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14 hours ago · by · Comments Off on El Chapo Found Guilty

El Chapo Found Guilty

 

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A New York City federal jury rendered a guilty verdict on all 10 federal criminal counts against notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, after a 3-month trial. The counts include conspiracy to launder drug money, international distribution of drugs, the use of firearms and engaging in a criminal enterprise.  The 61 year old faces a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole for the guilty verdict of leading a continuing criminal enterprise, and a sentence of up to life imprisonment on the remaining drug counts.  He will be sentenced on June 25.

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera once headed a criminal enterprise that spanned continents and triggered waves of bloodshed throughout his native Mexico, claiming more than 100,000 lives in drug-related violence.  During the more than 200 hours of testimony at the Federal District Court in Brooklyn, 56 witnesses took to the stand with stories of murder, violence, spying, widespread corruption and even one tale of the drug lord escaping arrest in 2014 by climbing naked through a sewer alongside a former lover.   The kingpin is just as notorious for leading the violent cartel as he is for his extensive measures of escaping arrest and daring prison escapes.  Since Guzmán’s capture in 2016 and extradition one year later, he has been kept in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison with little to no human interaction for as many as 23 hours a day.

Over 2½ months, the partially sequestered and anonymous jury sat through testimony from 56 witnesses about unspeakable torture and ghastly murders, corruption at nearly every level of Mexico’s government, narco-mistresses, gold-plated AK-47s and monogrammed, diamond-encrusted pistols.  Fourteen of those witnesses — mostly admitted drug traffickers and cartel associates — cooperated with prosecutors in hopes of reducing their own prison sentences.  There were also surveillance photos, intercepted phone calls and text messages involving Guzmán, as well as evidence showing extravagant firepower and bricks of cocaine that dropped with the force of potato sacks.

The jury deliberated roughly 34 hours over six days before rendering guilty verdicts on all 10 counts.   Jurors did not look at the defendant, who reportedly pocketed nearly $14 billion in cash proceeds as the decades-long head of the Sinaloa cartel.  Under El Chapo, the Sinaloa cartel smuggled narcotics to wholesale distributors in Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York.  Federal prosecutors said they will seek a forfeiture judgment for billions of dollars constituting the cartel’s illegal drug-trafficking proceeds.

One of Guzmán’s lawyers described him as “extremely upbeat” after the verdict, “He’s a fighter, he’s not done yet by far” defense attorney Michael Lambert said.  After jurors left the room, Guzmán waved and smiled at his wife, Emma Coronel, a former beauty queen and courtroom regular who smiled back and touched her hand to her heart.  Another member of the defense team, Jeffrey Lichtman, said they waged a vigorous defense and are disappointed in the jury’s verdict but they plan to file an appeal on a number of issues.

According to experts, his conviction will not diminish the power and reach of the Sinaloa cartel.  According to researchers, the violent crime group has not been affected despite the arrests of some of the cartel’s top leaders and important associates.    El Chapo created an extraodinary criminal organization that operates in more than 40 countries and was designed to carry on even in his absence.  Once El Chapo started running from authorities, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia, who lead a faction of the cartel, made sure the cartel still functioned, which he still does to this day.

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2 days ago · by · Comments Off on Investigation Reveals 20 Years of Sexual Abuse in Southern Baptist Church

Investigation Reveals 20 Years of Sexual Abuse in Southern Baptist Church

 

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sexual abusesbc.jpgAn investigation led by Robert Downen, a Houston Chronicle reporter, reveals 20 years of sexual abuse allegations within the Southern Baptist Church (SBC).  The joint investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News- includes over 700 victims, including many children—some as young as 3 years old.  With about 15 million members, the SBC is the largest Protestant denomination in the country and the shocking report has prompted calls for investigations into the church and their role in covering up and enabling the abuse.

Three hundred eighty Southern Baptist leaders and volunteers have been accused of rape, abuse and various forms of sexual misconduct.  Around 220 of those have been convicted of sex crimes or were given plea deals.  Of those 220, 90 remain in prison and 100 are registered sex offenders.  The report also found that members of the church pressured some women to get abortions after becoming pregnant as a result of assault, or threatened to shun them from the church.

