Syria civil war: UN calls emergency talks after ‘gas attack’

Destruction at a hospital room in Khan Sheikhoun. April 4, 2017The UN Security Council is to hold emergency talks after an alleged chemical attack in Syria left dozens of civilians dead and wounded.

The release of chemicals in a rebel-held town in Idlib province brought furious international reaction.

Officials in Damascus deny opposition and Western claims that they used chemical weapons.

Russia’s defence ministry said a Syrian air strike had hit a rebel ammunition store that included chemical weapons.

In particular, “a workshop for the production of land mines filled with poisonous substances” had been hit, it said.

It seemed to support accounts by Syrian military sources a day earlier who reported an explosion at what they called a rebel chemical weapons factory in Khan Sheikhoun.

Earlier, the US and other powers had blamed the Syrian government.

Footage from the scene showed civilians, many of them children, choking and foaming at the mouth.

Witnesses said clinics treating the injured were then targeted by air strikes.

UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 72, including 20 children.

It was unable to say which chemical had been involved but pro-opposition groups said it was believed to have been the nerve agent Sarin.

‘War crime’

The attack will overshadow a conference in Brussels at which 70 donor nations will discuss aid efforts in Syria. Delegates want to step up humanitarian access for thousands of civilians trapped by fighting.

Syria’s civil war has raged for more than six years, with no political solution in sight.

Nearly five million Syrians have fled the country and more than six million are internally displaced, the UN says. More than 250,000 people have been killed.

Media captionVictims were treated for injuries, including asphyxiation

Wednesday’s emergency meeting of the UN Security Council was called by France and the UK as international outrage mounted over the attack.

Britain’s ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, said the incident was “very bad news for peace in Syria”.

“This is clearly a war crime and I call on the Security Council members who have previously used their vetoes to defend the indefensible to change their course,” he told reporters in New York.

  • The spectre of nerve agents in Syria – again
  • US blames Assad over ‘chemical attack’
  • Aftermath of attack in pictures (Warning graphic images)
  • Why is there a war in Syria?

In a statement, US President Donald Trump condemned what he called “these heinous actions” by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accused the Syrian government of “brutal, unabashed barbarism”.

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said it was a “horrific” attack and that there should be a “clear identification of responsibilities and accountability” for it.

Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionWitnesses said clinics treating the wounded were subject to air strikes

The BBC’s Lyse Doucet in Brussels says the attack could prove a stumbling block at Wednesday’s international conference.

The EU hopes to use the prospect of funds for reconstruction as a bargaining chip in the faltering peace talks, our correspondent says, but the latest developments will deepen the opposition of those who say now is not the time to discuss financial support for areas controlled by the Syrian government.


Money Is Meant to Be Spent, Not Just Saved

At first, it seems kind of weird that a financial planner should urge you to “just spend the money,” but that’s what I like about author and Certified Financial Planner Carl Richards. He reminds us that money isn’t some vague goal you should work toward. It’s just a tool. And it’s okay to spend it!

Police launch murder investigation after death of Paul McCready

Police have launched a murder investigation following the death of 31 year old Paul McCready in Belfast city centre.

Police have launched a murder investigation following the death of 31 year old Paul McCready in Belfast city centre.

Police have named the murder victim who died after an altercation in Belfast city centre as 31-year-old Paul McCready.

Mr McCready from north Belfast was injured in the incident near the Northern Whig bar in the Donegall Street area at around 12.50am on Sunday.

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Police officers at the scene of a murder in Belfast City Centre following an altercation close to the Northern Whig on April 2nd 2017 (Photo - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Police officers at the scene of a murder in Belfast City Centre following an altercation close to the Northern Whig on April 2nd 2017 (Photo – Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)

A 30-year-old man who was arrested at the scene remains in custody.

Detective Chief Inspector Geoffrey Boyce is continuing to appeal for witnesses.

“We know that a large number of people were in the vicinity of the Donegall Street/Waring Street junction at around the time the altercation took place,” he said.

“I would appeal to those people who have not yet gotten in touch with the investigation team to please do so. We are keen to gather as much information as possible about the circumstances and events that occurred here early this morning.”

Sinn Fein MLA for North Belfast Caral Ni Chuilin passed on her condolences to the family.

“The death of a 31-year-old man following an altercation close to Donegall Street in Belfast city centre has shocked local people,” she said.

“My thoughts and sympathies are with the family of this man at this time.

“I would appeal for anyone with information on this incident to come forward and contact the police.”

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Jack’s Insights: LEAD Fellows learn from Panhandle leaders

Jack’s Insights: LEAD Fellows learn from Panhandle leaders

Good ones just keep coming. That was my analysis of this week’s visit to the Panhandle by the Nebraska LEAD (Leadership Education/Action Development) Class 36. We had the privilege of interacting closely with this group of young professionals as they learned more about western Nebraska and agriculture in this part of the state.

