Tag Archive: Life Insurance Green Bay


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In Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu, two massive truck bombs exploded in quick succession on Saturday night, killing over 300 people and wounding more than 300 others.  It was the deadliest attack in Somalia since the rise of the al-Shabab militant group a decade ago and has been called “the 9/11 of the Somali people.”  The scale of the loss makes the attack, which involved a truck packed with several hundred pounds of military-grade and homemade explosives, one of the most lethal terrorist acts anywhere in the world for many years.

In the worst of the two bombings, a truck packed with explosives detonated near the Safari Hotel, collapsing the building and igniting a nearby fuel tanker. The resulting fireball set cars on fire and flattened nearby businesses and homes, trapping people under rubble.  The death toll is expected to rise as more victims continue to be dug from the rubble spread over an area hundreds of meters wide in the center of the city.

Many people are still missing and rescue workers say a definitive death toll may never be established because the intense heat generated by the blast meant the remains of many people would not be found.  Somali intelligence officials have said the attack was meant to target the capital’s heavily fortified international airport where many countries have their embassies. The massive bomb, which security officials said weighed between 1,300 pounds and 1,700 pounds, instead detonated in a crowded street after soldiers opened fire and flattened one of the truck’s tires.

Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared three days of national mourning after the attacks and while there’s been no claim of responsibility, Somalia’s government was quick to blame al-Shabab militants, who have been behind past bombings in Mogadishu.  On Sunday, hundreds of Somalis poured into the streets of Mogadishu to condemn the attacks.  President Mohamed urged troops to prepare for a “state of war” against the al-Shabab extremist group blamed for the country’s deadliest attack.

Army spokesman Capt. Abdullahi Iman said the offensive involving thousands of troops will try to push al-Shabab fighters out of their strongholds in the Lower Shabelle and Middle Shabelle regions where many deadly attacks on Mogadishu and on Somali and African Union bases have been launched.   A Somali military official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the United States is expected to play a supporting role in the new offensive.

In March, President Trump declared Somalia a zone of active hostilities, giving wide latitude to military leaders to launch airstrikes and ground assaults. In May, that led to the first U.S. combat death in Somalia since 1993, when Navy SEAL officer Kyle Milliken was killed in an assault on an al-Shabab radio station. In August, a raid by U.S. soldiers and Somali troops on a village outside Mogadishu left 10 civilians dead, including three children.

A Somali intelligence official investigating the attack told media outlets that a well-known man who vouched for the truck- persuading soldiers to allow it into Mogadishu is now in custody.  Also in custody is an accomplice driving a minivan packed with explosives that took another route but was stopped at a checkpoint near Mogadishu’s airport.  An accused mastermind of the attack may have been motivated by the deadly U.S. raid last August since he is from the village where the raid occurred.

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Medical investigators who examined the brain of disgraced New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez said the NFL star had Stage 3 Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).  Researchers said that Hernandez had the most severe case of the brain injury anyone had ever seen in someone so young.  Hernandez hanged himself last April at the age of 27, in a prison cell while serving a life sentence for the murder of Odin Lloyd.  A posthumous examination of his brain showed he had such a severe form of the degenerative brain disease CTE that the damage was akin to that of players well into their 60s.

CTE, which is caused by repetitive head trauma, has been linked to memory loss, depression, dementia, mood swings as well as problems with controlling impulsivity and aggression. A study released in July in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that of 111 NFL players whose brains were studied, 110 of them had signs of CTE.

The study was conducted by Boston University researcher Dr. Ann McKee who examined the brains of 202 deceased high school, college and professional football players, finding CTE in 177 of the 202 brains.  The study examined players as young as 23 years old and as old as 89. The brains were also from all player positions including 44 linemen, 10 linebackers, 17 defensive backs and seven quarterbacks.  Dr. McKee said her study showed that it is no longer debatable whether or not there is a problem in football—there is a problem.

