gunmen-killed-outside-Muhammad-cartoon-contest-in-Texas

2 gunmen killed outside Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas

GARLAND, Texas (AP) — Two gunmen were killed Sunday in Texas after opening fire on a security officer outside a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of Prophet Muhammad, and a bomb squad was called in to search their vehicle as a precaution, authorities said.

The men drove up to the Curtis Culwell Center in the Dallas suburb of Garland as the event was scheduled to end and began shooting at the security officer, the City of Garland said in a statement. Garland police officers returned fire, killing the men.

Garland police spokesman Joe Harn said it was not immediately clear whether the shooting was connected to the event inside, a contest hosted by the New York-based American Freedom Defense Initiative that would award $10,000 for the best cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

But he said at a late Sunday news conference that authorities were searching the gunmen’s vehicle for explosives, saying, “Because of the situation of what was going on today and the history of what we’ve been told has happened at other events like this, we are considering their car (is) possibly containing a bomb.”

Drawings such at the ones featured at the Texas event are deemed insulting to many followers of Islam and have sparked violence around the world. According to mainstream Islamic tradition, any physical depiction of the Prophet Muhammad — even a respectful one — is considered blasphemous.

The Curtis Culwell Center, a school-district owned public events space where the Texas event was held, was evacuated after the shooting, as were some surrounding businesses. The evacuation was lifted several hours later and police were not aware of any ongoing threat, but a large area around the center remained blocked off late into the night.

Police helicopters circled overhead as bomb squads worked on the car. Harn said the bodies of the gunmen, who had not yet been identified, were not immediately taken from the scene because they were too close to the car. He said they would be removed once the car was cleared.

The wounded security officer, who was unarmed, worked for the Garland Independent School District, Harn said. He was treated and released from a local hospital.

Harn said the district hires security for events at its facilities, but noted additional security also was in place for Sunday’s event. The sponsoring group has said it paid $10,000 for off-duty police officers and other private security.

Harn said the city had not received any credible threats before the shooting.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said state officials are investigating, and Dallas FBI spokeswoman Katherine Chaumont said that agency is providing investigative and bomb technician assistance.

The event featured speeches by American Freedom Defense Initiative president Pamela Geller and Geert Wilders, a Dutch lawmaker known for his outspoken criticism of Islam. Wilders, who received several standing ovations from the crowd, left immediately after his speech.

After the shooting, authorities escorted about 75 contest attendees to another room in the conference center, where a woman held up an American flag, and the crowd sang “God Bless America.”

The group was then taken to a separate location, where they were held for about two hours until being briefly questioned by FBI agents before being released.

Johnny Roby of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who was attending the contest, told the Associated Press he was outside the building when he heard around about 20 shots that appeared to be coming from the direction of a passing car.

Roby said he then heard two single shots. He said he heard officers yell that they had the car before he was sent inside the building.

Geller told the AP before Sunday’s event that she planned the contest to make a stand for free speech in response to outcries and violence over drawings of Muhammad. She said in a statement issued Sunday night that the shooting showed how “needed our event really was.”

In January, 12 people were killed by gunmen in an attack against the Paris office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which had lampooned Islam and other religions and used depictions of Muhammad. Another deadly shooting occurred the following month at a free speech event in Copenhagen featuring an artist who had caricatured the prophet.

Tens of thousands of people rallied around the world to honor the victims and defend the freedom of expression following those shootings.

Geller’s group is known for mounting a campaign against the building of an Islamic center blocks from the World Trade Center site and for buying advertising space in cities across the U.S. criticizing Islam.

When a Chicago-based nonprofit held a January fundraiser in Garland designed to help Muslims combat negative depictions of their faith, Geller spearheaded about 1,000 picketers at the event. One chanted: “Go back to your own countries! We don’t want you here!” Others held signs with messages such as, “Insult those who behead others,” an apparent reference to recent beheadings by the militant group Islamic State.

Baltimore-tries-to-recover-after-unrest

Baltimore tries to recover after unrest leads to damage, multiple arrests

BALTIMORE — Residents here shaken by violent protests over the death of a man in police custody awoke Sunday to sweep up shattered glass and board up broken windows, while authorities upped the count of those arrested to nearly three dozen.http://wapo.st/1J1sGNU

The impact of the Saturday demonstrations was felt in both the seascape of boarded, abandoned homes in West Baltimore and in the gleaming waterfront along the Inner Harbor, where protesters had vowed to shut down the city with the slogan “no business as usual.”

Authorities said Sunday that 35 people had been arrested — 31 adults and four juveniles — on charges ranging from failure to disperse to rioting, assaulting police, burglary, theft and destruction of property. Police said two journalists were “inadvertently detained” and were freed without charges.

A spokesman for the Maryland prison system said one of the protesters arrested was from Philadelphia, another from the District and a third from a suburb north of Baltimore, but most were from Baltimore.

