Concord, Jan 3 (AP/UNB) — New Hampshire Democrats asserted their newly acquired power at the Statehouse on Wednesday by restoring a ban on guns and other deadly weapons on the House floor.
For the last decade, rules on allowing guns in Representatives Hall, including the anteroom and public gallery overlooking it, have flipped back and forth depending on which party held the majority. After four years in the minority, Democrats regained control of the House in November, and one of their first actions was to restore the rule Republicans had thrown out in 2015.
The 220-163 vote largely followed party lines, with only four Democrats voting against the ban. One Republican voted for it.
"This is an issue of gun safety and public safety," said Majority Leader Douglas Ley, Democrat, of Jaffrey. "We don't want to wait, as has been suggested, until there is a problem because if we do that, we are waiting until there is a tragedy."
Supporters of the ban called it common sense, given that children frequently visit the Statehouse. They cited two recent incidents as cause for concern: A House lawmaker dropped a loaded revolver onto the floor as she arrived late to a committee hearing in 2017, and another lawmaker dropped his handgun at a hearing in 2012. Neither weapon discharged. Neither is currently in the House.
Republican Rep. John Burt, of Goffstown, said banning guns was as absurd as banning women or minorities would be, and said the House doesn't have the authority to turn its chamber into "some kind of Constitution-free zone." After receiving five death threats in his four terms, Burt said he will continue exercising what he called his God-given right to carry a gun, despite the vote.
"I want to make sure every crazy nut out there that loves to go to these gun-free zones and do their killing understand one thing: I, Rep. John Burt of Goffstown, will not be a victim in my House, the people's house, because you guys have the majority," he said.
The first ban on weapons in the House was enacted in 1971. It was requested by a Republican House speaker after a fellow lawmaker threatened to shoot him, said Rep. Timothy Smith, Democrat, of Manchester.
"I would submit, Mr. Speaker, that if there is a threat of gun violence in this chamber, that threat does not come from a nut in the gallery," Smith said. He later apologized, saying he did not mean to suggest any of his colleagues were "nuts."
Several female lawmakers expressed concern about being unprotected if they leave their guns at home or having them stolen if they store them in their cars while at the Statehouse. Under the rule, Statehouse security officers would provide secure storage for weapons.
"Why are you choosing to leave me defenseless?" asked Rep. Kimberly Rice, a Republican, of Hudson. "Let's be honest. Violence against elected officials is on the increase, yet you chose to leave us defenseless."
About 50 opponents of the ban gathered outside the Statehouse in 20-degree-Fahrenheit (minus 7-degree Celsius) weather before the vote. One man wearing a tri-corner hat and a gun on each hip carried a sign that read, "Keep Calm and Carry," on one side. The other side said: "Ban Idiots, Not Guns."
Tijuana, Jan 3 (AP/UNB) — Just after people raised their glasses to ring in the New Year, about 150 migrants gathered at a section of border wall in Tijuana to try to cross into the United States, many of them asylum seekers fed up with the long wait to have their claims processed.
On the other side, U.S. Border Patrol agents wearing camouflage and night-vision goggles and carrying assault-style rifles yelled, "Don't jump. It's dangerous. Get back!" in Spanish. American activists accompanying the migrants shouted at agents in English not to fire tear gas because children were present.
Several migrants tried to climb the metal wall, prompting agents to fire the first volley of tear gas. When migrants approached the wall again, authorities fired a second round and then a third.
The migrants fled, screaming, crying and coughing. One mother was hysterical after briefly losing her children in the thick smoke and darkness.
"The children were crying," said Jose Fajardo Anariba, 16, from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. "They couldn't tolerate it."
Tuesday's confrontation was at least the second time in a little over a month that U.S. authorities have fired tear gas into Tijuana. The action drew sharp criticism from politicians and activists on both sides of the border and raised questions about the use of force against migrants.
Instead of offering the asylum seekers protection, "border agents are firing tear gas at vulnerable families with children," Andrea Guerrero, head of the advocacy group, Alliance San Diego, said in a statement.
At a Cabinet meeting Wednesday at the White House, President Donald Trump said the clash showed that "people tried to charge the border and couldn't." With a complete wall, no one could enter unless that person was a "champion pole vaulter."
He described the border as being "like a sieve" and noted that the tear gas was "flying" to deter the migrants and added that it's "very tough" to keep immigrants out.
Trump was making his case for $5.6 billion from Congress for a wall at the border and vowing that the partial government shutdown now in its 12th day will last "as long as it takes" to get the money.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said tear gas, pepper spray and smoke were used to target rock throwers, not the migrants who were trying to cross. The agency said it could not help small children who were being passed over the concertina wire from getting hurt because of the rocks being thrown.
