Kuwait Local News

Amir leaves for Bahrain to attend GCC summit

His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah will leave for Bahrain today leading a Kuwaiti official delegation to attend the 37th Summit of the GCC Supreme Council and GCC leaders’ meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

The summit is held amid quite significant regional challenges, affirmed Abdullatif Al-Zayani, the GCC Secretary General. These political, security and economic challenges warrant solidarity and cooperation among all the GCC member states and relentless action to attain merger among them, Zayani said in an interview broadcast by the official Bahrain News Agency (BNA) yesterday.

He indicated that agenda of the GCC summit, due on Tuesday, includes various files related to political, economic, security and social cooperation, as well as examining reports filed by the Ministerial Council, committees and the General Secretariat.

Current economic conditions constitute some of the major challenges facing the GCC states, he said. The GCC countries had already taken steps at this level, endorsing the joint economic treaty, setting up the common market and the customs union.
Elaborating, Zayani re-affirmed the GCC states’ resolve to face security threats. “They will not hesitate to take all necessary measures to safeguard their security, stability and defend their sovereignty and interests,” he stressed.

The GCC countries have taken an unwavering approach for upgrading their security and military potentials for defense purposes and safeguarding achievements that have been made throughout the years, Al-Zayani added.
He rejected, anew, foreign intervention in the regional countries’ affairs for such meddling contradicts with international laws and threatens the Gulf security and stability, noting the UN prime role in this regard.

On the Syrian refugees’ plight, he underscored the GCC countries’ efforts at the public and private levels to help them, noting that the GCC states along with other countries had pledged more than $7 billion to aid the Syrians. Kuwait had hosted three international conferences grouping countries pledging support for the Syrians affected by the war. A fourth one was held in London.

Regarding Yemen, Al-Zayani said the GCC countries had given substantial financial support for the legitimate government to help it deliver relief supplies to those in need in the war-stricken nation. For its part, Saudi Arabia had established King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid to coordinate humanitarian operations in Yemen, with a special budget estimated at one billion Saudi riyals.

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifah yesterday expressed confidence that the summit will come up with resolutions to promote the pan-GCC integration, and joint action. These will be topped with carrying on with implementation of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s ‘Vision 2030’ for accelerating the pace of cooperation among the member states, and enhancing the bloc’s joint action, Sheikh Khalid Al Khalifah said in a press statement.

He noted that the GCC Ministerial Council in 2016 approved measures for the completion of the Monarch’s wise vision, and the leaders endorsed the formation of a joint commission to reactivate economic and development.

The Bahraini chief diplomat pointed to the pivotal role the GCC member states play on the regional and international scenes. The 37th Summit will be a good chance to consolidate this role, and further boost security and stability in the region, to maintain unity, development, and prosperity in the region.

Concluding the statement, Sheikh Khalid Al Khalifah praised the Saudi King’s presidency of the 36th Summit held in Riyadh in December 2015, which has helped achieve remarkable steps for the GCC march, to continue with strong resolute in the Manama summit till the bloc realizes the aspired integration and unity.

In the meantime, MPs of the Bahraini Council of Representatives have affirmed the importance of the upcoming GCC Summit in facing the rising political, security and economic tension in the region. The MPs agreed in various statements that the current unstable conditions in the Arab World, mainly the escalation of terrorism and the economic situation in the Gulf countries due to the drop in oil prices, require the GCC states to unite.

Creating unity between the GCC countries will prevent any outer intervention in the Gulf’s own issues, said MP Nasser Al-Qaseer. The Gulf states have the ability to become one of the top economic powers, as they possess huge financial abilities, strong infrastructure and opportunities for attracting foreign investments, he added.

MP Mohammad Al-Amadi said meanwhile that the GCC citizens are looking forward for the outcome of the 37th summit, hoping the leaders would take measures to create a Gulf union to face the growing challenges and threats in the region. Sharing one language is a key factor to create a strong economic union, he said.

On this matter, he mentioned the successful experience of the European Union (EU), despite countries of different languages and backgrounds. Meanwhile, MP Jamal Dawoud noted the importance of discussing means of resolving the unemployment issues among youth through executing joint-GCC economic projects.