City leaders and the NAACP blamed the violence on “outside agitators,” and they said the arrests of so many from Baltimore did not reflect instigators who escaped apprehension. One of the last speakers at a City Hall rally Saturday told the crowd he understood they wanted to go to Camden Yards, and assured them they would soon “be released” and be on their own.

Both affected areas of the city returned to quiet Sunday, and community leaders said protests were suspended in deference to wake on Sunday afternoon and funeral on Monday for the man whose death sparked the protests. Freddie Gray, 25, died April 19, a week after he was arrested on a West Baltimore corner, pinned to the ground and dragged to the back of a police wagon. Police said he died of severe injuries to his spine and are trying to determine how the injuries occurred.

Six officers have been suspended, and police plan to turn over their cases to prosecutors on May 1. But demonstrators demanding murder indictments have turned Baltimore into the latest in a long list of cities grappling with deaths of young black men at the hands of police.

Rage boiled over late Saturday, and on Sunday the city tried to recover from hours of unrest that led to damaged police cars, the trashing of three crowded outdoor bar patios near Orioles Park at Camden Yards and fights that followed six hours of peaceful protest.

Business owners covered broken windows as fans filled the downtown ballpark Sunday afternoon to watch the Orioles play the Boston Red Sox. The night before, frightened spectators had to navigate angry demonstrators and police in riot gear before the game, and were held after the last out of the game until police “were absolutely sure it was safe for them to depart.”

People living next to the police station in West Baltimore — where Gray was pulled unconscious from the transport wagon April 12 – also spent the morning cleaning up from overnight clashes, in which police said protesters threw rocks and bricks at officers. People there too urged calm, but their emphasis was on justice and reform.

City work crews cleaned the corner of Riggs Avenue and Mount Street, in front of the barricaded police station, and a resident hung a sign on a light pole: “Please protest peacefully for your community.”

The streets were empty, but the pews of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church a block away from the station were full. Inside, the Rev. Alfreda L. Wiggins likened Gray’s death to martyrs of the civil rights movement.

“Freddie Gray died under mysterious and vicious circumstances,” she thundered to the congregation, “so that the attention of the world could focus on the injustice that African Americans are subjected to, over and over again.”

Parishioners then took to the streets “to pray outside, to pray for our community.” Wiggins noted that “Freddie was a black boy. His mother and father were black. His sisters and brother were black. We are black. He could be our son, our grandson. . . . We need to reach out, and cry.”

At Camden Yards, the epicenter of the downtown disturbances Saturday, there was little evidence Sunday that anything was amiss. It was Little League Day, and parents poured into the stadium with children in baseball uniforms in tow.

Marvin Hott, 42, came with his son Nathan, 12, a player for the Bel Air Reds, from north of Baltimore. Having monitored accounts of Saturday, Holt said, “I was a little bit nervous. I thought, if it was like it was last night, I would skip the game.”

But Hott said the situation appeared calm. “People are angry, and they want to be heard,” he said. “If it’s peaceful, then I understand.”

Carl Mummenthey, 44, brought his children Ainsley, 8, and Andrew, 11, from upstate New York to cheer on the Red Sox. They had been at Saturday’s game, too, and, taking note of the protests, had arrived early to avoid the disturbances.

But they could see lines of police pushing against protesters from inside the stadium’s patio and picnic area, next to the fence along Pratt Street. Ainsley said she was most scared of the police in riot gear. Her father said they all watched the news and he explained what was happening.

“We saw the usher rushing people inside,” Mummenthey said. “We saw police rushing people on a side street. We felt safe, and it looked to me like the police were restrained and handled it right.”

Paul Rossi, who works at a food stand selling peanuts and sausages on Camden Street, said he was injured when protesters overturned two grills and rained water bottles on patrons of outdoor bar patios. They then threw metal gates, overturned tables and broke windows, sending customers fleeing inside already jammed bars.

The scene was one of chaos, with bags and purses stolen, fistfights between protesters and baseball fans, and people scattering in panic before the crowd moved on to attack police cars on another street. One man threw a trash can through the back window of a squad car; a teen used a orange street cone to shatter the windshield of another.

Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP, said the violence at the end of what had been hours of peaceful protest trampled the message of the day. “The last two hours was about breaking things up, and nothing about Freddie Gray,” she said.

Hill-Aston said that during the violence, she saw Gray’s cousin sitting on a curb, crying and saying, “We don’t want this.”

At another location, an older woman carrying an umbrella tried to stop a youth from throwing a burning trash can at police. When she failed, she stomped the flames out herself.

Gray’s brother pleaded with a protester to put down a sign that read, “F— the police,” saying, “It’s not what we want.”

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) called the violence unacceptable as she addressed reporters with lawmakers and religious leaders Sunday evening. “We cannot and will not let a minority of incendiary individuals exploit our community,” she said at a news conference with lawmakers and religious leaders at Bethel AME Church. She said she would not let outsiders “put their own agenda ahead of our community.”

