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Pakistan: 20 people killed after train crashes into bus carrying Sikh pilgrims

A bus carrying Sikh pilgrims has been hit by a train in Pakistan, killing at least 20 people.

The Karachi to Lahore express train struck the vehicle at an unmanned railway crossing in the Sheikhupura district of Punjab province on Friday, police said.

Twenty people travelling on the bus, including seven women, were killed and eight others were injured, officers said.

None of the train passengers were believed to have been hurt.

The Sikh pilgrims were thought to be from the Pakistani city of Peshawar and were returning home from a visit to the shrine of Nankana Sahib in Sheikhupura, Punjab.

All the injured passengers were taken to hospital in Lahore, with two in a critical condition, district police chief Ghazi Salahuddin said.

Sikhs have several shrines of their religious leaders in Pakistan.

Train accidents are common in the country, mainly due to a lack of enforcement of safety standards, a poorly maintained railway system and negligence of drivers.

In February, a train crashed into a bus carrying passengers at an unmanned railway crossing in the district of Rohri in southern Pakistan, killing 19 people and injuring 28 others.

Last November, a fire caused by a cooking gas stove swept through a train in Punjab, killing 74 people.

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Jeffrey Epstein friend Ghislaine Maxwell arrested on sex abuse charges

(Reuters) – Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend and longtime associate of the late disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested in New Hampshire on Thursday on U.S. charges of luring underage girls so that Epstein could sexually abuse them.

The arrest of the British socialite is the latest twist in the mystery of Epstein, who started out as a high school math teacher and went on to develop a high-flying lifestyle including private Caribbean islands and powerful connections that his victims say allowed him to abuse minors with impunity.

Maxwell, 58, was arrested in Bradford, New Hampshire, where she had been laying low since December, the FBI said. A lawyer who represented Maxwell in civil litigation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

She is charged with four criminal counts related to procuring and transporting minors for illegal sex acts and two of perjury, according to the indictment by federal prosecutors in New York.

Prosecutors said she faces up to 35 years in prison.

“Maxwell was among Epstein’s closest associates and helped him exploit girls who were as young as 14 years old,” said acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss. “Maxwell played a critical role in helping Epstein to identify, befriend and groom minor victims for abuse. In some cases, Maxwell participated in the abuse herself.”

Epstein was awaiting trial on federal charges of trafficking minors between 2002 and 2005 when he was found hanged in an apparent suicide while in a New York City jail in August. He was 66. Previously, he pleaded guilty in Florida to state charges of solicitation of prostitution from a minor in a 2008 deal with prosecutors that was widely criticized as too lenient.

The indictment accuses Maxwell of luring the girls beginning in 1994 through 1997 by asking them about their lives, schools and families and taking them shopping or to movies.

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Strauss called Maxwell’s alleged acts “the prequel” to Epstein’s abuse.

After Maxwell won the girls’ trust, the indictment alleges, she would try to “normalize sexual abuse” by discussing sexual topics or by undressing in front of them or being present when they were undressed.

Epstein’s alleged abuse included touching their genitals, placing sex toys on their genitals and having the girls touch Epstein while he masturbated.

Strauss said the abuse took place at Epstein’s homes in New York, Santa Fe, New Mexico and Palm Beach, Florida, as well as Maxwell’s residence in London.

PROSECUTORS SEEK ANSWERS

Epstein has been linked socially to several powerful figures, from President Donald Trump to former President Bill Clinton and Britain’s Prince Andrew.

“We would welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk with us,” Strauss said.

In June, then-U.S. Attorney for Manhattan Geoffrey Berman said Prince Andrew was evading their efforts to question him about his contacts with Epstein. Berman was fired later the same month.

Andrew has publicly stated he will cooperate with any appropriate law enforcement agency. Buckingham Palace on Thursday referred a request for comment to Andrew’s lawyers, who could not be reached immediately for comment.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in June there were no plans to extradite Andrew.

