Iconic photo

Now she has a new chance to heal — a prospect she once thought possible only in a life after death.

"So many years I thought that I have no more scars, no more pain when I'm in heaven. But now — heaven on earth for me!" Phuc says upon her arrival in Miami to see a dermatologist who specializes in laser treatments for burn patients.

Late last month, Phuc, 52, began a series of laser treatments that her doctor, Jill Waibel of the Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute, says will smooth and soften the pale, thick scar tissue that ripples from her left hand up her arm, up her neck to her hairline and down almost all of her back.

Even more important to Phuc, Waibel says the treatments also will relieve the deep aches and pains that plague her to this day.

Colorado was the first US state to legalize marijuana, followed by Washington state, in both cases after voter initiatives. Clark County, NV — In an emotional courtroom display Friday, Steven Ficano, 65, embraced his attorney and his wife after the jury read their verdict of “not guilty.”

In 2012, Ficano’s house was raided by heroes protecting the citizens of Nevada from the horrors of marijuana plants. For the next three years, Ficano anxiously lived his life thinking that he could live out the rest of his golden years in a cage for the “crime” of treating his pain with a plant.

However, the three years that passed since his arrest were undoubtedly a benefit for Ficano in this case. The leaps and bounds that have taken place in regards to America’s acceptance of marijuana legalization had a lot to do with the jury’s verdict.

Since he was arrested, Nevada has legalized pot dispensaries.

“We’re not used to treating it as a medicine,” Ficano’s attorney, Dustin Marcello said. “Well, those days are over.”

The irony here is that if Ficano had gotten prescriptions for opioids and wasted away on these highly addictive pain-blockers, the state would have been just fine with it. However, since he chose to use a natural remedy without the horrid side-effects of nausea, vomiting, constipation, physical dependence, tolerance, respiratory depression and death, he was persecuted.

Ficano was found by police to be growing plants at his house for his personal consumption to treat a back injury. The state’s case against him consisted of saying he had too much pot, and they suspected him of selling it.

According to the Nevada Review-Journal:

In closing arguments, prosecutor Lindsey Moors lifted three cardboard boxes packed with marijuana that police confiscated from Ficano. She dropped each box, one-by-one, in front of the jury box.

Moors argued that several signs pointed to Ficano’s intent to sell pot. He had 68 plants, 24 pounds of finished marijuana, a digital scale, more than $51,000 in cash, 26 guns and “not a single pot baked-good located in his home.”

However, the jury was able to see past the attempt to demonize a man who had caused no harm to anyone. Not that having guns and large quantities of marijuana is immoral in any way, but the prosecution’s attempt to sway the jurors into believing Ficano was a criminal for having these things, failed miserably.

The guns were antique lever-action rifles, collectible pistol sets, and historic muskets, Ficano’s lawyer said.

The money was cash Ficano had pulled out of his bank account during the recession. Some of the pot had been stored in jars so long that it had grown moldy. Most of the plants were either male or too immature to produce buds.

The jury took only one hour to deliberate before highlighting the gross waste of taxpayer money in paying police, prosecutors, judges, and jurors to persecute a man who morally had done nothing wrong.

This verdict is yet another piece of evidence showing that Americans are becoming tired of seeing people kidnapped, locked in cages, or killed for their own personal choices.

Jurors have the power to overturn the war on drugs tomorrow. All they have to do is acquit all non-violent drug offenders.

 The U.S. has taken Cuba off its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Secretary of State John Kerry has signed an order removing Cuba from the U.S. terrorism blacklist as part of the process of normalizing relations between the Cold War foes.

Kerry acted 45 days after the Obama administration informed Congress of its intent to do so. Lawmakers had that much time to weigh in and try to block the move, but did not do so.

The step comes as officials from the countries continue to hash out details of restoring full diplomatic relations, including opening embassies in Washington and Havana and returning ambassadors to the two countries. Friday's removal of Cuba from the terrorism list had been a key Cuban demand.

A 65-year-old woman in Israel has just become a mother for the first time. The ultra-Orthodox woman gave birth to a healthy 5.9-pound baby boy this week, reports the Jerusalem Post. Haya Shahar did so thanks to IVF treatment she had outside the country, likely Russia, because Israel forbids the procedure for women older than 54. 

“We do not recommend this,” says Dr. Tal Biron of Kfar Saba hospital. Nevertheless, he added that the baby is “very cute.” Shahar’s husband is 67, and they’d been trying unsuccessfully to have a baby throughout their 46-year marriage. The Post notes the sperm was either donated or bought, but the hospital won’t specify; Haaretz says the couple used a donor egg.



LIBERTY, Kan. (AP) — Two people are in custody and a manhunt is underway in southeastern Kansas for a third suspect after an Oklahoma police officer was shot in the head during a traffic pursuit, police said.

South Coffeyville Police Chief Wade Lamb told the Tulsa World (http://bit.ly/1KBPuaZ ) that the incident began when an officer tried to pull over an SUV Thursday evening in Rogers County, Oklahoma, but the vehicle took off. The SUV occupied by three people headed north, Lamb said.

As the three drove toward the Kansas border, someone fired shots from the SUV at an Oologah police cruiser that was assisting in the chase, striking an officer in the head, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Dwight Durant said.

The cruiser crashed in a ditch, Durant said. The officer was airlifted to a Tulsa hospital. His condition wasn't released, though Durant told the newspaper the officer was awake when he was put into the medical helicopter.

Authorities say two of the vehicle's occupants were eventually taken into custody in South Coffeyville, just south of the Kansas border, after police used stop sticks. They were not immediately identified.

The third person escaped, carjacked another car and shot the driver before pulling away, Lamb said. That victim's condition wasn't immediately clear.

The suspect made it to Liberty, Kansas, before crashing and fleeing on foot, Lamb said.

A search was underway late Thursday.

 At least four flights traveling over Long Island Thursday night were hit by lasers, according to federal officials.

A green laser illuminated the aircraft while they flew 8,000 feet about 4 miles northwest of Farmingdale, a spokesman for the FAA said Friday. The incidents occurred between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.

The affected flights are: American 185, Shuttle America 4213, Delta 2292 and Delta 2631, the FAA said. At least two of those flights -- American 185 and Delta 2292 -- originated at John F. Kennedy International Airport, according to the airlines' online flight trackers.

New York State Police have been notified and an investigation is underway.

No injuries were reported, though it is extremely dangerous to point a laser at an aircraft, particularly green lasers which are more easily seen than red lasers. Shining a laser into the cockpit of a plane is a federal crime, according to FAA.

"These lasers can temporarily blind a pilot and make it impossible to safely land the aircraft, jeopardizing the safety of the passengers and people on the ground," then-FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in a 2011 news releaseannouncing harsher penalties against those who point lasers at planes.

Muhammadu Buhari becomes Nigeria's new head of state on Friday, in an unprecedented ceremony after he won the first opposition victory over a sitting president in the nation's history.

The 72-year-old takes charge of Africa's most populous nation, which is facing crises on several fronts, from severe economic turmoil to Boko Haram's still-raging Islamist insurgency.

The inauguration, before visiting heads of state and dignitaries, comes 32 years after the former army general seized power in a military coup. He was ousted after 20 months in office.

Buhari has described himself as a "converted democrat" and vowed to lead an administration committed to the needs of Nigeria's 173 million people by cracking down on the scourge of corruption.

But analysts said his first task may be managing the expectations of a nation that has struggled for decades with woeful infrastructure, crippling unemployment and widespread unrest.

- Democratic milestone -

Beyond the challenges facing the new government, the historic importance of Friday's ceremony should not be overlooked, said Clement Nwankwo, an activist who fought against military rule.

"The handover... represents a significant milestone in the democratic development of Nigeria," Nwankwo, who now heads the Policy and Legal Advocacy Center, told AFP.

Civilian rule was restored in 1999 but the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has held power at the federal level for the last 16 years, at times appearing intent on staying on at any cost.

Buhari's win over outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan in March 28 polls and the subsequent inauguration of a long-time opposition leader were not expected, added Nwankwo.

"I would say I am pleasantly surprised. Given the history of Nigeria's elections, it was always going to be a surprise to see an incumbent lose."

Heads of state, including South Africa's Jacob Zuma, and Western dignitaries such as US Secretary of State John Kerry will attend Friday's inauguration, which starts at 9:00 am (0800 GMT).

- Corruption, economic crisis -

Nigeria is Africa's top oil producer and leading economy, deriving more than 70 percent of government revenue from crude sales.

Plunging oil prices have caused a cash crunch that has left thousands of civil servants unpaid and pushed the naira currency to historic lows.

Buhari and his All Progressives Congress Party have pledged sweeping change, particularly in job creation, electricity supply and insecurity.

But with the public coffers in tatters, Buhari's ability to deliver on campaign promises may be limited in the short term.

"Given that the incoming administration will be substantially resource-constrained, we think Buhari's biggest challenge will be managing expectations," research and investment firm Renaissance Capital said.

Buhari won the support of voters largely through his tough stance against corruption. His brief tenure in the 1980s is remembered as a time when bribery and graft were forbidden.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto misrepresented to authorities the circumstances under which he acquired one of his properties, public documents reviewed by Reuters show, a discrepancy that could add to a controversy surrounding his personal finances.

According to an official asset declaration first made in 2013, Pena Nieto stated that he acquired the property through a "donation" or gift from his father. Pena Nieto, who made his asset declaration public in 2013 as part of a transparency and accountability push, has since updated and ratified this declaration twice.

Under a public information request, Reuters reviewed documents showing that Pena Nieto actually purchased the property in question - a 1,000 square meter piece of land in the town of Valle de Bravo - in 1988 from a third party. He paid 11.2 million pesos, equivalent to about $5,000 at the time, the registry shows. His wealth declaration lists the property as being valued at just 11,200 "old" pesos, the equivalent to about $5 at the time.

Reuters was unable to determine why Pena Nieto's declaration mischaracterized the purchase as a gift and understated the price. The declaration lists eight other real estate properties, five of which are also listed as donations. Reuters could not determine if those five properties, which include houses and land, are accurately characterized.

Mexican public officials face no requirement to explain the source of any funds used to obtain properties they receive as gifts, but they are required to accurately declare how they acquire their properties.

The president's office, asked to explain the discrepancies in the documents, declined repeated requests to comment.

Several hours after Reuters published its story, the president's spokesman publicly released a letter on the presidential website addressed to Reuters reporter Simon Gardner.

It asserted that the property was a donation and that Pena Nieto's father had purchased it in his son's name.

Pena Nieto has been under pressure in recent months over a series of conflict-of-interest scandals centered on properties he, his wife Angelica Rivera and Finance Minister Luis Videgaray acquired from government contractors.

Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui and her colleagues reported last year that Rivera was acquiring a multi-million dollar home from a unit of a government contractor which was part of a Chinese-led consortium that had won a $3.75 billion high speed rail contract. The Wall Street Journal later reported that Pena Nieto purchased a home from a developer which, the newspaper said, went on to win millions of dollars in state public works contracts.

At today’s Google I/O developers conference, the search giant unveiled Google Photos, a new app that will help you store an unlimited number of photos, find the ones you want, and share them free of charge.

Google Photos will let you view, search, and share them in a variety of ingenious ways.

Related: The 7 New Flickr Features That I’m Not Allowed to Review

Like every other online photo service, the app organizes your images chronologically by default. But you can also view your photos by subject or location. The app uses machine learning technology to automatically identify what’s in your photos without requiring you to laboriously tag each one.

“Crisis Bigger Than 2008 Is Coming”
Stansberry Research Sponsored

For example, typing “Disneyland” into the app’s search field will automatically pull up every photo you’ve taken when visiting the Magic Kingdom.

A new interface will let you go from viewing a single day’s worth of photos to weeks’, months’, or years’ worth of images simply by pinching the screen with your fingers. Need to embarrass your strapping 18-year-old with those naked baby photos? You can go back through your collection years at a time with a couple of swipes.

At today’s Google I/O developers conference, the search giant unveiled Google Photos, a new app that will help you store an unlimited number of photos, find the ones you want, and share them free of charge.

Google Photos will let you view, search, and share them in a variety of ingenious ways.

Related: The 7 New Flickr Features That I’m Not Allowed to Review

Like every other online photo service, the app organizes your images chronologically by default. But you can also view your photos by subject or location. The app uses machine learning technology to automatically identify what’s in your photos without requiring you to laboriously tag each one.

“Crisis Bigger Than 2008 Is Coming”
Stansberry Research Sponsored

For example, typing “Disneyland” into the app’s search field will automatically pull up every photo you’ve taken when visiting the Magic Kingdom.

A new interface will let you go from viewing a single day’s worth of photos to weeks’, months’, or years’ worth of images simply by pinching the screen with your fingers. Need to embarrass your strapping 18-year-old with those naked baby photos? You can go back through your collection years at a time with a couple of swipes.

At today’s Google I/O developers conference, the search giant unveiled Google Photos, a new app that will help you store an unlimited number of photos, find the ones you want, and share them free of charge.

Google Photos will let you view, search, and share them in a variety of ingenious ways.

Related: The 7 New Flickr Features That I’m Not Allowed to Review

Like every other online photo service, the app organizes your images chronologically by default. But you can also view your photos by subject or location. The app uses machine learning technology to automatically identify what’s in your photos without requiring you to laboriously tag each one.

“Crisis Bigger Than 2008 Is Coming”
Stansberry Research Sponsored

For example, typing “Disneyland” into the app’s search field will automatically pull up every photo you’ve taken when visiting the Magic Kingdom.

A new interface will let you go from viewing a single day’s worth of photos to weeks’, months’, or years’ worth of images simply by pinching the screen with your fingers. Need to embarrass your strapping 18-year-old with those naked baby photos? You can go back through your collection years at a time with a couple of swipes.

The accused mastermind behind the underground website Silk Road will be sentenced on Friday for orchestrating a scheme that enabled more than $200 million of anonymous online drug sales using the digital currency bitcoin.

Ross Ulbricht, 31, faces up to life in prison after a federal jury in Manhattan found him guilty in February of charges including conspiracy to commit drug trafficking, money laundering and computer hacking.

Prosecutors are seeking a sentence "substantially above" the 20-year mandatory minimum that U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest must impose on Ulbricht, who admitted to creating Silk Road but denied wrongdoing.

Ulbricht is expected to appeal his conviction. His lawyer declined comment ahead of sentencing.

Silk Road operated for more than two years, allowing users to anonymously buy drugs and other illicit goods and generating over $214 million in sales in the process, prosecutors said.

The online black market was shutdown in October 2013, when authorities seized the website and arrested Ulbricht at a San Francisco website.

Prosecutors said Ulbricht operated the website under the alias Dread Pirate Roberts, a reference to a character in the 1987 movie "The Princess Bride."

The website relied on the so-called Tor network, which lets users communicate anonymously, and accepted bitcoin as payment, which prosecutors said allowed users to conceal their identities and locations.

Prosecutors said Ulbricht, who grew up in Austin, Texas, took extreme steps to protect Silk Road, soliciting the murders of several people who posed a threat. No evidence exists the murders were carried out.

At trial, Joshua Dratel, his lawyer, said Ulbricht had indeed created what he intended as a "freewheeling, free market site" where all but a few harmful items could be sold.

Dratel said Ulbricht handed off the website to others after it became too stressful, and was lured back toward its end to become the "fall guy" for its true operators.

In a letter filed in court last week, Ulbricht urged Judge Forrest in sentencing him to leave a "small light at the end of the tunnel" and said he recognized Silk Road was a "very naive and costly idea."

"In creating Silk Road, I ruined my life and destroyed my future," he wrote.

The case is U.S. v. Ulbricht, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 13-06919.

Over the past year, I’ve shared with you the continued decline of America’s most popular fast food giant. We’ve talked about the mass closing of McDonald’s locations, the attempts by thecompany to trick customers into thinking that it was ‘going natural,’ and we’ve even talked about how some economists predict an ultimate demise.

 

And now, as people continue to choose real food instead of plastic-filled junk, McDonald’s has publicly declared an answer: it will completely stop telling us how much it loses in profits each month. Quite an amazing solution, huh?

 

As Bloomberg reports in an article entitled “McDonald’s to Stop Reporting Monthly Same-Store Sales Data,” the move has come after 11 straight months of declining sales. Specifically, the fast food titan has even been forced to close more than 700 stores. Meanwhile, the sales of organic food continue to boom. It’s part of the new health paradigm that millions around the world continue to adapt — a system in which real, organic food reigns supreme.

 

And there’s no place for McDonald’s food in this paradigm, as we have seen by so many individuals around the world rejecting the chain at astounding rates. As Slate reports:

 

“Every month, McDonald’s announces how much sales have grown (or fallen) at restaurants open at least 13 months in its various market segments and across the globe. Lately, those figures have been nothing but dreadful. As of April, McDonald’s global same-store sales had shrunk for 11 consecutive months while its U.S. numbers had either declined or stayed largely flat.”

 

Time and time again we find that major corporations and even government organizations would rather ‘turn off’ their reporting and accountability than actually make real strides towards solving the issue at hand. From the EPA just ‘turning off’ the radiation counters following Fukushima, to the plant operating company TEPCO deciding to hide the true radioactive contamination reports. Isn’t it time that McDonald’s changes its game before even more people decide that they won’t be eating junk for any longer?

 

Do you still eat McDonald’s? Let us know in the comments if you think this fast food giant will survive through the ever-expanding health food movement.

