Tag Archive: health & life solutions


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On October 1st 2017, the deadliest mass shooting in the US occurred at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and injuring 527.  The shooter, identified as 64 year-old Stephen Paddock, broke two windows in his suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel and sent more than 22,000 country music fans scrambling for their lives.  Between 10:05 and 10:15 pm, Paddock fired thousands of rounds at concert goers, turning the last day of the festival into a massacre.  The headlining performer, country music singer Jason Aldean was giving the closing performance when the first shots were fired.

Several videos of the attack show the terror as countless rounds of gunfire can be heard with intervals of just a few seconds in between.  Many concert-goers and performers still in the area initially thought the sounds were fireworks.  When the second round of gunfire is heard, Jason Aldean ran off the stage and fans realized it was automatic gunfire-but for many, it was already too late.  As terrified fans got down, many noticed people nearby who had already been shot.  Videos of the attack show fans running, and then dropping to the ground as another round of gunfire starts.  As people ran for their lives, many were separated and left not knowing if their friend or loved ones made it out.  The day after the attack, stories circulated of the many brave people helping people to safety, tending to those injured and loading wounded into their vehicles to get them to area hospitals.  Slowly, the identities of those lost were confirmed either through family confirming on social media or reaching out to news outlets.

Six minutes prior to the shooting, Mandalay Bay hotel security guard Jesus Campos was checking an alert for an open door in another guest’s room near Paddock’s room.  Paddock, who had placed security cameras outside his room, shot Campos through the door of his suite, which was outfitted with a camera to survey the hallway, as was a room service cart parked outside. Police said Paddock fired 200 rounds into the hallway, hitting Campos once in the leg.  Campos radioed the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department that the gunman was in room 32135 and began evacuating people from the 32nd floor, including a maintenance worker who entered the hallway moments after he was shot.

The first 911 call was at 10:08 pm but police officers were initially confused as to where the shooting was coming from.  Officers eventually spotted multiple flashes of gunfire on the northern side of Mandalay Bay and responded to the hotel.  At 10:12 pm, two officers on the 31st floor reported the sounds of gunfire on the floor above them.  Between 10:26 and 10:30pm, eight officers reached the floor but didn’t hear anymore gunfire.  They systematically searched and cleared rooms, evacuating any remaining guests using a master key provided by Campos.   At 10:55pm officers reported all guests had been evacuated and at 11:20pm, police breached Paddock’s room with explosives.  Paddock was found dead, having shot himself in the head before the police entered.

Police found 22 rifles and one handgun inside Paddock’s hotel room that he had occupied since September 28.  Police believe Paddock’s surveillance cameras and additional evidence found in the room suggest that Paddock intended to escape after the shooting.  Police, relatives, and neighbors described him as a wealthy, high-stakes gambler who kept to himself -with no political or religious affiliations.  They say he frequently gambled tens of thousands of dollars-earning him valuable comps from Vegas area casinos.  Paddock had no criminal record or known history of mental illness.  Police believed he acted alone but have not determined his motive.

 

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The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit representing 10 plaintiffs who have alleged mistreatment-accusing the Madison County Sheriff’s Department of imposing a permanent state of siege against the county’s African-American residents.  The lawsuit alleges that the sheriff’s department has maintained multiple roadblocks and checkpoints in majority-black neighborhoods, where African-American residents are subjected to illegal searches.

Of the ten plaintiffs, one has been stopped at the roadblocks at least 20 times in the previous year, according to the complaint.  At least four of the plaintiffs have had their homes raided by MCSD deputies who allegedly entered without warrants. Two of the plaintiffs were severely beaten by officers during confrontations, the suit claims.

The suit seeks a class-wide judgment declaring the department’s policies unconstitutional. A number of the plaintiffs are also seeking compensatory and punitive damages.  Along with the county, the suit lists MCSD Sheriff Randall Tucker and six unnamed deputies as defendants.

