29 Dead in Tai Mass Shooting

 

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Residents of the northeastern Thai city of Nakhon Ratchasima are grieving after Thailand suffered its worst mass shooting. A soldier went on a 18 hour rampage, killing at least 29 people and injuring scores more.  The gunman began his shooting spree on a military base before taking to the streets, then attacking shoppers at a mall. He was eventually shot and killed after a shootout with Thai forces. The shooter posted videos of the attack on Facebook Live; the videos and his account were later removed.

It was around 3pm Saturday, February 8, when Jakrapanth Thomma, 32, a sergeant and expert marksman in the Thai armed forces, began his rampage. He first shot and killed his commanding officer, Colonel Anantharot Krasae over a real estate deal gone bad.  Then he raided an unprotected weapons bunker at a nearby army base before advancing to Terminal 21 where he began to shoot civilians indiscriminately.

The attack carried on through the night as Thomma went from floor to floor, executing anyone he found hiding in the center.  He then stole a Humvee and wounded the driver. The gunman escaped the base and opened fire on two police officers and two civilians, wounding them. The officers sustained multiple gunshot wounds in their legs and backs.  After escaping, the gunman started shooting in the street: he stopped outside Wat Pa Sattha Ruam, a Buddhist temple and killed eight civilians and a police officer. He then arrived at the Terminal 21 Korat shopping mall in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, where he left the vehicle and began shooting indiscriminately at people outside the mall, before detonating a cooking-gas cylinder, killing 12 civilians.

He then entered the mall, killing two people and taking sixteen hostages inside the mall on the fourth floor. The gunman live-streamed on Facebook Live during the siege and shared photos and memes on his profile page, although his account was eventually taken down by Facebook.  Police officers and soldiers stormed the mall and demanded the gunman’s surrender, to which he responded by opening fire, killing two policemen and a soldier and wounding at least three others. He remained inside for several hours, during which his mother was brought by authorities to try to convince him to surrender. Finally, in the early hours of Sunday, authorities dispatched the country’s top team of special forces to clear the complex. After about 18 hours of carnage, Thomma was finally shot dead. 

The prime minister, Mr. Prayuth, who met Sunday with some of the 58 injured victims, said that the gunman had been enraged over a “land problem.” He said it was a conflict that could have been resolved peacefully.  The dispute that preceded the massacre involved the gunman’s superior officer, Col. Anantharot Krasae, and a business operated by the colonel’s family that sold homes and helped soldiers borrow money from a military lending program.  A friend of Sgt. Maj. Jakrapanth, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, said that the sergeant major had expected to receive about $13,000 in cash back from a loan they had arranged — a significant sum — but the money had disappeared.

According to his friend, he asked repeatedly for the money but did not receive it and had lost hope.  On Saturday, the sergeant major met with Col. Anantharot, Ms. Anong and a property

Trial For Former CIA Accused of Leak Begins

 

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The trial has begun for a former CIA software engineer that allegedly leaked a massive trove of the agency’s secret hacking tools to take revenge on his former colleagues and bosses.  Joshua Schulte, 31, is charged with disclosing classified information to WikiLeaks after allegedly stealing it from a secretive CIA unit where he worked. In more than 8,000 pages of material published in 2017 — known as the Vault 7 leaks — WikiLeaks showed how the CIA breaks into smartphones and Internet-connected devices, including televisions.

The disclosure “was the single biggest leak of classified national defense information in the history of the CIA,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Denton told jurors. Denton said that as a result of the disclosure, CIA operations had “come to a halt,” U.S. intelligence officers serving overseas had been exposed and American adversaries were able to turn cyber weapons developed by the CIA against the United States.

Schulte’s lawyers have described the government’s charges as vague and overreaching. They also complained that prosecutors have been slow to share information about their case with the defense and placed burdensome rules on the handling of classified information.  Sabrina Shroff, Schulte’s lead defense attorney, accused the government of prosecuting Schulte out of embarrassment over losing such a huge volume of sensitive information, and because he was “an easy target.”

Shroff said that the government had no conclusive evidence that tied the leaks to Schulte, and that the network from which the hacking tools allegedly were stolen was open to “hundreds” of people.  Schulte himself has said previously that he was targeted for speaking out against what he described as incompetent CIA management. From 2010 to 2016, Schulte worked in the CIA’s Engineering Development Group, which produced the computer code published by WikiLeaks.