In the meantime, Bahraini Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sheikh Humoud bin Abdullah Al Khalifa said that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are heading towards a level of unity and further development. He further stressed the importance of the 37th GCC Summit to be held in Riyadh tomorrow, amidst the rising political, economic and security tension in the region. The ambassador hoped the summit will result in establishing the sought and the long-awaited Gulf union to face the challenges and threats and boost economy among the GCC states. – KUNA

Community News

Indian Lawyers’ Forum (ILF) conducted Legal Seminar & Farewell to Adv. Mili.

Indian Lawyers’ Forum Kuwait, the association of Indian Law Graduates and Lawyers in Kuwait conducted an in-house legal seminar and get together on 20th Jan 2017 at Farwaniya, to bid farewell to its member Advocate (Mrs.) Mili who is leaving Kuwait for good,. Adv. Mili hailing from Kannur, Kerala is an active and prominent member of Indian Lawyers’ Forum right from her arrival in Kuwait. Being a lawyer having with practicing background, her sharing of professional knowledge and experience have been an asset to the forum and its activities.

The function was presided over by the President of Indian Lawyers’ Forum, Adv. Thomas Panicker. In his address the president acknowledged the contributions of Mrs. Mili to the Forum.

President highlighted the activities of ‘Indian Lawyers’ Forum’. He described all the legal aids the FORUM has rendered in the recent past. He said the FORUM is very successful in providing a platform for the Indian Lawyers in Kuwait to meet and interact with each other. He observed that the FORUM enjoys the membership of Indian lawyers who are working for high profile legal firms/Corporations and holding key legal positions in various companies in Kuwait. Forum is well equipped to deal with any sort of legal and business consultations pertaining to Kuwait as well as India.

In the Legal discussion followed, the subject was presented by Adv. (Mrs.) Mini. Rent Law and Labour Laws of Kuwait were the main subjects for discussion. Adv. Thomas Stephen and other Advocates also participated in the legal discussion.

Adv. Mohammed Bashir, Adv.Thomas Stephen Adv.Bishnu Das, Adv. Jaseena, Adv. Shivadas made felicitation speeches on the occasion remembering the warm relationship and cooperation they maintained with Mrs. Mili. Adv. Suresh Pulikkal, Adv.Shibin, Adv. Tasneem , Adv.Mini also spoke on the occasion expressing their gratitude for her service to the Forum.

President Thomas Panicker presented memento of the Forum to Adv. Mili and wished her all success in her career and life ahead.

Mrs. Mili in her reply speech remarked that his tenure as Indian Lawyers’ Forum member was eventful and rejoicing.
She said through Forum she benefited a lot professionaly, especially to find out professional friends, participate in legal and other discussions with the fraternity and help each other in their career and personal life. She extended her thanks to all the Forum members and assured her continued services to the Forum and its activities in future.

Adv. Suresh Pulickkal proposed vote of thanks.


Helicopter Overhead, Burnt Cars Near Chennai’s Marina Beach

A row of charred police cars with flames still licking their chassis, a helicopter circling above on patrol, boats treading waves with black flags – by noon, it was obvious that the coda of the peaceful mass demonstration for Jallikattu, the bull-taming sport, was robbed off the spirit of youthful fervor and integrity that won it so much admiration.

The violence that erupted at Chennai’s Marina Beach today, the police stressed, was not the work of students, who were the engine of the powerful week-long movement. “Anti-national elements,” the cops said, had crept into the area, determined to cause some wreckage as attempts are made to clear the area for Republic Day arrangements.

Several public personalities, however, blamed the police and the government for failing to engage with students, who, last Tuesday, assembled at the shoreline and then put out calls for support on social media. The response was immediate and evocative: lawyers, IT professionals, parents with young children in tow all gathered to proclaim that those who claim Jallikattu tortures bulls does not understand how it’s conducted or its cultural significance, and that a ban on the sport levied in 2014 by the Supreme Court must be set aside.