Maxwell was due in federal court in Concord, New Hampshire, on Thursday where prosecutors planned to ask a judge to deny bail because she was a flight risk.

“Maxwell has three passports, large sums of money, extensive international connections, and absolutely no reason to stay in the United States and face the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence,” prosecutors said in court papers.

Investigators identified more than 15 bank accounts associated with Maxwell since 2016 with balances during that period that topped $20 million, according to court documents.

Prosecutors also cited the strength of the case. They said victims’ accounts were corroborated by flight documents, diary entries and business records.

“For years, I feared Epstein and his ring,” Jennifer Araoz, who has accused Maxwell of trafficking her for Epstein, said in a statement. “Today, my fellow Epstein survivors and I are able to take a breath of relief, as Maxwell’s arrest means some justice for survivors can exist.”

Maxwell, the daughter of late British media magnate Robert Maxwell, has kept a low profile since Epstein’s death.

She was an Epstein ex-girlfriend who became a longtime member of his inner circle. In a 2003 Vanity Fair article, Epstein was quoted as saying Maxwell was his best friend.

Since Epstein’s arrest and death last year, questions have arisen over how he built his vast wealth, which exceeded $600 million before the recent stock market slump and included two privately owned Caribbean islands, multiple homes and one of the largest mansions in Manhattan.

The case is being handled by prosecutors in the public corruption unit. A spokesman declined to comment on why that unit would handle the case.

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Why people are scared of Hong Kong’s new law

China has introduced a new national security law for Hong Kong. The BBC’s Michael Bristow takes a closer look at the detail, and what it will mean in practice.

Lawyers and legal experts have said China’s national security law for Hong Kong will fundamentally change the territory’s legal system.

It introduces new crimes with severe penalties – up to life in prison – and allows mainland security personnel to legally operate in Hong Kong with impunity.

The legislation gives Beijing extensive powers it has never had before to shape life in the territory far beyond the legal system.

Analysis of the law by NPC Observer, a team of legal experts from the United States and Hong Kong, identified what they consider a number of worrying aspects.

“Its criminal provisions are worded in such a broad manner as to encompass a swath of what has so far been considered protected speech,” said a posting on its website.

Article 29 is perhaps an example of this broad wording.

It states that anyone who conspires with foreigners to provoke “hatred” of the Chinese government, or the authorities in Hong Kong, could have committed a criminal offence.

Does that include criticism of China’s governing Communist Party?

On Wednesday at a media briefing, Hong Kong’s Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng was asked to define exactly what the provision means. She was unable to give a clear answer.

Article 55 also contains vague language.

It gives Chinese mainland security operatives the right to investigate some national security cases that are “complex”, “serious” or “difficult”.

As the NPC Observer team note, these words are “highly subjective and malleable”.

Human rights organisations have pointed out how the law seems to undermine protections previously offered to defendants.

Trials can be held in secret (Article 41) and without a jury (Article 46). Judges can be handpicked (Article 44) by Hong Kong’s chief executive, who is answerable directly to Beijing.

The law also reverses a presumption that suspects will be granted bail (Article 42).

That same provision also appears to suggest there is no time limit on how long suspects can be held. It says only that cases should be handled in a “timely manner”.

Hong Kong’s new security law

Entire cases – from investigation to judgement to punishment – can be simply handed over to the mainland authorities (Article 56).

Foreign nationals outside of Hong Kong face prosecution under the law (Article 38).

Donald Clarke, writing for the China Collection, a blog focusing on Chinese issues, wrote that a US newspaper columnist advocating Tibetan independence might fall foul of the law.

“If you’ve ever said anything that might offend the PRC (People’s Republic of China) or Hong Kong authorities, stay out of Hong Kong,” he wrote.

Mr Clarke, of the George Washington University Law School, said the biggest worry was the institutions and processes that the law has established.

The legislation allows China to set up the Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong – a mainland Chinese body to be staffed by mainland Chinese personnel.

