Wednesday, August 27, 2014

9 year old accidentally kills range instructor with uzi

A 9-year-old girl learning to fire a submachine gun accidentally killed her instructor at a shooting range when the weapon recoiled over her shoulder, according to Arizona authorities.

The instructor, 39-year-old Charles Vacca, died at a hospital late Monday night after he was shot in the head.

The Mohave County Sheriff's Office said the girl was with her parents. The website of Bullets and Burgers, the shooting range where the accident happened, says children between the ages of 8 and 17 can shoot a weapon if accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Police identified the weapon as an Uzi, an Israeli-made submachine gun.

Cell phone video released by authorities Tuesday shows the moments before the fatal shots were fired, CNN affiliate KLAS reported.

In the video, Vacca and the girl are at an outdoor range. The wind blows a target in the distance. Vacca shows the child how to hold the gun then helps her establish her grip and her stance. She fires one round and dirt flies above the target. Vacca adjusts the Uzi, places his right hand on her back and his left under her right arm.

She fires several rounds in rapid succession and the gun kicks to the left as she loses control. The video ends before the fatal head shot. In releasing the video, authorities did not identify who made it.

KLAS reported the girl was a tourist from the Northeast.

The station spoke with Sam Scarmardo, who operates Bullets and Burgers, about the incident.

"We really don't know what happened," he said. "Our guys are trained to basically hover over people when they're shooting. If they're shooting right-handed, we have our right-hand behind them ready to push the weapon out of the way. And if they're left-handed, the same thing."

Vacca was married, well-liked and a veteran, KLAS said.

The range, which is about an hour's drive from Las Vegas, says on its Facebook page: "We separate ourselves from all other Las Vegas ranges with our unique 'Desert Storm' atmosphere and military style bunkers."
Blogger Tricks

Obama likely to hit ISIL in Syria without Congress’s formal OK

What do Syrian President Bashar Assad and the U.S. Congress have in common? President Obama is unlikely to ask either for a formal green light to expand the American air war against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from Iraq into Syria.

White House aides underline that the debate remains academic for now because the president has yet to decide whether he will order strikes on the brutal Islamist movement’s strongholds in Syria.

“We have not speculated about what sort of authority would be required from Congress if the president were to make a decision to authorize the use of military force in Syria,” Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday.

But Earnest noted that Obama does not think he needs congressional approval for the airstrikes he launched on ISIL forces in Iraq on Aug. 7 or for the return of ground troops there to protect American personnel.

“The current military action that has been ordered in Iraq is vested in the powers of the commander in chief,” said the spokesman, who reaffirmed “our commitment to coordinating with Congress as we deploy that power.”

The White House has repeatedly trumpeted its “consultations” and “coordination” with lawmakers and its “notifications” to Congress about deployments against ISIL under the 1973 War Powers Act. That law, which presidents have never accepted as constitutional, was designed to limit the ability of the chief executive to send troops overseas absent a formal declaration of war. But top Obama aides have refused to commit to seeking congressional authorization as required by the law 60 days after American forces first enter into hostilities.

Asked on Aug. 8 whether Obama would abide by that stricture, Earnest sidestepped the question.

“The only thing I can speak to right now is this administration’s commitment to complying with the notification requirements of the War Powers Act,” he said.

For now, that’s just fine by Congress, which is poised to return after a month-long August recess.

The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker of Tennessee, and Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, who heads the committee's Middle East Subcommittee, have called separately for the Obama administration to secure congressional authorization.

But “no one is really clamoring for them (the administration) to come to us,” a senior Democratic Senate aide told Yahoo News.

There are “no plans at the moment” to call for a vote, said a senior Republican House aide.

On Monday, Earnest left open the narrow possibility that the administration might seek additional funds for operations against ISIL, also known as ISIS, or the Islamic State.