Aspiring entrepreneurs and coders have been moving to Silicon Valley in droves for the past half-century.

But home prices are rising so rapidly that Bay Area residents are increasingly looking to go elsewhere.

According to a recent study by the real-estate brokerage Redfin, one in four people based in the Bay Area are searching for homes in other regions of the country. In 2011, it was one in seven.

Where are they going? Mostly to Seattle; Portland, Oregon; and Southern California.

“It’s possible that these people are searching for second homes, but given that they’re looking in big cities like Seattle and Portland, that doesn’t seem too likely,” Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman told Business Insider.

Seattle — a tech hub in its own right — has seen the biggest increase in searches by Bay Area Redfin users, rising from 1.2% in 2011 to 5.1% in the first half of 2015.

Silicon Valley home prices have risen astronomically in the past decade. The median sale price for a home in Silicon Valley is $1.05 million — for comparison, it’s $565,000 in Seattle and $375,000 in Portland, according to Redfin’s analysis.

This means all but the wealthiest of the wealthy are being priced out of the Valley.

It’s even expensive for software developers, the very talent that Silicon Valley has attracted. According to PayScale, the median software developer salary in San Jose is $112,000 a year.

That’s significantly more than developers make in other cities. In Seattle, the median salary for software developers is $100,000, while in Portland it’s $79,700.

Given the median sale price, however, you’ll need to make about $212,800 a year to afford a mortgage on a Silicon Valley home.

“They’re still writing code, still building products, but they’re doing it in Boulder instead of San Francisco,” Kelman said. “They’re trying to re-create that same culture of innovation outside of the Bay Area.”



When three British schoolgirls trundled across the Syrian border; when a pregnant 14-year-old ran away from her Alpine home for the second time; when a sheltered girl from the south of France booked her first trip abroad - they were going to a place of no return.

Only two of the approximately 600 Western girls and young women who have joined extremists in Syria are known to have made it out of the war zone. By comparison, as many as 30 percent of the male foreign fighters have left or are on their way out, according to figures from European governments that monitor the returns.

In interviews, court documents and public records, The Associated Press has compiled a detailed picture of European girls and young women who join extremists such as the Islamic State group - a decision that is far more final than most may realize.

The girls are married off almost immediately. With an estimated 20,000 foreign fighters - among them 5,000 Europeans - in Syria, there is no shortage of men looking for wives. That number is expected to double by the end of the year. Once among the jihadis, the women are not permitted to travel without a male chaperone or a group of other women, according to material published by Islamic State and researchers who follow the group. Otherwise, they risk a lashing or worse.

European women who blog about their lives under Islamic State tend to be chipper about the experience, but reading between the lines of an e-book of travel advice shows a life that will be radically circumscribed, with limited electricity, lack of even the most basic medicine, and practically no autonomy. Women do not fight, researchers say, despite Hunger Games-like promises.

"The lives of those teenage girls are very much controlled," said Sara Khan, a British Muslim whose group Inspire campaigns against the dangers of extremist recruiters.

The two exceptions to the rule of no return are perhaps most revealing in the very paucity of details about their journey - driving home how murky life is behind the Islamic State curtain.

Sterlina Petalo is a Dutch teenager who converted to Islam, and came to be known by the name Aicha. She traveled to Syria in 2014 to marry a Dutch jihadi fighter there and managed to return months later - apparently making her way to the border with Turkey, where her mother reportedly picked her up and brought her back to the Netherlands. Back home, she was immediately arrested on suspicion of joining a terror organization.

Her family, lawyers and prosecutors refuse to discuss the case. She was released from custody last November and has not been formally charged.

The second woman known to have made it out of the grip of Islamic State reconsidered after just a few weeks. The 25-year-old Briton, whom police have not named, had taken her toddler son all the way to Raqqa, the group's stronghold, when she decided she had made a mistake and called home. She made her way back into Turkey and her father met her there. How she was able to travel the 250 kilometers (150 miles) from Raqqa to the Turkish border city of Gaziantep is not clear. Back in Britain, she was detained and is now free on bail pending formal charges.

Without knowing how the two escaped, it is difficult to say whether other girls and women could follow their path out of Syria, said Joana Cook, a researcher at King's College London who studies the links between women and jihad.

"There are clearly many human smugglers working within Syria right now, helping Syrian civilians escape the violence, and I wonder if there is a similar, perhaps even growing market, for those trying to escape after joining ISIL," Cook told The Associated Press in an email, using one of the acronyms for the Islamic State group.

The question is whether the girls understood from the beginning how limited their choices would be once they crossed the frontier.

The case of a 15-year-old Avignon girl exemplifies such doubts. The girl hid her second Facebook account and Islamic veil from her moderate Muslim family, thereby managing to join a jihadi network, according to the family's lawyer. Once within a unit of the al-Qaida offshoot Nusra Front, she was not permitted to leave, according to her brother, who went into Syria to fetch her and was turned away by the extremists. A French boy who joined the group around the same time was allowed to go home.

The networks that bring the women into Syria are increasingly organized around the extremists' dream of building a nation of multinational jihadis, meaning European girls are particularly prized.

The doggedness of jihadi methods for recruiting girls can be seen in the case of Amelia, a 14-year-old girl from France's Alpine Isere region.

Amelia was first contacted on Facebook by a French fighter on Jan. 14, 2014 and within a month agreed to go to Syria and marry the man, who identified himself as "Tony Toxiko." After she was turned back by airport border police in Lyon on her first attempt, "Tony Toxiko" persuaded another French adolescent girl to join him in Syria.

Amelia, meanwhile, ran away from home to Belgium, where an imam performed a religious ceremony that wed her to a different man, an Algerian jihadi. She returned to France homesick and pregnant, just long enough to speak to investigators building a case against a middleman who helped her run away. This winter, Amelia managed to deceive her family and left again - making it to Syria with the Algerian fighter, who is more than twice her age.

"It's particularly difficult for these families. For them, radicalization is happening on the Internet and outside the family sphere," said Sebastien Pietrasanta, a French lawmaker working on a program to de-radicalize young people. "For a girl of 14, I believe we can clearly save her from herself and save her from these barbarians."

A man pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges alleging he set a massive inferno that destroyed an unfinished apartment building and damaged nearby office towers in downtown Los Angeles, prosecutors said.

Dawud Abdulwali, 56, of Los Angeles, was arraigned on one count each of arson of a structure and aggravated arson, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said. He's scheduled to return to court June 11.

Prosecutors say Abdulwali used an accelerant to start the Dec. 8 fire on the fourth floor of the seven-story Da Vinci complex. He allegedly set the blaze "willfully, maliciously, deliberately, with premeditation, and with intent to cause injury," the complaint states.

Abdulwali remains jailed on $1 million bail. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 10 years to life in state prison. The district attorney's office said no attorney was listed for Abdulwali.

His arrest Tuesday culminated a six-month investigation of the Los Angeles Fire Department, city police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Officials would not say what evidence led them to Abdulwali.

Authorities said the blaze caused $20 million to $30 million in damage to the building site and another $50 million to $60 million to a city-owned building nearby.

Investigators believe Abdulwali acted alone and had no connection to the complex that burned, said Carlos A. Canino, special agent in charge of the ATF Los Angeles Field Division.

Abdulwali was renting a room in South Los Angeles last year, his landlord, Poleth Chavez, told the Los Angeles Times. In December, around the time of the fire, he paid two months' rent up front and left, saying he was heading to San Francisco.

"He's pretty quiet," Chavez said. "He keeps to himself."

The blaze gutted the 1.3 million-square-foot Da Vinci complex that was in the wood-framing stage, sending up flames that could be seen from miles away.

The fire's heat cracked or shattered hundreds of windows in neighboring buildings, ignited small fires in one and damaged an adjacent freeway. The complex's developer, Geoff Palmer, said then that he intended to rebuild, but it's unclear where those plans stand.

Authorities declined to discuss details of how they identified a suspect, but Canino said hundreds of people spent thousands of hours on the investigation.

"Cutting-edge technology" and old-fashioned "wearing-out-the-shoe-leather" police work were involved, he said.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said the fire caused $20 million to $30 million in damage to the building site and an additional $50 million to $60 million to a city-owned building nearby.

Canino said the fire and the damage costs "could have been a lot worse."

"You know, different wind change, different atmospheric conditions, it could have been a $200 million fire instead of a $90 million fire," he said.

 

 Eating onions, lying in the shade and crowding into rivers, Indians were doing whatever they could Thursday to stay cool amid a brutal heat wave that has killed more than 1,400 in the past month.

Meteorological officials said the heat would likely continue for several more days — warping asphalt roads, scorching crops and endangering anyone laboring outdoors.

Officials warned people to stay out of the sun, cover their heads and drink plenty of water, but India's widespread poverty was forcing many to work despite the high temperatures.

"Either we have to work, putting our lives under threat, or we go without food," farmer Narasimha said in the badly hit Nalgonda district of southern Andhra Pradesh state. "But we stop work when it becomes unbearable."


ay Charles Staten Sr. should have celebrated his 60th birthday this month. Instead, his family marked the fourth anniversary of his death. It all started, according to a lawsuit that settled in March 2015, when a small debt became a death sentence in the spring of 2011.

Unable to pay an outstanding debt of $409 in court fines, Mr Staten was arrested and sentenced to 16 days in Mississippi’s Harrison County Jail. Shortly after being booked at the jail, Mr Staten fell seriously ill. Despite his obvious symptoms and his cellmates’ cries for help, the jail’s privately-contracted medical staff allowed his condition to worsen until – on the fifth day of his sentence – he collapsed in his cell and, upon being transported to a medical center, could not be revived. He had suffered acute peritonitis, a life-threatening infection of the abdominal lining for which early treatment is essential.

Whenever the government locks someone in jail, it has a constitutional duty to provide adequate medical care, a responsibility that can’t be evaded simply by contracting it out to a for-profit company. Unfortunately, Mr Staten’s is a familiar story: the ACLU is currently litigating a case in a Mississippi prison that challenges, in part, the dangerously inadequate health care provided by Health Assurance, a private corporation also responsible for Mr Staten’s medical treatment — or lack thereof.

Mr Staten’s experience is far from unusual. Every day, indigent Americans are ripped from their homes and their communities and forced into jails of varying degrees of dysfunction and decay. The US supreme court ruled three decades ago that it is unconstitutional to imprison people because they cannot afford to pay debts. The ruling, however, hasn’t ended the practice of jailing people for unpaid government fees and fines.

In 2010, the ACLU found that courts across the nation regularly deny Americans proper consideration of their financial position and throw them into jail over fines they could never hope to pay. As a result, local jails nationwide have transformed into modern-day “debtors’ prisons” overcrowded with indigent people whose only punishable offense is being poor. The effects are devastating.

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This growing phenomenon funnels poor Americans into the criminal justice system with sentences that disrupt their lives, too often trapping them in a damning cycle of poverty and incarceration that far outlasts their initial conviction. These practices have a disparate impact on communities of color in the United States.

Consider 19-year-old Kevin Thompson, a black teenager in DeKalb County, Georgia, who was jailed simply because he was unable to pay $838 in fines and fees associated with a routine traffic citation. Though only half of DeKalb County’s residents are black, nearly all probationers jailed for failure to pay by its recorders court, which handles minor offenses like traffic misdemeanors, are black. The ACLU filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Mr Thompson and reached a settlement with the county that included a number of new reform measures aimed at preventing others from facing the same unconstitutional treatment.

Jail sentences like those imposed on Mr Thompson and Mr Staten aren’t just unjust – they’re also costly. The ACLU’s 2010 report In for a Penny found that individuals incarcerated for failure to pay often cost the state more than they owe. The report identifies one individual whose incarceration in New Orleans cost more than six times his $498 debt. So why are we stuck with this senseless system?

Local courts and municipalities – reliant on fines and fees as a source of revenue – are adopting increasingly aggressive collection practices. This was the case in DeKalb County, where county policymakers enlisted a for-profit company for the specific purpose of targeting those too poor to pay fines on sentencing day. And a reportreleased in March by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division found that municipal courts in Ferguson, Missouri, prioritized revenue above fair administration of justice and imposed undue burdens on residents living in or near poverty, perpetuating and exacerbating racial and economic inequality in the community.

Too many Americans are locked away over small debts. At best, they will leave with few resources and diminished job prospects, trapped in a cycle of poverty and inequality. At worst, they will suffer and die due to the callous neglect of their jailers, like Mr Staten.Poverty should never be criminalized. Local courts and municipalities must find other sources of revenue that don’t make victims of their most vulnerable citizens.

 Israeli aircraft struck a number of sites in the Gaza Strip from the air early on Wednesday, residents and the Israeli military said, after a rocket that Palestinian militants fired from the enclave landed near the Israeli port city of Ashdod.




The Israeli military said it struck four "terror infrastructures" in the southern Gaza Strip and that hits were confirmed. There were no reports of any casualties or damage.

Gaza residents said missiles struck several locations throughout the Gaza Strip, including places used as training camps by Islamic Jihad militants on sites that had been Israeli settlements before Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

Tuesday's rocket landed near Ashdod some 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the Gaza border and security forces were searching for remnants. It was the longest-range militant rocket strike since a truce that ended the 50-day war last year.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility in Gaza for the rocket launching.

"These strikes are a direct response to Hamas and the aggression against Israeli civilians originating from the Gaza Strip," military spokesman Lieutenant-Coloner Peter Lerner said in a statement. "The reality that Hamas' territory is used as a staging ground to attack Israel is unacceptable and intolerable and will bear consequences."

Last year, militants in Gaza launched thousands of rockets and mortar bombs into Israel during a July-August war in which Israeli shelling and air strikes battered the small, coastal Palestinian enclave.

The region has been largely quiet since the August ceasefire.

Israeli media speculated that infighting among Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza Strip may have precipitated the rocket firing without the permission of Gaza's Islamist Hamas rulers.

Rival militant factions in Gaza are angry that months after the end of the war, no progress has been made to improve the isolated enclave's plight and pledges for funding to reconstruct buildings devastated during the war have not been honored.

Reconciliation efforts between Hamas and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas have faltered, adding to hardships and hampering foreign aid donations and the import of building materials.

Israel maintains a partial blockade on the territory and Egypt largely keeps the Rafah border crossing closed. Hamas has imposed a "solidarity tax" and salaries for workers not aligned with the Palestinian Authority are not being paid in full.

The wife and five children of an Australian believed to have been photographed while holding severed heads of Syrian soldiers will face the "full severity of Australian law" if they attempt to return home, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Wednesday.

Abbott last week ruled out an amnesty for Australian citizens seeking to quit foreign militant groups and return home in the wake of media reports that his government was negotiating with potential defectors.

The family of suspected Australian Islamic State fighter Khaled Sharrouf would face the same consequences, Abbott said in response to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper that Sharrouf's wife was seeking repatriation with their children.

"If criminals come within the reach of our law, whether they’re male or female, they will face the full severity of our law," Abbott told reporters.

" ... There are criminals who go to jail all the time and they have children, and the children of these particular criminals will be dealt with in the same way that the children of criminals are normally dealt with," he said.

Australia issued arrest warrants last year for Sharrouf and another Australian citizen believed to be fighting with Islamic State in Syria after images emerged of the two holding the severed heads of Syrian soldiers.

A money transfer business linked to Sharrouf's family was shut by the Australian government last year on suspicions it transferred up to A$20 million ($15.5 million) to foreign militants.

Analysts and Western government officials say Islamic State finances its operations through the sale of oil from oil-producing territory it has seized, the sale of cultural heritage artifacts and works of art, extortion and ransoms, as well as private donations.

Abbott has unveiled a raft of tough new policies aimed at combating the threat from Islamist radicalism, appointing a new counter-terror coordinator and proposing laws to strip dual nationals of their citizenship if they engage in militant acts.

Australia is on high alert for attacks by radicalized Muslims or by home-grown militants returning from fighting in the Middle East, having raised its threat level to high and undertaken a series of high-profile raids in major cities.

Under tough security powers declared by Abbott's conservative government in October, Australian citizens can face up to a decade in prison for travel to overseas areas declared off-limits.

A one-year travel ban is expiring for five senior Taliban leaders held in U.S. detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, until they were released last year in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — raising the possibility that the five can move freely around the world as early as Monday.

Under terms of the exchange in May 2014, the five detainees were sent to Qatar where officials there agreed to monitor their activities and prevent them from traveling out of the country. In return, Bergdahl was released to the U.S. military after being held captive by the Taliban for nearly five years after he walked away from his Army post in Afghanistan.

U.S. officials have discussed with the Qataris the possibility of extending the travel ban after it expires on June 1.

 China says it has foiled 181 terror plots in the year since it started a crackdown on violent Islamic separatists in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

State broadcaster CCTV on Wednesday showed paramilitary troops conducting a range of drills featuring fleets of helicopters, simulated building assaults and the use of heavy weapons including anti-tank guns and flamethrowers.

The report did not detail how authorities define a terror plot. It says 96 percent of the 181 foiled plots were still in the planning stages. According to the report, 112 suspects have turned themselves in, but it gave no figures on those captured or killed by police.

The crackdown was launched after a bomb attack last May 22 on a crowded market in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi in which 39 people were killed.

 A fugitive former Los Angeles police officer charged with killing a man during an off-duty fight was arrested Tuesday in northern Mexico, officials said.

Henry Solis, 27, was captured by security forces in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, the Chihuahua state attorney general's office said. The arrest was made thanks to an exchange of information with U.S. authorities and intelligence work, it said.

