Tag Archive: alex shuster


terrorists-again-20-injured-as-bomb-rips-through-train-in-london-photos.png

 

A homemade bomb exploded in a rush-hour subway car injuring 29 people in London on Friday.  Most of those injured suffered flash burns while others were hurt when the blast triggered a stampede.  Police and ambulances were on the scene within minutes and emergency services said none of the injuries were serious or life-threatening.  Britain raised its terrorism threat level to critical — meaning another attack is expected shortly.   The British government is investigating the explosion as a terrorist incident and a manhunt for the perpetrators ensued in what police said was the fourth terrorist attack in the British capital this year.

The bomb went off around 8:20 a.m. as the train was at Parsons Green station in the southwest of the city.  The bomb was hidden in a plastic bucket inside a supermarket freezer bag but it only partially exploded, sparing the city much worse carnage.  Prime Minister Theresa May said the device “was intended to cause significant harm.”  Witnesses describe a loud bang and a massive flash of flames that went up the side of the train, followed by a chemical smell.  As the flames shot up the side of the train chaos ensued as hundreds of people poured from the train.   Others describe a scene of “every man for himself” as people pushed to get out the doors.  Photos taken inside the train showed a white plastic bucket inside a foil-lined shopping bag, with flames and what appeared to be wires emerging from the top.

Trains were suspended along a stretch of the Underground’s District Line, and several homes were evacuated as police set up a 150 foot area around the scene while they secured the device and launched a search for those who planted it.  Hundreds of police investigators, along with agents of MI5 were pouring over surveillance camera footage, carrying out forensic work and interviewing witnesses.

The next day, two suspects were detained over the bombing, an 18-year-old refugee from Iraq and a 21-year old from Syria.  Police searched three addresses, including the house of Penelope and Ronald Jones, of Sunbury.  The couple has been honored by Queen Elizabeth II for fostering more than 200 children, including refugees from Middle Eastern conflicts.  Both of the suspects were fostered by the British couple.

The 18-year-old was detained Saturday at the southeast England port of Dover, a departure point for ferries to France. Later the same day, the 21-year-old man, identified as Yahyah Farroukh, was detained as he left his work shift at a restaurant in Hounslow, West London.  Surveillance footage shows a man near the Sunbury address Friday morning carrying a bag from Lidl supermarket. Images posted on social media following the attack appeared to show wires protruding from a flaming bucket contained in a Lidl bag on the floor of the train carriage.

The threat level was lowered to severe by Sunday and police said the investigation was making rapid progress.  Both men are being held under the Terrorism Act 2000 but neither has been charged.  British authorities say they have foiled 6 terror plots since the since the van and knife attack on Westminster Bridge and Parliament in March, which killed five people. Police and MI5 say that at any given time they are running about 500 counter terrorism investigations involving 3,000 individuals.

Advertisements

texas-hurricane-harvey rescues.jpg

 

As the flood waters left behind from Hurricane Harvey recede, the search continues for victims not yet counted in the death toll.  The number of confirmed deaths attributed to Harvey has reached 63 and that number is expected to rise as Houston emergency officials continue to search flooded homes.  Emergency officials have said the number of calls for service and rescue has been steadily diminishing.

Hurricane Harvey hit Corpus Christi, Texas on August 25th and continued to batter cities and towns along the Gulf of Mexico with rain.  Some areas got as much as 50 inches of rain.  Some climatologists are calling Harvey the worst rainfall event in the country’s history.  Officials have estimated the damage to be as much as $108 billion but it’s too early to know the full scope of the Texas disaster.

Across Southeast Texas, police, firefighters, the National Guard, the Coast Guard and other agencies responded with immense force trying to help those in need.  With hundreds of miles of heavily flooded area to cover and days of rain- no government response could have been enough.

