Tag Archive: www.hi4e.org


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A Kansas City, KS toddler who was abducted while sleeping in the back seat of a car has been found safe.  On July 12th, 2017, a man left his girlfriend’s car running while he went inside a Kansas City gas station to get her three-year-old daughter a drink. The little girl remained in the backseat, asleep.  Police say that’s when Tyler Letzig, 28, and Karri Reich, 29, took the car with the girl inside.

Police cordoned off the Valero gas station at 7th and Riverview and quickly released surveillance of the two suspects to the media.  The video shows the suspects — a man in a green T-shirt and a woman in a blue one-piece short set — enter the gas station separately on more than one occasion and later converse near a gas pump.

The woman re-enters the store while the car with the child pulls up beside an older model white utility van the suspects allegedly drove.  The man in green can be seen on video canvassing a silver 2016 Ford Focus as the driver exits the vehicle.  The driver of the Ford enters the store, and the woman in the blue short set exits. The woman briefly speaks with the male suspect then jumps in the Ford and drives away.

Within an hour of the abduction, investigators say the boyfriend’s cell phone pinged several miles away in Leavenworth County. Officers from the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department, Wyandotte County sheriff’s deputies, troopers from the Kansas Highway Patrol, and federal agents all aided in the search.  When the pinging stopped in the area of Interstate 70 and 206th Street, police requested help from other law enforcement agencies with an aircraft but none were immediately available.

The little girl, 3 year old Amaya Vestor was found safe near the abandoned vehicle around 8pm in a rural area of Tonganoxie after a local television station’s helicopter spotted the stolen car in Leavenworth County.  Responding to the initial reports of a child abduction and stolen vehicle, SkyTracker headed to Leavenworth County to track down the location from the cell phone ping.  SkyTracker pilot Captain Gregg Bourdon and photographer James Moore scanned the area and noticed an abandoned, silver vehicle matching the description of the car stolen.  A quick call back to the station to update the newsroom, and 41 Action News Assignment Editor Steve Kaut alerted law enforcement.

A sheriff deputy came right under the helicopter and made his way down the road until he could see the child get out of the car.   SkyTracker captured the reunion from 2,000 feet in the air.  The male suspect, Tyler Letzig-reportedly was apprehended Thursday by authorities in Leavenworth County. The female suspect, Karri Reich-is still on the run.  Tyler Letzig and Karri Anne Reich were each charged Friday with one count of kidnapping, child endangerment and theft.

Update:  Karri Reich turned herself in and was booked into the Wyandotte County Jail Tuesday morning.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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A Tennessee man accused of planning to attack a Muslim community in New York has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.  Chattanooga’s U.S. District Court convicted Christian minister Robert Doggart, a 65-year-old former engineer at the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The FBI began investigating Doggart in February 2015, when agents became aware of a threatening Facebook post by Doggart in which he wrote that Islamberg needed to be “utterly destroyed.”  After an investigation that included wiretaps Doggart was arrested on April 10 by federal marshals and charged with solicitation, intentionally defacing, damaging or destroying religious property and interstate communication of threats, court documents show.

FBI agents discovered Doggart was stockpiling weapons and plotting to travel to upstate New York to kill Muslims using explosives, an M-4 assault rifle and a machete. According to a federal investigation, Doggart saw himself as a religious “warrior” and wanted to kill Muslims to show his commitment to his Christian god.

The investigation showed that he spoke with numerous individuals across the country to plan an attack.  Doggart also traveled to South Carolina, where he met with individuals from an unidentified militia group.

Prosecutors said Doggart made threats against Islamberg near Hancock, N.Y., in phone conversations with supporters in South Carolina and Texas. Jurors listened to many phone calls in which Doggart talked about burning down Islamberg’s mosque with explosives and shooting anyone who opposed his team with assault rifles.

Defense attorneys countered that Doggart exaggerated a number of facts, never had a consistent plan in place, was goaded by a confidential informant into carrying out the attack and only wanted to conduct peaceful recon on Islamberg. Defense attorney Jonathan Turner told jurors in his closing arguments that Doggart was convinced Islamberg’s residents wanted to carry out a terror attack on New York City, in part because of Fox News broadcasts.

