election since 2001.

His supporters - mainly from the populous rural north and northeast - say he was persecuted by a jealous elite and middle class in Bangkok. The PDRC and other critics accuse Thaksin of overseeing an era of unbridled corruption and nepotism.

After weeks of street action without major results, the protesters in Lumpini say victory is near. They are banking on any one of a number of legal challenges against Yingluck that could finish her off within weeks.

While they wait, the Lumpini Park villagers are making the most of the nightly entertainment put on for them.

"People get very stressed listening to protest speeches all day so it's crucial we offer some light entertainment," said Akanat Promphan, a protest movement spokesman.

Folk music blares from the main protest stage and a cross-dressing performer steps up to dance. There are hoots from the crowd as some sway their hips to a well-known song about the hardships of working-class Thais.

Not everyone is happy that the protesters have moved into the park, with nearby residents complaining about the noise. But the protesters say they'll pack up and leave when they win.

"Besides, we always make way for the joggers," Thaworn said.

Those living in the park are mostly from Thailand's poorest provinces, although the anti-government movement is largely backed by Bangkok's middle-classes.

"I'm a silent backer, dropping by from time to time," said Methenee Jitsomsak, a 49-year-old housewife decked out in jewels. "Would I live here? No. It's much too hot."

There was a similar carnival-like mood in 2010 when pro-Thaksin "red shirts" rallied just a few minutes' walk from the park against what they said was an illegitimate government.

Their protest was cut short when Suthep Thaugsuban, the current PDRC leader who was then a deputy prime minister, sent in troops to break up the red-shirt rally.

More than 90 people were killed in the crackdown.

Suthep faces murder charges for giving that order in 2010, but the Lumpini protesters see him as a rock star.

"We wake up and go to sleep to the sound of Suthep," said Chada Limptapong, 70, who sits in front of her tent selling odds-and-ends including betel nut for 60 baht (1.09 pounds).

The village has its problems, despite the image of harmony protest leaders like to project, and some of the guards have been accused of rowdy behaviour.

Volunteer toilet cleaner Piyavadee said she's concerned about her 18-year-old daughter, who shares her tent. "I tell her to walk back before dark," she said. "Some of the guards can't control themselves."

(Additional reporting by Jutarat Skulpichetrat; Editing by Martin Petty and Paul Tait)

More funds sought for Bangladesh factory collapse victims

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 05:15 PM PDT

BERLIN (Reuters) - Campaigners launched a new effort on Thursday to push Western brands to pay into a compensation fund for victims of the collapse of a Bangladeshi factory almost a year ago that killed more than 1,100 people.

Global trade unions IndustriALL and UNI and labour rights network Clean Clothes Campaign said in a joint statement that a fund set up for the over 2,000 people injured and the families of the dead had raised only a third of its target of $40 million (24 million pounds) to date.

They said only half of the 29 brands that sourced goods from factories in the Rana Plaza complex have contributed to the fund run by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and want the rest to pay by the first anniversary of the April 24 disaster.

"The workers who survived this catastrophe and the families of those who did not are in desperate need. The last year has seen medical expenses, lack of income and the horrors of that day relived," said Jyrki Raina of IndustriALL.

Some of the brands supplied from the Rana Plaza complex say they will not contribute as their production was outsourced to the factory without their knowledge, or ended some time ago, while others prefer to pursue their own compensation plans.

Ineke Zeldenrust of Clean Clothes Campaign said the 29 brands have combined profits of more than $22 billion a year.

"They are being asked to contribute less than 0.2 percent of these profits to go some way towards compensating the people their profits are built on," she said.

British clothes retailer Primark said last month it would pay an extra $10 million in long-term compensation - $9 million directly to the 580 workers of its supplier in Rana Plaza or their dependants, and another $1 million to the fund.

Other brands to contribute include Canada's Loblaw, Britain's Bon Marche and Premier Clothing, Mascot of Denmark and Spanish chains El Corte Ingles, Mango and Zara-owner Inditex.

Rock-bottom wages and trade deals have made Bangladesh's garments sector a $22 billion industry that accounts for four-fifths of its exports, with around 60 percent of garment exports going to Europe and 23 percent to the United States.

(Editing by Pravin Char/Mark Heinrich)

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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