This morning, the police asked the Marina Beach gathering to disband because the Tamil Nadu government used an executive order on the weekend to allow Jallikattu to resume. The students said they wanted proof that a new law would be brought in that would ensure Jallikattu could withstand legal challenges by animal rights groups like PETA. Nearly 5,000 students were evicted, but anger began building over reports that the police had used lathis or batons on some of them. The police said it withstood stones and slippers being hurled at its personnel. To resist being moved out, some students walked into the water; others formed a human chain.

“Young blood is boiling. The youngsters (on Marina Beach) are educated crowd, not an uneducated crowd. We need to speak to them and have a dialogue,” said actor-politician Khushboo of the Congress. Superstar Kamal Haasan, who has expressed ardent support for the movement, tweeted, “This is a mistake. Aggressive police action on students passive resistance will not bear good results.”
Political leaders were not allowed to participate in the Marina Beach campaign -students asked them to leave. Government sources who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter said it was hard to identify the leaders of such a broad-based movement. Balaji, a popular entertainer and Radio Jockey, told students that it is time to go home, tweeting that today’s behaviour threatened to undo what had been accomplished. “The police have been very supportive, helpful. (It’s) time we understand and behave accordingly. The ordinance and the promise for a permanent solution is itself a huge victory for us. So you need to withdraw,” he said.

Jallikattu is performed with the 4-day harvest festival of Pongal. Animal rights activists say that bulls are abused, taunted with chillies in their eyes, and given fodder laced with alcohol ahead of their bouts in open fields with young men, who compete to remain mounted on a bull for at least three jumps.

But the lakhs of people who support Jallikattu say incidents of bulls being tortured are anomalies, and must be punished, but that a wholesale ban on the sport is unacceptable.

After the Supreme Court sided with animal activists in 2014, the centre, last year, allowed the sport to resume, a move that has been challenged in the top court which has agreed that it will not deliver its verdict for a week to ensure it does not provoke an outburst in response.

GCC News

Saudi Arabia deports man wanted for plan to kill BJP leaders

Saudi Arabia has deported a man wanted in connection with a conspiracy to target leaders of BJP and other Hindu right wing outfits. Syed Zaker Raheem, who comes from Saidabad in Hyderabad and was living in Riyadh for many years, was arrested by Saudi authorities in May 2016 on the request of Indian authorities. After completing formalities, he was deported to Delhi Thursday and taken to Hyderabad Friday where Telangana police arrested him.

Raheem is brother-in-law of wanted Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist Farhatuallah Ghori, who is learnt to be holed up in Pakistan. Ghori is an absconding accused in an NIA case in connection with LeT’s recruitment of several youth in Karnataka and Telangana in 2010-11 to execute terror attacks and assassinate right-wing leaders. NIA had arrested several youngsters in the case. Thirteen of them were convicted by a court last September after they pleaded guilty to the charges.

According to NIA’s chargesheet, a number of Indian youths were influenced into joining the terror outfit in 2010-11 by a group of LeT-linked operatives based in Saudi Arabia. The chargesheet said that two of them, Abdul Hakeem Jamadar and Dr Zafar Iqbal Sholapur, also travelled to Pakistan via Iran, between December and January 2011 with the intention “of going to Afghanistan to join the Taliban to fight against American and NATO forces’’.

But Ghori, wanted in connection with the attack on Akshardham Temple in Gandhinagar, allegedly convinced them to focus on India. In Karachi, the duo “met some senior ISI officials’’ and LeT operatives, says the chargesheet. “These ISI officials motivated them to collect intelligence and carry out espionage activities for them in India,’’ the chargesheet said.


Microsoft to Cut 700 Jobs Next week

Microsoft is expected to conduct another round of layoffs next week when the company reports its quarterly earnings on January 26. About 700 jobs are expected to be impacted, according to someone familiar with the matter.

That is not a huge number compared to Microsoft’s workforce of about 113,000 people, but we understand nerves have been running high inside of Microsoft as employees hear rumors that hundreds of jobs will be cut.

This layoff is part of the previously announced plan to cut 2,850 roles announced in June in Microsoft’s annual report. At that time, Microsoft said that it planned to complete those cuts by June 2017, which is the end of Microsoft’s 2017 fiscal year.

Most of the 2,850 roles scheduled to be cut have already been eliminated, according to the person familiar with the matter. The upcoming cuts won’t be specific to any single group, but will be spread across the company’s worldwide offices and business units, including sales, marketing, human resources, engineering, finance and more.

