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3 days ago · by · Comments Off on Thirty-Four Killed in Labor Day Boat Fire

Thirty-Four Killed in Labor Day Boat Fire

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The U.S. Coast Guard has recovered all but one body after a commercial diving boat named the Conception, caught fire in the early hours of Monday morning off the coast of Santa Cruz Island in Southern California. The only survivors were five crew members of the 75-foot vessel who were sleeping on or above deck.  All 33 passengers and one crew member sleeping below deck at the time of the fire were killed in horrific disaster.  Authorities have yet to determine the cause of the fire.

The boat and company, Truth Aquatics Inc., are well-known in the tight-knit Southern California diving community, which is now reeling from the horrific maritime tragedy that killed teenagers, families, veteran divers, and one crew member, who were wrapping up a three-day scuba diving trip.  Divers were inspecting the ship’s wreckage with plans to raise it from the ocean floor, but that process may be complicated by forecast high winds in the coming days.

The surviving crew members told a harrowing story of their frantic attempts to save the passengers trapped below deck in a bunk room already engulfed in flames.  One member of the crew told of hearing a noise from his bunk on the wheelhouse deck of the Conception and that when he opened the door of the wheelhouse, he saw flames erupting from the galley area but never heard smoke alarms.  He told investigators he tried to get down a ladder but flames had engulfed the ladder.

Scrambling, the other crew members jumped from the bridge of the boat to the main deck. One person broke their leg doing so. They then rushed to the galley’s double doors to try and reach the passengers below, but the fire was already too intense.

At around 3:15 a.m., the captain made a frantic mayday call to authorities, telling them that the boat was engulfed, 33 people couldn’t escape, and “there’s no escape hatch for any of the people on board.”  At that point, due to heat, flames, and smoke, the crew had to jump from the boat.  Two crew members swam to the back of the Conception to get the inflatable skiff, then collected the others and made it to a nearby fishing boat, the Grape Escape.

Shirley Hansen, owner of the Grape Escape, said that she and her husband awoke at 3:30 a.m. to “horrific pounding” and a group of distraught, wet men, some injured and just in their underwear.  Once on the Hansen’s boat, the men tried to call 911 for rescue and two crew members then took the dinghy boat back to the Conception to try and rescue any survivors but there were none.  The Hansen’s said you could hear explosions from the engulfed diving boat every couple of minutes.

Officials have been looking at the dive boat’s maintenance and inspection records, which the Coast Guard said were up to date, and trying to understand if the 34 victims who had been sleeping in rows of narrow bunks even had a chance to escape.  Officials are using advanced DNA technology to identify the victims.  None of the names of the dead, who ranged in age from 17 to 60, have been publicly released by authorities but friends and family have confirmed who was on the boat.  Among the victims were a family of five, a teacher and his daughter, and a diving instructor and marine biologist.

 

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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Newark NJ Water Crisis

Newark NJ Water Crisis

 

 

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Newark, New Jersey’s water crisis is growing worse as authorities temporarily halted their distribution of bottled water to families whose tap water is contaminated with lead.  The Environmental Protection Agency told city officials to distribute bottled water “as soon as possible,” after it determined that water filters were ineffective at safely filtering lead from the water supply of thousands of homes. State and local officials began offering free bottled water to 15,000 Newark households, and hundreds of people queued in long lines in the summer heat for their allotment.  Officials stopped handing out the water after discovering many of the bottles had exceeded their best-by date.

The levels of lead in Newark, New Jersey’s drinking water are some of the highest recently recorded by a large water system in the United States.  City and state officials have been violating the Safe Drinking Water Act in several ways, such as failing to treat its water to prevent lead from flaking off from pipes into residents’ drinking water and neglecting to notify people about the elevated levels and the health risks.  For years, the city has had the greatest number of lead-poisoned children in New Jersey. This likely stems from a variety of exposures to lead, including from contaminated tap water and other sources.

