FedEx to scan every parcel at two Texas facilities after blast

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People evacuate as emergency vehicles stage near the site of another explosion, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Austin, Texas. (AP)
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Members of Austin Police Department block off part of Mission Oaks Boulevard following an explosion in Austin, Texas, U.S., in this March 19, 2018 photo. (REUTERS)
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A law enforcement officer runs on Brodie Lane in Austin, Texas, moments after an explosion on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (AP)
Updated 21 March 2018
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FedEx to scan every parcel at two Texas facilities after blast

CHICAGO: FedEx Corp. will screen every package at the Texas facility where a parcel exploded on Tuesday, according to a FedEx manager, describing extraordinary steps the company is taking in response to a series of bombings in the state capital.
The package delivery company will also X-ray entire truckloads of parcels at its sorting facility outside Austin, and then divert them elsewhere for sorting and delivery, said the FedEx employee who was not authorized to speak on the record. The source does not work at the sorting facility but was briefed on the situation.
FedEx spokesman Jim McCluskey said he had no immediate comment.
The blast at FedEx on Tuesday was one of five explosions in Texas in the past 18 days. A sixth explosion on Tuesday night did not appear related, authorities said. The five attacks have killed two people, injured others and left hundreds of federal and local investigators scrambling to find the perpetrator and a motive.
Package screening is not routine at the nation’s big delivery companies such as FedEx, United Parcel Service Inc. or the US Postal Service. The industry delivers a total of around 40 million parcels in the United States each day, industry experts said. Checking every package on a regular basis would virtually paralyze their operations.
FedEx will carry out the special screenings at the sorting facility in Schertz, Texas where the package exploded, injuring one worker, and at a second location in Austin, where another explosive device was found, the employee said. The second package was turned over to police.
“FedEx in conjunction with the authorities are field X-raying all the packages one at a time,” the employee said. “From then on, we will be doing bulk X-rays of entire trailers.”
Packages will likely be delayed by a day or two at the facility, and FedEx was re-routing all other packages to its hub in Houston to avoid further delays, he said.
FedEx has provided law enforcement with “extensive evidence from our advanced technology security systems designed to protect the safety of our teammates, our customers and the communities we serve,” Chief Executive Officer Fred Smith told analysts on Tuesday after the company reported quarterly financial results.
FedEx will provide authorities with the location where the package was picked up by the driver and the time, the employee said, providing authorities with a wealth of data.
Satish Jindel, a founder of the delivery company that became FedEx Ground and now serves as president of ShipMatrix, which tracks on-time shipments, said it was highly unlikely that the industry would move toward routine screening. Package bombs are rare, he said, making it unrealistic to check every package, every day, considering the enormous cost.
“They don’t, they can’t, and they shouldn’t, and it would be unreasonable and ignorant for this country and for people to expect it,” Jindel said. “It would shut the economy down.”
For now, the industry will likely rely on employees who are trained to flag suspicious packages, Jindel said.
UPS spokesman Glenn Zaccara said the world’s largest package delivery company has security measures in place and was cooperating with law enforcement in their investigation, but declined to comment further.
DHL Worldwide Express said it had “standard” security and screening procedures in place and that its security teams were monitoring the situation in Texas.
The US Postal Service uses technology, targeted screening and employee training to stop suspicious packages, spokesman Dave Partenheimer said.
The FedEx manager with knowledge of the incident said the blast appeared to have been set off by a mechanical arm that diverts packages along a conveyer belt. When the arm came out and hit the package, it exploded on the sorter just as it entered a chute, he said.
“The good thing is it went off when it was going down the chute,” he said. “The chute actually shielded anybody below from the blast.”
 


Trump backers seize on case of jailed UK far-right activist

Updated 2 min 47 sec ago
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Trump backers seize on case of jailed UK far-right activist

  • Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, widely known by his pseudonym Tommy Robinson, was imprisoned for 13 months earlier this year for live-streaming outside a court
  • Conspiracy theories about his case have spread wildly on social media, drawing particular attention in the United States among supporters of the so-called “alt-right”

LONDON: Supporters of US President Donald Trump are taking up the cause of an anti-Islam activist jailed in Britain for contempt of court, raising fears of a far-right revival.
Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, widely known by his pseudonym Tommy Robinson, was imprisoned for 13 months earlier this year for live-streaming outside a court in breach of reporting restrictions around a trial.
Robinson is the founder of the English Defense League (EDL), a fringe group protesting perceived threats from Islamic extremism, and he has a string of convictions on charges including assault, fraud and drugs possession.
The name he uses is that of a well-known football hooligan.
Conspiracy theories about his case have spread wildly on social media, drawing particular attention in the United States among supporters of the so-called “alt-right.”
The campaign spread further after Donald Trump Jr, the US president’s son, retweeted a comment about Robinson.
Trump himself drew severe condemnation in November after retweeting three misleading anti-Muslim videos originally posted by Britain First, another far-right group.
Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist, defended Robinson on London’s LBC radio last week, reportedly describing him off-mic as “the backbone” of Britain.
The new cause celebre of the populist far-right in Britain even breached diplomatic circles after Sam Brownback, Trump’s envoy for international religious freedom, raised the issue with British ambassador Kim Darroch at a June lunch.
But anti-racism group Hope Not Hate said the notion that Robinson had been wrongly imprisoned was “incorrect and conspiratorial,” calling him a “violent far-right racist.”
Times newspaper columnist Francis Eliott warned that the Robinson case, allied with disillusionment over Brexit and fear of immigration, could create “a far-right revival” — all “powered by alt-right cash.”
Two recent pro-Robinson protests in central London, at which some demonstrators made Nazi salutes, saw violent confrontations with police and counter-demonstrators.
US Republican Congressman Paul Gosar came under heavy criticism for speaking at one of the rallies last Saturday during Trump’s visit to Britain.
“It is inexplicable for a sitting US congressman to speak at, let alone attend a rally for someone responsible for spreading as much hate and bigotry as Tommy Robinson, Imraan Siddiqi, executive director of the Arizona branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement.
Robinson gained notoriety in Britain after the EDL staged demonstrations in 2013 which often ended in clashes with anti-fascist demonstrators.
He was previously jailed for using someone else’s passport to enter the United States, which had refused him entry because of drug offenses, and has a number of other convictions.
In May, Robinson was arrested outside a court in Leeds in northern England and pleaded guilty to the contempt charge.
He was given 10 months in jail and another three months for breaching a suspended sentence for another contempt charge related to a separate case.
Reporting restrictions are imposed in all court proceedings in Britain, and are intended to avoid media reports that could influence the jury.
Raheem Kassam, a former editor-in-chief of Breitbart News London and one-time top aide to leading Brexiteer Nigel Farage, told AFP he was working to “internationalize” Robinson’s cause and organize support rallies.
“When the left see an injustice, it rallies an international caucus of people together... and we don’t do that enough on our side,” he said, adding the shift in tactics was “just the start.”
The US-based Middle East Forum — a right-wing think-tank where Kassam is a fellow — is also helping Robinson “legally, diplomatically and politically,” according to its director Gregg Roman.
It has spent tens of thousands of dollars footing the bills for Robinson’s defense and protests — including Gosar’s trip to London.
A spokesman for Hope Not Hate decried the increasing American interest in the case, describing Robinson as “a lightning rod for an international coterie of far-right, anti-Muslim activists and extremists.”
Noting a “clear plan” by alt-right figures like Bannon “to pressure our authorities to ameliorate his sentence,” he added: “These attempts to sway our legal system and the paths of justice must not prevail.”
Robinson is currently appealing his sentence, with a three-judge panel set to rule by the end of the month.