Pizza outlet attacked as India, U.S. fail to cool diplomat row

Published: Friday, December 20, 2013 @ 7:30 AM
Updated: Friday, December 20, 2013 @ 7:30 AM

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Indian protesters ransacked a Dominos Pizza outlet in a Mumbai suburb on Friday, demanding a ban on U.S. goods as officials from the two countries struggled to defuse a row over the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York.

Police and the Indian franchise of the U.S. chain said no-one was hurt in the attack, which came amid unrelenting rage in India over the arrest and subsequent strip-search of Devyani Khobragade for visa fraud and under-payment of her housekeeper.

India has demanded that the charges be dropped against the diplomat and her father threatened to start a fast if U.S. authorities pressed ahead with the case.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed regret over the case in a phone call to India's national security adviser this week, but U.S. prosecutors have defended the investigation against Khobragade and her treatment.

Police in Mumbai said they were stepping up patrolling of major U.S. outlets including McDonald's after workers of the small Republican Party of India attacked the Dominos store. The group sent pictures to media organizations showing a broken glass door.

"The fact is that (the) American authorities have behaved atrociously with an Indian diplomat. And obviously, America has to make good for its actions," said Manish Tiwari, minister for information and broadcasting.

"So therefore, I think it is a legitimate expectation, that if they have erred, and they have erred grievously in this matter, they should come forth and apologize."

Khobragade was arrested last week and released on $250,000 bail after giving up her passport and pleading not guilty to charges of visa fraud and making false statements about how much she paid her housekeeper. She faces a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted on both counts.

The U.S. Justice Department confirmed that Khobragade was strip-searched after her arrest. A senior Indian government source has said the interrogation also included a cavity search, although U.S. officials have denied this.

"I want these false and fabricated charges to be dropped," said Uttam Khobragade, the diplomat's father, adding that he would go on a hunger strike if his demands aren't met. "That will be my last option."

Protesters also gathered at the U.S. consulate in Hyderabad for a second day on Friday, shouting slogans, local media said.

Furious that one of its foreign service officers had been handcuffed and treated like "a common criminal", India on Tuesday removed security barriers outside the U.S. embassy in New Delhi and withdrew some privileges from U.S. diplomats.

But the reaction was even more intense because none of the political parties preparing for next year's election wanted to be seen as weak against a superpower.

Politicians, including the leaders of the two main parties, refused to meet a delegation of visiting U.S. lawmakers.

"Because of the election, they will try to outdo each other," said Neerja Chowdhury, a political analyst and a former political editor of Indian Express newspaper.

"They don't want to be seen as weak on the issue when the mood in the country is one of huge anger about this."

The party that runs India's most populous Uttar Pradesh state urged Khobragade to stand for parliament, highlighting how public outrage has turned the case into a battleground for votes.

"Whatever happened with her is condemnable," said Azam Khan, the state's urban development minister, according to media reports. "If she returns to India, we are ready to give her a ticket for the 2014 polls."

Breathless and indignant coverage by Indian TV news channels has added to a sense that national pride has been wounded.

There has been little focus, however, on the predicament of the housekeeper, whose lawyer says was denied her wages, underpaid and now feels it would be unsafe to return to India.

"One wonders why there is so much outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian national accused of perpetrating these acts, but precious little outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian victim and her spouse," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement on Wednesday.

Students wear blue to support classmate with autism turned away from school dance

Published: Monday, February 20, 2017 @ 4:14 PM
Updated: Monday, February 20, 2017 @ 4:14 PM


            Students wear blue to support classmate with autism turned away from school dance

What a school called a "miscommunication" has sent a woman and her son reeling, but it's brought a community together in support of them.

Max Bedard was turned away from a semi-formal dance at Pelham Memorial Middle School on Friday because he was dressed "inappropriately," his mother, Michelle Bedard, told WFXT.

Max is autistic and has a sensory processing disorder. 

"Chronologically he is 14, but neurologically he's not," Bedard, said.

She said it was a big step for him even to be going to the dance.

"He was very excited about it. He was looking forward to it all week," Bedard said. "He's never been able to really do anything like this before. He's very social and he loves people and he was just excited about having this event with all of his friends."

Bedard said Max showed up at the dance eager to meet his date. He was wearing black sweatpants, a gray long-sleeved T-shirt and a zip-up hoodie – with dog tags in honor of his brother who recently joined the Army.