The investigation comes as other religious bodies, including the Catholic Church, face accusations of widespread sexual abuse of its members, especially children, over decades.  The investigation of the SBC began because of Debbie Vasquez, who was 14 years old when she was first molested by the pastor of her church and at 18 she became pregnant with the pastor’s child.   In 2008, she and others started asking SBC leadership to track sexual predators and take action against congregations that harbored or concealed abusers but the church’s leaders resisted such reforms.  As a result, Lise Olsen, deputy investigations editor at the Chronicle, says the newspaper created its own database of abusers.

Olsen says it was easier for the abuse to stay a secret because of the church’s culture which does not allow women in leadership positions or condone same-sex relationships.  She says many of the victims are either young women who are told it’s a sin to have sex before marriage, even if you’re forced to by your pastor or they’re young men who are being forced into homosexual acts with pastors and other leaders, and then are stigmatized.  These “purity teachings” leave victims feeling un-empowered to come forward, with some victims losing their faith and even becoming suicidal.

Abusers in religious organizations often don’t just groom victims, they groom communities, preparing them to rise up and protect them.  Those who speak out about sexual abuse in authoritarian religious communities are often shamed in an attempt to quiet them with accusations seeking attention or of trying to bring down a godly man.  They may be told they’re selfish — indulging in their own pain when they should be paying attention to the pain they are causing others, including the people who will turn away from the church and spend an eternity in hell because of the poor light they’ve portrayed the church in.

Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear, who was elected last June, responded to the newspapers’ investigation with a series of tweets:  “The abuses described in this @HoustonChron article are pure evil.”

“There can simply be no ambiguity about the church’s responsibility to protect the abused and be a safe place for the vulnerable. The safety of the victims matters more than the reputation of Southern Baptists.  As a denomination, now is a time to mourn and repent. Changes are coming. They must. We cannot just promise to ‘do better’ and expect that to be enough. “It’s time for pervasive change, God demands it. Survivors deserve it. We must change how we prepare before abuse (prevention), respond during disclosure (full cooperation with legal authorities), and act after instances of abuse (holistic care).”

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4 days ago · by · Comments Off on Measles Outbreak In Pacific Northwest

Measles Outbreak In Pacific Northwest

 

 

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As the measles outbreak continues into 2019, the World Health Organization has said that people who choose not to get themselves or their children vaccinated constitute a global health threat.  More than 270 people across the country, mostly small children, have been infected by the highly contagious and sometimes deadly pathogen since last fall with 100 of those cases being confirmed since the start of 2019.  Measles is a highly contagious disease that kills over 100,000 children worldwide each year and the virus had been eliminated in the US by the year 2000, thanks to the measles vaccine but as the Anti-Vax movement has grown, the disease has resurfaced in the US.

Many are blaming policy failure and calling for a re-examination of laws that allow people to opt out of the vaccines on behalf of their children.  Every state allows medical exemptions for people who might be harmed by a vaccine, such as those with weakened immune systems because of an illness or allergies to vaccine ingredients.  While all 50 states have legislation requiring vaccines for students entering school, almost every state allows exemptions for people with religious beliefs against immunizations.

Most of the people with measles right now weren’t immunized from the virus. They all live in places that permit a variety of nonmedical — religious or philosophical — exemptions from vaccines.  Eighteen states grant philosophical exemptions for those opposed to vaccines because of personal or moral beliefs.  Mississippi, California, and West Virginia have the strictest vaccine laws in the nation, allowing only medical exemptions.  Right now, in 45 states, even without an exemption, kids can be granted “conditional entrance” to school on the promise that they will be vaccinated, but schools don’t always bother to follow up on vaccination records.

In Washington State, where at least 55 cases were confirmed since the start of 2019, Governor Jay Inslee declared a public health emergency and lawmakers are considering changes to vaccination laws.  Public health officials say the recent rise in measles cases in the Pacific Northwest is due to laws in Washington and Oregon that allow parents to easily opt out of vaccinating their children. One-quarter of kindergarten students in Clark County, which is at the heart of the recent outbreak, did not receive all their recommended vaccinations.