As first responders were overwhelmed with calls for rescue, emergency lines were jammed and people were posting desperate pleas for help on social media.  Many had been stranded for days with no electricity, food or water.  Civilians with boats, high water vehicles and small watercrafts, took to the murky waters to help save lives.  Texans hours away-loaded up fishing boats, kayaks, canoes and flat-bottomed skiffs and headed to areas inundated with flood water and over the next six days, rescued hundreds of people and animals.

Others without boats stepped up to help as well.  Stories of people who were out of harms way using social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Nextdoor and Snapchat along with google maps to connect civilian rescue boats with people who posted pleas for help from their smartphones.    Boaters used Zello, a free “walkie-talkie” app to help each other navigate through rescues.

Three friends created the website “Houston Harvey Rescue,” in under 3 hours, in a leaky office, with intermittent power.  The site allowed users to drop a pin on a Google map to alert rescuers to people in trouble. The color of the pin could be changed to indicate the degree of urgency, and the pin could be removed when the rescue was completed, giving rescuers a real-time view of needs across the city.

While it’s too soon to know how many of the more than 37,000 heavily damaged homes in Texas are salvageable.  Officials say some will be submerged in water for up to a month and the longer a house is under water, the greater the damage.  Thousands have already been destroyed in the state and evacuees are slowly returning to their homes to try to assess the damage and gather any salvageable belongings.

At least 33,000 people in Texas have fled to more than 230 shelters, with 11,000 people inside Houston’s largest sports stadium. Churches and many businesses have opened their doors to evacuees as well.  Hundreds of thousands could seek some kind of disaster assistance, officials said.  It will likely take years for some areas of Texas to rebuild while other areas will never be the same.  The power of social media and people compelled to help others saved hundreds of lives during this disaster.  The heroes that emerged to help those in need remind us all that our country is not as divided as it sometimes seems.

Barcelona Terrorist Attacks

 

In Barcelona, Spain, 13 people died and over 100 were injured when a van plowed into a pedestrian walkway on La Rambla during a terrorist attack.  The driver of the van then fled on foot, killing a 14th victim during a carjacking while escaping the scene of the van attack.   Two hours later, the attacker then rammed a police barricade, exchanged gunfire with an officer who was injured and fled the scene, later abandoning the car.

Nine hours after the Barcelona attack, five men wearing fake suicide vests, drove into pedestrians in nearby Cambrils, before emerging and attacking people with knives.  One woman was killed and six others injured in this attack. All five attackers were shot by police as they were carrying out the attack.

Police have now connected an explosion that occurred in a house in Alcanar the night before to the Barcelona and Cambrils attacks. The explosion was initially thought to be a gas leak but the investigation revealed the home had over 120 gas canisters inside, which police believe were planned to be used in a larger terror attack.

Police say that the 40-year-old imam, Abdelbaki Es Satty,  thought to be the mastermind of the terrorist cell, accidentally caused the explosion.  The second man police believe was in the house, identified as Youssef Aalla, brother of one of the Cambril attackers- is missing and presumed dead.

In the aftermath, 15 people of nine different nationalities were killed, 13 died during the La Rambla attack, one stabbed during the carjacking and  and one in the Cambrils attack.  Over 100 people from over 34 nations were injured, 15 critically.

The police believe a terrorist cell of twelve members is responsible for the attacks.  Eight of them are dead and four are in police custody. The imam Abdelbaki Es Satty died in the Alcanar gas explosion and Youssef Aalla is believed to have also died in the explosion.

The five attackers killed in Cambrils were identified as Moussa Oukabir, Omar Hychami, El Houssaine Abouyaaqoub, Said Aallaa and Mohamed Hychami.  The man believed to have been the van driver in the Barcelona attack, Younes Abouyaaqoub, was killed by police on August 21st.  Four additional suspects have been detained by police.  The  men arrested are the owner of the car used in the Cambrils attack, the brother of Moussa Oukabir, a 20-year-old who survived the Alcanar explosion and a fourth man.

One Baltimore police officer has been suspended and two others placed on desk duty, after newly surfaced body camera video appeared to show one of the officers planting drugs during an arrest last January. In the video, Officer Richard Pinheiro is seen stashing a soup container in a lot strewn with garbage as two of his colleagues look on.

