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

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.

 

Correctional Officers Suspended After Inmate Suicide Attempt

 

 

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Four Rikers Island correctional officers were suspended for allegedly waiting several minutes to rescue an inmate who had tried to hang himself in a cell, authorities and law-enforcement sources said.  Surveillance The video showed the officers stood by for seven minutes while a teenager attempted to hang himself. Video shows one officer even walked up to the holding pen where the teenager was hanging, opened the door, then closed the door and walked away without intervening. The city’s Department of Investigation opened an inquiry into the incident.

The guards — three correction officers and one captain — are accused of inaction during the near-fatal incident when Nicholas Feliciano, 18, allegedly attempted to hang himself at the George R. Vierno Center at about 12 a.m. on Nov. 28.  The captain had witnessed the incident on surveillance footage and went to the inmate to cut him down, sources said.  Feliciano was rushed to a nearby hospital in critical condition with no brain activity and remains in a medically induced coma.  The 18-year-old had been jailed in Rikers since November 19th when he was arrested on a parole violation.  Feliciano had been in an altercation at the jail earlier in the day of suicide attempt and had been moved from general population into a holding cell by himself.

Video footage of the suicide attempt described to the Times shows him wrap one end of a piece of clothing around his neck and another to a pipe on the ceiling of the cell. He then stepped off a wall that separates the toilet from the rest of the cell and hangs from his neck.  At one point during the attempt, Feliciano appeared to have second thoughts and struggled to get his feet back on the wall. He hung from the pipe for about seven minutes before he was rescued.  The area of the attempted suicide was in view of a guard desk where officers can monitor activity through video feeds. The actions of the officers were recorded by a separate camera.

Rikers Island has housed jail inmates since the 1930s and has long been known for brutality.  The jail complex saw hundreds of stabbings every year during the 1980s and early 1990s.  In 2014, an Associated Press investigation detailed dozens of inmate deaths including that of a homeless ex-Marine who essentially baked to death in a hot cell.  In 2016, “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker reported that a lack of adequate training and a rising mentally ill population have made an already bad situation in the jail worse.  New York City lawmakers voted in October to close the Rikers Island jail complex, which has become synonymous with violence and neglect, and replace it with four smaller jails in separate boroughs by 2026.  The plan has been met with pushback from communities where the new jails would be located.

 

Article Reveals Coal Industry Aware of Global Warming Risks Since 1966

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In recent years, it’s become evident that oil giant Exxon was aware of the causes and consequences of climate change from at least the 1970s, but chose to deliberately mislead the public for decades. A newly resurfaced article now shows coal industry executives equally understood the science of catastrophic global warming as far back as 1966.  According to a copy of the magazine Mining Congress Journal, leaders of the coal industry knew as early as the mid-1960s that burning fossil fuels causes climate change.

The head of a now defunct mining research company wrote that the combustion of fossil fuels was increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, causing global temperature increases.  The recently discovered article now provides evidence that both the coal and oil industries have known about catastrophic climate change for decades, yet worked to cover up the evidence in order to continue burning fossil fuels.

James Garvey, the then-president of Bituminous Coal Research Inc., which developed pollution control equipment, discussed the state of pollutants and their regulation in the coal industry at the time.  While much of the paper is concerned with sulphur in coal, a small section early in the article is concerned with carbon dioxide (CO2) discharge.  “There is evidence that the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere is increasing rapidly as a result of the combustion of fossil fuels,” Garvey writes.

“If the future rate of increase continues as it is at the present, it has been predicted that, because the CO2 envelope reduces radiation, the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere will increase and that vast changes in the climates of the Earth will result.  Such changes in temperature will cause melting of the polar icecaps, which, in turn, would result in the inundation of many coastal cities, including New York and London.”

Garvey’s article isn’t the only one acknowledging the dangers of coal-produced pollution in the August 1966 issue.  In a discussion piece following Garvey’s paper, combustion engineer James Jones from Peabody Coal (now called Peabody Energy, the largest private coal company in the world), does not address the global warming issue, but admits that air pollution standards to protect health have a place, saying the “Situation is Urgent”.

Jones wrote “We are in favor of cleaning up our air.  We are, in effect, ‘buying time’. But we must use that time productively to find answers to the many unsolved problems.”  In the decades to come, Peabody would become a huge industrial player in organized climate change denial.  At the end of his article, Jones wondered: “What can an individual with a personal stake in the future of the coal industry do?”  Among the answers he offered, “Be a ‘one-man’ public relations emissary for the coal industry,” Jones explained to his industry colleagues.  “Tell your neighbours, friends, and the general public how important coal is to their every-day existence. Also tell them about the all-out cooperative efforts of the coal industry to reduce air pollution.”

The concerted effort to discredit the scientific consensus over man-made global warming has been continuing for two decades in the United States and shows no sign of weakening. It is often described as an attempt on the part of corporate America, most notably the fossil fuel industries, to hinder governmental regulations on their activities.