In Oregon, where the Portland area has experienced a recent outbreak, the percentage of children unvaccinated for measles varies widely from school to school.  Most schools are at or near the 93% threshold protection levels that epidemiologists say keep the virus at bay.   Still, at some Portland schools, 10 to 20 percent or more of their students are unvaccinated for nonmedical reasons.  Around 7.5 percent of Oregon kindergartners are unvaccinated, according to the Oregon Health Authority — the highest rate in the country.  At least seven schools in the Portland area have measles vaccination rates below 80 percent, lower than some developing countries like Guatemala.  The rate of unvaccinated children is even higher in specialty and private schools with some having a low rate of only 40% of students vaccinated.  Oregon lawmakers are working on legislation that would eliminate a provision of Oregon law that allows parents to forego vaccinations for their kids because of religious or philosophical reasons.

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6 days ago · by · Comments Off on No Charges In Death Of EJ Bradford

No Charges In Death Of EJ Bradford

 

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An Alabama officer will not be charged in the fatal Thanksgiving Day shooting of 21 year old E.J. Bradford at a Birmingham area mall.  State Attorney General Steve Marshall announced that his investigation found the officer did not break the law and will not be charged in the death of Emantic “E.J.” Bradford Jr.  The facts of the case demonstrate that the officer “reasonably exercised his official powers, duties, or functions when he shot E. J. Bradford on the night of Nov. 22, 2018,” the report states.

Bradford’s shooting happened as officers were responding to a report of gunfire at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover.  At 9:52 pm on November 22, 2018, an altercation involving four people occurred near the Footaction and JCPenney stores on the second level of the mall.  One of the men, Erron Brown, reportedly drew a weapon and shot 18-year-old Brian Wilson twice before fleeing the area.  Stray gunfire also hit a 12-year-oil Molly Davis.

According to the Alabama State Attorney General’s report, approximately five seconds after the shooting, two officers from the Hoover Police Department approached Bradford, who was “running toward the initial shooter and victim with a firearm visibly in hand.”  One of the officers fired shots at Bradford from behind, striking him 3 times in the head, neck and lower back.  The attorney general’s report says the officer mistakenly believed Bradford had fired the earlier shots and was justified in shooting him. The officer saw Bradford running toward the shooting scene with a gun and believed he was trying to kill the shooting victim, according to the report.

Police initially described Bradford as the gunman and said officers acted heroically to “take out the threat,” but later corrected themselves and identified Erron Brown as the alleged shooter.  Brown, 20, was arrested in Georgia a week later and charged in the shooting of Brian Wilson and Molly Davis.  The attorney general, whose office took over the investigation from the local district attorney in Hoover, also released surveillance video and other documents from the investigation.

E.J. Bradford had enlisted in the army in 2017 and completed basic training, but was administratively separated in August 2018.   He was a licensed gun owner and was reportedly attempting to protect the mall patrons when he was shot.  Bradford’s killing sparked weeks of protest last year and protests erupted again after the announcement that the officer would not be charged.  Bradford’s father called the attorney general “a coward” for the report’s finding.  “My son was murdered. And you think I’m going to let it go?,” Emantic Sr. told reporters Tuesday. “That was a homicide … You killed my son. You are a coward. You’re a coward too, Steve Marshall.”

Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the Bradford family, said officers stated in the attorney general’s report that they did not give Bradford any verbal warning.  “We don’t have any evidence whatsoever that E.J. ever knew the police officers were there whatsoever.  E.J. went to his grave not knowing who shot him three times in his back.”  Crump said that race played a role in Bradford’s death and that a civil lawsuit claiming wrongful death will be filed.

 

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1 week ago · by · Comments Off on Conditions At Brooklyn Detention Center Spark Protests

Conditions At Brooklyn Detention Center Spark Protests

 

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Protesters in New York City rallied throughout the weekend at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where more than 1,600 prisoners were forced to endure freezing temperatures during last week’s polar vortex, with no heat, no light and no hot water.   For several days, crowds gathered outside the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn to protest reports of freezing and dark conditions inside the jail after it partially lost power nearly a week ago.