The lawsuit alleges the county’s roadblocks and pedestrian “checkpoints” are designed and placed to target black people for searches and seizures in majority-black neighborhoods and outside of majority-black housing complexes, even when they are not suspected of crimes.  The suit seeks a court order to stop the sheriff’s department from using such tactics and asks that a civilian board review complaints against the department.  It also asks for increased training and monitoring of officers.

Madison County is Mississippi’s wealthiest county with a per capita income in 2015 of around $58,000.  The most recent Census estimates that of the 105,000 residents-roughly 57% are white and 38% are black.   According to the lawsuit, Madison County’s wealth is concentrated among its white residents.  The complaint cites census figures that the arrest rate for black people in the county is nearly five times the rate for white people.

The ACLU says the disparity can’t be explained by nonracial factors and argues that the county has harbored a long history of “racial animus” toward its black residents. It notes that a previous sheriff was on the board of a citizens group that opposed desegregation in the 1950s, and says other authorities had used racially discriminatory policing tactics.

The ACLU alleges that Sheriff Randy Tucker, who has been in office since 2012,as ceased keeping track of civilian complaints of his department regarding racially-motivated policing. The lawsuit added that the Madison County Sheriff’s Department  has implemented a coordinated top-down program of methodically targeting Black individuals for suspicion-less searches and seizure ” while in their cars, walking in their neighborhoods or while in their own homes”.   Unjustified and excessive forces are routine occurrences during policing actions during these searches and seizures-leaving many residents afraid to leave their homes.

 

The state of Arkansas received heavy criticism and sparked new debates over the death penalty after they rushed to carry out an unprecedented series of 8 executions in 11 days during the month of April as its supply of the sedative midazolam was set to expire at the end of the month.  All eight men were convicted of murders that occurred between 1989 and 1999 with some of the crimes described as particularly heinous.  The eight men scheduled for execution were Kenneth Williams, Bruce Ward, Stacey Johnson, Don Williamson Davis, Ledell Lee, Jack Harold Jones, Jason McGehee and Marcel Williams.

Governor Hutchinson signed proclamations setting four execution dates for the eight inmates between April 17 and 27. Two men would be put to death on each of the four dates.  In a statement he said that it was necessary to schedule the executions close together because of doubts about the future availability of one of three drugs the state uses in its lethal-injection procedure.

Arkansas uses a cocktail of three drugs in its lethal injection formula: Midazolam is used to sedate the prisoner, vecuronium bromide paralyzes prisoners and stops their breathing, and potassium chloride stops the heart.  Midazolam is the most controversial of the three since it has repeatedly failed to make prisoners unconscious in other executions, leading to painful deaths.  It is not approved by the FDA to be used as an anesthetic on its own, but doctors do use it combined with other drugs before surgical procedures. That is not the case in prisons.

The hurried schedule hit roadblocks from the moment it was announced as attorneys for the eight men attempted to block the executions- including using the argument that midazolam does not effectively prevent a painful death.  Separate rulings stayed the executions of two of the prisoners, Don Davis and Bruce Ward.  Arkansas appealed the decision in Davis’ case, but the US Supreme Court upheld it.  Then Federal Judge Kristine Baker put a stop to all eight executions on April 15, a decision that the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed two days later.  By the end of April, four of the men received stays for various reasons.

Despite the drug shortage and the controversy over its use-  lethal injection remains the country’s primary method of execution.  The drug shortage has spurred some states to begin adapting new and untested combinations of drugs while other states look at other methods of executions.  Utah, Tennessee and Oklahoma added or broadened their abilities to use a firing squad, electric chair or nitrogen gas.

With the month over and the expiration date passing-the freshly stirred dust on the death penalty debate has not settled.  Capital punishment has long been a divisive issue in the United States with support of it declining to a 40 year low.  According to a 2016 Pew Research Center poll, Americans remain split, with 49 percent in favor and 42 percent against it (9% were undecided).

Nationwide, the number of executions has faced a decline as well.  Since 2007, seven states have abolished the death penalty and the governors of four others have issued moratoria on the practice.  Arkansas is currently one of 31 states with courts that still issue death sentences.

