Tag Archive: mark shuster insurance olmsted county


 

 

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is in mourning after a deadly rampage at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.  Robert Bowers, 46, stormed the synagogue armed with an AR-15 and at least 3 handguns yelling “All Jews must die” as he opened fire on worshipers preparing for Shabbat services.  Eleven people were killed and seven were injured, the victims ranged from 54 to 97 years in age. Officers arrived on the scene as Bowers was on his way out of the building.  He fired on police from the entryway, shooting two officers and police returned fire.

Bowers retreated back into the building and SWAT officers arrived 30 minutes later.  Swat officers entered the building and were again fired upon by the gunman. Officers returned fire and wounded him, leading him to retreat to a room on the third floor of the synagogue.  Two SWAT members were wounded in the shootout, one critically.  Almost 40 minutes after the shootout with SWAT officers, an injured Bowers crawled out of the room and surrendered.

Bowers appeared in federal court in Pittsburgh on October 29th, to hear the charges against him.   He has been charged by the US Department of Justice with 29 federal crimes.  The federal charges include eleven counts of obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death, eleven counts of use of a firearm to commit murder during a crime of violence, four counts of obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer, and three counts of use and discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence.  The crimes of violence are based upon the federal civil rights laws prohibiting hate crimes.  Bowers was also charged with 36 state criminal counts, including 11 counts of criminal homicide, 6 counts of aggravated assault, 6 counts of attempted criminal homicide and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation.  He pled not guilty and remains in the custody of the United States Marshals Service without bail pending further hearings.

Just before the shooting rampage, Robert Bowers wrote on a far-right social media site, ”HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” HIAS refers to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a humanitarian aid nonprofit group that has provided assistance to refugees for more than 130 years.  As he received medical care in police custody, he allegedly told a SWAT officer that he wanted all Jews to die, and that Jews were committing genocide against his people, according to a criminal complaint filed in Allegheny County.

Bowers attended Baldwin High School from August 1986 to November 1989 before dropping out and worked as a trucker.  Neighbors described Bowers as “a ghost” and said that he rarely interacted with others.  Officials say he was reportedly heavily involved in promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories online through social media.  He had published posts supporting the white genocide theory and also stated that supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory were “deluded” and being tricked.  Other posts attacked African Americans with racial slurs and images related to lynching, and attacked women who have relationships with black men.

In the weeks before the shooting, Bowers made anti-Semitic posts directed at the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)-sponsored National Refugee Shabbat of October 19–20, in which Tree of Life participated.  He claimed that Jews were aiding members of Central American caravans moving towards the United States border and to have referred to members of those caravans as invaders.

 

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Over 13 years after Hurricane Katrina, a man who shot three black men as they were evacuating Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans has pleaded guilty to a hate crime.  Roland Bourgeois Jr., 55, abandoned his previous not-guilty plea as part of a deal with prosecutors, rather than face a trial that was set for Nov. 26.  The case is one of several high-profile, racism-fueled crimes that took place in the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane.

Roland Bourgeois admitted he shot the men because of their race and reportedly told his neighbor, “Anything coming up this street darker than a brown paper bag is getting shot.”  He was indicted five years after Katrina on allegations that he fired a shotgun at three black men in Algiers Point during the immediate aftermath of the storm.  His case has dragged on for years, being delayed over a dozen times amid questions about his physical and mental health.

Federal prosecutors allege that in the days after the storm ravaged the city, Bourgeois and his friends banded together to protect the Algiers Point neighborhood of New Orleans from “outsiders” after the storm.  Within days, a band of 15 to 30 locals had taken up weapons, barricaded the streets with debri and regularly patrolled the neighborhood.  Residents say they were trying to keep their homes from being overrun by thieves and outlaws.  Bourgeois was quoted as saying he wanted to stop people “from tearing up the city” and using a racial slur. Bourgeois reportedly said he would shoot anyone who was “darker than a brown paper bag” and came close to his home on Vallette Street.