Staff members and current and former prisoners at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center testified at a hearing that the heat at the federal detention facility started to fail as early as mid-January.  The hearing came following reports that quickly spread over social media that over 1,600 prisoners were being held without heat, hot meals or electricity, including during last week’s polar vortex.  Many inmates had been on lockdown in cells without electricity or heat during days of bitter cold temperatures.

After the hearing, Judge Analisa Torres visited the MDC herself to inspect conditions at the jail.  After more than a week without heat and power, conditions at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn showed signs of improvement.  Emergency generators were on and heat had been restored to parts of the federal jail, but public officials and lawyers who toured the facility on Sunday February 3rd, told reporters that many cells still did not have heat and some inmates were going without their medication.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler said after touring several floors on Sunday, “It is very apparent that there is a massive failure of caring here, a massive failure of proper supervision, a massive failure of planning.”  Nadler said there was heat in several parts of the building, but many cells remained frigid. He said the warden told him 600 blankets from the city had been distributed.  But council member Lander, who was also on the tour, said he didn’t see any blankets in any of the cells they visited.  It was later revealed that the blankets were never distributed to the inmates.

Nadler said he spoke with the acting director of the Bureau of Prisons, who seemed to be acting with more urgency after the protests began.  The NYCLU is calling on the Bureau of Prisons to allow family and legal visits immediately.  Executive director Donna Lieberman said in a statement “The confrontation between the Bureau of Prisons and family members of inmates at MDC highlights the desperate need to address the dangerous, inhumane and unlawful conditions inside the facility,” “This has gone on for far too long.

The Department of Justice has said it would work with the Bureau of Prisons to prevent future issues.  “The electrical power at the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facility at MDC Brooklyn was restored at approximately 6:30 pm this evening. With the heat and hot water operational, and the restoration of electrical power, the facility can now begin to return to regular operations. In the coming days, the Department will work with the Bureau of Prisons to examine what happened and ensure the facility has the power, heat and backup systems in place to prevent the problem from reoccurring.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is also calling for a full investigation into what is happening at the facility.  Cuomo wrote in a statement “I am calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to immediately investigate the circumstances at the Metropolitan Detention Center. New York State stands ready to provide any support necessary to keep the heat, hot water and electricity running at the Center and augment the investigation into those responsible for this mess.”brooklynprotest.jpg

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1 week ago · by · Comments Off on Rapper 21 Savage Detained By ICE

Rapper 21 Savage Detained By ICE

 

 

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Grammy-nominated rapper 21 Savage, was detained by agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement on February 3, 2019.  ICE says British-born Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, better known by his stage name 21 Savage, overstayed his visa after coming to the U.S. at the age of 12 in 2005.   Lawyers for the rapper say he is being wrongfully detained and that his new visa application is currently pending.

Abraham-Joseph, 27, faces deportation after he was turned over to ICE by cops targeting his cousin, rapper Young Nudy.  Nudy, whose real name is Quantavious Thomas, was stopped by DeKalb County police and agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in a targeted stop.  Abraham-Joseph, happened to be riding with Thomas and has not been charged with any crime in connection with the stop.

ICE alleges that he entered the US legally in July 2005, when he was a minor but subsequently failed to depart under the terms of his nonimmigrant visa.   ICE says Abraham-Joseph became unlawfully present when his visa expired in July 2006.  “Mr. Abraham-Joseph is presently in ICE custody in Georgia and has been placed into removal proceedings before the federal immigration courts,” ICE said in a statement. “ICE will now await the outcome of his case before a federal immigration judge to determine future actions.”

His detention has provoked outrage among his fan base and has shone a spotlight on immigration proceedings.   An attorney for Abraham-Joseph said his representatives are working to secure his release.  “We are working diligently to get Mr. Abraham-Joseph out of detention while we work with the authorities to clear up any misunderstandings.”  His lawyers say that he was “left without legal status through no fault of his own” at the age of 13 and are arguing that his detention is based on “incorrect information about prior criminal charges.  They say that ICE is now refusing to release him on bond of any amount, despite the fact that he has a pending U-Visa application, and that he has relief from removal available to him.”  A U-Visa is available to crime victims who are willing to provide ‘helpful information’ to law enforcement.  His lawyer said that the feds have known his client’s address since he filed for the U-Visa in 2017 and questioned why they took no action until this weekend.