She said outsiders were pushing protesters to “shut this city down,” “inciting” the crowd, and then left. The mayor praised residents who urged calm “and put their lives before the blue line” of police.

“We are seeking answers,” Rawlings-Blake said. “We can seek answers as we seek justice, and as we seek peace.”

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md) called the violence a distraction. “We are about to go to a funeral, where a family has lost a son,” he said. “I don’t want to lose sight of that.”

He added, “I didn’t come to ask people to respect the family” and keep protests peaceful, “I’m begging them.”

Cummings said he had faith in city leadership. “I have heard the mayor say it, and you know she means it. I have heard the police commissioner say it, and I know he means it. There will be change.”

Said the Rev. Frank Reid, pastor of Bethel AME, “Business as usual is not an option here.”

California-delta-water-missing-amid-drought

California delta’s water mysteriously missing amid drought

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — As California struggles with a devastating drought, huge amounts of water are mysteriously vanishing from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta — and the prime suspects are farmers whose families have tilled fertile soil there for generations.
A state investigation was launched following complaints from two large agencies that supply water to arid farmland in the Central Valley and to millions of residents as far south as San Diego.
Delta farmers don’t deny using as much water as they need. But they say they’re not stealing it because their history of living at the water’s edge gives them that right. Still, they have been asked to report how much water they’re pumping and to prove their legal rights to it.
At issue is California’s century-old water rights system that has been based on self-reporting and little oversight, historically giving senior water rights holders the ability to use as much water as they need, even in drought. Gov. Jerry Brown has said that if drought continues this system built into California’s legal framework will probably need to be examined.
Delta farmer Rudy Mussi says he has senior water rights, putting him in line ahead of those with lower ranking, or junior, water rights.
“If there’s surplus water, hey, I don’t mind sharing it,” Mussi said. “I don’t want anybody with junior water rights leapfrogging my senior water rights just because they have more money and more political clout.”
The fight pitting farmer against farmer is playing out in the Delta, the hub of the state’s water system. With no indication of the drought easing, heightened attention is being placed on dwindling water throughout the state, which produces nearly half of the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the U.S.
A large inland estuary east of San Francisco, the Delta is fed by rivers of freshwater flowing down from the Sierra Nevada and northern mountain ranges. Located at sea level, it consists of large tracts of farmland separated by rivers that are subject to tidal ebbs and flows.
Most of the freshwater washes out to the Pacific Ocean through the San Francisco Bay. Some is pumped — or diverted — by Delta farmers to irrigate their crops, and some is sent south though canals to Central Valley farmers and to 25 million people statewide.
The drought now in its fourth year has put Delta water under close scrutiny. Twice last year state officials feared salty bay water was backing up into the Delta, threatening water quality. There was not enough fresh water to keep out saltwater.
In June, the state released water stored for farmers and communities from Lake Oroville to combat the saltwater intrusion.
Nancy Vogel, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Water Resources, said “thousands of acre-feet of water a day for a couple of weeks” were released into the Delta. An acre-foot is roughly enough water to supply a household of four for a year.
The fact that the state had to resort to using so much from storage raised questions about where the water was going. That in turn prompted a joint letter by the Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation calling for an investigation into how much water Delta farmers are taking — and whether the amount exceeds their rights to it.
“We don’t know if there were illegal diversions going on at this time,” said Vogel, leaving it up to officials at the State Water Resources Control Board to determine. “Right now, a large information gap exists.”
Some 450 farmers who hold 1,061 water rights in the Delta and the Sacramento and San Joaquin river watersheds were told to report their water diversions, and Katherine Mrowka, state water board enforcement manager, said a vast majority responded.
State officials are sorting through the information that will help them determine whether any are exceeding their water rights and who should be subject to restrictions.
“In this drought period, water accounting is more important to ensure that the water is being used for its intended purpose,” said U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spokesman Louis Moore.
Mussi, a second-generation Delta farmer whose family grows tomatoes, wheat, corn, grapes and almonds on 4,500 acres west of Stockton, said Central Valley farmers have long known that in dry years they would get little or no water from state and federal water projects and would need to rely heavily on groundwater.
“All of a sudden they’re trying to turn their water into a permanent system and ours temporary,” Mussi said. “It’s just not going to work.”
Shawn Coburn farms 1,500 acres along the San Joaquin River in Firebaugh about 100 miles south of the Delta. As a senior rights holder, he figures he will receive 45 percent or less of the water he expected from the federal water project. On another 1,500 acres where he is a junior water rights holder, he will receive no surface water for a second consecutive year.
“I don’t like to pick on other farmers, even if it wasn’t a drought year,” said Coburn. “The only difference is I don’t have a pipe in the Delta I can suck willy-nilly whenever I want.”

Detroit-police-officers-accused-of-robbing-drug-dealers

Detroit police officers accused of robbing drug dealers

DETROIT — A Detroit police lieutenant and an officer — accused of robbing drug dealers and stealing money and drugs obtained during police searches — were arraigned on charges Thursday.