 

Relations between North Korea and the US and South Korea have rapidly deteriorated in recent months, as the rhetoric and military posturing on both sides has increased.  North Korea has threatened to sink a U.S. aircraft carrier that is conducting military drills, along with Japanese ships, in the waters off the Korean Peninsula.

U.S. Aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain and guided-missile destroyers USS Michael Murphy and USS Wayne E Meyer have practiced for war with North Korea with a series of military drills.  US allies South Korea and Japan surrounded North Korea with joint exercises on both sides of the Korean peninsula.  The navy fleet is now within “striking range” of North Korea, in the Philippine Sea- just east of the Japanese island of Okinawa.

North Korea conducted its own military drills which involved 300 large-caliber self-propelled guns lined up along the coast where they opened fire with live rounds.  A statement from the South Korean military said the live-fire exercises were in the Wonsan region in the east of the country.  North Korea fired four ballistic missiles toward Japan as part of its exercise targeting US bases there.

Soon after those drills were conducted, the US began to deploy its advanced THAAD anti-missile defense system in South Korea, despite opposition from Russia and China. The deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system came THAAD is a missile defense system designed to intercept short and medium-range ballistic missiles as they begin their descent to their targets.   Developed by Lockheed Martin, THAAD missiles use infrared seeker technology to locate their targets and detonate on impact.

Both Russia and China have spoken out against the THAAD deployment.  China’s Foreign Ministry stated that it was “resolutely opposed” to the move and say the missile system actually aims to counter China’s military power in the region, not to contain North Korea.  The deployment also drew protests from hundreds of villagers in Seongju, South Korea, who clashed with police as troops began deploying THAAD hardware on a local golf course.

The Trump administration called the entire US Senate to a meeting at the White House, for a briefing on North Korea with the US secretaries of Defense and State.   President Trump recently stated “North Korea is a big world problem, and it’s a problem we have to finally solve. People put blindfolds on for decades and now it’s time to solve the problem.”  Many fear that Trump is backing himself into a corner with his firm stance on North Korea, leading both countries to a point where “bad things are going to happen.”

 

 

Egypt Imposed a State of Emergency after suicide bombings in two different Egyptian cities at Coptic Christian churches killed 44 people and injuring more than 100 people.  ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks on the St. George’s Coptic church in the northern city of Tanta and the St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria.  Egypt’s President Abdel-Fatah el Sisi ordered troops to be deployed across the country following the incidents.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has imposed a three-month state of emergency, after the bombings during Palm Sunday services.  Egypt’s population is predominantly Muslim with about 10 percent of the population being Christians, mostly Coptic Christians.   The attacks constituted one of the deadliest days of violence against Christians in Egypt in decades.

Shortly before 10am, at the Mar Girgis church in the town of Tanta, a bomber managed to slip past security measures, including a metal detector, at one of the side doors, and blew himself up near the altar.  The blast killed 27 people and injured another 78 worshipers.  Just hours later, as worshippers gathered at St Marks Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria- a suicide bomber detonated a device as police were trying to prevent him entering the church. That blast killed three officers and 14 civilians, with 48 injured.

An Egyptian television station later aired surveillance footage  in the Alexandria bombing.  The footage showed a man wearing a bulky jacket being directed into a metal detector at the church gates, where he paused to be searched by a police officer. Moments later, a  blast rang out-sending debri into the busy streets.

Pope Tawadros II presided over Easter Mass late Saturday at St. Mark’s Cathedral but was not injured in the blast.  He later issued a statement saying that “these acts will not harm the unity and cohesion of the people.”  He is due to meet with Pope Francis during a planned visit to Egypt with the intent to spread a message of peace and unity, at the end of this month.