Abraham-Joseph, who has collaborated with some of the music world’s hottest stars, including Drake, Cardi B, Travis Scott and Post Malone, has had numerous encounters with the law and has never sought to hide his status from the authorities, his legal team say.  In 2014 he was convicted of drug possession in Fulton County  In 2016, he called the cops to report that someone had kicked in the door of his 10th Street condo, taking a Glock handgun, a Rolex and other jewelry, a Louis Vuitton bag and a safe containing $345,000.

His lawyers have argued that he is a “role model to the young people in this country, especially in Atlanta, Georgia, and is actively working in the community leading programs to help underprivileged youths in financial literacy.”  He will now likely miss the Grammy’s ceremony, where he is up for record of the year for Rockstar with Post Malone.

 

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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Trial Underway for Insys Execs Kickback Scheme

Trial Underway for Insys Execs Kickback Scheme

 

 

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A trial is underway in Boston against pharmaceutical executives who prosecutors say ran a criminal scheme of bribing doctors to prescribe its’ highly addictive fentanyl spray, Subsys, to patients who didn’t need it. John Kapoor, the founder of Insys Therapeutics and former CEO, and other drug executives are accused of organizing fake speaking events to pay and influence doctors. One of the defendants, Sunrise Lee, allegedly gave a lap dance to a doctor at a company event in order to persuade him to prescribe the drug.
Subsys is a powerful pain killer used to treat cancer pain in terminally ill patients. The drug, which is made from fentanyl, is incredibly powerful, about 100 times more powerful than morphine. More than 900 people have died while using Subsys since it was approved in 2012. Kapoor, was charged by the government in 2017. The indictment against Kapoor and the other former Insys executives allege that they “conspired to mislead and defraud health insurance providers” who did not want to approve payment for Subsys when it was prescribed for patients who did not have a cancer diagnosis. The U.S. Department of Justice said the company executives were able to get around those concerns by setting up the “reimbursement unit,” which was dedicated to obtaining prior authorization directly from insurers and pharmacy benefit managers.
The executives — Sunrise Lee, John Kapoor, Michael Gurry, Richard Simon and Joseph Rowan — deny wrongdoing and have pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy. They have argued that prosecutors are trying to make an example of Insys, a small segment of the pharmaceutical industry they say is unfairly maligned by a government trying to show it is making a dent in the opioid crisis. The government also charged former CEO and company president Michael Babich and Alec Burlakoff, the former vice president of Sales. Burlakoff and Babich have pled guilty to charges tied to the racketeering and conspiracy case and have agreed to cooperate with the government. They are expected to be star witnesses for the government during the trial.
“In exchange for bribes and kickbacks, the practitioners wrote large numbers of prescriptions for the patients, most of whom were not diagnosed with cancer,” the government said in its 2017 announcement. Prosecutors and court documents say, Subsys’s pharmaceutical sales team used a playbook of scandalous incentives to get the drug prescribed. They hired attractive sales reps in their 20s and 30s and encouraged them to stroke doctors’ hands while “begging” them to write prescriptions.
The company offered doctors hefty speaking fees, often for events attended only by buddies and people who worked in their practices. How frequently a doctor participated in the company’s lucrative speaker program was based on how frequently doctors wrote Subsys prescriptions, prosecutors said. Insys made 18,000 payments to doctors in 2016 — a total of more than $2 million that went to headache doctors and back pain specialists.
Prosecutors say Sunrise Lee, a former dancer at a Florida strip club was hired as a sales executive despite having no academic degree and her only management experience was running an escort service. Prosecutors say Lee rose to become Insys Therapeutics’ regional sales director and once gave a doctor a lap dance during one of the speaking events. Holly Brown, the Insys sales rep who recounted the lap dance story to federal jurors, testified that Lee frequently wore low-cut tops and frequently handed out her business card to doctors “ if they wanted to discuss the Fentanyl Spray ‘in private.’ ”