The indictment, which came down Wednesday, comes months after Detroit Police Chief James Craig disbanded the department’s troubled drug unit and officers became the target of a federal investigation.

Lt. David Hansberry and Officer Bryan Watson are each facing charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute narcotics, conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, possession with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine, possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a crime of violence, possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a crime of violence and drug trafficking crime and multiple counts of interference with commerce by robbery and extortion.

Kevlin Omar Brown — who the indictment says is an “associate” of Hansberry — is charged with one count of interference with commerce by robbery or extortion.

Hansberry and Watson were arraigned Thursday in U.S. District Court and Magistrate Judge Mona Majzoub entered not guilty pleas for them. Brown appeared in court, but his arraignment was continued to Friday because he did not have an attorney. All three men were given $10,000 unsecured bonds.

Additionally, Brown was ordered to clear up any outstanding warrants within 90 days, must remain confined to his Detroit home and must wear a tether. Brown ignored requests for comment as he was leaving the courtroom after the hearing.

Watson was ordered to turn over four weapons he owns, as well as his concealed pistol license. His attorney, Steve Fishman, was not immediately available for comment.

Michael Harrison, Hansberry’s attorney, said his client, who has been aware of the investigation for months, maintains his innocence.

Hansberry is “confident he’ll be vindicated,” Harrison said, adding that his client has been a police officer since he was 18 years old, was promoted to sergeant at age 25 and then promoted to lieutenant at age 33. “Never had so much as a parking ticket.”

Hansberry and Watson, though, are accused of arranging “drug transactions with civilians, including confidential sources, so that they could rob and extort them,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office says. “The defendants allegedly carried out traffic stops and fake arrests, and then stole drugs, money and personal property from their victims.”

At a news conference this afternoon, Craig said he was “troubled” by the allegations against the veteran officers. He said criminal allegations of this magnitude impact the public trust.

“The vast majority of the men and women of the Detroit Police Department are honest and hardworking, they honor the badge they wear and the oath they took to serve and protect the citizens of this city,” Craig said.

He said he believes four other former narcotics officers remain suspended with pay “until this investigation is fully complete.” Craig said he couldn’t comment on whether those officers would be charged.

In place of the disbanded narcotics unit, the department — which Craig previously said also investigated narcotics officers for an allegation of theft — created the Major Violators Section. Craig said officers assigned to that section work there for a limited duration of time.

The indictment says Hansberry — also known as Sarge or Hater — was a sergeant in the department’s narcotics section from November 2009 through November 2013, when he was promoted to lieutenant.

Hansberry, 34, and Watson, 46 — who have been on suspension since October — are accused of failing to log money and drugs seized during searches into evidence, instead splitting the proceeds and arranging to sell the drugs.

From June 2010 through about October 2014, Hansberry and Watson, whose nickname was Bullet, arranged drug transactions “in which substantial amounts of controlled substances were intended to be purchased or sold by private parties, including informants of the defendants,” the indictment says.

They are accused of using their status as police officers “to assist in their scheme.” It says they drove police vehicles, activated the lights, wore police clothing and badges and carried guns.

The indictment says the officers carried out “pretext traffic stops and fake arrests.”

According to the news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office: “Hansberry and Watson also allegedly identified themselves as police officers to coerce their victims into complying with their demands and to encourage their victims to flee, leaving behind illegal drugs, money and personal property.”

“The vast majority of the men and women of the Detroit Police Department are honest and hardworking, but these defendants betrayed their oath and their fellow officers,” Craig is quoted saying in the news release. “We are committed to the highest standards of integrity, and we will remove any officers who do not live up to those high standards.”

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said they applaud Craig’s “commitment to root out any officers who tarnish the badge.”

She said: “Officers who violate the law cannot be tolerated because effective law enforcement requires public trust.”

Breaking-Bad-drug-bust-by-NYPD-of-crystal-meth

‘Breaking Bad’ drug bust by NYPD yields $1.6 million worth of crystal meth

He was “Breaking Bad” in a Hyundai Sonata.

Cops cuffed a 33-year-old man they say was caught tooling around Manhattan with 25 kilos of crystal meth in his trunk, authorities said Thursday.

Mario Hernandez is now facing multiple narcotics trafficking charges for the speed found stowed in boxes in the trunk of his silver economical midsize sedan following a car stop outside the Holland Tunnel.

It was not immediately clear if he was planning to transport the drugs — with a street value of $1.6 million — across the river to New Jersey.

NYPD detectives pulled over Hernandez at the corner of King St. and Hudson St. at about 5 p.m. Wednesday, officials said.

The light-blue crystals showcased in the hit AMC television series “Breaking Bad” were found stowed in boxes used to transport stone tile, a source with knowledge of the seizure said.

The takedown was so large cops had to use a dolly to cart the drugs away, the source said.

