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Dylann Roof’s Uncle: ‘He’ll Get No Sympathy From Us’

By Ryan Parker, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

The man accused of gunning down nine people at a South Carolina church will get no sympathy from his family, the suspect’s uncle said Thursday evening.

“He’s guilty as hell,” Carson Cowles, uncle of Dylann Roof, told the Los Angeles Times in a telephone interview.

Roof, 21, is accused of opening fire on a Bible study group at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., an incident that is being investigated as a hate crime. Roof is white and the nine victims were black.

His nephew is going to “ride the lightning,” Cowles told the Los Angeles Times, referring to the death penalty. “He’s going to pay for what he’s done. I’d pull the switch myself, if they’d let me.”

Among the six women and three men killed Wednesday night was the pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator.

“Those people did nothing wrong,” Cowles said.

His sister called Thursday morning and told him to turn on the TV, Cowles said. That was how he learned his nephew was the suspect. He did not say whether the sister is Roof’s mother.

“I watched it for 10 minutes, trying to convince myself this is just a nightmare, and I need to wake up,” he told The Times. “None of us saw it coming, but here we are, and there’s no turning back.”

Roof’s mother is devastated, Cowles said, but he refused to comment further, saying it was a personal matter.

Roof was arrested in North Carolina and waived extradition. He was returned to South Carolina on Thursday night.

Cowles said the family was repelled by what his nephew is accused of doing. “He’ll get no sympathy from us, any of us.”

He declined to talk about his relationship with Roof but said, “I am glad he is in custody.”

Cowles has been quoted in other media as saying that Roof’s father gave him the gun for his 21st birthday. But on Thursday night, he declined to discuss the weapon.

“I have already talked to the media about that enough,” he said.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

This April 2015 photo released by the Lexington County (S.C.) Detention Center shows Dylann Roof, 21. Charleston Police identified Roof as the shooter who opened fire during a prayer meeting inside the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, June 17, 2015, killing several people. (Lexington County (S.C.) Detention Center)

Bird Flu Found In Iowa; Up To 5.3 million Chickens To Be Destroyed

By Ryan Parker, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

H5N2 avian influenza, or bird flu, has reared its head at a commercial egg-laying facility in northwest Iowa that houses as many as 5.3 million chickens, according to state officials.

All the birds in the Osceola County facility will be euthanized, according to a statement by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The exact number of birds at the facility is unclear, department spokesman Dustin Vande Hoef said, “but it can house as many as 5.3 million.”

State officials said they had quarantined the premises. The birds will be destroyed over the next week, Vande Hoef said.

The bird flu came to light when the mortality rate for the facility’s chickens began to rise and the facility decided to run tests, Vande Hoef said. He did not identify the facility’s operator.

The facility houses nearly 10 percent of the state’s egg-laying chickens when at capacity, officials said.

There have been no reports of people being infected, according to the state’s agriculture department. And officials said they believed the risk to people from the infections in wild birds, backyard flocks, and commercial poultry “to be low.”

It is the second outbreak of bird flu reported in Iowa this month.

Last week, avian influenza was discovered in a flock of 27,000 turkeys in Buena Vista County, the Des Moines Register reported. Those birds have been euthanized, it said.

On Monday, Hormel Foods Corp. said it expected to sell fewer turkeys this year because of bird flu outbreaks in multiple states, including Minnesota, where Hormel is based.

“We are experiencing significant challenges in our turkey supply chain due to the recent HPAI outbreaks in Minnesota and Wisconsin,” Jeffrey M. Ettinger, the company’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.

However, Hormel said it expected the bird flu outbreak occurrences to decline “as the weather improves.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could not be reached for more information.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Photo: Laboratory specialist working on avian influenza at a renovated human health lab. (World Bank/Flickr)

Jury Seated In Aurora Theater Shooting Trial; Opening Statements In 2 Weeks

By Ryan Parker, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

The jurors have been selected in the death penalty trial of James Holmes, who went on a fatal rampage in a Colorado movie theater, and opening statements will begin in two weeks, officials said Tuesday.

The selection of 24 people — 12 jurors and 12 alternates — was finalized Tuesday after a process that lasted months, according to Colorado Judicial Department spokesman Rob McCallum.

Opening statements in the trial are to take place April 27, and testimony is expected the following day, McCallum said.

In jury selection, 19 women and five men were chosen to hear the case, and only the judge and attorneys know which jurors are alternates, the Denver Post reported.

The selection process began in January. About 9,000 summonses were sent out.

Holmes opened fire in a sold-out midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises on July 20, 2012, in Aurora, east of Denver. Twelve people were killed and dozens injured when the gunman, wearing body armor, tossed a tear gas canister and sprayed the audience with bullets.