When three black men who were headed to the Algiers Point ferry landing, where authorities had set up an evacuation point, walked by his home, Bourgeois fired his shotgun at them.  He struck all three at least once and then bragged that he “got” one of the men following the shooting and displayed the bloodied baseball cap that fell from the wounded man’s head, according to prosecutors.  All three men survived the unprovoked attack including the one most seriously wounded, Donnell Herrington.

Herrington says he was walking to the terminal with his 17 year old cousin, Marcel Alexander, and a friend, Chris Collins when a white man pointed a shotgun at them and fired without saying a word.  The first shotgun blast ripped into his throat, torso and arms.  Somehow, Herrington got to his feet and began running.  He remembers two more armed men joining the first gunman and then he was shot in the back as he tried to escape.  Herrington staggered to the home of an African-American couple who drove him to West Jefferson Medical Center.  Doctors discovered buckshot in his arms, chest, abdomen and back.  A cluster of pellets had torn open the internal jugular vein along the right side of his throat and he underwent emergency surgery to repair the shredded vein.  Both Alexander and Collins witnessed the shooting and also suffered minor gunshot wounds.

Bourgeois pleaded guilty under terms of a deal struck between Bourgeois and federal prosecutors.  The plea agreement states that Bourgeois pleads guilty to two charges and the government will dismiss the original indictments involving hate crimes and firearms charges.  The first charge alleges that he willfully injured, intimidated and interfered with the three men including the use of a dangerous weapon. The second says he knowingly possessed, carried and used the shotgun during the acts listed in count one.

The deal proposes that Bourgeois’ sentence must be more than 5 years, but less than 10 years.  The government announced they will pursue the maximum sentence.  If the judge accepts the agreement, Bourgeois would forfeit his right to appeal his convictions and sentencing will move forward.  His sentencing is set for Jan. 17, 2019.  If the deal is rejected, Bourgeois has the opportunity to withdraw his guilty plea and face trial.

Amazon Raises Wages To $15

 

 

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Online retail giant Amazon says it’s raising its company-wide minimum wage to $15 per hour for all of its U.S. employees.  The announcement comes amid mounting complaints over labor conditions at the company’s warehouses.  The new minimum wage will benefit more than 250,000 Amazon employees — including part-time and temporary employees — and 100,000 seasonal employees.  Some employees who already make $15 per hour will also see a pay increase.

Employees will lose a perk known as VCP, through which employees are eligible to earn up to 8 percent of their monthly take-home pay.  The average worker can earn between $1,800 and $3,000 a year through VCP, depending on the season, hours worked and the fulfillment center’s volume.  Warehouse workers will also experience a change in their stock options. As a key attractor for prospective Amazon employees, full-time hourly workers usually receive two to three shares a year after a two-year vesting period.  This program will no longer be offered.

Amazon said the effect of the higher pay will be reflected in its forward-looking quarterly guidance.  The company also said it would lobby in Washington for an increase in the federal minimum wage and urge other competitors to raise wages.  “We will be working to gain Congressional support for an increase in the federal minimum wage. The current rate of $7.25 was set nearly a decade ago,” said Jay Carney, senior vice president of Amazon global corporate affairs.  Other large retailers like Target Corp raised its minimum hourly wage last year to $11 and promised to raise it to $15 an hour by the end of 2020.  Walmart raised its minimum wage to $11 an hour earlier this year.

The company and CEO Jeff Bezos have been facing criticism for its pay disparity.  Amazon’s starting pay varies by location with some paying $10 an hour and others paying $13.50 an hour but the national average pay for an Amazon employee is $11 an hour.  For 2017, the average annual pay for an Amazon employee was just under $28,500, according to company filings, while Bezos earned $1.7 million.

Last month Amazon became the second company to cross $1 trillion market value.  The company is led by Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man with a net worth of nearly $150 billion, according to Forbes.  Amazon’s pay increase will cost the company $1 billion or less annually and the recent $20 price increase for Prime memberships will generate enough to offset the wage hike.