One way lead particles get into water is through corrosion in pipes and it’s believed to be the cause in Newark.  The metal in lead service plumbing lines starts to tear away and mix with the water passing through. This is often apparent in older pipes; in some affected Newark neighborhoods, pipes are over 100 years old.  Citywide tests conducted in June 2017 showed that more than 10% of homes across Newark had twice the amount of lead that is considered safe according to federal law.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental and health advocacy group, sent a letter to officials in Newark later that year saying that they had failed to address the lead contamination issue.  After the city failed two more citywide lead tests in December 2017 and June 2018, the city announced in October that year that it would provide over 40,000 water filters to residents.  After the city then failed a fourth consecutive lead test in December 2018, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka wrote an open letter to the President asking for federal help to fix the water system in the city.

The city failed another lead test in June 2019 and in August, after testing three homes that were using water filters provided by the city, officials found that two of those homes still had elevated levels of lead in them.  After the results of their water filter tests, city officials have begun handing out packages of bottled water to Newark residents, in accordance with guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

There is no safe level of lead exposure and pregnant women and children are most at risk.  Even low lead levels are associated with serious, irreversible damage to developing brains and nervous systems. Lead exposure is also linked to fertility issues, cardiovascular and kidney problems, cognitive dysfunction, and elevated blood pressure in otherwise healthy adults.

 

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Capital One Data Breach

Capital One Data Breach

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Capital One says a hacker exposed the personal data of its customers, including about 140,000 Social Security numbers and tens of thousands of bank account numbers. Tens of millions of credit card applications were also stolen.  The hack comes a week after the settlement reached between Equifax and the Federal Trade Commission concerning a hack in 2017 that affected 147 million customers.

The FBI arrested Seattle software engineer Paige Thompson over the breach and charged her with computer fraud and abuse. Thompson’s online activity led investigators to her, as she allegedly boasted about the hack on social networking sites.  Thompson was allegedly able to find an opening in Capital One’s systems and exploit a weakness in some misconfigured networks, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of hundreds of Ms. Thompson’s online messages and interviews with people familiar with the investigation.

Security professionals for years have warned about that gap, which the messages and interviews suggest she used to trick a system in the cloud to uncover the sensitive credentials she needed to access the vast number of customer records.  Once she found the Capital One data, she was able to download it, the people familiar with the investigation said. All, apparently, without triggering any alerts.

In online messages in accounts that prosecutors have said were Thompson’s, she claimed to have also applied those techniques to access a trove of online data from other organizations. The messages were posted in online forums.  Her lawyer didn’t respond to requests for comment and she remains in custody until a bail hearing scheduled for Aug. 15.

The data breach to Capital One servers on March 22nd and 23rd exposed the personal information of nearly 106 million of the bank’s customers and applicants. The breach resulted in the hacker gaining access to personal information related to credit card applications from 2005 to early 2019 for consumers, applicants and small businesses. Capital One detected the breach on July 19. Among the personal data exposed were names, addresses, dates of birth, credit scores, transaction data, Social Security numbers and linked bank account numbers.

About 140,000 Social Security numbers and 80,000 linked bank account numbers were exposed, Capital One said. And for Canadian credit card customers and applicants, approximately 1 million Social Insurance Numbers. Capital One said, however, that no credit card account numbers or login credentials were revealed in the hack.  Capital One said it will notify customers and credit card applicants whose data was exposed in the breach.

 

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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on ChristChurch Shooter Pleads Not Guilty

ChristChurch Shooter Pleads Not Guilty

 

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The New Zealand man accused of massacring Muslim worshipers in the city of Christchurch in March pleaded not guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and engaging in a terrorist act. The 28-year-old Australian-born Brenton Tarrant, is an avowed white supremacist who emailed out a racist manifesto minutes before he opened fire with an assault rifle at two mosques, live-streaming his massacre on Facebook.

He live streamed 17 minutes of video which included footage of himself inside the first mosque, going room-to-room, victim to victim, shooting the wounded from close range as they struggled to crawl away and indiscriminately firing into piles of bodies.  In the 6 minutes Tarrant was inside, forty-one people were killed at the Al Noor Mosque.  The live streamed footage also showed the gunman casually talking and laughing as he walked out of the mosque where he shot at people near the area before driving away at high speed, heading for the Linwood Islamic Centre, about 3 miles away.  Another 7 people were killed at the Linwood Mosque, an eighth victim later died in the hospital. Tarrant was apprehended as he fled the Linwood Mosque when two police officers ran his car off the road.