The bombings have spread fear throughout Egypt’s Christian community as Islamic extremists have increasingly focused many attacks on them.  In February, ISIS pledged further attacks on Christians across Egypt when claiming responsibility for the December bombing, causing an estimated 250 Christians to flee.  Since the 2011 revolution, Egypt’s military has been fighting ISIS militants in the Sinai Peninsula but these latest attacks show extremists are able to strike far beyond the Sinai.

Experts believe ISIS has been shifting to attacking Coptic Christians as a means of propaganda-to show that the Egyptian state is unable to protect them.  President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi met with President Donald Trump in Washington just days before the attack.

 

President Obama has commuted more sentences than any other president in U.S. History.  He recently commuted the sentence of some high profile prisoners.  Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, Puerto Rican independence activist Oscar López Rivera and  retired U.S. Marine Corps General James Cartwright  had their sentences commuted as part of more than 200 commutations issued on January 17th.

Chelsea Manning is now set to be freed on May 17, after Obama shortened her sentence from 35 years to seven. Manning is already the longest-held whistleblower in U.S. history. Manning leaked more than 700,000 classified files and videos to WikiLeaks about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and U.S. foreign policy. While serving her sentence she has seen long stretches of solitary confinement and has been denied medical treatment related to her gender identity. She attempted to commit suicide twice last year.

Puerto Rican independence activist Oscar López Rivera has been imprisoned for almost 35 years with a lot of that time served in solitary confinement. In 1981, López Rivera was convicted on federal charges including seditious conspiracy—conspiring to oppose U.S. authority over Puerto Rico by force. In 1999, President Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of 16 members of the FALN, but López Rivera refused to accept the deal because it did not include two fellow activists, who have since been released. Under Obama’s commutation order, López Rivera will be released on May 17th as well.

U.S. Marine Corps General James Cartwright also received a pardon. Last year, Cartwright, a retired U.S. Marine Corps general with 40 years of service behind him,  admitted that he lied to the FBI during an investigation into who leaked classified information to a New York Times reporter.  The top secret information leaked, was about Stuxnet, a secret U.S. cyberwarfare operation against Iran. He was due to be sentenced this month. Cartwright’s defense team had asked for a year of probation and 600 hours of community service, but prosecutors had asked the judge overseeing his case to send him to prison for two years.

President Obama granted another 330 commutations on the last day of his presidency, January 19th.  The majority of the sentences commuted Thursday were for nonviolent drug offenses. Throughout his presidency, Obama has granted 1,715 commutations—more than any other president in U.S. history.  Of those, 568 inmates had been sentenced to life in prison.

In Obama’s second-term, he had made great effort to try to remedy the consequences of decades of excessive sentencing requirements that he said had imprisoned thousands of non-violent drug offenders for too long. To be eligible for a commutation under Obama’s initiative, non-violent offenders had to have been well behaved while in prison and already served 10 years, although some exceptions to the 10-year rule were granted.

Obama personally reviewed the case of every inmate who received a commutation.  Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said the administration reviewed all applications that came in by an end-of-August deadline which was more than 16,000 in total.

The Pentagon has said U.S. special operations troops launched a raid on January 8th in eastern Syria. Unnamed U.S. officials said the raid was carried out by the Expeditionary Task Force and was aimed at capturing top ISIS militants. Witnesses said the U.S. troops landed by helicopter and then left an hour and a half later carrying prisoners and bodies.

The raid took place near a remote village along the Euphrates River, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based watchdog organization, which reported 25 Islamic State group militants were killed.  No Americans were killed or injured during the operation, he said. Some Islamic State group fighters were killed.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, described the raid conducted by the Joint Special Operations Command-controlled Expeditionary Targeting Force as “successful,” but he declined to provide specific information about the mission near Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria.

“It was focused on Islamic State group leadership,” Davis told reporters Monday at the Pentagon. “We don’t provide specific details on these types of operations.”  Davis said the mission was focused on gathering intelligence that could be used to inform future operations against the Islamic State group, such as the continuing assault on Mosul, the militants’ last urban stronghold in Iraq, and the future attack on Raqqa, its de facto capital in Syria.