"Henry Solis will be put at the disposition of Mexico's migration office so that he can be handed over to the appropriate authorities," a statement from the office said.

Solis, who was a probationary LAPD officer, is wanted in the shooting death of Salome Rodriguez, 23, outside a nightclub in Pomona, California on March 13. Investigators said the two had gotten into a dispute in the club.

Solis' father was later arrested and charged in a federal court in El Paso with making false statements to FBI agents to help his son escape to Mexico.

According to an affidavit from an FBI agent, on the day of the killing, Solis called his father's home and a short time later the elder Solis left in a hurry.

In an FBI interview, Victor Solis said his son claimed to have five days of vacation and wanted to go to El Paso.

The elder Solis said he drove his son to El Paso, where he dropped him at a bus station early on March 14 and didn't see him again.

Victor Solis also claimed he later crossed the border into Mexico alone but surveillance video captured him crossing with his son, according to the affidavit.

A $25,000 reward had been offered for information leading to the arrest of Henry Solis.

 Malaysian police forensic teams, digging with hoes and shovels, on Tuesday began pulling out bodies from shallow graves found in abandoned jungle camps where an inter-governmental body said hundreds of victims of human traffickers may be buried.

The Malaysian government said it was investigating whether local forestry officials were involved with the people-smuggling gangs believed responsible for nearly 140 such graves discovered around grim camps along the border with Thailand.

The dense forests of southern Thailand and northern Malaysia have been a major stop-off point for smugglers bringing people to Southeast Asia by boat from Myanmar, most of them Rohingya Muslims who say they are fleeing persecution, and Bangladesh.

Authorities took a group of journalists to one of the camps, nestled in a gully in thick jungle up a steep, well-worn path about an hour's walk from the nearest road, where a Reuters witness saw the first body removed on Tuesday afternoon.

Malaysian police said on Monday they had found 139 graves, some containing more than one body, around 28 camps scattered along a 50-km (30-mile) stretch of the border in the northern state of Perlis.

Joel Millman, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), told a news briefing in Geneva that the body's representative in the region "predicts hundreds more (bodies) will be found in the days to come".

THAI CRACKDOWN

The grisly discoveries in Malaysia followed the uncovering of similar graves on the Thai side of the border at the beginning of May, which helped trigger a regional crisis. The find led to a crackdown on the camps by Thai authorities, after which traffickers abandoned thousands of migrants in overloaded boats in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea.

"We don't know if there is a link between the Thai camps and Malaysia camps," Phuttichart Ekachan, deputy chief of Thailand's Provincial Police Region 9, told Reuters.

"It is possible that because of the Thai crackdown some of the camps moved and some of them (migrants) then walked over or escaped to the Thai side. It is possible but it isn't something we have been able to confirm."

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims are ferried by traffickers through southern Thailand each year, and in recent years it has been common for them to be held in remote camps along the border with Malaysia until a ransom is paid for their freedom.

The IOM's Millman said the largest camp was believed to have had a capacity of up to 1,000 people.

"If an individual's family did not pay, those staying long in the camps were tortured, beaten and deprived of food," he said.

State news agency Bernama quoted Malaysia's police chief, Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar, as saying that the camps were thought to have been occupied since 2013, and two were "only abandoned between two and three weeks ago".

Khalid told reporters on Monday that police had been "shocked by the cruelty" of the camps, where he said there were signs of torture.

On Tuesday, the United States said a U.S. Navy P-8 aircraft began conducting maritime surveillance flights at the weekend to locate and mark the positions of boats that could be carrying migrants.

U.S. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told a news briefing that the flights were made possible by the support of the Malaysian government and the United States was ready to conduct additional flights as necessary to help provide support to regional governments.

OFFICIAL COMPLICITY?

The scale of the camp discoveries has raised questions about the level of complicity by officials on both sides of the border.

Malaysia's Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Tuesday that initial investigations revealed links between forest rangers and smuggling syndicates, Bernama reported, adding that some had been detained by police as part of the probe.

"We suspect some of them were involved...but we are working with the forestry department in terms of enforcement as they are supposed to carry out enforcement in the area," he was quoted as telling reporters at parliament.

Apparently abandoned in haste, what remained of the camp visited by Reuters reporters was little more than a tangle of bamboo and tarpaulin, but one police official, who did not want to be identified, said it could have held up to 400 people.

A large plastic water tank could be seen, suggesting a degree of permanence.

There were also signs of brutality, including coils of barbed wire around what appeared to have been makeshift cells and a low cage, too small to stand in, that police said may have been used to punish captives.

An official said 37 graves had been found at the site, a few hundred meters from the Thai border. As the police teams began to dig, a large supply of body bags and white cotton shrouds was piled on the ground.

Residents in Wang Kelian, the nearest town on the Malaysian side of the border, said they were used to seeing migrants in the area.

"They are often starving, not eaten for weeks," said Abdul Rahman Mahmud, who runs a small hostel. "They eat seeds or leaves or whatever they can find. It's a real pity and it's sad to see this."

 A New York woman charged with killing her fiance pushed a floating paddle away from him as he struggled in the cold, choppy Hudson River after his kayak capsized, then waited 20 minutes to call for help, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Three weeks after Vincent Viafore vanished during a kayak outing with Angelika Graswald 50 miles north of New York City, his body was found by a fisherman Saturday near the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, authorities said.

Graswald said she was unable to save Viafore, 46, when he capsized without a life jacket during their trip to scenic Bannerman Island. Graswald herself was rescued from the water by another boater and treated for hypothermia.

But the story soon took a startling turn. Less than two weeks later, Graswald, 35, was charged with murder. Prosecutors said she wanted out of their relationship — and to get her hands on $250,000 in life insurance.

"She felt trapped, and it was her only way out," Orange County Assistant District Attorney Julie Mohl said at a court hearing this month.

Graswald admitted tampering with Viafore's kayak and later confessed "it felt good knowing he would die," Mohl said. The fiancee didn't call 911 for 20 minutes after his kayak overturned, and witnesses said she intentionally capsized her own craft, Mohl said.

On Tuesday, the district attorney's office released an indictment charging Graswald with second-degree manslaughter as well as second-degree murder. It said in a statement that in addition to removing the drain plug from Viafore's kayak, she moved his paddle away from him as he struggled in the water.

"Says who?" Graswald's lawyer, Richard Portale, said Tuesday. "This is some new contortion and mischaracterization of some oral statement she's made. It's not impressive."

Portale said Viafore's death was nothing more than a tragic accident. "I don't think it's fair to see it any other way."

Prosecutors did not say where they received their information about Graswald pushing the paddle away from Viafore.

Graswald and Viafore appeared to be a happy couple. Images posted online show an active, affectionate pair spending time outdoors, particularly on the water, and a message about their plans to be married at a spot on the Baltic Sea.

Graswald has worked at a string of restaurants and other businesses and has been married twice.

 Sophisticated criminals used an online service run by the IRS to access personal tax information from more than 100,000 taxpayers, part an elaborate scheme to steal identities and claim fraudulent tax refunds, the IRS said Tuesday.

The thieves accessed a system called "Get Transcript," where taxpayers can get tax returns and other filings from previous years. In order to access the information, the thieves cleared a security screen that required knowledge about the taxpayer, including Social Security number, date of birth, tax filing status and street address, the IRS said.

"We're confident that these are not amateurs," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "These actually are organized crime syndicates that not only we but everybody in the financial industry are dealing with."

Koskinen wouldn't say whether investigators believe the criminals are based overseas - or where they obtained enough personal information about the taxpayers to access their returns. The IRS has launched a criminal investigation. The agency's inspector general is also investigating.

Identity thieves, both foreign and domestic, have stepped up their efforts in recent years to claim fraudulent tax refunds. The agency estimates it paid out $5.8 billion in fraudulent refunds to identity thieves in 2013.

"Eighty percent of the of the identity theft we're dealing with and refund fraud is related to organized crime here and around the world," Koskinen said. "These are extremely sophisticated criminals with access to a tremendous amount of data."

Congress is already pressing the IRS for information about the breach.

"That the IRS - home to highly sensitive information on every single American and every single company doing business here at home - was vulnerable to this attack is simply unacceptable," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "What's more, this agency has been repeatedly warned by top government watchdogs that its data security systems are inadequate against the growing threat of international hackers and data thieves."

Koskinen said the agency was alerted to the thieves when technicians noticed an increase in the number of taxpayers seeking transcripts.

The IRS said they targeted the system from February to mid-May. The service has been temporarily shut down.

Taxpayers sometimes need copies of old tax returns to apply for mortgages or college aid. While the system is shut down, taxpayers can still apply for transcripts by mail.

The IRS said its main computer system, which handles tax filing submissions, remains secure.

"In all, about 200,000 attempts were made from questionable email domains, with more than 100,000 of those attempts successfully clearing authentication hurdles," the agency said. "During this filing season, taxpayers successfully and safely downloaded a total of approximately 23 million transcripts."

The agency is still determining how many fraudulent tax refunds were claimed this year using information from the stolen transcripts. Koskinen provided a preliminary estimate, saying less than $50 million was successfully claimed.

Thieves can also use the information to claim fraudulent tax refunds in the future. As identity theft has exploded, the agency has added filters to its computer system to identify suspicious returns. These filters look for anomalies in the information provided by the taxpayer.

Until recently, tax refund fraud has been surprisingly simple, once thieves obtain a taxpayer's Social Security number and date of birth. Typically, thieves would file fake tax returns with made-up information early in the filing season, before the legitimate taxpayers filed their returns - and before employers and financial institutions filed wage and tax documents with the IRS.

The refunds would often be sent electronically to prepaid debit cards or bank accounts.

IRS officials say new computer filters are helping to stop many crude attempts at identity theft. This year, the IRS stopped almost 3 million suspicious returns, Koskinen said.

However, old tax returns can help thieves fill out credible-looking returns in the future, helping them get around the IRS filters.

Tax returns can include a host of personal information that can help someone steal an identity, including Social Security numbers and birthdates of dependents and spouses. The IRS said the thieves appeared to already have a lot of personal information about the victims.

The IRS said it is notifying taxpayers whose information was accessed.

- Floodwaters kept rising Tuesday across much of Texas as storms dumped almost another foot of rain on the Houston area, stranding hundreds of motorists and inundating the famously congested highways that serve the nation's fourth-largest city.

Meanwhile, the search went on for at least 13 people who were still missing, including a group that disappeared after a vacation home was swept down the river and slammed into a bridge.

Several more fatalities were reported - three in Houston and one more in Central Texas. That brought to 16 the number of people killed by the holiday weekend storms in Texas and Oklahoma.

The water continued rising overnight as about 11 more inches of rain fell, much of it in a six-hour period.

The floodwaters affected virtually every part of the city and paralyzed some areas. Firefighters carried out more than 500 water rescues, most involving stranded motorists. At least 2,500 vehicles were abandoned by drivers seeking higher ground, officials said.

  • Jesus Delgado Rodriguez, 65, died of gunshot wounds of the head and trunk.
  • Jacob Lee Rhyne, 39, died of gunshot wounds to the neck.
  • Richard Vincent Kirshner, Jr., 47, died of gunshot wounds but the report did not specify where he was shot.
  • Richard Matthew Jordan, III, 31, died of gunshot wounds to the head.
  • Wayne Lee Campbell, 43, died of gunshot wounds to the head and trunk.
  • Daniel Raymond Boyett, 44, died of gunshot wounds to the head.
  • Matthew Mark Smith, 27, died of gunshot wounds to the trunk
  • Manuel Issac Rodriguez, 40, died of gunshot wounds but the report did not specify where he was shot.
  • And Charles Wayne Russell, 46, died of gunshot wounds to the chest.

Reporting now indicating that all deceased were killed by police gunfire.  Reporting now indicating 27 people shot by police, 8 still in hospital.   Reporting lowers weapons confiscated to less than 50, mostly pocket knives, chains (attached to wallets?), nail clippers, one padlock and firearms (CCP fired or unfired?).

From the outset the police description of events at the Twin Peaks (Waco) Gang Shooting seemed oddly self-serving, super efficient/fast, and unusually specific for a mass casualty event outlined in under 3 hours.  It was *as if* they wanted to get out ahead of something.

One of the original claims, that was still maintained by officials last night, was the origin of the gang violence beginning in a restroom of the bar/grill and spilling outside.

Additionally, the police originally stated that all gang member gunfire was inside the building, and all the deceased were shot inside the restaurant.waco

However, a report outlining the 500 page construct of the police affidavit and arrest warrant(s) claims that all events happened outside in the parking lot:

[…] The affidavit goes on to say three or more members or associates of the Cossacks Motorcycle Club were in the parking lot of the restaurant when they confronted three or more members of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club when the Banditos arrived at the parking lot.

After the two rival groups met in the parking lot a fight broke out, the affidavit says.

“During the course of the altercation, members and associates of the Cossacks and Banditos brandished and used firearms, knives, or other unknown edged weapons, batons, clubs, brass knuckles and other weapons,:” the affidavit says.

The affidavit says the gang members fired at each other and then when police tried to stop the fight, they began firing at officers.

Waco police officers returned fire striking multiple gang members,” the affidavit says (link)

Additionally the police went to great lengths to state the franchise owner/operator of the Twin Peaks restaurant would not cooperate with law enforcement and refused to cancel the event despite the demands of local law enforcement.

However, that too is factually disputed by the owner/operator:

[…] Late Monday afternoon the restaurant’s operators issued another statement in which they said law enforcement officials did not ask the operator or the franchisor to cancel the patio reservation on Sunday.

The event Sunday afternoon was not a Bike Night, the statement said, but instead the result of a “regular patio reservation made by a female customer who has been to the restaurant previously.”

“Based on the information to date, we also believe that the violence began outside in the area of the parking lot, and not inside our restaurant or on our patio, as has been widely reported,” the statement said.

[…] “We are in the process of gathering additional facts, and urge that people avoid rushing to judgment before those facts are fully known,” the [franchise owner] statement said. (link)

It would appear there are several contradictions with the initial -and ongoing- claims by Waco Police Spokesperson Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton.  Including last night:

[…]  Shots were fired inside the restaurant and bikers were shot, stabbed and beaten before the fight quickly moved outside to the parking lot,Swanton said

Just to refresh our memory, here is Swanton’s first Presser again: (this took place at approximately 3:00pm CST Sunday)

In addition, the number of uniformed police who were surrounding the building during the timeframe the bikers arrived at the event has increased from 12+ (original report) to more than 18+.   And now includes the police stating the entire uniformed SWAT division, vehicles, squad cars, MRAP, and all SWAT equipment were in the parking lot directly in front of the restaurant.

[…]  Eighteen uniformed Waco police officers including an assistant chief, sergeants and one rookie were standing by outside the restaurant Sunday and responded within a matter of seconds after the violence broke out between members of five rival gangs,Swanton said

So when we consider the police visibility -including their assault rifles- and overlay the affidavit claim: “three or more members or associates of the Cossacks Motorcycle Club were in the parking lot of the restaurant when they confronted three or more members of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club when the Banditos arrived at the parking lot“, you would have to think these are the stupidest gang members, or….. something else.

[…]  As the officers responded, the bikers directed gunfire in their direction, police said.

“Our officers took fire and responded appropriately, returning fire,” he said.

There’s bound to be CCTV video at the restaurant/bar, that might help clear up some of the discrepancies if the video is ever made public.

However, it is worth noting the police themselves might have a vested interest in a very specific version of events, and no-one is visible yet to give any eye-witness information which might contradict that version.

It surely does seem odd that gang members would turn guns on heavily armed police who were directly in front of them, in the same parking lot, mere feet away.  It also seemsexceptionally fortunate that so far not a single stray bullet hit another building, vehicle or structure.

[…]  Three of the dead were found in the parking lot just outside of the restaurant, four were found in front of the building and one had been dragged behind a neighboring restaurant. (link)

Yet, …all the gang shooting was inside, right.  Right?

New research on vaccines quality has been recently conducted. The American scientists proved that vaccines may lead to Vaccine-Induced Brain Damage Syndrome (VIBDS).

That is possible due to toxic additives that were found in the vaccines. Such components as aluminum, mercury, formaldehyde, MSG, antibiotic drugs, etc lead to the permanent cognitive function suppression as well. Each of these ingredients is known as neurotoxin. Once the brain has been poisoned enough by one of these chemicals, that brain will fail to grasp the dangers present across all chemicals.

Cognitive suppression can be also caused by things like sniffing glue or undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Pravda.Ru has already reported on the irreversible changes that chemotherapy causes. Patients undergoing chemotherapy routinely exhibit suppressed cognition, reduced problem-solving skills and a loss of social skills.

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation program created by Congress has already paid out nearly 3 billion dollars for those suffered from brain damages, comas and deaths.

The US Congress though still grants vaccine companies absolute legal immunity.

 

The U.S. Has Only Been At Peace For 21 Years Total Since Its Birth

In 2011, Danios wrote:

 Below, I have reproduced a year-by-year timeline of America’s wars, which reveals something quite interesting: since the United States was founded in 1776, she has been at war during 214 out of her 235 calendar years of existence.  In other words, there were only 21 calendar years in which the U.S. did not wage any wars.

To put this in perspective:

* Pick any year since 1776 and there is about a 91% chance that America was involved in some war during that calendar year.

* No U.S. president truly qualifies as a peacetime president.  Instead, all U.S. presidents can technically be considered “war presidents.”

* The U.S. has never gone a decade without war.