The officer briefly walks out to the street and returns to the site where he removes a plastic bag full of white capsules from the soup container. The officer was apparently unaware of a feature of his camera that stored 30 seconds of extra footage ahead of the moment he activated the device.  The footage was caught on camera in January but not discovered by a public defender until this month.  The public defender forwarded the video to the prosecutors in the case.   After the video’s release, prosecutors dropped heroin possession charges against the man who had been held in jail since January, unable to pay his $50,000 bail.  The prosecution team said that they were appalled by the behavior of the police officer.

Body cameras capture the 30 seconds before an officer actually hits the record button, but without audio. Baltimore police have said they believe the officer was recreating the discovery of drugs for the body cam.  The video has led to an investigation by the BPD’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

Officials have since released more video to back up their claims as they continue to investigate these serious allegations. Footage taken moments before the original video shows the man being arrested and the officers finding marijuana and heroin on his person. They then headed into the alley to continue their search, where they “found” the bag of 25 heroin pills.

Police are investigating if the officer planted the second set of drugs there or if he was recreating the discovery when his body camera was rolling.  “It’s certainly a possibility that we’re looking into, to see if the officers, in fact, replaced drugs that they had already discovered to document the discovery with their body-worn cameras on,” said Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Kevin Davis.

During a press conference, Davis said that they will look at “what happened, crimes committed, policies or procedures violated” and that he’s “convinced we’re going to get to the bottom of it, if evidence was planted and take assertive action if that’s the case.”  “This is a serious allegation of police misconduct,” Davis added. “There’s nothing that deteriorates the trust of any community more than thinking for more than one second that uniformed police officers — and police officers in general — would plant evidence of crimes on citizens.”

Baltimore Police are not new to scandal.  In 2016, the Justice Department found that officers from the Baltimore Police had planted drugs on a suspect on at least one occasion. In the same year, the police were also forced to settle a lawsuit with a man who accused officers of orchestrating a bogus drug bust at his residence.   They also sparked massive backlash for an incident in April 2015 when a young, black man named Freddie Gray died days after suffering a spinal injury while under police custody.

In Minneapolis, Minnesota, a police officer shot a 40-year-old bride-to-be in the alley behind her house.  According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Justine Ruszczyk, who often went by her fiance’s last name Damond, called 911just after 11:30 pm  to report a possible assault in an alley near her home. On the night of the shooting, Ruszczyk, who worked as a yoga and meditation instructor, called 911 twice, first to report a possible sexual assault and then again 8 minutes later to say no officers had arrived and the assault was still going on.

Officer Matthew Harrity, who was driving the squad car, indicated that they drove up to the alley with their lights off and windows down.  He said he was startled by a loud noise near the squad car and immediately afterwards Ruszczyk approached the driver’s side of his police cruiser in her pajamas. Officer Mohamed Noor, who was seated in the passenger seat, shot Ruszczyk through the open driver’s-side window of the vehicle, hitting her in the stomach.

The officers then reportedly tried to offer emergency medical care to Ruszczyk, but they were unable to revive her. She was pronounced dead at the scene.  The officers’ body cameras weren’t on during the shooting, and the police car’s camera apparently didn’t capture the incident.  It’s not clear what the “loud sound” was that Harrity reported hearing outside the squad right before the shooting, but dispatch audio did capture a report of “aerial fireworks” in the area.

The shooting quickly received international attention, because Ruszczyk, who moved to the United States in 2014, is from Australia and was set to marry her fiancé, Don Damond, next month.  Her family in Australia is now demanding a federal investigation into the shooting.  Both officers are on paid administrative leave, as is standard after a shooting.

Ruszczyk’s relatives say they’re still stunned the bride-to-be was killed by police — and they’ve hired an attorney with experience handling police-involved shootings.  “We are still trying to come to terms with this tragedy, and we are struggling to understand how and why this could happen,” the family said in the statement released to CNN.