It was Max's standard clothing choice because of his disorder.

Bedard said she discovered his issue when she bought him a yard of fleece to make a blanket. When she wrapped it around him and he went into "a meltdown."

"You notice these things, like when he showers, he doesn't use warm water," she said. "Cold does not faze him, heat does," said Michelle. "He doesn't get invited to birthday parties, he doesn't get invited over to friends' houses -- to have play dates so this dance, for him, it was huge."

But when Max showed up, Bundzinski Bedard said the principal took him to the office and made him call home to tell them he couldn't wear what he was wearing.

"He was stopped at the door. She said to him, 'are you really wearing that' and he said 'yes' and she brought him to the office and made him call home. He never made it to the dance and never saw that girl who was meeting him there."

Bedard had pulled over in the parking lot to make a phone call, but that was interrupted by her husband calling to tell her she had to go back and pick up Max.

"I said, 'Are you kidding me?' – a little differently – but 'Are you kidding me?'" she said.

Bedard said her son got in the car and told her he could go home and get a button-down shirt, but didn't want to go back because he was too upset.

"He ripped off the wristband that they give them and threw it on the floor of my car," Bedard said, tearing up. "I drove home listening to my son cry."

She said she would have bought him a shirt or worked something out, but said the phone call was more than a miscommunication.

In a statement sent to WFXT, the school called it a miscommunication, but "that's not enough of an explanation," Bedard said.

"Obviously there were communication breakdowns prior to and during this event that led to this unfortunate situation, and we will use these lessons to make things better for everyone in the future," the school superintendent, Amanda Lecaroz, said in a letter to the community.

"There's a spring dance, do you think my son is going to want to go that? He'll want to, but he'll be afraid to," Bedard said. "This one instance will isolate him … my son should be accepted the way he is, just like everyone else is."

But the community's response has been overwhelming for the family, Bedard said.

She said everyone has been wearing blue and sharing the hashtag #MaxItMonday, with pictures of students, parents – even dogs – wearing blue.

"There is always an exception to a rule. Nobody should be isolated," she said. "We need to be kind to each other."

Below is the letter sent to the community by Pelham School District superintendent Amanda Lecaroz:

This obviously is a very difficult letter to write and I hope it will be received with my intent clear to those who read it; that of healing and unity to our community. I became aware of the controversial semi-formal dance issue yesterday morning through some board members that keep me informed of issues in the community that I may not be aware of because I am not part of many of the social media forums that exist in Pelham. Since being made aware, I have communicated with all parties involved in the incident as well as witnesses to the exchange and I think I need to address a few issues. Number one, the young man was never 'sent home' by Ms. Maghakian from the dance on Friday night, but rather sent to her office by other staff members to make a phone call along with several other students to have parents bring alternative clothing to better meet the dress code or clothing expectations of the event. That being said, obviously there were communication breakdowns prior to and during this event that led to this unfortunate situation and we will use these lessons to make things better for everyone in the future.

Number two, however, is a much different issue. I am thrilled to be part of a community that continually rallies around each other, supports each other and fights for each other. That is a team, and those that know me, know that working as a team is VERY important to me. During my discussion with the young man's mother yesterday morning, she was very happy with the outpouring of love and support that the community had shown her and I was deeply moved this morning when I heard of the dance being planned and the blue wearing for Monday as I view this as another example of how this community rallies together. Although I think the miscommunication and misinterpretation of the events of Friday night led to this, the outcome is something for us all to be proud of.

I am honored to be a part of this community and will happily be wearing my blue tomorrow as well. As always, if you wish to discuss this or any other issues, feel free to contact me at alecaroz@pelhamsd.org or during work hours (8 a.m.-4 p.m.) at 603-635-1145.

Thank you for helping us to continue to inspire success one mind at a time even when things don't go quite as we had planned.

Burger King owner buys Popeyes restaurants

Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2017 @ 8:57 AM
Updated: Tuesday, February 21, 2017 @ 9:01 AM


            Burger King owner buys Popeyes restaurants

The owner of Burger King and Tim Hortons restaurants has purchased Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, according to company’s website.

Restaurant Brands International paid $1.8 billion for  Popeyes, according to a press release. Popeyes is known for its Louisiana-style offerings, particularly chicken and red beans and rice.