According to his manifesto, he started planning a revenge attack about two years prior to the attack and chose his targets three months in advance.  His manifesto expressed several anti-immigrant sentiments including hate speech against migrants, white supremacist rhetoric, and calls for non-European immigrants such as Roma, Indians, Turkish people, Semitic people and others allegedly “invading his land” to be removed.  He described himself as an ethno-nationalist and referred to revenge for European civilians who were casualties in Islamic terrorist attacks within Europe as motivation for his attack.  He repeatedly mentioned revenge for Ebba Åkerlund, a victim in the 2017 Stockholm truck attack.

Tarrant was judged fit to stand trial after an assessment of his mental state. His pleas of not guilty raise the prospect of a lengthy trial that could give him a platform to air the white supremacist views that allegedly motivated the attack. Tarrant’s trial has been set for May of 2020. He was not in court in person in Christchurch; instead he appeared via a video link from a maximum-security prison where he’s being held in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city.  New Zealand abolished the death penalty in 1989 and has not executed anyone since 1957. If found guilty, Tarrant faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Eighty survivors and family members of victims watched the proceedings. After the hearing, Abdul Aziz, a survivor of the attack said “He’s a coward and he will lose.” Aziz was at Linwood Mosque during the shootings and has been hailed a hero after confronting the gunmen-ultimately stopping him from claiming as many lives at the second mosque as he did at the first.   After hearing shots outside, Aziz ran outside and grabbed the first thing he could find, a credit card machine, which he threw at the gunmen.  The gunmen shot at him but they played cat and mouse between cars.  Then Aziz grabbed a gun that had been discarded by the attacker tried to fire at Tarrant but the gun was empty.  As Tarrant ran back to his car Aziz threw the gun at his car, shattering his windshield.  Tarrant yelled that he was going to kill them all but instead drove off and was apprehended by police minutes later.

 

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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on Oregon Man Charged With Murder in Disappearance of Young Mother & Son

Oregon Man Charged With Murder in Disappearance of Young Mother & Son

 

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An Oregon man, Michael John Wolfe, 52, was arrested and charged in the presumed kidnapping and murder of a 25-year-old woman and her 3-year-old son.  Karissa Fretwell and the pair’s son, William “Billy” Fretwell were reported missing by relatives on May 17, four days after they were last seen or heard from. Wolfe was charged with two counts of aggravated murder and two counts of kidnapping while police continue to search for Karissa and Billy.

Fretwell’s vehicle is reportedly still parked on the street in front of her apartment with a child’s car seat is in the back.  Karissa Fretwell is described as a white female who is 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs about 135 pounds. She has blue eyes and naturally blond hair that is dyed red.  Billy Fretwell is described as a white male who is about 3 feet tall and weighs about 30 pounds. He has blond hair and blue eyes.  Police have been searching a rural Yamhill County property in the Hopewell area and Wolfe’s Gaston home he has shared with his wife for 10 years, as part of the investigation.

Wolfe, who is married to another woman, was established as Billy’s biological father through a DNA test in 2018 after Fretwell filed a petition to establish the boy’s paternity.  Wolfe and Fretwell had an affair while working together at a local steel mill and the two were locked in a custody battle.  Court documents state Fretwell and Wolfe were in court as recently as April, and Wolfe was ordered to pay over $900 a month in child support and provide health insurance coverage for Billy.  The court documents state Fretwell believed Wolfe wouldn’t pay child support without a court order.

Two months prior to Fretwell’s disappearance, her neighbor said he heard fighting taking place in her apartment. Neighbor Robert Allen said “We heard a man and woman arguing incredibly loud. The man was swearing a lot and there was a kid crying in the background, and the woman was yelling at him to get out of her apartment.”