Hernandez was held on $500,000 bond for criminal possession of controlled substance at his arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court Thursday.

Hernandez, wearing jeans and a blue windbreaker, did not speak during the hearing.

The car was a rental and he was unaware of the stash in the truck, his lawyer insisted.

“He’s a professional painter,” a woman who identified herself as hernandez’s girlfriend told the Daily News. “He works hard for a living. Hes a really good man.”

City Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said city drug enforcement agencies are concerned about a rise of meth use in the city.

“It is something that we continue to keep an eye on,” she told The News in an exclusive interview last week. “The point of origin for the big methamphetamine that we’ve had is Mexico and if the Mexicans are pushing

out meth the same way they are pushing out heroin and its finding its way to New York, then we’re going to have a problem.”

Heroin use in the city has tripled over the last few years, officials said.

More people in the city die from heroin overdoses than murder, city stats show.

forecasters-warn-hail-damaging-winds-tornado-or-2-possible-over-broad-area

Forecasters warn hail, damaging winds, tornado or 2 possible over broad area of Midwest

NORMAN, Okla. – Strong storms in the Southern Plains overnight are offering a preview of bad weather expected in major cities across the Midwest later in the day.

The Storm Prediction Center says 57 million people live in an area with an “enhanced risk” of large hail, damaging winds and possibly tornadoes Thursday afternoon and evening. A handful of tornadoes were reported Wednesday, but mostly in rural areas of Kansas and Oklahoma, where the storms caused minimal damage.

Emergency managers and forecasters urged residents to know what to do if bad weather approached, including where to take shelter.

Tsarnaev-guilty-of-all-30-counts-in-Boston-bombing

Tsarnaev guilty of all 30 counts in Boston bombing

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, his face a blank, stood with his head bowed and his hands clasped as the guilty verdicts tolled one after another for what seemed like an eternity: Guilty of using weapons of mass destruction, guilty of bombing a place of public use, guilty of conspiracy and aiding and abetting. Guilty, guilty, guilty: The word was spoken 32 times.

Yes, the jury said, Tsarnaev caused the deaths of Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu and Sean Collier. Yes, it was murder. And so, the word “yes” was spoken 63 times, each time making Tsarnaev eligible for the death penalty.

From start to finish, it took 26 minutes for the jury to announce its verdict in the Boston Marathon bombing trial: Tsarnaev didn’t skate on a single charge. He now stands guilty of all 30 counts, 17 of which could send him to death row.

If hearing the verdicts seemed overwhelming, that paled in comparison to seeing and hearing evidence behind them: awful images and sounds. The jury saw bombs explode and tear people apart. They saw streets splashed crimson with blood and littered with severed limbs and body parts. They heard the cries of the injured, and witnesses told them how people tended to the dying and gravely injured, unaware of their own injuries as they tied belts around the mangled limbs of friends and strangers alike.

They heard a prosecutor explain why this was done: Tsarnaev was punishing Americans and sending a message to the holy warriors of radical Islam to rise up.

And they saw surveillance photos of Tsarnaev, who prosecutors described as a callous killer, strolling through the aisles of Whole Foods to buy milk and smiling as he stopped by his college gym shortly after the deadly bombing.

Wednesday’s verdict was a major step in the trial, but the toughest legal battles may be yet to come.

The trial will resume, possibly early next week, for a second phase to determine Tsarnaev’s punishment.

The jury’s next assignment: deciding whether the man responsible for the worst act of terrorism on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001, should pay with his life.

It took the jury of seven women and five men 11½ hours of deliberations to reach their verdict. Tsarnaev, 21, didn’t look at jurors as their decisions were read.

Survivors of the bombing said they were gratified by Wednesday’s decision, but found no joy in it.

“Obviously we are grateful for the outcome today,” bombing survivor Karen Brassard said after the verdict was announced. “It’s not a happy occasion, but it’s something that we can put one more step behind us.”

Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs in the bombing, said he was relieved.

“Today’s verdict will never replace the lives that were lost and so dramatically changed,” he said, “but it is a relief, and one step closer to closure.”

Federal prosecutors are now focusing on the trial’s upcoming penalty phase, said Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. “We are gratified by the jury’s verdict and thank everyone who played a role in the trial for their hard work,” Oritz said, declining to comment further.

In the next phase of the trial, jurors will hear evidence of what makes Tsarnaev’s crimes so heinous he should be executed. The defense will try to soften his actions by painting him in a more sympathetic light.

Tsarnaev’s attorney, Judy Clarke, is one of the nation’s foremost experts on keeping clients off death row.

She has successfully fought for the lives of Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber, and Jared Loughner, the gunman who killed a judge and wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

For weeks, Clarke has been laying the groundwork for her argument to persuade the jury to spare Tsarnaev’s life.

Although there had been doubts that Tsarnaev could receive a fair trial in Boston, the case moved quickly and smoothly once testimony began on March 5. Some 96 witnesses testified over 15 court days: 92 for the prosecution and four for the defense.