* The only time the U.S. went five years without war (1935-40) was during the isolationist period of the Great Depression.

*  *  *

Here is a graphic depiction of U.S. wars:

image: http://i1.wp.com/www.loonwatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/US-war-graph.jpg?zoom=1.5&resize=426%2C386

And here is the year-by-year timeline of America’s major wars:

****

Year-by-year Timeline of America’s Major Wars (1776-2011)

1776 – American Revolutionary War, Chickamagua Wars, Second Cherokee War, Pennamite-Yankee War

1777 – American Revolutionary War, Chickamauga Wars, Second Cherokee War, Pennamite-Yankee War

1778 – American Revolutionary War, Chickamauga Wars, Pennamite-Yankee War

1779 – American Revolutionary War, Chickamauga Wars, Pennamite-Yankee War

1780 – American Revolutionary War, Chickamauga Wars, Pennamite-Yankee War

1781 – American Revolutionary War, Chickamauga Wars, Pennamite-Yankee War

1782 – American Revolutionary War, Chickamauga Wars, Pennamite-Yankee War

1783 – American Revolutionary War, Chickamauga Wars, Pennamite-Yankee War

1784 – Chickamauga Wars, Pennamite-Yankee War, Oconee War

1785 – Chickamauga Wars, Northwest Indian War

1786 – Chickamauga Wars, Northwest Indian War

1787 – Chickamauga Wars, Northwest Indian War

1788 – Chickamauga Wars, Northwest Indian War

1789 – Chickamauga Wars, Northwest Indian War

1790 – Chickamauga Wars, Northwest Indian War

1791 – Chickamauga Wars, Northwest Indian War

1792 – Chickamauga Wars, Northwest Indian War

1793 – Chickamauga Wars, Northwest Indian War

1794 – Chickamauga Wars, Northwest Indian War

1795 – Northwest Indian War

1796 – No major war

1797 – No major war

1798 – Quasi-War

1799 – Quasi-War

1800 – Quasi-War

1801 – First Barbary War

1802 – First Barbary War

1803 – First Barbary War

1804 – First Barbary War

1805 – First Barbary War

1806 – Sabine Expedition

1807 – No major war

1808 – No major war

1809 – No major war

1810 – U.S. occupies Spanish-held West Florida

1811 – Tecumseh’s War

1812 – War of 1812, Tecumseh’s War, Seminole Wars, U.S. occupies Spanish-held Amelia Island and other parts of East Florida

1813 – War of 1812, Tecumseh’s War, Peoria War, Creek War, U.S. expands its territory in West Florida

1814 – War of 1812, Creek War, U.S. expands its territory in Florida, Anti-piracy war

1815 – War of 1812, Second Barbary War, Anti-piracy war

1816 – First Seminole War, Anti-piracy war

1817 – First Seminole War, Anti-piracy war

1818 – First Seminole War, Anti-piracy war

1819 – Yellowstone Expedition, Anti-piracy war

1820 – Yellowstone Expedition, Anti-piracy war

1821 – Anti-piracy war (see note above)

1822 – Anti-piracy war (see note above)

1823 – Anti-piracy war, Arikara War

1824 – Anti-piracy war

1825 – Yellowstone Expedition, Anti-piracy war

1826 – No major war

1827 – Winnebago War

1828 – No major war

1829 – No major war

1830 – No major war 

1831 – Sac and Fox Indian War

1832 – Black Hawk War

1833 – Cherokee Indian War

1834 – Cherokee Indian War, Pawnee Indian Territory Campaign

1835 – Cherokee Indian War, Seminole Wars, Second Creek War

1836 – Cherokee Indian War, Seminole Wars, Second Creek War, Missouri-Iowa Border War

1837 – Cherokee Indian War, Seminole Wars, Second Creek War, Osage Indian War, Buckshot War

1838 – Cherokee Indian War, Seminole Wars, Buckshot War, Heatherly Indian War

1839 – Cherokee Indian War, Seminole Wars

1840 – Seminole Wars, U.S. naval forces invade Fiji Islands

1841 – Seminole Wars, U.S. naval forces invade McKean Island, Gilbert Islands, and Samoa

1842 – Seminole Wars

1843 – U.S. forces clash with Chinese, U.S. troops invade African coast

1844 – Texas-Indian Wars

1845 – Texas-Indian Wars

1846 – Mexican-American War, Texas-Indian Wars

1847 – Mexican-American War, Texas-Indian Wars

1848 – Mexican-American War, Texas-Indian Wars, Cayuse War

1849 – Texas-Indian Wars, Cayuse War, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Skirmish between 1st Cavalry and Indians

1850 – Texas-Indian Wars, Cayuse War, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Yuma War, California Indian Wars, Pitt River Expedition

1851 – Texas-Indian Wars, Cayuse War, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Apache Wars, Yuma War, Utah Indian Wars, California Indian Wars

1852 – Texas-Indian Wars, Cayuse War, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Yuma War, Utah Indian Wars, California Indian Wars

1853 – Texas-Indian Wars, Cayuse War, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Yuma War, Utah Indian Wars, Walker War, California Indian Wars

1854 – Texas-Indian Wars, Cayuse War, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Apache Wars, California Indian Wars, Skirmish between 1st Cavalry and Indians

1855 – Seminole Wars, Texas-Indian Wars, Cayuse War, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Apache Wars, California Indian Wars, Yakima War, Winnas Expedition, Klickitat War, Puget Sound War, Rogue River Wars, U.S. forces invade Fiji Islands and Uruguay

1856 – Seminole Wars, Texas-Indian Wars, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, California Indian Wars, Puget Sound War, Rogue River Wars, Tintic War

1857 – Seminole Wars, Texas-Indian Wars, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, California Indian Wars, Utah War, Conflict in Nicaragua

1858 – Seminole Wars, Texas-Indian Wars, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Mohave War, California Indian Wars, Spokane-Coeur d’Alene-Paloos War, Utah War, U.S. forces invade Fiji Islands and Uruguay

1859 Texas-Indian Wars, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, California Indian Wars, Pecos Expedition, Antelope Hills Expedition, Bear River Expedition, John Brown’s raid, U.S. forces launch attack against Paraguay, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1860 – Texas-Indian Wars, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Apache Wars, California Indian Wars, Paiute War, Kiowa-Comanche War

1861 – American Civil War, Texas-Indian Wars, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Apache Wars, California Indian Wars, Cheyenne Campaign

1862 – American Civil War, Texas-Indian Wars, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Apache Wars, California Indian Wars, Cheyenne Campaign, Dakota War of 1862,

1863 – American Civil War, Texas-Indian Wars, Southwest Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Apache Wars, California Indian Wars, Cheyenne Campaign, Colorado War, Goshute War

1864 – American Civil War, Texas-Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Apache Wars, California Indian Wars, Cheyenne Campaign, Colorado War, Snake War

1865 – American Civil War, Texas-Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Apache Wars, California Indian Wars, Colorado War, Snake War, Utah’s Black Hawk War

1866 – Texas-Indian Wars, Navajo Wars, Apache Wars, California Indian Wars, Skirmish between 1st Cavalry and Indians, Snake War, Utah’s Black Hawk War, Red Cloud’s War, Franklin County War, U.S. invades Mexico, Conflict with China

1867 – Texas-Indian Wars, Long Walk of the Navajo, Apache Wars, Skirmish between 1st Cavalry and Indians, Snake War, Utah’s Black Hawk War, Red Cloud’s War, Comanche Wars, Franklin County War, U.S. troops occupy Nicaragua and attack Taiwan

1868 – Texas-Indian Wars, Long Walk of the Navajo, Apache Wars, Skirmish between 1st Cavalry and Indians, Snake War, Utah’s Black Hawk War, Red Cloud’s War, Comanche Wars, Battle of Washita River, Franklin County War

1869 – Texas-Indian Wars, Apache Wars, Skirmish between 1st Cavalry and Indians, Utah’s Black Hawk War, Comanche Wars, Franklin County War

1870 – Texas-Indian Wars, Apache Wars, Skirmish between 1st Cavalry and Indians, Utah’s Black Hawk War, Comanche Wars, Franklin County War

1871 – Texas-Indian Wars, Apache Wars, Skirmish between 1st Cavalry and Indians, Utah’s Black Hawk War, Comanche Wars, Franklin County War, Kingsley Cave Massacre, U.S. forces invade Korea

1872 – Texas-Indian Wars, Apache Wars, Utah’s Black Hawk War, Comanche Wars, Modoc War, Franklin County War

1873 – Texas-Indian Wars, Comanche Wars, Modoc War, Apache Wars, Cypress Hills Massacre, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1874 – Texas-Indian Wars, Comanche Wars, Red River War, Mason County War, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1875 – Conflict in Mexico, Texas-Indian Wars, Comanche Wars, Eastern Nevada, Mason County War, Colfax County War, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1876 – Texas-Indian Wars, Black Hills War, Mason County War, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1877 – Texas-Indian Wars, Skirmish between 1st Cavalry and Indians, Black Hills War, Nez Perce War, Mason County War, Lincoln County War, San Elizario Salt War, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1878 – Paiute Indian conflict, Bannock War, Cheyenne War, Lincoln County War, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1879 – Cheyenne War, Sheepeater Indian War, White River War, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1880 – U.S. forces invade Mexico

1881 – U.S. forces invade Mexico

1882 – U.S. forces invade Mexico

1883 – U.S. forces invade Mexico

1884 – U.S. forces invade Mexico

1885 – Apache Wars, Eastern Nevada Expedition, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1886 – Apache Wars, Pleasant Valley War, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1887 – U.S. forces invade Mexico

1888 – U.S. show of force against Haiti, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1889 – U.S. forces invade Mexico

1890 – Sioux Indian War, Skirmish between 1st Cavalry and Indians, Ghost Dance War, Wounded Knee, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1891 – Sioux Indian War, Ghost Dance War, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1892 – Johnson County War, U.S. forces invade Mexico

1893 – U.S. forces invade Mexico and Hawaii

1894 – U.S. forces invade Mexico

1895 – U.S. forces invade Mexico, Bannock Indian Disturbances

1896 – U.S. forces invade Mexico

1897 – No major war

1898 – Spanish-American War, Battle of Leech Lake, Chippewa Indian Disturbances

1899 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1900 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1901 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1902 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1903 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1904 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1905 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1906 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1907 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1908 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1909 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1910 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1911 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1912 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars

1913 – Philippine-American War, Banana Wars, New Mexico Navajo War

1914 – Banana Wars, U.S. invades Mexico

1915 – Banana Wars, U.S. invades Mexico, Colorado Paiute War

1916 – Banana Wars, U.S. invades Mexico

1917 – Banana Wars, World War I, U.S. invades Mexico

1918 – Banana Wars, World War I, U.S invades Mexico

1919 – Banana Wars, U.S. invades Mexico

1920 – Banana Wars

1921 – Banana Wars

1922 – Banana Wars

1923 – Banana Wars, Posey War

1924 – Banana Wars

1925 – Banana Wars

1926 – Banana Wars

1927 – Banana Wars

1928 – Banana Wars

1930 – Banana Wars

1931 – Banana Wars

1932 – Banana Wars

1933 – Banana Wars

1934 – Banana Wars

1935 – No major war

1936 – No major war

1937 – No major war

1938 – No major war

1939 – No major war

1940 – No major war

1941 – World War II

1942 – World War II

1943 – Wold War II

1944 – World War II

1945 – World War II

1946 – Cold War (U.S. occupies the Philippines and South Korea)

1947 – Cold War (U.S. occupies South Korea, U.S. forces land in Greece to fight Communists)

1948 – Cold War (U.S. forces aid Chinese Nationalist Party against Communists)

1949 – Cold War (U.S. forces aid Chinese Nationalist Party against Communists)

1950 – Korean War, Jayuga Uprising

1951 – Korean War

1952 – Korean War

1953 – Korean War

1954 – Covert War in Guatemala

1955 – Vietnam War

1956 – Vietnam War

1957 – Vietnam War

1958 – Vietnam War

1959 – Vietnam War, Conflict in Haiti

1960 – Vietam War

1961 – Vietnam War

1962 – Vietnam War, Cold War (Cuban Missile Crisis; U.S. marines fight Communists in Thailand)

1963 – Vietnam War

1964 – Vietnam War

1965 – Vietnam War, U.S. occupation of Dominican Republic

1966 – Vietnam War, U.S. occupation of Dominican Republic

1967 – Vietnam War

1968 – Vietnam War

1969 – Vietnam War

1970 – Vietnam War

1971 – Vietnam War

1972 – Vietnam War

1973 – Vietnam War, U.S. aids Israel in Yom Kippur War

1974 – Vietnam War

1975 – Vietnam War

1976 – No major war

1977 – No major war

1978 – No major war

1979 – Cold War (CIA proxy war in Afghanistan)

1980 – Cold War (CIA proxy war in Afghanistan)

1981 – Cold War (CIA proxy war in Afghanistan and Nicaragua), First Gulf of Sidra Incident

1982 – Cold War (CIA proxy war in Afghanistan and Nicaragua), Conflict in Lebanon

1983 – Cold War (Invasion of Grenada, CIA proxy war in Afghanistan and Nicaragua), Conflict in Lebanon

1984 – Cold War (CIA proxy war in Afghanistan and Nicaragua), Conflict in Persian Gulf

1985 – Cold War (CIA proxy war in Afghanistan and Nicaragua)

1986 – Cold War (CIA proxy war in Afghanistan and Nicaragua)

1987 – Conflict in Persian Gulf

1988 – Conflict in Persian Gulf, U.S. occupation of Panama

1989 – Second Gulf of Sidra Incident, U.S. occupation of Panama, Conflict in Philippines

1990 – First Gulf War, U.S. occupation of Panama

1991 – First Gulf War

1992 – Conflict in Iraq

1993 – Conflict in Iraq

1994 – Conflict in Iraq, U.S. invades Haiti

1995 – Conflict in Iraq, U.S. invades Haiti, NATO bombing of Bosnia and Herzegovina

1996 – Conflict in Iraq

1997 – No major war

1998 – Bombing of Iraq, Missile strikes against Afghanistan and Sudan

1999 – Kosovo War

2000 – No major war

2001 – War on Terror in Afghanistan

2002 – War on Terror in Afghanistan and Yemen

2003 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, and Iraq

2004 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen

2005 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen

2006 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen

2007 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen

2008 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen

2009 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen

2010 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen

2011 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen; Conflict in Libya (Libyan Civil War)

In most of these wars, the U.S. was on the offense. Danios admits that some of the wars were defensive.   However, Danios also leaves out covert CIA operations and other acts which could be considered war.

Let’s update what’s happened since 2011:

2012 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria and Yemen

2013 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria and Yemen

2014 – War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria and Yemen; Civil War in Ukraine

2015 – War on Terror in Somalia, Somalia, Syria and Yemen; Civil War in Ukraine

So we can add 4 more years of war. That means that for 222 out of 239 years – or 93% of the time – America has been at war. (We can quibble with the exact numbers, but the high percentage of time that America has been at war is clear and unmistakable.)



he war in Syria has attracted roughly 100 foreign fighters from the Caribbean who could easily make their way to the United States, said the top U.S. military commander for the southern hemisphere.

 

 

With little ability to track and monitor foreign fighters when they return, it would be relatively easy for those fighters to “walk” north to the U.S. border along the same networks used to traffic drugs and humans, according to Gen. John Kelly, commander of U.S.Southern Command.

“They don’t have that ability to track these folks,” Kelly said at a Pentagon briefing on Thursday.

Kelly said he worries whomever is radicalized enough to leave for Syria would return with greater terrorism skills and motivations.

“I would suspect they’ll get good at, while they’re in Syria, get good at killing and pick up some real job skills in terms of explosives and beheadings and things like that. And everyone’s concerned, of course, if they come home. Because if they went over radicalized one would suspect they’ll come home at least that radicalized.”

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There is no indication of any scheme to attack the United States he said, but Americans “take for granted” the nation’s functioning legal system, agencies like the FBI and the layers of uncorrupt law enforcement that can monitor and track potential terrorists like in the United States. “A lot of these countries just don’t have that.”

Kelly said that some of the fighters are recruited and radicalized off the Internet but that there are “a couple of pretty radical mosques” in the region, as well.

“A hundred certainly doesn’t seem like a lot, it’s not, but the countries they come from have [a] total inability to deal with it,” he said, naming Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Surinam and Venezuela, in particular.

With little military threats to the United States in his region, Kelly is a frequent advocate for helping law enforcement attack the network  — and root causes — of illegal drug and human trafficking into the United States. People, he said, travel freely and “simply walk across borders” in some cases where there is little to stop them.

“It’s the old story of you gotta watch them,” he said. “The CIA,FBI and people like that do a really good job tracking the networks, but you know it only takes – look, there’s a lot of people coming and going, it only takes one to cause you problems.”

With those caveats, Kelly’s concern does not reflect ‘ISIS at the border’ alarmism, rather he casts a watchful eye on the potential trouble of South American, Central American and Caribbean states in tracking returning fighters for themselves. The solution to preventing ISIS from coming through the southern hemisphere will require law enforcement and intelligence partnering with every state in the region, he said.

“The network that comes up through the isthmus and Mexico that carries anything and everything on it … the amount of movement is what I think overwhelms our ability – and the sophistication of the network – overwhelms our ability to stop everything,” he said.