Schulte claimed that he reported “incompetent management and bureaucracy” at the CIA to the agency’s inspector general and to a congressional oversight committee. He asserted that when he left the CIA, he immediately became a suspect in the leak as “the only one to have recently departed the engineering group on poor terms.”

On March 13, 2017, less than a week after the original WikiLeaks publication, FBI agents searched Schulte’s apartment in New York, where he had moved to take a new job after leaving the agency, and found a computer server and several external drives, as well as notebooks and handwritten notes, court filings show. Schulte was not arrested and denied to FBI agents that he had leaked the CIA materials.  In August, Schulte was arrested after investigators searching his computer found evidence of child pornography, including more than 10,000 photos and videos, prosecutors alleged. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges, which will be tried separately.

 

 

Coronavirus Outbreak Spreads

 

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As the outbreak of the mysterious new coronavirus rapidly spreads, the Chinese authorities said that the official count of known cases jumped again overnight, with the death toll now exceeding 400.  According to the National Health Commission, the number of confirmed cases increased to over 20,000 but a shortage of test kits has led experts to warn that the real number may be higher.

 

Officials also announced that after repeated offers of assistance, Chinese authorities agreed to allow in teams of international experts, coordinated by the World Health Organization, to help with research and containment.  Government scientists as well as those working at Johnson & Johnson, Moderna Therapeutics and Inovio Pharmaceuticals are all working quickly to develop a vaccine. Hundreds of Americans have been evacuated from Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, but some of their family members without U.S. visas have been left behind. British Airways has suspended all flights in and out of China.

 

The U.S. government declared a public health emergency last week and barred foreign nationals from entering the country within two weeks of visiting China, unless they are immediate family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The State Department has warned Americans against all travel to China, and is planning more evacuation flights to bring Americans home from the country this week. Those flights will land at four U.S. military bases, and similar to the evacuation flight that landed in California last week, passengers will be placed under federal quarantine for 2 weeks.  The planes will be loaded with medical supplies and humanitarian goods, which the U.S. hopes to deliver to Wuhan on the first leg of the journey.

 

The head of the World Health Organization Ghebreyesus said some nations are lagging in the global fight against the deadly new coronavirus outbreak. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus accused some governments of wealthy countries of being “well behind” in sharing data on virus cases.  “While 99 percent of cases are in China, in the rest of the world we only have 176 cases,” Tedros said in a technical briefing to the WHO’s Executive Board in Geneva. “That doesn’t mean that it won’t get worse. But for sure we have a window of opportunity to act… Let’s not miss this window of opportunity.”

 

Outrage Over Warehouse Full of Unused Emergency Supplies From 2017 Discovered in Puerto Rico

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In Puerto Rico, protesters took to the streets calling for the resignation of Governor Wanda Vázquez, after a video was posted showing undistributed emergency supplies sitting in a warehouse in the city of Ponce.   Many are still reeling after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit the island earlier this month, forcing thousands to leave their homes. Some of the supplies, which include cots, emergency radios, bottled water, baby diapers and propane gas, date back to 2017 and were reportedly intended as emergency aid for victims of Hurricane Maria.  Vázquez is also under fire over her handling of the recent 6.4 magnitude earthquake, which killed one person and left thousands homeless.  

The warehouse filled with unused emergency supplies was discovered when desperate residents broke in to retrieve goods as the area struggles to recover from the earthquake.  After the video went viral, Governor Vázquez ordered an investigation and fired three members of her Cabinet as public outrage mounted. Vazquez ordered the dismissal of Carlos Acevedo, the director of Puerto Rico’s Office of Emergency Management days after the video emerged.  She then ordered the dismissal of two more cabinet members — her secretaries of family services, Glorimar Andújar, and housing, Fernando Gil-Enseñat. The dismissals mean Vázquez fired three members of her cabinet in a little over 24 hours.  

Vázquez said inaction by the fired official, Carlos Acevedo, was unacceptable.  During a news conference, Vazquez said, “Under my administration nobody can come to me with lies. I have a commitment [with the people of Puerto Rico. Public officials serving with me have to have the same commitment.”  Acevedo has denied allegations that his office mishandled the supplies saying the agency continued to distribute them, including during the time Hurricane Dorian and Hurricane Karen threatened the territory. Some of the pallets of water that remained in the warehouse had expired, he said.  He said no residents had been denied the supplies in the warehouse, including food, diapers, baby formula and cots.