The goals of these rotating smaller layoffs is not to reduce costs but to update skills in various units, this person tells us. And such layoffs don’t have much of an impact on Microsoft’s overall headcount. Microsoft is still hiring, with well over 1,600 job openings posted on LinkedIn.

We understand that Microsoft typically gives laid-off employees 60 days to find a new position internally and offers two weeks pay for every 6 months of employment, according one employee.

Under Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has experienced several rounds of layoffs including cutting approximately 7,400 positions in its last fiscal year, primarily from the phone business and its largest ever layoff in history of 18,000 jobs in 2014.


Jallikattu Protesters turn Violent and set Police Station on Fire

The nearly week-long protest of thousands at Chennai’s Marina Beach was remarkable not just because of its monumental scale -very often, the head count touched 15,000, according to the police – but also because of the determination of its young leaders to keep it apolitical and peaceful.

That changed his morning, with some policemen complaining of being attacked with stones as they tried to disperse the crowd which wants Jallikattu, the bull-taming sport, to be made legal again. A police station was set on fire near the beach, according to some reports.

The police says that it needs to reclaim the shoreline for security reasons and to allow officials to prep for Republic Day parades, but the demonstrators say that they will not vacate till Jallikattu is safe from legal challenges.

Nearly 5,000 protestors were removed this morning, but thousands more arrived, some of them from fishing villages in the area. The police warned that the crowd had been infiltrated by people determined to disrupt the peace.

The Tamil Nadu government issued an executive order Saturday allowing Jallikattu contests to take place. The order bypassed a 2014 verdict by the Supreme Court that banned the sport on grounds of animal cruelty. The order will last six months and can be appealed in court by animal rights groups.
Jallikattu, performed during the four-day “Pongal” or winter harvest festival, is hugely popular in Tamil Nadu. It involves releasing a bull into a crowd of people who attempt to grab it and ride it. Animal rights activists say that the sport is extremely cruel to the animals who often have chili powder rubbed into their eyes and have their tails broken as crowds try to grab them.

The ban has evoked intense emotions, with Tamil actors and sports stars joining the locals in demanding that the sport be restored as a symbol of Tamil culture.

The sport was performed in some districts of Tamil Nadu but tprotests in Madurai district blocked state Chief Minister O Panneersalvam from inaugurating the games in the area.

Alanganallur village in Madurai district is one of the main areas for the sport. Angry villagers blocked the roads to the bull arena, forcing the Chief Minister to return to Chennai.


SHOCKING VIDEO: Veiled Woman In Australia Faces Racial Abuse

SYDNEY — A Muslim student wearing a full face veil in Australia was allegedly targeted with racial and discriminatory slurs by another woman who called her a “terrorist” while asking ‘why have you got a mask’.

 The incident, which took place at Macquarie University here, was recorded on a camera in which the woman can be seen abusing the Muslim student wearing a ‘niqab’ or a full face veil, The Sunday Telegraph reported.

Ramzy Alamudi posted the shocking video on Facebook, saying he was shocked by what happened on Friday at Macquarie University, where his wife attends.

“As we entered the car, my wife (who wears an Islamic veil — niqab) decides to smile politely and wave innocently at the lady assuming everything was good…This is where the entire situation just turned upside down,” Alamudi wrote.

“The lady flips it…She blows up in a rage … Starts pointing at my wife and screaming (expletive) Take it off!!’ (referring to my wife’s veil),” he said.

“She then runs towards our car, and I urge my wife to lock her door and start recording if anything happens. The video will tell you the rest of the story…She pounds on my window and continues to hurl racial and discriminatory slurs at my wife. ‘Take it off! You Muslim terrorist!’,” Alamudi said.

“Who are you? Why you got a mask? Terrorist. You got a gun?” she is heard yelling in the video.

Alamudi then got out of the car after the woman grabbed the windscreen wipers of his car.

As he was trying to calm her down, she is seen to begin pushing him and a scuffle ensues.

A witness, Emily Grace Guff, also posted a video of the altercation, expressed her shock that the woman was physically attacking the man who was trying to protect his wife.