The shooting is under investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). Investigators reportedly interviewed Harrity but Noor has reportedly declined to be interviewed and has hired attorney Tom Plunkett.  Tom Plunkett, released a statement to the news media that said:  Officer Noor extends his condolences to the family and anyone else who has been touched by this event. He takes their loss seriously and keeps them in his daily thoughts and prayers. He came to the United States at a young age and is thankful to have had so many opportunities.”

“ He takes these events very seriously because, for him, being a police officer is a calling. He joined the police force to serve the community and to protect the people he serves. Officer Noor is a caring person with a family he loves and he empathizes with the loss others are experiencing.  The current environment for police is difficult, but Officer Noor accepts this as part of his calling. We would like to say more, and will in the future. At this time, however, there are several investigations ongoing and Officer Noor wants to respect the privacy to the family and asks the same in return during this difficult period.”

 

 

 

16 servicemen killed.jpgSixteen service members were killed after a military transport plane that was being used on a training flight crashed in Mississippi, prompting an urgent rescue effort in one of the South’s most rural regions, the authorities said.  A Marine Corps spokeswoman at the Pentagon, Capt. Sarah Burns, said that one of the service’s KC-130 aircraft had “experienced a mishap.” The Marines use KC-130s for aerial refueling.

The cause of the crash, in an unincorporated part of Leflore County, was not immediately clear.  The plane crashed along County Road 547, a dirt road that connects acres of farmland between Itta Bena and Moorhead.  Military aircraft are a common sight in the skies of rural Mississippi.  Witnesses described the plane as disintegrating in the air as it neared the ground, leaving a debris field about five miles in diameter.  Many speculate that the plane experienced an explosion mid-air because of the large debris field.

The air tanker was based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York, and was on its way from a Marine installation at Cherry Point, North Carolina, to a naval air field at El Centro, California, when it went down, officials said.  The planes final destination was Yuma, AZ.  The plane vanished from air traffic control radar somewhere over Mississippi before the crash that killed all fifteen marines and a navy corpsman on board.

Six of the Marines and the sailor were from an elite Marine Raider battalion at Camp Lejeune, N.C.. Nine were based out of Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y., home of a Marine Aerial Refueling and Transport Squadron.  The service members were identified as Cpl. Dan Baldassare, 20; Staff Sgt. Robert Cox; 28, Capt. Sean Elliott; 30, Maj. Caine Goyette; 41, Gunnery Sgt. Mark Hopkins; 34, Sgt. Chad Jenson,; 25, Gunnery Sgt. Brendan Johnson; 46, Sgt. Julian Kevianne; 31, Staff Sgt. William Joseph Kundrat; 33, Sgt. Talon Leach; 27, Sgt. Owen Lennon,; 26, Sgt. Joseph Murray; 26, Cpl. Collin Schaaff;  22, Sgt. Dietrich Schmieman; 26, Staff Sgt. Joshua Snowden; 31 and Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Ryan Lohrey, 30.

Witnesses reported hearing a loud bloom around 4pm  and then the plane began spinning down to the ground.  Eyewitnesses recall hearing ammunition exploding after the crash.  The Marine Corps acknowledged that ammunition was on board the flight without specifying what kind. Due to the presence of the ammunition, restrictions were placed on who could initially approach the scene of the crash, officials said.

The force of the crash nearly flattened the plane and witnesses said there were bodies across a highway, more than a mile from the crash site.  Firefighters tried to put out the fire but withdrew after an explosion forced them back. The fierce blaze produced black smoke visible for miles across the flat region and continued to burn after dusk, more than four hours later.  The fire department used about 9,000 gallons of foam to extinguish the blaze.