The defense all but conceded guilt during this part of the trial, choosing instead to focus its efforts on persuading the jury during the penalty phase to spare Tsarnaev’s life.

The low-key strategy played in stark contrast to the emotionally wrenching case put on by prosecutors, who displayed videos and photographs of the dead, the dying and the maimed along Boylston Street.

Jurors saw graphic scenes of a street awash in blood and severed limbs and the dazed, traumatized expressions on people’s faces. They heard screams and moans. It looked like a war zone, several witnesses said.

Other witnesses described how deafening and disorienting it was to have a bomb go off nearby. Some survivors said they could see people screaming but could not hear them. They felt like they were underwater as the surreal events unfolded around them. Several said they felt nauseated by the “vile” stench of gunpowder and burning hair and flesh.

The jury heard a young woman, now in college, describe how it felt to nearly die; Sydney Corcoran said she felt cold, but peaceful as the blood drained from her body.

As they viewed a video shot by spectator Colton Kilgore, jurors could hear the cries of a 5-year-old boy. They saw his mother’s bones protruding from her leg and shredded hand as she reached for him. Others in the background were scrambling to apply tourniquets.

“My bones were laying next to me on the sidewalk,” said Rebekah Gregory. “That’s the day I thought I was going to die.”

They heard the urgent voices of spectators suddenly turned into first responders. Tourniquets were quickly fashioned from belts and running clothes brought by the armload from Marathon Sports, a store near the first bomb site along Boylston Street.

Witnesses described the agonizing decisions they made about whom they could help and who was beyond saving. Shane O’Hara, the manager of Marathon Sports, said the day still haunts him.

“All you heard were sirens, cries and screams,” he said. “The thing that haunts me is making decisions — who needed help first, who needed more, who was more injured than the other one. I felt it wasn’t my role to make those decisions, but you have to do that.”

O’Toole told jurors he was sorry they had to view such gruesome images, but urged them to view them clinically, as evidence. He said they were necessary to show what happened.

Prosecutors said Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev steeped themselves in writings and lectures of top al Qaeda leaders who urged young men to avenge injustice to Muslims by waging holy war against the enemies of Islam, including the United States.

The militant literature promised paradise and other awards to any warrior who died as a martyr for jihad.

The plan to bomb the marathon was hatched a year earlier, prosecutors alleged. The brothers chose the event because “all eyes would be on Boston that day,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Aloke Chakravarty said.

“He chose a day where there would be civilians on the sidewalks. And he and his brother targeted those civilians — men, women and children — because he wanted to make a point. He wanted to terrorize this country. He wanted to punish America for what it was doing to his people.”

The brothers took their war from an 800-square-foot apartment in Cambridge to Boston’s Boylston Street shortly before 3 p.m. on Monday, April 15, 2013.

“That day they felt like they were soldiers,” Chakravary said. “They were the mujahedeen.”

The videos showed the brothers carrying the bombs in backpacks and moving through the crowd near the marathon finish line. It was, the prosecutor said, “a coordinated attack.”

Tamerlan Tsarnaev set off the first bomb near Marathon Sports, according to testimony. The 6-quart pressure cooker contained gunpowder, nails and BBs and was sealed with duct tape.

It took the life of Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager, and the legs of several other people.

The second pressure cooker bomb, carried in by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, went off 12 seconds later in front of the Forum restaurant. That bomb killed two people — Martin Richard, 8, and Lingzi Lu, 23, a graduate student from China.

Surveillance video shows Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, wearing a turned-around white ball cap, lingering for four minutes by a tree. He slips his backpack off his shoulder. In front of him, a row of children, including Martin Richard, stands behind a metal barricade.

“These children weren’t innocent to him,” Chakravarty told jurors. “They were American. He knew what the bag was designed to do.”

Martin was torn apart by the blast, and his sister, Jane, lost a leg. Their father, Bill Richard, testified that he immediately knew his son would not survived his injuries, and focused on getting help for Jane.

“I saw a little boy who had his body severely damaged by an explosion,” Richard testified. He paused, adding, “This is difficult. I just knew from what I saw that there was no chance. The color of his skin, and so on. I knew in my head that I needed to act quickly or we might not only lose Martin, we might lose Jane, too.”

Lu flailed her arms and screamed before bleeding to death in the street. Her leg was shredded from her ankle to her hip.

Defense: He followed his brother’s lead
The defense disputes little about what happened and instead focused on why it happened. Lead defense attorney Judy Clarke all but conceded that Tsarnaev is guilty, and has focused instead on persuading jurors to spare him from the death penalty in the trial’s next phase.

Clarke disputed the prosecutors’ arguments that their client was bent on becoming a holy warrior, although she acknowledged the horror the bombs caused and said her client’s actions were “inexcusable.”

“For this destruction, suffering and profound loss, there is no excuse,” she said. “No one is trying to make one. Planting bombs at the Boston Marathon one year and 51 weeks ago was a senseless act.”