The results of the study of Mr. Hernandez’s brain only add to the NFL’s public relations problems regarding CTE.  The league has already faced backlash after other high-profile players were found to have C.T.E., including Junior Seau, Ken Stabler and Frank Gifford.  Mr. Seau — along with Dave Duerson, Andre Waters and Ray Easterling, among others — killed himself.  The release of the Journal of the American Medical Association study and now the recent findings regarding Hernandez only reignite backlash.

Though researchers did not make a direct link between Mr. Hernandez’s violence and his disease-the symptoms of the disease could explain or even have caused the decisions that led to his rise and fall. After the results of the study were made public, Hernandez’s estate filed a federal lawsuit against the N.F.L. and the New England Patriots seeking damages to compensate his 4-year-old daughter for the loss of her father. The suit alleges that the league and the team knew that repeated head hits could lead to the brain disease, yet did not do enough to protect Mr. Hernandez from those hits.

The Hernandez’s family lawyer, Jose Baez, said the family was also contemplating suing the N.C.A.A. and the University of Florida, where Mr. Hernandez played before playing for the Patriots.  The N.F.L. did not comment on the medical finding and declined to comment on the suit. The New England Patriots also declined to comment.

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North Korea carried out a missile test directly over Japan that prompted the government in Tokyo to warn residents in its path to take cover. After a flight of nearly 1, 700 miles, the missile flew over the northern island of Hokkaido, broke into three pieces and landed in the sea.  Public television programs in Japan were interrupted announcing the missile’s flight over the country and warned citizens to take cover in a sturdy building or basement.

North Korea has fired projectiles over Japanese territory twice before.  Once in 1998,  prompting a minor diplomatic crisis in Asia, and once again at the beginning of the Obama administration in 2009. In both those cases, the North said the rockets were carrying satellites into orbit but they made no such claim in this case.

The missile was launched from a site near Pyongyang’s international airport, not the usual launch site in the northeast, according to the South Korean military. They are still trying to determine what type of missile was launched but it’s believed to be a Hwasong-12, a newly developed intermediate range weapon.  North Korea’s usual launch sites are in remote areas, where there would be little concern about civilian casualties.  A strike near Pyongyang would risk many civilian deaths, suggesting that the real goal was to strike at the regime.

The commander of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s Air Defense Command said that the armed forces did not try to shoot down the missile from North Korea because they did not detect a threat to Japanese territory.  They warned citizens in its path to take cover in case any parts fell on Japan.  This latest launch appears to be the first of a missile powerful enough to potentially carry a nuclear warhead.

North Korea’s ambassador to the UN, Han Tae-song, defended his country’s actions saying they were a response to military drills carried out by the US and its allies in the region.  “Now that the US has openly declared its hostile intention towards North Korea by raising joint aggressive military exercises despite repeated warnings… my country has every reason to respond with tough counter-measures as an exercise of its rights to self-defence.”

US and Japanese forces have just finished a joint drill in Hokkaido while another annual exercise involving tens of thousands of South Korean and US military personnel is still under way in South Korea.  China warned that tensions on the Korean peninsula had reached a “tipping point” but said the US and South Korea were partly to blame. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying criticised the two countries for their repeated military drills, which North Korea perceives as practice for an invasion.

North Korea has been working on its missile program for decades, with weapons based on the Soviet-developed Scud.   While it has conducted short and medium-range tests on many occasions,  the pace of testing has increased.  Experts speculate that North Korea has made significant advances towards its goal of building a reliable long-range nuclear-capable weapon.  Though, no one knows how close North Korea is to miniaturizing a nuclear warhead to put on a missile.

Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel has retired from the NFL just before the first full-team practice of training camp.  His decision  came two days after a medical study indicated that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was found in nearly 99 percent of deceased NFL players’ brains that were donated to scientific research.  A team source said that the findings weighed heavy on Urschel’s decision to retire.