A close friend of Karissa’s, Bethany Brown, told reporters she felt some relief that Wolfe is behind bars.  “How could he do that to her and him? Little Billy, that’s his son! God, it hurts,” she said. “She was a good mom. She was just trying to make it through life.  “I hope he rots in prison for the rest of his life,” she said.  Brown said Wolfe was apparently trying to hide the affair.  “He’s married and has another kid and he didn’t want anything to do with Karissa or Billy. He didn’t want his wife finding out about the affair and she did find out, and that’s when everything went sour.  He told her ‘Don’t ruin my marriage,’ and, ‘I can’t afford this $1,100 amount in child support,'” Brown said.

Another friend, Mykeal Moats said Fretwell met Wolfe when she was living in McMinnville and was a delivery driver for a sandwich shop. She made deliveries to Cascade Steel Rolling Mills in McMinnville, where Wolfe worked. Moats said Fretwell subsequently got a security job at the industrial plant but was no longer working there.   Another friend, Bethany Brown, said Karissa had told her she found out she was pregnant three days after finding out he was married and that Wolfe had cosigned on an apartment for her provided he have a key.  Karissa told her she would come home to find him in her apartment which led her to move into a new apartment.  Moats said that Wolfe would not stop calling Karissa or showing up at her work.  She couldn’t get away from him.” Moats said.

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4 months ago · by · Comments Off on Body Of Missing Utah 5 Year Old Found, Uncle Charged

Body Of Missing Utah 5 Year Old Found, Uncle Charged

 

 

 

 

Utah police believe they have found the body of missing 5 year old Elizabeth Shelley just days after her uncle Alex Whipple was charged with aggravated murder.  Elizabeth Shelley’s body was found in a wooded area a quarter mile away from her home in Logan.  Court documents state Whipple, 21, has been charged with aggravated murder, child kidnapping, two counts of obstruction of justice and abuse or desecration of a human body.

Elizabeth’s mother reported her missing from her home on the west side of Logan on Saturday at approximately 10 a.m.  Her mother, Jessica, said she and her live-in boyfriend, Detrich Black, last saw Shelley sleeping in her bed at approximately 1 a.m. when they checked on her before going to bed.  Jessica stated that she had been drinking alcohol with Whipple and Detrich on Friday at approximately 10 p.m. She had invited her brother over via Facebook messenger. Elizabeth and her sister were already in bed when Whipple arrived at the residence. Jessica went to sleep around midnight and told Whipple that he could stay on the couch, court documents state.

At approximately 9:30 a.m., Jessica woke up and found the front door wide open. She recalled both Elizabeth and her brother, Whipple, were missing from the home.  Court documents state Whipple left his cellphone and skateboard at the residence.  The couple briefly looked for Whipple and Elizabeth outside before calling the police.  The couple described her as wearing a red tank top and teal skirt to police and volunteers who began searching the area.

At approximately 3 p.m., Whipple was located in a remote area near the home.  In his possession, police found a baseball bat, a pipe commonly used for narcotics, personal items and a Pabst Blue Ribbon 24-ounce beer can. He was transported to the Logan City Police Department for questioning.  At the station, handcuffs were removed from Whipple and he was left alone in the room.  Officers said he started licking his hands to try and wipe them clean.  Police placed the handcuffs back on him to preserve evidence that may be on Whipple’s hands.

During an interview with police, Whipple initially denied going over to Jessica’s house on Friday night and changed his story several times.  Court documents state Whipple said he drank beer at Jessica’s house and later left the residence to go on a walk because he could tell his sister and her boyfriend were “horny.” He told police he didn’t want to hear anything, so he went on a walk to enjoy the scenery just before sunrise. He claimed he had not seen Elizabeth while he was at her house.  While he initially did not admit to any involvement in his niece’s disappearance, he told officers that when he drinks he sometimes blacks out and does “criminal things”.

When police asked why he left his cellphone and skateboard and why he left the door open, Whipple claimed he didn’t know and that he didn’t need his personal items.  During the interview, investigators noticed dark colored stains on Whipple’s pants that were consistent with dried blood and several cuts on his dirty fingers.  While Whipple was being questioned, investigators found a bloody knife that matched one missing from the Shelley home in a nearby parking lot, a PVC pipe with a red substance on it and a partial palm print, along with a teal skirt that was hastily buried under dirt and bark.