Several teenagers, wrapped in heavy jackets, blankets and rubber mats, were also put over the concertina wire.
An Associated Press photographer saw rocks thrown only after U.S. agents fired the tear gas. Customs and Border Protection said the incident would be reviewed to ensure compliance with the agency's use-of-force policy.
The agency said 25 migrants were detained while others crawled back into Mexico through a hole under the fence. An AP photographer saw migrants put their hands up or behind their heads once they crossed the border as agents approached.
Anariba said he would try to climb the border wall again. His mother was killed in Honduras, and he has nothing in his homeland, he said.
Since a caravan of Central Americans arrived in Tijuana last month after walking, hitchhiking and taking buses across Mexico, daily apprehensions in the San Diego sector have jumped about 45 percent. Agents are now detaining about 150 migrants a day, compared with about 105 daily in 2018, authorities said.
Many of the migrants are waiting in Tijuana for a chance to apply for asylum in the U.S., but there was a backlog of more than 3,000 names at the San Diego crossing before the caravan's arrival.
A few have found jobs in Mexico and tried to settle there. But thousands are still camped in a concert hall in Tijuana, growing increasingly frustrated at the long wait to apply for asylum.
On Nov. 26, U.S. agents launched tear gas across the border after some migrants tried to breach the border following a peaceful march in Tijuana. The march was to demand U.S. authorities accelerate the asylum process.
U.S. officials are processing fewer than 100 claims a day at the San Diego crossing, the nation's busiest.
Use of force by Customs and Border Protection has declined from a high during the 2013 budget year, when firearms were used 45 times compared with 14 times during the first 11 months of 2018, government statistics show. Since then officers have been trained to use less lethal methods such as batons, pepper spray and tear gas.
The data includes Border Patrol agents who patrol between the ports of entry and officers who police border crossings. The latest figures, which do not include this month's incidents, also show a dramatic drop in the use of less-lethal methods compared with 2013.
Moscow , Jan 3 (AP/UNB) — Search crews in Russia pulled more bodies Wednesday from a huge pile of rubble where part of an apartment building collapsed, bringing the known death toll to 33 and the number of missing residents down to eight as the grim recovery work continued for a third night.
A 3-year-old girl was among the latest victims of the collapse in the Russian city of Magnitogorsk, Russian news agencies reported, citing the Russian emergencies ministry. The people found dead since the Monday morning collapse so far include six children.
An 11-month-old boy who brought a burst of hope when he was discovered alive Tuesday ,nearly 36 hours after the collapse, was in serious but stable condition at a Moscow children's hospital after traveling about 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) in a plane dispatched by the Russian Health Ministry.
Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said the infant suffered superficial head wounds but no apparent brain damage.
The prospects of finding more survivors appeared dim as the rescue effort continued from Monday's pre-dawn accident, which came after an explosion that officials say was likely caused by a gas leak. Overnight temperatures of around 20 degrees Celsius (- 4 F).
However, a cat was pulled alive from the wreckage on Wednesday afternoon, about 60 hours after the disaster.
A day of mourning was declared in the Chelyabinsk region that includes Magnitogorsk, and residents laid flowers and placed candles at the scene. Some Muscovites laid commemorative flowers at the entrance of the office for the regional government's representative in the capital.
Moscow, Jan 2 (AP/UNB) — Search crews have pulled more bodies from a huge pile of rubble at a collapsed Russian apartment building, bringing the known death toll to 21.
The bodies found on Wednesday in the city of Magnitogorsk included a 3-year-old girl, Russian news agencies cited the emergencies ministry as saying.
An 11-month-old boy who was pulled alive from the wreckage on Tuesday, nearly 36 hours after the building collapsed, was in serious but stable condition in a children's hospital in Moscow. He was flown about 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) to the capital in a plane dispatched by the Health Ministry.
Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said Wednesday that the boy suffered superficial head wounds but no apparent brain damage.
Authorities said 20 people who lived in the building remain unaccounted for, including five children.
But the prospects of finding any of them alive in the rubble appeared dim after two frigid nights in which temperatures fell to about minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit). However, a cat was pulled alive from the wreckage on Wednesday afternoon, about 60 hours after a section of the 10-story building collapsed.
The Monday pre-dawn disaster came after an explosion that officials say was likely caused by a gas leak.
A day of mourning was declared in the Chelyabinsk region that includes Magnitogorsk, and residents laid flowers and place candles at the scene. Some Muscovites laid commemorative flowers at the entrance of the office for the regional government's representative in the capital.
Kuravilangad, Jan 2 (AP/UNB) — The nuns talk of Catholic priests who pushed into their bedrooms and of priests who pressured them to turn close friendships into sex. Across India, they talk about being groped and kissed, of hands pressed against them by men they were raised to believe were representatives of Jesus Christ.