Holmes, now 27, faces dozens of counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder, and weapons charges in connection with the theater rampage and the booby-trapping of his apartment, which was rigged with explosives that could have killed anyone who entered.

He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Experts have predicted that if he receives a death sentence, there will be decades of appeals.

(Special correspondent Jenny Deam contributed to this report.)

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

FILE – In this Monday, July 23, 2012 file photo, James Holmes, appears in Arapahoe County District Court with defense attorney Tamara Brady in Centennial, Colo. (AP Photo/Denver Post, RJ Sangosti, Pool, File)

Health Insurer Anthem Is Hacked; Patient And Employee Data Apparently Exposed

By Ryan Parker, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

Anthem Inc., the nation’s second-largest health insurer, said Wednesday night that hackers had breached its computer system and that the personal information of tens of millions of customers and employees was possibly at risk.

“Cyber attackers executed a very sophisticated attack to gain unauthorized access to one of our parent company’s IT system and have obtained personal information relating to consumers and Anthem Blue Cross employees who are currently covered, or who have received coverage in the past,” Indianapolis-based Anthem said in a statement.

The data breach extended across all of Anthem’s business, possibly affecting customers at large employers and individual policyholders.

Suspicious activity was first noticed and reported Jan 27. Two days later, an internal investigation verified that the company was a victim of a cyber attack, the company said.

Hackers appear to have accessed customers’ names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, member ID numbers, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and employment information, Anthem said. The employment information may include details on income.

At this point, it appears that the data stolen does not include medical files or credit card numbers, according to the company.

“Evidence indicates that some of the data was uploaded to an external file-sharing service,” the company said.

Anthem, formerly known as WellPoint, is California’s largest for-profit health insurer and the top company by enrollment on the Covered California health insurance exchange.

The FBI, which is investigating the breach, complimented Anthem’s quick response to the hack.

“Anthem’s initial response in promptly notifying the FBI after observing suspicious network activity is a model for other companies and organizations facing similar circumstances,” a statement from the FBI said. “Speed matters when notifying law enforcement of an intrusion, as cyber criminals can quickly destroy critical evidence needed to identify those responsible.”

The company has established a website, www.anthemfacts.com, where members can access information about the situation.

There is also a dedicated toll-free number that current and former members can call if they have questions related to this incident: (877) 263-7995.
___
Times staff writer Chad Terhune contributed to this report.

AFP Photo/Greg Wood

Secret Service Failures Allowed Intruder Into White House, Report Says

By Ryan Parker, Los Angeles Times (MCT)

A multitude of failures occurred in late September when a White House fence-jumper was able to make his way into what is supposed to be one of the most securely guarded buildings in the world, according to a new report.

A man was able to jump the fence and sprint into the White House with a pocketknife on Sept. 19, in part because a canine handler who could have stopped him sooner was on his cell phone taking a personal call without his radio earpiece in, according to a Homeland Security Department report obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Because of that distraction, it took him 11 seconds to respond, which, according to the report, he did only after he saw another uniformed officer running toward the White House.

Among a flurry of chaotic radio traffic and an obscured view of the north grounds because of construction — the area where the fence was jumped — authorities were either unaware of the situation as it unfolded or lacked the specific information to immediately reach the intruder, according to the report.

Omar Gonzalez, 42, has been charged in the case.

The report says the intruder was able to scale the fence quickly because he chose a section missing an ornamental spike, and he was able to make his way through bushes directly outside the White House North Portico, which authorities chasing him assumed were “too thick to be passable.”

Three different Secret Service members had their guns pointed at the intruder during the chase outdoors, but none fired because they did not see a weapon.

One of those agents was the guard directly outside the North Portico doors, who, like others, was unaware of the situation because of chaotic radio traffic and obscured sight. That agent, according to the report, assumed the doors of the North Portico were locked, so he assumed the intruder was trapped outside.

“By the time his realized the doors were not locked, Gonzalez was inside the White House,” states the report.

The intruder was apprehended about 100 feet inside the White House.

According to federal prosecutors, Gonzalez was carrying a Spyderco VG-10 knife with a 3.5-inch blade, and had hundreds of rounds of ammunition in a car parked nearby, including 12-gauge shotgun shells, 9mm rounds and rounds for a sniper rifle.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) said in a statement the internal report shed much needed light on the failures of an unacceptable situation.

“While some of these problems can be attributed to a lack of resources, others are systemic and indicative of Secret Service culture,” Thompson said in a statement.” Some of these problems have begun to be addressed, however it is imperative that DHS follows through on these findings and institutes real reforms.”

AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards

Ohio High School Shooter T.J. Lane Caught After Prison Escape

By Ryan Parker, Los Angeles Times

Fugitive T.J. Lane was apprehended Thursday night about five hours after he escaped from an Ohio prison, according to Ohio Highway Patrol.

He was located not far from the Allen Correctional Institution, which he escaped from with another inmate around 5:30 p.m., according to authorities.
No one was injured during his apprehension, authorities said.

Lane, now 19, and Clifford Earl Opperud, 45, escaped from the prison in Lima, about 70 miles north of Dayton, according to Lima police.

Opperud is still on the loose.

Lane was convicted in the shooting rampage that killed three students and injured two others at Chardon High School east of Cleveland in February 2012.

Lane fired 10 shots from a .22-caliber handgun the morning of Feb. 27 at a group of students sitting at a cafeteria table. He fled but surrendered to authorities about a mile from the school.

Lane did not attend the school, but rather a nearby alternative school.

He was sentenced to three life sentences. During his sentencing, Lane wore a white shirt on which “Killer” was written in large letters. He also flipped off the judge.

It is unclear how the prisoners managed to get away.

Lane’s former attorney, Ian Friedman, issued a post on Twitter hours after the escape.

#TJLane I’ve been asked whether he is a danger. Answer is no one ever wants to return to prison for a life sentence. Plus, case facts speak,” Friedman tweeted.

A massive search was conducted for the fugitives, police said.

Chardon High School will be closed Friday, the district announced late Thursday night.

AFP Photo/Timothy A. Clary

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‘Spice’ Overdoses Prompt State Of Emergency In N.H.

By Ryan Parker, Los Angeles Times

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan declared a state of emergency Thursday after more than 40 people overdosed on synthetic cannabinoid, also known as “spice.”

At least 41 people in Manchester suffered “serious medical reactions,” and at least 20 of those were hospitalized, according to a statement from Hassan’s office.

Three people in Concord became seriously ill from spice in the previous 24 hours, according to the release. There have been no deaths.

The spice product targeted for making people the sickest is called “Smacked!” according to officials.

Spice, usually sold at gas stations, is supposed to be used as incense, but people also smoke it to get high.

“These products pose a serious threat to public health, especially to young people, and it is our responsibility to do whatever we can to combat the recent rash of overdoses,” Hassan said in the statement.

The governor said she declared the emergency in consultation with the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, public health officials and the attorney general’s office.

The state of emergency allows authorities to investigate, quarantine, and require the destruction of targeted spice brands.

Medical officials will work with authorities to quarantine specifically the bubblegum flavor of “Smacked!” brands, according to the release.

Photo: Roger H. Goun via Flickr

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FAA Lifts U.S. Flight Restrictions For Tel Aviv

By Ryan Parker, Los Angeles Times

The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday night lifted its ban on U.S. flights to and from Tel Aviv.

The decision was made after the U.S. government determined that Israel had proper measures in place to “mitigate potential risks to civil aviation” during the ongoing hostilities in and around the Gaza Strip, according to an FAA news release.

The FAA “will continue to closely monitor the very fluid situation … and take additional actions, as necessary,” according to the statement.

The FAA ban was imposed Tuesday after a rocket fired from Gaza struck a home about a mile from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, apparently circumventing Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system.

The ban was greeted with criticism from Israel, where tourism from the United States is a key driver of the economy, especially in the summer. A cutoff of flights to the United States was also seen as an important psychological setback in a country that feels isolated in a region where it is surrounded by adversaries.

Israeli newspapers said tens of thousands of Israelis were stranded overseas and thousands of tourists unable to leave Israel as planned. Most major European airlines also canceled their flights, though Israel’s national airline, El Al, and some international carriers continued to fly.

AFP Photo / Eric Thayer

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Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen Steps Down To Deal With Alzheimer’s Disease

By Ryan Parker, Los Angeles Times

Longtime Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen is relinquishing control of his team due to health conditions related to Alzheimer’s disease, a team spokesman confirmed to the Los Angeles Times.

Joe Ellis, the Broncos’ team president since 2011, will take over operations for Bowlen, a spokesman confirmed to the Times.

Under Bowlen, the Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowls and became one of the most recognizable franchises in sports. He purchased the team in 1984.

According to the most recent Forbes report, the Broncos team is worth $1.05 billion.

This story was first reported by The Denver Post.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Sleeping Yankees Fan Sues ESPN, MLB For $10 Million

By Ryan Parker, Los Angeles Times

A New York Yankees fan caught sleeping in the stands during an April game against the renowned rival Boston Red Sox has had enough of being made fun of and is bringing legal action against ESPN for broadcasting his slumbering image.

Andrew Rector filed a defamation lawsuit in New York against ESPN, John Kruk, Dan Shulman, and MLB Advanced Media for showing him slumped in his chair, eyes closed, and mouth open during the April 13 broadcast.