She asked jurors to keep their minds open to what is to come — a case based heavily on the Tsarnaev family’s troubled history and the control and influence Tamerlan Tsarnaev held over his younger brother. Tamerlan was the mastermind of the bomb plot, Clarke said. He bought the pressure cookers and built the bombs. He researched the marathon as a possible event to attack. He shot and killed Collier at MIT.

Jahar merely followed his lead, she said.

“It was Tamerlan,” Clarke said, over and over in her closing argument to the jury.

Tamerlan downloaded the jihadist material urging young men to wage holy war against the infidels while Jahar spent most of his time on Facebook, Clarke said.

“He was a kid doing kid things.”

But prosecutors insisted the brothers were “partners in crime,” working together to punish Americans for what they perceived as crimes against Muslims.

“He wanted to terrorize this country,” said Chakravartay. “He wanted to punish America for what it was doing to his people. And that’s what he did.”

“Tamerlan Tsarnaev didn’t turn his brother into a murderer,” said another prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney William Weinreb. “If you are capable of such hate, such callousness that you can murder and maim 20 people and then drive to Whole Foods and buy some milk, can you really blame it on your brother?”

Prosecutors used computer searches to show that both brothers were steeped in jihadist writings and lectures. They acted calmly and with purpose, believing they were right, Chakravarty said.

He also told jurors they had to look no futher than Tsarnaev’s manifesto, written with a pencil on the side of a boat where he hid during the manhunt. It showed, more than anything else, how he had adopted the beliefs of the jihadists as his own.

“In that boat, with helicopters overhead and sirens blaring, he chose to write something to the American people,” the prosecutor said, adding he probably believed he was spending his final moments on Earth.

“In that boat, when the helicopters were overhead, the sirens were blaring, there were police canvassing, looking for him, he was all alone, and in his voice he chose to write something to the American people,” Chakravarty said.

He wrote in the first person. He was an “I,” not a “we.”

The prosecutor displayed a photograph of the writing on the sides of a boat pocked by bullets and streaked with Tsarnaev’s blood, and read the manifesto in its entirety.

“I am jealous of my brother who has received the reward of (paradise.) … I do not mourn because his soul is very much alive. God has a plan for each person. Mine was to hide in this boat and shed some light on our actions.”

He asked God to make him a martyr so he could “be among all the righteous people in the highest levels of heaven.”

Then he lashed out against America:

“The U.S. government is killing our innocent civilians, but most of you already know that. As a Muslim, I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished. We Muslims are one body. You hurt one, you hurt us all.”

He wrote that the Muslim nation is beginning to rise, along with the soldiers of the holy war. “Know that you are fighting men who look into the barrel of your gun and see heaven. Now, how can you compete with that? We are promised victory and we will surely get it. Now I don’t like killing innocent people. It is forbidden in Islam. But due to (bullet hole), it is allowed.”

He was not yet finished. He carved another message into a wooden slat inside the boat: “Stop killing our people and we will stop.”

Chakravarty said Tsarnaev wanted to be “a terrorist hero.” He was making a statement. He was proud of the choices he made.

And, while he hid in that boat and the police closed in on him, the prosecutor said, Tsarnaev “was negotiating the terms of death with the people of America.”

Russian-hackers-allegedly-infiltrate-White-House

Russian hackers allegedly infiltrate White House

A US media report has said that Russians have penetrated a White House computer system. The Obama administration has confirmed the breach, but not who was behind it.
Russian hackers were able to reach sensitive, if unclassified, information from the White House computer system after intruding at the US State Department in the past few months, accessing non-public details of President Obama’s schedule, among other things.
According to CNN, who spoke to officials briefed on the investigation, the report from the State Department refers to a series of incidents beginning last October, when suspicious activity became apparent in a “network that serves the executive office of the president.”
The FBI, Secret Service, and NSA were all involved in the investigation. The White House went to lengths to stress that the system breached by the hackers was “an unclassified system…we do not believe that our classified systems were compromised” and refused to comment on CNN’s assertion that Russian hackers were behind the incident.
As CNN explains, even if the system is not top secret, information like the private details of the President’s schedule is sensitive information sought by foreign intelligence agencies. The hackers allegedly permeated the network using an email address as the jumping-off point for the infiltration.

White-Police-Officer-Charged-in-Death-of-Unarmed-Black-Man

White Police Officer Charged in Death of Unarmed Black Man

A white police officer in South Carolina has been arrested and charged with murder in the shooting death of an unarmed black man that was caught on video.

The shooting of 50-year-old Walter Scott last Saturday in the city of North Charleston occurred after he was pulled over by Officer Michael Slager for driving with a broken brake light. The video, taken by a bystander with a cellphone camera, shows Slager firing several times at Scott, who was running away from Slager. After Scott fell to the ground after the final shot, Slager walked over to Scott and handcuffed him, then returned to the spot where he opened fire. The officer picked up something from the ground, walked back to Scott’s body, and dropped the object next to him.