Since his arrest in April 2015, Doggart has spent most of the time out on bond until his recent conviction.  After that verdict, Doggart’s defense attorneys had asked Judge Collier to let him stay on house arrest before his May 31 sentencing hearing, citing medical problems.  Collier denied the request saying Doggart appeared obsessed with the community of Islamberg and should stay in custody until sentencing.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye was arrested  on charges related to the bribery scandal that led to her impeachment.   Park faces 13 charges in total, including bribery, abuse of power and the leaking of state secrets. She has not been formally indicted yet but prosecutors can detain her for up to 20 days before formally charging her.

Park was removed from office March 10th, stripping her of presidential immunity after South Korea’s Constitutional Court upheld a decision to impeach her for alleged corruption.

The scandal has dominated the headlines in South Korea since late last year and sparked mass protests, many calling for her impeachment.  The controversy centered around Park’s friend and close adviser, Choi Soon-sil, who is alleged to have had significant and inappropriate influence over the former president. Choi is on trial for abuse of power and fraud.

Among other accusations, Park is accused of helping extort some $38 million from Samsung and a total of $70 million from South Korean companies for the private slush fund of her friend and confidant Choi Soon-sil.  Park is also accused to leaking state secrets to Choi. Lee Jae-yong, the former head of Samsung is also being held in connection to the same corruption scandal. Lee is accused of approving the millions in bribes to Choi.

The former president continued to deny all wrongdoing during a 14-hour interrogation last week, leading prosecutors to ask for a warrant for her arrest. They said they were concerned Park would destroy evidence if she remained at large.  The 65-year-old former president was taken to a detention center outside Seoul, the same detention center where Choi Soon-Sil and  Lee Jae-yong, the de facto head of Samsung are both being held. If convicted, Park could face up to 10 years in prison.

Park becomes the third former president in South Korean history to face the possibility of a prison sentence. Two other former leaders, Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, were charged with improperly collecting millions from businesses while in office.  Both were later pardoned after short jail stints.

Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office released a statement regarding the arrest.  “The suspect abused the mighty power and position as President to take bribes from companies and infringed upon the freedom of corporate management and leaked important confidential official information.”

Park Geun-hye was the nation’s first female president and the daughter of the former president Park Chung-hee.  Park’s mother was killed in 1974 in an assassination attempt that targeted her husband.  Park was regarded as First Lady after her mother’s death.  Park’s father, Chung-hee, was gunned down by his own intelligence chief in 1979.  After her father’s killing, Park Geun-hye left the presidential Blue House and secluded herself from the public eye.  She entered politics in the late 1990s — when public nostalgia for her father emerged after the country’s economy was hit hard by the Asian financial crisis.

Three teenagers were killed in a deadly home invasion in Broken Arrow, a suburb of Tulsa, when the home-owners son, 23 year old Zach Peters shot them with an   AR-15 rifle.  The teens, who broke in through a back door, were later identified as 19-year-old Maxwell Cook, 17-year-old Jacob Redfearn and 16-year-old Jaykob Woodriff.  All three were dressed in black and wearing masks and gloves.  One of the alleged suspects was found to have a knife, while another was carrying brass knuckles.

No charges have been filed against Zach Peters and Wagoner County Sheriff’s Deputy Nick Mahoney said “Preliminary investigation looks like it’s self-defense,” but cautioned that the investigation was still ongoing.  Oklahoma is one of 24 states which have laws also known as “stand your ground” laws-allowing citizens to shoot someone if they believe the person threatens their safety, according to the National Council of State Legislatures.

The getaway driver, Elizabeth Rodriguez, a 21 year old mother of three, has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree burglary.  She has been jailed without bond since turning herself in.  Oklahoma law allows a person to be charged with murder if they take part in a crime in which people are killed, even if the person does not take part in the slaying.