What do you think of Amazon’s wage increase?  Hit the comments section and let us know!

 

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Amazon’s Echo devices are garnering scrutiny over potential eavesdropping after a family in Portland, Oregon had their private conversation recorded by their Amazon Echo device and sent to someone in their contact list.  They learned of the invasion of privacy when they received a nightmarish phone call two weeks ago.  “Unplug your Alexa devices right now,” a voice on the other line said. “You’re being hacked.”  The caller, an employee of the husband, had received audio files of their conversations.

The Portland family had an Echo smart home speaker in every room of their house to help control their heat, lights and security system.  The woman, who identified herself only by her first name, Danielle said “My husband and I would joke and say, ‘I’d bet these devices are listening to what we’re saying.”  She added that the device did not tell her that it would be sending the recorded conversations.

Danielle said they unplugged all the devices, contacted Amazon and spoke to an Alexa engineer, who apologized multiple times.  Although Amazon offered to “de-provision” the devices of their communications features so they could keep using them to control their home, Danielle and her family reportedly want a refund instead.  Though the conversation was a mundane one – they were talking about hardwood floors, the couple said they will never plug the devices in again.

Amazon’s full statement on the issue seems to show Alexa, the company’s virtual personal assistant powered by artificial intelligence, was trying a little too hard.  Their statement explained: Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like “Alexa.” Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a “send message” request. At which point, Alexa said out loud “To whom?” At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, “[contact name], right?” Alexa then interpreted background conversation as “right.” As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely.

Other smart home speakers carry similar risks that privacy advocates have been warning about as the popularity of these types of devices grows.  Daniel Kahn Gillmor, a staff technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said that the intuitive nature of connected devices can mask their complexity and the possibility of malfunction. “The Amazon Echo, despite being small, is a computer — it’s a computer with microphones, speakers, and it’s connected to the network,” he said. “These are potential surveillance devices, and we have invited them further and further into our lives without examining how that could go wrong. And I think we are starting to see examples of that.”

Last year, a North Carolina man said the same thing had happened to him.  His Echo device recorded 20 seconds of his conversation and sent it to his insurance agent without his knowledge.  Google had to release a patch last year for its Home Mini speakers after some of them were found to be recording everything.  While “home assistants” such as the Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod have been big sellers in the past few years, they’ve brought with them many concerns over privacy.  These recorded-conversation incidents show what can happen when people welcome devices into their home that are always listening.

 

 

 

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French police officer Arnaud Beltrame has died from his injuries after he offered to exchange himself for one of the female hostages being held inside the Super U supermarket in Trèbes.  The violence unfolded Friday morning when the attacker, identified as Radouane Lakdim, stole a car, killing the passenger and gravely wounding the driver.  Lakdim then drove towards military and police barracks where he shot at four National Police officers who were jogging before trying to run them down.  One of the officers was wounded.

The gunman proceeded to the Super U market armed with a gun, knife and explosives.  He began shooting as he walked inside shouting that he was a soldier from Isis.  Two people were killed and several others wounded.  Christian Medves, 50, a butcher in charge of the meat counter was shot first and Hervé Sosna, 65, a shopper was then killed while 16 others were wounded.

Around 50 terrified shoppers and staff managed to escape but several were taken as hostages.  Witnesses said about 20 people in the supermarket found refuge in its cold storage room.  Police found the car, and SWAT teams surrounded the market, at around 11am, beginning the three hour standoff. “They managed to get some of the people out,” said Interior Minister Collomb, but the attacker kept one woman hostage to use as a human shield. Officer Arnaud Beltrame, offered to take the place of the woman.  The lieutenant colonel had his phone on so police could hear his interactions with the gunman.  Collomb said that at one point the National Police lieutenant colonel shot the gunman.  After hearing shots, police stormed the supermarket where Lakdim had been left holding only Beltrame. Lakdim was killed and Officer Beltrame, who had been shot and stabbed, later died from his injuries.

