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18 killed, 30 wounded in Myanmar crackdown: UN official

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18 killed, 30 wounded in Myanmar crackdown: UN official

YANGON, Myanmar — Security forces in Myanmar opened fire and made mass arrests Sunday as they sought to break up protests against the military’s seizure of power, and a U.N. human rights official said it had “credible information” that 18 people were killed and 30 were wounded.

That would be the highest single-day death toll among protesters who are demanding that the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi be restored to power after being ousted by a Feb. 1 coup.

“Deaths reportedly occurred as a result of live ammunition fired into crowds in Yangon, Dawei, Mandalay, Myeik, Bago and Pokokku,” the U.N. Human Rights Office said in a statement referring to several cities, adding that the forces also used tear gas, flash-bang grenades and stun grenades.

“We strongly condemn the escalating violence against protests in Myanmar and call on the military to immediately halt the use of force against peaceful protesters,” its spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani was quoted saying.

An Associated Press journalist was taken into police custody on Saturday morning while providing news coverage of the protests. The journalist, Thein Zaw, remains in police custody.

The Democratic Voice of Burma reported that as of 5 p.m. in Myanmar, there had been 19 confirmed deaths in nine cities, with another 10 deaths unconfirmed. The independent media company broadcasts on satellite and digital terrestrial television, as well as online.

DVB counted five deaths in Yangon and two in Mandalay, the largest and second-largest cities.

It registered five deaths in Dawei, a much smaller city in southeastern Myanmar that has seen tens of thousands of protesters nearly every day since the coup. Witnesses said Sunday’s march was also large and people were determined not to be driven off the streets.

Confirming the deaths of protesters has been difficult amid the chaos and general lack of news from official sources, especially in areas outside Yangon, Mandalay and the capital of Naypyitaw. But in many cases, photos and video circulated showed circumstances of the killings and gruesome photos of bodies.

Gunfire earlier had been reported during protests in Yangon, as police also fired tear gas and water cannons while trying to clear the streets. Photos of shell casings from live ammunition used in assault rifles were posted on social media.

Initial reports on social media identified one young man believed to have been killed. His body was shown in photos and videos lying on a sidewalk until other protesters carried him away.

In Dawei, local media reported at least three people were killed during a protest march, supported by photos and video. Photos on social media showed one wounded man in the care of medical personnel.

Before Sunday, there had been eight confirmed reports of killings linked to the army’s takeover, according to the independent Assistance Association of Political Prisoners.

The Feb. 1 coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy after five decades of military rule. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party would have been installed for a second five-year term in office, but the army blocked Parliament from convening and detained her and President Win Myint, as well as other top members of Suu Kyi’s government.

On Sunday morning, medical students marched in Yangon near the Hledan Center intersection, which has become the gathering point for protesters who then fan out to other parts of the city.

Videos and photos showed protesters running as police charged at them, and residents setting up makeshift roadblocks to slow their advance. Some protesters managed to throw tear gas canisters back at police. Nearby, residents were pleading with police to release those they picked up from the street and shoved into police trucks to be taken away. Dozens or more were believed to be detained.

“The world is watching the actions of the Myanmar military junta, and will hold them accountable,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for New York-based Human Rights Watch. “Live ammunition should not be used to control or disperse protests and lethal force can only be used to protect life or prevent serious injury.”

Security forces began employing rougher tactics on Saturday, taking preemptive actions to break up protests and making scores, if not hundreds, of arrests. Greater numbers of soldiers also joined police. Many of those detained were taken to Insein Prison in Yangon’s northern outskirts, historically notorious for holding political prisoners.

According to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, as of Saturday, 854 people had been arrested, charged or sentenced at one point in relation to the coup, and 771 were being detained or sought for arrest. The group said that while it had documented 75 new arrests, it understood that hundreds of other people were also picked up Saturday in Yangon and elsewhere.

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Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw undergoes emergency eye surgery

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Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw undergoes emergency eye surgery

Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a former NAVY SEAL who lost his right eye in Afghanistan, announced Saturday that he underwent surgery this week for a problem in his other eye — and will be ” effectively blind for about a month.”

Crenshaw, 37, a Republican from Houston, tweeted a statement saying that a few days ago he had “noticed some dark, blurry spots” in his vision, “which seemed out of the ordinary.”

He sought medical attention Thursday and an eye doctor told him the retina in his left eye was detaching.