Rodriguez, who was in a relationship with Cook, one of the suspects killed, admits to planning the burglary and driving the teens to the home on two occasions that same day.  The teens first broke into and stole items from a garage apartment earlier in the day but returned to gain entry into the main house.  It does not appear that the residents and intruders knew each other but Rodriguez told authorities she knew the homeowner Zach Peters, had knowledge of the house and chose his house because she believed he had money.

The suspects kicked in a back door and encountered Peters, who shot all three after a brief exchange of words.  Peters’ father was also in the house at the time but was not involved in the shooting.  Rodriguez, who had been waiting in her car in the driveway, fled the scene when she heard shots fired.  She turned herself in shortly after seeing a news report of the shooting on TV so the families of the deceased could be notified.

During a jailhouse interview with Inside Edition, Rodriguez said that she and the teens had committed several car-jacking and home invasions prior to the fatal home invasion in Broken Arrow.  She stated that she waited in her car after hearing the shots and saw the youngest of the suspects killed, Jake Woodruff stumble to the driveway, and slide across the hood of her car before collapsing on the ground.  She then sped out of the driveway, leaving him on the ground.

Immediately after the shooting, Peters barricaded himself in his bedroom and called 911.  In the 911 call, Peters tells the operator that he shot two intruders and that another had gotten away.  When asked, he tells the operator that the suspects were shot in the upper body and asks them to send help fast as one is badly wounded, though he can still hear one talking.

When police arrived, two of the suspects were found deceased in the kitchen and the third had succumbed to his wounds in the driveway.  Police stated that Peters appeared to be in shock and repeatedly asked if the suspects were going to be ok.

The U.S.-backed Iraqi military’s ground campaign against ISIS to retake west Mosul was mistakenly reported as being halted after details emerged about U.S.-led coalition airstrikes on March 17th killed over 200 people in a single day. The U.S.-led coalition has admitted launching the airstrikes that targeted a crowded section of the Mosul al-Jadida neighborhood.  The March 17 strikes appear to be among the deadliest U.S. airstrikes in the region since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Amnesty International has accused Iraqi officials of advising residents not to flee amid the airstrikes and ground offensive.  Amnesty claims officials dropped leaflets and broadcast over the radio that residents should stay in their houses. Amnesty said, “The fact that Iraqi authorities repeatedly advised civilians to remain at home instead of fleeing the area, indicates that coalition forces should have known that these strikes were likely to result in a significant numbers of civilian casualties.

Disproportionate attacks and indiscriminate attacks violate international humanitarian law and can constitute war crimes.”  Many have questioned whether the U.S. military has loosened the rules of engagement that seek to limit civilian casualties. The Pentagon maintains the rules have not changed.

Despite reports of the ground campaign being suspended, heavy fighting continues in west Mosul.  The campaign for West Mosul has involved block-by-block fighting in an urban environment.  ISIS has been using snipers and bombs against the US backed Iraqi military.

Though not confirmed, it’s been reported that Major Gen. Maan al-Saadi, a commander of the Iraqi special-forces, said that the civilian deaths were a result of a coalition airstrike that his men had called in, to take out snipers on the roofs of three houses in a neighborhood called Mosul Jidideh. General Saadi said the special forces were unaware that the houses’ basements were filled with civilians seeking refuge.

Witnesses have said that in an area where apartment blocks were reduced to rubble, at least 50 bodies could be seen, including those of pregnant women and children.

The Pentagon announced that the incident was under investigation and a day later confirmed that the coalition had targeted Islamic State fighters and equipment in the area on March 17, “at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties”.  The military is investigating at least a dozen other reports of civilian casualties in Mosul.

Iraqi Vice-President Osama Nujaifi, a Mosul native, has called the strike a “humanitarian catastrophe” that killed hundreds. He blamed the US-led coalition and federal police for using excessive force and called for an emergency session of Parliament to address the incident.

Prior to this incident, the Pentagon had said that there have been 220 civilian deaths since the campaign against the Islamic State began in 2014, but independent monitoring groups say that there have been over 2700.