“I think if they get back to some of these countries that I’ve described, it’s pretty easy for them to move around,” he said

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) on Friday commuted the life sentence of a 61-year-old man who has been jailed two decades for marijuana offenses.

The governor's action makes Jeff Mizanskey eligible for parole -- an option he didn't have under the terms of his life sentence. Mizanskey was sentenced as a "prior and persistent drug offender" under Missouri's three strikes law, which was repealed last year.

“The executive power to grant clemency is one I take with a great deal of consideration and seriousness,” Nixon said in a statement announcing the commutation of Mizanskey as well as the pardoning of five other non-violent offenders.

“In the case of the commutation, my action provides Jeff Mizanskey with the opportunity to demonstrate that he deserves parole,” Gov. Nixon said.

All three of Mizanskey's offenses involved marijuana. He was given a life sentence after a conviction for attempting to sell about six pounds of pot in a 1993 police sting operation.

- The Islamic State group has executed 16 Iraqi traders taking food from the city of Baiji to the government-controlled western city of Haditha, officials said Sunday.

"Daesh executed 16 Haditha traders last night," the mayor of the city, Abdelhakim al-Jughaifi, told AFP by phone.

"The victims were transporting mostly food goods, such as vegetables, from Baiji to Haditha," he said.

Baiji, which lies on the Tigris about 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of Baghdad, is under IS control.

Haditha, which sits on the Euphrates about 130 kilometres (80 miles) southwest, is the last major city in the province of Anbar still under government control.

"They were stopped at a checkpoint and abducted," the mayor said.

"They then executed them, some by shooting them, others by slitting their throats."

He said Haditha residents found the bodies on the road and were able to bring them back.

A police lieutenant colonel confirmed the 16 executions. The victims were buried on Sunday, several sources said.

Abu Maath al-Jughaifi, a tribal fighter from Haditha, said a paper was found on one of the bodies in which IS said the executions were to avenge the deaths of jihadist fighters during a recent battle near Haditha.

According to government sources, at least 23 IS militants were killed in clashes in Khasfa last week, including two French nationals who drove suicide truck bombs.

Haditha is isolated in Anbar, where IS controls the border with Syria to the west and most of the land to the east, including the provincial capital Ramadi, which they seized on May 17.

According to residents, a bag of 50 kilos of flour fetches $900 in Haditha when it only costs $20 to $30 in Baghdad.

IS has allowed some trade to continue between the regions it controls and government areas but drivers generally have to pay a fee

On November 29, 2012, police officers and witnesses heard what appeared to be gunshots coming from a car driving near a police station in Cleveland. A high-speed car chase ensued, drawing in over 100 officers on duty, before the police managed to corner the car. Thirteen police officers then fired 137 rounds of ammunition at the vehicle, whose occupants Cleveland police suspected were armed. After the other officers stopped firing, 31-year-old Michael Brelo climbed on top of the hood of the suspect’s car and fired 15 more rounds at close range. When the shooting stopped, the car’s occupants, 43-year-old Timothy Russell and 30-year-old Malissa Williams, were dead. Both were unarmed. The “gunshot” witnesses heard turned out to be a backfiring car.

Brelo, who is white, was charged with two counts of voluntary manslaughter. On Saturday, an Ohio courtacquitted him, claiming that the officer’s actions were “reasonable despite knowing now that there was no gun in the car and he was mistaken about the gunshots.” Barring the subsequent prosecution of other police officers involved in the shooting, no officers will serve time for the deaths of Williams and Russell.

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Relatives and supporters of the victims reacted to the verdict with outrage.“The police should have went to jail for life for this,” said Alfredo Williams, Malissa’s brother. “This is straight murder.” U.S. Representative Marcia Fudge, whose 11th Congressional district includes the part of Cleveland, added that“the verdict is another chilling reminder of the broken relationship between the Cleveland Police Department and the community it serves.”

“The verdict is a reminder of the broken relationship between the police department and the community it serves.”

Cleveland’s Troubled Police Force

Tensions between African-Americans and police officers charged with serving and protecting them have intensified throughout the United States in recent years, as the deaths of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Eric Garner stirred nationwide outrage. But the problem has been particularly acute in Cleveland. In a report published last December, the Department of Justice found numerous instances of abuse, misconduct, and excessive force. A police officer shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice after the boy pulled out an airsoft gun while playing in the park. A 300 pound police officer who sat on and repeatedly punched a 13-year-old boy in his custody. An officer tasered another boy, strapped to a gurney after suffering a seizure on a Cleveland sidewalk, for making verbal threats.

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According to the DOJ, these incidents occurred within a dysfunctional police culture where superiors in the department failed to rein in abusive behavior, review excessive use of force, or investigate allegations of misconduct. Attempts to discipline the officers responsible for the November 2012 shooting of Williams and Russell have caused additional problems. Last fall, nine of the 13 officers involved in the case filed a lawsuit alleging reverse racial discrimination after being punished with three days of administrative leave and 45 days of restricted duty.

A Nationwide Problem

But the problems resonate far beyond Cleveland. Police departments across the country have struggled to achieve racial diversity, leading to jurisdictions where a largely white police force serves a largely black community. AProPublica study cited by Vox found that between 2010 and 2012, police officers were 21 times more likely to kill a black teenager than a white teenager. Records have shown that police officers who kill unarmed civilians are rarely convicted, and are seldom required to compensate survivors of their victims in civil lawsuits. Six months after Tamir Rice’s death, the police officer responsible hasn’t even been questioned.

Islamic State fighters have killed at least 400 people in Syria's ancient city of Palmyra, most of them women and children, Syrian state television said on Sunday.

It said it was quoting residents inside the city, which is known as Tadmur in Arabic and is home to renowned Roman-era ruins including well-preserved temples, colonnades and a theater.

Opposition activists have said on social media that hundreds of bodies were in the streets of the city after it was seized by the ultra hardline group on Wednesday. They said they were believed to be government loyalists.Islamic State fighters have killed at least 400 people in Syria's ancient city of Palmyra, most of them women and children, Syrian state television said on Sunday.

It said it was quoting residents inside the city, which is known as Tadmur in Arabic and is home to renowned Roman-era ruins including well-preserved temples, colonnades and a theater.

Opposition activists have said on social media that hundreds of bodies were in the streets of the city after it was seized by the ultra hardline group on Wednesday. They said they were believed to be government loyalists.

 A Cleveland police officer who climbed onto the hood of a car after a chase and fired repeatedly at its unarmed occupants, both of them black, in 2012 was acquitted of manslaughter on Saturday by an Ohio judge.

The trial of the officer, Michael Brelo, played out amid broader questions about how the police interact with African-Americans and the use of force, in Cleveland and across the country.

Officer Brelo was one of 13 officers who shot at Timothy Russell and his passenger, Malissa Williams, who were killed after a chase through the Cleveland area on Nov. 29, 2012. The chase started in downtown Cleveland after reports of gunfire from the car; prosecutors said the noise apparently was the result of the car’s backfiring.

After the gunfire reports, over 100 officers pursued the car for more than 20 miles at speeds that reached 100 miles an hour. Police officers fired 137 rounds at the car after it was cornered, prosecutors have said, including 49 by Officer Brelo.

Other officers stopped firing after Mr. Russell’s Chevy Malibu was surrounded and came to a stop, but prosecutors said Officer Brelo had climbed onto the car’s hood and fired at least 15 rounds from close range. Officer Brelo, 31, a seven-year veteran, is white.

About 40 people were killed Friday in what authorities described as a large-scale shootout between law enforcement and criminal suspects in western Mexico.

Almost all the dead were suspected criminals, said a Federal Police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk with journalists.

There were few details of the reported gunbattle, but video obtained by The Associated Press showed federal police coming under fire and bodies strewn throughout a ranch. A local police official in the neighboring town Puerto de Vargas said the location is called Rancho del Sol. The official wouldn't give his full name to the AP but said his department received a report of the confrontation from fellow police in the neighboring town Ecuandureo and was told to keep everyone calm.

With dozens dead, it was the most violent confrontation between authorities and alleged drug traffickers in recent memory.

The confrontation started when federal police officers tried to pull over truck on the highway near the ranch, and as they got close people inside the truck opened fire, Michoacan Gov. Salvador Jara told Radio Formula.

According to an account of events circulated among federal police units, the first report of the confrontation came in at about 8 a.m. Friday. The government dispatched special forces and a Black Hawk helicopter as reinforcements.

The confrontation occurred near the border of Michoacan and Jalisco states, an area known as being dominated by the Jalisco New Generation cartel, which has mounted several large-scale attacks on federal and state forces in recent weeks.

While there was no immediate confirmation on the identity of the suspects, Jara told Milenio television that "it was most likely" the Jalisco cartel was involved.

The scene of the shootout is close to the community of La Barca, a Jalisco town where authorities in 2013 found more than five dozen bodies in mass graves linked to the Jalisco cartel. According to the federal police account, which was not immediately confirmed by top officials, units confiscated dozens of high-caliber weapons and a rocket launcher.

In April, gunmen believed linked to the cartel ambushed a police convoy in Jalisco, killing 15 state police officers and wounding five. Earlier this month, the New Generation cartel shot down a military helicopter with a rocket launcher in Jalisco, killing eight aboard.

The area, about two hours from the Lake Chapala communities of Canadian and U.S. expatriates, has also been marked by killings of politicians. In 2014, gunmen killed the mayor of a nearby town, Tanhuato.

umping off the tram or bus to roam city streets, drink in the architecture, or just arrive at work in an urban area would be so much better if air quality were fresh and fine. Melbourne, Australia, considers this very thing and intends to leave behind those suffocating, smelly fossil fuels… at least, to a degree. With a blueprint for an entirely solar-powered tram network in Melbourne (which would be the world’s largest), the capital city of Victoria could soon become a world leader while seeking pure air.

Australians in Melbourne have been negotiating with the various state (Victorian) government bodies for the past four years. They project how much better the tram would be as a viable alternative transportation mode if the tram’s energy source were solar, resulting in zero emissions. A solar tram or bus will keep the urban air cleaner, quieter, and more breathable through cutting atmospheric and noise pollution in large cities.

Digital impression of a Melbourne tram as part of a pitch before the state government to power the network with

Digital visualization by Australia Solar Group.

The Age Victoria explains that the Australian Solar Group (ASG) is the company supporting this proposal. ASG is intent on establishing this project, and its progress appears one step closer towards gaining approval from the Victorian Government. The Age Victoriacomments that Melbourne’s plans to power its entire tram network by solar waits on the state government, which needs to give this ambitious renewable energy proposal the green light.

Expecting to see rooftop panels on the top of trams? You won’t. In fact, two new solar farms will generate the power if the project proponents do what they intend to do (build near Swan Hill and Mildura). The two solar farms would generate about 80 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year, about the same amount used by Melbourne’s tram network.

Yes. This. It is an important undertaking to phase out conventional fuels such as coal, oil, and gas. Melbourne claims to have the world’s largest tram network — averaging over 3.5 million trips per week across a 250-kilometre double-track network. Solarizing that would be a wonderful step forward.

Stoking the renewable push, The Age Victorian reports this proposal would neither increase fares for commuters nor cause rises in electricity bills for PTV. Additionally, such a project will create many jobs in the green technology industry. Avoiding 100,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year (reported by The Age Victoria), the transition to solar sets a standard for other cities to meet.

 

“This project is virtually ready to go. We can’t see any barriers that would stop it from here,” Dave Holland, a founder of Australian Solar, said.

“Australia Solar had tried to get almost all elements of the tram project ready to go before it sought final financial backing,” he noted.

Projects like this go for the real thing. Why hesitate with a pilot project? CleanTechnica discusses this some recent electric transit news. “[Amsterdam’s] transport alderman Abdeluheb Choho in an interview with the Volkskrant suggests the same, ‘This project means we are saying goodbye to symbolic behavior and pilot projects. We have decided to just do it, not to experiment with five buses.’ “

Melbourne’s intended solar standard for mass transit comes amidst Amsterdam’s target of electrifying all diesel-powered buses by 2025 as well as projections for the arrival of Elon Musk’s conceived intercity Hyperloop project (but note that he’s not putting this one into practice).

In a report released by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) admits that the mass surveillance capabilities authorized by Section 215 of the Patriot Act have not helped solve any big terrorism cases. "The agents we interviewed did not identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders," said DOJ Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz.

The report also reveals that the FBI expanded the scope of surveillance it deemed acceptable under Section 215, investigating "groups comprised of unknown members and [obtaining] information in bulk concerning persons who are not the subjects of or associated with any FBI investigation."

This news comes as the Senate considers whether to renew, modify, or nix Section 215, which along with a few other provisions of the Patriot Act is set to expire on June

Saudi Arabia's oil minister has said the country will switch its energy focus to solar power as the nation envisages an end to fossil fuels, possibly around 2040-2050, Reuters reports.

"In Saudi Arabia, we recognise that eventually, one of these days, we are not going to need fossil fuels, I don't know when, in 2040, 2050... so we have embarked on a program to develop solar energy," Ali Al-Naimi told a business and climate conference in Paris, the news service reports.

"Hopefully, one of these days, instead of exporting fossil fuels, we will be exporting gigawatts, electric ones. Does that sound good?"

Reuters reports that the minster added that he still expected the world's energy mix to be dominated by fossil fuels in the near future.

The Boston Globe adds that the minister said oil prices as low as $US30-$40 a barrel would not make solar power uneconomic.

Just hours after ISIS scored a significant victory in Iraq when it captured the town of Ramadi over the weekend, the first Iraqi town that had been actively defended by the US as opposed to just Iraqi troops, overnight ISIS also captured theancient Syrian town of Palmyra, which the mainstream media promptly concludes was proof that the Islamic State's momentum was growing.

Around a third of the 200,000 people living in Palmyra may have fled in the past few days during fighting between government forces and Islamic State militants, the U.N. human rights office said on Thursday.

That's not all: according to Reuters, "extending its reach in the region, fighters loyal to the Sunni Muslim group have also consolidated their grip on the Libyan city of Sirte, hometown of former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

 

"ISIL has reportedly been carrying out door-to-door searches in the city, looking for people affiliated with the government. At least 14 civilians are reported to have been executed by ISIL in Palmyra this week," Shamdasani said in emailed comments.

The capture of Palmyra according to the known UK propaganda outlet and distributor of fabricated "chemical attack" tapes, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is really just one guy, Abdul Rahman of Coventry, means that ISIS "now controls more than half of Syrian territory."

Not really, no.

But the facts are irrelevant when one needs soundbites.

So what is really going on? Simple: all these latest developments and the unexpected and successful ISIS "offensive" is merely another attempt to justify a US land incursion into Iraq (and of course Syria), this time "appealing" to the populace not using fake chemical attack YouTube clips as "evidence", but with a noble crusade to save an ancient cultural artifact.

The U.N. cultural agency UNESCO describes the site as a historical crossroads between the Roman Empire, India, China and ancient Persia and a testament to the world's diverse heritage.

 

"We may have different beliefs... different views, but we have to protect such incredible vestiges of human history," UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova told Reuters Television.

 

The Observatory's founder Rami Abdulrahman said Islamic State fighters had entered the historical sites by early on Thursday but there were no immediate reports of destruction.

 

"This is the fall of a civilization," Syria's antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim told Reuters. "Human, civilized society has lost the battle against barbarism."

Alas the battle is only just beginning because asReuters also noted, "the twin successes pile pressure not just on Damascus and Baghdad, but also throw doubt on U.S. strategy to rely almost exclusively on air strikes to defeat Islamic State."

Bloomberg adds:

After weeks of fighting, Ramadi’s fall on Sunday delivered the jihadist group control over a strategic highway linking Iraq and Syria, and a haul of weapons abandoned by Iraqi forces. Three days later, the al-Qaeda breakaway group overran Syrian government troops to seize Palmyra, home to the ruins of a 2,000-year-old city that was one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world.

 

With the first anniversary of the declaration of its caliphate a month away, the victories put the militants on the front foot at a time when their leaders are seeking to dispel any sense of weakness after recent defeats. In Syria, it now controls half of the country’s territory and most of its oil and gas fields, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based group that monitors the conflict.

 

“The fact Islamic State is still on the offensive is important, and the timing is important,” said Charlie Winter, a researcher at the counter-radicalization group Quilliam Foundation in London. Pushed into retreat, “it loses power and all the things that drive people to join it.”

Enter a casual strawman:

The group’s supporters are already touting its latest feats, Winter said, posing the question on social media: “Last year it was Mosul, this year it’s Ramadi, and where will it be next year?”

And like that the stage is again set for the following scenario: unwilling to lose any more territory, and face, the Nobel peace-prize winning US president will sit down with his security council in the next few days and decide that, as much as he hates to do it, he will dispatch [X],000 US troops to support the Iraq government in their losing fight with the resurgent ISIS. Troops which will promptly enter Syria and then make sure Assad is quietly eliminated.

Which brings us to a different point: see on the map above how ISIS in Syria is clustered by the border of NATO-member Turkey? There's a reason for that.

As Reuters also reports in an exclusive piece,Turkey's state intelligence agency helped deliver arms to parts of Syria under Islamist rebel control during late 2013 and early 2014, according to a prosecutor and court testimony from gendarmerie officers seen by Reuters.

As Reuters observes, the witness testimony contradicts Turkey's denials that it sent arms to Syrian rebels and, by extension, contributed to the rise of Islamic State, now a major concern for the NATO member.