“As myself and another bystander approach the two, we made the shocking discovery that this poor man was actually trying to fight off this woman from his wife, who was sitting inside their car behind him,” she posted, adding they heard the woman claiming she ‘didn’t feel safe’ around the covered Muslim woman.

The 35-year-old woman has since been charged with common assault and damaging property.

She was given a field court attendance notice to appear at Burwood Local Court on March 13.

“Unfortunately, this type of Islamophobia isn’t isolated to this one individual and incident. Rather, it is an overarching systematic issue in our society that continues to be bred by the propaganda of the media and politicians. This is the problem,” Alamudi said.

The attack comes amid assaults targeting hijab-clad women in different parts of the world from the US to the UK.




Jallikattu Held In Tamil Nadu After Week-Long Protests, Claims Two Lives

CHENNAI — Jallikattu, Tamil Nadu’s popular bull taming sport, was on Sunday held in parts of Tamil Nadu with tens of thousands taking part but two participants were killed at one of the events.

It was held at Pudukottai, Trichy and Erode districts while a bullock cart race was organised in Coimbatore, organisers said.

 At Pudukottai, two bull vaulters were severely injured and died on the way to a hospital, police said.

The sport involves young men latching on to the hump of bulls. One who manages to stay put even after the animal makes three jumps is declared a winner.

 At times, the participants are thrown off the back of bulls or get gored by the animal.

The events were held after week-long state-wide protests by students and youths and followed the promulgation of an ordinance by the Tamil Nadu government amending the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to hold Jallikatttu. The sport was banned by the Supreme Court in May 2014.

 But Jallikattu did not take place in Alanganallur in Madurai district as no preparation had been done there, the organisers said.

Attempts to hold the event at Natham Kovilpatti in Dindigul district was not successful due to protests against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam’s wish to flag it off.

Speaking to reporters in Madurai on his way back to Chennai, the Chief Minister said: “Jallikattu is being held at several places in the state with proper arrangements. At Alanganallur it will be held when the people want it.

“Jallikattu cannot be stopped by anybody,” Panneerselvam added.

The AIADMK leader said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to assist the state government in its efforts to hold Jallikattu.

The government will on Monday place in the assembly a bill for holding Jallikattu. It is expected to pass with majority support.

Meanwhile, the massive youth protest in Chennai’s Marina Beach entered its seventh day on Sunday.

The protest that started with a handful of a people on January 17 morning is now attracting lakhs to the beach daily.

DMK leader M.K. Stalin urged Panneerselvam to explain to the demonstrators the steps the government will take so that there will not be any more legal impediments for the conduct of Jallikatttu.

The Supreme Court in 2014 banned Jallikattu, saying that bulls cannot be used as performing animals including in bullock cart races.

Since then, people have been urging the central government to take steps to allow the sport.

On Sunday, R. Arul, Secretary of Pasumai Thayagam, a Tamil group, told IANS: “All that the central government has to do is to remove the bull from the list of performing animals in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Is issuing a notification such a big issue?”

Despite Jallikattu being held in parts of Tamil Nadu, many do not hide their anger vis-a-vis the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Modi and Panneerselvam.

The anger against PETA is the most severe. Many want the group banned for what they say is its opposition to Indian culture and tradition.


Media ‘Delegitimising President From Day 1, Won’t Take It’, Says Team Donald Trump

WASHINGTON: The White House vowed on Sunday to fight the news media “tooth and nail” over what officials see as unfair attacks on President Donald Trump, setting a tone that could ratchet up a traditionally adversarial relationship to a new level of rancor.

A day after the Republican president used his first visit to CIA headquarters on Saturday to accuse the media of underestimating the crowds at his inauguration, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus expressed indignation at the reports and referred to them as “attacks.”

“The point is not the crowd size. The point is the attacks and the attempt to delegitimize this president in one day. And we’re not going to sit around and take it,” Priebus said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Reince Priebus complained about a press pool report that said the bust of Martin Luther King Jr had been removed from the Oval Office. The report on Friday night was quickly corrected but Trump called out the reporter by name at the Central Intelligence Agency on Saturday, as did spokesman Sean Spicer later in the day.