The study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that of the 111 NFL players whose brains were studied, 110 of them had signs of CTE, which can lead to memory loss, depression and dementia—often years or even decades after players retire.  Several top names in the game- including Junior Seau, Frank Gifford, John Mackey and Kenny Stabler — were diagnosed with the disease after their deaths.

Coach John Harbaugh said he was surprised when Urschel called him 90 minutes before practice to inform him of his retirement.  “He said he’s going to retire from football, that it was something that’s been on his mind for quite a while and throughout the offseason.”

In August 2015, Urschel suffered a concussion in a helmet-to-helmet collision, which he said “I think it hurt my ability to think well mathematically,” Urschel said. “It took me about three weeks before I was football-ready. It took me a little bit longer before my high-level visualizations ability came back.”

Urschel will now pursue his PhD in Mathematics fulltime at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, focusing on spectral graph theory, numerical linear algebra and machine learning.  He had been pursuing it in the offseason prior to his retirement.  Urschel was recently named to Forbes’ “30 under 30” in the field of science. He has published six peer-reviewed mathematics papers to date and has three more ready for review.  According to the Ravens website, Urschel is an expert mathematician who gets straight A’s while also grinding away in the NFL trenches.

Urschel who played on the offensive line for three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, received a $144,560 signing bonus when joining the Ravens in 2014. The bonus prorated at $36,140 per year. With one year left on the contract, Urschel owes the Ravens $36,140 upon retirement.

Urschel released a statement shortly after the announcement.  “Thank you to everyone for the kind words today. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I believe it was the right one for me,” Urschel said in a statement. “There’s no big story here, and I’d appreciate the right to privacy. I’m extremely grateful to the Ravens, and blessed to have been able to play the game I love at the highest level.

It is a great game. There are some games — like the playoff game at Pittsburgh — that I will never forget. I’m excited to start working on my doctorate in mathematics full time at MIT. I’m looking forward to the chance to take courses that are only offered in the fall semester, while spending time with my fiance and preparing myself for the new challenges that will come with fatherhood. We’re expecting our first child in December.”

 

In Chicago, a wave of violence over the long holiday weekend left 102 people shot—with 15 people killed and 86 others injured by gunfire.  Nearly half were shot in a spate of violence as the weekend closed out between 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The weekend began with 19 people shot on Friday night and 23 on Saturday.  Sunday and Monday nights were both relatively quiet, by summer standards, with 17 people shot over the two days, according to Tribune data.

Violence in Chicago has become the standard as the city is plagued with gang activity.  The Chicago Police Department says that it has become standard procedure during long holiday warm weather weekends to put more than 1,300 extra officers on the street.  A total of 159 guns were seized by Chicago police since Friday. The violence this year was largely concentrated in the city’s south and west sides, including districts where the Chicago Police Department have deployed extra resources including hundreds of officers on overtime.

The Chicago Police Department expressed frustrations over the violent long weekend.  They said they are conducting “a very comprehensive review” after experiencing one of its most violent Fourth of July weekends in recent history.  Chief police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said “It’s perplexing, the mood here is frustration.”  “We deployed some very successful tactics over the Memorial Day weekend.” Yet those same tactics did not seem to work as well over the Fourth holiday.”

A lot of the shootings appeared to be over “petty disputes that escalated into somebody pulling out a gun.”  He mentioned some examples: A shooting in Smith Park that started as an argument over where people were sitting; a confrontation between a driver and bicyclists on State Street, with the driver getting a gun from his trunk and officers intervening. He said a “handful” of shootings were “retaliatory .. People drinking all day and then things escalating … It’s just enormously frustrating.”

As part of its review of what happened over the weekend, the department is looking at how amateur fireworks may have interfered with the ShotSpotter system, a relatively new technology the department hopes to expand.  The spotters register a shooting and deploy cameras in the direction of the shots while officers are deployed.  Analysts at the district station look at the data in real time to decide what steps to take next.  Guglielmi called it “micro-deployment.”