A top Senate Democratic aide told Yahoo News late last week that the president’s allies in Congress might find that the least politically toxic option. “A stand-alone War Powers vote is about Obama. A vote to fund the troops is about the troops,” the aide said. That might reduce the political danger of siding with the embattled president and buck the public’s largely anti-interventionist mood.

Earnest seemed to embrace that possibility.

“If additional resources are requested or needed, we’ll make that request,” the spokesman said Monday. “And we hope that we’ll see the kind of bipartisan support we’ve traditionally seen from Congress to ensure that our men and women in uniform who are putting their lives on the line to protect the country is adequately and consistently funded.”

But even that backdoor option drew a withering response from a top Democratic House aide.

“It's stupid to go for a vote. This is a stupid, stupid idea. There's no need for money, so this is just a stupid idea,” that official told Yahoo News. The official requested anonymity to speak candidly about the political situation.

Among the relatively small number of lawmakers who typically insist that presidents follow the requirements of the War Powers Act, those who want the United States to help Iraq take on ISIL are torn. They recall how Obama declared almost exactly one year ago that he had decided the United States should launch airstrikes against Assad’s forces, that he had the legal authority to do so with or without Congress but ultimately backed off when he could not get lawmakers’ approval.

An aide to one Democratic senator in that position told Yahoo News that the lawmaker generally believes Congress should weigh in.

“Problem is, he also wants the U.S. to act. What if, like with Syria last time, Congress balks and the U.S. steps away again? It's a tough call,” the aide said.

But Earnest emphasized that “the situation a year later is markedly different.”

“The goal of the mission from last year was aimed squarely at the Assad regime and was in response to the intel(ligence) assessment that they had used chemical weapons” against Syrian civilians, he said.

“What we’re talking about now is confronting a terrorist group that has sought safe haven in Syria,” Earnest said. “This is a group that poses a threat to Americans in the region and could potentially down the line pose a broader threat to American interests and our allies around the globe.”

In fact, the administration has laid the groundwork since the very early months of 2014 for unilateral action on the grounds that ISIL could eventually threaten America directly.

In January and February, top intelligence officials compared Syria to Yemen and suggested ISIL had found safe haven in areas beyond Assad’s reach.

In June, when Obama announced plans for limited military action in Iraq against ISIL, top aides told reporters on a White House-arranged conference call that the United States might pursue the group into Syria.

“We don't restrict potential U.S. action to a specific geographic space,” one official said.

According to several media outlets, Obama has already given the green light to U.S. surveillance flights over Syria, a possible prelude to an American military campaign.

Family 'devastated' by reports of American Douglas McAuthur McCain killed fighting with ISIL

Distraught family members of American Douglas McAuthur McCain, killed in Syria after allegedly joining forces with a militant group, spoke to news outlets and turned to social media Tuesday to express shock and sadness and in some cases, to defend their relative.

U.S. officials confirmed McCain's death in Syria Tuesday and said he had traveled there to fight with an extremist organization, likely the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

"We were aware of U.S. Citizen Douglas McAuthur McCain's presence in Syria and can confirm his death," U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement posted by Reuters.

NBC News first reported that McCain had been killed in Syria in a battle between two opposition groups and said it had seen images of his body, bearing a unique neck tattoo, and his passport to verify his identity.

McCain's family expressed disbelief over news of his alleged ties to the violent extremist group ISIL, which last week posted a video of the beheading last week of American journalist James Foley.

Kenneth McCain, an uncle, told CNN's Jim Sciutto that his family is "devastated" and that they were "just as surprised as the country" over reports of Douglas McCain's connection to ISIL.

McCain was born in Illinois, grew up and attended high school in Minnesota and later moved to San Diego, according to published reports. Two cousins still living in Minnesota spoke to the Minneapolis Star Tribune Tuesday and said they had been in touch with McCain as recently as Friday. He told them he was in Turkey.

Kenyata McCain said she noticed some posts on her cousin's Facebook page supporting ISIL, also called ISIS and the Islamic State. His Facebook page was taken down Tuesday.