Court documents show that blood found on the knife, Whipple’s watch and a hooded sweatshirt all had positive matches to Elizabeth’s DNA profile. The beer can tested positive for Whipple’s DNA and the palm print on the PVC pipe was determined to be Whipple’s.  When confronted with this evidence, Whipple admitted to the killing and drew a map for police to located her body in exchange for taking the death penalty off the table.

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5 months ago · by · Comments Off on Stop & Shop Strike Ends

Stop & Shop Strike Ends

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After more than three months of negotiations and 11 days on strike, over 30,000 Stop & Shop workers have reached a tentative agreement with the supermarket chain that they said met their demands for better pay, health care coverage and other benefits.  The employees, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union at more than 240 Stop & Shops across Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, returned to work on April 22 after reaching the deal on Sunday.

During an interview, union spokeswoman Jessica Raimundo said “The new contract does satisfy the different points of contention.  The agreement preserves health care and retirement benefits, provides wage increases, and maintains time-and-a-half pay on Sunday for current members.  Under this proposed contract, our members will be able to focus on continuing to help customers in our communities.”   Details of the proposed three-year agreement will not be made public until the 31,000 union members across five locals ratify the contract.

A previous three-year contract expired on Feb. 23, and workers had protested what they considered cuts in the new contract to health care, take-home pay and other benefits. Stop & Shop continued negotiations with the union throughout the strike.  During negotiations, Stop & Shop employees argued that the chain’s parent company, Ahold Delhaize, reported profits of more than $2 billion to its shareholders last year, and could afford to compensate workers better.

Stop & Shop is a subsidiary of Dutch supermarket giant Ahold Delhaize, with 415 stores across the Northeast. Workers at company stores in New York and New Jersey were not on strike.  Stop & Shop is one of the last remaining union shops in the industry and the largest grocery store chain in New England.

Workers on strike included cashiers, stockers, bakers, deli clerks and butchers.  When the strike began, Stop & Shops across the three states set in motion a contingency plan to keep the stores open. The chain sent out support staff members and temporary replacement workers to several supermarkets but some stores were forced to close during the strike.  The company limited its offerings amid the strikes. Stop & Shop President Mark McGowan said in a letter April 16 that most stores would remain open for 12 hours, seven days a week. However, he said bakery, customer service, deli, seafood counters and gas stations would not be operational.

Stop & Shop released a statement following the end of the strike and said it was thankful for its customers’ patience.  “The tentative three-year agreements, which are subject to ratification votes by members of each of the union locals, include: increased pay for all associates; continued excellent health coverage for eligible associates; and ongoing defined pension benefits for all eligible associates.  Our associates’ top priority will be restocking our stores so we can return to taking care of our customers and communities and providing them with the services they deserve. We deeply appreciate the patience and understanding of our customers during this time, and we look forward to welcoming them back to Stop & Shop.”

 

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6 months ago · by · Comments Off on Parkland Shooting Survivor Commits Suicide

Parkland Shooting Survivor Commits Suicide

 

 

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On the day Nicholas Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School he killed 17 classmates and teachers and wounded 17 others.  Many students escaped with their lives but have emotional wounds that they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives.  For Sydney Aiello, 19, the grief of losing her classmates and teachers, including close friend Meadow Pollack, weighed heavily on her. A little over a year after the shooting took place, she took her own life on March 17th.  Heather Galvez of the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office said Aiello died from a gunshot wound to the head.  Aiello’s funeral was held Friday and she was buried at Temple Beth El Memorial Gardens in Davie, Fla.  She is survived by her parents, Cara and Joseph, and older brother Nick.

Aiello was a senior and on the high-school campus the day of the mass shooting but was not in the freshman building where the shooting occurred.  Many said she was never the same after the February 14th shooting claimed the lives of her classmates.  After graduating, she enrolled at Florida Atlantic University but her mother, Cara Aiello said she struggled to attend class because she was afraid to be back in a classroom.  She said her daughter was consumed with survivor’s guilt and recently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder from the massacre.  She said Sydney couldn’t shake the devastating trauma of the mass shooting last year and the death of her longtime friend, Meadow Pollack.  She seemed sad in recent days, her mom said, but never asked for help before taking her own life.  Cara Aiello said that she hopes Sydney’s story can help save others who are struggling with their mental health in the aftermath of the shooting.