Lakdim, 25, a small-time drug-dealer who had French nationality and was born in Morocco, left a handwritten letter at his home pledging allegiance to Isis.  He was known to authorities for petty crimes, but had been under surveillance by security services in 2016-2017 for links to the radical Salafist movement, said Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, who is leading the investigation.  One neighbour told a news reporter that the suspect was a pleasant young man who was “calm, friendly, and always had a nice word to say.”  He reportedly lived in an apartment block with his parents and sisters, and would take the youngest child to school every day.

Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said that he believed Lakdim had acted alone and that the gunman also brought homemade explosives into the supermarket.  Police continue to question a 17-year-old and Lakdim’s 18-year-old girlfriend. Collomb said the gunman had demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam – the prime surviving suspect in Islamic State suicide bombing and mass shooting attacks on a sports stadium, concert hall and restaurants that killed 130 people in Paris in 2015.  Abdeslam, a French citizen born and raised in Brussels, went on trial in Belgium last month.

President Macron hailed the fallen officer as a hero saying of the officer. “He saved lives and honoured his colleagues and his country,”

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Missouri’s Governor Eric Greitens was arrested after a grand jury indicted him on charges of felony invasion of privacy stemming from an extramarital affair in 2015. The indictment accuses Greitens of blindfolding and tying up a woman with whom he was having a consensual affair, and then taking her picture without her consent—and threatening to release the naked photograph if she ever spoke publicly about the affair. Greitens was arraigned and later released on his own recognizance. He has acknowledged the affair but denies any criminal behavior including allegations of abusing or threatening the woman. Greitens remained defiant amid calls for resignation and impeachment less than 24 hours after a St. Louis grand jury indicted him for felony invasion of privacy.
Greitens is a former U.S. Navy SEAL who was elected in 2016 after he ran on a pro-gun, anti-Obama platform. After news of the affair broke in early January 2017, Greitens and his wife, Sheena, released a joint statement after a number of inquiries from the news media about the relationship. The couple revealed that there “was a time when he was unfaithful in our marriage.” “This was a deeply personal mistake,” the Greitens, who have two young children, said in the statement. “Eric took responsibility and we dealt with this together honestly and privately.”
The accusations were relayed by the woman’s ex-husband, but she has not commented. The identified but still unnamed woman is a St. Louis area hairstylist. She told her ex-husband that she’d had an affair in 2015 with Eric Greitens — then philanthropist, now governor — and that he had tied her to home exercise equipment, taken a photo of her naked and threatened to publicly release it if she ever told anyone about him. She said Greitens later apologized and said he’d deleted the photo. She also told her ex-husband that Greitens had slapped her against her will, after she told Greitens she had had sex with her husband. The conversation was part of a therapeutic exercise but was recorded without her knowledge. The man filed for divorce in 2015, a few months after the affair.)
Behind the scenes, many state political figures and journalists had been aware of rumors about Greitens’ affair since September 2016. Journalists had held back from publication because the woman had not recorded the conversation herself or released it to the media, and she repeatedly declined to be interviewed on the record.
When Greitens was running for governor against Chris Koster, Roy Temple, an advisor to the Koster campaign, heard a rumor about the affair and contacted a mutual friend to him and the ex-husband. Temple said he met with the ex-husband to see whether he’d be interested in publicly telling his story, but the man, a prominent St. Louis entertainer, declined to proceed because he didn’t want his two children learning about the affair. The man only came forward in 2017 after a national reporter at another outlet called his 15-year-old about the allegations.