In other words, a NATO member and a nation very close to the US, has been instrument in the rise of ISIS. Worse, unlike running speculation that ISIS was created by the CIA and funded by the Saudis, there is now documented evidence that ISIS is indeed a "western" creation.

More from Reuters:

Syria and some of Turkey's Western allies say Turkey, in its haste to see President Bashar al-Assad toppled, let fighters and arms over the border, some of whom went on to join the Islamic State militant group which has carved a self-declared caliphate out of parts of Syria and Iraq.

 

Ankara has denied arming Syria's rebels or assisting hardline Islamists. Diplomats and Turkish officials say it has in recent months imposed tighter controls on its borders.

 

Testimony from gendarmerie officers in court documents reviewed by Reuters allege that rocket parts, ammunition and semi-finished mortar shells were carried in trucks accompanied by state intelligence agency (MIT) officials more than a year ago to parts of Syria under Islamist control.

Which in turn explains the news from two weeks ago that "Turkey, Saudis Form Alliance To Topple Syria's Assad As US Starts Training Syrian Rebels."

And just to make sure Obama's upcoming offensive against Assad, pardon ISIS' al-Baghdadi is successful, Reuters finally reports that contrary to previous reports, not 1000, but 2000 anti-tank weapons are being sent to Iraq. Wait, ISIS has tanks? Well no, that would be Syria, but when fabricating a narrative suicide bombers are as durable as tanks. Also from Reuters:

The Pentagon said on Thursday the United States would deliver 2,000 AT-4 anti-tank rockets to Iraq as early as next week, 1,000 more than announced on Wednesday, to help Baghdad combat suicide car bombings by Islamic State.

 

Spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said the delivery would help Iraq defend against approaching suicide bombers driving vehicles packed with explosives, attacks used by Islamic State militants last weekend to help them seize Ramadi from Iraqi forces.

 

"This is a good counter to that (type of bombing)," Warren said. Warren said the anti-tank weapons would allow the Iraqi forces to destroy approaching suicide car bombers at a distance. Relying on small arms requires disabling the engine or killing the driver, which can be difficult, he said.

It's an even better counter when staging an offensive operation, aka an invasion, against the Syrian army and not just from one side but two sides: the east, via Iraq, and north, via Turkey, with the occasional bombing run by Saudi Arabia (with Jordan just waiting to enter from the South and "liberate" Damascus).

So gun to our head, this is what happens next: a couple of the good ole' "chemical attack" false flag YouTube clips once again emerge just around the time Obama announces it is time to send a tactical, contained group of troops in Syria to retake the "cultural heritage" that is Palmyra, at which point the war against ISIS morphs into what it has been from day one: the western attempt to crush and topple the Assad government, and to hand over control of Syria to Turkey and Iraq, just so the US, Saudi Arabia and Qatar can control what happens behind the scenes, by which we mean finally allow that long overdue Qatari gas pipeline to traverse the nation and sideline Russian gas deliveries to Europe.

(Why does already wealthy beyond compare Qatar need to kill thousands of innocent people just so it can sell its natgas to Europe? Just so its former Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani can buy many more $179 million Picasso paintings, and many more NYC and London apartments).

We expect this scenario to start unfolding within the month as the US economy desperately needs an official war to avoid sliding into a recession.

The U.N. refugee agency is estimating that over 3,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants — or even more — could still be adrift in the Andaman Sea.

The exact numbers are not known, but the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says it triangulated reports in the media and other sources and estimates the current number could be over 3,000 — or more that no one knows about.

More than 3,000 Rohingya minority Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar and Bangladeshi economic migrants also on the boats with them have already landed in Indonesia and Malaysia, and over 100 in Thailand.

Only Rohingyas are being given a one-year temporary shelter while Bangladeshis face repatriation.

Malaysian navy chief Abdul Aziz Jaafar says four vessels are searching for any migrant ships that could still be out at sea, and three helicopters and three combat boats are on standby.

___

3 p.m. (2200 GMT)

The U.S. military says it is preparing to help countries in the region address the humanitarian crisis of the Rohingya migrants stranded at sea.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jeffrey Pool told The Associated Press Thursday that the Department of Defense "is responding to this crisis and taking this seriously. We are preparing to stand up maritime aviation patrols throughout the region and working with local partners to help with this issue."

It was the first indication that the U.S. military is ready to take direct role. Washington has been urging governments in the region to work together to conduct search and rescue and provide shelter to thousands of vulnerable migrants.

— Martha Mendoza, Santa Cruz, California

____

10 a.m. (1400 GMT)

A bipartisan group of 23 U.S. lawmakers is urging the Obama administration to prevent Southeast Asian seas from becoming a "graveyard" for thousands of Rohingya boat people.

The lawmakers made the appeal in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry late Wednesday, ahead of discussions on the crisis between Myanmar's government and the No. 2 ranking U.S. diplomat, Anthony Blinken, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar's capital.

The members of the House of Representatives said the United States should provide support in search and rescue and humanitarian assistance for migrants in imminent danger in the Andaman Sea after fleeing "systematic repression" in Myanmar.

The U.S. should also work with Southeast Asian nations and address the "root cause" of the crisis, it says. The letter is strongly critical of President Thein Sein's government for pursuing "hate-filled" legislation against minorities in Myanmar. It recommends targeted U.S. sanctions against those who incite violence against the Rohingya if the situation continues to deteriorate.

The top-ranking Republican and Democrat on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee are among the signatories of the letter, which was provided Thursday to The Associated Press. Lawmakers provide oversight, but don't set U.S. foreign policy.

— Matthew Pennington, Washington

___

7 p.m. (1200 GMT)

A top U.S. diplomat has urged Myanmar's government to work with its regional partners to address the migrant crisis in Southeast Asia.

Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with Myanmar officials in the capital, Naypyitaw, on Thursday.

More than 3,000 people have landed in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand in recent weeks, most of them members of the Rohingya minority who were fleeing Myanmar or were tricked by traffickers and then abandoned at sea.

The embassy in Yangon posted on Facebook that Blinken shared the U.S. government's concerns about the migrant crisis. State Department officials in Washington said earlier that the U.S. was willing to lead multicountry efforts organized by the U.N. refugee agency to resettle the most vulnerable migrants.

Blinken said earlier on his trip to Southeast Asia that the only sustainable solution to the problem was addressing the conditions that led the Rohingya to flee.

___

4 p.m. (0930 GMT)

The Myanmar government says it will attend a regional meeting on the Rohingya humanitarian crisis next week.

Earlier, Myanmar hinted it might skip the May 29 meeting in Bangkok in neighboring Thailand , which will bring together more than a dozen governments from Southeast Asia and beyond. They want to discuss the root causes of the exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar as well as Bangladeshi migrants, thousands of whom have been stranded at sea.

More than 3,000 boat people have landed in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand in recent weeks, and thousands more are believed to be adrift and their lives in danger.

Myanmar's presidential office director, Zaw Htay, said Thursday that his government will take part in talks about human smuggling and illegal migration.

For decades, the Rohingya have suffered from state-sanctioned discrimination in majority-Buddhist Myanmar. Denied citizenship by national law, they are effectively stateless. In the last three years, attacks on Rohingya have left hundreds dead.

- The United States vowed on Thursday to keep up air and sea patrols in international waters after the Chinese navy repeatedly warned a U.S. surveillance plane to leave the airspace over artificial islands China is creating in the disputed South China Sea.

The Chinese navy issued eight warnings to the crew of a U.S. P8-A Poseidon, the U.S. military's most advanced surveillance aircraft, when it conducted the overflights on Wednesday, according to CNN, which was aboard the U.S. aircraft.

When the American pilots responded by saying the plane was flying through international airspace, a Chinese radio operator said with exasperation: "This is the Chinese navy ... You go!"

The Poseidon flew as low as 15,000 feet (4,500 meters), CNN said, and video provided by the Pentagon appeared to have been taken from directly above one artificial island.

The incident, along with recent Chinese warnings to Philippine military aircraft to leave areas around the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea, suggested Beijing is trying to enforce a military exclusion zone above its new islands there.

Some security experts worry about the risk of confrontation, especially after a U.S. official said last week that the Pentagon was considering sending military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation around the Chinese-made islands.

The senior U.S. diplomat for the East Asia, Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel, told a media briefing in Washington the U.S. reconnaissance flight was "entirely appropriate" and that U.S. naval forces and military aircraft would "continue to fully exercise" the right to operate in international waters and airspace.

He said the United States would go further to preserve the ability of all countries to move in international waters and airspace.

"Nobody in their right mind is going to try to stop the U.S. Navy from operating - that would not be a good bet," he said.

"But it’s not enough that a U.S. military plane can overfly international waters, even if there is challenge or hailing query ... We believe that every country and all civilian actors should have unfettered access to international waters and international airspace."

A spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry said he was not aware of the incident.

"China has the right to engage in monitoring in the relevant airspace and waters to protect the country's sovereignty and prevent accidents at sea," ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a regular briefing. "We hope the relevant country can earnestly respect China's sovereignty in the South China Sea."

HIVE OF CONSTRUCTION

Footage taken by the P8-A Poseidon over the new islands, and aired by CNN, showed a hive of construction and dredging activity, as well as Chinese navy ships nearby.

CNN said it was the first time the Pentagon had declassified video of China's building activity and audio of challenges to a U.S. aircraft.

"We were just challenged 30 minutes ago and the challenge came from the Chinese navy," Captain Mike Parker, commander of U.S. surveillance aircraft deployed to Asia, told CNN on the flight.

"I'm highly confident it came from ashore, this facility here," Parker said, pointing to an early warning radar station on Fiery Cross Reef.

Military facilities on Fiery Cross Reef, including a 3,000-metre (10,000-foot) runway, could be operational by year's end, one U.S. commander recently told Reuters, and Washington is concerned China will use it to press its extensive territorial claims at the expense of weaker rivals.

China claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi last week asserted Beijing's right to reclaim the reefs and said China's determination to protect its interests was "as hard as a rock."

China has also said it had every right to set up an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea but that current conditions did not warrant one.

ADIZs are used by some nations to extend control beyond national borders, requiring civilian and military aircraft to identify themselves or face possible military interception.

During the P8-A Poseidon mission, the pilot of a Delta Air Lines flight in the area spoke on the same frequency after hearing the Chinese challenges and identified himself as commercial. The Chinese voice reassured the pilot and the Delta flight went on its way, CNN said.

Delta Airlines did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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DNA on leftover pizza helps police ID suspect in D.C. murder mystery

DNA on leftover pizza helps police ID suspect in D.C. murder mystery

WASHINGTON (AP) — A former Marine and ex-convict accused in the slayings of a wealthy Washington family and their housekeeper was arrested Thursday, a week after authorities said the family was killed and their mansion was set on fire.

Daron Dylon Wint, 34, was arrested in northeast Washington around 11 p.m. Thursday by members of a fugitive task force and charged with first-degree murder while armed, D.C. police and the U.S. Marshals Service said. Investigators had previously been seeking him in New York City.

Police have not detailed why Wint would want to kill 46-year-old Savvas Savopoulos; his 47-year-old wife, Amy; their son, Philip; and housekeeper Veralicia Figueroa. Three of the four victims had been stabbed or bludgeoned before the fire.

Police said Thursday that Wint, a certified welder, worked for Savopoulos' company, American Iron Works, in the past. Savopoulos was the CEO of American Iron Works, a construction-materials supplier based in Hyattsville, Maryland, that has been involved in major projects in downtown Washington.

Police said Thursday that they haven't ruled out the possibility that other people were involved in the slayings, but no other suspects have been identified.

Wint was born and raised in Guyana and moved to the United States in 2000, when he was almost 20 years old, according to court records filed in Maryland. He joined the Marine Corps that same year and was discharged for medical reasons, the records show. Following his discharge, he worked as a certified welder, the records show.

The Savopouloses lived in a $4.5 million home in Woodley Park, a neighborhood where mansions are protected by fences and elaborate security systems and local and federal law enforcement officers are a constant presence, in part because Vice President Joe Biden's official residence is nearby.

Text messages and voicemails from the Savopouloses to their confused and frightened household staff suggest something was amiss in the house many hours before the bodies were found. Their blue Porsche turned up in suburban Maryland hours after the slayings. It too had been set on fire.

DNA analysis at a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms lab linked Wint to the crime, a law enforcement official involved in the investigation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for lack of authorization to discuss the investigation publicly.

During the family's final hours, someone called Domino's from their house and ordered pizza. The Washington Post reported that the DNA was found on a pizza crust. At a Domino's about 2 miles away, a worker told the AP that a pizza was delivered from there to the mansion that day.

Wint was convicted of assaulting one girlfriend in Maryland in 2009, and he pleaded guilty the next year to malicious destruction of property after he allegedly threatened to kill a woman and her infant daughter, breaking into her apartment, stealing a television and vandalizing her car.

"I'm going to come over there and kill you, your daughter and friends," Wint told that woman, according to the records. "The defendant advised he was good with a knife and could kill them easily and was not afraid of the police," a detective wrote.

Also in 2010, Wint was arrested carrying a 2-foot-long machete and a BB pistol outside the American Iron Works headquarters, but weapons charges were dropped after he pleaded guilty to possessing an open container of alcohol.

Attorney Robin Ficker said Wint didn't seem violent when he defended him in earlier cases.

"My impression of him — I remember him rather well — is that he wouldn't hurt a fly. He's a very nice person," Ficker said.

A housekeeper who worked for the Savopoulos family for 20 years, Nelitza Gutierrez, told the AP that she believes the family and Figureroa were held captive for nearly a day before they were killed, citing an unusual voice mail she got from Savopoulos and a text message sent from the phone of his wife, telling her not to come to the house.

Gutierrez said she and Savopoulos spent May 13 cleaning up a martial arts studio he was opening in northern Virginia before his wife called around 5:30 p.m. She could hear his half of the conversation. He later said his wife told him to come home to watch their son because she was going out, Gutierrez said.

Later that night, sounding flustered, he left Gutierrez a voice mail saying Figueroa would stay with his sick wife overnight, that she shouldn't come the next day, and that Figueroa's phone was dead.

"It doesn't make any sense. How come you don't have another phone — iPhones are all over," Gutierrez said. "He was kind of building stories."

The next morning, Gutierrez received a text message from Amy Savopoulos that read, in part, "I am making sure you are not coming today." She called and texted back and got no response.

The Savopouloses had two teenage daughters who were away at boarding school at the time of the slayings. Relatives of the victims have made few public statements and have not returned calls from the AP. Representatives of American Iron Works have repeatedly declined to comment.

 Intel is turning the roof of its Santa Clara headquarters into a mini-wind farm with what it says is one of the largest micro-turbine arrays in the country.

The V-shaped formation of 58 wind-powered turbines, being installed this week, is expected to generate about 65 kilowatt-hours of power that will be used to provide electricity to the conference center in the rambling Robert Noyce Building on Mission Boulevard.The chipmaker called the micro-turbines a "proof of concept" project."We are trying to understand how this type of technology integrates into Intel and where are the best locations for it around the world," said Marty Sedler, director of Intel's global utilities and infrastructure.

JLM Energy crew members install their Zefr micro wind turbines on the rooftop of Intel Corporation;s Headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., on
JLM Energy crew members install their Zefr micro wind turbines on the rooftop of Intel Corporation's Headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., on Thursday, May 21, 2015. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group) ( LiPo Ching )

"We'll share the data and share the information so other people can apply it to their own businesses and homes," he said.The micro-turbines are 6 to 7 feet tall, weigh about 30 pounds each and are positioned at the roof's edge where they can gather the most wind, which averages about 8 to 9 miles per hour in the area. They share the roof with an array of solar panels."This is just another prong adding to our sustainability program," Sedler saidIntel's new wind turbines arrive at a time when major tech companies are turning to green power. Apple and Google announced green projects in February. Apple is building a solar farm in Monterey County and Google is developing a forest of wind turbines on Altamont Pass near Livermore.

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Intel says it has been green for years, and was recently recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for the seventh year in a row, as the largest voluntary purchaser of green power in the country. It has solar installations on 12 Intel campuses in the U.S., Israel and Vietnam that generate more than 12 million kilowatt-hours of power per year of clean energy, as well as a solar hot water system that supplies nearly all the needs of Intel's two campuses in India.

The new array "is one of the largest we've identified anywhere," Sedler said. "One of the things Intel does that's a little different from other companies is that all the projects we have done to date have been on our campuses. It's not the answer, it's one of the answers. The key is to get off the grid."




 Islamic State extremists seized almost full control of the ancient Syrian town of Palmyra after government defense lines there collapsed on Wednesday, though it remained unclear how close to the famed archaeological site the extremists advanced, activists said.

Syrian state TV acknowledged that pro-government forces have withdrawn from Palmyra.

The fall of the town to the Islamic State group is a stunning defeat for President Bashar Assad's forces, days after IS militants launched their offensive against Palmyra in central Syria. It is also an enormous loss to the government, not only because of its cultural significance, but because it would open the way for extremists to advance to key government-held areas, including Homs and Damascus.

 

The Syrian Observatory for human rights reported that government forces collapsed in the face of IS attacks and withdrew from the town late on Wednesday. A media collective for Palmyra also said that IS was now in control of most of the town.

It's not immediately clear how close the militants are to the famed ruins, which are just southwest of the town.

The ruins at Palmyra are one of the region's most renowned historic sites and there are fears the extremists would destroy them as they did major archaeological sites in Iraq.

