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Mexico Senate committees pass controversial security bill

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican Senate committees on Wednesday approved a controversial security bill that human rights groups say risks granting excessive power to the armed forces in their already checkered role in combating organised crime in the country.

Troops take part in a military parade celebrating Independence Day at Zocalo Square in downtown Mexico City, Mexico, September 16, 2017 .

REUTERS/Henry Romero

The bill, which enjoys some cross-party support between conservatives and centrists, will now pass to the floor of the upper house of Congress for discussion and possible approval late on Wednesday or on Thursday morning.

The Law of Internal Security aims to regulate the armed forces role in combating drug cartels, a conflict which has claimed well over 100,000 lives in the last decade.

Senate committees approved the bill on Wednesday, a senate spokesman said .

Lawmakers who support the bill say it will set out clear rules that limit the use of soldiers to fight crime.

Rights groups have strongly attacked the bill, saying it prioritises the military s role in fighting the gangs over improving the police, and could open the door to greater abuses and impunity by the armed forces.

The military has already been embroiled in multiple human rights scandals including extrajudicial killings of gang members and the disappearance of 43 students near one of its bases in 2014.

The United Nations, Amnesty International and Mexican human rights organizations have all criticized the bill.

This law should not be approved quickly, it puts liberties at risk by giving more power to the armed forces without designing controls and counterweights, said Santiago Aguirre from the Miguel Agustin Pro Center for Human Rights.

Last week, President Enrique Pena Nieto asked lawmakers to include civil society s views in their discussion of the bill, which sparked attempts by protesters to bar access to the upper house of Congress when it reached the Senate.

Writing by Christine MurrayEditing by Sandra Maler

Cost of MPs security rises by 2m following murder of Yorkshire’s Jo Cox

The amount of money spent protecting MPs has increased by more than 2 million since the murder of Jo Cox, figures have shown. Information published by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) shows that 170,576.24 was spent on security assistance in 2015/16. This sum increased 15-fold to 2,550,954.22 in 2016/17, IPSA said. Ruth Evans, chair of the authority, said: “Following the tragic events of June 2016, there was a big increase in the total expenditure on security, rising to 2.5 million during this year.

“It is important that we take the security of MPs, and that of their families and their staff, very seriously.” IPSA said a standard package of security measures is available to all MPs that has been recommended by security advisers and the police. Enhanced measures can be offered to MPs upon recommendation by the police, the authority added. Ms Cox was murdered by right-wing extremist Thomas Mair as she arrived to host a surgery in her Batley and Spen constituency last June.

Earlier this year, a coat of arms was unveiled in Parliament to honour the Labour MP.

Inspired by her maiden speech, the plaque bears the motto “More in Common”, with elements to show off her love of rivers and mountains and her support for women, as well as four red roses to represent each of her family members, two red for Labour and two white for Yorkshire.

Security stepped up as Manchester’s Christmas markets open for business

Armed police have begun patrolling at Manchester s Christmas markets. To bolster security even further steel and concrete barriers have been placed around the popular stalls for the first time this year. As revealed in the M.E.N . undercover plain clothes officers carrying guns who will mingle with the crowds.

The heightened security comes after the Manchester Arena bomb and the fact that according to the Metropolitan Police the current threat level to the UK from international terrorism is severe. But Leaders in Manchester insist the city is open for business .

Concrete barriers have been placed around the popular stalls

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Superintendent Chris Hill from GMP said: People s natural response when they see extra security can sometimes be one of fear or concern, worrying that the extra measures mean that it s more dangerous.

“I want to assure people that we are strengthening protective security as an extra precaution to keep people as safe as possible, and it should make people feel more comfortable and reassured about attending events like the Christmas Markets . Our priority is the safety and security of all those attending or involved.

This has been a difficult year for the city and we must never forget the people who have been affected . However, we have already all come together and shown our strength and determination to carry on enjoying our day to day lives .

I want to encourage everyone to do the same . We are here and we re doing everything that we can to keep you safe.

Firearms officers will patrol the markets across the city centre

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The new barriers will be placed around Albert Square and firearms officers will patrol the markets there and at other sites across the city. GMP and Manchester City Council are also working together to install other protective security measures in key areas and have been working closely with the market managers and organisers.

Councillor Pat Karney from Manchester council said: Visitors to our markets will see the precautionary measures we are taking to make sure everyone who visits the city feels safe, and that they know we have done everyone we can to make their visit enjoyable.

We have worked closely with GMP to make sure the security in place is as robust as possible, and we look forward to welcoming the millions of visitors to our Christmas Markets over the next six weeks.