Vázquez announced that Nino Correa will be the new chief of operations for Puerto Rico’s Emergency Management Office, replacing Acevedo.  The governor had previously said that Secretary of State Elmer Román will now coordinate emergency aid and Adjutant General of the Puerto Rico National Guard José Reyes will be in charge of the Office of Emergency Management.  

 

 

Michigan State Police Settle With Family of Damon Grimes

 

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The family of Damon Grimes, a teenager who died in 2017 after a Michigan state trooper stunned him with a Taser has reached a $12 million settlement with the Michigan State Police. Fifteen-year-old Grimes was riding an ATV in a residential area of Detroit, when a police officer tased him for not pulling over fast enough. The teen then crashed into the back of a parked truck and died quickly after. 

This is the Michigan State Police Department’s largest-ever settlement for a single incident.  The Grimes family, including Damon’s mother Monique Grimes and his sisters Dezjanai and Dezanique Grimes, are to get about $8 million of the settlement. Most of the remaining $4 million is to go to the family’s lawyers at the Fieger law firm.

The family’s attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against Bessner, fellow trooper Ethan Berger and Michigan State Police Sgt. Jacob Liss said “I’m very thankful that the attorney general recognized the grave injury that occurred in this case, and the intolerable circumstances, and therefore accepted responsibility and allowed justice to be done.”  Fieger added Grimes’ family is “very pleased” with the settlement.

“The facts of this case are so horrendous, and it was difficult dealing with the bureaucracy of the state of Michigan and dealing with the police agencies, but having cut through all that, the attorney general did the right thing and settled the case, and didn’t subject the state to a trial that could have resulted in a much larger verdict,” Fieger said.

The now-former Michigan State Police trooper who used the taser, Mark Bessner, was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter. It is a violation of Michigan State Police policy to deploy a Taser from a moving vehicle. The State Police revised its chase policy for ATVs in the aftermath of Damon’s death and stopped doing chases in Detroit involving traffic or misdemeanor violations. That new policy was later adopted statewide.

The settlement will end a federal lawsuit filed by Damon’s family in U.S. District Court in Detroit against Bessner and two other troopers, Ethan Berger and Sgt. Jacob Liss, a supervisor. Berger, who was driving the patrol car when Bessner fired the Taser, has since resigned from the agency.  A State Police internal affairs report in 2018 accused Berger and Liss of attempting to cover up details of the ATV incident, such as the use of the Taser. Neither were charged in relation to the incident. The Michigan State Police internal affairs investigation had been critical of Liss, the supervisor at the crash scene, for omitting key details from his incident report, but Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy did not pursue criminal charges.

Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw said in a written statement: “The Michigan State Police extends its continued condolences to the Grimes family, friends and supporters. Damon Grimes’ death is a tragedy that could have been avoided if not for the criminal and unforgivable actions of a former Michigan State Police trooper.

Wisconsin Teen Facing 1st Degree Murder

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A  Wisconsin teenager, Crystul Kizer, is facing life in prison after she confessed to killing 34-year-old Randall Volar at his home last year after she says he raped her, according to her attorneys.  The killing incident occurred in Kenosha, Wisconsin, about 40 miles south of Milwaukee, in June 2018. Kizer allegedly shot Volar twice in the head, set his home on fire and then stole his luxury vehicle.  Randy Volar began sexually abusing Chrystul Kizer when she was 16 years old, filmed the abuse and allegedly trafficked her for sex. 

Kizer says she connected with Volar through the now-defunct Backpage.com, which was shut down last year for its involvement in human trafficking. Kizer reportedly told Volar she was 19 at the time, but she was actually 16 when he allegedly began paying her for sex and eventually selling her to other men.  She admits to initially lying about her age but says Volar knew she was a minor because they had celebrated her 17th birthday together.

The teen said she eventually tried to distance herself from Volar, because she wanted to get more serious with her boyfriend, Delane Nelson, who is three years older than her. Volar allegedly threatened to kill Kizer when she told Volar about her decision. Kizer didn’t report the threats to police, as she was convinced they would not help her.  In June 2018, Kizer said she had reached out to Volar after getting into a fight with Nelson. The teen claims she was afraid her boyfriend would hurt her, so she asked Volar if she could come to his house until things cooled down. 