The violent weekend brings the total number of people shot in Chicago so far in 2017 to more than 1,800, according to data maintained by the Tribune, still below the 2,035 recorded at this time last year.

 

 

 

 

Popular craft chain store Hobby Lobby has agreed to pay a $3 million fine and return thousands of artifacts smuggled from Iraq.  Hobby Lobby’s owners are conservative Christians who plan to open a Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., this fall.

Federal prosecutors say Hobby Lobby spent over $1.5 million in December 2010 to purchase more than 5,000 Iraqi artifacts from a dealer based in the United Arab Emirates. The sales violated a ban on the sale of Iraqi cultural artifacts in place since 2004.

According to the complaint, Hobby Lobby began collecting a range of historically significant manuscripts and other antiquities in 2009. The following July, Hobby Lobby President Steve Green traveled with a consultant to the United Arab Emirates, where they inspected a large cache of cuneiform tablets and other artifacts.

Two Israeli antiquities dealers and one from the United Arab Emirates attended the July 2010 inspection with Hobby Lobby’s president and consultant. At the meeting, the complaint says, the artifacts were displayed informally, “spread on the floor, arranged in layers on a coffee table, and packed loosely in cardboard boxes, in many instances with little or no protective material between them.”

The dealers claimed the items were from the family collection of a third dealer who was not present, according to the complaint. They later sent Hobby Lobby a provenance statement — a guarantee of authenticity — indicating that the artifacts were legally acquired in the 1960s from local markets.

After returning to the United States, the complaint says, Hobby Lobby’s president and in-house lawyer spoke with an expert on cultural property law who warned them that antiquities from ancient Iraq may have been looted from archaeological sites. In a memo, the expert told them that any items of Iraqi origin that were not properly declared could be seized by customs officials.  Hobby Lobby proceeded with the sale despite the numerous “red flags”, buying hundreds of cuneiform tablets and thousands of other artifacts.  According to a civil complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, the deal was “was fraught with red flags” and was consistent with a “clandestine” operation.  According to the complaint, Hobby Lobby got conflicting information about where the artifacts had been stored and never met or communicated with the dealer selling them. When it came time to pay, the company wired money to seven separate bank accounts.

A dealer based in the United Arab Emirates shipped packages containing the artifacts to three different corporate addresses in Oklahoma City. Five shipments that were intercepted by federal customs officials bore shipping labels that falsely declared that the artifacts’ country of origin was Turkey.  In September 2011, a package containing about 1,000 clay bullae, an ancient form of inscribed identification, was received by Hobby Lobby from an Israeli dealer and accompanied by a false declaration stating that its country of origin was Israel. The packages bore shipping labels that described their contents as “ceramic tiles,” the complaint said.

 

 

 

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.

Portland Train Stabbing

Two men died and a third is recovering after being stabbed on an Oregon train while defending two teenage girls from harassment.    Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, has been charged with two counts of aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder, first-degree assault, three counts of unlawful use of a weapon and two counts of intimidation.

According to witness accounts and the arrest affidavit, Christian boarded a MAX light rail train on Friday, May 26, at 4:19 p.m. at the Rose Quarter stop.  He then went on an anti-Islam tirade directed at two African-American teenagers on board — one who was wearing a traditional Muslim hijab. Christian shouted for the teens to get out of his country and to go home.

After making several threatening comments about “decapitating heads,” several men stepped in to diffuse the situation.  Frightened, the two teens moved to the back of the train while other passengers told him he couldn’t treat people that way.

Videos from the train camera and a passenger’s phone showed Christian “making a sudden move” toward one of the victims, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, of Portland. Namkai-Meche responded by standing up as Christian shouted into his face “Do something!”  Another passenger, 21-year-old Portland State University student, Micah Fletcher stood up as well and Christian shouted “Do something!” as he shoved Fletcher in the chest.