Rector is seeking $10 million in damages, according to Courthouse News Service.

“In the course of watching the game, plaintiff napped and this opened an unending verbal cascade against the napping plaintiff,” the complaint says.

Game commentators made fun of Rector while the camera showed him sleeping, using such words as “‘stupor, fatty, unintelligent, and stupid’ knowing and intending the same to be heard and listened to by millions of people all over the world, including people who know the plaintiff or interacted with the plaintiff in person,” according to the complaint.

The lawsuit also accuses the defendants of juxtaposing Rector’s sleeping image with other pictures, further damaging his reputation, according to the suit.

AFP Photo/Rich Schultz

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United Flight To California Makes Emergency Landing After Slide Deploys

By Ryan Parker, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — A United flight from Chicago O’Hare International Airport bound for John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, Calif., made an emergency landing in Kansas on Sunday night after a slide deployed midair.

Flight 1463 left Chicago O’Hare International Airport around 8:36 p.m. CDT, according to the airline.

“Scariest flight of all time,” passenger Taylor Martinez said over Twitter.

The flight had 96 passengers and five crew members on board, according to the airline. Passengers tweeted pictures of the massive deployed slide inflated inside the cabin.

Passenger Mike Schroeder told the Associated Press that he was flying from Chicago to Orange County late Sunday when he heard a hiss and pop. He says he turned around and saw the plane’s emergency evacuation slide inflating inside the plane.

Schroeder said the pilot announced to passengers that they would be landing at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport, AP reported. He said passengers remained calm and took pictures of the slide with their phones.

Schroder told AP that after landing the pilot looked at the slide and said he had never seen that happen before.

“No one was injured and the flight landed safely,” said Christen David, an airline spokesman, in an email.

The plane landed at MidContinent Airport in Wichita, David said.

“We are flying in another aircraft to resume the flight and get our customers to their final destination as quickly as possible tomorrow morning,” he said.

It is unclear why the slide deployed.

Photo via WikiCommons

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New Colorado Gun Control Laws Upheld By Federal Judge

By Ryan Parker, Los Angeles Times

A federal judge in Colorado dismissed a lawsuit Thursday that aimed to overturn the state’s new gun control laws.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger said the two laws — expanded background checks that include private firearm sales and limiting the amount of bullets a magazine can hold — do not infringe on Second Amendment rights.

The plaintiffs included numerous sheriffs who were involved in the suit as private citizens after a judge ruled that they could not sue the state in their official capacity.

“The judge today offered a thorough and reasoned opinion and recognized that the state’s new gun laws do not unduly burden anyone’s Second Amendment rights,” Eric Brown, spokesman for Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, said in a statement.

The sheriffs said their fight was far from over, and promised to appeal.

“While we respect the judge’s ruling today, we believe that it is plainly wrong on the law and on the facts,” the sheriffs said in joint statement.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said he anticipated the appeal.

“Like Judge Krieger, the Colorado attorney general’s office has never asserted that the laws in question are good, wise, or sound policy,” Suthers said in a statement. “As it does in all cases, the AG’s office has fulfilled its responsibility to defend the constitutionality of the Colorado law in question.”

The gun control measures were passed in the Democratic-controlled state Legislature in 2013 after the Aurora movie theater and Sandy Hook, Conn., mass shootings.

Photo: Elvert Barnes via Flickr

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Triple Shooting At Red Rocks Amphitheatre In Colorado

By Ryan Parker, Los Angeles Times

Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado was locked down Thursday night after a triple shooting, authorities said. The shooting took place shortly after a concert that featured Nas and Schoolboy Q.

Witnesses said over social media that SWAT members were moving into the venue and police helicopters were buzzing overhead.

According to information released on Twitter by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, the shooting took place in a parking lot outside the venue following the concert. Sheriff’s officials also said that the shooting victims had been taken to hospitals and a search was underway for a suspect for whom they had “sketch info.”

Sheriff’s officials also acknowledged that the large police presence at the venue was due to the shooting and they said the cars of all concertgoers were being searched.

The Denver Post reported that after the shooting, the victims apparently drove into Denver, which is 16 miles east of the venue. Their vehicle stopped at an intersection, and police were called to the scene.

Two other passengers in the car were helping with the investigation, the Post reported. No arrests have been made.

The concert was a benefit for a gang-rescue effort sponsored by Metro Denver Partners.

Red Rock is a world-renowned rock structure near Morrison, Colo., 10 miles west of Denver, where concerts are given in the open-air amphitheatre.

This outdoor venue has a 9,450-capacity and has hosted acts including the Beatles, the Grateful Dead, Rush, and Sting.

Photo via WikiCommons

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