“I know that he had strong Muslim beliefs, but I didn’t know that he was in support of ISIS. I didn’t think he would be," she said.

Another cousin who requested anonymity said his cousin was not a "radical," adding McCain worked as a caregiver for people with special needs in California and that he had a infant daughter about to turn one.

“I don’t know what he went over there for, I don’t want people to get the idea that he was some kind of monster," he said.

Delecia McCain, who identified herself as Douglas McCain’s sister, posted to Facebook late Tuesday afternoon expressing shock at the loss of her oldest brother.

Two people identified as cousins of McCain on Facebook also posted status updates expressing disbelief.

“This is unreal to me,” wrote Terrence Green after posting a news link describing his cousin as a “homegrown terrorist.”

Robyn Roland left an emotional post that mentioned Judie McCain, Douglas' mother:

“I can't be on FB today…. My family going Ham wit da pictures of my Cuz. Dis is crazy. Maybe its just me but I keep holding on to da thought its a mistake and it wasn't him. Aunty Judie Mccain you always been strong and I know u gonna continue. Love u!”

Judges chide state lawyers over gay marriage bans

Federal appeals judges bristled on Tuesday at arguments defending gay marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin, with one Republican appointee comparing them to now-defunct laws that once outlawed weddings between blacks and whites.

As the legal skirmish in the United States over same-sex marriage shifted to the three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, more than 200 people lined up hours before to ensure they got a seat at the much-anticipated hearing.

While judges often play devil's advocate during oral arguments, the panel's often-blistering questions for the defenders of the same-sex marriage bans could be a signal the laws may be in trouble — at least at this step in the legal process.

Richard Posner, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, hit the backers of the ban the hardest. He balked when Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson repeatedly pointed to "tradition" as the underlying justification for barring gay marriage.

"It was tradition to not allow blacks and whites to marry — a tradition that got swept away," the 75-year-old judge said. Prohibition of same-sex marriage, Posner said, derives from "a tradition of hate ... and savage discrimination" of homosexuals.

Attorneys general in both states asked the appellate court to permanently restore the bans, which were ruled unconstitutional in June. Its ruling could affect hundreds of couples who married after lower courts tossed the bans and before those rulings were stayed pending the Chicago appeal.

Gay marriage is legal in 19 states as well as the District of Columbia, and advocates have won more than 20 court victories around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the federal government to recognize state-sanctioned gay marriages last year.

The Supreme Court has yet to take up a case, but Utah and Oklahoma's cases were appealed to the high court and Virginia's attorney general also asked the justices to weigh in. Appeals court rulings are pending for Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, while appellate court hearings are scheduled next month for Hawaii, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and is expected soon in Texas.

Posner, who has a reputation for making lawyers before him squirm, cut off Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher just moments into his presentation and frequently chided him to answer his questions.

At one point, Posner ran through a list of psychological strains the children of unmarried same-sex couples suffered, including having to struggle to grasp why their schoolmates' parents were married and theirs weren't.

"What horrible stuff," Posner said. What benefit to society in barring gay marriage, he asked, outweighs that kind of harm to children?

"All this is a reflection of biology," Fisher answered. "Men and women make babies, same-sex couples do not... we have to have a mechanism to regulate that, and marriage is that mechanism."

Samuelson echoed that, telling the hearing that regulating marriage — including by encouraging men and women to marry — was part of a concerted Wisconsin policy to reduce numbers of children born out of wedlock.

"I assume you know how that has been working out in practice?" Judge David Hamilton responded, citing figures that births to single women from 1990 to 2009 rose 53 percent in Wisconsin and 68 percent in Indiana.

While the judges seemed to push defenders of the bans the hardest, they also pressed the side arguing for gay marriage to say just where they themselves would draw the line between who could and couldn't marry.

Would they argue in favor of polygamy on similar grounds, by pointing to the emotional toll on children in families with multiple mothers or fathers, asked Hamilton, a President Barack Obama appointee.