Home to a UNESCO world heritage site, Palmyra is famous for its 2,000-year-old towering Roman-era colonnades. Before the war, thousands of tourists a year visited the remote desert outpost, also known as the "Bride of the Desert."

"I am terrified," said Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria's director-general of antiquities and museums. "This is a PR battle for Daesh, and they will insist on scoring victory against civilization by destroying" the ancient ruins, he said, using the Arabic acronym for the group.

Homs governor Talal Barazzi told The Associated Press earlier that Islamic State militants infiltrated overnight into some districts in the northern part of Palmyra, adding that there were ongoing street battles and snipers in the streets. "The situation is delicate," he said.

a new study, a team of scientists says there's a definite link between the massive BP oil spill in 2010 and a record number of dolphin deaths along the northern Gulf of Mexico.

The scientists on Wednesday said large numbers of dead bottlenose dolphins found along shores since the spill suffered from lung and adrenal lesions caused by swimming in oil-contaminated seas.

The research paper backs up previous findings linking dolphin deaths to the oil spill. The study involved federal scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

BP has rejected the contention linking the deaths to the oil spill. Instead, it said, the dolphins were likely suffering from common respiratory illnesses.

The new study was published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed online journal PLOS ONE.

With the release of the study, researchers and the federal government made the most direct link yet between the spill and the dolphin deaths.

"No feasible alternative causes remain that can reasonably explain the timing, location and nature of these distinct lesions and increase in deaths," said Stephanie Venn-Watson, the study's lead researcher with National Marine Mammal Foundation.

From 2002 to 2009, the Gulf averaged 63 dolphin deaths a year. That rose to 125 in the seven months after the spill in 2010 and 335 in all of 2011, averaging more than 200 a year since April 2010.

That's the longest and largest dolphin die-off recorded in the Gulf. The number of deaths has started to decline, according to federal scientists.

Researchers said oil contamination caused chronic adrenal problems for dolphins, and this in turn hurt their chances of surviving low temperatures, infections and bacterial pneumonia. Also, the dolphins suffering from oil contamination had problems with pregnancy.

Venn-Watson said dolphins were vulnerable to oil contamination because they take deep breaths at the sea's surface — the same place where oil sheens covered the Gulf following the spill.

"Dolphins were swimming into the oil," she said. "Their lungs are large, they take big deep breaths at the water's surface and hold it for extended periods of time."

The study looked at 46 dead dolphins found in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama from June 2010 to December 2012. Researchers tested lung and adrenal gland tissues.

The study looked at 22 dead dolphins found in Barataria Bay, a heavily oiled water body south of New Orleans where researchers first began noticing and tracking dolphin deaths after the spill.

Venn-Watson said further studies would be needed to track and monitor the long-term effects of the contamination on the dolphin populations.

BP questioned the validity of the study because it was based on what it termed "just a small sample set" of dolphins. The company accused the federal government of not releasing in a timely manner hundreds of necropsies.

"This new paper fails to show that the illnesses observed in some dolphins were caused by exposure to Macondo oil," said Geoff Morrell, a BP spokesman.

Morrell said BP was "unaware of any toxicological studies linking lung disease in bottlenose dolphins to exposure to oil or other environmental contaminants."

BP's Macondo well blew out on April 20, 2010, leading to deadly explosions aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and the nation's largest offshore oil spill.

The federal government used a team of scientists to calculate that about 172 million gallons spilled into the Gulf. BP put the number much lower, closer to 100 million gallons.

- The Pentagon said on Tuesday that two Iranian warships had linked up with a cargo ship that Iran says is carrying humanitarian aid to Yemen, adding it was monitoring the ships "every step of the way."

"We're not overly concerned at this point. It's a single ship that we’ve got very good accountability of," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren told a news briefing.

Warren said the two warships "linked up" with the cargo ship when it passed an area where they had been conducting, according to Tehran, counter-piracy operations. Another Pentagon spokesman said this happened on Monday.

Hunkered down in his Pakistani compound, Osama bin Laden pleaded with his followers to stay focused on attacking the United States instead of being dragged into Muslim infighting.

Documents declassified on Wednesday shed new light on the mindset of Al-Qaeda's founder, his debates over tactics, his anxiety over Western spying and his fixation with the group's media image.

"The focus should be on killing and fighting the American people and their representatives," Bin Laden wrote in one of the newly revealed documents.

The letter was among thousands of files found by US Navy SEALs on May 2, 2011 when they descended on Bin Laden's hideout in the garrison town of Abbottabad and shot him dead.

US intelligence agencies have now declassified more than 100 of these documents taken from Bin Laden's archive, after lawmakers ordered the move and critics accused the CIA of withholding material.

AFP was given exclusive access to the documents in advance of their release.

Jeff Anchukaitis, spokesman for the US Director of National Intelligence's office, said the release of "a sizeable tranche of documents recovered during the raid" was in keeping with President Barack Obama's call for "increased transparency."

It was also in accordance with a law obliging the spy agencies to review all the Bin Laden materials for possible release, he said

The documents are Central Intelligence Agency translations of the originals in English, and AFP had no way to independently verify the materials or the accuracy of the translation.

The release came shortly after US journalist Seymour Hersh alleged that Washington's official account of the hunt for Bin Laden and the raid that led to his death was a lie.

But CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani said the declassification had been long planned and had not been intended as a response to Hersh's report.

- Drones and heirs -

From the strategic and theological discussions to the mundane details of domestic funding and security measures, the documents show the man behind 9/11 preoccupied with once again attacking the West in a spectacular fashion.

Mindful of drone strikes taking out senior leaders, Bin Laden frequently refers to security headaches and advises against communicating by email.

He scolds his followers for gathering in large groups and frets about a microscopic bug being inserted in his wife's clothes.

He lays out plans to groom a new cadre of leaders willing to risk the dangers of joining Al-Qaeda, and his associates discuss arrangements for smuggling Bin Laden's favorite son and likely heir, Hamza, to Pakistan.

Citing domestic US public opposition to the Vietnam War, Bin Laden argues that the only way to alter US foreign policy is to "start striking America to force it to abandon these rulers and leave the Muslims alone."

But the documents also highlight deep divisions among the militants over how to wage their terror campaign.

Bin Laden warns that conflict with regimes in the Middle East would distract the extremists from hitting hard at what as far as he is concerned is the real enemy -- America.

"We should stop operations against the army and the police in all regions, especially Yemen," he writes.

The correspondence reflects Bin Laden's "worry that disunity within the global jihadist movement could spell its demise," said a senior US intelligence analyst.

Bin Laden is stunned by the Arab uprisings that erupted across the region from 2010 and urges his deputies to seize the moment of "revolution" and rally Muslim youth.

- IS and Bin Laden -

Al-Qaeda's branch in Iraq, which would later morph into the Islamic State group -- and which now increasingly overshadows Al-Qaeda -- also comes up in the documents.

Bin Laden and his then deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, receive a scathing rebuke in a letter from some Iraqi supporters, who demand they denounce the bloodletting in Iraq.

The Jihad and Reform Front warns Bin Laden that God will hold him to account "for blessing the work done by the Al-Qaeda in Iraq organization without disavowing the scandals that are committed in your name."

"If you still can, then this is your last chance to remedy the Jihad breakdown that is about to take place in Iraq, that is mostly caused by your followers," said the letter dated May 22, 2007.

Bin Laden writes of the need for large-scale terror operations, even though some of his deputies are finding it difficult to organize massive attacks as they try to avert drones overhead and US eavesdropping.

One document recently declassified in a terrorism trial in New York but not released on Wednesday quotes Abu Musab al-Suri, an Al-Qaeda veteran, who advocates going after smaller targets of opportunity as a more realistic approach, intelligence officials said.

"Bin Laden at the time of his death remained focused on large-scale operations while other Al-Qaeda leaders believed smaller operations, or inciting lone terrorist attacks, could succeed at bleeding the West economically," the intelligence analyst said.

Bin Laden failed to win the argument. After his death, Al-Qaeda's leadership called for lone-wolf attacks, and Suri's idea of "individual jihad" has won out.

The IS group, which was officially excommunicated from Al-Qaeda, now controls vast swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria and its online propaganda has been blamed for inspiring attacks from Paris to the Dallas suburb


Canada and Mexico contend that labeling requirements put their cows and pigs at a disadvantage because U.S. meatpackers don’t want to go through the hassle and expense of tracking imported animals. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

In a decision food safety and consumer advocates are calling a blow to animal welfare, environmental standards, and democracy, the World Trade Organization on Monday ruled that U.S. labels on packaged meat indicating where cows, chicken or other animals were born, raised and slaughtered are in violation of international trade pacts because they place foreign imports at an economic disadvantage.

"This is a chilling reminder that our very democracy is at stake in these trade deals. Congress should reject calls to Fast Track new trade deals to maintain its legislative autonomy, rather than creating new trade tribunals that can wipe out U.S. laws." —Wenonah HauterThe WTO ruling—which is final and not subject to further appeal—is a seen as victory for the U.S. meat-packing industry, which has characterized the "country of origin labels" (COOL) as burdensome and repeatedly challenged them in court. But the decision was decried by critics who say it highlights the far-reaching implications of so-called "free trade" deals which allow multinational corporations and business interests to challenge domestic regulations that threaten their bottom line.

In this case, the WTO challenge was brought by Mexico and Canada, on behalf of their respective meat industries, against the U.S. government for violations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by arguing the U.S. labeling regime negatively impacted their ability to compete in the lucrative American market.

"This is just the latest example of how multinational companies use the global trade system to attack basic protections for U.S. consumers," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, in astatement responding to the ruling. "The meat industry has been trying – and failing – for years to get rid of COOL through the U.S. system, so it had to use unaccountable, unelected trade officials at the WTO to do its dirty work."

Debbie Barker, international and trade program director at Center for Food Safety (CFS), called the ruling a "grave blow" for a consumers who have the right to know where their food comes from.

"Our food safety policies in this country should not be dictated by a closed-door trade tribunal," Barker said. "The WTO has essentially overruled our democratic law making process, which demonstrates how trade agreements can weaken U.S. food safety standards."

According to the Canadian Press:

Canada and Mexico argued the requirement created costly overhead, and logistical problems for an integrated industry where livestock might cross the border multiple times.

The Canadian government argued that it was actually a protectionist measure, designed to discourage imports of foreign meat while doing nothing to benefit food safety.

It blamed the measure for a drastic decline in Canadian meat exports to the U.S. in recent years, and had repeatedly warned that it would retaliate if successful at the WTO.

However, according to expert critics like Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, what Monday's ruling really shows is how international trade deals like NAFTA can trump the will of the American public and Congress.

Though NAFTA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton nearly twenty years ago, the Obama administration is currently pushing two new trade deals— the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with European Union nations and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) with eleven Pacific Rim nations. And even as Obama and other proponents of TPP and TTIP have repeatedly argued these new deals won’t have the power to overturn or circumvent U.S. laws and regulations, the labeling ruling offers a precise example of how the mechanisms contained within such deals can do exactly that.

"Today’s WTO ruling, which effectively orders the U.S. government to stop providing consumers basic information about where their food comes from, offers a clear example of why so many Americans and members of Congress oppose the Fast Tracking of more so-called 'trade' pacts that threaten commonsense consumer safeguards."
—Lori Wallach, Public Citizen
Public Citizen cited a speech earlier this month when President Obama championed the pending deals and dismissed their detractors when he said, "Critics warn that parts of this deal would undermine American regulation – food safety, worker safety, even financial regulations. They’re making this stuff up. This is just not true. No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws." In fact, according to Wallach, Monday's development on the COOL standards is a direct rebuttal to that claim.

As the Center for Food Safety noted:

Promoters of Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have consistently said that fears over potential negative impacts to food safety and other consumer safeguards are overblown. But this WTO ruling further demonstrates that consumer group concerns that trade agreements such as the TPP are indeed legitimate. The WTO case was adjudicated via a dispute resolution system allowing member nation-states to sue one another over domestic policies that are believed to inhibit trade. Alarmingly, TPP’s investor-state provision would go even a step further by allowing corporations to directly sue countries for policies they believe impede profits.

"The president says 'we're making stuff up,' about trade deals undermining our consumer and environmental policies," said Wallach, "but today we have the latest WTO ruling against a popular U.S. consumer policy. Today’s WTO ruling, which effectively orders the U.S. government to stop providing consumers basic information about where their food comes from, offers a clear example of why so many Americans and members of Congress oppose the Fast Tracking of more so-called 'trade' pacts that threaten commonsense consumer safeguards."

In her comments, Hauter argued the same. "The COOL case proves that trade agreements can and do trump U.S. laws," she said. "This is a chilling reminder that our very democracy is at stake in these trade deals. Congress should reject calls to Fast Track new trade deals to maintain its legislative autonomy, rather than creating new trade tribunals that can wipe out U.S. laws."

Wallach indicated that the only up-side to the action taken by the WTO on Monday is how it bolsters the case by the thousands of groups and millions of Americans, and their allies around the world, who will continue to fight against the approval of both TPP and TTIP in the weeks and months ahead. "The corporations lobbying to Fast Track the TPP must be groaning right now," she said, "as this ruling against a popular consumer protection in the name of 'free trade' spotlights exactly why there is unprecedented opposition to more of these deals."

Burst pipeline cloaks California beaches with oil 01:11

Story highlights

  •  Officials say Plains All American Pipeline is the "responsible party"
  • The oil spill began after a pipeline ruptured near Santa Barbara, officials say

(CNN)An oil spill in California on Tuesday created a slick in the ocean that stretched for miles near a popular beach.

Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Dave Zaniboni said the spill began west of Santa Barbara after a pipeline ruptured and has now moved toward Refugio State Beach. The pipeline responsible has been shut off, he said.

A slick stretched for about 4 miles near Refugio Beach, the U.S. Coast Guard said on Twitter.

Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline was identified as the responsible party, the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management said in a statement.

"Plains shut down the flow of oil in the pipeline and has initiated its emergency response plan," the company said in a statement.

"The culvert has been blocked so no additional oil is reaching the water. Plains is working with local officials and first responders on site to begin clean up and remediation efforts."

It said no injuries had been reported.

"Plains deeply regrets this release has occurred and is making every effort to limit its environmental impact. Our focus remains on ensuring the safety of all involved," it said.

Officials first got a report of a smell of gas in the area at 11:42 a.m. (2:42 p.m. ET), Zaniboni said.

Photos from CNN affiliate KTLA showed a dark sheen near the beach.

A Coast Guard photo on Twitter showed what officials said was an aerial view of the spill, with black muck along the coastline.

Texas police asked rival motorcycle gangs on Tuesday to put aside their differences after a weekend brawl at a Waco restaurant that left nine people dead and 18 injured, calling for a halt to the carnage and threats of revenge attacks.

"There has been enough tragedy and there has been enough bloodshed in Waco, Texas. We would appreciate there not being any more," Police Sergeant Patrick Swanton told a news briefing.

He added that threats for reprisal against police from motorcycle gangs have "toned down" but are still a worry for law enforcement officials, who arrested 170 people following Sunday's brawl at the Twin Peaks Sports Bar and Grill in the central Texas city.

Of the 18 injured, seven remain in the hospital and all are in stable condition. Almost all of those involved in the deadly brawl are not from the Waco area, Swanton said.

READ MORE: Parking dispute might have set off deadly Waco biker shootout

Those arrested were being held on bail of $1 million each in separate parts of a county jail to prevent an outbreak of violence, county officials said.

They face organized crime charges relating to capital murder. Charges directly relating to the violence will likely come after an investigation of the bullet-riddled crime scene where gang member attacked each other with guns, knives, clubs, brass knuckles and chains.

Three of those arrested were released from jail when their bond was mistakenly reduced to $50,000, a county judge said.

McLennan County Judge Ralph Strother told Reuters a warrant for their arrest has been issued that also sought to have their bonds restored to $1 million.

A coalition of bikers rented out a patio of Twin Peaks, known for scantily clad waitresses serving mugs of beer, for a Sunday meeting that turned sour when a rival gang showed up, police said.

A dispute over a parking space or a gang member's foot being run over may have sparked the brawl that ended with a gunfight between bikers and nearly two dozen police who had taken positions outside the restaurant in anticipation of violence.

The names of the dead have not been released and many of those being held are not cooperating with investigators.

"Some of the players in this are not being honest," Swanton said.

Among the gangs involved in the shooting were the Bandidos, which the U.S. Justice Department says has between 2,000 to 2,500 members in the United States and 13 other countries. It is one of the biggest motorcycle gangs and a rival to the better-known Hells Angels.

The Bandidos have been battling with a rival gang, the Cossacks, for control in the state, which has been seen as Bandidos territory, an expert on outlaw motorcycle gangs said.

"The Bandidos... think they own Texas," said police officer Steve Cook, who heads the Midwest Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigators Association.

"They say 'This is our territory and this is it' and that's the way they leave it," he said

Report concludes that, despite pledges, US has routinely failed to protect worker rights under so-called 'free trade' deals

Speaking at a labor rally last month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said workers Speaking at a labor rally last month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said workers "have to fight back" against corporate-friendly deals like TPP. (Image: Screengrab/AFL-CIO)

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) took decisive aim at President Barack Obama's pending global trade pacts on Monday with the release of a new report, which argues that—despite pledges to the contrary—so-called "free trade" agreements have a record of undermining workers rights.

The 15-page staff report, Broken Promises: Decades of Failure to Enforce Labor Standards in Free Trade Agreements (pdf), contends that under previous agreements, the United States has repeatedly either failed to enforce or adopts unenforceable labor standards resulting in widespread labor-related human rights abuses.