A commander for the Syrian Democratic Forces said the attack targeted vehicles driven by senior IS militants coming from Raqqa, IS’s headquarters, and that the operation killed several militants from the group. Davis denied that prisoners were taken, saying there was “no detention from this operation”.

The unit, called the Expeditionary Targeting Force, is described as a group of about 200 Iraq-based commandos tasked with conducting raids, freeing hostages, gathering intelligence and capturing Islamic State leaders.

One raid in October 2015 in Iraq’s Kirkuk province freed dozens of hostages and resulted in the death of Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, a 39-year-old Delta Force operator who was the first American service member killed in a firefight with ISIS militants.  The father of four, who was thinking of retiring from the Army, became the first American in four years to die in combat in Iraq.  The 70 rescued hostages were about to be executed by Islamic State militants on the morning of the raid.

The US military has more than 5,000 troops on the ground in Iraq currently, a number that has steadily crept up since roughly 300 troops were deployed in June 2014 to secure the Baghdad airport.  In December, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter announced that the US would be sending 200 additional troops to Syria to help thousands of Kurdish and Arab fighters massing for an assault on the Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa.

Carter said the reinforcements would include American commandos and bomb-squad specialists. They will join the 300 Special Operations forces already working in eastern Syria to recruit, train and advise local Syrian militias to combat the Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS.

Turkey Nightclub Shooting

In Turkey, police continue to search for the man who opened fire inside a nightclub during a New Year’s celebration.   Some 600 revelers from all over the world were in the Reina nightclub at the time of the attack that killed 39 people and sent 69 people to the hospital.

The Reina nightclub, which sits on the banks of the Bosphorus, is one of Istanbul’s most popular venues – often frequented by foreigners, famous singers and sports starts.  ISIS has claimed responsibility for New Year’s attack on the nightclub, where hundreds of Turks and foreigners were celebrating early in the morning. The attack killed 11 Turkish citizens and more than two dozen tourists from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, India, Morocco and other countries.

The gunman arrived at the club by taxi before rushing through the entrance with a long-barreled gun he had taken from the trunk of the car.  The attacker fired randomly at people in an assault lasting seven minutes, starting with a security guard and a travel agent near the entrance. Both were killed.

It was unclear how the attacker managed to escape from the club, which is just across the street from a police station.   It’s believed that the gunman changed clothes before and abandoned his weapon before fleeing the chaos.

The following day, Turkish authorities released two photographs of the suspected gunman from security footage inside the club.  Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said authorities had fingerprints and a basic description and they were working on identifying the attacker.

Police launched a series of raids across Istanbul, arresting at least 12 people, as they continue to search for the nightclub shooter. They released additional photographs and say he may have been from Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan.  Police are investigating whether the suspect belongs to an IS cell blamed for an attack in June on Ataturk airport in Istanbul.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed in a statement that Turkey would fight terrorism “till the end” following the attack at Reina in Istanbul’s upmarket Ortaköy neighborhood.  There was condemnation from around the world as well as inside Turkey. The US State Department described the attack as “heinous” and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said it was “hard to imagine a more cynical crime”.

Istanbul was already on high alert with some 17,000 police officers on duty in the city, following a string of terror attacks in recent months including the Ataturk airport attack that left 41 people dead over of the summer.

The most recent mass killing happened on December 10th when two bombs were detonated outside a football stadium in Istanbul, killing 38 people and wounding 155.  The first bombing was a remote control detonated car bomb.  Shortly afterward, a suicide bomber caused a second explosion less than a mile away at Macka Park.

The largest police union in the U.S. demanded that Amazon.com stop selling T-shirts and hoodies emblazoned with the phrases “Bulletproof: Black Lives Matter” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” from a third-party vendor that supports the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) President Chuck Canterbury wrote in a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to support the union in “increasing the bonds of trust between the men and women of law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

“Commercializing our differences and perpetuating the myths which harm the relationships between the protectors and their communities is wrong at any time of year, but it is especially egregious now,” Canterbury wrote. “I understand that these are third-party sales, but Amazon does have the ability to prohibit the sale of products which are offensive to the public and which may damage your company’s good name amongst FOP members and other active and retired law enforcement officers.”