Slager initially said he opened fire after Scott had taken his electronic stun gun during a scuffle.

The unidentified witness who took the video turned it over to Scott’s family. A lawyer for the family turned the video over to The New York Times, which posted it on its website Tuesday.

“What if there was no video?,” Chris Stewart, the attorney for Scott’s family, asked reporters late Tuesday night. “What if there was no witness or hero as I call him to come forward? Then this wouldn’t have happened, because as you can see the initial reports stated something totally different, the officer said that Mr. Scott attacked him and pulled his taser and tried to use it on him, but somebody was watching.”

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the state’s criminal investigative body, has begun an investigation into the shooting. The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI have each opened their own separate investigations.

This is the latest in a series of fatal encounters of unarmed black males at the hands of police, including the shootings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, and the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York City. The incidents led to massive protests across the nation over aggressive police tactics in minority communities.

“When you’re wrong, you’re wrong,” North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said during a news conference announcing the charges against Slager. “And if you make a bad decision, don’t care if you’re behind the shield or just a citizen on the street, you have to live by that decision.”

U.S. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, an African American, said on Twitter that he had seen the video of the shooting. Scott said it was “senseless” and “absolutely unnecessary and avoidable.”

Iran-women-can-watch-matches

Iran’s deputy minister for sports: yes, women can go to watch big matches

Iran has said it will allow female fans to attend big sporting events alongside men, overturning a long-standing ban that made international headlines when a young British-Iranian woman was jailed for trying to attend a men’s volleyball match last year.

The deputy minister for sports, Abdolhamid Ahmadi, told the state news agency on Saturday that the country’s national security council had approved a government proposal to allow women to watch games this year.

Iranian authorities detained Ghoncheh Ghavami, 26, in June for trying to attend a men’s volleyball match.

Ghavami, who spent five months in jail before being released on bail, was arrested after taking part in a protest with other activists in front of Tehran’s majestic Azadi complex, wearing a white scarf and holding a placard, demanding to be allowed to watch the match between Iran and Italy.

Now it has emerged that an appeals court has dismissed charges against her and she will not have to return to prison, although a travel ban imposed on her is still in place.

In reaction to her detention, the international volleyball federation said it would not allow Iran to host international events while women were barred from stadiums.

Speaking to the Observer, Ghavami, who is in Tehran, welcomed the news. “Although this proposal is likely to be enforced with some limitations in the beginning, fortunately the issue of women demanding to be allowed in stadiums has gained much public support in the country thanks to the efforts of women’s rights activists in the past 10 years,” she said.

“The new government has supported the ban to be lifted but we want to make sure there will be a guarantee women will be allowed to attend all sporting events in future.”

It was not clear from Ahmadi’s comments which sports women can watch, but they are likely to include basketball and volleyball. The move will pave the way for women to watch football matches. Hassan Rouhani’s vice president for women and family affairs, Shahindokht Mowlaverdi, welcomed Saturday’s news in a tweet.

“This proposal is designed according to our cultural, social and religious sensibilities and for certain sports which are exclusive to men, families [and women] cannot attend matches,” the deputy minister said, presumably referring to swimming.

Although women in Iran engage in a variety of sports from martial arts to car rallies so long as they obey the Islamic hijab, they are not allowed to do certain sports in public where men can watch, such as swimming.

But the Iranian society is slowly, steadily changing and women are increasingly allowed greater sporting activities. Iranian women’s struggle to be allowed to enter stadiums was highlighted in a 2006 film, Offside, made by prominent Iranian director Jafar Panahi, which features a group of girls attempting to enter a stadium to watch a World Cup qualifying match.

The mandatory hijab for sportswomen has caused obstacles in the past. In 2011, Iran’s women’s football team was banned from an Olympic qualifier recently after Fifa ruled that their full-body strip broke the organisations rules.

In 2013, soon after Hassan Rouhani won the election in Tehran Shirin Gerami, made history after persuading Iranian officials to allow her to compete in a world championship in London as Iran’s first female triathlete.

She was the first Iranian women to take part in triathlon, which involved swimming in public, for her country’s tricolour green, white and red flag.

Rouhani, who tweeted a picture of Gerami after the competition, has called for gender equality since taking power, but such decisions are not entirely in his hands.

Ghavami’s detention embarrassed him but Iran’s judiciary, which was behind her arrest, acts independently of government. The president has advocated women being allowed to enter sporting events, such as volleyball matches.

Efforts to allow women to watch sport started under Ahmadinejad’s rule but hit a gridlock when a group of hardline Iranian MPs and influential clerics objected. Fatemeh Alia, a female MP, was quoted as saying last year that women are for “taking care of their babies and husband – not watching volleyball”.

It is not clear if the new announcement will meet any sabotage by the conservative-dominated parliament.