Connect with us

News

Authorities call fatal stabbing of UK lawmaker a terrorist act

Published

on

UK counterterror officers lead probe in lawmaker’s slaying

LEIGH-ON-SEA, England — A long-serving member of Parliament was stabbed to death Friday during a meeting with constituents at a church in England, in what police said was a terrorist incident. A 25-year-old man was arrested in connection with the attack, which united Britain’s fractious politicians in shock and sorrow.

Counterterrorism officers were leading the investigation into the slaying of Conservative lawmaker David Amess. In a statement early Saturday, the Metropolitan Police described the attack as terrorism and said the early investigation “has revealed a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism.”

Amess, 69, was attacked around midday Friday at a Methodist church in Leigh-on-Sea, a town about 40 miles (62 kilometers) east of London. Paramedics tried without success to save him. Police arrested the suspect and recovered a knife.

They did not identify the suspect, who was held on suspicion of murder. Police said they believed the suspect acted alone, and were not seeking anyone else in connection with the killing, though investigations continue.

The slaying came five years after another MP, Jo Cox, was murdered by a far-right extremist in her small-town constituency, and it renewed concern about the risks politicians run as they go about their work representing voters. British politicians generally are not given police protection when they meet with their constituents.

Tributes poured in for Amess from across the political spectrum, as well as from the community he had served for decades. Residents paid tribute to him at a vigil at a church in Leigh-on-Sea.

“He carried that great East London spirit of having no fear and being able to talk to people and the level they’re at,” the Rev. Jeffrey Woolnaugh said at the vigil, attended by about 80 people. “Not all politicians, I would say, are good at that.”

Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he and his Cabinet were “deeply shocked and heart-stricken.”

“David was a man who believed passionately in this country and in its future, and we’ve lost today a fine public servant and a much-loved friend and colleague,” Johnson said.

The prime minister would not say whether the attack meant politicians needed tighter security, saying, “We must really leave the police to get on with their investigation.”

Amess had been a member of Parliament for Southend West, which includes Leigh-on-Sea, since 1997, and had been a lawmaker since 1983, making him one of the longest-serving politicians in the House of Commons.

A social conservative on the right of his party, he was a well-liked figure with a reputation for working hard for his constituents and campaigning ceaselessly to have Southend declared a city.

Amess, who leaves a wife and five children, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2015 for his service, becoming Sir David.

Flags at Parliament were lowered to half-staff amid a profusion of questions about lawmakers’ security.

“This is an incident that will send shockwaves across the parliamentary community and the whole country,” House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said. “In the coming days we will need to discuss and examine MPs’ security and any measures to be taken, but for now, our thoughts and prayers are with David’s family, friends and colleagues.”

Violence against British politicians is rare, but concerns have grown about the increasingly bitter polarization of the country’s politics.

In 2016, a week before the country’s divisive Brexit referendum, Cox, a Labour Party lawmaker, was fatally stabbed and shot in northern England. Also, several people have been jailed in recent years for threatening lawmakers.

British lawmakers are protected by armed police when they are inside Parliament, and security there was tightened after an attacker inspired by the Islamic State group fatally stabbed a police officer at the gates in 2017.

But politicians have no such protection in their constituencies. Amess published the times and locations of his open meetings with constituents on his website.

Two other British lawmakers have been attacked over the past two decades during their “surgeries,” regular meetings where constituents can present concerns and complaints.

Labour legislator Stephen Timms was stabbed in the stomach in 2010 by a student radicalized by online sermons from an al-Qaida-linked preacher.

In 2000, Liberal Democrat Nigel Jones and his aide Andrew Pennington were attacked by a man wielding a sword during such a meeting. Pennington was killed and Jones wounded in the attack in Cheltenham, England.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May, a Conservative, tweeted that Amess’ killing was a “tragic day for our democracy,” and former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was “shocked and horrified.”

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party said on Twitter: “In a democracy, politicians must be accessible and open to scrutiny, but no one deserves to have their life taken while working for and representing their constituents.”

Kim Leadbeater, Jo Cox’s sister and now a member of Parliament herself, said it was “horrific” that Amess’ family was experiencing what hers had gone through.

“They will think about this every single day for the rest of their lives,” she said.

“I find myself now working as a politician and trying to do good things for people, and it’s really important you get good people in public life, but this is the risk we are all taking, and so many MPs will be scared by this.”

___

Lawless reported from London. Pan Pylas also contributed to this report.

google news

News

More St. Louis-area schools may get rid of their mask mandates

Published

on

More St. Louis-area schools may get rid of their mask mandates

ST. LOUIS — A ruling from a judge in Jefferson City could lead more St. Louis-area school districts to end their mask mandates.

Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green ruled last week that Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services regulations empowering local, unelected, health officials to impose sweeping orders like quarantines, mask mandates, and shutdowns, are unconstitutional.

“Missouri statutes give elected legislative bodies, not individual health agency directors, authority to create county-wide laws related to communicable diseases,” Green wrote.

The ruling has reignited the fiery debate about mask mandates in St. Louis County.

Area school officials are now scrambling to decipher the impact on their schools.

The superintendents of schools in the Rockwood and Parkway Districts have sent letters to parents this week saying, “No changes for now”.

Still, the letters say the ruling may impact the districts’ COVID-19 health and safety protocols, which have included quarantines and masking for much of the pandemic.

A group of 60 area superintendents that has held weekly “virtual” meetings throughout most of the pandemic has met twice this week in the wake of the ruling.