 

 

 

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On February 11, 2018, a Russian commercial plane crashed near Moscow, killing all 71 people on board. Among the victims of the crash were 65 passengers including 3 children and 6 crew members. The cause of the crash is unknown. The Saratov Airlines flight 703, crashed shortly after take-off from Moscow’s Domodedovo airport. The plane was headed to the city of Orsk on the Kazakhstan border and officials have said most of the passengers were from the eastern part of the Orenburg region which is on the southern end of the Ural Mountains.
Officials say the aircraft’s speed and altitude started to fluctuate soon after take-off. A preliminary analysis of the on-board flight recorder indicated the plane had problems two-and-a-half minutes after it took off, at an altitude of around 4,265ft. Moments before the crash, Flight 703 had gained an altitude of 5,900 feet. The 7 year old passenger jet then went into a steep decent until it disappeared from the radar at an altitude of around 3,000 feet.
The Russian Interstate Aviation Committee is investigating the crash. They said that faulty instruments could have given the pilots wrong speed data. The instruments began displaying different speed readings, probably because of iced speed sensors while their heating systems were shut off, the committee said. When the crew detected the issue, they switched off the plane’s autopilot. They eventually took the plane into a dive at 30-35 degrees.
Witnesses say the plane, an Antonov An-148 aircraft, was in flames as it fell from the sky. The crash was caught by a surveillance camera in a nearby house. The footage showed that the aircraft slammed into the ground and immediately burst into flames. The plane crashed near the village of Argunovo, about 50 miles south-east of Moscow. Wreckage and body parts are strewn over a large area of about 74 acres. More than 1,400 body parts and hundreds of plane fragments have been recovered from the crash site.

 
Rescue workers reached the site 2.5 hours after the crash. More than 700 people are involved in the search operation, struggling through deep snow. The emergencies ministry is collecting DNA samples from victims’ relatives as part of the identification process of the 65 passengers and 6 crew members. The wreckage of Flight 703 was scattered over a half mile wide area.
News outlets have reported that the pilot had declined to have the aircraft de-iced before the departure even though the weather at the time of departure included snow showers and −5°C temperature at Domodedovo Airport. The procedure is optional and the crew’s decision is based mainly on the weather conditions.

Tens of thousands of residents began evacuating coastal communities in Texas as forecasters predicted Hurricane Harvey could make landfall late Friday as a major category-three storm, delivering a life-threatening 35-40 inches of rain to some parts of the Gulf Coast.  Several counties along the Gulf coast, including Nueces county, Calhoun county and Brazoria county, have ordered mandatory evacuations in low-lying areas.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has activated about 700 members of the state National Guard and put military helicopters on standby in Austin and San Antonio in preparation for search and rescues and emergency evacuations.  In the Gulf of Mexico, oil and natural gas operators had begun evacuating workers from offshore platforms.

Harvey intensified on Thursday from a tropical depression into a category 1 hurricane. Early on Friday morning, the National Hurricane Center reported it had become a category 2. Fuelled by warm Gulf of Mexico waters, it was projected to become a major category 3 hurricane.  Typical category 3 storms damage small homes, topple large trees and destroy mobile homes. The wall of water called a storm surge poses the greatest risk.

Hurricane trackers expect the storm’s eye to come ashore near the city of Corpus Christi, where Mayor Joe McComb called for a voluntary evacuation.  Forecasters predict that if Harvey stalls over Texas it could deliver catastrophic flooding before drifting back over the Gulf of Mexico towards Louisiana.

The National Hurricane Center said it expected flash flooding along the middle and upper Texas coast. The storm is expected to stall and unload torrents of rain for four to six straight days. In just a few days, the storm may dispense the amount of rain that normally falls over an entire year, shattering records. The storm is also predicted to generate a devastating storm surge — raising the water as much as 13 feet above normally dry land at the coast.

The National Weather Service office in Corpus Christi said that due to the combination of flooding from storm surge and rainfall, “locations may be uninhabitable for an extended period.” It warned of “structural damage to buildings, with many washing away” and that “streets and parking lots become rivers of raging water with underpasses submerged.”

Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane at 11 p.m. Friday between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, Texas. With 130 mph winds, the storm became the first major hurricane, rated Category 3 or higher to strike U.S. soil in 12 years.  In 2008, Hurricane Ike hit near Galveston, Texas as a Category 2 storm that killed 113 in the US and caused $37.5 billion in damages.