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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Hundreds Still Missing After Dam Collapse in Brazil

Hundreds Still Missing After Dam Collapse in Brazil

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Police have arrested five people over the devastating dam collapse in Minas Gerais, Brazil that killed at least 65 people, with nearly 300 still missing. Three of those arrested work for Vale, the mining company that owned and operated the dam. The other two worked for a German company that carried out inspections on the dam last year.  Attorney General Andre Mendonca said Vale is responsible for the disaster, the second of its kind in three years involving the mining company.

Authorities called the 2015 Mariana dam collapse the worst environmental disaster in the country’s history. That collapse killed 19 people and wreaked havoc on the environment, leading mining company Samarco — a joint venture between Vale and BHP Billiton — to reach a deal in 2016 with the Brazilian government to pay up to $6.2 billion.  In a video over the weekend, Vale chief Fabio Schvartsman called the Brumadinho dam break “inexcusable” and asked the Brazilian public for forgiveness. He said the company will aid victims and noted that Vale put “immense effort” into improving its dams after the disaster in Mariana.

Soon after the most recent collapse, the state judiciary froze more than $260 million from Vale, with a presiding judge citing the company’s responsibility for the disaster. The money will be deposited into a judicial account to compensate for any costs to the state as a result of rescue operations or victim support. Minas Gerais state has fined Vale $99 million for damage caused by the dam break and said the money will be used for repairs.

The Civil Defense of Minas Gerais said 291 people were still missing and 192 people have been rescued from the area.  Authorities say 427 people were in the Córrego do Feijão mine in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais when the dam burst.  Hundreds of people are still missing and the collapse buried most of the mining town-Brumadinho.  The disaster shed light on potential risks at nearly 700 other mining dams in the state of Minas Gerais and drew attention to what some described as a lack of appropriate regulation.

The collapse unleashed a muddy sea of mining debris into the region and the extent of the damage is still being calculated.  Authorities temporarily halted search and rescue and placed 3,000 people under evacuation orders amid fears that another dam nearby was about to rupture. The orders were lifted after authorities determined dam VI was no longer at risk of bursting.  In an effort to find missing people, the Federal Attorney General’s Office obtained an injunction in the Federal Court of Minas Gerais ruling that mobile carriers should provide data from the cell phone signals of people who were in the region where the dam broke.

Officials say they expect to contain the sludgy mine waste known as tailings within two days. The Brazilian National Water Agency said they are monitoring the tailings and coordinating plans for supplying water to the affected region.  Officials said during a press conference that the priority now is assisting victims and their families. After that, officials said they’d focus on environmental damage and the mining process.

Several videos circulating of the disaster show the devastation of the dam collapse.  One video shows the exact moment the dam collapsed, sending a sea of mud and debris swallowing up the area as unsuspecting cars are scene, likely for the last time.   Videos of the rescue efforts show helicopters hovering feet above the ground as firefighters’ pluck people from the muck.

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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooter Charged With 11 More Crimes

Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooter Charged With 11 More Crimes

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A federal grand jury has filed 19 new charges, including 11 counts of hate crimes resulting in death and two counts of hate crimes involving attempted murder, as well as several others. Robert Bowers, the accused gunman in last year’s mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, now faces 63 criminal counts.  The indictment against Bowers cited his online attacks on the Jewish charity HIAS, including posts from the day of the shooting.

On October 27, 2018, eleven Jewish worshipers were shot and killed in what has been described as the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history.  Bowers, 46, allegedly opened fire on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 people and injuring 7 others.  He had made anti-Semitic comments on the extremist-friendly social network Gab shortly before the attack.  The Tree of Life synagogue housed three congregations and approximately 75 people were inside the building at the time.

As morning services were underway, just before entering, Bowers posted a final message to Gab, once again referencing the conspiracy theory. “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people,” he wrote. “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” Bowers entered the synagogue at 9:50am and opened fire.  By 9:54am police began receiving multiple calls from people barricaded in the building reporting the attack.  Survivors say Bowers was shooting for around 20 minutes and at one point yelled “All Jews must die!”