Months before his death, in February 2018, Volar was arrested on charges of child sexual assault.  He was taken into custody shortly after a 15-year-old girl called the police from his house, claiming Volar had given her drugs and was going to kill her.  In a search of his home, they confiscated computers and other electronics, along with women’s bikini bottoms and underwear.

Although police found evidence Volar was abusing dozens of underage girls, he was released without bail.  At the time of his death he was suspected of human trafficking and child pornography — and Chrystul Kizer was among the girls police had footage of him having sex with.  In June 2018, Chrystul killed him after she says he attacked her when she refused to have sex with him. At the time of his death he was suspected of human trafficking and child pornography —  and Chrystul Kizer was among the girls police had footage of him having sex with.

When confronted by police, Kizer, who was 17 at the time, allegedly confessed to killing him because she was tired of him sexually assaulting her. She also alleged that he sold her to other men for sex, which is why her attorneys say she should be protected under sex trafficking victim laws.  Kizer faces multiple felony charges, including first-degree intentional homicide, possession of a firearm and arson, court records show. She is currently being held on $1 million bail and faces life in prison if convicted.

District Attorney Michael Graveley built a first-degree homicide case against her and wrangled with the public defenders about whether they had the right to review the case against Volar and the accompanying video, photographic, and financial evidence.  Eventually Kizer’s lawyers were granted access to evidence that clearly showed Kizer had been trafficked. Federal law dictates that any child under the age of 18 who has been bought or sold for sex is a sex-trafficking victim, regardless of circumstance.  Prosecutors say the law that protects those who are sex trafficked doesn’t apply wholly in this case. They said they do not believe she was engaged in prostitution at the time of the crime and they don’t believe her life was in danger at the moment. Prosecutors also said they have evidence, including communications with Kizer’s boyfriend and others, indicating that she plotted and planned the murder ahead of time.

 

Ring Data Leak

 

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Amazon is facing backlash over its Ring home security camera and “smart home” product after a data leak exposed the personal information of over 3,000 users. The data breach included emails, passwords and other sensitive information that would allow hackers to access live camera footage from inside every room of people’s homes. This leak could potentially provide criminals and stalkers with access to view live video feeds from inside and around thousands of Ring customers’ homes, see archived videos, and get the precise location of all Ring devices attached to the compromised account by studying the orientation of the footage and location information attached to each camera.
Using the log-in email and password, an intruder could access a Ring customer’s home
address, telephone number, and payment information, including the kind of card they have, and its last four digits and security code. An intruder could also access live camera footage from all active Ring cameras associated with an account, as well as a 30- to 60-day video history, depending on the user’s cloud storage plan.
Ring has claimed that this attack was the result of credential stuffing, a technique where
attackers gather usernames and passwords compromised in another data breach and try them on other websites. “Ring has not had a data breach. Our security team has investigated these incidents and we have no evidence of an unauthorized intrusion or compromise of Ring’s systems or network,” the spokesperson said. “It is not uncommon for bad actors to harvest data from other company’s data breaches and create lists like this so that other bad actors can attempt to gain access to other services.”
The Ring spokesperson added that the company will notify customers who were affected and require them to reset their passwords. Ring does not alert users of attempted log-in from an unknown IP address, or tell users how many others are logged into an account at one time. Because of this, there is no obvious way to know whether any bad actors have logged into people’s compromised Ring accounts without their consent.
This data leak is the latest in a string of incidents involving compromised Ring accounts. The home surveillance camera company was acquired by Amazon in 2018 and has been targeted by hackers who used the cameras to harass children and families while documenting their actions on podcast livestreams. In November, cybersecurity company BitDefender published a white paper describing a now-resolved vulnerability that allowed hackers to physically intercept communications between Ring Video Doorbell Pros and a person’s Wi-Fi network.
The company has also received criticism when it was revealed that over 700 police departments in the US have signed contracts with Ring. These contracts give police access the company’s law enforcement portal, which allows police to request camera footage from residents without receiving a warrant. In exchange, Ring often gives police free cameras, and it offers police more free cameras if they convince enough people to download its neighborhood watch app, Neighbors. In October, a group of 30 civil rights groups published a joint letter demanding that law makers stop the police partnership, calling it a threat to civil right sand liberties.