They have not released any details on potential changes being discussed.

At the beginning of the current school year, Ft. Zumwalt Schools in St. Charles County made masks optional for the district’s 17,000 students. Under the new policy, if three or more students in a class are COVID-positive, then there’s a mask mandate for that class. If more than 4% of students at any school are positive, the mask mandate becomes school-wide but not district-wide.

“We’re doing it by building,” said Supt. Dr. Bernie DuBray. “We have one building with 23 cases and one building with 11 cases. Then, throughout the rest of school district we have just less than 1% in any of the buildings. So, why would you mask up your whole school district for something that just needs to be dealt with by building?”

The district’s positivity rate is currently .006.

“I think there are districts that are watching and seeing how our numbers are going. In terms of the whole district, numbers are pretty stable. I think if people see that the numbers stay stable they make look more at our plan,” DuBray said.

None of the district’s 27 schools currently has a mask mandate.

Any changes in mask policies for other St. Louis area districts would likely take effect after the new year.

google news
Continue Reading

News

Festus daycare center to shut down, affecting more than 100 children

Published

on

Festus daycare center to shut down, affecting more than 100 children

FESTUS, Mo. – A daycare center in Festus will permanently close its doors this month, forcing families of more than 100 kids to find new help.

The Wee Care Learning Center plans to shut down on Dec. 17 due to costs. Staff members said they received notices over the past couple of months, warning them that the daycare would eventually close — but the owner’s decision to shut down earlier than anticipated hit them hard.

“It was so sudden. We don’t know what to do, and we’re in limbo,” said Dianne Russom, the lead teacher at the Wee Care Learning Center.

Retirement isn’t in the cards, but it’s the kids they’re more concerned about.

“I mean there are some still starting next week,” said Russo. “They’re going to do the last two weeks that they can do with us because they were on maternity leave, and they have nowhere else to go.”

Parents like J.R. Hamilton said they don’t know what to do, as many daycare centers in the area have a waitlist.

“Everyone is scrambling, not just ourselves to find childcare, but the whole Jefferson County is just inundated,” said Hamilton.

Some parents said they will have to temporarily leave their jobs or reduce their work hours to stay at home with their kids.

“I’m going to have to take three to six months off from work just to be home,” said parent Nicole Kilian.

Another parent, Ryan Fonner, said: “My wife and I both work at Mercy at the outpatient treatment center and we’re actually having to go down to part-time care for them.”

Donna Ames, the assistant director at the Wee Care Learning Center, said the closure is especially hard because the staff has built a connection with all the children.

“You can tell that the parents have told their kids that they’re going somewhere else, and they’re having the same emotions that we all are,“ said Ames.

In 2019, a ballot measure was approved by Festus School District voters to raise taxes to pave the way for new projects, including an early childhood program.

In a statement, the Festus School District Superintendent said: “It is a facility that checks all of the boxes that would be required to start an early childhood education program in the district. The district has not yet closed on the facility, but we are hopeful that will occur in the coming weeks.”

The district’s early childhood program, won’t start until later in 2023.

For those still looking for new childcare, the school district is in talks with other childcare agencies to provide care after they close.

A Wee Care parent also made a Facebook group called “Families of Wee Care” to connect parents from the past and present.

google news
Continue Reading

News

Lincoln County schools to loosen COVID protocols after health order ruling

Published

on

Lincoln County schools to loosen COVID protocols after health order ruling

LINCOLN COUNTY, Mo. — The Winfield R-IV School District is the first in the St. Louis area to loosen COVID-19 protocols for its students after Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green ruled that health orders such as quarantines violate the Missouri Constitution’s separation of powers clause.

The judge ordered that all existing health orders issued by local health authorities are “null and void.”

During Monday night’s school board meeting, district leaders approved modifying their close contact protocol to align with the court ruling. The district will no longer require students or staff to quarantine if they do not have symptoms and were a close contact with someone who tested positive to COVID-19.

“Once we saw that court ruling come out last week, we were very motivated to take action,” said Winfield R-IV School District Superintendent Daniel Williams. “Following judge Green’s decision last week, we met Monday night and really recognized that the original guidance from DESE and DHSS were not valid at this point.”

Superintendent Williams said students who have symptoms will still have to quarantine unless they test negative for the virus, or have a note from a healthcare professional.

 “We’ve been extremely blessed here in Winfield that our numbers have stayed extremely low,” the superintendent said.

Among the more than 1500 students across the district’s four schools, there are currently seven students and two staff members that have tested positive for COVID-19. Six students are considered close contacts, according to the district’s data released this week.

“The data that really helped drive our decision is that the large percentage of students who we were quarantining from school and restricting their ability to have in-person instruction where we had such a very low percentage of student and staff testing positive,” Superintendent Williams said.

Tom Ellersieck, a grandparent of four students in the district said some of his grandchildren had to be quarantined in the past.

“I’m an ex-teacher and I think they need to be in school and they need to be safe in school,” he said.
Superintendent Williams said the community overall has welcomed this change of loosened protocols but will continue to keep an eye out on cases.

“In many communities throughout the country, there have been very different opinions on how to approach mitigating measures on covid, and I think at this juncture our Board of Education is certainly representing their constituents well.”

FOX 2’s Zara Barker asked Williams if there was some concern due to the Omicron variant.

 “I think over the last 18 months there is concern with everything that is mentioned, I think right now it is a really wait and see, we really rely upon the officials that are in a position to give schools guidance,” he said.

View the letter district officials sent to parents below:

Continue Reading

Trending