Article 60 makes it clear that anyone who works there does not have to abide by Hong Kong’s laws. They shall not be subject to “inspection, search or detention”.

As Mr Clarke wrote: “They are untouchable.”

Claudia Mo, an opposition lawmaker in Hong Kong, said the aim of China’s national security legislation was to “stun Hong Kong into nothingness”.

“People will be so petrified, so frightened and intimidated, that they wouldn’t dare say anything or do anything in opposition,” she said.

Of course, that is not the view in Beijing.

Zhang Xiaoming, of China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said on Wednesday that the law would help return stability to the territory.

It will bring Hong Kong more in line with the laws, procedures and practices of mainland China.

Whether or not you think the legislation was necessary, it is impossible to deny its significance. As Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam put it: this is a turning point.

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4 people charged with attempted murder after reported attack on Cañon City man – The Denver Post

Four individuals are being charged with criminal attempt to commit second-degree murder after they allegedly entered a Cañon City man’s home, where one man proceeded to choke him and threaten to kill him and two other individuals took his children.

According to an arrest affidavit, David Mark Hayes, 46, Marta Danielle Helsel, 24, Nicholas Griffith Machart-Kline, 23, and Trenton Michael Nordby, 29, were arrested on suspicion of first-degree assault, first-degree burglary, child abuse, criminal mischief, first-degree criminal trespass and false imprisonment.

Helsel, who is in the process of divorcing the victim, also is charged with domestic violence.

Colorado Department of Corrections confirmed Monday that Helsel briefly was employed as a correctional officer for DOC in 2019.

Authorities were dispatched to a mobile home at 1616 Chestnut at 6:18 p.m. June 19 after the victim – whose name will not be released because he is an alleged victim of domestic violence – had gone to his neighbor’s home to get help because he had just been assaulted.

Upon arrival, deputies found the victim to be “very distraught, scared and shaking.” He told authorities that he had been assaulted and his children had been taken.

Deputies noticed what appeared to be marks on his mouth, head, arms and hands and blood on his lips, hands and arms.

The victim said his parents had left to get pizza for the family for dinner when he heard someone at the door. He told his daughter to stay in the living room when Helsel and her new boyfriend, Machart-Kline, walked in but quickly were told to leave.

“Nicholas then got in his face and started flexing his arms,” the affidavit states. “Marta picked up (the child) and Nicholas pushed him. Nicholas then started choking him with both hands around his neck.”

Hayes and Nordby then entered the home and Helsel said, “kill him,” as Hayes stepped between Machart-Kline and the victim, the affidavit states. Hayes told Machart-Kline to grab all the children, who did so and set them outside the home.

The victim said Hayes held him down by a desk in the living room while someone took his phone.

Helsel and Machart-Kline left with the children in a vehicle while Hayes punched the victim repeatedly while telling him he was going to kill him.

The victim said Nordby tried to talk Hayes into leaving, but he continued to tell him he was going to kill him while “choking him and hitting him multiple times all over his body.”

“He was trying to escape out the window when (Hayes) pushed the kitchen table into him while stating ‘You are going to go with us or you or going to die,’” the affidavit states. “He was then hit with a dustpan – which broke – and a broom on the head.”

The victim was able to leap out of the kitchen window, landing on his side, and then ran to his neighbor’s house for help.

He told authorities he believed that the four suspects would have killed him.

Hayes and Nordby soon were located in the area of 1611 Ash St., where they were taken into custody.

Authorities requested dispatch ping Machart-Kline and Helsel’s phones, which led officers to their car at 2070 Seven Arrow Drive in Colorado Springs. Both suspects were taken into custody by the Colorado Springs Police Department just after 9:30 p.m. and were transported to the Fremont County Jail.

The affidavit states that Helsel and Machart-Kline had been at the FCSO lobby and had spoken with deputies on two different occasions. Machart-Kline reportedly had asked what would happen if he had someone distract the victim “by having some men beat him up and they grabbed the kids.”

All four suspects are scheduled to appear in court at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday for filing of charges.

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