Walmart removed the “Bulletproof: Black Lives Matter” shirt from its store after the union called it “offensive.” The shirts were being sold through Walmart’s website by Connecticut based retailer Old Glory Merchandise.  Amazon has yet to follow Walmart and remove the shirt.

The FOP, which represents 330,000 members nationwide, said it was opposed to the word “bulletproof,” which it found offensive, and not because the shirt was promoting Black Lives Matter.  Canterbury said he wasn’t surprised that Amazon wouldn’t remove the listing and called the website a “pretty liberal marketer.”  He added that the issue was still important because of the “amount of violence demonstrated at Black Lives Matter marches and the fact that eight police officers had been assassinated while protecting Black Lives Matter protests,” – referring to the police killings in Dallas and Baton Rouge over the summer.

Canterbury said that the union would continue to pressure retailers who sell the Black Lives Matter merchandise until the group makes it clear that don’t approve of anti-police violence.  Amazon has not released any statements regarding the matter other than to say that the seller of the shirt removed the item from its website.  The shirt was still on the Amazon.com website but listed as “no longer available”.

Many have shown skepticism over Amazon’s claim that the seller removed the shirt, saying Amazon bowed to the union’s pressure.  While this particular shirt is no longer available, there is still hundreds of other Black Lives Matter merchandise available for sale through the online retailer.

Berlin Market Attack

In Germany, 12 people were killed and 48 more wounded in Berlin after a truck drove into a Christmas market around 8 p.m. local time on December 19th 2016.  The truck began plowing into the stalls packed with shoppers and tourists at about 40 miles an hour. Late Monday night, German media, citing local authorities, reported police detained one suspect in the case: a 23-year-old Pakistani refugee named Naved Baluch.

Baluch had denied all involvement in the attack but witnesses had identified him as the driver of the truck.  Baluch was later released and a day later, a 24-year-old Tunisian man, Anis Amri was named as a suspect.  Amri’s identity papers were found inside the cabin of the truck used in Monday’s attack, German security officials said.

It has been reported that Amri arrived in Germany in 2015 and was known to be in touch with radical Islamist groups.  He was very “mobile” and had traveled between Berlin, North Rhine-Westphalia and other cities. He was arrested in August with forged documents en route to Italy, but a judge released him, an official says.

Sources say he had mostly been in Berlin since February and had been registered by German authorities as someone who posed a risk.  His asylum request was refused this year and deportation was attempted but authorities’ attempts to deport him were thwarted because they were unable to establish his identity beyond doubt.  It is believed that he is linked to a recruitment network for ISIS operating in Germany.

After the attack, around 250 police officers raided Berlin’s largest refugee center, which is housed inside a hangar at a defunct airport, and questioned at least four people but no one was arrested.  Germany has taken in far more refugees in the last two years than any other European Union country—as many as 1 million refugees in 2015.

After a four day Europe-wide manhunt, Anis Amri was shot dead by Italian police.  In a video released by a news agency linked to ISIS, Amri was seen pledging his allegiance to its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.  ISIS claimed it had inspired Monday’s attack. The terror group’s affiliated Amaq News Agency described the perpetrator as a “soldier of the Islamic State” who had acted in response to calls for attacks in the West.  The attack was similar to the Bastille Day attack on a boardwalk in Nice, France, in which 84 people were killed after a Tunisian-born French citizen drove a truck through crowds of people in July.

The Polish driver whose hijacked truck was used to crash into a Berlin Christmas market was shot in the head several hours before the attack and could not have tried to prevent it as previously thought, according to a report.  Lukasz Urban, 37, suffered knife wounds and a gunshot to the head in the truck cabin about 2½ to 3½ hours before the 8 p.m. attack on Dec. 19.  It is believed that he died in a struggle to regain control of his truck and stop the pending attack.