At its most grim, nuns speak of repeated rapes, and of a Catholic hierarchy that did little to protect them.
The Vatican has long been aware of nuns sexually abused by priests and bishops in Asia, Europe, South America and Africa, but it has done very little to stop it, The Associated Press reported last year.
Now, the AP has investigated the situation in India and uncovered a decades-long history of nuns enduring sexual abuse from within the church. Nuns detailed the sexual pressure they endured from priests; nearly two dozen nuns, former nuns and priests, and others said they had direct knowledge of such incidents.
Still, the problem is cloaked by a powerful culture of silence. Many nuns believe abuse is commonplace, insisting most sisters can at least tell of fending off a priest's sexual advances. Some believe it is rare. Almost none talk about it readily, and most speak only on the condition that they not be identified.
But this summer, one nun forced the issue into the open.
When repeated complaints to church officials brought no response, the 44-year-old nun filed a police complaint against the bishop who oversees her order, accusing him of raping her 13 times over two years. A group of nuns launched a public protest to demand the bishop's arrest.
The protest divided India's Catholic community. The accuser and the nuns who support her are now pariahs, isolated from the other sisters, many of whom defend the bishop.
"Some people are accusing us of working against the church," said one supporter, Sister Josephine Villoonnickal. "They say, 'You are worshipping Satan.' But we need to stand up for the truth."
Some nuns' accounts date back decades.
Like the sister, barely out of her teens, teaching in a Catholic school in the early 1990s. It was exhausting work, and she was looking forward to time at a New Delhi retreat center.
The nun is a forceful woman who has spent years working with the poor. But when she talks about the retreat her voice grows quiet.
One night, a priest in his 60s who was supposed to be leading the nuns in reflection went to a neighborhood party. He came back late and knocked at her room. She could smell the alcohol.
"You're not stable. I'm not ready to meet you," she said.
But the priest forced his way in, tried to kiss her and grabbed at her body.
Weeping, she pushed him back enough to slam the door.
Afterward she quietly told her mother superior, who let her avoid meeting the priest again. She also wrote anonymously to church officials. The priest was re-assigned.
But there were no public reprimands, no warnings to other nuns.
She was too afraid to challenge him openly.
"For me it was risking my own vocation," she said.
Caught at this intersection of sexual taboo, Catholic hierarchy and loneliness, sisters can be left at the mercy of predatory priests.
It can be particularly hard for sisters from deeply conservative Kerala.
"Once you grow up, once you get your first menstruation, you are not encouraged to speak normally to a boy," said a nun from Kerala, a cheerful woman with sparkly glass earrings.
That naivety, she said, can be costly.
Like the time she was a novice nun, still in her teens, and an older priest came to the Catholic center where she worked. He was from Goa, another coastal state.
When she brought the priest his laundry, he grabbed her and began to kiss her.
"The kissing was all coming here," she said, gesturing at her chest.
"He was from Goa. I am from Kerala. In my mind I was trying to figure out: 'Is this the way that Goans kiss?'"
She soon understood what was happening but couldn't escape his grip. Eventually, she slipped out the door.
She quietly told a senior nun to not send other novices to the priest's room. But she made no official complaint.
In the church, even some of those who doubt there is widespread abuse of nuns say the silence can be enveloping.
Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara calls abuse "kind of sporadic. Once here, once there."
But "many people don't want to talk," he continued.
The rapes, the nun says, happened in a small convent in rural Kerala, where the sisters at the St. Francis Mission Home spend their days in prayer or caring for the aged.
The rapist, she says, was the most powerful man in this world: Bishop Franco Mulakkal.
Mulakkal was the official patron of her community, the Missionaries of Jesus, wielding immense influence over its budgets and job assignments.
Every few months, the nun says, Mulakkal would visit the convent. Then, according to a letter she wrote church officials, he raped her.
Mulakkal angrily denies the accusations, accusing the sister of trying to blackmail him to get a better job.
"I am going through painful agony," said Mulakkal, who was jailed for three weeks and released on bail in October.
Many in Kerala see Mulakkal as a martyr, and a string of supporters visited him in jail.
The sisters who now cluster around the nun who leveled the accusations see things very differently.
"Many times she was telling him to stop. But each time he was forcing himself on her," said Villoonnickal, the nun, who moved back to Kerala to support "our survivor sister."
Catholic authorities have said little about the case, with India's Catholic Bishops' Conference saying in a statement that it has no jurisdiction over individual bishops, and the investigation and court case must run their course.
"Silence," the conference said, "should in no way be construed as siding with either of the two parties."