"Supporters of past trade agreements have said again and again that these deals would include strong protections for workers, but assurances without strong enforcement are just empty promises," Senator Warren said in a press statement. "The facts show that, despite all the promises, these trade deals were just another tool to tilt the playing field in further of multinational corporations and against working families."

The report argues that statements made by Obama that the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be "the most progressive trade agreement in history," will likely follow other "broken promises."

"From NAFTA and CAFTA to the recent deals with Peru, Colombia, Panama and South Korea, proponents of these trade agreements have—again, and again, and again—made nearly identical promises," the report states. However, the analysis concludes that "rhetoric does not match reality."

Citing analyses from the Government Accountability Office, the State Department, and the Department of Labor, that report charges that under Obama's watch, trade pacts have ushered in a host of abuses, from child labor to intimidation and violence against union organizers.

In a much-publicized feud with the president, Warren has largely led the campaign against the 12-nation TPP, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Fast Track Trade Authority, which would restrict Congressional input on a global trade deal to an up or down vote. Obama has largely dismissed many of Warren's criticisms of the deal as "dishonest," "bunk" and "misinformation."

In an interview with NPR last week, Warren explained her primary objections to the TPP, highlighting the roll that the investor-state dispute mechanism (ISDS) plays in worsening labor violations.

"We know that corporations under this deal are going to get to sue countries for regulations they don't like and that the decisions are not going to be made by courts, they're going to be made by private lawyers," Warren said.

She continued:

If there's a labor violation, if somebody doesn't stick with the human rights promises they made, the consequence of that is not that they get to go to a private group, and get special enforcement. Nope, they gotta go to their own government and try to get it enforced.

[T]he corporate lawyers figured out how to make [ISDS] very valuable for big corporations.

What really happens here is that big, multi-national corporations can look around and say "I don't like those regulations. I could make more money if I could beat down new regulations."

After back-tracking on an earlier decision and, as many charge, caving to pressure from the White House, Senate Democrats last Thursday voted to bring debate over the Fast Track authority to the floor.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that he expects fast-track legislation to pass the Senate this week before Congress adjourns for a week-long holiday.

Hundreds of women and girls captured by Boko Haram have been raped, many repeatedly, in what officials and relief workers describe as a deliberate strategy to dominate rural residentsand possibly even create a new generation of Islamist militants inNigeria.

In interviews, the women described being locked in houses by the dozen, at the beck and call of fighters who forced them to have sex, sometimes with the specific goal of impregnating them.

“They married me,” said Hamsatu, 25, a young woman in a black-and-purple head scarf, looking down at the ground. She said she was four months pregnant, that the father was a Boko Haram member and that she had been forced to have sex with other militants who took control of her town.

“They chose the ones they wanted to marry,” added Hamsatu, whose full name was not used to protect her identity. “If anybody shouts, they said they would shoot them.”

Boko Haram, a radical Islamist sect that has taken over large stretches of territory in the country’s northeast, has long targeted women, rounding them up as it captures towns and villages. Women and girls have been given to Boko Haram fighters for “marriage,” a euphemism for the sexual violence that occurs even when unions are cloaked in religion.

Continue reading the main story

GRAPHIC

Boko Haram: The Other Islamic State

Maps showing the violent rise of the Islamist militant group that is waging a campaign of terror in Nigeria.

 OPEN GRAPHIC

Now, dozens of newly freed women and girls, many of them pregnant and battered, are showing up at a sprawling camp for the displaced here outside the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, as Nigerian soldiers and other military forces try to push Boko Haram out of nearby territory it has occupied for much of the last year.

The full human toll of that occupation is only now emerging. More than 15,000 people have sought shelter at the camp, at an abandoned federal office-worker training center, most of them women, relief officials said. Over 200 have so far been found to be pregnant but relief officials believe many more are bearing the unwanted children of Boko Haram militants.

“The sect leaders make a very conscious effort to impregnate the women,” said the Borno governor, Kashim Shettima. “Some of them, I was told, even pray before mating, offering supplications for God to make the products of what they are doing become children that will inherit their ideology.”

The militants have openly promised to treat women as chattel. After Boko Haram militants kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls from the village of Chibok last year, the group’s leader called them slaves and threatened to “sell them in the market.”

“We would marry them out at the age of 9,” the leader, Abubakar Shekau, said in a video message soon after the girls were abducted, prompting the global “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign. “We would marry them out at the age of 12.”

As the group has lost control of towns and thousands of people have fled in recent weeks, a grim picture of that treatment has emerged: hundreds of women and girls as young as 11 subjected to systematic, organized sexual violence.

Yahauwa, 30, used her green head scarf to wipe away tears as she clutched a plastic bag full of medicine. She had just tested positive for H.I.V.

“Is it from the people who forced me to have affairs with them?” she asked a relief worker, tears streaming down her face.

Later, she explained that she and many other women had been “locked in one big room.”

“When they came, they would select the one they wanted to sleep with,” she said. “They said, ‘If you do not marry us, we will slaughter you.’  ”

As the women spoke, two trucks crammed with more people arrived at the rudimentary camp guarded by watchful soldiers. Even the local news media are kept out.

Many of the residents of the camp spend the day outside in blazing 100-degree-plus heat here. They dare not return home.

Six years ago, Nigerian security forces clashed violently with Boko Haram members, and the group has been waging unremitting war against the federal government ever since.

It recently declared allegiance to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and its successes over the years contributed substantially to the defeat of the incumbent president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, in a March election. Thousands have been killed in Boko Haram’s war against the Nigerian state, often characterized by the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians.

Boko Haram is now on the retreat, but the countryside is not secure. People from several towns said the militants had not been defeated, as the Nigerian military maintains, but had simply fled as troops advancedwith superior firepower.

Indeed, Maiduguri itself, a city of more than two million, came under attack again from Boko Haram last week. The militants tried to storm a military base and were pushed back only after hours of what residents said was heavy shooting by the military. On Saturday, a suicide bomber, a young girl, killed at least seven people in nearby Damaturu, and officials said the insurgents had recaptured the town of Marte.

The attack on Maiduguri was at least the third such attack on the state capital this year.

The humiliation of what the refugees have been through led many of the women interviewed at the camp to deny being abused by the militants. But relief workers here said that when they arrived, many acknowledged that they had been raped.

Fanna, a delicate 12-year-old who had arrived at the camp here three days before, crouched on the floor, clasping her knees, and insisted in her thin child’s voice that Boko Haram had not touched her. Relief officials said that in her camp entry interview, she, too, had said she was raped by the militants.

Now, many officials worry about the long-term health effects of the abuse. Yana, a young woman wearing sparkling golden bangles, said the fighters had “parked” her — a word many women have used to describe their imprisonment — with about 50 other women in a house in Bama, Borno State’s second city, with a population of several hundred thousand. Bama was occupied by Boko Haram last September.

Inside the house, “If they want to have an affair with a woman, they will just take her to a private place, so that the others won’t see,” said Yana in a singsong voice. She could not recall her age; a relief worker at the camp here said she had been raped so often by Boko Haram that she was “psychologically affected.”

Yana said the militants had forced her to have sex with them.

Her feet and stomach were swollen and the relief worker said she was likely pregnant, though her test results had not come back yet. Others workers here said many of the women had signs of physical and psychological trauma from being raped repeatedly.

Nigerian officials have reacted gingerly as the evidence of large-scale sexual violence by Boko Haram emerges.

The federal government appeared to have a scant presence at the camp here, despite the thousands of small children, around a third of them parentless, and near-daily deaths from illness or malnutrition. Flocks of little children roam the camp, unwatched. On a recent morning, two small boys were brought into the camp clinic with serious cuts and burns.

Unicef, a few other international agencies, and the state government are providing some help, but relief officials said some of the women were too traumatized to leave their tents to seek help in the clinic.

Officials in the nation’s capital, Abuja, have said little. A new government, led by the former strongman Muhammadu Buhari, will be seated this month.

But officials and relief workers here in Borno State, where Boko Haram was born and remains strongest, said the organized nature of Boko Haram’s sexual violence appeared to point to a deliberate, self-perpetuation plan.

“It’s like they wanted to have their own siblings, to take over from them,” said Abba Mohammed Bashir Shuwa, a senior state official in Maiduguri.

A relief official at the camp who is working closely with the abused women echoed that thought. “We are going to have another set of Boko Haram,” said the official, Hadiza Waziri. “Most of these women now, they don’t want these pregnancies. You cannot love the child.”

The militants’ fixation with capturing, hoarding and “marrying” the women allowed some to witness central elements in their military strategy.

Meriam, 36, who had just arrived at the camp in Maiduguri from Gwoza, a Boko Haram headquarters town, spoke of being imprisoned with dozens of other women, including some who were being trained as suicide bombers.

Increasingly over the last year, the terrorists have used women and children to carry out suicide bombings against civilian targets like markets.

“The Boko Haram would recite the prayer for the dead,” Meriam said. “Then they would put on the hijab,” covering the suicide belt.

After they had prepared, “They said, ‘God will forgive us,’” she said. “Then, they would enter the vehicles, and they would send the women away.”

Meriam said she had seen a few of the Chibok village girls at the hospital in Gwoza, and said that the Boko Haram appeared to give them a special status.

Back at the Dalori camp, Hamsat, a 16-year-old high school student from Bama who was wearing a delicate pink head scarf, clasped her hands tightly and looked down. No, she said, Boko Haram had not touched her. Others, yes, in the group of over 200, but not her.

“They were having affairs with them,” she said. “Others were very stubborn. I used to pray.”

Relief officials said Hamsat was among those who had acknowledged being raped when she arrived here two weeks ago.

Nine months after police in riot gear dispelled racially charged protests, President Barack Obama is prohibiting the federal government from providing some military-style equipment to local departments and putting stricter controls on other weapons and gear distributed to law enforcement.

The surprise announcement comes after the White House suggested last year that Obama would maintain programs that provide the type of military-style equipment used to respond to demonstrators last summer in Ferguson, Missouri, because of their broader contribution to public safety. But an interagency group found "substantial risk of misusing or overusing" items like tracked armored vehicles, high-powered firearms and camouflage could undermine trust in police.

With scrutiny on police only increasing in the ensuing months after a series of highly publicized deaths of black suspects nationwide, Obama also is unveiling the final report of a task force he created to help build confidence between police and minority communities in particular. The announcements come as Obama is visiting Camden, New Jersey, one of the country's most violent and poorest cities.

Obama plans to visit Camden police headquarters before heading to a community center to meet with youth and law enforcement and give a speech. "I'll highlight steps all cities can take to maintain trust between the brave law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line, and the communities they're sworn to serve and protect," Obama said in his weekly address out Saturday.

In previewing the president's trip, the White House said that effective immediately, the federal government will no longer fund or provide armored vehicles that run on a tracked system instead of wheels, weaponized aircraft or vehicles, firearms or ammunition of .50-caliber or higher, grenade launchers, bayonets or camouflage uniforms. The federal government also is exploring ways to recall prohibited equipment already distributed.

In addition, a longer list of equipment the federal government provides will come under tighter control, including wheeled armored vehicles like Humvees, manned aircraft, drones, specialized firearms, explosives, battering rams and riot batons, helmets and shields. Starting in October, police will have to get approval from their city council, mayor or some other local governing body to obtain it, provide a persuasive explanation of why it is needed and have more training and data collection on the use of the equipment.

The issue of police militarization rose to prominence last year after a white police officer in Ferguson fatally shot unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown, sparking protests. Critics questioned why police in full body armor with armored trucks responded to dispel demonstrators, and Obama seemed to sympathize when ordering a review of the programs that provide the equipment. "There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don't want those lines blurred," Obama last in August.

But he did not announce a ban in December with the publication of the review, which showed five federal agencies spent $18 billion on programs that provided equipment including 92,442 small arms, 44,275 night-vision devices, 5,235 Humvees, 617 mine-resistant vehicles and 616 aircraft. At the time, the White House defended the programs as proving to be useful in many cases, such as the response to the Boston Marathon bombing. Instead of repealing the programs, Obama issued an executive order that required federal agencies that run the programs to consult with law enforcement and civil rights and civil liberties organizations to recommend changes that make sure they are accountable and transparent.

That working group said in a report out Monday that it developed the list of newly banned equipment because "the substantial risk of misusing or overusing these items, which are seen as militaristic in nature, could significantly undermine community trust and may encourage tactics and behaviors that are inconsistent with the premise of civilian law enforcement." The Justice Department did not respond to an inquiry about how many pieces of equipment that are now banned had been previously distributed through federal programs.

The separate report from the 21st Century Policing task force has a long list of recommendations to improve trust in police, including encouraging more transparency about interactions with the public. The White House said 21 police agencies nationwide, including Camden and nearby Philadelphia, have agreed to start putting out never-before released data on citizen interactions like use of force, stops, citations and officer-involved shootings. The administration also is launching an online toolkit to encourage the use of body cameras to record police interactions. And the Justice Department is giving $163 million in grants to incentivize police departments to adopt the report's recommendations.

Ron Davis, director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at the Justice Department, told reporters he hoped the report could be a "key transformational document" in rebuilding trust that has been destroyed in recent years between police and minority communities.

"We are without a doubt sitting at a defining moment for American policing," said Davis, a 30-year police veteran and former chief of the East Palo Alto (California) Police Department. "We have a unique opportunity to redefine policing in our democracy, to ensure that public safety becomes more than the absence of crime, that it must also include the presence of justice."

 Extreme athlete Dean Potter knew the risks every time he flew off a cliff with a parachute.

He lost a friend to a BASE jumping accident last year and spoke about the death-defying nature of the sport at that friend's memorial service.

"He always recognized how dangerous the sport was and at the same time, how magical it was — the tension between those two things," fellow climber Chris McNamara said.

Potter, renowned for his daring and sometimes rogue climbs and BASE jumps, was one of two men killed after jumping from a 7,500-foot promontory in Yosemite National Park.

Someone called for help late Saturday after losing contact with Potter, 43, and his climbing partner, Graham Hunt, 29.

Park ranger Scott Gediman said rescuers looked for the men overnight but couldn't find them. On Sunday morning, a helicopter crew spotted their bodies in Yosemite Valley.

The men wore wing suits — skintight suits with batwing sleeves and a flap between their legs — to help them glide. However, parachutes designed to slow their descent had not been deployed, Gediman said.

BASE jumping, in which people parachute from a structure or cliff, is illegal in all national parks. It's possible the men jumped at dusk or at night to avoid being caught.

"BASE jumping is the most dangerous thing you can do ... every time you jump it's a roll of the dice," said Corey Rich, a photographer who documented some of Potter's feats. "The odds are not in your favor, and sadly, Dean pulled the unlucky card."

Potter and Hunt, who lived near Yosemite, were prominent figures in the park's climbing community, Gediman said.

"This is a horrible incident, and our deepest sympathies go out to their friends and family," Gediman said. "This is a huge loss for all of us."

Potter is famous for pushing the boundaries of climbing by going up some of the world's most daunting walls and cliffs alone, using his bare hands and without ropes. He took the sport to an extreme level with highlining — walking across a rope suspended between towering rock formations while wearing a parachute for safety in case of a fall.

He drew criticism in May 2006 after he made a free solo climb of Utah's iconic Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. Though it was not illegal, outdoor clothing company Patagonia stopped sponsoring him, saying his actions "compromised access to wild places and generated an inordinate amount of negativity in the climbing community and beyond."

Potter defended his ascent, saying his intention was to inspire people to "get out of their cars and experience the wild with all their senses."

Clif Bar withdrew its sponsorship of Potter and four other top climbers last year, saying they took risks that made the company too uncomfortable to continue financial support.

In recent years, Potter combined his love of climbing and flying with BASE jumping. He produced a film that chronicled his adventures BASE jumping with his beloved dog, Whisper. The miniature Australian cattle dog was not with him on the fatal jump.

In 2009, he set a record for completing the longest BASE jump from the Eiger North Face in Switzerland by staying in flight in a wingsuit for 2 minutes and 50 seconds. The feat earned him the Adventurer of the Year title by National Geographic magazine.

Potter indicated in his writings that he knew the inherent danger of the sport. Last March, his friend and climbing partner Sean "Stanley" Leary died in Zion National Park in Utah after apparently clipping a rock outcropping during a BASE jump. Potter was among a group of people who recovered Leary's body.

"Though sometimes I have felt like I'm above it all and away from any harm, I want people to realize how powerful climbing, extreme sports or any other death-consequence pursuits are," he wrote in an October 2014 blog post on his website. "There is nothing fake about it whether you see it in real life, on YouTube or in a glamorous commercial."

Gediman estimates that about five BASE jumping deaths have occurred in Yosemite. He said he watched a BASE jumper leap to her death in 1999 when her chute failed to open.


Bristol Palin and Dakota Meyer are not getting married as expected.

Sarah Palin's daughter and her beau, a Medal of Honor recipient, had a Memorial Day weekend wedding planned for May 23, but plans fell through after tabloids reported that Dakota had a "secret wife."

NEWS: Bristol Palin Is Engaged!

The former Governor of Alaska broke the news for her daughter on Facebook:

"Bristol and Dakota couldn't be more thankful for the love and support of family and friends over the past months while preparing for their wedding. They have informed loved ones that unfortunately the announced celebration planned for May 23 will not be held," Sarah stated.

Although, there will still be a party for those who already made plans to attend the festivities.