This is when Christian appears to pull a folded knife from his pocket that he concealed in his hand, the affidavit said.  Fletcher shoved Christian so hard the suspect lost his balance. Fletcher told Christian to get off the train and Christian shouted “hit me again”.

Video shows Christian swinging his arm and stabbing Fletcher in the neck.  He then  stabbed Namkai-Meche twice in the neck.  Ricky John Best, 53, of Happy Valley moved forward to intervene and was stabbed in the neck.  Namkai-Meche had sat down to try to stop the bleeding from his wound when  Christian pushed Best into him and stabbed both men again.

When the train came to a stop Fletcher who was clutching his neck, exited the train as passengers on the platform tried to help him.  He was treated for his injuries and released by the hospital. Fletcher said in an interview that his injuries missed being fatal by one millimeter.

Ricky Best fell to the floor and two men rushed over to start CPR but the veteran and father of four, died at the scene.  Namkai-Meche lay on the floor as passengers-including one of the teens he defended-reassured him and tried to stop the bleeding.  He later died at the hospital.

The train video showed Christian grabbing his belongings and a bag dropped by the Muslim teenager and leaving the train while waving his knife as he got off the train.  He threatened several people on the platform with his knife and tossed the teen’s bag onto the freeway as he exited.  Several witnesses followed Christian and directed responding police officers to his whereabouts.

After his arrest, Christian admitted to drinking Sangria before and while on the train.  He has what appears to be an extremist ideology with an affinity for Nazis and political violence, according to his social media postings.

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.

 

In an escalating dispute over the death penalty cases in Florida, Governor Rick Scott has removed Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala from 21 more cases from District 9 to a special prosecutor.  The governor’s spokeswoman said in a statement “State Attorney Ayala’s complete refusal to consider capital punishment for the entirety of her term sends an unacceptable message that she is not interested in considering every available option in the fight for justice,” Ayala’s office, in response, is saying Scott blindsided her and is calling the decision an abuse of power.

All of the cases removed from Ayala have been reassigned to State Attorney Brad King.  Ayala has filed a motion in state circuit court indicating her intent to challenge Scott’s decision and disputing the governor’s authority to remove her simply because he disagrees with her valid exercise of prosecutorial discretion.

Ayala, an elected prosecutor in central Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit, took office in January, to begin a four-year term.  In March, Ayala announced she would no longer seek the death penalty in any murder cases, including in the case of Markeith Loyd, who’s accused of murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend and then Orlando police officer Debra Clayton. Scott removed Ayala from that case shortly after.

Her decision sparked an outcry with many Republican leaders claiming Ayala violated her oath of office by taking the death penalty off the table. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi called Ayala’s move “a blatant neglect of duty and a shameful failure to follow the law,” while members of the state legislature threatened to reduce her office’s funding.

There were also some who backed Ayala’s decision including more than 100 judges, former prosecutors and legal experts who have expressed their support for Ayala, saying Scott has overstepped his legal authority by removing her from cases, and saying she has the legal discretion to not seek the death penalty.

Capital punishment remains legal in 31 states, but death penalty sentences have dropped dramatically over the past few decades. Of the nation’s 2,300 prosecutors, only 27 sentenced a person to death last year.  Capital punishment in Florida has been on hold since Jan. 12 when the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the state’s sentencing system as a violation of a defendant’s right to a jury trial.  Florida’s old law allowed a jury to recommend the death penalty by a simple majority vote.  Every other state with the death penalty except for Delaware requires juries to be unanimous in recommending a sentence of death.

In March, Governor Scott attempted to restart executions last month by signing a bill which took effect immediately-that requires jury recommendations to be unanimous before a death penalty can be imposed by a judge.  After signing the legislature, Scott said he hopes that executions could soon resume in Florida.  “My foremost concern is always for the victims and their loved ones,” Scott’s statement said. “I hope this legislation will allow families of these horrific crimes to get the closure they deserve.”