The horrific circumstances of Meadow Pollack’s death show the unrelenting savagery of shooter Nicolas Cruz that day and would understandably haunt anyone who loved her.  Meadow was shot 4 times in the hallway on the third floor.  She crawled down the hallway to another student, Cara Loughran and covered her to shield her from the bullets.  Cruz pointed his assault rifle at Meadow’s back and shot her four more times.  The bullets pierced through Meadow and into Cara beneath her, killing both students.   Cruz then shot Meadow once in the head.

Pollack’s father, Andrew Pollack, who has become an outspoken activist for more security at schools across the country since his daughter death, retweeted a photo of Sydney Aiello and his daughter posing together in fancy gowns with the heartbreaking caption, “A little more than a year after this photo was taken, both are gone.”  Pollack said his heart goes out to her “poor, poor parents.  It’s terrible what happened. Meadow and Sydney were friends for a long, long time,” he said. “Killing yourself is not the answer.”  Pollack added “If anyone feels like that they have no one that can understand their pain, if there’s any student out there that’s having a hard time, please reach out to me on Twitter. I understand you. You aren’t alone.”

Meadow Pollack’s brother, Hunter, also weighed in on Aiello’s death on Twitter.  “Beautiful Sydney with such a bright future was taken from us way too soon,” he wrote.  Ryan Petty, who also lost his daughter Alaina in the Parkland shooting, stressed the importance of suicide prevention for Stoneman Douglas students.  “It breaks my heart that we’ve lost yet another student from Stoneman Douglas.  My advice to parents is to ask questions, don’t wait.”

Cruz, 20, has pled not guilty and his lawyers have said he’ll plead guilty in return for life in prison but prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.  His trial is tentatively scheduled for next year.

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6 months ago · by · Comments Off on Hollywood Actresses and Wealthy CEOs Indicted in College Admissions Scandal

Hollywood Actresses and Wealthy CEOs Indicted in College Admissions Scandal

 

 

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Hollywood actresses and a slew of chief executives are among 50 wealthy people charged in the largest college cheating scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice. Those indicted in the investigation, dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues,” allegedly paid bribes of up to $6.5 million to get their children into elite colleges, including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and the University of Southern California, federal prosecutors said.

At a news conference, Andrew Lelling, the U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts said “This case is about the widening corruption of elite college admissions through the steady application of wealth combined with fraud. There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy and, I’ll add, there will not be a separate criminal justice system either.” Lelling said “The parents charged in the case are a catalog of wealth and privilege. They include, for example, the CEOs of private and public companies, successful securities and real estate investors, two well-known actresses, a famous fashion designer and the co-chairman of a global law firm.”

The ringleader of the scam is William Singer, owner of a college counseling service called Key Worldwide Foundation and a company called Edge College & Career Network. Singer allegedly accepted bribes totaling $25 million from parents between 2011 and 2018 “to guarantee their children’s admission to elite schools.” Singer, of Newport Beach, California, pleaded guilty in a Boston federal court on charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice.
Steven Masera, 69, the accountant and financial officer for the Edge College & Career Network and the Key Worldwide Foundation, was also indicted. Mark Riddell, a private school counselor in Bradenton, Florida, and Masera allegedly worked closely with Singer in the scam, according to the indictment. According to the indictment, Mikaela Sanford, 32, of Folsom, California, another employee of the Edge College & Career Network and the Key Worldwide Foundation, and David Sidoo, 59, of Vancouver, Canada, were also indicted for allegedly working closely with Singer to facilitate the scam.

Singer would allegedly instruct parents to seek extended time for the children to take entrance exams or obtain medical documentation that their child had a learning disability, according to the indictment. The parents were then told to get the location of the test changed to one of two testing centers, one in Houston and another in West Hollywood, California, where test administrators Niki Williams, 44, of Houston and Igor Dvorskiy, 52, of Sherman Oaks, California, helped carry out the scam, the indictment alleges. Riddell, 36, allegedly took ACT and SAT tests for students whose parents had paid bribes to Singer. Singer typically paid Riddell $10,000 for each student’s test.
Singer also allegedly bribed school coaches to give to his clients’ admissions slots reserved for student athletes in sports including crew and soccer. He went as far as to stage fake photos of his student clients engaging in sports they never played, or to digitally place the faces of his clients onto images found online of athletes.