Police arrived at 9:59 am and Bowers fired on police from the entryway, apparently on his way out of the building.  Police returned fire, causing the gunman to retreat into the building.  At 10:30 a.m., tactical teams entered the building and exchanged fire with Bowers.  Bowers was wounded during the exchange and retreated to a room on the third floor of the synagogue.  Two SWAT members were also wounded during the exchange.  At 11:08 a.m., the Bowers crawled out of the room and surrendered.  Bowers was allegedly armed with three handguns and an AR-15.

In his posts on his Gab profile, Bowers called Jewish people “the children of Satan” and in the days before the shooting, Bowers authored increasingly anti-Semitic posts.  On October 10, he posted about the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), a Jewish charity that was hosting charity events for immigrants. One of the events was at the Dor Hadash congregation, which was housed at the Tree of Life synagogue.  Bowers accused HIAS and its associated congregations of bringing “hostile invaders to dwell among us.” The claim is part of a white supremacist conspiracy theory that falsely claims Jewish people are trying to promote immigration to make countries less white. Bowers also posted anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi memes.  He was charged in federal court that month with dozens of offenses including 11 murder charges. Bowers had previously pled not guilty to the charges against him in October. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.

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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Two Men Admit Role in Minnesota Mosque Attack

Two Men Admit Role in Minnesota Mosque Attack

 

 

 

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Two members of an Illinois militia group admitted to bombing a Bloomington mosque in 2017 in a bid to terrorize Muslims into leaving the United States.  Michael McWhorter and Joe Morris rented a truck and drove more than 500 miles to bomb a Minnesota mosque.  Both men pled guilty to five counts related to the mosque attack, as well as the attempted bombing of an Illinois abortion clinic and other crimes.  A third suspect, 47 year old, Michael Hari, whom prosecutors said directed the bombing, remains in federal custody.

Hari is a former sheriff’s deputy from Illinois who runs a security company and submitted a bid to build President Trump’s border wall.  The plea agreements portray Hari as the ringleader of a militia group called the White Rabbits, which included Hari, McWhorter, Morris and at least five other people. Hari’s trial is set for July.  The plea agreements say the men targeted the mosque to interfere with the free exercise of religion by Muslims and to let Muslims know they were not welcome in the United States.

According to the plea agreements, the men were headed toward Minnesota when Hari told McWhorter and Morris that he had a pipe bomb in the vehicle and they were going to bomb a mosque.  When the three men arrived at Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington on Aug. 5, 2017, Hari gave Morris a sledgehammer and told him to break a window.  McWhorter then lit the fuse on the pipe bomb and threw it inside.   Morris then threw the gasoline mixture inside, causing an explosion, fire and extensive damage.  No one was injured in the attack, which happened just as morning prayers were about to begin, terrifying members of the local Muslim community.

Hari allegedly picked Dar al-Farooq because it was far enough away from the White Rabbits’ central Illinois hometown that he thought they wouldn’t be suspected. He also allegedly believed it was a focal point for terror recruiting, a claim that law enforcement has not substantiated.    Morris’ attorney, Robert Richman, said Morris merely followed the lead of Hari, a man he’d known as a father figure since he was 9.  “Hari essentially weaponized Joe Morris,” Richman said.

McWhorter and Morris also pleaded guilty to their roles in a failed attack on a Champaign, Illinois, abortion clinic in November 2017. A pipe bomb that Morris said he and Hari threw into the clinic did not explode.  Court documents also state that Hari, McWhorter, Morris and others also participated in an armed home invasion in Ambia, Indiana, and the armed robberies or attempted armed robberies of two Walmart stores in Illinois.  Morris and McWhorter also admitted to attempting to extort Canadian National Railway by threatening to damage tracks if the railroad didn’t pay them money.  Morris and McWhorter could each face at least 35 years in prison.  A fourth man, Ellis Mack of Clarence, already pled guilty to two counts in Illinois and is scheduled to be sentenced in April.

 

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