Marine Corps officials are being aided in their investigation by a number of different agencies, including the Mississippi Management Association, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

 

 

Cholera-outbreak-in-Yemen.-806x450-640x357.jpgThe United Nations says Yemen is now facing the world’s worst cholera outbreak.  The World Health Organization (WHO) says more than 200,000 people in Yemen are infected with cholera and that number is growing by 5,000 a day, they say.  “In just two months, cholera has spread to almost every (part) of this war-torn country,” said World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake in a joint statement.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, 1,310 people have already died, a quarter of them children.  A UN report has said children account for half of the registered cases to date.  Cholera is a highly contagious bacterial infection spread through contaminated food or water. If left untreated, it can cause severe dehydration and can be fatal within hours.

Rarely seen in the U.S. and other industrialized nations, it primarily affects developing areas that lack adequate water treatment or sanitation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Cholera is preventable and easily treatable but the collapsing infrastructure in Yemen has cut off an estimated 14.5 million people (about half the country’s population) from regular access to clean water, increasing the likelihood for the disease to spread. There are reportedly 7.3 million people on the brink of famine.

The outbreak began last year but a second wave of the waterborne disease has spread even more quickly in the last two months.  UNICEF and WHO have attributed the outbreak to malnutrition, collapsing sanitation and clean water systems due to the country’s ongoing conflict.  April’s cholera resurgence began ten days after Sana’a’s sewer system stopped working.

The impact of the outbreak has been exacerbated by many factors including the collapse of the Yemeni health services, where many health workers have remained unpaid for months. Less than half of Yemen’s medical centres are still functional. Hospitals are lacking medical equipment, rehydration solutions and medicine while still receiving patients from all over the country.  They are also dealing with a shortage of doctors and nurses so they have been working round the clock to deal with the crisis.

Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial has ended in a mistrial after jurors remained deadlocked on all counts after 52 hours of deliberation.  Cosby faced three counts of aggravated indecent assault. Andrea Constand has accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting her at his home in 2004.  Constand is the former director of operations for the women’s basketball team at Temple University where Cosby was a trustee.

Constand is one of about 60 women who have accused Cosby of sexual assaults dating back decades.  It’s the only criminal case stemming from dozens of accusations of sexual misconduct — all of which the comedian/actor denies.  She says she was “paralyzed” by pills he gave her while he claimed it was just Benadryl and that the encounter was consensual.

Cosby did not take the stand, but his lawyers have maintained the physical contact was mutual and raised questions as to why Constand kept in phone contact with Cosby after the alleged incident.  They also questioned why she did not report it for a year. Prosecutors declined to charge Cosby in 2004 but reopened the case after the scandal erupted two and a half years ago.

The jurors were chosen in the Pittsburgh area and bussed in to Philadelphia for the trial.  After six days of testimony, the jury of seven men and five women began deliberations.  They were soon deadlocked but continued to deliberate, reviewing reams of testimony.  After 52 hours of deliberations, Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill accepted a defense motion for a mistrial.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele immediately announced that he plans to retry the case and ordered that Cosby can remain free on $1 million bail he posted when he was first charged.  Steele later told reporters that there “was no pause or hesitation” in deciding to retry the case and that “we had a significant amount of evidence … now we have to prove (the case) beyond a reasonable doubt.”  Prosecutors will retry him on three counts of aggravated indecent assault, a charge that carries 10 years in prison.

Outside the courthouse, lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents some of the women who have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct, said that “round two may be just around the corner, and this time, justice may prevail.”  She commended her client Kelly Johnson, the only other accuser allowed to testify at the trial, and thanked all the accusers who have spoken out.  Several of Cosby’s accusers have been attending the trial.

 

3 Dead In UPS Shooting

 

ups shooting.jpg

The gunman who killed three men at a UPS facility in San Francisco and then killed himself has been identified as 38-year-old Jimmy Lam.  The victims were Wayne Chan, 56, and Benson Louie, 50, both of San Francisco; and 46-year-old Michael Lefiti of Hercules, California.  Two others were shot but survived the Wednesday morning shooting at the UPS San Francisco Customer Center.