"If you have two people, it's going to look like a marriage," said attorney Kenneth Falk of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana. "If you have three or four, it doesn't. ... There's no slippery slope."

Among those following the arguments in court was plaintiff Ruth Morrison, a retired Indianapolis Fire Department battalion chief. She said that because Indiana won't recognize the woman she married in another state as her wife, she wouldn't be able to pass on pension and other benefits if she dies.

"Now Indiana tells us our promises are only good if our spouses are of the opposite sex," Morrison, wearing a fire department uniform, said during a rally ahead of the hearing Monday night.

A voter-approved constitutional amendment bans gay marriage in Wisconsin. State law prohibits it in Indiana. Neither state recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. The lawsuits that led to Tuesday's hearing in Chicago contend that the bans violate the U.S. Constitution's equal protection guarantee.

Despite the seriousness of the hearing, there was some levity.

At one point, a visibly uncomfortable Samuelson struggled to offer a specific reason for how gay marriage bans benefit society. He then noted a yellow courtroom light was on signaling his allotted time was nearly up.

"It won't save you," Judge Ann Claire Williams, a Bill Clinton appointee, told him, prompting laughter in court.

Samuleson smiled, and said: "It was worth a try."

Ferguson shooting protests move to St. Louis

Protests over the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in suburban St. Louis migrated to the city Tuesday as demonstrators pressed for broad reforms to local and federal law enforcement — including the revival of a proposed civilian police oversight board.

About 100 protesters marched from City Hall to the downtown federal courthouse several blocks away to call attention not only to Brown's death on Aug. 9 but also the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Kajieme Powell by St. Louis police 10 days later. Police have said Powell threatened two officers with a steak knife after stealing two energy drinks and a bag of doughnuts from a convenience store.

The demonstrators organized under the banner of Hands Up United, a broad movement forged from witness accounts that Brown, who was unarmed, had his hands in the air when he was shot six times by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson. Dozens of similar protests were planned across the country Tuesday, with several more in European cities. No arrests were reported in St. Louis.

The St. Louis police force is among many local departments summoned to support the Missouri Highway Patrol's crowd control efforts in the north St. Louis County community.

Protesters called for the creation of a civilian review board to monitor St. Louis police shootings and other uses of force, renewing an effort that won the support of the elected Board of Aldermen eight years ago but was vetoed by Mayor Francis Slay.

"We're drawing a line from Ferguson to right here where we live," said Taurean Russell, who was arrested by county police at one of the nightly protests that occurred for nearly two weeks after Brown's death.

A new proposal is expected to be presented by at least one member of the 28-person board when it returns from summer recess in September.

Quasi-judicial, civilian police review boards are common in large cities — but their oversight powers are often heavily criticized by those who have served on the boards, citing an absence of real power and a lack of cooperation by those whom they're supposed to monitor.

In North Carolina, the Charlotte Observer found in 2013 that the city's police review board sided with officers in each of the 78 cases of alleged misconduct it reviewed over 15 years and held just four hearings in those cases. In New Mexico, three of the Albuquerque Police Oversight Commission's six members resigned in April after a U.S. Justice Department investigation that identified a culture of abuse and aggression in a police department that had killed 23 men since 2010.

In St. Louis, the city's police union opposed the 2006 bill and is also lining up against the newer effort. Jeff Roorda, the union's business manager and a Democratic state legislator from Jefferson County, told The Washington Post that a "handful of militant, anti-police aldermen" are seeking to "capitalize on this tragedy to advance their own political agenda."

Mayoral spokeswoman Maggie Crane said Tuesday that Slay supports the idea of a civilian review board but rejected the 2006 measure over details he considered anti-police.

"Of course, things are different now, post-Ferguson, but these were all in the works," she said, referring to negotiations between review board supporters and city leaders. "It's not like things are being thrown together."