“We’re going to fight back tooth and nail every day and twice on Sunday,” Priebus said.
The chief of staff also repeated Spicer’s accusations that the media manipulated photographs of the National Mall to show smaller crowds at Friday’s inauguration.

Aerial photographs showed the crowds for Trump’s inauguration were smaller than in 2009, when Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president, was sworn in.

The unexpectedly high turnout for Saturday’s Woman’s March on Washington outpaced the inauguration turnout. The Washington subway system reported 275,000 rides of as of 11 a.m. (1600 GMT) on Saturday.

The subway system said 193,000 users had entered the system by 11 a.m. on Friday, compared with 513,000 at that time during Obama’s 2009 inauguration.

India News

Jallikattu Protestors Push Back, Defy Police Orders To Leave Chennai’s Marina Beach

CHENNAI:  Hundreds at Chennai’s Marina Beach refused to budge today as the police came in large numbers to remove them after five days of protest in support of bull-taming festival Jallikattu. Many of them threw stones at the police, which used batons to control the crowds. After the eviction early in the morning, much of the beach has been cleared but protesters who have stayed put moved closer to the sea. The police action followed a threat by some of the protesters to block Republic Day celebrations.
Here are the latest developments in this big story.
  1. All roads to the beach have been blocked. As the police bundled out large groups, mainly of women and children, students formed human chains. The beach, where around 15,000 had gathered at the height of protests last week, was mostly clear within hours.
  2. On Sunday, Jallikattu returned to parts of the state following an ordinance or executive order passed by Tamil Nadu on Saturday to bypass a Supreme Court ban on the sport. Three men were killed during the celebrations.
  3. The protesters had refused to move out even after the state’s ordinance as they demanded a permanent solution.
  4. The ordinance has to be cleared within six months for it to become law. Chief Minister O Panneerselvam has promised that it will be passed in the assembly session which begins today.
  5. On Sunday, as Jallikattu was held in parts of Tamil Nadu, two men were gored to death by a bull at Pudukottai, where the event was inaugurated by state Health Minister C Vijayabhaskar. A third man reportedly died of thirst at another event.
  6. At Madurai’s Alanganallur, where Chief Minister O Panneerselvam was expected to inaugurate the Jallikattu event, people refused to allow it, demanding that the ban be removed permanently first.
  7. Alanganallur, around 400 km from state capital Chennai, is the only place where Jallikattu is held as a function of the government. Jallikattu being held there would make its return official.
  8. All Tamil Nadu ministers were to inaugurate Jallikattu in their districts on Sunday as the Chief Minister urged everyone to make the events across Tamil Nadu “a grand success by participating in large numbers.”
  9. At Chennai’s Marina beach, thousands have protested peacefully but some said yesterday that they will not allow the Republic Day parade on the adjoining Beach Road until Jallikattu is permanently back.
  10. Jallikattu, in which young men wrestle with a bull in an open field during the harvest festival of Pongal, was banned by the Supreme Court in 2014. Last year, the Centre allowed the sport, but that decision has been challenged in the Supreme Court. The court has agreed to not deliver its verdict this week after the centre pointed out that a decision could create law and order problems.

Kuwait Local News

KOC announces emergency after oil leak SE Kuwait

Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) announced a state of emergency following an oil leak in southwest of Kuwait on Sunday, the company’s spokesman said. Menahi Al-Enezi, also Acting Deputy CEO for Administrative and Financial affairs, said in a press statement KOC teams were at the scene of the leak and dealing with the situation in accordance with the relevant protocol. Al-Enezi said no reading of toxic gases was detected.

Meanwhile, The Environment Public Authority has dispatched a team to monitor air quality following an oil leak in southwest of Kuwait on Sunday, EPA Director General said.

Sheikh Abdullah Ahmad Al-Sabah, in a statement to KUNA, said EPA was in close contact with Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) to follow the oil leak in Al-Maqwa’ area.

He confirmed that no increase in the normal pollutant levels was detected in the residential areas around Al-Maqwa’. Sheikh Abdullah said the northwesterly wind would help disperse gas emitted from the leaked area. “There is no reason to worry until now,” he said, and urged the public to get updates from official sources.