Officers responded to a report of an active shooter about 8:55 a.m. local time at the UPS package sorting and delivery facility.  When officers entered the building, they found the suspect armed with an assault pistol.  The suspect immediately killed himself and no officers fired their weapons during the incident.

Lam, had worked as a driver for the Potrero Hill facility which employs 350 people.  He was wearing his uniform during the shooting spree and opened fire on coworkers during a morning meeting for UPS drivers.  Joseph Cilia, with a local Teamsters union that represents UPS workers in San Francisco has stated that Lam filed an internal grievance in March saying he was working excessive overtime.  Cilia told the Associated Press that Lam did not seem angry when he filed the grievance.

A police official said it appears that Lam felt disrespected by co-workers, but it’s not clear if that was the motivation for the bloodshed.  Lam appears to have targeted the three drivers he fatally shot.  Shaun Vu, a senior UPS driver, has said Lam also struggled with personal issues and was depressed a few years ago. Vu said that Lam had shown improvement but seemed troubled a few weeks ago-which was around the time he filed the grievance.

Another UPS driver Leopold Parker, who witnessed the shooting, said that he was standing a few feet behind Benson Louie during the morning meeting when Lam walked up and shot Louie in the head.  Lam then glanced at Parker but walked the other way so Parker jumped into the cab of his truck and later ran to the roof of the building.

Parker said drivers at the warehouse generally got along and didn’t mind working there. If they did have a problem with colleagues, they would talk to them or ignore them. He also stressed that drivers spent much of their time alone in their trucks, so they had limited interaction with their colleagues.  He recalls that Lam sometimes complained about the workload but he never suspected that he would turn violent.

Other witnesses said that Mike “Big Mike” Lefiti was fleeing from the building as Lam followed him into the street and shot him.  Mike McDonald, an area resident was walking home from work when he found Lefiti face down, bleeding profusely from the back.  McDonald stayed with him and tried to comfort him until help arrived.  McDonald said that in his final moments, Lefiti spoke lovingly about his three children.  “He said he loves his family, he loves his children and that he didn’t do anything to this man.”

cosby trial.jpgBill Cosby’s sexual assault trial has ended in a mistrial after jurors remained deadlocked on all counts after 52 hours of deliberation.  Cosby faced three counts of aggravated indecent assault. Andrea Constand has accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting her at his home in 2004.  Constand is the former director of operations for the women’s basketball team at Temple University where Cosby was a trustee.

Constand is one of about 60 women who have accused Cosby of sexual assaults dating back decades.  It’s the only criminal case stemming from dozens of accusations of sexual misconduct — all of which the comedian/actor denies.  She says she was “paralyzed” by pills he gave her while he claimed it was just Benadryl and that the encounter was consensual.

Cosby did not take the stand, but his lawyers have maintained the physical contact was mutual and raised questions as to why Constand kept in phone contact with Cosby after the alleged incident.  They also questioned why she did not report it for a year. Prosecutors declined to charge Cosby in 2004 but reopened the case after the scandal erupted two and a half years ago.

The jurors were chosen in the Pittsburgh area and bussed in to Philadelphia for the trial.  After six days of testimony, the jury of seven men and five women began deliberations.  They were soon deadlocked but continued to deliberate, reviewing reams of testimony.  After 52 hours of deliberations, Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill accepted a defense motion for a mistrial.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele immediately announced that he plans to retry the case and ordered that Cosby can remain free on $1 million bail he posted when he was first charged.  Steele later told reporters that there “was no pause or hesitation” in deciding to retry the case and that “we had a significant amount of evidence … now we have to prove (the case) beyond a reasonable doubt.”  Prosecutors will retry him on three counts of aggravated indecent assault, a charge that carries 10 years in prison.

Outside the courthouse, lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents some of the women who have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct, said that “round two may be just around the corner, and this time, justice may prevail.”  She commended her client Kelly Johnson, the only other accuser allowed to testify at the trial, and thanked all the accusers who have spoken out.  Several of Cosby’s accusers have been attending the trial.