“This is a terrifying prognosis for someone with one eye, and the nature of the injuries I sustained in Afghanistan,” wrote Crenshaw, who served in the US Navy from 2006-2016 and retired as a lieutenant commander.

He said the 2012 IED blast in Helmand Province left him with “half a good eye,” and that there was always a possibility that the effects of the damage would resurface.

“It appears that is exactly what has happened,” he said.

The blast injuries, which happened during Crenshaw’s third deployment, initially caused total blindness, but he gained sight in his remaining eye and went on to do two more tours of duty.

He had emergency surgery Friday at the VA Medical Center in Houston.

“During the surgery they put a gas bubble in my eye, which acts as a bandage for my retina,” he said. “This means I have to be face-down for the next week or so, unable to see anything.”

Crenshaw said he would likely be off social media, except for updates on his health as he recovered in his Houston home with his wife, Tara.

“I have gotten through worse before, and I will get through this,” Crenshaw wrote.

Still, he added: “A few prayers that my vision will get back to normal and that I will make a full recovery wouldn’t hurt, though, and would be much appreciated.”

Crenshaw won a second term in Congress in November, beating Democratic challenger Sima Ladjevardian.

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Possible SpaceX debris washes ashore in Oregon

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Possible SpaceX debris washes ashore in Oregon

It’s an unidentified floating object.

Officials in Oregon are trying to determine if debris that washed ashore Friday afternoon belonged to a SpaceX rocket.

More than 100 SpaceX rockets have been shot into orbit since 2010.

The alleged space junk, a large black cylindrical tube, washed up along Alsea Bay in Lincoln County and was reported to local police shortly thereafter, according to a report from The Oregonian.

Authorities who contacted SpaceX said the object could be a “composite overwrapped pressure vessel,” which are commonly found in spacecraft.

The object was deemed non-hazardous and transported to an unidentified location for further study.

Reps for SpaceX did not immediately respond to request for comment from The Post.

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Supreme Court halts California from imposing limits for at-home woriship

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Supreme Court halts California from imposing limits for at-home woriship

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is telling California that it can’t enforce coronavirus-related restrictions that have limited home-based religious worship including Bible studies and prayer meetings.

The order from the court late Friday is the latest in a recent string of cases in which the high court has barred officials from enforcing some coronavirus-related restrictions applying to religious gatherings.

Five conservative justices agreed that California restrictions that apply to in-home religious gatherings should be lifted for now, while the court’s three liberals and Chief Justice John Roberts would not have done so.

California has already, however, announced significant changes loosening restrictions on gatherings that go into effect April 15. The changes come after infection rates have gone down in the state.

The case before the justices involved California rules that in most of the state limit indoor social gatherings to no more than three households. Attendees are required to wear masks and physically distance from one another. Different restrictions apply to places including schools, grocery stores and churches.

“California treats some comparable secular activities more favorably than at-home religious exercise,” allowing hair salons, retail stores, and movie theaters, among other places, “to bring together more than three households at a time,” the unsigned order from the court said. A lower court “did not conclude that those activities pose a lesser risk of transmission than applicants’ proposed religious exercise at home,” it said. 

The court acknowledged that California’s policy on gatherings will change next week but said the restrictions remain in place until then and that “officials with a track record of ‘moving the goalposts’ retain authority to reinstate those heightened restrictions at any time.”

Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a dissent for herself and her liberal colleagues, Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, that the court’s majority was hurting state officials’ ability to address a public health emergency.

“California limits religious gatherings in homes to three households. If the State also limits all secular gatherings in homes to three households, it has complied with the First Amendment. And the State does exactly that: It has adopted a blanket restriction on at-home gatherings of all kinds, religious and secular alike. California need not … treat at-home religious gatherings the same as hardware stores and hair salons,” she wrote. She added that “the law does not require that the State equally treat apples and watermelons.”

The case before the justices involved two residents of Santa Clara County in the San Francisco Bay Area, who want to host small, in-person Bible study sessions in their homes. California had defended its policy of restricting social gatherings as “entirely neutral.”

The court has dealt with a string of cases in which religious groups have challenged coronavirus restrictions impacting worship services. While early in the pandemic the court sided with state officials over the objection of religious groups, that changed following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last September and her replacement by conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

In November, the high court barred New York from enforcing certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues in areas designated as hard hit by the virus. And in February, the high court told California that it can’t bar indoor church services because of the coronavirus pandemic, though it let stand for now a ban on singing and chanting indoors.

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