Looking back on past Jack’s Insights articles, I noted that in April 2015 Nebraska LEAD was also my topic. However, due to the quality of this program, I decided it was worth writing again to spotlight the impact of Nebraska LEAD on developing leaders, and what the recent visit by Nebraska LEAD to the Panhandle included.

Nebraska LEAD involves a group of 30 dynamic young Nebraska leaders from across the state, ranging in age from 25 to 55. Nebraska LEAD Fellows, as they are known, are selected to participate in a two-year leadership development program that includes 12 three-day seminars, a national and an international study experience.

The mission statement of Nebraska LEAD is “To prepare and motivate men and women in agriculture for more effective leadership”.

The LEAD purpose is:

“The dynamic industry of agriculture plays a profound and over-riding role in every phase of Nebraska life. The LEAD Program recognizes that the development of human resources for agriculture and Nebraska should not be left to chance. The LEAD Program strives to address the needs of community members involved in the business of agriculture by presenting opportunities to broaden one’s knowledge and strengthen leadership and decision-making abilities.”

To understand what the Nebraska LEAD 36 Fellows experienced while in the Scottsbluff area this past week, here’s an overview of their three-day agenda. This also illustrates the commitment and dedication of the people and businesses in this area who support Nebraska LEAD with their time and money.

· Sunday afternoon they visited Legacy of the Plains museum, where Kevin Sandberg, Jessica Groskopf and Nancy Haney gave an overview of the history of agriculture and the ethnic diversity in the Panhandle. This included a stop at the Scotts Bluff National Monument and Museum.

· Next they were hosted by Western Nebraska Community College (WNCC) by Jason Stratman, who updated them on the new Agricultural Technology training program that WNCC recently implemented.

· Sunday evening concluded with dinner at El Charrito restaurant sponsored by 21st Century Equipment and hosted by Owen and Karen Palm.

· Monday began with an overview of health care in the Panhandle at Regional West Health Services by Tadd Greenfield.

· Next, while driving on a bus provided by WNCC, the Nebraska LEAD Fellows were given an overview of water issues by John Berge and management of irrigation in the North Platte Valley by Dennis Strauch.

· The UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center was their next stop, for Courtney Schuler to tell about the dry edible bean industry in the Panhandle. This stop was followed by a driving tour of the Panhandle Research Feedlot and discussion by Matt Luebbe.

· A drive to the Wildcat Hills Nature Center where Gary Shoemaker greeted them with a lunch sponsored by the Nebraska Sugar Beet Growers Association and comments by Kendall Bush and Mark Spencer about growing sugar beets. Paul Burgener gave an overview on the Panhandle economy; Brenda Leisy provided details of tourism in the Panhandle, including plans for the total eclipse in this area in August.

· Back on the bus, Gary Stone continued the discussion of deficit irrigation in the Panhandle and some of the research done by the Panhandle Research and Extension Center addressing this topic.

· Next, the group was hosted at Darnall Feedlot, where Lane Darnall and Jake Dean described how the feedlot and cow-calf industries interact with the economy and the cropping and range segments in the Panhandle. Leon Kriesel also gave a great overview of dryland cropping systems, certified seed and how these play into Panhandle agriculture.

· The group then visited 21st Century Water Technologies, where Owen Palm, Chad Schneider and Jeremy Becker discussed how technologies developed for improved water efficiency are changing the way that irrigation is done.

· Monday concluded with a dinner at the Steel Grill hosted by area LEAD alumni Laif and Sondra Anderson and First National Bank.

· Tuesday morning the Lead fellows were back at the Panhandle Center, where Michael Ann Relka discussed sugar beet production and the Western Sugar Cooperative. This was followed by an overview of Extension in the Panhandle by Jim Schild and a panel of Extension professionals made up of Rob Eirich, Cody Creech, Kelley Rice and Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel.

· Nebraska LEAD fellows ended their seminar with a lunch at the Scotts Bluff Country Club hosted by Western Sugar Cooperative and Jerry Darnell.

So, I think you can see that the three-day visit to the Panhandle for Nebraska LEAD fellows from Class 36 was packed full of great information. Also impressive to me is the support and dedication given by local businesses and people to encourage the development of leaders in agriculture for Nebraska. Looking over the long list of Nebraska LEAD alumni from the past 35 years of the program assures me that many participants in Nebraska LEAD from the Panhandle are now active leaders at local, state and even national levels. As I said at the beginning of this article – the good ones just keep coming.

Nebraska LEAD is recruiting fellows for Class 37. Anyone interested in either nominating someone, or applying yourself, can find more details at or by emailing email Kimberly Braaten at [email protected] You may also call Kimberly at 402-472-6810.