 

 

Three people died and 19 were injured in Charlottesville, Virginia after violence erupted between white nationalist protestors and counter-protesters.  The protests began on Friday night, as thousands of neo-Nazis, KKK members and other white nationalists began descending on the city of Charlottesville to participate in the “Unite the Right” rally.

Hundreds bearing torches marched on the University of Virginia campus and surrounded the statue of Thomas Jefferson on Friday night, chanting “You will not replace us” and “White lives matter.”  Thousands of counter-protestors also descended on Charlottesville over the weekend, including clergy, students, Black Lives Matter activists, and protesters with the anti-fascist movement known as “Antifa.”

On Saturday morning, more than 1,000 white supremacists marched to the public park, recently renamed Emancipation Park, which is home to the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Many were carrying Nazi flags and other white supremacist paraphernalia, wore body armor and carried assault rifles and pistols. They were met by the thousands of anti-racist counterdemonstrators.

Soon after this march, the violence began as fights broke out with little police intervention.  Around 1:45 p.m., as police were attempting to disperse the crowds, 20 year old James Alex Fields, drove his Dodge Charger into a crowd of counter-demonstrators and then peeled away.  Fields, a resident of Maumee, Ohio had been rallying with the white nationalists earlier in the day.

Local paralegal Heather Heyer was killed in the attack, and at least 19 others were injured. Two state troopers, Pilot Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, also died Saturday, when their helicopter crashed en route to the scene of the violence.

James Alex Fields, Jr. was initially charged with 1 count of second degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and failure to stop in an accident that resulted in death.  Police have now charged him with five additional charges.  The five additional charges include two more counts of malicious wounding and three counts of aggravated malicious wounding.  No bond was set, and he remains in custody.

Fields grew up in Kentucky and recently moved to Ohio, his mother, Samantha Bloom.  She told the Associated Press that she knew he was attending the “Unite The Right” rally this weekend and that he supported President Donald Trump, but said she didn’t know it was a white nationalist rally.  She added that she didn’t “get involved” with her son’s political views.  Neighbors describe him as a quiet teenager who had trouble making friends.  Former class mates , teachers and school officials noticed Fields had “deeply-held, radical” beliefs on Nazism and race.

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has extended the state of emergency for another three months.  The extension followed weekend ceremonies to commemorate the first anniversary of the failed military coup in which around 250 people, mostly unarmed civilians, were killed.  Anniversary celebrations came a week after the leader of the main opposition, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, ended a nearly 280-mile “March for Justice” from Ankara to Istanbul by holding a rally attended by more than a million people calling for an end to emergency rule and injustice.

President Erdogan vowed to continue the brutal crackdown against activists, journalists, teachers and opposition lawmakers.  He also called for the reinstatement of the death penalty in Turkey.  Since emergency rule was imposed on July 20 last year, more than 50,000 people have been arrested and 150,000 people have been suspended in a crackdown which Erdogan’s opponents say has pushed Turkey on a path to greater authoritarianism.

Speaking at parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli said the emergency rule had helped created the necessary legal environment to cleanse the state of Gulen’s network. The Turkish government says it is necessary to root out supporters of the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who is believed to be behind the coup attempt. Gulen has denied any involvement.

Since the failed coup where Turkish military forces tried to overthrow the government, the Turkish government has taken what some say are controversial steps to strengthen its power.   In March, the Jurist Report was published by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The report describes a plethora of human rights violations committed by the Turkish government between July 2015 and December 2016.

The same month the report was published, around 330 individuals were put on trial for alleged involvement in an attempted coup.  In November Turkey significantly restricted the activities of NGOs like human rights organizations and children’s groups and arrested opposition party leaders alleging they were connected to terror organizations.  Earlier this month the Turkish Parliament elected seven new members to the country’s 13-member Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) in an overnight vote.

Ten human rights activists, including Amnesty International Turkey director Idil Eser, were in court to face terrorism related charges.  The targeting of human rights defenders and similar earlier crackdowns on lawyers and associations raises the question of who will be left to defend the tens of thousands of people caught up in the post-coup purge.