Others charged in the probe include nine coaches at elite schools, two SAT and ACT exam administrators, one exam proctor, a college administrator and 33 parents, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Robert Zangrillo, 52, of Miami, founder and CEO of the private investment firm Dragon Global; Bill McGlashan, 55, of Mill Valley, California, a businessman and international private equity investor; Gordon Caplan, a New York attorney; and Gregory Abbott, 68, founder and chairman of International Dispensing Corp., a New York food and beverage packaging company, and his wife, Marcia Abbott, 59.
Huffman’s husband, actor William H. Macy, was not indicted, but according to the court document he and Huffman were caught on a recorded conversation with a corroborating witness in the case, allegedly discussing a $15,000 payment to ensure their younger daughter scored high on a college entrance exam. Actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli allegedly paid $500,000 to USC to have their two daughters falsely designated as crew recruits, though neither daughter ever participated in the sport.

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6 months ago · by · Comments Off on Christchurch Mosque Shootings

Christchurch Mosque Shootings

 

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At least 49 people were killed and 48 seriously injured in mass shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on March 15, 2019.  The attack occurred around lunchtime when the mosques were full of worshipers. Footage of the massacre was streamed live online, and a rambling 87 page manifesto laced with white supremacist references was published just before the shootings unfolded.  Police also neutralized two improvised explosive devices attached to one vehicle near the mosque.

The suspected shooter, Brenton Tarrant, 28, live-streamed 17 minutes of video which included footage of himself inside the first mosque, going room-to-room, victim to victim, shooting the wounded from close range as they struggled to crawl away.  In the 6 minutes Tarrant was inside, forty-one people were killed at the Al Noor Mosque.  The live streamed footage also showed the gunman casually talking and laughing as he walked out of the mosque where he shot at people near the area before driving away at high speed, heading for the Linwood Islamic Centre, about 3 miles away.  Another 7 people were killed at the Linwood Mosque, an eighth victim later died in the hospital. Tarrant was apprehended as he fled the Linwood Mosque when two police officers ran his car off the road.

Tarrant has been charged with murder and two other men remain in custody, although their link to the attack is unknown.  None of the men in custody have a criminal history.  Tarrant is an Australian-born former personal trainer who is believed to have been radicalized during his travels abroad. According to the Independent, Tarrant met with right-wing extremists while taking a trip to Europe in 2017, and also traveled to Pakistan and North Korea.  Authorities have said that Tarrant had become obsessed with terrorist attacks committed by radical Islamists in Europe in 2016 and 2017.

According to his manifesto, he started planning a revenge attack about two years prior to the attack and chose his targets three months in advance.  The manifesto expresses several anti-immigrant sentiments including hate speech against migrants, white supremacist rhetoric, and calls for non-European immigrants such as Roma, Indians, Turkish people, Semitic people and others allegedly “invading his land” to be removed.  Tarrant describes himself as an ethno-nationalist and refers to revenge for European civilians who were casualties in Islamic terrorist attacks within Europe as motivation for his attack.  He repeatedly mentions revenge for Ebba Åkerlund, a victim in the 2017 Stockholm truck attack.

Prime Minister Ardern called the incident an “act of extreme and unprecedented violence” and said “this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”  She also described it as a well-planned terrorist attack.  Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel stated that she never thought “anything like this” could happen in New Zealand, saying “everyone is shocked”.  Many other politicians and world leaders have condemned the attacks and world leaders attribute the attack to rising Islamophobia.

Prime Minister Ardern announced: “Our gun laws will change, now is the time… People will be seeking change, and I am committed to that.”  Attorney-General David Parker was later quoted as saying that the government will ban semi-automatic guns but later said the government had not yet committed to anything and that regulations around semi-automatic weapons was “one of the issues” the government would consider.

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