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

CNN broadcasts alleged audio of black U.S. teen's shooting

A previously undisclosed sound recording captured the shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer, CNN reported Tuesday, as it broadcast what it said appeared to be audio from the gunfire that killed the unarmed black teen.

The FBI, contacted Tuesday by AFP, refused to comment on the authenticity of the recording, reportedly made by a resident of Ferguson, the Missouri town where the fatal shooting took place.

The man was said to have been recording a Skype conversation at the same time as the deadly encounter nearby between Brown and the police officer, CNN said.

Six gunshots are heard on the brief recording broadcast by CNN, followed by a brief pause, then four more shots.

The man who made the recording wishes to remain anonymous, said his lawyer Lopa Blumenthal, who said it could have "huge relevance" in the case -- particularly the pause in the shooting.

"It's not just the number of gunshots, it's how they're fired," Blumenthal said.

"That has a huge relevance on how this case might finally end up."

A grand jury is hearing evidence to determine whether police officer Darren Wilson, 28, used excessive force in fatally shooing Brown, who autopsies found had been shot six times.

Accounts of the shooting differ greatly, with police alleging Brown was trying to grab Wilson's gun.

But witnesses, including a friend walking with Brown, said he was shot as he held his hands in the air in a clear sign of surrender.

The teen's August 9 shooting sparked days of protests and spasms of violence in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. It also triggered a national debate on race across the United States.

The teen was laid to rest Monday at a funeral attended by thousands, including US civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, as well as representatives dispatched to Ferguson by US President Barack Obama.

Source: Yahoo

ISIS Demands $6.6M Ransom for 26-Year-Old American Woman

A third American hostage held by ISIS has been identified as a 26-year-old American woman who was kidnapped a year ago while doing humanitarian relief work in Syria. The terror group is demanding $6.6 million and the release of U.S. prisoners for the life of the young woman, who the family requested not be identified.

She is the third of at least four Americans who were known to be held by ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. American journalist James Foley was executed by the group in a video that appeared online last week. Another writer, Steven Sotloff, was seen alive but under duress in the same footage.

In addition to the multi-million dollar ransom, the terror group has also demanded that the U.S. release Aafia Siddiqui, an MIT-trained neuroscientist who was convicted by the U.S. in 2010 of trying to kill U.S. officials two years before, according to a supporter of Siddiqui who has been in contact with the hostage’s family.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Suge Knight Shot at Chris Brown's Pre-VMA Party

SECOND UPDATE: A rep for Chris Brown issued the following statement regarding the incident -- "Chris hosted an event in Los Angeles last night to celebrate the upcoming release of his album X, during which an incident occurred. This incident did not involve Chris; he was merely the host of the event. He has and will continue to cooperate with the investigation."

UPDATE: An eyewitness has confirmed to ET that Suge Knight, former CEO of Death Row Records, was shot multiple times at Chris Brown's pre-VMA party, and Knight was the target of the gunfire. The witness told ET that Knight was seen pacing inside the club and speaking with R&B and hip hop producer Irv Gotti. 1OAK co-owner Scott Sartiano ducked down before four shots rang out, our witness reports, but Chris Brown continued dancing, unaware of the shots fired. Knight dropped to the floor after being shot multiple times, then crawled out of the club, and reportedly said, "Put your guns up. Hide me. They are shooting at me." Knight hid in a police car for 20 minutes until the ambulance arrived, according to the witness, who places the shooting at approximately 1:15 AM Sunday morning.
Our witness also shares details about one of the other victims. A young woman was shot, but is in stable condition. Our witness says that contrary to reports, she was not paralyzed.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department released the ages of the three victims. There are two male victims, 49 and 32 and a female, 19. They are expected to recover.
ET has also confirmed the West Hollywood Sheriff's Department responded to calls of shooting around 1:30 AM Sunday at 1OAK. Upon on arrival, 3 unnamed victims were injured. They were transported to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The investigation is ongoing.