Daniel Schwartz, Chief Executive Officer of RBI, said in a statement, "Popeyes is a powerful brand with a rich Louisiana heritage that resonates with guests around the world. With this transaction, RBI is adding a brand that has a distinctive position within a compelling segment and strong U.S. and international prospects for growth."

According to RBI, Popeyes will continue to be managed independently in the United States. Popeyes began 45 years ago as a Southern-themed "Chicken on the Run" restaurant in a New Orleans suburb. It has since expanded to 1,600 restaurants in the United States and more than 400 abroad. 

President Trump to meet Gov. Kasich Friday at White House

Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2017 @ 8:40 AM
Updated: Tuesday, February 21, 2017 @ 8:40 AM


            President Trump to meet Gov. Kasich Friday at White House

Gov. John Kasich may meet Friday at the White House with President Donald Trump, said John Weaver, a top Kasich political aide.

“Tentative as of now,” Weaver tweeted Monday night.

Kasich, who did not endorse Trump during last year’s presidential election, has remained a critic of Trump’s since he was inaugurated as president last month. In an interview with CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, Kasich called on Trump to personally reassure America’s NATO allies that “we all stand together in the Western Alliance.”

Kasich said while Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary James Mattis in Munich and Brussels this week say the administration stands with NATO, many allies point to Trump’s past description of the alliance as “obsolete.”

“The president’s people have all said it, but, frankly, he needs to be heard in a more … clear way,” Kasich said. “Because, despite all these people being here, I have been meeting with all these folks from all over the world. They say: ‘We’re just not sure.’”

Earlier this month, allies of Kasich formed a non-profit organization which is likely to press for public policy ideas that differ from Trump’s.

(Randy Ludlow for the Columbus Dispatch contributed to this report.)

7 things to know now: McMaster is security adviser; David Cassidy has dementia; Powerball

Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2017 @ 7:04 AM
Updated: Tuesday, February 21, 2017 @ 7:18 AM


            7 things to know now: McMaster is security adviser; David Cassidy has dementia; Powerball

Here's a roundup of news trending across the nation and world today.

What to know now:

1. McMaster is security adviser: Army Gen. H.R. McMaster has accepted the job of national security adviser, one week after Michael Flynn left the job. McMaster is known as a creative thinker, according to The Associated Press,  and was  described by President Donald Trump as "a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience." McMaster said he looks forward to "doing everything that I can to advance and protect the interests of the American people."

2. But, what did it costs: The AP, Vice Media LLC and Gannett, have asked a judge to force the federal government to divulge how much it paid for an electronic tool to unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorist. The three news gathering organizations argued that there was “no adequate justification,” to refuse to reveal the cost of the tool the FBI purchased in order to hack into the phone to gather information.

3. Russian ambassador dies: Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, fell ill suddenly on Monday and died. Churkin collapsed while at work at the Russian mission to the United Nations, was transported to a nearby hospital and died soon after. He was one day short of his 65th birthday. A heart issue is suspected in his death.

4. Journalist Buttner dies: Brenda Buttner, host of the Fox News’ Bulls and Bears, died after a battle with cancer. Fox commentator Neil Cavuto, Buttner’s colleague, offered a tribute to her Monday on his show, “Your World.” “She took stock of life much more than any stock in life. It’s what separated her from everyone else in this business. Not just dollars, you see, Brenda had depth,” Cavuto said. Buttner was 55.

5. Cassidy has dementia: David Cassidy, the former star of the 70's hit TV show “The Partridge Family,” revealed Monday that he is suffering from dementia. Cassidy, 66, has a family history of the disorder. Cassidy said in an interview that both his grandfather and mother suffered from the disease. "I was in denial, but a part of me always knew this was coming," he told People magazine. “I want to focus on what I am, who I am and how I’ve been without any distractions,” Cassidy said in the interview. “I want to love. I want to enjoy life.”

And one more

Get your numbers ready, the jackpot for the Powerball lottery has grown to $403 million dollars. No one matched all six numbers Saturday. For the next drawing on Wednesday, the one-time cash payoff is estimated to be at $243.9 million. The $403 million jackpot is the 10th largest in the history of the game. The highest the jackpot ever got was $1.6 billion in January 2016. 

In case you missed it

Who saw that coming?